The Eighteen Principles of Divine Revelation

Principle No. 12 The Three-fold Principle Part 2

By Clifton L. Fowler

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1924



GOD'S triple dealing with man finds beautiful and convincing manifestation in the inspired records concerning Israel. This astonishing three-fold key sheds dazzling light upon the entire sweep of God's methods with His chosen people. It reveals God's plan to be all of grace. It thus becomes a principle which is inescapably basic. All of God's wondrous revelation rests upon it. Hence, all of God's dealing with Israel will necessarily exhibit the fact that God's plan is a victorious three-fold plan which begins with the foundation of justification, invites to a manifestation of transformation, and leads with thrilling certainty to a consummation of glorification.

The Three-fold Principle is seen to be actually active in history itself, for the narration of Israel's history in the Bible falls into three broad and easily recognized divisions. God is the author, maker and director of the history of His people. Though Satan may get in his destructive work with alarming persistence and may be even called by Jesus the "prince of this world," yet his power even at its highest is only temporary and is enjoyed only by the permission of God. Satan can never exceed the Divine allowance. God is working out His purposes, and those purposes shall eventually prevail, the Devil notwithstanding.

The three divisions into which the Biblical history (past and future) of Israel falls are, —

1. The Period of Divine Promise concerning the Nation.

2. The Period of National Wandering and Development.

(GAP. This is the long period in which we live. It is called by Paul, "the church," "the body," "the mystery." This period is not a Jewish period. It is allowed for but never revealed in the Jewish books of the Bible.)

3. The Period of National Exaltation.

The first period extends from the call of Abraham to the giving of the law and is twice referred to by the Holy Spirit, once in the Old Testament and once in the New:

"Now the sojourning; of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years" (Ex. 12:40).

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect" (Gal. 3:16, 17).

Observe that the period from Abraham to the I aw is definitely referred to by Paul as the period of "promise," but the passage just as plainly teaches that the promise is unfinished, for the coming of the "law," did not "disannul" the promise. Hence, we cannot refer to the "promise" period as a dispensation because a dispensation is a period in which God takes up some human theory of government and tests it out to a finish. When the Law was given, the period of "promise" was still unfinished. God resumes and finishes the promise period at a subsequent time.

So we see that the first outstanding period in Israel's history extends from Abraham's call to the giving of the Law and is spoken of by the Holy Spirit as "promise."

The second period of Israel's history extends from the Law to the captivity and is one long story of wanderings and restorations, driftings from and returns to God. Elders, judges and kings succeed one another in attempting to govern this stii5-necked people, but all to no avail. They heed not warning, they spurn counsel, they depart from the living God, so the captivity and dispersion come upon them, and they are to this day suffering from the effects of that judgment. Frequently during this period there arises a king who leads them back to God and into a blessed revival of spiritual life, but upon his death they revert to their idols, their whoredoms, and their abominations. God's thought for Israel during this period was that she should grow more and more like unto her maker and her redeemer. But the nation was perverse and rebellious. God did not then, nor does He now, force any to be holy. The second great period of Israel's history comes to a complete and final close with the fall of the city of Jerusalem under Titus in 70 A. D.

The third period of Israel's history is future. It is the period of Millennial and Kingdom blessedness spoken of so often by the prophets. It is the long-anticipated hour when the nation now scattered and peeled, shall be exalted and glorified. Israel shall be no longer the tail, but the head of the nations.

These three clearly defined divisions of Israelitish history constitute a most delightful example of the Threefold Principle. In the first period we see God laying His foundation of promise. It is all of grace, and His promises are all grace promises. In this period God reveals justification by faith (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:2, 3) to His friend Abraham. In the second period God calls on His nation for a transformed life, and in the third period He will glorify that nation even though they have grieved and disappointed Him. He will glorify them because He will not and cannot break His Word. Thus the history of Israel is a revelation of the activity of the Three-fold Principle in the Bible, — justification, transformation, and glorification.

The three outstanding doctrines of the Old Testament exhibit this principle again. Any intelligent student of the Bible could name the three outstanding doctrines of the Old Testament almost without meditation. They are, —

1. Animal offerings: Gen. 3:2 1; Gen. 4 14; Gen. 8:20; Ex. 29:10-28; Lev. 1:1-17; Lev. 3:1-17; Lev. 4:1-35; Lev. 5:1-19; Lev. 9:1-24; Lev. 14:12-22; Lev. 16:5-34; Num. 7:15-17; Num. 7:21-23; Num. 7:27-29, etc.; Num. 29:2-6, etc.; Josh. 8:31; Judges 6:25-26; I Kings 8:62-64; I Kings 18:31-38; II Chron. 31:3.

