WELCOME!!

Welcome to our blog! We are living in a day and age where most churches are dimming their lights, to accommodate the darkness of this world.

Skewed, half and false Gospels are being preached from the pulpits and carnal Christianity has created their own god – A god who does not have any commandments, holiness, justice or wrath, but only love. Biblical teachings on truth and the reality of judgement and hell have also become “hate speech.”

As the elect of God, let’s separate ourselves from all the half-baked teachings and learn from each other, about the things the remnant in these latter days needs to know.

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (23)

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CHAPTER VI (CONTINUE)

Final Period of the Galilean Ministry (Continue)

7. Christ Begins to Foretell His Death and Resurrection
References: Matt. 16:21-28; Mk. 8:31-9:1; Lk. 9:22-27

This passage marks a natural division in the Gospel of Matthew. The two divisions are marked by the expression: “From that time forth Jesus began,” (Matt. 4:17 and 16:21). In the first half the King is presented: in the second half He is rejected. Of course, we see indications of His rejection before this, but now the fact is sealed by the revelation that He is actually going to be put to death.

One would have thought that Jesus would have commended Peter for his loyalty in defending Him from those who would dare to lay a hand on Him, but instead He speaks as though Peter were Satan and rebukes him for being a stumbling block and for not minding the things of God. It is evident from this passage, as well as others, that the primary purpose of the first coming of Jesus into the world was to die a redemptive death. Anything that would turn Him aside from that purpose was Satanically inspired. There are some dispensationalists who teach that the purpose of His first coming was to establish the Kingdom of Israel, but there could be no possibility of the Kingdom being established until Christ had first suffered. In Scripture the order is always, “First the Cross and then the Crown,” (Lk. 24:26; Acts 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 1:11).

Jesus then called unto Him the multitude with His disciples and laid down the rule for those who would follow Him. Before this it was apparently easy to follow Jesus, to get healed, to be fed, but now He is entering upon a dangerous period when violence will come upon Him and His followers. Therefore, He says a man must take up his own cross and be ready to lay down his life for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Those who seek to save their lives would lose them, but paradoxically those who laid down their lives would in reality save them. And it was at this point He uttered the familiar words: “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own life (soul), or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” He ended this discourse with a “verily,” that some standing there would not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom. The statement contains the conditional particle “an” (cf. comments on Matt. 10:23), but the primary reference seems to be to what happened six days later (Matt. 17).

8. The Transfiguration
References: Matt. 17:1-13; Mk. 9:2-13; Lk. 9:28-36

Both Matthew and Mark state that the Transfiguration took place six days later, while Luke states it was about eight days. There is no contradiction. The six days are exclusive; the eight are inclusive. As remarked in the last lesson, the statement that some in that audience would not die until they saw the Son of man coming in His kingdom, contains the untranslatable particle “an” which requires a condition to be fulfilled to make the promise come to pass. We believe that condition was Israel’s national acceptance of Jesus. There was still the possibility that Israel would repent and be converted after the predicted death and resurrection of Christ. However, in view of His impending death Jesus took the inner circle of the disciples up into the mount where He was transfigured before them. Peter refers to this incident in his second epistle (1:16-18):
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”

The word transfigured is the Greek “metamorphosed,” which indicates a change of form, as a pupae is metamorphosed into a butterfly. The essential inner nature is revealed in a new form. When Jesus was metamorphosed His face shone as the sun and His garments became white as the light, glistering and dazzling. This reminds us of Paul’s statement that God dwells in the light which no man can approach unto (1 Tim. 6:16), and of the blinding light which struck him down on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3). This outshining of His glory is surely an evidence of His Deity. The Hebrews writer describes Him as “being the brightness or effulgence of His glory” (Heb. 1:3).

Luke informs us it was while Jesus was praying that He was transfigured, and further, that the two men who appeared with Him in glory, Moses and Elijah, spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. We would not speak of death as an accomplishment, but for Jesus it was the main work He had come to accomplish. He was born to die. We can only wonder what Moses and Elijah said, but apparently that death was the chief topic of conversation in heaven. And on the side, the appearance of these two men with Jesus is proof that there is a conscious existence after death. Although Elijah was translated without dying, we know that Moses did die and was buried by the Lord (Deut. 34:5,6).

Some commentators criticize Peter for being impulsive and brash, but we wonder what we might have said under the circumstances. The Scripture says that Peter really didn’t know what he was saying when he said: “If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles (booths); one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Although Peter put Jesus before Moses and Elijah, it was not God’s purpose to place these two great men of God on a par with Jesus, for while he was yet speaking they were engulfed in a bright cloud of light and the Voice from the cloud declared: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.” Suddenly they looked around and saw no one, save Jesus only.

Luke informs us that they held their peace and told no man in those days of the things which they had seen. Matthew and Mark state as they were coming down from the mountain Jesus told them to tell no man of the vision until the Son of man be risen from the dead. They as yet did not understand the truth of the resurrection, for they questioned among themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean. In fact, they did not understand and believe until Jesus actually appeared and showed them his pierced hands and feet and side and ate in their presence (Lk. 24:36-45 cf. Mk. 16:11-13).

The disciples must have been perplexed by all that was going on. They asked Jesus why the scribes say that Elijah must first come? Jesus replied that Elijah would come first and restore all things, and that Elijah had come and the rulers had done unto him whatsoever they listed, and that He, Jesus would suffer a like fate. Then the disciples understood He was speaking about John the Baptist. (See notes on Matt. 11:13,14.)

9. Demon Possessed Boy Healed
References: Matt. 17: 14-21; Mk. 9:14-29; Lk. 9:37-43

Mark gives us the most detailed account of this healing. While Jesus was on the mountain top being transfigured before His three apostles, Satan was at work at the foot of the mountain tormenting this lad. This demon afflicted the boy with fits of epilepsy, throwing him down, causing him to foam at the mouth and to grind his teeth so that he became speechless. Satan would sometimes throw him into the fire or into the water in an effort to destroy him and this had been going on from his childhood. The father had brought the boy to the other of Jesus’ disciples, but they were unable to cast out the demon. A large crowd had gathered and certain of the scribes were questioning the disciples. When Jesus appeared and was told what was going on, He rebuked them as a faithless and perverse generation, and asked that the boy be brought to Him. While the boy was coming to Jesus the demon threw him to the ground convulsing him violently.

The father pleaded for compassion: “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus told him if he could believe, all things were possible. Whereupon the father cried, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon: “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.” As the spirit came out, he convulsed him again, crying out, and left the boy as dead, so that many said he was dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and restored him to his father.

Naturally, the disciples wondered why they couldn’t cast out the demon, and Jesus told them that this kind of demon could be exorcised only by prayer and fasting, according to Mark, but Matthew gives the additional reason, “Because of your unbelief.” While the gift of exorcism is not listed in the Pauline Church epistles as belonging to this dispensation, these epistles nevertheless tell us of our conflict with Satanic powers and the necessity of having on the whole armor of God, described in Eph. 6:13-17, in order to be victorious over Satan. “Above all,” Paul says, “take the shield of faith.” And part of that armor, or perhaps the environment in which that armor is to be used is, “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”

10. Christ Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection
References: Matt. 17:22,23; Mk. 9:30-32; Lk. 9:44,45

There is a very important fact to be noted in connection with these predictions about Christ’s death. We are so accustomed to making the death of Christ the central truth of the Gospel, we cannot think Gospel apart from that death. That is due to Paul’s clear definition of the gospel which he preached in 1 Cor. 15:1-3. However, earlier in this ninth chapter of Luke we read, “And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (vs. 6). They were preaching the gospel, but what gospel were they preaching? Were they telling the people about the death and resurrection of Christ as the good news of salvation? If anything could be said dogmatically about their preaching of the gospel, it is that not one word was said about the death and resurrection of Christ, apart from which we could not preach the gospel today.

How do we know this? This passage makes it plain: “But they understood not this saying (about His death and resurrection), and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not; and they feared to ask him of that saying” (Lk. 9:45). Later on He told them again of His impending death, and we read: “And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things that were spoken” (Lk. 18:34). If they understood nothing about His death and resurrection and if this truth was hidden from them, it is not likely that they were preaching about it when they were preaching the gospel.

The good news they were preaching was called the gospel of the Kingdom. It was the good news that the long promised Messianic Kingdom was near at hand and that the healing miracles were an evidence of that fact. Of course, the death of Christ was to become the basis for the establishment of that Kingdom, but as yet it was not being proclaimed. That is why we must go to the epistles to learn what the gospel of salvation really is. Those who insist on sticking with the earthly ministry of Christ and fail to go on to the Pauline revelation either confuse the message of salvation or give people a false hope. To preach the Golden Rule as the gospel is to preach salvation by works and thus frustrate the grace of God. The Sermon on the Mount was not given to show how to be saved; it was instruction for the covenant family of God.

11. Tax Money
References: Matt. 17:24-27

In the Law of Moses, Ex. 30:11-16, a half-shekel tax was imposed on rich and poor alike. The rich should not give more nor the poor less. This was called the temple tax. When Peter was asked if his Master paid the temple tax, he replied, “Yes.” When Peter came into the house, before he had opportunity to mention the matter to Jesus, Jesus asked him: “Of whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or custom? of their own children, or of strangers? Of strangers,” Peter replied. “Then are the children free,” said Jesus.

“Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a stater; take that, and give unto them for me and thee.” A stater was a shekel, sufficient to pay the half- shekel for both of them. It is evident that neither Peter nor Jesus had any money, and therefore the miracle.

Jesus in His omniscience knew someone had dropped a stater in the lake. He knew that a certain fish had picked it up while scrounging on the bottom for food. And He knew that when Peter cast in his hook and line this would be the first fish to bite. If Jesus foreknew that much about fish and about one particular fish out of the millions in the sea, how can we doubt but that He knows everything that concerns us human beings, especially those that are His. If He could so work things together with the fish, is He not also able to work all things together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose? It should be noted, however, that this is not the normal way God supplies our financial needs. He is surely able but in His present spiritual order for us today He has commanded that we work to earn for our needs, and if we won’t work neither should we eat (2 Thes. 3:10).

12. Discourse on Little Children
References: Mat t. 18:1-14; Mk. 9:33-50; Lk. 9:46-50

The discourse on little children was occasioned by a dispute among the disciples while on their way to Capernaum. They had been arguing over which one of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom when it was established. When they arrived and came into the house Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about, but they were apparently ashamed to tell Him, so they kept silent. Jesus, of course, knew what had been the subject of discussion, for He knew and still knows all things; so He took a little child in His arms and set it in their midst and proceeded to give them a lesson on humility.

The disciples had been judging greatness no doubt on such qualities as strength, courage, finesse in oratory, knowledge and wisdom. But they had to learn from this little child, which had none of these qualities, that greatness in God’s sight consists in humbleness as of an infant, helpless in itself and totally dependent upon its parents for sustenance. The disciples might have learned this from their Scriptures (cf. 2 Chron. 7:14; Prov. 16:18,19; Mic. 6:8). Jesus, of course, will be the greatest in the Kingdom, not only because He is the Son of God, but because as the Son of man He is the perfect example of humility.

Although having equality with God, He humbled Himself, even to the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:6-9), wherefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name.

Jesus not only used the little child as an object lesson of humility, but He gave a stern warning to anyone who would cause one of these little ones to stumble, to be offended, to go astray. Jesus said that in the world as it is constituted offenses must needs come, but woe to the man by whom they come. It had been better for such a man that a millstone had been hanged around his neck and he had been drowned in the depths of the sea.
Then Jesus spoke of safeguarding one’s self against committing such offenses.

When He speaks of chopping off one’s hands or feet, or plucking out one’s eyes, if these members of the body cause one to commit offenses, we believe He was using figurative language and was not advocating self-mutilation of the body. We have commented on this subject where similar injunctions are given in the Sermon of the Mount. It no doubt would be better to go through life with a maimed body than to have a perfect body and be cast into the lake of fire. For the believer in our present dispensation, he is told to mortify, to put to death his members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, and to put on the new man (Col. 3:3-10). But this is done, not by physically cutting off parts of the body, but by faith reckoning ourselves to have died with Christ and to have risen with Him in newness of life, (Rom. 6:6-13).

Christ’s statement about the angels of the little children beholding the Father’s face in heaven has been used to teach that there is a guardian angel appointed for each child born into the world. There is no other passage in the Bible which teaches such a doctrine, and from the tragic plight of millions of children during the centuries it would seem that the supposed guardians haven’t been doing much guarding. There is a similar statement in Acts 12:15, where Peter was miraculously released from prison where he was to have been beheaded, and where, coming to the door of Mary’s house in which the disciples had met for prayer, the disciples refused to believe it was actually Peter, and said: “It is his angel.” Did they mean Peter’s guardian angel, or Peter’s spirit? It seems most plausible to understand that they thought Peter had been beheaded and this was an apparition of his spirit.

Although one cannot be dogmatic, it also seems plausible to believe that Jesus was speaking about departed spirits of little children who had the closeness of relationship with the Father in heaven. The passage does not teach that children are all in a saved condition because of their innocence, for the very next verse in Matthew states the fact that the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. All humanity is lost by nature, and Jesus came to save the lost, which includes little children.

