by A. Lowell Altizer
When we see the word “Heritage” and its relatives, “Inheritance” or “Legacy,” we reflect upon the accomplishments of our progenitors and the fruitage of their labors coming our way. As we anticipate blessings coming therefrom, we view with great interest all that is involved. Where humanity is involved, such can be a blessing or a curse according to the path our benefactors have traveled. If their path has been that of righteousness, good comes therefrom. If it be that of unrighteousness, we might be influenced to be accordingly.
In our consideration of “Biblical Heritage,” we deal with that which surpasses the transient and ephemeral and gives sublimity to both the here and the hereafter! To lovers of the Truth, there are no doubts about matters that are Biblical. To them, the Sacred Volume from Eden to Patmos is the Word of God. Its record is true. Its promises are sure. Its everlasting presence is not doubted. It lights the way for earthly pilgrims and assures them that the Author thereof is ever cognizant of their journey and extends a nail-scarred hand of help when human hands have failed.
Our “Biblical Heritage” gives us the only true record of the genesis of all things. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made out of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:2). From John chapter one we learn that the “Word” was co-Creator and “was made flesh and dwelt among us”; John was inquired to write. This was our Blessed Lord who “paid it all”!
Our “Biblical Heritage” assures us of our source of existence. It also pictures thereby the foolishness of evolution and the “monkey theory.” Man, created from the dust of the ground by the hands of the Sacred Three, was animated by “the breath of life” from the same Source. He with his rib-created “meet” helper, gives us the only sensible source of human life. When we would describe to the world our beginning, we do not have to appeal to the divisive and conflicting conclusions of the “wisdom” of men but to the true “Heritage” from Divinity we go and thereby establish our claim to being the product of the wisdom and work of the Almighty!
Since, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) man detoured from the Divinely charted course and today, that we may see the steps to that end, we must refer to the “things that were written aforetime, written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4), lest we become like unto them. The true record of how man moved from sinless perfection to sinful destruction is our “Biblical Heritage.” Some 1,600 years after God looking thereupon “saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31), He looked again and saw great wickedness, “and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Complete destruction was the only remedy. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). It is also stated that Noah was just, perfect in his generations and walked with God. His family of eight and all creatures with “the breath of life” survived the great baptismal flood as in the ark they were safely kept. Emerging from the ark after more than one year, they found an earth free from sin.
Divinity must have thought that the record of Noah and his relationship to God was an integral part of our “Biblical Heritage” when the hand of Peter was guided to write of it as a likeness to our salvation in baptism (1 Pet. 3:21). As in the building and inhabiting of the ark, all was done according to God’s plan, Noah’s family came therefrom to a world washed clean of sin. We enjoy an occasion of life free from all sin when we emerge from the waters of baptism, having done all according to His plan.
Ought we not to rejoice to be the recipients of the conclusion of the Abrahamic promise! Yea, verily! It is a part of the “Biblical Heritage” for the whole world! Its being fraught with human frailties to such a great degree exalts the great truth that it was the handiwork of God! To expect a man of the age of 100 and a wife of the age of 90 to produce a child whose progeny would be innumerable and therefrom a Seed come to bless the whole world is beyond the reasoning of mere humankind! But this venerable Patriarch “being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Rom. 4:19) took his place in God’s announced plan and filled that place with success! When Peter declared on Pentecost God’s plan “for the remission of sins,” he referred to this “promise” saying, “For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). Again, Paul to Galatian Christians, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). All Christians today, regardless of race or blood, are such because of the fulfillment of this “promise” through the gospel!
Our “Biblical Heritage” follows the golden chain of events in the development of God’s “Scheme of Redemption” for man in the coming of Isaac, his marriage to Rebekah and their twin offsprings, Esau and Jacob. Esau, “for one morsel of meat, sold his birthright” to Jacob. Possessor of that, Jacob goes to Paddan-aram and by wives, Rachel and Leah, and their two handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah, sired twelve sons and one daughter, viz. Asher, Benjamin, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Joseph, Judah, Levi, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun and Dinah. Levi, the priestly tribe, inherited not in the promised land, neither is Joseph’s name mentioned. But the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, by special blessing of Jacob (Gen. 48), were named with the other ten.
