A well known Church of England writer and commentator by name Sadler, said seventy years ago: "Is it not clear also, that the New Testament requires to be reconsidered, verse by verse, and line by line, as to its teaching regarding the life to come?" Dr. Salmond stated in "The Christian Doctrine of Immortality" that "All the progress which this century has seen in the historical interpretation of Scripture has only made it the clearer how much we require before we can be sure that we have got to the very heart of Christ's teaching, and understand His words precisely as He meant them, neither more nor less." This was stated in 1895. Dean Church (died 1890) said: "I have no doubt that we have not yet reached the true and complete method of Scripture exegesis, and that a good deal remains to be done by sober and reverential inquiry." He also said: "In the Middle Ages, and, much more, in the early times of the Church, there was infinitely more free speculation than seems compatible with Church views now. I think it must be we who are wrong. The nature of things seems more in favour of the old way than of ours."
William Ewart Gladstone, former Prime Minister of Britain (died 1898), said much the same about the early Church.
Bishop Westcott (died 1901) in "The Gospel of Life,"—"There cannot be . . . any new revelation . . . but the meaning of that revelation which has been made once for all, can itself be revealed with greater completeness. In this sense many signs seem to show that we are standing now on the verge of a great epoch of revelation."
Another scholar, by name Latham, in "Pastor Pastorum," says: "Men will realise Christ's great Revelation in different ways in different ages; part may come to light at one time, part at another. Sayings which have long lain hardly noticed are one day found to be keys to unlock a treasure, and give insight beyond what we dream of." On another page he writes: "God has always been revealing Himself in one way or another, but the revelation of every age must be suited to the character of that age. Man must be educated up to it, or he cannot receive it. Our Lord tells His disciples 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.' Later generations are taught in this same way. . . an age must be ripe for the truth, and the truth must be ripe for the age for the last to profit by the first." Further, he says: "Christ's revelation is enabled to last for all time, because there is life in it, and growth along with life; because Christ does not deliver propositions about God which men are passively to receive once for all, but His sayings fall upon the human heart, and are quickened there, some in one generation, and some in another: each generation seizes on its proper nutriment, and brings out of His sayings the special lesson it requires.
A quotation is also made from Bishop Butler's "Analogy" (1844), part of which is: "Nor is it at all incredible that a book, which has been so long in the possession of mankind, should contain many truths as yet undiscovered."
The New Biblical Dictionary (Hastings), Article "Hebrews," says "The chief use of the Aaronic type is that of a foil. The burden of chapters 8:1 to 9:28 is: The priestly ministry of Christ is immeasurably superior to that of Aaron. The rubric of the whole passage is: the more excellent ministry. But as comparison can be made only between things having a certain resemblance, eulogy runs along the line of parallelism. Superiority is established on the basis of similitude."
But something ought first to be said about the light which Hebrews throws generally on the Law as a type, and its relation to the anti type, in order to justify more clearly the use of the particular type of the judge under the Law, as disclosing the nature and functions of the Eternal Judge. Observe that the arrangements of the Law are in ch. 9:23 called "copies of things in the heavens," and in ch. 10:1 "shadows of good things to come." It was necessary that the copies of the things in heaven should be cleansed with blood, and Exodus 29:21 shews that the priests at their consecration were purified with blood; which shews that they also, as well as the material parts of the tabernacle, were copies of things in the heavens. In fact, the Levitical priesthood was a shadow of the priesthood of Christ. The priesthood of Christ, and the tabernacle in the mount, were the originals; of the former of which the Levitical priesthood was a type; and of the latter the tabernacle made by Moses was a copy. And therefore the Law (i.e. the whole Law) being a shadow of good things, we may say with confidence that just as the priests that offer according to the Law (ch. 8:4) serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, so also do the judges under the Law, who judge according to the Law, serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. The judges, no less than the priests, are types of Christ. If the priest was the copy of the Eternal Priesthood, is it not reasonable and even necessary to think that the judge was also a copy, a "sign suggestive" of the Eternal Judgeship?
