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"Verily, verily" (2)

P Coulson, Forres

JOHN 1.43-51

The remarkable conversation that took place between the Lord Jesus and Nathanael provides a significant picture of Israel’s experience as a nation. We would often refer to such a picture as a dispensational view, for in one historical snapshot there is a glimpse of a far wider application to the nation of Israel in the unfolding purpose of God throughout the course of time. Very quickly, Nathanael’s attitude changes from, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" to, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel". The transition that took only minutes in Nathanael’s experience occupies the whole inter-advent period for the nation. At the first advent of their Messiah they said of Him, in the prophetic words of Isaiah, "…there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Is 53.2). But at His second advent, when He returns in power and great glory to establish His millennial Kingdom upon the earth, Israel will then acknowledge Him as their true Messiah, Redeemer, God, and King. "Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah" (Ps 24.10).

Under the fig tree

The position of Nathanael before Philip called him is instructive. He was under the fig tree, a place that summed up the peace and prosperity of the nation when Solomon was king. "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon" (1 Kings 4.25). Many of the features of Solomon’s kingdom portray the blessed character of the millennial Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, and something of Israel’s future peace, contentment, prosperity, and joy can be seen in those glorious days when the nation was united and blessed under Solomon’s rule. Whilst the verse we have quoted from 1 Kings 4 mentions both the vine and the fig tree together, we find them dealt with individually in John’s Gospel. Nathanael is associated with the fig tree in ch.1, but the vine is dealt with in ch.2 when the absence of wine threatened the joy of the marriage feast.

In whom is no guile

The character of Nathanael is mentioned: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile" (Jn 1.47). Thus spake the Lord as He "saw Nathanael coming to him". Philip, showing the character and work of the faithful remnant in a day to come, witnessed that Jesus of Nazareth was the One "of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write", and the initially scornful Nathanael, won by Philip’s enthusiastic, "Come and see", did just that - he came to the Messiah of Israel. What a wonderful day it will be for the nation when the combination of dreadful tribulation and the faithful witness of a believing remnant causes them to repent, turn about, and come in faith to the One they had once despised, put to an open shame, and crucified. Israelites indeed! Seeing the restored nation in Nathanael, the Lord Jesus said, "…in whom is no guile".

All the features of Jacob after the flesh will disappear when Israel is restored. The nation that has tried for so long to obtain the birthright by craftiness, deceit and their own power will, like their father Jacob, experience their own "Peniel" (Gen 32.30). Under the threat of impending doom they will be left alone with their God (Gen 32.24). The wrestling and resistance will be brought to an end and Israel, exhausted, will learn to cling to their God and to Him alone. Then, and only then, will the "worm Jacob" (Is 41.14), downtrodden and despised, be wonderfully transformed into "Israel indeed", a prince with God, "for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed" (Gen 32.28).

"Verily, verily"

Nathanael’s willingness to come and acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel brought forth the first recorded "Verily, verily" from the lips of Israel’s Redeemer. We are all familiar with the idea that "Verily, verily" means "Truly, truly" and calls attention to the definite character of that which is about to be uttered. Another way to think of this expression comes from the origin of the word "Verily" itself. The Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, borrowed from the Hebrew language the word "Amen", and it is that word which is translated "Verily" in our English language. It is the word with which each of the Gospel records concludes.


We use this word too, or at least we ought to! It is a significant word that means "So be it". It is an emphatic word that testifies to the truth of what has been spoken or written. It is the word which, used intelligently, signifies the agreement of the assembled company when a brother has led the saints in thanksgiving or ministry of the Word. How cold and sterile is the atmosphere in an assembly when, after a brother has acceptably represented the assembly before the Lord in priestly exercise, he sits down to a deafening silence! How distorted it is when the only one who utters the word "Amen" is the man who has spoken!

The word "Amen" is not the means whereby the speaker indicates his contribution has concluded, but is the word with which each believer he has represented signifies their agreement with, and endorsement of, the contribution made on their behalf. "Amen" - "I agree" - "That man has spoken for me", should be wisely and sensibly uttered by those who appreciate that the participation of a brother in an assembly gathering is not individual but collective. If the word "Amen" were properly used, the withholding of that audible endorsement from a man who has not represented the thoughts of the assembly in his contribution would give him good cause to think twice before he got on his feet again! Beloved saints of God, kindly attend to the exhortation, and let us restore to its proper use the small but very significant word, "Amen".

Endorsing Nathanael’s statement

It is the case, then, that when the Lord Jesus said, "Verily, verily", He was saying, quite literally, "Amen, amen". In many of the instances when the Saviour spoke these words it could be observed that, rather than introducing what He was about to say, the Lord was endorsing with a double "Amen" something that had just been said. If that be the case in John 1.51, it makes the statement in that verse a consequence of the confession of Nathanael, representative of restored Israel, in v.49. And will that not be the case? Only when the nation receives their Messiah for who He is can the millennial blessing be known. An established scriptural principle is seen here, too. When there is acceptance of, and obedience to, revealed truth, God will reveal more. By this means believers grow in grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus, for the Holy Spirit delights to reveal divine truth to the mind that submits to God’s Word.

The promise of millennial glory

Nathanael’s confession, in spite of his earlier prejudice, was rewarded with a wonderful promise from the coming King concerning the glory of the millennial Kingdom. In a clear reference to Jacob’s startling dream in Genesis 28, the Lord Jesus describes how that, in the Millennium, heaven will be open and its administration will be known on earth. In that day the angels will be the visible messengers connecting the heavenly Jerusalem with the glorious earthly Jerusalem, and they will be ascending and descending before the Son of man, the Lord Himself. The word translated "upon" in the phrase "upon the Son of man" is also translated "before" in numerous verses. For example: "ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them" (Mk 13.9); "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses" (1 Tim 5.19). The meaning of our word in these verses is clear, indicating "in the presence of". Hence, in the Millennium, the Lord Jesus – a glorified man – will be surrounded by saints and angels as He reigns in righteousness and peace. A man with ranks of angels obedient to His every command! They ministered to Him in His weariness and hunger in the wilderness (Mt 4.11) but in that day they will gladly serve the eternal Son of God who, having taken perfect humanity into heaven, will have returned to the earth to reign as the Son of man.

To be continued.


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