“Ezekiel’s Temple and the Outflow of Living Waters” by Philip Mauro (1922)


In the last post, “Making Sense of Ezekiel’s Temple Vision,” we saw Steve Gregg’s overview of Ezekiel 40-48 in which he pointed out that Ezekiel’s vision of a new temple was conditional on obedience, that the new temple was never built to specifications because of disobedience, and that Ezekiel also foresaw the new covenant realities of this present age. This post will present Chapter 12 from Philip Mauro’s 1922 book, “The Hope of Israel.” 

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The following was posted at Messianic Good News in October 2012. Philip Mauro’s entire book, “The Hope of Israel,” including a downloadable PDF, can be found here. In addition to authoring more than 10 books, Mauro (1859-1952) was a lawyer who practiced before the Supreme Court. 

Chapters 40 to 46 inclusive of the Book of Ezekiel contain the record of a vision given to that prophet, in which he was shown the pattern of a temple and its various appointments, the arrangements, gates, courts, and chambers, their dimensions and other details being stated with minuteness. The space given to the description of this temple would indicate that it is a matter of considerable importance in the eyes of God. So it will be well worth our while to seek an understanding of the vision, and to inquire into the purpose for which it is given – even more so because of much barren conjecture and diverging opinion in this regard, amongst those who seek to expound the Scriptures.

These visions present difficulties of interpretation, as is generally recognized. But whatever they may or may not mean, they certainly give no support for the doctrine of a political future for the earthly Israel. Insofar as this prophecy was to have its fulfillment in the realm of the natural, it was fulfilled after the return from Babylon. But, as with the pattern of the temple showed to Moses on Mt. Sinai, so likewise here it seems we must take the visions seen by Ezekiel on that ‘very high mountain’ (40:2) to be the patterns of things heavenly and spiritual.

Moreover, in chapter 43:9-11 it is distinctly stated that all these promises given through Ezekiel were conditional, and we further know that that people did not fulfill the conditions that were laid down any more than they fulfilled those of the old covenant. Hence these later promises (along with all the others) have been forfeited irreversibly, and they find their ‘yea’ and their ‘amen’ in Christ, being all ‘unto the glory of God by us’ – the true Israel (2 Cor. 1:20). That is to say, God will have glory through the fulfillment of those promises in and through His new covenant people.

IS IT THE PLAN OF A TEMPLE FOR THE MILLENNIUM?

One solution of the problem we are studying (to which many strongly adhere) is that Ezekiel’s vision relates to Millennial times, when the temple shown to Ezekiel will be erected on Mt. Moriah, when also the system of worship described in the concluding chapters of Ezekiel will be instituted and carried on. This view is characteristic of that peculiar system of interpreting the Scriptures which rids itself of all difficulties in the prophetic Word by simply and expediently postponing their fulfillment to the Millennial age. Thus the Millennium becomes the convenient and oft used dumping ground of all portions of Scripture that offer any difficulty, and the unhappy consequence is that many prophecies which were fulfilled before or at the first coming of Christ, or are currently being fulfilled in this age of the gospel, and many Scriptures, such as the Sermon on the Mount, which apply directly to the saints of this dispensation, are wrenched out of their proper place, and are relegated to a distant future, much to the loss of the people of God and to the integrity of the Scriptures as a whole.

The ‘postponement’ system doubtless owes the popularity it enjoys to the circumstance that its method is both safe and easy. It is safe because, when a fulfilment of prophecy is relegated to the Millennium, it cannot be conclusively refuted until the time comes. All date-setting schemes owe their measure of popularity to the same fact. It is easy because it relieves the Bible student of the trouble of searching for the contextual or Christological meaning and application of difficult passages.

But, coming to the special case in hand, which is illustrative of many others, we must now boldly assert and undertake to show, that there are insurmountable objections to the view that Ezekiel’s temple is for future Millennial times.

To begin with, if the Jews do indeed occupy the land of Canaan again as an earthly nation, and if they restore the ancient system of temple-worship, either according to the plan shown to and described by Ezekiel, or according to any other plan, we maintain that the Scripture plainly forbids it. For it was by God’s own hand that the ancient system of worship was abolished and obliterated, and the obliteration of it was for reasons so closely connected with the redeeming word of the Lord Jesus Christ, that to re-establish it would be to dishonour that work and its achievements.

Moreover, the sacrifices of animals was a strictly temporary institution, belonging to an economy that ‘made nothing perfect.’ I have shown in a previous chapter that the entire system – temple, altar, priesthood and all – was but a ‘shadow’ of that which was to come, a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience’, that God had ‘no pleasure’ in them; and that they were completely and forever abolished by the ‘One Sacrifice for sins’ offered by the Lord Jesus Christ ‘once for all’ (Heb. 7:18-19, 9:6-10, 10:1-9). For it was not by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman armies in AD 70, that the Jewish system of worship was overthrown, but by the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God on Calvary, and it follows that, so long as the merits and efficacy of that Sacrifice endure, there will be no room in God’s universe for any other. It is important for us to recognize and to hold fast to the truth that the ‘old covenant’ and everything pertaining to it – sanctuary, altar, priesthood, feasts, sabbaths, and especially animal sacrifices – have been completely and ‘forever’ done away with. Surely the words in which this truth is declared are plain, and the reason for it is clear. For the Spirit says expressly: ‘He takes away the first’ – the sacrifices of the law – ‘that He may establish the second’ – the true spiritual worship of the heavenly sanctuary, based upon the one Sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:8-12,18-22). And the words ‘takes away,’ and ‘establish,’ signify something eternally accomplished.

THE VISION

But let us turn to the prophecy of Ezekiel with the object of learning what the record itself tells us of the purpose for which the vision was given.

First we would point out that, in the sixth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, that is to say, while Solomon’s temple was yet standing, Ezekiel had a wonderful vision in which he saw the glory of the Lord departing from the house (8:1, 10:18). The vision of the new temple was given 19 years later, for Ezekiel is careful to record that it was ‘the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten’ (40:1-2). To this I will return. At present I wish only to point out that the most conspicuous features of the temple shown in this vision are the various places for the slaughter of animals, and for offering the same upon the altar, sprinkling their blood, etc. Thus we find a description of the tables, eight in number, for slaying the burnt offerings and other sacrifices, and upon which ‘they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burnt offering and the sacrifice’ (40:38-43). Therefore, in the clear light of the Letter to the Hebrews and of all Scripture pertaining to the Sacrifice of Christ, it is impossible to place this temple in any dispensation subsequent to Calvary.

But an attempt has been made to avoid this objection and to make possible the locating of Ezekiel’s temple in the Millennium, by saying that the sacrifice of animals in that era will be only for a ‘reminder’ or a ‘memorial’ of the former days. But this is a very weak effort of the imagination. For what grounds have we for supposing that God would require any memorial of those sacrifices which, even in the time when they were needed, He had no pleasure? And how preposterous is the idea that He would require the slaughter of innumerable creatures merely to revive the memory of those other defective sacrifices which could never take away sins! Surely they who advance this idea have forgotten the Scriptures which they all apply to the Millennium, and which says, ‘They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain’ (Isa. 11:9).

But the passage itself completely refutes this idea, for it plainly declares that the sacrifices specified there were not at all for a remembrance or a memorial, but were for the very different purposes of sin offerings, trespass offerings, peace offerings, etc. Also for cleansing the house, making reconciliation both for the princes of Israel and for the people, and the like. All five of the offerings of the levitical system are mentioned by name (40:39, 42:13, 43:27, 45:17, 46:20), and provision is made for sprinkling the blood of the sin offering upon the corners of the altar, upon the posts of the house and court in order to cleanse them (43:20, 45:18-19). In a word the sacrifices are the levitical sacrifices, and they are expressly declared to be for their original purposes. Hence it is impossible to locate this temple, as an actual structure (apart from the spiritual signification of it), in any era other than that of the Mosaic Law.

THE PURPOSE OF THE VISION

What then was the immediate purpose of this vision? I think this question has a simple answer in the light of the passage itself and that of other Scriptures.

Ezekiel prophesied during the captivity. That captivity was to be of seventy years duration, as predicted by Jeremiah. At its end the captives were to return and re-build the city and the temple. This new temple was to serve as the sanctuary of God until Christ should come. God’s plan had always been to give to His people the exact pattern of the sanctuary they were to build for His Name. To Moses He had shown the pattern of the tabernacle, giving him at the same time the strictest injunctions to make every detail in exact accordance with that pattern. Likewise to David, God had revealed the pattern of the temple which was to be built at Jerusalem, with all its institutions, vessels of service, etc. ‘All this,’ says David, ‘the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern’ (1 Chr. 28:11-19).

And once again, after the exile, a house was to be built for the Name of the Lord in Jerusalem. Therefore, having in mind His invariable method in such case, we should expect to find at this period a revelation from heaven of the pattern to be followed in the building of that house. And right here we do find the revelation from God of the completed pattern and institutions of a temple, with directions to the prophet to show the same to the house of Israel.

Furthermore we find that even as Moses was admonished to make all things according to the pattern shown him ‘in the mount,’ so Ezekiel was taken to ‘a very high mountain’ where this pattern was shown to him, and he was told to set his heart upon all that should be revealed to him, and to declare all he should see to the house of Israel (40:3-4; 44:5).

Again, as regards the ministers of the sanctuary, it is strictly commanded that the priests are to be Levites of the sons of Zadok (45:15), which proves that the whole system was for an era when the priesthood of Aaron was not as yet abolished.

Furthermore, special instructions are given in this vision regarding ‘the prince.’ Now it was only after the return from Babylon that Israel was subject to a ‘prince,’ as Zerubbabel in the days of Ezra, and the Hasmonaean princes at a later day.

