It's time to derive your worldview from the Bible

Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”

by Charles Clough
When God judges, He always saves, and when He saves, He always judges. There’s always the threat of judgment in the message of God’s grace. The doctrinal consequences of Christ’s ascension and session. Judgment/salvation. The criteria for God’s perfect discrimination. Imputation has powerful implications. The high purpose for recording history is to document God and man’s behavior. Nature is involved in judgment/salvation as it relates to Christ’s session. Angelic involvement in God’s control of nature and history. Questions and answers.
Series:Chapter 1 – The Heavenly Origin of the Church
Duration:1 hr 20 mins 17 secs

© Charles A. Clough 2000

Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003

Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 1: The Heavenly Origin of the Church

Lesson 158 – Ascension and Session: Final Countdown of Judgment/Salvation

30 Nov 2000
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD

We’ve been reviewing the basic promises of the Word of God and going over the faith-rest drill, the three steps, of grabbing the promise, letting it circulate in our souls to the point where we perceive the rationale behind that promise, and seeing that there’s closure in the sense that unbelief doesn’t go anywhere. And finally the idea that when we have grabbed the promise, step two when we have seen the rationale in the promise, the third step is that faith should come; we should feel comfortable with that.

We’ve been going over Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” I’ve been stressing the fact that it gets back to the debate over evil and that fundamentally if we are to believe that “all things work together for good” what in effect we’re doing is that we are believing that there’s a reason, rationale, there’s a reason for this disaster, whatever it is. We believe that it is good; God is not a bad God. We may not know the exact reason, we may not know the particular way that good fits in, so this rational and ethical justification is kept above the line, i.e., we trust that God knows this. “The Judge of all the earth shall do right,” Genesis 18:25. That’s the rationale that supports “all things work together for good.”

Down here where we live we have things that we can look at that fortify our faith. One of those things is the cross. Why is that in this particular case? Because the cross is the place where God resolved in a rational and ethical fashion the problem of the Old Testament—how could God be just and at the same time forgive sin. That was never justified in the Old Testament. It is justified in the New Testament only after the cross of Christ. So since God has solved that area and that rationally fits together, then He’s established a precedent for the rest of the unknowns to come together some day. In the meantime we have at least nine rationales to get to faith-rest and we went over those.

Tonight I want to do a little different approach. Suppose when you come to Romans 8:28, there’s the kind of situation in your life where it’s not really a discussion over whether it’s good, that may not be the point of conflict—that may not be the thing that’s bothering you. It may be more of a situation where okay, this in itself is bad, I can see that good things can come from it, I just have trouble believing that the good things will come. In other words, I see it can happen but will it happen.

In the rationale here, fortunately you see the rationale right in the text because if you go to the next verse, verses 29–30 follow right after 8:28, “all things work together for good,” notice what you see. This wouldn’t be in most Christian books that you’d buy in a Christian book store because when you hit verse 29 you’re dealing with doctrine, and we can’t do that, we have to have a devotional approach.

Verses 29–30 is a heavy doctrinal approach, and one of the most powerful areas, and one of the most involved and deep doctrines of the Christian faith—predestination, election. Do you see how comfortable Paul is? He deals with a practical problem, he throws it out, verse 28, and then it’s like no problem, he zips on to verse 29 and he says: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; [30] and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” He just zips right through verses 29-30 and every one of those words in verse 30 is a whole vast area of Scriptural teaching. There’s advanced doctrine here.

You get the fact that in verse 28 it was qualified, “all things work together for good,” only to certain people. The justification is that verses 29-30 support that fork in the road, in other words, “all things work together for good” for a particular group, and that particular group is defined in verses 29-30. And it’s interesting, but verse 31-32 take us into another promise. So not only do many Christians memorize Romans 8:28 but a lot of us have memorized Romans 8:31–32, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

The world can look upon that as a very arrogant, conceited type thing. It’s not arrogant and conceited because it’s not our merit; it’s God’s Word, so the only arrogance is it’s His Word, it’s not ours. Verse 31, though it may be misinterpreted by your neighbor, is a very, very powerful verse. Verse 32 is another powerful verse, we’ll get into some of the reasoning behind verse 32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” It’s the argument from the greater to the lesser; if God did the greater thing He will do the lesser thing. The greater thing is saving you; the lesser thing is in sanctifying you. That’s another set of promises.

Here again it gets back to the simple principle of bringing to bear the power of God through trusting His promises in the middle of a situation. This all is tied together as we get into the Church Age and see our position in Christ. But I want to start with a promise to get into the mentality of a certain pattern.

We’re going through the ascent and session of Christ and when we do that we want to remember from the Old Testament passages that we’ve seen that the Lord Jesus Christ is physically located tonight somewhere. In His deity He’s omnipresent, but in His humanity He is localized, that issue of the location of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Father’s right hand. We’re dealing with the ascent and session of Christ. We’ve gone over the Old Testament pictures. One of the things that is associated with this is an installation in the sense that He is now anointed, He was anointed in His earthly ministry, but He’s anointed in the sense of having the crown. So He is, as it were, crowned King, not yet of Israel, but He is crowned the King in His humanity, because before, if you think about it in time He was always the Father’s Son in His deity. Then we had the incarnation, His life, His death, the resurrection, now we’ve got humanity. Deity and humanity united in one person, so now His humanity sits at the Father’s right hand and we have a new situation.

