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Why Evil Was Permitted
B. There are many beautiful truths taught in the Bible, which commend themselves to my better judgment, and if I could only have my mind clear on some points, I would gladly accept the whole. It seems, too, that there must be some way out of my difficulties, if I could only find it; for surely the book is stamped with a wisdom higher than human, and my difficulty must arise from a failure to comprehend it more fully.
A. Well, my brother, it gives me great pleasure to meet with an honest inquirer after truth. You are anxious, then, to find the connecting links in the great chain which binds the interests of humanity to the throne of God. We believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and that the Spirit will guide us into all truth. If it should please Him to use me as His mouthpiece, it will be a great privilege. Will you please state one of those points, and when that is made clear, we shall be glad to hear of others?
B. One of these questions is, why was evil permitted? If God is infinite in power, wisdom and goodness, why did he permit his fair creation to be so marred by sin? After creating our first parents perfect and upright, why did he permit Satan to present the temptation? or why allow the forbidden tree to have a place among the good? Could he not have prevented all possibility of man’s overthrow?
A. I see just where your difficulty lies, and I think I can make it very plain to you. It pleased God for the joy it gives him to dispense his goodness, and to exercise the attributes of his glorious being to create various orders of intelligent beings. Some he has endowed with greater capacity than others; but each he made perfectly adapted to his sphere and destiny. We are acquainted with many forms of life in our world, and doubtless many others exist of which we know nothing yet; but above all others, stands man, the master-piece of God’s workmanship, endowed with reason and intelligence superior to all others, and given the dominion over all. He was made upright and perfect; God pronounced him “very good.” He also made him (Adam) free in the exercise of all his powers—physical, mental and moral—and though these powers were all perfect in their measure, yet they were each capable of large development. Now, had evil never been placed before him, he could not have resisted it, and, consequently, there would be no virtue nor merit in his doing right. I presume I need scarcely remark here, that not the fruit of the tree, but the act of disobedience caused man’s fall.
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B. But could not God have made man unchangeably perfect?
A. No; to have done so would have been to make another God. Unchangeableness is an attribute only of an infallible, infinite being—God. He who cannot err must, of necessity, be all-wise, all-powerful and, consequently, eternal—a God and yet a creature—a supposition as absurd as impossible.
B. I had never thought of it so.
A. If an intelligent creature is to be made at all, he must be made liable to change; and, as he was created pure, any change must be from purity to sin. He could not even know the meaning of good unless he had evil to contrast with it. He could not be reckoned as obedient to God, unless a temptation to disobedience were presented, and such an evil made possible.
B. But could not God, with whom we are told “all things are possible,” have interfered in season to prevent the full accomplishment of Satan’s designs?
A. You say, “all things are possible with God.” I trust you remember that it is all possible things that are possible with him. “It is impossible for God to lie.” Heb. 6:18. “He cannot deny himself.” 2 Tim. 2:13. He cannot do wrong. He cannot choose any but the wisest and best plan for introducing his creatures into life; and we should bear in mind, that the fact of God’s not interfering with the introduction and development of sin is one of the very strongest of reasons for believing that evil is necessary, and designed ultimately to work good.
C. Bro. A, may I interrupt you here to ask, why, if it was proper and wise that Adam should have a trial under the most favorable circumstances, as a perfect man, should not all his posterity have a similarly favorable trial? We all know that we are born with both mental and physical ailments and imperfections. Why did not God give us all as good a chance as Adam?
A. If you or I had been in Adam’s place, we would have done just as he did. Remember, he had known God only a little while. He found himself alive; perhaps God told him he was his creator, had a right to command his obedience, and to threaten and inflict punishment for disobedience. But what did Adam know about the matter? Here was another being at his side who contradicted God, telling him that he would not die from eating the fruit; that God was jealous, because eating of this fruit would make him a God also. Then the tempter exemplified his teaching by eating of it himself, and man saw that he was the wisest of creatures. Can you wonder that they ate? No; as a reasoning being he could scarcely have done otherwise.
