Three Views on the Rapture ~ Links

There have been some recent posts that confuse the two positions of Pre-Wrath and Post-Trib. They are two different positions. I understand what some people mean when they say, “Pre-Wrath is like Post-Trib because we believe the rapture happens after the great tribulation.” That’s really not enough to differentiate them. That’s like saying that Pre-Wrath is like Pre-Trib because we both believe the rapture happens before the wrath of God.

It’s not just enough to say the rapture occurs before the wrath of God in describing Pre-Wrath. There is much more to it. And the same can be said for comparing Pre-Wrath to Post-Trib. There is more to both positions than saying they both happen after the great tribulation.

Some time ago (2011? Wow!), I blogged through the book, Three Views on the Rapture. This edition was edited by Dr. Alan Hultberg and includes the positions of Pre-Trib, Pre-Wrath, and Post-Trib. In order to better understand the three positions and the differences between them, here is a post which contains all the links to the articles that I wrote at that time. As always, it’s best to purchase the book for yourself and read it. But for those who want to save time or money, feel free to read the articles I post here.

Please pay special attention to the critiques. Each author presents their position that they represent, but then each of the other two authors gets a chance to write a rebuttal on what the others have written. It is in these critiques that we see how the positions interact with each other. So without further ado, here are the titles to each article with the links embedded.

3 Views on the Rapture ~ New Edition

Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation

A Case for the Pretribulation Rapture by Craig Blaising

Two responses to the pretrib position

A Case for the Prewrath Rapture by Alan Hultberg

Two responses to the prewrath position

A Case for the Posttribulation Rapture by Douglas Moo

Two Responses to the posttrib position

Three Views on the Rapture ~ Summary

The Views of Dr. Alan Hultberg

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Revelation 14:14-16 Pictures the Rapture

Revelation 14:14-16 Pictures the Rapture

The Harvest of the Son of Man is the Rapture of the Church

KJV

And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

ESV

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.
And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”
So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

When Christ comes again, there are several events that will happen in conjunction with His second coming. One of them is the resurrection of the righteous dead, along with the translation of all living saints. Many people refer to this as the rapture of the church. These believers will not have to experience death because they will receive their incorruptible bodies in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, see I Corinthians 15:51-55. Many people believe that I Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the only passage that speaks of the rapture of the church. This is not true. There are several and Revelation 14:14-16 is one of them. The word “rapture” does not appear there, but neither does it appear in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

A Brief Discussion on the Rapture

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives us the beginning, even though many other passages were spoken/written before this one, such as Isaiah 26:19-21, Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, and Luke 17:22-37. In the book of I Thessalonians, Paul had been writing about the second coming of Christ before the aforementioned section in chapter 4. 1:10, we are to wait for Jesus who will come from heaven which delivers us from the wrath to come. 2:19, there will be a crown of rejoicing (other Christians) in the presence of the LORD Jesus Christ at His coming. 3:13, the event is described as the coming of the LORD Jesus Christ with all His saints. So far, this coming is rejoicing for believers as He comes with the saints, and delivers us from the wrath to come.

In 4:13, Paul does not want people to be ignorant or without knowledge concerning those who have passed away before Christ comes again. Verse 14 explains that those who died will rise again because Jesus died and rose again. God will bring those who died (sleep in Jesus) with Him. The dead in Christ will rise first at the coming of Jesus Christ. Note that the word for rise in verse 16 in reference to the dead in Christ is the same word for Christ who rose from the dead in verse 14, anistemi. This is resurrection language for both Jesus Christ and the righteous dead. Other events that occur at this time are: #1- The LORD Himself descends from heaven; #2- With a shout; #3- With the voice of the archangel; #4- With the trumpet of God. #5- Then the resurrection of the righteous dead occurs followed by this “being caught up together” for those who are alive and remain. The end result is that all (resurrected righteous dead and righteous living) meet the LORD Jesus Christ in the air, in the clouds, and are forever with the LORD from that point onward.

I Thessalonians chapter 5 continues the discussion on the second coming of Christ using comparative language such as “The Day of the LORD.” Birth pains are an analogy used throughout scriptures in reference to the Day of the LORD, see Isaiah 13:8-10 & I Thessalonians 5:1-3. Then in 5:4-7 we have the discussion concerning the Day of the LORD (second coming of Christ) being compared to a thief in the night, see also Matthew 24:42-44, Mark 13:34-37, Luke 12:35-40, II Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15. The interesting thing is that the thief in the night analogy is only for unbelievers. Believers in this passage are of the day and will not be overtaken by the coming of the LORD like a thief in the night, see I Thessalonians 5:4-7. The Day of the LORD brings wrath, see Zephaniah 1:14-15, and this Day of the LORD wrath is what Christ will deliver believers from according to I Thessalonians 5:9.

II Thessalonians continues the subject of the second coming of Christ that Paul had started with the Thessalonian believers in the first epistle that he wrote to them. He starts off in chapter 1 stating that even though they are experiencing tribulation (vs. 4-6), God is righteous and will repay those who are inflicting the tribulation upon those believers. Believers will experience that promised rest when Christ is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. Christ will take vengeance upon those that do not know God (vs. 7-9). Then in chapter 2, Paul links two events together, the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him. He then takes these two events and uses the phrase the Day of the LORD [although the KJV renders it as the Day of Christ]. Paul states that the Day of the LORD is not at hand because there are certain events that have not occurred. The two main events here are #1- the apostasy (a falling away or rebellion against God word, see Acts 21:21 for the only other use of the Greek word apostasia in the NT*) and #2- the revealing of the man of sin. This is explained in verse 4 how the man of sin exalts himself above all that is called God while sitting in the temple. Further verses describe him as a lawless one, verse 8, his coming is after the working of Satan with signs and lying wonders, verse 9, and with all unrighteous deception, verse 10. Since the word “first” is used in II Thessalonians 2:3, there must be a chronological progression. Apostasy and revealing of the man of sin both occur first, then after that the coming of Christ, our gathering together unto Him (as described in I Thessalonians 4:13-18), and the Day of the LORD.

Let’s sum up what we can discover from I and II Thessalonians. The apostasy occurs first along with the revealing of the man of sin. This man of sin is after the working of Satan and is accompanied by lying wonders and unrighteous deception. At some later point in time, Jesus comes again while the church is experiencing tribulation. By the coming of the LORD and the gathering of the church unto Him through the resurrection and rapture, the church enters that blessed rest. This event begins the Day of the LORD and a period of time when the wrath of God comes. The church is delivered from this wrath to come by means of the rapture. The unbelieving world was unprepared for this coming like a thief in the night, but the church being of the light and of the day was not overtaken like a thief in the night. Then LORD will destroy the man of sin.