Matthew next records the parable of the one lost sheep which is applied to infants, for it is not the will of the Father “that one of these little ones should perish.” The same parable is told in Lk. 15 where it is applied to the prodigal son.

On the other hand, Mark records next the parable of the Salt, which was also told on several different occasions, which explains the different ways it is stated. In Matt. 5:13 Jesus said to His disciples: “Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” In our present passage in Mark, Jesus said: “For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost its saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” The Salt parable appears later in Lk. 14:34,35: “Salt is good, but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is fit neither for the land, nor yet for the dunghill, but men cast it out. He that hath ears, let him hear.”

Salt is used primarily in Scripture as a seasoning to make food palatable. Job asked, “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?” (Job 6:6). Mark refers to Lev. 2:13 where it is commanded that every sacrifice be salted with salt. Num. 18:19 speaks of a covenant of salt. When two men ate salt together they bound themselves in a friendship that could not be broken. Anyone who breaks such a covenant of salt is fit only to be cast out. Israel had a covenant of salt with God, but they had broken it, and according to custom and to parable, they were fit neither for the land nor the dunghill, but to be cast out.

Salt was also used as an antiseptic. Newborn babies were bathed and salted (Ezek. 16:4). Here salt takes on a purifying aspect. We know that salt is also used as a preservative for meats. Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” and “have salt in yourselves.” What did He mean? He meant that everything that salt is to the material world, His disciples were to be to the people of the world. Paul said: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). Speech seasoned with salt is just the opposite of corrupt communications out of the mouth (Eph. 4:29).

Mark and Luke both inject into this context John’s answer concerning the incident of the disciples forbidding a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name because he did not belong to the company of the disciples. John’s answer to Jesus was apparently called forth by Jesus’ words in the previous verse about receiving such “children in my name.” John said the man whom they had rebuked was casting out demons “in thy name.” John’s conscience was apparently bothered by what they had done. Jesus replied: “Forbid him not: for there is no man that shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.”

These words of Jesus are in contrast to what He said in Matt. 7:22,23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have we cast out demons? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I confess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” These statements appear to be contradictory. However, the Lord knows what is in the heart of man, and these in the latter passage He knew to be workers of iniquity, even though they claimed to have done these things in His name. The man whom the disciples had forbidden apparently was a true believer.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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THE RAPTURE SERIES 15: THE BELIEVERS’ LAST BATTLE (PART 4 OF 4)

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END OF SERIES – CONCLUSION

“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:8-11).

These marvelous words reveal to us that not only is Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, but all things will be put under His subjection. Jesus, the Living Word of God, has created all things and “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things” including our perfect salvation! It is both literally and physically impossible for me to fully comprehend the last line of this verse, “he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” However, my admission does not change the fact that we have indeed become His brethren, sons and daughters of God. We are so much a part of God’s family that no earthly family can ever compare. The final answer to the Lord’s high priestly prayer is yet to be fulfilled, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23).

If we as believers would realize just a fraction of the glorious things God has wrought for us, we would not take ourselves too seriously. We would worry much less about things we can’t change and while we remain on earth, our lives would be filled and overflowing with the peace that passes all understanding.

I wanted to convey these few words of encouragement to you in my conclusion of the Rapture series.

Throughout this study, we laid down some indisputable facts regarding the reality of the Rapture—facts which cannot be moved or removed by any interpretation. Jesus said that He will come again to take us to Himself. In order for that to happen, certain events in history had to first take place.

We must never be so naive as to think that such events as the uproar of the nations, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, floods, fires, pestilences, and others take place coincidentally. That is far from the truth because these phenomena serve only one purpose: to call out a people for His name. God does not make mistakes, nor does He need to apologize. His resolutions are eternal because He is from everlasting to everlasting.

When we understand God’s plan for mankind we shouldn’t have much difficulty comprehending the words of Amos 3:6, “… shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6). When we grasp these things spiritually, we see that we do not need to worry about the frightening events taking place in the world today. In holy reverence, we can sing with the hymn writer, “He’s got the whole world in His hands….”

Calling Out of His People

We have thoroughly discussed the relationship between Israel and the Church. God chose Abraham, from whom He brought forth a nation, Israel. She in turn brought forth the man-child Jesus, “… who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Revelation 10:5). Jesus: Son of God, and Son of man. On Calvary’s cross, He accomplished the greatest redemptive work in history when He cried out, “It is finished.” Since then, the final selection process has been progressing. From Israel and all the nations of the world, God is gathering a new people, born again of His Spirit, for His heavenly kingdom. This selection is no longer limited to Israel, who received a distinct promise of territory. Today, anyone who, by the grace of God, has an ear to hear may respond to the message, believe it, and as a result, be added to the innumerable host of heavenly citizens comprising the Church of Jesus Christ.

The selection process has been taking place since 33 A.D. and will be completed when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, at which time the Rapture will take place.

In the Bible, God has given us many examples of His intention to save mankind. One example was the salvation of Noah and his family. Only those who entered the ark by faith were saved from the flood. The same principle is valid today; those who enter the heavenly ark through the door (Jesus Christ) are saved for eternity.

Light And Darkness

During these many centuries, God in His grace has not sent destructive judgment upon the powers of darkness, but He has permitted darkness to exist parallel to the light. Every person born on planet Earth either continues in the way of darkness or comes to the Light. John testifies of Jesus when he says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). It is the job of the children of light to exemplify the way to the Light to those in darkness, which is why Jesus said to His Church, “ye are the light of the world.”

Darkness includes all things on earth. Everything we see, hear, or touch outside of the Gospel is subject to darkness. Every nation and every government on our planet is subject to darkness. The god of this world, the prince of darkness, rules the earth, as evident in 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” This dark force cannot destroy the children of light because, as we illustrated earlier in the series, light is stronger than darkness. However, God in His counsel has determined that darkness will eventually cover the entire world. We concluded that this cannot take place while the Church is still present.

The Great Tribulation

The prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, as well as Jesus Himself, prophesied that the Great Tribulation would come on planet Earth and that it would be a time such as has never been experienced before, nor will it be repeated. In those days of darkness mankind will voluntarily believe the great lie, that salvation may be obtained through good behavior and does not depend on any particular form of religion. This philosophy is accepted today as “politically correct.” The continuous success of the world in relation to peace and prosperity will reinforce humanity’s belief that they should be centered on themselves instead of the Savior.

Second Thessalonians 2:9-10 says, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” The truth is that man cannot save himself; he is lost. He’s not lost because of the bad deeds he may have committed, but because he is a sinner by birth. To the question, “What must you do to end up in Hell?” the answer is nothing! Everyone from birth is destined to Hell. For that reason, God the Father sent Jesus so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Just as a person does not have to do anything particularly bad to remain Hellhound, the same applies to a person who wants to go to Heaven but does not have to do anything to get there other than believe.

Virtually all religions, including much of Christianity, are proclaiming that man must either work for his salvation or at least contribute his part so that he may qualify. That is the great deception of Satan. Those who embrace that belief do not love the truth. Continuing in verse 11, we read, “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”

The great contradiction of the present day is the existence of the Church. Within the Church, there is a light which stands in opposition to darkness. As long as this light remains on Earth, the Great Tribulation, the epitome of darkness, cannot take place. The moment the Church is removed, darkness will prevail and the lie will be accepted as truth, which has been clearly and thoroughly addressed in this series.

The Spirit Must Depart For Jesus To Return

Israel’s salvation cannot take place as long as the Church is present on earth. We find support of this in Jesus’ response to the disciples, “. ..It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).

Plainly, Jesus was saying that if He did not depart, the Comforter would not come; but when He did depart, the Comforter would indeed come.

Now this will take place in reverse. Jesus cannot literally and physically come back to earth as long as the Comforter [the Holy Spirit] remains on earth.

The Comforter dwells in the heart of the believer! Therefore, it is impossible for Jesus to come back with His saints unless they are first taken out of the way so that He can come back to earth with them!

What Are You Waiting For?

Please allow me again to ask, “What are you waiting for?” If you are waiting for the Great Tribulation, then you cannot be waiting for Jesus. If you are waiting for the appearing of the Antichrist, then you cannot be waiting for Jesus. If you are waiting for better times, for peace and prosperity, then you cannot be waiting for Jesus. If you are not waiting for Jesus, you are not a child of God.

If you are not a child of God, at this point you should be asking yourself, “How can I become a child of God?” It is almost too easy to be true, yet it is true! Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! Right after you have read the last lines of this series, get down on your knees and confess to God that you are a sinner. Admit that you cannot save yourself. Realize that you are in need of redemption. Someone else must pay for your sins; you can’t do it yourself. If that is the case, you are on the right track toward salvation. You may pray a simple prayer: “Dear God: I realize that I am a sinner and I believe that Jesus Christ paid for my sins when He died on Calvary’s cross, pouring out His blood as full payment for my sins. I now consciously and deliberately ask Jesus to save me from my sins, come into my heart and make me a child of God.” When you sincerely pray this, then the prophetic Scripture will be fulfilled, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” And the wonderful promise of John 3:36 will be instantly fulfilled in your life: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life!”

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

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UNDERSTANDING MATTHEW 24 & 25 – ACCORDING TO JOHN WALVOORD

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A DOWNLOADABLE PDF VERSION IS POSTED AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE

Chapter 24

The Signs of the End of the Age

Introductory Considerations

The discourse of Christ on the Mount of Olives is one of the four major discourses of Christ and should be compared in its content to the Sermon on the Mount, dealing with the moral and ethical principles of the kingdom (Mt 5-7); the discourse on the present age; the kingdom in its mystery form while the King is absent (Mt 13); and the upper room discourse, dealing with the church as the body of Christ in the present age (Jn 13-17). By contrast, the discourse on the Mount of Olives contains Christ’s teaching on the end of the age, the period leading up to the second coming of Christ to set up His kingdom on earth.

The Olivet discourse was delivered after Christ’s scathing denunciation, in Matthew 23, of the hypocrisy and false religion which characterized the scribes and Pharisees, closing with His lament over Jerusalem, where the prophets of God through the centuries had been rejected and martyred.

Prediction of Destruction of the Temple, 24:1-2

After delivering the denunciation of the scribes and the Pharisees, Christ left the temple, according to Matthew 24:1-2; and as He left, His disciples pointed out the magnificence of the temple buildings. The temple had been under construction since 20 B.C., and, though not actually completed until a.d. 64, its main buildings apparently were largely finished. To the disciples, the temple seemed an impressive evidence of the solidarity of Israel’s religious life and of God’s blessing upon Jerusalem.

When the disciples pointed out the temple, according to verse 2, Jesus said, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” The disciples apparently received these solemn words in silence, but their thoughts were sobering. The temple was made of huge stones, some of them many tons in size, carved out in the stone quarries underneath the city of Jerusalem. Such large stones could be dislodged only through deliberate force. The sad fulfillment was to come in a.d. 70, only six years after the temple was completed, when the Roman soldiers deliberately destroyed the temple, prying off stones one by one and casting them into the valley below. Recent excavations have uncovered some of these stones.

Questions of the Disciples, 24:3

As they walked from the temple area through the Kidron Valley and up the slope of the Mount of Olives, the disciples, no doubt, were pondering these solemn words of Christ. Matthew 24:3 records that when Christ sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples then came with their questions. According to Mark 13:3, questions were asked by Peter, James, John, and Andrew.

Matthew 24:3 records, “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” The disciples had in mind, of course, that the destruction of Solomon’s temple, in 586 b.c, preceded the time of captivity. How did the temple’s future destruction relate to the promise of the coming kingdom and their hope that Christ would reign over the nation of Israel?

The discourse that follows depends for its interpretation on the question of whether these prophecies should be interpreted literally. Amillenarians, who do not interpret literally any prophecy concerning a future millennial reign of Christ, tend to take the prophecies in this discourse in a general rather than a particular way, and frequently try to find fulfillment in the first century in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. Postmillenarians, following the idea that the gospel will gradually triumph over the entire world, have to spiritualize it even more, because this discourse indicates a trend toward increasing evil, which Christ will judge at His second coming.

Liberal interpreters consider this discourse as only a summary of apocalyptic ideas current in the first century, presented here as if taught by Christ but probably not actually uttered by Christ. M’Neile, for instance, states, Some predictions of Jesus concerning the nearness of the End probably formed the basis upon which a Jewish-Christian writer compiled a series of sayings, many of them couched in the conventional language of Jewish eschatology. This theory of a Small Apocalypse is widely accepted in various forms by modern writings.

After citing Moffat, B. Weiss, J. Weiss, Zahn, and others, M’Neile adds, “The compiler of it gave some doubtless genuine sayings of Jesus, and also some that reflect a later date when Christians had begun to realize that some delay must be expected before the Parousia.”

Those who take the Olivet discourse literally, of course, not only reject the liberal interpretation, but also the amillenarian view of this discourse. Premillenarians, accordingly, interpret the discourse as an accurate statement of end-time events, which will lead up to and climax in the second coming of Christ to set up His millennial kingdom on the earth.

Some variations, however, may also be observed in pre-millennial interpretation. Those who believe that the rapture, or translation of the church, occurs before the time of trouble at the end of the age usually do not believe that the rapture is in view at all in this discourse, as the rapture was first introduced in John 14:1-3, the night before Jesus was crucified, sometime after the Olivet discourse. Those accepting the posttribulational view, that the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ occur at the same time, tend to ignore the details of this discourse in the same fashion as the amillenarians do. For instance, G. Campbell Morgan skips over Matthew 24:15-22, which is the most important portion of Matthew 24.

