Rightly Divide the Word of truth - 2 Timothy 2:15
The Day of the Lord
The day of the Lord follows the day of Christ. No certain event is revealed that will mark its beginning since it comes as a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10). It begins when God removes all the restraints that He placed upon mankind during the time period of His government. This makes possible a divine testing of all who have lived under and enjoyed the blessings of the kingdom of God. There is a revolt against the kingdom on the part of some.
This is described in Psalm 2. However, the "sons of light" will not be in darkness that, that day should overtake them as a thief (1 Thess. 5:2-5). In this long period of time, we find the final week of Israel's seventy weeks (seven years) as prophesied by Daniel. It comes into full manifestation at the second coming of the Lord Jesus; it includes the entire 1000 years of His parousia, the "little season" which follows the parousia, and the time period of the great white throne judgment.
The entire Book of Revelation, except the first nine verses and the last two chapters, belongs to the day of the Lord; and it deals with events that will come to pass in that day. Not one word of it deals with anything that will transpire in the dispensation in which we now live, the dispensation of grace; and it has no bearing on the next dispensation, the kingdom of God. This explains why today, we can see the mountain peaks of certain great events in it, but cannot comprehend the valleys in between. We do not face the fulfillment of any of its prophecies at this time. We are facing divine intervention which will result in God's government in and over the earth, and all events in the Book of Revelation are many centuries in the future.
The "day of the Lord" in the New Testament is actually "the day of Jehovah." It is not to be confused with other "days of the LORD" mentioned in the Old Testament. Peter made this distinction clear when he spoke of it as "the great and notable day of the Lord" (Acts 2:20). The word "notable" here is epiphanes, which Robert Young defines as meaning "very manifest," but which I would define as signifying a "blazing forth." Malachi emphasized this distinction when he called it, "the great and dreadful (awe inspiring) day of the LORD" (Mal. 4:5). It is a definite part of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" not to confuse these days. This phrase still needs a vast amount of study. It is in the day of the Lord that "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3: 10). This is the process by which God makes all things new and sets the stage for the next great day.
It would be quite simple to show from its usage in Scripture that the word day means the period of light between sunrise and sunset. However, if we fixed this meaning upon it and read it into all occurrences, we would end up in great confusion. It would also be easy to show from other occurrences that it means a period of twenty-four hours, and this is usually the first idea that comes to mind when we hear this word. But this word has other meanings, and the most important to the student of prophecy are the occurrences where it is used of a long period of time. There are four of these days named in Scripture, and they set forth four prophetic periods.
These are called: (1)Man's Day, (2) The Day of Christ, (3) The Day of the Lord, (4) The Day of God.
These are God-given names. They are not meaningless expressions. Each one marks a separate and distinct period of time. They are of the utmost importance to all who seek to obey God's directive "rightly to divide the Word of Truth" (2 Tim. 2: 15). Let us consider each one of these.
This designation is found in 1 Cor. 4:3 where it is almost lost to us due to the faulty translation. The words "man's judgment" here should be “man's day," since the Greek word hem eras means "day" and does not mean "judgment." These words appear in connection with a statement made by Paul concerning the attempts of some in Corinth to examine him and come to conclusions as to whether his service was acceptable to the Lord. He declares that he counted it as a mere trifle that he should be examined by them or by man's day. He had not received his commission from them, and he refused to acknowledge their right to examine him. Neither would he be examined "by man's day," since all judgments made on the basis of man's day will need to be revised by the Lord Jesus in the day when He does the judging. This is somewhat as if a farmer would say, "Do not judge me or my abilities by the appearance of my fields in the winter, for you may have to
reverse your judgment when the summer comes."
Man's day had its beginning when Noah and his family came forth from the ark. This was also the beginning of human government and a time when all nations were permitted to walk after their own ways (Acts 14:16). Man's day is a time of human government, the rule of man by man. The highest function of human government is the judicial taking of life (Gen. 9:6), and all other governmental powers are included in this. However, man was not left entirely free to follow his own will or govern as he pleased. They that ruled over men were required to be just, ruling in the fear of God (2 Sam. 23:3). The sword of divine retribution constantly hung over the heads of men and nations, and there are numerous instances in the Biblical record where this sword fell upon them.
Man's day, which is the day of his prominence, exaltation, and glory, reaches its very zenith in this the dispensation of the grace of God. This began with Paul's declaration in Acts 28:28, and since that time all men and all nations have been utterly free to walk after their own ways without any fear of immediate divine retribution. Men commit the basest of crimes; they raise their voices against God every day; yet, He does nothing except show them a love and favor that they do not deserve. "Does not God care?" "Is He really a God of love?" These are the questions regularly asked in view of the iniquities of mankind that exact such a great toll of suffering from the human race. The answer is that He cares and He loves; yet, because of His present purpose in grace, no sin or transgression receives its just recompense of reward. But this will not always be. Man's day will surely come to an end; and the prayer of the Psalmist will be answered: "Arise, 0 LORD; let not man prevail: let the nations be judged before Thee. Put them in fear 0 LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men." (Psa. 9: 19, 20.)
