Daniel 12, Matthew 13, and the Olivet Discourse – The Righteous Are Shining

Don K. Preston produced a short video yesterday comparing Matthew 13 (“The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares”) to Daniel 12:3, and made some interesting observations.  Here’s his introduction, followed by the 7-minute video:

“In Matthew 13:43 Jesus directly echoes Daniel 12:3. How does this impact our understanding of the end of the age and the resurrection? Well, “orthodoxy” says that Daniel and Matthew 13 refer to the “end of human history.” But, Daniel 12 totally refutes that, demonstrating again how badly church history and “orthodoxy” have missed the story of eschatology!”

I created a chart below showing the parallels between Daniel 12 and Matthew 13, as well as parallels between Daniel 12 and the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21).

  Daniel 12:1-7 Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Matthew 24 / Mark 13 / Luke 21 (Olivet Discourse)
Prophecies regarding the Jewish people “…who stands watch over the sons of your people… your people” (verse 1)   “…who are in Judea” (Matt. 24:16); “pray that your flight may not be…on the Sabbath” (Matt. 24:20); “…all the tribes of the earth” (Matt. 24:30); “…you will be beaten in the synagogues” (Mark 13:9, Luke 21:12); “For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:23); “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles…” (Luke 21:24).
Incomparable time of trouble “…there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (verse 1)   “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21, Mark 13:19).
God’s people delivered “And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book” (verse 1).   “…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:16, Mark 13:14, Luke 21:21).*
Resurrection “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (verse 2).   “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31, Mark 13:27).
Righteous shining like stars “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (verse 3) “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (verse 43).  
Timing of these things “…it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished” (verse 7). “…the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels” (verse 39); “…as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age” (verse 40). [Jesus prophesies that the temple will be completely destroyed (Matt. 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6).]


[a] Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)


[b] “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:4, Luke 21:7)


“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32).

 * Remigius (437-533 AD) tells us this:

“[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.”

As Daniel 12 and Matthew 13 are related, and Daniel 12 and the Olivet Discourse are also clearly related, so also are Matthew 13 and the Olivet Discourse related. They are related in terms of their content, as well as the time period in which they were to be fulfilled. The “end of the age” referred to the old covenant age, which came to a fiery end when Jerusalem and the temple were burned as Jesus predicted. The power of Daniel’s people was completely shattered at this time, before Jesus’ own generation passed away. The righteous (in Christ) have been shining like the stars from that time, even since the cross.

A detailed study of “the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares” was posted here last year.

Chuck Crisco, pastor of His House Church in Nashville, also has a good article on Matthew 13 and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: “Spiritual Myth Busters: Is God Separating the Wheat and the Tares?”

Book of Acts: The Hope of Israel Fulfilled (Conclusion)

This is the final section (part 4) of Don K. Preston’s overview of the book of Acts, titled “Introduction to Acts and the Restoration of Israel.” This overview demonstrates that, throughout the book of Acts, “the hope of Israel” and “the restoration of Israel” are shown to be fulfilled in Christ. Preston’s commentary is part of the “Fulfilled Covenant Bible” project, and can be accessed at the “Bible Prophecy Fulfilled” site run by Mike Day, Gary and Audrey Parrish, Terry Kashian, and Lahaina Dave. See Part 1 of this series here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

The Nature of the Restoration of Israel

In Paul’s affirmations that he preached nothing but the hope of Israel, and in Luke’s record of the proclamation of that gospel, we have seen the revolutionary re-shaping and re-identification of the Israel of God. The restoration was a spiritual restoration that eschewed and rejected the geopolitical-military restoration of the Davidic kingdom longed for by the Jews. This is evident from Acts 1 to Acts 28. We need to review a bit of this to drive home the point that, first of all, Acts truly is about the restoration of Israel, as foretold in the OT prophets, and, secondly, that restoration was not what the Jews of the first century anticipated or desired.

Acts 1 draws directly from Isaiah 43 that predicted the creation of a New Israel, a New Creation and called on Israel to forget the former days.

Acts 2 shows us that Christ was sitting at the right hand of the Father, in fulfillment of YHVH’s promise to raise Messiah to David’s throne. But Jesus was sitting at the right hand in the heavenlies, not on a literal throne in literal Zion.

Acts 3 records Peter’s call to the Jews to repent so that God would grant them a time of rest before the coming judgment. He reminds them of the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18 that God would raise up a prophet like Moses. And, he warns them that to reject Jesus would result in being “utterly cut off out from among the people” (Acts 3:23). This text is all but definitive in identifying the true Israel: they are the followers of Jesus! Thus, as we noted above, John the Baptizer initiated the “restoration of all things” and Jesus would consummate that restoration at His parousia. But what cannot be denied is that the restoration begun by John, and thus the work of Jesus, was not in any way related to the restoration of nationalistic Israel.

Acts 4 shows us that one of the key markers of Israel, the land, was being overtly rejected by the nascent body of Christ. In a radical, unprecedented move, the members of the body of Christ began to sell their land! This was strictly forbidden by Torah, but they had begun to learn that their salvation was not in the land. They were now – in fulfillment of Isaiah 66 – all priests unto the Lord, and even in Torah God Himself was the true inheritance of the priests; they got no inheritance of physical land (Numbers 18:20).

Likewise, Acts 4 shows that the Chief Corner Stone of the long anticipated Messianic Temple had been laid. Thus, Israel was being restored! Yet the Temple being constructed was a living edifice, built on the living Messiah. And this truth signaled the coming destruction of the Old Temple. Thus, once again, the nature of the restoration of Israel is undeniable. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the old form. It had nothing to do with the old Temple. It had nothing to do with the old City either.

Acts 6-7 records Stephen in the Temple recounting Israel’s long history of rejecting God’s plans and purposes, even killing all of His prophets sent to her. Stephen had the “audacity” to even quote Isaiah 66 which spoke of Israel’s inordinate affection for things physical, i.e. the Temple, and calling their attention to the fact that “God does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Isaiah 66:1). Isaiah 66 not only noted that physical temples were not God’s intended abode, but that the time was coming when the Lord would come against Jerusalem and the old Temple in judgment, to bring in the New People and the New Creation.

All of those students of Torah present that day would have known full well what Stephen was saying in his citation of Isaiah: that wonderful edifice in which he was standing, in which they took so much (too much) pride, was doomed. It was to give way to the New Creation. Acts 8 tells us the story of the restoration of Israel in a profound manner. Israel had been scattered. Samaria was the symbol of that diaspora. Yet now the gospel of the kingdom – Israel’s hope – was being proclaimed in Samaria! But of course, the message being preached was not one of nationalistic restoration. It had nothing to do with a re-gathering to the land. It had nothing to do with the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem. It had nothing to do with the destruction of the Romans or the conquering of Israel’s national enemies. Nonetheless, Israel was being “gathered.” She was being gathered in the very manner that Jesus had desired to gather her (Matthew 23:37) – a covenantal gathering into fellowship with Him. The proclamation of the gospel in and to Samaria was a profound fulfillment of the restoration of Israel. But, once again, the unexpected nature and form of the restoration was on full display.

Acts 8 likewise portrays the restoration of Israel in the story of the conversion of the eunuch. In the prophets, the radical nature of the restoration of Israel under Messiah was hinted at, strongly suggested, but never fully grasped by the Jews. Isaiah had foretold the time – when Israel was restored, and God’s temple was present – that even foreigners and the eunuchs would be given a place in that Temple. They would no longer be outsiders, but true children of God! (See Isaiah 60:5-7 where YHVH foretold the time when “the wealth of the nations” would flow to Jerusalem and those who had always been rejected, foreigners, would actually ascend the altar of the Lord to offer sacrifices! This is a stunning “reformulation” of the priesthood, in the manner of Isaiah 66).

In similar stunning fashion, Acts 10-15 records the conversion of the Gentiles and ensuing controversies. What is so stunning is that, although the OT prophets clearly foretold this, Paul’s inspired interpretation of those prophecies was that the Gentiles were equal partners, equal partakers of the kingdom blessings (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:3-11)! Salvation was no longer confined to one ethnic group, but, just as God had called Abraham out from the nations to be His people, God was now calling the nations to be His people (Cf. Zechariah 2:10)! So “God’s people” were being re-identified. “Israel” was no longer identified according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit by faith.

Acts 15 is extremely powerful proof that God’s “Israel” – the kingdom – was now fundamentally different, radically transformed. From Abraham foreword, and under Torah, physical circumcision was one of the key markers of the “children of God.” Circumcision was Israel’s covenant sign between YHVH and that nation which gave her the right to the land. No circumcision = no land. And yet, the Jerusalem Council determined that Gentiles – as equal partakers of the promises of Israel – were under no obligation to be circumcised.

