Salvation by Faith or Works or Both
Within the spectrum of Christian dogma and the multiple thousands of local churches, institutions, and organizations adhering to it, there has always been disagreement as to (1) the effectual manner a person must employ to secure salvation, i.e., eternal life and (2) how secure it is once obtained. Essentially, there are two schools of thought comprising this issue, as follows:
1) Salvation is strictly a grace-gift and can only be obtained by a decision of faith alone [to believe] in Christ alone — a position based solely upon the work of Christ upon the cross. Once obtained, it is absolutely non-reversible by man or God. It should also be noted that many believe that once a person declares such faith, his life will evidence “good works;” otherwise, his salvation was never valid, i.e., executed appropriately, in the first place.
2) Salvation is a process achieved by faith (often employing the confession of sins and a promise to make Christ the Leader of one’s life) and works — or in some cases by works alone — starting with one’s submission to baptism.
And this continuing process can only be completed when one passes on from this temporal life; therefore, at any time, depending on one’s conduct (works), it may be reversed (i.e., abolished, cancelled) with the possibility of being regained should one’s conduct be properly reestablished.
Where all who hold these views agree is that all persons are sinners in need of salvation, that is, unless “salvation” is achieved there is no eternal hope, as per the following:
. . . for we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks [Gentiles] that they are all under sin. (Romans 3:9b)
As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
For the wages of sin is [spiritual] death . . . . (Romans 6:23a)
But the Scripture has confined all under sin . . . . (Galatians 3:22a)
Both doctrinal positions affirm that the basis for their creed is found in the Holy Bible, an enigma to be sure, since the passages of Scripture held by one school of thought appear to contradict the passages held by the other.
Note the following passages of Scripture, which contenders of these two positions use:
1) Salvation by grace through faith.
But as many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)
That whoever believes in Him [Christ] should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. . . . He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. . . . He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
(John 3:15, 16, 18, 36)
And this is the will of Him who sent Me [Christ], that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
(John 6:40; 47)
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30, 31)
Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man [Christ] is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38, 39)
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
(Acts 16:30, 31)
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. . . . . being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [satisfaction] by His blood [death], through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:22, 23a, 24-26, 28; cf. 4:16; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 1 John 2:2; 4:10)
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him [Christ] who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. (Romans 4:2-5)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:8, 9; cf. 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 1:7; 3:16; 4:9-10)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23; cf. Romans 17, 21)
For He [God the Father] made Him [God the Son, Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. Isiah 53:6, 9, 12; Romans 5:19; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:22, 24; 1 John 3:5)
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16; cf. 3:11, 24, 26; Ephesians 2:8, 9)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that [one’s salvation is] not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9; cf. 2:5; Galatians 2:16; 3:11, 24, 26; Romans 3:20, 27, 28; 4:2; 9:11; 11:6; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18; cf. Romans 5:6; Colossians 1:21, 22; Hebrews 9:26, 28)
2) Salvation by faith and works or works alone.
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:20-23; cf. 2 Timothy 2:19)
Therefore whoever confesses Me [Christ] before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32; cf. Luke 12:8; Romans 10:9, 10)
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26)
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13, 14)
Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (Luke 13:23, 24)
For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. (Romans 2:13; cf. James 1:22, 25)
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. (13) 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 by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:13, 14)
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2)
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12, 13)
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. . . . Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:12, 18, 19)
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. (Hebrews 2:2, 3)
But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. . . . For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. . . . And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
(Hebrews 3:6, 14, 18, 19)
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35-39)
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?. . . Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. . . . But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?. . . You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14, 17, 20, 22, 24, 26)
[Jesus Christ] whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8, 9)
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:10, 11)
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20, 21)
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. . . . Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:12, 14)
Although it appears that there is contradiction between the previous two positions as are outlined in their relative passages of Scripture, it is granted by both camps that salvation from an eternity apart from God is the most important doctrine of Holy Writ pertaining to mankind. And should one not get this doctrine “right,” then little matters as to the rest of doctrinal issues.
This being the case, how does one explain such contradiction as appears in the Word of God? To this, the following factors, when appropriately considered, clarify the issue.
1) The Composition of Man
2) The Original Language of Specific Passages of Scripture
3) The Three Aspects (Phases) of Salvation
4) The Purpose for Man
5) The Use of Types and Antitypes in Scripture
6) The Central Message of the New Testament
7) The Purpose of the Comings of Christ
8) The Context of Each Passage of Scripture
An exposé of these factors will be presented, followed by a conclusion to this matter.
(The fundamental rule of proper Scripture interpretation, which underlies all that will follow is that only the Holy Spirit can reveal the correct meaning and application of any passage of Scripture, a factor requiring one’s complete submission to and faith in God the Holy Spirit for this to take place [John 14:26; 16:13])
The Composition of Man
Contrary to the teaching of a multitude of religious groups that recognize only two aspects (facets, parts) of man’s composition, i.e., material and immaterial (assuming the “spirit” is the same as the “soul”), God’s Word is not imprecise regarding the issue, clearly stating that man is a triune being — composed of a “spirit” and a “soul” and a “body.”
This tripartite makeup of man is plainly distinguished in the following passages of Scripture.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23)
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Although in Scripture there may be some similarities of treatment assigned to spirit, soul, heart, and mind; the student of the Word may be assured that the distinction between the “spirit” and the “soul” is never confusing, each word (spirit [pneuma]; soul [psuche]; body [soma]) when used as part of the composition of man is precisely and unambiguously utilized, as may be seen not only in the previously stated two passages of Scripture but also in the following:
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. (Matthew 27:50; cf. Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30)
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59)
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
Receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
The tripartite nature of man reflects the tripartite nature of God, as is pointed out by Arlen L. Chitwood in his book, Salvation of the Soul [which may be accessed in its entirety at www.bibleone.net or www.lampbroadcast.org] as follows:
The first chapter of Genesis reveals that man was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God. The word translated “God” in the Hebrew text of this statement is Elohim. This is a plural noun, which, in complete keeping with related Scripture, would include all three members of the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (e.g., cf. John 1:1-3).
Since Elohim is a trinity, for man to be created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, he too must be a trinity. Unlike the dichotomous animal kingdom (created apart from the “image” and “likeness” of God) possessing only bodies and souls, trichotomous man (created in the “image” and “likeness” of God) is a triune being. Man not only possesses a body and a soul, but he also possesses a spirit as well.
Jesus is Elohim manifested in the flesh; and having been made in the “likeness” of man (but apart from man’s fallen nature), He, as man, must also be a trinity (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7). This tripartite nature of Christ, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), was clearly revealed at the time of His death.
At this time Jesus yielded up His spirit, which went back into the presence of His Father in heaven (Luke 23:46; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59); His soul went into Hades, the place of the dead, housed inside the earth at that time (Acts 2:27); and His body was removed from the Cross and placed in Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb (Matthew 27:57-61). This threefold separation persisted until the soul and spirit re-entered the body at the time Christ was raised from the dead.
Thus, God, Elohim, is a trinity; Jesus, Elohim manifested in the flesh, is likewise a trinity; and man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of Elohim, can only be a trinity as well. Accordingly, a complete redemption provided by the triune God must, of necessity, pertain to man as a complete being. Man’s complete redemption must encompass spirit, soul, and body.
And to understand the complexity of God’s salvation for man, it must be understood in relation to each part of man. Again, as Chitwood says:
Man is a tripartite being comprised of spirit, soul, and body; and the salvation of man within its complete scope (past, present, and future) pertains to the salvation of man with respect to his complete being. In the study of Scripture it is revealed that each of these three parts of man is subject to salvation at different times. Thus, to understand salvation in its complete scope, one must first understand certain things about man’s tripartite nature.
The Original Language of Specific Passages of Scripture
As previously noted, the Greek words for “spirit,” “soul,” and “body” are quite distinguishable. And in Scripture they are never confused, each conveying an interpretation and application different from the other. Then, there is the existence of those passages of Scripture within our English translations where a translation (although possible) of these words only clouds the conveyed meaning. For example the Greek word for “soul,” which can be translated “life” is used, as follows:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [Gk. psuche: soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [psuche] for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul [psuche]? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul [psuche]? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
Another example of how a study of the original language, e.g., Greek, will clarify one’s interpretation of “salvation” is the actual meaning of the words normally translated “eternal life.” Note the following by Chitwood (from his book, Search for the Bride):
Further, salvation associated with regality, which has to do with the earth, is dealt with in Scripture centrally in relation to one age — the Messianic Era, lasting 1,000 years [seen numerous times in Scripture, particularly in John’s gospel, as occurring on the seventh day, the earth’s coming Sabbath (the seventh millennium dating from Adam)]. At times, the ages beyond are in view, though not necessarily relative to salvation per se [e.g., in Luke 1:33, “forever” should literally be translated, “with respect to the ages”; or in Revelation 1:6, “forever and ever” should be translated, “with respect to the ages of the ages”].
But the central thrust of that to which Scripture points is not upon the ages. Rather, it is upon one age — the Messianic Era. This central thrust of Scripture was set at the very beginning of Scripture, within a septenary structure established in the opening verses of Genesis [1:1-2:3] — a day of rest following six days of restorative work, pointing to a 1,000-year period of rest following 6,000 years of redemptive work. These opening verses set the pattern for the way in which God would structure all subsequent revelation. And the whole of Scripture, structured in this manner, must be understood accordingly.
Salvation by grace through faith [salvation of the spirit], though it relates not only to the Messianic Era but to all the ages beyond, is really dealt with in Scripture in a more restrictive sense. It is dealt with in Scripture exactly the same way Scripture deals with the whole of the matter surrounding salvation, whether dealing with past, present, or future aspects of salvation.
Scripture, in accord with the septenary pattern set at the beginning, focuses issues relating to salvation [or anything else in Scripture] on the Messianic Era, the coming Sabbath of rest awaiting the people of God [Hebrews 4:1-9]. Scripture deals very sparingly with issues beyond the Messianic Era; and, accordingly, Scripture deals with the salvation issue — whether past, present, or future aspects of salvation — exactly the same way. Scripture deals very sparingly with salvation in relation to the ages beyond the Messianic Era [eternity], though the salvation that man presently possesses extends into and covers all of these ages.
The preceding is why the thought of an age or why the Greek word for age can be used in the New Testament in connection with man’s presently possessed eternal salvation. And this is really the case throughout Scripture, not only in the New Testament but in the Old Testament as well, for neither the Hebrew text of the Old Testament nor the Greek text of the New Testament contains a word for “eternal.” Both use words that have to do with a long period of time or with an age, but not with eternity [Heb., olam; Gk., aion or aionios].
The salvation of the soul [having to do with present and future aspects of salvation] is another matter though. The salvation of the soul has to do with the Messianic Era alone, not with the ages beyond. Thus, unlike the salvation of the spirit, the whole of the matter is covered when Scripture relates the salvation of the soul to the Messianic Era. Issues surrounding the salvation of the soul, unlike those surrounding the salvation of the spirit, do not extend beyond the scope of time seen in the septenary structure of Scripture.
Then there is the case where the tense of certain verbs are not clearly translated in some English translations of the Bible, which also clouds the issue. Mr. Chitwood addresses this issue in the first chapter of his book, Salvation of the Soul, clearly seen in the next section of this document.
