Before the Angels

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What Came Before the Angels?

 

(Lost Doctrine of Premortal Existence)

 

Sermon Transcript Doctrine of Election

 

 

According to God, we came before the angels!  This fact is not immediately clear to most readers of the Bible, due to reading over the meaning of what is contained in Heb 1:14, that the angels were created to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. The three main parts to this verse are as follows:

  1. The angels were created for a very specific purpose they were not created simply because God wanted to created more spiritual creatures.

  2. The angels were created to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation human beings but that is where people seem to stop. Angels are supposed to be guiding, ministering spirits to humans.

  3. Salvation for man is the ultimate goal of this creative act and that is where we find answers to many questions.

 

Salvation for man is actually a plan of God, but for salvation to be necessary it means man must have done something wrong beforehand wrong from which they now need saving. People do not need saving if they have not done anything wrong! Any other conclusion would be accusing God of creating beings that were predestined to sin and thereby fail, whereas He is actually engineering the saving of man from the mess and evil to which he descended. God does not change and we know what He creates, He creates perfectly. The Greek word for world is "Kosmos" and generally means the harmonious and complete decoration of everything, with the word "Kosmos" actually meaning the entire universe as well as planet Earth and all that is in it. In Isa 45:18 we are told very clearly that Earth was not formed "tohu" (chaos) but "formed to be inhabited".

Isa 45:18 (RSV)

"...For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it He established it; He did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!:..."

Mal 3:6 (NLT)

 “… ‘I am the LORD, and I do not change.’…”

 

Since neither God nor Christ change in their purpose or character, the angels were ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation from their beginning. Also, since there was no plan of salvation before man the angels could not have existed before man. The time for creation of the angels is dependent upon the setting in place of the plan of salvation, because their specific purpose for being created was to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. However, there is no limit as to how long ago man (not his human vessel) was first created, but time was needed for him to degenerate from a state of perfection to a state of sinning so badly that God judged it necessary to diminish all spirit creatures and start His plan of salvation. This matter shall be addressed presently, but it is more important that we first focus on how man became mortal, which is brought to our attention in Psa 8:5. Psa 8:5 states that we were diminished or lessened from the Godhead for a short time (Young’s Literal Translation and Clarke’s Commentary). It will be a surprise to many, but we did not come into existence overnight some 6000 years ago human vessels did, but God says we were in existence long before that time. God says even the choosing and predestinating among man was before the foundation of the world:

Eph 1:4

"...According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:..." [KJV]

 

What is meant by "before the foundation of the world"? As explained previously, the Greek word translated as "world" is Kosmos and generally means the orderly arrangement or decoration of everything – a newly created work of art – which in context, means before creation of the entire physical universe. How long before we are not told, but the implication is a very long time.

 

 

What Early Christians were taught and believed

 

Prior to setting out the necessary Biblical proofs, we will cover briefly what the early (first & second centuries) Church's position was on the matter.

 

2Clement 14:2 (written by a Church Elder ca.120 AD),

“...And the Books and the Apostles plainly declare that the Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning: for she was spiritual, as our Jesus also was spiritual, but was manifested in the last days that it might save us...”.

Shepherd of Hermas 8:1 (written by a Church Elder ca.100 AD),

"...'Who do you think the elderly woman from whom you received the little book was?'............'Who is she?', I said. 'The Church', he replied. I said to him, 'Why then is she elderly?' 'Because,' he said, 'she was created before all things: therefore is she elderly and for her sake the universe was formed.'..."

 

Please note, in both cases the Greek word for "Church" is Ekklesia, which means an assembly of people.

 

These books were accepted as Scripture by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Athanasius, to name a few. Also, this very verse was quoted by Cardinal Schönborn in a sermon in the presence of Pope John Paul II. Accordingly, the Roman Catholic Church still considers the Shepherd of Hermas Scripture and even though it privately preaches premortal existence among the Cardinals (see extract below), just as the early Christian Churches openly preached premortal existence, it is not openly preached to the laity today, because it seems to be an inconvenient doctrine for almost all Christian Churches. However, inconvenience was never a reason accepted by God for not preaching the truth. The fact that the Roman Catholic Church still preaches premortal existence is not submitted as proof of the validity of the doctrine, which proof can come only from the Bible (other first century writings offering confirmation of early Christian belief in the doctrine), rather it is submitted as evidence that it is not merely the doctrine of sects or fringe Christian groups the doctrine is considered sound by one of the largest Christian organizations of today.

 

 

Biblical proof of the Doctrine of Premortal Existence

 

In the course of creating man it must be remembered that God says we were created in His image and His likeness which means He is like us if we learn through experience, then so does He. Occasionally, we may get something perfectly correct the first time around, but for the most part we have to experiment, make adjustments as we go and sometimes even abort a project. God and Christ are no different and this is shown partly in the example of Christ (previously the Word in the O.T.) and how he was sent to Earth to learn obedience even though he was a son. There is no question that Jesus was already obedient, but he had to experience life as a human and learn obedience as a human son in a family environment, which is precisely how Young translated Heb 5:8:

Heb 5:8   "...through being a Son, did learn by the things which he suffered – the obedience,..." [YLT].

Gen 1:26 "...And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:..." [KJV].

 

From Eph 1:4 and 2Tim 1:9 it appears we have been around for an extremely long time and from Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 (description of the faults of the seven assemblies) we too had to do some learning, much more so than Christ. God is a learning God and providing a learning environment for us is simply God making adjustments to His creation, as mentioned above. God is not creating beings that never before existed, He is simply causing some adjustments to be made through the learning process. This matter will be addressed presently as part of the subject of the article.

 

One of the earliest surviving Christian writings on premortal existence are in 2Clement 14:2 and it refers to both the Old Testament and the writings of the Apostles as his source:

2Clement 14:2, “...And the Books and the Apostles plainly declare that the Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning: for she was spiritual, as our Jesus also was spiritual, but was manifested in the last days that it might save us...”.

 

The phrase "from the beginning" is the same wording as used in John 1:1 to describe Christ, that in the beginning he was with God and that he was God. However, since Christ had no beginning (Heb 7:3), the beginning being referred to must relate to some significant primary event other than the "beginning" of Christ. Also, since the Bible is concerned primarily with God's plan of salvation and since the New Testament is written only for those who have been given understanding by God (i.e. the Saints), this significant beginning must refer to when the first fruits (Saints) were first created. From God's own Word we know that this beginning was before the universe was created (Eph 1:4), but we are not told how long before. This aspect is discussed in more detail later, when Eph 1:4 is discussed.

 

Historical evidence (writings) show that the early church fathers had strong views on premortal existence (that it was fact) and while these views by early church fathers are important in as much as they show original Christian doctrine, this article shall address the matter of premortal existence solely based on the Word of God and we shall start with Psa 8:5.

Psa 8:5 (KJV)  "...For thou hast made him a little <04592> lower <02637> (8762) than the angels <0430>,..."

 

According to the original Hebrew language, the whole of Verse 5 is in the causative form, which is to say something has been done to someone to create a resultant condition. In this case God did something to man in order to bring about a result – caused man to be diminished or decreased from God. Although the causative form in Verse 5 is now generally recognized by modern translators, Young and Calvin have always approached Verse 5 in this manner, with Young providing the most clarity of expression (see quote below). Also, as we are to become the wife of Christ we will again become part of the Godhead and indeed the promises made to the seven Churches in Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 confirm the Church’s future status as part of the Godhead. Since we were decreased from the Godhead and we are to return to the Godhead, the Hebrew word meh-at’” <04592> in Psa 8:5 refers to a duration of time, not size or amount – i.e. a short time or little while. Given the causative form in which the Verse must be taken, Young’s Literal Translation of Psa 8:5 provides a suitable rendering:

“…And causest him to lack a little of Godhead, And with honour and majesty compassest him…”

 

Young is supported by Adam Clarke in the translation of Psa 8:5

"Thou hast lessened him for a little time from God."   Or,

"Thou hast made him less than God for a little time."   

Noting that in the causal form "made" refers to forcing a change, not to an original creative act.