C. But he should have remembered the penalty—what a terrible price he must pay for his disobedience—the wretchedness and death which would follow. If I were so placed, I think I should make more effort to withstand the tempter.
A. Wait, Bro. C.; you forget that Adam, up to this time, was totally unacquainted with wretchedness and death. He could not know what wretchedness meant; he never had been wretched. He did not know what dying meant; he never had died, nor seen any creature die, for death did not enter the world until after his disobedience (Rom. 5:12), and if you or I had been there, controlled by an unbiased judgment, we would have done just as Adam did. The reason you think you could withstand better is, that you have had experience with evil, and have learned, in a measure, what Adam up to that time had not learned in the smallest degree, viz., to know good from evil.
C. O! I see. Then it is because we would have done just as Adam did that God is justified in counting us all sinners, that “by the one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners,” and “by the offence of one, all were condemned” (Rom. 5:18,19), and so “the wages of sin (death) passed upon all,” and through or “in Adam all die.”
B. Do I understand you to say that God does evil that good may come?
A. By no means. God did no evil, and he permitted it only because it was necessary that his creatures should know good from evil; that by being made acquainted with sin and its consequences—sickness, misery and death—they might learn “the exceeding sinfulness of sin,” and having tasted that the bitter “wages of sin is death,” they might be prepared to choose life and live.
B. But did not God implant in his creature that very thirst for knowledge which led him to an act of disobedience in order to gratify it? Does it not seem too, that He wanted him to become acquainted with evil, and if so, why should He attach a penalty to the sinful act, knowing that a knowledge of evil could be obtained in no other way?
A. We can see readily that a knowledge of evil could be obtained in no way except by its introduction; and remember, Adam could not have disobeyed if God had given no commandment, and every command must have a penalty attached to give it force. Therefore, I claim that God not only foresaw man’s fall into sin, but designed it. It was a part of His plan. God permitted, nay, wanted man to fall; and why? Because, having the remedy provided for his release from its consequences, He saw that the result would be to lead man to a knowledge, through experience, which would enable him to see the bitterness and blackness of sin—”the exceeding sinfulness of sin,” and the matchless brilliancy of virtue in contrast with it; thus teaching him the more to love and honor his Creator, who is the fountain and source of all goodness, and to forever shun that which brought so much woe and misery. So the final result is greater love to God, and greater hatred of all that is opposed to Him. The best armament against temptation is knowledge.
C. Your reasoning is clear, forcible and would seem to me plausible were it not that this experience and knowledge come too late to benefit the human family. Adam failed from want of knowledge and experience to maintain uprightness of character. His posterity, though possessing that knowledge and experience, fail to attain uprightness from lack of ability occasioned by his sin.
B. I can see no objection to your new view, that evil was permitted because necessary to man’s development and designed for his ultimate good, were it not as Bro. C. suggests: Mankind will never have an opportunity to make use of the experience and knowledge thus obtained. But, Bro. A., what did you mean a few minutes since when you said, God had a remedy provided for man’s release from the effects of the fall before he fell?
A. God foresaw that having given man freedom of choice, he would, through lack of knowledge, accept evil when disguised as an “angel of light;” and also that becoming acquainted with it, he would still choose it, because that acquaintance would so impair his moral nature, that evil would become more agreeable to him and more to be desired than good. So, permitting him to take his own course, man brought upon himself misery and death, from which he could never recover himself. Then the voice of infinite love is heard: “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin
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Why Evil Was Permitted
(Continued from first page.)
of the world.” This is Christ Jesus, and the death of Christ for man’s sin was a part of God’s plan as much as man’s fall. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” His death for our sins was purposed by God before man fell; yes, before man was created.
B. I begin to see a harmony and beauty connected with the introduction of evil which I had not suspected. May we not reasonably say that God could not have displayed those qualities of His nature so attractive to us—mercy and pity—nor could His great love have been made so apparent, had not the occasion for their exercise been presented by man’s necessities?
