WHAT WE BELIEVE
Biblical Research Society
David l. Cooper, Th.M., Ph.D., President
Biblical Research Monthly
May, June, July 1951
(Having been requested by a number of people to write a short statement concerning the fundamentals of the faith, I have finally yielded to this request and present the following as a very condensed outline of some of the most outstanding doctrines set forth in the Scriptures. If one has a clear-cut idea concerning these fundamentals, he will have the proper perspective from which to view the Word of God. This discussion could be extended to incorporate many other things, but for lack of time these must suffice. Let it be understood, however, that no statement of faith by anyone is adequate. The sum of God's Word is truth [Ps. 119:160]).
FROM NATURAL theology we can see and understand to a certain extent the existence of a Supreme Being who is controlling all the material universe. Since it is He in whom we live, move, and have our being, and since He is providing us with all necessary things, we are logical in concluding that He will meet the demands of our spiritual nature. Hence we start this investigation by calling attention to the Scriptures as the revelation of God.
The Inspiration of the Scriptures
The Scriptures claim to be a revelation from God to man, given through Moses, the prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles. The Scriptures do not record man's thoughts in his quest for God. On the contrary, they faithfully record the message that was given by the infallible inspiration of the Spirit of God to servants of His who have left this message and revelation in a permanent form, which we call the Scriptures. The Bible therefore does not contain the Word of God, but it is the Word of God. It consists of the sixty-six books bound in the volume usually called the Holy Bible.
The Existence, Personality, and Sovereignty of God
"The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Ps. 119:1).
"... that which is known of God is manifest in them [men]; for God manifested it unto them" (Rom. 1:19).
From observing nature we see that there must of necessity be a Supreme Being who is the Creator and Controller of all things, and upon whom all things depend absolutely. Such is the revelation of the Scriptures also. The world gives evidence of being controlled by intelligence, hence we believe in the personality of the Supreme God. He is sovereign, the King of the universe. He likewise is transcendent above nature and also immanent in nature (Isa. 57:15; Ps. 139).
The Triune Nature of the Divine Being
Deuteronomy 6:4 is possibly one of the most important, if not the most important verse in the Scriptures. When properly translated it reads as follows: "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah, a unity," Thus the plurality and the unity of the Divine Being is asserted in this statement. From many passages we learn that there are three divine personalities, but at the same time they are one in a different sense. They are therefore three, looked at from the standpoint of personality; but one, when looked at from the standpoint of nature, essence, cooperation. Moses' statement (Deuteronomy 6:4) leads us to this conclusion. Sometimes the Father is called Jehovah; at other times the Son is spoken of as Jehovah; in still other passages the Holy Spirit is given that name; and still in other connections the Holy Trinity is referred to by the name Jehovah.
The Existence, Personality, and Hostility of Satan and His Kingdom
The Scriptures are unanimous and clear on the point that there is an evil, malign spirit that is known in the Hebrew Scriptures as Satan, the adversary, and in the New Testament Scriptures as the Devil, the one who sets individuals and groups at variance, one against the other, by throwing something in between which causes confusion. He is a mighty, powerful being; in fact, he was the highest creature God could in His omniscience and omnipotence create (Ezek. 28:11-18). Unrighteousness entered his heart and he led a revolt against God and fell. He is now the leader of those fallen spirits who constitute the kingdom of darkness. They are pitted against God and all who take their stand for the Lord. He is very subtle, and powerful, but he can never do anything without first obtaining the Lord's permission (Job, chaps, 1, 2; 1 Cor. 10:13).
The Fallen Nature of Man
Man was created in the image of God and was given the power of free choice, which he exercised against God and thus brought about what is called the Fall, the fall of man. When man transgressed, a force in the spiritual world to man's nature entered into the human realm, corrupted man's nature and perverted his case. This evil force, or power, is the force that drives men to do things that they otherwise would not do and keeps them from doing those things that they, in their sober moments, realize that they should do and want to do (Rom. 7:7-25). Thus man is the bondservant of sin.
The Deity and the Virgin Birth or the Messiah, the Saviour of the World
According to prophetic predictions one of the persons constituting the Triune God would enter the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth (Gen. 3:15,16; Isa. 7:14).
