Arlen L. Chitwood
Heavenly and Earthly Blessings
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. (Hebrews 11:21)
To properly understand the significance of the blessings Jacob bestowed upon Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, one must turn to the book of Genesis. This book contains the exact sequence of events that God would have man to know concerning the times and lives of these individuals; and apart from this sequence of events, Hebrews 11:21 cannot be understood in a proper manner.
The key to a correct interpretation and understanding of New Testament Revelation always rests on understanding that which the Old Testament has previously revealed about the matter at hand. The instructed Christian, studying any part of the New Testament, will continually find himself turning back to the writings of Moses and the Prophets, God’s own commentary on the subject. Events surrounding all individuals, along with places and objects associated with these individuals, carry spiritual significance and appear in an orderly arrangement, setting forth great spiritual truths concerning various aspects of God’s dealings with mankind throughout Man’s Day, through the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Teachings drawn from the framework of events surrounding Jacob’s blessings bestowed upon Ephraim and Manasseh are built around three key points:
1) The time of the birth of Ephraim and Manasseh (before the famine).
2) The time when Ephraim and Manasseh received their blessings (after the famine).
3) The fact that the younger (Ephraim) received the blessing reserved for the firstborn.
(The first part of this chapter will deal with the life and times of Joseph, particularly in relation to his two sons, the birthright [the rights of the firstborn], and the typology involved [having to do with the Church and Israel]. Then, the latter part of the chapter will deal with viewing the whole of the matter in the light of firstborn sons and the Messianic Era.
Only sons can rule in God’s kingdom [angels, during present time]; and, in the human realm, these ruling Sons must occupy a firstborn status. Thus, in the human realm, only firstborn Sons can rule [Christ, Israel, and the Church (following the adoption) during future time, during the Messianic Era]. And with these things in view, the latter part of this chapter will deal with God’s firstborn Sons, the rights of the firstborn, and the time when these rights will be realized.)
Before the Famine
The birth of Joseph’s two sons is recorded in Genesis 41:50-52. These sons were born in Egypt before the time of famine — a famine that covered all the land. Joseph had previously revealed to Pharaoh that a time of plenty would be followed by a time of famine. Each period would be “seven years” in length, signifying two complete periods of time.
These two complete periods foreshadow the present time in which we live and the time of famine — a time of trouble, the Tribulation — which will occur at the end of the present time, at the end of Man’s Day, immediately preceding the Messianic Era.
Manasseh, Joseph’s elder son, was associated with the “father’s house”; and Ephraim, Joseph’s younger son, was associated with “fruitfulness” in the land of Joseph’s affliction (vv. 51, 52). Consequently, “Manasseh” has a peculiar relationship to Israel (the elder in the Father’s house), and “Ephraim” has a peculiar relationship to the Church (the younger, producing fruit).
The future blessing of the Church as the firstborn — typified by Ephraim’s reception of the blessing belonging to the firstborn — stems from the fact that Israel, when presented with the opportunity, failed to bring forth fruit. Because of Israel’s failure to bring forth fruit, the proffered kingdom — the kingdom of the heavens — was taken from Israel when Christ was on earth the first time, and the “house” was left “desolate” (Matthew 21:18, 19, 43; 23:38).
The kingdom of the heavens was subsequently (and is presently being) offered to a “nation bearing the fruits of it,” typified by Ephraim and his association with fruitfulness in the land of Joseph’s affliction. Christians, because of their position “in Christ,” comprise the only group of people — the “holy nation” — in a position to bring forth fruit today. And they are bringing forth fruit in the land of Jesus’ affliction (cf. John 15:1-8, 16; 1 Peter 2:9, 10; Hebrews 3:1).
During the time allotted (present dispensation) for Christians to bring forth fruit, Israel has been set aside. This fact has been set forth in another facet of the overall type covered by the life and times of Joseph in the Genesis account. During the time of plenty, proceeding the time of famine, Joseph’s brethren were removed from the scene. This typifies the fact that during the present dispensation, preceding the time of famine (the Tribulation), Christ’s brethren (the Jewish people) have been removed from the scene — set aside.
During the present dispensation God is dealing with the Church, and He will not resume His national dealings with Israel until the Church has been removed (which will be via the rapture). God does not deal with both Israel and the Church at the same time during Man’s Day. God dealt with Israel in time past, He is presently dealing with the Church, and He will resume His dealings with Israel in time future.
God’s dealings with Israel during the latter days falls either within the scope of time covered by Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (lit., “Seventy Sevens” from the Hebrew text, referring, contextually, to seventy sevens of years, 490 years [Daniel 9:24-27]), or after this time (Joel 2:27-32). But God’s dealings with the Church are completely outside the scope of time covered by Daniel’s prophecy.
