If you’ve studied first century history, you’re probably familiar with the story about the followers of Christ who fled from Judea to Pella just before the Jewish-Roman War began in AD 66. The story of their flight was told by early church leaders including Eusebius (AD 263-339), Epiphanius (AD 315-403), and Remigius (AD 437-533) – and perhaps also by Josephus (Wars 2.14.2, 2.20.1). They obeyed the words of Jesus (Matthew 24:15-21, Mark 13:14-19, Luke 21:20-23) and were protected in the wilderness for 3.5 years (Revelation 12:14). See this post for more details on that story.
I think the story of what happened to those believers after the war is even better. Jeffrey Butz, professor of World Religions at Penn State University, documents in his book, “The Secret Legacy of Jesus” (2009), that many of them returned to Jerusalem and built a Christian meeting place where the Upper Room (Acts 1:12-14) had been (p. 146). According to Eusebius and Hegesippus (AD 110-180), the person who led them to Pella and then back to Jerusalem was Symeon the son of Clopas.
Who was Symeon? He was the first cousin of Jesus (John 19:25). He was also the second bishop of Jerusalem, who was appointed to that position when the first bishop, James (Acts 15:13), was martyred in AD 62 (Antiquities 20:9.1). Eusebius wrote the following about Symeon’s appointment:
“After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph” (Church History, Book III, Chapter 11).
Symeon is mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 as one of Christ’s brothers (and also referred to in I Corinthians 9:5). However, The Pulpit Commentary explains why he was believed to be Jesus’ cousin rather than His brother:
“Some have thought that these were literally brethren of our Lord, sons of Joseph and Mary… But, on the whole, the most probable opinion is that they were cousins of our Lord… There is evidence that there were four sons of Clopas and Mary, whose names were James, and Joses, and Simon (or Symeon), and Judas. Mary the wife of Clopas is mentioned by St. Matthew (Matthew 27:56) as the mother of James the less and of Joses. Jude describes himself (Jude 1:5) as the brother of James; and Simon, or Symeon, is mentioned in Eusebius as the son of Clopas. It must be remembered also that the word ἀδελφός, like the Hebrew word which it expresses, means not only ‘a brother,’ but generally ‘a near kinsman.’”
Symeon was the Bishop of Jerusalem until he was crucified in AD 107. He lived a long life, having been born about a decade before Christ. Hegesippus wrote this about Symeon’s death:
“Certain of these heretics brought accusation against Symeon, the son of Clopas, on the ground that he was a descendant of David and a Christian; and thus he suffered martyrdom, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, while Trajan was emperor and Atticus governor” (Eusebius, Church History, Book III, Chapter 32).
Including Symeon, there were 14 bishops of the church in Jerusalem between the First Great Revolt (AD 66-73) and the Second Great Revolt (AD 132-135). That final revolt resulted in the leveling of Jerusalem, a new Roman city, the renaming of Judea, and all Jews being banished from the area. Those 14 Jewish bishops, along with their non-Jewish successors after AD 135, are listed here and also here.
THE FIRST CHRISTIAN BISHOPS OF JERUSALEM
1. James, kinsman of Jesus Christ +
11. Justus +
21. Gaius I
2. Symeon, kinsman of Jesus Christ +
12. Levi +
3. Justus +
13. Ephres +
23. Gaius II
4. Zacchaeus +
14. Joseph +
24. Julian II
34. Narcissus (repeated)
5. Tobias +
15. Judas +
6. Benjamin +
26. Maximus II *
7. John +
27. Antonius *
8. Matthias +
9. Phillip +
19. Maximus I
10. Seneca +
20. Julian I
+ Jewish descent
In AD 130, the Roman emperor, Hadrian, took notice of the church in Jerusalem when he visited the city. The Jewish historian, Gedaliah Alon, wrote the following about Hadrian’s visit:
“Another early Christian chronicler, Alexander the Monk, writing probably around the middle of the ninth century, says: ‘When (Hadrian) went to the Holy City and saw it in ruins, except for one small Christian church, he gave orders that the whole city be rebuilt, save for the temple. When the Jews heard of this they streamed thither from every direction, and before long the whole city was rebuilt’” (“The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age [AD 70-640], 1980, p. 446; quoting from Alexander Monachus, De Inventione Sanctae Crucis, p. 87, III, 4044-4045, published in 1620).
Soon after his own visit to Jerusalem, Hadrian sent a representative to oversee “the work of building the city,” and this is what he witnessed:
“So Aquila [an envoy of Hadrian], while he was in Jerusalem, also saw the disciples of the disciples of the apostles flourishing in the faith and working great signs, healings, and other miracles. For they were such as had come back from the city of Pella to Jerusalem and were living there and teaching” (Epiphanius, 310-403 AD).
It’s encouraging to read that the top officials of Rome witnessed those early believers “flourishing in the faith.” Despite the upheaval of the Jewish-Roman War, life in Christ continued without interruption after Jerusalem fell in AD 70, even in the region where that tragic war took place. The body of believers in Pella, and later among the ruins of Jerusalem, is just one example of the growth of God’s kingdom beyond the record that we have in the New Testament. The following testimony was given by Eusebius concerning the legacy of those who immediately succeeded the apostles, and it’s a beautiful legacy:
“Among those that were celebrated at that time was Quadratus, who, report says, was renowned along with the daughters of Philip for his prophetical gifts. And there were many others besides these who were known in those days, and who occupied the first place among the successors of the apostles. And they also, being illustrious disciples of such great men, built up the foundations of the churches which had been laid by the apostles in every place, and preached the Gospel more and more widely and scattered the saving seeds of the kingdom of heaven far and near throughout the whole world” (Eusebius, Church History, Book III, Chapter 37).
The kingdom which could be shaken was shaken and removed, but the kingdom “which cannot be shaken” remained (Hebrews 12:25-28). The Jerusalem below was cast out, but “the Jerusalem above” is the mother of us all (Galatians 4:21-31). God’s vineyard was indeed leased to “other vinedressers who will render to Him the fruits in their seasons” (Matthew 21:41). May we also be faithful in bearing spiritual fruit to the glory of God.
I recently came across an article on Jesus’ words about casting a mountain into the sea (Matthew 21:20-22, Mark 11:21-24), and I found it to be very good overall. The author, Don Walker, discusses how His followers in the first century AD did exactly that with the specific mountain that Jesus was talking about – Jerusalem / Israel / the old covenant system. This is confirmed in Revelation 8:3-4, 8-9.
