CHAPTER I (CONTINUE)
THE PREPARATORY PERIOD
1. Annunciation and Birth of John the Baptist
(Reference: Lk. 1:5-25; 57-80)
Luke alone gives an account of the birth of John the Baptist. His father, Zacharias, belonged to the priestly tribe of Levi, as did his mother, Elizabeth. (This is not the same Zachariah as the prophet in the Old Testament.) They were advanced in years and Elizabeth had never been able to have children. Back in the days of King David the priesthood had been divided into twenty-four courses, each course serving in the temple for one week, twice a year (1 Chron. 24:10). While in the holy place an angel appeared unto him and announced that Elizabeth would bear a son who would have the spirit and power of Elijah and was to be named John. Zacharias just could not believe such a thing could happen, and for that reason he was stricken dumb until the prophecy should be fulfilled.
Zacharias went home to his wife after his service in the temple, and she conceived and in due time the child was born. On the eighth day the relatives and neighbors gathered for the circumcision ceremony and they all called his name Zacharias after his father, but Elizabeth said, “Not so, but he shall be called John.” They remonstrated with her that none of her kinfolk bore that name, and then asked Zacharias what name he wanted the child to have. He called for a writing pad and wrote, “His name is John,” and immediately his speech was restored. The people marvelled and fear came upon them and all wondered what manner of child this would be, as the story spread throughout the hill country of Judea.
Then Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and he began to prophesy. His prophecy concerned the Messiah who was not yet born and his own son John. Even though Jesus would not be born for another six months, Zacharias praised God for rising up a Horn of salvation for Israel in the house of His servant David. It is most important to note that Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit, brings the same message as did the O.T. prophets concerning God’s promise to the nation of Israel for a physical, earthly kingdom. Theologians of the Post-millennial and Amillennial schools claim that the Jews were greatly mistaken in supposing that God intended to establish them in a literal, material kingdom. They claim that all of these promises which the Jews took literally must be spiritualized. Thus, they teach that Jesus came only to establish a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men. But what did the Spirit-filled Zacharias in the N.T. say?
“As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Lk. 1:70-75).
Although the actual word “kingdom” does not occur in this passage, it is plainly intimated by the reference to this Deliverer who is raised up in the house of David, and by the twice repeated reference to salvation, not only from sin, but from Israel’s enemies. But it is argued that these could not be physical enemies, such as the Romans, because the Jews were never delivered from them. What proponents of this objection fail to understand is that this deliverance was conditioned upon Israel’s repentance and acceptance of the Messiah. These conditions become evident later on in the preaching of Jesus and of the apostles, (cf. Lk. 19:41-44; Acts 3:18-26). The fact that the generation of Israel rejected the Messiah does not mean that these national promises of the kingdom will never be fulfilled. God swore with an oath to Abraham and He promised David that even though Israel failed He would finally restore His kingdom, (2 Sam, 7:5-17). Therefore, this Davidic covenant must yet be fulfilled.
Zacharias also prophesied that John would be called the prophet of the Highest, to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord, and to give the knowledge of salvation unto Israel by the remission of their sins. All what we are told of his childhood is that he grew and became strong in spirit and lived in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
2. Annunciation and Birth of Jesus
(References: Matt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-56; 2:1-20; John 1:14)
Luke also tells of the annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel. It took place six months after Elizabeth had conceived John. This is the first “hail Mary.” Roman Catholics have repeated it millions of times since then.
Truly, Mary was highly honored to be chosen to be the mother of the humanity of God’s Son, but the high honor bestowed upon her, exalting her as immaculately conceived and higher than Christ himself, substituting her as the intercessor between God and man, when Scripture states there is only one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5), is an invention of the Roman Church.
When the angels said, “Thou hast found favor with God,” he used the word which is almost always translated “grace.” This is the first time grace is mentioned in the N.T. and one of the eight times it is used in Luke, which may indicate the influence of the Apostle of Grace upon Luke. Mary needed the grace of God just like any other human. If Mary had been sinlessly conceived as Romanists aver, she would not have needed a Savior; but in the Magnificat she exclaims: “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior” (vs. 47).
Matthew says nothing about the annunciation to Mary but he does tell us that Mary was espoused to Joseph and that she was found to be with child before they had come together. According to the law Joseph could have called for her death (Deut. 22:20-24), but because he was a just man he decided to follow Deut. 24:1 and put her away quietly. But an angel appeared unto him in a dream and told him not to fear to take Mary to himself, because the conception had been by the power of the Holy Spirit and the child should be named Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins. Upon awaking, Joseph took Mary as his wife, but had no sex relations with her until she had brought forth her firstborn. Catholic doctrine refuses to accept this plain statement of Matt. 1:25. Mary had other children after Jesus was born. Ch. 13:55,56 names four brothers of Jesus as well as sisters.
