Category Archives: Reformed Theology

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.

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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.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple

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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.

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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 —

Revelation: An Historic View

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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

Seek Ye the Truth

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is [really] not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal 1:6-9)

This is a difficult topic to discuss because it risks sowing division within the body of Christ. There are six things the LORD hates, and a seventh that is an abomination which is spreading strife among brothers (Pr 6:16-19).

Paul wrote to the assembly at Rome:

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting (Ro 16:17-18). 

Dissension and discord are spread when pastors and teachers corrupt or distort the word of God. Let’s examine the following passages:

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (Jn 14:13).

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mk 11:24). 

Kenneth Copeland recently aired a week-long series titled How to Believe God for a House — that by simply exercising their faith a person could boldly claim the promises of God and receive the home of their dreams fully furnished to their heart’s every desire.

This is what is called the Word of Faith Gospel, or (in derision) Name it and Claim it.

Copeland told this story on his blog:

I remember in the early days of this ministry when Gloria and I reached the point where we needed a station wagon to get us and our children from one place to the next so I could preach. Like anything else we needed, we went to God’s promises concerning our need, then we prayed, sowed seed, believed God and started speaking the Word. That’s what we did for that car.

He recalled they were short $3000.00 for the purchase of the car until a man called a few days later:

In less than a week, a man called me, crying. “Oh, Brother Copeland, I’m so ashamed of myself. God told me to send you $3,000 a few days ago and I didn’t do it. I’ve hung on to it until I cannot stand it anymore.” The first time that man heard God tell him to send us the money was the same time we talked about getting the car.”

Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar (and many others on Christian television) exhort believers to simply exercise their faith to get from God whatever they need. The gospel they preach (gleaned from Malachi 3:10) emphasizes that sowing seed into their ministries will reap material blessings. It is not uncommon for Hinn to ask for thousand dollar (or more) donations to his program. The foundation of this false gospel is built upon a distorted interpretation of Scripture:

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return (Lk 6:38).

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2Co 9:6).

These passages are ancient Jewish allusions to the substance of giving, and dealing fairly with all people. We will be remembered in our time of need by those to whom we give liberally in their time of poverty. A Hebrew understood, however, that his charity might not be returned in the form of material but spiritual blessings.

The prosperity gospel emphasizes, as well, this passage from Paul’s second letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness (2Co 9:10).

Word of Faith preachers interpret this to mean if you donate $1000.00 to their ministry, God will increase your abundance so you can give even more. But, here, Paul is alluding to a passage found in the Tanakh:

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12). 

We sow, then, to reap spiritual blessings which YHWH may choose to confer in this life, or after. Warning: If you give $3000.00 to Benny Hinn don’t expect that God will give you the house of your dreams. That is a perverse understanding of the Jewish custom of giving. To give money with the expectation that the LORD will pay you back with interest reflects not a generous heart, but one that is wicked.

One final note on this subject — it is interesting that the New Testament does make reference to the word of faith. In Paul’s letter to Rome he mentions the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Ro 10:8-9).

My question to our readers is this: Which word of faith gospel do you believe? The gospel of prosperity, or the gospel of Jesus Christ?

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False teaching abounds within the Charismatic movement that is seen worldwide on Christian television. That was the featured discussion of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. MacArthur is pastor of Grace Community Church, host of the media program Grace to You and president of The Master’s College and Seminary. He is a Reformed Theologian and Five Point Calvinist whose teaching is framed by a Dispensational eschatology. His credentials, at least, afford MacArthur a respected seat in the assembly of Christians who are diligently seeking the truth of God.

Strange Fire, as a reminder, is a reference from the Torah relating to the sons of Aaron, brother of Moses:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD (Lv 10:1-2).

Briefly, the priests were to approach the altar in a manner of holiness acceptable to YHWH. Aaron’s sons violated the commandment of the LORD, and died.

MacArthur’s point was that many within the charismatic movement are approaching God in a manner that is unholy in attitude and practice. Their style of worship might even be considered blasphemous. The crux of the issue is a debate between continualists and cessationists — those who believe that the assigned gifts of the Holy Spirit (miracles, signs and wonders) which were given to the apostles as confirmation of their authority) ended when the last Apostle died, and those who believe that these gifts continue today. [It is important to note that MacArthur believes the Holy Spirit is still active in the world drawing people to Christ, and restraining Satan.]

