Lack Of Nothing

A Simple Lesson in Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

“…he that gathered little had no lack…” (Ex. 16:18).

“Neither was there any among them that lacked…” (Acts 4:34).

“…that ye may have lack of nothing” (I Thes. 4:11,12).

As we can see here, throughout the Bible, God has been concerned that His people do not lack for the basic necessities of “food and raiment” (I Tim. 6:8). However, as we shall see, the means by which He provides for these necessities has changed. To begin with, when the manna fell in the wilderness, Moses told Israel:

“…Gather of it every man according to his eating… And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less… he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack…” (Ex. 16:16-18).

Here we see that God miraculously provided daily bread for Israel during their wilderness journey, and they “lacked nothing” (Deut. 2:7). We know He also supernaturally prevented their shoes and clothing from wearing out during those forty years (Deut. 29:5). But as we turn to the New Testament, we find that the means by which God provided for the needs of His people changed. At Pentecost, we read,

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:44,45).

“Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:34,35).

As you can see, the means by which God provided for His people changed dramatically. Here He provided their needs by instructing them to pool their resources and live in a communal state.

Today in the dispensation of Grace, the means by which He supplies our needs has changed yet again. Our Apostle Paul tells us:

“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we have commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (I Thes. 4:11,12).

Once more we see that the means by which God provides His people with the necessities of life has changed. Today a Christian’s needs are met by God as he goes about “working with his hands the thing which is good” (Eph. 4:28).

And so we are reminded anew that while God Himself never changes, the way in which He deals with men has changed dispensationally throughout the ages.

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

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Berean Searchlight – August 2004

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Part 3: Moses and the Law

(This is the third of a series of articles that first appeared in 1950 in Truth magazine, published by Milwaukee Bible Institute/Worldwide Grace Testimony, now the Grace Gospel Fellowship. These articles have never before appeared in the Searchlight.)


The covenant of the law was made between God and Israel, with Moses as mediator and angels to witness and confirm the transaction (See John 1:17; Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19).

It was made 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant, in which God had promised repeatedly and unconditionally that Abraham’s multiplied seed should be His people and should become the blessers of the world.

This poses a problem, for here, more than four centuries after making these unconditional promises to Abraham and confirming them to Isaac and to Jacob, God begins to add qualifications, saying:

“Now therefore, IF ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, THEN ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine” (Exod. 19:5).

Paul faces this problem candidly when he states in Galatians 3:15:

“Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disanulleth, or addeth thereto.”

Or to state it in modern English: Even a man, after having signed an agreement would not think of taking from it or adding to it. Once the agreement is confirmed by his signature it must be carried out as agreed.

And then, presenting the problem, the apostle adds:

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added…” (Gal. 3:19).

Would God, then, add qualifying clauses to a covenant already made and confirmed? Yes—indeed, He added a whole new covenant! And to increase the difficulty, Israel confirmed the added covenant, answering in unison:

“…All that the Lord hath spoken we will do…” (Exod. 19:8).

Thus what Abraham’s seed had once been promised unconditionally now seemed to depend upon a very big “IF”—probably the Bible’s biggest “IF,” for who could obey God’s voice indeed and fully keep His law?


Thank God, we are also given the solution to this perplexing problem. To begin with, the apostle assures his readers:

“And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that is should make the promise of none effect” (Gal. 3:17).

What, then, is the solution?

First, the law was not given, as so many suppose, to help men to be good, but to show them that they are bad. And be it noted that while the covenant of the law was made with Israel, it nevertheless spells condemnation to all the race, for it outlines those standards of holiness to which none of Adam’s children can attain and without which no man shall see God (Heb. 12:14).

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19,20).

“…It was added because of transgressions…” (Gal. 3:19).

But did not this very fact make it impossible for God to fulfill the unconditional promises made under the Abrahamic covenant without violating the stipulations of this added covenant? Did not this added covenant specify that they should be His people IF they obeyed His voice indeed? Was it not now impossible for the most godly Jew to be saved? Had not God in fact nullified the whole Abrahamic covenant?

No, for the penalty for the broken law was to be met by God Himself in due time. God had made this added covenant simply to show man his moral and spiritual bankruptcy and that on the grounds of the added covenant he could never be saved. The unconditional promise made so long ago still stood and every believing Israelite was accepted of God.


That God did not mean the Mosaic covenant to make the Abrahamic void is evident from several interesting facts found in the record of the Mosaic covenant itself.

After giving Israel claim to acceptance with Him only IF they obeyed His will, God proceeded to instruct Moses:

“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering….And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exod. 25:2,8).

And this while He knew they were not obeying His voice and were preparing to dance as heathen about a golden calf!

This seeming indifference to His own solemn word is partially explained as He further instructs Moses:

“And they shall make an ark…. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee” (Exod. 25:10,16).

The word here rendered “ark” is really “coffin.” The very same word is used in Genesis 50:26, where we read of Joseph:

“And they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”

Thus the very first article of furniture God commanded for the tabernacle was a coffin to bury the law in!

It is unfortunate that this word has been translated “ark” in the Authorized Version. Wherever we read of the “ark of the covenant” in the Bible we should remember it is the “coffin of the covenant.” This will throw light on many, many passages which otherwise might be obscure.

Significantly God commanded that the cover for this coffin should be a “mercy seat” (Exod. 25:17).

“And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony which I shall give thee.

“And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat” (Exod. 25:21,22).

All this, of course, was symbolic of truths later to be revealed, but it indicates that God did not for one moment mean the Mosaic covenant to make the Abrahamic covenant void, since Christ was to meet the full demands of a broken law by His death.


God would not have added the Mosaic covenant had it not been for the Lamb “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (I Pet. 1:19,20). Nevertheless, having Christ in mind, He did add it and Israel accepted and confirmed it so that, for the time being, it was binding upon them. And this served to demonstrate to them their utter depravity and inability to obey God.

By about 600 B.C. it had been more than fully proven that the covenant of the law could not bring Israel to God and He promised to make a New Covenant with them, putting His law in their inward parts and writing it upon their hearts. This was about the time Israel lost her national supremacy and “the times of the Gentiles” began. The law was growing old. Hebrews 8:13 says of this:

“In that he saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”


As it was the coming death of Christ that warranted putting the law into a coffin in the first place, so it was the death of Christ that finally abolished this covenant. But all this began to be manifested only after sin had risen to its height and God had saved the chief of sinners, sending him forth with the gospel of the grace of God.

For sometime after the Cross Messiah’s followers still considered themselves under the law. No revelation had yet been given to indicate that they were not. Ananias, that faithful follower of Christ who baptized Saul of Tarsus, was “a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there” (Acts 22:12). It was only in Acts 15, at the great Jerusalem council, that the Jewish believers first agreed that Gentiles were not to be under the law. Whether or not the Jews were to be under the law was not even discussed. They assumed that they were still to continue under the law, for no revelation had been given to the contrary. However, with the fall and setting aside of the nation with whom the covenant had been made, and with the further revelation of Paul concerning both the law and the work of Christ, it became evident that the covenant and dispensation of the law had come to an end.

