Revelation 22 (Part 2: Verses 6-21)

In the previous post, Revelation 22 (Part 1: Verses 1-5), we looked at the first five verses of Revelation 22, where John concluded his description of New Jerusalem, the city of God. We saw that a river of life runs through the city, proceeding from God’s throne and from the Lamb, with the tree of life on both sides of the river, whose leaves provide healing for the nations. We saw how John’s account parallels the account in Ezekiel 47. We saw that in New Jerusalem there is no curse and no night, but Jesus is there and He lights up the city. We also discussed how John’s descriptions, parallel to many others in the New Testament, concern this present age and the spiritual realities and the mandate given to the body of Christ. We now turn to the rest of the chapter.

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 22

Verse 6: John writes, “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.”

The angel repeats what Jesus said in the previous chapter (Rev. 21:5), affirming that these words about New Jerusalem “are faithful and true.” God would carry out all that He promised to do.

Here John also repeats what he said at the beginning of the book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place… Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev. 1:1-3). John’s letter was distributed to seven first century churches concerning events that they were about to experience, and it pleased God to “show His servants” those things ahead of time. In our study of Revelation 1, we noted that “the Greek word used for “shortly” here is the same one Jesus used when He said His time to be crucified was ‘at hand (Matthew 26:18), and when John said ‘the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand‘ (John 7:2), events that no doubt were literally near.”

Verse 7: John writes, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” It’s obvious that this statement comes directly from Jesus, which is a switch from verse 6 where John is the speaker reporting what the angel had said to him. Steve Gregg makes the following observation on page 500 of his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary)”: “In these closing paragraphs, the identity of the speakers of various statements becomes somewhat confusing. At times (e.g. vv. 6, 9-11), the words seem to be those of the angel-guide — still one of the seven who poured out the bowls (cf. 21:9) — and at others (e.g. vv. 7, 12, 16), the speaker is clearly Jesus.”

Jesus here repeats what He and John have already said several times in this book:

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Rev. 1:7).

Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” (Rev. 3:3; see also Rev. 2:5, 16).

Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev. 3:11).

Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15).

Before this chapter comes to a close, Jesus repeats this promise two more times (22:12, 22:20). Consistently, He says that His coming would take place quickly, and that His coming could take some of John’s readers by surprise. This language is consistent with other statements that John was prophesying of things which would soon take place, and of events that were near in their time. How would John’s readers have understood these statements?

Verses 8-9: John writes, “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.  Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” John affirms that he was a firsthand witness to all that he reported. He also candidly admits his mistake and reveals that he was rebuked by the angel. John had made the same mistake before:

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:9-10).

Verse 10: John writes, “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.’” Interestingly, Daniel, who was given similar visions to what John saw and heard, was given opposite instructions. He was told to seal his book (Daniel 12:4, 12:9) because what he saw was still far off (Daniel 8:26, 10:14). However, John was told that what he saw was soon 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:

Daniel Around 600 BC 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 the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; 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).
John (Revelation) Around 65 AD And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book…’” (Rev. 22:10). “…for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).

Around 600 BC, Daniel was told to seal his book and his words, but around 65 AD John was told not to seal his book or his words. Around 600 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/or John were prophesying about events in the 21st century or beyond, as both would be far away, but it does makes sense if both Daniel and John were prophesying of events in John’s time.

Daniel was told that his prophecies concerned “the time of the end” for his people in Israel. 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 faithless Israel which Jesus had so often predicted in the gospel accounts. That time came in the form of the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD.

Verse 11: John writes, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” The idea of imminence is clearly found in these words. Steve Gregg comments (p. 501):

Verse 11 underscores the nearness of the events just mentioned, as if so little time remains that one could hardly hope to repent before the judgment falls… Alford writes: “The saying has solemn irony in it (compare Matt. 26:45), the idea being that the time is so short that there is hardly any room for any change, but down in its depths the lesson conveyed is, ‘Change while yet there is time.’” …Farrer, on the other hand, suggests that it constitutes a prayer “that the world may come out black and white, so as to be ripe for judgment.”

Kurt Simmons gives his view:

“These words are given to punctuate the imminence of Christ’s return.  His coming would be like a thief and would take men as it found them, to give to every man according as his works should be (cf. Matt. 16:2728).”

Kurt Simmons, “Exposition of Revelation 20-22,” source

Verse 12: John writes, And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” These are again words spoken directly by Jesus, and they are virtually identical to the words He spoke to His disciples:

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:27-28).

In John’s account, Jesus said He would come quickly. In Matthew’s account, Jesus said He would come while some of His disciples were still alive. In both accounts He said He would reward everyone according to their works at His coming.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus said He would come with His angels. As my friend, Mark Church, points out, all throughout the book of Revelation we see God’s angels pouring out judgment upon “the great city” where the Lord was crucified (Revelation 11:8) – that is, Jerusalem, the same city which was marked as a harlot because of its shedding of the blood of the saints and martyrs (Rev. 17:1-6), apostles, and prophets (Rev. 18:20-24). For a deeper study of Jesus’ statement that He would come [a] in His kingdom [b] with His angels [c] in the glory of His Father and [d] in judgment, see our studies on Matthew 24:3 and on Matthew 24:30.

Verse 13: John writes, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” These are also direct words from Jesus, and He repeats titles that He had given Himself in Rev. 1:8 and Rev. 21:6, and which an angel ascribed to Him in Rev. 2:8. The Father spoke similarly of Himself through the prophet Isaiah (41:4, 43:10, 44:6, 48:12). Jesus is everything and all-sufficient.

Verses 14-15: John writes, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” John reiterates what he had already said earlier, making a contrast between who could reside in the city of God (new Jerusalem), and who would always remain outside of its gates:

Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev. 21:25-27).

Steve Gregg discusses (p. 502) the significance of the first type of person mentioned by John, who would remain outside of the gates, i.e. “dogs”:

Those excluded from the City of God are characterized as dogs (a term the Jews used to characterize Gentiles, but which Paul applied to the Judaizers — Phil. 3:2), and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (v. 15). That such behavior effectively bars one’s entrance into the kingdom of God is also clearly declared by Paul (cf. I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). 

A number of translations render Rev. 22:14 as, “Blessed are those who wash their robes…” My Facebook friend, Robert Woodrow, noted that Rev. 22:14-15 and I Corinthians 6:9-11 form a chiastic structure, where the two passages are patterned after one another in a reverse layout:

A – Blessed are those who wash their robes (Rev. 22:14)
B – that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city (Rev. 22:14)
C – Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral…etc. (Rev. 22:15)
C – Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers…etc. will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Cor. 6:9-10)
B – you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (I Cor. 6:11)
A – But you were washed (I Cor. 6:11)

I Corinthians 6 is a present reality, as are these parallel truths in Revelation 22. Paul speaks of inheriting the kingdom, but doesn’t mention a city, while John speaks of entrance into the city, but doesn’t mention a kingdom. Hebrews 12 equates both ideas in one passage: But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (verse 22)… “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” (verse 28).

Verse 16: John writes, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Here Jesus repeats what John had said in the very first verse of Revelation: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Rev. 1:1). Jesus intended for the message of the entire book to be distributed “in the churches.” The church in Sardis, for example, didn’t only receive the message specifically addressed to that church in Revelation 3:1-6. They were to take heed to the entire book, chapters 1-22. This underscores the truth that Revelation was not written first and foremost for believers in the 21st century, but that it was written for a first century audience, concerning things they were about to experience at that time. 

In Rev. 5:5, Jesus was also given the title “the Root of David,” along with the title “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” See Genesis 49:9; Isaiah 11:1, 10; Mark 12:35-37; and Acts 13:23. Here Jesus is also called “the Bright and Morning Star.” In Rev. 2, the church at Thyatira was told that those who would hold fast until He came, and who would overcome and keep His works “until the end,” would be given power over the nations and also be given “the morning star” (verses 24-27; see also Numbers 24:17, Daniel 12:3, Malachi 4:2, Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:12-13). In speaking about the gospel and Jesus’ first coming, Peter wrote:

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19).

As we have seen in our study of Revelation and of Isaiah 60, this appears to be covenantal language, referring to the fading of the darkness of the old covenant age, and the dawning of the light of the new covenant age (established at the cross, and standing alone at the fall of the old covenant system in 70 AD; see Hebrews 8:13). This was also the understanding of John Gill (1746):

Christ is compared to a “star”, as in Numbers 24:17 for its light, the light of nature, and of grace, and of the new Jerusalem state being from him; and for its glory, his glory being the glory of the only begotten of the Father, and he having a glory, as Mediator, which his saints will ever behold, and be delighted with; and for its influence, all the blessings of grace, life, and righteousness, being from him; and to a “bright” star, because he is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and so splendid, shining, and illustrious, that he is light itself, and in him is no darkness at all; and to a bright “morning” star, which shows the night is going off and the day is coming on, and is the phosphorus, or bringer of light; as Christ by his first coming, who was then the dayspring from on high, put an end to the night of Jewish darkness, and sprung the great Gospel day, so often spoken of by the prophets, and brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel, and showed the way to eternal life by himself…

Verse 17: John writes, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” This cry of the Spirit and the bride appears to be in response to Jesus’ promise that He would come quickly (verse 12). The second half of this verse echoes the offer made by Jesus in Rev. 21:6 (“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts“). It also reflects what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:10-14) and what He cried out at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-39).