This new situation is what is the setting, and that’s why we’re spending so much time on it, we’re going into quite a bit of detail because I don’t believe this truth is taught enough, it is not repeated enough, so that we get into subjectivism and mysticism and everything else later on when we start talking about the Holy Spirit and this and that. It doesn’t start with Pentecost; it starts with the session of Christ. I’m saying the church starts here but the rationale behind the church really begins when Christ sits on the throne.

We’re going to look at it from the standpoint of a truth that we learned when we dealt with the doctrine of judgment/salvation. We said that when God judges, He always saves, and when He saves He always judges. That’s why we call it judgment/salvation. It’s a principle all through the Scriptures. Sanctification does that, He judges our flesh that we may be delivered. When we become Christians and we realize that Christ died for my sins that I might be saved. There it is, judgment/salvation. As we went back in the framework we said that the doctrine of judgment/ salvation shows up historically and the first place that it showed up was at the flood.

When God caused the flood to happen on the earth He judged the earth but He saved Noah and the people in the boat. The very same act that judged was the very same act that saved. Watch that, that’s a pattern of how God works. He judges and He saves. And you want a simple picture for this …, this is why if you capture these simple pictures from Old Testament history, it allows you to organize the New Testament in your mind. That’s why these are so good to go back to. A child can remember the flood story, but that flood story is a picture of judgment/salvation.

Then we said there was a second illustration from history that we used for the doctrine of judgment/salvation and that was the Exodus. There God judged Egypt in order to save Israel. So again you have the pattern of judgment and salvation. And you think of the angel of death, if you saw Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments, this spooky little green stuff comes down, but whatever, your image is of the Exodus, that is judgment/salvation.

Now we’re going to take that Old Testament picture because those Old Testament pictures were given for our edification; they were revelations of the pattern of how God works and we’re going to take the content of that doctrine, judgment/salvation, and we’re going to go one, two, three, four through what Christ is doing, what the session means as far as judgment/salvation goes. In your notes on page 14 I begin this process. “The doctrinal consequences of the ascension and session: the final countdown of judgment/salvation.” We are in the age when judging and saving is happening, and it starts with the ascent and session of Christ and His attaining the credentials and the rank to carry this out.

The first thing we always see about judgment/salvation is grace before judgment. God doesn’t judge without warning. He always warns before He judges; that’s grace. Again it’s an image that you pick up from the flood. God preached through Noah 120 years, so there was a period of grace before judgment. Whether people believed it, obviously not too many people believed it, they treated it in a trivial way, well, too bad, the announcement was there.

One of the things to notice about this pattern is that if you look carefully at the fact that God has to be gracious before He judges, if you look at that pattern you realize that that defines grace. It keeps you, it protects you from trivializing grace because the tendency is always to drift over into this kind of mode of thinking about God’s grace as that He’s lax, He’s kind of relaxed His standards and now’s the time to get away with things. So that becomes a view, operationally that becomes kind of a cheap way of looking at grace. But if you remember to link those two words together, the grace comes before judgment and, by the way, ends.

Grace doesn’t go on forever. Grace comes up to a point and then bingo, that’s it, no more grace. It’s just like evil is bracketed, grace is bracketed. It’s bracketed on the right side on the time line by the judgment that happens, and the gracious period in Genesis 6 is 120 years. If we went through the Exodus story we could go through Exodus 5, 6, 7, you know the story, when Moses and Aaron came repeatedly to the Pharaoh and the Pharaoh gave them a bunch of flack and then the magicians of Pharaoh counseled against Moses and Aaron, and this see-saw went back and forth, back and forth. So we have a period of grace associated with the Exodus just like we have a period of grace with the flood. Both of those periods of grace terminate when the judgment happens.

What we’re going to see is that, if you turn to Acts 17, that’s why in Acts 17 Paul uses that language when he was evangelizing the Greeks, and it’s a little different than what we’re generally used to hearing in evangelistic messages, it’s almost like giving a threat. In Acts 17:30, God says “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent.” There’s the gospel invitation in a street confrontation sort of context. And he’s saying that there’s an order here, and there’s an implied threat in the gospel and the threat is you’d better believe in Jesus Christ while you’ve got a chance. That’s the way it comes across. Yeah, you have a choice but it’s not going on forever. That is the way to blend the force into the gospel presentation.

One of the pictures of Jesus Christ’s reigning at the Father’s right hand was Psalm 2. If you go back to Psalm 2, remember the four pictures we had, Psalm 68, Psalm 2, Psalm 110 and Daniel 7, all four of those passages are used by New Testament authors to picture Christ as the One who was coming as Judge. In Psalm 2 the conclusion in verses 10, 11, and 12, the very end of that Psalm … remember verse 1 starts out “why are the nations in an uproar,” in verse 4, the second part of the Psalm, God’s laughing at the nations, God scoffs at them, and [5] “He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury: [6] But as for Me,” that’s the Father speaking, “But as for Me, I have installed My King “the Lord Jesus Christ “upon Zion, My holy mountain.” Then in verse 7 you have the Son speaking, “I will surely tell of the decree” literally of the Father here, “He said to Me, Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee.”

Then we come to verse 10, the fourth part of Psalm 2 and this is the conclusion in a practical way of all that truth in the first three parts of the Psalm. If God’s Son reigns and if God’s Son has rank and power and privilege to rule the nations, then the conclusion is, verse 10 and 11, you’d better worship the Son. [11] “Worship the Lord with reverence…. [12] Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way,” grace before judgment. There’s always the threat of judgment in the message of grace. Always marry those two together and it will keep you balanced. That was one area of judgment/salvation, grace that terminates in a judgment.