Sixty-nine sevens (483 years) are past and have been fulfilled. The fulfillment of these sixty-nine sevens occurred with events leading to Calvary and the inception of the Church. One seven (seven years) remains to be fulfilled, which will be the future seven-year Tribulation, the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).
Between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth sevens there is an interval of time lasting approximately 2,000 years. During this interval the chronometer marking off the complete four hundred ninety years of Daniel’s prophecy has stopped, for Israel has been set aside while God deals with the Church.
When God completes His dealings with the Church, He will remove the Church and once again turn to Israel. The chronometer will then resume marking off time and complete the final seven years reserved for Israel.
Israel’s present appearance in the limelight of world affairs has been reckoned by many Christians to be a resumption of God’s dealings with the nation. But such cannot be the case, for Israel’s present appearance (a nation in unbelief) is outside the scope of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Sevens. Israel’s present involvement in world affairs is occurring at the very end of the period of time this nation has been set aside, and events occurring in the world today pertaining to Israel and the Gentile nations are merely setting the stage for that which is about to occur when God resumes His dealings with His covenant people.
(For additional information on Daniel’s prophecy, refer to the author’s book, The Time of the End, Chapter 12, “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.”)
During the Famine
A time of famine is coming. It came during Joseph’s day following a time of plenty, and it will come again following a time of plenty. The famine during Joseph’s day covered all lands; and the coming famine, the coming Tribulation, will, likewise, cover all lands (Genesis 41:54; Luke 21:35).
When the famine covered all the land during Joseph’s day, his brethren reappeared, and he dealt with them. When the famine, the Tribulation, covers all the land during the coming day, the Jewish people will reappear — no longer set aside — and be dealt with by their Brother.
1) Joseph’s Day
During the time of famine in the Genesis account, Joseph’s brethren found themselves in a position wherein they had no place to turn but to the disseminator of corn in Egypt. Thus, unaware of Joseph’s true identity, they went to their brother whom they had mistreated, sold, and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles years before (Genesis 37:20-28; 42:1-9).
Joseph’s brethren did not know him, but he knew them. Joseph then, by and through predetermined events and circumstances, brought his brethren into a position in which they were forced, in his presence, to acknowledge their guilt concerning their prior treatment of him. He then revealed himself to his brethren and became their deliverer from the time of famine (Genesis 44:1-45:4).
2) Anticipating the Lord’s Day
It will be during the coming Tribulation that Jesus’ brethren will again come into view and be dealt with by God on a national basis. During the Tribulation, Israel will be brought into a position in which the Jewish people will be forced to go to Jesus for help. Famine will cover all the land, and Satan, through the man of sin, will enact his final and most intense onslaught against Israel.
In that day, the brethren of Jesus will have nowhere to turn but to Him for help. Thus, being unaware of His true identity, they will, in that day, go to their Brother whom they sold, mistreated, and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles 2,000 years before.
Jesus’ brethren will not know the true identity of the God of their father’s upon whom they will call, but He will know them. He will then, by and through predetermined events and circumstances, bring His brethren into a position in which they will be forced, in His presence, to acknowledge their guilt concerning their prior treatment of Him.
Jesus’ brethren, as Joseph’s brethren, will be brought into such dire straits during the coming time of “their affliction,” the time of famine, the Tribulation, that they will “acknowledge their offence.” And Jesus, as Joseph, exactly as in the type, will reveal Himself to His brethren and become their Deliverer from this time of famine (Hosea 5:15-6:2).
Following the Famine
The account of the blessings bestowed upon Ephraim and Manasseh is recorded in Genesis 48:14-20. This account, within the chronological framework of events surrounding Joseph and his sons, is placed after the time of famine. The bestowal of these blessings follow Joseph’s dealings with and revelation of himself to his brethren, and is projected into that time when Joseph’s brethren went forth proclaiming his “glory” and the fact that he was “governor over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:13, 26).
Thus, that which is foreshadowed by the blessings bestowed upon Ephraim and Manasseh will occur following the Tribulation. The bestowal of these blessings has to do with events and conditions following the Tribulation and Christ’s revelation of Himself to Israel. Events surrounding Jacob’s bestowal of his blessings upon Joseph’s sons are projected into that time when Israel, converted and re-commissioned, will go forth proclaiming the “Glory” of Jesus and the fact that He is “Governor” over the entire earth.
Jacob had adopted Joseph’s two sons (48:5, 6). They would, thus, be blessed as his sons, for they were his sons; and they would partake of the inheritance, with each receiving full portions along with Jacob’s other sons. In this manner Joseph realized the double portion of the father’s goods — part of the birthright forfeited by Reuben (Genesis 48:22; Joshua 16, 17; 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2; Ezekiel 47:13; 48:4, 5).
