Lest those, who having read this study may feel that they have been robbed of so much that is precious in the Word - so much from which they derive comfort and help, we would like to make it clear that while the various books and parts of the Scriptures are definitely ADDRESSED TO different companies of people at different times we MUST distinguish between; the interpretationand application of the Word.
Interpretation deals first with those to whom the passage of Scripture is addressed. When this has been settled we can then apply the passage to ourselves if this is consistent with truth revealed in this present age of grace, this is a legitimate application of Scripture.
A great deal of confusion and error has resulted among the people of God by spiritualizing. This method of reading the Scriptures ignores the primary interpretation and the literal meaning of a passage or portion of the Word and reads into it so-called spiritual ideas which may be nothing more than the personal opinion of the reader and which may be utterly at variance with other parts of the Bible.
There are truths in the Word of God which are BASIC to all the companies with their respective callings and hopes -Salvation, Redemption, Justification etc., and there are countless passages and portions of Scripture that are unspeakably precious, from which lessons can be learned and applied to our own hearts and lives.
A beautiful passage in Isaiah 26:3 will illustrate what is meant: "For thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusteth in Thee”.
This is true for all time to every trusting heart although as has been pointed out, the prophecy is concerning Judah and Jerusalem” and is primarily addressed to them.
"I really don't understand it"
"What's the matter?”
"Well, I've just opened a letter, and l can't make head nor tail of it”.
“Are you sure that it's for you? Is it addressed TO you?”
“Have you got the envelope?”
"Oh dear, I've read a letter that was intended for someone else - I've just looked at the envelope, and find that it wasn't addressed to ME , although there are references to me in it”.
I expect we have all had a similar experience, and could give instances where the neglect to read the address on the envelope has not only been amusing, but also has had very tragic consequences.
In our everyday life we attach a great deal of importance to our correspondence, letters received by us from day to day, and not only is confusion caused but also very real harm done through neglecting to make sure that it has been really addressed to US.
There are a great many people who are dealing with the Word of God as we sometimes do with our letters; the Bible, as we know, was written at various times to different companies of people. For instance, instructions were given to the children of Israel, and blessings promised to them. Attempts are often made to follow these instructions and to claim blessings that are not for us at all, although they make very profitable reading because:
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God-breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3: 16).
As an example of what is meant by reading the address on the envelope turn to the Epistle of James:
"James, a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”. (One hears about the ten tribes which were “lost” but here James sends a greeting to the whole twelve). The Epistle to the Hebrews was addressed to the Hebrews who are said to be "partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb.3:1), unlike the Jewish Nation who have an earthly one.
In one's own experience, and the experience of very many true believers, not only perplexity but also real distress have been caused by applying to themselves warnings which were written to these particular believers at that time; some have even felt that they had committed the unpardonable sin of Hebrews chapter six.
For a further example, open the prophecy of Isaiah ... "The vision of Isaiah which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem”. What untold harm has been done, and ridicule and contempt brought upon the Bible all down the years, by not reading the address on the envelope, and applying prophesies addressed to the Jew as a Nation, to the "Church”.
In our ordinary correspondence we also attach much importance, and rightly so, to dates or times. The value of any correspondence depends largely on its dates, vitally important on all legal documents and an absolute necessity if the subject matter refers to coming or going. To this all will agree. Surely then if correct dates are a necessity for the clear understanding of ordinary correspondence, the necessity applies with greater force when we seek to understand what GOD has written concerning matters of spiritual life and destiny.
It has been stated that, before seeking to understand any part of the Bible, four points should first of all be settled.
- By whom the particular prophecy or epistle was written.
- To whom it was addressed.
- The special circumstances which called for the writing.
- The date of the message.
While we cannot always fix a definite or exact DATE for the events of Scripture history, we CANarrive at the TIMES of such events, and we are told that “God hath spoken at sundry times, and in divers manners (in many ways)” ( Heb.1:1) .
Time is a vital factor in what is called in 2 Timothy 1:9 "Age-times” or the ages of time. During these age-times we read of a purpose, the purpose of the ages. This purpose concerns different companies of people, each of these being called or marked out beforehand for an inheritance. This purpose is secured by two immutable things, God's promise and His oath which are bound up with the redemptive work of Christ (Heb. 6:18)
I have before me a number of envelopes addressed to these different companies of people and l should like to open these envelopes and read what is written inside, but before doing so, I intend to read the address on the envelope and ask you the question "Is this letter for YOU?”. As l ask that, l am asking YOU - YOU who are a Gentile, living in what is known as the dispensation of Grace -- HERE, and NOW, to face up to what is written, and ask yourself "Did God REALLY intend that for ME? Am I the subject of it'? Do I fit the description, without spiritualizing or making it meaningless? Do I conform to the rules and obey the precepts contained in it?”