Finally, this vision contains instructions for the re-allotment of the land, corresponding to the instructions given Moses and Joshua at the first occupation of the land. This provision embraces the whole twelve tribes of Israel. For it should be noted that in the land of their captivity Israel and Judah were mingled together; and from that time onward the distinction between the ten northern tribes and the other two no longer exists. Thus Ezekiel was sent to ‘the children of Israel,’ to ‘the house of Israel,’ and as in several passages to ‘all the house of Israel’ (11:15, 20:40, etc.). Likewise Daniel confessed on behalf of ‘all Israel’ and prayed for his ‘people Israel’ (9:11,20), and those who returned with Ezra were ‘all Israel’ (Ezra 2:70, 8:25; 9:1 etc.). And this continued to New Testament times, when Peter makes his proclamation at Pentecost to ‘all the house of Israel’ (Acts 2:36), Paul speaks to Herod Agrippa of ‘our twelve tribes’ (Acts 26:7), and James writes to ‘the twelve tribes scattered abroad’ (Jam. 1:1). This effectually disposes of all speculation regarding ‘the ten lost tribes,’ and particularly of the grand delusion of Anglo-Israelism.

WAS THE PATTERN SHOWN EZEKIEL FOLLOWED?

So far as I am aware there is no evidence now available as to the plan of the temple built in the days of Ezra. Herod the Great had so transformed it in the days of Christ, though without interrupting the regular services and sacrifices, as to destroy all trace of the original design. That question, however, which we cannot now answer, does not affect the question of the purpose for which the pattern was revealed to Ezekiel.

It should be noted that everything in connection with the return of the people of Israel out of Babylon was purely voluntary. Only those returned to Jerusalem ‘whose spirit God had raised to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem’ (Ezra 1:5). They were not taken out of Babylon as out of Egypt in a body and by strength of hand. But we know that they brought with them the holy vessels, and we know that they had, and could have followed, the pattern shown in the mount to Ezekiel. For God had commanded the prophet to show it to them, and He gave him also this charge: ‘Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all they have done, show them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof and the comings in thereof and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof, and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them” (43:10,11).

The blessings promised to Israel through Ezekiel were like those promised through Moses, conditional upon their faithfulness and obedience; and, since they were not obedient, the blessings were forfeited. So we are left in uncertainty as to what, if anything, resulted from this revelation to Ezekiel. But as regards the purpose for which it was given, we think there is no uncertainty at all.

Of course this vision, like all visions and prophecies, has a spiritual fulfillment in Christ, and this is very apparent, we think, from chapter 47. Chapter 47 contains the vision of the life-giving waters, which the prophet saw issuing out from the temple, a shallow stream at first, but increasing to a mighty river – ‘waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over’ (v. 5).

As with respect to Zechariah’s prophecy concerning the ‘living waters’ (Zech 14:8), referred to in a former chapter, so with respect to this vision of Ezekiel, we confidently submit that its fulfillment is in the living waters of the gospel, which began, on the day of Pentecost, to flow out from the Temple at Jerusalem. Our Lord uses the expression ‘rivers of living water,’ in John 7:38; and the meaning of the expression is given in the next verse: ‘But this spoke He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.’ This explanation controls the passage we are considering. This will be apparent from what follows.

WHERE DID THE SPIRIT DESCEND AT PENTECOST?

For the purpose of a better understanding of the foregoing prophetic vision of Ezekiel, and because, moreover, the events of the day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2, are of great importance, it is a matter of much interest to ascertain just where, in the city of Jerusalem, the disciples were assembled at the moment when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

Some may wonder that there should be any question as to this, seeing it seems to be generally agreed that the gathering place of the disciples was the ‘upper room’. Indeed it is often positively asserted, as if it were a recorded fact, that the upper room was the ‘birthplace of the Church.’ But the truth is that scripture does not support the idea that the disciples were in an upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them, or that the upper room mentioned in Acts 1:13 was ever their assembling place during the ten days of their waiting in Jerusalem, in obedience to the Lord’s command, for “the Promise of the Father.”

All that is said concerning the ‘upper room’ is that the apostles, after witnessing the Lord’s ascension from Mount Olivet, returned to Jerusalem and went to an upper room, where Peter, James, John and the other of the eleven apostles were lodging (Acts 1:13). What appears from the record, and all that appears, is that those Galileans, during their stay in Jerusalem, had their lodgings in an ‘upper room.’ There is no suggestion at all that the sleeping quarters of those eleven men was also the meeting place of the one hundred and twenty disciples of Christ who were in Jerusalem at that time. Still less reason is there for supposing that the morning of the great Feast-day, which the Law compelled them to attend, would have found them gathered in such a place.

IN THE TEMPLE

There was, in fact, only one place in the city of Jerusalem where devout Jews, of whatever sect, would have congregated on that morning, and one place where the events recorded in Acts 2 could possibly have transpired. That place is the Temple. But it is not upon inference alone that we base our conclusion, for after a careful examination of the inspired records, we venture to say that they contain positive proof that it was in the Temple itself that the Holy Spirit came ‘suddenly’ upon the company of the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that from that Temple the proclamation of God’s Good News began to go forth to all the world. And I will try to show that it was the outflow of the gospel – ‘all the words of this life’ (Acts 5:20) – that was foreseen by the vision of ‘living waters’ issuing from the Temple.

Surely it is befitting that it should have been so. For it is in accordance with all that has been revealed to us of the dealings of God, and of the connection between the Old Covenant and the New, that the first manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s personal presence should have been in the Temple, that the spiritual House should have its beginnings on the site of the material House. Indeed the same reasons which required that the preaching of forgiveness in the Name of the risen Christ should begin ‘at Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:47), would seem also to require that it should begin at the Temple. I will look into this a little later, but first I want to establish whether the inspired record gives any definite indications as to the place where the wonderful events of Pentecost occurred.

“CONTINUALLY IN THE TEMPLE”

The first Scripture that bears on the matter is the concluding portion of Luke’s Gospel whereof the book of Acts is a continuation, written by the same hand.

Luke records the Lord’s commandment to His disciples to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The brief record of this verse does not state whether or not the Lord designated any particular place in Jerusalem where they were to await the promised endowment; but the further record given in verses 52 and 53 of what they did in obedience to the Lord’s commands, supplies this information. For we read that “they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:52,53).

This passage definitely declares that the Temple was the place where they assembled for the purpose of waiting upon God in worship and prayer; and it declares furthermore that they were there continually. Hence we need nothing further to tell us just where they were assembled whenever we read of their being gathered during that period, “in one place.” We have the emphasis of the word “continually,” which leaves no room for the supposition that during the ten days following, they were assembled as a company in any place other than the Temple. This passage alone seems to make it clear that the Lord had told them to wait in the Temple for the promised endowment of the Spirit.

When, moreover, we bear in mind the fact (which appears both from the Scriptures and from other contemporary records) that the Temple, with its vast corridors or “porches,” was the regular gathering place of all the various parties and sects of Jews, however antagonistic the one to the other, it will be easy to realize that the Temple is just the place – both because of its hallowed associations, and also because of its many convenient meeting places – where the disciples would naturally congregate. Edersheim says that the vast Temple area was capable of containing a concourse of 210,000 people; and he mentions also that the colonnades in Solomon’s Porch formed many gathering places for the various sects, schools and congregations of the people. In commenting on John 7 this trustworthy authority says that the gathering places in Solomon’s Porch “had benches in them; and from the liberty of speaking and teaching in Israel, Jesus might here address the people in the very face of His enemies.” It was, moreover, and this is an important item of evidence, in Solomon’s Porch that the concourse of Jews gathered which Peter addressed in Acts 3 (see verse 11). Hence there can be little doubt that one of the assembling places to which Alfred Edersheim refers was the “house” where the disciples were “sitting” when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

When Luke takes up, in the book of Acts, the thread of the narrative he dropped at the end of his Gospel, he says (speaking of the apostles) that “These all continued (lit. were continuing) with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:14). We have here in substance a repetition of what is recorded in the last verse of Luke’s Gospel, namely that, during the ten days following the Lord’s ascension, His disciples were “continually” together waiting upon God (they “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication”). The record in Acts omits mention of the place where they so continued, but that information was not needed, seeing it had already been definitely stated in Luke 24:52,53. But the evangelist adds the interesting facts that the women, Mary the mother of the Lord, and His brethren, were with them. All this, be it remembered, was done by the Lord’s express instructions. They were of course praying for the promised Gift from on high (Luke 11:13).

THE DAY OF PENTECOST

Thus the day of Pentecost came; and its being the great Feast-day of the Jews on which the giving of the Law at Sinai is celebrated, provides an additional reason why they should be found assembled in the Temple. The services – the offering of the morning sacrifice and incense, with the accompanying prayers (in which they would undoubtedly have taken part) – began at sunrise. This service being concluded, they would naturally be “sitting” in their customary place; and then it was that “suddenly” out of heaven came that sound “as of a rushing wind.” The words “they were all with one accord in one place” (compare 1:14) indicate that they were in their customary gathering place in the Temple. Similar words found at the end of chapter 2 lend emphasis to this; for we find there the statement that, after about three thousand souls had been “added” to them, they still continued with one accord in the Temple (Verse 46). This shows that what they had been doing as a small company they “continued” to do, still “with one accord,” as an exceedingly large and growing company. It shows further that the place where they were gathered when the Holy Spirit came upon them must have been of such dimensions as to admit of three thousand more being “added” to them; and it need hardly be said that the Temple was the only building in Jerusalem open to the public, where this would have been possible.

By having before our eye the several statements of Scripture that bear upon the matter we are examining it will be seen, we think, that there is no room for doubt about it. These are the statements:

Luke 24:52-53: “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God.”

Acts 1:14. “All these were continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.”

Acts 2:1. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”

Acts 2:46. “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the Temple.”

These passages reiterate that the disciple continued, during all the period in question, in one place; and the first and last passages quoted state that the place was the Temple.

From the last passage it plainly appears that, after Pentecost, they still made it a practice to meet “daily in the Temple,” the wording being such as to show that this was not a new custom from that date, but was the “continuing” of what had been their custom since the Lord’s ascension into heaven.

THE SERVICE OF THE FEAST OF PENTECOST

Acts 2:1, in its literal meaning, casts more light on our subject. As rendered in the Authorized Version it reads “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come.” The word translated by the three English words “was fully come” (which rendering manifestly does not give the true sense, since a day cannot be more “fully come” after it has actually come), means literally “was being accomplished.” In Bagster’s interlinear translation the reading is: “And during the accomplishing of the day of Pentecost, they were all with one accord in the same place.”

