God’s Light In Days of Difficulty
We now consider the New Testament teaching of God’s counsel to His people. First in order is -
JOHN THE BAPTIST (Matthew 3: 1-12): As the fore-runner of the Messiah, his ministry to Israel was different from preceding times. The heart of his message was condensed by his command, “REPENT YE for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:12). His work was to prepare the way for the King and His kingdom (Matthew 3:3) by baptism unto repentance, so that the nation would be morally ready for His appearing. Those who accepted his message were blest, but the rejectors were condemned. “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29, 30). It was God’s leading counsel for His people at that period.
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (John 1:1-13): When Christ came from heaven to earth, then the fulness of divine light appeared to man. He was “the true Light” that shone in the darkness and yet “the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). With such a light what other counsel could be the guide for God’s people in that day? The past counsels of God would be unsuitable when the Son of God Himself was on earth in person. The Father’s voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him” (Matthew 17:5). Those who heard and received Him, “to them gave He power to become the sons of God, etc” (John 1:12, 13).
Each one who followed Him and acknowleged Him (the Simeons, the Annas, the disciples, the faithful women, etc.) did not walk in darkness but had “the light of life.” They knew His doctrine that it was of God (John 7:17). Every one who rejected Him, He could but declare words of judgment upon them, saying, “If ye believe not that I am HE, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). What was the ultimate result? It became the darkest night in Israel’s history when the nation cried, “Away with Him! crucify Him! (John 19:15). The crucifixion of their Messiah was the greatest tragedy in all the history of Israel. The rejection of the greatest Light produced the beginning of the greatest night for His earthly people. What a long night it has been! It is all summarized by the sad words of John 1:11, “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.”
Yet there is one great outstanding truth that continues to remain, in spite of the rejection of the Messiah by Israel. God has no other channel of divine counsel but His beloved Son to this world; for “God hath in these last days spoken unto us in the person of His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). The Risen, Glorified Lord in heaven, remains the channel of God’s communication to His people on the earth; He still is God’s voice to all. God’s counsel must now come from the glory and it is different to what it was when Christ lived on the earth. Christ’s relationship to the earth has been changed and therefore His counsel to His people must change accordingly; also, the relationship of His people is now to One Who is in heaven above - the Man in the glory! The change of His people’s relationship toward Him now is readily perceived between the Risen Lord and devoted Mary Magdalene as recorded in John 20:11-18. Because of this we are compelled to acknowledge that our Risen Lord in heaven above, He alone must be the guide and the counsel of God to His people on the earth. This will be seen as we follow through the New Testament.
GOD’S COUNSEL FROM THE RISEN CHRIST (Acts 1:1 thru 7:60): From the time of His ascension to the death of Stephen, God’s leading counsel to Israel was determined by the position of Christ in glory. From heaven above Christ offered Himself to Israel, for the apostles testified that “the times of refreshing” were to come from the presence of the Lord and that God would “send Jesus Christ, which was preached unto you.” Read Acts 3:19-26 and note verses 19-20. The apostles preached this according to God’s mind at the time. God had raised Jesus from the dead and made Him both “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He was the One Who could bring in “the sure mercies of David” and until the Lord was rejected in His Resurrection, God offered the Kingdom to Israel.
Though the Church was already formed, yet the apostles were in harmony with God’s will and counsel for that day, for until Christ was rejected by Israel in His Resurrection God was offering to them the Kingdom. The readiness of Christ to come is indicated by His position in heaven above, as Stephen, “being filled with the Holy Ghost, looked steadfastly up into heaven, and saw the glory of God, AND JESUS STANDING ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” (Acts 7:55, 56).
The defense of Stephen before the rulers of Israel in Acts chapter 7 was virtually a recital of Israel’s history of rejection to God’s counsel through the ages past, being culminated by the fearless words of God’s faithful servant in verse 51: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did so do ye.” So once again Stephen, under God, accused the leaders of the nation of rejecting the counsel of God but this time from Christ in glory. Their rejection became conclusive by their violent and deliberate stoning of God’s faithful servant as they, “when they heard these things, were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). How tragic and significant is the divine record of this culminating event as recorded in Acts 7:57, 58: “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” So Stephen, while looking for Christ to come from the glory, when being stoned to death, learns by the Spirit that there was a place for him now with Christ in glory!
This concludes the testimony of that day, that Christ ascended on high was offering to return to the earth, and according to this counsel for that day, the saints were looking to Him, the ascended One and expecting Him to come and reign. Hence, Christ is no longer offering Himself to them as He was then when standing at the right hand of God. From henceforth we find that He is sitting down, but though the counsel of God subsequently is a different one, nevertheless it is connected with our Lord Jesus Christ in the glory as we shall see. God has no other channel of communication to His people but the One Who is now seated on His right hand above. It is significant that as Stephen was stoned— “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” The next counsel of God to His people for our present age, was communicated to this young man when the Christ of glory revealed Himself to him at his conversion on the Damascus road. Saul is called by the Lord Jesus from the glory to be a “minister and a witness of those things which he had seen and of those things in the which the Lord would appear to him” (Acts 26:16). The leading counsel and truth for us today we shall take up in our next paper, our relationship to THE MAN IN THE GLOR Y.
“I was journeying in the noontide,
When His light shone o’er my road;
And I saw Him in that glory—
Saw Him—Jesus, Son of God.
All around in noonday splendour,
Earthly scenes lay fair and bright:
But my eyes no more behold them
For the glory of that Light!
Marvel not that Christ in glory
All my inmost heart hath won;
Not a star to cheer my darkness,
But a light beyond the sun.
All below lies dark and shadowed,
Nothing there to claim my heart,
Save the lonely track of sorrow
Where of old He walked apart.
All the wonders of His glory,
Deeper wonders of His love -
How for me He won, He keepeth
That high place in heaven above;
Not a glimpse - the veil uplifted -
But within the veil to dwell,
Gazing on HIS FACE for ever,
Hearing words unspeakable.
I have seen the Face of Jesus -
Tell me not of aught beside;
I have heard the Voice of Jesus -
All my soul is satisfied.
In the radiance of the glory
First I saw His blessed Face,
And for ever shall that glory
Be my home, my dwelling place.”