Category Archives: Dispensationalism

Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple

ezekielbook

Do we interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, or the New Testament in light of the Old? If Torah was only the shadow of things to come then the illumination would be that which followed — the B’rit Chadasha. To properly interpret the Bible, then, we must read the Old Covenant in light of the New.

Here is the problem. Dispensationalists do just the opposite. They read the Holy text as if it were written yesterday. We have to understand the Bible in the context of the time it was written, and to whom it was addressed — keeping in mind:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Ezekiel 40-48 is one of the most difficult sections of the Bible to understand. Ezekiel — יְחֶזְקֵאל (Yechezqel) meaning “Strengthened By God” — was a contemporary of Daniel and Jeremiah. All three were pre-exilic prophets sent by the LORD to warn the nation of coming judgement and restoration. Ezekiel was taken captive in 597 BC, eight years after Daniel was exiled during the first Babylonian invasion.

While living in Babylon, Ezekiel had a detailed vision of a grand temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple was left destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and the post-exilic temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was modest in comparison.

In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city (Ezekiel 40:2).

A man like bronze, holding a measuring rod, then gave the prophet detailed measurements of a holy temple. The relevance of the vision was to bring shame to the people, and present the shadow of what John would see in the Apocalypse.

As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws (Ezekiel 43: 10-11).

Dispensationalists call Ezekiel’s temple the Third Temple, or Fourth Temple if you include the Tabernacle of Moshe (Moses), Solomon’s temple, and the post-captivity temple of Ezra and Nehemiah (Zerubbabel’s temple) which was later expanded by King Herod; and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

Because the post-exilic temple did not measure up to the grand design of Ezekiel’s vision, Dispensationalists will conclude that it must be an unfulfilled prophesy. They foresee Ezekiel’s temple as being the earthly throne of Christ during the Millennial kingdom.

temple

Reformed theologians have a problem with these passages because Ezekiel sees not only the restoration of the temple, but all of its attendant ceremonial functions including animal sacrifices. The Rabbin have a problem with Ezekiel’s temple because of all that is missing — the Ark, the Golden Candlestick and the Table of Showbread.

Dispensationalists will say that the animal sacrifices are a ceremonial observance — like the Lord’s Supper — and not for atonement. However, Ezekiel is clearly instructed that the priests will offer bulls and goats to clean, purify and make atonement upon the altar (Ezekiel 43:22-27). Neither orthodox Jews nor reformed Christians interpret Ezekiel literally.

And to suggest a resumption of blood sacrifices in the Millennial age is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His shed blood upon the cross.

To overcome this objection, Dispensationalists — who adhere to a literalist interpretation — have to spiritualize the text, “Oh, it’s only ceremonial like taking Communion.” 

What, then, is the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision? Orthodox Jews interpret visions symbolically, and Christians should do likely. Whereas the Rabbin have difficulty with Ezekiel, Christians possess the covenant that illuminates the substance of shadows.

Messiah is our (Ark) covenant with YHWH (Hebrews 7:22).

Christ is the (show)bread of life (John 6:51).

No candlestick in the light of God’s glory (Rev 21:23).

Dr. John C. Whitcomb presents the Dispensational argument:

Just because animal sacrifices and priests have no place in Christianity does not mean that they will have no place in Israel after the rapture of the Church; for there is a clear distinction made throughout the Scriptures between Israel and the Church … It is obvious that the Book of Hebrews was written to Christians, and we have no right to insist that Israelites during the Millennium will also be Christians, without priests, without sacrifices, and without a Temple … [1]

Dr. Whitcomb is imposing premillennial assumptions that are nowhere found in Scripture. Pre-trib rapture? Jesus said the hour is coming when all will hear His voice and be resurrected to life or judgement (John 5:28-29). Paul said there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Romans 10:12), and not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Romans 9:6). To say that Hebrews was written to Christians is concealing the fact that the book was written to persecuted Jews who were thinking of returning to Judaism and its sacrificial system. If that was heresy then how much more apostate in a carnal kingdom still future?

When we shine the light of the New Covenant upon the Old it becomes evident that Ezekiel’s vision was a shadow of what was revealed to John. As Ezekiel saw his vision from atop a high mountain so, too, was John carried away in like manner. That both men saw a living river flowing from the throne of the LORD is evident that they had a shared vision.

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

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12).

As the scroll was sealed by Daniel (Daniel 12:4), but opened by the Lamb (Revelation 5:5) so we understand that Ezekiel and the Apocalypse (John’s vision) are bookends of typology and reality — shadow and fulfillment. Ezekiel and John saw not a carnal kingdom in a supposed Millennial age, but the New Jerusalem descending from heaven after this carnal world is burnt up. Peter wrote that this is the promise we look for — a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells  (2 Peter 2:13).

I have recently posted comments on another blog (thank you Selah) about misinterpreting Zechariah. Dispensationalists will read the book as if it were written yesterday, and apply it to Israel in the future. No, Zechariah was a post-exilic prophet writing to the remnant who returned from Babylonian captivity. He spoke of the coming Branch of David, and judgement (once again) upon the nation Israel.

To be a serious Bible student — one who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) — may require that we, like the Bereans, dig deeper into the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

Notes:

1. The Millennial Temple of Ezekiel 40-48 (An Exercise in Literal Interpretation), Dr. John C. Whitcomb.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Replacement Theology

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Those of you who receive the email version of Messiah Gate were, I pray, blessed by the article, Yom Kippur — An Untold Story, which posted at Joel C. Rosenberg’s WordPress blog.

The top line on the chart above depicts the false accusation against Reformed (Replacement) Theology while the second line depicts the accurate representation of what is also known as Covenant (or Supersessionist) Theology. The ‘church’ has not replaced Israel (as in the first line), but has become a new body (in Christ) of believing Jews and Gentiles whose hearts are turned towards God and not, metaphorically speaking, Sodom.