What is seemingly implied is that they were, as we should expect, in the Temple, for the purpose of taking part in the appointed services of the great feast day. During an intermission in those ceremonies they would naturally be “sitting” together in their customary meeting-place within the Temple area. What seems to be impressed upon us by this verse is that, during the accomplishing of the various ceremonies of the day of Pentecost, the disciples were not dispersed and mingled with the great crowds of worshippers, but kept together, and were with one accord in one place. It can hardly be doubted, therefore, that at the moment the Spirit descended upon them they were all together somewhere within the large area of the Temple, presumably in Solomon’s Porch.

Concerning the verse we are now considering (Acts 2:1), Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, in a letter to the author, said: “Personally, I believe that the statement that the day of Pentecost ‘was being fulfilled’ means far more than that they were observing its ritual. I am convinced that the meaning of Luke here is that all that was signified by that Feast was finding its historic fulfilment.”

With the aid of this comment we can see a great wealth of meaning in these few words of Scripture. The coming of the Holy Spirit took place some little time before nine in the morning (see verse 15), just long enough for it to be “noised abroad” (2:6), and for an enormous crowd to congregate. On reading attentively the record of verses 1-14 it will be seen that the events there narrated all happened in one and the same locality. The disciples were in the same place when they began to speak in other languages, and the astonished multitude assembled and listened, than they were when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

Concerning the words of verse 6, “Now when this was noised abroad,” Dr. Morgan, in the letter already quoted, says that this is not to be taken as meaning that a rumour of the marvellous event was spread abroad; for the verb rendered ‘noised broad’ in the Authorised Version is never used in the sense of a rumour. “I believe the sound as of a mighty wind was heard by the entire city. That being so, your interpretation as to the place falls in with tremendous naturalness to me. The devout Jews would, at the hearing of some supernatural sound, rush to the Temple.” In this connection the force of the words of Acts 2:2 should be specially noted: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind (or Breath) and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”

It is important to note that in those days, and for a considerable period thereafter, the disciples were in “favour with all the people” (Acts 2:48); and hence they were permitted to enjoy, in common with all Jewish sects and parties, the privileges of assembling for the usual purposes, and as a distinct company or sect, in the Temple. It should also be specially noted that no pious Jews would be anywhere but in the Temple on that day (See Acts 20:16).

We conclude, therefore, that the material House of God served as the womb for the spiritual House, and that from it the Church was to come forth, and soon did come forth. For a little while the two were identified, as the true spiritual ‘Israel of God’ was, for awhile, identified with ‘Israel after the flesh’ – the spiritual seed of Abraham with his natural seed. And this is in keeping with the revealed ways of God.

THE SOURCE OF THE LIVING WATERS

It is evident that the matter into which we have been inquiring has a direct relation to certain prophecies, such as Ezekiel 47, referred to above, where the prophet describes his vision of the healing and life-giving waters issuing from out of the Temple. It was shown to the prophet, as we have already noted, that the water was to go down into the desert (which suggests barren Israel), and into the sea (which symbolizes the nations), whose waters should be healed; and the description continues –

“And it shall come to pass that everything that lives which moves, wherever the rivers shall come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither; for they shall be healed. And everything shall live wherever the river comes” (Ezekiel 47:9).

It is easy to see in this passage the familiar scriptural figures of the Gospel, and its life-giving and healing ministry. So we note with interest that the Temple – the House of God – was to be the source of the stream of living waters.

Therefore, we cannot fail to see in this prophetic vision a spiritual foretelling of the issuing forth of the Gospel for all mankind from God’s appointed center, which broadly was Israel, and more definitely Jerusalem, and still more definitely the Temple. Other portions of Ezekiel’s prophecy have clearly a spiritual fulfilment in this dispensation of the Holy Spirit, as we have sought to show.

In this connection we would call attention also to the prophecy of Joel. Inasmuch as the Apostle Peter showed the coming and manifestations of the Holy Spirit at the fulfilment of the verses quoted from the second chapter of Joel, it is significant that there is the promise in Joel 3 that “all of the rivers of Judah will flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the House of the Lord” (3:18). We believe that those who are spiritual will be able to see in this verse and its context much that is applicable to this present dispensation, though it may be that the complete fulfilment of this passage, and also of that quoted by Peter from chapter 2, awaits the coming again of the Lord from heaven. [I disagree with this last statement. – Adam]

LIVING WATERS FLOWING FROM THE HOUSE OF GOD

For some time after Pentecost the church continued at Jerusalem, and seems to have been tolerated, in accordance with the advice of Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-40) until the time of the stoning of Stephen, after which period the gospel stream spread throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1), the church at Jerusalem, the spiritual house of God, being thus far its source. A little later we find another “church” of God at Antioch; for it is written that Barnabas sought Saul at Tarsus, and brought him unto Antioch, and that for “a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people” (Acts 11:25,26). Here again in the church in Antioch we find the Holy Spirit in full charge; and after a year of teaching inside the House, we see the living waters flowing out, and producing the results intended in the purposes of God. For we read at Acts 13:1-2, concerning “the church that was at Antioch,” that “as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, ‘Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work thereunto I have called them.’” And thus, from the House of God, and in the power of the Spirit of God, the stream of the Gospel flowed out in a new direction, and extended further than it had gone before.

Still later on the gospel was carried into Europe and it came to Thessalonica – not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance (1 Thess. 1:5). The result was “the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). And this is declared to be an ‘example’ or pattern for other churches, for the express reason, as the apostle writes to them that, “From you sounded out the Word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place you faith to God-ward is spread abroad” (1:8).

A GREAT DIFFERENCE

Our study brings into view a great difference between the Temple – God’s dwelling place in the old order, and the Church – His dwelling place in the new. In the case of the Temple, sacrifices were brought to it, blood flowed in it, and incense (worship) ascended from it. But no healing waters flowed from it. Hence what Ezekiel saw, and what was revealed also to Joel and to Zechariah, living waters going out from Jerusalem (Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8), was something quite new, and to which the former Temple and its ritual presented no analogy.

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Making Sense of Ezekiel’s Temple Vision by Steve Gregg


Ezekiel 40-48 has been seen by many as a challenging section of Scripture. Steve Gregg asks some good questions and offers a good analysis in the article below. In the next post I would like to interact with Philip Mauro’s thoughts on this subject in his 1922 book, “The Hope of Israel.”

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This article first appeared in the Practical Hermeneutics column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 35, number 03 (2012). 


The book of Ezekiel closes with a vision of a temple and its associated rituals. In chapter 40, the prophet is transported in vision from his home among the exiles in Babylon to Israel, where a divine messenger holding a measuring rod appears to him. The messenger gives Ezekiel a tour of the temple, measuring the various walls, gates, and courts. At one point, the glory of the Lord, which was seen departing from the temple in an earlier vision (chap. 10), is seen returning to inhabit the temple (43:1–4).

The following chapters describe various sacrificial rituals performed by priests. Special attention is given to the role of one who is referred to as “the prince.” Near the end, a river is seen flowing out of the temple from under the threshold. The book closes with portions of the land assigned to various tribes.

Biblical scholars acknowledge that the temple vision, which occupies the last nine chapters of Ezekiel, presents special challenges in its interpretation. Some have even described it as the most difficult passage in the Old Testament.

As with the descriptions in Exodus of the tabernacle and its furnishings, many readers will find this section of Ezekiel tedious, due to its many arcane details, but this is not the greatest difficulty presented by these chapters. By far, the greater difficulty has to do with identifying the time and manner of the fulfillment of the vision.

Is It Solomon’s Temple? When Ezekiel saw the vision (573 BC), there was no temple standing in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple, which had previously stood there, had been destroyed thirteen years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar, when he conquered Jerusalem and deported the citizens to Babylon. This means that Ezekiel was not seeing Solomon’s temple, or any temple that was actually standing at the time. What temple, then, was he shown?

Is It Zerubbabel’s Temple? Perhaps the answer that first comes to mind would be that this was the temple that came to be built, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, on the return of the Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem. However, this solution seems to be ruled out by the fact that Zerubbabel’s temple ended up being much smaller, and less elaborate, than the one Ezekiel describes. If Ezekiel was prophesying that the temple built by the returning exiles would fit this description, the prophecy failed to come true. This option does not commend itself to those who accept the inspiration of Scripture. Other interpretations, therefore, have been offered by evangelical scholars.

Is It the Church? Some Christian commentators have understood the content of these chapters as an apocalyptic vision, which is best interpreted spiritually. They point out that the church, in the New Testament, is often referred to as God’s “temple” or habitation. Each Christian is a “living stone” (1 Pet. 2:5), built, along with others, “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20) into a “temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16). On this view, the features of temple worship—priests, altars, sacrifices, blood rituals—would be seen as pertaining to spiritual, rather than literal, realities, and applied to our worship of God in the present time. In particular, the description of the river, in chapter 47, would seem to support a nonliteral interpretation. If this is the correct view, we would be required either to see many of the tedious details as being either superfluous or as corresponding to spiritual ideas that would be very difficult to identify with confidence.

Is It the Millennial Temple? Another view of this vision, commonly held among dispensationalists, is that Ezekiel’s temple will be established after the second coming of Christ and will serve as the worship center for all people during the “millennium.” On this view, the one described as “the prince” is often identified as Christ Himself, ruling over the millennial kingdom.

Choosing a Hermeneutical Strategy. In choosing among these options, we are compelled to decide between differing hermeneutical priorities. One of the chief hermeneutical principles recommended by dispensationalist scholars is that of maintaining a consistently literal interpretation. This would mean that “spiritualizing” the text must be seen as a departure from the most faithful handling of Scripture. Therefore, dispensationalists argue for a literal, physical building to be established in fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision. Since the temple erected after Ezekiel’s time did not fit Ezekiel’s description, they believe that there must be another temple in the future that will do so more admirably.

It would be easier to accept this theory if we did not have the New Testament to guide our thinking. The most obvious problem presented here is that the book of Hebrews (e.g., 10:1–18) speaks of the death of Christ on the cross as a termination of the efficacy of bloody animal sacrifices, such as those Israel offered in the temple. If Ezekiel’s vision applies to a future time, why do we again find the offering of animal sacrifices?

