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A Viewpoint About the NEW Jerusalem

JESUS calls US to be
members of His church

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The Christian religion is the worship and service of Jesus Christ. It’s not Mary we worship, but her Son. We worship neither saints, angels, a law code, nor even God’s Spirit. It’s JESUS who is to be honored. The Bible is our guide.

Ralph & Arlene Woodrow,
P O Box 21, Palm Springs CA 92263-0021

The New Jerusalem -- Literal or Spiritual? Ralph suggests we could profitably take another look at Revelation 21's depiction of the New Jerusalem. A city laid out in a square with 1,500 miles on each side is a considerable city. Make it the same distance HIGH and we have a city too large to fit on our present earth by any stretch.

     But what if John's description really is spiritual rather than physical -- and what if the symbolism is of Christ's Church for all the ages? Ralph says, "One reason for believing this way is that an angel said to John, 'Come here and I will show you the BRIDE, the wife of the Lamb.' And then we begin reading about the city."

     Notice Ephesians 5:25-27, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up to death for her, in order to make her holy, cleansing her with the baptismal water by the word, that He might present the church to Himself a glorious BRIDE, without spot or wrinkle or any other defect -- holy and unblemished" (Weymouth Version).

     If we understand Revelation's city in a symbolic (spiritual) sense, then it can well describe a composite "bride of Christ" made up of people who know Jesus Christ as Lord.

     The church, the body of believers has been called a "temple" (Eph. 2:21), a "house" (Heb. 3:6), a "pillar" (1 Tim. 3:15), a group of "sheep" (Heb. 13:20), persons who are "salt" in the world (Matt. 5:13), "branches" off the vine which is Jesus (John 15:5), "bread" to hungry souls (1 Cor. 10:17), etc. We understand each of these allusions to be NOT literal. Can we add another -- the church is a CITY in which the redeemed live and serve God. A City where GOD Himself dwells in the midst, but not in a separated temple but rather in the people who are inhabiting the city.

     This study, here condensed and briefly outlined, is available by mail from Ralph Woodrow at the address above. He has many other helpful writings he'd like you to know of. I think this idea is surprisingly helpful, and want all my friends to know of it. -- Ray Downen. And he agrees, obviously, with Olan Hicks about God's hatred of divorce and recommendation of marriage for all men. He writes --

Does God Require Divorce? A man in Indiana became interested in the Bible through listening to a radio program. He sent off for free literature. What he read and heard seemed to make a lot of sense, so he requested a visit from church representatives. When they quizzed him about previous marriages, he explained that while he was still in his teens he had a brief marriage; that he had now been married to his present wife for twenty years; that they had three children.

The man was told that he was "living in adultery," and that in order to be a part of God's "one true church," he would have to divorce his present wife and go back to his first wife -- or live single.

To go back to his first wife was impossible, so he moved into an apartment across town where he spent a frustrated, miserable, lonely existence apart from his wife and family. Sadly, one day he was found dead in his closet -- he had hung himself!

Why DO some teach that God requires divorce? This idea is supposedly based on the words of Jesus, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery" (Matthew 19:9).

At the time Jesus said this, the Jews sometimes practiced a form of divorce which has been popularized by Rabbi Hillel and which was known as divorce "for every cause." This "divorce for every cause" had become a mere excuse for immorality. When the Pharisees sought to put Jesus on the spot, they asked if it was lawful for a man to put away his wife "for every cause." In his reply, Jesus called it just what it was -- adultery (Matthew 19:3-11).

Today, by taking the words of Jesus out of their proper setting, some have gone to the other extreme. They argue that there are never any Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage -- that God recognizes only "first" marriages; that all remarried people are living in adultery.

If the statement of Jesus was an inflexible rule intended to cover all kinds of divorce -- allowing no grounds, no forgiveness -- then it would be true that a remarried man whose first marriage had ended "except for adultery" would have to break up his present marriage in order to quit now living in adultery. He would have to go back o his first wife. If she had since remarried (which would likely be the case), she would also have to divorce her present husband in order to become remarried to her first husband. Clearly, instead of curing divorce, this would actually create more divorce in these cases!

I ask -- If a man has gone through a divorce and must live the rest of his life alone (in order to prevent continually committing adultery with a new wife to whom he could not properly be married), how would we explain God's pronouncement in Genesis 2:18, "It is NOT good that man should be alone."? The teaching forbidding marriage is simply opposed to scriptural truth.

No one was forbidden marriage in any Bible passage, Old Testament or New.

At Corinth, known in the ancient world as a very immoral city, many people were won to Jesus by Paul. This included married people, remarried people, single people, virgins, and widows (and, no doubt, widowers). Marriage was forbidden by Paul to none of them. He wrote, "Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (1 Corinthians 7:2). When Paul later wrote to Timothy on the same subject, he advised that forbidding to marry, which he said some WOULD do, was a "doctrine of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

At Corinth, some who had become Christians were now married to unbelievers -- they were saints married to sinners (note that it is not suggested that any Christian ever should marry an unbeliever expecting to LATER convert that spouse to the Lord). They wondered if sexual relations in such a marriage were unholy (for Paul had taught that the holy should NOT be mixed with the unholy), and pondered whether children born to such relations would be morally tainted.

