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Suffering from the foundation of the world? (A look at Heb 9:26)

Posted Mar 26, 2022 by Danutasn Brown in Priesthood of Christ
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In Hebrews 9:24-27, we see a text that may confuse us who believe Christ suffers from the entrance of sin into our world until now. Are we spiritualizing His cross?

24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The text makes a contrast with the giving of sacrifices and the sacrifice of Jesus. The sacrifices were given many times, but Jesus was only given once, and only suffered [it seems like], once (during His passion). So does that mean He did not suffer “since the foundation of the world?” That He is not suffering now?

Let us remember what Ellen White says about Christ’s suffering:

“And they also which pierced Him.” These words apply not only to the men who pierced Christ when He hung on the cross of Calvary, but to those who by evil-speaking and wrong-doing are piercing Him today. Daily He suffers the agonies of the crucifixion. Daily men and women are piercing Him by dishonoring Him, by refusing to do His will. ST January 28, 1903, par. 8

The Lord desires us to be men and women in Christ Jesus. Our natural dispositions are to be softened and subdued by His grace. Then we shall not be continually crucifying Him afresh. Our Saviour lived on this earth a perfect life. He is our Example. If we now follow Him, doing His will in all things, we shall in the world to come live with Him forever. Let us keep Him constantly in view. It should be our life-purpose to glorify Christ. This is the great purpose that has inspired Christians in every age. It is by cherishing this purpose that we make sure of eternal salvation. Let us learn to know Him whom to know aright is peace and joy and life everlasting. ST January 28, 1903, par. 9

This brings us to a fundamental question. When did Jesus start His work of ministering for us? When did He become a High Priest? Was it only after His incarnation, when He died and was resurrected? Was He not a priest before His incarnation? If He was not a priest, does that mean there was no ministering being done for those who lived prior to the cross? That there was no gospel, no good news, available to the patriarchs and prophets of the Hebrew Bible?

Paul definitively says that the gospel was preached to those in ancient times:

For unto us [in the time of Paul] was the gospel preached, as well as unto them [the Israelites coming out of Egypt]: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:2)

E.J. Waggoner has this to say about this verse in his Studies in the Book of Hebrews (1897):

The Same Gospel.—“For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them; but the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Hebrews 4.2. There are some professed believers of the Bible, who deny that the Gospel is more than nineteen hundred years old, claiming that it was not preached before the appearance of Christ on earth. Such ones virtually deny any salvation for all those who lived before Christ’s first advent; for salvation is by Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4.10-12), and the preaching of Christ is the Gospel (Romans 1.1-3); if, then, there was no Gospel for four thousand years, then of course Christ was not preached in all that time, and so there was no salvation.

But the Psalms, to say nothing of the rest of the Bible, are full of Christ. How often do we find references to the Lord’s Anointed, namely, Christ, for “Christ” means “anointed.” Jesus says that Moses wrote of Him (John 5.45-47), and Paul writes: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached the Gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, ‘In thee shall all the nations be blessed.’” Galatians 3.8. Ancient Israel “drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10.4. But as they did not drink by faith, the Word—Christ—did not profit them. They murmured, and in their murmuring they tempted Christ. 1 Corinthians 10.9. There is only one Gospel (Galatians 1.8, 9), so that the Gospel, which they had, is identical with that which is now preached to us. See 1 Peter 1.10-12.

Most men would think that it would be putting it strongly to say that the Gospel was preached unto them as well as unto us; but the apostle tells us that the Gospel is preached to us, as well as it was to them; so that we have no more excuse than they had. They had the first opportunity; we are simply called to take what they refused. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

If there was the Gospel in the times of the Abraham and Moses, then there was also the gifts of the gospel and the Spirit of God working. These come from Christ and are received with the gospel. He is the mediator that brings these blessings to the human race – is that not what He does as a priest? Christ as our priest, ministers to us of His Spirit. He ministers to us by His Spirit now, just like He ministered by His Spirit to them 4000 years ago.

He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:5)

SO WHAT IS STOPPING CHRIST FROM POURING OUT HIS SPIRIT UPON ALL FLESH? (Acts 2:17)

The problem is, mankind will not enter into rest. We don’t believe Him, we lack faith; we don’t feel we are poor in spirit, so we don’t seek the Spirit and don’t feel a need for it. We are not reconciled to God; we see Him as our enemy. This has been the fundamental problem stopping humanity from receiving eternal life, from the very beginning when Adam fell until now.