Those who disagree with MacArthur were quick to respond:

So, it’s about time someone started a broader public discussion and issued an open challenge to some of this (charismatic) theology. But what we got instead was a reckless condemnation of half a billion Christians with little distinction maintained throughout. MacArthur did put in a little qualifier in his opening discussion, but did not maintain it at all later. Indeed, he did the opposite. When the moderator would bring up extreme cases as examples for discussion, MacArthur seemed to use them as a launching point to speak in broad generalities, and with sweeping condemnation of “these people” to hell. With his careless rhetoric, MacArthur locked charismatics and anyone who could be associated with them all in the same building, and then burned the place down, standing proudly in righteous self-justification as he tossed the match. (Reckless Fire, Dr. Joel McDurmon, The American Vision Biblical Worldview Ministry)

Countered by those who agreed:

If you believe in truth and error, facts and falsehood, right and wrong, then you recognize the need to seek truth as opposed to false teaching. This is the position of John MacArthur, and it should be the position of every evangelical Christian, including those who disagree with MacArthur’s cessationist views. Here’s the fact of the matter – the continualist who believes MacArthur is wrong and the cessationist who believes MacArthur is right are closer to each other than the person who says this debate doesn’t matter or cannot be decided. Why? Because both the committed continualist and the committed cessationist believe God has revealed Himself on this issue and that we are accountable to live according to God’s revealed truth. If MacArthur is wrong, he is in the frightening position of attributing the work of the Spirit to satanic deception. If MacArthur is right, charismatics should repent of false belief and practice. As you can see, the stakes are high. (The Right and Wrong Way to Engage John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” Conference, Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition) 

John MacArthur’s summation:

There is one other group we’d like to address in the wake of Strange Fire—the folks on either side of the debate who are simply sad, tired, and wish the whole matter would just go away. That group is made up of cessationists, continualists, and charismatics who had set aside their differences in the name of unity and love, and now feel as though a bomb has gone off in the midst of their beloved middle ground. If you’re one of those people, please understand that the decision to hold the Strange Fire conference was not made capriciously. Strange Fire was a response to a tidal wave of dangerous, damning lies that are leading hundreds of millions of people to hell. Unity through silence has not held back that tidal wave—it’s sweeping across the global church. Truth does matter, and it’s worth fighting for.

When does our search for truth violate the faith of fellow believers? Will God judge me as I have judged the Word of Faith teachers? Or as John MacArthur has judged the charismatics? John the Apostle said that we must test the spirits for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1Jn 4:1); Paul warns against the deceitful workmen who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ (2Co 11:13); and Luke wrote, Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30).

We might note that when Paul and Silas were sent to Berea the resident Jews diligently searched the Scriptures to examine the truth of the Apostle’s teaching (Acts 17:10-11). A charismatic, or Word of Faith teacher is not validated just because they are seen daily on Christian television.

Test the spirits — because truth matters.

Suggested Reading: The Gift of Discerning Spirits

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View Part 1 of this Q&A here.

Times of the Gentiles

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [Lk 21:24]

This week we wanted to expound on our previous post, Have You Replaced Abraham?, regarding the topic of so-called Replacement (or Supersessionist) Theology that the “church” has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. A Catholic reader had this to say:

“Replacement Theology” is an inaccurate term. We believe that the promises given to Abraham and his children were fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus ChristThe Catholic Church is the New Israelthe New Jerusalem. Christ’s Kingdom is His Church – on earth and in heaven (and in purgatory). The children of Abraham are all of those who are united with the Messiah, Christ. This has nothing to do with racial heritage. In the Kingdom of Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek as far as having privilege. So it depends on how you define “replacement theology”, but the Catholic Church is the continuation and fulfillment of the religion given by God to Moses, through the Prophets, through the Messiah. The covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them, but we are living under a New Covenant. “Replacement Theology” is a derogatory term made up by dispensationalists to label anyone who believes in Covenant Theology.