Even though Joseph’s sons each received full portions, they were to be blessed with the thought of the double portion in mind. One was blessed above the other, receiving the blessing belonging to the firstborn. In this respect “Jacob” is a type of God the Father, and “Joseph,” his son, is a type of the Father’s Son, Jesus. “Manasseh” and “Ephraim,” adopted by Jacob, foreshadow Israel and the Church, adopted by the Father (Israel, born first [the elder], already adopted; the Church, born last [the younger], to be adopted).
Both are to receive full portions of the Father’s goods, but one is to be blessed above the other and receive the double portion belonging to the firstborn.
As Joseph possessed the double portion of the Father’s goods in the type, Jesus possesses the double portion of the Father’s goods in the antitype. And just as the son receiving the blessing belonging to the firstborn in the type could realize the double portion through Joseph, the son receiving the blessing belonging to the firstborn in the antitype will realize the double portion through Christ (note the expression “joint-heirs” in Romans 8:17).
When it came time for Jacob to bless Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph placed Ephraim opposite Jacob’s left hand and Manasseh opposite Jacob’s right hand. The right hand was to be placed upon the head of the elder, and he was, in this manner, to receive the blessing belonging to the firstborn (note in this respect that Christ, God’s firstborn Son, is today seated at the Father’s right hand). However, Jacob placed his right hand upon Ephraim, the younger son, and his left hand upon Manasseh, the elder. And in this manner Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons (Genesis 48:13-20).
Jacob knew that he was bestowing the blessing belonging to the firstborn upon the younger son (v. 19), and we read in Hebrews 11:21 that Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh in this manner, “by faith.” To bless the sons “by faith,” Jacob had to know the mind of God in the matter and act in accordance with God’s revealed will.
“Faith” is simply believing that which God has to say about a matter; and, “exercising faith” would be acting accordingly.
Thus, it is evident that God had previously revealed certain things to Jacob concerning Ephraim and Manasseh. This same truth holds concerning Jacob’s prophecy pertaining to each of his sons in chapter forty-nine. The words of Jacob concerning his sons constitute the revelation of God pertaining to these sons.
Both Ephraim and Manasseh were to become a people, but Ephraim, the younger, was to become greater than Manasseh, the elder. This holds true not only concerning Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s descendants, but also concerning that which is foreshadowed by circumstances and events surrounding Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s experiences leading into their individual blessings.
(“The greater,” with reference to the typology involved, can be seen in the proffered kingdom of the heavens — that part of the kingdom previously taken from Israel and presently being offered to those comprising the Church, with the kingdom of the heavens being a higher calling than Israel’s earthly calling. And, as well, this is when the joint-heirship with Israel’s Messiah will be realized by Christians.)
The Sons of God
“Israel” is God’s son because of a special, creative act. Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel, was a special creation of God (Isaiah 43:1); and God later adopted the nation springing from the loins of Jacob, forming a firstborn son.
Christians, as Jacob, constitute a special creation of God, which necessitates viewing Christians as “sons” (2 Corinthians 5:17); but the Church is not presently an adopted son. The adoption of Christians awaits a future date. And the blessings in store for both Israel and the Church await the adoption of Christians, for blessings for both occur at the same time and can occur only when both occupy the position of firstborn.
1) Classification of Sons
The expression “sons of God” is not used in Scripture to distinguish between the saved and the unsaved. Rather, this expression is used referring to special creations of God. Outside of any reference to Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, the expressions “son of God,” “sons of God,” “my son,” or “my sons” are restricted to this one sense alone in Scripture.
Angels are sons of God because of “creation.” Every angel is an individual creation of God, and there is no procreation within the angelic realm itself. The fall of Satan and the angels who followed him produced no change in their status as sons of God, simply because this fall produced no change in the fact that they were special, individual creations of God. Fallen angels are called “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2, 4, and Satan is seen among un-fallen angels in Job 1:6; 2:1, with the expression “sons of God” covering the entire group in exactly the same respect.
Adam was God’s “son” because of creation (Luke 3:38) — both before and after the fall — but not so with his descendants. The fall changed things in this respect. Adam’s descendants are all sons of a fallen creation and cannot be looked upon as God’s sons in this respect.
And, as previously seen, the nation of Israel is God’s “son” because of creation. In this instance, God performed a special creative act in the person of Jacob, the natural man, which could be passed from father to son via natural birth (Isaiah 43:1); and, as a result, not only Jacob, but his descendants through his twelve sons — forming the nation of Israel — are viewed in Scripture as God’s “son.”
