“[Ancient Israel] Was Merely a Type, a Shadow of the Spiritual Realities of a Better Day” (Louis Berkhof, 1951)


Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) “was a Reformed systematic theologian whose written works have been influential in seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States and Canada and with individual Christians in general throughout the 20th century” (CCEL). Berkhof taught at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1906 – 1944, and served as its president during his last 14 years there. Wayne Grudem called his Systematic Theology, published in 1932, “a great treasure-house of information and analysis…probably the most useful one-volume systematic theology available from any theological perspective.”

Nine years before his death, in 1948, Berkhof watched modern Israel become a nation. Three years later, in 1951, he published a book with a long title: The Kingdom of God: The Development of the Idea of the Kingdom, Especially Since the Eighteenth Century.Here’s a quote from that book, concerning ancient Israel and the emergence of a modern nation with the same name. What do you think of Berkhof’s statement here? I find myself agreeing with him:

“The theocratic nation itself was merely a type, a shadow of the spiritual realities of a better day, and therefore destined to vanish as soon as the antitype made its appearance. The restoration of the ancient theocracy in the future would simply mean the recurrence of the type – to what purpose? – and not at all the establishment of the Kingdom. It should be borne in mind that the beginnings of the Kingdom of God existed long before the theocracy was established, and continued to develop, and even after it lost its national existence. And the founding of the Kingdom in the new dispensation was in no way dependent on the fortunes of the Jewish nation” (Louis Berkhof, The Kingdom of God…, pp.170-171).

Of course, Berkhof didn’t say that the Jewish people were “destined to vanish,” only national Israel along with its previous significance. As we know, God created “in Himself one new man” from Jews and Gentiles who trust in Him (Ephesians 2:15), and God has kept a remnant from among the Jews (Romans 9:27, 11:5).

At least two earlier posts here also address this topic:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel” shows how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John all demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus. In other words, Jesus is Israel, and it’s no surprise that Paul calls Jesus’ followers “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

[2] “Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel” deals with a passage (Isaiah 66) that many say predicted Israel becoming a nation “in one day” in 1948. It shows that Isaiah instead predicted the birth of the Church, the downfall of earthly Jerusalem, and God’s embracing of the Jerusalem from above.

The Harlot of Revelation 17 and its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and is adapted from our study of Revelation 17 (Part 1):

In Revelation 17, John was shown a woman known as “Babylon the Great”, “the mother of harlots,” and “the great city.” This woman/city has been interpreted in various ways, from the Roman Catholic Church, to New York City, to modern Iraq, to the church in America, etc. This article will discuss a number of reasons why “Babylon the Great” was first century Jerusalem and old covenant Judaism. In doing so, we will look at the first six verses of Revelation 17.

The fall of Babylon was first announced in Revelation 14:8, and Revelation 11:8 identified “the great city” as the place “where also our Lord was crucified,” which, of course, was Jerusalem. Revelation 17-19 describes Babylon’s fall in more detail. This is then followed by a description of the bride, the wife of Jesus, who stands in contrast to the harlot. Note how the following passages deliberately contrast each other:

A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

In Revelation 17:2, Babylon is prosecuted for its sexual immorality, by which “the dwellers on earth” and “the kings of the earth” were made guilty. Notice that the reference to “the kings of the earth” here is distinct from the reference to “the kings of the whole world” in Revelation 16:14, where that reference was to the provincial kings of the Roman Empire. In an earlier 3-part series, I discussed 20 instances in Revelation where the phrase “those who dwell on the earth” refers to first century Israel rather than to everyone on the planet (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Verse 3: John then sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. One of my previous articles, “Ten Fulfilled Prophecies Concerning the Beast from the Sea,” makes the case that the beast was Nero in the specific sense and the Roman Empire in the general sense. The fact that the woman is sitting on the beast suggests a very close relationship between the woman and the beast, who are both distinct in their identity. On this topic, I wrote the following elsewhere regarding the woman (Jerusalem) riding the beast (Rome):

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? Israel had enjoyed a good relationship with Rome until the Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and Judaism was recognized as a valid religion within the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote of this relationship, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation [Israel], and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2). The Jews frequently took advantage of this relationship to induce persecution against Jesus and His followers (Luke 23:2; John 18:28-31, 19:15; Acts 4:27, 16:20, 17:7, 18:12, 21:11, 24:1-9, 25:1-2). W.H.C. Frend even writes that “the promptings of orthodox Jews in the capitol had something to do with” Nero’s decision to begin persecuting Christians in 64 AD (The Rise of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 109; quoted in Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 2002, p. 63).

Kenneth Gentry suggests that the beast was the color scarlet for any of the following reasons: [1] The robes worn by Roman emperors were red in color [2] Rome, led by Nero, was responsible for shedding much blood among God’s people [3] Nero was famous for his red beard.

Verses 4-5: The woman wore purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls. She had in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Her forehead proclaimed that she was “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” According to Todd Dennis, the founder of the Preterist Archive,

…the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah (with its capital of Jerusalem) was prosecuted because it had “played the whore with many lovers” and “polluted the land with…vile whoredom” (Jeremiah 3:1-2). Like Israel in John’s day, Judah prior to its fall in 586 BC had “the forehead of a whore” (verse 3).

Duncan McKenzie’s article has helped me to understand that “Babylon the Great” here was more than just a physical city. It was also a religious system full of abominations, old covenant temple-based Judaism. In Revelation 18 God commands His people regarding Babylon, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). We know from Revelation 1 that John’s immediate audience didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in Asia Minor. So this was not a command to flee from the city of Jerusalem.

God’s message was about breaking completely free from old covenant temple-based Judaism. Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus and the new covenant. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. In Daniel 9:26-27 we see that it is on “the wing of abominations” that one comes “who makes desolate” (see also Rev. 17:16, Matt. 23:38). This was related to the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:24). The abominations of the earth (land) were the apostate practices of old covenant Judaism.

As mentioned earlier, John was shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints” (see verses 1-8). One (the harlot) persecuted the other (the bride, Christ’s Church). What is most fascinating is Paul’s own contrasting of two women in his epistle to the Galatians:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ”Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31).

Just as Paul wrote in Galatians 4, we see in Revelation that God casts out and destroys the harlot (Revelation 18:21), but the bride inherits the Lamb as her husband.

Verse 6: The woman is said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This same charge was laid upon those of “the earth” in the previous chapter (Rev. 16:1), where it was said that “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets (16:4-7).” In chapter 18 we also see that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and that the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20). Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets, apostles, and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38).

The harlot is not a 21st century entity, but was the first century old covenant community. As God’s people, those of us who are in Christ today have the privilege of being part of the pure woman, God’s bride.

Comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5


Today a Facebook friend, Chris Palios, shared a chart comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. I’ve seen this comparison before, and his post was a good reminder that I’ve been meaning to post it here as well. As Chris said, the similarities between these two passages are fascinating.

While it’s still popular to view Matthew 24 as yet unfulfilled, there are plenty (and even more in church history) who recognize that Jesus was prophesying there concerning Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD and other events which would take place within His own generation. [A detailed study on the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) can be seen at the top of this page.] However, among those who view Matthew 24 as fulfilled, some believe that I Thessalonians 4-5 speak of future events. Here is the well-known passage that speaks of the resurrection of believers, which others take as being about a “rapture”: 

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18).

As I’ve promised Steve (who posted a 3-part series here as a guest last year), a deeper study on the resurrection of believers is still in the works. For now, though, here is a chart showing the strong similarities between Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. The relationship is so close that I don’t believe it’s possible to view one passage as being fulfilled in the first century AD and the other as not yet fulfilled:

Statements Regarding Jesus’ Coming Reference in Matthew 24 Reference in I Thess. 4 or 5
1. Christ Himself returns Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
2. From heaven Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
3. With a shout Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
4. Accompanied by angels Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
5. With the trumpet of God Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
6. In clouds Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:17
7. Believers are gathered Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:17
8. At an unknown time Matthew 24:36 I Thess. 5:1-2
9. He will come as a thief Matthew 24:43 I Thess. 5:2, 4
10. People unaware of coming judgment Matthew 24:37-39 I Thess. 5:3
11. Judgment comes as travail upon an expectant mother Matthew 24:8 I Thess. 5:3
12. Believers are to watch Matthew 24:42 I Thess. 5:4
13. Warning against drunkenness Matthew 24:49 I Thess. 5:7

The Jewish Heritage of Many Palestinians


“If we investigate the origins of the Felahim [Palestinians], there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

-David Ben Gurion, (first) Prime Minister of Israel (1948 -1953, 1955 – 1963)

The more I learn about the different groups involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more interesting the whole situation becomes. There’s also plenty of irony to be discovered in the claims and policies of Zionists, Christian Zionists, and the Israeli government. For example, wouldn’t it be ironic if some Palestinians are more Jewish than some of the Jewish citizens of Israel?

Introduction 

It’s no secret that Israel has billed itself as “a Jewish State” for decades. Of course, this idea has created a dilemma, to say the least, for Arabs, Bedouin, and other non-Jews living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. How do non-Jews fit into “the Jewish State of Israel”? (For a parallel, imagine if America was called “a Caucasian State.”)

The ideal of “a Jewish State” apparently runs along ethnic/racial lines more than religious lines. According to Wikipedia, 43% of Jews in Israel identify as secular, and 47% of these secular Jews (i.e. 20% of all Jews in Israel) are Atheists. Only a slight majority of Israel’s Jews consider themselves to be religious.

Israel’s aim to be a Jewish state is instead a battle drawn up along ethnic lines. However, as was pointed out in an earlier article (“Who Are the Jews in Israel Today?“), a case can be made that a significant percentage of Jews in Israel are descendants of Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to Judaism centuries ago. Not only are many Jews in Israel non-religious, but many are also non-Semitic. Yet they are more than welcome in “the Jewish State.”

Another irony is that many with a Jewish background are destined to be excluded from “the Jewish State” – because they are identified as Palestinians. It’s shameful that this exclusion – of all Palestinians – is fervently supported by the Christian Zionist movement.

Hillel Fendel’s Article in Israel National News

There’s a lot to consider in the following article published in Israel National News in 2009 (“Arabs of Jewish Descent in Israel“):

Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated. Some of them want to become fully Jewish, but most are scared to even talk about it.

“In our search for the lost Ten Tribes in India and Afghanistan, we seem to have forgotten to look for their descendants in our very own backyard.” So says the narrator in a new film about the efforts of a former hi-tech pioneer named Tzvi MiSinai to search out the Jewish roots of Israel’s Arab enemies – and to inform them of their Judaic heritage.

MiSinai has spent about a half-million shekels, he estimates, on these efforts. They include visiting dangerous places deep inside Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, hearing the stories of Arabs who remember observing Jewish customs, and distributing literature to Jews and Arabs alike.

