Two Become One

Two Become One

The text is Matthew 19:3-12. The subject is marriage and divorce. The series is called The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. I have been working through the gospel of Matthew and exploring every time Matthew quotes or refers to the law and prophets. Many times a quotation from the scriptures reveals something in the way of prophecy, and the way prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. This particular post, however, will focus on how Jesus used the old testament scriptures to teach about marriage, divorce, and even sexuality. There is a parallel passage in Mark 10:2-12 which is worth comparing.

The power of the teaching of Jesus rests in how He quotes the scripture directly without trying to alter it in any way. Jesus had been teaching about marriage, divorce, and sexuality for some time before this encounter with the Pharisees. In Matthew 5:27-32, Jesus taught a moral standard which upheld the law and even exceeded it. Jesus taught that when a man looks at a woman with lust, that is in the same category as committing adultery with her, or basically, like he had sex with her in his heart. This reminder couldn’t be more timely. Billboards, magazine covers, and television advertisements are all using the beauty of the female body to sell things. They are trying to get men to lust in order to appeal to them because they know the weakness of men, just like in the days of Jesus. Jesus had also taught that divorcing your wife can be equal to committing adultery. He had not given the reasoning behind this teaching, but had simply stated it. Any time a man divorces his wife, except in the case where sexual immorality has already occurred, he is causing adultery to occur. The Matthew 19 passage will explain why this is a sin.

In the passage we are examining, the Pharisees come to Jesus and test Him. The question that they ask Him is so specific that we must consider that these Pharisees knew of the previous teaching of Jesus which Matthew had recorded. The question is, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Jesus had already taught (with authority) that the only reason one can divorce their wife and be blameless is in the case where sexual immorality has already occurred. Because the Pharisees are ready with their response, it seems that they have already determined that Jesus has contradicted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus could have responded by pointing out that Deuteronomy 24:1 is only in the case whereby some indecency has been found in her. This would have sparked a debate over what was meant by indecency because if adultery was meant then the penalty was death, not simply permission to divorce, see Deuteronomy 22:13-30. The beauty of the words of Jesus is that instead He appeals back to creation itself. Genesis and specifically the creation account is all a part of the law as well. In Mark’s version, Jesus questioned the Pharisees about what Moses commanded, so it makes you wonder as to exactly what part of the law of Moses that Jesus was hoping the Pharisees would quote. They went to Deuteronomy, but Jesus is going to Genesis.

Back to the Beginning

Jesus uses the very words “at the beginning” or “from the beginning” to describe God’s original intent. He then quotes Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to give the foundation for marriage. He comes back again in Matthew 19:8 to contrast the position of the Pharisees with God’s original intent for marriage by saying, “From the beginning it was not so.” This type of language is basically showing the Pharisees that their view on divorce is not the same as the Creator’s view on divorce. The Pharisees had originally wanted to expose Jesus as being out of step with the law, but here they are being exposed as out of step with the very foundation of what marriage is all about.

The first passage Jesus quotes is Genesis 1:27 which reads, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It is to the language of “male and female” that Jesus refers when giving the foundation for marriage. At creation God assigned genders. He has a role for the male and a role for the female who are both in the image of God. Let’s word Genesis 1:27 just a bit differently. God created mankind (Hebrew word allows for this) in His own image, created in the image of God, male and female He created them. This designation of male and female was not used in reference to any other part of creation, (meaning not to plants or animals) only to those being created in the image of God. So at the beginning, God created male and female, one man, one woman, and then gave them the entire world. It is to this definition that Jesus builds the foundation for marriage, one man, one woman; male and female in the image of God.

Then Jesus quotes Genesis 2 with seamless transition. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are creation accounts from different perspectives. Some have tried to point out inconsistencies between the two. It seems that Jesus saw the two different accounts as complementary. Genesis 2 contains the fuller explanation of how God created them male and female. There is no contradiction, only different emphases in each passage. Initially it was just Adam, the man. But God had said that it was not good for him to be alone. Out of all the animals in creation there was no companion suitable for Adam. Only after the creation of woman was there a suitable companion, or helper, for Adam. God created man and woman to be together in relationship.

Jesus quotes from Genesis 2:24 and states that this is the reason why He opposes divorce. Here is the verse, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The verse is immediately after Adam states his intimacy with the woman because they are essentially of the same makeup, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Before looking at how Jesus applies the verse, let’s ask, “Where did this verse come from?” It is not Adam speaking because he did not have a father or mother to leave, unless he is speaking prophetically here of future generations after him. It could be a commentary from Moses as he was documenting the story of creation. This would be odd because there is no other example quite like this. The best explanation comes from the words of Jesus Himself. Notice how Jesus attributes the statement to God the Creator. Jesus said, “Have you not read that He Who created them at the beginning made them male and female and said…” So Jesus states that these are words that God Himself spoke in the garden of Eden as Adam and Even became one flesh. God was speaking prophetically for all generations after this. Adam proclaims that he and his new wife are essentially one flesh by saying “Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God reiterates this by saying that when a man leaves father and mother and holds fast to his wife that they become one flesh in the eyes of God. God the Father walks Eve down the aisle and presents her to Adam. Then God states that they are one, and anyone after them that does this same thing.

Let’s not overlook the significance of this. Something special happens when a man and woman come together in marriage. They become one. In the original context, Adam is saying, “This is someone like me. This is someone I can identify with.” These are the things men should be saying when they get married today. Also in the original context, God is giving authority over the entire earth to this newly married couple. God tells them, “Multiply and have dominion over the earth. Everything on this entire planet is yours.” Lest too much be made of reproducing, note that the man and woman are one flesh before they have any children. Lest too little be made of it, remember that none of us would be here without it. So many love songs have been written about this wonder that God has created, namely marriage. So many songs about broken hearts have been written as well. If only we could get back to the truth that God instituted at the beginning. Two become one. They weren’t meant to be separated. Ever.

Now let’s examine the application of Jesus concerning these words. Jesus quotes and applies Genesis 1:27 literally. One man and one woman were created at the beginning. Jesus then quotes and applies Genesis 2:24 literally. When a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, they become one flesh because God ordained it this way at the beginning of creation. Jesus then says, “They are no longer two but one flesh.” There has been an identity change in the eyes of God. God views them as united in a way that cannot be separated by man. Jesus continues by saying, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Can people separate something that God has joined together? Some people think so. When a man and woman get married, whether they admit it or not, God is involved. God has joined them together. The intention was for them to remain united. The sooner people realize this, the sooner they will understand why there are so many broken hearts in the world. People have bought the philosophies of the world and are hurting as a result. If you don’t believe me, just turn on the radio, or open up a tabloid, or turn on the television. Divorce, breakups, broken hearts, there is no shortage. And then of course, falling in love all over again to make you forget.

The Pharisees have an objection. Perhaps they hadn’t listened to the force of the words of Jesus, or perhaps they had planned on raising this point regardless of what the response of Jesus would have been. They point to the law and ask why Moses commanded to give a certificate of divorce and send her away. They are correct. In a case where divorce was happening, a certificate of divorce was to be issued, thereby denoting an official end to the marriage. This was originally meant to be a protection for the woman. In those days, a man might claim divorce but then later say he had never said that. So if there ever was a divorce, it was not to be verbal, but in writing. Deuteronomy 24:2 explains that this is so that the woman would be able to be another man’s wife. Remember in that day that the men held the majority of the authority. If you were a woman who was not living with her father or was not married, your chance of survival was pretty slim. If your husband said, “It’s over,” the first thing you would look into would be trying to marry again. However, without a certificate of divorce, there would be a risk that the man would cry foul or say he didn’t really mean it. In God’s economy, divorced women were valued and protected. Men were not allowed to just kick a woman out without allowing her to begin her life over again. If the man was serious, he had to take the time to have a certificate written out. Once she had that certificate, that was her protection against recourse.

Jesus responds to this by stating that this command was because of the hardness of the hearts of man. This was permitted or allowed to happen, but, Jesus clarifies, from the beginning it was not this way. Jesus continues by stating the exact same thing that he had back in Matthew 5:32. Anyone who divorces his wife, except in the case of sexual immorality, and then gets married is committing adultery. Why? What God has joined together should not be divided by men. Remember that the penalty for committing adultery was death. So essentially Jesus is saying that if you divorce your wife and get married to someone else, you deserve the death penalty. Those that do this are simply lusting after other women and trying to justify it by doing it the legal way. “Hey, I’ll just divorce my wife and get married to someone else.” God calls that sin.

This concludes the answer that Jesus gave to the Pharisees. However, there are two addendums that Jesus adds in a discourse to his disciples. One is found in Mark and shares the words of Jesus who applies the situation to women divorcing their husbands as well, see Mark 10:12. The other is found in Matthew 19:10-12 and is unique to Matthew’s gospel. Here the disciples seem surprised by the severity of the command of Jesus. They say that in that case that it would be better not to marry. This is the logical conclusion since (if we want to obey God) we don’t want to be committing sins worthy of death. So the disciples conclude that divorced people shouldn’t get married at all. Now Jesus shows his soft side. After talking about the sanctity of marriage, the seriousness of the sin of divorce, now Jesus says that not everyone can receive this saying.

Let me just interrupt this text for a minute and state that we should remember the context of the entire ministry of Christ. He was introduced by John the Baptist who said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus continued by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Everyone, repent! Tax collectors, Pharisees, soldiers, prostitutes, mothers, fathers, divorced people, married people, everybody, repent! Just because someone is divorced, it doesn’t mean that they cannot repent and believe the gospel. However, confessing our sins should include confessing all of our sins, including divorce. And just because someone was religious and had never had a divorce didn’t mean they were above repentance. Repentance was for everyone, especially the religious who didn’t think they needed it, see Matthew 3:7-8.

After the disciples state that it is not good for divorced men to get remarried, Jesus states that there are different types of situations. Matthew 19:12 is one of the more difficult verses in the Bible. But since it uses the term “Kingdom of Heaven”, we need to apply it to the ministry of Christ and the work of the Kingdom of Heaven of which all Christians are a part. The word “eunuch” is a compound word in the original Greek and basically means “bed-holder”. The application is that they performed a duty that other men might not be trusted with. So they were considered “bedchamber attendants” or “keepers of the beds”. The reason these men could be trusted with intimate matters of the bedroom is that they did not have the sexual desire for women that other men had, or perhaps they did not allow their sexual desire for women to affect their judgment.

Jesus gives three different examples of “bedchamber attendants”. The first are those who were born this way, “There are some… which were so born from their mother’s womb”. These men were either born with no sex drive or with the inability to reproduce, or maybe both. In these cases, these men were trusted to be servants in areas where other men would not be trusted. This is something that should be considered an aberration from God’s original intent for men to be intimate with women. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” We realize this is a fallen world, though. But even in our sinful state when diseases and deformities are occurring naturally, we know that God has not forgotten about us. Instead of viewing the sterile man as an outcast, Jesus states that this is someone who would be a trusted servant, leading to a later comparison in serving in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some people think the Bible has nothing to say about transgenderism, or many other recent issues concerning sexuality in the news, but this is not the case. There have been people who were born “not sexually normal” throughout all ages, at least back to the days of Moses. For priests, not being sexually whole would disqualify you from serving in the tabernacle, see Leviticus 21:16-24. Notice how the blemished priest could eat of the bread of God, but he could not come near to offer the offering. For the rest of the Israelites, this would mean that they were not to be considered as part of the congregation of Israel, but would have something like a foreigner status, see Deuteronomy 23:1. They weren’t put to death, but they were considered unwhole or impure in some way. People have been born with sexual deformities for a long time and instead of ignoring it, God acknowledged it by pointing out that this is not normal, but then gave guidelines for people who are born this way. Someone who is born sexually deformed is not forgotten about in God’s economy, but encouraged to live godly with the people of God. They may have a different role, but that role may just be a trusted advisor that normal men cannot be trusted with. I will have more to say on contemporary sexual issues later after discussing this passage.

The second example that Jesus gives is something that has been forced upon someone by other people, “some… were made eunuchs of men”. This could include castration, as many would point to that as the primary definition. However, the word “castration” does not appear in the Greek. It simply states that they have been made to be a bed-holder. The position could have been forced upon them expecting the man to remain celibate. There is debate in history as to how prevalent castration was for those who were to be these types of servants. The evidence that some thought was there has been assumed by many. What we do know from this text and from the context of remaining unmarried of which Jesus is speaking is that this position is forced for the purpose of having a paying job. The man was to remain single in order to serve his master/employer.

