Category Archives: Old Testament

Purim 2016

purim

Purim 2016 begins in the evening of Wednesday, March 23 and ends in the evening of Thursday, March 24. Originally posted March 03, 2013.

The Word of the LORD:

They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more”(Ps 83:4).

The Psalms were written over a span of 900 years from the time of Moses to the post-Exilic period. Psalm 83, written by Asaph, could have been penned today as a song of lamentation (for Israel is surrounded by enemies who have publicly vowed to wipe her off the face of the map). Throughout history Satan has lifted up an enemy to destroy the Jewish people, and so it is even to this day.

Think of Herod who ordered the death of all male children under the age of two who were in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2:16), or when Athaliah destroyed all the royal offspring from the house of Judah except for Joash who was secreted away thus preserving the messianic line (2 Ch 22:10).

We cannot fail to understand that we are engaged in an eternal fight between good and evil:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ep 6:12).

The face of evil spans the ages — King Herod, Adolph Hitler, Mahmoud Ahmidenijhad — but the ruler of darkness is with whom we wrestle. Brethren, put on the whole armor of G-d so that you may stand firm against the enemy (Ep 6:11).

Haman was one such enemy who sought to exterminate the Jewish people. Had he succeeded the messianic line would have been cut off if not for the invisible hand of G-d. We read about Haman in the Book of Esther. (Ruth is the only other book in the Tanakh, Old Testament, that is named after a woman.) Esther was the orphaned daughter of Abihail. She grew up in Persia, and was raised by her older cousin Mordecai. The Book of Esther covers the period of history after the return from Babylonian captivity when the Persians were the dominant world power. Many Jews, including Esther and Mordecai, stayed in Persia after the return from exile.

It came to pass that Esther found favor in the eyes of King Ahasuerus, and he crowned her queen of the royal palace. A plot to kill the king was uncovered by Mordecai which led to the hanging of the king’s officials, and the promotion of Haman as the king’s chief advisor.

Mordecai would not bow down to Haman for there was bad blood between them dating back to the time of King Saul. To understand the feud we must look even further into Israel’s past all the way to the exodus from Egypt.

In the Book of Exodus (Ex 17:8) we read that Amalek came out to war against Israel as they were leaving Egypt. Moses commanded Joshua to lead a select group of men to fight against the Amalekites, and with the staff of G-d in hand the children of Israel prevailed (Ex 17:13). The LORD told Moses that He would utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven (Ex 17:14so Moses built an altar to the LORD and said, “The LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:16).

In the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt 25:17) the LORD reminded Israel to remember what the Amalekites did when they came out of Egypt and attacked their women and children. Who was this generational enemy? Who was Amalek?

Remember the bitter rivalry between Jacob and Esau the sons of Isaac. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Ge 25:29-34). Then, in chapter 27 of Genesis, Jacob stole Esau’s blessing by impersonating his brother before their aged and dimly sighted father Isaac thus prompting Esau to vow that he would kill Jacob.

Amalek was a grandson of Esau, and so it was that the descendants of Esau would war against Jacob (Israel) from generation to generation.

Later, King Saul was commanded by G-d to destroy the Amalekites for how they ambushed Israel on their way out of Egypt (1 Sa 15:1-3), but Saul disobeyed by sparing the life of Agag their king. The prophet Samuel slew Agag according to the command of the LORD, but the Amalekites continued to be a thorn in Israel’s flesh, and an enemy of David.

Who, then, was Haman? He was a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag slain by the prophet Samuel when Saul disobeyed the command of G-d. Haman was an Agagite.

So 550 years had passed from the death of Agag to the Book of Esther, and the hatred that was born in the rivalry between Jacob and Esau continued in the persons of Mordecai (a descendant of King Saul), and Haman (a descendant of King Agag).

Haman was enraged that Mordecai would not bow to him nor pay homage so he plotted to destroy all of the Jews throughout the kingdom. Haman deceived King Ahasuerus into signing a decree to destroy all those who did not observe the king’s law so the order was sent to the governors of all the provinces to kill the Jews and confiscate their possessions (Esther 3:13).