It’s a brief article and I will include it in this post. In the second paragraph, Don discounts other applications of this passage, and I understand his point about the failure to first consider how Jesus’ listeners would have understood His words (audience relevance). However, Jesus Himself makes a secondary, greater application to what He said about casting the mountain into the sea, and I want to focus on that application in the final section of this post. A mountain was cast into the sea in the generation of Jesus and His disciples, and great victories can also take place in our generation. Here’s a simple outline for this post:
1. Don Walker’s Article 2. A Further Explanation of That Mountain Being Cast Into the Sea 3. A Prototype for More Victories
The failure of many scholars and Bible commentators to recognize the significance of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is evidenced through much of their interpretation of the New Testament. One clear case of this is found in Matthew 21:21-22 where Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”
This passage has been “fodder” for many sermons on “Mountain-Moving Faith.” I have heard sermons on “a mountain of debt,” “a mountain of worry,” “a mountain of problems,” “ a mountain of sickness,” on and on ad nauseam. Time and again this passage, along with Mark 11:23-24, becomes the “launching pad” for a “faith rocket” aimed in any direction we want it to go. This is a clear example of “a text taken out of context becoming a pretext for just about anything.” As an aside, having heard many of the so-called “faith preachers” expound on these verses about how they are to be taken “literally,” I have not, as of yet, heard of any one of them casting a “literal” mountain into the sea.
In order to properly interpret this passage we must note that Jesus did not say, “a mountain.” Jesus said, “this mountain,” which holds great hermeneutical importance. He is not speaking about “any mountain.” He is speaking about a specific one. The Greek language is quite clear on this point. There is a definite article following the word “oros” (meaning mountain). Without the definite article it would mean that this would be translated as “a mountain.” Obviously, “a mountain,” and “this mountain” makes a difference in how one interprets what Jesus was referring to.
What mountain was Jesus specifically speaking about? I believe Jesus’ Jewish disciples, steeped in the language of the Old Testament, knew exactly what Jesus was referring to in this instance, and which mountain was to ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea.’
Mountains in the Scriptures symbolize nations and people (Isa.41:14-16, Zech. 4:7). Exodus 15:17 tells us that God that would “plant” Israel “in the mountain of Thine inheritance.” Throughout the Old Testament the nation was spoken of as “Mount Zion” (example: Ps. 48:11, 74:2, 125:1; Isa. 8:18, 10:12, 24:23, 29:8; Joel 2:32). The disciples were well aware of this and understood the implication of Jesus’ words. In addition, William Telford in his book, The Barren Temple and the Withered Tree, states that the phrase “this mountain” was a standard expression among the Jewish people for the Temple Mount.
“This mountain” was understood, by the disciples, to be in reference to the nation of Israel which was directly related to the Temple. Coupled with this statement from Jesus, in the midst of His warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 20-25), is His cursing of an unfruitful fig tree, as a symbol of judgment upon Israel.
Jesus was not suddenly changing the topic away from the destruction of Jerusalem, but focusing in on the role of His followers to pray, in faith, for its destruction. Commenting on this passage in his book, Days of Vengeance, David Chilton writes:
“Jesus was instructing His disciples to pray imprecatory prayers, beseeching God to destroy Israel, to wither the fig tree, to cast the apostate mountain into the sea.”
In Revelation 8:8 we see the fulfillment of the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:3-4), when we are told, “something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea.” This is also the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the judgment of Babylon, which Jerusalem had become, “a destroying mountain” on which God unleashed His wrath. The imagery of Revelation 8:8 parallels that of Jeremiah 51:25,42, which declares:
“Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, who destroys the whole earth,” declares the Lord, “and I will stretch out My hand against you, and roll you down from the crags and I will make you a burnt out mountain… The sea has come up over Babylon; she has been engulfed with its tumultous waves.”
The apostate mountain that is “cast into the sea” speaks symbolically of the Diaspora, the dispersion of the Jewish people across the earth, into the “sea of humanity.” The mountain was not only “taken up” but also “cast into the sea” in the language of the Scriptures. It was, therefore, an actual fulfillment of the prayers of the saints who obeyed Christ’s instructions.
The “this mountain” that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 21:21 was replaced by “the great mountain” of Daniel 2:35. We see the replacement of the Harlot with the Bride, Israel with the Church, and Babylon (earthly Jerusalem) with the heavenly Jerusalem.
The failure of most Bible commentators to see the significance of the fall of Jerusalem “clouds” their interpretation of this and many other passages of Scripture. It has also hindered the Church of Jesus Christ from seeing the surpassing greatness of the New Covenant, which has made the old obsolete (Heb. 8:13).
2. A Further Explanation of That Mountain Being Cast Into the Sea
Geographically, Jerusalem sits on top of a mountain. To get there from any direction one must go “up to Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 19:34; 1 Ki. 12:28; 2 Ki. 18:17; 2 Chron. 2:16; Ezra 1:3; 7:7; Zech. 14:17; Matt. 20:17, 18; Mark 10:32, 33; Luke 18:31; 19:28; John 2:13; 5:1; Acts 11:2; 15:2; 21:12, 15; 24:11; 25:9; Gal. 1:17, 18). Jerusalem is also called God’s “holy mountain” (Psa. 43:3) and the “chief among the mountains” (Isa. 2:2-3; also 14:13; Exod. 15:17; Joel 2:32; 3:16-17).
In Revelation 6:9-11 John saw “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” crying out and asking God how soon He would judge and avenge their blood on those who were dwelling on the earth (or “in the land”). See also Luke 18:1-8 (the Parable of the Persistent Widow).
Centuries before it was prophesied that this blood would be avenged (Deuteronomy 32:43) upon “a perverse and crooked generation” (Deut. 32:5, 20; cf. Matthew 17:17) at Israel’s “latter end” (Deut. 32:28-29). Jesus also declared that His own generation would be held responsible and judged because of this righteous blood (Matthew 23:34-36). See also I Thessalonians 2:14-16.
As the seven angels prepared to blow the seven trumpets, John saw the following scene:
“Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the trumpets prepared themselves to sound” (Revelation 8:3-6).
It seems evident that the collective prayers of the saints were received by God and that the seven trumpets which followed were connected to those prayers. This is how John described the second trumpet:
“Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood; and a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9).
As Don Walker pointed out, this calls to mind how Jerusalem and the Second Temple were burned and destroyed in 70 AD. It also calls to mind some of the battles that took place during the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). According to Josephus and other historians, more than 150,000 Jews were killed in Galilee and Judea, and around 1.1 million were killed in Jerusalem in 70 AD. At least 97,000 Jews were sold as slaves to different parts of the Roman Empire. Here’s how Josephus described one battle that took place in the Sea of Galilee:
“Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners every where, till the rest being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land, while the vessels encompassed them about [on the sea]: but as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped” (Wars 3.10.9; also see Wars 3.9.3 for what happened near Joppa).
When we compare the literary structure of this verse in Revelation 8 to the literary structure of “the great city’s” downfall in Revelation 18, it’s even more clear that they are talking about the same thing (keep in mind that “the great city” was first identified as Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8):
“And the second angel sounded,
“And a strong angel
and something like agreat
took up a stone like agreat
‘Thus will Babylon thatgreat
mountain burning with fire
wasthrown into the sea…”
andthrew it into the sea,
will bethrown downwith violence
and it will not be found any longer.”
