The Imitation of Christ Thomas à Kempis: BOOK FOUR "AN INVITATION TO HOLY COMMUNION" Pt 2

The Imitation of Christ Thomas à Kempis:

BOOK FOUR "AN INVITATION TO HOLY COMMUNION"

The Fifth Chapter

THE DIGNITY OF THE SACRAMENT AND OF THE PRIESTHOOD

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

HAD you the purity of an angel and the sanctity of St. John the Baptist, you would not be worthy to receive or administer this Sacrament. It is not because of any human meriting that a man consecrates and administers the Sacrament of Christ, and receives the Bread of Angels for his food. Great is the Mystery and great the dignity of priests to whom is given that which has not been granted the angels. For priests alone, rightly ordained in the Church, have power to celebrate Mass and consecrate the Body of Christ.

The priest, indeed, is the minister of God, using the word of God according to His command and appointment. God, moreover, is there -- the chief Author and invisible Worker to Whom all is subject as He wills, to Whom all are obedient as He commands.

In this most excellent Sacrament, therefore, you ought to believe in God rather than in your own senses or in any visible sign, and thus, with fear and reverence draw near to such a work as this. Look to yourself and see whose ministry has been given you through the imposition of the bishop's hands.

Behold, you have been made a priest, consecrated to celebrate Mass! See to it now that you offer sacrifice to God faithfully and devoutly at proper times, and that you conduct yourself blamelessly. You have not made your burden lighter. Instead, you are now bound by stricter discipline and held to more perfect sanctity.

A priest ought to be adorned with all virtues and show the example of a good life to others. His way lies not among the vulgar and common habits of men but with the angels in heaven and the perfect men on earth. A priest clad in the sacred vestments acts in Christ's place, that he may pray to God both for himself and for all people in a suppliant and humble manner. He has before and behind him the sign of the Lord's cross that he may always remember the Passion of Christ. It is before him, on the chasuble, that he may look closely upon the footsteps of Christ and try to follow them fervently. It is behind him -- he is signed with it -- that he may gladly suffer for God any adversities inflicted by others.

He wears the cross before him that he may mourn his own sins, behind him, that in pity he may mourn the sins of others, and know that he is appointed to stand between God and the sinner, never to become weary of prayer and the holy offering until it is granted him to obtain grace and mercy.

When the priest celebrates Mass, he honors God, gladdens the angels, strengthens the Church, helps the living, brings rest to the departed, and wins for himself a share in all good things.

The Sixth Chapter

AN INQUIRY ON THE PROPER THING TO DO BEFORE COMMUNION

THE DISCIPLE

WHEN I consider Your dignity, O Lord, and my own meanness, I become very much frightened and confused. For if I do not receive, I fly from Life, and if I intrude unworthily, I incur Your displeasure. What, then, shall I do, my God, my Helper and Adviser in necessity? Teach me the right way. Place before me some short exercise suitable for Holy Communion, for it is good to know in what manner I ought to make my heart ready devoutly and fervently for You, to receive Your Sacrament for the good of my soul, or even to celebrate so great and divine a sacrifice.

The Seventh Chapter

THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE AND THE RESOLUTION TO AMEND

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

ABOVE all, God's priest should approach the celebration and reception of this Sacrament with the deepest humility of heart and suppliant reverence, with complete faith and the pious intention of giving honor to God.

Carefully examine your conscience, then. Cleanse and purify it to the best of your power by true contrition and humble confession, that you may have no burden, know of no remorse, and thus be free to come near. Let the memory of all your sins grieve you, and especially lament and bewail your daily transgressions. Then if time permits, confess to God in the secret depths of your heart all the miseries your passions have caused.

Lament and grieve because you are still so worldly, so carnal, so passionate and unmortified, so full of roving lust, so careless in guarding the external senses, so often occupied in many vain fancies, so inclined to exterior things and so heedless of what lies within, so prone to laughter and dissipation and so indisposed to sorrow and tears, so inclined to ease and the pleasures of the flesh and so cool to austerity and zeal, so curious to hear what is new and to see the beautiful and so slow to embrace humiliation and dejection, so covetous of abundance, so niggardly in giving and so tenacious in keeping, so inconsiderate in speech, so reluctant in silence, so undisciplined in character, so disordered in action, so greedy at meals, so deaf to the Word of God, so prompt to rest and so slow to labor, so awake to empty conversation, so sleepy in keeping sacred vigils and so eager to end them, so wandering in your attention, so careless in saying the office, so lukewarm in celebrating, so heartless in receiving, so quickly distracted, so seldom fully recollected, so quickly moved to anger, so apt to take offense at others, so prone to judge, so severe in condemning, so happy in prosperity and so weak in adversity, so often making good resolutions and carrying so few of them into action.

When you have confessed and deplored these and other faults with sorrow and great displeasure because of your weakness, be firmly determined to amend your life day by day and to advance in goodness. Then, with complete resignation and with your entire will offer yourself upon the altar of your heart as an everlasting sacrifice to the honor of My name, by entrusting with faith both body and soul to My care, that thus you may be considered worthy to draw near and offer sacrifice to God and profitably receive the Sacrament of My Body. For there is no more worthy offering, no greater satisfaction for washing away sin than to offer yourself purely and entirely to God with the offering of the Body of Christ in Mass and Communion.

If a man does what he can and is truly penitent, however often he comes to Me for grace and pardon, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live";[50] I will no longer remember his sins, but all will be forgiven him.

The Eighth Chapter

THE OFFERING OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS; OUR OFFERING

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

AS I offered Myself willingly to God the Father for your sins with hands outstretched and body naked on the cross, so that nothing remained in Me that had not become a complete sacrifice to appease the divine wrath, so ought you to be willing to offer yourself to Me day by day in the Mass as a pure and holy oblation, together with all your faculties and affections, with as much inward devotion as you can.

What more do I ask than that you give yourself entirely to Me? I care not for anything else you may give Me, for I seek not your gift but you. Just as it would not be enough for you to have everything if you did not have Me, so whatever you give cannot please Me if you do not give yourself.

Offer yourself to Me, therefore, and give yourself entirely for God -- your offering will be accepted. Behold, I offered Myself wholly to the Father for you, I even gave My whole Body and Blood for food that I might be all yours, and you Mine forever.

But if you rely upon self, and do not offer your free will to Mine, your offering will be incomplete and the union between us imperfect. Hence, if you desire to attain grace and freedom of heart, let the free offering of yourself into the hands of God precede your every action. This is why so few are inwardly free and enlightened -- they know not how to renounce themselves entirely.

My word stands: "Everyone of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be My disciple."[51]

If, therefore, you wish to be My disciple, offer yourself to Me with all your heart.

The Ninth Chapter

WE SHOULD OFFER OURSELVES AND ALL THAT WE HAVE TO GOD, PRAYING FOR ALL

THE DISCIPLE

ALL things in heaven and on earth, O Lord, are Yours. I long to give myself to You as a voluntary offering to remain forever Yours. With a sincere heart I offer myself this day to You, O Lord, to Your eternal service, to Your homage, and as a sacrifice of everlasting praise. Receive me with this holy offering of Your precious Body which also I make to You this day, in the presence of angels invisibly attending, for my salvation and that of all Your people.

O Lord, upon Your altar of expiation, I offer You all the sins and offenses I have committed in Your presence and in the presence of Your holy angels, from the day when I first could sin until this hour, that You may burn and consume them all in the fire of Your love, that You may wipe away their every stain, cleanse my conscience of every fault, and restore to me Your grace which I lost in sin by granting full pardon for all and receiving me mercifully with the kiss of peace.

What can I do for all my sins but humbly confess and lament them, and implore Your mercy without ceasing? In Your mercy, I implore You, hear me when I stand before You, my God. All my sins are most displeasing to me. I wish never to commit them again. I am sorry for them and will be sorry as long as I live. I am ready to do penance and make satisfaction to the utmost of my power.

