..A Magazine for all Christians · Nº 19 · January - February 2003
Simeon with the baby Jesus in his arms: an allegory of two dispensations that unite, one that ends and one that begins. One is but a shadow, the other is reality. Here we have a metaphor of the end of this age.
The Work of God at the End-Time
Reading: Luke 2:25-38; I Cor. 10:11; Heb. 8:13, 9:26.
The Peculiar Conditions of an End-Time
are being led at this time to take note of the fact that we are at an
end-time, and that God does a peculiar work at such a time. Things become
very strange and very difficult at an end-time; everything seems to be
thrown into a state of disturbance, upheaval, intense pressure and conflict.
The great conflicting faces in this universe register very terribly and
intensely upon that which is of God and upon those who are of account
to Him, so that there often arises the sense that this is an actual end,
and a question as to what more is possible. Inwardly we feel that the
way is becoming exceedingly hedged up: 'frustration' is the word which
seems to prevail, and outwardly everything is in a state of serious and
great question as to the future. Indeed, it becomes more persistently
the experience of the true people of God that they could give up and abandon
everything. The ways in which this works out are numerous, but the whole
effect is to paralyse and put out of commission that which is of God and
bring it to a complete standstill. It is this, then, that will govern
our consideration at this time - that we are in an end-time and that in
end-times the work of God takes a particular form and is of a peculiar
nature. It obviously becomes supremely important and necessary for the
Lord's people to know the time in which they live, what the portents are,
and what it is that God would do at such a time.
Now, this matter of the end-time and God's work therein is brought very fully and clearly into view by Simeon and Anna. There is no doubt that they represent firstly an end-time - an end-time dispensationally and an end-time with regard to their own age, for they were both advanced in years. And then they also represent God's service at such a time. Simeon used the word of himself - "Now lettest thou thy servant (bondservant, the word is) depart, Lord, according to thy word, in peace." "Thy servant." Anna was found continuing in the temple in fastings and supplications day and night, not leaving it, a prophetess thus occupied in the house of God; and if that is not a picture of service, what is?
of Ripe Age Carried on in Freshness of New Life
am, in the first place, going to take up the age factor. Let me say at
once that, although I am going to talk about old age, my message is mainly
to young people. If that sounds hardly kind and fair to others, let me
put it in this way: age is not a matter of years at all. You may be young
in years and yet be far beyond your years, or you may be old in years
and far behind your years. This is a spiritual matter. This age factor,
as represented by Simeon and Anna, corresponds to the word in Hebrews
13, "He hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and
waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away"; and again, to the words
in I Cor. 10, "upon whom the ends of the ages are come." That
makes us very old, does it not?
now, what have we as the picture before us? We have an aged man with a
babe in his arms, at once bringing an end and a beginning together, an
end handed on to a beginning, a beginning taking up all the fulness represented
by the old. It is the old passing over into and giving place to the new.
If we get the Divine idea, the spiritual thought, about this - an aged
man with a babe in his arms - we at once see that from the Divine standpoint
that is the Divine principle. Age is not diminution, contraction, declension,
depreciation. That is not God's mind about old age. There is a passage
in Isaiah which says, "The child shall die a hundred years old"
(Isa. 65:20). There is a state, a condition, a realm in which a child
shall die one hundred years old. It means there is a principle here -
that there is a realm in which age has the child present, has the babe
there in its arms. At one hundred years old the child has not gone, it
is still the child. The Divine thought about old age is rather that of
fulness, fulness unto the enrichment of what is yet to be, and which is
about to come in; to provide a heritage; not to pass out and take everything
with it and for that to be the end, but to have something very full and
rich to be taken up and carried on and expressed in newness, freshness,
youthfulness; all the values of a long history brought out in new ways.
That is what is here.
know the instances in the Bible of infancy linked with old age. How much
is made of this spiritual principle in relation to Abraham and Isaac!
When Abraham was old, Isaac was born. The fact is taken up to express
this - that when there is a great accumulation of history and spiritual
knowledge, God will reproduce that, He will give it form again and yet
again. "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Gen.21:12). Or again,
Jacob and Benjamin, the child of his old age; and what a lot Benjamin
represents spiritually. Then we have the case of Eli, who was very old,
and the child Samuel. It is not only a beautiful picture, but it is a
very significant one, that child along side of the aged Eli. God started
there again, right in the presence of something that was in itself about
to pass out, but taking up all its spiritual values to reproduce them
and bring out all their intrinsic worth. Here again are the aged Simeon
and Anna, - by certain computations we arrive at the conclusion that Anna
was 106 years old at this point - these two with a babe. It is not an
end with God; it is something very much more than that.
Former Spiritual Values Now Centered in Christ
the inclusive thing represented by Simeon and Anna is fulness by fulfilment.
Firstly, it was the completing of a phase, the gathering up of all past
spiritual values, as represented in these two, into a new and wholly spiritual
order, the order of Christ.
so clearly speaks of that transition mentioned in the first chapter of
the letter to the Hebrews: "God, having of old time spoken unto the
fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath
at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son." It is a transition
from the fragmentary, the partial, the occasional, the diverse, to the
complete, to the inclusiveness of the unified, and to the final. That
is the transition here represented. The bringing in of the Babe, the Christ,
holding Him in his arms, was in figure, simply the gathering up of all
that had been of God in the past, and centering it in Christ, and seeing
how He takes it up and is the fulfilment of it and transcends it.
Simeon, then as to the past. Something was happening now with the coming
in of this Babe, the coming in of the Christ. It is not without a certain
significance that Matthew's Gospel has been put out of chronological order
and put into the first place in our New Testament. In that Gospel, again
and again Matthew uses this phrase, "that the scriptures might be
fulfilled," or, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
by the Prophet." It is characteristic of Matthew's Gospel. It pointed
backward to all the Scriptures which were looking toward this Christ in
Whom they were to find their fulfilment, their realisation, their finality
and their transcendence. All the hopes, all the expectations all the promises,
all the foreshadowings and all the forecastings, were gathered into the
hands of Simeon that day as he held that Babe. The Hope Of Israel was
in his hands. What a long hope, what a chequered hope! Even through all
their failure, when black and dark despair seemed sometimes to have settled
down upon them and they cried that their way was hidden from the Lord
and their judgment passed away from their God, still they cherished a
hope. Through all their failure, through all their sufferings, they still
held to the hope that there was something yet to be. Through all the judgments
which were poured upon them from heaven for their sins, they still clung
to the promises and believed that they would one day see the salvation
of the Lord. Oh, here it is all in the hands of Simeon! All that past
is here present in those arms. That Little One answers to it all. The
Hope of Israel!
expectation and hope has reached its consummation in these very two who
with others were looking for the consolation of Israel, the redemption
of Jerusalem. They were looking; and what a day it was of little prospect,
of seeming hopelessness! and yet there were those who were still hoping,
still believing, still clinging. And there that day stood Simeon, holding
in his arms the fulfilment of all the hopes and expectations and promises
- holding the complete embodiment of the full thought of God. Simeon held
all that in his hands, and by his words and attitude and spirit you can
see him projecting that into the future, holding it forth. "This
child is set for..." - the whole future is going to be affected by
Him. It was a tremendous moment.
Types and Systems Trascended by Christ in Person
but note, it carried with it a stripping of all framework of earthly systems.
It was no longer that which encased Christ, it was Christ Himself. All
the encasements of Christ were finished at that moment. What a moment
it was! The encasing in types and figures, symbols and prophecies and
the whole system of Judaism, that whole framework was shattered and stripped
off that day, and the manifest reality of all that had been inherent and
intrinsic in the past was in Simeon's hands, to be handed on to the future.
It was a crisis, a turning of the dispensations. It was a passing from
all that was merely of earthly systems in relation to Christ, to the Christ
Himself: and that is no small thing, and that is the mark of the end-time.
what we come to. Christ Himself emerges from the framework of things,
from all the scaffolding of past ages, from all the figurative and typological
and symbolical, and transcends the things by His own Person. There is
all the difference between Himself and His things. Right up to that time,
God's people had been occupied with the things concerning the Christ:
now they were to be occupied with the Christ Himself. It was a tremendous
moment. This is what will be at an end-time. That is the point. An end-time
is transition from a lot that has had to do with Christ to Christ Himself,
transition from frameworks to the essential and the intrinsic, transition
from all the works and the things related to Christ to that which is known
of Him personally. All the other is going to be stripped off, and we are
in the day when that stripping off has seriously commenced. The issue
is going to be - may I put it this way? - how much we have actually in
our hands of the very Christ Himself, how much we are occupied with the
things concerning Him, the encasement of Christ.
work of transition is going to be done, for this is an end-time movement.
I see it here so clearly, the pre-figuring of the prophesying of that
other end-time which we have in the book of the Revelation, when the man
child is brought forth, and the ultimate things are in view. At such a
time everything will be tested and challenged by the forces that will
be let loose from hell. There started, with the bringing in of this first
man child, the Lord Jesus, a loosing of Satanic and hellish forces which
has gone on and on, right through this dispensation. Herod heard, and
loosed his sword, occasioning a terrible massacre, in an endeavour to
compass the death of this One; and from that time onward hell was out
(and has continued to be out) not against a system but against a living
person. So here we see the man child presented and the tremendous reactions
that are immediately provoked.
right on to Revelation 12, and there you see a corporate company called
the man child. (It is corporate because the language is " and they
overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb.") This is the corporate
counterpart of the individual, of the personal. When that corporate expression
of the man child is presented in the book of the Revelation, what have
you? - a most violent release of evil forces for the destruction of everything
that speaks of Christ.
End-Time Work - Everything Essentially Spiritual
now, what is the service of God at an end-time? As far as we have gone,
surely we are able to see one or two things. The particular work of God
at an end-time is, to begin with, the constituting of a new and spiritually
inclusive dispensation, a new age of an essentially and wholly spiritual
kind. In Heb. 12:27 we have, "And this word, Yet once more, signifieth
the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been
made, that those things which are not shaken may remain." That word
'removing' really means the transferring or the transposing on to another
and different basis. The fact that that comes at the end of the letter
to the Hebrews is significant, for that letter is just full of that earthly
system of Judaism with all its forms, its ritual, its make-up and constitution.
All that is earthly, even in relation to God, is going to be removed,
and everything is going to be transferred to another basis - a spiritual,
a heavenly basis; and when things begin to happen on the ground of an
end-time, that is the character of what is taking place. The earthly is
now going to be forced to give way to the heavenly , the temporal to the
spiritual, the outward to the inward. Then it will be proved just how
much we have that can be transferred, for there are many things that are
not going to be transferred, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50). That signifies and implies that there
is a whole order of creation which is not going to constitute that eternal
order; it is to pass away. Everything is going to be transferred to another
basis, and this kind of thing intensifies at an end-time. Do you see that?
me put that more simply. What God will see to, by sheer force of conditions,
is that anything that is only temporal will go and that which is spiritual
alone will remain. There must therefore be intensifying processes to bring
out the spiritual. Is not that where we are? I do not know what your experience
is, but touching one and another here and there I find there is some real
understanding of this. We never knew such spiritual conflict, pressure
and difficulty as we are knowing now; things seem to be getting beyond
measure. May this not be the explanation? The Lord seems to be concentrating
upon bringing out spiritual values, making spiritual men and women, and
if I am not mistaken (and I claim no gift of prophecy, in the foretelling
sense), we are going to see, and are already seeing, the removal of so
much, the external things, upon which Christians have been relying as
though these things constituted their Christian life. We are going to
be forced back to the place where the one question that faces us is, After
all, what have I got of the Lord Himself? Not, What can I do, where can
I go? but, What have I got? I believe that is a very present and appropriate
question in many parts of the world just now, and it will be increasingly
so as everything outward is brought to an end. Now is the test - What
have I got in my hands?
End-Time Work Inclusive of all Former Values
the constituting of a new and spiritual dispensation. But I also used
the word inclusive - that is, the heritage of all the values that God
has ever given. This is, mark you, a dispensation principle. Spiritual
history returns upon itself, it goes back to the last point of fulness.
Perhaps you do not grasp what I mean by that. If there has come about
a decline, whether in our own spiritual life or in the life of the Church,
sooner or later we shall be forced back to the point where we left the
full measure of God. Cannot you see that happening? We see it in various
connections to-day. Take the matter of literature. There is an increasing
demand for the old works. Publishers are finding a great demand for something
of years ago, and it is coming into the market. The shelves have been
full of cheap, superficial Christian stuff with gaudy wrappers and all
that, and times have come when people are aware that this is not meeting
the need, and the demand for something more is arising. The call is for
some of the books which former generations had. That is happening. History
is returning upon itself. There has been decline, loss, superficiality,
frivolity, cheapness, in Christianity, and the Church is going to perish
for want of solid food unless it is provided. Thus the cry is, 'Let us
get back to what there was before.' That is happening in many ways. It
is a dispensation principle. If God has really given anything, that will
never be lost. Time will vindicate it. Sooner or later we shall have to
come back to it. We shall be thrown back for our very lives on what God
has given. This is where the new takes up the old.
is a sorry and a superficial day, and one which will not stand up to things,
when you think you can dispense with experience. If young people suppose
they can think lightly of those who have gone through the fires and grown
grey-headed in the service of God, in learning to know the Lord, and that
such can be set aside as back numbers, that is a sorry day for the future.
With all that is needed of the new generation, do not let us think they
can produce all the past in their own lifetime. God will throw them back
upon what has gone before. Do not count the past servants of God as back
numbers. They are very much up to date. Simeon was very much up to date
when he brought all the wealth, fulness, richness of the past in his hands,
and, so to speak, transferred it to the new, to the Babe, Who took it
all up, and Who later confessed that He did take it all up. "Think
not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy,
but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17). There are always, sooner or later,
reactions from cheapness and superficiality, and that usually under duress
and compulsion and a sense of being unable to go on without something
in the arms of age. Yes, and infancy depends upon those arms. I think
I am not going too far in saying that here, in the holding of the infant
Christ in these arms, there is this signification, that for the fulfilment
of His life and ministry the Christ depended very much upon the past,
upon all that God had done before. The only Bible He had was the Old Testament.
How He lived on it! When He said, "Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," He was
talking about the only Bible He had, the Word of God, the Old Testament.
You see how the Old Testament is used in the New. It is but another aspect
of this. One of the richest studies and most profitable lines of inquiry
is to mark where the Old Testament is found in the New and why it is found
there, the use made of it. Yes, it is a tremendous fact: that which is
new depends upon that which has gone before.
Abiding Value of Every Working of God
come to a close for the present by noting this. We must live and we must
work with our eye upon the after value of our lives. Thank God that can
be. Life would be an enigma and intolerable if all that we have learned
through suffering and discipline passed out with us and there was nothing
more for it. No, it is not like that at all. There is an after value,
and we ought to live, I say, and work, with our eye upon that heritage
which we are to give beyond our own time. On the principle that God vindicates
everything that He Himself has done and given, and makes it necessary,
then He is making necessary for His new dispensation what He is doing
in you and in me now. That new dispensation is going to be constituted
on the basis of what He is doing in his saints now. That is a New Testament
principle. What He is doing in the Church now is to be the good of the
coming ages. What He is doing in us, it is not presumption to say, is
going to be the very life of some beyond our time. So we should not think
of this life as something to be got through, to be lived through to ourselves,
something in itself. It is something that is to be found again to the
glory of God in that which is to be - the passing on of that which has
been of God, which can never die but is conserved by Him for ever, and
will be necessary. I wonder if that is a new thought to you? What the
Lord is doing in you by way of increasing the measure of Christ in you
is going to be necessary long after you have gone. It is a principle,
a law, that anything that God does is for ever and will be necessary.
We will leave it there for the time being and ask the Lord to exercise us quite strongly about this matter of the intrinsic value of the knowledge of Himself for the time that is to be, through this transition upon which we have now so seriously entered.