Atonement for Sin by the Blood of Christ
The death penalty, expressed in the phrase, "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4), is pronounced against every man. But the "Strong Son of God" who loved us, came to this earth as described above and let the stroke that was due to fall upon each of us fall upon Him. Thus He became the substitutionary sacrifice for us. By His stripes life and healing are brought unto us. Thus our Lord, in His death and subsequent descent into Hades where He completed the battle against Satan, dealt with the sin question and propitiated the sins of the people (Heb. 2:17). Now, since the atonement has been made, the sins of the believer no longer prove God to be otherwise than gracious and forgiving, since He pardons all who accept His atoning blood and sacrifice.
Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ
Upon the cross the Lord Jesus bore our sins and was put to death "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). He was buried, but His body was preserved from being touched by corruption. His spirit instantly went to Hades and made certain pronouncements to the wicked spirits "... that aforetime were disobedient when the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah ..." (I Pet 3:17-21). At the same time He completed His conquest over Satan, seized the keys of death and Hades, and liberated all the righteous spirits who had been confined in Hades and brought them forth. He led them on back with Himself.
He bodily arose from the dead and was seen by different ones at various times. At one time He appeared to above five hundred brethren at once. The resurrection of Christ is the best-attested fact in all history (1 Cor., chap. 15).
The Need of Regeneration by the Holy Spirit
Man's nature was corrupted by sin. His will has been perverted. He is dead in trespasses and sin. He needs to be cleansed, purified, regenerated. Moreover, he needs a new lifedivine life that will prepare him for immortal glory. This cleansing of the soul and impartation of life is, according to the Scriptures, accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus a mere making of profession to salvation avails nothing unless there has been the work of the regeneration of the Spirit of God.
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
The prophets foretold that God would cleanse the heart of His ancient people and would cause His Spirit to dwell in them (Ezek. 36:26,27). In the New Testament the promise is repeated often that the Spirit would dwell in the heart of the believer. By the indwelling Spirit the fruit of the Spirit is produced in the life (Gal. 5:22, 23). In His abiding in the heart of the believer, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings comfort and multiplies peace to the heart of the child of God.
The Life of Separation
God's call is always to a life of separationseparation from relatives, friends, community (if need be). See the case of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Repeatedly in the New Testament will a person, find exhortations to Christians to separate themselves from the world and to live a life of consecration and devotion to the Lord. As an example: "Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you; And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters" (II Cor. 6:17, 18). "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (I John 2:15).
Frequently the question arises as to whether or not one should engage in a given pastime or certain social functions. Of course, the Scriptures should be consulted first to see whether or not God has spoken with reference to the thing in question. If He has, the question for the child of God has been settled once for all. But there are many things which seem to be borderline affairs and concerning which there seems to be no special revelation. In such cases, what is the one who wants to do only the will of God to do? One should ask himself, when he contemplates such a difficult problem regarding a borderline case, this question: Would I be willing to be found doing this thing, or engaging in this practice, or be in association with certain company, or group, if the Lord Jesus should appear personally? Or the case ought be stated differently, something like this: would I be willing to invite the Lord Jesus Christ, if he were here on earth personally, to go with me to a certain place and to engage in certain definite activities? If I could honestly and conscientiously invite Him to accompany me to any given place, or to participate with me in certain things, I feel that I could soon settle the question as to whether or not I should participate in a given thing. This principle will help us in our life of separation.
The Victorious Life
The Scriptures do not teach that a person can reach a certain point, or have a definite experience and reach a certain place, where he cannot sin. The Gnostics, whom John opposed in I John, claimed that very thing. John says that the one who says that he has no sin is deceived, and the truth is not in him (I John 1:8). At the same time the Scriptures do teach the possibility of the victorious life. This is set forth in many passages of Scripture. For instance, Paul, in Romans 12:1,2, urged the Christians not to be conformed to the things of this world, but be "transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." In speaking of the difficulties and trials and troubles that one who would live godly in Christ Jesus has, this same Apostle in Romans 8:37 declared: "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." In 1 Thessalonians 2:10 Paul declared: "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe …" Peter, in urging the Christians to supply certain Christian graces in their faith, concluded by saying: For if ye do these things ye shall never stumble ..." (II Pet 1:10).
