Friday, June 27, 2008

THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE


There are three important parables in Matthew 21 that I do not want us to miss. The first one is the story of the fig tree. Let us first put this story in the proper historical perspective. As you know, Matthew was a tax collector, or today we would call him an accountant. Therefore Matthew has written the events in the life of Jesus not chronologically, but he has them systematically arranged by subject matter. For example, Matthew has systematically arranged all the teachings of Jesus in one package, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Therefore the correct historical sequence suffers somewhat in Matthew, and so we have to find the true historical account from the Gospels of Mark and of Luke.

The King Claimed His Property (Matthew 21:14-17)

In the first 11 verses of chapter 21 the Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a King to stake out His claim. But the physical Jerusalem was only a symbol, a shadow of the New Jerusalem, which was the real spiritual property the Lord claimed for Himself. Then He came to the temple area.

Matthew 21:14
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

Matthew 21:15
And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,

Matthew 21:16
And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

Matthew 21:17
And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

These are the events that took place on Sunday. We know that by comparing the Gospel of Matthew with the Gospel of Mark. The Lord Jesus came into the court of the temple where women and children were allowed. And there is where He healed the blind and the lame. And when the chief priests and scribes saw all this they were not just a little displeased. No! They were moved with indignation.

Why?

It was not because the Lord Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, for it was Sunday, the first day of the week. No! They were incensed out of envy. The children were praising the Lord Jesus as the Son of David, which was a title reserved for the Messiah. But the religious rulers of the Jews did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, for they believed that Jesus was pumping up Himself as the Messiah. But the Lord Jesus directed them to Psalm 8:2, where God says, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength”.

But the Lord says in Matthew 21:16 that the meaning of “to ordain strength” is actually “to perfect the praise of Him”. In other words, only when we become as humble and trusting as little children will we be perfect in the praise of Him. Only when we realize that His ways are much higher than our ways, and as high as the heavens are above the earth so are His ways higher than our ways, only then do we give Him the proper honor and glory. You see, the sovereignty of God is written all over this chapter. We cannot escape it. And then we read in Matthew 21:17, “He left them”. He left them in their conceit. He left them in their despicable self-righteousness. He left them in their sins. Let us now turn to:

The Parable of the Curse on the Fig Tree (Matthew 21:18-19,12-13,19-22, 24:32-34, Mark 13:28)

Matthew 21:18
Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

Matthew 21:19
And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.

Why is this cursing of the fig tree inserted here in this place?

It is inserted in between the curse on the religious rulers of the Jews and the curse on the money changers in the temple. Both the curse on the chief priests and scribes as well as the curse on the money changers in the temple was a judgment on the religious rulers of the nation of Israel.

Could this cursing of the fig tree also have something to do with a curse on the nation of Israel?

The dominant theme of the entire chapter 21 of the Gospel of Matthew is: “God is done with the nation of Israel as a special nation before Him”. This is the first objective of this chapter. And the second objective is to show the sovereignty of God throughout this entire chapter. A sovereign King is one who does what He will, according to His good pleasure, for He alone is wise and He knows what actions are in the best interest of His kingdom. A sovereign King makes decisions over life and death, and He alone makes those decisions, for He alone is wise and He knows what decisions are to the best interest of His honor and glory. This is the God we serve, because the Bible tells us so. Therefore we suspect that the cursing of the fig tree has something to do with a curse on the nation of Israel. Now we have to insert:

Matthew 21:12
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

Matthew 21:13
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

The Lord has come to the temple which symbolized the place where God dwells. But the religious rulers have made it a den of thieves. In the court of the temple where even the Gentiles were allowed they were selling animals suitable for sacrifice. And if anyone would come with animals that were bought outside, the priests would find something wrong with them, so that their sacrifice was denied. As a result the prices for animals sold in the court of the temple were greatly inflated. This was the system invented by the religious rulers. And thus the Lord Jesus called them a den of thieves. Then when even was come He went away out of the city, probably again to Bethany. Now we enter into Tuesday morning, and here the Lord introduced another parable. We read here in Matthew 21:19-22,

Matthew 21:19
And presently the fig tree withered away.

Matthew 21:20
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Matthew 21:21
Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

Matthew 21:22
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

In one night the fig tree has totally withered and was dead and dry. Then the Lord spoke about us being able to remove a mountain and cast it into the sea. All we need is faith.

Has it ever occurred in the history of mankind that someone spoke and as a result a mountain was cast into the sea?

No! We do not read about this in the Bible, except when the Lord will do this Himself near the end of time, in Revelation 8:8.

Does this mean that absolutely none of the saints has enough faith?

No! This cannot be, for then all the prophets whom God used to write the Bible are all hypocrites. And so, we come to the conclusion that this truth that the Lord Jesus spoke about being able to cast a mountain into the sea must have a spiritual meaning. We shall dig into this parable at a later date, for this requires much more time.

As you may already know, Matthew 24 contains the Olivet Discourse, where the Lord Jesus summarized the events leading up to the Last Day and the end of the world. But then beginning in verse 32 the Lord gave us many warnings and conditions of the Final Tribulation Period, and the events leading up to the end of time. When we read the story of the fig tree in Matthew 21 we wonder, “What is the big deal?”