Mordecai learned of these events and there was sorrowful mourning among the Jews (Esther 4:1). Queen Hadassah (Esther) was in great anguish because she had never told the king that she was a Jew (Esther 2:10). Mordecai sent word to the queen that she must intercede on behalf of her people, but Esther feared to approach the king without a summons for that would incur the death penalty. Her cousin replied that she would die anyway once it was discovered that she was a Jew:

Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13-14)

We need to examine briefly what Mordecai told Esther. Are you a silent member of the body of Christ? Are you in a position or situation that defies understanding or reason? Do you speak out against spiritual darkness? Do you stand for G-d without fearing the consequence? Are you at a place in life that makes no sense but for the purpose and will of G-d?

So Esther fasted for three days:

“And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

On the third day Esther entered the royal court, and the Bible says that she obtained favor in the sight of the king (Esther 5:2) who granted her petition to have a banquet in honor (so he thought) of Haman who went away joyously to his home even as he prepared the gallows to hang Mordecai and the Jews.

In the evening the king requested that the book of records be read in his presence. Written in the records was the account of Mordecai uncovering the plot to kill the king, and it was discovered that nothing had been done to honor him for this act.

The king ordered that Haman clothe Mordecai in a robe and lead him through the city square upon the king’s horse. This infuriated and humiliated Haman who went home in mourning.

At the banquet the king asked Esther what was her petition:

If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated (Esther 7:3-4).

The long story short is that Haman’s wicked plot was exposed, and he was hung by the king’s order upon the very gallows that were prepared for Mordecai and the Jews. On the thirteenth day of the month of Adar when Haman’s plan of extermination was to be executed the Jews by order of the king exacted judgement against their enemies.

Mordecai, who had risen to a position of influence within the king’s court, issued a letter that all Jews celebrate annually the 14th and 15th days of the month of Adar (usually February or March) as the festival of Purim to remember how Haman the Agagite cast Pur (or lot) to destroy the Jewish people. Hadassah (Queen Esther) issued a command that her people should celebrate Purim with fasting and lamentation.

[Purim and Hanukkah are non-Mosaic festivals that are celebrated still today. Esther is one of the five scrolls of the Megilloth (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations) that are read by Rabbis on five special occasions each year.]

The Book of Esther is not quoted in the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) nor does it mention G-d, but throughout its pages we can see the providence of G-d and His sovereign will played out in the lives of Hadassah and Mordecai. John MacArthur writes:

There are no miracles in Esther, but the preservation of Israel through providential control of every event and person reveals the omniscience and omnipotence of YHWH.

It is not insignificant to presuppose that G-d enlists people to execute His divine will. Satan will not prevail, and the LORD uses men and women of courage — often the least of us — to thwart the plans of the Evil One.

Recall that Mordecai told Esther if she remained quiet then deliverance would come elsewhere. How unlikely that a harem girl would become Queen of Persia and, by the invisible hand of G-d, save her people.

Will you be that man or woman of courage who will stand with the LORD? To G-d be the glory forever.

Suggested Reading:

Amalek and the Festival of Purim 

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Healing — Rightly Dividing the Word

timothy

We can’t make the Bible say what we desire it to say. We can’t interpret it according to our feelings, or make it conform to worldly standards. And we most definitely cannot build a church based on the dogma and creed of any denomination or tradition of men. With that in mind we shall examine more closely two verses in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that seem to be saying the same thing. But are they?

The preacher on TCT invites the viewer to touch their television screen as he reads this verse from 1 Peter 2:24 …

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Have you ever reached out to touch the screen believing that you’ll be healed? I am reminded of the story in Numbers 21:8 when YHWH commands Moshe to fashion a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole, and when anyone is bitten by a snake if they look upon the bronze image they will live.

Of course, it is not the serpent on a pole that heals, but the power of God through faith. It came to pass the children of God, believing there was power in the healing pole, began to idolize the bronze serpent. Over the next 430 years — until the reign of Hezekiah — they burnt incense and bowed in worship to what Moshe had created. Their behavior was so blasphemous that the king took the pole and broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).

If you believe that touching your television screen will heal you then may I suggest that you follow the example of King Hezekiah.

