Prologue to Revelation

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                                                             Foreword

Revelation is very much concerned with the future.  But it is not trying to warn us when to duck.  If that were its intent, it would paint the future much less enigmatically.  The great value of prophetic foretelling comes either in the midst of crisis or afterward.  In that time, remembering and recognizing what has been foretold, we are encouraged by the perception that the misfortune or blessing which we now witness has always been within God’s plan, and we are reassured that He is present with us.

Well beyond foretelling, Revelation works to identify us within a complex and highly relevant landscape.  In the time of Revelation the subjects of the kingdom of God were in radical need of a guide which would allow them to identify the historical moment and get their bearings in a sea of change.  In the space of a few decades, from 30 A.D. to 70 A.D., everything had been overturned.  Israel had known reversal and changes in the past, yet they were essentially changes on earth  [submission to foreign powers, assaults on the temple, forced exile].  Now the changes were both on earth and in the heavens, and Israel’s relationship with God himself was in transformation.

Revelation is a guide to the new age and a guide to the newness of God – the Father and the Son, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, he who wept in the garden of Gethsemane now at the center of the court of the heavens.

From the opening paragraphs we are struck by the transformation in the appearance of Yeshua, as in the comparison of these two descriptions.  Isaiah had foretold the appearance of the Messiah on earth:

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”[1]

Now, having ascended to the court of the heavens, Yeshua is Logos and King of kings in the most striking bodily form:

“…I saw…One who resembled a human being, with a long robe, and a belt of gold round his breast; his head and hair were white as wool, white as snow; his eyes flashed like fire, his feet glowed like molten bronze, his voice sounded like many waves, in his right hand he held seven stars, a sharp sword with a double edge issued from his mouth, and his face shone like the sun in full strength.  When I saw him I fell at his feet like  a dead man; but he laid his hand on me, saying, ‘Be not afraiid; I am the First and the Last, I was dead and here am I alive for evermore, holding the keys that unlock death and Hades.”[2]

In Revelation Yeshua transports the consciousness of John into the heavens to be witness to the heart of the kingdom and witness to seminal events in the court of the heavens.  Recent events on earth had not at all followed the trajectory expected of a kingdom being newly established.  The king had been nailed to a cross.  A limited number had been witness to his resurrection.  And he, the king, leaving his disciples behind, had left the earth to sit on the throne of the heavens.   He was, in the eyes of those who knew him, the glory of Israel and the Son of God.  However, his disciples, who spread the  knowledge of him throughout Asia and the Mediterranean, would be despised and killed.

Jerusalem, having killed its king, struggled against the Roman occupation in order to redefine itself and recapture its glory.  Roman power, homogeneous and unchallenged throughout the Mediterranean, could not endure the challenge from little Judea.  Rome crushed Jerusalem and erased the glory of her temple.  In the wake of these disasters one did not need to be a citizen of Jerusalem to feel that the kingdom on earth had been lost.  Even in Asia and Greece, the spread of the news of the Messianic kingdom was confused by the news of the destruction of the Holy City.

Into this space Revelation appeared, teaching us that, until the end of the age, we will not escape adversity, and  assuring us that we must not lose sight of the fact that, until the return of our king, our kingdom is a transcendent kingdom, bound together, not by armaments and territories and domains, but by the Spirit of God binding each of us to the throne of God.

 

Prologue to the discussion of Revelation:

The seed of the woman and the labor of history

 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman,  and between  your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”                                        Genesis 3.15

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In the time of its appearance, John’s manuscript represented a critical transformation in the fabric of the world.  Through the centuries many a mother had dreamed that her son might be the seed that would fulfill the ancient prophecy and crush the head of the enemy!  Then, in the reign of Herod the Great, a child was born in Israel who grew to manhood and manifested himself as Immanuel, God With Us, the conqueror who would heal the wound of history.

Outside the walls of Jerusalem, in sacrifice upon a Roman cross, Yeshua stood in for his people and subjected his life to the divine imperative that the reward of rebellion is death.  Death did not hold him in the grave.  Once risen, his body transformed, he returned to his disciples and then was caught up to the throne of the heavens.

The redemption of mankind, so long implicit in Creation, was now explicit, and now the voice of the Accuser rang hollow in the court of the heavens.  There was no place for him in heaven any longer.  Thus the kingdom of heaven was re-engineered to secure the occupant of the heavenly throne in the hearts of men and women of all nations.  The Passover sacrifice of the Lamb changed everything, and now history would move forward with new momentum toward the fulfillment of hope.

The world of Revelation was and is a world of division and conflict.  Within the text Yeshua repeatedly addresses as “conqueror” the one who survives the perils of history – the devastation of nations as well as the devastation of spirit.  By 70 A.D. Rome destroyed Judea, Jerusalem and the Temple.  The missionary efforts of the apostles had been initiated prior to that year.  Revelation came afterward, near 92 A.D.  The disappearance of a geographical center of gravity increased the challenge to know and hold to the spiritual center of the kingdom: the person of the Messiah of Israel upon the heavenly throne.

Revelation owns the task of cultivating our expectations while instructing us to watch warily for the realities of a world that is broken by rebellion and must remain so until the return of Yeshua to the streets of Jerusalem.  We, the subjects of our Messiah, must find our safety in our king.  He is our home and he is our center of worship.  Meanwhile, by the measure of the visions of Daniel and John, the world at large must suffer the tyranny of Rome.  Beyond investiture in the Messianic kingdom, Revelation offers no prospect of reversal until the end of the age.

As the manuscript of Revelation was carried into western Anatolia, it found its way to many who had seen the face and heard the voice of Yeshua in Israel.  From the island of Patmos, where  John was detained, copies were sent to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  The choice of these cities was not based on the limitations of the   currier system.  These were cities which, for most of a millennium, had been hosting the collision of two massive cultures, the land- based empire of Persia challenging the maritime culture of Greece, as both brought their influence to these centers of trade and industry.  During this same period expatriate Jews were active minorities in the great international cities.  The powers of the Mediterranean met the powers of the East along these Aegean shores and along the rivers and tributaries which fed into them.

Here the Greeks encountered the teachings of Zoroaster and began to temper their reverence for unpredictable demigods with the more rational monotheism of the Persian Magi.  On these oriental shores Pythagoras, Thales, and other pre-Socratic philosophers emerged as the midwives of Greek philosophy. Alexander and his heirs did their best to give each city the refinements of the Greek polis.  Rome coveted and then cultivated these centers of exchange in the course of its own consolidation of the commerce and allegiances of the Mediterranean world.  Ultimately they  became cities of refuge for many who escaped the devastation of Jerusalem.  These were cities from which the word would spread rapidly that the long- awaited “seed of the woman” had come for all mankind, that Jerusalem was to become a city without walls, and that the Temple of God is to be in the hearts of men and women of all nations.

Revelation discloses a profile of events which are a measure of the purpose and permissive will of God.  The drama ranges through the heavens and over the earth.   The mercy of the king, now made manifest, has become the rebuke of Satan the Accuser.  There is “no more place for him in the heavens.”[3]  Now the final powers can be released to test the character of men and to prove the emptiness of the enemy.  There has come into being a new intimacy between heaven and earth, as the anointed Lord of the earthly kingdom is now seated with the Father, ruling his people from the heavenly throne.

The dynamic of Revelation begins at the cross and leads us forward to the consummation of the labor of history.  What is that labor?  In order to appreciate the gravity of that work and its  resolution, we must reflect upon its beginnings.  For this reason, we open the study of Revelation by giving consideration to the problem of history, its origins, and the historic role of our God in addressing it, for we have a God with a purpose, and he reaches into history for the sake of that purpose.

In increments of time, in widening circles of light, Scripture articulates the divine vision of the shape of human history.  We do not know what might have happened had not the purposes of God left room for self-willed freedom and pride — inflations which first found their home in the heart of a prince of the skies.  In the beginning God, perhaps, might have made the world immutable, like a mountain peak or a marble sculpture.  It might have been a finished work.  But there would have been no room for human consciousness and freedom and the grave processes of learning and becoming.

God did not make the world to be static.  He made suns and planets in motion.  Inseparable from motion is time.  He gave us consciousness and placed us in this world where we live and learn in time.  Life takes time.  Time makes life possible.  Consciousness, over time, enlarges itself and is changed.  Consciousness adopts purpose.  God has shared with us his purpose.

He made us to be like gods, and so, like gods, to come to him in free acknowledgment of his sovereignty.  But tragedy slipped in under cover of freedom.  The siren call of personal autonomy overcame the voice of our own magnificence.  And now the call of God is no longer issued in the tranquility of Paradise. It is issued across a thorny and dry terrain.

So it is determined that we on earth are now born into the Battle of the Ages.  The proud one, the dragon, entered Eden, there seducing our most ancient parents.  Puffed up, he struck a blow against his Lord and against us, the heart of God’s creation.  Then was the gauntlet thrown down in the shadow of the gates of Paradise:

And the God YHVH said unto the serpent, “…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he [the seed of the woman] will crush your head, though you will strike his heel.”[4]

So it was laid down, a deadly judgment and a first foretelling, an imperative stretched forward into the undefined future, commanding that the victory of Satan in the garden someday be undone.  Now it was written: though wounded, this human creation will give birth to a champion who will overthrow the enemy and restore the broken order.

The labor of history is the labor of God to gather to himself a people.  We see that work in the heart of the great saint — of Abraham, of Moses, of David — and in the heart of each person who saw in them the purposes of God and served those purposes.  We see it also in the lives of those who have been unjustly crushed in conflict and yet struggle to serve the truth, even when their “shepherds,” – their kings and priests and teachers – serve only themselves.  Consequently we see the epic Battle of the Ages not only in the Exodus but also in the conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar and the devastation of Jerusalem by Vespasian and Titus.

The core hope of history is the hope of the Messiah, and yet, in the century of his appearance, events transpired in such a way that only the vision that was spiritually rooted could recognize the reality of the victory of his king.  The Messiah appeared to his people, taught them and healed them, assuring his disciples, almost in secret, that he had come to die and then rise to life eternal, victor over death.  He who had appeared and had been baptized in the Jordan was, just a few years later, gruesomely slaughtered upon a cross.  Then Jerusalem, the city of hope, the center of every aspiration of Israel, was surrounded and starved and crushed beyond recognition by the might of Rome.

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guardians of the promise

Five generations after Adam, “in the days of Jared,” a terrestrial rebellion arose, overwhelming all nature, as a faction of heavenly beings mated with mortal women and created a race of giants, the “demigods,” the ancient men of renown.  So the seed of the dragon polluted the earth, interbreeding with mankind and confounding the species of animals, till YHVH determined to save the remnant in a ship fashioned by the hand of a faithful son, while committing the earth to the destruction of a universal flood.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.  They were the heroes of old, men of renown.  YHVH saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  YHVH was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So YHVH said, “I will wipe mankind whom I have created from the face of the earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air – for I am grieved that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of YHVH.[5]

The flood subsided.  The ship endured.  The world began anew.  Noah carried forward the blessing and the hope sealed in the promise of YHVH at the gates of the garden.  Noah stepped onto dry land and built an altar, and the smoke of sacrifice rose up to God.  Noah knew that the survival of the world rested upon the architectural foundation of God’s mercy, that deep in the structure of the world lies something both horrible and wonderful, a sacrifice which shakes the throne of the heavens and restores peace between God and man.

Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, fathered a generation which became the patriarchs of the ancient nations.  Stewardship of the promise passed from Noah to Shem.[6]  Ham fathered Cush and Cush fathered Nimrod, who, as lord of Babylon, assembled a body of city states in  rebellion against YHVH.  On the plains of Shinar he led them to construct a massive tower, mocking the God of the heavens and rejecting the call of God to go out and inhabit the breadth of the earth.  YHVH acted to confuse their common language, so bringing their proud project to an  end and scattering them across the earth.

“That is why it was called Babel – because there YHVH confused the language of the whole world.  From there YHVH scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”[7]

Toward the end of Noah’s life, not long after the fall of Babel, there appeared a descendant of Shem named Abram.  With Abram the kingdom of God came to earth.  Abram opened his heart to hear the voice of God.  YHVH loved Abram, changed his name to Abraham, “father of many nations,” and made with him a covenant, by which he and his descendants might know themselves to be bound to YHVH.  So our God would reckon that of all mankind a remnant would have the heart to give up their right to themselves.  So He would take to himself those who would have the heart of Abraham, take them as his own people, unique to him in all the earth.

 “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”[8]

Abraham lived as a child of God, by the hand of God alone.  Abraham knew that the fulfillment of the promise was not for the time of his mortality but rather for a coming time which he would share with all who hold to YHVH as their God.  Though promised a kingdom, he lived among aliens the life of the nomad.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”[9]

Before the death of Abraham, YHVH assured him that from his offspring would come that champion who would heal history:

“The angel of YHVH called to Abraham from heaven…and said, ‘I swear by myself, .. I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’”[10]

YHVH also forewarned Abraham that his descendants would undergo a period of subjugation.  This trial would define them more sharply as a people and predispose them to see the presence of YHVH as God over them:

“Then YHVH said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

The promise passed from Abraham to his son Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob.  The household of Jacob, seventy strong, went into Egypt, rescued from famine through the fortunes of Jacob’s young son Joseph.  There the sons of Jacob, now “Israel”, became a people a million strong while subject to a power that feared them.  Then Moses heard the call of YHVH to lead these people out of Egypt.

On the night of the exodus, a night of the full moon, the angel of death[11] passed over Egypt.  This night has stood throughout history as the night of Israel’s redemption.  But how was it redemption?  What price was paid?  It was much more than the life of the lambs whose blood was spread iconically over the doorways of the houses of Israel.  That blood was a prayer looking deep into the future to the true price of redemption, the blood of our king upon the cross.

Israel went free, her children safe, as the land of Egypt wept.  On that night Egypt knew what the Lamb would savor upon the cross:  in this creation, the high purpose of a holy God calls us to surpass the spirit of autonomy.

YHVH made Moses guardian of the promise given to Abraham, the promise that has endured from the time of the Exodus to the very last pages of Revelation, the promise that YHVH is forming for himself a people that they may know him for eternity as their God.

“I am YHVH and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.”[12]

At Mt. Sinai YHVH gave Moses and the people the commandments, the terms of his covenant with them, and he made it clear that the promises of blessing through the covenant were conditioned upon true fealty under the terms of the covenant:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”[13]

The restoration of our bond to our Creator becomes for us the restoration of blessing.  So in Revelation, in the final pages of Scripture, as the labor of history is reaching its climax, we read this final testimony, echoing the promise given in Egypt:

“Lo, God’s dwelling place is with men, with men will he dwell; they shall be his people, and God will himself be with them. …’I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.  I will let the thirsty drink of the fountain of the water of Life without price.  The conqueror shall obtain this, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.’”[14] 

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from covenant people to holy nation

When YHVH first delivered the core commandments of his covenant, Moses gathered the people at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  YHVH descended onto the mountain in fire, and it was shrouded in smoke.  There came thunder and lightning and the loud blast of a trumpet.  Then from the mountain YHVH spoke the words of the covenant to the people.  They were terrified.

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.  They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’”[15]

Moses uniquely came into the presence of YHVH and they spoke together “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”[16]   Moses stood as mediator between YHVH and the people of Israel.  So he prefigured the coming of Yeshua.  Moses followed the instruction of YHVH and led the people in the construction of the Tabernacle “according to the heavenly model,” so bringing to Israel both a temple and a ritual iconic of the divine order.  Struggling in the desert to recognize and honor YHVH, the people of Israel learned the majesty and the faithfulness of their God.  They learned to know him as Lord.

Moses taught the people of Israel that there would someday appear a prophet to whom all would be accountable, even the eternal king, the Messiah.   Balaam, a renegade prophet, appeared and left the message that out of Israel would come the great king.  Jacob, blessing his sons, prophesied that the king would come from the tribe of Judah.

At the end of forty years in the Sinai desert, Joshua led the children of Jacob northward into Canaan, the land of promise.  In battle, YHVH gave the Canaanites into their hands.  With victory, however, Israel discovered its own appetite for the pleasures of the land.  Freedom became license, and they quickly fell under the spell of the self-indulgent culture of the Canaanites.  Soon Israel scarcely acknowledged her heavenly king, and she owned no king on earth.  Failing in loyalty  to YHVH, governed by a series of judges, Israel struggled unsuccessfully to fill her assigned role in the land.

Tiring of the effort to serve the heavenly throne, the people went to the prophet Samuel and asked him to appoint for them “a king to lead us such as all the other nations have.”[17]  Following the trials of Saul, YHVH anointed David, by the hand of the prophet Samuel, to be king over Judah and then over all of Israel.  David understood that on earth he was entrusted with an authority which originated in and was seated in the throne of God in the heavens.

David and his small army were given victory over the ancient Jebusite city of Salem, and there he established the seat of his authority.  David understood that YHVH had created Israel for himself and that apart from YHVH Israel has no meaning.  Like Abraham, David trusted God for all his life and wanted nothing of the world but what came from the hand of God.  Under David, Israel grew strong.

The prophecies of YHVH are like spears hurled forward in time, destined to reach their objective, laying down an imperative which orders the world which they penetrate.  YHVH gave many prophecies to David which were specific to the life of Yeshua.  They have come to us incorporated in the Psalms.  Through them we know that in his life and in his sacrifice Yeshua is truly the long awaited “seed of the woman.”

David also, through the prophet Nathan, received from YHVH the promise that the abode of God would be built by “his son.”  Like many other prophecies, it carried both an immediate objective and a transcendent objective.

That night the word of YHVH came to Nathan, saying: ‘Go and tell my servant David, This is what YHVH says: “Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?  I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day….

“YHVH declares to you that YHVH himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son.”[18]

This message enigmatically allowed that David’s heir, his son Solomon, would build a Temple in Jerusalem, while the real power of the prophecy was to foretell that the ultimate heir of David would be the Messiah who would redeem Israel and restore the hearts of the people so that they themselves might become the abode of God.  So it was lofted, the greatest spear thrown forward,  that the Messiah would come from the seed of David, and that the Messiah would rule as heir to the throne of David, the earthly throne whose authority originates in the heavenly throne.

Solomon profited from all that David had done to bring peace and stability to Israel.  He went on to establish the kingdom with palaces and outposts and the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the externalization of the hope of Israel, and, through the rites of sacrifice, it illustrated the confidence that YHVH, who made his presence to live among them, was also the Lord of history and the healer of the wounds of history.

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the question of the promise is a  question of identity

Solomon, though blessed with wisdom and unbounded riches, was unfaithful in his heart.  He turned often to the worship of the gods of other nations.  YHVH eventually determined to tear the kingdom from his hands.  Division entered Israel.  In the time of succession, Solomon’s son Rehoboam had no thought for the heart of the people and made demands beyond what they could bear.  Of the twelve tribes only two remained loyal: the tribe of the royal house, Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin.  The other ten tribes broke away, despising the house of David, and with that despising the Messianic promise:

“When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son?  To your tents, O Israel!  Look after your own house, O David!’  So all the Israelites went home.  But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.”[19]

This was the inception of the most profound division in Israel, a breach which has yet to be repaired.  It began with the arrogance of Solomon to be so blessed by YHVH and yet to worship the gods of the nations.  In Solomon it was revealed that Israel cannot endure apart from consciousness of its calling.  There can be Israel built on promise and covenant.  Or there can be a semblance of Israel built on nothing more than convention.  The people must choose.  Every person must choose.   But the blessing of YHVH is not awarded to mere convention.  To profess, as do most in this time, that Israel is whatever default construct that happens to raise its flag over Palestine, is to assign the Israel of promise to the grave.

Judah represents that part of Israel which knows that it has no meaning or purpose or national definition apart from the Davidic throne and the Messianic promise.  The ten tribes, greater Israel, often known as Ephraim, represents the Israel that is content to be defined by its genetic and cultural history, without regard for the house of David and the Messianic promise.  In the present moment the culture of the state of Israel is the culture of Ephraim, scorning Yeshua Messiah and the Messianic promise.  The Christian church, equally, though it invites Yeshua to be a “personal savior,” scorns any part in Israel and does not recognize Yeshua as their king, as Messiah on the throne of a transcendent Israel.

v

division, rebellion, defeat and exile

Rehoboam ruled Judah, and in succession after him a continuous line of kings occupied the throne — some who pleased YHVH, some who did not.  The ten tribes, however, having alienated themselves from Judah, gave allegiance to Jeroboam, he being of no royal lineage.  Following Jeroboam a broken line of intrigue occupied his throne.   Jeroboam also severed the religious sentiments of the tribes from the Temple in Jerusalem by establishing two northern centers in which to worship the image of a golden bull, claiming it to be the god which delivered them from Egypt.  The pattern of rebellion established under Jeroboam endured under the hand of his successors, until, by the middle of the 8th c. B.C., Hosea prophesied that Assyria would conquer and destroy the northern kingdom of Israel.  The final half dozen kings fell to chaos, murder or capture.  In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered and brought an end to the northern kingdom, forcing its people into exile.

Rehoboam in Judah was only slightly less blatant in his rebellion than Jeroboam in the north.  He readily established worship of the goddess Asherah, consort of Baal, and sanctioned the institution of male shrine prostitutes.  On the other hand, successors such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Azariah and Hezekiah tried to serve YHVH.  During the reign of Hezekiah, the prophet Isaiah foresaw destruction coming to Judah as it had already come to the northern kingdom.  Isaiah tried to warn his people.  He also became God’s voice of assurance to the people, that, even as they saw their world threatened, YHVH would never completely abandon them, and, though their victory would not come in battle with their neighbors, there would yet come the Messiah, his redemption, and his victory over the causal enemy at the root of the agony of history.

Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, assuming the throne over Judah in 686 B.C., led the people in such immorality that they became “more evil than the nations YHVH had destroyed before the Israelites.”[20]  YHVH then determined to turn over Judah to the hand of its enemies.

“I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies.  They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day.”[21]                                                                                                                             

In 588 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar built siege works around Jerusalem and two years later broke through the walls of the city.  He captured king Zedekiah, murdered his sons before his eyes, blinded him and took him to Babylon along with the best and brightest of the kingdom.

vi

Desolation, transcendent Israel and the Messianic hope

Where now was the hope of the people of God, the hope of his unique possession?  The ten tribes of the northern territory were in Assyria resisting dominion and seemingly making their way as refugees through Anatolia or Mesopotamia and off into distant territories.  The kingdom of Judah was in subjection in Babylon.

The book of Lamentations expresses the sorrow of the prophet Jeremiah:

“Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her.  YHVH has decreed for Jacob that his neighbors become his foes; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them.  YHVH is righteous, yet I rebelled against his command.  Listen, all you peoples; look upon my suffering.  My young men and maidens have gone into exile.”[22]         

Psalm 137 recalls the sorrow of exile:

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.  There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’  How can we sing the songs of YHVH while in a foreign land?  If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.  May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”[23]          

During the time of conquest and exile, YHVH gave Judah and Israel great prophets and far reaching prophecies.  Isaiah foresaw that YHVH would bring Judah back to Jerusalem after its period of captivity.  Isaiah also saw and told the people to trust in the coming of a new Messianic age when Jerusalem would be the true City of God and all the earth would come to Jerusalem to honor their God.  Isaiah was given the pivotal vision that out of the ashes of rebellion would come the great burgeoning of the Messianic promise when the knowledge of God would burst across the national boundaries of Israel and run free to the consciousness of the whole world.  Isaiah transcribed a penetrating prophetic dialogue, YHVH in conversation with his Prince, a mystical dialogue in which Yeshua emerges as the very being of Israel:

“Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born YHVH called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name….He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’  But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.  Yet what is due me is in the hands of YHVH….

“And now YHVH says – he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of YHVH and my God is my strength – he says:

“’It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’”[24]

The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah that, because of their faithless rebellion against YHVH, Jerusalem would fall to its enemies.  He also assured them that YHVH would be faithful to his ultimate promise, that he would gather his people to himself, and that he would enlarge his covenant with them, “writing” his law upon their hearts, so making them capable of union with himself:

“’The time is coming,’ declares YHVH, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares YHVH.  ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares YHVH.  ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”[25]

Ezekiel warned Jerusalem of its impending fall, but, once in exile, he called them to set their hearts upon the ultimate faithfulness of YHVH and the coming of a profound restoration reaching into the very hearts of the people:

“For this is what Sovereign YHVH says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.  I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered…. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. …I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down.’[26]

“’I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.[27]

Ezekiel foresaw the advent of a revolution which would heal the heart of sin and free the spirit of men to live in communion with the Spirit of God.

Daniel, taken to serve under Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, would come to foresee two separate profiles, the ascent of the political order which originates in the kingship of the Messiah, and the vicissitudes of mundane power as the world kingdoms struggle to maintain an order which has little concern for the claims of the heavenly throne.

vii

The reach for the Messiah

Daniel was a scholar and a student of Scripture.  He was conscious of the entire field of prophecy, from Eden to the Exile.  Through that prophecy Daniel was confident that Israel, at an appointed time, would come to know the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham.  He shared with Job the knowledge that the day was coming when he would see with his own eyes the reign of the Messiah:

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!”[28] 

Yet Daniel received additional visions and dreams.  Daniel was enabled to see across the terrain of the coming five centuries, for these would be the final setting of the stage for the appearance of the eternal king.  Daniel was entrusted with insight into the grand transformations of earthly power: the Babylonian kingdom submitting to the advance of Persia, the overthrow of Persia by Alexander the Great, the fragmentation of this empire, and ultimately the rise of Rome.  In all this he was given a vision of how these events would affect the holy people.  Prophecy is for the children of the promise, to maintain their hearts in times of adversity, to sustain the faithful remnant until the time when our Messiah comes to establish his power in the dust of Jerusalem and gather the nations of the earth under his sovereignty.

As to Isaiah, so to Daniel it was revealed that the Messiah would suffer for the sake of his people.  Isaiah was told, “By his stripes we are healed.”  Daniel was told, “He will be cut off and will have no one, but not for the sake of himself.”  Daniel also was allowed to see deep into the future when the trial of Israel would come to an end and our king would return to govern the world in peace:

“And there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”[29]

In 604 B.C., one year after Daniel arrived in Babylon, king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream for which he demanded that whoever might interpret it must first relate the content of the dream, so to prove his credentials.  In prayer to YHVH it was given to Daniel to envision the substance of the king’s dream.  It opened with an iconic representation of the coming succession of world  kingdoms: the figure of a huge statue,  head of gold, chest and arms of silver, thighs of bronze, and legs of iron with feet of iron and clay: gold representing the Neo-Babylonian empire of Nebuchadnezzar, silver the Medo-Persian empire which would  assume power in 539 B.C.,  bronze the empire of Alexander the Great beginning in 333 B.C.,  and iron the Roman empire, which, by Daniel’s vision, emerges and then remains the empire of the world to the very end of the age.[30]  Then in the dream it was shown that “in the time of those kings” a rock was “cut out, but not by human hands.”  It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and the entire structure disintegrated.  The rock of divine origin supplanted the kingdoms of the earth.  In Daniel’s words,

“But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.”[31]

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.  It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.  This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands – a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.  The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future.  The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”[32]

Here in exile, in the loss of the nation, in the most desperate circumstances of God’s people, YHVH brought to them an affirmation that he had not abandoned his purpose in history, that the promise to Abraham was still firm, that the eternal kingdom would be realized.  It is significant that “in the time of those kings,” – in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and of Cyrus and of Alexander and his heirs and in the time of Rome, even in times of the greatest darkness – YHVH is steadily establishing his kingdom that will never be destroyed.

For a Jew exiled in Babylon, both the national territory and the transcendent nation seemed to be lost, for in the minds of most they were simply aspects of a single entity.  Now came the call to true reckoning, the call to recognize that the nation of custom and tradition, should it turn away from the lordship of YHVH, must fall.  Now they had to recognize that there is no nation of promise without the commitment of the spirit of the people.   There is no kingdom of God on earth apart from being rooted in the heavenly throne.

Here in Babylon, divorced from Jerusalem, it was most painful to rally the optimism which some had entertained so effortlessly in their own land.  For many, it was only the wealth and ponderous stability of the great city and empire of Babylon that now gave them a sense of safety.  Then, overnight, that hedge was also taken down.  In 539 B.C. the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon.  The fate of exiled Israel was momentarily even more uncertain.  But the sure progress of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of empire would have been evident to some.  The head of gold now yielded its authority to the arms and shoulders of silver.  Furthermore, this Cyrus turned out to be the Cyrus named in prophecy years earlier in the revelations of Isaiah, named as guarantor of the rebuilding of the temple:

I am YHVH who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,  …who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be built,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’ who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’[33]

Isaiah had brought word of Cyrus to Israel before Cyrus was even born, more than a century before Cyrus assumed power over Babylon.  Within a year of the conquest of Babylon, Cyrus made a proclamation to the Jews in exile that he himself would sponsor the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, and that all who were ready and willing to return could do so for this purpose.  With them he would send all the gold articles of the temple which Nebuchadnezzar had taken.  Forty-two thousand people of Judah then returned to Jerusalem accompanied by servants, musicians, horses, camels, mules and donkeys.  A miracle of restoration was underway.

In this same year Daniel, still in Babylon, was devoted in prayer, knowing that indications had been given to Jeremiah that exile would end after seventy years.  Daniel himself had been among the first wave taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C.  If the count began in that year, then the seventy years would come to an end soon in 535 B.C.  As Daniel was praying, the angel Gabriel came to him.

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to YHVH my God for his holy hill – while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.  He instructed me and said to me,

“Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.  As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.  Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:

Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’, and sixty-two ‘sevens.’  It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.  After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the Anointed One will be cut off but not for himself.  The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.  The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.  He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”[34]

Daniel’s prayer had reached deeper than the simple hope to return home.  He was grieving for the sin of his people, their need for forgiveness, and the hope that Jerusalem might be an honor to the Name of YHVH.  The angel Gabriel appeared and delivered a timeline reaching beyond the coming terminus of the seventy years.  He told Daniel that a measure of seventy sevens [490 years] lay ahead for the establishment of Jerusalem and the appearance of the Messiah.  The seventy “sevens” would be divided into three unequal periods, and the starting point for the first two periods would be a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.  That decree, following the pleas of Nehemiah, was delivered by Artaxerxes in the spring of 445 B.C.[35]

The first period of time, as given, was seven “sevens” [49 years], allotted to the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  From there the second period of sixty-two “sevens” [434 years] would measure the remaining time until “the Anointed One will be cut off but not for himself”: a prophecy with an eerie finality but little detail.  The final measure, a single “seven,” is not directly connected to the other sevens.  In Daniel and in Revelation, it becomes a timeline of the dark events at the end of the era.

As for the previous sixty-nine sevens [483 years] which mark the distance from the initial decree  to the appearance of the Anointed One,  if we measure by prophetic years [years of 360 days], the time between the decree of Artaxerxes in the spring of 445 B.C.[36]  and the time of the triumphal entry of Yeshua in the spring of 32 A.D.[37], it is exactly 173,880 days or 483 prophetic years – sixty-nine sevens of years.  This was worked out in great detail by Sir Robert Anderson[38] and undoubtedly it was charted carefully by Daniel.  It is very plausible that, as Daniel remained in Babylon through the transition from Neo-Babylonian empire to Persian empire, this knowledge would have been shared with certain people in the Persian court, in particular the Zoroastrian Magi.  It then would have become part of the information guiding the later Magi to Judea in the time of the appearance of Yeshua. 

viii

The Persian Period  

“Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field.  You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued.  There YHVH will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.”[39]

This is what YHVH says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb;  I am YHVH, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself…who says to Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please;  he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt.”  And of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” ‘  This is what YHVH says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains… so that you may know that I am YHVH, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.  For the sake of Jacob my servant…I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me….It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.  I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: …He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says YHVH Almighty.[40]

Nearly two millennia passed from Creation to the birth of Abraham.  Another two millennia passed before our Messiah appeared in the streets of Jerusalem.  YHVH created the nation of Israel as a people apart.  This people was the setting, the amphitheater within which YHVH labored to teach each person the meaning of fealty to their eternal king.  Here within Israel YHVH was laying the groundwork for the restoration of the union of the spirit of man with the Spirit of God.  The call of YHVH is not only a social and political program; it is a reach into the soul of the individual.

For the individual to respond freely and intelligently to the divine call, there had to be an understanding of the divine mission.  From spiritual starvation in Egypt, Israel had to undergo trial.  Suffering bred union.  Union bred identity.  Identity sought purpose.  Purpose sought education.  In Israel the hunger for knowledge was answered with the rituals of the Tabernacle, the rituals of the Temple, and the written words of Moses and the prophets.  This education taught men that the individual is damaged, that there is a vast gulf between his aspirations and his broken capacities.  It taught him the need of restoration, of redemption and renewal of spirit.

It would have been without result to send the Redeemer of mankind into a world which had no understanding of redemption, of sin, or of the holiness of God.  This was the work of Israel, to be the place into which the Messiah could be born such that his birth and life and sacrificial death would have meaning and be understood.  Vanquished and in exile in Babylon, the spirit of Israel had been wounded.  With the support of Cyrus to rebuild the temple, and with the call of  Artaxerxes to rebuild the walls of the city, there was freedom to return home.  Again there was reason for hope.  Many now dared reach into their hearts to be obedient to the mystery of the greater promise of Israel.  They dared to rebuild the temple.  The order of the temple, even in the reconstruction, was always the image of the heavenly model.  The temple was a prayer held up in aspiration for the Presence of YHVH in Israel, a lens held up in worship of the heavenly reality.

By 516 B.C., seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had set fire to the first temple, the second temple was complete.  It had been brought to completion under the leadership of Zerubbabel, acting governor, and Jeshua the high priest.  Zerubbabel was of the house of David, a potential heir to the throne, but under Persian dominion he could not expect to occupy the royal seat.  He was the last Davidic ruler until the appearance of Yeshua.  Yeshua’s descent from David was through Zerubbabel.[41]

Upon completion of the temple, some wept with joy to see the miracle of its restoration.  Some wept in sorrow to see it so much smaller than the grand edifice of Solomon.  Through the prophet Haggai, YHVH addressed the people with a promise that held the hearts of many through the coming centuries of longing for Messiah:

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month [Otober 17, 520 B.C.], the word of YHVH came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people.  Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory?  How does it look to you now?  Does it not seem to you like nothing?  But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares YHVH.  ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest.  Be strong all you people of the land,’ declares YHVH Almighty.  ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt.  And my Spirit remains among you.  Do not fear.’

“This is what YHVH Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.  I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says YHVH Almighty.  ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares YHVH Almighty.  ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says YHVH Almighty.  ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares YHVH Almighty.”[42] 

This was the promise of the Messianic glory yet to come.  But in the intervening five centuries much would transpire that would also sanctify and bring glory to the temple – the blood of thousands of Judean men and woman who would give their lives to defend it against the abuses of Hellenistic and Roman entitlement.

The above-mentioned “shaking of all nations” would include the trial of Israel.  Less than a century after the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Alexander would cross the Hellespont, defeat Darius, and take command of the vast Persian empire.  He would die prematurely at age thirty-two, and the empire, unable to remain whole, would fall, in division, to Alexander’s Macedonian generals and their heirs.  In the coming centuries the jealousies and competing ambitions of these rulers would bring constant suffering and chaos to their people.  The ecumenical Greek culture, so attractive to most of the nations, would find its stumbling block in Judea.  There the rich and powerful would eagerly compete to imitate and gain the approval of their Hellenistic lords, while the masses would give their lives to resist them and stand for the honor of the name of YHVH.

The reconstruction of the temple under Zerubbabel was the first phase of the restoration of Jerusalem.  The second phase was the reconstruction of the city walls under the leadership of Nehemiah in 445 B.C.  This decisive reclamation of Jerusalem’s divine promise intimidated Judea’s neighbors[43], but it revived the spirit of Judah and prepared them for survival in the coming onslaught of Greek culture.[44]                                                                        ix

The Greek Period

“But now many nations are gathered against you.  They say, ‘Let her be defiled, let our eyes gloat over Zion!’  But they do not know the thoughts of YHVH;  they do not understand his plan, he who gathers them like sheaves to the threshing floor.”[45]

I Maccabees opens with this succinct description of Judea’s collision with Hellenism:

“Alexander of Macedon, the son of Philip, marched from the land of Kittim[46], defeated Darius, king of Persia and Media, and seized his throne, being already king of Greece.  In the course of many campaigns he captured fortified towns, slaughtered kings, traversed the earth to its remotest bounds, and plundered innumerable nations.

“When at last the world lay quiet under his rule, his pride knew no limits; he built up an extremely powerful army, and ruled over countries, nations, and dominions; all paid him tribute.

“The time came when he fell ill, and, knowing that he was dying, he summoned his generals, nobles who had been brought up with him from childhood, and divided his empire among them while he was still alive.  Alexander had reigned twelve years when he died.  His generals took over the government, each in his own province.  On his death[47] they were all crowned as kings, and their descendants succeeded them for many years.  They brought untold miseries upon the world.

“A scion of this stock was that wicked man Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus.  He had been a hostage in Rome before he succeeded to the throne in the year 137 of the Greek era. [175 B.C.][48]

So Alexander and the era of Greek dominion brings us to the collision of Antiochus Epiphanes and the people of Judah, an encounter which epitomizes the trials of Judah during what is known as the Greek period.

Under both Persia and Greece, the demotion of secular [royal] authority, the rebuilding of the temple, and the profound role of the temple at the center of Jewish life – all combined to place increasing authority in the hands of the high priest.  The same high priest who was seen as intermediary between YHVH and the nation became intermediary between the nation and the imperial power.  The high priestly office, by divine mandate, was attainable only by Levites, descendants of Aaron.  But now, under Greek dominion, reckless men attempted to acquire the office, not by respect for the divine parameters but through cash payment made to the Greek overlord.

A man named Jason was successful in gaining this power, not only through the promise of money but also in promising to transform Jerusalem into another “Antioch,” a Greek polis or city- state after the Greek model, with a registered loyal citizenry and a system of gymnasium education of youth destined for military service.

Following the example of Jason, another ambitious man, Menelaus, made his own bid for the high priesthood, offering greater sums of money, and so obtaining the position.  Menelaus was not a Levite and so had no natural right to the priesthood.  This marked the end of the Aaronic priesthood which had prevailed since the time of the Exodus.  Menelaus saw to the murder of Onias, who, prior to Jason, had been the last high priest to stand boldly in defense of traditional Jewish life.

By 168 B.C. Jason and a small army made a move to retake Jerusalem from Menelaus.  All Judea was in turmoil.  Enter Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the enemy of Judah who is the antetype of the “stern-faced king” whom Daniel foresees oppressing the people of God at the end of the age.

Antiochus Epiphanes, in 175 B.C., by deceit, installed himself as heir to the Seleucid empire as it held power over Judea.  He entered into constant conflict with Egypt. Egypt responded by reviving an  alliance with Rome.  In the second campaign of Antiochus against Egypt, he and his army, upon arrival in Egypt, found themselves standing before the Roman consul Gaius Popilius Laenas and twelve lictors.  Gaius took his staff and traced a circle in the sand around Antiochus.  He told Antiochus, “Before you step out of this circle, think again, and when you do step out of it, be facing east and go home to Syria.”  The power of Rome was by now so manifest, and so certain, that a consul and a few men could intimidate an army.  Antiochus, angry and humiliated, exited the circle to the east.

On his way home, Antiochus learned that Jason was trying to retake Jerusalem from Menelaus, and that all Judea was in a state of rebellion.  Relishing an excuse to prove the vigor of his disgraced army,

“he set out … in savage mood, took Jerusalem by storm, and ordered his troops to cut down without mercy everyone they met and to slaughter those who took refuge in the houses.  Young and old were murdered, women and children massacred, girls and infants butchered.  At the end of three days their losses had amounted to eighty thousand: forty thousand killed in action, and as many sold into slavery.  Not satisfied with this, the king had the audacity to enter the holiest temple on earth, guided by Menelaus, who had turned traitor both to his religion and to his country.  He laid impious hands on the sacred vessels; his desecrating hands swept together the votive offerings which other kings had set up to enhance the splendor and fame of the shrine.”[49]

Antiochus returned to Antioch, but left commanders and 22,000 mercenaries in Jerusalem with orders to kill all adult males and sell women and boys into slavery.[50]  Antiochus ordered the enforcement of an end to every ancestral custom, including the keeping of the Sabbath.  His forces polluted the temple and dedicated it to Olympian Zeus, installing an idol of Zeus within the temple.  They promoted prostitution in the temple.  They sacrificed pigs on the altar.  The true operation of the temple ceased from 168 to 165 B.C.  All who refused to change over to Greek ways were ordered to be killed.[51]  Scrolls of the Book of the Covenant were gathered and burned.  Many thousands of Judeans died rather than submit to the yoke of Antiochus Epiphanes.

In the midst of this a priest named Mattathias Maccabeus boldly opposed the Greek tyranny.  In the town of Modin officers of the king ordered Mattathias to lead the people in sacrifice at a pagan altar.  Instead Mattathias struck down the officer, pulled down the altar, and called out,

“’Follow me, every one of you who is zealous for the law and strives to maintain the covenant.’  He and his sons took to the hills, leaving all their belongings behind.”[52]

Mattathias led a forceful opposition.  Upon his death his son Judas assumed leadership of the rebels.   He and his men successfully drove off their Seleucid masters, pulled down the abominable idol of Zeus, and in 164 B.C. restored the temple and the rites of sacrifice.  This restoration of the life of Jerusalem revived the fears of Gentile neighbors on all sides[53], and wars ensued.  Judas was able to maintain the integrity of Judea until he died in battle.