“…Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life…”

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive…”

Verses 18-19: John writes, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” 

Different opinions have been given concerning this warning. Clearly it was important that “the words of the prophecy of this book” be delivered with accuracy and without tampering to the seven churches. The plagues took place soon after this was written, so the danger of being targeted by those plagues also passed at that time. Steve Gregg (pp. 503-504) offers these thoughts:

“The severe curse…has been invoked by some expositors against those who differ from them in the interpretation of the apocalyptic vision, though it is hard to believe that any sincere attempt to interpret the symbols of the book would incur such wrath from God as these words suggest. It is possible that the strict safeguards are intended less for the interpreter of the book than the integrity of its transmission by copyists… There are similar warnings not to add to God’s word all the way back to Deuteronomy and in Proverbs.”

David Lowman, a Presbyterian pastor, agrees:

“Most likely this was written to the scribes who would be responsible for transcribing the letter as it was passed around the Christian church community. Be careful! That’s what is being said.”

Verses 20-21: John concludes, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Jesus again repeats His promise to come quickly, and John is clearly eager, as he closes his book, to see that promise come to pass. It was a promise that Jesus kept. Eusebius, the father of church history (263-339 AD), confirmed the same in his commentary on Matthew 24:

“And when those that believed in Christ had come thither [out] from Jerusalem [in obedience to Matthew 24:15-16], then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men (Proof of the Gospel, Book III, Ch. 5)… [When] the lamentation and wailing that was predicted for the Jews, and the burning of the Temple and its utter desolation, can also be seen even now to have occurred according to the prediction, surely we must also agree that the King who was prophesied, the Christ of God, has come, since the signs of His coming have been shewn in each instance I have treated to have been clearly fulfilled” (Proof of the Gospel, Book VIII).

John ends his book with the same blessing that Paul and others spoke over the church in their epistles, demonstrating that God’s grace was of great importance to the early church: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

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

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Revelation Chapter 22 (Part 1: Verses 1-5)

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 22

Review of Revelation 21

Our two posts on Revelation 21 (Part 1 and Part 2) were written in 2010, so this post is very much overdue. In our study of Rev. 21, we saw how John drew heavily on the Old Testament to depict with rich symbolism the glories of this present, everlasting new covenant age. John also echoed many spiritual truths taught elsewhere in the New Testament, which the writers of those epistles proclaimed to be existing realities in their own day. Revelation 21 is not as much about prophecies fulfilled in the past, as it is about ongoing spiritual realities that are being lived out by God’s people to this very day.

For the body of Christ, Revelation 21 is a beautiful portrayal of God’s relationship with His new covenant people. It’s also part of our manual on how the Church is to walk in spiritual victory and advance God’s ever-expanding kingdom on this earth. When John was told that he would be shown “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” he is actually shown a city called New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-10), which John vividly describes for his readers, lacing his words with all kinds of Biblical symbolism. Unlike the Jerusalem that went up in flames (Matthew 22:7; Rev. 17:16, 18:8-9, 18:18), New Jerusalem is a city with no temple, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (verse 22). It’s a city illuminated by the glory of God, where “the Lamb is its light” (verse 23; see also John 8:12).

New Jerusalem is not a cube-shaped city that God’s people will one day live in, but God’s people are New Jerusalem. This is not the only passage of Scripture where a physical structure is used to describe God’s people.  God’s people are also described as a holy structure in Ephesians 2:19-22, and both structures are built on the foundation of the apostles (Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14).

Introduction to Revelation 22

These themes continue as we move into Revelation 22, the final chapter of this book. The beginning of the chapter continues John’s description of the city of God, the new Jerusalem. After that Jesus recaps, through John, what He had already promised earlier in the book, particularly the nearness of His promise to come in judgment. Before we get into a verse-by-verse study of this chapter, let’s review again the very helpful structural outline that Steve Gregg presents on page 492 of his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).” He shows that Revelation 21:1-8 outlines the remainder of the book of Revelation (21:9 – 22:19):

CONTENT In Verses 1-8 In the Remainder
New Jerusalem Verse 2 21:9-21
God dwells among men Verse 3 21:22-27
Renewal of the world Verse 5a 22:1-5
“These words are true and faithful” Verse 5b 22:6-10
Work completed: “I am Alpha and Omega” Verse 6a 22:11-15
Final blessing: water of life to all who thirst Verses 6b – verse 7 22:16-17
Final curse upon the rebellious Verse 8 22:18-19

Verse 1:
In the first five verses of Revelation 22John’s vision of the city of God, New Jerusalem, comes to a conclusion. In verse 1, John sees “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

Who is the angel who shows John this river? This question takes us back to Revelation 21:9 where the one speaking to John is “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues.” This same angel takes John to see “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” In Revelation 17:1, we saw that an angel, fitting the exact same description, took John to see “the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.” According to Steve Gregg (p. 493), this connection “provides a structural link, deliberately placing the harlot in juxtaposition with the bride,” New Jerusalem. In this way, John contrasts two women in the same way that the apostle Paul does in Galatians 4:21-31, where he portrays one woman in slavery representing the old covenant and another free woman representing the new covenant.

John’s vision of the river of life flowing through the new Jerusalem is very similar to Zechariah’s vision at the time of the day of the Lord: “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur” (Zechariah 14:8). While some teach that this is future and will literally occur in Jerusalem (i.e. in the Middle East), it’s also possible — and I believe correct — to see that Zechariah received a vision of New Jerusalem, Christ’s bride. John’s vision here is also reminiscent of statements that Jesus made about Himself:

Jesus answered and said to [the woman at the well], ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life‘” (John 4:13-14).

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

Verse 2: John is told that “the leaves of the tree” of life were “for the healing of the nations“:

In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

John’s vision is remarkably similar to Ezekiel’s vision of a river flowing from the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: ‘This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live...’ Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:7-9, 12).

Duncan McKenzie, author of “The Antichrist and the Second Coming,” makes the following observation about these passages and their parallel nature (Duncan’s entire article is very much worth reading):

“In Ezekiel, the prophet is told that the city is the dwelling place of God with his people (43:7; 48:35), which parallels what John is told about the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:3). The respective cities both have twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on them (Ezek. 48:30-34; Rev. 21:12-13). The Temple in Ezekiel has healing waters that flow out of it (Ezek. 47:1-11); there are trees on both sides of the river that have leaves for food and healing (v. 12). This parallels Revelation where the river of life flows from the throne of God and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem; the tree of life is on both sides of the river, it has leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-2).”

Duncan McKenzie, “Revelation’s Parallel Use of the Sequence of Ezekiel: Part Two”

This picture, and this language, speaks to our present setting here on earth, where the nations of the world are in need of healing and where all kinds of immorality still exists outside of God’s city (verse 15). So one way of applying this text is to ask questions like these: Is Syria in need of healing today? Is Nigeria in need of healing today? Is Indonesia in need of healing today? Is America in need of healing today? The church, the body of Christ, is a channel of the living waters of Christ, and we are equipped with the healing that the nations need. As members of the body of Christ, we have been given the responsibility and the grace to link arms with one another and work together to see the nations healed by the living water of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Steve Gregg (p. 499) discusses the various ways that this text is understood:

The purpose of the leaves of the tree is…said to be for the healing of the nations (verse 2), but the question intrudes itself, what nations? If we take this to mean that humanity in the new creation will be organized into discreet political nations, then these are matters of which we have little or no additional information.

On the other hand, if nations be understood simply in the sense of “the Gentiles,” then it may simply be a reference to the church saints of Gentile extraction in the holy city. Weidner considers the reference to be to “the converted Gentiles who are among the glorified saints.” This view seems to enjoy the favor of most expositors, including Milligan:

“It is impossible to think that the nations here spoken of have yet to be converted. They have already entered the New Jerusalem, and that they are healed can signify no more than this, than they are kept in constant soundness of health by what is here administered to them.”

Taken, however, as a symbolic picture of the New Covenant blessings in the present age, the leaves of the tree could refer simply to the fact that as the gospel advances, the kingdom, like a mustard tree (Matthew 13:31-32), or a cedar tree (Ezekiel 17:22-23), spreads its branches, providing all nations a place of refuge and healing under the shadow of its leaves (cf. Ezekiel 31:4-6; Daniel 4:11-12).