Now we come to the second part of that truth and that is that God perfectly discriminates between the saved and the unsaved. All this is is just another iteration of the truth that God is going to separate good and evil. There are not going to be three categories here, there’s only two, not three, not four, not six, not a democracy of religious opinions. There are only two. History winds up with: the good is not our good, it’s imputed goodness from the Lord Jesus Christ, and those who have rejected Christ. So, there’s a perfect discrimination that’s imbedded in the whole purpose of history, and that’s why it appears here as a second point—the perfect discrimination.

We’re going to look at some of the ways in which God discriminates so turn to the first of the synoptic Gospels; you see this right off the bat when Jesus begins His ministry. We also are using the word deliberately, the word “discrimination,” because everybody misuses it today. The Bible is built upon discrimination. The Bible is built upon violence. When you talk this way people… huh, what did you say. I said the Bible is built upon discrimination and violence. What do I mean by that? Discrimination is right here, people are going to be discriminated in how they respond to Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus said “Who do you say I am?” So people are discriminated in the plan of God by their response to the person of Christ.

In Matthew 3 when John the Baptist is preaching to the people of his time, and he says in verse 11, “As for me, I baptize you in water for repentance; but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not even fit to remove His sandals; He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. [12] And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” See the judgment there? It’s always there, judgment/salvation, you can’t get one without the other. But there’s the discrimination. Jesus Christ is a divider and God discriminates against evil.

Today we’re afraid to say …, and it’s true, there’s false discrimination. But I remember last year in Maryland there was an issue that had come up in the house of delegates and I was writing to a Christian member of the house of delegates and I pointed out to encourage them to stand on this issue, I said if they’re saying to you that you shouldn’t vote … it had something to do with defining marriages, you know, Adam and Adam and Steve and Joe can get married and all the rest of it because we’re not going to discriminate, and I said if they’re saying that discrimination is evil the perfect rejoinder is to say excuse me, can you name one law that has ever been made by this legislative body that doesn’t discriminate? Think about it. If a law says that you shall do this, doesn’t the law discriminate? It discriminates against those who obey the law and those who disobey the law. So here you are, yak yakking at discrimination as bad and you’re passing a rule and the rule discriminates.

You can’t get away from discrimination; the very act of legislating discriminates, so come on, what are you talking about? That cuts the argument down to size. Now we’re not talking about all discrimination is bad, no it isn’t. If you believed that you’d never pass a law because every law discriminates. So now it’s not an issue of discrimination, it’s a criterion of discrimination. Ah, okay, now we can get away from all the slimy words and sloppy use of vocabulary and let’s get down to what the real issue is, it’s the criterion on which you discriminate, and the criterion of discrimination is the law.

And here the criterion of discrimination is the act of belief or unbelief in Jesus Christ. If you come forward to John 3 you’ll see it’s not just the Synoptics in which theme of discrimination is given but in John 3:18, right after the verse that everybody knows it says “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

In other words, a person incriminates themselves by rejecting Jesus Christ. They come up with all kinds of excuses why, well it wasn’t clear and I don’t know whether I can believe the New Testament and all the other stuff but it comes down to the fact that everybody does know God, and here is His Son being offered for salvation and I thumb my nose at Him, and God’s supposed to open the door because I have such a cover-up excuse why I thumbed my nose at His Son. Like He’s going to really buy into this!

So one of the things we want to see is that in this age, starting with Pentecost when the church is actually formed on earth, all the way down to the Rapture when the church is taken away from the earth, during this period of time you’ve got discrimination going on, a progression of discrimina­tion where God calls out a certain subset of people based on their response to Jesus Christ.

One way in which this happens is a true …, at the bottom of page 15 I introduce a word that we kind of played with back when we were dealing with the doctrine of justification, but here’s a good time to bring this vocabulary word up. Imputation is a word that is used primarily by accountants. To see how it’s used, turn to the book of Philemon and we’ll start from the elementary idea of the base meaning of this word and then we’ll go to the theological spiritual meaning that Paul uses. It didn’t start with theologians, it started with accountants.

It’s interesting, in all the things that archeology digs up in ancient civilizations, do you know volumetrically and numerically the subject material that is dug up most, at least in the Babylonian area in Cuneiform? It’s all the records of accounting. You read and translate this stuff, Joe Blow sold three pots to Sam Jones, and that’s what half these clay tablets are all about, and people think they’re a big dark secret of history and what it is, they’re receipts for business deals.

Philemon: in this case, here’s a flavor for this word “impute,” and it gets away from the theology so you can just see it in normal, everyday business. In verse 18, for those of you who don’t know the argument of Philemon, it’s a plea by Paul, who deals with an issue of a slave and a slave owner. In verse 18, “if he” the slave “has wronged you” the slave owner “in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account,” impute it to me. There’s the basic root stem of the word “impute.” It has an economic street usage, and it simply means to credit to somebody’s account, charge it to an account. Paul uses this term, this street term; by the way, this is another good example of the fact that the New Testament is not some spooky lofty theology text. To the first century Christians to whom these letters were written it was written in the language of the ordinary person n the street. We’ve invested all kinds of content to this, and not wrongly because the Holy Spirit has taken this vocabulary and He’s increased the meaning of it, but originally these words had street meanings, and here’s the street meaning, to credit.