Why are we spending so much time here?

The answer is, "The Lord points us to this parable of the fig tree as an important event"

Matthew 24:32
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

Matthew 24:33
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

Matthew 24:34
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

We read in our King James Bible, “Learn a parable of the fig tree”. And we are inclined to learn that just as the fig tree in spring naturally brings forth leaves and then fruit, so we should interpret the cataclysmic events of the end of time that the second coming of the Lord Jesus is near. But that is not what the Greek text says. The Greek text in Matthew 24:32 says literally, “Learn The parable from The fig tree”. In other words, the Lord Jesus says: “Go back to The parable of The fig tree I already told you, and learn from it that this parable is dealing with end time events”. In other words, there is a definite fig tree, only one fig tree, and there is a definite parable attached to this fig tree that you must learn to apply to end time events, so that you will understand the signs of the times. We must understand that the Lord is not engaging in any speculation about His second coming, for in verse 36 He emphasizes that “No man knoweth the day or the hour”, and the context clearly indicates that this is referring to a time element. Likewise in the Gospel of Mark 13:28, which runs parallel to this passage in Matthew 24, we must also make this change in our King James Bible, for there the Greek text also reads: “Learn The parable from The fig tree”. And so, we must dig a little deeper into the parable of the fig tree from other parts of Scripture. We will do this by turning to Mark 11:12. We have here a passage that runs parallel to the storyline of Matthew 21, but we are given here a little more information. We learn from this passage:

It Was Not the Season for Figs (Mark 11:12-24, 13:28, Matthew 24:32)

We begin verse 12 on Monday morning, the day after the glorious entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem.

Mark 11:12-14
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

Mark 11:15-16
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.

Mark 11:17-19
And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city.

We read here clearly in verse 13, “He found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet”.

Did the Lord Jesus, the omniscient Lord of glory, not know that it was not the season for figs?

We find this unbelievable. Of course the Lord Jesus knew that it was not the season for figs. But these words were written for our learning, so that we would understand that the Lord was deliberately giving us a parable. The main point of this story is not whether the Lord Jesus knew that it was not the season for figs, but the main point of this story is that the people who are symbolized by that fig tree were cursed. And this was not an incidental curse. The Lord Jesus said, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever”. And notice the words “for ever”. And His disciples heard it. The Lord made sure that these words would be recorded. Now, the Lord did not give us this story of the fig tree for a teaching about prayer. The commentaries want us to believe that. The focus is not about prayer, but a parable about end time events, for this is clearly what the Lord taught us in Mark 13:28 and in Matthew 24:32. From the context wherein we find the teaching of this parable we understand that this has to do with a curse on the religious rulers of the Jews, or a curse on the entire nation of Israel. Let us see where the Scriptures take us to. The next day was Tuesday morning. We read in Mark 11:20-24,

Mark 11:20-22
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

Mark 11:23-24
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

The fig tree was dried up from the roots. If this fig tree represents a religious group of people, then certainly their roots are not in Christ, but in some other person than Christ. Remember that, in Mark 11:14 the Lord Jesus said to the fig tree, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever”. And in Matthew 21:19 the Lord said to the fig tree, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever”. And thus we understand that there was a time that this fig tree was bearing fruit that was pleasing to the Lord, but from this time forward it would no longer bear fruit that was pleasing to the Lord. And the moment in time almost coincided with the time that the Lord Jesus died on the cross.

In other words, what nation, or what religious organization did bear good fruit until the time of the cross?

There is only one possibility. It was the nation of Israel which was a special nation before God, all the way from Abraham until the time of the cross, which produced some fruit that was pleasing to God. In the Old Testament time God had no other nation that was constantly under His care. For a brief period of time the Ninevites produced good fruit under the preaching of Jonah. But only the nation consisting of the physical descendants of Jacob was the nation where God sent His prophets for hundreds of years. Throughout the OT time we see a trickle of true believers come forth out of that nation, for the prophets preached the true Gospel to that nation. But after the Lord cursed the fig tree, after the cross, that nation as a whole remains adamantly opposed to the true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They want Moses but not Christ. Let us investigate this matter:

Another Parable of The Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)

We turn now to Luke 13. The context where we find this parable is that the Lord urges the nation of Israel to repent and be saved. And if they are saved they will be called children of Abraham. In the beginning of this chapter the Lord Jesus spoke of the Galileans who were killed by Pilate, and of the 18 people of Judah who were killed by a tower in Siloam falling on them. In both cases the Lord ended His admonition with the words, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”. Then the Lord Jesus spoke this parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9,

Luke 13:6-9
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

Is the Lord speaking about the same fig tree that we saw in Matthew 21 and in Mark 11?

Of course He is. The Lord would not deliberately confuse us with two different fig trees, for He spoke in Matthew 24:32 and in Mark 13:28 about a definite singular fig tree. And thus we are still on track when we see in this parable that the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. But listen also to the bottom line that we glean out of the context. The bottom line is: “Except ye repent, ye shall be cut down”.