This is what happens when tradition — based on our feelings — becomes the foundation of church doctrine. If left unchecked we risk the danger of falling into heresy and condemnation. I mentioned last time that I was banned from a Christian blog because I disagreed with the author’s interpretation of 1 Peter 2:24. They hold to the feel-good proposition that the apostle was speaking of physical healing while I argued that he was referring to spiritual healing. Biblical scholars uniformly agree with the latter interpretation (spiritual) while the modern evangelical church espouses the former (physical).

A similar verse — one that is more specific to physical healing — can be found in Matthew 8:17 …

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Isn’t that what Peter said? Well, no. In context, Peter is speaking of our sin condition — that Jesus bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Throughout the Bible sin is classified as a disease for which there is only one cure … the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostles (Peter and Matthew) are both quoting Isaiah.

However …

Peter is citing Isaiah 53:5 …

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Bible commentators agree with the Rabbin that this is, in fact, a reference to spiritual healing.

Albert Barnes:

We are healed – literally, it is healed to us; or healing has happened to us. The healing here referred to is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Pardon of sin, and restoration to the favor of God, are not unfrequently represented as an act of healing. [1]

John Gill:

Sin is a disease belonging to all men, a natural, hereditary, nauseous, and incurable one, but by the blood of Christ; forgiving sin is a healing of this disease; and this is to be had, and in no other way, than through the stripes and wounds, the blood and sacrifice, of the Son of God. [2]

The LORD did not lay our infirmity upon the scourged Christ, but our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6).

Matthew, in quoting the prophet, is making reference to physical healing. Both Hebrew and Greek scholars agree on this point, and it has so been taught by the Rabbin:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

Griefs (חלי, chăliy) does not refer to sins, but means literally sickness and disease. So, faith healers would be better served to quote from Mattityahu (מתיו) rather than Kephas (פיטר). Why don’t they? Because Matthew is quite clear that this prophesy of Yesha’yahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) was fulfilled by Yeshua HaMashiach.

We don’t know how many people Jesus healed — only that it was multitudes. But the early church recognized that the Christ in their midst was the present fulfillment of the law and prophets. Messiah conferred the power of healing upon His apostles who performed these acts of miracles — even raising the dead — until the last of the twelve (John) passed from life to death.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

He says here, He’s suffering now the sins of the world who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Now, He’s no example to us here. You and I can’t suffer for our own sins let alone the sins of the world, but now he’s talking about redemption. You say, “How do you know?” Well, let’s keep reading here, in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sins  — that was our condition — should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed. Now, healed of what? And I notice faith healers never use this verse, and rightly so because whose stripes you’re healed it’s evident who he’s talking about. He says we were dead in sins. We were absolutely dead and we should live now unto righteousness by whose stripes we’re healed. Healed of what? Of sin, friends. He’s the great healer. I’ll agree with that, but the great healer heals of sin and no human position can handle that problem. [3]

In McGee’s day faith healers did not allude to this verse. It has since been wrongly divided by charismatic evangelicals.

Let me be clear — God still heals by divine will and authority. But when you touch your television screen (by faith), and are not healed, be alert to the Evil One who might steal your hope.

Take your eyes off the bronze serpent and focus on the Christ.

Credits:

1. Notes on the Old Testament, Albert Barnes, (London, Blackie & Son, 1884).

2. An Exposition of the Old Testament, John Gill, (6 vols., 1748-63).

3. Commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible (Five-Year Study).

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Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes

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Michael left this comment on Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple:

But because Revelation 21:1 says, “there was no longer any sea,” Ezekiel’s mention of two seas becomes a bit of a chin scratcher.

*** ***

More puzzling is that John, in the very next chapter, writes:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1). 

If there are no seas what is the source of this river seen by Ezekiel and John? In both the Old and New Testaments, the LORD pours out (as a river) the Holy Spirit (Joel  2:28).

It is significant that the prophet and apostle were taken on high to see this vision of a tree-lined river as interpreted by Isaiah:

… till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest (Isaiah 32:15).

