Moses Maimonides on the Providence of God

From Israeli Bank Note

From Israeli Bank Note

Introduction

 

Moses Maimonides (Cir. 1135-1204 C.E.) affectionally referred to as the Rambam wrote a profound philosophical work in approximately 1190 C.E. called The Guide of The Perplexed. Within this book he provided a very enlightening exposition regarding his view of the concept of divine providence. Recognizing the complexity of this subject and seeing many philosophy and Bible students avoiding it one comes to appreciate Maimonides and his efforts to tackle the concept of providence. Because Maimonides wrote in medieval times he cannot be understood using modern presuppositions.[1] In fact Colette Sirat’s excellent introductory work on this subject in her own words affirms this. “This book was written…. In an attempt to elucidate their (Middle Age philosophers) meaning and to situate them in their historical context.” [2] Therefore in order to begin to understand what he explained it is important to examine at least the term providence.

Since terms have meaning and we are reading an English version of The Guide of The Perplexed translated in 1963 C.E., it is helpful to identify the words used designating providence. In English the word is of late Middle English origin, which comes through Old French from the Latin providential meaning to attend to or to provide.[3] Of course Maimonides may have been acquainted with Middle English, which is recognized as beginning with the Norman invasion of 1066 C.E., but he wrote the Guide in Arabic. Then in 1204 C.E. though a contemporary of his, Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon, [4] it was translated into Hebrew.

Ibn Tibbon coined the Hebrew term hashgahah as a translation of the Arabic word ana yah to “provide.” Both of these words are language descriptors of providence. These terms seem to be used most often in efforts to describe universal or even individual measures of governance with which God carries out His controlling criterion of the universe and particularly this earth and its inhabitants. In a sense then God plans, foresees, and governs the universe as well as the world as an object of His care.

The subject of providence carries with it several sub categories. Chief among these are creation, origin of evil, and conservation or administration. While not the primary object of this paper some consideration of Maimonides’ views on evil is helpful to understand his exposition of providence.

Samyaza The Fallen Angel by Hawkwood

Samyaza The Fallen Angel by Hawkwood

Evil

 

Maimonides begins his discussion answering the question, “Does God create evil?” He quotes the Islamic school of Mutakallemim, who were adherents of Kalam; an Islamic theological-philosophical school during the Middle Ages [5] by saying their position was in error. Within their thoughts regarding evil they said for example that physical maladies such as blindness and deafness were positive properties actually created by God. They did not view these as privations but creations. Through several examples Maimonides refutes the Kalamist position. For example he says that evils are only evils in relation to something else. His position is that they are not positive events. He says that it is evil that a man is ill, poor or ignorant. In these instances, the evil is where man has not achieved health, financial success, or he never became wise. The evil in all these cases is the deprivation of some real, positive object. Therefore, these evils were not created, because evils are not really in existence. They are terms denoting the lack of real positive entities as health, wealth, and wisdom. He states that God cannot be the creator of evil because mankind’s own ignorance, which is a privation of knowledge, is the perpetrator. So therefore he says that all evils or privations are based in our matter. That is, the material component of our existence not the spiritual is the source of wickedness, base desires, and fundamental ignorance. In doing so he provides three separate but interlinked categories of evil all emanating from our physical nature. First, evil can and will happen to us simply by being in the world, which is composed of material substances and bound to the world’s elements. So just being in the world we are subject to death, disease, and injuries. Second, human beings cause evil through various actions to fall upon each other. Some of these are rooted in envy, deceit and tyrannical domination. Third, individuals bring evil upon themselves. Maimonides provides several examples of this last segment. He uses intemperate eating, drinking and excessive copulation as some overdone activities, which can lead to self-induced evil. It is also a principle of the Mosaic Law that God is not unjust in rendering evil to humans. He uses this as a punishment for what they deserve just as He provides rewards (pleasure) for those acts seeming to be in compliance with God’s Law. Further, Maimonides makes it quite clear that mankind is ignorant of the various systems God uses to accomplish His retributive justice for man’s acts. So in conclusion Maimonides says quoting Isaiah 11:9, these calamities (evils) will be abolished when men come to the knowledge of the true reality of the deity.[6] He seems to be saying that the absence of God is the origin and perpetuation of evil. Where God is (known and followed) evil will either disappear or at least diminish for the person who embraces God and His ways.

 

Maimonides Provides Options of Providence to Consider

 

Before Maimonides begins to explain his belief in providence he begins by relating the opinions of others, which he says, are ancient and heard at the time of the Hebrew prophets. They are provided here.

 

  1. Pure chance, which is the Epicurean view. This view says that there is no providence and that everything happens as a result of the random variations or sorting of matter. This, for Maimonides citing Aristotle, says is inadmissible. Those who espouse this position including unbelieving Jews say that there is no one who orders, governs or is concerned with anything. Maimonides counters this position by stating that there is someone who orders and govern things.[7]
  2. Some chance, some providence. This is the opinion of Aristotle. Aristotle’s view is that divine governance extends only to the everlasting and immutable elements of nature. God provides the celestial spheres and their contents, as well as the species of things, with what is necessary for their preservation. Individual existents in this sublunar realm, however, are watched over by providence only to the extent that they are provided with certain essential attributes by the species to which they belong. So then a human being is endowed with reason and a variety of instincts, all of which aid his/her preservation, by virtue of his/her participation in the species “human being.” Everything else that happens to a human being that does not flow from the species, however—everything, that is, that does not belong to a person essentially and by virtue of being a human being—is due to chance. While Maimonides for the most part rejects the Aristotelian view, he believes that there is indeed an element of truth to it, one that he will use in his own account.
  3. All strict governance by God. This is the Islamic position, which he also rejects. He says the Islamic sect of Ashariyya’s theory of providence believes that nothing in the universe is due to chance. Rather, everything is brought about through the purposeful will of God. Providence thus extends to every aspect of every event in nature, from the punishment of a sinner to the falling of a leaf from a tree. Maimonides insists that this account is unacceptable because it renders divine law useless as no human being has any freedom to do or refrain from doing what the law commands or proscribes. It renders divine justice to be of no effect. Since the Mosaic Law does not bind the Islamists one can form an understanding of their position, because it would naturally not reflect the Torah’s teaching.
  4. Man has ability to act. The fourth opinion also states that divine providence watches over all things, but adds that human beings are free in their actions. The Mu’tazilites hold this position. In this scheme of things God is responsible for distributing rewards and punishments to all beings not by sheer acts of will (as the Ashariyya’s view implies) but through wisdom and justice. Maimonides objects to this view on the ground that it is inappropriate to extend divine justice beyond the sphere of human agency. Just as the purveyors of this view say that when a blameless person suffers, divine justice will provide him/her with a greater reward in the world-to-come, so they must say that when a particular animal is killed it was better for it to be so and it will receive a recompense in the hereafter. They say in the same way that if another animal devours any particular animal, which has not sinned it, too, will receive restitution in the hereafter. Maimonides calls this a disgraceful viewpoint by citing their position, which is; “it is better for the animal because it will receive compensation in the other world for what has happened to ”[8]
  5. Divine providence coexists with man’s ability to act. This fifth view is the one that Maimonides holds. He says that man has an absolute ability to act because he has choice due to his nature and will. He may do everything within his divinely ordained capacity to act. He seems to say that man’s capacity to act has always been the same. Divine providence has various characteristics seen as God controls His universe. It is to this fifth view, that of Maimonides, the remainder of this paper will be focused.