There are those who suppose the Pentecostal believers should have realized that the law had been nailed to the Cross, but it must be emphasized that not until Paul did God give any revelation to that effect. The “dispensation of the grace of God” was not committed to Peter but to Paul and until Paul it had been a mystery (See Eph. 3:1-3). Not until Paul do we read:

“BUT NOW the righteousness of God without the law is manifested…to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past…to declare, I say, AT THIS TIME His righteousness: that He might be just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-26).

Not until Paul do we read:

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).


But while the covenant of the law was abolished, the law itself will, of course, remain forever. God has graciously removed the “IF” but this does not alter the fact that His people in every age should seek to obey His voice indeed. Also, the dispensation of the law—the ordinances, statutes and all that—has passed away, but the principle remains.

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3,4).


Those who suppose that at Pentecost the twelve should have known that the law was done away sometimes think this because the New Covenant was made at Calvary. But the making of a covenant is not the fulfillment of it. It is too often forgotten that God merely promised to make a new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31, and that the covenant was not made until Calvary. It will not be fulfilled until all Israel is saved and they all know the Lord, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

But here again it should be noticed that the New Covenant, while displacing the covenant of the law does not displace the law itself. Indeed, by it, God’s people will spontaneously fulfil the law. This could not be stated more clearly than it is in Jeremiah 31:33:

“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”


As the Old Covenant was made with Israel alone, yet affects the whole world (Rom. 3:19), so the New Covenant, while made “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,” affects the whole world too, for by “the blood of the New Covenant” the condemnation of the Old was removed.

Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant (Gal. 3:19); Christ was the Mediator of the New (Heb. 9:15). Moses demanded righteousness, but he could neither give the ability to obey the law nor undo the effects of a broken law. But Christ as the Mediator of the New Covenant, paid the debt of a broken law, offers His own perfect righteousness and by His Spirit enables the believer to live pleasing to God.

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Berean Searchlight – June 2004

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The Rich Man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31

The question is often asked, is the account of the rich man and Lazarus a historical account or is it a parable? Is it the true story of two men who lived and died during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry or is it a made-up story used by the Lord to drive home a point? I believe that the evidence is that it describes an actual history of these two men.

By definition, a parable is a true-to-life story used to illustrate or illuminate a truth. This is true even if all of the details never occurred exactly as presented in the story. They are special stories that may, or may not, reflect historical events. Nevertheless, they must be true-to-life. By true-to-life we mean that a parable must be based on a real-life situation that the hearers are familiar with. In other words, the story itself has to be based on events that could have happened, whether they ever actually did or not.

Our English word “parable” is a transliteration of the Greek word parabole. It is a derivative of paraballo, which comes from two Greek words para and ballo. Para means alongside or by the side of. And ballo means to lie, or to place, something. Thus, a parable is a story put down beside a truth in order to illustrate that truth through comparison. Therefore a parable must be a true-to-life story in order for it to have any meaning to those who hear it. To try to use a fanciful story containing elements that have no basis to the world in which men and women live would only serve to confuse people rather than providing them with spiritual light. A simple survey of the Lord Jesus’ use of parables reveals that He always used things commonplace to daily life, such as the building of houses, storing old and new wine, sowing seed, weeds growing along with the crop, yeast permeating bread dough, hidden treasure, fishing, monetary debts, unforgiveness, vineyards, family life, weddings, a barren fig tree, a lost coin, an unjust judge, etc. While His hearers may not have made the connection to the truths the Lord was pointing out, they needed no explanation as to what the stories were about because they involved common everyday things to which they could relate. When the hearers of the parables perceived that there was an analogy between the story and their own situation, they were prompted to think about it, hopefully to respond by faith to the truth illustrated. Parables can be extraordinary and even shocking, but never unrealistic or fanciful.

When we come to the account of the rich man and Lazarus, we find a situation different from what is found in any of the parables. The Lord Jesus’ hearers could understand the contrast between the lives of a rich man and a poor beggar. It was common to see beggars sitting by the road hoping for a handout, and they could easily identify the folks who had more than enough wealth to live comfortably. Then, as now, there was a stark difference between the lives of those who have an overabundance and those with nothing. Although we can still grasp that there is a great difference between the lifestyles of these two men, the vastness of the “great gulf” between them is often lost to us because of the welfare and social services provided by the government. This is not the case in many third world nations today where people are literally starving to death. Regardless, the contrast in this story is the reversal of that gulf after the death of these two men.

The hearers of this story could follow the contrast between these two men right up to the moment of their deaths. At that point, however, the situation changes drastically. The outcome was something that they could not relate to any life situations that they had ever witnessed. The state and location of the departed soul was beyond their life experiences, or what is commonly known to be true by experience. The circumstances described go beyond the realm of the parable. That does not mean that it isn’t a true-to-life story, however. Physical death is a natural part of the life experience of all mankind, but what takes place afterward is hidden from those who have not yet experienced it. In this account of a beggar and a rich man, the Lord was revealing the reality of what takes place following physical death to drive home an important truth. We should mention at this point that even if it was a parable, the place referred to as Abraham’s bosom and the account of what took place in there would have to be based on reality for it to have any meaning.

Following are some reasons that this should be considered a history of two real men and not a parable.

  1. Parables are true-to-life, but hypothetical, illustrative stories. The names of specific individuals are never given in them, but here the names of three men are given; Lazarus, Abraham, and Moses. Also mentioned are the “prophets” who were also real people. (“Moses and the prophets” is a general term for the whole Old Testament that refers to its human authors).
  2. It does not have the normal form of a parable with an introduction, analogy story, and application. Instead it is in the form of the narration of a real-life story given for the purpose of illustration.
  3. It does not use the principle of comparison in a way that is characteristic of parables.
  4. The discussion between the rich man and Abraham is not consistent with the parabolic style found in the Scriptures.
  5. It seems obvious that in relating this particular story when He did, the Lord Jesus was using a real-life account that many of those listening to Him that day could readily relate to it because they actually knew, or at least knew of, the two men involved. The rich man’s brothers may have even been in the audience.


The main point of the story of the rich man and Lazarus is that an individual’s wealth and social standing, or the lack thereof, is not necessarily an indication of that person’s spiritual standing before God. Many of the Jews believed that the fact that they had accumulated wealth that afforded them social status and prominent positions in the religious community proved that they were under the blessing of God. They also thought, according to their logic, that those who were poor were under the curse of God. They no doubt appealed to the promises made to Israel in the Law of Moses concerning the blessings of prosperity for obedience to God’s Law and the curses of poverty because of disobedience, failing to recognize the national rather then the personal nature of those promises (see Deut. 28:1-45ff.; etc.). They were also ignoring the many warnings found in “Moses and the Prophets” that were directed towards the leaders of Israel who selfishly misused their power and wealth (see Isa. 56:10-12; Ezek. 34:1-4ff.; Micah 3:1-4; etc.).