2. Works: Ex. 19:5-6; Ex. 35:1-3; Lev. 19:2; Deut. 4:23-26; Deut. 5:31-33; Josh. 1:8; I Kings 9:4; I Kings 18:21; II Kings 22:13; II Chron. 7:17-22; Neh. 13:1-31; Psa. 1:1-6; Psa. 37:3; Psa. 78:1-8; Psa. 101:1-8; Psa. 119:1-8; Jer. 3:12-17; Dan. 12:3; Zech. 1:3-6; Mal. 3:8-10.

3. Kingdom: II Sam. 7:12-16; Psa. 2:1-6; Psa. 22:26-31; Psa. 24:1-10; Psa. 47:1-9; Isa. 2:1-4; Isa. 4:2-6; Isa. 9:6-7; Isa. 11:1-9; Isa. 35:1-10; Jer. 23:5-6; Ezek. 35:11-13; Ezek. 37:21-28; Joel 2:31-32; Micah 4:1-8; Hab. 2:14; Zeph. 3:14-20; Zech. 9:10; Zech. 14:16; Mai. 4:2.

Practically every doctrinal passage and statement in the Old Testament would group itself under one of these three headings. And how clearly these doctrines do show forth this principle. The animal offerings, every one, point in type to Him Who became our justification; the Old Testament doctrine of works speaks of the yearning in the heart of God that His people shall manifest transformation in their daily walk; while the doctrine of the Kingdom predicts the day of Israel's glorification.

The Tabernacle itself is an illustration of this principle. Moses received the revelation for the Tabernacle when he was with God in the Mount (Heb. 8:5), hence it may be confidently expected that the principles of Divine Revelation will be found in the forms and furniture, service and ceremonies, characters and structure of the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle as described by the Holy Spirit in the book of Exodus is in three divisions.* They are, —

1. The Outer Court.

2. The First Sanctuary, — The Holy Place.

3. The Second Sanctuary, — The Most Holy Place. In the outer court stood the Brazen Altar and the Brazen Laver. Brass in Scripture stands connected with God demanding judgment for sin. These two pieces of furniture speak of a judgment for sin which will provide a perfect substitute, a victim, to die in our stead and perfect cleansing. In a word, — justification.

In the First Sanctuary, the Holy Place, stood three pieces of furniture. They were the seven-fold Golden Candlestick, speaking of Jesus, the Light of the World; the Table of Shewbread, speaking of Jesus, the Bread of Life; and the Golden Altar of Incense, speaking of Jesus, the One Who ever liveth to make intercession. All three of these pieces of furniture indicate what the Lord Jesus may be to the believer in his daily walk. When He, the Saviour, is apprehended by faith as the true LIGHT, the living BREAD, and the unfailing INTERCESSOR Who lives to shed forth His Divine strength upon His own, then will God's child begin to manifest in miraculous fashion that which God yearns to see in His people, — transformation.

In the Second Sanctuary or Holy of Holies, stood the Ark of the Covenant overlaid with God and surmounted by the golden figures of the cherubim. In this Second Sanctuary there abode in the heyday of Israel's history the shekinal presence of God. This ark and this wondrous presence spoke of Jesus as both King and Deity, and Moffat. I pointed to the rapturous hour I when the Kingdom should be I established upon the earth, — the hour of glorification.

Thus we see the Three-fold Principle in the ancient Jewish tabernacle. The Outer Court was a type-prophecy of justification; the Holy Place revealed in picture the glorious possibility of living, m His strength, a transformed life; and the Holy of Holies shadowed forth the blessed coming era of glorification. Surely, that Christian who fails to see these clear activities of the Three-fold Principle of Divine Revelation, must be most unresponsive to spiritual truth.

Furthermore, we find but three characters or character groups who actively perform in the services and ceremonies of the Tabernacle. They are, —

1. The Bleeding Victim on the Altar.

2. The Priests who Minister.

3. The High Priest, who presides over all, arrayed in garments of royal beauty and splendor.

And in these three characters or character groups we and a simple and beautiful setting forth of the three-fold outline of God's grace plan. The bleeding victim speaks of Him who is our Justification. The earnest and eager priests ministering in the Tabernacle speak of Him Who is our Priest, pleading with God for our transformation, and the High Priest, arrayed in kingly garments, speaks of Him for whose glorious return to reign we yearningly wait.