The populace of Judea subsequently chose a brother of Judas, Jonathan, to replace him.  In     152 B.C. Jonathan was encouraged by his Greek lords to assume the position of high priest, which position he gladly occupied, even though he had no true qualification for the office.  To the Hellenizing enemy this marriage of church and state was efficacious in taming the independent spirit of the children of the covenant.  Jonathan nevertheless fought for Judea, defending Jerusalem through many campaigns, finally dying in battle.  His brother Simon replaced him.

Under the governance of Simon, in the year 142 B.C., the Seleucids relaxed their hold on Judea and “Israel was released from the gentile yoke.”[54]  Under his rule Judea remained at peace.  He also assumed simultaneously the offices of ethnarch and of high priest without right of investiture, so presuming to bear the dual role which only the Messiah may hold.

Simon, for all his bravery, having received his authority by the voices of men, sought security in the powers of men.  Simon strove to maintain the “independence” of Judea  [from the Seleucids] by sending an embassy to Rome requesting recognition and alliance.  This was granted by the Roman senate.

Simon’s lack of sensitivity toward the stricture that king and priest remain discreet was curiously augmented by his willingness to  take the greatest liberty with that which, other than the temple, was most iconic of Jerusalem: Mt. Zion itself.   The Jebusite city of Salem, as conquered by David, occupied the crescent shaped ridge between the Kidron Valley and the Tyropoeon Valley    [to the south of what is now called the Temple Mount].  In the southern portion of this crescent stood the most elevated geographic feature of the the city, Mt. Zion, overlooking the northern terrace called the Ophel.  Evidence is very strong that Solomon’s temple was built not on the “Temple Mount” but on the Ophel, just above the Gihon spring.  Upon the height of Mt. Zion had been built a nearly impregnable citadel, overlooking the temple just to the north.  This physical relationship appears repeatedly in the descriptions of Josephus.

The citadel was the ultimate guarantee of the protection of the city.  However, the occupying forces of the Seleucid kings took possession of the citadel decade after decade, and from it became a source of grief to the temple and the city.  With Jerusalem now fully liberated, Simon brought this issue before the people and they were persuaded to raze Mt. Zion and deposit it in the adjacent valleys!

“So they all set themselves to the work, and leveled the mountain, and in that work spent both day and night without intermission, which cost them three whole years before it was removed, and brought to an entire level with the plain of the rest of the city.  After which the temple was the highest of all the buildings, now the citadel, as well as the mountain whereon it stood, were demolished.  And these actions were thus performed under Simon.”[55]

However, this transformative piece of engineering would call for a new solution to the need for protecting the temple from foreign predators and the need for a garrison of troops to protect the city.  This apparently led to the Hasmonean construction of the Baris just north of the temple, the beginnings of the great area now considered to be the “Temple Mount,” where, it would seem, the Roman legions were billeted during the times of Herod and Yeshua.

The division of Alexander’s conquests had led to nearly two centuries of increasing instability.  No kingdom was able to establish an enduring peace, and constant conflict brought political and social decay, especially under the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria.  As these kingdoms fragmented, Rome stood firm and grew great through guaranteeing privilege to its friends and suitors, while crushing the enemies of its allies.  As the Seleucid empire degenerated into a collection of city- states, Judea would soon find its own place within the Roman hegemony.  By 100 B.C. it seemed that no national leader could expect to retain power without securing his place within Rome.

By 103 B.C.  the Hasmonean [Maccabean] Alexander Janneus occupied the double role of ethnarch and high priest in Jerusalem.  With his wife, Salome Alexandra, he had two sons, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus.  By  63 B.C. the two sons were grown and vying for power – as petitioners at the feet of the Roman Pompey — Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus.

x

The Roman  Period

“Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.  He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of YHVH, in the majesty of the name of YHVH his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And he will be their peace.”[56]

In 63 B.C. Pompey arrived in Damascus after doing battle in Armenia.  Hyrcanus and Aristobulus appeared  before him.  Needing to instruct his petitioners in the fact that they were kneeling before the new power over the Mediterranean world, Pompey decided to visit Jerusalem in the company of his army.  Aristobulus, eager to win favor, tried to gift the city to Pompey.  The troops of Aristobulus, however, refused to enable this betrayal of their city, and opposed him.

Pompey, sensing reproval, stormed the walls and made his camp within the city.  The resistance withdrew to the temple.  Pompey laid siege to the temple precincts.  Twelve thousand Jews were slain.  He took command of the temple and dared to enter the Holy of Holies.  Then, apparently out of a sense of honor, he commanded that the temple be cleansed, that sacrifice be restored, and that Hyrcanus be reinstated as high priest.

Here lay the consummation of Judea’s marriage to Rome:  Pompey made Jerusalem tributary to the Republic  – subject no longer to the Macedonian province of Syria but to the Roman province of Syria.  He took Aristobulus as prisoner to Rome.  From this day until the time of Revelation the history of Judea would unfold as intercourse with the Roman power.

In less than a century Yeshua Messiah would proclaim the advent of the eternal kingdom.  Few would stand with a king who would not pause to overthrow Rome.  The Judean power structure, Sadducees and Pharisees, and large numbers of the people, would reject him.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”[57]

The battle between Judea and Rome would continue and would darken.

The Roman period would see the claim of the house of Levi to the priesthood well forgotten, the claim of the house of David to the throne deferred, the reputation of the Hasmoneans insufficient to survive the ambitions of Herod the Idumean.  Although his ruling temperament would be volcanic, Herod would maintain the support of Rome, enough  to sustain him in his contradiction of the laws and traditions of the people of Judea.  But the people themselves, in large numbers, would stand in regular resistance to Herod and Rome.  There would always be a faction, always a remnant, standing for the sanctity of YHVH and the inviolability of the covenant.

The influence of Pompey in Judea would soon accrue to Julius Caesar.  Pompey was son-in-law of Julius Caesar, being married to his daughter Julia.  In 60 B.C. Caesar and Pompey and Crassus formed the political alliance known as the First Triumvirate.  This however did not prevent Caesar and Pompey from becoming rivals for the leadership of Rome.  Caesar, with some support from Mark Antony,  outmaneuvered Pompey in the Battle of Pharsalus.  Pompey then fled to Egypt, where Ptolemy XIII had him assassinated.  Caesar was stricken and became the devout enemy of Ptolemy as he had hoped to pardon Pompey, his son-in-law.

In Judea, the Hasmonean Hyrcanus maintained authority over the affairs of the temple, and he established his civil authority in the form of five councils to govern the people.  So Judea was ruled for a time not as a monarchy but as an aristocracy.

Crassus, the third member of the Triumvirate, while passing through Judea on his way to fight the Parthians, again pillaged the temple, taking its gold by deceit.  With a hint of justice, Crassus marched into Parthia where he and his army perished.

Hyrcanus, gentle and soft spoken, had a powerful patron, a wealthy Idumean named Antipater, who, by Hyrcanus’ father, had been made general of all Idumea [Edom].  He also had strong ties to the Arabians to the east.  Antipater married Cypros, daughter of a Nabataean aristocrat, and by her had four sons and a daughter.  Antipater would prove to be the patriarch of the family that would replace the Hasmoneans.  Antipater’s sons were Phasael, Herod [who would become king], Joseph, and Pheroras; the daughter, Salome.

Antipater successfully cultivated friendship and alliance with Rome, even sending soldiers to aid Caesar in several campaigns.  Caesar made Antipater procurator of Judea and allowed Hyrcanus to restore the walls of Jerusalem which Pompey had torn down.  Antipater personally managed the reconstruction of the walls and won favor with the people, though many mistrusted this migration of influence from the Hasmonean Hyrcanus to the Idumean Antipater.

Hyrcanus being reticent in the exercise of power, Antipater, in 47 B.C., further advanced his family by positioning his son Phasaelus as governor of Jerusalem and Herod as governor of Galilee.  Herod, being bold and aggressive, soon offended the Judeans by taking the law into his own hands and awarding death to a man named Hezekiah without trial by the Sanhedrin.  Herod himself was then called before the Sanhedrin, where he displayed great arrogance, yet escaped judgment due to the influence of powerful voices in Rome.

On the Ides of March, 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was slain by Cassius and Brutus.  Herod rapidly ingratiated himself with Cassius, who responded by placing him in charge of the forces of Coelesyria and promising to make him king of Judea!  Here the affirmation of Rome would prove to have more gravitas than the weight of tradition in the Hasmonean royal line.

Caesar Octavian and Mark Antony put down Brutus and Cassius in a battle near Philippi.  Octavian then went west to take control of Gaul, and Antony went east to take control of Asia.   Antony looked favorably on both Herod and Hyrcanus.

There was a Hasmonean challenge to the increasing authority of Herod – in the person of Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, brother of Hyrcanus.  Herod had driven Antigonus once out of Judea, but he reappeared, this time with the support of the Parthians – this nettlesome challenge to Rome from the east.  Antigonus and his forces were powerful enough to drive Herod down into Idumea.   He also captured Hyrcanus, imprisoned him, and cut off his ears – rendering him, by reason of deformity, no longer qualified to sit as high priest.

Herod escaped to Alexandria and then sought the aid of Mark Antony by going to Rome.  There, in 40 B.C., Caesar and Antony and the Senate proclaimed Herod King of Judea.

Herod left for Egypt, gathered an army there, and marched to Galilee to attack Antigonus.  All Galilee joined him.  In all his efforts to reclaim Judea he looked to Antony as his supporter and guarantor.

Three years after being proclaimed king at Rome, Herod pitched camp near Jerusalem.  Briefly he took leave of his army to marry Mariamne, daughter of Alexander, who was son of Aristobulus, the brother of Hyrcanus.  This Hasmonean wife would generate a limited restoration of the legitimacy which Herod now squandered in putting down the claims of the Hasmonean Antigonus.

Rome added its voice: Antony stepped in, sent men to join Herod, and declared Antigonus an enemy of Rome.   This gave Herod the confidence to seize his prize by force.  He assaulted and breached the walls of Jerusalem.  The Jews fled into the temple, still hoping to see Antigonus victorious.  Then Herod, assisted by a Roman contingent, but opposing Antigonus and the will of his own people, took the city by storm, slaying everyone he and his men encountered, including women and children.  Antigonus surrendered.  Herod’s “victory” came twenty-seven years to the day  following the victory of Pompey over Jerusalem.

*   *   *   *

Herod, now in full control of Jerusalem, hunted his enemies and supported his allies.  He stole wealth from the city and made a lavish gift of it to Mark Antony.  Antony had Antigonus beheaded.  Hyrcanus, absent in Babylon, returned to be near Herod, for whom he always had strong attachment.  Herod made Ananelus to be high priest.  This upset Alexandra, daughter of Hyrcanus, as she wanted her son, also named Aristobulus, to be high priest.  Mariamne strongly supported this.  Herod gratified them – removed Ananelus and installed the young Aristobulus.  Never before had anyone but a foreign power decommissioned a high priest.

This appearance of a handsome young Hasmonean high priest celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in the temple made a sensation in Jerusalem and Herod was soon driven to resent this new challenge to his popularity.  Herod had a solution: the accidental drowning of the young Aristobulus during a pool party in Jericho.  Alexandra saw Herod’s hand in her son’s death.  She would never forgive him.

About 33 B.C. Octavius Caesar came to believe that Mark Antony’s loyalties were no longer to Rome but rather to Antony’s vision of an eastern empire under the rule of himself and Cleopatra.  In the mind of Octavian it was time to bring an end to Antony’s apostasy.  Antony saw Octavian’s preparations for war, and he and Cleopatra prepared a fleet to advance on Rome.  In 31 B.C. Octavian and Agrippa brought their fleet against the ships of Antony and Cleopatra at the mouth of the Ambracian Gulf on the west coast of Greece [the Battle of Actium].  Octavian and Agrippa were victorious.  Antony and Cleopatra escaped with part of their fleet and returned to Alexandria.  Antony committed suicide.  A few years later Cleopatra ostensibly followed suit.

The defeat of Antony at Actium raised issues for Herod.  He feared that Octavian might prefer the Hasmonean Hyrcanus and transfer power to him.  Herod’s solution: coldly to put Hyrcanus to death.  Herod then met Octavian on the island of Rhodes and swore fealty to Rome.  Octavian reconfirmed Herod’s kingship over Judea.  Subsequently Herod escorted Octavian through his voyage to Egypt and through the return, receiving him with great generosity in Judea.

Herod now returned home to rule in security.  Of course much of this security stemmed from his violence to the remnants of the Hasmonean line.   Herod discovered that his Hasmonean wife Mariamne was distressed by his successes, as she felt that these only enlarged his power over her and that his care for her was mostly a precaution against what she might do if she were free.  Herod was encouraged by members of his own family to be suspicious of her, as they despised the lofty Hasmonean princess in their midst.  Mariamne grieved over the deaths of Aristobulus and Hyrcanus.  A confusion of affairs led to extreme jealousy and torment in the  mind of Herod.  Ultimately, by his command, Mariamne was executed.  In consequence, he began to go mad, as he had always been hugely devoted to her.

At this time Alexandra, daughter of Hyrcanus and mother of the slain Aristobulus, sensed the severe distraction of Herod, so she took advantage of this opportunity to attempt to secure the loyalties of the two main fortifications which were the security of Jerusalem.  However, her machinations were discovered and Herod had her killed.  This was a grave moment, the death of the last Hasmonean of influence.  Josephus writes:

“…there  was nobody remaining of such dignity as could put a stop to what he [Herod] did against the Jewish laws.”[58]

In the 13th year of the reign of Herod [circa 24 B.C.] calamities fell upon Judea: perpetual drought, hunger, and the illness coming from poor nutrition.  In this state of want Herod’s subjects despised him for spending their wealth on construction.  Herod then sold all his treasures and bought corn from Egypt.  His liberality, even to the hungry in Syria, wiped away some of the popular resentment of his efforts to alter customs and Romanize the culture of Judea.

The Roman republic came to an end as Octavian, in 27 B.C., became Caesar Augustus, the unchallenged first emperor of Rome.  Herod married again.  He sent his two sons [Alexander and Aristobulus] to Rome to become known in the court of Augustus Caesar.  Herod became a valued friend of both Caesar and Agrippa.

Herod  felt increasingly secure in Rome’s sponsorship of his power.  But he ruled in the spirit of Rome.  He aggravated the people’s resentment by alienating them more and more from the divine covenant, from their practice of worship, and from their traditions.   He grew to mistrust them.  He prevented the people from public assembly.  He had many spies and killed those who were suspect of rebellion.

“…nor did he permit the citizens either to meet together, or to walk or eat together,  but watched everything they did, and when any were caught, they were severely punished; and many there were who were brought to the citadel Hyrcania, both openly and secretly, and were there put to death; and there were spies set everywhere, both in the city and in the roads, who watched those that met together… and as for those that could be no way reduced to acquiesce under his scheme of government, he persecuted them all manner of ways; but for the rest of the multitude, he required that they should be obliged to take an oath of fidelity to him…”[59].

Herod, the tyrannical Idumean, needed a project that would convince his people to bring him their respect and gratitude.  He proposed the rebuilding and expansion of the temple, all costs to come from the royal coffers.  He guaranteed that all plans and materials would be on hand before he would undo anything of the existing edifice.  On these terms the people were willing to see him proceed.

Zerubbabel’s temple was 60 cubits high, as limited by the Persians.  Herod would make the new temple 100 cubits high.  Herod would dismantle the temple of Zerubbabel down to its foundations and would lay new foundations for what is by some interpretations a third temple.  It was designed in contradiction of Jewish statutes.

“Herod enlarged the Azora [Inner Cojurtyard] which was forobidden by Halacha without a Sanhedrin of 71 judges, a Jewish king, and the Urim and Tumim [the oracle of the High Priest’s breastplate.]  Herod, who was not Jewish, had murdered all the members of the Sanhedrin; the Urim and Tumim had not existed since the destruction of the First Temple.  In effect, the Second Temple described in the Mishna and Ramban was an illegal structure, doomed to destruction from the very day it was built.”[60]

The construction of a magnificently enlarged temple won Herod a great deal of favor.  It was also a meaningful contribution to the life of the nation that Herod, with the aid of Rome, was able to maintain a semblance of peace.  Herod’s greatest trouble was now within his family, this rooted especially in having put his beloved wife Mariamne to death.  Her sons Alexander and Aristobulus now profoundly mistrusted their father.  Conversely, Herod’s sister Salome despised the offspring of Mariamne.  In order to temper everyone’s sense of entitlement, Herod introduced to the royal court yet another son – his oldest, Antipater, born to his first wife, Doris, before his becoming king.  In time he even brought the mother to the palace!

Young Antipater had his own expectations, and he turned out to be an ambitious schemer, encouraging Herod to be suspicious of his step-brothers, Alexander and Aristobulus.  The two factions became heatedly opposed until accusations and suspicions had to be argued in an audience before Caesar in Rome.  Caesar heard them out and gave Herod liberty to settle things however he saw fit.  After much discussion, Herod had Alexander and Aristobulus strangled in the town of Sebaste in 12 B.C.

The scheming Antipater now reaped the ill will of the people and the army as it was suspected that his conspiracies had led to the murder of his step-brothers, children of the much loved Hasmonean Mariamne.  Antipater feared full discovery of his hand in the plots and calumnies which were the origin of Herod’s judgment against the two boys.  Therefore Antipater even began to plot Herod’s destruction.  Herod, remorseful of the murder of his sons, paid great attention to the  elevation of their now orphaned children.  This angered Antipater all the more.

In the meantime Herod continued his building projects.  In his 28th regnal year [10 B.C.] he completed a twelve year project, the construction of Caesarea Maritima, a remarkable Roman style city with a large man-made harbor, temples, theater, hippodrome, and aquaduct.  This he celebrated by the initiation of games to be repeated every five years, encompassing horse races, beasts of combat, music, and “games to be performed naked.”

In 5 B.C. Antipater was brought to trial before Publius Quinctilius Varus, Roman governor of Syria.  The charge: the attempted murder of his father.  Antipater’s conspiracies had spread to the house of Herod’s brother Pheroras.  Antipater had been indirectly encouraged by the Pharisees, who refused allegiance to Caesar and prophesied the rise of Pheroras.  Herod had their prophets killed.  Pheroras died of poisoning and it was discovered that Antipater and his mother Doris were at the root of the affair.   Varus found Antipater guilty of attempted parricide and Augustus sentenced him to death.

Herod, overcome with anger over his family, began to grow ill, but cared for his loyal sister, Salome, and promised the throne to his youngest son [by Malthace], Herod Antipas.

Then a significant incident transpired in the year 1 B.C.[61]  Herod authored the installation of a golden Roman eagle over the gate to the temple.  Judas and Matthias, two revered and eloquent teachers, led their students to pull down the golden eagle.  Consequently the two teachers and about forty of the students  were burned alive by Herod.  That same night there was an eclipse of the moon.  The city went to bed in shock and outrage.

Herod’s condition worsened.

“But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins: for a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly.”[62]

His entire body was overcome with decay, something Josephus describes in graphic detail.  Then, sensing that his death would only produce celebration, Herod cynically devised a stratagem by which the day of his death might become a day of mourning.  He had the prominent men of the nation summoned to him, then arrested, then imprisoned in the hippodrome, so that on the day of his death soldiers might shoot them fatally with darts.  Salome and her husband claimed that they would see to the details of this abomination.

Herod finally acted upon Caesar’s death sentence and had Antipater executed.  Five days later he himself died.  Before dying he changed his testament and gave the throne to his son [by Malthace] Archelaus, making Herod Antipas tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.

Salome released the prisoners from the hippodrome.

Josephus writes,

“A man he was of great barbarity towards all men equally, and a slave to his passions; but above the consideration of what was right; yet was he favored by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king, and though he were encompassed with ten thousand dangers, he got clear of them all, and continued his life till a very old age;…”[63]

Josephus records that Herod died between an eclipse[64] and the following Passover.  The events of Passover would be as dark as those on the day of the eclipse just mentioned.  Archelaus, as heir – in – waiting to the throne, was received amicably by the people.  However, there was still great grief over the burning death of Matthias and his students by the hand of Herod his father.  Just prior to Passover, the more seditious mourners undertook an assault on the soldiers of Archelaus.  In response, the troops of Archelaus slew 3,000 men of Jerusalem.

Archelaus slipped away to Rome to be confirmed as king of Judea.  Sabinus, Caesar’s steward for Syrian affairs, went to Jerusalem and seized the royal palace.  Herod Antipas also sailed to Rome seeking the kingship.  Upon arrival before Caesar, Archelaus found himself opposed on account of his Passover conduct, when 3,000 were slain as in a Passover sacrifice.  Meanwhile, with Archelaus absent from Jerusalem, with Sabinus occupying the palace of the king, and with the Passover slaughter fresh in their minds, all Judea was in turmoil.

A terrible battle ensued between the Romans and the Judeans.  The action migrated to  the temple and the cloisters which surround the outer court of the temple.  The grand structure of the cloister roof being wood, the Romans set it on fire.  Many died and the gold of the temple was plundered.  [In the coming years 18,000 workmen would be continually employed in rebuilding and repairing the temple.[65]]  Varus arrived from Rome and sought out the authors of the Judean revolt.  To satisfy his need for Roman justice, two thousand men were openly crucified.

Caesar finally decided upon a division of power between the sons of Herod.  He chose to allow Archelaus to rule, not as king but as ethnarch, over Judea, Idumea, and Samaria, with kingship held out as a possible reward after a period of moderate behavior.  [Which Archelaus never achieved.]   Herod Antipas was made tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.  Herod Philip was made tetrarch of Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis.  Archelaus again behaved as a tyrant.  After ten years the people of Judea accused him before Caesar and he was banished to Gaul.

xi

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

Josephus cannot be impuned for what he includes in or excludes from his history.  Due to the circumstances of his life, he, being a Jew of some importance, was extraordinarily sympathetic to the spirit of Judah, and, upon becoming a willing citizen of Rome and living in the circles of power, he knew intimately the Roman use of power as well as the very human aspirations which enabled them in its employ.

Herod the Idumean  lived and ruled as a Roman aspiring to gain the honor of the people of Judah.  Josephus never mentions a skirmish which occurred in the last days of the life of Herod.  Josephus might not have been aware of it.  He might have felt it was too anomalous to mention, although in Herod’s first campaign to seize power over Jerusalem and Judea, it is noted that the lives of many women and children were extinguished.  This armed sortie into the town of Bethlehem Ephratah was directed not at militants or rebels but at children of two years and under.

It is difficult to imagine that even Herod could send his soldiers out to kill infants [or that the soldiers could carry out the order] unless there were some very pressing reason.  We know that Herod’s inspiration for his “slaughter of the innocents” was his perception of a challenge to his sovereign [under Rome] power, the prospect of the appearance of a king having such august origins and such unquestionable right to the throne over Israel that even Augustus Caesar would have no power over him, and the careful cultivation of Herod’s children in Roman royal circles would swiftly lose its consequence.

“After Yeshua was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of king Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:

“’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’

“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’

“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.  And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’

“So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus[66] was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.  Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,[67] and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.  So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’”[68]

So he came to live among us, he the seed of the woman, whose origins are from ancient times — the object of all prophecy, the healing of the wound of history, the one against whom Herod’s power was mere dust in the wind.  Herod the Great, being near death, feared not for himself but for his legacy.  He also had reason to fear the atomization of his first principle: that the power of YHVH is not real, that his worship need only be a token worship, and that security lies not in the eternal power of God but in a mundane force, the empire of Rome.  Herod had been a Roman puppet king on ground made glorious by King David’s obedience to the will of YHVH, and yet Herod totally ignored and spurned that power in favor of Augustus Caesar, who was known in obscenity as “Son of God” ever since it was decreed by the Roman senate that his father, Julius Caesar, was a god.

Herod believed and feared the narrative of the Magi enough to slaughter the infant children of Bethlehem.  He saw that the restoration of  the house of David and the manifestation of the true Son of God might be imminent, should he not act boldly.  He readily presumed equality with God, enough that he dared to raise his sword against his Messiah.

Herod died early in the year 1 B.C., barely two years after the birth of Yeshua in the fall of         3 B.C.  It was only a matter of weeks after the death of Herod that troops under his son Archelaus slaughtered three thousand at the temple.  For Joseph and his family, Galilee under the rule of Herod Antipas would be less hazardous.

xii

The throne of David is rooted in the throne of the heavens

By the time Yeshua was a child lingering in the Temple, it had been nearly six centuries since anyone from the house of David had held the throne over Judah.  Judah in servitude to Nebuchadnezzar, in servitude to Cyrus, in servitude to Greece, Judah wearing an appearance of sovereignty under the Hasmoneans, sporting a pretense of autonomy under Herod — and no one pushed the descendants of David onto the stage or pressed for their assumption of power!

Why was the house of David so silent?  Did they feel inferior to the Hasmoneans? Inferior to the Herodians?  History in this period makes little mention of them.  And yet they were there.  In the two Scriptural genealogies of Yeshua, both through Mary[69] and through Joseph[70], each has a line of ancestors in the house of David, and both lines of descent pass through Zerubbabel who led the building of the temple under Cyrus.  Why did the heirs to the throne never come forward?  And if the parents of Yeshua were both of the house of David, why were they just simple people without entourage?

It is more than a coincidence that the house of David faded from view at the moment the great empires took control of the eastern Mediterranean.   It must be remembered that YHVH, by his own will, brought down the kings of Judah in anger at their rebellion and literally ceded power over the world to Nebuchadnezzar and those who would come after  him.  Jeremiah gave word of this judgement to Judah before it was fulfilled:

“This is what YHVH said to me, “…I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please.  Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him.  All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will sujugate him.”[71]

The Israel of God is “not one of the nations.”  Israel was formed by God to be “his inheritance.”  The tribe of Judah  was chosen to be the source of the line of kings which would culminate in “Shiloh,” the one to whom kingship belongs for eternity.  That line of kings was founded upon the anointing of David son of Jesse as king of Israel.  To him went the promise that the Messiah of promise would arise from his house.  The Davidic throne was established by God for the Israel of God.  It is the royal seat whose authority is rooted in the throne of the heavens, a royal seat above every mundane right of dominion.

This was the burden of the kings of Israel and, after the separation, the burden of Judah:  there could be no compromise, no submission of the Davidic throne to any other power, no alliance binding its sovereignty to Egypt or Babylon or Persia.  Unfortunately the kings repeatedly failed to maintain their trust in YHVH alone.  Not only did they make alliances with other nations but they also scorned their own God and worshipped the idols of other nations.  By the time YHVH came to punish Israel by conquest, the rule of the Davidic kings was brought to an end and the power of all nations was given over to Nebuchadnezzar.

In Daniel’s vision of the great statue we are shown the subsequent succession of the kingdoms of the world, from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece to Rome.  In the end of the vision the appearance of the kingdom of YHVH foretells the end of the dominion of those kingdoms.  For Daniel the kingdom of Yeshua appears in the figure of a rock cut out not by human hands,

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.  It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.  This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands – a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay,, the silver and the gold to pieces.”[72]

Should the house of David contest the rule of the Hasmoneans or the Herodians or Rome itself?  Whatever the house of David does, it must stand without compromise, bowing to no earthly power.  Where is the power of David?  They have no army.  Their power is God alone, lest anyone be confused as to the origins of the coming victory.  So the word of YHVH to Zerubbabel:

“’Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit,’ says YHVH Almighty.”[73]

When Herod learned that the Messiah in the house of David had been born in his lifetime, he had every reason to fear the loss of “his” kingdom.   The forward advance of the Davidic king onto the field of history was the announcement of final opposition between the Kingdom of Heaven and the City of the World.  The Hasmoneans could kneel before the Seleucids.  Herod could kneel before Caesar Augustus.  But the ultimate heir to the throne of David does not kneel before any power, and certainly not Rome.

The dominion of Yeshua Messiah is rooted in the heavens.  When Yeshua was taken captive and brought before Pontius Pilate, there was a brief exchange in which Yeshua revealed to Pilate the order of their relationship:

“Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.  “Do  you refuse to speak to me?”  Pilate said.  “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”  Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”[74]

“My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my subjects would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place. 

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

“Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”[75]

Satan’s weapon of choice is deception.  Rome enforces the deception of its claim to divine authority by the use of weapons of steel.  The true king stands on the battle line with the sword of truth.  He empowers his subjects with the truth which he brings to them.  This power is destined to overthrow the power of Satan and to overthrow the power of Rome.  It is a mortal threat to the pride of Pilate and to every royal claim of Augustus Caesar.

Yeshua was about to accomplish the act which would bind his subjects on earth to the heavenly throne.

Xiii

 In Yeshua Messiah, spirituality and politics are inseparably bound together.

Yeshua was entering a world where Judah was suffering.  Much of that suffering was caused by the collusion of the rich and powerful with the agents of Roman power.  It tended to be the poor who held to faith in their identity as the people of God, and it was they who suffered unjustly under rapacious overlords with, at best, formal attachment to Torah and covenant.  These who suffered also lived in anticipation of the coming of that Messiah whom the Magi had come so far to discover and to honor.

But it was not only Judah that was suffering.  Nor was the Messiah of Israel coming only to redeem Israel.

“…for I am honored in the eyes of YHVH – he says: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’”[76]

The rest of mankind was also suffering.  All were suffering from the fundamental trauma that breeds chaos in the history of mankind: the alienation of the heart from the purposes and person of God.  The chaos of history is immediately political as the alienated heart attempts to rule over that which opposes its desires, and those who are injured wage war on those who oppress them.

At the birth of John the Baptist, his father, Zechariah, sang of the Messiah whom John would precede, an inspired song of political liberation:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David as he said through his holy prophets of long ago, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us – to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days….”

Zechariah had a vision of redemption that was political.  But if we look at the end of his song, we see that his vision of political redemption is uniquely appropriate to a people that is the people of God.  It is unlike any other political liberation ever touted: it is founded on the spiritual liberation of the individual.  So Zechariah ends his song:

“…And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”

The king who stands in for his people in a Passover sacrifice will so initiate the liberation of his people from the spiritual dominion of the City of the World.  Rome can wait.  First must come the restoration of the soul before the throne of God.

When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a child from God, his message was political:

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”[77]

A few months later, when Mary visited Elizabeth and rejoiced in the coming of her child, her song was of a renewed hope of justice for the victims of an unjust society:

“My soul glorifies the Lord… He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”[78]

When the infant Yeshua was brought to the temple for consecration, he was met by two people who were watching day by day for the appearing of the Messiah.  Simeon, who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” said to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel.”  Anna, a prophetess, came up to them, thanked God for the child, and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”[79]

Following this we know nothing of Yeshua as a child or as an adolescent or as a young man apart from his visit to the temple with his parents.  There, after losing him, they found him in discussion with the teachers in the temple.  His apology: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  Already his bond to his heavenly Father transcended his bond to his earthly father.  So was he on earth to form us into the transcendent kingdom of God which shall assume its inheritance through the power of the Spirit of God, not through raising a sword against the forces of Rome.

Luke tells us that at the time of the appearance of John the Baptist there was a mood of expectation of the coming of the Messiah.  Luke gives the very year:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar[80] – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene – during the high priesthood of Annas  and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert…” [81]

And this is how Luke describes the masses:

And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ [anointed king] or not; John answered, saying unto them all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to  unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.’”[82]

For all its transcendence, the political program of Yeshua was not less real but rather more real;  his threat not less threatening but rather more fearsome.  John the Baptist heralded the coming Messiah in a context of “the coming wrath” where “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Thousands upon thousands came to John for baptism.  This was normally a rite by which a gentile proselyte would be confirmed as having entered into Israel.  But these who were baptized were mostly Jews, genetically descended from Abraham.  John’s message was clear, that the coming kingdom was a transcendent kingdom not accessible merely through the grace of genetics:

“Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”[83]

These who came to John to be baptized in the Jordan were those who wanted the Israel of transcendence, the Israel of God.

xiv

The sealing of his royal office

Near the age of thirty[84],  the first public act of Yeshua was to come before John beside the Jordan and be baptized.  This became the moment of the first anointing of Yeshua by the Father.  The anointings of Yeshua loosely follow the paradigm of the anointings of David.  Samuel, by the will of YHVH,[85] first anointed David simply to mark him as God’s choice as king over all Israel.[86]  He did not assume rule at that time.

“So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of YHVH came upon David in power.”[87]

David became known within his tribe, the tribe of Judah, and the day came when David was anointed a second time as king over Judah by the men of Judah.

“Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.”[88]

Eventually all the tribes were reconciled to David and they recognized that he had been called by YHVH to rule Israel.  They bound themselves to David by covenant and anointed him the third time as king over all Israel.

“All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, ‘We are your own flesh and blood.  In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns.  And YHVH said to you, “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.”’  When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before YHVH, and they anointed David king over Israel.”[89]

John was baptizing on the far side of the Jordan River.  Yeshua emerged from the crowd.  John saw Yeshua approaching and said,

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

John saw in him the Passover sacrifice that would shake the throne of the heavens.  Yeshua had come to be baptized by John.  John resisted, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  Yeshua replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  In baptism John guided Yeshua down into the current of the Jordan, and Yeshua then rose up out of the water.

“At that moment heaven was opened and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

YHVH had marked Yeshua as the Messiah of eternal promise first by the anointing of the Holy Spirit and secondly by the anointing words conjoining two Messianic prophecies which could only be fulfilled in speech between the divine Father and the Son who is the eternal Messiah.

John recognized the import of the anointing of the Holy Spirit due to prior instruction:

“John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The  man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”  I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.’”[90]

Only the king with a claim to the throne of the heavens could promise to baptize his people with the Spirit of YHVH.  And only the Father could speak to his Son the words of prophecy which men heard from the heavens at that moment:

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

This was the expression of two phrases within well known Messianic passages, one from David, the other from Isaiah.   In the second Psalm, David portrayed YHVH speaking these words to the coming king:

“He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.’”

The rest of the anointing phrase came from the first servant song of Isaiah which marked the coming Messiah as beloved of God, as bearing the Holy Spirit, and as bringing justice to the earth:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations….In his law the islands will put their hope…I, YHVH, have called you in righteousness;…I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”[91]

This was the first anointing of Yeshua as the king who will heal the wounds of history.  The second anointing came on the Mount of Transfiguration.  There Yeshua stood in the presence of YHVH and in the presence of representatives of the eternal people, both from heaven and from earth.  Yeshua had set out with Peter, James, and John to go up onto a mountain and pray.  As he was praying,

“…he was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”[92]

They talked with him about the coming days in which he would go to the cross and be taken up to the throne of the heavens.  Then,

“…a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!’”

These were the paired phrases again spoken from the heavens as in the first anointing — with the addition of a call to obedience, as Yeshua was now taking to himself his holy people, entering into that chain of events by which he would set his people free.  In going to Jerusalem he was taking upon himself  the most noble act of kingship: the agony of a tortuous death, standing in for his people in the face of the awesome call of YHVH for justice.

As David was made king over all Israel, so we expect the eternal Messiah to have a third anointing, in which he assumes rule over all Israel.  But this is not yet possible!  The division of Israel has not yet been healed!  Israel is broken apart since the days of Rehoboam.  The ten tribes have not yet returned to their Messiah.  Israel must be restored.  Its people must rediscover and reach out for their king.  This day is coming.  It was promised by the word of the prophet Zechariah:

“‘This is the word of YHVH concerning Israel. …’I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.  On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great…The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves; the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives….They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people, and they will say, “YHVH is our God.’”[93]

Not only will Yeshua bind all Israel to himself.  He will rule all the earth in justice.

“The Lord will be king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name….Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, YHVH Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  …On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the house of YHVH will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar.”[94]

What is described here is something far beyond the investiture of David as king over Israel.  It is the accession of Yeshua to full authority over the heavens and the earth and the healing of the wound of history, so that even the most lowly objects are holy to God.  It is the end of the shame of nakedness.  It is the restoration of Creation.  This investiture, this “third anointing,” is so massive that it is the underlying context of the entire book of Revelation.  It has many phases, and it does not come about without a massive confrontation between the City of God and the City of the World – a confrontation in which the faithful pay for their loyalty with their lives.

xv

 Yeshua declares himself to his people

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”[95]

In all the world, it is Yeshua alone who calls on us to surrender our right to ourselves.   Every other regime leaves our autonomy intact.  Time after time Israel experienced the glory of being ruled by God and by his stewards, and time after time Israel turned away and asked for a king like the other nations.  The voice of the carnal soul demands its sovereignty.  Its voice is rarely heard before the throne of God until its petty kingdom has been proven bankrupt.  When Yeshua appeared it was a time when many in the nation saw their need for the divine king who would redeem the soul and revive the nation.  But there were also many still clinging to Rome, clinging to the appearance of power, preferring the treasure they held in their hand to the treasures of a kingdom they could not see.

Herod, for all his limitations, wore splendid robes.  Even his most evil presence still inspired awe.  Yeshua walked in the dust like other men.  He dressed like other men.  He ate and drank and slept like other men.  Only his words, his bearing, his power of healing, his power over the spirits of the underworld, and his eternal purpose — in these he was different from other men.

It seems that Yeshua first declared himself shortly after his anointing beside the Jordan.  Immediately after leaving John he went into the desert for forty days and was tested by Satan.  At the end of that time Satan pressed Yeshua to see if he could be made to doubt his being the “Son of God,” and to see if he could get Yeshua to counter him with a meanness that would be a denial of his holiness.  But, weakened from hunger, Yeshua was unphased and answered all of Satan’s taunts and insinuations with simple quotations from Scripture.  Then he headed north toward his home town and ultimately the synagogue which he had known as a child.  There he did not try to prove himself.  He simply testified that in his person the Messianic hope was now being fulfilled:

“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.  He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.  And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

‘The Spirit of YHVH is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

This passage was just part of Isaiah’s well known Messianic prophecy.  As much as the townsmen of Yeshua appreciated the gracious demeanor of Yeshua, they did not expect a Messianic claim to come from the son of the local carpenter.

“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Telling them “no prophet is accepted in his hometown,” Yeshua then challenged them to consider that Israel had a tradition of rejecting its prophets, even when outsiders welcomed them.

There were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.  And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.”

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.[96]

Demons, on the other hand, had little trouble recognizing Yeshua for who he really was.  Nor did they hesitate to obey him.  Shortly after leaving Nazareth Yeshua arrived in Capernaum and went to the synagogue where he met a man possessed by a demon.

He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha!  What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly.  “Come out of him!”  Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.[97]

The Pharisees and teachers of the law, who represented themselves as the very voice of God to the people, had issue with Yeshua.  He was asking too much.  The pleasure of the Pharisee was to imagine that God’s call to obedience is purely formal.  In the world of formal obedience even an angry and jealous man can keep the law.  It is conceivable that even a demon possessed man can obey Caesar, because formal adherence to the law is all that is expected.  But a demon- possessed man cannot belong to Yeshua.  Yeshua must have the whole man.  Yeshua must enter the heart’s house, and we must maintain an environment for his enduring presence.  In the kingdom of Yeshua, healing is not a perquisite.  It is requisite.  Yeshua condemned the Pharisees for holding to an idea of religion that failed to recognize the essential presence of the person of  God.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”[98]

But many came eagerly to Yeshua, recognizing him immediately as the Messiah promised since the time of Moses — first and foremost the disciples whom Yeshua called individually.  Seemingly they already had a place for him in their heart, and he commanded them to follow him.

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him.

“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.  They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”[99]

Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.  ‘Follow me,’  Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.”[100]

“Jesus decided to leave for Galilee.  Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’

‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’

Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree.  You shall see greater things than that.”  He then added, “I tell  you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”[101]

Yeshua is the ladder between heaven and earth.  In him all things are bound together.  Through him we ascend into the presence of the Father.  In him the Father finds us beautiful and takes us as his people.

Yeshua went throughout Judea and Galilee teaching that the kingdom of God was theirs to be seized – by opening their hearts to their God,  by being born of the Spirit, by taking up their cross and following him, by looking to the Son and believing in him, by recognizing that Yeshua had come to bring life to us who are captive to the spirit of the world.  In sum, he called men and women with a message which was totally demanding and often difficult to hear.

“I am the bread of life….Here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.  This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world…Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you….Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?’  Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “…The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”[102]

xvi

The road to Jerusalem

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”[103]

In the winter of 32/33 A.D. Yeshua made his way through Galilee and turned toward Jerusalem, avoiding Samaria, crossing to the east side of the Jordan, heading south through Perea [“Judea beyond the Jordan”].

Yeshua, with his disciples, visited Caesarea Philippi, at the foot of Mount Hermon, once a much simpler town known as Panea, devoted to Pan.  It was a town renowned for the worship of pagan gods under Greece and under Rome.  There in the precincts of the enemy, surrounded by memorials to false gods, Yeshua asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”  Peter famously responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”  To which Yeshua replied,

“Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”[104]

So Yeshua asserted that our intelligence of the nature of God and of Yeshua is dependent upon God himself.  It is divine knowledge.  It is in no way common knowledge.

This moment in Caesarea Philippi was a turning point.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”[105]

Peter was immediately horrified and assured Yeshua that he would never let such a thing happen to him.  Yeshua replied that Peter’s words were an argument of Satan, that Peter was expressing the thinking of men, not the thinking of God.  Here Yeshua paused to reinforce in them the understanding that the way of the disciple is the way of the cross:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”[106]

A second time in Galilee Yeshua told them,

The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and            on the third day he will be raised to life.”  And the disciples were filled with grief.