One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The Jews Who Didn’t Leave

It is generally accepted that most Jews left the Land of Israel after the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. Yet many remained, and of these, many are still here, after having been forced to convert to Islam. “It turns out that a large part of the Arabs of the Land of Israel are actually descendants of forced converts to Islam over the years,” says Rabbi Dov Stein of the nascent Sanhedrin rabbinical council. “There are some studies that say that 85 percent of the Arabs in Israel are descended from Jews; others say there are fewer.”

Ben-Gurion Agrees

The claims are not new. Early Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi wrote in a book 100 years ago: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.” The authors implied that these Jews loved the Land so much that they were willing to give up their religion. The reference is probably to an edict in the year 1012 by Caliph el-Hakim, who ordered the non-Muslims to either convert or leave the Land of Israel. It is estimated that 90 percent of the Jews chose the former, though many continued to practice Judaism in secret. The decree was revoked 32 years later – apparently too late for about 75 percent of the converts.

Tzvi MiSinai continues to convince Arabs in Judea and Samaria that they are likely Jewish. The film shows him passing through the Gush Etzion checkpoint and distributing  pamphlets both to Israeli soldiers – “so that you’ll know who you’re checking here” – and to the Arabs waiting there – “so that you’ll know who the majority of you are.” Asked by an Arab if he is from the peace movement, MiSinai answers, “Yes, yes, peace, so that we can live together as one nation.”

The Sawarka Bedouin Jews

One place where MiSinai has apparently found very strong Jewish roots is in the Bedouin tribe known as the Sawarka. There are about 3-4,000 of them throughout the Sinai and the Negev, and they “are all Jewish,” says a tribal leader in perfect Hebrew. With his face camouflaged for the cameras, the Bedouin says, “They had no choice but to convert; this was centuries ago… I remember my mother and grandmother wouldn’t light fire on Sabbath, and they had a special mikveh…”

Others, in a Bedouin village east of Hebron, also remember burning a small piece of dough (reminiscent of the Biblical command to separate a small piece of dough when baking bread), lighting candles at graves, and tearing clothes and sitting shiva for seven days, and not three as is Muslim practice.

Even today, ritual circumcisions are carried out after the seventh day of birth.  Many homes in some of the Arab villages have doorpost indentations for a Mezuzah, with a scroll placed in some of them.

In another village just south of Hevron, Muhammed Amsalem – a descendant of Spanish Jews – told Aharon Granot of Mishpacha magazine that everyone in town knows he and his clan are Jews: “Our elders tell us that our forefathers came to this land during the [15th century] Spanish Inquisition, via Morocco. They settled in Ramle. Then the Mamluks forced them to convert to Islam, and they moved to the South Hevron area.”

Amsalem says they decided to reveal their Jewish roots after the 1967 Six Day War when they learned that a Jewish community had been reestablished in Hevron. “But the Jews saw we had no knowledge of their religious practices and refused to accept us… If the Jewish community would be willing to receive us today, we would join them with great enthusiasm.”

In the area of the South Hevron Hills, half of the Arabs are aware of the Jewish origins. They used to talk about it openly, though no longer. One man who recently publicized a silver Chanukah menorah that had been passed down to him from his father and previous generations was hung by terrorists by his feet for six weeks, leaving him with permanent injuries.

Genetic Studies Back Claims

At the Hadassah Medical School labs, Prof. Ariela Oppenheim of Hebrew University performed an international genetic study that backs up conclusions of Jewish-Arab genetic similarities. “We found that despite the dispersion of Jews around the world for 2,000 years, they essentially kept their Jewish continuity,” Oppenheim said. “In addition, we found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close, genetically, to the Arabs living here in Israel.”

She said that the study shows that both the Arabs of Israel and the Jews are descended from the Kurds of Aram in Babylon – the birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham. 

“It’s clear that we’re all from the same family,” Oppenheim concludes. “Most unfortunately, however, there are conflicts even within families, and sometimes brothers fight as well. I wish this is what will bring the Redemption, but I’m very sad to say that I don’t think so.”

Some Want to Return to Observant Judaism

South of Hevron, in Yatta, there is a large formerly-Jewish presence – and some even want to return to active Judaism. It is widely known there that half the residents are of the originally-Jewish Mahamra clan – a name that means “winemaker,” a trade that is forbidden according to Islam. “The people in these areas converted to Islam later in history,” MiSinai says, “and therefore more customs and knowledge and artifacts have been preserved.” These include Jewish stars over the entrances to homes, while in at least one house, the family has hidden a mezuzah and tefillin in creative hiding spots. One man pulled out a small Hebrew booklet of Psalms and Tanya with which he says he continues to secretly pray.

Miro Cohen, a Jew from Tekoa, in eastern Gush Etzion, is very friendly with the Arabs in a nearby village known as Kawazbe – a name that he and they agree is merely a corruption of Kuzeiba, the original name of the famous Bar Kokhba.

“These people are the descendants of Bar Kokhba,” Cohen declares. One Arab sitting with him can count his ancestors eight generations back, ending with a grandfather named Kawazbeh.  Another village elder says openly that his grandfather was a Jew who converted to Islam. Some of the residents want to return to Judaism; they don’t call it converting, because they are “already Jewish.”  On the other hand, Arabs with the name Kawazbeh have been arrested for terrorist activity against Israel.

Other areas where Arabs of Jewish descent reside are Kfar Anzah in Samaria, Samoa in southern Judea, villages in the Tel Arad area, and more. Rabbi Stein says, “We know that up to about 200 years ago, the Galilee village of Sakhnin was a Jewish town, with an active synagogue. The Turks pressured them to convert to Islam, but the people there know that they are of Jewish origins.”

Rachel Avraham’s Article in the Jewish Press

There are also a number of things to consider in the following Jewish Press article published on January 6th, 2015 (“Most Palestinians in Judea and Samaria Were Formerly Jews“):

As a journalist, I was always very skeptical what the origins of the Palestinian people are. Some have argued that the origins of the Palestinians date back 1,000 years. Others claim that the ancestors of the Palestinians came much more recently, during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods. And still others allege that the roots of the Palestinian people in the Holy Land are ancient. So what are we to believe?

The American archeologist Eric Cline reported in his book, Jerusalem Besieged: “Although some would disagree, historians and archeologists have generally concluded that most, if not all, modern Palestinians are probably more closely related to the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and other countries than they are to the ancient Jebusites, Canaanites, or Philistines. The major movements of those Arabs into the region occurred after 600 CE, more than 1,600 years after David and the Israelites had vanquished the original inhabitants of the land.” This fact is confirmed by Sherif Hussein, the Guardian of Islamic Holy Places of Arabia, who stated that the Palestinians ancestors had only been in the region for 1,000 years.

Numerous scholars have reported that following the Black Plague and Crusades in 1517, only 300,000 people were left in the Land of Israel, of whom 5,000 were Jewish, and that many of the ancestors of the modern Palestinians came in the late Ottoman and early British Mandate period. During the British Mandate period alone, 100,000 Arabs from neighboring countries immigrated to the Holy Land.

However, after conducting intense research into this issue, another story for the origins of the Palestinian people has appeared which further reaffirms Jewish attachment to the Holy Land. A Palestinian living in Jerusalem who wishes to remain anonymous has confessed in an exclusive interview that this persons’ family origins are 100% Jewish and that this person’s father’s family were Cohanim. He proclaimed: “Most of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are former Jews. The Ottomans converted them by force. My family converted to Islam in the early 1900’s.”

This Palestinian explained that the town where this person originally came from and the seven surrounding villages had a Jewish majority up until the early 1900’s: “My grandparents tell me they were born Muslim. The entire town which is Islin and the entire collection of towns near Beit Shemesh were Jewish. The entire towns around us used a Jewish judge known as Khawaja Kakum, who was a rabbi.”

The Palestinian noted that in the late 1800’s, the Ottoman Empire started to pressure the local population to accept Islam, after Herzl informed the Ottoman Sultan of the Zionist movements’ intentions. This resulted in the Sultan going crazy and making sure that would not happen, although he did refrain from issuing a formal edict of conversion: “The Ottoman soldiers would arrive, investigating and making sure everyone was Jewish and that would involve a humiliating act. The locals would have to bring all of the fancy rugs so the soldiers could use them. They had to fix hay mixed with sugar for the horses of the Ottoman cavalry. And then, the locals had to cook food for the soldiers. They were forced to mix yoghurt with lamb in a dish known today as mansaf.”

The Palestinian noted that Bayt Itab, which was near Beit Shemesh, was inhabited by Sephardic Jews: “A particular family in the town began holding Friday prayers on both Friday and Saturday, so the Ottomans would be fooled into believing that they were not Jews. Now Beit Shemesh, another nearby town, had mostly Jewish families that would later on become Palestinian, except for one family.”

“Many Jews would never believe this but if you visit Zora; you will see the tomb or grave of Samson the Great,” the Palestinian noted. “You would learn that Palestinians used to glorify this man in this town. Whenever someone dies, Palestinians used to sing in sadness for him: ‘Oh my G-d, why have you taken him, he has never displaced his grandmother or given advice to a Muslim.’ Why would Muslim Palestinians sing folk songs like that?”

“One of the folk songs for children goes: ‘By the G-d of Moses, don’t make me lose my way,’” the Palestinian explained. “Why not Muhammed? Also, the local comments reflected in the entire Palestinian community used the term ‘he’s a Cohen’ to reflect someone who is wise or who could see stuff others could not see. Most Palestinians don’t know what a Cohen is. Why do they use the term ‘he is a Cohen’ to describe someone with G-d given knowledge?”

While such statements go contrary to pan-Arab propaganda and the standard Middle Eastern history books taught across the globe, this Palestinian is not the only one to make this claim. According to the Jerusalem Post, Tzvi MiSinai conducted research into the Jewish roots of the Palestinian people and discovered that 90% of the Palestinians have Jewish roots: “And what’s more, half of them know it.” He noted that many Palestinians maintain Jewish customs, including mourning rituals, lighting Shabbat candles and even wearing tefillin.

Misnai is not the only researcher to believe this. Genetic studies conducted by Hadassah Medical School found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close genetically to the Palestinian population, implying that many of them have Jewish blood in them. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion evidently agreed that most Palestinians have Jewish roots, according to Arutz Sheva: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

…Caliph El Hakim forced all of the Jews of the Holy Land to either convert to Islam or leave the country in 1012 and the Crusaders massacred numerous Jews in the Holy Land in the late medieval period. He maintains that until the British Mandate period, the influx of Muslims into the Holy Land was minimal and most of the locals had Jewish roots.