As the outpouring of judgment progresses in the book of Revelation, we see how God answers the cries of the martyrs:
Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due” (Revelation 16:4-6; see also Rev. 17:3-6).
“…Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” …And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (Rev. 18:19-24).
“For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (Rev. 19:2).
In response to the prayers of the saints, that mountain was cast into the sea. “Mount Sinai” and “Jerusalem…in bondage with her children” were cast out, but the heavenly Jerusalem is free (Galatians 4:21-31) and God’s people have come to Mount Zion, the new covenant city of God (Hebrews 12:22-24).
3. A Prototype for More Victories
Are there grounds for seeing this as a prototype for other “mountains to be cast into the sea,” so to speak? I believe there are. After all, Jesus first caused a fig tree to wither and die as a prototype for how “this mountain” could be cast down (Matthew 21:18-20; Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). After affirming that His disciples also would have the authority to tell that mountain to be cast into the sea, and that it would be done, Jesus said this:
“And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).
“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).
Here Jesus says to His disciples that just like they would be able to cast that mountain into the sea, they would also be able to see other victories take place and other strongholds fall. It wasn’t just the 12 disciples who prayed and declared the casting down of that mountain, but it was the saints as a whole.
Today we have an everlasting kingdom and dominion in our hands, but much of the body of Christ hardly realizes it:
“And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth… And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:35, 44).
“Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).
“But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever… the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom… Then the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27).
“And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
“…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever‘” (Revelation 11:15).
In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, and this is not the only victory seen during the last 2000 years of Church history. What strongholds, what “mountains,” what barriers are facing the body of Christ in this generation? What is exalting itself against the knowledge of Christ in our world, in your nation, or in our communities at this time?
Is it ISIS / terrorism?
Is it wars in different parts of the world? Is it racism? Is it poverty? Is it government corruption?
Is it the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?
Is it the abortion epidemic? Is it something else?
Just as the first century saints cast down the mountain that opposed the people, plans, and purposes of God in their time, we can and should unite in prayer and declaration to do the same to “mountains” that exalt themselves against the kingdom of God at this point in history.
In March 2016 I had the privilege of speaking at an “end times” conference in Long Island, New York which was hosted by Pastor Michael Miano of Blue Point Bible Church. I wrote about that here and here. One of the other speakers, Apostle Johnny Ova, impacted me with his words about living worthy of the kingdom of God, praying and declaring life instead of death. and how the state of this world is a direct reflection of the strength of the Church. At one point, he expressed dismay at the words of some Christians who are complaining about ISIS and Islam and even wishing death upon Muslims around the world. He said:
“Do you know what I want to see? I want to see everyone of them get saved and give their lives to Christ. That’s what I want to see. To me that would be an unbelievable miracle. Imagine that – a revival in ISIS, that no one wants to kill them anymore; all ISIS wants to give God praise now. To me that would cause shock waves throughout the whole entire world. Why aren’t we praying for that? If we would pray as much as we complain, we would see some genuine change in this world.”
Amen. Johnny’s entire message (26 minutes) can be seen here. This is a clip of the part (21:25 – 23:55) that impacted me the most:
Let’s be people who realize the power of the kingdom that we possess, and work and pray together to cast down mountains even as that mountain was cast down long ago.
Almost two months from now, believers in different parts of the world will celebrate a new holiday known as “Parousia – New Jerusalem Day.” The idea for this holiday came from a friend of mine, Joshua John Trent, who asked me to write about the meaning of the holiday’s name. Joshua is the founder and creator of Iron Scepter Concepts (Los Angeles).
Parousia – New Jerusalem Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of August (August 7th this year). This is close to August 10th, the day that the famous Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The old temple and the old city of Jerusalem became desolate (Matthew 23:38) and marked for destruction (Matthew 22:7, 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4; Luke 21:5-7), but Jesus became the cornerstone of a new temple, God’s dwelling place made up of His people from all nations (Ephesians 2:19-22). New Jerusalem and the new covenant were chosen while old Jerusalem and the old covenant were cast out (Galatians 4:21-31).
Definition of the Word “Parousia”
The word “parousia” (pronounced par-oo-see’-ah) is a Greek word which means “presence.” According to Wikipedia, it also meant “arrival” or “official visit,” and “was used in the East as a technical expression to denote the arrival or visit of a king or emperor, and celebrated the glory of the sovereign publicly.” The word “parousia” appears 24 times in the New Testament. In several instances it is used to speak of the coming or presence of various individuals: Stephanas, Fortunatas, and Achaicus (I Corinthians 16:17); Titus (II Cor. 7:6-7); Paul (II Cor. 10:10; Philippians 1:26, 2:12); and the lawless one (II Thessalonians 2:9).
In the majority of instances (16 times), though, it is used in connection with the promise of Christ’s coming. The Blue Letter Bible shows that this word comes “from the present participle of G3918 [“pareimi”]; a being near, i.e. advent (often, return; specially, of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked); (by implication) physically, aspect:—coming, presence.” I’ll develop this study more below.
“Parousia” Goes Hand-in-Hand with “New Jerusalem.”
Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 is the most detailed description of the New Jerusalem, and there we read that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). We also see that the Lamb, Jesus, is the light of God’s city (Revelation 21:22-24; 22:5). New Jerusalem is filled with the presence (“parousia”) of Jesus; New Jerusalem is His dwelling place.
“Parousia” in the New Testament
Here are the 16 New Testament passages where Christ’s “Parousia” is promised:
“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).
“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27).
“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (I Corinthians 15:22-23).
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (I Thessalonians 2:19).
“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (I Thessalonians 3:12-13).
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” (I Thessalonians 4:15).
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23).
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come” (II Thessalonians 2:1-2).
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (II Thessalonians 2:8).
– 12. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7-9).
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Peter 1:16).
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle… that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (II Peter 3:1-4).
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:10-13).
“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).
“When the emperor visited a colony or province, the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city. It would be disrespectful to have him actually arrive at the gates as though his subjects couldn’t be bothered to greet him properly. When they met him, they wouldn’t then stay out in the open country: they would escort him royally into the city itself. When Paul speaks of “meeting” the Lord “in the air,” the point is precisely not – as in the popular rapture theology – that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth. The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from. Even when we realize that this is highly charged metaphor, not literal description, the meaning is the same as in the parallel in Philippians 3:20. Being citizens of heaven, as the Phillippians would know, doesn’t mean that one is expecting to go back to the mother city but rather means that one is expecting the emperor to come from the mother city to give the colony its full dignity, to rescue it if need be, to subdue local enemies and put everything to rights” (emphasis added).
More than 100 passages in the New Testament declared that the events of “the last days,” including the Great Tribulation and the coming of Christ, were “near” and about to take place “soon” in the first century. Jesus Himself promised to come before His disciples could go through the cities of Israel (Matthew 10:23). He promised to come  in the glory of His Father  with His angels  in judgment, and  in His kingdom before all of His disciples would die (Matthew 16:27-28). He promised to come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” before His generation would pass away (Matthew 24:30, 34).