The Context of Revelation 14:14-16

Revelation 14 occurs within the context of the great tribulation against the saints, see Revelation 13:5-7. A time period of 42 months is allotted to the beast from the sea. He begins by making war with the saints and overcoming them. Note that the beast had authority to overcome the saints, and this is the exact same word nikao that is used in Revelation 12:11 when describing how the saints overcome Satan. As the great tribulation is transpiring, 144,000 are seen on the earth learning a song from heaven, see Revelation 14:1-5. These 144,000 are righteous, redeemed from the earth, and are the first fruits unto God. Three angelic announcements of Revelation 14:6-13 place the time period as still within the bounds of the great tribulation. The first angelic announcement shows that the gospel is being preached, see Matthew 24:3, 24:14, 28:18-20 to show that we still haven’t reached the end of the age. The second angelic announcement is in reference to Babylon that great city; more will be explained in Revelation 17-18. The third angelic announcement is a stern warning not to take the mark of the beast or you will burn in hellfire forever. The mark of the beast was explained in Revelation 13:11-18 as the beast from the earth (also known as the false prophet, see Revelation 19:20) causes everyone to receive the mark of the beast [meaning the beast from the sea]. Note: the false prophet is causing everyone to worship this beast whose image came to life, compare this with II Thessalonians 2:4 where the man of sin is the focus of worship in the temple. In some way, the man of sin can be identified with this beast from the sea.

It is worth noting that beginning with Revelation 12 up until Revelation 14 that the word wrath has only occurred once and it is in reference to the devil’s wrath, see Revelation 12:12. Now with the angelic announcements the word wrath is used but in a variety of contexts. For instance, in reference to Babylon that great city, she made nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. This is surely borrowing from apocalyptic language such as Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15-17, 27-29, 49:12, and climactically Jeremiah 51:7. So in the context of Revelation 14:8, it is difficult to say if the wrath of God is being poured out on Babylon. Revelation 17-18 will explain in greater detail. In the third angelic announcement, it seems quite clear that those who take the mark of the beast will experience the wrath of God in hellfire. That promised hellfire is future from that vantage point so the wrath of God is not yet occurring on earth. The announcement serves as a warning so that people will not take the mark and thereby experience the wrath of God. The next mention of the wrath of God is in connection with a winepress in Revelation 14:19. Since this is after the description of the rapture we will wait and discuss this later. This is important because we will see that the rapture occurs directly in between the great tribulation and the eschatological wrath of God. The great tribulation is Satan’s wrath against those that believe in Jesus Christ, while the Day of the LORD which immediately follows is God’s wrath against the wicked. It specifically states that within the seven bowls are the seven last plagues filled with the wrath of God, see Revelation 15:1, 6-7, 16:1.

Revelation 14:12-13 are the verses just previous to the passage which pictures the rapture of the church. Here is the patience of the saints. Here are those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. We have just read that anyone who takes the mark of the beast will be tormented for all eternity. Now those who are saints can have patience in the midst of the great tribulation and can keep God’s commandments (one of which is not to take the mark). They can keep their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Immediately after this statement is a voice from heaven commanding John to write. What is John commanded to write? “Blessed are the dead.” That seems odd. “Blessed are the dead who die in the LORD from now on.” Why? The Holy Spirit immediately affirms why. “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.” So here we have a written blessing from God and an affirmation from the Holy Spirit concerning those that die in the LORD and how they enter that blessed rest. Remember that all who do not worship the image of the beast that comes to life are going to be killed, or at least that is the intent in Revelation 13:15. All who do not take the mark of the beast cannot buy or sell. What is left for those who refuse? The gospel is being preached through those that refuse to take the mark, but death is the ultimate blessing here because there will be no more work, but only rest as the righteous deeds of the saints follow them. It is immediately after this affirmation of the Holy Spirit that those that die in the LORD will enter into that blessed rest that John sees the vision of the coming of the Son of Man.

The Harvest of the Son of Man as the Rapture of the Church

It should come as no surprise that at the close of the great tribulation that the Son of Man will come again, see Matthew 24:29-31. Overall, Revelation 14 moves from talking about the great tribulation to speaking of God’s wrath. In this transition, we also see a picture of the rapture of the church. Let’s go through Revelation 14:14-16 one phrase at a time.

Behold a white cloud.

Back in the psalms and prophets it was foretold that the Messiah would come with the clouds. Psalm 18:12, II Samuel 22:12, Psalm 97:2, but most notably Daniel 7:13 which also contains the phrase “Son of Man”; all these show prophetic apocalypse that the Messiah comes with the clouds. This was more fully developed by Jesus and the apostles in the new testament writings, see Matthew 24:30, 26:64, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27 (Son of Man coming in a cloud), Acts 1:9-11, I Thessalonians 4:17, Revelation 1:7. It seems that John has been viewing things from earth as he beheld the beast and his war on saints. The three angelic announcements were seen from the vantage point of the earth as well. Again, it seems as if John is looking up and seeing this white cloud as a new thing in the sky. This would make sense because when Jesus comes again He is visible to those on the earth, see Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7.

One sat like unto the Son of Man.

The Son of Man was the favorite appellation that Jesus used for Himself. More specifically, Jesus used it when referring to His second coming. Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels”. Matthew 24:30, “They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. Matthew 26:64, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven”. Luke 12:40, “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not”. Luke 17:30, “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed”.

As far as the psalms and prophets, there is very little to point to the Son of Man as being a title for the Messiah, except for Daniel 7:13, which seems to be quite definitive. Psalm 8:4, 144:3, 146:3 point to earthly people not to put trust in rather than someone to deliver. Psalm 80:17 may have a very hazy reference to the Son of Man being a deliverer. Job 25:6 and 35:8 show that it is an ancient title, but nothing messianic. It is the way God refers to the prophet Ezekiel, probably a term of endearment but also showing his position as a premier prophet of God.

Since Daniel 7:13 is so conclusive, let’s examine the entire context. Daniel sees four beasts and the fourth has a little horn which persecutes the saints. The Ancient of Days comes in some sense according to verse 22, but is also seen in a place of judgment, like on a judgment throne or something. The beast is slain most likely because of a judgment sentence that was pronounced by the Ancient of Days. Then in an accompanying but separate vision Daniel sees one like the Son of Man come with the clouds of heaven. The Son of Man and Ancient of Days both seem divine, but distinct. This Son of Man is given dominion, glory, and a kingdom. This same language is used in Daniel 7:18, 27 to show that this kingdom is also given to the saints. So at the destruction of the beast is when the Son of Man is seen coming on the clouds of heaven probably to show some type of cause and effect, although exact timing in this passage is not entirely clear. It could be that the Ancient of Days pronounces the sentence, then the Son of Man shows up to execute the order. Other than that, there really isn’t much here in relation to this Son of Man, but He must be considered messianic if we are to take scripture seriously. Note also that the Son of Man and saints inherit the kingdom “under the whole of heaven”, meaning here on earth, at the same time.