The victorious life can be lived only by and through the power that is imparted by the Holy Spirit to the believer.
The Prayer Life of the Believer
Jesus, though He was sinless, lived, the life of faith and of prayer. A perusal of the Gospels shows that He spent much time in prayer to God. The Apostle Paul did the same thing. It is evident from his writings that he had a long prayer list. He believed that prayer changes things and that prayer brings victory. He assured the believers that he was constantly praying for them and urged them to pray likewise for him and his associates.
Jesus admonished us: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). James declared: "… ye have not, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your own pleasures" (James 4:2,3). We do not have, because we do not ask God in faith and unselfishness. On the other hand, we ask selfishly and do not receive, because we wish to consume the things requested upon our own desires and appetites. We must be instant in prayer for the work of God everywhere and for the children of God.
The Church God's Agency for Carrying On His Work
During the Mosaic economy the Lord used Israel. The kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of God were coextensive (I Chron. 28:4,5). Thus Israel became the corporate body through whom God worked during the Law Dispensation in carrying out His plans and purposes. But now God is calling out from among the Gentiles, the nations, a people for His name (Acts 15:13,14). This body is known as the body of Christ, or the church. During the present dispensation God's plan "to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; 10 to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord ..." (Eph. 3:9-11). Thus the church of the Lord Jesus is His body through whom He is working in His effort to get the truth to all men now. The church is, so to speak, God's missionary society. Every member of the church should have the missionary vision and should do his utmost in his power to get the truth out to all nations now. Every born-again person is a member of this body and should endeavor to find his place where he can serve the Lord in the most efficient manner in the great missionary program of the age.
The Evangelization of All Nations the Work of the Church
The work of the church is the evangelization of the world. When Andrew learned of the Christ, his first impulse was to tell his brother and to bring him to the Messiah. When Philip learned that Jesus was the Messiah his first step was to find Nathaniel and to bring him to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Our Lord, in giving the Great Commission, instructed them: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing, them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:19,20).
The first generation of Christians evangelized the world, as we see in Romans 10:18: "But I say Did they not hear? Yea, verily, Their sound went out into all the earth, And their words unto the ends of the world." In the Colossian Letter Paul declared that the gospel was bearing fruit in "all the world" (1:6), and that the gospel had been "preached in all creation under heaven ..." (1:23).
Unfortunately, the church has not, since the Apostolic Age, evangelized the worldalthough some very notable work has been done by individual missionaries and groups of people.
The gospel must be given to the whole world before the end of the Tribulation comes (Matt. 24:14).
But the church will be removed from the earth before the Tribulation. Who, then, will give the truth to the world in the Tribulation? There can be but one answer, namely, the 144,000 Jews of whom we read in Revelation, chapter 7, and who are sealed to be protected against the judgments of the Tribulation. They proclaim the Word of God to the four corners of the globe and bring about the world-wide revival in which countless hundreds of millions of people will be saved from every nation, tribe, and tongue, and language during the Tribulation, for we are told that this innumerable host washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev., chap. 7). But it is the business of the church to give the gospel to Israel now. She can do it by sowing the seed, the Word of God, in all Israel at the present time, before the rapture. After that glorious event occurs, the judgments of the Tribulation begin to fall upon the world, which will serve to moisten the seed already sowed in the hearts of Israel, and which will cause this seed to germinate and to spring forth in the form of the 144,000 future Jewish world evangelists.
Every phase of the work of the church is important. Nothing is to be despised. But on account of the lateness of the hour and the position which the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are to fill, it becomes absolutely essential and of paramount importance that the church, as a group, give the gospel to all Israel now and thus prepare for the coming of the world-wide revival.
May every true minister of the gospel and all churches that are standing for the faith once for all delivered to the saints arise and do their utmost in giving the gospel to Israel now, in accordance with the plan of God in blessing all nations in and through Abraham and his descendants, the Jews.