It is not that we had no High Priest in Old Testament times; Jesus has always been our priest since the very beginning when He offered Himself ("slain from foundation of the world" - Rev 13:8). The failure of the ancient Israelites [which is a type of all our failures] was not due to the unavailability of God’s grace, but because they didn’t feel they needed it – thus they entered into a covenant of their own works to achieve salvation, known as the old covenant.

Thus Christ was there ready, but we would NOT ACCEPT HIM as our priest, and would seek life through our own efforts. We believed Satan’s lie that our disobedience and disconnection to God would not cause death.

SO WHAT WOULD CAUSE US TO DIE?

Having believed this lie, and knowing God was more powerful than us and that God had declared that we would die if we disobeyed, we came to believe that He would kill us for disobeying Him. That is why Adam and Eve hid, and that is why they didn’t ask for forgiveness or try to figure out some solution to their dilemma with God. How do you have a discussion with someone you think is trying to kill you? How can you listen to His voice? How can God be the answer to death, when He is the one dispensing death? In such a mindset, of course we would look elsewhere for life!

When parents tell their children to drink water and eat food, and the children don’t eat it and start to suffer the consequences, what caused their distress? Was it the parents? Or was it the lack of food? What would cause Adam and Eve to die? God killing them? Or their sin that disconnected them from the source of life?

This is the original sin of man: condemning God as selfishly creating the circumstances man was in; turning, in his mind, God from a loving father into a manipulative dictator, and believing that His love is a lie. But whose love was it that turned sour? Has God’s love stopped because of man’s sin? Can man, through sin, change God’s eternal loving character? God says in Him there is no darkness at all, but man perceives that God hates him and wants to kill him.

But it is not God who has changed. It is man that has transformed. Man no longer loves God. He hates God now. He has inherited that hate from Satan, believing him that God has created us to dominate and lord over us, like a scientist with the mice he runs experiments on or a CEO who hires and fires men as it benefits him.

“The woman that YOU gave to me, she gave me and I ate.” Who does Adam blame? God, for creating the woman. Jesus is the one who should die, being the agent of God’s creation. Did man recognize this in Himself? No, he was merely trying to avoid death through a misunderstanding of how life operates.

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)

How do we know that this enmity is engrained in man? Because of the testimony of the history of God’s people. Over and over again they reject the prophets and kill them. They tell Moses to veil his face. And finally they reject Jesus. This is the lesson Jesus tries to teach them; to reflect on their history and thereby let the Holy Spirit show them the true condition of their sinful nature – as hating God, while deceiving themselves that they loved God.

"Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. (Luke 11:47-51)

Jesus would cause them to finally see their condition; it would be “required of this generation” – either they would finally come to an understanding of themselves, that they were constantly assaulting the Son of God, just like all their forefathers – or they would be destroyed with the nation of Israel.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37)

This is the pain that Jesus goes through, seeing generation after generation reject Him. We can hurt His spirit as verily as we can hurt His person. And for Christians, those of us who have believed, we can turn away and reject Christ’s counsel and “crucify Him afresh” (Hebrews 6:6)

This giving of Himself, to not let us go no matter what, to will Himself to save us no matter how much He is spat on and insulted and mocked, is the true sacrifice of the world. He is made a curse for us. He bares our sins, in the sense that He allows himself to be attacked while continuing to plead to us to realize that we are also hurting ourselves. He has shown this to us in His incarnation that we might realize our sinfulness (John 16:8), that our sin would abound (Romans 5:20), and that we would finally be reconciled with Him.

He is not angry with us. He understands that  we know not what we do (Luke 23:34). He doesn’t require blood or revenge for what we have done to Him. Our own sinfulness has punished us enough. But we know we have done wrong, and we don’t know how to remove the burden of guilt, shame, and condemnation off of our conscience. Jesus has said “Come to me, all ye who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28); but we will not come to Him.

So what do we do instead to deal with this problem of feeling condemned?

We gain atonement by blaming others! Our misunderstanding of God’s character causes us to inevitably curse others, in accordance to how we feel cursed.