That’s the word that Paul picks up, and now he appropriates the accounting term and he brings it over here and he says the Christian has imputed to him the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we say that’s justification, he is now justified. Why? Because the act of justifying is crediting Christ’s righteousness to this guy’s account. That’s the picture of justification. The thing to remember about it is that it’s an objective thing that’s happening; it’s not a subjective thing. It has nothing to do …, this guy may be having great emotions or he may have very little emotion, his soul may be in turmoil, he may be very placid, it doesn’t make a particle of difference when it comes to imputation. Imputation is not given on the basis of personality. It is not given on the basis of an emotional thermometer. Imputation is not felt, it’s not detected, it’s not smelled, it’s not measured, you can’t have a dial and find out where it is, there’s no calculator involved.

It is a transaction that happens mysteriously beyond our perception. The only way we know is because the Word of God tells us this. And it gets back to faith, it gets back to trust and that’s why we can’t live our lives on the basis of how we feel, or what happened yesterday morning or something else. The stability comes back to the Word of God. What does the Word of God say! And it’s a cold-blooded transaction; it’s no more emotional than crediting to your account or debiting to your account. It’s an account transaction, that’s very unromantic, it’s unspiritual sounding, and it sounds like it’s kind of a cold water thing. It has tremendous and powerful applications if you understand that we come to God with a deficit, because we are sinners and He is righteous and holy, we have to have our account on the plus ledger. We come minus. So God credits the righteousness of Christ over to our account.

He does it without feeling. We can appreciate this and we can respond to the Lord, and there are emotions there, but the emotions aren’t in the imputation. They follow the imputation, the work of God first, emotional response second. You can’t respond emotionally to any work of God if you don’t first believe that the Word of God happened. That’s why it gets back primarily to faith. So what we want to show is that in this judgment/salvation we have grace before judgment. In this case how long has the grace gone on? The grace has gone on from the day of Pentecost to tonight, nineteen plus centuries, that’s how long the period of grace is. But one day it’s going to come to an end, just like these other grace periods came to an end, it will come in judgment; the Lord Jesus Christ is giving out the grace, the Lord Jesus Christ is going to do the judging.

Then we come to this and we say that the Lord Jesus Christ …, notice in each one of these cases, unlike the Exodus and the flood, who’s the center of all these? The Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the center of the grace, He’s the center of the judgment, He’s the center of the perfect discrimination because the discrimination is based upon whether we receive or reject Jesus Christ.

Now we come to the fact, the one way of salvation, and this is number three. There is only one way, not three, not five, there is only one way. “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12] “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” [Acts 16:31] It doesn’t say believe on Paul, believe on Peter, believe on Confucius or anybody else. It’s just there, one way of salvation. This is very offensive to people.

If you encounter this a good way of discussing it is to say wait a minute, don’t blame Jesus for the one way of salvation doctrine. Don’t blame Paul for that, where does it go back to. Remember the framework; go back to the Old Testament, the call of Abraham. What happened with the call of Abraham in 2000 BC? God stopped ministering directly to all the people groups. Up to that time you had Melchizedeks all over the place. These are people in each people group that were acting as king and priests. That’s cut off.

Now God picks Abraham exclusively, exclusively, and the Jew follows the call of Abraham. This is not new with the New Testament. There was only one way. Remember the Exodus, what was the only one way that you could be saved, that your firstborn child could be saved? There was only one way, shed blood on your door. No other way was acceptable. And I imagine there were Jewish people that didn’t do that, and they’re Jewish people that lost their first born child because of that. Why? Because there’s not [can’t understand words] three ways for this.

This is very difficult for us as Christians and it will become increasingly difficult; we will be pressured, maneuvered and castigated for exclusivism. That is not acceptable in today’s society. We live in a (quote) “pluralistic” society and we, as a Christian group, are going to bear the brunt of this sort of thing. We have to think about it, we have to prepare, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks a reason for the hope that is in you.”

It behooves you to think through, what are you going to do when people start recriminating you from being a religious bigot who believes your way is the only way. The first thing you can do is just blunt back, it’s not that you believe your way is the only way, it’s just that you’ve learned something from Jesus Christ so argue with Him, not with me. I didn’t create this truth, it’s been around for twenty centuries, and you’d know better if you would read the Bible, if you can read.

The point is that people have to understand that you aren’t generating this, so don’t accept that, when somebody comes up and says well, you’re a bigot, you believe in your way. It’s not my way. Sorry, I had nothing to do with it. Argue with Paul and Jesus. And you just side step it, blame it on Jesus.

Why, though, is there one way? If we think maturely about it, what did we say when we went through the life of Christ? We said there were four things in the life of Jesus Christ, so let’s go back and look at those. We said His birth, His life, His death, and resurrection.

Let’s look at the death a minute. What did we say was the underlying issue when we talked about the death of Christ and the substitutionary blood atonement? What’s the idea under that? Justice. The person who rejects the substitutionary blood atonement of Jesus Christ, whether they’re in a cult or whether they’re in a religion like Islam, whatever, but anybody … anybody that rejects the substitutionary blood atonement of Jesus Christ has got a problem with biblical justice because biblical justice is at its heart restitutionary. It’s God’s holy standard, and He says the only price is a life for a life. Therefore the substitution, the word “substitution,” it’s not just blood atonement, it’s a substitutionary blood atonement, somebody took my place, somebody took your place. That’s why we remember that, because there’s no other meeting ground before the justice of God.