Keep in mind that no one taught “the hope of Israel” more firmly, more zealously than did Paul, as we have seen. Yet, as he preached that hope of Israel, he vehemently rejected any attempts to impose physical circumcision – or any of Israel’s cultus – on Gentiles (cf. Galatians 2), and openly taught that to impose it on Gentiles resulted in the loss of fellowship with Christ (Galatians 5). What mattered (matters) was not physical circumcision (and thus, not physical land) but the New Creation foretold by the OT prophets (Galatians 6:15-16).

Here is a fine exemplification of what Isaiah 43 foretold. God said He was going to do a “New Thing” in the last days, and called on Israel to forget the past things. And now here was Paul calling on Israel to forget her past, and look to the New Thing being created in Christ. Stunning indeed! Nothing could have been more revolutionary, more stunning, more offensive to the Jews than this message! This is why Paul called his “circumcision free” gospel an “offense” to the Jews. They realized that the nullification of circumcision was, in fact, the declaration that their right to the land had now been voided! They failed – like so many today – to grasp the spiritual significance of that message. The true “land” that Abraham had longed for, the heavenly Zion, was about to be realized (Hebrews 11:13-16- 12:21f).

Spatial considerations forbid further development of this theme, but what we have presented powerfully illustrates that Luke and Paul were on the same page. Luke’s narrative was about how God had not abandoned Israel. Paul’s gospel was the same. God was fulfilling His promises to Israel. The problem was that Israel longed for the wrong things – national restoration when the promises were, from the very beginning, the promise of spiritual restoration.

This brings us to consider that throughout Acts, from beginning to the end, there are powerful suggestions and pointers that indicated that while God was indeed restoring Israel as promised, that found in her Old Covenant promises all along was the reality, as painful and traumatic as it was to be, that when Israel was restored, the Old Covenant body had to pass away. As when a person has a pecan, and to reach the wonderful “meat” inside, the outer shell has to be crushed, the outer shell of Old Covenant “fleshly” Israel had to be crushed, having fulfilled her purpose, to reveal the “inner man” of the body of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:16f). This was truly a “good news / bad news” scenario, but one that is evident throughout Acts, if we have our eyes open. So, look at a few of those earlier references and warnings.

Acts 1 – Isaiah 43 – If indeed Isaiah 43 lies behind the beginning of Luke’s narrative, then one can hardly help but notice that the coming of the New Thing that God would do would necessitate the passing of the Old Creation.

Acts 2:40 – “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” There are numerous things in Acts 2 that would have been foreboding to the observant.

A.) The outpouring of the Spirit was to be magnified in the last days before the Great And Terrible Day of the Lord. This Great Day was the Day foretold by John the Baptizer, as Elijah, when the wicked would perish (Malachi 4). It would likewise be when the Lord would judge Israel for violation of Torah (Malachi 3:1-6).

B.) Peter was citing Deuteronomy 32 (in Acts 2:40). The Song of Moses was about Israel’s latter end, when the Lord would avenge the blood of His saints in judgment.

C.) Even the marvelous affirmation that Jesus was sitting at the Right Hand of the Majesty in the heavens had a dark lining to the silver cloud. Psalm 110 not only foretold the enthronement of Messiah, it likewise foretold judgment of His enemies (i.e. those who had rejected Him!) when he would send forth the rod of His anger.

D.) Very clearly, Peter affirmed that his audience needed to save themselves from what was coming on that generation.

Acts 3:23 – While Peter proclaimed the marvelous fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, he nonetheless warned them that failure to accept Jesus as Messiah would have dire consequences: “And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” It should be noted that the force of the language is very graphic. The destruction of those rejecting Jesus would be utter destruction “out from among the people.” The true “the people” are thus identified as followers of Jesus. Those who refuse to accept him are no longer “the people” and are doomed to be cut out from among “the people.” This is both stunning and graphic.

Acts 4 – The thrill of hearing that the Chief Corner Stone of the long anticipated Messianic Temple had been laid was tempered by the somber reality that those who rejected that Stone were to be, according to the Old Covenant promises, crushed by that Stone. As we have seen, this is precisely how the chief leaders in Jerusalem understood the wonderful message of the gospel. While the gospel truly was “good news’ that Israel was being restored as promised, it was “bad news” in that those who had killed Him were now doomed to destruction.

Acts 13:40-41 – As Paul proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, the Jews rejected that message. Consequently, Paul spoke a warning to them: “Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: ‘Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you.’”

Paul was quoting from Habakkuk, where the Lord warned Judea and Jerusalem that failure to obey Him would bring – was just about to bring – judgment. There can be no doubt that Paul’s Jewish audience would have fully realized what the apostle was saying. Failure to obey Christ would be a mistake, resulting in national destruction.

Skipping over some other passages, we return to Acts 28. Luke tells us that as Paul expounded on the hope of Israel and the kingdom, and some of the Jews were convinced, but “others disbelieved” (28:24). And when that unbelief became clear to Paul, he cited a text from Isaiah that Jesus himself had cited Isaiah 6:9f: “Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see and not perceive; for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

We find here an additional echo of what we have seen above: Judgment was about to fall on the Old Covenant Body of Israel for rejecting Messiah and the restoration of Israel taking place in Him.

Paul’s Roman Mission Fulfilling the Mystery of God and the World Mission Awaiting the End

Informed by the Spirit that he was to be imprisoned and taken to Rome, Paul informed the elders of Ephesus of his fate. They were, naturally, deeply disturbed and sorrowful. Yet, Paul told them: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)

Paul realized that as Christ’s specially chosen apostle, appointed to “fulfill the mystery of God” and to “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24f), that he had to suffer and eventually die. He realized that he had to take the gospel to the “end of the earth” and there complete that task before the Roman authorities.

The eschatological role of Paul is overlooked by many commentators. Yet Paul clearly saw himself as a covenant mediator (2 Corinthians 3-4), and specially appointed by Christ to bring in the “fullness of the Gentiles,” thereby hastening Israel’s salvation at the parousia (Romans 11:25f).

For Paul, his imprisonment in Rome and the opportunity to preach the gospel to the ruler of the ancient world constituted the climax and consummation of his task: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 4:16f).

Jesus had said that the gospel was to be preached into all the world, as a witness to the nations, then the end would come. And now, at the end of Acts, Paul was about to preach the gospel to the ruler of the nations, fulfilling his task and role as apostle to the Gentiles. Scholars have pondered why Luke ended his history so abruptly. Why quit the record with Paul in Rome, preaching to the Jews and Gentiles alike? Why not record what he said to Nero? Why not record the success or failure of the great apostle?

I suggest that Luke, as well as Paul, considered the task of the world mission as now completed. The end was near. The gospel had been preached to kings and governors, and even once before Nero, evidently. All that remained was for the judgment suggested by Paul’s warning to the Jewish leaders in 28:26 to now come. Thus, the abrupt ending of Acts is best explained by the fact that Luke’s purpose in recording the “restoration of Israel” had now been properly recorded. The warnings of the passing of the Old Covenant body were about to come to pass. The New Covenant body of Christ was about to be manifested, vindicated and glorified at the parousia that was now about to take place.

Book of Acts: The Hope of Israel is Fulfilled (Part 3)

This is part three of Don K. Preston’s overview of the book of Acts, titled “Introduction to Acts and the Restoration of Israel.” This overview demonstrates that, throughout the book of Acts, “the hope of Israel” and “the restoration of Israel” are shown to be fulfilled in Christ. Preston’s commentary is part of the “Fulfilled Covenant Bible” project, and can be accessed at the “Bible Prophecy Fulfilled” site run by Mike Day, Gary and Audrey Parrish, Terry Kashian, and Lahaina Dave. See Part 1 of this series here and part 2 here.

A Great Famine Arose

One ponders if we are to see the parallels between the story of Joseph in Egypt, the famine, the rescue of the people from the famine and the events of Acts 11:27f. For sure, the name of the Lord was exalted and glorified in both situations.

Acts 13– The Movement Away From Jerusalem

“What God promised to the fathers, He has fulfilled…” (Acts 13:32f). Addressing the Jewish audience in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul rehearsed Israel’s history and her promises. He recounts the faithfulness of God in giving the land as promised (13:19f), the glory of David and then, in what must have been a startling and amazing statement, claimed that God had now “brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, just as He promised” (13:23).

Paul’s message to Israel was one of fulfillment, not of failure or postponement. In fact, he says that God had given to Jesus “the sure mercies of David,” which was nothing but the promise of the Davidic kingdom (Isaiah 55)! But, of course, if Jesus had been given the throne of David, then since Christ was in heaven, not on an earthly throne ruling over a nationalistic kingdom centered in Jerusalem, this meant that the nature of the Messianic kingdom was radically different from what they had thought it was to be. The promises were being fulfilled. Of this there can be no doubt.

