Chapter 19

 

            Light Through Darkness

 

 

The work of God in the earth presents, from age to age, a striking

similarity in every great reformation or religious movement. The principles

of God's dealing with men are ever the same. The important movements of the

present have their parallel in those of the past, and the experience of the

church in former ages has lessons of great value for our own time.

 

No truth is more clearly taught in the Bible than that God by His Holy

Spirit especially directs His servants on earth in the great movements for

the carrying forward of the work of salvation. Men are instruments in the

hand of God, employed by Him to accomplish His purposes of grace and mercy.

Each has his part to act; to each is granted a measure of light, adapted to

the necessities of his time, and sufficient to enable him to perform the

work which God has given him to do. But no man, however honored of Heaven,

has ever attained to a full understanding of the great plan of redemption,

or even to a perfect appreciation of the divine purpose in the work for his

own time. Men do not fully understand what God would accomplish by the work

which He gives them to do; they do not comprehend, in all its bearings, the

message which they utter in His name.

 

"Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto

perfection?" "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My

ways, saith the

 

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Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher

than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." "I am God, and there is

none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times

the things that are not yet done." Job 11:7; Isaiah 55:8, 9; 46:9, 10.

 

Even the prophets who were favored with the special illumination of the

Spirit did not fully comprehend the import of the revelations committed to

them. The meaning was to be unfolded from age to age, as the people of God

should need the instruction therein contained.

 

Peter, writing of the salvation brought to light through the gospel, says:

Of this salvation "the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who

prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what

manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it

testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should

follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us

they did minister." 1 Peter 1:10-12.

 

Yet while it was not given to the prophets to understand fully the things

revealed to them, they earnestly sought to obtain all the light which God

had been pleased to make manifest. They "inquired and searched diligently,"

"searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in

them did signify." What a lesson to the people of God in the Christian age,

for whose benefit these prophecies were given to His servants! "Unto whom it

was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister."

Witness those holy men of God as they "inquired and searched diligently"

concerning revelations given them for generations that were yet unborn.

Contrast their holy zeal with the listless unconcern with which the favored

ones of later ages treat this gift of Heaven. What a rebuke to the

ease-loving, world-loving indifference which is content to declare that the

prophecies cannot be understood!

 

Though the finite minds of men are inadequate to enter

 

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into the counsels of the Infinite One, or to understand fully the working

out of His purposes, yet often it is because of some error or neglect on

their own part that they so dimly comprehend the messages of Heaven. Not

infrequently the minds of the people, and even of God's servants, are so

blinded by human opinions, the traditions and false teaching of men, that

they are able only partially to grasp the great things which He has revealed

in His word. Thus it was with the disciples of Christ, even when the Saviour

was with them in person. Their minds had become imbued with the popular

conception of the Messiah as a temporal prince, who was to exalt Israel to

the throne of the universal empire, and they could not understand the

meaning of His words foretelling His sufferings and death.

 

Christ Himself had sent them forth with the message: "The time is fulfilled,

and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mark

1:15. That message was based on the prophecy of Daniel 9. The sixty-nine

weeks were declared by the angel to extend to "the Messiah the Prince," and

with high hopes and joyful anticipations the disciples looked forward to the

establishment of Messiah's kingdom at Jerusalem to rule over the whole

earth.

 

They preached the message which Christ had committed to them, though they

themselves misapprehended its meaning. While their announcement was founded

on Daniel 9:25, they did not see, in the next verse of the same chapter,

that Messiah was to be cut off. From their very birth their hearts had been

set upon the anticipated glory of an earthly empire, and this blinded their

understanding alike to the specifications of the prophecy and to the words

of Christ.

 

They performed their duty in presenting to the Jewish nation the invitation

of mercy, and then, at the very time when they expected to see their Lord

ascend the throne of David, they beheld Him seized as a malefactor,

scourged, derided, and condemned, and lifted up on the cross of

 

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Calvary. What despair and anguish wrung the hearts of those disciples during

the days while their Lord was sleeping in the tomb!

 

Christ had come at the exact time and in the manner foretold by prophecy.