John’s reference to “the tree of life” takes us back to Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and to the tree of life that was there (Genesis 2:9, 3:22-24):

And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24).

The outcome of eating from the tree of life would be eternal life. In Jesus, eternal life is freely available for those who trust in Him. In Revelation 22, in New Jerusalem, the tree of life is available for everyone in the city of God, bearing fruit 12 months each year. In the Garden of Eden there was one tree of life, but in New Jerusalem there is a tree of life “on either side of the river.” The Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary (1882) said this about the correlation between Genesis 2-3 and Revelation 22:

“How striking it is that, as in the beginning we found Adam and Eve, his bride, in innocence in Paradise, then tempted by the serpent, and driven from the tree of life, and from the pleasant waters of Eden, yet not without a promise of a Redeemer who should crush the serpent; so at the close, the old serpent cast out for ever by the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, who appears with His Bride, the Church, in a better Paradise, and amidst better waters (Rev. 22:1): the tree of life also is there with all its healing properties, not guarded with a flaming sword, but open to all who overcome (Rev. 2:7), and there is no more curse.”

Verse 3: John writes, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Is this another reference to the Garden of Eden, and the curses spoken over the serpent and over humanity (Genesis 3:14-24)? Is this a reference to the curse of the law, which was removed in Christ (Galatians 3:10-13)? Kenneth Gentry points out that many Bible scholars see Zechariah 14:11 (“The people shall dwell in [Jerusalem]; and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited“) as the background for John’s statement, and says “we see John’s backdrop from correspondences within the two passages:

Zechariah 14 Contextual Correspondences Revelation 21-22
14:2, 4, 8, 10-12, 14, 16-17, 21 “Jerusalem” 21:2, 10, 14-15, 18-19, 21, 23; 22:14, 19
14:6-7 Alteration of patterns of light, day, night 21:24-25; 22:5
14:8a Living water source in Jerusalem 22:1, 17
14:8b No problem of seasons causing death 22:2
14:11 Absence of anathema; katathema 22:3
14:14 Glory of nations received within 21:24, 26; see also Isaiah 60:5-14
14:16 Nations positively influenced 21:24
14:17-18 Outsiders in negative condition 21:27; 22:15

Gentry goes on to say:

Note the strong similarity between the two statements in Greek:

Zec 14:11: kai anathema ouk estai eti
Rev 22:3: kai pan katathema ouk estai eti

…We should note that John immediately parallels with his katathema statement a comment that intentionally contrasts with it. And by doing so he underscores the objective, concrete matters involved. I will provide a woodenly literal translation of 22:3, then the Greek text, to show the parallel:

And every cursed person will not be [there] any longer (22:3a)
And the throne of God and of the Lamb in it will be (22:3b)

Note the parallel in Greek:

kai pan katathema ouk estai eti (22:3a)
kai ho thronos tou theou kai tou arniou en autç estai (22:3b)

Clearly 22:3b speaks of location, not existence; the same should be true of 22:3a. John means that accursed persons are absent, not that the curse no longer exists… 

Consider that at the end of his external tour of the new Jerusalem he learns that certain persons will forever be excluded from the new Jerusalem: “and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27). Thus, now as he looks inside the new Jerusalem, he can happily report that this is true: “every cursed person will not be there” (22:3a). This truth is so important that he states it once again at 22:15: “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

…In Rev 22:3 John is encouraging the followers of the Lamb who have been abused by the religious leadership of Israel — either directly at their hands or at the hands of their compatriot minions, or indirectly by their influence with the Romans to spark persecution of the Christians. They must understand that those who have tormented them and cast them out of their communion (Mt 10:16–18, 21; 23:34; Jn 9:22, 34–35; 12:42; 16:2; 1Th 2:15) or brought charges against them to the Roman authorities (Ac 17:7; Rev 2:9–10) are themselves “accursed” and will not be allowed into the new Jerusalem. Christianity will not be extinguished through the efforts of the Jews (or the Romans). In fact, the tables will be turned against the [unbelieving] Jews: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out” (Mt 8:12; cp. 22:13) as God establishes the new, final redemptive order. Rather than rule by the corrupt “kings of the land,”  the new Jerusalem will be ruled from the throne of the Lamb (22:1, 3).

Kenneth Gentry, Supplement #18 – Absence of Curse  in the New Creation, Revelation 22

Verse 4: John writes, “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” This is a fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to the church in Philadelphia: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:11-12). In our studies of Revelation 7 and Revelation 14, we also saw that God sealed the foreheads of His servants with His name. In contrast, those who followed the beast had his mark, his name, or the number of his name on their right hands or foreheads (Rev. 13:15-17). 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also promised that it would be the pure in heart who would see God (Matthew 5:8). Kurt Simmons gives his take on the significance of Rev. 22:4.

“The fall brought man’s banishment from the presence and fellowship of his Creator; man was driven from the garden; he was estranged from God and became an exile in the earth…  Even in the temple, God was in the Holy of Holies, separate and removed from the worshipper.  None could approach except through the sprinkling of blood and the appointed mediator.  The stranger that drew nigh was put to death.  However, the veil of separation was rent in twain in the cross of Christ (Matt. 27:51); man can now boldly enter into that which is within the veil, made faultless before his presence by the blood of Christ (Heb. 6:1910:19-22; Jude 24).  We are no longer servants, but have attained the adoption of sons, are become heirs of the King, and enjoy a ‘face to face’ relationship with God through Christ.”

Kurt Simmons, “Exposition of Revelation 20-22,” source

Verse 5: John writes, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” In Rev. 21 we already saw that Jesus is the light in New Jerusalem, the city of God: “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light”  (verse 23). This also lines up with other statements made by the prophets, as well as those made by the writers of the gospel accounts and epistles in the New Testament:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you… The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:1, 19-20).

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darknessand the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life‘” (John 8:12).

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11-12).

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night… But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (I Thessalonians 5:1-5).

In part 2, we will continue examining Revelation 22, beginning with verse 6.

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

Jonathan Welton: Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy Is About Jesus, Not An Antichrist

(Note: This post includes a full-scale teaching illustration below the following introduction.)

The last quarter of the 20th century featured many prophecy charts, based on dispensationalism, depicting a future “Rapture,” 7-year tribulation, Antichrist, series of seal/trumpet/bowl judgments, Battle of Armageddon, etc. When I was younger, I saw a few of these charts in person, and a number of others when I watched “A Thief In the Night” (1972), “A Distant Thunder” (1977) and “Image of the Beast” (1981); all available here.

Charts and illustrations can be good teaching aids. Based on my study of church history, however, the vast majority of respected leaders in the first 1800 (or so) years after Christ would have been horrified to see a lot of these (dispensationalist-based) charts. As my personal journey has taken me away from the pre-trib Rapture/premillennialist view I grew up with, and toward fulfilled eschatology, I’m glad to see that new charts, illustrations, and similar tools are being created which are a lot more sound and Biblical (in my opinion). In a couple of previous posts, I’ve highlighted two such illustrations by author Jonathan Welton, one on Daniel 2 and the kingdom of God and another on John’s use of “ge” (land) versus “kosmos” (world) in the book of Revelation.

Welton’s newest illustration concerns the 70 Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9. Seeing this prophecy differently was a major turning point in my own journey. Previously I was led to believe that Daniel saw a future Antichrist who would make a 7-year political covenant with Israel, then break it 3.5 years later, before presiding over another 3.5 years of planet-wide turmoil and catastrophes. This was to be the 7-year tribulation period. The text (Daniel 9:24-27) says none of these things. I can’t forget how stunned I was when it was pointed out to me, online, that the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is parallel to Jesus’ words on the night He was betrayed by Judas:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering…” (Daniel 9:27).

For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Each “week” in Daniel’s prophecy represents a period of seven years. We also know that Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice after 3.5 years of ministry (“…in the middle of the week…”), and that His sacrifice brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings under the old covenant. There went the idea that sacrifices must be restored in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in our future. There also went the only Scriptural basis (so I thought) for a 7-year tribulation period. Jonathan Welton does a great job bringing this and more out in his latest illustration:

Maurice Perry: The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant

One of my Facebook friends, Maurice Perry, has also been blogging for the last three months. Maurice believes that the book of Revelation is about the Biblical covenants, and the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. I believe the same (see “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation”).

His article on this subject, “The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant,” makes some great points about the judgments in the book of Revelation being covenantal, and fulfilling Jesus’ words (e.g. Matthew 23:29-38) against the rulers of the old covenant age:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothingBut we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:6-8).

