FROM GROSS DARKNESS TO THE
Good morning Brothers and Sisters. I bring you heartfelt greetings from your Brethren in Christ at the North Industry Ecclesia.
I see by the calendar that tomorrow will be the 230th anniversary of the birthday of our country. I have asked that two of the readings for tomorrow be read here this morning since I see a relationship between 1 Sam 16, Isaiah 60 and the secular celebration of this July 4, 1776, birth of one of the kingdoms of man. I must emphasize that although we have much to be thankful for in the establishment of a nation that has allowed us to live in relative comfort and safety where we have been free to worship Yahweh according to the Truth as the Spirit has recorded for us in Scripture, this nation is still a part of the Kingdom of Man and offers us no true hope for the glory of Yahweh that will fill the earth in the Kingdom Age and beyond as the waters cover the sea.
When we read our first reading of 1 Sam 16, we saw that Yahweh was sending Samuel out to anoint a king who would replace Saul who had failed miserably. Samuel would not choose the next ruler, but rather, he would confirm God’s choice. And I emphasize that it was to be God’s choice.
Then in our second reading, we saw that Isaiah 60 embraced some of the thoughts in the previous reading. There would be a period of “gross darkness” that eventually would be swept away by a promised “glorious light,” and that this “light” would lead to the Kingdom Age. We look forward in time today then to our true Independence Day in the future, an independence from sin and the flesh.
In the meantime this land, in which we are pilgrims and strangers, will celebrate its political independence within the kingdom of men. Red, white and blue, fireworks, the Declaration of Independence, family picnics, band concerts, parades, the Stars and Stripes -- it’s hard not to notice the patriotic fervor of the season. Abu Grabh, Gitmo, Al Queda, flag-draped caskets, liberal posturing, conservative counterattacks, one party making its points, the other party looking for weaknesses to exploit, -- the kingdom of man will continue to fulfill its destiny. And man thinks that he is guiding the direction of that destiny. How silly!The signs of the times become more apparent to those of us who are among the sojourners and pilgrims in a “foreign land.”
Many people tremble and wring their hands as they see the forces of their apostate, immortal, cloven-hoofed Satan or personal devil apparently gaining the ascendancy. To be sure, Satan, which we know is the personification of sin or the thinking of the flesh, is increasingly asserting itself in daily life. Books like the Left Behind series paint a dire scenario where the apocryphal Antichrist will soon make his appearance to lead the so-called unsaved people astray. People join in crusades to halt abortion and then bomb abortion clinics or kill the doctors who perform them. They march for this cause or that cause, and they join various movements to get the right candidates elected or the proper legislation or initiative passed. They think that if only they can get enough votes cast for Candidate A or for Candidate B, then all will work out fine. But all the time they fail to understand the key verse in the book of the prophet Daniel -- chapter 4, verse 17 which reads: THIS MATTER IS BY THE DECREE OF THE WATCHERS AND THE DEMAND BY THE WORD OF THE HOLY ONES: TO THE INTENT THAT THE LIVING MAY KNOW THAT THE MOST HIGH RULETH IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN, AND GIVETH IT TO WHOMSOEVER HE WILL, AND SETTETH UP OVER IT THE BASEST OF MEN. Note, Yahweh tells us that He will use the basest of men to accomplish His purpose. Therefore, our choice might well not be His choice! And just in case we miss the message the first time, the Spirit repeats it in the same chapter at verse 25 and again at verse 32. And if we still don’t get it, listen to what He says in chapter 5, verse 21, where Nebuchadnezzar is driven to dwelling with the beasts of the field: AND HE WAS DRIVEN FROM THE SONS OF MEN; AND HIS HEART WAS MADE LIKE THE BEASTS, AND HIS DWELLING WAS WITH THE WILD DONKEYS: THEY FED HIM WITH GRASS LIKE OXEN AND HIS BODY WAS WET WITH THE DEW OF HEAVEN; TILL HE KNEW THAT THE MOST HIGH GOD RULED IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN, AND THAT HE APPOINTETH OVER IT WHOMSOEVER HE WILL.
