|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
Seducing Spirits, 1 Timothy 4
Check opening page for other links to "Identity" material.
Introduction to Prophecy, 2 Peter 1:19, 20
Diligence and Duty, Joshua 8:10
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron... (1 Tim. 4:1, 2).
Timothy had been left to set up some churches -- to see that the right men were placed in authority, and the wrong ones kept out of authority. As they did everywhere after Paul left a community, the false teachers abounded. Paul has instructed Timothy on what kind of men to use, and the only offices to use in the church, with clear instructions not to use women in these offices.
Vv. 1-6, Paul tells Timothy, "This is the Spirit of God speaking to you." Timothy is to keep the church constantly reminded of the things from vv. 1-6. The Spirit is not speaking with signs nor symbols, but with plain talk that everyone can easily understand. Paul presents his warnings about false teachers: the Spirit speaketh expressely. This is a strong statement. The man who desires to be a good minister of the gospel needs to remind his people often of these things:
1) latter times -- the last dispensation from Christ's first coming to his second (last) coming. (See Ac. 2:17 & Heb. 1:1, God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high...)
2) Some shall depart -- apostatize. (RWP, Online Bible.) Some shall leave what they know to be truth of God's word. Some will apostatize from the Christian faith because they give heed to: a) seducing spirits, and b) doctrines of devils.
Give heed -- give attention, then give effort and devotion to. (Heed, to apply one's self to, attach one's self to, hold or cleave to a person or thing; addicted to; to devote thought and effort to; give attendance. See Thayer, p. 546. Though speaking of accountability, the Lord warned about what we listen to, Mk. 4:24. Paul warns against listening to teachings that undermine God's word.)
Matthew Henry comments on Paul's warning to Timothy,
We have here a prophecy of the apostasy of the latter times, which he had spoken of as a thing expected and taken for granted among Christians, 2 Thes. 2.
I. In the close of the foregoing chapter, we had the mystery of godliness summed up; and therefore very fitly, in the beginning of this chapter, we have the mystery of iniquity summed up: The Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith; whether he means the Spirit in the Old Testament, or the Spirit in the prophets of the New Testament, or both. The prophecies concerning antichrist, as well as the prophecies concerning Christ, came from the Spirit. The Spirit in both spoke expressly of a general apostasy from the faith of Christ and the pure worship of God. This should come in the latter times, during the Christian dispensation, for these are called the latter days; in the following ages of the church, for the mystery of iniquity now began to work. Some shall depart from the faith, or there shall be an apostasy from the faith. Some, not all; for in the worst of times God will have a remnant, according to the election of grace. They shall depart from the faith, the faith delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), which was delivered at once, the sound doctrine of the gospel. Giving heed to seducing spirits, men who pretended to the Spirit, but were not really guided by the Spirit, 1Jo 4:1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, every one who pretends to the Spirit. (Matthew Henry, Online Bible)
False, ungodly and foolish doctrines that undermine God's word should not take us by surprise. They are to be expected.
Now here observe,
1. One of the great instances of the apostasy, namely, giving heed to doctrines of demons, or concerning demons; that is, those doctrines which teach the worship of saints and angels, as a middle sort of deities, between the immortal God and mortal men, such as the heathen called demons, and worshipped under that notion. Now this plainly agrees to the church of Rome, and it was one of the first steps towards that great apostasy, the enshrining of the relics of martyrs, paying divine honours to them, erecting altars, burning incense, consecrating images and temples, and making prayers and praises to the honour of saints departed. This demon worship is paganism revived, the image of the first beast.
2. The instruments of promoting and propagating this apostasy and delusion.
(1.) It will be done by hypocrisy of those that speak lies, the agents and emissaries of Satan, who promote these delusions by lies and forgeries and pretended miracles, 1Ti 4:2. It is done by their hypocrisy, professing honour to Christ, and yet at the same time fighting against all his anointed offices, and corrupting or profaning all his ordinances. This respects also the hypocrisy of those who have their consciences seared with a red-hot iron, who are perfectly lost to the very first principles of virtue and moral honesty. If men had not their consciences seared as with a hot iron, they could never maintain a power to dispense with oaths for the good of the catholic cause, could never maintain that no faith is to be kept with heretics, could never divest themselves of all remains of humanity and compassion, and clothe themselves with the most barbarous cruelty, under pretence of promoting the interest of the church... (Ibid.)
The apostasy and delusion by Satan is accomplished under false profession of honoring Christ. The warning had to be from the "Spirit is God," for only he could foresee "the tempers, humours, and lusts of men" that would cause them to apostatize. Moreover, "The difference between the predictions of the Spirit and the oracles of the heathen is remarkable; the Spirit speaks expressly, but the oracles of the heathen were always doubtful and uncertain." In other words, the Spirit through God's word speaks clearly, while Satan must use doubtful and uncertain implications and opinions that appeal to the lusts of men. "Men must be hardened, and their consciences seared, before they can depart from the faith, and draw in others to side with them" as they follow the doctrines of devils. Though not everyone will be carried away with the winds of Satan's false doctrines, some will.