The testimony of Scripture had been fulfilled in every detail of His

ministry. He had preached the message of salvation, and "His word was with

power." The hearts of His hearers had witnessed that it was of Heaven. The

word and the Spirit of God attested the divine commission of His Son.

 

The disciples still clung with undying affection to their beloved Master.

And yet their minds were shrouded in uncertainty and doubt. In their anguish

they did not then recall the words of Christ pointing forward to His

suffering and death. If Jesus of Nazareth had been the true Messiah, would

they have been thus plunged in grief and disappointment? This was the

question that tortured their souls while the Saviour lay in His sepulcher

during the hopeless hours of that Sabbath which intervened between His death

and His resurrection.

 

Though the night of sorrow gathered dark about these followers of Jesus, yet

were they not forsaken. Saith the prophet: "When I sit in darkness, the Lord

shall be a light unto me. . . . He will bring me forth to the light, and I

shall behold His righteousness." "Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee;

but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike

to Thee." God hath spoken: "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the

darkness." "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead

them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before

them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not

forsake them." Micah 7:8, 9; Psalms 139:12; 112:4; Isaiah 42:16.

 

The announcement which had been made by the disciples in the name of the

Lord was in every particular correct, and the events to which it pointed

were even then taking place. "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is

at hand," had

 

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been their message. At the expiration of "the time"--the sixty-nine weeks of

Daniel 9, which were to extend to the Messiah, "the Anointed One"--Christ

had received the anointing of the Spirit after His baptism by John in

Jordan. And the "kingdom of God" which they had declared to be at hand was

established by the death of Christ. This kingdom was not, as they had been

taught to believe, an earthly empire. Nor was it that future, immortal

kingdom which shall be set up when "the kingdom and dominion, and the

greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the

people of the saints of the Most High;" that everlasting kingdom, in which

"all dominions shall serve and obey Him." Daniel 7:27. As used in the Bible,

the expression "kingdom of God" is employed to designate both the kingdom of

grace and the kingdom of glory. The kingdom of grace is brought to view by

Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews. After pointing to Christ, the

compassionate intercessor who is "touched with the feeling of our

infirmities," the apostle says: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the

throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace." Hebrews 4:15,

16. The throne of grace represents the kingdom of grace; for the existence

of a throne implies the existence of a kingdom. In many of His parables

Christ uses the expression "the kingdom of heaven" to designate the work of

divine grace upon the hearts of men.

 

So the throne of glory represents the kingdom of glory; and this kingdom is

referred to in the Saviour's words: "When the Son of man shall come in His

glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne

of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations." Matthew 25:31,

32. This kingdom is yet future. It is not to be set up until the second

advent of Christ.

 

The kingdom of grace was instituted immediately after the fall of man, when

a plan was devised for the redemption of the guilty race. It then existed in

the purpose and by the promise of God; and through faith, men could become

its subjects. Yet it was not actually established until the death of

 

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Christ. Even after entering upon His earthly mission, the Saviour, wearied

with the stubbornness and ingratitude of men, might have drawn back from the

sacrifice of Calvary. In Gethsemane the cup of woe trembled in His hand. He

might even then have wiped the blood-sweat from His brow and have left the

guilty race to perish in their iniquity. Had He done this, there could have

been no redemption for fallen men. But when the Saviour yielded up His life,

and with His expiring breath cried out, "It is finished," then the

fulfillment of the plan of redemption was assured. The promise of salvation

made to the sinful pair in Eden was ratified. The kingdom of grace, which

had before existed by the promise of God, was then established.

 

Thus the death of Christ--the very event which the disciples had looked upon

as the final destruction of their hope --was that which made it forever

sure. While it had brought them a cruel disappointment, it was the climax of

proof that their belief had been correct. The event that had filled them

with mourning and despair was that which opened the door of hope to every

child of Adam, and in which centered the future life and eternal happiness

of all God's faithful ones in all the ages.