Judges 2:2 says "But ye must not solemnise a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; their altars must ye tear down,—but ye have not hearkened unto My voice. What is this ye have done?"
Then in verses 10 and 11 we read that after the generation contemporary with Joshua were gathered to their fathers, "the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and they forsook the LORD." Verse 14: "Then kindled the anger of Yahweh upon Israel, and He delivered them into the hand of spoilers, who plundered them. . . ." "Wherever they went the hand of Yahweh was found to be against them for misfortune, and they were distressed exceedingly. And though Yahweh raised up judges—who saved them out of the hand of them that plundered them, yet even unto their judges did they not hearken, for they went unchastely astray after other gods, and bowed them selves down to them,—they turned aside speedily out of the way wherein their fathers who hearkened unto the commandments of Yahweh walked, they did not so. And when Yahweh raised them up judges, then was Yahweh with the judges, and saved them out of the hand of their enemies, all the days of the judge,—for Yahweh was grieved at their outcry, because of them who oppressed them and ill-treated them. But when the judge was dead they again broke faith more than their fathers, by going their way after other gods, by serving them and bowing themselves down to them,—they ceased not from their doings nor from their stubborn way" (Judges 2:15-19).
There were twelve Judges, and also Abimelech, who was King for three years, but he was never called a judge. The whole period of the Judges is reckoned to have been about 305 years. They were essentially and first of all saviours. The first two, Othniel and Ehud, were raised up by the Lord as saviours to the children of Israel (Judges 3:9 and 15), when "Israel made outcry unto Yahweh," and the same is implied of the other judges. This is mentioned in the case of Shamgar (3:31), Gideon (6:14), Tola (10:1), Jephthah (11:32-33), and Samson (13:5).
These men raised up by God did not first distinguish themselves as judges, and then, and because of that, become saviours. They first saved the sinful people who had forsaken God and fallen into misery (the whole nation be it observed), and because of that they became judges of the whole nation.
Now we read something very similar in John 12:47, "for I came not that I should be judging the world, but that I should be saving the world."
Thus Langton Clarke says "it is because He has saved the world, by paying in its stead the death penalty due to the sin of the world, by 'tasting death for every man,' that He is appointed Judge (Supreme Governor) of that world which He has saved, and reconciled to God by His death."
Now if the saviours of Israel not only became judges of the whole nation they had saved, and remained so all their days, the type would lead us to expect that the Saviour of the world will remain Judge of that saved world all His days; that is, during the whole period of His Kingdom, which (1. Cor. 15:24-25) is to continue till He has put all His enemies, even death, under His feet, and verse 26 says "A last enemy is being abolished—Death."
"Just as He is a Priest for ever, so also is He a Judge for ever," "Who, not according to a law of a fleshy precept, has come to be, but according to power of an indissoluble life" (Hebrews 7:16). Here we see the superiority of Christ's Judgeship over that of the Old Testament, which may be expressed in the language of Hebrews 7:23: "And they indeed, are more in number, having become priests because by death are they hindered from abiding; yet that One, because of His remaining for the eon, holds the priesthood inviolable." All the time the judge in Israel was acting as judge, he was also acting as a saviour, a deliverer. Thus does not the type then lead us to expect that it will be so in the Eternal Judgeship of the Son?
Langton Clarke then says: "And may we not again adapt the language of Hebrews 7:24-25: 'He, because He abideth for ever, hath His Judgeship unchangeable. Wherefore also He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to judge them, 'and make intercession for them.'"