“When General Allenby, the commander of the British military forces, conquered Palestine in 1917/1918, only a few thousand Muslim Arabs resided in the Holy Land,” Mandelbaum writes. “Most of the Arabs were Christians, and most of the Muslims in the area either came from Turkey under the Ottoman Empire, or were the descendants of Jews and Christians who were forcefully converted to Islam by the Muslim conquerors.”

However, despite the massive influx of Muslims into the Holy Land during the British Mandate period, the Palestinian interviewed proclaimed: “I don’t know of a Palestinian family who does not have a Jewish story to their history. Just like Jews were forced to convert to Christianity in Spain, they won’t ever go back, but it would be helpful to remind us publicly of whom we were and what we were, to show that we must connect as humans.”

This Palestinian explained that both sides made mistakes in the years leading up to Israel’s establishment and afterwards. The Zionist movement did not recognize the Palestinians as having Jewish roots in their family while emphasizing that both sides suffered from anti-semitism and the Palestinians themselves also very much looked down on the newcomers from Europe. But this Palestinian hopes that this information can help bring the two peoples together at the very least to pursue peace in the future: “Unless we study our past, we won’t move forward to the future.”

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel’s Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.”

Conclusion

Whether “most” Palestinians have a Jewish background, or only a minority of them do, this information adds further irony to the Israel/Palestinian conflict. The Zionist/Christian Zionist agenda sidelines Palestinians, some of whose ancestors were ethnic Jews, but embraces those currently identified as Jews, even if they have no Jewish blood. It should be pointed out that plenty of Jews are opposed to the Zionist agenda. See this post, for example: Dueling Jewish Perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Followers of Christ, in particular, should have nothing to do with an agenda that sidelines or oppresses anyone. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians,

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Day Trip to Cincinnati, Ohio and the Underground Railroad Museum


At the very end of last spring, on June 17th, my wife (Jasmine) and I made another day trip, this time traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio and back in one day. Cincinnati would normally be a 3-hour drive from where we live (Bowling Green, Ohio), but that day it took at least five hours due to a tanker leaking toxic chemicals and I-75 being shut down north of Dayton, Ohio. Just like we did on our day trip to Columbus, Ohio in May, we stopped for lunch at an African restaurant.

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In Columbus we had Somali food, which is East African, but in Cincinnati we tried some West African food at a Senegalese restaurant. Teranga Restaurant is on the north side of Cincinnati, and as one can see from their parent website the owners also run a grocery/supply store, a hair shop, currency exchange services, and a travel agency.

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From there we headed to downtown Cincinnati and visited the Underground Railroad Museum. If you visit Cincinnati, we highly recommend visiting this place. Free parking is available in front of the building, which is in a great downtown location near the Ohio River. The Underground Railroad Museum covers the history of the slave trade in America, and also shines the light on modern slavery around the world, including human trafficking, child labor, etc. It was a highly educational experience, and we could have learned/seen even more if we had more time. Here are some pictures from our visit to this museum:

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After spending time at the museum, we walked around the nearby parts of downtown Cincinnati.

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We then walked across a nearby bridge to Covington, Kentucky.

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(facing Covington, near the entrance to the bridge)

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(facing Cincinnati while on the bridge)

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(facing Covington)

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(facing toward Cincinnati on the left and toward Newport, Kentucky on the right)

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(facing Cincinnati)

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(Covington)

For those who appreciate unique forms of public transportation, the Cincinnati area features an amphibian taxi, the Newport Ducks. It runs along the Ohio River…

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…and on land:

Ride The Ducks Newport

(Photo Source: Newport Aquarium)

After walking back to Cincinnati, we drove back over the bridge to Covington.

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(Another bridge from Cincinnati – Newport, Kentucky can be seen on the right side of the photo.)

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We then concluded our time in the Cincinnati area by driving over to Newport, Kentucky, just east of Covington.

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Herods and Other Rulers of Judea: 1st Century AD


For several years I’ve been interested in the history of the 1st century AD, and recently I came across two resources put together by Michal Hunt at Agape Bible Studies. The first resource lists the rulers in Judea during the first century (and some from the late 1st century BC), prior to Judea’s destruction by Roman armies in 67-70 AD. This includes the Herods, Prefects, and High Priests during this time period, along with dates and the corresponding Roman Emperors.

Rulers of Judea (Source)

Roman Emperor   Ruler in Judea High Priest
*Boethus Family  +Ananus Family
Date of High Priest
Augustus
29BC-14 AD
H
E
R
O
D
I
A
N

M
O
N
A
R
C
H
Y

Herod the Great
37 BC – 4/1 BC
 
 
 
 
Archelaus (son of Herod) ruled after his father’s death but was deposed by the Romans in 6 AD. Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip and Herod of Chalcis, ruled the Galilee and other territories
-Ananelus
-Aristobulus (Hasmon prince and brother-in-law of Herod = murdered
-Jesus, son of Phabi
-Simon son of Beothus*
-Matthias son of Theophilus*
-Joseph son of Elam
-Joazar son of Boethus*
-Eleazar son of Boethus*
 
(Romans now approve appointment of the High Priests)

37 BC

36 BC
 

?
?
??

?
4 BC
4 BC?

  ROMAN   ANNEXATION   OF   JUDEA
 
 
 
 
 
Tiberius
14-37 AD
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Caligula
37-41 AD
R
O
M
A
N

P
R
E
F
E
C
T
S

-Coponius (Prefect)
6-9 AD
-Ambibulus (Prefect)
9-11 AD
-Rufus (Prefect)
12-14 AD
-Gratus (Prefect)
15-26 AD-Pilate (Prefect)
26-36 AD
-Marcellus (Prefect )
36-37 AD
-Marullus (Prefect)
37-41 AD
-Jesus son of See
- Annas son of Seth +
(in Greek = Ananus)
 
 
 
-Ishmael brother Phabi I
-Elezar sons of Annas+
-Simon son of Kamithos
-Caiaphas son-in-law of Annas+
 
-Johathan, son of Annas+
-Theophilus, son of Annas+
-Simon son of Boethus*
5/6 AD
6-15 AD
 
 
 

 15-16 AD
 16-17 AD
 17-18 AD
 18-37 AD
 

 37 AD
 37-41 AD

 41-? AD

Claudius
41-54 AD
-Herod Agrippa I
41-44 AD
-Matthias son of Annas+  ?-44 AD
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nero
54-68 AD
-Cuspius Fadus (Prefect)
44-46 AD
-Tiberius-Alexander (P)
46-48 AD
-Ventidius Cumanus (P)
48-52 AD
-Marcus Antonius Felix
(Prefect) 52-59 AD
-Porcius Festus (Prefect) 59-62 AD
-Albinus (Prefect) 62-64
-Gessius Florus (Prefect) 64-66 AD
-Elionaius s. Kantheras
-Joseph son of Kami
-Ananias son of Nebedaeus
-Ishmael son of Phabi II

-Joseph Qabi
-Annas son of Annas+
-Jesus son of Damnaius
-Joseph b. Gamaliel

-Matthias s. of Theophilus
-Pinhas of Habta

44 AD
?
47-58/59 AD


59-61 AD

 61-62 AD
 62 AD
 62-63 AD
 63-65 AD

65-67 AD
 67-70 AD

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998, revised 2007 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Six different Herods are mentioned in the New Testament. Kenneth Berding at The Good Book Blog speaks further of their roles in first century history, concluding with this brief summary:

Herod the Great: Christmas story

Herod Archelaus: Joseph [went] to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem because of him

Herod Antipas: Killed John the Baptist

Herod Philip: Ruled area north and east of Galilee

Herod Agrippa I: Eaten by worms

Herod Agrippa II: Trial of Paul in Caesarea

Many of these different Herods, Roman Prefects, and High Priests are also mentioned in the writings of Josephus, including his famous War of the Jews (75 AD). The early church father, Remigius (437 – 533 AD), informs us that Herod Agrippa II protected a community of believing Jews in Pella (in modern Jordan) when they fled from Judea and Jerusalem in 67 AD in obedience to Jesus’ words (Matthew 24:15-20, Mark 13:14-19, Luke 21:20-23):

“[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.”

—————————————————————————–

The second resource from Michal Hunt features a timeline of major events between 30 – 70 AD:

TIME LINE AD 30 – 70 (Source)

YEAR (AD) EVENT
30
  • Yeshua the Nazorean [Jesus] is executed by the Romans. Three days later He rises from the dead. 40 days after His Resurrection He ascends to the Father.
  • Fifty days after the Resurrection (ten days after the Ascension), on the Jewish Feast of Weeks (called the Feast of Pentecost by Greek-culture Jews) God the Holy Spirit descends upon and indwells the disciples waiting in the Upper Room. It is the Second Great Pentecost and the birth of the New Covenant Church.
33 – 34 Stephen is martyred. Christian persecution by Jews intensifies
35 Peter is Bishop of Antioch for 7 years
37 Roman Emperor Tiberius smothered to hasten his death
41 Emperor Caligula assassinated and succeeded by Claudius
42 -67
  • Peter goes to Rome to establish the headquarters of the Universal (Catholic) Church
  • James the Just is Bishop of Jerusalem
43
  • Roman Emperor Claudius initiates conquest of Britain.
  • Paul’s conversion
46 – 67 Paul’s missionary journeys
49 – 50 Council of Jerusalem
54 Emperor Claudius poisoned by his wife and succeeded by her son Nero
59 Nero orders the death of his mother
60
  • Nero murders his wife and marries Poppaea, a Jewish sympathizer.
  • Queen Boudicca’s revolt in Britian
62
  • Parthians revolt against Rome.
  • James Bishop of Jerusalem martyred
64 Great fire of Rome. Rome begins persecution of Christians
65 Nero murders his pregnant wife Poppaea
66
  • Roman procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus, murders 3,600 Jews (crucifying about 2,000) in May. May-Oct. Christians flee Judea.
  • Jewish Revolt against Rome begins with massacre of Jerusalem Roman garrison in Oct.
  • Roman gentiles of Caesarea kill 20,000 Jews
  • Jewish army defeats and massacres the Roman garrison at Masada
  • Gentiles of Damascus, Syria massacre 10,000 Jews
  • Roman occupied cities across Judea, Samaria, Egypt, Syria,and Asia attack Jews.
  • Roman General Cestius Gallus’ army defeated in Nov. and driven out
  • Jews fight each other; 3 different factions. Each leader claims to be ‘messiah.’
  • Numerous earthquakes
67
  • General Vespasian and son Titus come across the Euphrates River; arrive in Judea from Syria with 4 Roman legions to destroy the Jewish revolt.
  • Revolts against Rome in Gaul and Spain
  • Peter and Paul executed in Rome (some time between 64-67?)
68 – 69
  • “The Year of Four Emperors” Nero commits suicide and is succeeded by Galba, Otho, and Vitellius who is succeeded by General Vespasian. Vespasian is named Emperor by Roman Senate
  • Roman army destroys Qumran (community where Dead Sea Scrolls found)
70
  • General Titus begins siege of Jerusalem in March. It lasts 3.5 months. The 9th of Ab: the Temple and Jerusalem are destroyed by the Roman army. Jewish historian Josephus estimated the dead of Jerusalem at 1,197,000.
  • Jews who survive revolt are sold into slavery

Why I Believe Israel Is the Apple of God’s Eye


Israel is the apple of God’s eye. This was true during the days of David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. It’s also true now, but of whom exactly is it true?