John the Baptist had known that Yeshua was the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.   It would seem that the disciples would have grown to share this understanding.  They undoubtedly knew what Isaiah had prophesied of the Messiah who takes upon himself the penalty of our sin.  Was it beyond reckoning that their Messiah, with all the character and command of God, should be on his way to death at the hands of blighted and evil men? Were they blinded by grief in imagining that for their own sins this one whom they loved would die a tortuous death?

As they travelled south, Yeshua spoke to them a third time of his coming death and resurrection.  Six days before Passover he arrived in Bethany, at the home of Mary and Martha, and of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

xvii

The Passover sacrifice

The times of the Passover ritual were given by God to Moses, so to define the program of Israel’s redemption from Egypt.  The application of the blood of lambs to the lintels of the houses of Israel was a prayer looking forward in anticipation to the one who would pay the true price of redemption.

“YHVH said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month [Nisan] is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household… The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect… Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. …On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am YHVH.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

In Revelation John will point to Yeshua repeatedly as the Lamb, referring back not only to the events of the Exodus but even to the beginning of time on earth:  John calls Yeshua “the Lamb slain from the creation of the world.”[107]

With the Sabbath coming to a close at sunset, on a Saturday evening, in the first hours of the 10th of Nisan, Yeshua, with his disciples, completed his journey from Ephraim to Bethany and entered the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, joining them for dinner.  This was the ingathering of the Lamb.

“Six days before Passover Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor.”[108]

John says that word spread that Jesus had arrived there, and many came to see him, presumably in the following daylight hours of that first day of the week.  After passing the night, Yeshua did not remain long in Bethany, but set out for Jerusalem.

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, …’Blessed is the King of Israel.’”[109]

Matthew tells how this moment became the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah:

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on theMount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey there, with her colt by her.  Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’  This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’

“…The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’”[110]

Luke elaborates on the disparity in his reception – the good will of the masses at odds with the contempt of the religious elites.  Up until this moment he had warned people not to broadcast the word that the king of destiny had come.  Now, on this day, he presented himself openly as king of Israel, heir to the throne of David.  This day was the day of fulfilment of the prophecy of Daniel.  And on this day Yeshua saw that in the coming hours Jerusalem would kill its king:

The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’

“…Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

“‘I tell, you, he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.’”[111]

So the destruction of Jerusalem, the grim prophecy which Yeshua laid down, would soon be fulfilled by the hand of Rome in 70 A.D.

Having entered the city, Yeshua went to the temple, physically overturned the tables of the money exchange and the benches of those selling sacrificial doves, declaring,

“It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers.” 

Yeshua was claiming the temple as the house of his Father – as his own house.  That night he returned to Bethany.  Early the following morning he was on his way back to the temple, back to his house, where he was questioned by the Pharisees and Sadducees, where he answered their riddles with parables.

Two days before Passover[112] Yeshua and his disciples were leaving the temple and his disciples were taking note of the grandeur of the Herodian edifice.  Yeshua responded,

Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

…again alluding to the destruction that would arrive before the end of the century.  The disciples asked him when this would occur and “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  They were beginning to have a vision of the trajectory along which Yeshua was moving.  Yeshua tried to shore up their vision of this trajectory.  He gave them a general sequence of  events which would transpire in the space between his victory at the cross and his return in glory.  Revelation is the expansion of this brief narrative, as it is also the narrative of the final gathering of all things under the rule of our king.

Addressing his disciples, Yeshua expressed special concern that in the coming time they not be deceived by Satan.  Yeshua IS Truth.  He is the Logos of God.  He is the Tao.  All things have their origin in him.  In him lie all the secrets of majesty and power.  We are safe from deception  if we remain in him.  We are warned to remain fixed on him alone, to be wise to the difference between the nominal Christ of our own imagining and the actual Christ who rules history and rules in the heart’s house.  He warned the disciples,

Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”[113]

And, in the time of greatest distress,

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ of ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”[114]

Yeshua clearly stated that his return, coming upon the heels of solar and planetary disruption, will be a return in grandeur, apparent to all the world:

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  …Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ [quoting from Isaiah 13.10] 

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory….

“… No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor even the Son, but only the Father.”[115]

The disciples were beginning to take possession of a sharp revision of their expectations.  Their eternal king was not about to assume an earthly throne.  He was about to die, to rise from the dead, to ascend to the throne of the heavens, and then, in some future and unknown time, to return and establish his power in the dust of Jerusalem.  This still would have been a hard doctrine, had it not been for the final teaching which Yeshua would deliver the following evening at the Preparation Day dinner.

During the daylight hours of 13 Nisan Yeshua indicated to the disciples where they would set up for the celebration of Passover.  That evening, in the early hours of 14 Nisan, they held a Preparation Day dinner.  Yeshua knew that in the coming hours he would be arrested, put through the ritual of a mock trial, and, at the hour when the Passover lambs are slain, would be nailed to a Roman cross.

In the course of that dinner Yeshua shared with the disciples his instruction as to the profound restructuring of the communion between man and God which he was about to realize through the agency of his Passover sacrifice.  Prior to this they had received only a hint:

“’If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’  By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”[116]

Now Yeshua saw his death as imminent.  He knew that his sacrifice would have long-intended consequences throughout the world.  During that day, in agony, he had hesitated and then called out to YHVH: “Father, glorify your name!”  And the voice came down from heaven: “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  Then Yeshua said,

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”[117]

[Revelation will teach us the mystery of the power of Christ’s sacrifice to cast Satan from the courts of heaven.]

Seated at dinner with his disciples, Yeshua saw their growing despair that they should lose sight of their king.  Philip was looking for a way to carry on, to live with Yeshua absent and still love God, so he said,

Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

But Yeshua wasn’t letting go of them.  Yeshua replied,

I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”[118]

This answer was double-sided, solace and loss.  So now it was time for the teaching that would heal everything, the guarantee that they would know God and be known by God, the teaching that they would never be separated from Yeshua and that, through the Spirit of Yeshua, they would know Yeshua and the Father with an intimacy which far exceeds the intimacy of mere proximity in space:

If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and your are in me, and I am in you….If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”[119]

“All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”[120]

The Spirit of YHVH, the Spirit of Yeshua our king, this is the steel wire binding us to the person of God, to the throne of the heavens.  Our hearts being open, he holds court in the heart’s house, ruling, healing, teaching, breaking, removing, rebuilding, until we are made ready for his purposes.  In Revelation Yeshua will give us this golden truth in an iconic picture of himself coming to claim his place at the table:

“Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and sup with him and he with me.  And the conqueror [the survivor!] shall sit beside me on my throne as I myself have conquered and sat down beside my Father on his throne.”[121]

 *    *    *    *

That evening Yeshua and the disciples did not retire to Bethany but rather crossed the Kidron Valley and entered an olive grove known as Gethsemane.  “Overwhelmed with sorrow” Yeshua prayed and asked the disciples to keep watch.  Judas, who had gone away during dinner, now reappeared, followed by a band of soldiers and Jewish officials.  They seized Yeshua, bound him, and led him toward the city.  They brought him to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, and then to Caiaphas the high priest.    Caiaphas in the night hours had already assembled the court of the Sanhedrin in his home.  They interrogated Yeshua.  Through their questions they were searching for the charge that they would try to stick to him.  For their own purposes they were happy to settle on Blasphemy – that he should call himself the Son of God.  Yeshua satisfied their perverse plot as he told them,

From now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

The priests and their armed men took Yeshua to Pontius Pilate, as Judea at this time fell under the jurisdiction of the Roman province of Syria.  Pilate had come to Jerusalem, knowing that the feast of Passover would create an unusual congestion of pilgrims from the countryside, and anticipating that he should be present to keep an eye on it.

Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin wanted Rome’s participation to help legitimize their undertakings, since at every turn they were in violation of their own process of law.  Blasphemy would not be a capital offense in the eyes of Rome.  Nor did the claim to be king of the Jews offend Pilate.  In the end Pilate said he found Yeshua innocent of any crime and washed his hands of all accusation.  He put the death sentence in the hands of the Jews by offering to free either of two “criminals,” Yeshua or Barabbas.  The mob chose to see Barabbas go free and Yeshua to perish.  Pilate disavowed a hand in his death, and the crowd cried “His blood be upon us.”   So it is indeed the deeds of each one of us that put him on the cross.

Pilate still failed to understand that, unlike the Hasmoneans and the Herodians, the royal claim of Yeshua upon his subjects transcended the claim of Caesar and every other earthly power.  Taken aback by Yeshua’s lack of effort to speak in his own defense, Pilate confronted him:

Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Yeshua took this moment to intimate to Pilate that he was in the face of something greater than Roman power:

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above….” 

But nothing could now inhibit the momentum of this event of ancient origin, born at the gates of Eden with the words,

“He shall crush your head though you shall wound his heel.”

Now was the moment when the City of God and the City of the World met head on, and our king was wounded and brought down, though only to rise up again, victorious over death, while his love for his children would lead to the full expulsion of the Accuser from the courts of heaven, and, eventually, his expulsion from the face of the earth.  For now, Caesar must have his day, in order that his impotence be manifest, in order that the love of our king be revealed.

“From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, ‘If  you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.  Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’  When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement [which in Aramaic is Gabbatha].  It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.[122]

’Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, ‘Take him away!  Take him away!  Crucify him!’

’Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.

’We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.  So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own  cross, he went out to the place of the Skull [which in Aramaic is Golgotha].  Here they crucified him, and with him two others –one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  It read:

JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Because the next day was the High Sabbath of Passover, Yeshua was buried soon after he died and was taken down from the cross.  Joseph of Arimathea had obtained permission from Pilate to take care of his burial.  He was aided by Nicodemus.  John writes:

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”[123]

The tomb remained closed and under guard from Preparation Day through the High Sabbath of Passover, from Passover through the regular seventh day Sabbath which followed and into the early hours of the first day of the week.  Before dawn, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  The burial clothes lay inside the tomb, but Yeshua was not there.  Peter and John came to witness the scene and did not understand the meaning of it.  The disciples went home, but Mary remained in the garden, weeping.  Mary sought information from a man in the garden, who then said to her, “Mary!” and then she saw that it was Yeshua.  That very evening Yeshua went to meet with his disciples in the house where they were staying.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 

“After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”[124]

For forty days Yeshua taught his disciples and others who had held close to him during his ministry.  In the book of Acts Luke says that to them “he spoke about the kingdom of God.”   He gave them this command, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Near the end of the forty days Yeshua met with his disciples on a mountain in Galilee.  There he gave them “the great commission,”

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[125]

Not long afterward he was with them on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem.  He blessed them and then ascended into heaven.

From this time forward the kingdom and the kingship of Yeshua and the binding power of the Holy Spirit would be manifest.  On the day of Pentecost, barely a week after Yeshua’s ascension into the heavens, the disciples were waiting together in Jerusalem as Yeshua had commanded, and the Holy Spirit came upon them in such a way that they spoke in foreign languages and people from all over the eastern Mediterranean heard them speak in their own tongue.

This was the outward sign which God chose for that moment to mark an inner event, the advent of the Spirit of Yeshua into the heart of the believer to heal and instruct and sustain.  It was significant that this enlistment of men should occur on Pentecost, a day appointed between YHVH and Moses as the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover.  It was on this 50th [Pentecost] day when Israel received the commandments of the Law in the Sinai desert.  Now on this 50th day the advent of the Spirit would mark the commencement of the living law reigning within the heart:

“I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.”[126]

This was the birth of the transcendent Israel of God.  The geopolitical nation, within a few decades, would be ripped to pieces.  But, ruling from the heavenly throne, Yeshua could say,

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live you also will live….I am the vine, you are the branches… Remain in me and I will remain in you.”[127]

Xviii

“As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  ….You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”[128]

The kingdom of God is in man

During his early passage through Samaria, Yeshua held a significantly prophetic conversation with a woman drawing water at Jacob’s well in Sychar.  She had uttered a mild complaint that, whereas Samaritans are happy to worship on Mt. Gerizim, Jews insist that worship must take place in Jerusalem.  She was accurately alluding to the ancient expectation that Israel celebrate its major feasts at the temple in Jerusalem.  Yeshua then opened to her an insight into a time which was fast approaching, and would in fact be fulfilled before the end of the century, before the arrival of the Revelation:

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”[129]

Within the next sixty years Galilee and Judea would be laid waste by Rome.  The Temple, after becoming a bastion of rebel resistance, would be overcome, burned, and dismantled down to its foundations.  The occupants of Jerusalem would be slaughtered, the city burned and razed.  For the foreseeable future, and up into the present, this was the end of Jerusalem and the temple as the center of worship.  Now the true worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth, “for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  The limited bonds of geography and kinship and nation were now to be replaced by the bond of Spirit uniting the heart of the individual with the person of Yeshua on the throne of the heavens.

Under the imperative of the “great commission” and under the compulsion of the love of Yeshua made known to them through the Spirit, the disciples, now apostles, spread out through the Mediterranean and eastern nations.

Peter remained a leader among Jews.  It is claimed that he led the assembly in Antioch.  And his first letter suggests that he was familiar with much of Asia Minor.  There is a strong tradition that he went to Rome toward 62 A.D. and was martyred there.  By his teaching in Rome four concubines of king Agrippa II and the wife of Albinus, a friend of the emperor Nero, were converted.  This infuriated Albinus and Agrippa, leading to the crucifixion of both Peter and his wife.

James, brother of Yeshua, remained at the head of the assembly in Jerusalem and was revered for his integrity by most in the city.  He scrupulously adhered to Jewish law.   Ananus the high priest came up with a way to entrap James in the interregnum between the death of Festus, the Roman governor, and the appearnace of Albinus the next governor.  Given the public trust, Ananus asked James to speak publicly against the radicalism of faith in Yeshua Messiah.  Instead James spoke out, saying,

“Why do you ask me concerning Jesus the Son of Man?  He is now sitting in the heavens on the right hand of the Great Power, and he is about to come on the clouds of heaven.”[130]

For this they pushed him off the wall of the temple, stoned him and beat him to death.

John had been very close to Peter, his partner in the fishing trade.  John became perhaps the closest to Yeshua of all the disciples.  From the cross Yeshua asked John to take his mother Mary into his care.  John stayed in Jerusalem and cared for her until her death.[131]  It would have been during this time in Jerusalem that he wrote his gospel.  Later, toward 61 A.D.,  he went to Rome.  In the time of Domitian [81- 96 A.D.] he was banished to the island of Patmos, where he  received the Revelation.

Andrew was Peter’s brother.  He first introduced Peter to Jesus.  Tradition claims that Andrew went to Cappadocia, Bithynia, and Galatia [all in eastern Asia Minor], Byzantium and Greece, and also Scythia [Ukraine, southern Russia and Kazakhstan].  There are legends connecting him to Scotland.  [There is a Celtic connection between Galatia, Gall, and the Gaelic speaking people of Scotland and Wales].  Andrew was martyred in Patras, Achaia, just west of Corinth.  There Maximilla, wife of the governor, was healed through his prayer and she turned to follow Yeshua.  Aegeas, the governor, remained hostile to her faith.  Then his brother’s servant was healed and converted.  Andrew was condemned, tied to a cross and left to die of starvation and exposure. [132]

Thomas spread knowledge of Yeshua from the Tigris River in Mesopotamia to the Indus River and on into India.

“Sophronius, in his additions to Jerome’s Lives of Illustrious Men, says that Thomas preached the gospel ‘to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Carmanians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians and Magians and died at Calamina in India.’”[133]

A sixth century traveler found Christian assemblies in India in Malabar and in Caliana, south of Bombay.  It is said that Thomas died by the thrust of a lance at Mailapore [Myalapur, now a suburb of Madras].[134]

Matthew wrote a gospel, and there is broad agreement that he first wrote it in Hebrew.  Few details of Matthew’s later life are known.  It is said that when the apostles first divided their efforts, Matthew was destined for Ethiopia.  Others connect him with Persia and Parthia and Macedonia.  According to Eusebius, Philip became a leading witness in Asia [western Anatolia] and was martyred in Hierapolis.[135]  Simon the Zealot is said to have spread the word in Africa, in Egypt, in Britain, and in Persia.  James, brother of John, is recorded as preaching Christ in Spain, then, upon returning to Judea, being martyred by one of the Herods.  Legends connect  Bartholomew to India, Phrygia, and Armenia.

Jerome and Eusebius record the story of Thaddaeus taking the message to Edessa, a town in northern Mesopotamia, and they record his synoptic response at a time when he was called to summarize his message before the whole town:

“I will preach in their presence, and sow among them the word of God, concerning the coming of Jesus, how he was born; and concerning his mission, for what purpose he was sent by the Father; and concerning the power of his works, and the mysteries which he proclaimed in the world, and by what power he did these things; and concerning his new preaching, and his abasement and humiliation, and how he humbled himself, and died and debased his divinity and was crucified, and descended into Hades, and burst the bars which from eternity had not been broken, and raised the dead; for he descended alone and rose with many, and thus ascended to his Father.”[136]

It is said that Thaddeus died, shot with arrows, on Ararat, near Lake Van, in northeast Turkey.

There were many others who carried to the nations the news that the seed of the woman had come.  Most notable among them was Saul, who came to be called Paul.  Originally a Pharisee persecuting the rise of believers in Yeshua, a staunch defender of tradition and the status quo, he was present at the stoning of Stephen.  While traveling to Damascus he was struck by a light from heaven and confronted by a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Curiously, he answered, “Who are you, Lord?”

The voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

In a short time Saul also was travelling throughout the Mediterranean world teaching that Yeshua is the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah of Israel.  From his conversion in 35 A.D until his final imprisonment in Rome in 68 A.D. he traveled back and forth between Corinth and Jerusalem, with much time spent in the Aegean cities of coastal Asia [Troy, Pergamum, Smyrna, Ephesus, and Miletus] as well as Athens, Thessalonica, Philippi, Antioch in Pisidia, Antioch in Syria, Cyprus, Damascus, and many others.  It is believed that Paul was judged in Rome and executed.

The apostles suffered and died for the name of their Lord.  But it was a special kind of suffering.  It was not a rude anguish.  It was more like the hymn of souls given the honor of expressing the depth to which they entrusted soul and body to their Lord.  Barclay quotes a prayer attributed to Andrew as he was tied to the cross.

“Hail, precious cross!  Thou hast been consecrated by the body of my Lord, and adorned with his limbs as rich jewels.  I come to thee exulting and glad.  Receive me with joy into thy arms.  O good cross, thou hast received beauty from our Lord’s limbs.  I have ardently loved thee.  Long have I desired and sought thee.  Now thou art found by me, and art made ready for my longing soul.  Receive me into thine arms; take me up from among men, and present me to my Master, that he who redeemed me on thee may receive me by thee.”[137]

Xix

Devastation

During these same years another kind of suffering was growing and overwhelming Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem.  The killing of the king leads to chaos.  To kill the king under normal circumstances is to take down the embodiment of order and law.  To kill the king who is the Son of God is to reject the order of the universe and to presume to install in the world an order of one’s own making.

Yeshua, on the day of his triumphal entry, had foreseen the coming darkness.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”[138]

In 37 A.D. Caligula [Caius Caesar] came to power in Rome.  He saw himself as a god and sent Petronius and an army to Jerusalem to install statues of himself in the temple.  Petronius appeared with several legions in Ptolemais on the northern coast.  Large numbers of Jews gathered near that city and told him the nation would die before allowing an image of Caligula in the temple.  Petronius was persuaded by the gravity of the response.  He proposed to Caligula that the plan be abandoned, which produced a violent response from the emperor.  But Caligula died so soon afterward that the confrontation passed.

During Passover, 48 A.D., there was new trouble at the temple in Jerusalem.  At this time Caligula’s successor, Claudius, was emperor, and Ventidius Cumanus was procurator of Judea.  As was the habit during Passover, a Roman cohort stood guard over the cloisters adjacent to the temple.  A soldier exposed himself and made an obscene gesture toward the crowds.  In return, some threw stones at the soldiers.  Some ran to Cumanus and demanded justice.  Cumanus responded by sending more soldiers to the scene.  As the soldiers crowded into the cloisters, the people attempted to force an exit from the temple and down into the city.  There was such chaos that ten thousand died, most being trampled in the narrow streets.  This sent the nation into mourning.

Soon afterward a servant of Caesar, carrying a piece of furniture along a road, was attacked by robbers.  Cumanus sent a small detachment of soldiers to find the robbers.  One of the soldiers, coming upon a copy of the sacred book of the law, tore it to pieces and threw it into the fire.  Protest over this incident was intense, until Cumanus agreed to execute the soldier.

The accession of Nero in 54 A.D., like a fever, destabilized the empire.  His dissolute and often barbarous conduct inspired license in the behavior of those beneath him.  Given a sense of underlying chaos in the powers now ruling over Judea, the rebels in Jerusalem became more audacious.  There came to be a lawless group known as the sicarii, named after the daggers they carried under their cloaks.  They were not rebels with an ideal.  They were more like accidental anarchists taking advantage of weakness for their own profit.  They justified their actions in the universal hatred of Rome, but in reality they preyed upon both Romans and Jews.  Their destructive influence was seconded, and sometimes opposed, by the Zealots, who espoused the purpose to employ violence to overthrow Rome and “obey no one but God.”

The sicarii murdered Jonathan the high priest, after which no one felt safe.  Men claiming to be rebels against Rome randomly pillaged the villages of Judea.  From 59 to 62 the Roman procurator Festus did his best to chase down the anarchists, but his successor, Albinus, was completely corrupted by the spirit of Nero.  [During this transition James, brother of Jesus, was martyred].  Albinus made himself rich by filling the prisons, then allowing the prisoners to buy their freedom.  He plundered the estates of the rich and demanded heavy taxes of the whole nation.  At this same time there was extensive unemployment in Jerusalem as the restoration of the temple came to completion.  To further unsettle the lords of the realm, Albinus’ wife Xanthippe, and four concubines of Agrippa were converted to follow Yeshua through the word of Peter.

The Great Fire of Rome came about in 64 A.D.  Nero eventually blamed it on the Christians, who were not considered to be distinct from Jewish culture, only a Messianic cult within Jewish worship. The scapegoating of a Jewish cult further destabilized relations between Jews and Rome.

In 64 A.D. Gessius Florus replaced Albinus.  He was even more corrupt and rapacious, to the point that the people were fond of mocking him.  Then, in 66 A.D., the 12th year of Nero, there was an incident which is considered to be the act which precipitated the rebellion which would end in the fall of Jerusalem.  Coming up to Passover, when Cestius Gallus, governor of Syria, visited Jerusalem, three million Jews crowded around him and begged him to free them of the burden of being ruled  by Gessius Florus.  Cestius took it lightly, since Florus was there in his presence; then, without response, Cestius returned to Antioch.  Florus took the incident as a warning that the population bitterly opposed him.

Then there followed an incident in Caesarea Maritima, Florus’ seat of power, where a Greek landowner, on the Sabbath, offended the Jews at the synagogue by sacrificing birds at the entrance and destroying the ritual cleanliness of the place.  Huge protests followed.  Florus at this time was moving his residence to the royal palace in Jerusalem and was very sensitive to the angry reactions of those in Jerusalem.  Florus demanded of the leaders in Jerusalem that they produce the leaders of the protest.  They instead asked for mercy and consideration that the protest was justified.  Florus was incensed and sent soldiers to plunder the Upper Market Place in Jerusalem.  They ravaged the area, but then, after taking whatever they wanted, they went from house to house murdering the inhabitants, in all about three thousand six hundred people.  Josephus adds:

“..what made this calamity the heavier, was this new method of Roman barbarity; for Florus ventured then to do what no one had done before, that is, to have men of the equestrian order whipped, and nailed to the cross before his tribunal; who, although they were by birth Jews, yet were they of Roman dignity notwithstanding.”[139]

King Agrippa and his sister Bernice witnessed the cruelty of Florus and his soldiers toward the population of Jerusalem and begged him to leave them in peace, but Florus ignored their pleas.  Bernice stood barefoot with her head shaved before the tribunal of Florus, but she was ignored.[140]

Florus attempted to take control of Fort Antonia just north of the temple in order to break through the connecting cloisters and plunder the temple.  The more active rebels cut down the cloisters in order to protect the temple.  Florus abandoned his plans and returned to Caesarea Maritima.

A man named Menahem was the son of Judas the Galilean, one of the founders of the Zealots.  He broke into Herod’s armory at Masada and so made himself leader of the sedition, stealing a large stash of weapons.  People disliked Menahem and killed him, but now the opposition to Rome was more motivated and better armed.   Agrippa and Bernice begged the Jews to understand that a war against Rome could not succeed.  Their words made little impression.   Those in favor of sedition acted treacherously against Rome and against the moderate citizens of Jerusalem.  This only amplified the will of Rome to suppress them.

Jews became hated by the heavily Greek and Roman population of Caesarea.  Florus, in one day, gathered the entire Jewish population of Caesarea, and, in one hour, slaughtered twenty thousand.  The nation was enraged.  Jews then attacked cities throughout the Syrian [i.e. Antiochian Greek] regions.  With mixed populations, this created even greater divisions among the Jews.

Division spread to Alexandria, exacerbating a longstanding contempt there for Jews since the days of Alexander the Great when he gave Jews civic privilege above that of the Egyptians and equal with that of the Greeks.  A minor incident led to the Roman governor allowing two legions of soldiers to attack the Jewish settlement, plunder and burn their houses.  After a fierce battle, fifty thousand Jews were killed.

Cestius Gallus, governor of Syria, decided it was time to act to mute Jewish anger.  He took a legion from Antioch to Ptolemais.  He was joined by King Agrippa and a contingent of men.  They overran the countryside around Ptolemais.  They plundered Zebulon in Galilee.  They killed eight thousand four hundred in Joppa.  Cestius began to observe that the Jews were gathering themselves to fight back.  Sensing a threat to Roman positions, he turned his army toward Jerusalem.

Advancing with thirty thousand men, he broke through into the city.  Many tried to aid his entry, treating him as their rescuer, but he mistrusted them.  Meanwhile the active combatants rapidly gathered around him and assaulted him.  He lost his confidence and retreated out of the city.  Josephus claims that if he had understood his huge advantage he would have remained and would have easily taken the city.  This was in the “twelfth year of Nero,”  66/67A.D.[141]  The easy “victory” of the Jews over the Roman legions would contribute to their unwarranted confidence in the battles to come.  Evidence that Rome would be back caused many to quit the city at this time.  It is said that many followers of Yeshua went to Pella.

Three mutually antagonistic factions began to organize themselves territorially within Jerusalem,  Simon bar Giora along the outer walls and closer to the populace, Eleazar ben Simon in the temple, and John of Gischala in the cloisters on the north side of the temple.  John overtook Eleazar in the temple and murdered him, leaving two factions, both of which preyed upon the population.  In their struggles they destroyed much of the corn which was the city’s food reserve.  Both Josephus and Tacitus mention that in this time there were signs in the sky, in particular a comet which hung in the sky like a sword.  All sides interpreted these as portending their own victory.

Nero was grieved that Cestius had failed to take Jerusalem.  He sent Vespasian to govern Syria and to take command of Jerusalem.  Vespasian gathered several legions and had his son Titus bring up two legions from Alexandria.  Titus and his army joined with Vespasian at Ptolemais.  They also were joined by the forces of King Agrippa.  Vespasian intended to eliminate resistance in the countryside before focusing on Jerusalem.  They proceeded to take the rebel held towns of Galilee.  In the conquest of the town of Jotapata Vespasian captured Josephus, commander of the army of Galilee.  Josephus prophesied his belief that Vespasian was destined to become emperor.   This pronouncement won him enough favor that he was maintained as an interpreter and intermediary close to Vespasian and then Titus.  In this capacity he had the most privileged point of view from which to witness the wars.   Supported by later access to documents, and even the books salvaged from the temple, Josephus was able to write his histories.

The death of Nero in the summer of 68 A.D. caused Vespasian to pause his planned assault on Jerusalem.  He did however lay waste to much of Judea, Perea, and Idumea.  From the summer of 68 to the summer of 69, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, in succession, all briefly held power in Rome.  In July of 69 A.D. the Roman legions of Egypt and Judea dared to declare their commander Vespasian to be Emperor.  But Vespasian had to await events in Rome.

Meanwhile the factions within Jerusalem were so intent on their civil war that Vespasian judged it prudent to hold off and let the factions slay each other.  Many did their best to flee the city.  In general the rich succeeded in escaping by paying money to the Zealots.  The poor who tried to flee were killed.  Josephus writes that the dead lay in piles in the streets as the Zealots tried to rule through terror.

“These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of man, and laughed at the laws of God.”[142]

“The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear; nor had they any opportunity of taking counsel, and of  changing their conduct; nor were there any hope of coming to an agreement with their enemies; nor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious one against another in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies.  They agreed in nothing but this, to kill those that were innocent.”[143]

Then came the day in December, 69 A.D., that Vitellius was murdered in Rome and Vespasian was hailed as emperor.  Vespasian determined to remain in Rome and trust Titus to succeed in taking Jerusalem.  Titus set out with his legions and made an initial encampment on Mt. Scopus, about a mile north of the city.  He then had his troops level all the land between Mt. Scopus and the northern wall of the city, cutting down trees and burning villages.  On this side of the city there were three walls, at some distance from each other, separating the Romans from the inner city.  Titus began his advance in the spring of 70 A.D. as the city was filling with pilgrims for Passover.  Titus breached two of the walls quickly and then sent Josphus to negotiate a peace.   The Jewish rebels refused.  They were determined to fight.

Titus paused in his attack in order to build an outer wall encircling the entire city, so to bring an end to any escape from the city or any further resupply from the neighboring towns.  Once this was complete, famine increased rapidly.  People either died of starvation or were murdered for what food they possessed.  The streets were soon littered with rotting bodies.  The appraisal of Josephus is dark:

“…for the war was not now gone on with as if they had any hope of victory, for they gloried after a brutish manner in that despair of deliverance they were already in.”[144]

And yet the eyewitness Josephus claims that the Romans were moved by the courage of the Jews:

“…and, what was their greatest discouragement of all, they found the Jews’ courageous souls to be superior to the multitude of the miseries they were under by their sedition, their famine, and the war itself.”[145]

Soon, with heavy battle engines in place, Titus undertook the assault which would eventually lead him to the temple itself.  Titus made siege ramps up to the walls on the west side of Fort Antonia.  Fort Antonia sat just north of the temple, separated by an area of cloisters and two bridges which led from the fort to the temple.  Titus took control of the fort.  Then a vicious battle ensued on the narrow space of the bridges to the temple.  The Jews set fire to the cloisters at the northwest corner of the temple in order to arrest the Romans, but the fire began to spread to the sanctuary.  Battering rams were set up on the western wall of the inner temple, but six days of battering made no impression on the massive temple wall.  Titus ordered his men to set fire to the gates of the temple, and all the cloisters caught fire.  Titus tried to both quench the fire and seize the temple, but the fire went out of control and could not be stopped.  The temple was destroyed on the same month and day, the 9th of Av, as it had formerly been taken by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar.

“The flame was also carried a long way, and made an echo, together with the groans of those that were slain; and because this hill was high, and the works at the temple were very great, one would have thought that the whole city had been on fire….Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder; for one would have thought that the  hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething-hot, as full of fire on every part of it,that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those that slew them; for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over heaps of these bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them.”[146]

Soon the Romans established their ensigns on the grounds of the temple, clearing every citizen from the area.   A priest named Jesus, son of Thebuthus, brought out from the walls of the temple certain holy objects and gave them to Titus, including the menorah which is now seen carved on the arch of Titus in Rome.  The Romans proceeded to burn most of the city, including the lower city [City of David] as far as the pool of Siloam.

In the course of this whole war, ninety-seven thousand people were taken captive, and, partly due to the large influx into the city for Passover, one million one hundred thousand were killed, a figure sustained by the record of the number of Passover sacrifices ordained at that time.

And now the prophecy of Yeshua came to pass, that not one stone would lie upon another:

“Now, as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, …Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne, and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side.  This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valour had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.  This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”[147]

So Josephus affirms that what remains from that time in Jerusalem is not the base of the temple but the base of Fort Antonia.  Modern archaeology increasingly affirms that the temple was, as asserted repeatedly in Scripture, in the city of David, close above the Gihon spring, its eastern and southern walls plunging down into the Kidron Valley.

Xx

The Domitian persecution and the exile of John to Patmos

Titus took his spoils and left to spend the winter in Caesarea Maritima.  The tenth legion guarded over the remains of Jerusalem.  A contingent of the Sicarii established a final point of resistance in Masada, the great hilltop fortress built by Herod the Great.  Here they found ample provision of food and weapons.  The tenth legion  built an enormous siege ramp.  Upon penetrating the fortress the Romans found that the defenders, nearly a thousand men, women and children, had committed mass suicide.

After the fire in Rome and the year of anarchy which saw Galba, Otho, and Vitellius come and go, Vespasian had his hands full restoring order and structure to Rome.  He ruled until the summer of 79 A.D.  Upon his death his son Titus came to power.  Titus ruled with great popularity, though his younger  brother Domitian plotted against him.  According to Suetonius,

“Titus was seized with a dangerous illness, when Domitian ordered that he be left for dead, before he had actually drawn his last breath.”[148]

In the fall of  81 A.D., after just two years and a few months in power, Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem, died.

He was followed by Domitian.  After slaying his brother,  Domitian killed his enemies in the senate.  He soon turned against Jews, rigorously demanding that Jews everywhere, even children, pay the fiscus judaicus, the tax instituted by Vespasian,without which a Jew was not free to practice his religion.  As for Christians, Domitian decreeed that “No christian, once brought before a tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion.”  He ordered that anyone found to be of the lineage of David must be put to death.  For this leader of the Roman world empire, his imperial cult was of great importance.  Followers of Yeshua refused to take part in the imperial cult and for this they were condemned.  The persecution may have been of brief duration, but one of the most prominent people to endure the persecution was John the apostle, who received and recorded the vision now known as Revelation.[149]

 

[1] Isaiah 53.2,3

[2] Revelation 1.13-19

[3] Revelation 12.7-12

[4] Genesis 1.14,15

[5] Genesis 6.4-8

[6] Genesis 9.18-27

[7] Genesis 11.9

[8] Genesis 17.7

[9] Hebrews 11.8-10

[10] Genesis 22..15-18

[11] Psalm 78.49  “He unleashed against them his hot anger, …a band of destroying angels.”

[12] Exodus 6.6,7

[13] Exodus 19.4-6

[14] Revelation 21.3,6,7,8

[15] Exodus 20.18,19

[16] Exodus 33.11

[17]I Samuel 8.5

[18] II Samuel 7.5,6,11-14

[19] II Chronicles 10.16,17

[20] II Kings 21.9

[21] II Kings 21.14,15

[22] Lamentations 1.17,18

[23] Psalm 137.1-6

[24] Isaiah 49.1-6 excerpts

[25]Jeremiah 31.31-33

[26] Ezekiel 34.11-15 excerpts

[27] Ezekiel 36.24-28

[28] Job 19.25-27

[29] Daniel 7.13,14

[30] Daniel will have an analogous vision of his own in 553 B.C.  It is recorded in Daniel 7.  Instead of a statue of four metals, four beasts represent the four world kingdoms, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece/Macedon, and Rome, until the appearance of “one coming with the clouds of heaven….He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom  is one that will never be destroyed.”  Daniel 7.13,14

[31] Daniel 2.35

[32] Daniel 2. 44-45

[33] Isaiah 44.24-28; see also Isaiah 41.2 and 46.11

[34] Daniel 9.20-27

[35] Nehemiah 2.1-9

[36] reckoned as 1 Nisan or 14 March 445 B.C.

[37] 6 April 32 A.D.

[38] Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince

[39] Micah 4.10

[40] Isaiah 44.24,28; 45.1,2-5,12,13

[41] Matthew 1.12; Luke 3.28

[42] Haggai 2.1-9

[43] Samaria, Edom, the Ammonites, the Arabs, and the Philistines

[44] Daniel’s [chapter 11] vision of the warring kings foresees the events of the Persian and Greek periods in great detail – more detail than necessary for our narrative, therefore it is included as an Appendix.

[45] Micah 4.11,12

[46] 334 B.C.

[47] June 11, 323 B.C.

[48] I Maccabees 1.1-9

[49] II Maccabees 5.11-16

[50] I Maccabees 5.22-24

[51] II Maccabees 6.8,9

[52] I Maccabees 2..27,28

[53] Samaria, /Gaza, Edom, Arabia, Samaria

[54] I Maccabees 13.41

[55] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XII. 6.7

[56] Micah 5.1-5

[57] John 11.11

[58] Antiquities XV.7.10

[59] Antiquities XV.10.4

[60] Ezra’s Temple, Herod’s Temple and Ezekiel’s Vision of the Third Temple., Judaism.stackexchange.com

[61] This event is relevant in the dating of the death of Herod.

[62] Antiquities xvii.6.5

[63] Antiquities xvii.7.1

[64] Eclipse records reveal

[65] Antiquities xvii.10.2

[66] A clear reference to his reputation as an uncontrolled tyrant.

[67] Under Herod Antipas

[68] Matthew 2.1-23

[69]Luke 3.23-38

[70] Mattthew 1.1-17

[71] Jerenmiah 27.2,5-7

[72] Daniel 2.44,45

[73] Zechariah 4.6

[74] John 19.9,10,11

[75] John 18.36,37

[76] Isaiah 49.5,6

[77] Luke 1.31-33

[78] Luke 1.46,51-53

[79] Luke 2.38

[80] September 28 A.D. to September 29 A.D., with baptism and temptation of Yeshua taking place somewhere between September and December of 28 A.D.

[81] Luke 3.1,2

[82] Luke 3.15-18

[83] Luke 3.8

[84] Luke 3.23

[85] I Samuel 16.1

[86] I Samuel 16.1

[87] I Samuel 16.13

[88] II Samuel 2.4

[89] II Samuel 5.1-3

[90] John 1.32-34

 

[91] Isaiah 42.1,4,6,7

[92] Mathew 17.2

[93] Zechariah 12.1,10-14

[94] Zechariah 14.9,16,20

[95] John 1.10-13

[96] Luke 4.25-30

[97] Luke 4.34,35

[98] John 6.39

[99] Matthew 4.18-22

[100] Luke 6.27,28

[101] John 1.43-51

[102] John 6.48,51,53-56,63

[103] Luke 9.51

[104] Matthew 16.17

[105] Matthew 16.21

[106] Matthew 16.24,25

[107] Revelation 13.8

[108] John 12.1

[109] John 12.12,13

[110] Matthew 21.1-9

[111] Luke 19.37-44

[112][112] Matthew 26.2

[113] Matthew 24.5

[114] Matthew 24.23,24

 

[115] Matthew 24.26-30,36

[116] John 7.37-39

[117] John 12.28-31

[118] John 14.10

[119] John 14. 15-23

[120] John 14.25-27

[121] Revelation 3.20,21

[122] This is the clear statement, in complete agreement with all other information in the gospels, that Yeshua was crucified on the day before Passover, at the time when the lambs are sacrificed.

[123] John 19.41,42

[124] John 20.19,20

[125] Matthew 28.18-20

[126] Jeremiah 31.31-34

[127] John 14.18,19; 15.5,4

[128] I Peter 2.4,5,9

[129] John 4.21-24

[130] Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 2.23

[131] Nicephorus, The Ecclesiastical History, 2.2

[132] William Barclay, The Master’s Men

[133] Barclay, p. 52

[134] Ibid.

[135] Barclay p.91; Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 3.21

[136] Barclay, p. 122; Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 1.13; Jerome, Homily on Matthew, 10.4

[137] William Barclay, The Master’s Men, p.45

[138] Luke 19.41-44

[139] Wars of the Jews, II.14.9

[140] Wars II.15.1

[141] Wars II.19.9

[142] Wars IV.6.3

[143] Wars V.1.5

[144] Wars VI.1.1

[145] Wars VI.1.2

[146] Wars VI.5.1

[147] Wars VII 1.1

[148] Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, Domitian

[149] On this subject Eusebius quotes Irenaeus: “The Apocalypse was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.”

The identity of the God who knows me

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The Angel of Yahveh found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.  And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

            “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she answered.

Then the Angel of Yahveh told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”  The Angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

The Angel of Yahveh also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son.  You shall name him Ishmael, for Yahveh has heard of your misery.  He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

She gave this name to Yahveh who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”  That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.”[1]

 

i

Aristotle held that at the center of all things there is a God, that he is the Prime Mover and First Great Cause of all things.  His God, in order to be God, had to be perfect in all ways.  It could not “do” things which would cause it to abandon its perfection.  Nor could it contemplate things lesser than itself, as that would demean the god and would be a rebuke of its godly perfection.  For Aristotle there was nothing higher than mind, therefore he concluded that God can only be Mind Thinking Itself.  How does such a God set the world in motion?  According to Aristotle its motive force is its pure and unassailable perfection:  the universe turns in adoration of the divine perfection.

Aristotle’s God evoked a perfection of form, particularly in the realm of the heavenly bodies.   There was an enduring prejudice in the ancient world that the motion of the planets must be, by definition, circular, not elliptical, as the planets are in the heavens and belong to the divine.  [The circle is perfect motion around a center at rest.  The finite displacement of the center in the ellipse implies unrest and finitude, not characteristics of perfection.]

