The Land of Palestine From 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)


Here are two videos portraying life and society in Palestine from 1896 to 1948. This is great history.

The first video is 2.5 minutes long and features footage from 1896 when there were about 500,000 inhabitants in Palestine, including about 30,000 people in Jerusalem. Jews made up roughly 50% of Jerusalem’s population, but less than 5% of the population elsewhere. Outside of Jerusalem, where more than 90% of Palestine’s population lived, Muslims made up about 85% of the population and Christians made up about 10% of the population.

The second video is 10 minutes long, and features quite a number of still photos spanning the decades prior to Israel becoming a nation in 1948. There are universities and colleges, sports matches, and other evidences of a vibrant society. The music that this video is set to is pretty neat too. This video footage was included in a French documentary called “Palestine, Story of a Land.”

This footage might bring to mind the expression that has been attributed to early Zionists, that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Within the last couple of years I’ve learned some things about the origins and development of this expression. As Diana Muir points out in a well-written 2008 article, it appears to have its roots in a statement made

“by Church of Scotland clergyman Alexander Keith in his 1843 book The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. Keith was an influential evangelical thinker whose most popular work, Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy, remains in print almost two centuries after it was first published. As an advocate of the idea that Christians should work to encourage the biblical prophecy of a Jewish return to the land of Israel, he wrote that the Jews are “a people without a country; even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people.”

Muir goes on to give examples of other Christian writers and leaders adopting this phrase in some form before Israel Zangwill in 1901 apparently became the first Zionist to use it, saying, “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.”

In any case, as these videos show, Palestine had much more of a thriving society before 1948 than many people have been willing to acknowledge. By numerous accounts, Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs also got along quite fine during that time period. For example, Elias Chacour, a Christian Palestinian Arab who was nine years old when Israel became a nation, wrote about a childhood experience he often witnessed in the village of Biram:  

“Many of these Jewish neighbors came to Biram to trade as well. When they stopped by our house for figs, father welcomed them with the customary hospitality and a cup of tar-like, bittersweet coffee—the cup of friendship” (Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers, 2005, p. 24).

If one looks past the awful headlines that are currently dominating the news concerning this part of the world, one can find examples of Palestinians, Jews, and others actively working for peace there. Elias is one of them. May the people of this region soon experience the healing and the restoration that they need.

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The Palestinian Christian: Betrayed, Persecuted, Sacrificed (An Essay by Abe W. Ata)


The following essay was written in 2006 by Dr. Abe W. Ata, a Palestinian Christian who was born in Bethlehem. I read it once before, but was reminded of it a couple days ago when my friend, Mark Church, shared it on Facebook. Whether or not one agrees with every word Dr. Ata says, it’s instructive to hear his perspective and it’s good for Christians to be made aware of how many of their brothers and sisters in Christ are being affected by the dire situation in Israel/Palestine, a situation that has become even more heart-breaking in recent days.

The Palestinian Christian is an endangered species.

When the modern state of Israel was established there were about 400,000 of us. Two years ago the number was down to 80,000. Now it’s down to 60,000. At that rate, in a few years there will be none of us left. When this happens non-Christian groups will move into our churches and claim them for ever.

I fear that when/if the last Palestinian Christian leaves, extreme groups will move instantly to our churches and schools and have a field day hatching world plots. It would be too late for Bush (or Kerry) to do anything about it!!

Palestinian Christians within Israel fare little better. On the face of it, their number has grown by 20,000 since 1991. But this is misleading, for the census classification “Christian” includes some 20,000 recent non-Arab migrants from the former Soviet Union.

So why are Palestinian Christians abandoning their homeland?

We have lost hope, that’s why. We are treated as non-people. Few outside the Middle East even know we exist, and those who do, conveniently forget.

I refer, of course, to the American Religious Right. They see modern Israel as a harbinger of the Second Coming, at which time Christians will go to Paradise, and all others (presumably including Jews) to Hell. To this end they lend military and moral support to Israel.

Even by the double-dealing standards of international diplomacy this is a breathtakingly cynical bargain. It is hard to know who is using whom more:

bullet The Christian Right for offering secular power in the expectation that the Jewish state will be destroyed by a greater spiritual one; or
bullet The Israeli Right for accepting their offer.

What we do know is that both sides are abusing the Palestinians. Apparently we don’t enter into anyone’s calculations.

The views of the Israeli Right are well known: they want us gone.

Less well known are the views of the American Religious Right. Strangely, they find the liberation of Iraqis from a vile dictator just, but do not find it unjust for us to be under military occupation for 38 long years.

Said Senator James Inhofe (R-OK):

“God Appeared to Abraham and said: ‘I am giving you this land,’ the West Bank. This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.’”

Inhofe must have got it wrong. Promises are being made to earthly Jerusalem, that again, God did not make! For Paul wrote that the Holy Land was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. These are the Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who have been living in the land for thousands of years. The Bible never mentioned that God promised it solely to Jews. Anyone can be a Jew, but not anyone can be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. James Inhofe and followers are unable to tell the difference between Jew, Israelite, and Israel.

It is very clear, that in Israel, there will be no continuing city!

bullet (Hebrews-13-13-14) Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His Reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek on to come!
bullet His Promise to Abraham! (Hebrews-11-10) For he looked for a City which has foundations (Christ The Foundation) whose builder and maker is God!
bullet (16) Now they desire a better Country, that is, An Heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He HAS prepared for them a City!

Heavenly Jerusalem, of Heavenly Israel!!

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) was even more forthright:

“I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank…I happen to believe that the Palestinians should leave.”

There is a phrase for this: Ethnic cleansing.

Silencing us, from seeking your support and enlightening you about our suffering, goes counter to what Jesus has mandated us to do. We all know that Muslims and Jews get ceaseless support (political, spiritual and financial) consecutively from Saudi Arabia and America respectively; We, the Palestinian Christians, get nothing from the Australian and other Western “Christian” governments. (The Pope has been an exception.)

Prior to the 1967 war, the Christian youth at the Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist and other churches in Bethlehem used to pray and rejoice and have a good chat with hundreds of American Christian pilgrims. In particular Texas and California were two places from where many came from to visit us in the Holy Land. Today only fading memories prevail. Christian families have vacated Bethlehem. The remaining Christians are paying the price by experiencing curfews which last for weeks. They remain sandwiched between Muslims and Jews without drawing the slightest concern from the many so-called Western Christians.

So why do American Christians stand by while their leaders advocate the expulsion of fellow Christians? Could it be that they do not know that the Holy Land has been a home to Christians since, well … since Christ?

Do not think I am asking for special treatment for Christians. Ethnic cleansing is evil whoever does it and to whomever it is done. Palestinian Christians — Anglican, Maronite Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Armenians, Baptists, Copts and Assyrians — have been rubbing shoulders with each other and with other religions: - MuslimsJews, Druze and (most recently) Baha’is - for centuries. And we want to do so for centuries more. But we can’t if we are driven out by despair.

We are equally frightened by those who commit suicide bombings. None of us Christians have condoned it or even contemplated the idea. Our commitment to Jesus’ teachings will never shake our resolve in this matter.

American journalist Anders Strindberg makes a clearer conclusion. He says Palestinians are equated with Islamists, Islamists with terrorists. Presumably because all organized Christian activity among Palestinians is non-political and non-violent, the community hardly ever hits the Western headlines. Suicide bombers sell more copies [sic] than people who congregate for Bible study.

What we seek is support: material, moral, political and spiritual. As Palestinians we grieve for what we have lost, and few people (the Ashkenazi Jews are one) have lost more than us (the Ashkenazi Jews are one). But grief can be assuaged by the fellowship of friends.