But, the form of fulfillment was something totally unexpected. Something had begun to happen in Acts 11:19 through Acts 13f that must have been troublesome to the Jewish Christians who were still struggling with the geocentricity of Zion / Jerusalem in the OT prophecies. It is not too much to say that in the prophetic books Zion is the capital and the focus of all things eschatological and soteriological. The Law would go forth from Zion and the Messianic Temple (Isaiah 2:2f). Salvation would be in Jerusalem (Isaiah 46:13). The resurrection and the Messianic Banquet would occur “on this mountain,” i.e. Zion (Isaiah 25:6-8).

So for those with the desire and intent to see the OT prophets fulfilled literally, what was taking place had to be unsettling. They could not deny the miraculous works of the promised Spirit that they witnessed, but where was the emphasis on the literal Jerusalem, the literal temple, and the Levitical priesthood? Truly, something radical was taking place. In fact, the perceived (and in truth, very real) movement away from earthly Jerusalem was part and parcel of the Old Testament prophetic message. According to those prophets, earthly Jerusalem would pass, but heavenly Jerusalem would triumph. A host of OT prophecies foretold the destruction of the earthly Zion in the last days, giving way to the New Creation and the New Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 65-66).

Jeremiah had actually foretold the time when the two houses of Israel would be re-united under Messiah, that “They shall say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord;’ neither shall it come to mind, neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more” (Jeremiah 3:16). Likewise, even the much later prophet, Malachi, foresaw the time when “in every place (i.e. Gentile places!, DKP) incense shall be offered unto My name, for My name shall be great among the heathen” (Malachi 1:11). Very clearly, contrary to a great deal of Jewish expectation about the nature of the restored kingdom, Biblically, in the Messianic Kingdom, Jerusalem would lose its centricity. While the Kingdom would be established “in Zion” the New Covenant would flow from there to the nations, and that old earthly city would lose its theological centricity.

This is precisely what we see in Acts. Initially, the Jews kept the Word to themselves. However, persecution forced them to leave Judea and Jerusalem, and once they did, the Gentiles eagerly accepted the Word of Life. In Acts 11ff we find that, increasingly, physical Jerusalem declines in importance for the body of Christ. Antioch becomes the Gentile capital of the church, and from there the Word of Life expands increasingly to the Gentile world. At the same time, Old Jerusalem – which had sponsored Saul in his persecutions – became increasingly hostile against the New Jerusalem. As Paul would write at a very early stage, her persecutorial ways would lead to her being cast out of the presence of the Lord (Galatians 4:22f; 1 Thessalonians 2; 2 Thessalonians 1).

Acts 15– To This Agrees The Prophets

With the initiation of the conversion of the Gentiles, the expansion of the kingdom was in full swing. Over and over we are told that “much people were added to the Lord” (cf. 11:21, 24). But, brewing under the surface in ways that we can only speculate about, were discussions among the Jewish Christians about the role of the Gentiles in the kingdom. Some began to advance the idea that since the kingdom was a promise to Israel, found in Israel’s prophets, that the kingdom was intrinsically Jewish in form and function. Thus, “certain men which came down (to Antioch, DKP) from Judea taught the brethren, and said, ‘Except you are circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1). Thus, intriguingly, the first substantial doctrinal error in the early church originated in earthly Jerusalem, and misconstrued the very nature of the kingdom of Messiah. The issue of circumcision would continue to plague the early church, and may in fact be considered the single most important controversy of the first century. Yet, this subject is grossly ignored or misunderstood by most Bible students today. It was the identifying mark of the children of Abraham. It gave them “title deed” as it were to the land promises. No circumcision, no land. It was that simple (cf. Joshua 5).

Since circumcision was the key marker of the identity of the “sons of Abraham” then the restoration of Israel would, in the mind of those with the literalistic mind-set, demand the imposition of circumcision on any and all who were coming into the kingdom. So, just like under Torah, when a Gentile wished to become a servant of YHVH, that same mindset [persisted]. There is little wonder that some of the zealous Jews in Jerusalem believed that Gentiles had to be circumcised. The promises of blessings in the Seed, Abraham’s (One) Seed, were perceived to be tied, not to circumcision of the heart, but to physical circumcision. (It should be noted that modern Dominionism (i.e. postmillennialism) as well as Dispensationalism, both implicitly demand a restoration of physical circumcision. Dominionism, along with Dispensationalism, says Abraham and his descendants must inherit the literal land. But, if the physical land promises remain valid, then physical circumcision remains valid. The land promise and circumcision are inextricably bound. Thus, if the land promises remain valid, circumcision remains valid and the gospel of Christ is nullified. I cannot develop this further, but this is a serious issue).

The battle was joined between Paul, Barnabas, and the Judaizers. Paul taught a Torah-free gospel of justification of faith. The Judaizers taught justification through faith in the flesh. A conference was called in Jerusalem for the inspired leadership of the church to debate and settle the issue. At the Jerusalem conference, James and the apostles and prophets determined that Paul’s gospel was correct – Gentiles were not to be circumcised or compelled in any way to observe Torah. Observance of the Law of Moses was not incumbent on them for their justification and salvation. Peter reminded the audience of the example of Cornelius, and how the outpouring of the Spirit on that occasion demonstrated that “He made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their heart by faith” (15:9).

Barnabas and Paul followed, recounting the work of the Spirit in their ministry to the Gentiles. James then followed their presentations, recalling again Peter’s experience with Cornelius in which God signified His divine purpose “to take from them a people for his name” (15:14). What James said next proves that the restoration of Israel was fully underway, but, once again, that restoration was not at all what the nation of Israel had envisioned or hoped for (cf. Romans 11:7), but it was what the prophets actually foretold, as interpreted by the Jerusalem council. James quoted Amos 9:11 which foretold the restoration of the ten northern tribes with the southern tribes. God would “repair the breaches in the wall” of the Davidic house (not the literal temple), and He would accomplish this “so that the remnant of men may seek the Lord.” It is critical to grasp the significance of this.

Amos predicted, and James interpreted Amos as saying, that when Israel was restored, the Gentiles would be called to be God’s people (cf. Zechariah 2:10f). In fact, God would restore Israel “so that” (the force of the Greek) the rest of mankind might seek the Lord. So, the order of occurrence was first the restoration of Israel, then, as a result of that, the nations would be called. This is what Isaiah 49 foretold. It is Paul’s message that the gospel of salvation was “to the Jew first, then the Greek” (Romans 1:16-17).

So, when James declared that the calling of the Gentiles was in fulfillment of Amos, and explained, through the inspiration of the Spirit, that Amos had foretold the restoration of Israel so that the nations could be called, this was a profound commentary on the nature of the restoration of Israel. James’ commentary demands this fact: If Israel was not being restored, in fulfillment of Amos, then the nations, the Gentiles, i.e. those not of the twelve tribes, have no hope of being the children of God. It is that simple: Israel was to be restored so that the Gentiles could be offered salvation. Since the Gentiles, as proven by Cornelius’s reception of the Spirit, were clearly now accepted by God, on equal footing with Israel, then Israel’s restoration was in full bloom.

Acts 16-21– To the Uttermost Parts of the World– Paul’s Mission And Role As End Times Martyr and Prophet

While a great deal could be written of the individual accounts of the cities where Paul traveled space forbids such an investigation or extended discussion. However, what we do need to keep in mind is that lying behind Paul’s travels is his role as God’s distinctively chosen vessel to fulfill the mystery of God, and to fill up the measure of end times suffering, thus hastening the Day of the Lord. Paul is clear that “God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death” (1 Corinthians 4:9). The imagery is of a Roman triumphant parade, with the host of prisoners taken captive by the conquering hero, marching to their deaths. And Paul says, the apostles were the last in the line, determined (manifested, proclaimed, shown) by God to be His martyrs to fill up the eschatological measure of suffering and sin (Cf. Revelation 18:20-24).

In Colossians 1:24-27 Paul affirms in unequivocal but challenging language that he was chosen, and distinctively commissioned to personally “fill up in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ…and to fulfill the Word of God, the mystery.” Acts 16-21 chronicles Paul’s travels and his suffering. Everywhere he went, the Jews either attacked him, or instigated persecution against him. We see at work in Paul’s ministry three aspects of the end times prophecies:

A.) Paul, in offering the gospel of Life to the Gentiles, was attempting to make Israel jealous, to hopefully convert some of them. This was in direct fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32 – The Song of Moses – which foretold that in Israel’s last days God would provoke Israel to jealousy (32:19f–> Romans 10:19; 11:14).

B.) While Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, as we have seen, he went first of all to Israel, scattered Israel, for this was “necessary” (Acts 13– see above). Yet, God had foretold, based on Israel’s long history of recalcitrance, that “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Isaiah 65:1– Romans 10:21).

C.) The salvation of the remnant. While the nation, corporately speaking, rejected the kingdom offer, this was not in any way surprising, unexpected, or un-foretold. Isaiah and the other prophets had foretold this centuries before. So, just as Isaiah foretold that Israel would reject God’s outstretched hands, and fill the measure of her sin (Isaiah 65:1-6), he likewise foretold that a remnant would be saved when the Lord destroyed the Old Israel and created a New People (Isaiah 65:8-19).