Jesus told His disciples that when they would see “all these things” (earthquakes, wars, famines, etc.) promised in the Olivet Discourse, they would know that He “is near, at the very doors” (Matthew 24:33). As we saw above, James declared that Christ’s coming was at hand and that the Judge was standing “at the door” (James 5:8-9). James wrote that nearly 1,950 years ago, and it’s apparent that he saw those things come to pass in his lifetime just as Jesus promised.
John wrote in his first epistle that it was already “the last hour” in his day (I John 2:18). It was the last hour of the old covenant age. His opening words in the book of Revelation declared that the visions he saw “must shortly take place” because the time was “near” (Revelation 1:1, 3). The angel echoed these words at the end of the book (Rev. 22:6, 10) and Jesus declared three times that He was coming quickly (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20).
In summary, “parousia” is a Greek word used repeatedly in the New Testament to describe the first century arrival of Jesus’ presence in the New Jerusalem, and into the kingdom that He established, the corporate body of His followers. His “parousia” (presence) is in our midst today.
Isaiah prophesied that God would create new heavens and a new earth, and “Jerusalem as a rejoicing” (Isaiah 65:17-18). In those days there would still be childbirth, death, building, and planting (65:20-23), i.e. the realities we know and experience today. There would also be joy, peace, satisfaction, glory, and comfort like a mother’s comfort (65:19; 66:10-13).
The apostle Paul also described “the Jerusalem above” as a comforting mother (Galatians 4:26-28). The author of Hebrews told the first century saints that they had already come to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). These two passages, along with the book of Revelation, contrast two covenants (the old and the new), two women (the harlot and the bride), and two cities (old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem):
The New Jerusalem is described by John in Revelation 21:1 – 22:5. In these 32 verses, there are numerous parallel passages in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles described the life of those who follow Christ. In other words, we are the New Jerusalem community right now. In these 32 verses there are also numerous parallel passages in the Old Testament where the prophets looked ahead to this present new covenant age. Here are some of them:
Description and Parallels
New Jerusalem is God’s holy city, pictured as a bride. Jesus said His people are a city set on a hill, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). See also Hebrews 12:22-24, Galatians 4:26.
God dwells with His people, He’s with them, and He’s their God. See Ezekiel 37:27, 43:7, 48:35; II Corinthians 6:16.
John sees the New Jerusalem as a bride, the Lamb’s wife. He contrasts the bride with the harlot/”great city” of Rev. 17, old covenant Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8). Paul also contrasted two women/two covenants in Galatians 4:21-31.
The new Jerusalem has a high wall with 12 gates, bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel; three gates each on the east, north, south, and west sides. Compare to Isaiah 60:18, Luke 13:29, and to Ezekiel 48:30-35 (“…and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE”).
The city’s foundations bear the names of the 12 apostles. Compare to Ephesians 2:20.
The new Jerusalem in John’s vision is cube-shaped, as was the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple (I Kings 6:20). The holy of holies was overlaid with pure gold, and the holy city in John’s vision is also entirely made of pure gold.
The foundations of the city walls are covered in precious gems. This fulfills Isaiah 54:11-12, and Paul clearly affirms that Isaiah 54 is about the church (Galatians 4:27).
Jesus is the temple and the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:19.
The nations of those who are saved walk in the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:3, 10.
The gates of the city are never shut, and the glory and honor of the nations come in to the city. See Isaiah 60:5, 11.
Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life enter this city. See Isaiah 60:21.
A pure, clear river of water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. See John 4:13-14, 7:37; Zechariah 14:8; Rev. 22:17.
On both sides of the river is the tree of life, which bears different fruit each month. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. See Ezekiel 47:1-12.
There’s no night in the city, and no need for a lamp. See Isaiah 60:1, 19-20; Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:43, John 8:12. The citizens of New Jerusalem reign forever and ever. See Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:33, Rev. 1:6.
The New Jerusalem means “the new city of peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace and His presence, His parousia, is in this city. He is peace (Micah 5:5), and there will be no end to His government and peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). Let’s rejoice and celebrate, not only on August 7th, but every day that His presence is in our midst, in the city of God, the New Jerusalem.
On Sunday, May 22nd, I had the privilege of presenting a message in a conference call for those who believe in, or want to know more about, preterism (fulfilled eschatology). I titled my message, “Living Worthy of What the Old Testament Prophets Foretold about this New Covenant Age.” My message lasted 25 minutes and was followed by a time of discussion. Here’s the audio of my message, along with a written transcript of my notes. If you listen or read this message, you’ll see that the prophets had a vision of peace, and I’d love to especially hear your thoughts about that theme:
One thing I’ve heard from people who are skeptical of preterism is that, if everything is fulfilled, there must be nothing left for God’s people today. So I want to talk about some of those things that we do have in this new covenant age, about the present realities, mandates, and destinies that God has for us. Yes, I’m fascinated by all the things that took place in the first century AD during the last days of the old covenant age, and their significance and how they fulfilled prophecy, but I’m also very interested in how the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles said we would be equipped for a glorious, expanding, forward-moving life in God’s kingdom and in His holy city, the new Jerusalem.
This is a very broad subject, so in this message I want to narrow the focus to the vision that the Old Testament prophets had about this age. I will only have time to cover some of it, of course. Before we dig into some great Scripture texts, I want to briefly set this up and talk about one reason why it’s important to study and teach about this vision of the Old Testament prophets, especially at this point in church history. We live during a time when some very strange filters have been laid over the teachings of the Old Testament prophets because premillennial and dispensationalist teachings have dominated in the Church for several generations.
One of the foundation stones of dispensationalism is the idea that this present church age is a surprising parenthesis in God’s long-term plan. Many dispensationalist leaders have taught that this age we live in was never foreseen by the Old Testament prophets. Instead they looked past our time, i.e. the last 2000 years, toward a future 1000-year period known as “the millennium” when Christ would return and finally begin to reign. Here are a few short quotes from some of these leaders:
“It has been illustrated how this whole age existed in the mind of God without having been revealed in the Old Testament.” [J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), p. 137]
“Dispensationalists have regarded the present age as a parenthesis unexpected and without specific prediction in the Old Testament.” [J.F. Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, 1959, p. 227]
“The first prediction relative to the true Church was uttered by Christ, being recorded in Matthew 16:18.” [L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 4:374]
“The Church is a mystery in the sense that it was completely unrevealed in the Old Testament and now revealed in the New Testament.” [Charles Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), p. 136]
Harry A. Ironside also taught that the Old Testament prophets saw two mountains ahead, which were the first and second comings of Christ. According to Ironside, the church age was in a large valley in between those mountains and the prophets were unable to see into it:
“It has often been pointed out by others, but is well worth repeating, that the Old Testament seer might be likened to a man standing on one of our Western plains looking off toward a great mountain range. Many miles before him is a vast mountain which for the moment fills all his vision. Clouds cover the top of it, so that it seems to pierce the heavens, but suddenly the clouds are lifted and in the blaze of the westering sun he sees another and higher peak beyond, covered with snow, which seems to shine in resplendent glory. What the man gazing upon this scene cannot see, however, is the valley or the lower ranges of mountains that come in between these two peaks. The one may be many miles beyond the other. In between may be lesser hills, valleys, rivers, villages and farms, but all of these are unseen by the man upon the plain.