Maurice also makes some great points about the main opposition to the church during the generation (roughly 30 AD – 70 AD) when the covenant periods were in transition. That opposition was the bondage of the old covenant and those who sought to impose it upon the new covenant community (Jesus’ followers). This particular opposing force was dealt a huge blow when the Jerusalem temple, the center of old covenant worship and ceremonies, was taken out of the way. I’ve highlighted some of these points in red, below. I’m still mulling over the topics of Satan and the lake of fire, which Maurice also brought up in this article. As always, your thoughts are welcome on these things:

Revelation is all about covenant. It’s a covenantal book. When you look at it that way, things become more simplistic. There were two covenants. One, old. One, new. One (the old) was preparing to vanish away, or be demolished (Hebrews 8:13), while the other (the new) was already in existence because men and women were pressing into it even during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matt. 11:12, Luke 16:16)…

Revelation, a letter written to 7 churches to SIGNIFY to them things which would shortly come to pass (Rev. 1:1), is virtually entirely written in signs, symbols, metaphors and figurative language. If you read the book with a literal narrative, you will miss the entire meaning and focus.

The Focus?

The revealing of Jesus Christ as Messiah – judgment for the ones that had pierced him (Rev. 1:7) – salvation and deliverance for those 1st century saints that were being persecuted. Covenantally, it was judgment being released on those that killed the apostles and prophets (servants of God). This scenario is played out over, and over, and over and over again throughout Revelation using different imagery, symbols and idiomatic language each time the scenario is retold.

That being said, the majority of stuff in the letter cannot be taken literal. This includes hard things to be understood like “1000 years”, Satan being bound, and the Lake of Fire.

Long story short, Satan being bound for a “1000 years” is in reference to the time in which the gospel went forth relatively unhindered. This would be the gospel of the New Covenant. Remember, it’s all about covenant.

Satan was “loosed for a little while”, and this SIGNIFIED the time when the 1st century saints (who were preaching the gospel of the N.C.) were being persecuted, killed, imprisoned, etc – just as Jesus had previously told them (Matt. 24:9, Mark 13:9, Luke 21:12).

Satan’s main objective was to stop the spreading of the N.C by making the Hebrew Christians trip up and fall away and back into bondage, via the old covenant.

Luke 8:13
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

Hebrews 3:12
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

It was Judaism, or the temple worship, and the pressure of the unbelieving Judaizers that caused many to fall away from the faith (in Jesus) and back into Judaism (bondage under the law). Thus, Jesus’ question-

Luke 18:8
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

So, what better way to put an end to [competition against] the New Covenant?

DESTROY the infrastructure of the Old Covenant. That would be the temple!

EVERYTHING in Jerusalem revolved around the temple – worship, politics, economics/commerce (thus, Jesus driving the money changers out!), etc…

When the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the entire economy and way of life for the Jews was destroyed, and when it was destroyed, the main oppressor, or competition [against] the New Covenant was destroyed also (the Old Covenant had then vanished away).

Satan (which means adversary), who opposed God EVERY step of the way, from Genesis to Revelation, could not stop the ultimate plan of redemption for the entire world – the gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ. His last ditch effort to stop the spread of the gospel was with the persecuting of the saints (Rev. 12 – “chasing after the woman”, then “chasing after the woman’s seed”) through the unbelieving Judaizers. He (Satan) failed miserably!

Him (Satan) being thrown into the Lake of Fire is symbolic of his eternal covenantal judgment, and also symbolizes that he can no longer hinder the progression of the gospel of the kingdom, world without end (Eph. 3:21)

New heavens and New earth is spiritual and covenantal. Lake of Fire is spiritual and covenantal. Those that accept Jesus and the New Covenant enter into New heavens and New earth (which 1st century saints began entering – Hebrews 12:22), and those that reject Jesus and the New Covenant enter into the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, which is representative of being cut off from communion with the Father forever.

Satan, being in the Lake of Fire, cannot plead His case with God. Unbelievers who enter the Lake of Fire will not be able to plead their cases. It’s covenantal judgment.

Satan, and demons HAVE NOT been annihilated. They still roam around the world. Thus, the continued need for deliverance ministry and salvation. But they are forever outside of the kingdom, or City of God.

The gates of the city are continuously open for those that are made righteous in Christ, but closed to those that are unbelievers:

Revelation 22:14-15
14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

We see in Rev. 21:8 that the same people of Rev. 22:15 are said to experience the 2nd death:

Revelation 21:8
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

So, being in the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, is synonymous with being left outside of the gates of the city, which is a spiritual city, New Jerusalem, heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the city of God, the general assembly, the CHURCH of the first born! (Hebrews 12:22)

THE CHURCH IS NEW JERUSALEM!!! The kingdom is an everlasting kingdom… the church is an everlasting church!!!

Ephesians 3:21

Maurice Perry and his wife, Ericka, live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with their three daughters. In February 2014, Maurice published his first book, “Restoring Sanity in the Western Church.

Wade Burleson: Four Blood Moons – It’s Called Lunacy for a Reason

Lunacy - Def. “originally referring to temporary insanity attributed to changes of the moon.” Cf. Old English “lunatic,” literally moon-sick.”    -Wade Burleson

I’ve read a couple of articles, but no books, on one of the latest fads to invade the world of Evangelical Christianity – the “four blood moons” of 2014-2015. My understanding is that this phenomenon was first highlighted by Mark Biltz, a Hebrew roots proponent and pastor of El Shaddai Ministries in Tacoma, Washington. He wrote a book in 2008 called “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs.” More recently, in 2013, John Hagee published his book on the topic, “Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change.”

Wade Burleson, a pastor and author in Enid, Oklahoma, wrote a review in March 2014 of Hagee’s book. I appreciate a lot of his thoughts (not 100%, but close), and believe that his article is informative and thought-provoking, so I’d like to share it here:

…Mr. Hagee’s newest book Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change makes a case that the author may be suffering from a form of temporary insanity.  Christians who believe what John Hagee is proposing without thinking for themselves, could find themselves afflicted with the same disease.

Mr. Hagee believes that something terrible, but ultimately triumphant, is about to happen to the nation of Israel due to the four total lunar eclipses that will occur in the northern hemisphere during 2014 and 2015.  These four eclipses, called by astronomers a tetrad, occur on April 15, 2014, which is Jewish Passover; on October 8, 2014, which is the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles; on April 4, 2015, which is (again) Jewish Passover; and on September 28, 2015 which is (again) the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles. 

Contrary to what Hagee would have the reader believe, lunar eclipses aren’t that special. There are at least two to five lunar eclipses every year. Likewise, lunar tetrads (total lunar eclipses that occur six months apart, with no partial lunar eclipses in between) also occur frequently. There have been 62 tetrads since Christ. The last one was in 2003 and 2004, and there will be a total of 8 lunar tetrads in this century (2001 to 2100). 

Hagee writes that what is rare is that this lunar tetrad is occurring on Jewish holy days. Well, maybe. Since the times of Christ, there have been eight tetrads that have occurred on Jewish Passover and the Festival of TabernaclesThink about this for a moment though. If the first total lunar eclipse of a tetrad happens to occur on Passover (15 Nissan on the Hebrew calendar), it is guaranteed that the second total lunar eclipse will occur the Festival of Tabernacles (15 Tishri on the Hebrew calendar) because the Hebrew calendar is lunar, and the Festival of Tabernacles is exactly six lunar months after the Festival of Passover.  So it is also guaranteed that the third and fourth lunar eclipses of a tetrad will occur on those same Hebrew festival daysthe following year.  Again, the lunar tetrad falling on Hebrew holidays is not as rare as Hagee would like you to believe. Here are the eight that have occurred since Christ. 

1. AD 162-163 
2. AD 795-796 
3. AD 842-843 
4. AD 860-861 
5. AD 1493-1494 
6. AD 1949-1950 
7. AD 1967-1968 
8. AD 2014-2015 

Hagee writes that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days something traumatic  and ‘world-changing’ happens to Israel. He gives three examples. First, in 1492 Spain expelled the Jews and Christopher Columbus discovered America, giving the Jews a place to go. Second, in 1948 Israel became a nation again. And third, in 1967 Israel won the Six Day War and captured Jerusalem. In a moment I will absolutely destroy Hagee’s conclusion about “traumatic things” happening to the Jews and the nation of Israel every time a lunar tetrad occurs on Hebrew holy days. For now, just think about this: Israel wasn’t even a nation the first six times a lunar tetrad occurred. 

Yet, Hagee concludes that something traumatic, but ultimately triumphant, is going to happen to Israel during 2014 and 2015, an event that ‘will change the course of world history.’ More to the point, Hagee believes the “rapture” will occur, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus Christ will return to earth because the prophet Joel said,

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31).

Now, while being kind to Mr. Hagee as a brother in Christ, and writing as one who also believes in the full inspiration of Scripture, I would like to show you why the premise of Hagee’s book is speculative at best, and pure lunacy at worst.

