Volume 16


The Coming Of The Lord Israel And The Preparation For Glory

F. E. Raven

Page: 155


It is rather a long passage that is before us, but my object is to shew the connection between the different things presented in the course of this instruction. It may serve us if we see the connection, and I think I can make it pretty evident.

I follow on the line which has been previously before us. I have endeavoured to bring out the fidelity of God. In @Psalm:40 the Lord speaks of the righteousness and faithfulness of God: "I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation". There is in that a foundation for the soul. The present time is a time of faith, not of sight; nothing is made manifest to sight yet; and we need to be in the faith of God, and in the apprehension of the first principles connected with God -- righteousness and faithfulness.

My point in connection with the gospel of Matthew is this: while the faithfulness of God to His people comes out continually, yet we observe that the advent of Christ brought in new things, which never entered into the mind of the Jew as connected with the Messiah. It was evident that their thoughts were carnal; they did not go beyond the glorifying of their nation. But then, Christ being the Son of God, if He came, He must sit at the right hand of God. It is the suited place for the Son of God. It was even spoken of in the Old Testament: "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool".

Another thing the Lord takes up, which is spoken of in Hebrews: The Son of man made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour. It was not merely because of the sufferings of death that He sits at the right hand of God, but of necessity as Son of man He must be at the right hand of

[Page 156]

God. He must be received up to glory. It was a moral necessity, not merely on account of the work He accomplished, though it does not take place until redemption is accomplished, but on account of who He is. If He takes a place in heaven as yours new things must come to pass here. Hence you get the kingdom of heaven. It comes in, consequent on Christ taking a place at the right hand of God. That ushers in the kingdom. God has set a great light in heaven for the whole earth. You could not limit the thought of the Sun to Israel. God will prove Himself faithful in regard to His promises, but everything will be fulfilled from the right hand of God. The right hand of God is the key to the position, so to speak.

To a Jew, like Daniel, the centre of interest was Jerusalem. He did not understand the right hand of God. But to a christian Jerusalem is nothing. I would not care to see Jerusalem if I could. The centre of interest to the christian is the right hand of God. If I could go up to heaven and see what is at God's right hand, I would like to. But one does not need to go, for, by the Spirit, one can get a very good apprehension of what is there. Stephen had an apprehension. Jerusalem had been everything to him, but he saw something much better than Jerusalem. Jerusalem was fading from his view. "He ... looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God". Stephen had the key to the position. God had not forgotten Jerusalem nor the promises -- they would pass away for the time being -- but Christ was at the right hand of God and they would all in result be fulfilled from there.

I want to touch on these scriptures to shew how the faithfulness of God to the Jew comes out, and how further developments appear also. The faithfulness of God to the Jew comes out in the end of chapter 24, but in chapter 25 we get the further developments.

I just give an idea of what is before me. The Lord opens up in chapter 24 the coming of the Son of man and

[Page 157]

what He will effect at His coming; then He passes on to refer to the servants and their charge in the meantime. The point noted is that there was uncertainty as to the moment of the coming of the Son of man, and the obligation for the servants was to watch. But not only to watch, for I do not believe God has called us only to watch, but to occupy the time in service in the christian household. The coming of the Son of man would test the servants. The Lord had gathered together a sort of household round Himself, and He makes provision for it in His absence. In the parables of the ten virgins and of the talents, the Lord is not making provision for the care of His household in His absence, but preparing for the day of His glory. That is the point in these parables. It is not exactly the thought of a people upon earth to whom He is coming, but of those who go in with the Bridegroom to the marriage and then the door is shut. In the succeeding parable we have those who are to enter into the joy of the Lord. The Lord contemplates provision for the day of His glory, when the Bridegroom will enter into alliance with all that is of God. The end of chapter 24 depends on the absence of Christ, but chapter 25 depends on the glory of Christ.

I was saying before that in the end of chapter 24 the Lord proves His faithfulness to Israel. The Son of man comes. No one knows when He will come, but when He comes He does not lose sight of the people of God who are lost down here.

In the world to come all will stand upon the footing of resurrection, for the reason that everything must be in accord with Christ. Had it been possible for Christ to remain here after the flesh then other things might have remained after the flesh; but He stood alone. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit". If Christ be risen everything must be in accord with Him as risen. Everything that constitutes the world to come must be on the footing of resurrection. This will apply undoubtedly to the companies in heaven, and to Israel,

[Page 158]

and even to the nations. We are told the receiving of Israel will be life from the dead as to the world. Everything will stand on that footing in the day of Christ, and death will have no right. That is a great point in connection with the world to come.