Aristotle’s God also claimed a perfection of content, as it contemplated only that which is highest, which is Mind, which is Itself.  To contemplate what is other than itself would violate its perfection, and to act on behalf of what is other than itself would be a supreme self-sacrifice.  Aristotle could not have contemplated the possibility of a God that would sacrifice itself on behalf of what is other than itself, as, for instance, in an extraordinary act of  love.  A purely rational God can act only according to what is necessary, and love is not an expression of necessity.  Love is a free gift, an expression of something beyond necessity.  Love is something which comes from a free person, from a consciousness which is able to choose to act in a fashion which is a sacrifice of self.  Such an act would have deconstituted Aristotle’s god.

Akin to Aristotle there have been many philosophies in recent centuries falling under the heading of Deism.  These theories also consider God to be a depersonalized Power or Force.  They may expect that their God is responsible for Creation, but, in their view, this God is disinterested, aloof from history.  For some, this God is like the clockmaker who assembles a mechanism, winds it up, and lets it go.  Such a God has no reason to make a special revelation of itself to an individual man or woman.  Deism takes no part in “revealed religion.”  Deists do not look to any of the Scriptures which portray God as intervening in human history or communing with specific individuals.  The Deist wants a cosmology in which all truth is accessible purely through reason.

The American founding fathers are often labeled Deists, but they were mostly Unitarians, a religion which in the 18th century still envisioned a God who is active in history, who is the source of Providence, and who is also a provider of justice and the hope of an afterlife.  Coming out of the Age of Reason they wanted God to be God [to have a will and to be capable of independent action], but they wanted him to be rational.  They felt that the human soul was not fallen but neutral, neither good nor bad, therefore free to act and due to be judged by its deeds.  Consequently, they were happy to see Christ simply as a moral teacher, not as their Redeemer.  Theologically they were not so far from Islam.

Whether it be Aristotle or the Unitarian or the Muslim, it is not so difficult to imagine that the aloof God is the cause of an order in the universe which is both beautiful and moral.   Therefore their God can be a force for justice in the world, so that ultimately the sheep and the goats will be separated and history will be worthwhile.  But it is not easy for these philosophers to imagine the aloof and rational God entering into history in specific acts where God conducts himself as an individual person, where his will and consciousness intersect with the will and consciousness of specific individual human beings.  Nor can they fathom such a thing as the incarnation of infinite God in the finite body and self-directed will of a human person.

 

 

ii

YHVH is the four letter equivalent of the Hebrew tetragrammaton   יהוה.  This name of God is variously pronounced Yahveh or Yahweh.  In the Hebrew Scriptures it is this God who revealed himself to Abraham and to Hagar.  He is more complex than all other gods.

No one has seen the God of Abraham face to face, yet he penetrates into human history.  He is above all things, yet he is active within space and time.  He has configured history to make possible the knowledge of himself in individual experience.  He is infinite yet makes himself known through the being and finite activity of the Logos.

The Logos translates casually as the “Word.”  However, its root significance in Greek is as “the fountain of all order and ratio in the world.”  It is a massive word with a meaning close to that of the “Tao.”  In the Chinese New Testament, the Logos is translated as the Tao.

John identifies Yeshua as the incarnation of the Logos and tells us clearly that in the beginning the Logos created the world.    The book of John opens with this analysis:

In the beginning was the Logos [the Tao], and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men…

The Logos became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God, but the One and Only Son of God who is at the Father’s side has made him known.”   John 1.1-4,14,18

The God of Israel has revealed himself in past times through his prophets but in this time through his Son.  So says the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, and he continues by saying,

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”  Hebrews 1.3

From the earliest days of the history of Israel, Yahveh entered into space time and, in the figure of the Angel of Yahveh, appeared to Abraham, to Hagar, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, and to many others.  The purpose of the shema, asserting, “Hear O Israel, Yahveh our God, Yahveh is One,” is not to reduce Yahveh to a simple monad but to affirm that he who both enters the world and is above all worlds is yet One.  The very name YHVH is an assertion that the actions of God are not an aberration from his character but are the exact expression of his character.

The God of Israel first revealed his eternal name to Moses.  When God spoke to Moses on Mount Horeb and told him that he was to return to Egypt and lead his people out of slavery, Moses asked God to reveal his name.  Moses saw that he was not in the presence of an aloof prime mover: he was in the presence of an in-historical God, a divine Person who entered into human history on the grounds of his own creative desire.  God then spoke his name to Moses, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh.” “I am and shall be that which I am.”

And God [Elohim] said unto Moses, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh”; and he said, “Thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, ‘EHYEH has sent me unto you.’”  And God said moreover unto Moses: “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: “YHVH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me unto you; this is my name forever and this is my memorial unto all generations.  Go and gather together the elders of Israel, and say unto them: YHVH, the God of your fathers, has appeared unto me….”

EHYEH is the first person expression which God says of himself. The phrase, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh,” translates as “I am [now and on into the future] that which I am.”  “YHVH” is the third person expression, which is ours to speak: “He is and shall be that which he is.”  Therefore it is understood that in saying the name YHVH we are saying, “He is, now and forevermore, that which he is.”  Or, more specifically, “He is and ever shall be [in his actions] that which he is [in his essential being.]”

By this name Yahveh affirms the eternity of his essential being and affirms that all his deeds are consistent with his essential being … even as he enters history through the finite actions of Yeshua the incarnation of the Logos and our eternal king.  This meaning of the name YHVH was carried forward when Christ said to the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” and was echoed by John in the book of Revelation when he wrote,

“Grace be to you and peace from he who is, who was, and who is to come.” Rev. 1.4

In Yeshua the Logos became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  In Yeshua Yahveh became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

The being of Yeshua reveals the being of the Father.  In Yeshua it is seen that Yahveh is a free agent who acts rationally and justly and is also free to reach out to his creation in irrational acts of love.  Throughout the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures Yahveh enters history on behalf of his people, healing and instructing those who seek the knowledge of him.  Through Yeshua he has established the grounds upon which the wounds of human rebellion are healed.  In the letter to the Colossians Paul wrote,

“He [Yeshua] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”[2]

 

iii

There is another vision of the world, a vision which claims its origins in the 7th century A.D. as a “new and final revelation” of God to men, ostensibly through Muhammad, a man who considered himself a prophet.  Muhammad claimed to receive revelations from the supreme God through the angel Gabriel.  He called the supreme God by the name Allah, a name which had historically been attached to the chief god of a polytheistic godhead worshiped at the Qa’aba in Mecca.  Companions of Muhammad wrote down the revelations, and these records were compiled shortly after his death to become the Quran.  Muhammad claimed that Allah is the God of Abraham and Moses, and that they were, like himself, prophets of Allah.

However, the followers of Allah do not recognize YHVH as a name of God, nor do they recognize the role of Israel in bringing into the world the ground of human redemption through Yeshua.   Abraham and Moses both saw the coming of a Messiah out of Israel.  The followers of Allah do not recognize either the divinity of Yeshua or the critical role of his sacrifice on the cross, since they believe that the unity of Allah is a unity of form, and that the purity of Allah is partly a function of his abstinence from the mundane.  This does not allow, by their thinking, either the existence of  the Logos or that it be made flesh.  The Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount, is covered with slogans declaring that Allah can have no Son.

Muslims claim that the revelations to Muhammad supersede the revelations of Yeshua.  This would seem to be an oblique claim that Yeshua was either ignorant or not telling the truth, since Yeshua clearly presented himself as uniquely begotten of God, as the very presence and agency of God on earth, and made it clear that he had come with the express purpose of going to the cross to redeem mankind from the curse of death.   The actual claim of Muslims is that all the texts of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures have been corrupted.

Muslims, followers of Allah and Muhammad, believe that suspended between two poles, a good life and adherence to the Five Pillars of Islam,[3] hangs the hope [not the guarantee] that they will spend eternity in Paradise.  [There is no evidence that they intend to share in the promise to Abraham, the ancient promise that the people of God will live in the land of promise under the rule of Yeshua the Messiah of  Israel.]

In this way Islam is much like Catholicism.  Catholics are amillennialists.  Amillennialists do not look for Christ to return and rule [for a millennium] in a brick and mortar rule on earth.  Amillenialists like John Calvin thought it would be “beneath” God to have a kingdom on earth, therefore beneath God to fulfill literally his promises to Abraham.

Catholics also believe that salvation is a treasure suspended between two poles, the deeds of a good life and adherence to the Sacraments[4] of the Catholic institution.  In Islam and in Catholicism, decisive power over individual access to Paradise lies in the hands of the institution.

 

 

iv

We see easily that as the perception of God changes, so is altered every possibility of the nature of the encounter between man and God, the most radical variant introducing itself when one abandons the gods which originate in the imagination and seeks the God who truly knows our face.

Entry into the kingdom of Yeshua is not governed by any religious institution or cultural structure.  The individual person comes to Yeshua in absolute independence and stands alone before God.  The one who seeks Yahveh is called to kneel and recognize the sovereignty of Yahveh and acknowledge that Yeshua is Lord, king upon the eternal and heavenly throne.  Implicit in coming before the heavenly throne is the recognition of the Messiah’s work at the cross and our own need of redemption.  A price had to be paid for human rebellion and Yeshua paid that price.  Even more, a way had to be made for the transformation of our rebellious nature into a spiritual nature capable of fealty to the  person and expectations of a spiritual and holy God.

In Yeshua, Yahveh calls mankind to himself, calls us to a spiritual birth, without which we remain mere observers.  Yahveh is not looking for observers.  He is looking for participants, subjects of the realm, warriors ready to stand for the truth, ready to own the light in a world of darkness.  The “belief” which Christians bandy about is far more than a credo.  It is meant to be total immersion and surrender to the Sovereignty of Yeshua.

Many claim to find satisfaction far short of the all-consuming call of Yahveh.  There are certainly those who have convinced themselves that worlds can orbit in perfect motion and eyes can see and tongues can sing, all without the hand of any Creator, men born with no purpose but to perpetuate their species.  But, these aside, most men have felt the world to be unintelligible without the presence of God, and have found it unlivable without the hope of making appeal to God.

The motive to come into the presence of God is strong and amply recorded throughout our history.  We know that the knowledge of God is often limited by the prevalent religious dogmas of the culture into which we are born.  But we seek God, not to satisfy the demands of culture, but to satisfy the demands of the heart.  Therefore the person who truly seeks to be known by God will reach beyond the pleasantries of common dogma and will search to know if there is or is not a God who sees and hears and answers the call of the heart.

Some are certainly more than satisfied by Aristotle’s God.  The appeal of a distant God is that there is no place for divine judgment upon mankind, nor is there reason to think that man is fallen.  We obviously are not considered to be made “in the image” of such a mechanistic God.  We may imagine that our ancestors started as specks in the primeval slime.  Therefore whatever we are at this moment can only be considered as an amazing accomplishment.  There is no room for judgment nor is there any divine being capable of inspecting or judging us.  Nor does this god require fealty of any kind.  This god demands nothing, therefore leaving man autonomous, owner of complete liberty.

Allah, the God of Islam, does not challenge the integrity of man in his natural state.  Allah does not see man as fallen and in need of redemption.  He only expects a man to do his best and to observe the Five Pillars of Islam.  Therefore Allah asks fealty but does not challenge man to recognize a need for spiritual transformation.

Islamic-world.net has a very informative article on Khilafah [the caliphate or vicegerency of man on earth], in which it states:

“Islam does not contribute to any theory of the ‘fall of Adam’ symbolizing the fall of man.  There was no ‘fall’ at all in that sense.  Man was created for the purpose of acting as vicegerent on the earth and he came to the world to fulfill this mission.  It represents the rise of man to a new assignment, his tryst with destiny, and not a fall.  According to the Quran, ‘Satan caused them both to deflect therefrom.’  Both were held responsible for the act, both repented their transgression, and both were forgiven.  They entered the world without any stigma of original sin on their soul.  Human nature is pure and good.  Man has been created in the best of all forms….Man has not been totally protected against error.  This would involve negation of the freedom of choice.  He may commit errors; his redemption lies in his realization of those errors, in seeking repentance and in turning back to the Right Path.”

In the Hebrew Scriptures, to which Islam refers [while claiming that they have been corrupted], there is no record that Adam or Eve ever repented of their rebellion.  Even if they did repent and were forgiven, there is a question of justice yet to be resolved.  Is simple repentance adequate to restore the rebel to the good grace of a holy God?  Is there no punishment for sin?  If not, then let sin begin, that repentance and grace may flow more freely?  Does not the God who created mankind with the greatest expectations — that we should live and act after the manner of God himself — is he not justified in demanding that, in the face of such rebellion, his continued devotion to the prospects of man on earth must be justified by some cover, some antidote to the seed of unbridled liberty now planted in his creation?  Does not the sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross reveal to us the gravity of God’s law and the depth of his expectations in us?  Does he not amplify his holiness and the honor of his expectations by sending his unique Messiah into the world to bring to mankind the possibility of spiritual transformation?

It is apparent that for Islam man does not need transformation so much as he needs simple upkeep.  Islam does not have absolute laws.  Its morality is greatly situational.  There are many situations in which the Muslim is allowed to deceive or even kill if it is for the sake of the advancement of Islam.  In this they are very much like the Jesuits who are free to act outside divine law if it is for the sake of the welfare of the Papacy.

It also appears that the righteous life of the Muslim individual is dependent on the context of an Islamic social structure within which he is able to pray regularly, tithe, etc., i.e. a society to which his good deeds have meaning.  Furthermore, the Muslim’s divine mission of vicegerency calls him to establish the rule of Allah over the earth, by force if necessary.  This subject is expanded in the above-quoted article:

“The Khilafa [vicegerency] is a common leadership for all the Muslims in the world.  Its role is to establish the laws of the Islamic Shariah and to carry the Dawa of Islam to the world.  The pathetic situation of the Muslims today, due to the absence of a Khilafa, is proof of the saying of the Prophet: ‘Islam and government are twin brothers.  Neither of the two can be perfect without the other.  Islam is like a great structure and government is its guardian.  A building without a foundation crashes down and without a guardian is pilfered and robbed out.’  The state of the Muslims today cannot be helped unless we work to implement in entirety the systems of Islam.  Only then can the justice of Allah the Exalted be brought to bear on earth.”

Then the one who seeks God in the name of Allah does not necessarily come in repentance or in search of rescue from a fallen nature.  Islam allows that human nature is undamaged.  What is required is a good life and simple fealty to the five pillars of Islam.  1.] to recite the Shahada, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” 2.] regular prayer five times per day 3.] to tithe 4.] to fast during Ramadan 5.] to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Is the petitioner then known by Allah?    It may be of the character ascribed to Allah that he be conscious of individual human beings and even pass ultimate judgment upon them, but Allah, for the Muslim, is unknowable, aloof, and would not enter into communication with the heart of an individual.  According to the Islamic scholar al-Faruqi:

“He [Allah] does not reveal himself to anyone in any way.  Allah reveals only his will.  One of the prophets asked Allah to reveal himself and Allah told him, ‘No, it is not possible for me to reveal myself to anyone.’… This is Allah’s will and that is all we have, and we have it in perfection in the Quran…God does not reveal himself to anyone.  Christians talk about the revelation of God himself –by God of God – but that is the great difference between Christianity and Islam.”[5]

Then there is no personal relationship between Allah and the individual, for Allah does not act as person.  Nor is there any expectation that the individual will radically open his heart and person to Allah.  The personality of the petitioner is not of great significance to Allah.  What matters is his submission, which is the meaning of “Islam.”

 

 

 v

Traditional Judaism pursues the God of Israel as he is made known in the revelations to Moses and the prophets.  Traditional Judaism approaches YHVH through the study of the Hebrew Scriptures and through prayer and worship, both public and private.  They hold to the notion that the God who revealed himself through Israel is characteristically the God of the genetic people of Israel, and more recently of the geopolitical nation of Israel.  Modern exponents of Judaism hold that you cannot belong to the God of Israel except through popular inclusion into the people of Israel.

[In this they are like the Catholics and the Muslims, where one enters the faith through the socio-ecclesiastical structure.  Pope Francis claimed quite recently, “It is a dangerous temptation to believe that one can have “a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the church.”  This of course is a complete rebuke of all that Christ has said in the New Testament, but Catholics do not consider Scripture to have higher authority than the pronouncements of the church.]

For traditional Rabbinic Judaism, the interventions of YHVH in history are on behalf of the historic people of Israel, not necessarily for anyone else.

Modern Judaism has abandoned most of this traditional faith which centered on the revelations of Yahveh to Moses and the prophets.  Instead there is widespread preoccupation with Qabala.  This is an exaltation of a completely depersonalized god accessible through gnostic insight and through communication with spirits.  It presumes to access the power of God without concern for the person of God as he has made himself known in the history of the people of Israel.  In Qabalistic Judaism neither the person of God nor the persona of him who seeks God is of any relevance.

 

vi

In Yeshua we find the person of Yahveh.  In Yeshua Yahveh  enters history to rescue us from mindless rebellion.  The overwhelming gravity of that intervention is revealed to us at the foot of the cross.  If we cannot meet him there, we cannot meet him.

How do we know that his acts are true?  As Yeshua remarked, Only the true shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand sees the wolf coming and flees.  He, the true shepherd, is the one who knows us:

“I am the good shepherd.  I know my own, and my own know me.”   John 10.14

How does he know us intimately?  This was the concern of the disciples as Yeshua explained to them his crucifixion and coming resurrection.  At that time he explained to them the coming miracle of Pentecost, a plan prepared over centuries, that the Spirit of Yeshua would come to rest in the heart of every person who opens his heart to transformation, to spiritual birth:

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live you also will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you….All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”  John 14.15-20,25-27           

What am I to think if God does not know me or see me?  Am I not alone in the world?  Is there not an impenetrable divide between us all?  The bond of unity lies in the definition, but without the intent of God we have no definition.  We are randomness classified into arbitrary categories, our DNA something we can edit without a thought for the meaning of “human excellence.”

Do we know each other?  Is not the only hope of being known and understood that we by birth be patterned after the plan of the One who made us and that he be even now a living God and that he exist beyond the patterns of necessity and that he be of that very character that is beyond the rational, that is irrational, that is love.  That is our only hope of being known, if the one who made us also loves us and seeks us for himself.

This is uniquely the character of YHVH the God of Israel, whom we know in this time through the person of Yeshua our Messiah.  The very few will answer the call of Yeshua:

“Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and sup with him and he with me.”  Revelation 3.20

It is a call to transformation.  It is a promise that God through his Spirit will maintain a presence in the heart’s house and heal us and instruct us and bring to us the life and the will and the understanding which he has meant to be our possession since the rebellion of the first generation left a huge tear in the fabric of the world.   Those who open the heart to his life are opening their lives to his sovereignty and his loving claim upon their lives.  We would never accept that claim and would prefer our own alienated autonomy if we did not see that in a state of autonomy we are part of the damage in the world.  We accept his love and his sovereignty knowing that in the deepest interior of the heart’s house we seek to be known and loved by our God.

 

 

Lawrence S. Jones

Chicago  2016

lawrencestewartjones@gmail.com

 

 

 

[1] Genesis 16.7-15

[2] Colossians 1. 15-20

[3] Proclamation of faith in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad; establishment of  the five daily prayers [ritual and canonical]; paying tithe to the Islamic state or to a representative of a local mosque; fasting the month of  Ramadan; the pilgrimage to Mecca if able.

[4] Baptism, confirmation, communion, confession, marriage, “holy orders,” and the anointing of the sick

[5][5] I. al-Faruqi, Christian Mission and Islamic Dawah: Proceedings of the Chambesy Dialogue Consultation, pp. 47-48

The Fundamentalist abandonment of the kingship of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel

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i

The renunciation

In a recent post I noted the obscenity of the Papal dismissal of the crucifixion.  But it would be unfair of me to criticize the Pope and ignore the excesses at the heart of modern Protestantism.  The Pope is not alone in redacting whole chapters of the life of our Messiah.  Conservative Protestant theology has taken possession of an equally distasteful renunciation of the Messiah, a renunciation which goes unnoticed because it has been so thoroughly established in the culture of the last century, so well prepared in the preceding centuries of Catholicism.

The conservative Protestants do not wait for the crucifixion to demean their Lord.  They start a week early, on what is called Palm Sunday, the day of the ritual entry of Yeshua into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah.

His entry on a donkey was a culturally explicit declaration that he entered the city as king.  Accordingly he received the honor and adoration of the people as their king:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”[1]

And, more specifically,

            “Blessed is the king of Israel.”[2]

And, indicating that he was seen as the rightful heir to the throne of David:

“Hosanna to the Son of David.”[3]

Were the people of Jerusalem guilty of hyperbole when they hailed Yeshua as their king?  The priests thought so, therefore they asked him to rebuke and silence his followers.  Yeshua responded with the suggestion that this was a moment which no force of history could impede:

“If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”[4]

Yes. The arrival of Yeshua as king over Israel was so certain and so fundamental to the history of all the world, that, should we fail in recognition, then nature itself feels the wound and must give witness.  It is inconceivable that Yeshua would have accorded himself the form of entry into Jerusalem as king, coupled with the receipt of praise as king, were it not already certain that he, on his way to the cross, was in fact in full possession of his royal role and character.

Then what is the affront of the great majority of conservative Protestants and fundamentalists?   It is that they deny that Yeshua is king upon the eternal throne over Israel, transcendent Israel, the Israel of God.  Nor do they recognize the existence of this Israel.  They see only genetic Israel and the geopolitical construct of recent decades.  They seem to imagine that a seat of royal authority must be a gilded throne within view of the masses.  They fault the Creator of the universe for not having an office in downtown Jerusalem.  They confuse transcendent Israel with an earthly fabrication along lines of Zionist politics and genetic descent.

It has not always been so.  Prior to this century it was common to find members of the church who, given in their hearts to the Messiah of Israel, and not genetically Jewish, still saw themselves as citizens of the transcendent Israel of God.  Witness this hymn of John Newton[1725-1807]:

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Form’d thee for His own abode:
On the Rock of ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

Bless’d inhabitants of Zion,
Wash’d in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God.
‘Tis His love His people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, His solemn praises
Each for a thank-off’ring brings.

Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am,

Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show:
Solid joys and lasting treasure,
None but Zion’s children know.

For John Newton, Zion is the home of all children of God, and we, the children of Yeshua, are to the manor born.  Like Abraham, Zion is our home, whether or not it is occupied by others, for we who have eternal life occupy the eternal promise which, in His own time, God will fulfill.

Corruption crept into Protestant thinking.  Belief in the kingship of Yeshua was thrown aside.  Toward the middle of the nineteenth century John Nelson Darby, [1800-1882], an Irish Anglican priest, began to formalize a theology which rested on 1.] the complete separation of the church and Israel, 2.] the belief that Yeshua came as “candidate” for kingship but was rejected by the Jewish people and so returned to heaven in failure, [his hopes dashed?], and 3.] a belief in two completely different destinies for genetic Israel and the church, the church to be raptured up into heaven at the beginning of the final seven years of tribulation, the Jews to remain on earth and tough it out, battling the Beast Kingdom, compensated only by the fact that they are finally rid of those annoying gentiles.  Such a theology has great utility to the Zionists, and brings great pleasure to the architects of Catholicism.

It is useful to the Zionists because it gets Protestants to back off from Israel and abandon their claims upon its destiny.  This allows the secular Zionist to claim for himself, on genetic grounds, all the ancient promises, in particular the promise to Abraham of a land “from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates.”

It is pleasurable to Catholic ambition because it causes Protestants to abandon every earthly claim to the kingdom of God and the promises to Abraham.  As consequence, the Messianic hopes of the church can remain in heaven, up in the sky: this sky within which the Catholic church has sequestered Christ since its inception.  Like the Zionists, therefore, the Vatican also is free to pursue its earthy objectives.  [It has always been the program of the Catholic institution to offer mankind the semblance of the knowledge of God while inserting itself between man and God and usurping to itself the power and authority which rightly belong to God alone, even making the Pope the Vicarius Filii Dei, the” Representative of the Son of God,”  the vicarious substitute for the presence and rule of Christ in the world.  They even ordain each priest with the blasphemous phrase, Tu es alter Christus, “you are another Christ,” further displacing Christ in their cosmology.]

As for the Protestants, this recent deformation of their theology, known academically as “premillennial dispensationalism,” renounces the kingship of Yeshua and hardly deserves a rebuttal, any more than we would wish to debate Scripture with that false prophet, Pope Francis.  Only let it be known that their impoverished line of thought has nothing to do with what is actually written in Scripture.

Nevertheless, Darby’s anemic philosophy broadly prevails within the halls of conservative Protestantism.  On the heels of Darby, who was not widely known, came C.I. Scofield and his vastly popular Scofield Reference Bible in which, through copious footnotes, he and his accomplices interpreted all of Scripture in the light of their redefinition of Israel and the church, in light of their gross mishandling of the triumph of Yeshua at the cross.  So who were his readers to believe? the Expert? or their own eyes?  In laziness they chose “the Expert,” by the thousands.  And with them went the leaders of the Evangelical church and the seminaries.

 

ii

Peter affirms the kingship of Yeshua

Anyone with a basic command of the English language and the ability to think for himself can figure out the falsehood of their pre-tribulation rapture by reading I Thessalonians 4.13-17 and II Thessalonians 2.1-10.  [They can also read the article, Boiling Frogs and the Return of the King, on this blogsite.]

Anyone who thinks Yeshua came as “candidate” for kingship has never read the Bible.

Anyone who thinks that the church of Yahveh and the Israel of Yahveh are mutually exclusive has done nothing but listen to sermons rather than read the Bible.

Anyone who wants to know if Yeshua is on the eternal throne at this moment should read carefully the following Scriptures – and should make personal discovery of the politics of Yeshua through swearing fealty to his person, through kneeling before him who is seated on the heavenly throne, and through opening the heart to the commanding presence of his Spirit.

On the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God first descended in power upon the people of God in Jerusalem, Peter addressed the onlookers, explaining that this was the fulfillment of the prophecies of Joel that the Spirit would be poured out.  Then he told them that even though they, the people of Israel, had crucified Christ, yet God had not abandoned Yeshua to the grave and he had risen from the dead.  Peter then reminded them that David also had prophesied about the coming Messiah, the coming anointed king, and had said,

“that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.”[5]

Peter then continued to explain how recent events were the very groundwork of the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy:

“Seeing what was ahead, he [David] spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.  God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.  Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear….Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Yeshua, whom you crucified, both Lord and Anointed King [Christ].”[6]

Yes, Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit is the evidence that Yeshua is on the throne of heaven reaching out into all the world to all his subjects in power and healing and instruction.  The Holy Spirit is the matrix and the cement of the kingdom through which Yeshua is able to rule in our hearts as no other king can rule.

Catholics are willing to call Yeshua king as long as he stays at a distance, the tragically abused child of their “Queen of Heaven.”  Their churches often have Latin slogans naming Yeshua as Rex, though not king of the Jews but king of “the kingdom.”  [Rex Regnum Sum.]  This causes them no pain because Yeshua has been shelved in the heavens, co-opted by his mother Mary, and now the Pope wears the actual crown of authority.  In fact his blasphemous crown has three rings or tiers, signifying that he has taken upon himself ultimate ecclesiastical authority, ultimate temporal authority, and ultimate cosmic authority!

Protestants are willing to see Yeshua as their coming king, while in present time he is merely their personal savior.  They expect him to have royal authority in the future, although for all their skill in interpreting the Bible, no one identifies the scenario of the future coronation.

 

iii

Daniel identifies the kingship of the Messiah in the course of history

Daniel, however, received from God quite a different timeline.  For Daniel the royalty of the Messiah and his kingship over his people does not come at the end of history.  It all comes about within the course of the political doings of the kings of the earth.

In the second chapter of the book of Daniel, we find him interpreting a dream of Nebuchadnezzar.  The king has envisioned a statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, feet partly iron and partly baked clay.  Prophetically, Daniel shares the divine interpretation that the elements of the statue represent the great kingdoms of history, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold.  The subsequent kingdoms are now recognized as the Medo-Persian Empire [silver], the Greek Empire [bronze], the Roman Empire [iron]… and a later confederation of Rome with other powers, in a ten part division…sounding something like the coming partnership and dominion of the Vatican [Rome], the UN, and Islam [OIC].  And where does the kingdom of Yeshua fit in?  Daniel describes its entry and the outcome.

Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar  that

“while you were watching [the statue], a rock was cut out, but not by human hands.”[7]

In the interpretation Daniel explains,

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.”[8]

As for the outcome, in the dream it was noticed,

“It [the rock] struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer.  The wind swept them away without leaving a trace.  But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.”[9]

As interpretation, Daniel says,

“It [the kingdom created in the time of those kings] will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”[10]

In other words it is in the course of history, not at the end of history, that we are to find Yeshua as king over his people.  Yeshua first appeared as king within the dominion of Rome.  Now, in a world where every national leader kisses the ring of the Pope, we are in the amalgam of Rome with “baked clay.”  And throughout all this we see the remnants of Babylon and Greece and Persia.  But, in transcendence, the kingdom of Yeshua is more real than every kingdom.

Gideon had thirty- two thousand nominal soldiers, but God told him to take only three hundred tested soldiers.  Three hundred were given victory over the entire army of Midian.  So for us today.  The handful of faithful on earth will march with the armies of heaven and in the coming years will see the victory of Yeshua over the nations who cynically join themselves together, thinking that they will take ownership of the earth.

 

                                                            iv

Prophetically, David sees God’s chosen king besieged by the nations

The second Psalm similarly creates a picture of the Messianic king who has not yet assumed power over brick and dust, who, as Lord over a transcendent Zion, is also “in the time of those kings,” beleaguered by national powers in opposition to his sovereign power.  It is especially now, in the approach of the new global society, that we see revealed the depth and ancient roots of the conspiracy of rebellion to establish a world without the laws of the covenant and without the people of the covenant:

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.  “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”[11]

Be he in the dust of Zion or on the heavenly throne, the living Messiah, Yeshua, rules substantially in the hearts of his subjects through the power and presence of his Spirit reaching into us and binding us to himself with cords of steel.  We are the ones who have the responsibility to stand in our faith, to own the covenant and to live as the people of the covenant.  Only ignorance and cowardice can cause people to abandon a covenant sealed by the blood of Yeshua.

 

 

                                                                        v

The anointing of Yeshua

The great truths of Scripture, the ponderous informing moments in the life of our Lord, are not intelligible to the masses.  No matter what we have been taught, the great truths of faith are esoteric, not exoteric.  Yeshua delighted in making himself obscure to those who claimed they knew it all.  And when Peter saw what others could not see, Yeshua remarked that it was only through the voice of the Father that he could know such things.

To anyone who does not know Yeshua intimately, the cross is a mystery.  Similarly the anointing of Yeshua is not apparent to the eye of the world, as it expects to witness the affirmation of a Westminster Abbey, of pomp and ceremony.  The anointing of Yeshua is esoterically and spiritually perceived.

To anoint is to ordain or to consecrate.   To ordain is to select and, by virtue of authority, to appoint.  To consecrate is to set apart, to devote.  Mere application of substance, even special oil, by a person without specific authority, could not make anyone the Messiah.   And what oil would the Father use to add gravity to his appointment and consecration of his Son as ruler over his holy people and ruler over all Creation?  Surely nothing could be more grave than his own hand and his own word.

David could not have been anointed by Samuel as king on the throne of Israel, were it not that Samuel acted under the direction and command of God.  Through Samuel, Yahveh himself chose David.  The oil of anointing was merely a witness to the presence of the voice of Yahveh in the selection.

In the appointment of Yeshua, the voice of Yahveh alone, emanating from the heavens, is sufficient.  That moment in which Mary of Bethany broke open the costly container of nard and anointed Yeshua was a moment of powerful significance in the heart of Yeshua.  But it was not within her sphere of power to anoint Yeshua as Messiah. She was a simple woman enacting a very special custom of appreciation.  Yeshua said that her act had special meaning as it looked forward to his burial.  But she did not anoint him as Messiah.

Only the Father can own the authority to choose and appoint and devote his Son to the role of eternal king over his holy people.  Whether or not there has been or is yet to be a day of visible anointing with oil is not a determinant factor.  What is determinant is the explicit act of the Father to designate Yeshua as king over his holy people.

King David had three anointings.  David’s first anointing occurred on the day that Yahveh revealed his choice of David to Samuel.  He was definitively chosen to replace Saul as king over Israel, though the assumption of power was yet to come.

“Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him, he is the one.’  So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”[12]

It was not just a tentative or nominal anointing as evidenced by the fact that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”  Prior to the anointing David was a shepherd.  Subsequent to the anointing he was a prince of Israel surrounded by a hedge of God’s presence and power.

Soon after the death of Saul, God told David to move to Hebron.  There he received a second anointing.

“Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.[13]

Now he was made ruling king over the tribe into which he was born, the tribe which has always owned the great Messianic promise.  These were his people.  And it was God’s will to establish him as king over them.

Soon Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, led the way in preparing all Israel to recognize David as their king, even conferring with the elders of Israel and telling them,

“The Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’”[14]

David had been chosen by God to be king over Israel, and he was now ruling as king over the people of Judah.  With the third anointing he would assume sovereign power over all Israel:

“When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.”[15]

If David were not already in possession of royal authority he could not have made a compact [covenant] with the people.  A covenant is an oath defining allegiance between a king and his people.

The life of David and the series of anointings sealing his kingship are given to us as a type and as a key to understanding the anointings of Yeshua.

Up to this time we see Yeshua anointed twice in the course of his life on earth, in circumstances analogous to those of David.  It seems that there may come yet a third anointing when at last the rift is healed between Judah and Israel, so enabling the day when Yeshua will freely exercise his sovereignty over all of Israel.

Yeshua’s first anointing came at the time of his baptism in the Jordan.  In that moment Yahveh clearly marked him as the Messiah of Israel’s expectation, and the power of the Spirit of God was brought upon him.  Yeshua’s second anointing came on the Mount of Transfiguration.  In this moment he was again marked as Yahveh’s chosen king, and his children were called to fealty.   In each of these events Yahveh ordained Yeshua as Messiah by speaking highly significant phrases from the heavens in the hearing of those on the ground.  In each anointing he said the words,

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[16]

We see that these are the words of divine anointing once we see that they, by God’s own word, announce the fulfillment in Yeshua of the Messianic prophecy, and this we will demonstrate.  First, however, to look at the record of the anointing at the Jordan.

Matthew’s account is as follows:

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”[17]

Mark’s account is similar:

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”[18]

What must be shown from Scripture is the significance of these words in the speech of the Father.  But we must also consider the account of what Yahveh spoke on the Mount of Transfiguration.

As the time approached for Yeshua to enter Jerusalem and go to the cross, and being near Mount Hermon, he stopped with his disciples in Caesarea Phillippi, a place devoted to the worship of Roman gods.  Surrounded by the artifacts of false gods, Yeshua asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  and he asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Christ [ha Mashiach, the anointed king], the Son of the living God.”[19] Peter had come to know this, and, since the anointing at the Jordan, this was explicitly true.  Yeshua assured Peter that this was esoteric knowledge, that “this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.[20]  And then Yeshua “warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.”  Yes, at this moment he was the anointed king.  But he was not yet in a position to assume power over all the people of the nation.  He was on course toward the assumption of power over the few, over his very own, over those who hold to him and recognize his sovereignty.  Therefore it was important that he not be hailed as mundane Messiah over the mundane nation.  Furthermore he was directed moment by moment toward the cross, which would become his first great royal achievement for his people.  He wanted no pointless adulation to come in the way of his mission.  For this purpose he insisted that his disciples tell no one that he was the Christ.

A week later Yeshua took Peter, John and James and “went up onto a mountain to pray,”[21] probably onto nearby Mount Hermon.

“As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”[22]

[Now he had the appearance which John attributes to him[23] in his vision of Yeshua in heaven after the resurrection and ascension into the heavens.]  And now, on the mountain,

“Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.  They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”[24]

But the Greek for “departure” is exodus, and in this context they are referring to much more than his change of address from earth to heaven, but rather the Exodus which would soon be made possible at the cross as he “would deliver his people from the bondage of sin and bring to fulfillment the work of both Moses and Elijah.”[25]

“Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.  As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ [He did not know what he was saying.]”[26]

Even though Peter had been given the insight that Yeshua is the Christ, there still seemed to be limits to his understanding of Yeshua’s divinity, and he imagined Yeshua sharing some sort of architectural honor equally with Elijah and Moses.  Then the voice of Yahveh entered the scene in the hearing of Peter, James and John, and in the hearing of Moses and Elijah:

“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.   Listen to him!’”

This time there is an additional appointment: Listen to him!  According to the construction in the Greek, “Listen to him” [Akouete autou] is acceptable but not strong enough.  Because autou is in the genitive case, a preferred translation would be “hearken to him and obey him.”  Yahveh is formally affirming that full authority now belongs to Yeshua.

With this anointing Yeshua is not only marked and set aside for kingship, he is now free to establish a covenant between himself and his people, free to act on their behalf, to undertake the Exodus which will lead them out of bondage to the enemy.  In the final weeks of Yeshua’s life he will act to affirm the actuality of his sovereign power.

 

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The prophetic content of the words of anointing

So now at last we look at the origin of the unusually simple words with which Yahveh appointed Yeshua as our great and eternal king.

We look first at one of the earliest Messianic prophecies which refer specifically to the Messianic occupation of royal power.  Here, uniquely, we find Yahveh characterizing the tenure of the role of Messiah in terms of a unique relationship which shall hold between himself and the anointed king over the holy people.  The prophet Nathan relayed to David the words of Yahveh promising David that from his offspring would come the eternal king, and here, as never previously, Yahveh identified the Messiah as his Son:

“’I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, …and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father and he will be my son….My love will never be taken away from him.  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”[27]

Later, David, prophetically, recalls the words of this foundational prophecy in the words of the second Psalm:

“I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  I will proclaim the decree of Yahveh: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”[28]

So with the prophecies of Nathan and of David, this unique event in which Yahveh calls someone his Son, this becomes an identifier of the coming eternal king over Israel.  Now then we look at the second phrase spoken each time from the heavens: “With you I am well pleased.” This also has its roots in Messianic prophecy, in Isaiah 42, where Yahveh promises the coming of the one who rules in union with his own will, who is given all the power of the Spirit, and who rules and brings justice to all the earth:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations… In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on the earth.  In his law the islands will put their hope… This is what God Yahveh says – he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:   ‘I, Yahveh, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.  I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.’”[29]

Yahveh, in each event, spoke from the heavens, combining these two key phrases known to be prophetic references to the coming Messiah, and in speaking those phrases in each event, as his Son stood before John and the people gathered in search of righteousness at the river Jordan, and later as his Son stood glorified before the earthly witness of James and Peter and John and the heavenly witness of Moses and Elijah, so Yahveh poured out on Yeshua his absolute appointment of Yeshua as king over his holy people.

 

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Yeshua has assumed power over his people, transcendent Israel.  In the coming time he will assume power over all the earth.

Out of the anointing of Yeshua came the affirmation of his royal power.  Yeshua, knowing that the established powers of the Temple were seeking his death, entered Jerusalem as king and received the honor of his people as their true king.  Then, as king, Yeshua went to the cross, so standing in for his people, taking upon himself the penalty of their every shame, setting them free from the curse of death which clings to our sin, bringing to us the freedom to come into the presence of God.   Resurrected from the grave, Yeshua gave us a call to obedient fealty to him, and a mission to carry the gospel of the kingdom into all the world, empowered by the life of his Spirit within our bodies, assuring us at his ascension that,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[30]

Yes, it is the gospel of an actual kingdom that must be held up for men to see, especially at this time as the kingdoms of the world descend into what appears to be a conspiracy of global war. Our hope lies only with our king in his transcendent kingdom.  The renewal of all things awaits the completion of our mission.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”[31]

Why does the church not see Yeshua ruling as king over them?  For the simple reason that they are happy to have his salvation, his counsel, and his blessings, but they reject his sovereign authority over them.

 

L.S. Jones

lawrencestewartjones@gmail.com

[1] Luke 19.38

[2] John 12.13

[3] Matthew 21.9

[4] Luke 19.40

[5] Acts 2.30

[6] Acts 2.31-36 excerpts

[7] Daniel 2.34

[8] Daniel 2.44

[9] Daniel 2.34,35

[10] Daniel 2.44

[11] Psalm 2.1-6

[12] I Samuel 16.12,13

[13] II Samuel 2.4

[14] II Samuel 3.18

[15] II Samuel 5.3

[16] Matthew 3.17

[17] Matthew 3.16,17

[18] Mark 1.9-11

[19] Matthew 16.16

[20] Matthew 16.17

[21] Luke 9.28

[22] Luke 9.29

[23] Revelation  1.13-18

[24] Luke 9.31

[25] NIV footnote on Luke 9.30, NIV Self-Study Bible, Concordia 1986

[26] Luke 9.32-34

[27] II Samuel 7.12-17 excerpts

[28] Psalm 2.6-8

[29] Isaiah 42.1-7 excerpts

[30] Matthew 28.18-20

[31] Matthew 24.14

Francis, the Roman Pontifex Maximus, assesses, in human terms, the crucifixion of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel

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“Here at the cross is the man who loves his enemies, the man whose righteousness is greater than that of the Pharisees, who being rich became poor, who gives his robe to those who took his cloak, who prays for those who despitefully use him.  The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come.”[1]                                               John Howard Yoder

 

Today the Roman Pontifex Maximus has publicly made the claim that Yeshua ended his life in failure at the cross.  Given the faith which he pretends to represent, nothing could be a more brazen denunciation and attempted mockery of that faith than his own words:

“If at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ, and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.”  September 25, 2015, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Dear Francis, methinks thou dost hasten too much.  You are clearly in a race to abandon every tenet of faith that ever stood under the people of your institution.  You are in a race to reach that lowest common denominator of faith before the world unites in its orgy of globalism without you.  Yes, you are so anxious to be the matchmaker uniting all the ecclesiastical sluts into one seraglio with yourself as trusted eunuch over them so that you can reap the reward of delivering them to the global tyrant.

