The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 2


This is the second 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). This post will examine how tithing was prescribed and practiced under the Mosaic Law (in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). My references will be included in the final post.

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II. Tithing Prescribed Under Mosaic Law

Kent Hughes, a Senior Pastor, Bible commentator, and author, writes in his book, “Disciplines of a Godly Man” (2001): “There is some confusion today about what it was that God actually required from His people in the Old Testament. Most think it was something like 10 percent, which is a woeful misconception. Actually there were multiple mandatory giving requirements in Israel which came to considerably more” (p. 192). We will later see that there were at least three separate tithes.

Passage 3: Leviticus 27:30-33

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

Looking at the context, God was giving Moses laws which were to come into effect when they came into the Promised Land (25:2). In fact, the tithe spoken of here was called “the tithe of the land.” These commands were given while Moses was on Mount Sinai (27:34).

Of all the instructions on tithing in the Mosaic Law, this one appears to be the most general, perhaps even an introduction. Still we can observe several details in this passage, which indicates two types of tithes. The first type of tithe came from the land, either from seeds or from the fruit of trees. It was holy to the Lord. If a person wanted to redeem it, presumably for money, he had to add another 20% of the value to his tithe. The second type of tithe was from herds or flocks of animals. The tenth animal which happened to pass under the rod would be holy to the Lord, even if it was of bad quality.

Monetary tithes were obviously not encouraged. In fact, a monetary tithe had to be 12%. Those who say they tithe today, but do so in money, fall short of this tithing law by 2%. Those who have a garden, but do not tithe on their crops, also fail to keep this law. Those who say the tithe has to be the best 10% apparently have the “first fruits offering” in mind, but these are not the same. These are not the only areas where they fall short of the tithing laws, as we will continue to see.

The tithing laws given through Moses were for a specific nation, in a specific situation, and for a specific purpose. We will see in the next four passages who these tithes were to go to. At the end I will give a summary.

Passage 4: Numbers 18:21-32 (TITHE #1, Parts A and B)

(Tithes for Support of the Levites) Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’

(The Tithe of the Levites) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the LORD’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the LORD, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’

The tithes of the Israelites became the Levites’ inheritance. The Levites were responsible to minister in the tabernacle, and could not own land, which gave them limited means of income. God meant for their support to come from those they ministered to. Before giving their tithes to the Levites, the Israelites were to offer them up as a heave offering. The tithes were elevated before the altar, and were presented with an up and down motion (cf. Exodus 29:27, Leviticus 7:34, Numbers 15:20-21).

All the priests were Levites, but not all the Levites were priests. That’s why the Levites also paid a tithe of what they received to the priests (Numbers 18:25-31). They tithed grain and wine, not money. The Levites gave a tenth of the people’s tenth directly to Aaron. Unlike the tithe of the herds in Leviticus 27, they had to give the very best 10%. They were free to consume the other 90% together with their families, as a reward for their service. We don’t see that the priests tithed at all. According to Strong’s Concordance (2001),

“While all the priests had to be from the tribe of Levi, inheriting their office through their fathers, not all Levites could function as priests. For one thing, there were too many of them. Also, some were needed to work in the tabernacle, and later the temple, as maintenance and cleanup people, something that is readily understandable when one thinks of all that was involved in the sacrificial system. The Levites actually lived in various parts of Israel, and they were the welfare responsibility of the Israelites among whom they lived… The Levites, then, were to tithe the tithe they received, giving their own tithe from what they received from the people to the Lord. Part of that tithe was to be a terumah or “heave offering” to the priests, the descendants of Aaron.”

According to Numbers 35:1-8 (cf. Joshua 21), the Levites were given cities to live in, from each tribe of Israel. They were given a total of 48 cities, and could dwell in them together with their animals.

Passage 5: Deuteronomy 12:5-19 (TITHE #2)

But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the LORD your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you… You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. But you must eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all to which you put your hands. Take heed to yourself that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land.

This passage gives instructions for a second tithe to be given by the Israelites, known as the “Festival tithe.” It was to come into effect some time later, after they crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land. During that time they were to go to Jerusalem at the assigned times to celebrate. The expenses for these festivals were met by this second tithe and various offerings. They were to eat at least part of the tithe, which was said to be of grain, wine, and oil. They were also reminded of the importance of always taking care of the Levites.

This was a time of rejoicing in God’s chosen place. The tithe had to be consumed there, and not at home. They were to go with their families, their servants, and any Levites who dwelled within their gates. Nathan Foy (2006) speculates, “The ones to raise animals and grow plants were probably the richer people of that day, since the Bible says ‘all who were in their gates.’”

Kent Hughes (2001) says regarding this tithe, “According to Deuteronomy 12…another 10 percent had to be given for an annual celebration-feasting with one’s family, friends, and servants.” He adds that the purpose of this second tithe “was to build religious celebration and mutual community in God’s people” (p. 192-193).

Russell Kelly (2006) links it with the three annual festivals in Jerusalem, the Feasts of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-19, Deuteronomy 16:1-17). He says, “According to Deuteronomy 12 and 14, the second religious tithe, called the ‘feast tithe,’ was eaten by worshipers in the streets of Jerusalem during the three yearly festivals.”

Passage 6: Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (TITHE # 2 repeated, TITHE #3 introduced)

You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.

At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

The first part of this passage (14:22-27) repeats the second tithe outlined in Deuteronomy 12. The firstborn of their herds and flocks were part of the tithe. Their tithe could be sold for money in case long travel was necessary. This relieved them of the burden of transporting large numbers of animals and produce. At the destination where God placed His name, the money would then be spent on food for each family to consume. Money was not presented to the Levites as a gift.

The last part of the passage introduces a third tithe, to be set aside every third year for the strangers, the fatherless, widows, and Levites living within the gates of the Israelites. There was a blessing attached to this tithe. As Kent Hughes (2001) points out, “This tithe averaged out to 3.3 percent yearly, “thus bringing the total to over 23 percent per year” in tithes required by the Israelites (p. 192-3).

Strong’s Concordance (2000) confirms that this tithe, like other tithes, was made up of farm produce, rather than money. Russell Kelly (2001) says that not everyone was required to tithe. He cites a noted authority on Judaism, Alfred Edersheim, as saying that tithing in Israel was not universal, “because it did not apply to crafts and trades” (p. 247).

Passage 7: Deuteronomy 26:12-15 (TITHE #3 repeated)

When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

This command was also given before the Israelites had actually come into the Promised Land (26:1), and repeats the third tithe given earlier. Here it is called “the year of tithing.” Again the recipients are said to be the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows. The person tithing needed to be able to say that he had done so according to the correct procedure. He could then pray that his people and land would be blessed.

Russell Kelly (2006) notes that it is “wrong to teach that the poor in Israel were required to pay tithes. In fact, they actually received tithes! Much of the second festival tithe and all of a special third-year tithe went to the poor. In fact, many laws protected the poor from abuse and expensive sacrifices which they could not afford…” He adds that false assumptions on tithing would be minimized if we don’t ignore “the very plain definition of tithe as food from farm increase or herd increase.”

SUMMARY: Looking carefully at the tithes outlined in the Law of Moses, it is apparent that there were three different tithes:

[1] The first tithe is described in Numbers 18:21-32, and has two parts. The first part (18:21-24) tells of the tithes given to the Levites as their inheritance, since they had no land inheritance. It amounted to 10% of one’s livelihood. The second part (18:25-32) shows the Levites tithing from this amount to Aaron for the priesthood.

[2] The second tithe is described in Deuteronomy 12:5-19, and repeated in Deuteronomy 14:22-27. This tithe supported the annual feasts. It was to be taken to Jerusalem and consumed there. The Levites only got a small portion of this tithe, which made up an additional 10% of one’s livelihood.