Source

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From his bio: “Prof. Abe W. Ata was a temporary delegate to the UN in 1970 and has lived and worked in the Middle East, America and Australia. Dr Ata is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Advancement of Research, and lectures in Psychology at the Australian Catholic University. Dr Ata is a 9th generation Christian Palestinian academic born in Bethlehem.”

Jude, Moses, and Enoch on Jesus’ Coming to Execute Judgment


(I first published the following article yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection Magazine):

The book of Enoch is not part of the Biblical canon, the 66 books of the Bible. However, one of Enoch’s prophecies (of judgment) is quoted in Jude 14-15. In this article we will look at this prophecy in relation to Deuteronomy 33:2 and in relation to the timing given by Enoch for the fulfillment of this judgment.

Aside from Jude’s favorable reference to the book of Enoch, this work was also once highly regarded by Barnabas (1st century AD), Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD), Athenagoras (133 – 190 AD), Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD), Tertullian (160 – 225 AD), and other early church leaders. On the other hand, it was banned by Jerome (347 – 420 AD) and Augustine (354 – 430 AD). 

Let’s take a look at Jude 1-19, Deuteronomy 33:1-2, and two portions from the Book of Enoch, including the prophecy referenced by Jude:

JUDE 1-19

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. 17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. 19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.

Note that Jude was not speaking of ungodly men who would appear 2000 years later. Jude spoke of false teachers who were bothering the church in his own time, the first century. “For certain men have crept in…” Their condemnation was marked out a long time ago (verse 4), and Enoch prophesied about these same men (verse 14), predicting that the Lord would judge them when He would come with thousands of saints. Many scholars believe that “saints” here refers to angels. It’s good to recall that Jesus promised to come in judgment “with His holy angels” while some of His disciples were still alive (Matthew 16:27-28). Also note that angels are present at every judgment outlined in the book of Revelation. Jude told his readers that they were seeing the fulfillment of what Jesus’ other apostles predicted – that mockers would come “in the last time.”

DEUTERONOMY 33:1-2

Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. And he said: “The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints; From His right hand came a fiery law for them.

This passage clearly provides a background to Jude 14-15. Moses told the people of Israel that the Lord came from Mount Sinai with thousands of saints (angels) at the time the old covenant law was established. Jude used remarkably similar language to predict the overthrow of that same old covenant system.

ENOCH 1:9

1. The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect ⌈and⌉ righteous, who will be living in the day of tribulation, when all the wicked ⌈and godless⌉ are to be removed. 2. And he took up his parable and said–Enoch a righteous man, whose eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, ⌈which⌉ the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I understood as I saw, but not for this generation, but for a remote one which is for to come. 3. Concerning the elect I said, and took up my parable concerning them:

The Holy Great One will come forth from His dwelling, 4. And the eternal God will tread upon the earth, (even) on Mount Sinai, ⌈And appear from His camp⌉ And appear in the strength of His might from the heaven of heavens. 5. And all shall be smitten with fear And the Watchers shall quake, And great fear and trembling shall seize them unto the ends of the earth. 6. And the high mountains shall be shaken, And the high hills shall be made low, And shall melt like wax before the flame. 7. And the earth shall be ⌈wholly⌉ rent in sunder, and all that is upon the earth shall perish, and there shall be a judgement upon all (men). 8. But with the righteous He will make peace. And will protect the elect, and mercy shall be upon them. And they shall all belong to God, and they shall be prospered, and they shall ⌈all⌉ be blessed. ⌈And He will help them all⌉, and light shall appear unto them, ⌈and He will make peace with them⌉. 9. And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of ⌈His⌉ holy one to execute judgement upon all, and to destroy ⌈all⌉ the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works ⌈of their ungodliness⌉ which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners ⌈have spoken⌉ against Him.

ENOCH 10:11-14

And the Lord said unto Michael [in the days of Noah]: ‘Go, bind Semjaza and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves 12 with them in all their uncleanness. And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is 13 for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and 14 to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever.

Source

The very first part of the book of Enoch reveals that Enoch saw visions “not for this [his own] generation, but for a remote one which is for to come,” who would “be living in the day of tribulation” (verse 2). God would tread on Mount Sinai (verse 4), the place where the old covenant was inaugurated. At that time of judgment, God’s people, the elect, would receive protection and help (verse 8). The portion quoted by Jude is in verse 9.

In the 10th chapter of the book of Enoch, we see that Enoch is even more specific about when this time of judgment and tribulation would occur. Writing in the days of Noah, Enoch said that 70 generations would pass until that time (Enoch 10:12). Luke, who “had perfect understanding of all things from the very first” and who gave “an orderly account” (Luke 1:3), recorded exactly 70 generations from his own time until the generation of Jesus (Luke 3:23-37). 

Jesus’ generation did indeed witness great tribulation (Matthew 24:21, Mark 13:19, Luke 21:23). For a detailed timeline of this period of tribulation, see this article. The old covenant system was judged and destroyed at this time, as Jerusalem and the temple fell to the Roman armies in 70 AD just as Jesus predicted. Furthermore, God’s people, the elect, received protection and help:

“[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.”

-Remigius (437 – 533 AD)

“Moreover, the people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to the approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the war, and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men.”

-Eusebius (“father of church history”), Proof of the Gospel (Book III, Chapter VII), 314 AD

The language used by Jude is enough to show that the predicted judgment was to fall upon wicked false teachers who were harassing the church in his day. His tie-in with Deuteronomy 33 confirms that this was to be a judgment upon the old covenant system. The words of Enoch, though not considered inspired Scripture, were respected by Jude and add weight to the many New Testament passages indicating that Jesus would come with His angels in fiery judgment upon unfaithful Israel before His own generation would pass away. These things were fulfilled in the manner and within the time frame they were predicted.

TK Burk: $1000 Challenge to Dispensationalists


“$1000 For One Scripture That Says…” On the heels of the previous post being about dispensationalism, I find this long-standing challenge by TK Burk to be an interesting one. For those who may have seen the last post, but weren’t sure what dispensationalism is, Burk’s eight points below should help give you an idea of what is taught in this school of thought:

A biblical doctrine is not biblical unless it has biblical passages proving it is biblical fact. That may sound a little simplistic, and maybe even a bit of a tongue twister, but it is still the main rule to follow when rightly dividing God’s Word. Please, keep this in mind when reading through this $1000.00 challenge.

Each of the following eight points are taken from foundational teachings in the prophecy view called “Dispensationalism.” If Dispensationalism is truly biblical then there should be Bible passages that clearly speak of these points. If there are no such scriptures, how then can Dispensationalism be said to be biblical? For this challenge, I am offering $1000.00 to the first person that can give just one Bible verse that actually says any of the following Dispensational teachings:

  1. God delayed His Kingdom because the Jews rejected Jesus.
  2. There is a gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel.
  3. There will be a secret pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.
  4. God will require the building of a physical third Jewish Temple.
  5. God will no longer accept grace and Jesus’ blood for salvation but will instead return to the Law and animal blood sacrifices.
  6. An Antichrist will make a seven-year covenant with the Jews.
  7. There will be a future seven-year tribulation period.
  8. A physical Jesus Christ will return to establish a 1000-year reign on earth.

If you’re a Dispensational believer, and if you believe that any or all of the above eight teachings are biblical, would you please give us at least one Bible verse that actually says any of the above? Though Dispensational teachers claim to have much scriptural evidence to support their teachings, you only need one Bible scripture to qualify for the $1000.00.