You began to perform evidential miracles the "signs" that Christ said would follow “them that believe” (Mark 16: 17-20). You cast out demons. You spoke in tongues. You took up serpents. You were able to drink “any deadly thing”. You laid hands on the sick, and they recovered. You even raised the dead (Acts 9:36-41). Even the shadow of Peter passing by, did wonders in healing the sick who had been brought into the streets, and laid on beds and couches (Acts 5:15) and also special miracles of healing were wrought by Paul (Acts 19:11,l2 ; 28:3,8,9). Your hope was a millennial one (Rom. 15 :12,13) for here the Apostle Paul places it, when the Lord reigns over the Gentiles as prophesied in the great millennial chapter of Isaiah eleven. You were waiting for the rest of the Nation to repent and be converted, when the Lord Jesus Christ would immediately return, and all the glowing prophecies of the O.T. regarding the earthly Kingdom would be fulfilled (Acts 3: l 9-26). The basis of all your salvation and hope is the New Covenant made by God with your nation (Jer. 31:31 ). “This is the blood of the New Covenant” (Matt.28:28). (The N.T. usage, must conform to the O.T. usage and its translation). lf you are a saved Gentile this letter is not addressed to YOU today.
The letter l am now going to read to you is addressed to: Mr. Saved Gentile, Stock of Abraham, Faith Entrance, New Covenant Square, Jerusalem. You were born a Gentile, and also lived during the period covered by the Acts of the Apostles. Some of the letters written during that period contain references to you. As a Gentile you were not present at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost: it was a “feast of the Jews”. The promise of the outpouring of the Spirit was not given to YOU , but to Israel (Acts 1). “I send the promise of My Father upon YOU “(Luke 24:49). It was not until eight years after Pentecost that the “door of faith” was opened to you, and God “granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11 :18). You turned to God from idols. You turned from pagan darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. You received the forgiveness of sins, and to the astonishment of the saved Jews, on you, a saved Gentile, was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45). You became a partaker of Israel's spiritual blessings (Rom.11:17). You thus have doctrinal blessings, and dispensational privileges in being linked with the covenant people (Israel). Unlike the proselyte (Mr. Gentile No. 1), you are not under law, but under grace. “If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal.5:2). You are members of a body (hands. feet, head, eyes, (1 Cor. 12), but you are not on an equality, dispensationally, with the Jewish believer.
The Jew is "first” for the Gospel (Rom. 1:16) and judgment and blessing (2 :9,10). The word of repentance and blessing is to the Jew first (Acts 3:26, 13:46, 26:20). You are only a “wild olive” grafted into the true olive (Israel) (Rom. 11:24), and are reminded that the root (Israel) bears you, and not the other way round (Rom. 11:18). You are warned that you can be “cut off” from this position (Rom. 11:20-22). Although you are not under law, there are “decrees” which you must keep – “four necessary things” (Acts 15:28). This was like the “middle wall of partition” between you and Jewish believers (Eph.2:15). The literal “middle wall” was an inscription on one of the Temple enclosure walls reading as follows: “No one, being a foreigner (Gentile) may enter in to the enclosure around the Holy Place. Whosoever is apprehended will himself be to blame for his death which will certainly follow". Your hope is the “hope of Israel” entertained by Mr. Hebrew Christian, as you have become a sharer of his blessings. If you, as a Gentile, disconnect yourself from the Jew in this Acts period how are you going to have the blessings there described?
- Israel, My Son - My Firstborn (Exod.4:22). Israel according to the flesh (Rom. 9). The earthly Company.
- The Heavenly City Company who are called in Hebrews 12:23 the CHURCH (ecclesia, i.e. a called-out assembly) of the FIRSTBORN (Gal. 4:5) (the Heavenly Jerusalem).
- The Members of the Body of which Christ is the Head. the CHURCH (ecclesia) which is His Body and His Fullness (Eph.1:22,23), predestinated unto sonship (adoption) (Eph.1:4), in the heavenly places "” al1” at the right hand of God.
To the Gentile, therefore, John has a special message. A message for the WORLD: “God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting (age-lasting) life” (John 3:l6 ).
The “guests” called, or bidden, to the Marriage feast are not the "wife” (Note Jer. 3:14 and Rev. 19) nor the “bride” (Rev. 21), nor the Body - of which Christ is the Head, but a special class who are privileged to attend the wedding of the King's Son as GUESTS, during the 1,000 years of His reign over the earth during the Millennium Kingdom. These must have “life” through His Name: they must have the Wedding garment.
In closing let us read together Revelation 19:6-9:
"And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him, for the marriage (marriage-feast) of the Lamb is come, and His wife (Greek gune) hath made herself ready'. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me,
Blessed are they which are CALLED (invited) unto the marriage supper of the Lamb".
For fuller understanding concerning this Company read John and the Mystery by C.H. Welch, where Scriptural proof is given to show:
1. The Dispensational place of John’s Gospel.
2. Its “Calling --- Guests of the Marriage of the Lamb.
3. Its relationship to the family of faith --- “children” not “sons”.
4. That the words of Ephesians 2:4-6 are a precious heritage of the Church of the Mystery (secret), and find no place in the writings of John, neither in gospel, Epistles nor Revelation.
“It shall greatly helpe ye to understande Scripture, if thou mark not only what is spoken, or written, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstance, considering what goeth before, and what followeth”. Miles Coverdale
“Study (be diligent) to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needth not to be ashamed RIGHTLY DIVIDING the word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).