Forgive me, O God, forgive me my sins for Your Holy Name. Save my soul which You have redeemed by Your most precious Blood. See, I place myself at Your mercy. I commit myself to Your hands. Deal with me according to Your goodness, not according to my malicious and evil ways.

I offer to You also all the good I have, small and imperfect though it be, that You may make it more pure and more holy, that You may be pleased with it, render it acceptable to Yourself, and perfect it more and more, and finally that You may lead me, an indolent and worthless creature, to a good and happy end.

I offer You also all the holy desires of Your devoted servants, the needs of my parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and all who are dear to me; of all who for Your sake have been kind to me or to others; of all who have wished and asked my prayers and Masses for them and theirs, whether they yet live in the flesh or are now departed from this world, that they may all experience the help of Your grace, the strength of Your consolation, protection from dangers, deliverance from punishment to come, and that, free from all evils, they may gladly give abundant thanks to You.

I offer You also these prayers and the Sacrifice of Propitiation for those especially who have in any way injured, saddened, or slandered me, inflicted loss or pain upon me, and also for all those whom I have at any time saddened, disturbed, offended, and abused by word or deed, willfully or in ignorance. May it please You to forgive us all alike our sins and offenses against one another.

Take away from our hearts, O Lord, all suspicion, anger, wrath, contention, and whatever may injure charity and lessen brotherly love. Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy on those who ask Your mercy, give grace to those who need it, and make us such that we may be worthy to enjoy Your favor and gain eternal life.

The Tenth Chapter

DO NOT LIGHTLY FOREGO HOLY COMMUNION

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

YOU must often return to the source of grace and divine mercy, to the fountain of goodness and perfect purity, if you wish to be free from passion and vice, if you desire to be made stronger and more watchful against all the temptations and deceits of the devil.

The enemy, knowing the great good and the healing power of Holy Communion, tries as much as he can by every manner and means to hinder and keep away the faithful and the devout. Indeed, there are some who suffer the worst assaults of Satan when disposing themselves to prepare for Holy Communion. As it is written in Job, this wicked spirit comes among the sons of God to trouble them by his wonted malice, to make them unduly fearful and perplexed, that thus he may lessen their devotion or attack their faith to such an extent that they perhaps either forego Communion altogether or receive with little fervor.

No attention, however, must be paid to his cunning wiles, no matter how base and horrible -- all his suggestions must be cast back upon his head. The wretch is to be despised and scorned. Holy Communion must not be passed by because of any assaults from him or because of the commotion he may arouse.

Oftentimes, also, too great solicitude for devotion and anxiety about confession hinder a person. Do as wise men do. Cast off anxiety and scruple, for it impedes the grace of God and destroys devotion of the mind.

Do not remain away from Holy Communion because of a small trouble or vexation but go at once to confession and willingly forgive all others their offenses. If you have offended anyone, humbly seek pardon and God will readily forgive you.

What good is it to delay confession for a long time or to put off Holy Communion? Cleanse yourself at once, spit out the poison quickly. Make haste to apply the remedy and you will find it better than if you had waited a long time. If you put it off today because of one thing, perhaps tomorrow a greater will occur to you, and thus you will stay away from Communion for a long time and become even more unfit.

Shake off this heaviness and sloth as quickly as you can, for there is no gain in much anxiety, in enduring long hours of trouble, and in depriving yourself of the divine Mysteries because of these daily disturbances. Yes, it is very hurtful to defer Holy Communion long, for it usually brings on a lazy spiritual sleep.

How sad that some dissolute and lax persons are willing to postpone confession and likewise wish to defer Holy Communion, lest they be forced to keep a stricter watch over themselves! Alas, how little love and devotion have they who so easily put off Holy Communion!

How happy and acceptable to God is he who so lives, and keeps his conscience so pure, as to be ready and well disposed to communicate, even every day if he were permitted, and if he could do so unnoticed.

If, now and then, a man abstains by the grace of humility or for a legitimate reason, his reverence is commendable, but if laziness takes hold of him, he must arouse himself and do everything in his power, for the Lord will quicken his desire because of the good intention to which He particularly looks. When he is indeed unable to come, he will always have the good will and pious intention to communicate and thus he will not lose the fruit of the Sacrament.

Any devout person may at any hour on any day receive Christ in spiritual communion profitably and without hindrance. Yet on certain days and times appointed he ought to receive with affectionate reverence the Body of his Redeemer in this Sacrament, seeking the praise and honor of God rather than his own consolation.

For as often as he devoutly calls to mind the mystery and passion of the Incarnate Christ, and is inflamed with love for Him, he communicates mystically and is invisibly refreshed.

He who prepares himself only when festivals approach or custom demands, will often find himself unprepared. Blessed is he who offers himself a sacrifice to the Lord as often as he celebrates or communicates.

Be neither too slow nor too fast in celebrating but follow the good custom common to those among whom you are. You ought not to cause others inconvenience or trouble, but observe the accepted rule as laid down by superiors, and look to the benefit of others rather than to your own devotion or inclination.

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The Imitation of Christ Thomas à Kempis: BOOK FOUR "AN INVITATION TO HOLY COMMUNION" Pt 1

BOOK FOUR

AN INVITATION TO HOLY COMMUNION

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

COME to Me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.[43] The bread which I will give is My Flesh, for the life of the world.[44] Take you and eat: this is My Body, which shall be delivered for you. Do this for the commemoration of Me.[45] He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him.[46] The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life."[47]

The First Chapter

THE GREAT REVERENCE WITH WHICH WE SHOULD RECEIVE CHRIST

THE DISCIPLE

THESE are all Your words, O Christ, eternal Truth, though they were not all spoken at one time nor written together in one place. And because they are Yours and true, I must accept them all with faith and gratitude. They are Yours and You have spoken them; they are mine also because You have spoken them for my salvation. Gladly I accept them from Your lips that they may be the more deeply impressed in my heart.

Words of such tenderness, so full of sweetness and love, encourage me; but my sins frighten me and an unclean conscience thunders at me when approaching such great mysteries as these. The sweetness of Your words invites me, but the multitude of my vices oppresses me.

You command me to approach You confidently if I wish to have part with You, and to receive the food of immortality if I desire to obtain life and glory everlasting.

"Come to me," You say, "all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you."[48]

Oh, how sweet and kind to the ear of the sinner is the word by which You, my Lord God, invite the poor and needy to receive Your most holy Body! Who am I, Lord, that I should presume to approach You? Behold, the heaven of heavens cannot contain You, and yet You say: "Come, all of you, to Me."

What means this most gracious honor and this friendly invitation? How shall I dare to come, I who am conscious of no good on which to presume? How shall I lead You into my house, I who have so often offended in Your most kindly sight? Angels and archangels revere You, the holy and the just fear You, and You say: "Come to Me: all of you!" If You, Lord, had not said it, who would have believed it to be true? And if You had not commanded, who would dare approach?

Behold, Noah, a just man, worked a hundred years building the ark that he and a few others might be saved; how, then, can I prepare myself in one hour to receive with reverence the Maker of the world?

Moses, Your great servant and special friend, made an ark of incorruptible wood which he covered with purest gold wherein to place the tables of Your law; shall I, a creature of corruption, dare so easily to receive You, the Maker of law and the Giver of life?

Solomon, the wisest of the kings of Israel, spent seven years building a magnificent temple in praise of Your name, and celebrated its dedication with a feast of eight days. He offered a thousand victims in Your honor and solemnly bore the Ark of the Covenant with trumpeting and jubilation to the place prepared for it; and I, unhappy and poorest of men, how shall I lead You into my house, I who scarcely can spend a half-hour devoutly -- would that I could spend even that as I ought!

