VIEWS ON ACTS 17:31.

ELDER BEEBE: - Please give your views on Acts 17:31, last clause. “Whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

J.E. Carter.

REPLY. These words were spoken by Paul in concluding his short address to the Athenians, when he stood in the midst of Mar’s Hill. Seeing the city of Athens wholly given to idolatry, his spirit was stirred in him, and he protested against their superstition and idolatry. Although the Jews had in that place a synagogue, where, we presume, Moses was read to the people every Sabbath day, and the city abounded with devout men, with whom Paul disputed, he could not find among them all a true worshiper of the living God; for the city was not partially, but wholly given to idolatry. The Jews as well as the Gentile inhabitants were involved in the gross idolatry in which the city was enshrouded. This pagan darkness was not however attributable to a want of literary refinement, or inert carelessness of the people to avail themselves of the light of science; for “all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” They were renowned for their erudition, philosophy, devotion and piety, insomuch that Paul perceived that “they were in all things too superstitious,” or as in the margin, “too devotional.” But with all their religion, both Pagan and Jewish, they were ignorant of the true God, as proved by the inscription on one of their altars, “To the Unknown God.” And they utterly repudiated the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

In the face of all their popular delusion, Paul declared to them the supreme God, who made the world and all things therein, and his entire control of all beings and all events, and of the accountability of all his creatures to him, as the sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth. And although the pagan idolatry of the Gentile nations had been winked at in times past, even the most fearful temporal judgments had been visited on the people of Israel for the same idolatrous practices, now the time had come when the most terrible judgments should be inflicted upon the Gentiles as well as the Jews, for bowing themselves to any other than the supreme God who made heaven and earth. God has said, “They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them; they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.” Isa. 45:16. And this declaration is made in connection with the predictions of the coming of the Messiah, when he should come and save his people with an everlasting salvation, and pour out the wrath of God on all the nations who “set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.” Verse 20. All power in heaven and earth is given into his hands; power over all flesh.” And he shall have power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers. Rev. 2:27, Psa. 2:8,9. All these judgments against the abominations of the nations of the earth are to be executed by that man whom he hath ordained. That man whom God has ordained to judge the quick and the dead, and which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. This man, by whom God will judge the world in righteousness, is the Man Christ Jesus, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead. The time of his power, or the appointed day in the which he shall judge the world, was ushered in when he arose from the dead and ascended his Mediatorial throne. As the apostle says, “Whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

The wonderful resurrection of Christ from the dead was in evidence that he was that man whom God had appointed, and to whom he has committed all judgment; for had he remained in the grave, and under the dominion of death, we should lack the assurance which we now have that he is the Judge of the quick and the dead. But not only the resurrection of his crucified body from the dead, but also the supreme glory and power of his resurrection is in evidence of his judicial power. The apostle says to the saints, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints; and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power; which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places; far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church; which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph. 1:18-23. Thus in raising him from the dead and exalting him far above all principalities, powers, thrones and dominions, he has given assurance unto all men that he is the man who is God’s fellow. Zech. 13:7. The man of God’s right hand, whom he has made strong for himself. Psa. 80:17. We are told that Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. And thus it behooved him to suffer and to arise from the dead, and enter into his glory. For this joy which was set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of God. God has set him upon his holy hill of Zion; and as he said to his disciples before his death and resurrection, while with them in the flesh and under the law, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats,” &c. Matt. 25:31,32. All this assurance is given to all men, {Jews and Gentiles} by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

The Athenians rejected and ridiculed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and upon the gloomy supposition that there would be no resurrection, and consequently no hereafter, stood in no fear of “a judgment to come,” or of the righteous retribution which awaits the ungodly in the world to come. But that there shall be a resurrection, both of the just and of the unjust, is demonstrated by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.” I Cor. 15:16. Hence the resurrection of Christ is an assurance to all men that there will be a general resurrection, when according to his declaration, “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28.29.

When speaking of a day of judgment appointed in the which God shall judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, we would not be understood to hold that it is to be like a court of investigation held by finite beings, who are to form their decisions, and make up their judgment on testimony elicited from witnesses deposing; for known unto God are all his works from the beginning, and nothing new can be added to his knowledge. The everlasting destiny of all his creatures is already determined in his mind, and the irrevocable decision is already written in his book; and he that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on him. And he that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal; The Lord knoweth them that are his.” He has not {like finite beings} to wait for the development of things, to ascertain the final state of men. But the day of judgment is the day when the judgments already determined shall be executed. This position is established beyond contradiction, by the resurrection of the Savior from the dead. He was put to death in the flesh, but justified by the Spirit. Under the weight of all the sins of his people, he was condemned to die, the just for the unjust; but having put away the sins of his people which were laid on him, and through death destroyed death, his judgment unto justification of life was clearly demonstrated. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Heb. 9:27,28.

Neither do we understand that repentance which Paul preached to the Athenians, and which he requires of all men everywhere, to be that evangelical repentance which works by love, and needeth not to be repented of; for that repentance which is unto life is the fruit of the Spirit of life and immortality which God’s people receive when they are born of God. It is the gift of God, and is always inseparably connected with the remission of sins. “But now God commands all men everywhere to repent;” that is, to desist, or turn away from idols. Gentile nations are now held responsible to God, as national Israel once was, for worshiping the works of their own hands. The abominable idolatry of the nations of the old world, in worshiping the beast, and his image, and his mark, and the number of his name, for the last twelve hundred and sixty years, is now being avenged, as plainly seen in the stripping of the pope of all his temporal power, and in the general commotion and slaughter in which those nations are now involved; and which has very recently been most keenly felt in our own country.

Middletown, N.Y.
November 1, 1870.
Elder Gilbert Beebe