Matt. 1:22 is the first of the many “that it might be fulfilled” statements in Matthew. Here the fulfillment is the Virgin Birth as predicted in Isa. 7:14.
Returning to Luke’s account in ch. 1:32,33 God makes it abundantly clear that the N.T. and the O.T. are in perfect agreement on the subject of Israel’s promised kingdom. God is going to give to Jesus the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Some theologians claim we today are spiritual Israelites but we have never heard any claim to be spiritual Jacobites. Jacob was his natural name: Israel his divinely given name. Christ is going to reign over the house of Jacob. Notice too that the Kingdom will have no end. The Millennial form of the Kingdom will have an end, but the Kingdom will continue after that in the new earth without end. After the last enemy is subjugated under the feet of Jesus, there will be no further need of Jesus to reign with a rod of iron, as in the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15, cf. 1 Cor. 15:26-28).
Luke gives a very detailed account of the actual birth of Jesus, which might be expected from a medical doctor. His mention of the taxation which was made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria helps to tie in the birth of Christ with secular history and it provides another example of the Providence of God: how He works through seemingly unrelated events to bring about His ends. It was because of the taxation that Joseph and Mary had to take the journey down to Bethlehem to enroll and while there Mary’s time to be delivered came. Thus, Jesus was born in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth and a prophecy uttered 700 years earlier was fulfilled (Mic. 5:2). One would have thought that God would see to it that His Son was born in the most pleasant and commodious surroundings, perhaps in the palace of the king, but this was the first step in His humiliation. There was no room in the inn, so He was born in a stable (cf. Phil. 2:5-8).
Luke also is the one who has given us the beautiful store of the shepherds. It was a joyous announcement: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” But before the ministry of Christ had ended He was being rejected by Israel, so that He had to change all of that joyous message and instead ask: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Lk. 12:51). It has been said that there can be no lasting peace on earth until Israel is established in her land, until Christ is in His rightful place on the throne of David, and until Satan is in his appointed place, the lake of fire.
There has been much controversy over the date of Christ’s birth. There are several logical arguments against the traditional date of Dec. 25 for the birth of Christ. It is argued that the shepherds would not be abiding in the open fields with their flocks in the dead of winter, not only because of the cold nights (it does snow in Jerusalem), but because there would be no pasturage at that season. It is also argued that the Roman government would not choose a time for the enrollment when it would be most difficult for the people to travel back to their own cities. And then the improbability of Mary in her condition taking this trip on donkey-back of some seventy miles in the winter is pointed out. From May through October there is no rain in Israel, but in December the almost continuous winter rains set in which continue through February. The hill country through which they travelled had an average elevation of 3000 feet. Such a journey through cold rains and even snow would surely have been a most difficult trip for a woman ready to give birth to a child.
It may at first seem strange that Mary who belonged to the tribe of Judah had a cousin, Elizabeth, who belonged to the priestly tribe of Levi. Edersheim, an authority on Jewish matters, states:
There can be no question, that both Joseph and Mary were of the royal lineage of David. Most probably the two were nearly related, while Mary could also claim kinship with the Priesthood, being, no doubt, on her mother’s side, a blood relative of Elizabeth, the Priest-wife of Zacharias. Even this seems to imply that Mary’s family must shortly before have held higher rank, for only with such did custom sanction any alliance on the part of Priests.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)
THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH
The millennial reign of Christ will serve as the front porch to eternity. It will be the initial phase of God’s eternal Kingdom. When the Millennium culminates, the final state of God’s prophetic program will be ushered in with the destruction of the present heaven and earth and the creation of a new heaven and new earth.
The heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, a 1,500-mile cube the size of a continent, will come down out of heaven and sit upon the new earth as the capital city of the new universe. The Lord will reign forever, and His people will serve Him and reign with Him for eternity.
After the millennial kingdom and the Great White Throne Judgment, the same God who created this present heaven and earth will destroy it and create a new heaven and new earth, ushering in the eternal state.
Before the new heaven and new earth can be created, the present heaven and earth must be destroyed. The old heaven and the old earth will disappear. The Bible mentions this event several times (Psalm 102:25-26; Isaiah 34:4; 51:6; Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:7,10-13; Revelation 21:1).
After the present order is destroyed, God will put it all back together again. The Bible does not tell us a great deal about the eternal state.