So, brothers and sisters, for those outside the household of faith, these are indeed times of apprehension, times of fear, times of uncertainty -- but for us we have the assurance that Yahweh is in control. He knows the beginning from the end, and we have faith in the end result because He has revealed that to us in His Word. We can be assured that the Elohim are at work guiding the events of history. Man is allowed to exercise his free-will, but God’s will is not to be thwarted. As certainly as God used Constantine to fulfill the first great earthquake in Revelation 6 and the overthrow of Pagan Rome, and as certainly as Yahweh used Napoleon to fulfill the prophecy of the second great earthquake in Revelation 11 leading to the French Revolution, which earthquake overthrew the temporal power of the RomanChurch, so will the third great earthquake recorded in Revelation 16 soon take place with Christ leading the saints against this kingdom of man to eventually usher in the Kingdom of God and the millennial rest that has been promised to the faithful.
Thus we have seen that Yahweh uses men of history to fulfill His purpose. Although world rulers are in darkness, God uses them as elements in the working out of His purpose. The apostle Paul exhorts us in Rom 13 to be in subjection to them and to pay all their dues. We must bear in mind, however, that our fear and honor are primarily due to Yahweh. All world rulers occupy their positions only temporarily, until Christ returns.
As citizens of the USA celebrate the holiday tomorrow, we can be thankful that purely by chance, by an accident of timing, we personally were born into 20th and 21st century America and not, say, into 4th or 5th century Rome or Spain during the Inquisition.
We have a national day of Thanksgiving in November each year, but every day should be a day of “thanks living.” We have so much to be thankful for. Here we are in a land that was made possible very likely as a result of the logical outgrowth of that second earthquake in Revelation. Napoleon crushed the powerful temporal stranglehold that the Established Church had on thought in religious and social matters. Our pioneer fathers colonized a land free for the most part of Europe’s entrenched apostasy. Man had escaped from even earlier oppression so that he could open the Word and study it without fearing for his life. We are the heirs of that social and religious legacy. Even though they didn’t have a complete understanding of the Truth, they helped create an environment in which the seeds of the Truth could take root and flourish without the opposition it met on the Continent where the CatholicChurch prohibited even the reading of Scripture.
It is instructive to look at the outworking of God’s plan to make His holy Word available to us today. There were forces that attempted to keep His Word from ever getting to the ordinary man for many centuries. Many lives were given to make the Word available in English so that even the plow boy could learn of and know God’s will. The names John Wycliff and William Tyndale come to mind. Yahweh worked through our own pioneer brethren to bring the Truth out from under the restrictive cloak of orthodox religion. Today non-western membership of the Christadelphians is doubling every 15 years. One observer notes that in as little as 20 years, providing the Lord has not returned, and talking about non-English speaking brethren (and I quote) “only a fifth of our fellowship will be Anglo-Saxons and speak English as our mother tongue.” (unquote) Who would have thought even in 1990 that today the true Gospel would be being preached in the Russian language throughout what used to be the USSR? Hundreds of brethren and sisters attend Bible Schools in Eastern Europe and Russia according to a recent Gospel News magazine. There are reports of baptisms in China, Iran, Turkey and Vietnam as well as throughout Africa. Other magazines of the brotherhood report on mission efforts throughout Latin America. All of these facts are worthy of prayers of praise and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father. And our prayers should include petitions for the growth and well-being of these new lampstands.
We ourselves have been able to enjoy a social culture of freedom unknown anywhere else in history. Consider the dire circumstances that believers in previous generations have had to endure. Hardships have been suffered by believers at the hand of civil and religious authorities from apostolic times forward, and at the hand of the apostate church over and over again. Even today, in many areas of the world, members of the body of Christ must worship in secret and in fear for their lives.
The same Gospel News magazine that I just referenced published a picture of a newly baptized Brother Faris of Kandahar, Afghanistan. This city is one of the most fundamental Islamic cities in the world. According to the Koran, a convert to Christianity from Islam must be murdered within three days of his conversion. Brother Faris had his head chopped off by his father in law, using a garden spade, for the crime of embracing the Truth.
That we live in a free society puts that much greater a responsibility upon us to preach the Word. We as members of the household of faith shouldn’t be caught up in political movements that give allegiance to fleshly pursuits and thereby distract us from the work of the Truth. As we noted earlier, Yahweh chooses who will rule. Even Samuel had some difficulty with this truth as recorded in our first reading today.
