Ames, in his Marrow of Theology, describes two distinct Kingdoms: the Kingdom of God’s grace (the Church) and the kingdom of God’s power (the whole universe.) Both are under His law, without any distinction made between general and special revelation. Modern “R2K” teaching strangely makes a complete separation between God’s law in general and special revelation, says only the former applies outside the church, and often seems to imply that it in fact says something different from what the law in special revelation says. But classical reformed theology said that in order to be correct, because of sin, our understanding of general revelation must be corrected by the Scriptures, to make it accurate. (Dogmatics, Mueller.) This has ramifications for the “secular” kingdom.
Posts Tagged With: church
It was less than a week after Christ was ascended to heaven, where he was seated on the right hand of the Almighty. The apostles and perhaps others gathered on the first day of the week. The narrative is as follows:
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Luke’s narrative in the Acts of the Apostles says that the disciples were gathered with one accord on the feast day of Pentecost. The feast of Pentecost was a Jewish festival marking the LORD’s giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai (Henry), on the 50th day after the Passover, which was the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt. This feast of Pentecost was that feast which Moses had explained to Pharaoh that the LORD had commanded his people to make in the desert. It was to be kept, not with unleavened bread as the Passover, but with leavened bread. It was a festival of thanks for God’s provision, when the new grain of the harvest was to be baked into leavened loaves of bread and waived before the LORD, together with animal sacrifices (lambs, bull, rams, goat) for burnt offerings, a sin offering, and peace offerings.
Leviticus 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. 17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.n 18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord. 19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. 21 And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
This was the day on which the nation of Israel was constituted, in which it became a nation constitutionally and was sent out in the name of YHWH to travel to the land of Canaan and conquer in his name. What is the significance of this Jewish feast day to the Pentecost event that occurred in Acts 2? The Old Testament Pentecost is a foreshadowing of the New Testament Pentecost in several ways:
1. At Pentecost the Church of Jesus Christ was constituted as a holy nation unto the Lord.
Christ, in response to a question from some of his apostles as to when the restoration of the kingdom of Israel would be, commanded them to wait until Pentecost, when they would receive power from on high, Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Christ here taught his apostles, in his answer to their question, that there were be a re-ordering of the outward form of the spiritual nation of Israel, which they were to await. At Sinai the covenant of grace was expressed to the children of Israel in terms of God’s gracious deliverance of that nation from slavery in Egypt. Exodus 20:2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. In the New Testament there is a change of the order of things in keeping with the fulfillment of all the Messianic promises. Now the covenant of grace is expressed in more clear terms, since Christ is come and fulfilled the salvation which was promised, though the same covenant had always been the essence and root of the covenant that God made with Israel. In the Old Testament the grace of God in Jesus Christ which gathers his elect people of every nation was prefigured in the types and shadows that God had commanded through Moses, such as the priesthood and feast days when animal sacrifices would be offered for sin and as an offering procuring peace with God. Now at Pentecost the nation of Israel, having as a whole rejected the Messiah and crucified him, was being restored in a new form. Just as the law of Moses was what constituted the gaggle in the desert to be the restored people of Israel fresh out of bondage in Egypt, so the constituted Church of Jesus Christ was formed by the power of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost event based on the constitution of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which though it had not yet been written down, had been received from his own mouth by those very apostles, in preparation for their task of proclaiming it to all the nations of the world. Significantly, proselytes v. 10 were among those gathered who heard the apostles speak in their tongues. That same spiritual people which had been reconstituted at Sinai in the terms of the law was reconstituted in a new form, now not restricted to ethnic Jews, based on the definitive revelation of God in the gospel. This gospel is the constitution of the Church of Jesus Christ, that which forms us together to be a people for God’s own peculiar possession.