To challenge their seriously flawed thinking, the Lord Jesus told the parable of the unjust (or dishonest) steward (Luke 16:1-13). The main point of this parable was that the dishonest steward, who represented the Gentiles, was wiser than the “children of light,” a reference to the sons of Israel, who were to be a channel through which God’s light would reach the Gentiles, i.e., the nations of the world (Isa. 42:5-7; 49:5-6; 60:1-3; 62:1-3). The true Light of the World is Jesus Christ Himself (John 8:12), who is the Messiah of Israel. In the prophetic program, the only avenue through which the Gentiles can come to the Light is through the nation of Israel (Isa. 60:1-3; Zech. 8:20-23). The point of this parable was that those who were striving after riches were actually self-serving rather than servants of God. He was calling on them to choose between the two, saying: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [money]” (Luke 16:13). The implication was that those whose priorities were based on accumulating wealth were demonstrating that their hearts were not right with God (cf. Matt. 6:19-21).

On hearing Him, the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, scoffed at the Lord (Luke 16:14), who then accused them of being self-righteous and trying to press, or force their way into the Kingdom on their own terms (Luke 16:15-16). That is to say, they were counting on their self-proclaimed righteousness to open the door of the Kingdom to them. Jesus plainly declared that the terms of the Law were solid and could not be circumvented. The principles underlying the Mosaic Law express God’s character, and therefore the Law is more enduring than the whole of creation (Luke 16:17). He then revealed their hypocrisy by pointing out that their attitude about divorce and remarriage was not in line with God’s purposes (Luke 16:18; cf. Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9).

The key to understanding the point that the Lord is making in telling the story of the rich man and Lazarus is found in verses 15 and 16; “And He said unto them, ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:15-16).

Though their self-justification might gain them favor among men, it would not gain God’s favor because He knew what was in their heart (cf. Jer. 17:9-10). The things that men hold in high regard, things that gain them position and respect among men, are disgusting to God. In truth, the love of money reveals a covetous heart that has given its allegiance to “mammon” rather than God (cf. I Tim. 6:10).

In the Law and the Prophets, a general term for the Old Testament Scriptures, is found the promise, or proclamation of God’s coming Kingdom on earth, which Israel was waiting for. John the Baptist came on the scene to introduce the Messiah, who would usher in the Kingdom Age, to Israel (John 1:26-34). After being baptized by John Jesus Christ began His public ministry by saying, “The Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (see Mark 1:9-15).

Of course, the Jews, especially the Pharisees, knew that entrance into the Kingdom was conditioned on obedience to God’s Law. To drive home His point about how the money-loving Pharisees were misusing their wealth, to their own peril, the Lord told the true story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man wasn’t lost because he had wealth, nor was Lazarus saved because he was poor. This was a matter of the heart with the focus being on the rich man, not Lazarus.

The rich man’s failure to help Lazarus, a fellow Israelite, revealed that he had a wicked heart, a non-repentant heart. By refusing to provide for the poor beggar sitting at his gate, the rich man was rebelling against God who, through Moses, had given Israel specific instructions on how those with resources were to treat their poor fellow countrymen (see Deut. 15:7-11). They were to open their hands wide in providing for the poor and needy in their land. This man showed that he did not love the Lord God of Israel with all of his heart, soul, and might as commanded by the Law (Deut. 6:4-5; cf. Mark 12:28-30). The evidence of this was that he did not love his neighbor, who in this case was Lazarus (Lev. 19:18; cf. Matt. 22:34-40). Although he thought he could force his way into God’s Kingdom, his heart attitude, which was demonstrated by his actions, proved him to be unworthy to enter.

When he asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers about what awaited them beyond death’s door if they did not repent, “Abraham saith unto Him, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). If, like the rich man, his brothers would not heed the warnings found in God’s Word, from Moses and the Prophets, neither would they believe someone who had been raised from the dead. This proved to be true as even after His own resurrection the leaders of Israel rejected the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. It is sad to say, but for the most part mankind has continued to reject Christ as savior, even until today.

Being true-to-life, whether it is historical or parable, this story is based on truths from which we can learn certain facts about the state of those who have experienced physical death. This is true even though teaching these things is not the main purpose the Lord had in telling it. Being based on truth, the facts learned from the experience of the rich man and Lazarus are consistent with what is found in other places in Scriptures. From this passage we know that:

  1. After physical death, individuals continue to exist in a state of personal consciousness (vv. 22-25ff.; cf. Rev. 6:9-10).
  2. Having experienced physical death, the individual’s destiny is sealed. There is no opportunity to cross over from the place of utter hopelessness to a place of hope after physical death (vv. 25-26).
  3. Hades is not a figure of speech but a real place of suffering to which the unsaved go to await the final judgment (vv. 23-24). They will stay there until the time of the resurrection to condemnation when they will be consigned to the Lake of Fire forever (cf. Rev. 20:11-15).
  4. There is a place, referred to here as Abraham’s Bosom, which is a place of comfort and joy (v. 25). The saved go there until the time of their resurrection unto life. This place is also referred to as “Paradise” in the Scriptures (cf. Luke 23:39-43). Originally it was a partitioned section of Hades, but was moved to heaven after Christ’s resurrection. Paul speaks of being “caught up into paradise” (II Cor. 12:4). This implies that Grace saints and Kingdom saints may jointly occupy Paradise until the time of their respective resurrections.
  5. After physical death, unsaved individuals will have regretful memories of the past and knowledge of their hopeless future (vv. 25-28).
  6. After having died, individuals go to Hades or Paradise and are not able to return or send back messages to those still living (vv. 26-28). Samuel, Moses, and Elijah are exceptions, having been sent by God as special envoys. No one can return by an act of their own will. The Scriptures leave no possibility for reincarnation and spiritism.
  7. Neither the saved or the lost will cease to exist, nor will they exist without form between physical death and the resurrection. Both have a temporary form of some kind that enables them to see, speak, hear and feel (vv. 22-25). No doubt this form is of a spiritual nature and substance, but nevertheless, it is a tangible form with a recognizable human likeness.


The story of the rich man and Lazarus clearly shows that after physical death they were very much aware of their circumstances and what was going on around them. The Apostle Paul stated that for the believer “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (see Phil. 1:21-23), indicating that this is in fact the case. That he had “a desire to depart (this life)” to be with the Lord tells us that he expected to consciously experience something “far better” than can be found in this life. This means that at the time of physical death believers will “gain” something. As precious as the believer’s life “in Christ” is in the here and now, it will be greatly enhanced when he leaves it to enter into the presence of the Lord. Paul’s statement that “to live is Christ” speaks of a purposeful life lived in service to and for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way to add to this, to gain that which is better, is to enter into the very presence of Christ in heaven to consciously enjoy perfect fellowship with Him in a way that we cannot in this life. It is only by faith that the believer can find the confidence to face death “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (see II Cor. 5:7-8).