The dispensationalist answer is that the millennial sacrifices will not be intended to atone for sins. The blood of Christ precludes any need for that. Just as the Old Testament sacrificesanticipated the death of Christ as a future event, it is suggested the future millennial sacrifices will commemorate the death of Christ as a past event.

The text of Ezekiel, however, seems to preclude this, since the various offerings in the temple are said to “make atonement for the house of Israel” (45:17).1 Thus, the sacrifices are presented as an atonement for sin, not as a memorial. Christ Himself recommended the use of wine and bread to commemorate His death (1 Cor. 11:24–26). Why would God replace this with animal sacrifices in which God never found any particular pleasure (Ps. 40:6; 51:16; Heb. 10:6)?

Further, Ezekiel says that “the prince” will offer a sin offering “for himself and for all the people” (45:22). If the prince is required to offer sacrifices for his own sins, this would militate against any theory that identifies him with Christ, who never sinned.

Other objections to the idea that Ezekiel’s vision describes a worship economy to be established in the future would include the following:

  • The vision presents a centralized worship in a specified geographical place. In the Old Testament, people were expected to approach the tabernacle, or (later) the temple, for this purpose (Deut. 12:5, 11). Jesus, however, announced to the Samaritan woman that the time of centralized worship was soon to end and to be replaced with spiritual worship, which does not depend on being in any particular place (John 4:21–24; cf. Acts 7:48–50).
  • In Ezekiel’s vision, the Levites and Aaronic priesthood are seen in their former places of service. According to the New Testament, there has been a change of the priesthood (Heb. 7:12). The Jewish priesthood has been replaced by a different priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) and a non-Aaronic high priest (Jesus). This modification will not be reversed, for Christ is said to be “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:17, 21).

Literal Interpretation Is Not Always Best. While the difficulties of the dispensational interpretation seem insurmountable, its only strength lies in its hermeneutic of literal interpretation. There is another hermeneutic principle, however, that overrides literalism—namely, the superior revelation given in Christ.

Hebrews 1:1–3 affirms that, while God spoke to Israel through various prophets in the past, the revelation that has come through Christ is more comprehensive because He is no mere prophet, but “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person.” The New Testament is not a mere appendix added to the writings of the Old Testament prophets. It is a revelation of the new order in Jesus Christ, in whom all previous revelation finds its fulfillment, and through whom all previous revelation must be understood.

Christ opened the understanding of His disciples so that they “might understand the [Old Testament] scriptures” (Luke 24:45). This being the case, it would be foolish for us to seek a meaning of the prophets contrary to that which Christ and the apostles taught. It is their witness that provides the strongest objections to any literalistic interpretation of Ezekiel 40–48. In Christ’s new order (which, unlike the old order, is permanent), the temple, priesthood, and sacrifices are likewise spiritual (1 Pet. 2:5).

Making Sense of the Vision. How then are we to understand the temple vision? First, one might reasonably refer to the vision as that which “might have been,” had the Jewish exiles in Babylon exhibited a more thorough repentance than they did. There is an indication that the realization of this vision in Israel’s future was contingent on the people being sufficiently ashamed, or repentant, of their past sins: “Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple” (Ezek. 43:10–11).

The response of the Jews to their opportunity to return and to rebuild their temple was notoriously tepid. Only a small remnant opted even to return to Jerusalem, while the rest were content to remain in Babylon. As a result, the temple they built proved to be inferior to the one that Ezekiel described.

Though the Jews did not meet the conditions to have such a temple as Ezekiel’s, the pattern preserved in these chapters stands as a description of an intended order, which, had it materialized, would have testified, as the tabernacle once did, as a type and shadow of “heavenly things” (Heb. 8:5)—the new order in Jesus Christ. This, we may assume, was the long-term purpose served by the vision.

Though some features of the vision were probably intended symbolically from the start (e.g., the seemingly miraculous, ever-deepening river), it is probable that the temple and its rituals would have been literally instituted, as here described, had Israel met God’s conditions.

Whether or not the temple had ever actually been rebuilt, the new revelation in Christ encourages us to see its pattern as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ Himself, who is the final atoning sacrifice and the eternal high priest of God’s people.

—Steve Gregg

Steve Gregg is the author of Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary, and host of the radio show The Narrow Path (www.thenarrowpath.com). He lives in Temecula, California.


NOTES

  1. All Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

The Vision of the Old Testament Prophets for this New Covenant Age (Preterist Conference Call)


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:

  1. “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]

  2. “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]

  3. “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]

  4. “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.”

Harry A. Ironside, The Great Parenthesis: the Mystery in Daniel’s Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 1943.

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. This took place under Nero from November 64 AD until June 68 AD.
  • 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.

Isaiah 9:6-7

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.

Isaiah 2:1-4

“…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.

Haggai 2:6-9

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.

Ezekiel 34:23-31

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 47:1-12

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 [1] the restoration of Israel to the land after the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC and [2] 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. 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. 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. 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. 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).

Isaiah 54:1-17

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.

Zechariah 6:12-13

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.

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This article was also posted on a new website dedicated to our Monthly Preterist Conference Calls.

Long Island Conference: What WAS the Purpose of the End Times? (Part 1)


Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in an “End Times” conference in Blue Point, New York (Long Island). The conference was held at Blue Point Bible Church, pastored by Michael Miano. It was a great time of fellowship with like-minded believers, meeting Facebook friends for the first time, and learning from and being challenged by others. I also had the opportunity to speak on the following two-fold theme:

  1. What was the purpose of the end times?
  2. How do we walk worthy of the kingdom of God?

My presentation video was produced by one of the elders at BPBC. I’m a lot more confident as a writer than I am as a speaker, but I’m sharing this video here anyway and I’ll just hope that no one unsubscribes from this blog because of it. 🙂 Below the video are my notes which correspond with about the first 29 minutes of the video. (Some readers may recognize that the first half of this lecture is based on my article titled, “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation,” which was posted exactly two years ago today.)

One major theme which weaves through the book of Revelation goes a long way in answering the first question of this conference. This theme is covenant transition:

  • preparing to see the old covenantalready obsolete when Revelation was written – completely vanish away
  • revealing the glories of the new covenantalready valid when Revelation was written – which would soon stand alone

Proposal: Revelation guides the early church in navigating the transition period from one covenant to the next (old to the new), especially as that period was drawing to a close. This period lasted roughly 40 years (30 AD – 70 AD), parallel to the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.

Evidence: The same imagery that was present at the giving of the law, the old covenant, is echoed several times in the book of Revelation (4:5, 8:5, 11:19, and 16:18).

Parallel Scripture Passage: “In that He says, ‘a new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).

1. The background of these passages is Exodus 19.

a. The children of Israel were camped in the Wilderness of Sinai.
b. This was less than three months after leaving Egypt (verse 1).
c. God spoke to Moses from Mount Sinai.

“…Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings* and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’**Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly (Exodus 19:1-18).

2. God reminded them how He bore the people of Israel “on eagles’ wings”*out of Egypt and to Himself.

*Compare to Revelation 12:13-14, where the persecuted woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”

3. God was establishing a covenant with them at this time, and He called them to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”**

**Compare this with John’s opening greeting to the seven churches, where he says that Jesus “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:6).

4. This meeting on Mount Sinai was for establishing the old covenant.

a. It was marked by thundering and lightning, the sound of a loud trumpet, thick smoke, and the whole mountain quaking greatly.

5. The same cosmic phenomena present at Mount Sinai are seen again in the book of Revelation. Obviously it’s not because the old covenant was being established in John’s day. Rather it’s because the old covenant was being dissolved in John’s day, and a new covenant was being established.

Four Passages That Echo Mount Sinai in Revelation

Echoes of Mount Sinai in Revelation

We will observe these four passages, with some brief notes on their significance:

Revelation 4:4-5

Around the throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones I saw 24 elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”

a. Who are the 24 elders?
b. Some scholars believe they are the 12 patriarchs of Israel and the 12 apostles.

  • They represent the redeemed of both covenants, united in Christ.

c. The names of the 12 tribes and 12 apostles are written on the gates/walls of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12-14).
d. This covenant-establishing imagery takes place in the presence of elders representing both the old and the new covenant ages. 
e. There are seven lamps representing seven Spirits of God. We see the number seven in each instance where these features at Mount Sinai are shown.

Revelation 8:4-6

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 seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”

a. This scene takes place at the opening of the seventh and final seal (Rev. 8:1).
b. It’s likely that these prayers are linked to the cries of the martyrs for God to avenge their “blood on those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 6:10).

c. If so, the seal judgments are poured out in response to the prayers of God’s people.
d. The covenant-establishing imagery of Mount Sinai appears here because the prayers of the new covenant community were about to result in the old covenant system reaching its demise.

Revelation 11:19

Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

a. This scene takes place at the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
b. The 24 elders are also present at this scene (Rev. 11:15-16).
c. Loud voices declare, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
d. Here is perhaps the most explicit reference connecting the old covenant to prophecies in the book of Revelation.
e. John sees a vision of God’s temple housing “the ark of His covenant.

  • In ancient Israel, the ark of the covenant was a centerpiece of the temple and the old covenant.
  • The ark was located in the Most Holy Place and represented God’s presence.

f. When the judgments are over, what does heaven shout? “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).

  • This did not suddenly become true because buildings fell in 70 AD.
  • Paul told the Corinthian church that they were “the temple of the living God“ (II Corinthians 6:16).
  • The downfall of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple in 70 AD demonstrated and confirmed that God had chosen the glorious new covenant over the inferior old covenant (see Hebrews 8).

g. In this same passage, John witnesses an earthquake that kills 7000 people in “the city” (Rev. 11:13).

  • This is already identified as Jerusalem: “the great city…where our Lord was crucified“ (verse 8).
  • Josephus wrote about one night in early 68 AD when “a prodigious storm” took place in Jerusalem, marked by “the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake.”
  • Josephus added that the Jewish zealots allowed the Idumaeans to come in and help slaughter some of their fellow Jews who opposed their rebellion against the Romans. Between this slaughter and the earthquake, 8500 people died that night (Josephus, Wars 4:4:5, 4:4:7-4:5:1).