Then, the nation of Israel is more than just God’s “son.” This nation, because of a subsequent adoption, is God’s firstborn son. That is, God, at a time following His creative activity surrounding Jacob and a nation emanating from his loins, adopted this nation, placing the nation of Israel in the position of His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22, 23).
Christians, because of creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), are seen in Scripture as “sons” of God, with the adoption yet future (Romans 8:14-23). And following the adoption of Christians, God will have a third firstborn son — a corporate or national son (Hebrews 12:23), as Israel.
God presently has two firstborn Sons — Christ and Israel. And He is about to bring into existence a third firstborn son — the Church. Only then can God’s purpose for man’s creation, six millennia prior to that time, be realized.
2) Firstborn Sons
The word “firstborn” carries the thought of supremacy. God’s announcement to Pharaoh through Moses, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22), foretold that national supremacy was about to pass from Egypt (the center of wisdom, wealth, and power) to Israel (a nation of slaves). And the historical account in Exodus establishes the type, which foreshadows existing conditions pertaining to Israel and the Gentile nations at that future time when God resumes His national dealings with Israel.
As previously seen, God presently has two firstborn Sons (Jesus, and Israel); and following the adoption of Christians, God will have a third firstborn son (the Church). Jesus is God’s only begotten firstborn Son; and Israel is God’s only adopted firstborn son. God’s adoption in time past was limited to Israel alone (Romans 9:4; cf. Amos 3:1, 2).
God has never adopted, nor will He ever adopt, a Gentile nation. But God will adopt Christians in time future, resulting in the manifestation of the “church of the firstborn [‘called out firstborn ones (sons)’]” (Hebrews 12:23). Then God will have two created, firstborn sons — one with heavenly promises and blessings, and the other with earthly promises and blessings.
In that day, God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, will exhibit His “firstborn” status by exercising supremacy over all things in heaven and in earth; God’s adopted son, the Church, will exhibit his “firstborn” status by exercising supremacy over the nations from a heavenly sphere; and God’s adopted son, Israel, will exhibit his “firstborn” status by exercising supremacy over the nations from an earthly sphere.
The word “firstborn” in Hebrews 12:23 is from the same root form of the Greek word translated birthright (“Esau . . . sold his birthright”) in Hebrews 12:16. This word in verse twenty-three has reference to the firstborn who, unlike Esau, retain their rights and privileges. This is the same word used relative to Christ, “the firstborn among many brethren,” in Romans 8:29. These “brethren” are synonymous with the ones to be adopted in verse twenty-three of this same chapter; and, retaining their rights of primogeniture, they will reign as joint-heirs with Christ in the coming kingdom.
3) Awaiting the Adoption
“Sonship” portends rulership; only “sons” can occupy regal positions in God’s kingdom. That’s the way it has always existed in the angelic realm, prior to, at the time of, and following man’s creation. And, once man had been brought into existence, for the regal purpose revealed at the time of his creation (Genesis 1:26-28), that’s the way it had to exist in the human realm as well.
In the human realm though, something additional was subsequently revealed. Not only must the one holding the scepter be a son, but he must, more particularly, be a firstborn son. Within the human realm, only firstborn sons can rule in God’s kingdom.
That’s why Scripture places such a heavy emphasis upon Christ not only occupying the position of God’s Son but that of God’s Firstborn as well.
Note how the author of Hebrews brings both to the forefront within the seven Messianic quotations in chapter one of the book. In the very first quotation, quoting the Father, he states,
. . . You are My Son; today I have begotten You . . . . (1:5a; cf. Psalm 2:7)
Then, following a Messianic quotation dealing with the Father-Son relationship (v. 5b), reference is made to Christ as God’s Firstborn preceding the remaining five Messianic quotations:
But when He again brings [lit., ‘And when He shall again bring’] the firstborn into the world . . . . (v. 6a; cf. 2 Samuel 7:14).
And even in a passage such as John 3:16, attention is called to God’s “only begotten Son,” a direct reference to not only Christ’s Sonship but to His Firstborn status.
(The statements to this effect in both the opening verses of Hebrews and John chapter three should be expected.
The opening verses of Hebrews form the manner in which the Spirit of God arranged seven Messianic quotations, introducing the subject matter in the book. The Holy Spirit, when He moved the author of this book to pen the recorded words, arranged these seven Messianic quotations from the Old Testament in such a manner that Christ’s Sonship and His Firstborn status as God’s Son [vv. 5, 6] would be brought to the forefront at the beginning, forming the foundational basis for all that follows.
