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4 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
As the Lord enters the last days of his ministry he is accosted by enemies -- the devil and Satan that set themselves out to oppose and ultimately crucify him. It is an echo of his experience in the wilderness of temptation, following his baptism three years earlier. Then he was challenged by the approach of the "Satan" with his appealing temptations to deflect the Master from his commitment, and to involve him in a compromise with the leaders of Jerusalem. Those challenges had returned time and again, as recorded in the Gospels. Now comes the final challenge, and the Master must face his opponents who were all ranged against him.
It is MONDAY, 12th Abib, and the crisis in his life is rapidly approaching. They accuse him of teaching without the authority of the Rabbins, or the schools of religious teaching in Judea. This has reflections from the drama that accosted the Master in the wilderness of temptation. It was the same accusation, in another form, of that heard in the wilderness temptations:
"By what authority do you speak!"
It was a challenge against his divine parentage; against the principle of God manifest in the flesh. He responded in a very skilful manner -- a brilliant and divine response to a fleshly question.
"The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?"
They would not respond, knowing that any answer would incriminate them (v. 7). Yahshua's statement drew attention not merely to John's baptism as a general comment, but to the specific baptism by John of himself! Three years ago the Lord's baptism in the Jordan was accompanied by a voice from heaven and the appearance of the Spirit in the form of a dove. Then came the confession by John of his divine origin (John 1:23, 33). If the Lord's accusers were to answer his question concerning the baptism of John, they would be forced to recognise the validity of his message. They would have had to acknowledge the voice from heaven, confirming the baptism performed by John Baptist.
They would not do that. It was too logical, too scriptural, for such a group of men to accept.
So they perished in their sin. GEM,
27 Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
This manner of teaching the doctrine of a resurrection, namely, by promising, or declaring, something that necessitates it, is not peculiar to the case before us. There are other instances; one, however, will be sufficient at present. I refer to the dispute between Jesus and the Sadducees. The latter, who admitted as authority only the writings of Moses, denied the resurrection of the dead. In proving it, therefore, to their conviction, it was necessary to demonstrate it from his testimony. This Jesus undertook to do.
He first stated the proposition, saying Moses has shown that the dead are raised. He then directed their attention to the place where Moses teaches this resurrection (Exod. 3:6). It is there written, "I, the Lord, am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ;" In recording this, Moses teaches the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
"But," says one, "I see nothing said about resurrection there." Nor did the Sadducees. " No," continues the objector, "nor about the dead either; for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are not dead; but alive in heaven, where Christ and Lazarus, and the thief are. They are all living; and, therefore God is their God." This is very good Platonism, but very bad logic, and egregious nonsense.
When Jesus quoted the passage, it was to prove that "the dead are raised;" the question therefore is, how does this testimony of Moses prove it? In this way -- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are dead; but, "God is not the God of the dead," yet He is called "their God;" therefore, in order to be their God, they must be made alive, for God is the God of the living:" hence, to style Him "God of Abraham " teaches the resurrection by implication; "for all live to Him" in the age to come (Luke 20:27-38).
But why call Him the God of these fathers now? By anticipation; for, says the apostle, "God, who makes alive the dead, styles the not being (TA ME ONTA) as being" (HOS ONTA; Rom. 4:17) that is, God's promise is so certain to be fulfilled that He speaks of what is to be as though it were past. He has promised to raise Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who while dead have no being; and as He cannot lie, their restoration to being is inevitable; God therefore speaks of them as though they had already been raised from the dead and "is not ashamed to be called their God."
God is not the God of dead men who are not to rise again. He is the God only of those who become His children by being the children of the resurrection; and who can die no more, because they are equal to the angels (Luke 20:36). Such, then, is the way in which the doctrine of the resurrection is taught by the Lord God in Moses and the prophets; plainly
indeed, but in such a manner as to require the exercise of the reasoning faculties of men.
Elpis Israel 2.2.
33 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.
Dr. Wilson observes that the phrase "'Let us make man' is an expression of consultation, and marks a difference in man's creation from that of other creatures; in point of importance." To this I have no objection, and I believe that the "subtle serpent" , overheard the consultation, and was, therefore, able to tell Eve that there was a particular in which she should be like the Elohim, ka-Elohim, by eating the fruit, in which she could not resemble them unless she did eat, viz., in "knowing good and EVIL."
In this point, man was unlike the Elohim when pronounced "very good." Nor was this item of the temptation a falsehood, for the Lord of the Elohim said to his celestial companions, "Behold, the man hath become AS one of us, to know good and evil" (Gen. 3:22).
In this, then, the man became still more like the Elohim, and in this likeness he hath continued since. But thanks to the Invisible God and Father of the saints, man is placed under a law of progression.
His prototype has gone before.