On the evening of Yom Kippur I was watching Pastor Jack Hibbs on His Channel Live. Pastor Hibbs hosted an Israeli author, and the discussion centered on the Dispensational role of Israel in these end times. “Pastor Jack” began the conversation by deriding Replacement Theology as demonic. — that God has not fulfilled His promises [Abrahamic and Davidic covenants] to Israel.

Then I read a piece by Issac W. Oliver (Assistant Professor in Religious Studies, Bradley University) that raised my eyebrows:

Draining Jesus of his Jewishness reached its unfortunate peak with the rise of Nazism when Jesus was even cast by some as an Aryan! However, ever since the end of World War II, the Jewishness of Jesus has been gradually resurfacing. “Blame” for the Christian distancing from Jewish practice has shifted instead to Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Traditionally, Paul has been viewed as an “apostate” from Judaism who founded a new religion, Christianity. [1]

Earlier, I read an author who cited quotations from Hitler that the Nazi solution (Holocaust) was imagined from the writings of Martin Luther. What all of these similarly themed articles espouse is that the Pauline epistles were the seed of anti-Semitism. Frankly, that is not the case. Haman, 2400 years before Hitler, tried to exterminate all of the Jewish people living in Persia. No, anti-Semitism has existed since the Book of Genesis.

Aspersions are cast upon Paul from many quarters. A ‘Christian’ woman called a radio program (The Narrow Path) and irately denigrated Paul whom she believed was homophobic. “Why don’t Christians leave gay people alone?,” she asked. When the host (Steve Gregg) quoted Paul’s list of those (including homosexuals) who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), the woman hemmed and hawed before exclaiming. “Well, I don’t believe that!” 

The impugning of Paul has disturbed me for some time, but after many hours of study it has become all so clear to me. There are essentially three groups of people who seek to disparage Paul: Judaizers who want to restore legalism, liberals who don’t want to repent or be judged, and atheists who seek to discredit the authority and validity of Scripture.

Dispensationalists fall into a subset of Judaizers who foresee the restoration of the earthly kingdom with all of its inclusive trappings: legalism, temple worship and blood sacrifices. The evangelical ‘church’ has been bedazzled by this false doctrine for the past 175 years.

Steve Gregg has just posted a YouTube video on Replacement Theology countering the false assertions of Jack Hibbs and Mark Hitchcock. To call one side demonic because it upholds historic Christianity is unnecessarily divisive and void of brotherly love.

Reminder: Videos do not appear on the email version of this post. Click on video link, or visit Messiah Gate to view. The video is rather long (2 hours), but this particular issue causes the greatest eschatological divide in the ‘church’ today. It stands Catholics and orthodox Protestants in rancorous disagreement with fundamental evangelicals. Hopefully, this video will help you to understand the issue with more clarity, and might be useful in a group Bible study. 

Be blessed. Jesus Christ is Lord! 

Notes:

His Channel is a production of Calvary Chapel, founded by Chuck Smith. The network teaches a Dispensational brand of Christianty. Messiah Gate links to the website with a caution to watch with discernment. Calvary Chapel faithfully teaches the essentials of Christian doctrine for which they are to be commended.

1. Do Christians Have to Keep the Torah?, Isaac W. Oliver, article, May 2015.

Video credit: Biblegate

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

video follows —

A Thousand Years

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There is an old adage: Don’t know if you are Pre, Mid or Post? Then you must be Catholic.

The chart that you see above is what the church believed from Augustine to Calvin, and for 200 years after the Reformation. The Amillennial timeline is church doctrine that has been upheld by Catholics and orthodox Protestants — excluding fundamental evangelicals — for over 2,000 years.

Augustine, who is recognized as the most brilliant theologian after the Apostle Paul, validated the earlier writings of Origen that the Bible uniformly teaches Amillennialsim. Subsequently, the Roman church decided it was not safe to teach Premillennialsim.

What we are talking about is a method of interpretation called hermeneutics. How do you read and understand the Bible? 

Let’s break it down. If we read the Book of Revelation with a literal (or linear) filter it is hard not to see that John is speaking of a visible, earthly Millennial reign of Christ. The Bible, however, is written as poetry, history and prophesy. The Rabbin, in the manner of the Pharisees, would read the Jewish scriptures with a strictly literal interpretation. That is one reason why the Jews rejected Christ because they were looking for a Messiah who would literally restore the kingdom, and physically sit on the throne of David.

The literal (linear) method of interpretation is recommended when studying the legal and historical books of the Old Testament. This method, however, does not work when we try to understand the poetic and prophetic books including Revelation. The Apocalypse was written as a progressive parallel of the church age sandwiched between the two Advents of Christ which is depicted as the Millennial reign — Jesus is reigning even now. He is both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

Premillinnialism presumes that the church will be raptured prior to Christ’s return after which our Lord will reign for a literal 1,000 years upon the earth.

Because neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught this, the church (for 1800 years) interpreted a thousand years to be symbolic of the completeness, or fulfillment of time. This would be in keeping with the Jewish tradition of attaching symbolic relevance to numeric prophesy. The prophetic books are allegoric, metaphoric, symbolic and figurative — not to be understood in a linear way.

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This is what happened in the 19th century. The literal church expected Christ to return in AD 1000. He didn’t. By the 1800’s there was a great falling away as people lost faith in the fundamentalists preachers who stood on street corners holding signs that read, The End is Near.

This gave rise to varied cult-like groups such as the Millerites, Russellites and Jehovah’s Witnessess who were deeply engaged in date-setting the imminent return of Christ. People would sell all of their assets in anticipation of the long-awaited day of the Lord. When Christ still didn’t return it was suggested that He came spiritually.

Jesus told John that the Revelation must soon take place for the end is near (Revelation 1:1-2). The end was near for 1800 years, and the church was going through a mid-life crisis. This was not a problem for the orthodoxy who rested upon the words of Peter:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’ (2 Peter 3:3-4).