So, what was playing out in these chapters of Acts, as Luke recorded Paul’s ministry, is not, in any way at all, the record of the failure of God’s plan as predicted in Israel’s prophecies. God’s plan was right on schedule, just as foretold. It was shocking to the nationalistic expectation of the Jews– resulting in their animosity toward Paul, but it was God’s original plan all along.

Acts 21-28– Nothing But the Hope of Israel

As Luke focuses on the ministry of Paul, from Acts 13 onward, something becomes very apparent. The Jewish animosity toward him grows as his success among the Gentiles continues to grow. It is more than obvious that Paul’s adversaries think that his message of Christ as Messiah and the Torah-free gospel are antithetical to the story and the hope of Israel. For Paul, however, nothing could be farther from the truth.

When the Jews mistakenly accused Paul of taking a Gentile into the temple, and attempted to kill him, Paul is rescued and then allowed by the Romans to address the audience. He recounted his former zeal in persecuting the Way (21:4) and then told of his conversion. However, when Paul mentioned his call to go the Gentiles, the audience rose up again, and would have killed him, had the Roman tribune not intervened. The following day, the tribune called the Sanhedrin together for them to investigate the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Paul. It is critical to note that the very first thing that Paul affirms was his faithfulness to the hope of Israel: “With respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead, I am on trial” (23:6). Contra modern evangelical doctrine, Paul did not see the story of Israel as dead, abolished, replaced or even delayed. Paul’s story was nothing but the hope of Israel.

As Paul stands before the Sanhedrin he affirms his belief in the resurrection as the hope of Israel, found in Moses and the prophets (24:14f). Paul’s fidelity to Israel and her eschatological hope must be honored. In addition, we cannot escape notice that while he ostensibly agreed with the Pharisees as to the reality of the resurrection, he and they clearly had a different vision and understanding of the resurrection. Notice that in 24:13 he takes note that both he and they affirm resurrection, but they want to kill him for his views of the resurrection!

Just as Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom, the Jews wanted the kingdom. Jesus came to be king, and the Jews wanted a king. Yet when the Jews came to make Him king and offer Him the kingdom, Jesus withdrew (John 6:15)! Patently, different concepts of the nature of the kingdom and kingship were at work, just as in the case of Paul and the Pharisees on the resurrection. Neither Jesus nor Paul preached a message contrary to what the prophets foretold. They both preached “the hope of Israel.” Yet, they were both rejected for what they preached and what they offered. This critical fact is seldom explored, but it is critical for understanding the nature of the hope of Israel. If, as it is generally assumed, Paul had the same concept of the nature of the kingdom and resurrection as did the Pharisees, one can only wonder why they sought to kill him for preaching what they believed. This truth has tremendous implications for our understanding of Paul’s eschatology in the epistles.

Paul said he preached nothing but the hope of Israel– Israel after the flesh (Romans 9:1-3)–and that hope was found nowhere but in Moses, the Law and the Prophets. Notice how often he affirms this in Acts 24-28.

Acts 24:13f– Paul affirmed that his resurrection doctrine was taken directly from the Old Covenant promises to Israel, the promises found in Moses, the Law and the prophets.

Acts 24:21– “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”

Acts 25:8 – “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”

Acts 26:6 – “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain as they earnestly worship night and day. For this hope am I accused of the Jews.”

Acts 26:22f – “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 28:17 – Paul, addressing the leaders of the Jews in Rome, said, “Brothers, though I had no charge to bring against our people, or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.”

Acts 28:19ff – “I have asked to see you and to speak with you, since it is for the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” …. v. 23, “From morning to evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God, and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.”

We will come back to Acts 28 in a bit. However, think with me about what it means for Paul to say so many times that his one hope, his only gospel message, was nothing but the hope of Israel.

What this means is that when we read Paul’s discourse on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, that we must conform our understanding of that great chapter to Paul’s understanding of God’s Old Testament promises made to Israel after the flesh. It means that we must view 1 Thessalonians and Paul’s promise of the parousia in light of Israel’s promises. It means that we must see the promise of the “redemption of creation” within the context of Israel’s prophecies. And, it means that in Paul’s eschatology, there was not a “Christian eschatology” distinct from Israel and her story.

This is devastating for both the amillennial and postmillennial views, because both of these futurist eschatologies claim that Paul’s view of the last things is fundamentally about the end of the Christian age and the fulfillment of God’s promises to the church. This is patently false, since Paul says the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 (and thus, 1 Thessalonians 4) would be in fulfillment of Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13. Any theology that divorces Paul’s eschatology from the hope of Israel is, prima facie, a false theology.

This is likewise devastating to the dispensational paradigm, since one of the pillars of millennialism is that the promises to Israel are not the promises to the church. But, since Paul says his gospel, his eschatology was nothing but the hope of Israel, this means that there is not a “rapture doctrine” for the church, and then a “Second Coming” eschatology promised to Israel. There was but “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4) and that one hope was found in God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel after the flesh. So, we say again, that any eschatology divorced from Israel and her promises, to be fulfilled at the consummation of her covenant age, is fundamentally and fatally flawed.

We want now to take another look at the nature of the restoration of Israel as found in Acts…

Book of Acts: The Hope of Israel is Fulfilled (Part 2)

This is part two of an excellent overview of the book of Acts, written by Don K. Preston and titled “Introduction to Acts and the Restoration of Israel.” This overview demonstrates that, throughout the book of Acts, “the hope of Israel” and “the restoration of Israel” are shown to be fulfilled in Christ. Preston’s commentary is part of the “Fulfilled Covenant Bible” project, and can be accessed at the “Bible Prophecy Fulfilled” site run by Mike Day, Gary and Audrey Parrish, Terry Kashian, and Lahaina Dave. Part one of this 4-part series can be seen here.

Acts 4-7– Preparing the Way For the Removal of the Old – The Full
Establishment of the New

I will give here only a few of the highlights from these four chapters:

1.) Luke’s recounting of the ongoing powerful demonstration of the work of the Spirit brings to mind how Israel was led by the Spirit in the first exodus (Isaiah 63:10f), and yet Israel rebelled against YHVH, leading to judgment. Of course, it is critical to note that the references to the work of the Spirit must be viewed from the perspective of Acts 2 and Peter’s affirmation that Israel’s anticipated last days were present.

2.) Selling the Land – We have here no abiding City… In chapter 4-5 we find the account of the nascent body of Christ doing something absolutely incredible. The disciples are selling their land! To modern readers, far removed from the mind-set of the ancient Jews, and Torah, the incredible implications of these actions are all but lost.

It is almost impossible to over-emphasize the importance of the land to the Jews. It was their inheritance from YHVH Himself. When the land was allotted to the 12 tribes (Joshua 13ff) the Lord instructed Israel: ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me” (Leviticus 25:23). While it was permissible for Israelites to temporarily sell their land, the Jubilee Laws provided that ownership of the land would revert to the original tribal owners in the Jubilee years.

Yet, in Acts 4-5 we find the selling of the land by the Jewish Christians. There is no suggestion that they intended to redeem the land at a later date (Cf. Jeremiah 32). The record seems to indicate that they were simply selling their land, permanently. In light of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, and the warnings in Acts 2-4, of impending judgment on Jerusalem and Israel, the full significance of this comes to the forefront. Those early Christians knew that the value of Jerusalem real estate was going to go to zero! They now were beginning to realize, as Hebrews would later declare: “We have here no abiding city, but, look for one that is about to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

3.) The Sanhedrin imprisoned Peter and John, but an angel of the Lord freed them, and they immediately began preaching once again in the Temple (Acts 5). What is so remarkable – and mostly overlooked – is that when the angel released them from prison, he instructed them to “speak to all the people all the words of this Life” (5:20). This is a remarkable and beautiful statement. The words of Jesus, the words about Jesus, were and are the words of Life!

In sharp contrast, when the Sanhedrin brought Peter and John back to trial, they said, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (5:28). Ironic is it not, that these very men had cried out only a short time before: “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25)? Yet now, with the implications of what has transpired in the resurrection of Jesus and the proclamation of that awesome event, they see the implications and are pleading “innocence.” Peter had told that august body that they had rejected the chief corner stone of the predicted Messianic temple. That could only mean one thing: Judgment was coming on them. They understood that while Peter and John were speaking the words of Life to the people, that this meant judgment on them for killing the Prince of Life.

4.) Spatial limitations forbid a full development of Stephen’s temple discourse. However, it is clear that Stephen, in recounting Israel’s “history,” has a deeply theological point to make, and the history that he gives is focused on that particular point. He was not intending to recount Israel’s entire history. What he patently does do, however, is to show that Abraham was blessed by God while he was outside the land. Stephen shows Israel’s long history of rejecting God’s prophets. He shows how the Lord judged them for their rebellion. He shows how their emphasis on the temple itself was misplaced, for it was never God’s ultimate intent to dwell in temples made with hands.