If the details of this discourse are observed and interpreted literally, it fits best with the view that the rapture is not revealed in this discourse at all, but is a later revelation, introduced by Christ in John 14 and revealed in more detail in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. There, the “blessed hope” that Christ will come for His church before these end-time events overtake the world is revealed.

The period climaxing in the second coming of Christ to the earth, according to many premillenarians, begins with the rapture, or translation of the church, and is followed by the rapid rise of a dictator in the Middle East who makes a covenant with Israel. As a result of this covenant, Israel enjoys protection and peace for three-and-a-half-years. Then the covenant is broken, and the final three-and-a-half years leading up to the second coming of Christ is a period of great tribulation and time of Israel’s trouble.

The second coming of Christ begins His millennial reign of one thousand years, which in turn is followed by the new heaven and the new earth and the eternal state. The Olivet discourse, accordingly, is in some sense a summary of the same period described in Revelation 6-19.

In Matthew 24:3, the disciples had asked three questions: (1) “Tell us, when shall these things be?”; (2) “What shall be the sign of thy coming?”; and (3) What shall be the sign “of the end of the world?” Matthew’s gospel does not answer the first question, which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. This is given more in detail in Luke, while Matthew and Mark answer the second and third questions, which actually refer to Christ’s coming and the end of the age as one and the same event. Matthew’s account of the Olivet discourse records that portion of Christ’s answer that relates to His future kingdom and how it will be brought in, which is one of the major purposes of the gospel.

Course of the Present Age, 24:4-14

Expositors have taken various approaches to the introductory remarks of Christ. G. Campbell Morgan, for instance, regards the whole section of Matthew 24:4-22 as already fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. Morgan states, “Everything predicted from verse six to verse twenty-two was fulfilled to the letter in connection with the Fall of Jerusalem within a generation.” Alfred Plummer goes a step further and includes verse 28 as fulfilled in a.d. 70.

Both Morgan and Plummer ignore the identification of the “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:15, 21 as a specific future period of time, and also ignore the details of the prophecy, not even attempting an exegesis of most of the verses.

Accordingly, if the interpreter of this section wants to take the prophecies literally and find a reasonable explanation of the predictions, he must limit the introductory section to Matthew 24:4-14. While variations in interpretation occur, H. A. Ironside expresses a plausible view that verses 4-8 give general characteristics of the age, and that verses 9-14 emphasize the particular signs of the end of the age.

Other premillennial interpreters, however, prefer to take Matthew 24:4-14 as a unit, describing the general characteristics of the age leading up to the end, while at the same time recognizing that the prediction of the difficulties, which will characterize the entire period between the first and second coming of Christ, are fulfilled in an intensified form as the age moves on to its conclusion. If Matthew 24:4-14 deals with general signs, then verses 15-26 may be considered as specific signs. The second coming of Christ is revealed in verses 27-31, which should be compared with the more detailed prophecy of Revelation 19:11-21.

In Matthew 24:4-14, at least nine major characteristics of this general period are described. These characteristics may be itemized as follows: (1) false Christs, 24:4-5; (2) wars and rumors of wars, 24:6-7; (3) famines, 24:7; (4) pestilence, 24:7; (5) earthquakes, 24:7; (6) many martyrs, 24:8-10; (7) false prophets, 24:11; (8) increasing evil and loss of fervent love, 24:12; and (9) worldwide preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, 24:13-14.

In general, these signs have been at least partially fulfilled in the present age and have characterized the period between the first and second coming of Christ. They should be understood as general signs rather than specific signs that the end is near.

As stated in verse 8, these are the beginning rather than the end of the sorrows which characterize the close of the age.

Accordingly, through the centuries, there have been many false religious leaders or false Christs. War, famine, and pestilence are still with us. There is some evidence that there is an increase in earthquakes, and, of course, Scriptures record that the greatest earthquake of all time will occur just before the second coming of Christ (Rev 16:18-20). There have been many martyrs through the centuries and probably more in the twentieth century than even in the first century. False prophets and false teachings have plagued the church and the world. The increase in iniquity and loss of fervent love are all too evident in the world, and are detailed, for instance, in Christ’s message to the churches of the first century in Revelation 2-3.

Throughout the age also there is the announcement of the coming kingdom when Christ will reign on earth, which, of course, will be preached in intensified form as the end approaches. The age in general, climaxing with the second coming of Christ, has the promise that those that endure to the end (Mt 24:13), that is, survive the tribulation and are still alive, will be saved, or delivered, by Christ at His second coming. This is not a reference to salvation from sin, but rather the deliverance of survivors at the end of the age as stated, for instance, in Romans 11:26, where the Deliverer will save the nation Israel from its persecutors. Many, of course, will not endure to the end, in the sense that they will be martyred, even though they are saved by faith in Christ, and the multitude of martyrs is mentioned in Revelation 7:9-17.

Taken as a whole, the opening section, ending with Matthew 24:14, itemizes general signs, events, and situations which mark the progress of the age, and, with growing intensity, indicate that the end of the age is approaching. These signs, however, by their very characteristics and because they have occurred throughout the present age, do not constitute a direct answer to the question of “the sign” of the coming of the Lord.

Sign of the Great Tribulation, 24:15-25

This portion of the Olivet discourse is crucial to understanding what Christ reveals about the end of the age. The tendency to explain away this section or ignore it constitutes the major difficulty in the interpretation of the Olivet discourse. In the background is the tendency of liberals to discount prophecy and the practice of some conservatives of not interpreting prophecy literally. If this prediction means what it says, it is referring to a specific time of great trouble which immediately precedes the second coming of Christ. As such, the prediction of the great tribulation is “the sign” of the second coming, and those who see the sign will be living in the generation which will see the second coming itself. Accordingly, the interpretation of G. Campbell Morgan, which relates this to the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, and the view of Alfred Plummer, which relates it to the second coming of Christ as if fulfilled in the first century, are unjustified interpretations, if the passage is taken seriously.

The fact that the book of Revelation, which practically all expositors date after the destruction of Jerusalem, coincides so exactly with this presentation makes it clear that Christ was not talking here about fulfillment in the first century, but prophecy to be related to His actual second coming to the earth in the future. William Kelly states it concisely, “The conclusion is clear and certain: in verse 15 of Matthew 24, our Lord alludes to that part of Daniel which is yet future, not to what was history when He spoke this on the mount of Olives.”

The sign of the future tribulation is identified with what Christ calls the sign of “the abomination of desolation” (v. 15).

Jesus said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (vv. 15-16). The event is so specific that it will be a signal to the Jews living in Judea at the time to flee to the mountains. What did Christ mean by the expression “the abomination of desolation”?

This term is found three times in the book of Daniel (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Its definition is found in Daniel 11:31 in the prophecy written by Daniel concerning a Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, who reigned over Syria 175-164 B.C., about four hundred years after Daniel.

In his prophecy, Daniel predicted, “They shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate” (11:31). As this was fulfilled in history, it is comparatively easy to understand what Daniel meant. Antiochus Epiphanes was a great persecutor of the people of Israel, as recorded in the apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. In attempting to stamp out the Jewish religion, he murdered thousands of Jews, including women and children, and desecrated the temple of Israel, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt.

Antiochus, in attempting to stop the temple sacrifices, offered a sow, an unclean animal, on the altar, to render the Jewish temple abominable to the Jews (cf. 1 Mac 1:48). According to 1 Maccabees 1:57, the abomination of desolation was actually set up, and a statue of a Greek god was installed in the temple. For a time, the sacrifices of the Jews were stopped, and the temple was left desolate. The action of Antiochus in stopping the sacrifices, desecrating the temple, and setting up an idol in the temple is going to be repeated in the future as the signal of the beginning of the great tribulation.

This future abomination is described in Daniel 9:27: “He [the prince that shall come] shall confirm the covenant with many [Israel] for one week” (literally, “one seven,” meaning seven years, as practically all commentators, even those who are liberal, agree). The prophecy continues, “And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate.” The prediction is that a future prince will do just what Antiochus did in the second century B.C.

Further light is cast on this in Daniel 12:11, where it states, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days,” or approximately three-and-a-half-years preceding the second coming of Christ. H. A. Ironside summarizes it, “Our Lord tells us definitely here that His second advent is to follow at once upon the close of that time of trouble; so it is evident that this day of trial is yet in the future.”

The New Testament, in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, describes the same period, with the ruler setting himself up as God in the temple. Revelation 13:14-15 also records that an image of the ruler will be set up in the temple. These events did not take place in the first century in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, and are closely related to the future fulfillment on the second coming of Christ.

These predictions have raised questions concerning the meaning of Israel’s present occupation of the city of Jerusalem. If sacrifices are going to be stopped in a Jewish temple in the future, it requires, first, that a Jewish temple be built, and second, that the sacrifices be reinstituted. This has led to the conclusion that the present possession of Israel of the temple site since 1967 may be a divinely ordered preparation, that in God’s time, the temple will be rebuilt and the sacrifices begun again.

Although this is difficult to understand in view of the fact that the shrine, the Dome of the Rock, is apparently on the site of the ancient temple and hinders any present erection of such a temple, many believe that, nevertheless, such a temple will be rebuilt and these prophecies literally fulfilled. If upon this revival of their sacrificial system such a future temple is suddenly desecrated, it would constitute a sign to the nation of Israel of the coming time of great trouble just preceding the second coming of Christ.

The sign is so specific that on the basis of it, Christ advised the children of Israel to flee to the mountain without hesitation when it occurs. His instructions were dramatic, as recorded in Matthew 24:16-20. They were to flee immediately to the mountains of Judea, not return to take clothes or other provisions, and pray that their flight will not be in the winter, when it would be most uncomfortable, or on the Sabbath, when their flight would be noticeable. Especially difficult would be the lot of those with small children. Christ summarizes these predictions in 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

The great tribulation, accordingly, is a specific period of time beginning with the abomination of desolation and closing with the second coming of Christ, in the light of Daniel’s prophecies and confirmed by reference to forty-two months. In Revelation 11:2 and 13:5, the great tribulation is a specific three-and-a-half-year period leading up to the second coming and should not be confused with a general time of trouble, such as was predicted earlier in Matthew 24:4-14.

Jesus also predicted that the period would be “shortened” (v. 22), literally, terminated or cut off (Gr. ekolobothesan). This does not mean that the period will be less than three-and-a-half years, but that it will be definitely terminated suddenly by the second coming of Christ.

That the period would be a time of unprecedented trouble is brought out clearly in Revelation 6-19. One of the various judgments, the fourth seal (6:7-8), predicts a fourth part of the earth perishing. In Revelation 9:13-21, the sixth trumpet refers to a third part of the world’s population being killed. These are only part of the great catastrophies which fall one after another upon the world and which will climax in a great world war (16:12-16). The final judgment just before the second coming, described as the seventh bowl of the wrath of God (vv. 17-21), consists in a great earthquake, which apparently destroys cities of the world, and a hailstorm, with hailstones weighing a talent, or as much as eighty pounds. Putting all these Scriptures together, it indicates that the great tribulation will mark the death of hundreds of millions of people in a comparatively short period of time.

Because the great tribulation is unprecedented in history and consists largely in judgments of God on an unbelieving world, many interpreters have come to the conclusion that the church will not have to go through this period. If the church must endure the great tribulation, the chances of survival are quite remote as it is obvious that many who do turn to Christ in that period perish as martyrs. They are described as “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (Rev 7:9), referring to both Jews and Gentiles who will die in the great tribulation. The possibility of rapture for the few that survive is not “the blessed hope” which is held before Christians in the New Testament.

Our hope is not the horrors of the tribulation, but the blessed expectation of Christ’s coming for His own (cf. 1 Th 4:13-18). Having introduced the specific sign of the second coming, which is the great tribulation, Jesus then described other details of the period. Just as there have been false Christs throughout the age, so there will be an intensification of this at the end of the age. Jesus stated, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Mt 24:24). He went on, in verse 25, to state, “Behold, I have told you before.” Here, He was refering to His frequent mention of false prophets (cf. Mt 7:15; 15:3-14; 16:6-12; 23:1-36; 24:11). While false Christs and false prophets have always been in evidence, they will be especially prominent at the end of the age in Satan’s final attempt to turn people from faith in Christ.

Second Coming of Christ, 24:26-31

One who believes the prophetic Scripture will have no difficulty identifying the second coming of Christ, because it will be a public event. Accordingly, Christ, in 24:26, stated, “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” Unlike the rapture of the church, which apparently the world will not see or hear, the second coming of Christ will be witnessed both by believers and unbelievers who are on the earth at that time. Christ described it in verse 27, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Apparently, the heavens will be ablaze with the glory of God. According to Revelation 1:7, “Every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.”

This declaration is supported by a cryptic statement in Matthew 24:28, “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” The meaning is that the glorious coming of Christ is the natural sequence to blasphemy and unbelief, which characterizes the preceding period. Just as when an animal dies, the vultures gather, so when there is moral corruption, there must be divine judgment.

This is further described in verses 29-30, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 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.” The frightening display of divine disruption of the heavens, which precedes the second coming described graphically in Revelation 6:12-14 and in many other of the judgments of God described in the book of Revelation, will be climaxed by the glorious appearing of Christ in heaven (cf. Rev 19:11-16). This will be a coming of the Lord to judge and subdue the earth and to bring in His earthly kingdom, and is in contrast to the rapture of the church, which is an entirely different event and with a different purpose.

His second coming to the earth is nevertheless a gathering of all “his elect” as stated in Matthew 24:31. Some believe this has a particular reference to the nation Israel as an elect nation. Probably the reference is to all those who are chosen, that is, the saints of all ages, whether in heaven or on earth, for all these will converge upon the millennial kingdom scene. While Matthew mentions only the elect of heaven, Mark 13:27 also mentions those on earth, referred to later in Matthew 25:32.

Taken as a whole, the second coming of Christ is a majestic event, not instantaneous like the rapture, but extending over many hours. This perhaps explains why everyone can see it, because in the course of a day, the earth will rotate and the entire world will be able to see the approach of Christ accompanied by the hosts of heaven, which will descend to the earth in the area of the Mount of Olives (Zee 14:4).

The entire passage from Matthew 24:15-31 is the specific answer to the disciples of the sign of His coming and of the end of the age, with the climactic sign being the second coming and the glory that attends it, and will fulfill the prophecy of Acts 1:11 that Christ will return as He went up into heaven, that is, His return will be physical, gradual, visible, and with clouds.

Matthew 24:31 brings to a close the first doctrinal section of the Olivet discourse, and what follows is a series of applications and illustrations.

Parable of the Fig Tree, 24:32-33

In interpreting the illustrations which follow, while there may be secondary applications of the truth to the church awaiting the rapture, the laws of exegesis would dictate that the illustrations should relate to the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. Accordingly, while this passage may have a general application to saints in the present age, it will have a particular application to those who will await the second coming of Christ to the earth. Accordingly, in interpreting illustrations, the question should be raised, What does the context indicate?

This is especially appropriate in consideration of the fig tree. In 24:32-33, Christ stated, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” A very popular interpretation of this passage considers the fig tree as a type, or illustration, of Israel. According to this view, the fact that Israel in the twentieth century is back in the land constitutes a budding of the fig tree, and may be taken as conclusive proof that the Lord’s return is near.

Commentaries which try to refer this entire passage to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, of course, pass it over with no comment, as do G. Campbell Morgan and Willoughby C. Allen, or apply it to the destruction of Jerusalem, as does R. V. G. Tasker.

Actually, while the fig tree could be an apt illustration of Israel, it is not so used in the Bible. In Jeremiah 24:1-8, good and bad figs illustrate Israel in the captivity, and there is also mention of figs in 29:17. The reference to the fig tree in Judges 9:10-11 is obviously not Israel. Neither the reference in Matthew 21:18-20 nor that in Mark 11:12-14 with its interpretation in 11:20-26, gives any indication that it is referring to Israel, any more than the mountain referred to in the passage.

Accordingly, while this interpretation is held by many, there is no clear scriptural warrant. A better interpretation is that Christ was using a natural illustration. Because the fig tree brings forth new leaves late in the spring, the budding of the leaves is evidence that summer is near. In a similar way, when those living in the great tribulation see the signs predicted, they will know that the second coming of Christ is near. The signs in this passage, accordingly, are not the revival of Israel, but the great tribulation itself. Lenski, accordingly, is correct when he states that “all these things” mentioned in Matthew 24:33 refer to the preceding context.132 That Israel’s presence in the holy land is a dramatic evidence that the age is approaching its end may be supported by other passages, but this is not the point here.

Christ further commented in verses 34-36, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

What is the meaning of the expression this generation? Some have cited this as an illustration of an error on the part of Christ, for a generation is normally from thirty to one hundred years, and obviously, the prophecy of the second coming was not fulfilled in that period. Commentators offer a variety of opinions. Some refer “generation” to the nation Israel.133 The meaning, then, would be that Israel would continue as a nation until the second coming of Christ. Some take generation to refer to an indefinite period of time. Arndt and Gingrich, while offering the possibility that generation means nation or race, prefer age or period of time, and, accordingly, take it as instructing the disciples that the age leading up to the second coming will not end until the event of the second coming itself.134 A third explanation is that the word generation means what it normally means, that is, a period of thirty to one hundred years, and refers to the particular generation that will see the specific signs, that is, the signs of the great tribulation. In other words, the same generation that will experience the great tribulation will also witness the second coming of Christ.

In any case, Christ points out that while prophecy is absolutely certain of fulfillment, the day of the second coming is not revealed, although the approximate time will be known by those living in the great tribulation.

To illustrate this approximate time of the second coming, He used the historic flood in the time of Noah. While those observing Noah building the ark could anticipate that a flood was impending, it was obvious that the flood could not come until the ark was completed. So also with the second coming. Unlike the rapture, which has no preceding signs and therefore could occur any time, the second coming of Christ to the earth to set up His kingdom cannot occur until the preceding signs have been fulfilled. When the ark was completed and Noah and his family and the animals were in it, those observing could anticipate that the predicted flood could occur any day. But even then, they could not predict the day nor the hour.

Like the days of Noah, the time of the second coming will be a period of judgment on the earth. Just as the flood came “and took them all away,” referring to the judgment of unbelievers, so at the second coming, some will be taken away. According to Matthew 24:40-41, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Because at the rapture believers will be taken out of the world, some have confused this with the rapture of the church.

Here, however, the situation is the reverse. The one who is left, is left to enter the kingdom; the one who is taken, is taken in judgment. This is in keeping with the illustration of the time of Noah when the ones taken away are the unbelievers. The word for “shall be taken” in verses 40-41 uses the same word found in John 19:16, where Christ was taken away to the judgment of the cross. Accordingly, no one can know the day nor the hour, but they can know that when the second coming occurs, it will be a time of separation of the saved from the unsaved.

Emphasizing the necessity of watchfulness for the Lord’s return, He used the illustration of the good man of the house who, anticipating the possibility that a thief would come, kept careful watch. Just as one cannot know when a thief may come, so the servants of God who live in the great tribulation should expect Christ to come (cf. 1 Th 5:2).

In addition to watchfulness, however, there should be careful service and preparation. This is illustrated in the parable of the servant, beginning in Matthew 24:45. Having been left in charge of his master’s household in the absence of the master, the servant was challenged to do his duty well and not to live carelessly, thinking that the lord would not be coming soon. The careless servant will be severely judged as an unbeliever, in contrast to the good servant who will be rewarded by his Lord.

An unfaithful slave could be put to death and punished severely. So will Christ judge a wicked world that does not look for His return.

While these illustrations, beginning in verse 32, have as their primary interpretation and exhortation the situation immediately preceding the second coming of Christ, there are parallels to those living today in expectation of the rapture.

Believers today also need to be faithful, to be recognizing the signs of the times, and to be living in such a way that they are ready for the Lord’s return. Even among those who differ in their basic interpretation of prophecy, there is this constant unifying note of being ready for the Lord’s return. John Calvin, for instance, in commenting on 1 John 2:18, states, “It behooves us to comfort ourselves at this day, and to see by faith the near advent of Christ … nothing more now remained but that Christ should appear for the redemption of the world.”

Martin Luther likewise anticipated the early return of the Lord, stating “I think the last day is not far away.”136 He also adds, “The world runs and hastens so diligently to its end that it often occurs to me forcibly that the last day will break before we can completely turn the Holy Scriptures into German. For it is certain from the Holy Scriptures that we have no more temporal things to expect. All is done and fulfilled.” So today, even though we may not understand all the prophetic Word and may not interpret it alike, believers should be looking for the coming of the Lord. As stated in 1 John 3:3, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Chapter 25

Judgments at the End of the Age

Parable of the Ten Virgins, 25:1-13

The familiar illustration of the ten virgins, as presented in Matthew 25, is a further effort by Christ to drive home the necessity of watchfulness and preparation for His second coming. An oriental wedding had three stages: first, the legal marriage arranged by the parents of the bridegroom and the bride; second, the traditional ceremony, when the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, would proceed from his home to the home of the bride and claim her as his own; third, the marriage feast held at the home of the bridegroom.

The illustration presumes that the legal marriage has already taken place and can reasonably be identified with the marriage of Christ and the church already consummated at the rapture. When Christ returns at His second coming, He will bring His bride with Him. The five virgins who bring oil in their vessels illustrate those that are ready for His return. The five foolish maidens, although outwardly prepared, are not really ready. When the time comes for the marriage feast, they are not prepared to enter into the procession and join the feast.

Although interpretation is not given in this passage, oil may be taken here as representative of the Holy Spirit and His work of salvation. When Christ comes to earth with His bride, only those prepared by new birth will enter into the wedding feast, which seems to be fulfilled in the millennium or at least the first portion of the millennium. Some commentators desire to apply the ten virgins to the church in the present age. The fact that the word then is used in 25:1 seems to refer to the second coming of Christ to the earth.

Although worthy expositors can be cited in support of this view,138 it is preferable to interpret it strictly in the context of the second coming of Christ. Actually, the bride, the church, is not in view specifically. Although the Syriac and Vulgate versions of verse 1 read that they “went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride,”139 it is questionable whether this addition was in the original text, even though it is true that Christ will bring His bride with Him. The important point here, as in the preceding illustration, is that preparation should precede the second coming of Christ and that it will be too late when He comes.

What is true of the second coming is, of course, also true of the rapture, and believers today can derive a secondary application of this passage for their own need. In our modern world, where superficial religion is all too evident, this passage reminds us once again that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the oil, no one is ready for the coming of the Lord.

Parable of the Talents, 25:14-30

The familiar parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is the sixth and final illustration Christ used in regard to preparedness for His second coming. Here, the emphasis is on serving rather than watching, as in the parable of the virgins.

As was customary in the ancient world, the master of the servants was pictured as turning over his property to his servants because he was going on a journey. He divided his property to his three servants according to their ability, giving five talents to one, two to another, and one talent to the third.

A talent was a large sum of money, varying greatly in value according to whether it was silver or gold, and could weigh from fifty-eight to eighty pounds. A silver talent could be worth as much as $2,000, and a gold talent could be worth as much as $30,000. With the rise in price of these metals, today the value would even be higher. When taking into consideration that a man’s wage in Christ’s time was sixteen cents a day, the purchasing power of this amount of money was very large. At maximum, the five-talent man could have received as much as $150,000, a fortune, which would be worth millions today in purchasing power.

In the absence of his lord, the five-talent man doubled his money. In like manner, the two-talent man also doubled his money. The one who had received the single talent, however, buried his money in the earth and did nothing with it.

In the illustration, the lord of the servants, upon his return, called in his servants for their report. The five-talent man was able to report proudly that he had doubled his money. The two-talent man did likewise. It is significant that both the five-talent and the two-talent man were given precisely the same commendation, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (25:21). The principle that rewards are given according to faithfulness is illustrated well in this parable.

The one-talent man, however, had to report that he had done nothing but bury his money. He offered the lame excuse, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine” (vv. 24-25). Whether or not the servant’s accusation was true, it was only an excuse at best. If the servant had actually believed what he had said, it should have made him all the more diligent. His lord, accordingly, answered him abruptly and denounced him as a “wicked and slothful servant.” He pointed out that the least he could have done was to put his money in the bank where it would have received interest.

An interesting question that is not directly answered in the text is why the one-talent man did not put it in the bank. Most expositors are rather vague in their explanation of this detail. The explanation seems to be that this wicked man had the same kind of cunning that Judas Iscariot used when he accepted the money for the betrayal of Christ. Judas had reasoned that if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, his betrayal would not matter, and he would be ahead thirty pieces of silver. If Jesus was not the Messiah, he at least would have the silver. So, the wicked one-talent man likewise reasoned: If my lord returns, I will be able to give him back his talent and cannot be accused of being a thief, but if he does not return, there will be no record that the money belongs to him, such as would be true if I deposited it in the bank, and then I will be able to use the money myself.

His basic problem, like the problem of Judas, was a lack of faith. The one-talent man did not believe that it was sure his lord was coming back. It is therefore clear that his basic problem was that of being an unbeliever, not simply being unfaithful in service. Accordingly, the conclusion of the illustration, “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (v. 29), refers to everyone who has faith or who is lacking faith.

Here, as elsewhere in Scripture, while works may be an evidence of salvation, they are never the ground of salvation. The one-talent man, while deficient in works, was condemned because of his lack of faith. Accordingly, the one-talent man is not an illustration of a backsliding Christian, as no Christian justified by faith and declared righteous by God could ever be cast into the outer darkness. A person who really believes in the first coming of Christ will also believe in His second coming and for the same reasons.

Taken as a whole, the illustrations, which interpret the doctrine of the second coming and make practical application of the truth, emphasize the two themes of watching and serving. What is true for those anticipating the second coming is also true for those who anticipate Christ’s coming for His church.

Judgment of the Nations, 25:31-46

The third section of the Olivet discourse begins with 25:31. The first section, 24:4-31, had answered the questions of the disciples concerning the signs of the end of the age and the coming of the Lord. The second section, 24:32-25:30, presented interpretations and applications of the truth of the second coming of Christ. Beginning in 25:31, Jesus went beyond the questions of the disciples to describe the period following the second coming.

Although conservative expositors agree that this is a judgment related to the second coming of Christ, there is extensive disagreement as to the nature of the judgment and its relation to the total prophetic plan. Amillenarians, who deny a future millennial reign of Christ, believe that this is a general judgment of all men that ushers in the eternal state. Lenski, for instance, states, “The whole human race will be assembled for the final judgment.” Other amillenarians, such as R.V.G. Tasker, likewise picture it as a judgment “of all nations.”142 Postmillenarians likewise agree that it is a judgment of all men.

Even Henry Alford, a premillenarian, states, “We now come to the great and universal judgment at the end of this period, also prophesied distinctly in order in Rev 20:11-15— in which all the dead, small and great shall stand before God.” Liberal writers, like A. H. M’Neile, agree. These commentaries, however, correctly hold that this is not a parable, as the preceding illustrations of the virgins and the talents, but a literal prophecy.

A strict exegesis of this passage, however, does not support the conclusion that this is a general judgment. There is no mention of resurrection of either the righteous or the wicked, and “all nations” seems to exclude Israel. The conclusion that this is a final judgment is necessary to the amillenarians’ point of view, but it is not taught in this passage. Accordingly, if the view that there is a kingdom of Christ on earth for a thousand years after His second advent is supported by other Scriptures, this passage fits naturally in such a prophetic framework, and, as such, constitutes the judgment of the living who are on earth at the time of the second coming of Christ in respect to their entrance into the millennial kingdom. This judgment therefore should be contrasted to the judgment of Israel (Eze 20:34-38) and the judgment of the wicked (Rev 20:11-15) which comes after the millennium has concluded. This passage, more precisely than any other, describes the judgment of the world at the beginning of Christ’s millennial kingdom.

The time of the judgment is stated to be the period following the second coming of Christ, Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” This judgment, therefore, should be distinguished from the judgment of the church in heaven, the judgment of the wicked at the end of the millennium, and the judgment of Israel.

At this judgment, “all nations,” better translated “all Gentiles,” are gathered before Him and are described as sheep and goats intermingled. In the judgment, the sheep are put on His right hand and the goats on His left. The sheep are invited to inherit His kingdom, and Christ will address them: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (vv. 34-36). When the sheep reply, in verses 37-39, asking when they did these deeds of kindness, the King will reply, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (v.40). In mentioning “my brethren,” He is referring to a third class, neither sheep nor goats, which can only be identified as Israel, the only remaining people who are in contrast to all the Gentiles.

The King will then address the goats and dismiss them into everlasting fire, declaring that they have not done these deeds of kindness. When they protest, asking when they omitted these deeds, the King will reply, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (v. 45). The passage concludes with the goats dismissed into everlasting punishment and the righteous entering into the blessings of eternal life.

This judgment fits naturally and easily into the prophetic program as usually outlined by premillenarians. The throne is an earthly throne, fulfilling the prediction of Jeremiah 23:5. Those who are judged are Gentiles (Gr. ethne), which, although sometimes used for Jews (Lk 7:5; 23:2; Jn 11:48, 51, 52; 18:35; Ac 10:22), is more characteristically used of Gentiles as distinguished from Jews, as for instance in Romans 11:13; 15:27; 16:4; Galatians 2:12; and is used in contrast to Jews in Romans 3:29 and 9:24.

If the evidence sustains the conclusion that this applies to Gentiles living on earth at the time of the second coming of Christ, a further problem is introduced by the nature of the judgment. How can deeds, such as giving the thirsty to drink, clothing the naked, and doing other deeds of kindness, form a basis for salvation? Ephesians 2:8-9 makes plain, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, that any man should boast.” The Bible clearly teaches in many passages that salvation is by grace and by faith alone and is not based on works (Ro 3:10-12, 21, 28). The answer to this problem is that works are presented here, not as the ground of salvation, but as the evidence of it, in the sense of James 2:26, where it is declared, “Faith without works is dead”; that is, it is not real faith unless it produces works. While this solves the problem in part, the question still remains whether such deeds of kindness are sufficient to demonstrate salvation.

The answer to this problem is found in the context of this passage. Those described here are people who have lived through the great tribulation, a time of unparalleled anti-Semitism, when the majority of Jews in the land will be killed. Under these circumstances, if a Gentile befriends a Jew to the extent of feeding and clothing and visiting him, it could only mean that he is a believer in Jesus Christ and recognizes the Jews as the chosen people. Accordingly, in this context, such works become a distinctive evidence that the Gentiles described as the sheep are those who are children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

This judgment, which results in the goats being cast into everlasting fire, is in keeping with the previous prediction of Christ in the parable of the wheat and tares and the parable of the dragnet (Mt 13:24-30, 31-43, 47-50), and is also clearly taught in Revelation 14:11 and 19:15. No adults who are not converted will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom. The judgment here is not a final judgment, but is preparatory to establishing the kingdom of righteousness and peace, of which many Scriptures speak.

The passage, while not dealing specifically with amillennialism or postmillennialism, clearly gives these views no support whatever. The postmillennial dream of a gradually improving world is not revealed here. Instead, Christ comes to a world that is basically anti-Christ and worshiping a man satanically empowered. A judgment like this does not fit into the amillennial interpretation either, because there is no basis here for concluding this to be a judgment of all men living and dead. It is quite different than the judgment of the great white throne (Rev 20:11-15), which takes place in space, whereas this judgment takes place on earth.

Although the question of whether Christ will come for His church before the tribulation (the pretribulational view) or at the time of His second coming to earth (the posttribulational view) is not dealt with in this passage, the implications are clearly in favor of the pretribulational view. If the rapture and translation of the church occur while Christ is coming from heaven to earth in His second coming to set up His kingdom, and the church meets the Lord in the air, it is obvious that this very act would separate all the saved from the unsaved. Under these circumstances, no judgment of the nations would be necessary subsequent to the second coming of Christ, because the sheep and the goats would already be separated.

The implication of this passage in Matthew is that no rapture of living saints occurs at the time Christ comes to set up His kingdom. This implies that there is a time period between the rapture and the time Christ comes to set up His kingdom, during which a new body of saints, both Jews and Gentiles, is created by faith in Christ.

Furthermore, when these saints are judged, they are not given new bodies, but enter the millennium in their natural bodies, in keeping with the millennial predictions of Scripture which describe the saints as bearing children, building houses, and otherwise having a natural life (Is 65:18-25).

A proper exegesis of this passage, accordingly, tends to support both the premillennial and the pretribulational point of view, even though this is not the main purpose of this prophecy. It is an interesting fact that posttribulationists generally ignore this passage in their treatment of the rapture question, and that amillenarians who attempt to harmonize it with their point of view ignore the fact that the passage does not state what they read into it.

Taken as a whole, the Olivet discourse is one of the great prophetic utterances of Scripture and provides facts nowhere else given in quite the same way. In it, Christ, the greatest of the prophets and the master Teacher, described the end of the age as the climax of the troubles of earth in a great tribulation. The time of unprecedented trouble will be terminated by the second coming of Christ. The saved and the unsaved will be separated, and only the saved will enter the millennial kingdom. This is the final word, which Matthew brings in answer to the leading question of this first gospel, concerning the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament of a glorious kingdom on earth. Matthew states clearly that while Christ, in His first coming, suffered and died and was rejected as both King and Saviour by His own people, He will come again and, in triumph, will bring in the prophesied kingdom literally, just as the Old Testament prophecies had anticipated. There is postponement but not annulment of the great prophecies of the kingdom on earth.

It is clear that the disciples did not understand these prophecies at the time. In the few days that followed, they were to witness the death and then the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were to ask again the question of when the kingdom would be brought in on the day of the ascension of Christ (Ac 1:6). As further revelation was given in the writing of the New Testament, and the disciples pondered the words that they had not understood before, they gradually comprehended the truth that Christ was first coming for His own in the rapture of the church, but then that there would be a fulfillment of the predicted time of trouble. This, in turn, would be climaxed by the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom. Not one prophecy will be left unfulfilled when history has completed its course and the saints are gathered in the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and the new earth.

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UNDERSTANDING MATTHEW 24 & 25 – JOHN WALVOORD

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THE RAPTURE SERIES 14: THE BELIEVERS’ LAST BATTLE (PART 3 OF 4)

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5) THE BATTLE OF SILENCE

We have explored four important battles thus far and have now come to the final, most difficult one: the battle of silence. This battle is contrary to all that we are and diametrically opposes our sense of righteousness, our desire to justify ourselves, and our inexhaustible need to prove that we are “somebody.”

We begin this subject by reading from the prophet Isaiah in chapter 53:7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” This is one of the most shocking verses in the entire Bible. Twice we read that, “he opened not his mouth” Jesus suffered in silence!

Incidentally, Isaiah 53 is also the most difficult chapter in the Old Testament for a Jewish person who does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Isaiah 53 is a clear documentation inspired by the Holy Spirit over 700 years before the birth of Christ. Jewish rabbis often refuse to read this chapter in the synagogue because it reads like a script straight out of the New Testament trial, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus.

The Silent Lamb

Who was this Lamb led to the slaughter who did not open His mouth? Why was He seemingly powerless before His executioners? Verse 8 answers this question beautifully, “…for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” It makes no difference if you are the most learned Bible scholar, or whether you are a Christian or Jew; no one can come up with any identity other than Jesus Christ.

Some people have said that this chapter is talking about the suffering of the Jewish people throughout the centuries; however, verse 5 contradicts this theory when it says, “… the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” What about verse 6? “… the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Or verse 8? “…for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” We are clearly reading about a person, not a group of people. Verse 9 unmistakably identifies this person as the Lord Jesus Christ, “… neither was any deceit in his mouth.”

The apostle Peter later testified, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1st Peter 2:22). In a very precise manner, Isaiah 53 describes the work, the life, and the death of the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for the sins of the world.

His Grave Was Not His Own

We read of the proclamation in verse 9 that, “… he made his grave with the wicked.” The New Testament confirms that He was crucified between two criminals. His body was laid in the borrowed tomb of a rich man, Joseph from Arimathea, which corresponds with Isaiah’s account, “… with the rich in his death.”

Without Sin

The verse concludes, “…neither was any deceit in his mouth.” While confronting His enemies, Jesus challenged them to find any sin in His life. He never spoke too much, or too little. He said what had to be said and did what had to be done. He was the perfect Man, who became the perfect sacrifice for an imperfect, corrupt, and lost humanity.

Silence Before His Accusers

Christ stood wrongly accused by wicked men and false witnesses. However the Bible says, “.. Jesus held his peace” (Matthew 26:63). He stood before Pilate, the Roman authority who challenged him, “…Answerest thou nothing?” and “…Jesus yet answered nothing…” (Mark 15:2,5).

In Luke 23, we read that King Herod “questioned with him in many words.” How did Jesus react? “… He answered him nothing” (verse 9).

Indeed, He was led silently like a lamb to the slaughter.

Intercession For Sinners

When they crucified Him, Jesus cried, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do… ” (Luke 23:34).

Seven centuries before that prayer, Isaiah gave the following details, “…he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Greatest Of All Works

We are all familiar with the wonderful works that Jesus did among His people and the miracles He openly demonstrated confirming Himself to be the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world. The greatest of all works was when the Son of God remained silent, when through the hands of wicked man, He was nailed to the cross where He died.

Matthew described His death in this manner, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:50-51).

The work Jesus accomplished as the silent suffering Lamb touched the universe. The Bible reports that darkness covered the earth from the sixth to the ninth hour. The moment He died, the veil in the Holy of Holies in the temple was torn from top to bottom, opening up the way to God through the death of Jesus.

The rocks of the earth could not hold their peace, for “the earth did quake and the rocks rent.” These world-shaking events affected those who stood by, “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).

Following Jesus

The fact that Jesus did not defend Himself and permitted sinful men to lead Him to His death is something that the world does not understand, and unfortunately, many Christians don’t either.

For the average Christian, it is much easier to fight, stand up for your rights, oppose the wicked, stand for the truth, and let others know what you think. But that, dear friends, is the battle of the flesh, which has no promise whatsoever, and will lead only to defeat.

I am reminded of the words Wim Malgo used to say, “The greatest fight for a Christian is not to fight.” How true these words really are.

Jesus went before us; He showed the way; He walked the way; and He finished the way in total obedience to His Heavenly Father. We are admonished to follow Jesus.

The Real Task Of The Church

Of course, it is a noble gesture to fight for civil rights or support moral causes. We are justifiably insulted when we see, for example, how Sodomites not only demand recognition for their practices, but openly demand special assistance from the tax-paying public. To fight against such immorality is as natural as a flower that needs water to survive. To join picket lines and protest marches against the abominable murder of the unborn is most certainly a good and noble thing to do.

To oppose the propagation of pornography needs courage and is expected of every moral person.

What about fighting for a righteous government? Surely no one can deny that one of the most important items in a functioning civilized society is an honest government.

Investing time and energy in Christianizing the laws, the courts, governments, and institutions is most certainly commendable.

But in light of these good works, we must ask ourselves, “Is this the task of the Church of Jesus Christ?” Based on the verses we have just read, there is absolutely no evidence that Jesus planned for His followers to change the world morally, politically, or economically. Why not? Because He specifically stated “My Kingdom is not of this world.” His focus was to fish for men, calling those who voluntarily wanted to follow Him, because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Only His Kingdom Counts

He accepted the occupational Roman government of His country, and with regards to morals, He clearly told us that things would get worse.

We have quoted part of John 18:36, but let’s read it again, “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”

Jesus came to bring salvation to man; whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. He does not reject sinful men and women; for His original intention to establish “on earth, peace, good will towards men” is yet to take place.

In this verse, Jesus specifically emphasized, “But now is my kingdom not from hence.” At that time, He did not come to establish His kingdom. Therefore, any attempt by the Church to do a task which the Lord has not entrusted us with will only lead in the opposite direction; to the establishment of the kingdom of Antichrist!

Secure In The House Of God

That is a lesson we should learn in our daily walk with the Lord. As long as we are hidden in “the house of God,” we are spiritually untouchable by the enemy. What does it mean to be in “the house of God”? Simply put, whenever and whatever you do, if you do it in the name and for the glory of Jesus, you are in “the house of God.” If your thoughts are influenced by dishonesty, lusts of the flesh, and the like, then you are not in “the house of God” and you are in extreme danger. The apostle Peter warned, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1st Peter 5:8).

Where can we find a safe place to hide from the devil? Jesus revealed that safe haven to us when He said, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23). Ask yourself, “Do I really love Jesus?” If your answer is yes, then you are in holy territory, “the house of God,” and the evil one cannot successfully accuse you.

The closer you are to Him, the safer you are. However, the further you distance yourself from Jesus, the more you place yourself in danger of being devoured by the wicked one, the adversary, the devil.

Our Battle Is To Stand

We should always remember the New Testament’s admonition to, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17).

We are not to attack the powers of darkness, we are to stand in faith grounded on Calvary.

We are warned however, to be fully aware of the intention of the principalities of darkness. As long as we remain in the Light, we are able to clearly identify the works and intentions of the adversary.

Second Corinthians 2:11 cautions us, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

As long as we continue to stand in the Light darkness cannot overcome us. We are to stand based on the already accomplished victory of the Lord Jesus. In order to properly stand, we must be prepared as we are so clearly instructed in the above verses.

Moving back to our text in Ephesians we find the content of the real battle, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

Whenever the powers of darkness attempt to discourage or oppress you, stand in faith on the already accomplished work at Calvary. You may oppose any and all attacks from the world of darkness when you consistently believe with all of your heart that Jesus fully accomplished victory over the devil when He exclaimed “It is finished!”

Only with the proper spiritual attire are you able to withstand the fiery darts of the wicked one. When you clothe yourself in the armor of God you will be able to continue to proclaim the Gospel of peace to people everywhere; whether it be done through testimonies, the preaching of the Word, sending forth of missionaries, or distribution of tracts. All things work together for the building of His Church. We are admonished to continue in prayer so that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will not be hindered.

Jesus Lives!

What a tremendous message we have to announce, “Jesus lives!” We don’t need to fear the enemies; nor should we be afraid of the government or those who wish to eliminate the testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our task is the same as it was almost 2,000 years ago; to proclaim the Gospel, telling people everywhere that salvation is available through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for our sins, arose victoriously on the third day, and is coming again.

This message of salvation has been declared for almost two millenia, and an uncounted number of souls have responded to the call and now herald the reality of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ!

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (22)

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CHAPTER VI

Final Period of the Galilean Ministry

RESUME

This is sometimes called the Period of Retirement. It begins with the withdrawal of Jesus into Northern Galilee and ends with His final departure for Jerusalem. It covers roughly Matthew 15-18; Mark 7-9; Luke 9; and John 7-8. This trip took Jesus all the way up to the borders of Phoenicia, where He had the encounter with the Syrophoenician woman. Some of the notable events during this period were the Feeding of the Four Thousand, the important encounter with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Peter’s confession of the Deity of Christ, Christ’s prediction of the Millennial Church, the Transfiguration, the discourse on Little Children, predictions of Christ’s betrayal and death, the woman taken in adultery, Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, and His two discourses on the Light of the World and True Freedom.

1.    Children and Dogs, The Syrophoenician Woman

References: Matt. 15:21-28; Mk. 7:24-30

The story of the Syrophoenician woman is one of the most definitive dispensational elements in the Gospel accounts, for it shows with unmistakable clearness the relative positions of Jews and Gentiles in relation to the earthly ministry of Christ. It shows the priority of the Jews over the Gentiles in the prophetic Kingdom purpose of God. It explains the order in which the blessings of the Kingdom were to be bestowed upon Israel and the nations.

Jesus had withdrawn from Galilee and had gone to the northwest into the area around Tyre and Sidon. These two cities are mentioned numerous times in the O.T. In time these cities and kingdoms fell under the judgment of God as depicted in Ezek. 27 and 28. Jesus declared it would be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for the cities of Israel wherein He had done His mighty works (Matt. 11:21,22). These two cities are located a little to the south of modern Beirut in Lebanon.

Matthew calls the woman “Canaanitish,” and Mark refers to her as Greek, a Syrophoenician by race. The woman’s little daughter was grievously possessed by an unclean demon spirit and she came crying for Jesus to help her by curing her daughter, but Jesus answered her not a word. The disciples seemed embarrassed and asked Jesus to send her away. Jesus replied, “I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman fell down and worshipped Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” Jesus answered: “Let the children first be filled; it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.” It is clear that Jesus was referring to Israelites as children and to Gentiles as dogs. Dogs were unclean animals, and He contrasts them with sheep, clean animals. It is also clear that God’s order was for Israel to first be filled with her blessings before the Gentiles were to receive any blessing. In fact, the prophetic kingdom program was that the Gentiles were to be blessed through Israel; therefore, Israel must first be blessed before she could in turn pass on the blessings to the Gentiles. It is axiomatic that wherever the message is to Israel only, or to Israel first, the ministry is that of the Messianic Kingdom. This is in direct contrast to the dispensational order today, when Israel has been blinded and cast aside, when no nationality has the priority. The very name of the present dispensation: the dispensation of the grace of God, prohibits any such discrimination.

The woman in our story apparently understood that as a Gentile she had no claim upon Christ, since she was a stranger from the covenants of Israel, and she took her place as a dog and replied to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, it is true that it is not right to cast the children’s bread to dogs, but do not the little dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs?” Even though Jesus as yet had no ministry for the Gentiles, this expression of great faith prompted Him to make an exception to the rule, one of the two recorded exceptions, and He granted the woman’s request and her daughter was freed of the demon spirit. This is the only record of His ministry in this region of Tyre and Sidon.

2.     Return to Decapolis

References: Matt. 15:29-31; Mk. 7:31-37

Matthew tells of multitudes of lame, blind, deaf, maimed and others being healed as Jesus passed through the cities of Decapoils. Mark singles out one deaf man who had a speech impediment, whom Jesus took aside privately and healed. The healing was unique in that Jesus put His fingers in his ears and spat and touched his tongue and said, “Ephphatha,” Aramaic for, “Be opened,” and immediately his ears were opened and his tongue was loosed so that he spoke plainly. The multitudes marvelled and glorified the God of Israel. Although he charged those who were healed to tell no man, the more He charged them the more they publicized the miracles.

It should be noted that Jesus used great variety in His healing miracles. For some He simply spoke the word, others He laid His hands upon them, some simply touched His garments, others such as this man and the blind man upon whose eyes He applied clay made from spittle, He used outward means. This variety illustrates the variety God uses in the spiritual realm in the work of salvation. Some are saved simply by reading the Word, others pass through some great crisis; some are saved through personal witness, and others are converted in evangelistic services. There are those who argue that a person is not genuinely saved unless he has gone through their particular conversion experience. These facts should be a sufficient answer to such claims.

3.     The Feeding of the Four Thousand

References: Matt. 15:32-38; Mk. 8:1-9

This miracle was very similar to the feeding of the five thousand, the only differences being in the numbers involved. In the former there were five thousand men, the disciples had five loaves and two fish, and they picked up twelve baskets of fragments. In this miracle, there were four thousand men, seven loaves and four fish, and they picked up seven baskets full.

There are those who believe that every number in Scripture has spiritual significance. While certain numbers in Scripture do seem to have spiritual significance, there is always the danger of speculation. We believe that God gave His revelation so that ordinary people could grasp its message without going into complex mathematical problems, such as counting the numerical value of the letters of every word in the book and finding a secret meaning between the lines, to be known to only a select few. We doubt that God intended some hidden spiritual significance for every mention of a number in Scripture.

4.     Encounter With Pharisees and Sadducees

References: Matt. 15:39-16:12; Mk. 8:10-21

After feeding the four thousand Jesus dismissed the multitude and entered a boat bound for Magdala or Magadan, according to Matthew, and Dalmanutha, according to Mark. These two areas were probably contiguous. Their exact location is in doubt. There He encountered some Pharisees and Sadducees who tempted Him, asking to see a sign from heaven. He rebuked their spiritual blindness by stating that although they could discern the signs in the atmosphere concerning the state of the weather, they were blind to the signs of the times. People today who are always clamoring for signs should remember what Christ told these Jews: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign,” and in their case no sign was to be given but the sign of the prophet Jonah. This reference to Jonah by the Lord surely supports the historicity of the story of Jonah in the O.T. If Jonah was not three days and nights in the whale’s belly, Christ was not three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Jesus had no more to say to these who had closed their eyes to the truth, so He left them and departed to the other side of the lake with His disciples.

The disciples had forgotten to take food with them and while they were discussing the problem Jesus told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (and Mark adds, of Herod). The disciples supposed He was rebuking them for not bringing bread with them for the trip. But Jesus was rebuking them for their unbelief and lack of spiritual perception, recalling to their minds the feeding of the five thousand and four thousand. Why should they ever worry about lack of food in the light of such experiences? Here again we see a distinction in dispensations. Whereas the disciples were supernaturally fed while Christ was with them in the flesh under the Kingdom program, later under the Church program we find the great Apostle Paul oftentimes hungry, thirsty, naked and cold (1 Cor. 4:11; 2 Cor. 11:27; Phil. 4:12). Israel was promised physical blessings for obedience (Deut. 28:1-4), but we have no such promise as members of the Body of Christ. He will supply our needs, thank God (Phil. 4:19), but that is different from the riches promised to Israel.

5.     The Blind Man at Bethsaida

Reference: Mk. 8:22-26

We referred to this healing a few paragraphs back in discussing the healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment. For a reason not given, Jesus led this blind man by the hand outside the village, and there, spit on his eyes and laid His hands on him. At this point the man’s sight was partially restored, so that he saw men as trees walking. Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again and his sight was completely restored. God sometimes does things instantaneously and at other times He does things gradually through a longer or shorter process. No two people have identical experiences. No doubt in this case Jesus chose to work through a process to meet a particular spiritual need of this man. Or perhaps this gradual healing was indicative of the slowness of the disciples to gain spiritual vision.

After seeing so many miracles they still did not perceive. Jesus then sent the man home and warned him not to even enter into the village. We saw in Matt. 11:21 that Christ pronounced woe upon Bethsaida because of their unbelief, and one of the judgments of unbelief is enforced judicial blindness. Because of their unbelief, Jesus withheld from the inhabitants the testimony of this healing miracle, performing the miracle outside the village and forbidding the man to return to it.

6.     Peter’s Confession and the Millennial Church

References: Matt. 16:13-20; Mk. 8:27-30; Lk. 9:18-21

All three Synoptics record the same confession by Peter of the identity of Christ, but Matthew, being the Kingdom Gospel, gives the further details of the keys of the Kingdom and the Church which Christ will build in relation to that Kingdom.

The confession was called forth by Christ’s own question: “Who do men say that I am?” Some speculated that Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life, or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the old prophets risen from the dead. Then Jesus directed the question to the disciples: “But who say ye that I am?” Peter answered for the group: “Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus declared that Peter did not learn this fact from any human source but that it was revealed to him by the Father in heaven. Here we have what is perhaps the clearest claim of Jesus Himself to His Messiahship and His unique relation as the Son of God. He not only claimed it for Himself but declared that God the Father was the originator of this revelation. Men who have not had this truth revealed to them by the Father may deny His title as the Anointed One or as the Son of God, but they cannot deny that Jesus claimed this for Himself.

There follows after this a statement by Jesus which is one of the most misunderstood of all of His sayings: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Rome uses this passage as proof of the Papacy: The Church built upon Peter with the power to forgive and to bind sin. Protestants have used all manner of interpretations to try to deny these claims of Rome. Some argue that Peter’s name means a little pebble, but the rock upon which the church is to be built means bedrock foundation, and that foundation rock is not Peter but Peter’s confession. Others argue that Peter had no more authority to forgive sin than the humblest believer and that all Jesus meant to say was that when we preach the gospel we are using the keys to the kingdom, so that we can say when a man believes his sins are forgiven, and when he doesn’t they are retained. And Rome further uses the statement about the gates of hell to claim infallibility for the Church: the Devil will never be able to prevail by bringing false doctrine into the Church. And of course, Catholics and Protestants alike agree on one point, and that is the Church of which Christ spoke is our present Church, the Body of Christ.

If we could only stop for a moment and put Scriptures in perspective, we would be saved from all of this controversy and confusion. The first fact is Paul’s plain teaching that the Church of which he was made the revelator and minister was a secret truth hidden in God and never before revealed to the sons of men in past generations (Eph. 3:3-9; 5:32). The other fact is that the Church of which Jesus spoke is associated with the Kingdom of the heavens, which as we have seen, is the long promised Messianic Kingdom predicted by all of the prophets, which will be established here on earth when Jesus returns as King of kings. To make this church identical with the Church of our present dispensation we must either say Paul was mistaken about our Church being a previously unrevealed secret, or we must say that the term “kingdom of heaven,” has suddenly taken on an entirely different meaning from the way it has been used previously in Matthew’s Gospel. But if we let Scripture speak for itself and recognize that Christ is going to have a great congregation or church (ekklesia) in the Millennial Kingdom (cf. Heb. 2:12 which is quoted from Ps. 22:22), the meaning becomes perfectly clear.

Christ told Peter and the other Eleven that they would sit on thrones in that Kingdom judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). It makes little sense to argue that a judge sitting upon a throne exercising his authority has no more authority than the humblest believer. Why do we have to resort to an interpretation which completely nullifies the words of Christ to try to answer the claims of Rome? Rome is correct in delegating authority to Peter, but wrong in making the Millennial Church to be the Church in the world today. Rome is wrong in limiting this authority to Peter, for Christ gave this same authority to all Twelve of the Apostles, for all of them are to sit as Judges in that Kingdom (John 20:23).

Many people have the mistaken idea that the Church is something that is limited to the New Testament and is separate and distinct from Israel. This is true of the Church, the Mystery, the Body of Christ, but the word “church” (ekklesia) appears over 40 times in the LXX (the Greek translation of the O.T.). There was definitely a church before the death of Christ, as seen from Christ’s instructions in Matt. 18:17. That church was entirely Jewish and was the nucleus of the Kingdom Church. The church of our dispensation is a joint body of Jews and Gentiles, where all such nationalistic distinctions have disappeared.

There is misunderstanding also about the meaning of the gates of hell not prevailing against this millennial church. Hell here is the Greek Hades, the place of the dead, the unseen world, and sometimes translated “grave.” Hell as the lake of fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels, is an entirely different word. Christ had predicted that many of His followers, who were members of His church, would suffer martyrdom, and what He is saying here is that the gates of death will not prevail against His church, for He will conquer death and bring all of these back to life to take part in that Church.

It is altogether possible that Christ spoke these words in Aramaic and not in Greek, and if so, there is no possibility of making the distinction between Petros, a little stone, and petra, a foundation stone, in the Aramaic language. In every dispensation God has given special authority to certain men. Surely Moses and Aaron, David and Paul were men of special authority. Why take it away from Peter in the government of the Messianic Kingdom? If we understand this passage correctly, it refers to the yet future millennial Church, the program of which was interrupted and temporarily set aside because of Israel’s rejection of Christ and their choice of Caesar rather than Jesus as their King. It has no reference to the Church of this dispensation, of which Paul is the master-builder (1 Cor. 3:10).

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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HOW ISRAEL BECAME A NATION “IN A DAY”

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THE LAND COVENANT

The Promise Made To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

The Lord promised Abraham that their agreement, or covenant, would be UNCONDITIONALLY and EVERLASTING. He said.

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8 NIV).

The agreement which the Lord made with Abraham is clearly irrevocable—it can never be broken. The believers of Amillennialism and Preterism are thus making God out to be a liar. They insist that God is done with Israel and that the promises made to Abraham have been carried over to the church, in a spiritual manner.

The Promise Made To Isaac

As the Lord had promised, Abraham and his wife Sarah conceived a son, Isaac. The Lord made it clear that the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled in this particular son of his.

Later, God repeated the promise to Isaac (Genesis 26:3-4).

The Promise Made To Jacob

Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. God later promised Isaac’s son Jacob that he would be the heir to the promises. (Genesis 35:11-12).

GOD WARNED HE WOULD SCATTER THE JEWISH PEOPLE

The continuous disobedience of the Jewish people is clear from throughout the Bible. The Lord has warned the people of the consequences of disobedience. He said the following.

“However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you . . . This is what will happen: Just as the Lord delighted to do good for you and make you numerous, he will take delight in destroying and decimating you. You will be uprooted from the land you are about to possess. The Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of wood and stone. Among those nations you will have no rest nor will there be a place of peaceful rest for the soles of your feet, for there the Lord will give you an anxious heart, failing eyesight, and a spirit of despair” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 63-65 NIV).

While the ownership of the land was theirs forever, their occupancy was linked with their obedience.

In 721 B.C., the Assyrians took the Northern kingdom of Israel, which comprised the ten northern tribes, into captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar, in three different deportations, took the remaining two tribes, the southern kingdom of Judah, captive to Babylon. Finally, in 588-586 B.C., after a long siege, he burned the city and the temple.

The children of Israel also were scattered in A.D. 70 when Titus, the Roman general, surrounded the city of Jerusalem and burnt the rebuilt city and the temple.

For almost 1900 years, the Jews wandered the earth as strangers—being persecuted from every side. The culmination of their persecution occurred in the Holocaust of World War II, when six million Jews were put to death in concentration camps. The predictions were literally fulfilled.

GOD PROMISED TO BRING BACK THE SCATTERED JEWISH PEOPLE.

Irrespective of the above, through Jeremiah the prophet, we read the promise of the Lord of their continuing existence.

“The Lord has made a promise to Israel. He promises it as the one who fixed the sun to give light by day and the moon and stars to give light by night. He promises it as the one who stirs up the sea so that its waves roll. He promises it as the one who is known as the Lord who rules overall. The Lord affirms, “The descendants of Israel will not cease forever to be a nation in my sight. That could only happen if the fixed ordering of the heavenly lights were to cease to operate before me.” The Lord says, “I will not reject all the descendants of Israel because of all that they have done. That could only happen if the heavens above could be measured or the foundations of the earth below could all be explored,” says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:35-37 NET).

The Jews have been the most persecuted people of all nations, throughout human history. In fact, the Holocaust of the Second World War, eventually took six million Jewish lives, and yet the nation survived.

God also promised to bring back the scattered Jewish people. We read the following prophecy through Jeremiah.

“The Lord spoke to Jeremiah. “The Lord God of Israel says, ‘Write everything that I am about to tell you in a scroll. For I, the Lord, affirm that the time will come when I will reverse the plight of my people, ISRAEL AND JUDAH,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring them back to the land I gave their ancestors and they will take possession of it once again’” (Jeremiah 30:1-3 NET).

It is of utmost importance to note that the gathering concerns the scattered from both Israel and Judah.

The northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 B.C, and never returned during biblical times.

The southern kingdom of Judah experienced a seventy-year captivity in Babylon. In 537-536 B.C., or after the seventy years, those who had been taken captive to Babylon were allowed to return to their land from their first exile (Ezra chapter 1). They were however removed from their homeland a second time in A.D. 70.

In another remarkable prediction, we read the following words that the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah.

“In that day the Lord will reach out his hand A SECOND TIME to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:11,12 NIV).

Against all odds, the modern state of Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948, and the Jews began to return to their homeland from all points of the compass. This is the second time in their history they have come back into their land after being forcibly removed.

According to the Lord, this return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland will be for His sake, not theirs. It is almost astonishing how Amillennialism and Preterism dishonour God by applying Replacement theology. Ezekiel records Him saying:

“Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and I will have mercy on the entire house of Israel. I will be zealous for my holy name. They will bear their shame for all their unfaithful acts against me, when they live securely on their land with no one to make them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will magnify myself among them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will not leave any of them in exile any longer. I will no longer hide my face from them, when I pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 39:25-29 NET).

HOW ISRAEL BECAME A NATION “IN A DAY”

“Who has ever heard of such things?  Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.” (Isaiah 66:8)

Theodore Herzl And Modern Zionism

It was over eighteen centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple, and the scattering of the Jewish people, that the modern push for a state began in earnest.

In January of 1895, a Jewish Austrian journalist named Theodor Herzl, covered the trial in Paris of a French Jew named Dreyfus. Dreyfus was unfairly convicted of a crime that he did not commit. Seeing first-hand the hatred directed against Jews, Herzl was determined to begin a process to found a Jewish state.

Later in 1895, Herzl published a book entitled Der Judenstaat—The Jewish State. He argued that the only way in which the “Jewish problem” can be resolved was by establishing a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Herzl’s writings started the Jews on the road back to their Promised homeland.

At the conclusion of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland on September 3, 1897, Theodore Herzl made the following entry into his diary.

“In Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this aloud, it would be greeted with worldwide derision. In five years, perhaps, and certainly in fifty, everyone will see it.”

Herzl’s entry in his diary would turn out to be prophetic. The modern state of Israel would be founded about fifty years after he made this statement!

Turkish Rule Ends In The Holy Land

In the early 20th century, the Ottoman Turks four-hundred-year reign over the Holy Land, was about to end. During World War I, the Arabs helped the British fight the Turks. D.E. Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia,” was instrumental in achieving the victory over the Ottoman Empire.

In October 1917, a British General, Edmund Allenby, launched an invasion in the Holy Land. On Sunday, December 9th, the Turks were driven out of Jerusalem. Two days later, the General made his entry into conquered Jerusalem, on foot. He said no one could enter the Holy City except in humility, on foot. He said upon entering:

“Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and the pilgrimages of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore I do make known to you . . . that all sacred buildings will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those whose faiths are sacred” (Source Records of the Great War, Vol. 5, ed. Charles Francis Horne, National Alumni, 1923).

At the conclusion of the First World War, Britain, France, and Russia forged the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This pact carved up the Ottoman Empire which had seen its defeat in the War.

Britain gained control of the Holy Land. For the first time in eight hundred years, the Holy sites of Christianity were delivered from the domination of Islam.

The Request Of Chaim Weitzman

Another step toward the realization of a Jewish homeland came after the First World War. Chaim Weitzman, a Jewish chemist, helped the War effort by developing a technique where synthetic acetone could be manufactured.

Acetone was a prime ingredient in the production of explosives. His discovery was given credit by the British government as a main factor in Britain winning the War. The government attempted to personally reward him for his efforts on behalf of the nation. Weitzman asked nothing for himself, but he did make a request for his people—a Jewish homeland in the Promised Land.

The Balfour Declaration

In 1917, a monumental event took place. Lord Balfour, the head of the foreign ministry of the British government, wrote a letter to Baron Rothchild—a representative of the Jewish people. In it, he declared the willingness to see a Jewish state established. The letter read as follows.

Foreign Office

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours Sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour

One writer explained what happened like this.

“The proclamation was of international importance, as it was solemnly sanctioned by the League of Nations. By this act that body, which is more and more inclined to look upon itself as being invested with the right to control the destiny of the peoples of the world, was obeying the will of Him who really holds the fate of mankind in His hands.

How would it be possible to doubt this miracle? God was exercising His sovereign right as King of all nations.

For a long time the diplomats of the various countries, moved to pity by the cruel treatment inflicted upon the Jews during the regularly recurring pogroms and collective murders in Central Europe, had been looking all of the world for some country that would offer this unhappy race a promise of security. One after another Argentina, Brazil, Canada, certain uninhabited regions of Asia, and Uganda have been proposed. But these projects could but come to nought, for they ran counter to a divine promise given to Abraham: “I will give this land to thee and thy seed forever.”

On the other hand Palestine had long been coveted by several of the great powers, and these had done their very best to get control of it.

Their efforts also came to nought. They were broken against a decree which no human power could shake. What God’s lips had proclaimed His hand was accomplishing: “I give thee this land forever” (Paul Perret, Prophecies I Have Seen Fulfilled, London, Marshall, Morgan & Scott LTD., 1939, pp. 27, 28).

We should also observe, that he made this statement in 1939—before the modern state of Israel was reborn.

The United Nations Resolution

The next major event in the establishment of the modern state of Israel was United Nations Resolution 181. This was passed by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947. It called for the partition of Palestine into two states—one Arab and one Jewish. The city of Jerusalem was to be a separate entity governed by a special international regime.

On the one hand, this resolution was considered by the Jewish community in the Holy Land to be a legal basis for the establishment of the modern State of Israel. As can be imagined, this resolution was rejected by the Arab community.

The End Of The British Mandate

In July 1922, the League of Nations had entrusted Britain with the “Mandate For Palestine.” The Mandate recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” In accordance with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel.

Interestingly, in September of 1922, the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River. This particular area constituted three-fourths of the territory which was included in the original Mandate. The territory eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

After the United Resolution 181 was passed in 1947, Britain planned to withdraw from the Holy Land so that a Jewish state could be established. The complete withdrawal would take place on May 14,1948.

The Declaration Of The State Of Israel

On May 14,1948, Israel, as a modern state, came into existence. We have highlighted some of the important points of the text of this declaration that was made by David Ben-Gurion, as well as other Israeli leaders, on that special day:

“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. . .

This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

ACCORDINGLY, WE, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE’S COUNCIL, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ERETZ-ISRAEL AND OF THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT, ARE HERE ASSEMBLED ON THE DAY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER ERETZ-ISRAEL AND, BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.

WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”…

PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE ALMIGHTY, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION AT THIS SESSION OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE, ON THE SOIL OF THE HOMELAND, IN THE CITY OF TEL-AVIV, ON THIS SABBATH EVE, THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 (14TH MAY, 1948).”

This declaration was signed by Ben-Gurion and other Jewish leaders. With it, the modern state of Israel miraculously came into existence!

U.S Recognition Under President Harry Truman

On May 14, 1948, President Harry Truman recognized the newly formed state of Israel with the following telegram:

“This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional Government thereof.

The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.”

We read the following account as to why Truman did this from Clark Clifford—Truman’s Secretary of State:

“From our many talks over the past year, I knew that five factors dominated Truman’s thinking. From his youth, he had detested intolerance and discrimination. He had been deeply moved by the plight of the millions of homeless of World War II, and felt that alone among the homeless, the Jews had no homeland of their own to which they could return. He was, of course, horrified by the Holocaust and he denounced it vehemently, as, in the aftermath of the war, its full dimensions became clear. Also, he believed that the Balfour Declaration, issued by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour in 1917, committed Great Britain and, by implication, the United States, which now shared a certain global responsibility with the British, to the creation of the Jewish state in Palestine. And finally, he was a student and believer in the Bible since his youth. From his reading of the Old Testament he felt the Jews derived a legitimate historical right to Palestine, and he sometimes cited such biblical lines as Deuteronomy 1:8: “Behold, I have given up the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord hath sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Clark Clifford, Counsel to the President: A Memoir, 1991).

Truman, against the wishes of almost all of his advisors, recognized the new state of Israel. Interestingly, among other reasons, we discover that Truman, as a believer in the Bible, accepted the fact that God gave the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The War Of Independence

The declaration of the new State of Israel in Tel Aviv, as well as the recognition by the United States, did not sit well with the Arabs. Fighting immediately broke out. An armistice was declared in 1949.

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UN Recognition

Israel became a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949. The preamble to this resolution admitting Israel to United Nations membership made specific reference to Israel’s undertakings to implement General Assembly resolutions 181 and 194 (the right of return).

With this United Nations resolution, the modern state of Israel was officially accepted as one of the nations of the world. However, many problems remained unsolved. This included the borders of the country. In fact, the problem of Israel’s borders remains to this day.

(Main Source: 25 Signs We Are Near The End – Don Stewart)

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PROPHETIC EXPECTATIONS IN JUDAISM

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Jesus’ message in Matthew 24-25 is commonly known as the Olivet discourse, so named because it was delivered to the disciples on the Mount of Olives. The theme of the discourse is Christ’s second coming at the end of the present age to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.

The message was prompted by the disciples’ question in 24:3, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” The answer Jesus gave is the longest answer given to any question asked in the New Testament, and its truths are absolutely essential for understanding His return and the amazing events associated with it. It is the revelation of our Lord, directly from His own lips, about His return to earth in glory and power.

In order to better understand the disciples’ question on this occasion it is necessary to know something of the basic hopes and aspirations of the Judaism of that day. A historical setting is an important key to the context.

Throughout history people have had a strong desire to know the future, and few societies have been without their seers, mediums, fortune-tellers, and other prognosticators. By various means, all of them deceitful and many of them demonic, such futurists have offered gullible inquirers purported revelations of what lies ahead. Although the Mosaic law strictly forbade consulting mediums and soothsayers (Deut. 18:9-14), Israelites had frequently fallen prey to them, the most prominent instance being that of King Saul’s consulting the medium of Endor (1 Sam. 28:3-25; see also 2 Kings 21:6).

There is no evidence that many Jews of Jesus’ day were guilty of Saul’s offense, but they did have an intense interest in the future. They were tired of being under the domination of pagan oppressors and were eager for the divinely promised deliverance of their Messiah. The Jews were a noble, highly intelligent, and highly gifted people who, humanly speaking, were entirely capable of competent self-rule. Yet for many centuries they had been subdued by one foreign tyrant after another. The northern ten tribes had been conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the southern two tribes fell to Babylon in 586 B.C.

Following that were conquests by the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans.

In their own minds, however, the Jews had always been their own people and had never truly been subjugated to any foreign ruler. It was that abiding and sometimes arrogant spirit of independence even in the midst of oppression that induced some of the Jews to declare before Jesus in the Temple, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33).

They knew all too well, of course, that outwardly they were indeed enslaved, and freedom from that enslavement was the overriding passion of most Jews.

Although the majority of them were not associated with the militant Zealots, they all yearned for Rome to be overthrown and for Israel to become a free nation once again.

The Jews knew intimately the many Old Testament promises of future blessing, deliverance, and prosperity. They knew God had promised to vanquish all the enemies of His chosen people and to establish His eternal kingdom of righteousness and justice on earth. They knew that the Lord’s Anointed One—His Messiah, or Christ—would come and establish the rule and reign from David’s throne again on earth, a reign of peace, prosperity, and safety that would never end.

Their great longing was to see that day when God restored the kingdom as He had promised. The Jews therefore had great hope for the future. They exulted as they read, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isa. 9:6-7). They thrilled at the promise that “a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:1-2).

Israel took immense encouragement from the words of Jeremiah: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness” ’ ” (Jer. 23:5-6; cf. 30:9-10). They longed for the day when the spoil taken from them would be divided among them (Zech. 14:1), when “living waters [would] flow out of Jerusalem” (v. 8), and “there [would] be no more curse, for Jerusalem [would] dwell in security” (v. 11). They rejoiced that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people . . . but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44).

By the time of Jesus, the Jews had formed in their minds a very clear scenario of how they believed those predicted events would unfold. To understand what the Jewish expectations were, it is helpful to read their literature from that time. In his A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ ([Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1893], pp. 154-87), Emil Schuer gives excerpts from numerous extrabiblical Jewish writings of that era which reveal those expectations.

First, consistent with the teaching of Zechariah 14 and other Old Testament prophecies, they believed that the coming of the Messiah would be preceded by a time of terrible tribulation. Just as a woman experiences intense pain shortly before the delivery of a child, so Israel would experience great torment shortly before the Messiah arrived.

2 Baruch 27 reported,

And honour shall be turned into shame,

And strength humiliated into contempt,

And probity destroyed,

And beauty shall become ugliness . . .

And envy shall rise in those who had not thought aught of themselves,

And passion shall seize him that is peaceful,

And many shall be stirred up in anger to injure many,

And they shall rouse up armies in order to shed blood,

And in the end they shall perish together with them.

According to another source, there would be “quakings of places, tumult

of peoples, schemings of nations, confusion of leaders, disquietude of princes”

(2 Esdras [4 Ezra] 9:3).

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles declared,

“From heaven shall fall fiery swords down to the earth. Lights shall come, bright and great, flashing into the midst of men; and earth, the universal mother, shall shake in these days at the hand of the Eternal.

And the fishes of the sea and the beasts of the earth and the countless tribes of flying things and all the souls of men and every sea shall shudder at the presence of the Eternal and there shall be panic. And the towering mountain peaks and the hills of the giants he shall rend, and the murky abyss shall be visible to all. And the high ravines in the lofty mountains shall be full of dead bodies and rocks shall flow with blood and each torrent shall flood the plain. . . . And God shall judge all with war and sword, and there shall be brimstone from heaven, yea stones and rain and hail incessant and grievous. And death shall be upon the four-footed beasts. . . . Yea the land itself shall drink of the blood of the perishing and beasts shall eat their fill of flesh.”(3:363ff.)

The Mishna anticipated that just before the coming of Messiah,

arrogance increases, ambition shoots up, . . . the vine yields fruit yet wine is dear. The government turns to heresy. There is no instruction. The synagogue is devoted to lewdness. Galilee is destroyed, Gablan laid waste. The inhabitants of a district go from city to city without finding compassion. The wisdom of the learned is hated, the godly despised, truth is absent. Boys insult old men, old men stand in the presence of children. The son depreciates the father, the daughter rebels against the mother, the daughter-in-law against the mother-inlaw. A mans enemies are his house-fellows.”

Second, the popular eschatology of Jesus’ day held that in the midst of that turmoil would appear an Elijah-like forerunner heralding the Messiah’s coming. It was for that reason that so many Jews were drawn to John the Baptist.

Jewish oral tradition maintained that the ownership of any disputed money or property would have to wait “till Elijah comes” before being finally settled.

The third event of that eschatology was the Messiah’s appearance, at which time He would establish His kingdom age of glory and would vindicate His people.

The fourth event would be the alliance of the nations to fight against the Messiah. The Sibylline Oracles declared,

“The kings of the nations shall throw themselves against this land bringing retribution on themselves. They shall seek to ravage the shrine of the mighty God and of the noblest men whensoever they come to the land. In a ring round the city the accursed kings shall place each one his throne with the infidel people by him. And then with a mighty voice God shall speak unto all the undisciplined, empty minded people and judgment shall come upon them from the mighty God, and all shall perish at the hand of the Eternal.” (3:363-72)

In 2 Esdras [4 Ezra] is the prediction, “It shall be that when all the nations hear his (the Messiah’s) voice, every man shall leave his own land and the warfare they have one against the other, and the innumerable multitude shall be gathered together desiring to fight against him” (13:33-35). In other words, unbelieving mankind will interrupt all its other warfare in order to unite against the Messiah.

The fifth eschatological event would be the destruction of those opposing nations. Philo wrote that the Messiah would “take the field and make war and destroy great and populous nations.” The writer of 2 Esdras declared that the Messiah “shall reprove them for their ungodliness, rebuke them for their unrighteousness, reproach them to their faces with their treacheries—and when he has rebuked them he shall destroy them” (12:32-33). The book of Enoch reported that “it shall come to pass in those days that none shall be saved, either by gold or by silver, and none shall be able to escape. And there shall be no iron for war, nor shall one clothe oneself with a breastplate. Bronze shall be of no service, and tin shall not be esteemed, and lead shall not be desired. And all things shall be destroyed from the surface of the earth” (52:7-9). All the vast armaments and defences of the nations will be useless against the Messiah.

Sixth would be the restoration of Jerusalem, either by renovation of the existing city or by the coming down of a completely new Jerusalem from heaven. In either case, the city of the great King would henceforth be pure, holy, and incorruptible. In the book of Enoch, Jerusalem was envisioned as having “all the pillars . . . new and the ornaments larger than those of the first” (Enoch 90:28-29).

Seventh, the Jews scattered throughout the world would be gathered back to Israel. Many Jews today still utter the ancient prayer “Lift up a banner to gather our dispersed and assemble us from the four ends of the earth.” The eleventh chapter of the Psalms of Solomon gives a graphic picture of that regathering:

“Blow ye in Zion on the trumpet to summon the saints, Cause ye to be heard in Jerusalem the voice of him that bringeth good tidings;

For God hath had pity on Israel in visiting them.

Stand on the height, O Jerusalem, and behold thy children, From the East and the West, gathered together by the Lord;

From the North they come in the gladness of their God, From the isles afar off God hath gathered them.

High mountains hath he abased into a plain for them; The hills fled at their entrance. The woods gave them shelter as they passed by;

Every sweet-smelling tree God caused to spring up for them, That Israel might pass by in the visitation of the glory of their God.

Put on, O Jerusalem, thy glorious garments; Make ready thy holy robe;

For God hath spoken good for Israel forever and ever,

Let the Lord do what he hath spoken concerning Israel and Jerusalem;

Let the Lord raise up Israel by his glorious name.

The mercy of the Lord be upon Israel forever and ever.”

In the eighth event of the Messiah’s coming Kingdom would become the center of the world, and all nations would be subjugated to the Lord. “And all the isles and the cities shall say, How doth the Eternal love those men! For all things work in sympathy with them and help them. . . . Come let us all fall upon the earth and supplicate the eternal King, the mighty, everlasting God. Let us make procession to His Temple, for He is the sole Potentate” (Sibylline Oracles 3:690ff.).

Ninth and finally, the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that with the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom would come a new and eternal age of peace, righteousness, and divine glory.

Those ancient views of the coming of Christ were extrapolated largely from Old Testament teachings, and they closely correspond to New Testament premillennial doctrine about His second coming. The major difference is that those Jews had no knowledge of His coming twice, the first time to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the world’s sin and the second to establish His millennial kingdom on earth. The Jewish people were not looking for inward deliverance from sin but for outward deliverance from political oppression.

In the minds of the Jews of Jesus’ day, the time was ripe for the Messiah’s coming. They had suffered persecution and subjugation for many centuries and were at that time under the relentless power of Rome. When John the Baptist appeared on the scene, reminiscent of the preaching and lifestyle of Elijah, the people’s interest was intensely piqued. And when Jesus began His ministry of preaching, with unheard of authority and of healing every sort of disease, many Jews were convinced that He was indeed the Messiah. When He rode into Jerusalem on the colt, the crowds were beside themselves with anticipation, and they openly hailed Him as the Messiah, the long-awaited Son of David (Matt. 21:9).

At that point, however, Jesus’ ministry rapidly and radically departed from their expectations. According to their thinking, the next steps would be the gathering of the nations against the Messiah and His dramatic and effortless victory over them.

That idea apparently was also still in the minds of the Twelve. Jesus’ many predictions that He must suffer, die, and be resurrected had simply not registered with them at that stage. In some way or another they either had discounted those teachings or had rationalized and spiritualized them into being something other than literal, physical, and historical realities.

(Main source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – Matthew)

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