The Olive Tree Anti-Semitism and Bible Prophecy

 

THE OLIVE TREE, ANTI-SEMITISM AND BIBLE PROPHECY

imagesDr. Thomas S. McCall

At a convention of the Pre-Trib Study Group in Dallas, Dr. John Walvoord presented a paper on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and Premillennial teaching, including the history of doctrines throughout the Church age.  I was very much struck by something that Dr. Walvoord said as he analyzed the transition from widely held pre-millennial views of the early church in the first three centuries to the predominantly amillennial, postmillennial or anti-millennial views that developed afterwards, and it centered around Augustine.

Latent Anti-Semitism Caused Amillennialism

I appreciated especially what Dr. Walvoord said, as quoted from the audio tape of his message, in his analysis of what happened in the case of Augustine:

“Augustine arbitrarily made the millennium non-literal, while everything else was literal.  Now as far as I’ve been able to find out, there has never been a book on doctrine that explains this.  But there is possibly an explanation.  In the first two centuries the church was largely Jewish in its background.  They were the evangelists, and they were the apostles.  But as the gospel grew, the church became largely Gentile.  And, of course the millennium is a time when the Jews are prominent, and it could be that there is a latent anti-Semitism here that they were quite unconscious of, that made them question whether Israel is going to have a literal future like it says.  And that, of course, would lead to a non-literal millennial kingdom.   In any case, that’s what happened, and the Roman Catholic Church became amillennial, and the Protestant Reformers like Calvin, Luther and others went back to Augustine rather than to the Bible, and adopted amillennialism.  They brought in, though, a lot of other things that were important, like “every man a priest” and “interpret the Bible yourself,” and so on, very important doctrines that have been the bulwark of Protestantism.  But, it wasn’t until the 19th and 20th Centuries when the Bible Conference movement began, and people began to ask what does the Scripture actually say?  It was not until then that premillennialism became a prominent feature in the church–as it is today in some churches, at least.  And that’s the background.  So we have to understand there’s a long history of this, and we are a minority.  We believe the Bible is literally true and they don’t, and we believe we have the facts on our side.  That’s why we believe what we believe.”

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

 

Thus Dr. Walvoord said it was his impression that it was latent anti-Semitism that caused Augustine and those around him to have this transition in their thinking.  That’s a remarkable statement.   How in the world can latent anti-Semitism have anything to do with one’s eschatological viewpoint, and how can it impact the eschatological viewpoint of the whole church?  Well, I think that it does, and that’s one of the things we are going to be looking at in this article.

There is an inherent connection between one’s attitude toward the Jewish people and Israel and one’s attitude toward the Scriptures and eschatology.   How does that happen?   It’s an understanding of what the Scriptures teach about the nature of the church, the nature of Israel, and the nature of the Olive Tree.  As Dr. Walvoord brought out, at the time of the beginning of the Bible Conference movement, there was a rediscovery of Israel and the promises to Israel in the Scriptures.  Some of the early works published in this movement had to deal with the future of Israel, as scholars began to rediscover premillennialism and literal eschatology.  Of course many of the amillennialists, including Augustine, would have been shocked if someone were to say they were anti-Semitic, and they would deny it strenuously.  And they would say, why, there’s not an anti-Semitic bone in my body!  All we want to do (they might say) is to take away the promises that God has given to Israel and apply them to the church!  Well, that sounds pretty anti-Semitic to me.

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Zechariah’s Special Golden Menorah and Two Olive Trees

Zechariah’s Vision of the Candlestick and The Olive Trees

The prophet Zechariah received eight visions in one night in the fall of 520 B.C. assuring him that Israel had a future even though they had been in Babylon since 586 B.C. They would still have a future. In the book of Daniel God let’s us see the Gentile government control of world government bodies until the Lord sets up His Messianic Kingdom. In the book of Zechariah He let’s us see that the Gentiles do not have all the power and control that it seems. Here he shows Zechariah that He is working behind the scenes to bring His plan for the Jews and this world to fulfillment. This vision is number five of the first eight.

The Calling To Alertness

Zechariah 4:1

1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep (ASV 1901).

The angel that talked to Zechariah before again connects with him. He is the malakh haddobher bi—the angel that talked with me, or, literally, “in me”—and he is not the same as the Malakh Yehovah, The Angel of Jehovah. Just as before Zechariah does not address this angel as Adonai, “my Lord”. So again this is not the same as the Divine Angel of Jehovah—the Messenger of the Covenant—but an attendant angel whose mission it was to be God’s conveyer or messenger to the prophet of the meaning of the visions. Remember that God uses angelic messengers to bring His messages to humans (Revelation 1:1 etc.).

After receiving the first four visions of the one night Zechariah must have been nearly exhausted. The angel now calls him to alertness. But, a better translation of wakened out of his sleep would be “roused me as if I had been sleeping.” We see the same exhaustion coming upon the prophet Daniel after he received the vision of the beasts in chapter eight of his book. Gabriel the angel explained the vision and Daniel became ill and unable to function for several days. This lets us realize the impact a connection with the spiritual world can have when the Lord God is providing His prophets with prophecies of future earthly events. It was not as though Zechariah had fallen asleep. He was spiritually wrung out and needed to be re-kindled to receive the next vision. He therefore resembled, like Daniel, one who appeared to be sleeping. The fourth vision depicted in a symbolic but very graphic way the spiritual salvation of Israel from sin and defilement.  Even though the topic was seen as their outward deliverance from captivity and oppression in the preceding three visions it looked further into the future when all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:27).

The vision of the Candlestick and The Olive-Trees

Zechariah 4:2-3

2And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have seen, and, behold, a candlestick all of gold, with its bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; there are seven pipes to each of the lamps, which are upon the top thereof; 3and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side there of (ASV 1901).

 Zechariah’s Vision of the Menorah and Olive Trees from the tribulation network

Zechariah’s Vision of the Menorah and Olive Trees from the tribulation network

The malakh haddobher bi asks Zechariah what is it that he is seeing. He wants Zechariah to verbalize the vision he is having and to make sure it is accurate so there is no satanic intervention to corrupt the vision. After all Satan has been accusing Joshua and Israel in general at the bar of God the Father. Satan is a deceiver and will corrupt all and any he can to draw mankind away from God. Zechariah then goes on to relate the vision he just has been permitted to view. He starts by saying, I saw “a candlestick all of gold, with its bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; there are seven pipes to each of the lamps, which are upon the top thereof;” What he is describing is the menorah from the temple with some significant differences indicating that this is a second temple or Millennial Kingdom view. The candlestick in Zechariah’s vision is a figurative representation of the seven-branched candlestick in the Temple.

 

 Menorah from the Temple Institute in Jerusalem

Menorah from the Temple Institute in Jerusalem

Exodus 25:31-40

31And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made, even its base, and its shaft; its cups, its knops, and its flowers, shall be of one piece with it. 32And there shall be six branches going out of the sides thereof; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side thereof, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side thereof: 33three cups made like almond-blossoms in one branch, a knop and a flower; and three cups made like almond-blossoms in the other branch, a knop and a flower: so for the six branches going out of the candlestick: 34and in the candlestick four cups made like almond-blossoms, the knops thereof, and the flowers thereof; 35and a knop under two branches of one piece with it, and a knop under two branches of one piece with it, and a knop under two branches of one piece with it, for the six branches going out of the candlestick. 36Their knops and their branches shall be of one piece with it; the whole of it one beaten work of pure gold. 37And thou shalt make the lamps thereof, seven: and they shall light the lamps thereof, to give light over against it. 38And the snuffers thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold. 39Of a talent of pure gold shall it be made, with all these vessels. 40And see that thou make them after their pattern, which hath been showed thee in the mount (ASV 1901).

In the tabernacle and the temple after that pure oil was brought by the general congregation to the place of worship to have the oil poured into the lamp by the priests. The lamp was to burn at all times and was never to go out. The imagery of oil was a representation of the Holy Spirit of God (Leviticus 2:1-2; Matthew 25:1-13 etc.). This is not Him but a manifestation of Him in time and space. It is important to see that it was individuals that put the oil into the lamp. The candlestick has the representation of something lighting or being lighted. In the tabernacle and temple it was two fold.  One God’s Spirit represented by the oil would radiate out to the Children of Israel to demonstrate His presence in their midst. Two, it was to be a light-bearer to the nations around them. They were to be a witness for God to the Gentiles. When a God appointed purveyor of His Word loses that blessing to be a witness for Him, it is said that the Lord takes away his candlestick (Revelation 2:5). In other words the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things and is represented by the oil will no longer do His work through us if we turn away from Him in sin. Therefore the imagery of the candlestick, which holds the oil and allows the light to radiate out, is removed from those who do not properly carry out their God given responsibilities to act correctly and speak God’s Word correctly as well. Their spiritual condition and physical manifestation of that must be acting in concert as representatives of the Lord. The Lord took way the Israelites lampstand after He showed Ezekiel the sins they were committing in the temple (Ezekiel 8:1-18).

 In this vision there are three distinct differences from the candlestick of the temple and tabernacle.

  1. Zechariah’s candlestick has its own oil vessel (gullah or basin) on top of it for supplying oil by gravity feed. These are bowls to automatically feed oil by means of gravity. This was not in the temple or tabernacle but there the priests who received oil from offerings of the congregation members filled it. This new apparatus will allow a new and different means of filling. In this vision, no attendant priests are necessary, or offerings of oil from the congregation. The lamps are fed continuously from the gullah, or oil vessel, above the candlestick, the abundance of the flow of oil (emblem­atic of the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit) being set forth by the seven pipes (or “pourers”), which carried the supply to each.
  2. Zechariah’s lampstand has seven pipes (Hebrew mutsagoth, tubes or conduits) through which oil is poured from yatsage to pour, flow, or cast [I Kings 22:35; Job 38:38]). These seven pipes connect with each lamp so there are forty-nine in all. By contrast the tabernacle or temple candlestick had no pipes at all, but only seven branches or arms (qanim) to hold the lamps.
  3. This lampstand has two olive trees, one on either side. These each have fruitful branches supplying the oil to the gullah through two additional pipes. These two trees will continually supply oil to the lamps in abundance.

Zechariah’s Question to The malakh haddobher bi

Zechariah 4:4-5

4And I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? 5Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord (ASV 1901).

Zechariah is asking the malakh haddobher bi what exactly this vision means. He is addressing him as lord or one above me in stature not as God. The word adon (lord or overseer) is used here not the word Adonai with its indicated deity. The angel answers him with a question saying surely you must know what this is? In a very humble manner Zechariah says that he does not know the meaning of this vision.

 The malakh haddobher bi Explains the Vision

Zechariah 4:6-10

6Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of Jehovah unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts. 7Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of Grace, grace, unto it. 8Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 9The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me unto you. 10For who hath despised the day of small things? for these seven shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel; these are the eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro through the whole earth (ASV 1901).

This is how the angel begins his interpretation of the vision: “This (vision in as far as it embodies a prophecy) is the word of Jehovah unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts.” The Hebrew word hayil (“might”), which also means an “army,” or “host,” stands for the strength of many. This meant to express human strength and power of every description—physical, mental, and moral—individual, or the combined strength of the multitude. All of these are not able to do what the Spirit of God can do. The genuine power by which Israel’s charge on this earth is set forth by the candlestick, shall eventually be fulfilled by “My Spirit, saith Jehovah.” God Himself will be the only power given to Zerubbabel to accomplish the task of rebuilding the Temple. This will all result in a restoration of Israel’s mission as a light to the world. The temple will be the visible proof and symbol of the restored fellowship between Jehovah and His people, and Israel’s mission as the light of the nations. Joshua will be the High Priest and Zerubbabel will be the governor of Jerusalem. The last vision number four saw Joshua reinstated as the religious head of the Jews now Zerubbabel is being appointed as the civil head with the assurance that God will provide the power to do God’s work as once upon a time the ancient Israelites earnestly did.

Zerubbabel would be the one to finish the temple during his lifetime and the angel was assuring Zechariah of these things because Jehovah Himself sent him to convey the message. Any and all voices of opposition would also be silenced. There will be joy when the plum lines are visible. The finishing of this building will happen amidst loud cries of the people, “Grace, grace unto it.” Therefore not on the great world powers but on the little “stone of lead” (Christ) or “plummet” in the hand of Zerubbabel, who is superintending the work of building, as well as the seven eyes of God’s special providence rest, will this be accomplished.  The seven refer to the previous vision. God’s eyes run to and fro through the whole earth, and nothing is hid from His omniscience. He will see to it that nothing shall prevent the work being brought to completion.

God’s Anointed Over The Whole Earth

Zechariah 4:11-14

11Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive-trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? 12And I answered the second time, and said unto him, What are these two olive-branches, which are beside the two golden spouts, that empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord. 14Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth (ASV 1901).

Zechariah asks the angel one more question regarding the olive trees. He wants to know the meaning of these olive trees and is met with the same question, “Don’t’ you know?” The answer is simple; they represent Joshua the high priest and the prince Zerubbabel. These stand by the Lord of the whole earth, as the divinely appointed instruments through whom the Lord causes His Spirit to flow into His congregation. The olive trees represent these two men. They are feeding God’s Spirit into Israel and the task of rebuilding the Temple. This imagery is also used in Revelation chapter eleven of the two witnesses for the Lord during the Great Tribulation that bring forth God’s Spirit during that yet future troubled time (Revelation 11:45).

Daniel E. Woodhead

 

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