What then do those three years refer when the owner of the fig tree sought fruit thereon, and found none?

There were three events in the history of the nation of Israel that the Lord found no fruit, and therefore He cut it down, but left a remnant to take root and grow the nation again. The first time was in the year 709 BC when God sent the Assyrian army as the rod of His anger to the northern kingdom of Israel, and they wiped the northern kingdom of Israel off the map. The apostacy in the northern kingdom had reached the limit where God no longer tolerated it.

The second time was in 587 BC when God sent the Babylonian armies to the kingdom of Judah, and they wiped the kingdom of Judah off the map. At that time also, the apostacy in the kingdom of Judah was so great that God would no longer tolerate it.

The third time was in AD 70 when God sent the Roman legions under the Roman general Titus, to destroy the nation of the Jews, Judaea and Galilee. They totally destroyed Jerusalem, and scattered the Jews all over the Roman Empire, because the majority of the nation of the Jews refused to humble themselves before their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Three times did the Lord look for good fruit, and all three times He took away the nation because of their worship of other gods; there was no good fruit. And for almost 1900 years there was no possibility of seeing another nation of Jews come to existence. But miraculously in 1948, a remnant of the Jews, which was drawing support from the Premillennial movement in the United States, settled in the land of Palestine and established a new state of Israel. And here is where the prophecy of this parable in Luke 13:6-9 came into fulfillment. The fig tree is cultivated one more time, but now the nation of Israel is tested for the last time.

And can we ask what the outcome will be?

Even until the present time there is great resistance from almost all who belong to this new nation of Israel to resist and to oppose the Gospel of Christ. And no wonder. A nation who considers Adolph Hitler as one of the Christians is not going to submit to a Gospel which turns them into Christians. Just like a person who commits the unpardonable sin, which is one who believes that Jesus Christ was a messenger of Satan, is not going to submit to a Gospel which makes him a follower of Jesus Christ. And so, a nation who has adopted the lie that Adolph Hitler was a Christian is never going to be converted. The curse on the fig tree is having its effect. Israel as a nation is not bearing spiritual fruit.

And so, what can we expect the outcome to be?

The Lord Jesus said, “Except ye repent, ye shall be cut down”. And thus we can expect that the nation of Israel shall be destroyed for the fourth time, for this is what the Lord says in Luke 13:9, “And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down”.

The Sign of the Fig Tree in Eschatology (Matthew 24:32-34, 21:19, 8:12, Mark 11:14, Luke 13:9, Galatians 4:25)

What do these parables of the fig tree have to do with events near the end of time?

Let us again look at the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24. For almost 1900 years the fig tree was nowhere in sight. But in the parable of Luke 13:6-9 the fig tree was promised another chance. And since 1948 suddenly the fig tree appeared. We read in Matthew 24:32,

Matthew 24:32
Now learn The parable of The fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

Matthew 24:33
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

Matthew 24:34
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

The fig tree is presently in leaf. But it is only in leaf. It is alive, but there is no fruit on the fig tree that is pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ. And since the Lord cursed the fig tree for ever, it is guaranteed that the fig tree will not bear spiritual fruit. For ever means there is no repentance for ever. And thus, if someone derives a Premillennial scheme from the Bible whereby the nation of Israel as a whole will repent, and be converted, and will fervently proclaim the Gospel to an unsaved world in the millennium, let it be known that this Premillennial scheme is in conflict with Matthew 21:19, and Mark 11:14, and Luke 13:9, and Matthew 8:12, and Galatians 4:25, and with 19 other verses in the Old Testament and the New Testament where the words: “this generation” appears. Here also in Matthew 24:34 we read, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”. In this context it means that “this generation”, representing the cursed fig tree, shall not pass away to be replaced by a fig tree that has not been cursed. This is not possible, for then Christ would be a liar. And so, the conclusion is that all the Premillennial schemes that have been concocted in the past 200 years are absolutely unbiblical. God cannot make two contradictory statements at the same time, for that would make God a liar in one of those statements. Some churches keep the back door open by stating that these are not salvation issues. But when we invent an eschatology in which we make God a liar, we definitely have salvation issues, no matter how small the error is.

In this passage paraphrased the Lord Jesus is saying, “When you see the nation of Israel again appear as a viable nation among the nations of the world, you know that summer is at hand. It means that Christ’s second coming is at the very door. We do not know when the Lord is coming, but when someone dies today the Lord has come for that person. And so, when our Lord urges us to be ready in Matthew 24:42, it does not mean that we must be aware on what day or what hour He comes, but we must be ready any time, for when our body dies that is the moment that the Lord has come for that person.

But do we not read in Romans 11 that there will be a glorious future for the Nation of Israel?

