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

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Replacement Theology

covenantchart

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

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A Thousand Years

amillennial

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.

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