From repeated instances in the Book of Judges (2:11; 3:11, 12; 4:1, 8:33), we see that the deliverance of the nation from their oppressors was bound up in the life of the judge; that while he lived the land had rest, and when he died the people relapsed into sin, and were again delivered to their enemies. But "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him." Does not then the type lead us to expect that in His unchangeable Judgeship there will be a continuous progress of mankind in the direction of goodness and consequent happiness? 1. Chron. 17:9-14 seems to draw such a contrast as was pointed out between the judge period of Israel's history and the Kingdom of Christ the Son of David. Isaiah 9:7 is then quoted: "of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with judgment and with righteousness from henceforth even unto times age-abiding." Under the rule of the judges or Israel we see, when we read the end of the Book of Judges, that the people do not seem to have improved on the whole, but rather to have worsened. Witness that last chapter describing the awful wickedness; which led to the destruction, and well-nigh the total extermination of a tribe of Israel. Surely this is, and is meant to be, a strong contrast with what must be the effect of Christ's Eternal Judgeship. Hasting's Biblical Dictionary, on "Judges," page 810, says: "It is not without a special aim that the two narratives are placed at the end of Judges. They are intended to show the negative results, which, during the period of the judges, showed themselves in the sphere of religion and morals."
Does not the argument of Paul (Romans 5:10) apply here with great force? "For if, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in His life." This corresponds to the great original deliverance wrought by the saviour judges of Israel; and the after-appointed and life-long judgeship of the man who had saved the nation from their oppressor.
We see from the type that the personal influence of the Old Testament judge kept the people in the fear of the Lord all his days, for it was only on his death that they relapsed; and this, though he was so imperfect and sinful himself. How much more then shall Christ, the Eternal Judge of the race He has saved; who is free from all spot of sin, from all taint of infirmity; who is not like the earthly judge—but who both can and will "put His Law in their inward part and write it in their heart"; who has all power given to Him both in heaven and earth; who is not the servant of a covenant that works wrath, but the great Mediator of the ministry of reconciliation; how much more shall the personal influence of Christ be for the good of those over whom He is appointed Judge!
Moses, all his days continues, judge though he was, to be deliverer of the people he had delivered out of Egypt. But being only human, he is removed by death. Would not the type then lead us to expect that Christ, who, not being subject again to death, has His Judgeship unchangeable, and will continue all His days to be the Saviour and Deliverer of the sinful race for whom He died; and all of whom He has reconciled to God by His death?
When we consider the powerful logic of Langton Clarke we wonder why so many people still think that God is going to destroy the great bulk of the people who have lived in the world. No one else seems to have hit upon the extraordinary information found in the Book of Judges and the Hebrews Epistle. This information alone proves the fact of Colossians 1:20, and other great texts.
(1) At this stage, humanly speaking, God had not made up His mind to destroy Sodom, and later on He says, "Because their sin is very grievous, I will go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me, and if not, I will know."
(2) The words, "Shall I hide," etc., evidently imply that some great disclosure was to be made to Abraham; but it would have been no great disclosure to him to be told by God that He was about to destroy Sodom. It would seem from vv. 20-22 that Abraham knew the two angels were gone to Sodom to see whether its wickedness was really as great as it had been represented to be. He must also have known how very wicked the city was, and must have been trembling for its fate, and also because the angels would find Sodom to be a frightfully evil place.
(3) As a matter of fact, we are not told that God did tell him that He would destroy the city.
(4) How could God, humanly speaking, hide from Abraham the destruction of Sodom? If it was destroyed, then it must have been God who did it, because of its great sin. The memories of the Flood alone would have made Abraham tremble for Sodom.
(5) We observe that God says, "Shall I hide from Abraham?" not, "that which I am about to do," but "that which I do," or, as the Septuagint has it, "the things which I do."
(6) God not only says He will not hide from Abraham what He does, but also gives the reason why He will not hide His doings from him, "For I know him that he will command his children, and his house after him, so shall they keep the way of Jehovah, by doing righteousness and justice."
The Revised Standard Version reads as follows: "No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him. . . ."
Clarke then says: "It seems a strange reason to give for confiding to Abraham God's purpose to inflict terrible punishment on a guilty community that he was a good man, and would. be sure to make his children good. Surely such a disclosure as this would rather have been suitable in the case of a bad man who would only be kept from sinning by the fear of punishment, than in the case of Abraham, who was called "God's Friend."