[3] The third tithe is detailed in Deuteronomy 14:28-29, and repeated in Deuteronomy 26:11-13. It didn’t go primarily to the Levites, but to the needy. It was given every three years, during the “year of tithing,” and was designated for strangers, orphans, widows, and Levites, those who could not provide for themselves. It averaged out to 3.3% of one’s livelihood annually.

Therefore, those who were eligible to tithe needed to set aside an average of 23.3% of their livelihood each year just to fund the tithes for the Levites, the feasts, and the needy. Kelly (2006), Hughes (2001), and Foy (2006) all agree on this figure, and the fact that there were three tithes required of the Israelites. They also affirm that the tithes consisted of crops and herds.

Russell Kelly (2006) indicates just how restrictive tithing was under Mosaic Law:

“True biblical tithes were always: (1) only food, (2) only from the farms and herds, (3) of only Israelites, (4) who only lived inside God’s Holy Land, the national boundary of Israel, (5) only under Old Covenant terms and (6) the increase could only come from God’s hand.”

Therefore, (1) non-food items could not be tithed; (2) clean wild game animals and fish could not be tithed; (3) non-Israelites could not tithe; (4) food from outside the land of Israel did not enter the Temple; (5) legitimate tithing did not occur when there was no Levitical priesthood; and (5) tithes did not come from what man’s hands created, produced or caught by hunting and fishing.

Nathan Foy (2006) paints the picture in personal terms:

“To tithe according to the Old Testament you would have to give up your job and farm so you could raise animals and grow crops to tithe with.  You’d have to find some Levitical priests to give your tithe to.  You would have to celebrate the Old Testament festivals and eat your tithe in the presence of the Lord. For 2 years you would have to give 20% of your herds and crops to God and on the 3rd year you would have to give another 10% to the poor, [totaling] 30% in tithe[s] that particular year.  If you do all this you will be keeping the law of tithing totally.”

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In Part 3, we will look at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi).

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 1


The following post is the first in a series on the subject of tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series is taken from a term paper I wrote in April 2006, and it examines all 17 passages in Scripture which mention tithing: 13 times in the Old Testament and four times in the New Testament. As noted in the outline below, all sources will be listed in the Reference section in the final part (out of discretion, one source is kept anonymous here).

OUTLINE

A. Introduction
B. A look at the 17 Scripture passages which mention tithing

I. Described prior to the Law of Moses: in the lives of Abraham and Jacob

1. Genesis 14:8-24
2. Genesis 28:8-22

II. Prescribed under Mosaic Law: three different tithes

3. Leviticus 27:30-33
4. Numbers 18:21-32
5. Deuteronomy 12:5-19
6. Deuteronomy 14:22-29
7. Deuteronomy 26:12-15

III. Reforms of King Hezekiah, Nehemiah, and the prophets Amos and Malachi

8. II Chronicles 31:4-12
9. Nehemiah 10:28-39
10. Nehemiah 12:44
11. Nehemiah 13:4-13
12. Amos 4:1-5
13. Malachi 3:5-12

          IV. Spoken of in the New Testament by Jesus and the author of Hebrews

14. Matthew 23:23
15. Luke 11:42
16. Luke 18:9-14
17. Hebrews 7:1-10

C. Tithing in history
D. Ways of viewing the Law of Moses today and a summary of Galatians
E. Tithing in light of Christ fulfilling the Law
F. New Testament giving
G. Conclusion/References

A. INTRODUCTION

Tithing is commonly understood to mean the practice of giving a tenth of anything. The term has a secular use, particularly with regard to finances. However, it is best known as a practice among religious groups. Webster’s Dictionary (1988), in defining the word “tithe,” even notes that it is “especially collected to support churches.”

Is it Biblical for churches and ministries to compel their people to tithe? Is the modern practice of tithing Biblical? In light of Christ’s fulfillment of the Law, I believe it is not. At the heart of this issue is one’s view of the Law of Moses, also known as Mosaic Law.

The Barna Group (2005), a well-known research company, determined that 65% of American Christians gave part of their income to churches or parachurch ministries in 2004. During the same year, however, only 6% “tithed” to a place of worship.

According to another study by Ellison Research (2006), a marketing research company out of Phoenix, 68% of all clergy in the US say that tithing is a Biblical mandate for Christians today. Pentecostal clergy are the most agreeable, at 95%. On the other hand, 20% of clergy affirm that Christians are commanded to give, but say that no specific amount or percentage is required.

Among Protestant laity, 59% believe that God’s people today are required to tithe. Pentecostals (80%) and Baptists (75%) are the most likely to hold this view.

Among tithing proponents, there is considerable disparity over whether tithes must be paid only to the local church, or whether a portion can also be given to other Christian ministries. They are almost equally split on whether to tithe on net income (48%) or gross income (52%). Clergy, interestingly, are much more in favor of tithing on gross income (72%).

If these statistics are true, then nearly 60% of Protestant Christians in the US believe that tithing is a Biblical requirement, but only 6% practice this belief. Many would say that the 94% who don’t tithe are guilty of disobeying Scripture. Some would even insist that they are under a curse for robbing God.

In looking into this practice, we will take a look at ALL the Scripture passages which mention tithing. Too often, when a case is made for tithing, only a few select passages are chosen to build the case, and they are often not viewed in their proper context.

I also intend to address the following relevant questions:

[1] How many tithes were commanded in Scripture?
[2] Who received the tithes?
[3] Do those who promote tithing today follow the prescriptions under Mosaic Law?
[4] Why isn’t tithing still required of believers today?

By quoting from those who don’t share my view, I do not intend to judge or attack them. Where they are serving the Lord and His people, I appreciate their sacrifice and their hard work. Their teachings and views, as well as mine, are always subject to the light of Scripture.

B. A LOOK AT THE 17 PASSAGES ON TITHING

I. TITHING DESCRIBED PRIOR TO THE LAW OF MOSES

Although Abram’s tithe is the first recorded in Scripture, some teach that he tithed because he was following an eternal principle. Pastors David Carter and Bryce Clark (2006) suggest that the offerings of Cain and Abel were a form of tithe, with Cain being faulted for what he failed to give. They conclude that from the beginning God had set in motion a law requiring either tithes or firstfruits, but Cain held back what was due to God. His sin was that his offering was lacking in quantity. The implication is that those who fail to tithe are like Cain.

Anonymous Pastor (2003) goes back even earlier: “The principle of tithing is one that can be traced throughout the entire Bible. In actuality, it was involved in the Garden of Eden, when mankind took of something which belonged to, or was designated for God.”

Before the Law was given through Moses, there were two accounts of voluntarily tithing. The first story was of Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek, and the second story involved his grandson, Jacob. These are both narratives, which, according to Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (1993), are the most common form of literature found in the Bible (p. 78). Fee and Stuart point out that in narratives we are not always told how or why the characters did certain things (p. 81). Narratives are more likely to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive.

Passage 1: Genesis 14:8-24

And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against [4 kings]… Then [the 4 kings] took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Then one who had escaped came and told Abram… Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants… So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him… Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

Abram and his men not only rescued Lot, they also brought back all the goods and people taken from Sodom and Gomorrah. Melchizedek, king of Salem, blessed Abram, and Abram gave him a tenth of all the spoils of war. The king of Sodom then told Abram to keep the rest of the spoils, but to give him the people. Abram, however, gave everything to him, except for what his men had eaten, and a small portion for three of his men.

Abram tithed on the spoils of war, not his income. Any idea that Abram regularly practiced tithing can only be presumed, for it is not in the text. Nor does the text say he was commanded to give this tithe. Abram gave away almost the entire remaining 90% of the spoils to the king of Sodom, whose territory was soon to be destroyed by fire and brimstone.

The Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2006) states that “a one-tenth tax was quite common in ancient Babylonian culture,” as well as throughout the ancient Near East, Lydia, Arabia, and Carthage, “and would have been well known to Abraham.” Carter and Clark (2006) say that because of this fact, Abram “kept God’s law of tithing.” They insist that Abraham tithed frequently, and that this instance illustrates “the tithing law given at Creation.”

Matthew Narramore (2004) would disagree. He says that by tithing on the spoils of war, Abram couldn’t have been following an eternal principle. God gave very different instructions to Israel in Numbers 31, regarding the spoils from their war with the Midianites. No tithe was involved. If Abram followed a universal principle, he says, then God would have required the same from His people in Numbers 31. He adds that Abram didn’t give a tithe on his own possessions. In fact, he tithed on something he had vowed to give away, so it actually cost him nothing (Chapter 2).

Jay Snell (1995), a frequent guest on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, has a different take on it. He believes Abram’s motive was to obtain a steady flow of wealth: “The first of the two things that he did to ‘begin and maintain’ the flow of wealth to himself was he gave a tithe” (p. 3). According to Snell, Abram recognized and tapped into the “Law of Sowing and Reaping.” He says that in order to gain wealth like Abram, we also need to take this same step and tithe (p. 5).

Passage 2: Genesis 28:20-22

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.

Jacob made a conditional vow, one that implied He might not even make the Lord His God unless he returned home safely and received protection, company, food and clothing from the Lord. There is no record that Jacob actually fulfilled his vow by giving a tenth back to the Lord, although we can’t assume he failed to do so either. As in Abram’s case, we don’t see that he was commanded by the Lord to tithe.

Going back several verses earlier (28:13-15), we see that God had already promised Jacob that He would be with him, never leave him, protect him, and bring him back to his land! God had also identified Himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac, and repeated the promise He had made to both his grandfather and father. Narramore (2004) notes several things about God’s promise and Jacob’s vow:

[1] It was God’s promise to him and it was based on faith alone. It did not depend on any conditional requirements such as tithes, offerings, or sacrifices… All God wanted Jacob to do was to believe him. God wanted to keep the promise for Jacob just like he did for Abraham, who became the father of faith… Jacob didn’t respond to God’s promise in the same way that his father and grandfather did.

[2] Faith takes God at his word; Jacob did not. Jacob responded to God’s promise by making a vow, which showed his unbelief. He said, ‘If You will do all this, then You will be my God, and I will give you a tenth of everything you give me.’ God had just promised to bless, protect, and fulfill the original promise that he made to Abraham. He didn’t ask for a tithe or anything else… Jacob wouldn’t even commit to having the Lord as his God. God didn’t ask for a tithe. He wanted faith… God didn’t praise Jacob for his vow to give him a tenth.

[3] Just because a story is in the Bible doesn’t mean that it portrays the will of God for the people involved. It certainly doesn’t mean that it is God’s will for us today in the New Covenant. The Bible records many things that men did which were not the will of God (Chapter 3).

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In Part 2, we will look at tithing as it was prescribed under the Law of Moses, and we will see just how different it looked from the way tithing is so often taught today. 

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

The Scepter Shall Not Depart From Judah UNTIL…


Sometimes a whole lot of meaning is packed into one word. This is the case with the word “until,” where it appears in Genesis 49 in one of the earliest prophecies in Scripture.

Jacob, later named “Israel” (Genesis 49:2), was the grandson of Abraham, and he knew that he was about to die. So he gathered his 12 sons to bless them (verse 28) and to tell them what would “befall [them] in the last days” (verse 1). When it was Judah’s turn to be blessed, Jacob proclaimed the coming of Jesus in Israel’s last days (see also Hebrews 1:1-2, 9:26):

Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:8-12).

The word “until” speaks volumes here. For many centuries, Judah’s tribe would hold onto the giving of the law and the scepter, which is defined in Strong’s Concordance as a staff of authority for ruling. However, Judah’s hold on the scepter and the law was only temporary. Shiloh (Jesus) was coming! He was to take over this scepter, and the people of God would be gathered to Him to obey Him.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah…until Shiloh comes=

The scepter will depart from Judah when Shiloh comes.

In David’s time, we see that God still referred to Judah as His scepter (Psalm 60:7, 108:8). Then after David and Solomon reigned, there was a split between the 10 northern tribes of Israel and the tribe of Judah, also known as the house of David (I Kings 11:29-36, 12:16-20). In 722 BC, the 10 northern tribes were defeated and captured by Assyria, and for the most part they remained scattered among the nations.

In 586 BC, Judah was also defeated and captured by Babylon. However, after Medo-Persia defeated Babylon (Isaiah 13, Daniel 5-6) in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great allowed the people of Judah to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC (Ezra 1:1-8, Isaiah 45:1-8). Zerubbabel, who led them, was from the lineage of David and appeared in the genealogies of Jesus (Matthew 1:12-13, Luke 3:27). During the next few centuries, Judah had rulers among themselves even while they were under Persia, Greece, Syria, and the Romans. By the time Jesus came, the people of Judah were submitted to the rule and the law of the Sanhedrin (e.g. John 18:31).

As Jacob prophesied, the scepter remained with Judah all the way up until Jesus came. The coming of Jesus is one of the reasons, and the greatest reason, why Judah was preserved and kept intact while the 10 tribes were not. In Revelation 5:5, it’s significant that Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (see Genesis 49:9, quoted above). 

Christian Zionism, dispensationalism, and the Hebrew Roots Movement would nearly (or outright) have us believe that the scepter has not passed from Judah to Jesus. According to these movements, Jesus is not the center of prophecy; national Israel is. According to these movements, the plans, purposes, and promises of God do not belong primarily to Jesus and His followers, but to national Israel and/or the Jewish people. According to these movements, Jews are God’s chosen people (whether they love Jesus or hate Him), but Jesus and His followers are not God’s chosen people (or this is true of us only in a secondary sense). According to these movements, Torah (the law of Moses) is often preeminent, being at least as important as the law of Christ and His teachings.

Jesus has come, and the scepter is in His hands. To Jesus belongs the obedience of God’s people. He is the Desire of All Nations (Haggai 2:7), the One who has gathered “together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (John 11:52), and the One who draws all people to Himself (John 12:32). He is the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6; 7:22).

The law, the covenant(s), and the priesthood were transferred out of Judah’s hand 2000 years ago, and there’s no handing back of the baton to Judah/Israel. All the types and shadows of the old covenant find their reality and fulfillment in Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Revelation 12:4-5 (Addendum to Earlier Study)


A couple days ago a friend pointed out that our study on Revelation 12 was missing commentary on verses 4-5 from a fulfilled (preterist) perspective. Whatever my reason for skipping those verses at the time (November 2009), it was a good reminder to add them now. The following study of Revelation 12:4-5 has been edited into our study of Revelation 12:1-17.

Introduction

As a quick review the context, Revelation 12:1-5 is unique from most of the book of Revelation in that John is not speaking about the future (from his perspective), but rather the past. John’s vision here concerns the time of Jesus’ birth and His ascension. This is a glossary of terms we included in our original study of Revelation 12:

Woman = [1] Old Testament Israel (i.e. the faithful remnant among the Israelites); and [2] later God’s people, the remnant among the nations, after Christ’s death and resurrection
Dragon = Satan, influencing Rome
Male Child = Jesus Christ

In verses 1-3 John was shown a vision of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” She was in painful labor. In that vision, John also saw “a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” We noted that this represented the first seven Roman emperors (Nero being the sixth) and the 10 senatorial provinces of Rome (this is developed in more detail in our Revelation 13 and Revelation 17 studies).

A Study of Revelation 12:4-5

Verse 4: In the first half of verse 4, speaking of the dragon with seven heads and 10 horns, we read:

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.”

