JN Darby’s Lecture 11 on “The Hopes of the Church of God”
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, … and she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; … and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan. …And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ.
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12.
Summing Up, and Conclusion. – A Summary by Sosthens
Prophecy has two ends:
- Detaching us from the world.
- Making us intelligent of the character of God, and of His ways towards us.
Satan opposes the truth, and that must include prophecy. He says, ‘Follow morality, not doctrine otherwise you might be freed from my power’. Or ‘Neglect prophecy, because you will learn about the judgment of this world, of which I am the prince’. Prophecy throws a great light upon the dispensations of God; so that we understand the freedom of our souls. Dispensational error confounds the law and the gospel, and past economies or dispensations with the present one.
If we find ourselves in the presence of the law, we cannot find peace. Yet many are troubled when considering the difference between the position of the saints of old, and the saints of the current dispensation. The study of prophecy clears things up, and enlightens the faithful as to their walk and manner of life. For, whilst it always maintains free salvation by the death of Jesus, prophecy enables us to understand the difference between the standing of the saints of our dispensation and those of a former time.
It is the hope that acts upon our hearts and affections. If we think that we ought not to study prophecy, our thoughts become limited to the present. Prophecy gives us God’s intentions are for the future and reveals the things that are come; like a scriptural mirror. If we refuse to study what God has revealed as to the future, we are left with just our own ideas.
Some will say that the scripture, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”, (1 Corinthians 2:2) means that we should not follow prophecy. We are not to limit ourselves to only the knowledge of Jesus Christ crucified. We must also know Jesus Christ glorified, Jesus Christ at the right hand of God; we must know Him as High Priest; as Advocate with the Father. We ought to know Jesus Christ as much as possible. “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.” (Hebrews 6:1) – i.e. completion.
I attach more importance to the principal features of prophecy especially the distinctions between the various dispensations. However, the more we enter into their minute details, the more perfection appears.
How God has revealed Himself in Prophecy.
Revelation 12 gives us the great object of prophecy, the combat which takes place between Christ, the last Adam, and Satan. The conflict is either for the earthly object (the Jews), or for the heavenly object (the church).
It was necessary that the history of the first Adam should be developed. This has been done in order that Christians (the church), might be in a position to occupy themselves with the things of God, having the happy certainty as to their own position before Him. They can then be made aware of the eternal counsels of God, the certainty of salvation, the knowledge of the grace of God, and the life-giving Spirit. Our course is the period separating the first coming of the Lord from the second. In this time the church is gathered by the action of the Holy Spirit to have part in the glory of Christ at His return. Then the church is taken from out of all nations, and united to Him.
How did Christ find the first Adam? He found man in state of ruin – entirely lost. The whole state of man, before and after the deluge, under the law, under the prophets, only served as a clear attestation that man was lost. He had failed altogether, under every possible circumstance, until, God having sent His Son, the servants said, “This is the heir; let us kill him” (Luke 20:14). Sin was then at its height but the grace of God over-abounded.
Prophecy in the Old Testament
When Israel had transgressed in every possible way and circumstance, under Ahaz who was descended from David, prophecy commences in all its details, having these two features:
- The manifestation of the glory of Christ, showing that the people had failed under the law.
- The manifestation of the coming glory of Christ, to be the support of the faith of those who desired to keep the law.
The word of God, predicting that the Messiah was to come and suffer should have touched their conscience. It ought to touch us.
Prophecy and the Church
Prophecy relates to the earth; its object is not heaven. In not understanding this, the church has been misled. Believers think that they can have these earthly blessings, whereas we are called to enjoy heavenly blessings. The church is a kind of heavenly economy, formed during the period of the rejection of God’s earthly people. The Lord, having been rejected by the Jewish people, has become wholly a heavenly Person. This is Paul’s doctrine. It is no longer the Messiah of the Jews, but Christ exalted and glorified. For the want of taking hold of this exhilarating truth, the church has become so weak
We see the church glorified, in spite of the fact that the Lord Jesus has not abandoned any of His rights upon the earth. He was the Heir: He was to shed His blood, which was to ransom the inheritance. So it was necessary that Christ should buy the church. We see that Boaz, a type of Christ, bought the inheritance by taking Ruth (the remnant of Israel) as wife. See Ruth 4:5.
