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THE GREAT PROPHECIES: VOLUME 4
The Church
by G. H. Pember

   

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Second American Edition, 1998
664 pgs.
$27.95 USD (hardcover only)
 

This is a book of distinct and conspicuous mark on the exhaustless theme of Scripture prophecy.  It is evident that the conscientious labor and thought of years are embodied in the volume.  While the author shows that he has studied with care the literature of his subject, he has at the same time wrought out an independent scheme of interpretation marked by great comprehensiveness and self-consistency.

George Hawkins Pember was born in 1837.  He was educated at Cambridge University where he took his M.A. in Classics at age twenty-six.  Upon his conversion to Christ, Pember determined to devote his scholastic talents to a close and comprehensive study of the Scriptures for the benefit of God's people.  His penchant for meticulous scholarship, extensive knowledge of ancient cultures, and keen spiritual insight combined to produce works of a quality and depth with few parallels in Christian expository literature.

G. H. Pember died in 1910, leaving a rich legacy of reclaimed spiritual truth, upon which subsequent reformers such as J. N. Darby, Watchman Nee, G. H. Lang, and T. Austin-Sparks would build.

More about the author

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. The Church's Place in God's World-Plan
  2. The Transition from the Law and the Prophets to Christ
  3. The Gospel of Matthew (Part 1)
  4. The Gospel of Matthew (Part 2)
  5. The Gospel of Matthew (Part 3)
  6. The Gospel of Matthew (Part 4)
  7. The Gospel of Matthew (Part 5)
  8. The Apocalypse
  9. The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse

Conclusion
Index
 

Preface

This volume, the publication of which has been much delayed by illness, completes what we have to say concerning fulfilled prophecy. We have, however, in no sense exhausted the theme: indeed, considerations of space and time have compelled us to omit many interesting particulars from the present work. But enough, we trust, has been retained to afford a clear view of the whole subject, and, moreover, to completely equip any reader for further research on his own account. A few remarks on one or two difficult points in the book may, perhaps, render it more easily intelligible.

Commencing with chapters on the purpose of the Church in God’s World-scheme, and on the point at which the Mosaic Dispensation gave place to that of Grace and Truth, we go on to show, that the Kingdom of the Heavens, which began to be preached by John the Baptist when the Law and the Prophets had been suspended, is the same Heavenly Kingdom as that which is now our hope and goal. For the Jews, or the two Tribes—which had remained with the Temple of their God, and had clung to the House of David from whence the Messiah was to spring—were still regarded as the peculiar people of God, and, therefore, as having the first right to the highest privileges which He would bestow upon the human race.

For this reason it is, that, when He represents the Heavenly calling as a Royal Banquet, the Jews are termed "those that were bidden"; and it is only after their refusal to come that He commands His servants to go into the Highways of the Gentiles, and to bring in all that are willing, of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, in order that His Banqueting-hall may be filled.

And from this we may perceive how intense an interest we have in the First Gospel, in which, although the Lord is speaking to Jews, He is addressing them as those who are called to the Heavenly Kingdom. Hence every word which He utters concerning the Prize then set before them may be taken as directly and literally spoken to ourselves, to whom the glorious heritage which they rejected is now offered.

There is, also, another fact which we ought to bear in mind, if we would understand this Gospel. During His earth-life, the Lord could say but little of salvation by His Blood, because the Great Sacrificial Expiation had not then been accomplished. Hence the most of His teaching was concerned with the Prize of the Heavenly calling, with the spirit and conduct that must characterize those who would reign with Him above. His standard, as explained in the "Sermon on the Mount," is, indeed, high, and far beyond the possibilities of our unaided powers. But the circumstances made it necessary for Him to leave to His Apostles the task of proclaiming, to all men, both the expiation for sin which He was about to effect by His death, and the joyful tidings, that, after His ascension, He would send down His Holy Spirit so to change the nature of His followers that they would be enabled to do all that was required of them.

From what has just been said, it will be evident that the teaching from the Lord’s Own mouth is, as might have been expected, the highest in the New Testament; for it is directed to the training of those that are destined to be the Spiritual Princes of the human race, and to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.

The reader will now perceive why we have thought it necessary to comment on a large portion of the Gospel of Matthew, and especially on the "Sermon on the Mount"; that is to say, because it is there that the Lord reveals His laws for all those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who would attain to the Heavenly Kingdom.