There is some truth (as we have underlined) in this reader’s comment, although we question the idea that the Catholic Church is the New Israel in light of the assertion that the Mosaic covenant is eternally valid. The covenant with Moses includes the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai, but we will assume that the reader does not mean to suggest that Jews can be saved by the Law. It is true that the promises given to Abraham and his children were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, wrote: 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 (Gal 3:16)Paul, here, is referencing this passage in Genesis: In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Ge 22:18).

We learn from the Galatian letter that the Law does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise (Gal 3:17-18). The Law, priesthood, temple sacrifice, and Feast Days all pointed to, or were a shadow of, spiritual promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ (the seed of Abraham).

Paul wrote to the Roman assembly that they be not uninformed of this mystery—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25). We see the similarity of this passage with the fullness spoken of by Christ in reference to the times of the Gentiles, although in a different context.

The Apostle goes on to say that God’s choice (the Jews) are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob); for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Ro 11:28).  He is talking here about the spiritual gifts of election and redemption, or as Peter writes:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. [1Pe 2:9-10]

In this passage Peter paraphrases the prophet Hosea (as does Paul in Ro 9:25), and applies the contextual reference of the Old Covenant to both Jew and Gentile (a chosen people under the New Covenant).

In Paul’s epistle to the Romans he quotes from Isaiah (Is 59:20-21) that God has a covenant to remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel) and take away their sins, but this will not happen until they call upon the name of Messiah (Mt 23:39). It is our faith if Israel confessed Yeshua HaMashiach that He would return immediately in power and glory. Because they rejected Him our Lord prophesied that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles, and her people led captiveIn the context of this discourse He was speaking of a cataclysmic event that was to take place in that generation (Lk 21:32).

[Editor’s Note: The phrase this generation will not pass away has been debated for over 1900 years. The word genea is used 17 times in the New Testament and always is translated generation. Some theologians will define genea as race in order to apply the phrase to an end time scenario. Their reasoning is that the Jews have been scattered, dispersed and exiled throughout history, and yet they still survive as a distinct race that will not pass away until all things have been fulfilled. Literally, the prophecy of Christ regarding the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled in the generation to whom He was speaking, and was probably witnessed by John the Apostle.]

We have been living in the times of the Gentiles since, at least, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Romans killed 1.2 million Jews out of a population (according to Josephus) of 2.2 million. The Christian population was scattered, the city razed, the temple burned to the ground and close to 100,000 captives were dispersed into the provinces, or taken to Rome to build the Coliseum. Christians were lit as human torches to light the avenue leading to the Coliseum. People of God had to burn a pinch of incense in the palm of their hand and confess Caesar as Lord in order to receive a license to buy, or sell in the marketplace. Mark of the Beast? Well, we know that Beast was the Jewish code name for Caesar, six is the number of man and three 6’s signified ruler, or authority.

It was most certainly a time of Great Tribulation for that first century generation. It is critical that we understand the historical context of Bible prophecy. For example, to whom was the Book of Revelation written: Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Adventists, Mormons? No, it was written to the seven churches in Asia who uniquely understood the symbolism and prophetic language of John’s apocalyptic vision. (Without a doubt the seven churches could decipher the cryptic message of Rev 13:18.) When was it written: Before, or after 70 AD? If it was written after 70 AD why doesn’t John mention the most terrible of events, that is, the destruction of Jerusalem which he surely witnessed? It would be as if someone wrote about the War on Terror and did not mention the attack on 9/11.

And why would John write to the seven churches about things that had no relevance to them? Things that weren’t going to happen for thousands of years, and things that Christ makes very clear will happen soon (Rev 1:1).

Times of the Gentiles? End of the age? Our trust is in the last day (there is only one). Christ said, Whosoever believes on Me, I will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:39Jn 6:40Jn 6:44Jn 6:54). Prophecy writers can debate about the rapture and tribulation and Millennial Kingdom and Second Coming…

We’re just persevering to the last day.