Seductions and Doctrines
The seductions and teachings Paul warns Timothy of were the teachings of the Judaizers -- they taught that though one might be saved though faith in Christ, converts has to continue in the Mosaic Temple rights and ceremonies. (Col. 2:14.) From the time of Adam, Salvation never required keeping the Ten Commandments, for it has always been through the faith of Abraham. Though the threat to the church from the Judaizers ceased when the Temple was destroyed, the efforts of the seducing spirits and devils did not.
There have been many seducing spirits rise to prominence over the years. One of the more "popular" modern teachings of devils is found operating in the name of "Christian Identity" -- that is, its "Seed Line" doctrine. This doctrine is no doubt one of the more vile, wicked spirits of seduction and teaching of devils to surface since Christ. It says that Eve was literally sexually seduced by Satan, and the resulting child was Cain. It supposes a line of Cain to the time of Christ, saying that Cain's physical descendants put Christ to death. It continues to trace Cain's supposed line to today's persecution of Christians. (It identifies this line with the "Jews." "Seed Line" doctrine is promoted by such popular racial Identity speakers as James Wickstrom, Paul Burnham and Nord Davis. Not all who follow the "Identity" faith believe its "Seed Line" doctrine, and some followers will distance themselves from it. We must question, however, the motives of "Identity" speakers who deny "Seed Line" doctrine -- do they deny it simply because they know the average listener will reject everything Identity teaches because of this vile teaching?)
A key verse used to support this vile teachings of devils is found in Genesis 15:
18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:19 The Kenites, (#7017) and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
This doctrine of devils, "Seed Line Doctrine," makes an assumption that the Kenites after the flood were the descendants of Cain. Based upon this assumption, the seducing spirits must say that, contrary to God's word, Noah's flood was not universal, or that the antediluvian Cainites somehow got on the Ark without being mentioned in Scripture -- maybe they were among the animals mentioned on the Ark.
Confusion of Words
In order to make Identity's absurd, anti-Christian doctrines sound "Biblical," the seducing spirits take advantage of confusion they can create by misusing words -- Kenites is no exception. Normally Identity's spirits misuse selected Strong's definitions for words (out of context), but here they totally avoid Strong's definition. Strong tells us that, contrary to Identity's absurdity, the Genesis 15:19 Kenites were members of the tribe of Kajin. (#7017, 2 Chron. 2:55. The next Strong's number, 7018, is antediluvian, but that word is Cainan, Kenan.) Admittedly, the word for the postdiluvian Kenites (#7017) is derived from the word for the antediluvian Cain (#7014). Also, #7014 (Cain) is used for Kenite in Numbers 24:22, and is found for Cain in Joshua 15:57, where it is defined as "A town of the Kenites, a branch of the Midianites." (Online Bible dictionary.) Morevoer, an antediluvian Cain is listed as Moses' father in law in Judges 4:11, Now Heber the Kenite (#7014), which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites (#7017), and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh. Thus if one follows Identity's fantastic assumptions, Moses was married to a descendant of Cain, a literal son of Satan.
Examining the word Kenites a little, we find that it in no way supports the seducing spirits' "Seed Line" doctrine:
First, it means,
Smiths, the name of a tribe inhabiting the desert lying between southern Palestine and the mountains of Sinai. Jethro was of this tribe Jud 1:16 He is called a "Midianite" Nu 10:29 and hence it is concluded that the Midianites and the Kenites were the same tribe. They were wandering smiths, "the gipsies and travelling tinkers of the old Oriental world. They formed an important guild in an age when the art of metallurgy was confined to a few" (Sayce's Races, etc.). They showed kindness to Israel in their journey through the wilderness. They accompanied them in their march as far as Jericho #Jud 1:16 and then returned to their old haunts among the Amalekites, in the desert to the south of Judah. They sustained afterwards friendly relations with the Israelites when settled in Canaan Jud 4:11,17-21 1Sa 27:10 30:29 The Rechabites belonged to this tribe 1Ch 2:55 and in the days of Jeremiah Jer 35:7-10 are referred to as following their nomad habits. Saul bade them depart from the Amalekites 1Sa 15:6 when, in obedience to the divine commission, he was about to "smite Amalek." And his reason is, "for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt." Thus "God is not unrighteous to forget the kindnesses shown to his people; but they shall be remembered another day, at the farthest in the great day, and recompensed in the resurrection of the just" (M. Henry's Commentary). They are mentioned for the last time in Scripture in 1Sa 27:10 comp. 1Sa 30:20 (Online Bible dictionary.)
The origin of the Kenites cannot be determined. According to Judg. i. 16, iv. 11, Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses, was a Kenite. His being called a Midianite (Num. x. 29) does not prove that he was descended from Midian (Gen. xxv. 2), but is to be accounted for from the fact that he dwelt in the land of Midian, or among the Midianites (Ex. ii. 15). This branch of the Kenites went with the Israelites to Canaan, into the wilderness of Judah (Judg. i. 16), and dwelt even in Saul's time among the Amalekites on the southern border of Judah (1 Sam. xv. 6), and in the same towns with members of the tribe of Judah (1 Sam. xxx. 29). There is nothing either in this passage, or in Num. xxiv. 21, 22, to compel us to distinguish these Midianitish Kenites from those of Canaan. The Philistines also were not Canaanites, and yet their territory was assigned to the Israelites. And just as the Philistines had forced their way into the land, so the Kenites may have taken possession of certain tracts of the country. All that can be inferred from the two passages is, that there were Kenites outside Midian, who were to be exterminated by the Israelites. (Keil, I.218.)
