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Suffer for Righteousness

“If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid, … neither be troubled.”—1 Peter 3:14

There are various kinds of suffering which we see in the world, and which, according to the Scriptures, God views and deals with in different ways. First, there is the suffering that comes about because we are all descendants of Adam, and inheritors of the condemnation of sin and death which he received because of disobedience. The remedy for this suffering is only to be found in God’s plan, whereby he sent his Son, Jesus, to be a corresponding price—or ransom—for Adam. This will ultimately release Adam, and hence his progeny, from the penalty of sin and its resulting suffering of sickness and death. The Scriptures testify: “Christ Jesus;   Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5,6).

Another form of suffering is that which we endure because of our own wrongdoing. Although this suffering may be partially due to our fallen condition inherited from Adam, there is at least a measure of responsibility on our part, to the extent of our knowledge of the principles of right and wrong. The Apostle Peter warns us against falling into this kind of suffering: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer” (1 Pet. 4:15).

Our theme scripture describes “suffering for righteousness.” Peter comments further on this kind of suffering saying, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, … But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; … If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; … If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Pet. 4:12-14,16). Suffering for righteousness is that which occurs as the child of God endeavors to follow the example of Christ, while in the midst of opposition, reproach, ridicule, and even persecution. Those who suffer in this way are counted as “happy,” and can “rejoice,” because their sufferings are developing in them the necessary qualities to be sympathetic “priests” in Christ’s coming kingdom.    

Jesus the King

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”—Zechariah 9:9

When our Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he fulfilled this prophecy that foretold of him and his coming. Luke confirms this, saying, “When he was come nigh…the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:37,38). The disciples rejoiced at the presence of Jesus and pronounced him their king because his arrival had been promised by God and foretold by the prophets. Moses declared, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut. 18:15).

As the U.S. presidential election approached, Americans were faced with the task of electing their leader. However, there was no divine approval given, nor prophecies or miracles to aid in the decision process. All one had to go on were the past promises, words and deeds of the candidates in order to decide. Oh, how the acts and promises of men pale in comparison to what our Lord Jesus accomplished during the short 3½ years of his ministry.

When we consider the world today, in the hands of men whose words and deeds have caused decades of wars, famine, inequity and fear, shouldn’t we look to our God who has promised a ruler that will end death, sorrow, war and disease, cause the earth to give her increase, and bring mankind back into harmony with the Heavenly Father?

Let us rejoice for we have the sure word of prophecy that God’s earthly kingdom is close at hand and his choice for leader will accomplish what he has promised. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26).

A Pure River of Water of Life

When we read of this “river of water of life,” we notice that truth will flow as a mighty river, refreshing and blessing the whole earth (Rev. 22:1).  This river comes by means of the prospective members of the bride class that now have God’s spirit in them. The Bride is to become a “partaker of the divine nature.” She is to have within her a “well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Eventually, these wellsprings, brought together in glory with the Lord, shall provide “living fountains of waters” to which the rest of mankind will come,  to drink (Rev. 7:17). Christ and the church constitute the source of the great “river of water of life.” A corresponding testimony of the “living waters” is found in Zechariah 14:8.

Water is used in the scriptures as a symbol of life. We continue to pray “Thy Kingdom come” and not until that prayer is answered, can the river of water of life flow. This river of life can only come when the institutions of this world have been replaced by God’s kingdom.

Revelation 22:2 tells us there is in this kingdom, a tree to sustain life, reminding us of the “paradise” where Adam was driven from on account of sin. He could no longer eat of that tree, which would have kept him living. On each side of the river, the tree of life will bear twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month to the changing conditions of men as they are brought upward toward perfection. We can see how the Lord will rid mankind of its sin, sickness and imperfection.

This “river of the water of life” represents the blessed influence that will proceed to humanity from the glorified Christ, head and body, through the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The calling of the world’s attention to the “river of the water of life,” to the leaves of healing, and to developing the fruits of the spirit will be the message that will be promulgated in that kingdom. The result will be that the world shall hear, and all who love righteousness and hate iniquity will return again to life eternal.  Amen  

Will Man Live Forever?

Man wants to live forever. While he lives longer today than in the 1800s, typically people only live into their 70s or 80s. This was prophesied in Psa. 90:10 (BBE): “The measure of our life is seventy years; and if through strength, it may be eighty years, its pride is only trouble and sorrow, for it comes to an end and we are quickly gone.”

While doctors have been studying why people become ill and die from a medical perspective, the Bible is quite clear on the reason for sickness and death. It was the penalty God levied on Adam, Eve and their descendants because of their disobedience in the garden of Eden. “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. … By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:17,19 NASB).

After Adam sinned, men lived a long time before they died but they still died within the 1,000 year “day” that God decreed. The longest recorded life was that of Methuselah, 969 years (Gen. 5:27). Since the flood, man’s life-span was drastically shortened only to rebound a little in our day. However, the Bible is clear that today’s advances are limited and only God can lift the curse “you will surely die” from off mankind’s back (Gen. 2:17 NASB).

Will God lift that curse? That is the promise of the Scriptures. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death … that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). Jesus was “made flesh” and by his obedience to the Law, proved his perfection (John 1:14; Heb. 5:9). As a result, the man Christ Jesus became a ransom for Father Adam (1 Tim. 2:5,6). When Jesus laid down that human life in death, he provided the redemption price needed to release Adam and his descendants from the penalty of death.

Raising the human family from death is exactly what our risen Lord plans to do. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28,29 NASB).

Those who have done good deeds, the followers of Jesus, are promised a spiritual life in heaven. The rest of mankind will be brought to life in Christ’ s earthly kingdom to learn righteousness and by their obedience gain everlasting life. In that kingdom, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Rev. 22:17 NASB).

Hunger for Righteousness

In Matt. 5:6, Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” “Hunger” and “Thirst” suggest a human craving for food and drink. However, in this scripture, Jesus is not referring to food and drink, but a hunger and thirst for righteousness, which is “the character or quality of being right or just.” Righteousness is an attribute of God that signifies his justice, holiness, and to be free from sin.  Those who have this strong desire to know God, will be led to an understanding of his great Justice and loving Plan of Salvation, as Jesus said in Matt. 7:7,8, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

When Adam sinned against God,  he became unrighteous, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Rom. 3:10, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” There is only one way to approach God, as Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”   In John 6:32,33,35, Jesus said, “My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. … I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

Water is a symbol of truth and Jesus  speaks of “living water” as a gift of God in John 4:10-14: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to hunger after the righteousness provided through faith in Jesus, and apply the water of truth to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  

Ancient Worthies

The Apostle Paul in Hebrews 11 tells of many faithful individuals who lived during Old Testament times. He cites such ones as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and others, who not only displayed much faith in God, but also demonstrated their faith by good works. God particularly took note of these heroes of faith because, as Paul says, they were “persuaded” by God’s promises, and looked forward to a “better country.” They “died in faith” believing that one day these promises, including the eventual blessing of all families of the earth, would come to fruition (Heb. 11:13-16; Gen. 28:14).

Because these faithful ones of old lived prior to Jesus’ first advent and the ensuing Christian Age, they were not offered the hope of a reward in heaven. Indeed, such a hope could not be made available to anyone until the ransom price had been “paid.” This price, the merit of Jesus’ sacrificed perfect human life, was represented symbolically by his shed blood. This was the only means by which one could become justified to sonship with God and have a heavenly hope. (Rom. 4:25; 5:9; 1 John 1:7) Thus, Paul says that although faithful, these worthy ones of old “received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us” (Heb. 11:39,40). The Apostle James spoke of faithful Abraham as a “Friend of God,” but not as a “son” (James 2:23). Jesus, when speaking of John the Baptist, who likewise died prior to Jesus providing of the blood of the ransom, said that the “least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11).

These Ancient Worthies, though not part of the heavenly phase of Christ’s kingdom, will be used as teachers and instructors of mankind in the earthly phase of that kingdom. The psalmist speaks prophetically of them as “princes in all the earth” (Psa. 45:16). The prophet Isaiah says they will be “judges” and “counsellors” of mankind (Isa. 1:26). Speaking of the kingdom, he continues: “Out of Zion [the heavenly phase, Christ and his church] shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [the earthly phase, administered by the Ancient Worthies]” (Isa. 2:3).   

The Judgment of the Nations

“Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” – Zeph. 3:8,9

Throughout the Scriptures, earth, when used symbolically, represents society. Fire represents the destruction of whatever is burned-tares, dross, earth (social organizations) as in our key verse from Zeph. 3:8: “I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, … for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” The trouble described here is so great that the world is said to be burned up with the Lord’s anger. The fire of God’s zeal is a forcible symbol representing the intensity of the trouble and the destruction which will envelop the whole earth (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21,22).

  With this in mind, if we turn to Peter’s symbolic prophecy of the Day of Wrath (2 Peter 3), we will find it in full agreement with the word of the prophets. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” It should be pointed out that the literal earth and heavens did not cease there, but the arrangement of things that existing before the flood passed away. “But the heavens and earth, which are now [the present arrangement], by the same word [of divine authority] are kept in store, reserved unto fire.” The fact that the water was real or literal has led some to believe that the fire must also be literal, but this is not the case. Peter goes on to tell us, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night [unobserved]; in the which the heavens [present powers of the air, of which Satan is the chief or prince] shall pass away with a great noise, … the earth also and the works that are therein [pride, injustice, greed, etc.] shall be burned up. … Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens [Christ’s kingdom] and a new earth” [earth’s society organized on a new basis of love and justice, instead of might and oppression] (2 Peter 3:6,7,10,13).

  We see from verse 9 of Zephaniah 3, that after the destruction of the present social order, God will provide mankind with the pure word of truth. “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.”