It’s His standard, He defines the meeting ground, and he says there’s only one place. It always has been that way. Eden was the one place where He communed with Adam and Eve. There wasn’t any other place, He walked in the garden, now this is My meeting ground, not somewhere else, if you want to meet Me, you meet Me here. So it’s always been that way, it shouldn’t strike us as foreign. It’s inherent in the Lord Jesus Christ that He provided one way of salvation, He provided the one way because of the holiness of God.

Next we come to a thing that we’re going to expand on, and the notes expand on this an enormous amount. We’re going to spend quite a bit of time, actually there’s five points to this doctrine, but it’s point four that we’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time on, probably two or three weeks before we’re done. We’ll stop our progress here. We’ve got grace before judgment; the perfect discrimination, and one way of salvation. Now we’re going to get into something else that happened in all of those previous judgment/salvation events. Think about it, in the flood event what was judged? Man and nature. Nature was judged. Remember God said He curses the ground. He wasn’t just cursing man, He was cursing the ground. So nature was involved in the judgment; man and nature.

We’ve got that one, let’s move to the second judgment/salvation event, and that’s the Exodus. What was involved in the judgments of the Exodus? You can say the first-born sons were involved, people. What was involved in turning the Nile red? Nature. What was involved in bringing the flies all over Egypt? Nature. So nature and man were involved in God’s judgment. Nature is always involved. What we want to do, because now in the New Testament a door is opened and we’ve got to walk through this door and if we do, and we have enough patience and stick-to-itiveness, here’s where we going to come to probably some areas of teaching that you may not have heard before. I hesitate to do this in a framework series, but I think it’s necessary so that we understand why the dispensational approach to Scripture and why the unique character of the Church Age is the way it is. So we’re going to step through the door and we’re going to start looking at this thing called nature.

We’re going to ask, “How is nature involved in the judgment/salvation that Jesus Christ is doing?” How is it involved? Surely in the book of Revelation you know it’s involved because in the book of Revelation what happens to the sun and the moon? What happens to the earth? What happens to the sea? Jesus Christ is judging those parts of nature. But what we want to look at is, is He judging a component of this right now? That’s what we want to look at, and that introduces the angelic realm. On page 17 I start working into the realm of the angels.

We’re going to start with the angels in Israel, we’re going to move backwards in time to the angels in the antediluvian civilization, and then we’re going to move back all the way to the angels in creation and their role in the fall. So all of a sudden we’re bringing up angelology, the doctrine of angels and we have to do that because of the wide ramifications of when Jesus Christ took the high ground, when He went forward and God gave Him a name above every name, above EVERY name, that He sits above all the principalities and powers. You can’t appreciate the session of Christ if we don’t deal with this angelic area because it’s the angelic area that He outranks. The session is the first time a human being has ever outranked all the angels in the hierarchy of God’s plan. So to appreciate the session of Christ we have to pause and work our way through angels.

Turn to Deuteronomy 32, we covered this when we did the Law, but you remember that in Deuteronomy 32 we have sort of the national anthem of Israel, and Moses taught the nation, it’s a song. And the song is not like our national anthem that harks back to Fort McHenry in an act of war, the War of 1812, but this national anthem not only looks past, it looks centuries down the corridors of time. It looks all the way down to the end of Israel’s history, and as the nation was taught to sing this, their national anthem, they were reminded that they had a special history. And the special history was not there just for curiosity sake. History in the Bible is due to what? Think this through. This is a point you will not get in your public schools. Why is history recorded? In school, at least they used to when they taught history, they taught that Herodotus and Thucydides were the first historians. That’s not true. Herodotus and Thucydides were [blank spot]

Why did that history become history? Who cares about history? Because what had God promised this nation? He promised them in a contract … remember, contract, He went into a contract, and what is always true of a contract whether it’s a mortgage, a contract on your house, on your car, what’s always true of every contract you make? It has terms of performance. If you have a loan, it you make a contract with a bank it says you’ll make a payment every month. What happens if you don’t make the payment? They have certain rights to come in and start proceedings against you, maybe even confiscating the property that’s acting as the equity behind the loan. Contracts have performance implications.

How do you tell whether the contract’s broken or not? You have to measure performance on the basis of the terms in the contract. That’s the essence of it. God made a contract with the nation Israel and the issue is going to be down through the corridors of time … here’s the point that God made a contract with Israel. Now the issue is there are two parties to this covenant, God and the nation Israel. They go into a contractual agreement that stipulates certain things are going to happen. God is going to do certain things; Israel is supposed to do certain things. As time goes on, how can we tell whether there’s a breach of contract or not? By recording performance. Where do we go to record performance for the contract? History. That’s why history is written in the Scriptures. The high purpose behind history is to track God and man’s behavior.

This is why, frankly, before I became a Christian I wasn’t interested in history. The reason I wasn’t interested in history was because nobody bothered to tell me, so why should you spend all this effort learning all this material. Nobody told me, they just told me to pass the test next week. That’s all we are told, and then we wonder gee, these kids aren’t motivated. Well of course not, there’s nothing there to motivate them. The motivation is seeing the pattern of God work down through the corridors of time. Now I’m motivated.

And I heard this testimony so many times from new Christians, or old Christians, that I got my interest in history after I became a Christian. After I became a Christian it transformed my whole life. After I became a Christian I loved history, I like to read about these things because it suddenly became interesting, there was a reason for it, there’s a pattern behind it, it makes sense.

In Deuteronomy 32, in this great national anthem of Israel, at the very beginning you notice that there’s an invocation. Moses writes this, and if you read this too fast you zip right by this and never notice it. In verse 1 he calls heaven and earth as witnesses. “Give ear, oh heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. [2] Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on fresh grass and as the showers on the herb. [3] For I proclaim the name of the LORD,” now if we had time, and I did this when we went through the Old Testament, we could go to passages in Micah and Isaiah, I listed two of them in the notes on page 17, [Isaiah 1:2; Micah 6:1-2] and you would see that centuries later down through into the period of the decline of the kingdom. Just prior to the exile, during this period what are the Old Testament prophets doing? They use the same language, they use the same invocation and they say, Oh heavens and earth, see that Israel has violated the laws of God.

What are these guys talking about? Is this just poetry or is there something serious going on here that maybe we’d better just hold it a minute and think, do the heavens have eyes, does the earth have ears? What’s going on here, are we talking about spirits of the earth and spirits of the sky? In a way, yes we are; these are angelic witnesses and over the corridors of time, down through the centuries, angels have been watching. Angels are watching this drama, they’re watching the performance of God and they’re watching the performance of man. They are intrigued with history. They are the third parties. They are going to, in the final analysis, be the jury, as it were. Did God obey the contract; did man obey it. You want to get this concept because I introduce imputation, I introduce all these things, this will all come together but just follow the reasoning.

You’ve got more than God and man working here. There is a third party involved in this whole thing. We know that the angels ministered to the nation. In the verses on the bottom of page 17, particularly if you check out Acts 7:53, for example, you would see that Stephen as he’s dying, as he’s giving his speech e, just before he’s capitally punished he mentions that the Law was given through angels. There was fire and the messengers of God.

Now if you read what happened at the Exodus and Sinai …, here’s Mount Sinai and there’s smoke and there’s fire, and Moses goes up to the top of Mount Sinai; you don’t read anything about angels. But the Jews, down through history have said that the Law was given, not by just THE angel of the Lord, but it was given through angels, plural. The only phenomena we have that we’re looking at here is what? Fire and smoke.

So what we’re saying … watch it now because we’re working with nature. Angels, while they can personify themselves, show up as people and walk around and eat steak, like they did when they visited Abraham’s house, they can also turn themselves into physical phenomena and act in and through physical phenomena. They have this strange quality of metamorphosis. They can transform themselves from person to fire to something else. They have this ability. They have a strange ability to interact.

In the book of Revelation when God breaks the seals, what does He say when the sun increases its intensity? Does He turn up the physics? What does He say? He doesn’t say let the radiation of the solar hydrogen engine increase. Rather what He says, be careful to the text, He speaks to the angel of the sun.

Now what is going on here? This is totally, completely foreign to the way we’re all brought up and educated about nature around us. We fear because pagan peoples have spiritism. You know what spiritism is; they believe there’s a spirit behind every rock, etc.

When Carol and I were in Okinawa I actually saw this where there were these Japanese people and the Okinawans who don’t want to be called Japanese people, would come to their graves and you’d see the women sitting there, and they’d come up and they’d kneel, and they’d put pieces of food and everything else right there in the cemetery, and they were making offerings to spirits, the spirit of the trees, spirit of the rocks, spirit of the departed one, all that. That’s spiritism.

The reason we don’t like to hear about spiritism is because it’s chaotic. We say we believe in science, we believe in the uniformity of nature, we believe that nature runs by natural law and that’s indeed the only way we can know that things can be predicted, etc. God rules nature, not through natural law. We don’t know how He rules. It just says “By His Word He rules.” That’s what gives the uniformity that we call the uniformity of natural law. It’s not a natural law, it’s God’s Word, it’s the Logos, and it’s working somehow through these spirit beings. They are around and in nature.

If you want to see an example of this, turn to Psalm 104:4, it’s talking about creation. He says, “He makes the winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers.” If you have a study Bible you should see a note somewhere on verse 4 and you should see a reference to Hebrews 1:7, because the author of Hebrews interprets verse 4 as referring to angels. And if the author of Hebrews is correct, and we believe he is, then what he is saying in verse 4 is that winds and fire are intimately related to or perhaps are actual metamorphisms of angelic beings, not that all wind and all fire is. But there’s something peculiar going on in material physical nature that we do not understand. But it’s here, and we’re going to explore this area of angels in some depth.

If you look at the notes we’ll move into this area and relate it to the session of Christ and what He is doing today, what the big argument is. I think when we get through this it will give renewed appreciation for why we go through things like the faith-rest drill.

One of the verses that I didn’t cover tonight but it shows you another aspect of the role of angels in history is in Daniel 10. In that passage one of the angels comes to bring an answer to Daniel’s prayer, and Daniel had been praying for three weeks, and I imagine Daniel was a little concerned why he never got an answer. When the angel finally comes to him, he gives a strange excuse why he didn’t show up. Turn to Daniel 10, it’s very interesting, and this gets into something we’ll pursue in more depth, that angels are intimately related to the visible powers, the visible political powers. It’s as though there’s a shadow regime behind the visible political picture.

In Daniel 10:10, by the way, verse 10 is a neat repeat of what happens when angels show up at certain times. I was recently watching a film on the New Testament and they had some inane rendition of when Peter was in jail and the angel came and delivered him out and they had this spooky light that showed up. I wondered, did the producer of this film ever read the text. Do you know what the text says? The angel hit Peter and said okay, get up pal, we’re out of here. That strikes you as kind of funny but the word there, if you look it up in the Greek, it’s that he smacked him. I don’t know what it feels like but I would imagine it would be quite an impression to get knuckle-handed by an angel’s hand. But it happened. And here is another one of those passages, these guys when they show up sometimes they’re not very gentle.