Some people have objected to seeing Jesus as the figure on the cloud in Revelation 14:14. They point to the language saying “one like a son of man” and insist that because he is like a son of man that this is not THE Son of Man. However, Daniel 7:13 uses this same language, “one like the Son of Man”. It’s almost as if John is trying to mirror the language that Daniel used as closely as possible so that people would see the similarity between the two figures. They both come on a cloud or with the clouds, and they both are referred to as “one like the Son of Man”. To make the objection here in Revelation 14:14, the same objection has to be made in Daniel 7:13 to the One Who is given the kingdom that has no end. The same objection would also have to be made in reference to One like the Son of Man in Revelation 1:13 with the One who is the First and the Last (1:17, 2:8) and the Son of God (2:18).

The original Aramaic does not contain the word “like”, but a particle “ke” just before the word for Son which means like. The notations (jots and tittles) can be confusing for people who don’t know the language, and I am just taking the words from people who say they know. So when checking Daniel 7:13, you may not find the word for “like” in the original, but it is there. This particle is sort of like our preposition which precedes the word “bar” which means Son. In Revelation 14:14 and 1:13 it is the Greek word homoios, which means like or similar. Homoios is translated “like” every single instance in the KJV. So John uses as identical phraseology as possible to the passage in Daniel 7:13. The Son of Man in Daniel 7:13, Revelation 1:13, and 14:14 all refer to Jesus Christ.

Having on His head a golden crown.

This is somewhat difficult because in Revelation 19:12 it states that Jesus (King of Kings and Lord of Lords) has many crowns. Here in Revelation 14:14 He only has one golden crown. There is nothing that states that Jesus has to look the same every single time we see Him. Already we have seen Him as a Lamb in Revelation 5:6 and 14:1. John fell as dead at the feet of One like the Son of Man in 1:17 and there was no crown mentioned at all. This is probably related to a comparison of the Son of Man in Revelation 1:13 all the way through 3:22 where no crown was described. Now the same Son of Man appears on a cloud, and He has a golden crown. What does this change signify? The 24 elders have gold crowns in Revelation 4:4 showing some type of authority. The rider on a white horse in Revelation 6:2 is given a crown, but it did not specify if it was gold or not. Here the Son of Man appears and has some measure of authority that He did not have before. A cross reference of Luke 19:12-15 is in order. Jesus went away into a far country (ascended into heaven) then returns having received the kingdom. So it makes sense that there is something to symbolize that He has received the kingdom by His wearing of the golden crown. Psalm 110 pictures the Messiah sitting at the right hand of the Father until the time comes for His enemies to be made into a footstool. The command is issued, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” So when the time comes for Jesus Christ to return from the right hand of the Father, it will be to rule as a King-Priest. The crown appearing in the narrative at this time makes sense if the person is Jesus Christ.

And in His hand a sharp sickle.

There are two personages in this passage that have sickles, the Son of Man and an angel. The Son of Man is pictured in Revelation 14:14-16 and the angel with the sharp sickle is pictured in Revelation 14:17-20. Besides these two passages, there is only one other mention of a sickle in the entire new testament. Mark 4:26-29 contains one of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God that is not contained in Matthew 13. This parable in Mark 4:26-29 pictures the seed bringing forth spiritual fruit for the kingdom of God. We really don’t know exactly how it happens; the seed just sprouts and brings forth fruit. When the time comes, the sickle is put forth because the harvest is come. The word for harvest there is therismos which we will discuss more. Mark 4:29 shows that the sickle can be a sign that the kingdom of God has produced fruit and the time for the therismos harvest has come to bring that fruit into the kingdom of God.

There is language of judgment and doom in Revelation 14:17-20 in relation to the sickle that is pictured there. Joel 3:13 contains the winepress metaphor of judging the wicked during the Day of the LORD, see also Joel 3:14-16. In Joel 3:13 the vats overflow because the winepress is overflowing. This relates to Revelation 14:17-20 since the language is almost identical. Here the grapes are fully ripe as they are cast into the great winepress of God’s wrath. Isaiah 63:1-6 is another notable reference to a winepress.

The two visions (the Harvest of the Son of Man and the Vintage) must be kept separate, although they are related. The Son of Man with a sharp sickle pictures something different than the angel with a sharp sickle. Yes they appear together, but the language of each passage is different and refers to a different event. A sickle according to Mark 4:29 can be the result of the work of the kingdom of God. In Mark 4:28 the type of harvest is specified to be a grain harvest, grain in the ear. This same language will be borne out in Revelation 14:14-16 while the reaping of Revelation 14:17-20 is a vintage, or a grape harvest.

And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, “…the time (hour) is come…”

References using the word temple thus far in the book of Revelation have been 3:12, 7:15, 11:1-2, 11:19. Beginning with this instance, we have a series of uses of the word temple which all seem to have integration between them. In each of these instances, someone is coming out from the temple or some voice is speaking showing that this is issuing from the very presence of God. The bowls of God’s wrath occupy the majority of these instances. The seven angels come out from the temple which then becomes filled with smoke from the glory of God, see Revelation 15:5-8. Then there is a voice from the temple commanding the seven angels in Revelation 16:1. After the seven angels have poured out the contents of the bowls, there is a voice from the temple stating, “It is done”, Revelation 16:17. But leading into all this are the instances in Revelation 14:15, 17. Here another angel, as we have seen so many in this portion of the vision, comes out from the temple. This is the first angel to come out from the temple which signifies the presence of God. The other angels, see Revelation 14:6-9, seem to be concerned with warning people on the earth. This angel we know comes out from the temple just before speaking.

This should signify some direct command from God, as in, God the Father. Jesus stated in Mark 13:32 that no man knows the day and the hour of His coming, not even the angels and not even the Son, meaning Himself. Only the Father knows the day and the hour. So this command coming from the temple, the abode of God, shows that here is knowledge and/or a command that was the Father’s alone to give. The angel coming out from the temple and declaring that the hour has come should connect us with the very hour of the coming of the Son of Man. The Greek word used in Revelation 14:15 is hora corresponding with the word hour and is the same word used in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32. The Son of Man appears but waits for the command from the presence of His Father before He acts.