Clarke thought that verse 17, "Shall I hide from Abraham," etc., refers not to the destruction of Sodom, but is introductory to the whole of that wonderful conversation with Abraham wherein God discloses His great purposes of mercy to sinners even of the deepest dye, that conversation which is in truth the first clear disclosure in type of God's great scheme of redemption—the sparing of sinners for the sake of the righteous, and sparing of a fallen and guilty world for the sake of The One Righteous. And if v. 17 does refer to the disclosure of God's purposes of mercy to sinners, then the reason which God gives for making His disclosure to Abraham becomes plain. It is obvious that at the outset Abraham had no idea of any such merciful principle of action. His first appeal to God is not for mercy, but for justice; not that He would spare sinners for the sake of the righteous, but that He would not slay the righteous with the wicked; and it is not until the unexpectedly gracious answer of God that He will spare all the place for the sake of fifty righteous people, that the merciful purpose of God to spare sinners for the sake of righteous begins to dawn upon him, and he then at once catches at this gracious answer, and now his plea is: "Thou who art so gracious as to promise to spare not only the dwellings of the righteous, but all the place for their sakes, wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five?"
"The intercession of Abraham," it has been truly said, "is the first that the Bible records; and in its great characteristics, human and spiritual, it is one of the most remarkable. It is the intercession of a good man, a friend of God, for men who, in their wickedness and their defiance of God, had well-nigh approached the utmost possibilities of human evil."
But Clarke turns next to what he called "the smallness of the way in which the incident has been regarded." For instance, in the "Speaker's Commentary," all the comment is: "A noted example of the efficacy of prayer, of the blessedness of a good leaven in a city or nation, and of the long suffering mercy of God." Also, in the "Commentary for English Readers," edited by Bishop Ellicott, we read: "The Lord Jehovah went His way. . . . because the purpose of the revelation was fulfilled. Besides the primary object of making known the perfect justice of God's dealings with men, it further showed that the Gentile world was both subject to Jehovah's dominion, and that there was mercy for it as well as for the covenant people."
Clarke also quotes some verses from Job 33:22-30, especially verse 23: "If there be for him an angel (or messenger), a mediator, one among a thousand, to show unto man what is right for him." He also quotes Jeremiah 5:1, "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth, and I will pardon HER." Observe, not "I will pardon him,but "her"—I will pardon all the place for his sake.
Matthew 11:23 is then referred to, "had the One Only Righteous been in Sodom, 'it would have remained unto this day.'"
Now suppose that Abraham had not stopped at the number ten, but had gone down to number five. Or was he afraid to do that? Sometimes I have imagined that he might have seen something in Jehovah's face which deterred him, causing him to say (verse 32), "Let it not, I pray Thee, be vexing to My Lord, but let me speak only this once, peradventure there may be found there—ten."
It is clear then that in Genesis 18 we find the first great disclosure of God's purpose to redeem the world through Christ Jesus the Righteous. This must have made Abraham rejoice greatly and lift up his heart, especially when he knew that he was to become a great and mighty nation, and even all the nations of the earth were to be blessed in him.
A principle which we discover from this incident is that "Absence of any element making effectively for reformation entails destruction." Thus Sodom was destroyed at once, because no such element was found among them. It is also implied by the narrative that good, real good, has power to overcome evil.
Suppose that fifty righteous men had been found in Sodom, would they have succeeded in reforming the mass of corruption around them? Certainly they would not. They might not have been perfectly righteous themselves. Clarke then says, "Look at Noah, of whom God says, 'thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation'; look at him lying helplessly drunk. . .." Now these last few words should not have been said. Noah was not to be blamed. The last verse in Genesis 8 shews that seasons were now to run, whereas Genesis 2:6 tells us that there was a mist going up from the earth, which watered all the face of the ground. After the Flood there was a sudden change in atmospheric conditions, which still affects all human beings.
Finally, there is quoted Romans 9:29: "If (the) Lord of Sabaoth had not left us a seed,—as Sodom had we become, and as Gomorrha had we been made like."
Why, then, ought not we Christian people, who have been declared righteous, lift up our prayers to God Almighty that He might change the hearts of evil men and women everywhere. Powerful prayer is profitable if we are really in earnest, and God is waiting for our prayers.
A.T. Last updated 12.5.2006