Their question was not so much, "Does God permit divorce?" as it was, "Does God require divorce?" That is, they wondered, "Must the new Christian divorce his unbelieving spouse?" Paul taught --

"If any brother has a wife who believes not, and she is pleased to dwell with him, let him NOT put her away. And the woman who has a husband who believes not, and if he is pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him" (1 Corinthians 7:12,13). He further taught that children born from such unions were not unholy (verse 14). God did NOT require divorce.

Divorce was permitted but not required. In certain circumstances, Paul taught that divorce was allowed. If the unbelieving spouse was not pleased that his wife or her husband had become a Christian, and initiates divorce proceedings, then "let him (or her) depart -- a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases" (1 Corinthians 7:15). That is, the believer is no longer bound to the marriage which is sundered because the one has now become a Christian.

There are some who suppose that no matter how miserable their marriage is, no matter how many atrocities they face, yet God requires them to forever remain with their mate. A woman may face the threat of contracting AIDS from an infected spouse, not only personally but also for her yet-unborn children. Nevertheless there are legalists who insist she should become a marital martyr! That is, she must remain with her spouse regardless.

The ideal remains -- not divorce, but marriage for life IS the ideal. Divorce is a major surgery, which must be considered only when there is no better alternative. As with a physical affliction, a wise doctor will first try to treat the affliction with less drastic methods. But if this final-resort step must be taken, by God's grace be sure that there IS life after divorce.

Some who believe there are never any grounds for divorce quote a statement made by Paul that a woman "is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives," and if "she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress" (Romans 7:1-4). Thus, they feel, only death can sever the marriage bond. But what may be overlooked is that there were exceptions to Paul's general statement here quoted.

Under the Mosaic law, no woman was ever bound to her husband if he divorced her. In that case she could remarry and was not called or considered to be an adulteress even while her former husband was alive. She could "go and be another man's wife" -- a WIFE, not an adulteress (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). When Paul used this basic principle from the law to illustrate the point he was making, he simply did not cloud that point by branching out to listing exceptions.

The no-grounds believers try to explain away even the exception mentioned right within the text of the statement made by the Lord Jesus (except it be for fornication). They say that fornication is sexual intercourse between unmarried people. In support of this definition from modern English-language dictionaries, while ignoring Biblical usage, they then say that the fornication exception refers to unfaithfulness of a woman during a "Jewish engagement period." By custom in that day, a Jewish man could put away his wife-to-be during this probationary time, but once the marriage was consummated he could not divorce her. In fact, the man freely could divorce his wife at any time for any reason or for no reason. Because in our time there is no legal parallel to a "Jewish engagement period" some argue this leaves no grounds whatsoever for divorce.

We have heard people make statements such as, "God only recognizes first marriages -- a man who remarries is not a 'husband,' he is an adulterer." This can be quickly disproved biblically, for the woman at the well who had been married five times had had, Jesus said, "five HUSBANDS." He also said that the man she was then living with, but not married to, was NOT her husband (John 4:17,18). The distinction in terms is very clear and precise, and it was Jesus talking! Who will say He didn't have it right?

The idea that God only recognizes "first" marriages is inconsistent with itself. In my book, Divorce And Remarriage, I tell about Lucy who at the age of 18 married Marvin. Both were Christians, yet also both were young and immature. Their marriage lasted two years and then ended in divorce. Lucy later married a man named Neal who had not been married before.

About 15 years later Neal and Lucy were confronted with the teaching that God only recognizes "first" marriages. Because this was her second marriage, they were told they were not TRULY married "in the sight of God," and that they were living in adultery. In the resulting unrest and confusion, Lucy became interested in another man.

When she learned that her first husband had died, she left Neal for her new man, and made him husband number three!

If God only recognizes "first" marriages (as some say is the case), a woman might marry six times, and just as soon as husband number one died, she could marry the seventh time since no marriages after the first counted anyway. Does this seem sensible?

One might assume that the Old Testament with all of its laws and regulations might OFTEN forbid divorce. But instead, it was not until the last book of the Old Testament, that we find (in Malachi) the first mention of God opposing divorce. Malachi 2:16 says, "For the Lord, the God of Israel, says that he hates putting away."

Malachi explains what KIND of putting away this was -- men of Israel were putting away their Jewish wives in order to marry women who worshipped heathen gods!

Certainly THIS putting away God hated. But in different circumstances, putting away was God's pleasure (Ezra 10:11). Obviously these apparently-conflicting passages must each be understood within its own setting. Figuratively, even the Lord went through a divorce! (see Jeremiah 3:1,8). Churches that want nothing to do with divorced people should take special note of this passage and consider whether they want to have anything to do with the God who engaged in divorce.

This evangelist offers several of his books for sale. You may write to him for information, or call him at 760/323-9882. Ralph Woodrow.