The Three Aspects (Phases) of Salvation
(Taken from Salvation of the Soul by Arlen L. Chitwood)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit [lit. “for the sake of the ones about to inherit”] salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
“Salvation” in the Word of God is spoken of in three tenses — past, present, and future:
1) Christians have been saved.
2) Christians are being saved.
3) Christians are about to be saved.
The previously quoted verses provide examples of how Scripture deals with each of these three tenses or aspects of salvation.
In Ephesians 2:8, 9, salvation is a past, completed act.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18, salvation is a present, continuous work.
In Hebrews 1:14, salvation is a future, inherited possession.
Since the Word of God presents salvation in a framework of this nature, it is vitally important in Scriptural interpretation to first ascertain to which of these three aspects of salvation any given passage pertains.
In the past aspect of salvation, dealt with in Ephesians 2:8, the words in the corrected text, “you have been saved,” are a translation of two Greek words that form what is called in the Greek text a “periphrastic perfect.” The “perfect” tense refers to action completed in past time, with the results of this action extending into present time and existing in a finished state. The “periphrastic” construction places additional emphasis on the present, finished state and refers to the persistent results during present time of the past, completed work.
Salvation in this verse is wrought by grace through faith, accomplished completely in past time, and is the present possession of every believer. This present possession, in turn, constitutes an active, continuing, ever-abiding salvation.
The eternal security of the believer cannot be expressed in stronger terms than the periphrastic construction of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8, for the present results of the past action, in this case, can only continue unchanged forever.
However, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, dealing with the present aspect of salvation, things are presented in an entirely different light than seen in Ephesians 2:8. Rather than the verb tense in the Greek text referring to a past, completed act, the tense refers to a present, continuous work. The former has already been completed, but the latter has yet to be completed.
Then, in Hebrews 1:14, dealing with the future aspect of salvation, matters are presented in a completely different light yet. The wording in the Greek text of this verse refers to something that is about to occur. Nothing is past or present; the reception of this salvation, in its entirety, is placed in the future.
Further, the salvation referred to in Hebrews 1:14 is not only to be realized in the future, but it is also an inherited salvation. And the thought of inheritance further distinguishes the salvation in this verse from the salvation previously seen in Ephesians 2:8, for the salvation that Christians presently possess is not an inherited salvation.
Rather, our present salvation was obtained as a free gift during the time we were alienated from God. And, as aliens (outside the family of God), we were in no position to inherit salvation, for inheritance in Scripture is always a family matter.
In the Old Testament, “sons” were first in line to receive the inheritance, with “daughters” next. If there were no sons or daughters in the immediate family, the inheritance was passed on to the nearest family member or members, designated by the law of inheritance (Numbers 27:8-11).
Consequently, an individual had to be a family member before he could be considered for the inheritance, which, during the present dispensation, is restricted to “children” or “sons” of the Owner. That’s why the statement is made in Romans 8:17, “. . . if children, then heirs . . . .” And that’s also why in Hebrews 1:14 that an inherited salvation pertains to those who have already been saved, those who are no longer alienated from God but are presently family members.
In this respect, the complete scope of salvation — past, present, and future — has a beginning point, with an end in view. It involves the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, effecting the birth from above. And this has been done with a purpose, an end, in view. This has been done so that the Spirit can take the one who now has spiritual life and perform a work in the life of that individual, with a view to an inheritance that will be realized at a future time.
Thus, one should immediately be able to see the importance of proper distinctions being drawn and observed in the realm of these three aspects of salvation. And depending on how one approaches and deals with the different salvation passages in Scripture, either of the difficulties can be avoided on the one hand or insurmountable problems can result on the other.
The Purpose for Man
God’s purpose for man is seen at man’s creation in the initial chapters of God’s Word, a purpose that underlies God’s all-encompassing plan of salvation for man.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
God’s purpose for man upon his creation was to “have dominion” over the earth, to “subdue” it. And this purpose for man has not changed in God’s overall plan, as is stated by Chitwood in his book, Search for the Bride:
Man was created in the beginning to rule and to reign (Genesis 1:26-28). But, through Satan’s deception (through the deception of the incumbent ruler, whom man was created to replace), man fell from the position in which he had been created. And in this fallen state man found himself in a position wherein he could not realize the purpose for his creation.
But God provided redemption for His fallen creature. And the redemption that God provided can only have, for its ultimate goal, man being placed back in the position for which he had been created in the beginning. Thus, the whole of the matter surrounding salvation in Scripture (salvation past, present, and future) is seen relating centrally to that future time when man will be placed back in the position for which he was created in the beginning.
The fall was with a view to removing man from this position; and, accordingly, redemption (the whole of the matter — past, present, and future) can only be with a view to placing man back in this position (something that can be clearly seen in Scripture when viewing the whole of God’s redemptive plans and purposes). Thus, regality forms the crux of the entire matter surrounding both man’s fall and God’s subsequently provided redemption for fallen man.
The Use of Types and Antitypes in Scripture
(Taken from The Study of Scripture, Chapter 8, by Arlen L. Chitwood)
Then He said to them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
Now these things were our examples [Now these things happened as types for us], to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted . . . .
Now all these things happened to them for examples [Now all these things happened to them for types]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [the ages] are come. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11)
Three things above all else must be adhered to in the study of Scripture:
1) A person must recognize that all Scripture is God-breathed.
2) A person must begin where God began.
3) A person must study Scripture after the fashion in which it was written.
God gave His Word to man through man in a particular manner:
. . . holy men of God spoke as they were moved [borne along] by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Peter 1:21b)
The manner in which God revealed Himself, His plans, and His purposes in His Word (a God-breathed revelation, penned as the Spirit moved men to write) is what makes Scripture different from all other writings. Scripture stands in a category solely by itself, completely alone; and all other writings stand in a completely separate category (ref. Chapter 1 in this book).
Then, in the process of giving to man, through man, the God-breathed Word, at the very outset God set forth a skeletal structure covering the whole panorama of revelation that was to follow, along with foundational building material. And if a person would understand Scripture correctly, he must begin where God began and follow that which God has set forth, after the manner in which He Himself structured and established the matter.
The person must follow the skeletal structure and build upon this structure after the manner in which God Himself began and subsequently set matters forth, establishing them in a particular manner throughout. At any point in the whole of Scripture, any teaching must have a connection with and be in complete agreement with the God-established skeletal structure and subsequent foundational material set forth at the beginning (ref. Chapters 2-4 in this book).
Then, it must be recognized that God structured His revelation to man after a particular fashion, alluded to in Luke 24:25-27, 44 and stated in so many words in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11. Scripture not only deals with a completely accurate history of certain events surrounding God’s dealings with the earth, angels, and man, but biblical history has been recorded after such a fashion that it is highly typical as well. God has established His primary means of teaching, not through history per se, but through inherent types seen in history, pointing to antitypes seen in later history and/or prophecy.
The manner in which God revealed Himself to man is as stated in 1 Corinthians 10:11a,
Now all these things happened to them as examples [Greek, tupos, types; “Now all these things happened to them for types”] . . . .
The reference is to events during Moses’ day, drawing from the wilderness journey of the Israelites. But the reference would, of necessity, have to go far beyond simply the specific events listed in verses one through ten, preceding the statement in verse eleven. In the light of other Scripture, as becomes increasingly evident when one views the whole of Scripture, the reference would have to be enlarged to encompass not only all biblical history during Moses’ day but all biblical history beginning with Genesis 1:1.
That would be to say, God has structured His revelation to man after a fashion in which not only true, correct history is presented but this history is presented in such a manner that it is highly typical in nature. And Scripture, within this highly typical structure, is jam-packed with spiritual significance and meaning.
God, within His sovereign control of all things, brought matters to pass after such a fashion (within the history of the earth, angels, and man) that He could, at a later time, have these events to draw upon in order to teach His people the deep things surrounding Himself, His plans, and His purposes. And this would be accomplished mainly through types and corresponding antitypes.
Thus, God draws not so much from history per se as He does from the spiritual content set forth in the historic accounts — the great spiritual lessons, taught mainly from types pointing to corresponding antitypes.
Anyone can understand facts within revealed biblical history (saved or unsaved man). This would pertain more to the letter of the matter. But only saved man can go beyond the letter to the spirit of the matter (2 Corinthians 3:6-16). Only the saved can understand the spiritual lessons drawn from history. Only the saved can look within biblical history and see spiritual content (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
For the unsaved, things beyond the simple, historical facts are completely meaningless. They can neither see these things nor know them. Spiritually, they are dead; and these things are “spiritually discerned.” They can view Scripture only from a “natural [‘soulical’]” standpoint (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But for the saved, the matter is entirely different. They, by/through believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, have been made spiritually alive. The Spirit has breathed life into the one having no life; they have “passed from death to life.”
And they have this same Spirit — the One who gave the Word to man through man — indwelling them to lead them “into all truth” (John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19, 20; 1 John 3:24). Accordingly, the saved possess the ability to see beyond the facts of history and view the spiritual lessons inherent therein.
This is what is meant by “comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” It is within this facet of Scripture that man can see the things that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . . .” It is within this facet of Scripture that “God has revealed them to us by his Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
And it is within this complete, overall thought, as previously stated, that one finds the whole of biblical history forming types that are fraught with spiritual significance and meaning. This is the manner in which God has structured His Word. It has been given to man after this fashion, and if man would properly understand that which God has revealed in His Word, he must study it after the fashion in which it was given and recorded.
The Central Person of Scripture
Viewing Scripture after the preceding fashion, a complete word picture is presented of the central Person of Scripture — the Lord Jesus Christ. This word picture begins in the opening chapter of Genesis and continues uninterrupted until the Living Word Himself appears on the scene 4,000 years later. In this respect, the Old Testament forms a complete introduction to and revelation of the One who would appear on the earth, intervening in the affairs of man, 4,000 and 6,000 years beyond the creation of man in the opening chapter of Genesis.
This is really the underlying thought behind Christ’s rebuke of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, following His resurrection. They didn’t know the spiritual content of their own Old Testament Scriptures, though they undoubtedly would have been familiar with the letter of the matter, the historical facts. Had they known the spiritual content of the historical facts, they would, in turn, not only have known the exact identity of the person standing in their midst but they would also have known exactly what had occurred, was occurring, and would yet occur.
But “their eyes were restrained [their vision was ‘held back’]” (Luke 24:16). Insofar as these things were concerned, they were spiritually blind. Though spiritually alive and capable of understanding spiritual truth, these two disciples hadn’t seen the true spiritual content in their own Scriptures; and, consequently, their own resurrected Messiah was a stranger in their midst, with the events surrounding Calvary and the glory to follow involving things which they didn’t understand at all.
This is the reason Christ referred to the two as not believing “all that the prophets have spoken.” They should have known that Christ would appear a “first time” to suffer prior to a later appearance to enter into His glory. That which they had witnessed (His sufferings), were witnessing (the results of His resurrection), and that which lay ahead (His glory), were all foretold in minute detail, time after time after time, by the Old Testament prophets (all whom God had used to pen the Old Testament Scriptures, making them known in the types [e.g., Genesis 22-25; 37-45] and through other means [e.g., Isaiah 52-54; Zechariah 12:10; 13:6; 14:1ff]). And these disciples should have known these things, but they didn’t know them (Luke 24:25, 26).
