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The Epistles of Paul - 2 Corinthians Part 10: Judging by Appearances
We have already summarized the theme of the earlier chapters of Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians, but we shall do so once more here. Over the first five chapters of this epistle, Paul had expounded at length upon the affliction and the encouragement which the children of Israel have in the Gospel of Reconciliation to Yahweh their God, and Yahweh's plan of mercy for Israel in that reconciliation. Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 6 Paul illustrated the responsibility which the children of Israel have as recipients of that Gospel and of that mercy, which requires those who are turning to Christ to separate themselves from all of the sinners and from all of the unclean of the other races, and then Yahweh their God shall receive them and dwell with them. Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 7 Paul had turned to express his gratitude that the Corinthians, being grieved, had chosen to repent from the problems which Paul had addressed in his first epistle to them, and the joy which Titus had transmitted to him on account of their repentance and their abiding in Christ. In the eighth and ninth chapters of this epistle, Paul had turned to discuss the collections he had been taking on behalf of the poor of the saints in Jerusalem. However this is also a part of the Christian obligation which Paul had begun to discuss in chapter 6 of this epistle.
Therefore we can determine that outside of a few short digressions, Paul's purpose so far in this epistle has been to present two great themes in a series of smaller discussions. While sometimes the themes are interwoven one with the other, the first theme dominates the context of the first part of the epistle, and likewise for the second theme. The first theme is the Gospel of Reconciliation and the mercy of God for the children of Israel. The second theme is the obligation of the children of Israel upon accepting that offer of reconciliation to God, which is through Yahshua Christ. The first theme dominated the first five chapters, and the second through verse 6 of this tenth chapter, where Paul had attested that the children of Israel would have a part in avenging all disobedience once their own obedience had been fulfilled.
That obedience being Paul's topic of discussion since the beginning of chapter 6 of the epistle, it includes coming out from among the sinners and the unclean, meaning those who are not Israelites, and being a separate people so that God may walk among them. That obedience also includes a summons to the Christian duty which is in brotherly love and a willingness to Christian communion as we have seen Paul explain at length in these most recent chapters.
By doing these two things: separating from the rest of the world and willfully participating in Christian communion with one's fellow Israelite brethren, the Christian fulfills his obligation to God and Christ. That has been the theme of this epistle since 2 Corinthians chapter 6. However earlier, in his discussion concerning communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul had also mentioned the result of the failure to do these things, where he had said in reference to Christian communion: “26 Indeed as often as you may eat this wheat-bread, and you may drink this cup, you declare the death of the Prince, until He should come. 27 Consequently, whoever would eat the wheat-bread or drink the cup of the Prince unworthily, will be liable of the body and blood of the Prince. 28 But a man must scrutinize himself, and thus from of the wheat-bread let him eat, and from of the cup let him drink. 29 For he that is eating and is drinking, eats and drinks condemnation for himself, not distinguishing the body. 30 For this reason there are among you many feeble and sickly, and plenty have fallen asleep. 31 If then we had made a distinction of ourselves, perhaps we would not be judged. 32 But being judged, by the Prince we are disciplined, in order that we would not be condemned with the Society.”
Now Paul will change the topic once again, this time to discuss those men among the Corinthians who had been boasting and inflating themselves against others during this time of troubles and divisions within the Christian assembly at Corinth. Because we do not have the correspondence sent to Paul from the Corinthians, we can only glean information from the parts of the story in Paul's responses in his epistles. Paul had first alluded to these men in 1 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5, where it is evident that they had their own agenda concerning the incident with the fornicator which Paul addresses there.
Then in the opening verses of 2 Corinthians chapter 3 Paul had asked whether he himself needed to be newly introduced to the Corinthians. Answering his own question and asserting that he did not, he then said “4 Now confidence such as this we have throughout the Anointed regarding Yahweh, 5 not because we are competent by ourselves to reckon anything as from of ourselves, but our competency is from Yahweh, 6 who also makes us competent servants of a new covenant; not of letter, but of Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.” After saying this he proceeded to discuss certain differences between the Old and New Covenants, and in chapters 4 and 5 he explained the totality of the mercy of Yahweh God for Israel. This was all in relation to the same problem with the fornicator, which Paul used as an example for explaining forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God in Christ. Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul said “12 We do not again introduce ourselves to you, rather giving to you an occasion of boasting on our behalf, in order that you should hold up against those boasting in appearance and not in heart.” So Paul alludes to these same men earlier in 2 Corinthians whom he had also alluded to in 1 Corinthians, and here in this next part of 2 Corinthians chapter 10 he shall discuss them at length.