This takes on many forms. Thinking that God wants to kill us for sinning (rather than heal us), we offer Him the blood of others. We convince ourselves that though we may have done some wrong, other people are worse than us. We become vigilantes, fighting against evil so as to forget the evil in ourselves. We do good works, to gain merit to cover up our feelings of insufficiency.

All of these methods to salvation are empty, and they pain Jesus whose offers of mercy to us are ignored and ridiculed, as it pains a doctor who sees his cure ignored in favor of snakeoil. We particularly scorn His pleas for us to forgive others rather than blame them. We don’t realize that by condemning others, we condemn ourselves; and that all this is a manifestation of our condemnation of God.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1 NIV)

This is the mindset man is in when he begins to believe in God. Though he believes God exists and acknowledges His power, he still thinks that he can justify himself, and sees his relationship with God more like an agreement to work for Him as an employee (or a servant) rather than as a son in a family. He sees God’s commands as things he must do himself, rather than promises that God will do in us as we are incapable of doing anything good. A man in this old covenant mindset is offended by Jesus saying things like this:

"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5)

But this is the example Christ gave in His life. He lived in a new covenant relationship with His Father, abiding in His Father always and His Father doing the works:

"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)

When an employee does something wrong and thinks that his boss kills those who makes mistakes, what is he to do? He must blame someone else. He must offer something to his boss so that his boss will be mollified. The boss’s anger must be placated by death. This is the blood that we bring into our relationship with God. Let us look at the original verse again in Hebrews 9:

24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Can we notice a different contrast being made between our sacrifices and Christ’s sacrifice? We enter in with the “blood of others” – the human way of dealing with sin as we wouldn’t accept His Son. God allowed this so as to begin a relationship with us, but it is still unclean. It needs to be cleansed from the sanctuary, its insufficiencies revealed, so that finally we would accept the true priest – Christ, the only begotten Son of God – and stop trying to be our own priests or inventing our own priests (idolatry), vainly aiming to reach God through our own efforts and ignoring the work of He who God gave to us:

Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, 'He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.'  (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

'Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.' 
Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the wo'rks of God?'
Jesus answered and said unto them, 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.' (John 6:27-29)

And when has Christ given Himself as our sacrifice, so that we might begin to believe on Him?

Only by the gift of God's Son could the ransom of the human race be obtained. Without this sacrifice, all that remained for man was death in his sins. But by giving His life for the life of the world, Christ bridged the gulf that sin had made, joining this sin-cursed earth to the universe of heaven as a province. God chose this world to be the theater of His mighty work of grace. While the sentence of condemnation was suspended over it because of the rebellion of its inhabitants, while the clouds of wrath were accumulating because of transgression of God's law, a strange and mysterious voice was heard in heaven: “Lo, I come ... to do Thy will, O God.” “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me.” (ST February 22, 1899)

Jesus is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, working on our hearts so that we would not fully disconnect ourselves from God and die, giving us a probationary time to see God’s goodness and thus come to repentance (Romans 2:4); while at the same time we lash out at Him and consider Him our enemy, as our carnal hearts are hostile to Him. This perspective is given to us by Isaiah 63; we "vex His Holy Spirit":

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.

Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him? That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name? That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?

As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.

(Isaiah 63:7-14)

This unwillingness to let go of our own works and doing in our own name (John 5:43) is the veil over our eyes that causes us to not see what Christ is going through and does for us. The glory is too bright, it pains our self-satisfied hearts, and thus the work of saving man has extended for 6000 years – a thousand years for every hour Christ was on the cross, for as long as there is sin in the universe Christ is suffering pain, for "in Him all things consist":

And he is before all things, and by [in] him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossian 1:17-18)

He is "the head of the body", and when the body is full of putrid sin He suffers:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faintFrom the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. (Isaiah 1:2-6)

Therefore when we look at Hebrew 9 with our veil removed, we see something different.