There is reason to believe that these “stars” are angels. In Revelation 1:20, stars are seen as angels: “…The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…” Here in verse 4, the dragon is able to throw stars (angels) to the earth, but in verses 9-12 we see that “the great dragon…that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” would himself later be cast out of heaven to the earth, along with his angels.

Some believe that verse 4a is parallel to Jude 6:

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”

Others see a parallel to Daniel 8:10, which speaks of “a little horn” (believed to be Antiochus Ephiphanes, a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 – 164 BC):

And out of one of [the four horns] came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them…” (Daniel 8:10-11).

Albert Barnes, in his 1834 commentary on Revelation 12, took note of this parallel and wrote the following:

“The main idea here undoubtedly is that of power, and the object of John is to show that the power of the dragon was as if it extended to the stars, and as if it dragged down a third part of them to the earth, or swept them away with its tail, leaving two-thirds unaffected. A power that would sweep them all away would be universal; a power that would sweep away one-third only would represent a dominion of that extent only… Suppose, then, that the dragon here was designed to represent the Roman pagan power; suppose that it referred to that power about to engage in the work of persecution, and at a time when the church was about to be greatly enlarged, and to fill the world; …the conditions here referred to would be fulfilled…

The second half of verse 4 may be a reference to Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by enforcing the death of all Hebrew children below age 2:

“And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.”

In Matthew 2:1-18 we read about the wise men from the east who came to Jerusalem asking about the birth of the King of the Jews (verses 1-2). This troubled Herod, who quizzed the chief priests and scribes and found out that, according to Micah 5:2, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (verses 3-6). He instructed the wise men to find the Child, Jesus, and to let him know where he was (verses 7-8). However, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod (verse 12), and Herod, when he discovered that they had deceived him, put to death all children below the age of two throughout Bethlehem and its districts (verses 16-18). Joseph and Mary had already been warned in a dream to take Jesus and flee to Egypt (verses 13-15).

Duncan McKenzie, on the other hand, believes this is a reference to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead:

In Revelation 12 we are being shown this “birthing” of the Messiah. The male Child, after being born, is caught up to God’s throne. Once again what is being shown here is not Jesus being born on earth, but His being “born” when God the Father raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:33).* Thus, as soon as the male Child is delivered He is caught up to God’s throne. Jesus referred to the birthing analogy in talking about His death and resurrection in John 16:20-22. Notice how the dragon (Satan, Rev. 12:9) was expecting to devour the male Child. Satan thought he would be destroying Jesus at the cross. Instead the Child is caught up to the throne of God. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God the Father at the resurrection (Acts 2:31-36). Satan, instead of devouring the Child as he had planned, ends up being cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:9).

*Acts 13:33 reads this way: “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”

Verse 5: The first half of verse 5 refers to the birth of Jesus, either by Mary (specifically) or through the seed of Abraham (generally). The second understanding is to be preferred when we note the progression of what happens to this woman – [1] giving birth to Jesus and [2] later being protected in the wilderness for 3.5 years (verses 6, 13-17). The first part of verse 5 is also parallel to Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 19:15.

“She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…”

Psalm 2 is a Messianic prophecy about the coming reign of Jesus, of whom the Father would say, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (verse 7). Jesus would be set on God’s “holy hill of Zion” as King (verse 6), would receive the nations as His inheritance (verse 8), and would “break them with a rod of iron” and “dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (verse 9).

This prophecy is repeated in John’s vision of Christ sitting on a white horse, judging and making war (Revelation 19:11). The armies in heaven would also follow Him riding on white horses (verse 14), and a sharp sword would come out of His mouth, which He would use to “strike the nations” and “rule them with a rod of iron” (verse 15).

The second half of verse 5 refers to Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11).

“And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.”

Acts 1:9 records Jesus being “taken up” and received by a cloud out of the disciples’ sight. Two angels confirm that He was taken “into heaven” (verse 11). Daniel 7:13-14 reveals that He then appeared before the throne of His Father and was given the everlasting kingdom:

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As Daniel reveals, this kingdom was then promised to “the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:18). The “time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” when the horn and the fourth beast was making war against them and prevailing “until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints” (verses 21-22; see also Revelation 13:5-7 and Matthew 21:43). The fourth beast and the persecuting horn would prevail over the saints for 3.5 years (“a time and times and half a time”) before his dominion would be taken away and the saints would receive the kingdom (Daniel 7:25-27). This was fulfilled when Nero persecuted the saints from November 64 AD until his death in June 68 AD.

Revelation 12:6-17 goes on to record a Satanic battle leveled against God’s people, which would precede the giving of the kingdom into the hands of the saints (Daniel 7; Revelation 11:15).

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The rest of our study on Revelation 12 can be found here, including a comparison of the preterist (fulfilled) view, the futurist view, and the historicist view.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

“The Diaspora & Aliyah of Judah-Israel (Fulfilled)” by Steve Thomas


The following article is an excellent analysis and critique of a key idea promoted by Christian Zionists (and dispensationalists). This idea is that Old Testament prophecies concerning a regathering of Judah/Israel to the land were not fulfilled under Ezra and Nehemiah, but rather have been fulfilled since Israel became a nation in 1948 (some 2600 years after these prophecies were given). Steve Thomas shows that this idea does not stand up to the light of Scripture or history. Steve lives in the United Kingdom and moderates a Facebook group called “Christian Zionism – Deconstructing the Myths Biblically, One at a Time,” where this article was posted two weeks ago.

The Multinational Dispersal & Return: Christian Zionist Presumptions

Presumption 1.) It is presumed that the 70 year exile of the people of Judah (605-536BC) in Babylon, up to the time of Nehemiah’s return in c. 445 BC was

a.) in only one nation Babylon,

b.) in just one direction East of Israel

Presumption 2.) Upon the 1st is based a 2nd – That as the Babylonian captivity did not fulfil these two  basic criteria, a far greater dispersion (Diaspora) must be intended within the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel & Zechariah. In contrast to the Babylonian exile, they say, these prophecies define the location of the Diaspora as:

a.) nations (plural),

b.) all points of the compass – especially to the north.

Presumption 3.) Upon this 2nd is based the 3rd – That the steady migration of Jewish people to Israel, in the 20th & 21st centuries, must necessarily therefore be the prophetic fulfilment of the promises given forth in the following 4 primary dispersion-retrieval passages, as the former exile fails to meet the necessary criteria:

=> Jeremiah 3:18   In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.

=> Jeremiah 16: 14-15  “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”

=> Zechariah 2: 6-8  “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. 7 Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. 8  For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”

=> Isaiah 11: 11  “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.”

A RESPONSE

The Bible record of the Diaspora shows that, contrary to CZM [Christian Zionism] assumptions detailed above, the historical dispersion was definitely multinational, and was certainly multi-directional:

EVIDENCE 1. => Jeremiah 44:1 “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros…”

Pathros was situated in southern Egypt, in the region of Aswan, south of today’s Cairo:

http://www.world-guides.com/images/egypt/egypt_map1.jpg

^This^ was written during the exile, in the time of Gedaliah’s governorship of Jerusalem (Jer 40:5), following the 586BC destruction of the temple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gedaliah

EVIDENCE 2. The following map, from an encyclopaedia of Egypt showing equivalent modern nations, shows the extent of the Diaspora at the time of Esther – from India to Ethiopia:

http://encyclopediaegypt.com/israel/persia.jpg

=> Esther 8: 9   “Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are FROM INDIA UNTO ETHIOPIA, an **hundred twenty and seven provinces**, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.”

The book of Esther is set in the 7th year+ of the reign of the Persian King Xerxes (479BC), in Shushan, 200 miles east of Babylon. This places these events during the exile of Judah, some 35 years prior to Nehemiah’s return.

