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Entitled ‘Principles of Gathering, this is the substance of a letter by JND as to the question of who should read and her should not. It is published in Collected Writings Volume 7 (Doctrinal 2) page 349.
The Reception of Saints to Partake in the Table of our Lord
JN Darby raised the question is as to the reception of saints to partake in the table of our Lord with us: whether any can be admitted who are not formally and regularly amongst us.
Clearly, a person who is not sound in faith or ungodly in practice should be excluded. However, should a godly and sound person, not associated with a system with an ordained ministry be shut out? Should he be excluded simply because his conscience has not been enlightened as to such wrong practices? Simply put, sects meet on their principles, Baptist, Congregational etc. If a believer belongs formally to such, you do not admit such.
No Membership of ‘Brethren’
There is no membership of ‘Brethren’. Membership of an assembly is unknown in Scripture. Every case must be treated on its own merits – on the principle of being members of Christ’s body – the unity of all members. If you say, ‘You do not belong to us, you cannot come’, the whole principle of meeting is gone. Such a path is not of God.
Darby said that he had heard persons talking about communion services as being the table of devils. They may be sectarian, but they are not heathen alters. This is monstrous nonsense and shows the bad state of the person who says such things.
A local assembly should always receive a person who is a true believer, and who has dissociated himself from that which is not of God. There cannot be too much care as to holiness and truth: the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of truth; but ignorance of ecclesiastical truth is not a ground of non-reception or excommunication when the conscience and walk are undefiled.
However, if one insisted on his right to break bread with two divergent companies, he would not come in simplicity in the unity of the body. It is evil: he has no right to impose any condition on the church of God. Such a person cannot have a pure heart.
Satan is busy, seeking to lead us one side or the other — to destroy the largeness of the unity of the body, or to make it loose in practice and doctrine. Reception of all true saints is what gives its force to the exclusion of those walking loosely. If a local assembly excludes those walking godlily, power is lost, for those who are godly are shut out too.
 I always have a little difficulty on anything that refers to ‘us’. What do we mean by ‘us’? Applying ‘us’ to a particular group of Christians is blatantly sectarian.
Many dear brethren have understandably been troubled at the expression “the ruin of the church”. They jealously hold that the church cannot fail, and in one sense this is correct. However, we must distinguish between God’s purposes and the present situation where a man is placed in responsibility. As regards the purpose of God the church cannot be ruined, a testimony for God on earth it is in ruin.
We may ask, ‘Is there a church now on earth or not?’
Well, we may say ‘Is there an army or not?’ Suppose an army is not destroyed but scattered to the four winds, there is still an army, but also there is not an army: it has lost its corporate character.
We might think that we cannot do anything about the ruin: we should just ignore it, satisfied that we are saved by grace. We are content to live in the ruin. That demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s promises. I should feel it to be a very sad effect if the expression “ruin of the church” were to dishearten a soul about the operation of the Spirit in bringing blessing to the church.
God’s purpose is unfailing, so the Church cannot fail as it exists in God’s purpose. It follows that there are the resources in God to meet the circumstances of every Christian. Knowing this we can look beyond our failure and the simple application of faith to the working of God’s power and blessing to glorify Christ. Having the Spirit of Christ I cannot rest in the thought that a Christian is secure in Christ, with a present relationship with Him: I must and endeavour to instruct and exhort him and lead him on.
Thankfully, the Lord is awakening in the souls of many saints everywhere the question – “What is the church of God, and what is its relationship with Christ?” At the same time they are being awakened as to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan opposes this using past testimony to hinder the present. We get tired; our minds get distracted but the Lord always has the upper hand.
There are many saints, sound in the faith, who are not prepared to accept what the church of God is as set forth in the word of God. If it is meant that all the saints ever saved will in the end be in company in glory, in redemption and life through Him, and they call that the Assembly of God, I have no objection. The second Adam will have all around Him in glory, as the first Adam had all around him in sin. In our place we have both privileges and responsibilities. The Church of the living God is brought into the testimony by the Spirit of God and has a special relationship to God.
The church of the living God is the body of saints formed on earth in unity with Christ in heaven as the Head, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to form them into unity with Christ at the right hand of God. Some say that this includes all saints since Adam. But the Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my church’ (Matt 16:18). If there is to be a testimony the church must be visible, so now it is formed of those who are alive at the present time.
We read in Ephesians that God has set Christ above all principality and power in the heavenly places, consequent on his death and humiliation. The church is in association with him in heaven. Christ is the righteous One in glory. God has set up a people in union with Christ as their head by the power of the Holy Spirit, formed of Jew and Gentile. We now have to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
When I look at the Church in glory, I look at it as a body securely and infallibly perfect in God. When man fails, God brings in an alternative. Adam failed; God brought in Christ. Israel failed; God brought in the assembly. The Jewish priesthood failed and we see the same thing in the public church. But God fulfils his thoughts in a kingly priesthood. In the Church I see the bride of Christ engaging an affectionate relationship.
So what do we mean by the ruin of the church? Who will shew me the manifestation of the unity of the body of Christ? I cannot find it; but I can find saints that will be saved, manifest tokens of His faithfulness, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst’ (Matt 18:20) – what blessing! Israel failed before and after the captivity. Nevertheless, His attitude towards His people never changed. He said, ‘Fear ye not’ (Isa 44:8).
Now bringing it down to our day we find divisions and disagreements among Christians. Does this mean that Christ loves the church less, or is less powerful? That sorrows us, but we are not to be discouraged. A truly humble man is not discouraged because he knows his nothingness.
Some years after my conversion I looked around to find where the church was, but I could not find it. I could find plenty of saints better than myself, but not the church set up with power on the earth. Then I say the church as thus set up is ruined: I could not find a better word for it. The church was founded on the earth in the spirit of the new covenant, and if it fails, there is no judgment as there was with Israel as a nation. No judgment has been executed on the Church of God: we must not confound ruin with cutting off.
Obedience is the only thing in which a Christian should be rigid, it would keep us from latitudinarianism; and there should be nearness to Christ which would keep us from sectarianism. Sectarianism is getting an interest in a little circle round ourselves
At home and abroad I find this question, What is the church of God? One says, The church is visible. What is its testimony? Is it to Christ its heavenly Head, separate from sinners? Another says, It is invisible. It is only invisible because in sin. The false church is visible; the true one invisible.
When in the early 1800s, a few exercised Christians separated from mainline churches, they did not take any official standing.” Blessing followed and numbers increased. Then trouble came in, and so that their little group became their circle, not the church of the living God. People say, we have been too narrow, we must mix up a little. I cannot be that. ‘If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor’ (Gal 2:18). I desire the Church’s entire separation to Christ to whom she belongs – espoused as a chaste virgin. My feet in the narrow way – my heart as large as Christ’s.
The Church of God is responsible in walk and affection towards God, the conscience acknowledging the ruin. ‘I remember thee, the love of thine espousals’ (Jer 2:2). Note that this is not love for Israel but the love of the state of the people. We have one sole object before our souls, Christ’s coming. If I have the spirit of the bride I shall desire the Bridegroom. ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17).
The question arises as to how much one should labour and pray for the restoration of the public church. Ministry is not reconstruction. I should feel disappointment at the thought of reconstruction: if I have the Spirit of Christ I should be sensible of the loss of suitability in the bride to Him, and wish to become fitted for Him. The bride is looking for the Bridegroom and will seek to be purified for Him through “the washing of water by the word” (Eph 5:26), as she ought to ne. We are for Him alone.