All of this sequels perfectly with what Luke has already recorded. The chief cornerstone for the Messianic Temple had been laid. Those who had rejected that Stone could now only anticipate impending judgment. And now Stephen reinforces that message by pointing out that the glorious temple in which he was now standing was never God’s eschatological goal.

So, lying latent in chapters 4-7 is an extremely powerful narrative. Israel’s last days prophecies were being fulfilled. They were not, however, being fulfilled as anticipated or desired. They were being fulfilled in the body of Christ, the foundation stone of the Messianic Temple– a living Temple– offering Life. But, all of this meant that the Old Temple, the Old World which was the “ministration of death” was about to be swept away.

Acts 8– To Samaria and the Uttermost Parts of the Earth

In His instructions on the kingdom, Jesus had told His apostles that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the earth. From Acts 2-8:1-4 we find that the Jerusalem church was perfectly happy initially to confine their efforts to Jerusalem and Judea. However, in the Lord’s providence, persecution arose, and those who were persecuted were eager then to share the story of Life everywhere they went. And they went to Samaria.

Although the city was not named Samaria as such until the time of Omri (1 Kings 16:24f), nonetheless the region of Samaria had long been considered as almost a synonym for the dispersed northern tribes. Due to Omri’s horrible wickedness, and the entire history of the divided kingdom that was inextricably tied to that, the stigma of rebellion against God was paramount in the mind of those in Judea. (You can get a small sense of the Jewish antipathy toward Samaria, and vice versa, in Luke 9:51f, where a Samaritan city refused to allow Jesus and His disciples to pass through, and John, the “apostle of love” wanted Jesus to call down fire from heaven on them!)

Prophetically, part and parcel of Israel’s eschatological hope was the restoration of the diaspora. God would gather them from the east and the west, and bring them back to Him. Israel’s nationalistic hope was a literal re-gathering to the physical land when the Messianic kingdom was established. Acts 8 falsifies such notions.

Philip was one of those who went to Samaria, and there preached “the Christ,” i.e. the Messiah! He confirmed the message of Jesus as Messiah by performing undeniable miracles. The miraculous work of the Spirit was poured out in earthly Israel’s last days, when the Lord would bring the tribes
back together under Messiah (Ezekiel). The Spirit was to usher in the promised restoration of the kingdom by Messiah, thus creating and restoring the heavenly Israel. The evidence of this is when Philip was manifesting the miraculous work of the Spirit, declaring Jesus as the promised Messiah, and preaching “the good news about the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:12). (Note: Philip’s message of the kingdom could hardly be classified as “good news” if in fact, per the dispensationalists, the kingdom had been postponed!)

We may not be stretching the text too far to take note of the similarities between Philip and Moses, the first exodus and the second. In the first exodus, Israel was in bondage. In the second, Israel, particularly the northern tribes, were still considered to be in bondage. In the first exodus, Moses was sent to those in bondage to set them free, but was confronted by false magicians. In the second Exodus, Philip goes to those in bondage and is confronted with a false magician. In both cases, God’s chosen messenger triumphs over the false magicians and, as a result, the Exodus proceeds.

The Ethiopian Eunuch– A Radical Fulfillment

To me personally, the story of the Ethiopian eunuch is one of the most compelling, the most exciting stories in Acts, and beautifully illustrates and proves that Luke’s narrative must indeed be understood as focused on the restoration of Israel as foretold by the prophets.

Under Torah, any man with injury to his genitalia in any way was forbidden to enter the temple, or to serve in the ministry (Deuteronomy 23). It was critical under the Law to be able to marry and produce “children of God” and thereby sustain the kingdom. This was the nature of the kingdom. But, as a result of being unable to produce children, eunuchs were called “dry trees.”

However, the prophets foretold a time when this would no longer be the case. Isaiah 56 predicted the time of a radically different kind of temple worship and service. In this New Temple, both the foreigner and the eunuch would be given a name better than “sons and daughters” (56:5). Note that this is true of both the foreigner and the eunuch. This is significant, but we cannot develop it here.

In many commentaries, and certainly in countless homiletic presentations, the story of the eunuch is used as a story to speak of how God will now accept those of any nation, of any ethnic group. Emphasis is normally on the fact that the man was an Ethiopian. However, this is misplaced. The emphasis in the Greek is on the fact that the man was a eunuch, not that he was an Ethiopian. This eunuch had just returned from Jerusalem and he had gone up to that awesome temple to worship there. Although he was allowed to bring his sacrifices, he was still very much an outsider per Deuteronomy 23. The point of Acts 8 is that the time had come for eunuchs and foreigners to be given the name “better than sons and daughters.” The time had come when eunuchs and foreigners would serve in the New Temple of God, the foundation of which, Messiah Jesus, had been laid in “Zion.” The time had come when eunuchs would no longer be “dry trees” for they, by sharing the news of “the Life” in Messiah, could bring forth “sons of God” without “marrying and giving in marriage.”

What cannot be missed in the prediction of the acceptance of the foreigners and the eunuchs is that it would take place when the Lord “re-gathered” the “outcasts of Israel,” i.e. at the restoration of Israel. And, when He had regathered the outcasts, i.e. the diaspora of Israel, he would also gather “others besides those whom He had gathered.” So, the acceptance of the eunuchs into the “temple of God” was a signal that Israel’s restoration was in process, and with that restoration, it signaled that others besides Israel could be gathered to the Lord as well.

Acts 9– The Persecution of “The Way” – The Conversion of Saul

Saul, later to become Paul, is presented as a persecutor of “the way.” This term is highly significant. Numerous OT prophecies foretold that in the last days, there would be a “highway of the Lord” on which the righteous would travel. On that highway, there would be safety, security and righteousness (Isaiah 35). But, the highway would also be the “Way” for the coming of the Lord in judgment.

Isaiah foretold the coming of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptizer was that Voice (Mark 1). What should not be missed is that not only would the “Way” be a highway of blessings, but, it would also be the highway for the coming of the Lord in judgment (Isaiah 40:10f; Malachi 3:1-3). So, once again, we see the good news/bad news aspect of the fulfillment of Israel’s last days prophecies. Also, this time of the establishment of the Way would be when the redeemed of the Lord would once again be gathered to Him (40:1, 9f). This is the restoration of Israel. See Acts 19:9; 24:14; 24:22 where the term “the Way” is used in a technical manner to speak of “the faith.”

The conversion of Paul is incredibly significant, to understate the case. His understanding of his mission gives insight into God’s Old Covenant prophecies of Israel’s last days. From the very beginning, Paul informs his Jewish brethren that God had called him distinctively to be a light to the Gentiles, to call them out of darkness, and to give them invitation to the salvation that would flow from Israel. One of the saddest realities in modern evangelicalism is the idea that the calling of the Gentiles, i.e. Paul’s mission, was a direct result of Israel’s failure. All three futurist eschatologies, perhaps on differing levels, but true of them all nonetheless, posit the failure of Israel as the ground and reason for the Gentile mission. This is patently false.

We cannot develop this, but note that Paul says that his ministry was foretold in Deuteronomy 32:19f, which was a prediction of Israel’s last days. While Paul certainly does say that Israel’s rebellion would lead to that ministry, it must be understood that, contra the dispensational paradigm, that rebellion and the final rejection of the Old Covenant body of Israel was preplanned and predicted by God. It was no accident; it was no surprise to the Lord.

The concept of the salvation of the remnant is fundamentally important here, for Paul informs us – with proof from the Old Testament – that God never promised to save “all Israel,” but only a remnant (Romans 9-11). Again, Paul tells us that God chose him personally and distinctively to call the Gentiles to Him. And yet, as Paul went to the Gentiles, he went first to the diaspora scattered abroad. And when the Jews in those diaspora areas rejected the gospel of the kingdom, Paul told them “it was necessary that the gospel be preached to you first, but, seeing that you count yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we turn to the Gentiles” Acts 13:46). Notice Paul’s appeal to Isaiah 49:6f also as the justification for his Gentile mission (13:47).

Once again, however, it is imperative to note, for instance in Isaiah 49, that the salvation of the Gentiles was totally dependent on the restoration of Israel: “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Notice that the restoration of the “tribes of Jacob” was the precursor to the calling of the Gentiles. Note also that the salvation of the tribes of Jacob would be “too small” of a work for Messiah and YHVH. God’s plan was, therefore, always, to offer salvation and life to those outside the tribes of Israel, and Paul was the one chosen to take that message of “the life” to them. (See Colossians 1:24f and my special study on Paul’s distinctive ministry in Who Is This Babylon? This is a very important topic.)

