Studies in Prophecy
by Arno C. Gaebelein
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"For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you ward; how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel; whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power."

The Apostle Paul states in these verses that he was made the channel of a revelation concerning a mystery which was not made known in former ages unto the sons of men. This mystery is that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body. The body of which he speaks, is the church. In that body Jews and Gentiles are gathered into one, as the one new man "where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all." Of this bringing into one we read in the Gospel of John (chapter x) where our Lord spoke of entering the sheepfold (Judaism) and leading out His sheep. Then He mentioned other sheep, which were not of His fold (Gentiles): "Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." He came and led His first sheep out of the Jewish fold. On the day of Pentecost these Jewish believers were constituted the Church. That Gentiles should be added to that body was not made known then. It was revealed to the Apostle Paul. But the Lord indicates this fact here when He speaks of the other sheep. This He mentioned likewise in His prayer: "That they all (who believe on Him) may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John xvii:21). The Epistle to the Ephesians, in which the Spirit of God reveals this mystery, makes known the glory of the church, the body of Christ. He is the head of that body and as such the church is His own fulness, "the fulness of Him who filleth all in all" (Eph. i:23). Every member in that body shares the life of the risen, glorified head. Every member is quickened together with Christ, raised up and seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (ii:5-6). And furthermore we read that the members of this body, that is, all true believers, saved by grace and born again, are made nigh by the blood of Christ, and have access by one Spirit unto the Father. "Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (ii:19-22). Such is the church the body of Christ. Every member in Christ and Christ in every member, each believer made nigh by blood, accepted in the beloved One, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and one Spirit with the Lord. The church is therefore the temple of God, the habitation of God through the Spirit.

Besides this life-relation of the church to the Head in glory, there is also a love-relation. Of this Ephesians v:21-33 bears witness. The church is the bride of Christ. He loved the church and gave Himself for it. She is part of that travail of His soul which He saw, the joy which was set before Him, for which He endured the cross and despised the shame. He also sanctifies the church and cleanseth it with the washing of water by the Word, and finally He will present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. She is the pearl of great price for which He gave all. Her destiny is to be with Him in glory, to be like Him and to share His glory. For this true church there is no condemnation and no wrath, nor anguish and tribulation, but glory, honor and peace (Rom. ii:9-10). Wrath is coming for the world, but the Lord Jesus delivers His church from the wrath to come (1 Thess. i:10). "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. v:9).

II. What is the Tribulation?

The Word of God speaks of tribulation. Tribulations, distresses and all that goes with it are in the world on account of sin. Believers, though saved and no longer of the world, but delivered from this evil age, have tribulation and persecution likewise. Our Lord said to His disciples and to all who are His followers, "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John xvi:33). "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John xv:20). "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (1 Tim. 12). What a record Paul wrote of his own tribulations and persecutions. How great was his affliction, persecution, distress and manifold tribulation! (2 Cor. xi:16-32). "Through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of God" (Acts xiv:22). The believer is exhorted to glory (or boast) in these tribulations (Rom. v:3). Triumphantly in faith he can say, "Who shall separate us, from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. viii:35). "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation," is another exhortation (Rom. xii:12). To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation" (2 Cor. vii:4). The Thessalonian Christians suffered greatly, but met it all victoriously so that Paul wrote them, "We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure" (1 Thess. i:4). If we today know but little persecution for Christ's sake, it is because we do not manifest in our lives separation from the world. "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. i:29). Tribulations, persecutions, sufferings for Christ's and for righteousness' sake belong to the church. They are really blessings, for all these things must work together for good to them that love God.

But there is another tribulation revealed in the Word of God which is of totally different nature. It is a tribulation which God permits as a judgment to come upon all the world, a tribulation in which Satan is concerned, in which he manifests his malice and his wrath. This tribulation has an altogether punitive character. In different portions of the Prophets we read of a great time of distress, such as the sword, famine and pestilence and other tribulations and judgments, which precede the visible manifestation of the Lord to deliver His earthly people Israel. This tribulation is always predicted to come upon Israel and upon the nations of the earth. It is mentioned in the New Testament, as we shall see directly; but the Old Testament gives us the full history of these tribulation judgments. The time when this tribulation takes place is "the end of the age," which, strictly speaking means the Jewish age. Every student of prophecy knows something of that all important revelation in Daniel ix, the seventy-week prophecy.[1]

The last prophetic week of seven years has not yet been. We are still between the 69th and the 70th week. Those coming last seven years of that interrupted Jewish age will bring these predicted judgments and the great tribulation. The last 3-1/2 years (or 1,260 days, 42 months) are the great tribulation itself.

We quote a few passages: "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it, it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it" (Jer. xxx-7).

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time. And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Dan. xii:1).

It is clear beyond controversy that both passages reveal that this great time of trouble comes upon Daniel's people at the time of the end. It is a wrong interpretation to say that "thy people" means the church. As stated before, the prophets have nothing to say about the church. For what will take place in that time of trouble see Dan. vii:21-25. We turn next to Matthew xxiv. The great prophecy of our Lord contained in this chapter has nothing to do with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. It is a prophecy which relates to the time of the end and covers the same seven years of unfulfilled Jewish history. His disciples had asked concerning the end of the age and the Lord answers this question. Significant it is that He calls special attention to Daniel the prophet. This is the key. When our Lord speaks of a time of trouble He means the same trouble of which Daniel wrote: "For there shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be" (Matt. xxiv:21). There is nothing in the words of our Lord to indicate that the true church is then on earth. The preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness to all nations during this time of trouble is the message which the Jewish remnant gives before the coming of the King.[2] When this great tribulation ends the Lord Jesus Christ comes back to earth again "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. xxiv:29-30). What takes place then is revealed also by our Lord. "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Superficial teachers of prophecy explain this as being the gathering together of Christian believers when the Lord comes at the close of the great tribulation. We have seen from 1 Thess. iv:13-18 how the Lord comes for His Saints. He does not send angels to gather His church from the four winds, but He gives the shout from the air and instead of being gathered the church-saints are caught up in clouds, together with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air. The elect people who are to be gathered when the Lord returns after the tribulation are the people Israel (see Isaiah xxvii:13). Their hour of deliverance has come. This is the same deliverance of which Daniel speaks in chapter xii:1. It is also significant that our Lord after He announced the gathering and restoration of Israel mentions at once the figtree, which is Israel.

The book of Revelation bears the same witness as to the church and in relation to the tribulation to come. The church is only mentioned in the first three chapters. In the church message to Philadelphia (Rev. iii:7-13) a promise is given to the true church which is important: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold I come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown." The hour of trial for all the world is the tribulation period. Here, then, is a definite promise that true believers are going to be exempt from that coming time of trouble. Laodicea marks a final phase of Christendom; it is apostasy. Chapters iv and v in Revelation reveal what will take place in heaven in the future. We behold in these two chapters the redeemed in glory, singing the new song. These redeemed include all the church saints as well as the Old Testament Saints. Beginning with the sixth chapter we find in Revelation the future things, that is, what will take place after the Lord has come for His Saints. Here the judgments, the tribulation and the wrath are made known which will visit the earth during the last seven years of the age. Revelation vi-xviii cover the history of the last week of Daniel. In these chapters we read nothing of the true church as still on earth.

Another important fact as to the tribulation period must be dealt with. During this time of trouble there are those on earth who suffer and whom God owns as Saints. Satan through his instruments, the little horn and the Antichrist is persecuting these Saints and they pass through this awful time of trouble. Daniel wrote, "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the Saints and prevailed against them ... and he (the little horn) shall speak great words against the Most High and shall wear out the Saints of the Most High" (Daniel vii:21, 25). These suffering tribulation Saints will receive the Kingdom on earth (Dan. vii:22, 27). In the great vision of John in Revelation chapter xiii, the same beast which Daniel saw is described. Here again we read of Saints: "And it was given unto him to make war with the Saints, and to overcome them" (Rev. xiii:7). Now as the church is no longer on earth, who are these Saints? They are Jewish believers who have turned to the Lord and whom He now owns as Saints. Their sufferings at that time, as well as their faith, their prayers and their deliverance is the subject of many of the Psalms. They are the sealed ones of Revelation vii.[3] Many of them refusing to worship the beast suffer martyrdom and are raised up.