Then, John 3:16 forms a part of Christ’s discourse to Nicodemus, where the subject matter begins by referencing the coming kingdom, responding to Nicodemus’ question about the signs being manifested (vv. 2-5). “Signs” in Scripture always have to do with two things: Israel, and the kingdom. And it would be in complete keeping with the subject at hand to continue the thought portended by Nicodemus’ question surrounding “signs” into the latter part of the discourse, which is exactly what is seen. Salvation is to be effected by and through God’s “only begotten Son,” His firstborn Son, with a view to the kingdom.)
Within the family relationship, Christians are referred to as both children and sons. And the two, though closely related, are not really the same.
All Christians are referred to as “children” (Greek: teknon), but Scripture does not use “sons” (Greek: huios) in the same all-encompassing manner. Though all Christians are “sons” because of creation, the New Testament use of the Greek word huios, referring to Christians by this means, appears only within contexts which are both regal and where Christians are seen actively progressing toward the goal set before them. In this respect, the word is used relative to Christians in complete keeping with that which “sonship” portends — with rulership.
Children, Sons, Adoption
In the New Testament epistles (both the Pauline and the general epistles), Christians are referred to as “children [teknon] of God” and “sons [huios] of God” about an equal number of times. They are referred to as “children of God” in Romans 8:16, 17, 21; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:1, 2, 10; 5:2. And they are referred to as “sons of God” in Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26; 4:6, 7; Hebrews 12:5-8 (the word “sons” alone, rather than “sons of God,” is used in the latter reference; but a Father-son relationship is in view throughout, showing God dealing with Christians as His sons).
In all three sections of Scripture where Christians are presently referred to as “sons,” adoption is also in view. In both Romans and Galatians, in the Greek text, the word huiothesia (the word for “adoption [‘son-placing’]”) appears in the context of the verses where Christians are referred to as “sons” (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5). And in Hebrews, adoption is seen in the context as well, though from a different perspective. It is seen following the verses referring to Christians as “sons” (in vv. 16, 17 — verses forming the heart of the fifth and final major warning in the book, dealing with Esau [the firstborn] forfeiting his birthright).
In the antitype of the account pertaining to Esau forfeiting his birthright, the thought of adoption would have to be brought into the picture, for Christians must not only be sons but they must be firstborn sons to realize the rights of the firstborn which Esau in the type forfeited. And the only way Christians can be brought into this position is through adoption.
(Aside from Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5, the only other place in the New Testament where the Greek word huiothesia is used relative to Christians is in Ephesians 1:5. And the use of this word early in the book of Ephesians is in complete keeping with how the subject matter of the book is introduced in chapter one — a future “redemption” and “inheritance,” in connection with the “mystery” revealed to Paul [vv. 7, 9, 11, 14, cf. 3:1-6; 4:30], to be realized “in the dispensation of the fullness of the times” [v. 10]. These interrelated things are presently being made known, “by [‘through’] the Church,” to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places” [Satan and his angels], which accounts for the warning and instructions concerning the spiritual warfare at the close of the book [3:9-11; 6:10ff].
As in any New Testament epistle, the central subject seen in Ephesians is not salvation by grace, though that subject is dealt with in the book. Rather, the central subject has to do with the things seen in the opening chapter, which introduce the things about to be developed in the book — things pertaining to Christians in relation to the coming kingdom of Christ. And if this epistle, or any New Testament epistle, is not studied after the manner in which the epistle is introduced, the central message of the epistle will be lost to the reader.)
Thus, Christians are referred to as “sons” only in sections of Scripture where adoption is in view. Both sonship and adoption place matters within a regal setting; and Christians, in all three passages where adoption is dealt with, are seen actively moving toward the goal set before them — the adoption of sons and being brought into a realization of the rights of the firstborn.
On the other hand, Scripture refers to Christians as “children” within a regal setting as well, but not with respect to adoption. This is the main difference concerning how the two words are used in the New Testament epistles. It is sons who are adopted, not children.
(In Romans 8:16, 17, 21, the Greek word for “children” [teknon] is used in a context with the Greek word for “sons” [huios]. And an inheritance, an adoption, and a manifestation of sons are seen in the passage [with huios alone used relative to the latter two (v. 14)]. In Philippians 2:15, teknon appears in connection with present Christian activity, with a view to the coming day of Christ [v. 16]. And in 1 John 3:1, 2, 10; 5:2 the context shows the same thing as seen in Philippians 2:15, 16.
Teknon is used in these verses to depict present Christian activity, with a view to the hope set before Christians, Christ’s future appearance, and being shown as an overcomer in that coming day.)
Thus, there is the central distinction between the way in which “children” and “sons” are used in the New Testament. Both are used in regal settings, with the latter used more specifically in connection with the rights of the firstborn. Both can be used of Christians today; but, only “sons” is used when adoption is in view.