That the death of a believer brings him, or her, into a situation considered to be “gain”, or the increased experience of spiritual blessing, refutes all erroneous ideas such as soul sleep or that the soul ceases to exist at death to be awakened or recreated at the time of the resurrection. To enjoy the life of Christ in this life only to be experientially separated from Him by becoming unconscious or ceasing to exist would be loss, not gain. This would be true even if it was only for a short time. But the fact that we have been given eternal life guarantees that we have everlasting fellowship with God. Our life in Christ will never be diminished, only enlarged. That “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5) mandates the continued conscious existence of the believer after physical death because nothing, not even death, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).


  1. The Old Testament saints are pictured as being “gathered to their people” after physical death (see Gen. 25:8; 35:29; 49:29,33; Num. 20:24,26; 27:13; 31:2; Deut. 32:48-50): To be gathered to other people makes no sense, and no meaning, if it only refers to entering into an unconscious state of being. To be gathered to their people speaks of being joined together in a relational way.
  2. His child having died, David expected to eventually go to his son (see II Sam. 12:13-23): If he had expected to enter into an unconscious state, he would have had no such hope. David fully expected to see his son on the other side of the vale of physical death. David’s words, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me,” show that he did not have the hope of resurrection in mind, but to join his son after he died. Together they would await the resurrection while enjoying each other’s company.
  3. Samuel’s appearance to Saul and the woman of Endor (see I Sam. 28:3-20): King Saul was struck with fear over a coming battle with the Philistines, and the Lord God was ignoring his petitions for guidance. He became so frightened and distressed that he sought out a necromancer in a desperate effort to contact Samuel, the departed prophet, who had in better times been his spiritual counselor. It was a frightful shock to this woman when God allowed Samuel to actually appear to deliver a prophetic message from the Lord to Saul. No doubt she either planned to trick Saul or expected a demon masquerading as Samuel to appear. Adding to her fear was the realization that the man who had come to her in an effort to communicate with Samuel was actually King Saul, who had a reputation for putting mediums like her to death. In his appearance Samuel had a recognizable human form and was able to carry on a conversation with Saul. His complaint about being disquieted (disturbed) indicates that he was abiding in a state of conscious bliss that was interrupted in order for him to make this appearance. That it is said he was brought “up” rather than brought “back” shows that he was residing in the lower parts of the earth. We believe that he was in Abraham’s Bosom, or Paradise, which at that time was located in the heart of the earth in a place called Sheol, or Hades (see the Repentant Thief on the Cross below).
  4. The Calling of Lazarus from the Grave (John 11:1-46): Although the “how” is beyond our understanding, the fact that Lazarus responded to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command to “come forth” from the grave speaks to us of the continued conscious existence of the soul following physical death.
  5. The Repentant Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:32-34, 39-43): As they hung on their respective crosses, one of the thieves who was crucified with Him turned to Jesus with a repentant heart saying, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom”. Christ’s response was to say, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (see Luke 23:39-43). We know that at the time of His death the Lord Jesus descended to the “heart of the earth” where He stayed for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40) “and preached to the spirits in prison” (I Pet. 3:19). This tells us that up to the time of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world, “Paradise” was in the heart of the earth. He promised the repentant thief they would be together in Paradise that very day. This is the same place that is referred to as Abraham’s Bosom in Luke 16:22. From II Corinthians we know that Paradise is now located in “the third heaven” (see II Cor. 12:1-4). Obviously this abode of the saved dead was moved from the innermost parts, or the heart, of the earth to the heavenly abode of God. Paradise is the place where the souls of the redeemed reside awaiting the resurrection. Before the price of their redemption was paid on the cross, it was located in the heart of the earth. But, after the full payment was made, it was relocated to the third heaven, or the Heaven of heavens, where God is. There they wait in God’s presence for the time of their resurrection. The souls of all of the redeemed who have died since Jesus Christ’s resurrection have entered into God’s presence there as to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord” (see II Cor. 5:6-8).
  6. Jesus Christ’s Direct Teaching that Departed Saints are Alive (see Matt. 22:23-32): Using a hypothetical situation, the Sadducees challenged the Lord Jesus concerning the resurrection of the dead, which was something that they did not believe in. The Lord turned the tables on them, though, by exposing their ignorance about the subject. First He explained that in the resurrection, marriage would not be a consideration. He then went on to confront them on an important issue concerning the saints who have experienced physical death. He knew that the Sadducees not only denied a literal resurrection of the dead, but also even denied the continued existence of the person after death. To reveal their error, the Lord quoted God’s words to Moses at the burning bush, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). Although Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died hundreds of years before the time of Moses, God used the present tense “I am” rather than the past tense “I was” when identifying Himself to Moses as their God. This shows that they were existing in a conscious state at that time. The Lord Jesus’ remark, in the present tense, that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32) reveals that they were still alive as He spoke, some 1500 years later. Being alive indicates a continued conscious existence. If this was true before the Cross, it is undoubtedly true of believers on this side of the cross.
  7. The Appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36): It could be argued that Elijah couldn’t be held up as an example because, rather then going through the normal experience of physical death, he was caught up into heaven in an unusual way (II Kings 2:11). However, even though it was under unique circumstances, there is no doubt that Moses suffered physical death and his body was buried (Deut. 34:5-6). Moses, with Elijah, appeared on the mountain after Jesus Christ was temporarily glorified before the eyes of Peter, John, and James. They appeared in a recognizable form and it is specifically stated that they spoke with the Lord about His impending death. This event reveals the continued conscious awareness of those who have departed this life. That Moses and Elijah spoke with Christ about His departure, which was about to take place at Jerusalem, confirms their continued ability to think, remember, and communicate. We don’t have a record of exactly what Moses and Elijah spoke to the Lord Jesus about concerning the death He would die, but there can be little doubt that their conversation centered on what would be accomplished through the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world. He would fulfill the prophecies about Himself found in Moses and the Prophets (cf. Luke 24:25-26,44-48).
  8. That Jesus Christ Will Bring the Departed Grace Believers with Him from Heaven at the Time of the Rapture of the Church (I Thess. 4:13-18): Those who have died physically are presently in heaven as their body “sleeps” in the grave. Returning with Christ from heaven (v. 14) when He comes for His Church, they will receive their glorified bodies first (vv. 15-16) and then those still living will receive theirs as they are caught up to be with the Lord (v. 17; cf. I Cor. 15:51-54). That Christ will bring them from heaven with Him can only mean that they are first in heaven with Him.
  9. The Martyred Saints of the Tribulation (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-10,14): While the believers who will die for their faith in Christ during the Tribulation are particularly singled out here, it must be remembered that their status is that of Kingdom saints. That is to say that their hope is to enter into Christ’s Millennial Kingdom along with all of the other Kingdom saints. Their experience of being martyred during the Tribulation will be unique to the time in which they will live and die, but they will share the same general hope of all of the Old Testament saints. That they are found in heaven after having died indicates that all of the Kingdom saints who have gone before them are there as well. That they are pictured as asking the Lord to bring forth judgment on the earth indicates that they are anticipating returning with Him to receive their inheritance in His Kingdom (see Jude 14-15; Rev. 19:14-16). These martyred Kingdom saints, and all the others, who will accompany the Lord when He returns to earth, are obviously waiting in heaven until the appointed time. That they are specifically said to be wearing robes and bowing before the altar in heaven tells us not only that they will continue to exist in a state of consciousness after death, but also, that they will have a recognizable human form.


