Difficult Passages

Jeremiah in thought

 

The word says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.(2 Tim. 2:15).

However in our studying sometimes we come upon passages that frankly make us scratch our heads. They appear either confusing or very difficult to understand or worse yet- contradicting.

We are told in (John 16:13) “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth;..” So we see that we have a helper to guide us. We should not think that we cannot kneel down in prayer and ask for guidance. 

So this week’s post we’d like to look at some specific passages that appear difficult. By the Lord’s grace, we hope we can shed some light on them.

We know that many doubters and unbelievers will use these types of passages to say”Ah ha, see the Scriptures are fallible and not necessarily God’s truth.” Ellen White gives us good counsel.

“Those who desire to doubt will have plenty of room. God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief.” *(Test. for the Church, vol. 3, p.255)

The unbelief that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to the evidence that God is pleased to give.” (Ibid, p.258)

So we see that even if we think we see contradictions or confused passages, we are not to be doubtful or believe that some type of error or mistake was written. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). But this is where the “rubber meets the road.”

Those who desire to know what something really means can claim the Lord’s promise, “Seek and you shall find”(Matt. 7:7). Ok, let’s look at some of the difficult passages.

“But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” (Matt. 10:23)

However, we know that the apostles did preach the gospel to all the cities of Israel. Yet it’s been almost 2000 years and the Son of Man has yet to “come”. Or has He?

Now, let us go to Revelation chapter one. Let us read from verse 10 to 17.

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it  unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one  like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his  hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:”

Could this be the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise? It sure looks and sounds like it. We notice that John heard someone speak from behind him. And His voice was from the “Alpha and the Omega”. Then John is touched by Him as he “fell at His feet”and our Lord spoke again. All this happening while John was on the island of Pathos. What we may gather from this scene is that John may have first seen Jesus and upon seeing Him then fell into vision.

In commenting on this verse the Spirit of Prophecy said, “When John in his mortal state beheld the glory of God, he fell as one dead; he was not able to endure the sight. But when the children of God shall have put on immortality, they will “see Him as He is”. (Testimonies, vol. 9, p.285)

Next we look at apostle Paul’s supposed prediction that he would see the Lord’s coming “in the clouds”.

“The we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thes. 4:17)

We could very well say that Paul prophesied falsely , right? He was writing to the faithful and encouraging them that soon they would see the Lord’s coming in the clouds. However, this appears a classic case of the Spirit of Prophecy’s prophetic words.

“Each of the ancient prophets spoke less for their time than for ours, so that their prophesying is in force for us.” (Selected messages, vol. 3, p.338)

So the right way to interpret this passage of Paul’s is to understand that he was “projecting” himself into the future, although he may not have been aware of it at the time. Further, just as John the Baptist was convinced the Lord would establish His kingdom at His first advent, so too Paul appears convinced that the Lord’s coming was an event he would witness. Obviously both are declared innocent for such deep love and hope of their Lord’s kingdom.

Now we’ll look at something that is a prime example of a confused passage. Those who would like to hang their doubts on a passage, sure got one here. But the prophet who was to “restore all things” shows us how this seemingly contradiction can be perfectly understood.

Brother Houteff says,Acts 1:18: “And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:5.  “Now this man [Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” Acts 1:18.  These two halves, put together, is what tells the full story of Judas crime and death.  But the anti-Christians living in the days of the Apostles, declared:

 

   “These divergent records positively contradict each other, and the authors of them are nothing less than deceivers.”

   But were they?  Matthew 27:5 tells the first part of the story — that Judas hanged himself.  And Acts 1:18 tells the second part of it — the way he died.  Reading the two records together, they tell that Judas hanged himself, but that either the rope or the limb broke off, and that Judas fell headlong over something, perhaps a stick, or a stump that ripped his abdomen, then his bowels gushed out and that is the way he died. This harmony between the two gospel writers can be derived only if the reader reads to know the Truth, not if he is looking for pegs to hang his doubts on. (Jezreel Letter, no. 8, p.1)

Next we look at the confusing subject of “the Messenger of the Covenant.” Ellen White wrote some passages which seem confusing  and when we compare brother Houteff’s explanation , it too, appears at odds with EGW. But let us again behold the God sent explanation.

“Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John…But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.” (Matt. 11:7, 9, 10, 14.)

   Here we see that Jesus applied the message of Malachi Three to that of John the Baptist, and named him the Elijah that was to come, but when the Jews, priests, and Levites asked John saying, “Art thou Elias?…he saith, I am not.” (John 1:19, 21.) Shall we here conclude that both Jesus and John violated the truth? What then?

   Moreover, the “Gospel Workers” applies Malachi 3:1 to Christ’s first advent, but the same author in “The Great Controversy, ” p. 424, par. 3, applies it to Christ’s coming to the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary in 1844; and on p. 425, is applied to the soon expected purification of the church.

Again, on p. 426, the author states that “…Dan. 8:14; the coming of the Son of man to the Ancient of days, as presented in Dan. 7:13; and the coming of the Lord to His temple, foretold by Malachi, are descriptions of the same event; and this is also represented by the coming of the bridegroom to the marriage, described by Christ in the parable of the ten virgins, of Matthew 25.”

   If only one of these applications could be right, then which one should we choose? When the questioner harmoniously unifies the above scattered periods to which Malachi 3:1 is applied, then “The Shepherd’s Rod” will prove to him to be in perfect harmony with “The Great Controversy” and “Gospel Workers.” Though one statement seems to contradict the other, yet we are compelled to conclude that every one of these inspired applications must be correct. Says the great apostle, “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged.” (Rom. 3:3, 4.)

   The trouble does not lie in the statements themselves, but rather in man’s limited knowledge of the truth therein, which proves that we are in the period of the Laodiceans, — “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” But the worst part of it all lies in that the Lord is saying to the church of today, “Thou knowest not” your great ignorance in not understanding rightly the Word of truth, and she does not believe Him! The apparent contradictions being discussed in this article are harmonized, in short, as follows:

   Any fair Bible student will, without difficulty, perceive at a glance that the perfect fulfillment of Malachi Three is yet future, and is directly applicable to the imminent “purification of the church,” –  “temple” — for saith the Lord, “Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope.” (Mal. 3:2.)

Though Christ and the “Gospel Workers” apply this scripture to Christ’s first advent, any student of sacred history knows that it did not meet its perfect fulfillment there, for the Jews did not “delight” in Him as prophesied in Malachi 3:1, but instead, they hated Him. Neither did Christ at that time purify His church as described by the prophet.

But by the fact that Christ applied Malachi Three to John the Baptist’s message, and as this scripture did not meet its fulfillment at that time, it proves that John was a type of the Elijah that is to come before the coming of the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5), at which time the prophecy will be fulfilled in its fullness.

   Therefore, as John was a messenger to God’s own people at that time, just so at this time the Elijah of Malachi’s prophecy represents a message which is to be delivered not to the world, but to the professed people of God. As John was their last prophet, his message was their final means to fit them for the Messiah’s appearing, for which cause said the Master, “If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. (Matt. 11:14) Likewise, Elijah’s message of today must be to the professed people of God, and is to be their last means to fit them for Christ’s appearing at this time.

   Thus as John “…declared that those who claimed to be the chosen people of God were defiled by sin, and that without purification of heart and life they could have no part in the Messiah’s kingdom” (Desire of Ages, p. 104), just so the Elijah’s message at this time will denounce the denominational corruptions — “the abominations in the midst thereof” (Etc. 9:4) — rebuke the prevailing sins, and exclaim: “What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong!…They know not that their condition is deplorable in the sight of God….The message to the church of the Laodiceans is a startling denunciation.” — “Testimonies for the Church, ” Vol. 3, pp. 252-3.

   The above proves that the cleansing of the ancient temple in Jerusalem was a type of the purification of the church, which will take place at a time when the house of God is made a house of merchandise by selling denominational publications and raising goals (8 T. 250), for when Christ “had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence: make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:15, 16.)

 The “Great Controversy,” p. 424, applying Malachi Three to Christ’s coming to the heavenly sanctuary in 1844, and on p. 425, to the impending purification of the church at this present time, to which the parable of the ten virgins refers to, must now be harmonized.