Romans, Galatians, Hebrews
In the New Testament passages where Christians are presently called “sons” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26; 4:6, 7; Hebrews 12:5-8), each passage presents a different facet of biblical truth surrounding sonship. In Romans, the central issue is flesh and spirit, with adoption in view. In Galatians, the central issue is “the faith” in relation to Law, with adoption in view; and in Hebrews the central issue is God’s training for sons, with adoption in view.
1) Romans Chapter Eight
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
For as many as are led [lit., “are being led”] by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (vv. 13-15)
Chapters one through seven in the book of Romans build into what could be considered an apex in chapter eight, which begins with “There is therefore . . . .” These opening words are based on that which has preceded this chapter, and they introduce that which is about to follow. And that which follows brings to the forefront teachings surrounding flesh and spirit, dealt with different ways in the chapters that preceded chapter eight.
All Christians possess two natures, “the old man [the man of flesh],” and “the new man [the man of spirit]” (Colossians 3:9, 10). And the far-reaching ramifications of Christians (all Christians, none excluded) following one nature or the other is graphically stated in Romans 8:13.
Christians following the fleshly nature, living after the flesh, will die; but, Christians following the leadership of the Spirit, putting to death “the deeds of the body,” that which is associated with the flesh, will live.
Life in this respect is then explained (vv. 14ff), with death simply being the absence of that which is seen in the explanation. Those following the leadership of the Spirit are presently looked upon as sons (v. 14), and this is with a view to a future adoption and manifestation of sons, with the sons corporately (as Israel) forming a firstborn son (vv. 15-23).
But those following after and minding the works of the flesh (cf. vv. 5-8) will have no part in these things. They are not presently looked upon and being dealt with as sons, and they will have no part in the things seen in this chapter awaiting sons.
The preceding is the manner in which both life and death are used in this chapter. And the salvation or loss of the soul/life is in view, which is simply another way seen in Scripture to state the matter at hand (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 Peter 1:3-9).
Christians following after the things pertaining to their fleshly nature will lose their souls/lives; but Christians following the leadership of the Spirit, putting to death “the deeds of the body,” will realize the salvation of their souls/lives. For all Christians, it is either one or the other. No middle ground exists (cf. Matthew 12:30).
The salvation or loss of the soul has to do with occupying or not occupying a position with Christ in the coming kingdom, living or not living with Him in this respect. And, with “sonship” implying rulership, Romans chapter eight places the emphasis on a present recognition of sons, for a reason seen in the context: a future adoption of sons, followed by a manifestation of these sons.
Both life and death are dealt with in the chapter, with both relating to the saved and covering the same time period, which can only be millennial, not eternal in scope. If for no other reason (though there are other reasons), this time period would be evident from both 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26 and Revelation 21:4, which specifically state that death will not exist during the ages beyond the Messianic Era.
Thus, that which is portended by death in Romans 8:13 cannot extend into these subsequent ages; and, viewing the other side of the matter, neither can that which is portended by life in this same verse.
(The Messianic Era will be the last 1,000 years of a septenary arrangement of 1,000-year periods, which are foreshadowed in the opening thirty-four verses of Genesis through the use of six and seven days. Scripture deals at length with events during these 7,000 years but sparingly with events outside this septenary period.
During the Messianic Era, man’s rule will be confined to this earth. The manifestation of sons during this time will have to do with bringing this one province in God’s kingdom back into the condition and use for which it was originally intended, with governmental power emanating from the Son’s throne in the heavenly sphere of the kingdom [cf. Revelation 2:26, 27; 3:21]. The Son, with His co-heirs, will take 1,000 years to bring order out of disorder. Then, once order has been restored, the kingdom will be delivered back to the Father, that the Father might be “all in all [‘all things in all of these things’ (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)].”
During the eternal ages beyond the Messianic Era, man’s rule will emanate from “the throne of God and of the Lamb” [Revelation 22:1, 3], a throne from which universal rule will issue forth. And this throne will both rest upon a new earth and be the central governmental point in the universe. Thus, the manifestation of sons at that time will no longer have to do with governmental affairs of the present earth but with an apparent restructuring of the government of the universe itself, evidently beginning with the new earth.)
As previously seen, in Romans 8:14, God views only those Christians as “sons” who are being led by the Spirit and, as a result, are putting to death the deeds of the body. And the reason why God limits viewing Christians as His sons in this manner need not be stated in so many words. God’s apparent reasoning can be easily ascertained from the context and that which “sonship” portends — rulership.