[Editor’s Note: Messiah Gate does not hold to either Dispensational, or Supersessionist doctrine. We have problems with both. A radio preacher we listen to was naming 14 things that must happen before Christ returns. Well, some of the things he mentioned have already happened which is why you will hear prophecy teachers speak about partial, or double-fulfillment of prophecy. One of the 14 items listed by this preacher was the abomination of desolation (Mt 24:15). We know that this desecration was to occur in the holy place, or temple of God. While there are plans to build and furnish a new Jewish temple the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently sits on the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. No, this prophecy of Christ was fulfilled in 70 AD.]

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Have You Replaced Abraham?

From the Book of Romans:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. [Rom 11:1]

There is an errant teaching within the body of Christ that the “church” has replaced Israel in God’s plan of salvation. It is taught that the LORD’s promises to Israel have been rescinded; that His covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is null and void; that YHWH has transferred His blessings to the “church”, and that the physical state of Israel is no longer in the will of God.

Consider what this means. Israel, then, has no rightful claim to the ancient land of Judea nor the capital city of Jerusalem. How would this affect the politics of the Middle East if it were true that Israel had no legitimate right to exist? If the land was ceded to the Palestinians would there have been the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the greater war on terror, or even the attacks on 9/11?

Has the “church” replaced Israel, and is this what Replacement theologians teach?

Dispensationalists believe that Israel is front and center with regards to end times prophecy. They believe the “church” will be raptured before the Great Tribulation begins, and that God will turn His attention once again to the people, and land, of Israel. Jerusalem will be restored, and the temple rebuilt. The people will take possession of all the land promised to the physical seed of Abraham; and God will destroy Satan in one great battle of Armageddon.

As we’ve noted in previous articles the “church” did not teach dispensational theology until the 19th century when it was introduced by John Nelson Darby, an Anglo-Irish evangelist. The doctrine of imminent return (see our post, The Return of Christ) had worn thin after so many centuries had passed with no visible sign of Messiah’s return.

The MilleritesRussellitesAdventists and Jehovah’s Witnessess sought to revive the doctrine of imminent return by focusing their teaching on the Second Coming of Christ. Charles Taze Russell, for example, taught that Jesus had returned invisibly in 1874.

Understand that Dispensationalists similarly believe the Replacement view that the people of Israel and the “church” are two distinct groups, but dispensationalism teaches that God will fulfill His promises to Israel after the “church” is raptured. One of these promises is the land promise given to Isaac and Jacob through Abraham. YHWH had ceded Israel a great inheritance from Arabia to Syria, from the Euphrates to the Nile and from the Eastern Desert to the Mediterranean Sea.

Today, they possess only a slice of the land given to them by YHWH, and are under intense political pressure to surrender even more of their territory in exchange for peace.

Popular theology, taught by pastors such as John Hageesuggests that Israel, because of rebellion and captivity, never occupied their inheritance fully, but will do so in the end times. Thus, they see the birth of Israel (by U.N. proclamation in 1948) as a sign that God’s promise is coming to pass; and even take the following scripture out of context to prove their flawed eschatology:

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near: So likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. [Mt 24:32-34]

Some believe that the countdown to the last day began in 1948, and that the generation (genea) spoken of by Christ are the people who were alive at the time Israel was restored. Because the Psalmist suggests that a generation is 70-80 years (Ps 90:10) this means that the last day could occur as early as 2018. Of course, this reasoning is flawed because Jesus was speaking precisely to His generation who lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem.

With regards to Israel possessing the land we read in the Tanakh that the children of God did, in fact, possess the land:

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. [Jos 21:43]

It is true that they never possessed Tyre and Sidon, nor completely dispossessed the pagans who dwelt there, nor destroyed the molten images and altars of false gods as the LORD commanded Moses (Num 33:51-53). YHWH warned Moshe that the inhabitants left remaining would be as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live (Num 33:55). That is so true even to this day.

If a father promises to his son the family car upon the son’s graduation, but the son does not take possession of the car, it does not alter in any way the father’s promise. We must understand, as well, that God’s covenant with Israel was conditioned upon their obedience and faithfulness. Their rebellion led to Israel’s captivity under Assyria, and Judah’s captivity by the Babylonians.