The inter-dispensational principle that we learn from the story of the rich man and Lazarus is that it is only in this life that any man or woman has the opportunity to be reconciled to God. For those who die in unbelief, there is no second chance and there is no one to intervene on their behalf. To die without Christ is to be separated from God forever, first in the torments of Hades and finally in the Lake of Fire. As believers, this should move us with compassion for the lost and stimulate us to use every means available to proclaim the Gospel of Grace as far and wide as possible.

We also learn from this story that believers immediately enter into a better place when they leave this life at the time of physical death. Knowing that this is true provides hope and comfort both to believers who are facing death and to those they leave behind in this life.

The Lord Jesus’ purpose in telling this story was to warn the self-righteous money-loving Pharisees about the consequences of trusting in the traditions of man and worldly riches rather than in the Word of God (cf. Mark 7:5-13; Luke 12:16-21). He also made it clear that people cannot be convinced of the truth through miracles such as someone being raised from the dead, but are to be convicted of the truth through the agency of God’s Word (cf. Rom. 10:17). Those who foolishly reject the message of salvation through the cross will die without hope, while those who accept the gospel as true and place their faith in Christ are reconciled to God and receive the gift of eternal life. “In the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21). There is no one greater than “our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13-14); there is no greater message than that of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:1-5); There is no greater calling than to “the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25-27).

The Teachings of Jesus

In the controversy over “Pauline truth,” not a few Fundamentalists have joined Modernists in attempting to exalt “the teachings of Jesus” (on earth) above the Word of God through Paul. “Which,” they ask, “should bear the greater weight with us, the words of Jesus, or the words of Paul?”

But do they ask this because they truly desire to obey these “words of Jesus” and to see them obeyed? No, for they flagrantly disregard and disobey them, from the Sermon on the Mount to the Great Commission.

With regard to the Sermon on the Mount, they do not subject themselves to the law of Moses (Matt. 5:17-19); they do not bring gifts to altars of sacrifice (5:23,24); they do not give freely to all who ask of them (5:42; 10:8,9); they do not refrain from laying up treasures on earth (6:19,25,26); they do not sell what they have and give alms (Luke 6:30; 12:33).

And while professing obedience to the so-called “Great Commission” as “the Church’s marching orders,” they do not proclaim faith and baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16); they do not—they cannot—perform miraculous signs (Mark 16:17,18); they do not give the Jew first place in their ministry (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8), and they certainly do not teach others to observe all things that Messiah on earth commanded (Matt. 28:20 cf. 23:1-3).

They set “the teachings of Jesus” (on earth) over against “the teachings of Paul,” not because they are determined to obey Jesus, but because they are determined to minimize that which God has “magnified”—the authority of Paul as “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13).

They seek to exalt the teachings of the earthly Jesus above those of Paul because they have closed their ears to the oft-repeated and Spirit-inspired claims of Paul that the glorified Lord spoke again from heaven, to and through him, committing to him “the dispensation of the grace of God” and the program for the day in which we live (Acts 20:24; 22:6-10,17-21; 26:12-18; Rom. 11:13; 15:15,16; 16:25,26; I Cor. 3:10; 11:23; 15:3; II Cor. 5:16; Gal. 1:1,11,12; 2:7-9; Eph. 3:1-4,8,9; 6:18-20; Phil. 4:9; Col. 1:23-27; I Thes. 4:15; II Thes. 3:14; I Tim. 2:5-7; II Tim. 2:7-9; Titus 1:2,3, etc.).

They have forgotten the stern rebuke the Galatians received for failing to recognize Paul’s teachings as a message from the risen, exalted Christ (Gal. 1:6-12). They have taken lightly Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

“…if I come again I will not spare: since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me…” (II Cor. 13:2,3).

They have distorted Paul’s inspired admonition as to his own writings:

“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing…from such withdraw thyself” (I Tim. 6:3-5).

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Family Ties

(Tracy and his wife Brenda have five children and have been serving in Bratislava, Slovakia with UFM International since 1996. Tracy has written several evangelistic tracts in Slovak and preaches regularly on city streets with a sketchboard. Together with 3 other couples they have started a small church, Spolocenstvo Milost (Grace Fellowship), which they would like to see grow and multiply to the glory of God. Tracy attended Dallas Seminaryin the early ’90s and came to understand the uniqueness of Paul’s gospel through a fellow seminary student and also through some books by C. R. Stam which were in the seminary library.)

Jesus Christ’s statements about how He came to divide families have to be one of the most difficult parts of the entire Bible. He said:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:34-37; see Luke 12:49-53).

Elsewhere He adds, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

Two real-life situations demonstrate well the kind of devotion Jesus was calling for. One man whom Jesus had called to follow Him asked Jesus for permission to “bury [his] father” first, to which Jesus replied, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:59-60). A second man declared to Jesus his resolve to follow but then asked for permission to first “say good-bye to those at home”. Jesus’ response was shocking, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 61-62).


As is clear from the preceding verses, Christ’s teachings about “discipleship” in general and about “hating” and leaving family in particular all have to do with “the kingdom of God”. Numerous times the prophets of the Old Testament spoke about a future day when a descendant of David would set up a great kingdom of righteousness and peace on earth in which God’s chosen people, Israel, would be specially blessed in their land and be a channel of blessing to all other nations (for example, see Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ezekiel 37:1-28; Joel 2:12-27; Micah 4:1-8; Zechariah 8:1-23). Centuries later John the Baptist, Christ, and the twelve apostles in their respective ministries to the Jews all proclaimed “the gospel of the kingdom”, the good news that this kingdom promised by the prophets was finally “at hand” or very close to being established (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7) because Jesus, the promised King, was present on the earth to get everything prepared for it. Even after His resurrection Christ taught the apostles for 40 days about this kingdom, and the apostles were eagerly anticipating its “restoration” (Acts 1:1-6).

In order to be accepted as Christ’s disciples and enter the kingdom, the Jews at that time needed to turn back to God in repentance (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 6:7-12) and make some challenging acts of commitment. Christ called on the people to obey the Mosaic Law, even “the least” of the commandments, so that their righteousness would “surpass” that of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees whom God had rejected (Matthew 5:17-20; 23:23-27; see 19:16-19; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28). He also commanded His followers to sell their possessions: “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33); “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity” (12:29-33). To leave one’s family, if the family rejected the kingdom call, was another necessary commitment.