For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

We thought Jesus came to earth and briefly suffered, and used this verse to prove it to ourselves, to ease our conscience about what we do to Him. But when we look at the literal translation, we see something different:

since it had behoved him many times to suffer from the foundation of the world, but now once, at the full end of the ages, for putting away of sin through his sacrifice, he hath been manifested; (YLT)

(Since He must have suffered many times from the foundation of the world:) but now once at the termination of the times for the annulling of sin by the sacrifice of Himself has HE been shown clearly (SLT)

Adam Clarke says this about this verse, his understanding above other commentators:

[“For then must he often have suffered”] In the counsel of God, Christ was considered the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Rev 13:8, so that all believers before His advent were equally interested in His sacrificial death with those who have lived since His coming. Humanly speaking, the virtue of the annual atonement could not last long and must be repeated; Christ’s sacrifice is ever the same; His life’s blood is still considered as in the act of being continually poured out. See Rev 5:6

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Revelation 5:6)

He has suffered many times since the beginning, though He has been offered once, at the beginning, as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. This offering was manifested in His incarnation as a man, which is a channel to see what He has been doing spiritually for us since the beginning. The offering of Himself has yet to be completed; He continues His work through His Spirit until today, and we vex His Spirit until today. This is what God wants us to understand. He doesn’t want us to think that They are relaxing in Heaven while suffering and pain is going on down here. Especially in the great calamities of the past was Christ crucified, so will He be again at the end of time, which will be the most painful experience of all for Him.

And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. (Reveation 11:8)

When we see this, our selfishness will die away:

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh [struggling with sinful flesh since the Fall of Man], arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)

His struggling in the flesh during His incarnation is a channel to help us understand how he has struggled with mankind’s sinful, lustful flesh for 6000 years. For there is no good thing in us (Romans 7:18); anything good is through the ministration of Christ on the human heart.

After the meeting of Jesus with the brethren, at Galilee, the disciples returned to Jerusalem; and while the eleven were gathered together in the city Jesus met with them, and again led their minds out into the prophecies concerning himself. He deeply impressed upon their understanding the necessity of thoroughly studying the ancient prophecies regarding Messiah, and of comparing them with the facts of his life, death, and resurrection, in order to establish their fulfillment in himself. They were to diligently trace link after link of sacred truth revealed by the prophets, in types and figures representing the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He lifted the vail from their understanding, concerning the typical system of the Jews, and they now saw clearly the meaning of the forms and symbols which were virtually abolished by the death of Christ. (3SP 249)

Christ has been fully able to overcome sin in us since the beginning, but we have not realized it not believed it, not allowed Him to. Thus we have been afraid to come into the most Holy place, where God dwells. But seeing how much God and His Son have suffered for us, why should we be afraid? They could have decided at any time to let us reap what we have sown, and we would die. But They will not, They have given their word and that is why the works have been competed since the beginning. May we see grace and come into the rest offered to us! Understanding this, let us write Their law in our hearts! (Hebrews 10:16)

For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, 'As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.'
(Hebrews 4:3)

God and His Son have given Their word since the foundation of the world, and since Their Word is eternal and when spoken is done, it was “finished from the foundation of the world.” This understanding is what we are to bring into the Sabbath and thereby be refreshed. What is spiritually being done has become MANIFEST to us. Realizing how exceedingly sinful we are, and how much we are in need of a saviour, the way to receiving the Spirit of God is finally treasured and valued by us.

The sacrificial service that had pointed to Christ passed away; but the eyes of men were turned to the true sacrifice for the sins of the world. The earthly priesthood ceased; but we look to Jesus, the minister of the new covenant, and “to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” “The way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: ... but Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, ... by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 12:24; 9:8-12. DA 166.1

“Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25. Though the ministration was to be removed from the earthly to the heavenly temple; though the sanctuary and our great high priest would be invisible to human sight, yet the disciples were to suffer no loss thereby. They would realize no break in their communion, and no diminution of power because of the Saviour's absence. While Jesus ministers in the sanctuary above, He is still by His Spirit the minister of the church on earth. He is withdrawn from the eye of sense, but His parting promise is fulfilled, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20. While He delegates His power to inferior ministers, His energizing presence is still with His church. DA 166.2

Christ, in His physical body is no longer with us, but “He is still by His Spirit the minister of the church on earth.” This He has been before and after the cross in Gethsemane, but now at the end of time, having the whole Bible to look at and all its prophecies to study, it should be more clear to us than to any other church that has lived before us. And part of this is to understand what is Christ is going through, and to sit with Him, for it comforts Him to know that we sympathize.

Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world. Few think of its relation to God. Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him. When there came upon Israel the calamities that were the sure result of separation from God,—subjugation by their enemies, cruelty, and death,—it is said that “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” “In all their affliction He was afflicted: ... and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” Judges 10:16; Isaiah 63:9. 

His Spirit “maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” As the “whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:26, 22), the heart of the infinite Father is pained in sympathy. Our world is a vast lazar house, a scene of misery that we dare not allow even our thoughts to dwell upon. Did we realize it as it is, the burden would be too terrible. Yet God feels it all. In order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through co-operation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14.  (Education 263)

But we don’t sympathize with Christ by feeling justified in ourselves, going about acting the judge, for that will only lead to more destructive behavior on our part which saddens Him. We comfort Him when we realize our true condition and with gratitude accept His promises to us, and share those promises to others. By dying to self we allow Him to work through us, and thus more of His children, who don’t know Him, can be comforted.

Finally, I will let the words of E.J. Waggoner conclude, for to him, as a channel for Christ, we certainly are indebted for so much of this light. Let us not be puffed up; instead let us be filled with gratitude and love (1 Cor 8:1).

[Let] no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor 4:6-7)

Let us thank the Father and Son for committing themselves to the work of our salvation. They have promised in their word. Their work will not be a failure, for “some MUST enter therein” into rest (Hebrews 4:6). Let it be us.

The message of the Lord to the church in the days immediately preceding His coming is, "Thou sayest I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked." Rev. iii. 19. Who is there that has outgrown this text? Not one. The blessing comes to the one who acknowledges the truth of the Lord's charge; for to him the Lord will enter, with a supply for all his need. It is the man who says, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner," that goes down to his house justified

And it is only as the man continues to utter that prayer, that he is justified. "For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Luke xviii. 14. The apostle says: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." 1 Tim. i. 15. Note that he does not say, "Of whom I was chief;" but "of whom I am chief." And it was when he acknowledged himself to be the chief of sinners, that in him as chief was exhibited the mercy and longsuffering of God

Some have wondered whether a Christian ought to sing these lines in Wesley's blessed hymn:- 

"Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
Vile and full of sin I am;
Thou art full of truth and grace."

The man who thinks that he has outgrown those lines is in a pitiable condition, for he is shutting himself off from the source of righteousness. "There is none good, but one; that is, God." Matt. xix. 17. Therefore whatever righteousness is ever exhibited in any soul must be only the righteousness of God. It is only the soul that acknowledges his own sinfulness, that will lay hold on the righteousness of God that is by the faith of Christ. It is only by the obedience of one that many are made righteous. Rom. v. 19. And that one is Christ. 

"And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John ii. 2. The Christian of forty years' experience is just as much in need of the righteousness which comes through Christ, as is the sinner who is now for the first time coming to the Lord. So we read again, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." 1 John i. 7, 8. The most that anyone can say is that Christ is without sin, and that Christ has given Himself for us. He is of God "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. i. 30. But note that cleansing is a present process. We may know that the blood of Christ did cleanse us from sin at some time in the past; but that will do us no good. That life is continually needed, in order that the cleansing may go on continually. We are "saved by His life." Rom. v. 10. For Christ is our life. Col. iii. 4.

So it is that "every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." 1 John iv. 2, 3. Note again the present tense. It is not enough to confess that Jesus Christ did come in the flesh; that will bring no salvation to anybody. We must confess from positive knowledge, that Jesus is just now come in the flesh, and then we are of God. Christ came in the flesh eighteen hundred years ago, just for the purpose of demonstrating the possibility. That which He did once, He is able to do again. He who denies the possibility of His coming in the flesh of men now, thereby denies the possibility of His having ever come in the flesh. 

So our part is with humbleness of mind to confess that we are sinners; that in us is no good thing. If we do not, then the truth is not in us; but if we do, then Christ, who came into the world for the express purpose of saving sinners, will come and take up His abode with us, and then the truth will indeed be in us. Then there will be perfection manifested in the midst of imperfection. There will be completeness in the midst of weakness. For we "are complete in Him." Col. ii. 10. He has created all things by the word of His power, and therefore can take men who are but nothing, and can make them "to the praise of the glory of His grace." Eph. i. 6. "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things; to whom be the glory for every and ever. Amen." Rom. xi. 36.

{May 18, 1893 EJW, PTUK 143}