Even so during the reign of David, and his son Solomon, the kingdom did expand from the Euphrates River even to the land of the Philistines (what is today the Palestinian territory of Gaza), and as far as the border of Egypt (2Chr 9:26).

The catch is if we don’t see the fulfillment of Matthew 24 in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD) then we must project those things that were to happen in that generation (Mt 24:34) to a future generation much further out.

So the dispensationalists will look for signs of the resurrected earthly kingdom of Israel (1948), but ignore the very clear statement of our Lord that His kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). Christ is sitting on the throne of David—not in Jerusalem—but in heaven at the right hand of the Father.

Paul asks a fundamental question, Did God reject His people? The Hebrew word used here means to cast off, or push away. The apostle reminded his readers of Elijah’s lament that he was the only man of God left alive:

He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” [1Ki 19:10]

The LORD reminded Elijah, as Paul reminds us, that He has always preserved a remnant of the seed of Abraham. In Elijah’s day they numbered only 7,000. If we consider that 100 billion people have been born since the beginning of time it is a wonder that any of us will be saved, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ we are born again.

Read and study Romans chapter 11 carefully and you will learn that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25). What does this mean? One Bible commentator said that it means until the abundance or the great multitude of the Gentiles shall be converted. We cannot even guesstimate what number that might be. The Pew Institute computes that there are 2.18 billion Christians in the world—about a third of the world’s 7 billion people. Does that number seem small? Yeshua said that only a few will walk the narrow path that leads to life:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. [Mt 7:13-14]

Sadly, not everyone sitting in a pew is going to heaven. Examine yourselves carefully for the train bound for glory can leave the station at any moment…in the twinkling of an eye (1Co 15:52).

The blindness of Israel has opened the door of redemption to the Gentiles who, by faith, are grafted into the olive tree which represents the spiritual, not physical, state of Israel. By their transgression, Paul writes, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make the descendants of Abraham jealous (Rom 11:11).

And who are the sons of Abraham?

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7).

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. [Ro 4:16]

Gentiles do not replace Abraham, but are his spiritual sons by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. But you who are grafted in must not boast, or be in any manner arrogant lest you, too, be broken off (Ro 11:17-21). This is a mystery, writes Paul, that by God’s grace all Israel (both Jew and Greek) will be saved.

To really understand this mystery we must disassociate the material promise of the Abrahamic covenant and recognize that God’s blessings were fulfilled in Jesus Christ so that Gentiles might receive the promise of the Spirit by faith (Gal 3:14).

Replacement theology is so-called by many dispensationalists who have popularly adopted a competing eschatology that was not even introduced until 18 centuries after Christ was crucified. The idea that the “church” has replaced Israel has somewhat anti-semitic overtones, and does not convey what is really upheld by Reformers, taught by Paul and confirmed by the Psalmist:

For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. But judgment shall return to righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it. [Ps 94:14-15]

We are the inheritance, but not by the law for then it would no longer be a promise (Gal 3:18). And we are the righteousness that is given in faith through Christ Jesus (Ro 3:22). For now there is no distinction—and certainly no replacement—for we are all one in Messiah (Ro 10:12).

The Messianic revival that we see in Israel, and around the world, is a clear sign that the veil is slowly being lifted from their eyes, and the fullness of the Gentiles is nearly complete. Christ said He would not return until the people of Israel proclaimed, Baruch HaShem Adonai! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! [Mt 23:39]

Bottom line: Christ will not return until Israel receives Him as Lord and Savior.

Editor’s Note: Dispensationalists would have us believe in not just a Second, but also a Third Coming of our Lord. One pastor said recently that Jesus will come to rapture the church, and come again with the saints to judge the world. Some believe He came in 70 AD to judge Israel which simply begs the question: How many times will Christ return before the last day? It might be another 2000 years before He comes, but the elect are commanded to be ready as if He might return today. Time is short and the harvest is ripe. Contemplate this parable of our Lord to better understand:

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.” “No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.” But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. “Lord, Lord,” they said, “open the door for us!” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.” Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. [Mt 25:1-13]

Suggested Reading: Replacement Theology

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