This $1000.00 offer has been around for many years. To date not even one verse has ever been sent to prove any of these Dispensational teachings are in fact biblical…not one. This silence alone should be enough to prove that these main points in the Dispensational theory are not biblical. However, since Dispensationalism is still claimed by some to be biblical, this $1000.00 is still being offered to the first person that can give such a verse. If you are a Dispensationalist and you cannot find such a scripture, I hope you realize that this means you are missing much more than just $1000.00–you are missing the fullness of God’s Truth.

For continuity, responses to this challenge must use the King James Bible. Use the below “reply” area to send in any Bible verses. Comments concerning the lack of any such scriptural evidence are also welcomed.

(Source)

Burk is right – not one Scripture passage substantiates any of those eight points. As a side note regarding #5, my understanding is that dispensationalists/pre-millennialists would probably say that God’s grace and Jesus’ blood will still be the basis for salvation in an alleged future millennium, but that animal sacrifices will be re-established as some kind of a memorial. It’s still a very strange idea, though, in my opinion, and certainly without Scriptural basis.

Allyn Morton: How Radical is Dispensationalism (A Tongue in Cheek View)


The following article appeared in The Fulfilled Connection Magazine, a new writing collaborative started and managed by Allyn Morton (see Allyn’s bio at the end of this post), featuring content from a fulfilled eschatology viewpoint. There are currently 35 columnists, and I’m privileged to be one of them as well. This is one of Allyn’s first entries, published on June 20th. It’s satire, meant to demonstrate a point – the radical nature of dispensationalism:

They say, “When the full number of Gentiles have come in (along with the full number of believing Jews, who are coming in at the same time), the mystery of God shall be complete and Jesus will return.”

Let me explain. See, there’s a Gentile alive now who will receive Christ [he will be the last one], and then the church made up of Jews and Gentiles (not to be confused with Israel) will be raptured. This is the fullness of the Gentiles coming in. At this point, God’s prophetic timeclock will start ticking again, and He will begin working with the Jews, who are different from the Jews He worked with when He was saving them during the church age.

Now, since all the Church, made up of both Jew and Gentile Christians (and not to be confused with Israel), will be gone from the planet, we don’t know who will be witnessing to the Jews, much less the Gentiles (who God won’t be working with) during the Tribulation. Somehow, they will get saved, because God will unharden their hearts after ensconsing most of them in Hell for the last 2,000 years.

Never confuse God’s wonderful plan for Israel (not to be confused with His plan for Jews who receive Christ, during the church age).

These Jews who get saved during the Tribulation (Israel, not to be confused with the church) are not in the church, because the church made up of Jews (not to be confused with Israel) and Gentiles who make up the church have already been raptured, so God could start working with the Jews (not the ones who were raptured, and thus not a part of Israel) again.

The Jews (not to be confused with raptured Jews) who get saved during the Tribulation witness to the Gentiles of the world. Lots get saved. They are not a part of the church (not to be confused with Israel) either. These are called Tribulation saints (not to be confused with the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles who got raptured, not to be confused with Israel).

So, in heaven, there will be the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, not to be confused with Israel, and Israel, made up of Jews, who are not the Jews who got saved prior to the rapture and thus make up part of the church, which is not to be confused with Israel, and Tribulation saints, who are Gentiles who get saved when God’s prophetic time clock awakens Him to save the Jews, who are not part of the church, which is not to be confused with Israel, because Israel is made up of Jews only, not Gentiles, who could be a part of the church, or the Tribulation saints, depending on where God’s prophetic time clock is.

So, there’s the church made up of Jews and Gentiles, then Israel made up of Jews only, then Tribulation saints, made up of Gentiles.

See how simple eschatology is when you don’t confuse the church with Israel?

© Allyn Morton

Allyn is the owner and administrator of several websites including TFC Magazine. He began his pursuit of understanding in html programming at the early stages of the internet. His interests are wide but mostly deal in websites, writing, and the joys of the outdoors. He is also a contributor to the Fulfilled Covenant Bible. Allyn is the father of three children and the husband of a loving wife.

Guest Post: The Biblical Heavens and Earth (Part 3 of 3)


This post concludes Steve’s 3-part series on the Biblical heavens and earth, exploring comparisons between Genesis 1, Jeremiah 4:23-27, and Matthew 24:35. Part 1 can be seen here, and part 2 (which explores Jeremiah 4:23-27) can be seen here.

I would like to thank Adam Maarschalk for allowing me this opportunity to share with his readers even though we do not see eye to eye on many things. Studying the Word of God is a great joy and privilege, and I hope this study will benefit your own Bible studies.

In part two of this study, we saw that the old heavens & earth was synonymous with Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Jer. 4:23-26; Matt. 23:34-38 & 24:29-35). In the final post in this series, we will see that New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth, and that it arrived in 70 AD. (Based upon this, I have been at times accused of being a hyperpreterist, but I am not, since I still believe in the future Second Coming and the resurrection of our bodies, which hyperpreterists deny.) Just as the heavens & earth represented the kingdom of Israel, the new heavens & earth represents the kingdom of the Israel of God here on the earth. The Israel of God was established here on the earth when the old Israel was cast out of “Abraham’s camp” (Gal. 4:21-31). To better understand what the new heavens & earth is and isn’t, it will help to look at the biblical timeline.

The timing of New Jerusalem’s arrival and the new heavens & earth

In the book of Revelation, the bride of Christ is identified as New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 9-10). This New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth (Rev. 21:1-2). The bride arrives back in Rev. 19:7-9. The bride’s wedding supper consists of scavenging birds feasting on the flesh of the dead, when Jesus comes in judgment against the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:7-21). Likewise, the bride arrives as the people of God are rejoicing over the death of the great harlot Babylon, which is the great city (Rev. 19:1-6, also see Rev. chapters 17 & 18). So when the great city is destroyed, and the two persecutors of the Church are judged (the beast from the sea & the beast from the land/false prophet), New Jerusalem comes down to the earth. So who is the great city Babylon?

Since there is a great deal of material easily available here on this blog to prove this point, I will only provide a few proofs that Babylon is the city of Jerusalem. In Rev. 11:8, the great city is identified as where “their Lord was crucified,” which can only be Jerusalem. This verse also gives Babylon two other symbolic names: “Sodom and Egypt.” In the case of Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt, God poured out His wrath on them even as He brought His people out of those places. The same is true for the Babylon of Revelation (Rev. 18:4-8).  Where else do we read in the NT where Christians are warned to flee a city because its judgment has come? “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22)

The biblical pattern for New Jerusalem’s arrival

So we see that when Jerusalem is destroyed, the spiritual New Jerusalem arrives to take its place. This fits the pattern seen throughout the Bible: first the natural, then the spiritual. Cain was the first born, and murdered the spiritual Abel. Ishmael was the natural son of Abraham born by the power of the flesh, but Isaac was the spiritual son, born by the power and promise of the Holy Spirit. The first Adam is earthy, the second Adam is heavenly (1 Cor. 15:47). First is the natural body, then comes the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:42-49).

When Moses brought the Hebrews out of Egypt, there was the Jewish people and Law, but they would not receive the Jewish land for forty years, in order to kill off the unbelieving Jews. Likewise, when the Church was established in 30 AD, there was a Christian people and Law (the New Covenant – the law of faith in Christ), but the Christians would not receive their land (the new heavens & earth) until forty years had gone by to kill off the unbelieving Jews. This is why the Christians received the new heavens & earth in 70 AD.

As we have seen earlier in this study, Adam foreshadows the Jewish nation. Both are created to the west of the Holy Land, and then are planted in the Land and given a Law to keep. Both break the Law they were given and are driven out of the Land to the east (to Babylon). This is where the Genesis narrative leaves Adam, with the people of God expelled from the Land in exile to the east, cut off from the tree of life, and with the Land under a curse. However, in Revelation, the people of God are brought out of Babylon, out of the east, and are brought back to the Holy Land, back to (New) Jerusalem. Having been brought back, access to the tree of life is restored and the curse is no more (Rev. 22:2-3).