Reconstruction is not the object of pursuit. E man might have a desire to be in God’s service. Howeever, if he has not entirely God’s object, he will succeed, but it will be something else, like the real thing, but quite another thing. Paul had to admit that he did not succeed when he said, ‘All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Phil 2:21). When a man has God’s object, and is thoroughly working for God, he must be a man of sorrows. Paul never got the faith of his fellow labourers nor the church up to his own.
Now I must guard against any thought that I undervalue order. Subjection to the Spirit of God is shown in subjection to what the Spirit of God gives. I am not pursuing that as an object; I am looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Still, I do not doubt but that all my service to the saints down here will come in as ministry.
Man is condemned: he cannot deliver himself. But Christ has come in. The Prince of Life has come into death. What is death now for the believer?
IMPORTANT – The Bible says, ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’[i] If you landed on this page because you are afraid of death, and do not have peace with God Click here first.
Death – The King of Terrors for the Unbeliever
For the unbeliever, nothing can be more terrible than death. It is the ‘King of Terrors’ (See Job 18:14). It is the end of life of the natural man, the first Adam. Everything in which man has had – his home, his thoughts, his whole being, is closed and perished forever. ‘His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day, his thoughts perish’ (Psalm 146:4). It is the end to all his plans. This busy world forgets him: he is extinct. Death is written on him, for he is a sinner: he cannot deliver himself.
But that is not all. Man indeed, as man alive in this world. Sin has come in; with sin Satan’s power, more sin and death. The wages of sin are a terror to the conscience. Man has been unable to resist the master, Satan, who has exercised his dreadful rights.
God cannot help[ii]. Death is His judgment on sin. Sin does not pass unnoticed, and the terror and plague of the conscience is witness to His judgment, the officer of justice to the criminal, and the proof of his guilt in the presence of coming judgment. How terrible!
Christ’s Death for the Believer
Man is condemned: he cannot deliver himself. But Christ has come in. The Prince of Life has come into death. What is death now for the believer?
So we see two aspects of death –
In being made sin for us, Christ has undergone death, passing through both Satan’s power and God’s judgment. Death with its causes has been met in its every way by Christ. It is no longer a source of terror to my soul. In every sense, it has lost its power.
Death is Ours
But death has much more than passed away. Paul says that death is ours, as all things are (See 1 Cor 3:22). Death and judgment have become my salvation; sin and the wages of sin have passed away. In a word, Christ, the sinless One, having come in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, has dealt with my whole condition, the first Adam under obligation to the law (see Rom 8:3). I live before God now in the One who is risen. What is the effect of this?
Condemnation and judgment being over, my soul is accepted. The foods of water that engulfed the oppressive Egyptians was a wall of deliverance to the children of Israel (see Ex 14:22).
In the power of Christ’s resurrection, I am quickened. He becomes my life. In the new man, I can dispense with the old, Christ having passed through death, I can consider myself dead. ‘Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:11). We are free of ordinances.
The old man dies; the new man can never die. It is Christ. In dying, it quits what is mortal and leaves death behind. ‘We … are absent from the body and present with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:8 Darby). Our old man never revives, but our mortal bodies will be changed, like unto His glorious body conformed to the image of God’s Son. (See Phil 3:21 and Rom 8:29). Having a new life, we are disencumbered from the old man which hinders and hems in our way.
Death is the ceasing of the old man in which we were guilty before God. It is the ceasing of sin, hindrance and trouble. We have done with the old man righteously, because Christ has died for us, and now we live in the power of the new.
As to death: ‘To depart and to be with Christ is far better. (Phil 1:23)’
As to judgment: Christ has borne it.
As to the power of sin: it is the death of the very nature it lives in.
As to actual mortality: it is deliverance from the old to be with Christ in the new man who enjoys Him.
Who knowing the proper gain of it, would not die?
Meanwhile, we live here to serve Christ. To us to live is Christ. (See Phil 1:21).
What an oft-repeated question! Let me put it to you my reader; for travelling you most certainly are travelling from Time into Eternity, and who knows how very, very near you may be this moment to the GREAT TERMINUS?
“Which class are you travelling?” There are but three. Let me describe them that you may put yourself to the test as in the presence of “Him with whom you have to do.”
1st Class — Those who are saved, and who know it.
2nd Class — Those who are not sure of salvation, but anxious to be so.
3rd Class — Those who are not only unsaved, but totally indifferent about it.
Again I repeat my question — “Which class are you travelling?” Oh, the madness of indifference, when eternal issues are at stake! A short time ago, a man came rushing into the railway station at Leicester, and while scarcely able to gasp for breath he took his seat in one of the carriages just on the point of starting.
“You’ve run it fine,” said a fellow passenger. “Yes,” replied he, breathing heavily after every two or three words, “but I’ve saved four hours, and that’s well worth running for.”
“Saved four hours!” I couldn’t help repeating to myself — “four hours well worth that earnest struggle! What of eternity? What of eternity?” Yet are there not thousands of shrewd, far-seeing men today, who look sharply enough after their own interests in this life, but who are stone blind to the eternity before them? In spite of the infinite love of God to helpless rebels, told out at Calvary, spite of His pronounced hatred of sin, spite of the known brevity of man’s history here, spite of the terrors of judgment after death, and of the solemn probability of waking up at last with the unbearable remorse of being on hell’s side of a “fixed” gulf, man hurries on to the bitter, bitter end, as careless as if there were no God, no death, no judgment, no heaven, no hell. If the reader of these pages be such an one, may God this very moment have mercy upon you and while you read these lines open your eyes to your most perilous position, standing as you maybe on a slippery brink of an endless woe.
Oh friend, believe it or not, your case is truly desperate. Put off the thought of eternity no longer. Remember that procrastination is like him who deceives you by it — not only a “thief, but a murderer.” There is much truth in the Spanish proverb, which says, “the road of ‘By-and-by’ leads to the town of ‘Never’. ” I beseech you unknown reader, travel that road no longer. “Now is the day of salvation.”
But, says one, I am not indifferent as to the welfare of my soul. My deep trouble lies wrapped up in another word:
i.e. I am among the second-class passengers you speak of.
Well, reader, both indifference and uncertainty are the offspring of one parent — unbelief. The first results from unbelief as to the sin and ruin of man, the other from unbelief as to God’s sovereign remedy for man. It is especially for souls desiring before God to be fully and unmistakably SURE of their salvation that these pages are written. I can in a great measure understand your deep soul trouble, and am assured that the more you are in earnest about this all-important matter, the greater will be your thirst, until you know for certain that you are really and eternally saved. “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”
The only son of a devoted father is at sea. News comes that his ship has been wrecked on some foreign shore. Who can tell the anguish of suspense in that father’s heart until, upon the most reliable authority, he is assured that his boy is safe and sound. Or, again, you are far from home, the night is dark and wintry, and your way is totally unknown. Standing at a point where two roads diverge, you ask a passer-by the way to the town you desire to reach, and he tells you he thinks such and such a way is the right one, and hopes you will be all right if you take it. Would “thinks” and “hopes” and “maybes” satisfy you? Surely not. You must have certainty about it, or every step you take will increase your anxiety. What wonder, then, that men have sometimes been unable either to eat or sleep when the eternal safety of the soul has been trembling in the balance!
To lose your wealth is much,
To lose your health is more,
To lose your soul is such a loss
As no man can restore.
Now, dear reader, there are three things I desire by the Holy Spirit’s help, to make clear to you; and to put them in scriptural language, they are these:-
1. “The way of salvation.” (Acts 16:17).
2. “The knowledge of salvation.” (Luke 1:77).
3. “The joy of salvation.” (Psalm 51:12).