The third and final example that Jesus gives is of someone who has voluntarily made themselves a bed-holder in order to work for the kingdom of heaven, “some… have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”. It seems highly unlikely that someone would undergo castration without someone forcing it upon them. The more likely view is that someone took a vow of celibacy or perhaps just refrained from getting married for a certain time period in order to devote their time to serving God. People may think of monks and nuns as the primary example, but our thoughts need not be confined to just these people. Someone who is simply single, maintaining sexual purity while serving the LORD could be considered in this very category. It is possible that the Apostle Paul was in this category, see I Corinthians 7:7-8. Some of the advice in I Corinthians 7:32-33 shows how someone who is unmarried is able to devote their time to the LORD rather than husband or wife. Rather than view the unmarried man as an outcast, Jesus elevates His status to bedchamber attendant in the Kingdom of Heaven. The intimate details that most men cannot be trusted with are being trusted to this man.

So what was Jesus saying and how did that correct the view of the disciples that a divorced man could never get remarried? The point that Jesus made is that not every eunuch, or bedchamber servant, was in the same category. Every situation is unique. To the Pharisees in general, Jesus spoke the truth about marriage. It’s permanent. Two become one. But to the disciples, to those that are servants within the kingdom of heaven, already following the teachings of Jesus and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says not everybody is in the same situation. There is not one answer for all. Not everybody can receive this saying, except those to whom it is given. For those that follow the strictness of the law and don’t get remarried, they may end up in an elevated position. For example, the verb in this verse which means made into a eunuch does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament, but the noun which means eunuch only appears in one other passage, and that’s in Acts 8:26-40. It is speaking of a high ranking official, the personal treasurer to the Queen of Ethiopia.

That concludes how Jesus quoted and applied Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. To extend this a bit further, there is no room for the definition of marriage to be anything other than one man and one woman being joined together. In the beginning, God created them male and female. One man and one woman were designed to become one flesh in the eyes of God. The world is sinful now, and because of this sin there are many sinful desires which run against nature itself. Homosexual desires are very real, but very ungodly. Romans 1:26-27 shows the lust that people are tempted with which runs against God’s will. The example of Sodom and Gomorrah is often cited because of their homosexual desires, see Jude 7 which explains the reason for the destruction on those cities as being sexual immorality by going after different flesh. The law had prohibited this in Leviticus 20:13 and it is reaffirmed in the new testament writings.

Also, notice the command in Deuteronomy 22:5. A man is not allowed to wear what pertains to a woman, and vice versa. This tells me a couple of things. First, there would be a temptation for a man to dress like a woman. The commandments were typically commanding the children of Israel to refrain from the pagan practices of the nations that lived in the land of Canaan. These were things that people were doing way back then. Cross dressing is not something new. It’s been going on for thousands of years. But it has always been condemned by God. When the temptation came for a man to dress or act like a woman, the children of Israel were to obey God and refuse to do this sin, and the same went for women being tempted to dress and act like men. Of course Satan is going to attack men and confuse them. God created male and female for specific purposes and Satan wants to confuse us about God’s will.

I have noticed different trends on the subject of marriage, divorce, and sexuality. One is that somehow society is changing therefore the positions of the church should be changing. In response to that I say God does not change. The reason for God creating male and female at the beginning has not changed. Another trend is to minimize the seriousness of the sins being committed. Don’t minimize it. It’s still sin. When two people of the same sex desire each other, that’s sin. When a man dresses or acts like a woman, or says that he is a woman, that’s sin and Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ should call that sin. There is also the overreacting trend. Some people act like society is so bad today like no other generation has had these types of sin. That’s not true. It’s all there in the law of Moses which was written thousands of years ago. God knows about it. And God will judge it, not us. We can speak the truth, but don’t act like this is the first generation that saw same sex marriage legalized, because it’s not. It was legal during the reign of the Davidic dynasty, see II Kings 23:7 and note that this was in the midst of the people of God, not to mention we have no real record of the pagan nations.

Remember the teaching of Jesus. Uphold the sanctity of marriage. Two become one. Teach it to your children.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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Moses in Malachi 3 ~ Link

There is someone else who agrees with me on seeing Moses in Malachi 3. You can read my post at this link here which explores the idea that both Elijah and Moses are spoken of in Malachi 3 and 4. Basically, Elijah is the messenger termed “my messenger”, but Moses is the messenger of the covenant mentioned in the second part of 3:1. In chapter 4, Elijah is mentioned by name in verse 5, but just before that in verse 4 there is the mention of the law of Moses. The command is to remember the law of Moses which correlates with the purification of the sons of Levi which is explained in 3:3-4.

So here is the link to the Harbinger Dardinger. I don’t agree with the everything in the article and I see no need to suggest that the abomination of desolation will be moved as is suggested. However, there is a little more depth to this presentation of Moses being present in Malachi so I put the link here and let the readers study. I hope you find it insightful.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Prophecy | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Merry _________mas

Merry ________mas

This is a great mystery. The name of Christ is being proclaimed throughout so many Gentile nations, yet they don’t truly know Him. It’s really amazing to me that so many people will speak the name of Christ during this time of year as it is wrapped up in the name of Christmas. To me, the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4 is being fulfilled, see Matthew 12:15-21 as well. Jesus came meek and mild. At His birth, He was a baby in a manger. During His ministry, He healed, helped, and withdrew from arguments. At His death, He humbly laid down His life. All Gentile nations are speaking His name, yet they don’t truly know Him.

So with Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, I wondered how many comic strips would mention Christmas without mentioning Christ. Yes, I take the funnies way too seriously. It seems that presents may be the real god at Christmas. Let’s see what gets the most attention.

The Amazing Spider-Man, Arctic Circle, Broom Hilda, Calvin and Hobbes, Candorville, Dilbert, Hagar the Horrible, Herb and Jamaal, Peanuts, Rubes, Tina’s Groove, none of these mention Christmas.

In the following comic strips, they mention Christmas, but it’s all presents, Santa, and non-religious themes. Arlo and Janis exchange presents, but forget the price and ask Janis how shiny it was. Ask Shagg has a mention of Christmas and a question about flying reindeer. Archie has Christmas decorations, but no mention of Christmas. Baby Blues has a Christmas tree, and someone perhaps sneaking down for presents a little too early. Baldo and family are pictured opening presents. In Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Snuffy is trying to settle a dispute so family will not be arguing at Christmas. Beetle Bailey and Sarge shake hands and wish each other Merry Christmas, but only for today (back to usual tomorrow.) In Blondie, there is a tree with presents underneath, but there’s also a turkey in the oven. The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee is concerned with bigger things than the average Christmas present, but nothing in terms of Christ. In Brewster Rockit, the focus is on Christmas decorations. Buckles is wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, but he didn’t know it was ugly until someone told him. Close to Home has a puzzling, Christmas gift opening joke. Crankshaft’s daughter and husband are opening Christmas presents, without a chimney fire. Curtis’ dad has a tender moment of making sure his kids get presents at Christmas, even if he doesn’t. In Cul de Sac, Petey illustrates what his Christmas was like and the interesting presents he got. Dennis the Menace opens presents, and then checks around for more. Family Circus kids write “Merry Christmas” on a fogged up window. For Better or for Worse is about Christmas recycling. Frank and Ernest shows Santa and reindeer debating mileage versus stopping and starting. Garfield makes it about presents, even more so than sleep. Gasoline Alley gives us an old fashioned Christmas wish. Heathcliff and Spike have a Merry Christmas, eventually. Hi and Lois (and family) pose for a Merry Christmas selfie. Jumpstart has a Santa and holiday decorations. Lio has Santa arriving back at the North Pole, with a hitchhiker. Luann and her dad are trying to figure out Christmas lights. Santa forgets Marmaduke’s Christmas present at the North Pole, or does he? Marvin sets out cookies (er… cookie?) for Santa. Mother Goose and Grimm pictures Santa by a Christmas tree, shopping online of all things. Mutts pictures a tree with a present next to it (wonder what’s inside?) Non-Sequitur has a Christmas coloring exercise, a picture of bears waiting to eat Santa. In Overboard, Louie get a Christmas present from Santa because, hey, dogs get presents too! Pickles shows Earl and Opal recovering from all the work involved at Christmas. In Pooch Café, Poncho helps with Chazz buying Carmen a Christmas present, again. Red and Rover write “Thanks, Santa” in the snow. Rhymes with Orange has dogs under the table for holidays leftovers, or is it left-unders? In Rose is Rose, Pasquale is opening Christmas presents, or is he just dreaming? Sally Forth has Hillary telling a Christmas story with everything you can imagine, Santa, Frosty, the Grinch, Rudolph, well, everything but something from the Bible. In Scary Gary, it’s the Christmas spider that leaves presents for Leopold. In Sherman’s Lagoon they are opening Christmas presents, and deciding who gets to play with them. Shoe and Prickly City both say Merry Christmas as Santa is flying through the air, in a bizarre sort of way. Santa hits a Speed Bump in remembering billions of presents, but forgetting a gallon of milk. In Take it from the Tinkersons, they have trouble getting a present out of the box. The Lockhorns are busy bickering during the holidays. The Wizard of Id makes his special holiday fruitcake. 9 Chickweed Lane mentions a white Christmas, and sort of illustrates as well. Zack Hill gets a great interactive game for Christmas, but it’s old school: Checkers! Ziggy got a visit from Santa, but did he get the Christmas present he really needs? Zits has Jeremy enjoying Christmas with his parents, forget the fact that they tied him up.

Agnes does a little better along with a few others. There is a Christmas tree, hope, and the mention of Mass as therapy for poor deluded Agnes. Nancy and Sluggo try to tell us about the true gifts of Christmas. There are two symbols made out of snow, a peace symbol and a heart symbol. B.C. and Peter wish each other Merry Christmas as they look up into the sky at a solitary star. Pearls before Swine shows a child wanting better things than an x-box. Things like people being less greedy, less mean, more understanding. Or how about a hug? A passing mom wants that kid instead of her own. Heart of the City gets real close by quoting extensively from the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. The portion quoted asks God’s blessing upon Christmas time because it is a time to be kind, forgiving, and charitable. Such deep thoughts make me want to finally read this classic.

Mallard Fillmore thanks God for gifts at Christmas, and quotes John 3:16. And that is the only comic strip (that I read anyway) that directly mentions Jesus.

So there you have it. So much Christmas, so little mention of Christ. And yet it’s satisfying to know that God is being faithful, patient, allowing others to hear about His Son, all the while they don’t really believe in Him, they don’t really trust in Him. Yet it’s all right in front of them. Gentiles know the name of Christ, the Messiah. One day the Gentile nations will learn to trust in Him.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Two or Three Witnesses (The Authority of the Kingdom of Heaven)

The following post is the next installment of the Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. However, this is more of a commentary on Matthew 18 and the kingdom of heaven rather than a discussion of the subject of prophecy. I am working through the book of Matthew and each quote from the old testament contained therein. The quote is found in Matthew 18:16, originally found in Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15. There is another phrase in Matthew 18:18 which was given to the disciples earlier by Jesus found in Matthew 16:19. This post will explore the authority of the kingdom of heaven, the authority of the disciples, the authority of the church, the authority of the nation of Israel, and how all of these relate to each other. Before we look at Matthew 18, we begin our study in Matthew 16:13-20.

The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

As mentioned above, there is a quote from Deuteronomy given by Jesus in Matthew 18:16. It may not seem like much, but considering the overall context, it is very intriguing. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” The original quote from Deuteronomy 19:15 reads, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” The quote from Deuteronomy is how God’s authority is carried out through the nation of Israel. The quote from Jesus is how God’s authority is carried out through the church. But first, let’s look at Christ’s authority and how He bestows it upon the twelve disciples.

Immediately after Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, He demonstrates the seriousness of the decisions that they will be making in carrying out this authority by saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This is not the first time Jesus has proclaimed these words and this authority to His disciples. Back in Matthew 16:19 Jesus had said, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The first mention of the church is in Matthew 16:18, immediately followed by the aforementioned statement. The second mention of the church is in Matthew 18:17, immediately followed by the aforementioned statement. Isn’t it interesting that the only two times in all the gospels that the word “church” is mentioned, that we find identical statements from Jesus?