Acts 10– The Calling of the Gentiles

Any reader of Acts should have been alerted that something like this was going to happen. The conversion of the eunuch laid the groundwork for opening the mind of the reader that even more revolutionary things were coming, and Acts 10 records that very thing. We today have 20/20 hindsight and years of instruction telling us how the Old Testament predicted the salvation of the Gentiles.

Yet, in Israel of Jesus’ day, and in Paul’s, while there was a vague concept of the calling of the Gentiles, there was no true appreciation or welcoming of that idea. When Jesus was in the synagogue in Capernaum (Luke 4) His telling of two of the famous stories in Israel’s history recounted the blessings of pagan Gentiles, and not those of the seed of Abraham. And that crowd sought to kill Jesus for pointing that out.

Solomon had prayed for the Lord to bless those who were not of the seed of Abraham, if they prayed to Him and came to worship Him at the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 8:41f). And the temple had a “Court of the Gentiles” but, of course, the temple likewise had the wall of partition that kept the Gentiles – including the eunuchs, remember – from the inner courts. But, in Israel of Jesus’ day, in spite of her own prophecies, there was no desire to call the Gentiles. In fact, when Paul told the temple audience that God had appointed him to preach to the Gentiles, and call them to be His people, they instantly took up stones to kill him (Acts 21; 22:17f).

It is little wonder then, that when Peter, faithful Jew that he was, was told by God Himself, to “take and eat” the foods that were unclean under Torah, that Peter refused, and extrapolated from that to Gentile uncleanness. While Peter uttered some fair sounding words, “God has shown me to call nothing common or unclean,” in his heart, and verbalized to Cornelius, he felt very strongly, “It is not lawful for a man that is a Jew to have company or to eat with a Gentile” (Acts 10:28).

Nonetheless, Peter preached “the Life” to Cornelius, and he, along with his entourage, was astounded that the Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius, just as it had been poured out on the disciples on Pentecost. This was as powerful– if not more so– as the heavenly vision with the unclean animals, in convincing Peter and those with him that the Gentiles truly were now equals in the kingdom. But, as we shall see, not all were thrilled with this development. They believed that the kingdom of Messiah was to be a Jewish kingdom, and while they were “okay” with the inclusion of the Gentiles, they made it clear that if they wanted to be a part of the kingdom, they essentially had to become Jews and observe Torah.

The Strength of My Life

A cross made of chains

Today I heard the song, “Total Praise”  written by Richard Smallwood in my mind when I was trying to figure out what to post. My favorite part of the song is that it exclaims that God is the strength of our lives. If you are reading this, you may currently be in a state of weakness. You may be weak with sickness, depression, hopelessness, ignorance, confusion, fear, etc.

What to Do When We Feel Weak
In these weak moments, it’s important to remember that your strength comes from the power and might of God and Him alone. This is of course an unpleasant state to be in, but it is the perfect place for God to use you and show His power (2 Corinthians 12:10). You must meditate on the strength of God instead of focusing on your state of weakness in order to fight the inward battle of the mind and soul. The following scriptures are powerful verses that you can think on today whenever you are filled with despair:

Philippians 4:13

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Uplifting Music to Encourage the Heart

This is a video of “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood. Concentrate on the words and let the strength of God flow through you today!


Book of Acts: The Hope of Israel is Fulfilled (Part 1)

The next few posts will present an excellent overview of the book of Acts, written by Don K. Preston. This overview demonstrates that, throughout the book of Acts, “the hope of Israel” and “the restoration of Israel” are shown to be fulfilled in Christ. Preston’s commentary is part of the “Fulfilled Covenant Bible” project, and can be accessed at the “Bible Prophecy Fulfilled” site run by Mike Day, Gary and Audrey Parrish, Terry Kashian, and Lahaina Dave.

Introduction to Acts and the Restoration of Israel (by Don Preston)

Commentators have long perplexed about Luke’s purpose in writing the book of Acts. Conzelmann said it was to chronicle the establishment of the church as a long-term entity in light of the failed parousia. In fact, many commentators see Acts as almost an apology on Luke’s part for a failed eschatology. The church has now been established only because Christ has not come!

Others say it is to tell the story of the work of the Spirit. Some commentators, not necessarily agreeing with the failed eschatology view, nonetheless tell us that Acts is about the establishment of the church, now that Israel has rejected her Messiah. There are shades of this view, including the dispensational view that sees Acts as unrelated to the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel.

Few commentators see Acts as the story of the restoration of Israel as foretold by the prophets. It is refreshing and exciting to know that this is changing. A growing number of scholars now see Acts as the story of fulfillment, not failure, on the part of God and Israel. In what follows, I hope to convey the reality that Acts is about the restoration of Israel. It is about the fulfillment of God’s promises to her, as interpreted through the Spirit-inspired author.

What I will present is not exhaustive by any means. In fact, I will only be able to hit some highlights. However, I hope to present enough evidence to convince the reader to pursue this theme further. I have produced a 52-lesson series in MP3 format that covers more of the marvelous insights that Luke offers us into the hope of Israel; available at www.eschatology.org.

Acts 1

Acts 1:4–6; Jesus showed Himself alive for 40 days, teaching His disciples about the kingdom. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate that Luke was about to embark on a discussion of the fulfillment of Israel’s promises than this. During His ministry, Jesus focused on the promises of Israel: He came to “seek and to save the lost,” a referent to the lost of Israel.

The kingdom was the heart and core of God’s promises to Israel (2 Samuel 7:13-14). It was the focus of the prophets of Israel (Isaiah 2-4; Ezekiel 37, etc.). Thus, Acts 1:4 “set the tone” for the rest of the book. The kingdom message is continued in Acts 8, 14, 19, 20, and 28 as well. This makes it clear that Luke never abandons the subject. Acts is about the hope of Israel. While most commentators claim that the disciples still misunderstood Jesus and the kingdom, this is patently false. Jesus had opened the minds of His disciples to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:25-27). Thus, the disciples were simply asking about the time of the fulfillment of what Jesus had been instructing them about. Jesus did not chide the disciples for their “ignorance” or failure to understand. Instead, He told them to “go into the city and wait” for the promise of the Spirit. The promise of the Spirit was itself an OT promise to Israel and for Israel, to raise her from the dead, restore her to God’s presence, and result in the offer of salvation to the nations (Isaiah 32;49; Ezekiel 37; Joel 2-3).

The disciples remembered the ministry of John the Immerser when Jesus mentioned the promise of the Spirit. The relationship between John, the promise of the Spirit and the kingdom cannot be missed. John proclaimed, “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of heaven has drawn near” (Matthew 3; Mark 1). He likewise promised that the Messiah would baptize them “in the Spirit and with fire,” echoing Isaiah 4:4, and Joel 2.

The imminence of the kingdom – the fulfillment of John and Jesus’ message – is strongly indicated in the link between the promise of the Spirit and the fact that Jesus told His disciples to go into the city and to wait for the Spirit. Since the outpouring of the Spirit and the establishment of the kingdom are inseparably connected, this tells us that the restoration of Israel was truly near. It cannot be imagined that the disciples divorced the promise of the imminent reception of the Spirit from the kingdom promises.

You Are My Witnesses– The Creation (Re-Creation) of Israel

After promising the Spirit to the disciples, Jesus immediately told them they would be His witnesses. This is a direct echo of Isaiah 43:10 and this, like Jesus’ 40 day instructions concerning the kingdom, is strongly suggestive that the restoration of Israel, an Israel now identified by her connection to Jesus, but Israel nonetheless, was now taking place. Isaiah 43 foretold the creation of a new people that would be YHVH’s witnesses to the nations. And now in Acts 1 we find the 12 apostles, representing the righteous remnant, being given the commission to be His witnesses to the nations.

The radical and revolutionary nature of what Isaiah 43 foretold, and what was happening in Acts, is revealed when we consider that YHVH called on Israel to not remember the former things, but to look to the “New Thing” that He would do (43:18). What is so astounding is that YHVH, in context, called on Israel to forget the first exodus! That event was the single most normative and formative event in all of Israel’s history, and yet God said the time was coming when they would need to forget that historic event and look to the greater “New Thing” that He would do. Given the indisputable fact that Acts is built around the “Second Exodus” motif, it is clear that the “New Thing” promised by YHVH in Isaiah 43 was now taking place, which meant not only that Israel was being “restored,” but that she was to forget her first beginnings and look to the last.

Isaiah 11 and a host of other Old Testament prophecies foretold that at the time of that Second Exodus the word of God would “fill the earth,” calling first of all the scattered children of Israel, and then the nations to the Lord. As Jesus told His disciples to begin their mission in Jerusalem – Zion – He said they would then go from Judea to Samaria, and from there to the uttermost parts of the earth (Greek word “ge”). They were to go to “the Jew first, and then the Greek” just as the prophets foretold.