When the Son of man comes in glory He gathers His elect -- that no doubt refers to scattered Israel -- from the four corners of the earth. What greater proof could you have of the faithfulness of God? God has not lost sight of His people. Who can tell where Israel is at the present time? It is a problem man cannot solve, but God will send His angels and gather together His elect from the four corners of the earth. We know something about the Jew, but we know exceedingly little about Israel; but God has everything under His eye. Lapse of time makes no difference to Him. So when the Son of man comes we get the faithfulness of God in gathering His elect from the corners of the earth.

The Lord was speaking here to the disciples and they were a sort of election from the Jews. "Behold, I and the children which God hath given me!" They were not gentiles but children given to Christ for signs and portents, a kind of remnant from the people. The Lord speaks to them in that point of view. He puts them to the test, as to what they would do in the interval until the Son of man came. There was uncertainty as to the time of it. No one knew about it save the Father. The Lord left the disciples in charge of His household until He came again. He predicts what will take place. There will remain the servant doing his duty until the coming of the Lord. If a husband of necessity went away and left his wife in charge during his absence, she would be diligent in looking after the household and be occupied with the interests of her husband. I think that is the real attitude of watching.

But the servant may take another line. It is evident that all are tested by the uncertainty of the moment. Three things mark an evil servant: the first is officialism; the second is dictation; the third is worldliness. Dictation

[Page 159]

is sure to follow on officialism, be begins to smite his fellow servants; then he eats and drinks with the drunken. He settles down to the world, becomes worldly instead of watching. Alas! this has come to pass too clearly in christendom. I think faithfulness on the part of a servant has always been maintained, and always will be by God's grace. There have always been and always will be those who seek to minister good to the Lord's household in due season, those who care for the Lord's interests; but the mass of those who profess themselves to be servants in christendom are given up to officialism. Then there follow dictation and worldliness. If you want to see the perfection of the evil servant, no doubt you find it in popery and the like. Their principles are foreign to the mind of Christ. Nothing can be more obnoxious to the mind of the Lord in regard of His servants than these three things.

Faithfulness to Christ is shewn in watching and using the opportunity of ministering to the Lord's household. It is a great thing for servants to have done with all idea of ministerialism. I do not undervalue ministry, to give the morsel of meat in due season, but to set up for it is to my mind a mistake. It is a great privilege to be used of God to minister the morsel of meat, but I would not do it professionally. Officialism is a deadly thing in the household of God. We want as servants to be here in the place of the Lord's slaves, guarding His household and caring for it in view of His coming.

One word more in regard of that. All this was spoken to Jews. That proved the fidelity of God. Christ does not call in gentiles to give these instructions to, but those who had been His companions while here on earth. He gives them charge in that way, and shews briefly what will take place in His absence.

But I want to dwell for a moment on the following parables. Another thought comes in them, and that is, the preparation for the day of His glory. In both parables you get the thought of long absence. In the first it says, "While the bridegroom tarried"; He did not come

[Page 160]

quickly, He tarried. And then, "After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them". My point is, that in these parables we have preparation for the day of the Lord's glory.

I do not think that what comes out in chapter 24 goes necessarily beyond the Jew and those associated with the Lord at that moment; but the thought of the kingdom of heaven cannot be limited to any particular people. If God saw fit to set a great light in heaven it must be common to all the earth. You cannot limit the idea of the ten virgins to the Jew. In chapter 25 we are evidently on broader ground, for we have a similitude of the kingdom, that is, of those who profess to be in the light and under the sway of what God has been pleased to establish in heaven. All the ten virgins take that ground, they "went forth to meet the bridegroom".

Now we can easily read the parable, but what do you think the mind of the Lord in it is? Evidently the Lord has something to secure. What I see is this, in the system of the world to come there is to be a vessel in which the light of God will shine forth. Christ is to be effulgent, but in a vessel. I do not think Christ will come to be looked upon again as He was in time past. He will never come again in humiliation close to man, but to be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe. We get that thought in the end of Revelation. The holy city, new Jerusalem, comes down from God out of heaven, having the glory of God and her light like unto a stone most precious.

I judge that is what the Lord has in view. He wants the five wise virgins. All ten take the ground of being under the influence and sway of heaven, but the five foolish were deficient, gravely deficient; they had not the Spirit; they had no oil in their vessels with their lamps. Without oil one can really have no moral suitability to the Bridegroom. In the virgins you get the idea of those uncontaminated by the world and its influence; they need to be in moral suitability to the Bridegroom. That is brought about in our being led by the Spirit of God

[Page 161]

into the knowledge of all that subsists in Christ for the glory of God and the blessing of man.