Most Christians are in agreement that these teachings of Christ apply to us today and need to be obeyed. Yet at the same time they sense the obvious difficulty of obeying them literally, so they say that we need to “balance” what these verses say with what other verses in the Bible say. They then conclude that Jesus must have just meant that we need to be willing to do those things. Jesus does not require us to actually sell our possessions and leave our families, it is commonly explained, but He wants us to be willing to do so and, especially, to not value such things more than Him.

I admit that such an interpretation sounds good and would definitely make Jesus’ commands much easier to obey. The only problem is that this is not at all what Jesus said. There is no hint in those verses that mere willingness was all that was necessary. The two men referred to above who were not allowed to part with their families before coming to follow Christ certainly could not have applied Christ’s commands so loosely. We must let the verses say what they clearly say. There is nothing to “balance”. We can accept them or reject them, but we don’t have the right to change them so that they say what we want them to say.

Taking His words at face value, it is clear that Christ expected His listeners to do exactly what He said. That is why the first disciples in Jerusalem really did leave their families and possessions to follow Christ (Matthew 19:27; Luke 19:1-10; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32). They could not let any person or thing on earth hinder them from entering the kingdom which, at that time, was so near. And to encourage His disciples in their commitment Christ promised that, when the kingdom will be established, “all these things” [i.e. food, clothes, houses, and family] and “many times as much” will be awarded to those who will have sacrificed all to enter it (Matthew 6:33; 19:28-29; Luke 12:31).

After Jesus’ death and resurrection which had to take place before the kingdom could come (Luke 24:25-26; see 1 Peter 1:11), the twelve apostles were given the authority to offer the kingdom to Israel. They promised that, if the Jews would repent, Jesus would then return to earth from heaven and bring in “the times of refreshing” and the “period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:17-21). In other words, if Israel as a nation would turn back to God and choose to follow their resurrected Messiah and King, they would finally receive their promised kingdom with its glorious blessings. It was a time of great anticipation and urgency. Everything depended on the nation’s response.


As we know from the Book of Acts the Jews as a whole continually rejected this final call to repentance. As a result Christ did not return to earth, and the promised kingdom did not come. Then an important change took place. Instead of blessing His chosen nation, God chose to turn away from them in judgment and sent the apostle Paul to inform them that God was “turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:44-49; 18:5-6; 28:23-28). In the present age since Israel’s “fall” (Romans 11:11) God has been doing a new work with a new group of people—the Church, the body of Christ, in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). This is the group to which all Christians belong today. Christ will, indeed, establish the prophesied kingdom and fulfill all God’s promises to Israel in the future after He returns to the earth (Matthew 19:27-30; 25:31). But at the present time He has a different plan and a different set of promises for us.

Because of this change in God’s program from Israel to the “Church which is His body”, some of the things Christ taught while He was on earth have also changed and, therefore, do not apply to us today. Christ Himself made these changes known through Paul, the “apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13; see 15:15-16). In Paul’s letters we read about several “mysteries”, truths concerning the new Church which had been previously “kept secret” and “hidden in God” until Christ revealed them directly to Paul from heaven. Even “the word of God” or “gospel” which Paul preached was a “mystery” (Romans 16:25-27; Colossians 1:24-29; Ephesians 6:19; see Titus 1:1-3) which the risen Christ gave to Paul so that he could proclaim it to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:6-2:10).

One of the new features of Paul’s gospel has to do with the Mosaic Law. Though the Law used to be the absolute standard of God’s righteousness, Paul explains that God is “now” (don’t miss that important little word!) offering people a new kind of righteousness which is “apart from the Law” (Romans 3:21). On the basis of Christ’s death for our sins and resurrection, God is willing to accept as righteous all those who do nothing more than believe in Christ and in the good work which He has done. Our own good works in obedience to the Mosaic Law or any other legalistic system are wholly excluded from salvation (Romans 3:19_4:5; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-7). Also, those who have been saved through faith in this gospel or good news are not “under” the Mosaic Law in the sense that they must obey all its commands. Instead, they are “under grace” and are to follow a new set of commands and teachings (Romans 6:14; 7:1-6; see Galatians 3:23-26; Ephesians 2:11-16; Titus 2:11-12).

God’s instructions regarding family relationships have changed as well. Far from exhorting Christians to leave their families, Paul teaches them to stay with and be devoted to their families. Husbands must “love [their] wives just as Christ also loved the church”, and wives are to be “subject” to their husbands “as the church is subject to Christ” (Ephesians 5:22-25; see Colossians 3:18-19). Men who desire to be elders in the local church must “manage [their] own household well” (1 Timothy 3:4-5; see Titus 1:6). Young women are to “love their husbands…[and] children” and to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5). Young widows should “get married, bear children, [and] keep house” (1 Timothy 5:14). Even Christians with unsaved spouses are to remain with their partners with the goal of leading them to salvation (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Paul also commands Christians to provide for their families financially (1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8,16), which clearly requires that they not leave their families and not give all they have to charity!


Most Christians since the first century, probably without even thinking about it, have accepted Paul’s teachings on family life as the basic biblical standard. That is good! Certain individuals and groups, however, have put more emphasis on Christ’s teachings on discipleship and have tried in varying degrees to apply them literally. I met some members of such a group a year ago during one of our regular evangelistic outreaches on the street. They called themselves “disciples” and drew their whole theology of sacrificing possessions and family relationships from Jesus’ teachings in the gospels. I had some long conversations with them, and it was in response to them that I originally wrote this article.

In their desire to be true “disciples of Christ” these and other well-meaning people over the years have actually sold their possessions and abandoned parents, spouses, and children. Others have resolved to join a monastery or to never save money. Worst of all, some people, including the “disciples” I met, actually believe that such acts of commitment are necessary for salvation.

We should appreciate these people for their fervor and zeal. They have a sincere love for God and desire to please Him. They are willing to do almost anything “for the sake of the kingdom”. Yet at the same time we should say that their actions are wrong because they are out of line with the Bible’s commands for God’s people today. And those who require acts of commitment to Christ for salvation are proclaiming a false gospel of faith and good works combined and are, therefore, under a curse (Galatians 1:8-9).

This issue is a good example of how proper interpretation and application of the Bible is not just something for “theologians” in seminary classrooms to be concerned about. It’s absolutely crucial for all of us and for every area of our lives! Zeal is important, but it must be “in accordance with knowledge” (Romans 10:1-5), in accordance with God’s plan for the present age as He revealed it to and through the apostle Paul. Mixing the teachings God intended for us today with teachings intended for others of a different era has lead to much confusion in the body of Christ and, sadly, to much hardship and strife as well.