Revelation 16:17-21

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. 

a. This scene takes place at the pouring out of the seventh bowl.
b. John sees the great city, Jerusalem, divided into three parts.

  • This is a flashback to Ezekiel 5:1-12, when the prophet was required to shave his head and divide it into three parts, and was told by God: “This is Jerusalem” (Ezek 5:5). 
  • One third of his hair was burned, one third was chopped up by the sword, and the last third was scattered into the wind.
  • This was fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C. at the hands of Babylon. Jerusalem was also divided between 67-70 AD into three warring factions: [1] the Zealots, led by Eleazar [2] the Galileans, led by John of Gischala, and [3] the Idumeans,  led by Simon.

c. Revelation 11 described a literal earthquake, and Rev. 16 describes literal hail.

  • A talent was about 75-100 pounds.
  • Josephus wrote of large stones shot from catapults by the Roman armies into the temple complex in Jerusalem. This happened during the 5-month siege from April-August 70 AD.
  • The watchmen in the city reported these stones as appearing white in the sky:

“Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness” (Josephus, Wars 5:6:3).

  • Josephus also records that the watchmen on the wall, when they saw the stones coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!” After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and many more were crushed by these stones. J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book titled The Parousia, offers this explanation for the words of the watchmen (p. 482):

“It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith of the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], that St. James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood [in 62 AD]. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling though the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”

To Review

  1. The same phenomena that appeared at Mount Sinai appear repeatedly in the book of Revelation.
  2. They take place at the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, and the seventh bowl. In Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24, and 28 God promised to punish Israel seven times if they abandoned His covenant. God said He would “execute the vengeance of His covenant” (verse 25).
  3. Other covenant imagery can be seen in these passages in Revelation where the phenomena of Mount Sinai appear.
  4. All of this shows that a major goal of the end times was to completely dissolve the old covenant system and to champion the new covenant age that Jesus established at the cross.

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Just as the book of Revelation does, Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12 also contrast Mount Sinai and the new covenant, as well as two cities (earthly Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem) and two women (the harlot and the bride of Christ):

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… But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven…to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant… Now this… 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…” (Hebrews 12:18-28).

“For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage…and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all… Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ (Galatians 4:27-31).

Two Covenants

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The next post, Part 2, will include the notes that I used in the second half of my presentation, where we looked at Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 as a blueprint for how to walk worthy of God’s kingdom in the New Jerusalem.

The Shadows of the Old Covenant Can’t Be Restored


A Facebook friend, Larry Siegle, posted the following book excerpt the other day, and it’s excellent. It comes from a book written in 1972 by James D. Bales titled, “Prophecy and Premillennialism” (pp. 162-163):

“If we tried to go back to the Old Testament, it would not permit it. It would send us back to the New. The substance has arrived, so the shadow tells us to abide in the substance.

First, if we go back to Moses, he sends us to Christ. (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:22, 23).

Second, if we ask Moses to be our mediator, he sends us to Christ the mediator (Heb. 8:6; 12:24).

Third, if we go back to the Old Covenant, it sends us back to the New (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:5-13; 13:20).

Fourth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which its sacrifices were but a shadow (Heb. 10:1-4).

Fifth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which the animal blood typified (Heb. 9:15-27; 23-28; 13:20).

Sixth, if we go back to the Old Temple, the way to heaven is not made manifest (Heb. 9:6-12, 24, 25, 26); so it sends us to Christ who has opened and made manifest the way (Heb. 10:19-22).

Seventh, if we go to the Old Testament priests, they send us back to the priesthood of believers (I Pet. 2:5, 9).

Eighth, if we go back to the Jewish kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom which was being received in the first century (Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:18-28; 13:20).

Ninth, if we go back to the Old Testament kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28; 13:20).

Tenth, if we go back to the Old Testament Kings and High Priests, they send us to Christ the king and priest (Psa. 110:1-4; Heb. 7:11-22, 28; 8:4).

Eleventh, if we go to Abraham, he sends us to his seed, Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-29).

We must not retreat from the substance to the shadow. Any system of the interpretation of prophecy which restores the shadow contradicts the Old Testament and the New Testament.”

James Bales (1915-1995) was “an influential Bible professor and administrator at Harding University (then Harding College) for almost 40 years.” Bales was an amillennialist (Wikipedia).

We Now Live in the New Heavens and the New Earth


The following study will examine:

  • Matthew 5:17-18
  • Matthew 24:35
  • How Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke of the old and new heavens & earth
  • II Peter 3:7-13 (compared with Galatians 4:9 and Colossians 2:20)
  • Quotes from Eusebius (265 – 340 AD), Bishop John Lightfoot (1601-1675), John Owen (1721), Jonathan Edwards (1739), and Charles Spurgeon (1865) regarding “the heavens and the earth” as covenant language in Scripture.

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Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:34-35).

Jesus spoke these words to His 12 disciples around 30 AD. When He said “all these things,” He was of course speaking about everything He had just predicted in verses 1-33, from the temple being destroyed, to wars and rumors of wars, to famines and earthquakes, to false prophets and persecution, to the gospel being preached to all nations, to the abomination of desolation and people fleeing from Judea, to great tribulation, to the coming of the Son of Man, etc. Our Olivet Discourse series demonstrates how all these things were fulfilled by the time the temple fell in Jerusalem in 70 AD (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

Was Jesus also saying that heaven and earth would pass away in His own generation? Indeed, He was. We repeatedly saw in our study of the Olivet Discourse that the prophetic language of the Old Testament provides a background to much of what Jesus says in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. The same is true for the expression “heaven and earth.” This is covenant language, and this is perhaps most evident in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah and Jeremiah: Zion/Israel Was the Old Heavens and Earth

Isaiah’s opening vision was concerned with Judah and Jerusalem, according to Isaiah 1:1. Notice the very first words of Isaiah: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:2). This is not unique to Isaiah, for heaven and earth were repeatedly called as witnesses against Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:18-19, 31:28, 32:1; Jeremiah 2:12, 6:19; Micah 6:2). In Isaiah 51, speaking to the people of Israel, God says:

I, I am He who comforts you; who are you that you…have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…? …And I have put My words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of My hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are My people (verses 12-16).

The establishment of the heavens and the earth is thus linked directly to the establishment of Israel as God’s people at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-6). Psalm 68:7-8 reiterates that the earth and the heavens were greatly affected when “God, the One of Sinai” marched through the wilderness before His people:

O God, when You went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness, the earth shook; The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.”

This happened during the days of Moses. Judges 5:4-5 says the same thing. Jeremiah also spoke of Jerusalem’s pending destruction (in 586 BC) in a way that might seem as if he was talking about planet earth and the galaxies, if it weren’t for the context:

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war… I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light… For thus says the Lord, ‘The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark…’” (Jeremiah 4:19, 23, 27).

Jeremiah was in anguish over the collapse of the heavens and the earth (Zion) when Babylon destroyed Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. David Curtis, the pastor of Berean Bible Church (Virginia Beach), has this to say about Isaiah 51 (quoted above) and the Old Testament’s use of “heaven and earth” language in the context of judgment:

Notice [in Isaiah 51] that God is speaking to Israel. He says He gave them His law, the Old Covenant… Clearly God is not saying He gave the Old Covenant to Israel to create literal heaven and earth! Material creation existed long before Israel was ever given the Old Covenant.

The meaning of this verse is that God gave His covenant with Israel to create their world–a covenant world with God! God created Israel’s “heaven and earth” by giving them His Covenant. Now if He destroyed that Old Covenant heaven and earth and gave a New Covenant, would He not thereby be creating a New heaven and earth? This is precisely the thought in the New Covenant Scriptures!

This idea is seen more clearly as we look at other passages where mention is made of the destruction of a state and government using language which seems to set forth the end of the world, as the collapse of heaven and earth. In Isaiah 13:1-13, this is not an oracle against the universe or world, but against the nation of Babylon. Notice verse 13, “Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place.”

Now remember, He is speaking about the destruction of Babylon, but it sounds like world wide destruction… If you were a Babylonian and Babylon was destroyed would it seem like the world was destroyed? Yes! Your world would be destroyed.

This is an historical event that took place in 539 BC. When the Medes destroyed Babylon (Isaiah 13:17), the Babylonian world came to an end… The physical heaven and earth were still in tact, but for Babylon they had collapsed. This is apocalyptic language. This is the way the scripture discusses the fall of a nation (Source).

Curtis also points out how this “heaven and earth” language is used in these ways concerning Israel (Isaiah 24-27), Edom (Isaiah 34), Nineveh (Nahum 1), and Israel again (Hebrews 12). 

Isaiah didn’t only speak of the old heavens and earth. He also prophesied of “new heavens and a new earth,” and the creation of Jerusalem as a joy (Isaiah 65:17-19). This is covenant language, and this can be seen in the fact that the new heavens and new earth were to be marked by sin and death (verse 20), building and planting (verses 21-22), and the reproduction of children (verse 23).

When I was younger, I was taught that the new heavens and earth would be set up following a future Second Coming of Christ and a 1000 year “millennial reign” based in earthly Jerusalem, at which time sin and death would cease to exist. Isaiah’s description of the new heavens and earth, however, does not allow for this. Instead, his description speaks of present, earthly realities coinciding with new, glorious spiritual realities.

It also mirrors what we see in the New Testament. Paul told the Ephesians that God’s people are called to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). He likewise told the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, a new temple/tabernacle had come (e.g. I Corinthians 3:16-17, I Cor. 6:19, II Cor. 6:16, Ephesians 2:21, Revelation 3:12), and the old temple/tabernacle had to go. During the one generation following the cross, all of the rituals attached to the temple in Jerusalem were worthless. By the end of that generation, that temple and those worthless rituals were gone.

Obituary of the Old Covenant

SOURCE: Cindye Coates

We would also do well to remember that Jesus had already made a very significant statement about the disappearance of (the old) heaven and earth in the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will be any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Is the Law 100% intact even now in the year 2014, and are we thus still under the old heavens and earth? Or did Jesus accomplish everything and fulfill the Law, so that we are now under the covenantal framework of the new heavens and earth? Matthew 5:17-18 is an all-or-nothing statement. If “heaven and earth” have not yet disappeared, neither then has even one trace of the Law of Moses.

The “heaven and earth” spoken of by Jesus here are connected to the temple worship and law keeping of the Jewish world. We know that Jerusalem, the temple, and the old covenant system passed away in a fiery blaze in 70 AD. Jesus, of course, predicted this (in Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16-17; Rev. 18:8-9, 17-18).

II Peter 3:7-13 also speaks of the heavens and earth of that time being “stored up for fire” (verse 7) and ready to “pass away with a roar” and be “burned up and dissolved” (verse 10), giving way to “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (verse 13). That fire occurred in 70 AD when Jerusalem was burned by the Roman armies, as Jesus said would happen to the city of those who rejected His Father’s wedding invitation and murdered His servants: “And the king sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7).

Bishop John Lightfoot (1601-1675) made a key point in his Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 3, p. 452),

“Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26, Gal. 4:9, Coloss. 2:20: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing of the dispensation of Moses.”

Indeed, Galatians 4:9 and Colossians 2:20 make use of the same word translated as “elements” in II Peter 3:10. It’s clear that Paul spoke there, not of the cosmos, but of what was contained in the Law:

[1] “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10).

[2] “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?” (Colossians 2:20-22).

In a 1721 sermon, the Puritan preacher John Owen said,

I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state… [A]nd then the heavens and earth that God Himself planted, -the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinancy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed: this we know shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.”

Jonathan Edwards (in 1739) said this in his work, “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath, Vol. 2”:

The Scriptures further teach us to call the gospel-restoration and redemption, a creation of a new heaven and a new earth… The gospel state is everywhere spoken of as a renewed state of things, wherein old things are passed away, and all things become new… And the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world. But we who belong to the gospel-church, belong to the new creation; and therefore there seems to be at least as much reason, that we should commemorate the work of this creation, as that the members of the ancient Jewish church should commemorate the work of the old creation.

C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon also had the same understanding. In a sermon delivered in 1865 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vo. XXXVII, p. 354), he said:

Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away and we now live under a new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.

We will conclude with a much older quote, a very intriguing statement made by the church father, Eusebius (265-340 AD), in one of his writings known as “the Theophania”:

All authorities concur in the declaration that “when all these things should have been done”, ‘The End’ should come: that “the mystery of God should be finished as he had declared to His servants the prophets“: it should be completed: time should now be no more: the End of all things (so foretold) should be at hand, and be fully brought to pass: in these days should be fulfilled all that had been spoken of Christ (and of His church) by the prophets: or, in other words, when the gospel should have been preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and the power of the Holy People be scattered (abroad), then should the End come, then should all these things be finished. I need now only say, all these things have been done: the old and elementary system passed away with a great noise; all these predicted empires have actually fallen, and the new kingdom, the new heaven and earth, the new Jerusalem–all of which were to descend from God, to be formed by His power, have been realised on earth; all these things have been done in the sight of all the nations; God’s holy arm has been made bare in their sight: His judgments have prevailed, and they remain for an everlasting testimony to the whole world. His kingdom has come, as it was foretold it should, and His will has, so far, been done; His purposes have been finished.

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The information in this post also appeared in our study of Matthew 24:35.

Also see Steve’s 3-part series on “The Biblical Heavens and Earth” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) which he posted here in June 2014.

The Enlarged Tent of Israel (Isaiah 54:2), the Church


About a month ago, John Eckhardt posted the following poem in The Eschatology Forum, a Facebook group I belong to, and I think it’s worth sharing. Isaiah looked ahead to this present, everlasting new covenant age and saw a vision of the nations coming in to “a tent” that was much larger than the nation of Israel: 

The Enlarged Tent of Israel (Isaiah 54:2)

“Enlarge your tent and stretch forth your curtains,
You will break out on the right hand and on the left.”
Isaiah spoke this to Israel,
That the nations were coming.
The Tent of Israel was not large enough to receive them,
The Gentiles were coming in,
A new tent God would raise up,
The church would be the place.
On the Day of Pentecost the new tent began to form,
Thousands came into it,
And a new community was born.
Ten years after Pentecost Cornelius heard the call,
Peter went to his house and preached,
The Holy Spirit began to fall,
On the Gentiles came the mercy of God.
The multitudes began to come into this tent,
To the Gentiles the apostle Paul was sent,
Many nations heard the Word,
They came into the church to seek.
This tent expanded throughout the world,
There is no limit to who can come,
This tent is here today,
The Church is that enlarged place.
This tent is large enough to house your city,
This tent can house a nation,
There is plenty of room for souls to enter,
The LORD has made the space.
Let us believe for the multitudes to come in,
Let revival come to our land,
Multitudes are coming to this tent,
They are being brought in by the Lord’s hand.

If there’s any doubt that Isaiah foresaw the Church of Jesus christ, take note of how the apostle Paul applied Isaiah 54:1 in his analogy of two covenants, two women, and two Jerusalems in Galatians 4:21-31.

John Eckhardt is an apostle and church overseer based in Chicago, and founded IMPACT Network in 1995.

Guest Post: The Biblical Heavens and Earth (Part 3 of 3)


This post concludes Steve’s 3-part series on the Biblical heavens and earth, exploring comparisons between Genesis 1, Jeremiah 4:23-27, and Matthew 24:35. Part 1 can be seen here, and part 2 (which explores Jeremiah 4:23-27) can be seen here.

I would like to thank Adam Maarschalk for allowing me this opportunity to share with his readers even though we do not see eye to eye on many things. Studying the Word of God is a great joy and privilege, and I hope this study will benefit your own Bible studies.

In part two of this study, we saw that the old heavens & earth was synonymous with Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Jer. 4:23-26; Matt. 23:34-38 & 24:29-35). In the final post in this series, we will see that New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth, and that it arrived in 70 AD. (Based upon this, I have been at times accused of being a hyperpreterist, but I am not, since I still believe in the future Second Coming and the resurrection of our bodies, which hyperpreterists deny.) Just as the heavens & earth represented the kingdom of Israel, the new heavens & earth represents the kingdom of the Israel of God here on the earth. The Israel of God was established here on the earth when the old Israel was cast out of “Abraham’s camp” (Gal. 4:21-31). To better understand what the new heavens & earth is and isn’t, it will help to look at the biblical timeline.

The timing of New Jerusalem’s arrival and the new heavens & earth

In the book of Revelation, the bride of Christ is identified as New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 9-10). This New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth (Rev. 21:1-2). The bride arrives back in Rev. 19:7-9. The bride’s wedding supper consists of scavenging birds feasting on the flesh of the dead, when Jesus comes in judgment against the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:7-21). Likewise, the bride arrives as the people of God are rejoicing over the death of the great harlot Babylon, which is the great city (Rev. 19:1-6, also see Rev. chapters 17 & 18). So when the great city is destroyed, and the two persecutors of the Church are judged (the beast from the sea & the beast from the land/false prophet), New Jerusalem comes down to the earth. So who is the great city Babylon?

Since there is a great deal of material easily available here on this blog to prove this point, I will only provide a few proofs that Babylon is the city of Jerusalem. In Rev. 11:8, the great city is identified as where “their Lord was crucified,” which can only be Jerusalem. This verse also gives Babylon two other symbolic names: “Sodom and Egypt.” In the case of Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt, God poured out His wrath on them even as He brought His people out of those places. The same is true for the Babylon of Revelation (Rev. 18:4-8).  Where else do we read in the NT where Christians are warned to flee a city because its judgment has come? “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22)

The biblical pattern for New Jerusalem’s arrival

So we see that when Jerusalem is destroyed, the spiritual New Jerusalem arrives to take its place. This fits the pattern seen throughout the Bible: first the natural, then the spiritual. Cain was the first born, and murdered the spiritual Abel. Ishmael was the natural son of Abraham born by the power of the flesh, but Isaac was the spiritual son, born by the power and promise of the Holy Spirit. The first Adam is earthy, the second Adam is heavenly (1 Cor. 15:47). First is the natural body, then comes the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:42-49).

When Moses brought the Hebrews out of Egypt, there was the Jewish people and Law, but they would not receive the Jewish land for forty years, in order to kill off the unbelieving Jews. Likewise, when the Church was established in 30 AD, there was a Christian people and Law (the New Covenant – the law of faith in Christ), but the Christians would not receive their land (the new heavens & earth) until forty years had gone by to kill off the unbelieving Jews. This is why the Christians received the new heavens & earth in 70 AD.

As we have seen earlier in this study, Adam foreshadows the Jewish nation. Both are created to the west of the Holy Land, and then are planted in the Land and given a Law to keep. Both break the Law they were given and are driven out of the Land to the east (to Babylon). This is where the Genesis narrative leaves Adam, with the people of God expelled from the Land in exile to the east, cut off from the tree of life, and with the Land under a curse. However, in Revelation, the people of God are brought out of Babylon, out of the east, and are brought back to the Holy Land, back to (New) Jerusalem. Having been brought back, access to the tree of life is restored and the curse is no more (Rev. 22:2-3).

The nature of the curse of creation

In order to understand why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth, we first need to understand the curse in Gen. 3:14-19. As we have seen in previous posts, since the Genesis creation account isn’t about the universe, the curse isn’t about the universe, either. If the whole planet was pleasant and nice, why the need for a garden at all? But the planting of the garden indicates the rest of the world wasn’t so pleasant or ideal.

For Adam’s sin, he was driven from the Garden. Since the man was no longer there to tend the Garden, the Garden would become overrun with “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:17-18). This is the same thing that is taught in Isa. 5:3-7, Jer. 12:10-13, and Hos. 10:3-8.

Not only would the Garden of God be ruined because of man’s sin, but man’s work would become harder (Gen. 3:17-19). When there is less than ideal sunlight, rain, etc., raising useful plants becomes very difficult. In such circumstances, the only things that want to grow are those things which are useless to man – weeds. We see throughout the OT that God would punish Israel’s sin with droughts and poor crops, making it harder than it should be to raise a crop.