Two Passages Where God Said Israel Was the Apple of His Eye

Zechariah 2:8 is a well-known verse, often quoted by Christian Zionists with reference to modern Israel (as does this Christian ministry), and typically as a way of saying that Christians are bound to stand in loyalty to the nation of Israel:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.

Looking back at the history of ancient Israel, God did indeed refer to this nation as the apple of His eye:

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you: When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:7-10).

Of course, Deuteronomy 32 is overall a lament concerning Israel, where God

[1] speaks of “their end” in the days of “a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith” (verses 5, 20, 28-29; see also Matthew 17:17 and Philippians 2:14-15)
[2] denies that many within Israel are even His children (“They are not His children…“; verse 5)
[3] goes on to prophesy of a time when Gentiles would rejoice with His people over the avenging of the blood of God’s servants (verse 43; see also Matthew 23:35-36; Revelation 16:3-6, 17:1-6, 18:20-24). 

Other Passages Where This Phrase Is Used

The phrase “apple of my eye” is used in two other passages. David asks God to keep him as the apple of His eye, and Solomon advises his readers to value his instructions as much as they value their own eyeballs:

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:8).

Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye” (Proverbs 7:2).

Which Israel Is the Apple of God’s Eye?

From Deuteronomy 32 and Zechariah 2 it’s clear that God does have an apple of His eye. Is modern, national Israel the apple of God’s eye, as many say? If so, does this include even the Arab citizens of Israel, as well as expatriates living there? If so, who was the apple of God’s eye between 70 AD and 1948 when there was no nation of Israel?

Israel is indeed the apple of God’s eye. The apple of God’s eye is Jesus, true Israel, and His followers, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). 

When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, God shouted from the heavens how He felt about His Son:

And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased‘” (Matthew 3:17). 

When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain toward the end of His ministry, God proclaimed the same words over His Son (Matthew 17:5). Throughout the New Testament we see similar testimony indicating that Jesus is the apple of God’s eye, even if this phrase isn’t used there. For a deeper study of how Jesus is Israel, see this post (“Why I Stand With Israel”), which shows how Matthew, Luke, and John are among the New Testament authors who demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus, our Savior.

The Church of Jesus Christ is also the Israel of God, His beloved, the apple of His eye. This is because we abide in Christ, the apple of God’s eye. Of Jesus it is said that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). We who belong to Jesus are “a new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17), “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10), and “a holy temple in the Lord…a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22; compare with Deuteronomy 32:7-10 quoted above). We are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10), and we are God’s chosen people (Ephesians 1:11-12, Colossians 3:12-13, I Peter 2:9-10).

When Saul persecuted God’s people, Jesus’ followers, He took it personally: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5). When the beast made “war with the saints” for 42 months (Revelation 13:5-7), God saw it as making “war with the Lamb(Revelation 17:12-14).

The Context of Zechariah 2 

Who did God ultimately see as Zion when He called the “daughter of Zion” (Zech. 2:10) “the apple of His eye” (verse 8)? Was this prophecy simply about national Israel or all Jewish people? God spoke through Zechariah at a time when the people of Judah and Israel had been “spread…abroad like the four winds of heaven” (Zech. 1:19-21, 2:6), but God was calling them to escape from Babylon (2:7). He would shake His hand against the nations that plundered them and touched the apple of His eye (2:8-9). Zechariah prophesied of a time when God would come and dwell in the midst of Zion (verse 10). This was not to be a mono-ethnic or single-nation reality:

Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech. 2:11-12).

The identity of Zion and the identity of Israel was destined to expand to include people from all nations. This has already been accomplished in Christ, and the church was born in Jerusalem as Jews were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47) and a short while later non-Jews began to flow in as well (Acts 11:18). God again chose Jerusalem, but His chosen Jerusalem is the heavenly one, not the one 43 miles from Tel Aviv (Galatians 4:21-31).

However, Zion would not include the corrupt and perverse, disobedient people who God didn’t even regard as His children. This was true even in Moses’ day, as we saw earlier (Deuteronomy 32:5). Most importantly, God’s people, Zion, would not include those who would not hear His Son, Jesus, for they would be cut off:

For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people‘” (Acts 3:22-23).

A study of the Old Testament reveals that Jews were cut off from among God’s people for quite a number of reasons (e.g. Exodus 31:14, 32:33; Leviticus 7:20-21, 27; 17:4, 9-10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; 20:3, 5-6, 17-18; 22:3, 23:29; Numbers 9:13, 15:30, 19:13; Deuteronomy 29:19). The ultimate reason for being cut off from among God’s people, from Zion, is being separated from Jesus. Today, the Christian Zionist movement doesn’t see the slightest reason for a single ethnic Jew to be outside of God’s people, not even if they are Atheists or they mock Jesus Christ. They are all God’s chosen people, and they are all the apple of God’s eye, if Christian Zionism is to be believed. 

Any teaching that uses Zechariah 2:8 to say that the apple of God’s eye is limited to the Jewish people, or limited to people living within the borders of ancient Israel, or that it includes people who reject Jesus Christ, is off-base. The apple of God’s eye is first Jesus, and by extension those who belong to Him (Galatians 3:16, 29). If you belong to Jesus, rejoice that you are the apple of God’s eye.

I hope you will enjoy this song by the worship artist, Jason Upton, which rejoices in this truth. This song is called “One Reason,” from his 2001 album, Faith

(Alternate link #1, alternate link #2, lyrics)

Zechariah 12 Fulfilled


This post is in response to recent and past questions about whether or not the prophecies of Zechariah 12 have been fulfilled. At a later time I may do my own in-depth study of this passage, but this post draws on a few studies done by others who believe that Zechariah 12 was fulfilled in the first century AD. Here are a couple of questions to consider regarding Zechariah 12-14:

1. Did Zechariah speak of only earthly Jerusalem throughout these three chapters, or did he shift at any time to speaking about the new/heavenly Jerusalem?
2. Did Zechariah possibly have a glimpse of the revelation that Paul had in Galatians 4:21-31, when he spoke of two Jerusalems; one that was in bondage and ready to be cast out, and one that was free and is the mother of God’s people? Isaiah had this revelation to some degree (see Isaiah 65:17 – 66:24).

A. In the first study I’d like to present, Don K. Preston discusses Zechariah 12 in conjunction with Revelation 1:7, a related passage, and gives some historical and contextual background for Zechariah 12:

It seems to have escaped the notice of those who offer Revelation 1:7 as proof of a yet future coming of Jesus that this verse is taken directly out of the book of Zechariah; and as we shall see Jesus also uses this verse in the great eschatological discourse of Matthew 24. Surely the Bible student will want to be fully aware of how the verse is used in those contexts.

In Zechariah 12:10 the Spirit is speaking of a time which he designated as “in that day.” This little term is used extensively by the prophet and is a limiting factor for everything which he discusses. Some of the “in that day” statements are confessedly enigmatic; but enough of them are sufficiently specific as to subject or time that there can be no misunderstanding.

1. “In that day” was to be when God would “break my covenant made with all the people” (Zech. 11:7-11). This is undeniably when the Old Covenant would pass.

2. “In that day” would be “when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and Jerusalem” (12:1).

3. “In that day would be when “there shall be great mourning in Jerusalem” (12:11).

4. “In that day” would be when “there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David…for sin and for uncleanness” (13:1).

5. “In that day” would be when God would “cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” (13:2).

6. “In that day” would be when the shepherd would be smitten and the sheep scattered (13:6-7).

7. “In that day” would be when only a remnant would be saved (13:8).

8. “In that day” would be when God would “gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle,” (14:2).

9. “In that day” “living waters would go out from Jerusalem” (14:8).

10. “In that day” there would be only one God and one Lord (14:9).

… Is it not patent that all the above… happened in one generation? How then can one divorce the appearance of the Messiah, when they would look on him whom they had pierced, from that same fateful generation?

Interestingly, John the author of Revelation used Zechariah 12:10 on another occasion. In John 19:37 as Jesus hung on the cross the Lord’s favorite apostle records the event as fulfillment of Zechariah’s words. This application of a single prediction to two events is not unknown in scripture… For John, Zechariah 12:10 was applicable to Jesus’ crucifixion; but it would receive final fulfillment when “all the tribes of the earth” would mourn when they looked on him whom they had pierced. To John this would be when Jesus returned in the clouds of glory.

Jesus and Zechariah 12:10

As shown, Zechariah 12:10 is the background for Revelation 1:7 and the context demands the event be in the first century generation. But our Lord also employed the language of Zechariah/Revelation in such a way that all controversy as to WHEN it would happen should be dispelled. In the famous apocalypse of Matthew 24 our Lord predicted the destruction of Jerusalem… 

In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus adopts the classical style of Jewish apocalyptic literature in describing the fall of the Theocracy. In verse 30 Messiah quotes Zechariah 12:10 as occurring when the Son of Man would be seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Now notice the emphatic time statements. In verse 32 Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree. When the predicted events began to be seen by the apostles and disciples they were to “know it is near, even at the doors.” He then [states] in positive terms, “Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things shall be fulfilled” (v.34). Our Lord has specifically told us when he would come with the clouds, cf. Rev.1:7, when he would be seen by all those who pierced him. It would be in his generation.

In confirmation of the time frame of his coming with the clouds in judgment one needs to examine Matthew 16:27-28 and compare Revelation 22:12. There is absolute harmony and unity between all these verses. In Matthew 16:27-28 Jesus promised to return in judgment with the angels in the lifetime of his disciples. In Matthew 24 he promised to come and be seen by those who had pierced him and it was to be in that generation. In Revelation he would be seen by those who had pierced him and, “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me to give to every man according as his work shall be,” Rev.1:7; 22:12.

How can one objectively examine these texts and ignore the time frame so inextricably woven into the text? Upon what basis can one say that while Jesus in Matthew 24 cited Zechariah 12 as to be fulfilled at his return in Jerusalem’s fall, that in Revelation, although it emphatically tells us it would shortly come to pass (l:l-3) it has not yet been fulfilled?