 

Purposes of infinite mercy were reaching their fulfillment, even though the

disappointment of the disciples. While their hearts had been won by the

divine grace and power of His teaching, who "spake as never man spake," yet

intermingled with the pure gold of their love for Jesus, was the base alloy

of worldly pride and selfish ambitions. Even in the Passover chamber, at

that solemn hour when their Master was already entering the shadow of

Gethsemane, there was "a strife among them, which of them should be

accounted the greatest." Luke 22:24. Their vision was filled with the

throne, the crown, and the glory, while just before them lay the shame and

agony of the garden, the judgment hall, the cross of Calvary. It was their

pride of heart, their thirst for worldly

 

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glory, that had led them to cling so tenaciously to the false teaching of

their time, and to pass unheeded the Saviour's words showing the true nature

of His kingdom, and pointing forward to His agony and death. And these error

resulted in the trial--sharp but needful--which was permitted for their

correction. Though the disciples had mistaken the meaning of their message,

and had failed to realize their expectations, yet they had preached the

warning given them of God, and the Lord would reward their faith and honor

their obedience. To them was to be entrusted the work of heralding to all

nations the glorious gospel of their risen Lord. It was to prepare them for

this work that the experience which seemed to them so bitter had been

permitted.

 

After His resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples on the way to Emmaus,

and, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all

the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Luke 24:27. The hearts of the

disciples were stirred. Faith was kindled. They were "begotten again into a

lively hope" even before Jesus revealed Himself to them. It was His purpose

to enlighten their understanding and to fasten their faith upon the "sure

word of prophecy." He wished the truth to take firm root in their minds, not

merely because it was supported by His personal testimony, but because of

the unquestionable evidence presented by the symbols and shadows of the

typical law, and by the prophecies of the Old Testament. It was needful for

the followers of Christ to have an intelligent faith, not only in their own

behalf, but that they might carry the knowledge of Christ to the world. And

as the very first step in imparting this knowledge, Jesus directed the

disciples to "Moses and all the prophets." Such was the testimony given by

the risen Saviour to the value and importance of the Old Testament

Scriptures.

 

What a change was wrought in the hearts of the disciples as they looked once

more on the loved countenance of their

 

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Master! Luke 24:32. In a more complete and perfect sense than ever before

they had "found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write."

The uncertainty, the anguish, the despair, gave place to perfect assurance,

to unclouded faith. What marvel that after His ascension they "were

continually in the temple, praising and blessing God." The people, knowing

only of the Saviour's ignominious death, looked to see in their faces the

expression of sorrow, confusion, and defeat; but they saw there gladness and

triumph. What a preparation these disciples had received for the work before

them! They had passed through the deepest trial which it was possible for

them to experience, and had seen how, when to human vision all was lost, the

word of God had been triumphantly accomplished. Henceforward what could

daunt their faith or chill the ardor of their love? In the keenest sorrow

they had "strong consolation," a hope which was as "an anchor of the soul,

both sure and steadfast." Hebrews 6:18, 19. They had been witness to the

wisdom and power of God, and they were "persuaded, that neither death, nor

life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor

things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature," would be

able to separate them from "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our

Lord." "In all these things," they said, "we are more than conquerors

through Him that loved us." Romans 8:38, 39, 37. "The word of the Lord

endureth forever." 1 Peter 1:25. And "who is he that condemneth? It is

Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right

hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Romans 8:34.

 

Saith the Lord: "My people shall never be ashamed." Joel 2:26. "Weeping may

endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalm 30:5. When on His

resurrection day these disciples met the Saviour, and their hearts burned

within them as they listened to His words; when they looked upon the head

and hands and feet that had been bruised for them; when, before His

ascension, Jesus led them out as

 

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far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands in blessing, bade them, "Go ye into

all the world, and preach the gospel," adding, "Lo, I am with you alway"

(Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:20); when on the Day of Pentecost the promised

Comforter descended and the power from on high was given and the souls of

the believers thrilled with the conscious presence of their ascended

Lord--then, even though, like His, their pathway led through sacrifice and

martyrdom, would they have exchanged the ministry of the gospel of His

grace, with the "crown of righteousness" to be received at His coming, for

the glory of an earthly throne, which had been the hope of their earlier

discipleship? He who is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we

ask or think," had granted them, with the fellowship of His sufferings, the

communion of His joy--the joy of "bringing many sons unto glory," joy

unspeakable, an "eternal weight of glory," to which, says Paul, "our light

affliction, which is but for a moment," is "not worthy