Our “Heritage” has to do with the selling of Joseph into slavery from which, by the workings of God, he emerged as second only to the King of Egypt. In that office he saved the people during the famine by storing food during seven years of plenty to care for the seven years of famine. Ere long, all of Joseph’s kindred, “threescore and fifteen souls” (Acts 7:14), came to Egypt and were located in Goshen. In the passing of years their number came to more than 600,000. During this same period, Joseph died and his great work was forgotten, resulting in persecution of all of Israel. To halt their good multiplying, all male children were sentenced to death at birth. During this time the union of Amram and Jochebed, of the house of Levi, produced a son, Moses. His parents, “because they saw he was a proper child” (Heb. 11:23) after three months placed him in a little boat in the river. There he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and taken for her own. The working of God’s hand was replete in all of these acts.
How great to have in our “Biblical Heritage” the record of the life and deeds of Moses! He was a type of Christ and prophesied of His coming (Deut. 18:18,19; Acts 3:22,23). His life is divided into three forty-year periods. The first forty, in the house of Pharaoh. The second in direct communion with God and by his many miraculous acts including the coming of ten plagues and the dividing of the Red Sea for their passage wherein Pharaoh’s hosts were overthrown, freed Israel from Egyptian bondage. Of the third period, it is said that “about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness” (Acts 13:18). Their meandering therein was the result of the sentence by Jehovah for their believing the evil report of the ten spies rather than the true report of Joshua and Caleb. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, of the 600,000 that left Egypt survived to enter Canaan; Aaron and Moses forfeiting their right to enter because of their error in bringing the water from the rock in Kadesh; Aaron dying on Mount Hor and Moses on Mount Pisgah.
Our “Biblical Heritage” tells us that God has never left His people without access to leadership. Joshua succeeds Moses and the twelve tribes are located in the promised land, two and one-half tribes east, and nine and one-half tribes west of the Jordan River. Joshua dies at age 110 and the Judges, fifteen in number, succeeded each other in leadership. They were: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephtha, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, Eli and Samuel. In the days of Samuel the people desired a king like all the nations. Even though warned that such would be trouble for them, they insisted until Saul, son of Kish, tribe of Benjamin was selected. For forty years Saul reigned (1095-1055 B.C.). His failure was such that God said, “I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath” (Hosea 13:11).
David, the eighth son of Jesse was then selected and he served for forty years (1055-1015 B.C.). David was a good king and was known by God as “a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will” (Acts 13:22). Upon David’s death, his son Solomon took the reigns of the kingdom and was blessed with great wisdom. Under his wisdom the first temple for worship was built in Jerusalem. His forty years of serving, 1015-975 B.C., was fraught with many problems, yet through it all the Sovereignty of Jehovah was ever recognized. David’s reign was typical of that of our Lord and to such Peter referred on Pentecost (Acts 2:25-31).
At David’s passing, his son Rehoboam, succeeded him to the throne. Rehoboam was without proper wisdom, rejected that of his elders, and in his head-strong actions brought division to the kingdom. Two tribes followed Rehoboam and the other ten selected Jeroboam, son of Nebat, for their king and were thenceforth known as “Israel” while the two faithful tribes were known as “Judah.” “Israel” followed Jeroboam in his departure from the Lord’s way to place a golden calf at Bethel and at Dan as places of worship His priests were not of Levi but of the lowest of the people. This downward trend of “Israel” continued through some nineteen kings until Hoshea and about 721 B.C. Shalmaneser of Assyria possessed them, from which they never returned. Their mixture with the Assyrian blood produced the Samaritans, despised by the orthodox Jew.
“Judah,” with ups and downs, continued through some twenty-one kings until Zedekiah and about 606 B.C. Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and its inhabitants carried thereto. After being there seventy years as prophesied by Jer. 25:11 and under the leadership of Zerubbabel they returned to Jerusalem.