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up (2 Peter 3:8-10).

The literal church will use this passage to support their Millennial interpretation. It cannot be done. This is the eisegesis (imposed meaning) that Dispensationalists apply to Scripture in order to make their theology. as they often say, fit the prophetic timeline. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, applies exegesis to determine the contextual meaning of Scripture. What Peter does confirm are the words of Christ that there will be an appointed last day when this age will end. The day of the Lord has been postponed for over 2,000 years even as we patiently await His glorious return.

Enter John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. Darby was the father of modern-day Dispensationalism. In the early part of the 19th century he devised a system of literal interpretation that is known also as Rapture Theology. It revived the long-dormant belief in Premillennialism with an emphasis on the rapture and a carnal fulfillment of the Millennial kingdom.

Darbyism, as we have noted before, was codified in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909) which became the training tool of the Dallas Theological Seminary. Alumni of DTS include David Jeremiah, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Ryrie, and J. Vernon McGee (who was an orthodox, Amillennial Presbyterian until he went through the DTS program.)

When Lindsey made his 1970 prediction of Christ’s return by 1988 he said, “If I’m wrong, I guess I’ll be a bum.” Why is this man still preaching and teaching? This is what Dispensationalism has wrought, but no more so than the pastor of a mega-church in San Antonio, John Hagee.

Hagee’s brand of Christianity is Dispensationalism on steroids. Israel, by this standard, has always been the prophetic center of God’s plan of redemption. The church is just a footnote to be removed so that God can fulfill His promises to Abraham in an earthly, carnal kingdom. This was a false doctrine of the early church that was emphatically denounced on two accounts:

Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) — it was spiritual, not physical; and Paul declared that the promises of God were made to Abraham and his seed who is Christ (Galatians 3:16). John, and Origen, condemned the chiliastic view of an earthly kingdom since Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of all that God had promised to Israel and Abraham.

Hagee believes in a two-fold plan of redemption — Jesus for the Gentiles, Moses for the Jews. In his own words:

The Jewish people have a relationship to God through the law of God as given through Moses. I believe that every Gentile person can only come to God through the cross of Christ. I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption. The law of Moses is sufficient enough to bring a person into the knowledge of God until God gives him a greater revelation. And God has not … I’m not trying to convert the Jewish people to the Christian faith … (it) is a waste of time … The Jewish person who has his roots in Judaism is not going to convert to Christianity. There is no form of Christian evangelism that has failed so miserably as evangelizing the Jewish people. They have a faith structure. (Everyone else) needs to believe in Jesus, but not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced by Christianity. [1]

Hagee’s brand of Dispensationalism is called Christian Zionism. It virulently derides Historic Christianity (pejoratively branded Replacement Theology) as anti-Semitic; the evil force behind the Crusades, Inquisition and Holocaust. 

In his book, In Defense of Israel, Hagee claims that Christ did not come to be the Jewish Messiah (p. 137). This is counter to everything taught in Scripture, but to be expected from a man who thinks like a Pharisee — linear, literal and lawful.

If the Jews knew what awaited them in the carnal kingdom to come — two-thirds of them will be killed — then they might reconsider their rejection of Messiah. No, the eternal kingdom has always been viewed by the Orthodoxy as the new heaven and new earth as described in Revelation 21. The Millennial age — where a day is like a thousand years — precedes the Second Advent of Christ. “Oh,” say the Dispy’s, “you’re spiritualizing the text.” Well, yes. And so did Jesus, Matthew, Peter, James and John who were all Jewish by the way.

Let me explain the millennium another way. Suppose I ask a woman to marry me and she says, “No! Not in a thousand years.” If I take her literally all I have to do is wait, and in 3016 she’ll say “yes”? If a thousand years is like a day then her answer tomorrow would still be “no”. It’s a figure of speech, and we do well to understand the Bible in the context of Jewish idioms and symbolism.

None of this matters if you are not right with God in Christ Jesus. We must have a discerning spirit to expose deception and false doctrine

Notes:

1. Julia Duin, San Antonio Fundamentalist Battles Anti-Semitism, The Houston Chronicle, 30 April 1988.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Revelation: An Historic View

revelation

The LORD awakens me every day with a song on my lips and a message in my heart. I pray, also, the courage to be faithful to His word.

At last night’s mid-week Bible study, the teacher made a comment — which I hear typically — that all of the Book of Revelation after chapters 3 or 4 is about the return of the Jews to Israel and the restoration of the kingdom.

This interpretation is heard all day on Christian radio and television. The ‘church’ will be raptured — after all, the church-age was only a detour from God’s original plan — and Jesus will return to reign for a thousand years on the earthly throne of David in fulfillment of  God’s promise to Israel.

The prophets of old did not foresee the church-age — they only saw the coming of Messiah. When Israel rejected Him, the LORD had to revise His plan of redemption. The ‘church’ became an interim solution — a stepchild, if you will — to make the chosen people jealous (Romans 11:11).

Jealous? The Inquisition and Holocaust generated horrific fear — not jealousy.

This interpretation suggests that the LORD did not foresee Israel’s rejection of the Anointed One so He had to scramble and devise a two-stage plan of redemption that included the Gentiles. No, the rejection and crucifixion of Messiah was unmistakably foretold by Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah. (Click on EMET tab for additional study.)

The church-age was not an afterthought.

Bible teachers who present this interpretation are typically pre-millennial with a Dispensational slant. They believe that the Book of Revelation was written towards the end of the first century, 96 A.D. Why is this important?

The dating of the Apocalypse (John’s vision) is critical to our understanding of Bible prophesy. I believe that the Revelation was written in the 60’s A.D. as a warning to the ‘church’ about the impending destruction of Jerusalem.

That singular event was cataclysmic as it brought an end to the age of Judaism, and was a fulfillment of Christ’s prophetic judgement against the nation Israel.

