From the book "The Doctrine of Christ"

By Eldon McNabb

We, as Christians have inherited from our spiritual forefathers a common misunderstanding of God's use of such terms as "The Church," "God's Elect," "The Bride The Lamb's Wife," and others. Insomuch as we have misunderstood these terms, we have also failed to comprehend the true intent of much of the writings in our most precious treasure: The Holy Scriptures.

Many of us have concentrated on the New Testament, because we think it is more relevant or more easily understood. However, the common and widely varied differences in doctrines among believers shows that to be a false assumption. The writings of the Apostle Paul make up much of the New Testament, and Peter testified that some of those writings were hard to be understood. It would seem that some of Peter's words, or John's and Matthew's, are not so obvious either. Therefore, it is necessary that we rightly divide the Word of Truth, and become able ministers of the New Testament. We must learn to use meat and not milk only. (Heb. 5:13)

God promised us by the words of Jeremiah that he would give us pastors after His own heart who would "feed (us) with knowledge and understanding." Therefore, I have labored to rightly divide for us this great truth and set it forth for your edification.

The Apostle to the Gentiles told Titus that he was "a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect." Tit. 1:1. Somewhere between then and now, the term "God's Elect" began to be used to mean anyone who has become a "Christian." I suppose we could think up some acceptable idea about how we could apply both of the terms, The Called and The Elect, to the same people. However, I am sure we will find it much more edifying to go to the Holy Scriptures to see if we can find out what God means by His use of these terms.

If we will acknowledge that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine." (2 Tim. 3:16) Then the Holy Ghost can give us understanding of the terms which God has used in the Holy Scriptures, by helping us to rightly divide them.

Perhaps we should begin our analysis with 2 Peter 1:10. There Peter told us to, "Make your calling and election sure." How easily and clearly he revealed that being "called of God" and being in the "election" are two different things. This distinction is made again in Rev. 17:14, where He refers to those who are with the Lamb as being "called and chosen and faithful." I don't see how we can make the term "faithful" synonymous with "called." How, then, can we make the term "chosen" to mean the same as "called?" To do so would do violence to the obvious intent of the passage.

God said, "I am the Lord, I change not." (Mal. 3:6) So when He does something a certain way once, there is no question of whether He will do it that way again. It is not simply something He did, but rather the way He is. In view of this, the challenge put to the Israelites in Josh. 24:15 rings out; a call from God to all men in every age, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." Again He said, in Prov. 16:9, "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps." Once the person has chosen to serve God, God chooses him/her for whatever work He knows that person can do.

Believing the Prophets

Some readers may hesitate to accept Old Testament statements as being particularly applicable or important for us, so I will present here a short treatise in vindication of the Law and the Prophets.

Let's look again at 2 Tim. 3:16. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Obviously Paul is referring to the Law and the Prophets, for the New Testament was in the process of being written. In Rom. 16:25,26, Paul said, "The preaching of Jesus Christ, . . . now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, . . ." At least some of Paul's troubles came because the Jews of his day did not believe in that method of Scriptural application. He made that observation in Acts 24:14, "After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets."

Without the "testimony" of the prophets of old, Jesus would have been just another man. But Jesus said, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39) Jesus acknowledged that the way of eternal life was indeed in there. He then proceeded to point out that there was another important facet of the Word of God: The prophetic "Testimony."

It is interesting that most Christians today view the Holy Scriptures the same way that Israel did in the days of the first advent of the Messiah. They don't want anything to be preached except "Jesus Saves." If we dare to fulfill prophecy, The Enemy quickly moves to neutralize whatever good effect we might have, by the accusation that we are false prophets. The apostle Paul's comments in 2 Cor. 3:14,15, concerning the Jews of his day, are clearly applicable to the Christian leaders of today. "Until this day remaineth the same Veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament. Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the Vail is upon their hearts."

In almost every Church, large or small, there is an obvious absence of understanding the need for the fulfillment of prophecy by any individual or group. This deficiency is partly covered up by an effort to relegate all righteous fulfillment of prophecy to Jesus and to ancient times.