This tribe did not descend from Adam's son Cain (whose descendants were destroyed by the flood), but were perhaps so named because of their occupation...
Much as been fabricated regarding the so-called Kenite origins of the Mosaic religion and documents (cf. R. K. Harrison, I0T; R. G. North, "The Cain Music," JBL 83:373-89). The Kenites figure prominently in the recorded history of Israel especially through Rachab and his descendants. He was so well-known for his zeal for God that Jehu accepted him as an ally and identified with him as an example of Godly zeal (cf. qn', II Kgs 10:15-24). Rechab's son Johonadab established a nomadic and religious order which so perpetuated the godly zeal of Rachab even until Jeremiah's day that the prophet could use them as a living illustration of what God required (Jer 35). Of course, the concern was with their zeal for God and not their zeal for nomadism. (TWOT, 2017.)
Identity's spirits claim that the Genesis 15:19 Kenites (#7017) were descendants of Cain. Using Kenites as they do, we find that the Kenite woman who killed Sisera received the blessings of God (Jud. 5:24, #7017); and that Saul spared the Kenites because they shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt (1 Sa. 15:6, #7017). Using Genesis 15:19, seducing spirits undermine the word of God with a claim that a seed of Satan and Eve, Cain, came through the food. If the Kenites of Genesis 15:19 were indeed descendants of Cain, that means that Moses married one, God blessed one and they sowed kindness to Israel. Fallen man's vivid imagination can indeed be vile and corrupt.
In order to make the antediluvian line of Cain come through the flood in the Kenites, the fact of the universal flood is denied. And the Spirit clearly tells us the source of any anti-universal flood theory:
3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3.)
Note that they refers back to the scoffers of v. 3.
a) last days could refer to the end, the last days, of the Jewish "race" and nation (70 AD) or the time between Christ's first and second advent.
b) they mock at sin and the gospel.
c) they deny the world-wide flood, whereby the world that then was perished completely.
d) they are sensual, not having the Spirit of God (Jude 19).
e) they walk after their own lusts (2 Pet. 3:3, Jude 19).
walking after their own lusts; either after the carnal reasonings of their minds, admitting of nothing but what they can comprehend by reason, making that the rule, test, and standard of all their principles, and so cast away the law of the Lord, and despise the word of the Holy One of Israel; or rather, after their sinful and fleshly lusts, making them their guides and governors, and giving up themselves entirely to them, to obey and fulfil them; the phrase denotes a continued series of sinning, a progress in it, a desire after it, and pleasure in it, and an obstinate persisting in it; scoffers at religion and revelation are generally libertines; and such as sit in the seat of the scornful, are in the counsel of the ungodly, and way of sinners, Ps 1:1. (Gill, Online Bible.)
Those who walk after their own lusts are monstrous men, who will seem wise by their contempt of God, and their wicked boldness. (Geneva, Online Bible.) They are men who follow after the fallen, carnal reasonings of their own minds, unconvinced by the word of God because it does not correspond to their reason. This certainly describes the teachers of the demonic "Seed Line" doctrine. The followers of that system certainly do not have the Spirit of God, Jude 19.
A cross reference for 2 Peter 3:3 is,
1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:1, 2.)
(b) Subtilty and every type of deceit which men hunt after, as it were dens and lurking holes, to cover their shameless dealings with. (c) This is that which he called in the former chapter, making merchandise of the word of God. (Geneva)
not walking in craftiness; they used no sly and artful methods to please men, to gain applause from them, or make merchandise of them; they did not lie in wait to deceive, watching an opportunity to work upon credulous and incautious minds; they did not, by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple; nor put on different forms, or make different appearances, in order to suit themselves to the different tempers and tastes of men, as did the false apostles:
not handling the word of God deceitfully. They did not corrupt it with human doctrines, or mix and blend it with philosophy, and vain deceit; they did not wrest the Scriptures to serve any carnal or worldly purpose; nor did they accommodate them to the lusts and passions of men; or conceal any part of truth, or keep back any thing which might be profitable to the churches: (Gill)
They adulterated the word of God to bait followers.
handling...deceitfully --so "corrupt" or adulterate "the word of God" (2Co 2:17; compare 1Th 2:3,4). (JFB, Online Bible.)
In craftiness -- that is, clever, cunning, deceitful (see Lk. 20:23). Deceit -- that is, to catch with bait, to ensnare, to corrupt with error. Used only here in the New Testament. Used of adulterating gold or wine. (RWP, Online Bible.)
Seducing spirits cleverly mix the word of God with human doctrines, philosophy and deceit to serve their anti-Christian purpose. By accommodating fallen lusts and passions, they ensnare the hearts of the "credulous" -- those disposed to believe on little Biblical evidence, showing a lack of Scriptural judgment or experience. At the very least, the "Seed Line" doctrine denies the word of the Lord, 2 Peter 3:6. However, we must say that according to God's word, the vile "Seed Line" doctrine is just one of the many doctrines of devils that appeal to those who are hardened to the truth of God's word.