But, in the "Sermon," He also speaks of the judgment of those who, when they have put their hand to the plough, look back, or are stimulated by mixed motives, or are in any way unfaithful servants. And what we have said of the temporary chastisements after death, with which such persons are threatened, will, we fear, be distasteful to many readers. Let it, however, be remembered, that the texts quoted are no opinions of ours, but the Words of God, which, whether we like them or not, cannot be set aside, but must be fulfilled to the last iota. If, therefore, any one demurs to the literal and logical meaning which we have assigned to them, it is, at least, incumbent upon him to supply a better interpretation: otherwise, his objections can be regarded only as symptomatic of prejudice and dislike to the doctrine evolved.

But believers often treasure up a store of ideas, which they have either received from others or accumulated from their own inadequate study, and sometimes regard them as practically representing the Bible; so that, if they hear anything contrary to them, they at once denounce it as heresy. Such persons, also, are usually prone to forget, that the Word of God is a Living Word, able to turn different sides of truth to men according to their needs and circumstances; and, if it be diligently searched, to reveal, just at the moment when the changing phases of the Church or the world require them, things hitherto unnoticed. And yet there are but few enlightened believers of long standing who have not proved this fact in their own personal experience.

But, to return to the passages which are concerned with the judgment of believers, these solemn texts are usually ignored by Protestants; or, if, perchance, they should be discussed, are often wrongly applied to the unsaved. As regards the latter device for getting rid of them, our comments will, we trust, enable an impartial reader to see, that such a means of escape is impossible; for the "Sermon on the Mount" is addressed exclusively to disciples of the Lord Jesus who are aspiring to the Kingdoms while the other texts, also, have a manifest reference to believers.

And, as to the ignoring of such Scriptures as we do not like, or cannot explain, that is a most dangerous expedient. For every revelation of God which is most repugnant to our human nature is obviously the very spiritual medicine which we are needing; if, at least, our minds are to be conformed to the mind of God—to effect which is the great object of our probation here below.

Moreover, to decline, either to believe what He has said, or to obey what He has commanded, on the ground that we cannot understand it, is to place ourselves on a level with the High and Lofty One That inhabiteth Eternity—an impious position, from which, unless we abandon it, we shall presently be cast down to the lowest Hell.

Beside which, in so doing, we destroy the bridge by which alone we can pass into His Presence, and stand among His servants that shall serve Him, and shall see His Face. For the sole remedy for the rebellious independence of man is the acquirement, by his own experience, of an absolute faith in God— a faith that will not fail him even in the darkest season of perplexity. This is, indeed, a quality far above our reach; but He has promised to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.

So much, then, for the Protestant mode of dealing with these Judgment-texts. The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, use some of them to prove their doctrine of Purgatory. We cannot, however, find, in the New Testament, any such place as their imagination has depicted. For the chastisements of believers mentioned by the sacred writers are the carrying out of sentences pronounced by the Lord Himself from His Judgment-seat, which can by no means be modified or ended at the will of Ecclesiastics who style themselves His Vicars upon earth.

Moreover, there is another and far more serious objection to the Roman Purgatory, which should, also, act as a caution to all those who study the subject of judgment after death. In Orby Shipley’s Glossary of Ecclesiastical Terms, Purgatory is defined as "a place of purification from the stains of sin after death." But such an idea is utterly opposed to Scripture.

There is, indeed, a Shed, or Hades, in the centre of the earth, a prison of God in which the spirits of the children of disobedience are confined, until the time of the Great Assize; as there is, also, a Paradise of God on High (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Psa. 68:18; Eph. 4:8), whither the spirits of His faithful servants are conducted as soon as they are freed from the body. But there is no place in which the guilt of past transgressions can be purged away by cleansing fires. For there is nothing that can remove the stains of sin, either in this Age or in that which is to come, save the Blood of the Lord Jesus; and "He is the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2).

"And in none other is there salvation; for neither is there any other name under Heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

It is, then, impossible that the pollution of guilt should be cleansed away by any chastisements that could be allotted to the saved, either before or after death. Such means, whenever they are applied, can only avail to humble the proud spirit of man, and, by convincing him of his miserable and hopeless condition, to render him more eagerly desirous, and more fully capable, of receiving the Lord Jesus as being, on the part of God, made unto him wisdom, as well as righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.