 

The section that has been translated as “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels is not an accurate rendering of the Hebrew. The word rendered "angels" is from the Hebrew Elohiym (Strong's 0430) and is actually the plural of God and would therefore be more accurately rendered Godhead. Had God, as the inventor of language, meant to say "Angels", then He would have used the word "Mal'ak" (Strong's 4397) as He has done on numerous other occasions (111). Accordingly, as the original Hebrew is both clear and emphatic, Psa 8:5 should be rendered as follows  

“For a little while You have diminished him from the Godhead,

 

The ramifications of the correct translation are astounding – not only does the section require the premortal existence of man, but a premortal existence where man was part of the Godhead. In the NT we are told that we were prepared in advance or “made ready beforehand” (Rom 9:23), thus supporting Psa 8:5 that we had to undergo some change to make us ready for life as humans and supporting Rom 8:29 that we were foreknown (approved) of God before the foundation of the world. According to the I.S.B.E the language here means much more than prescience or mere intellectual foresight, it requires that such foreknowledge is personal, as entity to entity. Indeed this language agrees completely with the text of Psa 8:5 in that to be diminished or lessened one must already exist.

I.S.B.E. (see full extract)

"In Rom 8:29-30 the word "foreknow" occurs in immediate connection with God's predestination of the objects of salvation. Those whom God foreknew, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His son. Now the foreknowledge in this case cannot mean a mere prescience or foresight of faith (Meyer, Godet) or love (Weiss) in the subjects of salvation, which faith or love is supposed to determine the Divine predestination. This would not only contradict Paul's view of the absolutely sovereign and gracious character of election, but is diametrically opposed to the context of this passage. These Verses form a part of the encouragement which Paul offers his readers for their troubles, including their own inward weakness.

Rom 8:29  

“…For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren…” [RSV]

Eph 1:4-5 

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,…” [NKJV]

Rom 9:23  

“...He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory...” [NLT].

 

Those whom God prepared in advance were those whom He foreknew and those He foreknew, He foreknew from before the foundation of the world.

Eph 1:4 

"...According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:..." [KJV].

Barne’s Commentary

"Before the foundation of the world. This is a very important phrase in determining the time when the choice was made. It was not an after-thought. It was not commenced in time. The purpose was far back in the ages of eternity."

2Tim 1:9  

"...Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,..." [KJV].

As stated above, the expression, “before the world began”, requires a more accurate rendering and this is provided by both Strong and Young:

A correct rendering from Strong's would be  “before eternity”;    and

The YLT has it as “before the times of the ages”

 

The language is clearly stating that we were entities with God (again recall the I.S.B.E. explanation above) such a long time ago that it cannot be fully comprehended, not merely before the world (this planet) was created. We were known personally by God and predestined by Him before the ages of time began.

 

Now, proceeding forward somewhat let us clear up the question of Heb 2:7 and why it says, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels when the original Hebrew text clearly states "lower than the Godhead" (Elohiym - plural of God)?   The answer is simple and is as follows:

  1. This is a direct quote from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament, not a quote from the sacred Hebrew Text (Old Testament);

  2. The address was to the Hebrews outside of Judea where the Septuagint was the most commonly available form of the Bible (Old Testament);

  3. although the Septuagint is not a faithful translation of the original Hebrew, at the moment man is indeed lower than the angels, so Paul’s statement is still correct and tells us how much lower than God we were caused to be it tells us of the extent of the diminishing affect mentioned in Psa 8:5.

  4. However, most obviously, Paul does not say he is quoting from any part of the sacred Hebrew Text (Old Testament) he simply says. "But one in a certain place testified" (somewhere someone said). The usual way Paul quotes from the Old Testament is to say "it is written" (34 different occasions). To say "somewhere someone said" is somewhat of a condescension and nowhere approaches the reverence of "it is written" when quoting the actual Word of God.

 

Restoration of all Things

 

God says that we came from the Godhead and we are returning to the Godhead. From the correct translation of Psa 8:5 we can now understand Acts 3:21 to its full extent – when referring to the "restitution of all things".

“…Whom the heaven must receive until the times [time, singular] of restitution [restoration] of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began…” [KJV].

 

As a principle, it must be said that something cannot be restored if it never existed – in being restored to a spirit existence, premortal existence is not only implied it is axiomatic. Again we see that the Scripture regarding restoration agrees with the causal act in Psa 8:5 of humanity being diminished or lessened for a short time from the Godhead.

 

The popular commentaries assume that this restitution means a restoration to the perfect condition before the fall of man and means putting things back into that perfect order. However, they do not go back far enough in time and therefore do not realize that the physical restoration for the Millennium (a type of the Kingdom of God) is only a type of spiritual restoration which concerns pre-existent spirit beings (us). Due to their limited temporal approach their conclusions make no sense on a number of significant levels:

  1. God says that Flesh and blood cannot inherit His Kingdom (1Cor 15:50) – “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”), so there is no point in restoring anything to a permanent physical state, perfect or otherwise.

  2. The whole world is to be burnt up (2Pet 3:12 “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat”) so again there is no point in restoring anything to a permanent physical state.

  3. We shall be spirit beings as Christ is now spirit (1John 3:2 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”), so restoration to an Adamic pre-fall state is expressly excluded by the Word of God.

It should now be clear that the restoration of all things also covers being restored as spirit beings and placed back into the Godhead, as the ultimate intention of what God refers to as the restoration of all things. What will be different is that we shall be part of a family – the church collectively being the wife of Christ (currently only being the betrothed of Christ).

 

 

The Jubilee as a Type of the Restoration of all Things

 

The Wave Sheaf Offering, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, celebrates harvesting the very first bundle (omer) of grain for the wheat season. This offering up symbolizes Christ ascending into heaven as the first of the firstfruits (1Cor 15:20) of the harvest into the family of God. The reference to Christ as the "firstfruits" (plural) is misleading, because the original Greek means only part of a whole and in this case we know that the full offering of the firstfruits is 50 days later at Pentecost, the Feast of the Firstfruits. Accordingly, Christ is only the first of the firstfruits, not the entire firstfruits. Although the Wave Sheaf Offering symbolizes Christ's ascension into heaven, to find the full relevance of this occasion we must know what happen at his ascension. This is a simple matter, because Christ tells us what happened at his ascension his former glory was restored and he received the entire Kingdom of God (Parable Luke 19:12). Both glory and position were restored to him.

 

Fifty (50) days later at Pentecost, the Feast of the Firstfruits, we are told that there will be a restoration of ALL things (Acts 3:21) and this restoration applies to the remainder of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest the Saints. The ancient Jubilee typified this restoration of all things. Every fifty (50) years all of Israel who had lost their property through poverty, debt or mismanagement were restored to their lands and all debts were forgiven (Lev 25:13-34; 27:16-24). With this symbolism in mind, because Jesus had no debt we can know for sure that the restoration of all things upon his return refers to the remainder of the firstfruits, not to himself Jesus has already been restored to his glory and Kingdom, it will then be time for the Saints to be restored.

 

The kind of restoration during Jubilee was a physical one for the physical nation of Israel, but the actual restoration of all things will be a spiritual restoration for those who are spiritual Israelites the ascended Saints. The Jubilee was for the covenant people of ancient Israel, just as the restoration of all things at Christ's return is for the spiritual covenant people of Israel. Now, for spiritual restoration to take place the positions (land/property) to which we are restored must have been ours previously and this could only be the case if there were a premortal existence. Such premortal existence is declared in Psa 8:5 and supported by the churches mentioned in Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 (see next section). Ascension at the return of Christ means being restored to the Godhead, not becoming part of the Godhead as something new, but being restored to the Godhead. Just as the Israelites were not given new land they were restored to their own land land which they had previously owned by decree of God.

   

 

Significance of the Churches of Revelation Chapters 2 & 3.

 

Traditionally, it has been taught that Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 contain prophecies concerning the seven different Churches of God. It was taught that God saw how the Church would develop certain negative characteristics and be punished for that development if they did not overcome. However, such a view requires that God be a helpless bystander, watching events as they unfold beyond His control. Throughout the Bible we are told that God is neither helpless nor a bystander and indeed He is the controller of events, He is the one who brings events to pass, whether they be events concerning His people or anyone else. Prophecy is merely God telling us beforehand what He is going to do how He is going to control events. God himself provides us with His definition of this type of prophecy in Isa 46:10-11:

“…Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.’…” [KJV].

