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In Matthew 24 there are the faithful who wait for the Lord. I know that Gentiles will believe the gospel of the kingdom, but does this chapter only refer in context to the Jewish remnant or are Gentiles included? Are the tribes of the land (JND) who mourn at His coming also only Jews?

There is no specific mention of Gentile believers in Matthew 24, except perhaps by implication in the reference to the preaching of the kingdom which some Gentiles and Jews will accept, and again in those who are left to enjoy the millennial kingdom in vv.44 & 45, when the Lord comes to the earth. For any clear reference to Gentile believers we must look further on in the Olivet prophecy. In Matthew 25.31-46 we have the Lord’s prophecy of the judgment of the living nations. There Gentile believers of the kingdom message are referred to as "the righteous" (v.37). The "brethren" mentioned in v.40 are the Jewish remnant. So it would be right to say that Gentile believers in that period will, like the Jewish remnant, also be waiting for the King to come.

It should be mentioned that four different groups of people will live through the tribulation period. Israel will still exist, but will be an apostate nation. The elect mentioned throughout the context of Matthew 24 (vv.22,24,31), I have no doubt, refers to the chosen seed of Israel. They will be the faithful remnant referred to in the question. These will be God’s servants spreading the message of the kingdom (v.14), they will be students of the Scriptures in those times of trouble (v.15), and they will also be sufferers from both the unbelieving portion of the Jews and the Gentiles who will hate them (v.9). One way to think of these four groups is not only will Israel be distinct from the Gentiles, but the Jewish remnant all over the world will be distinct from unbelieving Israel, and the believing Gentiles will be distinct from the unbelieving among the nations.

As to the "tribes of the land" (JND translation) in v.30, if this is correct then, yes, it would refer to the Jews in the land of Israel, but Revelation 1.7 refers to "all kindreds" of the earth wailing when the Lord descends to the earth. Thus the whole world, including Jews and Gentiles, will tremble and mourn and be affected by the Second Advent.

John J Stubbs

Why did Eve not think it strange that the serpent spoke to her (Gen 3.1)? Was this a serpent possessed by the devil or did the devil transform himself into a serpent?

As to the second of the two questions, it must be appreciated that demonic spirits have the ability, under certain conditions, to indwell or possess human bodies or animal bodies. Thus we read of "a certain man, which had devils (the word is "demons"; there is only one devil, but there are many demons) long time" (Lk 8.27). As the story of "the maniac of Gadara" unfolds, we read, "Then went the devils (demons) out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked" (Lk 8.33).

Satan, who himself is spoken of as "that old serpent" (Rev 12.9; 20.2) chose the body of the serpent as the creature most suitable in which to approach Eve with his evil solicitations. Genesis 3 opens with the words, "Now the serpent (Heb. nachash, meaning "shining, upright creature" – its colouration was bright and beautiful, its movements smooth and graceful) was more subtil (i.e. crafty, wise) than any beast (or living creature) which the Lord God had made" (v.1). So the devil did not transform himself into a serpent, but rather the serpent was possessed by the devil.

Now as to the first question, we know that on one occasion in the experience of the children of Israel, God was pleased, as it were, to open "the mouth of" Balaam’s ass (Num 22.28). Peter confirms the historical record when he writes, "the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet" (2 Pet 2.16). We have to accept the statement "And he said unto the woman…" (Gen 3.1); thus the serpent addressed Eve. This might suggest that, before the fall, there was some intelligent means of communication between man and the animal creation over which Adam had dominion. However, this is speculation. Yet, if this were the case, Eve would not have thought it strange. On the other hand, it may simply be that Eve, in her innocence, did not know that the creatures around her in the Garden of Eden were incapable of speaking, and so was not alarmed when the serpent spoke to her.

David E West

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