It is only those Christians presently allowing the Spirit to control their lives who will, in that coming day, live, be adopted (vv. 14-23), and be among those manifested as sons (forming God’s firstborn son). And it is with this high end in view that God looks upon certain Christians as “sons” during the present time (v. 19; cf. Hebrews 12:23).
Those Christians failing to govern their lives in this manner will die, and there will be no adoption or manifestation as sons for them. And with this end in view, there would be no reason for God to view these Christians as “sons” during the present time, but only as “children.”
2) Galatians Chapters Three and Four
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. . . .
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”
Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (3:26; 4:4-7)
Christians are referred to as “sons” in three different verses in the book of Galatians (3:26; 4:6, 7). And, as in the book of Romans, references of this nature are used in a context having to do with adoption (4:5). It is simply the same picture once again, though from a different perspective.
A different facet of sonship and adoption is dealt with — how the Law, given through Moses, can have absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand.
The inheritance was given to Abraham, by promise, four hundred and thirty years before the Law was given through Moses; and the giving of the Law didn’t, it couldn’t, bring about any type of change to that previously given to Abraham (3:16-18).
Then, as in Romans, “faith” is brought to the forefront in that which is stated in Galatians. The Law cannot be separated from faith, for the Law is God’s Word, and “faith” is simply believing that which God has stated about a matter. In this respect, an Israelite keeping the Law would be acting by faith (cf. Deuteronomy 5:33; 28:1-14; Matthew 19:16-21; Hebrews 11:6).
But “faith” in connection with the Law though is not how “faith” is dealt with in this section of Galatians, preceding and leading into the reference to Christians as “sons” (3:19-25). Rather, “the faith” is introduced (which is a means used by the New Testament writers to reference the Word of the Kingdom), and “the faith” (used in vv. 23, 25 [“faith” in both verses is articular in the Greek text]) is sharply contrasted with the Law. One has nothing to do with the other.
(Regarding “the faith,” refer to the author’s book, From Acts to the Epistles, Chapters 10, 11.)
The picture presented in Galatians is that of individual “sons,” previously forming part of God’s national firstborn son (Israel), under Law, who had become “new creations” in Christ. And, through this means, they had relinquished their national identity with Israel — no longer being associated with the things pertaining to Israel (in this case, the Law, or the adoption relative to a present firstborn status) — and had become members of a new nation where there was no distinction between Jew and Gentile (3:28).
And, once they had become followers of “the faith,” these individuals were looked upon as “sons” (because they were “new creations” in Christ); and, along with all other Christians of like mind in this new nation (whether formerly Jew or Gentile), they were awaiting the adoption.
Then, beyond the adoption there would be the realization of an inheritance, through Christ, who is Abraham’s Seed, seen in Galatians 3:29 (cf. v. 16):
And if you are Christ’s [lit., “And if ye are of Christ,” i.e., among those belonging to Christ], then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The promise given to Abraham was to be realized through both an earthly and a heavenly seed, as seen in Genesis 22:17, 18. “Israel,” the seed of Abraham through the nation’s lineage from Isaac and Jacob, will, following Israel’s repentance, conversion, and restoration, realize the earthly portion of the inheritance; and “the Church,” the seed of Abraham by and through being “in Christ,” will, following the adoption, realize the heavenly portion of the inheritance.
3) Hebrews Chapter Twelve
Christians have been saved for a purpose, which is to be realized at a future time through that which Scripture presents as a present child-training as “sons.” Christians, in this manner, are presently being trained with a view to the future adoption as firstborn sons and the reception of the inheritance belonging to the firstborn.
Apart from this present experience, Christians can have no part in the future adoption and the inheritance awaiting firstborn sons. Realizing the latter is dependent on having entered into the former.
Note Hebrews 12:5-8, 16, 17 in the preceding respect:
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. . . .
lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
Verses five through eight deal with God’s present training of those Christians whom He views as “sons” (cf. Romans 8:12-15). The words “chastening” (vv. 5, 7), “chastens” (vv. 6, 7), or “chastening [KJV: chastisement]” (v. 8) are translations of the Greek words paideia or paideuo, which are noun and verb forms of the same word. These words refer to “instruction” or “training,” and the translation should reflect this fact.
Paideia and paideuo are cognate forms of the word paidion, which refers to “a very young child” (used this way in Matthew 18:2-6; 19:13, 14). In this respect, the words paideia and paideuo in verses five through eight refer to God’s present child-training of those whom He views as His “sons.” And this child-training would, of necessity, take the exact form of that which is seen in Matthew 18:2-6:
. . . unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (v. 3b)
Then note Hebrews 12:8. All whom God views as “sons” partake of this training, and any Christian who doesn’t is referred to by the Greek word nothos (translated “illegitimate [KJV: bastard]”). Thus, it is quite evident from the clear teaching of Scripture that not all Christians presently enter into the experience of child-training as “sons.”