Paul's answer to the problem:
1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:1, 2.)
Those who actually want to know the truth and want to be conformed to it must renounce the hidden things of dishonesty -- that is, take a firm stand against any false teaching spirits (e.g., the "Christian Identity" spirit) through the finished work of Christ. ("In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I renounce any teaching that does not come by way of the Cross of Christ.")
First, it is a sad fact that the "Christian Identity" spirit is as strong in these "last days" as is the "Mormon" spirit. Those committed to those faiths will willingly talk of their faiths, but only with the intent of converting those they speak with. Though faithful adherents to Mormonism and "Christian Identity" profess a desire to know the truth, they are so confident in their "truth" that they believe if they can only gain a hearing, the hearers will be converted to their false systems. Far too many times they are right, for there are many who are seeking non-Biblical religions where they do not have to adit that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Second, the goal of the faithful adherents is to win the hearts of the simple, and they are doing it -- both the Mormons and the "Christian Identity" religions are growing, attracting the unconverted and those who do not know God's word. (I have been quite surprised at the growth of Identity in our small area of the world.)
Third, listening to both Mormon and "Christian Identity" converts and reading "Identity" material, I have found that the primary basis for those faiths is non-Biblical writings -- Mormonism relies heavily on the Book of Mormon, and Identity relies heavily on supposed secular history, outlandish speculations and other Identity writers.
Notice what Paul told Timothy to do in order to recognize and counter the seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (Vv. 6, 7.)
Timothy was not to study and instruct people in tradition and secular history. Rather, he was to study the word of God, and instruct them in it. (Cf. 2 Tim. 2:14-16, Ps. 56:5, 2 Pet. 3:16.) Notice Paul's warning:
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim. 4:3, 4.)
Sound doctrine; such as is revealed in the word of God, and adapted to promote the spiritual good of men. Teachers; who will not condemn their favorite sins. Itching ears; wishing for new teachers and new doctrines, and multiplying those who will amuse and flatter them.
Turn away--from the truth; because it condemns them. Fables; mystical speculations and frivolous stories. (Family NT Bible Notes, Online Bible.)
If any statement, other than it is demonic, ever described Identity's "Seed Line" doctrine, this sure does -- it is based upon "Mystical speculations and frivolous stories!"
Example: I asked a young man who was becoming heavily involved in the Identity religion about the word of God. He replied that as he read Identity material, he checked Scripture references. He found the Scriptures to say what Identity authors were claiming. I then ask him how many times he had read the Scriptures completely through. His answer was that he had not. I tried to convince him that it was impossible to judge if the Identity authors were properly using the passages without reading the entire book. He agreed, though he did not change.
How many spend the vast portion of their time reading and studying books and seeking out and hearing speakers about the Bible rather than spending their time in the word of God? Admittedly, the seducing spirits and doctrines of devils appeal to the fallen nature, but they are clearly anti-Christian. We must also keep in mind that when one reads Scripture seeking support for particular profane and old wives' fables, he will surely find plenty of supposed support.
Paul warned Timothy that vile teachings would appear in the church. And he clearly told Timothy that part of the pastor's duty is to seriously study Scripture and keep his people constantly reminded of the dangers of the seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.
(2 Pet. 1:19, 20)
The turn of the millennium is going to see some fantastic prophetic speculations. Folks will be speaking as though the Lord God himself counseled with them before the beginning of time, e.g.:
Christian pilgrims are coming to Jerusalem as the year 2000 approaches. City officials estimate that 4 million tourists, about twice the usual number, will enter the holy city before the millennium, news reports said. Palestinian Muslims eager to attract tourists to their hotels are mailing advertisements to U.S. Christians. "How would you like to be staying at the Mount of Olives Hotel the day Jesus returns?" the ad reads. ...Some have moved to Jerusalem believing they will witness the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. About five American Christians meet for weekly worship in an apartment near the Mount of Olives. "I feel like a person that happens to be in the right place at the right time," said David, 58, who gave up his possessions and dropped his last name when he moved to the city 18 years ago. He and the others share "front-row seats" for the day Christ returns in accordance with Bible prophecy, he told Reuters. (News from ReligionToday.com is Copyrighted by Media Management. Content may be reproduced provided proper credit is given to www.ReligionToday.com. Comment: there is money in millennialism!)
The following is presented for your information, to help prevent folks from being blown about by the strong winds of foolish speculations. Consider these points that will help clear the "smoke and mirrors" concerning prophecies found in the Old Testament.
First, the prophets were practical teachers using ordinary language -- the prophecies were given forms easily understood by the hearers of the day.
Second, the prophets usually had a powerful imagination -- their language was to some extent figurative. Their ideas are clothed in the forms suggested by their conditions and by the surroundings of their world with which their hearers were very familiar. Though the prophets' conditions and surroundings are gone, the ideas and truths presented by the prophecies are still very much alive.
Third, when reading the prophecies, we must read them from the view of the prophets' circumstances, conditions and frame of mind -- failure to read the words from the prophets' view will not interpret and apply their words properly. Moreover, the prophets must be read from their place in history looking forward, not from the reader's place in history.