He was Himself made "a little lower than the Elohim;" for He took not upon Him their nature, but assumed that of the seed of Abraham. His nature, however, is now like theirs, being spiritual, that is, INCORRUPTIBLE AND IMMORTAL. "We shall be like Him," says John; hence, also "equal to the angels," as Jesus hath Himself affirmed (v36).
Elpis Israel 1.6.
35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
Individuals accounted worthy will be advanced to a higher nature
Now, if "resurrection from the dead" mean simply a coming forth from the grave, then Christ precludes the application of the second death to the resurrected unjust, for they come forth from the grave, and are, therefore, according to this view, counted worthy of the resurrection from the dead, and ought, if the argument is correct, to be included among those who "die no more, but are equal to angels."
...the unjust are to emerge from the death-state at the resurrection, and yet are not to be blessed or made equal to the angels. In addition to coming out of the grave, it means a rising at the judgment from the condition of mortality to an immortal state. The unjust are made to stand again; they come forth, but they do not rise "from among the dead." They never get above the level of the constitutionally dead, of whom Jesus spoke when he said "Let the dead bury their dead."
They come forth, not to a resurrection of life, but to a resurrection of condemnation. The resurrection from among the dead, is the being raised from among those who pertain to the grave, and the being elevated to equality with the angels. Those who, at the judgment-seat of Christ, are found worthy of this elevation from the dead to the living, die no more, and neither marry nor give in marriage. They are the children of God, being the children created by, and surviving the judgment process connected with, the resurrection; and they inherit the world to come, or the kingdom to be established on earth at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this style of language, the state beyond the judgment-seat is the only thing that can properly be considered the resurrection. Those who rise and are not accepted do not attain to this state. They do not survive the preliminary ordeal. Hence they do not attain to the resurrection from the dead. They continue among the dead and ultimately disappear in the second death.
Ambassador of the Coming Age, Aug 1867.
36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
THE DURATION OF AIONIAN (ETERNAL) LIFE
We should not, as a mere matter of words, know whether aionian (translated "eternal") life were endless or otherwise, unless informed.
The information we have dispels all doubt. "They cannot die any more."-(Luke xx, 36.) "There shall be no more death."-(Rev xxi, 4) "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."-(1 Cor, xv.26.)
Therefore the life of the aion to come, (adjectively described as aionian) is endless, and constitutes immortality-deathlessness. There would be no immortality if aionian life came to an end. Aionian punishment, on the other hand, is terminable, and ends in destruction-second death; for indeed the very punishment of that aion, is "destruction from the presence of the Lord."-(2 Thess. i, 9.)
The upshot of sin is death. "The wicked shall perish, but the meek shall inherit the earth."-(Psalm xxxvii, 20,22.)
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, Dec. 1867
Equal unto the Angels
This corporeal change of those, who have first been morally "renewed by knowledge after the image of Him that hath created them" (Col. 3:10) -- from "sinful flesh" into spirit, is an absolute necessity, before they can inherit the kingdom of God... "That which is corruptible cannot inherit incorruptibility," says the apostle. This is the reason why animal men must die, or be transformed. Our animal nature is corruptible; but the kingdom of God is indestructible, as the prophet testifies, saying, "it shall never be destroyed, nor left to other people; but shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44).
Because, therefore, of the nature of this kingdom, "flesh and blood can not inherit it;" and hence the necessity of a man being "born of the spirit," or "he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5-6; 1 Cor. 15:50). He must be "changed into spirit," put on incorruptibility and immortality of body, or he will be physically incapable of retaining the honour, glory, and power of the kingdom for ever, or even for a thousand years.
But, before the apostle concludes his interesting exposition of "the kind of body for which the dead come," he makes known a secret which was previously concealed from the disciples at Corinth. It would probably have occurred to them, that, if flesh and blood could not inherit the kingdom of God, then those who were living at the epoch of its establishment, being men in the flesh, could have no part in it.
But to remove this difficulty, the apostle wrote, saying, "Behold, I tell you a secret (musthrion). We shall not all sleep, (koimhqhsomeqa met, to die, be dead), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for it (the seventh trumpet Rev. 11:15, 18; 15:8; 20:4) shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible (isaggeloi equal to the angels, Luke 20:36), and we shall be changed (eivpneuma, into spirit, 1 Cor. 15:45). For this corruptible (body) must put on incorruptibility (afqarsian), and this mortal (body) must put on immortality (aqanasian). Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory" (Isaiah 25:78).
But, that the saints might not misapprehend the matter, especially those of them who may be contemporary with the seventh trumpet-period, he gave further particulars of the secret in another letter. The disciples of Thessalonica were deeply sorrowing for the loss of some of their body who had fallen asleep in death; probably victims, to persecution. The apostle wrote to comfort them, and exhorted them "not to sorrow as the others (aqanasian ie., the unbelievers), who have no hope.