Thus by evangelizing Israel the church will give the truth to all nations in accordance with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19,20)
Israel's Place in the Plan of God
The Lord announced to Abraham that it was His intention to bless all nations in and through him and his seed. Abraham's literal seed are the people whom we know as Jews, or children of Israel. The modern idea that the term Jew, applies only to the descendants of the tribe of Judah and that the ten northern tribes of Israel emerged from seclusion in modern times and are now recognized as the British and American people, is a pure figment of the imaginationwithout one centile of evidence from the Scriptures. The names, Judah and Israel, are used synonymously during the latter days of the Monarchial Period, during the restoration from Babylon, throughout the Inter-Biblical Period, and also throughout the New Testament Era. They have likewise been used interchangeably throughout the Christian Dispensation. It is therefore an illogical exposition of biblical phraseology to make a distinction between the Jews and Israel. Hence, by the term Israel we mean the Jewish people, the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Jewish people are, according to the original plan of God, to be the channel through which the blessing of God will flow out to the world. Israel is yet to be the head of the nations, instead of being the tail as she has been for the last nineteen hundred years.
Not only will those of the house of Israel be used in bringing about the world-wide revival in the Tribulation, but they are to be the priests and ministers of the Word of God throughout the great millennial reign of our Lord (Isa. 61:4-6).
The Rapture of Believers
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, walked with God by faith. One day he was snatched away from the earth, translated so that he did not taste of death. Elijah likewise was removed from earth to heaven without seeing death. These two Old Testament examples constitute a graphic picture of what will occur before the judgments of the Tribulation begin to fall upon the earth. The reason for my saying this is the following: God has not appointed His people unto wrath, but rather to the obtaining of salvationthat is, deliverance from the wrath to come (I Thess. 1:9,10; 5:9-11). When the proper moment comes, the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. Then He will raise the dead in Christ. That is, immortalize their bodies, and catch up the living saints by transforming their bodies into the glorious state (1 Thess. 5:13-18).
The Great Tribulation
The prophets are unanimous in foretelling that the present Age of Grace will be followed by the period of the great Tribulation, which will be of seven years duration. This is what is known by prophetic students as the seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy (Dan., chap. 9).
During this time God will be pouring out His wrath upon the world (Zeph. 1:14-18). The chronological order of the events that occur during the Tribulation is set forth, in symbolic form, in Revelation, chapters 6, 8, 9, and 16. These strokes of judgment increase in their intensity and destructiveness as the period advances.
The World-Wide Revival
God foretold that He would bless all nations in and through Abraham's seed, his literal seed. The seed par excellence is without doubt the Messiah, but the term seed, being a collective noun, refers to Abraham's literal descendants. Everything that we Christians have today has come from God through Israel to us, that is, those things of a spiritual nature.
Thus far Israel has never yielded herself to God and let Him use her in the fullest way possiblecontemplated by the promises of God. But, according to the sure Word of prophecy, Israel will yet yield herself to Him. When she doeshaving renounced her national sin of rejecting Messiahshe will plead for Him to return. At Israel's cry of penitence, the long rejected Messiah will come in glory and power with all His holy angels. Then He will champion the cause of downtrodden Israel and, figuratively speaking, lift her out of the dust of defeat. Then she, in the language of Isaiah the prophet willhaving shaken the dust from her garmentsarray herself in glorious fashion and sit upon the throne and reign with King Messiah over the nations of the earth.
But before she does this, in the very beginning of the Tribulation there will arise a mighty army of 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ and the gospel to all of the nations of earth. The result of their preaching will be the conversion of multiplied hundreds of millions of people from every nation, tribe, tongue, and language. These Multitudes will hear the message of these future Jewish evangelistsPauls, if you pleasewill accept Christ, and will wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. That these multitudes are Tribulation saints, that is, those who turn to the Lord in the Tribulation, is clear from the statements of Revelation, chapter 7, which states that they are come "out of the great tribulation." This language does not refer to troubles, sorrows, and disappointments such as are incident to Christians now. But the term, "the great tribulation," indicates that period of seven years which follows the rapture of the church. Hence there will come the world-wide revival in the Tribulation for, as Isaiah declared, "... when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:8).