 

The prime example of this definition is that of the four great kingdoms of the world revealed in Dan 2:28-44. Of these great kingdoms please note that they were to be established unconditionally. There is no mention of obedience – in fact we know that the last of these physical kingdoms in particular will not only be disobedient to the laws of God, it will actually attempt to engage in combat with the returning Jesus Christ. A common example taught as prophecy, but is in fact mere possibility, is that of Jonah warning Ninevah of impending destruction if it did not change its ways. Threats regarding disobedience and promises of reward for obedience are obviously conditional situations and therefore are mere possibilities not prophecies. Ordinary parents are continually making threats and promises regarding the behaviour of their children, but this does not rate as prophecy – it is mere possibility as a result of either doing right or doing wrong. With Ninevah, God made threats based on an existing situation. There is not even foresight here. There is no determining the future by intervention – here future punishment is dependent upon whether or not Ninevah changes its behaviour. Thus, events unfolded in accordance with human behaviour and God, like any parent, is simply making these people aware of the result of their bad behaviour should it continue. There is no revelation here, there is just the threat of punishment or the promise of reward and therefore is not prophecy – prophecy is unconditional and absolute, as clearly shown in Dan 2:28-44.

 

So, the choices we have in determining what is actually happening in Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 are threefold:

  1. The events described are prophecy, which means we are the way God has made us: Such view would require God making His people evil, then condemning them for not overcoming faults that He created the sins would actually be His. Clearly, this view is irrational and paints God as more evil than Satan;   or

  2. God intellectually foresaw the way each Church Era would be, making Him a helpless bystander and paints Jesus as a villain because he is the one who controls all things regarding the Church (Eph 1:22 "...and gave Him [Jesus] to be head over all things to the church...");   or

  3. God foreknew us and simply stated the way we are, because that is how we were in a premortal existence such existence being described in Psa 8:5, that we were diminished from the Godhead. Also, we are told in Rom 8:29 that we were predestinated and that the requirement for predestination is that we were foreknown of God.

Accordingly, when God states the condition of the seven Churches, He is not stating the condition as something He intellectually foresaw or something that He would do to His people, rather it is because this is how we were as premortals (God Knowing us before the foundation of the world) and being lessened from the Godhead for the purpose of learning a knew way of life. In the context of premortal existence, this is the significance of Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 knowing the benevolent nature of God, the weaknesses described in the churches go to show the condition of premortal man and supports the diminishing declared in Psa 8:5. In diminishing or lessening us from the Godhead He temporarily took away our power, position, glory and memories, but He did not take away our character and personalities thus, God can say this is how we are still. By combining Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 with Psa 8:5 we now have the reasons why we were diminished from the Godhead we had developed serious faults which had to be addressed and a new way of life had to be learnt. For this purpose vessels (human bodies) were prepared and a new system of government (the family) was established as the environment in which to learn new behaviour and continue after ascension into the God family.

 

 

The Question of Memory

 

Having established that God says we had a premortal existence (Psa 8:5), one cannot help but wonder why it is that we have no memory of such existence. There is a valid question here, but as with all things, God did it for our benefit and as part of the preparation referred to in Rom 9:23.

 

Consider how difficult it is even now to learn new things without being dragged down by the baggage of past error. There are many times when we cannot see the truth of God simply because some man has taught us error in the past and it has become so ingrained that we accept that error as fact without proper God-minded Bible study. Now, consider premortal beings attempting to learn new truth and ignore error accumulated over eons in the age before time began – the task would be impossible. In this case God’s analogy of new wine in old bottles is most appropriate (Luk 5:37) – both would be destroyed. Memory of the premortal existence would be totally counter-productive to God’s plan that man learn the new system of nurturing family government.

 

However, to a great extent, memory is what defines us as individuals – due to memory we have expectations, we have opinions, we approach matters in a certain way, we form attitudes. Destroying a person’s memory would therefore destroy the person and God’s plan is known as the Plan of Creation, not the plan of destruction. Accordingly, we have God’s assurance that our full memories will be restored at the return of Christ as part of the restoration of all things.

 

 

Why So Much Human Suffering?

 

This question has already been addressed in part, but there is still interesting detail that needs to be revealed in order to make the situation a little clearer.

 

To say that Earth is currently a learning environment in which we have been placed, while true, is actually a euphemism – it is more of a correctional facility, a prison where all of mankind is forced to learn the results of ways of life that are not God’s. This is a prison, because God has described it as such – in 2Pet 2:4 God tells us that Satan was cast down to hell (tartaroo – a place and condition of restraint), while in Ezek 28:17 God makes it plain that the hell (tartaroo) to which Satan was cast is none other than planet Earth.

2Pet 2:4

“…For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartaroo] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;…” [NKJV].

 Ezek 28:17

“…Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour. So I threw you to the earth …” [NIV].

 

Earth is the place to which we were sent after being diminished from the Godhead. So, the shocking truth is, we are currently in prison (hell) with Satan and his demons. We are already where many fear to go after death – see the article entitled “There is a Real Hell” for the full detail on this subject. The state of the prison system today notwithstanding, prisons are not intended to be holiday resorts or places of enjoyment – they are intended to be places of learning and correction.

 

When Psa 8:4 is translated correctly the situation becomes clearer and accords with the diminishing mentioned in Verse 5. All except two commentaries got Verse 5 wrong, but none got Verse 4 right. Verses 4 and 5 are parts of the same single sentence and with Verse 5 clearly showing that our present situation is something that was done to us, that we were caused to be this way (with the implication of chastisement), the first part of the sentence (Verse 4) must be read in the same context. When this is done the meaning is exactly the opposite of how it is usually read. Using Strong's Complete Word Study and given the context of Verse 4, a word-for-word translation of the Hebrew is as follows: 

What mortals  | that you mark |  human beings |  that you punish

        0582               02142          01121, 0120           06485                                  

 

It is so, that the Hebrew word meaning "visit" (Strong's 06485) can be rendered as having either favourable or hostile intent. However, in this case, as Verse 5 (the second part of the same sentence) makes it clear that we were diminished from the Godhead, then the intent is to be taken as hostile not benign. Given the context of Chapter 8, this question by the Psalmist in verses 4 & 5 is one of bewilderment it seems he is asking why is the rest of creation so beautiful and ordered showing God's excellent nature and favour toward everything, while humanity alone seems to be singled out for retribution. This is a clear chastisement for some past wrongdoing and we can be certain of this because God is just and does not change rewards for doing well chastises for doing wrong:

Jer 18:7-10 

“At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.” [NRSV].

Mal 3:6

 “… ‘I am the LORD, and I do not change.’…” [NLT].

 

Accordingly, the two sentences comprising Psa 8:4-8 should read as follows:

4. What are mortals that you mark for affliction, humans that you punish; 5. that you have diminished them for a short time from the Godhead?

6. Yet you have crowned man with honour and given him dominion over the works of your hand, all things you have put under his feet – 7. sheep, oxen, all the beasts of the field, 8. foul, birds of the air, fish of the sea, all that is in the sea.

 

Indeed, even the Dead Sea Scrolls support this translation. Part of Hymn IX is actually a parallel account of Psa 8:4-8. This Hymn generally explains how Psa 8:4-8 was understood by the ancient Hebrews and provides us with insight as to how it should be translated into English.

Hymn IX (formerly I) – Extract

[And] to the spirit of man which you have [given] form in the world1, [Thou hast given him dominion over the works of your hands] for everlasting days and unending generations2.

…in their ages Thou hast allotted them tasks during all their generations,

and judgement in their appointed seasons3 according to the rule [of the two spirits4. For Thou hast established their ways] for ever and ever5,

[and hast ordained from eternity] their visitation for reward and chastisements6;

Thou hast allotted it to all their seed for eternal generations and everlasting years7 … In the wisdom of Thy knowledge Thou didst establish their destiny before ever they were.

 

Note 6 from Hymn IX: This is the parallel account of Psa 8:4 and the NKJV reads “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” This parallel account puts beyond doubt that in Psa 8:4 God is speaking of causal action toward mankind resulting in him being diminished from the Godhead this visitation is a chastisement, which is diametrically opposite to rendering the Verse as a question about why God has granted us favour. This Verse is not about God's favour toward mankind, it is about our chastisement, it is about us being diminished from the Godhead and about our re-education of how God wants us to live it is about how He wants us to relate to each other.