2. At Pentecost the Church of Jesus Christ experienced her first harvest.
Pentecost in the Old Testament was a feast day to give thanks to God for the harvest that had been partially gathered in. It was an acknowledgement of the mercy of God in providing food for the Israelites to eat, of confessing sins committed despite his grace, and procuring his continued favor and blessing. In Acts 2, Pentecost was the first harvest, when around 120 souls (Ewart) received the initial harvest of three thousand souls added to the Church in one distinct blast of the rushing mighty wind which is the Holy Spirit. Imagine one of our little churches growing by a factor of 30 in one day! As amazing as that first harvest was, he is still at work today. It is the Holy Spirit that brings in the harvest of souls, as our Lord had said that the fields were white for harvest. Myriads of people the whole world over are still coming to Christ, despite the all the contempt the world can muster. The harvest continues, wherever the Holy Spirit draws people from every nation under heaven, where the good news of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God is preached by his appointed emissaries. He feeds us daily of his word, through the Scriptures read and preached. Let us give thanks to God for the harvest of souls that continues to come into the Church of Jesus Christ, for his continual provision of spiritual nourishment, and pray that God will continue to bless this earth with showers of gentle dew preparing the hearts of people all over the world to hear and heed the good news, to repent of their sins and lay hold upon eternal life in Jesus Christ.
3. At Pentecost the Church of Jesus Christ was sent forth to conquer the nations by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The nation of Israel was constituted on Sinai as a conquering nation. It was to travel the long journey from Sinai to the land of Canaan and there wrest the land from its previous inhabitants by the power of the sword and shield. Observance of the feasts is connected with the conquering of the promised land. In Exodus 23 the feast of Pentecost is referred to as the feast of harvest.
Exodus 23:16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.
18 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. 19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his other’s milk. 20 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. 22 But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. 23 For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. 24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. 25 And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. 26 There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil. 27 I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. 28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
The command to conquer Canaan has been expanded to include the entire world. That nation gathered at Sinai was reconstituted in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but no longer are the weapons of its warfare carnal. No longer conquering by sword and shield, the Church of Jesus Christ, which is the New Israel, is commanded to subdue the nations, bringing them to loyal obedience to the King of Kings Jesus Christ by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. That word is nothing else but the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of forgiveness of sins and new life toward God, the covenant of grace which declares freely to all persons of every nation that eternal life is assured them if they will repent of their sins and bow the knee to Jesus Christ our King who sent us to declare his reign. And our success is as assured as it is promised, for the power that conquers is not of our own strength, but of that same rushing mighty wind that brought 3,000 souls to loving subjection to King Jesus on that feast day of Pentecost. If the Holy Spirit be for us, who can be against us? Let us go forth boldly as the Church of Jesus Christ, knowing that victory is assured by him who said, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:20b
The loose way in which many members wear their plain obligations to the church is a scandal which enormously weakens its influence. Desultory church attendance, neglect of public worship, failure to identify oneself of the church’s work and mission in the world, niggardly gifts, lack of a personal interest and loyalty: these are ways in which the laity of today rob god of the honor to which he is entitled. Raymond Calkins on Malachi 3 in The modern message of the minor prophets, 140. Quoted in the Word Biblical Commentary, volume 32 by Ralph L Smith.
The power of church government is to determine matters based on the authority given to her by Christ himself and based on the instructions he has given her in Holy Scripture. Church power is ministerial and declarative, not magisterial or legislative. That submission which Christians owe to the human government of the church is free from all dogmas, dictums, and decrees, which are in any way contrary to Scripture, and in matters of faith or worship, from anything beside them (i. e. not contained in the Scriptures,) as the assembly of divines at Westminster so ably summarized in their chapter on Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience:
XX.II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
The elders of the church must take care to protect the liberty that Christians have to obey God in his word. Although submission to the elders of the church is required of all Christians, this submission is not limitless, but is “in the Lord”, meaning that it is only based on the Lord’s authority as he has revealed himself in his word, and that Christians are not to submit in matters which they do not believe to be coming from the word of the Lord. To submit to human authority against ones own conscience in matters of faith or worship is sin, for anything that is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23), and the Christian is required to “obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
Even as Christians are obligated to do everything in their power to keep the peace and unity of the church, as far as it lies within them, even so the elders of the church are not to proceed in a way that puts pressure on Christians to sin against their conscience, even in matters in which they may need to be corrected. In such cases, the elders may determine that the individual Christian’s belief is not only unwarranted by Scripture, but also potentially divisive to the church, and for that reason cannot be allowed. In that case the elders of a particular church would counsel the Christian to unite with another body whose beliefs are more in line with his scruples. It is also entirely appropriate for the elders to continue to seek to persuade the Christian that that which he has scruples about is not in fact a sin, or that he is incorrect, based on the teaching of Scripture, and that he should change his thinking on the subject. It is entirely inappropriate, pernicious, and does violence to that liberty which Christ purchased for the Christian on the cross, for the elders to require or even suggest that the Christian submit to their authority against his conscience despite his scruples about a given matter of faith or worship. That is equivalent to asking the Christian to sin, which elders in the church are never permitted to ask. (Yes, this applies to individual pastors, too.)