Notice the correlation between the theme of the three texts. In Zechariah we are dealing with a time when Jerusalem would be surrounded and besieged, 12:2,11; 13:8ff; 14:2. In Matthew 24 the subject is the destruction of Jerusalem, 24:1-3. In Revelation the theme is the destruction of the great city “where our Lord was crucified,” 11:8. In all three texts you have the coming of the Lord, Zech.14:3-5; Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 1:7. In each of the texts those who pierced him would see him, Zechariah 12:10,Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7. And of course at the risk of being repetitious, all three [accounts of this event] were set in a specific time frame – “in that day.” Zech.12; “this generation shall not pass away,” Matthew 24:34; and “the time is at hand,” Rev.1:3

B. The second article I’d like to share is on one of Don K. Preston’s websites, but features the writings of Frank Speer and Ed Stevens as they address an article by Thomas Ice titled “Preterism and Zechariah 12-14.” Frank Speer lists some of the “difficulties that arise from taking a yet future approach to Zechariah chapters 12-14″:

• The battle described in these chapters is waged on HORSEBACK (12:4) with SWORDS! (13:7) Is that how the COMING 21st century Great Tribulation is to be fought?

• Modern Jews do not and will not live in “TENTS” (12:7).

• Modern Jewish people CAN NO LONGER BE divided by their 12 ancestral tribes (12:6-14) since those tribes have long since been genetically diluted – the Jewish peoples of today simply CANNOT be equated with ancient, biblical Israel.

• Zech 13:1 is clearly speaking of “The Cross of Christ” (i.e. a first century event). Has there been no Messianic “fountain” of forgiveness available to the Jewish people since the cross?? Have they been made to wait all this time and then some (until Messiah’s STILL FUTURE RETURN) to have access to divine forgiveness of sin?

• The modern Jews do not and will not worship then “many Idols” mentioned in (13:2) – today’s Jews are mostly atheistic.

• There are no modern Jewish “prophets” (13:2) – nor will there be.

• (13:4) – Will false Hebrew prophets wearing “HAIRY ROBES” soon appear in modern day Palestine in order to deceive a mass of Jewish peoples? …

• (13:3) – The modern Jewish peoples do not obey these ancient “Mosaic Laws” (parents killing children for false predictions etc)!

• (13:4-5) – Will “SLAVERY & AGRICULTURE” once again become COMMON PRACTICE for 21st century Palestinians and ALL NATIONS OF THE WORLD??

• Is the modern Palestinian Economy…based on GOLD, SILVER, FABRIC, HORSES, MULES, CAMELS, DONKEYS AND CATTLE?? (14:14-15)

• Notice that the “ALL NATIONS” of 14:1 are QUALIFIED later by “all the SURROUNDING nations” in 14:14. There is no mention here of ALL THE MODERN NATIONS OF THE 21st CENTURY WORLD! These ancient “Middle Eastern nations” surrounding ancient Israel were the same constant thorns Israel dealt with through their entire history!!

• (14:16) Will the modern Jewish peoples, under Messiah, be keeping all of the Old Covenant “feasts” when the N.T. writers (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) clearly state that such things were merely TEMPORARY TYPOLOGICAL TUTORS intended to lead Israel to Christ??

Will Christ then, in the future, lead the “modern Jewish Christians” and ALL THE NATIONS OF THE MODERN WORLD backwards – to those ancient and “rudimentary things” ( Gk: “stoicheion” – Col 2:8, 20; 2 Pet 3:10) that only served to point to Messiah, the cross, the resurrection, etc.???

The N.T. writers tell us that a RETURN to the Mosaic Economy (the OLD covenant system) would be to apostatize from Christ and to INVALIDATE the cross of Christ!!

• (14:16) – Will “all the nations” [of the entire modern world] soon be “GOING UP” to the modern city of Jerusalem each year to celebrate the Jewish feasts?? How will we all FIT??

Will ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD soon SUDDENLY become AGRARIAN BASED in order to begin THE ANNUAL PLANTING AND HARVESTING CYCLE necessary to keep the feast of booths (tabernacles) yearly? Because, if we do not, God is going to bring PLAGUES upon all those wicked nations and destroy their crops by withholding rain on their crops. (14:17-20)

• Is modern Israel under Messiah going to return to bloody ANIMAL SACRIFICES (the NT says that would be nothing short of “blasphemous” – (study the Book of Hebrews)?

Don K. Preston then quotes from Thomas Ice, who argues that Zechariah 12-14 shows Israel being rescued, not judged, and therefore this passage can not be speaking of events related to the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. According to Ice, those who say that Zechariah 12-14 has been fulfilled teach “in essence…that the Church had replaced Israel.” He says that preterists have made two errors: [1] believing that Zechariah speaks of “God’s judgment at the hands of the Romans in AD 70 upon Israel,” and [2] failing to see that “Zechariah 12-14 clearly speaks of a time when Israel is rescued by the Lord from an attack by ‘all the nations of the earth,’ not just the Romans” (Ice, of course, should realize that the Roman Empire did absorb many nations and made up most of the known world at the time). 

Ed Stevens then responds to the arguments of Thomas Ice:

Mr. Ice…assumes that ALL preterists (partials and fulls) are guilty of “replacement” theology (when in fact, almost all full preterists, as far as I know, are teaching “remnant” theology). We believe that God did not cut off ALL Israel from his Olive Tree. There was a righteous remnant left who did accept Jesus as their Messiah. Into that righteous remnant of True Israel (the Spiritual Israel) the Gentiles were grafted, in order to make the Jews jealous and entice them to be grafted back into their native Olive Tree and save some of them. Together with the engrafted Gentiles and the re-grafted Israelites, this righteous remnant became the ALL ISRAEL that inherited the promises.

He assumes that the Jerusalem mentioned in Zechariah is the physical city of Jerusalem (when in fact it is talking about the New Heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Hebrew 12 and Revelation 21-22). 

He assumes that the references to “Israel” in Zech are the physical nation of Israel (when in fact it is talking about the New True Spiritual Israel that Paul refers to in the book of Romans 2, and chs. 9-11, as well as the allegory in Gal. 4).

He forgets about the Neronic persecution (AD 64) when both Rome and the Jews combined forces against the Church to destroy her and wipe her off the map. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that unless those days had been cut short, they would have succeeded. Sure enough, two years later (AD 66) the Jewish War broke out and Rome turned its attention away from hunting Christians, to attacking the Jews.

He forgets that by the first century the Hebrew people had become a melting pot of ALL NATIONS, especially in the Diaspora (Persia, India, Africa, Turkey, Greece, Rome, France, Spain, Britain, Germania, Scythia, Armenia, etc.). Just look at the description in Acts 2 of all the nations where “Jews” came from. There were Jewish communities scattered all over Europe, Asia, and Africa. When the Neronic persecution broke out, every Jewish community in the Diaspora (among “all the nations”) took advantage of the opportunity to wipe out the Christians, and used Roman authority to do it. They  were just like the wicked Haman of the book of Esther who plotted to wipe out all the Jews. That was when “all the nations” (Diaspora Jews) came against God’s people (the Christians, the New Jerusalem, the true Spiritual Israel) in the Neronic persecution (AD 64). But God turned the tables on the Hamanites. Less than two years later (AD 66) the Jews revolted, and God brought the Romans to wipe out “all the nations” (Diaspora Jews) who had come up against His true spiritual people.

Because Tommy Ice does not know his history nor understand prophetic language, he does not realize that “all the nations” which came against the True Israel and the New Jerusalem, really were destroyed by the Romans. In AD 66, when the war broke out, Diaspora Jews were forced to flee from “all the nations” where they had been scattered and take refuge in Israel. When they got back to the land, they joined the revolt and ended up being killed and enslaved afterwards.

[I don’t agree with Stevens’ final paragraph and did not include it here.]

C. Don K. Preston has another article on this topic titled, “Was Zechariah 12:3 Fulfilled in AD 70?” I’ll quote just a couple of portions from that article:

Our understanding of Zechariah is aided by the prophet’s references to “in that day.” These temporal parameters place fulfillment within the borders of a single generation, the first century generation. There are, if my count is correct, some 19 references to “in that day” in Zechariah. Space forbids an extensive examination of the “in that day” references. However, notice that the “in that day” references of chapter 12 take us directly back to chapter 11. In chapter 11 we find the betrayal of Jesus at the hands of Judas, who was paid the thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13). This in turn would be when YHVH would abandon His covenant “with both houses of Israel” (Zechariah 11:6-10), when they would eat their own flesh in the siege that was coming.

This is confirmed by Jesus’ application of Zechariah 12:10 to the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:30, 34, and by John’s application of the same verse to the time when “those who pierced him” would look on him and mourn, in the destruction of the city “where the Lord was slain” (Revelation 1:7; 11:8)…

Please note: This judgment that is described, when the citizens of Jerusalem would eat the flesh of their own children, was to be part of the Mosaic Covenant provisions of wrath for violation of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 28:52-57). Here is what is so critical about this fact: All dispensationalists agree that the Mosaic Covenant has been abrogated!

Thomas Ice affirms that the Torah was “forever fulfilled and discontinued in Christ” (Prophecy Watch, Eugene, Or. 1998, 258)! He acknowledges of the AD 70 catastrophe:  “Those first century days are called the ‘days of vengeance’ for Jerusalem is under the divine judgment of covenantal sanctions recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Luke notes that God’s vengeance on His elect nation ‘is in order that all things that are written may be fulfilled.’ Jesus is telling the nation that God will fulfill all the curses of the Mosaic Covenant because of Israel’s disobedience. He will not relent and merely bring to pass a partial fulfillment of His vengeance” (Thomas Ice/ Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation , Past or Future? Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999).

…Here is the issue: All millennialists say the Law of Moses has been abrogated. Yet, Zechariah’s prediction of the assault on Jerusalem would be the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant… Zechariah had to be fulfilled at a time when Torah was still in effect.

ROME WAS NOT ALONE!

When our millennial friends take note that Zechariah 12 mentions “all the nations of the earth” it is perfectly justified to ask if they mean “all”? Do they mean that America will fight against Jerusalem? If not, why not? Do they mean that the 17 smallest countries in the world, most of which have no armies, will join the battle? If, after all, one is going to insist that  “all the nations” means literally, every nation on earth, then to be consistent, one must argue that every South American country, the USA and every other country on the globe will join in…

In fact, Josephus records that Titus had ten cohorts of  auxiliary troops from kings of different countries, such as Arabia, Syria and other countries (Wars, Bk. 4, chapter 4, Whiston, p. 642). In other words, it was the kings of the earth that gathered against literal Jerusalem!