Thrust in thy sickle, and reap.

The word for reap in the Greek is therizo which corresponds with therismos. Therizo and therismos appear in Revelation 14:14-16, but neither appear in Revelation 14:17-20. The reaping here is cutting down stalks of grain in order to harvest. Throughout the new testament, the word is used in regards to the reaping of a harvest that is ready, and many times there is a spiritual application such as gathering at the end of the process of planting, watering, etc. In Matthew 25:24-26, the Lord was looking for a “reaping” after something had been sown, meaning he wanted fruit from seed being planted. That’s a metaphor for expecting a return on the investment He had made in entrusting the money to the lazy servant. In John 4:34-38, the word therismos appears in verse 35, then therizo in verses 36-37. “He that reaps receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal.” II Corinthians 9:6 talks about the gathering of fruit as well, “He which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Galatians 6:7-9 tells of the fruit that is reaped based on the type of sowing that is done. “He that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” So you see the primary meaning is the gathering of the harvest. The root of the word is not traced back to cutting, but rather to summer which should be insightful for us. Theros means summer, see Matthew 24:32.

There is another general principle that should be mentioned. This will be the subject of a comparison between the parable of the wheat and tares and the harvest of the Son of Man. Preliminarily, John the Baptist had preached that the One coming after him would “gather His wheat into the barn, but burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,” see Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17. The winnowing fan, held by Jesus, was designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. So some type of separation is being spoken of here as well. Additionally, in the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:30, Jesus said, “Gather first the tares, but gather the wheat into my barn.” The language of a grain harvest is used in these two instances. The primary focus is on the wheat (believers) being gathered into His barn (the presence of the LORD). But there is a separation aspect to this process as well.

For the harvest of the earth.

The Greek word for harvest is therismos. Let’s look at every single instance of this word in the New Testament. Matthew 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2 are practically the same statement. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray to the LORD of the harvest that He would send forth laborers into His harvest.” On both occasions the context is one of Jesus wanting more people to minister, preach the word of God, and go forth into the world preaching the gospel. What is meant by this harvest is obvious. When people are repenting and believing in Jesus Christ, that is a plenteous harvest because it is the fruit that springs forth from the preaching of the gospel.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the initial reference is in Matthew 13:30. “Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” The explanation is found in Matthew 13:39. “The harvest is the end of the world (aion=age).” Since the definition for the harvest is the end of the age, we can substitute that phrase in the parable. Let both [wheat and tares] grow together until the end of the age. At the time of the end of the age, I will say to the reapers, you all gather together first the tares, but gather the wheat into my barn. John’s parable of the threshing floor was separating the wheat from the chaff, but this separation is wheat from tares. The meaning of the harvest should be the goal of gathering the wheat into the barn. That’s the objective which was intended at the beginning before the enemy sowed the tares. Since the end of the age is the therismos harvest, when the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) performs the therismos harvest in Revelation 14:14-16, we can safely say that when Jesus swings that sickle that this is the end of the age. The parable states that the wheat is gathered into the barn, then Christ gives the meaning, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” So symbolically, the wheat is gathered into the barn. In real life, this is resurrection language that is being used, see Daniel 12:2-3.

Mark 4:26-29 contains a parable of the kingdom that only Mark records. The seed in the parable of the sower is the word of the kingdom or the word of God, see Matthew 13:19 and Luke 8:11. In the parable of the wheat and the tares the seed represents the children of the kingdom [of heaven]. The best interpretation of this parable is that the seed is the word of God and the plant that comes up is fruit to the kingdom of God, like in the parable of the sower. The fruit that comes up is grain in the head, see Mark 4:28. The mystery here is that nobody really knows exactly how the fruit comes up. It’s a mystery as to how a seed springs up into a full plant. How does the earth, water, sunshine all work together to create a plant? The mystery of how the word of God springs up into fruit for the kingdom of God is somewhat the same. How does the word of God work in someone’s heart to produce fruit? We don’t know for sure. When that fruit is brought forth, the sickle is put in because the harvest has come. The meaning is clear. The harvest here is gathering the grain which is now ready. The gathering of the fruit of the kingdom of God is the primary meaning. Here it is clearer because there is no chaff mentioned or no tares to separate, but we still have a harvest because the grain is being harvested. It seems as if the souls of men being gathered into the kingdom of God is the primary meaning.

John 4:34-38 constitutes the final passage that we will look at concerning the word therismos. The definition of harvest is clear. It is gathering fruit unto life eternal. Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the work of the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.” Later He says that there is labor involved, meaning work. Sowing and reaping are mentioned as two parts of the same process. The reaping occurs at the time of the harvest. The reaping involves gathering fruit unto life eternal. Basically, all these Samaritans that were believing in Jesus as the Messiah are the fruit of the harvest that was white at that time. The harvest is people being brought into the kingdom of God. Again, a wheat (grain) harvest is being alluded to because when a wheat field is ready to be harvested, the tips of the plants appear white. Jesus said the fields are already white to/towards/near (Greek word pros) harvest. He that reaps receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal.

In each instance of the word therismos, there is a primary definition of souls being gathered into the kingdom of God. There is also an eschatological aspect to this as the harvest being the end of the age. At some point in the future, it seems that souls will be gathered into the kingdom of God as the righteous shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Since the word therismos is used one time in the book of Revelation, it only makes sense that the therismos harvest of Matthew 13:30, 39 will occur at that time, meaning at Revelation 14:14-16.

The word for land is the Greek word ge which complements the understanding that this is a grain harvest. The word means arable land, as in, suitable for growing crops. This word, rather than kosmos, aion, or the less common oikoumene, helps to demonstrate that a place where the fruit could grow is the location of the harvest. This would not be in heaven, but here on earth where the people who need to be brought into the kingdom are located. So both in the literal sense, it is the earth, and in the figurative sense, it is earth, as in growing soil for believers here on earth.

Is ripe.

The word for ripe here in the Greek is xeraino and is a different word for ripe found in 14:18. Xeraino means dry or withered. It is the word translated withered in Matthew 13:6, 21:19-20, Mark 4:6, Mark 11:20-21, Luke 8, John 15:6, James 1:11, I Peter 1:24 describing trees, plants, grass, or branches that withered. This may not make sense unless you understand that this is a grain harvest. Grain is not harvested while it is green, but after it has dried out. Once it is dried out, it is ripe for harvest. This difference in the two Greek words for ripe highlights once again that these are two very different things happening in 14:14-16 and 14:17-20. The church will be experiencing the great tribulation which may help to understand the drying out or maturing of the wheat to be ready for harvest.