We shall I think, see that though intimately connected, they each stand upon a separate basis; so that it is quite possible for a soul to know the way of salvation without having the certain knowledge that he himself is saved, or again, to know that he is saved, without possessing at all time the joy that ought to accompany that knowledge.
First, then, let me speak briefly of
THE WAY OF SALVATION
Please open your Bible and read carefully the thirteenth verse of the thirteenth chapter of Exodus; there you find these words from the lips of Jehovah — Every firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will NOT redeem it, THEN YOU SHALL BREAK HIS NECK: and all the firstborn of man among your children you shall redeem.”
Now, come back with me, in thought to a supposed scene of more than three thousand years ago. Two men (a priest of God and a poor Israelite) stand in earnest conversation. Let us stand by, with their permission, to listen. The gestures of each indicate deep earnestness about some matter of importance, and it isn’t difficult to see that the subject of conversation is a little ass that stands trembling beside them.
“I am wondering,” says the poor Israelite, “if there cannot be a merciful exception made in my favour this once. This feeble little thing is the firstling of my ass, and though I know full well what the law of God says about it, I am hoping that mercy will be shown, and the ass’s life spared. I am but a poor man in Israel, and can ill afford to lose the little colt.”
“But,” answers the priest, firmly, “the law of the Lord is plain and unmistakable — ‘Every firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will NOT redeem it, THEN YOU SHALL BREAK HIS NECK.’ Where is the lamb?”
“Ah, sir, no lamb do I possess.”
“Then purchase one and return, or the ass’s neck must surely be broken. The lamb must die or the ass must die.”
“Alas? then all my hopes are crushed,” he cries, “for I am far too poor to buy a lamb.”
While this conversation proceeds, a third person joins them, and after hearing the poor man’s tale of sorrow, he turns to him and says kindly, “Be of good cheer, I can meet your need;” and thus he proceeds: “We have in our house on the hilltop yonder, one little lamb brought up at our very fireside, who is ‘without spot or blemish.’ It has never once strayed from home, and stands (and rightly so) in highest favour with all that are in the house. This lamb will I fetch.” And away he hastens up the hill. Presently you see him gently leading the fair little creature down the slope, and very soon both lamb and ass are standing side by side.
Then the lamb is bound to the altar, its blood is shed, and the fire consumes it.
The righteous priest now turns to the poor man, and says: “You can freely take home your little colt in safety — no broken neck for it now. The lamb has died in the ass’s stead and consequently the ass goes righteously free, thanks to your friend.”
Now poor troubled soul, can’t you see in this God’s own picture of a sinner’s salvation? His claims as to sin demanded a “broken neck” i.e. righteous judgment upon your guilty head, the only alternative being the death of a divinely approved substitute.
Now, you could not find the provision to meet your case; but, in the person of His beloved Son, God Himself provided the Lamb. “Behold the Lamb of God”, which takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).
Onward to Calvary He went, “as a lamb led to the slaughter,” and there and then “He once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18). “He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25). So that God does not abate one jot of His righteous, holy claims against sin when He justifies (i.e. clears from all charge of guilt) the ungodly sinner who believes in Jesus. (Romans 3:26). Blessed be God for such a Saviour, such a salvation)
Do You Believe On the Son of God?
Well, you reply, I have, as a poor condemned sinner, found in HIM one that I can safely trust. I DO believe on Him. Then I tell you, the full value of His sacrifice and death, as God estimates it, He makes as good to you as though you had accomplished it all yourself.
Oh, what a wondrous way of salvation is this! Is it not great and grand and Godlike — worthy of God Himself? The gratification of His own heart of love, the glory of His precious Son, and the salvation of a sinner, all bound up together. What a bundle of grace and glory! Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has so ordered it that His own beloved Son should do all the work and get all the praise, and that you and I, poor guilty things, believing on Him should not only get all the blessings, but enjoy the blissful company of the Blesser for ever and ever. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (Ps. 34:3).
But perhaps your eager inquiry may be, “How is it that since I do really distrust self and self-work, I have not the full certainty of my salvation?” You say, “If my feelings warrant me saying that I am saved one day, they are pretty sure to blight every hope the next, and I am left like a ship storm-tossed, without any anchorage whatever.”
Ah, there lies your mistake. Did you ever hear of a captain trying to find anchorage by fastening his anchor inside the ship? Never. Always outside.
It may be that you are quite clear that it is Christ’s death alone that gives SAFETY, but you think that it is what you feel, that gives CERTAINTY.
Now, again take your Bible, for I wish to say a little about how a man gets
THE KNOWLEDGE OF SALVATION
Before you turn to the verse which I shall ask you very carefully to look at, which speaks of how a believer is to KNOW that he has eternal life, let me quote it in the distorted way that man’s imagination often puts it. “Those happy feelings have I given unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life.” Now, open your Bible, and while you compare this with God’s blessed and unchanging Word, may He give you from your very heart to say with David, “I hate vain thoughts; but Thy law do I love.” (Ps. 119:113). The verse just misquoted is 1John 5:13 “These things have I WRITTEN unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may KNOW that YOU HAVE eternal life.”
How did the first-born sons of the thousands of Israel know for certain that they were safe the night of the Passover and Egypt’s judgment?
Let us take a visit to two of their houses and hear what they have to say.
We find in the first house we enter that they are all shivering with fear and suspense. What is the secret of all this paleness and trembling? we inquire; and the first-born son informs us that the angel of death is coming round the land, and that he is not quite certain how matters will stand with him at that solemn moment.
“When the destroying angel has passed our house,” he says, “and the night of judgment is over, I shall then know that I am safe, but I can’t see how I can be quite sure of it until then. They say they are sure of salvation next door, but we think it very presumptuous. All I can do is to spend the long dreary night hoping for the best.”
“Well,” we inquire, “but has the God of Israel not provided a way of safety for His people?”
“True,” he replies, “and we have availed ourselves of that way of escape. The blood of the spotless and unblemished first-year lamb has been duly sprinkled with the bunch of hyssop on the lintel and two side-posts, but still we are not fully assured of shelter.” Let us now leave these doubting, troubled ones, and enter next door.
What a striking contrast meets our eye at once! Joy beams on every countenance. There they stand with girded loins and staff in hand, enjoying the roasted lamb.
What can be the meaning of all this joy on such a solemn night as this? “Ah,” say they all, “we are only waiting for Jehovah’s marching orders and then we shall bid a last farewell to the task-master’s cruel lash and all the drudgery of Egypt.”
“But hold. Do not forget that this is the night of Egypt’s judgment?”
“Right well we know it; but our first-born son is safe. The blood has been sprinkled according to the wish of our God.”
“But so it has been next door,” we reply, “but they are all unhappy because all uncertain of safety.”
“Ah,” responds the first-born firmly, “but we have MORE THAN THE SPRINKLED BLOOD, WE HAVE THE UNERRING WORD OF GOD ABOUT IT.
God has said, ‘WHEN I SEE THE BLOOD I will pass over you.’ God rests satisfied with the blood outside, and we rest satisfied with His word inside.”
The sprinkled blood makes us SAFE.
The spoken word makes us SURE.
Could anything make us more safe than the sprinkled blood, or more sure than His spoken word? Nothing, nothing.
Now, reader, let me ask you a question. “Which of those two houses was the safer?”
Do you say No. 2, where all were so happy? Then you are wrong. Both are safe alike.
Their safety depends upon what God thinks about the blood outside and not upon the state of their feelings inside.
If you would be sure of your own blessing, then, dear reader, listen not to the unstable testimony of inward emotions, but to the infallible witness of the Word of God.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on Me HAS everlasting life.”