Fourth, when the prophet spoke, he saw literal fulfillment with material he was familiar with -- e.g., the prophet saw literal sheep on literal hills, &c. David was a shepherd; therefore he spoke in terms of sheep. Ezekiel, on the other hand, was a priest; therefore, though he spoke of the same coming events as did David with his sheep, Ezekiel spoke in terms of priests, alters, sacrifices and temples. However, both men spoke of the same thing -- the coming Messiah, his work on the cross and the church that would be gathered unto him.
Ezekiel, as did every other prophet, only saw the shadow of the things to come, and the shape of the shadow was something with which he was familiar. With the coming of Christ, the shadow passed away.
Fifth, the apostolic view of prophecy assumed that the prophecies were fulfilled -- the New Testament assumes that the Christian religion in Christ was the final and perfect fulfillment of all things: He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. (Eph. 4:10.) We must view Old Testament prophetic passages then in light of the New Testament. The New Testament authors give the correct interpretation of what the Old Testament prophets saw literally.
The Old Testament authors actually saw sheep grazing on green pastures on the mountains around Jerusalem. The New Testament tells us who the sheep are, what they eat, and where the mountains are. (Jn. 10, Ps. 79:13.) There are a great many Old Testament passages that also identify sheep, especially the Psalms. There is nothing new presented in the New Testament, only clarification of the things which had already been presented in the Old Testament.
Sixth, the word of God is a religious and spiritual book -- every literal thing seen by the Old Testament prophet had a religious and spiritual meaning. Most have already been fulfilled literally, and a few may yet need to be fulfilled literally. But the precepts and spiritual teachings contained in what the prophets saw will stand forever.
Seventh, though every prophecy was seen with a literal fulfillment in view by the prophet, not every prophecy had then, nor will it have, a literal fulfillment -- most of the time, the context will show which prophecies are literal, and which are spiritual.
Though the prophets saw literal stars falling from heaven to earth, we know that is physically impossible, for the stars are multiplied thousands of times larger than the earth. The prophets saw literal "sheep" and "temples," but if the prophecies are physically impossible, then, obviously, they must be spiritual. (See Gen. 37:9.) Ezekiel is a good example:
Ezekiel saw a literal temple, but the measurements of that temple make it physically impossible to build. The room is well over ½ mile long with no supports in it. Ezekiel saw a literal alter and sacrifice, but if a literal alter and sacrifice is reinstated, they must deny the work of Christ. Ezekiel saw literal corpses and wooden weapons, but "It bids all defiance to all the laws of nature, as well as the known principles of human action; and to insist on such a description being understood according to the letter, is to make it take rank with the most extravagant tales of romance, or the most absurd legends of Popery." (Fairbairn, Ezekiel, 423.)
Therefore, in situations such as seen in the last several chapters of Ezekiel, though what the prophet saw was literal, what he saw must be understood spiritually. All prophecies must be viewed in the light of the New Testament, which will help sort them out.
Hosea 1:6, I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. Our Lord explains this in Matthew chapters 21-24. (21:19, 21:41, 43, 22:7, 23:37, 38.) Matthew 21:41, 43, He shall miserably destroy those wicked men... (The wicked men who threw the Son of God out of the vineyard and killed him.)
Thus Hosea prophecies the "utter removal" of Israel, and our Lord explained Hosea's meaning when he promised the total destruction of the nation to take place in 70 AD.
Hosea continues -- 1:7, But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen. 10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered, and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people, these it shall be said unto them, ye are the sons of the living God. (2:23 also.)
Again, our Lord gives the proper understanding to Hosea's words:
First, Christ, the Lion of the house of Judah, is the fulfillment of Hosea's words -- mercy is found in Christ. When we trust in Christ, the Heir to the house of Judah, we are placed in him and become joint heirs with him to Hosea's promised mercy. (Rom. 8:17, Gal. 3:29.)
Second, And will save them refers to salvation by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 10:13.)
Third, Yet the number of the children refers to the great multitude, which no man could number. (Rev. 7:9.) Who makes up the number? Those who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, both Jew and Gentile. (Gen. 15:5.)
Fourth, Ye are my people, ye are the sons of the living God is found in Christ. (Jn. 1:12.)
Thus the New Testament reveals to us what the Old Testament prophets could only allude to:
First, the prophets saw Christ and his church literally, but not as we see Christ and his church on this side of the cross. Hosea, for example, saw exactly what he wrote down, as did Ezekiel, Daniel, Micha and the rest of the prophets. But what they saw literally was only a dim shadow of things to come.
Second, the prophecies seem to be intermingled but: a) most of the time, common sense will sort them out; b) the Lord himself explained many of them (the law and prophets all pointed to Christ even though many of the prophecies were already literally fulfilled, e.g., Mt. 5:17, 11:13, Ac. 3:24-26, 10:43, &c.); and c) Scripture interprets scripture (2 Pet. 1:19-20. The best interpretation for prophecy is other scriptures.)
Let me make a point in passing -- all the law, psalms and the prophets pointed to Christ. (Lk. 24:44ff.) It did not point to a renewed, exalted, glorified national Israel, as some would have us believe.