We are continuously barraged from the pulpit today with comments which, at the very least, belittle the Old Testament. They tell us, "Some of it is poetry, Some of it is history," etc. We are told over and over from different sectors that "one third of the Bible is prophecy." How different are the views of these ministers, concerning the Word of God, from those of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament! I can quote no greater authority than the Messiah Himself. As He was explaining the ministry of John the Baptist to His disciples He said, "All the prophets and the law prophesied." (Matt. 11:13)

Jesus pointed out in that passage that John was a prophet and more, because he fulfilled prophecy. In these few words Jesus encapsulated a great truth of God: All of the Old Testament is prophecy of that which should come after, and all the works and workers of God in the New Testament era are prophesied of in the Old Testament. (Acts 1:20-26)

This great truth is beautifully expressed in Eccl. 3:15. "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." This passage, together with Isa. 28:9,10; Heb. 10:1 and Heb. 13:8, embodies what Jesus called "the key of knowledge" in Luke 11:52. Consider Heb. 10:1. "The law having a shadow of good things to come." Paul also freely used other terms to describe the function of the Old Testament, and its application in the New Testament era. "Which things are an allegory" (Gal. 4:22-26) and "A figure for the time then present" (Heb. 9:9) are two good examples.

The Old Fulfilled in the New

In speaking of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, Paul called them "figures of the true." That is, they foreshadowed the New Testament temple, which, according to Heb. 9:23,24, is the Church. Actually one of the main objectives of the epistle to the Hebrews is to show the New Testament application of the Old Testament prophecies, allegories, and figures. The true meaning of Heb. 11:1,2,39,40 can be comprehended only when we view the passage in this light. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Simply put, all of the details of their lives which are recorded in Holy Scriptures are allegorical prophecy. If we do not fulfill that prophecy, their faith will have been vain. So, the faith of the prophets and patriarchs of old is made substance as their prophecies are fulfilled by the New Testament prophets and their companions in faith, who are living now. Paul shows this clearly in Col. 1:25. He said that a stewardship of God was given to him for those who were working with him "to fulfill the word of God."

What a concept: That Christians should deliberately fulfill prophecy! It is a concept so foreign to contemporary Christian theology, that it is commonly called heresy. Yet, fulfilling prophecy is one of the most important works of The Elect of God. It is their testimony. It is their identity, even as it was the identity of the man Christ Jesus. (See Rev. 1:9; Rev. 19:10; Rev. 22:7-9)

What the prophets and patriarchs of old had from God was good, but Paul was convinced that what God has given to us is better. They bore the reproach of prophecy yet unfulfilled, and we must bear the reproach of fulfilling it. (Heb. 11:24-26) According to Luke 4:16-29, even Jesus was well liked until He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isa. 61:1,2.

We must boldly move by the Holy Spirit of God and do as Peter did when it was time to replace Judas. He quoted a phrase in Psa. 69, and another phrase in Psa. 109. He said, "It is written, ‘His bishoprick let another take.’ Wherefore, must one be ordained to be witness with us." Whereupon they proceeded to ordain Matthias as one of the twelve apostles. (Acts 1:20,21.) Even so must we, by The Spirit of Prophecy, perceive which prophecies must be fulfilled by the people of God today, and fulfill them.

A Shining Example

One beautiful example of this combination of allegory and fulfillment is given in Heb. 11:8-18 and Heb. 12:18-24, which clearly shows that the City for which Abraham sought, and the natural Mount Zion were figures of "The General Assembly and Church of The Firstborn." "By faith Abraham looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Then he said, "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn which are written in heaven and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." When we speak of The City of God as the Church, we can not think "all Christians" any more than we can say in truth that there was only one city in the land of Israel in the Old Testament kingdom.

In Rev. 22:19, God makes a clear distinction between having your name in "the book of life" and having it in the book of "the holy city." When we comprehended this, can we understand the true meaning of the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:18. "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." It is The Elect who must make the decision as to whose name shall be in the book of "The Holy City." 1 Cor. 5:1-13 and John 20:23, make that point well. Conversely, it is God and Jesus alone who determine whose name shall be in the book of life, or the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The Apostle Paul asserted throughout the epistle to the Romans that Israel in the Old Testament allegorically represents Christians in general in the New Testament era. (See Rom. 2:26-29; Rom. 9:6-8.) "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." And David said, "When Israel went out of Egypt, The house of Jacob from a people of strange language; Judah was His sanctuary, and Israel His dominion." (Psalm 114:1,2)

God had every intention, from the beginning, that there would be a distinction between being of Israel and being of the place of His sanctuary. There were many cities in Israel, but God chose Jerusalem to "put His name there." As He said in 1 Kings 14:21. (Deut. 12:1-27 is very enlightening on this point.) Even so, from among the Churches which make up Christianity today, God will make a choice and gather out from among them an election to make up His spiritual sanctuary, which is the Church.