TWELVE THINGS THAT WILL NOT BE THERE
- No more sea—because all chaos and disorder (symbolized by the sea in ancient times) will be gone (Revelation 21:1)
- No more tears—because all hurt will be removed (Revelation 21:4)
- No more death—because mortality is swallowed up by life (Revelation 21:4)
- No more mourning—because all sorrow will be perfectly comforted (Revelation 21:4)
- No more crying—because joy will reign supreme (Revelation 21:4)
- No more pain—because all diseases will be expelled (Revelation 21:4)
- No more thirst—because every desire will be satisfied (Revelation 21:6)
- No more wickedness—because all evil will be banished (Revelation 21:8, 27)
- No more Temple—because God will be everywhere (Revelation 21:22)
- No more night—because the glory of God will shine (Revelation 21:23-25; 22:5)
- No more closed gates—because God’s door will always be open (Revelation 21:25)
- No more curse—because the death of Christ has lifted it (Revelation 22:3)
THE CAPITAL OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH (REVELATION 21:9–22:5)
As John looks at the new heaven and new earth in his vision, the spotlight shifts suddenly to a descending metropolis, the new Jerusalem, the Holy City coming down out of heaven from God.
This city is the current dwelling place of God, the angels, and the souls of departed saints, yet one day it will descend to the new earth (Revelation 21:2-3). The new Jerusalem will be the capital of the eternal state. It will be the metropolis of eternity.
The glory of God will be the main feature of this city (Revelation 21:11, 23). The heavenly city described in Revelation 21–22 is the third heaven that Paul visited in 2 Corinthians 12. It is the place that Jesus is preparing for us (John 14:1-3). It is the Father’s house in which there are many dwelling places.
Hebrews 12:22-24 describes the residents of God’s new world. There are three identifiable groups in the new Jerusalem besides God Himself and Jesus: angels, church-age believers (“the assembly of God’s firstborn children”), and the rest of the people of God from the other ages (“the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect”). All who by God’s grace have trusted in the person and promises of God will be in heaven.
THE PREPARATORY PERIOD
What we have called the Preparatory Period includes the Introductions to the Gospel accounts, the Genealogies of Jesus, the Annunciation and Birth of both John the Baptist and of Jesus, the Infancy of Jesus, His childhood until the age of twelve when He visited Jerusalem with His parents, and the silent years at Nazareth until the age of thirty.
- Introductory Statements References: Matt. 1:1-17; Mk. 1:1; 1:1-4; 3:23-38; John 1:1-13
Each of the Gospels presents certain introductory materials.
Matthew begins by tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham through David down to Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born. The genealogy is given in three sections of fourteen generations each: from Abraham to David, from David to Josiah, and from Josiah to Jesus. Actually, there are more than fourteen generations in each, according to the O.T., but for purposes of design, some of the generations were dropped by Matthew. It should be noted that in every case from Abraham to Joseph the expression “begat” is used, but it is not said’ that Joseph begat Jesus, for Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit before Joseph and Mary came together. Joseph is said to have been the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.
Mark begins very bluntly without any introduction: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The Servant is the Son of God.
Luke begins by informing us of the source of his information about Jesus. He addresses his Gospel to Theophilus. The name may refer to an individual, or the address may be to any lover of God, for that is the meaning of the name. We learn from Luke that many men had attempted to set in order a narrative of Christ’s life. He was not speaking of either Matthew’s or Mark’s Gospel, but of uninspired, pseudo-gospels. Luke was a man of science and he collected his information in a scientific manner. He interviewed those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning of the life of Jesus. He claims to have had perfect understanding of all things from the very first. The expression “from the very first” is the Greek word anothen, which is translated elsewhere “from above,” five times, and “the top,” three times. If this more usual meaning is applied to this passage, it makes Luke say that he had received perfect knowledge of these things from above, that is, by Divine revelation. This view is adopted in the Scofield Reference Bible.
Luke also gives a genealogy, but it is placed later at the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus, (3:23-38). It begins with Jesus and traces His line all the way back to Adam, the first man. It is instructive to note that Paul goes back to Adam when teaching the subject of reconciliation. Paul comprehends the whole human race under the headship of one or the other of just two men: the first man Adam, and the second man, the Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Cor. 15:22,45-47; Rom. 5:12-19). Matthew traces Christ’s genealogy through David’s son, Solomon; whereas Luke carries it through another son of David, Nathan. Matthew states that Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary; whereas Luke states that Joseph was the son of Heli. Heli was apparently the father of Mary and Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli. Thus, the genealogy is Mary’s line of descent. Thus both Joseph and Mary were descendants of King David. It should be noted that in Joseph’s genealogy there is a king by the name of Jeconiah, or Coniah, as he is called in Jer. 22:28- 30, who was the last of the Davidic line to reign over Judah. In the Jeremiah passage it is stated: “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.” Had Joseph been the actual father of Jesus (he was His legal father), this curse would have fallen upon Jesus. But the mother of Jesus was also descended from David through a line ‘that is free from this curse. Thus, it was not an arbitrary choice which God made for the human mother of His Son. She was the only one, married to Joseph, who would have overcome this curse.