The confession of Simon Peter proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah is what prefaces the words which state the intention of Christ to build His church and to give the disciples the authority of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says, “You are Peter, a stone. On this rock (Petra, a large rock) I will build my church.” Jesus doesn’t define this church that He is going to build, but does state that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The authority of the church seems to be joined to the keys of the kingdom of heaven that are given. The keys are given to you singular, so it’s possible Jesus is talking to Peter and not all of the disciples. However, there is a difference between the two texts of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 that can be detected in the King James Version. In 16:19 it reads, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Thou is the singular form of the word you. In Matthew 18:18 it reads, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Ye is the plural form of the word you. So whether Peter was given the keys or the 12 were given the keys, there is something in the authority of the church that is definitely in the plural according to the Matthew 18 passage as a whole.

It should be stated that Jesus Christ has this authority to give. Matthew has spent a considerable amount of time recording statements where Christ either asserts His authority or assumes His authority, especially in relation to the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 7:21-23 assumes that Jesus has the final say as to who enters the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 10 explains how Jesus sent out the twelve to preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. 10:40-42 notes that if someone receives a disciple of Jesus, they receive Jesus, and if they receive Jesus, they receive Him that sent Jesus, meaning the Father in heaven. Matthew 11:27 seems to be the most definitive statement of Christ’s authority to this point. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” That’s interesting that the disciples are included in this statement of authority. All throughout Matthew 13 and the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven it is Christ who is the administrator of the authority, as the sower sowing the word of God, the owner of the field which is the world, and the Son of Man sending forth angels to harvest. Now here Jesus states He will give the keys to the kingdom of heaven, as if He alone holds the keys to entering the kingdom of heaven. Toward the end of this section Jesus will state that He will come in the glory of His Father with the angels, coming in His kingdom, see Matthew 16:27-28. Whatever authority Christ has, He is stating that He will give it to either Peter, or the twelve, or to the church as a whole.

The Nature of the Kingdom of Heaven

Jesus never really defines the kingdom of heaven. There are parables and inferences, but He always ends up saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like….” Here in Matthew 18 we have something a little different. Here Jesus tells us who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The disciples want to know and it is quite possible that this is the occasion where they were disputing which of the twelve would be the greatest, see Mark 9:33-37. To demonstrate who is the greatest, Jesus chooses a little child as an object lesson. The little child is set in the midst of the disciples. Now Jesus begins speaking about the nature of the kingdom of heaven. Unless you be converted and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever will humble himself as this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives a little one like this receives Jesus Himself. There are several things that are presumed in these statements of Jesus. First, we are in need of conversion. Being a part of the kingdom of God is not our natural state. Unless we are converted, and become as children, we will not enter it. Second, we are not child-like in many ways. Children are humble. We are naturally proud. Children know that others (adults) are above them. Adults assume they are above children. Jesus reverses all this. In order to be greatest, become the least. Finally, it would seem that Jesus is above all in the kingdom of heaven. However, receiving a little child is receiving Jesus. Would you like to spend time with the King? Invite a humble, little child over and receive him.

Matthew 18:6-10 continues the discussion on the kingdom of heaven with an emphasis on “these little ones”, meaning children. Echoing the thought that all are in need of conversion, Jesus states that the entire world is under a curse. “Woe unto the world because of sin!” Therefore, gaining the kingdom of heaven should mean everything in order to escape this curse. If there is anything in the way of entrance to the kingdom of heaven, it needs to be dealt with. If your hand, foot, or eye would keep you out of the kingdom of heaven, cut them off. The reason being is that if you so much as offend (sin against) one of the little ones, you will be thrown into hell fire, and having a millstone around your neck would be preferable. Sinful flesh will keep you out of the kingdom of heaven and guarantee you a sentence in everlasting hell fire. Be careful how you treat these little ones because their angels look the Father in the face. The parable of the hundred sheep shows the lengths to which those wanting to reconcile should be willing to go. It is not the will of the Father that even one of these little ones should perish. That’s quite an all-encompassing love. Note the implication here that the kingdom of heaven is being contrasted with everlasting hell fire. Either be converted and enter the kingdom of heaven, or stay under the curse of the world and suffer forever in hell fire.

The parable in Matthew 18:21-35 should tell us much about the nature of the kingdom of heaven. We never have this description to tell us that it is a perfect place or free from sin. However, this parable tells us that forgiveness is essential for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. We simply must forgive each other. There is no room for grudges. We must be reconciled to each other. God has forgiven us, and we must forgive others. This is why the instruction on reconciliation contained in Matthew 18:15-20 is so important. When we seek to restore relationships we are acting as if the kingdom of heaven is a reality. Back in Matthew 5:21-26 Jesus had commanded that if you are in the act of worshiping God and remember that your brother has something against you, you are to stop, be reconciled to your brother first, then worship God. Now here the command is if your brother has wronged you. Either way, no matter whose fault it is, the burden is always on the disciple of Jesus to seek the kingdom of heaven and restore that relationship. The kingdom of heaven is a realm of forgiveness. It will be a Jubilee, anytime, anywhere. It will be a place of no grudges, no debts, only compassion and forgiveness. If you can’t forgive, you can’t enter.

Notice the location of the kingdom of heaven. Well, it doesn’t exactly say, but we have some clues. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” Those are the two locations mentioned in the passage. Disciples of Jesus are here on the earth making decisions on forgiveness. Those decisions are bound or loosed in heaven as well. Heaven is the location of the Father, see Matthew 16:17, 18:10. When we forgive, it affects heaven itself. Remember the prayer that the LORD taught us to pray. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” There is an anticipation that the kingdom of heaven will be established here on the earth. Notice the timing of the kingdom of heaven. Well, it doesn’t say exactly, but there are some clues. Matthew 12:32 tells us that there are some sins that will not be forgiven “neither in this age, nor in the age to come.” The kingdoms of this world are temporary. The kingdom of heaven is eternal. There will be an age to come after this age. The work of the kingdom of heaven done here on this earth during this age will affect the age to come. God’s kingdom will come. We look forward to God’s will being done here on earth as it is in heaven. So when Jesus states, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels… they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom,” we should understand this in the context of the age that is, and the age that is to come.

Jesus humbled Himself. Jesus came as a servant. Jesus came meek and mild as a little child. Jesus came and did the Father’s will. Jesus forgave. Jesus took the blame. Jesus came and presented the kingdom of heaven to the nation of Israel. That kingdom of heaven that was presented was a realm of repentance and forgiveness.

The Church and the Kingdom of Heaven

Jesus said that He would build His church. The Greek word translated build in Matthew 16:18 is the same word used in Matthew 7:24 when the wise man built his house upon the rock, meaning the teaching of Jesus. The word means to build up from the foundation, or to establish. The establishment of the church goes hand in hand with the authority of the kingdom of heaven. As was mentioned previously, there are only two instances of the word “church” in all of the gospels. Both times they are in passages where this phrase appears: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In Matthew 16:18-19, seemingly out of the blue, Jesus tells Peter and the twelve that He is going to build His church. The Greek word for church is ekklesia which in those days meant some assembly that was called out or called together for some purpose. So the intent of Jesus is to build the church and then give to Peter/disciples the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The gates of hades, the realm of the dead, will not be able to have power against this assembly. It seems that the church will be some type of assembly for those doing the work of the kingdom of heaven.

The Greek words for bind and loose have to do with putting someone in chains and setting someone free from prison. The keys of the kingdom of heaven allow those who have them to set people free or tie them up. Prisoners go free or people get put in chains. The disciples would have this authority. This is spelled out more clearly in Matthew 18:15-20. The work of the kingdom of heaven has to do primarily with reconciliation between people. If your brother sins, go to him, just the two of you, and try to “gain your brother.” However, we all know that this may not work. People are sinful, prideful, stubborn. If your brother will not hear you, then take one or two more the next time. The reason for this is because of the quote from Deuteronomy. I will dig into this more in the next section. If the additional witnesses see that the situation is still not resolved, then it goes before the church, the assembly. The witnesses will testify before the assembly that an attempt at reconciliation has been made and the person refused to hear.

If at this point there is still no reconciliation, then it is time for the church to exercise the authority of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The attempt has already been made twice to reconcile, once between the two, then once with additional witnesses. Here is the final attempt at reconciliation. (Note: even though the word reconcile does not appear in Matthew 18, I feel it is appropriate because of its usage in Matthew 5:24 which is a related passage.) It may be that in the presence of the assembly this relationship will be restored. This is the final attempt and so if conversion, humility, forgiveness are not a result, then a final decision will be made. This final decision will be to treat the person in the wrong as a heathen or a tax collector. (It’s kind of humorous that Matthew is the one writing this down. He knew how tax collectors were treated.) It seems understood that the person was once considered a part of the assembly, but this decision will put them out of the assembly permanently. Jesus states that the decision made here on earth by the church will have eternal ramifications. Whatever you all bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you all loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. If you all put the person out of the assembly here on earth, they will be out of the assembly in heaven. If they cannot forgive and be reconciled, they have no part in the kingdom of heaven.

Now in the context of church discipline, we have the verses which are so often taken out of context. If two of you agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by the Father in heaven. The context is that an entire process of attempted reconciliation has occurred in the assembly. Now two people can exercise authority to bring someone back into the assembly, or put them out from the assembly. Those two people can ask the Father in heaven to back their decision here on earth with authority from heaven. Jesus affirms that when these two or three gather in His name (for this purpose) that He is present. The authority of Christ is present to forgive and loose chains, or to see that no forgiveness has happened and to bind them showing that they are still in chains. This is the imagery that Paul is drawing from in I Corinthians 5:1-5. The Corinthian church should have exercised church discipline but had not. Paul affirms their authority to do this in I Corinthians 6:1-8. This is the sad portion in putting the person out from the assembly. However, II Corinthians 2:6-11 shows that there was repentance and forgiveness because of the punishment. II Corinthians 7:8-12 shows that the repentance was all encompassing, not just involving one or two individuals. Church discipline brought about a church-wide revival.

Israel and the Kingdom of Heaven

Here is where we explore why Jesus quotes from the law given to Israel as a source of authority for the church. When the nation of Israel left Egypt, God’s authority was present with them in a way that He was not with other nations, see Psalm 114:1-2. As Israel was to conquer the promised land, God’s reign would be with them forever and ever in some way, see Exodus 15:15-18. As the Israelites were entering the promised land, Moses reminded them that they had the authority to carry out God’s will. Back in Exodus 21:12-17, God had outlined several instances where the death penalty must be carried out. The first one mentioned is in the case of murder. This finds its roots back in the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9:5-6. If someone kills a man who is made in the image of God, that man must be killed. In Deuteronomy, God is reminding them that they have the authority to put people to death, to end someone’s life. However, there may be someone falsely accused, so in Deuteronomy 17:6 there is the provision that only at the mouth of two or three witnesses shall someone be put to death. It can never happen with just one witness. Then in Deuteronomy 19:15, concerning weighty matters of one person sinning against another, there is the instruction that one witness is never sufficient. Every matter must be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

The law and government of Israel were to be the pattern for law and government in every nation. Here was a nation whose God was the LORD. Their ways of governing are God’s ways of governing. God punishes sin, but He does it fairly. No one is to be accused unfairly. Justice was available for everyone, but also liberty if you had committed no crime. Every nation on earth has a governmental system that has some measure of authority from God. Some follow it more closely, but all have seen this fundamental concept in this passage in Deuteronomy 19:15. Weighty matters must be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

The LORD, the God of Israel, was saying, “You have the authority to put people to death. You have the authority to punish people appropriately for their sins. Do not pity them when they are punished because there is guilt of innocent blood. But, do not believe just one person. Always have two or three witnesses. Other nations will see this and learn. You are a peculiar treasure above all.” God bestowed the authority upon the nation of Israel.

Now in the book of Matthew, the Tax Collector is documenting the authority that God is bestowing upon the church. There is both continuity between the authority that God had bestowed upon the nation of Israel, and the idea that God is doing something new. Although the name of Israel does not appear in Matthew 16-18, in the entire narrative of Matthew’s gospel, it is difficult to miss. Jesus had specifically stated in Matthew 10:5-6, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles…. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In Matthew 15:24 He told a Gentile, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” What Jesus was doing here in Matthew 16-18 in building His church, bestowing the authority of the kingdom of heaven, and outlining reconciliation and forgiveness of sins was entirely within the context of the nation of Israel. Not long after this Jesus will tell the twelve disciples, “In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye (you all) shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” It is revealed here in Matthew 19:28 why Jesus chose twelve, highlighting the significance of that number.