Jesus said:

The one believing in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)

It seems that the most basic rule of hermeneutics is to not interpret figurative text literally. Water is clearly a symbol of God’s spirit. The river that flows from the temple is the Spirit of God. Into the sea it goes bringing life and restoration even unto the Dead Sea. Fish are plentiful and the fishermen will fill their nets. Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

I wanted to discuss the two seas and river of life, but the original post was already too lengthy. So, today, I would like to follow-up with my notes. (It might be useful to read the original article.) This study has been a blessing to me and I pray that it edifies you, my readers.

The literal meaning of there was no longer any sea is the sea was no more denoting some greater truth. Ancient tradition is to interpret sea(s) prophetically. The Rabbin interpreted the sea as a symbol of tumult and separation (as it raged like a storm, dividing the nations). In the new earth there will be no turmoil and separation — from the LORD distinctly. 

Ellicott comments:

Among the more detailed features of the new earth, this obliteration of the sea stands first. It is strange that so many commentators should vacillate between literal and figurative interpretations of the chapter; the ornaments and decorations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-21) are treated as symbolical; the annihilation of the sea is considered as literal. 

The sea has played an important part in the symbolism of the book: out of the sea rose the wild beast (Revelation 13:1); the purple-clad Babylon enthroned upon many waters (Revelation 17:1); the restless, tumultuous ocean is no more to be found on the face of that earth, or near that city whose peace is as a river, and whose inhabitants are delivered from “the waves of this troublesome world.” [1]

The Treasury of Scripture (Bible Hub):

A fountain producing abundance of water was not in (Ezekiel’s) temple, and could not be there on the top of such a hill; and consequently these waters, as well as those spoken of by Joel and Zechariah, must be understood figuratively and typically. These waters doubtless were an emblem of the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and their gradual rise beautifully represents its progress, from small beginnings to an immensely large increase; and the latter part of the representation may relate to the times when it shall fill the earth … [2]

Dean Davis, Author: 

This is a vision of the Restoration of All Things. Very importantly, it pictures not only the final result of God’s redemptive work — the everlasting wholeness of the Land — but also the historical process by which that result is to be achieved.

The NT richly illumines all the symbols involved. The waters are the life-giving Spirit of God, long promised by his OT prophets. They flow forth from the Temple of God, which typifies both the Person of Christ, and the Body of Christ, his Church.

When at last Christ returns to raise the dead and renew the creation, the River of Life will entirely transform the Promised Land, even to the extent of healing the Dead Sea itself. Only the swamps and marshes — situated upon the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so typifying hell — will be left in salt; that is, under the judgment of God. [3]

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Pastor/Author:

Dispensationalists believe that this vision is a prophesy of an earthly temple to be built within Israel during the millennial age. (They) base this interpretation upon their literal hermeneutic.

Advocates of the other main interpretations all agree that the context demands a figurative interpretation. I believe Ezekiel is giving us a picture of the new earth in the prophetic terms with which his readers were familiar. This is a picture of the new earth as the dwelling of God. Ezekiel prophesies it in earthly terms (complete with all the temple utensils), while John describes its fulfilled version (in eschatological terms).

The prophecy cannot be interpreted literally and still make any sense. This is confirmed in Revelation 21:10, where John is carried away “in the Spirit” to a high mountain from which he sees the Holy City coming down out of heaven. Obviously, the visions are related to each other as type — anti-type (earthly language, eschatological fulfillment). What Ezekiel promised, John sees as a reality, and yet the reality seen by John far exceeds anything in Ezekiel’s vision. 

It is obvious that Revelation 21 presents Ezekiel’s vision in its consummated fulfillment. In other words, John is given a vision of the same temple, but now from the vantage point of Christ’s death and resurrection and the dawn of the new creation — something which would have made no sense whatsoever to Ezekiel or his hearers. The new heavens and earth are now the holy of holies, as well as the new Jerusalem, and the new Eden. On the last day, all creation becomes the temple of God. [4]

Notes:

1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott, 3 vols. (London: Cassell, 1884).

2. Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages.

3. Dean Davis, author and Founder/Director, Come Let Us ReasonExcerpt:  The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time DebateRedemption Press, 2014.

4. Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church and co-host of the White Horse Inn radio program, writes extensively on the subject of historic Christianity from an Amillennial, reformed perspectice. In this short essay he credits G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)INTERVARSITY PRESS, 2004 and Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and Future, WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO., 1994.