John introduces Jesus as the Word or Logos, as having eternally existed with God. The term “Logos” was used by the philosophers of the day to signify impersonal Reason which operated between God and the material creation as the mediating principle. But John shows the true Logos to be personal, the eternal Son of God who communicates God to man. Just as words are the means of communicating one’s thoughts to another, so Christ as the Word is the Revealer of God to man.
When John says that the Word “was” in the beginning, the verb used means “existed,” without any thought of coming into being. This is in contrast to the word used in 1:14,’where the Word “was made” or “became” flesh. The Word as a Person always existed, but as a Man He became or came into being. That the Word is co-existent with God is also seen in the fact that He made everything that has ever been made, which must exclude the Maker from having been made, and in the further fact “that in him was life.” He was not merely alive: He is life, the originator and giver of life. Translate vs. 9: “That was the true Light coming into the world, which enlightens every man …”
It should be noted that John begins where the other Evangelists leave off, for in the very first chapter he announces Israel’s rejection: “He came unto his own and his own received him not, but as many as received him, to them he gave the authority to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John wrote his Gospel near the end of the first century, well into the present Church Age. For that reason, it seems to be a sort of bridge from the earthly, life of Christ to the present Divine order. John places special emphasis upon the death of Christ and upon belief or faith as the basis of salvation, truths which are especially emphasized by Paul in the gospel of the grace of God.
Thus, we can see that John’s Gospel has a much closer relationship and application to believers in this present Pauline dispensation of the grace of God than do the Synoptics. John wrote to people who were living almost thirty years after the death of the Apostle Paul, which was many years after the new revelation was given through. It is our belief that John was guided by John does not reveal Body of truth, as such, but, as stated earlier, he begins where the Synoptics end, and places special emphasis upon believing, upon the Deity of Jesus Christ, upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit, upon the oneness of believers in Christ, upon the universality of the Gospel. It is for these and similar reasons that the Gospel of John has been distributed so widely as a separate Scripture portion in evangelistic efforts. And it is for this reason we have expressed the belief that John’s Gospel provides a bridge between the former and the present dispensations.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)
The Design of the Gospels
Why do we have four separate records of the life of Christ instead of just one? Would it not have been better to have one complete record instead of four incomplete ones? The Old Testament sets forth the character of the promised Messiah in a four-fold fashion.
- Matthew – One of the Old Testament titles for the Messiah is “the Branch,” meaning that which sprouts or springs forth. In Jer. 23:5 the Messiah is called, “the Branch of David.” David was the King of Israel with whom God had made a covenant concerning an everlasting King and Kingdom. Matthew introduces Jesus as the Son of David in his opening sentence, and emphasizes the truth concerning the Messianic Kingdom.
- Mark – The Messiah is called “Jehovah’s Servant the Branch,” in Zech. 3:8Mark presents Jesus especially in this character. Unlike Matthew; who traces the genealogy of Jesus in the kingly line back to David and Abraham, Mark says nothing about His line of descent, which is of little importance for a servant. He does introduce Jesus in the first verse as the Son of God, but nothing is said about the origin of His humanity. The activity of Jesus is swift and moving in Mark. Over and over Mark used the word translated, “immediately,” “straightway,” giving the impression that Jesus was constantly serving God. Jesus was the ideal Servant of God, always doing the Father’s will, and is thus an example for all servants of God in all ages, as far as devotion and dedication are concerned. Since He was living under the Mosaic Law dispensation and was introducing the Messianic Kingdom, the type of His ministry varies in many respects from that which God has ordained for today.
- Luke – The Messiah is also set forth as “the Man whose name is the Branch,” (Zech. 6: 12). The emphasis in Luke’s Gospel is on Jesus as the Son of man. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man. He gives many details about the birth and childhood of Jesus which are omitted by the other writers. The favorite title of Jesus for Himself was “the Son of man.” It is not recorded that anyone else called Him by this name.