God chastens his own as a loving father punishes his children. He does it not to hurt us, but to help and heal us when we go astray. If we keep focused on the salvation that God has promised us, the eternal life that we have to look forward to in him, this will spur us to achieve great things as his Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit, as the grace of God and our thankfulness to him spur us to good works. The special promise remains with us, that God is our God, and we will be his people forever.
Zechariah 8:7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;
8 And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
God has caused his people to be taken captive, the northern tribes by Assyria, and Judah by Babylon, and now Judah has been restored to the land. Now God gives a more general promise to save his people wherever they might be, from the east to the west, from anywhere on earth. At no time in the Bible’s history were the northern tribes of Israel restored to the land of Israel, or enabled to gather to Jerusalem for Passover and other feast days, but they were intermingled as an ethnic group with the Assyrians until they ceased to exist. This promise, then, concerns something greater. In the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is the Church, Israel restored at Pentecost (Acts 1:6-8), all of God’s chosen ones of every nation from everywhere under heaven, that is, spiritual Israel, will be saved from all their enemies that oppress them: especially, death, sin and the devil.
Jerusalem was the place of God’s presence among his people Israel in Old Testament times. This presence is now found in the New Jerusalem, the Church of Jesus Christ, where God indwells and communes with His own (Revelation 21:2). It is in the Church of Jesus Christ that truth and righteousness are found, for in her his word is proclaimed and his law is kept. We who gather to this Church enjoy a special relationship with God that the rest of the world does not, to have him not just as God, but to be his people and to have him for our God forever.
Though we walk through life as a valley of tears, struggling against indwelling sin, suffering from death and disease, and being tempted and buffeted by Satan, yet God has saved us from being slaves to these things. The living hope that we have in him sustains us through all the difficulties of the Christian life. Though all of the world may be against us, yet our happiness in God is secure, knowing that He is present among us, especially when we gather to worship every Lord’s Day as his people, and that He will be our God forever. Though our enemies are stronger than we, we feel secure knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us.
9 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.
God’s grace strengthens us for the work that he would have us to do together. His peace enables and invigorates us to build his temple. Although Christ is the builder of his Church, yet he gives us an important role in the work, that of proclaiming the free grace of God in Jesus Christ to sinners of every category and walk of life, and of growing up together in him by his word and Spirit, and walking in mutual discipline according to the law of love. God’s salvation is assured. With the outcome secured, we are free to work. It is hard work, but worthwhile and refreshing. There is no more important or worthy labor on earth than to work for the purity, peace, and prosperity of the Church. It is vital, and wonderful.
Let our hands be strengthened and not slack off in this work. If we allow our own prejudices and preferences to take hold, instead of adhering steadfastly to the word of truth, and the rule of righteousness that God has completely given in the Holy Scriptures, Christ’s Church will be structurally damaged and her construction stymied. But with God’s grace in our hearts, obedience to his word as the only rule for everything we do in the Church, and love for one another in the unity that God’s truth brings, we will engage in this work with pure intentions and a singularity of purpose, that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will yield great blessing in the building project, as Christ’s own rule (contained in the Holy Scriptures) is gloriously kept and displayed in us as the Church to a watching world.
The Scriptures are the Church’s charter and foundation, her only final rule for faith and practice. All that the church does is to be regulated according to the doctrine and practical instructions given in the Scriptures. Since the Scriptures are her only warrant for ecclesiastical authority, she is not to transact anything not clearly addressed by them. The conscience of Christians is free from all doctrines and commandments not specifically provided in the Scriptures in matters of faith and worship, and free from anything contradicting the Scriptures in other life matters.