 

Yet, without Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 (outlining the faults of the various assemblies) we would not be able to answer the original question relating to human suffering – we are all here to learn, to learn God’s way of life of caring for others. We are our brothers’ keeper and it is for us to extend any kindness, no matter how small, to any we find who are suffering and especially to those who are of the household of faith. The article entitled There is a Real Hell explains how we are all in prison together with Satan and the fallen angels, in a place God describes as “chains of darkness”. Earth is God’s place of restraint (prison) where we are all subject to His re-education programme.

 

Understanding premortal existence and believing God that we did have a premortal existence is paramount to understanding not only why we are here and what is happening to us, it enables us to understand the human condition and have compassion on our fellow man. It gives us perspective, humility and perhaps even patience regarding our own trials. premortal existence is therefore not simply "yet another doctrine", it is the key  to the entire plan of salvation, providing us with the causal nexus for the plan and providing understanding as to the existence of so many ensuing events in the course of creation, including why angels exist.

 

 

 

 

Pentecost Sermon

Murray L Barker

 

Doctrine of Election – What It Means For Us

 

 

Very simply, the Doctrine of Election is a formal way of saying that we believe in the predestination of God’s people by Him and that such predestination ensures our salvation.

 

Why is it important?  Again, very simply, it changes our focus, from ourselves to others – it changes our focus from us trying to get ourselves saved to focussing on how we can help the rest of humanity. It helps us to go back to the basics of God’s way of life of being kind to people, of not adding to their burden, of trying to relieve oppression where it is possible to do so. This is very similar to the Days of Unleavened Bread, when we realize that the focus should be on living God’s way for 7 days (symbolizing our entire spiritual lives) rather than on our sin (leaven), which we were commanded to put out ON the first day of the Days of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12:15).

 

That is the briefest of introductions to this subject, but I wanted to give you an idea of what we are going to cover to make it a little easier to follow.

 

Now, before getting into the explanation of the subject, let's first have a quick look at how the Doctrine of Election is understood by the overwhelming majority of Christendom by seeing some comments on just one verse that references this very large subject:

 

Rom 11:5 

“…Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace…”

 

I.S.B.E – “…He hath chosen us in Christ" out of the rest of the world, ‘predestinated’ us to all things that secure the inheritance for us…”

McLintock and Strong Our Lord thus teaches that those who are saved are certain persons chosen out of the world and given to him by the Father; that those thus given to him certainly come to him; that this certainty is secured by the drawing of the Father; and that those thus given to him are certainly saved.

Barnes The apostle thus shows that neither all the ancient people of God were east away, nor that any whom he foreknew were rejected.

Clarke – “…And these are saved…”

J.F.B. – “…persons graciously chosen to salvation…”

Gill – “…God’s choice of these persons before the world was, which is the source and spring of all the blessings of grace, both in time eternity: hence these persons were put into the hands of Christ, secured in an everlasting covenant, took special care of by divine Providence, were called by grace, justified, sanctified, and at last glorified:…”

 

The interesting fact here is that they all believe those who have been elected (predestined of God) are saved, no matter what – their salvation is guaranteed and unconditional. This is part of the matter we shall examine today, by looking at the promises made to God’s elect and the various types that symbolize the elect such as the first-born and the firstfruits.

 

 

So, the first thing we need to do is prove that the first-born and the firstfruits are one and the same.

 

Very briefly, we have a short Scripture list from both the Old and New Testaments – you may wish to just note down the Scriptural references at this time, as we will be commenting on them individually momentarily:

 

Exodus 4:22 (NKJV)

“…Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: Israel is My son, My firstborn.’…”

Jeremiah 2:3 (NKJV)

“…‘Israel was holiness to the Lord, The firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; Disaster will come upon them,’ says the Lord…”

Hebrews 12:23 (NKJV)

“…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, …”

Revelation 14:4 (NKJV)

“…These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb…”

 

Clearly the firstborn and the firstfruits are one and the same.

 

In more detail, starting with the Old Testament, we have God’s plain statement about the nation of Israel:

Ex 4:22 

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, my firstborn:

 

The Old Covenant, a physical covenant, was made with the nation of ancient Israel and this Covenant was to foreshadow and symbolize the New Covenant, a spiritual covenant. To be part of the nation of Israel and partake of the Old Covenant the males had to be physically circumcised. The New Covenant deals with spiritual Israel in a similar way and to become a spiritual Israelite one must be circumcised through baptism with the Holy Spirit. We thus become the church of the firstborn awaiting resurrection upon the return of Christ. In Col 2:11 we are told that the “circumcision made without hands” results in putting off sin – the only way this can happen is when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit,

Col 2:11 

In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

 

So, we are spiritual Israelites and as such we are the spiritual firstborn referred to in Heb 12:23:

Heb 12:23  (KJV)

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

 

Of this verse Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown comments as follows:

“Written in heaven” enrolled as citizens there. All who at the coming of ‘God the Judge of all’ (which clause naturally follows) shall be found ‘written’ in the Lamb's book of life (Rev 21:27).

 

In Rev 14:4 we are also told that we are the redeemed of God and that makes us firstfruits to both Him and Christ.

Rev 14:4  (NKJV)

“…These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.…”

 

Very quickly we have been able to establish that we are both the firstborn and the firstfruits and therefore they are indeed the same. God merely uses different types to show different facets of the one subject, which, in this case is us.

 

One of the most important principles to remember here is that God has no regard for what humans consider to be the firstborn – He and He alone decides whom are His firstborn. This is for a very good reason – God’s firstborn were foreknown and predestined by Him before creation of the cosmos (Eph 1:4 – According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world). There are many examples of God choosing the first fruits and the firstborn and here we shall cover a few:

 

Isaac chosen over Ishmael – This was done before Isaac was born making his election as God’s firstborn unconditional.

Gen 17:18-19 (NKJV)

 “…And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.’…”

 

Jacob was chosen over Esau – this was done before either was born, making Jacob’s election as God’s firstborn unconditional,

Rom 9:11-13 (NKJV)

“…But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, ‘Your older son will serve your younger son.’ In the words of the Scriptures, ‘I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.’…”

 

Ephraim was chosen over Manasseh – this was done despite Joseph’s objection and was later ratified by God Himself. There were no conditions set – there was simply a declaration as to who shall be the firstborn.

Gen 48:18-20

“…And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh…”

Jer 31:9 

“…They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn…”

 

God is making it clear, through physical examples, that He and He alone decides whom He shall elect as His firstborn. The reason being that He has already decided who are the spiritual firstborn regardless of any physical or other situation. The matter has already been decided (before creation of the universe) and that decision shall not be changed.

 

God’s Guarantee of Salvation

 

Originally God said that all the firstborn of man and beast were His. Later this was refined by the Levitical system of which tithing was a part. The tribe of Levi was chosen to replace the firstborn of Israel and only clean animals were to be offered to God. Of the clean animals God said of the newborn, every tenth one that passed under the rod was His.

Lev 27:32  (NKJV)

And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.

 

We know that these are only the newborn of the flock or herd, because God says that we are to tithe only on our increase, not everything in our possession. So, here is a prime example of God choosing which of the physical newborn shall be His firstborn (remembering that for animals the tithing system replaced the firstborn of all beasts). It is interesting that the first nine got through okay and they were to be retained by the herdsman – God is deciding which shall be His firstborn. This truth becomes even stronger in the next verse where God commands that His firstborn (the tenth under the rod) shall not be changed.

Lev 27:33  (NKJV)

“…He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it:…”

 

God demands that what is His remains His.

 

Now, does God say the same of His firstfruits?

Having established that Spiritual Israel is God’s firstfruits we can use physical Israel as a type – so, with this in mind lets have a look at Amos 9:9:

“For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.”

In the New Testament Jesus himself makes the matter clear, as recorded in John 6:37-39 (NKJV),

"...'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.'..."

 

Indeed the symbolism is the same – God does not change – what is God’s remains God’s and He shall lose nothing! What happened to physical Israel is happening to spiritual Israel and God is showing emphatically that none of His spiritual children shall be lost.

 

Is this saying that since God is guaranteeing our salvation, then there is no need to try to live His way of life – that we can do what we want? Absolutely not! What we have establish so far is that God’s decision about who are His firstborn is final and shall not be changed. Also, according to predestination they shall be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29) and therefore shall be striving to live God's way of life. There are, of course, certain other implications, but first let us pursue the matter of the finality and sovereignty of God and His decisions a little further.

 

What we have just covered is substantially different from anything that has been taught in the Church of God in the past and it may take a little while to absorb, but it is all the Word of God – it is from the Word of God. For the time being let’s return to Heb 12:23 and have a look at what the JFB Commentary has to say about it.

 

Heb 12:23 (KJV)

“…To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,…”

 

Looking again and in more detail at what is said by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown

"Written in heaven" – enrolled as citizens there. All who at the coming of "God the Judge of all" (which clause naturally follows) shall be found "written" in the Lamb's book of life (Rev 21:27). Though fighting the good fight on earth, still, in your destiny and life of faith, which substantiates things hoped for, ye are already members of the heavenly citizenship. The spirits of just men made perfect – at the resurrection, when the "Judge" shall appear, and perfect believers' bliss by uniting the glorified body with the spirit: the New Testament hope (Rom 8:20-23; 1Thes 4:16). Those heretofore spirits, but now to be perfected by being clothed upon with the body. In no other passage are the just said to be perfected before the resurrection and the completion of the number of the elect (Rev 6:11). In the resurrection bodies of the saints the spirit shall preponderate over the animal soul.

 

Now, getting to the core of our election, let’s turn to,

Rom 8:29-30

“…For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified…”

 

These passages are of great interest for a number of reasons:

·        The predestinating requires foreknowing us and the language used demands an acquaintance relationship – two entities knowing each other.

·        Predestinating = foreordaining = sanctification = pre-determining

·        Election is according to the foreknowledge of God (1Pet 1:2)

·        It has been pre-determined that we shall be conformed, justified and glorified. Thus, the guarantee of salvation through the Holy Spirit.

 

That is not just a conditional promise, it is a GUARANTEE.

 

Now, we all know what a guarantee is, but what does God mean when He says He has guaranteed something? Again, this is something that has never been taught in the old WCG or in any of the new Churches of God. This is not a normal guarantee – it is the only personal promise by God that He has enshrined in Law. It was in the Law of the Old Covenant and that Covenant was a type of the spiritual New Covenant. Do you get that brethren?  God has made this guarantee part of His Law !  This is why in Rom 8:29-30 He is always speaking in the past tense God's election of the Saints to salvation is so absolute it is a Law of God. God foreknew us, He predestinated us, He called us, He justified us and in the same language we are certain to be glorified.

 

Please think about that it may just make our present trials and chastisement a little easier to bear!

 

Purpose of sanctification is to learn obedience after the example of Christ: ‘obeying the truth through the Spirit’ (1Pet 1:2).

1Pet 1:2 

“…elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:…”

 

The example of Christ:

Heb 5:8  “…Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;…”

Php 2:8   “…And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross…”

John 13:15  “…I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (Example of service, which ultimate service was death)…”

 

This is our purpose in life – to learn obedience to God as His children and God will keep correcting and chastising us until we learn what He wants us to learn. So long as we keep trying, we are saved through the sacrifice of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Give up trying >> we lose the Holy Spirit, lose Christ’s sacrifice. However, we must remember that what God wants us to learn may be entirely different than what we think we should be learning from any particular trial. Most often we will only know what we were supposed to learn after we are resurrected – so do not be disappointed with yourself if you think you are not making any progress. Remember the all-night wrestling "match" between Jacob and the Word – Jacob made absolutely no progress, but he did not give up and that was what God wanted to see.

 

  

The Price of the Guarantee

 

Here we come to the part where the alternative title “Good News and Bad News” may be considered by some to be appropriate. The guarantee is the pleasant part – the price is the not so pleasant part.

 

First let’s look at 2Cor 1:22, where we find out that the guarantee, or pledge, is something very real – the Holy Spirit.

2Cor 1:22  (KJV)

“…Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts…”

 

For this verse we have some interesting comments by Barnes and Clarke.

 

Barnes

Who hath also sealed us. The word used here (from sfragizw) means, to seal up; to close and make fast with a seal, or signet—as, e.g., books, letters, etc., that they may not be read. It is also used in the sense of setting a mark on anything, or a seal, to denote that it is genuine, authentic, confirmed, or approved. In a similar manner Christians are said to be sealed; to be sealed by the Holy Spirit, #Eph 1:13 4:30; that is, the Holy Spirit is given to them to confirm them as belonging to God.

And given the earnest of the Spirit. The word here used (arrabwna) means, properly, a pledge given to ratify a contract; a part of the price, or purchase-money; a first payment; that which confirms the bargain, and which is regarded as a pledge that all the price will be paid.

Clarke

And given the earnest of the Spirit. The arrabwn of the apostle is the same as the erabon of Moses, {#Gen 38:17,18,20}, which we there translate pledge. The word properly signifies an earnest of something promised; a part of the price agreed for between a buyer and seller, by giving and receiving of which the bargain was ratified; OR a deposit, which was to be restored when the thing promised was given. From the use of the term in Genesis, which the apostle puts here in Greek letters, we may at once see his meaning above, and in #Eph 1:14; the Holy Spirit being an earnest in the heart, and an earnest of the promised inheritance means a security given in hand for the fulfilment of all God’s promises relative to grace and eternal life. We may learn from this, that eternal life will be given in the great day to all who can produce the arrhabon, or pledge. He who is found then with the earnest of God’s Spirit in his heart, shall not only be saved from death, but have that eternal life of which it is the pledge, the earnest, and the evidence. Without this arrhabon there can be no glory.

 

As pointed out above, there is more to the seal/pledge than meets the eye. The Holy Spirit may be likened to what God sees on the outside of the envelope, but there is more to it than that. Yes, we must be foreknown of God before any predestinating is done, but He foreknew everyone – which is why some were approved to be the bride of Christ (to be the elect of God) and the others were not. So, part of the seal requires election – if there is no election, then the seal is not the real deal (not meant or intended to last). If there is no election, then there is no chastisement as sons. If there is no chastisement/correction by God for the purpose making His people apply due diligence to addressing shortcomings, then the seal is not the real deal (not meant or intended to last). So, for the seal of the Holy Spirit to be intended to be the genuine seal of the elect of God we must search the Scriptures and find all the elements that make the seal the seal of the elect.

 

 

HOW IT WORKS

 

In making the guarantee work, we must remember that it is God, as the guarantor who MUST make it work – it is not something about which we have to be concerned, except maybe HOW God goes about making it work, because that will impact on the level of comfort in our lives. In the past we have been told to examine ourselves, find out what we are doing wrong and correct ourselves (“with God’s help” tacked onto the end of the exhortation). So that leaves us continually looking for fault in ourselves instead of simply trying to live God’s way of life. We must remember that we put sin out and were justified by God at baptism (symbolized by the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread). What we are supposed to be doing now is following the typology given in the Feast of Unleavened Bread – eating unleavened bread for seven days symbolizing striving to live God’s way for our entire converted lives. This approach is positive and uplifting, while continually looking for sin in our lives is negative, depressing and in clear opposition to God’s command. Let me explain in bullet form – for me, at least, it is much clearer:

 

1.   The putting away of sin was done on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which symbolized our baptism.

2.   So, yes, we are already justified by God, but we are still told to grow towards the stature and maturity of Christ.

3.   Unless the flaws are really obvious (and even then they may not be flaws with which God is overly concerned) there is no way we can know where we ought to be focussing our attention.

4.   We must allow God to draw our attention to the areas of HIS concern and He does this by correction/chastisement.

5.   Even when God does draw our attention to matters in this manner we may not see the relevance and even when the trial is over we may have no idea what we have learnt.

6.   Do not be concerned or distressed, because it is God who must be satisfied with the result of the trial, NOT us.

7.   We simply go on striving to live God’s ways of life, trying to be kind to others, relieving oppression where we can, providing encouragement where we can.

 

Now getting back to exactly how God makes His guarantee work, lets take a look at Scripture,     first turning to,

2Pet 1:10 

“…Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:…”

 

How is this done?

 

If we are truly God’s elect, then HE makes sure it is done. If we are not His elect, then He does not correct us and the Holy Spirit, the guarantee or pledge, is lost or depleted to an insignificant level and cannot be produced (recognized by God) as mentioned by Clarke, above (read again). This is why the 5 foolish virgins were sent away – from the beginning, they never were approved by God (not any of His elect), so He did not correct them, so they were not able to apply due diligence to make their election sure. Without God’s correction these people thought they were doing okay, when all the while their Holy Spirit was being depleted.

