Salvation and The Place of the Dead
by Daniel E. Woodhead, Ph. D.
Salvation as revealed in the Bible can be defined in two ways. First, it is deliverance from physical danger, and second, it is deliverance by God from His eternal punishment for sin. This article will focus primarily on the second instance, the salvation God provides to mankind that saves them from His penalty of allowing the power and practice of sin to control the lives and destiny of human beings on this earth. It is quite clear that this salvation is only of God, and we receive it according to His grace:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (MEV)
God is completely holy, and He punishes sin (Romans 1:18). Furthermore, mankind is sinful and has broken God’s Laws (Romans 1:19-3:18). There is nothing that mankind can do to earn God’s favor (Romans 3:19-20). The way of salvation is a free gift from God through the atonement of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). It is offered to all who would believe on Christ (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-30; 4:2-8:24). The only people who experience salvation are those who have actually accepted Jesus’ atonement by belief in the Gospel of Jesus.
10 be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (KJV)
Sin and Its Origin
Sin has plagued mankind since Satan introduced it into the world. As “the anointed cherub” who covered God’s throne, Satan was originally named Hallal that may mean “day-star” in Hebrew, before he fell from God’s Grace. Ezekiel states he was set over God’s throne until unrighteousness (sin) was found in him. This is the only verse in the Bible mentioning the origin of sin:
14Thou wast the anointed cherub that covereth: and I set thee, so that thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. 15Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness [sin] was found in thee. (ASV, 1901, brackets added)
Isaiah describes his “fall” from heaven:
12How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations! 13And thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven (ASV, 1901), I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. (ASV, 1901)
Because of his sin, Hallal was thrown out of his exclusive Heavenly reign, and then was “cut down to the ground”, where he continued his sinful activities as the one who “didst lay low the nations!” We do not exactly when His name was changed from Hallal to Satan, which is a Hebrew word meaning “adversary”. He is God’s adversary. As a result of his Fall, He polluted the Heavenly Tabernacle of God when sin was found in him, and that needed cleansing that is only provided by the blood of Jesus Christ. Then he indwelt a serpent in the Garden of Eden, beguiling our first parents Adam and Eve, causing them to disobey God. This act then caused sin to enter the sphere of time and space, as it was already in Heaven.
The result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden was that death entered the pristine earth through Adam and Eve’s sin, and more specifically the Garden of Eden where Jehovah God has placed Adam and his wife. Even though the earth became corrupt as sin entered it and caused death to reign over the creation, the more serious result was spiritual death (Romans 5: 14, 17, 21). All physical matter became a prisoner to the Laws of Entropy. Decay began at the point of the Fall, immediately after eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the “eyes of both of them were opened.” This means that Adam and Eve’s awareness expanded, but not to what the Devil had led them to believe it would be. Acting on the prompting of the Devil did not lead to divine enlightenment as he promised it would, but instead it led to a sense of shame. Satan promised them wisdom, which he cannot provide. Only the fear of God can bring wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). The world seeks Satan’s promises, and they always fail to receive them. Disobedience of God’s Word will never bring any benefits, only grief and lack of spiritual blessings. God immediately set up a Redeemer, Himself.
Genesis 3: 14
“14And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” (ASV, 1901)
The serpent, which allowed itself to be used by Satan and caused the downfall of mankind, is now held responsible for its actions. It is cursed “above all cattle and above every beast of the field”. Following this, the Lord said that the serpent would be destined to “crawl upon thy belly”. This means that it was at one point it stood upright, but there is no mention of any legs. Finally, the Lord states that the serpent would eat “dust” all the days of its life. Since the serpent does not have an actual diet of dust, we see a Hebrew idiomatic phrase “eat dust” used here as used by a conqueror over his enemies. In a contemporary setting we see this in automobile races where the winner states that the loser has “eaten his dust.” The Old Testament uses this term in much the same way (Micah 7: 17; Psalm 72: 9 and Isaiah 49: 23).
Genesis 3: 15
“15and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (ASV, 1901)
In theology this verse is called “the Proto-Evangelium” because it is the first appearance of the Gospel. Conversely, it is also the first prophecy the Lord gave us of the Antichrist.
The fifteenth verse, which is directed at Satan, has four provisions:
- Hostility between Satan and women.
- Hostility between Satan’s seed, the Antichrist, and woman’s seed, who is Christ the Savior.
- Christ bruising the head of Satan.
- Satan bruising the heel of Christ.
The first provision is that God will “put enmity between thee and the woman”. This state of hostility between Satan and women is persistent, and is brought about because of women’s special redemptive role of bringing the Messiah into the world. The first satanic attack on women is described in Genesis chapter six where demons intermarry with human women in an attempt to stop the coming of the Messiah by corrupting the quality of the human race. A worldwide flood stopped this attempt.
The second provision states that a hostile relationship will continue as the text states “between your seed and her seed.” The seed of the woman is the Messiah Himself, the Lord Jesus. In the Bible, genealogies are traced through the male’s lines, but it is not until we read in Isaiah 7: 14 does the Bible explain the Messiah coming from the womb of a virgin. The Lord Jesus had no human father, Mary’s husband Joseph was his stepfather. It is important to note women do not have the seed for procreation, men do. However, since Jesus was born of a virgin, the expression “her seed” represents a miraculous conception (Isaiah 7:14). The reference in this verse to Satan’s “seed” implies a supernatural, miraculous conception too. From this passage, and also in Daniel 9: 26-27, it can be deduced that Satan will someday impregnate a Roman woman who will give birth to Satan’s “seed” who is going to be the Antichrist. That woman might not be a virgin because Scripture does not affirm this, but he will be conceived through supernatural means. Consider II Thessalonians 2:8-9:
2 Thessalonians 2:8-9
“8And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9[even he], whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” (ASV, 1901)
In verse 9 of II Thessalonians chapter 2 above, the word “working” is the Greek word energeo, which means, “to energize”. So then the coming of Antichrist will originate by the “energizing” that comes from Satan. This counterfeit Son of the unholy Trinity will be brought about by a counterfeit virgin conception. A time is coming when the events of Genesis chapter six will be repeated, namely that the fallen, anointed Cherub, Satan (in the Latin Hallal is called Lucifer) will impregnate a Roman woman to give birth to Satan’s son. The product of this conception will be a counterfeit “god-man”.
The third provision promises a curse, which is: “he shall bruise your head.” The woman’s “seed”, Jesus, gives the bruising to Satan by His death and resurrection (Hebrews 2: 14-18). The word “bruise” implies it is a harmful condition, but not fatal especially since its target is the “head”. Satan is still alive, but will eventually become placed in a terminal condition due to Christ’s finished work. Because of Romans 16: 20 and Revelation 20:10 we know that Satan’s final demise will be in the Lake of Fire. This will be a “crushing” of the head of the serpent, and his demise will be eternal.
The fourth provision in Genesis 3: 15 is: “You shall bruise his heel.” Satan will bruise the heel of the Woman’s Seed, and this represents the crucifixion. The bruising of the heel, while painful, is not terminal. The bruising and crushing can be best understood with imagery regarding the method of dispensing of poisonous snakes in Israel. They must crush its head in order to completely eliminate its threat. As the heel of Messiah comes down on the serpent (Satan), the serpent rises up to bite His heel causing pain but not pain leading to an eternal pain (death). As the heel of Messiah continues to descend on Satan even though it has been bitten (the crucifixion), He is not dead so the heel continues down to finally crush the serpent’s head ending in his demise.
The Messiah is Prophecied
The fact that the Messiah had to come is well attested to in Scripture which starts with this foundational verse, Genesis 3: 15. One unique aspect of the Scriptures of Christianity is the prophecies and validated fulfillment at later times in the long chronology of the Bible’s story. These alone attest to the Scripture’s validity. Christ, after He was risen, explained many of the prophecies in the Bible and the fact that He had to die in order to accomplish the task He was to sent to do (Luke 24: 25-27). Jesus accused the Pharisees of not knowing who He was. In fact, He said that Moses knew He was coming and wrote of Him.
43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust (Luke 24:27; Numbers 21. 9. & 24. 17. Deuteronomy18. 15, 18, 19). 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me [Luke 24:27)]. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (KJV, brackets added)
Following His resurrection, He explained to some of His disciples the Old Testament text relating to Himself to certify that He was indeed the Messiah who was clearly prophecied:
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (KJV).
Christ’s first advent is well prophesied in Scripture. Some of those are:
He would be born in Bethlehem in the region of Ephrathah.
Introduced in Micah 5: 2 and fulfilled in Matthew 2: 1-5.
He would be the Son of God
Introduced in Psalm 2: 7 and fulfilled in John 3: 16-17.
He would be born into the Hebrew tribe of Judah
Genesis 49: 10 and fulfilled in Hebrews 7: 14.
He would be born of a virgin
Introduced in Isaiah 7: 14 and fulfilled in Matthew 1: 18-22.
He would be a prophet like Moses
Introduced in Deuteronomy 18: 15 and fulfilled in John 7: 15-17.
He would be the king of Israel
Introduced in Zechariah 9: 9 and fulfilled in John 12: 12-15.
He would be rejected
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 3 and fulfilled in John 1: 11
He would be beaten
Introduced In Micah 5: 1 and fulfilled in Mark 15: 19.
He would be silent during his interrogation
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 7 and fulfilled in Matthew 27: 12-14.
He would be betrayed
Introduced in Psalm 41: 9 and fulfilled in Mark 14: 17-20.
He would be tried and condemned
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 8 and fulfilled Matthew 27: 1-2
He would be crucified
Introduced in Psalm 22: 16 and fulfilled in John 19: 17-18.
His garments would be divided
Introduced in Psalm 22: 18 and fulfilled in John 19: 23-24.
He would be given gall and vinegar
Introduced in Psalm 69: 21 and fulfilled in John 19: 28-29.
His bones would not be broken
Introduced in Exodus 12: 46 and fulfilled in John 19: 31-36.
He is our sacrifice
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 5-6 and fulfilled in I Peter 2: 24-25.
He was raised from the dead
Introduced in Psalm 16: 10 and fulfilled in Luke 24: 1-7 and 47.
The resurrection of Christ is the most significant event in all of world history. It provides a remedy for the Fall,cleansed the heavenly tabernacle as well as a remedy for the sin of our first family, Adam and his wife. If one truly believes in the historical facts of the Gospel and is regenerated, one is granted eternal life through the finished work of Jesus of Nazareth (Romans 6:23; Titus 3: 5). The gospel is clearly presented in several places in Scripture, and none are clearer than I Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15: 1-4
“1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (KJV)
The Faithful Jews Awaited Jesus Arrival
The Jews were given a lot of evidence for the coming one who would take away the sins of the world. We see Simeon and Anna waiting in anticipation at the Temple for the baby Messiah to be brought there for His circumcision on the eighth day of His life.