[1 Cor. 1:30. In this verse redemption is mentioned after righteousness and sanctification, because what is here meant is not the price of redemption, which the Lord paid in full upon the cross, but the actual deliverance itself, which is to be the result of His death, and will be effected by the putting forth of His mighty power. It is the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:5), the hope of which is the helmet of the believer’s armour (1 Thess. 5:8).]

For it is possible to believe on Him sufficiently for deliverance from everlasting death, without going on "to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, by becoming conformed unto His death" (Phil. 3:10). And, while no real believer can fail to secure the Gift of Everlasting Life, none but the overcomer can attain to the Prize) which is the First Resurrection, membership in the Body of Christ, and a place in the Heavenly Kingdom. Some further light on this important subject may, perhaps, be obtained from a consideration of the Judgments at the close of each of the three greater Dispensations, which the reader will find discussed in this volume—for the first time, so far as we know.

The present neglect of the subject of Judgment, and especially of that which will proceed from the Judgment-seat of Christ, is to be deplored. Indeed, it appears to be very generally supposed, that believers in the Lord Jesus, however great their irregularities may be, have nothing to dread in the future, save a possible lowering of their rank in the Heavenly Kingdom. But the teaching of the New Testament is very different; and we have endeavoured to set it forth in the following pages. For in these Laodicean times we cannot afford to lose any warnings which God has graciously vouchsafed, especially when we see around us, even among professing Christians, so many who think that whatever commends itself to their own carnal minds must, also, be pleasing in the eyes of their Almighty Creator. And so, the guilt of disobedience is being minimized to a vanishing point, and is quickly forgotten. For the ceaseless whirring of the now complicated machinery of human life is suffered to drown the voice of God, so that men do not hear Him saying; --

"These things hast thou done, and I kept silence;
Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself.
But I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes."

Yes; all the unpardoned sins which men have done, and forgotten long ago, must again be set in order before their eyes: not one of them will be wanting in the dread hour when the Books are opened.

So far as memory serves us, there is no other point in connection with the subjects of this book which requires more elucidation than may be found in the text.

We would, however, invite special attention to the sections that explain the term "Kingdom of the Heavens," and the relation of John the Baptist and Elijah; to the comments on the "Sermon on the Mount," which is here regarded as the Lord’s Manual for the use of those who would fain be very near to Him in the coming Age; to the exposition of the phrase "Light of the World," of the Lord’s Prayer, and of Paul’s thorn in the flesh; to our remarks on the Transfiguration as revealing a most important crisis in the Lord’s work for us; to the section on the Parable of the Marriage-feast, and its Dispensational teaching; and to what is said of the Vision of the Lampstands and Stars, and its lessons for those who would cultivate Philadelphian Christianity.

In regard to the two aspects of Church-history given in the Seven Parables and the Seven Epistles, it must surely be confessed by every one who studies them, that they afford a wonderful manifestation of God’s knowledge of the end from the beginning, and an unanswerable proof of the Divine origin of the Bible. Moreover, they are especially valuable, because they enable us to understand the earthly career of the Church from God’s point of view, and with His connecting links; just as the Seventy-eighth Psalm furnishes us with a similar revelation concerning the mysterious history of the chosen people in the previous Age.

The prophecies concerning the Church are, however, scanty as compared with those of Israel, and contain little reference to the Kingdoms of the World. For the Lord’s people of the present Age are a Heavenly and not an Earthly Election. Hence it is not their duty to watch and study the politics of this world, but to turn "unto God from idols, to serve a Living and True God, and to wait for His Son from the Heavens."

It is hoped that some fresh light may be thrown upon the Apocalypse by the scheme of interpretation here adopted, which is framed upon the first verse, with a corrected rendering, the tenth, and the nineteenth. Its construction is thus found to be the same as that of Daniel’s more important prophecies, that is to say, it is a prophecy of the End, or of the Seventieth of Daniel’s Sevens of Years, which is connected with the days of the beloved Apostle by a light sketch of the Church-period—chap. 2, 3 — from about AD 96 to the close of the present parenthetical Age.

This book, like other works of the author, has been written in hope that, spite of its many defects, the Great Head of the Church may be graciously pleased to accept and use it as a slight aid to those who desire to know the wondrous revelations of His Word, but have neither time nor opportunity for prayerful study and meditation. To Him be the Glory and the Dominion for ever and ever.

"Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways,
And how small a whisper do we hear of Him!
But the thunder of His power who can understand!"
 

 

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