Acts 2

I will not develop it here, but it is no coincidence that the events took place on Pentecost. That auspicious day was the last of the first four of Israel’s major feast days. It was sometimes called the Feast of First Fruits, and the events of that day were indeed the fulfillment of that typological feast, for on that day 3000 individuals joined themselves to the body of the New Israel, as the first fruits of the harvest (James 1:18). The re-gathering of Israel is seen in the names of the countries represented that day. All of the nations mentioned are from the nations of the diaspora, where Israel had been scattered in the previous dispersions. But now, on the day of Pentecost, representatives of the scattered tribes of Israel were in Jerusalem and the events of that day comprised fulfillment, at least initially, of the re-gathering of the diaspora.

“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” – Acts 2:15ff

The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was in fulfillment of Acts 1, and even more importantly, of Joel 2:28-32. Peter’s words leave no room for controversy. The events of that day were what Joel predicted: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Words could not be clearer, more emphatic, or more undeniable. Joel foretold the consummative last days, the coming of the Day of the Lord, the salvation of the remnant and the calling of the nations. It is one of the key OT prophecies, and inextricably tied to the restoration of Israel. But, Joel was not alone in predicting the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days, for the restoration of Israel. Isaiah 32 and Ezekiel 37 and Micah 7 are but a few of the significant OT prophecies of the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days. 

In fact, there is not a topic or theme that is more intensely eschatological, or more directly tied to the restoration of Israel than this subject. According to Ezekiel 37:11-14, the Spirit would be poured out to raise Israel from the dead. Thus for Peter to declare, “this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” cannot properly be construed as anything but a declaration that the restoration of Israel was taking place. Jesus often shocked and offended His contemporaries with His identification of the true Israel, and the nature of the restoration of Israel under His rule. Likewise, Peter’s declaration of the fulfillment of Joel and the other Spirit / Restoration promises was a radical departure from what they thought was to happen in the last days work of the Spirit. But this revolutionary identification of the true Israel and the fulfillment of Israel’s promises was just beginning in Luke’s account. There was much, much more to come. 

David Is Not Ascended, But…

David was the ultimate king of Israel. Under him, Israel reached the height of her glory, putting down her enemies, reveling in the presence of God, enjoying the blessings of the Covenant. It was because of David’s accomplishments, as a man after God’s own heart, that he became known as the type of the coming of Messiah. In fact, the promises of the kingdom, and the restoration of the kingdom, are so intimately tied to David that the kingdom promises are often referred to simply as the Davidic Kingdom promises.

Peter declared on Pentecost that God had sworn to raise up the seed of David to sit on his throne. That prophecy, said Peter, spoke of the resurrection of Jesus and had now been fulfilled. Astoundingly, he noted that it was not David who had ascended into the heavens to be enthroned, but Jesus, who had now been declared as “Lord and Christ” (v.36). This was a prima facie statement that the Davidic promise of the kingdom was being fulfilled!

“Sit At My Right Hand Until I Make Thine Enemies Thy Footstool…”

The preceding point is driven home when one sees the connection between Peter’s asservation that Jesus had been given the throne of David, and this conflates with His exaltation to the right hand of the majesty on high, in fulfillment of Psalm 110. In other words, the promise of the Davidic throne and kingdom are inextricably tied to Messiah sitting at the right hand. These are not disparate motifs or promises. And here is what is so astounding. Psalm 110 is cited and quoted more times in the NT than any other OT prophecy, and without disputation is affirmed as fulfilled in Christ who was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places (cf. Ephesians 1:19f). 

So, Christ’s ascension and enthronement at the right hand was the fulfillment (the initiation of fulfillment) of Psalm 110. But Psalm 110 was the promise of the exaltation of Messiah to the throne of David. Thus the exaltation of Christ to the right hand – affirmed by Peter on Pentecost – was an assertion that the Davidic kingdom was being established. But, of course, once again we see the radical and revolutionary nature of the fulfillment exposed. David’s throne was a literal, physical throne over a geo-political military kingdom, spatially confined to the land of Canaan. Messiah was to sit on the throne of David and rule over the kingdom. 

But Peter affirmed through the Spirit that Jesus was now Christ (the promised Messiah) sitting on the throne of David “in the heavens,” where Psalm 110 said Messiah would sit – in David’s kingdom. Peter’s declaration meant that the very nature of the kingdom was being – had been – fundamentally transformed into a spiritual kingdom. The Old Creation, that which was to be forgotten, was now radically transformed into the New Thing which Israel was to accept.

Acts 3– The Restoration of All Things

Shortly after the auspicious events of Pentecost, Peter and John went to the temple. As they entered, we find the famous account of the healing of the lame man, and the ensuing sermon by Peter. The apostle responded to the amazement of the audience by calling on them to repent in the name (i.e. in the authority, into the name and authority) of Jesus. He urged them to repent so that God would grant them “the times of refreshing” (which is a period of respite before judgment) before the sending of Jesus from heaven. That parousia would consummate “the restoration of all things.” Nothing would communicate to a Jewish audience more convincingly, more clearly, that her cherished restoration had begun than Peter’s reference to “the restoration of all things.” Peter was clear: the restoration he was talking about was the hope and promise of all of the OT prophets, “all who have ever spoken.” And, Peter is equally emphatic, “they spoke of these days.” Likewise, the nature of that restoration is delineated in the text: God sent Jesus to bless you by taking away your sin.

Acts 4

Sometimes it seems as if Acts 4 is almost forgotten in discussions of eschatology and even ecclesiology. This is lamentable, for this chapter loudly proclaims that Israel’s restoration, via the long anticipated Messianic Temple, had begun. 

Numerous OT prophecies spoke of the coming “Stone” which would be both the foundation of the Messianic Temple, as well as the instrument of judgment against both houses of Israel. (See my The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat book for a fuller discussion of this important motif, as it is developed by Jesus, Paul and Peter in the NT.) The stunning thing that Peter does is to take Psalm 118:22, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone,” and makes it extremely personal: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the chief cornerstone” (4:11 – ESV). It could not get much more personal than that! 

But, of course, what is so remarkable is that Peter takes Israel’s expectation of an end-times literal temple and says that the prophecies referred to a temple built on the person of Messiah, not literal stones. If the foundation of the anticipated Messianic Temple is the living Messiah, then surely the super structure cannot be physical stones, and this fundamentally redefines the nature of the restoration of Israel.

The Kings of the Earth Have Set Themselves… Against the Lord and Against His Anointed

Contra the modern dispensational doctrine that says the Jewish rejection of Jesus postponed the kingdom offer to Israel, the nascent church in Jerusalem led by the apostles had a totally different view of that rejection – it was foretold

When Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin, they went back to the congregation and reported all that had taken place. At the report, the congregation responded in unison, it seems, by singing Psalm 2:1. 

What is missed so often is that not only did the Psalmist predict the rejection of Messiah, he likewise clearly stated that the rejection would not in any way thwart God’s sovereign will: “The one who sits in the heavens laughs. He will hold them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His Wrath… Yet (meaning, in spite of the rejection of Messiah, DKP) have I set My King on My holy hill.” Notice that “Yet.” It forcefully declares that man’s best (worst) efforts to delay, to alter, to postpone, to nullify God’s plans would fail. In fact, the rejection was part of God’s plan!

Acts 4 thus serves as a very powerful testimony to the ongoing restoration of Israel. Her promised Messianic Temple now had the foundation in place, and those who had rejected that Stone would, therefore, lie under the impending judgment of that rejection. Furthermore, while that rejection was initially not understood by Jesus’ disciples (cf. Luke 24:21f), they now fully understood the necessary role of that suffering for Messiah to “enter into his glory.” (Remember the forty days of kingdom instruction by Jesus and the subsequent outpouring of the Spirit.)

“The Great City Babylon…Shall Not Be Found Anymore” (Revelation 18)

Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and is adapted from our study of Revelation 18:

Revelation 18 concerns the final and irreversible overthrow of Babylon. My two previous articles in this series reveal much about Babylon and her identity: [1] The Harlot of Revelation 17 and Its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel and [2] The Seven-Headed, Ten-Horned Beast of Revelation 17This article will build on those posts.

Verses 1-2: This chapter begins with a glorious angel announcing to John that Babylon is fallen, and that she is a “dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” Steve Gregg, in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” states (p. 424):

[This] is known to be true of Jerusalem, which became overrun by demons, as Christ predicted (Matt. 12:38-45), and which, being reduced to ground level, again as Christ predicted (Matt. 24:2), became the haunt of the desert creatures considered unclean in the Jews’ religion.