Third, the authors of the New Testament apply or explain many of the prophecies, e.g.,
Paul tells us that heirship to Abraham's promise is by faith, not by physical linage (Rom. 4:12-18); he tells us that the reign of Christ is over the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Rom. 15:8-20); he makes it quite clear that there are no longer two races of peoples, Jew and Greek (Gentile), but only two types of people -- those belonging to Christ, and those outside of Christ (Gal. 3:26-29).
The church (those belonging to Christ through redemption), was a mystery to the Old Testament prophets. They were unable to see that the regathered Israel of the last days was the church, the Jews and Gentiles combined into one people of God, the church which is Christ's body. (Col. 1:26-27.)
The prophets of old, however, did see that the end-time Israel would be gathered around an "ensign" which was lifted up by God. They saw God calling his people to the "ensign" which was lifted up. (Isa. 10:24, Jn. 3:14, 12:32, Eph. 5:32.) Therefore, the prophets could only speak in familiar terms of their day, or they would have lost their hearers. Thus the gathering of his people around Christ (neither Jew nor Greek in him) is the literal fulfillment of what the prophets saw concerning the end-time Israel.
Many of the Old Testament prophecies are, accordingly, made clear by the New Testament even when they were intermingled, literal with figurative and spiritual.
Fourth, many of the prophecies were literally fulfilled, yet some are yet to be fulfilled, e.g.,
Though a great number of prophecies spoke of Israel's gathering recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah, they also spoke of the 400-year time span up until Christ. Passages such as Hosea 12:9 could have easily been fulfilled under zealous priests such as the Maccabees. Yet these fulfilled prophecies could easily speak of times and events yet to come. Many of the events can be looked back upon and their fulfillment clearly seen.
Fifth, finally, we cannot build doctrine on any prophecy except the true spirit of prophecy, the clear presentation of Christ. (Rev. 19:10, his death, burial and resurrection for our sins, and the clear prophetic assurance of eternal life, as well as the prophetic word of "sowing and reaping" as found in Dt. 28, 29.)
We know of many who are so sure of the way things are going to conclude in the end, one would think the Lord worked it out with them before the foundation of the world. They have their charts together and planned out like a blueprint. Only as we look back over history can prophecies fit together. Only as we fit scripture with scripture will prophecies fit together in the present. One thing is for sure! Everything will work out as he has it planned. (Eph 1:11.) He will deliver up the kingdom one day to the Father when the time is right. (1 Cor 15:24.) He will not be early, nor will he be late.
Looking through "prophetic" passages, no one can be dogmatic -- all we can do is explain how they are the most consistent with the context of their history and Scripture, and the context of our Lord's and other New Testament authors' teaching. It takes the spirit of God's grace to lay aside tradition and allow him to direct our minds in the right thinking in the "marvelous" things spoken of by the prophets.
Even with the New Testament instructions, the prophets' words are little more than seeing through a dark glass. (1 Cor. 13:12.) We will never know all the details, for we are not nor will we ever be God, but we will know more when we see him face to face. As with any "dark glass," the father an object is from the source of light, the dimmer the outline. The light is all that can be seen clearly.
A great amount of prophetic speculation today seems to be, "If you can possibly make it literal, do so. If not, then it is symbolic." That spirit permits dividing a verse or a passage into many parts to make it speak contrary to its obvious meaning. Yet if someone calls attention to the dividing of the passage, that person is accused of not believing the word of God. (In fact, a vast amount of modern "orthodox" Christian doctrine will not "hold together" without this type of exegesis.)
Modern Bible Exegesis has two general views of Scripture:
One view understands all Scripture literally unless such a literal understanding is absolutely impossible. (This view sees literal stars falling from heaven onto the earth, but does not see a literal whore in Rev. 17. What is wrong with this picture?) This view sees no difficulty in dividing passages into many parts and switching back and forth between literal and spiritual understanding. It may even understand just one verse in both literal and spiritual -- in other words, the first line of the verse is literal and the second line spiritual.
The other view attempts to stick with the context of the passage and with its New Testament understanding. This view says that if there are points within the context that obviously must be understood spiritually, then all the passage must be understood spiritually. Furthermore, this view takes the New Testament author's word concerning passages as the final authority.
We have already mentioned an example: Israel of the Old Testament was clearly replaced by the Gospel Church in the New according to all the New Testament preachers. Therefore, every Old Testament prophecy referring to Israel after the central point of all history, the cross of Christ, must be understood as a spiritual reference to the Gospel Church. (See correction for this statement.)
Much of the prophetic speculation of our day entered into modern theology when the two views of scripture united against the common enemy that was attacking the inspiration of the word of God, Modernism.
Joshua 8:10, And Joshua rose up early in the morning.
Back in the 60s, I operated a 'dozer for a land developer for a couple seasons. The area he developed is now one of the most exclusive areas on the North East side of Indianapolis. One of my jobs with him was to cut a finished grade for the subcontractor who was pouring the concrete curbs and sidewalks (the two were done in one operation). I well remember one short cul-de-sac (a dead end street with a turn-a-round at the end) where he had poured the curbs and sidewalks -- though I had cut the grade according to the grade stakes, standing at the street end of the cul-de-sac in the rain, the water runoff, running away from the street, clearly went uphill. The optical allusion was so bad that rather than take a chance on his reputation, the contractor had me 'doze out the curbs and sidewalks and re-cut the grade so the water would run toward the street.