- John – Finally, Isa. 4:2 speaks of the Messiah as “the Branch of Jehovah.” John was written to exalt Jesus especially as the Son of God. He states the purpose of his Gospel to be “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name,” (John 20:31). He establishes the Deity of Jesus Christ in the very first verse of his
John makes it evident that the Gospels contain only a partial record of all that Jesus said and did, for he states: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world could not contain the books that should be written,” (John 21:25). Each of the Gospel writers chose only those words and events which contributed to the design of his Gospel. It is as though four men were stationed on four sides of a building and each asked to write a description of the building. They would all be writing about the same building, but each would see features not apparent to the others, and in places their descriptions might vary to the extent that they were describing entirely different buildings. Thus there are differences between the four Gospels, but the differences are not contradictions or errors on the part of the writers, but rather are evidences of design.
The Synoptic Problem
The word “synoptic” means “seen together.” It is applied to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, because these three Gospels are very similar in content and order. The problem is, that we have three separate records of the life of Jesus which are so similar and yet have distinct differences.
Part of the Synoptic problem stems from defective views of inspiration. All Scripture is God-breathed and therefore inerrant. If this claim of Scripture for itself is denied or compromised, then some questions about the differences are valid. Inspiration does not exclude the use of human sources; in fact, Luke tells us that he received his information from those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses. Inspiration would not rule out the theory commonly held that one writer used an earlier written Gospel as a model. Inspiration demands that the Holy Spirit superintended what these men wrote. They were led to sources and selected such materials which would fulfill God’s purpose in having each of the four Gospels written. Not only so, but there must have been a certain amount of direct revelation of facts to them of things they could not have known otherwise. How could they have known what words were spoken between Christ and Satan in the temptation when no one else was present; or how could they have known what Christ prayed in the garden while they were asleep? Actually, Matthew and John were apostles and were personal witnesses of practically all that Jesus said and did, so that they would have had little need for outside sources of information.
There are differences in wording and in the chronological arrangement of parallel passages in the Synoptics which need to be explained. E.W. Bullinger argues that each of the Synoptics give exactly the same chronological order and that what appears to be parallel passages in the three Gospels are only similar and not identical events. He claims, for example, that instead of there having been three temptations of the Lord as commonly believed, there were six: Matthew mentions three and Luke the other three. Instead of there having been two others crucified with Jesus, there were four: two thieves and two malefactors. While it is evident that there are cases of similar sayings and events which are not identical in the Synoptics, it appears unreasonable to explain every difference on this basis.
None of the Gospel writers made mistakes, and any differences in their accounts could be reconciled if all of the facts were known. A great deal of textual criticism has proceeded on the basis that the differences are due to erroneous information the writers received from their various sources, but this approach is purely naturalistic and is opposed to Divine inspiration. Others hold the inconsistent view that the important spiritual truths are inspired but the less important historical parts are not inspired and therefore open to mistakes.
There are numerous factors which may explain the differences between the Gospels. Christ no doubt spoke to His people in Hebrew or Aramaic. We know that Paul spoke to the Jews in Hebrew (Acts 22:2), so it is reasonable to suppose that Christ did likewise. The Gospels were written in Greek. Translating from Hebrew into Greek could explain the difference in words or order of words. Pilate wrote the inscription over the Cross in three languages: Hebrew, the national language, Latin, the official language, and Greek, the common language (John 19:20). It is possible that the differences in the wording of this inscription in the four Gospels is due to translation from the Hebrew or the Latin. It is evident also that Jesus often repeated parables and other sayings, so that what may appear to be a part of the Sermon on the Mount misplaced in Mark or Luke, may in fact have been part of another discourse. An evident example of this may be seen in the parable of the candle. In Lk. 8:16 we read: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they that enter in may see the light.” Then in the same Gospel of Luke (11:33), we read: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” Here in the same Gospel we find a parable repeated in slightly different words and on an entirely different occasion, with a different application. Had one of these parables been found in Matthew and the other in Luke we might have been tempted to conclude that one or the other of the writers was mistaken in his chronological arrangement of the parable, and that there was a mix-up on whether the Lord spoke of putting the candle under a vessel or a bushel, or in a secret place or under a bed. No doubt if we knew all of the circumstances surrounding the writing of these Gospel accounts, we would have no need for harmonizing them; rather we would discover that are in perfect harmony in the way God has given them to us.
The author is inclined to agree with the following statement of William Kelly:
“It is to me certain that Matthew and Luke were led to follow an exact order, one dispensational, the other moral; that they are more profoundly instructive than if one or the other, or both, had adhered to the very elementary manner of an annalist; and that it is a mere blunder therefore to characterize any resulting difference of arrangement (such as Matt. 8:28, etc., compared with Mk. 5:1, etc., and Luke 8:26, etc.) as a real discrepancy.”