The Future of National Israel (Matthew 2:15, Romans 11:5, 7-9, 25-27, Matthew 24:14, Acts 2:17, 1 Corinthians 15:22)

One problem that arises in the interpretation of Romans 11 is the answer to the question: “Who is Israel?” We know that the people who are physical descendants of Jacob are called Israel. We have already seen from Matthew 2:15 that the Lord Jesus is also called Israel, and therefore all those who belong to Christ have also the right to be called Israel. And then when we read Romans 11 we must decide from the context which group of people is in view when God uses the name Israel. So let us begin in Romans 11:7-9

Romans 11:7-9
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded, (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

In these verses God is teaching that national Israel is divided into two parts, for in Romans 11:5 God speaks of a remnant according to the election of grace which have not bowed the knee to Baal. The other part of national Israel consists of those who were blinded. Today we see this same division in national Israel, as well as in every nation of the world. There is a trickle of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ among those who are blood descendants of Jacob, but the majority remains in unbelief.

And what is their position?

We find that in Romans 11:9 where God says, “Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them”. This table is the Table of Showbread, pointing to the ceremonial law that the nation of Israel shall stick to, but they will not turn to Christ.

How long will this blindness continue?

Romans 11:25-26
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Romans 11:27
For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

How long will this blindness continue?

Verse 25 says, “Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”. But the fulness of the Gentiles has to include every Gentile who has been chosen by God to be saved. As long as there remains one Gentile to be saved, we can expect that the greater part of national Israel remains in blindness. But when we combine this conclusion with Matthew 24:14 where the Lord Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”, it means that when the last Gentile will have been saved then the end of the world has arrived. And thus the blindness on national Israel will continue until the end of time.

Does Romans 11:26 promise that all Israel shall be saved?

Indeed it does, but which Israel does God have in view?

Certainly God does not have in view all the blood descendants of Jacob, for there are many among the blood descendants of Jacob who will not be saved. The Bible says that Judas Iscariot will not be saved. And many of the Pharisees who committed the unpardonable sin will not be saved. And many of the Old Testament nations of Israel and Judah will not be saved, for only a remnant was truly saved. Yet they are as much a part of Israel as many of the blood descendants of Jacob who are living today. And so, we can see that we must look for another meaning of the term “all Israel”. We can look for “all Israel” in two directions. One direction refers to all Israel as all the elect in the world, for all the elect were and are in Christ, who is also called Israel. But the other direction refers to all the elect only from the nation of Israel whom God intends to save.

Does the key word “All” apply in this case?

When the Bible uses the word “All”, its meaning is conditioned by the context in which it is found. When God declares in Acts 2:17 that He will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, it means that He will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh whom God intends to save.

When God says in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “so in Christ shall all be made alive” God does not refer to each and every person in the human race, but God refers to all those whom God intends to make alive.

And so, just like “all flesh” in Acts 2:17 and “all to be made alive” in 1 Corinthians 15:22 refers to the totality of God’s elect who are to be saved, so in Romans 11:26 the term “all Israel” must refer to the totality of God’s elect who are to be saved from within national Israel. Therefore, when we read Romans 11:26 we should understand it this way, “And so all Israel who are of the remnant chosen by grace shall be saved”. And let us not change the word “So” into “Then”. The Greek word “So” is never translated “Then” or “After”; it is never translated to indicate a chronological event. We may not understand Romans 11:26 to mean, “And then all Israel shall be saved”.

Rather, Romans 11:25-26 teach that blindness will continue on the major part of national Israel all the way to the end of time. And this agrees with the curse on the fig tree from Matthew 21 and from Mark 11. It also means that there will always be that other part of national Israel, the remnant chosen by grace. As long as one Gentile remains to be saved, there is the remnant in national Israel who will be saved. And so, in this manner, all Israel who are to be saved will be saved. We must be careful that we do not misuse the phrase, “All Israel shall be saved” to generate two salvation plans of God, for God has only one salvation plan. And God’s salvation plan is summed up in verse 27, where we read, “This is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins”. This does not refer to a future event, for the Deliverer has already come. There was only one day in all of human history when sins were paid in full, and that was when Christ hung on the cross. We may not be teaching that the Deliverer must still come to save national Israel, for then we are denying the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Indeed the Lord Jesus Christ has already come as the Deliverer from Zion to take away the sins of those He came to save out of national Israel. But the majority of the nation of Israel shall remain in unbelief until the Last Day. And this completely harmonizes with the curse on the fig tree. When the Lord Jesus admonished us to “Learn The parable of The fig tree” He led us to passages of Scripture that clearly taught us that “God is done with the nation of Israel as a special nation before God”. Beginning at the cross all the nations of the world are at an equal standing before God. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. But just as there is the curse on the fig tree, indicating that there is a blindness on the majority of the nation of Israel, so there is a curse on all the nations of the world, for only a remnant of the Gentile nations shall be saved. We must warn the nations of the world that Judgment Day is near, for the fig tree is in leaf. Christ is coming soon, and in fact has come already for the many thousands who will die today, and most of them will have died without Christ, and without God. Most of them will stand before the Judgment throne of Christ and will be cast into the eternal fires of Hell. I am not making this up. This is what the Bible says. And therefore, to tell the world of this wonderful Gospel whereby they can be saved from their slippery slide into Hell is the most precious and God glorifying thing we can do. Pray to God that He will use our work to reach many with the true Gospel. Praise God that He has counted us worthy to do this wonderful task.