Acts 1:6-8 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
In Acts 1:6, Jesus disciples ask him when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored. They are anticipating the fulfillment of the OT prophets like David, Isaiah and Jeremiah who prophesied of the future restoration of the Kingdom in the last days (from their perspective.) Jesus’ answer points them to look forward to Pentecost. He tells them, “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (v. 8) This is in direct answer to their question. Jesus is telling that when the Holy Ghost comes upon them, that will be the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. This is what happened at Pentecost a few weeks later (Acts 2:1ff.) The kingdom of Israel was restored in the form of the Church of Jesus Christ, which was inaugurated at the event of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God descended on the church and empowered her to go to all the world and preach the message of the kingdom of God. This church of Jesus Christ is the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel as prophesied by the Old Testament Prophets. We, the church of Jesus Christ, are the restored Kingdom of Israel, commissioned by God to go forth and conquer the nations through the preaching of the gospel, by the power of his Spirit. Jesus’ disciples were not wrong to expect the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel soon after Christ’s resurrection, though the way in which Israel’s restoration came at Pentecost may have surprised them.
by Rev. Nollie Malabuyo
I remember our younger days when our Lord’s Day practically started on Saturday evening. We all ironed our clothes and spit-shined our shoes. My mother prepared our meals for Sunday. There was no staying late on Saturday nights, because there were no malls, no computers, no video games, not even late-night parties.
by Pastor Riley Fraas
As Zechariah’s visions continue, we get a glimpse of God’s authority over the whole earth, and a picture of hope for the future. Our great God rules over all the earth, and He has established “The Branch”, our Lord Jesus Christ, as King to build His temple, to rule and defend us, and as our Priest to bring us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the LORD by His own precious blood.
Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses;
3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.
4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
In the beginning of this oracle we see a vision of the armies of the LORD. Horse-drawn chariots were the most fearsome military weapon system then known. They could attack with deadly speed and impact. The LORD is King over all the earth. His power has no limit. He is even now ruling over all the earth and executing His will through His army, the angelic host. There is not any corner of the globe that is out of His reach. No matter what we as God’s people, His chosen nation and the kingdom of His rule, that is the Church of Jesus Christ face, our God is stronger. Though we are weak in the eyes of the world, yet our God is more powerful than all. He is the one who protects and defends us. Nothing can harm His kingdom, and He rules over all the earth. Since our God rules over all, we His people have nothing to fear, anywhere in the world. No one can do anything to us outside of His perfect will. He has a plan and He is executing it perfectly.
6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country.
7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth.
8 Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.
The north country is a reference to Babylon. The nation of the Jews had not long before endured captivity in Babylon for seventy years. That northern country had been a source of shame, death, and enslavement for the people of God. But God was going to make of it a quiet, peaceful situation, taking it over it with His mighty army. What had been a threat in the past was only a tool in the loving hand of Almighty God to chastise His people when they had been unfaithful. But now He has quieted that hornet’s nest of Babylon.
God sometimes uses the evil actions of wicked people and nations to confront His people with their sin, to restrain their rebellion, and to bring them back to their knees, to rely on Him and Him alone instead of being self-secure in their independent mindset. But woe to those evil people that God uses! There is nothing on earth that can harm us, because no one can do anything to us apart from God’s will. Let us not fear those chastening enemies that come against us, whether circumstances, or temptation, or tribulation, or being in need, or opposition. Instead, let us trust in the merciful hand of God who is using these things for His own good purpose, and who is in total and utter control. One day these things which come against us and militate against the Lord will be obliterated or fully conquered, and the peace of God will reign over the entire earth.
9 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
10 Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;
11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord:
13 Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
14 And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord.
15 And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.
The LORD commands Zechariah to crown Joshua the High Priest. Doing that, Zechariah is to prophesy to the beleaguered people of God a glorious age when a man named “The Branch” will reign in Jerusalem and will build the temple of the LORD. There will be a close council between Him and the priest at His side. This picture is that of the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King and High Priest of the people of God.
If we, God’s people, have enemies against us, we have a King to rule over and defend us. If we have sinned against the LORD, we have a great high priest who shed His own blood for us, who continually intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand. It is He who is building His Church (Matthew 16:18), the holy temple of the LORD, and He knows exactly what He is doing! Let us take comfort and draw hope in these things, that no matter what we may go through in this life, we are under the rule and protection, and beneficiaries of His priesthood. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore let us be fitted together like stones, as the Church, His building and holy temple, continuing our life together in prayer, in worship, and mutual discipline and fellowship as we glorify our great King and Priest.
By Pastor Riley Fraas
In this chapter of the book of Zechariah, the prophet receives another word-picture from the Lord, given by an angel. Remember that the Jewish people had been restored to Jerusalem, brought back from captivity in Babylon by the decree of Emperor Cyrus of Persia, whom God had stirred up to support this good work. The work of rebuilding the destroyed temple had begun, but the building project languished in an incomplete state. The people of God had grown tired and disinterested in the project, and enemy nations living nearby had taken advantage of the situation to stymy the project, persuading King Artaxerxes to order the construction to stop (Ezra 4:23.) The future looked bleak for finishing what had been started (the rebuilding of the temple,) but God had more messages of hope to give to his people to motivate them with encouragement to rebuild and to trust in Him to provide necessary materials and undo obstacles. This chapter gives us encouragement that our hope is not in our own efforts or abilities, but that we may labor in hope that God will complete that which He has started.
Zechariah chapter 4
1And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep.
2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
Zechariah had fallen asleep. The Angel woke him up to give him another prophetic revelation of what God had planned for His people. How often is it that we receive God’s words of comfort and are lulled to sleep by it instead of paying careful attention and actively applying it to our hearts and lives[i]? Yet God’s messenger the angel is gracious and patient to wake Zechariah out of his sleep with even more comforting words of hope, of what God has in store for his people. God is gracious to awaken his people by continuing to prompt them, despite their sleepiness. In the time of Zechariah, the center of God’s presence among his people was located in Jerusalem. The Church of God at the time was located there, symbolized in the vision God gave to Zechariah by one golden lampstand with seven lamps burning on it. This was something that was commanded to be used in the temple of old, which must have seemed to Zechariah to be but a faint memory of past glory after all those years in Babylon, but the angel shows it to him to give him hope that the temple will be rebuilt and that God will be worshiped as in old times. The lamps’ supply of oil would never go out because it is supplied by God Himself, “by my Spirit”, and not by the efforts of men. Although the people of God may seem lazy and distracted at times to do the hard work of building the temple of the Lord, God Himself will sustain her through a supply of his own Spirit. He has mysterious ways of keeping the spiritual life of his chosen people aflame by his Spirit.
Today, in the new covenant, the Church of God is no longer depicted by only one lampstand, but by seven lampstands (Revelation 1:20), symbolizing the dispersion of the worship of God in many locations over the entire world. (Seven is the number of perfection and completeness in the Bible.) The Church of God is no longer confined to one location in Jerusalem, but is spread out over the entire world. Though the building of God’s Church through evangelism and discipleship may seem like a futile and useless effort to the eyes of human understanding, God promises to bless His people still. We may seem small and insignificant in the eyes of the world and ready to die out at any moment. But the One who gives the life of the Spirit to His Church is the One who gives it a continual supply of His Spirit that will never go out. Our faith as Christians, and as the Church of Christ, is not in our ability to build the Church, but in the promise of Him who said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 The Church of Jesus Christ will never end, and it will be completed, through God working in it by a never-ending supply of his Holy Spirit.
8 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.
10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
It is easy to think little of small beginnings. Though the Church of Jesus Christ, as we see it in the world, may seem to be relatively few in number and weak in comparison to all of the forces of evil in the world that combat it, the One through whom God has started the work will also finish it. Zerubbabel is the King of Judah and ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:12) He came out of captivity in Babylon with the nation of the Jews to rule as God’s anointed. He is a picture and foreshadowing of King Jesus, the Christ (anointed One) and Ruler of God’s people. God promises that the temple will be rebuilt completely within Zerubbabel’s reign. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. What has been started through Him will be completed by Him. God places one olive tree on either side of the lampstand pictured to Zechariah, symbolizing His endless provision of oil to the lampstand. These are trees planted by the Lord, two “anointed” ones. The two trees most likely are symbols of the two prophets that God sent to Judah during this time of rebuilding: Zechariah and Haggai, to encourage the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 5:1.) Through his Spirit, God anoints and appoints the ministry of the word to bring his gracious words of comfort and grace to his people. The Church of Jesus Christ is the “pillar and ground of truth” in the world (1 Timothy 3:15.) By means of his Spirit, he supplies her with life, and the offices necessary for her nourishment, especially the gospel ministry. Let us never forget where the life and strength of the Church comes from when we grow weary and are tempted to think that it is completely insignificant. Through His holy Church God is accomplishing His purposes in the world to save many souls and make disciples of Christ for His everlasting glory. He will accomplish His purposes despite the opposition of the world. As the Church of Jesus Christ, this is our comfort and hope.
[i] Cf. Matthew Henry’s commentary.