In the several years I have been involved in working with people, I have noticed a common malady -- "leaders" expect their "followers" to rise above the character of the "leaders." Just good, common sense tells us that such a thing is impossible, e.g., though appearances may be otherwise, water cannot flow on its own uphill.
As Joshua prepares to take Ai, we see him setting a high standard for those under him. Unlike many leaders of our day, Joshua did not expect anything from his people that he was not doing himself.
Here are a few short points from this verse:
First, leaders must be diligent if they expect the people to be diligent. "Leaders" cannot expect their people to rise above them (the leaders). Military leaders of the past led their armies into the hottest parts of the battles. Today, military leaders sit in air conditioned offices directing their armies into battles. I have encountered more than a few Christian "leaders" who do the same thing--they sleep late and use their waking hours running from motivational meeting to motivational meeting, looking for something missing in their character--diligence.
Second, those who expect to conquer the enemies of God (defined as the world, flesh and devil) must not lie on the "flowery beds of ease." God does not hand the victory to his people on a platter today any more than he did with Ai. There must be sacrifices made, primarily the sacrifice of ease.
Diligence is required if we expect to do anything for God. 2 Peter 1:5, diligence,
[1) haste, with haste 2) earnestness, diligence 2a) earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything 2b) to give all diligence, interest one's self most earnestly.]1
The Old Testament definition of diligence is different from the New:
adj. 1) sharp-pointed, sharp, diligent n m 2) strict decision, decision 3) trench, moat, ditch 4) gold (poetical)
"The diligent man is called..., to sharpen, for sharpness is transferred to energy."2
[Pr. 10:4.] but the hand of the diligent maketh rich; that is, with the blessing of God along with it, as in Pr 10:22; such who are "sharp" and acute, as the word signifies; who are careful and industrious, mind their business, and do the honest part; these, with a divine blessing, frequently grow rich: or rather who are like those that dig in the earth for gold, who search for it with great eagerness and diligence; for from this root is a word often used for gold, Pr 3:14 8:19 16:16. All this is true in a spiritual sense; such who are slothful in attendance on the means of grace, the word and ordinances, are slack and negligent in duty, bring a spiritual poverty upon them; and like the Laodicean church, who, through her lukewarmness and carnal security, became poor and wretched, blind and naked: on the other hand, such who are diligent in the use of means are frequent at the throne of grace, forsake not the assembly of the saints, constantly wait at Wisdom's gates; these grow rich in grace and in all good works.3
The word of God contrasts the diligent (sharp) with the lazy person.
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich (Pr. 10:4). The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute (Pr. 12:24). The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious (Pr. 12:27). The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat (Pr 12:27). The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want (Pr. 21:5).
Duty and Diligence
It is a great mistake to suppose that faith in God renders needless our discharge of duty or the use of all lawful means: instead, it is to energize unto the one and to look unto God for His blessing upon the other. Confidence in God does not produce passivity, nor will the diligence which it evokes issue in self-confidence. True faith ever produced good works, yet those works are performed in the spirit of dependence upon the Lord. It is written: "The way of man is not in himself" (Jer. x, 23), but it is written again: "This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isaiah xxx, 21). Thus does Scripture always guard Scripture!4
Accordingly, Joshua clearly shows us that godly faith in the sovereign, predestinating Lord God WILL produce godly works according to his law-word. Those who use God's sovereign predestination to justify not being diligent about individual responsibility to work, including evangelizing their communities, are clearly violating God's word--they are presuming upon God (see 2 Pet. 2:10), doing the same as did Israel in the first move against Ai. Genuine trust in the God's sovereign predestination will pray for God's wisdom and power and understanding; it will work, and work hard, at conquering self and conquering the surrounding areas for Christ, including individual conversions to Christ.
We are warned about false teachers in every area of Biblical doctrine:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jd. 1:4).
Ungodly men (asebeis). Keynote of the Epistle (Mayor), in 15 again as in 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:7. Turning (metatithentes). Present active participle of metatithêmi, to change, for which verb see Gal. 1:6. For the change of "grace" (charita) into "lasciviousness (eis aselgeian) see 1 Pet. 2:16; 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:19; 3:16.5
The certain men, false teachers, wrongly use God's sovereign predestination to escape from their duties and responsibilities to stand for righteousness (especially when there is a prospect of losing something, e.g., Joshua's men could have lost their lives), and to reach their communities with the converting gospel of Christ. (See 1 Cor 1:17-2 Cor. 2:5, 3:6, 7.) Then they expect their own people to be diligent in their various areas of responsibilities. The genuine Biblical faith in the Christian God will operate to diligently preform his commandments--Paul called it obedience to the faith. (Rom. 1:5.)
Jude warned against certain men who would come into the church unawares; these certain men would turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. They would use the glorious doctrine of the divine grace of the predestining God for their own evil purpose, even to justify their own lack of diligent character. We occasionally meet certain men who use God's sovereign predestination to justify ignoring the command to evangelize the world, starting at home, for Christ. These certain men are as lawless as are the antinomians whom they preach so hard against.