Let me give you a simple illustration from everyday life. A certain farmer in the country, not having sufficient grass for his cattle, applies for a nice piece of pasture-land which he hears is to be let near his own house. For some time he gets no answer from the landlord. One day a neighbour comes in and says, “I feel quite sure you will get that field. Don’t you recollect how that last Christmas he sent you a special present of game, and that he gave you a kind nod of recognition the other day when he drove past?” And with such words the farmer’s mind is filled with high hopes.
Next day another neighbour meets him, and in the course of conversation, he says, “I’m afraid you will stand no chance whatever of getting that grass-field. Mr. — has applied for it, and you cannot but be aware what a favourite he is with Squire — occasionally he visits with him, etc., etc.” And the poor farmer’s bright hopes are dashed to the ground and burst like soap bubbles. One day he is hoping, the next day full of perplexing doubts.
Presently the postman calls, and the farmer’s heart beats fast as he opens the letter; for he sees by the handwriting that it is from the Squire himself. See his countenance change from anxious suspense to undisguised joy as he reads and re-reads that letter.
“It’s a settled thing now,” exclaims he to his wife; “no more doubts and fears about it. The Squire says the field is mine as long as I require it, on the most easy terms. I care for no man’s opinion now. His word settles it.”
Now many a poor soul is in a like condition to the poor troubled farmer — tossed and perplexed by the opinions of men, or the thoughts and feelings of his own treacherous heart! and it is only upon receiving the Word of God as the Word of God, that certainty takes the place of doubts. When God speaks there must be certainty, whether He pronounces the damnation of the unbeliever, or the salvation of the believer.
“Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89): and to the simple hearted believer HIS WORD SETTLES ALL.
“Has He said, and shall He not do it? or has He spoken, and shall He not make it good? (Num. 23:19).
“I need no other argument,
I want no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died –
And that He died for me.”
The believer can add –
“And that God says so.”
“But how may I be sure that I have the right kind of faith?”
Well, there can be but one answer to that question, i.e.: Have you confidence in the right person? — i.e. in the blessed Son of God? It is not a question of the amount of your faith but the trustworthiness of the person you repose your confidence in. One man takes hold of Christ, as it were, with a drowning man’s grip; another but touches the hem of His garment; but the sinner who does the former is not a bit safer than the one who does the latter. They have both made the same discovery, viz.: that while all of self is totally untrustworthy, they may safely confide in Christ, calmly rely on His word, and confidently rest in the eternal efficacy of His finished work. That is what is meant by believing on HIM. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on Me HAS everlasting life.” (John 6:47).
Make sure of it then, my reader, that your confidence is not reposed in your works of amendment, your religious observances, your pious feeling when under religious influences, your moral training from childhood, and the like. You may have the strongest faith in any or all of these and perish everlastingly. Don’t deceive yourself by any “fair show in the flesh.” The feeblest faith in Christ eternally saves, while the strongest faith in anything else is but the offspring of a deceived heart — but the leafy twigs of your enemy’s arranging over the pit of eternal perdition.
God, in the gospel, simply introduces to you the Lord Jesus Christ, and says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” “You may,” He says, “with all confidence trust His heart though you cannot with impunity trust your own.”
“Blessed, thrice blessed Lord Jesus, who would not trust Thee and praise Thy name!”
“I do really believe on Him,” said a sad-looking soul to me one day, “But yet, when asked if I am saved, I don’t like to say Yes, for fear I should be telling a lie.” This young woman was a butcher’s daughter in a small town in the midlands. It happened to be market day, and her father had not returned from market. So I said: “Now suppose when your father comes home you ask him how many sheep he bought today, and he answers, ‘Ten.’ After a while a man comes to the shop and says, ‘How many sheep did your father buy today?’ and you reply, ‘I don’t like to say, for fear I should be telling a lie.'” “But,” said the mother (who was standing by at the time, with righteous indignation, “that would be making her father a liar.”
Now, dear reader, don’t you see that this well-meaning young woman was virtually making Christ a liar, saying, “I do believe on the Son of God, but I don’t like to say I am saved lest I should be telling a lie,” when Christ Himself has said, “he that believes on Me has everlasting life”! (John 6:47). “But, says another, “How may I be sure that I really do believe? I have tried often to believe, and looked within to see if I had got it, but the more I look at my faith the less I seem to have.”
Ah, my friend, you are looking in the wrong direction to find that out, and your trying to believe but plainly shows that you are on the wrong track. Let me give you another illustration to explain what I want to convey to you. You are sitting quietly at home one evening, when a man comes in and tells you that the stationmaster has been killed that night at the railway. Now, it happens that this man has long borne the character in the place for being a very dishonest man, and the most daring and notorious liar in the neighbourhood.
“Do you believe, or even try to believe that man?”
“Of course not,” you exclaim, “I know him too well for that.”
“But tell me how you know that you don’t believe him? Is it by looking within at your faith or feelings?”
“No,” you reply, “I think of the man that brings me the message.”
Presently, a neighbour drops in and says, “The stationmaster has been run over by a freight train tonight, and killed on the spot.” After he has left I hear you cautiously say, “Well, I partly believe it now for, to my recollection this man only once in his life deceived me, though I have known him from boyhood.”
But again, I ask, “is it by looking at your faith this time that you know that you partly believe it?”
“No,” you repeat: “I am thinking of the character of my informant.”
Well, this man has scarcely left your room before a third person enters and brings you the same sad news as the first. But this time you say, “Now, John, since you tell me, I believe it.”
Again, I press my question (which is, remember, but the re-echo of your own), “How do you KNOW that you so confidently believe your friend John?”
“Because of who and what JOHN is,” you reply. “He never has deceived me, and I don’t think he ever will.”
Well, then, just in the same way I know that I believe the gospel, viz. because of the One who brings me the news. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His son … He that BELIEVES NOT GOD HAS MADE HIM A LIAR: because he believes not the record that God gave of His Son.” (1 John 5:9-10). “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:3).
An anxious soul once said to a servant of Christ, “Oh sir, I can’t believe!” to which the preacher wisely and quietly replied, “Indeed, WHO is it that you can’t believe?” This broke the spell. He had been looking at faith as an indescribable something that he must feel within himself in order to be sure that he was all right for heaven; whereas faith ever looks outside to a living Person and His finished work, and quietly listens to the testimony of a faithful God about both.
It is the outside look that brings the inside peace. When a man turns his face towards the sun, his own shadow is behind him. You cannot look at self and a glorified Christ in Heaven at the same moment.
Thus we have seen that the blessed Person of God’s Son wins my confidence; HIS FINISHED WORK makes me eternally safe; GOD’S WORD about those who believe on Him makes me unalterably sure: I find in Christ and His work the way of salvation, and in the Word of God the knowledge of salvation.
But if saved, my reader may say, “How is it that I have such a fluctuating experience — so often losing all my joy and comfort, and getting as wretched and downcast as I was before my conversion?” Well, this brings us to our third point, viz.
THE JOY OF SALVATION
You will find in the teaching of Scripture, that while you are saved by Christ’s work and assured by God’s word, you are maintained in comfort and joy by the Holy Spirit who indwells every saved one’s body.
Now you must bear in mind that every saved one has still within him “the flesh,” i.e. the evil nature he was born with as a natural man, and which perhaps shows itself while still a helpless infant on his mother’s lap. The Holy Spirit in the believer resists the flesh, and is grieved by every activity of it in motive, word, or deed. When he is walking “worthy of the Lord,” the Holy Spirit will be producing in his soul His blessed fruits — “love, joy, peace,” etc. (See Gal. 5:22). When he is walking in a carnal, worldly way, the Spirit is grieved, and these fruits are wanting in a greater or less measure.