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Love Wins

agape

Love Wins is a headline proclaimed across the nation following a recent Supreme Court decision that judicially alters the fundamental precept of marriage. (See our post, Marriage.)

Frankly, I am stunned — even disoriented — at the course of events that have transpired in our generation. God has been expelled from our public schools … millions of babies have been sacrificed upon the altar of choice … and, now, the bedrock of our society — marriage and family — has been discarded or, at least, redefined. I submit that mortal man, while he has the right to choose this course of action, will do so under condemnation and judgement.

So, the man who was elected will say that ours is not a Christian nation; and (because of the Court ruling on marriage) that we have become a more perfect union. Well, I would agree in the one sense we are not a Christian nation, but there are a present remnant as the LORD spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:18).

In that vein please allow me one other digression. 1 Samuel 8 is an interesting study how man attempts to exert his will over God. The prophet was aged, and the people clamored for a king to rule over them. I won’t spoil your study except to say that sometimes God releases you to the desires of your own self-will even to your unintended detriment.

If this were a truly Christian nation would it not reflect the will of God?

Today, people are celebrating the victory of love. But the love they are confessing is a romantic or desirous kind of love — eros as it was understood by the ancient Greeks. Biblical love, however, is expressed by these Greek words — agapē (ἀγάπη), a Godly love; and philadelphia (φιλαδελφίᾳ), a brotherly love.

It is critical to understand that Biblical love is not a sentiment or a feeling, but an action. (It is not the clammy hands of a teenager on her first date.) The action taken is a selfless act done for the benefit of another.

In Mark Dever’s acclaimed study The Message of the New Testament (Foreword by John MacArthur): Promises Kept the author states that, more than an action, love is a disposition of the heart toward God and others which then shows itself in our actions. [1]

Dever then characterizes Biblical love with some of the most treasured words in Scripture — from Paul’s letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love is the missionary doctor who flies to Africa to help save those who are suffering and dying from Ebola. Love is not marching in a colorful parade loudly proclaiming the fruit of  flamboyant, self-willed pride.

Dever queries his readers:

Could this be more clear? Love is not self-seeking.

John MacArthur expounds on this distinction between the Biblical and worldview of love:

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians may be, from a literary viewpoint, the greatest passage Paul ever penned.

Agape (love) is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature, but one of the most common in the New Testament. Unlike our English love, it never refers to romantic or sexual love, for which eros was used, and which does not appear in the New Testament. Nor does it refer to mere sentiment, a pleasant feeling about something or someone. It does not mean close friendship or brotherly love, for which philia is used. Nor does agape mean charity, a term the King James translators carried over from the Latin and which in English has long been associated only with giving to the needy. This chapter is itself the best definition of agape.

The problem, however, is that few people have any idea of what true love is. Most people, including many Christians, seem to think of it only in terms of nice feelings, warm affection, romance, and desire.

Self–giving love, love that demands something of us, love that is more concerned with giving than receiving, is as rare in much of the church today as it was in Corinth. The reason, of course, is that agape love is so unnatural to human nature. Our world has defined love as “romantic feeling” or “attraction,” which has nothing to do with true love in God’s terms.

The supreme measure and example of agape love is God’s love. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  Love is above all sacrificial. It is sacrifice of self for the sake of others, even for others who may care nothing at all for us and who may even hate us. It is not a feeling but a determined act of will, which always results in determined acts of self–giving. Love is the willing, joyful desire to put the welfare of others above our own. It leaves no place for pride, vanity, arrogance, self–seeking, or self–glory. It is an act of choice we are commanded to exercise even in behalf of our enemies: “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45). If God so loved us that, even “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:4–7), how much more should we love those who are our enemies. [2]

The Holy Spirit has been pressing me to love more like Christ. If I say, love is … the Spirit replies, love does … 

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Notes:

1. The Message of the New Testament (Foreword by John MacArthur): Promises Kept, by Mark Dever, Crossway Publishing, (November 16, 2005).

2. Is Biblical Love a Feeling or an Action?, COPYRIGHT ©2015 Grace to You, All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Credits:

Scripture — New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation, 1995. Used by permission.

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Heaven Declares

anigif2blog

Psalm 19

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.

Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.

Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.

They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

— A Psalm of David

The heavens so declare the glory of God, and proclaim His wisdom, power, and goodness, that all ungodly men are left without excuse. — Matthew Henry

Credits:

New American Standard Bible (NASB), The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Images provided by Hubble. Some devices may not display slideshow.

Theme: Fabrizio Paterlini; La polvere e l’incanto.

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70 Weeks of Daniel

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(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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Is Satan Bound?

(Revised 08-31-14, 8:30 am)

Is Satan bound? We will answer that question at the end of this post which addresses, once again, the problematic theology of Dispensationalism. (See our post, Dispense the Truth).

A formerly disgraced pastor — indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and fraud (not including his inappropriate relations with the church secretary) — can be seen daily on Christian television preaching a gospel of fear.

Based on dubious financial data he warned of a stock market crash in March-April 2014 that would mirror the economic depression of 1929. When his doomsday scenarios do not play out he simply moves the apocalyptic date forward. A regular guest on his show recently predicted that America is facing an economic collapse by February 2015. Note that these soothsayers qualify their statements so that they can simply deny, or reset their prophetic date. They peddle fear in order to sell over-priced survival gear from which their ministry profits.

The Bible teaches, however, that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7); but that is all this pastor serves up along with a Time of Trouble food bank — buckets of dehydrated meals — which he will send you for a $3,000.00 love gift to the ministry. If you watch this pastor for any length of time you’ll be so frightened that you’ll need to own everything he hawks including fuelless generators and water filters. This ministry has turned the Word of God into a marketplace of gizmos and gadgets, and 20-year shelf life foodstuffs that will surely outlast the seven years of tribulation that is soon to come.

This pastor believes the “church” will have to endure the Time of Trouble, but he misinterprets the following gospel passage (our Lord Jesus, here, speaking):

…for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened (Matthew 24:21-22).

Understand that Jesus said we will suffer tribulation in this life (John 16:33); but in Matthew our Lord is specifying a period of trial and hardship that is distinctly unique and overwhelming — an event so horrendous that it would try men’s souls to the point of not only spiritual, but physical death. Even the death of the faithful.

Dispensationalists believe that this Great Tribulation has not yet occurred — that it could not possibly have foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (for that cataclysmic event certainly was not the most horrific event to befall mankind).

While the Holocaust will always be one of the most terrible events in modern history we must understand that the prophetic words of Jesus, in this context, were specifically relevant to first century Jerusalem.

The Jewish historian, Josephus (ca. 37 AD – 100 AD), observed that no city had ever suffered the destruction that befell the holy city of Jerusalem — a devastation that he witnessed at the age of 33. The scenes described by Josephus (in his volume, War of the Jews) are ghastly and bloody, and will not be reprinted here. The Romans executed such vengeful wrath upon the city and its inhabitants that Josephus wrote:

… all the miseries of men from the beginning of time were not so considerable … no other city ever suffered such miseries; nor was there ever a generation more fruitful in wickedness from the beginning of the world … In reality it was God who condemned the whole nation and turned every course that was taken for their preservation to their destruction … The multitudes of those who perished exceeded all the destructions that man or God ever brought upon the world. [1]

What Josephus described in his written account more than fulfilled the judgement of God as foretold in the prophecy of Christ, and recorded in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). Key to understanding this chapter is a proper interpretation of what the disciples asked Jesus in verse 3:

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

At first read it seems as if the disciples are asking two — some interpret three — questions regarding what Jesus had just spoken of in verse 2:

Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down (Matthew 24:2).

Jesus and His disciples had just left the temple, and while the disciples were admiring the grandeur of the buildings our Lord squelched their pride by telling them that the whole structure would be brought down — that not one stone would be left standing.

In the mindset of a first century Jew it was understood that Christ was prophesying the end of the Jewish polity, or age. The KJV interprets verse 3 as the end of the world, but the Greek phrase synteleias tou aiōnos is more precisely rendered completion of the age.

If we examine the parallel discourse in the Gospels of Luke and Mark we will see more clearly what the disciples inquired of regarding the destruction of the temple:

They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” (Luke 21:7

Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled? (Mark 13:4)

In these parallel accounts we see that the disciples are clearly asking two questions: When will the temple be destroyed — and what are the preceding signs of its destruction? There are no inquiries as to the return of the Lord, or the end of the world.