AMEN.

By Alfred Chompff

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

THE DAVIDIC COVENANT

Setting Forth The Doctrines of Grace In Salvation

2 Samuel 7:12-16
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.

He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took [it] from Saul, whom I put away before thee.

And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.


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Have you ever wondered why there was so much preaching on the kingdom?

It was so in the Old as well as in the New Testament.
It was preached before the cross as well as after.
It was first preached by John the Baptist, then Christ, and then by the apostles.
It was preached in all four gospels, and Jesus proclaimed the new birth was necessary before anyone could see or enter into it.

God's people still enter into it today the same way. It was preached in the book of Acts. It is no where given that the kingdom of the gospels was to be an earthly kingdom. It is of note that in the beginning there was to be no earthly king. When Samuel's sons, who were priests also, became overtly wayward, the people desired a king to judge them as other nations (1 Samuel 8:5). Samuel was grieved, but the Lord told him to grant their desire because they had not rejected him, but had rejected the Lord, that he, "should not reign over them" 1 Samuel 8:7). Philip Mauro said this:

"..the New Testament Scriptures have made it plain to all Christians that the Kingdom foretold by the prophets of Israel and announced by Christ and His servants, is of a Spiritual character -- 'not eating and drinking,' as the earthly minded Jews supposed (and still do), 'but righteousness, and peace and joy, in the Holy Ghost' (Romans 14:17)". The Gospel of the Kingdom, P 126.

The Pharisees were seeking an earthly kingdom, and ask Jesus, "..when the kingdom of God should come." Luke 17:20.

His answer was:

"The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold the kingdom of God is within you." (i.e. in your midst)
Luke 17:20-21

Paul said in 1 Corinthians, "Then [cometh] the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power."
1 Corinthians 15:24.

This verse tells us:
(1) The present kingdom will be delivered up to the Father, which completes the suretiship of Jesus, and
(2) the King has been putting down all rule, authority and power in this day. It is not the end of the kingdom, for it is to be forever and ever.

Paul, when describing our salvation, said this, "(The Father)..hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Colossians 1:13.

Notice the translation was in the past tense (Aorist), and it is Christ's kingdom, who fulfills the Davidic Covenant for which we shall see the scripture telling us later. Paul speaks of our present calling unto (or, into) his kingdom.. (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and Hebrews tells us we are "receiving (present tense participle) a kingdom.." (Hebrews 12:28).

Peter speaks of the "everlasting kingdom" (2 Peter 1:11). John in the Revelation tells of having present "tribulation .. in the kingdom." (Revelation 1:9). John heard the song of Moses sung in heaven which said Jesus was "King of saints". (Revelation 15:3).

Now many have declared the Davidic Covenant was only fulfilled in Solomon. Others have said David will be resurrected and will actually sit on the throne, but it was said of Jesus, ".. the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.." Luke 1:32-33.

This message seeks to show the Covenant unto David was not fulfilled by Solomon only, for he was 'a' fulfillment but not 'the' ultimate fulfillment (1 Kings 8). Nor was it a resurrected David. When the prophets spoke of David, like the coming of Elijah, they meant Christ. When Jesus ascended into heaven he was seated on the throne of David's promised kingdom where He has been ruling and reigning as the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. It was the fulfillment of the preaching concerning the kingdom that it was near and at hand. Our aim here is to show that the Davidic Covenant was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ, and that He is presently ruling and reigning.

THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS SAID IT WAS JESUS:

Isaiah said, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:6-7.

This tells us:
(1) it is Jesus who will be upon the throne of David, not Solomon nor a resurrected David. The prophet said Elijah would come before the Messiah, but in reality meant John the Baptist, who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and said of him, "..if ye will receive [it], this is Elias, which was for to come." Matthew 11:14. So Christ came in the spirit and power of David, and in like manner, Christ is meant;

(2) this King is Divine, the mighty God;

(3) there will be no break in the continuity of the kingdom as some have claimed with their 'postponed kingdom' theory. There will be no end to His kingdom, it is from henceforth even for ever;

(4) this King is not a mere figurehead as some infer. He rules and reigns, as the government shall be on His shoulders.

We are told the covenant made with David can never be abolished, for it is said, "Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; [Then] may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne.." Jeremiah 33:20-21.

THE ANGEL GABRIEL PROCLAIMED IT WAS JESUS:

Mary was told, "He (Jesus) shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Luke 1:32-33.

This passage verifies the message of Isaiah 9:6-7. Again it establishes Jesus being given the throne of His father David. Solomon was not the final fulfilment, nor was David. The original promise in 2 Samuel was that the kingdom would be established forever and ever, and of course both David and Solomon died, and as we shall see, David was not to be resurrected and placed on the throne.

Ironically enough, since Jesus descended through Solomon unto Joseph the husband of Mary, it was not possible for Him through this line to become a king. To see this we must first read part of Jesus' genealogy through Solomon as recorded in Matthew, especially 1:11, "And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon."