O my God, how hard these men tried to please You! Alas, how little is all that I do! How short the time I spend in preparing for Communion! I am seldom wholly recollected, and very seldom, indeed, entirely free from distraction. Yet surely in the presence of Your life-giving Godhead no unbecoming thought should arise and no creature possess my heart, for I am about to receive as my guest, not an angel, but the very Lord of angels.

Very great, too, is the difference between the Ark of the Covenant with its treasures and Your most pure Body with its ineffable virtues, between these sacrifices of the law which were but figures of things to come and the true offering of Your Body which was the fulfillment of all ancient sacrifices.

Why, then, do I not long more ardently for Your adorable presence? Why do I not prepare myself with greater care to receive Your sacred gifts, since those holy patriarchs and prophets of old, as well as kings and princes with all their people, have shown such affectionate devotion for the worship of God?

The most devout King David danced before the ark of God with all his strength as he recalled the benefits once bestowed upon his fathers. He made musical instruments of many kinds. He composed psalms and ordered them sung with joy. He himself often played upon the harp when moved by the grace of the Holy Ghost. He taught the people of Israel to praise God with all their hearts and to raise their voices every day to bless and glorify Him. If such great devotion flourished in those days and such ceremony in praise of God before the Ark of the Covenant, what great devotion ought not I and all Christian people now show in the presence of this Sacrament; what reverence in receiving the most excellent Body of Christ!

Many people travel far to honor the relics of the saints, marveling at their wonderful deeds and at the building of magnificent shrines. They gaze upon and kiss the sacred relics encased in silk and gold; and behold, You are here present before me on the altar, my God, Saint of saints, Creator of men, and Lord of angels!

Often in looking at such things, men are moved by curiosity, by the novelty of the unseen, and they bear away little fruit for the amendment of their lives, especially when they go from place to place lightly and without true contrition. But here in the Sacrament of the altar You are wholly present, my God, the man Christ Jesus, whence is obtained the full realization of eternal salvation, as often as You are worthily and devoutly received. To this, indeed, we are not drawn by levity, or curiosity, or sensuality, but by firm faith, devout hope, and sincere love.

O God, hidden Creator of the world, how wonderfully You deal with us! How sweetly and graciously You dispose of things with Your elect to whom You offer Yourself to be received in this Sacrament! This, indeed, surpasses all understanding. This in a special manner attracts the hearts of the devout and inflames their love. Your truly faithful servants, who give their whole life to amendment, often receive in Holy Communion the great grace of devotion and love of virtue.

Oh, the wonderful and hidden grace of this Sacrament which only the faithful of Christ understand, which unbelievers and slaves of sin cannot experience! In it spiritual grace is conferred, lost virtue restored, and the beauty, marred by sin, repaired. At times, indeed, its grace is so great that, from the fullness of the devotion, not only the mind but also the frail body feels filled with greater strength.

Nevertheless, our neglect and coldness is much to be deplored and pitied, when we are not moved to receive with greater fervor Christ in Whom is the hope and merit of all who will be saved. He is our sanctification and redemption. He is our consolation in this life and the eternal joy of the blessed in heaven. This being true, it is lamentable that many pay so little heed to the salutary Mystery which fills the heavens with joy and maintains the whole universe in being.

Oh, the blindness and the hardness of the heart of man that does not show more regard for so wonderful a gift, but rather falls into carelessness from its daily use! If this most holy Sacrament were celebrated in only one place and consecrated by only one priest in the whole world, with what great desire, do you think, would men be attracted to that place, to that priest of God, in order to witness the celebration of the divine Mysteries! But now there are many priests and Mass is offered in many places, that God's grace and love for men may appear the more clearly as the Sacred Communion is spread more widely through the world.

Thanks be to You, Jesus, everlasting Good Shepherd, Who have seen fit to feed us poor exiled people with Your precious Body and Blood, and to invite us with words from Your own lips to partake of these sacred Mysteries: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you."

The Second Chapter

GOD'S GREAT GOODNESS AND LOVE IS SHOWN TO MAN IN THIS SACRAMENT

THE DISCIPLE

TRUSTING in Your goodness and great mercy, O Lord, I come as one sick to the Healer, as one hungry and thirsty to the Fountain of life, as one in need to the King of heaven, a servant to his Lord, a creature to his Creator, a soul in desolation to my gentle Comforter.

But whence is this to me, that You should come to me? Who am I that You should offer Yourself to me? How dares the sinner to appear in Your presence, and You, how do You condescend to come to the sinner? You know Your servant, and You know that he has nothing good in him that You should grant him this.

I confess, therefore, my unworthiness. I acknowledge Your goodness. I praise Your mercy, and give thanks for Your immense love. For it is because of Yourself that You do it, not for any merit of mine; so that Your goodness may be better known to me, that greater love may be aroused and more perfect humility born in me. Since, then, this pleases You and You have so willed it, Your graciousness pleases me also. Oh, that my sinfulness may not stand in the way!

O most sweet and merciful Jesus, what great reverence, thanks, and never-ending praise are due to You for our taking of Your sacred body, whose dignity no man can express!

But on what shall I think in this Communion, this approach to my Lord, Whom I can never reverence as I ought, and yet Whom I desire devoutly to receive? What thought better, more helpful to me than to humble myself entirely in Your presence and exalt Your infinite goodness above myself?

I praise You, my God, and extol You forever! I despise myself and cast myself before You in the depths of my unworthiness. Behold, You are the Holy of holies, and I the scum of sinners! Behold, You bow down to me who am not worthy to look up to You! Behold, You come to me! You will to be with me! You invite me to Your banquet! You desire to give me heavenly food, the Bread of Angels to eat, none other than Yourself, the living Bread Who are come down from heaven and give life to the world.

Behold, whence love proceeds! What condescension shines forth! What great thanks and praise are due You for these gifts! Oh, how salutary and profitable was Your design in this institution! How sweet and pleasant the banquet when You gave Yourself as food!

How admirable is Your work, O Lord! How great Your power! How infallible Your truth! For You spoke and all things were made, and this, which You commanded, was done. It is a wonderful thing, worthy of faith, overpowering human understanding, that You, O Lord, my God, true God and man, are contained whole and entire under the appearance of a little bread and wine, and without being consumed are eaten by him who receives You!

You, the Lord of the universe, Who have need of nothing, have willed to dwell in us by means of Your Sacrament. Keep my heart and body clean, so that with a joyous and spotless conscience I may be able often to celebrate Your Mysteries and to receive for my eternal salvation what You have ordained and instituted for Your special honor and as an everlasting memorial.

Rejoice, my soul, and give thanks to God for having left you so noble a gift and so special a consolation in this valley of tears. As often as you renew this Mystery and receive the Body of Christ, so often do you enact the work of redemption and become a sharer in all the merits of Christ, for the love of Christ never grows less and the wealth of His mercy is never exhausted.

Therefore, you should prepare yourself for it by constantly renewing your heart and pondering deeply the great mystery of salvation. As often as you celebrate or hear Mass, it should seem as great, as new, as sweet to you as if on that very day Christ became man in the womb of the Virgin, or, hanging on the Cross, suffered and died for the salvation of man.

The Third Chapter

IT IS PROFITABLE TO RECEIVE COMMUNION OFTEN

THE DISCIPLE

BEHOLD, I come to You, Lord, that I may prosper by Your gift and be delighted at Your holy banquet which You, O God, in Your sweetness have prepared for Your poor. Behold, all that I can or ought to desire is in You. You are my salvation and my redemption, my hope and strength, my honor and glory.

Gladden, then, this day the soul of Your servant because I have raised my heart to You, O Lord Jesus. I long to receive You now, devoutly and reverently. I desire to bring You into my house that, with Zacheus, I may merit Your blessing and be numbered among the children of Abraham.