7 Reasons Why the Premise of John Hagee’s Four Blood Moons  Is Potential Lunacy

(1). Anytime Jewish literature describes the fall of a government or nation, apocalyptic language is used. This highly symbolic manner of writing, with language like, “the sun was darkened, the moon would not give her light, and the stars shall fall,” is the way the Hebrew prophets described how God would come in judgment upon a nation. The Old Testament refers to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC (Isaiah 13:10-13) in this manner. Likewise, Egypt’s collapse in 590 BC (Ezekiel 32:7-8) and Judah’s fall in 586 BC (Zephaniah 1:14-16) are described with this stellar apocalyptic language. The sun going dark and the moon turning to blood is biblical symbolic language describing the fall of a nation by the judgment of God, not literal astronomy. 

(2). John Hagee falsely calls the lunar tetrad occurring in 2014 and 2015 four blood moons. These four lunar eclipses are not blood moons at all! They are simply full moons that are eclipsed! Hagee wrongly calls them “blood moons” in order to bring Joel 2:31 into play and act as if Jesus is coming as Messiah over Israel after “the moon turns to blood.” Astronomers who hear Christians call the next four lunar eclipses “Blood Moons” will rightly think we are ignorant of astronomy. Truth be told, we are mostly ignorant of the Bible.

(3). When the prophet Joel wrote “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31), he was describing the judgment of God upon the nation of Israel for their rejection of His Son. National judgment on any people in rebellion to God is often described as “the dreadful day of the Lord.” Joel’s prophecy, referred to by Luke in Acts 2:20, was a prediction of the “great day of the Lord” against Israel, the day when God judged the nation by destroying Jerusalem, the Jewish Temple and scattered the people (AD 70). God brought to an end the Old Covenant, formally ushered in the New Covenant (agreement) where people of every nation, race, family and language group find peace with God through faith in the person and work of His Son. Listen to the great Hebrew linguist and Baptist theologian John Gill commentary on Acts 2:20 and Joel’s prophecy:

“The sun shall be turned into darkness”… as at the death of Christ, by a total eclipse of it: “and the moon into blood,” as at the opening of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12) “before that great and notable day of the Lord come”: when he shall come in power and great glory, as God did a few years after this (AD 70), to take vengeance on the Jews, and destroy their nation, city, and temple; in which there was a display of his greatness, and power, and which was awful and terrible to them, as in Joel it is called “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (see Gill’s note on Matthew 24:29 also).

(4). Hagee attempts to prove that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish holy days, something happens to the Jews and Israel. That’s simply not true for a couple of reasons. First, the Jews were scattered for nineteen centuries and Israel did not exist as a nation. NOTHING happened to the Jews or the nation of Israel during the years of the first six tetrads. Hagee tries to suggest that Spain “expelled the Jews” in 1492 and that was this was a ‘traumatic and terrible’ event. However, astronomers tell us that the actual tetrad occurred on Passover and Tabernacles in 1493 and 1494, not 1492. The Jews were expelled from Spain a full eighteen months before the first lunar eclipse of 1493/1494 tetrad even began. Second, there are only two tetrads that fall on Jewish holy days during Israel’s time as a nation (since 1948). Interestingly, Hagee makes the same dating mistake when he speaks of Israel’s “traumatic” war for independence. Israel was declared a nation and went to war in 1948, not during the lunar tetrad of 1949/1950. Hagee’s error of misstating the actual date of astronomical tetrads seems intentional. He must misstate the dates of previous tetrads in order to convince readers that his prophecies in Four Blood Moons are reliable. However, fudging facts to prove an argument is not scientific or ethical. 

(5). One of my favorite Bible series at Emmanuel was “Portraits of Christ: The Feasts and the Festivals of Israel.” I know enough about Jewish calendaring and the holy days of Old Covenant Israel to know that the priests watched the moon from the mountains of Israel to declare new moons (months), holy days, and other events by blowing the shofars. In other words, the moon was eyeballed by the priests of Israel! Interestingly, the lunar eclipse tetrad of 2014/2015 will not be visible from Israel! We Americans seem to think the world truly revolves around us. Smile. One would think if a special occurrence in the lunar cycle (a tetrad) were important to Israel, they could at least see it!

(6). Hagee’s use of the term “blood moons” for the upcoming lunar eclipse tetrad is utter deception. A tetrad is four successive total lunar eclipses with no partial lunar eclipses in between, each of which is separated from the other by six lunar months. Hagee’s book is about a tetrad, but he’s calling it four blood moons. There are NOT four blood moons occurring in 2014 and 2015. A blood moon can only occur in the fall. The twisting of science to conform to one’s alleged presuppositions of Joel 2:13 (the rapture, Armageddon, the return of Christ as Messiah of the nation of Israel, etc…) is pure deceit. Of course, this is done in order to convince people that “the moon turning to blood” before the “day of the Lord” (Jesus’ return), and that Jesus return is going to happen in 2014/2015. We’ve heard these same kinds of predictions on the return of Jesus in times past (88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988), and there will be additional false prophecies regarding the “return of Christ” in the future. What’s unfortunate is Christians never take the time to think through these silly predictions for themselves.

(7).  The great theologian John Brown once wrote: 

“A person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the  Christian economy, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens.” (John Brown, vol. 1, p. 170).  

Amen, John Brown. I stand with you in promoting Christ, His mercy and grace, and the incredible blessing of living in a world built on the principles He taught–the Christian economy as you call it.  Love your enemy. Do good to those who abuse you. Be merciful and kind, seek justice for the sake of others, forgive those who have wronged you, and remember the poor, the fatherless, and the widows. What kind of world would we live in if we all took seriously the establishment of the Christian economy in our spheres of influence?

I love the nation of Israel. It is a democracy in the middle of Islamic totalitarianism. [Adam's note: I have reservations about this statement.] However, the only hope for Israel and this world is for individuals in these various nations to become followers of the true and eternal King, to learn to live at peace with all men, and to love others the same way Jesus has loved us. YetJohn Hagee, has declared

“When all is said and done, the flag of Israel will be flying over the walls of the city of Jerusalem when Messiah comes, and it’s going to be forever. And every nation that rises up in judgment against Israel God will punish and punish severely.”

Mr. Hagee, our time as followers of Jesus might be better spent telling others about the love of God in Christ, and not blindly supporting the nation of Israel. It seems that the New Covenant Scriptures attributes the judgment of God in terms of our treatment of His beloved Son. Do I trust Him, or do I despise Him? Do I love Him, or do I hate Him? It is far better to make a sinful soul at peace with God through a faith relationship in Jesus Christ than it is to muster support for the nation of Israel. Nations come and go. Kingdoms rise and fall. Christ’s Kingdom is the only eternal one. God calls those who love and trust His Son “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His special possession, so that we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9). 

We live in a changing world. Something catastrophic may happen to Israel and/or America during 2014/2015, but it’s not the result of blood moons or God’s judgment. God judges individuals on the basis of whether or not they trust in His Son. The only favored nation now is “the holy nation” of people from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue who have received Christ as Lord and Savior. Our praises of Jesus to a people living in darkness are never enhanced by the proclamation of false prophecies. My hope is that this little blog might save just one person from the lunacy of Four Blood Moons

Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel

I grew up in a church where Christian Zionism and dispensationalist theology was (and still is) taught. In that setting, and in others, I was repeatedly taught that Bible prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation in 1948. Furthermore, I was told, this event “restarted God’s prophetic time clock.” Two passages of Scripture allegedly foretold that event, Isaiah 66:7-9 and Matthew 24:32-33. In neither case does this ring true, and both passages carry an entirely different message.

Isaiah 66:5-13

Many believe that Isaiah was looking ahead about 2700 years to the political events of 1948 when he wrote the final portion of his book. They often point to verses 7-9 in particular, and insist that Isaiah foresaw the birth of national Israel “in one day.” Before looking at what this passage says, let’s consider Isaiah’s patterns and themes in the final eight chapters of his book:

  • Isaiah 59 concludes with a Messianic prophecy (“The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob…”). This prophecy, quoted in Romans 11:26-27, foretold Christ’s work on the cross as a sacrifice for sin.
  • Isaiah 60 is filled with prophetic decrees of the coming new covenant age (this present age), when the nations come to the light of the gospel.
  • Isaiah 61 contains a prophecy about the Lord’s anointed One and the good news, healing, and liberty He would bring; Jesus said this was fulfilled during His earthly ministry (see Luke 4:18-19).
  • Isaiah 65 speaks of new heavens and a new earth, in which sin, death, childbearing, and labor would continue (this makes sense if his prophecy is viewed as the establishment of the new covenant age rather than an overhaul of this planet and the galaxy). Our study on Matthew 24:35 discusses more fully the view that the Bible sometimes uses covenant language when speaking of “the heavens and the earth.”
  • From these and other examples in the final chapters of Isaiah, we see that Isaiah looks repeatedly to what we know were first century events. Let’s look now at Isaiah 66:5-13.

5 Hear the word of the Lord, You who tremble at His word: “Your brethren who hated you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.’ But they shall be ashamed.”  6 The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, who fully repays His enemies!  7 “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child.  8 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.  9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.  10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;  11 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.”  12 For thus says the Lord: “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.  13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Verse 5: This is clearly the Lord’s comfort for those who would be persecuted, hated, and cast out for His sake. Albert Barnes (1834), John Gill (1763), and Matthew Henry (1710) all taught that Isaiah was referring to the first century when Jesus, the apostles, and the early church preached the gospel and were opposed by the religious leaders of Israel.

Verse 6: Noise and a voice are heard from the city and the temple, and the voice is the Lord’s as He repays His enemies. Who are His enemies here? The text doesn’t say, at least not explicitly. However, if verse 5 is about the religious (temple) authorities persecuting the followers of Christ, then they are the enemies being repaid here at the time of the temple’s downfall; and Matthew 23 and I Thessalonians 1 also foretell this event:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …you are sons of those who murdered the prophets… I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth… all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:29-36).

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thessalonians 2:14-16).

Verses 7-8: Isaiah sees a woman, identified as Zion (verse 8), in labor. She delivers “a male child” (verse 7) and gives birth to “children” (verse 8). A nation is born “in one day” and “at once” (verse 8). Matthew Poole (1683) and John Gill (1763) are among those who taught that Isaiah foretold what would happen on the day of Pentecost, when 3000 Jews heard Peter preach the gospel and believed (Acts 2:41).

Verses 9-11: For those who love Jerusalem, this birthing is cause for rejoicing (verse 10). They are invited to “feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom” and to “drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory”  (verse 11).

Verses 12-13: This woman is given “peace like a river,” and she is filled with “the glory of the Gentiles” (verse 12). [Interestingly, those who insist that this is a prophecy of Israel becoming a nation in 1948 are often fixated on the goal of "a Jewish state," and sound as if they would be happy to see each and every non-Jew exiled from Israel. The Jerusalem Isaiah saw would be marked by the glory of Gentiles - of Gentiles finding salvation in Christ.] Those who feed from this woman would be carried on her sides and dandled on her knees. God would comfort them in Jerusalem as one is comforted by his own mother.

Where else does Scripture depict Jerusalem as the mother of God’s people? And which Jerusalem is that, the earthly one or the heavenly one?

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem ABOVE is free, which is THE MOTHER OF US ALL” (Galatians 4:24-26; see verses 21-31 for a fuller context).

In the next verse Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1, a passage which is parallel to Isaiah 66:

For it is written, ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband’ (Galatians 4:27).

Observe how Paul goes on to interpret Isaiah 54:1.

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (Galatians 4:27-31).

Isaiah 66:8 is parallel to Isaiah 54:1, and it ought to be seen in the same way that Paul made application of Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4. Isaiah foresaw the birthing and the breaking forth of the heavenly Jerusalem (66:8-10), even as earthly Jerusalem met her demise (66:6). Ironically, Isaiah 66 does not speak of the restoration of earthly Jerusalem into the hands of mostly unbelieving Jews in 1948. Rather, it mirrors the taking away of the earthly kingdom from unfaithful Israel (in 70 AD), and the giving of the heavenly kingdom to God’s holy nation, the Church, just as Jesus predicted (Matthew 21:43-44; cf. Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). It speaks of the establishment of the new Jerusalem for the bride of Christ, and the dissolving of the old covenant in favor of the new covenant (which was established at the cross). This is the point of both Isaiah and Paul.

Matthew 24:32-33

Matthew 24:32-33 reads this way: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that He is near—at the doors!” In part 4 of our series on the Olivet Discourse, we noted that dispensationalists are fond of saying that the fig tree represents Israel, and that when Israel became a nation in 1948, the world’s final generation was unveiled. We also noted at least four problems with this view:

[1] When Paul speaks of Israel in his epistle to the Romans (11:17, 24), he uses the illustration of an olive tree, not a fig tree.

[2] In Luke’s account, Jesus speaks of not only the fig tree, but “all the trees” (See Luke 21:29-31).

[3] Jesus does speak of a fig tree elsewhere in Matthew, but observe closely what He says about it: “In the morning, as He was returning to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, He went to it and found nothing on it but leaves. And He said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’” (Matthew 21:18-19). In light of what Jesus said to that fig tree, one ought to think twice about what it means if national Israel is represented by the fig tree.

[4] In Matthew 24:34 Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” This certainly included the branches of the fig tree, so to speak, bringing forth leaves. James saw the signs and declared, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand… Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:8-9; compare with Matt. 24:33).

Modern Israel is not in view in either of these passages which are so often cited as predicting the events of the mid-20th century. Some of those who thunder the loudest against what they call “replacement theology” have attempted to take Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of the new covenant church, and make it about the (re-)birth of national Israel instead. Scripture interprets Scripture to demonstrate that, while God cast out earthly Jerusalem, He chose new Jerusalem to be the nurturing mother of the church. 

Matthew 13 (Verses 24-58: “The Wheat and the Tares” and Other Parables)

The previous post featured notes and commentary on Matthew 13:1-23 (The Parable of the Sower and the Seed). This post covers the rest of Matthew 13 (verses 24-58), and this study also took place in June 2011.

Verses 24-30: The Parable of the Weeds

This parable is explained by Jesus in verses 36-43, so we will only give a brief overview here. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a man who sowed good seed in his own field. He apparently assigned his servants to do this sowing, because while they were sleeping, an enemy came and intentionally sabotaged the harvest by sowing weeds among the wheat before going away. The damage was done, and when the grain appeared, so did the weeds. The servants offered to pluck up the weeds, but they were told not to do so lest they mistakenly pull up the wheat along with it. The weeds would be pulled first later on at harvest time by the reapers, and bound in bundles to be burned, but the wheat would be gathered into the man’s barn.

In farmer’s terms, there was a weed known as “bearded darnel” which resembled wheat when the plants were young. Only when they reached maturity would it be clear which was which.

Q: Do we view all of Jesus’ parables as general anecdotes about how we should live? Or do we view some of them as specific declarations to a 1st century audience of coming judgment and change?

Verses 31-33: The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Verses 31-32: Jesus next compared the kingdom of heaven to a grain of mustard seed sowed in a man’s field. The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the Jewish community, and elsewhere Jesus referred to this seed in His statement about mountain-moving faith (Matt. 17:20). What grows from this seed, however, is a tree that is larger than all garden plants and becomes a host to many birds and their nests. Christ’s kingdom would be small at the time of its beginning, but over time it would greatly expand as many came to faith from all nations. Another implication is that His kingdom would be far greater than any earthly kingdom.

Verse 33: The parable of the leaven spoke of how the kingdom of heaven was to come to fruition. Does this illustrate the time period between the announcements of John the Baptist and Jesus that the kingdom was at hand until it was to come in power – while some of Jesus’ disciples were still alive (Matthew 16:27-28)? In other words, was this leavening process to take one generation, the generation which saw the Old Covenant age pass in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple? Or might this parable speak of how the kingdom of heaven works itself out in the hearts of God’s people and/or how it was to pervade the whole world as the message of the gospel went forth to the nations?

Verses 34-35: Prophecy and Parables

At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He only spoke to the crowds by means of parables. Matthew said this fulfilled a prophecy by Asaph in Psalm 78:2.

“Asaph wrote that he would explain to his readers aspects of Israel’s history that had been previously unknown. He then proceeded to use Israel’s history to teach the Israelites how consistently rebellious they had been toward God and how just and merciful God had been with them. He taught these lessons by using ‘parables,’ by comparing various things. By comparing various incidents in Israel’s history He revealed things previously unclear. Stephen used the same technique in Acts 7” (Dr. Thomas Constable). 

Jesus was casting new light onto the teachings of the kingdom that had been given by the prophets.

Verses 36-43: The Parable of the Weeds Explained

Verse 36: This explanation of the parable of the weeds, and the parables that follow, are spoken only in the presence of Jesus’ disciples. They went back into the same house that they were in earlier (Matt. 12:46, 13:1). It was the disciples who asked to hear the explanation of the parable of the weeds.

Verse 37-39: Jesus identifies the cast of characters in this parable: [1] Jesus is the sower of the good seed [2] The good seed is those who belong to the kingdom [3] The field is the entire world [4] The weeds are those who do not belong to the kingdom [5] The sower of the weeds is the devil [6] The reapers are angels.

Verse 39: Jesus identifies the time of the harvest as “the close of the age.” It’s popularly taught today that this means the end of world history. However, whereas the phrase “time of the end” appears in Scripture numerous times, the phrase “end of time” does not. In Matthew 24:3, the disciples asked Jesus about “the end of the age,” and this was parallel to their question about the pending destruction of the temple (Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7), which we know from history took place in 70 AD. Furthermore, the reply that Jesus gave them also tied the end of the age to their own generation (Matt. 24:34). In other words, they spoke of the end of the Old Covenant age. For further proof of this, see Hebrews 9:26 (Jesus appeared at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself), I Corinthians 2:6-8 (the rulers of Paul’s age had crucified the Lord, and they were doomed to pass away), and I Cor. 10:11 (the ends of the ages had come upon Paul’s first century readers). According to William Barclay’s “New Testament Words,” the word used for “age” here in verse 39 means “generation or epoch.”

The reapers are angels, Jesus also says. The judgments we see in the book of Revelation all involve angels. In Revelation 14:14-20 we also see a two-part harvest. An angel announces that “the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe” (verse 15). A different angel then shouts out a command to “gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe” (verse 18). This second reaping results in those who are gathered being cast into “the great winepress of the wrath of God” where much blood flowed “outside the city” (verses 19-20). In Matthew 16:27-28, we also see that Jesus is to come within the lifetime of some of His disciples in judgment and “with His holy angels.” Both passages appear to mirror what we see here in this parable. Joel McDurmon comments (SOURCE):

…The separation of wheat and tares, then, pertained to the destruction of Jerusalem and the separation of God’s true fruit-bearing people from the weeds, the unbelieving Jews of that time. Ironically, this interpretation gets to the heart of the picture in the parable.

A “tare” was not simply any old weed, but a particular weed called a “darnel” or zizania in Greek. It looked almost exactly like wheat in early stages of growth and required close examination to tell the difference. In later stages, the difference grows clear, but then it is too late to remove the darnel without damaging the wheat (as the parable says). Worse yet, the darnel kernels are poisonous, causing dizziness, sickness, and possibly even death when eaten. In short, they could look like the real thing, but they were poison; and after a while, their true colors showed. This was exactly the story with the rebellious Jews. They looked like God’s people, but they were really the children of the enemy—they even killed God’s prophets (Matt. 23:30–39). And the longer history went on, the more their true nature as the children of wrath was revealed.

Thus the parable describes the then-soon-coming end of that old age and the destruction of its children, and the beginning of the gathering in of the true children of God’s kingdom. It should not be understood as teaching anything beyond this

In what sense were the unbelieving Jews, the Judaizers especially, like poisonous weeds among the children of the kingdom? Paul offers a clue in what he says to the Thessalonians who were under persecution: “…For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!”  (I Thess. 2:14-16).

Verses 40-42: At the close of the age (70 AD), Jesus would send His angels to gather “out of His kingdom” the weeds, i.e. those who rejected His kingdom, and they would be thrown “into the fiery furnace” and burned with fire. Jerusalem and the temple were literally burned with fire by the Romans in 70 AD, just as Jesus (Matthew 22:7) and John (Revelation 17:16, 18:8-9, 18) said would happen. Jesus’ words here also appear to be related to what He said in the Parable of the Tenants, when He proclaimed that the kingdom of God would be taken away from the religious leadership of Israel and given to those who would bear its fruit (Matthew 21:43). The following are some thoughts shared by two friends of mine, Mark Church and Kurt Simmons (a published author), in a Facebook conversation, also in June 2011 (Source):

The imagery of being “cast into the lake of fire” is taken from the Old Testament prophets, and describes the defeat of nations and armies. When the angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians, the bodies were buried and burned in Tophet (Valley of Hinnom), which gave rise to the imagery of hell (Gehenna) as a place of fire and maggots (Isaiah 30:31-33). This defeat and cremation of an enemy army seems to be the source of latter imagery. Ezekiel describes the defeat of Egypt in similar language, saying its host would go down to the “pit” (sheol) in defeat (Ezekiel 31:14, 17)… Also in Isaiah 34:8-10 it uses similar language about the lake of fire (stream of fire) in juxtaposition to the destruction of Edom (kingdom just south of Israel). 

Isaiah 34:8-10 “For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause. Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night or day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again.”

IT SAYS THERE THAT THE SMOKE WOULD RISE FOREVER AND EVER. Obviously after the destruction of Edom, we don’t still see the smoke rising from there to this day. It was a metaphorical expression about being completely wiped out. 

It was the same in the book of Revelation chapter 19 when describing the ultimate destruction of Babylon (which we know was JERUSALEM).

Revelation 19:3 “And again they shouted: ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.’”

Obviously, to this day we don’t still see Jerusalem smoke rising forever and ever. It was an expression of complete annihilation.

Verse 43: The righteous will shine like the sun. Compare with Daniel 12:3, which also has as its context the completion of the great tribulation and the end of the age (verses 1, 4, 7, 13).

Verse 44: The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

The true disciple loses his affection for the things of this world, as Jesus and His kingdom become the treasure of his heart.

Verses 45-46: The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

Ditto! In the previous parable, though, the discovery was accidental.

Verses 47-50: The Parable of the Net

This parable is very similar to the parable of the weeds. All things are gathered first, and the sorting occurs later, where again the bad things gathered are thrown away.

Verses 51-52: New and Old Treasures

The disciples affirmed that they understood what Jesus shared with them, in fulfillment of verse 11 (“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom…”).

Verses 53-58: Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth, where the crowds gathered at the synagogue were astonished by His mighty works, and also likely by His teachings. They expressed doubt that, having come from a humble upbringing, He could then do all these things. They chose to be offended by Him, and so He withheld the greater part of His mighty works from them because of their unbelief. This likely indicates that their astonishment had been the result of hearing about His mighty works, and not so much the result of witnessing them firsthand.

Matthew 13 (Verses 1-23: Parable of the Sower and the Seed)

What follows are notes and brief commentary from a Bible study that took place almost three years ago (June 8, 2011). At the time, 5-7 of us guys met together weekly, and we took turns preparing and leading these studies. I was part of the group from January 2008 – August 2013 (when my wife and I move to Ohio). Most of the time we worked through one book of the Bible at a time, and at this point we were in Matthew.

Scripture passage for this study: Matthew 13:1-13

Verses 1-9: The Parable of the Sower

Verses 1-2: We’re told that Jesus “went out of the house.” Tracing Matthew’s account backwards, Jesus must have been in a house when the demon-oppressed blind and mute man was brought to him (Matt. 12:22). This makes sense when we see in Matt. 12:46 that at the end of this round of teaching “His mother and His brothers stood outside.” The crowds had apparently grown much larger in size, so Jesus went to the sea instead and got into a boat.

The phrase “That same day” links the parables Jesus is about to tell to the condemnation He had just pronounced upon His own evil generation, along with the affirmation that anyone (regardless of ethnicity) who did His will was part of His spiritual family. So we should look for these parables to be a response to Israel’s rejection of Him.

Verse 3: The word “parable,” according to Strong’s Concordance, means “a comparing, comparison of one thing with another, likeness, similitude.” Jesus used this method often. He tells His audience why just a bit later.

Verses 4-9: These verses contain the Parable of the Sower. We’ll give just a short overview here, since Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of this parable in verses 18-23. Jesus speaks of four different types of reception given to the seed sown by the sower. What was sowed was identical. Therefore, the focus is on the soil, or the recipients: [1] this seed only lay on the surface and was devoured by birds [2] this seed fell on rocky ground with very thin topsoil; there was no root and they were quickly scorched [3] this seed was choked by surrounding thorns [4] this seed fell on good soil and produced fruit, but in different quantities. Not everyone would have “ears to hear,” but it was a good thing to have them.

This first parable seems to be an introduction to the parables which are to follow. Israel was frequently portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures as a vineyard. See, for example, Isaiah 5:1-7. This is probably just one of the reasons the Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them in The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45).

Verses 10-17: The Purpose of Parables

Verses 10-11: The disciples wanted to know why Jesus spoke in parables, and He promptly told them that they had already “been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven,” but that the crowds had not. That’s why Jesus spoke to the crowds in this veiled manner, while expecting His disciples/followers/those whose ears were open to understand and learn what the kingdom of heaven was all about.

Verse 12: There seems to be a warning here about not taking for granted what one has. Consider what Israel had: “…the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2); “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:4-5). The church in Ephesus was warned by Jesus that if they didn’t repent and return to their first love, He would come to them and remove their lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4-5).

Verse 13: Jesus’ Jewish audience (generally speaking) hadn’t accepted basic revelation about Him and who He was, so Jesus would continue to speak to them in a veiled manner so that they wouldn’t pick up on further truth either.

Verses 14-15: Jesus quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10, where Isaiah had given this prophecy a little before 700 BC. Isaiah stated that this condition would last until “cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste” (verse 11). This was fulfilled in 586 BC when Babylon destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. Jesus suggested by quoting this passage that it was going to happen again. It did, in 70 AD. This passage from Isaiah is also quoted in John 12:39-40 and Acts 28:25-27, where Paul followed this up by saying, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Verses 16-17: The disciples and those whose ears were opened, however, were greatly blessed, especially because the longed-for Messiah was in their midst.