And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

The action is performed while the Son of Man is still seated on the cloud. This pictures the Son of Man coming on a cloud and gathering the souls of the children of the kingdom of God to Himself. The wheat is being gathered into the barn. This is the time when the dead in Christ rise first, then we which are alive and remain will be caught up to be with Him always. Christ is on His way to earth, but before completely descending, He performs the therismos harvest which signifies the end of the age. Now the righteous are shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, Matthew 13:43. Those that were sleeping in the dust of the earth have awakened to everlasting life and are now shining like the stars, Daniel 12:2-3. They have entered into the chambers and will hide themselves for a little moment until the indignation is overpast because the LORD is coming out from His place to judge the earth, Isaiah 26:19-21.

The Vintage

Now that we have seen why I believe Revelation 14:14-16 pictures the rapture of the church, let’s look at the passage immediately following known as The Vintage. Revelation 14:17-20 has different language and should be examined in conjunction with the previous passage as there are some similarities, but understanding that it represents something unique and separate. For one, it states that these are grapes being gathered. The grapes are cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. This allows winepress imagery from Isaiah 63:1-6 to be cross referenced. The language found there includes anger, fury, and vengeance as the trampling occurs. Joel 3:13 also shows this language attributing the cause to the wickedness of those being judged. The entire passage of Revelation 14:17-20 seems to foreshadow what is coming during the seven bowls of God’s wrath.

Temple language is still being used to describe the location. In verse 17 an angel comes out of the temple. Another angel comes out from the altar, which would indicate some part of the temple, although we are never given an exhaustive description of this temple. This angel has power over fire. Considering he comes out from the altar and has power over fire, this may indicate some type of sacrifice is about to be offered. The angel cries out to gather the clusters of the vine because the grapes are fully ripe. The Greek word for ripe here is akmazo and means to come to maturity, or be fully ripe, and can hold the idea of coming to the highest degree or to be in the prime (think: mankind is so wicked God has to judge). The winepress itself seems to be located here on the earth just outside of a city, probably Jerusalem. Although it may be indicative of an entire sequence about to come during the bowls, the description is so specific that it seems as if something happens to make this blood flow in the exact way in which it is described. So the great winepress of God’s wrath foreshadows all of the wrath of God during the seven bowls, but there is very specific language that shows one event described vividly.

The word translated gather and gathered is the Greek word trugao. Truge denotes fruit gathered in the autumn. Trugao means to gather in fruit and apart from these two instances, we only find it one other time in Luke 6:44 in reference to the grapes. Earlier in that same verse in reference to the figs, the word for gather is sullego which has a slightly different meaning. It means to gather together or collect in order to carry off somewhere else. So the grapes are gathered in, most likely because they need to be pressed. Figs are gathered and carried away. This word sullego is also used in Matthew 7:16, Matthew 13:28-30, 40-41 (only in reference to tares not to wheat in the parable of the wheat and tares), and in Matthew 13:48. In Revelation 14:17-20 the grapes are gathered in (trugao) because they need to be thrown into the winepress.

The Victorious on the Sea of Glass

There is a general chronological progression in Revelation chapters 6-11 and we see that same general framework as we proceed through Revelation chapters 12-16. In chapters 6-11, we are moved from great tribulation to God’s wrath being imminent at the sixth seal, then the 144,000 are sealed, then the great multitude appears in heaven before the throne of God as a result of the rapture of the church, then comes God’s wrath in seven trumpets. If we look for those major landmarks in Revelation 12-16, we chronologically move forward in much the same way. The great tribulation is described in Revelation 12-13, but with many additional details not found in Revelation 6. Then in Revelation 14, the 144,000 are seen with Christ; whether they are sealed at this point or not is unclear. It is clear that they are the same 144,000 as described in Revelation 7:1-8 with additional details. The Son of Man descends and performs the therismos harvest, thereby rapturing the church. Then there is a portent of God’s wrath seen as the grapes are cast into the great winepress of God’s wrath, so God’s wrath is imminent at that point. We see a group in Revelation 15:2 on the sea of glass that had gotten the victory over the beast. We can safely assume that many of them did this by not loving their lives to the point of death, see Revelation 12:11. Then will come the seven last plagues of the wrath of God in the form of seven bowl judgments.

Those that were in the great tribulation are now safely in the presence of God in heaven. This group is singing the song of Moses to God while having harps. This may seem ambiguous, but with the backdrop of the wheat having just been gathered into the barn, this should be support to see that the resurrection of the righteous has just occurred. There is a group in heaven which constitutes those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb and they are out of reach of the beast. There should be a direct correlation between Revelation 12:11 and Revelation 15:2. The word for overcame in Revelation 12:11 is nikao (Strong’s #3528) and the word for victory in Revelation 15:2 is the exact same word. They achieved the victory by the blood of the Lamb. They stand before the throne of God completely victorious by the blood of the Lamb. Forgive the repetitiveness but this is church language being used, see I Peter 1:18-19. We also know from Matthew 24:22 that the great tribulation will be cut short for the sake of the elect. This should lead us to believe that not all believers will be martyred during the great tribulation, but a believing remnant will survive unto the coming of Christ. Some believers will be victorious standing on the sea of glass because they were raptured into the presence of God without having to experience death. Both groups, resurrected martyrs and raptured believers, being present on the sea of glass show that the events of I Thessalonians 4:13-17 have occurred at this point in the Revelation 12-16 chronology.

In Revelation 6-11, the 144,000 were sealed to remain through the Day of the LORD, while the church was raptured into the presence of God to be removed from the Day of the LORD, see Revelation 7. Now here in Revelation 14-15, we see the same correlation but with additional details revealed. The 144,000 are the first fruits unto God. Here on earth, they are the only ones that can learn the song being sung before the throne of God in heaven. This signifies a believing remnant to enter the Day of the LORD wrath and be preserved through it as God’s witness here on earth. A very good cross reference is Psalm 96 which foretells of the new song being sung among the Gentile nations as the LORD is coming in power and glory to rule over the earth. The group on the sea of glass is the church, safely in the presence of God because we are not appointed unto the eschatological wrath of God, see I Thessalonians 5:9 and the opening discussion on the rapture of the church. Since the 144,000 are seen with Christ on Mount Zion and the church is in the presence of the LORD in heaven, now the wrath of God can be poured out, and I mean literally poured out because the wrath is in bowls.