The Church however, has no title to the inheritance. Until we are in the glory we can have nothing, possess nothing, except only “the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest [or guarantee] of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Until that time Satan is the prince of this world, by usurpation.
Calling and Government
In Noah’s time there was government of the earth. Abraham was the object of God’s calling to be in a relationship with God on the principle of promise.
In the Jews, the calling of God and the government upon the earth, were united. But Israel failed, and God takes the government and gives it to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, Israel continues to be God’s chosen people: for the “gifts and calling of God are without repentance”. (Romans 11:29) The calling of God for the earth is never transferred to the nations; it remains with the Jews. If I want an earthly religion, I ought to be a Jew.
Once the government is transferred to the Gentiles, they become the oppressors of the people of God: first, the Babylonians; secondly, the Medes and Persians; thirdly, the Greeks; then, the Romans. The fourth monarchy consummated its crime at the same instant that the Jews consummated theirs, namely in being accessories to the killing of the Son of God, the King of Israel. Gentile power is in a fallen state, just as God’s called people, the Jews, are. Judgment is written upon both government and calling, as they are in man’s hand.
What Happens to the Church?
First, the church is saved. In the patience of God the children of God are gathered together. Then what takes place? Immediately the church goes to meet the Lord, and the marriage of the Lamb takes place.
The government of the fourth monarchy will be still in existence, but under the influence and direction of the Antichrist. The Jews will unite themselves to him, in a state of rebellion, to make war with the Lamb. Satan, unto this hour, has still not been driven out of heaven. God then dispossess Satan, and drives him from power. This is what Jesus will do when the church has been united to Him
The Battle in Heaven
As soon as Christ has received the church, battle in heaven will follow. Satan will be expelled from heaven, not yet bound, but cast down to earth. He will excite the whole earth, and will raise up the apostate part of it, that which has revolted against the power of Christ coming from heaven. Satan will unite the Jews with this apostate prince against heaven, along with both secular and mischievously spiritual heads of both the Gentiles and the Jews. The Wicked One, having joined himself to the Jews, and placed himself the centre of government of the earth in Jerusalem, will be destroyed by the coming of the Lord of lords and King of kings. Although the Lord will have come to the earth, and the power of Satan in the Antichrist destroyed, the earth will not yet have been brought under His sceptre. For the world, not yet acknowledging the rights of Christ, will desire to possess His heritage. Therefore the Saviour must clear the land in order that its inhabitants may enjoy the blessings of His reign without interruption.
The Lord will purify His land from the Nile to the Euphrates. The people come into security in the land. However another enemy, namely Gog, comes up, but only for destruction.
The Lord’s Return
We now discover a much more calm and intimate relationship between the Lord Jesus and the Jews. This is what takes place when “his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:3) It i the same Jesus: not as the Christ from heaven, but as the Messiah of the Jews.
Afterwards there will be the world to come, prepared and introduced by these judgments. The glory manifested in Jerusalem will be announced to the other nations. These will submit themselves to Christ; they will confess the Jews to be the God’s blessed people. Blessing will extend from Jerusalem to wherever there are men to enjoy its effects. The throne of God, established at Jerusalem, will become the source of happiness to the whole earth.
Satan will be bound until “he is loosed for a short season” (Revelation 20:3). There will be blessing without interruption because the government in heaven will be the security of the goodness of God. The glorified church will fill the heavenly places with its own joy. Behold the heavenly Jerusalem, witness in glory of the grace which has placed her so high! In the midst of her flows the “river of water of life, … and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, … and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2) . ”The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish.”(Isaiah 60:12). Christ will fill all the functions of High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.
May God perfect in us, and in all His children, in separation from the world. His coming ought to be our expectation. May we know more of these its heavenly blessings, and be aware of the terrible judgments which await man bound to this lower world; for judgment will come upon all these earthly things. May God also perfect the desires of our hearts, and the witness of the Holy Spirit!.