 Summary of Maimonides on Providence

 

Maimonides begins his explanation relating what the Mosaic Law says on this subject, within which is also his position.[9] He does not have a view, which is contrary to the Law but nestled within it. The only difference between the two as explained by Strauss is: the outward teaching of the Law says moral virtue and external happiness are coordinated to one another. The internal teaching, Maimonides position, finds true happiness associated with the knowledge of God. Which as Strauss says the esoteric doctrine of providence coincides with the understanding of the essence of happiness as well as with the fundamental and logically consistent distinction between true and merely supposed happiness.[10] The initial theorem Maimonides presents is man has an absolute ability to act. God has willed this in eternity past (parte ante) before the creation. The human being is able to choose, exercise his will, and make intelligent decisions based upon the limits or capacity the Creator has provided to man. By capacity Maimonides means the limits the Creator has placed on His creatures. For example man may will to defy gravity by leaping off of a building expecting that he will not suffer a painful landing. However, since God has not given him the capacity to exercise that desire a painful landing is inevitable.

The animals and plant life also have a plan that has been preordained within the capacity that they have been given. With plants it is only clear that they experience God’s providence in reproduction and growth. The animals somewhat similarly endowed are different than men because they are endowed with a capacity that seems to limit their decisions to act only for various aspects of preservation. Whereas mankind is able to exercise intellectual decisions, plant and animal life’s decisions are limited to God’s preordained, preplanned margins of their capacity.

Divine providence is connected to intellectual reasoning. Intellect and its perfection are achieved through ethics. One can accept the linkage from the Creator who must possess supreme intelligence, to the human through our intellect. At the same time it is also possible to see Maimonides as something of an elitist. He seems to say that those who are closest to God are the most learned of a society. Consider what he states as fact. “Man and society cannot be perfected except through the intellectual beliefs in God.” He goes on to say that this cannot come about without studying first natural science and then divine science.[11] So being close to God is measured by how much knowledge one acquires. It follows then that anyone who does not have the advantage of being blessed with the means to receive advanced natural scientific knowledge cannot know God or even love God. This being Maimonides’ view is exclusionary to only the few with superior intellect and education. Kreisel observed that Maimonides treats ethics as a necessary means through which the ultimate end of intellectual perfection is achieved. Kreisel also saw a contradiction in the “Guide” wherein Maimonides seemed to also say the ultimate end is the practice of justice, righteousness and living-kindness. [12]     Divine Providence watches over people belonging to the human species and based upon their circumstances and behavior, which can be either good, or evil, they will receive what they have been ordained to receive. This Maimonides calls this their deserts.

Providential care of God is exercised over things both animate and inanimate but intellectually connected to humans who are yielded to His will. God has put into place a system for individual human beings to take advantage of or not, as they choose. It appears that He does not compel the human’s will. And it is the virtuous who pursue intellectual virtue, and not merely the morally virtuous, who God prospers, while all others are left without God’s focused providential protection. Therefore divine providence is differentiated from mere preservation.

In terms of animals and plants Maimonides’ view is like Aristotle’s in that he believes that God does not exert His divine decrees upon the minutest action of the world such as a falling leaf. He calls this pure chance, as does Aristotle. This is ordained through the natural order, which God created. There are other components of the natural order, to which providence applies and generally exerted upon all beings within the creation. Those, which are necessary to sustain life, belong to this category. The earth’s position relative to its sun, the composition of the gaseous layer surrounding the earth, and its ambient pressure for example, all belong to the natural order.

Divine Providence is consequent of divine overflow (emanation) poured out upon the species, which are united with the overflow, which is then poured out to the human intellect. From this comes the fruit or out flow so that the providential endowment is intellect. This again is a conduit through which God discloses His will. Interestingly Kreisel affirms this connection calling it “practical intellect.” He says that it is the faculty most directly responsible for translating metaphysical knowledge into a system of perfect governance. [13]As long as one is actively enjoying the intellectual connection to the divine emanation, one is in fact protected. That is, providence is watching over, or, better, engaged in such a person so that he is guarded from the vagaries of chance. On the other hand, when one is not attending to God (either because one has never made the effort or because, having achieved the connection, one has temporarily become distracted to the point of disassociation, perhaps by the pleasures of the senses), one is abandoned to chance and left to one’s own devices in the face of the vagaries of happenstance. This would also seem to be the lot of the person of low intellect and learning in Maimonides teaching. The person who is not experiencing the overflow is not enjoying its benefits. He is at the mercy of nature’s elements and his well-being is subject to whatever may or may not come his way. Providence is no longer watching over him, not because God is actively punishing him, but because through his own actions he has taken himself outside of the care that providence (the overflow) offers and is now exposed to what chance brings. From these circumstances we are compelled to praise God when He actively rewards and believe that He is not responsible when evil is manifested toward those whom he seems to be actively punishing. Maimonides states:

CIMG0048

“With regard to providence watching over excellent men and neglecting the ignorant, it is said: He will keep the feet of his holy ones, but the wicked shall be put to silence in darkness; for not by strength shall man prevail. It says thereby that the fact that some individuals are preserved from calamities, whereas those befall others, is due not to their bodily forces and their natural dispositions … but to their perfection and deficiency, I mean their nearness to or remoteness from God. For this reason, those who are near to Him are exceedingly well protected… whereas those who are far from Him are given over to whatever may happen to befall them. For there is nothing to protect them against whatever may occur; for they are like one walking in darkness, whose destruction is assured…For this reason, those who are near to Him are exceedingly well protected … whereas those who are far from Him are given over to whatever may happen to befall them. For there is nothing to protect them against whatever may occur; for they are like one walking in darkness, whose destruction is assured.” [14]

Those who do not strive for intellectual perfection have no more providential protection than non-human animals. They enjoy only general providence and whatever tools for survival the species confers upon them (as well as everyone else). For such people, there is a great deal of moral luck, in so far as their happiness and well-being, is subject to chance, and therefore given over to circumstances beyond their control. As an affirmation of God’s providence and the repudiation of chance Twersky referencing Maimonides says, “Crying out in prayer and sounding an alarm in a time of crisis and emergency – may it be famine, pestilence, war, or sickness – has a philosophical doctrinal rationale: it underscores the providential design in the world and uncompromisingly repudiates any theory of chance (Epicureanism).”[15] Twersky again quoting Maimonides follows by adding, “Fasting and praying in time of crisis and adversity is a means of impressing upon the individual and the providential design in all events and reminding him of his absolute dependence on God.”[16]

Now we come to the final question regarding the issue of the reconciliation of divine providence with the human’s independent will. Some refer to this as a tension. [17] Because this issue is directly associated with the nature of God, one might consider this issue as being dominated by one side or the other. So for example some might simply say God is in total complete control of all events on the earth, as the Islamic position (number 3) holds. Or some might simply take the reverse which is mankind has independent control (The Mu’tazilites position number 4) of his fate. Maimonides does say that we will never fully understand God’s ways but he nevertheless attempts a reconciliation of the “tension” of a seemingly unsolvable antinomy. I say antimony because the providence of God and the free will of mankind seem to be both true but irreconcilable even incongruous with our logic and reason in time and space. Metaphysically it certainly does have reconciliation. However for now in the physical we must accept both as true. How does Maimonides reconcile God’s providence and control with the will he has given to mankind?