With these things it also becomes evident that those men who had boasted and inflated themselves had also been actively attempting to discredit the ministry of Paul in the eyes of the Corinthians. This is evident where Paul had commended the Corinthians for defending him here in 2 Corinthians chapter 7, at verse 7 where he mentions Titus' report of the zeal which the Corinthians had on behalf of Paul. This same thing was also evident earlier, in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, where Paul answered “those who examine me”, as he called them, explaining certain aspects of his ministry in his own defense. These men are now the primary topic of discussion through to the end of this epistle. And as Paul also does quite often, he uses himself as an example in his discussion.
With this we will commence from where we had left off in our last part of this series of presentations, with verse 7 of 2 Corinthians chapter 10, but we will begin with only the first clause of that verse:
7 You must look at things according to appearance.
According to Liddell & Scott, the Greek word πρόσωπον (Strong's # 4383) generally means “the face, visage, countenance...one’s look...outward appearance, beauty”. Therefore here it is appearance. The King James Version marks the first clause of this verse as a question. However the editors of the Novum Testamentum Graece do not mark it as a question. There is no interrogatory particle, and while a verb of the Indicative mood may at times be used in interrogation without such a particle, the verb βλέπετε (Present Active 2nd person plural of βλέπω, 991) is either Indicative or Imperative. Here we must read it as an Imperative, and esteem that reading to be consistent in context with the statements that follow this clause.
We certainly should not believe in Bible translation by consensus, however sometimes it is interesting to see how other versions have interpreted a certain clause, especially long after we have completed our own translation. For this there is a website called Bible Hub, but of course the Christogenea New Testament isn't found there. Looking at that resource for 2 Corinthians 10:7, only 10 of the 21 listed translations have this clause as a question. But of the remaining eleven, some paraphrase the clause in very non-literal translation, and others change the grammatical form of the verb from a 2nd person Indicative or Imperative into a Participle, or have other slight variations which change the sense of the passage. As an example, one of these, the New English Translation, has the clause to read “You are looking at outward appearances.” In that case the second person verb is changed to a participle.
The usual interpretations of this clause insist that Paul does not want the Corinthians to judge by outward appearances. However in the context which Paul himself reveals here, he does indeed want the Corinthians to judge by appearances. The evidence of this is found later in this same discussion, in chapter 11 at verse 22 where Paul asks “Are they Hebrews? I am also. Are they Israelites? I am also. Are they offspring of Abraham? I am also.” Therefore we read the verb in this clause here in verse 7 as an Imperative, which it is, where Paul is instructing the Corinthians that “You must look at things according to appearance.”
Here in relation to this we must make another digression. Many Judaized Christians who read this verse as it is in the King James Version would cross-reference it to verses such as Romans 10:12, where Paul states “For there is no distinction of Judaean and Greek”, and then they wrongly imagine that Paul is claiming that there are no racial barriers. That is a very wrong interpretation, because not only Romans chapter 4, but also 1 Corinthians chapter 10 prove that both the Greeks (or Romans) whom Paul addresses and the Judaeans who are of Israel are of the same race. For instance, in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 Paul told his Greek readers “1 Now I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all had passed through the sea. 2 And all up to Moses had immersed themselves in the cloud and in the sea”. Therefore it is clear that Paul must have been speaking to and about Israelites. Then later in that same chapter Paul had said “18 Behold Israel down through the flesh: are not those who are eating the sacrifices partners of the altar?” and then explains “20 Rather, that whatever the Nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to Yahweh. Now I do not wish for you to be partners with demons.” These passages demonstrate that Paul's “gentiles” were indeed scattered Israelites, real Israelites “according to the flesh”, and ancient history also shows Paul to have been correct.