Thus, in order to instruct these disciples (revealing Himself to them, showing them what had happened, was happening, and would yet happen), Christ went to the one God-revealed account covering the whole of the matter, an account that had been in the possession of the Jewish people for hundreds of years. He went to the Word given to man through man by the Holy Spirit over a period of about a millennium (from approx. 1445 to about 400 B.C.), beginning with Moses (i.e., the writings of Moses).
And Christ began exactly where the Spirit had begun 1,500 years before when He began giving the Word through man to man. Christ began at revelation given through Moses. Then He moved on to revelation given through other prophets. And by so doing, Christ “expounded to them [the two disciples] in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Then later that day, when Christ “took bread, blessed and broke” the bread before giving it to these two disciples, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (Luke 24:30-35).
Their eyes were opened because they, at that time, had come to know certain things that the Old Testament Scriptures taught concerning Israel’s Messiah. And that which allowed the two disciples to put these things together in a correct framework and see them after a correct fashion was evidently triggered by Christ breaking bread, blessing it, and giving it to them, exactly as He had done in the presence of the twelve disciples immediately before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:26-29; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Christ is the “bread of life” (John 6:33-35), referred to by the use of “bread” at various times throughout the Old Testament (for example, the manna, or the bread on the table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle). Christ was the One whose body, as the Bread, had been broken; and the bread being given to the two disciples following Christ breaking it pointed to the true Bread from heaven having been broken (or, as in the case of the bread being broken and given to the twelve preceding Calvary, about to be broken) on their, and our, behalf.
(Note the Lord’s Supper, observed by Christians today — breaking bread, and drinking from the cup. Observing the Lord’s Supper by Christians today pictures exactly the same thing seen in Christ breaking bread in the presence of these two disciples. A drinking from the cup, of necessity, would have had to be absent at this time because of that which Christ had told His disciples a few days earlier, in Matthew 26:29:
. . . I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.
The preceding statement points forward to that day seen in the typology of Genesis 14:18-20, when Christ comes forth as the Great King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek, with “bread and wine,” to bless the descendants of Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s twelve sons, the nation of Israel.
Observing the Lord’s Supper by Christians today shows “the Lord’s death till He comes” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. In this respect, Christ, before breaking bread and giving it to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus following His resurrection, had previously asked them:
Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? [Luke 24:26]
And Christians today, breaking bread and drinking from the cup, are to see matters exactly the same way — the broken bread and the cup, pointing to Christ’s past sufferings, are to be followed by His future glory. The past sufferings are seen in Isaiah chapter fifty-three, and the future glory is seen in Genesis chapter fourteen, with both seen numerous other places throughout the Old and New Testament Scriptures.)
And the two disciples seeing Christ Himself do this — the One whose body had been broken for them, as the bread had been broken — and having had Christ, immediately prior to this, instruct them from the Old Testament Scriptures (relating, among other things, the sufferings of Christ, which had just occurred), they were then able to put all of it together. It was at this point that “their eyes were opened,” and it was at this point that “they knew Him.”
They, at this point, knew the Christ of the Old Testament, the One standing in their midst. They, at this point, knew the One spoken of “in all” of the Old Testament Scriptures, beginning with Moses.
(Note the statement concerning “the rulers of this age [referring centrally to the Jewish religious leaders]” in 1 Corinthians 2:8 who had “crucified the Lord of glory” [Acts 2:23, 36; 3:14, 15]. Had they previously gone beyond the letter into the spirit of that which the Old Testament reveals concerning Christ — had they known the things from the Old Testament Scriptures that Christ revealed to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus — Scripture clearly states that “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
It is clearly revealed that the religious leaders in Israel knew Christ’s identity [cf. Matthew 21:38, 39, 45; John 3:2], which accounts for their actions. But they didn’t know Him in the sense spoken of in 1 Corinthians 2:8 [note the context of the verse], else, as stated, they would not have crucified Him.)
1) How Much of the Old Testament?
How much of the Old Testament deals with the person and work of Christ? And how much of the Old Testament is typical in nature? The two questions do not cover the same scope. The former is more extensive than the latter and is really all-inclusive. However, the typical nature of Old Testament Scripture is far more extensive than many may realize or are prone to admit.
How though can one know the extent of typical teachings in the Old Testament Scriptures? The answer to that is very simple. Scripture itself reveals the extent.
a) Christ in the Old Testament
Christ, dealing with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “expounded to them in all the scriptures [the Old Testament Scriptures] the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Note that it is not “in the scriptures all . . . .” but “in all the scriptures . . . .” The simple statement is made that “all the scriptures” — all of the Old Testament Scriptures — are about the person and work of Christ. He can be seen on every page and in every part of Scripture on that page.
But, the way Christ is presented in the Old Testament Scriptures is in the spirit rather than in the letter of the manner in which Scripture has been structured. Insofar as Old Testament history is concerned, that would be to say, Christ is really not seen in the strict letter of the historic account per se.
A person can read Old Testament history from one end to the other and never see the person and work of Christ within that history (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14, 15). In this respect, the person would be reading the letter of Scripture, failing to see anything beyond. In order to truly see the Christ of the Old Testament, a person must see beyond the letter to the spirit.
Christ is seen mainly within the inherent types set forth by the historic accounts rather than in the actual historic accounts themselves. All Old Testament history is, after some fashion, about the person and work of Christ; but this same history must be “spiritually discerned,” “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13, 14).
And this can be illustrated after several fashions at the very beginning of Scripture. The first verse in Scripture forms a direct statement concerning the work of the triune Godhead in creation; and, looking beyond the direct statement, this verse is also the beginning point in the overall type encompassed in Genesis 1:1-2:3. Accordingly, Christ is revealed at the very beginning of Scripture, in the opening verse, after this dual fashion.
“In the beginning God created . . . .” The word “God” is a translation of the Hebrew word Elohim, a plural noun which, in complete keeping with related Scripture, would include all three members of the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Everything that exists in the material universe came into existence “by [‘through’] Him [the Son]”; and apart from Him “was not anything made that was made [i.e., apart from the Son, not one thing that presently exists was (or could have been) brought into existence].” It was all done through the Son, present with the Father in the beginning (John 1:1-3; cf. Colossians 1:16, 17).
Then in verses two and three of the opening chapter of Scripture there is a ruin of the creation (from v. 1) and a beginning restoration. And in a type-antitype structure — going beyond the letter to the spirit, as it would pertain to the ruin and beginning restoration of man (a subsequent ruined creation [ch. 3]) — the Spirit moving (v. 2) and God speaking (v. 3) are based on death and shed blood, ultimately and finally on death and shed blood through the finished work of the Son on Calvary, 4,000 years beyond the historic-typical account.
In this respect, the typical reference is to the manner in which God restores ruined man — via death and shed blood — based today on the Son’s finished work at Calvary. The Spirit moves, God speaks, and light comes into existence (reference the author’s book, From Egypt to Canaan, Chapters 7, 8).
Moving on to Genesis chapter two, Christ and His bride can be seen in the person of Adam with his bride. Eve was formed from a part of Adam’s body, as the bride of Christ (the bride of “the second Man,” “the last Adam” [1 Corinthians 15:45-47]) will be formed from a part of His body. And as Eve was presented back to the first man, the first Adam, to complete Adam and to reign as consort queen with him, so will it be with the second Man, the last Adam. The bride will be removed from His body and be presented back to Christ to not only complete Christ but to reign as consort queen with Him (Romans 8:14-23; Hebrews 2:10).
Then in chapter three, Adam partook of sin to effect Eve’s redemption, as Christ became sin to effect our redemption. The first man, the first Adam, found his bride in a fallen state and followed the only avenue open to bring about her redemption. And the second Man, the last Adam, did exactly the same thing. He found His bride in a fallen state and procured her redemption through the only means available, through an act that had been predetermined in the eternal council chambers of God before the ages even began (Hebrews 1:2, 3; Revelation 13:8; cf. Romans 5:12-14).
Then chapter four provides additional details, commentary, to that which is previously revealed in chapter three. In this chapter Cain slew Abel, pointing to Israel, 4,000 years later, slaying Christ. One brother slew the other brother in both type and antitype. The blood of Abel cried out “from the ground” (Genesis 4:10), but the blood of Christ speaks “better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).
And on and on one could go with Old Testament history after this fashion. Exactly what portions of the Old Testament Christ called to the attention of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is unrevealed. He may have called their attention to Joseph, who first suffered prior to being exalted over all Egypt (a type of the world); or He may have called their attention to Moses, who suffered rejection by his brethren prior to their acceptance of him; or He could have called their attention to any other account or place in the Old Testament. It is all about Him.
Note that Stephen, in Acts chapter seven, singled out parts of the preceding two types (singled out events in both Joseph’s and Moses’ lives) as he revealed, to Israel’s religious leaders, Christ’s identity from the Old Testament Scriptures (vv. 9-42). And, Stephen using the Old Testament Scriptures in this correct manner, caused powers in both the heavens and upon earth to react. On the one hand, the Son, through an opened heaven, is seen standing (rather than sitting [Psalm 110:1]) at His Father’s right hand; and, on the other hand, the Jewish religious leaders being addressed stoned Stephen (vv. 54-60).
Suffice it to say that Christ, in Luke chapter twenty-four, could have referenced any account in Old Testament history and, through this account, revealed things concerning Himself to these two disciples. We can only know that He did reference different historic accounts in the Old Testament (and possibly Old Testament prophecies and/or statements in the Psalms or Proverbs [cf. v. 44]), beginning with Moses; and, from these accounts, He revealed things concerning Himself to these disciples, especially as these things pertained to His past sufferings and His future glory (v. 26). And, as a result, in the subsequent breaking of bread, “their eyes were opened” (v. 31).
b) Types in the Old Testament
Though all of the Old Testament is, after some fashion, about Christ, not all of the Old Testament is typical in its structure. Types have to do with history, not with the book of Proverbs, most of that seen in the Prophets, or in many of the Psalms (the latter though, particularly the Psalms and the Prophets, at times, deal with history, in which types can be seen).
The statement, “Now all these things happened to them as examples [‘types’] . . . .” (1 Corinthians 10:11; cf. v. 6), refers to recorded events in Old Testament history. And, as previously stated, though the contextual reference is only to a select number of events during Moses’ day, the statement concerning types in connection with Old Testament history could, by no means, be limited only to these contextual references. It must be looked upon as far more extensive than this.
In fact, drawing from Luke 24:25-27, 44, one can arrive at only one conclusion concerning the extent of typology in connection with Old Testament history. It must be looked upon as all-inclusive, for all of the Old Testament Scriptures are revealed to be about the central Person of Scripture, Jesus the Christ.
The story of Joseph (ref. Genesis 37-45), for example, is about the Person and work of Christ, though there is no direct statement in the New Testament specifically stating that Joseph is a type of Christ. But, comparing Luke 24:25-27, 44 and 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11, one can be drawn to no other conclusion.