The Firstborn

It is written, "prove all things." It may well be that absolute proof of the application of the next allegory which I will now use would require an extensive dissertation on "the firstborn." Suffice it to say here that, throughout the Old Testament, God set aside the natural firstborn, and arbitrarily chose another in their place as His firstborn. We have such examples as Esau and Jacob, Exod. 4:22; Reuben and Joseph, 1 Chron. 5:1, and Manasseh and Ephraim, Gen. 48:1-5. Not the least of the examples which we find is the choosing of the tribe of Levi, instead of all of the firstborn of Israel, to do the service of the Tabernacle.

God told Moses, "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine." Exod. 13:2. Later, when God was ready to establish the service of The Tabernacle, He gave a commandment to Moses. God Said, "Number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names. And thou shalt take the Levites for Me (I am the Lord) instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel." (Num. 3:40,41) So God set aside the actual firstborn, and chose the tribe of Levi instead, and gave them the charge of the service of The Tabernacle.

The Holy Ghost gave us this allegory to signify that all Christians are the people of God, but that He will take a group out from among them to do the service of the New Testament sanctuary, which is "The Church." I say "will," because, though God did so in the days of the early apostles (see Acts 5:11-14), He has yet to fulfill the prophecy in Mal. 3:16,17.

"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels."

The people in this "book of remembrance" cannot be all of the redeemed, but a record of those believers who are especially dedicated and attentive to God just before the return of our Lord. When the time comes for God to make up His jewels, in preparation for the return of our Lord, the field will already have been narrowed to the best possible choices.

The Lord chose Levi out of all the tribes of Israel. After which He chose out a family from among the Levites to be the priesthood. Not all of the Levites were Priests, but the House of Aaron only. As He said to Moses, "Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office." (Exod. 28:1) "And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and of your priesthood. And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle:" (Num. 18:1-3)

Some of the Levites joined together with Korah, to challenge this election which gave Aaron such authority, but Moses put it to the test by having the challengers attempt to offer incense as the priests did, and they all died, as God had warned. (Num. 16:1-35)

Jude told us that they had the same problem in his day. He said "there are certain men crept in unawares, These filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, Woe unto them! for they have perished in the gainsaying of Core (Korah)." (Jude 3-13) "And many follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Pet. 2:1-13) If we were to accept the common promotion today that there was no divinely appointed leader of The Church after Jesus was caught up into heaven, we would find it necessary to delete this statement from the epistle of Jude.)

By choosing Aaron, and setting him and his sons over the rest of the Levites, the Holy Ghost was signifying that God would choose out a group of apostles and prophets to rule over the rest of The Elect. (Mark 3:13,14) 1 Cor. 4:1 and Eph. 1:3-5, show that it is these apostles and prophets, alone, whom He makes to be stewards of the mysteries of Christ. So Jesus said to His apostles, "I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:15) Then in Eph. 3:10, Paul shows further that the Church will know "the manifold wisdom of God," and that the Church will come unto that wisdom as God reveals it "unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places."

Those "heavenly places" include the offices of the Chief apostle, the Twelve apostles and the Seventy prophets. This "more excellent ministry" will then fulfill the prophecy in Jer. 3:15. As it is written, "I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." To whom Paul gave admonition, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)

In summary, we see that, just prior to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is going to choose out from among the believers a select group to be His "Heavenly Jerusalem" of Heb. 12:22,23 and Rev. 21:9-21. This group will complete the fulfillment of prophecy concerning God’s elect, and reach perfection, so that Jesus can come. (See Acts 3:20,21; Matt. 24:37,45-47; Heb. 13:7,8,17; Eph. 4:11-13 and Eph. 5:25-27)

Then shall that prophecy in Rev. 19:6-9, be fulfilled. "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife 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 said unto me, ‘Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ‘These are the true sayings of God’."


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