I have not issued anything from A Day of Small Things since May 2020. A few short articles have been added to the website, thanks to our brother Edwin Mutton’s ‘Golden Nuggets’ but there has not been any new summary of J N Darby’s papers or ministry. A few reasons:
1. My neuropathic pain has been very trying. It has limited the number of hours I can work at a time. Thank God for the Great High Priest who sympathises with our infirmities.
2. We have been clearing out and selling the house of a local sister who has had to go into a care home.
3. In some ways, I am not sure of what to add. Most articles I read cover the same ground as summaries already published. Nonetheless, I am always open to suggestions.
But the main reason is that I have been writing a book: ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy for Christians waiting to see the Lord of Glory when he Raptures his Church’. When finished it will be about 300 pages long, much of it being revisions of articles I had summarised over the past six years, supplemented with chapters on subjects which Christians often confuse, and which Darby strove tirelessly to clarify. Doctrine is unashamedly premillennial, based on scripture and showing clearly what pertains to the heavenly Church and earthly Israel.
Most of the book has now been written and reviewed. Five brothers, in particular Jim Hibbert of Calgary, have provided invaluable input and helpful comments. A challenging task has been a ‘Timeline’ covering events in heaven or on the earth between the Rapture and the Appearing drawing on scriptures in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Revelation, 1&2 Thessalonians, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and others.
If you reply to this email, I will send you pre-publication PDF copies of the Timeline, the Table of Contents and a summary of one of Darby’s 1840 Geneva addresses. There is still time to make minor additions or changes, so if you ask questions such as ‘Have you covered/explained . . .?’ or ‘Have you distinguished between X and Y?’ I will certainly take these into account.
It has been quite a mammoth undertaking and I feel the more cast on God for help in this holy subject. I have learned a lot while doing it, but become increasingly conscious of there being so much more to learn. Even Paul said, ‘We see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face’ 1 Cor 13:12 Darby). That is why I feel so dependent on the Lord, the Holy Spirit, reliable publications (rejecting what is unsound) and many dear brethren from several countries and denominations.
I hope, if the Lord will, to have it published by November. It will be available on-line at cost in hard copy and Kindle and ebook electronic formats.
2020 has been such an unusual year. Whether you are gathering physically – with restrictions, or on-line – I trust you are feeling blessed and encouraged. As a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19 now appears inevitable, people – some believers even – are fearful. May we all seize the opportunity to point persons to the One on whom we can cast all our cares. We need not fear.
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. Whilst 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, and that Christ’s kingdom is present, and that the interpretation of periods is purely spiritual or figurative – sometimes called ‘covenant theology’.
In view of this, A Day of Small Things is presenting a short outline of what we mean by the term ‘dispensation’, and where we fit in now.
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’ presuppositions start with the harmony of history as focusing on the glory of God and put God at its centre – as opposed to a central focus on humanity and their need for salvation[*].
The Word ‘Dispensation’
The word, οἰκονομία/oikonomia/Strong 3622— (Eph. 1:10), and 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 rule of His own establishing, and in whose order He has from time to time introduced certain changes, the understanding of which is consequently needful, both to the intelligent interpretation of His word and to intelligent action under Him[†]
List of Dispensations
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[‡]:
Innocence– Adam under probation prior to the Fall. Ends with expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Some refer to this period as the Adamic period or the dispensation of the Adamic covenant or Adamic law. (Gen 1:28)
Conscience– From the Fall to the Great Flood. Ends with the worldwide deluge. (Gen 3:7)
Human Government– After the Great Flood, humanity responsible to enact the death penalty. Ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Some use the term Noahide law in reference to this period of dispensation. (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 in reference to this period of dispensation. (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 in reference to this period of dispensation. (Ex 19:1)
Grace– 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– The 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centred in Jerusalem. Ends with God’s judgment on the final rebellion. (Rev 20:4)
Recently a brother wrote to me needing to answer the following question:
What is the heavenly vision or call of the church? People I speak to want to know what is the purpose of the church? I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about this question, but what is the best approach or angle to take when answering? I believe it’s a very important question that I should be able to answer when I’m asked.
This question affects a lot of things. What should be our focus as a local church? The gospel, soup kitchens, ending poverty (social gospel), trying to change culture, etc.
My answer: The true Church – and what it is in the Sight of Men
I have been giving more thought to this question. We need to see what the church is in the sight of Christ – which is the true Church – and what it is in the sight of men – a religion here.
Before starting, Christians must realise that their calling is a heavenly one. ‘Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus’ (Heb 3:1).
The Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ /ekklēsia/Strong 1577 . The word implies people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church or assembly comprised of all believers formed into one by the Holy Spirit. It is viewed as the body of Christ and also the habitation of God. In a more general sense. it meant simply assembly – e.g. calling together for a civil function. Incidentally, the English word ‘church’ or German ‘Kirche’ comes from the Greek word κυριακός/kyriakos/Strong 2960, ‘belonging to the Lord’ (kyrios), the French ‘église’ from ‘ekklēsia’. The Hebrew word ‘קָהָל/qahal/Strong H6951’ has a similar meaning.
We must recognise the direct role of the Spirit of God. It has been said that the Holy Spirit ‘is here; but He has taken a lowly place, . . .and has been here on earth for over 1,900 years in that lowliness. He maintains what is due to God according to what God is in heaven; there is a perfect answer to that in the presence of the Spirit down here, and the Spirit is here in the assembly; and that brings out the greatness of the assembly’s place too, but nevertheless the assembly is never part of the Deity.’ and ‘The assembly is nearest to Deity in the whole realm. What is sovereign is seen in the assembly.’ [*] That being the case what has the assembly to do with the things of this world?
The Church in the Sight of Christ
The church is a perfect vessel (for the want of a better word), formed exclusively of saints worked on by the Spirit of God, apart from sin. It has been said that it is of heaven in origin and destiny. It is here in the body of Christ and its hope is totally towards Jesus – as a bride is towards her bridegroom. Her desire is to be with Him – and therefore has no part here. But she does care for His interests here. His interests are what is for Him, His glory and to worship the Father, and for the members of His body to point to Him. The church’s view is God-ward, not man-ward.
Ministry is for those of the church universally (as there is only one church) – ‘we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness’. (Romans 12:5-7)
The fact that it is ‘called out’ is important. If it is ‘called out’ it cannot be ‘part of’. Over the centuries Christians have been called out of every other religious organisation – in the earliest days Judaism and paganism, later Catholicism, later nationally established churches, later clericalism, and more recently social liberalism, charismatic Christendom or systematic legalism. Importantly, if we are called out of something, we cannot reform it. It is in the attempt to reform the old lump that Christians have become unstuck.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 makes this clear ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.’
This brings me to:
The Church in the Sight of Man
This is something different, and different people will have different ideas.
1. A group of disparate organisations with common central beliefs and many interpretations, grouped together loosely for example in the World Council of Churches – sometimes preaching the gospel.
2 A humanitarian force for good, seeking to make the world a better place, while preaching a gospel, but not always the gospel.
3. A place of religious exhilaration and excitement with rousing music – usually with the gospel but this is sometimes distorted – or a liberal ‘inclusive’ community – no matter what the bible says.