The nature of the curse of creation

In order to understand why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth, we first need to understand the curse in Gen. 3:14-19. As we have seen in previous posts, since the Genesis creation account isn’t about the universe, the curse isn’t about the universe, either. If the whole planet was pleasant and nice, why the need for a garden at all? But the planting of the garden indicates the rest of the world wasn’t so pleasant or ideal.

For Adam’s sin, he was driven from the Garden. Since the man was no longer there to tend the Garden, the Garden would become overrun with “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:17-18). This is the same thing that is taught in Isa. 5:3-7, Jer. 12:10-13, and Hos. 10:3-8.

Not only would the Garden of God be ruined because of man’s sin, but man’s work would become harder (Gen. 3:17-19). When there is less than ideal sunlight, rain, etc., raising useful plants becomes very difficult. In such circumstances, the only things that want to grow are those things which are useless to man – weeds. We see throughout the OT that God would punish Israel’s sin with droughts and poor crops, making it harder than it should be to raise a crop.

God cursed the woman by greatly multiplying her pain in bringing forth children (Gen. 3:16). Notice that God would increase her pain, which indicates pain was already in the workings of the world prior to Adam’s sin. I do not believe the pain refers to the physical pain of delivering a child, but to mothers mourning the loss of their children (as seen in Deut. 28:18 & 32; Jer. 4:31, 5:17, 9:20-22; Luke 23:28-29; in contrast with Isa. 65:23, 66:22).

Why there is no curse or death in the new heavens & earth

The reason why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth is because there are no wicked people in this “land” (Rev. 21:27, 22:14-15) that would bring about the wrath of God. Unlike “Babylon” (Jerusalem), God never has to abandon New Jerusalem and put it to the sword, because New Jerusalem’s people only consist of spiritual Israel, the Israel of God – those who are obedient to Christ. And since the city is never destroyed, the people remain in the land to tend the land and bear fruit for God, keeping it from being overrun by thorns and thistles.

This is why Rev. 21:4 says that in New Jerusalem, “there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” This is all in contrast to what just happened to “Babylon” (Jerusalem). God had just abandoned and destroyed it (Rev. 18). But God would never treat New Jerusalem in that fashion, because it will never become the home of wicked people. To enter this spiritual city, one must first repent and obey Christ (Rev. 22:14). If a Christian falls away, he is removed by Christ from His Church (Gal. 5:4), and is therefore no longer within the New Jerusalem.

When Rev. 21:4 says there is no more death, it is in the context of Isa. 65-66, especially Isa. 65:17-23. (There are numerous parallels between Isa. 65-66 and Rev. 21-22, too many to list here, but notice that Isa. 65-66 also links the arrival of the new heavens & earth with God punishing the culmination of generations of guilt: Isa. 65:7 and Matt. 23:29-36.) In summary of Isa. 65:17-23, God will not put New Jerusalem to the sword the way He did old Jerusalem. It is in that sense there is no more death. And even though Isa. 65:20-21 is speaking of lifespans in a figurative way, natural births and deaths still occur (which indicates this is not referring to the age of resurrection – Luke 20:34-36).

In fact, the presence of sexual reproduction and the marriage/one-flesh relationship prior to the sin of Adam indicates death was “baked” into creation, since resurrection and immortality means the end of marriage/sexual reproduction (Luke 20:34-36). This is because sexual reproduction has to do with the mortality of the flesh – once the flesh is made immortal, it no longer serves a purpose.

The key to understanding the new heavens & earth is realizing that it is not being contrasted with our universe, but with what would/did happen to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. During the age of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth, the nations of the world still exist (Rev. 21:24-27), but the nations of the world are abolished at the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-33).

New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth vs. the Second Coming

In Rev. 20, we are given a sequence of events that indicates the Second Coming takes place long after the arrival of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth. In Rev. 19, we see that the bride (New Jerusalem, see Rev. 21:9-10) arrives upon the destruction of Babylon (old Jerusalem). It is also at this time many people are put to death, and the beast and false prophet (Nero and the Jewish leaders) are punished (Rev. 19:17-21). But noticed who is not punished at this time –Satan. He will not be punished until “a thousand years” later (a symbol for a long, indefinite period of time).

Instead of punishing Satan at this time, God instead has Satan locked away for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). This is because God is not done with Satan at 70 AD. The end of the thousand years is marked by the temporary release of Satan, so that he can attack New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). But notice the end of the millennium doesn’t come with the arrival of New Jerusalem – but with Satan’s attack on New Jerusalem. It is only then, a thousand years later, that the devil joins the beast and false prophet in punishment (Rev. 20:10).

New Jerusalem is already there when Satan is released, because New Jerusalem is the millennial reign of Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem, Nero, and the Jewish leaders ushers in the arrival of New Jerusalem, which is Jesus’ capital city. New Jerusalem is where Christ reigns along with His saints for the thousand years. It is only at the end of the thousand years, the end of the reign of Christ that the resurrection occurs and death is defeated (1 Cor. 15:23-28). So it is no surprise that the final judgment and resurrection of the dead happens once the thousand year reign is complete (Rev. 20:11-15).

The beginning of the millennium vs. the end of the millennium

The triggering event for the beginning of the millennium is the destruction of Jerusalem. God rallies the nations of the world (the Roman Empire) against Jerusalem, and the city of Jerusalem is afflicted with demons (Rev. 9:1-11). The nations of the world destroy and loot Jerusalem, carrying off all of her treasures.

Contrast this with the event that triggers the end of the millennium. Satan rallies the nations of the world against New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). New Jerusalem is filled with “treasure” because it has “looted” the nations (Rev. 21:24-27, referring to the righteous who have been brought out of this world into the kingdom of Christ), but far from being looted, the city cannot even be harmed (Rev. 20:9). The city is not looted or harmed because unlike old Jerusalem, this city is filled with the righteous. God does not withdraw His protection as He did with old Jerusalem, because God protects His own people (Matt. 23:37). The attack on old Jerusalem brought about the judgment of one nation in one generation, but the failed attack at New Jerusalem brings about the judgment of all nations and all generations.

The resurrection vs. 70 AD

Some of those who correctly believe the new heavens & earth is a present reality mistakenly believe the resurrection happened, or at least began, in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. One problem with this view is that Scripture routinely treats the Second Coming and the resurrection as being distinct from 70 AD.

Take the Bible’s primary teaching on resurrection: 1 Cor. 15. This passage provides the most comprehensive teaching on the subject of the resurrection, and yet there is nothing there about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple.

Take another example, the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is all about the resurrection, much more so than the synoptic Gospels. Even the first sign John records, the apparently trivial miracle of turning water into wine, is really about the resurrection. Common water is placed into stone waterpots (“buried in the earth”), where Jesus miraculously changes it, and when it is “raised out of the earth,” Jesus turns it into something far superior: an excellent wine (John 2:6-10). In fact, the turning point in John’s Gospel is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45-53). And yet there is nothing taught about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple anywhere in his Gospel, at least not explicitly. The one Gospel that focuses on the resurrection is also the one Gospel that doesn’t focus on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. If the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple are an integral part of the day of resurrection, how can John spend his entire Gospel talking about the resurrection and yet never mention 70 AD?