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

It is critical to honor the fact that in Zechariah (and other OT prophetic books), there is what I call the doctrine of Two Jerusalems… What this means is that in some texts there is a seeming conundrum. On the one hand Jerusalem is destroyed, and yet in the same texts, Jerusalem is delivered! This apparent difficulty is resolved by understanding that Old Covenant Jerusalem was to perish, while the heavenly Jerusalem would be delivered. Galatians 4:22f; Philippians 3; Hebrews 12, and Revelation are some of the NT texts that teach this. This suggestion well explains the situation in Zechariah. The Old Jerusalem would indeed be desolated, in the final outpouring of Mosaic Covenant wrath. Yet, the Jerusalem that is above, the True Jerusalem, would be delivered, and it would be in her that deliverance, the fountain for sin would be opened for salvation (Zechariah 13:1f)…

Zechariah’s prophecy demands that it was fulfilled in the first century, “in that day” when Judas betrayed the Lord. The context demands that the prophecy was fulfilled at a time when the Mosaic Law was still in effect. The judgment described is Mosaic Covenant Wrath. The “kings of the earth” did in fact support Rome’s assault. Finally,  the doctrine of the Two Jerusalems demands the passing of the Old Jerusalem, but the deliverance of the New Covenant Jerusalem. This happened in AD 70.

What do you think? Does the idea of two Jerusalems, one earthly and one heavenly, help to explain Zechariah’s prophecy? Is Zechariah 12 more clear when it’s viewed in relation to the two passages where it’s quoted – Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7? In the near future, I also plan to post a 3-part study by Gary DeMar on Zechariah 14.

The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 6 (Conclusion)


This is the sixth and final post in a series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006. The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). The second post examined how tithing was prescribed under the law of Moses. The third post looked at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi).  The fourth post examined what Jesus and Hebrews 7 said about tithing, along with an overview of tithing in history. The fifth post discussed different ways that the law of Moses is viewed today, and included a summary of the book of Galatians, followed by an analysis of tithing in light of Christ having fulfilled the law. This post will feature a study on New Testament giving, a conclusion, and references.

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F. New Testament Giving

When faced with the idea that the modern practice of tithing may not be Biblical, some would naturally be concerned that a “no tithe required” position could pose a financial threat. In other words, if people stop “tithing,” can Christian leaders maintain their livelihood?

This becomes a matter of trusting that God can speak to the hearts of individual believers and guide them as to how they should give. It’s also a matter of having faith that God can meet the legitimate needs of ministries, even without the modern tithing system to lean on as a crutch. It’s also good to remember that western churches today are run like businesses, unlike the early church. Building mortgages, staff salaries, lobbies and foyers, parking lots, etc. are major factors in a lot of church budgets today, but they are extra-biblical and do not reflect the financial needs of the early church.

Regarding giving in the New Testament, Pastors David Clark and Bryce Carter (2006) admit that “giving is of little value” unless it comes from a willing heart. At the same time, however, they strongly question whether God ever gave man “the right to decide how much He requires.” Anonymous Pastor (2003), who teaches tithing, also affirms that giving should be done willingly, cheerfully, lovingly, thankfully, and with pure motives.

The following is a brief overview of a number of passages which show the progression, patterns and principles of New Testament giving. It’s clear that the poor, needy, and widows are still a priority:

[A] Acts 2:44-45 (The earliest believers were together, had all things in common, sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all based on need.)

[B] Acts 4:32-37 (There was great unity. No one claimed personal possessions, as they had all things in common. No one lacked. Lands and houses were sold. The proceeds were brought to the apostles, who distributed them based on need.)

[C] Acts 6:1-4 (The number of disciples had grown. The Hellenists complained that the Hebrews were leaving their widows out of the daily distribution. Seven men were chosen to be overseers.)

[D] Acts 11:27-30 (During a time of great famine, the disciples, “each according to his ability,” sent relief to believers in Judea. Paul and Barnabas brought the supplies to the elders.)

[E] Acts 18:3 (Paul earned some of his salary in his trade as a tentmaker.)

[F] Acts 20:34-35 (Paul did secular work to help support himself and his companions. He also wanted to demonstrate that “you must support the weak.”)

[G] Romans 15:26 (Believers from Macedonia and Achaia contributed to poor saints in Jerusalem.)

[H] I Corinthians 4:11-12 (Paul, at times, went hungry, was poorly clothed, was beaten and was homeless. He and his companions also did secular work with their own hands.)

[I] I Corinthians 9:1-18 (Paul was being examined, and defended his apostleship. He was possibly seen as inferior to the other apostles because he was working. He quoted from Moses to show that those who serve deserve to be supported. Paul had not even used his rights, though the Lord had made a provision for “those who preach the gospel [to] live from the gospel.” He preached the gospel out of his duty to the Lord, but he had chosen to also do secular work on the side so that he could “present the gospel of Christ without charge.”)

[J] I Corinthians 16:1-3 (Paul didn’t want to take up a collection for the Jerusalem saints in person when he came. So the Corinthian church, like the Galatian church, was to “lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper,” on the first day of the week. They had already promised to help the needy Jerusalem saints, affected by the famine.)

[K] II Corinthians 8:1-24 (Paul did much collecting on behalf of others. He rejoiced that the Macedonian Church received the grace of God, and had given freely, willingly, and beyond their ability [cf Romans 15:26]. The Corinthian church had already taken a year just to assemble their gift, even though they were wealthy. Paul desired financial equality in the churches. Titus and another brother had been sent to collect their gift on behalf of the needy.)

[L] II Corinthians 9:1-15 Paul announced that he would visit Corinth. Paul sent the brethren ahead to urge the Corinthian believers to have their promised gift ready before he arrived, out of “generosity and not as a grudging obligation.” Giving was to be done [1] as one purposes in his heart [2] “not grudgingly or of necessity” [3] cheerfully and [4] by God’s grace. Their service would supply the needs of the saints.)

[M] Philippians 4:10-19 (Paul had learned to be content, whether hungry and suffering need, or full and abounding. He was grateful to the Philippian believers for often sending for his necessities. They would receive fruit in their own accounts, and Paul promised that God would supply all their needs.)

[N] I Thessalonians 2:9, II Thessalonians 3:7-9 (Paul and his companions labored and toiled night and day, so they wouldn’t be a burden to the believers. They did it to be an example.)

[O] I Timothy 5:3-18 (The church was to relieve genuine widows, who had no one to take care of them. But if a widow still had believing family members, they were to take care of her. Those failing to provide for their own households had “denied the faith.” Younger widows were advised to remarry. Elders who ruled well were to be “counted worthy of double honor.”)

Giving from the heart was not a new concept in New Testament times. In the time of Moses, Scripture records numerous instances of freewill giving (e.g. Exodus 25:2, Exodus 35:4-5, Exodus 35:21-29, Leviticus 22:29). The people’s hearts were stirred, and they gave as they were willing. On one occasion, they gave far too much! They had to be restrained from bringing anymore (Exodus 36:2-7).

The New Testament insists that we belong completely to God, and we are not our own, for we were bought with a price (e.g. I Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything we have belongs to God, and we are to be good stewards of all that we have temporarily been given (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:42-48, 16:1-13, 19:11-27). Regarding the subject of giving, F.F. Bruce concludes:

“Each Christian must come to a conscientious decision on this subject before God, and not be content to submit to the dogmatic statements of others; and it will be surprising if grace does not impel him to give a larger proportion than ever the law demanded” (David Yeubanks, 2006).

G. Conclusion

I do not assume that the majority of those who practice monetary tithing today do so out of selfishness, fear, or an attempt to validate their salvation. Most probably, they sincerely believe that what they are doing is required by Scripture. I sympathize with the 54% of US Protestant Christians who believe God requires them to tithe, but for whatever reason fail to do so. I wonder how many of them are needlessly racked with guilt.

I also don’t assume that all tithe teachers use the curse of Malachi 3:9 as a means to scare, pressure, and dupe their followers into forking over at least 10% of their income. Some do this, of course. Many, however, are simply repeating what they themselves have heard and been taught.

I must conclude that those who teach tithing today rarely, if ever, teach it consistent with Old Testament teaching. If they did, those in the agricultural sector would be urged to tithe, not 10%, but around 23% every year. They would ensure that the poor, widows, and orphans benefited greatly from their tithes. They would give to Levites living closest to them. They would eat part of their yearly tithes. Their tithes would be mainly food products. The Levites would have a problem, though. The former temple, with its storehouse, no longer remains.

If a person were to do these things, perhaps he could then say he is tithing according to the Bible. However, if he did so out of any kind of obligation, he would be in danger of falling into the same error as the Galatian church, putting himself under law, and falling from grace.

I believe that the modern practice of tithing represents a large deception in the Church, though not always intentional. If we choose to obligate ourselves to even part of the law of Moses, we are under obligation to keep all of it. Galatians 3:10 states, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them” (emphasis added).

The Israelites had willingly agreed to be put under the curse if they disobeyed the law (Deuteronomy 27:11-26, 28:15-68), and they likewise anticipated blessings for obedience (28:1-14, 30:1-10). Centuries later, in Nehemiah’s day, they again “entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses…” (10:29). Around this same time, God used Malachi to tell His people that they were under a curse for failing to keep His commands regarding the priesthood and the poor.

By fearing the curse spoken of in Malachi’s day, many are putting their trust in the tithe for protection and financial blessing, rather than trusting in God. We negate the work of the cross in our lives if we still fear that curse, or if we try to avoid it by keeping the Law. The implication of placing one’s self under the curse of Malachi 3:9 for failing to tithe is that Christ’s death on the cross is regarded as insufficient to redeem His people from the curse of the law. Tithing is what allegedly bring us out from under that curse.

Giving 10% of one’s paycheck to a church or Christian ministry is not, and never was, Biblical tithing. What was formerly supported by the tithes (Levitical priesthood, festivals, etc.) has now been fulfilled in Christ in such a way that tithes are no longer needed to support them. Clear provision has been made in the New Testament to continue supporting the poor, orphans, and widows, without the presence of the tithing system. There is also provision made for supporting the work of various ministries, especially in I and II Corinthians.

God’s people have been redeemed from the curse of the law, with its demand for perfection of which we all fall terribly short. Only Jesus was perfect. He became a curse, so that through Him “we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:10-14). In light of Christ fulfilling the Law, the modern practice of tithing has no solid ground on which to stand.

References

Anonymous Pastor. The Trinity of Giving. 2003. Source to remain anonymous.

Carter, Pastor David L. and Clark, Pastor Bryce G. Tithing Today. Eugene, Oregon: Bethel Church of God. 2006. At http://www.bethelcog.org/GA_TithingToday.html.

