“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun,” Ecclesiastes 1:9.
This is the first part of a three-part study in which we are seeking to discover the parallels between what it was the Saviour encountered during His ministry on earth and how those events mirrored what it is the child of God may expect to face in this age that has followed His ascension.
The details of the life of the Saviour, as it is recorded for us in the New Testament, is thus given to us as a ‘pattern’ of that which we may expect to face individually and collectively as those who follow in His steps.
His words to His disciples as recorded in John 15:18-19, surely make that clear. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
Generation after generation sees a repeat, in principle and spirit, of that which has gone before. This has been so since the fall of Adam. Thus we may see, in the events of history, pictures and types of what this world has yet to face.
Truly, there is no new thing under the sun!
The simple reason for this is, the three main characters in the proceedings and occurrences of this world are unchangeable by nature.
First of all, God is unchanging. “For I am the LORD, I change not,” Malachi 3:6.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” Hebrews 13:8.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” James 1:17.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, in chapter 2 says this of God: I. “There is but one only living and true God, Who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”
How good it is to sing that glorious truth:
OH, how sweet the glorious message,
Simple faith may claim;
Yesterday, today, forever,
Jesus is the same.
Still He loves to save the sinful,
Heal the sick and lame:
Cheer the mourner, still the tempest,
Glory to His name!
Yesterday, to-day, for ever,
Jesus is the same,
All may change, but Jesus never!
Glory to His name,
Glory to His name,
Glory to His name,
All may change, but Jesus never!
Glory to His name.
Thus Lord responds to man and his sin today as he did in former times. He has not changed in His hatred of sin nor in how He reacts to it. Yes, the LORD God is, “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,” Exodus 34:6. But there is an end to patience and then His judgment falls!
Today, foolish men, led by even more foolish preachers, entertain the notion that God has changed and we need no long view Him as He is revealed to us in the Old Testament.
What an awakening to horror and eternal shame awaits those who hold to this lie!
Secondly, the devil is unchanging. He is a captive of his own depravity and cannot alter his thinking or scheming!
Thus, in Revelation 20, we read: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season,” verses 1-3.
But at the end of 1000 years, the devil is released from the pit and please note what follows. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever,” verses 7-10.
During those 1000 years of captivity he has learned nothing of his own powerlessness before God or of the folly of trying to resist God, but he immediately will go forth in an utterly futile attempt to yet frustrate the purpose of God. It is his final act of stupidity for his damnation swiftly follows. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Thirdly, man is unchanging. He could as easily lift himself by his own boot laces as change his demeanour, his character, his heart, his mind and his being.
Yes, man may be changed, but not of himself. It takes the power of God.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Thus it is that there is a such repetitive pattern to events in the history of mankind. The devil repeatedly goes forth to seek to defy and defeat the cause of God. This is seen in his temptation of Christ.
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season,” Luke 4:1-13. I have underlined and made bold those words which highlight the devil’s dogged persistence, his attempts to trap the Saviour and how that he ended his attack, but clearly intended to return to his task.
Man, like the dog “is turned to his own vomit again,” 2 Peter 2:22. Thus read often read words like those of Judges 6:1: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD.”
The immutable God responds to the intransigence of man and the devil in the same way he has ever done. He can do no other!
It is thus that the key ‘players’, if I many use that term, in life’s drama are unchanging in their ways and will bring nothing new to the ‘stage of time’!
In a recent Sabbath morning prayer meeting, the Psalm 2 was sung — where is set forth in prophetic form, the wicked rebellion of men, the judgment of God on such wickedness and the establishment of Christ on His throne, ruling over the nations. The thought of the Saviour’s life as a wonderful picture of the experiences of the people of God throughout this age, came home to me as we sang that beautiful psalm.
It is said of the Saviour that He “ . . . was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” Hebrews 4:15. We will pass through, to some measure at least, what He passed through during His 33 years on this earth.
I believe that we may see in His life therefore a mirror of the times and seasons through which the people of God have passed through since His ascension to His Father’s right hand and indeed it will reveal to us what things God’s people are yet to face and how all things will come to a conclusion.
THE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS OF THE SAVIOUR’S EARLY LIFE.
1. An unwelcoming world. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not,” John 1:10-11. Such was the ‘welcome’ the Saviour received from those who above all should have rejoiced at His advent. That spirit was maintained from the very beginning of His ministry until His ascension to Glory. Isaiah the prophet had said of Christ’s reception amongst His kinfolk that “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” Isaiah 53:3. Note the phrase: “We hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” That was Israel’s response to the coming of Christ and it foreshadowed the reception given to the apostles as they went forth in obedience to Christ. when He commanded them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15. The world’s attitude never changed except to the small degree that God by the moving of His Spirit amongst ungodly men brought about. Whatever advances the gospel made, it was in keeping with what the Saviour had said on an early occasion. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.
Amongst the nations that heard the gospel over the 2000 years since Christ’s sending forth His apostles, it was only the ‘few’ that heeded what was preached while the ‘many’ rejected Christ’s message and chose the broad way that led them to ‘destruction’!
That was universally the reaction of the nations, with only a small few within them heeding the gospel. The response within Thessalonica was surely typical of the general response of the nations. “And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people,” Acts 17:4-5.
In more modern times, within our own United Kingdom, the experiences of George Whitefield and John Wesley and many others of that era, bear out the truth that man has not changed in his attitude toward God, toward Christ and toward the message of salvation! It is still the same today in many places and it does not take much to see the true character of the so-called ‘Christian nations’. There is no sympathy on the streets for the plain message of the gospel and the ‘main-line’ churches have long ago declared themselves against the Christ of the Bible and have embraced a ‘Christ of their own making ‘who is not Christ but antichrist!
What was seen in the churches of Galatia, when they departed from the truth and caused Paul to exclaim: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ,” Galatians 1:6-7, and was seen in the churches to which Jude wrote to warn: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ,” Jude 1:3-4.
This spirit of rejection will reach its fulness just prior to the return of Christ and the end of this age. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
The ‘spirit’ of Calvary will be the one the dominating sentiment, the global frame of mind of mankind when this age ends.
I repeat, the pattern of opposition to Christ during His first advent is what has marked and will mark the days of this epoch.
2. The attempt to destroy the Saviour during His time on earth, is the murderous frame of mind of the world still. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also,” John 15:18-20. The Lord Jesus foretold of this manifested parallel between the persecuting, murderous hatred He encountered and the spirit that would dominate increasingly the world. That ecclesiastical system which will dominate affairs in the area of the old Roman Empire at the end of this age, is described for us in the Book of the Revelation, with regard to this very spirit of opposition. “So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus,” Revelation 17:3-6.
Right to the end of this age, that spirit of which Peter denounced the leaders and people of Israel as having, when he preached in the temple, will be seen. “And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses,” Acts 3:12-15.
History will indeed, as it is in the habit of doing, repeat itself.
3. The hope which God strengthens amongst His people in order to preserve His witness. The prophet spoke long ago of the resurrection from the grave. Peter quoted such on the day of Pentecost. “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance,” Acts 2:22-28. The resurrection of Christ from the grave was the hope of the Old Testament believers and brought joy and peace as they faced death. So it is for the saints of God as they face the barbarous and savage spirit that will emerge at the end of this age and seek to destroy God’s witness That same hope will enable Christians to stand and to overcome the devil and his agents “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death,” Revelation 12:11. We can echo the words Paul quotes in Hebrews 13:5-6, from the psalmist David: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
END OF PART 1