The only passage that appears to tie the new heavens & earth with the resurrection is Rom. 8:18-25. The redemption of creation (which refers to the death of the old heavens & earth, and the arrival of the new heavens & earth in 70 AD) is compared to the redemption of our bodies (at the resurrection). But notice Paul does not say these events happen together. Instead, Paul merely compares the two: just as the creation will be set free from its corruption, so we will be set free from the corruption within ourselves. The creation is set free when it is resurrected/transformed from a natural land to a spiritual land, just as we will be set free of this body of death (Rom. 7:24, 8:10) when our natural bodies are resurrected/transformed from a natural body to a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44).

In 70 AD, the wicked are killed (Rev. 19:17-21) and sent down into Hades (Matt. 11:23). But at the final judgment, the wicked are resurrected out of Hades (Rev. 20:12-15). It is at this time death and Hades are abolished (Rev. 20:14, 1 Cor. 15:26). The resurrection brings about the permanent end of physical death and Hades (the spirit realm of the physically dead) because at the resurrection, everyone is made alive and immortal (1 Cor. 15:52-54). So how can the 70 AD judgment, which sent people to Hades, also be the day of resurrection which empties and abolishes Hades?

When the new heavens & earth arrived in 70 AD, New Jerusalem came down to the earth (Rev. 21:2, 10). New Jerusalem isn’t Heaven, it is a kind of “heaven on earth.” But at the Second Coming, we do not remain down here, but we are taken up there forever (John 14:3, 1 Thes. 4:17).

The physicality of the resurrection body

The ultimate argument against 70 AD being the day of resurrection is the physicality of the resurrection body. The resurrection involves the raising and transforming of our flesh bodies, which obviously hasn’t yet happened. The resurrection passages do not focus on a city or a temple, but on the bodies of believers. Passages such as Philip. 3:21 and 1 John 3:2-3 make this clear.

Jesus, Paul, and the Pharisees all used a grain of wheat to illustrate their teaching on the resurrection (John 12:24, 1 Cor. 15:37, Sanh. 90b). They used the same illustration because, as Paul repeatedly pointed out while on trial for his faith, they believed the same thing (Acts 24:15, 26:6-8).

What does “the Law and… the Prophets” say about “the promise made by God to our fathers”? King David wrote Psalm 16:9-10, which is quoted both by Peter and Paul in Acts (2:25-31, 13:35-37). We do not have to wonder what David meant, because Peter provides us with the inspired interpretation: David foresaw the resurrection of Christ, and seeing it gave hope to his flesh (Acts 2:25-31). Seeing the resurrection of Christ gave David hope for his aging, dying body because he understood the same thing Paul understood, that the resurrection of Christ is proof for our own future resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-23). Just as Christ was raised in His flesh and bone body never to die again, so our mortal bodies will be made immortal, too (Luke 24:39; Rom. 6:5-9, 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:52-54).

The Apostle Peter makes a very simple argument for proving Jesus has been resurrected, and that David has not:

Empty tomb = resurrected

Body still in tomb = not resurrected

Peter makes a simple argument that was easily understood by his audience. We know Jesus has been resurrected because His tomb is empty. Likewise, we know David has not been resurrected because his body is still in the tomb. If that argument was sound in 30 AD, then it remains sound today, because the Christian doctrine of resurrection hasn’t changed. Since the ancients are still in the tomb, how can some claim David and the rest of the OT saints were resurrected in 70 AD?

A spirit body resurrection?

Some who reject a physical resurrection believe in the resurrection of a “spirit body.” (Notice the Bible doesn’t teach a spirit body, but a spiritual body – compare 1 Cor. 15:44 with 2:14-16.) A “spirit body” is like a “square circle,” it is nonsensical because it is a contradiction in terms. By definition, a spirit is not a body, and a body is not a spirit. When Paul looks forward to the resurrection, Paul looks forward to being “set free from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24). The solution was not to be set free from the body, which happens at death, for Paul did not wish to be “unclothed” (2 Cor. 5:2-4).  Nor can the resurrection be said to be merely spiritual life, because the Christian already had that prior to both 70 AD and the resurrection (Rom. 8:9-11). The solution is not found in death, but in life evermore.

Baptism for the dead

When Paul speaks of Christians “who are baptized for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29), what is Paul talking about? The answer can be found in the context. Paul gives no indication that this baptismal practice is strange or wrong; in fact, he uses the practice to reinforce his point, which suggests his agreement with the practice. But what is it? Although ambiguous in the English translation, the “dead” in the original Greek language is definitely plural.

Paul is pointing to the fact that when Christians are baptized into Christ, they are baptized for their own dead bodies. Read 1 Cor. 15:29-35, and everywhere you read the word “dead,” read it as “dead bodies” and you will see that this not only make sense, it becomes explicit by v. 35 and throughout the rest of the chapter. In Rom. 7:24, he refers to his own living body as “the body of this death,” and in Rom. 8:10, even though the bodies Paul refers to were still physically alive, he nevertheless refers to them as being “dead.” Paul links Christian baptism with the body, death, and resurrection in Rom. 6:2-9 and Col. 2:11-13.

If the body was still alive, then in what sense was it “dead”?  Since the body is of the earth, and is made for life on the earth, it is earthy (Gen. 2:7, 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:44-49) and so has earthly, fleshly appetites. So in a sense, the body has a mind of its own, and its appetites are geared toward the things of this world, which is the mindset of death (Rom. 8:12-13). This means the body is weak towards carrying out the will of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:14-23, 8:3-8; also see Matt. 26:41). Since the flesh is in a sense morally dead because of our sin, it was a body of death, and therefore, mortal. The body is dead because sin is living in it (Rom. 7:14-21, 8:10).

Jesus became a life-giving spirit

When Paul writes that Jesus “became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), some believe this proves a spirit-only resurrection. But we do not become “life-giving” spirits like Christ, for we have no life in ourselves. Rather, we receive life from the Spirit of Christ. How so? We do not have to wonder, because Paul tells us in Rom. 8:9-11. In v. 9, Paul refers to “the Spirit of Christ,” and relates it to our resurrection by giving “life to your mortal bodies.”

The resurrection is not only about making our mortal bodies immortal, but about making our bodies into spiritual bodies – bodies that are strong to carry out the desires of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:42-54). Just as Jesus supplied the missing ingredients to transform the water buried in the earth into excellent wine at the end of the wedding (John 2:6-10), so Jesus will one day return from Heaven to supply the missing ingredients to transform our earthly tent into a heavenly building (2 Cor. 5:1-10) on the last day (John 6:54, 11:24). At that time, our transformation into the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4:13) will finally be complete!

Conclusion

New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth represents Christ’s spiritual kingdom here on the earth right now. It is Christ reigning through His Church, and on behalf of His Church. One day He will return, bring an end to death and sin through the power of His resurrection, punish the wicked, and take us into Heaven where the glory of God will “be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). There we will be with God and each other in a state of perpetual spiritual bliss. “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).

CUFI’s Replacement Theology (Replacing Jesus)


For several years now I’ve been receiving email updates from CUFI (Christians United for Israel), not because I’m a fan but simply to remain aware of what is coming out of this organization. Yesterday’s email was a head-scratcher.

CUFI was founded in 2006 by John Hagee, the well-known mega-church pastor in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee and his Executive Director, David Brog, are fond of attaching the “replacement theology” label to those who fail to give unconditional support to the nation of Israel. Hagee defines “replacement theology” as believing that “the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.” Accurate or not, he adds that adherents believe “God has replaced Israel with the church” (Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, 2006, pp. 72, 165).