The Seven Bowls of the Wrath of God

The timing of the Harvest of the Son of Man is important to our discussion on the rapture. In the context of Revelation 14:14-16, it clearly happens after the abomination of desolation which begins the great tribulation. It occurs before the destruction of the beast at the end of the 42 month period described in Revelation 13:5. The day and the hour are not known except to the Father in heaven. This 42 month timeline should be the key to understanding Revelation 12-16. There are some explanatory visions that occur after chapter 16, but they should be factored into the chronology contained therein. For instance, Babylon is destroyed at the seventh bowl. In Revelation 18, we read a detailed description of that destruction, but that should be factored into the timing of the seventh bowl. The cities of the nations fall at the seventh bowl as well. This should show that the beast (evil government system of the devil) is being judged by God. This beast is also a king, see Revelation 17:11-12, who will be judged by God at that time. Revelation 19:17-21 pictures what we commonly call Armageddon, but it should also be factored into the timing of the seventh bowl when God said, “It is done.”

The bowls of Revelation 16 picture the beast as still having the authority granted in Revelation 13:5. The first bowl shows the beast has worshipers who have taken his mark. The third bowl makes a distinct point that those which had been persecuting God’s people are now suffering retribution from God Himself, see II Thessalonians 1:6 and the opening discussion on the rapture of the church. The fifth bowl states that the beast has a throne and a kingdom. This must be included in the 42 months of authority granted to the beast in Revelation 13:5. The sixth bowl pictures the beast deceiving the nations through demonic influence to gather them to Armageddon. The language of II Thessalonians 2:9 is Satan performing miracles and the language of Revelation 16:14 is demons performing miracles, the same Greek word for sign or miracle is used (semeion, Strongs #4592). Revelation 19:19 should be reckoned as occurring at the seventh bowl, and this shows us the antichrist and false prophet leading the kings of the earth to make war against Jesus Christ Who is sitting on a white horse. The beast is captured and thrown alive into the lake of fire. This event should be placed at the end of the 42 months. The authority granted has now come to an end. The bowls occurred as a part of that 42 month period, which is also known as the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week. This 42 month period can be divided into two sections. The first section is called the great tribulation where the beast persecuted the church. The second section is called the Day of the LORD where the church was safely out of reach of the beast and the wrath of God was being poured out on the beast, its followers, and its kingdom. The timing of the rapture is the dividing point between these two sections. The therismos harvest of Revelation 14:14-16 pictures this event. Great tribulation, then rapture, then wrath: that is the progression in Revelation 12-16. From Revelation 13:5 to the seventh bowl, which is more fully described in Revelation 19:17-21, is 42 months.

Comparing the Harvest of the Son of Man to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

Because of the association between the parable of the wheat and the tares with Revelation 14:14-16, a fuller discussion comparing the two would be beneficial. First, we must remember that the imagery in each passage is similar but different. In Matthew 13 the wheat is gathered into the barn while in Revelation 14 grain harvest language is used without using the words wheat or barn. In Matthew 3:12 which is John’s parable of the threshing floor, the wicked are represented by the chaff in the wheat. In Matthew 13, the wicked are represented by tares growing among the wheat. In Revelation 14, the wicked are represented by a completely different crop named specifically as grapes. In Matthew 3:12, the chaff and wheat are separated by a winnowing fan on the threshing floor. In Matthew 13, tares are separated from the wheat before the therismos harvest. In Revelation 14, grapes are gathered in and thrown into the winepress after the therismos harvest. In Matthew 13 the punishment for the wicked is represented by a furnace where the tares are burned. In Revelation 14 the punishment for the wicked is represented by a winepress. In the furnace we have a corollary with hellfire, while in the winepress we have a corollary with blood being shed here on earth.

John the Baptist’s Parable of the Threshing Floor The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares The Harvest of the Son of Man
Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17 Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Revelation 14:14-20
Righteous = Wheat Righteous = Wheat Ripe Grain
Wheat is gathered into barn Wheat is gathered into barn Grain harvest language
Wicked = Chaff Wicked = Tares Wicked = Grapes
Separated by the winnowing fan Separated physically at harvest Harvest then Vintage
Unquenchable Fire Furnace of Fire Winepress of Blood

Let’s start by examining the parable of the wheat and the tares. This parable is one of seven in Matthew 13. All of them together show how the kingdom of God is now in mystery form. The word of God is being preached, but the fullness of the kingdom is not yet here. This is illustrated in this very parable. Yes, wheat being harvested is the ultimate goal, but for now wheat and tares must coexist without a judgment until the end of the age. The point of the parable is that the righteous will inherit the earth, eventually. For now, wicked and righteous are here on the earth together. At the end of the age, the angels clear the field of tares, but then gather the wheat into the barn.

The interesting thing is that Jesus is using everyday language that everybody understood. There is nothing overly complicated about this. Every field had some weeds in it. In this particular scenario, the sowing of the tares is at the instigation of the devil, so it is obvious they represent wicked or unsaved people. At the end of the age, the reapers get all the weeds out of the garden so that the harvest may be brought in. The tares are collected so that they may be bound in bundles so that they may be burned. After all this is done, the righteous shine forth.

Let’s look at the parable of the dragnet which tells of the end of the age as well, see Matthew 13:47-50. The net is thrown into the sea and gathers all types of creatures. What follows in this parable is something that all good Jewish fishermen did. They separated the clean from the unclean, see Leviticus 11:9-12. Jewish fishermen could make a good living around the Sea of Galilee because they practiced this. Gentiles did not separate the clean from the unclean, therefore Jews would not buy from them. This separation here is also everyday language that everyone would easily understand. The good are gathered into vessels, but the bad are cast away. Again, the explanation is that the angels are the ones that separate the wicked from among the righteous. It is the wicked that are thrown into a furnace of fire while the righteous, so it seems in this parable, are allowed to remain.

The point that is made in both the parable of the wheat and the tares and the parable of the dragnet is that the angels are the ones that do the separating. The goal of both parables is for the righteous to remain. We must remember that this is the preaching of the kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God as the terms are interchangeable). That is why these parables have much in common with the preaching of John the Baptist who was also preaching the kingdom of heaven, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” There is a development that happens over the course of this progressive revelation. First, with John the Baptist, there is a fiery judgment whereby the wheat and chaff are separated. Later, there is a parable which tells of an extended length of time during which the wicked and righteous are commingled with each other. Then at the end of the age the tares are gathered out but the wheat is gathered into the barn. Later in the book of Revelation, there is a series of visions picturing God’s wrath being poured out over an extended period of time. The harvest is pinpointed to happen at this precise time in Revelation. It happens after the great tribulation, but just before the eschatological wrath of God. Each picture has a different setting with a different purpose. John’s parable of the threshing floor and the seven parables of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13 do not factor in the eschatological wrath of God or the rapture of the church. Resurrection language is used, but the idea that the church will be caught up at the time of the second coming is not spelled out there.

Let’s look at the Greek words used to describe the gathering that will happen to different groups throughout these passages. In Matthew 3:12, the wheat is sunago, which means to draw together or gather together, and even carried the idea of welcoming someone into their home. It is a compound word from “to lead” and “with”. It is used many times in the book of Acts when the church was gathered together for assembly. So when John says His (Christ’s) wheat will be sunago into the barn, this is eternal dwelling place language. It is directly related to the word sunagoge which is translated synagogue. The idea is coming together for an assembly.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants of the householder ask, “Do you want us to go and sullego the tares?” Sullego means to collect in order to carry off. Sullego is also a compound word, more like “to pick out” plus “with”, sort of like, it’s mine, I’m taking it. The master says no because if you sullego the tares, then the wheat will be rooted up. Instead, let both sunauxano (with growing) until harvest (therismos). At that time, sullego the tares into bundles, but sunago the wheat into My barn. Collect the tares to carry them off, but ingather the wheat. The goal of bundling the tares is to eventually burn them, however in our pre-millennial theology, there should be nothing untoward about withholding ultimate judgment until a later point in time. The real point here is separation. So here it’s sunago for the righteous but sullego for the wicked.

In the parable of the dragnet, all kinds are sunago, meaning ingathered to shore in order to be separated. The good are sullego into vessels, collected in order to be carried off. Obviously being in vessels is a good thing because they will be kept for a good purpose like selling at the market. Remember it’s a parable about everyday language. This is in contrast to the bad which are ballo (cast away). This is the same word which is used in reference to the tares when it states that they are ballo into a furnace of fire, see Matthew 13:42, 48, 50. Here it is sunago for everybody, sullego for the righteous, and ballo for the wicked. It makes sense that the righteous are sullego because the clean animals (fish with scales) would be carried off to market but the unclean would be cast away.

In Matthew 24:28, in parable type language, Jesus warns that during the great tribulation, the elect should not be deceived into trying to find Christ on earth because His coming will be like lightning. Then He enigmatically states that wherever the carcass (ptoma) is, the eagles will be sunago. In Luke 17:34-37, this same statement appears as an answer to a question by the disciples. Jesus states that at the coming of the Son of Man, one will be taken (paralambano, taken to oneself) and the other left. The question, “Where Lord?”, as in, where will they be taken to? The answer is wherever the body (soma, dead or living body) is, the eagles will be sunago, ingathered. In both passages, the eagles† are sunago, gathered together using the same word of wheat ingathered into the barn.

In Matthew 23:37, Jesus laments for Jerusalem stating that He wanted to episunago (into + lead with) the children. This compound word is translated gather together. He compares His desire to a mother hen which would gather her chicks under her wings. This is tender, protective language in the word episunago. In Matthew 24:31 in reference to the gathering of the elect, the angels are sent forth to episunago His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. In Mark 13:27, the angels are sent forth to episunago His elect from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. In Matthew 25:32 when the Son of Man comes in His glory and He sits upon the throne of His glory, then all the nations shall be sunago before Him. Then He separates them as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. In John 14:3, Jesus states He will come again and paralambano the disciples unto Himself that they may be together. In II Thessalonians 2:1, Paul states concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together (episunagoge, epi + synagogue = gathering together to a specific place) not to be deceived. In II Thessalonians 2:2, gathering together is directly related to Matthew 24:31 and all the previous language of the elect being gathered together at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ.

Before going back to Revelation 14:14-16, note that the use of a Greek word does not prove or disprove a reference to the rapture. In John the Baptist’s parable of the threshing floor, the wheat is sunago. In the parable of the wheat and tares, the tares are sullego first, then the wheat is sunago. In the parable of the dragnet, all are sunago, the good are sullego, and the wicked are ballo. In the Olivet Discourse, sunago and episunago refer to the righteous being gathered to Christ. The context of each parable or passage will determine the overall intent of the words being used.

After all that, is it compatible to see the therismos harvest of Matthew 13 being the same therismos harvest of Revelation 14:14-16? Both passages have different contexts and purposes. In Matthew 13, the context is the kingdom of heaven. The purpose is to tell us that the kingdom of heaven will exist in intermingled form until the therismos harvest. The context of Revelation 14:14-16 is a series of apocalyptic visions that will tell us how the coming of Christ will unfold. Here we find mention of the great tribulation and the eschatological wrath of God, both of which were missing from Matthew 13. If we mix the metaphors, the angels separate the tares from among the wheat, then the wheat is gathered into the barn, then the grapes are cast into the great winepress of God’s wrath. The eschatological wrath of God is poured out upon the earth. The righteous reign with Christ for 1000 years. Then at the great white throne judgment the wicked are finally cast into the lake of fire. The tares are set aside to be burned at the end of the age, but not necessarily judged in the ultimate sense at that time. It is all compatible, but because of the different imagery, it is confusing to try to mix the two passages together, one being a parable and the other being a vision. Plus, there is a different purpose for each passage.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, it was not possible to describe the harvest without a separation of the tares first. In the contemporary language of that day, the harvest had to do with the gathering of the wheat, not weeding the garden. So the field had to be cleared of tares before the harvest could begin. The tares could not be gathered into the barn and as they were intermingled with the wheat, some type of separation had to occur in the parable first. This is not to say that all sinners are thrown into the lake of fire before the resurrection of the righteous. If we are to over literalize the parable, that is what we could come away with. After all, the tares are collected in order to be carried off first, then the wheat is gathered into the barn second. So if we are to take this at face value, all the wicked are thrown into the fire first, then the righteous shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father second. But that’s not really what the parable says, and that’s not what it was meant to convey. The ultimate goal in the telling of this parable is that the disciples would not expect the preaching of the kingdom of heaven to be without wicked people mixed in. At the end of the age, see Matthew 28:18-20, the righteous will inherit the earth, see Matthew 5:5, 6:10. It is not the righteous who are removed to another location, but the wicked as they are cast into everlasting fire. The therismos harvest of Revelation 14:14-16 gives us the gathering of the wheat to show that the resurrection of the righteous is occurring. Then The Vintage occurs to show that there is an eschatological judgment of the wicked. But the separation of the wicked could have been occurring during the great tribulation as the wicked are taking the mark of the beast and the righteous are refusing to do so. The eschatological wrath of God is pictured at the great winepress of God’s wrath, but this does not take the place of all the wicked being cast into the lake of fire after the millennium. The two passages are compatible, but they are not the same. The similar language helps us to identify the therismos harvest as being the end of the age in both passages.