Diligence means no murmuring
The 5,000 mighty men of valour were sent away by night. Obviously, it was so the men could quietly and unnoticed slip into the place of ambush. But a point brought out here by Pink is that these men got no rest that night--they went about their assigned duty positions that night with no rest. They had no complaint nor did they murmur though assigned the post with the most responsibility and danger. (See Pr. 6:14, 19, Cor. 10:10, Jas. 314ff., 3 Jn. 1:9, 10, etc.)
When God works, he works on both ends--that is, he worked in Joshua and he worked in those under Joshua to do God's good pleasure at Ai. Here we see a clear illustration of the self-denial needed if one will conquer the enemy for God. Mighty men of valour will deny themselves in order to do the Lord's will for themselves:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Mt. 16:24).
"Take up the cross" Each one has "his" cross, some point in which the will of God and self-will come into direct opposition. To the Captain of our salvation the conflict came in its very darkest and most dreadful form. Its climax was in the Garden, when after the great agony He cried: "Not My will, but Thine be done." Our conflict will not be nearly so severe: it may even be on a point that may seem small, -- whether or not we will give up some besetting sin, whether or not we will do some disagreeable duty, whether or not we will surrender something which stands between us and Christ, -- but whatever that be in which the will of God and our own will are set in opposition, there is our cross, and it must be taken up, and self denied that we may follow Christ. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh." Gibson 2316
Come after me; follow my directions. Deny himself; abstain from all indulgences which stand in the way of duty. Take up his cross; resist the pleadings of carnal policy and appetite, and submit to whatever may be needful, in order to obey God. The life of disciples of Christ is one of self-denial. They must make sacrifices, and it is wise to do so, for it is the way to avoid the greatest loss and obtain the greatest gain.7
No men do more harm to themselves, than they that love themselves more than God.8
We encounter those who desire to follow the Lord and do great things for him; however, they are unwilling or unable to deny themselves of what they take pleasure in, e.g., sleep, hobbies, outside activities, sports (especially couch-potato sports), even extra money offered to them to compromise their Christian stand. It seems they have no self-discipline to follow the Lord. (When we lived in Louisiana, church services during football season had to be over in time for folks to see the Dallas Cowboys kick off, usually at noon, or many would not be at church.)
Gibson said it well above: "Each one has 'his' cross, some point in which the will of God and self-will come into direct opposition." Paul develops the idea of self-denial in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. He tells us that those involved in sports will deny self in order to win the prize, which can only go to one person. (How many Christians deny God so they can spend the multitude of hours involved in sports--that is, couch-potato, spectator sports?) However, in the "Christian race," everyone can win the prize (i.e., the incorruptible crown), but it takes the same dedication and self-denial as required of an athlete training for a race. The athlete has only one goal--win the race. Rather than being a this one thing I do Christian, we are, more often than not, "these many things I try to do" Christians. Our one and common goal must be to do all to the glory of God.
Paul says that the Lord assigned to him a specific task, and he, as would the athlete seeking the crown of victory, keeps his body under subjection, so he can win his crown. He urges every Believer to the same self-discipline, the same goal of wining the incorruptible crown for properly finishing the course laid out for them by the Lord Jesus. (See Rom. 6:18, 19, Col. 3:5, 2 Tim. 2:22, 1 Pet. 2:11, etc.) "Alas, how many professing Christians today are wasting their energies upon tasks which God has never assigned them!"9
The time comes when the Captain of the Lord's Hosts, the Lord Jesus Christ through his Spirit, sends each of his servants away at night. The call is to self-sacrifice and diligence--to lay aside what the servant wants for what the Captain wants, to lay aside what is enjoyable and pleasant to the individual for what the Captain desires, to lay aside maybe even a good paying and secure job for what the Captain wants.
In the 30 or so years I have been around the Lord's work, I could count on one hand the people I have seen make the right choice. Let me qualify this statement a little: I have seen very few lay aside their "pleasures" in order to be faithful in what they professed in their Christianity--that is, making all else subservient to the Lord. A ball game, the hunting season, and/or an opportunity for optional overtime on the job interferes, and they make their choice. (Of course, a married man's first responsibility after the Lord is to his wife and family.) In Gibson's words, we see many come to that cross-roads where they had to choose between God's will and self-will, and the two were directly opposite. Some have blown the decision very badly, totally forsaking the Christian faith. Others have made the right choice, and God has prospered them accordingly.
"Those who would maintain their spiritual conflicts must not love their ease.10
Finally, notice that the whole army was not deprived of sleep the night before the big battle, but only 5,000 men. In other words, the Lord requires different areas of self-sacrifice and diligence of different people. However, he clearly requires each person to be willing to "lay his life on the line" and diligent effort for the cause of Christ.
Water never has nor will it ever run uphill, no matter what it might look like. The "conservative, evangelical, even 'Calvinistic'" church shows the results of "leaders" who are not diligent in their calling in Christ. For there are certain men crept in unawares who misuse God's sovereign predestination to justify their lack of diligence in trying to win their areas of responsibility for Christ.
Prayer: Lord, raise up some men and women by your grace who will make the right choice at that cross-roads.
1 Online Bible.
3 Gill, Online Bible.
4 A. W. Pink, Gleanings in Joshua, 214.
5 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Jude 4. Online Bible.
6 Online Bible.
7 Family notes, Online Bible.
10 Matthew Henry.