Does this mean that we Christians today have it easy compared to the faithful Jewish disciples in the first century? Are we free to just “eat, drink, and be merry” and live however we please? No way! God does not want us to be consumed with sinful pleasures and passions “that are on earth” but to be focused on “the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1-4; see Philippians 3:17-21). God does not want us to seek earthly possessions and riches but to be “content” with the most basic provisions of “food and covering” (1 Timothy 6:6-10; see Philippians 4:10-13).

Of course, God wants us now to be wholly devoted to Him just as He wanted the Jews 2000 years ago to be wholly devoted to Him. But our situation is entirely different. God is not now working to fulfill His promises regarding the earthly kingdom like He was then. That kingdom is not “near” now like it was then. It is not surprising, therefore, that God wants us to show our devotion to Him in an entirely different way.

So don’t sell all your possessions! And whatever you do, don’t abandon your family! To do so would be to “deny the faith” and be “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8)! Rather, let us serve Christ by being wise and generous with our possessions and, especially, by serving our family. To be devoted to our spouses and children and parents in obedience to Paul’s teachings is one of the most important ways we can “honor” God and His word today (Titus 2:5).

Berean Searchlight – May 2004

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Is The Mystery In The Old Testament?

No, of course not! Then why does Paul often quote the Old Testament to substantiate the Mystery (e.g., Rom. 15:9-12)? Let’s start in Acts 26:22, where Paul testifies:

“I continue unto this day…saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come.”

This statement seems to belie Paul’s insistence that his message was “hid from ages and from generations” (Col. 1:26). However, he explains himself in the next verse:

“That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23).

The death and resurrection of Christ was not a mystery, nor was God’s plan to show light unto “the people” (of Israel) and “to the Gentiles.” Thus Paul is saying that while his message did not fulfill the prophets, generally speaking it did not contradict the Old Testament. We see the same in Acts 15, where the leaders in the church met to decide what to make of Paul’s new gospel.James concluded:

“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets…” (v. 14,15).

James didn’t say that Paul’s new message fulfilled the prophets. Rather he said it agreed with them, i.e., God always intended to visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. Of course, according to Prophecy this was supposed to happen through Israel’s rise (Isa. 60:3), not through her fall (Rom. 11:11). Someday in the kingdom it will. But in the meantime, James could not deny that generally speaking Paul’s new message was in accord with the Old Testament.

When most New Testament writers quote the Old Testament, it is to show fulfillment of prophecy. However, when Paul quotes the Old Testament, it is to show harmony, not fulfillment.

Let’s close with an example. In Romans 10:19 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:21, where God vows to provoke Israel to jealousy by “a foolish nation.” This cannot be the Gentiles, for they are “the nations,” plural. Peter rather identifies the believing Jews to whom he wrote as the “holy nation ” that God originally used to provoke the apostate nation of Israel to jealousy (I Pet. 2:9 cf. Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32) and fulfill Deuteronomy 32:21. But in the next chapter of Romans, Paul says,

“…I am the apostle of the Gentiles…if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh…” (Rom. 11:13,14).

Here Paul declares that God was now using the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. Not in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:21, but certainly in harmony with it!

So while the Mystery is not in the Old Testament, Paul can quote it freely to show how his new message was in agreement with it.

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

A Stranger in a Strange Land

In 1961, Robert A. Heinlein published his best selling science fiction novel, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.1 The premise of this fictional and highly allegorical work is this: A young man, born on Mars and raised by Martians, suddenly is thrust into a society that is foreign. Heinlein paints a picture of someone struggling to find himself among a race of people with whom he shares little except a physical resemblance.

As believers, we may rightly dismiss the flights of fancy of science fiction writers; however, there are times in every believer’s life when he or she is overwhelmed by the world in which they live. We truly are strangers in a strange land. Our values, ethics, concerns, and general worldview are inimical to that of the world. This was recently brought to prominence by the shocking, in your face half time show during the Super Bowl. What was once a family activity—watching the culmination of the football season on television—has turned into an opportunity for purveyors of pollution to contaminate the airwaves.

This perverted media deluge is not limited to broadcast media, although it is the most pervasive. Time Magazine’s2 recent sensationalist reporting on the so-called Lost Gospels attempts to cast doubts on the Bible that we hold so dear. Many a parent has found himself in the uncomfortable position of explaining a suggestive billboard to a child because of the intrusive nature of the medium.

This raises the question: What is a believer to do? What is a proper Grace response in the face of this cultural onslaught?

Historically, evangelicals in general and dispensationalists in particular have taken a “head in the sand” separatist attitude. This may have worked during a previous generation, but in the culture in which we live, isolationism is practically impossible, unless you choose to withdraw completely from society, vis-à-vis the Amish.

Dispensational eschatology expects that a society composed of fallen men and women will continue in moral decay until God intervenes after removing the Church. The fact that sinners behave as heathens should come as no surprise: It has been so since the Fall. What has changed in recent history is the open aggression demonstrated by neo-paganism against the Body of Christ. It is one thing when men and women live in sin among their fellow sinners, sad as that may be. It is quite another when they want to soil us with their muck by forcing it upon us.

Witness the recent decision by activist judges in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Unelected officials decided that they know what is best over the will of the elected legislators. The residents of these states are now forced to deal with the prospect of same gender marriage.

Lest we think this is simply the agenda of a small left wing group, remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). There is method to the madness behind this spiritual attack.

Thus we see that withdrawing from the world, as desirable as that may be, is not a viable option. We must also consider our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ. Again, Paul puts it well: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:20). An ambassador is a representative from one country to another. As ambassadors of Christ, we are His representatives to a fallen world, a position that requires that we live among strangers.

We are then left with the unanswered question: How shall we respond in the face of such overwhelming evil in our society? If isolation is not an option, nor is it a proper response for ambassadors, how shall we then live?3

As in all things moral, the Bible has much to say about the believer’s response and responsibility to a lost world. In the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke affords us ample opportunity to study Paul’s response to the evil world to which he was sent. Acts 13:4-11 records an event that occurred at the very beginning of Paul’s ministry. When confronted by the evil sorcerer Elymas, who was “seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith” (13:8), Paul did not shy away, nor did he try to compromise with this evil. The stakes were eternal and Paul did not suffer fools lightly. He did not mince words: “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). Verse 11 records that Paul struck Elymas blind. Granted, we should not expect to likewise experience such a charismatic display; we do not hold the office of apostle. The point is that Paul was confronted by evil at the onset of his ministry and he did not shy from the confrontation.

Notice next the effect this display had upon the unbeliever: “Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). May I suggest that if we take a page from Paul’s book and resist the evil in our society, we too will have an impact on the life of the unbeliever who is among us?

Acts 15, along with the book of Galatians, records Paul’s response to the efforts of the Jews to force the Gentiles to submit to the Mosaic Law. Some of the harshest language used by Paul is found in Galatians 5:12: “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” The force of this statement is greatly softened by the King James translators. In the Greek, Paul’s anger is apparent: He is suggesting that these Jews perform a bit of surgery on themselves. Thus, we again see that Paul is not afraid to engage the society in which he lives. Brethren who were trying to add to the Gospel of Grace were leading believers astray, in this case by requiring circumcision. Imagine his response to the siren’s song of secularism seducing our young people today?