The Comparison to the Flood of Noah

Because of the prominence that Jesus gives to the flood of Noah in relation to the end of the age, we should examine what the scriptures have to say about this as well. First off, in simple terms, the flood of Noah is typical of the end of the age. Remember that when Noah and family got on the ark, that was the end of this world as they knew it. There was more to come, though. The flood came, destroyed the world, then later they got off the ark and inherited the new world. But that transition time is what some people get confused about. It’s the same with the end of the age that we are looking forward to. Believers are brought into the presence of the LORD at the coming of Christ. There are 144,000 to remain here on earth supernaturally protected through God’s wrath. God’s wrath is poured out. Then believers step off the ark, in a manner of speaking, and inherit the world to come. The kingdom of heaven will be here on earth.

Matthew 24:36-42 is the passage where the comparison is made by Jesus. Verse 37, as the days of Noah, so shall also the parousia of the Son of Man be. Parousia is the word translated coming and carries the idea of physical presence. In verse 38, Noah entered (eiserchomai) the ark. Eiserchomai is a compound word from erchomia and eis, literally coming into. Erchomai by itself has more the idea of someone coming from one place to another. In verse 39, the flood came (erchomai) and took (airo, lifted up) them all away. Note that Luke 17:27 substitutes the phrase “and destroyed them all” for “and took them all away”. So shall the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be. Verse 40, two will be in the field, one will be paralambano, (taken to oneself), and the other will be aphiemi (sent away, let go). Verse 42, watch therefore, for you know not what hour your Lord comes (erchomai). One group was safe in the ark while the other was carried away by a flood and destroyed, but it was the same flood for both groups. At the coming of the Son of Man, one group will be gathered to the LORD Jesus while the other is slated for destruction.

This parable of one taken and one left was probably everyday language that Jesus used. Remember that Jesus spoke in everyday terms that were easy to understand. For the workers in the field, it was probably a regular occurrence for the Master to show up unannounced if he knew there was a problem with a certain worker. Two workers are working together in the field. The Master shows up and dismisses one (aphiemi, sent away) and invites the other to come back to his home (paralambano, taken to oneself) after a hard day’s work. Two women are grinding at the mill. One is dismissed and the other is taken to be with the Master in his home. This makes sense in the context of the next parable in Matthew 24:45-51. You don’t quite know when the Master is going to show up, so you want to be faithful in serving him at all hours.

This is all in the context of the coming of the Son of Man being like the days of Noah. Noah entered the ark and was safe from the flood. The rest were destroyed in the flood. When Noah gets on the ark, that is the end of the age. When the Son of Man comes on a cloud and harvests the earth, that also is the end of the age. There is a period of time during which the wrath of God is poured out, just like in the days of Noah. Note that Isaiah 54:8 compares God’s anger to the days of Noah which should be sufficient to show that it is a type of God’s wrath. After Revelation 14:14-16, the results are seen in Revelation 15:2 as the victorious are standing on the sea of glass. They are safe in the presence of God while the wrath is being poured out in the form of seven bowl judgments. After the wrath has been poured out, the New Jerusalem descends, which is the bride of Christ, and Christ and His bride reign for one thousand years.

II Peter 3:3-14 also compares the flood of Noah to the coming of Christ, also known here as the Day of the Lord. The comparison is made that those living in the days of Noah had no idea that the earth they were standing on would be judged by God and would overflow with water destroying them all. The earth we stand on now is slated for destruction by fire and most people today are ignorant of that. Some people doubt that “the promise of His coming” will be fulfilled, see II Peter 3:4. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night taking unbelievers and scoffers by surprise. The elements melt thereby burning this earth up, but we know that it results in a new earth and a new heaven just like the flood of Noah resulted in a new earth which the righteous inherited when they got off the ark. In the same way, although this world will be destroyed (melted), the righteous will inherit the new heaven and new earth. We are encouraged to live lives that are holy, godly, without spot, and blameless, that we may be found in Him, see II Peter 3:11, 14. So when we read about the new heavens and new earth in Revelation 21:1, it makes the most sense to see that this is occurring at the second coming of Christ, as the millennial reign begins, but after the wrath of God has been poured out. This eschatological wrath of God is when the elements will melt with fervent heat, see II Peter 3:10. The New Jerusalem descends to show that believers are “getting off the ark” in a manner of speaking. They have been safe in the presence of God for the duration of the wrath of God, now they can inherit the earth, the new earth, the one where righteousness dwells because Christ is with us here on earth.

Seeing Revelation 14:14-16 as the rapture of the church was the position of Historic Premillennialists. You can see my link below to verify this. This passage has been overlooked by many especially those who call themselves PreWrath, which I am PreWrath as well. This study is to show that the Harvest of the Son of Man is the rapture of the church and is compatible with Historic Premillennialism and the PreWrath Rapture positions.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

https://theorangemailmanmyblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/matthew-13-and-revelation-14/

*Footnote ~ Apostasia is the feminine word for apostasion which means divorce. So when a man divorces his wife, that is apostasion which is a noun neuter. But when the people leave God, that is the feminine form of the same word for divorce. This highlights the relationship between God and mankind. God had his bill of divorcement made out for the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 3:8. When people leave God, that also constitutes a “falling away” or leaving our rightful husband. The apostasy which precedes the Day of the LORD seems to be in conjunction with the revealing of the man of sin. In some way, people leave God and believe this man of sin. It’s our way of divorcing God.

† Footnote ~ The Greek word for eagles is aetos. It occurs at least four times in the new testament, Matthew 24:28, Luke 17:37, Revelation 4:7, 12:14, and maybe at Revelation 8:14. Some translations are letting their bias show by translating this as vultures in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37, but they still translate this as eagle in Revelation 4:7, 12:14. After translating this as vultures, they object to this being a reference to the gathering of the elect stating that vultures being gathered to a rotting carcass could not be referring to the elect being gathered to Jesus. People who read these translations should be aware that there is no reason for the word to be translated specifically as vultures and also no reason that this cannot be referring to the gathering of the elect to the body of Christ at His second coming.

Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Historic Premillennialism, Pre-Millennialism, Pre-Wrath, Prewrath | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My Foolishness

The foolishness of my entire life when laid out before me in a moment would be sufficient to strike me dead.

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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:
Hallelujah!
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:
Alleluia!
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:
Alleluia!
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:
Alleluia!
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