After the period of the judges Yahweh had allowed the Israelites to have a king “like the other nations around them.” They had rejected Him as their king. And we see how that played out. God eventually took His spirit from Saul. Samuel was instructed to go to Bethlehem and anoint the next king from among the sons of Jesse. Samuel thought that surely Eliab must be the one. But in verse 7 of 1 Samuel 16 we read: BUT THE LORD SAID UNTO SAMUEL, LOOK NOT ON THE COUNTENANCE OR ON THE HEIGHT OF HIS STATURE, BECAUSE I HAVE REFUSED HIM: FOR THE LORD SEETH NOT AS MAN SEETH; FOR MAN LOOKETH ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT YAHWEH LOOKETH ON THE HEART. It wasn’t until the eighth son passed before Samuel that Yahweh indicated that David was the one to be anointed. Man can be so wrong in his choices. But Yahweh through His Elohim is making those choices today, even in our “democratic” elections! Since the middle of May we have been reading from the prophecy of Isaiah. This book exhibits a parallel in structure to our whole canon of scripture. Like the 39 books of the Old Testament, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah reveal scathing denunciations of and pronouncements on the disobedient Israelites and the disbelieving Gentile nations that interact with God’s chosen people. Here we see a jealous God, a wrathful and angry God. However, in our readings since the middle of June, the final 27 chapters reveal a consolation and hope much like the 27 books of the New Testament. In this section we see a forgiving and merciful God. In our reading today we read of a promise of glory for God’s people. Verse 1 of Isaiah 60 says: ARISE, SHINE; FOR THY LIGHT IS COME, AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS RISEN UPON THEE. No longer do we have the voice of condemnation. The Redeemer came then and will soon come again, and we will have a time of rejoicing. But verse 2 tells us that the Light of the World was taken away: FOR, BEHOLD, THE DARKNESS SHALL COVER THE EARTH, AND GROSS DARKNESS THE PEOPLE: BUT YAHWEH SHALL ARISE UPON THEE, AND HIS GLORY SHALL BE SEEN UPON THEE. We are sinking now into the period of “gross darkness” which will be the state of Christendom at the Second Advent. We can see evidence of that now with clergy abuse charges, ordinations of gay bishops and other clergy, greater political activism by the religious Right and on and on.
Yahweh manifested himself two centuries ago as “the light of the world” that shone on a dark and evil Gentile and Jewish world. In a short three and a half year public ministry, God revealed through His son a future time when that “gross darkness” would be dispelled forever. John 1:14 says: THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US, AND WE BEHELD HIS GLORY AS OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. Christ was that Light of the World sent to dispel the darkness.
The present manifestation of this darkness will be deeper, and wider spread than it was back then; but then too, the light that eventually will dispel it permanently will be that much more glorious. We must not succumb to moments of weakness when we might be tempted to put any modicum of trust in man or the flesh.
Our pioneer brother Robert Roberts spoke to this fleshly desire of trusting in man’s ways. Listen to what he says: (Quote.) “Everybody does it” is a common apology for doubtful ways. Sinners take courage from sinners, and when there are many of them, the bands of iniquity are strong. But, numbers do not alter principles. Though hand join hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished. The transgressors were numerous at the Flood; and again in the wilderness under Moses; and again, under Jerusalem in the days of Christ. And they are in the overwhelming ascendant at this closing hour of the Gentile times. Let us not be deceived by their numbers. It is their destiny to “fall,” and the righteous shall “see it,” as they have repeatedly done in the past. (Unquote.)
But those with the mind of the Spirit glory in the acknowledgment that Yahweh is in control. Before that day when Christ reappears, there will be difficulties that sorely test our faith. Unfortunately, some in the household of faith will fall away. So we must keep before us the knowledge that 2000 years ago, Christ showed himself alive to his disciples by many infallible proofs, and then he ascended to the right hand of the Father and, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, His name was convincingly preached for the taking out of a people from among the Jews and Gentiles, then and now, a people for His name upon the belief of the gospel of the kingdom, and upon repentance and baptism into His name. Those who in faith and obedience endure unto the end will be His seed, the sons of Zion. Thus will the gross darkness be dispelled by this instrument of the Father and be replaced by a glorious light.
One secular proverb declares that it is darkest before the dawn. These last days of Gentile and Jewish darkness will become the last hours of a night whose darkness is at its greatest intensity just before the dawn of Christ’s return. The scriptural illustrations of events that have begun to commence are many and clear. But we know that in time, the glorious Son of Righteousness, our Lord and Savior, will return and draw to himself all those who will be hidden under the cloak of night just as the Word was hidden by the darkness of evil forces. There was a very real reason that one long period of history after the apostolic age was known as the Dark Ages. The darkness continues and deepens, but a glorious light is coming.