I listen daily to well-known pastors who lift scripture from the Old Testament to validate their interpretation of Revelation. For example, they will cite Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel — wherein the prophet speaks of a return from exile — as evidence that the LORD will fulfill his covenant with Abraham. We have previously cited Joshua 21:43 as literal proof-text that God’s land promise to Israel (through Abraham) was fulfilled 3500 years ago.

A very beloved pastor (who goes through the Bible) cited a passage from Amos as evidence that God will still fulfill His promise to Abram which the pastor sees as yet unfulfilled:

“In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11).

Amos was a prophet from the southern kingdom of Judah who was sent, by the LORD, to warn the northern kingdom, Israel, of their imminent judgement. The Book was written circa 766 B.C. (Samaria fell to the Assyrians within a generation; and Judah fell to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, 134 years later.)

Amos concluded his prophesy on a hopeful promise of restoration which was fulfilled by the decree of Cyrus to return all captive exiles to their homeland.

We need to have a clear understanding that the pre-exilic prophets — when speaking of a return from exile — were prophesying of the return from Assyrian/Babylonian captivity as so ordered by Cyrus, king of Persia (Isaiah 44:28).

I am a Covenant (Reformed) Theologian. It is Historic Christianity which is derided as Replacement Theology — precursor of the Holocaust — say pre-millennial Dispensationalists who are literal to a fault except for passages which don’t align with their eschatology (such as that cited in Joshua).

We — that is, Reformers — are accused of spiritualizing scripture. That is, to say, we take Old Testament prophesy and apply it to the ‘church’.

However, the whole of New Testament canon is spiritualized — from the Gospels to Revelation. That’s why the Jewish people reject it!

Take, for example, our passage from Amos. Though it was written to Israel almost 2800 years ago, James quotes it in Acts 15:16 as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

This is the manner of New Testament writers to quote from the Old Testament and conclude, this was to fulfill what was written by the prophets. And it is in agreement with our Lord’s claim that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17).

One more example before we leave this thread. In Romans 9:25, Paul quotes from Hosea 2:23 a prophesy that was spoken to the northern kingdom (Israel) about thirty years prior to the Assyrian conquest:

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

James, Paul and Peter (1 Peter 2:10) apply these passages to the Gentiles not as an allusion, but fulfillment of Bible prophesy.

If you have time, please study Revelation 12. It carefully summarizes the history of the ‘church’, and will help you understand its meaning.

The woman (Israel) was with child (v.1). The Serpent comes to devour the child (v.4). The woman gives birth to a man-child who will rule the nations, and be caught up to God and His throne (v.5). Michael and his angels are at war with the dragon who was cast out of heaven, and thrown down to the earth (v.7-9) — a fulfillment of Christ’s prophesy:

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18).

The brethren overcome the Devil by the blood of the Lamb (v. 11). The dragon persecutes the woman who flees into the wilderness (as did the remnant who survived 70 A.D.), and the chapter concludes with Satan, so enraged with the woman, that he goes to make war with her children (the ‘church’) who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (v. 14-17).

Keep in mind that Revelation (and the Bible’s Apocalyptic books) were written with allegory, metaphor and symbolism. A great way to witness to a Jewish neighbor is to give them a copy of Revelation. They will see ‘Daniel’ throughout the book and, hopefully, the Messiah as well. 

The date of Revelation, once again, will color your understanding of its prophetic message. The most widely cited reference in favor of the late-date is a quote from Irenaeus — a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John, the book’s author. Irenaeus suggests that John (or the vision) was seen during the reign of Domitianou. This has been understood more recently to be a reference to Emperor Domitian who reigned in the 90’s A.D. However, for 1800 years the ‘church’ believed this to be a reference to Domitious Nero, the Emperor who presided over a brutal persecution of the ‘church’ in the late-60’s A.D. — leading up to the prophetic destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age.

Church tradition teaches that Paul was tortured and beheaded by Nero in 67 A.D., and John’s cryptic reference to the Beast (Revelation 13:18) was understood to be Emperor Nero. For John to mention Nero by name would have meant instant death.

Incidentally, Paul wrote to seven churches during his ministry as John (in Revelation) addressed the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4). The Muratorian Canon documents that Paul wrote to seven churches in the like manner of John:

… the blessed Apostle Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name … John too, indeed, in the Apocalypse, although he writes to only seven churches, yet addresses all.

If Paul died in 67 A.D. then the early-date of Revelation, without further debate, must be understood within the context of the time in which it was written as a warning to the ‘church’ of great tribulation. Indeed, as Josephus recorded, no city in the history of the world had suffered the catastrophic destruction that befell Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Prophesy of Christ fulfilled (Matthew 24:21).

With regards to great tribulation we do not preclude the loosing of Satan and his war against the saints.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Rosh Hashanah

Pomegranate_Image

As you read this understand that the LORD, blessed be His name, loves Israel. And I love Israel — enough to speak the truth and overturn some carts.

Three things struck me this day that have churned my soul, and I must write about them as the LORD has so inspired. (This will stub some people’s toes, but it must be shared.)

I was reading the Jewish Press — an article by Yoram Ettinger — about Rosh Hashanah (Hag Sameach). Though not mentioned in the Torah it is a celebration of the Jewish New Year (5776).

There were some interesting bites of information. For example: Why is the pomegranate — engraved on the Ark and sewn on the coat of the High Priest — a featured item at the Holiday meal?

There are 613 genetic seeds in a pomegranate reflecting the 613 statutes of the ceremonial Law, and a customary blessing is typically recited over the meal:

May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Comments are welcomed at the end of the JP article with the exception of those that promote foreign religions, gods or messiahs. More on that later.

Having read the article I then climbed aboard the Bible Bus for my daily study with J. Vernon McGee. He began the session by saying that the Abrahamic Covenant has not yet been fulfilled. McGee is at odds with many Dispensationalists who see, at least, a partial fulfillment in 1948 when Israel became a state.