Check out the email/infomercial CUFI sent out yesterday and see if you don’t observe a different “replacement theology,” one that assigns the role of “light unto the nations” solely to the nation of Israel and not rightfully to Jesus:

God Commanded the Children of Israel to Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Show everyone who enters  your home that you Stand with Israel! Receive this beautiful custom made in Israel CUFI Mezuzah and special CUFI Mezuzah scroll for a gift of $36 or more.
Dear Friend, Isaiah 49:6 tells us that the Jewish people will be a light unto the nations and a brief look at Israel’s humanitarian actions around the world prove the truth of this prophecy!Israel is a light unto the nations… Israel is the world’s first responder to natural catastrophes and humanitarian crises. Over the last few years, Israel has sent humanitarian, medical, recovery, and security teams to Haiti, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, India, the Philippines, and even to the USA after Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy, the floods in Colorado and tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Israel a light unto the nations… Israeli innovation is saving and improving lives around the world. The list of Israel’s technological advances is endless, but among the many: An Israeli bandage that stops intense bleeding has saved the lives of American troops in Iraq as well as Congresswoman Giffords. An Israeli baby breathing monitor has protected over 600,000 babies from SIDS. And a new Israeli medical device can detect an oncoming heart attack

Israel a light unto the nations… While Christians are being attacked and murdered throughout the Middle East, Israel is the only country where the Christian population is safe and flourishing. Israel’s Christian population has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today. The truth is that the safest and freest Christians in the Middle East are the Christian citizens of the Jewish state.

In order to constantly remind us that Israel is a light unto the nations, we have designed a second mezuzah to add to our CUFI collection. A “mezuzah” is a small box that Jewish families affix on their doors reminding them of the Lord’s presence in their lives.

The new CUFI mezuzah is not only a daily reminder that Israel is still a light unto the nations, but it is also a public declaration that your home stands with Israel and the Jewish people. We encourage you to mount a CUFI mezuzah on the entry and interior doors of your home as well as selected rooms within your home. We also have a special blessing for children if you choose to place them on the doorposts of your children’s rooms.

Every symbol on this custom-made mezuzah has special significance. The seven branch menorah is the official emblem of the State of Israel. The torch illustrates that Israel is a light unto the nations. The American and Israeli flags symbolize the importance of the US-Israel relationship.

May God Bless You and The Ones that You Love,

Pastor John Hagee
National Chairman
Christians United for Israel
David Brog
Executive Director
Christians United for Israel
For an additional $14 gift, you can become a “Watchman” member of CUFI. Watchman membership benefits include a personalized CUFI membership card, a CUFI membership pin, a personalized membership certificate, Because I am a Christian I stand with Israel Luggage tag, a CUFI car magnet, a 10% discount on registration for all CUFI events and a subscription to The Torch- CUFI’s quarterly magazine.

CUFI’s letter references Isaiah 49:6 as Biblical evidence that “the Jewish people” and Israel are “a light unto the nations.” (In CUFI’s language, “the Jewish people” and Israel seem to be used interchangeably, as if there are no non-Jews living in Israel.) Seven times in this letter, CUFI’s followers are told that Israel is the world’s light:

“Isaiah 49:6 tells us that the Jewish people will be a light unto the nations and a brief look at Israel’s humanitarian actions around the world prove the truth of this prophecy!” (1x); “Israel is a light unto the nations” (3x); “In order to constantly remind us that Israel is a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The new CUFI mezuzah is not only a daily reminder that Israel is still a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The torch illustrates that Israel is a light unto the nations” (1x).

I won’t deny that Israel has done some humanitarian deeds in its history. However, the role of “light to the nations” belongs to Jesus, and there was zero acknowledgement of this in CUFI’s letter. Jesus spoke this very thing concerning Himself and His disciples:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12; see also John 9:5).

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14).

Isaiah 49:6 was likewise a prophecy about Jesus, His role in bringing Jacob back to His Father, and the light of His salvation for the whole world:

And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God.’ And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:3-6).

If this was about national Israel, how could Israel bring Jacob (itself) back to God? How could Israel “raise up the tribes of Jacob” and “restore the preserved ones of Israel” (itself)? This would be God’s doing, not Israel’s own doing. As I wrote in a March 2014 post (“Why I Stand With Israel“), 

Albert Barnes (1834), Adam Clarke (1831), John Gill (1746), The Geneva Study Bible (1599), Jamieson/Faussett/Brown (1882), Matthew Henry (1708), The Pulpit Commentary (1880′s), and John Wesley (1754) all stand in agreement that Isaiah was speaking here of Jesus, and that Isaiah referred to Jesus as “Israel.” See their commentaries on verse 3verse 4verse 5, and verse 6.

CUFI’s exaltation of modern, political Israel amounts to blatant idolatry and pushing Jesus to the side, even replacing Him. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament bear witness that Jesus is the light that the world needs.

Related post: “Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology

Recent Trip to Canton, Ohio (My Hometown)/Mother Goose Land Park


About a month ago my wife, Jasmine, and I made the 2.5 hour drive back to Canton, Ohio from Bowling Green, Ohio, where we now live. Both of us grew up in Canton, and our families are still there (with the exception of one of my four brothers and his wife, who live in North Carolina). We came into town for about 24 hours, mainly to see Jasmine’s sister graduate from high school, but also to see our families.

As soon as we arrived in Canton, via the downtown exit off I-77 (and Route 30), we stopped at Mother Goose Land Park. I was six years old in 1984 when this park was shut down, and we had just heard that it was about to be revitalized.

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The “Three Blind Mice” still appear on the fence behind the parking lot.

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“Willy, the Whale” is the only structure that remains from the old park. I’m not sure yet which structures, if any, will be recreated as this park is rehabilitated. (See the Mother Goose Land Facebook page for archived photos of the park when it was open, featuring “The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe”, “Humpty Dumpty”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, “The Wizard of Oz” characters, “Miss Muffet,” etc.)

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The word “LAND” still remains on the fence next to the rundown parking lot (restoration plans include a new parking lot).

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The park is located on W. Tuscarawas Street, about a half mile from downtown Canton, and a very short walk from the church I attended from the age of three (in the photo above it’s just past the MGL sign and the trees behind it). Here are a few of the archived photos from Mother Goose Land’s official Facebook page:

Mother Goose Land 01

Mother Goose Land 02

Mother Goose Land 03

Mother Goose Land 04

Mother Goose Land 06

After visiting the park, we spent a few hours with my family on the north side of Canton. Photo – view of my parents’ front yard as a storm was approaching:

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From there we left to attend my sister-in-law’s high school graduation.
Photo – my sister-in-law and her cousin, who graduated from a different school the same evening:

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Those who attended both graduations gathered at TGI Fridays afterward for dinner/appetizers. We made it inside just before another storm arrived (the ducks didn’t seem to be concerned about it):

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The next day, before heading back to Bowling Green, we visited downtown Canton and met Jasmine’s older sister and husband who had also come up from Athens, Ohio for the graduation.

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The husbands talked while the wives shopped:

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Jerry William Bowers Jr: “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” (A Poem)


My friend, Jerry Bowers Jr., has been writing for a long time. He recently resurrected his poetry writing, which had lain dormant for some time. Here is one of his recent poems:

My God I give my heart to thee, a soul once imprisoned is now set free.

Through your mercy, forgiveness and grace, I see you clearly in every place.

The bonds once held me, now are broken, words I couldn’t utter, now are spoken.

The world’s amazements, beauties and wonders, I feel like St. John, who heard the seven thunders.

The apocalypse of Christ, means simple revealing, as it cleanses my heart, tis joy I’m feeling.

No wants nor cares, I truly have no need, whom the son sets free is free indeed.

Peace on earth, good will to all, as I expand from your righteous leaven. Your kingdom has come, your will is done, on earth just as in heaven.

Copyright © 2014 Jerry Wm Bowers Jr.