Therefore, if the Greeks whom Paul addresses were of the Israelites of the ancient dispersions, who had gone off into paganism as the Old Testament says that they did, then they are of the same race as the Judaean Israelites. And if the Greeks whom Paul addresses are of the same race as the Judaean Israelites, then where Paul says “there is no distinction of Judaean and Greek” he is speaking a plain fact. Greek and Judaean Israelites both being of the same race, the only distinctions between them are the artificial constructs of man, which Paul is attesting should be dissolved in Christ. The statement has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with religious status and custom. The context is set in Romans chapter 9, where Paul quotes from Hosea those passages which have to do with the Israelites of the ancient dispersions. In the later part of that chapter Paul is contrasting the Israelites of the dispersions, called “the nations”, to the Israelites of the remnant in Judaea who had retained the name. Paul had opened Romans chapter 9 with a prayer for his “kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites” and proceeded to compare Jacob and Esau because many of the Judaeans were actually Edomites, whom he then referred to as “vessels of destruction”. So while there was no difference between true Judaeans and Greeks, there certainly was a difference between true Judaeans and Edomite Judaeans, as Christ had also made mention in the Revelation of “those saying for themselves to be Judaeans and they are not”.
Indeed, Christians “must look at things according to appearance” as Paul had said in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 that “31 If then we had made a distinction of ourselves, perhaps we would not be judged.”
Here is the balance of verse 7:
If one is confident [B has “if anyone supposes to be confident”] in himself to be [D has “to be a servant”] of the Anointed, he must again reckon this by himself: that just as he is of the Anointed, even so are we.
Here Paul insists that the Corinthians can judge whether he and Timothy are “of the Anointed”, or “of Christ” as the King James Version has it, based upon appearances. This interpretation is augmented later in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 where Paul, comparing himself with his adversaries, asks “22 Are they Hebrews? I am also. Are they Israelites? I am also. Are they offspring of Abraham? I am also.” However here Paul is intending for them to judge based upon the appearance of his ministry, or its fruits, as well as the appearance of his person. Likewise, in that passage in chapter 11, in the very next verse Paul asks “23 Are they servants of Christ?” and then he answers by asserting “… I am even more.”
In our use of the term Anointed in these passages, rather than Christ, we illustrate that Paul is speaking of the Body of Christ, which is the Israel of God as a collective. We see in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, as well as in Romans chapters 4 and 9 and in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 that one must be of the seed of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob to be of the faith of Abraham, and that Paul's ministry to the “gentiles” was indeed a ministry to “Israel according to the flesh”. Christians therefore have an obligation to judge these things according to appearance, and to make a distinction of themselves.
8 Then if perhaps I would boast somewhat more excessively concerning our authority, which the Prince has given [the MT has “given to us”; the text follows P 46, א, B, C, D, and H 015] for building and not for your destruction, I shall not be disgraced.
As Paul illustrated of himself as well as of Apollos and Peter, in 1 Corinthians chapter 3: “9 For we are fellow workmen of Yahweh, Yahweh's husbandry; you are Yahweh's building.” Paul boasts not of himself, but of his authority to help build the House of Yahweh in the Body of Christ from among the nations of scattered Israel, as his original commission recorded in the words of Christ in Acts chapter 9 indicates, where Christ says to Hananias, speaking of Paul: “For he is a vessel chosen by Me who is to bear My Name before both the Nations and kings of the sons of Israel.” Then, as Luke records it, Christ also said to Hananias “For I [meaning Christ] shall indicate to him how much it is necessary for him to suffer on behalf of My Name.” Later here, in chapter 11, Paul himself recounts some of those same trials which he had faced in the execution of his commission. Paul is writing this just over twenty years after he had received that commission. Having spent over 18 months among the Corinthians, and several years having elapsed since that time, his readers must have been familiar with at least many of those trials which Paul had endured. Keeping all of these things under consideration, we may see these chapters with a clear perspective.
Judging by appearances, one accepts those who are Israelites and who are edifying the Body of Christ for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. One rejects those who do otherwise.
9 At which I would not think as if to frighten you through letters, 10 because the letters, says one, are burdensome and severe, but the presence of the body weak, and the speech nothing.
The Codex Vaticanus (B) and the Majority Text have φασίν (from φημί, Strong's # 5346), which is the 3rd person plural “they say”; whereas the text of the Novum Testamentum Graece following the other ancient Great Uncial manuscripts has φησίν, which is the 3rd person singular, for which we have “says one”; the 3rd century papyrus P46 wants the word entirely.