I see that thought in the four prophecies of Balaam. In the first prophecy we get separation; in the second justification; in the third comeliness; in the fourth glory. These things are necessary for the glory of God and the blessing and well-being of man. These are all found in Christ and could not possibly be found elsewhere. They could not be found in Israel. Israel will come into the gain of them as we have done; but they are found in Christ, and we undergo an education now by the Spirit of God which enables us to apprehend all that subsists in Christ. I think it is thus we learn what is involved in the thought of the Sun of righteousness. He is to rise with healing in His wings. In Him is found everything that is necessary for the well-being of man here on earth. Men will find in Him true separation from the course of the world; they will be justified in Him so that God can say, I "have not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither ... perverseness in Israel;" they will find in Him comeliness under the eye of God, but the comeliness will be of Christ; and so, too, the glory will not be of themselves, it will be of Christ. Simeon said when he took the child Jesus in his arms, that He was the glory of God's people Israel. The moment is one in which we are learning all that is in Christ. We have our part in it, otherwise we could not learn it; and we get apprehension of what Christ is as Head and centre of the whole system of blessing which God has purposed for the world to come.

That is dependent on the oil which sustains the light of the virgins. But what was the character of their light? Suitability to the Bridegroom. You cannot bring suitability to the Bridegroom about in any other way than by appreciation of the Bridegroom; and that can only be by the Spirit. And the result is you bear a light, and this is maintained while you are going into the marriage. And when the Bridegroom comes out, the church is to be the blessed vessel in the presence of the

[Page 162]

universe, in which will be set forth the excellencies and the glories of Christ. All in it will be so acquainted with the virtues which reside in Christ.

All these parables present what is provisional, not final, for the reason that Christ is absent and every one is tested. The servants are there provisionally, so too the virgins; only five stand the test, only five have oil; and so of the servants in the next parable, only two enter into the joy of their Lord.

This is a solemn moment! Many people are on the ground of the virgins; many take the ground of the servants; but all are being tested. The point is endurance. Endurance brings out the power of the Spirit of God in the believer. In the parable of the talents the thought is different from that of the virgins, and yet it runs close to it. You get in it the same idea that Christ is preparing a vessel for the day of His glory. That is seen in the two faithful servants; Christ is preparing those who are to have part in the joy of the Lord in that day. This is not limited to the Jew. Many take the ground of being servants, and God does not reject them in that place, the Lord bears with them. But they are being tested. The point is, will they answer to the test?

We would say, I suppose, that we have five talents, or two, or one; but are we making more? It has often been observed in christianity that you have to look first to yourself. The apostle says to Timothy, "Take heed to thyself". You will never rightly take heed to any one else if not to yourself first -- it is "thyself" first, and then those that hear thee. You must not be content with what you have got. Christ has entrusted to you something that is precious, and whatever that precious thing may be you want to increase it. And for whom do you increase it? For the Lord, no doubt; but if you increase it for the Lord you increase it for yourself. Turn your two talents, or whatever you have, to account for yourself, because you want to have more of the joy of the Lord. The man who made five had the ten for himself. It was gratifying to the Lord, but he had them for himself. Take heed to

[Page 163]

thyself; then you will save "those that hear thee".

I think I am justified in saying that these parables shew that the Lord is preparing those who will have joy with Him in that day when He has His proper joy in the manifestation of divine counsels. The Lord will have partners with Him in that day. The five virgins that go into the marriage will be the vessel in which the glory and moral excellencies of the Bridegroom will be reflected, as the moral qualities of a man are reflected in his wife. Christ is conforming the bride to Himself, that she may be cognisant of all that resides in the Bridegroom. That is the vessel which He is preparing in the present time to be set forth in the world to come. I delight in that wonderful passage, "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal".

One thought occurs to me: everything is final, no testing there. You get the measurements all taken, and everything is perfect. All perfectly answers to the rod of the angel. The vessel is perfect; perfect in divine righteousness, in unity, in light, in its full appreciation of all the virtues that reside in Christ for the glory of God, and for the blessing of man here on earth.

Well, all these things have their application to us. The Master has stayed away a long time, but He will come. Men do not think so. They have no idea that the present course of things is going to be subverted, they think things will continue, as it ever was. They do not see that everything here will be turned upside down in order to make room for the Sun of righteousness, who will arise with healing in His wings, and for the holy city which will come down from God out of heaven to exercise the most amazing influence here upon earth. I have no doubt whatever, whether it be Israel or the nations, all will walk in the light of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem.

Jerusalem on earth ought to have been a witness to

[Page 164]

Jehovah, but the position of Jerusalem on earth was provisional. It would not answer to any measurement by the angel. It is very different from the holy city. Everything there is final and perfect. "Her light was like unto a stone most precious". The kings of the earth bring their glory and honour unto it.

We are left here to enter into the secret of the Lord, to see what He is preparing for the world to come. It is a great thing to be going on in the appreciation of the Bridegroom. We have a link with the Bridegroom by the Spirit, and may we be led on in the appreciation of Christ. There is nothing indispensable but Christ. I am sure of it. Christ is going to fill all things, and if He is to fill all things this will exclude all else. What a great thing if He dwells in our hearts by faith! And if He so fills them that we have nothing else before us save in a little way to witness in fidelity to Christ.