Jerry’s main website is www.lastdaysendtimes.com

Guest Post: The Biblical Heavens and Earth (Part 2 of 3)


This post continues Steve’s 3-part series on the Biblical heavens and earth, exploring comparisons between Genesis 1, Jeremiah 4:23-27, and Matthew 24:35. Part 1 can be seen here.

The first part of this series showed what the biblical heavens & earth is not: it is not a scientific universe. This second part will look at what the biblical heavens & earth actually is. When we stop trying to understand Genesis 1 in harmony with modern science, it frees us to understand it in harmony with the rest of Scripture. It is then that we learn the creation of the heavens & earth isn’t so much about the creation of the universe, but the creation of the Jewish universe.

A question of biblical context

Genesis is not about the history of the world or of all humanity. Genesis does not tell us where the Eskimoes or the Aborigines come from. Instead, Genesis only tells us about the people and lands in the vicinity of the Holy Land. The creation account is the introduction to the book of Genesis, and Genesis is the introduction to the rest of the books of Moses, the Law of Moses. So the context is not the world, but the Jewish world.

The structure of the six-day creation account

As mentioned in the previous post, the order of creation does not make scientific sense. But this doesn’t mean the creation account is illogical or was written half-hazardly. In fact, Genesis 1 and the order of creation were written with great care and has a logic of its own, even if that logic isn’t scientific.

The creation account is written in a stylized six-day format. The first three days are parallel with and correspond to the last three days. On day one, there is darkness and God creates the domain of light. On day four, God fills the domains of dark and light with the sun, moon, and stars. On day two, God separates the waters above from the waters below, creating the domains of sea and sky. On day five, God populates the sea and sky with fish and birds. On day three, God creates land and plants. On day six, God populates the land with land animals and man, giving them plants to eat.

The six-day creation and the Ten Commandments

The heavens & earth were created over a period of six days, leading to something strange, God’s day of rest. Since God is not flesh, why would He need a day of rest? The obvious answer is that He didn’t need rest. He “rested” in order to establish the Sabbath commandment.

What is interesting about the teaching of the Sabbath in Gen. 2:1-3 is that this is the only passage that speaks of the Sabbath until we get to the time of Moses (Exo. 16:22ff). There is no indication of people observing the Sabbath until this time. The Sabbath is, of course, one of the Ten Commandments. This brings up the question of when the six-day creation account was written. As written, there were no human eye-witnesses, so it must have been revealed. But to whom was it first revealed? It seems likely to have first been revealed to Moses, around the time the Ten Commandments were revealed.

Gen. 1 itself ties the six-day creation to the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments is sometimes known as the Decalogue, literally the “Ten Words,” or sayings of God. God is recorded as speaking on ten different occasions in Gen. 1: v.3, v. 6, v. 9, v. 11, v. 14-15, v. 20, v. 22, v. 24, v. 26, and v. 28-30. So Gen. 1 was written in clear view of the Ten Commandments, which had not been revealed prior to Moses (Deut. 5:1-3).

The significance of the six-day creation and the Sabbath

There are two rationales given for the Sabbath commandment: #1. because the heavens & earth were created in six days (Exo. 20:8-11) and #2. because the Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt (Deut. 5:12-15). While YECs cite Exo. 20:8-11 as a major proof of their interpretation, it is actually a major disproof of the YEC view.

The Sabbath not only applied to the Jews and all peoples in the Jewish land, but also to the Jews’ work animals. Furthermore, the Sabbath applied to the Jewish land itself (Lev. 25:1-4). Notice the specificity and limits of this commandment: it doesn’t apply to all people, but only this people; it doesn’t apply to all animals, but only to their animals; and it doesn’t apply to all lands, but only to this land. But using the logic of Exo. 20:8-11, if the entire universe and all living things were created in those six days, then the Sabbath law should apply to everything: to all peoples, to all animals, and to all lands.

But of course, the Sabbath commandment was never a universal commandment (Deut. 5:1-3). Christians are not under the Sabbath law (Col. 2:16) because we are not under the Ten Commandments (2 Cor. 3:7-18) because we are not under the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:24-25). Whatever was created in six days is subject to the Sabbath commandment. If the six-day creation is about the actual universe and all of mankind, then it is bigger than just the Law of Moses and is still applicable to us. But since it is not applicable, it is not speaking of the material universe.

Genesis 2, the parallel creation account

Whereas Gen. 1 appears to describe the creation of our universe, the parallel passage in Gen. 2 interestingly suggests merely the creation of a garden, the Garden of Eden. The Garden’s location is discussed in conjunction with four rivers: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. The Gihon is located in Cush, which is in Africa. The Tigris and Euphrates are in Mesopotamia. Which land lies between Africa and Mesopotamia? The Holy Land. Throughout Scripture, the Holy Land is referred to as the field and the vineyard of God – in other words, God’s garden. So we see that the creation of the heavens & earth is the creation of the Garden, and the creation of the Garden is the creation of the Holy Land.

The parallels between Adam and Israel

Hosea 6:7 explicitly compares Adam and his sin with Israel breaking the Mosaic Covenant. As we shall see, there are many parallels between the two.

Adam is not created in the Garden, but rather to the west of the Garden (Gen. 2:7-8). In the same way, the Hebrews became a numerous people in the land of Egypt, which is west of the Holy Land. God then places Adam in the Garden and gives him a law to keep. Likewise, God places the Hebrew nation in the Holy Land and gives them the Law of Moses. Adam breaks God’s law and is driven out of the Garden to the east (Gen. 3:24). Likewise, the Jews broke God’s Law and were driven into exile in Babylon, which is to the east. (This is significant, because it will tie in with Revelation and the new heavens & earth, which we will see in part three.)

The destruction of the heavens & earth

Jeremiah 4:23-26 is key to understanding the creation in Genesis 1, as it speaks of it directly, but in a way we may not expect. “I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light” (Jer. 4:23). Jeremiah has a vision, and it is the undoing of Genesis 1. The words here are unmistakably the words used in the beginning of the Genesis creation account.

What is destroyed when the heavens & earth are destroyed? Jeremiah tells us, “I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were pulled down before the LORD, before His fierce anger” (Jer. 4:26). The destruction of the heavens & earth is the destruction of the Holy Land and the Jewish cities. Let that sink in. It is not the destruction of planets or stars or continents, it is the destruction of a small piece of land. But to the Jews, it is the destruction of their whole world. (Also see Jer. 27:5, where God speaks of the earth He created, and yet in context, it appears to only refer to the vicinity of the Holy Land.)

For the sake of brevity, I will not take up the space here to prove the context, since the evidence is abundant and not generally disputed. The headlines in my Bible for the surrounding text are “Judah Threatened with Invasion” Jer. 4:1-18, “Lament over Judah’s Devastation” Jer. 4:19-31, “Jerusalem’s Godlessness” Jer. 5:1-13, “Judgment Proclaimed” Jer. 5:14-31, “Destruction of Jerusalem Impending” Jer. 6:1-21, and “The Enemy from the North” Jer. 6:22-30.  My point in quoting the uninspired sub-titles isn’t to prove I am correct, but to prove the mainstream understanding of Jer. 4:23-26 is that this refers to how the Babylonians would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. (Babylon is to the east of Judah, but due to geography, it would approach Judah from the north, hence “The Enemy from the North.”)

At this point, some will conclude that Jeremiah was merely being dramatic and poetic in describing the destruction of Jerusalem, but he doesn’t actually mean Jerusalem is the heavens & earth of Gen. 1. That is in fact how many people take it. But that is not how Jesus took it…

Jesus on the heavens & the earth

Jesus predicted in Matt. 24:34-35 that the heavens & earth would pass away during His generation. This has led many skeptics to mock Jesus for being wrong, and it has led many Christians to develop confused interpretations. But Jesus got it exactly right, and there is a very simple explanation.