Evidently, Paul was a humble and mild man in person. Although Luke described Paul as a young man in Acts chapter 7, he must have been at least 30 years of age since he took a leadership position among the Judaeans at that time. So when he was writing this epistle Paul must have been at least 50 years of age, and may have been a few years older than that. A few short years later, writing the epistle to Philemon from captivity in Rome, Paul described himself as an elder. Here it is further evident that at least one of Paul's detractors in Corinth was taking advantage of Paul's humble stature in the attempt to discredit him, purporting that since Paul was weak in appearance, then the strong words in his epistles had no weight. As for the details of Paul's stature, there are no legitimate extant physical descriptions of the apostle.
11 Such a one must reckon this: that as we are in pretense through letters being absent, even so in reality being present.
The phrases τῶ λόγῳ and τῶ ἔργῳ here are “in pretense” and “in reality”, but are literally “in word” and “in deed”. Liddell & Scott explain the metaphor in their definition of λόγος (λόγος, A. I.) Paul may have been represented as saying “as we are in word through letters being absent, even so in deed being present.”
While Paul may have been of a humble stature in person, here he refutes the notion that he was a weak man in person. Speaking of his impending visit, which was then delayed, Paul had said in his first epistle to the Corinthians “What do you wish? Should I come to you with a rod, or in love and gentleness in Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 4:21) His detractors evidently took his words lightly.
12 For we do not venture to rank or compare ourselves with any of those recommending themselves; rather these, measuring themselves with themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, do not understand. 13 Now we will not boast in regard to things without measure, but according to the measure of the standard of which Yahweh has of measure distributed to us, to reach even as far as you.
The Codex Claromontanus (D) wants the words for “do not understand” in verse 12, and “now” and “we will...boast” in verse 13, reading this passage in part: “12 ...comparing themselves with themselves 13 not in regard to things without measure, but according to the measure of the standard of which Yahweh has of measure distributed to us...” The reading is absolutely contrary to what Paul had intended since it removes the point of comparison.
Rather, Paul insists that his enemies are recommending themselves, measuring themselves with their own standards, and therefore they are self-promoters rather than true apostles of Christ. On the other hand, Paul attests that the success of his ministry and its accordance with the Word of God is sufficient proof that the ministry is legitimate. Judging by appearances, we must judge according to the Word of God and the standards of Scripture.
From Matthew chapter 7, the words of Christ: “12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. 13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? [By this we know that false prophets attempt to gather grapes from thorns and figs from thistles. Anyone who attempts to gather anything but sheep to the fold is actually a scatterer.] 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. [This is related to gathering grapes from thorns. The thorns cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Not even thorns that believe can be saved.] 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
In the standard of Scripture, Yahweh tells us who He knows in Amos chapter 3: “1 Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, 2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Judging by appearances, Scripture must be the rule for such judgment.
14 For not as if reaching to you do we overextend ourselves, indeed as far as you we also came before with the good message of the Anointed;
The Codex Vaticanus wants the word for “not”, for which we may read “For as if reaching to you do we overextend ourselves? Indeed as far as you we also came before with the good message of the Anointed”. Here Paul is making an analogy, and even a play on words, with his use of the term for measure, insisting that even with the size of his ministry and the distance which it covered he has still not overextended his reach and therefore he remains within the measure which God had granted to him.
15 not in regard to things without measure boasting in others’ troubles; but having hope, increasing your faith, with you to be magnified in accordance with our standard for abundance;
Ostensibly, the phrase “boasting in others' troubles” describes those among the assembly at Corinth who, as Paul described in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, had inflated themselves with the troubles and divisions within the assembly caused by what should be done in regards to the fornicator. Paul alluded to these people once again here in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 where he mentioned “those boasting in appearance and not in heart”. Paul's standard for abundance is from the Word of God in Scripture, and he asserts such abundance is that “which Yahweh has of measure distributed to us”. In the verse which follows we see that the abundance is in relation to the riches of the Gospel:
16 to announce the good message to those beyond you, not ready to boast by another’s standard for things, 17 but “he who is boasting, in Yahweh he must boast.”
Paul asserts once again that his opponents are measuring themselves not in accordance with the Word of God, but by their own standards instead. Boasting in Yahweh, evidently one may do so if one is following Yahweh's standards for things, which are detailed in His Word and His law.
The Scripture which Paul cites, where he says “he who is boasting, in Yahweh he must boast”, seems to appear first in the prayer of Anna, the mother of the prophet Samuel, but only in the version which is found in the Septuagint, in 1 Samuel 2:10, which says in part “10 The Lord will weaken his adversary; the Lord is holy. Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast in his strength, and let not the rich man boast in his wealth; but let him that boasts boast in this, to understand and know the Lord, and to execute judgment and justice in the midst of the earth. The Lord has gone up to the heavens, and has thundered: he will judge the extremities of the earth, and he gives strength to our kings, and will exalt the horn of his Anointed [for which Brenton has Christ].”