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart In peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. (KJV)
The observant Jews of the Old Testament knew that the Messiah was going to arrive to provide salvation as Simeon cried had out, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.“ It is also quite clear it is the sacrifice of Jesus that provides our salvation from sin. Even though many knew He was coming (and would in the future be sacrificed), how was salvation guaranteed to the faithful in the Old Testament before Jesus’ sacrifice? First it is important to consider what the Bible teaches on the place of the dead. The Hebrew name for the place of the dead is Sheol, and the Greek word is Hades. Frequently our English translations will simply states these words as “Hell”. This is not accurate. The Old Testament declares in many places that people, both the faithful and unfaithful, went to Sheol when they died.
Old Testament Place of the Dead
One phrase that refers to death in the Old Testament is being “gathered unto His people.” A dead person is seen as joining the company of people that preceded him in death. The physical death takes place, then after that the individual is described as entering the company of those who had passed on before him (“gathered unto his people”). We read this regarding the death of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob:
8Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full [of years]; and was gathered to his people (KJV).
17And these [are] the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. (KJV)
29And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died and was gathered unto his people…. (KJV)
33And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. (KJV)
So, we see in the first book of the Bible that after people die physically, they are “gathered unto their people.” They are joining the company of people who preceded them in death, and are consciously aware of them. Due to his righteousness, the destination of Abraham in the good side of Sheol is described in the Bible: “And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). The following examples discuss this.
15As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (KJV)
Here David expressed a real faith that the soul will still be conscious in the fellowship with God even after death. This is also taught in the following verse:
23Nevertheless I [am] continually with thee: thou hast holden [me] by my right hand 24Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me [to] glory. 25Whom have I in heaven [but thee]? and [there is] none upon earth [that] I desire beside thee. (KJV)
In this Psalm, the author Asaph expressed a real faith in immortality. Even upon his death he saw himself as being conscious and with God.
7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (KJV)
Here Solomon expresses the truth that the body returns to the earth to decay, and finally become dust, but the spirit goes to be with God our creator.
The New Testament expresses this same concept in at least four verses. They are found in: II Corinthians 5:1-8; Luke 23:43; John 14:3; Philippians 1:22-23.
The Consciousness of the Souls in Sheol
Souls in “Sheol” are seen as having continuous consciousness. One good example of this is found in Isaiah:
9Sheol from beneath is moved for thee to meet [thee] at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, [even] all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. 10All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? 11Thy pomp is brought down to the Sheol, [and] the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. (KJV)
In this passage, the soul of the king of Babylon enters into “Sheol”, and into a particular section of Hell, where all the souls that preceded him in Hell suddenly rise in astonishment as they see this one also entering the domains of Hell. They are able to ask questions and carry on a conversation. It should not be missed that these dead ones are portrayed as being conscious. Here, in the “bad side” of Sheol, there is punishment for the king of Babylon.
The same concept is taught in the New Testament in Luke 16:19-31. This is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Here the distinction is made by Jesus of the two sides of Sheo,l or as it is called in the Greek, Hades since this is a New Testament story:
19Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: 20and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; yea, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. 23And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted, and thou art in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us. 27And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; 28for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29But Abraham saith, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. 31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead. (ASV, 1901)
So, there is clearly a good side and a bad side to the place of the dead. At the time of Jesus telling this story, He was essentially referring to Old Testament people. Abraham is in a location within “Hades” Jesus calls “Abraham’s bosom”. He also made reference to it as “Paradise” to the thief on the cross that expressed belief in Jesus as his savior (Luke 23:43). The rich man is in a place of torment also in Hades. There are then multiple compartments to Sheol or Hades. The Old Testament saints had to wait until Jesus was sacrificed in order to go to Heaven. When He died, He went to the “good side” of Hades to release them, and took them to Heaven. Most of the Old Testament verses using the word “Heaven” refer to the atmospheric Heaven, not the place of the dead. The New Testament does refer to “Heaven” as a place where the dead go as well as “Hell”. “Heaven” in the New Testament is the equalivant of “Paradise” in the Old Testament place of the dead. The folks who die in the New Testament era either go to “Hell”, the place for the unsaved, or “Heaven”, the place for the saved. After Jesus was complete with His resurrection body, the implication was that He descended again to Hades to gather the Old Testament saints and transport them from Hades to Heaven.
Jesus Released the Dead Old Testament Saints Who Waited For Him
When Christ ascended to the Father, He took “captivity captive”, meaning He took the righteous Old testament saints from the “Bosom of Abraham” to Heaven. This apparently was done on the Resurrection Day:
18 Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives; Thou hast received gifts among men,… (NASB)
8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…. (NASB)
The Old Testament saints were “captives” in the sense that they were not permitted to go to the presence of the Lord before He died on the Cross. Now, however, Christ led their souls in a great procession as a conquering general, to present them to the Father in Heaven as fully redeemed saints, awaiting their own resurrection from the dead.
When Christ went to Hades what did He say? Peter says He proclaimed a message to the spirits in prison who were disobedient before the Flood, but He probably also announced to the Old Testament saints that it was now time for them to go with Him to Heaven. The debt for sin had now been fully paid.
1 Peter 3:18-20
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (NASB)
Peter says that Christ died, and preached “to the spirits in prison”. The ones he mentions were certain ones who were disobedient at the time of the Flood of Noah. However, it also seems clear that He had a great message for the Old Testament saints about their coming elevation to Heaven. However, the unrighteous souls were destined to remain in the Place of Torment in Hades until they face the Judge at the Great White Throne, and the Lake of Fire.
Salvation before the death of the Messiah placed Old Testament saints in one of several places in Sheol, or the place of the dead. This place was also called “Abraham’s Bosom, or “Paradise” because of the loving care they received there while awaiting the opening of heaven to them by the death of Christ on the cross. The non-believers went to a place of torment in Sheol, and from there Christ will judge them before their final destination in “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15). The following chart depicts the all the destinations of the dead, and clearly delineates the different sections:Share on Facebook
The Most important event in all of human history is the resurrection of Jesus the Christ from the dead. In the resurrection, we see that Jehovah God sent Himself, a suffering servant, in the body of a man to atone for the sins of the world (Isaiah 49-57). The New Covenant is spoken of first in the book of Jeremiah, and is found in Jeremiah 31: 33-34, Ezekiel 36: 24-28, and Hebrews 8:8. This is one of the most difficult covenants to understand because of its timing and its relationship to the Church and Israel. It is announced by the prophet Jeremiah, launched at the death of Christ on the cross, but does not become operational until a later date when the Jews accept Him as their Messiah at the end of the Great Tribulation. Therefore, there are three stages to this Covenant:
- The Announcement
- The Launching, or Ratification
- The Inauguration, or Enactment
Before we can fully realize the uniqueness of this Covenant, we must first review the Abrahamic Covenant.
God’s Covenant With Abraham
The New Covenant is an outcome of God’s initial covenant to Abraham, who was a Gentile, when this covenant was first made. The first reference to this contract is found in the Abrahamic promises of Genesis 12:1-3. These promises were subsequently referred to and amplified throughout the book of Genesis (Genesis 13:14-17; 17:1-8). The Abrahamic promises were codified into covenant form in Genesis 15. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God essentially promised Abraham that He would do seven items for Abraham’s physical descendants delineated in Genesis 12:2-3:
- And I will make of thee a great nation,
- and I will bless thee,
- and make thy name great;
- and thou shalt be a blessing:
- And I will bless them that bless thee,
- and curse him that curseth thee:
- and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
From these seven “I Wills” flows God’s entire plan for all of mankind. All other covenants between God and man are build on this one. For example, items 5 & 6 are the basis for the “Sheep and Goat Judgment” of the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat at the end of the Great Tribulation, which closes the “times of the Gentiles” (Matthew 25:31-46). God also foreknew Satan’s anti-Semitism, and history is patterned after Satan attempting to bring about this reality (Zechariah 2:8). The Abrahamic Covenant was affirmed to Abraham’s progeny, Isaac, Jacob, and his twelve sons.
Because the Abrahamic Covenant is the foundation of God’s further covenant promises, the New Covenant should not be understood by separating it from God’s other covenant activity. Rather, it should be viewed as the natural out working of the Abrahamic Covenant. The New Covenant expands the promise to Abraham of blessing to “all the families of the earth”, which is the seventh “I Will” statement, and reveals the means by which man can have his sins forgiven in order to enjoy eternal fellowship with God. The chart below lines up the remaining covenants with the timeline of the Nation Israel:
Stage 1-The Announcement of the New Covenant
The Old Testament Mosaic Law was the old covenant that God had established with His people, and it required their obedience to uphold what they had agreed to do when they accepted God’s communication with them through Moses, during their 40 years in the wilderness (Exodus20). The Mosaic Law required that the people perform rituals and sacrifices to atone for their sins. In order to please God, and remain in His grace, this was necessary because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). These sacrifices by God’s people had to be given in the spirit of earnest acknowledgement of the their sins. God also told His people there was a New Covenant coming that He would make with them, and first announced this in the book of Jeremiah:
31Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more (ASV, 1901).
God through, the prophet Jeremiah, said that there would be a time when He would make a New Covenant with the nation of Israel. “ ‘The day will come,’ says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah . . . . But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. I will put my law in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31; 33).
Although God had been faithful in keeping His terms of the conditional Mosaic Law (also called the Mosaic Covenant), Israel had not been faithful to uphold their part of the covenant, thus resulting in Israel breaking the Mosaic Covenant. While the Mosaic Covenant described the standard of righteousness, which the Mosaic Law demanded, God did not provide the power to the people to keep it. But that problem will be rectified in the New Covenant as stated in verse 33 above through regeneration of the people’s heart, and this will provide the internal power necessary to meet and keep the righteous standards of God. The result of the New Covenant will be a total national regeneration of Israel, as described in verse 34 with the New Covenant in their hearts, “they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.” This will not happen until the end of the Great Tribulation when the remaining Jews all become believers in Jesus the Messiah.
How the New Covenant applies the Church
It is also important to determine what this covenant means to the Church at the announcement stage, because it seems to the casual reader, that the New Covenant applies to the Church. It is quite clear that the passage God gave to Jeremiah announcing the New Covenant is strictly meant to apply to the Nation Israel in Jeremiah 31:31. For God said, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” Some commentators blur the clear distinction between Israel and the Church, and use this as the basis for applying the New Covenant to the Church. But the text here is quite clear, it is written to Israel. God is not “finished” with Israel because they rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and to those who say that He is finished with them, the apostle Paul counters their assertion saying that God has “hardened” them against the acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah for only a specific amount of time:
25 For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, lest you be wise in your own estimation, for a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will remove ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “for this is My covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins.” 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but as regarding the election, they are beloved for the sake of the patriarchs. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but have now received mercy through their disobedience, 31 so these also have now been disobedient, that they also may receive mercy by the mercy shown to you. (MEV, underlining added)
The apostle Paul makes it clear that God has not cast off His people. In fact, in answering this rhetorical question, Paul responds with God forbid!:
11 I say then, have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid! But through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. (MEV, brackets and underlining added)
So, one of the reasons for establishing the Church is to make the Jews jealous so that they will want what the Church has, and that will lead them to belief in their Messiah.