Let me put it thus for you who believe on God’s Son:- Christ’s Work and Your Salvation
stand or fall together. Your Walk and Your Enjoyment
stand or fall together.
If Christ’s work could break down (and blessed be God it never, never will) your salvation would break down with it. When your walk breaks down (and be watchful, for it may) your enjoyment will break down with it.
Thus it is said of the early disciples (Acts 9:31), that they “walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost.”
And again in Acts 13:52 — “The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.”
My spiritual joy will be in proportion to the spiritual character of my walk after I am saved.
Now, do you see your mistake? You have been mixing up enjoyment with your safety — two widely different things. When through self-indulgence, loss of temper, worldliness, etc. you grieved the Holy Spirit and lost your joy, you thought your safety was undermined. But again, I repeat it –
Your safety hangs upon Christ’s work FOR you. Your assurance upon God’s word TO you.
Your enjoyment, upon not grieving the Holy Spirit IN you.
When as a child of God you do anything to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, your communion with the Father and the Son is, for the time, practically suspended; and it is only when you judge yourself and confess your sins that the joy of communion is restored.
Your child has been guilty of some misdemeanor. He shows upon his countenance the evident mark that something is wrong with him. Half an hour before this he was enjoying a walk with you around the garden admiring what you admired, enjoying what you enjoyed; in other words, he was in communion with you, his feelings and sympathies were in common with yours.
But now all this is changed, and as a naughty, disobedient child, he stands in the corner, the very picture of misery.
Upon penitent confession of his wrong-doing you have assured him of forgiveness, but his pride and self-will keep him sobbing there.
Where is now the joy of half an hour ago? All gone. Why? Because communion between you and him has been interrupted.
What has become of the relationship that existed between you and your son half an hour ago? Has that gone too? Is that severed or interrupted? Surely not. His relationship depends upon his birth; his communion, upon his behaviour.
But presently he comes out of the corner with broken will and broken heart, confessing the whole thing from first to last, so that you see he hates the disobedience and naughtiness as much as you do, and you take him in your arms and cover him with kisses. His joy is restored because communion is restored.
When David sinned so grievously in the matter of Uriah’s wife, he did not say, “Restore unto me Thy salvation,” but “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” (Psalm 51:12).
But to carry our illustration a little farther.
Supposing while your child is in the corner, there should be a cry of “House on fire!” what would become of him then? Left in the corner to be consumed with the burning, falling house? Impossible.
Very probably he would be the very first person you would carry out. Ah, yes, you know right well that the love of relationship is one thing, and the joy of communion quite another.
Now, when the believer sins, communion is for the time interrupted, and joy is lost until with a broken heart he comes to the Father in self-judgment, confessing his sins. Then, also he knows he is forgiven, for His word plainly declares that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
Oh, then, dear child of God, ever bear in mind these two things, that there is nothing so strong as the link of relationship; nothing so tender as the link of communion.
All the combined power and counsel of earth and hell cannot sever the former, while an impure motive or an idle word will break the latter.
If you are troubled with a cloudy half-hour, get low before God, consider your ways; and when the cause that has robbed you of your joy has been detected, bring it at once to the light, confess your sin to God your Father, and judge yourself most unsparingly for the unwatchful, careless state of soul that allowed the thief to enter unchallenged.
But never, never, NEVER, confound your safety with your joy.
Don’t imagine, however, that the judgment of God falls a whit more leniently on the believer’s sin than on the unbeliever’s. He has not two ways of dealing judicially with sin, and He could no more pass by the believer’s sin without judging it than He could pass by the sins of a rejecter of His precious Son. But there is this great difference between the two, viz. : that the believer’s sins were all known to God, and all laid upon His own provided Lamb when He hung upon the Cross at Calvary and that there and then, once and forever, the great “criminal question” of his guilt was raised and settled — judgment falling upon the blessed Substitute in the believer’s stead, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” (1 Peter 2:24).
The Christ-rejecter must bear his own sins in his own person in the lake of fire forever. Now, when a saved one fails, the “criminal question” of sin cannot be raised against him, the Judge Himself having settled that once for all on the cross; but the communion question is raised within him by the Holy Spirit as often as he grieves the Spirit.
Allow me, in conclusion, to give you another illustration: It is a beautiful moonlit night. The moon is at full, and shining in more than ordinary silvery brightness. A man is gazing intently down a deep, still well, where he sees the moon reflected, and remarks to a friend standing by: “How beautifully fair and round she is tonight; how quietly and majestically she rides along!” He had just finished speaking when suddenly his friend drops a small pebble into the well and he now exclaims: “Why the moon is all broken to shivers, and the fragments are shaking together in the greatest disorder.”
“What gross absurdity!” is the astonished rejoinder of his companion, “Look up man! the moon hasn’t changed one jot or tittle; it is the condition of the well that reflects her that has changed.”
Now, believer, apply this simple figure. Your heart is the well. When there is no allowance of evil, the blessed Spirit of God takes of the glories and preciousness of Christ, and reveals them to you for your comfort and joy, but the moment a wrong motive is cherished in the heart, or an idle word escapes the lips unjudged, the Holy Spirit begins to disturb the well, your happy experiences are smashed to pieces, and you are all restless and disturbed within, until in brokenness of spirit before God, you confess your sin (the disturbing thing), and thus get restored once more to the calm sweet joy of communion.
But when your heart is all unrest need I ask, Has Christ’s work changed? No, no! Then your salvation has not altered. Has God’s Word changed? Surely not. Then the certainty of your salvation has received no shock.
Then, what has changed? Why, the action of the Holy Spirit in you has changed, and instead of taking the glories of Christ and filling your heart with the sense of His worthiness, He is grieved at having to turn aside from this delightful office to fill you with the sense of your sin and unworthiness.
He takes from you your present comfort and joy until you judge and resist the evil thing that He judges and resists. When this is done, communion with God has again been restored.
The Lord make us to be increasingly jealous over ourselves, lest we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
Dear reader, however weak your faith maybe, rest assured of this, that the blessed One who has won your confidence will never change.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and FOREVER” (Heb. 13:8).
The work He has accomplished will never change. “Whatsoever God does, it shall be FOREVER: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it” (Ecc. 3:14). The word He hath spoken will never change.
Thus the object of my trust, the foundation of my safety, the ground of my certainty, are alike ETERNALLY UNALTERABLE.
Once more let me ask, WHICH CLASS ARE YOU TRAVELLING? Turn your heart to God, I pray you, and answer that question to Him.
“Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).
It is a question of partaking in God’s holiness. The world has rejected the Son of God. Up to the cross it was proved that nothing could win man’s heart: he must be born again; and now, being born again, I am associated with Christ. I am going to be in the same glory as He is in, and I am going on until I get there, purifying myself as He is pure. Then I shall see Him as He is, and be like Him. The world we are naturally of has rejected the Son of God, and the associations of the believer are with a glorified Christ, awaiting till He comes to take him home. God has sanctified us to Himself by the blood of Christ.
(J N Darby, Collected Writings NS vol. 31 p177)
Golden Nugget Number 362
Golden Nuggets are published by Saville Street Distribution, Venture, Princes Esplanade, Walton-on-the-Naze, CO14 8QD UK
‘After These Things’ 2.5 Israel and the Church – Christ’s Heavenly and Earthly Brides
From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE
Two brides are presented in scripture:
Christ’s Heavenly Bride – This is the church (or assembly) comprising all saints of the present dispensation. She is ‘of Him, like Him and for Him’. There will be a marriage in heaven described in Revelation 19:6-10 below.