Actually, most Christians know little to nothing about this experience. Others though, because of the cost, refuse to allow this training (cf. Matthew 16:24-27).
The thought by the use of nothos has nothing to do with one’s eternal salvation, as often taught. Rather, nothos in this verse has to do with “illegitimate sons” (not “illegitimate children” [ref. KJKV, NASB, NIV]), i.e., Christians not presently having a part in God’s training of His “sons” — through rejection, unfaithfulness, etc. — and thus are not being dealt with as sons during the present time and cannot be His sons at a future date, with sonship implying rulership (cf. Romans 8:18-23).
Then the adoption awaiting “sons” is seen in a type-antitype structure in verses sixteen and seventeen, forming the last of the five major warnings in this book.
God will possess a third firstborn son only after God’s present child-training of His “sons” is brought to completion, followed by the adoption. Only then can the Messianic Era be ushered in, bringing to pass the goal seen throughout all prophetic Scripture.
(For additional information on the preceding, refer to the appendix in this book, “Adoption, Redemption of the Body.”)
Placement and Position of Sons
Sons of God have held, continue to hold, and will always hold the main positions of power and authority under God over this earth. Prior to and throughout Man’s Day angels have held these positions. But God is about to bring into existence a new order of sons; and this order of sons will, during the coming age, occupy positions of power and authority presently held by angels, for “unto the angels hath he [God] not put in subjection the world to come [NKJV: “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels]” (Hebrews 2:5).
In time past Israel was adopted — placed in the position of God’s firstborn son — for definite and distinct purposes. Only firstborn sons are in direct line to inherit the rights of primogeniture, and, apart from the adoption, Israel could not inherit these rights. Israel was placed in the position of God’s firstborn son to “serve” the Lord their God as “a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” in the land of their inheritance — the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 4:22, 23; 19:5, 6).
Israel at this time was in direct line to inherit the double portion of the Father’s estate, for in addition to earthly promises and blessings associated with the Abrahamic covenant, Israel was also in possession of promises and blessings within a larger sphere of the Father’s estate — a heavenly sphere. This is the reason both heavenly and earthly expressions are used relative to Abraham and his seed in that segment of Old Testament history leading into and immediately following Israel’s adoption (Genesis 13:16; 14:19; 15:5; 22:17; 26:3, 4; 28:13, 14; Exodus 32:13). Israel, however, forfeited the heavenly portion of the “adopted son’s” inheritance within the rights of primogeniture, and the Church was subsequently called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel forfeited.
Israel’s forfeiture of the heavenly portion of the double inheritance included the nation’s relationship as “a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” to this heavenly inheritance, but Israel’s position and calling relative to the earthly portion of the inheritance remained unchanged. This calling was not only intimately associated with the unconditional terms of the Abrahamic covenant, but, as a son, Israel must receive a full portion of the Father’s estate. And, actually, through untold numbers of Old Testament saints having aspired to and qualified to occupy positions in the heavenly sphere of the kingdom, Israel, as firstborn, will receive a double portion (cf. Matthew 8:11, 12; Luke 13:28, 29; Hebrews 11:12-16, 32-40)
These facts present an impregnable barrier in the pathway of all who would assail Israel’s future place in God’s plans and purposes.
The future adoption of Christians, as in Israel’s past adoption, will be for definite and distinct purposes. Christians, by and through adoption, will be placed in the position of firstborn, allowing Christians to inherit the rights of primogeniture. Christians will constitute the new order of sons who will rule in heavenly places as joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:19).
The adoption of Christians (Romans 8:15, 23) is simply a placing of sons in relation to the coming kingdom; and following the adoption, Christians, forming God’s third firstborn son, will then realize their inheritance.
Adopted Christians will constitute a ruling class of priests (“kings and priests”), as they rule with Christ (the great “King-Priest” after the order of Melchizedek). And these Christians will inherit the double portion of the Father’s estate belonging to the firstborn.
The double portion of the Father’s estate, to be possessed by the Church, has to do with both spheres of the kingdom — heavenly and earthly. The blessings in store for Christians are heavenly, but these heavenly blessings will include an earthly “inheritance” and “possession,” for Christians will be joint-heirs with Christ; and the Father has promised His Son,
Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations [Gentiles] for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. (Psalm 2:8, cf. Revelation 2:26, 27)
This earthly inheritance and possession — completely separate from Israel’s earthly blessings and inheritance — is associated with “the kingdom of the world [present world kingdom under Satan]” which will become “the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ [future world kingdom under Christ]” (Revelation 11:15, ASV).