The Relation of the Gospels to the Church
To set forth the relation of the Gospels to the Church we must first define what is meant by the Church. The Greek word translated church occurs 116 times in the N.T., and some 70 times in the Greek translation of the O.T. Some theologians believe God has had but one church from the beginning of time, which is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages – past, present, and future. Under this view the Gospels would be completely related to the Church. Other theologians do not recognize the existence of a church in the O.T., believing that John the Baptist and Jesus founded the Church, and therefore accordingly this view relates the Gospels completely to the Church. Another group of theologians teach that there was no church until the Day of Pentecost after the close of the Gospel records. This view makes at least part of the Gospels apply to Israel’s Kingdom teaching, and other parts to anticipate the formation of the Church.
There seems to have been some sort of an O.T. Israelitish “Church” (Acts 7:38), the existence of a “church” of believers on the day of Pentecost, and the prediction of a “Church” in the Millennial Kingdom (Heb. 2:12 cf. Ps. 22:22). God suspended His dealings with this Kingdom Church when the nation of Israel rejected the Kingdom Gospel which was preached in the early chapters of the Acts, and God began a new Church with the out calling of the Apostle Paul, which is designated “the Church which is His (Christ’s) Body” (Eph. 1:22,23). This Church and its administration is said to have been a secret never before made known to the sons of men in other ages and generations until it was revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-9; Col. 1:24-26).
According to this view the primary interpretation of the Gospels relates entirely to the nation of Israel and its Messianic Kingdom expectations. However, this does not mean that there is nothing in the Gospels for members of the Body of Christ, for there are many moral and spiritual truths which apply equally to Israel and the Body of Christ. Paul states that the Gentiles in this present Church age have been made partakers of Israel’s spiritual things (Rom. 15:27). Therefore, as we study the Gospels, we must carefully distinguish those truths which apply only to the people of Israel and the teaching which may apply equally to us today. It is necessary to recognize the fact that the Lord Jesus was born under and lived under the O.T. (Rom. 15:8; Gal. 4:4), and that the N.T., which was made with the house of Israel (Heb. 8:8), did not actually begin until the death of Christ at the very end of the Gospels (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:15-17).
The historic truth contained in the Gospels is foundational to the whole scheme of redemption as found in the Pauline epistles. Apart from this truth there could be no basis for the existence of the Body of Christ and of the present dispensation of the grace of God.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)
THE FINAL BATTLE AND THE WHITE THRONE JUDGEMENT
At the end of the Millennium, Satan will be released for a brief period of time to lead a final rebellion against Christ. Then he will be defeated and cast into the lake of fire for eternity.
After the Millennium and Satan’s final rebellion, Christ will sit upon a great white throne, and all unbelievers from every age will be resurrected and assembled before Him to be judged. This will be the final resurrection. Those who refused to trust in the Lord will be judged according to their deeds. Since their names will not be found written in the Book of Life, which contains the names of the redeemed, they will be consigned to the lake of fire forever.
At the end of the one thousand years, Satan is released for a brief period of time for his last stand (Revelation 20:3). God allows Satan one last shot at world dominion. But why would God release Satan from the abyss?
God’s Word clearly teaches that man is sinful both by nature and by practice. Man has been tested in every way and will always fail apart from God and His grace. The millennial kingdom and the second “coming” of Satan will conclusively prove this. During the messianic kingdom, people who haven’t yet been glorified will still have sinful natures, but the perfect world around them will offer no enticement to sin, nor will Satan and his demons be around to tempt them either. Satan will be bound for one thousand years, and the Lord Jesus Himself will be personally present, ruling and reigning on the restored earth.
In spite of these perfect conditions, a host of people born and raised during the Millennium will still reject the Lord. Only believers will survive the Tribulation to enter the kingdom, and they will all know the Lord and trust in Him, but they will have children during the Millennium, and many of those children will not repent and believe in Christ as their Savior. They may outwardly conform to avoid judgment, but inwardly they will harbour a rebellious heart against the King of kings.
When Satan is released at the end of the Millennium, Satan will gather so many people after his release that “the number of them is like the sand of the seashore” (Revelation 20:8, NASB).
The gathering of rebels and the war that defeats them are called “Gog and Magog” in Revelation 20:8. This title has confused many people and led them to equate this battle of Gog and Magog with the one in Ezekiel 38–39. There are two key differences between these two battles that indicate they are not the same.
Ezekiel 38–39 occurs shortly before, or early in the Tribulation, and specific nations will be involved. Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8 occurs after the Millennium in Revelation 20:1-6 and involves all the nations
As this massive mob of rebels gathers on the broad plain of the earth and surrounds Jerusalem, God sends fire down from heaven to destroy them. Immediately, Satan is cast into the lake of fire forever, to join the other two members of the false trinity, the Antichrist and the false prophet (Revelation 20:10).
