The Meaning of “No Jews or Gentiles in Christ Jesus”


“We still recognize the distinction between males and females. So there is also still a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Galatians 3:28 doesn’t mean what you think it means.” 

Have you ever heard these words, or something similar, from a Christian Zionist or a dispensationalist? I have. At the end of this post I will quote Galatians 3:28, offer my explanation of what Paul meant, and also ask for your thoughts.

Christian Zionism thrives on distinctions. When Paul says that the middle wall of division between Jews and Gentiles has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14), Christian Zionism tries to rebuild that wall – and make it higher than it ever was. When Paul says that Christ created one new man in Himself (Ephesians 2:14-16), Christian Zionism suggests that there are two peoples of God, one based on faith and the other (the important one) based on ethnicity. When the New Testament defines the Israel of God as only those who are in Christ (Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-8; Galatians 3:29, 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:6; etc.), Christian Zionism insists that only a national / ethnic group known as Israel inherits a large segment of God’s promises.

The Old Testament prophets looked forward to a day when the people of God would be made up of many nations and He would dwell in their midst. Zechariah had that vision (Zech. 2:10-12). Isaiah had that vision (Isaiah 11:10), and Paul taught that it had become a reality in his day (Romans 15:8-12). Amos had that vision (Amos 9:11-12), and James declared at the Jerusalem council that this had become a reality in his day (Acts 15:13-17). Despite these examples and more, Christian Zionism and dispensationalism insist that ethnic “Jews are God’s chosen people” and national Israel is God’s chosen nation (These four posts refute these ideas: #1, #2#3, and #4).

If we take away distinctions, favoritism, partiality, and superiority from the Christian Zionist movement, there wouldn’t be much left. That movement would fall apart without these elements – and that’s what I hope and pray will happen. Here are three instances where Paul taught that, in Christ, there is no difference or distinction between Jews and Gentiles:

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12).

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

“[You] have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all” (Colossians 3:10-11).

This is how I understand these passages, even Galatians 3:28 in particular: In Christ, there are no blessings available to Jews that are not equally available to non-Jews, or available to males that are not equally available to females, or available to free people that are not equally available to slaves. In Christ, all such distinctions disappear, and there is no favoritism or superiority along racial, gender, or status lines. The line is drawn between faith or no faith in Christ.

Do you agree? Do you understand Paul’s words differently? Feel free to share your thoughts.

 

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Both Jews and Non-Jews Belong Equally to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)


In Galatians 6:16, the apostle Paul concluded his letter to the Galatians with an expression that he never used anywhere else:

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

Who belongs to this group that Paul refers to as “the Israel of God”? Who is excluded?

Argument #1: Only Jewish Believers Are the Israel of God

Some insist that Paul could only have been speaking of Jews, believers in particular. The following quotes are representative of this view:

“The Israel of God refers to Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, to those who are spiritual as well as physical descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:7) and are heirs of promise rather than of law (Ga 3:18). They are the real Jews, the true Israel of faith, like those referred to in Romans 2:28, Ro 2:29 and Ro 9:6,7″ (John MacArthur, Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press, p. 210).

“This controversial verse, with its expression, unique in the New Testament, ‘the Israel of God,’ has been misinterpreted as teaching what Replacement theology wrongly claims, namely, that the Church is the New Israel which has replaced the Jews, the so-called ‘Old Israel,’ who are therefore now no longer God’s people. But neither this verse nor any other part of the New Testament teaches this false and anti-Semitic doctrine” (D. H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary: Clarksville, Md.: Jewish New Testament Publications).

H/T: Steve Thomas, “Christian Zionism – Deconstructing the Myths – Biblically – One at a Time” (Facebook)

In one article, Arnold Fruchtenbaum claims that “the Jewish believer” differs from “the Gentile believer,” and that “four lines of biblical truth” form the basis of what he calls “the Messianic Jewish distinctive.” One of these lines is “the Doctrine of the Israel of God,” in which he says the term “Israel” is used narrowly: “It should be pointed out that the term Israel is never used of Gentiles, whether they are believers or not, nor is it used of the Church; it is used only of Jews.” According to Fruchtenbaum, Paul makes a distinction in both Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16 between “Israel the whole composed of all Jews; and Israel the elect, composed of all believing Jews.” In Galatians 6:16, he claims, believing Gentiles are “the them” and believing Jews are “the Israel of God” (Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “Jews, Gentiles, Christians,” Ariel Ministries).**

Thomas Ice agrees with Fruchtenbaum that “the New Testament consistently differentiates between Israel and the church,” adding that these are “two peoples” of God. When it comes to the term “Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16, they insist that Paul is speaking of “believing Jews in contrast to unbelieving Jews called ‘Israel after the flesh’ (1 Cor. 10:18)” (Thomas Ice, “Israel / Church Distinction: The Fourth Foundation,” Rapture Ready).

Argument #2: All Followers of Jesus Are the Israel of God

Then there are those who, like myself, believe that “the Israel of God” must include all who belong to Christ, Jews and non-Jews alike. In Paul’s day, both Jewish and non-Jewish believers were walking according to the rule named in the previous verse: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). If Paul used the expression, “the Israel of God,” to only mean Jewish believers, then the following passages would be untrue:

[1] “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12).

[2] “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

[3] “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11).

If only Jewish believers were “the Israel of God,” but non-Jewish (i.e. Gentile) believers were locked out of this privilege, then there really would be a distinction between Jews and Greeks in Christ. There really would be favoritism and partiality, based on race or ethnicity.

A similar problem exists when the claim is made that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people. There’s no doubt that those who belong to Christ are God’s chosen people, as these passages reveal:

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being chosen according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (I Peter 2:9-10).

Those who teach that all Jews are God’s chosen people sometimes fall back on the idea that God has two chosen peoples (one based on race, and one based on faith). This, however, also makes nonsense of Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28, and Colossians 3:10-11 (quoted above), for it places Jewish Christians (aka Messianic Jews) into two chosen groups. It says that they are [1] chosen because of faith, and [2] doubly chosen because of race. Meanwhile, according to this view, non-Jewish Christians (aka “Gentile Christians”) are only part of one chosen group. Unlike Jewish Christians, they are only chosen because of faith. They allegedly don’t have the same overlap of blessings that Jewish believers do, because they are not of the Jewish race. This also creates favoritism, partiality, and distinction, contradicting the teachings of Paul.

Being a part of the Israel of God is the privilege of all who abide in Christ, because Jesus is true Israel, God’s chosen One. This is developed further in two earlier posts at this site:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel,” outlines how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John demonstrated that what was once said of national Israel is now said of Jesus.

[2] God also promised that He would one day make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). One way that we see this fulfilled is when Paul, in Ephesians 2, declared that the household of God, His holy temple, the one new man of Jews and Gentiles together, was being built on the foundation of the apostles, who were also known as “ministers of the new covenant” (II Corinthians 3:6). See “God’s Promise of a New Covenant to the House of Israel.”

The Myth of An All Jewish Israel

There’s an idea prevailing in the Christian Zionist movement today that Israel was, and was always meant to be, exclusively Jewish. This idea is applied to ancient Israel, as if God’s promises made to ancient Israel were for Jews only, then and forever. This idea is also applied to modern Israel, saying that the land belongs only to Jews, etc. However, even in ancient Israel, many non-Jews were joined to Israel. Besides the non-Jews who were among Jesus’ ancestors (Matthew 1:1-17), there are numerous other examples. Here are just two:

And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send [the children of Israel] out of the land in haste… Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed multitude went up with them also…” (Exodus 12:33-38).

And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them” (Esther 8:17).

Ever since Jesus was obedient to the point of completing His work on the cross, the Israel of God has everything to do with Him and nothing to do with being outside of Him. People of all nations are included. As Paul taught, no one who is in Christ is any longer “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.”

Thomas Schreiner’s Excellent Summary of Galatians 6:16

Thomas Schreiner offers some excellent thoughts on why Paul’s epistle to the Galatians as a whole mandates that there is no separation between Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile) believers when Paul speaks of “the Israel of God” (Schreiner is an author and professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary):

The key question in Galatians is whether one must become a Jew and be circumcised to belong to the people of God. Must one receive circumcision to belong to the family of Abraham? The false teachers argued that circumcision and observance of the law were required to be part of Abraham’s family. But Paul has argued throughout the letter that circumcision is unnecessary and that those who put their faith in Christ belong to the family of Abraham. When he speaks of “the Israel of God” at the conclusion of the letter, where he rehearses the major themes of the letter, he is driving home the point that believers in Christ, members of the new creation, are the true Israel.

Such an interpretation fits with the whole of the letter, for believers in Christ are the true sons of Abraham [Gal. 3:29]. But if they are Abraham’s children and belong to his family, then they belong to the Israel of God. It would be highly confusing to the Galatians, after arguing for the equality of Jew and Gentile in Christ (3:28) and after emphasizing that believers are Abraham’s children, for Paul to argue in the conclusion that only Jews who believe in Jesus belong to the Israel of God. By doing so a wedge would be introduced between Jews and Gentiles at the end of the letter, suggesting that the latter were not part of the true Israel. Such a wedge would play into the hands of his opponents, who would argue that to be part of the true Israel one must be circumcised.

Instead, Paul confirms one of the major themes of the letter. All believers in Christ are part of the true Israel, part of God’s Israel. This fits with what Paul says elsewhere when he says believers are the true circumcision (Phil 3:3). Since believers in Christ are the true family of Abraham and the true circumcision, they are also part of the true Israel.

–Thomas Schreiner, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 382 – 383

Amen. Let’s also not forget that Galatians is where Paul contrasts earthly Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above, saying that one was in bondage and about to be cast out, but the other (“the Jerusalem above”) is free and is the mother of God’s people (Galatians 4:21-31).

Christopher Gowan (Associate Editor of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) interacts with Schreiner’s conclusion, agreeing with it and expanding upon it in an article titled “Context Is Everything: ‘The Israel of God’ in Galatians 6:16” (4-page + PDF). It’s worth reading as well.

A Question

Finally, I have a question for those who would insist that Paul was speaking only of Jewish believers when he referred to “the Israel of God.” Paul’s use of this expression implies that there was an Israel during his time that was not of God, which would have been national Israel (as a whole, minus the remnant of believers). It’s often insisted today that modern Israel is a continuation, or a restoration, of national Israel, which was wiped out by the Roman armies in 70 AD. If that (pre-70 AD) Israel was not of God, then why is national Israel today allegedly “God’s chosen people”, “the apple of God’s eye,” a nation that we must bless and support unconditionally, etc.?

Paul did make a distinction in Galatians 6:16, but it wasn’t between Jewish believers and non-Jewish believers. It was between “the Israel of God,” those who belong to Christ, and the Israel that was not of God, those outside of Christ. The Israel of God today still has everything to do with God’s chosen One, Jesus Christ.

—————————————————————————

**When Fruchtenbaum claims that only Gentile believers made up the “them” of Galatians 6:16, he is basically saying that Jewish believers were not walking according to the rule that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (verse 15). Supposedly, only Gentile believers were walking according to this rule. In effect, Fruchtenbaum puts all the Jewish believers in Paul’s day into the camp of the Judaizers, who Paul said were in danger of falling from grace (Galatians 5:4).

Allyn Morton: How Radical is Dispensationalism (A Tongue in Cheek View)


The following article appeared in The Fulfilled Connection Magazine, a new writing collaborative started and managed by Allyn Morton (see Allyn’s bio at the end of this post), featuring content from a fulfilled eschatology viewpoint. There are currently 35 columnists, and I’m privileged to be one of them as well. This is one of Allyn’s first entries, published on June 20th. It’s satire, meant to demonstrate a point – the radical nature of dispensationalism:

They say, “When the full number of Gentiles have come in (along with the full number of believing Jews, who are coming in at the same time), the mystery of God shall be complete and Jesus will return.”

Let me explain. See, there’s a Gentile alive now who will receive Christ [he will be the last one], and then the church made up of Jews and Gentiles (not to be confused with Israel) will be raptured. This is the fullness of the Gentiles coming in. At this point, God’s prophetic timeclock will start ticking again, and He will begin working with the Jews, who are different from the Jews He worked with when He was saving them during the church age.

Now, since all the Church, made up of both Jew and Gentile Christians (and not to be confused with Israel), will be gone from the planet, we don’t know who will be witnessing to the Jews, much less the Gentiles (who God won’t be working with) during the Tribulation. Somehow, they will get saved, because God will unharden their hearts after ensconsing most of them in Hell for the last 2,000 years.

Never confuse God’s wonderful plan for Israel (not to be confused with His plan for Jews who receive Christ, during the church age).

These Jews who get saved during the Tribulation (Israel, not to be confused with the church) are not in the church, because the church made up of Jews (not to be confused with Israel) and Gentiles who make up the church have already been raptured, so God could start working with the Jews (not the ones who were raptured, and thus not a part of Israel) again.

The Jews (not to be confused with raptured Jews) who get saved during the Tribulation witness to the Gentiles of the world. Lots get saved. They are not a part of the church (not to be confused with Israel) either. These are called Tribulation saints (not to be confused with the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles who got raptured, not to be confused with Israel).

So, in heaven, there will be the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, not to be confused with Israel, and Israel, made up of Jews, who are not the Jews who got saved prior to the rapture and thus make up part of the church, which is not to be confused with Israel, and Tribulation saints, who are Gentiles who get saved when God’s prophetic time clock awakens Him to save the Jews, who are not part of the church, which is not to be confused with Israel, because Israel is made up of Jews only, not Gentiles, who could be a part of the church, or the Tribulation saints, depending on where God’s prophetic time clock is.

So, there’s the church made up of Jews and Gentiles, then Israel made up of Jews only, then Tribulation saints, made up of Gentiles.

See how simple eschatology is when you don’t confuse the church with Israel?

© Allyn Morton

Allyn is the owner and administrator of several websites including TFC Magazine. He began his pursuit of understanding in html programming at the early stages of the internet. His interests are wide but mostly deal in websites, writing, and the joys of the outdoors. He is also a contributor to the Fulfilled Covenant Bible. Allyn is the father of three children and the husband of a loving wife.

Revelation Chapter 10


REVELATION 10

Mike: October 1, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 10

[Notes from Adam are in blue font.] Chapter 10 appears to be an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, much like the interlude in chapter 7 between the sixth and seventh seals.

A. The Mighty Angel with the Little Book (10:1-7)

Verse 1: A mighty angel comes down from heaven. Who is this mighty angel? Is it the same mighty angel referred to in Rev. 5:2? Do you think this could be Jesus? Why or why not? Some seem to think this angel is Michael because of the description of him in Daniel 12:1 and also 12:6-7.

What do we know about this mighty angel? He was wrapped in a cloud. In the OT clouds are often the vehicle or means by which God appears. He had a rainbow over his head. God is described in similar terms in Ezekiel 1:26-28. His face was like the sun. There is a similar description of Jesus in Rev. 1:16. His legs were like pillars of fire (see Rev. 1:15). He had the voice of a Lion when it roars.

Verse 2: He had in his hand a scroll that was open. Does this suggest that it’s Jesus, because only Jesus can open the scroll? Is the little scroll the same as the 7-sealed scroll referred to in chapter 5? Evidently the little scroll symbolizes God’s revelation that John was about to set forth. It is the revelation that the remainder of the Book of Revelation, or at least part of it, contains. Eating is a universal idiom for receiving knowledge (cf. Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 3:1-3). According to Dr. Thomas Constable, a Dispensationalist,

The little scroll in his hand may be different from the scroll Jesus Christ unrolled (5:1; 6:1). John used a different and rare Greek word to describe it (biblaridion, not biblion). The tense of the Greek verb translated “was open” (perfect passive) indicates that someone had opened it and it was then open in his hand. It probably represents a new revelation from God (cf. Ezek. 2:9—3:3; Jer. 15:15-17) [Dr. Thomas Constable, Notes on Revelation: 2008 Edition, p. 96].

Adam’s notes on verse 2:

In this verse we see the angel standing with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. As we have seen in our previous studies**, the phrase “on the land” (also translated at times “on the earth”) is a common reference in Revelation to the land of Israel, and the phrase “on the sea” is a common reference to Gentile nations (See, for example, the post on Revelation 1, where we examined the phrase “tribes of the earth” in verse 7, which is often thought to be worldwide in scope. When this prophecy is compared, though, to its counterpart in Zechariah 12:10-14, it’s clear that every one of those tribes belonged to the land of Israel). One truth indicated by this picture is likely that God is sovereign over the affairs of both Israel and the nations of the world. An even greater significance will be seen when we come to the subject of the mystery of God in verse 7. On the significance of this picture, Steve Gregg quotes from David Chilton in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” on page 202. Chilton had the same understanding:

…in the Bible, and especially in the Book of Revelation, “Sea and Land” seem to represent the Gentile nations contrasted with the Land of Israel (2 Sam. 22:4-5; Ps. 65:7-8; Isa. 5:30; 17:12-13; 57:20; Jer. 6:23; Luke 21:25; Rev. 13:1, 11).

Regarding the “little scroll” that the angel held in his hand, there are a couple of different opinions among Preterists (p. 204). David S. Clark believes it is what is left of the same book that we saw in the fifth chapter (it now appears as opened because the seven seals have been opened). At this point, notes Clark, we are also in the events of the sixth trumpet, so “little remains of the contents of that book.” David Chilton more or less agrees, saying that “the book is thus, essentially, the Book of Revelation itself.” Jay Adams, however, sees it as a separate prophecy, “contained in chapters 13-19,” concerning the future fall of Rome (future to John, but not to us in the 21st century).

**In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.

Verse 3: David Chilton sees the seven thunders uttering their voices as being parallel to “the Voice” in Psalm 29, “where some of its phenomenal effects are noted” (Steve Gregg, p. 204).

Verse 4: John heard the seven thunders sound, but then was forbidden to record in writing what he had heard them say. Sam Storms, a Historicist, speculates,

Perhaps the thunders are withheld because it has already been demonstrated that such plagues and judgments do not bring people to repentance. Therefore, final judgment will now come. There will be no further “delay” (10:6). One need not wait for the thunders to witness the end of history. John is not allowed to write down the seven peals of thunder because they will never occur (Sam Storms, A Strong Angel and the Seven Thunders: A Study in Revelation 10, November 7, 2006).

David S. Clark speculates that the details of what they said were too terrible to put into writing, that John’s readers were spared “the description of the carnage and massacre and madness…”, and that another reason was because their utterances “soon became a matter of history, and John did not need to write them in detail” (Steve Gregg, p. 206). David Chilton makes another possible application as a general principle: “God wanted the church to know that there are some things (many things, actually) that God has no intention of telling us beforehand.”

Verses 5-6: The fact that the angel took an oath and swore by God seems to confirm that he is not God (Constable, p. 97).

Adam’s notes on verses 6-7:

The oath taken by the angel was that there was to be “no more delay.” This calls to mind the instructions given to the martyrs in Rev. 6:9-11, whose souls were under the altar. They were crying out for the Lord to avenge their blood, and asking how long it would be until this took place. They were told to “rest a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” Now all delay was to end, and just as importantly at the trumpet call of the seventh angel “the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as He announced to His servants the prophets.” The reference to “His servants the prophets” is commonly used in the Old Testament to refer to the prophets God sent to the nation of Israel (e.g. II Kings 9:7, Jeremiah 7:25, Zechariah 1:6, and especially Daniel 9:6).

The phrase “the mystery of God” should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the epistles written by Paul. He speaks of this mystery in Romans 16:25-26 (cf. Rom. 11:25), but he covers this topic most thoroughly in his epistles to the Ephesians (1:7-10, 2:11-3:11, 5:31-32, 6:18-20) and to the Colossians (1:24-27, 2:1-4, 4:3-4 [cf. 3:11]).

In his book to the Ephesians, Paul reminds the Gentile believers that they were formerly called “the uncircumcision” (2:11), they were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12), and “far off” (2:13). Now they “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13) and “made one new man” with Jewish believers (2:15). They are “no longer strangers and aliens,” but are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19), being “joined together…into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:21).

Paul told the Ephesians that by reading his description of the mystery made known to him by revelation (3:1-4), they could perceive his insight into “the mystery of Christ” which was not made known to previous generations as it had been revealed to the apostles and prophets in his day (3:4-5). Paul is then most explicit regarding what this mystery is in Ephesians 3:6, and this is most crucial to our understanding of Revelation 10:7:

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Therefore, David Chilton and Jay Adams are correct as they are quoted for the Preterist commentary on Revelation 10:7 in Steve Gregg’s book:

This ‘Mystery’ is a major aspect of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians: the union of believing Jews and Gentiles in one church, without distinction (Chilton, as quoted in Steve Gregg, Revelation, p. 208).