Let us imagine a cross surmounting the first peak, and call this the vision of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer and to die for our sins. Then imagine that the glory surrounding the second and higher peak takes the form of a crown of light, and think of it as indicating the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus to reign in power and glory over all this lower universe. Peter spoke of the “sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” These two mountains illustrate both. But now, in between them we have all the events of the present age of grace, and these could not be seen by the Old Testament prophets for it was not yet the will of God to make them known. These are the mysteries kept secret from the foundation of the world, which began to be made manifest by our Lord Jesus as He told of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; and then were more fully unfolded in the unique revelation of the mystery of the Church, the body of Christ, given to the Apostle Paul, and the unfolding of the mystery of iniquity and of Babylon the Great through Paul and John. Other mysteries there are linked with these, and nearly all of them have to do with what is going on between the First and Second Comings of our Lord.”
This teaching has robbed the body of Christ of a glorious blueprint for our present time, which was laid out in the Old Testament and further developed in the New Testament. This teaching says that God’s best plans, promises, and purposes are not for this present age, but for a future age when the superiority of the Jewish race is once again restored. It’s robbed the body of Christ of wonderful descriptions of our identity and also descriptions of how God invites us to partner with Him in seeing His peace, His government, and His justice expand throughout our world.
So let’s look at some of the passages that reveal the vision that the Old Testament prophets had of this present new covenant age. One major theme that we will see in their vision is the theme of God’s peace.
Daniel 7:14, 18, 21-22, 27
In Daniel 7, Daniel had a vision of Jesus ascending to His Father and receiving everlasting dominion, glory, and a kingdom. Then during the time of the fourth beast, the fourth kingdom that would persecute the saints, God would give the kingdom and dominion into the hands of His people:
“Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed… But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever… I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom… Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:14, 18, 21-22, 27).
Revelation 13:5-7 describes this same great persecution as the beast “making war with the saints” and overcoming them for 42 months. I believe this took place under an Israel/Zealot-led persecution from the fall of AD 66 to the spring of AD 70.
However, God ruled in favor of the body of Christ. Jesus took the kingdom and dominion that He received at His ascension and placed it into the hands of His people.
That’s a powerful picture of us partnering with Christ in expanding His kingdom, carrying His glory, and walking in His dominion.
All of Jesus’ parables about His kingdom expanding, growing, and impacting the world are true for us right now. Think of the mustard seed growing into a large tree and other images that Jesus presented.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
Jesus began to reign on the throne of David during the time of the apostles (Acts 2:29-36, Ephesians 1:20-23, Hebrews 1:3-13, Revelation 1:5).
One of His names is “Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:5 also says regarding Jesus, “And this One shall be peace.”
Isaiah prophesied that Christ’s government and peace would only increase, forever.
Isaiah also prophesied that this would happen because of God’s own zeal.
God invites us to partner with Him and to know our role in seeing His government and peace expand in this world.
Isaiah 65:17 – 66:13
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isaiah 65:17-18).
Isaiah goes on to describe New Jerusalem as a place with no weeping or crying, but where childbirth, physical death, planting, and building would still take place. Yet the labor of God’s people would not be in vain, and there would also be peace and reconciliation (“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together”), and no hurting or destruction in God’s holy mountain.
Names were very important in Scripture. Think about the name, “Jerusalem,” and its meaning. In its name we see “salem” and the closely-related word “shalom.” Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” When Isaiah looked forward to the New Jerusalem, he foresaw a new “city of peace.” We are the city of God, the city of peace.
The other part of Jerusalem’s name comes from the Hebrew word, “yara.” This word means “to shoot like an arrow, to throw, to pour, to flow, to teach, to inform, and to direct.”
Put those two parts together and we have a picture of shooting and pouring out God’s peace upon one another and into the darkest places of the world around us. Although I disagree with Sid Roth’s futurism and Zionism, his 2008 article “The Real Meaning of Jerusalem” has more valuable things to say on this.
We’re destined to live with peace in our hearts. The body of Christ is destined to be known as a community of peace, and we’re destined to see God’s peace touch and impact communities where we live and every part of the world where God’s people are.
As Isaiah continues to describe New Jerusalem, he says, “Rejoice with Jerusalem… that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory… Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream… And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:10-13).
Recall what David said in Psalm 122:6-7. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’” That prayer has been answered, as God has created a new city of peace, the new covenant people of God.
When Jesus was talking with His disciples about going to His Father and leaving the Holy Spirit with them, He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
In the New Testament, the clearest descriptions of the New Jerusalem, God’s city of peace, can be seen in Galatians 4:21-31, Hebrews 12:18-29, Revelation 3:12, and Revelation 21:1-22:5.
“…Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
The mountain of the Lord, New Jerusalem, was destined to attract all nations. It’s the place where the word of the Lord goes forth and people learn God’s ways.
Again we see an image of great peace.
The same vision is seen in Micah 4:1-3.
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
The author of Hebrews quotes from Haggai 2:6 when he writes about the soon-coming shaking and removal of those things related to Mount Sinai, i.e. the old covenant, and how the saints were about to receive a kingdom that couldn’t be shaken.
Notice that he did not include the phrase “it is a little while,” which Haggai used. That’s because it was just around the corner for the readers of Hebrews.
God again says that His new temple would be filled with glory, and that in His new temple He would give peace.
“I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them – My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hands of those who enslaved them…” (Ezekiel 34:23-27).
“David” is obviously Jesus here.
This vision speaks of fruitfulness, blessing, and again a covenant of peace.
Ezekiel 40-48, the final eight chapters of Ezekiel’s book, describe a new city and a new temple. We need some preterist commentaries on these eight chapters, by the way. In this long vision, Ezekiel seems to be looking at both  the restoration of Israel to the land after the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC and  Israel’s hope fulfilled as Jesus establishes the new covenant. This was the view of Philip Mauro in his 1923 book, “The Hope of Israel” (chapters 11-12). In Ezekiel 47, he describes the same healing waters and trees that John describes in Revelation 22:1-2.
“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east… And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4 Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5 Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed… 7 When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8 Then he said to me: ‘This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9 And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes… Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.’”
In the city of God there is constant fruit-bearing, life, and healing. This healing and life IS for God’s people, but it’s also for the nations. Healing is to take place everywhere the river flows. This is our ongoing mandate and calling, and the Lord has fully equipped us.
Zechariah 14:8-9 says that, in the day that the Lord would be King over all the earth, living waters would flow from Jerusalem toward the east and toward the west, in both summer and winter.
Jesus said that rivers of living water would flow out of the hearts of everyone who believes in Him (John 7:37-38).
“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed… O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children…” (Isaiah 54:10-13).
Here again we see there is a covenant of peace and great peace for the followers of the Lord in this age.
Paul quotes from this passage in his allegory of two covenants, two Jerusalems, and two women in Galatians 4:21-31.
This description of precious stones can also be found in John’s description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:19-20.
“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”
These words were spoken to Joshua, the son of the high priest in Zechariah’s day, but it was already made clear earlier in the book that Joshua was a type of a coming Branch, the Messiah.
Ephesians 2 says that Jesus is the chief cornerstone of God’s holy temple, which was made up of the one new man, Jews and Gentiles together, “thus making peace” (verse 15).
We see again that “the counsel of peace” marks the reign of Christ as King and Priest.
Peace is also one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and it’s one of the three attributes of God’s kingdom that Paul chose to highlight in Romans 14:17.
Zechariah 8 goes on to give a great description of the coming New Jerusalem.
If time allowed, we could also dig into Isaiah 49, Isaiah 60-61, Amos 9, Zephaniah 3, and a number of other prophecies. As another note about God’s peace, recall that when Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist prophesied about His nephew, Jesus, he echoed Isaiah 60 when he said, “…the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
Do you want to further study this subject of the vision of the Old Testament prophets for this present age? One study strategy is to look up the passages that premillennialists say are about a future millennium period. Those passages have been arbitrarily tied to Revelation 20 and John’s vision of the 1000 years, as though John alluded to them in his vision. He did not actually. Those passages from the Old Testament, though, are rich with details and blueprints for this present, never-ending age.
Let’s be the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be in the Sermon on the Mount, and partner with Him in His reign to see the never-ending increase of His government and peace.
The last two posts (Part 1 and Part 2) have shown various ways that the world is getting better. This is the third and concluding post, again with plenty of charts and statistics. The following information was made public by Joshua Greeson at his Facebook (Author) page during the week of April 4-8, 2016. Joshua is the author of the book, “God’s Will is Always Healing.”
“The World is Getting Better Week” Scripture of the Day: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15)!!!” This is Truth, like it or not! So we should expect to see it happen more and more. Let’s make it a point to watch for it!#theworldisgettingbetter
His Kingdom has proven—and will continue to prove—to be EVER-INCREASING, growing, spreading and advancing in the earth. May the mustard seed grow into a MASSIVE tree where many find shelter. May the stone become a mountain that fills the WHOLE EARTH. May the leaven of the Kingdom leaven the WHOLE LUMP. May ALL the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. May His glory COVER the earth as the waters cover the sea (How much of the sea do the waters cover exactly? ALL!). May the WORLD for whom Jesus died indeed experience this great salvation—in every sense of the word. Joy, peace, and an enduring hope for the future to you all. #theworldisgettingbetterPass it on!
I want to briefly backtrack to the “Religion” category of good news for a minute. This one is another great example of the “Limited LOCATION” perspective and how it can skew our view of the world. Here’s a graph that shows two different statistics on it. The pink line shows the decreasing percentage of Christians in “first world” nations, while the blue line shows the increasing percentage of Christians in “third world” (developing) nations.
So what’s the good news here? Roughly 80% of the world’s population is considered “third world,” and are projected for continually increasing conversion to Christianity… and who knows how steeply that increase will actually continue? Sure we hit a little dip in the industrialized nations; but don’t worry—the WHOLE EARTH is FILLED with the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3; Numbers 14:21)!!! #theworldisgettingbetter
Here are a couple more death stats today (I know, sorry… but they’re good). Here’s the United States’ statistics for Homicide Deaths and Rape from 1970-2010. Yep—yet again—they’re going DOWN! Look at how much it’s improved just in ONE GENERATION. Come on, get happy!#theworldisgettingbetter
Here again, we have the chance to see what happens when we broaden our “Limited TIMESPAN” perspective. If you thought the U.S. statistics showing the decrease in homicide from the last 40 years were encouraging, look at it for the last 310 years! Holy smoke! So when you hear about the “good ol’ days”—don’t fall for it! They weren’t as “good” as people make them out to be! They just had “Limited INFORMATION!” …and the best days are still ahead!
Here we see Western Europe’s Homicide Death rate going DOWN. The top one is combined, then the bottom one breaks it out for some individual nations. I don’t have any stats for the non-western world. I’m willing to bet that they’re improving right along with the rest of the world, though, due to some other correlated statistics…#theworldisgettingbetter
In 2010 a fellow by the name of William Tapley made a name for himself with his eccentric tune, “Doom and Gloom.” Tapley calls himself the “Third Eagle of the Apocalypse” and “Co-Prophet of the End Times.” In his video he seemed happy about the doom and gloom he believed was soon to come:
Fortunately, “Third Eagle” is way off base when it comes to this world’s destiny. See Isaiah 60, for example, to realize just how opposite Isaiah’s outlook was concerning the new covenant age we live in. There is no end to the increase of Jesus’ government and peace (Isaiah 9:7).
This post is the first of a 3-part series showing various ways that this world is improving. The following information was made public by Joshua Greeson at his Facebook (Author) page during the week of April 4-8, 2016. Joshua is the author of the book, “God’s Will is Always Healing.” As you will see, this series features a lot of charts:
Good morning! Welcome to “The World is Getting Better Week” here on the page. I know that most American Christians would disagree with the statement, “the world is getting better.” However, that won’t stop me from proclaiming what I believe to be true.
They could quote some Scriptures that they interpret and apply one way, and I could do the same. We can all quote Scriptures to corroborate our beliefs. I’ll share just a few of those Scriptures in very brief form during the week. But the bottom line is that the Kingdom of God (wherever God’s will is being done) is always GROWING, INCREASING and ADVANCING. Soon, it will have affected EVERYTHING in the world.
It might seem on the surface that the world is getting worse. Why? Our view is generally based on limited INFORMATION, limited LOCATION and limited TIMESPAN. But if we’re not judging from our own subjective experience–but are actually examining facts and statistics—we see quite a different picture! If you like statistics, graphs and charts, you’re going to love this week. If you don’t—you might have a change of heart before this week is out!
This week we’ll be looking at a few charts and facts that demonstrate some of the effects of Kingdom “leaven” on the “lump” we call planet earth. Prepare to be challenged some—or perhaps pleasantly surprised—and to have a more optimistic outlook on the future! Blessings!#theworldisgettingbetter
This is an awesome website for checking out all kinds of great statistics on Human Progress. It covers many different areas of life—it’s pretty thorough. Check it out and play around with the interactive graphs:www.humanprogress.org
Recently I learned some very good news that should be welcomed by everyone, regardless of one’s viewpoint on world affairs or eschatology. This news is that famines have sharply declined over the last 100 years, to the point of almost disappearing. This post will provide details about this trend and will also discuss why and how Jesus’ well-known prediction about famines had everything to do with His own time period and not ours. Doom and gloom is not this world’s destiny, and we have every reason to rejoice when famines disappear and when the world improves in other ways.