Jeconiah was the king of Judah at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah said of him, "Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man [that] shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah." Jeremiah 22:30.

With the seed cut off through Solomon, Jesus could not fulfill the covenant as Matthew's line indicates, but only as Luke's which gives us the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. It shows she ascended through Nathan, another son of David (Luke 3:31). Thus Jesus' right to sit on David's throne came through Mary, not Joseph, because Joseph was not his real father. It also shows the other sons of Joseph and Mary had no right to the throne since Joseph was their real father. So of all Mary's children, only Jesus had the divine right to the throne.

We have considered the 'who' was to sit on the throne of David, we will now consider the 'when'.

THE APOSTLE PETER SAID JESUS WAS SEATED ON THE THRONE AT HIS ASCENSION:

We are told by Peter in his sermon on Pentecost, "Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;

He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,

Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Acts 2:29-36.

We see that:
(1) David was not meant since he is still in his grave;

(2) David was a prophet;

(3) The Davidic Covenant is meant by "God had sworn with an oath to him";

(4) Christ was raised up to sit on David's throne;

(5) Jesus is presently seated on the right hand of the Father, as with David's co-reign;

(6) Jesus is reigning as He sends the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as promised;

(7) Peter assures us it is not David on his throne, but Christ;

(8) The Father is overcoming Christ's enemies as He did for David.

A.W. Pink, after struggling with his previous stand on eschatology, said this concerning Acts 2:30:

"..God swore to David that Christ should sit on his throne. Let us consider the negative side first: there is not a hint or a word in Peter's comments that Christ would ascend David's throne in the future, and when in verse 34 he quoted Psalm 110:1 in fulfillment of Christ's ascension-"The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand" he did not add "until thou assume the throne of David, but "until I make thy foes thy footstool"! Coming now to the positive side, we have seen that the scope of the apostle's argument was to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, and that He was risen from the dead, had ascended to heaven, and we now add, was seated upon David's throne." The Divine Covenants, P 253.

A.W. Pink, known for his adherence to scriptural accuracy, formerly saw the ascension of Christ to David's throne as future, acknowledging that he had taught what men said rather than what the scripture said concerning the matter. It is an occurence that has happened to many others as well as to this writer. A.W. Pink gives further evidence to the truth taught in Acts 2:

"That which clinches the last-made statement is the "therefore" of verse 36. The apostle there draws a conclusion, and unless his logic was faulty (which it would be blasphemy to affirm), then it must cohere with his premise, namely, Christ's present possession of the throne of David in fulfillment of the oath God had sworn to the patriarch. For the purpose of clarity we paraphrase: the premise was that Christ should sit on David's throne (v. 30): the conclusion is that God hath made Jesus "both Lord and Christ" (v. 36). None but those whose eyes are closed by prejudice can fail to see that in such a connection, being "made Lord and Christ" can mean nothing else than that He is now seated on David's throne." The Divine Covenants, P 253.

In conclusion, we have given the 'who' of the fulfilment of the Davidic Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ; and we have given the "when'; at the ascension of Jesus into heaven after His resurrection when seated at the right hand of the Father. All those who preached the 'kingdom of heaven is at hand, including our Savior, were not errant, but completely truthful.

By D. Dewberry

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

THE TWO OLIVE TREES


Romans 11:24
For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature (Gentiles), and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree (Israel): how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

Here is indeed an odd thing! Paul uses the example of grafting to explain how some Gentiles are saved along with some Jews - they are all placed into the the same body. Paul's message is to the Gentiles, which is not a strange thing as he is the apostle to the Gentiles, and what has happened to them is explained by Paul as graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree. This procedure is against nature as one does not take bad branches and graft them into a good tree, but it is normally quite the opposite.

Luther Burbank proved you could grow prunes on an almond tree by grafting prune buds on the almond tree where almond buds had started. While Burbank speaks of two different trees, Paul speaks of two olive trees, one wild, bearing no fruit, and the other a fruit-bearing tree. While it does not make sense to graft branches from a bad tree to a good tree, yet it can be done against nature, especially if you wished to increase the production on the good tree. This our Lord did, in his including the saved Gentiles in the same body as the saved Jews. Paul gave this message concerning Gentiles who were once apart from Christ:


Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ"
(Ephesians 2:11-13).

After the Lord revealed Himself to Jacob (his given name means "heel") Israel was added as another name, (which means "Prince of God.") it is a lesson which tells us, Israel, the prince of God, is the one the Lord calls Israel. Sometimes Jacob is called Israel, and sometime he is referred to by his original name, Jacob. The nation Israel is represented by the branches of the good olive tree which now includes saved Gentiles grafted in from the wild olive tree. There were some branches of the good olive three which had been broken off from their own olive tree. It appears Paul intended to show the good olive tree represents saved Jews and saved Gentiles in the same body. Our Lord told the disciples He was the vine, and they were the branches (John 15:1-6).

A. The evidence that Jew and Gentile would be a union of believers in Christ:

1. In the book of Genesis we are told this concerning the sons of Noah, Japheth (patriarch of the Gentiles) would dwell in the tents of Shem (patriarch of the Semitic race).