God cursed the woman by greatly multiplying her pain in bringing forth children (Gen. 3:16). Notice that God would increase her pain, which indicates pain was already in the workings of the world prior to Adam’s sin. I do not believe the pain refers to the physical pain of delivering a child, but to mothers mourning the loss of their children (as seen in Deut. 28:18 & 32; Jer. 4:31, 5:17, 9:20-22; Luke 23:28-29; in contrast with Isa. 65:23, 66:22).

Why there is no curse or death in the new heavens & earth

The reason why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth is because there are no wicked people in this “land” (Rev. 21:27, 22:14-15) that would bring about the wrath of God. Unlike “Babylon” (Jerusalem), God never has to abandon New Jerusalem and put it to the sword, because New Jerusalem’s people only consist of spiritual Israel, the Israel of God – those who are obedient to Christ. And since the city is never destroyed, the people remain in the land to tend the land and bear fruit for God, keeping it from being overrun by thorns and thistles.

This is why Rev. 21:4 says that in New Jerusalem, “there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” This is all in contrast to what just happened to “Babylon” (Jerusalem). God had just abandoned and destroyed it (Rev. 18). But God would never treat New Jerusalem in that fashion, because it will never become the home of wicked people. To enter this spiritual city, one must first repent and obey Christ (Rev. 22:14). If a Christian falls away, he is removed by Christ from His Church (Gal. 5:4), and is therefore no longer within the New Jerusalem.

When Rev. 21:4 says there is no more death, it is in the context of Isa. 65-66, especially Isa. 65:17-23. (There are numerous parallels between Isa. 65-66 and Rev. 21-22, too many to list here, but notice that Isa. 65-66 also links the arrival of the new heavens & earth with God punishing the culmination of generations of guilt: Isa. 65:7 and Matt. 23:29-36.) In summary of Isa. 65:17-23, God will not put New Jerusalem to the sword the way He did old Jerusalem. It is in that sense there is no more death. And even though Isa. 65:20-21 is speaking of lifespans in a figurative way, natural births and deaths still occur (which indicates this is not referring to the age of resurrection – Luke 20:34-36).

In fact, the presence of sexual reproduction and the marriage/one-flesh relationship prior to the sin of Adam indicates death was “baked” into creation, since resurrection and immortality means the end of marriage/sexual reproduction (Luke 20:34-36). This is because sexual reproduction has to do with the mortality of the flesh – once the flesh is made immortal, it no longer serves a purpose.

The key to understanding the new heavens & earth is realizing that it is not being contrasted with our universe, but with what would/did happen to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. During the age of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth, the nations of the world still exist (Rev. 21:24-27), but the nations of the world are abolished at the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-33).

New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth vs. the Second Coming

In Rev. 20, we are given a sequence of events that indicates the Second Coming takes place long after the arrival of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth. In Rev. 19, we see that the bride (New Jerusalem, see Rev. 21:9-10) arrives upon the destruction of Babylon (old Jerusalem). It is also at this time many people are put to death, and the beast and false prophet (Nero and the Jewish leaders) are punished (Rev. 19:17-21). But noticed who is not punished at this time –Satan. He will not be punished until “a thousand years” later (a symbol for a long, indefinite period of time).

Instead of punishing Satan at this time, God instead has Satan locked away for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). This is because God is not done with Satan at 70 AD. The end of the thousand years is marked by the temporary release of Satan, so that he can attack New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). But notice the end of the millennium doesn’t come with the arrival of New Jerusalem – but with Satan’s attack on New Jerusalem. It is only then, a thousand years later, that the devil joins the beast and false prophet in punishment (Rev. 20:10).

New Jerusalem is already there when Satan is released, because New Jerusalem is the millennial reign of Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem, Nero, and the Jewish leaders ushers in the arrival of New Jerusalem, which is Jesus’ capital city. New Jerusalem is where Christ reigns along with His saints for the thousand years. It is only at the end of the thousand years, the end of the reign of Christ that the resurrection occurs and death is defeated (1 Cor. 15:23-28). So it is no surprise that the final judgment and resurrection of the dead happens once the thousand year reign is complete (Rev. 20:11-15).

The beginning of the millennium vs. the end of the millennium

The triggering event for the beginning of the millennium is the destruction of Jerusalem. God rallies the nations of the world (the Roman Empire) against Jerusalem, and the city of Jerusalem is afflicted with demons (Rev. 9:1-11). The nations of the world destroy and loot Jerusalem, carrying off all of her treasures.

Contrast this with the event that triggers the end of the millennium. Satan rallies the nations of the world against New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). New Jerusalem is filled with “treasure” because it has “looted” the nations (Rev. 21:24-27, referring to the righteous who have been brought out of this world into the kingdom of Christ), but far from being looted, the city cannot even be harmed (Rev. 20:9). The city is not looted or harmed because unlike old Jerusalem, this city is filled with the righteous. God does not withdraw His protection as He did with old Jerusalem, because God protects His own people (Matt. 23:37). The attack on old Jerusalem brought about the judgment of one nation in one generation, but the failed attack at New Jerusalem brings about the judgment of all nations and all generations.

The resurrection vs. 70 AD

Some of those who correctly believe the new heavens & earth is a present reality mistakenly believe the resurrection happened, or at least began, in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. One problem with this view is that Scripture routinely treats the Second Coming and the resurrection as being distinct from 70 AD.

Take the Bible’s primary teaching on resurrection: 1 Cor. 15. This passage provides the most comprehensive teaching on the subject of the resurrection, and yet there is nothing there about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple.

Take another example, the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is all about the resurrection, much more so than the synoptic Gospels. Even the first sign John records, the apparently trivial miracle of turning water into wine, is really about the resurrection. Common water is placed into stone waterpots (“buried in the earth”), where Jesus miraculously changes it, and when it is “raised out of the earth,” Jesus turns it into something far superior: an excellent wine (John 2:6-10). In fact, the turning point in John’s Gospel is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45-53). And yet there is nothing taught about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple anywhere in his Gospel, at least not explicitly. The one Gospel that focuses on the resurrection is also the one Gospel that doesn’t focus on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. If the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple are an integral part of the day of resurrection, how can John spend his entire Gospel talking about the resurrection and yet never mention 70 AD?

The only passage that appears to tie the new heavens & earth with the resurrection is Rom. 8:18-25. The redemption of creation (which refers to the death of the old heavens & earth, and the arrival of the new heavens & earth in 70 AD) is compared to the redemption of our bodies (at the resurrection). But notice Paul does not say these events happen together. Instead, Paul merely compares the two: just as the creation will be set free from its corruption, so we will be set free from the corruption within ourselves. The creation is set free when it is resurrected/transformed from a natural land to a spiritual land, just as we will be set free of this body of death (Rom. 7:24, 8:10) when our natural bodies are resurrected/transformed from a natural body to a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44).

In 70 AD, the wicked are killed (Rev. 19:17-21) and sent down into Hades (Matt. 11:23). But at the final judgment, the wicked are resurrected out of Hades (Rev. 20:12-15). It is at this time death and Hades are abolished (Rev. 20:14, 1 Cor. 15:26). The resurrection brings about the permanent end of physical death and Hades (the spirit realm of the physically dead) because at the resurrection, everyone is made alive and immortal (1 Cor. 15:52-54). So how can the 70 AD judgment, which sent people to Hades, also be the day of resurrection which empties and abolishes Hades?

When the new heavens & earth arrived in 70 AD, New Jerusalem came down to the earth (Rev. 21:2, 10). New Jerusalem isn’t Heaven, it is a kind of “heaven on earth.” But at the Second Coming, we do not remain down here, but we are taken up there forever (John 14:3, 1 Thes. 4:17).

The physicality of the resurrection body

The ultimate argument against 70 AD being the day of resurrection is the physicality of the resurrection body. The resurrection involves the raising and transforming of our flesh bodies, which obviously hasn’t yet happened. The resurrection passages do not focus on a city or a temple, but on the bodies of believers. Passages such as Philip. 3:21 and 1 John 3:2-3 make this clear.

Jesus, Paul, and the Pharisees all used a grain of wheat to illustrate their teaching on the resurrection (John 12:24, 1 Cor. 15:37, Sanh. 90b). They used the same illustration because, as Paul repeatedly pointed out while on trial for his faith, they believed the same thing (Acts 24:15, 26:6-8).

What does “the Law and… the Prophets” say about “the promise made by God to our fathers”? King David wrote Psalm 16:9-10, which is quoted both by Peter and Paul in Acts (2:25-31, 13:35-37). We do not have to wonder what David meant, because Peter provides us with the inspired interpretation: David foresaw the resurrection of Christ, and seeing it gave hope to his flesh (Acts 2:25-31). Seeing the resurrection of Christ gave David hope for his aging, dying body because he understood the same thing Paul understood, that the resurrection of Christ is proof for our own future resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-23). Just as Christ was raised in His flesh and bone body never to die again, so our mortal bodies will be made immortal, too (Luke 24:39; Rom. 6:5-9, 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:52-54).

The Apostle Peter makes a very simple argument for proving Jesus has been resurrected, and that David has not:

Empty tomb = resurrected

Body still in tomb = not resurrected

Peter makes a simple argument that was easily understood by his audience. We know Jesus has been resurrected because His tomb is empty. Likewise, we know David has not been resurrected because his body is still in the tomb. If that argument was sound in 30 AD, then it remains sound today, because the Christian doctrine of resurrection hasn’t changed. Since the ancients are still in the tomb, how can some claim David and the rest of the OT saints were resurrected in 70 AD?

A spirit body resurrection?

Some who reject a physical resurrection believe in the resurrection of a “spirit body.” (Notice the Bible doesn’t teach a spirit body, but a spiritual body – compare 1 Cor. 15:44 with 2:14-16.) A “spirit body” is like a “square circle,” it is nonsensical because it is a contradiction in terms. By definition, a spirit is not a body, and a body is not a spirit. When Paul looks forward to the resurrection, Paul looks forward to being “set free from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24). The solution was not to be set free from the body, which happens at death, for Paul did not wish to be “unclothed” (2 Cor. 5:2-4).  Nor can the resurrection be said to be merely spiritual life, because the Christian already had that prior to both 70 AD and the resurrection (Rom. 8:9-11). The solution is not found in death, but in life evermore.