Daniel 10:10, “Then behold, a hand” and this is great, this is a great translation in the Aramaic, “behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees,” it actually means it hit me and knocked me down and I’m sitting there… what position are you sitting in when you’re on your hands and knees? Somebody went up and shoved him down.

“And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man of high esteem,” I don’t know whether these angels have a sense of humor or what, but it’s very interesting to watch their behavior in some of these points. They seem to have sarcasm. Remember the two angels that showed up at the ascension and said, “What are you guys looking for here?” Here he comes and knocks him on the floor and says, “Oh, you’re a great man.” “… understand the words I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you. And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.” This was a real effect when this angel showed up.

Verse 12, “Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God,” this is so encouraging for prayer. By the way, this is another case where angels are involved in answered prayer. He says, “on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. [13] But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was opposing [withstanding] me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. [14] Now I’ve come …” and he goes on to say I’ve come to give you an account of this and that and the other thing.

But notice that there’s twenty-one days that goes by and there appears to be some sort of an angelic conflict going on because he says “the prince of the kingdom of Persia,” now Persia was one of those Gentile kingdoms. Remember in the book of Daniel you have the four kingdoms, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, and here he’s referring to that second kingdom, the kingdom of Persia, and he’s saying there’s a prince of the kingdom of Persia. The question would be is he talking about the king, Darius or somebody like that? Who’s he talking about?

It’s quite clear from the context that it isn’t a human being that’s referred to as the prince of the kingdom of Persia, because it’s in this invisible angelic realm. The prince of that kingdom opposed me for twenty one days. It’s like this angel … this is very spatial; this is very physical in the sense of location, that this angel is sent from the throne of God. Where was Daniel? Daniel was living in the kingdom of Persia. So he’s living inside this political realm and the angel said I tried to come to you and I had to fight my way in. It’s like an incoming missile, and he’s having to go through hostile air space. This is very sobering.

If we’re going to take these passages seriously, this is saying that above these kingdoms there’s a thick cloud of darkness, of angelic beings. This is not to get spooky and scare people, this is just simply to say when God says I want you to live the Christian life a certain way … then you have Ephesians 6, “we wrestle not with principalities and powers,” so on and so forth, there are reasons why the Christian life is set up the way it is, and it sometimes doesn’t make a particle of sense to us, but if we will put our lives in the context of a higher struggle that’s going on in the invisible realm our lives and our trials and our tribulations and our acts of faith, our acts of disobedience, our confession of sin, all this is part and parcel of a greater drama that’s going on. And God isn’t getting spooky with us, and He doesn’t tell us all about this, but He gives us enough information of Scripture that angelic beings are all around.

There are strange passages in the New Testament, you can go to commentary after commentary and basically the scholars admit they really don’t know what, there’s just this report that talks about worship service, angels are watching, and then there’s things about polity and women and men and their roles and all the rest of it. But why, if you’re talking about the organization of a Sunday morning, what are you talking about bringing angels in and saying angels are watching the whole thing, because they are.

This is the point I’m trying to get at. As we go into the Church Age this angelic thing that’s implicit in the Old Testament suddenly becomes very explicit, it’s referred to specifically; it is tied to Christ and His session, that He has pulled rank now on this whole thing, the nature of the angelic conflict has changed. There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on and that’s what we’re trying to get at in the notes, and that’s what we tried to introduce to you tonight, that to appreciate the session of Christ we have to get into this area or it doesn’t make any sense for … you know, He ascended to Heaven and He’s above all principalities and powers and if we don’t deal with what the principalities and powers are.

We have a few minutes for some question and answer, but I did want to make that point that we’re going with this in a pattern.

Question asked: Clough replies: Turn to Ephesians 2, this is a very interesting passage and there’s a structure in this verse that you want to pay attention to. It’s one of those places where you can read it at sixty miles an hour and miss it. [someone reads Ephesians 2:1-2 from a different translation, and then comments: The NASB reads: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.] Clough says: of the power of the air, yeah, it’s the same spatial thing you see in the kingdom of Persia, angels trying to get into the air space, so to speak, to get down to where Daniel is, and he’s having a problem. He’s literally having a problem. He’s having to fight his way in, and he was unsuccessful. Whatever these evil powers are, they resisted a messenger of God for twenty-one days. And the messenger of God had to go get help from another angel to bust through. Here you have the good angels and they’re having problems. That’s what that text is saying.

This passage in Ephesians 2, notice the clause where it says “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world,” the second one, where it says “according.” Look at the sequence of nouns and imagine yourself diagramming that sentence. “… according to the prince of the power of the air,” the word “air” there means atmosphere, no question about it. And over the “air” back to the left of the noun “air” you see the word “power,” “power of the air.” The word power there has a personality to it. So the idea that there’s a power of the air, Ephesians 2:2, and then there’s a third noun, see there’s three nouns there, not two.

So if you look at it, it says “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience,” the “power of the air” and I’ve forgotten the Greek structure here, I knew it at one time but I didn’t look at it before tonight, but I believe that the pneuma [can’t understand word, think it’s a Greek word] the noun for the next clause, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience, the issue is what is that in apposition with. Is “the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” in apposition to the noun “power” or is it in apposition to the noun “prince.” That’s a discussion, and that has to be settled on exegetical grounds. It’s been a long time since I was in the text and I’ve forgotten which one it is but what I remember about working through that text is that it’s not altogether obvious. That’s one of those studies that you have to do and work out your cases and see how it fits together and look through different sequences when that happens in the Greek text.

Pertinent to our discussion tonight is the fact that the atmosphere, there’s a spirit in the air, and then there’s a prince over that. So you could say the prince corresponds to Satan, but Satan isn’t the prince of the air, he’s “the prince of the power of the air.” So there’s an intermediate thing going on here between Satan and the natural forces, and that appears to be like the prince of the kingdom - remember the prince of Persia. So there’s a whole structure here, there’s principalities and powers, what’s that? There’s some sort of ranking that’s involved, there’s some sort of hierarchy involved, there’s a structure going on.

That is a very, very important point because what we’re going to find is that critics of premillennial Dispensational theology always like to say that we do nothing in the Church Age, the Church Age is just sort of a big waste, nothing happens. We postmillennialists believe in progress and the church is doing something, it’s conquering the world. Yeah, it sure is. We’re progressing in history. Well, they have a point in one regard. If Jesus Christ attained the throne in victory, what is going on now? Is there progress being made?

And our point in getting into the angelic area is you can’t answer that question unless you deal with the angelic powers. Jesus Christ is doing something. He has been doing something for nineteen centuries. It’s not wasted time. Something is going on and it involves the church but it involves also these principalities and powers. When you see “the prince of the power of the air” it’s in opposition to Christ. Right? Look at verse 2, “you walked according to the course of this world,” who sets the course of this world? It’s this “prince of the power of the air” that sets the course of the world system. And obviously Paul is saying, verse 4, that “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,” we were dead, “He made us alive together in Christ,” and notice in verse 6, this is why I’m working through this angel thing for you.

If you look at verse 6, that’s not going to make sense unless we do something here. Unless we spend time trying to understand the principalities and powers, the rank of Jesus in this invisible realm, because He makes the statement in verse 6, He “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in heavenly” or spiritual “places, in Christ Jesus.” There’s a load of truth in there and it’s hard to extract, and it is not just words, blah, blah, blah, nice sounding words. This is making some very definite claims about what our role is in all this. And that somehow we are linked to Christ’s session, His ascension and session. Then he goes on, we wrestle with principalities and powers, there’s a fight going on in other words. And it’s naïve to think that it’s just a political conflict, or it’s just a racial conflict, or it’s just a crime versus law-abiding citizens conflict, or it’s just drug addiction or it’s just alcoholism, or it’s just this or that, or it’s just the climate, it’s just … you know, it’s just … All these things are conspiring together, there’s a pattern going on and we don’t know what the whole pattern is.

To get back to the point about the climate, one of the problems we have in climate studies is that the averages that have been developed, the average behavior, whatever this mass is, was all made during the 40s and 30s when the climate was reasonably orderly. But it doesn’t go very far back in time, and one of the arguments that’s going on in my profession is global warming, and it’s politically expedient, and shall I translate that to mean it’s budgetarily expedient for various agencies to claim that it’s anthropogenic, i.e., that the global warming is caused by man because if you say that you can (quote) “fix the problem.” See this is man trying to fix the problem.

The flaw in that particular line of reasoning is that there was global warming in the time of the Vikings; it was so warm that vineyards were growing in New England by themselves and when the Vikings visited the New England shores they called it Vineland. They called Greenland, which is one big ice cap, Greenland. Why did they call it Greenland? It isn’t green— it’s white, rocky, so why did they call it Greenland? Because the point is that there had been warmings before in history, and the question … as one professor in the department I came from at MIT that raised a sarcastic question, he says, “I wonder how many cars and factories the Vikings had?”

The point is we don’t know what’s causing it, that’s the bottom line. But we have these people that are absolutely in a political frenzy to solve the problem and prevent global warming from happening because it’s all due to the United States or it’s all due to the bad factories and stuff. We don’t really know what’s going on, frankly. If you say that you get your budget funded for next year because you can say I’ve got a new research project that’s going to give this in it.

But all of it, I’m sure angelic beings are involved, but the point is, don’t get spooky about it, control the angelic realm with the sovereign Word of God, it’s all by God’s permission, so even if there are these intermediaries it’s just that we have to understand, like that angel did in Daniel 10, that the good guys can take a lot of opposition. The bad guys don’t just cower and they don’t just fall over every time somebody mentions the Lord’s name. Here was a powerful angel, and they didn’t keel over for the [can’t understand word/s], he had to fight, so the question is, why? And how do they fight? What’s all involved in this thing, and from there we’ll go into why the New Testament is written the way it is. We’ll get into this, I’ve decided we’re not going to rush through this; we’re going to take some time to go through it.

OT Image Source

Accomplishment of the Session

Accomplishments Still Awaited

Daniel 7

Christ given kingly authority to rule over all nations; comes face-to-face with the Father

Judgment of nations; acquisition of a kingdom people; evil powers set aside

Psalm 2

Christ given kingly authority to rule over all nations by a decree of the Father

Subduing of the nations; nations given opportunity to bow to Christ’s authority before they are forced to; Christ not sitting on David’s throne at physical Mt. Zion

Psalm 110

Christ given both kingly and priestly authority to rule over all nations; sits at the Father’s right hand

Enemies not yet defeated

Figure One. Pictures how Old Testament images are used in the New Testament to interpret Christ’s session through a selected set of features.