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Nehemiah. 2004. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/nehemiah.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Malachi. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/malachi.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Matthew. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/matthew.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Galatians. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/galatians.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Hebrews. 2006. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/hebrews.pdf

Ellison Research. Clergy and Laity Disagree About Tithing and Charitable Giving. 2006. At http://www.ellisonresearch.com/releases/20060302.htm

Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth: Second Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing. 1993.

Foy, Nathan. Tithing – Is it for Today? Desert Cry Ministry. 2006. At http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/tithing-is-it-for-today-nathan-foy-sermon-on-giving-general-82833.asp

Greenwood, Tim. Why You Should Tithe. Arcadia, California: Tim Greenwood Ministries.  2006. At http://www.tgm.org/WhyUShouldTithe.htm.

Hughes, R. Kent. Disciplines of a Godly Man: Tenth Anniversary Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. 2001.

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. 1987.

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. The Christian and the “Old” Testament. Pasadena, California: William Carey Library. 1998.

Kelly Ph.D., Russell Earl. Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. Writer’s Club Press: New York. 2000. Available online at http://desatky.webzdarma.cz/rek.pdf

Kelly Ph.D., Russell Earl. Should the Church Teach Tithing? Acworth, Georgia. 2006. Essay at http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/

Narramore, Matthew E. Tithing: Low Realm, Obsolete, and Defunct. Graham, North Carolina: Tekoa Publishing. 2004. Available online at http://tekoapublishing.com/books/tithing/index.html

Nelson, Thomas The Holy Bible: The New King James Version. Philippines: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Pentecost, Dwight. The Purpose of the Law. Bibliotheca Sacra 128:511. July-September 1971 edition.

Snell, Jay. How to Amass Abrahamic Wealth. Livingston, Texas: Jay Snell Evangelistic Association. 1995. Available online at http://jaysnell.org/freebooks.htm.

Sparks, James. Why Modern Churches Are Carnal: God’s Plan for a Scriptural New Testament Church. Hico, Texas: Christian News and Views. 2005. At http://cnview.com/churches_today/chapter_6_truth_about_the_church.htm

Strong, LL.D., S.T.D., James. The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: With Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2001.

Teall, A.M., Edward N. New Concise Webster’s Dictionary: Revised Edition. New York: Modern Publishing. 1988.

The Barna Group, Ltd. Americans Donate Billions to Charity, But Giving to Churches Has Declined. 2005.  The Barna Group at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/5-barna-update/180-americans-donate-billions-to-charity-but-giving-to-churches-has-declined#.VH1oiDHF-So

Westby, Ken. Which is Scripturally Supportable: Tithing or Christian Giving? The Journal: Publication of the News of the Churches of God. 2006. At http://www.thejournal.org/articles/issue31/westby.html

Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Tithe. 2006. At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe

Yeubanks, David. Study References and Quotes. 2006. At http://truthforfree.com/html/tithing-related/tithing/index.html

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All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.

The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 5


This is the fifth post in a 6-part series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006. The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). The second post examined how tithing was prescribed and practiced under the Mosaic Law (in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The third post looked at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi).  The fourth post examined what Jesus and Hebrews 7 said about tithing, along with an overview of tithing in history. This post will discuss different ways that the law of Moses is viewed today (including a closer look at the book of Galatians), followed by an analysis of tithing in light of Christ having fulfilled the law.  My references will be included in the final post.

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D. Ways of Viewing the Law of Moses Today

How should present-day believers approach the Law of Moses, and the Old Testament as a whole? Although the New Testament is clear that Christ’s followers are no longer “under the law” (e.g. Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 3:25; Hebrews 7:18, 8:13), it’s also clear that the entire Old Testament is inspired by God, and is profitable in many ways to us today (II Timothy 3:16-17, I Corinthians 10:1-12). In fact, much of the New Testament is made up of references to the Old Testament, including references to the law of Moses. We have much to learn by studying the Law of Moses and every other part of the Old Testament.

Walter Kaiser, who has authored a number of books on the Old Testament, says that although the Law came “as a host of specific enactments distinctively relevant to particular times, persons, and places” (1987, p. 155), this “was not meant to prejudice its universal usefulness” (p. 172-3). He affirms that we can derive principles from the Law, but not irresponsibly, or by searching for “hidden meaning.” He says that “this search for principles or axioms must not be imposed as a grid over Scripture; Scripture itself must supply them” (p. 157).

Kaiser (1998) notes that there are two different views generally held by Christians on the relevance of Old Testament Law. The first view says that [1] we are required to obey Old Testament commands if they are specifically repeated in the New Testament, but whatever is not repeated is now passé. The second view says [2] we are still required to obey Old Testament commands, unless the New Testament specifically says otherwise.

Jay Snell (1995), and pastors David Carter and Bryce Clark (2006) clearly prefer the second view when it comes to tithing, as can be seen in their statements:

“[U]nless the New Testament has plainly set it [tithing] aside, you New Testament people are grafted right into the Old Testament Abrahamic System. So not only is the tithe, the offering and the first fruits offering not set aside, you are grafted right smack into the middle of all three of them…” (Carter and Clark). “And unless the cross sets aside something from the Old Testament, we are part and parcel of it. The cross has never set aside the tithe, the offerings and the law of the First Fruits Offering. We are in it” (Jay Snell, 1995, p. 36-37, emphasis added).

That’s an amazing statement, in light of the book of Hebrews explicitly teaching that the law, the old covenant, and the sacrifices have become obsolete. Carter and Clark (2006) have a similar view. They teach that the tithing laws did not need to be repeated in the New Testament because they were already well established in the Old Testament. Their stance is that unless “one can find a clear command not to tithe, one should never assume tithing has been done away.

Charles Ryrie clearly prefers the first view. On page 105 of his book Basic Theology, he said:

“Now the Mosaic Law was done away in its entirety as a code. It has been replaced by the law of Christ. The law of Christ contains some new commands (1 Timothy 4:4), some old ones (Romans 13:9), and some revised ones… All of the laws of the Mosaic code have been abolished because the code has. Specific Mosaic commands which are part of the Christian code appear there not as a continuation of part of the Mosaic Law…but as specifically incorporated into that [Christian] code, and as such they are binding on believers today. A particular law that was part of the Mosaic code is done away; that same law, if part of the law of Christ, is binding” (David Yeubanks, 2006, emphasis added).

Kaiser (1998) points out that two of the Protestant reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, held opposing views. Luther’s view seemed to reflect the first view above, while Calvin more or less held the second. Luther once wrote, “There is one answer that can be made to all attempts to cite passages from the Old Testament to support [monastic vows]. ‘Do you Christians want to be Jews?’ Prove your case from the New Testament. The Old Testament has been set aside through Christ and is no longer binding.” On another occasion, he wrote,

“The Law is no longer binding on us because it was given only to the people of Israel… [Exodus 20:2] makes it clear that even the ten commandments do not apply to us… The sectarian spirits want to saddle us with Moses and all the commandments. We will skip that. We will regard Moses as a teacher, but we will not regard him as our lawgiver-unless he agrees with both the New Testament and the natural law.”

Calvin took an almost opposite stance. Referring to Deuteronomy 32:46-47, he said, “We are not to refer solely to one age David’s statement that the life of a righteous man is a continual meditation upon the law [Psalms 1:2], for it is just as applicable to every age, even to the end of the world.” In the same document, Calvin added,

“What Paul says, as to the abrogation of the Law [Gal 3:10] evidently applies not to the Law itself, but merely to its power of constraining the conscience. For the Law not only teaches, but also imperiously demands… We must be freed from the fetters of the law… Meanwhile…the law has lost none of its authority, but must always receive from us the same respect and obedience” (p. 68-69).

Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (1993) note that there are more than 600 commandments in the Old Testament. They are contained within four Old Testament books: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Fee and Stuart add that “the function of most Old Testament books is largely to illustrate and apply the Law found in the Pentateuch (p. 149). They then ask (p. 150), “If you are a Christian, are you expected to keep the Old Testament law? If you are expected to keep it, how can you possibly do so, since there is no longer any temple or central sanctuary on whose altar you can offer such things as the meat of animals (Lev. 1-5)?” Fee and Stuart conclude (p. 152):

“The Old Testament represents an old covenant, which is one we are no longer obligated to keep. Therefore we can hardly begin by assuming that the Old Covenant should automatically be binding upon us. We have to assume, in fact, that none of its stipulations (laws) are binding upon us unless they are renewed in the New Covenant. That is, unless an Old Testament law is somehow restated or reinforced in the New Testament, it is no longer directly binding on God’s people (cf. Rom. 6:14-15).”

They also note that we can learn much about God by what we see in the laws that were given. For example, we can see that God loves slaves, and the regulations for slaves were far more compassionate than the treatment slaves received in the surrounding nations of that time (pp. 158-159).

I believe there is also much to be gleaned from the tithing laws. Foremost in my mind is that God showed great concern for the needy and the dependent. Those who tithed had a great responsibility toward orphans, widows, and strangers. When studying the tithing laws, we should be motivated to help the needy as well. The Law sought to ensure that those who ministered to the people, the priests and the Levites, were well taken care of. We should likewise be motivated to give generously to support those who genuinely serve the Body of Christ today.

The entire Old Testament is relevant to us today. This includes the Law, which contained “types and shadows” of the New Covenant God promised He would establish. Circumcision, for example, pointed to a future spiritual reality, being made a new creation (Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 6:15). So this obsolete regulation still illustrates how God cuts away the “flesh” from our hearts today, and this is worth studying and teaching.

The question is this: Are the ordinances of the Law of Moses binding in any way upon believers today, either to [1] govern behavior or [2] to attain some state of acceptance before God? Dwight Pentecost (1971) spoke well when he said, “For the Christian the Mosaic Law has revelatory value (2 Tim. 3:16-17) even though it does not have regulatory value, controlling our behavior” (p. 227).

John Wesley said, in his explanatory notes on Hebrews 7:18:

“For there is implied in this new and everlasting priesthood [the priesthood of Christ], and in the new dispensation connected therewith, a dis-annulling of the preceding commandment – An abrogation of the Mosaic law. For the weakness and unprofitableness thereof – For its insufficiency either to justify or to sanctify” (David Yeubanks, 2006).

There are many Scriptures in the New Testament which speak of our relation to the Law of Moses. Momentarily we’ll take a closer look at the Book of Galatians, but before doing so, consider this brief overview of some other relevant passages:

[A] Romans 6:13-15 (Sin doesn’t have dominion over us, because we are not under law. We are under grace, but we are not free to sin.)

[B] Romans 7:4-6 (We are dead to the law, which used to arouse “the passions of sins.” Now we are “delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by.”)

[C] Romans 7:7:12 (The law is holy, just, and good. But it brought death, because it revealed what sin is, and sin took the occasion to deceive and kill.)

[D] Romans 1:16-8:17 (This large passage discusses the Law at length.)