From this evidence it is clear that, far from the Diaspora being to one nation, in one direction, it proves to be well over 100 international provinces, to all four points of the compass.

Source

FURTHER EVIDENCE – provided within the prophecies themselves

1.) The nations surrounding Babylon were all part of the Chaldean empire during the captivity of Judah:

=> Jeremiah 25:11  “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

2.) Zechariah 2:6-8 (above) defines the dispersion as encompassing: 

a.) Babylon

b.) the land of the north

c.) the nations (plural).

3.) Jeremiah similarly defines the location and extent of the captivity:

a.) Babylon

b.) for 70 years

c.) the nations (plural):

=> “‘For thus says the LORD, that after seventy years are accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place’; ‘And I will be found of you, says the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place where I caused you to be carried away captive’; ‘Hear therefore the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon’” (Jeremiah 29:10,14,20).

This evidence removes all doubt as to the multinational and multi-directional nature of the Babylonian captivity, being the only captivity detailed in these pre-exilic and exilic prophecies.

NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE

The Book of Acts describes the gathered Jewish community – resident in Jerusalem and gathered from the Diaspora – identifying their places of origin. The list of locations matches the Diaspora destinations predicted in Isaiah 11:11 (above) from which God said he would gather the children of Judah-Israel. These are comprehensively summarised at Pentecost, being “out of every nation under heaven.” Whether this is emphatic hyperbole, or not, it serves to complete the evidence – that the Diaspora was certainly as full as possibly necessary to fulfil criteria given within the prophecies of dispersion & retrieval:

=> Acts 2:5-11 “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of **every nation** under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7   And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

We see that ^these^ locations perfectly match the very places listed in Isaiah 11 – please do see the following maps of the dispersion of Judah under Chaldean Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar and his successors to Belshazzar) and subsequently in the Medo-Persian Achaemenid Empire (Cyrus and his successors, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes et al.):

Isaiah 11: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Map_achaemenid_empire_en.png

 

Acts 2: http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/files/2014/06/Pentecost-in-Jerusalem-Map.jpg

Other maps relating to the Acts 2 list:

http://www.travellinkturkey.com/images/auxilary/phrygia.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontus#mediaviewer/File:1stMithritadicwar89BC.png

http://www.talentshare.org/~mm9n/articles/Paul/Image19.gif

CONCLUSION

When presented with ^this^ conclusive evidence, Christian Zionist & Messianic protagonists generally forego the opportunity to respond to the ‘evaporation’ of those initial presumptions listed at the top of this post. When shown the evidence, I have not yet encountered a CZ enthusiast who admits that, “OK, the Babylonian captivity was, after all, many nations, and multiple directions; and those who suggest otherwise do seem to be unfortunately mistaken.” Instead, they tend to ‘move swiftly on,’ reverting to a couple of further arguments in favour of a modern Diaspora & Aliyah:

Presumption 4.)   It is said that, “the OT prophecies must have had a *double meaning*. Sure – they referred to the Babylonian exile in the near term (and well done for pointing that out in such detail, etc.), but today’s events are the *bigger* picture in view – the final and greater intended dual fulfilment.” Strangely, no evidence from within the prophetic texts is then presented to support this response, if challenged. It appears to be a case of prophetic guesswork – the 4th uncorroborated presumption.

Which leaves us wondering what the modern Christian Zionist theory is actually based upon. Certainly the details of the captivity, the people involved, the timing, and the location, are very precise, and given to the people at the time to show them the direction of travel intended by God. The return to the land was intended to prepare for the coming of Messiah – the prophecies of His advent being interspersed amongst the return prophecies, as God’s intended end in view.

Presumption 5.)    When it is pointed out that no post-exilic OT prophecies of another, later return can be found, and none are given in the New Testament (other than the final ingathering of the elect on the Day of the Lord,) this is brushed aside. It is said that “Israel *needs* to be back in the land for Zechariah 14 to occur” etc., which is another story, but not a proof that the Aliyah prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah can be transferred across millennia or responsibly replicated to today’s calendar without any biblical precedent. Ironically, the protagonists of this eschatology generally like to present their position as a literal reading of the bible.

Presumption 6.) Finally, the 6th presumption is called upon, when faced with the logical collapse of the previous five. It is said that, “such a global phenomenon as the Jewish repatriation of 20th and 21st century Zionism is so profound and large-scale, that it cannot be anything other than the work of God.”

But we know that nations and empires do come and go, by the wit and will of men. Organised campaigns have great power to effect enormous political change; to raise ethnic solidarity across the continents and the centuries. Just thinking of the power of the Soviet Union to coalesce and disperse populations; The modern democratic ideology; Globalisation; Nationalisms of other people groups like Kurds, Palestinians, Albanians, Kosovans and Serbs, ethnic Russians in modern Soviet satellites, the international Chinese community, Brits abroad, Irish and Scottish nationalism  etc.

It may be for instance, that the Jewish identity is intended by God to remain intact, but for the purpose of displaying the evidence and veracity of biblical history – to authenticate the bible narrative – to remind the world to take the bible seriously as the largely FULFILLED Word of God. There are several reasons that Israel might exist today – not least, the possibility that a counterfeit Kingdom of God is in view. After all, even Christian Zionists themselves propose that an antichrist kingdom will prevail in Jerusalem in coming days, so this is not too farfetched an idea…

Whichever way we take this – basing an eschatology on a set of disproven assumptions, then continuing to hold to this once they have been exposed, would seem to be to somewhat irrational. Various psychological and emotional responses come into play to defend a belief so strongly held, in the discomfort of ‘cognitive dissonance’. Evidence is compiled to bolster a preconceived ‘confirmation bias’ that persists over and against contrary evidence, no matter the strength and validity of the counter-evidence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

SUMMARY

Finally, a 7th presumption is presented, more in the way of a ‘threat': It is said by CZM enthusiasts, “If God is not going to be faithful to Israel – in bringing the nation back again – how do you know for sure, as a Christian, that God will remain faithful to you?”

This is a poor argument, and easily resolved. The opposite is in fact the case. Having seen the comprehensive evidence above, how does the CZM enthusiast – in claiming that the prophetic fulfilments recorded within the very bible itself are *not* the intended completion of those anticipations – then go on to have confidence that *anything* will happen according to these unfulfilled aspirations? Especially aspirations that to all intents and purposes are widely expected within the CZM movement to conclude in a sinister covenant with the Jewish people, under a satanic regime in Jerusalem, ruled by an antichrist devil-man, in defiance of the Almighty.

Far better, is it not, to accept the well-attested faithfulness of God in:

1.) the fulfilment of the promises to the Fathers in the initial entry to the land (Joshua 21:43-45)

2.) the completion of the promises of exile and return to the people of Judah in the 6th and 5th centuries BC (Ezra 2:70),

3.) the Messianic deliverance in the New Covenant by Jesus,

4.) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his people at Pentecost, and

5.) the Word of the Lord going forth from Zion in the Great Gospel Commission?

6.) the remaining, future, final return of Christ in glory to gather his saints from the four winds into the eternal kingdom (Mark 13:27).***

HalleluYAH! Yes indeed God *IS* faithful to his promises and his people – and we can prove it, with biblical evidence, every step of the way!

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*** Adam’s note: I believe that Mark 13 (The Olivet Discourse), and parallel accounts in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, were fulfilled in the first century AD (my study on this topic can be seen here).

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Related Post: Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel

To Seal or Not to Seal the Book? (Daniel 12 Versus Revelation 22)


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

The following study was published earlier today in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and was adapted from our study of Revelation 22 (Part 2):

What a difference 600 years can make. It certainly made a difference when it came to the visions shown to Daniel (605 – 536 BC) and to John (around 65 AD*). As we will see, one prophet (Daniel) was told to seal his book, and about 600 years later the other (John) was told to keep his book unsealed. Daniel was told that the fulfillment of his visions was a long way off, and about 600 years later John was told that fulfillment was right around the corner.

Many have observed the parallels between what Daniel and John saw in their respective visions. For example:

(a) Daniel foresaw a king, arising from the fourth beast (kingdom), who would “persecute the saints of the Most High.” The saints would “be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time,” i.e. 3.5 years (Daniel 7:25).

(b) Very similarly, John saw a beast who “was given authority to continue for forty-two months” (i.e. 3.5 years), and “it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Revelation 13:4-7).

Without a doubt, Daniel and John were granted visions of the same event, future to both of them. Or, in John’s case, had it already begun? “I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).**

One group of Bible teachers, whose eschatology differs from my own, has created the following chart to demonstrate how Daniel and John both repeatedly spoke of a 3.5 year time period:

Different Descriptions of a 3 ½ Year Period

Bible References

42 months

Rev. 11:2,13:5

1260 days

Rev. 11:3,12:6

3.5 years

Dan. 9:27

Time, times & ½ a time

Dan. 7:25, Dan. 12:7, Rev. 12:4

At the end of John’s visions, he recorded a very significant instruction given to him by an angel:

Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. ‘Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book’And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand‘” (Revelation 22:6-10). 

Interestingly, Daniel was given opposite instructions. He was told to seal his book:

But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end… it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished… And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’” (Daniel 12:4-9)

Daniel was told to seal his book because “the time of the end” for his people was in the distant future. However, John was told that what he saw was about to take place and therefore he should not seal his book. The contrasts between these two sets of instructions can be seen in this chart:

DATE

Around 540 BC

Around 65 AD

PROPHET

Daniel

John (Revelation)

SEAL or DON’T SEAL?

But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4); “And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9).

And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book…’” (Rev. 22:10).

FAR AWAY or AT HAND?

Therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future” (Daniel 8:26); “Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come” (Daniel 10:14).

“…for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).

Around 540 BC, Daniel was told that the time of the fulfillment of his book was still far away, but around 65 AD John was told that the time of the fulfillment of his book was near. This makes no sense if Daniel and John were prophesying about events in the 21st century or beyond, as both would be far away, and about 2600 years in Daniel’s case and about 2000 years away in John’s case. It does makes sense, however, if both Daniel and John were prophesying of events in John’s time. Here’s what the difference looks like:

Time Frame if These Prophecies Remain Unfulfilled

Time Frame if These Prophecies Were Fulfilled in John’s Day

To be fulfilled in the 21st century or beyond

Fulfilled around 70 AD

Daniel: “many days to come” = 2600 years later and not yet fulfilled

John: “at hand” = 2000 years later and still not fulfilled

Daniel: “many days to come” = fulfilled 600 years later

John: “at hand” = fulfilled a few years later

Daniel was told that his prophecies concerned “the time of the end” for his people in Israel, and the complete shattering of their power (Daniel 12:7). That “time of the end” had come in John’s day, and therefore he wrote that “the time” was “at hand.” It was the end of the old covenant age, and the time for judgment upon adulterous, unfaithful Israel – a judgment which Jesus had so often predicted (e.g. Matthew 21:43-44, 22:7, 23:34-36, 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 17:20-37, 19:41-44, 21:5-36). This judgment was made complete during the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD, and Josephus graphically recorded the shattering of national Israel in his book,The Wars of the Jews, published in 75 AD.

That time of judgment was 600 years in Daniel’s future, but it took place in John’s generation. This is why Daniel’s book was sealed, but John’s book remained unsealed.

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*The following articles contain a wealth of evidence that the book of Revelation was written prior to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD:

[1] External Evidence for An Early Date
[2] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 1)
[3] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 2)
[4] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 3)
[5] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 4)
[
6] The Book of Revelation Written Before 70 AD (An Illustration)

**According to the church father, Tertullian, John was exiled to Patmos by Nero after John miraculously survived Nero’s attempt to boil him in oil.

Paul R. Lopez: Seven “Last Days” Passages You’ll Rarely Hear Pastors Preach On


This article from Paul Lopez is good food-for-thought concerning the topic of “the last days.” It has been edited somewhat, but only for grammar and punctuation:

When was the last time you heard a “last days” sermon from the Old Testament?

When most pastors preach a sermon on the end times they usually start with the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21) or the Book of Revelation. For years the focus on end times discussions has remained in the New Testament. Unfortunately, that results in our teachers only giving us the end of the story. When reading a story, it makes sense to start at the beginning, rather than at the end and try to figure out the story from there. Yet the study of the “last days” in most churches today has us doing this very thing. I did that too for years, until I finally decided to start at the beginning of the book.

Here are seven Old Testament passages that I’ve come across in my studies that are crucial to understanding the “last days” that you will rarely hear pastors preach on in today’s churches:

1. Jacob’s Prediction of the Last Days: Would you believe the first mention of the “last days” is in Genesis 49? “And Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days‘” (verse 1, NKJV). Ironically, the first passage in the Bible that speaks of the last days is in the first book of the Bible and not the last. This passage speaks of the last days of the twelve tribes of Israel.

2. Moses’ Warning to the Israelites: In Deuteronomy 31:29, Moses tells the Israelites:

For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands” (NASB).

This verse is in the context of Deuteronomy 28-32 and Leviticus 26. God is establishing the Covenant with His people. God promises His people both coming blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Study your cross references and you will find many fascinating connections to the New Testament — particularly Romans 9-11 and the book of Revelation. From this passage you will begin to see that the last days spoken of in Deuteronomy 31:29 are speaking of the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the earth.

3. Jeremiah’s Prediction of the Last Days. Jeremiah 30:24 says: “The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back, until He has performed and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this” (NASB). Jeremiah 30:24 speaks of judgment coming upon His people, and it is also the context for Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31 contains several prophecies fulfilled at the first advent of Christ. For example, Jeremiah 31:15 is a prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 2:16-18. Jesus is born under law (Galatians 4:4), at the end of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is ending with Christ’s birth, and the New Covenant is at hand with the beginning of His ministry. In writing to Jews, the author of Hebrews says in chapter 1:1-2:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

The things “spoken of long ago to the fathers and prophets” are the passages that we are outlining here. If you study these verses carefully, against current thought, the last days of the Jews and their Covenant were upon them. These references begin to line up with the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world.

4. Prediction of the New Covenant That Would Come: Another passage in the context of Jeremiah 30:24 is Jeremiah 31:31-34 — a prophecy that predicts that the New Covenant would come at the end of the Old Covenant. The writer of the book of Hebrews verifies this in Hebrews Chapter 8. The New Covenant for His people prophesied in Jeremiah 31 is fulfilled in the First Century, and the Old Covenant is becoming obsolete in Hebrews 8:13. Again, we see the last days of the Old Covenant were upon them in the First Century. The whole context of Hebrews 8 is again stated in the context of Hebrews 1:1-2.

5. Jesus Was Born in the ‘Last Days': Micah 4 shows that Jesus was born in the last days of the Old Covenant: “And it will come about in the last days, that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, And the peoples will stream to it.” In the same context, Micah 5:2 reads: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

This prophecy is fulfilled in the last days of the Old Covenant, according to Matthew 2:1-6:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”

(Cross references: Deuteronomy 31:29: Judges 2:19)

6. Isaiah’s Prediction of judgment on Old Covenant Israel in the Last Days:

Isaiah 2:1-2 , we see almost verbatim the words from Micah 4:1, about the last days of the covenant: 

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.”

This segment of Scripture is full of description of the last days that can be traced through the New Testament to the book of Revelation. In the same context of Isaiah 2 is the parable of the vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7) – the vineyard is the house of Israel (vs 7)! It is a vineyard that God said produced worthless grapes! This same parable Jesus quotes in Matthew 21:33-46. In verses 40-45, Jesus describes what is coming upon the Jews in their last days. The Pharisees, being familiar with the prophet Isaiah’s words, knew exactly what Jesus was saying, and that Jesus spoke the parable about them. The end of the Old Covenant system ended at the cross, yet the final destruction of the temple system came in 70 A.D.

See also Jeremiah 3:8, 23:20, and 30:24.

7. Joel’s Prediction that the Holy Spirit Would be Poured Out in the Last Days:

Joel 2:28-32 is quoted by the apostle Peter in his sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2:14-21:

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT‘” (Acts 2:14-18).

According to the Prophet Joel, the Holy Spirit would be poured out in “the last days.” This prophecy was being fulfilled in Acts 2 according to the Apostle Peter. His audience in Acts 2 are Jews from “every nation under heaven.”

Could all of these Old Testament passages that were fulfilled and pointed to by inspired writers in the New Testament be about the Last Days of the Old Covenant and not the Last Days of the World? It is worth your time and study to research the Scriptures.

All the prophets we have mentioned above were writing to the Jews of coming judgment upon them for breaking the covenant of Deuteronomy 28-32. Last days events mentioned in the Old Testament included the birth of the Messiah, the New Covenant coming, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and pending judgment on the Old Covenant system. Jesus clearly states that this judgment was coming upon the generation He came to in the first century (Matthew 23:36, Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32).

So what does all this mean? The Old Testament references provide the context for the New Testament passages concerning the “last days.” But that’s something you’ll rarely hear from the pulpit today, in a culture that is more fascinated with signs from world events than Scripture.

In real estate the golden rule is “location, location, location.” In eschatology, it’s “signs, signs, signs.” How about we go back to “Scripture, Scripture, Scripture”?

I challenge our pastors and teachers in the church today to begin to address these passages on the Last Days from the Old Testament. They provide the context for the New Testament passages on the Last Days and will spark healthy discussion within our churches today.

Source

Paul Lopez is a longtime student of the Word and a Bible teacher and small group leader at Murrieta Valley Church in Murrieta, Calif.

The Mystery of God (Revelation 10:7) Has Long Been Finished


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

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and was adapted from our study of Revelation 10:

“…in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

Like so many of the visions and prophecies in the book of Revelation, this one has a rich background in the Old Testament. John was told that the finishing of “the mystery of God” had been foretold by “His servants the prophets.” For a long time, the prophets had been looking forward to what John was about to witness!

Before we examine verse 7 and the meaning of “the mystery of God,” let’s briefly consider the context of this verse. The first six trumpet judgments are featured in Revelation 8-9. (One earlier post discusses the third trumpet, Wormwood, and another discusses the fifth trumpet, the locust invasion.) Then in Revelation 10:

  • A mighty angel comes down from heaven, whose appearance (verse 1) is similar to that of Jesus in Revelation 1:15-16, and his behavior resembles that of “the man clothed in linen” who announces the shattering of the holy people in Daniel 12:7.
  • This mighty angel “sets his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land” (verses 2, 5).
  • He swears that, without any further delay (verse 6), the sounding of the seventh trumpet would bring about the completion of the mystery of God (verse 7).

The expression, “His servants the prophets” (verse 7), was commonly used in the Old Testament to refer to the prophets God sent to the nation of Israel (e.g. II Kings 9:7, Jeremiah 7:25, Zechariah 1:6, and especially Daniel 9:6). The expression, “the mystery of God,” should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the epistles written by Paul. He speaks of this mystery in Romans 16:25-26 (see also Rom. 11:25), but he covers this topic most thoroughly in his epistles to the Ephesians (1:7-10, 2:11-3:11, 5:31-32, 6:18-20) and to the Colossians (1:24-27, 2:1-4, 4:3-4).

Paul told the Ephesians that they could perceive his insight into “the mystery of Christ” which was not made known to previous generations as it had been revealed to the apostles and prophets in his day (3:4-5). Then in Ephesians 3:6, Paul explicitly defines this mystery, and this definition is most crucial to our understanding of Revelation 10:7.

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Indeed, in the previous chapter, Paul had already declared that Jesus had “broken down the middle wall of division” between Jews and Gentiles, creating “one new man from the two” (Eph. 2:14-15). They were joined together “into a holy temple in the Lord” (verse 21) and were “being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (verse 22). This, of course, lines up with other New Testament declarations that, in Jesus, there is no difference, no favoritism, and no distinction between Jews and non-Jews (Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).

Here is one place where fulfilled eschatology and futurist eschatology can stand very far apart. Steve Gregg has edited an excellent book titled, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).” His book features parallel commentaries from four different viewpoints regarding the book of Revelation. We have already observed how “the mystery of God” is clearly defined throughout the New Testament. Notice, then, how this phrase in Revelation 10:7 is defined in vastly different ways by [1] futurists and [2] preterists in Gregg’s book:

Futurist Interpretations of Revelation 10:7
Preterist Interpretations of Revelation 10:7
“Everything will then be made plain. The mystery of retribution—the mystery of predestination—the mystery of the great struggle between light and darkness and good and evil—all will be explained then” (H.A. Ironside, pp. 209-211).
“This ‘Mystery’ is a major aspect of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians: the union of believing Jews and Gentiles in one church, without distinction” (David Chilton, p. 208).
“The reference to the mystery of God seems to mean truth concerning God Himself which has not been fully revealed. It is often overlooked, however, that the mystery is said to have been ‘declared to his servants the prophets’ (v. 7). The mystery of God which is declared as subject to fulfillment is unfolded therefore in the Old Testament in many passages which speak of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth” (John Walvoord, p. 209).
“The completion of the mystery of God (v. 7) refers to the fact that the ‘predominantly Jewish nature of the church was to be ended by the destruction of the temple, the distinctive feature in which it centered.’ The mystery itself, of course, is… ‘that the Gentiles should come into the church on an equal footing with the Jews, not first having to become Jews themselves…’” (Jay Adams, p. 208).
[The mystery of God is] the secret of His allowing Satan to have his own way, and man too (that is to say, the wonder of evil prospering and of good being trodden underfoot)” [William Kelly, p. 209].
 
“How great has been that mystery! Evil had apparently triumphed; the heavens for so long have been silent. Satan had been permitted to be the god of this age deceiving the nations… And now the time has come when the mystery of God will be completed” (Arno C. Gaebelein, p. 209).
 

Each of these futurist interpretations of Revelation 10:7 completely miss Paul’s clear definition of the mystery of God. Perhaps, among futurists, there is a deliberate reluctance to compare Scripture with Scripture in this case, knowing that the first century transition from the old covenant to the new covenant (Hebrews 8:13) is easy to see here.

In this passage (Revelation 10:1-7), we can see the significance of the angel standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land (verses 2, 5). Numerous scholars have recognized a Scriptural pattern where “the sea” often represents Gentile nations and “the land” (or “the earth”) represents Israel. P.S. Desprez, for example, in his 1855 book, “The Apocalypse Fulfilled,” wrote the following concerning the expression “those who dwell on the earth” which appears often in Revelation:

“But the words in question are sometimes found qualified by governing considerations which define and determine their meaning, and this is always the case, when they are found in connection with the governing clauses ‘they that dwell’… Then they have, and can have, only one meaning; then they refer only to one land and to one people, and this land and this people must be the land and the people of Judea.”

My 3-part study on this pattern can be seen here (part 1, part 2, part 3).

So if the sea is interpreted as a reference to the Gentiles, and the land as a reference to Israel (i.e. the Jews, generally speaking), then the image of the angel with one foot on both suggests a bridging of the gap between the two. This is precisely what we see in Paul’s definition of the mystery of God and his teachings that, in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are one. “Gentiles in the flesh” were once “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:11-12), but, in Christ, they were “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens” (verse 19).

The picture of the angel bridging the gap between land and sea is a beautiful symbol of God’s bringing Jews and Gentiles together in Himself on an equal basis, having torn down the dividing wall by His work on the cross. This mystery was made complete in John’s day, in the first century. All delay soon came to an end (Rev. 10:6) and the temple in Jerusalem, the chief symbol of old covenant Judaism and Israel’s national pride, was brought down forever in 70 AD in favor of “a holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22).

“…but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever! …Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple…” (Revelation 11:15-19).

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All of our studies on the book of Revelation can be seen here.

The Shadows of the Old Covenant Can’t Be Restored


A Facebook friend, Larry Siegle, posted the following book excerpt the other day, and it’s excellent. It comes from a book written in 1972 by James D. Bales titled, “Prophecy and Premillennialism” (pp. 162-163):

“If we tried to go back to the Old Testament, it would not permit it. It would send us back to the New. The substance has arrived, so the shadow tells us to abide in the substance.

First, if we go back to Moses, he sends us to Christ. (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:22, 23).

Second, if we ask Moses to be our mediator, he sends us to Christ the mediator (Heb. 8:6; 12:24).

Third, if we go back to the Old Covenant, it sends us back to the New (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:5-13; 13:20).

Fourth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which its sacrifices were but a shadow (Heb. 10:1-4).

Fifth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which the animal blood typified (Heb. 9:15-27; 23-28; 13:20).

Sixth, if we go back to the Old Temple, the way to heaven is not made manifest (Heb. 9:6-12, 24, 25, 26); so it sends us to Christ who has opened and made manifest the way (Heb. 10:19-22).

Seventh, if we go to the Old Testament priests, they send us back to the priesthood of believers (I Pet. 2:5, 9).

Eighth, if we go back to the Jewish kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom which was being received in the first century (Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:18-28; 13:20).

Ninth, if we go back to the Old Testament kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28; 13:20).

Tenth, if we go back to the Old Testament Kings and High Priests, they send us to Christ the king and priest (Psa. 110:1-4; Heb. 7:11-22, 28; 8:4).

Eleventh, if we go to Abraham, he sends us to his seed, Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-29).

We must not retreat from the substance to the shadow. Any system of the interpretation of prophecy which restores the shadow contradicts the Old Testament and the New Testament.”

James Bales (1915-1995) was “an influential Bible professor and administrator at Harding University (then Harding College) for almost 40 years.” Bales was an amillennialist (Wikipedia).

The New Testament Repeatedly Applies Isaiah 65-66 To This Present Age


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

This post serves as a follow-up to my last post, “We Now Live in the New Heavens and the New Earth” (which explored Matthew 5:17-18, Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3:7-13, portions of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and more). There is one Scripture text on the subject of the old/new heaven and earth which I didn’t explore in that post: 

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God‘” (Revelation 21:1-3).

We do, however, have a detailed study on this text in our series on the book of Revelation. In that study we highlighted an excellent observation made by Steve Gregg in his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”  

Revelation 21:1

Isaiah 65-66 clearly provides a background to Revelation 21:1, most notably Isaiah 65:17-19 and 66:10-13, 22.

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. but be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (Isaiah 65:17-19).

“‘For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘so shall your descendants and your name remain‘” (Isaiah 66:22).

Gregg shows that this portion of Isaiah is not awaiting future fulfillment — not according to Jesus, Luke, John, and Paul. On page 489 of his book, Gregg writes,

“[The] specific promise of ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ found exclusively in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22, fall within a portion of Isaiah which New Testament writers applied to the present age.”

On page 506, Gregg gives the following comparisons to illustrate what he is saying here:

[a] Isaiah 65:23 with I Cor. 15:58
[b] Isaiah 65:25 with Luke 10:19
[c] Isaiah 66:1f with I Tim. 3:15
[d] Isaiah 66:8 with Gal. 4:26
[e] Isaiah 66:11 with Matt. 5:6
[f] Isaiah 66:12 with John 14:27
[g] Isaiah 66:15f with Matt. 22:7
[h] Isaiah 66:18 with Matt. 8:11
[i] Isaiah 66:19 with Eph. 3:8 and Col. 1:27
[j] Isaiah 66:20 with Rom. 15:16

Let’s observe these comparisons in the form of a chart, and with these passages written out:

Passages from Isaiah 65 – 66
Corresponding New Testament Passages
“They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Isaiah 65:23).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
“’The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).
“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” (Isaiah 66:1)
“…but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15).
“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
“…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).
“…that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (Isaiah 66:11).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees” (Isaiah 66:12).
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
“For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire” (Isaiah 66:15).
“But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7; see also Matt. 16:27-28, II Thess. 1:6-8, Jude 14-15).
“For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory” (Isaiah 66:18).
“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11; see also Acts 2:5-12).
 “I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles” (Isaiah 66:19).
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Ephesians 3:8); “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
“’Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the Lord, ‘as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 66:20).
“…that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

So we can see that Isaiah was given a vision of the coming new covenant age, the age in which we now live, and the fiery passing away of the old covenant age (I believe this occurred in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; see especially II Peter 3:7-13). Kenneth Gentry adds these thoughts on this subject:

“Isaiah’s prophecy clearly portrays the coming new covenant order established by Christ, which Paul calls a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; cp. Ephesians 2:10; 4:24… We know that Isaiah was not speaking of the consummate order, for he includes aspects of the present fallen order in his description: ‘No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed‘ (Isaiah 65:20). The eternal order will not include infants, death, aging, and curse.”

Kenneth Gentry, “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” GoodBirth Ministries: Fountain Inn, SC, 2009, p. 169.

Presbyterian Pastor David Lowman agrees, saying:

“[It] is best to understand the NHNE [new heavens and new earth] covenantally as a picture of the promised New Covenant that finds origination in the Old testament, institution in the Gospels, unfolding in the [book of] Acts and explanation in the rest of the New Testament.”

Revelation 21:2

In Revelation 21, John goes on to speak of New Jerusalem, “the holy city,” coming down out of heaven as Christ’s bride. Recall the promise that Jesus made to the first century church in Philadelphia:

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from My God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12).

The temple of which Christ spoke, of course, is the Church:

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building (I Corinthians 3:9).

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (I Cor. 3:16-17).

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19)

“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people'” (II Cor. 6:16).

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-21).

The author of Hebrews not only speaks the heavenly Jerusalem as being a reality in the first century, but he also equates it with the new covenant:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Revelation 21:3

Before concluding, let’s look briefly at one more proof that Revelation 21 is speaking of this present age. In verse 3, God declared that His tabernacle would be with men, and that He would “dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” This promise was first given in Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11, but it was conditional, only to be true as long as the Israelites walked in His statutes and kept His commandments (Lev. 26:3). In Revelation 21:3, this promise is unconditional.

Revelation 21:3 mirrors the description of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and identical language is also used in Ezekiel 37:27-28, a passage connected to the new covenant promises in Ezekiel 36:24-28. In Ezekiel’s own vision of a holy city, he was told that this city would be the place where God would dwell with His people (Ezekiel 43:7, 48:35). As we already observed above, Paul quoted Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11 as a present reality for the Church in his own day (II Corinthians 6:16).

Conclusion

Revelation 21 applies Isaiah 65-66 to the present new covenant age in which we now live. However, it does not carry out this application alone. As we have seen, multiple New Testament authors have done the same. What a blessing it is to live under the new heavens and the new earth.

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Our study on the entire chapter of Revelation 21 can be seen here (verses 1-4 and verses 5-27).