III. Important Conclusions

We have seen what the church and her destiny is. We have learned the character of the tribulation. It is evident that the true church has nothing whatever to do with this time of trouble. We add some important conclusions with further proofs that the church will not pass through the tribulation.

1. The tribulation is a judgment period. When this predicted trouble comes for the world, for Jews and Gentiles, the church is no longer here, but possesses its promised rest and glory. The Thessalonians had been disturbed by a rumor as if that tribulation preceding the day of the Lord had come. In the second Epistle to them the apostle makes it clear that this was not the case, and points out the fact that those who troubled and persecuted them would have as a recompense tribulation, while the troubled believers would have rest (2 Thess. i:4-9). Nowhere in the Epistles of Paul addressed to the church, and unfolding church truths, is there a word said about that tribulation. If the church would pass through this judgment period with which the ages closes, the Spirit of God would certainly have mentioned it and given His exhortations so suited for such a time. But inasmuch as nothing is said in these church epistles it is a logical conclusion that the true church will not be in the tribulation.

2. Not alone will the church not be in that time of trouble, but that time, the last prophetic week of Daniel, cannot begin as long as the true church is on earth. This is made clear by one of the great prophecies of the New Testament. In the Second Thessalonians chapter ii the statement is made that the day of the Lord (His visible manifestation) cannot come till there be first the apostasy and the Man of Sin, the son of perdition (the Antichrist) be revealed. It is during the last seven years that both of these conditions are reached. But the apostle also states that there is One who hinders the complete apostasy and its leader, the Antichrist. Something is in the way which keeps back the full manifestation of the mystery of lawlessness. This hindering One must be first taken out of the way. The hindering One is the Holy Spirit. He dwells in the body of Christ, the church. As long as He is here on earth in and with the true church the two conditions necessary for the final seven years of this age cannot be fulfilled. Before the tribulation can come the church must have been called away to her heavenly abode.

3. If the church were to pass through the tribulation period all the exhortations to wait for the Coming of the Lord, to watch for Him, to be ready, would have no meaning. It would be more correct to exhort to wait for the coming of the beast. The blessed hope to meet Him, would lose its blessedness. Instead of being a bright outlook to be with Christ in glory, it would be the worst pessimism, for believers would not face immediate glory, but tribulation, judgments, and the persecutions of the beast from the pit. Everything in Scripture is against this teaching, which has been accepted by not a few, that the church must pass through the tribulation, and after all it is an important truth for the spiritual life of a believer. If the Lord cannot come for His Saints till the Roman empire is again in existence, and the two beasts have made their appearance to do their work, if He cannot come till the Jews are back in Palestine and have rebuilt their temple, then the real power of that blessed hope in the daily life of a Christian is gone. The danger then is to say, "My Lord delays His Coming," and with it drift into worldly ways.

[1] See "Exposition of Daniel," by A. C. G.

[2] See chapter on "The Conversion of the World."

[3] In Rev. vii a multitude is seen coming out of the great tribulation. This multitude is often identified with the church. But it is not the church, but those who believe the final testimony, the Gospel of the kingdom and are saved to enter the earth by the Kingdom of Christ.




Matthew xxv:1-13

The study of this most solemn parable spoken by our Lord is very opportune. It is also necessary because certain wrong interpretations are being made of this parable, which have been accepted by not a few of God's people.

We find the parable of the ten virgins exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew, and here it is a part of the great discourse of our Lord, generally known as the Olivet discourse. The Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel of the King and His Kingdom. Three great discourses of the Lord are recorded by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of Matthew. The first is the so-called "sermon on the mount." This contains the proclamation of the King concerning His Kingdom. The second discourse is found in the 13th chapter; this is composed of seven parables in which the Lord makes known the mysteries of the Kingdom. In the last great discourse He reveals the future of His Kingdom. First He reveals the future of the Jews, how the Jewish age will close, what great events are yet to take place in the land of Israel. He speaks of the great tribulation, which is yet in store for the Jews and immediately after the days of that great tribulation He will come in power and great glory. At the close of His discourse He reveals the future of the Gentile nations, who are on earth when He comes again. He will take His place upon His own glorious throne and all nations will be gathered before Him. They will be separated by the King, as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats. Between these two predictions concerning the future, the beginning and the end of this discourse He gives three parables. These parables do not relate to the Jews, nor to the Gentile nations nor do they refer to the period of time, the end of the age, of which He speaks in the first part of Matthew xxiv. In these three parables the Lord shows the conditions which will prevail during the time of His absence from this earth. This period of time is the present Christian age. The three parables of the prudent and evil servant, the wise and the foolish virgins and the faithful and the slothful servants, give us a picture of the state of the entire Christian profession. This is seen in the very beginning of this parable. The parable of the ten virgins is one, which relates to the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven has here the same meaning as in Matthew xiii, that is, it means the entire sphere of Christian profession.

And now before we follow the different stages of this important parable I want to mention very briefly the two wrong interpretations, which like all other errors in our day, became more and more widespread. The first claims that the virgins do not represent Christians at all, but that they represent the Jewish remnant during the end of the age. The parable, according to this interpretation, will be fulfilled in the future. I am not going to enter into the different arguments which are advanced to support this view, but only wish to point out one fact, which is sufficient to disprove this theory. The ten virgins fell asleep, which, as we shall see later, means that they no longer expected the coming of the Bridegroom. Is it possible to conceive that the believing Jews during the great tribulation, when everything points to the rapid consummation of the age, can go to sleep? This to my mind is sufficient to overthrow this theory, not to speak of other reasons.

Another interpretation holds that the ten virgins represent indeed Christians. However, the foolish virgins are looked upon as true Christians, only they lacked a maturity of growth, depth of consecration, were not baptized with the Holy Spirit, or had not the so-called "second blessing." All this the wise virgins possessed. This is the favoured view with a certain class of holiness people. Others try to prove from it the theory of a first fruit rapture. The wise virgins are the first fruits and they are taken first. The foolish will have to pass through the tribulation and will be taken later. Against such teaching we simply hold up the words of the Lord, when He as Bridegroom tells the foolish virgins "I know you not." They were never His, they never knew Him and therefore they do not represent true Christians. Never will the Lord say this word to any one who has truly trusted in Him, no matter how weak and ignorant, how imperfect and erring that one may be.

And now let us look at the details of this parable, which gives us a picture of the attitude and character of professing Christendom up to the time when the Bridegroom comes.

Four historic stages can be easily traced in this parable. Three of them are passed and the fourth is imminent. At any moment the fourth may become actual history. They are the following:

1. A description of the Christian profession in its beginning and its characteristics. 2. The falling asleep of the virgins. 3. The Midnight cry. 4. The Coming of the Bridegroom. We are living in the days when the midnight cry is heard and are facing the fourth great event of this parable, the Coming of the Bridegroom, the entrance of the wise virgins to be with Him and the shutting out of the foolish. And this it is which makes this parable so very solemn in the days in which we are living.

1. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the Bridegroom." In 2nd Corinthians we read that the virgin is used as a type of the church. "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." The Lord in the parable uses the figure of ten virgins, because the parable does not altogether refer to the true church, His Bride, but because He had in mind the conditions of that which professes to be the church. The number ten is the number of testimony and responsibility. Nevertheless we learn from the beginning of this parable what true Christianity is. The characteristics of the Christian calling are three-fold: separation, manifestation and expectation. Separation from the world; going forth with lamps, which are for giving light, to shine as lights while the Bridegroom is not here; and then to go forth to meet the Bridegroom. One can read in these statements the very words and thoughts with which the Holy Spirit describes the Thessalonian Christians, "How ye turned to God from idols to serve the true and the living God and to wait for His Son from heaven." The emphasis in this parable is upon the last of these characteristics. The whole body of Christians in the beginning went out to meet the Bridegroom. The blessed Hope of the coming of the Lord was the Hope and the expectation of the church in the very start. It was the original attitude of the true church and bears witness to the heavenly hope and heavenly calling of the church.

In the next two verses the spiritual condition of the ten virgins is laid bare. It is noteworthy that the condition is stated first, the demonstration of it comes later; after the midnight cry had been sounded the foolishness of the five becomes manifested. The division of these virgins in five wise and five foolish brings out the fact that in the professing church two classes of people are found, the true and the false, saved and unsaved, professing and possessing. The wise represent such who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who have personal knowledge of Christ and are sealed with the Spirit; they have the unction of the Holy One, who is represented by the oil. The foolish are such who have the form of godliness and deny the power thereof. They represent such who have taken the outward profession but lack the reality. As they never truly trusted in Christ they have not the oil, the Holy Spirit. The objection has been made that the foolish virgins can hardly represent unsaved persons, because they are called virgins and went out to meet the Bridegroom. In their profession they were virgins, and in profession they had gone out to meet the Bridegroom. Another objection is raised. Did they not later say "Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out?" Then they must have had some oil, else how could they say that their lamps were gone out? There is no proof at all in this that they had a certain supply of oil. It is distinctly said that they only took lamps, but they did not take oil. They may have made an attempt to light the wick of their lamps only to see that they did not give light and went out. No, they never possessed the oil, just as the great mass of professing Christians in our days have lamps, an outward form, but no reality. Christ was never accepted and therefore the Holy Spirit and His power is lacking. A fearful condition it is! Alas, the thousands and hundreds of thousands who are in that condition to-day!

2. A second stage historically is seen in the fifth verse. "While the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Both the foolish and the wise grew heavy, became drowsy and then slept. This has been interpreted in different ways. However, the meaning of it is not hard to discover. The Bridegroom tarried and they no longer expected Him. As the centuries went on the professing church gave up the blessed Hope and ceased looking for the Lord. This is an historic fact. The Coming of the Bridegroom was forgotten and all, the most earnest believers as well as the mere professing ones slept, and for long centuries nothing was heard of the Bridegroom and His Coming. Darkness and confusion prevailed in dispensational truths; the writings extending over hundreds of years witness to this fact. Of the end of the world, a universal judgment day, and the Day of wrath something was heard occasionally, but the blessed Hope as it was known in the beginning was completely forgotten. Nothing is heard of it for many, many centuries. This is the second great historic event. The Lord was no longer expected.

3. And now we come to the third. "And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the Bridegroom! go out to meet Him." The question is has this period been reached, or are we still to wait for such a startling cry, reaching the ears of both the wise and the foolish, the professing and the possessing? Some teach in our day that that cry is the same as the shout which is mentioned in 1 Thess. iv, the shout which the descending Lord will give to call His own into His presence. But that is incorrect. The midnight cry and the shout of the Lord have no connection. The shout of the Lord is the first word which He will utter. His last word was, "Behold I come quickly." The next word will be His shout. The midnight cry is not uttered by Himself, but it is given by the Holy Spirit. And has the midnight cry been given by the Holy Spirit? Has there been a revival of the blessed Hope of the Coming of the Lord? Did anything like this of which the Lord here speaks take place? We unhesitatingly answer it with, Yes. We all know of the Coming of the Lord. Most of us are cherishing the blessed Hope and are waiting for Himself. We sing precious hymns full of hope and expectation. Over the entire Christian profession the preaching has gone forth of the Coming of the Bridegroom. This is sufficient evidence that this stage in the parable has been reached. The midnight cry has been given. When was it given? We do not hear anything about the Bridegroom and His nearness during the great reformation period. The great instruments which were used in the reformation had no light on the Coming of the Lord. Luther, for instance, spoke occasionally of the great universal judgment day, which he believed was near, because he believed the Pope to be the Antichrist. In this conception he was followed by all his contemporaries. It was not given to the great reformers to be used in the revival of the prophetic Word and to give the midnight cry. Nor do we hear anything like the midnight cry immediately after the reformation; we go back to the first half of the last century and there we meet with a revival of the blessed Hope, the coming of the Lord. The Holy Spirit flashed forth this blessed truth once more and ever since then the midnight cry has been heard, and it is still being heard. We live in the fulfillment of this period of the parable of our Lord.

But what is indicated by these words? You noticed we left out the word "cometh." The authorized version reads, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh." The revised version has left out the word "cometh" and that is the right way to read it, "Behold the Bridegroom! Go ye forth to meet Him." This tells us that the midnight cry is more than a mere announcement of the coming of the Lord. It is, of course, indicated, but the Holy Spirit in the midnight cry calls attention to the person of the Bridegroom. He unfolds His glorious person anew and brings out the fact that His church, whom He has loved, is His Bride and that He is the Bridegroom. And along with this message of the Bridegroom there is a call to go forth to meet Him. What else is it than a call to the original position? It demands a return to that as it was in the beginning. It is a call to separation from all that is false and unscriptural. How can any one, or how could any one honestly believe that that adorable Person, the Bridegroom, is near, soon Coming, without turning away from all that is displeasing to Him, without turning the back upon all which dishonors both His Person and His Word? This then is the significant meaning of the midnight cry. Exactly this took place and still takes place in out present day. Along with the revival of the blessed Hope, the preaching of His imminent Coming, we have a return to other great truths, such as the teaching concerning the church. Just as the giving up of the blessed Hope affected the other great doctrines of the Bible and became in part responsible for the fearful decline, confusion and departure from the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints, so the recovery of the blessed Hope, the imminent Coming of the Lord, results in the recovery of these same blessed doctrines which were given up and leads to a return to the true position. All this has come to pass. All is still coming to pass. The midnight cry, "Behold the Bridegroom, go ye forth to meet Him," stands in closest connection with the church message to Philadelphia, in the third chapter of Revelation. There the person of Christ, as the Holy One and the True One, is in the foreground. Once more a company of His people at the very last days are keeping His Word and are not denying His name as well as keeping the Word of His patience, which has reference to His Coming, and to His Philadelphia remnant He gives the encouraging message, "I will keep thee out of the hour of trial which is to come upon all the earth." Philadelphia assuredly originates with the midnight cry. The two are inseparably connected.

But to return to the parable of the Lord. We notice that the midnight cry discovers the true condition of the wise and the foolish. They all arose and trimmed their lamps. The message has an effect upon the entire Christian profession. Of the wise we read but little, but the foolish now discover that they have no oil and further demonstrate their foolishness by appealing to the wise to give them oil. The wise in turn direct them to go to those who sell and buy for themselves. The words have occasioned much controversy.

It is not at all necessary that in a parable everything must have a definite meaning. It shows simply the utter blindness of these foolish one in looking to human beings for that which they lacked. The oil, the Holy Spirit, can be obtained only from Him, who gives without money and without price. But their foolishness just consisted in this very thing that they came not to Him, who is so willing to give. One can imagine the haste and activity of these foolish virgins in running here and there trying to get oil, to have burning lamps to meet the Bridegroom. It is exactly that which has happened since the midnight cry has been given and which we still witness about us. There is a great deal of religious activity, an immense amount of religious fervor, all kinds of endeavor and service, trying to do this and attempting to be better and do better. The so-called religious world feels that there is something in the air. Something is troubling them and yet they refuse to go to Him who alone can give and whose Grace alone can save and make ready. This is, alas, the sad condition of a great part of Christendom to-day. They hear the midnight cry and yet refuse to go to Him for oil.

But the wise arose and trimmed their lamps. They had the oil and they responded to the message, "Behold the Bridegroom! go ye forth to meet Him." It is a significant fact that the blessed Hope faithfully preached is causing separation between the true and the false. That is exactly why we must preach it and preach it more faithfully. And this continues. It has continued for a good many years, longer than those who were used by the Holy Spirit in the recovery of the blessed Hope, anticipated. The infinite patience of the Lord has delayed the next great event. How long will it all continue yet? Who can give us an answer to this? For all we know the next moment may usher in the actual appearing of the Bridegroom.

The next is "the Bridegroom came." How solemn this is. While the foolish kept on running and seeking and the wise had arisen and the separation between these classes had taken place, He came at last. That is exactly what is before us now. Oh! I wish I could impress it upon every heart that this solemn event may be upon us at any time. Surely the Bridegroom will not delay his coming much longer. When John the Baptist announced the first Coming of the King through the power and energy of the Holy Spirit did it take long for Him to come? And now for so many years already the Holy Spirit has announced the nearness of the Bridegroom, His soon Coming; can it then take much longer? Every waiting one, every spiritually minded believer who has intelligence, answers with thousands of others, "It cannot be much longer. He will tarry no more, but will quickly come."

How it fills our hearts with joy. The Bridegroom is coming and it reads, "They that were ready went in with him to the marriage." The wise, those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and know Him, are ready. Grace has made them ready and when He comes He will receive them. What a happy and glorious moment it will be at last. Said my little boy, who has an interest in the Coming of the Lord, "I wonder how He will look. I wonder what kind of a face He has when we see Him." That is exactly what you and I have often thought about and often wonder what it will be when we see Him at last as He is. And we shall see Him.

But there is another side, fearful indeed. "The door was shut." What words these are. The door closed in the face of the rest of the virgins. No more possibility, for them to enter in. Directly they come saying "Lord, Lord, open to us." But He answered and said, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not." They find themselves shut out. And let me say this is their final state. One of the fearful things with some of these new theories concerning this last parable is that they meddle with these last words addressed to the foolish virgins, as if they have another chance. No, no, the door was shut and when the door opens again He comes forth not as the Bridegroom, but as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, as the mighty judge. I know you not—what words from such lips! What eternal misery they foretell!

And this is the doom which hangs over the heads of the large masses of Christian people, Christians in name only, never saved. The moment He comes the door will be shut for these foolish virgins. Forever outside will be their destiny.

Perhaps I am speaking here to some, not many, but some, who have not the oil, who have not the Spirit of Christ and are none of His. Let me address these words to you, and if it is but one person. Delay no longer. Arise this very moment and go to Him who still waits in patience. He waits for you and invites you to come to Him to buy without money and without price. Oh! come now, confess yourself with all your religiousness perhaps and self-righteousness a lost sinner. You need to be no longer in that dangerous position. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; decide it now and I can assure you He will give you that which you lack in your empty profession; and should He come to-night, as may be the case, you will be ready to enter in with the oldest saint of God. He died for you to have you with Himself. Will you reject then the offer of salvation as it comes in this solemn hour? How can you? Delay no longer, but now cast yourself into His arms.

And we who know Him and wait for Him with longing hearts, there is more than one solemn message which comes to us from this parable. Think of the awful doom of the multitudes of professing, but unsaved, Christians. Some believers who believe in the eternal punishment of the unsaved act as if it were not true. If it is true as alas! it is, how can we be idle? Brethren, we have a great responsibility towards the foolish virgins, the great mass of the professing church. God forbid that we should be negligent in discharging this duty. Away with the miserable sectarian spirit which takes the skirts together, like the Pharisee of old and says, "I am holier than thou," and refuses to go to those who need the truth and the Gospel. We have a debt to pay; we are debtors to all. As long as the Bridegroom tarries let us go to those who are Christians in name and who know Him not and He will graciously own our testimony.

"Watch, therefore, for ye know not neither the day nor the hour." Soon all will be reality. Soon we shall enter in to be with the Bridegroom; shut in with Him. God grant that none of us may be shut out.


Ephes. i:13, 14; Rev. xii

We find in these words a truth revealed, which is quite often overlooked by readers of this great Epistle. It is this: The purchased possession, that which has been purchased for us, is yet to be redeemed. There is a future redemption of the purchased possession.

The divine statement includes this fact, that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and that He is the earnest or our inheritance until the time when the redemption of the purchased possession takes place.

And where do we find these words in this great chapter? If this chapter is at all to be divided, it must be divided into two parts. The first fourteen verses make the first part and then follows the great prayer of the Spirit of God through the Apostle. The statement which is before us for consideration is found at the end of the first part, preceding the prayer of the Apostle.

And what precious truth this chapter up to the fourteenth verse contains! It is indeed God's highest revelation concerning believing sinners saved by Grace. There is nothing higher than that, which is revealed here, and it is safe to say that God could not tell us anything better and more precious than what He has told us in this chapter.

First stands the greatest doxology of the Scriptures. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ." This takes it all together. We are as believers of Christ united to Him, One with Him and therefore we possess every spiritual blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is capable of giving. Then follows the great facts connected with our redemption in Christ. Here we find election, predestination, adoption, or putting into the Son-place, Redemption, the source of redemption as well as the prize of redemption.

Let us glance briefly at those glorious steps which lead up to our verse. They are just seven.

We can only name them, much as we would like to ponder over each. 1. We are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. He thought of us and loved us before ever a single thing had been created. 2. Marked out for the Son-place through Jesus Christ. According to the good pleasure of His will He has given us the place of a Son. 3. He has taken us into the favor in the Beloved. In that beloved One we are beloved forever accepted in Him. 4. We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of offences, according to the riches of His grace. 5. Then we have the knowledge of the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself for the administration of the fulness of times, to head up all things in the Christ. 6. In Him we have obtained an inheritance; and then the last step, the seventh, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, the earnest of that inheritance which we have obtained.

Now let me just say this little word on the last great fact. The authorized version reads "after that ye believed ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." This translation is misleading and gives ground to an error which is becoming more and more widespread. It is the error that the Holy Spirit is not given at once when the sinner believes, but that the Holy Spirit is received in a definite experience after we have believed. It is an error; the passage before us does not teach this but the very opposite, for it reads, "in whom also believing, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit." Every one who has believed received in the act of believing the Holy Spirit. And this blessed gift, not an influence, but the person of the Holy Spirit, is both the seal and the earnest. A seal makes secure and denotes safety. By that seal we are owned by God. We are His property, we belong to Him. Then the Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, the pledge of it. We give an earnest when we buy a property, it is an advance payment, the first installment. So is the Holy Spirit from the side of our God the earnest of the purchased possession. How happy and full of joy we should be with the knowledge of all these precious truths, with the seal and earnest of our possession.

But the earnest (not the seal) is up to a certain time and that time is when we come into the full possession of our inheritance "until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory." This brings us to the whole matter before us.

1. In the first place what is "our inheritance" mentioned here? We find the word inheritance three times in this chapter. "In whom we have also obtained an inheritance" (verse 11). Then in the 14th verse, "The earnest of our inheritance." We find it again in the 18th verse. "So that ye should know what is the hope of His calling and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the Saints." The inheritance is, according to these passages, twofold. Believers constituting the church have an inheritance and we are His inheritance. The inheritance we have, our inheritance, is nothing less than the inheritance of the Christ. He made Him Heir of all things. He is the Heir of God. The same is said of us as believers. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. God has put us, according to the good pleasure of His will in Christ, in the place of sons and because He has made us sons He has made us heirs. The inheritance of the first begotten from the dead is the inheritance of all who are by Grace constituted sons in Him. And what is His inheritance which we shall share in all eternity? We find in it the preceding verses, "having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself for the administration of the fulness of times; to head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth." In other words, He is the heir of all things and these include both the heavens and the earth. All is put under His feet. And this glorious inheritance belongs to us; we shall share it with Him in all eternity. What mind and heart can grasp it! It is unspeakable and unfathomable. Our inheritance is often lowered in that people speak about the earth as being the inheritance. Certain passages from the Old Testament are quoted in support of this. "The meek shall inherit the earth," "the earth has He given to the children of men." But this does not at all refer to our inheritance, but rather to the inheritance of an earthly people in the millennium. Our inheritance assuredly includes the earth, but the heavens are the supreme place for the church. As He is now far above all principalities and power and might and dominion, in the heavenlies, so will the church occupy the heavenlies with Him, the glorified Head, and in the ages to come God will show in this very position and possession He has given to us His exceeding riches of His Grace.

But here we read not only of an inheritance, which belongs to us, but it speaks of "the purchased possession." There is no difference at all between these two terms "our inheritance" and "the purchased possession;" they are one and the same thing. The inheritance, the possession of the heavenlies and of the earth is acquired or purchased and the purchase price is the blood of the Son of God. The precious blood of the Son of God has not only redeemed us and made it possible for us to share His inheritance to the praise of His Glory, but it has also purchased both the heavenlies and the earth. The heavenlies as well as the things on earth have been defiled by sin and needed the purchase; the blood of the Son of God alone could accomplish that. In the same sense we read in the first chapter of Colossians of the reconciliation of all things, the things in heaven and the things on the earth.

It is an interesting fact that we find the same word "the purchased possession" as it is translated here at four other places in the New Testament. Twice in Thessalonians, once in Hebrews and once in 1st Peter. Each time it refers to the future.

1 Thess. v:9. "God has not set us for wrath, but (literally) unto acquiring salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has died for us that whether we may be watching or sleep, we may live together with Him. The "acquiring of salvation" is future and corresponds to the "purchased possession."

2 Thess. ii:14. "Unto which He called you through our Gospel, unto an acquiring of the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Peter ii:19.... "A people for an acquisition;" that is, a people formed for a possession corresponding to Isaiah xliii:2. "This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise." This is spoken, of course, concerning Israel. It also finds an application in the church, the royal Priesthood. In the possession of our inheritance we shall make known His excellencies, His Glory.

Hebrews x:39. The word is likewise found also relating to the future, "the preservation of the soul," the same as salvation in the future sense.

2. And now we reach the main thought of the Scripture before us. The purchased possession, the inheritance, though it has been fully paid for, is completely purchased, is yet to be redeemed. While we said that our inheritance and the expression "the purchased possession" are the same, it is not so with "purchase" and "redemption." These are two different things. The purchase is by blood, but the redemption here is by power. The purchased possession is to be redeemed by power.

Now as this is so the inheritance must be in a state of alienation from God; some power has hold of it who has no right to it. If this were not the case it would be impossible to speak of a redemption by power. It is just like the possession of some land in a frontier state. A person purchases a large tract of land. It is his, he has a perfect title to it. But now he comes and looks over his purchased possession and he finds a number of people who settled upon it. They have erected houses and make a claim that it belongs to them, but they have no right to it at all. Either by law or by force they are to be evicted from the property to which they have no right. At a certain time the owner comes and claims his ownership and casts out these people. And even so that which the Lord has purchased and which belongs to Him and to the sons of God with Him, His inheritance and our inheritance is possessed up to this time by evil, God opposing powers and they have still control of it till the hour of eviction comes. All things are indeed put under His feet, but we see not yet all things put under Him, though we see as a pledge that it shall be so, "Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, and yet the earth is still in the grasp of that mighty being, who had shown to our Lord the kingdoms of this world claiming them as his own and offering the same to the Lord. The father of lies spoke the truth then, for the kingdoms of this world are in his possession and they are still his. He is still the god of this age, the prince of the world. The enemies of Christ seen and unseen are not yet made His footstool, nor will they be till the power of God does it in that mighty act of a future redemption. Still there is the groaning of all creation, waiting for something better to come, waiting for the deliverance from the bondage of corruption, waiting to be brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The deliverance of groaning creation takes place when the sons of God are manifested, and that is the time of the redemption of the purchased possession. And we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body. And the redemption of the body belongs to the redemption of the purchased possession.

And how is it with the heavens? Surely here we cannot speak of some evil powers holding possessions, and that it is necessary to redeem that possession by power? It is exactly this which is mostly before us in this epistle of the Heavenlies.

To some Christians this is almost impossible to grasp and yet it is clearly revealed in the Scriptures that the heavenlies, the sphere above the earth and way beyond, is in the grasp of the evil tenants which under the headship of Satan form mighty principalities and powers and dominions. He himself as head reaches into heaven and has access to the very throne itself. He is not only the god of this age and the prince of this world, but also "The prince of the power in the air." How mighty he is as such, what powers are at his disposal, how vast his kingdom is, how numerous the fallen beings with him and how the demons fill the air, no saint has ever fully realized, nor shall we ever realize it, till the God of peace has Satan completely bruised under our feet.

Think for a moment of what the Scriptures say. There is the first and second chapter in the Book of Job. Some call it fiction. We call it one of the greatest revelations of the Word of God. There is the throne of God, and to that throne comes Satan as the accuser of the brethren. The New Testament verifies that this is still the case, and that at the present time this mighty being still accuses the saints of God before the throne of righteousness. And that is one of the reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ as our advocate appears in the presence of God for us.

Again we read the words of a prophet. "I saw the Lord sitting on His throne and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right and on his left.... And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord and said, I will persuade him (King Ahab). And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets" (1 Kings xxii:19-23). And furthermore here in the Epistle to Ephesians in the last chapter we read of the warfare of the Christian believer, which is not with flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the wicked spirits in the heavenlies. This passage alone is sufficient evidence to show that the heavenlies are up to the present time tenanted by wicked spirits. They hold possession of the heavenlies and have control there. But Christ has triumphed over Satan and his wicked spirits and has purchased that heavenly possession. It belongs to Him and to His church, and when the right time comes the redemption of that possession will take place and the heavenlies will be cleared from these usurpers.

3. This brings us to the third thought connected with this theme. When and how will the purchased possession be redeemed by the power of God? We are not left to speculation on this matter, for while we have here just a few words concerning this great event we have in another part of the Bible a revelation, which may be termed the complete history of the redemption of the purchased possession. There we have the when and the how we have asked completely answered. That book is our great New Testament Book of Prophecy, the Revelation. The parts in which the redemption of the purchased possession by the power of God is revealed are chapters xii and xx.

The twelfth chapter is one of the great chapters in this marvelous book. It is not only a great chapter, but also an important one. In examining any exposition of the Book of Revelation one does well to turn to this chapter and read what the expositor has to say on it. If he is straight here his book is well worth reading; if not he must be wrong in the greater part of the book. The great vision is the woman travailing in pain to be delivered of a manchild. The catching away of that manchild, which the red dragon was ready to devour. The casting out of Satan after the manchild is with God and in heaven, the persecution of the woman and her seed by the serpent. The erroneous interpretation always concerns the woman. Many make her to be the church, and then the manchild is a select company of the elect church, overcomers, first fruits, or as some call them the 144,000.

The woman has nothing to do with the church. She typifies Israel and this is easily verified from Old Testament passages. The manchild destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron is Christ who, according to the flesh, came from Israel. Satan hated Him and would have devoured Him, but could not. The man-child is caught away and then after He is in the presence of God all the other events come rapidly to pass.

We notice that a number of important things are passed over entirely in the beginning of this chapter. They are implied, of course. Nothing is said of the earthly life of Christ, nothing of His death and resurrection. They are implied in His being caught away unto God. There is nothing said of this present age and nothing of the church, but she is likewise implied in this scene. The manchild does not stand for the person of Christ alone, but for the completed Christ, I mean by this the Christ, the Head and the Body, the church united to Him in Glory. What is spoken of the Christ in resurrection is also spoken of His church. The promise to rule the nations with a rod of iron is not only to Him but through Him also to those who overcome. "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of my Father" (Rev. ii:28). It is also significant that we do not read of the ascension here of our Lord. If the word were here that the man-child ascended, I doubt if then we could say the church is implied, for the word ascension is never used in connection with the church. But it reads "Caught away," and the very same word which is used here is used in 1 Thess. iv. "Caught up together with them in clouds." What follows next is the war in heaven and the casting out of Satan. This will not take place till the complete church, the Body and Bride of Christ, is taken up. Then Satan will be completely bruised under our feet. In spite of his malice, in spite of his power and accusations, in spite of his challenge to God and fearful attacks, there is not one member of that glorious body missing, all the redeemed are in the presence of the Lord and then Satan is forced down to the earth by Michael and his angels. In heaven there is a loud voice which declares: "Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them day and night before our God. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death. Therefore rejoice, oh ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them." Then Satan as the accuser has no more place in heaven and the advocacy of Christ concerning His own, as He said in His highpriestly prayer, "I pray for them," has an end. They are all safe with Him in glory.

The heavenlies are thus cleared of Satan and his hosts when the church is brought in and the eviction is the redemption of the purchased possession. It takes place by the power of God through the mighty Being whose name is "Who is like God," Michael.

Satan the usurper cast out of the heavenly sphere goes down to the earth having great wrath. How fearful must be the wrath of that Being! Who of us can imagine it, what it will be? Surely the Lord would never leave His church, His Bride on the earth, when that awful Being with that great wrath comes down. Indeed what we have said shows clearly that the great tribulation is impossible as long as the church, the complete church, is not yet in glory. For to have the great tribulation on the earth the old serpent must be cast down on the earth.

The redemption of the purchased possession begins then with the rapture of the church to be with Christ in His Inheritance in the Heavenlies. This is followed by Satan being cast out of heaven. And then a few years more and the heavens open and the King of kings and Lord of lords appears. The Son in all His Glory is manifested bringing many sons with Him to Glory. It is then that we have the redemption of the purchased possession completed. "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old Serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled, and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones and they sat upon them, and the judgment was given unto them, and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Rev. xx:1-5).

Then all of groaning creation will be delivered and Satan will no longer be the god of this age, the prince of this world nor the prince of the power in the air. There will be peace on earth and Glory to God in the Highest. Christ will reign and His church with Him in the Glory above. What a time it will be when it comes. What singing in heaven and on the earth. Then shall He have His full inheritance which we share and also have His inheritance in us His Saints, and He will be admired in all them that have believed. And all this is near.

Just a little while longer and we shall hear His shout which calls us and all His redeemed into His presence, with bodies redeemed by His power to enter into our inheritance, the purchased possession.

And now two things need to be mentioned in closing. Our conflict is with these evil spirits, the usurpers, both in the heavenlies and here on earth. May we be victors through the power of the Christ in us and His Spirit. The conflict is becoming hotter, especially for those who enter into their privileges and realize in faith their place and future glory.

Let us also walk worthy of our calling. Let it be seen that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and have Him as the earnest of our inheritance. A Christian who professes to have such an inheritance and who professes to wait for the redemption of the purchased possession and who grasps after the honors of the world and runs after its riches is a sad spectacle indeed.


Satan is a person and has a history. No intelligent believer in the Bible denies this, for the Bible teaches in both Testaments that such a being exists, and more than that, the history of this person is given in the Word of God. He is not a divine being, but a creature. His origin, his work and his final destiny are revealed in the Scriptures. Yet it needs to be stated that much in connection with this person is obscure and that certain facts can only be learned by inference. Questions are often asked concerning this being, which no one can answer. We mean these questions "Why God created such a being, if He knew that he would be His enemy and do the awful work he has done and which he is still doing," or "Why does God still permit him to do this work and why does He not end his career?" In such matters it behooves us to confess our ignorance and also our faith in an all-wise God, whose wisdom, sovereignty and justice are perfect. Some day these unrevealed mysteries will be all cleared up for the Saints of God.

What Person He Was

The conception, which originated in the middle ages, in connection with the gross perversion of the truth of God, that this person is one of repulsive and grotesque countenance, with the figure of a monstrosity, is an invention and cannot be verified from Scripture. The Bible knows nothing of such a being with a horrible face and figure. The very opposite is the teaching of the Word of God. He was originally the greatest and most marvelous creation of God. Though now fallen and the enemy of God, he still retains much of his original beauty and wisdom. In Isaiah xiv:12 the word "Lucifer" (lightbearer) refers to him. He is called "Son of the Morning." That must have been his name when unfallen. Still more striking is the description of the same person in one of the great prophetic utterances of Ezekiel. In chapter xxviii:11-19 we read the following:

"Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so; thou was upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee."

These words are words of lamentation over the wicked king of Tyrus. While this king is mentioned the description does not fit him at all, but must be applied to the one who was the unseen power behind the throne of the Tyrian king. The great city of Tyrus, once so glorious and now forever gone, is a type of the commercial glory of the world, its wealth and its prince, foreshadowing the final great world-city and world-system Babylon. Satan controlled Tyrus as he will also control the coming, final Babylon. We have therefore here a description of Satan in his original condition as an unfallen creature. He was full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. He was in Eden the garden of God and every precious stone was his covering. He was the anointed cherub that covereth, perhaps an archangel like Michael. He was in the mountain of God and perfect in the day of his creation.

We quote another passage from which we may learn by inference his original greatness and majesty. Jude predicts the final apostasy of this present age, which culminates in man despising dominions and speaking evil of dignities. He then makes a statement in which Satan is mentioned: "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee" (verses 8-9). It is a unique revelation nowhere else found in the Bible that when Moses' body was to be laid away, the devil appeared on the scene. Perhaps Michael was commissioned by the Lord to bury the body of Moses. The devil evidently laid claim to the body of God's servant. Perhaps he wanted the body to be preserved in an embalmed condition as an object of idolatry. When Michael faced him he durst not bring a railing accusation against him. He still recognized in him, though fallen, the greatness of his original being. This is sufficient to show that Satan was once a mighty, glorious, majestic being, full of wisdom and beauty. Being a creature he is not omnipotent, nor is he omniscient or omnipresent.

His Fall

His fall and how he became the great enemy of God is also revealed. We find it in the two chapters already quoted, Isaiah xiv and Ezekiel xxviii. He said in his heart "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah xiv:13-14). Ezekiel's prophecy tells us that iniquity was found in him. "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou has corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness" (Ezek. xxviii:17). In the beginning of this chapter a similar statement is made, which also must be applied to Satan. "Thus saith the Lord God, because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God and sit in the seat of God." The New Testament also bears witness to the fact and reminds us of the above revelations in 1 Timothy iii:6. Speaking of the qualifications of an elder, we read, "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." The word condemnation has the meaning of "crime" in the Greek. He revolted against God; he was not satisfied with the position and place the Creator had given him and aimed to occupy the throne above the stars and be like the Most High. Then he fell and became the enemy of God, which he still is and ever will be. In his attempt to become like the Most High other angels sided with him and shared in the fall likewise.

Where Was His Original Dwelling Place

If this being attempted to put his throne above the stars, then must he have had a throne somewhere else. If he aimed to ascend into heaven and be like the Most High, he must have had some dwelling place which God had assigned to him. There is no positive Scripture concerning this place. Yet by inferential evidence the knowledge can be gained that our earth in its original condition was the domain of this great creature of God.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." We do not know when this was. In certain Bible editions the date 4004 B. C. is placed in the margin over against Gen. i:1. But that is incorrect. It would make the earth not quite 6000 years old. Science has demonstrated the fact that our globe is of a very great age. No human being can tell the exact time when God created the heavens and the earth. It may have been 2 million or 20 million or 200 million years ago. We know, however, that the human race became a recent tenant on this earth. The human race is not older than about 6000 years.

In that distant past before man was created the earth was in a different form. At that time there was a gigantic animal creation and an equally gigantic vegetation in existence. It has been brought to light through the fossil beds; but in none of these fossils is found a trace of a human being. This great original creation was plunged at one time into an awful catastrophe. Death and destruction came upon it, every living thing was extinguished, while water covered everything and all was enveloped in darkness.

This is exactly the condition of the earth as described in the second verse of the Bible. "And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." If we turn to Isaiah xlv:18 we find a significant statement: "For thus saith the Lord who created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain; He formed it to be inhabited." The word vain (tohu) is the same word used in Gen. i:2 and translated "without form." From this we learn that God did not originally create the earth as without form and void, enshrouded in darkness. It became this through a judgment which fell upon it. Between the first and second verses of the first chapter of Genesis is therefore a long, immeasurable period of time. Now, if this original earth was ruined and passed through a judgment, why did this ruin and judgment take place? This question must remain unanswered unless we bring that first judgment in connection with the revolt and fall of Satan, who had his dwelling place on this earth. This explains not only the ruined condition of the earth in Gen. i:2, but throws a great deal of light on Satan's successful attempt to get back his lost dominion through man and his tenacious hold on the earth, as the prince of the world and god of this age.[1]

Man Upon The Earth

In God's own time this earth was put into the condition to become the habitation for the human race. Of this we read in Genesis i:3-31. God then created man in His own image, and said, "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth" (Gen. i:26). "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over everything that moveth upon the earth." Thus the earth, which was originally Satan's habitation, was given to man.

The Fall of Man

When all this took place this great fallen being was no doubt an eyewitness. He beheld God working in rearranging the chaos of the original earth produced by his revolt. He saw how God created man. He heard how God spoke to man and gave him to possess his former estate which he had lost by his rebellion. He beheld God putting man and woman into the garden of Eden. He listened when God said "Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. ii:17). Then he must have been moved with envy and jealousy. He sees another in possession of his past domain. Something like this must have come into his mind—if I only can get man ruined and turn him against God, if I can make of man a rebel and lay hold on him, I shall get back the place which once was mine and then defy God.

The third chapter in Genesis shows how he succeeded in carrying out this plan. Through the serpent he approached the woman and said, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?" God had spoken; the first word to man had come from His lips. Satan's first work was to make God's creature doubt God's Word. The first destructive critic who denied that God hath spoken was Satan. Every man, no matter what learning he may claim, who denies the inspiration of the Bible, and that the Bible is the revelation and Word of God, is the mouthpiece of Satan. Emboldened by the woman's answer he said "Ye shall not surely die," an out and out denial of what God had said; and then adds the lying promise, "Your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods." He wanted to be like the Most High, and now he injects his own character into man. The transgression followed; sin came into the world and death by sin, the moment God's commandment was disobeyed. What a sneer and laughter, what a triumphant shout Satan must have uttered when the deed was done! And with the fall of man he laid hold again on this earth and became its prince.

Satan's Doom Announced

Then the Lord sought that which was lost, the guilty pair, and addressed the serpent. The words the Lord then spoke contain the first prophecy of the Bible. It concerns Satan, how God will deal with him and his final doom. "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. iii:15). Without fully explaining this prophecy, which may well be termed the germ of all subsequent prophecy, we but point out what it means. From the woman there is to come a seed, an offspring who is to bruise the head of the serpent (Satan), that is, overcome the serpent, and that the serpent is to bruise the heel of the seed of the woman. Furthermore, there is to rage a conflict between the serpent and the woman and between the serpent's seed and the seed of the woman. There can be no question whatever that the seed of the woman means the Son of God in His incarnation. Paul writes to the Galatians, "But when the fulness of time was come God sent forth His Son made of a woman" (Gal. iv:4). He is the seed of the woman, the virgin-born Son of God. His death is mentioned in this first prophecy as the bruising of His heel. Then the final victory over Satan and his final doom, his head is to be bruised. And till that is accomplished there is to be conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, a conflict between those who side with God, believe on and wait for the promised One, and those who side with Satan and his works. Satan heard then from the lips of Jehovah that the seed of the woman would conquer him and seal his doom.

His Work and the Conflict Begins

The predicted conflict began at once. Two sons are born to Adam and Eve. Satan watched them. He is interested to see if one of them might be "the seed." He saw Cain bringing an offering of the fruit of the ground (the labor of his hands) unto the Lord.[2] Satan must have been delighted with Cain, as he beheld him, as a self-righteous man, rejecting God's provision for him as a sinner. He knew Cain was his man and belonged to his seed. It was different with Abel. Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock and of the fat thereof. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts" (Heb. xi:3). He was a believer, who owned himself as a sinner and because he believed, God accepted his offering. As Satan beheld this scene he must have imagined that Abel was "the seed of the woman." Then he filled Cain with wrath and moved him to slay his brother Abel. Thus Satan manifested himself in the beginning of the human race as the liar and the murderer. Our Lord testified of this character of the enemy when He spoke to those who conspired to kill Him and who belonged to the Devil's seed: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it" (John viii:44). But the murder of Abel was unavailing. Eve bore another son "and called his name Seth, for God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew" (Gen. iv:25). Satan was defeated for the first time.

An Interesting History

An interesting history follows. The Old Testament history is the history of conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Satan continually worked to oppose God, attempting to prevent the coming of that promised seed of the woman. He knew if he succeeded in this he would not again be dispossessed from this planet and his own doom would never come. Besides trying to prevent the coming of the promised One, his aim is to control the nations, have dominion over them, and to deny the truth of God made known to man by revelation. He corrupted the human race before the deluge so that the earth was corrupt before God and filled with violence (Gen. vi:11). This great being knew well that God is holy and cannot tolerate evil. He plunged the race into great wickedness in the hope that God would destroy the whole race and leave him possessor of the earth. But Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord.

When Satan received the knowledge that the seed to conquer him and seal his doom would come through Abraham, he then opposed the seed of Abraham to frustrate God's purpose. The land which was promised by Jehovah to Abraham and his descendants was settled by the nations which were Satan-controlled and were his willing instruments. Satan's power in wickedness and vileness was manifested in the Canaanites. That is why the Lord commanded their utter extermination. So that in the land itself there was a steady conflict between the seed of the serpent, the Canaanites, and the seed of the woman, godly Israelites.

When Pharaoh gave the command to kill all the male children born to Israel in Egypt, it was another attempt of Satan to make the coming of the promised seed impossible (Ex. i:16). But God took care and used the Hebrew midwives, the weaker vessels, to bring to naught the wicked plan. Pharaoh brought up in his own palace one of the Hebrew boys, whom Satan would have killed; and that boy became the great leader and deliverer of Israel. All the persecutions of the people Israel in Egypt were Satan's work. When at last they had left the house of bondage, Satan in impotent rage stirred up Pharaoh to attempt their destruction; but Pharaoh and his army found their graves in the Red Sea.

Afterward Jehovah announced that the promised seed should be of the house of David. Then Satan watched David and his descendants. Through Saul he persecuted God's anointed, but failed to touch his life. Immediately after the Lord had made the covenant with David (2 Sam. vii) promising him a son whose Kingdom shall be established (the seed—Christ), Satan led David to commit his awful sin. Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, belonged to the seed of the serpent. This wicked son of David slew all his brethren. It was Satan's attempt to exterminate the descendant of David (2 Chronicles xxi:4). Then the Arabians came and slew all his sons except Ahaziah. Still greater was Satan's attempt to end forever the house of David through wicked queen Attaliah. She was the mother of Ahaziah. When her son had been slain "she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah" (2 Chronicles xxii:10). Satan had made the awful suggestion to her and when the seed royal was destroyed he thought he had triumphed at last. "But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the King, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from the King's sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, the wife of Jehorada the priest, hid him from Attaliah so that she slew him not. And he was with them hid in the house of God six years" (2 Chron. xxvii:11-12). Satan was defeated.

Through Haman he made still another attempt to have all the Jews, men, women, and children, killed. God watched over His people again and Satan's plan was frustrated. And how much else might be added! Throughout Old Testament history he had his chosen instruments, like Nimrod, the kings of Babylon, the Pharaohs, the Assyrian, the Persian Kings, Alexander and others through whom he attempted world dominion. He instigated the cruel and terrible wars. Israel, the people of God, were led by him into idolatry and apostasy. In all this and much besides his aim was the defiance of God and to keep God from carrying out his plan of redemption though the promised seed.

The Promised Seed and Satan's Opposition

The promised seed came. The Son of God took on the creature's garb and became man, the son of David and son of Abraham, according to the flesh. All Satan had done for 4,000 years had been in vain. God had kept His promise. King Herod was the seed of the serpent and when the child was born, Satan moved him to seek the young child to destroy him. Herod, inspired by the murderer from the beginning, "exceeding wroth, sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof from two years old and under" (Matt. ii:16). But God had watched, and the young child was on the way to Egypt when Satan's suggestion was carried out by the Roman soldiers.

And how many more times he must have made the same attempt! When Satan had taken him on the pinnacle of the temple and suggested "cast thyself down," he tried it once more. The people of Nazareth were the serpent's seed and under his control when they rushed him out of the city and attempted to cast him headlong down a precipice. The storms on the lake were Satan's work to take His life. Little did he know that the ship in which the Son of God slept peacefully, though it filled with water, was the only unsinkable ship which sailed the seas. He could not touch the seed of the woman, for He was holy, without sin, and death had not claim on Him.

Yet He had come to die "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." He knew that the Lord Jesus would get the victory and the dominion over this earth by the way of the Cross. That is why he took Him on the exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. He offered all to the Son of Man, if He but would fall down before him. He wanted Him to keep away from the cross for he knew then and knows now, far better than many a so-called theologian, that redemption for the individual and redemption for this earth, the nations and groaning creation has its blessed source in the work of the Cross. He was defeated in all his malice and cunning. And finally the Cross, preceded by the agony in Gethsemane. Satan was there; with unspeakable hatred he planned His death. He entered into Judas; he used the Pharisees and Sadducees, the priests and elders, which were all Satan's seed, to have Him put to death. The cry "Away with Him! Crucify Him!" was inspired by himself. He used man to dishonor the Son of God, to revile Him, spit in His face, to scourge Him and finally to nail Him to the Cross. Did he think that he might yet get the victory and keep the Lord Jesus from finishing the work the Father gave Him to do? We do not know if such was the case, but we know that while the Son of God gave Himself, Satan had also his part in His rejection and His death. Our Lord conquered. He won the victory and those blessed never-to-be-forgotten words, "It is finished" tell of the final doom of Satan and the coming glories of a new heaven and a new earth. The thorn-crowned Man of that cross of shame will some day be the glory-crowned Man who claims His inheritance, and because he wore the thorns and paid for all sin's curse, He will rid this earth from the works of the devil.

The tomb was closed with the big stone and then sealed with the Roman seal. A watch too is set. How careful Satan is! What a good memory he has! Yet how blind! He wanted to prevent His triumphant resurrection, as if he had more power than God! On the third day the stone was rolled away. He came forth. Death and the grave are conquered. He is the resurrection and the life. Then the man-child, whom the dragon wanted to devour (Rev. xii) was caught up to the throne of God, destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Like another Joash, He is hidden in the house of God. He fills the throne there and awaits in that place of glorious exaltation the time when Satan will be dethroned and He, the Son of Man, will receive His own throne.

The Conflict Continues

As stated elsewhere, Satan by having succeeded in getting the Jews and Gentiles to reject the Prince of Life and the Lord of Glory, became what he has not been in previous ages, "the god of this age" (2 Cor. iv:4).[3] And so the conflict continues. Satan can no longer attempt to prevent the coming of the promised seed or attack His Person, for He is in glory as the glorified Man. He knows, however, that He has a seed on this earth, a seed which has the promise given that he, Satan, "is to be bruised completely" under their feet. This seed is the church. The enmity and conflict during this present age is therefore between the seed of the serpent and the seed of Christ, those who are in Him and in whom Christ dwelleth.

All students of Prophecy know that the seven church messages in the book of Revelation (chapters ii and iii) contain a prophetic forecast of the history of the church on earth, from the apostolic age to the time when the true church is taken to glory and the apostate church disowned by the Lord.[4] In these prophetic messages Satan's work in opposition to the church is made known. In the Apostolic age he acted in introducing error; he sowed the tares. After the Apostles had passed away a time of great persecution set in which is indicated in the message to Smyrna. The Roman emperors were the serpent's seed. They claimed divine honors and worship. As Satan's instruments they persecuted the church, and thousands upon thousands of believers died the martyrs' death. The cruel tortures and horrible forms of death were Satan's work by which he attempted to exterminate the church. When he found that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church, and that the church increased in spite of these persecutions, then he began to corrupt the church. The professing church settled down where Satan's throne is, that is, she gave up the place of separation and became a world institution. Gradually the Gospel and the doctrine of Christ became perverted, heathenish customs were introduced and finally the culmination was reached in the Romish apostasy. These developments are described in the messages to Pergamos and Thyatira. When the Reformation set in the fires of persecution were kindled again; once more Satan, as the murderer, tries to prevent the victory of the truth of Christ and the Gospel. Satan's work can thus be traced in the history of the church down to our own times. The destructive criticism of our own times, the so-called "new theology," the different systems, which deny the Deity of our Lord and which reject His atoning death, like "Christian Science," belong to the seed of the serpent. And so does Spiritism, Theosophy, Mormonism and other cults. In these systems and cults he appears as an angel of light, blinding the eyes of them that believe not. "And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light, therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. xi:14-15).

Why He Hates the Church

He hates the true church because he knows its members are the blood-bought hosts of the Son of God, destined to rule and reign with Him over this earth, which Satan still holds in his grasp. There is another reason why he has tried to exterminate the true church or to corrupt it. Satan has knowledge concerning the future. When our Lord was on earth the demons cried out "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Matt. viii:29). From this we learn that the demons know the difference between the first and second coming of our Lord. They know when He comes the second time their doom will be sealed and they will no longer be permitted to torment and ruin the bodies and souls of men. Satan unquestionably knows his doom and that it is linked up with the Return of our Lord. He also knows that the church, as the body of Christ, must be completed before He comes again. This must be a leading reason why he hates the church and attempts to corrupt it by evil doctrines and persecutes those who are Christ's. All his efforts are unavailing for the Lord Jesus Christ keeps His people.

World Dominion Satan's Endeavor

Throughout this age this enemy of God also endeavors to control the earth politically and rule the nations. The Roman emperors mostly all aimed at world-dominion and did the devil's bidding to obtain their object. What horrible things were done and the depths of wickedness history makes known to us. Throughout the centuries of our age, again and again, he raised up instruments and inspired them to great deeds in bloody wars to control nations and kingdoms. Napoleon is a notable example. His ambition was to become the head of a great European empire. A cartoonist of 1812 pictured Satan holding Napoleon in his lap and saying to him, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." If this was true of Napoleon that he was of the seed of the serpent, doing his will, how much more is it true of the Hohenzollern, William II. His deeds and the deeds of his associates in this war of all wars surpass the deeds of Nero, Attila and Napoleon. The devil's bait was swallowed by this Prussian emperor and he hoped to gain world dominion, but has now found out that the devil is a liar.

Nor must we forget the popes with their spurious claims of being Christ's vice-regents on earth and their attempt to exercise temporal power. Behind their claim there stands the same dark shadow.

Satan's Final Opposition

When this age ends Satan will make a final effort in opposing God. He will be permitted to succeed for a brief time and do what is in his heart to do. This takes place after the true church has left the earth. Satan will then be cast out of heaven and coming down to this earth once more in person, he manifests great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time (Rev. xii:12).[5] The mystery of lawlessness, which has been at work from the beginning will break out fully and find a consummation through the power of Satan. The thirteenth chapter of Revelation gives the future history of Satan's seeming success and triumph. He will succeed in forming a great empire, which is the old Roman empire in a revived form. This empire, which is called a beast, will receive Satan's power, and will have over it a wicked leader, whom Daniel saw as the little horn on the ten-horned beast.[6] The dragon's plan to control the earth has seemingly been realized. He then institutes the great tribulation. But there is a second beast mentioned in Revelation xiii. He has two horns like a lamb but speaks as a dragon. This is the Antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition. Like the little horn, the political leader, this second beast is Satan's man. He leads the religious apostasy and tries to stamp out what is left of the truth of God on the earth. He himself claims to be God and takes the place in the temple of God (in Jerusalem), and by lying signs and wonders backs up his claims. His work is described in Rev. xiii:11-18 and 2 Thess. ii:3-12. Fearful will be those days when the true church is gone and when God, as a judgment, lets Satan rule over those who rejected the offers of His love in His blessed Son. Another work of his is seen in the final Babylon and the scarlet clad woman, who rides the beast (the revived Roman empire). And finally when the hour approaches of Christ's visible and glorious return, Satan summons "the kings of the earth and their armies, gathering them together to make war against Him that sat on the horse and against his army" (Rev. xix:19). But then his defeat has come. The King of kings and Lord of lords appears in glory. The glory-flash, the brightness of His Coming strikes down the beast and the false prophet (Antichrist). The battle of Armageddon of short duration is over. Satan and all his hosts are utterly defeated. In Revelation xx we have the record of what will happen to the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan. He will be chained and cast into the pit of the abyss for a thousand years so that he can seduce the nations no more. He is dethroned and Christ is enthroned. Christ and His Saints reign over the earth. During this millennium righteousness and peace will reign. Wars will be no more, for the supreme war-lord is chained in prison. Armies will be unknown, for he who is behind it all has no more power. Idolatries and its degrading immoralities are no longer known, for he who deceived the nations has been arrested. Nor will there be any more cults which deny the Lord, His virgin birth, His resurrection, for the liar can lie no more and the visible presence of Christ stops every mouth.

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