And so it is with numerous other portions of the Old Testament. Though no direct statement may exist in the New Testament specifying that a particular person or event forms a type of Christ, dealing with some facet of His person and work, that becomes meaningless in the light of Scriptures such as Luke 24:25-27, 44 and 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11.
It also becomes meaningless when one sees and understands that God, by His very nature, would, of necessity, be completely consistent concerning how He structured all of Old Testament history. He simply did not, He would not, He could not, structure part in one way and part in another way, particularly in the light of sections of Scripture such as Luke 24:25-27, 44 and 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11.
In the preceding respect, and in the light of these sections of Scripture from Luke and First Corinthians, it becomes clear that any Old Testament historic account, of necessity, has to do, after some fashion, with the person and work of Christ (past, present, or future); and this has been accomplished centrally through the inherent typical nature of Old Testament history, established by a Sovereign God, in perfect keeping with Scripture’s own direct statements and internal evidence.
All of this becomes self-evident when one begins to study Old Testament history after the fashion in which it was written. The whole of Old Testament history, so to speak, begins to come to life and open up as one views the Scriptures after the fashion in which God clearly reveals, in His Word, that they were written.
(Aside from the preceding, any segment of Old Testament history has to do with one part of a complete whole — one part of the complete Word, forming the complete Old Testament canon. And this complete Word [the complete Old Testament] was made flesh in the person of the Son.
There is the written Word, and there is the living Word; and the two cannot possibly be separated from one another, for the latter is simply a full manifestation of the former, in flesh, which would include the subsequent New Testament revelation as well.
In this respect, approaching the matter from another perspective, the question could be both asked and answered: “What part of the Old Testament is not about Christ?” And the answer: “No part, simply because the Old Testament [not part, but all] was made flesh in the person of the Son.”
That which is stated about or inherent in One [the written Word (John 17:14)] can be stated about and would be inherent in the Other [the Living Word (John 1:1, 14)]. For example, if perfection is seen in One [in Christ], then perfection must exist in the Other as well [the Scriptures]. And the reasoning behind that would emanate from the fact that the living Word is simply a manifestation, in flesh, of the written Word.)
2) Structure of the New Testament
But is typology limited to Old Testament history? What about the New Testament? Is it also highly typical in nature?
The passage already under consideration in Luke 24:13ff would perhaps address the issue about as well as any other part of the New Testament. There is nothing stated about this section forming a type, but it does. And the fact that it does is so evident that a person with any spiritual perception at all can’t fail to see it.
Events in Luke chapter twenty-four occur on the third day, dating from Christ’s crucifixion (v. 21), and have to do with the eyes of blinded Jews being opened through Christ personally appearing in their presence and revealing Himself to them. This section of Scripture can only refer to one facet of the person and work of Christ. It can only refer to that future day when Christ appears in Israel’s presence — with Israel, as the two disciples in Luke chapter twenty-four, blinded (Romans 11:25) — and reveals Himself to the nation (Romans 11:26; 2 Corinthians 3:14-16).
And events of that future day will parallel events in Luke 24:13ff with respect to time as well. These events will occur after two days, on the third day. That is to say, they will occur after two thousand years, in the third one-thousand-year period (cf. Hosea 5:15-6:2; 2 Peter 3:8).
Israel will not know Christ in that future day, exactly as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t know Him; and He will reveal Himself to the nation exactly the same way that He revealed Himself to these two disciples.
Christ, in that future day, will call the nation’s attention to their own Old Testament Scriptures — Scriptures that relate the entire story, from one end to the other — and He will reveal Himself to the nation from these Scriptures, exactly the same way that He revealed Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in the historic account.
And exactly the same thing will occur in that future day that occurred in the type. Christ will appear in the antitype of Melchizedek, with bread and wine (Genesis 14:18-20; cf. Matthew 26:26-29), to bless Abraham and his descendants. And as there was a breaking of bread in the type, there will undoubtedly be a breaking of bread in the antitype.
Then Israel will recognize her Messiah, spoken of throughout the very Old Testament Scriptures that will have been in the possession of the Jewish people for almost two and one-half millennia, with parts of these Scriptures having been in their possession for almost three and one-half millennia. At that time — at the full end of Daniel’s Seventy Week prophecy — Israel’s blindness will be lifted, and a nation will be brought forth in a day (Isaiah 66:8; Romans 11:26).
Another facet of the matter can be seen in Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:1ff. And, interestingly enough, Paul stated in 1 Timothy 1:15, 16 that his salvation experience was “a pattern [Greek, hupotuposis, referring to ‘an original pattern,’ ‘a prototype’] to [‘of’] those who are going to believe on Him [on Jesus Christ] for everlasting life.” That is to say, the manner in which Paul was saved forms an original type of the manner in which others will be saved at a later time, forming the antitype.
Paul was saved through Christ personally appearing and revealing Himself to him, which is not the manner people have been saved throughout the present dispensation following Paul’s conversion. But this is the manner in which Israel will be saved at a future time, when Christ reappears to the nation. And it is this future event to which Paul’s salvation experience, in a God-ordained type, relates.
Paul was saved as a type of the future salvation of Israel. He, at this time, understood the letter of the Word but not the spirit of the Word. There was a veil over his eyes, which was “done away in Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:14). And so will it be with Israel in the antitype yet future.
There is a reading of the letter of the Old Testament in the synagogues today, as in Paul’s day, which leaves the “veil untaken away.” Paul, typifying Israel in this respect, was blinded for two days (the veil was over his eyes for two days), with the blindness (the veil) being removed on the third day (Acts 8:9; cf. Genesis 42:17, 18; Esther 4:16-5:1; Matthew 27:63; Luke 24:7, 21, 46).
(Paul, prior to the events surrounding his conversion in Acts chapter nine, was part of a redeemed nation, comprised of individuals spiritually alive and capable of understanding spiritual truth, to whom the kingdom of the heavens was being re-offered. And individuals receiving this message were being saved, delivered, with respect to that which was being proclaimed — Christ’s kingdom and glory — not with respect to eternal salvation, as someone spiritually dead would have been saved then or today. Those Jews receiving the message at the time of Paul’s conversion, which would include Paul, were already saved in this respect.
The same thing, as it relates to eternal salvation, could be said about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They had received the message proclaimed by the Messianic King; Paul hadn’t. But, as matters relate to eternal salvation, there was no difference. Paul, prior to his conversion experience in Acts chapter nine was just as saved in an eternal respect as these two disciples were following their reception of the message proclaimed by the Messianic King. Or, to state matters another way, Paul was no more saved in an eternal respect following events in Acts chapter nine as he was before these events.
There are two aspects to the salvation message seen in Luke 24:26. There is an aspect having to do with Christ’s past sufferings and an aspect having to do with Christ’s coming glory. This would be seen in Christendom today as the gospel of the grace of God [reflecting upon the first part of Luke 24:26] and the gospel of the glory of Christ [reflecting upon the latter part of this verse (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4; Ephesians 2:8, 9)].
Relative to Israel’s coming conversion [foreshadowed by both types], both types would have to cover the whole panorama of the matter, for Israel today, unlike Israel at the time of Christ’s first coming, is spiritually dead.
Israel, yet future, will first be made spiritually alive, saved, delivered, through that which is seen in the first part of Luke 24:26 [Christ’s past sufferings]; then they will be saved, delivered, in relation to that which is seen in the latter part of this same verse [Christ’s future glory].
For additional information pertaining to Israel’s spiritual condition at the time of Christ’s first coming, refer to the author’s book, From Acts to the Epistles.)
The Jewish people must see beyond the letter to the spirit. They must see the One concerning whom Moses and the prophets wrote. They must see their Messiah in their own Old Testament Scriptures, something that will occur when Christ returns and reveals Himself to them after this fashion — first as the Paschal Lamb, then as the Messianic King.
And so it is with New Testament history. The New Testament has been structured after the same fashion as Old Testament history. It was given through Jewish prophets by the same One who gave the Old Testament Scriptures through Jewish prophets; and it has an evident inherent typical nature, established by the same sovereign God who first structured the Old Testament after this fashion.
The Central Focus of Scripture
As all Scripture revolves around a central Person, all Scripture also revolves around a central focus, which has to do with the central Person. Scripture concerns itself with time, and, in the main, this time has to do with the 7,000 years portended by the seven days opening Scripture. And, within this time, there is the thought of creation for a purpose, redemption for a purpose, and God’s work throughout the 6,000 years covering the present age (Man’s Day) for a purpose.
The purpose surrounding man’s creation has to do with the seventh day, a seventh 1,000-year period; so does the fall, and so does redemption; and so does God’s work throughout the six days, the 6,000 years of Man’s Day. The whole of Scripture moves toward that coming seventh day, a pattern established in the skeletal outline set forth at the very beginning.
Thus, the central focus of Scripture looks to that seventh day when the central Person of Scripture will be revealed in all His glory to bring about that for which man was created in the beginning and for which he has been redeemed. The Son is to exercise dominion over one province in His Father’s kingdom — for a revealed purpose (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) — and man is to have a part in this dominion.
In this respect, biblical history, within its established historic-typical framework, becomes largely prophetic within its scope of fulfillment. Biblical history, in this respect, revolves around the central Person and the central focus of Scripture. And the central Person and the central focus of Scripture are so inseparably related that at times they are spoken of either in synonymous terms or both are understood to be in view though only one is mentioned.
Examples of both facets of the matter can be seen in Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45 and Hebrews 12:1, 2:
1) Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45
The Stone, “cut out of the mountain without hands,” in one respect refers to Christ and in another respect to the kingdom of Christ.
The Father will give the Son “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom” (Daniel 7:13, 14). He will be the “King of kings, and Lord of lords” in the kingdom. He, as the King, as the Stone, will be the One who personally smites the image at its feet (Revelation 19:11-21).
But Daniel 2:44, 45, interpreting verses thirty-four and thirty-five, also refers to the kingdom of Christ itself breaking in pieces and consuming all the kingdoms comprising the one world kingdom of that day (cf. Revelation 11:15). The Stone, after smiting the image, will become “a great mountain” and fill the whole earth.
In this respect, the King of the kingdom is not to be thought of apart from His kingdom. All the various facets of His person and work, set forth in detail throughout Old Testament Scripture, have an end in view; and that end is the day when He will rule and reign over the earth.
Christ’s finished work at Calvary and His present work as High Priest — foretold in the Old Testament — have the same end in view. The Savior, who is presently exercising the office of High Priest, was born King (Matthew 2:2). And the coming King and His Kingdom, in the overall scope of the matter, become inseparable; and this is the reason they can be spoken of in synonymous terms, as in Daniel chapter two.
2) Hebrews 12:1, 2
Hebrews 12:1, 2, in the light of other Scripture, presents the same picture. In this section of Scripture a person is told to look “to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
The thought from the Greek text is literally to look “from [from the things in the surrounding world system, the present kingdom under Satan], to Jesus . . . .” But yet other Scriptures exhort us to look from this present world system “to the mountain [signifying the coming kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 2:35)]” (cf. Genesis 13:10-12; 19:1, 17).