Verses 18-23: The Parable of the Sower Explained

Verse 19: [1] The seed sown on the path (surface only) is likened to the one who doesn’t understand the message of the kingdom, and what is heard is snatched away by the evil one. The Jews, for the most part, so anticipated a political kingdom marked by Jewish superiority that they rejected Christ’s message of a heavenly, spiritual kingdom for all nations.

Verses 20-21: [2] The seed sown on rocky ground with very little soil is likened to the one who initially shows great enthusiasm for the message of the kingdom, but they are not rooted in the truth and so easily fall away when opposition arises. Observe how many turned away and walked with Jesus no longer (John 6:66) when He gave hard sayings and talked about laying His life down for all peoples.

Verse 22: [3] The seed sown among thorns is likened to the one who proves unfruitful because the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches in this life crowd out any affection for eternal life through Jesus.

Verse 23: [4] The seed sown on good soil is likened to those who both hear and understand the message of the kingdom, and who go on to bear fruit to various degrees.


The next post will feature notes and commentary on Matthew 13:24-58 (“The Wheat and the Tares” and other parables).

The Significance of the Word “Desolate” in the New Testament

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

The word “desolate” (or the related word “desolation”) only appears 12 times in the New Testament. Seven of these appearances are in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and five of them are references to Jerusalem’s condition in Jesus’ day and to what was about to happen to that city. This word does not appear in John’s gospel account, but its final two appearances in the New Testament demonstrate that John, in the book of Revelation, was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was.

Like the previous post, this one is also inspired by a recent discussion here. PJ Miller, of Sola Dei Gloria, observed the similarity between Matthew’s use of the word “desolate” in both chapters 23 and 24:

[1] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

[2] “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16).

[1] In Matthew 23:38, Jesus summed up what had become of Jerusalem in His lament over that city. Although formerly God’s house, Jesus now spoke of Jerusalem (and/or the temple) as “your house,” for He had abandoned it and left it to them as “desolate.”  About 650 years earlierGod said the same to Jeremiah just before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC:

I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritageI have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies… ‘Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; They have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate; Desolate, it mourns to Me; The whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart” (Jeremiah 12:7-11).

(In two recent posts, we discussed how first century Jerusalem became infested with demons, but how God chose new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, as His house and His dwelling place.)

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used in Matthew 23:38, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.”

[2] In Matthew 24:15, Jesus warned His followers living in Judea to flee to the mountains when they saw the “abomination of desolation.” Matthew’s Jewish audience was familiar with this phrase, and would understand the reference to Daniel, but Luke quotes Jesus differently for his mostly Gentile audience:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” (Luke 21:20-21).

So the “abomination of desolation” was in the hands of foreign armies coming to complete Jerusalem’s desolation. The warnings of Matthew and Luke, stated differently, were to bring about the same response: immediate flight. In 314 AD, Eusebius, known as the father of church history, wrote the following about the obedience of Jesus’ followers to His words in Matthew 24:

“The people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to the approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the [Jewish-Roman war of 67-73 AD], and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella [in modern-day Jordan]. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men” (see here for more about this event).

The word “desolation” in Matthew 24:15 is #2049 in Strong’s Concordance, and the definition there is: “from 2048; to lay waste (lit. or fig.): -(bring to, make) desolate (-ion), come to nought.” The word “desolation” in Luke 21:20 is entry #2050, and Strong’s simply points back to #2049. So we can see that all three entries (#2048, #2049, and #2050) are essentially the same word, just as the words “desolate” and “desolation” are essentially the same in English.

“Desolate” and “desolation” appear in Mark 13:14 and Luke 13:35 as direct parallels to Matthew 24 and Matthew 23, respectively. Otherwise, these words only appear six other times in the New Testament.* We’ll look briefly at four of these instances, before looking at their two appearances in Revelation: 

The word “desolation” appears in Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 (parallel passages), where Jesus responds to the Pharisees who question by what power He was casting out demons: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

The word “desolate” appears in Acts 1:20 regarding Judas Iscariot: “’For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it.”

It also shows up in Galatians 4:27, in Paul’s argument that God’s people belong to the Jerusalem above, and not the Jerusalem below. He quotes Isaiah 54: “For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.’”

The Strong’s entry for Acts 1:20 and Galatians 4:27 is #2048, and the entry for Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 is #2049.

*A different Greek word for “desolate” appears in I Timothy 5:5, and refers to a widow’s grief.

The final two places where this word shows up in the New Testament are in Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18:19 (Strong’s #2049), regarding the burning of the harlot and the great city:

And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’”

As we discussed in a recent post (“Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons“), “the great city” was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified (Rev. 11:8).” Of course, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. This city was also aptly named “the harlot,” the same name given to it by Jeremiah (3:6-8), Ezekiel (16:15), and Hosea (6:10) because it was full of spiritual adultery at that time. Revelation 16-19 repeatedly holds “the great city”, “the harlot,” and “Babylon the great” (different names for the same entity) responsible for shedding the blood of God’s saints, prophets, and apostles. Jesus left no doubt who was responsible for shedding this blood, and when the resulting judgment would come: Israel, in His generation (Matthew 23:29-38).

Jesus declared Jerusalem in His day to be a desolate house, and He warned that “the abomination of desolation” would come and complete its desolation in His own generation. John, in his visions of “things which must shortly take place…for the time is near…at hand” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10), saw the outcome of what Jesus prophesied, Jerusalem made desolate and burned to the ground.

Seeing how the word “desolate” is used here in Revelation 17 and 18, concerning the harlot and the great city, is good confirmation that John was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was in Matthew 23 and 24. This desolation was made complete in the year 70 AD. Gratefully, we can rejoice that we are children of the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26), the new Jerusalem aligned with the new covenant established by the blood of our Savior (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Luke 17 Shows That Matthew 24 Can’t Be Divided

Scripture passages for this study: Matthew 24:1-51 and Luke 17:20-37

This post was prompted by a discussion under a recent post, concerning what might be and what might not be fulfilled in Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse). There was a time when I didn’t believe that any of Matthew 24 has been fulfilled. Then I came to believe that most of Matthew 24:1-34 was fulfilled in Jesus’ generation, before acknowledging that verse 34 doesn’t allow for only some of it to be fulfilled (“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place“). At that point, I believed there must be a breaking point somewhere after verse 34, a dividing line after which the rest of the chapter would be fulfilled about 2000 years later (i.e. in our own future). I never could pinpoint that dividing line, though, and be at peace with it.

There are numerous reasons why I now believe all of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the first century AD, in Jesus’ own generation. This post highlights one of those reasons, which is that Luke 17:20-37 demonstrates the impossibility of any time division. Luke 17 scrambles and reorders various portions of Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24, predictions which are located before and well after verse 34. What is ordered as “1, 2, 3, 4, 5″ in Matthew 24:1-41 is ordered as “2, 4, 1, 5, 3″ in Luke 17:23-37, as shown in this diagram by Ed Stevens in his book titled, “What Happened in 70 AD?”

Matthew 24 Undivided

Source: World Without End (December 5, 2013); Better design seen here

David Curtis, the pastor of Berean Bible Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has also produced a similar chart, in which he fully writes out the passages shown in the diagram above

Matthew 24

Luke 17

SECTION ONE Verses 1-35

1. Matthew 24:17-18 (NKJV)
Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 “And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

2. Luke 17:23-24 (NKJV)
“And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24 “For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.
2. Matthew 24:26-27 (NKJV)
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
4. Luke 17:26-27 (NKJV)
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 “They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
3. Matthew 24:28 (NKJV)
“For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
1. Luke 17:31 (NKJV)
“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.

SECTION TWO Verses 36-51

4. Matthew 24:37-39 (NKJV)
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

5. Luke 17:35-36 (NKJV)
“Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 “Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
5. Matthew 24:40-41 (NKJV)
“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
3. Luke 17:37 (NKJV)
And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
Those who attempt to divide Matthew 24 say that SECTION ONE refers to the events of AD 70. But they say SECTION TWO refers to events yet future to us. If the five prophetic events of Matthew 24 that are found in Luke 17 are numbered 1-2-3-4-5, Luke’s numbering of the same events would be 2-4-1-5-3. Luke has an event from section 1 followed by one from section 2, then another from section 1 followed by section 2, and finally one from section 1. This shows the impossibility of dividing Matthew 24 with a 2,000 year gap.

 What do you think? Is this a valid conclusion? Why or why not?


Previous posts on the Olivet Discourse can be viewed at this page, including a 4-part series (titled “This Generation Or That Generation?”) examining the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in a parallel fashion.