However Paul may have instead been invoking Jeremiah 9:24, which certainly seems to be the case where he also cited this scripture in 1 Corinthians at the end of chapter 1. From Jeremiah chapter 9: “23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” The passage is quite similar to the one in the prayer of Anna.
18 For it is not he who is recommending himself, who is the person approved, but he whom the Prince recommends.
Here Paul is not referring to his commission from Christ, but he is rather asserting that the proof of his ministry is in its fruits and in his ability to conduct it. Paul had treated this same issue in chapter 9 of his first epistle to the Corinthians where he had written: “1 Am I not free? Am I not an ambassador? Have I not seen Yahshua our Prince? Are you not my work in the Prince? 2 If to others I am not an ambassador, yet at any rate to you I am; indeed the assurance of my message is you in the Prince. ”
With this, we shall commence with chapter 11 of this second epistle to the Corinthians:
1 I would be obliged were you to bear with me in a little folly. Rather, indeed bear with me.
It becomes evident later in this chapter, and especially from verse 16, that Paul considers it foolishness to have to compare himself and the course of his own ministry to these others, who are his detractors, in the analogies which he is about to make. We see this is what is indicated later in verse 16 of this chapter where he says: “16 I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.” However he still finds it necessary to make these analogies and to discuss some of the events of his ministry.
Note also, that Paul considers mere mentions of the trials of his ministry and the many things which he had overcome as boasting, and therefore as folly, which reflects a very humble attitude. Judging by appearances, Paul is conscientious that he may appear to be bragging, and therefore qualifies his descriptions with these assertions that he is not bragging, and that it is indeed folly to do so.
2 For I admire you with the zeal of Yahweh; for I have joined you to one Husband, to present a chaste virgin to Christ.
The phrases “I admire” and “with zeal” [or “with the zeal”, I had very reluctantly added only a few articles to my translations] are from two different forms of the same word, the verb ζηλόω (Strong's # 2206) and the noun ζῆλος (Strong's # 2205). The King James Version has jealous and jealousy, which are also acceptable in this context.
In Hosea chapter 1 and from the corresponding historical records, we see that as the prophet was writing the children of Israel were being put off from the face of Yahweh their God. However they were put off with promises of future reconciliation which were also recorded by the prophet: “9 Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. 10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. 11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel [which means 'God sows'].” Both Paul in Romans chapter 9 (9:26) and Peter in 1 Peter chapter 2 had quoted from this same passage of Hosea in relation to the nations to whom Paul had brought the Gospel. Those nations, as Paul ascertains in Romans chapter 4, in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 and in Galatians chapters 3 and 4, were indeed descended from those ancient dispersions of the children of Israel.
That those Israelites of those same ancient dispersions would eventually be presented as a bride to Christ is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea concerning Israel which is found in Hosea chapter 2. There in that chapter the Word of Yahweh first describes Israel's sin and punishment, and then Yahweh says “14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.” And after describing the rehabilitation of Israel the Word of Yahweh then says: “19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; 22 And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. 23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” Jezreel means 'God sows', and the Christian Identity message allows us to understand what 'God sows'. Therefore this message must be the beginning of the fulfillment of the words “they shall hear Jezreel”.
This same promise of the reconciliation of Israel to Yahweh as a bride to a bridegroom is also portrayed in this manner in the prophet Isaiah. In the opening verses of Isaiah chapter 61 we read a message which Christ Himself had quoted in reference to His Own ministry in Luke chapter 4: “1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Likewise the Marriage Supper of the Lamb described in Revelation chapter 19 also depicts the day of vengeance of Yahweh over His enemies. The references to the meek, the broken-hearted, the captives and them that are bound in prison are all references to the children of Israel of the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.
Following this, Isaiah chapter 61 says further on: “6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Nations [which are the other Genesis 10 nations of Isaiah's time, and history shows the fulfillment], and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. 7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. 8 For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 And their seed shall be known among the Nations, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed. [Pertaining to the cast-off children of Israel, who are Jezreel, or what 'God sows'.] 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” So an Israel fulfilling the Word of Yahweh is described as a bride adorned for her groom.