Verse 3 in Isaiah 60 says: AND THE GENTILES SHALL COME TO THY LIGHT AND KINGS TO THE BRIGHTNESS OF THY RISING. A great change will come over the nations in the day of Christ. This will not be immediate, for when Christ steals in upon the world as a thief in the night, the ruling powers will be angry to the point of war, which war will be preparatory to being gathered together at Armageddon.
Verse 12 gives warning to those nations who don’t submit: FOR THE NATION AND KINGDOM THAT WILL NOT SERVE THEE SHALL PERISH; YEA, THOSE NATIONS SHALL BE UTTERLY WASTED. But the promises to the household of faith and to those nations who do submit are marvelous in what they imply! We don’t have to take matters into our own hands. We don’t have to join this crusade to better the world, or march for that cause to punish a wrongdoer. In verse 14 Isaiah declares through the Spirit: THE SONS ALSO OF THEM THAT AFFLICTED THEE SHALL COME BENDING UNTO THEE; AND ALL THEY THAT DESPISED THEE SHALL BOW THEMSELVES DOWN AT THE SOLES OF THY FEET, AND THEY SHALL CALL THE CITY OF YAHWEH, THE ZION OF THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL.
We gather around the table of our Lord this morning to break bread, the symbol of His broken body, and to drink wine, the symbol of the New Covenant. We do this on a regular basis to remind ourselves of His great sacrifice, to remind ourselves of the great promises that were made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the further extension of those promises to David. Let us never forget that Yahweh’s will is going to be accomplished, with or without us. But we have assurance of a place in those promises through our obedience, through our confession of sin and repentance, and through our seeking of forgiveness for those sins. This table, these emblems, this remembrance of our Lord’s great sacrifice is our assurance of that promise.
Continuing in Isaiah 60 at verse 18, we read of these further promises in the Kingdom: VIOLENCE SHALL NO MORE BE HEARD IN THY LAND, WASTING NOR DESTRUCTION WITHIN THY BORDERS; BUT THOU SHALT CALL THY WALLS SALVATION, AND THY GATES PRAISE. THE SUN SHALL BE NO MORE THY LIGHT BY DAY; NEITHER FOR BRIGHTNESS SHALL THE MOON GIVE LIGHT UNTO THEE: BUT YAHWEH SHALL BE UNTO THEE AN EVERLASTING LIGHT, AND THY GOD THY GLORY. THY SUN SHALL NO MORE GO DOWN, NEITHER SHALL THY MOON WITHDRAW ITSELF: FOR YAHWEH SHALL BE THINE EVERLASTING LIGHT, AND THE DAYS OF THY MOURNING SHALL BE ENDED . THY PEOPLE ALSO SHALL BE ALL RIGHTEOUS: THEY SHALL INHERIT THE LAND FOR EVER, THE BRANCH OF MY PLANTING, THE WORK OF MY HANDS THAT I MAY BE GLORIFIED. A LITTLE ONE SHALL BECOME A THOUSAND, AND A SMALL ONE A STRONG NATION: I YAHWEH WILL HASTEN IT IN HIS TIME.
One commentator states that there are over 300 references to the return of Christ in the New Testament. That averages out to one reference for every 13 verses. It has also been calculated that for every reference to Christ's first advent in the Old Testament, there are eight references to His second coming. And to think that I heard one mainline clergyman say once that (quote), “My personal theology doesn’t allow for the return of Christ's (unquote)
Toward the end of summer, our readings will take us to the prophetic writings of Ezekiel where he talks about the restoration of the Kingdom and then a still future Kingdom. He gave this prophecy to encourage the exiled Jews in Babylon that Jerusalem would be rebuilt and also to keep our focus on the later working out of that great promise of the coming Kingdom. Brethren, that glorious light is coming soon.
Tomorrow is a day of secular, fleshly, national celebration. Think how much greater will be our Independence Day jubilation when the Kingdom to which we give our allegiance is re-established here on earth. We have been told that the music in the Kingdom Age will be so much superior to the music of this age. One can only imagine what the Kingdom Age fireworks will be like when we celebrate our ultimate independence from sin, and from these bodies of flesh; that is.....when we celebrate our complete slavery in subjection and sacrifice to the service of our Lord and Master, Jesus the Christ. For we can only have freedom by becoming slaves to the Anointed One!
Jack VOGELGESANG North Industry, Ohio
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