  

Heb 12:6-11  (NKJV)

6  For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."

7  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

8  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

9  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?

10  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.

11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

 

 

Here is a simple test to see if you believe God or man

 

The Bereans only believed God, not men, and they were commended by Paul, even for checking up on what he preached to them.

Act 17:11  (NIV)

“…Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true…”

 

Example:

The Churches of God preach that all leaven shall be removed from your home BEFORE the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but God says you shall remove it ON the first day of the Feast. Even with this simple command whom do you obey, God or man?

 

Ex 12:15  (NKJV)

“…Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel…”

 

If this is the first time you have read this Scripture and have been putting leaven out of your home prior to the Feast for the past 40 years or so, then it may take a while to get rid of the baggage of past incorrect teaching. However, it must be acknowledged sooner or later that what God says is not what you have been previously taught and God is waiting to see if you will obey Him rather than man.

This is exactly what He did with ancient Israel in the wilderness – He tested them to see if they would obey Him and He surely will not treat spiritual Israel any differently, since the stakes are so much higher.

Deut 8:2 

“…Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands…”

 

There never was a promise that living God’s way was going to be easy, or even pleasant for that matter. In fact, God says the very opposite!

1Cor 15:19 

“…If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable…”

 

This sentiment, that we must suffer, is repeated in Rom 8:17

“…And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering…”

 

But what is one of the principal reasons for our suffering? God is dealing with us as His children and this must be done because of His guarantee that we shall be saved and inherit the Kingdom.

 

Please go back to,

Heb 12:7-8

“…If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons…”

 

Also, the suffering is for the purpose correction – we are to accept the chastisement of God because we recognize He is doing it for our good and treating us as His children, not bastards. Therefore we can be encouraged, rather than discouraged by God’s trials. We are told to count all our trials with joy, but since we are also told that they do not seem joyous for the present, I simply choose not to be discouraged at this time.

 

James 1:2-4 (NLT)

“…Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…”

A further word of encouragement may be found in Rom 8:18, 

“…Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later…”

 

 

God’s Absolute Control

 

There would be many times in our lives when we feel insignificant, that God is not watching, that He is not seeing our suffering, that we are probably “too far down the ladder” to be concerned about too much. Nothing could be further from the truth and to begin this section I would like to quote from what God caused David to write, please turn to:

Psa 139:16 (NLT)

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

 

God had mapped out every experience David was going to have in his life before he was even born and we are no different (God is no respecter of persons – Act 10:34, Rom 2:11, Eph 6:9 and 1Pet 1:17). We also are the children of God !

 

Some of us may complain about how our physical parents may have had our physical lives mapped out for us (interfering with OUR lives we thought) – deciding what school we were to attend, whether we would attend university and become a professional, or just finish school and become a tradesman or an office clerk. That level of planning is microscopic compared to how God deals with us – giving us the example of David, who had ALL his days planned by God. Trust this brethren, God’s stake in our lives is way too high for anything affecting our salvation to be left to chance.

 

God believes in detail and lets take a look at a couple of verses where we can be reminded of just that:

Matt 10:30 

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Note, this is NOT saying He can number the hairs on your head, but that He has already numbered them – obviously His job in this area gets easier as we get older. Nevertheless, it is done – God again displaying His interest in absolute detail.

 

Psa 147:4 (NKJV)

“He counts the number of the stars; he calls them all by name.”

We cannot even number the stars, but God has said that He has not only numbered them, He has also named them! Also Note, this is NOT saying He can name them, but that He has already named them. Unlike the hairs on our heads, this doesn’t get easier with time, because new stars are being created continually.

 

 Now that we have some perspective about God, lets regain some perspective about where we are in the scheme of things.  We are in hell!

1.  God cast Satan to Earth (Ezek 28:17)

2.  God later says He cast Satan to hell (Tartaroo) (2Pet 2:4)

3.  Tartaroo is both a place and condition of restraint – in human terms a prison.

4.  Putting 1, 2 & 3 together, Planet Earth is God’s prison for Satan, demons and humans.

 

Yes, we are in hell and God is our prison warden. How much free will does a prisoner have – not much – he can choose whether or not to obey, but must suffer the consequences, correction/chastisement, if he does not obey or learn his lessons. The prisoner is there for a purpose and the warden sees to it that purpose is fulfilled.

 

Are we alone in our trials?

What does God really think of us?

 

Heb 11:36-40

36  Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

37  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented––

38  of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

39  And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,

40  God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

 

No, we are not alone – God’s people have always undergone severe trials and God has said that the world is not worthy of His people!  This is very different from what has been emphasized in the past and in all our trials we can somehow lose sight of these important matters.

 

In all of this God only asks one thing of us – it was the same thing He expected of Jacob in his all-night wrestle with the Word. Even though Jacob had absolutely no chance of winning, the sinew in his hip was shrunk just to give him a little (actually quite a lot) of pain to struggle against.

 

God expects us to keep on striving, to endure, to stick with Him – this He has told us many times, probably because in our trials we need continual reminding. We do not have to win, we do not have to be perfect, we just need to keep striving and not give up.

Gal 6:9 

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Matt 24:13 

"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

John 6:27 

"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

2Cor 1:6 

"And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

2Thes 1:4 

"So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:”

2Tim 2:3 

"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

 

Please Note:

Although we must continually try to live God's way, the test is to endure God's correction, it is NOT to overcome sin there was only one who overcame and that was Jesus!

 

So, yes, we do have God’s guarantee of salvation – which thing you have not been told before – but the price is we must endure God’s correction, which we may not understand during or even after the trial. God says that if we do this one thing then our salvation is guaranteed.

 

Brethren, if we do this one thing, then we shall be in the first ascension, which event is pictured by this Day of Pentecost

 

List of Encouraging Scripture:

 

Now, let me read out a Scripture list relating to this matter so you can know that God left us with significant encouragement and that there is purpose for the trials in our lives. For now I will just give you the list – please read them in full in your own time. 

Jam 1:12  Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Matt 5:10  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt 5:11  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Matt 5:12  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Luk 6:22  Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.

Luk 6:23  Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

Act 5:41  And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Rom 8:17  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Rom 8:18  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Php 1:29  For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

1Pet 4:13  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

 

 

Now, to answer the question that the previous administration has never been able to answer.

 

Why Were We Chosen As The Elect Of God?

 

Many have wondered about this question and even enquired of men who were supposed to have knowledge, only to receive the response that you were elected as a matter of God’s grace. That answer, while basically correct, is entirely insufficient! It implies that God had no reason other than to satisfy a whim and is actually quite an insult – God never does anything without a very good reason and our election is no different.

 

Please turn back to,

Rom 8:29-30

“…For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified…”

 

This Scripture tells us what happened, but gets nowhere near why it happened. God foreknew us and that was a pre-condition to being predestinated. According to the I.S.B.E. the foreknowledge in this case cannot mean a mere prescience or foresight of faith. This would not only contradict Paul's view of the absolutely sovereign and gracious character of election, but is diametrically opposed to the context of this passage. It can only mean one living entity knowing another living entity.

 

However, we were not the only ones whom God knew. The difference is, God approved of us to the extent of guaranteeing our salvation, while of the others Christ said that he never approved of them.   Why ?

 

At this stage it is probably a good idea to briefly revisit the doctrine of premortal existence, but just in note form as it is part of a previous sermon:

 

1.   We were foreknown of God and elected before the foundation of the world, Rom 8:29-30

“…For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren, Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified…”

Eph 1:4-5 

“…According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,…”

I.S.B.E. Extract

"...it is manifestly impossible to regard it as a mere intellectual foresight, not only because of Paul's doctrine that election is absolutely sovereign (Eph 1:3-4; Rom 9:11; 2 Tim 1:9), but also because of the contexts in which the term occurs. In Rom 8:29-30 the word "foreknow" occurs in immediate connection with God's predestination of the objects of salvation. Those whom God foreknew, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His son. Now the foreknowledge in this case cannot mean a mere prescience or foresight of faith or love in the subjects of salvation, which faith or love is supposed to determine the Divine predestination. This would not only contradict Paul's view of the absolutely sovereign and gracious character of election, but is diametrically opposed to the context of this passage..."

It can only mean a living entity foreknowing a living entity.

2.   The Church existed spiritually, as did Christ.

2Clement 14:2

“...And the Books and the Apostles plainly declare that the Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning: for she was spiritual, as our Jesus also was spiritual, but was manifested in the last days that it might save us...”.