An October 2015 article in The Huffington Post reported that “calamitous famines that cause more than 1 million deaths” have now been completely eliminated (source: the 2015 Global Hunger Index). There has also been a “reduction ‘almost to a vanishing point’ of great famines, which cause more than 100,000 deaths.” Between 1900-1909 around 27 million people died of famine; during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s that number was cut in half (14 million deaths per decade); that number was divided by 10 by the 1990s (1.4 million deaths by famine); and about 600,000 died of famine between 2000 – 2015. Based on the given data, the trend would look something like this*:
*Note that no data was given for the periods of 1920 – 1940 and 1970 – 1990 in the Huffington Post article cited here. Also note that the final period (in purple) covers 15 years rather than 10 years like the other periods.
“Wait a minute. This shouldn’t be happening,” some might say. “Aren’t we in the end times? Didn’t Jesus say there would be famines and earthquakes before the end? Then why are famines going away?” Yes, Jesus did say that there would be famines before the end:
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8; see also Mark 13:7-8 and Luke 21:9-11).
What was “the end” He was speaking of? It was to be “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3, 14), which would take place when every stone of the temple would be thrown down (Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7). That age did come to an end when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. It was the age which revolved around the temple, that is, the old covenant age (Hebrews 8:13).
How was Jesus’ prediction about famines fulfilled between the time of His prophecy (around 30 AD) and the end of the old covenant age in 70 AD? A series of famines took place throughout the Roman Empire between 41 AD – 52 AD and another great famine took place in 70 AD. Two of these famines affected Judah and Jerusalem, and both were predicted in Scripture, in Acts 11 and Revelation 6, respectively.
Famines during the Reign of Claudius Caesar (41-54 AD)
A severe famine was predicted by Agabus in Acts 11:28-30.
“And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
Claudius Caesar was the fifth Roman emperor, and he ruled from 41 – 54 AD, immediately before Nero. More than one significant famine took place during the reign of Claudius, but one in particular fulfilled the prophecy of Agabus. The Roman historian Dio Cassius recorded details about each of them, and Luther W. Martin wrote the following helpful summary in a 1955 edition of The Gospel Guardian:
“The first famine during this period was centered around the city of Rome in the years 41 and 42 A.D. The second famine known to have occurred during the reign of Claudius was in the fourth year of his office (45 A.D.), and was particularly centered in Judea. It is this famine to which Luke makes reference in Acts 11:28… The third famine during the time of Claudius was centered in Greece in about A.D. 50. The fourth famine took place in 52 A.D. and once again, plagued the city of Rome.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, supplies further information concerning the intensity of this famine, with its great distress and many deaths. In a footnote, it is indicated that it may have lasted for a three year period.”
In addition to Josephus, the Roman historians Suetonius (“Life of Claudius,” chapter 18) and Tacitus (Annals 11:4) also wrote about the great famine which fulfilled the prediction of Agabus. These remarks were made by Josephus in Antiquities 20.2.5:
“[The arrival of Queen Helena of Adiabene] was very advantageous to the people of Jerusalem; for a famine oppressed them at that time, and many people died for want of money to procure food. Queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of grain, and others of them to Cyprus to bring back a cargo of dried figs. They quickly returned with the provisions, which she immediately distributed to those that [had] need. She has thus left a most excellent memorial by the beneficence which she bestowed upon our nation.”
In 1805 George Peter Holford wrote a book titled, “The Destruction of Jerusalem, An Absolute and Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity,” in which he showed that many of the events recorded by Josephus and other first century historians fulfilled Jesus’ predictions in the Olivet Discourse. Regarding this famine, Holford wrote that it “was of long continuance. It extended through Greece, and even into Italy, but was felt most severely in Judea, and especially at Jerusalem, where many perished for want of bread. This famine is recorded by Josephus also, who relates that ‘an assaron of corn was sold for five drachmae’ (i.e. about 3 1/2 pints for three shilling, three denarius).” One drachma was the daily wage for a soldier at that time, and five drachma were worth about $500 in today’s currency. So three pints of corn sold for about $500 during this terrible famine.
The Great Famine in Jerusalem in 70 AD
In 70 AD, when the old covenant age was coming to its final end, there was another great famine, but only in Jerusalem. This famine was made all the more severe because of the actions of a key leader in the civil war that had been raging in Jerusalem between the revolutionaries and those who wanted to maintain peace with Rome.
To give a little background, Jerusalem had been divided into three factions ever since late 67 AD. These factions were led by  Eleazar, who was over the Zealots  John of Gischala, who was over the Galileans, and  Simon, who was over the Idumeans. This was the civil war described in Revelation 6:3-4, also fulfilling Revelation 16:19 where it is said that “the great city” (Jerusalem – see Rev. 11:8) was divided into three parts. (This mirrors the 3-part division that also took place in Ezekiel’s day (Ezekiel 5:1-12) when Jerusalem was destroyed the first time by Babylon in 586 BC.) In December 69 AD John of Gischala foolishly set fire to the supply warehouses in Jerusalem, and nearly all the grain supplies were burned, which would have lasted the city for years (Josephus, Wars 5.1.4, 21-26).
On April 14, 70 AD the Roman General, Titus, laid a siege around Jerusalem. This took place just before Passover, after hundreds of thousands of Jews had already arrived from surrounding nations for the feast, and it lasted for five months until Jerusalem and the temple were burned. The famine brought about conditions fulfilling Revelation 6:6, where John was told that a quart of wheat would be sold for a denarius, the typical salary for one day’s work. It became so severe that there are records of parents roasting and eating their own children. Moses prophesied that this would happen to the people of Israel (Leviticus 26:29) in their latter days (Deut. 31:29) during a time of sevenfold judgment (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28; note the seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments in the book of Revelation), the cutting off of their bread supply (Lev. 26:26), and the execution of the vengeance of His covenant (Lev. 26:25).
Others ate their belts, sandals, dried grass, and even oxen dung, according to Josephus. There were also violent home invasions where anyone who was suspected of hoarding food was tormented until they revealed where it was. Some escaped from Jerusalem to the Romans because they couldn’t bear the conditions in the city any longer. George Peter Holford wrote about the pestilential diseases (Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:58-62, 32:24; Matthew 24:7) that accompanied this famine:
“After Jerusalem was surrounded by the army of Titus, pestilential diseases soon made their appearance there to aggravate the miseries, and deepen the horrors of the siege. They were partly occasioned by the immense multitudes which were crowded together in the city, partly by the putrid effluvia which arose from the unburied dead, and partly from spread of famine.”
There is No Prophecy of Famine for Today
Every Biblical prophecy about famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and great tribulation was fulfilled many centuries ago. We can rejoice that famines are disappearing at this time. It’s never been easier than right now for humanitarian workers and agencies to respond to difficult situations and events. Communication and transportation have been made easier and more efficient. Because of the internet and social media, the public is more easily made aware of needs, situations, and how to directly help or at least support humanitarian efforts.
Jesus reigns on the throne of David right now (Acts 2:29-36, Ephesians 1:20-23, Hebrews 1:3-13, Revelation 1:5). We can rejoice over anything else that His government is accomplishing for His glory and for the good of this planet. As Isaiah 9:7 says, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
Jonathan Welton, the author of the book “Raptureless,” has created a neat illustration of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it in Daniel 2. I very much agree with the main conclusion: “The kingdom is present; the kingdom is growing. We are in the kingdom age… and we are the King’s ambassadors.”
Daniel 2:44 is indeed a pivotal verse, as it states clearly the timing for the setting up of God’s eternal kingdom:
“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
As many scholars agree, Rome was the fourth kingdom depicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision. Rome was preceded by Nebuchadnezzar’s own Babylonian kingdom (#1), Medo-Persia (#2), and Greece (#3). These were successive empires, and the Roman empire ceased to exist in 476 AD (Sources: BBC History, History Learning Site, Rome.Info, Wikipedia, About.com’s Ancient History). Daniel, a true and faithful prophet, recorded that God’s kingdom would be set up before all four of those kingdoms ceased to exist.
By the year 600 AD the final earthly kingdom revealed in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision had been gone for more than 100 years. By 1500 AD that fourth kingdom had already been gone for a full millennium (1000 years). What are we to make, then, of popular teachings which say that, as of the year 2014, God has not yet set up His kingdom? We are now 1538 years beyond the parameters of Daniel’s prophecy: “And in the days of these kings…” If God’s kingdom has not yet been established, it would seem that Daniel was not a true prophet.
The problem, however, is not with Daniel, but rather with premillennialism and any other school of thought which says that God’s kingdom is not yet here, or that when it comes it will take on earthly characteristics (e.g. a temple and a spiritual headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel) that the world has not yet seen.
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
Daniel 7 Reveals the Timing of the Kingdom
Coming back to Daniel, he later had a vision of four beasts, the fourth of which was “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong,” and having 10 horns (Daniel 7:7). Daniel also foresaw “One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven” to the Ancient of Days – a picture of Jesus’ ascension.
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
In the rest of the chapter, Daniel sees or is told three times that the kingdom would be given into the hands of the saints:
“But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (verse 18).
“I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (verses 21-22).
“Then the saints shall be given into [the fourth beast’s] hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (verses 25-27).
Parallel to this is Revelation 13:1-8, where John also saw a beast with 10 horns speaking blasphemous things and making war with the saints and overcoming them for 42 months (which is equal to 3.5 years, and also equal to Daniel’s “time and times and half a time”). In our study of Revelation, we saw how this was fulfilled in Nero and his 3.5 year campaign of persecution against Christians in the Roman empire from November 64 AD – June 68 AD (see hereand here). In Daniel 7 then, we first see that Jesus received the kingdom immediately after His ascension, and then we see that God’s kingdom was set up and given into the hands of His people during the days of the fourth kingdom/beast, Rome.
The Gospels Reveal the Timing of the Kingdom
John the Baptist and Jesus, in their day, repeatedly proclaimed that the kingdom of God was at hand. Then Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 16:27-28) and the crowds (Mark 8:34-9:1) that He would come in His kingdom while some of them were still alive.
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:27-28; see also Matthew 10:23).
In Luke 21 Jesus described a series of events which were to occur before the temple would fall (Luke 21:5-7) and before His generation would pass away (Luke 21:32). According to Jesus, when His disciples saw those things take place, they could be sure that God’s kingdom was near.
“Then He spoke to them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near‘” (Luke 21:29-31).
Matthew 21: The Parable of the Tenants
The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46) is also important in regard to when God’s kingdom was to be established, and we see in this parable a parallel to Daniel 7. Jesus, speaking to the chief priests and elders of the people (Matt. 21:23), exposes the vinedressers (the stewards) of God’s vineyard for their long-term persecution, beating, and killing of God’s servants, and for finally conspiring to kill Him and attempt to seize His inheritance. Jesus continued the discussion in this way:
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:40-44).
Jesus thus proclaimed that the kingdom would be taken away from the corrupt Jewish religious leaders at the time of their judgment for shedding the blood of God’s saints and God’s Son. (This judgment was to fall upon Jesus’ own generation, according to Matthew 23:29-37.) It was at this time that the kingdom would be given to a fruit-bearing nation, the church.
As in Daniel 2, Jesus is the rock that crushes His opponents. In this case, faithless Israel, except for a remnant, had set itself up in opposition to Him, and the Rock would fall and “grind him to powder.” This happened with the destruction of Jerusalem, Israel, and the temple in 70 AD. At the same time, Jesus is a mighty Rock and fortress for those who trust in Him.
Hebrews 12 Reveals the Timing of the Kingdom
The author of Hebrews spoke of the kingdom that his audience was receiving in the first century (Hebrews 12:28), and he pointed out that it was a kingdom which could not be shaken, unlike those things made with hands which could and would be shaken (verses 26-27). I believe this was a reference, in particular, to the temple in Jerusalem, the worship center for old covenant Judaism. The context bears this idea out. Ten verses earlier we read that the saints had not come to Mount Sinai, where the old covenant had been established (verse 18), but they had “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…” (verses 22-24). If we compare this with Galatians 4:21-31, we see that earthly Jerusalem was in bondage and was about to be cast out (verses 25 and 30), but the heavenly Jerusalem is said to be the mother of God’s people (verse 26). Here is what Hebrews 12 has to say:
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:18-29)
1. Daniel 2 reveals that God would set up His kingdom before Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome had all expired as kingdoms/empires. 2. Daniel 7 reveals that Jesus would receive His kingdom at the time of His ascension to His Father’s throne. It also confirms that God’s kingdom would be put into the hands of His people, the church, during the time of the Roman empire and immediately following a vicious campaign of persecution meant to eradicate the church. 3. John the Baptist and Jesus repeatedly proclaimed that the kingdom of God was near in their day. Jesus promised to come in His kingdom while some of His disciples were still alive, and He revealed that His kingdom would be given to His church at the same time it was taken away from rebellious Israel at the time of their judgment. 4. Hebrews 12 reveals that God’s people were receiving an unshakable kingdom in the first century, and that they would receive it at a time when all that could be shaken would be shaken.
The nation of Israel, as a whole, was found unworthy to steward God’s kingdom. Jesus, on the other hand, was perfectly obedient, laid down His life, rose again, and was found worthy to receive the kingdom. He came to take it out of the hands of Israel’s leaders, and He placed it into the hands of His church. We have been given the privilege of being the stewards of God’s kingdom. How much is the church being limited in its ability to spread God’s kingdom, and walk in its realities and power, because of the pervasive belief that it hasn’t even come yet?
God’s kingdom has come, and God’s kingdom will remain forever.
For the record, I agree with everything in Jonathan Welton’s illustration except for this statement:
“Since Jesus (the Rock) crashed into the feet of the statue in His first coming, the kingdom has been present and growing all the way until His second coming.”