Maimonides takes it for granted that God plays a direct and active role in the affairs of intelligent, learned, ethical, human beings. He also presupposes that men have a will to make choices regarding their intended actions. Men have limits, which restrain some behaviors, which might be conceived. God on the other hand has no limits. Quoting Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah, Rabbi, Marc Angel says:

“Free will is bestowed on every human being. If a person desires to turn toward the good way and be righteous, he has the power to do so. If a person wishes to turn toward the evil way and be wicked, he is a liberty to do so… Man, of himself and by the exercise of his own intelligence and reason, knows what is good and what is evil…”[18]

Maimonides responds to the doctrine of predestination, which presupposes that man’s choices are already determined so that he really does not have any valid choices. He calls the people of the world who hold this position fools because we do have choices to make. We can be as wicked or as righteous as we want. Maimonides does not give us any proof of this except to say that God’s wisdom is vastly superior to ours so that it is beyond our comprehension. The Godly inspired Scripture inform us of our will to make choices. Therefore we have independent choice. Our inability to understand this tension is because we can’t understand God’s knowledge and His ways.[19] The intellect of a person seeking God will be guided out of harms way in most instances. He will also accept those harms/evils that he does encounter as God’s will even though God’s providential protection has been watching over him. The person who is in God’s will by coupling himself to the “overflow” through the intellect will experience advantages throughout his time in this world.[20]

Maimonides near the end of the Guide provides a simile of a king in his palace and his subjects who are at different distances relative to him. Some of his subjects turn their backs to the king. Others have a strong desire to go to the palace. Several of those actually get to the palace, but only a few get in the same room with the king. There is another final effort required before they can actually stand before the king near or far, hear him, or speak to him.

 

The Palace at Vierailles from Thanakrit.dome.

The Palace at Vierailles from Thanakrit.dome.

 

He is of course referring to God as the king and the subjects are people who exert different levels of drawing near to Him. He gives a superb conclusion to this simile and his concept of the workings of providence in the human as being continually as near to God as possible throughout ones life. “The true worship of God is only possible when correct notions of Him have previously been conceived. When you have arrived by way of intellectual research at a knowledge of God and His works, then commence to devote yourselves to Him, try to approach Him and strengthen the intellect, which is the link that joins you to Him. Thus Scripture says, “Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightiest know that the Lord He is God” (Deuteronomy 4:35); “Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord He is God” (Deuteronomy 4: 36); “Know ye that the Lord is God” (Psalm 100:3). Thus the Law distinctly states that the highest kind of worship to which we refer in this chapter, is only possible after the acquisition of the knowledge of God. For it is said, “To love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 11:13), and, as we have shown several times, man’s love of God is identical with His knowledge of Him. The Divine service enjoined in these words must, accordingly, be preceded by the love of God.”[21]

In closing it is apparent that Maimonides sees the intellect, emanating from God as the link joining us to Him. God is providential and strongly connected to us when we exercise our power to strengthen the bond. We must seek the love of God and He will be with us, guiding us providentially until we are brought over to eternity. Therefore our free will is directly tied to God’s moral system and the strength of our desire to be near to Him, the king in His palace provides the strongest connection through which to receive His providential emanation. When the human will is tightly connected to God in obedience then our will is in harmony with His providential care and the antimony is absent. The two seemingly incongruous wills are in synchronization.

 

Referenced Works

 

Angel, Rabbi Marc D. Maimonides, Spinoza and Us Toward and Intellectually Vibrant Judaism. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2009.

 

Carson, D.A. Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility, Biblical Perspectives in Tension. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002.

 

Kreisel, Howard. Maimonides Political Thought, Studies in Ethics, Law, and the Human Ideal. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999.

 

Maimonides, Moses. Shlomo Pines translator, Guide of the Perplexed. Chicago, IL: The University Chicago Press, 1963.

 

Sirat, Colette, A History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Cambridge England: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

 

Strauss, Leo, Hart Green, Kenneth, Ed. Maimonides The Complete Writings. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

 

Strauss, Leo. Persecution and The Art of Writing. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988. (Originally published in 1952 by The Free Press.)

 

Twersky, Isadore. Maimonides Reader, edited with Introduction and Notes. Springfield, NY: Behrman House Inc. Publishers, 1972.

 

Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah). New Haven CT: Yale Judaica Series, Yale University Press, 1980.

 

 

[1] Strauss, Leo, Persecution and The Art of Writing, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL 1988 Originally published in 1952 by The Free Press pg38

[2] Sirat, Colette, A History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, The Pitt Building Trumpington Street, Cambridge England, 1985 pg. ix

[3] Merriam-Webster Dictionary on line, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/providence, accessed on May 19, 2014

[4] The Jewish virtual library on line, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0016_0_16141.html, accessed on May 19, 2014

[5]Sirat, Colette, A History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, The Pitt Building Trumpington Street, Cambridge England, 1985, pg. 15.

6 Maimonides, Moses, Shlomo Pines translator, Guide of the Perplexed, The University Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois Volume II pg.19

[7] Ibid, pg. 464

[8] Ibid, pg. 468

[9] Ibid pg.469

[10] Strauss, Leo, Hart Green, Kenneth, Ed. Maimonides The Complete Writings, University of Chicago Press, 2013 pf. 321-322

 

[11] Maimonides, Moses, Shlomo Pines translator, The Guide of the Perplexed, The University Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois Vol I 1963 pgs. 8-9

 

[12] Kreisel, Howard, Maimonides Political Thought, Studies in Ethics, Law, and the Human Ideal, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY 1999 pg.160

 

[13] Ibid pg. 92

[14] Ibid pgs. 475-6

[15] Twersky, Isadore, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah), Yale Judaica Series, Yale University Press, New Haven CT., 1980 pg. 303

 

[16] Ibid pg. 422

[17] Carson, D.A. Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility, biblical perspectives in tension, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 W, 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, Oregon 97401 2002, pg.201

[18] Maimonides Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 5:1. From, Angel, Marc D., Maimonides, Spinoza and Us, Toward and Intellectually Vibrant Judaism, Jewish Lights publishing, Woodstock, VT. Pgs. 58-59.

[19] Ibid pg. 59

[20] Maimonides, Moses, Shlomo Pines translator, Guide of the Perplexed, The University Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois Volume II 1963 pg. 475

 

[21] Ibid pg. 620

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By His Matchless Grace are We Saved

OUR SALVATION IS STRICTLY GIVEN BY THE GRACE OF GOD

Ephesians 2: 1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Unregenerate people are dead spiritually and therefore like the physically dead are unable to communicate with the living God. The spiritually living are those who have been born again and are connected to God. They have been made alive by believing the gospel and receiving the Holy Spirit. Interestingly God says, “You will seek Me and find Me when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 14:2; Isaiah 55:6-7 and 51 other verses). Those who are not born again are separated from God and their sins keep them in the “dead” state. The spiritually dead cannot experience the full life that God give those of us who have truly received Christ and become regenerated (Matthew 19: 28; Titus 3: 5). They cannot connect to God and without His Holy Spirit they cannot understand Scripture. Christ affirmed the state of the spiritually dead quite clearly in the gospels (Matthew 8:22; Luke 9:60).

Matthew 8:22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead

 Luke 9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

Healing of the Cripple of Bethesda by Pieter Aertsen Cir. 1507-08

Healing of the Cripple of Bethesda by Pieter Aertsen Cir. 1507-08

Ephesians 2: 2-3 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Prior to regeneration people live in their sins, which reveals their spiritually dead condition even though they are physically alive. They could not and didn’t follow God. Paul marks three characteristics of the unbeliever.

  1. They live like people in the rest of the world. This means that whatever segment of society they are participating in they may have godless motives and, from God’s view, live immoral lives that are full of sin. The people who are without God may think they have high morals but God views them as sinners needing His Savior Jesus the Christ (Romans 2: 1-16).
  2. They follow Satan even if they don’t realize what they are doing. Satan is also called the ruler of the kingdom of the air. His domain is the gaseous envelope of the earth. “The whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), also called “the god of this Age” (2 Cor. 4:4). In the middle of the Tribulation he will be cast down to the earth, no longer to rule the world or have access to God’s presence (Rev. 12:9). The unsaved are now in the clutches of this “ruler” and follow in his opposition to God. He cannot harm believers who have been washed in the blood of Christ. He and his demons can cause believers irritation but not harm. If the believer dabbles in the occult, drug use, sexual immorality or drunkenness then he or she enters the demonic realm and the exposure can cause major harm. The power of the evil Satan is seen in the unbelievers who reject the gospel and actively disobey God in both faith and action. They live in constant rebellion and opposition to God.
  3. The additional description, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient, refers to “the ruler,” meaning that Satan personally works in sons of disobedience. This “spirit” refers to the seemingly impersonal force or atmosphere, which is controlled and directed by Satan (1 John 5:19). This spirit is presently “at work” in unbelievers. “In those who are disobedient” is literally, “in the sons of disobedience. The Greek word translated “disobedience” and “disobedient” is used several times in the New Testament (Rom. 11:30, 32; Eph. 2:2; 5:6; Heb. 4:6, 11). It suggests conscious, active rebellion and opposition against God. However, the unconverted not only are under pressure to conform to the world system and Satan’s control but they also enjoy it. We now refer to this as “political correctness” or having “situational ethics.” When Paul says “all of us also lived among them at one time” is his reminder to his Gentile readers that the Jews (“all of us”) also joined in this disobedience. The conduct of the unsaved is in the sphere of the cravings of their sinful nature, in which they follow the desires and the thoughts of the flesh. The Bible clearly explains what the sins of the flesh are:

Galatians 5: 19-22 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

This nature can manifest itself in a respectable form as well as in disreputable pursuits. Unbelievers have a close relationship, not with God, but with His wrath! Disobedience and unbelief lead to the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18-2:29; John 3:36). Ephesians 2:1-3 presents a hopeless picture of an unregenerate person who deserves nothing but God’s wrath.

 God’s Rich Mercy

 

Healing of the Blind of Jericho by Lucas van Leyden Cir. 1531

Healing of the Blind of Jericho by Lucas van Leyden Cir. 1531

Ephesians 2: 4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

The conjunction but introduces God’s actions toward sinners, in contrast with their condition as expressed in verses 1-3 “God” is the subject of the whole passage. Great differences are suggested by the words “But God”! He is described as rich in mercy. God’s mercy is seen through the fact that He has a plan, which is confirmation of the pathway He has created for the world to escape to Heaven. His plan is perfect. (the “riches” of God’s grace [1:7; 2:7], of God’s glorious inheritance [1:18], of Christ [3:8], and of His glory [3:16]). God, who is rich in exhibiting this undeserved kindness, acts on behalf of sinners because of His great love for us. His love and mercy are inexhaustible. Since sinners are spiritually dead toward God, they have nothing to commend them to God. This is why Paul described this love as being “great.” God’s love has done three things: (a) made us alive with Christ, (b) “raised us up with Christ” (2:6), and (c) “seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). An unbeliever, spiritually dead, is “made . . . alive” by God “with (in association with) Christ” (Col. 2:13). The “us” includes both Jews and Gentiles (“us” in Eph. 2:3-4). The only way a spiritually dead person can communicate with God is to be made alive, and the One who is Himself alive must do that. He is the living God, “who gives life to the dead” (Rom. 4:17). God knows the unbelievers’ state. He clearly described it in Ephesians 2:1-3 and He repeats it here through the apostle Paul, even when we were dead in transgressions. This act of God in making the unregenerate alive is an act of grace; it is by grace you have been saved. Because believers have been “made alive” spiritually with Christ, they have been and are saved.

Ephesians 2: 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Believers have been raised up from the spiritually dead. Christ was raised up from the dead by the power of God. We who have been spiritually born again have been raised up to life by God’s power too. This speaks of being positionally resurrected. Christ’s post-resurrection state was new, powerful, and unique. So too Christians, in whom Christ dwells, have a new, powerful, and unique life and position. Believers are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms spiritually. This divine power that can make an unbeliever have life, be raised, and exalted with Christ is the same power that presently operates in believers. A believer can then be found to no longer follow the world but truly desire the things of Christ. As Paul said in Colossians:

Colossians 3: 1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

 God’s Glorious Purposes

Ephesians 2: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

We the redeemed become the examples on display of His kindness to the world in Christ Jesus. The Church could only exist by God’s love. The fact that we exist is evidence of God’s unmerited grace toward this world. Without Christ’s sacrifice there could be no hope for any relationship with God and our future would be hopeless.

I Corinthians 15: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins

 Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

These verses explain, “the incomparable riches of His grace” expanding the parenthetical statement in verse 5, “It is by grace you have been saved”, and adding that the means of this salvation is through faith. Hence the basis is grace and the means is faith alone (Rom. 3:22, 25; Gal. 2:16; 1 Peter 1:5). Faith is not a “work.” It does not merit salvation; it is only the means by which one accepts God’s free salvation.

Then God says “And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Thus it refers back to the concept of salvation (2:4-8a), whose basis is grace and the means by which it is accomplished is faith. Faith is the conduit or pipeline through which the grace of God comes to a repentant sinner who is receiving God’s grace. This salvation does not have its source in man (it is “not from yourselves”), but rather, its source is God’s grace for “it is the gift of God.” Verse 9 reinforces this by showing that the means is not by works since its basis is grace (Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:1-5; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5), and its means is faith (Rom. 4:5). Therefore since no person can bring salvation to himself by his own efforts, no one can boast (Rom. 3:27; 1 Cor. 1:29). Their boasting can only be in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31). God alone provides the salvation and even the faith through which the salvation enters us. We are completely in debt to God for His rich mercy. This is a complete gift of God. This is totally, completely and without any human effort.

Marriage  Feast at Cana by Gaetano Gandolfi Cir.1790

Marriage Feast at Cana by Gaetano Gandolfi Cir.1790

 IT IS ALL THROUGH HIM AND BY HIM

Ephesians 2: 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Paul finally tells why this salvation is not from man or by his works. The reason is that salvation is God’s workmanship. The word “workmanship” (poiēma), used only here and in Romans 1:20 denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. It differs from human “works” (ergōn) in Ephesians 2:9. Believers are God’s workmanship because they have been created (a work only God can do) in Christ Jesus. The purpose of this creation is that believers will do good works. God’s workmanship is not achieved by good works, but it is to result in good works (Titus 2:14; 3:8). Meaning we are not saved by any good works but after salvation we will do good works.

In the clause, “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” the word “which” refers back to the “works” in the previous clause. “For us to do” is literally “in order that we might walk in them.” The purpose of these prepared-in-advance works is not “to work in them” but “to walk in them.” In other words, God has prepared a path of good works for believers, which He will perform in and through them as they walk by faith. This does not mean doing a work for God; instead it is God’s performing His work in and through believers (Phil. 2:13). Paul in Ephesians 4:6 discusses this path of good works.

Therefore Ephesians 2:1-10 demonstrates that though people were spiritually dead and deserving only God’s wrath, God, in His wonderful grace, has provided salvation through faith. Believers are God’s workmanship in whom and through whom He performs good works.

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

By His Grace.

 

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Jesus’ Path From Hades to Heaven

FROM HADES TO HEAVEN

By Tom McCall, Th.D.

What happened to the saints of the Old Testament when they died? What happened when Christ died and “descended in to Hades”? What happened between the time the risen Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene and the time He appeared to the disciples later that Sunday evening? What does the Scripture mean that Christ led “captivity captive?” Where do believers go today when they die? The purpose of this article is to find the answer to these questions in the Word of God.

When Christ died, His body was in the tomb, but His soul went to Sheol (Hades); He then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven

The Lamentation by Ciotto de Bondone Cir 1304-06

The Lamentation by Ciotto de Bondone Cir 1304-06

 

Psalm 16:8-11

8 I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever (NASB).

David prophesied that his descendant, the Messiah, would die and his body would lie in a tomb but it would not decay. This means that the body would have to be raised from the dead within a few days. Furthermore, the Messiah’s soul would go to Sheol (Hades), but would not remain there. Sheol was the netherworld place of the dead both good and bad went after death in the Old Testament. This is called Hades in the New Testament. Instead He would be shown eternal life. Thus, His soul would be reunited with His body and be resurrected from the dead.

Acts 2:23-35

23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 25 “For David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; 27Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 28 ‘Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.’ 29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 “And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet”‘ (NASB).

The Apostle Peter in his inaugural address of the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost quotes the prophecy by David in Psalm 16, and said that David was not speaking of himself being raised from the dead. After all, David died a thousand years before, and his tomb was visible as a great monument described by Josephus. Rather, David was prophesying about his descendant, the Messiah, whose flesh did not decay nor was His soul left in Hades. Indeed, David further prophesied that the Messiah would ascend into Heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father. It should be noted that Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father is not the same as Christ sitting on His own throne, also known as the throne of David. Christ will sit on His own throne when He returns to earth after the Rapture of the Church and after the Tribulation to establish the Millennial Kingdom.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Anthony Van Dyck Cir.1618-1620

The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Anthony Van Dyck Cir.1618-1620

Revelation 3:21

21 ‘He 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 (NASB).

Before the Cross, the dead souls went to Sheol (Hades), the righteous

to the Bosom of Abraham, and the unrighteous to the Place of Torment

Luke 16:19-31

19 “Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 “And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead'” (NASB).

Jesus reveals that throughout the ages before the Cross-, the souls of the dead went to Sheol (Hades), but there were two major divisions in Hades: the Bosom of Abraham and the Place of Torment, with an impassable gulf between them. The righteous saints went to the Bosom of Abraham, while the unrighteous unbelievers went to the Place of Torment. The righteous believed in and looked forward to the redemptive sacrifice of the Messiah, but the unrighteous spurned the revelation of God through Moses and the prophets. The believers were comforted in the Bosom of Abraham, but they were not permitted to go to Heaven yet, because the penalty for their sins had not been paid. They could not enter into the presence of the Living God.   Jesus proclaimed when He died “Tetelestai!” it is finished, the debt had been paid, and then His soul descended into Hades. He could then announce to the righteous souls that the time had come for them to be released from Hades and ascend with Him to Heaven and the presence of the Father. Before He could do that, He first had to demonstrate that He had risen from the dead. So His soul went back to earth, reunited and transformed His body and came forth from the grave victorious over death.

When Jesus arose from the dead on Resurrection Day, He told Mary Magdalene not to cling to Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father.

John 20:15-17

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God'” (NASB).

The resurrected Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Ivanov 1806-1858

The resurrected Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Ivanov 1806-1858

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.

When Christ ascended to the Father, He took Captivity Captive. He took the righteous saints from the Bosom of Abraham to Heaven. This apparently was done on the Resurrection Day.

Psalm 68:18

18 Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives; Thou hast received gifts among men, (NASB).

Ephesians 4:8-11

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 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. The unrighteous souls, however, 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.

After a very busy day of travel from Hades to earth to Hades to Heaven and back to earth, Christ appeared to the disciples later to inspect His wounds.

John 20:19-20

19 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord (NASB).

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio Cir 1602-03

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio Cir 1602-03

No longer was there any reticence about being touched as there was earlier that day with Mary Magdalene. He had accomplished His unique mission of transporting the saints from Hades to Heaven and presenting to the Father the evidence of His sacrifice on the Cross. Now He was ready to present to His disciples many infallible proofs that He had indeed risen from the dead so that they could go out to Israel and the world with the truth of the Gospel.

When believers in Christ die today, we do not go to Hades, but we go directly to Heaven to be in the presence of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8

8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (NASB).

Believers in Christ today wonder what happens to us when we die. We do not descend into Hades like the Old Testament saints, but our souls go directly into the presence of the Lord. We look back to the Cross-, where the penalty for our sins was paid for in full. We will know each other and have some kind of recognizable form, as did the souls of the Old Testament saints, such as Samuel, Moses and Elijah. We will also be waiting for the time of the Rapture of the Church, when we will receive our Resurrection Bodies. Then we will wait in Heaven to join Christ as He descends again to earth at His Second Coming.

From Hades to Heaven by Thomas McCall and Daniel Woodhead Cir. 2014

From Hades to Heaven by Thomas McCall and Daniel Woodhead Cir. 2014

Written by Thomas S. McCall, Th.D.

Edited by Daniel E. Woodhead

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Messiah’s First Appearance Was Prophecied

First The Messiah Came & Conquered For Salvation

 

Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti Cir. 1320

Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti Cir. 1320

Zechariah 9:9

9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass (ASV 1901).

 This text is one of the most Messianic and significant passages in the entire Bible. Both Jewish and Christian Bible students commonly apply it this way. Judaism sees in it a basis for a royal single messianic appearance, whereas the New Testament and Christianity see a prophecy of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15). It is only from the whole counsel of God in view (both testaments) that we can clearly see this prophecy as pertaining to Christ’s First Advent.

After the discussion of the calamities of the aggressive conqueror Alexander, God moves to discuss Himself appearing as a very different conqueror. To be sure Alexander was used as a human conqueror to judge and chastise the nations near to Jerusalem who had brought much harm to the Jews. At the time of this prophecy in approximately 487 B.C., the Lords appearance in Jerusalem proclaimed as Israel’s king was approximately 519 years later (Cir. 32 AD). While Alexander’s swift and aggressive nature brought some measure of peace to the Jews it will not be until the Lord Jesus comes for the second time that there will be true peace on earth. The genuine King of Israel has strength, which is not dependent on chariots and horses (Psalm 20:7). He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. It is salvation that He brings, not only to Israel, but also to the goieem “the nations.”

The age of the Gospel of Jesus will mark the beginning of that time through the salvation that His death bought for all who believe. But the final fullness if you will, is the Second Advent when truly every knee will bow to the glory of God the Father. Moreover every tongue will confess that Jesus the Christ is Lord as Paul and Isaiah have related the message to us. Zechariah 8:20 which as a prelude to discussing these events uses the Hebrew phrase of od ashehr, which means, “It will come to pass.”

Philippians 2:11

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (KJV).

Isaiah 45:23

23 I have sworn by myself, The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall swear (KJV).

During the Gospel time of Messiah’s First Advent one has the choice of whether or not to accept Him. Most will not as the Lord Jesus told us “strait is the gate and narrow is the way which Leadeth unto life and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14 KJV). At the First Advent He did not come as a human conqueror but a Divine Prince of Peace. He did not inspire physical fear and dread but uplifting joy. However at the time that our Messiah King sets up His earthly Kingdom all humans will be believers and all will bow the knee and confess with their mouths His kingship. He will come back to earth and fight the Campaign of Armageddon as a Divine conqueror overturning an entirely corrupt satanic one-world government and establishing a Messianic Theocracy where peace and righteousness will be the laws of the world. It is best to recognize His sovereignty now and avoid eternal punishment. For even in Hell will those bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10).

Many Jews until the time of Jesus First Advent did not clearly see the distinction between the First and Second Advents of the Messiah. They fixed their attention to the Second Advent and the Messianic Kingdom not fully understanding that there would be two advents. Most in Old Testament times regarded only one advent for the Messiah to deliver His people the Jews. While this verse clearly describes a humble Messianic King many thought it could refer to Zerubbabel, Judas Maccabeus or Nehemiah who was too poor to own a horse hence the use of a burrow. Rabbi Kimhi of the late twelfth century (Cir. 1190 AD) in Spain wrote that he believed that it refers to Messiah’s Advent when He would be humble because the whole world will be in His power. He too did not realize that there would be two advents. The ancient rabbinic authorities have applied this prophecy to the Messiah. Rashi another Medieval Rabbinic commentator from France said, “This cannot be explained except of King Messiah, for it is said of Him, ‘And His dominion shall be from sea to sea’; but we do not find that such a one ruled over Israel in the time of the Second Temple (516 B.C.-70 AD). ”Saadiah Gaon, commenting on the words in Daniel 7:13 “Behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven,” says, “This is the Messiah our righteousness. But is it not written of the Messiah, ‘Lowly, and riding upon an ass’? Yes, but this shows that He will come in humility, and not in pride upon horses.” It was not until He was ascending back to Heaven that it was clearly known there would be two advents of the Messiah. Jesus disciples thought He would initiate the Kingdom at His First Advent. For they asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:6b-7 KJV). This verse clearly identifies the Christ at His First Advent. While  many missed the nature and prophetic importance some were chosen by Jesus to receive an explanation. He did an Old Testament Bible study with some of His disciples (not apostles) on the road to Emmaus after His Resurrection. Clearly even with all the prophecies they did not fully understand until He explained it to them.

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaffio Cir 1601

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaffio Cir 1601

The Announcement of King Jesus

Zechariah 9:9a

9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee (ASV 1901).

This First Advent is heralded with exuberance by the use of words such as “rejoice greatly!” “Shout!” and “behold!” The phrase “the daughter of Zion” makes reference to the entire population as a place that is personified by a female. It comes from referring to a city or a country affectionately as “her.”

There is joyful animation expressed here as God Himself writes this through Zechariah declaring that He is coming to Jerusalem to fulfill all the prophecies regarding His first coming (Genesis 3:15, 49:10; Isaiah 7:14, 53:3; Deuteronomy 18:15; Daniel 9:26 etc.). Consider this wonderful comforting prophecy in light of the fear and trembling that Alexander’s armies gave the area of Israel before he met with the High Priest and they read to him from the book of Daniel. This is THE occasion of immense spiritual significance as the announcement of the long awaited Immanuel, which means God With Us!

He is given the name of King here in verse nine. When Jesus would perform a miracle or do some significant action He would slip away (Luke 4:30-40) so that the people could not declare Him Messiah the King (Hebrew Mashiach Nagid) (Daniel 9:25; I Samuel 13:14). In the Daniel passage Nagid gets translated as prince. In the I Samuel passage it is translated as king when David was crowned. It was only on Sunday before His crucifixion that He allowed the multitudes to praise Him as their King. The apostle Matthew affirms this as fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9.

Matthew 21:4-9

4Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, 5Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass. 6And the disciples went, and did even as Jesus appointed them, 7and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon. 8And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the way. 9And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest (KJV).

The Character and Mission of Israel’s King and Savior

Zechariah 9:9b

He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass (ASV 1901). 

From this passage we see four features of the Messiah.

  1. He is just or righteous

The righteousness of God is one of the most prominent attributes of Himself declared in Scripture. It is synonymous with His justice. It is used in the Bible as straight or morally right. When we say that God is just we are saying that God always does what is right. He does it consistently without partiality or prejudice. These two words are the same in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. God’s actions are always fair and right. This righteousness is an expression of His holiness. He is infinitely pure and always opposed to sin. Since this is His nature we see that He IS just. It is one of His characteristics. It is not a characteristic that He applies to Himself. It is His way, His manner and simply the way He is. He consistently acts in accordance with His own character. He always does the same thing. He cannot be anything different than the way He is. There is no standard of righteousness or justice that can be applied to God as a measurement. He IS the standard. The Hebrew word tsaddeq is righteous and is applied to God (Job 10:15, 15:14, 22:3; 34:17; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 119:137, 129:4). Consider how Peter and James both characterize His consistency.

Acts 10:34

34And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (KJV).

St. Peter by Peter Paul Rubens Cir 1611

St. Peter by Peter Paul Rubens Cir 1611

James 2:1

[1] My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons (KJV).

In other words His character is consistently applied to all mankind. Jeremiah declares that His name shall be called “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).

  1. He Shows Himself a Savior

This characteristic of God and His Messiah is diametrically opposed to Alexander who was a conqueror and not a savior. He butchered and slaughtered thousands at Damascus, Tyre and Gaza. Then he sold thousands more into slavery. The Hebrew word translated as savior here is nosha. Of the various expressive grammar participles forms this is called a nifal. It further is categorized as reflexive in that something is shown or done by the object of the action. One might say John shaved himself, which is reflexive. In this case it is the Messiah is “showing Himself a Savior.”

Salvation is mentioned in the Bible in two different ways. One is physical salvation as from some impending catastrophe. The other means is spiritual salvation which is what is discussed here in Zechariah 9:9 as coming from the Messiah. He saves. This simply means that by the substitutionary atonement of His death He provided us the means to be connected to God and “saved” from the effects of our sins, which is eternal damnation. Eternal damnation is a permanent separation from God since He cannot be in the presence of sin as he is perfectly holy. That is the punishment, which a holy and just God must exact from those that do not accept the atonement He has provided. All are guilty since Adam and Eve of sin against God. Sin is carried out through our procreation to the next generation (Psalm 51:5). This sin needed to be broken so people could be reconnected to God. He provided it in Jesus, which was first announced in the Garden of Eden at the point that sin came into the world (Genesis 3:15). The Hebrew word for salvation is yeshu’ah given by the Lord in Isaiah 51:6. In the New Testament the Greek name of Jesus is based upon the Old Testament word for salvation. His name is Iesous, “Savior.” He was the servant who was to bring the Lord’s salvation to mankind (Acts 8:26–40). He is Himself that salvation (Luke 3:6; Romans 11:11) which the apostle Paul proclaims in Romans 10:13.

 Many New Testament passages confirm this great Messianic prophecy.

Luke 9:56

56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (KJV)

Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (KJV).

Romans 10:9-10

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (KJV).

Hebrews 7:25

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (KJV).

Revelation 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (KJV).

  1. He is Lowly

 Lowliness is translated here from humble (Psalm 18:27-28; II Samuel 22:28). Jesus came to the lowest members of the Jewish society. He did not court the governmental powers to gain access to the population. He started out lowly and humble and stayed that way during His First Advent. He had not position, title or possessions. He washed the feet of His apostles to demonstrate servant hood to them. He was beaten with a Roman scourge, which ripped the flesh from His body. They beat Him about the head and humiliated Him as they mocked Him. Finally Jesus suffered the humiliation of a crucifixion at the hands of ruthless men when they nailed Him naked to the cross. The Roman crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals to humiliate them as a deterrent to other criminals so they would not commit crimes against the state. Here was the God of the Universe who created it all entering a human body taking on a low state of a man and allowing Himself to be humiliated to the point of death on a cross for all mankind. This is what it means to be lowly. 

  1. He is riding a colt of a donkey

Human kings after the time of King David (I Kings 10:25-29; II Kings 9:18-19) usually displayed their power and glory by riding on a war-horse (compare Esther 6:8; Jeremiah 22:4). Our Messiah showed his humility by riding a donkey, the ordinary person’s beast of burden. A colt is a young donkey (male in this case) and foal is another term for a young donkey, referring to an even younger animal hence the greater display of humility.

This Messianic passage displays our Lord’s prophecy of the manner in which he would display Himself one week prior to His crucifixion for us.

 

Daniel Woodhead

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God’s Kingdom Overview

The Announcement of the Kingdom

Mark 1:14-15

14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (KJV).

Simeon's Moment by Ron dicanni

Simeon’s Moment by Ron dicianni

Kingdom Overview

God had an earthly Kingdom in mind before the creation of the universe (Matthew 25:34;; John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3; I Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:18). The Kingdom is what God has been trying to set up in a visible manner on the earth since the creation of mankind. It is this creature (humankind) to whom He gave a clear dominion over the earth. It was lost at the Fall and Satan usurping God’s authority made himself the Prince of this World (Matthew 4:8-10; John 14:30).

God selected a people group, the Jews to begin setting up the earthly Kingdom starting with Abraham. After a refining period in Egypt the Jews under Moses’ leadership began an outward form of the Kingdom called the Commonwealth of Israel. This reached its high point in the theocracy under the kings of Israel and then the Kingdom was delayed from being set up on the earth due to the sinfulness of the nation Israel. They were punished by God through the Assyrians and Babylonians who removed their national existence, expelled them from the land starting their exile in 586 B.C.

It is important to notice how God is allowing His people to come to the realization that they need the King. Sin in its grosses form is idolatry or turning away from God and worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. As long as this continues on this earth the Lord will not establish His earthly Kingdom. His people the Jews must nationally repent by accepting Jesus as their Savior and asking Him to return. God in His Divine Providence is allowing His people to receive the various forms of punishment meted out by this earth until they cry out for Him.

Romans 1:18-25

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who 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 Old Testament scriptures teach that there will be an earthly, visible Kingdom over which the Son of Man is to rule (Daniel 7:13–14, 2:34–35, 44–45; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 14:9). At the time of Jesus’ birth there was a widespread expectation of the coming of the Messiah. For example, Simeon and Anna waited in the Temple for the “Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25–38).

 

Peter Receives the Keys to the Kingdom by Pietro Perugino Cir 1481-82

Peter Receives the Keys to the Kingdom by Pietro Perugino Cir 1481-82

 

When six hundred years of the Times of the Gentiles had been completed God sent Himself, The King to the earth. He had the angel Gabriel announce to Mary that she would give birth to that King.

Luke 1:26-33

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (KJV).

Thirty years later Jesus Himself as well as John the Baptist announced that the Kingdom is “at hand.” This means that the King has arrived and is offering the Kingdom to the chosen people the Jews (Matthew 3:1-2, 4:17-23; Mark 1:14-15). Jesus the King sent out the apostles (Matthew 10:7) and another seventy disciples (Luke 10:1-9) telling them to proclaim to the Jews the same thing. Now the ruling governmental, Temple and Religious authorities rejected the offer as well as the King. They crucified Him and the Kingdom was again postponed. It now had a mystery form called the Kingdom of Heaven.

The “Kingdom of Heaven” is a New Testament term, and is found in Matthew’s Gospel only, where it is mentioned thirty two times. The characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven are described in the twelve “Kingdom of Heaven” Parables (Matthew 13:1–50; 18:23–35; 20:1–16; 22:1–14; 25:1–30). From these Parables we see that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is limited as to its Time and its Sphere. Its Time is from the First to the Second Coming of Christ, and its Sphere is over that part of the world that we call Christendom. In the “Kingdom of Heaven” there is a mixture of good and evil, of “Wheat” and “Tares,” of “Good Fish” and “Bad Fish,” of “Wise Virgins” and “Foolish Virgins.” These Kingdom parables describe the character of the Present Dispensation in its earthly aspect during the absence of the King. The Lord Himself in the following parable teaches it.

 

Parable of the Wheat and tares by Abraham Bloemaert -The Devil Sowing Tares Cir 1566-1651

Parable of the Wheat and tares by Abraham Bloemaert -The Devil Sowing Tares Cir 1566-1651

Luke 19:11-27

11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. 15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. 20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21 For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. 22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? 24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) 26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. 27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (KJV).

Jesus is describing the nature of the administration of spiritual gifts during the time on earth between His first and Second Comings. Many on this earth hate Him and will receive their just reward. Those in the Church have been given gifts to use for building up the Church and He will reward us for the seriousness, which with we used them. The believing Jews will be given authority over many cities. Interestingly the world at large called him a nobleman a term, which He uses in this parable. Most of this world will admit to Him being of some value such as a good teacher. When He returns He will be the King of the earth.

After Jesus’ resurrection His Jewish followers asked if now was the time for the Kingdom to be set up on the earth. They realized that the King Himself was here. He told them that it was not going to occur then (Acts 1:6-7). He left them with the belief that there was to be an “earthly and visible Kingdom” some day.

Because of the King’s rejection it was impossible to establish it at that time. Its establishment will require the Jews to affirm Him as the King. They will do this at the second Coming (Zechariah 12:10). They will look on Him whom they have pierced. This has all been part of the broad “Plan of God,” who knew that Israel would refuse to accept Jesus as King, and that they would not nationally repent until after the Church had been formed and taken out of the world. The Church is not the Kingdom or any aspect of it. The Kingdom is an outward visible political theocracy yet to be set up on earth (Daniel 2:44) whereas the Church is a spiritual organism that will be taken out of the world at the rapture (Matthew 24:40-41; Luke 21:34-36; I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The impact of Christianity over this world is diminishing as the Prince of this World gains more control and adherents. Whereas many western world governments were influenced by Christianity causing them to adopt laws and social practices patterned after the Bible’s teaching this is coming to an end. The influence of Christianity on this world, which is called Christendom, is referred to in Matthew’s Gospel as the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus has not yet received the Kingdom. He must finish His High Priestly and Mediatorial work first.

 Daniel 7:13–14

13I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (ASV 1901).

The form of Government will be a “Theocracy.” Christ will reign through a “King” or “Prince” called David (Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:24, 37:24), whose Throne shall be at Jerusalem. The Temple will be rebuilt, and the “Aaronic Priesthood” reestablished (Ezekiel 44:15–31). There will be a revival of the Land of Israel (Joel 3:18), and the length of human life extended (Isaiah 65:20–22. Zechariah 8:4).

Characteristics of the Future Earthly Kingdom

The general characteristics of the Kingdom are revealed through a great many of the Old Testament prophets. In general they are:

  1. Man will be rightly related to God
  2. Universal peace between men
  3. Animals will return to their Edenic state
  4. Renovation of the heavens and earth
  5. Elimination of infant mortality
  6. Minimum human longevity is one hundred years
  7. Death in the Kingdom is limited to unbelievers
  8. The incentive for sin will be greatly reduced
  9. Many of the effects of the curse will be removed
  10. Warfare and inter-human calamity will be removed
  11. The Church Age saints as well as Tribulation and OT saints will have glorified bodies
  12. God will control the entire government from Jerusalem
Peace By William Sttrutt Cir 1896 depicting Isaiah 11:6-7

Peace By William Sttrutt Cir 1896 depicting Isaiah 11:6-7

 

Isaiah 11:6-9

 

6And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea (ASV 1901).

Most of the exact nature of the effects of the Fall will be removed from the earth at that time. When Satan lured Eve into disobeying God she let sin and decay into the arena of time and space. What exactly was this sin that Satan imparted to Eve and has become endemic to mankind; even celebrated? It is pride, the source of all sin and that, which is an abomination to God.

We are warned the effects of pride in our lives in multiple Scripture passages.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride [goeth] before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall

It was the principal reason that God destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah.

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, 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

God hates pride within mankind and especially within His Church. There is no room for prideful ambitions in our lives. It stunts our spiritual growth and causes us to be out of fellowship with the Lord when we are prideful. This will all be removed through the Great Tribulation. God has expressed three distinct reasons for the Great Tribulation.

  1. To make an end of sin and sinful people (Isaiah 13:9; 24:19-20)
  2. To bring about world wide evangelization (Revelation 7:1-17)
  3. To break the power (will) of the Jewish people (Daniel 11-12)

So sin and its source are eliminated at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.

Only the Biblically illiterate fail to realize that we are in the final throes of the Last Days. Conservative and hermeneutically sound Bible teachers are presently teaching that world events have reached a point in the long session of Last Days “Birth Pangs” that Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Discourse. We should be aware of  what He said and  pay attention to Him. This should heighten our expectations of Christ’s soon return. They are as follows:

  1. World Wars I & II (coupled with famines and earthquakes)
  2. The Reestablishment of Israel (we will cover this in detail next session)
  3. Jerusalem under Jewish Control
  4. The Northern Alliance Invasion of Israel
  5. The One World Government
  6. The Ten Kingdoms
  7. The Rise of Antichrist
  8. The Period of Peace and Security
  9. The Seven Year Covenant

It is extremely important that we do not fail to realize that Christ explained in the Olivet Discourse that these things must happen before the Great and Terrible Day of The Lord. The Olivet Discourse provides detail of each of these Birth Pangs or Travails as some translations render these events.

As the economic distress, persecution, and conflict as well as political turmoil increase we must be aware of how we are commanded to respond.

  1. Believers Should be Watchful and Alert

(Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:33-37: Luke 12:35-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6; Revelation 16:15

2.Believers Should be Motivated to Godly Living

(Matthew 24:45-51; 1 Peter 31:13-15; 2 Peter 3:11-14; 1 John 2:28)

3. Believers Should Consider His Coming Very Soon

(Romans 13:11-12; Phil 4:5; James 5:8-9; 1 Peter 4:7)

4. Believers Should Eagerly Await It

(1 Corinthians 1:7; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:11-13)

5. Believers Should Encourage One Another

(Romans 8:23-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

6. Believer Should Long for It

(2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Peter 3:12; Revelation 22:20)

7. Believers Should Persevere

(Matthew 24:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:7-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:12-14; James 5:7-8)

 

The Kingdom Chart in its various stages by Clarence Larkin Cir 1918

The Kingdom Chart in its various stages by Clarence Larkin Cir 1918

Daniel Woodhead

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