Later, I was watching Greg Laurie, and he carried on with the theme that God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. What was the promise God made to Abram?

In Genesis 15 the LORD promised Abram an heir (Isaac), and that his seed will possess the land. Abram offered a sacrifice unto God, and while he slept the LORD passed between the carcasses thus affirming His covenant.

In ancient days, two men would validate a mutual agreement by walking between the halves of a slain animal. The LORD put Abram into a deep sleep, and He walked alone between the pieces thus suggesting that the covenant was unilateral, irrevocable and everlasting.

Dispensationalism teaches that the land promise will not be fulfilled until the Messiah returns to establish the Millennial kingdom and reign upon the earthly throne of David in Jerusalem — a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (Jeremiah 33:17). 

Okay, take a deep breath because what I am about to say will cause some to throw stones. Please hear me out because this is historic Christianity — not revisionist evangelicalism.

I believe the land covenant was fulfilled in the days of Joshua (3500 years ago), and that the Messiah is now reigning on the throne of David.

Jesus Christ said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). All of Jewish history pointed to a singular culmination — the coming of Mashiach. Like the Christians, Jews believe in two comings, but it gets complicated. Mashiach ben Yosef is a descendant of Joseph who will prepare the way for Mashiach ben David who will then reign eternally upon the throne of King David.

The zealots — even some of the disciples — thought that Jesus had come to restore the kingdom to Israel even though He said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

This is the stumbling block for Jews. Christ came the first time, but was rejected by His people. He will come again in great glory taking vengeance on those who know Him not (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Understand what I am saying. All has been fulfilled except the Second Coming of Christ which, according to Jesus, will be on the last day — not pre, mid or post but, as Peter wrote, the day of the Lord which will come like a thief in the night to destroy the heavens and earth with fire. All will be removed (you can call it raptured) — some to eternal life and the rest to eternal judgement. Then the new heavens and earth will descend and the saints will live forevermore in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Blessed be His name. (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54, and 2 Peter 3:10).

What about the land promise? Written between 1400 and 1370 B.C. we find the answer in the Old Testament book of Joshua:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it (Joshua 21:43).

You know the history. The Jews are in bondage in Egypt … Moses leads them through the wilderness for forty years … and Joshua provides the details of their conquest and possession of the Promised Land.

Dispensationalists will say that the Jews did not physically occupy all of the land therefore God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. When the LORD promised to return the captives of Babylonian exile only a remnant came home. Many were comfortable with their adapted lives and chose to remain in Babylon.

No. You can’t be a literalist and then deny a matter-of-fact declaration. Consider this scenario: A father promises his son that when he turns sixteen he will give him the family sedan. The son turns sixteen and his father transfers title, but the son — for whatever reason — doesn’t take possession of the vehicle. Has the father fulfilled the promise he made to his son? Certainly.

I will not split hairs over the meaning of take and possess, (Heb. lakad, yarash). Judah fared well in taking and possessing their inheritance while the northern tribes had difficulty with the Jebusites who were quite tenacious.

In any case, Jesus Christ has fulfilled both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Don’t believe me? Would you believe Luke and Peter?

Read Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke in Acts 2.

It is the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been poured out which Peter cites, by the way, as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16) — you know, the one about blood moons, a darkened sun, signs and wonders (Joel 2:28-32) — the prophecy that, according to Dispensationalists, has yet to be fulfilled. Hagee and Cahn are making lots of money selling books on this false teaching.

Joel was using symbolic imagery to convey a prophetic word from God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Revelation utilize the same customary style. For example, in describing the destruction of Babylon, Isaiah wrote:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:10).

The heavenly imagery depicts cataclysmic events, or prophetic fulfillment upon the earth, and is the literary style of ancient Hebrew text.

Peter then addresses the Jews who believed that King David would return to sit on his throne in Jerusalem. They glean this from Psalm 16:10 where David says that the LORD will not abandon his soul in Hades nor allow His Holy One to undergo decay — an unmistakable reference to Jesus Christ.

David died, was buried and his tomb, said Peter, is with us to this day (Acts 2:29). David isn’t coming back to reign for the prophesy was not about him but the resurrected Son of God.

When David speaks in Psalm 110:1 about the LORD saying to my Lord, sit at My right hand, he is speaking not of himself, said Peter, but of the Mashiach.

Peter was making the case that Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of David:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36). 

As Peter revealed that Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, Paul declared that the promise made by God to Abraham had been fulfilled in this same Jesus:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Galatians 3:16). 

Paul explains that God’s promise to Abram came 430 years before the Law was delivered to Moses. The Law does not nullify the promise which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Because Abram was deemed righteous through faith so are Jews and Gentiles counted righteous — not by the Law which came later — but by their faith in the One who fulfilled the Law, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Galatians 3).

Brethren, we have a problem. I have dared to speak so boldly of Christ at this time of holiday because Israel needs to hear the Gospel that would otherwise be censured.

Citing the aforementioned Jewish Press, understand that Israel (the Jewish people) have rejected Jesus Christ and His atonement. They are in rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The olive tree and grape-vine (symbolic of the nation of Israel) are presented afresh in the B’rit Chadasha:

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree ((Romans 11:17 — NLT).

With regards to Israel being the vine, Jesus said, I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). 

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it (Matthew 21:43). 

McGee and Laurie deride this as Replacement Theology — that the ‘church’ has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Reformers (such as myself) refer to it as Covenant Theology, that is, Old Testament promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ just as the LORD revealed through His prophet (Jeremiah 31:31). Conversely, some evangelicals teach a two-step plan of redemption — one for Gentiles, another for Israel. No, there is only one plan of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The problem is that Dispensationalism has embraced an almost idolatrous love affair with Israel. How did Paul define Israel?

… they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants … (Romans 9:6-7).