A “Heritage” of great value appears while God’s people were in Babylonian captivity. It is used so much in the preaching of the gospel to assure from the Bible and history the time of the coming of the Kingdom of God. It emanates from the mouth of Daniel in the interpretation of a dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Therein an image was seen with excellent brightness and terrible form. Its head was of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron and feet part of iron and of clay. A stone appeared, cut out without hands, and smiting the image on the feet broke them to pieces. Then all parts of the image were broken together, and like chaff, carried away by the wind. The stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Upon the inability of the “wise men” to interpret the dream, all were sentenced to death. Daniel was considered as one of them. Daniel sought audience with the king and informed him that the God of heaven made such revelations. By that Help, Daniel gave Nebuchadnezzar the place of the head of gold. After him that of silver and then one of brass. In the days of the fourth kingdom the God of heaven would “set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44). From both world history and the Bible we learn that these four kingdoms were, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman, in that order. When Christ appeared as the “Babe of Bethlehem,” the Caesars were in Rome and the Herods in Palestine. Daniel’s prophecy was in order to be fulfilled. From Mount Olivet, Christ ascended to come before the “Ancient of days” and receive “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people and languages should serve him” (Acts 1:9-11; Dan. 7:13,14). Ps. 24:7-11 pictures the entrance of the “King of Glory!”
Jesus’ church is the only church with a “Biblical Heritage!” Denominations cannot exist without some human origin. Some person or group of persons started each and every one of them. Note that the “stone” in Daniel’s prophecy was “cut out of the mountain without hands” (Dan. 2:45). The church of Christ is not a product of human hands. In purpose, promise, prophecy, preparation and perfection it is Divine! To Corinthian Christians Paul wrote, quoting from Isa. 64:4, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.” No human mind would conclude that salvation could come to man by crucifying the Best of earth! This was not a conclusion reached by the apostles in their own thinking. Paul said: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit”; — “Which things we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:9,10,13). When we say of the church, “Heaven-born, blood-bought, and Spirit-filled,” we assert what can be said of no other institution on earth!
In Gen. 2, when God spoke penalties for the man, woman and serpent regarding the first sin, He said that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent and the serpent, Satan, would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, Christ. The “Old Rugged Cross” was the climax of “bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman” and the empty tomb in the garden of the affluent Arimathean counsellor gave a death blow to the serpent. The inhabitant of that tomb could say, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18). Satan had been “knocked out in the third round by the Lord’s “It is written” (Matt. 4:3-11). The “It is Written” still works today!
“Biblical Heritage” gives us the silver lining to the cloud of Calvary as the empty tomb emits the great truth, “He is risen!” For forty days and in a nail-scarred body, the Son of God walked with His apostles “speaking the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Having assured them that they would “receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8), that they might be His witnesses to the whole world He took His flight to the Ancient of Days. As the wondering apostles beheld his departure, Heaven answered in the form of two men in white apparel who said, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).
For some ten days the earth held its breath as the apostles tarried in Jerusalem until endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). They went through a process, with the Lord’s help, to select a replacement for Judas Iscariot, the betrayer who committed suicide. Matthias is selected and added to the eleven. During this time the “night vision” prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled as the Lord ascended and was coronated over dominion, glory and a kingdom, all of which would never pass away or be destroyed (Dan. 7:13,14). The sweet singer of Israel (David) saw this some 1,100 years before and wrote, “Lift up your heads O ye gates; and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in (Ps. 24:7)!
