The Work of God At The End Time # 1
The Peculiar Conditions Of An End-Time
Read: Luke 2:25-38; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 8:13, 9:20
We 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 forces 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 paralyze 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.
I suggest to you that that constitutes a real reason for getting together in serious and solemn conference, for it is not something that we can take just as a part of a sequence of meditations. Our consideration of it may be supremely crucial and in a peculiar way related to a time in the history of this world, and of God's work in this world, which is of tremendous importance and will not be repeated.
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 himself - "Now lettest thou thy servant 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?
Fullness Of Ripe Age Carried On In Freshness Of New Life
I 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 age factor, as represented by Simeon and Anna, corresponds to the word in Hebrews 8, "He hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxed aged is nigh unto vanishing away"; and again, to the words in 1 Cor. 10, 11, "upon whom the ends of the ages are come." That makes us very old, does it not?
Well 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 fullness 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 hounded years old the child has not gone, it is still the child. The Divine thought about old age is rather that of fullness, fullness 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 value of a long history brought out in new ways. That is what is here.
You 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 alongside 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.
All Former Spiritual Values Now Centered In Christ
So the inclusive thing represented by Simeon and Anna is fullness by fulfillment. 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.
Simeon 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, both 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 fulfillment of it and transcends it.
See 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 fulfillment, their realization, 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 checkered hope! Even through all their failures 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!
(continued with # 2)