 The fact that Malachi Three is again applied to two different periods, — the one of 1844 and also to the one in which the church is to be purified — proves that Malachi’s prophecy apprehends both the judgment of the dead and the judgment of the living.

Consequently, there are two such comings of the Lord “to His temple” and two purifications, — first, the cleansing of the temple (sanctuary) from the wicked dead (the investigative judgment), and second, the purification of the church (temple) from the living wicked, at which time Malachi 3:1-3 will meet its perfect fulfillment. The parable of the ten virgins is applicable to the latter. See “The Shepherd’s Rod,” Vol. 2, pp. 180-186.

 

   Here follows the explanation of the “messenger of the covenant.” As Christ was the “Messenger of the covenant” at His first advent; also Moses, while leading Israel out of Egypt; in like manner, John the Baptist’s message; and the one to the Laodiceans — all four were compared to the message of Malachi 3:1. Here we see that the title, “messenger of the covenant,” referred to by Malachi, is applied to more than one person, in the same manner as the promises which were made to ancient Israel are now applicable to modern Israel — the 144, 000.

   Says the Spirit of Prophecy, “…It is necessary now that the minds of God’s people should be open to understand the Scriptures. To say that a message means just this and nothing more, that you must not attach any broader meaning to the words of Christ than we have in the past, is saying that which is not actuated by the Spirit of God.” — R. & H., Oct. 21, 1890.

   The word, “covenant,” means nothing more or less than an agreement, — promise. This being true, Moses was a “messenger of the covenant;” namely, the promise God made to Abraham that He was to deliver his posterity out of Egypt by a prophet — messenger. John also came in fulfillment of prophecy as he himself declared that Esaias had prophesied of him (John 1:23), and according to Christ’s own statement (Matt. 11:7, 9, 10), Malachi had also prophesied of John.

   As God had made a written covenant with His ancient people that He was to send them the Messiah, Christ came in fulfillment of that covenant, and having brought a message by His teachings, He was the “Messenger of the covenant.” But the words of Malachi in chapter three, verse one, make plain that before the Lord comes “to His temple,” He will send a messenger to prepare the way, at which time He is to purify the sons of Levi, — those who minister in “His temple” — the church.

As he that “is filthy” at the moment probation closes must remain “filthy” (Rev. 22:11), it follows that this work of purification which the Lord is to perform at His coming must be accomplished in probationary time, and long before the gospel work is finished, for He cannot finish it with the impure sons of Levi,” — ministry. This particular coming of the Lord is also predicted in Vol. 5, pp. 80, 690.

   In view of the fact that Christ at His coming to purify the church will not in person preach the message as He did before the crucifixion, but send someone other than himself, how could He at this time be the “messenger of the covenant?”

There is but one answer to this — the one who brings the message must be the “messenger of the covenant,” and when the Lord sends him he will fulfill the promise of Malachi 4:5. Having prepared “the way,” the Lord will “sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Mal. 3:3), “and it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion.” (Isa. 4:3, 4.)

   Furthermore, though the title, “messenger of the covenant,” is applied to more than one messenger, it rightfully belongs to the Holy Spirit, and only for the reason that the Spirit of God is in them are they designated by that title. For example, we call the reader’s attention to 1 Pet. 3:18-20. There it is stated that Christ went and preached to the antediluvians by the same “Spirit” Who “quickened” Him.

Being stated that He went by the Spirit and not in person, it proves that Christ accomplished this by that same Spirit through Noah. Hence, Christ being the “Messenger of the covenant, and He being in Noah by the Spirit, compels us to acknowledge that the title, “messenger of the covenant,” belongs not only to those mentioned in this article, including Noah, but to all God’s chosen messengers in whose message is Christ, by that same Spirit. (Sym. Code, vol. 1, no.4, p.4-5)

In closing let us realize that the Lord’s word is sometimes like a hard to find gold nugget in the mother lode stream. We just have to search a little harder and we shall find that shining gold nugget of Truth. May the Lord guide us into all Truth.

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