For if we (the disciples) believe that Jesus died and rose again;" and be not like those, who, by saying, "there is no resurrection of the dead," in effect deny it; "even so," as He rose, "them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring forth (axei, lead out, or produce), by Him" (1 Thess. 4:14).
He then proceeds to show the "order" (1 Cor. 15:23) in which the saints are changed into spirit, or immortalized, by the Son of Man (John 5:21, 25, 26, 28, 29). "For," says he, "this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we, the living, who remain at the Lord's coming, shall not anticipate them who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise FIRST: after that we, the living, who remain, shall be snatched away at the same time with them in clouds to a meeting of the Lord in the air: and thus we shall be with the Lord at all times. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1Thess. 4:13-18).
It will be seen from this, that survivors of the dead were not consoled in the first age of Christianity for the loss of their friends, as they are now by those who "improve the death" of the influential among them. In "funeral sermons," the "immortal souls" of the deceased are transported "on angels' wings to heaven," and the living are consoled with the assurance, that they are singing the praises of God around the throne, feasting with Abraham, and the prophets, with the saints and martyrs, and with Jesus and His apostles in the kingdom of God; and they are themselves persuaded that the souls of their relations, now become angels, are watching over them, and praying for them; and that when they die their own souls will be re-united with them in the realms of bliss.
Need I say to the man enlightened in the word, that there is no such comfort, or consolation, as this in the law and the testimony of God? Such traditions are purely mythological; and come of the Nicolaitan dogma of saved ghosts; and goblins damn'd, "which has cancerously extirpated the truth as it is in Jesus." No, the apostles did not point men to the day of their death, and its immediate consequents for comfort; nor did they administer the consolations of the gospel to any who had not obeyed it.
They offered comfort only to the disciples; for they only are the heirs with Jesus of the kingdom of God. They taught these to look to the coming of Christ, and to the resurrection, as the time of a re-union with their brethren in the faith. At death, they should "rest from their labours, and their works should follow them;" and "to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without a sin-offering unto salvation" (Heb. 9:28). Such were the practical and intelligible "words," with which the apostles comforted their brethren; but words which have become scaled and cabalistic, both to the unlearned and "the wise."
In conclusion, then, as far as power is concerned, God could have created all things upon a spiritual or incorruptible basis at once. The globe could have been filled with men and women, equal to the angels in nature, power, and intellect, on the sixth day; but the world would have been without a history, and its population characterless. This, however, would not have been according to the plan. The animal must precede the spiritual as the acorn goes before the oak. This will explain many difficulties which are created by systems; and which will for ever remain inexplicable upon the hypotheses they invent.
The Bible has to do with things, not imaginations; with bodies, not phantasmata; with "living souls" of every species; with corporeal beings of other worlds; and with incorruptible and undying men: but it is mute as death, and silent as the grave, having nothing at all to say about such "souls" as men pretend to "cure;" except to repudiate them as a part of that "philosophy and vain deceit" (Col. 2:8.) "which some professing have erred concerning the faith" (1 Tim. 6:21).
Elpis Israel 1.2.
38 For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
Thus, in Luke xx., the Great Teacher, in his argument against the Sadducees " who deny that there is any resurrection," declares that MOSES taught it in the Law ; and cites from his book of Exodus iii. 6, in proof that he did so. The words of JESUS are these : " Now that the dead ones are reared up (eysiQovrai), Moses also showed at the bush, when he called YAHWEH the Elohim of Abraham, and the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob. For DEITY is not
(affirmable) of dead ones, but of living ones, for they all live to Him."
This is unquestionable proof that Moses taught the resurrection of some from among dead ones, although the word does not occur in his writings. The phrase Yahweh Elohim Avraham implies this : for YAHWEH is the name of the Eternal Spirit, and Elohim are powerful
ones. He who shall be the Powerful Ones of Abraham is the plain English of Moses' words. The Eternal Spirit, or Power, manifested in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, necessitates their egersis and anastasis-their rebuilding and standing up : for there can be no such manifestation in unorganized dust of the ground ; which was the then, and is the now, condition of these fathers.
At present, they are merely historical characters, without any existence, corporeal or incorporeal, in the universe of the Deity ; yet " they all live to Him " in an indefinite present. I say indefinite, because Jesus, in his discourse with the Sadducees, did not define the time of their resurrection, but simply affirmed " they all live to Him." But, can it be inferred when ? Truly yes ; when he becomes their Elohim ; so that, as Paul says, " Deity, who makes the dead ones living, calls the things not existing, as though existing-(Rom. iv. 17).