Stage Two- Launching the New Covenant
Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17) and to launch the New Covenant between God, and His people the Jews. The Old Covenant was written in stone, but the New Covenant will be written on their hearts, and that is made possible only by faith in Christ, who shed His own blood to atone for the sins of the world. Luke 22:20 says, Jesus took another cup of wine and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you – an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.” Since the Church had not yet been formed, He was speaking to His apostles, who were Jews, at the last supper.
What the Lord Himself told His Jewish disciples at the Last Supper is key to understanding what the New Covenant means to us. Christ made two statements about the New Covenant:
- This is My blood of the new covenant (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24).
- This is the new covenant in My blood (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25)
The blood of the New Covenant is not itself the New Covenant, nor is the New Covenant His blood. What Scripture teaches on this matter is to recognize that the Old Testament promise of the New Covenant contained both spiritual and material benefits. The Church indeed is enjoying the spiritual benefits, such as salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but the Church is not experiencing the material benefits, which remain unfulfilled. The material benefits will remain unfulfilled until the entire nation of Israel is regenerated at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which ends the Great Tribulation. At that time, the New Covenant will be inaugurated to provide both its spiritual and physical benefits to all believers in Christ, and these benefits will continue throughout the Messianic Kingdom (Romans 15:27). The New Testament does not violate Old Testament statements when it includes more than was revealed in the Old Testament.
Stage Three – The Inauguration of the New Covenant
The book of Hebrews was written to second, and third generation Hebrew Christian believers in the Church Age. In Hebrews 8:6-23, the author describes that the inauguration or enactment of the New Covenant for the Jews will be in the future (Hebrews 8:6–13). The writer states in Hebrews 8:13b: “Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away”, which literally means, “Now that, the Mosaic Covenant, which is growing old and aging, is near to disappearing.” For the Jews, the Old Covenant has not yet disappeared because the New Covenant has not come to them, yet. Nowhere does the Scripture say the New Covenant has already come into existence so that they benefit from its spiritual and material blessing before the acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jews. The writer of Hebrews continues:
15 For this reason He [Jesus] is the Mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the sins that were committed under the first covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (MEV)
Another way to understand this is illustrated in the following chart:
Source: Daniel Woodhead
The New Covenant, prophesied in the Old Testament was made with the two segments of Israel that it had divided itself into, that is, the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Church, though not a formal partner of the New Covenant, participates in the New Covenant both as a subject of living a new life based on redemption in Christ, and as a recipient of God’s promises to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant. The promise that effects the Church has come through the Seed of Abraham who is Jesus Christ, as first presented as the seventh “I Will” of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Church does not “fulfill” the New Covenant, that is strictly for the Nation Israel in the future Messianic Kingdom.
The New Covenant was inaugurated at Christ’s death (Matthew 26:27–28; Luke 22:20), and the Church, by her union with Christ, is sharing in many of the spiritual blessings promised to Israel the New Covenant (Romans 11:11–27; Ephesians 2:11–22; II Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:6–13; 9:15; 12:22–24). For we are told:
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace. (MEV)
But, though the Church’s participation in the New Covenant is strictly as a participant, it is not the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. The fact that believers today enjoy the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant, such as forgiveness of sins, and the indwelling Holy Spirit, does not mean that spiritual and physical blessings will not be realized by Israel. That still awaits the day when Israel will acknowledge her sin, and turn to the Messiah for forgiveness (Zechariah 12:10–13:1)
One way to illustrate the Church’s participation in the New Covenant is to view the New Covenant as an airplane that takes off. Let’s view the plane as the Covenant and its load of missiles as the Church. The Church (Missiles) gets dropped off in the Church Age and the plane (New Covenant) continues on until it lands in the Messianic Kingdom.
Written by: Daniel E. Woodhead
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The Role of The shepherd
In chapter 34 of the book of Ezekiel God is using a familiar illustration of the “shepherd” and his “sheep” to describe the leaders and the people of the Nation Israel. The Bible frequently uses this terminology to refer to the spiritual leaders with responsibility over a group of people (Psalm 78:70-72; Isaiah 44:28; 63:11; Jeremiah 23:1-4; 25:34-38). Their primary role was to guard the nation like a shepherd would guard his flock. Every society needs a recognized and well-ordered leadership for its own safeguard and prosperity. God chose elders, priests, kings and prophets to connect Him to the people in ancient Israel. There are earthly “shepherds” to carry out the Lord’s will in leading the people to God, and King David recognized this:
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever. (KJV)
In this Psalm David categorized the many benefits of the Lord as our “Shepherd”, and who also is a gracious host. The Lord protected David from life’s dangers, and God’s persistent living protection enabled him to enjoy a secure communion with Him all the days of his life.
The Lord also described the future, earthly appearance of the Messiah of Israel as a “shepherd” who will feed and gently carry the young of His flock (Isaiah 40:11). The same is important in New Testament times as well (Proverbs 8:15; Romans 13:1). During His appearance in time and space as the Lord Jesus, He called Himself the “Good Shepherd”, while describing the bad shepherd as a thief and a robber:
1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.
7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me[a] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (NKJ)
The Shepherds of Israel
The kings and princes who ruled over the Nation Israel became evil and self-serving instead of doing God’s work ministering to the people. God was getting ready to take them to task for what they were not doing (Ezekiel 34:1-2).
Characteristics and Results of Evil Shepherds
3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill the fatlings; but ye feed not the sheep. 4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought back that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with rigor have ye ruled over them. 5And they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food to all the beasts of the field, and were scattered. 6My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my sheep were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and there was none that did search or seek after them. (ASV, 1901)
These appointed leaders did not serve the flock as the Good Shepherd intended them to do. At the expense of the common people they were using the offices that they held to achieve personal gain, and become wealthy. Their view of the people as a source of wealth replaced fulfilling their obligation to the Lord who had entrusted them with the administration of His love, care and accurate promulgation of His Word in an organized and systematic manner. Instead of taking their God-given role seriously, they ruled with harshness and brutality. They did not strengthen those who were diseased, they failed to adequately heal and care for the sick, and they did not care for the lost, either physically or spiritually. Through the truth of Scripture, they should have nurtured the people, and brought them to a positive, genuine relationship with God. Another error in their flagrant disregard for the people was failing to watch over them. Instead they let the sheep wander from the safety of the flock. Their shepherding of the flock was diametrically opposed to what Jesus characterized as the appropriate action of a Good Shepherd:
12What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? (NASB)
Sheep will wander. It is one of their characteristics, and when the sheep become scattered they are vulnerable to predatory wild animals. As much as he can, the caring shepherd will make sure they are not wandering off in a direction that will harm them. These leaders were so self-serving that they failed to provide any oversight, and did not notice, or care, that the people of Israel had left the flock in terms of spiritual purity and physical safety. When leaders abandon truth for personal gain of any sort they are placing their flocks in danger. When the message of truth is corrupted or is inadequately conveyed, a person will leave their acceptance of the authority of Scripture’s spiritual truth and is lost. They no longer have the safeguard of its protective doctrines, and are in danger of losing the path to eternal salvation.
Since the mid 1800’s many of the spiritual leaders of the Church have been abrogating their spiritual responsibility to care for their flocks. They cause many to leave because they began denying, or arguing over some of the fundamentals of the faith. Denominations and church after church have split over denials of the Trinity, the incarnation and the Second Coming. The roots of this began in Europe, particularly with German Rationalism where the inerrancy of the Scripture was denied with the development of Biblical Criticism and particularly with the “documentary hypothesis”. Julius Wellhausen was the principal developer of this concept. He insisted that human reason only, not the Bible, could be trusted. He presented the idea that the Bible, far from being God’s Word, was just a collection of human documents. These destructive denials of the fundamental truth of the Bible caused the church leaders to quote everything but the Bible, and preach everything but the gospel. Religious liberalism led to the calamities that came upon Europe such as Communism, Nazism, fascism, and promulgation of the occult. Other diseased ideas have been promoted by the absence of a spiritual core that makes up the divine life and spiritual blessing. Wellhausen and his liberalism destroyed the spiritual life in Europe, and nearly succeeded in the spiritual destruction of the United States. Today less than 1% of the population of Europe is made up of Evangelical Christians. 
If you think that men are not able to negatively influence others to keep them out of the Kingdom, listen to what the Lord Jesus had to say to the Pharisees:
13But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in [yourselves], neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (KJV)
TRUTH MUST NEVER BE SACRIFIED FOR PEACE. IT NEVER WORKS!
In more recent times modern “false shepherds” have led many into a totally new phase of misleading the believer. The old phase, under the liberal intellectuals of the 1800’s, can be characterized as “destructive denials” of Scripture authority. This new phase claims to affirm the fundamentals of the faith, but they have made a paradigm shift away from the Bible as being the final authority in determining divine truth, and focus on experience as being equally valid, or taking priority over Scripture. If the Bible contradicts a particular practice, or “experience” promoted by the modern day church, then that practice is justified by them as a “new move of the Spirit”, and what the text of the Scripture actually says can be contradicted by this new “experience”. This represents itself as a more “spiritual” of a way of denying the truth of God, and therefore far more deceptive. The Holy Spirit will never move in a manner that is contrary to Scripture.
The New Evangelicalism or The Emerging Church
The New Evangelicalism, also called the Emerging Church, is perhaps the most insidious of all the apostasies. It is characterized by catering to the desires of the people. Instead of being inculcated with God’s Word and having our personal world view and behavior be patterned after God’s Word, the New Evangelicalism gives the people what they want. One New Testament passage clearly predicts this reversal of worship of God to worshipping man:
25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (KJV)
The idea of this new wave apostasy is to “soft-sell” the Bible and salvation. This apostasy does not want to upset anybody, there is never any mention of Hell, or the outcome of an unsaved life. Instead they offer a path away from an aimless, meaningless life here on earth. They say they “believe” strongly in salvation through Jesus Christ, but their actions differ sharply from what they say. Salvation is given lip service, and evangelism with real confrontation or teaching Biblical doctrine is thought to be too “divisive”. Usually their Bible teaching is characterized by an over emphasis on application, which is the “middle of the road” approach. Our “experiences” and “quality of life” here on earth are more important than total service to God, and the blessed assurance that He will soon come to lift us out of this sinful decaying world. Paul warned us that the end times would be characterized with a departure from sound doctrine, and from the truth:
II Timothy 4:3-4
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (KJV)
The New Evangelicals believe if they do not emphasize “man-pleasing”, they will lose members of their congregation, and more importantly, their funding. A total dependence on God for their resources is abandoned for “sound business” practices or “fundamental marketing techniques.” Total reliance on God by elders through prayer and patience is exchanged for parliamentary procedure, schemes for man-made self-advancement, and the development of career goals. The pastor is considered a CEO, not the teacher of God’s Word. Mission statements and strategic plans are formulated to accommodate personal plans. The Bible is subordinated to man’s desires.
The thought of prophecy is anathema to the New Evangelical for they say it causes “division”. This “division” of course is between those non-literal Bible expositors and the literal Biblical expositors. Some have characterized the New Evangelical as being seduced by the world spirit of this present age. You can see it in the leaders who are popularized. Usually they have a high degree of prominence in the government or sports, and their testimonies are sought after for paid speaking engagements and book endorsements. But you will never see a Sunday school teacher, or poor inner city pastor held up by them as pillars of the faith. Christ went to the lowest members of society to bring the truth to the world. He did not go to the popular and prominent because they had already compromised the Truth for self gain.
The New Evangelicals represent a spirit of disobedience to, and a mood of compromise of what God has asked us to do in times of confrontation. It is a rejection of many of the difficult aspects of New Testament Christianity. They promote an attitude of “positivism” where they would rather be passive diplomats, not focused fighters, and infiltrators rather than separatists. They would not be restricted by a separationist mentality as we are asked to do if God’s word is violated. The New Evangelical would rather pursue dialog, intellectualism, and appeasement than standing firm for Biblical truth.
Our culture has become deeply entrenched with psychology, and its teachings are rapidly becoming the norm in Christian Schools and churches to “add to” or replace the teachings of the Bible. The weakness and carnality of the church in recent decades has allowed this psychological mind-set of the world to flow into the church. Psychology offer remedies outside of God’s word in the Bible, and has brought about a redefining of many foundational matters of the Christian faith. The correct understanding is that man’s condition is sin, and God’s remedy is His saving and transforming grace (Romans 5:12, 17). Psychology teaches that man must esteem himself, affirm himself, and actualize himself. All of this new thinking is coming from psychological theory, which is primarily a man-based philosophy of life. In conclusion, we are strongly warned in the word of the Lord not to be guided by the philosophy of the world:
8Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (KJV)
It is clear from the beginning passages in Chapter 34 of Ezekiel that man (who are “sheep”) tended to stray from God to follow his own self-willed path (Isaiah 53:6). We need to deny ourselves, take up His cross, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). We need to follow the leading of our Good Shepherd, who loves us, and died so we could be eternally secure and free. The Good Shepherd is just the opposite of the bad shepherds who let the sheep die because they cannot be bothered to do their job.
The Indictment of The False Shepherds
7Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: 8As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely forasmuch as my sheep became a prey, and my sheep became food to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my sheep; (ASV, 1901)
Our Lord here addresses the wicked shepherds directly with the command to “hear the word of Jehovah”. God begins again to stress the situation the wicked shepherds created causing the sheep to scatter, and become prey “to all the beasts of the field”. The shepherds did not look for the sheep that were scattered. God still calls the sheep His own, which obviously means that He has never relinquished His rights to sheep entrusted to the shepherd of the flock. These wicked men were given temporary custody and this is their indictment; they failed to look after the people of God to whom they were entrusted.
This should be a sober message to anyone who has responsibilities to teach the Word of God. God is very serious about the quality of the teaching of His Word, and will chastise those who cause the sheep to scatter because of poor quality teaching, including denial of essential doctrines necessary for the sheep to flourish. The false shepherds had brought Israel to ruin, and now He would intercede to rescue His chosen people. The fact that God will cause His people to hear the truth, and bring the genuine sheep out from under false shepherds cannot be missed. There also is a component of responsibility on the sheep to seek out the truth of God’s Word where it is taught clearly, and to abandon the false teachers. Only the truly saved will seek the truth.
God Will Deliver the Sheep
9therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: 10Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them. (ASV, 1901)
The main objective of God in this situation was to bring about the deliverance of the sheep and their well-being. God does not desire the ruin of anyone. This text primarily rebukes Israel’s false shepherds. The sheep are meant to receive comfort, and He promises that He has not forgotten about them. The Lord God will deliver His sheep from the hand of the unfaithful shepherds, and He personally would gather His scattered sheep. Throughout the history of the Church this is also very apparent. When the shepherds have gone “bad”, and are no longer are feeding the flock of sheep, God intervenes and leads the sheep to a new shepherd who will feed them.
False Shepherds Today
Revelation chapters two and three can be seen as a chronological exposition of a broad overview of Church history. We can see the letters to the churches describe an accurate chronological depiction of the problems encountered throughout church history. The last letter to the church at Laodicea provides an clear picture of the apostasy of the visible Christian Church, also called The Church of the Apostasy, and represents Church history from A.D. 1890-to the present day:
14To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. ’17Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
“20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (NASB)
This letter is directed to the Laodiceans, whose name means “people ruling”, and it is a church entirely ruled by men, which this is diametrically opposed to God’s ruling in the church. This is because the Holy Spirit is not present and doing His ministry of guiding, teaching, and illuminating. While this has happened throughout the history of the Nation Israel, it is far worse in the Church Age since the 1890’s. God says that in the latter times some will be led by demons away from faith in God. This is what led the Israelite shepherds away from God as they worshipped the Canaanite idols on the “high places.” The following passage clearly describes the shepherds who are given authority to bring God’s Word in the Church Age, and why they fail:
I Timothy 4:1-3
1But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons , 2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (KJV)
The source of the apostasy is demons. Apostates have essentially given in to seducing spirits and are preaching a system of doctrine that is a doctrine of demons. Furthermore, they speak lies through hypocrisy, and their consciences have stopped working. We can see how the shepherds through their adherence and interest in demonic activity have been led to teach a whole host of unbiblical requirements. As they turn from clearly teaching God’s Word, they deny its authority:
II Timothy 3:1-5
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (KJV)
This passage from II Timothy begins with a description of the general character of false shepherds of God Word. Many of these characteristics are true today. Verse five specifically identifies the false front put on by the shepherds. These men have “a form of godliness”, but deny the power of God’s Word. Consider apostate clergy who wear flowing clerical gowns and embrace church hierarchical titles or dress in a manner appearing to be “one of us”. They appear to have a form of “godliness”, but they deny “the power thereof”, for they have denied the true power of godliness. They claim to trust in God, but are actually trusting in worldly methodologies. They bring the world’s attractions into the church to lure the sheep into remaining, even when they stop affirming the authority of God’s Word. This is one aspect of the sheep scattering from the false shepherd that no longer carry’s the voice of God to the sheep. We are commanded to separate from them. Here are four important points to understand what this really means:
- Separation is not an optional part of Christianity; it is a commandment (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Cor. 6:14-17; I Timothy 6:5; II Timothy 2:16-18; 3:5; Titus 3:10; 2 John 7-11; Revelation 18:4).
- Separation is not mean or unloving; it is obedience to God.
- “Mark them . . . avoid them” (Romans 16:17)
- “Be ye not unequally yoked together with” (II Corinthians 6:14)
- “Have no fellowship with” (II Corinthians 6:14)
- “Come out from among” (II Corinthians 6:17)
- “Withdraw thyself” (I Timothy 6:5)
- “Shun” (II Timothy 2:16)
- “Purge oneself from” (II Timothy 2:21)
- “From such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5)
- “Reject” (Titus 3:10)
- “Receive them not into your house neither bid them Godspeed” (II John 10)
- Separate even from brethren who are living in disobedience, and do not follow the traditions Christ taught us (II Thessalonians 3:6).
- Separation is a wall of protection against spiritual danger. Failure to separate from error leaves one open to the influence of error (I Corinthians 15:33). The reason a shepherd separates the sheep from wolves is to protect them. Likewise, a faithful and godly Bible teacher will seek to separate his flock from spiritual dangers that are even more destructive than wolves. As evidence of this we see many false prophets, corrupt denominations and seminary teachings.
Another activity of the false shepherds is mockery of the fundamentals of the faith and the creation schisms or separations:
17But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (KJV)
They begin denying some of the fundamentals of the faith such as the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary death of Christ, and His physical resurrection from the dead. Then they attempt to convince some to their heresies, but not all will accept them. As the Lord said, many sheep will know His voice and only follow Him, and not a false shepherd (John 10:1-5). In the course of time this produces a split within the visible church. Throughout the Church age there has been schism after schism. Church after church and denominations have split over denials of the Trinity, the incarnation and the Second Coming.
Like the example we have in Ezekiel’s day, these scatterings of the sheep through heretical teachings and deeds of separations have become prevalent as church history has progressed from the time of Jesus to the present day. Liberalism, also called Modernism, and other attempts like them to keep God’s Word from clearly reaching the sheep have accelerated since the early 1900’s. The decade of the 1920’s was characterized by the great Modernist-Fundamentalist battles. There were many attempts to fight Modernism within the church. Toward the end of that decade, it was apparent that the Modernists were firmly in control of both the denominational church positions (this included all the major denominations except the Southern Baptist Convention) and their schools.
This led to the separatist movement of the 1930’s as the Fundamentalists pulled out of the denominations and started their own denominations or independent churches. Emerging from the United Presbyterian Church of the United States of America was a group led by J. Gresham Machen, which subsequently split into three separate denominations (Orthodox Presbyterians, Bible Presbyterians and the Evangelical Presbyterians) due to internal struggles. Out of the American Baptist Convention came the General Association of Regular Baptists (GARB). Out of the United Methodist Church came the Evangelical Methodists. The following chart is a partial depiction affirming these splits:
Additionally, ecumenical movements have been prevalent during the 1940’s through to the present day. Ecumenism is a demonic attempt to tie “bad” teaching and practices to “good” ones, which only results in bad theology and doctrine. The fundamental Bible believers either cave in to the liberal apostates, or separate by breaking off in order to clearly receive God’s Word from other sources. In 1948, the World Council of Churches was organized on two principles: First, the unity of all the Churches in the basis of liberal beliefs; and second, the unity of all religions. In 1950, the old Federal Council of Churches was reorganized into the National Council of Churches, again attempting to unify all churches in the United States along liberal beliefs. Consequently, the visible church is primarily apostate today. Even among conservative denominations, the threat of apostasy is taking over of the theological and seminary schools and results in the supplying of liberal ministers for the pulpit.
God Affirms His Deliverance of His Sheep
11For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14I will feed them with good pasture; and upon the mountains of the height of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie down in a good fold; and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord Jehovah. 16I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but the fat and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice. (ASV, 1901)
God always will take charge of His genuine sheep even though the false shepherds ignore the sheep in order to chase after their own desires and profit. He says that He “will search for my sheep, and will seek them out”. Jesus expressed this same truth in John chapter ten. In very loving text God says that He will bring the Jews out of all the places in the world where they have been scattered, and place them again in the land of Israel. He will not allow them to suffer again anything they need because He will supply it. The Lord’s treatment of His flock is diametrically opposite to that of the false shepherds. In verse 16 God states there will also be judgment on the wealthy, or “the fat and strong” of the nation who have oppressed the poor. God’s Word tells us that excessive prosperity causes people to forget God:
8Remove far from me falsehood and lies; Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is needful for me: 9Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah? Or lest I be poor, and steal, And use profanely the name of my God. (ASV, 1901)
All these promises to Israel and the Church seen in Ezekiel 34: 11-16 will be realized in the Messianic Kingdom.
Daniel E. Woodhead
 Breese, Dave, 7 Men Who Rule The World From The Grave, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 1992Share on Facebook
Communicating Old Testament Prophecy
The New Testament frequently realizes fulfillments of Old Testament prophetic passages in various manners. Some have stated that there are in excess of six hundred allusions and quotations in the New Testament from the Old Testament. Others have alluded to the book of Revelation as having that many all by itself. Prophecy is obviously a significant component of the New Testament. Therefore, it is important for a correct reading of the New Testament to understand this issue so you can accurately assimilate the message that God is communicating. Without an appropriate understanding of the proper reading of God’s Word, it becomes “jammed up” in its meaning, and the reader will receive an erroneous message. Just as earthly warfare has combatants attempting to “jam” each other’s communications to gain an advantage, the Biblical text has an enemy that is seeking to cast doubt on God’s Word. Satan has been trying to cast doubt on what God has spoken since the Garden of Eden. He will use any means possible, including poor hermeneutics, poor grammar and incorrect theology.
It is important to understand the different written forms of texts in the Old Testament in order to understand how the prophecy came about. The same is true for all the all other biblical writers. The manner, or form, somebody says or writes in has everything to do with formulating a proper understanding of what they mean. For example, in the seventh, eighth and ninth chapter of the book of Isaiah there are discussions taking place which refer to specific activities taking place in Isaiah’s day needing resolution, but the resolutions will be completed by God at a later time. Isaiah wrote his book in standard narrative and Hebraic poetry forms, and this makes a difference in how we read Isaiah’s words. One of the keys to understanding Isaiah is to come to grips with the poetic genre of communicating. Reading poetry requires us to read it at a different pace, to pay closer attention to the text, and to remind ourselves that it is not a straight narrative, therefore we must focus on the words more intently.
He will be born of a virgin (Circa 714 B.C.)
Most of us are not familiar with poetry’s decorative manner of presenting concepts, and therefore understanding it does not come naturally. One factor of poetry that helps us understand it is the attempt to put God into language. Since He is outside of our experience, He not easily rendered with straightforward words. But poetry can express what has been called “divine communication” because it exceeds normal comprehension. Isaiah frequently made use of the method called “parallelism”. Simply stated, one sentence would be followed by another, but stating the same thing in a different manner. Isaiah expressed many of the offices and characteristics of the coming Messiah this way. For example, see how in about 714 B.C. Isaiah presents the characteristic of Christ as being born of a virgin, and pay especial attention to sequence in verse 14:
Isaiah 7: 1-14
1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. 2 And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart trembled, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest tremble with the wind. 3 Then said Jehovah unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, in the highway of the fuller’s field; 4 and say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither let thy heart be faint, because of these two tails of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have purposed evil against thee, saying, 6 Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set up a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeel; 7 thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. 8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken in pieces, so that is shall not be a people: 9 and the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. 10 And Jehovah spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of Jehovah thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt Jehovah. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel (ASV 1901).
To give you some background on this passage, about 930 B.C. after Solomon died, there was a civil war in Israel. The name “Israel” became attached to the apostate ten tribal regions in the north. “Judah” became the name attached to the faithful southern region. Ahaz was king of Judah in the southern kingdom (Cir. 714 B.C.). As the text tells us, the king of Israel Peka, the king of Syria Rezin, and the nation Ephraim laid siege to Jerusalem. This scared Ahaz so that he thought that the Jews would be wiped out, and also the tribe of Judah through which the Messiah would come. God sent Isaiah, along with his son Shear-jashub, to comfort Ahaz by telling him that Judah would not lose the battle, or be exterminated. God, through Isaiah, then wanted Ahaz to realize that he could rely on God to provide protection for him and his people. They would not be destroyed since the Messiah had to come through the tribe of Judah, and He would be born from a virgin who would be God Himself. In the Hebrew language the word “virgin” refers to a young unmarried girl, and is pronounced ha’almah, which means “the one who is not yet betrothed.”
In the Hebrew culture under the Mosaic Law, an unmarried girl had to be a virgin or she would be stoned to death. So while the word ha’almah does not translate directly as “virgin”, this is what is understood based upon the ancient Hebrew culture. The Hebrew word for “God with us” is Emmanuel, and by specifically stating this word, God wanted Ahaz to know that just as it had been prophesied from previous times, God’s promises would come to pass. They always do. When we weary of our circumstances, remember this story that God gave Ahaz to comfort and even to rebuke (“ye will weary my God also?”) him for not trusting God to do what He said He would do. The parallelism demonstrated in this passage is that God would protect Ahaz within the immediate future, and there will be an even greater protection in the distant future when Emmanuel is born.
God Warns Isaiah Not to Be Like Many People
11For Jehovah spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, 12Say ye not, A conspiracy, concerning all whereof this people shall say, A conspiracy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be in dread thereof. 13Jehovah of hosts, him shall ye sanctify; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many shall stumble thereon, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16Bind thou up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait for Jehovah, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from Jehovah of hosts, who dwelleth in mount Zion. 19And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead? 20To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them. 21And they shall pass through it, sore distressed and hungry; and it shall come to pass that, when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse by their king and by their God, and turn their faces upward: 22and they shall look unto the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and into thick darkness they shall be driven away (ASV 1901).
The only proper way to determine truth is to go to first the Word of God. Many have departed from this, and look to other sources such as personal experiences or a denomination’s hierarchy to tell us what is true. Frequently people will experience something, whether it is in the news or from a church leader, and then try to find verses to justify the activity rather than be willing to admit that the experience—no matter how wonderful or supernatural it felt—was simply not of God. As evidence they will say that they “feel better” by validating the experience with a particular verse or others, usually taken out of context from the original scripture passage, and think that this justifies the experience. God’s Word must be the primary source of truth, not any experience.
Within the Book of Isaiah God frequently demonstrates by means of comparison a difference between actual believers and those that do not believe. In verse 16 above, we see just what value each places on Scripture. The “law” is the Law of Moses, and the “testimony” is the words of the Prophets. The Believers actually believe Moses and the Prophets (The Old Testament). The non-Believers reject the Scriptures as the ultimate authority, and were trying to make God more “real in their experience” by finding gods they could see, feel, and touch. In verse 19, Isaiah warns them that they are not to go after counterfeit spirits and teachers “that chirp and that mutter.” People who follow after those “that chirp and that mutter” could have some great feelings, but Isaiah rejects all this. The only valid testimony is what he declares in verse 20: “To the law and to the testimony!” In other words, go back to the Scriptures as the only final authority. And in closing he says “if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them.” Isaiah makes it quite clear: Whatever the experiences, if it does not align with the written Word of God there is simply no morning “light” for them. A person’s failure to heed God’s Word means he has no spiritual light (John 3:19–20). God will eventually judge all Spiritists, mediums, and those who consult them (Isaiah 8:21–22). In their distress they will look up to God and curse Him, and look to the earth where they will face distress, and then be thrust into darkness (2 Peter 2:17). Ironically those who seek to consult the dead will be forced to join them!
The Light of the World Will Come
The troubles of Israel shall end through the birth of a very Special Child. This section of the prophecy actually started with chapter 7:1, and ends in this wonderful and gracious promise:
1But there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time hath he made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased their joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4For the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as in the day of Midian. 5For all the armor of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire. 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this (ASV, 1901).
The essence of the whole section is that Israel shall not suffer from Pekah and Rezin, and her oppressors shall be Assyria and Babylon. They shall overwhelm her, crush her, lay her low, and she shall remain awhile in gloom and darkness, but later the darkness is going to end. Then a “great light” shall shine forth, first in the north, then over all the land, and “the rod of the oppressor” shall be broken. A Child shall be born, who shall bear marvelous names, and shall rule over the full kingdom of David in justice and righteousness forever. God has spoken, and God will perform this.
Verse 1 states that “contempt” was brought upon the more northern part of the Holy Land, first when it was overrun and ravaged by the Syrians (1 Kings 15:20) under Benhadad, and then when it suffered under the Assyrian attack (2 Kings 15:29) under Tiglath-Pileser. Under Gentile domination, that area was then called “Galilee of the nations” meaning the gentiles, not Galilee of the Jews. Isaiah then moves on to cite a time is coming when the people will see what God will do as stated in verse 1b where He states “He made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” This was area was the home of Jesus. He was a Galilean, and lived and ministered there. For thirty years he had lived at Nazareth, in Zebulon. There He had first come forward to teach in a synagogue (Luke 4:16–21). Also in Galilee He had done his first miracles at Capernaum, “upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali” (John 2:11; 4:54).
All the world was “in darkness” when Christ came, but especially the Jews. They had the light of God and seemingly rejected it. “The Light of the world,” “the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” first came in the North of Israel “by the way of the sea,” when Jesus came forward to teach and to preach in “Galilee of the nations.” Jesus first streamed forth His light, glorifying the Northern Israeli region on which “contempt” had long been poured. Verse 3 tells us Jesus will make the nations joyful as when a bountiful harvest is reaped. So this verse is offering relief to the people who have been deceived and downtrodden. The result will be that a very special son will come to them who will be a blessing in the northern part of Israel.
The coming of the Messiah sets the Israelites free, removes the yoke from off their neck, breaks the rod where their shoulders were beaten, and delivers them from bondage into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” In verse 4, the “yoke of his burden” is that of sin, the “oppressor” is that prince of darkness, who brought all mankind under his dominion. However Christ will break it when the Messianic Kingdom arrives, and the heavenly Kingdom will come on earth just as it is in Heaven. And then all need for military equipment will vanish as it is burned up because He will cause peace and justice to prevail on this earth.
In verse 6 we are told that a child will be born who will eventually rule the entire world. The government will indeed “be upon the shoulders” of the Messiah as He bears the work of managing the government of the entire world during the Messianic Kingdom for a thousand years:
Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession (ASV, 1901).
Also in verse 6, His name will be called “Wonderful” and is a direct reference to Judges 13:18. Here Samson’s father asks the Angel of the Lord who He is, and gets the reply of “Why do you ask My name,” the Angel of the LORD asked him, “since it is wonderful.”
The word “Wonderful” can also be translated as “secret” or “extraordinary”, “supernatural”, or even “incomprehensible”. This is the nature of God. Jesus the Messiah will be a “Counsellor”, and the people will gladly listen to Him as the authoritative One. In the Messianic Kingdom many people will be anxious to hear the Messiah teach God’s ways. As the Messiah He will also be “Mighty God” who is strong, powerful, and mighty. As the “Everlasting Father” He is eternal and has no end as the Father of all mankind. The title “Everlasting Father” is an idiom used to describe the Messiah’s Deity, not His relationship to the other Members of the Trinity. He is God the Son. He will endure continually for Messiah is God. The Messiah is also called the “Prince of Peace”, the One who will bring in and maintain the time of millennial peace when the Jewish nation, and the world at large, will be in obedience to the Lord. Together, these four titles give a beautiful picture of the coming Lord that is future in Isaiah’s day (and yet future to our day too) and Messiah’s character.
According to the passage in Isaiah, verse 7 tells us this child will be born into a Jewish family of the lineage of king David with whom the control of the entire world’s government will rest. Isaiah expands on this here:
And a throne shall be established in lovingkindness; and one shall sit thereon in truth, in the tent of David, judging, and seeking justice, and swift to do righteousness (ASV, 1901).
“Of the increase of his government and peace” there shall be no end, which means the Messiah’s kingdom shall ever increase more and more, and there shall be no limits to it. Ultimately it shall fill the world (Matthew 28:18, 19). The continual spread of Christianity tends to the accomplishment of this prophecy. “Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom” means that the Messiah is to sit on the throne of David, which signifies His Davidic descent. A gradual establishment of the kingdom as Christianity spreads is the first stage that is also taught in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven (Matthew 13:31-33). From “henceforth even forever” means the kingdom is to be both universal in respect of extent, and in respect of eternal duration. God’s jealousy of his own honor will assure the performance of all that is prophesied.
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Restoration of The Harlot and Her Sisters
This is the fifth section of the parable and is covered in verses 53-58.
53And I will turn again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them. (ASV, 1901)
Now God begins to give Ezekiel the assurance that Judah would be restored. Judah and Jerusalem have been associated with their “sisters” of Sodom and Samaria, both of whom God said sinned less than Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:46-47). In the process of restoring Judah and Jerusalem into His good favor, God says that He will include both Samaria and Sodom in the deliverance. The time of this deliverance is a subject of much discussion. God must be speaking of the Messianic Kingdom when the restoration of all things on this earth will occur. This has not happened any time before in history. The inhabitants of the Southern Kingdom of Judah came back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, but there has never been a time when the sinful cities of Sodom and Samaria have been restored. God is saying that He will be fair and restore Judah’s “sisters” too. This means these cities will be restored in the Messianic Kingdom. It does not refer to the individual sinners who were within them because they will suffer the punishment of eternal fire. The wicked always receive their justified eternal punishment:
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (KJV)
The two cities of Sodom and Samaria, which were judged earlier in history, shall also be the first to receive God’s mercy and restoration. He will then restore Jerusalem along with the other cities of Judah. These areas are located within the area given to the tribe of Judah by God (Joshua 15). This is not a restoration to their sinful state, but to their original state before the massive sinning took place.
Judah Will Be Shamed
54that thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be ashamed because of all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them (ASV, 1901).
Within the restoration there will be an element of humiliation for Judah. Jerusalem will be ashamed to realize that Sodom and Samaria have been “restored” to God’s favor with her. This will be a comfort to those who saw that Jerusalem’s sins were greater than the cities of Sodom and Samaria. Both of these cities will take comfort from the fact that Jerusalem, who had “looked down on them” received the greater punishment and was only restored because they were, in other words Judah’s misfortune was a comfort to Sodom and Samaria.
55And thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate; and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate; and thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate (ASV, 1901).
In the Messianic Kingdom God will provide them all a complete restoration, and this is described in Deuteronomy:
3 That then Jehovah thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither Jehovah thy God hath scattered thee 4If any of thine outcasts be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will Jehovah thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5and Jehovah thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. (ASV, 1901)
As a result of their repentance, God will exercise His tender compassion and gather the nation and bring her back to her land. He will restore all of Israel’s fortunes. This is a theme that He has frequently stated through His prophets (Jeremiah 30:18; 32:44; 33:11, 26; Joel 3:1). This great restoration to the land, which was promised to Abraham will not be fully complete until the return of the Messiah after the Tribulation, and just before the beginning of His millennial reign on the earth (Isaiah 59:20–62:12) (See also Jesus’ teaching of the regathering in Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27). This will be a time of spiritual unity under the Messiah, and material prosperity greater than the Nation Israel, or the world, has ever known (Deuteronomy 30:5).
Sodom’s Warning Ignored
56For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride, 57before thy wickedness was uncovered, as at the time of the reproach of the daughters of Syria, and of all that are round about her, the daughters of the Philistines, that do despite unto thee round about.
At the height of Judah’s prideful existence, she did not consider Sodom’s fate as a warning of what could and would happen to her through God’s judgment. The depth of wickedness in Judah was revealed during the time of the reign of King Ahaz when Judah was subjected to attacks, and was defeated by both Syria and the Philistines:
II Kings 16:5-6
5Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. 6At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews from Elath; and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there, unto this day. (ASV, 1901)
II Chronicles 28:16-19
16At that time did king Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him. 17For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried away captives. 18The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the lowland, and of the South of Judah, and had taken Beth-shemesh, and Aijalon, and Gederoth, and Soco with the towns thereof, and Timnah with the towns thereof, Gimzo also and the towns thereof: and they dwelt there. 19For Jehovah brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he had dealt wantonly in Judah, and trespassed sore against Jehovah. (ASV, 1901)
Before this time when kings sinned they has some sense of modesty to keep it concealed, but during King Ahaz’s reign it was shamelessly extravagant, openly displayed, and had become so flagrant that it spread throughout the entire country. If King Ahaz and the others had taken the experience of Sodom to heart, they could have avoided the tragedy they experienced. They caused the idolatry to increase to a level not known before, and that would result in their total destruction 140 years later by the Babylonians.
Punishment Must Be Meted Out
58Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith Jehovah
God says that they have been punished for their abominations. They have suffered the result of their extreme sinfulness. He is essentially saying to them that He has punished them according to the oath he made with them in the Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 26), a conditional Covenant made at Mount Sinai with all the children of Israel:
11Your little ones, your wives, and thy sojourner that is in the midst of thy camps, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water; 12that thou mayest enter into the covenant of Jehovah thy God, and into his oath, which Jehovah thy God maketh with thee this day; 13that he may establish thee this day unto himself for a people, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he spake unto thee, and as he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (ASV, 1901)
God’s Everlasting Covenant
Verses 59-63 make up the sixth section of this parable.
59For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will also deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.
60 Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. (ASV, 1901)
In contrast to the Jews who did not keep any covenant with God for very long, God is now saying that He will keep His part of the covenant He made with the Nation Israel at Mount Sinai. God is steadfast in His truth and promises. “The days of thy youth” is a reference to the time between the Exodus and their entry into the Promised Land, also called Eretz Israel. Jeremiah also speaks of this:
And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, 2Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, I remember for thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. 3Israel was holiness unto Jehovah, the first-fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall be held guilty; evil shall come upon them, saith Jehovah (ASV, 1901).
The “everlasting covenant” found in verse 60 of Ezekiel 16 is the New Covenant, which will be fully activated when the Nation Israel has experienced a national regeneration, and entered the Messianic Kingdom:
Jeremiah 31: 31-37
31Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.
[God Will Never Forget Israel]
35Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirreth up the sea, so that the waves thereof roar; Jehovah of hosts is his name: 36If these ordinances depart from before me, saith Jehovah, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. 37Thus saith Jehovah: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Jehovah. (ASV, 190, bracketed title added)
The National Regeneration of Israel
61Then shalt thou remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder sisters and thy younger; and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant. 62And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah; 63that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I have forgiven thee all that thou hast done, saith the Lord Jehovah. (ASV, 1901)
One of the principal reasons for the Great Tribulation is to break the will of “the holy people”, the Jews (Daniel 12:7). Their shame will be confessed according to Leviticus 26:40-42, Jeremiah 3:11-18 Hosea 5:15. The Nation Israel will plead for their Messiah to return (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37-39). Hosea chapter five says that Jews will confess of their sins. Hosea chapter 6 follows with the leaders telling the nation to confess their sins and repent:
1Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. 2After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. 3Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. (KJV)
Israel’s leaders will finally realize that the entire Tribulation, and all their previous punishment, has come upon them due to their turning away from Jehovah and the Lord Jesus. In establishing the New Covenant with Israel, God will change the relationship between them and the “sisters” of Sodom and Samaria. Jerusalem will now be responsible for them in the Messianic Kingdom. God’s judgment and subsequent restoration would have a humbling effect on the nation, and their sins of pride and idolatry would be eliminated forever.
Daniel E. Woodhead
Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sandredin. Folio 109a. Retrieved March 19, 2016 from http://www.halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_109.html
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The Convict Becomes a Proverb
44Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter (ASV, 1901).
This begins the fourth section of the long parable and is found in verses 44-52. The actions of the queen were so repulsive that the people would describe them as a saying, a “proverb”, or warning to others NOT to do the same. This “proverb” is similar to what is said in modern or contemporary parlance, “like father, like son”, only here it says, “As is the mother, so is her daughter.” In keeping with the abandoned female infant who grew to be a queen, then descended into a harlot, the “proverb” takes the feminine character. Therefore how could Jerusalem, who was more depraved than ever, even consider that they would not be judged?
God Repeats Jerusalem’s Background
45Thou art the daughter of thy mother, that loatheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children: your mother was a Hittite, and your father an Amorite (ASV, 1901).
The Hebrew here for “loatheth” is better translated as “vomited out in rejection”. This describes the level of intense hatred Israel had for God and her children. This adds to the motivation she had to become a harlot, destroying herself and her children in the process. By being disloyal to her God-given destiny of holiness, she rejected God. By sacrificing her children at the Canaanite altars, she shows her “loathing” of them. This “vomiting out” is in accordance with the Mosaic Law that stated God would not tolerate sin within the boundaries of the Nation Israel. Israel had been warned that if they did not live according to the Laws of God as laid out in the Torah, He would “vomit them out of the land” just as He rejected the Canaanites before them:
25and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26Ye therefore shall keep my statutes and mine ordinances, and shall not do any of these abominations; neither the home-born, nor the stranger that sojourneth among you; 27(for all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you, and the land is defiled); 28that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30Therefore shall ye keep my charge, that ye practise not any of these abominable customs, which were practised before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am Jehovah your God (ASV, 1901).
Jerusalem is Worse than Sodom and Samaria
46And thine elder sister is Samaria, that dwelleth at thy left hand, she and her daughters; and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. 47Yet hast thou not walked in their ways, nor done after their abominations; but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast more corrupt than they in all thy ways. (ASV, 1901)
The first part had been discussing Jerusalem as an adulterous wife, and this part compares Jerusalem to her “sisters” who historically preceded her. Two cities, Samaria (from the Northern Kingdom) and Sodom (from the time of Abraham) are described as her “sisters”. Both of those areas received severe judgment for their sins. The land of Canaan can be viewed as Israel’s mother because she grew up there in its bosom. The “sister” of Sodom (along with Gomorrah) was exceedingly depraved cities during the time of Abraham. Their sins are the prototype of depravity, embodied the pride of Satan, and were intolerable to God because they took place within the Holy Land (Genesis 19:5). This city was destroyed just as the Canaanites would be destroyed. God’s charge or complaint to them is as if He is saying, “Why have you behaved in this manner? Your mother Sarah and your father Abraham lived among the Hittites and Amorites without being influenced by them.”
The “sister” of Samaria was the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam when the civil war took place in 931 B.C. This was the center of pagan worship (I Kings 16:32-33). The Southern Kingdom of Judah should have learned from Samaria’s downfall. However, Judah’s transgressions were worse because their idolatry was in the Temple itself. We have seen the manner in which the elders worshipped the sun, and relieved their personal dung in the direction toward the Temple in defiance of God (Ezekiel 8:16-18).
Samaria is viewed as the bigger, or “elder” sister because when the split took place, ten of the twelve tribal regions went to the north, and only two stayed in the south. When one faces east in Israel, the north would be on the left hand and the south would be on the right hand. On the north side is Samaria’s and her “daughters”, which are the suburbs of Samaria (Numbers 21:25). Sodom is characterized as having fewer citizens than Samaria, and is situated toward the south. If Israel had not had sinned in a manner that exceeded the cities of Samaria and the city of Sodom then it would have been a small matter. But they were more corrupt and it became a very big issue to God.
The Iniquity of Sodom
48As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. 49Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (ASV, 1901)
Even the other cities (“sisters”) did not exchange their god for nothing as the inhabitants of Jerusalem had done. Sodom’s sin was pride, which is the basis of all sin, and he gave it to the world by his pollution of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sodom’s sins were fueled by her pride, which led to her haughty unconcern for the needs of others in spite of her wealth. The Jewish non-biblical text of Tractate Sanhedrin 109a says that Sodom’s wealth came from its fertile fields that produced unlimited food, and the rich veins of gold and precious stones that ran beneath the earth (Babylonia Talmud, Folio 109a, ¶ 6). Their unlimited material wealth stimulated the bad habits of self-indulgence that led to abominations and sexual perversions. God says that because of this “therefore I took them away as I saw good.” We know from Genesis, and history, they were completely destroyed by fire and sulfur that rained down upon both Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25). The sin of Samaria, though not specifically stated, was her idolatry.
Jerusalem’s Sins Worse Than Her Sisters
51Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters by all thine abominations which thou hast done. 52Thou also, bear thou thine own shame, in that thou hast given judgment for thy sisters; through thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they, they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou also confounded, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters (ASV, 1901).
But Jerusalem’s sins were so vile (“more abominable”) that in comparison, the sins of both Sodom and Samaria seemed almost tolerable. Before her own moral collapse, Jerusalem looked down on the other cities in a “self-righteous manner”. God is saying it was as if Sodom and Samaria had almost been “righteous” in comparison!
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God Summarizes The Harlot’s Sins
35Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of Jehovah: 36Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness uncovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers; and because of all the idols of thy abominations, and for the blood of thy children, that thou didst give unto them (ASV, 1901);
This begins the third section of the parable and is covered in verses 35-43. In this part of the parable the wronged husband is prepared to extract His vengeance from His faithless wife. Jerusalem the harlot is the queen that had become like a brazen prostitute who did not take any payment for her services to her lovers. She was an adulterous wife as well as a prostitute because she preferred strangers to her own husband. She had resorted to giving bribes to get the attention that earlier had been lavishly bestowed upon her by her admirers. God had tried to stop her descent into destruction but she would not listen to His warnings through His righteous prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel. So now God has had enough with the harlot’s behavior. He says, “thy filthiness was poured out” indicating the summary designation of all her behavior. Interestingly the Hebrew word for “poured out” is nechoshet and is used to describe the lower part of a female’s body which has the same root of nachash the word for the serpent. Hebrew’s play on words shows the source of her wickedness, Satan. Her wickedness included:
- Exposing herself to her many lovers.
- Worshipping pagan idols instead of her genuine husband.
- Sacrificing her children to the pagan gods.
Now God, who is the faithful husband in this parable, will curse her as He had promised many years ago in His covenant with the Nation Israel:
15But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day, that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. 16Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. 17Cursed shall be thy basket and thy kneading-trough. 18Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, the increase of thy cattle, and the young of thy flock. 19Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 20Jehovah will send upon thee cursing, discomfiture, and rebuke, in all that thou puttest thy hand unto to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the evil of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. 21Jehovah will make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest in to possess it. 22Jehovah will smite thee with consumption, and with fever, and with inflammation, and with fiery heat, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. 23And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron (ASV, 1901).
The Lord Will Bring The Lovers Against Jerusalem
37therefore behold, I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them against thee on every side, and will uncover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness. (ASV, 1901)
All the nations will join in the plunder of Jerusalem. Even former allies like Egypt, Assyria, and the Chaldean (Babylonians) will join together with their perpetual enemies such as the Philistines to plunder Jerusalem. The Jews bonded together with these pagan nations, and assimilated their despised religious idolatry into Jehovah God’s pure relationship with them. In the Mosaic Law a harlot’s punishment is prescribed and included tearing off the clothes, public humiliation in nakedness, public trial, public stoning till death, dismemberment of the body, and burning of their house (Leviticus 20:10–12; Deuteronomy 22:22). Israel will likewise be exposed to attack without any protection.
Disgrace Will Come Upon Her
38And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will bring upon thee the blood of wrath and jealousy (ASV, 1901).
Israel’s guilt is now summed up and her punishment announced. It will correspond to the sins she has committed. Her sins are made the means of her reparation. She will be punished as the adulteress she is, and condemned to public shame. Because she had openly carried out her sin, she shall be openly exposed and made a spectacle to the world. God will disgrace before the world those who exchange the offer of a relationship with God for love of the world. The Babylonians hurled stones on Jerusalem during the siege, and slew the people with the sword thereby fulfilling the Mosaic Law’s punishment of an adulteress. God clearly states “I will bring upon thee the blood of wrath and jealousy”, which represents God pouring out His jealousy on Jerusalem, by shedding the blood of his unfaithful wife, Israel, by Him, her spiritual husband.
The Harlot’s Paramours Become Her Persecutors
39I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thy vaulted place, and break down thy lofty places; and they shall strip thee of thy clothes, and take thy fair jewels; and they shall leave thee naked and bare. 40They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords. (ASV, 1901)
Those nations with whom she sinned become the instruments of His judgments. “Vaulted place” is the same high places that are cited in Ezekiel 16:24. The “vaulted place” is literally a fornication chamber. This is connected with the impure rites of idolatry, and spiritual fornication on the “lofty places.” During their invasions, the Babylonians treated these places as local sanctuaries, and laid them waste.
The clothes and the jewels are all outward tokens of stateliness and prosperity. They will take both clothes and jewelry from the harlot, and leave her naked. Stripped of the riches she had received from God, but had lavished upon her lusts, she should no more be able to gratify herself in this way. She had fully proved her Canaanite descent. The final punishment of stoning and being thrust through by the sword will destroy both city and kingdom and Jerusalem will be laid waste. This “stoning” and “thrusting through” will not completely annihilate the people, just Jerusalem, because other verses say the Jews will never be completely rejected by God (Leviticus 26:44-45; Jeremiah 31:35-37).
The City Will be Burned
41And they shall burn thy houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women; and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou shalt also give no hire any more (ASV, 1901).
The punishment of death within the Mosaic Law was made more ceremonially severe by burning the corpse after it had been stoned or run through with a sword (Leviticus 20:14; 21:9). In a like manner, the burning of the houses can be regarded as intensifying the punishment. The judgment being executed is “in the sight of many women” refers to the many heathen nations surrounding Jerusalem, according to the description of Jerusalem, or Israel, as an unfaithful wife. It is a humiliating punishment to an adulterous woman to be exposed for this before other women. Accordingly the humiliation of Israel’s punishment will be to stand exposed in its sin before the eyes of all other nations. This is the way in which God will put an end to the fornication (“give no hire any more”), and appease His wrath and jealousy upon the harlot. It is His way to cause a person to cease to be or do anything. Since other passages discuss the burning of the city of Jerusalem, this prophecy had a literal fulfillment as well (II Kings 25:9; Jeremiah 52:13).
God’s Wrath Will End
The jealousy of the injured husband is appeased by the execution of the judgment. God had earlier declared this in chapter 5 before all the captives were in Babylon:
13Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my wrath toward them to rest, and I shall be comforted; and they shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken in my zeal, when I have accomplished my wrath upon them. 14Moreover I will make thee a desolation and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by. (ASV, 1901)
42So will I cause my wrath toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry. 43Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast raged against me in all these things; therefore, behold, I also will bring thy way upon thy head, saith the Lord Jehovah: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness with all thine abominations (ASV, 1901).
God, the husband of Israel, is now saying that He has been satisfied with the punishment they deserved that He personally meted out to them. The cause or source of Jerusalem’s sin was her failure to remember the Lord’s gracious favor. All her grandeur came as a result of His blessings. Therefore when she turned from Him she was cutting herself off from the only true source of blessing. He became enraged because it was Him who had raised her to greatness. As God said through Isaiah “they rebelled, and grieved his Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them” (Isaiah 63:10). By saying in verse 43 that “thou shalt not commit this lewdness with all thine abominations”, He is saying He will leave them with a sense of guilt that revolts and shocks them.
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Ephesians 1: 3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (KJV).
This verse begins one long sweeping statement and goes without a major stop from the beginning of verse three to the end of verse fourteen. Paul touches on all the great biblical themes in that complex sentence—sanctification, adoption, redemption, and glorification—and they all rest on one foundational doctrine, the doctrine of election also known as predestination. The highest spiritual blessings stand on Ephesians 1:4 where the text says that God has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. It also says that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. God didn’t look down the corridor of time to see who would choose Him before He decided or even acted in some random way to select us. Rather, by His sovereign will He chose who would be in the Body of Christ. The construction of the Greek verb for “chose” indicates God chose us for Himself. That means God acted totally independent of any outside influence. He made His choice totally apart from human will and purely on the basis of His sovereignty.
The term predestination, which follows those words, simply means to determine ones destiny beforehand. The Bible never says how God does the choosing. This is exclusively God’s territory. It never gives us His methodologies. This term has produced much division in the Church of Jesus Christ since He departed back to Heaven. Mostly though this heated up with the reformers in the sixteenth century. Many theologians and Bible teachers have engaged in intensive debate over this term and entire denominations have been split as well as formed around it. We will provide a comprehensive explanation so that we can understand what the Bible teaches on this subject and also what some denominations teach that is actually outside the biblical text. Most discussions of this topic produce too little light and too much heat. It is taught in seminaries as a part of Soteriology, (the doctrine of salvation), within systematic theology.
Four very important truths must be first advanced:
- God is entirely sovereign over His creation, is in complete control of it, and He can do whatever He likes (II Kings 19:15; Job 26:13; 38:4; Psalm 103:19; Proverbs 3:19; Isaiah 42:5; 44:6; 45:12; 66:2; Jonah 1:9; Revelation 1:8; 3:14; 4:11).
- Man, living in time and space is incapable of realizing a full understanding of God and all His ways (Job 38 & 39 etc.).
- Because He lives outside of time and space He can look down the long corridors of time and see all events and decisions simultaneously. He knows what will be decided in the human heart and what will happen in the future before it happens (Isaiah 44:7-8; 45:21; Psalm 139; Genesis 3:15;)
- Prior to salvation all humans deserve to enter Hell. Without God we cannot change and save ourselves. NOWHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT GOD HAS SPECIFICALLY CHOSEN SOME TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.
Jeremiah 13: 23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil (KJV)?
Romans 3: 10-12 according as it hath been written — `There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who is understanding, there is none who is seeking after God. All did go out of the way, together they became unprofitable, there is none doing good, there is not even one (KJV).
Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And in the same Gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). And Paul said, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:13).
Those statements defining God’s sovereign choice of believers are not in the Bible to cause controversy, as if God’s election means sinners don’t make decisions. Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). Even though a simple reading of this verse appears to mean that God has chosen people to salvation before the world was formed, other verses indicate that mankind has to choose God in order to be saved (John 3:15; Acts 16:31 etc.). The dichotomy grows wider with predestination seemingly tightening to mean that God has chosen some people but not all to salvation (Romans 9:18; John 10: 25-29). On the other hand some verses indicate that God wants all people to be saved (John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 5: 14 etc.).
You must understand that your faith and salvation rest entirely on God’s election
(Acts 13:48). And yet the day you came to Jesus Christ, you did so because of an internal desire—you did nothing against your will. But even that desire is God-given—He supplies the necessary faith so we can believe (Ephesians 2:8). If your salvation depends on you, then praise to God is ridiculous. But, in truth, your praise to God is completely appropriate, because in forming the Body before the world began, He chose you by His sovereign decree apart from any of your works. The doctrine of election demonstrates God being God, exercising divine prerogatives. For that we must praise Him.
Some are shocked to find that God seemingly didn’t choose everyone to salvation. Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). God the Father chose certain individuals to form a Body as a gift to Jesus Christ. Every believer is part of that love gift to Christ—a gift of the Father’s love to His Son.
To those who say that is unjust, Paul answers: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “ ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:14-15).
So why does God still find fault in unrepentant sinners when He didn’t choose them? Doesn’t this deny human responsibility? Is it fair for God to still hold them accountable? FAIR? What is fair? Humans all have a different vision of fairness depending on our experience base. God is in control of His creation and as such can make His own rules. God’s choices are always perfect. In our weak human understanding we see a sense of unfairness with God’s choice. But we must remember He know everything all events, past, present and future. His choices are always perfect or else He would not be God. He has not left anybody out. He made perfect choices.
Paul answers all such questions with a rebuke:
Romans 9: 20-21 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (KJV)
Certainly HE does!
Some believe that is terribly cold and calculating. But that is only one side of God’s sovereign election. Paul continues in the next chapter by saying:
Romans 10: 9-13 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “WHOEVER calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (NKJV)
These two sides of God’s truth; His sovereignty in choosing us; (Romans 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Romans 10) is IMPOSSIBLE for us to reconcile and understand. But Scripture declares both aspects of salvation are true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and accept them by faith.
This seemingly unsolvable difference in two truthful biblical concepts that can’t be reconciled is called an antinomy. It is not a paradox or a contradiction. Those concepts require that one or the other is untrue. This situation is when both are true. Another biblical antinomy is the Trinity. God is one God in three persons. Both of those imply that either one or the other is true, not both. However, both God’s Divine Sovereignty and man’s ability to choose are true. Hence, they provide antimony. The human’s problem is that we are unsettled with antinomies and try to take one side or the other.
Many denominations take the predestination verses in the Bible as fact and while they can’t reconcile predestination with man’s choice they say man has no choice. In taking this position they must invalidate the verses that clearly show that man has choice. Others take the opposite position and say man has all the choice and God does not choose. They then relegate the verses, which clearly state that God has chosen us to obscurity, or restate them to mean something else. When we don’t accept both ideas as fact and choose one or the other we are engaging in heretical acts. Reformed churches historically take the total predestination position and Baptist churches usually, but not always, take the other. The total predestination position is usually called Calvinism after John Calvin the French reformer of the sixteenth century. The entire emphasis on man’s exclusive choice in the matter of salvation is usually called Arminianism after Jacob Arminius a sixteenth century Dutch theologian who advanced this concept. The problem for us is that both concepts are true and we must accept them as such.
Somewhere in the councils of God this makes sense but on this earth it never will and many have tried to no avail unless they take one side or the other. This then results in heretical teaching. The doctor of souls will do all he can to keep heresies out of the church. They are to the Church of Jesus Christ what disease is to a medical doctor that cares for human bodies in time and space. Both legitimate doctors will do all they can to prevent or stop heresies and diseases in their respective bodies. Unfortunately there are more quacks in the spiritual realm than in the physical temporal one. This is because the prize for pure spiritual truth is eternal life. It is the greatest prize on earth to receive. Nothing has greater value. As evidence of this we see many false prophets, corrupt denominations, and seminary teachings. As a result few find eternal salvation and Satan has accomplished one of his goals: the eternal destruction of human souls.
Matthew 7: 13-15 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
The deception leading into heresy by religious authorities is not new. Jesus condemned the religious authorities of His day for leading the Jews away from eternity.
Matthew 23: 13-15 13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (KJV).
What is important for us to do is clearly explain the antimony and continue to witness for Christ. We never know who will accept. We also cannot take the position that God has chosen those who will accept His call and stop telling others. We must always praise the God of the universe for who He is and stay humble for allowing us to believe. FINALLY IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THAT WE ARE NOT GOD. IT IS NOT UP TO US TO CHOOSE WHOM HE HAS CHOSEN OR ASK WHY. His choices for salvation and ministry are entirely His providence. That is entirely God’s domain and not ours. It is best that believers NOT argue about this and try to enforce their position. This all belongs to God. God is sovereign and man has responsibility to Him. If you keep arguing about this you will just cause divisions in the Body of Christ. This all belongs to our Lord. He is in charge. Keep teaching and witnessing and lastly, Never, never, never, never, give up.
Daniel WoodheadShare on Facebook
John the Baptist and the Crucified Messiah Foretold in the Old Testament, Fulfilled in the New.
By Dr. Todd Baker
Traveling to the probable location where Yeshua Ha Adon (the Lord Jesus) was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River at Bethabara in the Judean Desert (John 1:28; Matthew 3:13-17), God opened a Gospel witness. After arriving there, the Lord opened a door for me to witness to Shlomo about what Bible prophecy predicted about the Messiah’s forerunner John the Baptist prophesied in Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1.This prompted me to exhort the receptive Israeli Shlomo to read the Jewish New Testament to learn that these prophecies of the Messiah’s forerunner were fulfilled in John the Baptist who prepared the way for Yeshua the Messiah by calling on Israel to repent and believe in this King of the Jews so that His Messianic kingdom could be established in Israel. I then asked Shlomo if he ever had the opportunity to read the Brit Hadashah (the New Testament) to learn these theological truths. He responded, “No, I have not, but I have always wanted to a copy so I could read it.” The Holy Spirit beautifully set this up so I could facilitate this very thing! Pulling out a complete Hebrew Bible that, of course, including the New Testament, I joyfully offered God’s Word to Shlomo. He was visibly surprised I just happened to have the Scriptures to give him!
The young man was very open about the fact that Messianic prophecy points directly to Yeshua being the one and only Messiah of Israel. In Jerusalem, there was Isaac a former Orthodox Jew of the strict Harideem sect. The extreme legalism and pervasive hypocrisy of this group so disillusioned Isaac that he left the religious group to become a secularist. Going over some of the detailed Messianic prophecies that Yeshua of Nazareth fulfilled from the Tenach (the Old Testament), Isaac found it hard to believe Yeshua’s atoning death by crucifixion was foretold 1,000 years before by King David. So I showed Isaac the Hebrew text of Psalm 22:16 where it is written of the crucified Messiah, “They have pierced My hands and feet.” I then showed the former Harideem the great prophecy and promise of Jeremiah 31:31-34 where God promised the New Covenant to Israel and how the death of Yeshua in Matthew 26:28 fulfills this very prophecy. After hearing this, Isaac attempted to say this covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31 was talking about the giving of the Torah to Israel at Mt. Sinai. But I quickly pointed out that Jeremiah 31:32 clearly shows that this New Covenant mentioned in verse 31is different and unlike the Old Covenant when God brought Israel out of Egypt.
It is the New Covenant where Yeshua offered His perfect life as the final sacrifice for sin so that those who believe in Him have all their sins removed. Isaac at this point thought I was talking about Joshua son of Nun who succeeded Moses. Patiently, I told Isaac that I was talking about Yeshua the Son of God born of a virgin according to Isaiah 7:14. Isaac was compelled enough to take a copy of a complete Hebrew Bible and Messianic prophecy list fulfilled by Yeshua of Nazareth from me so that he could study and see for himself that what I was telling him was truly what the Jewish Bibles teaches. Due to financial constraints we can only go for nine days on this outreach.
We need You Help To Fund the Next Gospel Outreach to Israel, Coming up of September this Year!
God willing, I will return to Israel the first week of September this year. We need your financial help. Each time God has raised up the redeemed elect that has helped us carry this Gospel outreach to the Jewish people. Having taken the Gospel to Israel for 18 years now, I can safely say very few ministries are doing what we are doing to obey God’s Word in Romans 1:16 of taking the Gospel to the Jew first. Partner with us to make a difference for time and eternity in the lives of the precious Jewish people who desperately need to know that Yeshua is their Messiah, King of the Jews. Don’t let them perish without having the Scriptures we freely give them that believing on Yeshua they have eternal life. Its up to you. Help us in this Holy Spirit ordained enterprise. To donate online, you can go to the following secure link on our ministry web site: https://www.brit-hadashah.org/wp/donate/
You can also donate by mail to:
Brit Hadashah Ministries
P.O. Box 796127
Dallas, Texas 75379-6127
Brit Hadashah Ministries is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit ministry, so your donation is tax deductible in the United States. Now is the accepted time, today is the day and year for the Gospel of salvation to be preached in Israel (2Corinthians 6:2) Partner with us in this exciting End-Time effort.
Your servant in Messiah Jesus,
Dr. Todd Baker.
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