The context of this prophecy is clear, Jesus was predicting the doom of Jerusalem and the Temple, and it would be fulfilled in that generation (Matt. 23:34-24:3). Just as Jeremiah prophesied Jerusalem’s doom in his generation, Jesus describes Jerusalem’s coming destruction as the destruction of the very heavens & earth. History testifies that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed approximately forty years later (perhaps even exactly forty years later – as we do not know the precise year of Jesus’ crucifixion).

Since Jeremiah and Jesus equate Jerusalem with the heavens & earth, it is not surprising then that the Apostle John in Revelation equates the New Jerusalem with the new heavens & earth (Rev. 21:1-2). The New Jerusalem is identified as the bride of Christ in Rev. 21:9-10. This bride arrived back in Rev. 19:7-9, upon the destruction of “the great city” (Rev. 18:1-19:6). The great city was identified as the place where “their Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8), which is Jerusalem.

So the destruction of the heavens & earth is the destruction of Jerusalem. And when Jerusalem is destroyed, the New Jerusalem arrives. And when New Jerusalem arrives, so also arrives the new heavens & earth.

The sun, moon, and stars

Some will try to avoid the implication that Jesus was saying the heavens & earth would be destroyed in His generation. One of the ways people try to avoid this is by claiming Matt. 24:35 is a transition away from Jerusalem to the end of the world. But in Matt. 24:34, when Jesus said “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” “all these things” includes the destruction of the sun, moon, and stars described in a few verses prior (Matt. 24:29). This corresponds to Mark 13:24-25 and Luke 21:25, which also speaks of the removal of the powers of the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars.

In context, the sun, moon, and stars of the heavens & earth cannot refer to the literal sun, moon, and stars. Then what are they? Let’s go back to Genesis for additional context. In Gen. 1:16, the sun and moon “govern” over the day and the night. In Joseph’s dream, the sun, moon, and stars are symbols for authority (Gen. 37:9-11). So the sun, moon, and stars are symbols for the authorities in the land because they are over the land, giving light to all of those in the land. So when Jesus predicts the end of the sun, moon, and stars, He is speaking of the overthrow of the Jewish leaders when their nation is destroyed, which is precisely what the Jewish leaders feared (John 11:48).

This same symbolism is used in regard to New Jerusalem. In this city, there is no need for a sun or moon, since the Father and Son provide all the light that is needed (Rev. 21:23). The ruler of New Jerusalem is God the Father, and His crowned prince, Jesus Christ, the Son. Therefore there is no need for a mere human king or crowned prince, the “sun and moon.”

Noah’s flood in the New Testament

Although many Christians (especially YECs) believe Noah’s flood was global in scope, the NT suggests it was not a global judgment, but merely a local flood. One of the YEC arguments for a global flood is based upon references to Noah in the NT. They believe Noah’s flood is compared to the future Second Coming, which is the final judgment of all nations and all generations at the resurrection. The problem is, the NT never compares Noah’s flood to the Second Coming. When the NT speaks of Noah in reference to a coming day of judgment, it is always in reference to 70 AD, which was a local judgment. So the YEC argument actually ends up disproving the YEC interpretation.

It is undeniable that in Luke 17:26-29, Jesus compares Noah’s flood to the local judgment against Sodom. In this passage, both Noah’s flood and Sodom’s doom are compared with a third judgment, when “the Son of Man is revealed.” Does this speak of 70 AD, or the Second Coming? The disciples did not understand this to be the global, universal judgment at the Second Coming, because they ask “Where, Lord?” (Luke 17:37). The Second Coming is universal, so there is no “where?”  because it will be everywhere! This is speaking of a local judgment “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” This passage lines up with Matt. 24:28, 37-41, and Luke 21:20-24, all of which speak of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD.

In 2 Peter 2:4-8, the Apostle Peter likewise compares Noah’s flood with Sodom’s destruction, as well as to the coming of the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:3-13). This day of the Lord is linked with the arrival of the new heavens & earth, which as we’ve seen, is linked to the destruction of Jerusalem and the old heavens & earth. This fits the time frame of the letters of Peter, which were written at the end of his life in the 60s AD, when he said “The end of all things is near” (1 Pet. 4:7). If Peter was speaking of the end of our material universe, then he was wrong. But Scripture is not wrong, and like Jesus, Peter got it exactly right. Peter didn’t predict the end of the universe; he predicted the end of the Jewish universe, which is the heavens & earth.

If the Genesis creation is not universal, why does it sound universal?

At this point you may be wondering, “If the creation is only about the Jewish land and people, and if Noah’s flood was merely local, then why does the Bible use language that sounds like it is speaking about the entire planet/universe?” This is an excellent question, and the answer, as always, is to be found in the context of the Bible.

Although the Bible was inspired by God, remember that Genesis was written by and to the ancient Hebrew. The ancient Hebrew, like all of those who lived at that time, had a scientifically naïve view of the world, similar to how we thought of things as a child before we grew up and became educated about our world. The key, then, is to think as a child.

When I was a child, I had a jigsaw puzzle of the 48 contiguous United States of America. In this puzzle, America was surrounded by blue (there was no Mexico or Canada indicated in the puzzle). Being a child, this puzzle became my view of the entire world – there was only America. I grew up in the height of the Cold War, so the first non-American country I became aware of was the Soviet Union. When I learned of this other country, I assumed it fit somewhere in the puzzle map, and obviously it must’ve been rather small and insignificant(!).

From this example, it is easy to see that we naturally tend to think of our country, our land as the biggest, or at least the center of the world. There may be other lands out there, but they are on the fringe and not nearly as important as our own. Thus our land equates to the whole world, or at least much of the world, and certainly the most important part.

This can be seen in several places throughout the Bible. Both Daniel 4:1 and 4:22 describes Nebuchadnezzar as being king of all the earth. Obviously, both Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel had to be aware there were lands and peoples beyond the borders of ancient Babylon, but in their thinking, Babylon constituted the bulk of the world, or at least the important parts.

The same thinking can be seen in Col. 1:23, where Paul claims the Gospel has been “proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Paul said this even as he had plans to take the Gospel to places it had not yet been taken! Clearly, then, Paul is only speaking of much of the Roman empire, and equates the Roman empire with being the bulk of the world.

Let’s look at one more example, this time from within the book of Genesis. When God destroys Sodom, which was a local judgment, nevertheless, Lot’s daughters saw it as the end of the world. This is why they hatch a scheme to get their father drunk, that they may have children and preserve their family, and presumably, mankind (Gen. 19:30-36).

So when Genesis describes the creation of the Jewish people and land as if it were the creation of the universe, or the flood as if it was the end of the planet, this is because this is how it was perceived. The earth wasn’t some small speck wandering through the vastness of space, the earth was the universe. The Jewish land wasn’t just a small land in the midst of a large planet, it was the earth. When the flood wiped out their cities, it wiped out their whole world. So when we get to the time of Peter, the destruction of Jerusalem isn’t just the end of a city, it is “the end of all things” (1 Pet. 4:7).

Summary

There are many more points to be made concerning the creation, Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, the sons of God & the daughters of men, Noah’s flood, and the like, but this is to provide an introduction to a different way of thinking: using the Bible to interpret creation, rather than modern science. In short, the creation of the heavens & earth is actually the creation of the Jewish universe. In the third and final part of this series, we will look at what this means for the new heavens & earth.

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Steve is a teacher and a preacher in the Churches of Christ.