Christ’s Earthly Bride – Israel in a future day. There is no marriage of this bride presented though it is implied in a ‘a certain king, which made a marriage for his son’ (Matthew 22:2).
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
Revelation 19:6-10 (KJV)
And I heard as a voice of a great crowd, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of strong thunders, saying, Hallelujah, for the Lord our God the Almighty has taken to himself kingly power. Let us rejoice and exult, and give him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.
And he says to me, Write, Blessed are they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true words of God.
Revelation 19:6-10 (Darby)
This passage describes the marriage.
The Current Relationship between Christ and His Church
The church came into existence when the Holy Spirit filled the 120 or so persons who were gathered in the upper room in Acts 2:2. The number soon grew to 5000. From the start, she was united to Christ, and even at this early date fully capable of fulfilling her function as the wife of Christ.
The epistles often refer to the church as Christ’s body. The body comprises only those who are alive now, not to all who will form the bride. Nevertheless, the relationship between Christ and His assembly is clear: ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shallbe one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church’ (Ephesians 5:31-32).
It is not until Revelation that we have the Church described as a bride. His wife had made herself ready, so she was a wife before she was a bride. The church is now the wife looking after her Husband’s affairs in His absence. She is His trustworthy confidante. Although the marriage ceremony has not yet taken place, the relationship already exists. There is perfect unity between Christ and His church. Christendom publicly is something else.
When is The Marriage of the Lamb?
Before the marriage celebration of the Lamb, Babylon – the rival – will have been overthrown and judged. It says, ‘the Lord our God the Almighty has taken to himself kingly power’ (Revelation 19:6 Darby). He had taken the power, and was about to reign, but He was not actually reigning. Hence, we can say that this event would take place between the great tribulation and the Millennium
The judgment seat of Christ must precede the marriage. No doubt ‘his wife hath made herself ready’ (v. 7) would refer in part to that. What remains is the bride’s bright clothing – the righteousnesses of the saints (v. 8 Darby). – things that they had done which had met with God’s approval. (Note KJV appears wrong again here – most modern translations (e.g. NIV and ESV) say ‘righteous deeds or acts’, which is correct – Greek δικαιώματα/dikaiōmata/Strong‑1345). What qualifications the bride has!
The Marriage Celebration
When a couple gets married, the persons will not have been united beforehand (at least if they have been conducting themselves according to God’s explicit ordering). Traditions might vary, but in any marriage, there is generally a legal act and a celebration. The bride is the centre of attention, beautifully dressed (hopefully in a comely manner), and looking her best. A new household is established, the man and the woman having both left their parental homes (see Genesis 2:24). The fact that the Holy Spirit introduced this concept so early in Genesis shows that the marriage relationship was always in God’s mind and purpose.
From what we have seen, this will be no ordinary marriage. We might say that the legal side has already taken place. Now it is time for a celebration of an existing relationship. Until Satan had been overcome publicly, it was not yet the time for her to be seen publicly in her beautiful radiance
It says, ‘Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 19:9). It has been suggested that Abraham and other Old Testament saints will be there as guests. They are children of the bridechamber, but they are not united to Christ as the church is.
The Heavenly Jerusalem as the Bride
The Bride is described as a city ‘Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he [the angel] carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…’ (Revelation 21:9-11). However, this will be seen in the Millennium – the bride (or wife) of Christ, already married.
Christ’s Earthly Bride
The holy City Jerusalem is, of course, totally different from the millennial Jerusalem on earth, described in Ezekiel 40-44 and many other scriptures. The city we are referring to will not be physically on the earth – indeed its foundations will be visible. Revelation 21:6 describes the city as a cube 12,000 cubits (approx. 1380 miles or 2200km) in each dimension.
If there is a scripture which brings out the features, beauty and glory of the earthly bride it must be Psalm 45 – ‘Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him… Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever’ (Psalm 45:10-11 and16-17). A clue must be in verse 16 – ‘princes in all the earth’ – not heaven. This is what the Lord enjoys here in the Millennium.
What is the difference between Christ’s heavenly and earthly bride?
The following table shows the difference between the two:
The Heavenly Bride
The Earthly Bride
The Church or Assembly
In heaven – or at least over the earth
On earth (see Ezekiel 40:2)
The holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)
I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain (Zechariah 8:3)
Relation to Christ
She adores her Head
She worships her Lord
Starting with the Spirit’s coming, complete at the Rapture
Before Christ’s Appearing and during the tribulation
We should guard ourselves against applying too much human logic and chronology to these holy matters. I have not wanted to be technical but have been feeling my way prayerfully through this sacred subject.
But it is a marvellous thing that we are part of this beautiful bride! Magazines are full of pictures of stunning women – images often enhanced digitally. No such outward improvement will be necessary for the bride of Christ. She will be just how Jesus wants it.
And we will be part!
 See Ministry of James Butler Stoney vol 6 page 116
The Judgment Seat of Christ, The Judgment of the Nations, and The Great White Throne
‘After These Things’ Chapter2.4 Three Judgments – The Judgment Seat of Christ, the Judgment of the Nations and the Great White Throne
From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE
2.4 Three Judgments
There are three distinct occasions of judgment.: The Judgment Seat of Christ, the judgment of the nations (or of the living) and the Great White Throne.
They are at different times, for different subjects with different outcomes. Christians often confuse these. One thing is common to all – the Judge is Christ.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
All those who will have been Raptured or raised when the Lord comes to take His own will experience this. Hopefully, this includes you, dear reader.
Though scripture is not specific as to timing, the judgment seat of Christ will doubtless be the first thing that the believer in Jesus will experience following the Rapture. It must be between the Rapture and the marriage of the lamb.– maybe as we are changed into our bodies of glory ‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed’ (1 Corinthians 15:52).
It is a great blessing that we shall be with Jesus and have exactly His view on everything in our lifetime. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us, ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad’ (v.10). The word ‘appear’ in Greek is φανερόω/phaneroó/Strong-5319, meaning, ‘make clear or manifest’. So it is not like appearing before a court with prosecution and defence. It is more, seeing everything in our lives, good and bad, just as Jesus saw it. The thought of a judgment-seat comes from the Greek tradition. The word used is βῆμα/bēma – a step or foot (up). A judge or umpire would sit on a raised platform and would adjudicate. It is like the umpire in a tennis match.
The important thing for us is that the Judge is also our Saviour, and what abounds is mercy. Our time of responsibility will have finished. There will be no guilt and no penalty. Any idea of a period of purgatory is foreign. Look at it from the Lord’s point of view. He has finished the work, His church is complete, His bride is ready, He wants the marriage to take place immediately – ‘The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready’ (Revelation 19:7). We will be able to enjoy the Lord’s presence eternally, and the Lord will enjoy His bride in her perfection.
The only other direct reference to the judgment seat of Christ is in Rom 14:10 ‘But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ’. Here it is a question of judging our brother (or sister). The message here is that we should have good relationships with the Lord and with our brethren now, so that no adjustment will be necessary at the judgement seat.
The following hymn brings the positive aspects of the judgment seat of Christ:
What will it be with God to dwell,
And there to gaze on Jesus’ face!
To meet the One, we’ve known so well
As Priest and Saviour – in that place!
Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand,
With Him look back on all the way;
To learn the meaning, at His hand,
Of every deed in every day!
Clearer than ever shall we see
The grace which God our Saviour showed,
The love that led so faithfully
Along the pathless desert road.
How blessed when this time is o’er,
To find that love had all-sufficed,
As there upon the heav’nly shore
We reach the day of Jesus Christ.
Maria Carlsson-Carrèn (circa 1865-1955)
Little Flock Hymn Book No 299
The Judgment of the Nations
The judgment of the nations (or judgment of the living) is an event that will occur seven years after the Rapture, immediately following Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. As the Lord sets up His earthly kingdom, His first order of business is to judge the nations and eliminate the unsaved from entering the Millennium.
These scriptures are often incorrectly applied to the gospel. For example, the scripture quoted above in Matthew 25 ref Zephaniah 3:17ers directly to the judgment of those living on the earth – not to the Great White Throne. The same applies to the scripture in Joel, ‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14). Sometimes it is misapplied to our making a decision; sometimes to the Lord judging those who are saved and those who are not. If we are alive at the Rapture, this judgment does not apply: either we are saved and will be Raptured and have the judgment seat, or we are lost are not raised until after the Millennium and condemned to hell as unbelievers.
At the judgment of the nations (which also includes the Jews), there are four parties:
The sheep – the saved or righteous believers
The goats – the lost wicked unbelievers
The brethren – believing disciples – messengers of the glad tidings
The Judge – Christ Himself
People are judged according to how they had received these messengers, whether well or ill, as though it had been done to Himself – see the full passage in Matthew 25:31-46. They had been predestined but were seen as righteous by God. Those who despised the testimony and those that bore it had despised the King who sent them; they should go away into everlasting punishment. The sheep will love and help the brethren because they appreciate the message of the gospel brought to them by the ‘brethren’. The goats, who reject God’s timely message, will show indifference and hatred toward the ‘brethren’.
But for the saved the judgment of the nations will be a wonderful day. Zephaniah 3:17 says, ‘The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in love, he will joy over thee with singing.’
In Matthew 25:41,46, we have the awful condemnation of the unsaved. ‘Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:’ and ‘…these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.’ Likewise, in Zephaniah, God intends to assemble the nations, and pour upon them His indignation – a terrible judgment. ‘Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms to pour upon them mine indignation’ (Zephaniah 3:8)
The Great White Throne
This event is the solemn final judgment. It will take place after the Millennium. Satan will have been released ‘for a little season’, during which time he will have deceived and gathered the nations against the camp of the saints, only to be devoured by fire from heaven.
Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
The dead will be judged and condemned,
‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:10-15).
‘But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death’. (Revelation 21:8).
Earth and heaven flee – the dead have no escape. They have refused the gospel of the grace of God and are judged in their sins. Their works, however good cannot save them. Moreover, they must ‘confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil 2:11).
Need I say more? May this not be the portion of any reader of this book! ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31)
The next event for us is the Rapture. It could be at any time – today even – and applies only to the church. Because of that, there is no reference to it in the Old Testament. Indeed, the word does not appear in scripture, the nearest being ‘caught up’ in Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα /harpagēsometha /Strong-726 in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Why is the Rapture so little understood, or even accepted? This scripture in 1 Thessalonians 14:13-18 is unambiguous: ‘But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words’. Look at a few phrases ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first’ – that encompasses all those who have been ransomed by His blood from creation onwards. Whether we who are alive now will be taken before this, none of us knows. Paul referred to ‘we, the living’, as if he thought it would be within his lifetime. Of course, we know it was not, but we should be looking forward to the Lord’s coming – just as Paul was.
Paul also says, ‘we shall ever be with the Lord’ (v.17), and ‘them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him’.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 is another scripture which describes the resurrection of the saints and their being changed, which of course takes place at the Rapture: ‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed’. From this we can deduce that there will be a rallying trumpet, the whole event will be very rapid, and our bodies will be changed. The latter is also referred to in Romans 8:23 ‘waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body’.
When the Lord was discoursing with his disciples immediately before the crucifixion, He tells them that a place was being prepared. ‘And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14::3)
The Rapture will be sudden
No one knows when the Rapture will be
The Rapture will be private
At the Rapture, there will be a voice (or trumpet sound) which only Christians will hear
The Rapture the Lord will not come quite to earth – just to the air
The Rapture will affect people, whether taken or left: it does not change the world.
At the Rapture, our bodies will be changed.
The question often arises as to what the effect of the departure of the saints will be. Suddenly millions of people will just vanish! Hal Lindsey who awakened many Christians to the Rapture in the 1970’s in a popular book ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ said there would be confusion. I doubt it. Christians who are ‘not of the world’ will not affect it, so they will not be missed. Paul writes in an update to his previous letter, ‘God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie’ (2 Thessalonians 2:11). The Antichrist will conjure up a satisfactory credible explanation.
Now when Jesus comes (the public second coming, ‘the Appearing’, often referred to in scripture, e.g. Titus 2:15 Darby, NIV, ESV etc.) – ‘awaiting the blessed hope and Appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. The dead in Christ will be with Him – and so will be those lovers of the Lord who were alive at the Rapture, and, ‘When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory’ (Col 3:4). The church’s hope and glory is Christ Himself. Of course, we could not come with Him if we were still on the earth.
The church is heavenly in its calling and belongs to Christ in heaven. It forms no part of the course of events of the earth. This makes its Rapture so simple and clear as we see from Col 3:4), ‘When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.’ The church’s hope and glory is Christ Himself.
We must not confuse the second coming with the Rapture. At the Rapture, the Lord comes to the atmosphere immediately above the earth. At the Appearing, He comes to the earth itself.
The Rapture and the Appearing Compared
Here are some differences between the Rapture and the Appearing.
No one knows when it will be. 2 Thessalonians 2:3
It will be seven years (arguably 3½) after the Rapture – Matthew 24:36, Daniel 9:27
It will be private
It will be very public, Matthew 24:27
The Lord comes to the air.- 1 Thessalonians 4:17
The Lord comes to the earth – Zechariah 14:4
He comes FOR His saints -1 Thessalonians 4:17
He comes WITH His saints – Colossians 3:4
It is followed by the great tribulation – Revelation 3:10
It is followed by the Millennium – Revelation 20:6
He is the Bridegroom – Revelation 19:7
He is the King – Revelation 19:6
He is the Morning Star – 2 Peter 1:19
He is the Sun of Righteousness – Malachai 4:2
It is for the Church – 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16
It is for His earthly kingdom – Revelation 11:15
There is little in prophecy – 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15 etc
There is much in prophecy – OT Prophets, Matthew, Mark, Revelation etc
The world will carry on – Matthew 24:37
Christ will reign – Isaiah 32:1
The man of sin will be revealed – 2 Thessalonians 2:3
Satan will be bound – Revelation 20:2
There will be the judgment seat of Christ -2 Corinthians 5:10
The world will be judged – Revelation 18:10
People will be translated – 1 Corinthians 15:51
People will not be changed – understood]
People will believe a lie – 2 Thessalonians 2:11
The truth will be acknowledged – Zechariah 12:10
After the Rapture, there will be intense persecution of believers on the earth. The Antichrist will rule, initially benevolently with a pact with the Jews. Then after 3½ years, he will break the pact. Meanwhile, the church will be enjoying the most beautiful joy – the marriage of the Lamb.
Satan is the author of this confusion. He does not want Christians to have the anticipation of the Lord’s coming. And he certainly does not want us to be near Him saying ‘Come Lord Jesus’.
3 ½ or 7 Years?
There is some disagreement amongst students of prophecy as to the length of time between the Rapture and the Appearing. Most regard the period as seven years, divided into two sub-periods of 3½ years. A few say that the first 3½ weeks were covered by the Lord’s public ministry, so the two events are 3½ years apart. This book accepts the first position.
The key to this reasoning is in Daniel 9:24-27: ‘Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.’
Given that a week is ‘a week of years’, that is seven years we have:
The whole period is 4×70 = 490 years
This is divided into three periods
7 weeks (1-7) Command to Nehemiah to completion of the temple
62 weeks (8-69) Temple to Messiah cut off – the death of Christ (AD29)
Destruction of temple (AD70)
Church Period (not in the scope of prophecy)
1 Week (70) From covenant made by the Roman Prince till Millennium (Covenant broken in the midst of the week)
The covenant made with the Roman Prince must be after the manifestation of the Antichrist which must be after the Rapture – but it can be a very short time. From this, it is clear that the period from the Rapture to the appearing must be seven years.
To begin with, J N Darby supported this view. However later he began to question it. In a letter to the Bible Treasury, he says he has an open mind as to which of the two positions above was correct. (See Are there Two Half Weeks in the Apocalypse? – Collected Writings Vol 11 (Prophetic 4) page 168). The fact is that most of those who looked up to Darby never accepted this view. Darby was not infallible!
Following Daniel’s chronology, we have:
Edict to build temple 12th year of Xerxes 455BC
Seven weeks. 7 x 7 = 49 406BC
62 weeks. 62 x 7 = 434 -406+434+1 29AD
The Lord’s crucifixion was 29AD
The Rapture X AD
The Lord’s Second Coming X+7 AD
The one year added was because there was no year zero.
 The Darby version reads ‘in no way to anticipate those who have fallen asleep’
 Published by Zondervan, 1970 – Available from Amazon and others
 The date commonly given for this is B.C. 445 (20th year of Artaxerxes); but Usher (presumably James Ussher – 1650) gave 455, and Hengstenberg and others contend that this is the true date. Hengstenberg shows in his ‘Christology’ how the mistake arose. Vitringa rectified the date, and Krüger, by an independent enquiry, also proved that the old date was wrong. – Morrish Bible Dictionary ‘Seventy Weeks of Daniel’ – https://www.stempublishing.com/dictionary/706_730.html#a4121
Biblical history is divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles.
J N Darby is sometimes referred to as the ‘father of dispensational theology’. Although the thought was not new, and it is clear from scripture, there was in his time (and still is) a lot on muddled thinking amongst believers. Many teach that we are part of a steady continuum, with, for example, the church replacing Israel, that Christ’s kingdom is present and that the interpretation of periods is purely spiritual or figurative – sometimes called ‘covenant theology’.
J N Darby’s teaching, and also that of many servants of the Lord, has been based on the understanding that Biblical history is divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles. Dispensationalists’ view of history has the glory of God at its centre, whereas traditional teaching focuses on humanity and man’s physical and spiritual needs.
The Word ‘Dispensation’
The word, οἰκονομία /oikonomia /Strong 3622 — (Ephesians 1:10), translated ‘dispensation’ there — is a compound word ‘house’ and ‘law – the rules or administration, of a household, as in our word ’economy’. In the phrase, ‘dispensational truth,’ it looks at the world as a great household, in which God is dispensing, or administering, according to the rule of His own establishing, and in whose order, He has from time to time introduced changes, the understanding of which is consequently needful, both
List of Dispensations – Schofield
There are several lists of dispensations, and to my knowledge, Darby did not produce a formal list, but the classic view lists the following, each associated with a covenant between God and man.
Generally, the list of dispensations is taken from the explanatory notes in the New Schofield Reference Bible. Dr Cyrus I Schofield defined a dispensation as ‘a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God’
Schofield listed the dispensations as follows:
Innocence– Adam is under probation before the Fall. This dispensation ends with his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This is designated by the Edenic Covenant (Gen 1:28)
Conscience– From the Fall to the Great Flood. It ended with the worldwide deluge when only eight were saved. (Gen 3:7) – The Adamic covenant – conditions in the life of fallen man.
Human Government– After the Great Flood, men were to execute the death penalty for murder. This dispensation ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Some use the term Noahide law about this period. (Gen 8:15)
Promise – From Abraham to Moses. Ends with the refusal to enter Canaan and the 40 years of unbelief in the wilderness. Some use the terms Abrahamic law or Abrahamic covenant about this period. (Gen 12:1)
Law– From Moses to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Ends with the scattering of Israel in AD70. Some use the term Mosaic law about this period. (Ex 19:1)
Grace– lasts from the cross to the Rapture of the church. The Rapture is followed by the wrath of God comprising the Great Tribulation. Some use the term Age of Grace or the Church Age for this dispensation. (Acts 2:1)
Millennial Kingdom (or Fullness of Times) – The 1000-year reign of Christ on earth centred in Jerusalem. It ends with God’s judgment on the final rebellion, Satan having been released ‘for a short time’. (Revelation 20:4)
List of Dispensations – Savage
John Ashton Savage (1818-1900) wrote a very useful book, ‘The Scroll of Time, or Epochs and Dispensations of Scripture’. It lays out the events systematically and chronologically. There is no doubt that Savage was greatly influenced by Darby and indeed referred to him extensively.
He lists dispensations and epochs are as follows (mainly chapter titles)
Creation of the World
Creation to the Deluge
The Deluge to the Call of Abraham
The Call of Abraham
The Call of Abraham to the Exodus
The Exodus to the Captivity of the Jews
The Captivity of the Jews
The Captivity of the Jews to the Birth of Christ
The Birth of Christ
Ministry of John the Baptist
Life and Ministry of Christ
The Crucifixion and Death of Christ
The Christian and Church Period
The Coming of the Lord for His Saints (First Stage)
The Rapture and First Resurrection
The Day of Tribulation
The Coming of the Lord for His Saints (Second Stage) and Judgment of the Nations
The Day of Millennium
Satan released for a little Time
The last Rebellion and final Battle
Judgment at the Great White Throne
The new Heaven and new Earth
The Millennium is often described as ‘The Day of the Lord’ (Joel 1:15, Amos 5:8, Zephaniah 1:7,14, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:2).
The Eternal State with the New Heavens and Earth is often described as ‘The Day of God’ (2 Peter 3:12, Revelation 16:14).
 See ‘Elements of Dispensational Truth Volume 1 by R. A. Huebner, page 3’
 Note 3 to Genesis 1:28. New Schofield Reference Bible page 3. Bible published by Oxford University Press 1970 edition.
 Available from Kingston Bible Trust, Lancing, Sussex
‘After These Things’ Chapter2.1 – Premillennial Prophecy Clarifications
From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE
This part, entirely written by the author, is consistent with the teaching of J N Darby as to the events to come, but are designed to give
An overview of prophetic events
An explanation of happenings of similar character (comings, judgments etc) which Christians often confuse.
SECTION 2 – J N DARBY’s PROPHETIC TEACHING
2.2 The Dispensations
2.3 The Rapture and the Appearing
2.4 Three Judgments
2.5 Israel and the Church – Christ’s Heavenly and Earthly Brides 54
We look at the dispensations, how God has dealt with men at various times. Darby’s dispensational teaching had a profound effect, especially in evangelical circles
Next, we have the difference between the Rapture – the event immediately before us, which I trust every reader of this book eagerly awaits, and the appearing when He comes with His saints to reign in His millennial kingdom.
We now look at three judgments – a frequent cause of difficulty:
The judgment seat of Christ – when we get the Lord’s view of our lives (I hope we can all include ourselves in this).
The judgment of the nations (or the judgment of the living) – those people on the earth when He comes to reign.
The final judgment of evil – and all who have rejected Jesus – the Great White Throne.
Finally, we look at what applies to Israel and what applies to the Church.