JUDGEMENT DAY – REVELATION 20:11-15
This final day of judgment is called the Great White Throne Judgment. The court date for the Great White Throne Judgement is set on God’s docket to occur after the millennial kingdom has ended and Satan has been cast into the lake of fire.
It is called white because it is absolutely pure, holy, and righteous. Jesus Christ is the final judge before whom the unbelieving world will stand. As John 5:22 reminds us, “Not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (NASB, see also Acts 17:31). In 2 Timothy 4:1 Jesus Christ is called the one who will “judge the living and the dead.”
When the Day of Judgment comes, there will be no place to hide. “The books” will be opened (Revelation 20:12). God is keeping a precise account of every person’s life in His books (Daniel 7:10). “And all were judged according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:13).
The Book of Life contains the names of everyone who has ever been saved by God’s grace. “Anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). “The purpose of the Great White Throne Judgment is not to determine if a person is saved but to judge the unsaved.
The condemned will die a second time; that is, they will be separated eternally from God in the lake of fire (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:14). Hell Is a place of conscious physical, mental, and spiritual torment. (Matthew 13:41-42, Mark 9:47-49, Luke 16:28).
In 2018, Robert Spencer published a remarkable book, called “The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS.” In one of the chapters (chapter 10), he discussed the matter of how the Western world caved into Islam’s demands. In this series, we look at some highlights from this chapter.
THE WEST LOSES THE
WILL TO LIVE
The Islamic State
The Islamic State (commonly but erroneously known as ISIS, an acronym for its former and rejected name, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [the Levant]) is best known for its audacious attempt from 2014 to 2017 to restore the caliphate. It declared its caliphate in the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria on June 29, 2014, the same day it issued an explanatory document entitled “This is the Promise of Allah.”
The declaration asserted that the caliphate frees human beings from oppression and subjugation: it is meant “for the purpose of compelling the people to do what the Sharia (Allah’s law) requires of them concerning their interests in the hereafter and worldly life, which can only be achieved by carrying out the command of Allah, establishing His religion, and referring to His law for judgment.”
Before Islam, according to “This is the Promise of Allah,” the Arabs were weak and disunited; once they accepted Islam, Allah granted them unity and power… The God of this ummah (—the best of peoples—) yesterday is the same God of the ummah today, and the One who gave it victory yesterday is the One who will give it victory today.” Accordingly, “The time has come for those generations that were drowning in oceans of disgrace, being nursed on the milk of humiliation, and being ruled by the vilest of all people, after their long slumber in the darkness of neglect—the time has come for them to rise.” The “vilest of all people” is a Qur’anic epithet for the “unbelievers among the People of the Book”—that is, Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians who do not become Muslims (98:6).
The Islamic State exhorted all Muslims to join in the caliphate and give it allegiance, as the Mahdi in Sudan and so many other Muslim revivalists had throughout Islamic history:
“So rush O Muslims and gather around your khalifah, so that you may return as you once were for ages, kings of the earth and knights of war.… By Allah, if you disbelieve in democracy, secularism, nationalism, as well as all the other garbage and ideas from the west, and rush to your religion and creed, then by Allah, you will own the earth, and the east and west will submit to you. This is the promise of Allah to you. This is the promise of Allah to you.”
Less than a week after declaring itself the caliphate, the Islamic State gave the world a look at the new caliphate, releasing a video on July 5, 2014, of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking in the twelfth-century Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul.
He said that after the fall of the last caliphate, “the disbelievers were able to weaken and humiliate the Muslims, dominate them in every region, plunder their wealth and resources, and rob them of their rights.” They did this by “attacking and occupying their lands, placing their treacherous agents in power to rule the Muslims with an iron fist, and spreading dazzling and deceptive slogans such as: civilization, peace, co-existence, freedom, democracy, secularism, nationalism, and patriotism, among other false slogans. Those rulers continue striving to enslave the Muslims, pulling them away from their religion with those slogans.”
The warriors of jihad should not worry about the formidable military might of the infidels, because success would come through obedience to Allah, not by means of weapons:
“O soldiers of the Islamic State, do not be awestruck by the great numbers of your enemy, for Allah is with you. I do not fear for you the numbers of your opponents, nor do I fear your neediness and poverty, for Allah (the Exalted) has promised your Prophet (peace be upon him) that you will not be wiped out by famine, and your enemy will not himself conquer you and violate your land. Allah placed your provision under the shades of your spears.”
He called upon them also to “persevere in reciting the Quran with comprehension of its meanings and practice of its teachings. This is my advice to you. If you hold to it, you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.”
The Islamic State is Not Islamic
U.S. and Western European leaders immediately denied that the Islamic State had anything to do with Islam. “ISIL does not operate in the name of any religion,” said Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf in August 2014. “The president has been very clear about that, and the more we can underscore that, the better.” CIA director John Brennan said in March 2015: “They are terrorists, they’re criminals. Most—many—of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct. Let’s make it very clear that the people who carry out acts of terrorism—whether it be al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—are doing it because they believe it is consistent with what their view of Islam is. It is totally inconsistent with what the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world [believe].” In September 2014, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius announced: “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists.”
The Islamic State professed contempt and amusement over all this confusion and denial. In his September 21, 2014, address calling for jihad strikes in the U.S. and Europe, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad Adnani ridiculed John Kerry (“that uncircumcised old geezer”) and Barack Obama for declaring that the Islamic State was not Islamic, as if they were Islamic authorities.
And indeed, everything the Islamic State did was clearly based on Islamic texts and teachings. Its public beheadings applied the Qur’an’s directive: “When you meet the unbelievers, strike the necks.” (47:4)
Similar calculations hold true regarding the Islamic State’s practice of kidnapping Yazidi and Christian women and pressing them into sex slavery. The Qur’an says straightforwardly that in addition to wives (“two or three or four”), Muslim men may enjoy the “captives of the right hand” (4:3, 4:24). These are specified as being women who have been seized as the spoils of war (33:50) and are to be used specifically for sexual purposes, as men are to “guard their private parts except from their wives or those their right hands possess.” (23:5–6).
If these women are already married, no problem. Islamic law directs that “when a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled.”
On December 15, 2014, the Islamic State released a document entitled “Clarification [regarding] the Hudud”—that is, punishments Allah specifies in the Qur’an. Blasphemy against Islam was punishable by death. Adulterers were to be stoned to death; fornicators would be given one hundred lashes and exile. Sodomy (homosexuality) was also to be punished by death, as per Muhammad’s reported words: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.”
The Islamic State’s rapid success was partly attributable to its fidelity to Islam and partly also to its financial backing, which came, predictably enough, in great part from Saudi Arabia. In August 2014, Hillary Clinton wrote to John Podesta, an adviser to President Barack Obama: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Isis] and other radical Sunni groups in the region. This effort will be enhanced by the stepped-up commitment in the [Kurdish Regional Government]. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious US pressure.”
But nothing was done.
At its height, the Islamic State controlled a territory larger than Great Britain and attracted thirty thousand foreign fighters from a hundred countries to travel to Iraq and Syria to join the caliphate. It gained the allegiance of other jihad groups in Libya, Nigeria, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Muslims took its apparent success as a sign of Allah’s favor: the caliphate had indeed returned.
It didn’t last long, however. When Donald Trump replaced Barack Obama as president of the United States, Iraqi forces and others began rolling up Islamic State strongholds, such that within a year of the beginning of the Trump presidency, the Islamic State had lost ninety-eight percent of its territory. The jihad threat posed by the Islamic State did not lessen, however, as those foreign fighters who survived returned to their home countries, often welcomed back by Western leaders who were convinced that kind treatment would compel them to turn away from jihad.
The Jihad Continues
In any case, the Islamic State was gone from Iraq and Syria, but the dream of the caliphate and the obligation to jihad remained, and other Muslims were quite willing, even eager, to take up arms in service of both.
The early twenty-first century saw a sharp rise in jihad massacres perpetrated all over the West by individuals or small groups of Muslims: in London, Manchester, Paris, Toulouse, Nice, Amsterdam, Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, Munich, Copenhagen, Malmö, Stockholm, Turku (in Finland), Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Beslan, among other places. Filmmaker Theo van Gogh was massacred on an Amsterdam street in 2004 for offending Islam; as mentioned previously, the cartoonists of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were murdered in Paris in January 2015 for the same offense. In July 2016, Islamic jihadists murdered a French priest, Father Jacques Hamel, at the altar of his church for the crime of being Christian.
After each one of these atrocities, the local and national authorities called for prayer vigils and vowed their resolve against the “terrorists” of unspecified ideology, but they did nothing to address the immigration and appeasement policies that had led to these attacks in the first place.
As crime rates skyrocketed and jihad terror attacks became an increasingly common feature of the landscape in Europe, authorities all over the West seemed more concerned with making sure their people did not think negatively about Islam than defending them against the jihad onslaught.
The failure of today’s leadership and the international media to inform the public about what was really going on was an abdication of responsibility unparalleled in history, and one that rebuked the leaders throughout history who died to defend their people from the advancing jihad.