PLAINER WORDS ONLINE …
GOOD SOLDIERS OF JESUS CHRIST
By Tom L Ballinger
At what point in a Bible teacher’s vocation does he cease being a Bible student? Is it upon graduation from Seminary or Bible College? Or, is it when he has mastered the acceptable and approved doctrines of his denomination or fellowship? Or, is it when a sect ordains him as one of their “ministers?” Or, is it when he becomes self-ordained?
At what point in one’s Christian education does he cease being a disciple (i.e. a learner) and becomes a recognized rabbi (i.e. a teacher). We are of the opinion that a teacher is ever a learner. However, it has been our observation, over the years, that many “teachers” have considered their “cup full” and refuse to add anything to it because it might cause an uncomfortable readjustment. The charge that “a man of God” has changed his position on a matter is estimated to be equivalent to being charged as a heretic. “Consistency is essential to being true to the Word of God” is the motto of many.
Many, many years ago, we used to listen to a radio preacher out of Greenville, South Carolina named Oliver Green, and he prided himself on the fact that he “hadn’t changed any of his doctrinal positions in twenty-seven years of ministry.” By his own admission, evidently, he hadn’t learned a thing in twenty-seven years.
When we think of this, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s following writing comes to mind:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind: adored by statesmen,
philosophers, and divines.
With consistency a great soul has nothing to do: he may well concern himself
with his shadow on the wall.
Speak what you think now: and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks, in hard
words again, though it contradicts everything you said today.
Is the “hobgoblin” of consistency the reason so many learners and teachers of the Bible steer clear of one of the most important passages of Scripture concerning a future judgment?
THE IGNORED PASSAGE
Many students and teachers of the Word “hang their hat” on 2 Timothy 2:15, and rightfully so! The last words we have from the Apostle Paul are found in 2 Timothy. This epistle could be referred to as Paul’s Last Will and Testament, and as such, it carries a great deal of weight in the “form of sound words” of the Apostle. Paul knew he was writing his last words, and they should be looked upon as very special. He bids Timothy adieu with the very heart-touching words; “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6). Very few of us will have the opportunity to bid farewell to others whom we love as Paul was able to do to Timothy.
Because he knew that he had fought a good fight, and he had finished his course, and most important of all, he had kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7), his earthly work was completed. The last days of Paul’s life were uniquely his. On the other hand, our departure may be sudden and unexpected. Or, an unforeseen accident snuffs out our consciousness. Or, a stroke renders us mentally incapacitated. Or, the end may come after a long debilitating illness in which our mental capacities have been so severely diminished that we are incoherent. For these reasons, Paul’s last words should be treasured by all of us who love the Lord’s prisoner and his testimony of the Mystery.
As Paul’s Last Will and Testament, I can think of no verse in this letter in which we, as believers should snub or disregard. Paul was of sound mind when he was inspired to write his last “charge” to Timothy. However, the following verse seems to hold very little significance to modern-day Timothys.
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;” (2 Timothy 4:1).
According to the Scripture, there are various future judgments which are separated as for as time, subjects, and circumstances are concerned. But, where does 2 Timothy 4:1 belong as far as time, subjects, and circumstances are concerned? This passage, one of the most important ones, for the most part is shunned or ignored by most handlers of the Word of God. It is a very appropriate message for members of the Church which is His body to preach and teach NOW. It is the Word to the world that Christ Jesus is about to judge the quick and the dead which ends the Dispensation of Grace and ushers in the pre-millennial Kingdom of God.
The triumvirate verses of 2 Timothy would be:
1. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
2. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
3. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and His kingdom;” (2 Timothy 4:1).
It seems that the whole epistle is constructed around these three verses.
I choose to believe that Timothy was a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3) and that, as a good soldier he obeyed Paul’s command of 2 Timothy 4:1. As a good soldier, Timothy was thoroughly equipped in order to accomplish the mission.
THE SOLDIER’S GEAR
The mission Paul commissioned Timothy to undertake is still applicable for “good soldiers of Jesus Christ” today. What was the charge to Timothy? The same as it is for us, the soldiers of Jesus Christ in these “last days,” to PREACH THE WORD with reference to “His appearing” and “His kingdom.” When is the last time you heard anyone preach or herald the soon coming APPEARING (Epiphaneia) and KINGDOM (Basileia)? Or better still, have you ever heard or read an exposition on the subject? We would think that good soldiers of Jesus Christ pick up the “charge” Paul gave to Timothy.
The Scriptural “charge” or exhortation from the Apostle of the Gentiles was, or is, to:
“Preach the word…” concerning, the about-to-come appearing and kingdom.
“… be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine…” (2 Timothy 4:2).
This sounds like real serious stuff. This wasn’t optional for Timothy if he was to be faithful to his calling. Many who embrace 2 Timothy 2:15 and 2 Timothy 3:16 seem to have serious reservations in preaching, or writing, concerning this last “charge” given to Timothy.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The good soldier of Jesus Christ is perfectly outfitted as a “man of God” to perform the task of confronting those who suffer from the plague of “itching ears.” Paul assured Timothy that he was equipped for the spiritual battle in “the last days” of the Dispensation of the Grace of God. We, too, can be so equipped.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17) NIV.
Part of the plague of the itching ear syndrome is found when “they” will remind others that Demas, (and his present day counterparts) didn’t teach, or preach, that Jesus Christ would judge the living and the dead at some future “appearing” or “kingdom.” It’s as if “they” would say; “If Demas didn’t preach it, why should we?”
Demas, “they” would say, insisted that the Kingdom would come only when Christ descended from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and the saints were raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:16). This, Demas insisted, ushered in the millennial reign of Christ. Demas (and his present day counterparts), who loved this present world’s ecclesiastical doctrines (2 Timothy 4:10), forsook Paul and his doctrine concerning 2 Timothy 4:1, 8, and 18. Demas turned his back on the truth of Christ’s Appearing and Kingdom. Why did he reject Paul’s message concerning the universal judgment of mankind which Christ will accomplish when He judges the “quick and the dead” at His Appearing (Epiphaneia) and Kingdom (Basileia )? We are not told, we can only speculate or wonder.
Demas will find that although he was saved, he will miss living during the long years of Jesus Christ ruling the world from heaven—which is Christ’s Kingdom. He will not experience seeing the blessed hope become a reality. If this is true concerning Demas, could this be possibly true for his twenty-first century counterparts, who are indifferent to the “Kingdom Judgment” of 2 Timothy 4:1?
This “Kingdom Judgment” is the next event on God’s Prophetic Calendar. The Apostle Peter gave testimony to the next event which is “sure and certain.”
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead” (Acts 10:39-42).
Peter didn’t say that Apostles were to herald the Second Coming (i.e. the Parousia) but to preach concerning the collective judgment of all mankind.
At His Appearing and Kingdom, Jesus Christ has been appointed to be the Judge of all of the living and every dead human being since the foundation of the world.
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;” (2 Timothy 4:1).
This certainly indicates ALL OF THE DEAD.
The Apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians, forcefully, about Jesus Christ being the Judge of the world—lost and saved.
“Because He hath appointed a day (at His Appearing and His Kingdom) , in the which He will judge the world (the quick and the dead) in righteousness by that Man (Jesus Christ) Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
Paul was not preaching a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture of the “church” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). No, he was announcing an inescapable truth that our Lord Jesus Christ will judge the living and the dead when His Kingdom is established hundreds of years prior to the one-thousand year Reign (Parousia) of Christ in Jerusalem.
THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
The blessed truth of “His Appearing and His Kingdom” carries with it a precious reward; one which Demas will certainly miss out on. The Apostle Paul is assured he will receive the reward, and he discloses to us what is required of us to receive the same award.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (epiphaneia) ” (2 Timothy 4:6-8) NIV.
The NIV says “longed for,” whereas, most other translations says “love,” or “loved,” His appearing. The Greek word is agapao which means, in 2 Timothy 4:8, “to welcome with desire, long for” (Thayer’s). When 2 Timothy 4:8 first “grabbed” my attention, I really wanted to know what “appearing” really meant. If Paul longed for it, then I, too, wanted to do likewise. It became my desire to share with Paul on that special Day the receiving of an award from the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In order to me to “long for,” or “love,” His appearing I had to know what it is related to. As I studied the Greek word epiphaneia (“appearing” in 2 Timothy 4:1), it was learned right away that it had nothing to do with the Second Coming (Parousia). Right division settled the issue for me. There is a world of difference between the two events.
An in-depth study of Christ’s “appearing and kingdom” brings to light that when it takes place no wrath is displayed, no death or destruction, no deception, no believing the lie, no one perishes as they do at His Second Coming. But rather, when the Kingdom is made manifest in the world, the world is set in right order and under divine arrangement. Matthew 12:18-20 speaks of this:
“Behold my Servant, Whom I have chosen; my Beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon Him, and He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory.”
You’ll notice that this will be accomplished without any calamity, great fanfare, or open display of triumph or wrath such as; the Lord descending from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God—with a great meeting in the air of those who are sleeping in Jesus and those church members who are alive at the time. No indeed; there will not be sent to the world strong delusion, but rather, world-wide enlightenment. The heavens will declare the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Psalm 97:4), and the world sees enlightenment blazing forth (Luke 17:24).
The Bible makes two presentations: 1) His Appearing and His Kingdom, and 2) His Second Advent. I love and long for the former, not the latter. How about you?
Tom L. Ballinger