Are we to look to Jesus? Or are we to look to the Mountain? The correct biblical answer would center on the thought that a person, within a proper biblical perspective, cannot look to One apart from looking to the Other. That would be to say, in a proper biblical perspective, we cannot really look “from, to Jesus” apart from seeing Him in connection with His coming kingdom; and, conversely, we cannot really fix our eyes on “the mountain,” the kingdom, apart from seeing the King of the kingdom.
When Hebrews 12:2 states, “Looking from, to Jesus . . . .” the thought would have to include, as well, the same thing contained in the remainder of the verse. Christ, . . . for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame [considering it a thing of little import in comparison to the joy set before Him], and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The “joy that was set before Him” had to do with that day when He would rule and reign (cf. Matthew 25:21, 23). Christ had His eyes fixed on that day as He endured present sufferings; and we are to fix our eyes on the One who left us an example, after this same fashion, as we endure present sufferings.
Christ, at the time of His sufferings on Calvary, had His eyes fixed on the coming kingdom, the day of His exaltation and glory. And that is exactly the place — the same place — we should have our eyes fixed as we look “from, to Jesus” during present sufferings.
He left us an example that we “should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). His eyes were fixed on that which lay ahead.
And, as has been demonstrated, in the true biblical sense of the command, there can be no such thing as a Christian fixing his eyes on Jesus apart from seeing both the King and His Kingdom.
The Central Message of the New Testament
(Taken from Mysteries of the Kingdom, Chapter 13, by Arlen L. Chitwood)
Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)
The Word of the Kingdom — the message surrounding the kingdom of the heavens (Matthew 13:11, 19, 24) — is the central message of the New Testament. Whether studying the gospels, the book of Acts, the epistles, or the book of Revelation, an individual will be studying Scriptures dealing centrally with a message pertaining to the kingdom.
The person understanding this message will possess a proper foundation to build upon as he studies different parts of the New Testament. However, if this message is not understood, the converse of the preceding will be true. That person will possess an improper foundation to build upon; and his studies throughout any part of the New Testament will, accordingly, be adversely affected.
This is why an individual instructed in the Word of the Kingdom can be likened to the householder in the text. Not only will he be able to go to the Scriptures and bring forth things that are “old” (things he has already seen and understood) but he will also be able, from the things that are “old,” to begin seeing and bringing forth things that are “new” as well (things he has not previously seen and understood).
And, according to the text, he will be able to do this because he has been “instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven.” He now possesses a key to the Scriptures; a key that will open numerous passages of Scripture to his understanding, passages that otherwise would have remained closed.
Such an individual, as he studies and learns new things about the Word of the Kingdom, will progressively find himself being able to, more and more, take the “old” and see and understand that which is “new.” And the more that person comes into an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom, the more he will see Scripture opening up to him in this fashion. The latter, in this respect, is inseparably linked to and dependent on the former.
This is what an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom will do for an individual in his quest for knowledge of Scripture. And, though this has been the experience and testimony of numerous Christians, this is not simply what they might have to say about the matter. Rather, this is what the unchangeable Word of God has to say about the matter.
The Word of God clearly reveals that a person instructed in the Word of the Kingdom can go to the Scriptures and bring forth out of this storehouse of unlimited treasures “things new and old.” But by the same token, apart from an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom, though an individual may be able to see and understand certain truths, the same situation referred to in Matthew 13:52 simply doesn’t exist.
The preceding will explain why this whole realm of teaching lies center stage in Satan’s attack against the Word during the present dispensation. An understanding of the Word of the Kingdom is the key to a proper understanding of Scripture as it relates to Christians, and Satan knows this. He knows that if he can corrupt or destroy that which will open the door to a proper understanding of the numerous other Scriptures bearing on the subject, he can best accomplish the purpose for his present work among Christians.
Satan’s efforts toward this end are something easily seen in the first four parables in Matthew chapter thirteen. These four parables present a chronology of Satan’s work as he seeks to subvert the Word of the Kingdom, and this chronology covers the progressive results of his work in this respect throughout the entire dispensation.
Satan’s attack in the first parable, the parable of the sower (vv. 3-8, 18-23), was seen to be against those hearing the Word of the Kingdom. He sought to stop the matter at that point, preventing individuals from understanding this message and subsequently bringing forth fruit. Four types of individuals are seen responding to the message, with Satan being successful in his attack against three of the four. Those seen in the first three of the four categories fell away and bore no fruit. But Satan’s attack against those in the fourth category proved to be unsuccessful. They heard the Word, received and understood the Word, overcame Satan’s attack, and bore fruit.
Then the next parable, the parable of the wheat and tares (vv. 24-30, 36-43), centers on Satan’s attack against the ones bearing fruit from the previous parable. Satan placed those with a false message (false teachers) in the midst of those bearing fruit, seeking to subvert the message and stop that which was occurring. That is to say, he sought to corrupt the true message by introducing a false message. And this was done with a view to stopping that which had resulted from a proclamation of the true message. This was done with a view to stopping those Christians who were bearing fruit from doing so.
Then the next parable, the parable of the mustard seed (vv. 31, 32), shows that which happened in Christendom over the course of time during the dispensation because of this false message. The mustard seed germinated and took a normal growth for a while. But then something happened, which caused it to take an abnormal growth and eventually become a tree. And after this abnormal growth had occurred — after the mustard bush had become a tree, something that it wasn’t supposed to become at all — the birds of the air (ministers of Satan, seen in the first parable [v. 4]) found a lodging place therein.
And the fourth parable, the parable of the leaven (v. 33), completes the picture. The false message introduced near the beginning of the dispensation is likened to leaven placed in three measures of meal (“three” is the number of divine perfection, and “meal” is that which is used to make bread. Leaven [a corrupting substance] was placed in the meal [resulting in corruption in the bread]). And this leaven would continue to work (this false message would continue to permeate and corrupt the true message) until the whole had been leavened (until the whole had been corrupted).
This is the revealed direction that Christendom would take relative to the true message concerning the Word of the Kingdom following the introduction of the leaven, following the introduction of a false message concerning the Word of the Kingdom.
These four parables together show a history of Christendom throughout the dispensation in relation to the Word of the Kingdom. This message — the central message of the New Testament — was universally taught throughout the churches during the first century. But the introduction of a false message resulted in changes. Christendom itself took an abnormal growth; and this abnormal growth was such that the false teachers eventually found themselves welcomed within that which they, through their false message, had corrupted.
Corruption though didn’t stop at this point. The working of the leaven continued, and it would continue until this false message had permeated all of Christendom. This corrupting process would continue, according to the text, “till the whole” had been leavened.
And, viewing the matter solely from the standpoint of that which can be seen in the world today, what has been the end result of the working of the leaven? As the dispensation draws to a close, where does the Church find itself today?
The answers are easy to ascertain. All one has to do in order to see and understand that which has happened is to go into almost any church of the land (fundamental and liberal alike) and listen for any mention of things having to do with the Word of the Kingdom. A person will listen in vain. Because of the working of a leavening process that is in its final stages, the true biblical message surrounding Christians and the coming kingdom is practically nonexistent throughout Christendom today.
This leavening process recognizes no bounds or barriers. Fundamental Christendom finds itself just as permeated with the leaven, as it relates to the Word of the Kingdom, as does liberal Christendom. From the theology schools to the pulpits of churches to the pews in these churches, the whole of Christendom finds itself in exactly the same state insofar as that which is revealed throughout the first four parables in Matthew chapter thirteen is concerned.
Many of the fundamentalists, not understanding the true nature of the leavening process, look upon themselves as having escaped this corruption. But such is not the case at all. Insofar as any understanding and proclamation of the Word of the Kingdom is concerned, the fundamental groups find themselves in exactly the same state as the liberal groups. They find themselves permeated through and through with exactly the same corrupting leaven. There is absolutely no difference between the two groups in this respect. Neither understands nor proclaims this message.
Seminaries — fundamental and liberal alike — are training students in everything but the one message that will open the Scriptures to their understanding. And these same seminaries are turning out graduates who are filling the pulpits of churches with a message completely void of any reference to the Word of the Kingdom. These seminary graduates don’t know the truth of the matter, and, as a result, their entire ministries are negatively affected. The various flocks that the Lord has entrusted to their care are not being properly fed; and, in reality, for the most part, Christians under their ministries are slowly starving to death.
Christians throughout the churches today are simply not hearing the one message, above all other messages, which they should be hearing. And the reason is given in the first four parables of Matthew chapter thirteen. The working of the leaven over almost two millennia of time has produced a corruption extending throughout Christendom that has all but destroyed the message surrounding the Word of the Kingdom. And, as a result of this corruption, the Bible, for the most part, remains a closed book for the vast majority of Christians.
The preceding is why a person, untrained in the theology schools of the land, but understanding the Word of the Kingdom, often has a better grasp of the whole of Scripture than many of those who are teaching in the theology schools. The person having an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom possesses a key to Scripture that a person without this understanding does not possess. He can go to the Scriptures and bring forth things both “new and old”; but the same thing cannot be said for those who lack this understanding.
Why will instruction in the Word of the Kingdom open the Scriptures to a person’s understanding like nothing else? Why is an understanding of this message so vital if a person is to possess a correct and proper grasp of Scripture? The answer could be looked upon in a twofold respect.
First, an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom is the only thing that will provide the true biblical picture surrounding the purpose for the Christian life. Why did God bring the new creation “in Christ” into existence? Why is God taking an entire dispensation to do a work among the Gentiles? Why is the Holy Spirit presently in the world performing a work among Christians?
And second, an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom is the only thing that will provide the true biblical picture surrounding direction for the Christian life. What is the goal toward which everything moves as it pertains to the new creation “in Christ”? What is the spiritual warfare about? What is the race of the faith about? What will be the end result of victory or defeat as it pertains to the warfare or the race?
An understanding of the Word of the Kingdom will answer questions surrounding the Christian life unlike anything else in the Word of God. This is the only thing that will present the complete biblical picture in its correct fashion. Only out of this teaching can all the issues surrounding the Christian life be properly addressed, and only out of this teaching can one find the true motivation for Godly Christian living.
But, if all the preceding is true — and it is — then why is this message so fought against in Christian circles today? It would appear that acceptance rather than rejection would be the norm.
Such though is not the case at all. Rather, with rare exceptions, rejection is invariably the norm. And the reason is seen in the working of the leaven in Matthew 13:33. The negative attitude of Christians toward the Word of the Kingdom is simply the end result of a work of Satan that has been going on for almost 2,000 years.
1) Purpose of . . .
The overall picture of the Word of the Kingdom in the New Testament begins with the offer of the kingdom of the heavens to Israel in the gospel accounts. Israel spurned this offer, the offer was taken from Israel, and an entirely new entity was then brought into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel had rejected (Matthew 21:33-43; 1 Peter 2:9-11).
The one new man, the new creation “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:15) was brought into existence to bring forth fruit where Israel had failed. And, since Israel had spurned the offer, God, in relation to this one new man, turned to the Gentiles. God set aside an entire dispensation, lasting two days, 2,000 years, during which time He would perform and complete a work with an entirely new creation. And this would be accomplished by removing “a people for His name” from among the Gentiles, though with “a remnant according to the election of grace [believing Jews]” being included (Acts 15:14; Romans 11:5).