The completion of the mystery of God (v. 7) refers to the fact that the “predominantly Jewish nature of the church was to be ended by the destruction of the temple, the distinctive feature in which it centered” (Adams). The mystery itself, of course, is that of which Paul frequently speaks, namely, as Adams writes, “that the Gentiles should come into the church on an equal footing with the Jews, not first having to become Jews themselves…” (Steve Gregg, ibid).

Sadly, I believe that each of the authors quoted for the Futurist commentary in Gregg’s book completely miss the meaning of Revelation 10:7. William Kelly, for example (p. 209), identifies the mystery of God in this way:

…the secret of His allowing Satan to have his own way, and man too (that is to say, the wonder of evil prospering and of good being trodden underfoot).

Arno C. Gaebelin, another Futurist, expresses it this way:

How great has been that mystery! Evil had apparently triumphed; the heavens for so long have been silent. Satan had been permitted to be the god of this age deceiving the nations… And now the time has come when the mystery of God will be completed.

John Walvoord takes the mystery of God to mean “truth concerning God Himself which has not been fully revealed” (i.e. as of 1966, when Walvoord wrote this). In other words, the truth concerning God as revealed by the Bible would prove to be insufficient, and a future generation living some 200o years or more after Christ would uncover the missing pieces of truth. What a dangerous notion, leaving much room for some group or movement to come along and claim that they have discovered this mystery. It’s a perfect recipe for cults. H.A. Ironside, writing in 1920, also saw the revealing of this mystery as yet future:

Everything will then be made plain. The mystery of retribution—the mystery of predestination—the mystery of the great struggle between light and darkness and good and evil—all will be explained then.

Paul, however, already explained this mystery in the first century AD, as the truth that Gentiles and Jews are fellow and equal partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel. We might do well to remember that several years after Jesus had ascended the Jewish believers were astounded when salvation began to come to the Gentiles (Acts 10:45, 11:18, 13:46, 14:27, 15:9-10). In 70 AD the centerpieces of Old Covenant Judaism, the temple and the once holy city of Jerusalem, were taken out of the way. The kingdom was taken from national Israel and given to the Church, the people whom Jesus said would produce its fruits (See the ‘Parable of the Tenants’ in Matthew 21:33-45; cf. Hebrews 8:13).

Thus we can see the significance in verse 2 of the angel standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land. If the sea is interpreted as a reference to the Gentiles, and the land as a reference to Israel (the Jews), then the picture we have is of a bridging of the gap between the two. This is precisely what we see in Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2:11-22 that, in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are one. This teaching leads up to Paul’s statement in Eph. 3:6 explicitly identifying what the mystery of God is:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh…were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… (Eph. 2:11-11; cf. Acts 2:39, I Peter 2:9-10).

The picture of the angel bridging the gap between land and sea is a beautiful symbol of God’s bringing Jews and Gentiles together in Himself on an equal basis, having torn down the dividing wall by His work on the cross. The placing of this picture in the context of events taking place in 70 AD is not to say that this reality was only made true at that time. Rather this reality was made all the more apparent and universal when the physical temple, the central symbol of Old Covenant Judaism and Israel’s national pride, was visibly brought down forever in 70 AD in favor of “a holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22).

Not only does Revelation 10 bear similarities to Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, but it also has striking similarities to Daniel 12. In Daniel’s day we are told of Michael, “the great prince who has charge of” Daniel’s people, Israel (verse 1).  In Daniel 12:7, as in Rev. 10:5-6 we see an angel who “raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever.”

Having looked closely at Daniel 12:1 and 12;6-7, I lean toward this angel here in Revelation 10 being Michael, and not Jesus. The actions of the angel in Daniel 12 and the angel in Revelation 10 are very similar. Michael was assigned as the great prince in charge of Daniel’s people, Israel (Dan. 12:1). Daniel was told that when he would arise there would be a “time of trouble” for his people like never before (cf. Matt. 24:21, Jer. 30:7), but that everyone whose names were “written in the book” (believers in Christ; cf. Rev. 3:5, 20:12) would be delivered. This is precisely what happened during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-70 AD. As we wrote in our study of Rev. 7,

Just prior to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Christians in that city were warned by a prophetic oracle to flee from the city (echoing Jesus’ own warning in Luke 21:20ff). Historian Eusebius (c. 325) wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”

In Daniel 12:7, as in Rev. 10:5-6 we see an angel who “raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever.” The exact same language is used in both passages. When the angel raised his hand to swear by God the first time, he swore that the things being told to Daniel would take place over a 3.5 year time period (“a time, times, and half a time”; verse 7). It would result in the “shattering of the power of the holy people.” Again, this is precisely what happened in 66-70 AD. From the time that Nero declared war on the land of Israel in late winter 67 AD until the temple was destroyed in August 70 AD, exactly 3.5 years transpired. No event in Israel’s history epitomizes the shattering of their power like what occurred in 70 AD. These parallel images in Revelation 10 and Daniel 12 are given in order to indicate that the same events are being spoken of. In Daniel’s case, he was told to “seal the book, until the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4, 9), for his vision referred “to many days from now” (8:26). In John’s day, however, he was told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). These things did occur shortly after John committed them to writing, resulting in the full, universal, and manifest establishment of the New Covenant temple of God apart from Old Covenant temple-based Judaism.

B. John Eats the Little Book (10:8-11)

Verse 9: John was told to eat the scroll, and it would be sweet like honey in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. On this, Sam Storms remarks,

The instructions given to John by the angel are patterned after Ezekiel’s experience where he, too, is commanded to eat the scroll (Ezek. 2-3; see also the experience of Jeremiah in 15:16 of his prophecy). The eating of the scroll symbolizes the spiritual “assimilation” of the message it contains and the prophet’s personal identification with and submission to its truth (“Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I shall speak to you and listen closely,” Ezek. 3:10).

Adam’s notes on verses 9-10:

Sam Storms is correct that John’s experience when eating the scroll parallels Ezekiel’s experience. Steve Gregg (p. 210) notes that Ezekiel’s nearly identical experience took place just before Jerusalem was destroyed during his day, and it is fitting that John experienced the same before Jerusalem’s second destruction in 70 AD:

The action of eating the little book (v. 10), and reference to how it affected the mouth and stomach, is an imitation of the identical actions of Ezekiel the prophet (see Ezek. 3:1-3, 14). Ezekiel’s prophecy was about the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. John’s similar action also is connected with his prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, this time by the Romans in A.D. 70.

David S. Clark wrote that the scroll’s sweetness and bitterness reflected the fact that some of the things being revealed to the first-century Church through John would make God’s people glad, but others would sadden them:

It was a matter of gladness that God heard their prayers and answered their cries, vindicated their cause, and destroyed the persecutors. But it was sad that men did not turn from their sins, sad that such judgments must fall.

Verse 11: John is told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” This same type of list has already been seen in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9, and will also be seen in Rev. 11:9, 13:7, 14:6, and 17:15; a total of seven times in Revelation.

Steve Gregg notes that some Preterists (e.g. Moses Stuart, David S. Clark, and Jay Adams) view the second half of the book of Revelation to be a prophecy of Rome’s downfall in 476 AD, and so they take this verse to be an indication that the next half of Revelation does not concern Israel. Other Preterists (e.g. J. Stewart Russell, David Chilton, Milton S. Terry, and Philip Carrington) “consider the whole of Revelation to be concerned with the downfall of the Jewish state” and thus “believe that the book simply adds [here] an international dimension to the continuing predictions of God’s dealings with Israel, particularly stressing the impact of the fall of Jerusalem upon the global gospel mission.” Steve Gregg then quotes David Chilton, who says (pp. 212, 214),

the Angel-Prophet, who proclaims His message while straddling the inhabited earth, commissions St. John to prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. St. John’s prophecy regarding the destruction of Israel and the establishing of the New Covenant will encompass the nations of the world.

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Our study of Revelation 11 (Part 1) can be found here. All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.