The Day of Christ
This designation is used in Phil. 1:6, 10 and 2: 16. It is ignored by most expositors as they have no room for it in their ideas of things to come. The day of Christ is another name for the Kingdom of God. It will begin on the day when God assumes sovereignty over the earth and its inhabitants, when man's sordid government comes to an end and God's government begins. Then the government will be Jehovah's, and He will govern among the nations (Psa. 22:26-28). The day of Christ is the day of the manifest kingdom of God. It will be the day when Christ will have His way with Israel, with the nations, and with the world. It will be the day of His ascendancy, prominence, and exaltation. He will see the glorious outcome of His death, burial, and resurrection. "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53: 11). It has already been declared of Him, "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth"
(Psa. 46:10). "Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high" (Isa. 52: 13).
I skimmed over the "Day of Christ," thinking it was the same as the Day of the Lord. The "Day of the Christ" is layed up for us in heaven and we must not be moved away from it, for it is the hope of Glory that we shall be manifested in Christ in Glory (Col.1:5; 3:4). This appearing of our Great God and Saviour is called the blessed hope (Titus 2:13). When He appears, He will change our bodies of humiliation and fashion them like unto His body of Glory (Phil. 3:20,21). If we love His appearing we shall receive a prize - the crown of righteousness (Phil.3:14,15; 2Tim. 4:8,18). There are no voices, signs or trumpets associated with this hope as there are with the Day of the Lord, when Christ returns to earth.
Also, the Day of the Lord, the Millennial reign of Jesus and the new heaven and earth of Revelation 21:1, was becoming a dumping ground for the time of certain events to occur and for the different resurrections.
Many are looking for the rapture (snatching away) in this present time we are living but it is not the next event.
I believe the next event to occur will be the Kingdom (Governemnt) of God on earth. Elijah must come first before the dreadful Day of the Lord. Restoration must take place. (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 17: 11)
The day of Christ is the day of His unveiling (apokalupsin), the day of His manifestation (epiphaneia). It is the day when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it in the same amount and at the same time (Isa. 40:5). In that day, we who are now believing in Him will be privileged to extol the glory of His grace, a task for which He will grace us in the beloved One (Eph. 1:6).
Christendom today is suffering from acute malnutrition. This deficiency is manifest in the hostility within the rank and file of many major denominations. Social conditions have become a significant burden bearing upon clergy and laity. Among our youth there is a rebellion against much of professing Christianity. Questions innumerable plague those who, in the face of this religious confusion, are genuinely seeking the truth. It seems incredible to most men when they are told that it is not only possible but exceedingly rewarding to practice religion-less Christianity.
There is a way of life that can be lived in this the dispensation of the grace of God that is truly satisfying. The quality of a spiritual life is the direct result of having made an honest commitment to the important principle of right division. The principle of "rightly dividing the word of truth," 2 Timothy 2:15, is absolutely essential to obtaining a proper appreciation of all that God has ever done, all that He is doing now, and all that He will yet do.
Unless men are willing to free themselves from the bondage of religious tradition they will never really understand all that God has planned, much less that One..In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Colossians 2:3. The Psalmist David declared...They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. Psalms 107:23,24. Very few are willing to sail in uncharted waters as it pertains to spiritual things. Yet it is in the never ending search of the truth and in progressive Bible study that the believer is privileged to perceive the great vistas of truth that adorn our God. Only as this commitment is made to be perfectly honest in dealing with the inspired word of God can one begin to find answers to the myriad questions that trouble men today.
Romans 11:33-36 provides a further declaration of all that is germane to truly knowing God. Read this passage prayerfully. How many are willing to enter into these riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God? How inscrutable, that is beyond tracing out, are His judgments, and how unsearchable are the ways of God. Who has ever known the mind of the Lord, or shared His counsels? Isaiah 40:13-14. Why is it that men are so confused today? Why is it that antagonism fills so many hearts? Why the dilemma of a society in which great material wealth has produced such spiritual poverty? Is it because God does not exist or that He does not care? Is it because "the church has lost its mission"? Is it because man has turned his back upon God?