2. Abraham was told his seed would be a blessing to all nations and the fulfillment of that promise, that is the seed is Christ.

3. In Isaiah we are told,

And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)

4. The apostle James said,

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,

After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:

That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
(Acts 15:14-18)

B. Paul goes to great ends to tell us that God has not cast away His people, that it is a matter of identifying just who are His people. They are those He has foreknown and chosen whether they be Jews or Gentiles. He tells us God has a remnant according to the election of grace, which is no more than saying God has chosen some of them to be His spiritual people, as well as some Gentiles. Isaiah and David have told us the problem the entire nation had in believing, and we have heard before that the children of the flesh are not the children of God (Romans 9:8). The good olive tree given in this chapter informs us of all the true children of God. Some have been removed from it, and some have been grafted in from the wild olive tree, the Gentiles. Upon these only will God save and bestow mercy.

C. Explanations by Paul in answer to the question:

"...hath God cast away His people?..."
(Romans 11:1a)

1) --- "God has not cast away His people WHICH HE FOREKNEW."
(Romans 11:2a)

Paul himself answers the same question he asks!

While some have been passed by, yet not all, and Paul is living proof that those of the nation Israel which He foreknew He has not cast away. "For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin" (Romans 11:1b). The foreknown people of God are those whom God has called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Since His purpose was to save Paul, He thus foreknew Him, and having foreknown him, predestined him, called, and glorified him. Foreknowing did not precede His purpose, but followed it, as well as predestination. God's purpose is to save some Jews, and some Gentiles, and these are that remnant according to the election of grace.

There are those who make his people to mean the nation Israel, but this is confronted with great difficulty as the people are His people which He foreknew, which, in one sense, represents His people of both Jew and Gentile, for God has only one people, those who are the called according to His purpose - they are the ones He foreknew (Romans 8:28,29). Charles Hodge, knowing that some refer these words to the nation, said more stress is to be laid upon the words:

Which he foreknew, as qualifying and distinguishing the preceding phrase "his people". God has indeed rejected his external people, the Jewish nation as such, but he has not cast away his people which he foreknew. According to this view, his people means the elect, his spiritual people, or the true Israel. This interpretation seems decidedly preferable. (Romans p.354)

Recall Elijah's despair after his encounter with the prophets of Baal. While some of the nation rejoiced in his victory, the vast majority did not.

What was the message our Lord gave to him?

Out of the many in the nation, seven thousand had been reserved to God, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Ah, the remnant! not even the majority, and certainly not all, make up the remnant of the spiritual people. So it is today, and will be unto the end of the age. And the truth of the matter is, it is also true of the Gentiles as well, for there is a remnant of them upon whom God has mercy.

2) -- As in Elijah's day GOD HAS A REMNANT ACCORDING TO THE ELECTION OF GRACE which are chosen out from among the nations: (v 3-7)

"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace"
(Romans 11:5).

And to show it was by grace, and not the foreseen faith of some, Paul tells us, since it is by grace, it is no more of works (v. 6). Salvation cannot be by grace and works at the same time. While we are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10), we are not saved by good works. Even faith is not of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8,9), but is the gift of God. Too many people today seem to infer that faith is of man while they attempt to say salvation is by grace.

The people which God foreknew (notice it is not what He foreknew, but whom, that is, people) are those who are the remnant, chosen, according to the election of grace. Whatever your idea of faith is, it cannot be meritorious as Paul tells us, "it is of faith, that it might be by grace" (Romans 4:16). Paul is very clear that we are saved by grace, through (not by) faith (Ephesians 2:8). It means that grace is the condition (one that God meets), and faith the means God uses to convey unto His people the fact of their salvation. Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), that is, it is evidence that God bestows so that we might know.

3) -- Isaiah and David have foretold of the INABILITY OF SOME WITHIN THE NATION to see and hear the truth: (vs 8-10)

Paul quotes the prophet who said, "God hath given them the spirit of SLUMBER, eyes that they should NOT SEE, and ears that they should NOT HEAR." (Romans 11:8).

One might ask the question:

How does anyone see enough, or hear enough truth to be saved?

The answer is given in that one must be given eyes to see, and ears to hear.

Does it not seem, as you witness of God's salvation through His blessed Son, and they continue to deny and resist, that they seem to be asleep?

According to Paul they are, and that, a divinely wrought sleep!

Do you remember the answer to Peter's confession that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), that which a man must believe in order to be saved?

Was he not told, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee ... but my Father which art in heaven" (Matthew 16:17)?

Man can preach; man can read the holy Scriptures, but unless God reveals the truth to him from heaven, it is all ineffectual, and man with uncircumcized heart and ears, will resist until divine regeneration has brought him out of his sleep.

How did the seven thousand come to be?

God reserved them unto Himself - and he spake to them in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12).

4) -- The purpose of God in their fall is that SALVATION NOW COMES TO THE GENTILES which should provoke some to jealousy: (vs 11-15)

"I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy."
(Romans 11:11)

Paul's message does not indicate this word tells us that a nation shall be restored to its former place in God's sight, as that in verses 13 and 14 indicate differently.

"For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, AND MIGHT SAVE SOME OF THEM."
(Romans 11:13-14).

The only hope for Jews (or Gentiles) is in this age in Christ. The inclusion of some Gentiles, along with the salvation of some Jews, was to be an easing of tensions between men of differening nations. Jewish jealousy could be a means of some turning to Christ through the Gospel. Some Gentiles and some Jews was Paul's goal. He speaks of some (v. 14), and thus infers not all! The nation was rejected but not all within that nation - the remnant according to the election of grace would bring in those God foreknew, that is, His people.

He says some, not all, for he was aware that the body of the nation was at that time rejected, but he knew not who among them were of the remnant according to the election of grace, who, although still rejecting the Messiah, might, by means of the Gospel which he preached, be finally saved." (Haldane, Romans p. 533).

5) --- The promise made to Abraham which is unto all nations, Israel and Gentiles, is likened unto TWO TREES - A GOOD OLIVE TREE AND WILD OLIVE TREE - and from the GOOD OLIVE TREE some branches are removed and from the WILD OLIVE TREE some branches are removed and grafted into the GOOD OLIVE TREE: (vs 16-24)


"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee."
(Romans 11:17-18).

The passages, vs. 16-24, would seem to settled forever the identity of All Israel (v. 26). The two nations are pictured as two olive trees, a good, and a wild one. Remember Jesus is the vine, and the people are the branches (John 15). It is quite obvious the branches of the good olive tree represents people of the nation Israel, and the branches of the wild the Gentiles. Some of the branches have been removed from the good olive tree, and some have been removed from the wild one, the latter being grafted into the good olive tree.

6) -- The good olive tree now remains of all God's people and they are the saved from both JEW AND GENTILE, and are called the ISRAEL OF GOD (Galatians 6:16), and the branches in this tree are those God has bestowed mercy upon and are the saved: (vs 25-32).

1. TWO JEWS have always existed, one referred to as outwardly and the other as one inwardly. The earthly Jew, in God's sight, has no spiritual significance today, as we are told, The Jew is not one outwardly, but one inwardly - where circumcision is of the heart and not in the flesh (Romans 2:28-29). All who have have had circumcision of the heart (that is, the old removed, and replaced with a new one - Ezekiel 36:26) are God's true Jew. God has always had a spiritual people as opposed to earthly people!

2. TWO ISRAELS have always existed, one fleshly, the other spiritual. "For we are told, They are not all Israel which are of Israel" (Romans 9:6), and again the fleshly people are not the people of God (Romans 9:8).

3. Paul tells us:

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace [be] on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
(Galatians 6:15-16).

The new creation and the Israel of God are one and the same!

How do we come to understand Israel in verse 26?

God's people are those He foreknew (v 2);

God's people are the remnant according to the election of grace (v 2-5);

God's people are those who are saved by grace through faith and not works (v 6);

God's people are those who are represented by the good olive tree which consists of both saved Jews and Gentiles (vs 16-17) (23-24);

God's people are those whom he calls his people - they are the All Israel (v 26).

If I had two trees, one a good tree, and another tree which does not of itself bear fruit, and I brake some of the branches off of the bad tree and graft them into the good tree, is not the first tree still a good tree though it has branches from a bad tree?

Together the branches bear good fruit.

Does not the grafted branches partake of the root of the good tree?

and, do I not still call it by it's original name?

It was the primary tree, and the bad tree secondary?

I do not give it a new name, but I call it by its first name. Thus Israel today ("the prince of God"), speaks of the spiritual people of God consisting both of saved Jews and Gentiles, and is the Church of God.
Listen to Calvin:

(All Israel): Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word "Israel" to all the people of God ... The same manner of speaking we find in Gal 6:16. The Israel of God is what he calls the Church gathered alike from Jews and Gentiles; and he sets the people, thus collected from their dispersion, in opposition to the carnal children of Abraham, who had departed from his faith" (Romans p.437).

Unless one understands the two Israels, the one in the flesh, and the other spiritual, the term all Israel is an enigma. Those who hold to the continual use of a literal translation face a great problem with the term, for if every Israelite is meant (and would be if literal), even those already dead would of necessity be included. Griffith Thomas, one who maintains the term means the restoration of the nation Israel, said this of it:


All Israel does not necessarily mean every Israelite, but the whole nation, a future national conversion, as distinct from the present conversion of individuals (Romans, p.304).


Yet if one sees the term including all the saved, all those in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile (for after all, God only has one saved people), then the all can be taken literally. As we have seen, the Israel of God is the new creation in Christ (Galatian 6:15-16). Whether Jew or Gentile as to national origin, the only salvation is in this age, and it is in Christ. When our blessed Lord returns, it is the end of any hope of obtaining eternal life - it is only in Christ this day. Today is the day of salvation. And it is also written, There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. God's word says, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
(Ephesians 5:14)

By D. Dewberry