And, in order to carry out His purposes surrounding this new creation, God sent the Holy Spirit into the world. Throughout the present dispensation, the Spirit of God is in the world performing a work in the antitype of that which is seen in Genesis chapter twenty-four.
As Abraham in this chapter sent his servant into the far country to procure a bride for his son, God has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to procure a bride for His Son. And, as in the type, so in the antitype — the search occurs among those in the family. The Spirit of God is conducting His search among those comprising the one new man, for this one new man forms the body of Christ, and the bride is to be taken from the body (cf. Genesis 2:21-25; 24:2-4, 9; Matthew 22:14).
And also as in the type, once the search has been completed, the bride will be removed. As Rebekah was removed from Mesopotamia, so will Christ’s bride be removed from the earth; as Isaac came forth to meet Rebekah, so will the Son come forth to meet His bride; and as Rebekah went with Isaac to his home, where she became his wife, so will the bride go with Christ to His home, where she will become His wife (Genesis 24:61-67; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; Revelation 19:7-9).
2) Direction for . . .
The goal toward which everything pertaining to the new creation “in Christ” moves is exactly the same as the goal set forth in the beginning, in the opening two chapters of Genesis. The point out ahead toward which all things move is the earth’s coming Sabbath, foreshadowed by the Sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3, which followed six days of restorative work (Genesis 1:2b-25).
And it matters not whether one is viewing the reason for the existence of the one new man, the reason for the present dispensation, or the reason for the Spirit of God having been sent into the world, the point toward which everything moves is always the same. It has to be the same, for this is the way matters were set forth and established at the beginning of God’s revelation to man (Genesis 1:1-2:3).
And properly understanding the spiritual warfare and the present race of the faith is contingent on properly understanding things surrounding the goal that lies out ahead. It is contingent on properly understanding the reason God has brought the one new man into existence, the reason God has set aside an entire dispensation to deal with this new man, and the reason God has sent His Spirit into the world to perform a work during the dispensation.
Christians are engaged in a warfare against powerful spirit beings in the heavens, which is part and parcel with the race of the faith in which they find themselves engaged; and whether Christians do or do not understand all the various things about this warfare and race, Satan knows every one of these things all too well. And he is ever lying in wait to defeat the Christian in the warfare or sidetrack him in the race.
And the end result will be either victory or defeat. An individual will either overcome in the warfare and race or he will be overcome.
And note what is at stake in either victory or defeat — the greatest thing God could ever design for redeemed man. The Spirit of God is presently in the world opening the Word of God to the Christians’ understanding, calling their attention to one central fact — They are being offered positions as co-regents with Christ in His kingdom, forming the bride that will reign with the Son as consort queen.
That’s what is at stake. And knowing this, is it any wonder that Satan, very early in the dispensation, set about to accomplish the things outlined in the first four parables in Matthew chapter thirteen? Is it any wonder that he has done and continues to do everything within his power to corrupt and destroy the true message surrounding Christians and the coming kingdom?
From Genesis to Matthew to Revelation
As previously seen in this book, several things must be kept in mind when studying the parables in Matthew chapter thirteen. The first four were given outside the house, by the seaside; and the last three were given after Christ had re-entered the house. This fact, often overlooked, is significant beyond degree if one is to understand these parables correctly. Then, a chronology is seen in the parables that carry the reader from the beginning of the present dispensation to the future Messianic Kingdom.
As previously shown, the first four parables (given outside the house, by the seaside) present a history of Christendom as it relates to the Word of the Kingdom; and this history covers the entirety of the dispensation. To understand why conditions in Christendom are as they presently exist, one has to go back in history and follow the course of events leading into the presently existing situation.
And going back in history after this fashion can only be done one way. It can only involve going to the Scriptures to see what the Word of God reveals about the matter, not what the various Church history books written by man reveal. All of man’s writings on Church history might as well be categorized as “secular” insofar as this aspect of Church history is concerned. That which man has written simply doesn’t deal with Church history in this respect, though this is the main crux of the matter seen within the way Scripture deals with the subject.
The earliest period of Church history is dealt with in the book of Acts, following the inception of the Church. This period covers that time when the kingdom was being re-offered to Israel (from 33 to 62 A.D.). And accordingly, the message seen throughout this book centers on the proffered kingdom.
The epistles (some written during the Acts period, some following) deal centrally with the same message seen in Acts — one having to do with the kingdom. These epistles simply form different facets of instruction written to Christians surrounding the same central message. And these epistles, as the book of Acts, provide information surrounding early Church history.
Both the book of Acts and the epistles deal with the Church during the first century only. But there are two places in Scripture that deal with a history of the Church throughout the dispensation. One is in the parables in Matthew chapter thirteen, before the Church was even brought into existence; and the other is in Revelation chapters two and three, at a place in the book where the Church is seen being dealt with at the judgment seat in the heavens following the dispensation (though the record itself was given during the early years of the dispensation and has to do with a history of the Church during the dispensation as well). Thus, one complete history is seen in Scripture at a point preceding the dispensation (Matthew 13), and the other is seen in Scripture at a point following the dispensation (Revelation 2, 3).
In Matthew chapter thirteen, before the dispensation began, a history of the Church — in relation to the Word of the Kingdom — is seen in the first four parables. And, in Revelation chapters two and three, at a point in the book that follows the dispensation, a history of the Church — in relation to the Word of the Kingdom — is seen in the seven letters (seven epistles) to the seven churches.
The first presents a history of the Church in relation to the Word of the Kingdom from the perspective of the Lord using parables; the second presents a history of the Church in relation to the Word of the Kingdom from the perspective of the Lord using epistles to seven existing churches in Asia. But both show exactly the same thing. The Church is revealed to have begun one way (a mustard bush, an entity laboring for Christ’s sake [Matthew 13:32; Revelation 2:2, 3]), but the Church is seen ending another way (a tree, a completely leavened entity, one neither cold nor hot, one described as “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” [Matthew 13:32, 33; Revelation 3:15-17]).
Then, all of this is intimately connected with God’s original structure of His Word at the beginning. The parables in Matthew chapter thirteen and the seven epistles in Revelation chapters two and three are structured after a fashion that is in complete keeping with the way God set matters forth at the very beginning of His revelation to man, in the opening chapters of Genesis. And this is easy to understand, for the latter rests upon and is inseparably linked to the former.
Scripture begins with a foundational framework upon which the whole of subsequent Scripture rests — six days of restorative work (a restoration of the ruined material creation, with man created at the conclusion of this work, on the sixth day), followed by a seventh day of rest, a Sabbath day. And the preceding relates the story of the whole of Scripture beyond this introductory framework.
Man, following his creation, fell. And he, through this fall, became a ruined creation, bringing about not only his own ruin but the ruin of the restored material creation once again as well. And God, following this ruin, again set about to perform six days of restorative work — which this time had to do with both man and the material creation. And this latter restorative work will be followed by a seventh day of rest — a Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God, the coming Messianic Era (Hebrews 4:4-9) — in exact keeping with the pattern set forth at the beginning.
Each day in the former restoration was twenty-four hours in length, including the Sabbath; and each day in the latter restoration has been/will be 1,000 years in length, including the Sabbath (cf. Matthew 16:28-17:5; 2 Peter 1:16-18; 3:1-8).
All of Scripture beyond the foundational framework in the opening two chapters of Genesis rests upon and forms additional information for this framework. And it matters not whether one is dealing with the framework set forth at the beginning or with subsequent Scripture, all restorative work can be seen moving toward the same goal — a coming Sabbath of rest.
(Note also that exactly the same septenary structure beginning the Old Testament in the opening two chapters is seen in the opening two chapters of the gospel of John as well [which, in this respect, should be the gospel beginning the New Testament, paralleling Genesis beginning the Old].
As well, with respect to everything moving toward the seventh day, the subject matter is the same throughout both books. In Genesis, this is accomplished mainly through the use of types; and in John, this is accomplished mainly through the use of signs.
The former [Genesis] has to do with the restoration of a ruined material creation, occurring over six days of time, with a seventh day following [a day of rest following]; the latter [the gospel of John] has to do with the restoration of another ruined creation, ruined man, occurring over six days of time, with a seventh day following [a day of rest following].
Thus, if the gospel of John occupied its proper place in the Canon of Scripture — set at the beginning of the four gospels — each Testament would be introduced by this septenary structure.)
Then, with the preceding in mind, note the first four parables in Matthew chapter thirteen. Events in these parables form one facet of a commentary on that which occurs during the two days immediately preceding the Sabbath, which covers the entire present dispensation. And, viewing events in the remaining three parables, which move beyond the present dispensation and progress on into the Messianic Era, it’s easy to see and understand how all these parables move toward this same goal — the same goal set forth at the beginning of Scripture, the coming Sabbath. Everything moves toward this goal.
And exactly the same thing can be seen in the seven epistles to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three. This sequence of epistles simply forms another facet of a commentary on that which occurs during the two days immediately preceding the Sabbath. And, from the overcomer’s promises, along with that which is revealed in Revelation chapters one and four, it’s easy to see and understand that all of this (exactly as the parables in Matthew chapter thirteen) has to do with the Church in relation to the Word of the Kingdom and the coming Sabbath. Again, everything moves toward this goal.
Thus, it should be a simple matter to see that anything in the New Testament that has to do with the Church centers on things having to do with the coming kingdom. And though man may write his history books completely separate from this message, Scripture centers its revealed history of the Church completely by this message.
During the first century, Christians would have understood a history of the Church in keeping with Scripture, for the Word of the Kingdom was universally taught throughout the churches of the land. Today though, the situation has become completely reversed. Because of the working of the leaven over almost two millennia of time, the message surrounding the Word of the Kingdom has become so corrupted that two things are evident:
First, a Church historian wouldn’t know enough about the Word of the Kingdom to even include it within his account in the first place, much less ascribe to this message a central place in his account.
Second, even should a Church historian write about the matter, Christians wouldn’t be able to understand that which he was writing about. Because of the working of the leaven over almost two millennia of time, the truth about the Word of the Kingdom has become so corrupted that it would be completely alien to their way of thinking.
And that’s where we are in a supposedly enlightened twentieth century Christendom, immediately preceding Christ’s return for the Church. We’re living during a time when there is far more material available for Bible study and research than has ever existed in the history of the Church — everything from the extensive computer study and research programs to new books being printed every day. But we are also living during a time when the birds of the air are freely lodging in the branches of the tree, with its roots sunk deep into the earth, where the leaven has almost completed its work.
The parables in Matthew chapter thirteen deal far more extensively with the negative than they do with the positive. More space is given in the first parable to those who fail to bring forth fruit than is given to those who do bring forth fruit (in three of the four parts). And the emphasis in the second, third, fourth, and seventh parables is on different facets of this same work of Satan as well. Only the fifth and sixth parables, which have to do with Christ’s redemptive work as it relates to the earth and to His bride, form an exception.
Thus, the central thrust of these parables is seen to be far more negative than positive. These parables have to do centrally with exposing the work of Satan throughout the dispensation in relation to the Word of the Kingdom, along with revealing where this will lead, both during and following the dispensation.
As the dispensation draws to a close and Satan’s corrupting work nears its final stage, the whole matter goes almost completely unrecognized in Christendom. And the reason for this is easy to see and understand. The leavened state of Christendom is being viewed by those who have themselves been adversely affected by the leaven.
They are, in this respect, as were the two disciples on the Emmaus road who were walking alongside the resurrected Christ and didn’t even recognize Him. Their inability to recognize the Christ of the Old Testament Scriptures — the Word that had become flesh, the Old Testament Scriptures that had been manifested in a Person — resulted from their inability to properly understand these same Scriptures. It was only after these Scriptures had been opened to their understanding, followed by Christ breaking bread, that their eyes were opened.
And Christians today, viewing a leavened Christendom and not seeing or understanding its true condition, are simply not viewing matters from a correct biblical perspective. Their inability to recognize the true condition of the Church stems from their inability to understand that which Scripture reveals about the matter. And, if their eyes are to be opened to the truth of the existing situation, such will occur only through the truth of the Word being presented to them and being accepted by them.
But will such occur during the present dispensation? Will the truth about the coming kingdom ever be proclaimed in such a manner that it will be accepted, allowing the eyes of Christians to be opened?
One here and one there will hear and understand the message, but not the Church at large. Conditions can only continue to deteriorate in the latter respect. Such was assured — the pattern was set — when the woman placed the leaven in the three measures of meal. And conditions can only continue to deteriorate, until the whole has been leavened.
The Purpose of the Comings of Christ
(Taken from Mysteries of the Kingdom, Chapter 1, by Arlen L. Chitwood)
John the Baptist appeared as the forerunner of the Messiah at His first coming, as Elijah will appear as the forerunner of the Messiah at His second coming. A prophecy that had to do with Elijah was applied to John the Baptist (cf. Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3); and John was said by Jesus to be Elijah, with a condition applied to the statement (Matthew 11:13, 14).
The passage in Isaiah, applied to John the Baptist, is set in a context surrounding Messiah’s coming at a time when Israel repents and the nation is healed (vv. 1-5). This, of course, didn’t occur during or following John’s appearance, though the prophecy was applied to John. This will occur only following Elijah’s appearance as the forerunner of the Messiah (Malachi 4:1-6).
Christ’s statement concerning John being Elijah carried the condition, “if you will receive.” That is to say, if the nation would have received the message, Elijah, rather than John, would have appeared at that time as the forerunner of the Messiah. The latter was conditioned on the former. God though, in His foreknowledge, knew what Israel would do and sent John the Baptist as the forerunner of Christ at His first coming instead of Elijah.
John the Baptist was the Elijah of his day, as Elijah will be the John the Baptist of his day. And the two men are so closely associated with one another that the prophecy applying to Elijah at Christ’s second coming in Isaiah 40:3 could be applied to John at Christ’s first coming in Matthew 3:3.
1. Ministry of John, Jesus, and the Twelve
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea with a single, simple message: “Repent: for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). This was a message directed to the nation of Israel, calling for national repentance, with a view to the Jewish people holding the scepter, with their Messiah, within the heavenly sphere of the kingdom.
The kingdom was “at hand [had ‘drawn near’]” because Messiah was present. The King of the kingdom — the One destined to replace Satan as the ruler over this earth — was present; and the scepter could, at that time, have passed from the hands of Satan and his angels into the hands of Man, conditioned upon Israel’s repentance.
Israel was being offered regal positions with the nation’s Messiah, in a heavenly realm; but there was a condition. The nation had to repent. The nation had to change its mind.
This was the totality of the message proclaimed by John. It was a call for the nation of Israel (the entire nation) to change its mind, with a view to the Jewish people occupying regal positions with the nation’s Messiah in the heavenly sphere of the kingdom. Satan and his angels would be put down, and Christ and the repentant nation would move in and take the kingdom.
However, things didn’t go in this direction, and John eventually found himself in prison. Then Jesus took up the same message, which, under His ministry, was accompanied by miraculous signs — signs having to do with the kingdom, which centered on physical healings.
Jesus went throughout all Galilee doing two things: 1) “preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” and 2) “healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:12, 17-25).
The message concerned the proffered kingdom, and the healings were miraculous signs intimately and inseparably connected with the message being proclaimed. Israel was sick, “from the sole of the foot even to the head,” and healing for the nation was in the offing, conditioned upon the nation’s repentance.
All of this — Israel’s condition and that which could and would occur following Israel’s repentance — was set forth in detail numerous places in Old Testament prophecy. But one section of the numerous prophecies will suffice to illustrate the point — a section of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Note how Isaiah opened his prophecy. He began by describing Israel’s present condition:
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 to anger, they have gone away backward.
Why should you be stricken any more? You will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. (Isaiah 1:4-6)
Then Isaiah continued his prophecy by describing Israel’s healing. He went on to describe what the nation could have, if…
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. (Isaiah 1:16-19)
And, beyond that, Isaiah concluded a section of his prophecy by describing conditions in Israel following the time of the nation’s repentance and healing:
And I will turn My hand against you, and thoroughly purge away your dross, and take away all your tin [paralleling “dross,” undoubtedly referring to metals in an impure sense].
And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning: afterward you shall be called, the city of righteousness, the faithful city . . .
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
And many people shall go up and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
And He shall judge among the nations . . . . (Isaiah 1:25, 26; 2:2-4a)
Christ’s message to Israel, along with the message of the Twelve whom He later commissioned (Matthew 10:1-8) — in complete keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy (among numerous other Old Testament prophecies) — was simply a call for the nation to repent, with a view to healing and the nation being established in her God-ordained position in the kingdom (Exodus 19:5, 6). The healing of an individual constituted a sign for the Jewish people to visibly behold, showing them what could happen to the entire nation, if . . .
“Repentance” on the part of Israel was the sole condition in the message proclaimed to the nation by John, Jesus, and the Twelve: “Repent: for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand.” Then, following national repentance, healing would occur.
The Jewish people were to change their minds about their prior attitude towards God’s commandments (Isaiah 1:19; cf. Leviticus 26:3ff; Deuteronomy 28:1ff). They had previously disobeyed that which God had commanded. And because of this disobedience, Israel had not only failed to fully occupy her God-ordained position in the Old Testament theocracy but the day came when this theocracy ceased to exist; and, in connection with the end of the Old Testament theocracy, Israel found herself in captivity and scattered among the Gentile nations.
(The northern ten tribes were carried into captivity by the Assyrians about 722 B.C., and the southern two tribes were carried into captivity by the Babylonians about 605 B.C., beginning the times of the Gentiles. And a few years later the Shekinah Glory departed from the holy of holies of the temple in Jerusalem, ascending to heaven from the Mount of Olives, marking the end of the Old Testament theocracy.)
And even during the time Christ was on earth, though a remnant was back in the land, the nation remained under Gentile dominion. The times of the Gentiles, which began during the days of Nebuchadnezzar, continued then, as it still continues today. John opened the message to Israel concerning the proffered kingdom, Christ continued this message following John being cast into prison, and the Twelve later also carried this same message to Israel.
And, though numerous Jewish people heeded the call and repented, the nation as a whole refused. The nation as a whole refused to change its mind relative to disobedience, something which had marked the history of the nation throughout centuries of time.
2. Israel’s Climactic Rejection
Events surrounding the offer of the kingdom of the heavens to Israel, beginning with John and continuing with Jesus and the Twelve, reached an apex in Matthew chapter twelve. However, the apex reached was not one of acceptance on the part of the nation. Rather, it was one of rejection.
In this chapter, Christ healed a man on the Sabbath (vv. 9-13), pointing to Israel’s coming healing on the Sabbath (the seventh millennium, the coming Lord’s Day, following the six millenniums comprising Man’s Day [cf. Numbers 19:11, 12; Hosea 5:15-6:2; Matthew 17:1-5]). And, following this miraculous sign, “the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (v. 14).
The Pharisees (along with the Scribes) — fundamental, legalistic religious leaders — were, by far, the largest of the religious parties in Israel. And, occupying this position, they sat “in Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:2), controlling the religious life of the nation.
These controlling religious leaders were the ones who followed Christ about the country, seeking, at every turn, to counter both His message and the miraculous signs He was performing. And, in this chapter they reached an apex in their rejection by not only rejecting the manifested sign of a man being healed on the Sabbath (pointing to Israel’s healing on the Sabbath) but by subsequently holding a council concerning how they might be able to do away with the One having performed this sign.
Then, later in the chapter, Christ healed a man possessed with a demon, who was both blind and dumb (v. 22); and the Pharisees, in their rejection of the manifested signs, reached a terminal point. They attributed the power behind the manifestation of this miraculous sign to Satan (v. 24). And doing this after they had rejected the sign pertaining to Israel being healed on the Sabbath, along with subsequently seeking to do away with Christ, was the final straw.
These signs were being performed through the power of the Spirit (in completely keeping with the way God performs His works [cf. Genesis 1:2b]); and the Pharisees, attributing Christ’s works to Satan, committed what was called by Christ, “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (v. 31).
The Pharisees had previously done the same thing (Matthew 9:34), but here the setting is different. Here it follows their rejecting the sign of the Sabbath and their attempting to do away with the One having performed this sign. Israel’s religious leaders, at this point, had gone beyond what could be allowed. And Christ stated, relative to that which they had done:
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (vv. 31, 32)
For all practical purposes the kingdom of the heavens was taken from Israel at this point in Matthew’s gospel, though the announcement was not made until later (Matthew 21:43). And it was at this point in Christ’s ministry that a major change occurred.
The Scribes and Pharisees, immediately after Christ told them that they had committed a sin having far-reaching consequences, had the effrontery to ask Christ for an additional sign (v. 38). They had rejected all of His previous signs, even attributing the power behind the last one to Satan, and now they asked for something that they had previously rejected time after time.
This was little more than a personal affront, further seeking, by any means possible, to discredit the One performing these signs (as they had previously attempted to do). But Jesus, knowing full-well their thoughts, responded with the only sign that would now be given to them — the sign of the prophet Jonah, pointing to His coming death, burial, and resurrection rather than to the kingdom (vv. 39, 40).
Then Christ described the condition in which the nation of Israel, because of the actions of their religious leaders, now found itself.
The men of Nineveh would rise up in judgment and condemn this generation, for they had repented at the preaching of Jonah. And One greater than Jonah was standing in Israel’s midst, calling for the nation’s repentance, but to no avail (v. 41).
The queen of the south would, likewise, rise up in judgment and condemn this generation, for she had come from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. And One greater than Solomon was standing in Israel’s midst, One whom the Jewish people wouldn’t hear (v. 42).
The nation was to be left in a desolate condition, wherein the Jewish people would walk through dry places, seeking rest, and find none. And, should the people comprising this nation persist in their disobedience, particularly relative to any attempt to bring about a change in their state themselves, conditions would only become worse. Their latter end would be “worse than the first” (vv. 43-45; cf. Leviticus 26:18-31).
And this is the setting for Christ’s departure from the house, His going down by the seaside, and His beginning to speak in parables in Matthew chapter thirteen.
Christ’s Actions, Continued Rejection
The seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen present a sharp change in God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. Heretofore, events surrounding the proffered kingdom had been strictly Jewish in nature, but now something completely new and different in relation to this kingdom is introduced. These parables have to do with the kingdom of the heavens as it pertains to individuals separate and distinct from the nation of Israel.
Before He began to speak in parables, Christ went “out of the house, and sat by the seaside” (v. 1). The first four parables were spoken outside the house, down by the seaside (vv. 3-9, 18-33). Then Christ went back “into the house” (v. 36) and gave three more parables (vv. 44-50).
The use of “house” and “seaside” is fraught with meaning. The “house,” from which Christ departed, and later reentered, is a reference to the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6; 23:38); and the “seaside,” to which Christ went, is a reference to the Gentiles (Jonah 1:12; 2:10; Revelation 13:1).
Thus, within the symbolism of that which is stated, the Lord left Israel (departed the house), went to the Gentiles (sat by the seaside), and gave four parables. Then the Lord returned to Israel (went back inside the house) and gave three additional parables.
The kingdom of the heavens — about to be taken from Israel at this point in Matthew’s gospel — would have been taken from Israel prior to the time of the occurrence of events revealed in the first four parables, spoken outside the house. And the last three parables, though spoken back inside the house, could, not really pertain to Israel per se. Because of the subject matter — the kingdom of the heavens, having previously been taken from Israel — these parables would have to still pertain to those outside the house, associated with the seaside (note that there is no mention of Christ leaving the seaside [leaving the Gentiles] when He reentered the house [returned to Israel]).
In this respect, the first four parables would concern the Lord’s dealings with a people other than Israel, associated with the Gentiles; and these dealings would have to do with these people in a particular realm — in relation to the kingdom of the heavens.
Then, the last three parables, because of the continued subject matter (the kingdom of the heavens), would have to continue the continuity of thought from the first four. And further, though spoken back inside the house, these parables really cannot be Jewish in nature (for, again, they deal with the kingdom of the heavens — a sphere of the kingdom in which Israel could no longer have a part).
All seven parables have to do with events during time that elapses following the Nobleman’s departure “into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom,” and with events during time that terminates with His “return” after receiving the kingdom (cf. Luke 19:12ff). There is nothing in these parables that occurs before Christ’s departure from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9), events depicted in these parables occur almost entirely during the time of Christ’s absence (Psalm 110:1), and events in these parables will be concluded immediately following Christ’s return (Revelation 19:11ff).
These parables — centering around a message pertaining to the kingdom of the heavens — have to do with an offer of the kingdom to a people other than Israel, following the removal of the kingdom from Israel (cf. Matthew 21:33-43; 1 Peter 2:9, 10). These parables have to do with the message pertaining to the kingdom of the heavens during and following the present dispensation, and these parables conclude with events surrounding Christ’s return (after He, the Noblemen in Luke 19:12, has received the kingdom from the Father [cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15; 19:11ff]).
The course of the dispensation is depicted in the first four parables, and the last three have to do with concluding events (directly related to that previously revealed in the first four) that will not only bring the age to a close but also usher in the next age, the Messianic Era.
Thus, the Lord reentering the house is not an act that places an emphasis on His dealing with Israel once again. Rather, the emphasis remains where it is seen in the first four parables. Nor is there any mention of Christ leaving the seaside when He goes back inside the house. And the significance of this is seen in the fact that His prior dealings with the Gentiles (first four parables) would continue.
Israel is reintroduced because that dealt with in the final three parables cannot be accomplished apart from God dealing with the Jewish people once again. But the emphasis in these three parables continues from the same place in which it was seen in the first four parables.
(Briefly stated, all seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen form a continuous discourse having to do with the kingdom of the heavens being offered to a group other than Israel. The people of Israel had rejected the proffered kingdom, and the kingdom was about to be taken from Israel, with a view to a separate and distinct entity [the Church] being called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel rejected [Matthew 21:33-43].
In the first four parables, Israel is not in view. These parables have to do with God’s dealings with this new entity, separate from Israel, during a time in which Israel is set aside; but in the last three parables, Israel is brought back into view. And God begins to deal with the nation once again, with a view to two things:
1) concluding His dealings with Israel [something not seen in these parables but seen numerous places in related Scripture], and
2) concluding His dealings with the new entity brought into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel rejected [the central issue seen in these parables]. Because of Israel’s connection with certain concluding events, Christ had to go back inside the house before delivering the last three parables.
The first four parables have to do with the course of Christendom during the present dispensation [the course of the period during which God is removing from the Gentiles “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14)], with Israel set aside; and the last three parables have to do with events occurring after God resumes His national dealings with Israel, following the removal of the Church from the earth and God turning once again to Israel. But the Church, though having been removed from the earth before events in these last three parables begin to occur, is still the central figure seen throughout these parables.
The setting for the last three parables is the coming Tribulation and events surrounding Christ’s subsequent return. And, though the Church will not be on earth during the Tribulation, this period really has just as much to do with the Church as with Israel.
The Tribulation, along with being “the time of Jacob’s trouble” [Jeremiah 30:7], will be the time when redemption [future not past] of the inheritance awaiting Christ and His co-heirs will occur. And this future redemption, having to do with the inheritance will also include the bride — already having been redeemed, past — who, through this future redemptive act, will become Christ’s wife.
This entire sequence of events, along with related events that usher in the Messianic Kingdom, is depicted in the last three parables. And, in this respect, the last three parables simply form a chronological continuation and conclusion to the events depicted in the first four parables, with all seven parables forming a history of Christendom in relation to the Word of the Kingdom, extending from the time of the Church’s inception on the day of Pentecost in 33 A.D. to that future time when the Church is present, with Christ, in the Messianic Kingdom.)
The Context of Each Passage of Scripture
It should go without saying that context must always be considered before one derives a proper interpretation of God’s Word. And although this is true throughout God’s Word, it is most critical when coming to an understanding of which aspect of God’s redemption plan for man is being addressed in any passage of Scripture.
Probably the most notable example of Scripture misinterpretation when this rule is ignored, which is prevalent throughout Christendom from local Bible classes to many of its finest theological institutions, is the interpretation that the book of Hebrews, along with its five distinct warnings, is directed to “professing” Christians (i.e., those who have not actually placed their faith in Christ); when, in fact, this is one of the most detailed instructional manuals specifically addressed to Christians and is centered on the salvation of the soul.
For the reader to gain a truly enlightened concept of using this principle as it applies to the book of Hebrews, it suggested that he review the book, Let Us Go On, by Arlen L. Chitwood, which may be acquired from the website www.bibleone.net.
The following is the “Foreword” from this book:
There is a logical progression in thought as one moves through the five major warnings in the book of Hebrews. And all of the warnings are directed to Christians alone, centering around the same subject matter — Christians either realizing or failing to realize the salvation of their souls/lives, synonymous with Christians either realizing or failing to realize the rights of the firstborn; and this salvation, realizing these rights, has to do strictly with the position that Christians will occupy in the coming Messianic Era (Hebrews 6:12, 18-20; 10:36-39; cf. James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:9).
In the first warning, the salvation set before Christians is called, so great salvation, and is specifically stated later in the epistle to be “the saving of the soul.” This is the greatest thing God has ever designed for redeemed man, for it centers around man being removed from the earth, placed in the heavens, and occupying the throne as co-heir with the “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2-2:5; 10:39; cf. 3:1).
Then the second warning outlines the route that one must travel during his pilgrim journey if he would one day come into a realization of so great salvation. The route carries one from Egypt to Canaan.
Spiritual lessons are drawn from the historic account of the Israelites under Moses, forming the type. And these spiritual lessons are seen in the antitype surrounding the experiences of Christians under Christ. The Israelites under Moses had been called out of Egypt and were being led toward an earthly land, wherein their calling was ultimately to have been realized. And Christians under Christ have been called out of the world and are being led toward a heavenly land, wherein their calling is ultimately to be realized.
With these things in mind, the third warning then continues with one major overriding thought: Let Us Go On! (6:1). The thought has to do with moving from immaturity to maturity; and this maturity, contextually, centers around Christians coming into a knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding the land set before them, for a revealed purpose.
In other words, so great salvation has been set before Christians (warning one), and the route that Christians must travel to realize this salvation has been well marked (warning two); then, with these things as an established background, the writer exhorts Christians to go on to a mature knowledge and understanding of those truths that God has revealed concerning the land set before them (warning three).
Entering into that land and realizing the rights of the firstborn therein is the goal of the Christians’ calling. And pressing toward this goal or any goal apart from knowing and understanding certain things about the goal, or things which may lie in the pathway, preventing one from reaching the goal, would be unheard of.
This is easy to see from the manner in which Christians are commanded to array themselves for the spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:11ff, for they cannot properly array themselves apart from a knowledge and understanding of that which lies out ahead.
The “helmet of salvation,” for example, is identified as the “hope of salvation” (cf. Ephesians 6:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8); and the “hope of salvation” has to do, not with the salvation that Christians presently possess, but with the salvation of the soul (Hebrews 6:12, 18, 19; 10:36-39), which is the central message of the book of Hebrews.
The “helmet of salvation” cannot be possessed apart from a “hope” based on knowledge and understanding. But it is only one part of the armor, and the possession of other parts of the armor require a similar knowledge and understanding surrounding the goal of the Christians’ calling. And, apart from being properly arrayed for battle after the fashion revealed in Ephesians 6:11ff, Christians will suffer defeat time after time and ultimately fail to realize the goal of their calling.
Drawing from the previous two warnings in order to understand the third is the progressive manner in which the things in this book, Let Us Go On, have been structured; and this is also the progressive manner in which any correct exposition of Hebrews chapters five and six must be viewed.
Scripture must be understood in the light of Scripture. There is first the near context, and there is then the far context. The near context, in this case, takes one back to the previous two warnings; and the far context takes one to the various other related points in Scripture throughout both the Old and New Testaments. One must compare “spiritual things with spiritual” if he would come into a correct knowledge and understanding of the things that God has revealed to man in His Word (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
Conclusion of the Matter
Unquestionably, within Christendom today, there exists a very large and bewildering confusion over the method whereby one may obtain “eternal salvation,” and, for that matter, what “eternal salvation” actually means. Many believe it is achieved through faith, others believe it is a product of works, and still others combine the two to achieve such an end.
Upon a thorough study of God’s Word, as has been outlined in this document, the conclusion of the matter is that salvation is achieved both by faith and works, depending upon which aspect of His redemption plan for man is addressed, i.e.,
(1) Spirit-salvation (an instantaneous passing from “death to life”) is strictly achieved by means of a decision of faith in Christ, based totally (only) upon Christ’s finished work on the cross in the place of anything that man can do; and, is completely unchangeable — can never be altered or withdrawn by man or God — insuring a person an eternity with God in the ages to come.
(2) Soul-salvation (a progressive, continued work by the Holy Spirit within man, which leads from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity) is strictly achieved by means of one’s faithful consumption of God’s Word, applying it to one’s temporal life (e.g., works); which, may assure one’s eventual participation in Christ’s rule during the coming Messianic Era — the coming thousand year reign of Christ over the earth.
(3) Body-salvation (the transformation of the body) will be strictly achieved by God in accordance with His schedule after one’s temporal life, resulting in the body being conformed to Christ’s glorious body (Philippians 3:21).