A. I am glad that you have suggested this thought. It is true, that though “the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy,” yet neither of these would have been seen had there not been a sinner requiring them; and while “God is love,” and always has been the same, yet it is true that “in this was manifested the love of God,” and “hereby perceive we the love of God, because He (Christ) laid down his life for us.” And do you not see that in the arrangement of the whole plan the wisdom of God is beautifully shown? Let me say further, that as we proceed, we shall find God’s justice made to shine because of the introduction of evil. God might have told His creatures of these attributes, but never could have exhibited them had not sin furnished an occasion for their exhibition.
C. This suggests another thought: Man could not have developed these moral qualities had God set no example.
A. Another good point, “He hath set us an example that we should walk in His footsteps.” We learn what mercy, justice and love are by God’s illustration of them, and we are exhorted, “Be ye followers of God as dear children and walk in love.” Notice, further, that we could not develop mercy, pity, love, etc., unless we had fellow sinners upon whom to exercise them. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.”
B. I am becoming anxious to see the outcome. You have suggested that Christ is the remedy for man’s recovery from the effects of the fall, and that it was so arranged and purposed by God before creating the race, but you have not shown how the recovery is effected.
A. I am glad that you have not lost sight of the real object of our conversation. The answer to this question will involve the consideration of two points. First, What was the penalty pronounced
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and inflicted? and, second, What was the remedy, and how applied? May I ask you to state in Scripture language what penalty God pronounced on Adam’s sin?
B. I believe it reads, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But he did not die for nine hundred and thirty years.
A. You quote correctly. The marginal reading will help you over the difficulty of his living nine hundred and thirty years. It is a more literal rendering of the Hebrew text: “In the day thou eatest thereof dying, thou shalt die.” i.e., from the moment he would disobey God, death would have dominion over him—would have a claim and right to him, and would begin his work. It was only a question of time how long it would be before he should lay them low. Elements of disease infested all nature with which they came in contact since separated from Eden and its trees of life.
We all are in a dying condition, partially dead, mentally, morally and physically. From the moment of birth, and before it, we have been in the clutches of death, and he never lets go until he has conquered. Man, by means of medical aid, attempts resistance, but at best it is a very brief struggle. Adam, because physically perfect, could offer great resistance. Death did not completely conquer him for nine hundred and thirty years, while the race at the present time, through the accumulated ills handed down through generations past, yields to his power on an average in about thirty-two years.
C. We are, then, so to speak, overshadowed by death from the cradle to the tomb, the shade increasing each moment, until it is blackness complete.
A. Yes; you get the thought as David expresses it in the twenty-third Psalm: “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” The further we go down into this valley the darker it becomes, until the last spark of life expires.
B. I understand you to believe that diseases of the various kinds are but the mouths of death by which we are devoured, since we were placed within his reach by Adam’s sin?
A. Yes; every pain and ache we feel is evidence, not that death will get hold of us, but that he now has us in his grasp. Adam and all his race have been in death ever since he disobeyed.
C. We frequently sing of death as the “Angel God has sent,” “the gate to endless joy,” etc., and yet I confess that I could never regard it except as an enemy, and such it would really seem to be.
A. Nowhere in Scripture is it represented as our friend, but always as an enemy of man, and consequently the enemy of God, who loves man; and we are told that “for this purpose Christ was manifest, that he might destroy death and him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil.”
B. If death is the penalty for sin, has not mankind paid that penalty in full when dead? Might he not be released from death the moment after dying, yet fully meet the demand of justice?
A. “The wages of sin is death”—not dying, but “death“—forever. As well say that a man condemned to imprisonment for life had received the full penalty in the act of going into prison, as that man received his penalty in the act of going into death. In disobedience man fell into the hands of Justice, and though God is merciful and loving, there can be no warfare between his attributes. Mercy and love must be exercised in harmony with justice. “God is just” and “will by no means clear the guilty.” Man was guilty, and must therefore be dealt with by Justice. Justice cries, Your life is forfeited, “dying thou shalt die.” Man is cast into the great prison-house of death, and Justice, while locking him in, says: “Thou shalt by no means come out thence until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”
B. Do I express the same idea by saying, that man forfeited his right to life by his disobedience, and, consequently, God, in justice, recognizing and enforcing his own law, could not permit him to live again, unless he could meet the claims of justice?