Verse 3:For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” Just as the 144,000 of Revelation 14 were called “virgins” because of their faithfulness, Babylon was found guilty of spiritual unfaithfulness. Steve Gregg notes how similar language was used of Jerusalem before falling to Babylon in 586 BC, and deduces what this means for first century Jerusalem as she takes on the name of her old conqueror (pp. 424, 426):

Jerusalem was charged with committing fornication with the kings of the earth (v. 3) in Old Testament times (Ezek. 16:14-15, 26, 28-30; 23:12-21). The prophet used this imagery to explain God’s reason for bringing judgment upon Jerusalem by the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It would seem appropriate that the New Testament apostle/prophet would employ the same language in describing a near-identical event, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

As I noted in my previous article, first century historians spoke of Jerusalem’s political greatness, magnificent structures, and wealth. Jerusalem made the merchants of Israel/Palestine wealthy (“ge” in Greek can be translated as “earth” or “land”).

Verse 4: And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’” It’s important to realize that Babylon was not just a city (Jerusalem). John wrote to seven churches in Asia Minor, to people who didn’t live in Jerusalem or even in Israel. So this was not a call to flee from a city, but to part ways with old covenant Judaism once and for all. Babylon represented the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus and was clinging to the old covenant. Both Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. The Lord’s admonition to “come out of her” is similar to Peter’s words in Acts 2:40: “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’” Steve Gregg (p. 428) remarks,

The call to Come out of her, my people (v. 4)…echoes similar exhortations concerning ancient Babylon (cf. Isa. 48:20; Jer. 50:8; 51:6)… The epistle to the Hebrews as a whole (and especially passages like Heb. 12:25-29; 13:13-14) constitutes just such a call as that found here.

Verses 5-6: In these verses Steve Gregg (p. 430) draws three more parallels to Old Covenant Jerusalem:

[1] The statement that her sins have reached to heaven (v. 5) is an apparent allusion to God’s assessment of Sodom in Genesis 18:21, and Sodom has already been used as a symbolic name for Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8).

[2] One of the provisions of the New Covenant was God’s promise that “I will remember no more” the sins and iniquities of His people (Jer. 31:34). This is one of the “better promises” (Heb. 8:6) by which the New Covenant outshines the first. Contrarily, it can be said of her who related to God on the basis of the Old Covenant, and violated it, that God has remembered her iniquities (v. 5). This was Jerusalem.

[3] That God has determined to repay her double (v. 6) for her sins is another link to Jerusalem and Judah, of whom the prophet said, “I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin” (Jer. 16:18) and, “Bring on them the day of doom, and destroy them with double destruction!” (Jer. 17:18).

Verse 7: Here we read of Babylon’s pride, as she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.” Compare this to what is written of Babylon in Isaiah’s day: “Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me, I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children’” (Isaiah 47:8). Interestingly, Lamentations 1:1 says this about Jerusalem shortly after she fell the first time in 586 BC: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.”

Verse 8: Just like Babylon in Isaiah’s day (Is. 47:9), “Babylon” in John’s day was to receive her plagues “in a single day”: death, mourning, famine, and burning with fire. It’s well documented that these very things took place in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, and I previously wrote in detail about these events herehere, and here.

Verses 9-10: “And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. Then they will stand afar off, in fear of her torment, and say, ‘Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.’” George Peter Holford, basing his 1805 account on the writings of Josephus, wrote the following about the burning of Jerusalem’s temple in 70 AD:

The Romans, exasperated to the highest pitch against the Jews, seized every person whom they could find, and, without the least regard to sex, age or quality, first plundered and then slew them. The old and the young, the common people and the priests, those who surrendered and those who resisted, were equally involved in this horrible and indiscriminate carnage. Meanwhile the Temple continued burning, until at length, vast as was its size, the flames completely enveloped the whole building; which, from the extent of the conflagration, impressed the distant spectator with an idea that the whole city was now on fire.

Verses 11-14: Verse 11 is the first of five verses which speak of the permanency of Babylon’s fall (cf. verses 14, 21, 22, and 23). Indeed, no one has been able to practice old covenant Judaism since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

These verses list 28 different types of cargo which would no longer be found in Babylon, including “human souls” (verse 13). Steve Gregg remarks about this list (p. 436): “The demands of the passage do not require that the city in question be the greatest commercial center in the world—only that it was a wealthy, cosmopolitan trading city, by whose business international merchants were made rich.” These things were certainly true of Jerusalem. In The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim writes:

“In these streets and lanes everything might be purchased: the production of Palestine, or imported from foreign lands—nay, the rarest articles from the remotest parts. Exquisitely shaped, curiously designed and jeweled cups, rings, and other workmanship of precious metals; glass, silks, fine linen, woolen stuffs, purple, and costly hangings; essences, ointments, and perfumes, as precious as gold; articles of food and drink from foreign lands—in short, what India, Persia, Arabia, Media, Egypt, Italy, Greece, and even the far-off lands of the Gentiles yielded, might be had in these bazaars. Ancient Jewish writings enable us to identify no fewer than 118 different articles of import from foreign lands, covering more than even modern luxury has devised.”

Duncan McKenzie has much to say about these verses in his 2006 article titled “The Merchandise of the Temple.” The following is an excerpt from that article:

Babylon was not a literal city (not Jerusalem and certainly not Rome). It was a symbol of a community of people, a symbol of God’s unfaithful old covenant community. This community is being represented by images associated with the Temple and the priesthood… Of the items which are listed in Rev 18, gold and silver, precious stones, fine linen, purple, silk (for vestments) scarlet, precious wood, bronze, iron (cf. Deut 8:9), marble cinnamon (as an ingredient of the sacred anointing oil), spices, incense, ointment, frankincense, wine, oil fine meal (Gr. Semidalis, used frequently in Leviticus for fine flour offering), corn, beasts, sheep are all found in use in the temple. Ivory and probably pearls were found in Herod’s temple…

The listing of merchandise in Revelation 18 is similar to the listing of the merchandise of Tyre in Ezekiel 27:12-24, as is the lamenting by those who got wealthy off the respective cities (Ezekiel 27:28-36). In Ezekiel 27 the city of Tyre is pictured as a ship (vv. 5-9) that sinks at sea (vv. 26, 32, 34). In Revelation 18 the Temple system of unfaithful Israel is pictured as a city that is overthrown… Only 15 of the 27 items in Revelation 18:12-13 are the same as the 38 items listed in Ezekiel 27:12-24… There is, however, a connection between the commerce of the Temple and that of Tyre. The currency of Tyre was the only currency allowed in the Temple. Thus Revelation 18’s allusion to the commerce of Tyre may contain an allusion to the commerce of the Temple.

McKenzie also points out that “Revelation 18:13 consists mostly of items that were used in the sacrifices and offerings of the Temple: cinnamon, incense, fragrant oil, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep.” He has some interesting thoughts on why “bodies and souls of men” are among the merchandise in verse 13:

The leaders of the Jewish temple system were enslaving men’s souls by turning them away from Jesus and attempting to keep them under the old covenant. The Temple hierarchy had been in bed with Rome (so much so that Rome even appointed the high priest)…

Jesus had accused the Jewish leadership of enslaving men’s souls by preventing them from entering the kingdom of God: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matt. 23:13, 15).

In Galatians 4:24-25 Paul tells how those under the old covenant were enslaved, as opposed to those under New Covenant who were free (Gal. 4:26-27). This gets back to the parallel between the two women/cities of Galatians 4:21-31 and the two women/cities of Revelation. Just as the “other woman” in Galatians had children who were enslaved (those staying under the old covenant, Gal. 4:24-25), so harlot Babylon had her slaves.

Verses 15-19: In verse 16 we see that the great city “was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls.” In our study of Rev. 17:4, we saw this same description given to the harlot, Babylon the great (17:1, 5). There we noted that the description of the harlot’s attire was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Exodus 28:5-21).

Babylon is referred to again as “the great city” (Rev. 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). This title was first given to Jerusalem in Rev. 11:8, where it’s said that two witnesses would “lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” In Rev. 18:17-19 we see the “merchants of wares” and the sea traders weeping and wailing as they watch Babylon burn.

Verse 20:Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” This same indictment was given in Rev. 16:4-6 and 17:6, and is repeated again in 18:24. This time “apostles” are included as well as prophets and saints. James, the brother of Jesus, was just one of the apostles martyred in the first century. In 62 AD he was thrown off the temple by the Pharisees and religious leaders, and was then stoned to death. Peter and Paul were martyred by Nero, at the instigation of the Jews.

Jesus clearly prophesied that the martyrdom of the saints and prophets would be held to the account of His first-century audience in Israel: “…that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation…” (Matt. 23:35-36; cf. Acts 7:52).

Verses 21-23: Once again it is said of Babylon that she “will be found no more.” Here this is demonstrated by a mighty angel throwing a great millstone into the sea. Duncan McKenzie comments, “Seeing the harlot as the old covenant temple system helps to explain Revelation 18:21… The city of Jerusalem has risen again; the old covenant temple system has not risen again (and won’t).”

Verse 24: “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” These words are so similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:35 that the connection should be unmistakable. Babylon was judged in 70 AD, just as Jesus said would happen. The one who said she was a queen and would never see sorrow was irreversibly put to death, but God’s dwelling place was found with His new covenant bride.