The Second Coming of Christ
As has been noted above, when Israel, having been evangelized and having been convicted of the sinfulness of her national sin of rejecting the Messiah, repudiates the same and pleads for Him to return, He will do so. The penitential confession which the remnant of Israel will make at the end of the Tribulation is set forth in Isaiah 53:1-9. An examination of this passage shows that this is the national confession of the penitent remnant. When it is studied carefully, it is seen that the people of Israel will confess how they were led astray in rejecting Messiah at His first coming by the leaders of the nation. Great masses of the people, following their leaders, are led astray like sheep. But the generation making the confession, having learned the facts and the significance of the crucifixion of Messiah, acknowledge the correctness, or truthfulness, of what they are shown. Then they confess their part in the execution of Messiah. Their fathers rejected Him, but they, having concurred with them in the crime, feel guilty and express themselves to that effect.
In view of all these facts it becomes apparent that those who have the message concerning redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ will have given it to the nation in such a way that they can see the truthfulness and correctness of the message. Then they confess and repent of their share in the national crime and plead for Him to return. When they take this attitude, He comes and delivers them (Hosea 5:14-6:3).
The Reward of the Saints
God is a good paymaster. He never allows Himself to be in debt to anyone. He saves men by His boundless grace and agrees to reward them for all the work which they render in His service. There will be many people who are saved by the grace of God, but who have not labored for the Masterhave not laid up treasures in heaven. These will be saved eternally, but will have little or no reward.
It is just as essential that we, figuratively speaking, change our money into that which is current in the eternal world as it is for a traveler to exchange his money for the coin of the country in which he is visiting. The American money is not good in foreign countries as a medium of exchange. Thus the currency of the country visited must be purchased by the traveler. If we wish any treasures in heaven, we shall have to transmute our wealth, or whatever the Lord has entrusted us with here, into the "currency" that is used in heaven.
My dear Christian friend, are you squandering your time, your talents, and the Lord's goods entrusted to you, upon your own lusts and pleasures? Or are you investing His funds and His goods in His cause? Blessed are you, if you are doing the latter. On the other hand, if you are not doing this, when you come before the judgment seat of Christ (II Cor. 5:10) there will be no reward for you. This is a most serious thing. Many of God's people, to whom He has entrusted this world's goods and talents, are living in mansions and are enjoying the luxuries of our modern civilization. At the same time they are not depositing their wealth in the bank of heaven. Hence, when they come before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body, they will have no bank account in heaven. Figuratively speaking, then, they will have to live in a hovel there throughout all eternityin comparison with those who lay up their treasures in heaven and who will live in a glorious mansion in the eternal world.
The Millennial Reign of Christ
Moses and the prophets are unanimous in their testimony concerning the reign of King Messiahwho is God in human form, having entered the world by miraculous conception and virgin birthover the earth for a thousand years. While they do not mention the duration of His reign, they are constantly describing the conditions that will exist upon the earth at that time. Jerusalem will be the center of the earth. She will be the lodestone, drawing nations thither to worship Jehovah the Great King. At that time the curse will be lifted, and the glory of God will encircle the earth as the waters cover the sea. The knowledge of Jehovah will be universal, for all will know Himfrom the least even unto the greatestand righteousness will be the order of the day. All things will be viewed from the proper perspectivenot as now, from a partial, materialistic, physical point of view. Though the spiritual world is invisible to human eyes, yet it is most intimately connected with the physical world which we do see, and it cannot be divorced, in our thinking, from it. Thus all physical phenomena must be interpreted from the standpoint of the predominance of the spiritual. It was left to the Apostle John, in Revelation, chapter 20, to tell us the length of Christ's reign on earth, namely, one thousand years.
The curse having been lifted, the earth will bring forth its full increase. All vegetables and grains will have the proper vitamins and the various other elements that are necessary to provide a balanced ration for the body. Thus there will be no deficiencies in the food which the people will eat at that time, and therefore there will be no disease.
Christ will be King over all the earth. The church will judge the world at that time, being under Christ, and of course will view things from the divine angle and will therefore administer a righteous and just government of the people.
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