Where is the skeptic? Where is the doubter, and the caviller? In the face of such demonstration of infinite perfection in God's Word, how dare any man raise question? The Three-fold Principle of God's Word is the key to the grace message of the Book.

Having seen this principle illustrated in God's dealing with His Chosen People, Israel, we turn to


Every Bible student knows that God names three offices which are assigned to Jesus Christ. These three offices are, —

1. Prophet,

2. Priest,

3. King.

As Prophet, we see Him as the very mouth-piece of God, proclaiming God's message. As Prophet, He also is the Servant of the Lord, spoken of by Isaiah, upon whom God hath laid the iniquity of us all. Hence as Prophet He is our Justification.

As Priest, He ever liveth to make intercession for us. He has entered into His priesthood and even now is shedding forth His own strength and power that His children may be made like Him. As priest. He may become Transformation, if we are willing ones.

As King, He is coming again. And when He does so come He shall be revealed to angels, demons, and men as our Glorification. "When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in Glory" (Col. 3:4).

There is a passage in the book of Hebrews in which this principle is clearly illustrated. In this passage the Holy Spirit sets forth the work of our Lord from the standpoint of the Three-fold law:

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, NOW TO APPEAR in the presence of God for us: nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: hut now once in the end of the world HATH HE APPEARED to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him SHALL HE APPEAR the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb. 9:2-28).

In verse 26 it is declared that "He hath appeared" to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Here is the very foundation of God's message to man. Here is Justification.

In verse 24 the Saviour is shown as the Priest Who has entered the Holy Place not made with hands. It is declared that He doth "now appear" in the presence of God for us. Through the efficacy of His present advocacy we are given the opportunity of transformation.

In verse 28 a glorious promise is given. He shall come back. "He shall appear" a second time (that is, a second time on earth). Toward that second appearing we look with hungering soul for that is when glorification shall be ours. "For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:20, 21, R. V.).

The three appearings of Jesus reveal that the threefold Principle is both existent and operative. He "hath appeared" for our justification, He doth "now appear" for our transformation. He shall yet appear for our glorification. This is in wondrous agreement with the three offices which He bears. When He appeared to be our Justification He was fulfilling His Prophetic Office. In appearing before God now for our Transformation He is fulfilling His Priestly Office, and when He appears in the future for our Glorification, He will be fulfilling His Kingly Ministry.

Upon viewing the events of the Saviour's life we find that there stand associated with Him, three mounts. They are, —

1. Mount Calvary (crucifixion).

2. Mount of Olives (ascension).

3. Mount Hermon (transfiguration).

These three mounts are another illustration of the Three-fold Principle. On Mount Calvary we see Him dying for our salvation; on the Mount of Olives we see Him ascending to His Priestly work that He might bring about our transformation; and on Mount Hermon we see a miniature photograph of His coming Kingdom, the wondrous coming age of glorification.

What satisfying agreement and unity! The Three-fold Principle is indeed both resident and active in God's Inspired Book.


I HE Apostle Paul lovingly commends the Thessalonian believers and in so doing reveals that the Three-fold Principle bears upon the individual Christian life. His words were, —

"For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how

(1) ye turned to God from idols

(2) to serve the living and true God;

(3) and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (I Thes. 1:9, 10).

When they turned from idols to God, that was justification; when they sought to serve the living and true God in their daily walk, that was indeed a happy transformation; and when they took the attitude of waiting for the Second Coming, their eager eyes were lifted from the sordid things of earth to that glad future hour of glorification.

The familiar passage in the thirteenth of First Corinthians is another example of the activity of this principle. At the climax of the "Love Chapter," Paul says:

"And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (I Cor. 13:13),

Once more we see the whole range of God's grace presented to the mind under the Three-fold Principle. Faith sees Him on Calvary bearing our guilt in His own body; Love sees Him interceding on our behalf at the throne on high; and Hope sees Him coming to receive His waiting Church unto Himself.

This beautiful principle of Divine Revelation is indeed a key to Biblical truth. Thank God that He hath indeed brought us by faith to justification. May our hearts be willing to be humbled from day to day that we may learn the needed lessons leading to our transformation. And may we be quietly comforted through every trial of life by the joyous certainty of final and rapturous glorification.

Copyright 1924 Clifton L. Fowler.