Another example from the Book of Acts is found in 17:22. Paul finds himself on Mars’ Hill surrounded by the leading philosophers of the day. He was certainly troubled by the rampant idol worship that he observed. Perhaps one could excuse him if he turned tail and fled, not only from the pagan worship, but also from the challenge of confronting the intellectual giants who daily gathered to debate. Far from fleeing, Paul engages these pagans. Luke has preserved the confrontation in Acts 17:22-32. Paul confronts the evil of idolatry, in this case in a more subtle way than that which he demonstrated toward the Galatians. He even quotes from their own philosophers in 17:28.

Further examples may be found in the epistles. Paul advises the believers at Rome to “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). The Greek word translated overcome twice in this verse is nikao.4 It means to conquer. Both are in the imperative or command mood. The first is in the passive voice and the second in the active. Paul is saying, “Do not be conquered by evil, instead, conquer evil with good.” The word “good” in the Greek is an adjective used as a noun in the instrumental case. The instrument for overcoming evil is the good. The word refers to that which is morally right, that which edifies. Paul uses a martial term to describe his reaction to evil: conquer evil with the antithesis of evil—moral goodness.

That there was considerable evil to be resisted is beyond a doubt. Paul’s description of the evil state of man up to his day is graphically portrayed in Romans 1:18-32. Anyone who tours the ruins of Pompeii will be confronted by a plethora of pornographic paintings, depicting such debauchery as to make a harlot blush. Romans 1:32 could easily be a description of our society: “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” The Greek word behind the translation “have pleasure” is suneudokeo. It means to agree with, to approve, or consent to something. Picture the man trapped in sin, observing the sinful behavior of others, and not only agreeing with the behavior, but giving active consent or approval. Misery loves company, does it not?

Conquering evil requires a conscious effort to confront those who practice evil. This may seem like simple advice, but recall the moral atmosphere of Rome. The capital of the Empire was also the capital of debauchery and confronting those who practiced evil, many of whom were those in power, was risky business. John the baptizer comes to mind. Paul also counsels the saints in Corinth to deal with immorality in the church by delivering “such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5). It is safe to say that Paul did not tolerate immorality in the church; I seriously doubt that he would have tolerated evil doers who were attacking the local body, knocking on the very doors of the church.

From the few examples above, the case may be made that if Paul were ministering today, he would not shy away from the evil in society. The apostle of Grace was well equipped to engage the battle for men’s souls; and from that battle, he did not shrink. Is it much of a stretch to say that we too have a responsibility to fight for the souls of men today?

The stakes in this battle are far greater than the souls of strangers, as precious as they are; the souls of our children are at stake. Few families today can afford private school, even if they may find one to whom they may entrust their children. Far fewer can or are able to home school. The only choice for the majority of families is public school. Need I go into detail about the corruption in public education today?

What then are our options as we seek to protect our children, be faithful ambassadors, and try to function in a dysfunctional world? May I suggest the following options?

1. Be aware: Many Christians, in an effort to protect themselves from the onslaught of worldly influences, have become isolationists. The world has fallen apart around them and they are oblivious to the effect that this is having on them and their children; they fiddle while Rome burns.

While standing before Agrippa, Paul recounts the events that have led to his imprisonment. When he relates the story of his conversion, Paul repeats what he has heard directly from the Lord concerning his mission: “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:17,18). Evil cannot stand before the Light of the Gospel. The best way to expose the false promises of the evil in our society is by shining the light of the truth upon them. Overcome evil with good, not force. You do not need to study evil to identify it, becoming well grounded in Biblical truth will suffice.

2. Be Proactive: Few of us would wait until we were robbed to consider locking our doors at night. We proactively take measures to protect our property. If we take such pains to keep our material goods safe, is it wrong to be proactive in protecting our children?

Many a pastor has had the experience of a parent seeking help with a youngster who is out of control. In a short time, he can determine that the parent is reacting to a problem that was long in the making. Instead of wringing our hands after the fact and wondering where we have gone wrong, we need to protect our children before trouble surfaces. Few parents would leave their children with a stranger of dubious character; fewer still would think twice about leaving their children unsupervised while watching television.

When I was a child, we had an old black and white television. The most exciting program was Bonanza. I remember, while watching this program with my parents, a short public service message that scrolled on the bottom of the screen: It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your children are? The hour of history is late. Do you know where your children are spiritually? Do not wait until they are in trouble to discover that they are involved with the things of the world. If you have a child who is old enough to understand salvation, and you do not know where they stand regarding salvation, you are guilty of spiritual child neglect.

3. Be Engaged: We in the United States are blessed to live in a country that continues to value liberty. We are enfranchised and empowered to decide who our leaders are going to be. Engage the society in which you live by knowing the candidates and the issues and then vote according to your values. You may be assured that the undesirable elements in our society will be at the polls. If you fail to have a voice in the society in which you live, you must live in that society without a voice against evil and injustice.

4. Be an Evangelist: Remember that our first responsibility to society is to be ambassadors for Christ. Even a morally repugnant and corrupt person needs a Savior. Jesus observed, “But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12). A gardener gets soil on his hands when he plants and reaps. An evangelist or ambassador may have to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty to minister to the lost. In doing so he must be cautious to prevent soiling his own heart.

Evangelizing the lost has the added benefit of a positive influence on the society in which we live. To be sure, not everyone will receive the Gospel, but for those who do, the Grace of God through the ministry of the Spirit can work wonders on the heart. People who were once devoted to debauchery may become servants to Christ and seek practical sanctification.

Conclusion: If the above sounds a bit radical and reactionary, perhaps it is. Drastic times call for drastic measures. We are engaged in a cultural battle for the minds and hearts of our children, families and society at large. We are fully aware that only Divine intervention will win the day. Until then, we must be willing to contest each and every soul that the enemy seeks.

Members of the Body of Christ may find themselves in strange territory when deciding to confront the issues and engage the evil in our society. Being an ambassador in wartime is not for the squeamish, but confront we must. Otherwise, we concede what is left of civility in our society and, like the survivors of the Titanic disaster, leave men to drown in their sins with our lifeboat half full.


  1. Stranger in a Strange Land. Robert A. Heinlein, Ace Books, August 1995. Originally published 1961.
  2. Time Magazine, December 22, 2003, Time Inc. New York, New York, p54. The Lost Gospels.
  3. I refer the reader to a book that asks the same question. THE COMPLETE WORKS OF FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFER, A Christian Worldview. Volume 5 A Christian View of the West Book Two. HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE (Westchester, Il) Crossway Books 1982.
  4. All Greek references from A Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, F. Wilbur Gingrich, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, and London. 1957.