It is broadly recognized that the Pontifex assigns no value to the sacrifice of Yeshua upon the cross, as he credits those who discount the cross – Muslims, Jews, sodomites, and atheists – as having the same access to divine mercy as those who hold the life and sacrifice of Yeshua to be the doorway to life itself.  For the Pontifex, what matters is simply a certain sentiment of the heart, implying that Yeshua, in going to the cross, was but a master of melodrama.  If only Yeshua had recognized that human rebellion against God is but a little thing, then he might have lived a longer life…wearing purple and scarlet and gold…perhaps even with a little villa on one of the hills of Rome.

This leads us to consider a vision of what Francis sees as the inconsequential gravity of belief of every kind.  Yes, Francis is an advocate of belief, but belief of a special and well- tempered quality.  We are all to have our beliefs, but, according to the Roman Pontifex, we are to hold them so lightly that they never occupy a stance counter to the varied beliefs of others.

In other words, we are expected to maintain private beliefs, never presuming to set a hand to the awkward rigidity of  “universal” or “ incontrovertible” truth.

There is a church in Hyde Park called University Church, in front of which a sign is posted.  Upon this sign they boast that they “Have No Creed.”  I am sure that, if questioned, everyone who frequents the church would admit to believing certain things, but when they say, “We have no creed,” they are saying, “We do not publicly own any creed.”  Their beliefs are discreet and personal. This is what the Pontifex wants, for without this discretion the diverse people of earth cannot be brought into alignment in a One World Religion, that over which he or his successor may soon attempt to place himself.

We may believe whatever we want in the privacy of our own thoughts, but we are not to take ownership and stand publicly for the universal and incontrovertible truth of anything, even if we see our brothers and sisters drowning in half- truths, in misconceptions, in outright lies, grieving to know one day of honesty before they perish in a sea of mediocrity adrift with platitudes.

Yeshua, the Messiah, the Anointed King of Israel, went by his own choice, by his own carefully crafted purpose, to stand in the breach, to go to the cross in the greatest act of love in all the history of God and man.  He took upon himself the cost of human rebellion against our God: Yeshua, the king, standing in for his people.

In the talks which ended World War II, the Allies questioned the share that France should receive, claiming that, while England struggled, France was compromised under the Vichy government.  De Gaulle stood up to the table and declared, “I fought the Resistance.  France fought the Resistance.”  He commanded that the valour of his people be reckoned the same as the proven valour of their leader.  So stands Yeshua before the throne of God.  Having paid the price of sin, being king over his people, and being the true and only Son of God, none can protest his achievement of the mercy of the Father.

Yes, traditionally, even Catholics have shared this belief.  But the Pontifex of Rome judges the ponderous groan of love at the cross to be nothing but the complaint of human failure.

A child runs into the street, is about to be stuck by a car.  A bystander, placing absolute value on the life of the child, runs into the street, sets out his own life in danger of loss, pushes the child out of the way, but himself is struck and killed.  For Francis is this life, in human terms, a failure?

Actually I suspect that even the heart of blackest stone would not call such a life a failure.  My belief is that the Pontifex actually has no idea what happened at the cross, or, worse yet, that he is wedded to the enemies of God, the sleepers at the heart of the New Roman Babylon, who will in the coming years be cast down, due to that very victory of our king at the cross.

In fact, it is only the cross which offends the world.  The primas and primos of popular culture never reach to insult Hinduism or Buddhism or Shintoism or Humanism or Theosophy or Islam or even Judaism.  They mock the cross.  They mock Yeshua the true Messiah of transcendent Israel.  Because the cross alone demands that mankind recognize its rebellion and self absorption.  At the cross God incontrovertibly enters history and declares that we are not our own, that he has a claim on the purpose of time and on the purposes of each man’s soul.  The cross is the looming fact of history upon which the world stumbles, and Francis the Pontifex Maximus of the Roman power has placed himself foremost among the fallen.

“And war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting with the dragon; the dragon and his angels also fought, but they failed, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer.  So the huge dragon was thrown down – that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, the seducer of the whole world – thrown down to earth, and his angels thrown down along with him.  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now has it come, the salvation and power, the reign of our God and the authority of his Christ! – for the Accuser of our brothers is thrown down, who accused them day and night before our God.  But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they had to die for it, but they did not cling to life.  Rejoice for this, O heavens and ye that dwell in them!  But woe to earth and sea!  The devil has descended to you in fierce anger, knowing that his time is short.’[2]

“So he bore me away rapt in the Spirit to the desert, and there I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet Beast covered with blasphemous titles… In her hand was a golden cup full of all earth’s abominations and impurities of vice, and on her forehead a name was written by way of symbol, ‘Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of all abominations on earth.’  I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus… As for the Beast…to perdition he shall go.  As for the ten horns you have seen, they are ten kings who…receive royal authority…along with the Beast;…They shall wage war on the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – the Lamb and the elect, the chosen, the faithful who are with him….As for the woman you have seen, she is the great City which reigns over the kings of the earth.’[3]

 

Lawrence S. Jones

email: lawrencestewartjones@gmail,com

 

[1] The Politics of Jesus, p. 51, by John Howard Yoder

[2] Revelation 12.7-12

[3] Revelation 17.3-18 excerpts

Boiling Frogs and the Return of the King

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The return of the king — a question of priority:  A reading of two passages in Paul’s letters to the people of Thessalonica

 

The apostle Paul wrote two letters to the followers of Yeshua in Thessalonica.  In each letter he included a passage with the purpose of sharing his understanding, based on Scripture and personal revelation, of the historical context for  the return of Messiah to earth, in particular the necessary antecedents of his return and the circumstances under which all his people, living and dead, will be united with him.

Most people in conservative Christian circles hold to a reading of Scripture which allows for a rapture-to-heaven of “the church” just prior to the distressful period of Antichrist’s rule on earth, a rule which characterizes the end of the era and is only brought to an end by the coming of our king.  This belief in a “pre-tribulation rapture” has been successfully and recently [in the last century] taught to the church by a series of sponsors calling themselves “premillennial dispensationalists.”  A careful reading of the Scripture, however, disallows the flight of the church just prior to the climactic events at the end of the age, as, I believe, the following analysis will demonstrate.

 

Part I, a reading of I Thessalonians 4.13-17

In this text Paul appears to respond to questions concerning the possibility that, at the time of Yeshua’s return to earth to gather his people, somehow those who have passed away might be left out of the great reunion.  Then, if not left out, under what circumstances would the deceased patriarchs and predecessors join in the reunion?

In chapter eight of his letter to the Roman church, Paul expressed the principle that nothing, not even death, can separate us from our king.  In that vein he now assures the congregation in Thessalonica that the souls of those who are deceased /”fallen asleep” in Christ will return to earth with their Messiah.  His phrase, that “the dead in Christ will rise first” is descriptive of the resurrection event in which our bodies, at the sound of the trumpet, are made incorruptible and restored to union with our souls.  As Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth:

“We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.                                      I Corinthians 15.51-53

We know then that the great promise to Abraham will not be realized on behalf of the living without the explicit bodily presence of Abraham and all the saints in the company of God.  Here is the full passage from I Thessalonians:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have not hope.  We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.”                                                   Thessalonians 4.13-17

The last mentioned “encouragement” is plainly this instruction of Paul, answering the first mentioned doubts, indicating that those who are “fallen asleep” in Christ shall come fully to life and join Yeshua and all who are still alive in the final great “Day of the Lord,” so guaranteeing that we will not enter into the great promise without the presence of the patriarchs and all who have gone before us.  It seems that we who belong to Christ and are yet alive at the time of his coming may also receive the body of immortality at the time of the return of our king.  Are we not all to unite with him as made equal by his grace and mercy upon us all?

“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.                                                                         Romans 8. 23,24

There are those who wish to make a great deal out of the curious statement that we shall join Yeshua and all our compatriots in the sky, who declare that the account of an aerial reunion indicates we are at that instant being gathered to be transported/”raptured” back up to heaven, there to remain, just as our king is returning to earth for battle against Antichrist.

The Greek text says plainly that we who yet survive [oi zwntes oi perileipomenoi] will be seized up hastily with them [ama sun autois arpagesometha] in the clouds [en nephelais] for a great ritual encounter/greeting/presentation of our welcome before our God in the air [eis apantesin tou kuriou eis aera].  “Apantesin” is formed out of the prefix apo, meaning “from” and the verb antaw meaning “to come opposite to, to meet face to face.”  In union, the verb apantaw is used to indicate “presenting oneself in arms ready for battle, meeting in open court” and other incidental meaning which cluster around the image of removing oneself from one condition to go out and formally present oneself before another person or circumstance.

According to Erik Peterson[1]the Greek apantaw, here used by Paul, was very frequently used to describe the Greek formal reception in which a people would go outside the walls of their city to greet an arriving king or potentate, escorting him then into the city, where he would sit in honor and entertain the honor of judgment in certain matters of justice.  The use of this word in this context by Paul would then suggest the subjects of the kingdom going out from the walls of the world to greet their king as he makes his bodily return to earth, escorting him to the gates of Jerusalem, and presenting themselves ready for battle.

The “rapture-to-heaven” reading of Paul’s account becomes a reading in which those who are alive abandon their king and savior just as he returns to earth with the saints of heaven to bring justice to the world.   How unfortunate to be on the way out just as our king is on his way in with the troops of heaven!

“Then I saw heaven open wide – and there was a white horse!  His rider is faithful and true, yea, just are his judgments and his warfare; his eyes are a flame of fire, on his head are many diadems, he bears a written name which none knows but himself.  He is clad in a robe dipped in blood [his name is called THE LOGOS OF GOD] and the troops of heaven follow him on white horses, arrayed in pure white linen.  A sharp sword issues from his lips, wherewith to smite the nations; he will shepherd them with an iron flail, and trample the winepress of the passion of the wrath of God Almighty.                                                                                               Revelation 19.11-15

In the rapture-to-heaven reading what happens to Paul’s principle that nothing can separate us from Christ?  Would we willingly part from our king in his grave hour of conquest and quit the battle which is meant to guarantee our ultimate victory?

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’”                        Romans 8.35,36

It should be sad indeed to be found irrelevant or unworthy on the day of battle!  Revelation describes the host of the saints who come with Jesus.  It even describes them as they appear in the sky.  They are not here for a visit.  They are here for battle, and the faithful on earth have prepared the way for them by their witness, their martyrdom:

“Then I saw heaven open wide— and there was a white horse! His rider is faithful and true, yea, just are his judgments and his warfare; his eyes are a flame of fire, on his head are many diadems, he bears a written name which none know but himself.  He is clad in a robe dipped in blood [his name is called THE LOGOS OF GOD], and the troops of heaven follow him on white horses, arrayed in pure white linen…”                   Revelation 19.11-14

 

 

Part II.  A reading of II Thessalonians 2.1-10

 

Those who read the passage in I Thessalonians as  rapture-to-heaven seem also to think that it suggests that “the church” will be on earth in reasonably large numbers and through rapture will be spared from the persecution and martyrdom described in Scripture as definitive of the end of the age.  This martyrdom will, for them, be the privilege of the Jews, since, according to their astute mentors Israel has the terrestrial [Abrahamic] promise and the church has the” heavenly” [Catholic] promise.

So the test question remains, Does Scripture indicate that Christ comes for anyone prior to the prophesied years of distress at the end of the era?  The answer to this question is provided in the passage in II Thessalonians.

Paul opens by raising the possibility that someone might claim that the moment of the return of our Messiah has already come, that he is therefore somewhere in the world, known to some, while others are ignorant of his coming.  Therefore there is the question, Is there some clear and knowable event or turn of history connected with his second coming, by which we may all know that he is soon to be among us?  From Matthew we know what Yeshua told his disciples.  First he described to them the entire litany of persecutions, desecration of the temple, false Christs, apostasy, sun darkened, moon blighted, stars falling, and then only the appearance of our king:

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”   Matthew 24.30,31

Jesus was telling them that from earth [the four winds] and from heaven [from one end to the other] the faithful will be gathered subsequent to the appearance of the Son of Man “in power and glory.” But Paul has more to add, describing preliminary events which serve to alert us to the coming of Yeshua.  Paul makes it clear that our king does not come to gather anyone prior to the prophesied years of distress at the end of the era.  This also is in agreement with Christ’s words recorded in Matthew 24:

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.  If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.  At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible…For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”           Matthew 24.22-24,27

Yeshua does not say that because of the great distress the elect will be rescued and taken away to heaven.  Rather he says that, because of the great distress of that time, its duration will be abbreviated.  There would be no reason to shorten that time for the sake of the elect if the elect were not still on earth.

Now, in reading the passage in II Thessalonians, we see that Paul has information which allows us to posit correctly the relative time of the return of our king.  Paul gives us a roadmark:  that there is no return of Christ to earth until the “man of lawlessness,” steps out of the shadows and reveals himself openly, daring to present himself as god above all gods, bringing evil and suffering to all of mankind:

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.  Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.  He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.  Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?  And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.  For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.  The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.”                      II Thessalonians 2.1-10

Paul is in agreement with Daniel, that deception in the world, and suffering and martyrdom for the people of God, must precede the return of our king.  There is no reason to imagine that we should somehow escape.   Jesus said, “If they persecuted me they will persecute you also.”  Paul wrote to the congregation at Philippi, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…”  Daniel wrote of the end of the era:

“After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.  He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws.  The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.  But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.  Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High.  His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom and all rulers will worship and obey him. Daniel 7.24-27

In other words, the one who sets himself above God, the lawless one, must first appear.  The saints must suffer “for a time, times, and half a time,” and then the reign of terror will be brought to an end by the power of the courts of heaven, and the earth will fall under the rule of Yeshua and his people, so ushering in the long awaited fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise.

Again Daniel writes:

In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise.  He will become very strong, but not by his own power.  He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does.  He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people.  He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior.  When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes.  Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.      Daniel 8.23-25

There is one people of God.  There is one kingdom of God.  The era will end in distress and will have become the great moment of witness of the holy people before the hostility of a blind world.  But all will be known to the courts of heaven, and the faithfulness of every child of God will have the utmost importance.  At the end of suffering and our witness to the truth, Yeshua will return in power and glory to establish justice, and the courts of heaven and all children of God will together sing his praise.

There is no such thing as “two Days of the Lord” in all of Scripture.  There is no place for imagining that our king will come once to carry away those fortunate enough to know him and have gentile church  roots, and then that he will come again, later, after many trials, to an abused  Jewish remnant on earth, and finally determine victory.  Nothing could be more cynical.  Nor could the adoption of any belief have more to indicate the faithlessness and heartlessness of the apostate church.  Zechariah says that on the great day of the Lord when our king comes to fight the enemy he has “all the holy ones with him.”  Yes, this is the day of union of all the kingdom of God, and every single person who has been set aside for God will be with him on that day.

“A day of the Lord is coming…I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured…Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as he fights in the day of battle.  On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley…Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.  On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost.  It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime – a day known to the Lord.  When evening comes, there will be light.  On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem…The Lord will be king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name …Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place…It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed.  Jerusalem will be secure…Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  Zechariah 14.1-16 excerpts

No mention of “the heavenlies” or the transportation of Gentiles to some “more ethereal” domain.  There is one promise to history, and that is God’s promise to Abraham.  There is one Day of the Lord, which comes at the end of the witness which lies before us.

 

III. Boiling frogs

 

Christ said, “Will I find faith when I return?”

The prevailing conviction in the organized conservative church is that there will be a rapture of the saints to heaven in advance of the agony of the end of the age.  These people have never read Thessalonians carefully, nor have they studied the book of Revelation.

If only Jews get to stand for their king in the final showdown, then I want a DNA transplant.  But actually I have read my Bible and I have no doubt that we are at this moment All here for the beginnings of distress and the final battle.  Unfortunately vast numbers of  Christians are asleep and are not ready for battle, because they do not recognize that the battle has already begun.  They take comfort in their expectation of rescue before the great apostasy begins.  Not recognizing the ubiquitous force and extreme deceit of the enemy, they support the very enemy with their silence.

People everywhere support our present government, barely pestering it with fuzzy little criticisms, not knowing that our nation has now long been sold from stem to stern to the satanic agenda of globalism, the same globalism which is the foundation of the Antichrist kingdom.

Obama is accused by Mr. Giuliani of not loving America as presidents did in the past.  Of course!  Obama is not an agent of American national interest!  He is by necessity an agent of the global agenda, which is a one world government to be succored and deceived by a nascent one world religion, which is precisely the satanic one world antichrist system which shall soon crush the spirit of mankind in the name of our safety and security.

Christians sit in silence as all rights of privacy are removed from our lives.   Christians everywhere applaud the efforts of our government to crush radical Islam, not aware that for decades, even centuries, both Islam and the West have been equally devoted to a hidden agenda directing the whole world toward the global society.  The wars are artificial, and the chief artificer is Satan himself.  ISIS and Al Qaeda are enemies contrived by the world powers and fed by the injustice which they themselves design, all in order to give themselves “reason” to undertake aggression “on behalf of the safety of us, their people.”  May we all renounce their perverse murders in our name!

The Popes have abandoned every semblance of Christian faith.  John Paul and Benedict both abandoned the divine origins of man in favor of evolution.  And now Francis has abandoned every tenet of Christian faith, making himself the paid whore of every government and creed on earth.

I meet nominal Christians frequently who proudly tell me that they just went to a concert of Katy Perry or AC/DC or tell me how much they enjoyed the half time show at the super bowl or the latest viewing of the Voice, when all these platforms are given over to their commitment to the overt adoration of Satan.  Yes, our children are being carried off to hell by the Pied Pipers of Hollywood.

So Christians smugly wait for the rapture and go to church every Sunday and congratulate themselves on their faith and their righteousness and their good fortune to belong to a God who blesses them with wealth and protects them from evil, not seeing that at this very moment they are being called to give up their security and take a stand in their faith.  The courts of heaven are watching, and we are not supposed to be asleep.  The battle is well underway and Satan is scoring deadly blows against the people of God.  Satan’s children worship him and they are openly and consciously working to destroy the visible vestiges of the kingdom of God.

The denizens of the churches, absorbed in self-congratulation, are frogs floating in a cauldron of warming water.  The fire is lit.  It is not going to go out until the story is over.  The temperature of the water increases bit by bit, and the frogs never recognize the gravity of their plight, never remove themselves until it is too late.  They wait for the rapture, but instead they will float helplessly as their brothers go into battle. comes.

The fire will be put out in the end.  Victory will belong to the people of God.  We will rise up to meet our king in the air, perhaps through the dynamic of being made imperishable, perhaps simply through the uplifting power of his Spirit, perhaps through the impetus of no other power than the purest joy.  And our king will reign among us forever in Jerusalem.

 

 

Lawrence S. Jones

email: lawrencestewartjones@gmail.com

[1] 6. Erik Peterson, “Die Einholung des Kyrios,” ZST 1 (1930) 682-702. as quoted by Michael R. Cosby in “Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul’s Use of Apantesis in I Thessalonians  4.17’

On the Other Side of the Mass for Christ

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Part I.  The Call of God and the Weight of Tradition

Part II.  Time, the Calendar, and the Seven Feasts of Israel

Part III.  The Feasts of Israel and the Messiah of Israel

Lawrence S. Jones

 

I. The Call of God and the Weight of Tradition

 

i

The roots of celebration                 

I want to take this time following the season of Christmas to reflect upon this holiday which receives such esteem in our culture, though its roots feed more on tradition than on any imperative of Scripture or faith.  As the person of Yeshua so the birth and earthly life of Yeshua are for me of significance beyond question.  I question only my relationship to the “Christmas”  nativity celebration as it has come down to us through centuries of nominally Christian culture.

Most of us have grown up with Christmas.   I have no desire to challenge memorable moments in my past, nor to doubt the complex history through which we individually come to know and worship God.  Few of us have come to knowledge of the Messiah of Israel outside of the culture of the Christian church, a body whose form is, tragically, founded in a millennium of Catholicism, centuries of spurious sacraments, marriage between church and state, and the common man groping for God without benefit of Scripture.  For one thousand years, from the days of Constantine until the days of Tyndale, the Catholic institution pretended that the word of God should be kept from the common man.  To this end, in plain sight, the Catholic church murdered thousands upon thousands who held the truth of Scripture more precious than the traditions of the church.  With such a foundation, we are more than justified in questioning the rites and celebrations inherited from the “church fathers.”

Whatever our prejudice for feasts and holy days, we also remember the words of Paul:

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.  He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.  For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.   If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”  Romans 14.5-8

These words in no way suggest that all days are the same.  Paul is saying that our attitude of worship has more significance than any formal or uninspired adherence to tradition: “We live to the Lord.”  Paul would be the last person to say that the Sabbath is only a state of mind.  Throughout the book of Acts Paul and the disciples celebrate the traditional Sabbath, by one count 85 times, along with celebrations of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and, of course, Pentecost.  Paul says clearly, “Each one should be convinced in his own mind,” and, “If we live, we live to the Lord.”  In other words, conviction of and sincere devotion to the highest expectations of our king are the proper measure of our actions.

In the same vein, Yahveh expressed through Isaiah his abhorrence of feasts and Sabbaths celebrated mechanically and not from the heart.  At a time when God believed that Israel worshipped him only through appearances, he told them through Isaiah,

The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?…Stop bringing meaningless  offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.  New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear your evil assemblies.  Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts y soul hates….When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.”[1]

Nevertheless, there are, even in this time, still hearts which seek the face of God.  We know that there are “appointed feasts” in Scripture.  We seek to know the heart of God in this matter.  We live in a culture which rarely questions the religious traditions of the churches.  But the traditions of the apostate church deserve to be questioned, and our hearts should be open to whatever brings most honor to our king and our kingdom.  We may find that in the ancient feasts of Israel, which are mostly ignored by the church, there are important prophetic indicators, and that our consideration of these feasts is intended to help us root ourselves in our history as well as see into future time.  The celebration of feasts manufactured by church hierarchies without concern for the will of God may cloud our understanding and render us less able to be alert and act courageously in the challenges ahead of us.

I want to determine whether Christmas deserves to be the true celebration of the birth of our Messiah, and if not, what is that celebration which truly honors him.

 

 

ii

God of history, Sabbath of history

In rehearsal for assessing the merits of Christmas it might be worthwhile to take a short detour and look at the church’s tradition of Sunday worship.  The conflict between Scripture and Tradition becomes clear when one seeks to weigh the church’s Sunday celebration against the ancient Sabbath of Israel.[2]

It is impossible to brush aside this conflict if one should find oneself bound to Yeshua and perceive that he is bound not simply to his Redeemer [a personal event], but even to the Messiah, the king of Israel [a political event].  In such a circumstance we feel compelled to explore the extent to which our bond to Yeshua goes beyond the simple intimacy of standing in the presence of God.  It becomes necessary to ask what it means to be bound to the king of the ancient nation.  In this context one feels the call of the ancient Sabbath, and the need arises to know how it has come to be replaced by a tradition without roots in Scripture.

One thing I hold to be unshakable: that no modern voice and no text of Scripture can deny that Yeshua is today on the historic and heavenly throne of David, seated as lord and king over the Israel of God, as should be the clear meaning of Peter’s announcement on the day of Pentecost:[3]

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Yeshua whom you crucified.”[4]  

The task, then, is to know the meaning and the reach of this Israel of GodInquiry into the Israel of God reveals the extent to which the many shades of modern Christianity originated on the pallet of Roman Catholicism in its ploy to substitute itself for the authority of God Himself, even to install its gentile rituals in the hearts of believers, while silently discarding the culture of the patriarchs and of our Messiah.

In the present age we are aggravated in the need to seriously reckon the meaning of the Israel of God as day after day we see the tragic insensitivity and criminal aggression of the Zionist “state” of Israel against its Palestinian and Bedouin citizens, as also we watch our own country, the United States of America, act always in unquestioning, obedient support of the agenda of the Zionist entity.  It is painful for faith in the Messiah of Israel to watch a most criminal political agenda transpire in the name of “Israel.”  This is not to ignore the degree to which Islam is also a renunciation of the God of Israel and of the Messiah of Israel.  It is rather to recognize that the Messiah of Israel will take possession of the dust and bricks of Jerusalem, not through the injustice of the bulldozer, not through the construction of containment camps and checkpoints, but through the power of his word of truth and by the faithful witness of his subjects.

In any inquiry into the nature of the Israel of God we study the Scriptures.  In them we see that Yahveh left record of many historic intentions for national/ genetically-defined Israel.   We see that Israel was first described by God in the promises to Abraham, first formed explicitly into a holy people for God under the Sinai covenant in the desert of the exodus.  There in the desert, however, Yahveh’s dialogue with his people revealed that Israel, the holy people of God, has existence on two levels – one might even say in two separate worlds.

The most apparent use of the term “Israel” is to denote that aggregation of families and genetic descendants of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who received from Yahveh the elevated name Israel, meaning “he who struggles with God.”  When Jacob’s family entered Egypt seventy strong, they were by then “the children of Israel.”  By the time they were ready to leave Egypt, four centuries later, the number of the children of Israel was closer to one million.  It was a group defined by genetics and culture, but not so narrowly defined that it could not take into its number individuals from other genetic groups.  While in Egypt, some children of Jacob possibly followed the example of Joseph and married Egyptian mates.  Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian priest.  As the children of Israel left Egypt their number was augmented by the addition of those Egyptians who preferred to remain with the Hebrew people.  Moses’ wife, Zipporah, was from Midian, essentially Ethiopian.

This exodus assembly was the original body of people to whom Yahveh introduced his covenant code, the parameters of fealty to their divine King such as would make possible the subject – king relationship.  Through Moses, Yahveh made it clear to his people that mere descent from the patriarchs fell far short of the parameter necessary for participation in the true Israel of Yahveh.  As made clear in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy, in order to gain inclusion in the covenant people of God, Yahveh demanded something called “the circumcision of the heart,” the individual heart given in love and fealty and obedience to the living God.  Yahveh was cultivating a people for himself.  Men are made free, in the image of God; therefore the true child of God must come to him in freedom, not by the mechanism of genetic selection, and not through compulsion.  On the one hand, there is a people to which God has revealed himself, and on the other hand there are the individuals who seek his face.  As Paul said,

“Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel…it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise.”[5]

And,

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.[6]

When Yeshua came into the world, this understanding was strongly reinforced.  John the Baptist, announcing the coming of the Messiah of Israel, was interrogated by Pharisees and by the leaders of the Temple.  They held that the kingdom of Yahveh was coextensive with national Israel.   John, skeptical of their intentions, asked them why they had come to see him: did they think that he was bringing a message of Messianic hope for everyone genetically favored to be born into national Israel?  John assured them that this was not the case.

John essentially said to them, “If God wants mere descendants of Abraham, he can make them out of local stones.”  John said that his message rather was for those who are ready for repentance, metanoia, abandoning the heart of rebellion in favor of true fealty to the Messiah, the eternal king of Israel.  The Pharisees, the zealots, and others were looking for a leader who would take the status quo nation into days of national glory and free them from the yoke of Rome.  But Yeshua was looking for an elite to inhabit the eternal holy kingdom of Yahveh.  Addressing this question of participation in the real kingdom of God, Yeshua gave the final answer:

I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”[7]

Apart from the Messiah of Israel there is no Israel of God.

There is, of course, a cultural Israel which is the product of a genetic history, and which is loved and favored by God for the efforts of the patriarchs and ancestors to understand and ingest the divine imperative.  [“…showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments[8]…]  But there is something else: there is transcendent Israel, the holy [“set apart,” “devoted”] people of God, which exists only in and through individual fealty to the Messiah of Israel.  Yeshua came to announce the substantial reality of this re-engineered kingdom of God.  He is Lord and King of the holy nation, transcendent Israel. 

This issue is not easy to confront, on the one hand because the name “Israel” is now attached to a very powerful secular Zionist state which carefully manages the public dialogue and in this century has insinuated itself, by wealth, by stealth, and by war, into the land which has been known as Palestine for the last two thousand years.  This new state is intimately bound to our own country, the United States of America.  This is the secular, geo-political import of the name Israel in the modern consciousness.

Meanwhile, there is a world-historical imperative bound to the name Israel which is at once sacred and political.  Through centuries of prophecy the name of Israel is attached to the great promise to Abraham, the very hope of human history, the divine promise that someday the people of God will know the rule and peace of God in an actual Messianic kingdom in the land of promise.

Our witness must be to stand for the truth and present reality of the transcendent kingdom of Yeshua, transcendent Israel, more real and more powerful than all the kingdoms of the earth, no less real for abstaining from its ultimate possession of dust and stone in the land of promise, no less real for being “Spiritual,” for Spirit, in particular the Spirit of Yahveh, is the ultimate power:

“’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ saith Yahveh.”

This political vision becomes the need to relate to Yeshua as Lord and King of Messianic Israel.   Somehow he must be known within the culture and covenants of transcendent Israel, and therein lies the call to come to terms with the seventh day Sabbath of the 4th commandment and to question the Sunday worship initiated [borrowed from pagan worship] and sanctioned by the Catholic church.

For myself, having been raised in the church and knowing many people who have loved God and have worshipped him on Sunday, I found it very awkward and disconcerting that I should contemplate a turn to worship on Saturday, a day which I associated with baseball, skiing, and raking leaves.  Even more awkward was the peculiarity that the Hebrew Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends in the evening of the following day.  I found it curious to contemplate that whenever I would visit a church on Sunday, I would not be worshipping on my Sabbath.  Conversely, most synagogues available to me would have lovely Sabbath rituals, yet never mention in awe the name of the true Messiah of Israel.

At length I made the change to the ancient Sabbath as I despaired of the incredible apostasy of the Chicago churches through which I had searched over a period of twelve years.  Often I would think of the song, “I would rather be in His world, than without Him in mine.”  I would rather know the true fabric of my historic kingdom and walk alone, than be surrounded by smiling faces in a context conjured by the magicians of Catholicism.

The change having been made, now many years ago, the seventh day Sabbath and all its peculiarities have become the treasured possession of myself and my family, a Sabbath which opens in the home with the ancient Friday evening ceremony of lighting the lights of Sabbath, recitation of traditional blessings, sharing in bread and wine, and reading from God’s word.  It is no longer associated with trivial weekend chores and pleasures.  It is a gift from God, a link into the most ancient traditions of the people of God, and it owns an indestructible peace which can not be taken away.

 

iii

Does it really matter?

If a change of Sabbath is difficult, because of the weight and pull of tradition, because good people seem to get along perfectly well in the embrace of ancient, long- approved rituals, even though their origins are murky, so then will we find reconsideration of Christmas to be difficult, for the very same reasons.

We might ask, Why bother?  The quick answer is that we must give it consideration because history matters, and celebrations which spurn the true word of God and spurn the true history of our God’s dealings with his people – these things efface and destroy our history.  Furthermore I will try to show that they not only efface our history, they obscure our vision of the future.

The modern church is deeply anti-historical.  It mostly ignores the truth that Yeshua came into the world on a foundation of centuries of expectation, appeared in the land of promise in satisfaction of the deep anticipation of the few, the faithful of Israel.[9]  Beginning with Constantine, the official imperial church drove into obscurity those who held to the Saturday Sabbath, the feasts of Israel and an interpretation of Scripture which discounted the increasing authority of the church hierarchy.  The Catholic institution, since the 4th century, has abandoned its roots in Israel, and, in modern times, abandons even the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant as an adjunct to the ancient history of “the Jews.”  The Catholic institution has even redacted the commandments and considers them not as the terms of a holy covenant but merely as a standard of moral behavior.

Before pursuing an inquiry into why the consideration of Christmas matters, we should ask why our perception of the Sabbath matters.  The seventh day Sabbath matters, first of all, because it is the clear and explicit covenant expectation of the God to whom we belong in covenant loyalty:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahveh your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days Yahveh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore Yahveh blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

In the commandment itself, Yahveh pauses to explain the reason for the commandment, that “day number seven,” following the six days of creation, was a holy day set apart to God.  Yahveh could have created the world in six days and gone on straight from there.  But he did not.  With the seventh day our God, immediately following the work of creation, completed the meaning of creation by introducing the element of holy time.  Time is six parts mundane time and one part holy time.  This sacred proportion was established in the week of creation.  It is the design of Yahveh that every week of earth time is so established.  The “week” of months begins in the month of Passover and ends in the seventh month of the High Holy Days. The “week” of world history is to be the same: six millennia of secular history to be followed by the holy time of the Millennium in which our Messiah will rule all the earth from Jerusalem.  Our observance of the seventh day Sabbath teaches us the importance of holy time, past, present, and future.

The observation and honor of God’s holy time also keeps us cognizant of something more immediately important to our preservation: the understanding that we the people of Yahveh are a holy people, set apart to God.  We do not belong to the world.  We are in the world, but we are not of the world, not mundane.  We have been redeemed.  Our Messiah has bought us for himself at the price of his own blood.  We are called to live as set apart, like the Sabbath, for our God.  Our honor of the Sabbath day which He has chosen is an acknowledgement of the truth that it is nothing we do but He alone who redeems, who separates us for himself, who makes us holy.

 

 

 

iv

Nostalgia and the measure of Christmas

I cannot think of Christmas without remembering enchanted days in childhood, with the world made new in snow and the home filled with life by the presence of the tree and good holiday food and presents and friends and extended family.  With some effort, there would be celebrations at the church with shepherds and wise men and readings from the gospels to tell the story of Christmas, and the choir robed in its best, singing the rich repertoire of Christmas songs, and in it all we would see ourselves in a state of actual anticipation of the birth of Jesus.

I also remember a midnight mass on Christmas Eve in Vietnam with the church full of worshippers and revelers and a great excess of participants filling the street.  The curfew had been discarded and literally the whole town was present.  It seemed as if Christmas had overtaken the world.

I remember a Christmas Eve mass in the tiny village of Les Baux, France, where, at midnight, according to tradition, a shepherd entered the back of the stone church, lit only by candles,  guiding one of his sheep who pulled a cart full of straw, in the midst of which lay a doll representing the newborn Jesus.  I felt that I was as close as one could get to that ancient moment, short of Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.

I remember Christmas Eve in the great basilica in Montreal, surrounded by a crush of worshippers, feeling that the entire city had forced its way inside in order to not fail to mark the moment.  And another Christmas Eve in Montreal in the old cathedral on the square, listening to a great sung mass.  Each of these celebrations seemed to fulfill their promise, to mark a moment in divine history and to include me in it.

But in these celebrations, What was real?  Was there a real correspondence between me as a person of faith honoring an historic event, an actual anniversary of the birth of Yeshua on that day?  Was the event an exercise of real faith, a recognition of the historic fabric crafted by the hand of God, a heart yielded in honor of the God who enters history on our behalf?

In most of those celebrations I had little faith at all that could count as faith in the God of history.  My object of worship was a fuzzy idea of divinity that was being sustained by candles and incense and song.  I had a sense of belonging to something wonderful, but it was based in theater and wishful thinking.  And the day given for celebration had no known connection to the birth of our king.

Is not Christmas supposed to be grounded in the historical person of Christ?  How do we get there? Does God expect us to get there from Christmas?

I have come to the conclusion that there is no objective measure by which to determine what God expects for us in Christmas, since he has never asked us to set aside a day uniquely for the commemoration of the birth of Yeshua, and certainly he has never asked us to borrow a date from pagan worship.

 

v

Celebration of the life of our king without a debt to paganism

It is common knowledge that nearly every facet and ritual of Christmas has pagan origins, and that the date, December 25, follows the revelries of Roman Saturnalia and is precisely the day of the Roman dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, entwined with December 25 as the birthday of Mithras, who was known as Deus Solo Invictus Mithras.  The architects of the Roman marriage between empire and church – Aurelian, Constantine, Justinian, and a long succession of Popes — contrived to superimpose Christmas over the ancient pagan celebrations in an attempt to let their Christians feel “like other people” and establish Christianity as the religion of the realm. There is a margin note in a manuscript of the 12th c. Syrian bishop Jacob Bar – Salibi which reads as follows:

“It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity.  In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part.  Accordingly, when the doctors of the church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.”

Boughs of greens, yule logs, evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, all have their roots in pre-Christian pagan tradition, even back into the times of ancient Babylon.  Jeremiah spoke out against these pagan celebrations:

“For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.  They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple.”[10]

“Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew “Mashiach,” meaning Anointed King, which we render in English as Messiah.  The very name “Christmas” [Mass for Christ] is a foul misuse of the royal title of our king, as the mass itself is an obscenity in which the Catholic church pretends first to conjure the very being of God into the “Eucharistic” wafer and then holds the very being of God to “a bloodless sacrifice”, hardly a celebration of the moment of divine incarnation.  They dispense this “body of God” to their supplicants as a counterfeit for the true Spirit of God which He desires to be present within us.

Scripture cautions us against romanticizing man-made traditions as if they were true celebrations of the being of our God.  Yeshua said to the leaders of the Temple:

“These people draw near to me with their mouth…but their heart is far from me.  And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”[11]

Or, as Mark recorded it,

“All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”[12]

Do we not fear to think that we might fall into such a category?  Do we not wish to examine God’s word and our own habits in order to know that we are focused, not on empty, if colorful, apostate traditions, but on the very cultural and historic fabric crafted for us by our God?  If only our search could lead us to the celebration of the coming of our king in a manner that is rooted in true history and owes nothing to the enemies of our God.

Yeshua on earth only gave the command for one celebration, the commemoration of the covenant sacrifice of his body and blood through a rite of drinking the wine of the cup of blessing and eating the unleavened bread of Passover.  However, this does not mean that he had any thought that we would abandon the historic feasts of Israel.  Although he did not command us to keep the Sabbath, he kept the Sabbath, even though his Sabbath works of love disturbed those who had turned it into a day of empty ritual.  We have God’s promise that the Sabbath and even the new moon festivals endure forever:

“As the heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares Yahveh, “so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says Yahveh.”[13]

Ezekiel explains how Sabbaths, New Moons and Passover will be celebrated during the coming Millennium.[14]  Hosea suggests that the Feast of Tabernacles [Sukkot] will be celebrated in the Millennium.[15]  Zechariah states directly that the Feast of Tabernacles will be a major universal celebration during the Millennium:

“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, Yahveh Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.”[16]

We will also consider how it is that the entire mission of Yeshua on earth is so woven into the Feast of Passover that it is difficult to imagine how our God might discard this sacred appointment.

There is no basis in all the world for imagining that the feasts which God gave our ancient people through Moses should somehow become irrelevant for us today.   Nor do we have any reason to oppose them.  The problem is, of course, our cultural attachment to Christmas and Easter, our tragic lack of familiarity with the historic feasts, and our failure to understand how they relate to Yeshua our king.

The church has disengaged itself from Israel and ignores the feasts, while prevalent currents of Judaism behave as if the feasts are exclusively appropriate to a belief which fails to recognize its Messiah.  Both visions leave us undone.

We must look at the seven historic feasts which were given to us by God himself.  We may find in them celebrations which root us in our past and lead us to our Messiah.  Through the perspective of mystical meaning and prophecy we may find in the seven feasts a synopsis of sacred history and a portrait of our Messiah… something of eternal grandeur and truth, something which could never be contained in a borrowed pagan festival with church trimmings.

 

 

PART II.  Time, the Calendar, and The Seven Feasts of Israel.

 

                                                                                    i

Time and planetary motion

The seven feasts of Israel are seven mo’edim, “appointments” between man and God.  They have specific locations in a calendar defined by the periodic movement of heavenly bodies.  We enter into the discussion of the feasts of Israel by first taking stock of time, the Hebrew calendar, and the references which define it.

Earth time begins in the measure of the orbit of the moon around the earth and of the orbit of the earth around the sun.  Measurable earth time began on the fourth day of creation:

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the    night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ …God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.  He also made the stars.  God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night,[17]  and to separate light from darkness.”  Genesis 1.14-18

The earth and the other planets of the solar system are held in the gravitational pull of the sun and so move within an orbital plane which passes through the center of the sun.  The orbit of the moon about the earth lies in a plane which varies slightly from the earth’s orbital plane, at an inclination of about five degrees.  In  the greater plane of our solar system all the conjunctions and eclipses occur … Venus in alignment between earth and sun, the eclipse of the sun as it is obscured by the passage of the moon, the reddening of the moon as it passes through the umbral shadow of the earth.  This greater orbital plane is therefore called the plane of the “ecliptic.”

Around us the sphere of the heavens sits as a relatively unchanging arrangement of distant stars and galaxies.  Since earliest times these points of light have been seen to possess an order, described with some variation as intimations of animals, warriors, maidens, and artifacts.  If we should wish to track our progress around the sun, we may do so by considering the position of the sun upon the backdrop of the stars just before sunrise on each day of the year.