Here is the significance of the quote from Deuteronomy 19:15. Jesus was transferring the authority originally granted to the nation of Israel to the church. The church in this context is the believing remnant of the nation of Israel, namely, those that had repented at the preaching of John the Baptist and the preaching and miracles of Jesus. They had entered the kingdom of heaven and now Jesus was granting them the authority of the kingdom of heaven. The authority was no longer to put people to death physically, but to either grant them eternal life or bind them in eternal death. Jesus was withdrawing the authority of the physical nation of Israel as the center of the world in relation to government and laws, and setting forth the church as the ultimate authority, His representatives here on earth to preach the gospel and possess the very keys to the kingdom of heaven. LORD willing, I will have more on this when I examine the quote from Psalm 118:22-23 in Matthew 21:42. Immediately following in Matthew 21:43 Jesus states, “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Jesus quotes Deuteronomy to show that in like manner to the law of Israel and the seriousness of the consequences for disobeying, the authority that the church has is just as serious. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word will be established.” He also quotes it to show the continuity in the same way that He showed continuity between the law and His teachings in Matthew 5:17. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Jesus came to fulfill the authority of the kingdom of heaven by building His church, giving unto them the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Now real church business, that is, the ministry of reconciliation, is above all in importance. There is nothing more important than reconciling people to each other, and to God.

Peter will later exercise the authority given to him to open up the way of salvation to the Gentiles. The usages of the keys of the kingdom of heaven are documented in the book of Acts. Gentiles now are fellow heirs, benefactors of the commonwealth of Israel, partakers in the covenants, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Israelites and Gentiles are together in one body doing the work of the kingdom of heaven. As I look at the world around me, I am longing for that place where there are no grudges, no debts, only forgiveness. Rebuke will be received and brothers will be gained. It will be one big Jubilee, forever and ever. But in the here and now, we preach and point, we invite and see people humbled and converted. And heaven is a different place because of it.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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Lord of the Rings Communion Devotion

The following is a devotional that I gave at Grand Con. What is Grand Con? I’ve been going to some gaming conventions, board game conventions. Most notably, I’ve been going to GenCon each year which is in Indianapolis. That’s probably the largest gaming convention in the world. Here in my backyard, Grand Rapids, there is a much smaller board game convention called Grand Con. At Grand Con, I’ve been volunteering to run some board games. I like introducing people to board games and I think I explain them well. A few that I ran this year were: Dominion, Formula D, Takenoko, Camel Up, Trench, Downfall of Pompeii. This came about because my first year I sort of lamented that people weren’t running the types of board games that I like to play. Then I thought, Hey, I could run them. So I did and they are very well attended.

My friend, Eric Anderson, runs something he calls Nerd Chapel. This is a ministry whereby he goes to nerdy type conventions like Grand Con or Comic Con and is there to do whatever he can to represent Christ. If the organizers are open, he has a table to sell his book, 42:Discovering Faith through Fandom, which is a Christian devotional based on things that people are fans of. Do you like Superman? Have you ever considered how Superman might be similar to Christ? How about Star Trek? Is there an episode of Star Trek that reminds you of the Bible? These are things that are considered in this book. Eric also offers a Nerd Chapel service at the convention for those who are staying the weekend so they do not have to leave the premises to look for a church. He and I, well, mainly he, have been running a Nerd Chapel Service at Grand Con for the past 3 years.

Each year he has asked me to present the communion, which is something that I had never done, even at my church. This year I asked him if I could give a Lord of the Rings devotion just before the communion. So here is what I presented to those in attendance.

I’ve been a fan of Lord of the Rings for a long time. I read the book when I was 12 years old, which was in 1982. There are many things in this classic work that give us pictures of Christ. In this devotion, we are considering the character of Aragorn. He is the all but forgotten king, the rightful heir to the throne of a kingdom long divided. The chapter from which this is drawn is the Houses of Healing. This is just after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields where Éowyn slays the Lord of the Nazgul, the Witch King of Angmar. She did so at great cost to herself as her arm was shattered in the battle. Merry also was gravely wounded. On top of that, Faramir, the current lord of the city of Gondor, lies deathly ill due to wounds from the enemy. Denethor thought to burn his son alive because of his madness. So Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry all lie in the Houses of Healing in desperate need of someone who can miraculously help them.

Aragorn is riding toward the city of Gondor accompanied by Éomer and Imrahil and their armies. He has been victorious in battle and has raised the banner of Kings displaying the tokens of Elendil’s house. But instead of entering the city, he decides to wait outside the city because he has not been invited in. “I will await the welcome of the Lord of the City.” He does not know that Denethor is dead and Faramir, who is the rightful Lord, lays dying. Aragorn states that if he enters the city “unbidden”, that it would only cause confusion or “doubt and debate”. The most telling of this section are Aragorn’s words, “I have no mind for strife except with our Enemy and his servants.” Basically Aragorn says, “My fight is not with them, but with the enemy.” But then at night, Aragorn snuck into the city to heal people.

This is a picture of Christ. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. He came into the world as the rightful king, but did not impose Himself upon us. He awaited an invitation. His fight was not with us, but with the devil. But yet while he was waiting, He sort of snuck in and healed people while He was waiting for that invitation. He went around, not as the King of the Universe, but as a Servant, to heal as many people as had faith.

Inside the city, people were sorely distressed concerning Faramir. He was the Lord of the City and was well loved by its people. There was an old woman in the city who remembered the wisdom of old. Her name was Ioreth and is credited with one of the more notable quotes in the entire saga of the Lord of the Rings. Here is the quote from Return of the King: “Then an old wife, Ioreth, the eldest of the women who served in that house, looking on the fair face of Faramir, wept, for all the people loved him. And she said: ‘Alas! if he should die. Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in the old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.’ And Gandalf, who stood by, said: ‘Men may long remember your words, Ioreth! For there is hope in them. Maybe a king has indeed returned to Gondor; or have you not heard the strange tidings that have come to the City?’”

So we have here a prophecy to give the people hope, that the king would come healing people. So in comes Aragorn in disguise, a lowly Ranger of the North, but He does claim the title of Elessar, the Elfstone, or properly translated: The Renewer. He calls for athelas, but no one seems to know what that is. He says it may be known by the name kingsfoil. And now I am paraphrasing Ioreth’s response, something to the effect, “Kingsfoil? Well why didn’t you say so! I’ve seen kingsfoil growing in the woods. I never knew it was good for anything. I don’t understand why it’s called kingsfoil because if I were a king I would have much better plants than that in my garden.” But Ioreth does admit, “Still it smells sweet when bruised, does it not?” Interesting choice by Tolkein using the word “bruised” in relation to a plant.

Summarizing this section, they find 6 leaves, probably dried. Aragorn takes 2 of the leaves and crushes them in his hands, casting them into the bowls of steaming water. Instantly, a sweet, wholesome, healing fragrance fills the room. Faramir awakes and says, “My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?” Aragorn responds, “Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!” Aragorn also heals Éowyn and Merry, using 2 leave apiece for each of them.

This also is a picture of Christ. Kingsfoil, not attractive to the eye, not seemingly good for anything, but sweet healing comes forth when bruised or crushed. It is so interesting that Tolkein used the words bruised and crushed in relation to the healing power of kingsfoil. Let us read the quote from Isaiah 53 with new eyes:

For He grew up before Him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;

He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him,
and no beauty that we should desire Him,
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Surely He has borne our griefs (or sicknesses)
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed (or bruised) for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.

Here in Isaiah 53, the Messiah is a young plant, not attractive to the eye. No one esteemed Him of any value. Yet when bruised or crushed He brings for the power to heal. We need to remember that the healing power of Christ comes from His death on the cross. It is when He pours out His soul unto death that we experience healing. I know my need for healing. I know my tongue, my temper, my selfishness, my ability to ruin friendships. If you are in need of healing, believe in the death of Christ for your sins. He died for you. He was wounded, bruised, and crushed for you that you might be healed.

There is one other section of this story I want to mention before we partake of communion. When Aragorn went in to heal Éowyn, accompanied by Gandalf and Éowyn’s brother Éomer, they found there was something more than just a need for physical healing. Yes, her arm was shattered, but there was also some poison in her spirit. Gandalf pointed out that all the time while Wormtongue was whispering his lies in Théoden’s ears, that Éowyn had been waiting on Théoden and had listened. So these lies, little by little, had crept into her heart as well. So instead of believing the truth about her family and her nation, that they were a nation of warriors, The Riddermark! the Riders of Rohan, she believed the lies of the enemy and here I quote the book. “What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among their dogs?”  Aragorn called to her, “Éowyn Éomund’s daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away! Awake, Éowyn, Lady of Rohan! Awake! The shadow is gone and all darkness is washed clean!”

Maybe the healing that you need is that you have come to believe the lies of the enemy about yourself rather than the truth of God’s word. Satan whispers in our ears many things that are not true. We need to believe what God’s Word says about us rather than his poisonous lies. Yes, we are sinners, but we are greatly loved. And when we believe in Christ, He transforms us into warriors for Him.

Here is the portion of God’s Word that tells us of communion. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (Paul writes) For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

So communion looks back and forward. It looks back to Christ’s death on the cross. But it also looks forward to Him coming again. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. So we look forward to His coming again. I have one more thing from the Lord of the Rings. After it was all over, after the ring had been cast into the fire, after the battle was won, after they came back victorious, after Aragorn was welcomed as King, he would not let the Fellowship of the Ring depart. He asked the hobbits to remain for some time and here I quote Aragorn: “I would have you wait a little while longer: for the end of the deeds that you have shared in has not yet come. A day draws near that I have looked for in all the years of my manhood, and when it comes I would have my friends beside me.”

So what was that day? It was the day that Arwen would come and they would wed. He would have his bride at his side as he reigned as king. It will be the same with Christ. When He comes again, we, as His bride, will be with Him. We will reign with Him.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

Old hymns tell us what they believed about different theological truths back in their day. Some of them blatantly contradict the pre-trib rapture. Here is what I discovered in our hymnal. Then I will explain the history. The hymn is “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending.” Here are the 4 verses I found.

1. Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ appears on earth to reign

2. Every eye shall now behold Him,
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

3. Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear:
All His saints, by men rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
See the day of God appear.

4. Yea, Amen! Let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the pow’r and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own:
O, come quickly, O, come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down. Amen.

The hymnal I have attributes the lyrics to Charles Wesley and Martin Madan. Notice how references to I Thessalonians 4:17 in the classic rapture passage are occurring in conjunction with Christ appearing on earth to reign. I found that both of the authors based their poetry on a work by John Cennick titled, “Lo! He Cometh, Countless Trumpets.” Here is that original work by him.

1. Lo! he cometh, countless trumpets
Blow before the bloody sign;
‘Midst ten thousand saints and angels,
See the Crucified shine.
Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah!
Welcome, welcome, bleeding Lamb!

2. Now his merit by the harpers
Thro’ th’ eternal deep resounds;
Now resplendent shine his nail-prints,
Ev’ry eye shall see his wounds:
They who pierc’d him, they who pierc’d him, they who pierc’d him,
Shall at his appearance wail.

3. Ev’ry island, sea, and mountain,.
Heav’n and earth shall flee away;
All who hate him, must, ashamed,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment, come to judgment, come to judgment,
Stand before the Son of man.

4. Saints who love him, view his glory,
Shining in his bruised face,
His dear person on the rainbow.
Now his peoples head shall raise:
Happy mourners, happy mourners, happy mourners,
Lo! in clouds, he comes, he comes!

5. Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All his people, once rejected,
Now shall meet him in the air:
Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah!
Now the promis’d kingdom’s come.

6. View him smiling, now determin’d
Ev’ry evil to destroy;
All the nations now shall sing him
Songs of everlasting joy:
O come quickly, O come quickly, O come quickly,
Hallelujah! come, Lord, come.

Just look at all that scripture. Those who know the end times passages referenced here see that there is no way to insert a false dichotomy. Christ comes to rapture the church and administer judgment at the same time. If you’ve gotten this far, you might as well read Charles Wesley’s original version based on the above poem. Here it is:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favour’d sinners slain!
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
God appears on earth to reign!

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at nought and sold Him,
Pierced, and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransom’d worshippers;
With what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, amen, let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne!
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
Jah, Jehovah!
Everlasting God, come down.

I might as well include the hymn attributed to the Reverend Marin Madan. Here it is and notice the more accurate following of John Cennick.

1. Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train:
Christ appears on earth again.

2. Every eye shall now behold Him,
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced, and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

3. Those dear tokens of His Passion
Still His dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshipers:
With what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

4. Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear:
All his saints, by men rejected,
Now shall meet him in the air:
See the day of God appear.

5. Yea, amen; let all adore thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory;
Claim the kingdoms for Thine own:
Thou shalt reign, and Thou alone.

6. Yet with mingled hope and fearing,
Wait we still our Judge to see;
In the day of Thine appearing.
Spotless blameless may be be!
Ever watching,
Teach us, Lord, to welcome Thee. Amen.

So let us learn from our spiritual forefathers concerning the truth of Jesus Christ and His coming again.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Note: Here is a list of the scriptures that are alluded to. If you spot any others, please leave them in the comments below.

Revelation 1:7 “Behold, He cometh with clouds;”

Revelation 1:7 “And every eye shall see Him,”

Revelation 1:7 “And all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.”

Jude 14 “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints,”

Psalm 93:1 “The LORD reigneth, He is clothed with majesty.”

II Timothy 4:1 “The Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom;”

Zechariah 12:10 “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced.”

I Thessalonians 4:17 “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Revelation 22:7 “Behold, I come quickly.”

Psalm 99:6, 9 “With trumpets, and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. For He cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.”

I Thessalonians 3:13 “At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”

Revelation 5:6 “A Lamb as it had been slain.”

Revelation 16:20 “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.”

Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.”

Isaiah 66:5 “Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.”

I Corinthians 15:52 “At the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised.”

I Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:”

Matthew 6:10 “Thy kingdom come.”

Psalm 50:3 “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence:”

Revelation 11:15 “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our LORD and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.”

Matthew 24:30-31 “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Luke 21:36 “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Pre-Wrath, Pretribulationalism, Prewrath, Prophecy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Elijah Will Come

Elijah Will Come (and restore all things)

Matthew has taken great care to give his readers enough clues that they will identify John the Baptist as Elijah. However, we must remember that as this was unfolding in real time, not everyone was making that connection. Just like with Jesus being the Son of God, not everyone believed the evidence in front of them. The evidence was present to identify John as Elijah, but many refused to believe primarily because they refused to repent of their sins. Matthew has used other titles for John which include The Voice in the Wilderness and My Messenger.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is the next installment in The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. I am looking at prophecies or references to the law and prophets to see how Matthew records the fulfillment. Between Matthew 16:13 and 17:13 there are three clear references to Elijah the prophet. The first is a case of mistaken identity in 16:14. The second is Elijah himself appearing in glory (see Luke 9:31) with Jesus in the holy mount (II Peter 1:16-18). The third is the discussion between Jesus and three disciples concerning Elijah, how events concerning Elijah will be fulfilled, and the identification of John the Baptist as Elijah. While we do not have a clear quotation from the old testament, we have plenty of imagery from which to draw, all centered around the person of Elijah.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Jesus asks the disciples what the crowds are saying about Him. Who are people saying that I am? The first wrong guess that Matthew records is John the Baptist. At this point, remember that John has been beheaded by Herod, see Matthew 14:1-14. Matthew writes that Herod is confused and perhaps haunted by his conscience concerning John. He knows he put to death an innocent man. Jesus had been known for some time before this, but not until after the death of John the Baptist did Herod hear of His fame. Because many did not hear of Jesus and His power until after John had died, they did not understand that their ministries overlapped to some degree, see especially John 3:22-24. For some it seemed like John was struck down, and someone more powerful rose to take his place. Surely this was John the Baptist, innocent man put to death, rising from the grave to continue his prophetic ministry. Sorry, guess again.

The second wrong guess is Elijah, the one whom we are discussing. Did people believe Jesus was literally Elijah, or someone carrying on in the spirit and power of Elijah? For the first answer, many people believe that Elijah never died, and therefore that makes him a candidate to come back from heaven. I don’t know why that is appealing to some people, but it is. I myself do not believe that Elijah was carried into the presence of God in II Kings 2, but rather the chariot and horses of fire separated Elijah and Elisha, and the whirlwind carried Elijah into the air, or heaven. There are different aspects of heaven, one of the primary aspects is simply the sky above us, see Genesis 1:6-8 which shows water above (clouds) and water below (sea) and what is in between those two is heaven. Remember that 50 of the sons of the prophets witnessed this entire event, see II Kings 2:7. After witnessing the event they begged Elisha to allow a search party to be sent out. Now where would they search for him if he had went straight up? Instead, it seems that Elijah went across the sky to another location allowing Elisha to carry on in the spirit and power of Elijah. Hence, the sons of the prophets went in the direction that Elijah was carried but could not find him. The primary reason I believe Elijah continued to live on earth is because of II Chronicles 21:11-15. It can be confusing because there are two King Jehorams (Joram for short). From II Kings 3:4-14 it is clear that Elisha had received Elijah’s mantle sometime during the reign of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (southern kingdom). Now years later, after the death of Jehoshaphat, during the reign of his son Jehoram, a letter from the prophet Elijah arrives rebuking him for his sin. So Elisha saw Jehoshaphat face to face in his role as prophet, but after Jehoshaphat is dead, Elijah is still alive, and still a prophet to some extent. So my belief on this is that Elijah was carried to another location to live out his days until he died while Elisha bore the responsibility of prophet of God to the people of Israel.

We know that Elisha carried on in the spirit and power of Elijah without actually becoming Elijah. We also know that John the Baptist went forward in the spirit and power of Elijah without constituting Elijah returning from the dead, or from heaven, whichever you prefer. Some people could have believed, “It is Elijah that has literally come back. It is his actual body.” Others may have believed, “The mantle of Elijah has come to rest upon Jesus of Nazareth. He is going forth in the spirit and power of Elijah.” The second option seems more likely. So when we read, “I will send you Elijah the prophet,” the general understanding could have been a continuation of the mantle that faded when Elisha passed away. Elijah had led the people in revival to the LORD, but it was not welcomed by Jezebel. This next appearance of a great prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah would be in anticipation of the Day of the LORD and His wrath, see Malachi 3-4. Whether the people believed that Jesus was literally Elijah or a fulfillment of the prophecy going forth in the spirit and power of Elijah, either way, their guess was wrong.

The third wrong guess is the prophet Jeremiah. I have written about this before concerning a different matter. Jeremiah was the last prophet at Jerusalem before the 70 year captivity. Two different sources name him as the one responsible for hiding the ark of the covenant. I will include the quote from II Maccabees in a comment below. It is possible that some Jews expected someone to reveal the location of the ark of the covenant in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah or the restoration of temple worship. Perhaps it would be Jeremiah returning from the grave or perhaps someone in the spirit of Jeremiah revealing the location of the ark as a sign to the people of Israel. It is difficult for us to know why Jeremiah is included in the list when others are absent, but Matthew includes him so we speculate. Whatever the case, it’s another wrong guess. It’s possible that the way Matthew words the statement that “Jeremiah or one of the prophets” is a third wrong guess and not a third and fourth wrong guess. Other prophets are not named specifically, so we cannot deal with them individually. Whatever the case, they were all wrong. Jesus is the Son of the living God, the Messiah, as Simon Peter said. The Father had revealed this truth to him and he clung to it.

Elijah Appears in Glory

The transfiguration is difficult for me to understand. I know what happened because I have read this story since I was a child. However, I don’t quite understand the why of what happened. The best that I can write here is that God the Father and Jesus wanted a very limited group to witness the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus had emptied Himself of His Godhead and took the form of a servant. Yet He retained His identity as the Son of God. Peter, James, and John were chosen to witness this event in order that they might communicate to the church after the resurrection that He had been the Son of God all along. Jesus did not become the Son of God when He rose from the dead. He had been the Son of God all along and they had seen and heard the proof. John would write about it in I John 1:1-2, John 1:14, and he identified Jesus as the Lord (the King, the LORD of hosts) enthroned in Isaiah 6, see John 12:37-42. Peter also wrote specifically about this event in II Peter 1:16-19. He states that they were eyewitnesses of His majesty, but instead of dwelling on his experience, he uses his experience to point people to the word of God. It confirms the prophetic word, to which we should pay attention, like a light shining in a dark place. In short, the transfiguration is yet another testimony that Jesus is the Son of God.

I believe there is something more to this event. It has to do with the appearance of Moses and Elijah. Why did these two men appear with Jesus in glory? While Jesus is God, we should also remember that Jesus is a man. He had told the disciples about His death, but Peter vehemently denied this would happen. They didn’t understand. Even though Jesus is the Son of God, as a human He may have needed someone to talk to about this death sentence that He must face. Here Luke helps us out by telling us that the initial reason that Jesus took them into the mountain was to pray. As Jesus prayed, the disciples fell asleep. When the disciples woke up, they found that Jesus had been transformed, shining like the sun. He was talking to Moses and Elijah about His own death which was about to be accomplished at Jerusalem, see Luke 9:28-32 for these details. We don’t know how long Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah before the disciples woke up. Moses and Elijah had both experienced the rejection of the nation of Israel. Now Jesus was able to talk about His rejection at the hands of His own people to two men in glory who could identify somewhat.

Why Moses and Elijah? Why not Enoch and David? Or Abel and Zechariah the son of Jehoiada? I have no definitive answer. Moses is representative of the law. He received the law from God on Mount Sinai. He wrote the law, that is, the first five books of the Bible, and read them to the nation of Israel. Elijah is representative of the prophets. Samuel was the last judge and first prophet and then established the school of the prophets. It is this school of prophets that Elijah is seen with, in my opinion. In the midst of horrendous backsliding, Elijah appears out of nowhere and holds back the rain from heaven with his constant intercessory prayer. Elisha later takes up that same mantle. All the prophets which have books to their name prophesied after the downfall of the house of Ahab which was prophesied by Elijah. Elijah stands as the one who brought revival through the judgment of the LORD. It was his boldness that gave them boldness. Many times the old testament scriptures are referred to as the law and the prophets, see Matthew’s use of the terminology in 7:12, 11:13, and 22:40. Moses and Elijah represent in some way the law and the prophets.

Moses and Elijah also had face-to-face type encounters with the living God which resulted in some type of transformation. The story of Moses is probably more well known. In Exodus 33 the children of Israel had been committing idolatry and fornication. This resulted in God’s presence being removed from them, see Exodus 33:7-8 where it states that the tabernacle was pitched well outside the camp. Moses had to go outside the camp to the tabernacle in order to intercede for the people. Notice that this was not the holy tabernacle yet, but a tabernacle of the congregation. Moses talks with God face to face as unto a friend, see 33:11. He asks to see God’s glory, but the LORD states that Moses will only be allowed a glimpse, see 33:18-23. The result is that the face of Moses shone and he was required to put on a veil while talking with the children of Israel, see 34:29-35. During that time on Mount Sinai, Moses went 40 days and nights without food or water, see Exodus 34:28-29.

Elijah also went 40 days and nights without food and met God on Mount Horeb, which is another name for Mount Sinai, see Exodus 3:1, 12, 4:27, 33:6, Deuteronomy 5:2, 9:8, I Kings 8:9, Psalm 106:19, Malachi 4:4. In I Kings 19:8-18 we read the story of how Elijah met with God wrapping his face in a mantle. The wind, the earthquake, and the fire did not have the presence of the LORD. Instead, the LORD chose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice, like you would expect from a face to face encounter. When Moses had his encounter, the LORD proclaimed His very character to Him, see Exodus 34:5-8. Elijah also hears the very character of God in keeping His covenant with the nation of Israel by choosing a successor for Elijah, choosing the next king of Israel, and choosing the next king of Syria. But most importantly, God determines to preserve a remnant for Himself, see Romans 11:2-5. This all reveals the character of God as Elijah speaks with Him face to face.

The final aspect of this appearance of Elijah (and Moses) that may shed some light as to why they appeared is the mention of the three tabernacles by Peter. Most preachers that I have heard and some commentaries try to make it sound as if Moses, Elijah, and Jesus were to be the objects of worship in Peter’s mind. It’s difficult to say because we don’t know why Peter said what he said other than Mark stating that he didn’t know what to say, see Mark 9:6. However, after reading a couple of better commentaries and meditating on this passage, I don’t believe that is the case. The tabernacle was associated primarily with Moses rather than the other two. The tabernacle was a place where God was worshiped while someone else interceded for others on their behalf. Notice Psalm 99:6-8 and how it names Moses as a priest who interceded for others. This happened at the tabernacle. Elijah also had an intercessory ministry of prayer, see James 5:17-18. So in Peter’s mind, he was saying that erecting three tabernacles on this Holy Mount would allow three ministries of intercession to be occurring on behalf of the nation of Israel. After all, if Moses and Elijah are now back, what else would they be doing? The disciples had no knowledge that they would be gone shortly. The voice of God the Father seems to be a direct response to Peter. “This is my Son. Listen to Him.” His ministry of intercession is the ultimate one. Jesus would talk with Moses and Elijah, but ultimately the voice of Jesus is to be adhered to.

Elijah-Talk by Jesus

Here is the section of this post that will show us how prophecy works. On the way down from the mountain, Jesus commands them not to tell anyone what they saw in the vision until after the Son of man be risen again from the dead. They don’t understand about the resurrection, but they do ask about Elijah since it is still fresh in their minds. Apparently, the disciples had conversation with some of the scribes who insisted that before the Messiah could come, Elijah the prophet must first come. It may have been a common objection from the scribes. “He can’t be the Messiah because the scriptures clearly state that Elijah must first come.” Before we go any further, let’s look at the prophecy to which the scribes were referring.

Malachi 4:5-6

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

The message of Malachi is relatively simple. The nation of Israel was sinful. They need to repent because the LORD wants to bless Israel and make His name great among all nations, see Malachi 1:5, 11, 14, 3:12. A fiery judgment is coming and who can endure it? See 3:2-3, 4:1. Now here to close his book, he foretells that Elijah would be sent prior to the Day of the LORD to preserve a godly remnant to prevent utter destruction. Families would be restored so that when the Messiah comes they could be the instrument of God’s blessing upon the nations rather than suffer His judgment.

The disciples ask, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” They are curious, like we are, as to the timing of things. The response of Jesus defies timing as we know it. Jesus gives an answer that is both past and future. It is quite easy to identify which portion is past and which is future. But this isn’t the way we normally talk, or is it? Let’s look at the first statement in the answer of Jesus.

He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things.”

If we look solely at this statement, we would come away with the impression that Jesus spoke of Elijah only in the futuristic sense from His point in time. Elijah, according to Jesus, is yet to come. Elijah will come and restore all things. It will happen just like Malachi foretold and just like the scribes are insisting. Elijah himself, or someone in the spirit and power of Elijah [carrying his mantle if you will] will turn the heart of fathers and children to each other bringing about a restoration. This will be before the fiery judgment known as the Day of the LORD. Count on it. It will happen.

However, Jesus has a following statement.

“But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”

If we look solely at this statement we would think that Jesus spoke of Elijah strictly in terms of the past. Elijah has already come. They were unwilling to recognize him, although all of the information was right in front of them. They could not bring themselves to repent, so they had to insist that his authority was not from God. Gabriel had told the godly priest Zechariah that John would go before the LORD in the spirit and power of Elijah, see Luke 1:17. John dressed like Elijah, see Matthew 3:4 with II Kings 1:7-8. He ate simply like Elijah, see I Kings 17:6. He was in the wilderness like Elijah, see Matthew 3:1, Luke 1:80, I Kings 18:10-12. And, most importantly of all, he preached a fiery judgment just like Malachi said would follow Elijah’s coming, see Matthew 3:10-12, Malachi 4:1.

This is how prophecy works. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes passages are talking about past and future events in the same context. Sometimes they are talking about the same person, but two different people at the same time. Sometimes it seems like an event is just on the horizon, but many other events must chronologically occur before it will arrive. Look at Philippians 2:8-11. Jesus humbled Himself with death and is highly exalted. Our suffering Savior and exalted King are described in the same context. It’s not that Paul felt it would all happen at once. He knew of the present time in between Christ‘s coming in humility and His coming in glory. The prophets of old wrote in similar fashion. Jesus spoke of Elijah in the past and future at the same time. He spoke of John being Elijah and someone else in the future being Elijah after having just talked to actual Elijah. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance in light of a fiery judgment as if it were impending over the nation of Israel in his generation and almost 2000 years later that fiery judgment is still future.

We don’t need to get bent out of shape about the way this works. We should just accept it. Prophecy is capable of many things. The minute we start making rules about the way prophecy works, we will find some place in scripture that breaks our rule. Context will determine what is past and what is future, and sometimes it will be both.

The sobering part of this passage is that at this point in time, John the Baptist’s head had been chopped off. Jesus was here predicting a similar fate for Himself. He also told His disciples that a disciple is never above their teacher, see Matthew 10:24-25. Righteous people suffer at the hands of sinful people. Yes, Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. But that doesn’t mean that we escape the effects of this sinful world.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

See the following links:

The Voice in the Wilderness

I Will Send My Messenger

The Reappearance of the Prophet Jeremiah



Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Prophecy, The Gospel of Matthew | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is Wealth Redistribution Scriptural?

Do you think the following point of view is scriptural?

If there is someone in your town who is poor, you are to give to them whatever they need. Do not have a hard heart toward your brother. Don’t hold your hand back from giving to him. You are to allow him to borrow what he needs so that the LORD can be generous with you. Any time your neighbor needs to borrow something, open your hand wide and lend him what he wants.

Every seven years, everyone who has someone who in indebted to them must release them from that debt. All creditors must not require what is owed to them in that seventh year. There is to be a remission of all debts to those that live in the same land. Foreigners may be charged what they have borrowed, but those who live among you must be released from all that they have borrowed. If you carefully listen to the LORD and follow what He commands in this, He will bless you so that you will lend to many nations and reign over them. This release is from God and you must obey Him in order to be blessed.

Always lend to whomever is in need. If it is the sixth year, and the next year is the year of release, do not have a worthless thought in your mind saying to yourself, “If I loan to my brother, I will never see this money again because next year is the year of release.” No matter what year it is, you must be generous with your neighbor. Don’t be evil to your brother and deny him the things that he needs because he may cry out to God against you and it will be counted as a sin unto you. You must give cheerfully and then the LORD your God will bless you in everything that you do. There will always be poor people among you and that is why I am commanding you to open your hand freely to the needy.

Those who know the scriptures know that the above is almost word for word out of Deuteronomy 15. I have rearranged the order, but the basic premise is completely scriptural. In light of the above teaching of God’s word, how are we to live our lives in relation to those around us who do not have enough?

There are terms being thrown around disparagingly, many times by Christians, about certain viewpoints. Socialism, Communism, Wealth Redistribution, Hand-Outs, Welfare, Entitlement, Free Health Care, and I got all these from my Christian friends on Facebook. The viewpoint expressed by my Christian friends is something to the effect of: “I worked for my money so why would I give it to someone who doesn’t work?” “Give them someone else’s money and they will vote for you.” Or, my favorite, “Look at how much all that FREE stuff costs.”

So I find myself in a quandary. I see that God’s word says to give to the poor. The act of giving takes place with no strings attached. I give freely because they are in need, and believe me, there are people in true need. I cannot discriminate based on whether or not people have looked for a job, passed a drug test, been irresponsible with money in the past, are living sinful lives, vote a certain way, live in a certain part of town, etc. I could loan them the money, but ultimately I will have to relinquish any right that I have to collect the money. It just seems simpler to give it and not expect anything in return from them, only that God will be faithful to provide for them through me. On the other hand, I have all of my Christian friends posting these cute little sayings on Facebook about, well, see my above list.

This may not be a politically correct post, but here is the way I see this whole matter. I don’t get bent out of shape when I hear about how a political party or a presidential candidate wants to give money to the poor. That is a part of my duty as a Christian. Part of what God blesses me with is commanded by God to go to the poor, see also Deuteronomy 24:19-21. I don’t see why rich people need to hoard their wealth as it creates poor economic conditions. I’m not rich, but I’m not poor either. I have enough money for food, clothes, shelter, and money left over to have a couple of hobbies. There is money enough for me to intentionally give to the poor as long as I set it aside ahead of time. When I get my paycheck, my church, and a couple of other ministries get their money first. Then what is leftover goes to meet my needs, then after that my wants. My church gives to those in need and one of the ministries that I support is specifically for the needy.

This is something that I have been doing for quite some time. God has blessed me since my decision to do this. When I began giving to my church, it didn’t look like I could afford it. God blessed me with a great job with great benefits after I made that decision. I decided at different points in my life to give more and to additional ministries. I also am generous with family members in need. I’m not saying I say yes to every request, but to quite a few of them. All these things are God’s resources and are His to use however He wants. Yes, I use discretion and don’t just give money to every need that pops up.

It troubles me when people who are Christians are posting things from a political viewpoint that almost seems to supersede the Christian viewpoint. Yes, we should be responsible with our money and not throw it away. But Deuteronomy teaches us that giving to the poor is definitely not throwing our money away, but being obedient to God. It’s almost like an investment if you read the chapter in full. We are generous with those around us who are in need, and God is generous with us. How generous do you want God to be with you? Is that reflected in how generous you are with others? Think about it.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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Isaiah Prophesied of You

Isaiah Prophesied of You

Their heart is far from Me

Matthew 15:1-20 brings us the next installment in The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. This is a little bit different than some of the other passages because the words “fulfilled prophecy” are not there. Rather, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and states, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you…” Jesus said that Isaiah prophesied (foretold?) of the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. This brings up the questions, “How does prophecy work?” and “Why did Jesus quote Isaiah 29:13?” But before we go any further, let’s look at the passage in question.

Matthew 15:1-20 is laid out in story form but Mark’s version of the story in Mark 7:1-23 has the rare occasion when Mark gives more details than Matthew. I recommend reading Mark in this instance as he lists what the traditions of the Pharisees are and even uses the term “Corban” and explains it. I will follow Matthew as the text is essentially the same with just a slight difference in order. I will not post the entire passage as it is quite lengthy.

The Pharisees from Jerusalem are again finding fault with the disciples of Jesus, see Matthew 12:2. Cross referencing Luke 5:17 with Matthew 9:2 shows that the Pharisees from Jerusalem had been closely watching Jesus for all this time. The fault that they find this time is not with the law but with a tradition. The disciples had no religious training and it seems like they were just common folk like fishermen, tax collectors, etc. The Pharisees had all been trained to ceremonially wash their hands before eating. The disciples obviously weren’t and the Pharisees ask why they “transgress” this tradition. Their use of the word transgress makes it sound like a sin. Jesus takes the word transgress and turns the situation completely around this time showing how they transgress the commandment of God with a tradition. Note that this is a bad word, see Romans 5:14 for the word transgression.

Let’s look at the tradition of the Pharisees first. At any point in time, someone could declare that their wealth was “Corban”, or a gift to God, or dedicated to the temple, note the use of this word in Matthew 27:6. However, they did not necessarily have to give their wealth to the temple at that time. It was dedicated to God, but the owner could continue to use their wealth until some later point in time. The issue would arise when someone’s father or mother would be in need. A wealthy individual would be expected to care for their ailing parent. However, if the person with the wealth did not want to use their goods to help their father or mother, all they had to do was say that their wealth was “Corban”. “Sorry father, I would love to help you but all of my goods are Corban and therefore they cannot profit you in any way.” So the ailing, aged father that had provided for his son for most of his life would be turned away.

Jesus quotes two separate commandments, each one being located in two different places. The first, “Honor your father and mother”, is from the ten commandments and is located in Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16. The second is the death penalty for dishonoring father or mother and is found in Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9. The fact that Jesus quoted the death penalty shows that he was being completely serious in His response to the Pharisees. In essence Jesus is saying, “You have a tradition which dishonors your father and mother and you should be put to death for it!” The command to honor father and mother was nullified by this tradition and yet the Pharisees are chastising the disciples for transgressing a tradition which cannot be found in the scriptures. Now that’s hypocrisy. This very vividly describes how the Pharisees were play-acting that they worshiped God. It should come as no surprise that Jesus then addresses them as hypocrites.