My soul longs for Your Body; my heart desires to be united with You. Give me Yourself -- it is enough; for without You there is no consolation. Without You I cannot exist, without Your visitation I cannot live. I must often come to You, therefore, and receive the strength of my salvation lest, deprived of this heavenly food, I grow weak on the way. Once, most merciful Jesus, while preaching to the people and healing their many ills, You said: "I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way."[49]Deal with me likewise, You Who have left Yourself in this Sacrament for the consolation of the faithful. You are sweet refreshment to the soul, and he who eats You worthily will be a sharer in, and an heir to, eternal glory.

It is indeed necessary for me, who fall and sin so often, who so quickly become lax and weak, to renew, cleanse, and inflame myself through frequent prayer, confession, and the holy reception of Your Body, lest perhaps by abstaining too long, I fall away from my holy purpose. For from the days of his youth the senses of man are prone to evil, and unless divine aid strengthens him, he quickly falls deeper. But Holy Communion removes him from evil and confirms him in good.

If I am so often careless and lax when I celebrate or communicate, what would happen if I did not receive this remedy and seek so great a help? Although I am neither fit nor properly disposed to celebrate every day, yet I will do my best at proper times to receive the divine Mysteries and share in this great grace. This, indeed, is the one chief consolation of the faithful soul when separated from You by mortality, that often mindful of her God, she receives her Beloved with devout recollection.

Oh, wonderful condescension of Your affection toward us, that You, the Lord God, Creator and Giver of life to all, should see fit to come to a poor soul and to appease her hunger with all Your divinity and humanity! O happy mind and blessed soul which deserves to receive You, her Lord God, and in receiving You, is filled with spiritual joy! How great a Master she entertains, what a beloved guest she receives, how sweet a companion she welcomes, how true a friend she gains, how beautiful and noble is the spouse she embraces, beloved and desired above all things that can be loved and desired! Let heaven and earth and all their treasures stand silent before Your face, most sweetly Beloved, for whatever glory and beauty they have is of Your condescending bounty, and they cannot approach the beauty of Your name, Whose wisdom is untold.

The Fourth Chapter

MANY BLESSINGS ARE GIVEN THOSE WHO RECEIVE COMMUNION WORTHILY

THE DISCIPLE

O LORD my God, favor Your servant with the blessings of Your sweetness that I may merit to approach Your magnificent Sacrament worthily and devoutly. Lift up my heart to You and take away from me this heavy indolence. Visit me with Your saving grace that I may in spirit taste Your sweetness which lies hidden in this Sacrament like water in the depths of a spring. Enlighten my eyes to behold this great Mystery, and give me strength to believe in it with firm faith.

For it is Your work, not the power of man, Your sacred institution, not his invention. No man is able of himself to comprehend and understand these things which surpass even the keen vision of angels. How, then, shall I, an unworthy sinner who am but dust and ashes, be able to fathom and understand so great a mystery?

O Lord, I come to You at Your command in simplicity of heart, in good, firm faith, with hope and reverence, and I truly believe that You are present here in this Sacrament, God and man. It is Your will that I receive You and unite myself to You in love. Wherefore, I beg Your mercy and ask that special grace be given me, that I may be wholly dissolved in You and filled with Your love, no longer to concern myself with exterior consolations. For this, the highest and most worthy Sacrament, is the health of soul and body, the cure of every spiritual weakness. In it my defects are remedied, my passions restrained, and temptations overcome or allayed. In it greater grace is infused, growing virtue is nourished, faith confirmed, hope strengthened, and charity fanned into flame.

You, my God, the protector of my soul, the strength of human weakness, and the giver of every interior consolation, have given and still do often give in this Sacrament great gifts to Your loved ones who communicate devoutly. Moreover, You give them many consolations amid their numerous troubles and lift them from the depths of dejection to the hope of Your protection. With new graces You cheer and lighten them within, so that they who are full of anxiety and without affection before Communion may find themselves changed for the better after partaking of this heavenly food and drink.

Likewise, You so deal with Your elect that they may truly acknowledge and plainly experience how weak they are in themselves and what goodness and grace they obtain from You. For though in themselves they are cold, obdurate, and wanting in devotion, through You they become fervent, cheerful, and devout.

Who, indeed, can humbly approach the fountain of sweetness and not carry away a little of it? Or who, standing before a blazing fire does not feel some of its heat? You are a fountain always filled with superabundance! You are a fire, ever burning, that never fails!

Therefore, while I may not exhaust the fullness of the fountain or drink to satiety, yet will I put my lips to the mouth of this heavenly stream that from it I may receive at least some small drop to refresh my thirst and not wither away. And if I cannot as yet be all heavenly or as full of fire as the cherubim and seraphim, yet I will try to become more devout and prepare my heart so that I may gather some small spark of divine fire from the humble reception of this life-giving Sacrament.

Whatever is wanting in me, good Jesus, Savior most holy, do You in Your kindness and grace supply for me, You Who have been pleased to call all unto You, saying: "Come to Me all you that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you."

I, indeed, labor in the sweat of my brow. I am torn with sorrow of heart. I am laden with sin, troubled with temptations, enmeshed and oppressed by many evil passions, and there is none to help me, none to deliver and save me but You, my Lord God and Savior, to Whom I entrust myself and all I have, that You may protect me and lead me to eternal life. For the honor and glory of Your name receive me, You Who have prepared Your Body and Blood as food and drink for me. Grant, O Lord, my God and Savior, that by approaching Your Mysteries frequently, the zeal of my devotion may increase.

Posted via email from Classic Christian Digest

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JewishStudies: The Role of Tradition "Legalism and Liberty as Children of God" by John J. Parsons

Hebrew for Christians
BS''D
The Role of Tradition
Irv Davis Detail

 Written Adar 22, 5769

The Role of Tradition

Legalism and Liberty as Children of God

by John J. Parsons

The other evening my wife and I were discussing the role of tradition in our lives as Messianic Jewish believers.  Are we to be "legalistic" in our observance of such matters as Shabbat, Torah reading, celebrating the holidays, and so on? Doesn't that impede the free flow of the Spirit? Why should we be tied to the Jewish calendar and ways of reckoning time?  Are we obligated to think and act this way?

Asking such questions can lead to more general thinking about the role of human tradition itself.  After all, we are historical creatures rooted in a particular culture, endowed with a specific heredity and unique genetic code. We subconsciously inherit norms, customs, ceremonies, decorum, routines, patterns of speech (e.g., accents), right "from our mother's knee."  In short, we are all "creatures of habit," and without such psychological ritualizing, it's likely we would go insane... Our very use of language itself -- and therefore the way we describe seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, etc. -- is based on customary forms of conventional usage. The bottom line seems to be that we are products of our culture from the moment we take our first breath in this world... Tradition -- of some kind or another -- is simply an inescapable and omnipresent fact of our existence.

But what about the words of the Holy Scriptures? Don't they transcend cultural factors? Are they not timelessly true and exempt from culturally conditioned ways of reading them?  Hardly. Both Christianity and Judaism (as opposed to some other religions) do not worship a "book" that "floated down" from heaven complete with chapters and verses. Nor do we believe in a "divine dictation" theory that claims the Scriptures are "Xerox" duplicates of the words spoken by an angel or other divine being.  No, the Scriptures are regarded as the products of history -- sacred history, of course -- but history nonetheless. Therefore we have the same problems trying to discern the meaning of the Scriptures as we do for any other type of literature: Who was the original author and the intended audience? What were the cultural circumstances? Why was this written?  What kind of writing is it? Is it a poem (like a psalm), or perhaps an instructional maxim (like a proverb)? Am I reading an historical account, a description of a religious ritual, or something else?  First we must know what we are reading - and to understand its historical context.  Ignoring this simple rule leads to all sorts of errors in our reasoning and makes us unwitting victims of our own cultural biases. We will find ourselves "reading into" the Scriptures things that just aren't there, chaverim!