The theme is continued in Isaiah chapter 62: “1 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. 2 And the Nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. [Yahweh's people would no longer be called by their old names, which also establishes that those who after Christ still continue to use those old names are not Yahweh's people, and they never were.] 3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.... 11 Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 12 And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.”
The children of Israel married to God in Christ is a matter of Biblical prophecy, that same allegory is repeated in the Revelation and in the parables of Christ, and Paul is teaching this to Israelites of the ancient dispersions, as he had also attested in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 of these very Corinthians. Therefore John the Baptist said of Christ, as it is recorded in John chapter 3: “ 28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” Then later, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 9, Christ had said of Himself and His disciples: “15 ... Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”
Paul of Tarsus certainly understood that his bringing the Gospel of Christ to the Lost Sheep of the ancient dispersions of Israel was a step in preparing the bride for reconciliation to her groom, and the turning of the children of Israel back to Yahweh their God.
Paul goes on to make another allegory, this time from Genesis chapter 3:
3 But I fear lest in any way [D wants the words for “in any way”], as the serpent had thoroughly beguiled Eve in his villainy, [the MT interpolates a word which appears here as “so” in the King James Version; the text follows P46, א, B, D, and H] your thoughts would be corrupted from that sincerity and that purity [H 015 and the MT want “and that purity”; the text follows P46, א, and B] which is with the Anointed.
The phrase thoroughly beguiled is from the Greek word ἐξαπατάω (Strong's # 1818). Liddell & Scott define the verb as to deceive or thoroughly beguile. It is a strengthened form of the verb ἀπατάω (Strong's # 538) Likewise the corresponding noun ἐξαπάτη is “gross deceit”. Both words were extant in Greek from the time of the earliest poets, Homer and Hesiod. The word may have been rendered as completely seduced, or something along similar lines. Liddell & Scott define ἀπατάω itself as “to cheat, trick, outwit, beguile” or in the Passive, “to be deceived”, where any of the other meanings may also have been included. Being tricked, beguiled or deceived must, however, come at some expense. Where in Genesis 3:13 Eve is depicted as having said “the serpent deceived me, and I did eat”, the word for deceived in the Septuagint is a form of the verb ἀπατάω. Paul used both of these words, ἀπατάω and ἐξαπατάω, when writing of this same event once again in 1 Timothy chapter 2 where he said “14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman had been thoroughly beguiled when the transgression occurred.” [At least Eve had an excuse, and the greater fault lies with Adam.]
Quoting the Internet version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an analogy is “a comparison of two things based on their being alike in some way”. Here the common ground for the deception of Eve and Paul's warning the Corinthians of deception is the sincerity and purity which is expected of a chaste virgin. Here we will quote from 4 Maccabees, from the text found in Brenton's Septuagint. This is a work which was popular among early Christians, and we shall cite it in order to exhibit what Paul was referring to here in verses 2 and 3 of this chapter, where we see a mother lamenting the loss of her husband: “18:7 And the righteous mother of the seven children spake also as follows to her offspring: I was a pure virgin, and went not beyond my father's house; but I took care of the built-up rib. 8 No destroyer of the desert, or ravisher of the plain, injured me; nor did the destructive, deceitful snake, make spoil of my chaste virginity; and I remained with my husband during the period of my prime.” An analogy is only effective if one of the things which are being compared is familiar to the reader. This passage from 4 Maccabees depicts exactly how the episode between Eve and the serpent was understood by early Christians.
The bride of Adam was deceived out of her virginity by the serpent of Genesis, and Paul warned that the assembly of Corinth may be deceived out of their own analogous spiritual chastity by satanic messengers of like kind with that same serpent. [The entire epistle of Jude is devoted to revealing the nature of this same corruption to which Paul is referring.] For Paul says further on in this very chapter that “13 Such as these are false ambassadors, treacherous workers, transforming themselves into ambassadors of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for the Adversary himself transforms himself into a messenger of light. 15 Therefore it is no big thing if even his ministers transform themselves as ministers of justice; of whom the end shall be in accordance with their deeds.” These are indeed Jude's “angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation ... reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6) To help avoid such deception, the Body of Christ must judge according to appearances, not gathering thorns in place of grapes or goats to the sheepfold, and making a distinction of themselves as Paul exhorts in 1 Corinthians 11:31.