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

I wonder how shocked the Pharisees were when Jesus said, “Isaiah prophesied of you.” Let’s skip over looking at the context of Isaiah 29 for now and finish the passage. Jesus turns to the crowds and publicly denounces the Pharisees in front of all of them. He does it by way of a parable that some may not have understood. The accusation according to Mark was that the disciples hands were defiled when they ate. So Jesus is responding to that accusation by stating that something going into the mouth of a man does not defile him but what comes out from his mouth defiles him. The disciples are surprised that Jesus offended the Pharisees so boldly. They are referring to the rebuke at this point. The response of Jesus is to let them alone. Any plant that is not planted by “My heavenly Father” shall be rooted up. It is these plants that are not planted by the Father that Jesus states are blind leaders of the blind. So there is no categorical statement here that all Pharisees are blind, only those that are not planted by the Father. There are hints throughout the gospels that some may have been close to understanding some basic spiritual truths. Peter asks for an explanation of the parable which Jesus then gives. Basically, defilement is a matter of a sinful heart not dirty hands.

Let’s turn back to this issue of blindness. In Matthew 13:14-15 Jesus had made a point concerning the blindness of the nation of Israel by quoting from Isaiah 6. Matthew also made a statement in Matthew 13:34-35 concerning the parables which was a statement concerning the blindness of Israel. Now here, Matthew includes another statement of Jesus which Mark does not include. Luke makes a similar statement in Luke 6:39, but it was clearly on another occasion. Here Matthew includes this statement of the blind leading the blind in direct reference to the Pharisees. I cannot find this anywhere else in the gospels. The Pharisees were supposed to be the spiritual leaders in Israel and they were spiritually blind.

I have read commentaries on how Matthew’s gospel is a Jewish gospel, or at least it has a Jewish tone to it. What so many fail to realize is that Matthew’s gospel is a diatribe against the nation of Israel. Here is the Messiah standing in front of them and they cannot “see” Him. They see someone who is a lawbreaker, because He breaks their man-made traditions. Matthew the Tax Collector had nothing to lose. He was already considered an outcast by society and the Pharisees in particular. Now here he is in the inner circle of the Kingdom of Heaven pointing out the spiritual blindness of the religious elite of the day. Matthew includes the quote from Jesus that the Pharisees are blind leaders of the blind, both falling into the ditch. His gospel is arranged in such a way as to highlight the spiritual blindness of the nation of Israel in the face of incredible revelation from heaven.

Now let’s turn to the real genius of the passage, that is, by examining the original context of the quote in question. Isaiah 29 is part of a longer complex prophecy. There is, however, a portion that can be separated and examined without taking it out of context. Isaiah 29:9-14 includes the portion that is quoted (being verse 13) as the prophecy focuses on the blindness of the nation of Israel. That is not coincidence. Here is the passage in the ESV.

Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
Blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
Stagger, but not with strong drink!
For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep,
And has closed your eyes (the prophets),
And covered your heads (the seers).

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”

And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
And honor me with their lips,
While their hearts are far from me,
And their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
Therefore, behold, I will again
Do wonderful things with this people,
With wonder upon wonder;
And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

The context here is so fitting. The spiritual blindness of the leaders is what caused them honor God with their mouths while their hearts were far from Him. It opens highlighting the spiritual blindness, the spiritual drunkenness, and the spiritual sleep as being the condition of those that should have been most aware of God’s agenda. The prophets and seers could no longer even read the vision of prophecy.

No other nation had God’s prophets prophesying in their midst. Right there in the nation of Israel they had every advantage to hear God’s word and repent. Yet they failed to repent. Therefore God poured out upon them a spirit of deep sleep. The spiritual leaders (for the most part) kept talking when they had nothing to say. The nation of Israel, specifically the spiritual leaders, would honor God with their words while their hearts were far away from Him due to their spiritual blindness. These leaders who were supposed to have insight and light from God were really blind, not knowing anything. It was the blind leading the blind, if you will.

The true meaning of the words of God could no longer be discerned. The book would be handed to the one who should be able to expound upon its meaning, and they can’t even read it. But that did not stop them from talking. They continued by teaching their own commandments. “Their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” Isaiah had an audience that deserved to hear this admonishment. Remember that there were many prophets in his day, but most of them were false. However, this rebuke is so fitting for the Pharisees to whom Jesus was preaching. They also had not repented. They were spiritually blind, spiritually drunk, and spiritually asleep. The leaders of the nation of Israel and the nation itself was in a state of blindness. Note that Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 29:10 in Romans 11:8 shows the exact same context, the spiritual blindness of the nation of Israel.

How does prophecy work? Prophecy is capable of coming alive and being relevant for multiple generations. Some prophecies may apply to only one generation, but the general principles found therein will be applicable to generation after generation. It would not surprise me if a true prophet of God were to arise in the nation of Israel today and quote these very words to them. The nation of Israel is still spiritually blind to their Messiah, their Christ. A remnant has believed on him, but the rest remain in unbelief.

I have two thoughts to close this post. First, Isaiah 29:14 gives hope to the people of Israel. Even in the face of their blindness, God intends to work a wonder with this very people. These blind Israelites are the ones that God will use. He says, “I will again do wonderful things with this people.” Later in Isaiah 29:18 He says, “The deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” This condition of spiritual blindness is temporary. There are prophecies yet unfulfilled for the nation of Israel.

Second, I want to point out a slight word change from the original prophecy in Isaiah to the way Jesus quotes it. This is not something I will be dogmatic about, but I think it is worth noting. In Isaiah 29:13, Isaiah uses the term “their hearts are far from me.” Jesus has it slightly different using the singular “their heart is far from me.” Might I suggest that Jesus changed the word hearts to heart because he was addressing the nation of Israel as having one heart. Isaiah was speaking about individuals with hearts that were far from God, but Jesus was speaking about one nation, the nation of Israel, whose collective heart was [and is] far from God. In light of my post at this link here which focuses on the spiritual blindness of the nation of Israel in Matthew 13, and the context here in Matthew 15, I think this is worth considering. I’m going to close with the verse that I think is a lynchpin to Matthew’s presentation which can only be found in his gospel. Here it is in the KJV.

Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S. Is your heart far from God? Do you understand God’s will for your life? Do you feel spiritually blind? Jesus Christ is the answer for all of this. He brings us to God. He reveals God to us. He opens our blind eyes.


Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Prophecy, The Gospel of Matthew | Leave a comment

Secret Things

Secret things: Seeing but they don’t see, and hearing but they don’t hear

Matthew 13

The book of Matthew contains the most complete account of the parables of the kingdom of heaven in the gospels. In Matthew 13, we have seven of those parables grouped together. The number seven is a scripturally significant number, so there must be some reason that the Tax Collector has for this group of seven. These are not the only parables of the kingdom of heaven, as I can count at least five others just in the book of Matthew, see #1- Matthew 18:23-35, #2- Matthew 20:1-16, #3- Matthew 22:1-14, #4- Matthew 25:1-13, #5- Matthew 25:14-30. Others may be considered parables of the kingdom of heaven even if they do not contain that key phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like…” since even the parable of the sower does not contain that phrase, see Matthew 21:28-32, 21:33-45, 18:12-14, 19:23-24, 24:32-35 for some examples. Mark 4 seems to be given on the same occasion as Matthew 13 and contains one parable not included by Matthew, see Mark 4:26-29.

Because Matthew has such a complete version of certain events, I believe it is possible that Matthew was writing down some of these events and sermons as they occurred. True, the Holy Spirit later would give him understanding concerning all of these things, but the Tax Collector accustomed to logging every transaction may have transferred his skills over to be a scribe of the kingdom of heaven, writing as he went. The three examples that stand out to me the most are the Sermon on the Mount, see Matthew 5-7, the seven parables of the kingdom of heaven, see Matthew 13, and the Olivet Discourse, see Matthew 24-25. Matthew’s details of the words of Christ in these three passages are much more complete than any of the other gospel writers. Instead of relying on memory, crowds, the preaching of other apostles, Matthew could have been referring to his own notes when compiling his gospel.

The reason for this study of Matthew 13 is because it constitutes the next post in The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. In this chapter we have the words “in them is fulfilled the prophecy” and another phrase “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet”. That is fulfilled prophecy in the life of Christ. So I am going to look at the two prophecies which are quoted and try to explain the significance of each one. The first thing we should notice is that this is the first time that Matthew records Jesus as speaking the words instead of writing them himself as part of the commentary. Thus far, Jesus has quoted the prophets, explained the relationship between His words and the words of the prophets, but it is Matthew who has been writing the phrase, “This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” Here in Matthew 13:14 it is Jesus who uses the phrase “fulfilled prophecy” and then quotes the prophet Isaiah.

This may explain why Matthew adopted this style of writing. He was following the example of His Teacher and Lord. Jesus used the phrase “fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah” so this was a cue for Matthew. Matthew decided that he will also reveal the prophets with this same language. Each time a prophecy was fulfilled in the narrative, he adds an aside which states, “This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” He follows the example of Christ who imparted knowledge to him by pointing out fulfilled prophecy, and then in turn imparts knowledge to us. Examples thus far are Matthew 1:22-23, 2:15, 2:17-18, 2:23, 4:13-17, 8:16-17, and most notably, 12:15-21.

Matthew 13:13-17

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

You will indeed hear but never understand,
And you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
And with their ears they can barely hear,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes
And hear with their ears
And understand with their heart
And turn, and I would heal them.

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Isaiah 6:8-10

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.
Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And blind their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their hearts,
And turn and be healed.”

Jesus calls the parables “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 13:11. These mysteries are revealed to the disciples, so there is no point in touting them as being unable to understand. Two of the parables are explained to the disciples in Matthew’s narrative. The reason why they are called mysteries is explained in the text. The public was in a state of disbelief concerning Jesus as the Messiah. Certainly they came, they witnessed miracles, asked for healing, but they failed to repent. Here the Kingdom of God was in their midst and they sat there like bumps on a log. Christ was presenting Himself, but the truth was hidden from their eyes. The disciples had believed in Him, but they were a minority. Because of His love for the nation of Israel, He continued to present Himself, but in a way that they would not completely understand.

The first parable explains the reason why so many could not understand, see Matthew 13:18-23. Hardened hearts allow the devil to remove any remnant of the truth from their hearts. A shallow response results in temporary joy but not repentance. The cares of the world choke out the fruit of the Word of God. The blindness of the nation of Israel can be attributed to the sinfulness of the hearts of people. When God’s voice calls out to you to repent and you do nothing, that manifests the evil in your heart. This is what had happened in response to the preaching of John the Baptist and then Jesus and then the disciples as they were sent out in Matthew 10. Many had repented constituting that believing remnant, but so many more failed to repent and remained in unbelief.

The disciples question Jesus on His methods. The amazing thing is that He answers them. Imagine being able to ask the Son of God a question and He gives you the answer. This shows just how blessed these men were. They had repented, they had joined Jesus in the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, now they were being entrusted with the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. No wonder Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear,” and again, “I thank you, O Father, because you… have revealed [these things] unto babes.” Can you imagine talking with the Son of God about the way life works? You could ask Him for clarification on something He taught and He would take more time and explain it to you.

As Jesus explains why He taught in parables, He quotes from Isaiah. His initial response just says, “It is not given to them to understand.” Well that seems like a non-answer at first. But in the overall context of Matthew’s narrative, it should be obvious. They won’t repent, so they can’t understand. The disciples had repented and believed the gospel, so they could understand. Because they possessed this, they were given more. Those that hadn’t repented didn’t have anything, and even what they had would be taken away. Based on this, it explains why Jesus taught in parables. He presented the truth, but in a way that those who repented would understand but those who hadn’t repented would not understand. It’s kind of ironic that Jesus taught about the blindness of those that heard in a way that their spiritual blindness would not allow them to comprehend. Their spiritual deafness wouldn’t allow them to hear about their spiritual deafness.

The Commission of Isaiah

Isaiah 6 is a well known passage to many. It’s convenient too, comparatively speaking. Many passages in Isaiah can be long and complex, but Isaiah 6 is 13 verses long, being a complete unit in itself. Since 5 chapters have preceded, we can assume that Isaiah had revelation given to him before this, before his formal commission. Now after having been God’s spokesman for a bit of time, He sees a vision of God in His glory, and we can safely say because of John 12:37-41 that Isaiah saw Jesus Christ in all His glory in this passage.