Regarding the literal words of the Scriptures, it's important to remember that the decisions made regarding which scrolls were "canonical" (and therefore to be included in our modern Bibles) came from the decisions made by earlier faith communities -- just as such decisions likewise preserved the sanctity of the sacred texts themselves.  For instance, without the Jewish scribal transmission known as the masorah (מָסוֹרָה), it's unlikely we would know how to read and interpret many passages of Scripture today (Christianity also has its own scribal traditions that preserved the transmission of the Greek New Testament). Original Hebrew did not include vowel markings or other punctuation. Neither did the Greek of the New Testament, for that matter. Indeed, we can only understand the message of our faith through the medium of historical continuity, tradition, and ongoing dialog.... This was true even in the days of Yeshua, who endorsed the traditional tri-fold division of the Jewish Scriptures (the Law, Writings, and Prophets - Luke 22:44) and relied on Jewish tradition to teach great truths about his message (e.g., he associated the Passover seder with the "Last Supper" rituals of the New Covenant; he called himself Living Water and the Light of the world during Sukkot, and so on.) Yeshua placed high value on the "jots and tittles" of the texts of Scripture that were part of the spiritual heritage of his day (Matt. 5:18).

But didn't Yeshua condemn the "traditions of men" in His day?  Didn't he reject the traditions of the elders of Israel (Mark 7:5-13)? Didn't he rhetorically ask the religionists of his day, "Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition" (Matt. 15:2-10)? Yes he did, but it's important to understand the historical context of these sorts of statements. First, he was certainly not condemning "true traditions" that are outlined in the Scriptures themselves. Yeshua's entire ministry was predicated on the "appointed times" of the LORD and their fulfillment in him. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matt. 5:17). No, what Yeshua appeared to take issue with was the dogmatic interpretation of various aspects of ritual law and with the practice of "building of fences" around the original intent of the Scriptures. These man-made "fences" (gezerot) actually created a gilded cage around the Scriptures and effectively relocated the source of authority to the self-styled religious interpreters of the day... This was the crux of the disagreement between Yeshua and the Pharisees. (For more about this, see "The Heart of the Law; the Law of the Gospel".)

We all live by hours of the day, days of the week, seasons of the year, and God has revealed cycles and patterns of community life for Israel. Indeed, the moedim (festivals and appointed times) of the LORD are rooted in history and have prophetic implication for our lives. The "traditions of the elders" which Yeshua condemned had more to do with hidebound interpretations of the Scriptures (later embodied in the "Oral Law") than with the idea of tradition itself.  The Greek word for "tradition" (παράδοσις) is a neutral term, simply meaning "handing down" (from παρά (down, from) + δίδωμι (to give)) what was given before.  Both Judaism and Christianity hold to an "oral tradition" following the ministries of Moses and Yeshua, respectively. Because of the imminent expectancy of the return of Yeshua after His resurrection, the gospels were not committed to formal writing until the prospect of the death of the eyewitnesses loomed large. Moreover, there were numerous Gospel accounts which were eventually compiled into a standardized retelling of the story (Luke 1:1-4). In Jewish tradition, Moses received the written law at Sinai, but this cannot be understood in a vacuum. For instance, the details about how to construct the furnishings of the Tabernacle are not given, and the written law even endorsed the establishment of "judges" to interpret case law and establish precedent. Likewise the Apostle Paul admonished, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions (παράδοσις) which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:2). Indeed, in a New Testament sense, "tradition" refers to the Apostolic teaching in general, as well as the valid inferences from the Tanakh that are thereby implied (2 Tim. 3:16, Matt. 13:52).

Much of how we engage the relevance of tradition depends on our motives, of course...  If we use religion to impress others, we're obviously missing the point of it all.  Spiritual pride is an oxymoron of the highest order... (This also works the other way around: those who are iconoclastic regarding tradition may also be guilty of spiritual pride). Or if we are attempting to earn "merit" or find our self worth before the LORD, we are again missing it.  God's love for us is unconditional, and there's no "merit" (zechut) we possess beyond that which is freely given to us through the intercessory work of Yeshua as our High Priest (Eph. 2:8-9). As Isaiah says (64:6): "All our (personal) righteousness is as filthy rags" (i.e., k'beged idim - as a menstrual cloth) -- and yet God loves us and finds us infinitely worthy.... There's no need to "ingratiate ourselves" before the LORD by means of performing various religious observances. God's love is forever the foundation. That said - and I hasten to add this in the same breath - if we love the LORD and honor His Word, we will surely strive to become more and more conscious, aware, mindful, etc. of the "whole counsel of God" and His revealed will. And that, of course, involves becoming more aware of the Jewish roots of your faith.

After all, didn't the LORD God of Israel spend nearly 2,000 years before the advent of the Messiah teaching and grooming Israel?  And to what end?  Or do you suppose that Israel is a "failed social experiment" meant to be an "object lesson" for Christians? (Alas, this is the "cartoon version" of ethnic Israel that is all too common in the Christian church these days.) Is that all we can say about God's covenants and actions performed on behalf of the Jewish people? Is that all we can say about Israel's future?  God forbid. No - though righteousness was not attainable by means of observing the covenant at Sinai, that's no fault of God nor of the Torah! The Torah is "holy and just and good" (Rom. 7:12) -- and that goodness / kedushah (holiness) is not diminished by means of the "better covenant" (Heb. 8:6) which God has graciously provided in concession to the weakness of our human "flesh" (Rom. 8:3-4). If I've warned you before about the perils of legalism, now I need to warn you not to confuse the liberty of the new covenant with any form of "replacement theology" that nullifies God's saving acts and promises for the Jewish people. It's a balancing act on this issue, chaverim...

So where am I going with this? Well, in the second of this week's Torah readings (Pekudei) we learn that Moses consecrated the Mishkan (Tabernacle) on Rosh Chodashim, "the first day of the first month of the second year [since the Exodus]" (Exod. 40:17). The Jewish commentator Rashi notes that Moses spent the entire week before this date assembling and then (on the same day) dismantling the Tabernacle, perhaps to instruct the Levites. Some scholars have suggested that Moses' actions were a parable, however. The Tabernacle was not a "home" for God like some shrine for a tribal deity. Metaphorically it represented the Presence of the Shechinah in the midst of the people (Exod. 25:8). "Let them make me a sanctuary so that I may dwell in their midst." It is the LORD as dwelling in the midst of the people that is the true Presence of God, not some man-made structure, no matter how beautiful. The Shechinah dwells within our hearts and is no longer confined to a Temple. We are now personal "mishkans" -- "living stones" of God's greater Temple (1 Pet. 2:5). The Spirit of God dwells within us through faith....

Nonetheless Moses' object lesson remains.  Seven times the Tabernacle was set up only to be pulled back down... "Though the righteous fall seven times, they will rise again," said King Solomon (Prov. 24:16). We strive to move ahead in our spiritual lives, even if we experience repeated setbacks.  Even if our lives are shattered by failure, we can take hope, chaverim: God will help you rebuild!  (None of the king's men can put Humpty-Dumpty back together again -- but the LORD surely can!) A midrash says that Moses was once tested to see if he was able to receive the Torah. For 40 consecutive days he would study Torah only to immediately forget all he learned! Eventually, however, he remembered his studies and God began preparing him for his role in the kingdom. So take heart and "keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God's upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua" (Phil. 3:14).

Now let's go back to the original question we were asking ourselves the other evening. Should we be tied to the Jewish calendar and ways of reckoning time? Are we obligated to think and act this way? Well, even though we might have to "build and rebuild" our own sense of sacred space within ourselves (our "inner mishkan"), it is not hopeless to begin to do just that....  We can (of course) opt out and simply repeat the mantra "Jesus loves me just the way I am" all day long, but while it's indeed gloriously true that God's love for us is unconditional, remaining satisfied with our condition is actually a sign of sickness. The life of authentic discipleship is a one of "hungering and thirsting after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6), a sort of "divine discontent."  The Apostle Paul wrote: "When the appointed time arrived, God sent forth his Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal. 4:4-5). Being adopted into God's household means understanding how the house "sets its clock," so to speak. It means being attuned to the rhythm and order of the seasons, days, and even hours of the day. Since the end of our salvation is adoption -- our new identities as sons (and daughters) of God -- is it correct to think it a form of slavery to be mindful of such things, chaverim?

There is legalism -- i.e., the idea that we are duty bound to perform certain rituals, behave a certain way, follow a set of rules, etc., and there is the liberty we enjoy as the heirs of God. There is a higher way of understanding the same thing -- namely understanding as an adult rather than as a child. Apprehending your identity as a son (or daughter) of the LORD God of Israel makes you no longer an outsider, a "child," an "outcast," etc., to the covenantal obligations and promises given to the Jewish people.  As a co-heir and fellow member through adoption into the household of God, you are a new creation. Being a Jew is a matter of having a new heart, chaverim....

Let me make this up close and personal.  Does it matter -- really -- if we bother to make time for Shabbat?  Should we go through the trouble of preparing a special dinner, getting the family together, inviting a friend over for table fellowship and discussion about the ways of the LORD?  Does it matter if we light Sabbath candles, eat challah, and say the "prescribed" blessings?  Isn't this "tradition" that comes from the rabbis who rejected Yeshua, after all? "Let every person be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Rom. 14:5). There is a "weaker brother" issue here and showing respect for others means avoiding "ma'arit ayin" - the appearance of evil. We are at liberty to identify ourselves with God's overarching plans for Israel by honoring such traditions, and we are also at liberty to abstain from such -- though in either case we seek to sanctify the LORD and give Him honor according to the best lights we have....

God has promised to give us wisdom if we sincerely ask Him (James 1:5-7).

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ClarenceLarkin: Dispensational Truth XVI The Resurrection

Dispensational Truth
XVI
The Resurrection




The Scriptures speak of three kinds of resurrection.

I. National.

This refers to Israel. In Hosea 6:1, 2 we read-

"Come and let us return unto the Lord for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up.

After Two Days

will He revive us; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight."

There are several things in this passage worth noting. First we see from the context that the words of the prophet are addressed exclusively to the Jewish people and to the whole "Twelve Tribes" represented by Ephraim and Judah. Hosea 6:4. And it is the "Whole House of Israel" that says-"Come, and let us return unto the lord." It is the cry of repentance of a "nation" that has been torn and smitten by the Lord, and not the cry of persons "dead in their graves." The "healing" does not refer to a resurrection from "the dead, " and the "binding" means that the whole Twelve Tribes, now scattered, will be, "rebound into one nation" again in their own land.

The expression "Will 'revive' us, " does not mean a resurrection from physical death, for the word "revive" simply means what we mean when we speak of a "Revival of Religion, " which is a "spiritual" and not a physical resurrection.

The remarkable statement in the passage is the "time" of the Revival. It says-"after TWO Days." It is clear that those "two days" are not literal days of 24 hours, for more than 2 such days have gone by and Israel has not yet been revived. They were spoken by the prophet about B.C. 780, or 2700 years ago, and therefore must be interpreted on the scale that one day is with the Lord as a Thousand Years. 2Pet. 3:8.

Israel is now well along in the third Thousand Years of her rejection; and it is to be some time in this third Thousand Years, corresponding to the "Third Day" of Hosea, that Israel is to be revived and restored to her own land. For a full account of this "National Resurrection of Israel" see the Chapter on "The Jews."

II. Spiritual.

Writing to the Ephesians, Paul said-"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. . . . . and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Eph. 2:1-3.

"Awake thou that steepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Eph. 5:14.

Writing to the Romans Paul says@'Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. 6:11.

The Resurrection referred to in these passages is "Spiritual" and is a "present" Resurrection, and is going on continually. Every time a soul is "born again" there is a passing from "death" unto "life, " a "Spiritual resurrection." John 5:24.

III. Material.

This is of the dead body. The spirit of man does not die. it goes back to God who gave it. See the Chapter on "The Spirit World." All that goes into the grave is the body, and all that can come out of the grave is the body

Jesus clearly and distinctly taught a resurrection "from the grave."

"Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the 'Resurrection of LIFE, ' and they that have done evil unto the 'Resurrection of DAMNATION."' John 5:28, John 5:29.

Here Jesus teaches the resurrection of both the "Righteous" and the "Wicked." The Apostle Paul taught the same thing.

"And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the Dead, both of the just (justified), and of the Unjust (unjustified)."Acts 24:15.

"For as in Adam all die (physically), even so in Christ shall all be made alive (physically)." 1Cor. 15:22.

That the Apostle means "physical" death, and "physical" resurrection here, is clear, for it is the body, and not the spirit that he is discoursing about, and so the Universalist has no "proof text" here for the doctrine of "Universal Salvation."

These passages clearly teach that there is to be a resurrection of "all the dead, " and if we did not look any further, we would be led to believe that the Righteous and the Wicked are not only to rise, but that they are to rise at the "same time." But when we turn to the Book of Revelation we find that the Righteous are to rise "before" the Wicked, and not simply precede them, but that there is a space of a 1000 years between the two Resurrections. Rev. 20:4, Rev. 20:5.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them."

This refers to the saints of the First Resurrection, who, represented by the "Four and Twenty Elders" of Rev. 4:4, are seen seated on thrones surrounding the Throne of God.

"And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped The Beast, neither His Image, neither had received His Mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they LIVED and Reigned With Christ a THOUSAND YEARS."

These are the "Tribulation Saints." John first saw them in their "martyred" condition (as souls), then he saw them rise from the dead (they lived again), and they, with the First Resurrection Saints, reigned with Christ a Thousand Years.

"But the rest of the dead (the wicked), lived not again until the ‘ Thousand Years' were finished."

The rest of the verse-"This is the 'First Resurrection, ' " refers not to the "rest of the dead, " but to those in verse 4, who lived and reigned with Christ for a 1000 years, for

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the First Resurrection, on such the Second Death (the doom of the Wicked, Rev. 20:14, Rev. 20:15), hath no power, but they shall be Priests of God and of Christ, and shall Reign With Him a THOUSAND YEARS." Rev. 20:6.

That the Dead are to rise in different bands or cohorts, with an "interval of time" between, is beautifully brought out in 1Cor. 15:22-24.

"For as in Adam all die (physically), even so in Christ shall all be made alive (physically). But every man in his own order."

The word translated "order" is a military expression, and means a band, cohort, brigade or division of an army. Paul then gives the order

1. "Christ the First Fruits."

2. "Afterward they that Are Christ's At His Coming."

3. "Then cometh The End."

Now we know that between "Christ the First Fruits, " and they that "are Christ's at His Coming, " there has already been nearly 1900 years, and as we have seen there will be 1000 years between the resurrection of those that "are Christ's at His Coming" and the "Wicked dead, )) we see that there is not to be a simultaneous resurrection of the Righteous and the Wicked.

But some one may say what authority have we for thus dividing up Scripture and locating "intervals of time? " We have the authority of Christ Himself. In Luke 4:16-18 we read that He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day, and they handed Him the Book of Isaiah from which to read, and that He turned to Isa. 61:11-2, and read-

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, "

and there He stopped at a "comma, " as we see by referring to Isa. 61:2, and left unsaid the words, "and the 'Day of Vengeance' of our God."

Why did Christ stop at that comma? Because the time had not come to declare the "Day of Vengeance." That "comma" has been nearly 19 centuries long and will continue until the "Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking 'vengeance' on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2Thes. 1:7, 2Thes. 1:8.

But it has been objected that the passage in Rev. 20:4, Rev. 20:5, is the "only" place in the Bible where a "length of time" is given between the resurrection of the Righteous and the Wicked, and that it is not fair to base such an important fact upon a single statement found in. such a symbolic Book. While the Book of Revelation contains many symbols they are explained in the Book, and we must not forget that it is not a mysterious book, for it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing to the reader. Rev. 1:1-3. The Book is to be taken literally.