Any answer that will satisfy the inquiring mind must come from the unswerving conviction that the only source of God's truth is found in the book we call the Bible. There is no other foundation. In the study of the Bible one needs to put into practice the principle of the right division of scripture. This principle is set forth in 2 Timothy 2:15. In this passage Paul declares, Be eager to present thyself approved to God, a workman unashamed, cutting straight the word of truth. Notice what Paul says:
1. We need God's approval and only His approval in knowing His will. People repeatedly say, but our church teaches "so and so." Beloved, what is more important, to obtain God's approval of things we believe, or have the approval of the denomination or religious organization with which you may be affiliated? We should abide by the Apostle Paul's declaration, Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord... Philippians 3:8.
2. But Paul also adds the fact that we need to be workmen who are unashamed. This Greek word for "unashamed" signifies the attitude and the conduct of the one who studies God's word and seeks out the truth. Anticipating that this course of spiritual conduct would trouble some, Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:8, Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord nor of me His prisoner: But be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.
3. Finally, Paul states in 2 Timothy 2:15, the necessity for "cutting straight the word of truth." This word for "cutting straight" is the present active participle of the Greek verb orthotomeo which occurs only here in the New Testament. It is found in Proverbs 3:6 and 11:5. In Proverbs 3:6 we are told to trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths. When you put this principle of right division to work in your life, even in this time of God's silence, you will find that He will work behind the scenes to direct your path especially in regard to His Word. Right division then is the exercise of that principle of allowing the word of truth to provide the way that leads into perfect understanding of the facts contained in God's word.
Let me illustrate. Read Mark 16:15-18. If ever there was a passage of scripture that has been placed on the torture rack of interpretation, this is it. Exactly what is the truth stated here?
Consider these questions:
When did you last "cast out demons?"
When did you last without learning it, speak in an intelligent language foreign to your native tongue?
When did you last handle a venomous snake or drink poison and experience no ill effect?
When did you by "laying on of hands" provide a terminally ill person with instant healing and perfect health?
Before you answer these questions, suppose you were asked to stand before the Almighty God and were told that to falsify your answer could lead to divine retribution or death. Do you in all honesty believe that you could answer (any of) these questions in the affirmative? Peter in Acts 3:6-8 declared, silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him up by the hand and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
Is there a way of explaining why our present day experience does not match those of the believer in Peter's day? I believe the answer lies in the proper application of that great principle of right division. With all my heart I believe that in the Acts period and in the life of the apostles, all who believed through their ministry could cast out demons, drink deadly things, lay hands on the sick and enjoy the powers of God in a positive and manifest manner. I hold that no believer living in the present dispensation of grace has this authority from God. The great work of God progressively bringing into the earth the blessings of His kind and beneficent government were "temporarily set aside" at Acts 28:28 in order that God might positively display His active and passive grace. During the past 2,000+ years of human history God has done nothing but show love and favor to the undeserving. All display of miracles came to a complete and total halt at the close of the Acts dispensation. Grace has been flowing like a great river since that time. No human event or human government, has been able to diminish or retard that flow of grace. However, this administration of pure and absolute grace will not go on forever. In the Words of the psalmist David, this inspired promise: Our God shall come, and not keep silence...Psalms 50:3.
So when the apostle Paul instructs us to rightly divide the word of truth, did he mean for us to separate the Jew from the gentile, or the old testament from the new? Certainly not. Over the course of God's divine dispensations, from creation to the new heaven and earth, right division is necessary to grasp where we are and what next event is to occur.
Below you will see how to properly divide God's word of truth so as not to be ashamed one day. (2 Timothy 1:8; 2:15)
Click on the above chart for a closer look. Other charts available also.
The Day of God
Peter speaks of this great day in his second epistle, chapter 3, verses 12 and 13. In a more exact translation this would read, "Hoping for and hurrying the actual presence (parousia) of the day of God, because of which the heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved and the elements will be decomposed with fervent heat. Yet, we, according to His promises, are hoping for a new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." I do not claim at present a very clear understanding of these words, but I am sure we will all comprehend them perfectly after we have gone through the school of the kingdom of God and the thousand years of His personal presence.
Revelation 21:1 to 22:1 tells us about all that we can now know about the day of God. There we find that it is the day when the tabernacle of God will be with men. The word here for tabernacle is skene which signifies a center of activity, a headquarters. Never again will men say, "Our father, which art in heaven"; for the center of His activities will have been changed to the earth. This planet made new will become the mediatorial planet to the rest of the universe.
The day of God is the new heavens and new earth. It is a new world, a whole new order which is so far removed from anything we have ever known or experienced that we have no basis for comprehending it. God has made no attempt to tell us what it will be like. I am sure that no eye has ever seen, nor has any ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man this glorious condition of things that God has prepared for them that love Him. In view of this, I refuse to speculate about it. All I know for sure is that it will be.