3.   The entire Church existed prior to creation of the universe and all things were created for the Church

Shepherd of Hermas 8:1

"...'Who do you think the elderly woman from whom you received the little book was?'............'Who is she?', I said. 'The Church', he replied. I said to him, 'Why then is she elderly?' 'Because,' he said, 'she was created before all things: therefore is she elderly and for her sake the universe was formed.'..."

5.   We were diminished from the Godhead (Elohim) for a short while,

 Psa 8:5

“For a little while You have diminished him from the Godhead” (Translation from Young's Literal Translation and Clarke's Commentary)

6.   Jesus was put on Earth to learn obedience as a son (Heb 5:8). We also have to learn the same lesson in following the example of Christ (John 13:15-16).

Heb 5:8

"...through being a Son, did learn by the things which he suffered – the obedience,..." [YLT].

John 13:15-16

"...For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him..."

 

That short summary brings us up to date with the present and now we can go back and continue with the question as to WHY we chosen as the elect of God.

 

To put it simply, we agreed to the plan of salvation, while the others were opposed to it. This is not conjecture, I am not making up any stories, this is what God tells us. Please turn to,

Rom 8:20 (KJV)

“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,”

 

Again the KJV has a number of words where the translation is not accurate and with any translation, it only has to be off slightly to have a totally different meaning from what was intended by the original text.

 

Why is the word "creature" used?

Quite simply, ALL spirit beings were referred to as creatures because humans did not exist until they were created only some thousands of years ago. Spirit beings are not called creatures because of misdeeds or anything else it is what they are.

 

Of the phrase “not willingly” Barnes comments:

‘Not willingly’: Not voluntarily. It is not a matter of choice.”

 

The phrase “not willingly” is passive and therefore does not display the intended meaning. Even Barnes’ says that  “not voluntarily” is too passive. Strong states that the word “not” (Greek ookh) is the “absolute negative adverb”. Accordingly, the correct translation would have been “opposed”. The creation was opposed to the part of the plan of salvation that required it to become physical, subject to sin, decay and die.

 

The New Living Translation (NLT) is superior in that it has “against its will”.

Rom 8:20-22 (NLT)

“…Against its will, all creation [sentient creatures] was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation [sentient creatures] looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all [sentient creatures] has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…”

 

Also, many commentaries apply the “creation” (in Rom 8) to the whole of physical creation, but this is an unfortunate, if not absurd, misunderstanding because only sentient beings have a will and therefore only they can opposed or support a plan. The absurdity of the whole of creation being opposed to God’s plan is also brought out in the prophecy that at the end of the plan of salvation the whole world shall be burned up and everything physical in it shall be destroyed. Accordingly, why would anything eagerly await their destruction? Clearly, the statement only refers to sentient beings.

Isa 65:17

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”

 

What is this "vanity" (KJV), or "God's curse" (NLT) of which Paul speaks?  "Vanity" is actually the wrong translation in this context – it is from the Greek "mataiotes" which means what is devoid of truth and appropriateness, perverseness, depravity. In short it means sinning and being subject to the sin of others. There are only two other places where “mataiotes” is used:

Eph 4:17 – here the context is obedience to God & understanding His way of life; and

2Pet 2:18 – here the context is sin & consequences of darkness due to lack of understanding God’s way.

 

So, all spirit creatures would be made subject to God's curse, sin they would be made subject to suffering and death. This is why the creatures were absolutely opposed to the idea, remembering that the wages of sin is death, along with other curses. It is also important to note that “all spirit creatures” does NOT include angels because at the time referred to by Rom 8:20-22 there is no evidence that they had yet been created. The angels were created for the specific purpose of being servants to those who will inherit salvation (Heb 1:14). Accordingly, they were not created until after the plan of salvation had been devised. The “spirit creatures” are only those who would eventually inhabit human vessels. Demons (fallen angels) did not fear humans, because initially they are not aware that humans would return to the Godhead (being diminished from the Godhead for a short time – Psa 8:5) and be judges over them (1Cor 6:3).

 

Now we have the proper context of Rom 8:20-22 we will briefly revisit that chapter. Note here that God is making a significant difference between His children and the rest of sentient creation (the other spiritual creatures). With this difference being made we can also see that that while the “creatures” were opposed to the plan of salvation, the spiritual creatures who were to become the elect were in favour of the plan. This is the only place in the Bible where there is an indication of a reason for our election – that we were in favour of His plan while the rest were not.

 

So, why were we chosen as the elect of God?  It is because we sincerely agreed with Him before being placed in human vessels.

 

Because of our decision to support God and His way, including His plan of salvation, He has guaranteed our salvation. We may not always like the way He does it, but we are guaranteed salvation.

 

Pentecost, this day, pictures that salvation coming to fruition.

 

 

 

 

References and Scriptures

 

Heb 1:13-14 [KJV]

"But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"

Mal 3:6  [KJV]

"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."

James 1:17 [KJV]

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

 

Heb 13:8  [KJV]

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."

 

Comment: The angels were created to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation and since neither God nor Christ change in their purpose or character they were ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation from their beginning. Also, since there was no plan of salvation before man the angels could not have existed before man. Accordingly, while the time for creation of the angels is dependent upon the setting in place of the plan of salvation, there is no limit as to how long ago man was first created. This matter shall be addressed presently, but it is more important that we first address how man became mortal, which is addressed in Psa 8:5.

 

 

 

Clement of Rome

 

Recognitions of Clement of Rome 1:28

...But after all these things He made man, on whose account He had prepared all things, whose internal species is older, and for whose sake all things that are were made, given up to his service, and assigned to the uses of his habitation...

 

Internal Species refers to the doctrine of premortal existence – i.e. the spirit in man had existed for a long time prior to dwelling in a human vessel. How much older we do not know for sure, but the reference in 2 Clement makes the same reference to Christ.

 2 Clement 14:2

“...And the Books and the Apostles plainly declare that the Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning: for she was spiritual, as our Jesus also was spiritual, but was manifested in the last days that it might save us...”

 

The Book of 2 Clement also makes reference to our “visit to this world" in the flesh. This may seem a small thing, but for one to be a visitor, it is axiomatic that one must have already existed and come from elsewhere.

2 Clement 5:5

...And ye know, brethren, that the sojourn [visit – KJV] of this flesh in this world is mean and for a short time, but the promise of Christ is great and marvellous, even the rest of the kingdom that shall be and of life eternal...

  

 

Psa 8:5 (Young’s Literal Translation)

“…And causest him to lack a little of Godhead,…”

 

The Verse is in the causative sense – which means something was done to man to make him lack a little of the Godhead. This is not speaking of a completely new creation where something was made anew. In making something new one can say that a hot cup of tea was made, but in causing that tea to be less than what it was one can say that ice blocks were added and caused it to be cold.

 

This explanation is best put by Clarke:

"The original is certainly very emphatic:   watªchacreechuw mª`aT mee-'ªlohiym,"

“Thou hast lessened him for a little time from God.”

 

Calvin

Psa 8:5. For thou hast made him little lower...

“The Hebrew copulative yk, ki, I have no doubt, ought to be translated into the causal particle for,…”

 

Again the comment here is that since the Verse is in the causative sense, it means something was done to man to make him lack a little of the Godhead. However, the reason for the causative form seems to have escaped Calvin, as he tries to explain the diminishing without reference to the original Hebrew text in the previous Verse (first part of the sentence). This matter is addressed in the human suffering section of the article.

 

 

Extract from Sermon by Cardinal Schönborn

"...The Church is as old as creation. In fact, in a certain sense, she is older than creation. 'The world was created for the sake of the Church', say the Christians of the first centuries. The Church Fathers even speak of the preexistence of the Church. In the Shepherd of Hermas, the Church appears as an old woman: 'She existed before there was a world, and for her the world was created.' 'God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the 'convocation' of men in Christ, and this 'convocation' is the Church" (CCC 760).'..."

 

The full sermon may be found at http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/schonborn_church_oct05.asp

 

 

Jubilee   

(Heb. yobel, a "blast" of a trumpet). Usually in connection with the year of Jubilee (Lev 25:28); also called the "year of liberty" (Ezek 46:17; NIV, "year of freedom"). Its relation to the sabbatic year and the general observance are found in Lev 25:10-16 & Lev 23-55 and can by and large be summarized as follows:

 

Time.