Isaiah is led by God through a transformation and there are several steps to this transformation. He begins with a consciousness of loss. Uzziah (Azariah) has just died. Uzziah guided the nation of Israel in a right way, seeking out God by Zechariah, see II Chronicles 26:1-5. For 52 years the nation of Israel could depend on his godly leadership. Now the nation was in crisis as they pondered who would take his place. From here Isaiah is led to a consciousness of God. This is because God allowed him to see a vision of Himself, the true King of glory. The train of His robe filled the temple as angels worshiped Him. This vision of glory leads Isaiah into a consciousness of self and sin. When we see God in His true holiness, His light exposes our sinfulness. This is the reason for Isaiah’s cry, “I am undone!” The prophet pronounces the prophetic woe upon himself! Instead of some city or nation that deserved God’s punishment, he realizes he has to look no further than his own heart to find someone worthy of God’s wrath. From here Isaiah is led to a consciousness of cleansing. This is symbolized in the angel bringing the living coal to cleanse his lips and atone for his sin. From here Isaiah is led to a consciousness of commission and this too is initiated by God. Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Immediately after Isaiah is cleansed, God is demonstrating a need for someone to go on His behalf. God hasn’t cleansed Isaiah so he can sit around enjoying his new status. He cleansed him to use him. Isaiah responds, “Here am I, send me.” This leads into Isaiah’s commission to go to the nation of Israel.

Here’s the depressing part. God explains to Isaiah that as he goes to preach to the nation of Israel that they will be spiritually blind and deaf to what he has to say. I would be confused. God is saying, “Go and preach to these people but they won’t be able to understand.” What would the point be, really? There is a certain element of faith involved in any act of obedience, but part of us wants an explanation. Why should I preach to these people who just won’t believe or even understand? But within this passage there is a bit of hope. There is the mention of healing, being converted, and understanding with the heart. So it is possible that this could happen, even though their spiritual blindness prevents it. This is where we have to back up and look at the whole panoramic view of all of creation and all of the scriptures as a whole. The whole human race and the nation of Israel in particular are all in sin. God’s grace reaches out to us and a remnant believe and trust in Him. Prophets, priests, pastors, preachers all proclaim His truth and some believe, but the majority remain in darkness.

Back in Deuteronomy 29:29 God had something to say about secret things to the nation of Israel. Following this were prophecies concerning the conversion of the nation of Israel as a whole, see Deuteronomy 30:1-10. The day would come when Israel’s sinfulness would be taken away and they would be given a new heart. Isaiah has already foretold of this coming time in Isaiah 4. Now it seems that God is telling Isaiah that the nation of Israel will remain in a state of spiritual blindness in spite of many insightful and even beautiful prophecies. So basically, “Go and preach to this people, but they will not be converted as a whole in your lifetime.” There will, however, be a remnant that will believe, see Isaiah 1:9. Praise the LORD that Isaiah was obedient in preaching and prophesying even though he knew that most would remain in their blindness. We have so many beautiful passages in his book. Matthew has already pointed out at least 4 passages which were fulfilled in the life of Christ.

This passage in Isaiah is not just applicable to the life and prophecies of Isaiah. Any of God’s messengers could claim this principle and prophecy as applying to their ministry. The Chronicler summed it up in this way at the end of his book, “And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” see II Chronicles 36:15-16.

I can think of no better passage for Jesus to quote than this one right here when speaking of the blindness of people in the face of spiritual truth. The hearts of mankind do not change even when the Son of God steps into the world as the Ultimate Prophet. Our hearts remain deaf and blind to God’s truth when we are in a state of unrepentance, and remember, this can be very religious unrepentance. Here in the gospel of Matthew, the nation of Israel is portrayed as being in a state of spiritual blindness. Jesus likens the entire episode to the commission of Isaiah which assured him that Israel’s blindness would not be lifted even in the midst of his prophecies. Here also, the blindness of Israel will not be lifted even though the Messiah is right in front of them.

So what does it mean that this prophecy is fulfilled in them, meaning in the unbelieving nation of Israel? The scriptures should very easily explain what fulfilled prophecy means. The prophecy is held to be as occurring in the here and now. The prophecy was fulfilled (occurring in the here and now) in the days of Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea. The prophecy was fulfilled during the Babylonian exile, during the return from Babylon, and during the inter-testament period. Now the prophecy is being fulfilled during the ministry of Jesus Christ. Israel remained in blindness throughout the writings of the apostle Paul, see Romans 11:28. They remained in blindness during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, the diaspora, and the birth of the state of Israel in 1948. So this prophecy is still being fulfilled because Israel is still in a state of national blindness. Fulfilled prophecy is not a case of “it happens once and then it’s over”. Sometimes that is the case, such as with the virgin birth. But in other instances there can very easily be an ongoing fulfillment over a long period of time, or multiple times when the prophecy is coming to life right in front of us in real time and space. However, we should be very careful about pointing to events around us and saying that these are fulfilled prophecy without first studying the entire context of God’s word concerning a specific prophecy.

Matthew 13:34-36a

All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house.

Psalm 78:1-8

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark saying from of old,
Things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deed of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
That the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
So that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
And that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The second passage quoted from the OT is Matthew’s commentary quoting Psalm 78. Some might find this quotation strange or out of place, or some may even say Matthew was reinterpreting this Psalm to have a different meaning than originally intended. If we only pay attention to the one verse that is quoted, it might seem strange. If we look at the whole psalm, we might come away with a different picture.

Psalm 78 gives us the principle that Israelites were supposed to teach their children the things that God had done for them in the past. This is how the psalm opens up. However, the way in which these things are taught are in the form of a dark saying, or riddle, or perhaps we might even use the word “parable”. If we are only studying the verse that Matthew quotes, we simply apply the general principle that sometimes things are taught in ways that are hidden to some or difficult to understand. The children of Israel taught their children the ways of God in riddles and here comes Jesus teaching the children of Israel in the same way.

If, however, Matthew had something grander in mind, and I think he did, then we should examine the psalm as a whole and conclude what its overall theme is. The two things that are prevalent in this psalm are, #1- God’s loving, faithful actions toward Israel as His people, and, #2- Israel’s unbelief and sinfulness in light of God’s unwavering commitment to His covenant. Again and again, God is faithful and can be trusted. But again and again, Israel does not trust God. I have a pastor-friend with an overactive imagination. He says that sometimes as he is reading through the stories of Israel that he hopes that perhaps as he is reading, the story might be slightly different this time. Maybe, this time they will believe in God and trust Him. But NO! Every time he reads the story, the Israelites still get it wrong and don’t trust God. The psalmist uses language that contrasts so greatly the faithfulness of God with the unfaithfulness of Israel. God is doing so much for them, yet they are so unappreciative and selfish. God is putting up with them, holding back His anger and wrath, and they sit back complaining; all the while God is providing for them every thing that they need. As I read through this psalm, I almost want to shout at the pages in my Bible like my pastor-friend, “Don’t you understand? Why are you so blind? God is doing everything for you!”

The setting for this psalm is probably post-exile during the days of Ezra. I believe the psalms of Asaph were written by the children of Asaph for reasons that I outline in this post here.  The author wrote the psalm to demonstrate God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s unbelief. It is interesting where the psalmist ends. To end the psalm with David as shepherd would hint at God’s covenant with David to bring forth the Davidic Messiah to which the nation of Israel was now looking forward. The idea of passing this parable from father to son (or parents to children) would have taught the Israelites that they still had the responsibility of teaching their children the scriptures. The setting of having been in exile for 70 years and then returning to Jerusalem and surrounding areas should not discourage parents from training their children in the ways of the LORD.

Here is the real mystery hidden in the psalm, or in the parable which we know as Psalm 78. Why would God continue with Israel in the midst of her spiritual rebellion, or should we use the words “spiritual blindness”? Read through the psalm again. Doesn’t it provoke the question, “God, why would you put up with these people? Why would you continue to be faithful to your covenant when they are so unfaithful to it?” Now imagine a young Israelite child, growing up in Jerusalem after the exile while the Persian Empire is reigning over them, as they listen to this psalm. Imagine the questions in their mind. “We are God’s chosen people. God has always been faithful to us. Any calamity that has come upon our nation is something that we have brought upon ourselves. We are sinful, yet He loves us and cares for us. Why?” That is the real mystery contained within Psalm 78.

Let’s turn back to Matthew’s quotation again and see fulfilled prophecy from this psalm. Matthew states that Jesus spoke in parables that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. The prophecy in Psalm 78 concerns the blindness of the nation of Israel contained in a riddle form. Here is Jesus in front of the spiritually blind nation of Israel presenting Himself but they are still unable to understand. All He can do is speak in parables since they cannot comprehend. Matthew points out from Psalm 78 that this has been the way all throughout Israel’s existence. They are taught in riddles, dark sayings, and parables, and still cannot comprehend God’s love for them. The prophecy of teaching them in parables was fulfilled, meaning brought to life, when Jesus taught from the boat these “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

These parables, or secret things, all concern the kingdom of heaven and the way it was being presented to the nation of Israel. I will try to briefly sum up all seven of them succinctly. #1- The power is in the word (logos) which has power to transform a heart, but a heart that receives it sincerely. #2- For those who insist that the kingdom of heaven is not only something that happens in the heart, but something that is established here on earth, Jesus reveals the following truths in the parable of the wheat and the tares. The kingdom of heaven will exist but not in a pure form. Wheat (the righteous) will be intermingled with tares (fake wheat) until the end of the age. The judgment preached by John the Baptist will happen (see Matthew 3:12 for harvest analogy) but not immediately during the preaching of Jesus Christ. #3- The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which is very small. This same grain of mustard seed is all the faith needed to perform a miracle, see Matthew 17:20. Yes, we have a small start with a handful of disciples, but the end result will be greater than all other seeds sown. #4- The power of the tiniest bit of leaven to transform 3 measures (9 gallons) of wheat flour is simply amazing. Even though we only start with a small portion, eventually, it will change the entire world. The same power that causes that tiny little seed to grow into a huge tree will cause that leaven to transform the entire lump of dough. God uses the most insignificant things like sheep among wolves, leaven in bread, a tiny seed in the ground. #5- The final three parables are given after the crowds have been sent away by Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in a field. The rest of the world cannot see it, but when someone discovers it, the only response that makes sense is to put everything else behind for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. #6- Here the kingdom of heaven is like the merchant man. When that merchant man finds the pearl of great price, he sells everything for that one pearl. This is similar to the previous parable, but the emphasis is different. The kingdom of heaven is both a treasure hidden, and the man desperately seeking the treasure at the same time. #7- This parable is like #2, but here is the emphasis is slightly different. In parable #2, the kingdom of heaven was like a man sowing good seed. Now the kingdom is like a dragnet which gathers all together. The first had emphasis on the pure work of the Son of Man. This has emphasis on the separation that happens at the end of the age. The wicked will be taken from the pure work that the Son of Man began, leaving only the righteous to enjoy the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

It seems so simple to a Christian reading this passage almost 2 thousand years later. But in the context of what Christ was doing at that time, this could be considered a dramatic shift. John the Baptist had said the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and it was at hand – in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But the kingdom of heaven would not bring about a fiery judgment immediately. God’s grace will hold back judgment allowing the wicked to remain intermingled with the righteous. The power of the kingdom of heaven will change the world, but it has a small, almost insignificant start. That little bit of leaven is unnoticeable right now, but eventually everything will be changed because of it. The nation at large really could not understand this. Only individuals who had repented were allowed to understand these mysteries, or secret things.

Matthew the Tax Collector, being one of them, affirmed with the rest of the disciples, that he had understood all of these things, see Matthew 13:51. This qualified Matthew to be a scribe of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew includes this closing statement by Jesus which is not in any other gospel. “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” What an interesting proclamation for Jesus to close with! This is why I believe Matthew was writing down events and sermons that occurred as they happened. Matthew was receiving new revelation from Christ, and later he would go back and compare the events with the “old” scriptures. This would enable him as a scribe of the kingdom of heaven to present Christ’s ministry (new treasure) while demonstrating “fulfilled prophecy” from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Hosea, and from the psalms (old treasure).

Can you imagine the thrill that ran through Matthew’s heart as Jesus said those words? Here he is perhaps recording the words of Christ and Jesus proclaims him as a scribe of the kingdom of heaven. This Tax Collector was considered an outcast by the religious Pharisees of the day, yet he is the one who brings us the most complete account of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. This “new treasure” Matthew pairs with 2 pieces of “old treasure” from Isaiah 6 and Psalm 78 to show us the whole picture of Christ revealing Himself to His people but yet hidden from their eyes. No wonder Matthew remembered this saying of Jesus and included it in his gospel!

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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