[E] Romans 10:4 (“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”)

[F] Romans 13:8-10 (“[He] who loves another has fulfilled the law.”)

[G] Ephesians 2:11-18 (The wall of division between Jews and Gentiles, “the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” has been abolished. Both groups are reconciled as one in Christ.)

[H] Colossians 2:11-17 (The “handwriting of requirements that was written against us” has been “wiped out”, “taken out of the way”, and nailed to the cross. They were against God’s people in the sense that they condemned those – everyone – who didn’t keep them perfectly.)

[I] I Timothy 1:5-9 (Some wanted to be teachers of the law, but had strayed. The “law is good if one uses it lawfully.” The “law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless…”)

[J] Hebrews 9:8-10 (The gifts and sacrifices offered in the tabernacle were temporary, “fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of the reformation. But Christ came…”)

[K] Hebrews 10:1 (The law had a shadow of good things to come, but could not make anyone perfect.)

[L] James 2:8-11 (The law convicts people as transgressors. Breaking even one point of the law makes a person “guilty of all.”)

We can also add that Jesus and the apostles taught that we fulfill the Law by wholeheartedly loving God and those around us (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 6:2; James 2:8).

The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians

One of the main concerns in the book of Galatians is whether Gentiles who believe in Christ must also be subject to Mosaic Law. The example which Paul looked into the deepest was circumcision (2:3-14, 5:2-12, 6:12-15). He touched on both justification and sanctification in this epistle.

Paul began his epistle to the Galatians by warning them that they were turning from the grace of Christ to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-7). After relating how he had received the gospel, Paul spoke of false brethren “secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Jesus Christ, that they might bring us into bondage)…” (2:4). Paul even firmly opposed Peter on the issue (2:11-21). Throughout the rest of the book, he warned against the danger of returning to any part of the Law for justification. If righteousness is said to come through the law, Paul warned, then Christ’s death was in vain (2:21).

The Galatians had “begun in the Spirit,” but then were attempting to be made perfect by the flesh (3:3). Here Paul touches on sanctification, the state of being increasingly set aside for God as holy (Strong, 2001). Like justification, this is also to take place in the lives of God’s people by the Spirit, not by the law.

If anyone is “of the works of the law,” he is under a curse, because he can’t possibly keep the entire Law (3:10-11). Christ redeemed His people from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for them (3:13). As a result, the Gentiles can now receive the blessing of Abraham through faith, which is the promised Holy Spirit (3:14). The law had been “added” only until Jesus came (3:19). It was a “tutor” to bring people to Christ, and now His followers “are no longer under a tutor,” but have been justified by faith in Him (3:24-25).

Paul compared those under the law to a child who, like a slave, is still “under guardians and tutors until the time appointed by the father” (4:1-3). Those who are redeemed “receive the adoption as sons” (4:4-7). The law brought bondage (4:3), but in spite of knowing God, the Galatians turned again to bondage (4:9). They were observing “days and months and seasons and years” (4:10), i.e. the annual feasts, etc., as an obligation. 

Galatians 5 begins with Paul exclaiming: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (5:1). In his day, the Galatian believers were obligating themselves to be circumcised, which was indeed an obligation under the law of Moses. False teachers were evidently telling them that they still needed to be circumcised to receive the blessings of God in their lives.

Paul told them that because of their stance on that issue, they were then in debt to keep the entire law: “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law” (5:2-3). In the next verse, he was even more severe, telling them that they had fallen from grace: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (5:4).

E. Tithing in Light of Christ Having Fulfilled the Law

I believe Paul would have said the same if the issue in Galatia had been tithing rather than circumcision. By this I don’t mean that all who claim to tithe today have fallen from grace, but this is the danger if we teach that tithing is necessary to be justified or sanctified before God.

Is this error taking place today? I believe it is. God’s people are no longer under a curse, but were redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10-14). By saying that those who do not tithe today are under the curse spoken of in Malachi, it’s implied that Jesus’ work on the cross was not enough to take it away. An additional effort on our part, i.e. tithing, is needed to obtain acceptance before God and remove the curse. I say this is implied, because tithe proponents normally don’t identify the curse of Malachi 3:9 (cf. Nehemiah 10:29) as the curse of the law.

Malachi 3 is probably cited more than any other passage to promote tithing today. It is often used to teach that those who fail to tithe are robbing God, and are cursed. Matthew Narramore (2004) sees this as ironic, because the opposite is actually true. He says, “[If] you put yourself back under the Law you will put yourself under the curse [according to Galatians 3:10].” The curse is not for those whom Christ has redeemed (Galatians 3:13), who are justified by faith in Him (2:16), and are standing fast “in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (5:1).

“Tithing is based on theological premises that are inconsistent with the finished work of Christ on the cross. The doctrine of tithing contradicts the most important aspects of the New Covenant and the believer’s new nature in Christ,” says Narramore in the introduction to his book. “The doctrine of tithing has been mindlessly taught and accepted for so long that some of the most outstanding Christian leaders do not recognize how it contradicts the very foundation of the gospel they are preaching.”

The question of whether Christians today are under grace or under the law is at the heart of the issue of tithing today. Narramore adds in chapter 4 of his book, “The New Testament scriptures make it plain that if you put yourself under any part of the Law then you are under the whole Law (James 2:10, Galatians 5:3).” Are some tithe teachers putting people under the Law?

Pastors David Carter and Bryce Clark (2006) give further insight into why they believe the tithing law is still required:

“The New Testament contains the same laws as the Old. Jesus did not do away with God’s Law. He expanded it. He said, “…That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees scrupulously tithed. Tithing is an act of worship. Jesus said, “…Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). The comparison here is obvious. Caesar had his just dues coming and so does God! The only Bible example of God’s just dues is the tithe.”

It sounds like they believe we need to outperform the scribes and Pharisees in keeping the Law. Carter and Clark then add, “Paul went on to say in Galatians 6:7 that we reap what we sow. The implication is clear. Those who refuse to support His true work will reap little spiritual help. Without the help of God, man stands no chance of ever attaining eternal life.”

Here they come dangerously close to saying that unless we tithe, we have no hope of being granted eternal life. Jay Snell (1995), whose books are frequently sold on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, admits that this is exactly what he used to teach. He used to tell non-tithers that they were “next to going to hell, probably are anyhow.” He admits that formerly, as a Baptist teacher, he also put people under the Law when he told them they needed to tithe:

“You know I could tighten the screws down better and put a Gentile Christian under the Law better than any Baptist preacher you ever heard. But, when God began to show me other things, I got into the deeper things of God and…saw the seven blessings involved with [tithing].”

Now he motivates them to tithe with promises of great material blessings (p. 12). He believes he isn’t putting them under Law anymore, because he presents tithing as the deal that “Abraham got in on” before the Law was given (p. 13). He elaborates:

“It’s a fact that Jesus did away with the law. But it is also a fact that the Holy Ghost wrote it in our hearts now. The blessing part is still valid and we are included in that. Do it. Act on it. Move out upon it and see what comes your way. Failure to do so is a matter of neither acknowledging God as your Source nor honoring Him with your first fruits. If I act on the above, God is obligated, based on the Abrahamic Covenant, to see me through” (p. 37).

Despite his new tactics, Snell does still clearly teach that not tithing amounts to a crime. He says that failing to tithe means “spending God’s money” while “trying to justify it” (p. 37)—no small accusation. Snell may not “tighten the screws down” as hard as he once did, but, sadly, it’s hard to conclude that he has put aside the error of the Galatians. While trying to refute the idea that poverty is associated with righteousness, Snell actually taught the opposite. He believes that obtaining wealth helps him to be righteous before God:

“I am not convinced we have to be “flat busted” to be a “good” Christian. I can be a much better Christian if I have a decent car that runs good, wear decent looking clothes, live in a decent looking house, and have enough money in my pocket to take my wife to the restaurant after church if I want to. Now I can just be right with God a whole lot quicker and easier with things like that” (p. 56, emphasis added).

Matthew Narramore (2004) says,

“Most of the erroneous teaching on tithing comes from one thing; people are trying to apply Old Covenant principles to life in Christ and the two don’t mix. Paul had his biggest problem with people who were trying to fit the New Covenant believers into an obsolete way of living. The same problem continues today. People who teach tithing say they are not promoting the Law. However, the only instructions on tithing that came from God came through the Law to people who were under the Law. That was the only group of people he ever instructed to tithe” (Chap. 7).

David Yeubanks (2006) quotes from another source on why tithing was not taught in the New Testament by Jesus or any of His followers, including Paul:

[1] The silence of the NT writers, particularly Paul, regarding the present validity of the tithe can be explained only on the ground that the dispensation of grace has no more place for a law of tithing than it has for a law on circumcision (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary of Theology).

[2] Tithing is not taught in the New Testament as an obligation for the Christian under grace… Because we are not under law, but under grace, Christian giving must not be made a matter of legalistic obligation, lest we fall into the error of Galatianism… (Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, p. 1152).

Some tithe proponents, while admitting that believers are not under the Law, point to the fact that Abraham and Jacob tithed before the Law was given. However, Abraham and Jacob were also circumcised prior to the Law. Moses’ wife even circumcised their son, just in time to prevent God from killing Moses for failing to do so (Exodus 4:24-26). This was before the Law was given. Abraham gave animal sacrifices before the Law said to do so. If tithing is required today because it appeared before the Law, then, to be consistent, circumcision and animal sacrifices should also be required today.

In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas argued with some men who were telling the Gentile believers that they had to be “circumcised according to the custom of Moses” to be saved (15:1). Some believing Pharisees even told the Gentiles to “keep the law of Moses” (15:5). The Jerusalem Council took up this matter. Peter said they were testing God by “putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (15:10). He affirmed that all are saved by grace (15:11).

The consensus of the council was to advise the Gentiles to stay away from four things: [1] things polluted by idols [2] from sexual immorality [3] from things strangled [4] from blood (15:19-20, 22-29). Even this decree was circumstantial, as Paul later advocated freedom in the above areas, except for the area of sexual purity (e.g. Romans 14).

Soon after this council, believing Jews who were “zealous for the law” protested because the Gentiles were not being circumcised or taught “to walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:20-21). The leaders of the Church once again affirmed that the Gentiles should “observe no such thing” and repeated their earlier decree (21:25). Paul and his companions did purify themselves according to the Law, but only in an unsuccessful attempt to make peace (21:23-36).

Why wasn’t tithing listed among those “necessary things” decreed by the Jerusalem Council? The answer is that tithing falls into the same category as circumcision and the other Mosaic commands which are not repeated in the New Testament. They are no longer necessary.

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Part 6, the final post of this series, will feature a study on New Testament giving, followed by a conclusion and references.

All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.