After the lapse of seven Sabbaths of years, or seven times seven years, i.e., forty-nine years, the trumpet was to sound throughout the whole land, and the fiftieth year was to be hallowed as the Jubilee year. This was the 50th not the 49th year.

Observance.

Observance of Jubilee was to become obligatory upon the Israelites after they had taken possession of the Promised Land and had cultivated the soil for forty-nine years.

Laws.

The law in respect to the Jubilee was in three parts:

   1.  The year was to be hallowed, i.e., separated from other years:

   2.  Soil rested that year;  and

   3.  There was reversion of landed property, and manumission of Israelites.

Rest for the Soil.

No sowing, reaping, or gathering from the unpruned vine (Lev 25:11). Thus the soil enjoyed a holy rest, man was freed from the sore labour of sowing and reaping, and in blessed rest he was to live and enjoy the bounty provided by Jehovah in the sixth year (v. 21).

Reversion of Landed Property (Lev 25:10-34; 27:16-24).

The law provided that all the Promised Land was to be divided by lot among the Israelites, and then it was to remain absolutely inalienable. Therefore, at Jubilee all property in fields and houses situated in villages or unwalled towns, was to revert without payment to its original owner or his lawful heirs. Houses in walled cities were exceptions, which remained with the buyer unless redeemed within one year (25:29-30).

Manumission of Israelites.

Every Israelite who through poverty had sold himself to one of his countrymen or to a foreigner settled in the land, if he had been unable to redeem himself or had not been redeemed by a kinsman, was to go out free with his children (Lev 25:35-43,47-54). Thus ownership of a person was changed into a matter of hire (vv. 40, 53). Thus there was perfect remission of all debts in the year of Jubilee – all persons in bondage for debt were released and all landed property of debtors was freely returned. In this year every kind of oppression was to cease for every member of the covenant people.

 

 

 

Churches of Revelation Chapters 2 & 3

 

The indictments made against the churches of Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 are very serious, because some say they are prophetic. If they are indeed prophetic, then either God made the churches that way and it is therefore His fault, His sin, or He knew intellectually what was going to happen and did nothing to prevent it from happening. Since He set Christ over "all things concerning the church" then the fault is Christ's and not the church. These are now serious indictments against either God or Christ. However, the third and only possible answer is that the churches were that way in a premortal existence and therefore God is able to say "this is how you are because that is how you were before becoming mortal". The indictments in these Chapters actually go to providing a very strong proof of premortal existence and the reason why man was diminished from the Godhead (Psa 8:5).

 

Revelation 2 [NIV]

 

2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

 

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

8 "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

 

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty — yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

 

12 "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

 

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live — where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city — where Satan lives.

14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

 

18 "To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

 

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – 27 'He will rule them with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' – just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

Revelation 3 [NIV]

 

3:1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

 

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

7 "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

 

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars — I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

 

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." 

 

  

Foreknowledge (Extract from the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic copy)

 

“Foreknowledge as Equivalent to Foreordination: While, therefore, the foreknowledge of God in the sense of prescience is asserted in the New Testament, this is not the meaning of the term when used to translate the Greek words proginoskein and prognosis. These words which are translated in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) by the word "foreknowledge," and once by the word "foreordain" (1 Peter 1:20 the King James Version), mean much more than mere intellectual foresight or prescience. Both the verb and the noun approach the idea of foreordination and are closely connected with that idea in the passages where these words occur. Thus, in Peter's speeches in Acts the predestination which finds expression in Acts 4:28 is practically identified with the term prognosis in Acts 2:23. Everything which happened to Jesus took place in accordance with "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," so that nothing happened except that which God had foreordained.

 

In this Verse the term foreknowledge is an expansion of the idea of God's "counsel" or plan, regarding it as an intelligent prearrangement, the idea of foreknowledge being assimilated to that of foreordination. The same idea is found in 1 Peter 1:20. Here the apostle speaks of Christ as a lamb "foreordained" by God before the foundation of the world. The Greek verb proegnosmenou, meaning literally, "foreknown" (as in the Revised Version (British and American)) is translated "foreordained" in the King James Version. It is evidently God's foreordination of Jesus as Saviour which Peter has in mind. Also in 1 Peter 1:2 those to whom the apostle is writing are characterized as "elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God," where the election is based on the "foreknowledge." By the prognosis or foreknowledge, however, far more is meant than prescience. It has the idea of a purpose which determines the course of the Divine procedure. If it meant simply prevision of faith or love or any quality in the objects of the election, Peter would not only flatly contradict Paul (Rom 9:11; Eph 1:3-4; 2 Tim 1:9); but also such a rendering would conflict with the context of this passage, because the objects of election are chosen "unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of .... Christ," so that their new obedience and relation to Christ are determined by their election by God, which election springs from a "foreknowledge" which therefore cannot mean a mere prescience.

 

In view of the fact that there was a classical use of the simple verb ginoskein in the sense of "resolve," and more especially of the fact that this word is used in the New Testament to denote an affectionate or loving regard or approbation in accordance with a common use of the Hebrew yadha` (Matt 7:23; 1 Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9; 2 Tim 2:19), there is nothing arbitrary in giving it this sense when compounded with the preposition pro when the context clearly demands it, as it does in the above passage (compare Johnstone, Commentary on Peter in loc.: per contra Meyer on passages in Acts and Romans). The word prognosis is, however, discriminated from "predestination." It is that loving regard in God from which the Divine election springs, which election Peter evidently regarded as sovereign, since sanctification is only a confirmation of it (2 Peter 1:10), and stumbling and disobedience are referred to 'appointment to unbelief' (1 Peter 2:8). Here, then, we have a pregnant use of foreknowledge in which it is assimilated to the idea of purpose, and denotes a sovereign and loving regard.

 

The word prognosis is also found in this sense in the writings of Paul, in cases where it is manifestly impossible to regard it as a mere intellectual foresight, not only because of Paul's doctrine that election is absolutely sovereign (Eph 1:3-4; Rom 9:11; 2 Tim 1:9), but also because of the contexts in which the term occurs.

 

In Rom 8:29-30 the word "foreknow" occurs in immediate connection with God's predestination of the objects of salvation. Those whom God foreknew, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His son. Now the foreknowledge in this case cannot mean a mere prescience or foresight of faith (Meyer, Godet) or love (Weiss) in the subjects of salvation, which faith or love is supposed to determine the Divine predestination. This would not only contradict Paul's view of the absolutely sovereign and gracious character of election, but is diametrically opposed to the context of this passage. These Verses form a part of the encouragement which Paul offers his readers for their troubles, including their own inward weakness…”

 

Dead Sea Scrolls Hymn IX (formerly I) – Extract

[And] to the spirit of man which you have [given] form in the world1, [Thou hast given him dominion over the works of your hands] for everlasting days and unending generations2.

…in their ages Thou hast allotted them tasks during all their generations,

and judgement in their appointed seasons according to the rule [of the two spirits1. For Thou hast established their ways] for ever and ever,

[and hast ordained from eternity] their visitation for reward and chastisements6;

Thou hast allotted it to all their seed for eternal generations and everlasting years7 … In the wisdom of Thy knowledge Thou didst establish their destiny before ever they were.

 

  1. God placed our spirit in human vessels – this is the “internal species” (spirit) spoken of by Clement of Rome that is older than our human vessels.

  2. This is the parallel account of Psa 8:6-8 and the NKJV reads “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen––Even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas”.

  3. Appointed season refers to an individual’s day of judgement and whether they are predestined for the first or second resurrection.

  4. The two spirits refers to the spirit in man and the spirit of God, the latter being granted at baptism.

  5. This is a clear reference to predestination.

  6. This is the parallel account of Psa 8:4 and the NKJV reads “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” This account puts beyond doubt that in Psa 8:4 God is speaking of causal action toward mankind resulting in him being diminished from the Godhead and not about why God has granted us such favour.

  7. Predestination specifically refers to those in the first resurrection, but in so doing it is axiomatic that God also determined that the vast remainder would be resurrected and judged at a different time (Rev 20:5). However, experiences in this life would form part of their judgement from the “Books” (Rev 20:12).

 

 

 

Articles by Others

 

"The Doctrine of premortal Existence", by the New Covenant Church of God (a Messianic organization not affiliated with the Church of God Diaspora).