The observation of the sun on the horizon each morning reveals that it travels always within a narrow band of stars…. those stars in line with the plane of the ecliptic through which we travel around the sun.  This band of stars, seen as a belt around the heavens, seen as the road through which the sun travels, is called the zodiac.  Since ancient times this belt has been divided into twelve parts or “houses.”

We gauge our path through the heavens by observing each day the progression of the sun through the twelve houses of the Zodiac.

“…He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his    chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race.  Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end.”[18]

One complete circuit of the earth around the sun, beginning from a certain point and returning to that point, forms the measure of what we call a year.  In that period of time the earth turns on its axis approximately 365.25 full rotations, or “days.”  In nearly that time, 354 days, the moon makes twelve orbits around the earth, each lasting roughly 29.5 days.  These orbits of the moon around the earth are the foundation of our months.

The division of our yearly motion is further distinguished by seasonal differences which result from the tilt of the earth’s axis with regard to the plane of our orbit around the sun.  Since the waver of earth’s axis of rotation is imperceptible in a year, during one extreme of the orbital circuit our north pole is leaned into the sun, while at the opposite extreme our pole is canted away from the sun.  At the intermediate nodes the sun sees both hemispheres equally.  The extremes are called the summer and winter solstices and the intermediate nodes are the equinoxes.  These moments divide the year into four equal portions of time.

Most people assume that the year has always had the same length of days, at 365.25 rotations of the earth, but there is considerable evidence that there have been cataclysms affecting the velocity of the passage of the earth around the sun, such as might be achieved by allowing that bodies of considerable mass might enter our solar system and pass very near the earth, applying a gravitational pull in favor of acceleration or retardation.

That Enoch [3300 B.C. to 3000 B.C.] had a year of 364.8 days could be derived from his statement that “In 8 years the moon falls behind 80 days.”[19]  Enoch also said that “In the days of the sinners the years shall be shortened, and men shall err and take the stars to be gods.”[20]  The flood to wipe away sin came in 2274 B.C.  Following that time Noah is recorded as counting a period of five months as having 150 days, suggesting a 30 x 12 or 360 day year.[21]  Then, following the time in the 8th c. B.C. when Yahveh “made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz — ” recorded as a sign to Hezekiah — from that time civilizations all over the earth began adjusting their calendars, apparently to take account of a new extension of the orbital time to a duration of 365.2422 rotations.  Additionally, there are hints that there might come another change to the length of the year at some time in the future.  There is some suggestion in Revelation that days “might be shortened” once again “as in the days of Noah,” producing the precise prescription of 42 months equaling 1260 days and equaling 3 ½ years, as suggested in Revelation 11.2,3,4 and in Revelation 12.6.

 

 

ii

Moses and the Hebrew calendar

It seems that Moses inherited the Sumerian /Babylonian calendar as his primary reference, possibly holding to it as cultural artifact from Abraham and Sumer.  At any rate, at the time of the Exodus, Yahveh addressed Moses in the context of something resembling the Sumerian/ Babylonian luni-solar calendar.

A luni-solar calendar attempts to keep its months in sync with the orbits of the moon around the earth, so that the first of each month will be marked with the first crescent of the new moon and the middle of each month will be the time of the full moon.  Meanwhile, being also a solar calendar, it attempts to make periodic adjustments to keep the year tuned to the seasons and the earth’s orbital period around the sun.  It takes the moon 29.531 days to orbit the earth.  So lunar months are fudged back and forth between 29 and 30 days to keep calendar and lunar motion in sync.  Since 29.5 x 12 = 354, eleven days short of the solar circuit, it is necessary to add in about eleven days of adjustment per year to keep the yearly period true to the seasons and our orbit around the sun.   The Sumerians did this by adding an extra month every few years.

It is possible that Moses was familiar with the use of this calendar in Egypt.  Ancient Egypt seems to have maintained at least three calendars: a 360 day calendar, a luni-solar calendar, and a star calendar which connected the annual flooding of the Nile with the rising of the star Sirius.[22]

The Hebrew calendar, as ordained by Yahveh and as brought into usage by Moses, has Sumerian-style lunar months and interjects, over a 19 year period, exactly seven intercalary months.  Over the centuries, in an attempt to make calendars more conveniently predictive, men have made their calendars depend more on refinements of calculation and less on observation.  However, the Hebrew calendar is interested both in periodic accuracy and in the capacity of the calendar to be a memorial and a predictor of events which Yahveh himself has attached to the periodic movements of the heavenly bodies.  So the Hebrew calendar, while it flexes the lengths of the solar years to remain faithful to the lunar periods, it also checks its accuracy every nineteen years according to the phenomenon known as the Metonic cycle.

Meton of Athens [5th c. B.C.] observed and recorded what was already a long- recognized synchronization: every nineteen years the sun, moon, and earth return to the “same” relative location.  More specifically, in a count of 6,940 days [and a few hours] two events coincide: The earth completes 19 orbits of the sun and the moon completes 235 orbits of the earth.  Since 19 years of 12 months equals only 228 months, the Hebrew calendar interjects exactly 7 additional “intercalary” months [each called Adar II] over the nineteen year period, at which point calendar and nature are again in confirmed agreement.

From this short study we can see that the Hebrew calendar is as interested in accuracy as any calendar in history, and that, unlike the Gregorian calendar, it devotes itself to recognizing the significant events in the interrelated motions of earth, sun, and moon.  It is a calendar rooted both in science and in nature, both in calculation and in observation.  We will see then how it is rooted not only in science and nature but also in the history of the world, past, present, and future.

 

 

iii

The calendar of planetary cycles as matrix of sacred history

The passage of time and the measurement of time are of great importance to our God.  Prophesy of future events is often in terms of unique increments of time.  The history of the holy people contains a detailed record of the passing of time.

Yahveh undertook with Abraham the beginning of the most important program in history, the redemption of a people for himself, and yet in that very beginning he announced to Abraham a coming time of interruption:

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  …but afterward they will come out.”[23]

Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, followed his own son, Joseph, into Egypt.  Altogether they were seventy strong.  Joseph was a blessing to Egypt, but with the passage of time his deeds were forgotten and the strength of his children was considered a threat.  The Egyptians overtook them and enslaved them.  Yahveh then remembered his covenant with Abraham and his children.  He stirred the heart of Moses to hear His voice and to look to the delivery of his people from Egypt.  Yahveh had in mind that the Exodus of His people was to come about at a very specific moment.

Yahveh instructed Moses to represent His intentions to Pharaoh, and to interpret to Pharaoh the grave series of plagues meant to convince Pharaoh to let the children of Jacob go free.  A final plague, the passage of the angel of death through the houses of Egypt, would prove to be the effective evidence of the power of Yahveh and of the futility of refusing to recognize his authority over his creation.  The morning following that horrible plague of death the children of Jacob were on their way out of Egypt.  It is recorded that,

The length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years.  At the end of    the 430 years, to the very day, all Yahveh’s divisions left Egypt.  Because Yahveh kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor Yahveh for the generations to come.”[24]

Yahveh carefully instructed Moses in his intentions for this night.  And on that occasion Yahveh laid out his intentions for a new calendar of holy appointments between Yahveh and his people.

The count of years from the week of Creation maintains Tishri, a month in autumn, as the first month of creation, and Tishri remains as the first month of the Hebrew civil calendar.  However, Yahveh came to Moses toward the climax of the plagues over Egypt, in the month of Nisan [in spring, six months separate from Tishri], very possibly on the first day of the month, when the crescent of the new moon first appears, and at that moment Yahveh gave Moses the parameters of a new sacred calendar for Israel:

“This month [Nisan] is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.  If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are….The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, …Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.[25]  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.  That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitterherbs, and bread made without yeast….Eat in haste; it is Yahveh’s Passover.  On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am Yahveh.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I   will pass over you.  …This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations     to come you shall celebrate it as a festival [appointment] to Yahveh – a lasting ordinance.  For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. …On the first day  hold a sacred   assembly and another one on the seventh day.  Do no work at all on these     days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat – that is all you may do.  Celebrate the feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt.  Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.  In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the  fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.”                     Exodus 12, excerpts

With the establishment of Passover [now to fall forevermore on a night when the moon is full] Yahveh had set in place the foundation of the Seven Feasts of Israel.  Immediately conjoined to Passover are two other feasts, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Firstfruits.  Then, counting from Passover seven weeks comes the fourth festival, the Feast of Weeks.  In the seventh month [Tishri, the first month of the civil year] come the High Holy Days and the last three feasts: on 1 Tishri the Feast of Trumpets, on 10 Tishri the Day of Atonement, and from 15 to 21 Tishri the Feast of Tabernacles.

In looking at the seven feasts we are able to consider that they reveal their importance on multiple levels.  They are not celebrations chosen by the people. They are festival appointments installed in history by the dictate of Yahveh to his people.  They exist as covenant memorials of events in our sacred history.  They exist as prophetic appointments of future historical events, some already fulfilled, others yet to be fulfilled.  They, as an assembly, describe the critical moments of the involvement of Yahveh in human history from the Day of Creation to the great apocalyptic Day of the Lord, with Yeshua our Messiah at the center of that history.

 

 

iv

Passover, the first and fundamental feast

The focal point of the Passover celebration is a ritual dinner recalling the elements of the first Passover meal in Egypt.  It is prepared on the 14th of Nisan and is eaten in the evening at the beginning of 15 Nisan.[26]  At that time the moon is full.  [The light of it would have been of great assistance in the exodus from Egypt.]  The Feast of Unleavened Bread Begins within Passover in these first hours of the 15th  of Nisan.  During the day of preparation, on the 14th, all items containing leaven have been removed from the house.  For the coming seven days only unleavened bread is eaten.

The Passover meal is a memorial of the Exodus of our people from slavery, a release achieved by the power of Yahveh.  As such it is a celebration in memory of a past event.  But it also bears within it the seeds of something unfinished, something future.  In the context of the Exodus Yahveh had made a vast promise through Moses:

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am Yahveh, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own   people, and I will be your God…..And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’”[27]

In the events of the Exodus we see Yahveh free his people through mighty acts of judgment.    But he is not only freeing them from slavery.  He is gathering them to himself as his own people, and he is promising to secure them within the great promise of history, the promise to Abraham.

In addition, this promise through Moses claims that Yahveh is “redeeming” his people.  Redemption denotes the paying of a debt in exchange for which one takes possession of something.  The Exodus is always spoken of as the Redemption of Israel.  But where is the redemption?  They owed nothing to Pharaoh or his people.  No ransom was paid in Egypt.  Who owed what?  Who paid what?

Yahveh had warned that the angel of death would pass over Egypt and bring death to every family that did not have the blood of the lamb over their doorway.  This warning implied that every person, Jew and Gentile alike, owed his life to the mercy of Yahveh, which was to say that all deserved death.   Those lambs brought into the dwellings of Israel on the 10th of Nisan appeared to be the only ones paying the price to spare Israel from the judgment of the angel of death.  But Moses and every other person with an ounce of reflection knew that the blood of a yearling lamb was no tally for the debt they owed to the God who was setting them free from slavery and from the immediate threat of death.

Passover, then, called for them to look beyond yearling lambs to the dreadful ransom that would be given for their lives.  Passover called out the future.  It called out to the groan of Yeshua upon the cross, the sacrifice of the Lamb which truly frees from sin and death.  And, as the Abrahamic promise is reaffirmed within it, Passover, now as then, still calls out the hope of that Day when we shall sit at table together with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 

 

v

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

The seven days of Unleavened Bread are a memorial to the way our people exited from Egypt, hastily, with no time to be setting loaves out to rise.  The celebration is also a sober commandment, including a warning[28]that whoever eats leavened bread during this time should be cut off from Israel.  Why so serious?  Leaven in the New Testament is equated with sin.  Leaven is something which, though small, enters the loaf and transforms its nature.  Israel was being gathered to God, and already their sin and unworthiness were made apparent by the grace with which a holy God was gathering his children to himself.  Yahveh associated with Passover this call to remember the need in our lives to be separated from that sin which can overtake us and undo our lives.  Again we are pointed to the gracious mercy of our God, who alone can absolve us of our sin and, through his Spirit, maintain our hearts as separated from the world and devoted to him.

 

 

vi

The Feast of Firstfruits

The Feast of Firstfruits is also appended to the Feast of Passover. On the day after the Sabbath of the week of Unleavened Bread there is to be a ceremony which acknowledges the inception of the yearly harvest:

“Yahveh said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the  land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.  He is to wave the sheaf before Yahveh so it will be accepted on  your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. …This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”[29]

This festival seems quite straightforward, with no obvious suggestion that it portends any future event.  The Feast of Firstfruits, so commanded, lay in place over centuries, until there came an event of such magnitude that it resonated against this day and the people of Yahveh were ever more certain that it is their God alone who watches over them.

 

 

vii

The Feast of Weeks [Shavuot/ Pentecost]

The fourth feast sits at the center of symmetry between the spring feasts and the fall feasts.  It also is counted with reference to Passover.  The Feast of Weeks, known as Shavuot and Pentecost, is counted from the day of Firstfruits…seven weeks up to the day after the Sabbath of the seventh week, making fifty days from the day of Firstfruits.  The counting of these fifty days is in itself a daily ritual, and is called “the counting of the omer.”

“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath,   and then present an offering of new grain to Yahveh.  From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to Yahveh….On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work.  This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to me, wherever you live.”[30]

The days of counting the omer are the days of the passage into the wilderness, from Egypt to Mt. Sinai.  By nearly every interpretation of the Biblical record of the counting of days on the way to Sinai, on the fiftieth day the children of Israel were at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  Although it is not definitively inscribed as such, Rabbinic scholars have held that the fiftieth day was the day Yahveh gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  Yahveh came down onto the mountain enshrouded in smoke and fire and spoke aloud the core commandments of the covenant.  After Moses received the remaining commandments from Yahveh and wrote them down, he offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to Yahveh.

“Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people.  They responded, ‘We will do everything Yahveh has said; we will obey.’ Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that Yahveh has made with you in accordance with all these words.’”[31]

This is the covenant by which Israel was transformed from a large clan of descendants into a people, subjects of God their King.  It was at this moment that Yahveh revealed to his people something of his majesty, inviting Moses and the seventy elders to come up into his presence and eat a memorial covenant meal:

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”[32]

This moment then is the formative moment of the people of Israel and the climactic day of Shavuot is equally the anniversary of the giving of the law of the covenant and the anniversary of the formation of Israel as a covenant people.  It is a beautiful and straightforward memorial, ordained by Yahveh.

However, when we go back to consider the elements of its celebration, mystery enters in.  Two loaves of leavened bread are to be waved as an offering before Yahveh.  Why?  Time would tell.  There would come a day when the civilizations of Greece and Rome would make a powerful mix with the culture of Israel, and Shavuot would become known as Pentecost, and the giving of the law at Sinai would become, in Jerusalem, an event in the eyes of the nations: the giving of the law within the heart.

 

 

viii

The Feast of Trumpets [Yom Teruah]

In counting forward six months from 1 Nisan we pass through the months of Iyyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul [the sixth month, a time of preparation for the events to come], and we arrive in the seventh month, Tishri.  Here begin the High Holy Days, and their scale of reference is grand.

On 1 Tishri, the day of the new moon of Tishri, Yahveh established through Moses Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets.

Yahveh said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present an offering made to Yahveh by fire.”[33]

First and foremost it is a day chosen by God for teruah, the mournful and penetrating sound of the shofar.  Amos wrote, “When the shofar is sounded in a town, do the people not take alarm?”[34]  The sound of the shofar can inspire both fear and repentance.  Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, is the beginning of the Days of Awe, up until the Day of Atonement on 10 Tishri.

In the commands to Moses, in the Torah, there is no direct connection between Yom Teruah and any past event, other than the command of Yahveh that it be commemorated each year.  However, ancient tradition has bound this day to the sixth day of Creation, the day upon which Adam and Eve were created.  Therefore 1 Tishri is, from early times, the birthday of humanity.  As the day which is the ultimate starting point of human history, in the first year of human history, 1 Tishri is then also the head of the civil year, Rosh Hashanah. 

Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the kingship of our God over his creation.  [As also the kings of Israel count the beginnings of their reigns from 1 Tishri, in recognition of the fact that they are nothing more than caretakers on behalf of the One eternal King on the eternal heavenly throne over Israel.]

“When Adam first opened his eyes and human consciousness was born, he immediately understood that the LORD created all things, including himself.  According to midrash, Adam’s first words were  ‘Adonai malakh olam va’ed: The LORD is King for ever and ever.’ [Exodus 15.18].  God then said, ‘Now the whole world will know       that I am King’ and he was very pleased….The birthday of humanity is therefore the Coronation Day for the King of the Universe.  Psalm 47 celebrates the Kingship of God that mentions the ‘shout’ [teruah] and shofar blast of God’s coronation:  ‘God has gone up with a shout [teruah], the LORD with the sound of a trumpet [shofar].’        [Psalm 47.54][35]

So Rosh Hashanah stands as a feast commemorative of the birth of the world while retaining its primary nature as Yom Teruah, Feast of Trumpets, the call to repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement.  It will come in the last part of our study to consider how Yahveh will uniquely use this day to affirm his being and exercise his kingship.

 

 

ix

The Day of Atonement

Yahveh designated 10 Tishri as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  “Kippur” comes from the root “Kaphar” as used in Psalm 49.7,8 to mean “redeem” or “pay a ransom” to God for a man:

“It [riches/ wealth] cannot redeem a man, or pay his ransom [kaphro] to God…”[36]

Therefore, while Passover describes the sacrifice by which our king paid the price for our sinfulness, the Day of Atonement describes the moment at the end of our days, at the end of the era, when we stand before God and the Book of Life is opened.  At that moment we stand before him with nothing hidden – our lives, our faith, our lack of faith, and the mercy of our Redeemer – in the gravity of knowing that as his children, only by his stripes were we healed.  Only by his death are we at this moment rescued, bought back, redeemed from the fate of death.

“The conqueror I will allow to eat from the tree of Life which is within the paradise of   God….Be faithful though you have to die for it and I will give you the crown of             life….The conqueror shall not be injured by the second death….I will never erase his name from the Book of Life but will own him openly before my Father and his angels.”[37]

Yahveh told Moses, “Atonement is to be made once a year for all of the Israelites.”[38]  10 Tishri is the day in which Israel stands before Yahveh in recognition that only by his covering of our sinfulness may we come to be in his presence.  Where Passover contains all the joy of sudden release, The Day of Atonement stands austere, even dreadful, as if at the summary moment of our lives.

Yom Kippur is the most solemn of all the seven appointments…prepared through the Days of Awe and now ending in a day of compulsory fasting and appearing before God in sacred assembly.

“On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work …because on this day atonement will be made for you to cleanse you….It is a Sabbath of rest and you must deny yourselves [fast]; it is a lasting ordinance…[39]

During the time of the Tabernacle and Temple, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and presented the blood of sacrifice on this day for his own sin and for the sins of Israel.  This was the only day of the year that anyone was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.  In preparation he was to sprinkle fire from the altar with incense so that

“the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony [ark] so that he will not die.” 

With sacrifice, through anointing with blood, the high priest was to make atonement even for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar.  He was to sacrifice a goat for the sins of the people and he was to send another scapegoat “bearing their sins” live into the desert.

“The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release  it in the desert.”[40]

Prior to the sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross, this laborious ceremony and solitary point of the year must have illustrated to Israel that only the most severe and directed purposes of Yahveh could free the people from their sin.

Just as it must have filled them with awe that year after year their representative, their mediator, their High Priest, could come successfully before Yahveh on their behalf, so it must have raised their anticipation that someday their Messiah would stand as final mediator before God and offer the full value of their ransom, becoming for them that potent sacrifice of which the yearling lamb was only a symbol.

This annual Yom Kippur ceremony is that which is described in resignation by the author of the book of Hebrews:

“But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never  without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.”[41]

This Atonement ritual of blood and sacrifice came to an end.  The death of Yeshua on the cross caused the curtain over the entrance to the Holy of Holies to be “rent in two,” revealing that Yeshua himself had, by his sacrifice, covered us eternally with his blood and, as our eternal High Priest, had opened the way for all his children to stand blameless before God, to enter the Holy of Holies.  Meanwhile, for all who chose to reject the efficacy of the sacrifice of our Messiah, so for them also the Temple ceremony came to a close, as Rome crushed the Jewish rebellion in 70 A.D., and in the process destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Nevertheless, the honor of the appointed feast of Yom Kippur goes on in our time, especially marking for us that there is a time when sorrowing for our sins, as in the Days of Awe, must culminate in a response, an actual act of repentance, a true turning from sin.  On Yom Kippur we stand before God in dreadful awareness of the massive gesture by which he has entered our world to remove us from our sin, and in dreadful awareness of the total response to which we are called.

Until the coming of Yeshua our King and High Priest, Yom Kippur stood prophetically to point Israel toward the day of Messianic atonement.  Now, in this time, Yom Kippur still stands, always as the time of sober repentance, but also, we believe, as prophetic of things to come.  We will consider the possible significance of this when we review the seven feasts in terms of the actions of Yeshua on our behalf.  It is very possible that a coming Yom Teruah, Feast of Trumpets, will mark the beginning of the seven trumpets of Revelation, calling the world to repentance….leading to a final time of decision for all the world, after the manner of all who have stood before God in the yearly appointment of the Day of Atonement.

 

 

x

The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles is the climax of the cycle of seven holy “appointments.”  As the long journey of redemption began in the darkness of Egypt, so the High Holy Days begin in sober meditation in the month of Elul up until the 1st day of Tishri.  Then the sliver of the new moon and the call of the shofar mark Yom Teruah, the day of blowing.  And for ten days Israel places itself in the presence of God, until, on the Day of Atonement, we stand before Yahveh in consciousness that we stand before the Judge of the world.

Then, on the 15th, the full moon of Tishri, we are called to remember the goodness of God in the desert of Sinai as we lived in huts with manna to eat and water from the rock and the promise of eternity.  Equally we are called to recognize and give thanks for His goodness which brings us harvest at this time of year.  And we celebrate the faithfulness of God by which He brings us out of the furnace of history and joins us to himself for eternity.

The commandment of this feast through Moses is straightforward, a celebration in recognition of living in huts in the desert of the Exodus and a celebration of the harvest:

“’So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to Yahveh for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest.  On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before Yahveh your God for seven days. …This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month.  Live in booths for seven days.  All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.  I am Yahveh your God.’”[42]

The analogous command of Yahveh in Deuteronomy emphasizes that this is to be a most joyful celebration for all who are joined within Israel: “Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.  Be Joyful at your Feast – you, your sons  and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the    fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.”[43] 

The mention here of the deliberate inclusion of servants, widows, and aliens points toward the endtime significance of this feast.   In Exodus Yahveh refers to this feast as the Feast of Ingathering.   Therein lie the overtones which mark this feast as predictive of the great Ingathering of the children of God from all nations, and the celebration which will follow the final Day of Judgment:  the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Today people fabricate little huts in their back yards or even in their living rooms.  In this time, sleeping and eating [camping out] in a little hut is probably no less awkward than it was in the days of the return from exile when Ezra restored the people to the knowledge of God’s will:

“They found written in the Law, which Yahveh had commanded through Moses, that the    Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: ‘Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths’ – as it is written.  So the people went  out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their  courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.  The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them.  From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this.  And their joy was very great….”[44]

Undoubtedly the awkwardness only amplifies their joy, living in the knowledge that as they recline in the shade of a small hut their God has actually bent heaven and earth and all of history to the favor of the people whom He gathers to Himself.  I pray that many people in this time will rediscover that they are true children of the Messiah of Israel, that they are themselves the Israel of God.  As they face forward into the darkness of the coming days of persecution, may they take comfort also in the celebration, however awkward, of these wonderful feasts given to us by the appointment of our God in order to direct us to the glory and riches of our kingdom and of all that awaits us.

 

Part III.  The Feasts of Israel and the Messiah of Israel

 

“Every reader of the New Testament knows how frequent are such allusions to the Exodus, the Paschal Lamb, the Paschal Supper, and the feast of unleavened bread.  And that this meaning was intended from the first, not only in reference to the Passover, but to all the feasts, appears from the whole design of the Old Testament, and from the exact correspondence between the types and the antitypes.  Indeed, it is, so to speak, impressed upon the Old Testament by a law of internal necessity.  For when God bound up the future of all nations in the history of Abraham and his seed [Genesis 12.3], He made that history prophetic; and each event, and every rite became, as it were, a bud, destined to open in blossom and ripen into fruit on that tree under the shadow of which all nations    were to be gathered.”

Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, pp. 141,142

 

i

Yeshua in the great feasts

In the historical record, in the narrative of Scripture, we see the correspondence between the ancient feasts and the progress of Messianic activity in history.  It is, of course, much more than mere correspondence.  The world groans for restoration.  Rebellion has betrayed the purposes of creation.  A remnant has lived in groaning desire for the victory of their only king, victory to be accomplished by the hand of Emmanuel, the seed of the woman, the Messiah of Israel.

We are all stained by the revolt of our ancestors against God.  Our king, through much preparation, has opened the path for our redemption.  What remains is the dramatic confrontation which shall define the end of the era…the final warning, the final call to repentance, the judgment and harvest through which the faithful will be gathered to their king, and the forces of rebellion swept from the earth.

The passion of Yeshua in the week of his crucifixion was congruent with the pattern laid down in the covenant rituals of Passover and Firstfruits, while the feast of unleavened  bread has always been the leitmotif reminding us of the need for holiness.  The count of fifty days from the original Passover event leads to the day of Pentecost when the  law was given at Mount Sinai, while our king, a millennium and a half later, cautioned his disciples to wait an equal period until on that very same fiftieth day came the revelation of the Holy Spirit by whom we come to know the law within the heart.

Now, at this time in prophetic history, we are in transit between that fulfillment of the Feast of Pentecost and the coming fulfillment of the three great feasts of the seventh month.  In the yearly celebration of the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles we await the resonance of their fulfillment.  By the elements of each feast our God attempts to educate our anticipation of that coming time.  In the sobering hours of Yom Teruah we are able to foresee an ultimate call to repentance for all the world, and, as we shall see, we are also given reason to look back at the glory of that day on which our Messiah was born of a woman.  In the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, we are called to live with our hearts open to the scrutiny and care of our mediator and high priest.  In Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, we are encouraged to remember not only the past but also the great Abrahamic promise and the coming ingathering of the children of God from all nations.  In these feasts we are able to celebrate the full expanse of sacred history, without need to embellish our faith with borrowed pagan rituals.

 

 

ii

Yeshua in Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits

The triumphal exodus of Israel from Egypt circa 1446 B.C. was made possible only by the triumphal entry of Yeshua our Messiah into Jerusalem circa 30 A.D., as the lambs slain on the eve of Passover in Egypt were without meaning apart from their portent of the great sacrifice to come in the city of Jerusalem.  On the 10th of Nisan lambs were chosen for the sacrifice yet to come in the waning hours of the 14th  of Nisan, lambs to be held apart in the home, so that the lamb whose blood was shed would have a face and a character familiar to those who sacrificed him, the lamb also to be scrutinized for final assurance that it was without blemish.  On the 10th of Nisan Yeshua came to the home of his closest friends, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, and ate with them and their guests.  During the following three days he spent evenings with friends and disciples, while each day he spent in the courts of the Temple, opening his heart to the people, to the priests and Pharisees and Sadducees, with these words in his heart:

“If only you [Jerusalem], even you, had only known …what would bring you peace – but   now it is hidden from your eyes.”[45]

Meanwhile the priests and Sadducees and Pharisees questioned and tested Yeshua with questions and riddles, hoping to find fault with him, but in response to the perfection of  his answers they could say nothing.

He was given a mock trial and sent to the cross, but this was a moment crafted in the earliest stirrings of Creation.  The victory of the Passover in Egypt was not founded on a tragedy in Jerusalem.  It was founded on the great victory of our king at the cross:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”[46]

“Jesus…looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the time has come.  Glorify your   Son, that your Son may glorify you.”[47]

“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.”[48]

Yes, on the cross he was “lifted up,” and the cross was his glory.  Upon the cross he spoke the words, “It is finished,”  the completion of that work which he came to earth to perform.  All the treasure of our destiny, the restoration of hope, was secured in those hours of his sacrifice.

“Here at the cross is the man who loves his enemies, the man whose righteousness is  greater than that of the Pharisees, who being rich became poor, who gives his robe to  those who took his cloak, who prays for those who despitefully use him.  The cross is not  a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come.”[49]         

A careful harmonization of all the gospel accounts reveals that on 14 Nisan, in the waning hours of the afternoon, as the men of Jerusalem were seeing to the slaughter of their lambs at the Temple, Yeshua was being nailed to the cross at a place called Golgotha, “the place of the skull.”  A day earlier, on the 13th, his disciples had already set about preparations for the coming Passover, and as the sun set, then in the first evening hours of the 14th they joined in a Preparation Day meal.[50]  In that night of the 14th Judas went about his business “to do quickly that which he was to do.”   Yeshua and the eleven left for the Kidron Valley and the Garden.  Yeshua was seized in the night and taken to Caiaphas and Ananias and to Pilate.  By morning there was a decision to put Yeshua to death.  In the brightening of the day he was beaten.  By afternoon he was carrying his cross to Golgotha.  He was, as John tells us, sacrificed that afternoon, on Preparation Day, the 14th of Nisan.[51]  And as it was the Day of Preparation, they hastened to place him in the tomb before nightfall and the beginning of the high Sabbath of Passover.[52]

As Yeshua went to the grave for our sins so all Israel at that moment undertook, in conjunction with Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in recognition of their profound need to be free of sin, though few recognized that victory over sin was at that moment being achieved within walking distance of their homes.  They saw that the afternoon skies were filled with darkness, but they did not hear the sound of the curtain in the temple being torn in half.

The next day, “the one after Preparation Day” [Passover, in the morning of the 15th , when Israel would have been setting out from Egypt] “the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate” to make sure that the tomb was securely sealed.[53] The following day, the 16th, was the regular weekly Sabbath, the first Sabbath after the high Sabbath of Passover.  The day after that, the 17th, was the first day of the week, the day appointed as the Feast of Firstfruits, and the day on which Yeshua rose from the dead, fulfilling the  prophesy that he would remain in the tomb three days and three nights.

“After the Sabbaths [plural], at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and    the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of    the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb rolled back the stone.”[54]

So even his resurrection was in accord with the appointment honored by Israel over a span of  nearly fifteen hundred years, the Feast of Firstfruits.  And Yeshua rose from the dead, firstborn among us his brothers, first in all things, first in the great harvest of God:

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn:    Christ the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him,[55]

 

 

iii

Yeshua in the Feast of Weeks  

For seven weeks Israel made its journey from Egypt to Sinai, to its appointed appearance before God.  Yahveh had told Moses that the day would come when he and all of Israel would worship Him at this mountain:

And God said, “I will be with you.  And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have  sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”[56]

It was not the purpose of Yahveh merely to bring an end to physical servitude and relocate his people.  It was his purpose to bind them by covenant as his own.   There are many arguments pro and con as to whether it took exactly 50 days to get to the moment of receiving the covenant at Mt. Sinai.  I believe there is a strong argument in favor of the exact timing.  More important, however, is that Israel, Messianic or not, has consistently held that the day of the giving of the Torah was Shavuot, Pentecost, the 50th day.  And we know that on this same 50th day following the Passover sacrifice of Yeshua, the disciples, having been admonished by Yeshua to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, were gathered together in one place and

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the    whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that  separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit  and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”[57]

This was that to which John had pointed when he said,

I baptize you with water but he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”[58]

This was the fulfillment of a core prophecy of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, that the day would come when the law, first given in the covenant at Sinai, seemingly on the day of Pentecost, would someday be placed in the heart of all who belong to Yahveh:

“The time is coming,” declares Yahveh, “when I will make a new covenant with the     house of Israel and with the house of Judah…I will put my law in their minds and write it  on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.”[59]

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your     heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move   you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”[60]

 

 

iv

 

Yeshua in the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Teruah

For Yom Teruah the instructions of Yahveh to Moses seem slight, as if it were the most inconsequential of Feasts:

Yahveh said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you    are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present an offering made to Yahveh by fire.’”[61]

Tishri 1, Yom Teruah, is the first of the High Holy Days of the seventh month, but, other than that, it is listed among the other feasts with little elaboration.  As it happens, however, its lack of specified purpose portends the rich usage of this day in the designs of God.

The surface of the feast is significant.  It is a new moon feast, a day of new beginnings.  It is also “a day of blowing,” when the shofar is to be sounded, the haunting call which evokes everything from extreme elation to the call to battle to the call to repentance.  As a call to reflection and repentance it exercises its function as point of commencement leading to the Day of Atonement on the 10th of Tishri.

The history of Yom Teruah is significant.  It is of course the inception of the civil New Year, such that in our time its primary celebration is as Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s Day.  However, as we mentioned earlier, the roots of this civil New Year run deep – all the way back to the beginning of the first year of human life on earth, day six of Creation, the day when God created Adam and Eve.  This day in fall is considered to be the first day of human life on earth, therefore the date of the birthday of Adam and the date of the beginning of the rule of God among men.  As anniversary date of the kingdom of Yahveh in the world it is also the date from which the kings of Israel have dated their years of rule as stewards of God over the people of God.

But there is more.  Shepherds and flocks do not abide in fields in the land of promise in the middle of winter.  Even Caesar Augustus would not order a census in the middle of winter.  Since the census, for many, involved migration to the place of birth, it would have been more reasonable in an agrarian society to order it in the fall at the end of the harvest.   In Luke’s account of the birth of John the Baptist and of the birth of Yeshua there are clues to the reasonable season of the birth of Yeshua, and these clues witness to 1 Tishri as that time.

Allow, for the sake of argument, that Yeshua should be born on 1 Tishri, the 1st day of the civil calendar.  As for the year of his birth, we reason as follows.  John began preaching along the Jordan “in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar.”[62]   Yeshua came to John and then began his ministry soon afterward, at the age of “about thirty years.”[63]  [Apparently Luke never ventured to ask him his precise age.]  Precision of “the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar” seems impossible, but the arguments tend to favor the spread of years between 26 and 28 A.D.  Since we are already working with approximations, we might begin by trying the year 27 A.D.  Then the birth of Yeshua would have been 30 years previous, in about 3 B.C.

Now we propose that the birth of Yeshua is on the 1st day of the Hebrew month Tishri in the Gregorian year 3 B.C., or by the Hebrew calendar, Tishri 1, 3759 A.M.[64]   Thus the full date on the Gregorian calendar would have been September 11, 3 B.C.!  By the Hebrew civil calendar it was also Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s Day.

If you imagine or draw two horizontal bars representing the two years prior to the birth of Yeshua, and their monthly divisions, everything is easier to visualize.  [The year 3758 has twelve months and the year 3757 has 13 months, being an adjusted year.]  Counting back 9 months from 1 Tishri, 3759 A.M., places us in the beginning of the 4th month of 3758 A.M., 1 Tevet.  The first day of the fourth month of 3758 is then the date of the conception of Yeshua.

year 3757 A.M.       Aug. 31, 5 B.C. through Sep. 19, 4 B.C.

TIS – HES  – KIS – TEV – SHE – ADA – AD2 -//- NIS – IYA – SIV – TAM – AV  –  ELU

1          2       3       4        5        6A     6B         7        8       9      10      11     12

 

year 3758 A.M.       Sep. 20, 4 B.C. through Sep. 8, 3.B.C.

TIS – HES – KIS – TEV –  SHE – ADA – // –  NIS –   IYA –  SIV –   TAM  –   AV –   ELU

1          2       3        4       5         6             7          8        9        10        11        12

 

year 3759 A.M.         begin September 9, 3 B.C.

TISHRI 1 – Yom Teruah, birth of Yeshua. also Rosh Hashanah

We know from Luke that the pregnancy of Elizabeth with John the Baptist was six months in advance of Mary’s pregnancy with Yeshua.

“In the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy], God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a  descendant of David.   The virgin’s name was Mary.”[65]

Gabriel announced to her that the Most High would overshadow her and cause her to bear a child who would  be called the Son of God.  And he advised her of the condition of her relative, Elizabeth:

“Even Elizabeth is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be       barren  is in her sixth month.”[66]

So we can go to our calendar and go back six more months to tentatively locate the conception of John the Baptist.  We traverse the beginning three months of 3758 and the last three months of 3757, placing us at the beginning of the 10th month or 1 Tammuz, in the year 3757 A.M.  Tammuz 1 is the beginning of the 10th month in the civil year, but just four months away from the beginning of the sacred year on 1 Nisan, 3757.

Conveniently, we are able to locate events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist because the annunciation of his birth to his father Zechariah occurred at a very specific time in the sacred calendar.  Zechariah was a priest belonging to the “course” of Abijah.  Under King David the priesthood had been divided into 24 courses or turns, with a fixed [double] rotation through the year, plus the obligation of all courses to be present in the Temple for the three main festival weeks: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

We know that Zechariah belonged to the course of Abijah[67] and that Abijah held the 8th turn or course.[68]  The rotation was counted from the first Sabbath of the sacred year in Nisan.  As it happens, before the priests of Abijah could have their first regular turn they would have already been in Jerusalem twice for feast weeks, once for the week of Passover and once for the week of Pentecost.  So their first regular turn came in the 10th week of the sacred year.  Counting from the beginning of the sacred year, we come to the middle of the 3rd  month, Sivan, just two weeks prior to the proposed conception of John at the beginning of the 4th month.

Zechariah, serving in the Temple in that 10th week, was standing alone at the altar of incense when Gabriel appeared to him and told him that his wife Elizabeth would bear to him a son to be named John, who would

“go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah… to make ready a people   prepared for the Lord.”[69]

Then we are told,

“When his time of service was completed he returned home.  After this his wife        Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.”[70]

We now have a space of two weeks, the last half of Sivan, in which John could have been conceived.  By this count, going forward nine months, John would have been born on approximately 1 Nisan, the New Year, the new moon, two weeks before Passover.  Allowing for the two week margin, he might also have been born on Passover, on the 15th of Nisan.   There is, of course, a long tradition of expectation that “Elijah”, the one who announces the Messiah, should appear at Passover, for which Elijah’s cup is set out at the Passover feast.

Now, going forward again the six month difference between the two births, from the first weeks of Nisan 3758 we come to the time of the birth of Yeshua between 1 Tishri and 15 Tishri at the beginning of 3759 A.M.  There are interesting Scriptural suggestions tending to favor his birth on both dates.[71]  However, there is another argument which favors 1 Tishri, an argument based on astronomy and the book of Revelation.

Revelation, chapter12, describes the birth of Yeshua and connects his birth to a portent in the heavens:

“And a great portent was seen in heaven, a woman clad in the sun – with the moon under her feet, and a tiara of twelve stars on her head; she was with child, crying in the pangs of travail, in anguish for her delivery… She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to  shepherd all the nations with an iron flail.”[72]

We circuit the sun in one year, and the backdrop of the zodiac, against which we [if we rise early] see the rising of the sun, is divided into 12 sectors, each inhabited by the figure of a constellation.  One of these constellations is the figure of Virgo, “the woman with a tiara of stars/constellations over her head.”

During a twelfth of the year, in fall, the sun rises in Virgo, during which time she is said to be “clothed in the sun.”  As the sun takes a year to move through the twelve sectors of the zodiac, the moon, orbiting also in nearly the same [ecliptic] plane, makes a full journey by leaps and bounds through the zodiac in 29.5 days.

Only at a very specific time would one be able to see both the sun rising in Virgo [roughly September] and also the moon rising under the feet of Virgo.  In the zodiac, solar position describes months and lunar position defines days.  According to NASA computations and the research of many others, this conjunction could only have happened on one day in the vicinity of 4 B.C. to 3 B.C.: that is on September 11, 3 B.C. or the new moon of 1 Tishri in 3759 Anno Mundi.  At that time the stars within Virgo would have been on the eastern horizon in the night sky, with the sliver of the new moon under her feet, the stars then fading into dawn as the sun rose in that same position of the horizon, “clothing her in the sun.”

This moment, according to Revelation, defines the moment of the birth of Yeshua.  This approximate moment is strongly suggested by the chronology surrounding the birth of John the Baptist.  The birth of our Messiah on 1 Tishri would have been the new moon of Yom Teruah, the day of blowing the shofar, the first of the High Holy Days of the year 3759 A.M.  He would so come into the world on the birthday of Creation.  He, the second Adam, coming into his world on the anniversary of the birth of the first Adam.

There is one final aspect of Yom Teruah which we must consider.  That is to ask what will be the eventual realization of this feast in the unfolding fabric of history.  What does it portend for the future?  What does it tell us about the coming return of our king?

My own suspicion is that the Feast of Yom Teruah, the day of blowing the shofar, will soon find its reality in history as the seven trumpets of Revelation.  As the shofar on 1 Tishri is meant to call us to repentance in preparation for standing before our God on the Day of Atonement, so the seven trumpets of Revelation are Yahveh’s final call to the people of all the earth to come before him in repentance, to turn from their rebellion and to devote their hearts to their God, all in preparation for a coming day of judgment.

That final call, sounded on the seven trumpets of Revelation,[73] is a series of warnings even more grave than the warnings given in Egypt leading up to the Exodus: hail and fire mixed with blood, a mountain on fire hurled into the sea, a star name Wormwood disturbing our sources of fresh water, the darkening of sun and moon, a plague of demonic locusts from the abyss attacking mankind, the attack of a great cavalry of cross-species beings, and a final curse of seven bowls of wrath laying waste the earth… as the armies of the nations surround Jerusalem and make war upon each other.  With each trumpet there will be the opportunity to turn to our Creator, but those who persevere in rebellion will ultimately be called before God, along with everyone else, to declare the virtue of their purposes and their actions.  Every soul who ever lived will stand and  make his case before God.

 

 

 

v

Yeshua in the Day of Atonement

Out of Yom Teruah and the Days of Awe comes the Day of Atonement.  Out of the time of the seven trumpets comes an end to all speculation about our place in the heart of God.  All that we have hoped for begins to happen.

“In the days of the seventh [last] angel’s [shofar] voice, …then shall the secret purpose of God be fulfilled, as he assured his servants the prophets.[74]

We are told the secret purpose of God in the book of Ephesians:

“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which   he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.[75]

Such is the ultimate atonement, redemption and union with our God.

“Then the seventh angel blew; and loud voices followed in heaven, crying, ‘The rule of  the world has passed to our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.’   Then the four and twenty Presbyters who are seated on their thrones before God, fell on  their faces and worshipped God, saying, ‘We thank thee, Lord God almighty, who art    and wast that thou hast assumed thy great power and begun to reign; the nations were  enraged, but thy wrath has come, the time has come for the dead to be judged, the time    for rewarding thy servants the prophets and the saints who reverence thy name, both low and high, the time for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’”[76]

After Michael and Satan fought in heaven, Michael prevailed, curiously “through the blood of the Lamb” and the witness of the saints.  As a result there was “no more place” for Satan and his angels in heaven.  It will be the same on earth.   Once the partisans of rebellion have staged their battles against our king, once they have fully demonstrated the emptiness of their purposes, there will no longer be a place for them in this world.

The City of God will then truly become the home of those who have given their hearts to their king.  Out of the time of the seventh trumpet will have come a time of confusion and battle, but out of it all will come the faithfulness of those who know their God, and God’s harvest of those who have remained faithful.

vi

Yeshua in the Feast of Tabernacles

Ostensibly a feast to celebrate having lived in huts in the Sinai Desert, Yahveh himself also calls Tabernacles the Feast of Ingathering.  This is the season of the year for the harvest to be brought in and the goodness of God to be celebrated.  This portends also the time in history when our God will gather in his people from all the earth.  This is the festival above all others in which it is emphasized that all nations shall participate.

This is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, toward which all hope advances, our celebration at table with Abraham and Moses and Yeshua our king.  In the Jewish wedding of ancient tradition, the consummation of the marriage was followed by a week of celebration, the marriage feast.  We are the bride of Yeshua our Messiah, and the consummation of our marriage will be celebrated.  The week of Sukkot looks forward to that day.  John describes in Revelation the coming of that day:

Then I heard a cry like the shout of a great host and the sound of may waves and the  roar of heavy thunder – “Hallelujah! Now the Lord our God almighty reigns!  Let us       rejoice and triumph, let us give him the glory!  For now comes the marriage of the Lamb. His bride has arrayed herself.  Yea, she is allowed to put on fine linen, dazzling white.”   The white linen is the righteous conduct of the saints.  Then I was told, “Write this:    ‘Blessed are those who have been called to the marriage-banquet of the Lamb!’”[77]

Zechariah describes the importance the Feast of Tabernacles will have in the millennium following the return of our king:

Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him….The Lord will be         king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord and his name the only    name….Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.[78]

Sukkot will become the great enduring victory festival for all the earth.

 

 

 

vii

In conclusion, How, after so much time, do we presume to meddle with the celebration of Christmas, or presume to adopt the unfamiliar practices of the seven feasts of Israel?  It would be misguided to expect the synagogue to welcome us with open arms. It is unlikely that they would show great interest in teaching us their ways.  For them, most of us will be outsiders.

But, of course, that is not the point.  It does not matter what men think of us.  Paul addressed this situation so clearly:

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and  physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of  the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men,  but from God.[79]

Furthermore we are not interested in breaking into the ossified habits of a Judaism which spurns the idea of personal salvation and counts on the collective destiny of genetic Israel.

If we choose to adhere to the appointments of our king, it is between us and our king.  We may never know anything but the most awkward relationship to the synagogue.  But our love for the God of history can shine even more clearly through the clumsiness of our heartfelt festival arrangements.  The temple and the synagogue were essential components of the old covenant tradition.  But in our time, He is our tabernacle and we are His.  We live each moment in the presence of our king, and nothing can deprive us of the richness of these festivals undertaken in intimacy with our king.

Let the question persist!  Hasn’t God found Christian culture to be an adequate culture within which to call men to himself?  I don’t know how to answer that question.  I believe the vast majority of Christian culture does not lead us to God; tragically, for most, this culture is something we have to overcome.  For me, Christian culture has been both a foundation and an obstacle.  The church does not lead men to Yeshua because the church does not know or seek Yeshua.  They entertain themselves with scripts of morality and formulas for salvation, while not at all seeking the Spirit and presence of God.   Exactly as in the time of his first coming, there is hardly a faction of the church which will confess that Yeshua is at this moment seated on the throne of David, the eternal heavenly throne, ruling victoriously over his people through the power and presence of his Spirit.

No. The traditions of Christian institutions are not enough.  Furthermore, a change is taking place.  We are on the threshold of the return of our king.  He is not returning in order to silently ignore the feasts which we ignore.  As we see, the Feast of Tabernacles will be the centerpiece of worldwide celebration.  Nor will he graciously abandon the seventh day Sabbath to honor the day chosen by Rome.  He is not returning merely as our personal savior.  He is returning as Lord of lords and King of kings; he is returning as King over his people Israel, to rule victoriously from Jerusalem.  For this reason he is calling out to his people to see him with greater precision, with increasing historical accuracy.

When Yeshua comes, what will glorify him will be warriors who serve him as faithful subjects of the realm, not skeptics watching for him to prove to them the validity of his “candidacy.”

We are in the time of prophecy.  Zechariah describes this time, this time of change, a time of new cultural imperatives.  For us who have grown up in traditionally Christian environments such changes are awkward, to say the least.  But I believe that each of us is obliged to present ourselves prayerfully before God and seek his will on this issue of the appointed feasts, each in his unique environment, each in his unique mission for our king.

Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me.  This is what the Lord Almighty says:  “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months will become  joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah.  Therefore love truth and peace.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities   will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at    once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty.  I myself am going.’  And many    peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to   entreat him.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and      nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with    you, because we have heard that God is with you.’[80]

 

© Copyright 2014

Lawrence S. Jones

Chicago, Illinois

Email: lawrencestewartjones.com

website: www.jerusalemgraffiti.com

 

[1] Isaiah 1.11,13,14,15

[2][2] The Catholic institution is quite open in bragging that its historic establishment of Sunday as the day of worship rather than the historic Sabbath is prime evidence that its own pronouncements “carry all the weight of Scripture and divine decree.”

[3] This core truth of the kingdom of God is little discussed and little recognized in the modern world, but it is the very truth which shall most vividly describe itself in the coming years.  I discuss this at great length in other essays.

[4] Acts 2.36

[5] Romans 9. 6,8

[6] Romans 2.28,29

[7] John 14.6

[8] Deuteronomy 5.10

[9] Comah, Haggai 2.7f

[10] Jeremiah 10.3,4

[11] Matthew 15.8,9

[12] Mark 7.9

[13] Isaiah 66.23

[14] Ezekiel, chapters 45,46

[15] Hosea 12.9

[16] Zechariah 14.16

[17] In the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown, therefore all regular Sabbaths and Festival Sabbaths begin at sundown on the day before it is listed in the calendar.

[18] Psalm 19.4-6

[19] Enoch 74.2

[20] Enoch 80.2

[21] Genesis 7.11,24; 8.3,4

[22] Galloway, William Brown, Egypt’s Record of Time to the Exodus of Israel: Critically Investigated, p. 155

[23] Genesis 15.13,14

[24] Exodus 12.40-42

[25] In Hebrew, “between the evenings”; see Edersheim, The Temple, p.142, “The lamb was to be killed on the eve of the 14th, or rather, as the phrase is, ‘between the two evenings’ [Exodus 12.6; Leviticus 23.5; Numbers 9:3,5].  According to the Samaritans, the Karaite Jews, and many modern interpreters, this means between sunset and complete darkness [or, say, between six and seven p.m.]; but from the contemporary testimonies of Josephus, and from Talmudic authorities, there cannot be a doubt that, at the time of our Lord, it was regarded as the interval between the sun’s commencing to decline and his actual disappearance.  This allows for sufficient period for the numerous lambs which had to be killed, and agrees with the traditional account that on the eve of the Passover the daily evening sacrifice was offered an hour, or if it fell on a Friday, two hours, before the usual time.”

[26] days begin at sundown

[27] exodus 6.6,7,8

[28] Exodus 12.15

[29] Leviticus 23.9-11

[30] Leviticus 23.15-17,21

[31] Exodus 24.7,8

[32] Exodus 24.9-11

[33] Leviticus 23.23-25

[34] Amos 3.6

[35] hebrew4christians.com, Teshuvah and Creation, John J. Parsons

[36] Psalm 49.7,8

[37] Revelation 2.7,10,11; 3.5

[38] Leviticus 16.34

[39] Leviticus 16.29-31

[40] Leviticus 16.22

[41] Hebrews 9.7

[42] Leviticus 23.39-43

[43] Deuteronomy 16.13,14

[44] Nehemiah 8.14-17

[45] Luke 20.42

[46] John 12.23

[47] John 17.1

[48] John 13.31

[49] John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, p. 51

[50] John 13.2

[51] John 19.14,31

[52] John 19.42

[53] Matthew 27.62

[54] Matthew 28.1

[55] I Corinthians 15.22,23

[56] Exodus 3.12

[57] Acts 2.2-4

[58] Mark 1.8

[59] Jeremiah 31.31,33

[60] Ezekiel 36.26,27

[61] Leviticus 23.23-25

[62] Luke 3.1-3

[63] Luke 3.21-23

[64] Anno Mundi, dated from  Creation –however under the influence of the “Babylonian adjusted calendar”.

[65] Luke 1.26,27

[66] Luke 1.36

[67] Luke 1.5

[68] I Chronicles 24.10

[69] Luke 1.17

[70] Luke 1.23,24

[71] See Luke 2.10; Zechariah 14.16-19

[72] Revelation 12.1,2,5

[73] Revelation 8.1 through 11.18

[74] Revelation 10.7

[75] Ephesians 1.9,10

[76] Revelation 11.15-18

[77] Revelation 19.6-9

[78] Zechariah 14.5,9,16

[79] Romans 2.28,29

[80] Zechariah 8.18-23

Faithful in Battle

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“The primary primitive Christian confession was not of Jesus as Savior but of Jesus as Lord.  ‘If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [Rom. 10.9].  This is more than a confession that Jesus is my Lord.  It is first a theological confession that I recognize that God has exalted Jesus to the status of Lord.  He is the Lord; he has been exalted to God’s right hand.  Therefore, I make him my Lord by bowing to his sovereignty….The same truth is clearly set forth in Peter’s Pentecost address which he concludes with the statement, ‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” [Acts 2.36].  Taken out of context, this verse might mean that Jesus became Lord and Christ at his exaltation.  However, Acts 3.18[1] makes it clear that it was as the Christ that Jesus endured his sufferings…Christ means ‘anointed one’ and refers to his role as the anointed Davidic King.  Lord is a religious word meaning absolute sovereign….In his session Jesus has been made Lord. He has also begun his reign as the Messianic Davidic King.  He has entered upon his reign as Lord and Christ.”[2]

                                                                    George Eldon Ladd 

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                                                                         i

 The death of neutrality

In spite of poverty, crime and illiteracy, in spite of the decay of education and the increase of war, many living in comfort and safety envision mankind evolving toward ever higher planes of consciousness until we attain a level called by some, “Christ consciousness,” where Christ is not so much person as principal.  It is expected that participation in this principle will reveal us to ourselves as gods.  Such is the dream of Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin and his “ascent” of man to what he calls the “Omega Point.”  Such also is the dream of the Transhumanists, although they are wise enough to have lost patience with evolution and are banking on the more hasty processes of bioengineering and nanotechnology to craft their perfection.

But the path of a man to the Christ of history is not a scramble up the stairway of consciousness.  It is rather the collision of the consciousness of the human person with the being and consciousness of the divine person, Yeshua of Nazareth.  He is the one who has informed us that he himself is the origin of God’s creation, the Logos, in whom all things find their beginning. Yeshua, having lived and died as a man, is now resurrected and seated in full authority over all of history, seated at the right hand of the God of all worlds.  Seated also, by his Spirit, in the hearts of his subjects.

Late in the first century A.D. Yeshua, from the throne of heaven, revealed to his disciple, John, prophetic messages pertaining to the end of this era.  What these messages foresaw was not an Omega Point but rather a Point of Frenzy in which mankind will no longer have the luxury of neutrality and will be forcefully divided into two groups – those who enlist in the agenda of the world mind and those who refuse and stand on their own.

Globalism, ecumenism, and war are spreading at such a pace that we who reject the reach of the world mind must take extra care to encourage each other to prepare our hearts, to be fully awake, and to be ready at all times to stand in the truth.  Those of us who merely acknowledge God will not survive.  We must be bound to our God.  We must own life as sacrifice, life given to God as Yeshua swore himself on our behalf and gave his life for us.  We must be bound in the knowledge that our hope lies with Him alone:

Be faithful though you have to die for it, and I will give you the crown of life.”

                                                                   Revelation 2.10

 ii

 Compromise and dissent: the “Christian Empire” dilemma

Under the Roman emperor Diocletian there was a grim manhunt and a long persecution of all who refused to acknowledge the emperor’s claim to absolute authority over the lives of his subjects – persecution of those who, in the face of his royal prerogative, yet dared to brand themselves with the seditious claim, “Yeshua is my royal lord and sovereign king.”  They further brought offense by claiming loyalty to certain sacred Scriptures as having authority above all other writings and traditions.

Thousands of followers of Yeshua were killed, preferring to stand with their king, even in the loss of every earthly possession and enjoyment, even in the loss of life itself.  Many others, however, yielded to the demands of the emperor and were able to see their bodies spared.  Some even aided Diocletian in his persecutions by revealing the identities of fellow worshippers and by rendering to the enemy copies of the contested Scriptures.  Such people were infamously known as traditores, “those who turn things in.”

Then, in a change of imperial rule, Rome was transformed.  Under the emperor Constantine, faith in Yeshua – carefully refurbished as faith in a more Gentile and global Jesus – became the very faith of the realm.  Constantine, wisest of politicians, saw something exceptional in the “Christian” traditores: that they understood the supreme importance of personal faith bending before imperial power.  Therefore Constantine saw to it that large numbers of the bishops of his new Roman church were chosen from the ranks of the traditores.  So began the long marriage, or at very least détente, between ecclesiastical power and temporal power.  So began the contempt of the Catholic church for the supremacy and intimacy of the relationship between a man and his God.

In response to this installation of traitors in positions of authority over the faithful, many believers rose in protest, setting themselves apart, asserting that it could not possibly be God’s will that they be shepherded by men with the character to betray the Scriptures and the lives of their brothers.  The new Roman theologians responded that, in any official capacity, the authority of an official of the church is not compromised by his personal idiosyncrasies or shortcomings.  Roman power then hunted down the dissenting purists and drove them either to their deaths or to the fringes of society.

So rose to currency the enduring adage: “Do not try to be holier than the church!”

iii

The wayward maiden matures into the global harlot.

Today Rome maintains that ancient role, orchestrating the ambitions of her cardinals with the ambitions of kings.  Rome, over time, resembles that cleverly constructed doll, which, by a few convolutions of her garments, reveals the ability to enact all the characters of a story.  In one time she is a mighty ecclesiastical institution with far reaching but concealed tentacles of temporal power.  In another time she appears to be a small temporal kingdom, while under her royal robes spread invisible cords of ecclesiastical power.  Rome assumes many forms, and yet she remains Imperial Rome.

Today she plays the part of the ecclesiast in disarray, shepherded by a diminutive Pope in white cassock, her temporal power but a handful of Swiss guards inside the Vatican.  In reality, however, she owns the treasure of centuries; owns controlling interest in banks; maintains universities and costly scientific enterprises; holds endless real estate, monasteries, vineyards, and distilleries; fields an army of priests and Jesuits in the hundreds of thousands – while the kings and lords of nations rarely deny their kiss of obeisance upon the papal ring.  The leaders of the world dare not separate themselves from Rome and hope to retain power.

The Pope, meanwhile, positions himself to be the great ecumenical mediator of the religions of the world.   John Paul II gathered the bishops and gurus and shamans of all religions at Assisi and had each one place his peculiar deity upon the Catholic altar, each to receive honor and glory in the blasphemy of ecumenical “godliness.”  The Popes equally have plied their trade with Shimon Peres and the Zionists in order to consolidate Roman power in Jerusalem.

John Paul II even made peace with the evolutionists and raised to a place of honor the heretical Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin.  In Fe e Futuro, Cardinal Ratzinger, in brazen language, belittled the thought of man created in the image of God, and asserted that the church must adjust to the modern scientific conclusion that man is an animal that has not “fallen” but rather has ascended from primeval darkness into the light.

This “church,” which conducts its life as the handmaiden of world political power, has totally betrayed the truth of Yeshua, who is the only sovereign over the holy people of God, without need of any Pope or Pontiff or Vicar of any kind.  The Catholic institution, since the day of Constantine, has cynically inserted itself between the believer and his God, so gathering to the Catholic edifice those powers which appropriately belong to God alone.

The true presence of God in man is conveyed by the substantial presence of the Spirit of God in the believer as enabled immediately by the love and agency of Yeshua himself, and is not conveyed by the ludicrous and cynical charade of priestly conjurings over a factory-made wafer.

The forgiveness of God is conveyed directly to the person who kneels before God and confesses his sins, while the claim of a priest to have the power to forgive sins is a lie matched only by their claim to have the power to conjure the very being of God into a wafer.  Nor is there anything respectable in priests who sit in dark closets and draw out the confession of the most intimate secrets and disappointments of wives and maidens.[3]

The claims of the Popes – these very men who openly deny the creation of man in the image of God – these claims that they are the representatives [vicars] of God on earth are nothing short of the blasphemous representations of the anti-Christ, lies born in the heart of Satan himself.  John Paul II even dared to call himself “the replacement of the second person of the Trinity on earth!”[4]

The teaching that the mortal woman, Mary, is Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, and co-Redeemer with Christ is nothing less than the revelation of the roots of the Catholic church in a Gnosticism which adores the goddess Sophia as the queen of heaven, demotes the God of creation to a mere demi-god, and, in the ultimate obscenity, raises to the metaphysical zenith that princely consort of Sophia, who is none other than Lucifer!  This is a Gnosticism which is nothing short of the worship of Lucifer, wherein lies the bond which shall unite the false religions of the world.

The worshippers within the churches of Rome are mostly kept in ignorance of the abominations which are actually being spread by the authors of these teachings.  The penitent enter these churches in the hope of reaching out to God, while priests and teachers lead them to kneel, not at the feet of a loving and merciful God, but at the feet of men in cassocks, teach them to kneel before the overriding and crushing power of the church institution, its priests, its sacraments, its Pope, its distorted gods and false goddess.

This is the church modeled after the Pharisaic religion of the time of Yeshua on earth:

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves have not entered in; and them that were entering you have hindered.”                                                                Luke 11.52

This is the church which is positioning itself in the middle of world affairs, which is preparing itself to nod benevolently toward people of all faiths, encouraging all to be no holier than the church, to hold hands and adopt a new mantra, for the sake of a new age of peace and good will.

iv

The new Roman Empire and the return of dissent

Where are the voices of dissent?  People attend mass, comfortable in the old liturgies, unaware that their leaders are selling them into a hell…not merely a betrayal of Scripture: the bishops and the Jesuits are working with the leaders of the Protestant churches and with the heads of nations to bring together a great new imperial society. Yes, in the words of the Popes, “It is time for a new age.”  In the words of the leaders of the United States and Europe, nationalism is no longer mentioned and all are occupied with talk of global cooperation in a New World Order.

The world religions and the national powers work together, every faction making sure that it will not be left out when the great union is achieved.  But that union will be a reinvention of the Rome of Constantine.  As such, it will be intolerable that the voices of divine authority should oppose or even seem to rise above the voices of civil power.  As in the days of Constantine, civil and ecclesiastical power must be seamlessly grafted together, and those with the temerity to occupy a ground more holy than that of the church shall be driven to the fringes of the world.

But we know from the revelation of Scripture that under the oppression of the world-mind, many shall rise as witnesses to the truth of Yeshua.  There shall be powerful voices of dissent.  There shall be those who stand in their faith and refuse to remain silent as the civil and religious powers compromise all that is noble in humanity.  For the living kingdom of Yeshua and the great hope of the Abrahamic promise, the hope of history, all belongs to us who are faithful to Yeshua.  Yeshua holds us to himself: We are bound together, and nothing, not even death, can separate us from him.

The stratification of society into those who adopt the world-mind and those who refuse it was portrayed two thousand years ago in the writings of John.  Confined to a prison cell off the coast of Greece, he received visions and recorded them in the book known as RevelationIn his visions we hear the voice of those who serve their king and honor a kingdom which can not be seen, which king and kingdom they serve at the price of their lives.

John sees the world-mind in the image of “the Beast,” who represents both the world kingdom and the world master who stands at the head of the edifice:

“Then as I stood on the sand of the sea, I saw a Beast rising out of the sea.  The Beast I saw resembled a leopard, his feet were like a bear’s, and his mouth like a lion’s [i.e. bearing qualities of the constituent empires from which it is formed.]

                                                                            Revelation 13.1,2

The vision indicates that the dragon, Lucifer, will be recognized and honored as the source of the glory of the great empire, and the Beast will be feared and honored for its indomitable military might:

“…To him the dragon gave his own power and his own throne and great authority…. and the whole earth went after the Beast in wonder, worshiping the dragon for having given authority to the Beast, and worshiping the Beast with the cry, ‘Who is like the Beast?  Who can fight with him?’”  Revelation 13.2-4

The Beast is much more than a broad-minded globalist hoping to bring order out of chaos.  He is the virulent opponent of the God of Israel.

“He was allowed to utter loud and blasphemous vaunts, and allowed to exert authority for two and forty months; so he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God… He was allowed to wage war on the saints and to conquer them, and also given authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation…”

                                                                           Revelation 13.5-7

And he will hold dominion over every person who does not take a stand with Yeshua:

“All dwellers on earth will be his worshippers, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life.”

                                                                               Revelation 13.8

In John’s vision we also meet the “miracle worker,” the director of worship, the doctrinal leader who brings metaphysics into the service of the world ruler:

“Then I saw another Beast rising from the land; he had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.  He exerts the full authority of the first Beast in his presence, causing the earth and its inhabitants to worship the first Beast….He performs amazing miracles, even making fire descend from heaven on earth in the sight of men, and by dint of the miracles he is allowed to perform in presence of the Beast, he seduces dwellers on earth; he bids the dwellers on earth erect a statue to the Beast who lived after being wounded by the sword, and to this statue of the Beast he was allowed to impart the breath of life, so that the statue of the Beast should actually speak.”                                      Revelation 13.11-15

We find that he who holds the very manual of righteousness — this author of all catechisms, this master of mythologies – we find that he also holds the sword of judgment.  He is aided in the efficient exercise of judgment by a global system of classification:

“He has everyone put to death who will not worship the statue of the Beast, and he obliges all men, low and high, rich and poor, freemen and slaves alike, to have a mark put upon their right hand or their forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he bears the mark, that is, the name of the Beast, or the cipher of his name.”                                                                                                Revelation 13.15-17 

The key to remaining safe within this world-mind society is our willingness to publicly give honor and devotion to the Beast and his image and, by implication, to endorse his values and goals and accomplishments.  In return for this willingness to pledge allegiance to the Beast we will be able to wear upon our right hand or forehead his cipher, his imprimatur, indicating that we are not in any way dissenters or opponents of the global  power, that we are above any form of protest or civil disobedience, for opposition and every form of disorder or threat to the world-mind society must be driven out.

Revelation makes it clear that those who belong to Yeshua will not qualify for this mark, nor will they accept it.

v

The bond of the Covenant

By word of our king, we are “in the world but not of the world.”  Now, however, the trench deepens between the City of God and the City of the World.  Our easy passage through the world-mind landscape is coming to an end.  For the world-mind is coveting to itself all devotion, as insurance of its global supremacy. It used to be enough that we occupy the role of citizen, but soon we will be called to play the part of world-mind supplicant.  For those of us who kneel in fealty only before God, the role of world-mind supplicant is quite impossible.

Are we now ready for an act of civil disobedience which may cost us our lives?  What will sustain us and fill our hearts with a devotion which can stand against the seduction and the threats coming from the world around us?  What will keep us fixed on a loyalty and a hope so grand that the threat of death can not undo it?  What will hold us firm in devotion to the unique truth of Yeshua when everyone calls us to save our lives and simply acknowledge the integrity of diverse religious inspiration?

The consolidation of the world-mind society into a homogeneous global structure under a “world messiah” is the final assault of the forces of rebellion against the God of creation.  It is the final test of the people of God, and it will be our final witness to the magnificent truth of our God.

It will be a test of the depth of our loyalty and our love for the person of our God.  It will be a test of our trust in the power of his Spirit to hold us and sustain us.  It will be a test of the vision by which we are separated off from the greater body of mankind.  It will be the great proof of the emptiness of the City of the World, and it will reveal the unshakable foundations of the City of God.

There is a prophetic passage in Daniel which reveals the architecture of that to which we must hold, that within which Yeshua brings us his power and renders us able to stand against the seductions and threats of the world mind.  This passage in Daniel states plainly the focal point of all the assaults of the anti-messiah, and so it is a revelation of that which is “the king’s queen,” that prize, the possession of which makes battle the richest privilege, the loss of which renders battle meaningless.

The core objective of the enemy’s hatred is the covenant between God and his people  — in particular the critical elements upon which every prior covenant did depend and upon which the new covenant is fashioned: 1.]Yeshua’s covenantal sacrifice of his blood, by which we are bought back from death, 2.] our loyalty to our sovereign king as his holy people, our loyalty to his covenant expectations, and 3.] our preservation of the core hope of the covenant: the promises to Abraham.

Against this covenant, element by element, the enemy has been striving since the early centuries.  Satan directs his hatred against this covenant because it is the essential in-historical content of God’s love for his people.   Because of the content of the covenant, our life with Yeshua is not mere wishful meditation but is history, is past and present and future and human destiny.  All our access to our God and the power of God to hold us to himself is enshrined within this covenant.  If Satan can simply spoil all understanding of the covenant between Yeshua and his subjects, then all worship will be reduced to the insipid babble prescribed by the world-mind, a worshipful mumble which can offend no one because it no longer possesses meaningful content.

To conclude that “the covenant” is the most determinant structure of our bond to Yeshua may sound like mere theology, but we will see that this which is so hated by Satan lies at the core of redemption and history.  If we are to survive, we must refuse to take the covenant for granted.  We must hold tight to every aspect of its riches.  Satan knows our weakness when any part of this treasure is carried away, therefore he has been carefully at work within every sect of those who attach themselves to Yeshua, doing all in his power to tailor for them a “civilized” semblance of faith which owns no need to bother itself with the details of that covenant which our sovereign king fashioned for our sake.

The passage in Daniel reveals Satan’s hatred for the covenant and reveals much about those who stand within it.

“The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant.  He will take action against it and then return to his own country.  At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant.  He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.

“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.  With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

“Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered.  When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them.  Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

“The king will do as he pleases.  He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.  He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.”                                                                            Dan. 11.28-36

Many suppose that concern with a “covenant” must be an Old Testament issue, and so they surmise that the battle against the covenant and the “abomination of desolation” are essentially 4th c. B.C. prophecies fulfilled in the 2nd c. B.C.  It is true that in the rage of the king of the North against the covenant, he is credited with deeds which seem to belong to the past:

‘His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.  Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation…”

                                                                                        Daniel 11.31

We do know that in 169 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes did plunder the temple in Jerusalem and by 168 B.C. set up an altar to Zeus Olympus inside the temple, totally desecrating it.  And there has been neither temple fortress nor daily sacrifice since the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.

We could be content that this is just a short term prophecy which has no bearing on our time were it not for the subsequent context in Daniel and a remark made by Yeshua in the Olivet Discourse.

Daniel’s “king of the North” openly blasphemes Yahveh and publicly magnifies himself above Yahveh.  These are hallmarks of the final “man of lawlessness.”  And Daniel, in the passage quoted, ran his narrative of the king of the North right on to “the time of the end” and “the time of wrath,” which suggests that the battle against the covenant, including the “abomination” event, are related to the time of the end.

Yeshua affirms this as he alludes to this very passage in Daniel while talking with his disciples about the end of the era:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.”  Mat. 24.15,21

Daniel’s narrative also goes on to take that which seems to be buried in the past and connect it with the apocalyptic future as he narrates that “those who know their God” will resist the king of the North and instruct others in that faith; although some will struggle, it will serve the benefit of their understanding, and resistance will go on “until the time of the end.” 

vi 

The blood of the covenant

The Spirit of Yeshua is the indestructible cord of steel which binds us to our king, but the covenant is the structure which establishes the possibility of that bond and defines the nature of that bond.  Man and wife are bound by love, but the covenant of marriage sets the parameters of that relationship which finds its life in love.  A sovereign Lord and his subjects are bound by love and by devotion unto death, and the covenant is the oath of devotion which establishes the parameters of that commitment by virtue of which they give their lives to each other and to the welfare of their kingdom.  By such a covenantal oath we are bound to Yeshua our king.

The price and the power of this covenant are beyond measure, because at the center of it we come to the blood of Yeshua, shed at the cross and laid upon the horns of the heavenly altar.

“This cup  is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

                                                                                           Luke 22.20

“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered once for all into the holy place thus obtaining eternal redemption for us.”

                                                                                         Hebrews 9.12

This sacrifice stands alone in history, towering over all of history, to stem the flow of damage coming from Satan’s seduction of mankind.   It is the blood of the long awaited Passover lamb, that blood prayerfully anticipated in every ancient Paschal sacrifice, that blood now at the center of our thanksgiving in every modern Paschal feast.

The power of the blood of Yeshua is such that by it Satan was thrown from heaven to earth.  It is no surprise then that Satan “has his heart set” and “vents his fury” and is in total war against this covenant sealed with the blood of Yeshua our king.  The evident power of the blood of our king in casting Satan down from heaven is part of the witness of John in the narration of Revelation:

“And war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting with the dragon; the dragon and his angels also fought, but they failed, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer.  So the huge dragon was thrown down – that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, the seducer of the whole world – thrown down to earth, and his angels thrown down along with him.  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now has it come, the salvation and power, the reign of our God and the authority of his Christ! – for the Accuser of our brothers is thrown down, who accused them day and night before our God.  But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they had to die for it, but they did not cling to life.  Rejoice for this, O heavens and ye that dwell in them!  But woe to earth and sea!  The devil has descended to you in fierce anger, knowing that his time is short.’”              Rev. 12.7-11

Satan is struck down from heaven to earth, and we must be attentive to the fact that he is among us.  Meanwhile we rejoice that the throne of the heavens and the temple of heaven are free of him, so that no longer does God witness the droning of his accusations against us.  It is certainly in light of this very truth that Paul rejoices that now, under our covenant with Yeshua, No One can bring accusation against us for we are dressed in the colors of our king.  This passage is an exaltation of the sustaining and liberating power of the new covenant:

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:

            ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’     

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Jesus our Lord.”                                                                                                                            Romans 8.33-39

                                                                         vii

The emblem and purpose of the covenant

In Scripture, the covenant of Yahveh, from its origins until its final realization through the victory of Yeshua, wears an emblem, a mantra, the repetition of  these words of Yahveh:

“I will be your God, and you will be my people.”

These words are an expression of the purpose of the covenant: that union be established between God and his people.

Yahveh began with Abraham to bring into the world the kingdom which would become the restoration of the earth.  Yahveh said to Abraham:

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”                                                  Genesis 17.7

The above statement makes it clear that the covenant with Abraham is forever, and nothing can undo it.  But as the children of Abraham grow into a people set apart for God the covenant will become amplified.  Four hundred and thirty years after initiating the covenant with Abraham, Yahveh speaks with Moses, affirming that the promise to Abraham finds its fulfillment through Moses and the people of the exodus.  Again the appearance of the emblem:

“…and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm… I will take you as my own people and I will be your God ...And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”                          Exodus 6.6,7,8

He speaks to Moses again, specifying that “my people” means to be a people apart, both by definition and by distinction of their devotion to the will of their God expressed in the terms of the covenant:

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be a kingdom of priests for me and a holy nation.”                                       Exodus 19.5,6

It is clear in the above passage that “to keep the covenant” is to be obedient to the Lord of the covenant.  Through Jeremiah Yahveh delivered a warning against Israel’s abandonment of the covenant, their disobedience, their preference to follow their own will.  The dissolution of covenant loyalty became the collapse of Yahveh’s goal of union:

“I brought your forefathers out of Egypt…I gave them this command: Obey me [obey the commands of the covenant] and I will be your God and you will be my people.   Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.  But they did not listen or pay attention; instead they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.”                      Jeremiah 7.23,24

As a result of their disobedience Yahveh took down the fence of protection around his people and let them be carried off into exile in Babylon.  Then through Jeremiah came Yahveh’s promise to bring his people back from exile, to restore them to their covenant:

“My eyes will watch over them and I will bring them back to this land…. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Yahveh.  They will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Jeremiah 24.6,7

But the evidence is ample that the return was intended to be much more than the physical return to Canaan at the end of seventy years of absence.  Yahveh spoke of return in broad and mystical terms.  The promise of “a heart to know me” is uniquely the promise of the new covenant.  Restoration to the covenant had become, in the purpose of Yahveh, restoration through a new covenant.  In this light it is not surprising to see Jeremiah prophesying that restoration to covenant union will come under the rule of the Messiah:

“Their leader will be one of their own; their ruler will arise from among them…. So you will be my people and I will be your God.”       Jeremiah 30.21,22

As prophesied through Jeremiah, the promise of the new covenant would increase the power of the people to fulfill the expectation of the earlier covenants and better attain God’s goal of union between Him and his people:

“The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah …This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.”                                                         Jeremiah 31.31,33,34

Then came a huge promise through Ezekiel that the new covenant would be under the Messiah, would bring peace between man and God and would make possible God’s habitation among us – i.e. would tear down the veil of the Holy of Holies, that his Spirit might now be in immediate relationship with us, defining us as intimate with our God and separate to our God:

“And David my servant [i.e. Yeshua, heir to the throne of David] will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God and they will be my people.  Then the nations will know that I Yahveh make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.”       Ezekiel 37.25,26,27,28

Ezekiel conveyed the promise that it would ultimately be the new covenant which would  bring about the covenant union desired by Yahveh, providing the possibility of the Spirit of God resting immediately in the hearts of his subjects:

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them  …then they will follow my decrees…They will be my people and I will be their God.”                                                                                                               Ezekiel 11.19,20

Six hundred years later Paul asserted that we who live inside the new covenant are a fulfillment of the covenant goal, subjects living in immediate relationship to our God, without need of mediating priest or sacrifice other than what Yeshua has accomplished for us:

“For we are the temple of God.  As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people.”   II Corinthians 6.16

Then, in the vision of Revelation, in the ultimate fulfillment, as God brings to earth the New Jerusalem “like a bride” for his covenant people:

“And I heard a voice out of the throne, crying, ‘Lo, God’s dwelling place is with men, with men will he dwell; they shall be his people, and God will himself be with them.’”                                                                             Revelation 21.3

“Then he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Lo, I make all things new….I will let the thirsty drink of the fountain of the water of life without price.  The conqueror shall obtain this, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.”                                                                            Revelation 11.5,6,7,8 excerpts

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The parameters and the progression of the covenant

A covenant is a pact sovereignly administered between the covenant lord and his people.

Its purpose is to establish the conditions under which union of interest and purpose can be achieved.  Only the sovereign has the power to guarantee that the terms of the covenant will satisfy the goal of union. The covenant of a Sovereign and his people is not an exchange between equals. It is not a trade of loyalty in return for protection.

From a position of absolute power the sovereign calls for covenant loyalty from those who recognize his pre-existing right over them, from those who are ready to acknowledge and live within his royal claim.

Yahveh came to Abraham.  From the beginning Yahveh called him to separate himself from his family and his country and to set out for a land unknown.  Abraham recognized the voice of his Creator, his sovereign Lord, and he obeyed that voice.

Yahveh led Abraham to Canaan where he appeared before him and spoke with him:

“On that day Yahveh made a covenant with Abram and said,To your seed I will give this land, from the River of Egypt to the great river the Euphrates’.”                                                                                                       Genesis 15.18

That promise was sealed by a covenant ritual in which animals were slaughtered and divided in half, and “a smoking firepot with a blazing torch [representing the presence of God] passed between the pieces.”  So it was sealed with the enactment of a self-maledictory oath, an indication of the “to the death” nature of the promise.

By the witness of Paul[5] and of Yeshua himself[6] we know that Abraham understood that “to your seed” meant something more than his immediate offspring, that it pointed to the Messiah who would be born into his line and would bring the rule of peace to the earth.

So the covenant with Abraham was a call to whole-hearted loyalty and also a great promise which would encompass and fulfill all of human history, finding its meaning and culmination in the ultimate rule of Yeshua on earth.

“And when Abram was ninety nine years old, Yahveh appeared to

Abram, and said unto him: ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou whole-hearted.  And I will make my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  And Abram fell on his face; and God talked with him, saying; ‘As for me, behold, my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for a father of a multitude of nations have I made you.  And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations from you, and kings shall come out of you.  And I will establish my covenant between me and you, and between me and your seed after you, throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be unto you for a God, and to your seed after you.”                                                                             Genesis 17.1-7

Four centuries later, the descendants of Abraham, nearly a million in number, were led from Egypt by Moses acting in obedience to the call of Yahveh.  In the Sinai desert Yahveh gave his people an amplified covenant intended to establish them as a nation bound to Yahveh their king.

The Sinai covenant was not a replacement of the covenant with Abraham.  It was an expansion meant to amplify the capacity of the holy people to know the will of their God and be a people set apart to God.  As Paul wrote, nothing pre-empts the original promise to Abraham as the core of God’s relationship to his people:

“Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.  The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say, “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.  What I mean is this: the Law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”                                              Gal. 3.15-18

Paul is taking note that all covenant relationship is a function of God’s sovereign promise, God’s grace, the same grace extended to Abraham when it was noted that “Abraham believed Yahveh, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”[7]

Paul teaches furthermore that the Sinai covenant was meant and is meant to guide us to Yeshua.

“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”                                                                                                         Galatians 3.24      

People like to make much of Paul’s statements suggesting that the old covenant is overturned by the new.  But it must be reckoned that the essence of the old covenant is not overturned: our king voices repeatedly, in the book of Revelation, his expectation that we follow his commandments.[8]  As he said during his time on earth,

“Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”                                                                                                 Matthew 5.18,19

The premier commandment of Yeshua is that we love God and our neighbor, but it is impossible to love God and our fellow man in a context of abandonment of the Sinai covenant.  Yeshua said,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”                                                               John 15.9,10

Yeshua is not at all satisfied if we cobble together a worship of our own making while abandoning the commands of the covenant.  He said to the Pharisees that their teachings were but “rules taught by men,” and added,

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men….You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.”                                                                         Mark 7.8,9

The only interpretation of Paul which is consistent with the teachings of Yeshua is, not that the Law is cast aside, but rather that the covenant supremacy of the Law has been exchanged for the new covenant supremacy of the living word from the mouth of our living  king, the living word of our king spoken directly into the heart of his subject.  This has been accomplished through the explicit advent of Yeshua’s redemption and his provision of his Spirit by which we live in his immediate presence.

Yeshua’s expectations of us are not somehow depreciated because he has provided the grounds of redemption.  If the expectations of the commandments were not significant in the extreme, then Yeshua’s suffering on the cross would be an obscenity.  His covenant expectations are higher than ever:

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and    the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”                                                                                                                     Matthew 5.20

The difference is that we now live within his life.  He in us.  We in him.  The love of the law is from its very root and origin in and from him.  “He in us” is the fulfillment of the promise of Jeremiah that Yahveh would place “the law within our hearts.”  Our attention therefore is free to be focused on the love of our king and the love of our neighbor and even our enemy, all of whom are loved and fall under the claim of our king.  Yeshua leads us in the attainment of the fulfillment of the law, after the manner of a patient father leading and teaching his children.  He seeks us out as sentient and devoted subjects of the realm, not as indifferent children who disdain the expectations of the Father.

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The erosion of the covenant

The covenant is in great distress.  And so our king ponders, “Will I find faith when I return?”  The covenant erodes as Satan succeeds in dismantling our understanding of the critical elements of the covenant.  Failure of knowledge becomes failure of understanding.  Failure of understanding becomes failure of appreciation,        and that becomes love grown cold, the end of real allegiance.

1.] The first and most essential element of the covenant: it is the word of our sovereign king that union between God and men is founded exclusively upon the blood of Christ shed at the cross.

“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born from the dead, and the prince over kings of earth… who loves us and has loosed us from our sins by shedding his blood.”                                                               Revelation 1.5

To this fundamental event we are called to respond by opening the heart to the presence and love and dominion of our king.  Even more, in a world which is perishing, we are called to stand in the breach and hold up this fundamental truth for the world to know, never to compromise with the myriad factions who attempt to dillute this truth.

Historically, however, the church itself has conceived obscene deceptions to disguise this truth from those who seek God – all in order to take to itself the dominion and authority which the true covenant bestows upon our God.  Satan, throughout the centuries of Catholic domination of Christian worship, has undone the understanding of the absolute and final power of the sacrifice of Yeshua.  The Catholic institution introduced the doctrine that, for salvation, a person can not depend on the power of the cross alone. Rather the individual must look to the additional support of the endless succession of bloodless sacrifices in the mass, as well as to the merit of the suffering and good works of the individual, rendering him who seeks God always somewhere short of knowing himself bound to God, rendering the covenant without meaning and without power – transferring all power conveniently to the institution of the Catholic church and its administration of “sacraments.”  An increasing number of Protestant sects also place value in eucharistic “magic” and the unending cycle of bloodless eucharistic sacrifice, essentially mocking the power of the true blood of the covenant.

2.] The second major element of the covenant:  it is the testament of our sovereign king that we are to obey his word, his royal law, his commandments.  A code which defines the behavior of the constituent parties, particularly the behavior of the subject toward his Lord, is an essential component of every covenant.  Conversely  it is implicit in our obedience to his royal law that we recognize the kingship of our covenant Lord and that we honor the covenant union as the substrate of our royal kingdom.

Yeshua described clearly the covenant condition that he gives all his life for us his people and, in response, we who love him do truly listen for his voice and follow his direction:

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”[9] John 10.11,27

“If you love me, you will obey what I command….Whoever has my commands  and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”                    John 14.15,21

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”         John 15.12,13

As he has loved us, so are we called to offer our lives in service to his will.  This is the call of the covenant, to the last measure of devotion..

The church on the whole scorns the integrity and binding relevance of the commands given at Sinai.  These words of the Sinai covenant are, however, the most elementary basis of any life which intends to respect the lives of others and intends to honor God.  Yet huge swaths of the Protestant church disdain their significance, imagining that they individually are so bathed in the mercy and grace of God that He will never reproach them their rebellious lives.  Here again the covenant loses all power in the process of a slight of hand by which that power is transferred to the individual for his own pursuit of pleasure.

The Catholic institution has eliminated the second commandment and has established the absolute replacement of the fourth commandment by open rejection and sixteen centuries of denial throughout all of Christendom.

The elimination of the second commandment [You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heavens above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.] conveniently makes room for the adoration of the eucharistic host, the adoration of the saints, and the adoration of the mortal woman Mary as Queen of Heaven.

As for the fourth commandment, the Catholic institution takes great pride in announcing that its power to change the day of worship from the Sabbath, as clearly directed in the fourth commandment, to the day of the Sun, is evidence of “the power granted by God to the church to ordain tradition” and contravene the words of Scripture!   So again, the power and authority and honor which rightly belong to God, including the honor of the seventh day on which God rested from the activity of Creation – this power is transferred to an illegitimate institution and this honor is transferred from the miracle of creation to the God of the sun, who is none other than Lucifer himself.

In addition, Catholics and Protestants alike disregard the fundamental truth that Yeshua is this day king upon the throne of Israel.   Catholics since the day of Constantine have done their best to disassociate Yeshua from Israel.  Now Protestants and Catholics alike happily assign the name “Israel” to the secular Zionist entity which seizes the land of Palestinians in the name of divine right.  Protestant dispensationalists [the majority of fundamentalists] believe that Yeshua is no king, having been “rejected” by “Israel.”

3.]  The third critical element of the covenant: it is the testament of all of Scripture that our great hope as the children of the covenant is to share in the promises to Abraham: to be in total union with our God in the land of promise on this earth.  Beginning in the 4th century, Satan has worked skillfully and patiently to destroy the understanding of the subjects of Yeshua that the promises to Abraham are the core of their hope.  Now the church looks for its paradise “in the heavenlies” with no understanding that we are to stand in battle and see the victorious return of our king to this earth where he will establish us under his love in the land of promise.

xi

Faithful to the covenant

            “You are my king and my God.”                                     Psalm 44.4

The covenant defines the allegiance of subject to king.  We have noted that our covenant with Yahveh has passed through a progression.  The real progress of the covenant is the narration of a most wonderful transformation: the covenant which was external and explicit – even carved in stone – has become Spirit: internal and transcendent.  So the kingdom has been transformed from geo-political nation state to transcendent City of God, its throne in the heavens, its roots in the hearts of men around the world.

In the same vein we must note that the sign of the covenant has also been transformed – from an external and physical mark to an internal and spiritual engraving.

Yahveh concluded his covenant with Abraham with the condition that male children of the covenant must be marked with the outward sign of circumcision:

“Every male among you shall be circumcised.  You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”                                                                   Genesis 17.10,11,13

Over time, however, men in their thinking substituted the mark of the covenant for true satisfaction of the original order of the covenant, which was a call to the trust and obedience which produce union:

“Walk before me and be thou whole hearted.  I will confirm my covenant between me and you.”                                                               Genesis 17.1,2

Forty years after the exodus, when time came to confirm the Sinai covenant with the generation which was preparing to enter into Canaan, Yahveh warned the people that there is no participation in the life of the covenant short of the devotion of the heart to Yahveh:

“Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from Yahveh our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; when such a person hears the words of this [covenant] oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, ‘I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.’  This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.  Yahveh will never be willing to forgive him: his wrath and zeal will burn against that man….Yahveh will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster.”                                                     Deuteronomy 29.18,19,20,21

Then, following these warnings to the people, Yahveh indicated that he knew in advance that the people would not adhere to the covenant, and that as a result he would see them overtaken by their enemies and dispersed among the nations.  But he followed this prophesy with a promise of hope, that a day was coming when they would seek God and his covenant commandments with all their hearts:

“…and when you and your children return to Yahveh your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then Yahveh your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations.”        Deuteronomy 30.2,3

Yahveh then promised a new and more profound sign of the covenant:

“Yahveh your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul and live.”                                                               Deuteronomy 30.6

This promise of the circumcision of the heart is congruent with Jeremiah’s conveyance of the promise of the new covenant:

“‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares Yahveh.  ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.’”                                                          Jeremiah 31.33

Centuries later Paul confirmed that the circumcision of the heart is the sign of the new covenant:

“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” Romans 2.29                                      

Furthermore, we see in Paul’s words that it is the Spirit of God alone which effects the circumcision of the heart.  It is the blood of Yeshua as sacrifice, the fundamental event of the new covenant, which makes the Spirit available to us.  Therefore we may equally say that the receipt of the Spirit of Yeshua into our hearts is that circumcision of the heart and is similarly the new sign of the new covenant:

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.”                                                                                           Ephesians 1.13,14

By the presence and power of this Spirit we are bound to our king and to each other.  We are formed into the great and ancient and enduring people of God.  What was begun in Adam and restored in Abraham and guaranteed through Yeshua will find its completion in us, by the power of his Spirit:

 “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the anointed king….You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”                                        I Peter 2.4,5,9,10

xii

Epilogue

Before his conversion, Paul stood in supervision at the martyrdom of Stephen.  Stephen belonged to God and was marked by the seal of his Spirit.  It is recorded that through the presence of the Spirit in Stephen he was “full of God’s grace and power.”  The synagogue opposed him,

“but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he                                           spoke.”                                                                                                              Acts 6.10

So they seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin, producing false witnesses who claimed that he spoke against Moses and the Law [which he did not do.]  The Sanhedrin asked if the accusations of the “witnesses” were true.

Stephen began by telling his accusers that their very presence in the land of Canaan was rooted in the promises of God to Abraham, for the sake of which promises Moses had led the people of God out of Egypt.

Stephen pointed out that Moses himself had foreseen the coming of the Messiah when he had said,

God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.”   Acts 7.37

Stephen reminded them that their fathers had refused to obey Moses so that God “turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies.”  [Acts 7.42]  He continued by telling them that their fathers had built a tabernacle and a temple to facilitate the presence of God among them and yet they refused to allow Him to rule in their hearts.  Stephen then cried out,

“‘You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears!  You are  just like your fathers:  You always resist the Holy Spirit!  Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?  They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.  And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.’

“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”        Acts 7.51-56

Stephen stood in covenant loyalty to his God.  Stephen’s root criticism of his accusers was that they did not own that Spiritual circumcision which is the true sign of fealty to  the covenant.

Stephen stood in the truth that Yeshua is the prophesied “Righteous One,” the one who  brings healing to his people in being “pierced for our transgressions.”  Stephen stood firm in the truth that Yeshua rules from the heavens, “standing at the right hand of God,” in royal authority with the Father.  Stephen stood in witness to the power and authority of the commandments of the covenant.  Stephen stood in the hope of God’s covenant with Abraham.

“Yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’”                               Acts 7.57,58,59,60

Stephen stood in the truth of the love of Yahveh for all mankind.

© Copyright 2013

Lawrence S. Jones

Chicago

Email: lawrencestewartjones@gmail.com

website: http://www.jerusalemgraffiti.com


[1] Acts 3.18: “But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.”

[2] George Eldon Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism”, The Meaning of the Millennium, pp. 30,31, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1977

[3] See Charles Chiniquy, The Woman and the Confessional

[4] Threshold of Hope, p.3, 1994

[5] Galatians 3.16 “The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

[6] John 8.56 “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

[7] Genesis 15.6

[8] Revelation  2.4; 2.23; 12.17; 14.12; 18.4; 21.7,8,27

[9] John 10.11,27

To Him Alone

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i.

An  inviolable truth

Solomon holds his sword high, about to cleave the infant in two.  The false mother says, “Let it be done.  Divide the child.  It is just.”  The true mother cries out, “No! Let my own hopes be crushed, but let the child be kept whole!”

So in the courts of philosophy and religion.  Many are the false midwives who are ready to see the truth divided, declaring all inspiration to be equal: “Let the Hindus sport a leg and the Buddhists an arm and the Catholics a severed head: in the end it’s all one truth, and we, in an orgy of mediocrity, can celebrate together our love for the semblance of truth.”

But the few who know their God will never let that knowledge be divided or degraded.  They will never agree that a limb or a head has the worth of a truth more precious than life itself.  This is the faith of the martyrs, that faith which is offensive to the world, that faith which enables those who have it to live and speak without compromise.

How does one come to such a faith?  What is this faith that I should want it?  In whom is faith that I should trust and follow?  What bond is faith that I should never let him go?

ii

The soul as the medium and residence of faith

In searching beyond what is given, in searching beyond the witness of the senses and beyond the conclusions of reason, faith begins.

The scientist undertakes his research with “faith” that some unknown can be found.  However, to establish his discoveries, he only allows the witness of a logic rooted in experimentation, observation, and measurement.  This is appropriate to the study of the material world.  Any claim that all truth must submit to such a program is equivalent to a pre-judgment that there is no reality beyond the material.

Just such a narrow perspective has held dominion in the last century.  Yet, in times past, men of science, believing that the spectrum of reality stretched beyond the material world, were not so stunted in their thinking that they could not enjoy both the witness of the senses and the witness of the heart.  Galileo, Newton, Pascal, Faraday and a host of others found no conflict between the investigation of matter and a certainty of God which begins in faith.  For them, thinking and logic were relevant also to faith, though faith be rooted in the private judgments of the heart.

Faith, then, is a faculty which appropriately belongs to such a person, to someone who believes that the scope of reality surpasses that which the tools of science are able to ascertain and who believes that the heart can be a reliable witness in determining that truth.  This faculty, belief in the witness of the heart, can only be exercised by those who believe that the word “heart” may refer to something more than the organ which pumps their blood.

It is essential – in spite of all that science or Darwin might have to say – it is essential that we recognize that a human being transcends mind and body: that we have an essential core which is our invisible and eternal Address; that we have a core which owns expectation and purpose and suffering and discernment such as appear from deep within ourselves, such as far exceed the memories and conclusions and generalizations of experience; in sum, that we have a core which in and of itself is capable of extreme intelligence.

Just as Genesis describes separately the creation of the soul and the formation of the body, so King David in the Psalms refers to the two levels of our being:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. …My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”  Psalm 139.13,15,16

Darwin’s journey upward out of the primeval slime implicitly portrays the eternal and independently existing soul as incongruous with his “human animal.”  Since the folly of Darwinism has been radically successful in the modern age, rooting out belief even in our own existence, there remain very few individuals who are ready for profound faith.

Since faith becomes that faculty by which the human person reaches through the unknown and touches God, there must be something real at both ends of the mystical wire – a real God and a real and conscious soul inhabiting “the heart’s house.”

It is our soul that is our address, that center in us which goes to God apart from all loss of mind and body.  Our soul gathers to itself multiple terms: person, spirit, ego, heart, self.  In dreams the soul reveals itself surrounded by history and purposes and wounds which are unknown to us in our conscious experience.  Spirit is associated with soul.  However difficult “spirit” might be to identify, we popularly refer to it as an indicator of the life of the soul.

The soul has other accoutrements to which we commonly refer.  It is normal to speak of rationality, propriety, and sexuality as independent and warring forces within the heart, as in dreams they often appear in the guise of independent personae.  In our daily conduct it is normal that we do not “bare the soul” or present to the world the whole sum of who we are.  Rather we present to the world an edited version of ourselves which is commonly called our Persona.  There is a great complex environment surrounding the soul, and it is for this reason that it can be useful to speak not only of the soul but also,  more inclusively and metaphorically, of the “heart” or “heart’s house.”

iii

Spiritual perception and the ring of truth

Believing in the existence of my own soul, I am able to believe that I truly exist.  This is belief which often comes only through pain, through listening to cries which emerge from deep within our own being, cries which we have not imitated from another source, cries which call out from dark corners which we never knew.  These are the cries of trauma, of hope, of ambition, of despair – cries so earnest that they frighten us because we are shocked at the urgency of their appearance.  It is perhaps no accident that the ability of the soul to recognize God seems more acute when we are in distress.

Within these cries, if we are fortunate and have not had our spirits crushed, there may emerge a cry that calls out for “the one who brings order to the heart’s house, the awaited one, the anticipated one.”  This is the One who is sought in faith, whom only faith can find, whom only a life of faith can come to know.

Believing in the existence of my own soul I am made able to learn that I have significance in the consciousness of my Creator, that I am seen, that he knows me.

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Yahveh.”

Psalm 139.2-4

The promise of Yeshua is even more radical:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”             John 14.16-18

As for the scientist or the composer or the artist, early faith is labor in hope: it is a great deal of searching and experimenting, a great deal of thrashing about.  But faith becomes informed.  For the composer, he is informed by his own efforts, by the compositions of those who have come before him, and by the sound that rings true.  For the one who is searching for God, he is informed by his own persistence, by the words of God preserved in writing, and by the very presence of God speaking to the heart.  The living God reaches into our lives.  He has made us to seek him and he has ordered the world and our individual experience to make it possible that we should find him, that he should ultimately hold us in his embrace.

Intelligent faith eventually arrives at belief in the existence of a real object of faith.    That object is God as Person, for the satisfaction of the quest of faith will not ring true until the searcher recognizes in the object of his faith that same passion and hope and suffering which distinguishes and describes his own person.  God made us in his image.  He made us in the image of his person.  The person is the atomic unit of spiritual reality.

iv

Belief in the in-historical God leads to fire and smoke

Belief is the threshold of faith.  Is it the whole of faith?  James, brother of the Messiah of Israel, said No:

“You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder….”  James 2.19

Belief must become life, so that our original goal is attained – that we touch God, know God, live with God, and become bound to God.

The believer must learn the character of his God through study of the history of all that God has done to gather mankind to himself.  This basic education must come from the recorded words of God.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth.  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”                              Isaiah 55.10,11

In the course of this education we discover that our God is at the heart of human history and that he is with us in the present moment.  We learn that he is not like the god of Aristotle, rapt in introversion at the center of the heavens.  Rather he is the God of Abraham and Moses and David, the God of fire and smoke, reaching out for mankind:

“Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.  He summons the heavens above, and the earth that he may judge his people: ‘Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.’”                                                 Psalm 50.3,4,5

The  perception that our God is conscious of us may overwhelm us and leave us stricken with despair: he may seem to threaten our being because of the vast difference between us of and scale and virtue.  Evidence of the one whom we seek renders us increasingly concerned that he is more than we can know.

“You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?”    Psalm 139.5-7

Even the finite appearance of the Angel of God caused dread to the parents of Samson in the time of the judges:

He [the angel] replied, “Why do you ask my name?  It is beyond understanding.”…Manoah took a young goat and sacrificed it on a rock to Yahveh….As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of Yahveh ascended in the flame…Manoah realized that it was the angel of Yahveh.  “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife.  “We have seen God!” 

Judges 13. 18-22

The perception that the Creator of all worlds holds us in his consciousness leads us to consciousness of our helplessness and unworthiness, strangely compounded with the opposing conviction that we are intensely desired by our God.

v

Healing the breach: the Messianic prophesy and the advent of Yeshua

How are we to deal with this?  Our first reaction might be anger, as if we have been led into the discovery of an unbearable gulf which can not be bridged, led to the desire of that which we can never know.  But the education of faith must lead us to the discovery of all that our God has done to gather us to himself.  Isaiah told us of it all, and he wrote it down, centuries before it ever happened:  the messianic [designated king] Son of God would come in all the being and presence of the Father:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”      Isaiah 9.6,7

What does he do that makes the difference?  He comes to show us the way to himself.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned…He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young…”    Isaiah 40.1,2,11

How does he bridge the gulf between us?  Here is the mystery which offends mankind.  He bridges the gulf at the cross.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and Yahveh has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  …Yet it was the will of Yahveh to put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring;…Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”    Isaiah 53.4-11

How does restoration come about when we have known nothing but rebellion?  He penetrates our individual lives and brings us the healing presence of his Spirit.

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.  For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made….I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips.  Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,’ says Yahveh, ‘and I will heal him.’”    Isaiah 57.15-18

We discover that Yeshua of Nazareth, born into Israel twenty centuries ago, is the one who has come to fulfill all the prophecies of Isaiah.[1]  We learn that he entered the world and went as king to the cross, standing in for us his people, dressing us in his colors, making us his own, opening for us every freedom to come into the presence of our heavenly Father.

The response of faith is to acknowledge what Yeshua has done and to give up every effort to achieve our own righteousness before God.  As Isaiah wrote,

“…all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”   Isaiah 64.6

We give up the labor of making ourselves righteous and by faith we trust in him and what he, Yeshua, has done to make us whole and restore us to our God – even conquering the curse of death which stood over us since the fall.

vi 

The one who enters and brings order to the house

Is this the journey of faith, to come to him for our redemption?  Yes, it is faith, but it is only the beginning.  We set out on a path and we ran into a great obstacle: our willful sinfulness and rebellion and finitude up against his majesty and honor and faithfulness.  We discovered the reconciliation which He alone accomplished by reaching into history and becoming one of us and taking upon himself the whole weight of  human rebellion.  We are reconciled to him.  But we must go farther.

We have heard his call and we have come to him to know him.  We have come to him for healing.  We have heard his promise of healing.  We know that if we are to have a life in his presence we must be healed, not only of the stains in our history, but also healed in our present being, so that we can know him openly and freely.  He must give us a new heart.  He must bring order and peace into the heart’s house.

How does order come to the house?  Order comes to the house when the house is yielded to the one to whom it rightly belongs.  He alone can rule the house with authority and love and understanding.  He alone can know the deepest aspirations of the human heart and instruct us day by day in all that we need to know in order to fill out the great hope of our humanity, that seed which he planted in us.  He our God has come to us and we must open the secret core of our being to him.

“Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.”    Revelation 3.20

This day must come.  We must open ourselves and yield to his entry.  Yeshua said,

“I am the bread of life….I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh which I give for the life of the world…..Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”   ….Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  …The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  John 6.48,51,53-57

Yeshua was speaking as graphically as possible to tell his disciples that they must truly open their core being to the presence of the Spirit of Yeshua himself, and that this becomes their sustenance and their healing.

This life of intimacy with our redeemer becomes that life in which we go beyond all academic knowledge of him.  We become like the neighbors of the Samaritan woman after they spent hours at his feet:

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”    John 4.42

We also are led by him to know him through the historical record of all that he has said and done, this record being all the Scriptures of both the old and new covenants.  The role of Yeshua begins in the first verse of Genesis, as John has told us clearly:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.   John 1.1-4,14,18

In our broadening knowledge of our redeemer we are led into all the vast mysteries of this world and encouraged by God never to stop asking questions, never to cease to explore the riches of his person.  As Paul wrote,

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge….all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things and in him all things hold together…..For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”                                                   Colossians 2.2,3; 1.17,19,20

Who is this whose life stretches from the cross to the present to the depths of Creation?  It is our God, even the one who would inhabit the human heart.  His Spirit is meant to rule within our heart, to instruct our souls, to encourage our spirit, to honor him.  It is only someone of intrinsic worth who can be said to deserve a great teacher.  We are that person of worth.  He is that teacher.  It is for us to become honor to him.

vii 

Royal power, the throne of heaven and the celestial architecture 

But we must go farther.  We have opened our hearts to him, and we are learning to love him, and we are discovering the peace which he brings to the court of our soul’s house, and we are made conscious that this power which he exercises over our entire being is greater than any power on earth.  Until he comes, the soul is at war with itself, battling through darkness, desperately attempting to give the reigns of power to the voice of the warrior or the scholar or the lover or the cynic or the tyrant, never finding peace for lack of the only hand that knows and cares and guides and truly loves the human heart.

By his power the heart is healed.  And the certainty of his healing and his presence is the certainty that there is some function of the celestial order which binds the heavens to the surface of the earth.  As Jacob saw and as Yeshua himself avowed, the heavens are joined to earth by a ladder, a stairway, and that stairway is Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.

He [Jacob] had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.     Genesis 28.12

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”   John 1.51

In the presence of his power in the heart and in consciousness of his royal seat in the heavens we are pressed to recognize that his royal kingdom spreads on invisible cords  throughout the world.  We cannot help but see throughout the old covenant Scriptures that Yeshua alone fulfills the Messianic expectation, a rule which reaches to his subjects in this world and binds them to himself, yet a kingdom which transcends the form of the kingdoms of this world.  This our kingdom is that rock cut out of a mountain but not by human hands, that rock to be formed in the time of the historic earthly kingdoms:

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.  It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.  This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands.”    Daniel 2.44,45

We can not help but see Yeshua as our king, as royal lord over all that we are.  And now our mind is opened to all that is written in the Scriptures to assert his kingship.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.’…

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

                                                                                    Luke 19.37-40

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.” 

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king.”  John 18. 36,37

“These are the words of the true Holy One, who holds the key of David, who opens and none shall shut, who shuts and none shall open.”   Revelation 3.7

“These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life.”    Revelation 2.8

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.  And the conqueror shall sit beside me on my throne as I myself have also conquered and sat down beside my Father on his throne.”      Revelation 3.20,21

“Grace be to you and peace from he who is and was and is coming, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the prince over kings of earth.”  Revelation 1.4,5

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”    Colossians 2.9,10

The Israel of God is not one of the nations, nor shall our Messiah ever cast a vote in the assemblies of the nations.  Yeshua is one with the Father and his kingship is eternal, from the beginning of time to the end of time.  He came iconically into Jerusalem on a donkey to demonstrate that as king he came to bring peace to his people, to as many as receive him.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”    John 1.13

When Yeshua made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem it was not a dress rehearsal for some future event.  When Yeshua shall return in splendor to destroy the armies of lawlessness, John tells us that,

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”      Revelation 19.16

Between that day when Yeshua entered Jerusalem on a donkey and the day when he shall return in splendor, there is no mention of a coronation in Scripture, for he is king on the heavenly throne – the throne over eternal Israel – yesterday, today, and forever. 

viii 

Heirs of the promises to Abraham

“Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”      John 19.19

When Charles DeGaulle was asked to compromise his expectations in the provisions for nations after World War II, due to the fact that only a minority of the French populace had openly opposed the Nazis, he replied, “I fought the Resistance: France fought the Resistance!

So Yeshua stands in the council of heaven before the throne of God, announcing to all, “I paid the price of sin: my people have paid the price of sin.”  By God’s grace we are accepted in identity with Yeshua our king.  As king, Yeshua stood in for us his people.  He went to the cross for us, the king for his people.  In learning that Yeshua is King of the Jews, in learning that he is king over my soul in all royal power, I discover that I belong to the ancient holy people of God.  I discover that I share in the ancient promises to Abraham:

“You are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Jesus.  If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”            Galatians 3.26-29

This means that the promise which is the very definition of the hope of Israel is my promise also.  I live in the hope of Israel for eternity and I live in the hope of Israel in this present moment.  Furthermore, the birth pains of Israel are my birth pains, for the salvation of my life has depended on every nuance of the history of my people.  My own life was being saved as Moses led the descendants of Abraham out of Egypt.

The law given at Sinai was coming to earth for me, to guide me and direct me to know the ways of my God.

I ask, as Moses asked, “Teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you.”  When Yahveh, as royal Lord over Israel, calls his people to keep his commandments and be bound to him by covenant, my heart is there, seeking to be bound to him by covenant.

Like the people of Israel, I discover that my heart fails, that I am wayward, that I am prone to reserve certain chambers of my heart as my own, places where I am amazed that he must also rule.  I, like Israel, wait in my heart for the realization in me of the new covenant:

“The time is coming,” declares Yahveh, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant though I was a husband to them,” declares Yahveh.   “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares Yahveh.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31.31-33  

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”     Ezekiel 11.19,20

“And afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all people….” Joel 2.28

ix 

The new covenant: the heart called to the last measure of devotion

As Yeshua last commemorated Passover with his disciples he lifted a cup of wine and told of his blood about to be given sacrificially at the cross to initiate and seal the new covenant:

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”    Matthew 26.27,28

What is a covenant?  It is a binding oath between individuals who wish to make the care and purpose of their lives coincident one with the other, even to the point of death.  As a life and death oath it is usually marked either by the enduring witness of some commemorative object or by the event of sacrifice, so witnessing the seriousness of the oath.

There are covenants of loyalty between equals.  Since ancient times, there are also covenants by which a sovereign binds himself to his people, where all the power of the king stands in defense of the life of his subject, and where the life of the subject is totally devoted to his king.  In such covenants there are expectations and there are promises, from sovereign and subject alike.  Such was God’s original covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai.

Under the old covenant it became clear that the guidance of the law and the will of a man are not sufficient to elevate him to grounds of real intimacy with his God.  The miracle of the new covenant is that God provides his Spirit to nourish us and teach us and give us a heart which desires his law, his will.

Yeshua held up the Passover cup, representing the shedding of his blood, and within hours he gave his life in covenant loyalty to redeem his people.  The significant fulfillment of his revolutionary promise, to impart to his subjects his Spiritual presence, was then initiated within days, on the feast of Pentecost.

In the journey of faith, we come to this moment when we are called beyond simple faith and trust, now to know that the sustenance of a life of loyalty within the covenant will come from God himself.  Yeshua says, Believe in me!  And then, to those who have a vision of his reality, he says, Follow me!

We are called to share in this covenant.  We are called to raise that glass and acknowledge his blood as shed for us.  We are called to enter into baptism claiming that his death is our death, claiming that we in our sinfulness are covered by the cleansing power of his blood. 

Should we go so far, then we go far beyond that simple belief which might have led us to that moment of baptism: we pass into the dreadful seriousness of a life and death covenant with the God who made us.

x 

A people apart

Our lives are now his alone.  We have accepted that with the price of his life he has bought us back from death and we are not our own.  We now share the understanding of Jeremiah:

A man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”

 Jeremiah 10.23

Our new life: He in us, and we in him, our lives contained in him:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

   John 10.27,28

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.”                                                                     John 12.26

We are contained in him and we are sustained by him:

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.  These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me….The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”   John 14.23,24,26

Inside this covenant relationship with our God, we are separated, set apart to God:

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”  John 15.19,20

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify [set apart] myself, that they too may be truly sanctified [set apart for God].”    John 17. 14-19

The final words of Yeshua’s great prayer before going to the cross are a promise that the journey to our God will never end, that he will continually draw us deeper and deeper into the knowledge of him, that more and more clearly we will discover the face of our God until that day comes when we see him as he is:

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”   John 17.25,26          

Lawrence S. Jones

Chicago, 2013

email: lawrencestewartjones@gmail.com


[1] Colossians 2.9; Colossians 1.15,19

The Temple, the Mosque, the Vatican, and Building 7: Chapter 14, Secular Israel as Golden Calf; the National Mythology as the Statue of the Beast

[Please access the complete book under the title, The Temple, the Mosque, the Vatican, and Building 7, listed in the “page” titles in the heading above.

Lawrence S. Jones, email:  lstewartj@sbcglobal.net

Chapter 14: Secular Israel as Golden Calf ; The National Mythology as the Statue of the Beast

“Then I saw another Beast rising from the land; he had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.  He exerts the full authority of the first Beast in his presence, causing the earth and its inhabitants to worship the first Beast, whose deadly wound was healed.  He performs amazing miracles, even making fire descend from heaven on earth in the sight of men, and by dint of the miracles he is allowed to perform in presence of the Beast, he seduces dwellers on earth; he bids the dwellers on earth erect a statue to the Beast who lived after being wounded by the sword, and to this statue of the Beast he was allowed to impart the breath of life, so that the statue of the Beast should actually speak.  He has everyone put to death who will not worship the statue of the beast…”[1]

 

i

We have discussed under many settings the proposition of Scripture, the proposition of the prophets, and the proposition of Yeshua that there is no holy Temple, no holy people, no Israel of God apart from the work of the Spirit of God.  We have equally established in many contexts that this holy work of God by which he restores mankind to himself is founded on the cross of Yeshua, the eternal sacrifice to which every old covenant sacrifice looked forward in hope and expectation.  It is this holy work of the Spirit of God and its divine foundation which the world labors to deny, be it Satan in the garden, be it the Roman Catholic institution, be it inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock, be it apostate Protestant denominations denying the in-historical kingdom and denying that the in-historical promises to Abraham are the true inheritance of the children of Yeshua.

In this final chapter, having established that nearly every avenue of culture and religion conspires in this very denial, we see that the governments themselves share and benefit from this same misrepresentation of what it means to be a people of God.  So the nations, in particular the United States of America, support the modern mythology that the secular Zionist state of Israel is that very entity holy to God which deserves the cream of history, the promises to Abraham.  The United States adopts the cause célèbre of defending this surrogate “people of God” with all the apostate religions of the nation in tow.

In defense of this surrogate, this usurper of the holy name of “Israel,” the United States reaches out to defend us against our shared “enemies,” and in the process we run rampant through the world, bringing to its knees one Muslim state after another.  This is mythology in the service of power, mythology in the service of a roaring Beast.

When secular Israel becomes enshrined as an inviolable icon in the Western consciousness, we should consider whether or not we have been restored to the Roman paganism wherein heads of state design and control the shrines which otherwise would be the reserve of priests and shamans.  Scripture assures us that the final global empire is none other than Rome, and here is evidence of its resurgence.

This present assumption of divine prerogative by the state is born out in the fact that the state has become a purveyor of inviolable mythologies which its citizens must acknowledge.  Embodied in these mythologies are simple guidelines enabling the public to determine in an acceptable manner the forces of good and the forces of evil in the world.  These guidelines are meant to relieve us of the need to find fault with those who have power over us.

The state mythology of modern times is gradually assuming the proportions of “the statue of the Beast,” that edifice, mentioned in the Revelation of John, which must be worshiped if one does not wish to forfeit one’s life.

Like the great golden rendition of himself which Nebuchadnezzar presented to the people of Babylon for worship, we see that the myth-edifice is hollow, that it is a gross exaggeration of fact, and yet we accept that to despise it is unthinkable.  As President Bush advised us so shrewdly,

“If you are not with us, you are against us.”

The stature of this mythology is so immense that we shudder to think that it might be made of paste.  Movies feature it.  Wars are waged for the sake of it.  Citizens are arrested, tortured, rendered, and killed for failing to honor it.  For its sake drones and missiles violate the sovereignty of nations and curtail the lives of innocent families.  It is too awesome to imagine that this state-sanctioned mythology might be a web of lies.

ii

One intended lesson of the prevailing Western mythology is that we live under a fearful threat of terrorism; at the base of this mythological fabrication lies a gross misrepresentation of what it means to be the holy people of God.  This distortion, as we have said, is but another edition of the same lies promulgated by the powers and the orthodoxies of the earth since the beginning of history.

On October 27, 1994, President Bill Clinton spoke before the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, and addressed this entirely secular institution as if they were the holy guardians of the divine covenant:

“’If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you,’ [quoting the warnings of his childhood pastor]….It is God’s will that Israel, the biblical home of the people of Israel, continue for ever and ever….Your journey is our journey, and America will stand with you now and always.”[2]

Taking the atheist Zionist state as the inviolable darling of God, Clinton promised the resources of the United States in faithful and eternal support of all her purposes.  This mindset endures in the national character: our government does not flinch as Israel bulldozes the orchards and wells and homes of its Palestinian citizens.  It does not flinch as Israel surrounds these people with three-story concrete walls such as have not been seen in the civilized world, unless perhaps to enclose the Warsaw ghetto.  We do not flinch as the Zionist state robs land from its Palestinian citizens and annexes it to lands devoted to the welfare of Americans and Russians and Europeans who can prove that their mothers have an acceptable ancestry.  Nor do we flinch as the Zionist state rattles its sabers and plans for war with the state of Iran.  We, of course, will stand behind their “holy” purpose.  Their war will be our war.

iii

On September 11, 2001, three controversial attacks took place, almost simultaneously, each involving the supposed hijacking of aircraft by Muslim terrorists.  Following the concerted attacks [on the Pentagon; on the World Trade Center; and a purported attempt on the Capitol by an airliner which crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania], the United States government claimed to have the names of the various hijackers and claimed to know that they belonged to a group called Al-Qaeda, a loosely structured Muslim terrorist organization under the control of a man named Osama bin Laden.

A video was ostensibly discovered by the U.S. government and released on December 13, 2001, in which Osama bin Laden “confessed” responsibility for the events of 9/11.  However, this video, besides conveying to the American public gross mistranslations, is of questionable authenticity.  Meanwhile, it is well established that on September 28, 2001, three weeks after 9/11 and one week before the war on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden gave an interview to Ummat, a daily paper in Pakistan, in which he vigorously denied involvement in the events of 9/11:

“I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States.  As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie.  I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other humans as an appreciable act.  Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children, and other people….Whoever committed the act of 11 September are not the friends of the American people. I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed…..We are against the system, which makes other nations slaves of the United States, or forces them to mortgage their political and economic freedom.  This system is totally in control of the American Jews, whose first priority is Israel, not the United States.  It is simply that the American people are themselves the slaves of the Jews and are forced to live according to the principles and laws laid by them. So, the punishment should reach Israel.  In fact, it is Israel, which is giving a blood bath to innocent Muslims and the US is not uttering a single word….”[3]

Who should we believe?  Unfortunately the facts surrounding the events of 9/11 do not favor the claims of the United States government.  It is not my purpose here to weigh the government claims, as the evidence [visual, historical, and scientific] is available and ample on the internet.  I merely posit the general nature of the three 9/11 events.

1.  In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, although a large plane with many passengers is supposed to have crashed into the field, astonishingly little debris has ever been recovered and there were only traces of human remains…nothing to compare to the usual twisted fuselage and gruesome carnage associated with fatal airplane crashes.  A small amount of research reveals that the official investigation of the crash is stained with many suspicious circumstances.

2.  At the Pentagon, all possible security footage which might reveal the nature of the collision of the jetliner with the building has been gathered and stored as confidential.  The original hole in the side of the building was narrower than the distance between the two engines of the airplane accused of entry, while deep in the building the continuation of the damage was witnessed by an even narrower penetration through many yards of concrete fortification, as only a missile might do.  The scene of the attack was not secured in yellow tape and preserved for the witness of material evidence.  Rather it was immediately bulldozed in order to bury the material evidence.

3.  In New York, at the WorldTradeCenter, apparently each of the twin towers was struck by a large airliner, resulting in the collapse of both structures.  However, it is unprecedented that airplane collision or fire at the temperature of burning jet fuel should cause the collapse of a steel building.  The buildings, rather than wavering right or left, fell straight to the ground as in a controlled demolition, fell at nearly the rate of fall of a free-falling object.  In fact, analysis of the debris from the collapse of the towers reveals the extensive presence of traditional and nano-thermite explosives.  As soon as the steel debris of the towers could be gathered it was loaded into ships and sent to China to be melted down.

And then there is Building 7.  Across the street from the twin towers stood Building 7, a fifty story building with a massive footprint.  Not long after the collapse of the taller towers, Building 7, untouched by any aircraft, without known threat from any terrorist, without any serious threat or apology from any person at any time,…this building fell to the ground in what could only be a controlled [long planned and long prepared] demolition, also descending at nearly the rate of fall of free falling objects.  The internet is awash with videos of this bizarre event.

Controversy legitimately surrounds the other events of 9/11.  But there is no controversy surrounding Building 7.  There is no controversy because there is nothing to be said.  For the part of the government, Building 7 goes unmentioned.  Building 7, fallen, is an emblem of the falsehood of the claims of the United States government.  When Building 7 can be explained honestly, and with it the other tragedies of 9/11, then we may begin to believe that our government expects our allegiance to be rooted in reality, not in its mythology.

In the mythology which has been generated, we are given a falsified piece of theater, a supposed attack of Muslim terrorists against the heart of our greatest city, for the contrived reason that “they hate our free way of life and they are angry at us for supporting Israel.”  By forces within our government we have been given this “Pearl Harbor” event so that we will lend our hearts to the battle against the natural enemies of the Zionist state.  But at the core of this contrivance lies the deception so deeply seated in our culture, the misrepresentation of the secular Zionist state as the heirs to God’s covenant promises to Abraham.

As subjects of the Messiah of Israel, we can not acknowledge a false mythology which rests upon a misrepresentation of the true nature of the holy people of God.  To silently acknowledge this mythology is to enable the worship of a Beast. 

Many will say that there is no evidence of any “Beast” or “statue.”  To which we must reply: If now we are able to endure and acknowledge the most outrageous distortions of the truth, if now we can so bow before this most wicked mythology which ushers death to the nations of the Muslim world, then shall we really have a problem bowing down to a caricature of power or to a cartoonish statue when such a tiny gesture might preserve our families and our lives?

We must fear the judgment of God if we see this danger in the world and fail to warn our brothers.

iv

In the first few centuries of the Christian era, during that short period before the installation of the state-sanctioned hierarchical church, followers of Yeshua greeted each other with the phrase, “Jesus is Lord.”  For them it was the core assertion that Yeshua is the anointed king of their transcendent kingdom, the long awaited Messiah of Israel, and that he is also the person of God.  Public identification with this core loyalty cost them their lives: it was an offense to Rome.  Rome needed to preserve the mythology that Israel is nothing more than a genetic group, whose leaders are bound within the sphere of Roman political power.  Rome could not tolerate the thought that Israel should be a power outside its control with a king beyond its control, a king who is also God, who holds his people to a call above the call of Roman power.

So now the resurgent Rome which rises from the ashes of history takes delight in its new rendition of the Final Solution: the apparent eradication of the Israel which is allied to Yahveh, the God of Israel, and the promotion of an Israel which is purely genetic, one of the nations, fitting comfortably within Roman global power.

The radical enthusiasm and spiritual power of New Covenant Israel, which fully survived the physical destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Rome – this enthusiasm and power now enjoyed by the Jewish and Gentile remnant within the enduring Israel of God – this was, for the broader culture, subsumed and rendered tame by Constantine and his Roman state religion.  Constantine favored and promoted the bishops who had been traditores in the persecutions of Diocletian, bought them off with basilicas, made himself the gracious arbiter of their theological differences, and married the filthy whole to the times and practices of his national pagan religion.  Orthodoxy became but a label for compromise with the state religion.

The comfort of modern religious life within the status quo is not due to some advanced condition wherein the modern Rome is more tolerant.  The comfort of the modern religious institution is due to the fact that it has given away the core being and the core assertion of the dissenting kingdom and in its stead has settled into a faith with purely personal ramifications.

This private “iPod” sort of faith will never be an offense to Rome.  Under the modern cultural regime of Tolerance you may believe whatever fantastical thing you want to believe about Jesus or about any other imaginary God, so long as it has no implications beyond your own personal being, so long as it suggests no political imperative which might be a challenge to the authority of Rome.

But the time of the witness, the time of the martyr, is at hand.  Only a handful of nations stand in the way of the completion of globalization.  Rome will soon raise its standard, claiming authority over the whole earth. Unless we are ready to give away our humanity, it will be necessary in this time to speak the truth that Rome does not want to hear: We who belong to the Messiah of Israel are the polis of God, true children of Abraham, not one of the nations.  We are the great and eternal political imperative of Yahveh, the God of Israel, the God of all worlds.

***   ***   ***   ***

 Lawrence S. Jones

email: lawrencestewartjones@gmail.com


[1] Revelation 13.11-15

[2] Vital Speeches 61, no.3 [November 15,1994]: 70 [3]

Quote for the day

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,

“Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment, the worst is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within…. That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones….Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain.”

from “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton