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Classic R e f l ec t i o ns on S cr i pt u re L

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Classic R e f l ec t i o ns on S cr i pt u re Q

W. E . Vin e G w i th re fl ec ti ons b y

G re go r y C. B en o it

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© 2012 by W.E. Vine Copyright All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Writing, editing, and design by Gregory C. Benoit Publishing, Old Mystic, CT.

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Thomas Nelson, Inc. titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION. © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked kjv are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version. Scripture quotations marked nrsv are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ISBN: 978-1-4185-4921-3 Printed in the United States of America 12 13 14 15 QG 5 4 3 2 1

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C o n t e n ts Introduction..................................................................................ix

The Mysteries of Scripture The Mystery of Christ..................................................................3 The Mysteries of Scripture..........................................................7 The Mystery of the Faith...........................................................13 The Mystery of the Deity of Christ.........................................17 The Mystery of Godliness.........................................................23 The Mystery of the Gospel.......................................................27 The Mystery of the Hardening of Israel.................................31 A Distinction........................................................................35 The Mystery of the Kingdom...................................................39 The Kingdom of Heaven....................................................43 The Mystery of Resurrection Bodies......................................49 The Last Trumpet................................................................55 The Mystery of Babylon............................................................59 The Mystery of Lawlessness.....................................................65 The Man of Lawlessness....................................................69 The Restrainer......................................................................73 The Mystery of God’s Will........................................................79 Union in Christ....................................................................83

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The Completion of the Mysteries...........................................87 For Further Study.......................................................................91

The Four Women of Revelation The Four Women of Revelation..............................................95 Jezebel............................................................................................99 Jezebel and Ahab............................................................... 103 Babylon...................................................................................... 107 Babylon and the Beast..................................................... 111 A Woman Clothed with the Sun........................................... 115 The Woman and the Male Child................................... 121 The Woman and the Dragon.......................................... 125 The Bride, the Lamb’s Wife................................................... 131 Concerning Christ and the Church.............................. 135 The City’s Temple............................................................ 141 The River and the Tree.................................................... 145 The Lamb and the Stone................................................. 149 For Further Study.................................................................... 153

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The Whole Gospel Sin................................................................................................ 157 The Nature of Sin............................................................. 161 Natural Will........................................................................ 165 Independence of God...................................................... 169 Repentance................................................................................ 173 Another Term.................................................................... 177 Repentance as Used of God........................................... 183 Redemption.............................................................................. 187 For Further Study.................................................................... 191

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Introduction William Edwy Vine (1873–1949) was a British writer and teacher who is best remembered for his unique Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. He was, however, a rather prolific author who wrote many books on Bible study and theology, always approaching his topics with the same precision and insight he brought to his famous dictionary. Most of these books are now out of print, to the modern reader’s loss, due in part to his writing style, which is today considered oldfashioned and even sometimes confusing. This book takes some of the rich insights from Vine’s works and smoothes the syntax to be more accessible to the modern reader. These selections offer both theological explication of the Scriptures and practical application of biblical principles to everyday life. Each selection is followed by a reflection intended to help Christians take the Bible’s wisdom and apply it to their lives, while also providing deep concepts for meditation and further study. The selections are primarily from The Twelve Mysteries of Scripture, “The Four Women of the Apocalypse” (found in The Second Coming and the Last Days), and The Whole Gospel, with supplementary information from Vine’s New Testament commentaries and from his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. The book is divided into sections that accord with Vine’s original works, and each section includes an exhaustive o ix

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Cl a s s ic R e flections on S cr iptur e list of references for further study on selected topics. With these resources, the book can be used both as a tool for personal reflection and a springboard to deeper examination of God’s Word. The ultimate goal, however, is to help modern Christians to apply God’s Word to our lives, that each of us might be increasingly transformed into the image of Christ.

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The Mysteries of Scripture Q

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Section Contents The Mystery of Christ The Mysteries of Scripture The Mystery of the Faith The Mystery of the Deity of Christ The Mystery of Godliness The Mystery of the Gospel The Mystery of the Hardening of Israel A Distinction The Mystery of the Kingdom The Kingdom of Heaven The Mystery of Resurrection Bodies The Last Trumpet The Mystery of Babylon The Mystery of Lawlessness The Man of Lawlessness The Restrainer The Mystery of God’s Will Union in Christ The Completion of the Mysteries For Further Study

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The Mystery of Christ For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. —Hebrews 4:15

Scripture: 1 Timothy 3

God was “manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16), and this statement directly declares Christ’s deity. Furthermore, His pre-existence is also clearly implied. That which is manifested has been hidden previously. He “was with the Father and was manifested to us” (1 John 1:2). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” ( John 1:14). Identifying Himself with humanity (apart from sin), Christ took on flesh and blood. This was the first step toward His role as Mediator between God and man. That relationship could only be brought about fully by His death and resurrection. He was also “justified in the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16). The Mediator, in order to atone for sin by His sacrifice, must Himself be sinless. The absence of all sin during the whole of His life has been proved in every possible way, His enemies themselves bearing witness. His was the spirit of holiness, of absolute freedom from all taint or defilement. “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Christ passed unscathed through the fire of fierce temptation. o 3

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Cl a s s ic R e flections on S cr iptur e But how was He justified? Not as we are. We are justified by grace as sinners, but He was justified in vindication of His sinlessness. Righteousness is imputed to us, but it was inherent in Him. To this the Father bore witness at His baptism and at His transfiguration, and completely vindicated His sinlessness by raising Him from the dead. Thus it was that God justified His Son, and thus was fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Isaiah: “He is near who justifies Me” (Isaiah 50:8). He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4). That declaration was only consistent with His holiness. Every test was applied, and He was proved to be the Just One, the Holy One.

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to take away our sins: John’s point in this passage is that Christ became man; He became incarnate—and He did so in order to take away our sins. This shows that sin is incompatible with the divine relationship of being children of God. John’s focus here is not on the nature of the atonement but on the effect it should have in the lives of believers.

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The Myste ry of Chr ist An entire book—an entire library—could be written about the mystery of Jesus Christ, or God become flesh, and the mere surface of its depths would merely be skimmed. Indeed, an entire book has been written on the subject, for every page of the Bible is intent upon bringing to mankind God’s ultimate good news, the gospel of God embodied in His Son. This book, too, endeavors to plumb in some small way the depth of God’s grace through Christ, as we examine man’s condition, the Devil’s opposition, and Jesus’ gift of eternal redemption. But before we can begin such an examination, we must first understand two vital pieces of this mystery: the deity of Christ and His sinless life on earth. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, came to earth for the specific purpose of paying the price for the sin of the human race. But in order for this to be accomplished, He could not have any debt of His own to pay. The sin of Adam condemned all his descendants to a debt that they could not pay, the debt of death brought about by sin. God’s justice demanded payment in full for this debt, but it could only be paid by One who was Himself without sin. Jesus lived His entire life on earth in complete obedience to the will of the Father and committed no sin. This fact was testified by the writers of the New Testament (Hebrews 4:15), and even by the very people who condemned Him to death on the cross ( John 18:38; 19:4, 6). But the most irrefutable proof of His sinless life came from the Father Himself: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17). o 5

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Cl a s s ic R e flections on S cr iptur e Jesus did not inherit the debt of death because He was born of a virgin, not having a human father to impart the sin nature to Him. Any human being born from Adam—that is, every human being who ever has lived or ever will live, apart from Christ—inherits the sinful nature because God ordained a law at creation: like brings forth like. A cow can only give birth to a cow, and a sinner can only give birth to a sinner. Every descendant of Adam is born under the curse, born subject to death, born with no possibility of being redeemed from sin—no hope, that is, apart from Christ. The only One who could ever live a life free from sin is God Himself, and that is the reason God became a Man—the Man Christ Jesus.

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The Mysteries of Scripture Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. —Romans 16:25–27

Scripture: Ephesians 3

The word mystery in Scripture does not refer to something that is mysterious. On the contrary, it refers to something that is “made known,” something that can be known only by divine revelation—it is knowledge which is beyond a person’s natural powers of comprehension. These divine mysteries are made known only by God’s Holy Spirit, and they are revealed in the time and manner which God alone decides. When we use the word mystery today, we generally refer to some knowledge which has been withheld from us; but in Scripture a mystery is in fact “truth revealed.” Thus, the Bible uses terms such as “made known,” “manifested,” “revealed,” “preached,” and “understand” in connection with divine mysteries. The following passages illustrate this principle: o 7

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Cl a s s ic R e flections on S cr iptur e The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. —Colossians 1:26 (By which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets. —Ephesians 3:4–5 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began. —Romans 16:25 In the ancient religion of the Greeks, mysteries consisted of a set of rites and ceremonies which were considered very sacred, and they were observed with the strictest secrecy. Membership of the societies which practiced them was open to any who desired to be initiated, and those who had passed through the initiation were known as “the perfected.” Paul 8 o

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The M yst e r ie s of Scr iptur e probably had this in mind when he said, “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature [literally, perfect], yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory. . . . Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:6–7, 12, italics added).

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The word mystery as used in the New Testament refers to things that can be made known only by divine revelation, in a manner and at a time appointed by God, to those who are illuminated by His Holy Spirit.

This all stands in striking contrast to the methods of secrecy adopted by the priests of the Greek mysteries. As Paul wrote, “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2). O

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Cl a s s ic R e flections on S cr iptur e Mystery novels, movies, and television programs are a popular and enduring type of fiction in which the reader or viewer uses his wits and intellect to unravel the “whodunit,” trying to guess at the truth, which the fiction writer has tried hard to disguise. We also tend to use the word mysterious in reference to a thing or person about which we know very little. We frequently add a sense of romantic adventure to the word, as though the “mysterious person” has a deep secret that we yearn to unravel. The Bible, however, does not use the word mystery in these ways. The dictionary helps us to understand the biblical meaning: “a religious belief based on divine revelation, especially a doctrine of faith involving difficulties which human reason is incapable of solving.”1 There are two important distinctions in the Bible’s use of mystery versus our casual English use: 1) a biblical mystery cannot be understood by human reason, but requires God’s direct revelation; 2) a biblical mystery is intended to become clear, in God’s timing, unlike modern mystery stories, which are deliberately designed to confuse and mislead a reader or viewer. God desires that all people should know and understand the mysteries of the Bible, because these mysteries actually reveal His character and His will. A modern mystery writer wants to confuse his readers, to mislead them away from the truth of the plot—but God desires to reveal truth completely to anyone willing to listen. Ultimately, God’s truth is fully revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus told His disciples. “No one comes to the 10 o

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The M yst e r ie s of Scr iptur e Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” ( John 14:6–7). All the mysteries of the Bible eventually lead us to Christ. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Lesley Brown, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 1,874. 1

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Notes

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Classic Reflections on Scripture