Suppose that Rev. 20:4-6 is the "only" place in the Bible where a "length of time" is given between the resurrection of the Righteous and the Wicked, that is no reason for questioning its truthfulness. The most marvelous fact in the life of our Lord -"The Virgin Birth, " until it was fulfilled at His birth, rested for centuries on a "single" prophecy in the Old Testament. "Behold a 'virgin' shall conceive and bear a son." Isa. 7:14.

But we do not have to depend on Rev. 20:4-6 to prove that there is to be an "out" Resurrection "from among the dead." There are a number of passages referring to the resurrection of the dead that are unexplainable only on the supposition that there is a "time space" between the resurrection of the Righteous and the Wicked.

In the reply that Jesus made to the Sadducees, in answer to their question as to whose wife the woman would be in the next world, who had had seven husbands in this, He said-

"They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world (Age), and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more (Second Death) ; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the 'Children of God' being the children of THE (out) Resurrection." Luke 20:35) Luke 20:36.

This is a very important statement. The use of the Greek word "Aion, " translated "world, " but which means "Age, " shows that Jesus is speaking of a "class of dead" who are to be raised "before" the next or "Millennial Age, " and that those thus raised can "die no more, " there is no "Second Death" for them. Why? Because they are "equal unto the angels" and are the "Children of God" having been "born again, " and are the "Children of THE Resurrection, the "Out FROM AMONG The Dead or FIRST RESURRECTION " for only the "Children" of the "First Resurrection" shall live again "before" the Millennium."

In Luke 14:14 Jesus speaks of a "special" resurrection, that He calls the Resurrection of the "JUST." This is an "Out Resurrection" from "among the dead, " and is only for the "Justified, " and must refer to the "First" Resurrection.

The writer to the Hebrews (Heb. 11:35) speaks of a "better" Resurrection, and it is a significant fact that the Apostles preached through Jesus the Resurrection "from the dead." Not the Resurrection "of" the dead, that they always believed, but the Resurrection "from among" the dead, that was a "New Doctrine."

There is no question but what Paul believed in the resurrection "of" the dead, and that he expected to rise "some time, " but in his letter to the Philippians (3:11) he expresses the hope that he might "attain unto 'the' resurrection of the dead." Paul must therefore have had in mind some "special" Resurrection. What Paul meant is clear when we turn to 1Thes. 4:15-17, where he speaks of the resurrection of the "dead in Christ" and "translation of the living saints, " at the Second Coming of the Lord, and as Christ is to come back to usher in the Millennium, then that event must "precede" the Millennium and be an "Out Resurrection from among the dead, " for the "rest oi the dead" live not again until the 1000 years "are finished."

But the resurrection of the Righteous and Wicked is not only to be different as to "time" but as to "character." They that have done "good" (the Righteous) shall rise unto the "resurrection of Life, " while they that have done "evil" (the Wicked) shall rise unto the "resurrection of Damnation." John 5:28, John 5:29. And we read in Rev. 20:12-14, that those who are raised at the Second Resurrection or the "Resurrection of Damnation" must appear at the judgment of the "Great White Throne, " and that their names shall "not" be found written in the "Book of Life, " and they shall be cast into the "Lake of Fire" which is the "Second Death."

The "Manner" of the Resurrection.

Some claim that the departure of the soul and spirit from the body is what is meant by the resurrection. But that cannot be so, for as we have seen, the dead are to arise from their "graves, " and only that can come out of the grave that went into it, and that is the "body."

Then there is the "Germ Theory, " that in every human body there is a "living germ" that is ... indestructible, " and though the body turn to dust that "living germ" will exist in the grave until at the Resurrection a new body shall spring from it. This theory explains how the body may be eaten by animals, destroyed by quick lime, blown to atoms, or mutilated by the loss of limbs, etc., and still the "life germ" exist from which shall come the resurrection body.

The advocates of this theory claim that Paul teaches it in 1Cor. 15:35-37, where he compares the resurrection of the body with the plant that comes up from the seed. We know that the seed is different from the plant that bore it, just as the acorn is different from the oak tree, but the plant that springs from the seed will be like the plant that bore it, so the body that comes from the indestructible "life germ" should be alike in kind to the body that produced the "germ."

But while the resurrection body shall be alike in kind, it will be different in character and possess different qualities. This Paul declares when he says that "All 'flesh' is not the same flesh; but there is one kind of flesh of 'men, ' another flesh of 'beast, " another of 'fishes, ’ and another of 'birds.' That is, the flesh of God's creatures is adapted to their "environment." "Fish flesh" cannot fly in the air, nor "Bird flesh" swim in the sea. So there are bodies "terrestrial" and bodies "celestial." The human body as it is now constituted could not exist in Heaven. There must be a change, and this change is brought about by the resurrection. This change Paul portrays. He says-

"So also is the Resurrection of the Dead. It is sown in corruption: it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in Glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in Power; it is sown a Natural body; it is raised a Spiritual body."

This does not mean that it will have no "substance." We cannot conceive of a "body" that is to have the faculties of the "Spirit Body" not having "form" and "substance."

Christ's resurrection body is a "sample" of what ours is to be. While it is true that His body did not see "corruption" and He rose in the "same body" that was laid in the grave; while it was the same in "identity, " it was different in "character."

While the "nail prints" and "spear wound" were visible it could pass through closed doors, and appear and disappear at will. It had "flesh" and "bones, " (Luke 24:39-41), but not "blood, " for "flesh and blood" cannot enter the Kingdom of God, (1Cor. 15:50). for "blood" is that which causes "corruption." To preserve a body it must be drained of blood, or the blood chemically preserved by an embalming fluid. As the sacrifice was to be bled, so Jesus left His blood on the earth.

As our resurrection bodies will have visible "form" and "shape" it and stands to reason that they will have a framework of "flesh" and "bones, " but it will be "flesh" and "bones" adapted to its new environment. We must not forget that Enoch and Elijah went up in their "bodies." Presumably their bodies were "glorified" in the transit, but they were not "disembodied, " and if they have use for a "body" in Heaven, why not we? Is it reasonable to suppose that only those two saints shall be in Heaven in their bodies? Why did Michael the Archangel contend with the Devil over the "body" of Moses, if Moses had no further need of it? Did not he and Elijah have use for their bodies when they appeared on the Mt. of Transfiguration with Jesus? And if they were "the" two men that stood by in "white apparel" when Jesus ascended (Acts 1:9-1 Acts 1:1), and are to be the "Two Witnesses" of Rev. 11:3-5, we see, that as they are the "type" of the Resurrected and Translated Saints, that the Saints at the Rapture will have "bodies" like Moses and Elijah now have.

Posted via email from The Last Chance Bible Study

RevelationCommentary: CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO - EPILOGUE

 

Previous Section: Chapter Twenty-One - New Heavens,
New Earth, New Jerusalem

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO - EPILOGUE

Revelation 22:1-2

(1) And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, (2) coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, (3) in the middle of its street. (4) And on either side of the river was the tree of life, (5) bearing twelve kinds of fruit; (6) yielding its fruit every month; and (7) the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

1. And he showed me a river of the water of life = echoes the promise of Christ to the woman at the well of John 4. Living water has benefits for those that drink it. It quenches thirst.

2. Coming from the throne of God and the Lamb = is the source of the living water. This water supply is supernaturally supplied, which ensures the eternal or continuing nature of not only the supply of water, but the quality as well. The mutual nature of the throne of the Father and the Son should not lead to confusion about the trinity. They both share equally the same essence. However, Christ is the only member of the trinity that localizes with human physicality. God the Father never takes on human form. He can and will make His presence known. We will be very much aware of His presence, but not because He manifests Himself in physical form. That prerogative is uniquely Jesus Christ’s. The throne belongs to the Father, but He shares it with His Son. This is beyond human comprehension, but reality no less.