Baptism for the dead

When Paul speaks of Christians “who are baptized for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29), what is Paul talking about? The answer can be found in the context. Paul gives no indication that this baptismal practice is strange or wrong; in fact, he uses the practice to reinforce his point, which suggests his agreement with the practice. But what is it? Although ambiguous in the English translation, the “dead” in the original Greek language is definitely plural.

Paul is pointing to the fact that when Christians are baptized into Christ, they are baptized for their own dead bodies. Read 1 Cor. 15:29-35, and everywhere you read the word “dead,” read it as “dead bodies” and you will see that this not only make sense, it becomes explicit by v. 35 and throughout the rest of the chapter. In Rom. 7:24, he refers to his own living body as “the body of this death,” and in Rom. 8:10, even though the bodies Paul refers to were still physically alive, he nevertheless refers to them as being “dead.” Paul links Christian baptism with the body, death, and resurrection in Rom. 6:2-9 and Col. 2:11-13.

If the body was still alive, then in what sense was it “dead”?  Since the body is of the earth, and is made for life on the earth, it is earthy (Gen. 2:7, 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:44-49) and so has earthly, fleshly appetites. So in a sense, the body has a mind of its own, and its appetites are geared toward the things of this world, which is the mindset of death (Rom. 8:12-13). This means the body is weak towards carrying out the will of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:14-23, 8:3-8; also see Matt. 26:41). Since the flesh is in a sense morally dead because of our sin, it was a body of death, and therefore, mortal. The body is dead because sin is living in it (Rom. 7:14-21, 8:10).

Jesus became a life-giving spirit

When Paul writes that Jesus “became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), some believe this proves a spirit-only resurrection. But we do not become “life-giving” spirits like Christ, for we have no life in ourselves. Rather, we receive life from the Spirit of Christ. How so? We do not have to wonder, because Paul tells us in Rom. 8:9-11. In v. 9, Paul refers to “the Spirit of Christ,” and relates it to our resurrection by giving “life to your mortal bodies.”

The resurrection is not only about making our mortal bodies immortal, but about making our bodies into spiritual bodies – bodies that are strong to carry out the desires of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:42-54). Just as Jesus supplied the missing ingredients to transform the water buried in the earth into excellent wine at the end of the wedding (John 2:6-10), so Jesus will one day return from Heaven to supply the missing ingredients to transform our earthly tent into a heavenly building (2 Cor. 5:1-10) on the last day (John 6:54, 11:24). At that time, our transformation into the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4:13) will finally be complete!

Conclusion

New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth represents Christ’s spiritual kingdom here on the earth right now. It is Christ reigning through His Church, and on behalf of His Church. One day He will return, bring an end to death and sin through the power of His resurrection, punish the wicked, and take us into Heaven where the glory of God will “be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). There we will be with God and each other in a state of perpetual spiritual bliss. “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).

Are We In “the Last Days”? The Last Days of What?


1. When did the Biblical “last days” begin? Before Jesus began His 3.5 year ministry? On the Day of Pentecost? In 1948? In the late 20th century? 

2. What time period or age are we referring to when we speak of the last days? World history? The old covenant age? The new covenant age? Something else?

3. When were the first days? Billions or millions of years ago? 6000 years ago? Around 1200 BC? The 1950’s?

4. When were the middle days of this time period or age? Logically, we should expect this to be the longest period, with the greatest number of days.

Amidst all the rhetoric about “the last days” being here upon us now in 2014, it’s evident that many have done very little to analyze these types of questions. Consider the following two examples, before comparing their ideas to what the Bible says about “the last days.”

1. A poll was conducted in 2006 by McLaughlin & Associates, asking “1,000 randomly selected American adults” the following question: 

“Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Events such as the rebirth of the State of Israel, wars and instability in the Middle East, recent earthquakes, and the tsunami in Asia are evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls the last days.'”

They found that 42% of Americans agreed with this statement, and 58% of evangelical/born-again Christians agreed. See here for the rest of the results. From this survey, a majority of evangelical Christians in the US believe that events in the last 65 years or so prove that the Biblical last days are here now. The suggestion is that the last days arrived in recent decades, not a couple thousand years ago.

2. In 1990 the Christian rock band, Petra, produced a song called “Last Daze” (a play on “last days”) – from their album “Beyond Belief.” I was a Petra fan during the 90’s (I still respect them), and this was one of my favorites. From the lyrics to this song, it’s clear that they believed “the last days” are here now, and that spiritual delusion will intensify until the time of “the blaze”:

…In the last daze, the final haze
There was strong delusion to believe a lie
In the last daze before the blaze
They couldn’t see beyond their misty trance
To grab the truth and have a fighting chance
In the last daze…

Some say it’s a certainty
A sign of the times I am told
But I weep for the souls of those
Who will never return to the fold…

What does the New Testament have to say about “the last days” (and other equivalent expressions) and their timing? Here are a few examples:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

“He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:20).

“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (I Peter 4:7).

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18).

According to these and other Scriptures, Jesus lived and ministered in the last days. Notice the distinction in Hebrews 1 between God speaking throughout the old covenant period by the prophets, and God speaking by His Son at the onset of the new covenant period. The last days were linked to the transition period from one covenant to the other. 

We also see that Peter, Paul, and John wrote to believers living at the end of the age(s). John even said it was “the last hour.” This dispels the idea that “the last days” began in the 20th century, and it also dispels the idea that “the last days” began about 2000 years ago and continue until today. How could “the last days” still be here if “the last hour” of the last days arrived almost 2000 years ago? Consider, however, the real possibility that John wrote his epistle around 65 AD. Then it would make sense for John to say it was “the last hour” (of the old covenant age) just a few short years before it came to a dramatic end in 70 AD.

The old covenant age began in roughly 1300 BC during the days of Moses. It was made obsolete by Jesus’ work on the cross (30 AD), but was still “becoming obsolete and growing old” and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). This was its state for one generation – about 40 years. In 70 AD it did vanish away when the Roman armies came and burned the city (Jerusalem) of those who rejected Jesus’ wedding invitation (Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16, 18:8-10, 17-20). I believe “the last days” covered this transition period. I agree with Model 3 in the chart below (models 1 and 2 represent other popular ideas about “the last days”:

Duration of old covenant Last Days Began Duration of Last Days
Model 1 1300 years Pentecost 1984 years (and counting)
Model 2 1300 years 1948 66 years (and counting)
Model 3 1300 years Time of Jesus’ ministry 27 – 70 AD (Ended)

The new covenant age has already outlasted the old covenant age by 700 years (i.e. 2000 years and counting, compared to 1300 years):

Last Days Timeline

To answer the four questions at the beginning of this post then, I believe Scripture reveals that [1] the Biblical last days began at (or before) the time of the 3.5 year ministry of Jesus (27-30 AD); [2] they were the last days of the old covenant age; [3] “the first days” were in the days of Moses, around 1300 BC, when the old covenant was established, and [4] “the middle days” were the next 1200 or so years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, covering the time of the judges, the kings, and the prophets. In light of what Scripture says about “the last days,” how would you answer these questions? 

Here is what the great preacher, John Owen (1616-1683), once said:

“Most expositors suppose that this expression [In Hebrews 1:2], ‘The last days,’ is a periphrasis [euphemism] for the times of the gospel. But it doth not appear that they are anywhere so called; nor were they ever known by that name among the Jews, upon whose principles the apostle proceeds… It is the last days of the Judaical church and state, which were then drawing to their period and abolition, that are here and elsewhere called ‘The last days,’ or ‘The latter days,’ or ‘The last hour,’ 2 Peter 3:31 John 2:18Jude 1:18… This phrase of speech is signally used in the Old Testament to denote the last days of the Judaical church” (The Works of John Owen, Volume 19, pp.12 – 13).

For a more extensive study of the topic of “this age and the age to come,” please see this post.

Jonathan Welton: Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy Is About Jesus, Not An Antichrist


(Note: This post includes a full-scale teaching illustration below the following introduction.)

The last quarter of the 20th century featured many prophecy charts, based on dispensationalism, depicting a future “Rapture,” 7-year tribulation, Antichrist, series of seal/trumpet/bowl judgments, Battle of Armageddon, etc. When I was younger, I saw a few of these charts in person, and a number of others when I watched “A Thief In the Night” (1972), “A Distant Thunder” (1977) and “Image of the Beast” (1981); all available here.

Charts and illustrations can be good teaching aids. Based on my study of church history, however, the vast majority of respected leaders in the first 1800 (or so) years after Christ would have been horrified to see a lot of these (dispensationalist-based) charts. As my personal journey has taken me away from the pre-trib Rapture/premillennialist view I grew up with, and toward fulfilled eschatology, I’m glad to see that new charts, illustrations, and similar tools are being created which are a lot more sound and Biblical (in my opinion). In a couple of previous posts, I’ve highlighted two such illustrations by author Jonathan Welton, one on Daniel 2 and the kingdom of God and another on John’s use of “ge” (land) versus “kosmos” (world) in the book of Revelation.

Welton’s newest illustration concerns the 70 Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9. Seeing this prophecy differently was a major turning point in my own journey. Previously I was led to believe that Daniel saw a future Antichrist who would make a 7-year political covenant with Israel, then break it 3.5 years later, before presiding over another 3.5 years of planet-wide turmoil and catastrophes. This was to be the 7-year tribulation period. The text (Daniel 9:24-27) says none of these things. I can’t forget how stunned I was when it was pointed out to me, online, that the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is parallel to Jesus’ words on the night He was betrayed by Judas:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering…” (Daniel 9:27).

For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Each “week” in Daniel’s prophecy represents a period of seven years. We also know that Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice after 3.5 years of ministry (“…in the middle of the week…”), and that His sacrifice brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings under the old covenant. There went the idea that sacrifices must be restored in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in our future. There also went the only Scriptural basis (so I thought) for a 7-year tribulation period. Jonathan Welton does a great job bringing this and more out in his latest illustration: