Maturing in Our Walk With Jesus

 Maturing in our Walk With Jesus

  Daniel E. Woodhead

Hebrew Bible Textl – Jewish Related Item

Hebrews 6:1–8

 

1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8 but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned (KJV).

Moving from Basic Belief to Perfection

This section of scripture makes obvious the need to fully realize the audience that this book was intended to address. Failure to do so will lead to inappropriate interpretations and cause confusion with other passages in the New Testament assuring that salvation is by grace through faith and cannot be lost once a believer truly believes the gospel. Paul in this section of Hebrews treats this group of people as genuinely believing although some may not have been. He addresses them as having genuinely affirmed their belief that Jesus of Nazareth died and rose from the dead. Frequently readers who are untrained in fundamental hermeneutics will divorce passages from their proper context. Lack of understanding regarding the author’s intended audience as well as a knowledge of the issues facing them leads to an improper understanding of many passages. This whole book to the Hebrews deals with Jewish believers who were seriously considering returning to the Levitical system to avoid the general persecution imposed by the Sanhedrin, Temple priests, and the Romans. These people thought they could return to the Levitical system and get saved at a later time when the persecution decreased. Thus, they would be Christian apostates which is a massive sin. But in doing so they thought that the new affirmation of faith when they returned to the Church would erase their sin of apostasy.

Additionally, they were demonstrating as seen in the last chapter a very immature view of Christianity. They had not grown in sanctification and were in a state of spiritual immaturity as many in Christianity are today. They had set themselves in a sense of a halfhearted Christian commitment. The hearers were called to move beyond teaching the need to repent of works which lead to death.Instead of involving themselves in dead works, they must respond in faith to God’s provisional growth in Christ. These people were not committed to the doctrines of the Christian faith and stayed in a life style of sin and disobedience. If they did not embrace the advanced doctrine of the Christian faith they could be locked into spiritual immaturity. This receives no blessings from God in this life or the Messianic Kingdom to follow.

Finally, the teaching of salvation and security is abundantly clear from many other passages in the Bible. The hermeneutical principal here is that Scripture does not contradict itself. Therefore, if the majority of passages teach eternal security one verse cannot negate that. The difficult passage which is thought to suggest it must be evaluated and interpreted from the light provided by the clear ones.

Hebrews 6:1

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God (KJV).

This verse connects the previous chapter and brings out the necessity to leave the first principles of doctrine and move on to more weightier things of Scripture. If they were believers they were babies in these doctrines. They had a spiritual life but it was stuck at the elementary level and that would be harmful to them. He is admonishing them to take the elementary knowledge of Christ and press on to perfection. This is one fundamental purpose for the book of Hebrews to teach the need for believers to press on to spiritual maturity (perfection). There is great peril of relapse to the basic elements if they leave the faith and then return. This verse begins to list some basic doctrine of the faith which must be left behind and advanced from. One of those is not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God.

Repentance from dead works, which is, conversion, regeneration, and repentance from a spiritually dead state. In the case of the Jews is was the dead ended Levitical system. Christ fulfilled the Law and it was never meant to be a practice providing salvation. Paul is saying here “don’t return to sin again, for then you must have the foundation to lay again.” That will lead to a second conversion a repenting not only of, but from, dead works. Life in the Levitical system was temporary. It had already come to an end with the death of the Messiah. While the sacrificial system was still being practiced by unbelievers, it was no longer viewed by God as being effective to please Him or grow in the new Dispensation of the Church Age. The turning of their faith towards God meant that the positive factor in conversion meant the once-for-all time commitment to Jesus is what actually brought them into the salvation they experienced.

The repentance mentioned in verse one describes the very first realization one makes upon belief. When the Holy Spirit enters us at belief He illuminates us to our sinful condition and sets about to convict us whereby we repent of previous sins and our sinful state while on this earth. The apostle describes the process in his second letter to the Church at Corinth.

II Corinthians 7:9–11

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorrowful in a godly way, that you might not suffer loss in any way through us. 10 Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, which you sorrowed in a godly way: What carefulness it produced in you, what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what intense desire, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In all things you have proven yourselves to be innocent in this matter (MEV).

The apostle is affirming that repentance from dead works is the most elementary affirmation of the beginnings of sanctification and a new life in Christ.

To Bury the Dead Sebastien Bourdon Cir 1616-1671

Hebrews 6:2–3

2 of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit (KJV).

Regarding baptism the use of the plural in the term baptisms is indicative of multiple immersions or washings. Because this audience was Jewish is meant ceremonial cleanings presently in uses such as in mikvahs. The Christian baptism which is done after belief would make public the newly converted Jew to Christianity and show others their final point of separation from Judaism and the Levitical Law. The event of being baptized by a minister of Christ with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is the outward sign or seal of the covenant of grace, making public the person being baptized affirming their final break with the old life. And the Spirit or inward baptism, of the Holy Spirit brings the justification, and the graces of the Spirit for sanctification. This ordinance of Spirit baptism is a foundation of the Christian faith and is not to be repeated. Even though some Christian groups believe it is to be repeated there is no Scriptural support for this.

Laying on of hands was an Old Testament means of identification either as appointment to an office or association with some sin. A priest was appointed to his office in this manner and it became the means in the New Testament of affirming the chosen men appointed the offices of elders and deacons. One example is the scape goat that was used as a means of transferring sin from the nation Israel to the goat.

Leviticus 16:20–22

20And when he hath made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat: 21and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a man that is in readiness into the wilderness: 22and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a solitary land: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness (ASV, 1901).

The last two fundamentals were the resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment from the Great White Throne and the Lake of fire were not to be repeated. They should be realized early and then the believer should press on to more mature doctrines.  Finally, it is God’s will that they move beyond these elementary aspects of Christianity and move on to spiritual maturity. God will not force any to maturity any more then He forces belief. However, one cannot move forward while desiring to stay in the milk stage of belief. It is God’s will for them and us to press on. The lack of pressing on, the lack of maturity, the failure to press on is not God’s fault. Failure to do so shows personal dullness is not yet irrevocable or irreversible. These believers can still choose to go on to maturity. They have not yet made the decision to go back to Judaism. However, it is still possible for them to move backward in sanctification so far that it will be impossible to make substantive progress toward maturity. They can regress so much that God will not allow them to renew their faith.

Hebrews 6:4–6

 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (KJV).

 

This is the core section that is important to understand. Paul begins with an affirmation that something is impossible for these Jewish believers. It is a renewal of the basics of Christianity. The readers here experienced five spiritual privileges. What Paul is saying is that it is impossible to redo something that has already been accomplished. These are given in the Greek aorist tense which emphasizes a completed action. These people were regenerated, that is they were saved. They tasted the heavenly gift and truly embraced the Messiah and the salvation He provides. Tasted of the heavenly giftmeans they had a real, conscious experience of the blessings, of grasping this gift and its true nature. They had possession of real spiritual experience of being born again. Since the born-again experience only happens once and its effect complete, they could not go back and do it again. Several verses affirm this issue from the New Testament.

John 10:28-29

28 and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand (KJV).

 John 3:16.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (KJV).

Ephesians 1:13

12 that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ: 13 in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise (KJV).

 When we believed and fully trusted that Jesus of Nazareth is exactly who the Bible says He is we received the Holy Spirit. One way of expressing the certainty of the Christian hope is to say that the people of God have been “Sealed with the Spirit.” The term occurs three times in the Epistles; (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). In the Old Testament the literal meaning of sphragizois somewhat more common, but in the New Testament (at times also in the Old) the term is used only metaphorically, in the sense of “ratify”, “confirm”, “attest”. In the three texts in which Paul uses the term it refers to the marking of the believers as God’s property. The Holy Spirit is the mark of the child of God. But the sealing has a reference to the end of the age, for God will deliver all those who have his stamp on them (Revelation 7:4). However, sealing with the Spirit is an assurance of the hope of the believer and can be seen as the “earnest” (deposit) of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21.) for future redemption at the Rapture and Resurrection.

The audience of the Book of Hebrews are not people who only came near to seeing the Holy Spirit work. They were real participants in the Holy Spirit. They had experienced the Spirit baptism with the Holy Spirit. The seriousness and completeness could only come about from an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwelled them.

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (KJV).

There almost universal agreement amongst conservative Bible teachers and commentators that this teaches salvation which is not of works, but of faith. However, some who actually believe this, will turn around and teach that, while good works cannot get us saved, bad ones can get us unsaved. This is one of the verses that those who teach that one can lose their salvation have a hard time justifying their illogic.

The Jewish believers had tasted the powers of the age to come. They once-and-for-all tasted of the power that they experienced in their realization of the Messianic Kingdom also known as the Millennium. The word powersis the same one used of miracles in 2:4. Tasting it means they experienced real Spiritual rebirth in their lives. They were able by way of their new knowledge, to experience the powers of the age to comein their lives. The age to comewas the common Jewish term for the Messianic Kingdom. The Jewish believers did not have the option giving up their salvation, going back into Judaism, and being saved again later because that requires Jesus’ re-crucifixion. Time moves forward not backward. Therefore, Jesus will not be coming back to be re-crucified. He has already completed the process. He has already saved us believers completely. Their first option was to go back into Judaism. That will not mean the loss of salvation. It could very well mean a loss of their physical lives in the judgment of A.D. 70 though the Romans killed over one million Jews and took down the Temple. The Jewish believers were warned by Jesus the route of escape (Matthew 24:16–20). It would be best though if they made a complete break from Judaism once and for all. For Jewish and Gentile believers, then and today, that comes by means of immersion of water baptism (public declaration of their faith). After that, they need to press on to maturity. The rest of chapter six is trying to encourage them to do just that—to press on to maturity.

The term “if they shall fall away” is not speaking of the termination of their salvation, but rather of their failure to continue toward maturity. Maturity will be demonstrated by faith in God in their present trying circumstances. A serious warning of the consequences of such a failure to walk by faith is given “It is impossible … to renew them to repentance.” Just as that generation from Egypt permanently lost the blessings provided by God to those who demonstrated their faith in Him by their obedience to His command to enter the land, so these (by a definitive decision to return to the outward forms of the Judaism that they had renounced at their baptism) would permanently lose the blessings and privileges promised to those who walk by faith.

The greatness of the sin of apostasy is crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to open shame. This affirms that they approve of the Jews crucifying Christ, and that they would do the same thing again. They pour the greatest contempt upon the Son of God, and therefore upon God himself. They represent Christ and Christianity as a shameful thing and would have him to be a public shame and reproach. This is the nature of and great misery of apostates. It is impossible to renew a sanctifying faith again unto repentance. The sin here mentioned is plainly apostasy both from the truth and the ways of Christ. God can renew them to repentance, but he seldom does it; and with men themselves it is impossible. Even though they were saved and will be in Heaven there will be no growth in sanctification and its blessings, which include crowns here and position in the Messianic Kingdom.

Hebrews 6:7–8

7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8 but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned (KJV).

Even as the apostle says about our works receiving a payment in I Corinthians here those who do not perform in the exercise of the gifts we are given to build up the Church will be treated as wood, hay, and stubble. Here they are called thorns and briers. When the fire of judgment is applied then the loss of sanctification time spent in apostasy will yield the works being burned up, but we shall still be saved (I Corinthians 3:15).

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

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Jesus Fulfilled The Law Part II

Jesus fulfilled Old Testament Law and Prophecies, He did not abolish them

Jesus and the Law artist unknown

Matthew 5:17–20

 

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (KJV).

 

Hebrew Bible Textl – Jewish Related Item

Jesus made some statements in the Sermon on the Mount addressed to the Pharisees that would be in sharp contrast with the Old Testament Law. Even though the fundamental Law was the 613 commandments within the Torah, the common understanding ofit expanded to the entire Old Testament by the time of Jesus’ first advent. During the early Second Temple period the religious authorities had left Old Testament Mosaic Law in favor of Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism is based on a man-centered philosophy. It also tied people up with so many conditions and rules there was no way a Jew could ever fulfill them. It would have been easy to conclude that Jesus wanted to abolish the Law that had been given through Moses, but Jesus assured his listeners that He had no such intention.

He fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament by doing what those prophecies said the Messiah would do. He also “filled up” the law by pouring into it the meaning that had been forgotten by the teachers of Israel. This is what the Sermon on the Mount was teaching, that is, the intent of the Law. He applied the Law to thoughts and motives as well as to actions.

He also fulfilled the Law by accomplishing what the Law had failed to do. The Law revealed the standard of righteousness that God expected. The Law also revealed to people their sinful state and let them know that they were sinners, and their efforts were insufficient to earn eternal life (Romans 3:19, 20). The Law pointed out the need for a Savior, thus it served as a means “to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). When we come to Christ, the Law’s purpose is fulfilled; “we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (Galatians 3:25).

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus was saying that not even the tiniest part of the Law would be removed or discarded “from the law, till all be fulfilled”. This occurred when Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Gospel replaced the Law which is the “good news”. God was now reconciling the world to himself through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).

Jesus fulfilled the Righteousness God demanded

Jesus’ words highlight one of the principle functions of the Law and that was to reveal the righteousness that God demanded. God’s people under the old covenant owed their undivided obedience to the Law given from God through Moses, but Christians are under the divinely revealed Gospel.

Because the Sermon on the Mount was directed to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, it is not easily discerned two thousand years later what a bombshell these words were to the people who heard Jesus speak them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were considered to be the people who kept the Law most precisely. It was difficult to understand, even in that day, how anyone’s righteousness could ever surpass theirs.

Since the Pharisees followed a man-made law, which was developed in the four hundred years before Jesus appeared, it was not of God. These individuals followed their Rabbinic law consisting of giving, praying, and fasting purely for show:

False Piety artist unknown

Matthew 6:1–8

 

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (KJV).

They claimed to possess a great devotion to the law, but their true devotion was to themselves, their prestige, and their traditions. In much of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapter 5, Jesus contrasted the Old Testament Law and with the religious leaders of His day with His own teaching on a variety of subjects. In every instance, Jesus taught that sin and righteousness are found in one’s thoughts and motives as well as in one’s actions. To recognize this is to follow after the kind of righteousness that surpassesthat of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. The next section of Scripture examines a portion of this teaching found in Matthew chapter 5:

Matthew 5: 38–42

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (KJV).

In verse 38, the command of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” was part of God’s law (Exodus 21:23, 24; Leviticus 24:19, 20; Deuteronomy 19:16–21). It provided for the equal punishment of wrongdoing. It was meant to provide a punishment that fit the crime, nothing more or nothing less and no vengeance was to be taken. Its purpose was to limit acts of personal vengeance and thus to prevent bitter feuds from escalating into something worse.

In verse 39, Jesus made an assertion of divine authority. Whatever the letter of the Law said, God’s true will for man was now being revealed directly by His Son. A “smite on the cheek”, or a slap, was done to insult someone more than injure him. The essence of His teaching was the believer’s personal responseto personal insults and injuries. He was not abolishing law and order or the protection of the weak and helpless from cruel treatment by criminals. He was presenting the appropriate response to an insult by having the civic authorities handle the situation regarding preventing and punishing crime (Romans 13:1–4).

In verse 40, The “coat” was a tunic or the undergarment worn in the time of Jesus. If someone wants to be unjust enough to try to legally take your “coat” then “let him have your cloak as well”—your more costly and public outer garment. He was saying that it is inappropriate to be bitter or angry, even when you are treated unjustly. But rather show your attitude of goodwill by giving more than your adversary demands. This also does not mean that Christians are to be “doormats,” allowing people to take advantage of them. It means that Jesus wants his people to be more concerned about relations with others than with their personal rights.

In the first century Rome occupied Israel, Roman soldiers were authorized to draft a civilian at will to carry his pack for a “mile”. If a civilian cursed the solider or complained, he probably would be beaten. Verse 41 instead encouraged them to go along cheerfully and do even more than what was required.  This attitude and action would disarm any hostility and promote goodwill. From this teaching of Jesus comes the familiar phrase, “going the second mile.”

In verse 42, common sense and even love for others must qualify our response to someone who asks us for something. We should not give to people who will abuse our generosity. If a person who has a drinking problem asks for money so he can buy more liquor, we must deny that request. We are not obligated to give what is asked for. Sometimes the requests are made from people who have the responsibility to provide, but do not want to, and react with inappropriate behavior instead. The ideal presented here is that of helpfulness and generosity. One is not to develop a callous heart toward genuine needs, but neither is a person to grant another’s requests indiscriminately.

Jesus fulfills Gods command to Love our Neighbor

 

The Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants cir 1670

Matthew 5: 43- 48

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (KJV).

“Love your neighbor”was plainly written in the Law (Leviticus 19:18). In contrast, “hate thine enemy”is not specifically stated anywhere in the Law. Even so, God’s people sometimes were ordered to destroy entire nations of enemies, killing men, women, children and animals without mercy (Deuteronomy 7:2; 1 Samuel 15:3). Many Jewish teachers interpreted such commands as orders to hate one’s enemies. The Greek word for “love” in verse 43 isagape, and Jesus uses it here to refer to unselfish goodwill in action. Jesus’ followers must not only refuse to harbor enmity toward their enemies, they are told to seek what is in their best interests and to pray for them. This is certainly possible but is very difficult.

It is also important to recognize who Jesus considered our neighbor. In the Old Testament the word appears in four different Hebrew forms. They are Strong’s #’s 5997; 7138; 7934; 7453; 7468. In the New Testament there is only one form in the Greek. It is Strong’s # 4139. Generally, the various Hebrew forms refer to someone that is extremely close to you. The Jewish usage of the term neighbor always means any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth, that is, another Israelite. It can also refer to a brother, lover, companion, friend, or husband. Some forms include a general member of the human family, or a person that lives in close proximity or even sometimes an enemy. The Greek usage is similar, but with only one word it does not have the individual subtle usages found in the Old Testament Hebrew.

The verses which exemplifies its usage the most is found in the book of Matthew. In the following section of Scripture, the Lord is responding to a challenging question from one of the lawyers trying to trap Him in a theological debate related to the Mosaic Law:

Matthew 22: 35-34

35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (KJV).

Here Christ is referring them back to the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 19:18 where the “neighbor” is narrowly defined as another Jew:

Good Samaritan by Rembrandt cir 1630

Leviticus 19:18 

” ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD (KJV).

The New Testament was written by and first given to the Jews. In fact, Christ made the declaration early in His ministry that He had come only for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6; 15:24). Paul tells us that the Gospel is to go to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). It is important to consider the Jewish roots of Christianity in order to properly understand the Biblical text. Stephen in his dissertation to the High Priest in the book of Acts uses the term “neighbor” to mean a fellow Hebrew, and the King James Version uses the word “brethren”:

Acts 7:24-25

24And seeing one [of them] suffer wrong, he defended [him], and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: 25For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not (KJV).

Here Stephen is speaking of Moses’ attempt to defend another Jew against an Egyptian and calls the Jew a neighbor. Fellow Christians are referred to as “neighbors” in the New Testament (Romans 15:2; Ephesians 4:25; James 4:11-12). This is consistent within the context of Jesus referencing Leviticus 19 while talking about fellow Christians meaning other Christians are “neighbors”. Christ in the same passage of Matthew told the lawyers that we must love God first and then love our neighbors the same way we love ourselves. We must consider the context also of Christ’s commandment to love one another as related in John’s gospel:

John 13:34-35 

34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (KJV).

As Christians we are commanded to have a love for one another. This is consistent with Christ’s usage of loving our neighbors in Matthew 22:39. Here He narrowly defines the love we are to have for “others” is to be first be directed to others in the Body of Christ. Those “others” who are outside the Christian community will see our special relationship to God. The apostle John captures this subject in his first epistle. He demonstrates that a true believer loves “the brethren”, other believers, otherwise stated as our neighbors:

1 John 3:14-16 

14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not [his] brother abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren (KJV).

This follows directly from the Matthew passage in that Christ said the first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second as mentioned is to love your neighbor the same way you love yourself. This is not a commandment to engage in loving oneself. He knows that with the sin nature still in us we already love ourselves. The sin nature obviates the need for this commandment.

Neither do these passages refer to us loving, in a humanistic sense, the whole world’s population. The love that Christians should have for each other is to mark us as Christ’s disciples. If the commandment to love others were to the general population then there would be nothing significant about the passage in John 13. We are commanded to love other believers. That is real believers, not pretenders or those that hate us. They that hate us are depicted as being non-believers in the 1 John passage. Notice that we are not commanded to hate back. In fact, Christ tells the listeners of His Sermon on the Mount to love those that hate and curse you (Matthew 5:43-44). What does that mean? It is important to realize the nature of Christ’s statement so as not to confuse it with the passages commanding us to love other believers.

Jesus teaches His sermon on the mount

The Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s explanation of the standard of righteousness, which  God demanded, put in contrast with the Pharisaic interpretation of the kind of righteousness, which the Law demanded. The Pharisees interpretation was treating the Levitical passage as license to hate everyone that was not a Jew and particularly not a Pharisee. The Mosaic Law never intended this commandment to be carte blanche to hate any enemy. Rather, the Mosaic Law was given in the sense that one must love God and love those whom God loves, and conversely hate those who God hates. As an example, God hated the Canaanites because of their extreme wickedness and He commanded the Jews to exterminate them. Therefore, the Old Testament commandment was never meant to hate individuals through personal animosity or enmity.

The proper interpretation is to hate what God hates and love what God loves. God hates sin and we must hate sin. As far as loving our neighbor, we must first love other believers. We are not commanded to hate those that harm us or do not believe. We are to extend our love to the unbelieving community in that we would like to see them become children of God as we have become. All people are made in the image of God and a have worth. We should treat them with respect and concern. The love Christians have for each other is unique and a special living testimony to our connection to the Lord Jesus and the salvation that He has given to us.

Jesus pointed out that God gives numerous blessings to all people everywhere, even though they do not recognize Him as the source of these blessings. In fact, many live in defiance of His will for man, following what is evil and unrighteous. The patience and kindness of our Father in heaven should be a constant rebuke of others when in our flesh, we would prefer to retaliate.

There is nothing unusual about responding to good treatment with a good disposition. Even people who lack any kind of spiritual depth (pagans) can express gratitude to those who have treated them kindly. Jesus expects his followers to do more than others. The Christian is to go beyond what would normally be expected. In Matthew 5:48, the Greek word translated “perfect”means “complete” or “mature.” It indicates the complete development or final form of anything. The text is talking about such matters as loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We can and ought to love all those whom God loves, and we ought to do good to them as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10). Loving our neighbors means we would like them to become believers. It does not mean we affirm or join in to their pagan practices. 

The Sequence of Our Love

The sequencing of our love is to be:

  1. First, our primary love is to be directed to God.
  2. Second, our love is directed to other believers. We are to love those people first that God loves and realize that other Believers (Christians) are our neighbors.
  3. Third, our love is to be directed to those outside the church that need our assistance.
  4. Finally, we are to hate sin, and are to offer God’s love to sinners in hope that God will choose to save them. This stage is only after we have offered love and assistance to other believers. We are not commanded to first offer God’s love to those outside the church.

 

Daniel E Woodhead

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Jesus Fulfilled The Law Part I

The Lord Jesus fulfilled the Law

Hebrews 10:11-18

 

11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof  the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin (KJV).

This section of Scripture begins to compare what the Lord Jesus did in contrast to what the Levitical priests had to do repetitively. When Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended into Heaven and now sits on the right hand of God. In other words, He completely fulfilled the Levitical Law, and by this one event His work is effective forever. While the Old Testament sacrifices did not remove sins, His death and resurrection did. Now Jesus waits for the time when He will return to finish the Great Tribulation exercising the complete victory over His enemies in the earth. This will be the fulfillment of Psalm 110:1:

Psalm 110:1

1Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
Until I make thine enemies thy footstool (KJV) .

The final sacrifice of Himself totally fulfilled all that God had ordained for the complete remission of sins. Jesus fulfills the promises of the New Covenant, which no longer required any animal sacrifices, and the Jewish believers, who are the intended audience of this book, can dispense with them without any loss of salvation. First, we must remember the original reasons for the Mosaic Law. It was to demonstrate God’s standard of righteousness, make us aware of sin, make us aware of our desire to sin more, and finally to act as a schoolmaster so we would be aware of our sinful state.

THE GOEL

Ruth in Boaz’s Field bu Julius Schnorr von Carolefield

The Old Testament contains important information for us to know in order to truly understand how Christ completely fulfilled the Law. He is the Goelfor all believers on earth, from the time of Adam and Eve right through into the future when the Great Tribulation begins. What is the Goel? Goelis the Hebrew word for “redeemer. The verb form means “to redeem, act as kinsman-redeemer, avenge, revenge, ransom, do the part of a kinsman” (Strong’s Concordance, number 1350). Note the word “kinsman”, it modifies the word “redeemer” t mean one in which there is a “blood relationship”, or one who is tied to the redeemer role in the closest possible way.

Based on Old Testament Law, the Goelas a noun is the one who acts in the role of the kinsman redeemer, and there are three instances where Jesus Christ qualifies as the Goel, and these instances are described in the Mosaic.

AS THE GOEL HE IS OUR AVENGER OF BLOOD.

The avenger of blood artist unknown

Within the Mosaic penal code was the principle of personal retribution for murder. It is different than vengeance. Vengeance belongs to God. Vengeance is killing someone because you hate him or her, or because they have harmed you in some way. That is not what God allows. In a narrow sense, the only thing He allowed was the concept that if somebody killed a family member, the nearest kinsman, like is a brother, could be the avenger of blood and was justified in killing the manslayer in retaliation for their taking the life of one of the immediate family – particularly another brother. For example, under the Mosaic Law if a male Hebrew had a brother who was killed by another person, the living brother had the legal right to avenge the death by killing the manslayer, but only if it was first degree or premeditated murder.

The Mosaic Law did provide for legal retaliation. Later the Romans called it “Lex Talionis” and it is the legal principle upon which retaliation was justified. Even our legal system has it today, but the individual does not go off and kill somebody. They present the case to our court system that has a systematic way of dealing with the issue. As a believer you could forgive the person, but the manslayer is still responsible for what they did. The Mosaic Law gave the following directions for the kinsman redeemer acting as the avenger of blood:

The willful murderer was to be put to death, without permission or compensation, by the nearest kin of the deceased. In this narrow sense the blood avenger was limited to only killing the manslayer if the crime was first degree, or premeditated murder (Deuteronomy 19:11-13).

The law of retaliation was not to go beyond the immediate offender (2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 25:4). In other words, there were a lot of things the avenger of blood could not do. For example, he could not go out and kill the manslayer’s family, or he could not steal all the manslayer’s money. If the individual committed second degree murder, or manslaughter, then he could flee from the blood avenger and take refuge in one of the Cities of Refuge (Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 19:2-9). The interesting aspect of this is that he could stay there without harm and be protected until the High Priest died. But, if he left the city of Refuge before the High Priest died, then he was subject to being killed by the blood avenger if the avenger was still nearby looking for him. When the High Priest died, then the blood avenger lost his legal right to kill the manslayer for murdering his kinsman.

There are important parallels to Jesus as our High Priest, and as our Goel, the avenger of blood. He died so that we can be redeemed from the spiritual (and sometimes physical) death that results from our sins. All sin leads to death, which of us is not guilty of sin? (For an extensive discussion of why we are saved from death because of our sins by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus our Redeemer see Romans chapter 8.) Remember, Satan brought sin and death into this world. Satan committed premeditated, first-degree murder by taking both the spiritual and physical life of Adam and Eve, and of every human being born since his crime in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve would have lived forever if they had not been tempted to sin by Satan. Because Jesus the Son was born as a human baby (which makes Him our brother), He is our kinsman and the avenger of blood for all who believe. He will completely destroy Satan who is the “manslayer “of the human race. When Jesus died, if you believe that he died and rose from the deal he is your Savior, you are released from the death penalty of sin, just like the one who was able to flee to a City of Refuge and then able to go free after the death of the High Priest. So, Jesus Christ fulfills the role of the High Priest and the blood avenger.

HE IS OUR GOEL IN THE LAW OF LEVIRATE MARRIAGE

Judah and Tamar by Arent de Gelder Cir 1667

Moses gave clear instructions for the Law of Levirate Marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). The idea was to carry on the family line of the individual that died within the Nation Israel. Essentially, the Law of the Levirate marriage was this: If a married brother dies with no male offspring, it would be his closest surviving brother’s obligation to marry the deceased’s widow. It was against the Law for her to go out and marry a stranger. The firstborn son of the union between the widow and her brother-in-law took the surname of the deceased, thus continuing the deceased’s name in the family register so that it might not perish out of the nation of Israel. This action labeled the surviving brother as the “kinsman redeemer”, the first instance of two in which this title is used.

(The second use of “kinsman redeemer” is in regards to redeeming property of a near relative which will be covered in the next section.)

If a brother did not wish to take his diseased brother’s wife as his own, she had the right to legally cite him for rejecting the marriage before the city elders who were the decision makers in civil matters. This required the woman and the brother-in-law to go to the center of the city square where the city elders were to be found, and the brother-in-law would remove his sandal to indicate he would not “walk in that way”, and which signified that he gave up all claim to the deceased brother’s estate. If he were to marry her, he got the brother’s estate. If he did not carry out the law, she could spit in his face. Spitting in someone’s face was an act of humiliation and it still is today.

We see this Levirate law in action in the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis chapter 38. In summary this is what happened: Onan was one of Judah’s sons. Onan dies without any children and Tamar, his wife, comes to her father-in-law Judah and says, “I need a husband.” Judah had one more son who was a youth, and Judah says, “I’ll give you him when he’s old enough.” And she says, “OK, I’ll wait”, but Judah never gave her that son. So, what the Lord did was to bring Tamar to Judah some years later, dressed as a prostitute and enticed him into a sexual relationship. Before she would have intercourse with him, he said, “What do you want for payment?” She said, “Why don’t you give me your signet ring and your staff in the meantime, until you come back and give me what I am owed.” Judah agrees to do that, they have intercourse, and Judah returns to his home. But when he sends his friend to find her with the agreed payment, she is not there. Three months later, she is pregnant and the word goes out that Tamar has been having intercourse outside of marriage and she’s now pregnant. Judah is the man of retribution and demands “Who is she to do this? Under the law she needs to be stoned to death.” So, Tamar is brought before him but he does not recognize her as the harlot he had intercourse several months prior. He asks her “How could you do this?” She holds up his jewelry and staff and said she was pregnant “by this man.” Obviously, Judah is not willing to let the situation go any farther, and realizes he was the one who had committed the wrong against her by not following through on his promise to have her married to Onan’s brother. Tamar had twin boys, one of whom was Perez. It was through Perez that the family line was kept flowing through the generations leading to the birth of the Lord Jesus. This subterfuge and dishonesty could have been avoided if Judah honored the law of Levirate marriage. But Judah did not honor the Law, and the Lord intervened to keep the family line alive that would produce our Lord. The Law of Levirate Marriage and how relates to Christ as our redeemer is also explained in the book of Ruth, which is covered in the next section in more detail.

HE IS OUR GOEL AS THE KINSMAN REDEEMER

The Goelwas also called the kinsman redeemer in the case of redeeming property. To redeem means to “buy back”, “to take from”, and “to make right.” Land is very important to the Jews, and the Promised Land is extremely important. The property given to the Jews that encompassed the Promised Land was to be their permanent possession because it is God’s permanent possession:

Leviticus 25:23

23“The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you [Israel] are but aliens and sojourners with Me (KJV).”

Within the nation of Israel, provision was made for a poor person to sell their property, or himself into slavery for seven years to satisfy a debt instead of paying the lender money. However, they always had the ability to buy the property or themselves back if they came into enough money to pay the original debt. Even within the tribes, if the property was moving from one tribe to another, the original owner never lost it. They held a permanent deed to the property and in essence when they “sold” the property they were getting what we call a “lease-hold” arrangement whereby they were giving up the land for some temporary money. One could sell their property, and ideally if the nearest of kin had the willingness and the ability to buy it back, the nearest of kin could buy it back for them:

Leviticus 25:25

25“If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold. (KJV)”

It is the Goel, the same person that can perform the Levirate marriage and take somebody out of slavery who can redeem the family land. In this case, the kinsman redeemer was essentially a rich benefactor. If a family member was forced into slavery, his redeemer purchased his freedom. When debt threatened to overwhelm him, the kinsman stepped in to redeem the family member’s homestead which would allow the family to continue to live there.

The Law gave specific instructions for the Goelto redeem property of a relative to determine the cost paid by the redeemer (Leviticus 25:23-28; 48-55). The redeemer did not pay more than the original price, and the number of years that the property had been in the possession of other person was taken off the redeeming price to determine the value of the property. In the case of family members selling themselves into slavery to pay off a debt, the price was affected by the remaining years left of the original seven years of indenture. Usury or interest was not to be charged amongst the Jews at all. At the end of seven 7-year cycles (7×7=49 years), the fiftieth year is called the Jubilee Year, and all land went back to the original tribe that owned it, no matter who owed what now.

We see the concept of the kinsman-redeemer or Goelacted out in the book of Ruth. Elimelech was a Jewish man who sold his land and moved his wife Naomi, and their two sons to Moab to live since there was an extreme famine in the land of Israel. In Moab both of his sons married a gentile woman, and one of them was named Ruth. Jewish men were not to marry out of the faith but this story has a purpose. In time, Elimelech, and both his sons died. Naomi and her daughter’s-in-laws had lost their husbands, and now they were all widows. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to return to their families in Moab, however Ruth wants to stay with her because she loves Naomi and does not want to leave her. Ruth tells Naomi:

Ruth 1:16-17

16“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.17“Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me (KJV).”

Naomi had become bitter over her situation and decides to return to Israel since the famine had abated, and Ruth goes with her. They travel back to the Bethlehem, the hometown of Naomi and her husband. Ruth meets Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband while gleaning grain in his field. She tells Naomi of the kindness Boaz had shown her. Naomi realizes a union with Boaz is a way for Ruth to have a family and be happy. She also knows of the kinsman redeemer directions in the Mosaic Law. So, she instructed Ruth in what to do, and how to set in motion the kinsman redeemer responsibility to activate the Goel’sresponsibility to redeem her dead husband’s land and marry Ruth. Ruth does as Naomi instructed, and Boaz is receptive to the idea but realizes there is another man who is closer in kinship than Boaz to Naomi’s dead husband. Boaz approaches this relative about redeeming the land for Naomi. The relative agreed to buy the land back until he found out that Ruth, a gentile woman he would also have to marry, came with the package. In Israel, that was forbidden – the Jews did not marry Gentiles. If they did, there was going to be a lot of problems for them socially. They were going to be outcasts unless that person converted. It still would be a tough marriage because the Jews would always view them as being an “outsider” even if they converted. The nearer kinsman backs out because he felt this redemption was going to harm his inheritance and agrees to let Boaz assume the kinsman redeemer role for the family of Elimelech. Boaz now becomes the nearest of kin and he has the privilege of redeeming Naomi’s land and Ruth with it. So, he marries Ruth and he takes the land.

 

In summary, Boaz was nearest of kin to Naomi’s deceased husband (Ruth 2:1). He was able to redeem by paying the price of redemption (Ruth 2:1), and he was willing to redeem the land (Ruth 4:4). Boaz was to become the kinsman redeemer, or the Goel. It is a beautiful love story too, but the central thread through this is showing us the role of the kinsman redeemer. Boaz, whose name is on one of the pillars of the Temple, became foundational in the family line that would bring the Lord Jesus Christ’s body into the world. That is what makes this story so beautiful. This story is a picture of the Christ and His Church.

The Bride of Christ artist unknown

What did Christ do? The Church is the Gentile Bride of Christ. He brought the Gentiles into the Church. Christ is a Jew. The Jews and the Gentiles are one in the Church. Christ is our Goel, our Kinsman Redeemer. That is one of the reasons why He fulfilled the Law.

 

 

Daniel E Woodhead

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Damascus Became a Ruinous Heap

DAMASCENE PROPHECIES

Assyrian Besiegers

Isaiah 17:1-3

1The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. 2The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid. 3And the fortress shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith Jehovah of hosts (ASV, 1901).

This prophecy of Damascus, Syria is titled a burden or in the Hebrew a “massa.” This is a heavy, heavy set of declarations on this city. At the time Isaiah wrote this oracle against Damascus the Northern ten tribes of Israel had allied with Syria called Aram in the Bible. Because Assyria had threatened the Southern Kingdom of Judah God spoke through Isaiah the prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah assuring them that Damascus would become a ruinous heap (Hebrew Mapala) and not a threat. This conquering and despoiling was done by Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, as explained in 2 Kings 16:9 it had been a very ancient city and now was in ruins. This city would be rebuilt and then destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian King described in Jeremiah 49:21. Therefore, this prophecy given to Isaiah was fulfilled in the two invasions of Damascus by Assyria and Babylon both of which destroyed the city and left it in ruins (Mapala).

It is important to see how the Northern kingdom of Israel aligned itself with Damascus. These are some references to what happened to Damascus primarily for Israel (northern 10 tribes) aligning itself with pagan Damascus.

  1. Damascus has become helpless (Jeremiah 49:24).
  2. The king of Assyria took Damascus and exiled its inhabitants (2 Kings 16:9).
  3. Ahaz copied the altar in Damascus (2 Kings 16:10).
  4. Ahaz sacrificed to the gods of Damascus (2 Chronicles 28:23).
  5. I will set fire to the wall of Damascus (Jeremiah 49:27).
  6. The spoil of Damascus and Samaria will be carried away to Assyria (Isaiah 8:4).
  7. Is not Samaria like Damascus? (Isaiah 10:9).
  8. The kingdom will disappear from Damascus (Isaiah 17:3).
  9. I will break the [gate] bar of Damascus (Amos 1:5).
  10. For three transgressions of Damascus and for four (Amos 1:3).
  11. The oracle of the word of the Lord will rest on Damascus (Zechariah 9:1)

From Isaiah 7:1–2. We see that Rezin, king of Aram, northeast of Israel, and Pekah king of Israel (752–732B.C.) had made an alliance. Rezin may have usurped the throne of Aram, and Pekah was a usurper. Rezin was Aram’s last king, and Pekah was Israel’s next-to-last king. After Jeroboam II (793–753) of Israel died, the Northern Kingdom became increasingly weak. Rezin convinced Pekah to join him in a war against the Southern Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 15:37; 16:5). They threatened to replace Judah’s King Ahaz with a puppet king (Isaiah 7:6). The prospect of such formidable enemies as Aram and Israel caused the people of Judah to be afraid. The house of David (v. 2) refers to King Ahaz who was of that kingly line. Hearing of the Aram- Israel alliance Ahaz was terrified. Ephraim, Israel’s largest tribe, represented in a synecdoche the entire northern nation as is also the case in the Book of Hosea (Hosea 4:17; 5:3, 5, 9–14). This was in the year 734 b.c.Ahaz foolishly thought he could call on the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727) to come to his aid and attack the Aram-Israel confederacy. What happened though was the king of Assyria took Damascus and exiled its inhabitants (2 Kings 16:9). Then in 722 B.C. He conquered the Northern Kingdom and took them back to Assyria and populated the Northern Kingdom with people from many different areas.

IL Kings 17:24

24And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Avva, and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof (ASV, 1901).

The inbreeding of these people with the remaining people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel produced the Samaritans which were hated by the Jewish people.

The Arab states and Damascus will all receive a final judgment at the start of the Messianic Kingdom. It is difficult to predict if there will be another invasion of Damascus before the final destination which is a result of their perpetual hatred of Israel as characterized as early as Numbers 20:14-21 and in summary form in Psalm 83:1-8. Some believe that the civil war which started in 2011 in Syria is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 17:1, but there is no biblical indication that this is accurate. It is outside sound hermeneutics to look to the news first in order to justify a prophecy in the Bible. We look to the Bible to see what God has said will happen then look to world events to see if they match up exactly as prophesied.

Damascus presently is not in ruin as when the Assyrians and Babylonians destroyed the city. Some might view this prophecy in Isaiah 17:1 as indicative of a type of prophetic fulfillment called the “double reference.” Hermeneutically those instances refer to a near and far term view of a prophecied event such as in Deuteronomy 18 where Moses predicts a prophet who would succeed him. Although Joshua fulfilled the near-term fulfillment, Acts 3:22-23 applies it to Jesus, hence, the near and far view fulfillment. There might be yet a future destruction of Damascus equally ruinous as the Assyrian and Babylonian destructions were, but so far it has not occurred. There is still no biblical reference to a far term reference to this despoiling of Damascus in our time as the Acts 3:22-23 passage refers to the far term fulfillment of Jesus as the object of Moses’ prediction of a prophet to succeed him. Many see the text of Psalm 83:1-8 as the fulfillment of the far term prophecy of Isaiah 17:1 but that is simply an imprecatory Psalm, not a prophecy of an event that will come to pass. Therefore there is no clear indication in the Bible that this will have a far term fulfillment.

God says that in the Messianic Kingdom He will bring peace between Israel and Damascus (Part of Assyria) through a conversion of their peoples to become believers and live with Israel in peace in the Messianic Kingdom.

Isaiah 19:23-25

23In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians. 24In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; 25for that Jehovah of hosts hath blessed them, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance (ASV, 1901).

The Kings Highway Ancient International Trade Routes

Verse 23 describes a highway which connects Egypt, Israel and Assyria. In the Messianic Kingdom, when peace will be restored, all borders will be open, and this highway, a symbol of free trade trafficking, will be restored between these Middle Eastern states. The means by which this will occur is conversion (vv. 24–25). Not only will Egypt undergo a conversion experience, but so will the ancient area of Assyria. Assyria will become a blessing in the earth and will receive a blessing from God. The three former enemies will now be spiritually and economically unified. So peace during the Messianic Kingdom will come between Israel and Assyria (part of Syria) by means of conversion. When this happens, there will be economic, political, and religious unity, because they will all worship the same God.

Daniel E. Woodhead

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