Matthew was writing to an audience, most likely, of Jewish converts who would understand the Messianic and apocalyptic significance of the temple’s destruction — and so his wording of the disciples questions reflected a Jewish sensibility of this Biblical passage.

There is no contradiction here. Sincere people stumble over the context while false teachers write books and build ministries upon suspect doctrines pertaining to the Rapture, Second Coming and 7-year tribulation — all constructed by an ear-tickling misinterpretation of Scripture (2 Timothy 4:3).

Jesus prophetically warned of famines and wars, nation rising against nation and earthquakes in diverse places (Matthew 24:6-8). All of these birth pangs are recorded in the historical archives of Josephus. The world was in an upheaval at this time. A greater interpretive challenge, though, are the following verses:

But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matthew 24:29-31).

Note that this is apocalyptic imagery that is used throughout the Bible:

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).

And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light (Ezekiel 32:7).

Jesus is using the prophetic language of the Old Testament to describe the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the Jewish age — language that was used in the days of the prophets to announce God’s ancient judgements upon the nations.

The sign of the Son of Man (appearing in the sky) can be understood as a pronouncement of coming judgement even as the Star of Bethlehem was a sign, or announcement of our Savior’s birth. Josephus recorded that there was a similar star (or comet) that brightly hung like a sword over the Holy City during the days of its siege and desolation.

They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds parallels a vision seen by Daniel — a vision which symbolized the majesty and authority of Messiah:

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

The language in Matthew suggests the authority of Christ to execute the vengeance of God upon the city of Jerusalem — the city which killed the prophets and the Mashiach (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15) — a judgement that was delivered by His mighty hand in AD 70.

The gathering of the elect with the sound of a great trumpet is similar to this passage in Isaiah:.

It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem (Isaiah 27:13).

Our Lord is describing the gathering of the surviving Jewish remnant, and elect Gentiles, in a call to worship — not at the holy mountain, which has been left desolate, but in the temple of the Holy Spirit which is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19). Relevant here are the words of Jesus to the woman at the well:

Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father (John 4:21).

In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus proclaimed that His prophetic message would be fulfilled in that generation (Matthew 24:34thus precluding a dispensational gap of twenty-plus centuries, or more.

Examine the scriptures (Acts 17:11). If the exegesis of this writer seems agreeable then may it be so confirmed by your own diligent study (2 Timothy 2:15). There are always three sides of interpretation: your side, my side and God’s side. I’m sure the LORD will straighten us out when we get to heaven. If you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture — I don’t — we can still be brothers in Christ. And if the Lord does come early I’ll be ready with my bags packed. I hope you won’t mind the aisle seat ’cause I’ll be sittin’ by the window — shining in the light of His glory.

Is Satan Bound?

Dispensationalists teach that Satan will be bound during a future Millennium — which I believe is the fullness of time between the two advents of Christ:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time (Revelation 20:1-3).

When Jesus sent out the seventy to preach the kingdom of God, cast out demons and heal the sick — upon their return He said to them, I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning (Luke 10:18).

When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the ruler of demons (Matthew 9:34Matthew12:24), Jesus responded by saying:

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house (Matthew 12:25-29). [2]

Jesus Christ has bound the strong man. Let him who has ears understand.

Peter said that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), but he is restrained from deceiving the nations. He cannot stop the advance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Word of God — through the power of the Holy Spirit — is pushing back the boundaries of darkness by illuminating the souls of men with light and truth. Yes, the devil is still an accuser and tempter, but his power over the nations has been muted. He cannot, at this time, summon the nations in a final war against God’s holy people — not until he is released for a little season.

These interpretations are not well-received by those who like to have their ears tickled with sensational doctrines, but they are historical teachings faithful to the understanding of the early church fathers who humbly permitted scripture to interpret scripture. May we be as wise — and humble.

Notes:

1. The Works of Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, William Whiston, Translator [1737]

2. See also Hebrews 2:14 (Jesus rendered powerless him who had the power over death, that is, the devil.)

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