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Law); and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

If you, who are Gentile, have been grafted in then you are a Jew, a descendant of Abraham — a High Priest and a Holy nation, God’s very own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

True Israel — the vine being Jesus Christ — consists of believing Jews and Gentiles who have been declared righteous by their faith in Yeshua HaMashiach …

… and in this way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

Stop watching the fig tree and blood moons for your salvation, and keep your eyes on the Lord.

Okay, you can breathe now.

Suggested Reading:

Want to know more about Dispensational Theology? Read our series beginning with the 70 Weeks of Daniel.

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70 Weeks of Daniel

daniel

(Revised 07-09-16, 2:40 pm)

This is part of a series examining the flawed exegesis of Dispensational theology. (See also: Who is Israel?, Dispense the Truth, Is Satan Bound? and Our High Priest).

The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (chapter 9) is one of the most difficult passages of Scripture. We will proceed with an assumption that many Bible students still aren’t sure of its meaning.

Dispensationalists believe that sixty-nine of the prophetic weeks have been fulfilled with the final week to be completed at some point in the future when all of these things will come to pass — rebuilt temple, man of sin, rapture, Great Tribulation and Millennium. Upon a more careful reading of Scripture we will see that the LORD decreed seventy weeks to fulfill, or complete the prophecy. The church fathers believed that Messiah appeared at the beginning of the 70th week, while Dispensationalists assert that Christ died in the 69th week with the final week having been put on hold 2000 years.

The implications of these divergent views are, metaphorically speaking, earth-shaking. Essentially, 19th century liberals overturned centuries of ecclesiastical teaching with the introduction of dispensational theology that adopted a futuristic interpretation of prophecy.

The church fathers believed that Daniel 9 was a Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled with the first coming of Christ. Rabbis also adhered to this interpretation, that is, until the temple was destroyed — and Messiah did not save them from the Roman army which, ironically, was sent in judgement by the LORD.

Though Dispensationalists cite the subsequent order of Artaxerxes, the commencement of the Seventy Weeks was historically understood by the church fathers to be the issuance of the royal decree by Cyrus which ended seventy years of Babylonian captivity. The terminus was the first advent of Christ which some proposed to be His birth, ministry or crucifixion. Though it extends the prophesy another 36 years, Clement saw the fulfillment of the seventy weeks in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This is so determined because Christ had already put an end to the oblations by His sacrifice upon the cross. The offerings of the people after the cross had no spiritual efficacy, and the desolation of the sanctuary was simply an exclamation mark of Messiah’s prophetic judgement that not one stone would be left upon another (Matthew 23:38, 24:2).

What are the Seventy Weeks?

v24 Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most Holy.

Church fathers clearly understood this to be a Messianic reference. We will discuss the seventy weeks later, but this was a mistranslation by the King James translators. The text is properly interpreted seventy “sevens”. As the Jews were coming to the end of their seventy years of exile (Jeremiah 25:11), the LORD spoke unto Daniel that another judgement of sevens had been decreed — see also Leviticus 26:18.

v25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (69 weeks); it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

Messiah would come at the end of 69 weeks (7 + 62), and begin His ministry at the beginning of the 70th week — in contrast, as we have seen, with Dispensationalists who believe that Messiah was crucified in the 69th week with a parenthetic suspension of the final week.

v26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

Remember, the prophetic timeline is segmented into seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks for a total of sixty-nine weeks. If Messiah is cut off after the sixty-two weeks, and we know that the first seven weeks have been fulfilled with the completion of the post-captivity temple, the prophecy foretells the crucifixion and desolation sometime after the 69th week.

v27 And he (Messiah) will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (70th week), but in the middle of the week (His ministry lasted 3 1/2 years) he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (by His sacrifice upon the Cross); and on the wing of abominations (the Roman army) will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction (within that generation), one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate (the holy city).

He is not the future Antichrist nor the prince of verse 26. The prince is the object of the preposition. Neither are the people to be construed as the subject of the verse since the pronoun, in context of these passages, is unequivocally the Messiah.

We will revisit these verses later, but it might be helpful at this point to answer a couple of questions: When was the decree issued to restore the temple, and how do we interpret the seventy weeks?

There were, actually, several orders to restore the temple: Cyrus (539 BC), Darius (520 BC), Artaxerxes I (457 BC) and Artaxerxes (444 BC). It would take the length of this paper to examine the details of these royal decrees — as documented in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah — but one of the decrees fits the timeline better than the others. For example, the most obvious choice would be the first order issued by Cyrus though it preceded Messiah by 570 years thus exceeding Daniel’s timetable by 80 years — but only if we utilized the secular, historical records of Ptolemy which were incomplete, and viewed with uncertainty by ancient scholars.

Not only is (Ptolemy’s) method of procedure fundamentally wrong in that it tries to make events of Bible-history fit in with a man-made chronological scheme, but the fact is that every chronological System covering the period we have to do with (i. e., from the beginning of the Persian monarchy down to Christ) is largely a matter of guesswork. All those systems, without any exception, are based upon the “canon” of Ptolemy, that is to say, a list of supposed Persian kings, with the supposed length of the reign of each, which list was compiled by Ptolemy, a heathen astronomer and writer of the second century AD. But Ptolemy does not even pretend to have had any facts as to the length of the Persian period (that is to say, from Darius and Cyrus down to Alexander the Great). Ptolemy estimates or guesses this period to have been 205 years long. And this is what has caused all the trouble and uncertainty; for every one who has attempted to construct a Bible chronology has based himself on Ptolemy’s estimate. In a word then, there is no chronology in existence of the period from Cyrus to Christ except in the Bible. 

Concerning the dates given in Ptolemy’s table of Persian Kings, Martin Anstey (Bible Chronology, 1913) says: “They rest upon calculations or guesses made by Eratosthenes, and on certain vague floating traditions, in accordance with which the period of the Persian Empire was mapped out as a period of 205 years.” And he shows, by a great variety of proofs taken entirely from the Scriptures, that the period which Ptolemy assigns to the Persian Empire is about eighty years too long. It follows that all who adopt Ptolemy’s chronology, or any system based upon it (as all modern chronologists prior to Anstey do) would inevitably be led far astray. It is impossible to make the real Bible-events agree, within 80 years, with the mistaken chronology of Ptolemy. This single fact makes many modern books on Daniel utterly worthless, so far as their chronology is concerned; and the chronology is the main thing. [1]

Confirming that Cyrus is, indeed, the subject of the royal decree — the Bible has to be the authority:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah’ (Ezra 1:1-2). 

It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’ ” (Isaiah 44:28)

“I have aroused him (Cyrus) in righteousness and I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city and will let My exiles go free, Without any payment or reward,” says the LORD of hosts (Isaiah 45:13).

Clearly, Jesus did not come within a literal seventy weeks of the royal decree. The Bible is using prophetic language — it is to be understood as seventy weeks of years. That is to say, one day equals one year  — one week equals seven years — and seventy weeks equals four hundred ninety years.

One might ask by what interpretive method do we understand a day for a year? To be sure, it is gleaned from ancient rabbinical text; but also from the Holy Scriptures:

For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity … a day for each year (Ezekiel 4:5-6).  

You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years (Leviticus 25:8).

Daniel breaks down his vision into a period of seven weeks (49 years), sixty-two weeks (434 years) and one week (7 years). From the time the decree is issued to the completion of the (second) temple, 49 years … the coming of Messiah, 434 years … the fulfillment of Christ’s ministry and crucifixion, 7 years.

Christian commentators and Rabbinic teachers posited that Daniel’s prophecy began at the end of Jeremiah’s prophetic seventy years of desolation, or Babylonian captivity which ended with the decree of Cyrus.

Let us examine more closely the two verses that pose the greatest interpretive challenge:

v24 Seventy weeks have been decreed to finish the transgression, make atonement for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal the vision and anoint the most Holy.

Seventy weeks: Skeptics will dispute 490 years between the decree of Cyrus and the coming of Messiah. However, when you factor in the 360-day lunar calendar, and sketchy records of Ptolemy, it is reasonable to agree with first century Christians and Jews that the prophecy of Daniel 9 (all 70 weeks) has been fulfilled.

Finish the transgression (atonement): Of course, it is not difficult to understand that Messiah finished the transgression (John 19:30) though modern Bible critics — liberal in their theology — will cast doubt upon the Messianic interpretation of this passage even as they question the Virgin Birth and bodily resurrection. How they can doubt that Christ made atonement for sin is, well, perplexing.

Everlasting righteousness: Obviously, Jesus Christ. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets (Romans 3:21).

Seal the vision: Daniel’s sealed vision would be opened by the One who fulfilled the prophecy as revealed to John.

I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1-5)

Anoint the most Holy: This passage of Scripture was uniformly interpreted — by Jews and Christians — as one of the most revelatory Messianic prophecies in all of the Old Testament. There are interpretive variations regarding the most Holy. Some translations render the passage most Holy One, or place. If Holy One, it is a clear reference to the Mashiach; and if Holy place it suggests the anointing of the Most Holy Place with the sacrificial blood of the Messiah (Hebrews 9:12) — a selfless offering that permitted the Son of Man to open Daniel’s sealed prophecy. In either case, the Messianic connotations were clearly understood in the first century.

Verse 27 is challenging in that it lays down the Dispensational foundation regarding the Antichrist and end time scenario. (Be aware that they will link this verse with 2 Thessalonians 2:4.)

v27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Who is he? The key that unlocks our interpretation of this verse is the word covenant ( bə·rîṯ) which does not convey a civil compact, but a holy one — ex. Genesis 9:13, 15-18. The Hebrew text suggests that he will make strong or establish a holy covenant with the many, or the faithful elect. There are no other subjects in chapter 9 that would have the authority to confirm such a covenant, but Messiah.

In Isaiah, chapter 42, the LORD presents His righteous servant. Careful study of these verses will open your understanding as to the identity of he who was sent to establish the holy covenant:

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations … I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, and I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:1, 42:6).

Note that the LORD appointed His servant as a covenant. Messiah is the covenant spoken of in verse 27; and some Bible expositors will actually interpret that it was the covenant that caused the sacrifices to cease:

But bereeth ( bə·rîṯ) thus absolute, is used not of alliances, but of the Divine covenant … If bereeth is the Divine covenant, as by usage it is, then the prince whose people were to lay waste the temple and city cannot be he that confirms the covenant. We might take the last clause of ver. 26 as in a parenthesis, and regard the subject of the verb “confirm” as the Messiah who was cut off. It seems, however, preferable to take the construction as we have done above, and make bereeth the subject of the verb. And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. In accordance with our interpretation of the previous clause, we would interpret this, “The covenant shall cause offering and oblation to cease.” What covenant is this? The new Messianic covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 8:8) quotes this passage as Messianic, and as proving that sacrifice and offering had ceased with Christ’s sacrifice of himself. [2]

Messiah confirmed the (new) covenant and brought an end to sacrifices during the prophetic 70 weeks. Daniel 9 is not a prophecy to be fulfilled in a rebuilt temple amidst the political intrigue of a shaky peace agreement between Israel and the man of sin. That sells books and makes thrilling movies — but it is not Biblical.

Notes:

1. Philip Mauro. The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation; chapter 2, The Commandment to Restore and Build, 1921, Preterist Archive.

2. Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. Commentary on Daniel 9:27, The Pulpit Commentary, 1897, StudyLight.org.

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Our High Priest

(Revised 09-05-14, 3:03 am)

Editor: This article continues our examination of the flawed exegesis of Dispensational theology. (See also: Who is Israel?, Dispense the Truth and Is Satan Bound?)

Finding an evangelical seminary that is true to the historical interpretation of Scripture has been a daunting task — as hard, even, as trying to find a church that is faithful to the Word of God, and not to a Doctrinal Statement composed by an institutional hierarchy of deacons, or elders.

A noteworthy seminary in Southern California lists the following item in their Program Goals:

Upon successful completion of the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies Program students will be able to: Articulate dispensational theology and biblically defend their doctrinal position.

In their Doctrinal Position the seminary declares:

We believe that the Scriptures interpreted in their natural, literal sense reveal divinely determined dispensations or rules of life which define man’s responsibilities in successive administrations of God. These dispensations are divinely ordered stewardships by which God directs man according to His purpose. Three of these — the dispensation of law, the dispensation of the grace of God, and the dispensation of the kingdom — are the subjects of detailed revelation in Scripture.

The outline seems reasonable, but the finer points reveal a flawed doctrine that is somewhat responsible for division and denominationalism within the body of Christ.

In the 19th century, Dispensationalism was considered liberalism by the ecclesia. There are variations of the doctrine, but it essentially posited these climatic events: end of the age, rapture of the church, Great Tribulation, Millennial reign, and a rebuilt temple featuring the resumption of animal sacrifices. In fact, preparations are being made today, in Israel, to restore the Levitical priesthood.

If you examine dispensational theology with a discerning spirit it will become evident that the doctrine is supported by a liberal dose of eisegesis in that it imposes, or reads into, a literal interpretation of Scripture that is symbolic, metaphoric or allegoric.

Case in point: Why are animal sacrifices offered in the Millennial kingdom? Dispensational theologian John Walvoord answers:

The millennial sacrifices are no more expiatory than were the Mosaic sacrifices which preceded the cross. If it has been fitting for the church in the present age to have a memorial of the death of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, it is suggested that it would be suitable also to have a memorial of possibly a different character in the millennium in keeping with the Jewish characteristic of the period. [1]

Note, in keeping with the Jewish characteristic of the period, Walvoord reveals the dispensational scenario that once the church is removed from the world, Israel will again take center stage.

With regards to a memorial sacrament, the Eucharist was instituted by our Lord at the Last Supper:

And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me (Luke 22:19).

Walvoord liberally infers that because Communion is a memorial service during the dispensation of the church then it can be suggested that animal sacrifices might be a type of suitable remembrance in the Millennial kingdom.

Except there is absolutely no Scriptural validation for his assertion. To suggest that animal sacrifices will resume in a Millennial age is an offense to the sufferings of Christ.

If you examine the jots and tittles of dispensational thought you’ll discover multiple second comings, a couple of resurrections (separated by the Millennium), and two new covenants.

The well-known pastor of a mega-church in San Antonio preaches the hyper-dispensational slant that God has two plans of salvation — one for the church and another for Israel. After the church is raptured, God will fulfill all of His promises to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The Texas preacher makes it sound as if Israel is the center of God’s plan of salvation, and the church of Jesus Christ is nothing but a footnote.

What does it mean, then, when our Lord said that He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17)?

Let’s review the historical teaching of the church. YHWH revealed Himself to Israel. They were disobedient, cast into exile, rejected the Messiah — and the LORD, in His judgement against the nation in AD 70, brought an end to the Jewish age (and the covenant of Moses).

Intellectuals — including some who are seminary taught — might say our summary is ignorant, or too simplistic. But we know that the covenant of Christ made obsolete the covenant of Moses  (Hebrews 8:13).

HaMashiach Yeshua fulfilled the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

A popular Bible teacher — who graduated from a dispensational seminary — stated on his radio program that the new covenant spoken of in Jeremiah is separate and distinct from the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. [2]

When I partake of Communion I always associate the covenant in Jeremiah with the proclamation of our Lord at the Last Supper:

And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood (Luke 22:20).

The covenant declared by YHWH in the prophesy of Jeremiah is the same covenant established by Christ our Lord, yet the radio pastor said that the former would be enacted with Israel during the Millennial age, while the latter was contracted with believers at the dispensation of the church age.

A study of the Book of Hebrews will yield a wealth of spiritual insight with regards to the priestly fulfillment of Jesus Christ. Particularly relevant to this discourse would be chapter 8 wherein the writer (we surmise the Apostle Paul) details how the Lord, having taken His seat at the right hand of God, has become our High Priest — and having obtained a more excellent ministry has become the mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:1, 8:6).

More pointedly, the writer of Hebrews quotes the passage in Jeremiah to substantiate that Jesus Christ is the new covenant so prophesied in the ancient text. Yeshua, having appeared as our High Priest, entered the heavenly tabernacle — not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).

The sacrificial system, in practice, ended when YHWH brought judgement upon Israel in AD 70 — leaving the temple desolate for 2000 years. And so it will remain until the last day when the dead are resurrected either to life, or judgement (John 5:28-29).

A question that needs to be asked (and is deserving of its own essay): Where do we read in Scripture the validation, or assertion of a Millennial temple? The dispensational interpretation is that Ezekiel’s temple (detailed in chapters 40-47) is the Third Temple. The LORD, however, instructed Ezekiel to reveal the plans of the temple to bring shame to the children of Israel for their iniquities (Ezekiel 43:10).

Like dangling a carrot — this is what you could have if it weren’t for your disobedience.

We cannot dismiss that Ezekiel’s prophesy was revealed before the construction of the second temple (which never approached the grand design of the prophet’s vision) — the dimensions of his temple being of a heavenly scale, thus suggesting it was but a spiritual type existing only in the New Jerusalem after this present world has passed away.

What the Bible does teach is that Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and chief cornerstone of God’s holy tabernacle consisting of a body of believers (both Jew and Greek) who are the temple of the Holy Spirit — a temple that exceeds the grandeur of Ezekiel’s vision.

A temple that is not millennial, but eternal — and a clear example of how our High Priest fulfilled the Law and Prophets.

Notes:

1. John Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (1983), p. 311-312

2. Walvoord was a contemporary of this popular radio preacher. They both graduated from the Dallas Theological Seminary where Walvoord served as president, and the preacher was a guest lecturer.

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