A. The idea is the same. Man is the debtor, and unless he can pay the debt he cannot come out of the prison-house of death—cannot have life. He cannot pay this debt, and consequently cannot release himself. But man’s weakness and helplessness gives occasion for the display of God’s mercy and love in Christ Jesus, for “When there was no eye to pity and no arm to save,” God devised a way by which he could be both just and merciful; and “while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
C. How for them? His death does not prevent men from dying.
A. It does not prevent their dying, but it does prevent their continuance in the prison-house of death. He came to “open the prison doors and set at liberty the captives.” This he does, not by opposing God’s justice, but in recognizing it and paying that which is due. He has a right to set those prisoners free. In his own death—the just for the unjust—he ransomed us, as it is written, “I will ransom (purchase) them from the power of the grave;” “I will redeem them from death;” “For ye were bought with a price, even the precious blood (life) of Christ.”
C. I understand you to mean, that as Jesus came into the world by a special creative act of God, he was free from the curse which rested upon the balance of the race, therefore not liable to death. As the second Adam, He was tried but came off conqueror. “He was obedient even unto death,” but not having forfeited his right to life, either through Adam’s sin or his own, death had no claim upon him. He, therefore had something to offer Justice for the life of mankind.
A. Yes, as he himself said, “My flesh I will give for the life of the world.” Jno. 6:51. He must have a right to continuance of life else he could not give it. He did not conquer nor overthrow Justice, but recognizing the Justice of the Law of God in the forfeit of the sinner’s life he purchased it back with his own, and thereby obtained the right to “destroy death”—the enemy who for a time is used as the servant of Justice.
B. Then Justice accepted the life of Christ as a substitute for the sinner’s life. But it seems unjust to make the innocent suffer for the guilty.
A. It would be unjust to make or compel such suffering, but “Christ gave himself for us.” “He for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”
C. But how could the life of one purchase the life of many?
A. By the rule of
As Adam was substituted for the race in trial, and through his failure “death passed upon all men” and all were counted sinners even before birth, so the obedience of death in Christ justified all men to a return to life. Paul so expresses it in Rom. 5:18. [Em. Diaglott.] “For as through the disobedience of ONE man, the many were constituted sinners, so also through the obedience of the ONE the many will be constituted (reckoned) righteous;” and “as through one offence sentence came on all men to condemnation, (condemning them to death) so also, through one righteous act sentence came on all men to justification of life.”—justifying their living again.
B. Shall we understand then that the resurrection of the dead is optional or compulsory on Justice?
A. Christ having “tasted death for every man,” it is certainly compulsory on Justice to release the prisoners held for sin. Christ’s sacrifice having been accepted as “the propitiation (settlement) of our sins, and not of ours (believers) only, but also for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD,” all must go free because God is Just.
B. Does not this imply universal, eternal salvation?
A. No, it implies the saving or salvation of all men from the condition of death, but as many of them will be liable to the “second death” on account of their own sin, it cannot be eternal salvation. The second Adam will eventually restore to the race all that is lost by the first Adam’s sin. We could not lose eternal life in Adam, because he never had it to lose—he was a probationer for the eternal life.
C. Was eternal life ever offered to Adam?
A. Not directly, but his continuance of life if obedient, is implied in the threatening of death if disobedient.
C. Then this salvation cannot be what Paul refers to saying, “the gift of God is eternal life.”
A. No; the restoration to natural life was not a gift of God, but a thing once possessed and then lost, now to be returned, because “purchased“—paid for. Having restored the race, brought them back to where they were before the fall, with the advantage of knowing from actual experience the character and results of that evil which Adam mistook for good, and which is again to present itself for their trial, they will be given an opportunity of accepting this “Gift of God”—eternal life. When thus restored to perfect natural life, possessing the knowledge of good and evil, as perfect obedience will be expected of them as was required of Adam.
C. If ransomed, why do they remain in death and others die, since Christ has paid the price?
A. If you make a purchase, pay the price for goods, it does not follow of necessity that you take them away at once. You may have other things to attend to for a time, and when prepared, you call for the purchased goods. God has a time for everything; man had been in the enemy’s country four thousand years before his release was purchased by Christ. The receipt was signed by God and accepted by justice, and in His “due time,” when He has established his kingdom,
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all that are in their graves shall come forth, for as in, or through, Adam ALL die, even so in, or through, Christ shall ALL be made alive. (Not all at once, but “every man in his own order.”) Jesus saw mankind a “treasure (precious thing) hid in a field, and for joy, He selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field” (Matt. 13:44). For the joy set before him, He bought the earth with man in it, giving all that He had (life) for us. We and the earth are now His “purchased possession,” and Eph. 1:14, informs us that the time is coming for “the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory.”
C. You seem to say nothing about conditions of salvation, while the Scriptures mention them frequently.
A. There are conditions laid down for the attainment of the “Gift of God—eternal life,” but none for the recovery of the race from the fall, except the righteousness and acceptableness of our Substitute. To have a clear understanding of God’s plan, we must recognize the distinction which He makes between the world in general and the church, or called out ones of the present time. God “loves the world,” and has made great and rich provisions, as we have seen, for their coming, in His due time, to a condition of perfectness and happiness; but in the meantime, while they are getting their experience with evil, God calls out from among them “a little flock,” to whom He makes “exceeding great and precious promises,” conditioned on their living separate from the balance of the world—”overcoming the world“—i.e., that they may become members of God’s family, and be joined with Him in “blessing all the families of the earth.” Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us (believers), that we should be called the children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and JOINT heirs with JESUS CHRIST our Lord.”
B. It is very clear to my mind, that a false idea of substitution has obtained among christian people from a supposition that it represented God as a vindictive, vengeful tyrant, angry because man had sinned; refusing to show mercy until Blood had been shed and caring not whether it was the blood of the innocent or the guilty so long as it was blood. I doubt not, many christians have been led to look upon Substitution as a God-dishonoring doctrine, even though there are many scriptures which are found difficult to otherwise make use of, as “He tasted death for every man;” “My flesh I will give for the life of the world;” “Without the shedding of blood (life) there is no remission of sins;” “Redemption through His blood;” “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” It was not His leaving the glory which he had, nor His having kept the law, nor by His being rejected of the Jews, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, nor by His resurrection, nor by work He has since accomplished, but, “by His DEATH that we are reconciled to God.”
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I now see Him as mankind’s Substitute, suffering death, the penalty which the justice of God had inflicted upon us. I can see “the exceeding sinfulness of sin” in God’s sight, the perfection of His Justice, and His great wisdom in so arranging it all, that man’s extremity was made the occasion for the manifestation of “the great love wherewith He loved us” when “He gave his only begotten Son,” and “laid upon him the iniquity of us all,” as well as the love of Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, (buy back to us all we had lost by iniquity). I feel to exclaim with Paul, “O! the depth of the riches both of the knowledge and wisdom of God.”
C. I have heard frequently your views of restitution, and saw some force and considerable beauty in them, but I never before saw how absolutely certain man’s restoration to life is. I see now that the same justice of God, which could in no case clear the guilty, and could not permit man’s release from death until the price of his ransom had been paid.—The very purity of this Justice, as well as the love of God in providing the ransom, assures us that the penalty, or price, having now been paid, every man must ultimately be released from death. Now can we know that all when restored and under favorable conditions, with the Gospel church—Christ and the members of His body—for their rulers and teachers, kings and priests—will they not all be melted by the love of God, manifested in their recovery at such a cost as Christ’s death? Will not all accept and be eternally saved?
A. It would seem as though such love, when seen, would beget love and obedience; but we are assured that there is a second death, and while those who become subject to it, will not compare in numbers with the saved, yet, there will be a great company “as the sand of the sea,” at the end of the thousand years, who are incorrigible and are cast into the lake of fire, (the second death).
God made provision before our creation for the recovery from the first death, but, if after experience with evil and a knowledge of good, they do not appreciate God’s offered gift—eternal life—and refusing it, die for their own sin, (not Adam’s), there is no recovery; Christ will not die for them again. Those “count the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sealed an unholy thing,” and Justice and love can do nothing more for them.
C. Is not this scripture applied by the apostle to some living in the present age, and do not those christians who, having once believed that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,” turn from this and regard the death of Christ as not rescuing us from “the wages of sin—death,” but merely as a channel toward the perfecting of himself, that He might become the head of the spiritual race; do not such “count the blood of the covenant (Christ), wherewith they were sealed, an unholy thing”—a thing of small value?
A. This scripture is used with reference to this age, but is applicable and true of the next as well. I hope the class to whom you refer have not filled the picture (Heb. 10) of committing the unpardonable sin; yet, I confess that, it looks like a long step in that direction, to deny the statement that “He was cut off, but not for himself;” (Dan. 9:26.) “That we are justified (to life) by His blood,” (Rom. 5:9-18) and many other plain statements of the Word. The old serpent is still wise to lead astray, and where he cannot keep God’s children in the dark, since having seen and loved the light, he fain would present a false light, seeing they are so enraptured with the true, and, disguising himself as an angel of light, he would seek to lead off into bye-paths some of the chaste virgins who wait for the Bridegroom and love his appearing, and despoiling them of their wedding garment—the white robes which Christ purchased with his death,—cast them into outer darkness with the world.
B. But there is a sense, is there not, in which, by resurrection, Christ becomes the Head, Leader, Captain of all on the spiritual plane?
A. O, yes! I think this principle is recognized by all who see any of the “deep things of God.” The world, although purchased by His death, get back in Him as their Substitute only what they lost; consequently, will stand where Adam would have stood had he possessed experience or knowledge of evil. Great strides forward must yet be made to reach that full likeness of God and become spiritual bodies. This they could not have done without a leader or captain. We never could have become “Sons of God,” in the full sense, and “joint heirs with Jesus Christ,” without our Elder Brother to help us up, and we never could have entered the “Holy of holies.” All praise for the work accomplished and made possible by His resurrection. A frequent error is, to ignore one truth while giving prominence to another. The death and resurrection of Christ are inseparably joined and equally invaluable. As the death would have done us little good, because we could not without a leader go “beyond the vail, (the flesh), so, also, had Jesus been ever so perfect a leader and guide, we, prisoners in the pit—the grave—could not follow his leading until he first purchased our release from the “wages of sin”—death.
B. I see a force, then, in Paul’s expression, Rom. 5:10: “Reconciled by the death—saved by the life.”
C. I have a thought: If Justice could not let mankind go free from death, how could he permit Jesus to live if he became man’s substitute? Must not his life be forever forfeited?
A. It was forever forfeited—he never took the same life again. He was quickened (made alive) to a higher life by the Father. “He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” to a higher plane a spiritual body. As we shall be, He, our leader, was “sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body.” Had he risen a fleshly being, with fleshly life, we could not go free. It would have been taking back our “ransom”—our “price.” As Paul says, “He took upon him the form of a servant (flesh) for the suffering of death.” He had no need of it further; he left it. “He made his soul (life) an offering for sin:” “My flesh I will give for the life of the world.” (Jno. 6:51.) It was given forever. “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12), having received a higher sort of life.
B. This change, then, accounts for his acting so strangely after his resurrection—appearing in different forms—as the gardener to Mary, and “afterwards in another form to two of them,” etc. His appearing in their midst, the doors being shut, and anon vanishing out of their sight. I often thought it peculiar. But did not his fleshly body disappear from the tomb?
A. Yes; “His flesh saw not corruption.” What became of his flesh; whether part of the atoms went to form the spiritual body or not, I know not. We do not even know what a spiritual body is
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composed of. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be;” but, remember, it was not the atoms of matter which composed the body—(and which are continually changing)—these atoms did not sin, and were not cursed nor forfeited by the fall. It was the flesh life, and Christ paying it with his flesh life did not affect the atoms of matter which composed his body.
C. I know you believe the law to be a shadow of the realities of the Gospel age; do you find this “tasting death for every man,” and, also, “our high calling,” there typified, and are they kept separate and distinct?
A. Very clearly so. To be brief: All Israel represented the entire race. The select tribe of Levi, which ministered to the Lord as his special portion—his servants—represents the entire church of believers and servants of God; while the Priests, selected from the tribe of Levi, represent “the little flock,” “the overcomers,” “the bride,” “the Royal Priesthood.” Our company of priests, as theirs, has a Head, Leader, High Priest.
The priesthood in the tabernacle services, offerings, etc., represent the church in this age. The large majority of believers, like the Levites, are connected with the tabernacle and the Lord’s services, yet occupy more the position of the menial servant, simply carrying forward the Ark, attending to the outward and more common-place affairs. They are necessary as a part of the working machinery, and as assistants to the Priests, yet blessed much above the world in this honor.
As the priests were more clearly related to and associated with the High Priest, and permitted to go into Holy Places, offer incense, etc., so the “little flock” are more closely related to, and mingle more in Christ’s society, than the general company of believers. These alone, can go into “the deep things of God.” These only, are lighted by the golden candlestick, and feed upon the bread. These alone—the “holy ones,” yet “little ones,”—can approach close to the mercy-seat, and before it, offer sweet incense—”the prayers of the saints.” The High Priest, as is beautifully described by Paul, represented, in all his services, Jesus, the “High Priest” of [our profession] the “Royal Priesthood.”
Now, having the actors clearly defined in our minds, let us look at their work. We will not go into a particular and systematic examination now (we may again), but simply glance at the outlines. The High Priest, to be a perfect type of Christ, should have died—not bulls and goats instead—but himself, then have risen to new life, and taken of his own blood (life) into the Holy Place to make an atonement. But this he could not do, since the giving of his life would have ended his career, therefore an animal is used as his substitute. The animal, therefore, becomes the type of Christ in the flesh: “A body hast thou prepared me.” The value of the death of the type (the animal) represents the value of Christ’s death. The sins of the “whole congregation” were confessed, and imputed or laid upon the head of the victim when put to death, just as God “hath laid upon him (Christ) the iniquity of us all.”
As the death of the sacrifice was not for the priests alone, so Christ’s death is not for the “little flock” alone. As the animal’s life was not for the tribe of Levi alone, but also for the “whole congregation,” so the blood of our substitute was not for believers alone. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jno. 2:2.) Some one has truly said, “The animal represented the people, but pointed to Christ.” It did represent the people by dying for and on account of their sins, and it pointed to Christ as the one who would really die for the “sins of the whole world.” “He was once offered to bear the sins of many,” and He did “bear our sins in his own body on the tree.” “Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man.”
Now, the sacrifice having been made, the High Priest, representing the risen, spiritual Jesus, takes the shed blood into the Holy of Holies. You see, the life once sacrificed is not given back, but kept a sacrifice, showing that Christ did not take back his flesh life (the sacrifice) when he went into the Holy of Holies, but went in thither with another, a higher life.
While he is in the Holy of Holies presenting the price of the people’s life, what is their attitude? They are bowed in the dust, waiting, until the atonement work being finished, the High Priest will come out of the Holy of Holies, appear to and bless them, then they all arise rejoicing. Representing by their prostrate condition humanity in death; who, when our High Priest comes forth to “bless all the families of the earth,” will be made to arise from the dust and rejoice.
C. This seems to represent beautifully and clearly Christ as the world’s substitute. Now, what type shows the exemptions which the Church enjoys above the world?
A. While all are justified from Adam’s sin unconditionally, yet, where knowledge of right is possessed, obedience is expected as far as they are able to obey. Failure in this respect is the occasion for their being beaten with many or few stripes in the age to come. While the “little flock” who now believe into and are baptized into Christ, become members of his body, are by their faith “justified from all things” (Acts 13:39), and will not be beaten with stripes in the world to come. True, they now receive “chastisement whereof all are partakers,” but not as a penalty; only as the “rod and staff” of Christ, the Shepherd, to guide his sheep.
Thus, the sins of the “Church of the First-born” are passed over (not imputed), and she is justified, not from death only, but “from all things.”
This is beautifully pictured in the law by the Passover. Wherever in that night the lamb was eaten and his blood sprinkled, the first-born was passed over—spared. (Ex. 12.) So, during this night—the Gospel age,—Christ, our Passover (lamb), is sacrificed, and we “keep the feast.” (1 Cor. 5:8.) We feed on our Lamb, with some of the “bitter herbs” of affliction to sharpen our appetite. All such are passed over, “counted worthy.” This type shows the special value of Christ’s death to His body, the “Church of the First-born.” Thus, “God is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe.” (1 Tim. 4:10.)
C. Everything seems to be beautifully mirrored in the Law. But there are certain questions put by those who do not believe in Jesus as our substitute, which would still be difficult for me to answer, viz.:
First.—If Christ entered the Holy of Holies as our substitute, then we cannot enter for ourselves.
Second.—If Christ’s sufferings were substitutional, would not we (the church) also be a part of the substitute, or sacrifice, since “we fill up the measure of His sufferings which are behind?”
Third.—Does not the race get back in the second Adam spiritual life? Jesus frequently speaks of himself as the giver of the spiritual life.
A. I will answer very briefly in the order given. First—The substitutional character of Christ’s work was complete in the giving of the flesh life; consequently, no act after that life was surrendered and a new life begun could be as our substitute. Second—The sufferings of Christ are not a part of the price of our ransom. “We were reconciled by the death,” not by the sufferings, consequently our filling up the measure of His sufferings, has nothing to do with the sacrifice. It is “the offering of the body of Jesus,” “For this man having made one sacrifice forever,” (Heb. 10:10-12) it needs no adding to on our part. See how fully shown in the type: The sacrifice of atonement was offered by the High priest and represents Him alone. (See Heb. 5:1-5.) The sacrifices being burned outside the camp represented disgrace. So Jesus suffered outside Jerusalem, and (Heb. 13:11) those who would be a part of the typical priesthood must share in the services and work of the tabernacle, and in any dishonors as well as honors attaching to it. They must ignominiously handle the ashes of the sacrifice if they would be honored by being permitted to go to the candlestick, eat the holy bread and offer incense. So we, if we would be antitypical priests, must share the shame,—”Go without the camp bearing His reproach.” If we would have the heavenly food, heavenly light, be permitted to offer sweet incense (acceptable prayer), and spiritual sacrifices (the fruit of our lips, good works, etc.,) (Heb. 13:15.) “If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together.”
Your third query we will talk of at another time. Let me suggest, however, that as Adam did not possess a spiritual life, not even a germ, never having been “begotten by the Word of Truth,” he could not lose it; and if the second Adam restores what the first lost, this spiritual life would be no part of that work. The gift of God, spiritual and eternal life, is given only to believers. Adam, and the majority of his race, will be restored in the second Adam to perfect physical, mental and moral power, just what they lost, and from that they will then have the opportunity of going higher, and under the guidance and instruction of the glorified church, of attaining spiritual life. Jesus does speak of himself as the giver of spiritual life, and so he will be, but also of the natural. If the spiritual life and death are always meant, why should we not suppose that in “tasting death for every man” He tasted spiritual death; and, if so, lost spiritual life; and if He lost spiritual life, of course he could not give it to others, or be their leader to it.
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We must examine every text more closely to discern between the natural and the spiritual.
B. I want to say to you before leaving, that I am much rejoiced to see clearly as I now do, why God permitted evil; that it was not, that He had elected ninety-nine to hell to each one chosen for glory, and the introduction of evil made necessary as a pretext to justify their damnation. Nor, on the other hand, was it because God could not help its introduction, and lacked wisdom to foresee and power to avert it; but, that He arranged for its introduction and our recovery from it as the embodiment of Wisdom, Love and Mercy.
We will probably call again and continue our conversation.
N.B.—Copies of July and August Numbers will be sent free to those interested.
— August, 1879 —