3. In the middle of its street = at first glance might appear contradictory to the previous idea that the city is a cube. Street is singular, giving the impression that the city has only one street. However, while John does give some information about the city, we certainly must entertain the notion that there is much to the city that he did not communicate. The text does not say "in the middle of its only street." Given the size of the city, there must be many streets. However, whether it’s the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, all great cities are known for having one great street.

4. And on either side of the river was the tree of life = indicates more than one "tree of life." Since Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only means of salvation from sin, "the tree of life" does not grant to those who eat from it eternal life.

Since the only people allowed in the New Jerusalem are those who already have eternal life (Rev 21:27), "the water of life" and "the tree of life" are not sources of eternal life for "those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life." Water and fruit contribute to the quality of life. The river and the tree will contribute to the quality one existence in the eternal city.

5. Bearing twelve kinds of fruit = indicates miraculous production.

6. Yielding its fruit every month = continues the miraculous production of the trees of life. Thought may be that the trees bear a different fruit for each month of the year. Since time will not be indicted by the sun (Rev 22:5) during the eternal kingdom of God, perhaps the trees will indicate the months of the year.

7. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations = echoes Adam’s attempt to cover himself, but failed to remove the curse.

Revelation 22:3-4

(1) And there shall no longer be any curse; and (2) the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and (3) His bond-servants shall serve Him; and (4) they shall see His face, and (5) His name shall be on their foreheads.

1. And there shall no longer be any curse = continues the descriptive benefits of the New Jerusalem. Since "the nations" have the benefit of the healing leaves from "the tree of life," the curse of Adam is finally taken away forever. The curse of Genesis three is removed both from nature and mankind. Nature has returned to full productivity and man is both spiritually and physically satisfied.

2. The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it = signals another benefit of the New Jerusalem. Notice that John indicates that this is a future reality. At issue here is whether or not the Lamb is seated on a separate throne. Revelation 3:21 states, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." The Lord’s throne relates to the millennial reign on earth. The Father’s throne relates to eternity. Since God the Father does not manifest Himself in human form, Jesus Christ will be the eternal physical manifestation of God to man. We will be aware of the Father’s presence, but His presence will not include sight.

3. His bond-servants shall serve Him = actually focuses on worship. The Greek verb refers to religious conduct. What else the righteous will do during eternity is not indicated, but worship will be primary.

4. They shall see His face = that is the face of the Lord Jesus. His bond-servants shall see His face. The Lord Jesus states in Matthew 18:10, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven." Since the Father is invisible, the sense of the Lord’s words refers to the presence of God. The angels are continually in the presence of God.

5. His name shall be on their foreheads = is the last descriptive benefit of the citizens of the New Jerusalem. Like the 144,000 who have the seal of the God the Father on their foreheads, the bond-servants of Jesus Christ will be so marked.

Revelation 22:5

(1) And there shall no longer be any night; and (2) they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and (3) they shall reign forever and ever.

1. And there shall no longer be any night = indicates a significant change in the course of human history. The loss of night as a segment of the human timeframe means a change in humanity.

2. They shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them = explains why there will be no night. There will be no electricity in the New Jerusalem. God will be the light source for the New Jerusalem.

3. They shall reign forever and ever = refers to the bond-servants. That the saints will reign with Christ during His temporal kingdom on earth for a thousand years is clear. However, that they will reign with God for all eternity is less clear. Daniel 7:18 and 27 states that the saints will receive an eternal kingdom. What they will do however is not clear.

Revelation 22:6-7

And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and (2) the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, (3) sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place. And (4) Behold, I am coming quickly. (5) Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."

1. And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true" = refers to the complete Revelation. This sentence begins an important conclusion to the book with witnesses to the process.

2. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets = adds support to the claims that Scripture can be trusted, particularly this Revelation.

3. Sent His angel to show to His bond-servants…place = restates the claims of the angel at the beginning of the Revelation that what is written was sent directly from God.

4. Behold, I am coming quickly = cannot be taken in a temporal sense because it has been 2,000 years since these words were given. Jesus will not return quickly, but His return will be quick.

5. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book = a call to faithfulness regardless of what might happen to the reader. Again, John asserts that this Revelation is prophecy in the same tradition as all other Old and New Testament prophecy.

Revelation 22:8-9

And I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. And he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God."

Restates the claim of John that the Revelation is his writings. John’s reaction to the Revelation is the same as Daniel. Both attempt to worship, but were prevented.

Revelation 22:10

And he said to me, (1) "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, (2) for the time is near.

1. Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book = contrasts the message of Daniel (Dan 12:4, 9). Daniel sealed his book, but the Revelation is to be unsealed.

2. For the time is near = cannot refer to time, since 2000 years has transpired.

Revelation 22:11

Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.

This is a very difficult verse to understand. Two exhortations are given to the wicked and two exhortations are given to the righteous. Now it is at once clear that the wicked do not read the Bible for direction or encouragement to sin. Therefore, this text is written for the believer. However, one of the difficulties with this verse is the exhortation to sinners to keep on sinning. This is clearly contradictory to the nature of Scripture and the Lord.

Some attempt solve the problem by placing the timing of this exhortation in the context of the days immediately preceding the return of Jesus Christ in which it will be too late to change once the Lord is seen coming on the clouds. However, it has been two thousand years since these words were spoken. Sinners certainly have had time to repent. Scripture would never counsel a sinner to keep on sinning—never! Therefore, we must look closer at what is stated.

Unlike Daniel 12:9-10, which states what is true about the unbeliever, Revelation 22:11 exhorts the unbeliever to persist in his lifestyle. It is clear that Revelation 22:11 is echoing Daniel 12:10. What Daniel declared would happen is exactly what John encourages to happen. Scripture is not indicating what sinners might do, but what they will do. Not because they are not free to do otherwise, but because once set upon their course even the wrath of God will not change them (Rev 9:20-21; 16:9b, 11).

Revelation 22:12-13

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

Some use passages such as this to support a claim that the return of Christ to rapture the church to heaven is imminent (could happen at any moment). A position rendered nonsensical by 2000 years of human history. In what sense can the Lord’s return be termed "a quick coming?" Unless the term quick has changed, it cannot refer to time. It has been 2000 years since the Lord returned to Glory. Quick can refer to the manner of the Lord’s return. In other words, the Lord’s return will happen very quickly. The Lord emphasizes the quickness of His return because the level of suffering the believers will be experiencing during the persecution of Satan/Antichrist against the saints will be unparalleled. Once the Lord sets out to rescue the elect, it will happen very quickly – in the twinkling of any eye!

Revelation 22:14-15

(1) Blessed are those who wash their robes, (2) that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. (3) Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

1. Blessed are those who wash their robes = is the last of seven blessings that occur in the Revelation. The reward for "washing their robes" is the same as the reward for "the one who conquers." This categorically proves that "the tree of life" does not grant one eternal life. Rather, the quality of eternal life is the issue. There is the opinion among some that as long as a person is saved that’s all that matters. I beg to differ. There is going to be a qualitative difference between those who were faithful and those who were faithful, but not as faithful as they could have been.

"Those who washed their robes" are those who work at moral conformity to the will of God. The Old Testament is replete with examples of those who need to wash their garments in order to be cleansed before entering before God. Since the person must wash his own garments, this has nothing to do with gaining salvation. Rather, the issue concerns what one does after he has attained salvation. We are not working to gain or keep salvation, but to enjoy it.

2. That they might have the right to the tree of life = is the first of two purpose clauses that explain the purpose of washing one’s robe. The Greek of this clause literally says, "in order that they will have the authority over the tree of life." The second purpose of "washing one’s robes" is to enter the city through the gates.

3. Outside are the dogs…lying = obviously refers to the city. Dogs here refer to male prostitutes or homosexuals.

Revelation 22:16

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

Revelation 22:17

The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:18-19

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Revelation 22:20-21

He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen

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