What a joy to have in our “Biblical Heritage” that great Pentecost Day! Christ’s church, the Kingdom of God, the body of Christ, the great Oneness of God became a reality. All Jerusalem was moved as the multitude of Jews from every nation assembled. The native language of many who had assembled was not the same. This necessitated the Spirit empowered apostles to speak in the languages of all present so that they could say, “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). The mocking accusation of some that “These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13) was refuted by the apostles by stating that “These are not drunken, as ye suppose… but this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel ” (Acts 2:15,16). Then Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by them. Jesus of Nazareth was set forth as one that was God approved, and by their hands had been crucified. God had loosed the pains of death for Him and raised Him up. David had prophesied of such when he said, “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27). Christ was declared to then be at the right hand of God and shedding forth the message then given. “Pricked in their hearts” were the conscientious ones listening. From their lips came the response to the “pricking,” “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
How thankful we should be to have the “Biblical Heritage” of the answer given to this question of questions! This question emanates from all who are made cognizant of their sins and only the divine answer will suffice: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). All who would enjoy the transition from the “power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13), must have receptive minds and responsive lives toward this message of ho pe. The 3,000 who that day received and responded properly were added to the people of the Lord, the church, and like ones were thus blessed daily (Acts 2:47).
Here, we have for the first time, that which the Lord promised to build (Matt. 16:18), in existence. From Eden to Calvary God had developed His scheme of Redemption over some 4,000 years. How good to know that the price of the same, the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28), was redemptive in power “for the transgressions that were under the first testament” and faithful thereto. When John the Baptist described Jesus as, “Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), he included all from Adam to the end of time.
“Biblical Heritage” has not left it up to men to decide how to worship and serve the Lord. Sincere Christians rejoice when they know what God wants as acts of worship and are blessed to do the same. From the Bible comes our “singing” (Col. 3:16). From the Bible comes our “praying” (1 Tim. 2:8). From the Bible comes our “teaching” (Acts 8:4). From the Bible comes our eating the “Lord’s Supper” (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-30). From the Bible we get our program for financial support (1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 9:7). The 21 epistles, Romans to Jude, furnish us with all needed to meet the responsibilities of the Christian life. Thereby, “The man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
Our “Biblical Heritage” climaxes God’s message to mankind by that revealed to John on the Isle of Patmos. This venerable saint there banished “For the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9), was instructed to “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Rev. 1:19). These things were “signified” to John, therefore the much figurative and sign teaching of that Book. The seven churches in Asia that received special letters are but samples of churches of today. Five of them were under His condemnation for unfaithfulness. Two received only praise. But at the end of each letter was the great promise, “He that overcometh,” making it known that none wander so far but can return if they hearken to Him to whom they belong. This should help the church of today to never despair in the restoration of those who have gone astray. Like the lost sheep, and the lost piece of silver they need a shepherd and a house sweeper that they may be found and put back into circulation (Luke 15:4-9).
Revelation reveals the finality for the Devil, the beast (i.e., the spirit of departure from truth), and the false prophet (i.e. the preacher who does not preach the Truth) as the lake of fire and brimstone where they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Rev. 20:9). Since the Lord went out of miracle working when the perfect law, (i.e. the New Testament) came, all pretenders for such must be ruled by another power. Rev. 13, Rev. 19 and Rev. 16 tell us that Satan will be able to do such to deceive. So does 2 Thess. 2. I never argue with one who claims to have seen a “real miracle.” If such a one did, we know from whence it came and its purpose. Our miracles of today are written (John 20:30,31) God’s Word was confirmed by miracles (Heb. 2:3,4), and needs no more confirmation by Bible believers!
Since our “Biblical Heritage” tells us from whence we came, what we are to do while here and our hereafter, humanity is without excuse! The New Testament, the first four books tell of Christ and his sacrifice for us, making us cognizant of our sins. The fifth book gives multiple examples of how sinners were saved, all the same way. The 21 epistles heretofore mentioned advise how to worship and serve the Lord. Therein will be found the answer to our every question and the solution to all problems.
But now our “Heritage” in Revelation tells of that City Celestial that Jesus went to prepare (John 14:2,3). The word picture of it under the figure of “the bribe, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9-27), is beyond our imagination in splendor. Whatever is therein named that is beautiful to the physical will be in like manner suited to the spiritual. To that Home Supernal our Lord wants all to go. In the beginning of his earthly career, he invited, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). This invitation is sounded forth again ere the Book is closed, “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Those who fail to accept this twice-given invitation are without excuse!