KINGDOMS AND COVENANTS
An Interpretive Commentary on the Bible, dealing with Message of Christ and the Apostles, the Kingdoms and Covenants, the Morality and Salvation of God, Israel and the Church, Predestination, the End of the Age, and the Decline of Christianity.
Daniel H. Shubin
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. The Covenants
3. The Kingdoms
4. The Message of Jesus and the Apostles
5. The Salvation of God
6. The Israel of God
7. Historic Departure from Scriptural Concepts
This volume deals with the topics of kingdoms and covenants, defined and accomplished throughout the history of the people of Israel, both old and new, as recorded in the Holy Bible. The kingdom and the covenant are the 2 manners that Jehovah God related to and is involved with His created humanity, whether individual or community. The manner that people relate to and involve themselves with one another within the spiritual community is likewise in terms of covenant and rule. No era has progressed on earth since creation without a covenant of Jehovah God in effect or available for the individual and populous. Both concepts operate simultaneously in Scripture and are interwoven in every era, in every situation and in every locale where humanity lived and especially Israel.
Parallel with the above are the sections dealing with the message of Jesus Messiah, and the New Covenant and the spiritual Kingdom which he initiated. This section includes the message of John Baptizer and the Apostles in their historical context. The beliefs and practices of the new Messianic communities established by the apostles are also explained in their historical context. A discussion on the last days of old Israel and the termination of the old covenant is especially covered.
The purpose of the author in composing this volume is to place the interaction of Jehovah God and the spiritual community into their historical context. This is especially noticeable in the chapters dealing with the salvation of the believers in Jesus Messiah, the manner of the return of Jesus Messiah, and the purpose in proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to the Jewish and Roman worlds. Previous treatises on eschatology, although well researched and written by capable authors, are outside the historical context of the 1st and 2nd centuries of the history of the Roman Empire and especially the historical events of Judea that surrounded the ministry of the apostles. This author contends that all what Jesus Messiah and the apostles prophesied to occur did occur, and that the last days were fulfilled during that generation following the ministry of Jesus Messiah. If the Bible is to be accepted as the revealed Word of Jehovah God, then the conclusion must be made that all that it says was to fulfill, did fulfill, and exactly as written.
The final section of this volume is a historical analysis of the departure from Scripture in regards to the topics covered. Utilizing the writings of the post-apostolic church fathers and the subsequent apologists, the gradual departure from the concepts of the new covenant and the spiritual kingdom as defined in this treatise is researched and documented. The reason for this section is to provide the reader with concrete information and factual evidence proving that many of the teachings of historical Christianity are a departure from the original concepts believed, instituted and practiced by the original Messianic communities. This will provide a means for the reader to return to the faith that was once delivered to the saints.
The earlier volume written by this author titled The Attributes of Heaven and Earth, dealt with the substance and nature of deity and humanity. This volume was an interpretive theology dealing also with many doctrines of historical and Orthodox Christianity. A reading of this first volume is recommended, and especially because the author’s vein of Bible interpretation will be introduced to the reader and so the concepts of Kingdoms and Covenants will be more easily understood
The salvation attained through Jesus Messiah is prosperous and successful living in accord with the moral code and divine instruction. The author hopes that every person reading this volume will seriously consider its concepts and incorporate them into his and her life for Jehovah God to bless them.
TRUTH OF JEHOVAH GOD
The truth of Jehovah God is axiomatic. A person with a desire to live a life of high moral character will automatically and naturally comprehend the truth and value of adhering to the moral code of Jehovah God after its study. A person wanting to gain any extent of happiness, prosperity or success in their life will likewise acknowledge that the precepts contained in Holy Scripture, known as the Bible of the OT and NT, will create this path for their attainment. Jesus Messiah said the same to his audience in this manner:
If any person’s will is to do His (the Father’s) will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. John 7:17.
Only a brief perusal of the Bible is required to conclude that this volume is the greatest collection of wisdom applicable for the prolongation and success of human existence ever compiled. Only the Bible, of all holy books every written, defines accurately and reliably the initial beginnings of the universe and the preparation of this world for residence. Only this book accurately details the origin of created humanity and all living creation. Only this book states in unambiguous terms the reason for the creation of humanity and what their future is from conception and to death, for every person on an individual basis. Only this book, and in terms understandable to both educated and uneducated, explains human nature, from hate to love to marriage to war.
Even though the actual moral instruction of Jesus Messiah in the gospel is very meager, he is considered the one who determined and implemented the moral code and divine instruction of Sacred Scripture in general. Jesus Messiah is the Word of Jehovah God. He is the personification of all divine and beneficial instruction, or the incarnation of the law and instruction of Jehovah God. For this reason Jesus Messiah is the materialization of all that the Bible represents and teaches.
Paul apostle is the primary source of the moral code of Jesus Messiah, since it was his responsibility in his ministry to bring the gospel to the gentiles. These people did not have a moral code to live by, and so Paul apostle provided them with one based on Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Jewish sages, one that would apply to the Messianic communities.
For this reason generation after generation assemblies are formed from willing and sincere individuals that acknowledge the truth and benefit in the material contained in this book and the role of Jesus Messiah. They identify themselves as a Christian organization, meaning that their assembly or religion acknowledges the teachings of this book as valuable to the extent of utilizing it as a basis of morals and ethics for their assembly. The extent to which each assembly adheres to or observes what is dictated in Scripture depends on the individuals or membership of that particular assembly, and there are as many interpretations and applications of the same Bible as there are assemblies.
The same can apply to this person Jesus. He has been recognized as great teacher, healer, prophet, son of Jehovah God, 2nd person of a triune deity, and itinerant rabbi. Each “Christian” assembly identifies with this person Jesus in one way or another because there is no greater individual in any respect to identify with. Some assemblies identify with a saint or heavenly being, but yet they will still claim identification with Jesus as the supreme identity. Every “Christian” assembly acknowledges that there is no other name in heaven or on earth that will benefit them to the extent that believing in Jesus will. The extent to which a person defines Jesus and applies him to their personal, family, social and business life varies person to person, and assembly to assembly. The extent to which a person believes in Jesus and locates him in the hierarchy of divinity depends on the extent of benefit a person feels they will gain from such belief. There are as many interpretations of the entity of Jesus as there are people who recognize his existence. The basic and common denominator is the same, that this person Jesus has something to offer humanity and did so, and that this book the Bible is a benefit for all who will live according to its instruction. Jehovah God Himself seeks people whom He can bless and prosper for adhering to the divine instruction. Moses spoke regarding this:
Therefore you shall keep His statues and His commandments which I command you this day, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which Jehovah your God gives you for the age. Deut 4:40, 5:29.
If you the reader can conclude that the words of this book will benefit you and this author contends the evidence is axiomatic, then put Jehovah God to the test! Accept and adhere to and observe the moral code and divine instruction! Jehovah God Himself is willing to challenge any person on the reliability of any promise of His.
Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and thereby put me to the test, says Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour upon you an overflowing blessing. Mal 3:10. 2 Chron 31:10
This deity above all is trustworthy in all that He states. The example made by the author of Hebrews is that promise made to Abraham patriarch when he and his wife were still childless. Heb 6:17-18. There exists 2 irrefutable items which demonstrate the absolute reliability of Jehovah God. This author proposes the Word and Spirit of Jehovah God as the 2 irrefutable items. Because Jehovah God is from the realm of spirit, heaven, it is through these 2 items that He reaches into our material realm to manifest Himself.
Every word from Jehovah God is reliable. This is confirmed in several places in Scripture. John 6:63, 17:17. Josh 23:14. And every action by way of His holy Spirit working in us through the baptism and gifts is reliable. John 5:36. Because these 2 facets of His nature penetrate the invisible barrier between heaven and the material realm and enter into our life, Jehovah God will base His reputation on them. These are the 2 witnesses of Rev 11:3. Since Jehovah God is immutable as a result of His nature, in terms of morals and purpose, He utilizes His word and spirit to reveal to created humanity His reliability. In regard to the advantage of believing in Jehovah God and His word and spirit, Isaiah prophet spoke the following:
If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel you shall be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken. Is 1:18-20.
The invitation is to a rational person who is at a crossroad of their life. A choice must be made. The invitation is to begin a new life if difficulties or serious problems have occurred in the recent past. However now the individual must give Jehovah God the opportunity to heal previous wounds and reestablish the person in a stable and satisfactory life. If other avenues have failed to rectify difficulties in life, the alternative is voluntary subjection to the dictates of Scripture. Only then will there be an improvement in the personal, social and family life of the individual.
DEVELOPMENT OF A RIGHTEOUS HUMANITY
The fundamental purpose of the institution of both covenant and rule of Jehovah God is to create a righteous humanity, an honorable civilization. Although history infinitely records the failed attempts of thousands of ethnic groups and nationalities, this does not make the establishment of a righteous humanity an impossibility. The concept is part of the nature of every created person and which corporate effort materializes into governments. Nonetheless, all have eventually collapsed, for the largest to the smallest, whether of a long duration or that of a few years. The concept of the formation of a righteous humanity however is most successful on an individual or community basis.
The failure of any ethnic group or nationality to establish an honorable civilization is due to failure to enter the covenant of Jehovah God and observe it. For a righteous humanity to develop and succeed, every member on an individual basis must present themselves in their subjection to the authority of Jehovah God, and accept from Him His moral code and divine instruction. Then every person must recite the words recited by previous generations to enter this covenant.
All that Jehovah has spoken we will observe and we will be obedient. Ex 19:6, 24:7.
With this concept applied by Jehovah God toward His people and their acceptance and willing subjection and obedience, a righteous humanity can be achieved. This entity of His elect persevere generation after generation. Salvation as an individual is acquired by residing in the will of Jehovah God as a participant in his covenant.
CONCEPT OF THE COVENANT
Every person deals with the concept of covenant on a regular basis. It is a contract agreed to by 2 parties with a benefit to be acquired by each party. It is a win-win agreement. Every covenant or contract has terms and conditions that form its basis. If these are agreeable to both parties, and if both parties uphold the terms and conditions, then both parties will benefit. In many circumstances there is a stronger party and a weaker party. In this situation the stronger party is Jehovah God, who composes the contract and defines the terms and conditions, while the weaker party, humanity, has the option of either entering into the covenant-contract or declining. With contracts between humans not everything is always equitable, but with Jehovah God the benefit is actually in favor of the weaker party.
Look down from Your holy residence, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, as You did swear to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey. Deut 26:15.
The covenant is dissolved only when an incorrigible breach or violation occurs by the individual or community. It is never arbitrary and never to be breached by Jehovah God. The violators will then be liable to and will incur the penalty phase of the contract. The covenants are eternal, and are always available for any and every person to enter into.
If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself. 2 Tim 2:11-13.
Jehovah God has designed such a covenant that it is in the best interests of the weaker party to enter into it. This is what He proposes for created humanity, and in our best interests. If a person voluntarily enters into this covenant with Jehovah God, He is faithful in every respect to uphold His portion of the terms and conditions and will do extra. Jehovah God will never fail on His part, it is the human that fails. As long as the person who enters into the covenant lives according to this moral code, voluntarily and without coercion, Jehovah God will fulfill His portion of the contract and bless this person, but when the person male or female violates or fails to uphold their portion, then Jehovah God has no choice except to withdraw His blessing, but not immediate. Time is allowed for repentance, and the withdrawal of favor and blessing is gradual. This gradual withdrawal is to remind the person of his recession or retreat - apostasy - from grace and that the course taken in violation of the covenant will lead to greater withdrawal of grace from that person's life. If this retreat and violation continues then the withdrawal and blessing will continue until the person has abandoned the covenant entirely. At this point the person is outside the will of Jehovah God and must fend for themselves. Repentance at any time and the voluntary return of the person to Jehovah God allows the person to again enter the covenant to enjoy His grace and blessing as long as they now uphold the moral code of Jehovah God.
JEHOVAH GOD AS A MORAL CODE
Jehovah God is not a deity whose attention or favor can be gained or who can be appeased by rite and ritual. The essence of Jehovah God is that of a moral code. Jehovah God is not the sun or moon or lightning or war or fertility, whose blessing and benefit can be acquired by prescribed ritual, and is not a deity whose wrath can be ameliorated by superficial ceremony. This error did appear in Israel on occasion. One occurrence is noticeable in the circumstance with the Israelites bringing the ark of the covenant into battle in 1 Sam 4. They felt that the presence of the ark would be sufficient for them to gain the victory over their enemy, the Philistines. But wrong they were. With their subsequent defeat the ark of the covenant was captured by the enemy. A second example of error is noted in Jer 9:1-4. The Israelites were convinced that they would automatically and unconditionally be defended from the threat of Babylon because of the presence of the temple. Because the temple was constructed by Solomon son of David, filled with the holy Spirit at its consecration, and regularly had the required services performed properly, they felt Jehovah God would defend them. But they also were wrong.
This is the distinction with Jehovah God as opposed to all other so-called and venerated deities or supernatural heroes or divine entities. Jehovah God was to be identified as a moral code. He was worshipped by way of adherence and observance of this moral code. The ritual of the OT was designed to impress upon the participant sin as repulsive and offensive behavior, and to lead the people to voluntary fulfillment of the moral code. Jehovah God was not to be identified with an image or portrait or identified physically with some creature or creation. The pseudo-deities were identified with creatures and creation. Examples such as the molten calf. Ex 32. The calves of Jeroboam. 2 King 12:28. The brass serpent of Num 21:8-9. It became known as Nehushtan and was venerated at a shrine, but was later destroyed by Hezekiah. 2 King 18:4. Any and all of this was an insult to the omnipotence and omnipresence of Jehovah God, and an inappropriate portrayal of His majesty and existence as a spirit. Any identification of Jehovah God with any creature or creation corrupted the true knowledge of His person. The ban on utilization of images in worship or identification of Jehovah God is not only a misrepresentation of Him, but has an impact on the psyche of the worshipper. The prophet of Israel and the Jewish sages described it in this manner:
What profit is an idol, when its maker has shaped it, an image, a teacher of lies? Hab 2:18.
Idolatry is the beginning of immorality. Wisdom of Solomon 14:12.
The truth of such statements lie in the fact that a piece of gold or wood or stone has no moral influence on the person of the worshipper. The statute or image has no ability to convict sin or pronounce verdict for a crime and carry out the penalty. It cannot engender guilt or remorse or repentance. The purpose of the statue, according to the promoters and adherents of religions which utilize them, is to serve as a means to assist the worshipper in communication or channel with the deity the statue represents. This is a logical statement except that there is no reverse effect. For this reason Jeremiah prophet spoke his warning in Jer 10:1-5. Since an image or statue has no retributive capability for sin or crime, veneration of images and statues becomes the license for sin and crime. A person can violate a moral code in its entirety and not ever worry about facing judgement. Idolatry breeds crime, social corruption, oppression and sacreligion. Because the sole use of the image or statue is for communication with its representation, it does not promote a moral code. For this reason the covenant code of Jehovah God was adamant in its prohibition of the use of images in worship and which would equally pertain to all figures of Scripture or history.
THE GODS OF THE NATIONS
There exists in Scripture a concept of supreme deity which is distinct and separate from the concept of the pseudo-deities, or gods of the nations or the tribal gods. These pseudo-deities are today known as myths, and their history as mythology. Even in our own era of the late 20th century, such pseudo-deities continue to be venerated in areas where education is lacking: sub-Sahara Africa, south America, the India sub-continent and south-east Asia, those areas known as the Third World. The pseudo-deities resulted from identifying the elements of nature with forces that were invisible in order to resolve the unknown. Why did the sun shine? for example. Not knowing the actual reason, a deity was suggested, Apollos, and who became fact and subsequently worshipped. What existed deep beneath the surface of the ocean? Not knowing exactly what, a deity was suggested, Neptune, who became fact and was subsequently worshipped. Lightning became Thor; the nether regions of the earth was Pluto; wine was Bacchus; war was Mars; Venus was love and fertility; and the list continues on.
The common people identified the elements of nature with these specific pseudo-deities. Especially important was agriculture, because food production was the primary industry of earlier ages. Fertility in agriculture was a prime concern and also had its assigned deities. In the area of Palestine, or Canaan, the primary pseudo-deity was Baal, which is Master or Lord in Aramaic. Hos 2:16. Baal was the male fertility deity recognized and venerated by the local population. His female counterpart was Astarte, who later developed into Asherah and then into Easter. Marital relations had a strong identification with the pseudo-deities Baal and Astarte, since their worship was to produce fertility in the field and in the home.
Each of the individual cities or regions of Canaan had a Baal cult they recognized as their own. Baal-Peor was the Master or chief male deity of Peor, but who was distinct from Baal-Zebub worshipped by the Philistines. 2 King 1:2. And Baal-Meon, who was the Master or chief male deity of Meon. Num 32:38. Other pseudo-deities are mentioned in Scripture, each of them the supreme deity of that city of region. Chemosh the deity of Moab. Judg 11:24. Molech the deity of Ammon. 1 King 11:7. Marduk the deity of Babylon. Jer 50:2.
The specific distinction between the true supreme deity Jehovah God and the Baals and other pseudo-deities was that Jehovah God was a moral code, while the others were myths, fables and fairy tales with no moral basis to them. There was no moral code that stood as the foundation of worship or identification of the Baals or pseudo-deities. If a person of that era was in need of morality, apart from conscious or inclination of society, they went to a philosopher.
The method and reason for worship and acceptance of some local pseudo-deity can be best understood in the manner some local resident or ruler would approach their deity. In order for the worshipper to acquire some benefit, he would have to gain the attention of the pseudo-deity. The method of gaining attention of the pseudo-deity was to entrust the help of the sacred attendant, a priest, attached to this deity at a temple or edifice dedicated to it. This priest consecrated for the cause of the pseudo-deity at the place especially assigned him then performs with the worshipper certain rites and ceremonies and maneuvers in some prescribed fashion. The worshipper will then give the priest a gift, some money, or will kill some animal. Part of the animal remains with the priest as a gift, while the balance the worshipper takes home to eat. The subsequent feast is in honor of that particular god. The worshipper is assured this entire maneuver will cause the pseudo-deity to grant his request for prosperity, success, victory, a large harvest of crops, increase offspring, or grant a healing.
If the request of the petitioner is not granted, the priest informs him that he has angered the deity or that the gift was insufficient. The petitioner can increase his gift and try again, or he may decide that this particular deity is weak or inattentive to his request, and so then will attempt the same maneuver at the temple of some other deity and hope that this other one will be appeased with the worship and gift and grant their request. The flaw in this concept is that no moral code exists, which is the real basis for failure or success. Isaiah prophet best describes the futility in the following passage.
All who make idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit; their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. They know not, nor do they discern; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their minds, so that they cannot understand. Is 44:9, 18.
Scripture abounds with several examples of such conduct. The most prominent is that of the contest of Elijah prophet and the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. 1 King 18:20-39. Here the 950 representatives of the chief male and female deities of Canaanite religion performed a circus of maneuvers to gain the attention of their god: they cried aloud, limped, and cut themselves until they were blood soaked. This is typical of ancient rites to attempt to gain attention and appease the deities. Also worth considering is king Ahaziah who sent his wife to inquire of Baal-Zebub, a local Canaanite deity. King Ahaziah was no doubt slowly dying from internal bleeding or some other internal damage to vital organs, and wondered whether he would recovered from his accident. The wife was intercepted by a messenger of Elijah prophet, who reprimanded them for their lack of faith in the true supreme deity, Jehovah God. King Ahaziah eventually died from the effects of his accident.
Child sacrifice by fire to Molech is also mentioned several times. Lev 18:21. 2 Chron 28:3. With the king of Moab realizing his oncoming defeat the ruler sacrificed his son at the city wall. 2 King 3:26-27. Such a sacrifice of the most valuable possession of a father was sure to gain the attention of the gods and appease them, acquiring supernatural assistance. In reality, the hideous act of the ruler was so repulsive to Israelites that they retreated from the city at this point.
The pagan and idolatrous religions of this era consisted of gross immorality in public festivals. The groves were the Asherah, areas where trees were carved into the form of the male phallus and the female figure with exaggerated features. The ensuing orgy of the participants, adherents of the religion of Baal and Asherah, were to symbolize the same union of the male and female deities in heaven, the god and goddess of fertility. This antitype was to symbolize agricultural fertility, an abundant yield of produce and harvest for the coming season. Likewise the insemination during the orgies would also produce offspring, to continue the tribe. Such perverted worship of the deity was accompanied by feasting, exotic dancing, drug abuse, consumption of alcoholic beverages, as well as gifts offered to the sacerdotal representative of the deity. Rather than the desired effect, the nation was plagued with venereal disease, alcoholism, drug addiction and overdose, unwanted offspring, and much premature death. Such activity is referred to in Is 65:3-4, 66:17. This ignorance and superstition continued perennially, the succeeding generation repeating the errors of the previous.
VIOLATION OF COVENANT
The opportunity to live on this earth is a privilege, not a right. It is a privilege allocated by Jehovah God and is only valid as long as the residents adhere to the covenant that would be considered applicable to all residents of this planet. The author will use the parallel and allegory of a person renting a house or building from the owner. If a person needs a house or building or property for some use and there is a willing owner ready to rent or lease the property, a contract is made up: both agree on the terms and conditions for utilization of the buildings and property, a compensation to be made, and the agreement is signed. As long as the tenants live up to and hold to their part of the contract they are permitted to live there and the owner cannot evict. But if the tenant fails his portion of the agreement, then the owner has the right to evict the tenants. For some minor infraction the owner may and will be tolerant, especially with reparations made and a change in attitude and again adhering to the agreement. But with serious infraction and violation to the point of intolerance, an irremediable and irreparable situation, the owner will proceed to evict the tenants and repossess his property.
So occurred with the population of the earth at the flood. The violation was so massive that Jehovah God proceeded with the eviction of the population from off the face of the earth. Gen 6:5-7. By way of the flood did Jehovah God evict the tenants off of His property and repossess it. The land was now ready for new tenants. This basic scenario is repeated several times throughout Scripture in varying degrees. It applies to the exile of the residents of the northern Kingdom Israel, Jehovah God utilized the armies of Assyria to evict the residents from the northern partial of the promised land. Hos 8:1. Likewise with the residents of the southern Kingdom Judea, Jehovah God utilized the armies of Babylon to evict the residents from the southern partial of the promised land. Some 70 years later with a renewal of heart and repentant attitude a remnant was allowed to again inhabit the property of Jehovah God. The same scenario again occurred during the Jewish War of 66-70 AD. Jehovah God could no longer tolerate the wickedness of the populous and so sent the armies of Rome to devastate Judea, and siege Jerusalem and subsequently destroy the city. The residents of Judea were taken to Rome as slaves and captives, and the balance of the Judean population were dispersed throughout the middle east. The tenants of the property of Jehovah God were again evicted, this time for almost 1900 years.
The same applies to the restoration as noted. 2 Pet 3:10-11. During the era at the close of the age and prior to the restoration of the earth, wickedness will again increase throughout the earth, to the extent as during the era of Noah or even worse. The violation of the covenant so serious that Jehovah God will use a devastation by fire to evict the residents of this earth and repossess it. The earth will be cleansed by this fire and will be made ready for its new tenants, the people of Jehovah God for the eternal Kingdom.
THE COVENANT ERAS
This author contends that salvation from sin, the knowledge of Jehovah God, the divine instruction for a life pleasing to Jehovah God, and the keys to the kingdom, that is, the knowledge and means of attaining the resurrection and inheriting eternal life, was present on earth from the creation and available to whoever desired it. The periods or eras stemming from the beginning of time and to the final era of the kingdom are designated as dispensations, but not in the contemporary Darbian or Scoldfield sense. On a regular basis Jehovah God would renew his covenant established with created humanity, and this would become a new covenant for the next dispensation.
The basic moral law has remained the same. It has not changed. One of the examples of this moral law from the beginning is that of marriage, under the 7th commandment: Do not be immoral. When the Pharisees approached Jesus Messiah with the question regarding when divorce should be granted or allowed, he made the statement, "From the beginning it was not so." Matt 19:8. He meant that divorce was permitted at some later date as an accommodation to the people for their barbarian nature. This statement of his also provides the precedent for an original moral code established at the beginning which does not change, meaning consistency throughout the ages. The exception is not the rule. The rule was established by Jehovah God at creation; exceptions appeared on an occasional basis as the demand surfaced, and which was only permitted to accommodate the barbarian or uncultured nature of the populous and only for some interval.
THE INITIAL COVENANT ERA
This first covenant era could be defined as that era of undetermined length from the conclusion of creation week to the fall of Adam and Eve. They lived in this paradise of Eden under this canopy of the shelter of Jehovah God. This author contends that Cain and Abel and perhaps some daughters as wives for them were born during this interval. A covenant was in force at this time which Jehovah God instituted with Adam and Eve on the first day after the Sabbath rest at the conclusion of creation week. The covenant was symbolized by the tree of life. As long as Adam and Eve were obedient to the divine instruction they spiritually partook of the fruit of this tree and lived, but disobedience to the divine instruction by succumbing to temptation violated the covenant. This divine instruction was the moral code established at the beginning and applicable for all humanity throughout all the ages. This author contends that it was later codified as the 10 commandments. That a covenant did exist can be verified by the passage of Hosea 6:7.
Some of the early life patterns of Adam and Eve can be only ascertained from the changes and curses that were pronounced by Jehovah God after the fall. We can determine in general theory what the original pattern of life consisted of in the garden of Eden, but not in every aspect, but at least by the following few: Labor; childbirth; marriage; termination of life.
For Adam work was originally a pleasure. Here both male and female enjoined the exertion of effort as a self-satisfying and gratifying pleasure to wake in the morning, fulfill the obligations of the day, and retire in the evening. To be able to look at a person’s own constructive effort of that day and be able to say just as Jehovah God did, “This is good.” Every challenge would be successful. Failure and injury was unknown. The early life of Adam and Eve and no doubt their sons and daughters was occupied with farming and raising cattle, and agrarian society. They achieved a personal fulfillment from their occupation, always a success.
This author contends that before the sentence of Jehovah God upon the female, childbirth was a pleasure, a painless and pleasant if not ecstatic experience. Just as Jehovah God would attain a personal joy at the creation of new life, so the female at this time would have felt a pleasure at delivery. The nuisance of the menstrual cycle likewise had no reason to exist in the early life. The conclusion brought to light at this point is that Adam and Eve were engaged in marital relations shortly after their settlement in Eden. Since the faculties for engaging in marital relations were part of male and female anatomy, Jehovah God no doubt united the 2 in a holy matrimony during the week following creation. They then would have immediately began fulfillment of the divine command, “Be productive and increase and fill the earth.” Gen 1:28.
LIFE IN PARADISE
The words in Gen 1:27-28 indicate the ability of man to have the superior control over all that is on earth, and not the opposite. In Eden he was able to dominate and tame all living creatures on earth. Life in the garden of Eden was in harmony with nature and all animals, no animosity existing between human and animal, and between animals. That every animal was brought to Adam by Jehovah God is indicative of the human’s dominion over the animal kingdom. The human was at the head, and not subservient in any manner. The nature that presently exists with animals did not exist at that time. Animals did not kill to eat, or fight to defend their habitation or residence, for fight for survival, or fight for mates, or fight to be head of a heard. There was no need for animals to have defense mechanisms or the anatomy for self-defense or self-preservation. No venom in snakes, spiders, wasps or bees. The dominion would have also pertained to weather and the elements. Although the human would not have direct control over weather and the elements, the concept of dominion would have applied likewise. A harmony prevailed between the human and the environment in every facet. Storms, earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, monsoons, floods, famines, or uncomfortable climate, did not exist. Since disease is the result of bacteria and pathogens no illness existed in Eden. No plagues, no contamination, no epidemics. The human was in perfect health and in harmony with their environment.
The human along with the plant and animal kingdoms did not face decay and death as time progressed in the environment of the original creation. The constitution of living creation was such that the organism could live indefinitely. It was the eternal spirit of Jehovah God in His creation that restrained deterioration due to age. So felt the Jewish sages.
For the spirit of the Lord fills the world. Wisdom 1:7.
For Your incorruptible spirit is in all things. Wisdom 12:1.
It is because death was absent in Eden before the fall that causes this author to conclude that this era of environment, physical and moral perfection was designed to be temporal. The earth has a finite surface with capability of the residence of a finite number of people. Without death and with the obedience to the command to multiply and populate the earth, pertaining to both humans and animals, the world would over-populate within a short time. This interim of perfection was intended not as a permanent state for creation and created humanity, but to serve as the intention of Jehovah God for the restoration at the conclusion of the ages. This installation lasting perhaps 100 or 200 years to allow humanity at that time to experience the perfection of Jehovah God for His creation was sufficient for the record for future generations. The later generations would have this to look forward to in the resurrection and restoration. This was the intent of Jehovah God: to first establish a world of environmental and moral perfection, and then intervene in order to alter it to a condition of temporality and decay, but not without His blessing. With the condition of temporality, humans regularly have the opportunity to enjoin the blessings of life and view the flaws and failures of the present life and environment. The purpose is still to populate the earth and to be productive in life, for more to have the opportunity to live, and hope and perhaps attain the perfect world in the restoration. At the present rates of population growth, and with the incidences of natural death, disease, war and disasters of the elements of nature, the present world will never overpopulate. Many have the opportunity to life and have the opportunity to enter the perfect world.
SECOND COVENANT ERA
The second covenant era is that period beginning with the expulsion of Adam and his family from Eden and up to the flood during the career of Noah. The verdict of Jehovah God upon Adam and his male descendents was the following as a result of their violation of the covenant:
Cursed is the ground because of you, in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;. Thorns and thistles it shall being forth to you and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread. Gen 3:17-19.
From this point on work was no longer a pleasure, but a necessity, a drudgery, a demanding effort that would exhaust man and woman both. An exhaustion and pressure that would drive a person to despair as he fought against the elements to earn a living, this applying to every occupation. Labor pain during childbirth also was imposed on the female at this time, as dictated by Jehovah God. Gen 3:16.
Jehovah God instituted at this time a systematic religion for the descendents of Adam and Eve. This defined religion was above and in addition to the initial moral code. The religion consisted in ceremony and ritual which have divine significance, and were to impress upon the individual their distance from Jehovah God and bring that person into His covenant and will. Their distance from Jehovah God was apparent now with paradise lost, and the barbaric mind of the people of the era required ritual as an analogy in the requirements of Jehovah God.
The fact that sacrifice was acceptable to Jehovah God as part of the proper form of worship was repulsive to the early population. Cain no doubt felt that a better sacrifice to Jehovah God would be one where there was no need for a life to be taken, where there was no necessity of having to select some innocent animal, cut its neck by force with a knife and watch it die. Although Cain would have his reasons for a substitute sacrifice, and no doubt very good reasons, it is not what Jehovah God required of them. By way of killing an innocent animal, an animal fit for human consumption according to the law of Jehovah God, He impressed upon the worshipper the extent disobedience was hideous and heinous. After the animal was roasted or barbecued the family of the worshipper would eat the animal in a common meal, this would indirectly give strength and nourishment to the partakers of the sacrifice.
During the era of Noah, Gen 6, the males of the community of Jehovah God were attracted by females outside the community, females having no moral character. This is the basis for understanding the passage Gen 6:1-2. This invasion attacked the moral fiber of the community of Jehovah God causing immorality and disintegration of the family and the commitment to marriage by the males. Eventually this would have a detrimental effect on the marriageable age women of the community of Jehovah God. The attitude of the elders of the community was such that the physical attraction of the beauty of a female had to be overlooked by the male in favor of a long-term marriage commitment, otherwise the lust of the flesh takes precedent and erodes the moral fiber. This moral disintegration occurred at the conclusion of the 2nd covenant era and was proceeded by a massive betrayal of Jehovah God, loss of divine rectitude, violation of His moral code, and subsequent would-wide violence.
The phrase, "For all flesh corrupted this way upon the earth," Gen 6:12, can be defined in terms of Rom 1:26-27. The Hebrew word shachth is primarily translated as destroy (70 out of 91 uses in the OT), while here in Gen 6:11-12, it is rendered as corrupted. The intent of the passage is to indicate moral devastation during the era prior to the flood.
It is apparent according to the record of Scripture that the entire world had lost its sense of decency and became incorrigible. By discarding the moral law in favor of their own, they abandoned the tree of life and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They turned their back on Jehovah God. This attitude of theirs pierced the heart of Jehovah God to the point that He regretted their existence. Gen 6:6. In most respects however their annihilation was deserved. They brought their own demise upon themselves. These individuals of the antediluvian world had to take personal responsibility for their actions and so they answered to Jehovah God with their own life.
The only family that upheld the moral code of Jehovah God was Noah's, and so they continued in covenant with Jehovah God. Noah adhered to the terms and conditions of this spiritual contract, and Jehovah God granted him deliverance from the flood. This salvation manifested itself in the command of Jehovah God to Noah to build the ark. This ark during its 100-year construction schedule was a witness to the people that if they repent, then there would be refuge for them in the ark. If no repentance was carried out with a conversion, they would answer for their crimes against Jehovah God and others with their own life.
THE THIRD COVENANT ERA
The 3rd covenant era began with the institution of a new covenant with Noah and continued among the gentiles until Jesus Messiah. Noah followed the manner of sacrifice he was taught by his forefathers with his offering of clean animals. The fact that Jehovah God commanded 7 pair each of clean animals as opposed to 1 pair of the balance to be included in the ark is obviously for breeding to provide food supply for the surviving family and their immediate descendents. Gen 7:2.
The moral code that was introduced initially to Adam and Eve would have been reiterated at this time. Now as a sign of Jehovah God's faithfulness a rainbow appeared. Gen 9. Again Jehovah God would be faithful to fulfill His portion of the contract to the extent Noah and his descendants would be obedient to the covenant.
Jewish sages felt that the moral code presented to Noah could offer divine approval to an individual not a descendent of Abraham. They taught that the covenant of Noah continued effective for gentiles throughout the ages even with the implementation of the covenants with Abraham and with Israel. Just because Jehovah God selected Abraham and his descendents of the promise and then Israel does not mean that all gentiles were discarded and had no access to salvation. By righteous conduct gentiles could attain the blessing and grace of Jehovah God. Jewish sages defined the moral code of Noah as applicable to the gentiles in 7 commandments.
1.The practice of equity.
2.Prohibition of blasphemy of the name of God, Jehovah.
3.Prohibition of idolatry.
4.Prohibition of immorality.
5.Prohibition of bloodshed (i.e. murder).
6.Prohibition of robbery.
7.Consumption of an animal that is strangled (i.e. blood.)
In many respects such a moral code is applicable to every generation. It is to the benefit of every individual that he and she live a moral and ethical life style that is reflected in all areas of education, business, family, and government to build a strong society. This was the intent of Jehovah God in as if starting anew with Noah to create a righteous society, and the rainbow was evidence of the promise. The rainbow symbolized the beauty of this covenant with Jehovah God. Just as the light rain falling against the shining sun creates this reflection of light, so Jehovah God would shine upon the people and shower them with His grace and blessing.
It is worth noting that 5 of these commandments are included in the 10 commandments, and the other 2 are in other areas of the law given to Israel. The final one about animals that are strangled is identical to Acts 15:20, 29.
DEPARTURE FROM THE COVENANT OF NOAH
The acceptable form of worship was to be prescribed by Jehovah God and not one derived from the elements or environment. The evolution of false-religion began soon after as individuals disobeyed the moral code and true religion and began idolatry - the use of statutes or images in worship. The population subsequent to Noah began to identify the forces of nature with contrived pseudo-deities and which were then transferred to some physical representation. Others equated the stars or planets with the deities and felt that the location of these stellar objects had a direct effect on the forces of nature as well as their personal life. Ignorance and fear pervaded the populous and promoted these pseudo-religions and pseudo-deities. Once the populous accepted it as true and real it encompassed their life and developed into a complete religion with a pantheon of gods or pseudo-gods; priests defended the existence of such entities, the materialization of their superstition and ignorance; priests also extracted gifts and sacrifices and offerings from the people; priests exacted favors from rulers and the wealthy, patrons who would subsidize the construction of massive temples and other monuments to venerate and magnify the cult that surrounded that particular favorite god or goddess. The new cultic priests would identify political, personal or environmental upheavals or conditions with the displeasure of their particular god.
The city Babylon became a promoter of this type of religion with much influence in the neighboring regions. A great leader of the era was Nimrod. The narrative describes him as follows.
Nimrod was a great hunter in the presence of Jehovah. Gen 10:9.
The use of the word hunter by the author of Genesis refers to Nimrod as an aggressive military commander seeking conquest. It did not embarrass Nimrod to gather an army and defeat local cities to become a hero and establish Babylon as his capital. His wife was named Semeramis and she became in subsequent years a deified queen, worshipped under many names in religions influenced by Babylon.
Nimrod apparently was an ambitious power-hungry individual gathering disenchanted men and boys seeking glory in victory, to become heroes in the defeat of the other villages and cities to build themselves a kingdom to the credit of their leader and venerated hero. But of what real advantage is there in this type of conquest? To build a kingdom with one person at the principal seat of power entails the deaths of many innocent villagers and residents of the countryside. It entails building a military, an army of men along with the industrial complex required to furnish the military complex clothes, weapons, food, supplies, and training and education. All of this at the expense and sacrifice of residents.
Why not just leave the villages alone?
This combination of the development of pagan religion and the increase of power in the hands of a few military leaders with the balance of the population under despotic subjection was prevalent throughout the inhabited world at this time. The rise of early world powers in the orient, India, Middle East and North Africa date from this era. The rise of certain cities as centers of finance and commerce is also noticeable in these same areas, the witness of ruins of ancient civilizations indicate advancement in architecture, engineering and construction. The monuments of ages past are often thought of as evidence of advancement in these areas, yet the reader must remember several key issues pertaining to the years prior to Abraham and onwards for many centuries. Mechanical means of construction did not exist at this time, not until very recent in relative terms. The manual labor involved in the construction of such edifices and monuments were in the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled workers. These slaves were conscripted by the religious and secular authorities of their era to construct such monuments to their immortality. Because of this fear of insecurity that their names would be forgotten these religious and secular leaders attempted to gain immortality through feats and conquests, and construction of cities and monuments.
This departure from the covenant that Jehovah God concluded with their progenitor Noah moved Him to establish another covenant with an individual who did not have the same type of ideals of the balance of the leaders of religion, government and commerce. Again the world had corrupted itself, but now in terms of paganism, megalomania, finance, military might and conquest. With such an agenda for the secular hierarchy no consideration for the masses of underprivileged would exist. Just because Jehovah God found it necessary to establish another covenant at this time by way of Abraham does not mean that the entire world was corrupt and violated the covenant of Noah. The concept of Acts 10:34-35 would have still prevailed among the sincere few.
FOURTH COVENANT ERA
The 4th covenant era begins with the covenant concluded with Abraham, which purpose was to create a righteous society that would be an example to the balance of the nations. This would be a new nation, one heretofore unknown. This was not an abrogation of the existing covenant of Noah, but one newly created for the long-term purpose of an established nation. The covenant of Noah would continue on an individual basis among the gentiles who would adhere to the 7 commands.
Jehovah God found in Abraham an individual who had an agrarian base, a successful business, well-respected by everybody, with a high morality and integrity; no doubt part of the covenant of Noah. To the extent that Abraham upheld the terms and conditions of the covenant, to this extent Jehovah God showered His grace and blessing upon him. Not having a child in earlier years was a test of faith of Abraham, since the people of the era viewed immortality as the future generation to proceed from them, all of this a monument testifying to their earlier existence. According to the record in Gen 11:27-32, Abram appears to be the real head of household, or perhaps the head of the business, owner of the family company, the one making the decisions on behalf of the family. Moving out of Ur they settled in Haran.
Shortly after the death of Terah father of Abram, the portion of the family obedient to the command of Jehovah God to migrate left Haran for Canaan. There and in the near-by areas the family of Abram and his descendents resided until their migration to Egypt.
The idea of circumcision as having some allegorical or symbolic meaning is not new. It was practiced by Egyptians and others of the middle east long before Abraham, but now it became the sign of the covenant instituted with Abraham. Gen 17:10. Every male adult would grow up and mature aware that his parents had committed him to this covenant, that he should fulfill the obligations of the covenant that was represented by the circumcision. For the male child, this identification was with the forefathers blessed of Jehovah God, not just with anybody; and the command was by God Almighty, El Shadai, who is Jehovah God, the supreme and only genuine deity. Just as Jehovah God blessed Abraham abundantly and his household for adhering to the covenant, even while uncircumcised, so the same Jehovah God will abundantly bless every male who does wear the sign of covenant to the extent he adheres to the covenant. This applies not only to that male as an individual but also his descendents to follow him, whom Jehovah God will also bless likewise.
Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law. Rom 2:25.
The female had direct access to the promises, through her father who would be a circumcised male of the posterity of one of the 12 sons of Jacob, her mother likewise a daughter of the same, and she marrying likewise a male of the same status as her father.
The point is that every male could become an Abraham, and every female could become a Sarah. Their immortality could be gained through their children and descendents. So it was on an individual basis, yet following the same moral code and divine instruction as with Noah and the same pattern of public worship of Jehovah God through the prescribed sacrifices and offerings. The original Abraham and Sarah were not supernatural or superhuman. They were people like any other, except that they adhered to the commands of Jehovah God, His instruction. This covenant with Abraham has the greater impact of the creation of an entire distinct nation, and that at some time in the future this covenant would be renewed or reiterated with the new nation of Israel as an entity itself.
ABRAHAM AND HIS RELIGION
Exactly how humanity "began to call upon the name of Jehovah," is unclear. Gen 4:26. This is a Hebrew idiom referring to organized religion. Young's Literal Bible renders this verse as, "Then a beginning was made in preaching the name of Jehovah." Some type of organized form of worship was instituted at this time: song, prayer, sermon, along with prescribed ritual to remind the people of unacceptable conduct and violation of the law of Jehovah God, including animal sacrifice.
This attitude separated the family of Abraham from the balance of families in Ur of Chaldea. The others continued in their superstition, myths, veneration of images, the identification of the natural elements with contrived deities, the sacrifice to gain attention and appease the non-existent deities, the maneuvers, theatrics and performances of worship, and indulgence, as dictated by the priests who represented these so-called gods. The manner that Abraham venerated Jehovah God is stated in the following words of Jehovah God to his son Isaac.
Because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statues and My laws. Gen 26:5.
The answer as to Abraham’s derivation of his religion is the moral code and divine instruction transmitted orally generation after generation. The attempted sacrifice of his son by Abraham in Gen 15:9-11, was no doubt an indication of an imperfection in totally understanding the concept of Jehovah God as a moral code. Abraham felt a sacrifice had to be made similar to the adherents of others religions, a sacrifice of appeasement. To bring his son as a sacrifice was no doubt intended to appease Jehovah God for some sin of capital magnitude. This indicates that there was still influence of the paganism on Abraham regarding the purpose of sacrifice. Nevertheless, Abraham was sincere in his efforts, following only what it is that Jehovah God dictated to him without question. It was true faith, or perhaps better said, blind faith.
Abraham made his request that Jehovah God not destroy Sodom for the sake of 10 righteous individuals. Jehovah God had respect for Abraham because Abraham had gained this merit by adherence to the moral code. Gen 26:5, 18:19. For this reason Jehovah God was willing to grant the petition of Abraham. Merit is gained by faith and faith is indicated by a life in accord with the moral code. A person such as Moses could intervene on behalf of the disobedient Israel at Mount Horeb. Ex 32:11-14. Men such as Daniel and Noah along with Moses had the merit to be able to intervene on behalf of others, and Jehovah God would consider their petitions and grant them.
This 4th covenant era continued only with the descendents of the 12 sons until the initiation of another covenant with the entire nation of Israel. The balance of the gentile world could find salvation to the extent they adhered to the covenant of Noah that continued in effect among the gentiles. With the 430 year interval between Jacob entering Egypt and settling there, a total of 70 persons, the moral code and divine instruction was transmitted orally generation to generation.
The descendents of the 12 tribes in Egypt are named Hebrews. They are identified with this appellation as descendents of Eber the great-grandson of Shem, no doubt a very influential patriarch of his era. According to the genealogical table of Gen 11, Eber outlived Abraham by 64 years. Apparently Eber was so respected and influential in his family that his posterity were named after him as a tribe of their own, that is, the tribe of the Hebrews. These may well be the Habiru of 18th century BC Egypt, and the 15th century BC invaders of Palestine, as recorded by archeologists. Abraham and his descendents were identified with Eber; the wives of the patriarchs beginning shortly after were probably of the same tribe of Eber. If Abraham and Sarah were so concerned about Isaac marrying a local pagan Canaanite, and Isaac and Rebecca were so concerned about marrying the same, Jacob no doubt would have felt exactly the same and preferred or even required his 12 sons to marry Hebrew virgins. No wonder Jacob was so distraught with his daughter Dinah becoming involved with Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite. Gen 34. The idea of only marrying within the nation of Israel and not with the gentiles as commanded by Moses was not an original idea. It was inherited by the Israelites from their forefathers, who only wanted their offspring to marry Hebrews, i.e. the descendents of Eber. So very easily the tribal name of Eber, that is, Hebrew or Habiru, was easily attached to the household of Jacob. Since Jacob had many servants, slaves and related workers and employees, inherited from his father and grandfather, the Egyptians and Canaanites also identified them as Hebrews. Gen 39:14. Ex 1:22.
This 4th covenant era lasted about 500 years, from the migration of the family of Terah out of Ur, through their sojourn in Egypt. The purpose of this covenant era was to created a new nation identified as Hebrews, which was to develope in Egypt under the auspices of the Egyptians. Those servants and employees of the 12 sons and Jacob who migrated were also identified with one of the tribes by marriage over the generations. In this manner it was definitely possible to create a nation of 630,000 adult men plus women and children. The total population of the new nation of Israel probably had a census of 3 to 4 million.
FIFTH COVENANT ERA
At the proper time and after a display of His omnipotent power in public Jehovah God led His newly created nation out of Egypt and to Sinai, specifically Mt. Horeb. There another covenant was concluded, now specifically with the nation as a whole. So begins the 5th covenant era, and which continued until its replacement by the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
The covenant was concluded with Israel as a nation in Ex 24. As in all contracts that are presented by the greater or superior party, the terms and conditions are read aloud with the benefits to be gained by each party along with the penalty should the contract be violated or abrogated. First Jehovah God spoke to the people directly from the mountain reciting the 10 commandment, that is, the passage Ex 20:2-17. Ex 20:22. Even though Jehovah God is a spirit he sent His spirit which materialized in the form of sound waves, which are vibrations, resulting in an audible sound, loud spoken words and the sound of a trumpet. The entirety of the new nation surrounding the mountain heard the words comprising the basis of the covenant, this codification of Jehovah God's moral law. Subsequently this moral law was supplemented with additional divine instruction as an addenda, Ex 21-23. All of this instruction was read by Moses in Ex 24:3. After hearing the contents of the covenant the people in unison replied aloud, "All that Jehovah has spoken we will do and we will be obedient." Ex 24:7. This was their voluntary agreement as individuals and as a nation to enter into this covenant with Jehovah God.
OLD COVENANTS’ RELIGION
To magnify His nation Jehovah God proceeded to create a functional religion that would involve the entire population on a regular basis: daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, and at every septad and semi-centennial. The religion was not designed to appease the anger of a vengeful deity with the offering of blood sacrifice, as among the pagans, but was designed to curb violation of the moral code, to impress on the offerer of the sacrifice the odious and heinous extent of sin and how detrimental it is on a personal basis and on a national basis. The religion was designed to the same extent to disclose to the offerer the love of Jehovah God. Through participation in the religious rites the offerer would realize the extent of the love of Jehovah God towards him and her, their family, and their nation. The religion was designed to educate the population about Jehovah God, His character, His history, His involvement in the life of the people and their nation, and His future for them.
The concept of many theologians that the religion instituted by Jehovah God was just another cult alongside the various other deities of the era is without evidence and opposite to the intent of the Bible record. There is a distinct difference between the concepts of the religion of Jehovah God and that of the balance of the pseudo-deities. The concept likewise that the god of the OT is a vengeful blood-thirsty god as opposed to the contrite and forgiving god of the NT is also incorrect. The deity of the OT and NT are the one and same deity, Jehovah God. His attitude toward obedience is the same throughout the entire Bible toward any and all people of every age and generation: grace, salvation and blessing. His attitude toward disobedience has not changed either and has likewise been consistent: responsibility for one's own actions and an appropriate penalty for the results of disobedience.
The moral code as the basis of the covenants is unambiguously stipulated in Deut 4:13 and Ex 34:27-28. Even though all else attached to the revelation received at Sinai supplementing the moral code could be violated, with a few exceptions, like the Passover, it was not until the 10 commandments were violated that the covenant would be considered abrogated. This is because the installed religion was to direct the people toward observance of the moral code, which was their salvation. The covenant was not violated if the sacrifices were not performed properly, Lev 10:16-24; the covenant was not violated if the priesthood failed in the details of ceremony and in the temple and tabernacle services; the covenant was not violated if the population failed to observe the many sacrifices, offerings, tithes, holidays or food laws. This does not permit or give license to arbitrary fail to observe, or to deliberately evade observance, or defy such laws.
A specific example of the distinction between the moral law and balance of divine instruction are the words of Jehovah God to Saul king through Samuel prophet. 1 Sam 15:22-23. Obeying the voice of Jehovah God consisted in the annihilation of the enemy, the Amalekites, that is, the nation of the descendents of Amalek, including all their property and possessions. Saul, however, spared Agag their king, 1 Sam 15:9, along with animals with which the soldiers could feast and celebrate their victory with sacrifices unto Jehovah God. The first commandment was violated. This commandment dictated prohibition of any other deities, meaning to recognize any as deity whichever it happened to be, other than Jehovah God. Agag was spared because Saul recognized him as a ruler anointed or installed by his deity. Saul recognized Agag as his equal, that is, each was installed in office and delegated authority by their respected deities. Indirectly, by sparing the life of Agag, Saul acknowledged the existence and authority of this Amalekite deity.
The idea of sacrifice of clean animals by Saul unto Jehovah God as thanksgiving with a subsequent feast was fine and well, but it was not what Jehovah God requested of Saul. The phrase "burnt offerings and sacrifices," refers to the ceremonial portion of the law, while obedience refers to the moral code. Adherence to the moral code will absolve indiscriminate failure to observe the ceremonial or religious law, since this is the purpose of such a law. But even the most meticulous observance of religion will not absolve indiscriminate refusal to adhere to the moral code. Then repentance and confession is required with a change in attitude.
CONCEPT OF THE TORAH
The idea that the law given to the people of Israel at Sinai was to enslave them in the fetters and shackles of redundant ritual and ceremony is opposite to the reality of the situation. This Torah was freedom to the people who would live by it. The divine instruction was liberty.
Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your intelligence in the sight of the people, who, when they hear all these statues will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and intelligent people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as Jehovah our God is to us. Deut 4:6-7.
There he (Jehovah) made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he tested them, saying, If you will diligently listen to the voice of Jehovah your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and heed His commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians. For I am Jehovah, your healer. Ex 15:25b-26.
When a person or family or tribe or community lived by it this was liberation from sin, ignorance, disease, self-imposed suffering, conflict, oppression and premature death. It was liberation from personal insecurity, mental disease and psychological disorders. It was liberation from crime and delinquency, domestic violence and abuse, and all the possible vices that plague humanity. Adherence to the divine instruction was salvation from sin. It was eternal life. It was their resurrection from death. It was their entrance into the Kingdom of God. They lived in this manner because they believed Jehovah God, they believed what He said to them, that this was for their benefit. They believed His promises to them. Deut 28:1-14. The righteous lived according to the divine instruction because of their trust and faith in Jehovah God. Salvation from sin was attained in observance of the divine instruction because of their faith in the true and living Jehovah God. Eph 2:8-9.
The divine instruction implementing the priesthood, tabernacle and temple, and sacrifices and offerings was their religion and was good and beneficial for the era, and because of the barbarity and ignorance of the people. This religion of the OT was fine for the era until such time that another covenant was to be concluded or executed with the people. The more enlightened or spiritually minded of the sages were aware of this.
The effort of Jehovah God with the newly created nation of Israel was to create a righteous society. Righteous in terms of rectitude or virtue. This was now attainable with the precepts and government enacted and decreed by the sovereign lord of the nation Jehovah God and delegated to His servants and ministers: priests, elders, judges, prophets and kings. Jehovah God delegated His authority to these people on a regular basis to transmit the instruction of Jehovah God to the people. Deut 33:10. 2 Chron 17:9. They were to forewarn the population ahead of time if the tendency appeared to stray from the proper course of life intended for them. Judg 2:1-4. Eze 33. They were to pronounce a guilty verdict on them for violations against the moral code and the sentence they must receive, the penalty. Jer 27:6. They were to complement the people on behalf of Jehovah God who wishes to bless His nation. Num 6:22-27. This is why Moses said,
Nor is it with you only that I made this sworn covenant, but with him who is not here with us this day, as well as with him who stands here with us this day before Jehovah our God. Deut 29:14-15. Deut 4:31.
Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faith, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving crime and violation and trespass. Ex 34:6-7.
Jehovah God is different from the balance of deities because He can be trusted. Any other deity could not be relied on to reciprocate because they are non-existent.
To the extent that the people of Israel observed the moral code and the supplementary codes of conduct, ceremony, holidays and food, to the same extent Jehovah God fulfilled His portion of the covenant and gave benefit to the people in terms of marital and domestic harmony, community success, security of life and general prosperity. The converse was likewise true to the same extent: a person conducting himself contrary would be left to deal with the results of their disobedience and face the penalty.
CORRUPTION OF THE TORAH
The concept that OT Torah was a burden and enslavement to rite and ritual did not exist during the ages from its inauguration to the time that the Hasidim surfaced. These were the predecessors of the Sadducees and Pharisees. 1 Macc 2:42, 7:14. Their contribution in their zeal was the oral law, later to be codified as the Mishna. Because of the supplements of the oral law, now equated in authority with the Torah by the new Hasidim and their ecclesiastical descendents, the Torah became a burden and chore to observe. This new generation of Jewish religious elders enforced a stringent and meticulous observance of both the written law and the oral law, forgetting that the purpose of the moral code was to cease sin. This new legislation and enforcement of new traditions became a new religion, one that was no longer faith in Jehovah God, but observance of a religion whose purpose was to separate the Jews from the balance of the nations and create a superficial appearance of piety among those who supported and observed the new religious traditions. They became a nation of pseudo-converts. With the creation of a new religion, the new generation of devotees and supplicants viewed themselves as drawing closer to Jehovah God, while others fell behind. These new pietists or spiritual sycophants felt themselves obtaining the favor of Jehovah God, while others fell into disfavor. They felt Jehovah God turning His attention toward them; while turning away from others.
According to Jewish sages of early eras, at the same time that Moses codified the written law known as the Torah, he also orally transmitted certain other rules and traditions to the elders of Israel. These were passed on generation to generation to the era of the Hasidim, and to their spiritual descendents the Pharisees and Sadducees. They then instituted these rules and traditions and likewise enforced them. In reality, rules and traditions that comprised the oral law only began shortly after the success of the Maccabees in their victory over the Romans, 162 BC. At this time zealous elders wanting to resurrect and reestablish the religion of Judaism implemented these newly contrived rules and traditions. The primary underlying purpose was to create a wall or hedge to separate themselves from the influence of Hellenism: Greek life, philosophy, and activities. These new rules and traditions would make Jews distinct from other nationalities and religions, and so they did. This purpose of separation was a benevolent idea, and had a precedence in much of the Torah, but it caused another unforeseen consequence within the Jewish nation itself. It created a superficial piety among those that did fulfill the new generation of traditions, and which only created division within Judaism itself. In reality, this oral law also placed such a burden on the common people that they were unable to fulfill them all. Especially affected were the lower income categories and underprivileged, who were unable to either learn them or meticulously observe them. This was the heavy burden that was laid upon men's shoulders. Matt 23:4.
THE FAILURES AND RENEWALS OF COVENANTS
The land of Canaan originally was the land of the nations of Canaan. As the population decreased and the population of the Philistines increased the same land was identified as Philistia or later Palestine. With the entrance of Israel into the land it was identified with the name of their own nation. The promises to Abraham and Sarah were definitely fulfilled, since they did increase in population to a quantity or census only comparable to the number of stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. Deut 1:10, 10:22. Heb 11:12. Their possession of the land however was only to the extent they upheld the covenant. Deut 28:1.
This same covenant was renewed once the Promised Land was subdued and subjected to Israel. The elders and population gathered at Shechem to listen to the concluding address of Joshua. Josh 24. After his sermon he admonished the people to serve only Jehovah God and not any other deity. In the same vein as the assembly at Sinai, they replied, “Therefore we also will serve Jehovah, for He is our deity.” Josh 24:18, 24. In response to this and as divine approval, Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem, which he wrote in a book. Josh 24:25-26. This was not a new covenant but a renewal of the existing covenant with Jehovah God.
Over the years the same covenant was renewed whenever the people and leadership felt the necessity to do so. After realizing their departure from the covenant and repentance was carried out, a renewal was performed in sincerity. Such was the situation during the era of the Judges. Judg 3:9, 8:33-34. The individual mentioned as a malachi in Judg 2:1, a messenger, was no doubt a prophet or seer recognized by the people, whose name has long passed into oblivion. His admonishment and appeal to repent and again adhere to the covenant was taken into consideration, and the mention that the “people lifted up their voices and wept,” and their subsequent sacrifice, is indicative of a renewal of the covenant. Judg 2:4-5. This same scenario of defeat and restoration occurred on a regular basis over the 400 years of the era of the judges. The violation of the moral code caused the moral fiber to disintegrate and undermine the stability of their society, and subsequently made the nation susceptible to defeat and conquest by local alien nations whose military might exceeded theirs.
The strength of Israel was moral might, protection from its enemies by Jehovah God as part of the covenant blessing. Deut 28:7. But the might of alien nations was their military force and ability to conquer and subject the weaker tribes and nations as vassals. This was the lesson to be learned by Israel, that defense and protection from conquest and harm by enemies was dependent on their morality. Moral character in itself was not a defense from some marauding band, their defense was Jehovah God. Ex 23:22, 27-28. Their high moral character was indicative of their obedience to Him, and so He would fulfill His promise and defend them from military invasion and conquest. Exactly how this would be accomplished was at His discretion. As examples the author provides the following:
The first method was by a leader to arise, such as the judges. They would gather an army of volunteers, and divine assistance promoted their military success and the invaders or aliens were routed from the land. This was Gideon and Samson and Jephthah and Ehud and Barak, or David’s victories over the Philistines.
A second method was by miraculous intervention. Such examples would be the Syrian army at Dotham, when they were struck blind by Elisha prophet. 2 King 6:17-23. The 185,000 Assyrians who died one night outside of Jerusalem. 2 King 19:35. The rumor reported to Sennacherib during his siege of Jerusalem. Is 37:7.
A third method, and which is most in accord with the character of Jehovah God, was that Israel would be such a beneficial influence on its neighboring nations that they would be eager to live in mutual harmony. These surrounding nations would be themselves blessed because of a peace accord with Israel and realize that Israel is a blessing to them. Only a vestige of a real example is available in Scripture, which is the relationship between Solomon and Hiram of Lebanon. 1 King 5:1. Also the marriage alliance between Solomon and Pharaoh of Egypt. 1 King 3:1. The friendship of Solomon and queen of Sheba. 1 King 10:1-13. Jehovah God’s promise to defend His people was regularly fulfilled when they adhered to the covenant He concluded with them.
After the era of the judges concluding with Eli prophet was the short era of Samuel prophet. It was the betrayal of the family of Eli that led to the annulment of the sacerdotal covenant of Jehovah God with Eli and his family as high-priests. So severe was the desecration of the covenant that Jehovah God said,
And tell him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons became vile, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever. 1 Sam 3:13-14.
That the promise of Jehovah God is conditional on the other party’s fulfillment of their obligation is noted in 1 Sam 2:30. Due to the betrayal of the divine obligation assigned to the high priesthood, the promise of Jehovah God that the posterity of Eli patriarch should be priests forever was annulled. The complete rejection of the family of Eli from the priesthood was fulfilled some years later. 1 King 2:27.
Jehovah God also concluded covenants with several kings, but all of them were conditional to the extent that these kings would adhere to the covenant. The first of these was David. 2 Sam 7:12-16. The family of David was to have indefinite possession of the throne until such time that Jehovah God should conclude His purpose. Deut 17:14-20. This was specifically dictated to Solomon when Jehovah God appeared to him in a dream. The possession of the throne was conditional. 1 King 9:4-9. Nevertheless Jehovah God permitted the continuation of the lineage of David as a result of His grace. As with Abijah for example. 1 King 15:4. And Jehoram. 2 Chron 21:7. The 6 year reign of Athaliah daughter of Ahab king of Israel and granddaughter of Omri, was a disruption in the possession of the throne. 2 King 11:3.
This possession of the throne lasted until the termination of the covenant with the southern kingdom Judah, with their expulsion from the land. The male line of David continued though these 70 years and reappears in one of the leaders and governor of the new province, Zerubbabel son of Shealthiel, a great-grandson of Jehoiakim the final legitimate king of Judah. Even though he was a descendent of David king, his responsibility appears to have been involved with the migration and resettlement back into the land of Palestine, and to continue the family line unto the advent of Messiah son of David. Matt 1:12. Luke 3:27.
Modern scholars and evangelical teachers emphasize this covenant with David. 1 Sam 7:12-16. But it is very similar to covenants made with subsequent rulers of the kingdom, such as Jeroboam. 1 King 11:37-38. Jehovah God through Abijah prophet concluded this covenant with Jeroboam, and the promise of a royal house to him is identical with the promise to David, in the words, “I will be with you and will build you a sure house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” 1 King 11:38. It could have lasted millennia, but was soon annulled with the disobedience of Nadab son of Jeroboam. 1 King 15:27-29.
Asa great-grandson of Solomon gathered the entire population of Judah during his reign at the admonishment of Azariah prophet. All of them together as a nation brought sacrifices and entered into covenant with Jehovah God. 2 Chron 15:12. During the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, the king and citizens renewed the covenant. 2 King 23:3. Likewise with Jehoiada and the people of his era. 2 Chron 23:16. And with Hezekiah. 2 Chron 29:10. None of these were a new covenant, but a renewal of that covenant concluded with Israel through Moses.
During the reign of Manasseh idolatry and violence and crime was rampant in Judea. 2 King 21:2,6,16. The violation and betrayal of the covenant was irreparable and irremediable, but the penalty was postponed about 50 years. This period was purposed by Jehovah God so as to create a remnant of the faithful in Israel. The era of spiritual and religious renewal and enthusiasm during the reign of Josiah motivated many to return to a study and practice of Scripture – Torah, and become more involved with the temple services. This deep and intense involvement with the religion for layman and elder consisted in the renewal of covenant. 2 King 23:3. Josiah again instituted temple service, and enforced the covenant by destroying temples and idols dedicated to pagan deities. The pagan priests and other officers were deposed. 2 King 23:4-14. The celebration of the holiday Passover was again practiced. 2 Chron 35. All of this left a lasting impression on the young fervent generation, those who would in a decade or so be taken captive to Babylon. These same young and zealous individuals passed on to the succeeding generation in Babylon all that they learned, practiced and experienced in Jerusalem under Josiah king. It was the subsequent generation that was to return back to Jerusalem under Sheshbazzar. They had to be prepared to reinstate the religion in Judea. Ezra was a grandson of Hilkiah priest, who was active in the reforms and covenant renewal of Josiah. Ezra 7:1. 2 Chron 34:14. He no doubt learned from his grandfather the moral law and religion and divine instruction of Israel to prepare him for reestablishing the religion in Judea with the returning exiles.
TERMINATION OF THE COVENANT WITH ISRAEL AND JUDAH
Due to an intolerable violation of covenant by the people of the northern kingdom Israel, Jehovah God utilized the army of Assyria to evict the population and repossess the land. Hos 8:1. The northern kingdom also was not without a remnant. Those individuals who were led captive to Assyria were settled in the various lands of the middle east. 2 King 17:6. All the kings of Israel were considered wicked in the account of 2 Kings in the 80 years prior to the captivity. Not since Jehoash was there a righteous god-fearing king in the northern Kingdom, but during these years Jehovah God did have His remnant, a small and scattered group who continued the true faith and worship of Jehovah God. These people are spoken of in Is 10:20-22. They were to return from the captivity of the northern 10 tribes to Judea in the future. Nehemiah and those mentioned in the books of Esther and Tobit were part of this remnant. Jewish sages wrote of Tobit that he would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the festivals of Jehovah God, while the balance of the family served the calves of Jeroboam. Tobit 1:5-8.
The surviving remnant mentioned in 2 King 19:30-31 refers to those remaining in Jerusalem after the invasion of the armies of Assyria under Sennacherib. Most of Palestine and its cities were devastated, and only Jerusalem and a few others remained. The religion was restored by Hezekiah after the invaders returned to Assyria. This restoration of the religion consisted in temple restoration. 2 Chron 29. The celebration of Passover. 2 Chron 30. This began the services in the temple according to the instructions of Moses. The remnant surviving the devastation of Sennacherib working close with Hezekiah accomplished the renewal of covenant and religion. 2 Chron 31.
This author contends that the latter third of the Book of Isaiah prophet, chapters 40-66, often referred to as deutero-Isaiah, are still the original work of the same Isaiah of the balance of the book. The variation in style and subject is due to its composition in the years following the devastation of the land by Assyria, and the effort of the nation during its restoration under Hezekiah.
The decision of Jehovah God to impose on the nation of Judah the penalty for abandoning the covenant was not abrogated even with the religious revival and renewal with Josiah king. Eliakim son of Josiah was made a puppet king by Pharaoh Neco and so began the last years of the southern kingdom. There were 3 invasions of Palestine by the armies of Babylon: 577, 580, and the culmination in 586 BC. This final invasion completed the conquest of Jerusalem and the balance of Palestine. This period of siege and conquest by the armies of Babylon is called the time of Jacob’s trouble, or, the time of the distress of Jacob. Jer 30:7. This author contends that the chapter Jer 30 pertains to this specific era, and the return of the exiles to Palestine is prophesied in Jer 31:1-14.
Jehovah God utilized the army of Babylon as his method of eviction of the population from the land of the promise and His repossession of it. It was during the siege of Jerusalem by Babylon that Jeremiah spoke the prophetic words regarding a new covenant to be concluded some time in the future. Jer 31:31-34, 50:4-5. The existing covenant was still in effect on an individual basis among those who adhered to the moral code. The nation as a whole violated the covenant which caused its abrogation, losing the land designated as their inheritance. Those individuals who obeyed the voice of Jehovah God spoken through Jeremiah prophet were still blessed in their personal deliverance from the ravage of war.
Although many sincere god-fearing believers were taken captive to Babylon, it was their children and grandchildren that constituted the remnant. The parents were part of the covenant and religious renewal under Josiah and this legacy was passed on to the successive generations in Babylon. Jer 23:3, 31:7.
The promise of Jehovah God was such that a remnant would survive the devastation of Judea, survive the trek across the desert to Babylon, endure the 70 years of residence of Babylon, obey the divine summons to return, complete the journey back to Palestine, and there reestablish the nation and religion. All of this is the intent of Jer 31:1-14. The words of Jeremiah prophet were preserved as divinely inspired by the migrants to Babylon, even though he himself migrated to Egypt against his own will and later died there. The more intelligent and inspired of the scribes saw the fulfillment of his words pertaining to Judea and Jerusalem, the siege and exile, and so they preserved his record. With the return to Palestine of the exiles and reestablishment of the nation and religion, more of the words of Jeremiah were fulfilled. Jer 32:36-44.
RETURN OF THE EXILES
This author contends that the section comprising Eze 40-48 was written pertaining to the era following the exile, and not to a distant restoration. Ezekiel was a type of Moses for the 2nd migration to the promised land, this time from Babylon to Palestine, and so Ezekiel was inspired to record his revelation from Jehovah God for the returning exiles. These passages pertain to the new division of the land, the format and dimensions of the new temple, the priesthood and its officers and services, and the return of the glory of Jehovah God to His temple and nation. The spiritual success of the new covenant community is described in Eze 47:12, depicting a river of living water flowing from the temple. The trees and leaves and fruit growing along the river banks represent spiritual food to be provided to the people by the restored religion. Eze 47:12.
Even though much of Ezekiel’s prophetic word was not implemented by the remnant, this is not an indication that the prophesy is invalid or inapplicable for the era. In general the restoration of the nation and religion was fulfilled, though not in its perfection as Ezekiel hoped it would.
The historical portions of the OT do not detail the entire progress of Jewish life from the return of the exiles to Judea to the appearance of John son of Zechariah. There are some 84 years between Zerubbabel and Ezra, of which some 80 are unrecorded. After the arrival of Ezra, 13 years passed before the arrival of Nehemiah, and an unknown interlude exists between the 2 visits of Nehemiah. Neh 13:6-7. Between the second term of Nehemiah as governor of Judea and the record of the Maccabees about 250 years transpired, with no Biblical record. The accounts of Josephus Jewish historian are reliable for the period beginning with the Maccabees to the termination of Jewish occupation in 70 AD, but his inclusion of events between Nehemiah and the Maccabees are very meager. The point to be made here by this author is that the fulfillment of every prophetic word of Jeremiah and Ezekiel pertaining to the return of the exiles from Babylon to Judea and the restoration of the kingdom is not recorded in the Bible. This would include also the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah and other minor prophets whose words also pertain to this era. Because there is no record does not mean a lack of fulfillment. What we can trust as the fulfillment of those prophetic words pertaining to the restoration of Israel in Judea is the witness of the redactors of the OT canon. These scribes and sages rejected the spurious and preserved the genuine. We today must trust the judgement of the scribes and sages, such as Ezra, who acted as redactors in compiling what we today recognize as the OT canon of the 3 major prophets and 12 minor prophets, and Daniel. They witness to us of the fulfillment of the prophetic words of those that pertain to this era of post-exile restoration.
Samuel Sandmel in his book, The Hebrew Scriptures, contends that Judea was again devastated in about the year 485 BC. Based on his personal research, he claims that between the end of the of governorship of Zerubbabel and the arrival of Ezra, Judea was devastated by the Edomites and surrounding nations, and that the temple built by Zerubbabel was destroyed. Ps 137:7. Eze 35:5. This was the temple constructed under the directive of Haggai and Zechariah. At the arrival of Ezra there is no temple mentioned, only a house of God, and Jerusalem was in shambles. Another temple was built in the intervening 12 years after the arrival of Ezra and before Nehemiah, according to Sandmel. With the arrival of Nehemiah, the city was not yet rebuilt. He implemented the construction of the city wall and rebuilding of the city.
RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT
The remnant of faithful worshippers continued generation after generation during the unrecorded years from Nehemiah to the Maccabees, about 420 BC to 175 BC. A type of covenant was again concluded and in effect as witnessed by the restoration of the nation in Judea, rebuilding of the city Jerusalem, and the construction of a new temple. This would have begun with the reading of the Torah during the Feast of Tabernacles by Ezra in Neh 8. Again, to the extent the people adhered to the moral law and divine instruction, to the same extent Jehovah God would favor and bless His people, as individuals and as a nation. Even though the covenant was abrogated with the destruction of Jerusalem and burning of the Temple of Solomon, it was revived according to the promise of Deut 30:1-10, with their return to Judea. The basis elements of the covenant were always in effect throughout their sojourn in Babylon and with those who dedicated themselves to the reestablishment of the nation and religion in Judea in the following years.
The remnant of covenant Israel then surfaced in recorded history as the family of Mattathias and those that attached themselves to the family, and the Hasidim. 1 Macc 2:42-48. This restoration or renewal of the religion during this era could be considered a renewal of covenant, similar to the era of the judges or the later kings of Judah. It was effective among those Jews that decided to abandon the Greek tradition and philosophy and return to the faith of their fathers. It was because of this national and religious revival that the land was recovered from occupation by Greek military forces. At the head of Greek military occupation and Greek philosophy was Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Under the victories gained by the family of Judas Maccabee an independent state of Israel was established, and which state prevailed for about 100 years. Although many consider this era to be a golden age of the Jews, it was permeated to the core with political struggle for the leadership over the new nation, personal ambitions among the hierarchy of the priests, and competition between Jewish religious factions for domination.
The most pathetic conclusion to this internal struggle was the loss of the new kingdom of Israel to Rome. It was Pompey Roman general who in 65 BC, conquered Judea and entered Jerusalem as victor and occupation. Very little bloodshed occurred during this invasion, since the new victor took advantage of the internal political and religious power struggles occurring within Judea. Rather than gather an army to defeat the invading Roman army, Pompey was practically invited into Jerusalem by Jewish elders. Jesus referred to this situation when he said, “A kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.” Matt 12:25. The nation was internally divided. They were so busy fighting among themselves they hardly noticed when an alien military commander conquered them and laid the country waste. When Pompey’s general and army appeared at the gates of Jerusalem there was no chance for defense.
In earlier years the threat of national and religion dissolution was the barbaric forces of superstition, pagan religion, idolatry, and the military of other nations. Now the loss of the land to the Romans was solely due to pride. The leaders could not admit to their sins of internal conflict and competition vying for power and authority with a lack of concern for the population. In this manner did Jehovah God again revoke the covenant of possession of the land. Even though Jews still resided in the land, they were as if captives under alien military guard. Jehovah God warned the people of pride in His words of Deut 9, and especially that pride is a departure from the worship of Jehovah God. Deut 9:19. The violation of covenant consisted in the leadership concluding that it was by their own effort they acquired dominion over the land of Palestine. This violated the covenant by not giving credit to Jehovah God. The population received what they deserved because of internal power struggle: the loss of dominion of their own possession.
Now all of Palestine was under Roman military occupation. This then initiated and fostered Jewish resentment and enmity against Romans and was the basis for several rebellions and insurrections against them. This was the attitude prevalent among the population during the ministry of Jesus Messiah, and for which purpose he preached his good news of the Kingdom of God.
The concept of blood sacrifice of an animal is different in the worship of Jehovah God than in the worship of pseudo-deities. The purpose of the latter was discussed above. In essence the purpose of Jehovah God in instituting blood sacrifice of animal was to impress upon the participant the heinous and repulsive extent of sin in the sight of Jehovah God. Even though it had similarities to the pagan rite of sacrifice, the concept was very different. The sacrifice unto Jehovah God was not to appease Him or gain His attention, but was to impress upon the participant that death is the consequence of sin or crime. Someone had to die for a capital crime committed against Jehovah God, just as the criminal must be executed for a capital crime committed against another individual or society. By grasping the concept of how heinous and repulsive sin was, with the countless sacrifices for sin installed in the worship service, the people would adhere to and comply with the moral code and so put an end, a termination to blood sacrifice. This is how the law was to be interpreted as a schoolmaster. Gal 3:24.
In the book of Leviticus, the types of sacrifice are prescribed in detail. The participant was to lay his hands on the head of the animal, thus symbolically transferring the responsibility for crimes committed from the individual to the animal. In all occasions a clean animal had to be offered. An unclean animal was inherently unacceptable since it could not be consumed as food. What was required in the sacrifice protocol was an innocent victim to impress on the participant that an innocent life will be deprived as a result of the crime of the participant. So therefore if no crime were committed then the sacrificed animal would be spared its life. Only with an adherence to the moral code would no more crime be committed.
The passages in Scripture that proclaim the disfavor or reprimand of Jehovah God on the sacrificial system are due to the change in attitude of the participants. This new attitude became the same type of attitude prevailing with the pagans and their sacrifices: rites fulfilled to gain the attention of Jehovah God and appease His anger, although their conduct being a departure from the moral code with no repentance in progress. This attitude was reprimanded by Isaiah prophet. Is 1:11-20, 66:3-4. The presentation of sacrifice is here denunciated, but not for the concept of sacrifice itself. The worshipper is admonished to have a proper attitude in passages such as Ps 49:7-15. Micah 6:6-8, and the sacrifices are denunciated with a plea for the worshipper to recognize their intended purpose. The benefit of the rite is inherent in its purpose to curb disobedience, not in the pagan attitude of appeasement of the anger of the deity for disobedience. This was the error of later generations, to reduce Jehovah God to a rank and concept identical to the pseudo-deities, another cultic and tribal god.
Due to the people’s negligence or lack of serious attitude to such admonishments, in time the rites and customs of the pagan deities were incorporated into the temple services. Ahaz king of Judah, during this reign, installed a replica of a pagan altar in Damascus in the temple in Jerusalem. 2 King 16:10-18. Once the people departed from the correct concept of sacrifice, Jehovah God no longer heeded the petitioner’s requests on behalf of his people. Jer 7:16. Is 1:15.
During the ministry of Jesus Messiah, the greatest edifice in the world was the temple in Jerusalem. The construction of this temple was begun by Herod the Great in about 19 BC, and completed about 60 AD. But it was not the 2nd temple as defined by evangelical Christianity. The temple of Zerubbabel dedicated in Ezra 6:14-16 about 515 BC, is the 2nd temple. As mentioned earlier, another temple may also have been erected in place of the temple of Zerubbabel in about 485 BC. The family of Judas Maccabees renovated and refurbished this temple after its desecration and devastation by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164 BC. Herod the Great began the construction of his temple alongside the existing temple in Jerusalem. When construction was completed in the main hall of the new temple to the point that services could be performed, the old temple was demolished. Construction continued until the new temple and its various porticoes and courts were completed. Herod’s temple is actually the 3rd or 4th temple. This temple was destroyed in September, 70 AD by the Roman soldiers under General Titus.
In regard to the temple built by Zerubbabel, the construction was inspired by Jehovah God, promoted through His prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The splendor mentioned in Hag 2:9 is definitely a spiritual splendor that was attained during the following centuries. The temple of Solomon only lasted about 350 years. Zerubbabel’s temple lasted up to 500 years, or the subsequent temple, (if this temple was destroyed in 485 BC), lasted some 465 years. This temple definitely did acquire spiritual splendor in the years following 165 BC, when worship services again began after its cleansing and dedicated by the family of the Maccabees, and during the reign of the Hasmoneans until the succeeding conquest of the city by Pompey in 65 BC. Herod’s temple from beginning of construction to the year it was demolished was only about 90 years.
CORRUPTION OF THE PRIESTHOOD
With their arrogance and personal ambitions the family of the high priest emeritus Annas and his confederates had domination over the temple and its services for over 50 years, intermittently from 7 AD, to 66 AD. This Annas had 5 sons, a son-in-law and grandson, who each held the office of high priest during the 1st century AD. His son-in-law is the infamous Joseph Caiaphas of the gospels. Annas was appointed high priest by Quirinius governor of Syria, and held the office 7 AD through 15 AD. He was deposed by Valerius Gratus governor. His son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas was appointed by the same governor in 18 AD and held office until 36 AD.
The infamous bazaars of Annas was the business conducted in the courtyard of the temple. All of the vendors operated under the administration of Annas high-priest and his family, along with the money changers or bankers. All of them gave the high priest’s family a share of the profit or commission for conducting the business on the temple grounds. Jesus no doubt realized this at a very early age, travelling with his father Joseph to Jerusalem every Passover, and later on his own as an observant Jew. With his own eyes he saw the corruption of the priesthood, how all the services and ministry and finances were controlled by one man and his sons and son-in-law. Anybody that would confront them or reprimand their corruption or violation of their sacerdotal obligations was excommunicated. John 18:3. Anybody posing as a threat to the stability of the temple and its services or a threat to the supremacy of the family of Annas was quickly removed. Eze 34:21.
This author has no doubt that Annas and his family felt that they were doing Jehovah God a favor with their efforts, and especially under the circumstances: Roman occupation. They performed the sacrifices on a daily basis and holidays. But their reliance on this edifice and the worship services was in vain. There is no doubt the population was convinced and also the priests that as long as the services continued in the temple, and at any cost, then they were under the shelter of Jehovah God and all would go well with them. This is the same attitude that existed among the people in Judea during the era of the career of Jeremiah. Jer 9:1-4. The words of Sadducees to Pontius Pilate correctly displayed their attitude, “We have no king but Caesar.” John 19:15. The Roman government had the ultimate control and final decision in regard to the temple and its operation.
The temple itself was built by Herod the Great, the most ruthless dictator of the Jews of the 1st century BC. This enigma baffles this author and has no doubt perplexed scholars and students throughout the ages: Why would Jewish elders permit the ruler Herod to construct an edifice for their divine worship services? He implemented the authority of a foreign power and their military occupation in Judea; he executed more Jews than any other single individual: he caused Jews to live in constant fear of their life; he was not aligned with the religion of the Jews in any way or of their genealogy. The same person who constructed a new temple for the Jews, where they can worship their deity, also had 300 important Jewish figures confined waiting to be executed at the moment news of his death was publicized.
Part of the reason is his aptitude for construction. Herod built many large structures and cities in Judea, all for them for the glory of Rome and its emperor. To Herod a temple was just another edifice, he could not distinguish its services as any more useful or sacred than any other building in his domain. But it was definitely to his credit; one more magnificent building to add to his list of accomplishments. During the years of Herod’s reign, 37 BC to 4 BC, he was a despot, and right to the day of his death. This author contends that Jewish elders had little or nothing to do with the decision of Herod to construct a new temple in place of the old. But once the decision was made those with political aspirations in the temple services volunteered their services. This new temple in Jerusalem for Jehovah God would be what Ephesus was for Artemis, and what Athens was for Olympus, and what Rome and Egypt were for their supreme deities. The senior Jewish elders lost sight of the original purpose for sacrifice, but they were now equated with the identical concept of sacrifice of the temples dedicated to other deities. The high priest of the temple of Jehovah God was now on a equal footing with the high priests of the temple of other deities. The culmination of corruption in temple service, this author contends, was that of permitting Herod the Great to construct a new temple in lieu of and in place of the existing temple in Jerusalem. The permission and cooperation of the Sadduceen high priest family and Sanhedrin with the Idumaen antagonist of Israel is a political enigma of Jewish history.
The Sadduceen high priestly family saw the advantage of cooperation with Herod in allowing him to build a new temple alongside their existing, and then eventually decommissioning and demolishing the old. There was a political advantage to the Sadducees and Sanhedrin: It was power and control and influence over the balance of world-wide Jewry and status as the cultic representatives of Jehovah God. This compromise and alignment with secular authority resulted in spiritual prostitution, the priests of the era now gaining the status as cultic representatives of Jehovah God.
An antecedent to this situation would be the altar of Ahaz. 1 King 16:10-16. This king of Judah replicated an altar that he saw in a pagan temple in Damascus and had it installed in Solomon’s temple. This new altar was then subsequently used for burnt offerings in lieu of the original God-inspired altar of Solomon. The priest Uriah obeyed the kings requests. There is no indication in the Scriptural account that the high priest objected to this modification. The entire scenario is religiously pathetic. The 2 principal leaders of Judah prostituting the religion with no remorse or sense of error. This of course was repulsive to Jehovah God, that His temple be paganized. The visions of Ezekiel as recorded in Eze 8, outline the attitude of Jehovah God toward this abomination. In this vision a divine messenger accompanied Ezekiel to the temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel was brought to Babylon during the first invasion of 575 BC, while the temple was still standing. This vision occurred during the interim until 586 BC, with the final defeat of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple. The “seat of the image of jealously which provokes to jealousy,” in Eze 8:3, could well refer to this new pagan altar in use inside the temple. This was one of the many abominations practiced in the temple that eventually led to the complete removal of the Spirit of Jehovah God from the temple and its subsequent destruction. The idea of jealousy is derived from the 2nd commandment: the prohibition of images in worship. The jealousy of Jehovah God was unleashed with the installation of this new altar in Ahaz’s temple, and His wrath was executed on those that permitted its use in worship. Herod’s temple followed the same vein of services as occurred in the temple of Ahaz to its destruction.
Beginning with the victory of Pompey over Judea in 63 BC, the jurisdiction over the selection and installation of high priest was held by the governor, or by Herod during his reign. The anger of Jehovah God stemming from His jealousy began with the compromise and accommodation of Jewish elders with Herod the Great for the demolition of the earlier temple and construction of this new one. Included in Jehovah God’s anger would be the massive competition among the elite Sadducees for the high priests’ office, and their political negotiations with Herod and the later governors of Judea for this supreme religious position. The Jewish high priest from about 30 BC to 66 AD was pontifix maximus, comparable to the Catholic Pope or Eastern Orthodox Patriarch or the pontifix maximus of any number of pagan cults and religions of the era. This is why the Jewish apostate religion is identified as a prostitute sitting upon a beast in the book of Revelation. The beast is the authority of Rome in Judea.
Because it was Caesar who gave the high priests this office and gave religious freedom to Jews, there was a certain allegiance to Rome and its authorities in Judea that was expected from the population. Jehovah God may be in heaven, but it was Caesar who delegated to the family of Annas and their confederates the title and office of high priest, a limited religious freedom, and a personal monetary income amounting to millions of shekels of gold and silver on a yearly basis.
Annas high priest and his subsequent high priest sons, son-in-law and grandson, were no different than the apostate kings and priests of old Israel. Their services of the 1st century matched the temple services conducted that Jeremiah condemned. Jer 2:8-9, 7:9-10. They matched the temple services that Ezekiel condemned in his prophecies, calling them a prostitute religion. Eze 8:3, 10-11, 15:15-52. The priests and religious leaders of ancient Israel and 1st century Israel alike led Israel into religious apostasy, killed the contemporary messengers of Jehovah God, and prostituted themselves with foreign secular authority. This culminated in the same concluding event as with Israel in 720 BC, Judah in 586 BC, Judea in 65 BC: the devastation of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is distant from Me. In vain do they worship Me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. Matt 15:7-9
Under the Sadducees of the 1st century AD, the sole supreme deity Jehovah God and true religion was reduced to another deity and another religion, with its prescribed rites and rituals and priestly representatives. No longer was Jehovah God a moral code. The divine religion became another cult alongside Egypt, Babylon and Rome.
THE SIXTH AND FINAL COVENANT ERA
The covenant of Noah continued effectively among the gentiles throughout the world while the covenant of Moses of Ex 24 applied to Jews, but in both cases only among those who observed the moral code and the extent of divine instruction that applied to them in their cultural and national environment.
At the beginning of the 1st century AD, within Israel and due to the circumstances of the era, Jehovah God determined that the time had arrived for implementation of a new covenant with the Jewish people. The words of Jer 31:31-34, pertain to a new covenant with Israel, descendants of the 12 tribes along with those who converted during the interim. The opportunity for gentiles to enter the new covenant was a result of the promise to Abraham, that all the nations of the earth would be blessed by the seed of Abraham. Gen 12:3, 18:18. This promise fulfilled with the gentiles entering into the new covenant instituted by Jesus Messiah and so also becoming heirs of the same promise. Rom 15:8-9.
On Passover evening, when Jesus of Nazareth was celebrating the holiday with his disciples, he took one of the cups of wine on the table and said to them.
This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the remission of sins. Matt 26:28.
With these words Jesus instituted a new covenant of God with His people Israel and with all who would enter it. This is the covenant now in effect and will be until the restoration and resurrection. The covenant was installed with the death of Jesus. Heb 9:15. And Jehovah God ratified it with his resurrection from death. Heb 9:11-12. The author of Hebrews also calls Jesus the surety of a better covenant. Heb 7:22. Jesus Messiah is the surety or guarantor or the terms and conditions of the new covenant. He is the one who guarantees the blessing and reward, protection and salvation, assistance and spiritual strength, for the people of his spiritual realm, who subject themselves to his rule over them. He is able to do this because he is alive in heaven and has all authority in heaven and on earth. Matt 28:18.
With the institution of a new covenant, a new priesthood was also instituted. Heb 7:11-12. This is not anything new to the new Israel or those Jews awaiting the Messiah. A new priesthood with a descendent of David in the principal capacity was prophesied earlier by Ezekiel prophet. Eze 34:23-24. This chapter is a reprimand by Ezekiel prophet directed toward the elders and priests of old Israel addressed as shepherds, for their failure in fulfilling their obligation toward the people of Israel. A new priesthood would arise in the future, a spiritual one not composed of the descendents of the same corrupt individuals whom Ezekiel reprimanded. The priesthood of the new covenant is the order of Melchizedek, while that of the old covenant was the order of Aaron. Upon his ascension into heaven Jesus Messiah has become our high priest forever. Heb 3:14.
JEW AND GENTILE IN THE NEW COVENANT
Jews are no longer treated by Jehovah God as a favored corporate entity any more. Every person is an individual and so is his or her relation to Jehovah God. This relation is based on the extent to which a person lives according to the divine instruction that serves as the basis for the new covenant. This is concretely and unambiguously state by Paul apostle in his words.
Here there cannot be Greek and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Messiah is all and in all. Col 3:11. Gal 3:28.
To treat the Jewish people of any era since the ministry of Jesus Messiah as a favored corporate entity with some remaining status or vestige of favoritism or bias by Jehovah God is opposite to the dictates of the NT. The only group that reside in the will and favor of Jehovah God are those members of His covenant community, and they are all treated as individuals. Every person born on earth beginning with the era of the earthly ministry of Jesus Messiah is born neutral in respect to relations with Jehovah God. They have this option: To accept Jesus of Nazareth as son of Jehovah God, Saviour of the world and Messiah, to make a commitment of obedience and so enter into the covenant, becoming a member of the Messianic community, or not to. All of this equally applies to every person without preference or prejudice by Jehovah God.
Paul apostle wrote that Jews of his era and including himself were the elect of Jehovah God because they were beloved of Jehovah God for the sake of the forefathers. Rom 11:28. Deut 7:8. Jer 26:45. This author contends that this was stated as fact to justify Jehovah God’s selection of a remnant in the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. This was the final act of Jehovah God in the conclusion of the promises to the forefathers, that a few were predestined as the remnant of the house of Judah and the house of Israel with whom the covenant was concluded. Jer 31:34. In this manner the covenant could be offered to the balance of the Jewish local and worldwide population. The apostles unto the circumcision were part of the remnant predestined by grace, and others who spread the gospel of the kingdom to Jews. Gal 2:9. The condition of the election of Jews because of the love Jehovah God had for their forefathers all terminated with the abolition of the old covenant.
The commission of the apostles to spread the gospel of the kingdom to the nations allowed all who would accept this gospel to become disciples of Messiah. Matt 28:19. These of the nations who accepted the gospel, about 2,000 years ago, are blessed through the seed of Abraham, who is Messiah. Gen 12:3. Gal 3:14. The manner by which all the nations would be blessed by the seed of Abraham is the entrance of every person regardless of their genealogy into the new covenant of Messiah, that same covenant originally instituted for Israel and Judah. The commitment made by a willing person just as others did in early eras to be obedient and fulfill all that spoken and dictated by Jehovah God as divine instruction and moral law allows the same blessing to be bestowed on them, just as it was bestowed on Abraham and the nation of Israel. Gal 3:29. The blessings of Deut 28:1-14 and Lev 26:9, would equally apply to that individual and his family and the new covenant community they are a member of. Every male gentile can now become an Abraham in his own right and every female can become a Sarah in her own right through Messiah seed of Abraham. All of this possible by entering the covenant and abiding by the moral code of the covenant, the 10 commandments, the divine instruction, and the tradition of the apostles. Two passages in Revelations also pertain to the legacy of the OT to apply to the instruction of the gentiles, and the inclusion of the gentiles in the new spiritual kingdom.
And the leaves of the tree [of life] are for the healing of the nations. Rev 22:2.
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought to it. Rev 21:24,26.
That this is the manner as to how every race, color and nationality would be blessed by the Messiah is iterated in several passages. Rom 15:8-9. Gal 4:28. Eph 2:19. To be Christ’s, meaning to belong to Messiah or adhere to all that Messiah represents, means to also be a spiritual descendent of Abraham. A gentile when born from above is spiritually reborn into the nation of the new Israel, which is the Messianic new covenant community. The gentile is now by rebirth a spiritual Israelite. He is not a physical Israelite because the physical is no longer applicable, not even to a Jew anymore. Thus the gentile that joins the new covenant, becoming part of the Messianic community, is now a spiritual Israelite, while the physical Jew who rejects the covenant and Jesus Messiah is now outside the will and grace of Jehovah God.
THE GENTILES AND THE COVENANTS
Over half of the NT deals with the gentiles and the new covenant. The word gentile is a transliteration of the Latin gentilis, meaning pagan. Its use properly in the OT and NT was to refer to the nations other than Israel. This primarily consists of the book of Acts and the letters of Paul apostle. How the gentiles were to enter the covenant was the enigma of the ages for Jewish sages. The entrance or blessing of the gentiles stems from the promise to Abraham.
By you shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Gen 12:3. Acts 3:25.
Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed by him. Gen 18:18.
And by your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Gen 22:18.
How the seed or posterity of Abraham would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth no doubt perplexed every reader of the Torah since the era of Moses to Jesus Messiah. In one respect, Israel was the seed of Abraham by which the nations would be blessed. Isaiah prophet notes this.
I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages. Is 49:8.
I am Jehovah. I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations. Is 42:6.
Israel had the additional responsibility of being the channel by which blessing would be bestowed upon and gifted to other nations. But what would this blessing consist of? Peter apostle defined it to those gathered at the temple in this manner.
God, having raised up His servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness. Acts 3:26.
The moral code which was gifted by Jehovah God to Israel was the blessing upon the gentiles. The divine instruction was originally received by Israel, and they in turn were to impress it upon other nations, deliver it to them for their observance likewise. Israel was to be the channel by which Jehovah God spoke to the nations. This would consist of transmitting moral law, admonishment of apostasy, reprimand for impropriety, and consolation during duress. Most of the OT prophets have sections of prophecy dealing with the nations outside of Israel. For example: Isaiah 13-23, Jeremiah 46-51, Ezekiel 25-32. In this manner was Israel, the posterity of Abraham, a blessing to the nations. The word of Jehovah God was channeled to these nations through the prophets of Israel.
It was Paul apostle who especially was selected to accomplish or bring to fruition the words of Jehovah God to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through his seed. According to Paul apostle, this seed or posterity is the Messiah.
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many; but, referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is the Messiah. Gal 3:16.
It is through the Messiah that all the nations would be blessed. This was to be accomplished by providing the members of the nations on an individual basis the means of entering the new covenant and spiritual kingdom. Paul apostle taught the good news of the spiritual kingdom to both Jews and non-Jews. It was the rule of Jehovah God over them by their subjection to the moral code by which they would attain the blessing of Abraham. From this time forward Jesus Messiah is the surety or guarantee of the covenant. To the extent this person of the nations would observe and adhere to the moral code and divine instruction, to that extent would Jehovah God bless that person. Jesus Messiah would guarantee it as surety. The blessings of Deut 28:1-14, equally apply to the non-Jew under the new covenant.
By being born from above, born of the word and spirit, the non-Jew became a child of Jehovah God to the same extent and manner of a physical Jew. The gentile was grafted into the tree of Israel as a spiritual or adopted son and daughter with equal rights to inheritance. As a spiritual member of Israel, Abraham likewise became their father.
And if you are the Messiah’s, then you are Abraham’s posterity, heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:29.
The inheritance of the OT law, prophets and writings was passed on the new member. The OT became their book, the ancient history became their history, and ancient Israel became their nation. The non-Jew as a member of the new spiritual Israel had equal claim as any other Jew to the OT and all that it contained and represented.
THE MYSTERY OF MESSIAH
The subject of the dissertation of Paul apostle in the passage Eph 2:1 – 3:13, deals with the transfer of the gentiles into the new spiritual community of Israel. Through the body of Messiah, both groups, Jew and non-Jew now have equal status before God. Paul apostle calls the means by which the gentiles were to become members of the new covenant in the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham as the mystery or secret of Messiah. Earlier generations were not aware of how this was to be accomplished, but it was finally unveiled in the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to the gentiles through Paul apostle, and their entrance into the new covenant.
The secret of Messiah which was not disclosed to the people of other generations, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that is, how the gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Messiah Jesus through the gospel. Eph 3:5-6.
The plan of the secret of Messiah hidden from the ages. Eph 3:9.
In time the many other precepts of the divine instruction were to be absorbed by the non-Jewish members of Israel. This is the intent of the statement.
For from early generations Moses has in every city those who preach him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. Acts 15:20, 29.
The edicts of this council of elders and apostles in Jerusalem were issued to cover the more important facets of divine instruction, that would be fundamental and primary for the new membership from the nations. These were: 1. Prohibition of idolatry. 2. Prohibition of immorality. 3 and 4. The proper manner of butchering meat for human consumption. The balance of divine instruction regarding the religion of the new covenant community the gentiles would grasp and implement as time progressed, with their regular attendance at synagogue services. Acts 15:21.
THE PARABLE OF PAUL APOSTLE
The point to be made by Paul apostle in Rom 9-11 can be summarized as follows. The Jew who sees the blessing of Jehovah God bestowed upon the non-Jew who accepts Jesus as Messiah and enters the new covenant and spiritual kingdom will be motivated to leave behind the old covenant and its attributes and also enter the new covenant and spiritual Israel and accept Jesus as Messiah. The elect have already obtained the new covenant and spiritual kingdom, because they are the remnant. Rom 11:3. All Israel mentioned in Rom 11:26 refers to the entirety of the new spiritual Israel, not the Israel of the old covenant. “All Israel” cannot refer to all the descendents of the 12 tribes, because many have died over 2,000 years of generations and more are still to die. Paul apostle mentions in Rom 9:8, that it is the children of promise that are the true descendents of Jacob, not the children of the flesh. So it is the spiritual seed that inherits the promises. Therefore the “all Israel” of Rom 11:26, is the entirety of Jew and non-Jew that become the new spiritual Israel, dependent not on genealogy but on faith and conduct.
The parable of Paul apostle in Rom 11:17-24 is an accurate description of this process. Israel is portrayed as an olive tree, productive and healthy. The roots can be interpreted as the patriarchs and forefathers; the soil as the divine instruction and moral code. The trunk of the tree is the house of Judah and the house of Israel. With the arrival of Jesus Messiah and his institution of a new covenant there occurred a massive modification in the structure of the branches of the tree. It was no longer a physical Israel, but now a spiritual Israel. The branches symbolized individual Jews. Those that rejected the summons to enter the new covenant and spiritual kingdom were pruned off the tree. Later they were piled up, and when dry were set fire to. Luke 23:31. This occurred at the 2 Jewish Wars. Those that accepted the new covenant and entered the spiritual kingdom remained on the tree. The non-Jewish nations are portrayed as wild olive trees, while the individual members of these various races, nations, and ethnic groups are the branches on these trees. A wild olive tree represents the balance of the nations: little fruit and poor quality, having thorns, all of this indicative of the lack of moral and ethical character and substance of the nations. The roots of these wild olive trees can symbolize their philosophers, the priests of their religions and mythology. Those individuals of the nations who accepted the invitation into the new covenant were cut off their original tree and grafted into the new tree, now part of the original tree of Israel.
These non-Jewish members of the Messianic community were now to realize that Abraham was their spiritual progenitor; that the divine instruction was now the source for their spiritual and moral nourishment; that the wisdom of the prophets and sages was now their rectitude and knowledge; and that the Scriptures of the OT was now their Scripture, just as Paul apostle wrote to the Corinthians. 1 Cor 1:30. Jesus Messiah and all that was provided to the earlier generations of the nation of Israel was now the source for the standard of morality and ethics for the non-Jews of the Messianic communities.
To understand this parable better it can be combined with the parable of the vineyard of John 15. The fruitless branches of the vine were pruned off, for them to dry and eventually be set afire. The same can be applied to Paul’s Olive tree, the descendents of the flesh would be pruned off regularly, while the descendents of the promise would remain to produce fruit. With the entrance of the new covenant, the Jews who did not accept Jesus as Messiah and enter the new covenant and spiritual kingdom were pruned off, the tree symbolizing the nation; while those that did remained. The non-Jews or gentiles who did accept Jesus as Messiah and the new covenant were removed from the trees of their gentile national identities and grafted into the tree of new Israel. Jesus himself mentions the invitation and entrance of gentiles into the kingdom with the expulsion of unbelieving Jews in Matt 8:11-12.
What Paul apostle said in Rom 11:18, about the gentile Christians becoming too proud or else they too will be pruned off, has pathetically become prophecy self-fulfilled. Beginning about the middle of the 2nd century, the Messianic community gained a greater membership of non-Jews and gradually the leadership abandoned their Hebrew roots. The non-Jews or gentiles of the era accepted gladly this severance from their origin and attachment to Israel, and subsequently became inflated with pride with the termination of the city of Jerusalem as a Jewish city at the conclusion of the Second Jewish War, 132-135 AD, and with the balance of Jewry dispersed. This pride of election over the original descendents of Jacob began a slow abandonment of the divine instruction and authority of the OT. Slowly this was replaced with new concepts of religion and worship based on the background of the gentiles. With this attitude the gentile branches were broken off the olive tree of Israel and grafted back into their own original stock of the wild tree.
At any time, any person of the posterity of the 12 sons of Jacob may be removed from the tree of the physical Israel and be grafted into the tree of the spiritual Israel with their acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and entrance into the new covenant and spiritual Israel. This likewise pertains to any person on non-Jewish stock. This entire spiritual tree is to be productive as a community generation to generation.
The subsequent question to arise after the events of the 1st and 2nd centuries with the failed Jewish Wars and the termination of Israel as a nation is the status of the Jew today. This misconception extends to many extremes. One being that of the Jew as Christ-killer. This distorted attitude has engendered the Crusades, Inquisitions, pogroms and holocausts against the posterity of the Jews. Although not affecting every Jew of every generation, it generally affects those who continue to observe and abide by the religion and identity as established by the rabbis of the 2nd century onward. The Christ-killer attitude is inculcated into every Christian every Easter season when they hear about the passion of Jesus and the words of the priests and Jewish elders requesting that the responsibility of the death of Jesus be upon them and their children. The Christian interprets this as an unending line of responsibility, affecting every practicing Jew of every generation.
The other extreme installs the Jewish nation still with the covenant of Jehovah God concluded with Abraham. This faction of Christianity is known as dispensational, and feels that this ancient covenant is still in effect. The new covenant is yet to be concluded with the Jews at the 2nd advent of Jesus. The Jews are still the chosen people of Jehovah God according to the concept of dispensationalism. Sometime in the future they teach another temple will be built and animal sacrifices will again be performed by the Jews. This faction teaches that the sacrifices will be performed following the prophesies of Eze 40-46, even though these chapters pertained to the reestablishment of the kingdom in Judea with the return of exiles from Babylon. Many of the dispensational school await all Israel to be saved.
Since the 1st century about 100 generations have progressed in history and all have died. This pertains to people of every race, creed, color, ethnic background and nationality. The dissolution of Israel in 135 AD terminated any status the national Israel might claim as a “chosen nation.” The favored nation status has been transferred through the believing remnant to the new spiritual Israel. Matt 21:43. This new spiritual nation consists of every race, color and nationality who are part of the new covenant of Jesus Messiah.
Salvation on an individual basis applies equally to all everywhere. There is no difference between Jew and gentile. Both are viewed in the same manner by Jehovah God in heaven. Col 3:11. Peter apostle described it in the following fashion.
Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35.
This pertains to Jew and non-Jew alike. Under the covenant of Noah the individual who follows the basic moral code will attain a certain salvation on earth, but this is not the resurrection and eternal life. For this reason this author contends, some Jews survive each generation to pass on to the successive generation their traditions, rites and customs. Not because of any national favor with Jehovah God, but only under the terms and conditions of the covenant of Noah. These Jews that live according to this principal moral code acquire a benefit and blessing from Jehovah God as a result. For such Jews and the others, because they are outside the covenant of Jesus Messiah, the blessing and salvation is confined to the earthly sphere, not to the era of restoration and eternal life. All of this equally pertains to non-Jews since the attitude of Jehovah God is the same toward all who are outside the new covenant. The establishment of the nation of Israel is not an indication of the end of the world. This is a materialization of several generations of adherence to a moral code within the criteria of the covenant of Noah. The establishment of Israel as a state is no different than the independence of the USA in 1776, or Mexico in 1821, or the African states at the end of colonialization in the 1960’s. All fall under the same classification: The adherence to a moral code inherits earthly benefit and its related blessings. But eventually that generation dies and new people are born to replace them. They likewise have the opportunity to decide their fate: whether to assimilate into an amoral society within the secular world of their residence, or adhere to a moral code. The blessing and benefit will continue with their decision to adhere to the moral code, otherwise it will cease.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The concept of the divine kingdom is a fundamental element of the attitude of Jehovah God toward created humanity. It is very much interwoven with the concept of the covenant between Jehovah God and His people. The basis of the concept of the divine kingdom is that Jehovah God is supreme sovereign or potentate over His own creation, and at the same time a benevolent ruler wanting the best for the populous and residents of His realm. Jehovah God is not despotic or dictatorial, seeking subjection of His people using threats, coercion, vengeance or oppression, but describes Himself as sovereign in the following terms.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation. Dan 3:3,34.
The kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21.
And let the peace of Messiah rule in Your hearts. Col 3:15.
These are the characteristics of the sovereign and His rule. Jehovah God gains the subjection of His people by way of love. It is to their benefit to voluntarily and willingly be obedient to the dictatorial authority of Jehovah God, and to their discredit and injury to disobey and disregard the dictates and authority of Jehovah God. This divine kingdom is a spiritual kingdom.
The term government can be used on even terms as kingdom. Both words are equivalent having the same connotation. The difference is that the word kingdom is archaic, while government is modern. In modern American English Jesus Messiah, John Baptizer, and Paul apostle would have said, “The government of God is arriving.” This is equivalent to the old KJV rendering of, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” The use of the word government would be easier for someone of the modern era to identify with instead of the archaic kingdom. In essence, Jehovah God is the head of government, which is His administration and jurisdiction over all His own creation. The specific purpose of the phrase Kingdom of God, or its Aramaic and Hebrew equivalent Kingdom of Heaven, is the rule of Jehovah God over His people as a spiritual and political body. The government of Jehovah God is a theocracy, Jehovah God governs through individuals dedicated to the fulfillment of the divine instruction on earth.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THIS WORLD
The earthly kingdom of Jehovah God as depicted in the history of early Bible times was established by Jehovah God as a means of introducing His spiritual kingdom.
The spiritual or divine kingdom is a reflection of the earthly kingdom and in many respects invisibly inherent in the earthly kingdom. Government of the people, by the people and for the people is a magnificent concept. Any group of people who bind together to establish a government for themselves to reside together in harmony is divinely inspired. Rom 13:2. But it can only succeed if the people abandon their authority in favor of the authority of Jehovah God. Otherwise that government will follow the balance of history and eventually collapse. Dan 2:34-35. The concept of self-government for the benefit of the residents and citizens is a divine concept. At the time Paul apostle penned Rom 13, the most ruthless and tyrannical of all rulers of the era reigned in Rome, Nero Caesar. Yet Paul apostle advocated subjection to the government in general for the sake of the common citizens and residents. His complement was for the sake of government itself, not the policies of Nero Caesar. Legitimate civil government consists of people who accept authority delegated to them by the population in some agreeable form or manner. Others acquire authority through force or subterfuge. Any individual working within a government, having some type of authority is yet subject to an even higher authority, the reason being that all authority is the possession and domain of Jehovah God. No individual on earth has a naturally acquired possession of authority over others. Authority extends only from Jehovah God, and authority extends from people who voluntarily delegate the rule over themselves to others. Every ruler must answer to the body of people which has selected him and invested him with authority, because rule is for the benefit of the people. Likewise every ruler or member of government must answer to Jehovah God, because Jehovah God is the source of rule and authority.
The legitimate government on earth in any nation is that circle of individuals to whom authority was delegated by the population by some civil and legitimate means agreeable to the population and without strife and discord. The effective government would be that circle of legitimately empowered individuals who dedicate their life to the benefit of the people and to whom the people willingly subject themselves. The best government is when the divine instruction of Jehovah God is implemented as the constitution for the nation, and when the population and government willingly and fervently observe it, uphold it and enforce it. The worse government is anarchy or despotism, where divine instruction is void and both the government and people suffer. The result of violation of denial of the divine instruction is civil war, revolution, economic oppression, political corruption, and a high turnover of civil officials.
The goal of good and effective government based on divine instruction and the moral code of Jehovah God is to lead individuals to recognize the spiritual kingdom. Although earthly governments have numbered in the thousands over the millennia and throughout the world, most of them of relatively short duration, the spiritual kingdom has always existed and is unaffected by the circuit of coup and revolution and civil war. The spiritual kingdom will prevail regardless of political achievements or military conquests or military defeats, and all because this kingdom is divine and spiritual.
CONCEPT OF THE SPIRITUAL RULE OF JEHOVAH GOD
The concept of the spiritual kingdom follows the same vein as the covenant of Jehovah God. For prosperity and successful living, and the ability to deal with every mishap or tragedy, a person must place themselves under a subjection to the authority of Jehovah God. This subjection materializes as a voluntary obedience to the code of conduct and divine instruction of the Bible. Then Jehovah God will rule over His people as individuals and as a community. King Nebuchadnezzar realized the spiritual rule of Jehovah God with his voluntary subjection to the divine instruction after his ordeal of 7 years. He concludes his experience in his own words.
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation. Dan 4:3.
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever, for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?" Dan 4:34-35.
The kingdom of Jehovah God on earth is an eternal kingdom that can not be defeated and is impossible to destroy, because it is spiritual. An entity or concept that is divine and spiritual can not be defeated or devastated using material weapons or means.
Another key to grasping the concept of the spiritual kingdom are the words of Jehovah God to Samuel and to David, who was king himself over Israel.
For they have not rejected you , but they have rejected Me from being king over them. 1 Sam 8:7.
Jehovah reigns, let the nations tremble! He sits enthroned upon the Cherubim; let the earth quake. Jehovah is great in Zion, He is exalted over all the nations. Ps 99:1-2.
It is difficult for an individual to willingly and voluntarily place himself under a stringent code of moral conduct. The tendency of any human is not to observe any statute or ordinance not to a person’s immediate benefit; avoid and circumvent in any possibly manner. Observance of law infringing on an individual’s personal choice and personal freedom is often under duress and reluctance. People are like water, they take the path of least resistance. This is what Jehovah God was relating to Samuel prophet. Up to the coronation of Saul the people were expected to willingly and voluntarily observe and enforce the statutes and ordinances of Jehovah God on a tribal and community basis. This was the basis of government of the original confederation of 12 tribes. Each tribe would govern itself according to what was dictated them by Jehovah God. All in all there was no central government with a federal military or judicial system to police the population and tend to enforcement of these statutes and ordinances. For a truly successful national kingdom of Jehovah God observance is willing and voluntary.
The failure of the people on an individual basis of the observance of the divine law, coupled together with their poor perception of the spiritual kingdom, led them to demand a leader who would cause Israel to be another nation like the other nations. Every nation had an identity: Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Moab, Ammon, etc. But Israel under the loose tribal confederation had no identity as a nation, but neither was it supposed to have such an identity. There was not to be any competition: their identity was with Jehovah God. A cooperative federation of these tribal states and smaller communities are better designed and organized for the success of the population than a large nation with centralized government. Jehovah God knew this and so instituted this with the entrance and settlement of Canaan by the 12 tribes. The reason for the citizens’ creation of a large nation was that of identity and defense. Israel no longer cared to be unknown or unrecognized among the list of nations. It wanted to be identified and recognized as a full fledged nation with a supreme earthly ruler and capital city and military defense.
THE KINGDOM OF EARLY ISRAEL
The confederation of tribal states each married within their own tribe, although marriage between the tribes was also permitted. What was prohibited was marriage outside Israel. Each tribe having customs and traditions of its own, these would be preserved intact generation after generation and provide an identity for the individual and for the family. In a large nation a person looses their identity: each person is lost in the crowd. Traditions and customs are lost with marriage outside the cultural and ethic enclave. Heritage is unknown in a melting pot society. A person can get lost in a large nation with a nuclear family, while the extended family of a tribe or community bestows on an individual a sense of attachment and relationship. Marriage within the tribe offers compatibility with the greater chance of long term success and prosperity, and increases the stability of the tribe. An extended family is greater support for newlyweds and new families. A harmony prevails within the smaller tribe with its identity and internal moral support then the strife in a larger cultureless environment, while the larger society is defined in terms of national interests. Its holidays, festivals, traditions, legacy, are routed toward national progress and the benefit and advantage of the state. The individual in the secular society is identified with the nation, no longer with the code of conduct of Jehovah God.
A smaller tribe can easily develop better relationships with other tribes than can large nations. The initial confederacy of the 12 tribes did not include provisions for a standing army. Only on occasion with the threat of an enemy did the tribes provide recruits. This was on a voluntary basis on demand by the leader selected of Jehovah God. Such were the judges: Othniel, Ehud, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson and others. A standing army was not actually required for the 12 tribe confederacy. This was because of the promise of Jehovah God for defense and protection. Ex 23:22. The original defeat of the 7 nations of Canaan was prophesied to Abraham some 500 years earlier, and so was fulfilled. Gen 15:16. The victory was not the result of the strength of Israel’s military, since they had no military. They had just surfaced after 40 years of desert nomadic and transient life in the deserts of Arabia, and had not developed a regimented army with trained soldiers, along with the weapons required for organized warfare. It was the physical weakness of the nations and cities of Canaan at this particular point in history that allowed their immediate and total collapse and defeat. This is why Israel succeeded in the annihilation of the nations of Canaan.
The fact that a standing army or standby military existed in Israel was indicative of a lack of faith in the protective capability of Jehovah God and a lack of perception of the type of community that Jehovah God intended for His people, a spiritual kingdom. The idea is to live a simple, humble and tranquil life coexisting with neighbors of equal or different heritage. The furthest intent of Jehovah God for any of the tribes was for them to make a name for themselves. The decision of certain elders and representatives of the people for a supreme political ruler and military commander was also accompanied by the desire to establish a name for themselves. No longer was Israel to follow the concept of the spiritual kingdom, but now the concept of the secular kingdom, another name on the map over some terrain on planet earth whose boundaries cannot be distinguished from the sky. Now willing to fight its enemies, those that threaten the national identity, the name of their nation, they conscript recruits as pawns, expendable souls as soldiers. This is the conflict of the ages between the divine kingdom and the secular kingdom.
HISTORY OF ISRAEL’S KINGS
Even with the intent of Israel to become like the other nations, Jehovah God routed the selection of leaders such that the first proved a massive failure for Israel. They got what they deserved. Saul was the typical king of his era: ruthless and ambitious. He lacked common sense and peripheral vision, and had a might makes right attitude. How many lives of recruits brought into the military by Saul king perished under his naïve leadership believing they were fighting for the cause of Israel? For this reason David son of Jesse was installed by Jehovah God, to organize the kingdom so it would have more of a semblance to the spiritual kingdom.
The later kings of both Israel and Judah were in essence not any different than the kings of any of the surrounding nations. The worship of Jehovah God and adherence to His covenant had diffused into another national religion, the cult of Yahweh, distant from its original divine intentions provided the people at Sinai. The political struggle within the various dynasties of both the northern and southern kingdom was an embarrassment to Jehovah God. The years of division and intra-national disputes and war was embarrassing to the attempt of Jehovah God to develop an earthly government that would have some semblance to parallel a spiritual kingdom. The rule of governors in the centuries following the return of a remnant from exile in Babylon and later Assyria was more in line with the attempt of Jehovah God to develop a righteous humanity. This newly inaugurated community in Judea was more inclined to serve as a means of grasping the concept of the rule of Jehovah God over His people.
The kingdom of Israel was small and fragmented during the years under Persian jurisdiction but grew to a large population by the middle of the 3rd century BC. But again the vestige of organized confederation collapsed with the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes beginning 175 BC. The collapse of the Jewish state and religion during this era was due to a lack of leadership in providing a strong religion and government for the Jewish population in Judea, in order to withstand both Greek military attack and Hellenist philosophic and religious influx. With the decrease of the divine instruction among the Jews of the 3rd century, the void of religious affiliation was filled by the pseudo-religions of Greek mythology and philosophy. This was nothing more than a repeat of the era of the judges. This compelled certain concerned families to bind together in a campaign against the Greeks and Hellenism. Nationalism was the goal of Jewish partisans during the war of independence, 169-164 BC, under the leadership of the family of Judas Maccabees. Their family became known in Jewish history as the Hasmonaens. The war of independence fought by the Hasmonaens does parallel closely the wars against the invading and occupation alien forces during the era of the judges and especially under Saul. The Greeks became the new Philistines. It was their contemporary occupation that became the new enemy to defeat. With the final treaty made with the Greeks by Jonathan son of Mattathias, the land gained independence and autonomy. This reestablishment of government by the new elite and aristocracy of Israel was successful for initiating temple services and the divine religion. This aristocracy was the new religious elite, the Hasidim, the separatists, and their later successors the Pharisees and Sadducees. The image of the spiritual kingdom provided to the general Jewish population under the rule of the Hasmonaens was better than in earlier ages, however the ruling hierarchy eventually succumbed to strife and competition for positions of both secular and religious leadership. Most of the typical Jewish population cared less about the power struggles in high places, no different than our present age or other ages. The general population seeks stability and civil and religious and economic freedom, regardless of whom is in office.
For the typical and sincere Jew with a yearning to live according to the traditions of their forefathers, to fulfill the rite of circumcision on their male offspring, to bring the sacrifice on Passover every year, and to be able to attend synagogue services on the Sabbath, this 100 year period from 164 BC to about 65 BC was the golden age of Jewish religious freedom and independence. Life could not be better. But with the invasion of Judea in 65 BC by Pompey Roman general, this golden age suddenly terminated. Roman occupation of Palestine began and along with it the Roman control of the high priest’s position and temple services. For the typical sincere Jew, this uncircumcised gentile controlling their world was unacceptable, and they had to regain their freedom at any cost. Their identity could have been their Hebrew ancestors in Egypt, under oppression with no freedoms, and somehow this yoke of subjection to foreign control had to be removed.
THE DICHOTOMY BETWEEN THE SECULAR AND SPIRITUAL KINGDOMS
The freedom fighters originated in Galilee, while the religious hierarchy was centered in Jerusalem. This small disenchanted and revolutionary faction in Galilee was in continual conflict and opposition to the religious elite of Jerusalem. For the freedom fighters in Galilee their goal was civil and economic freedom. For the religious elite, their concern was solely the temple services and freedom to express their traditions according to the dictates of Jewish sages of ages past and recent. The religious elite were willing to compromise secular authority with the Romans provided they received religious autonomy. This they did until the freedom fighters gained control of Jerusalem in about 66 AD. The common tie of the 2 groups was the expectation of Messiah, an individual anointed of Jehovah God, who would evacuate by means of divine force the enemy, the Roman occupation. He would institute a new era of Jewish civil and religious independence. The vision and expectation of Messiah held by the majority was hardly justified by Scripture, the prophetic word of the OT. The portrayal of him as the suffering servant of Isaiah was discarded in favor of the son of David military victor.
When Jesus of Nazareth began to proclaim his message many misunderstood his concept of the spiritual kingdom, the divine government. The good news of divine government taught by Jesus of Nazareth was not a novel or heretofore unheard of concept. It was the same concept that Jehovah God had been impressing on the residents of this world from the beginning, and especially to His people Israel. Jehovah God wants to rule over His people through their personal and voluntary subjection to His divine instruction and code of conduct, and so bless them in their life. The blessing of Jehovah God with peace, prosperity and happiness would materialize in the personal and community life of the new spiritual Israel, with the rule of Jehovah God over their life. Acts 28:23, 31. This divine instruction and moral code, known as Torah to the Israelites, was to have authority over people in their life. Jehovah God cannot rule from heaven as does a president or prime minister or dictator.
The concept of the spiritual kingdom preached by John Baptizer, Jesus Messiah, and subsequent apostles was the voluntary rule of Jehovah God over the life of the individual and the community. This is not a secular or ecumenical government with a military, administration, bureaucracies, bureaucrats, taxes and head of state. This was a spiritual kingdom which Jehovah God would establish and defend based on His promise to do so. The head of state, administrators, bureaucracies and bureaucrats were all in heaven, and the only tax was the charity of the members to assist the underprivileged and community services.
GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
The Jews had lost the concept of the spiritual kingdom long before the ministry of Jesus Messiah. Now with the victory of Pompey they also lost the secular kingdom. Under the circumstances of the era it was necessary for a new leader to arise in Israel to reintroduce the concept of the spiritual kingdom which would be their salvation. It was Messiah son of David who would ascend the throne of his maternal ancestor and inherit the rule over Israel. Luke 1:32-33. This Messiah materialized in Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Jehovah God. He was first to proclaim his good news of the arrival of the divine and spiritual reign of Himself among his own people. This kingdom would then be inaugurated by the apostles; and subsequently be transmitted to all the nations of the inhabited world. All would have an opportunity to enter it.
The Lord (Jehovah) will give him (Jesus) the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. Luke 1:32-33.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the beloved son. Col 1:13.
The kingdom advertised by both John Baptizer and Jesus Messiah, along with the 70 and the 12 arrived about 7 days after the ascension of Jesus Messiah to heaven. This was the festival of Pentecost The descent of the holy Spirit onto the earth initiated the reign of Jesus Messiah over the house of David, as king over Israel. So was fulfilled the words of Gabriel messenger to Mary. Of this spiritual kingdom there is no end. It will continue unto the restoration unimpeded and uninterrupted among all who are citizens of it. Through the baptism of the holy Spirit and its gifts the presence of Jesus Messiah is confirmed among his people, the citizens of his kingdom over whom he reigns. Isaiah prophesied of the materialization of this new nation, the spiritual kingdom, in one day. Is 66:8.
The section of Matt 5:3-11 are titled Beatitudes. These 9 statements were to inform those disciples who gathered with Jesus Messiah on a mountain in Galilee the benefit and advantage of the gospel which he taught. The materially poor would now possess the spiritual kingdom. Those who mourned due to the sorrows imposed upon them from suffering and difficulty would find comfort once the became part of the spiritual kingdom, with new friends and relatives. The meek and oppressed would eventually re-inherit the land of Palestine, after peaceful coexistence was established with Roman authority. Those who sought rectitude, a Scriptural based moral code, would obtain it once they entered the spiritual kingdom and began a new life in a new community. Those having a charitable disposition, a benevolent and kind nature, would be able to utilize their sincerity in the new spiritual assembly of Israel. Those pure in heart would be able to grasp the love of Jehovah God for them. The peacemakers, those who reconcile individuals and groups in conflict or having animosity, are the new children of Jehovah God.
Inevitably, these new citizens will be rejected by those who continue to adhere to the archaic covenants and will be labeled as traitors to the religion of their forefathers. This is not to worry them because in earlier eras others likewise suffered at the hands of their countrymen for advocating a spiritual kingdom and promoting the moral code of Jehovah God.
THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM OF NEW ISRAEL
It was over this spiritual kingdom that the 12 apostles were to have thrones to sit upon, and from which rule, over the 12 tribes of Israel. Matt 19:28. Luke 22:29-30. No longer physical thrones, but spiritual. Since the prophecy regarding the new covenant originally pertained to the house of Judah and Israel, so the 12 were to rule over and judge the same. The apostles were kings and priests, and their rule was upon the earth. Rev 1:5, 5:6. This authority was bestowed upon them by the anointment of the holy Spirit. In reality it was not the apostles who governed the spiritual kingdom, but it was Jesus Messiah who governed through his inspiration of the holy Spirit and by revelation and prophecy.
The responsibility of the apostles could be compared to the role of Moses. Ex 18:15-16. The judges selected by Moses. Ex 18:24-26. Deborah. Judg 4:4-5. Samson. Judg 15:20. Samuel. 1 Sam 7:15-17. The apostles were to inform the people of the divine instruction and decide on matters pertaining to their new life in the Messianic community. Those who subjected themselves to the rule of Jesus Messiah through his delegated spiritual kings and judges, the apostles, were blessed for the indefinite future and were subsequently delivered from the impending wrath. 1 Thess 1:10. The people of the era at one point attempted to make Jesus their king, but it was not in accord with his divine intentions. John 6:14-15. After feeding 5000 men, women and children, they exclaimed their advocacy of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy. It was only because he gave them food that they wanted to make him king. These people wanted a social state, a welfare state, where they would have free access to the necessities of life and not have to work for it. For this reason he escaped the crowd.
The entrance into Jerusalem just prior to the final Passover of his ministry was an example provided to the people regarding himself in accord with prophesy. Matt 21:1-11. Zech 9:9. Jesus of Nazareth did not enter with military escort of regiments and accompanied by celebrities or in chariots with slaves at his sides. The rulers of the gentiles, the emperors and sultans and despots would enter into cities with great parade and pomp. Jesus rode on a donkey, in a most humble fashion. The arrival of the King-Messiah into Jerusalem was an important event for the city, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. The purpose of such a humble and modest entry was to impress on the people that it was not his intent to subjugate the people using force. Jesus required a willing and voluntary acknowledgement of himself as supreme autocrat of Israel and the uncoersive and elective subjection of themselves to his authority for the indefinite future. He impressed upon the people that his kingdom was not one consisting of show of power or majesty as was typical of the kings of other nations. His kingdom was spiritual, and could coexist with any other secular kingdom. Likewise, the people were to acknowledge his ability to deliver them from the consequences of their sins. This he accomplished by affirming the moral code of Jehovah God. He offered the people forgiveness or expiation of their violations in exchange for repentance and conversion.
JESUS AND HIS FAMILY
That the family of Jesus understood his claim as both high-priest and king of Israel, is noticed in their attitude towards him in John 7:2-5. His own family did not accept his claims, and perhaps due to sibling rivalry, or envy, or due to the criticism of others towards Jesus was now affecting the unity of the family. The suggestion that Jesus go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in public, was a chide towards Jesus, and has its basis in an event recorded in 1 Macc 10:18-21. It was during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jonathan son of Mattathias accepted the position of ruler and high-priest over Israel in about 152 BC. For this reason, the brothers chided Jesus, that if he was going to become king and high-priest, why not during this feast, Tabernacles, as did Jonathan, one of the Maccabees, who removed the Greeks and their Hellenic influence from Judea in early centuries. Jesus then reprimanded his brothers, telling them that the time for him to assume these capacities had not yet arrived. John 7:6. He knew what their thoughts were.
In order to accomplish His work on earth, Jehovah God selects individuals on earth on a regular basis and designates them for His purpose. These are the predestined, who are leaders, prophets, priests, and apostles, the few through whom Jehovah God speaks, acts, and leads. Although they were predestined for this responsibility, they will still be judged and rewarded or penalized on an equal basis with the balance of created humanity. Paul apostle wrote that the members of the assembly at Ephesus were predestined for their election. They no doubt had important work to accomplish among the gentiles in regard to the gospel of the kingdom.
He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He predestined us in love to be His sons through Jesus Messiah, according to the purpose of His will. Eph 1:4-5.
The fact that these were predestined for this special work does not elevate them above the remaining population. Predestination applies only to a select few who are assigned some specific commission, some essential divine purpose to fulfill during their earthly career. They arise only as the need arises, on the occasion when the demand necessitates their intervention and due to the complex religious and political environment which only Jehovah God has control over and thorough knowledge of. Jehovah God knows whom to select and when and where, a Samson or Jephthah or Samuel or Ezra, for His purpose to be fulfilled under the circumstances. Ps 75:6-7. What is important is not to be a Biblical hero or martyr, but to be obedient to those who have the divine assignment for the salvation of the people. The reward is the same. Jesus Messiah described it in the following manner.
"He who accepts a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward." Matt 10:41.
It is not necessary to be a prophet or Biblical hero or predestined for a special purpose to receive a special reward. The equivalent reward is reserved for the obedient.
EXAMPLES OF PREDESTINATION
Noah was definitely selected and predestined by Jehovah God to preach repentance to the disobedient world prior to the flood. But several years after the flood, maybe 15 or 20 years, Noah lapsed into depression, and got drunk. After recovering from his hangover and discovering how his youngest son viewed his naked body while passed out on his tent floor, he cursed Canaan his grandson. It is obvious that the effects of the flood destroying the world and Jehovah God delivering only Noah and his family was psychologically devastating for Noah in later years. The impact and realization of the consequences of the flood took some time for its effect on Noah: the millions or billions of humans to die by drowning; cities and civilizations destroyed; cultures perishing, never to surface again. The world was a massive devastation of mud and debris and the stench of decay when Noah left the ark and set his feet upon dry ground. For Noah and his family to repopulate and recreate a new civilization on earth posed more of a strain. True, Noah did offer to Jehovah God a sacrifice of thanksgiving after their deliverance from the flood, and Jehovah God did conclude a new covenant with Noah and his descendents, but several years later, after rebuilding a new life on the ravaged plain beneath Mt. Ararat, the impact of the events took their toll on Noah. A vineyard planted from a stem or seed takes about 7 seasons to become productive, and Ham had by this time a son who was already at least a teenager, at an accountable age. This is when Noah fell into depression.
The intent here is not to discredit Noah or denigrate him as a faithful servant of Jehovah God, but is mentioned only to show that Noah was a human like our own self, that his election and predestination did not make him supernatural or superhuman, or elevated above others. There was no excuse for what Noah did, any more than for any other person. The same provisions apply to all Bible heroes where extensive information is noted, enough to develop a biography and distinguish character traits.
Scripture relates Moses, "was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth." Num 12:3. But in earlier years he flew into a rage and killed an Egyptian man. Ex 2:12. Later he displayed this same violent temper when he struck the rock to let water flow, instead of speaking to it. Num 20:10-11. Likewise obvious are his complaints to Jehovah God about having the leadership over the people, that it was not his responsibility. Num 11:10-15. For all of this Moses was sternly rebuked by Jehovah God and had to answer for all his unacceptable actions.
David king and Psalmist had several failures, all of which made his life difficult and especially in later years. He reach such a pinnacle as warrior, defender and governor that his ego became so inflated he felt he could do no wrong. This is one of the dangers of having absolute power: it corrupts absolutely. As king he felt he could do whatever he so chose, and without having to answer to anyone for it. So it was under these circumstances that he proceeded with his affair with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and arranged for the death of her husband. Even though David did not personally kill Uriah, his death occurring during a siege of an enemy city, David plotted and arranged his death. David conspired with the commander of his army to make sure that Uriah would prematurely die in battle. Jehovah God still placed the responsibility on David; it was as if David had killed Uriah personally. This is how Jehovah God felt, and so David had to answer for Uriah's blood. This penalty materialized in the various difficulties in David's own family: the death of Bathsheba's child through David; the rape of Tamar; the murder of Amnon, the exile of Absalom; the subsequent rebellion of Absalom; and his attempt to gain the kingdom; and finally the murder of Absalom. In later years his reign was plagued with conspiracy and rebellion.
THE BENEFITS OF PREDESTINATION
The point to be made in the above is that predestination can become a massive detriment if the ego is inflated because of success or honor or because of the realization of this election and predestination. Every one of these examples were selected for this divine capacity and gifted with divine capabilities to execute their task. But as the responsibility is greater, so is the judgement for actions if they become a stumbling block or bad example or lead people astray.
Balaam serves as another example. He was initially hired to curse Israel by Balak king of Moab. Num 22:6-7. However Jehovah God appeared to him 3 times with a blessing upon Israel. Num 23-24. Also a 4th time did Balaam prophesize regarding Israel and the nations. Num 24:15-24. Balaam was not a prophet in the true sense of the word, but a seer or diviner. The interesting point to be noticed here are Balaam's words, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his." Num 23:10. He wanted to conclude his years as a righteous man, leaving behind a good memory. But later Balaam conspired with elders of Moab, counseling them to introduce their daughters to the young male population of Israel. In this manner the Moabites would be able to corrupt the morals of the Israelites. Because of this conspiracy, he was executed by the Israelite army on their invasion into the promised land. Num 31:8. Because Balaam became a traitor at a later date, he answered for his intrigue with his own life, dying a very unrighteous death.
Jeremiah was selected and predestined by Jehovah God as a prophet even before he was born. Jer 1:5. Jeremiah was probably not as intelligent as many personalities in Scripture, but he knew what was right, what was proper conduct, and what was acceptable to Jehovah God. In some ways he had a narrow view, but this was necessary for him to keep him focused on his mission: for Judea to repent before total destruction of the nation by the army of Babylon. But there was no personal glory gained by Jeremiah, nor could any be gained. A very meek person, more so than Moses, this author feels, because his sole purpose was to accomplish Jehovah God's command, so necessary for the era. Jeremiah was the type of person who viewed the reward as the successful accomplishment of the work
Because of his rebuke of their crimes Jeremiah had people seeking to kill him. Jer 11:18-19. In one passage he mentions His children abandoning him. Jer 10:20. But in another passage he is told not to have a wife because of the difficulty of the era. Jer 16:2. Perhaps like Ezekiel, his wife passed away and so the command referred to remarriage. Eze 24:18. The very people whose life he was attempting to deliver wanted to execute him as a traitor, so they took him and confined him at the bottom of an abandon cistern, hopefully to die there, starve to death. Jer 38:4. Jeremiah prophet of Jehovah God sat in the mud, abandoned to die by the very individuals whom he hoped would repent so their life would be spared by Jehovah God. Jer 38:6. Any person in their right mind would have long abandoned the effort to warn and try to deliver these traitors, and would have concentrated on himself and his own family, and not waste time on anybody else.
Baruch the secretary of Jeremiah did not suffer or perish in the siege and victory of Babylon over Judea as a result of his assistance of Jeremiah. Jer 45:5. Likewise for Ebedmelech the Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah from the mud at the bottom of an abandoned cistern. Jer 39:17. The earthly reward was far greater for those who obeyed the words of Jeremiah, than for Jeremiah himself.
The few that obeyed Jeremiah were delivered from the destruction. Even after all that Jeremiah prophesied was fulfilled in detail before their very eyes, the remnant requested divine revelation through him a second time. Jer 42:3. After again disclosing to the remnant the will of Jehovah God for them, he was again rejected. Eventually Jeremiah was taken to Egypt by rebellious Jews only to die there. Jer 43:7. The earthly reward was far greater for those who obeyed the words of Jeremiah, than for Jeremiah himself.
NEW TESTAMENT PREDESTINATION
The next example of the predestination of the elect of Jehovah God is John son of Zachariah, commonly known as John the Baptizer. Prophesied by the messenger Gabriel to his father while he was burning incense in the temple, John was to fulfill the prophetic words of Malachi. Luke 1:17. Mal 4:5-6. No doubt John accomplished much in Judea in that era working in the spirit and power of Elijah to reconcile families, to turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents, to establish family harmony. But John was likewise inspired by the same holy Spirit to reprimand Herod Antipas for divorcing his wife, a daughter of king Aretas of Arabia, and marrying Herodias, his niece as well as the divorced wife of his half-brother Herod Phillip. Even though Herod Antipas had a favorable inclination towards John the Baptizer, to listen to his advice and divine instruction, Herod Antipas was still a servant of the Roman government and involved in both family and national politics, and had his worldly ways. Because of this the subsequent result was the execution of John the Baptizer by decapitation. Matt 14:10.
No doubt many felt that John was foolish for getting involved with the intrigues of the Herod family in the first place: corrupt in politics; violent in dealing with Jewish denizens; treachery within their own family. John was doomed the minute he opened his mouth and exposed the illicit and incestuous marriage of Antipas and Herodias. He essentially dictated his own death sentence by voicing divine disapproval of their relationship. Anybody in their sanity and senses would distance themselves from the Herod family in the difficult environment of Judea of the 1st century AD. As indicated in precious examples, there is no glory to be gained, no reward, no name in neon lights, for being a John the Baptizer. He was selected and predestined for this work and fulfilled the commission.
Sometimes this author wonders why anybody would want to become a Bible hero; better to be a peon in the eyes of Jehovah God and the people and live a Bible-based life and inherit the blessings of Jehovah God. Why try to save the religion or nation with the reward so meager relative to the effort? Paul apostle wrote of "the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches." 2 Cor 11:28. And how at his first trial before Nero Caesar, "all abandoned me." 2 Tim 4:16. He lists several men who deserted him when difficulties arose: Demas, Cresens, Titus. 2 Tim 4:10. Alexander the coppersmith, "who did me great harm." 2 Tim 4:14. It was only Jehovah God who rescued Paul apostle from the jaws of the lion Nero Caesar at his first trial. 2 Tim 4:17. But at his second trial Paul apostle was convicted of some crime, sentenced and executed. What a pathetic conclusion to the apostle's ministry.
Paul apostle describes his own dilemma, "Woe unto me if I do not preach the gospel." 1 Cor 9:16-18. He realized he had this obligation but no reward for it, because it was not of his own free will but the commission assigned him at an early time by Jehovah God. His only reward in the work of an apostle was personal, a personal accomplishment on behalf of Jehovah God. His actual reward in the future kingdom would be based on his Bible-based life, equal with all other at the judgement seat of the great white throne.
THE ELECT OF JEHOVAH GOD
The assembly of Jehovah God existed from the beginning with the first family, and throughout history without interruption. It is and was the will of Jehovah God that there always remain on earth an assembly of true believers or true worshippers. The number of these could be many, as with the nation of Israel, as many as the stars in the sky and grains of sand on the sea shore. Or the number could as small as the family of Noah or the family of Abraham. Or relatively small, as the 7,000 who would not bow the knee to Baal. 1 King 19:18. Or the number that returned to Judea after 70 years of residence in Babylon.
The elect are in a sense one rung lower than those predestined, predestination as defined in the examples cited. The elect are those selected by Jehovah God generation after generation to continue presence of the assembly of Jehovah God and the institution of true and proper worship and obedience of Jehovah God. They are a small group and are also called the remnant.
These received the law and traditions from their parents and grandparents, elders and sages, and transmitted it to the next generation. From Adam and Seth the law of Jehovah God was transmitted orally to the era of Noah; from Noah to Shem and through the generations to Abraham. Following the genealogy there are many overlaps in the lives of the patriarchs. The following chronology was assembled by this author to grasp the chronology of the patriarchs following the flood. This author accepts at face value the ages that are in the Hebrew Bible of the descendants of Adam and Noah. This short chronology is based on the flood occurring year 1.
Year 1: The flood. Noah was 600 years old. He died in year 350. Shem was 98 years old. He died in year 600.
Arpakshad Born year 2.
Shelah Born year 37
Eber Born year 67. Died year 531. He outlived Abraham by 64 years
Peleg Born year 101.
Reu Born year 131.
Serug Born year 163.
Nahor Born year 193.
Terah Born year 222.
Abraham Born year 292. He died year 467.
Isaac Born year 392. Died year 572.
Jacob Born year 452. Died year 599. (He died the year before Shem.)
Note in the table that Shem son of Noah outlived Abraham by 133 years, and Isaac by 28 years. And that Eber, the patriarch and namesake of the Hebrews, outlived Abraham by 64 years. Jacob patriarch was 79 years old when Eber died. This is some evidence that the descendents of Eber were a formidable segment of the population during the years of the sojourn of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan, and Joseph in Egypt. This author also contends that the 12 tribes also consisted of other descendents of Eber that entered Egypt with Jacob and years following, that eventually attached themselves or identified themselves with one of the 12 tribes.
Abraham living in Haran may have personally known both Shem and Eber. Haran is a short distance from Ararat, the mountain upon which the ark settled. If Shem and Eber remained in the area of Ararat in the centuries following the flood, then Abraham could have met with him This author contends this occurred, and that the law and covenants and anti-deluvian history was transmitted to Abraham and his household by Shem. The son of Noah would have related to Abraham patriarch the history of the world from creation and through the flood and regarding the era following the flood, including the incidents of Noah's curse on his grandson and the Tower of Babel and mix of languages. Shem would have transmitted this record just as he received it from great-grandfather Methuselah and grandfather Lamech, who both died the year of the flood, (or perhaps in the flood), and his father Noah. Methuselah was 243 years old, and Lamech was 56 years old, when Adam died. (Noah was born 126 years after Adam died.)
Jacob likewise while living in Haran for 20 years with father-in-law Laban may also have communicated with Shem at least, if not also Eber. He took this history and moral code back to Canaan and then to Egypt to pass on to his grandchildren.
The purpose of this exercise is to provide the reader a basis for the uninterrupted and continuous transmission of divine information from the beginnings in the garden of Eden and through the time of the migration of the 12 tribal patriarchs into Egypt. This same information was then transmitted orally those 430 years until recorded by Moses in the deserts of Sinai as a permanent record for the new nation of Israel. Moses compiled what is known as the Torah, the first 5 books of Holy Scripture, during the 40 years in the desert, and concluded Deuteronomy just prior to the entrance of Israel into the promised land.
The reader is well aware of the transmission of this codified law and divine record of history from this point to the future eras by the prophets and sages of Israel. The Jewish tradition focuses on Ezra as the prime individual after Moses to codify the balance of the books. After the 5 books identified as the Torah, the balance are labeled the Prophets and Writings. Ezra compiled all of them into one codex the scribes later titled the Tanahk, known to Christians as the Old Testament.
That segment of Israel during the 1st century which accepted Jesus as Messiah and entered into his new covenant is the remnant. As mentioned earlier, every age has its remnant of Israel selected by Jehovah God for true faith and true religion to continue. This remnant is mentioned in Rom 9:27-28, 11:5. Only a fraction of the Jews of 1st century Jewry accepted Jesus as Messiah and these are the remnant. The 3,000 from the dispersion who accepted through the preaching of Peter apostle and the others on Pentecost would be considered this remnant. Acts 2:41. Also included would be those mentioned in Acts 4:4, increasing the number to 5,000. Other lesser quantities of Jews living throughout the empire that accepted Jesus as Messiah and entered into the new covenant completed the number or census of the remnant of Israel. These included the few at Antioch, Phoenicia, and Cyprus. Acts 11:19, 26. Thessolonica and Berea. Acts 17:4,12. And others as mentioned in Rom 11:5.
LANGUAGE OF THE GOSPELS
One point long forgotten or avoided by students of the Greek NT is that the primary means of communication of Jesus Messiah and the 1st century middle-eastern world was the Aramaic language. Aramaic was the daily and domestic and business language of the era beginning about 500 BC and up to shortly after the 2nd Jewish War of 132-135 AD. This was the language of the Jews who lived in Babylon the 70 years, and the language of the exiles who returned from Babylon to Jerusalem under the leaders Zerubbabel and Ezra. Most of the book of Daniel is Aramaic, along with a large section in Ezra, and one verse in Jeremiah. Jer 10:10.
When Jews in Jerusalem gathered at the water gate to listen to Ezra read the Scriptures to them, circa 440 BC, it was necessary to have certain others to help the people understand the meaning of the law. Neh 8:7-8. The returned exiles from Babylon had lost vernacular of the Hebrew language and now were fluent in Aramaic. Ezra read in Hebrew and these other men with Ezra translated what was read into Aramaic for the population to understand.
Hebrew was the synagogue and temple language. It was known by all the priests, scribes and all involved in the religious services. The general Jewish population had some knowledge of Hebrew in order to understand the Law and Prophets and Writings - Tanahk - read in the synagogue every Sabbath. But the extent of Hebrew was very narrow, since few schools were available to teach it and the only use of it was related to religious services.
When Jesus of Nazareth spoke and taught the disciples and his audience that gathered about him, it was not in Greek and not in Hebrew that he taught, but in Aramaic. What we read in the Greek NT gospels is not actually what Jesus said. All of it is a translation from Aramaic into Greek. Traditionally, the gospel of Matthew is considered to be originally written in Aramaic, and was subsequently translated into Greek. The Aramaic original is long lost. The gospels of John and Luke appear to have been written originally in Greek, because the vocabulary matches directly with koine Greek literature rather than evidence of translation from another language. Luke himself would have acquired his information in Aramaic form from reputable sources after much investigation and translated it himself into Greek for the general population.
With the gospel of Mark, the church historian Eusebius indicates that it was actually Peter apostle who dictated to Mark the ministry of Jesus Messiah. This author contends that as Peter apostle dictated in Aramaic, Mark mentally translated into Greek and so wrote it. This is the best reason to account for certain variations in the words of Jesus Messiah in Greek, which are difficult to understand and especially when translated from Greek into English. One example will be cited, which is the passage. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Luke 18:25. This verse taken at face value makes no sense as an allegory, and there is no door in the walls of Jerusalem called the eye of a needle. This was a later interpolation by Christian preachers to account for the difficulty in interpretation. But in the Aramaic, the word for camel and the word for rope are pronounced identically. The translators of the gospels into Greek from Aramaic incorrectly rendered the Aramaic word rope as camel. George Lamsa in his Aramaic translation renders this passage correctly. "It is easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle..." Which rendering is understandable as an allegory. Since Mark is considered the earliest gospel, and which was utilized by both Matthew and Luke, including Mark's translation into Greek of Peter apostles account in the original Aramaic, this same variation appears in all 3 gospels. The blame of incorrect translation could be placed on the gospel-writer Mark.
THE JEWISH MESSIANIC HOPE
With the advent of Messiah, Jews of the era hoped for the return of their land, their repossession it. They looked for the removal of the aliens and their influence and military. These were the Romans who had military occupation of the land, and the government, taxation and cult of their emperor in Judea. In fulfillment of the hopes of influential Jewish sages beginning 65 BC, after the defeat by Pompey, Messiah would defect the alien military occupation and return control of the land to Israel. The contemporary residents hoped that Messiah would act just as David did when he defeated the Philistines and expanded the kingdom by military conquest, so would Messiah son of David likewise defeat the Romans. Messiah would conscript an army, manufacture weapons and uniforms, and use his divine strategy to gain a supernatural victory over the Romans. Subsequently Jews would reestablish the kingdom and the Messianic age would begin and last forever.
All of these hopes were good intentions, but not what Scripture dictates regarding the work of Messiah. No doubt Jews hoped to be exalted in the presence of their enemies, and as if turn the tables on them. Instead of being in captivity in their own homeland they would be the victors. The promise of Is 61:5-7 and other similar passages whet the appetite of many a Jew for a supernatural military, political and religious leader to rescue them from enemy occupation and oppression. Applicable to the contemporary history of the era was the drive of enmity and spite of the Jews toward the Roman occupation. This had recently erupted in revolt and insurrection in the northern portion of Judea, the crime of several men in the Galilean cities of Sepphoris and Grishala. Their sin was fostering revolt against the Romans. All of such groups advocating violent overthrow of the Roman military occupation were outlawed by the Roman authority, and as such, were summarily executed after apprehension. The provincial capital Sepphoris was burnt by the Romans in 3 AD to subdue insurrection in Galilee. Thousands were executed in the early years under Herod the Great, and in the Jewish Wars of 66-70 AD, and 132-135 AD, hundreds of thousands.
JESUS AS MESSIAH
Violence in previous generations only decimated the population of Israel, devastated the land and brought more tragedy to the nation. The Jews were ill-equipped to defeat a powerful and formidable enemy such as Rome. The manner proposed by Jesus to deliver the nation from devastation was by reconciling the people as individuals with the Roman occupation. Peaceful coexistence was the sole means of the survival of Israel under Roman occupation.
When Jesus said, “Resist not evil,” he was not speaking of the general law of retribution for a crime committed. Matt 5:39. Crime must be resisted and dealt with judicially. In this context the words of not resisting evil are followed by the attitude that the soldiers of Roman occupation had toward the Jews: abusing them in public; illegal appropriation of their property; demands of the Jews for transport, food and other services. Jesus was requiring his fellow Jews to be tolerant of this mistreatment by the Roman soldiers, and not seek retribution or vengeance. Eventually the spiritual kingdom will gain the victory if the Jews place their hope in Jehovah God and not their revolutionary leaders.
When Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he was not referring to any enemy. Matt 5:44. Nowhere in Scripture does it say to hate your enemy. Even when Moses dictates to the people of Israel to annihilate the nations of Canaan he does not utilize the word hate. There was a difference between the necessity of executing the judgment of Jehovah God upon the identified enemy in organized warfare in OT times and the judgement upon a criminal, and the attitude of hate. In reality there is no reason to hate anybody. Hate is an emotion; execution of a criminal is judgment. Regularly David king and psalm-writer relates vengeance and retribution on enemies. Ps 41:10. But the explicit statement to hate an enemy is not to be found. This concept of hating an enemy evolved during the era of the Hasmonaens and their struggle for independence from Greek occupation and Hellenic philosophical invasion. 1 Macc 4:18. This attitude again surfaced with the Roman occupation beginning in 65 BC, and which climaxed under the rule of Herod the Great during the final decade of his life. The freedom fighters and many of the Jewish hierarchy taught the people to hate the Romans, and which only caused a greater rift between the residents and the occupation forces. This resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews during the reign of Herod the Great. Jewish children were engrained with the attitude from childhood that the Roman occupation forces were the enemy and should be hated.
When Jesus Messiah told his disciples, “Bless those that curse you and do good to those who hate you,” he referring to a change of attitude the Jews must undergo toward the Roman occupation force, if they wanted to avoid total annihilation in the future. Matt 5:44. The victory over the enemy was to be gained by reconciliation. This change of attitude by the Jewish population of Palestine towards the Roman occupation forces would deliver them from their enemies. Luke 1:68-71. The spiritual kingdom would then flourish in the new spiritual Israel coincidental with peaceful coexistence. His would materialize as a spiritual community flourishing within a secular government. Jesus Messiah referred to himself as being in the world but not part of it. John 17:14.
Growing up in Nazareth only 3 miles from the political center of Galilee, Sepphoris, and travelling with his father in the carpentry business throughout most of Galilee, Jesus was well familiar with the political unrest of the area. It was in Galilee that violent overthrow was conceived by disenchanted and oppressed Jews seeking independence, and all of this Jesus saw during those years living in Nazareth. He also saw the regiments of Roman troops in rank and file marching down the main roads and highways with their banners, and the armed disciplined soldiers making their presence known to all the residents. As a prophet Jesus saw in the distant future the annihilation of his people if this course of adverse political action against Roman authority persisted. Even as a young man he heard rumors and was propositioned with invitations to join such groups, but he early realized that the Romans were no match for the unorganized Jews. The regimented military force of Rome could easily quell any disturbance or even war. These unorganized splinter groups with their own unstable leadership and lack of cohesion were no match for the well-trained and disciplined ranks of Roman soldiers, who were instilled by their leadership to savage and ruthless war. Cowardice or desertion by a Roman soldier was treason and grounds for immediate and public execution and disgrace of office. The Jews who advocated independence through violent overthrow had no such discipline or organization on such a large scale.
This was the primary purpose of the appearance of Messiah Jesus, to deliver Israel from devastation by Rome by inaugurating the spiritual kingdom and forming the Messianic community, the spiritual Israel under the new covenant. Jesus wanted his people to show Romans that there was no intention of violent overthrown, and that the 2 uncommon nationalities could reside in a peaceful coexistence. Jesus wanted Jews to go out of their way to cooperate with Romans to show them they meant them no harm. The few revolutionaries who sought independence from Rome were to cease and desist with a cognizance that the real kingdom was not to be gained in war and military struggle.
The relative status or relation of the 2 factions was later summarized in the parable noted in Luke 14:31-32. Here Jesus spoke of a king having an army of 10,000 who should first consider whether his military force is enough to defeat another king whose army was 20,000. The wise and intelligent king would send a delegation to conclude a peace treaty rather than risk defeat. With such a peace treaty agreed to by both parties, neither will suffer casualties and property losses. This is to the greatest benefit of the king with the smaller army, who has now secured deliverance of his entire population instead of massive and shameful defeat. This was the intent of this parable to the multitudes. Luke 14:25. Their leaders in Galilee promoting violent overthrow of Roman occupation were the king with the army of 10,000; and the Romans were the army of 20,000. If their countrymen and themselves had any wisdom at all they would seek peaceful coexistence with the Romans. In this manner they would deliver themselves from military defeat and massive devastation.
The purpose of the ministry of Jesus Messiah is disclosed in this parable. It was not armed revolt against the Romans to gain independence, but the effort on behalf of the people to them to conclude a peace treaty, peaceful coexistence with the Romans. This seems to be the most difficult point for Christianity to accept, that the primary reason for the ministry of Jesus as Messiah was to rescue the contemporary and successive generations of Jews from annihilation and the land from devastation by the Roman military. In this manner Jesus Messiah was to rescue his people from their crimes.
JESUS IN THE TEMPLE
Jehovah God executed his retribution in ancient times in the middle east through instruments of his will. He does not personally accomplish His vengeance or penalty, because He is spirit. Jehovah God utilizes instruments in performing His will: people and armies; natural disasters and weather; disease, and etc. All of these effects are instruments and are utilized in some manner at the proper time and place for the proper and effective result.
Jehovah God stated through Jeremiah prophet that He will execute judgement on the southern kingdom Judea for violation of the covenant. Jer 7:14. In reality Jehovah God utilized an instrument to do so: the army of Babylon. Jer 5:15-17. Later Jehovah God stated that He will execute judgement on Babylon for pride and violation of the law of Jehovah God. Jer 51:14,24-25. Then Jehovah God states that the armies of Media and Persian will be the instrument by which this penalty will be imposed on Babylon. Jer 51:20-23. In Ex 23:23, Jehovah God clearly states that He will blot out or expunge the nations of Canaan out of existence. But in Deut 7:2, Israel is commanded to utterly destroy them. As in the previous cases, Jehovah God is executing the judgement sentence on them, but now using the army of Israel as His instrument.
The same applies to statements by Jesus Messiah, who was judge and jury and pronounced the guilty verdict on the Sadducees. Matt 23:32-36. This final day of teaching in the temple begins at Matt 21:23. The balance of Matt 21 and chapters 22 and 23 all occur in the temple. Several scenarios occurring one after another: priests and elders and Herodians, Pharisees and Sadducees, all of them taking their turn questioning and attempting to entrap Jesus Messiah. On every occasion Jesus was able to answer them without incriminating himself. The crowd of worshippers and disciples watched the confrontations and debates and verbal altercations between them, and listened to his parables of the 2 sons, the wicked tenants, and the marriage feast. The confrontation culminated in the reprimand of hypocrisy of the priests and elders in Matt 23. If we could imagine what occurred at this time, the final minutes of Jesus’ presence in the temple, he is telling the people of the hypocrisy and corruption of these religious leaders. The crowd huddles around him and the priests and elders a short distance away. Then he points to them and recites the words:
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. Matt 23:35-36.
The people are aghast at his words. The priests and elders are astounded at his threat. Never before had someone threatened the elders and priests with the vengeance of Jehovah God, that they were guilty of the murder of earlier prophets of God sent to them to preach repentance. Jesus Messiah then gathered his small group of disciples and exited the temple. His words meant exactly what he said, that sometime in the near future the family of the high priest Annas, the Sadducees and their associates would answer for the lives of the ancient and contemporary saints with their own life. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind: they felt that Jesus Messiah himself would fulfill his threat against them.
THE THREE QUESTIONS OF THE DISCIPLES
Jesus and his retinue of disciples left the court of the temple and proceeded down the steps. Toward the outer edge of the temple grounds the disciples began to complement the beauty and grandeur and massive size of the temple. Jesus replied to their boasts of the massive stones that served as walls,
“You see all these, do you not? I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Matt 24:2.
Perhaps someone had reiterated the words of Jesus about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in 3 days. This is recorded in John 2:19. The statement of the disciples were to focus the attention of Jesus to his words. This was also accepted by the elders and priests as a direct threat, that he would himself destroy the temple. Those who heard him understood his statement as a direct threat. During the mock trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin, 2 men said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in 3 days.’” Matt 26:61. Also as Jesus was suspended from the stake during crucifixion miscreants harassed him saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in 3 days, save yourself.” Matt 27:40. Mark 15:29. The general audience along with the disciples, elders and priests understood Jesus as saying that he would himself accomplish the dismantle or demolition of the temple.
Leaving the temple grounds Jesus and his retinue left the boundaries of the city and went to a quiet area at the mount of Olives. From the hillside where the teacher sat with his disciples the temple could be clearly seen. The questions posed by the disciples vary slightly in the 3 synoptic gospels. Mark and Luke agree that 2 questions were submitted to Jesus, while Matthew records 3 questions:
“Tell us when this will be and what will be the sign when these things are all to occur.” Mark 13:4. Luke 21:7.
“Tell us when this will be, and what will be the sign of your arrival, and of the close of the age.” Matt 24:3.
Both questions of Mark and Luke and 2 of the 3 questions of Matthew pertain to recent points of discussion: The execution of the elders and priests, and the demolition of the temple. The disciples had just heard the reprimands and conversations and heard the statement of Jesus regarding the demolition of the temple. Now as they sat on the mount of Olives the disciples were interested as to when Jesus was going to fulfill his words, when was all of this to occur. The 3rd question of Matthew pertains to the close of the age of Moses, the old covenant, with the subsequent initiation of the age of the Messiah, the new covenant. There is no reason to doubt that the disciples also understood that this was to occur prior to the demise of that generation, since this statement of Jesus is recorded in all 3 gospel accounts. Matt 23:36. Mark 13:30. Luke 21:32. There is no evidence or justifiable reason to allocate the questions of the disciples to anything other than those points of discussion not over 1 hour earlier, and the 3rd question of the end of the age, which pertained to the fulfillment of 2 of the parables recited that day in the temple: vengeance on the wicked tenants, and the marriage feast for the king’s son. Both of these parables to materialize at the conclusion of the age. Matt 24 is not to be isolated from Matt 21-23. The train of thought, or the vein of discussion, continues from Matt 23 and into Matt 24 and then into Matt 25.
One of the reasons for misinterpretation of Matt 24 is the archaic mis-translation of the Greek aeon as world. The KJV translation reads, “End of the world.” This mistranslation has created a milieu of misconceptions of the intent of this passage. Later translations such as the ASV of 1901, and the Douay-Confraterity, did not correct it. Only with the RSV of 1952 and subsequent versions was the word aeon correctly rendered as age. This statement in the NT is responsible for the so-called doctrine of eschatology more that any other single passage, when in actuality there is no end of the world as we know it. This world has existed for millions of years into the past and will continue to do so for millions of years into the future.
The correct rendering of the final question to Jesus by the disciples is, “When will the close of the age occur?” If Jesus be the Messiah, and he claimed he was and gave people the impression he was, and later he admitted in the presence of the priests and elders that he was, the disciples wanted to know when the present age of Moses, the old covenant, was to conclude, and the new age to begin under himself the Messiah with the institution of a new covenant and the spiritual kingdom. The return of Jesus Messiah to execute the above tasks must be separated from events that are destined to occur at some time distant into the future, such as the restoration of the earth to its original immortal and pristine state, the resurrection from death, and the eternal kingdom.
FULFILLMENT OF THE 3 QUESTIONS
Regarding the first question on the demolition of the temple, on September 9, 70 AD, a Roman soldier shot a flaming arrow into the temple. This caused the curtains to catch fire. As a result of this, the temple structure burned and within days was rubble. According to traditional sources, while the temple was burning the heat was so intense that it melted the gold that served as the cover on the dome. This gold then flowed like a liquid down the side of the walls of the temples. When the flames cooled the gold remained in the crevices between the stones. To recover the gold, and in order to remove the gold from the crevices, the soldiers dismantled the temple walls stone by stone. When the soldiers finished their task not one stone was atop another.
After the Jewish War of 132-135 AD, with the defeat of Bar Kochba by the Roman military, what was left of the temple was razed and Roman Emperor Hadrian had the balance of the temple foundation dismantled. When Micah said that Jerusalem would be plowed like a field and become a heap of ruins, Micah 3:12, not only was his reference to the area where the temple of Solomon once stood in its grandeur, but also equally pertained to the area where the magnificent temple built by Herod the Great stood. After the army of Hadrian was finished, Zion could “be plowed as a field,” and Jerusalem was “a heap of ruins.” What is today known as the wailing wall is a testimony to the fulfillment of Jesus’ words. The wailing wall is not a wall at all. These stones were laid by Herod’s workmen underground as a foundation for the walls of the temple.
The 2nd question asked by the disciples pertained to the priests and elders responsibility for the death of the saints of Jehovah God. The Sadducess themselves accepted the responsibility for innocent blood in their statement to Pontius Pilate. Matt 27:25. This was prophecy self-fulfilled. They admitted to Pilate that Jesus was innocent of charges that would demand capital punishment. They definitely knew it when they made such a statement, and so they agreed to be personally responsible and also attached the responsibility to their offspring. It cannot be forgotten though that these words applied specifically to that generation of Jews and not to any other. That generation did answer for the murder of Jesus Messiah during the Jewish Wars, and they were the victims of the bloodshed during the siege of Jerusalem, from April to September, 70 AD. Priests and worshippers were massacred on the temple grounds in the thousands as a result of the strife for control of the city. The majority of priests and elders were killed by the feuding factions in the city, killed by their own countrymen in attempts to gain political control of the city. The Roman military executed few priests. There are 2 passages in Revelations that indicate in allegorical form the execution of the guilty Sadducees and priests and destruction of Jerusalem for the death of ancient prophets of Israel.
As they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, so you have given them blood to drink as they deserve. Rev 15:6.
In her was found the blood of prophets and saints and all who have been killed in the land. Rev 18:24.
The phrase from Abel to Zechariah in Matt 23:35, refers to the entire gamut of holy men executed and persecuted in OT times. In the Hebrew Bible the arrangement of books is different than the English, which is based on the Septuagint. The book 2 Chronicles is the final book in the OT Hebrew Bible. The murder of Zechariah priest is mentioned is 2 Chron 24:20-21. In essence Jesus told the elders and priests they would answer with their own life for every holy person killed or persecuted from the first in the Bible to the last. (The addition of the statement “son of Berechiah” appears to be an insertion by a scribe or redactor to refer to Zechariah prophet, the 2nd to the final book of the OT Septuagint order of books.)
THE LAST DAYS
The Jewish sages of the era taught that the Messiah would deliver the people from their enemies and initiate a new realm, the age of the Messiah. That period of time just prior to the materialization of the age of the Messiah, the closing years of the old covenant and old Israel, is referred to in the NT as the “last days.” The study of those passages dealing with this follows.
On Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus Messiah Peter apostle gave his sermon regarding the descent and baptism of the holy Spirit. He quoted the OT prophecy in Joel 2:22-23, and indicated that the event occurring that day was its fulfillment.
But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh…” Acts 2:16-17.
This prophecy pertained to the outpour of the holy Spirit at the close of the old age, that period just prior to the beginning of the new age of the Messiah. Peter apostle correlated the “last days” of Joel prophet to the days subsequent to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The outpour of the holy Spirit was the inauguration of the Messianic age. A typical Jew in Jerusalem would apply the words of Peter apostle that day to their own era. Peter apostle testified that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. Acts 2:22-24. His resurrection from death was the divine testimony that he was the fulfillment of such prophecies as Ps 16:8-11 and Ps 110:1. Those familiar with the teaching of the Jewish sages and the OT prophecies would correlate Joel’s words “last days” to their era, with the immediate materialization of the spiritual kingdom, the age of the Messiah.
The writer of the book of Hebrews follows the same vein as he writes to Messianic Jews of the new spiritual community.
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a son…” Heb 1:1-2
The last days referred to in this introduction to his Messianic treatise are the years of the ministry of Jesus Messiah. The writer spoke with the understanding they were living in the years of the termination of the old covenant, old kingdom, old priesthood, old sacrificial system, old temple, old rites, and the old age. All of this to be immediately replaced by a new covenant, new spiritual kingdom, new priesthood, new sacrifice, new temple, fulfillment of rites and the new Messianic age, all of which was implemented by Jesus of Nazareth son of Jehovah God.
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Heb 9:26.
The ages mentioned in this passage refer to all the covenant eras beginning after the fall of the progenitors Adam and Eve. The first sacrifice for sin, or sin offering, was that of Cain and Able. Many ages have transpired since the implementation of a sacrificial system with its rites and manner of sacrifice of clean animals. It was at the conclusion of these many ages that the sacrifice of Jehovah God appeared to once remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. Ps 40:6-7. After the crucifixion of Jesus Messiah, any other sacrifice was ineffective and obsolete.
There was no doubt in the mind of the author of Hebrews that Jesus son of Jehovah God appeared to the nation Israel during the final days or conclusion of the age of the old covenant. The temple was still standing and sacrifices were still being performed at the time the author wrote Hebrews. For this reason he wrote:
And in speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete is ready to vanish away. Heb 8:13.
The disappearance of what had become obsolete and archaic was consummated in the demolition of the temple. With the temple destroyed, the priesthood abolished, and sacrifices terminated, the covenant of Moses lost all effectiveness and was replaced in its totality by the covenant of Jesus Messiah. All of this occurred within a few years of the composition of the book to the Hebrews.
One other passage to review is the statement by Paul apostle.
Now these things occurred to them as a warning, but they were written for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. 1 Cor 10:12.
The various covenants instituted by Jehovah God over the millennia since the initial population of the earth was discussed earlier in this volume. Each one of these periods of covenant effectiveness was an age. Thus the period of the ministry of Jesus Messiah is aptly termed the end of the ages. There would be no more ages to follow in earthly living or covenant institution, since the covenant of Jesus Messiah is the final one until the restoration and resurrection. The end is also understood as pertaining to the end of the physical nation of Israel as chosen of Jehovah God and a manifest cohesive body which Jehovah God recognizes as His people. This was replaced by the spiritual kingdom of the new Israel.
The indication of when the old age would finally conclude and so initiate the new is explained by Jesus Messiah to his disciples in Matt 24 and Luke 21:5-33. Matthew, Mark and Luke record the statement of Jesus saying that his predictions and these events will occur within the time frame of the generation alive at that time. Matt 24:34. The specific time of the consummation of the close of that age is stated by Jesus. It was to occur immediately after the gospel of the spiritual kingdom was heard by all nations.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the entire world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matt 24:14.
The gospel which you heard which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Col 1:23.
This reference is in line with other words of Jesus Messiah.
For truly I say to you, you will barely pass through all the towns of Israel by the time this person (i.e. himself) arrives. Matt 10:23.
Every Jew living in the inhabited earth would have the opportunity to hear the good news of the spiritual kingdom before the age would close. Every Jew would have the opportunity to be born from above, be born of the word and spirit, and enter into the spiritual kingdom before the termination of the old. Now part of the spiritual kingdom they would be delivered by Jesus Messiah from the wrath to cover the entire inhabited world, the Roman Empire. Parallel with this was the upheaval during the Roman Civil War between the death of Nero Caesar in 68 AD and the ascension of Vespecian in 70 AD. The apostles and evangelists will barely have sufficient time to disclose the concept of the spiritual kingdom to the areas inhabited by Jews by the time the initial rebellions against Roman authority would begin in Judea. The purpose of disclosing this concept of the spiritual kingdom was for a testimony or witness unto the Jews of the era, that those who do not accept and enter the spiritual kingdom will perish in the political upheavals and civil wars of the season of temptation. Paul apostle and other apostles and evangelists spread the good news of the spiritual kingdom throughout the Roman Empire and middle east and then shortly after the age ended.
THE TEACHING OF JESUS MESSIAH REGARDING THE END OF THE AGE
This section will deal with the words of Jesus Messiah that pertain to the end of the old age and the spiritual kingdom of God. As mentioned earlier, the career of Jesus Messiah was to turn away the people from revolt against the Roman military occupation to a life in peaceful coexistence. If the people would refuse his message they would eventually suffer the consequences, they and their children, which would occur toward the end of that age, 66-70 AD. Those who accepted the concept of the spiritual kingdom would be delivered from the season of temptation, this era of upheaval and distress. Not the entirety of the 4 gospels will be here discussed, since that would demand a volume of its own, but only certain applicable passages.
Matt 8:20. Some felt that a method of gaining prestige or recognition is by involvement in religion. This was the intent of the scribe, hoping to gain fame from the Jewish population by allying himself with this popular teacher and healer. So Jesus Messiah reprimanded him, telling him that his work entailed considerable travel throughout the region, and that his disciples would travel throughout the civilized world to warn them of the impending upheavals to occur in the Roman Empire within a few years. There was no fame to be gained by becoming an apostle of Jesus Messiah or affiliating with him.
Matt 8:22. To follow Jesus Messiah meant to accept him as high priest, sacrifice and temple, and as king over the new spiritual Israel. This new disciple did not want the disapproval of his father when he would inform him that he was abandoning the existing Aaronic priesthood, not participating in further animal sacrifices, and not attending the temple services. He did not want the disapproval of his elders when he would inform them that entrance into and membership in the actual kingdom was by way of a spiritual birth, and not by genealogy and circumcision. This man wanted to wait until his father passed away in order not to disappoint or offend him.
The dead who would bury the dead were those inside Jerusalem during the siege of April-September of 70 AD. Jesus Messiah made it clear that this young man should not wait any longer to decide to follow the concepts taught by Jesus Messiah, because his other relatives were to perish during the siege.
Matt 10:14-15. Sodom and Gomorrah were 2 of the cities destroyed for reasons of amoral conduct by Jehovah God, as recorded in Gen 19. Those who would not receive the gospel taught by the disciples would perish as did the residents of these 2 cities. The day of judgement on the cities rejecting the message of the disciples was the 2 Jewish Wars. At least with Sodom one family was spared, but none would be spared with the coming judgement on the cities of Judea; either they would die in war or become slaves as the spoils of war.
Matt 10:34-36. Every household in Judea will be divided. Some members will accept the concepts of the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Messiah, while other will not. Those who would accept the concept of the spiritual kingdom would be labeled as traitors to their ancestral religion by the other members of the family.
Matt 10:37-38. A decision will have to be made by every member of a household prior to the beginning of the Jewish War: to leave or to remain in Judea. A person will nave to decide whether to follow the spiritual kingdom, and leave behind his parents and children to perish in Judea, or to remain with them and perish with them.
Matt 10:39, 16:24-26. To lose your soul in this passage refers to abandoning the old religion and to find it is to discover it in the spiritual kingdom; while those who feel they have attained the pinnacle of religious success in the existing manner of worship will perish in the war.
Matt 11:20-24. The cities Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum all were destroyed and the residents put to death during the invasion of the Roman army and war. Any that survived were sold as slaves to Romans.
Matt 12:25. The reference of Jesus Messiah to the kingdom divided against itself collapsing is to the conquest of Judea by Pompey in 65 BC. A conflict was in progress among the Jewish elders in Jerusalem regarding the rightful heir to the capacity of high priest: Aristobulus or Hyrcanus II. The elders then went to seek the advise and resolution of Pompey, who with his army was stationed in Judea. Pompey then took advantage of their internal squabble and proceeded to the gates of Jerusalem. Because of the religious and political conflict in the city, the residents were unable to unite to defend themselves against the well trained and regimented army of Pompey. The city surrendered to Pompey’s legate Piso, however it took a siege of 3 months to break down the wall surrounding the temple mount. Once inside the temple grounds the Roman troops massacred about 12,000 Jews. Roman military occupation of Judea began at this time.
Matt 12:36. The careless or vain words of people here refers to their discredit of Jesus Messiah. As a result of this discredit they harden themselves against believing his gospel and likewise turn others away from him. They will answer for this discredit with their life in the invasion and war with Rome.
Matt 16:27-28. Angels in this passage should be rendered as messengers. Jesus Messiah will utilize the Roman military to recompense the people of Israel for their rejection of him. Some of the disciples will life to see the judgement upon Judea and will be part of the spiritual kingdom to materialize in the Messianic communities east of the Jordan River and Dead Sea.
Matt 24:29-31. This passage refers to the era after the defeat of Jerusalem and the entirety of Judea. Apostles to the gentiles will continue their proclamation of the arrival of the spiritual kingdom and many will accept. The assembly must be understood allegorically as an awakening or revival, the elect are those among the gentiles who now become part of the spiritual Israel.
Matt 25:31-33. The nations are the cultural and ethic groups of the Roman Empire. Some of them will accept the proclamation of the arrival of the spiritual kingdom and enter into it. They will survive the turmoil of the reign of Nero Caesar and Roman Civil War of 64-69 AD. Those groups who reject the gospel will face the consequences of their decision and suffer.
Matt 26:52. Those who take the sword are those who join the military or use weapons to defend Judea against the superior and regimented Roman army. They will die by the sword at the hands of the invading troops.
Luke 13:1-5. At the temple some Gallileans were murdered by Pilate when they were sacrificing unto Jehovah God. This passage probably refers to an incident that occurred as a result of an uproar against Pontius Pilate when he used temple funds to build and aqueduct to bring water to Jerusalem. Pilate in retribution sent soldiers into the temple precinct dressed as common Jews. There they ruthlessly beat the helpless crowds.
The point made by Jesus Messiah in Luke 13:5, was that if the people continued in this course of action against Roman authority and would not repent, they would also perish in a similar situation.
Luke 11:20. The evidence of the initiation of the spiritual kingdom was the manifestation of the power of Jesus Messiah. The kingdom is not to be established by people or by the effort of people. Only with the power of the holy Spirit can the kingdom of God be established.
Luke 13:25-30. Jews in general and especially the Sadducees and Pharisees felt themselves superior to gentiles. Jews had no association with non-Jews and even Samaritans. John 4:9. A Jew would not eat with a non-Jew. Gal 2:12. The time would come when Jews would discover themselves as captives and slaves of the Roman military, while these same gentiles are now heirs and possessors of the promises of Jehovah God. The Sadducees who considered themselves primary and superior all perished in the Jewish War, along with many Pharisees. Jews were brought to Rome as part of Titus’ victory parade. The gentiles who were born again now became the new generation of kings and priests in the Messianic community.
Matt 23:39. Luke 13:35. Only those who repented and accepted the baptism of the holy Spirit proclaimed “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” This assembly “saw” Jesus Messiah in an allegorical sense. The house forsaken is the school or party of the Sadducees, the aristocratic families that comprised the majority of the Sanhedrin and most of the senior priests and high-priests. Their entire religious fraternity perished in the siege and defeat of Jerusalem.
Luke 19:41-44. Jesus wept over the city Jerusalem. He knew that his message will be rejected by the majority of the people and especially the religious and political hierarchy of the Jewish nation. If the people, he felt, only had the foresight that he had, viewing its inevitable doom and defeat, perhaps they would take a different course of action and deliver themselves.
Luke 23:28-31. Women of Judea who recognized the injustice done to Jesus Messiah with the Romans sentencing him to death by crucifixion, cried for him. In response Jesus told them to rather weep for themselves. It would be better for them if they were not to have children, otherwise their sorrow will increase when they see the Roman army executing them in their presence. If the women are weeping for the injustice of the crucifixion of Jesus Messiah during a time of peace, how much more will they weep when hostilities begin and they see the execution of thousands. Titus during the siege of Jerusalem captured escapees from the city and crucified them in front of the city walls. The residents of Judea during the Jewish War will attempt to escape capture by hiding in caves and mountains, but will fail.
Matt 10:5. The purpose of Jesus Messiah was the salvation of his people, the Jews, from the impending wrath. The disciples were to focus on their mission and were not to deal with nationalities other than their own. At a later date the disciples would be sent to preach the gospel to the entire Roman Empire.
John 3:16. The application of the most prominent passage of Scripture and spoken words of Jesus Messiah apply to their contemporary era and should so be interpreted. John apostle wrote subsequent to the Jewish War to document the effort of Jesus Messiah to prove himself Messiah to Jews of Judea and primarily Jerusalem. The reference to perish in John 3:16 is to perish in violent struggle in the Jewish War, while “eternal life” is life aionious, referring to longevity after deliverance from the upheaval of the era. This is the salvation of the gospels.
John 10:8. Those who came prior to Jesus were thieves and robbers. His reference here are to the many imposters who claimed to be messiah, or had intentions of delivering the people from Roman occupation. These were the insurrection leaders from Galilee, whom Jesus was well familiar with. Some of them are mentioned in the book of Acts. Theudas. Acts 5:36. Judas the Galilean. Acts 5:37. The Egyptian. Acts 21:38. He also knew that others would later arise also claiming to be a messiah. Matt 24:5.
PARABLES OF JESUS MESSIAH REGARDING THE END OF THE AGE
Matt 13:24-30, 36-43. The Parable of the Tares. Jesus Messiah knew that after the Messianic communities were established individuals would join it who were unrepentant and also inclined to be a bad influence. 1 Cor 11:18-19. But at the same time they would gain a certain respect by some of the membership. Because of the involvement of these individuals with the community it would be difficult to excommunicate them without others also leaving with them. Their identification would be obvious because they would be unproductive and have a corrupt effect on others. They are also referred to by Jude apostle in Jude 5-13, and by Peter apostle in 2 Pet 2:4-22. However toward the conclusion of the age God would separate them unto their own annihilation at the hands of the Roman army, while the ripen and good grain would be gathered into the spiritual kingdom.
Matt 13:47-50. Parable of the Seine. When the gospel of the kingdom was to be preached unto the gentiles, many would accept and join the Messianic communities, both repentant and unrepentant. The unclean fish represent the spiritually “unclean,” while the clean fish represent the spiritually “clean.” But when the turmoil and upheaval of the season of temptation and great tribulation of 68-70 AD would fulfill, the spiritually “unclean” will be separated from the Messianic communities to suffer the consequences of their unrepentant condition. Those spiritual “clean” will be gathered into the spiritual kingdom.
Matt 21:33-34. Parable of the Wicked Tenants. This parable deals with the nation Israel rejecting their Messiah and so losing the kingdom to the gentiles. The vineyard is Israel. Is 5:1-7. The tenants are the political and religious leaders of the country. The servants sent are the prophets of earlier eras, whom the leaders of previous eras persecuted and killed. Matt 23:30-31. He himself, Jesus Messiah, is the son of the landowner, Jehovah God. After their murder of the son, the heir to Israel, Jehovah God executed those responsible for his death by way of the Jewish Wars of 66-70 AD and 132-135 AD. The vineyard, the spiritual kingdom, was then offered to gentiles, who accepted it and became the new spiritual Israel.
Matt 22:1-14. Parable of the Marriage Feast. This parable recited by Jesus Messiah directly after the above parable follows in the same vein. The servants inviting the population to the marriage feast are the disciples proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to Jews, for them to enter it. In this parable the king, Jehovah God, sends the Roman military, to punish those who killed his servants, the disciples. Other servants, the apostles, were sent to the gentiles to invite them to the marriage feast, the spiritual kingdom.
No doubt many gentiles entered or joined the new Messianic communities who were not born from above, baptized and converted. These would eventually be excommunicated for failing to live up to the moral code. I Cor 5:11.
Matt 25:1-13. Parable of the Ten Virgins. The virgins symbolize the entirety of the Messianic Community in Judea. Some are sincere with faith, others not so. When the time should come to migrate east of the Jordan River and Dead Sea to enjoy the marriage feast, some will leave having faith, symbolized by the oil. By the time the others realize what is occurring in Judea and within their traditional religion, that salvation is no longer there to be found, that the priests, sacrifices and temple cannot save them from perishing, it will be too late. There will not be enough time for them to make the transition as true believers in the Messiah and still exit the areas of devastation.
Matt 25:14-30. Parable of the Servants. The servant represents the membership of the Messianic communities. Many of them will dedicate time, money and effort to the new work of the spiritual kingdom. These will be exalted by Jehovah God with greater responsibility. Others will be apathetic and contribute nothing. These will eventually leave the Messianic communities in later years.
Matt 25:34-46. Parable of the Two Assemblies. The kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world is the spiritual kingdom of Jehovah God. Because of their faith and conduct, and especially as a result of charity toward the underprivileged, the members of the Messianic communities will enter this kingdom. There they will receive the blessings of prosperity and longevity and deliverance from the death of the season of temptation. The balance will die the death in the great tribulation at the end of that age.
Luke 12:35-48. The Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants. This parable deals with the conflict between the NT spiritual priesthood of Melchizedek and the OT hierarchal Aaronic priesthood. The faithful servants are the ministers, elders and deacons of the Messsianic communities. They await the fullness of he descent of the holy Spirit at the end of the age. The unfaithful servants are the aristocratic Sadducees and haughty Pharisees of the corrupt temple service in Jerusalem. They persecuted the common people and members of the messianic community up to the time of the siege of Jerusalem. They answered for their deeds at this time.
Luke 12:54-56. Parable of Discerning the Sky. Jesus Messiah reprimanded the tunnel vision and lack of depth of the Jewish multitudes regarding the political situation of the era. They could not recognize that their present course of action was like a storm cloud on the horizon drawing near. If they were to continue this course it would result in a total storm, their annihilation.
WITNESSES TO THE END OF THE OLD COVENANT
There are 2 enigmatic statements made by Jesus Messiah in the gospels that have baffled the author for several decades, until concluding that Jesus’ reference is to events in the immediate future. These 2 passages will be discussed individually.
Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see this person coming in his kingdom. Matt 16:28.
The disciples numbered at least 70 at this time. Not all of them would die before the collapse of Israel as a nation. Some of them would remain alive to participate in the spiritual kingdom of the Messianic age, comprised of every race, color and ethnic origin, and be a witness to the words of Jesus Messiah. In 1 Cor 15:6, Paul apostle mentions that some of the early witnesses had passed away, although many were still alive.
If it is my will that he (John) remain until I (Jesus) come, what is that to you (Peter)? John 21:22.
Historical chroniclers and early Christian tradition testifies that all of the original 12 apostles, including Paul apostle, died before 66 AD, with the sole exception of John son of Zebedee. After John apostle’s release from Patmos he moved to Ephesus to live there and in subsequent years wrote the gospel and 3 letters that bear his name as author. It was the will of Jesus Messiah that one of the original 12 survive the close of the age and greet the Messianic age. John apostle was to witness to the consummation of all the words recorded in the 3 synoptic gospels and Paul apostle regarding the events surrounding the close of the age and the return of Jesus Messiah to fulfill his words against the corrupt priests and elders.
This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these matters, and who has written these matters, and we know that his (John’s) testimony is true. John 21:24.
John apostle lived out his final years as a testimony to the fulfillment of all spoken by Jesus Messiah. This is the reason that his gospel does not deal with this topic. Since John wrote after 70 AD, there was no reason to deal with the end of the age. John’s focus was on the ministry and the effort of Jesus to convince the people, priests and elders that the was the Messiah, and that his words should be taken seriously. The events of the Jewish War were sufficient witness to the result of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. The word that he spoke did judge them on that last day.
MIGRATION OUT OF JUDEA
The Christian Historian of the 4th century Eusebius records that the Messianic Jews fled Jerusalem prior to the beginning of the Jewish War.
The whole body however of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.
The migration to this city on the east side of the Jordan River, a Greek city, was the result of the statement by Jesus in Luke 21:20-21 and Matt 24:15-16. The catastrophe to be delivered from is that noted in Luke 21:20-21 and Matt 24:21. This is the salvation that Jesus Messiah taught the Jews of his era. Daniel prophet indicated that the area east of the Jordan and Dead Sea would be untouched by the upheaval of the end of the age, that this area would be a safe haven.
But these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab, and the main portion of Ammon. Dan 11:41.
This event can also be correlated with the flight of the wife clothed with the sun noted in Rev 12:7. The Jewish War lasted 1260 days, or 42 months, or 3-1/2 years, from the time that Vespecian’s army entered the north of Judea in the spring of 66 AD to the conquest of Jerusalem in September 70 AD. This era is also referred to as the season of temptation or hour of tribulation, in Rev 3:10. The saints that fled Jerusalem to Pella can be identified with the 144,000 mentioned in Rev 7:3-4. They were allowed to leave prior to the beginning of the great tribulation, the Jewish War. The great multitude described in Rev 7:9-17, are those saints who remained in Judea. Instead of migrating to refuge they remained and endured great tribulation. Rev 7:14.
This author contends that those who accepted the concept of the spiritual kingdom and Jesus as Messiah heeded the warnings and prophecies and fled out of the areas that would be ravaged by war. Those taking refuge in these cities isolated from the “wrath which is to come,” received the salvation that Jesus spoke about. Matt 3:7. This likewise applied to others living throughout the Roman Empire, to escape the turmoil of the era. 1 Thess 1:10. The Messianic communities were to look forward to the consummation of the age.
Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads because your redemption arrives. Luke 21:28
So also when you see these things taking place you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has occurred. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Luke 21:31-33.
It was in these cities of the Messianic communities of the new spiritual Israel that Jesus Messiah returned by way of his baptism of the holy Spirit to consummate his spiritual kingdom. The Messianic communities reigned with Messiah a 1000 years it seems within their spiritual kingdom in all consolation and joy, while the balance of the Jewish nation and Roman Empire was broiling in war, famine, plague, political conflict, social upheaval, receiving the due consequence for their crimes and unrepentant attitude. This was the manner of the return of Jesus Messiah to execute his judgement upon them. 2 Thess 1:7-10.
The hosts of heaven rejoiced at the inauguration of the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah on earth. They proclaimed their joy and the victory in these words:
The kingdom of this world has become that of our Lord and His Messiah and he shall reign for ages of ages. Rev 11:15
To leave Judea and Jerusalem was not an easy matter for many Jews. Only if an individual truly believed that Jesus of Nazareth was Messiah and that his words would be fulfilled in that generation would they leave. The Messianic community had no more attachment to Jerusalem. Like Abraham, they sought the city whose builder and maker is God. Heb 10:10. They likewise were not involved in the politics of Judea or in the Jewish religion, and especially the Pharisaic oral law. Since Jesus Messiah was high priest, sacrifice and temple, they had no reason to associate with the temple or any of its services, no reason to attend, and no reason to affiliate with any party or school within Judaism. Since their kingdom was spiritual, they had no reason to fight Romans for possession of the land. Nothing remained for the members of the Messianic community in Jerusalem.
Matt 12:31-32. To blaspheme the holy Spirit was to deny Jesus as Messiah, to deny Jesus as son of Jehovah God and to attribute his witness to evil forces or evil intents. This deprived the accuser of accepting the salvation that their Messiah intended and desired for them. All such that spoke evil of the miracles of Jesus eventually perished along with their families and adherents in the Jewish War. The penalty for blasphemy in that age of the old covenant was their deprivation of the blessings of Jehovah God that would result from accepting the message of Jesus Messiah. The penalty in the Messianic age to come would be their total deprivation of the spiritual kingdom. The strong impact of the statement that they “will not be forgiven,” lies in the fact that their children and grandchildren would also be deprived of the blessings to evolve from the message of Jesus Messiah. The grandchildren would suffer in the 2nd Jewish War.
The subsequent generations of these blasphemers of his miracle-working holy Spirit would only know Jesus of Nazareth as attempting to destroy their divinely inspired religion, destroying the traditions of their forefathers, another messianic charlatan. The grandchildren of those who discredited Jesus Messiah may well have joined the ranks of the pseudo-messiah Semeon bar-Kochba in his abortive and failed attempted to gain Jewish independence in the 2nd Jewish War of 132-135 AD. This 2nd war against Roman authority was the materialization of the words, “no forgiveness in the age to come.”
I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. John 5:43
Jesus came in the name of his Father Jehovah God, with the witness of his Father and fulfillment of all spoken by the prophets. Only a fraction of the population of Jewry accepted his message at that time. He was rejected by the hierarchy of the Jewish religion, betrayed by them and brought to the Roman governor for his sentence of execution. In place of Jesus of Nazareth, the surviving Jewish elders and influential men of the following century rallied behind a leader who surfaced in his own name, Semeon bar Kochba. He was recognized and identified as Messiah by the greatest of rabbis of the era, Rabbi Akiva. He identified bar Kochba as the son of the star of Num 24:17, modifying his name to bar Coziba. This messianic pretender came in his own name and was recognized by the elders of his era. He led that generation of zealots against the Romans only again to be defeated.
This author sometimes wonders whether Annas may have felt he was the Messiah. This is not unusual for individuals in exceptional high offices to feel as if they may be divine or supernatural. This ego-centric attitude no doubt resulted from their accomplishments, the respect they feel they earned, their accumulated wealth, immense knowledge and large family. Annas no doubt made many compromises and performed many political favors for Quirinius governor of Syria to have the office of high-priest granted to him and to hold it for some 11 years, and subsequently the same was done with Valerius Gratus and Pontius Pilate on behalf of Joseph Caiaphas his son-in-law, for him to hold this office 18 years. For all of his effort on behalf of the temple, as high priest emeritus, a large family in the priesthood, the principle individual in Jewry upholding the divine ancestral religion, having authority and respect throughout the world, he just may have felt himself to be Messiah.
This author wonders what went through the mind of Annas those hours during Passover when Jesus of Nazareth stood before him. John 18:13. Was Annas the imposter or was Jesus? But what of the many years of dedication of Annas? This author contends that Annas realized Jesus of Nazareth was Messiah, but his pride prohibited him from publicly acknowledging it. There is no record of the specific questions or conclusions made by Annas. Obviously under the circumstances he had no choice except to voice that Jesus should be silenced or exiled, or whatever means was necessary for him to no longer exert influence on the population. If Annas was to publicly acknowledge the claim of Jesus as Messiah, he would watch his entire empire crumble. He would see the fulfillment of every prophetic text and every passage by the sages of previous centuries that dealt with the consummation of the ministry of the Messiah. Annas was so familiar with all these texts he learned as a student and scholar of the Torah and Mishna. Annas knew exactly what the Messiah was to accomplish in his ministry and he saw it in Jesus but could not permit himself to admit it. Annas had too much to loose. The religious empire of the temple and its services, his family and their positions, their income and wealth, and his power and prestige, would all dissolve into the elements and be replaced with a spiritual kingdom and a spiritual religion based on the moral code. This was the sublime failure of the religion of Annas, failure to uphold the moral code, failure to teach it and failure to live up to it. Success was in religion and that was the life of Annas: religion and the politics that encompassed religion.
Annas lived until about 60 AD; his age about 80. He died prior to the installation of his 5th son as high-priest, his namesake Annas II. The grandson, Matthias son of Theophilus son of Annas, was the final high priest to be appointed by King Agrippa II, about the year 65, the year prior to the outbreak of war against Rome. He was deposed after the war began and was replaced by a priest elected by the new Jewish officers in charge in Jerusalem.
All in all Annas concluded that the Jewish nation would be better off with himself having religious and political control rather than admitting that this Jesus of questionable birth from Nazareth should ascend as high priest of the new covenant and king of the spiritual Israel. Nevertheless, his entire posterity, his confederates and political associates, and his entire sect of Sadducees, all suffered and died, or were taken captive at the hands of the Roman military. His wealth was plundered by new Jewish leaders from Galilee at the beginning of the Jewish War. His name resides among the Jews as a discredit to their religious history. The Romans, with whom he dealt in many political maneuvers and dealings, now became the enemy. This proud exclamation of theirs 40 years earlier rejecting Jehovah God as true king and source of all religious authority only served as evidence against them in their crime of betrayal and invoked a verdict of guilty for the murder of Jesus of Nazareth from the one sitting on the throne in heaven.
This final defeat of the apostate Jewish religion is disclosed in Revelations, Rev 17:16-17. In the end the prostitute religion is destroyed by the Roman beast military. The same beast which earlier supported the prostitute now turns against it and burns her at the stake. This is reminiscent of the command in Lev 21:9, that the daughter of a priest who becomes a prostitute is to be executed by burning. So did it occur with this daughter of Jerusalem: the temple and all that pertained to it.
THE MESSAGE OF JOHN BAPTIZER
The prophesy of Malachi in his final chapter speaks of the time when Jehovah God will send Elijah prophet to the people of Israel before His day of judgement upon them, in order to turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents, so that He will not totally destroy them. Mal 4:5-6. No doubt many Jews felt that Elijah in the flesh would appear among the people, or perhaps be reincarnated. Matt 16:14. The words of Gabriel angel to Zachariah indicate that his son John was to be filled with the spirit of Elijah, and that he would be the one to proceed to reconcile parents and children in Israel. Luke 1:16-17. John’s ministry is also described in the song of Zachariah, Luke 1:68-79. He is also called a prophet of God. Luke 1:76. He personally denied that he was Elijah and the fulfillment of the words of Malachi, John 1:21, and in his humility preferred to be identified with Isaiah’s lone voice in the desert. Is 40:3. Jesus nevertheless clearly stated that he was Elijah. Matt 11:14.
John as a prophet of God had the ability to see distant into the future, to see the result or culmination of the path that the people of Israel were taking. What he saw was the great and terrible day of Jehovah God, His judgement upon Israel for their sins. If the older generation and younger generation were not reconciled, then for sure war would erupt and the nation would be devastated by the Romans. If he did not prepare the people for their acceptance of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, for sure Jehovah would smite the land with a curse. Mal 4:6. This is what the ministry of John Baptizer consisted of: the reconciliation of the generations, for them to abide in harmony with a common goal, and the preparation of the people through the baptism by water for the remission of sins, so they could accept the gospel of the spiritual kingdom as taught my Jesus Messiah and his disciples.
When Pharisees and Sadducees came to him to be baptized, he said to them.
Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Matt 3:7.
The wrath to come was the devastation John saw in the distant future, defeat and devastation by the Romans, if the people would not repent. In these words John chided the Pharisees and Sadducees, informing them that their self-righteousness served as a hindrance to their repentance. He preached to them in Matt 3:7-10, wanting them to desist in their self-righteous and haughty attitude and to show in their life conduct characteristic of repentant individuals. No doubt John hoped that his message would turn Israel away from its course of eventual defeat and devastation.
THE MINISTRY OF PAUL APOSTLE
The missionary effort of Paul apostle was to preach the gospel of the spiritual kingdom to all the gentiles, as was commanded him by Jesus Messiah in the vision along the road to Damascus, Acts 9:15. Paul accepted this commission and so proceeded to fulfill it with the strength given him, making it his life’s purpose. This he states in the following words:
I have fully preached the gospel of the Messiah, thus making it my ambition to preach the gospel. Rom 15:19-20.
Having completed his work in the areas of the middle east and Asia Minor, he wanted to expand his ministry in Rome and areas further west, even to Spain. Acts 15:24.
Just as with Jesus Messiah and the disciples in Judea, whose purpose in preaching the gospel was to turn the people from their crimes and to the spiritual kingdom to deliver them from the impending devastation of the Jewish Wars, so it was with Paul apostle, except that that his ministry primarily pertained to the moral disintegration of Roman society under Nero Caesar and the upheaval of politics and civil war of the near future. This was the period beginning with the burning of the city of Rome in July of 64 AD, to the death of Nero Caesar in June of 68 AD, and concluding with the ascension of Vespacian as Roman emperor in December of 69 AD. Paul apostle was to turn the people to the good news of the spiritual kingdom, for them to enter the new covenant of Jesus Messiah, so not to perish both morally and physically during these years of moral and political chaos. This period especially includes the burning of the Temple of Jupiter in Rome by political insurgents against Vespacian on December 19, 69 AD, just days before his ascension as emperor.
Paul apostle received his commission for evangelism about 3 years after the ascension of Jesus Messiah, based on the premise that the first half of Daniel’s 70th week was the ministry of Jesus Messiah and the second half was an interim until the termination of the old covenant with the nation of Israel. Dan 9:27. The year was about 34 AD. The actual evangelization to the nations by Paul apostle did not begin until about 38 AD, allowing time for him first in Damascus, then Arabia and then 3 more years in Damascus. Gal 1:17-21. Acts 13:2-3. The primary portion of his ministry lasted about 20 years, through year 57 AD, when he was imprisoned at Caesarea for 2 years. Acts 23:33, 25:1. Nero Caesar was emperor 54-68 AD.
This author contends that the 4 letters known as the prison epistles were written during the 2 year confinement of Paul apostle at Herod’s praetorian in Caesarea, about 57-59 AD. Acts 23:35. These letters are Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. While at Caesarea his brethren could have visited him on a regular basis and transmitted his concerns and messages to them. This period of Paul’s imprisonment is still close enough to the time of his travels for him to continue communication with the Messianic congregations he founded. By the time of his imprisonment at Rome, about 60 AD, Paul was already distant from the Messianic assemblies of Turkey and Greece. The 1st letter to Timothy and the letter to Titus Paul wrote from Rome before his first trial. His 2nd letter to Timothy he wrote before his second and final trial before Nero Caesar about 64 AD, before the outbreak of war in Judea and after the burning of Rome.
PAUL APOSTLE AND THE END OF THE AGE
Paul apostle wrote regarding his era, the Roman Empire of the 1st century. That was his world. His concern was to deliver both the Jewish population, his countrymen, and the non-Jewish population from devastation through their acceptance of the moral code and divine instruction of Jehovah God, and the formation of Messianic communities. Paul apostle’s concern was not the distant future and especially not 2,000 years into the distant future. He was concerned with the events of his own era, his life and his generation. The following are a few selections from Paul apostle’s letters to indicate his teaching regarding the end of the age of the old covenant and kingdom.
Rom 1:18. Roman society was to decay and collapse as a result of its own moral and political decadence. The corruption of Roman society is described in Rom 1:21-32.
Rom 2:5. The day of the wrath of Jehovah God upon Roman society was the final years of the reign of Nero Caesar, beginning with the burning of the city of Rome in July of 64 AD, and to the ascension of Vespacian in December of 69 AD.
Rom 13:11. The deliverance of the people from the distress of that era, the great tribulation, was very near, with the culmination of the spiritual kingdom in their communities.
1 Cor 2:13-15. Much like the parables of Jesus Messiah, those who adhere to the moral code and reside in the Messianic communities will easily survive the upheavals of 64-69 AD. The balance of the population of Roman society will suffer intensely incurring the loss of property, possessions, health, and perhaps even life.
1 Cor 7:1-2, 26-29. This chapter deals with the topic: To marry now or to wait until later to marry. It does not deal with marriage in general. When Paul apostle penned these words about 55 AD, it was good advice. Nero Caesar had just ascended the throne after the infamous death of Claudius Caesar. Marriage at that time would cause great sorrow for the spouses and their family because of the “impending distress.” He felt the time of wrath upon the Roman empire to begin very soon and feared that the difficulties of this period would exert unbearable stress on the marriage. To marry is good. 1 Cor 7:36. But the person who postpones his marriage until after this era of upheaval will be better off. 1 Cor 7:38.
Phil 2:16. The day of the Messiah is the day initiating the Marriage Feast of the King’s Son. Paul apostle hoped that all those for whom he labored would be attending and participating in this glorious era. He hope he would not be disappointed in those whom he taught, he wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment at the initiation of the kingdom.
Phil 4:5. Col 3:6. I Thess 1:10. In these short passages in Paul’s letters to his Messianic communities, he mentions that the advent of Jehovah God to fulfill his judgement on the Roman Empire is very near. The 2 letters to Philippians and Colossians were written in the period 57-59 AD at Caesarea, and the upheavals in the Roman Empire were to begin in just a few years. The theme of the impending distress and immense execution of the wrath of Jehovah God is recurring, all of which point to the same years, from about 64 to 70 AD, in both Judea and the Roman Empire in general.
1 Thess 2:16. This passage beginning at verse 13 is similar to the reprimand of the Sadducees by Jesus Messiah and his statement of their guilt for persecution and the impending judgement on them. Because the contemporary haughty and aristocratic Jews persecuted the members of the new Messianic communities, they likewise are pronounced guilty by Paul apostle and must now face the judgement upon them.
1 Thess 5:9. The salvation of the Messianic community at Thessalonica is its safe survival of the turmoil and upheaval of those few years ahead in the Roman Empire.
2 Thess 1:5-10. The persecution of the Messianic community at Thessalonica increased since Paul composed and sent his first letter. He repeats the verdict of guilty of persecution of innocent people on them and sentences them to death. This execution of the sentence was to occur in the near future.
2 Thess 2:1-11.The gathering of the Messianic communities to greet Jesus Messiah is a reference to the migration out of the areas of the Roman Empire to be affected by the Jewish War and Roman Civil Wars, to areas unaffected. The specific areas for the residents of Turkey and Greece to migrate to are not mentioned, but under the political and military conditions of the era this author would surmise that they would migrate to the mountainous interior of their countries. The migration of the residents of Judea was to the ancient areas previously known as Moab, Ammon and Edom, based on the prophecy of Dan 11:41. In these areas a spiritual arrival of Jesus Messiah through the descent and immersion of the holy Spirit would occur and inaugurate the Marriage of the king’s Son.
This letter was composed by Paul apostle about 50-52 AD, prior to the ascension of Nero Caesar in 54 AD. He is the man of lawlessness and son of perdition who is to die a shameful death at the hands of his own countrymen. The reign of Nero Caesar is the greatest tragedy in the history of the Roman Empire, and no emperor ever died in such loathsome and heinous circumstances as he did. No emperor caused as much damage during such a ruthless and despotic reign as did Nero during his 12 years. Paul apostle prophesied of his taking a seat in the temple proclaiming himself divine. Nero expected the subjects of his realm to worship his as a living deity. 2 Thess 2:4. Those who denied the gospel of the kingdom taught by Paul apostle and preferred to support Nero Caesar were led to delusion during his reign in order to perish. 2 Thess 2:11. A study of the career of Nero Caesar will prove the correlation between him and the words of Paul apostle in this passage. Paul apostle most likely died under Nero Caesar during the persecution of Christians in the capital during the final months of 64 AD, after the burning of the city by Nero’s subjects. The Christians were blamed for the conflagration and many were executed, including those who were crucified and set afire. The cruelty and savagery of such a despicable sub-human is well chronicled in history along with the ignoble demise of himself and his subjects and family.
2 Tim 1:16-18. Paul apostle desired that Onesiphorus be delivered from the turmoil of the era because of the sincere concern he had for Paul and the efforts on Paul’s behalf during his imprisonment in Rome.
2 Tim 3:1-8. The final days of old Israel is vividly portrayed in this passage. These verses are a description of the total moral, cultural, religious and political decadence and corruption of the population and leadership of Israel during the years of the Jewish Wars. Paul wanted Timothy to know what to expect during these last days of old Israel, so that he and other members of the Messianic communities would not fail in their faith and likewise join the masses in a loss of morality and observance to the divine law. This parallels the words of Jesus Messiah in Matt 24:5-13.
With the evidence provided above in the interpretation of the passages dealing with the subject of the last days in the writings of Paul apostle, it is apparent that his focus was on the events to occur in the near future, within a few years of his prophetic message. This author wonders whether Paul apostle knew that history was still to progress after the upheavals subdued, that his prophetic words would be fulfilled in a spiritual manner and not in a strictly literal one. That Paul apostle included the resurrection of the dead and translation of the living into the same letters describing the events of the termination of the age of Moses with the initiation of the age of Jesus Messiah and his spiritual kingdom, such as 1 Thess 4-5, causes a person to wonder if Paul apostle believed that the one would actually follow after the other, that is, that the restoration of the earth and resurrection of the dead were to occur during his era and not in the distant future. This was the same attitude of other disciples as noted in Acts 1:6. Paul apostle seems to follow in the same vein, prophesying events to occur but himself not aware of their sequence, or that some have an immediate application, while the restoration is distant.
APOSTLES JAMES AND PETER AND THE END OF THE AGE
This author contends that this letter was composed by the apostle James son of Alphaeus, and not by any half-brother of Jesus. Matt 10:5. James apostle deals primary with practical Christian teaching, and only one passage deals with the end of the age.
Jam 5:7-8. No doubt many were anxious in regard to the end of the age and the initiation of the new. Here James admonishes them to be patient, that it will arrive in due time.
It is the 2nd letter of Peter that primarily deals with the end of the age and this is chapter 3. No doubt there were individuals similar to those in Acts 1:6, who felt that the time had arrived for the kingdom to materialize and that there was no reason for any delay. Others were critical and made joke of their expectations. They were more than critical, trying to upset the faith of the Messianic community, by telling them that if it hasn’t occurred by now, it will never occur. The reply of Peter apostle is that God’s calendar is not measured in time duration as is the earthly calendar. God transcends time, and He will accomplish His work based on His own calculation of the progress of events on earth, and has no intentions of delaying. The members, however, should take advantage of the interval up to the end of the age and utilize it for the benefit of themselves and the community.
This author contends that Peter apostle did write the book bearing his name at Babylon. 1 Pet 5:13. When Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep,” John 21:15-17, this was a repeat of the command that was given to him a few years earlier, when Jesus told all of the 12, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matt 10:6. The majority of Jews during this era lived in Babylon, and so Peter apostle would have followed the command and traveled to the region of the highest concentration of Jews. Rome was not the city of large Jewish population, because Claudius Caesar expelled the Jews from Rome. Acts 18:2. The few that remained there knew little of the gospel, such as those who met with Paul apostle. Acts 28:21-22. Peter was an apostle to the circumcised. Gal 2:7. It was only right for him to travel to preach the gospel of the kingdom in that area that had the greatest population of Jews in the entire world. This was Babylon, and so he wrote his letter there and send it to other Jewish Messianic communities in the world.
The word antichrist is only found in the first 2 letters of John apostle: 4 times in the singular and 1 time in the plural. 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3, 2 John 7. As with the balance of such texts, the proper interpretation is to apply the word in its historical context, and this is clearly the intent of John apostle. He mentions the fact that “many antichrists have arrived,” and that the antichrist is the person who denies the Father and the Son. There is no equivalent term in the OT, and because there was no need for it. Because the apostles native language was Aramaic, the equivalent term would have been “the one against Messiah.”
This author contends that the Jews who refused to accept Jesus as Messiah are the antichrists of John’s letter; and that the specific or most prominent antichrist would be the high priest of the temple of Jerusalem. Because the Jewish religion continued services in the temple for many decades after the ministry of Jesus Messiah, the religious hierarchy of the Sadducees were those that were against Jesus as Messiah, and especially the installed high priest, of which several were the sons, and one grandson, of the infamous Annas of the gospels. Perhaps Annas was the antichrist that John apostle was referring to. The spirit of antichrist, or against-Messiah, pervaded the hierarchy of religious leadership in Jerusalem. John apostle warns of this, so that the Jewish Messianic groups would not fall victims to their propaganda and denounce Jesus as high priest of the new covenant. John did not even want the members of the Messianic communities to associate with anybody who did not accept Jesus as Messiah. 2 John 10-11.
APOSTLE JUDE AND THE END OF THE AGE
This author contends that the letter of Jude was composed by the apostle Judas the son of James, who is also Labbaeus or Thaddaeus. Luke 6:16. Matt 10:3. And not any half-brother of Jesus.
The passion of Jude is the defense of the original morality of the gospel. Jude 3-4. Apparently many had begun to stray away from the code of conduct of the new covenant, fall into amoral and criminal behavior, and felt that the grace of Jesus would cover their sin. This is similar to the accusation against Paul apostle teaching, that they should do evil so good will arise from it. Rom 3:8. Jude warns the Messianic community that those who conduct themselves inappropriately will not escape the judgement of God for their actions. Jude knew that as the era drew to its close that corruption would enter and increase in the Messianic communities. In Jude 17, he repeats the words of Peter apostle from 2 Pet 2, regarding the decline of morals and ethics towards the end of the age, which is similar to Jesus words about the effects of the upheavals and turmoil of the era on the conduct of people, causing an increase of criminal activity. Matt 24:12.
Knowing all of this, the members of the community were not be misled by such individuals corrupting the morals of the community, but rather was to reprimand them.
THE APOCALYPSE OF JESUS
The title of the final book of the NT, meaning unveiling or disclosure, or the popular Revelation, deals with the manner Jesus will reveal himself in judgement and consummate his assignment as Messiah, king, and high-priest over Israel. A better title for the book would be, “The manner of the imminent appearance of Jesus as described by John apostle in allegorical terms.” This author contends that John apostle received his visions on the island of Patmos at the beginning of the reign of Nero Caesar, about 54 AD, since his purpose was to warn and inform the Jewish population of events to occur at the conclusion of that age, and describe the upheaval of both the worlds of Rome and Judea from that time and through 135 AD, the end of the 2nd Jewish war. John apostle was not referring to events reiterative every generation, or events distant into the future, but to events the reader of the book would see with their own eyes and be part of themselves. This is so noted.
The revelation of Jesus Messiah, which God gave [John] to show his servants what must soon take place. Rev 1:1.
Because the time is near. Rev 1:3.
The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his messenger to show his servants what must soon occur. Rev 22:6.
Behold, I am coming soon. Rev 22:12, 20.
This author will not comment on every passage in the entire book of his revelation, but only on a few specific that deal will the conclusion of the age and major events of Judea and Rome.
Rev 6:1-2. The initial seal describes the pseudo-messiahs to appear in Israel for its deliverance. These were the freedom fighters and revolutionaries from Gallilee. They will gain a victory in Judea among their countrymen.
Rev 6:3-8. The 2nd through the 4th seals. These are the turmoil of war, famine, and subsequent in the land with the invasion of Vespacian in 66 AD.
Rev 6:9-11. The 5th seal. These are the Messianic saints who were killed during the war by Jewish revolutionaries.
Rev 6:12-17. The 6th seal. With the invasion of Judea by Roman troops, many will try to escape by hiding in the hills and mountains of Judea, but they will be unable to escape.
Rev 7:7:1-8. These are the elect of the community mentioned in Matt 24:22. They will not suffer the subsequent turmoil. They are also those symbolized by the 5 wise virgins who had oil in their lamps. Matt 25:10.
Rev 7:9-17. These are the members of the Messianic community who will suffer in the turmoil, but eventually survive. They are mentioned in 1 Cor 3:15, who build their foundation on Messiah using consumable materials; they are also the 5 foolish virgin who did not have sufficient oil. Matt 25:11-12.
Rev 8 and 9. This is a description of the invasion by Roman troops into Judea.
Rev 11. The 2 witnesses are the word and spirit, discussed above, which symbolize the continuation of the evangelism during this era. Even though Rome may feel it has defeated the Christians, they will only again reappear after the conclusion of the upheaval.
Rev 12. This is the wife of Messiah in her glory. She flees into the wilderness of Judea in Rev 12:6, that is, the Messianic community migrates out of Judea to area east of the Jordan River and Dead Sea to a place of refuge for these 3-1/2 years, and escapes the turmoil of war.
Rev 13. The beast with 7 heads and 10 horns is Nero Ceasar. His name is symbolized by 666. This is well attested to by scholars researching the history of this era.
Every Jewish reader, of course, saw that the beast was a symbol for Nero. The Jewish Christians could not have hesitated for a moment in the conclusion that in the Hebrew name of Nero the solution of the riddle stood revealed.
That no one could buy or sell without the identity of Nero Caesar, meaning the mark of the beast of Rev 13:16-17, could well apply to the necessity of being a citizen of Rome during his reign in order to be part of the economy of the Roman Empire.
Rev 17-18. The Jewish temple worship is symbolized by a prostitute, having committed spiritual infidelity with paganism; and she is sitting upon the beast, which is its support by the Roman government. Rome turning against Jerusalem and burning the temple is described in Rev 17:16-18.
Rev 19:1-10. This describes the termination of old Israel, symbolized as the destruction of the prostitute wife, and the exaltation of the new spiritual Israel, which is the bride of Messiah.
Rev 19:11-21. These are the upheaval of the Roman Empire in the period 68-69 AD, culminating in the burning of the temple of Jupiter in Rome.
Rev 20:1-3. This is the defeat of Jerusalem by Titus, and its occupation by Rome.
Rev 20: 4-6 This is the triumph of the saints, the members of the Messianic communities, who survive the turmoil and upheaval of this era.
Rev 20:7-15. The release of satan is the 2nd Jewish War of 132-135 AD, when a second attempt is made for Jewish nationalism. It too is suppressed by Rome, and the Jews forbidden to enter Jerusalem. The name of the city was changed at this time to Aelia Capitolina, and a new Roman city was built on its ruins.
Rev 21-22. The new holy city Jerusalem is the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Messiah.
Although not every passage of Revelations is commented on, this should suffice for the reader to understand that this book of Bible was written to describe the means that Jesus would consummate his work as Messiah. This author contends that this book was included in the canon of the NT, because the early Christians felt it to be prophecy fulfilled.
JESUS MESSIAH AND JEWISH TRADITION
The surmise of many that Jesus Messiah purpose in his ministry was to destroy the religion as established by Moses and other in earlier times is without credibility. His was the fulfillment of those facets that had a culmination in him as Messiah.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and prophets. I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill (consummate) them. Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches people so, he will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But he who does them and teaches them, will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:17, 19.
The point of contention between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees was that of the additions to the divine instruction in the form of the oral law.
Matt 11:28-30. This passage is understood when compared to the denunciation of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Matt 23. These Jewish elders loaded their traditions on the shoulders of the common people, a heavy burden for them to carry. Matt 23:4. Jesus Messiah knew how difficult life was for the common person and did not want to make it any more difficult. By turning toward the spiritual understanding of the priesthood, temple and sacrifices, life was made easier for the population. In contrast to the scribes and Pharisees, the yoke of Jesus was light and his burden was easy. And it was especially their hypocrisy which he rebuked. Matt 23:13-36.
Matt 15:17, Mark 7:19. Rules regarding the manner of washing hands prior to dining was one of the traditions placed upon the shoulders of common people to make religious observance unbearable. The passage does not deal with the food laws. Jesus Messiah states in his reply that washing of the hands is not as important as the Pharisees dictated to the people, since any minute particles of dirt only passed through the body, and do not affect the moral state of the individual. It is more important to concentrate on the conduct of a person than on traditions or superficial cleanliness.
Matt 12:1-8. The observance of the Sabbath rest day is not abrogated anywhere in the gospels. The reprimand of Jesus Messiah was due to the manner that scribes and Pharisees demanded a cessation from labor on this day. This attitude is also dealt with in John 9, when Jesus healed a man of his blindness on the Sabbath day. John 9:14.
Jesus Messiah described himself to the disciples as the means of understanding properly the OT law, covenants, and dictates of Jehovah God.
WHEN DID JESUS RESURRECT?
With a close investigation into the time of the resurrection of Jesus Messiah from death, it can easily be proven to have occurred about Saturday late afternoon, prior to sunset, our time, which is the Bible equivalent to very early on the 1st day. Bible chronology follows the pattern established in Gen 1, that the old day ends and the new day begins at sunset, and so the 1st day of the week begins sundown Saturday our time. A comparison of descriptions follow with the author’s rendering.
Matt 28:1. After the Sabbaths toward the onset of the 1st day of the week. (The Gk. epiphosko, translated as dawn, actually means onset.)
Mark 16:2. Very early on the 1st day of the week, when the sun was still up, they were on their way to the tomb.
Luke 24:1. Very early on the 1st day of the week.
John 20:1. Early on the first day of the week when it was already dark.
The dawn of the 1st day in Hebrew terms is not Sunday morning our time, but is twilight Saturday night our time. Following the sequence of events in the NT, 3 women, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome, wanted to travel to the tomb on the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but they were unable to do so, because this day was considered a Sabbath or rest. The next day was the 7th day Sabbath, equivalent to our Saturday. This is why the Sabbath is plural in Matt 28:1. Since the women could not travel on these days, they remained and rested in Jerusalem according to the commandment. Luke 23:56. Once the sun set, or was setting, indicating the conclusion of the Sabbath, the restrictions were terminated and they were able to travel the distance to the tomb outside Jerusalem. Mark states that the sun was still up, or above the horizon when the women left Jerusalem, and then by the time they reached the tomb, the sun had set, as John apostle relates that it was dark; although the light of the full moon would have lit up the area. We must remember that Mark translated into Greek the account in Aramaic from Peter apostle, and so the Gk. anatelantos toi hilias, indicates that the sun was still above the horizon. This is the reason for the use of the term: very early on the 1st day. The word morning used in the KJV and early translations is the Gk. orthros, which has been replaced by the correct word early in modern versions. Based on this study, since Jesus had already resurrected by the time the women arrived at the tomb, his resurrection must have occurred about the time of our Saturday late afternoon.
The next appearance of Jesus was on the evening of the 1st day of the week. John 20:19. In Hebrew terms, this would be the equivalent of Sunday late afternoon our time.
THE SALVATION OF GOD
The salvation of God is deliverance from the evil of our age and the failures of the society that surrounds us and tends to pervade our life; it is the victory over temptation; it is success in those areas of our life that we have control of, a prosperity that is both spiritual and material. A person attains the salvation of God when the plagues that affect society to its ruin are not present in the covenant member’s life. The morality and commandments of God lead us to this salvation: a personal, marital, domestic and community success. Those areas that a person does have control over are physical, psychological, domestic and financial. This is all attainable because God promises this to the covenant member.
If you observe these laws and are diligent to follow them, then Jehovah your God will keep His covenant of love with you, as He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase you. Deut 7:12-13.
I will look upon you with favor and make you productive, and I will keep My covenant with you. I will walk among you and be your God and you will be My people. Lev 26:9, 12.
This does not mean that a person is immune from all the evil that can plague them in their life. The areas a person has no control over are natural: illness and disease, accidents, weather related calamities, and death The covenant member will make the best of any situation they incur and persevere and not allow such disruptions to ruin their life, or family or community.
FAITH IN JESUS MESSIAH
Faith in Jesus Messiah is to realize without a doubt that Jehovah God His Father will treat us justly if we accept the rule of Scripture over our life. Faith in Jesus Messiah means that if a person will conduct them self according to the divine instruction and moral law then Jehovah God will without doubt fulfill His promises. This is why Jesus Messiah is the surety or guarantor or the terms and conditions of the new covenant. Heb 7:22. He is the one who guarantees the blessing and reward, protection and salvation, assistance and spiritual strength, for the people of his spiritual realm, who subject themselves to his rule over them.
To place our hopes upon Jesus Messiah, to take our concerns and place them in his hands, is to acknowledge without doubt that all that will occur in our life and situations will be to our overall benefit and to the credit of Jehovah God if we persevere in observance of divine instruction and the moral law. 1 Pet 5:7. Ps 37:5. 2 Time 2:11-13. Faith is not religion. Faith in Jesus Messiah is not the fulfillment of rites and traditions and protocol. These are good and can direct us to faith as a schoolmaster or guide, as were the OT priesthood and tabernacle/temple services. Faith is knowing that all thing work together for the good for those who love Jehovah God and are called according to His purpose. Rom 8:28.
This is the manner faith in Jesus Messiah fits into the concept of the covenant. In order to a person to enter into covenant they must first believe Jesus Messiah, knowing that he will guarantee that the covenant will be upheld by Jehovah God. If the person accepts this as fact then the covenant becomes effective, but only so long as the person believes in Jesus Messiah, and belief is indicated by observance of divine instruction. When a person gives up or abandons believing that Jesus Messiah will guarantee the fulfillment of covenant, that individual departs from the moral code and divine instruction. This is a lapse in faith or backsliding. Such an individual can always and at any time return to covenant inclusion by again making the decision to observe divine instruction and moral code.
THE MORAL CODE OF THE COVENANT
The moral code installed with the initial residents in Eden was later codified as the 10 words or addresses, but popularly referred to as the 10 Commandments. Twice were these commands transmitted to the people of Israel. First at Mt. Sinai. Ex 20: 2-17. And a second time to the next generation at the Jordan River. Deut 6-21. All of the commandments are recognizable in the rules and covenants prior to Moses and in the conduct of the patriarchs. Many authors have written volumes of treatises on the value and application of the 10 commandment. This author will only provide a brief sketch of their meaning and observance pertaining to the covenant between Jehovah God and the community, and their inclusion in the contemporary life of a member of the Messianic community.
The fact that the 10 commandments are just as valid under the New Covenant as they were under the old is demonstrated by the passage of Matt 19:16-19. When a young ruler asked Jesus regarding his conduct and behavior in order to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him, “Keep the commandments.” The young ruler wanted Jesus to further specify which commandments, since no doubt there were many. Jesus then related to him the 5 of the 10 commandments that dealt with personal relationships with others, and also to have the same sincere concern for his associate as he would for himself, love. The ministry of the Messiah confirmed the code of conduct instituted in earlier ages, and there is no indication of any NT person altering the moral code of the OT. The writings of the NT confirm this in several passages, and which have been mentioned throughout this volume The following statement of Paul apostle especially apply to the validity of the moral code, which he inherited from his teachers in Judaism.
So the law is holy, and the commands are holy and just and good. Rom 7:12.
This code of conduct and moral law was to be inherited by the gentiles as part of their entrance into the new covenant. To the extent they upheld this law, to that extent they would be blessed by Jehovah God. In retrospect, the blessing would be a materialization of the benefit from implementing this moral code, which is a righteous humanity, an honorable society. The attainment of such a community would be promoted by mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, the work of the holy Spirit in the sanctification of the members, and their personal dedication to the community and work of Jehovah God. The letters of Paul apostle dictate a high moral standard to those members of the Messianic communities, both Jew and gentile.
NO OTHERS GODS
Every deity represents or identifies with something. Jehovah God was to be identified as that deity who was creator of the universe. Neh 9:6. Acts 14:15. None of the other deities could claim this. They were individually identified with the elements of nature, or as fabrications of ignorant and superstitious people. Jehovah God was also to be identified as the deity who led the descendents of the patriarchs from enslavement in Egypt to the promised land. He was also to be identified as a moral code. This was the distinction between Jehovah God and the gods of the nations, He was the personification of a moral code, while the others were to be appease by gifts and offerings. The departure of people from worship of Jehovah God was to abandon the moral code He represented.
All conduct of an individual stems from their concept of right and wrong. This is why Jesus stated that the wrongs a person does evolve from his heart, meaning the inner person. Matt 15:18-19. Right and wrong are determined by a person based on their moral training, or their lack of moral training. For the believer in God, the Christian, the sole criteria for conduct in personal life and society is the morality of Jehovah God. This is why Jesus stated:
I am the way, the truth, and life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6.
There is only one definition of correct conduct, and it is the one provided by Scripture personified in this verse by Jesus Messiah, and there is no correct knowledge of deity, except for that provided us by him and his apostles, since they continued to teach what he taught them. This is why the apostles wrote to the members of Messianic communities for them to increase in the knowledge of God and Jesus Messiah, because this correct knowledge is the key to correct conduct. Titus 1:1-2. 2 Pet 1:2. Judgement is based on conduct, and correct conduct can only be practiced with a correct knowledge of deity, and especially what the deity represents. By gaining the knowledge available though Jesus Messiah regarding his Father and His morality a person can draw close to the Father, and attain the kingdom. Conduct is not to be defined by psychologist or philosophers, and there is no room in “Christian” theology for ancient or modern philosophy, or pagan intrusions, or political-economic liberation, or existentialism. The study and use of the concepts derived from these teachings are a worship of other gods.
Jehovah God was to be recognized as a spirit. He was not to be identified with the elements of nature, or heavenly bodies or represented by any material object or created entity. Moses mentioned to the people at the Jordan River, that their parents recognized Jehovah God as a spirit at Mount Horeb. Deut 4:12,15. Jehovah God generated sound waves which were perceived by the entire assembly as spoken words emanating from the mountain. This is why those most distant from the mountain heard audible and clear words.
It is an insult and discredit to Jehovah God to try to represent Him in some artistic or fabricated figure. This likewise pertains to any Biblical personage and their use in worship.
Worship in spirit and truth is the manner Jehovah God must be venerated. John 4:23-24. This means without the use of any pictures or symbols or rites or utensils. Acknowledging Jehovah God as an omnipresent and omniscient spirit is the goal of spiritual worship, and that observance of the moral code is the prime manner of indicting veneration for Him.
The fact that Cherubim were on the ark of the covenant, and that Solomon adorned his temple with pictorials did not invalidate the rule. These were exceptions to the rule due to the barbaric nature of ancient people. For the Messianic community there was no exception to the rule: worship was in spirit and truth.
HONOR FOR THE NAME JEHOVAH
Respect of supreme deity was important to establish Him as ruler over Israel His people. The name of Jehovah God was not to be loosely or arbitrarily used, not in profanity, ridicule, humor or frivolous oaths or curses. A name is a person’s identity. A reputation gained by a person is attached to him and her the balance of their life. Through slander or liable a person’s reputation can be ruined for life. Jehovah God likewise has a reputation. Ex 34:10. To properly magnify their supreme deity the people had to hold Jehovah God in high regard, and in this manner His reputation would likewise spread to the other nations, as opposed to their fabricated deities.
THE REST DAY
Jehovah God implemented one day every 7 days for the family to relieve themselves from responsibilities and to bond together. A person working daily has their mind obsessed with worry about making a living. The morning, day and evening routine of work, eat, and sleep, and government politics, national economy, competition, quality and business conduct, can and does drive a person away from domestic happiness. For many men and women, their success is their vocation. Over-involvement in earning a living and business will distance a person from their real source of happiness, contentment and satisfaction: their family. For this reason Jehovah God instituted for Israel a cessation from work one day every 7, and the command to spend that day entirely with the family. For the family to pray, dine and socialize together for the day is important for marital and domestic success. This creates a close family bond to last thousands of generations. The Sabbath is a blessing to the members of the spiritual Israel, new and old, to be able to rest from obligations and spend the day with family. Jehovah God will also provide financially in 6 days of work for cover for the 7th. Ex 16:29.
HONOR OF PARENTS
This is the first commandment with a promise. Eph 6:2-3. Along with parents this equally applies to all those in a family or community higher in rank or order than yourself. Lev 19:32. This attitude engenders a respect for authority, and which must be impressed on individuals from a young age. This respect will then continue on their entire life and be passed to the next generation. The result of a lack of respect for parents and authority is domestic discord and violence, juvenile delinquency and crime, drug abuse, immorality and its consequences. Only with diligent discipline can respect for authority be impressed on both young and old. Pr 13:24, 22:6. The benefit of such training is long term domestic and community success.
The law of Jehovah God also had provisions for rebellious and incorrigible young men. This was capital punishment. Deut 21:18-21. In this manner the balance of young men of the community would learn a lesson and develop a respect for parental authority and become good citizens. A similar rule was also legislated for females, but only in the most extreme of circumstances. In this manner did Jehovah God impress upon both young men and women respect for both parents and the priesthood. Maltreatment and insult of parents and elders is serious misconduct and was not tolerated by Jehovah God.
DO NOT MURDER
The initial application of this commandment is to curb violence. All disagreements are to be settled using peaceful or amiable means, and animosity was never to erupt into violence. Coercion was unacceptable conduct.
This commandment likewise pertains to the fact that a single individual on an arbitrary basis does not have the right to deprive another of their life. Scripture defines a systematic method of dealing with capital crimes that would result in capital punishment. There was a justice system implemented consisting of witness to a crime, judges to try the case in all fairness, and an investigation to ascertain the validity of both charges and witnesses. Capital punishment is not murder; it is justice. The right of criminal public executions are part of the covenant of Noah.
Whoever sheds the blood of a person, by a person shall their blood be shed. Gen 9:6.
The purpose of capital punishment is to eradicate crime or criminal conduct from the community. Deut 13:11. The members of the community will hesitate to commit a heinous crime if an efficient and strong criminal justice system exists. The members can then live in safety and security. If the criminal justice system is weak, crime will increase. Eccl 8:11.
Only with a respect for the life, property and reputation of others and an organized judicial system can a civilized society succeed.
Every male has a responsibility that reaches into the successive generations. This can only be guaranteed with a stable and honorable matrimony. The institution of marriage at the beginning of settlement in Eden was earlier discussed. For a husband to be satisfied with his wife, and for a wife to respect her husband can not be overstated in Scripture. Pr 5:15, 18. Mal 2:14. Eph 5:33. Marital fidelity is a trait of the Christian husband and wife.
Jehovah God created the marital drive in both men and women and it is good. If it were not for the drive there would be no reproduction. Jehovah God has designed both human genders such that the climax of the drive be the manner of conception for the propagation of the human species. A male achieves personal fulfillment during marital relations and coincidentally with the means of formation of a new creature, a child, physically patterned after image and likeness of its parents and spiritually patterned after the image and likeness of Jehovah God. The female likewise achieves personal fulfillment during marital relations with the goal of conception. The two together become one physically during the progress of physical love. Because of the deep psychological impact of such a divinely implemented union, this was to be confined to a legitimately married couple, wedded in holy matrimony, in order that love, the mutual concern for the welfare of each other, would prevail during pregnancy, delivery and parenthood.
For this reason marital relations are to be taken seriously in every culture and community. The culture and couple that follows the dictates of a monogamous marriage within a Scripture based life is promised the blessings of Jehovah God, generation after generation.
Any deviation from the above pattern is detrimental to the life span of either sex and cause both psychological and physical degradation. Celibacy, homosexuality, pedophilia and promiscuity are all a departure from the divinely inspired state of proper relationship between the sexes. Celibacy imposed on individuals by tenets of their religion have done more damage than good in the centuries such religions have existed. Women are deprived of an opportunity to marry and raise a family because of monastic celibacy. The attempt to curb the drive in the male through austerity and religious conviction only causes it to be stored until it finally erupts. Pedophilia, homosexuality, and other promiscuity is well documented among the celibate clergy of these religions. This also adds to the inability of the priest to identify and sympathize with the parishioners of their congregations. The reason for imposition of celibacy by a religious hierarchy is to provide them with the ability to control the lives of those subservient to them.
Nunnery or female religious celibacy is a type of indentured servitude imposed on women by men under the guise of religious service. This servitude deprived women of self esteem in early years, and turned them into slaves. By promoting women at an early age to become nuns and renounce the “ways of the world” they became a cheap form of labor. Their dedicated servitude is utilized by religious hierarchy at schools, hospitals, convents, churches and as cooks and housekeepers for the upper religious clergy at no cost, and inculcated with the impression they are doing God a service. This likewise deprives women of the opportunity to enjoy married life and a family of their own. Men will likewise answer to Jehovah God for this imposed slavery of women under the guise of religious obligation.
Marriage is a purpose for life for each of the couple, and produces for each partner a reason to persist for the future, as well as a trust. Without a lifelong mate, a person loses fulfillment in life. Without a concrete and worthwhile goal a selfish life is a futile life. Jehovah God is love, and this is only effective if there is an object of His love. Likewise with a person. This nature of Jehovah God in a person drives an individual to seek an object for his love, which then becomes the purpose for his life. The purpose of a husband is to make the wife happy, and the purpose of a wife is to make the husband happy. Each receives from the other affection, consideration, support, security, loyalty, trust, all that is invested into the marriage. This applies to every marriage, whether god-believing or pagan, civilized or barbarian, rich or poor, educated or ignorant. Such marriages are life long because of the security and personal fulfillment that each spouse receives in the relationship.
Marriage is also the development and existence of mutual trust. Property is common to both spouses, beginning with finances and possessions. But we must look further for the trust in marriage that Jehovah God has inaugurated. It is knowing that there is always somebody that has a sincere concern for your welfare. Each of the spouses can always trust that the other will be there when they are in need. This is genuine security, knowing that there is always someone you can rely on and who has concern for you and will extend help and assistance under any circumstances. They will worry over you when sick, and rejoice with you when you are well; grieve with you in your sorrow, and share your happiness. Only in a marriage is this type of trusting and mutually beneficial relationship to be found.
DO NOT STEAL
The single most important criteria of an honorable civilization is that of honesty. Jehovah God wants his people to trust one another, knowing that they will never have to deal with dishonesty in any business deal or personal matter. The members of an honorable society will never be faced with fraud, embezzlement, or scams, or even worry about being short-changed. Only with a mutual trust in business knowing that every contract, negotiation and deal is of the highest integrity will the economy succeed and the financial state of the society increase, and the material prosperity of the members abound. Eph 4:28.
In some countries of the world, a person apprehended appropriating some item not his personal property is punished. A finger or hand is severed, or time is spent in incarceration, or some monetary penalty is imposed. In this manner respect for the property of others is impressed upon them. If that person still continues and still does not learn respect for the property of others, the penalty increases, including exile, until the lesson is learned.
DO NOT BE A FALSE WITNESS
Many individuals work hard to develop a good reputation. Their name then acquires an identification, one that correlates with their reputation. Character assassination is a crime and will destroy a person’s life. Especially damaging is for a person to be innocently accused of a crime, and then put on trial and sentenced to some penalty. Any person discovered accusing an innocent person of a crime was to receive the codified penalty for that crime himself. Deut 19:16-19.
A second facet of the commandment is to lay blame for personal misconduct on another. It is difficult for a person who commits a crime to admit guilt for it. The reasons being self-incrimination and embarrassment. By placing blame for personal misconduct on another, the person is falsely accusing or inditing the other for responsibility. This commandment requires a person to be responsible for their own harmful or corrupt actions, rather than placing blame on another.
DO NOT ENVY
Jehovah God has blessed every person in one manner or another. Every person should be satisfied with the amount of grace and blessing bestowed upon them and the gifts they have received from Jehovah God. The purpose of this commandment is to restrain competition and curb excess accumulation of property. Many are driven by a desire for acquisition of goods, houses, property and money, beyond what they would use in their lifetime or several lifetimes.
This is the reason for the treatise of Paul apostle to Timothy beginning with the popular passage, “For the love of money is the root of all evils.” 1 Tim 6:10-19. This section of Scripture deals with the pitfalls of working to acquire finances beyond that of personal economic stability. Because of an opportunity to gain financial success, a person will lower their standards of morals and ethics, and even commit a crime for financial gain, such as, embezzlement, fraud, petty theft, and robbery.
A person should never view the success of another person with envy, because there is much that occurs in the life of that other person that they are unaware of. Superficially they neighbor appears prosperous flaunting his wealth, but in secret behind closed doors and often tragedy, insecurity and other domestic failure may prevail. For this reason every person should give gratitude to Jehovah God for the amount they have been blessed.
The word love, this author contends, is the most misused and misapplied of all words in the vocabulary of the world’s languages. To resolve this issue, the word will be defined in a simple manner and correlated with Scripture for its application in the Messianic community. Love is a sincere concern for the welfare of another. In general terms this definition is sufficient. Love materializes in kindness, charity, benevolence, honesty, and also justice and securing safety for the community. Any act of injury, insult, discredit or infringement of another is not love. It is crime. Paul apostle described love in this manner.
Love is the fulfilling of the law. Rom 13:10.
When a person conducts himself according to the moral code of Jehovah God, it is indicative of love residing in that person. Our associations with and attitudes toward others, our business, home, government, must be conducted according to the moral code to possess love. This likewise pertains to criminal justice. Love for the general population is shown when civil leaders provide a safe and secure environment to live in, and to penalize violations, imprison convicts, and execute felons. This provides a concern for the suffering and welfare of those violated and injured. Jesus Messiah also provided a definition in the following passage.
Let your light shine in the presence of people, so that when they see your benevolence they will give credit to your Father who is in heaven. Matt 5:16.
Love is present when credit is extended to Jehovah God in heaven for the actions of individuals toward the benefit of the community and society. Love materializes in the modern society as education, health and medical care, charities for the underprivileged, and assistance for the elderly. Love in every member will promote the development of a righteous humanity and honorable society.
A person “leaving his father and mother,” means that he severs himself from their responsibility over him, and is now responsible for himself as well as for his wife. Gen 2:24. According to these words parents are responsible for the care of their offspring until they are married. The responsibility of parents is completed with the marriage of their son to a lady of high moral character of their own culture and race, with the cognizance that this is a life long marriage. The adult male now has a responsibility of his own: wife and children. This does not alleviate the honor to be shown parents and elders, as the commandment dictates. Honor and respect is still to be shown. The man leaving the parents and cleaving to his wife is a matter of reassignment of priority and responsibility. The man should never permit his parents to interfere or separate them in their marriage.
For the wife the sign noted is the cover over her head. 1 Cor 11:10. Prior to her marriage she was under the shelter of her parents. They showed her love and affection, comfort, provided her with shelter, subsistence, an education and training for her future life. From the point of marriage, her husband now has the obligation to provide her with love and affection, comfort, shelter and all the necessities of life for happiness into the distant future.
Perusing through Scripture there are many examples of large families. Abraham took Keturah as wife in his later years and had 6 children. Gen 25:1-2. Jacob had 12 sons and a daughter through his 4 wives. Elkanah through his wife Peniniah had sons and daughters. 1 Sam 1:4. And Hannah in her later years had 3 more sons in addition to Samuel and 2 daughters. 1 Sam 2:21. Aaron priest had 5 sons. Ex 6:23. Others with large progeny include Job, Gideon, David, and Josiah. In the NT, Joseph and Mary had 4 sons and 2 daughters subsequent to Jesus. Phillip evangelist had 4 daughters. Jews advocated large families because they interpreted life beyond the grave as themselves alive in their descendents. Annas high priest had at least 5 sons and a daughter.
The parents wanted to be remembered in their children for generations to come. For this reason childlessness was considered a curse. Not to have offspring had such a strong impact on the life of the person or couple, that for many it was as if they had no reason to live, no meaning to life. The tendency in this barbarian era was to place the blame for childlessness on the wife. Such as with Sarah and Rachel. Gen 29:31. Or with Hannah. 1 Sam 1:5. Elizabeth was so overjoyed at finally expecting a child, that she exclaimed:
So the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. Luke 1:25.
Apparently in earlier years, men felt that Elizabeth was less of a woman because she was childless, and this was her “reproach among men.” (At present, medical investigations indicate that 60% of childlessness in a couple is due to the husband’s impotence.) This is the reason a male took another wife, in order that his name not die with him, such as with Abraham. Gen 16:1-2. The leverite marriage was based on the same premise. The brother of a childless and deceased husband would produce offspring in the name of the brother through his widow. Even though the biological father was the paternal uncle, the child would be considered a son of his deceased father and not a nephew. This way the life of the father would figuratively continue and not terminate. The most severe of the punishments of Jehovah God was the extermination of all the descendents of a person. 1 Sam 15:33.
MALE ABUSE OF THE WEAKER GENDER
The evolution of the abuse of woman in society by man stems from the words of Jehovah God to Eve:
Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. Gen 3:16.
Jehovah God altered something in the invisible attribute of the female at this time, for her as an individual to no longer be complete psychologically. From the moment these words were spoken, a woman needed a husband in order to feel “fulfilled.” The term “rule over” must be defined in terms of someone providing her shelter and protection, long term security, love and affection, and be satisfied with his marriage to her. This can be described in the following and applies in a general sense. Most women want to get married, while most men do not see a pressing demand for matrimony. Most women want to have a husband, wedding ring, a home of their own, children and raise them; most women want to see their sons and daughters marry, and most women want grandchildren. Many women are not particular about whom they should marry, as long as some male of reasonable character asks them. Some women become so desperate for a husband that they will even interfere with the marriage of another and wrestle control from the wife. If not one male then another, as long as that male will rule over them. Most women want their husbands to have control over affairs of the household, finances, business and related matters. Many women are disenchanted if they cannot find a husband, and feel they are less of a woman. Older women without a husband often feel substandard, undesirable, and loose self-esteem.
The woman who is jilted by a boyfriend or lover, or the wife discovering the infidelity of her husband, is devastated psychological. It is as if the world has collapsed on her and no hope remains. The wounds inflicted by inconsiderate men and husbands leave permanent scars on the weaker sex. Divorce or abandonment by a husband will destroy the morality of the wife, and often causes the woman to go to extremes: affairs with married men, multiply affairs, abortion, suicide, and other social maladies.
Men have unjustifiably taken advantage of this character void in women over the centuries. Men have enslaved women as sex slaves, concubines, mistresses, housekeepers, and forced the most undesirable labor on them. Men historically mistreat women, and take advantage of this psychological weakness. Some early cultures would expose female children to the elements for them to die, because male children were considered more important and more valuable for the family. Men deceive women regarding love and impregnate them and abandon them, and then expect women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Men blame women for every failure of theirs, no different than Adam who blamed Eve. Gen 3:12. Adam and his generations of male progeny are not much for men if they blame their wife and the women. It is the man that should be the head of the household and the courageous gender. In general, men will have much to answer for before Jehovah God at the great white throne because of their poor attitude and treatment of women.
When women are described as the weaker sex, it is not only due to physique, but also in regard to the impact that a failed or disrupted relationship can psychologically have on her. 1 Pet 3:7.
The reason deviate sexual conduct is treated so severely in the Bible is because such conduct is a mental or psychological imbalance or deterioration. It is a distortion of values and conduct that is not organic in nature, but psychological. Most criminals whose crimes are in categories such as theft or fraud, and certain types of violence can be rehabilitated. For those that commit sexual crimes, there is no rehabilitation because the root into the nature of a person is grave and incorrigible. Deviate conduct becomes part of a new distorted nature of that person, and which conduct they then consider natural or acceptable. Once the mind is morally depraved by participation in deviate conduct, such as sodomy or bestiality, the penalty specified in the Bible is capital punishment. Lev 20:13, 15.
According to Scripture it is with a death of a spouse that marriage is dissolved. Rom 7:2. I Cor 7:39. Divorce is permitted in the Bible, but only due to extreme circumstances. Provisions were provided to permit the dissolution of a marriage, but only to evade a worse evil that could possibly occur from feuding spouses. With a mutually agreeable divorce, violence and further harm would be precluded. Sometimes forcing 2 people to live together would cause more harm. The provision for divorce also allowed a spouse to expel the other for infidelity. This was not mandatory, but could be utilized, and is understandable after psychological devastation of the offended spouse, or with the contraction of a venereal disease.
Divorce was the exception and to be avoided at all costs. Reconciliation was to be provided the couple having difficulty. This was the advantage of marriage within the culture, race and religion, which allowed compatibility in marriage with less opportunity for strife. The extended family of a married couple with their culture, race and religion, would also be of immense benefit to assistance of spouses to secure a marriage for the distant future. The reason Jesus prohibited divorce, was that the partners now living as individuals would easily become immoral. Matt 5:32.
THE SECULAR KINGDOM AND THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM
On occasion a choice must be made whether to follow the law of secular and temporal government, business and social dictates, or the divine instruction of Jehovah God, if there is a conflict between the 2. The decision lies in loyalty. To which code of ethics or to which supreme deity or to which potentate does the loyalty lie if a conflict or digression should surface. For the citizen of the spiritual kingdom the question of loyalty should be simple, it is toward Jesus Messiah, king of Israel. Much like a loyal citizen of some state or dominion, so is the citizen of the kingdom of Jehovah God. Pertaining to the secular world, a loyal citizen not deny allegiance to his country, regardless of inquisition or prosecution by enemies of the state. Even to the extent of deprivation of personal freedom and possession, calumny or death, a loyal citizen will not abdicate their principles or become a traitor.
The secular world is essentially those who represent or acquire authority in arenas of politics, business and finance, military, entertainment, and etc. With this authority they enact and legislate principles which are to their own benefit and advantage of their own realm. If such representatives of the secular arenas find it necessary to impose on covenant members conflicting principles, this becomes a trial for the covenant member. Depending on the principle and severity of threats and personal disadvantage to be incurred, the covenant member may decide that the kingdom of Jehovah God is not worth defending or worth suffering for. They may feel the kingdom of Jehovah God is not worth the allegiance in light of the deprivation or disadvantage imposed, and so their principles will be compromised. Another may lose faith in the promises and shelter of Jesus Messiah entirely and apostatize, deny any adherence to Scripture and then voice loyalty to the secular world as defined by their persecutors.
The covenant member will not violate or compromise principles, that is, the divine instruction and moral code. They are fully convinced that whatever should occur is the best for the spiritual kingdom, even if they should incur deprivation of personal freedom and possessions, discredit, or even death. For this reason many over the centuries have endured persecutions. Occasionally the advances from an assailant is withdrawn once they realize that the faith of the individual is solid and genuine.
The defense of true religion is not with the use of force or weapons by the covenant member. The model of Jesus Messiah serves as the example. 1 Pet 2:23. The defense is spiritual, it is with the sword of the spirit, with truth, rectitude, the gospel of truth, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. Not using physical force, but with the armor of Jehovah God. Eph 6:13-17. 2 Cor 10:3-4. The enemy is not the individual persecuting the member of the spiritual kingdom. The enemy is the invisible forces of the carnal human nature. For this reason the enemy cannot be defeated with the same type of force or coercion or attack that is being imposed on the member of the spiritual kingdom. In the end the enemy will not win. Even though Jesus Messiah was executed, he subsequently resurrected, which was his victory over those who plotted against him, betrayed him and crucified him. Likewise, the persecutors may gain what seems to them a victory over the believer in Jesus Messiah, but the real victory will be gained in the future. The victory of the persecutors is temporal and superficial, the victory of the believer in Jesus Messiah is eternal and genuine.
The grace of Jehovah God consists of everything that Jehovah God gifts to His created humanity. 1 Cor 4:8-12. All that created humanity possesses is the result of the grace of Jehovah God. Love is directly related to grace. Love is more a personal concern or inner emotion. Grace is the specific gift or protection or benefit bestowed on an individual during their life. Grace is the materialization of love.
Because of the weaknesses and flaws of humanity, both physically and psychologically, our inability to control or subdue temper and rage and hate, our subjection to injury, disease, turmoil and subsequent death, humanity is unable to assist itself, to defend itself, or deliver itself from the consequences of its own evil actions. To live in harmony and happiness and to prosper, humanity is dependant on the intervention of Jehovah God with His wisdom, strength and capability to help His own creation. If Jehovah God did not regularly intervene in the affairs of humanity, the entire population would have long ago destroyed itself. This necessary intervention into the affairs and intentions of people to deliver us from the result and consequences of our own actions is the grace of Jehovah God.
In past generations He allowed all nations to walk in their own ways, yet He did not leave Himself without witness, for He did good and gave you from heaven rain and harvest, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14:16-17.
He makes the sun rise on [both] evil and good people, and sends rain on [both] wicked and righteous people. Matt 5:45.
Grace as the materialization of the love of Jehovah God can be classified as either natural grace or divine grace. Natural grace is the sunshine upon both the good and evil. Matt 5:45. It applies to creation in general and to created humanity in their entirety. Natural grace is bestowed upon every person born from the progenitors Adam and Eve. Birth, the opportunity to live, is a manifestation of natural grace. Regardless of race, creed, or color; gender, age, physique, or intelligence; whether believing in Jehovah God or not believing in god, or believing in a pantheon of gods or superstitions, natural grace applies to every person. It consists of the good fortune to be born, to have conscious existence, to be raised by parents for them to have some joy in their life; to grow and mature and work and live and then eventually die in old age. This is natural grace. It is culture and ingenuity and the wonders of nature. Jehovah God contains such an abundance of overwhelming love that there is no end to the creation of objects of His love, whether or not they acknowledge Him or live according to His dictates. The generations continue year after year, century after century and will do so long into the future beyond our ability to comprehend eternity. The spirit of Jehovah God renews the face of the earth after devastation by war, hurricanes and monsoons and floods and tornadoes. Ps 104:30. Natural grace is the nature of Jehovah God, He cannot conduct Himself otherwise, not in any other manner. His nature is that materialization of love which is natural grace.
The rejection of natural grace by the individual or by the masses only subjects the individual and the masses to the results of their own disobedience. Such periodic and regular events such as war and crime, persecution, oppression, and related man-made occurrences of suffering are the result of ungrateful attitude by individuals and masses. Jehovah God is personally is unaffected by the ravages of disaster and misfortune or the evil and disobedience of people because He is spirit, and there is nothing that can occur that can directly affect Him. Dan 4:35. Is 40:15.
The natural effects of weather and the elements and “acts of God” are imposed by Jehovah God on a periodic basis as rain on the just and the unjust. Jehovah God instituted this pattern of the effects of nature upon the world to impress upon created humanity His control over His own creation. Natural catastrophes impress upon the mind of every person that if it were not for the abundance of love of Jehovah God, His natural grace, no life would every evolve or survive on earth.
The purpose of natural grace is to lead people to divine grace. Under natural grace, death is termination of life with no future. Ps 49:14, 90:3, Eccl 3:20. Paul apostle refers to them as having no hope. 1 Thess 4:13. Natural grace applies to the temporal world and its short life span for the masses of population. All such that perish without divine grace perish like animals, as Solomon describes it. Eccl 3:18. Ps 49:12. Jehovah God impresses upon every person that their existence evolves from the natural grace of Jehovah God. This life is confined to the present age without divine grace. The tragedy and turmoil of the present life is utilized and effected by Jehovah God to impress upon created humanity the futility of advancement and excess success of the present life, since it will all terminate. This is the point made by Solomon in Eccl 2. No matter how much he enjoyed the present life, no matter how much he labored to acquire possessions, no matter how much power he achieved, it was all left behind at death, he not ever to know what would occur with his possessions. Prosperity and success are good when utilized for the benefit of others, but when they are taken personally they can deceive the individual. Prosperity and success can give an individual a feeling of superiority or even immortality. Ps 49:5-6. Tragedy and catastrophe is provided by Jehovah God upon a person for them not to sense themselves as superior, and not to sense themselves as having total control over every facet of their life. Ps 49:16-19.
To acknowledge divine grace is to be born again or born from above and so see the kingdom of Jehovah God. John 3:3. To enter the kingdom a person must be born of the word and the spirit. John 3:6. Divine grace applies to the members of the messianic community, to the citizens of the kingdom of God. Without Jehovah God intervening into the life of this people there would be no sanctification, no mortification of the flesh, no cessation of sin, no return to the image of Jehovah God. When Paul apostle wrote, Eph 2:22, he referred to the intervention and concern of Jehovah God for His children, sons and daughters. Regardless of what effort or maneuvers an individual may attempt, we cannot on our own acquire divine grace.
Repentance is to admit to a crime or offense committed or an admission of an existing problem or personal vice. Without acknowledgement that a wrong was committed or that a problem exists there will never occur healing. This can be compared to a person who contracts or develops some organic disease or physical malady. If the person denies it they will never seek medical help and so never recover or heal. Since there is no acknowledgement of illness, the disease will progress until it consumes the individual, renders them invalid, and finally premature death is incurred. So it is with morals, ethics and personal conduct. If an individual has a problem, whether it be personal, domestic, financial, there is no opportunity for healing or restoration without an initial acknowledgement. Once the person admits to the crises or deviate conduct or character flaw, then there is opportunity for healing and restoration.
The more serious the disease the more intense the healing process. But it is only to the extent the person wants the healing and restoration. If the physician states that surgery or medicine, or deprivation of certain habits and activities is required, or other activities and therapy must be assumed, then the individual has the option of following the recommendation or not. So it is with sinful nature that requires healing. The person can adhere and observe the dictates of Scripture or not. This is personal choice. Paul apostle describes in this fashion:
For the wages of crime is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23.
Repent therefore and turn again (be converted), that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19.
The death is premature death in the earthly life, as opposed to a life of blessing and prosperity in accord with Ps 128. The death is also eternal death without opportunity for inheritance of resurrection.
Conversion is the decision and implementation of that decision to be healed and to have a person’s own life restored: to remove from life that which is improper conduct, and change course to an edifying and benevolent morality.
A person sensitive to rejection or easily influenced by opinion or attitude of others who still persists in some improper conduct will discover it difficult to heal and restore themselves, to live life in subjection to and observance of Scripture. An obstacle to conversion lies in the effect that other people opposed to it may have. The repentant person must be strong enough not to allow the adverse opinions or corrupt influence of others to sway them from total restoration.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes one of your members to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body go into Gehenna. Matt 5:29-30.
They are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild immorality, and they abuse you. 1 Pet 4:4.
The inference by Jesus Messiah and Peter apostle here is the repentant individual becoming a social cripple. Because the person no longer participates in detrimental or deviate conduct, the balance of old friends and social circle will view the repentant as a social cripple. This is the correlation of missing an eye or limb. But in the view of Scripture, it is better to be considered a social cripple by unbelievers and the corrupt society, because the kingdom of God is still to be entered. Others may be accepted in social arenas of vices and poor conduct, and they are considered whole in the eyes of wicked society, but the kingdom of Jehovah God they will never enter. This is the choice an individual caught in this quandary must make: Superficial acceptance by pseudo-friends while denying moral illness leading to ruin and premature death, or seeking and acquiring help for a healing from moral illness, even if the healing requires severance from the closest of social, business or family ties. Even incurring some superficial loss, the advantage of total moral healing is well worth it, since life will continue long on earth and eternally into the future.
And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life. Matt 19:29.
Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt 12:50.
These words of Jesus Messiah promise a new company of friends, family and associates. He realized how hard it would be for a person to give up previous relationships and associations, as hard as cutting off a limb or plucking out an eye. But it would be necessary in the process of abandoning vice, crime, improper conduct and severance from harmful influences. Moving from an area of temptation to some new environment of a better influence can also be taxing on an individual or family. For this reason Jesus Messiah assures the repentant person that he will provide a new family and relationships to develop and new associations from among the new spiritual Israel. These new people would become unto them a new mother, brother and sister. Jehovah God will provide a spiritual community for the repentant individual and their family to join. These will be their support and joy and earthly community for the distant future.
A part of the work of divine grace, Jehovah God sends His holy Spirit for the sanctification of His people, for them to be cleansed of sin and evil and to have their nature modified to that of the nature of Jehovah God. This process begins on earth and will continue centuries into the eternal kingdom following our resurrection.
Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in true rectitude and holiness. Eph 4:23-24.
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom 12:2.
Our sanctification is by grace. It is the willing and voluntary intervention of Jehovah God into the life of His people to draw them unto Himself and mold them into the image that he intends for them. This divine grace fulfills the promises of the patriarchs. An individual on their own cannot cause fulfillment of any promise of blessing of Jehovah God. It is solely the discrete choice of Jehovah God to do so.
If a person cleanses himself, he will be a vessel for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the master and prepared for every good work. 2 Tim 2:21.
The response to divine grace by the citizen of the kingdom of God is that promise to live according to the precepts of the kingdom. The works that are referred to by James apostle, Jam 2:22-24, pertain to conduct in accord with Scripture. This is also parallel with the words of John apostle. 1 John 2:3,5. This also pertains specifically to conduct, and what is considered proper conduct for members of the Messianic community and spiritual kingdom.
No longer is the physical mark of circumcision for the male, or being the daughter and wife of a circumcised male for the female, the indication of membership in the new covenant community. It is now the circumcision of the heart. The spiritual significance of circumcision is fulfilled in both male and female in the new covenant. Gal 5:2,6. Deut 30:10. Jer 4:4. The removal of vices, crime, and other harmful habits from our life is the fulfillment of circumcision. The true member of the new covenant community has the Bible-based life as his outward and pubic display of the spiritual circumcision. The female also by way of a home and family life that is Bible-based indicates her marriage to Messiah as spiritual husband, he who was the fulfillment of the purpose of circumcision.
This author contends however that circumcision should still be performed on all males by a physician shortly after birth. The concept of circumcision for hygienic reasons is still applicable. The question then arises whether there exists an inherent flaw in the male physique so that circumcision is required. Jehovah God definitely created the male in this manner, and specifically with this extraneous skin that must be severed. The reason being primarily hygienic.
Even though circumcision as an initiation into the covenant was no longer applicable, Paul apostle nevertheless had this operation performed on the young man Timothy. Acts 16:3. It was fine and acceptable for the gentiles not to receive this physical mark, but it was unacceptable for Timothy. This author is convinced that Paul apostle acted as a type of step-father to Timothy, who apparently had no father to speak of. In other passages Timothy is described as having his religious education provided by his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. Timothy’s Greek father is nowhere mentioned. Perhaps this inter-religious marriage failed. It is not uncommon for spouses of different religious and cultural and ethnic backgrounds to separate or divorce due to incompatibility. Such may have been the situation with Timothy. In later years Paul apostle adopted Timothy as his son. 1 Tim 1:2. 2 Tim 1:2, 2:1. The pride of a Jewish father of that era and earlier generations was to have his son circumcised according to the command to Abraham, for him to enter into covenant. The same circumstance may also be applied to Timothy. It was a hidden and personal pride of Paul apostle’s to have this surgery performed on Timothy by a local rabbi, to have his foster son fully initiated into the covenant community. In this manner was Timothy now recognized by the balance of Jews and Jewish elders as being one of them. The non-Jew did not need circumcision as the physical sign of the covenant, an indication of their severance from the secular environment and society. The circumcision was spiritual, or the heart. This was witnessed to through the ages and fulfilled in the Messiah.
And Jehovah God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your posterity, so that you will love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Deut 30:6. Jer 32:39.
In him (the Messiah) also you were circumcised with a circumcision not accomplished with hands, by removing the body of flesh in the circumcision of the Messiah. Col 2:11.
The baptism of the holy Spirit is the new indication of severance from the secular environment and the new sign of entrance into the new covenant.
In the letter to Galatia the attitude of required rite and ritual again surfaced because of influence from the Pharisaic school: that Jehovah God must still be appeased and His attention and favor gained through temple maneuvers and ancient customs. At the foremost of these “works” was circumcision. Gal 6:12-15. It is redundant to think that this act, this “mutilation of the flesh,” will gain the attention of Jehovah God and His favor. This was the error of the circumcision party, it was a reversion to the pagan concept of a god to be appeased by works.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
Passages such as Is 1:18, 65:3, Ps 32:1-2, refer to confession and repentance, and not to the offering of a sacrifice. The gentile Romans to whom Paul apostle wrote were not familiar with many of these passages of the OT. They were aware of the Jewish sacrificial system, which they could identify with animal sacrifices unto their own gods and burning incense to their own emperor, and priests in the temples of their own mystery religions and cults. But the concept of a Messiah, Savior, whose death was the culmination and goal of all blood sacrifice was foreign to the typical Roman or Greek. Paul apostle explained it to the Greek Corinthians in this manner, “But we preach the crucified Messiah: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks.” 1 Cor 1:23. He was right. Jews could not figure out why their Messiah should die as a criminal betrayed by their own elder and rulers. He did not fulfill their preconceived ideas for the Messiah. To the Greeks and Romans it was absurd that a religious savoir and son of the Supreme Deity should be executed as a convicted criminal.
To be justified by faith for the Jew and non-Jew meant that it was right in the sight of Jehovah God for a person to believe that Jesus Messiah was the sacrifice. The reasons for the death of Jesus Messiah by crucifixion were discussed in earlier sections. One other can be added. This is the concept that Jesus Messiah was the goal or aim of the sacrificial system. John Baptizer referred to Jesus Messiah in these words, “Behold the lamb of God who bears the sins of the world.” John 1:29. Paul apostle also refers to Jesus Messiah in a similar manner in 1 Cor 5:7. It was not necessary for the members of the new spiritual Israel to offer sacrifices under the new covenant, because Messiah culminated the sacrificial system with himself. The gentiles now only had to cease or set aside sin in their life believing in the sacrifice of Messiah on their behalf. In this manner were the gentile members of the new covenant community justified by faith.
In early eras justification was by faith during the fulfillment of a ceremony, meaning that forgiveness occurred when their hands were laid on the head of the sacrifice and the participant recited orally their crimes and failures to the priest in confession. This fulfilled the cover for the sins of the people, but which also contained the righteousness of Jehovah God for the era. Rom 4:7. The participant believed that Jehovah God in heaven accepted a person’s confession and repentance, provided it was accomplished from his heart and sincerely. This was justification by faith in OT eras pertaining to both Jew and non-Jew. Hab 2:4. 1 King 8:46-53.
The non-Jewish member of the new Israel did not need to offer an animal sacrifice. Jesus Messiah was the sacrifice for sin. The non-Jewish member was justified by faith in this manner, that if he believed Jesus Messiah was the lamb of Jehovah God who removes their sin, then it would be fulfilled. The new sacrifice of thanksgiving was the fruit of the lips, praise and gratitude towards Jehovah God in public confession. Heb 13:15. Charity became the new tithe unto Jehovah God. Heb 13:16. The non-Jewish member of the new Israel did not need a priest to pray or fulfill a rite on their behalf, or stand between them and Jehovah God. Jesus Messiah became their high-priest. Each of them was also a priest after the order of Melchizedek in their own right and could pray one for the other. The non-Jewish member of the new Israel did not need to attend the temple, because they became the new temple on earth, since the holy Spirit resided in them. The true temple or tabernacle was located in heaven, where Jesus Messiah was sacrifice and high priest. In this manner the non-Jews of the spiritual Israel were justified by faith.
In general the disciples did not have a concept of eternal life in terms of life continuing with their resurrection from death. For the typical Jew of the era and previous eras eternal life had 2 meanings: First was the propagation of the family name through their descendents. Second was a long life with prosperity on earth. A person continued to live beyond the grave figuratively in their offspring, and preferably a male. And of course, named after the father or the paternal grandfather. Luke 1:59. This was especially the manner the forefathers and patriarchs understood life eternal or aionious. To continue alive in the seed producing the next generation meant to inherit life beyond the grave. Eliphaz reflecting the attitude of his era stated this.
You shall know that your descendents shall be many, and your offspring as the grass of the land. You shall arrive at your grave in ripe old age, and a shock of grain arrives at the threshing floor in its season. Job 5:25-26.
Resurrection was understood in OT eras as the deliverance of a person from death. This could be a healing from a terminal disease, as with Hezekiah. Is 38. As rhetorically philosophized by Elihu. Job 33:19-30. Or as with the case of Ahaziah king of Israel. 2 King 1:2-4. Or with David king. Ps 116:8.
The Pharisees claimed to believe in life beyond the grave in terms of a future resurrection from the grave at the advent of Messiah. Their conviction is noted in Act 23:8. But their theology in this matter was very vague and nebulous. The concept was poorly developed among Jews. This conviction was only advocated by a fraction of the overall Jewish population of the world and only in this small circle of the Pharisaic school. In general the Jewish population and Sadducees followed the interpretation mentioned above regarding life beyond the grave and not the Pharisaic notion. For this reason the disciples had a difficult time when Jesus Messiah spoke of his rise from death in 3 days. Luke 18:31-34. They could not grasp what it was he was trying to tell them. This idea of a return back alive from death was alien to them. It was not until after the resurrection of Jesus Messiah did they finally grasp his words, and only with Jesus Messiah at this time removing that mental block. Luke 24:45-46. John 2:22.
ABUNDANT LIFE ON EARTH
Living long on the earth and prosperously is a fundamental promise of Jehovah in the Bible. Pr 3:2. 9:11. Is 65:20. The first commandment with promise was to respect parents and for the reason of being able to live long in the promised land. Ex 20:12. The OT Scripture abounds in promises regarding living in prosperity unto old age as the fulfillment of the favor and blessing of Jehovah God upon an individual. Job, Job 5:26. David, Ps 21:4. Solomon, 3:14. All of the patriarchs prior to the flood and including Noah lived about or over 900 years, with the sole exception of Enoch, who only lived 350 years. Abraham lived to 175, while his wife Sarah lived to 127. After the death of Sarah, Abraham remarried to Keturah and had several more children. During the era of David king the lifespan was at 70 years, with many reaching 80 years. Ps 90:10.
During the era of the apostles the mortality rate was high for children. Disease, famine, war, poverty, and other miseries resulting in premature death plagued the life of the population from birth. About 1/3 of the population of the Roman empire were slaves. The Roman Empire of the 1st Century had a 50% mortality rate to adulthood. Very few, a minute fraction, were actually able to live decently to old age and with some prosperity. Jewish sages taught that Messiah would establish this new prosperity with the new age. When Jesus Messiah gave the indigent and destitute crowd of people free bread to eat they were prepared to make this man king. John 6:15. This man they felt would initiate an era of material prosperity, which they were so determined to have. So when Jesus Messiah miraculously fed the people, it was a sign to them of the promised Messiah. The miracle creation of the bread to them the entire 5000 of the crowd was indicative of the coming prosperity that the Messiah would establish for Israel. The people proceeded to make Jesus king in order to usher in this new age of prosperity.
One specific incident will describe this more accurately. A young ruler asked Jesus Messiah, “What must I do to inherit life eternal?” Mat 19:16. This man wanted to know what he had to do to live long and prosperously on earth. He no doubt had seen and experienced enough of the disease and poverty and misery of the balance of the population, all of it resulting in premature death, among those whom he lived. This young ruler was probably a mayor or councilman of a town or part of the hierarchy in the government of Herod Antipas or Pontius Pilate. This young ruler wanted to see his son’s sons and the prosperity of Jerusalem. Ps 128:5-6. He wanted the final words of the great Psalm of protection and prosperity to be fulfilled upon him.
With long life I will satisfy him and reveal to him My salvation. Ps 91:17.
Jesus Messiah answered him, “Follow the commandments.” Then Jesus Messiah proceeded to recite those commandments of the 10 that deal with personal relationships, along with loving a close associate as one would himself.
The demand of Jesus Messiah for this man to sell all that he had and give to the poor, was directed toward equity, that the rich during this era had the responsibility to assist the under-privileged and utilize this wealth for the benefit of the community. The wealthy were to be charitable. 1 Tim 6:18. This has occurred in our era with the establishment of charities, foundations, grants; with money given to schools, museums, libraries, hospitals; with education and medical insurance paid by employers; with pension and retirement plans. This attitude of equity has created a middle class of some 80% of the population of America; with about 10% poverty and 10% rich. All of this benefit is taken for granted here in America but it did not exist in earlier periods. The separation between rich and poor was very distinct. Other countries in the world and earlier periods had a poor population of 80 to 90%, with a 10% middle class and 3 to 5% rich.
To follow Jesus in this passage did not mean to arbitrarily distribute his wealth and then become a monk or hermit or recluse with no finances at all. Jesus Messiah was hoping to increase the standard of living of the poorer classes with the distribution of the wealth of the richer classes in the manner as mentioned above. Paul apostle writes much on this topic in 2 Cor 8 and 9. He concludes his treatise on charity and financial equity with the words, “God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor 9:7.
With this type of concern for the underprivileged the only result is economic growth for the entire community. The idea of life aionious on earth has been realized in those counties of free enterprise and financial growth, with a massive decrease in infant mortality and a greater portion of the population living into their 80’s and 90’s. This was the materialization of the dream of the early sages who hoped to pass away in old age.
The basic use of the Greek word ecclesia in the vernacular is that of assembly. This Greek word in general use throughout the Hellenic and Roman Empires refers to a assembled gathering of people for some specific purpose. The assembly could be for business, political, judicial or civic functions, as also for religious reasons, and can also refer to an established assembly of individuals for religious purposes. The non-religious uses of ecclesia in the NT are found in Acts 19:32, 39, 41, and are not translated as church, but are rendered into English correctly as assembly.
In the Greek translation of the OT known as the Septuagint, the word ecclesia is found about 100 times. Of the 123 occurrences of the Hebrew word qahal, the Greek ecclesia is used as its equivalent in these 100 places. The Hebrew qahal is used in general for various types of assemblies: Gen 49:6, Num 22:4, 2 Sam 20:14, I King 12:23, etc. But is equally used translated as the English word congregation and assembly when referring to Israel. Deut 9:10, 10:4, 23:2, and others. Of the balance of the 23 uses of qahal, 21 places translate this as the Greek synagogue; the Greek ochlos in 1 place as crowd; and the Greek plethos in 1 place as multitude. This should evidence that the general use of ecclesia in the Greek OT was the equivalent of the assembly and congregation of old Israel, as well as an organized assembly of any sort. When Stephen martyr called Israel the ecclesia in the desert, Acts 7:38, he was definitely using ecclesia in its proper context.
Although the Greek synagogue is also used regularly in the Greek Septuagint OT to refer to the congregation of Israel, its use was not adapted by the early Messianic community, but avoided, in order not to identify themselves with the existing established synagogue system in Judea and the Jewish world. The Messianic or Christian communities of the 1st century accepted the concept of the qahal and expressed it using the term ecclesia. In essence, the new Messianic or Christian community is a continuation of the OT congregation of Israel, but now they are the Israel of God, the fulfillment of the promises and hopes given to OT Israel. Gal 6:16. Rom 15:16.
The age of the ecclesia began at Sinai, and not on the holiday of Pentecost. The translation of the word ecclesia posed a problem for Bible translators who are aligned with the interpretation that the intent of Christ and the apostles was to create a new entity distinct and separate from Israel. They could not translate it as assembly or congregation, because the identity was too obvious. A new word was then created by early Bible translators to serve as the identity of the new body of gentile Christians, but the word church is a misnomer. The concept of what is called the church as existing during the centuries after the ministry of Jesus Messiah and to our present era is in reality distant from His and the apostles' original intent.
The words of Jesus Messiah referring to the ecclesia with key words in Hebrew were most likely:
"And on this sela I will erect my qahal, and the gates of sheol will not prevail over it." Matt 16:18
The use of the word sela is most likely for rock, since this is the word used in such famous passages as Ps 18:2, 31:3, and Is 51:1. This word refers to a rocky cliff or crag, upon which fortresses were erected in OT eras. 1 Sam 14:4, Num 20:8, Is 31:9. Jesus would have also utilized Hebrew sheol in lieu of Greek hades, as a paraphrase of the verse Job 38:17, referring to the gates of death and darkness.
The English word church is a transliteration of ecclesia and was selected by Bible translators to distinguish and separate the new Christian community from the community of Israel. Even though the initial adherents were primarily those Jews who accepted Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, but as the gentile membership grew, and anti-Semitism also, and since the gospels as published in Greek did use the word ecclesia and not the Hebrew qahal, and since the Greek term Christianos was used referring to this new entity instead of the equivalent of Messianic, the tendency was in favor of the gentile assemblies in the early centuries.
The better literal translations of the NT do render ecclesia correctly as either assembly or community (Young's Literal Bible, David Stern's Jewish NT, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible). One translation, Adolf Knoch's Concordant NT, renders the word exactly as ecclesia. The use of the word church in Matt 16:18 infers a new religious institution which was to be established by Jesus Messiah, and which had its inauguration on Pentecost following his ascension. This suggests a new religious entity separate and distinct from Israel and unique. The proper rendering of ecclesia in the English should be its equivalent in the OT, which is qahal, referring to the congregation or assembly of Israel. The correct or original rendering of the phrase church of Christ should be assembly of Messiah or Messianic assembly. Gal 1:22, Rom 16:16.
THE NEW ISRAEL NOT A DENOMINATION
The genuine assembly of new Israel is not a church or denomination or its membership. Such institutions are secular for the most part with little religious nature, and any individual can become a member of one or another denomination, regardless of moral character, conduct, belief in Bible doctrines, or even belief in Jehovah God. Conventional churches are more concerned with recognition, size, social activities, and acceptance by civil authorities, than adherence to Scripture. The members of the church or assembly founded on the rock, or the sela of Matt 16:18, have their names recorded on the roster or membership list in heaven. This is the book of life. Because these are the people to inherit eternal life and enter the holy city Jerusalem, then the gates of sheol will not prevail over them. This is an allegory. The enrollment or membership of the Messianic assembly of the spiritual Israel, whose members are not under the authority of the second death, is in heaven. The gates of sheol symbolize permanent death. But death has no permanent grip on those whose names are recorded in this book of life, since they resurrect unto eternal life. So the members of the true spiritual assembly that Jesus Messiah spoke of have their name recorded in heaven and are members of the assembly of the first-born. Heb 12:23.
The author feels that when a person is born from above, and subsequently is born of the word and spirit, this enrolls that person in the membership of the assembly in heaven, which is called the book of life. To become a member of the assembly of the first-born in heaven Jehovah God looks at the heart of the individual, repentance, conversion, sanctification, and the baptism by word and spirit. This person is now admitted unto the membership of the assembly in heaven and his name is recorded in Jehovah God's annals.
The doctrine that is called ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, is non-Scriptural. This doctrine recently formulated generates a separate set of rules for life than that of Israel and separate areas for their deceased and separate rewards, which have no basis if the NT ecclesia is a continuation of the OT qahal.
MEMBERSHIP IN THE NEW ISRAEL
Conduct in accord with the moral code of Sacred Scripture is primary in determining whether an individual has repented, converted, and is now sanctified. If a person conducts themselves inappropriately or unacceptably, meaning, activities as specified in the above passages for example, this is indicative of an unrepentant heart, a lack of conversion, and no sanctification. 2 Pet 1:9. The entire passage of 2 Pet 2:1-22, deals with this theme. Such individuals use religion as a superficial front to cover their sins which they do not want to abandon in favor of a genuine pious life. Their involvement in religion is like the hog who is washed superficially, but once in private, or back in business, or when out of town, or in the company of strangers, they practice the same immoral, dishonest and inappropriate activities, and so the hog is again wallowing in the mire. 2 Pet 2:22.
Because the kingdom is spiritual entrance is obvious, because adherence to the moral code is obvious. Rev 7:14, 22:14. Gal 5:22-23. Col 3:12.
James apostle wrote about the complement of works and faith. Jam 2:18. The point to be brought out by James apostle was that true faith or true religion is evidenced by conduct. A repentant, converted and sanctified individual is identified by corresponding conduct, and testifies whether a person is a member of the spiritual kingdom. It may be possible to fool other people with membership in a church or some related type of religious organization, a religious order, or officer or cleric in a religious community, but it is impossible to fool Jehovah God. The enrollment is in heaven, and only you and Jehovah God know if your name is on that membership roll.
This follows the same rule dictated by Moses to the old covenant Israel. The community of Israel was a closed community, and was not open to everybody. The conditions for membership had 2 prerequisites. First was to be of the genealogy of one of the 12 sons of Jacob. This was upheld stringently, and only a few exceptions are noted. Any woman outside the genealogical posterity of Jacob was unwanted. The best example is Cozbi. Num 25. She was executed by Phineas for leading a male member of Israel into immorality. Other unwanted women were the wives of Solomon. 1 King 11:1-2,4. The wives of many Israelites during the era of Nehemiah as governor. Neh 13:23-27. Likewise under Ezra priest, many of the gentile women who married Jewish men were to be divorced and banished from the community. Ezra 9:1-2.
The example of Ruth is a rare exception. She gained entrance due to her sincerity and love for Jehovah God. Ruth 1:16-17. Her words, “Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God,” attested to her faith in Jehovah God, her repentance, conversion and sanctification. The balance of non-Israelite women who were severed from the community of Israel no doubt did not have the love or sincerity as Ruth did for Jehovah God and His true religion. Gentiles did have the opportunity to enter the membership of Israel, but this was on rare occasion.
THE BODY OF THE MESSIAH
Even though Jesus Messiah may be in heaven, yet he is spiritually on earth via his body, the assembly of the new covenant, the ecclesia. For this reason the assembly is identified as the body of Messiah, since it continues his ministry, work, and presence on earth, in proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.
It was never the intent of Jesus Messiah to create a new religious institution called the church. The existing assembly was to progress and develop unto perfection through Messiah. This was the intention of Jesus Messiah which he was able to accomplish through his apostles beginning Pentecost. The assembly was now renewed from above through the activity of the holy Spirit. This renovation or perfection pertained to the ceremony, the worship services, which are the religious aspects of the divine instruction. This can be confirmed by focusing on the following verse, “For Messiah is the goal of Torah, so that every one who has faith may be justified.” Rom 10:3. This rendering conveys the meaning of the text in the manner to be understood by the listener of the era, but it is opposite to the meaning conveyed in most translations. The KJV, RSV, and modern versions read, “Christ is the end of the law.” But Messiah is and never was any end or termination of the divine instruction. Isaiah wrote, “Jehovah was pleased for His righteousness’ sake to magnify His law and make it glorious.” Is 42:21.
The spiritual kingdom and Messianic community today is the new spiritual Israel. Gal 6:15. It follows the pattern established by Jesus Messiah and apostles and early elders of the apostolic community, and establishes the moral code and divine instruction and true religion provided Israel by Moses and as perfected and supplemented by Jesus Messiah. John apostle said, “The law came through Moses, grace and truth through Jesus Messiah.” John 1:17. The word law is Torah in Hebrew, the divine instruction that Jehovah God provided to Israel. With the Torah there is a Messiah who was to come to perfect the Torah. The grace and truth referred to the perfection of the priesthood, the tabernacle/temple and its services, and the animal sacrifices. These facets of the Torah were to have their consummation in Messiah. The perfection applied to that area of the Torah that needed completion, that area that was imperfect.
This author contends that certain points of divine instruction delivered to Israel in earlier eras were never abrogated by Jesus Messiah, because they were inherent characteristics of the life of the people of Jehovah God. These were part of their divine religion which intent was to direct their mind toward the purposes Jehovah God intended for His people, to separate them from other religions and deities, to make them a divine example of true religion for the other nations, and for reasons of general health, wealth and welfare. The areas that did not require a fulfillment in the Messiah continued on: the civil code, business ethics, morality, holidays, seventh day Sabbath, food laws and slaughter of animals, punishment of crime, and prohibitions against harmful and injurious conduct. All of this was to continue on and be transferred to the new covenant community. The grace and truth brought by Messiah Jesus was the consummation or complement of the sections of the Torah dealing with sin, sanctification, and conciliation with Jehovah God.
The contemporary Messianic community continues to observe the holidays, food laws, morality and ethics and all the areas that can be applied and pertain to the prosperity of the spiritual Israel. The spiritual Israel continues to marry within itself, that is, within the culture and ethic group it is composed of. The spiritual Israel does not intermarry with any other culture, ethic group, race, color, nationality. This provides a strong inherent culture and heritage for its own community. It also provides compatibility in marriage for successive generations. This community is invisibly located within secular societies, in them but not of them. But just as with the OT congregation of Jehovah God, their access to the blessings is only to the extent that the new spiritual nation adheres to the new covenant of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.
THE BRIDE AND WIFE OF THE MESSIAH
The Messianic community in the NT is referred to as both the bride of the Messiah as well as its wife. This allegory is basically the same and varies only in its application and comparison to earthly situations. In the OT Israel was referred to as both a bride and wife of Jehovah God.
I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me. Jer 2:2.
For your maker is your husband, Jehovah almighty is His name. Is 54:5.
I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you in rectitude and justice, and love and compassion. Hos 2:19.
This allegory is transferred over to the NT by both Paul and John apostles in their letters. The most popular passage is that of Eph 5:22-33, where the mutual devotion of the Messianic community and Messiah was to be similar to that of a husband and wife. Eph 5:33. A second passage dealing with the devotion between the spiritual community and Messiah is 2 Cor 10:2-3, where Paul apostle warns the community that a deviation from adherence and observance of the gospel is comparable to spiritual infidelity; the spiritual seduction of the progenitress Eve in Eden by the serpent is used as a symbolic example. The community will only lose its spiritual paradise by abandoning Messiah and adhering to instruction and precepts that are not part of the gospel. This continued departure will eventually result in a prostitute church, and subsequent divorce from Messiah as a result of spiritual infidelity. Jer 3:8. Mal 2:11. Only with a sincere repentance and return to the faithful husband will the marriage be reinstated.
John apostle received a vision of the wife of Messiah, the community of new Israel, in her glory and beauty as the wife of the king, who is the true queen of heaven.
A magnificent and wondrous sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon and wearing a crown of 12 stars. Rev 12:1.
This is the wife of Messiah in allegorical description. The crown of 12 stars assigns her the capacity of the true queen of heaven, because she is wife of the king, Jesus Messiah. The child she gives birth to symbolize children of salvation attaining the victory over sin, since they ascend to God and His throne. Rev 12:5. Other children of hers will suffer for their faith in Messiah. Rev 12:17. The concept of Israel as a wife producing children of salvation is based on Is 66:9-11. This same woman is mentioned again in Rev 19:7, where the wedding garment of the bride is described as the righteousness of the saints. This woman is further interpreted in Rev 21:9-10, where a divine messenger explains in a vision to John apostle that the new holy city Jerusalem is the wife of Messiah. This is in contradistinction to the physical city of Jerusalem which symbolizes the prostitute church.
THE NEW TEMPLE
With a new covenant a new temple or tabernacle was also erected and in place of the old. This new temple replaced the material and fabricated temple. The new spiritual temple is the holy Spirit filled body of the member of the covenant community and is mentioned several times by Paul apostle.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit resides in you. 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19-20, 2 Cor 6:16.
In [Jesus] the entire structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a residence of God in the spirit. Eph 2:22.
This association is made 3 times in his letters to the community at Corinth, no doubt because of the many pagan temples that filled the city. Likewise Ephesus boasted of its famous temple of Artemis. Acts 19:27. Instead of promoting and maintaining the pagan temple dedicated to Artemis, the Messianic community was to promote and maintain their bodies as a residence for the holy Spirit.
Jesus’ conflict with Jews in the temple narrated in John 2:18-22 focused attention on the destruction of that same temple, and also indirectly indicated to the disciples that the real temple is the human body. This especially pertains to the body of Jesus, which would resurrect in 3 days after its death.
The new temple of Jehovah God is that human body that the holy Spirit resides in. Not every body is a temple of Jehovah God, but only that body which the holy Spirit has made its residence. The parallel here is first, the tabernacle, which only became sanctified for service when the glory of Jehovah God filled it. Ex 40:34-35. Then it was suitable and dedicated for worship services. The same pertains to the temple built by Solomon. This magnificent edifice was likewise filled with the holy Spirit or glory of Jehovah God on the day of its dedication, in order to sanctify it. 1 King 8:10-11. Peter apostle writing to the Jewish dispersion calls the individual members of the Messianic community living stones. He informed them that each one of them is part of the spiritual house, which is the real ecclesia. 1 Pet 2:5. The Messianic assembly of the new spiritual Israel is a living temple which continued in existence long after the magnificent edifices of by-gone ages were destroyed or fell into ruins.
THE NEW PRIESTHOOD
The priesthood of the new covenant is the order of Melchizedek, while that of the old covenant was the order of Aaron. Upon his ascension into heaven Jesus Messiah has become our high priest forever. Heb 3:14. The membership of the new spiritual Israel are also priests, each in his own right. No longer is it one special anointed person having only the privilege to pray on behalf of another. Every member can pray on behalf of another person.
“A holy priesthood,” is how Peter apostle refers to the new spiritual Israel. 1 Pet 2:5. The members who “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Messiah.” They are a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” 1 Pet 2:9. The spiritual sacrifice is our praise unto His name, the spoken or sung words that proceed from our lips to acknowledge the holy name of our living deity Jehovah God and His son Jesus Messiah. Heb 1:15.
The Messianic community does have offices or capacities of responsibility for the care of the organized body. The offices are primarily 2 ranks: a major and a minor. The major is the overseer, which is also translated as presbyter or elder. The credentials and prerequisites of this capacity are described in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The word bishop used in some Bibles is derived from this position in many churches, which found its way into the Bible by the translators (such as the Church of England as the translators of the King James-Authorized Version Bible.). The terms elder and presbyteros and overseer are essentially synonymous. The minor capacity is that of deacon, referring to assistants. The prerequisites and credentials are noted in 1 Tim 3:8-13. The offices that Paul apostle notes here are the Hebrew equivalents of offices in the Jewish synagogue. The ruler of the synagogue was the overseer who conducted the services. Luke 8:41.
Lists of other offices are located at 1 Cor 12:27-28 and Eph 4:11. These offices are not independent of the presbyter-elder or deacon. Within these ranks are those to whom Jehovah God has bestowed gifts of the holy Spirit for the edification of his body, the assembly of the Messiah. For the new spiritual Israel community to be stable and productive a system of elders had to be provided similar to the Levitical priesthood of old Israel. The original spiritual priesthood consisted of ordained elders who were anointed by the holy Spirit through the laying-on of the hands of other elders. These elders in the early centuries were those who could trace their ordination to those 120 of the upper room, or those of the apostolic era, such as Paul apostle or Apollos apostle. 2 Tim 1:6. Acts 6:6, 13:3. In later eras the Messianic assemblies would nominate and elect their own elders.
The presbyter-elders and deacons are selected by the congregation and affirmed by the prophetic word through the senior elders. The same senior elders would then ordain them by laying their hands on their heads and reciting a blessing. This rite of ordination symbolizes authority now bestowed upon that person from Jehovah God. The hands of the senior elders are the vehicle by which the authority of Jehovah God is bestowed on the ordained member for him or her to fulfill their office effectively and successfully. There is no evidence in Scripture that indicates these offices and capacities were only for the apostolic era. These are part of the new spiritual priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Heb 7:15-16. Just as the Levitical priesthood and those of the lineage of Aaron were to fulfill the capacities of priest, teacher, counselor, and etc., under the old covenant, so with the new spiritual Israel. The elders with the responsibilities assigned them by Jehovah God as apostles, teachers, prophets, administrators, evangelists, and etc., are to continue within the assembly and community as long as the covenant was in effect. The covenant was to be permanent, but the gifts and spiritual capacities would prosper to the extent the spiritual Israel would adhere to the new covenant.
GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The gifts of the holy Spirit are a very important facet of the worship of God in the new apostolic or Messianic community. The manifestation of the gifts of the holy Spirit into the future of the new spiritual Israel separated it from the balance of the religions of the era. Much like the words of Jehovah God to Moses, and the words to Isaiah, and the words of John apostle.
Is it not in Your travel with us, that we are distinct, I and Your people, from all other people that are upon the face of the earth? Ex 33:16.
As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says Jehovah: My spirit which is upon you and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart out of our mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says Jehovah, from this time and for ever. Is 59:21.
For the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus Messiah. Rev 19:10.
The holy Spirit would always rest upon the new spiritual Israel and manifest itself as evidence and justification that it was the true religion on earth. It was by way of this manifestation of gifts that the apostles evidenced the resurrection of Jesus Messiah from the dead. Acts 4:33. Knowledge as perennial is categorized along with prophesy and speech in languages. 1 Cor 13:8. This author does not recognize evidence in the above passage to justify that the gifts of the holy Spirit was solely for the apostolic era and terminated with the demise of the apostles and their successors. No more than the termination of knowledge. The point to be made by Paul apostle is that gifts and prophecy and scholarship are perennial, not absolutes. Occasions will arise that will increase the gifts of the holy Spirit, and occasions will arise with a decrease in the gifts of the holy Spirit, occasions that will de-emphasize or reduce their magnitude. Love, however, is not perennial, not transitory, but absolute in every era.
To reason a bit further, the gifts were not to attest the superiority of the individual members who possessed them, in contradistinction to those who did not. These gifts were the manner Jesus Messiah in heaven would manifest his presence on earth. Every member of the spiritual Israel possessed a manifestation of the presence of the holy Spirit residing in them. 1 Cor 11:6. Rom 8:15-16. This manifestation possessed by every member was the raising of hands. 1 Tim 2:8. Ps 134:2. This author contends that this manner of praising Jehovah God was equally applicable under the old covenant. Ps 28:2. This is the proper and acceptable manner of public worship in the congregation.
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS MESSIAH
Such a feat is unheard of. No religion save the Messianic community claims to have as their principal a deity who descended from the realm of the spirit, heaven, became a human, who died as a human, and shortly after resuscitated from death, only to return to the realm of the spirit. To travel about the inhabited world proclaiming such a concept was ludicrous; people would consider it a farce or fraud and the promoter likewise. This is the reaction that Paul apostle incurred on Mars Hill in Athens. Acts 17:32. The audience laughed, they ridiculed Paul apostle for believing such a fantasy, much less thinking he could convince others to believe in it also. He incurred the same reaction when he confessed his experience to Agrippa king, Bernice and Festus procurator. Acts 26:24. At the conclusion of his defense Paul apostle was unambiguously told, “You are insane, Paul,” by Festus. The reaction from Agrippa was not much different, “In a short time you think to make me Christian?” Acts 26:28. Both governor of Judea and Jewish king were convinced that Paul apostle dwelt in a fantasy in believing that Jesus of Nazareth executed as a criminal resurrected from death and ascended to heaven. The 2 leaders of the people did not see reason for any indictment against Paul apostle or crime committed. Acts 26:31. They considered him innocent by reason of insanity, his only crime preaching a resurrected Messiah.
To convince either Agrippa, Bernice or Festus, some supernatural display of power would be required as a testimony. This would be no different than the appearance of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:5. Or the healing of Publicus, the governor of the island Malta. Acts 28:7-8. This was an undeniable and irrefutable personal testimony.
The spiritual Israel accepts the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from death and his ascension into heaven as a fact. This is a concrete, undeniable and irrefutable fact, trustworthy and reliable. There is no debate in the matter or room for other possible theories, such as the swoon theory, or disciple body snatching, or hallucinations. None of this has any credibility. The entire population of the earth can be easily divided into either believers of the bodily resurrection from death of Jesus Messiah, or non-believers. There is no in between: it is either his bodily resurrection from death or not. The spiritual Israelite is unique and contrasted from the balance of the population of history by confessing the bodily resurrection of Jesus Messiah from death and his ascension to heaven.
IMMERSION INTO THE HOLY SPIRIT
When a person makes the commitment to enter the new covenant and promises to Jehovah God obedience, that person is immersed into the holy Spirit. This immersion into the living essence of Jehovah God sent to us upon earth is for that new believer and member the testimony of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from death and his ascension to heaven. It is also their comfort and consolation for all the trials and difficulties that may incur on earth. It is the Spirit of truth that will inspire the person to properly conduct themselves on earth, and warn them of evil. This Spirit of truth opens the inner or spiritual eyes to recognize the activity of Jehovah God in their life. Ps 119:18. And opens their spiritual ears to hear and recognize the truths and understanding of the secrets of the kingdom of God. Matt 13:9, 16-17.
Not every spiritual Israelite receives the immersion in the holy Spirit to the extent that the community at Ephesus did in Acts 19:5. Not every spiritual Israelite receives verification of the resurrected Jesus Messiah in the same manner as Paul apostle or to the extent of Thomas apostle. But every one does receive sufficient Spirit and testimony to convince them of this fact, the resurrection from death of Jesus Messiah, and for this conviction to reside in them their entire life. This is the reason many believers in Jesus Messiah died as believers, without renouncing their faith even under the most excruciating of circumstances, and to old age. They looked forward beyond the grave while enduring the worst of tortures and temptations.
With the birth from above every spiritual Israelite is immersed into the holy Spirit. Better described, Jehovah God sends His divine life-giving essence from heaven to the material world and this spirit envelopes and saturates the new child of Jehovah God. Much like a new born child that takes its first breath seconds after its birth, so does the new born child of Jehovah God breathe the breath of Jehovah God with a spiritual enlivening. The same occurred with Adam with his enlivening from the figure of earth into a living soul. Gen 2:7. Jehovah God breathed into him a spirit for the earthly career. Today every child of Jehovah God is a new Adam, since Jehovah God breathes into him his eternal spirit for his spiritual career.
This is the same Spirit that will resurrect this child of Jehovah God from death. As the Father sent His Spirit to resurrect His son Jesus Messiah, so will He again at the restoration send the same Spirit to resurrect from death every child of His. Rom 8:11. The new child of Jehovah God now immersed in the living essence of the eternal and true supreme deity receives all verification he or she would need to accept as fact the realm of the spirit, heaven and the residence of Jehovah God, and accept as fact the resurrection from death and ascension into heaven of Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah. This immersion into the holy Spirit also presents to the new member the fact of their own resurrection from death.
The original reason for the institution of the 7th day rest in noted in Gen 2:2-3. Even though Jehovah God is an infinite and omnipotent spirit who is incapable of fatigue and exhaustion, this passage was explained in this manner by Moses by divine inspiration as an example for created humanity. The precept of the 7th day Sabbath did not originate with Moses at Sinai, but was from the beginning, an original precept. The reason to observe this command was for every family to cease from the daily drudgery of work and business and earning a living, and to spend an entire day in rest and in family social involvement. Ex 20:8-11. One day every week parents would spend time with their children and the children with their parents. This was the social aspect and a benefit and blessing to every family who would observe it.
The 2nd reason for the 7th day Sabbath is noted in Ex 31:17. Every person was commanded to work for 6 days and rest on the 7th. By following this ordained pattern the observer was acknowledging that Jehovah God created the sky and land in 6 days as noted in Gen 1. This was an outward sign that the observer believed in supernatural divine creation by Jehovah God, and not evolution or creation by some pseudo-deity. In Deut 5:12-15, the Sabbath reminded them of their emancipation from slavery in Egypt and their new rest in the promised land.
The word Sabbath itself means rest. This Hebrew word is generally translated as Sabbath referring to the 7th day of the week, but it is also translated plainly as rest in certain other passages. The first and final day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles were to be Sabbaths, that is, rest days. Lev 23:7-8, 35-36. Labor was prohibited on these days, and so the nation would observe these days in the same manner as the 7th day Sabbath. The Day of Atonement is also a Sabbath or rest day. Lev 23:32. This day especially was to be a day of meditation along with fasting, the “affliction of the soul.” Lev 23:27. The verb form of Sabbath or rest in Hebrew is regularly rendered as rest. Gen 2:3. Ex 16:30, 23:12. Lev 26:34. Often translated as cease. Gen 8:22: the seasons will not cease or rest, meaning that they will continue. In Josh 5:12, the manna ceased, or rested. When Jehovah God commanded Israel to observe His Sabbaths, this was a general phrase referring to the observance of all the feast and memorial days established by Jehovah God. Lev 19:3, 30. Lam 2:6. Ex 44:24.
Jesus Messiah also observed this day on a regular basis as noted in several passages in the NT. Luke 4:16, 13:1-17. Matt 12:9-13. Luke 14:1. The conflict that surfaced during the ministry of Jesus Messiah was the manner that Sabbath should be observed, not whether the day itself is valid for observance. The promise of Jehovah God was that Sabbath observance would be a benefit and blessing. Is 58:13-14. It was the oral law of the Jewish sages that made Sabbath observance a chore and defeated its purpose.
The continued observance of Sabbath for the new covenant community is noted in Heb 4:9. The Greek word sabbatismos means Sabbath observance. The point to be made in this verse is that the new covenant community observes the 7th day Sabbath in honor of the awaited future rest to be bestowed on creation at the restoration. It still serves as a memorial of the 6 days of creation labor. An additional meaning is now applied, in lieu of the rest in place of the 430 years of slavery in Egypt. Deut 5:15. Now it is the awaited rest to appear in the eternal kingdom, as a release from the bondage and decay of the present age.
There is no indication of any abrogation of Sabbath observance in the NT or allocation to another day. Paul apostle regularly preached on Sabbaths. Acts 13:14, 16:13. Even though occasional mention is made of the 1st day of the week this is not divine instruction for Sunday observance. Acts 20:7. 1 Cor 16:2. If these passages are closely studied, neither approaches any type of directive regarding the validity of 1st day sanctification. The preaching of Paul apostle occurred Saturday night according to our table of time keeping, and not Sunday. Because the 7th day Sabbath ended at sundown, Paul preached on the 1st day of the week, which according to timekeeping as dictated in Scripture began Saturday night sunset our time. Likewise money to be set aside on the 1st day of the week for the Corinthians was a convenience. In Rev 1:10, John apostle received his divine revelation on the Lord’s Day. This author contends that the reference is to the Sabbath, and John practiced his inherited tradition of resting on this day and sanctifying it.
Much like the Sabbath, the festivals or feasts of Jehovah are still effective for the assembly of the new spiritual Israel. Lev 23:2. In contemporary terms they are often referred to as holidays, a short form of holy day, but the Hebrew term actually means festival or feast. Only twice in the KJV Bible is the term holiday or holy day used. In Ex 35:2, the proper rendering is holy Sabbath; and in Col 2:16, the proper rendering is holy feast or festival. These feasts of Jehovah of Lev 23 were to be periods of meditation and periods of festivity and celebration. The 3 festivals toward the beginning of the year are termed those of the early rain, while the later festivals are those of the latter rain. The lunar calendar is utilized to establish the correct dates for these festivals. According to Scripture, the first day of the new year is the New Moon after the Vernal Equinox; Passover occurring on the 14th day of the 1st month. (In later centuries Jews changed their new year to the Memorial of Trumpets.)
All governments and religions have days set aside for commemoration and celebration. Jehovah God likewise instituted for His nation Israel their appointed religious days to be observed on a regular basis. Each one of these festivals has a strong spiritual meaning along with historical association. The observance likewise has a secondary purpose of building a strong moral community. To put away sin in a person’s life and to adhere to the divine instructions was the underlying purpose of the festivals appointed by Jehovah God. Lev 23:4.
Every festival and memorial day established by Jehovah God for His people is effective throughout all history. Lev 23:14, 21,31,41, Ex 12:14. The nation of old Israel had an interpretation for each of these days. The new spiritual Israel also provides for these same days an interpretation in the light of the ministry of Jesus Messiah and the future plan and intention of Jehovah God for His people and the world we live in. Because the cares and obligations of our life can creep up on us like weeds and choke us, Matt 13:22, Jehovah God supplied these days throughout the calendar year for the benefit of His people Israel, both the old and new. If his people observe these festivals and memorials on a regular basis, they will be a blessing upon every participant. The blessing consists in the impression the meaning these festivals has upon every person who observes them.
The passage of Col 2:16-17, does not abrogate celebration of these holidays. This author contends that the Colossians accepted observance of these holidays, and then the congregation was criticized for doing so by members of Greek mystery religions and their secret rites and acetic practices. Paul apostle wrote to strengthen the faith of the people to resist this censure from others for accepting their observance. They were also to remember that Messiah was the intent of these holidays.
Passover originally commemorated the release of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, their emancipation. Deut 6:20-21. It allegorically represents emancipation from slavery to sin. Rom 6:17-18. The observance of this festival was to impress upon the people the necessity to be freed from bondage to carnal impulse and become liberated individuals, now without constraint and able to fulfill the divine instruction of Jehovah God without the weight of sin. Just as the Passover lamb died at their own hands so each was to die unto sin. Eating the lamb was to gain strength to overcome temptation. The divine instruction for the new covenant community to continue observation of this Passover and the subsequent Feast of Unleavened Bread is noted as follows.
For Messiah our lamb of the Passover has been sacrificed. So let us therefore celebrate the festival: not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:7-8.
Jesus Messiah is the lamb which takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29. The leaven of the OT symbolized those areas and facets of a person’s life which corrupted them or lead them astray from living a Scripture-based life.
The new spiritual Israel continues to celebrate the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread as commanded by Jesus Messiah, “Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Cor 11:24. Now however the lamb and its sacrifice and consumption is replaced with Jesus Messiah. The apostle repeats this command in 1 Cor 11:26, and indicates in 1 Cor 10:6 and 11:27-32, that the early new covenant community continued to gather on an annual basis to commemorate the agony and death of Jesus Messiah. This gathering would have occurred on the same day Passover as Paul apostle commanded in 1 Cor 5:8, along with the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread. The new purpose of this festival is to remind the participants of the removal of sin from our life, no longer with animal sacrifices and unleavened bread, or the wave of the sheaf. Lev 23:9-14. The unleavened bread finds its spiritual fulfillment in the sanctified life of the members of the new spiritual Israel. Today the new leaven is the spiritual kingdom. Matt 13:33. Once placed into the hearts and souls of the participants it grows and develops within the covenant community. The festival is also the annual commemoration of the institution of the new covenant.
This term Pentecost is derived from the Greek Pentekoste, meaning fiftieth day, and is used only in the NT. Acts 2:1, 20:16. In the OT the festival is designated the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest. Ex 23:16. Deut 16:9-10. The point made of putting the sickle to the week, is no doubt a reference to the wave of the sheaf, which occurred during Passover week, or during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Lev 23:10. Pentecost was one of the 3 festivals during which every male in Israel was commanded to bring his offering to the tabernacle.
According to the Jewish sages, 50 days after the departure of Israel from Egypt Moses received the torah from Jehovah God on Mount Sinai. This is the divine instruction consisting of the 10 commandments and the supplement noted in Ex 21-23.
For the new spiritual Israel this feast commemorates the descend of the holy Spirit upon the 120 gathered in the upstairs hall in Jerusalem and upon the thousands of Israelites who accepted the promise of Jehovah God. Acts 2:39. Paul apostle acknowledges the celebration of this feast. 1 Cor 16:8.
MEMORIAL OF TRUMPETS
The 3 festivals of the latter rain are mid-year in the divine calendar. They likewise have many parallels with the new covenant and direct the attention of the participant to events yet to occur. The Memorial of Trumpets was originally instituted to commemorate assembly of the Hebrews at Sinai by way of the sound of a trumpet. Ex 19:13,19. The 2 silver trumpets of Num 10:1-10, used to proclaim important messages and alarms to the people of Israel likewise were involved in this festival.
For the new spiritual Israel the celebration of this festival, the Memorial of Trumpets, reminds us yearly of the return of Jesus Messiah to initiate the restoration. This event is parallel to that which occurred at Sinai. The trumpet blast was to inform the people of the descent of Jehovah God to them. Likewise at the conclusion of the ages at the consummation, Jehovah God will likewise appear in some spiritual manner to execute the resurrection of the saints and the restoration of the earth to its original state of perfection.
The parallels in the NT Scripture are the following:
He will send His messengers with a loud trumpet call and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matt 24:31.
For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised. 1 Cor 15:52.
This is the 7th trumpet mentioned in Rev 11:15, which will herald the close of the imperfect age and introduce the eternal and perfect age.
This festival applies to the new Israel more than any other festival of Jehovah God in His calendar and so should be observed with this new application in mind. During the 1st century the new covenant community gathered once a year to celebrate the Memorial of Trumpets awaiting that great day of the spiritual summons of the archangel with the descent of the powers of heaven for the restoration of the earth.
DAY OF ATONEMENT
The Day of Atonement is the highest and most holy day of the entire divine calendar of festivals for Israel. It was the day that the priest first among his brethren acquired propitiation from Jehovah God from Israel. Described in detail in Lev 16, the anointed intercessor and mediator unto Jehovah God on behalf of His people 3 times entered the most holy space, that hidden and secured enclave known at the holy of holies. The ark of covenant or ark of testimony was located here, the hidden residence of Jehovah God on earth and in the midst of His nation Israel.
In regard to the original rites of this day in Lev 16, 2 goats and a bull had special significance in the removal of sin from the nation of Israel corporately and from the members individually. The burning of 1 goat and bull outside the camp symbolized the destruction of sin. As the smoke of these 2 animals ascended unto the sky, visible to the entire assembly of Israel, the people were to realize how the last enemy is now put to death. “The sting of death is sin.” 1 Cor 15:55. With sin destroyed the people could inherit the promise of Jehovah God and live long in the land which Jehovah God gave to them.
The high priest this day transferred all the sins of the nation of Israel to this 2nd goat by laying his hands on its head and reciting a confession. Lev 16:21. The live goat is identified by being appropriated to Azazel or Azazael. The actual meaning of this Hebrew word is long lost in history. The KJV and colloquial translations render this term as scapegoat, while the more literal directly transliterated the word as Azazel. Some commentators claim this as indication that sin returns back to the originator of sin, the devil. This author does not accept this interpretation. The use of Azazel indicated the sin-laden animal was to be released to its own fate. The goat was to be released alive into the desert area by some assigned individual at a distance from any residence or population, and in some area accessible or inhabited by wild or carnivorous animals, this goat would not survive long, and within a day or so would be attacked by some wild animal that roamed the Judean desert. Judg 14:5. 1 Sam 17:34-35. The people were to recognize this goat as banishment or exile of social sin from Israel, that is, that enmity or animosity that could surface between individuals and families, creating an unpleasant or hostile social environment or general distrust. Once completed the community was to be reconciled among each other, now in a concordant state to celebrate the final great festival of Israel’s divine calendar.
The fulfillment of the purpose and symbolism of the Day of Atonement is clearly described in Heb 9. This entire chapter details how Jesus Messiah as high priest brought his own blood into the new tabernacle, the most holy place in heaven unto Jehovah God his father. Now there is a genuine cleansing of the participants with the holy Spirit, with the result of a clean conscience and reconciliation with Jehovah God and brethren. The sacrifice or death of the animals was a type of the mortification of the sinful body and all of its lust and temptation and impulses to sin. Rom 6:7.
The atonement of the earth is an event that should be reflected upon on the Day of Atonement. The sins of the earth must be likewise expunged, but not by sacrifice or propitiation, but by the sentence and penalty of the judge who sits on the great white throne. As discussed earlier, the early world was repossessed by Jehovah God after evicting its residents using a flood of water. The present world will be atoned for by the just penalty upon its residents with their eviction from the earth and its cleansing by fire. Rev 11:18. Jehovah God will destroy those who destroy the earth. Peter apostle described the removal of the evil and wickedness upon the earth in these terms likewise. 2 Pet 3:7,11.
FEAST OF TABERNACLES
This festival was designed to be a vacation at home for the one week along with a visit to the location of the tabernacle or temple. It is called Tabernacles in Lev 23:34, the Feast of Ingathering in Ex 23:16. The residents of Israel were to build huts out of branches from trees near their home, and spend the week living in this hut at home. The feast was designed to occur coincident with the conclusion of harvest, usually early or mid October. It was a celebration of thanksgiving unto Jehovah God, with the tithe of the produce and harvest brought to the location of the tabernacle or temple as an offering to Jehovah God. The entire family would have attended some time during the week.
When the participant brought his gift and tithe to the priest he would recite the passage of Deut 26:5-10. This was a reflection of the attitude of every worshipper and pilgrim attending the celebration. The overall attitude is described in Deut 26:11, and the prayer on the heart of every worshipper and pilgrim is Deut 26:15. Every year the family expressed gratitude to the Supreme Deity who blessed them with their wealth and abundance, and who also reminds themselves of their transience.
During the journey of 40 years from Egypt to Palestine the Israelites lived in tents as a type of nomadic or transient ethnic and religious community. They were migrators to a better place. Every year during this celebration they were to be reminded that they were transient, that our existence on earth is transient. But at the same time we are migrators to a better world. Our preparation for this better world occurs during this transitional phase of our life, our earthly career. Residing a few days each year in a hut impressed on the family their transience, and that during this temporary sojourn they should enjoy the blessings of Jehovah God to the fullest extent that he should bless them on earth. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, lived in tents during the years of their residence in Canaan. Heb 11:9. They were temporary residents of the area seeking a homeland, a better country, a heavenly one. So the Israelites would every year identify with the transience of their patriarchs and forefathers, and impress upon themselves the wait of a future and better world.
The Feast of Tabernacles officially is a 7 day festival. Lev 23:34. The 8th day is added as a conclusion to the annual cycle of divine festivals. Lev 23:36. This day is also designated as a Sabbath or rest day, with work prohibited. This day also has its own significance as that eternal kingdom to evolve after the restoration. Paul apostle mentions this in 1 Cor 15:24-28. At some distant time in the future a consummation will occur, and Jehovah God will become all in all.
For the new spiritual Israel the parallel is applied and understood. Every year the new covenant community utilizes this week in worship, thanksgiving and fraternization with the brethren of the community. The new spiritual Israel no longer gathers in huts or booths, the fulfillment is spiritual. Our daily life should indicate that we are transient in this material world and are in the process of migrating to the better world, modern pilgrims and exiles. 1 Pet 2:11. The new spiritual Israel displays gratitude to Jehovah God with charity and benefits to the underprivileged, and reside in peace and concord with all others. During this life we prepare for the future, the eternal kingdom, when we will inherit the new and transformed earth. Matt 5:5. 2 Pet 3:13.
LATER JEWISH FESTIVALS
New holidays in later years of Bible history were instituted by Israel apart from those in Lev 23. There was no divine injunction to do this, but they were instituted to have a certain importance and significance in the social and religious life of the people. These festivals are purely Jewish and pertain to the Jews as an ethnic and cultural entity. Such festivals are Purim and Hanukkah.
The festival Purim has its basis in the book of Esther. It generally lasts 2 days. The heroine of the story is a Jewish young lady who became the Persian king’s favorite concubine and subsequently his wife. This king is Ahasuerus, identified as Xerxes, king of Persia, 486-465 BC. The event that promoted an annual celebration was the vengeance of the Jews against the Persians and other non-Jews living in the area. Following the context of the narrative the massacre was an annihilation without purpose. This author contends that this festival has no place in the Messianic community. It may pertain to the Jews as part of their later history as an ethnic group or nationality, but does not apply to the people of the new covenant.
The Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, was introduced by the Hasmonaens, the family of Mattathias in 164 BC. 1 Macc 4:52-59. Its basis for commemoration was the dedication of the altar in the newly consecrated temple after its recapture from the Greeks. In 169 BC the city was captured by the Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes. 1 Macc 1:20. For about 5 years the temple was utilized for sacrifices to the deities of Greek mythology. A Jewish army under Judas Maccabees recaptured the city in 164 BC. He then cleansed the temple of the remnants of their paganism and restored the worship as in prior years. An 8-day festival initiated the restoration of the temple and reintroduction of worship services. This 8-day festival became know as the Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, and is normally celebrated early or mid December. It is called the Feast of Dedication in John 10:22
Much like Purim, there is no divine injunction for the observance of this festival. The purpose of its initiation was to bind scattered Jewry into a solid political bulwark against the influence of Hellenism. It definitely had its advantages and still does as a means of uniting ethnic Jews for social and political purposes. Although this may appear to be a good reason, but it was not Jehovah God who instituted this religious festival. The new covenant community does not recognized or accept this festival as part of the divine calendar.
Prior to the fall and metamorphosis of creation only plants were the diet for the initial family. Fruits, vegetables, and related herbs was sufficient nutrition for the initial residents of Eden. The lessor reason for abstention of meat was that of not killing an animal. No doubt the thought of killing an animal for any reason was totally repulsive to the first family, and especially with all life eternal in this Eden of theirs. With the change of the nature of the human after the fall due to the sin of Adam and Eve, meat became a required and staple diet of created humanity. For the human to continue life on earth in a physically healthy manner, meat on a regular basis became a necessity. But not all meat, that is, not the flesh of every and any animal, but only the flesh of those animals which Jehovah God dictated as fit and satisfactory for human consumption, and only if butchered in the proper manner, were to be consumed as food. Since Jehovah God is the creator of the bodies and organs and minute constituents of the human, the creator would also know well what is fit and proper for consumption, for our health and mental and physical benefit. The use of the word clean for animals should not be interpreted in terms of ritual cleanliness; but that these animals were created in such a manner that when butchered and cooked properly they are fit for human consumption. The animals called unclean are not ritually unclean, but that their creation is for reasons other than human consumption.
The fact that food laws, or divine instruction regarding what is fit and proper for human consumption, were in existence long before Moses can be evidenced by the fact that Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean animals. Noah, at his age of 500 years, when he brought his sacrifice of thanksgiving, brought a sacrifice of clean animals. This author contends that this law regarding food was transmitted from Adam through the generations to Noah and subsequently to the later patriarchs. Moses then codified it.
Cutting the primary veins and arteries in the neck of the animal while on the altar of stones caused the heart to pump out a majority of the blood from the body. The heart would continue to pump until no more blood remained. The prohibition of blood as food was clearly stated to Noah after his descent from the ark at Ararat. Gen 9:4. All of this was later codified in the divine instruction given by Jehovah God to Moses at Sinai. Lev 7:26. This prohibition of the consumption of blood was also repeated as an apostolic edict. Act 15:20, 29. The use of the term, "and what is strangled," in the above passages in Acts, refers to the necessity of bleeding the animal in the manner established, and not killing the animal in any other manner. All of this still pertains equally to our present era.
The diet of the young Jewish men in Dan 1:12-16, was because they did not want to defile themselves with the unclean meat served by the Babylonian servants. Since they could be guaranteed “kosher” food, they preferred a vegetarian diet, which they also knew was healthier for them that the fat of the unclean animals served to the rest of the palace personnel.
FOOD AND THE NEW TESTAMENT
The NT contains passages regarding the divine instruction for food. One is the vision of Peter. Acts 10:9-16. In this vision Peter replies to the test of Jehovah God, "I have never eaten anything unclean or common." This is apostolic witness. Peter continued to adhere to these food laws during his ministry. The words of Jehovah God, "What God has cleansed do not call unclean." is an analogy between animals and humans. Certain animals Jehovah God was cleansed or created to be fit for consumption and so should not be rejected. Likewise those individuals whose heart and soul Jehovah God has cleansed from sin and dead matters should not be rejected nor considered unclean. Acts 10:34-35. Heb 9:14.
The passage of Col 2:16-17 has been interpreted in a manner opposite to its intended meaning for many centuries, "Let no one pass judgement on you in question of food and drink or festival or new moon or Sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Messiah." This author contends that the gentiles of Colossae accepted the divine instruction regarding food laws along with the gospel of the kingdom. Paul apostle admonishes them in this passage not to allow the criticism and censure of the other gentiles to dissuade or undermine their new manner of living. All of these facets of the divine instruction given to Israel by Moses are a shadow of what is yet to come, especially the festivals. The Messianic community continued to fulfill all of these facets of the divine instruction aware that the substance and essence of it all resided in the Messiah.
A conflict between the Jesus Messiah and Pharisees also has been utilized over the centuries as justification to abrogate the food laws. In Matt 15:1-20 the discussion arises in regard to traditions upheld by Jews during that era and its legitimacy. Notice that the topic to be debated in this section of Scripture is not a point pertaining to the law of Jehovah God, what is explicitly contained in Scripture. The topic is tradition: the legitimacy of the specific manner that hands should be washed as dictated by the Pharisees and previous Jewish sages. This section is concluded by Jesus with the following words, "but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a person." Matt 15:20. This statement indicates that this passage does not at all deal with food, but specifically with this particular tradition, and to apply it to food is incorrect application. The parallel section in Mark's gospel account has a verse that has been mistranslated in order to apply it as a repeal and rescission of the food laws. Mark 7:19. But such is not the intent in the passage. (Peter apostle who had never eaten anything unclean or common in his life would hardly have dictated to Mark that Jesus declared all foods clean.) This intent is that food does not affect the morals of a person; food does not drive an individual to be evil or wicked or commit a crime. The food laws should be adhered to for the sake of our health, since Jehovah God did create our bodies and demands that we care for it unto old age. This is the point of Mark 7:15 and Matt 15:18-20, that food passes through the alimentary canal and eventually is evacuated. Whatever is consumed is eventually cleansed from the alimentary canal once it is ejected. That food cannot have an effect on the character traits of an individual is apparent, except in the situations when food causes illness or some other physical malady. Then there is an effect on personality and character. This is why food laws exist: for our health, and so should be complied with.
The passage in Heb 13:9, refers to a more stringent set of dietary laws than those instituted by Jehovah God as discussed above. This is also referred to in 1 Tim 4:3. Many of the mystery religions of the era promoted vegetarianism, and this may have had some influence on the Messianic communities. There is no divine injunction not to eat meat, and vegetarianism is derived from the eastern religions of India who believed in the reincarnation of human souls in animals.
The point made by Paul apostle in Rom 14 regarding food must be understood in the light of 1 Cor 8:1 and 10:14-28. This pertains to meat that was dedicated to some pagan deity when it was sacrificed. Even though clean meat is clean regardless whether it was killed as a sacrifice to Jehovah God or as a sacrifice to some pseudo-deity of mythology, the Messianic community was to distance themselves from the worshippers of such pseudo-deities. The meat sold in the market place was acceptable as long as it met the criteria in the OT, but the members of the Messianic community were not to attend dinners to eat the same food if it was killed in a sacrifice to some pagan deity.
POLITICS AND THE NEW ISRAEL
The members of the new Israel are not involved with military conscription or the armed forces of any nation. In accord with the gospel teachings of Jesus Messiah, the covenant members live in peaceful coexistence with any and all people, where ever they reside. They are not a separate political entity, since it is not their intent to become involved in federal politics. They do not pledge allegiance to a nation and its secular government, because allegiance belongs only to Jehovah God. Is 42:8. To pledge allegiance to a secular government, or to ally oneself with a political party, is to be part of the world and to be disloyal to the spiritual kingdom. Covenant members are citizens of the kingdom of God, and so cannot ally ourselves with any secular government. Because the new Israel is found in every race, color, nation and culture, it is unrealistic for them to participate in organized warfare and wage combat against another nation.
In general the members of new Israel comply with and observe the laws established by the government of whatever country they reside in. Rom 13:1-2. 1 Pet 2:13-14. They give unto the secular authority what is legitimately due them, and give to Jehovah God what is due Him. Matt 22:21. What is not permitted by Scripture to be granted the secular government, they do not fulfill. Only when the laws of the nation they reside in conflict with Scripture is civil disobedience required, and even then always non-violently and without giving the Messianic community a bad reputation.
EXCOMMUNICATION FROM THE NEW ISRAEL
The reasons for excommunication are 2, and contain a beneficial purpose for the community as well as for the excommunicated. The elders have the responsibility of implementing a high moral standard for the community, and an unrepentant person serves as a stumbling block, as a bad example. If a person violates the moral code, that person can still repent and remain in the community. To allow a person who violates the moral code and refuses to repent to remain in the Messianic community lowers the moral standard of that community. Gal 5:9. In reality then, Jesus Messiah becomes the license to sin. Excommunication of an individual persisting in unacceptable or inappropriate conduct is necessary to keep the moral standard of the Messianic community high. This serves as an example to the balance of the community, that theirs is a closed community, open only to those adhering to the moral code, and that any attempt to lower the standards is not tolerated.
But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, alcoholic, or thief, not even to dine with such a person. 1 Cor 5:11.
Elders who fail to uphold the edit of excommunication will only invite more crises and more violation of the moral code into their community. If this compromise continues then eventually the intent of creating a spiritual community has lost purpose and is defeated. The once Messianic assembly now evolves into a social club or fraternity, a congregation of holy losers. The once Messianic assembly, losing its moral basis, loses its purpose for existence and so succumbs to the level of secular and political and social organizations. Now the salt has lost its savor. Matt 5:13. It is no more of a moral benefit than any other civic or social association of the secular world.
A strong criteria for continued membership is essential for a spiritual community of high moral character. Those that did uphold the law of Jehovah God were blessed for their efforts. Phineas grandson of Aaron was blessed for executing an Israelite man and Midianite female involved in an illicit affair. Num 25:12-13. Gideon was likewise blessed for destroying the alter of Baal that belonged to his father. Judg 8:22,29-32. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were blessed for implementing the laws against intermarriage with foreign women. Ezra 10:10-11. Neh 13:23-25.
The failure of old covenant Israel was due to lack of implementation of such rules, for example, prohibitions against idolatry, intermarriage, necromancy and sorcery, immorality, and recognition of foreign deities. Eventually both the southern and northern kingdoms of Israel and Judah collapsed. They became no different than their pagan neighbors in terms of moral strength. Eli priest was reprimanded by Jehovah God because he did not restrain the crimes and corruption of his sons. 1 Sam 3:13. Samuel likewise had sons who were very corrupt and took bribes. 1 Sam 8:3. This is one of the reasons the people wanted a king, rather than priests and judges. The priests had failed in their obligation to their office and became morally corrupt. The people could no longer tolerate it and so wanted a strong leadership.
These are all examples of what occurred in the past for failure of the elders to implement a high moral standard and be willing to excommunicate any that lower such standards. The benefits to be gained for the community in terms of blessing from Jehovah God is far greater than any persecution or threats or harassment an elder will have to endure in implementing a high moral standard. John Baptizer was beheaded for reprimanding Herod Antipas, who was involved in an incestuous relationship with his niece Herodias. Matt 14:1-11. Yet in Rev 20:4, those beheaded are specifically mentioned as resurrecting from death in the 1st resurrection. For this reason Paul apostle wrote to Timothy:
Preach the word, at every occasion teach, admonish, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and instruction. Because the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teacher to flatter their ears. 2 Tim 4:1-4.
It takes elders strong in the faith to reprimand sin in the community. Without dedicated and brave elders willing to implement the moral code and face criticism and persecution, the spiritual community can easily loose its moral strength.
DEALING WITH VIOLATION
The rule of excommunication should always impress upon the membership the seriousness of offense, whether someone is hurt or injured, physically or psychologically. The rule of excommunication should impose a feeling of rejection and guilt, informing violators of the code of conduct that they are unwanted. If they persist in this sin, they can continue in it elsewhere, outside the spiritual community. Exile must impose a sense of guilt on the individual. Any pride in the person will prevent acknowledgement of wrong conduct and repentance and submission to community rule under elders. To “deliver this man to the accuser (satan),” refers to exile from the spiritual community to the corruption of the secular society. “That his spirit be saved on the day of Adonai Jesus,” refers to an overwhelming sense of guilt that will produce repentance. 1 Cor 5:5.
Capital punishment for capital crime is enforceable under the divine instruction. Gen 9:5-6. If any should feel that capital punishment is unjust or inapplicable, know that Jehovah God himself will impose such a penalty at the judgement at the restoration. This is called the 2nd death, and is imposed for the capital crimes listed in Rev 21:8. Such an extreme penalty, the deprivation of life, is imposed on the criminal in order to impress on them the seriousness of the crime. In this manner the accused will sense guilt and lead him to confession and repentance. The penalty must still be imposed; the execution is not to be evaded. For no reason should the execution be postponed or ameliorated. The sentence imposes guilt on the criminal, the execution will impress on that person the absolute necessity of having to answer for their conduct. This will also have an effect on all others: judge, jury, executioner, family and friends, the victim and those related to the victim. For some it is justice. For others the difficult necessity of having to acknowledge that this crime was committed, and that the penalty had to be imposed. No doubt those close to the event will be reluctant or hesitant to commit a crime again.
The members of the spiritual Israel do not directly impose a penalty of death for a capital crime. The criminal is only to be excommunicated from the spiritual community as noted in 1 Cor 5:9. The passage mentioning, “deliver to satan for the destruction of his flesh,” would pertain to the civil judicial system taking charge of the matter.
Apostasy is a serious matter in Scripture. Heb 6:4-6, 10:26-27. It can also be compared to a husband or wife who is unfaithful during their marriage and is apprehended. Even if the marriage is salvaged and the spouses mend the fractured relationship, their marriage will never be the same. It is like an expensive figurine that is broken and mended with glue. It is not a one piece body any more and as solid a structure as the original, and does not have the same value or beauty. So it is with any that may attempt to return to rejoin the spiritual kingdom. The other members will never have the original attitude toward them again. Although the backslider or apostate may repent and return to the community, the relationship will never be the same. The relationship may be mended but the scars will always remain.
CHRISTIANITY: A NEW RELIGION
An important point for the reader to realize is that all the Christian fathers and apologists beginning the middle of the 2nd century were students of the philosophy of Plato under the development of neo-Platonism as formulated by Plotinus; many were also disciples of Mani. With the rejection of the concept of Jehovah as Supreme Deity and Jesus as His only-born son – this in a real sense and not in a mystic or gnostic – these same apologists utilized their previous education in Greek philosophy and influence of gnosticism to redefine the concept of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, the human, and etc. Their anti-Semitism was a mental block, hindering them using the OT Scripture and wisdom of Jewish sages to understand the value and correct application of Torah to the Messianic community and new spiritual Israel. These new concepts of the apologists were propagated to the masses of gentile Christian parishioners and so became the basis and definition of a new religion: Christianity, distinct and separate from Judaism. This new religion surfaced toward the conclusion of the 2nd century AD and was in full development by the middle of the 3rd century AD. The new religion no longer retained any of its Jewish roots.
The typical non-Jewish parishioner who would approach Jesus as the Christ, beginning the 3rd century AD, could not identify Jesus as Jewish. The apologists deprived Jesus of his Jewishness. The typical non-Jewish parishioner could not relate to Jesus of Nazareth as having an upbringing as a Jewish child, having an adult life of a devout Jew, and conducting himself as a respected Jewish Rabbi, prophet and healer among his countrymen. The new Christ of the apologists appeared to establish a new religion and to abolish the old Jewish religion. The same can be applied to Paul apostle. He was no longer a Jewish rabbi who accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of the hope of Israel, the Messiah. Paul apostle was no longer the teacher to bring the gospel of the spiritual kingdom of Jehovah God to the gentiles, for them to accept Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah and join Messianic community as their salvation from the sins of society. Paul apostle under the apologists became the founder of a new religion: Christianity, distinct and separate from Judaism.
Ignatius mentions this in a brief passage, composed about 105 AD, in his Letter to the Magnesians.
Lay aside therefore the evil, the old, the corrupt leaven, and be ye changed into the new leaven of grace. Abide in Christ, that the stranger may not have dominion over you. It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism.
It is apparent that the efforts of the apologists were to create a new religion without any ties to Judaism and with a Jesus uprooted from his Jewish background. Christianity as the movement that developed into the Catholic church of history was definitely not founded by Jesus, since it contains too many anti-Jewish ideas almost inseparable from it. This redefined movement is largely the creation of the 2nd through the 4th century apologists. It even has little in common theologically with the work of Paul.
This basis of creating a new religion based on a non-Jewish Jesus with a severance from the OT Scripture and the writings of Jewish sages caused a lack of true understanding of the mission and purpose of the Messiah. Uprooting Jesus from his Jewish environment and the historic background of the era forced new meanings to be attached to his parables. All of this was reinterpreted anew by the apologists, now in the light of their gnostic and philosophic inheritance. With the new gentile church now deprived of Jewish culture, tradition, expectations and history, there was no way to correctly interpret the teachings and prophesies of Jesus except to redefine them in the light of their own Greek and Roman culture, tradition and philosophy.
A NEW RETURN OF JESUS
The attitude of Christianity failing to recognize this effort of Jesus Messiah in the rescue of Israel from annihilation by the Romans is noticeable first in the writings of the apostolic fathers and apologists beginning about the middle of the 2nd century, shortly after the conclusion of the 2nd Jewish War of 132-135 AD. A new interpretation of the gospels surfaced at this time deviating from the above explained purpose of the ministry of Jesus Messiah.
As a result of a lack of knowledge of the Jewish history of the era and the Messianic hope of the Jews, the return of Jesus was redefined and a new school of doctrine developed. This was eschatology: the study of the final era. A non-Jewish doctrine or definition of the return of Jesus Christ was now developed, since its application to the Jews of Israel could not ideally be applied to the non-Jewish parishioner. All that pertained to the immediate crises in Israel spoken of by Messiah Jesus and apostles – fulfilled within a century after prophesied, were now projected into the indefinite and distant future by the new generation of apologists. In this manner the return of Jesus was redefined so it could pertain to the non-Jews of all the world. In order to make the NT applicable to the non-Jew, its historical setting was ignored and all the prophetic indications of a return of Jesus was redefined in a future context. The Messianic Jews who fled Jerusalem believing in the words of Messiah were not consulted or considered in this new approach. These people were labeled Ebionites or Judaizers or Nazarenes because of their Jewish roots. It is apparent that the apostolic fathers’ and apologists’ distance and alienation from the Messianic Jews in Judea blurred their perception of the return of Messiah for judgement. The gentile Christian scholars could not grasp the return of Messiah in terms of OT Scripture and its historical setting. The new approach of the apologists is initially described by Justin of Caesarea in the pseudo-dialogue with his fictitious Trypho the Jew about 150 AD.
But if so great a power is shown to have followed and to be still following the covenant era of His suffering, how great shall that be which shall follow His glorious advent! For He shall come on the clouds as the Son of man, so Daniel foretold, and His angels shall come with Him.
And it was prophesied by Jacob the patriarch that there would be two advents of Christ, and that in the first He would suffer, and that after He came there would be neither prophet nor king in your nation, and that the nations who believed in the suffering Christ would look for His future appearance.
Justin likewise felt the man of sin of 2 Thess 2 must reign at least 350 years before the next advent of Christ.
As far as gentiles were concerned, the promise of Jesus advent was not yet fulfilled and was still to occur. It was difficult for the apologists to project all of Jesus prophetic words into the distant future because portions of these passages were clearly interwoven with the destruction of the temple and devastation of Jerusalem. Matt 24. Luke 21. To separate the verses pertaining to one event from the other proved an impossible and exhaustive strategy. Even to this date the separation of passages is still vague. The fulfillment of his return and its immediate events became then very literal. This included a literal descent from the sky onto Mt. Olives, which would then split in half; the destruction of the man of sin; and all the events mentioned in the Book of Revelations.
Those terms and passages in the NT that indicated impending or immediate occurrence were spiritualized or allegorized, projected into the future, or ignored in their entirety. The passage of Matt 23:36, 24:34, and so alluded in Matt 10:23, were projected to some future generation. It was no longer that generation, but some generation in the indefinite future.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Subsequently the apologists concluded and taught that the kingdom of God also did not arrive as preached by John Baptizer and Jesus Messiah and Paul apostle. For many the new interpretation was the postponement of the kingdom by 2000 years because of the Jews rejection of their Messiah. Others felt that the church, and primarily the Catholic Church, was the kingdom. With the rise of a “Christian state” under Constantine the Great and an ecumenical church, many felt this unification of church and state was the kingdom of God.
The concept of a spiritual kingdom for the covenant members could not be grasped by the apologists. Their gnostic and philosophic background served as a veil over their eyes, a mental block.
BOOK OF REVELATIONS
The most perplexing postponement made by the apologists pertains to the fulfillment of the words of the Book of Revelations. Even the name of the book was altered to modify its meaning. The new title became, Revelation to John. The 4 passages that indicate an impending and immediate occurrence of the events described in allegory in the book, Rev 1:1, 3, 22:10, 29, were allegorized or postponed into the distant future by the apologists.
Tertullian in an entire chapter in his treatise Against Marcion juggles passages in both OT and NT to project the return of Jesus to the distant future. Likewise Origen in his treatise Against Celsus advocates a future return of Christ. Hyppolytus in his Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, composed at the beginning of the 3rd century AD, provides readers with basically the type of interpretation that is taught at the present in regards to the antichrist, the 2 witnesses and return of Christ. He interpreted the week of Daniel as “the last week which is to be at the end of the whole world.” The apologist Lactantius likewise interpreted a very literal Book of Revelations in Book 7 of his Divine Institutes, beginning with chapter 14 and to the end.
This concept of a future return of Christ has created an avalanche of controversy and conflict over the ages and even today stirs up the imagination and fear of the population. The characters of the man of sin, 2 Thess 2, antichrist, 1 John 2, and every allegorical figure in Revelations have been regularly applied to every political and religious figure of influence and corruption. Popes, kings, dictators, financial giants, and religious leaders, have all been labeled the fulfillment of the dragon and beast and false prophet. Rev 16:13. Churches and religious institutions not having met the expectations of adherents or critics, or having deviated from Scriptural truth as defined by the censurer, have been identified as the immoral woman riding on the beast. Rev 17-18. The main expected event, the return of Messiah, has been repeatedly incorrectly ascertained by every generation beginning with the 2nd generation after the apostles.
Another attitude introduced into Christian doctrine by the apologists was that of other-worldliness. This was acquired from gnostic sources and based on the premise that the present world is evil and created by the inferior deity. The goal of a believer in God and the Bible was no longer acquiring the blessings of God for a prosperous and beneficial earthly life, but attaining heaven. There is a complexity of issues that arise from this fixation on other-worldliness by Christianity.
Otherworldliness is a conception which Jews and Christians, in a sense, share with later Platonism, but it takes, with them, a much more concrete form than with Greek philosophers.
This concept was a natural development from the immortality of the soul combined with the attainment of heaven at the time of a true believer’s death, or separation from the body. Since the present world was evil, all the efforts of the believer was not to be directed toward success in or enjoyment of the present life. The goal was now heaven.
SALVATION OF THE SOUL
The second facet of other-worldliness combined the attitude of austerity with the concept that the human essence was his soul-spirit. The virtuous life was no longer one in accord with the divine instruction and moral code of Jehovah God. The Bible-based life was redefined as effort directed toward the “salvation of the soul”. It was only by incurring a life pattern of deprivation of the joys and pleasures of the earthly sojourn, a regimented austerity, that a person will gain the salvation of his soul at their death, or when their spirit-soul leaves the corrupt body.
This attitude of control over other individuals by preachers striking fear into the hearts of parishioners has prevailed for centuries. This threat of losing your salvation by religion charlatans has been effective. Psychologically weak and unstable people have been caught by this snare, and which has only distorted the view of God as loving and benevolent.
The new attitude of salvation of the soul varied in its meaning for Christians. To one Christian the soul was not a part of or related to the body. It is the body that sins and not the soul, in the opinion of many. The body can continue to sin as long as the person retains a clean heart and good conscience. The soul is kept undefiled or prepared for heaven through religious observance. This would consist in sacraments and rites, and veneration of saints, and a superficial subjection to the established church through its agents the priests and ministers. They now taught that because the body dies and decays into dust, it is the soul that stands before judgement. This author feels a personal regret and empathy for those individuals having such an attitude. To think that salvation of the soul is not salvation of all that life consists of is self-defeating.
To another Christian austerity is salvation of the soul. A person cannot enter heaven if he enjoys life on earth, is successful or wealthy, prosperous, respected, receiving reward and gratitude for beneficial accomplishments on behalf of society. This is all considered worldly, while deprivation and austerity is holiness. This attitude is the basis of monasticism and reclusion. Some even go to the extent of deprivation of medical help, education and financial solvency to try to attain this holiness, the salvation of the soul. But this is all superficial, and much like the words of Paul Apostle.
Why do you still submit to regulation? “Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch.” Referring to things which all perish as they are used, according to human precepts and doctrines. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in restraining the indulgence of the flesh.
Paul apostle may well have been referring to an attitude prevailing in the city Colossae which was inherited from the philosopher Socrates.
In like manner, the philosopher must not care for the pleasures of love, or costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the person. He must be entirely concerned with the soul, and not with the body: “He would like, as far as he can, to get away from the body and to turn to the soul.”
The apologists of early centuries were so enveloped in their quest for a superficial holiness that they lost sight of the God-given joys of the earthly life, and deprived themselves of a salvation on earth. Likewise the idea of heaven as the residence of the saved caused a mental block to attaining community, domestic and personal success and prosperity during the earthly life.
SUNDAY AND SABBATH
As far as the apologists were concerned, the Sabbath was not a divine day of rest, it was Jewish. The observance of the day Sunday already existed in the Roman Empire. The apologists found it more attractive and conducive to the masses by transferring the day of rest from the Jewish Saturday to the gentile Sunday. The anti-Semitism of the population made the transition very easy. They preferred not to observe the Jewish rest, but preferred their own.
However, there is no injunction or justification in Scripture for the abrogation of the Sabbath rest and institution of the Sunday rest. The apologists in their anti-Semitism were unable to understand the concept of time regulation that was observed by the Jews as defined by the OT.
The apologist Irenaeus taught that God instituted the Sabbath to restrain the wickedness of Jews. Since the gentiles did not have this inclination of evil and rebellion, such laws did not apply to them. The anonymous letter to Diogenes likewise stated the prejudice of the 2nd century new Christian church toward the Jewish holidays.
The injunction of Heb 4:10 for the observance of the 7th day Sabbath by the Messianic communities was allegorized by the apologists to refer to the millennial kingdom.
OLD FESTIVALS AND NEW FESTIVALS
The attitude mentioned above toward the 7th day Sabbath also applied to all the festivals of Jehovah God, those mentioned in Lev 23. Observance of these feasts, however, did continue among the original Messianic communities the group called Ebionites. This group eventually vanished into history.
The Passover was labeled as Jewish and replaced by Easter, a spring fertility festival held in honor of the female deity Estre or Astarte, a fertility goddess. The general population of the Roman Empire held to these pagan festivals and so the transfer from observance to one to observance of the other was easy. The anti-Semitism of the populace led them to want to reject the Jewish holidays and celebrate their new Christian ones.
The date for the observance of Easter created a controversy in the new Christian church. Many were celebrating it on the same day as the Jewish Passover. But this was not to be tolerated by the leaders of the new religion. After considerable controversy the Easter date was fixed by Pope Victor, 189-198 AD. Even then there was difference in opinion. The dispute was finally settled at the 1st Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Easter since then is celebrated on the Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. An excerpt from the letter of Constantine the Great, Emperor and overseer of the affairs at the Council of Nicea, will evidence his anti-Semitism in legislating the observance of Easter on the new date.
It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom [the calculation] of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded. We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews;… and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews,…
Now that the calendar was expunged of Bible-stipulated festivals, new holidays were introduced. These were Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Lent, Good Friday, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, all of a religious nature. There may be good reason and good intentions in instituting and observing these holidays, but it is the word of Jehovah God that must be observed. 1 Sam 15:22-23. The pattern of replacement of the original festivals of Jehovah God with those of later origin follows the precedent of Jeroboam. 1 King 13:32-33. The new holidays of Jeroboam were instituted to keep the residents of the northern kingdom Israel from going to Jerusalem located in the southern kingdom Judah. So it is with the later holidays of Christianity which were installed to replace the original divinely instituted festivals of Jehovah God.
THE LAST SUPPER
The term Last Supper is not to be found in Scripture. By using the term last supper, anti-Semitic Christian leaders hoped to direct the attention of their parishioners away from the observance of Passover by Jesus Messiah and his disciples.
The fact that Jesus Messiah and his disciples observed Passover remains, even though the event has been expunged of its Bible-based label and replaced by the designation of Last Supper. This was accomplished by the early church fathers to distance further the festivals of Jehovah God from the new religion. The bread and wine were no longer interpreted in the context of the standard Passover Seder, the family festive meal on Passover evening. The apologists were not interested in what they considered as Jewish traditions and rites. The new interpretation of the apologists was based on Greek mystery religions, very familiar to the population. The Passover Seder was replaced by a rite consisting solely of bread and wine and with a new name attached to it, the Eucharist. The transition is first mentioned by Ignatius about 100-110 AD, first in his letter to the Philadelphians, and then in his letter to the Smyrnaeans.
Take heed then to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to the unity of his blood;…
At this early date, the development of the rite was still in its embryonic stage. This concept of the bread and wine as the actual flesh and blood of Jesus is further developed by Justin, as noted in his First Apology.
And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true,… so likewise we have been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.
Already by the middle of the 2nd century the Passover Seder was replaced by a rite adopted from the mystery religions, which only the “believers” could partake it. The doctrine of substantiation was now in progress of development. The apologist Irenaeus furthers develops it, in Book 5 of his Treatise Against Heresies.
He has acknowledged the cup as His own blood, from which He strengthens our blood; and the bread He has established as His own body, from which he gives increase to our bodies.
The interpretation of the Last Supper has varied over the centuries, anywhere by a purely symbolic understanding of the bread and wine, to believing that the wafer is the actual body and the wine the actual blood of Jesus. This latter conclusion is totally absurd, and only exemplifies to what extent the words of Jesus Messiah can be manipulated to mean without a knowledge of their historical context, and when combined with pagan mystery religion concepts.
The attitude of the apologists toward the food laws of Jehovah God is the same as for the festivals. The original Messianic community upheld the food laws, in accord with the words of Peter apostle.
No, Lord, I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. Acts 10:14.
The approach of the gentiles was opposite. Clement of Alexandria, in Book 2 of his Instructor, when dealing with the vision of Peter apostle stated.
The use of them is accordingly indifferent with us. “For not what entereth into the mouth defileth the man,” but the vain opinion respecting uncleaness. For God when He created man, said, “All things shall be to you as meat.”
Clement felt that the food laws were an injunction for the Jews; but they were also intended to have allegorical meanings. The words of Jesus Messiah in Luke 10:18 to his disciples are taken out of context by Clement in this same chapter. He felt these words meant that everything should be eaten any place a person should visit. This is not the understanding of Jesus word’s in their intended context. The homes that the disciples were to visit were Jewish homes, their own countrymen. The disciples were not to insult the host of the homes they visit by refusing hospitality.
It was especially Irenaeus who wrote that God instituted food laws for the Jews to curb their excess and gluttony. Barnabas attributed a totally spiritual significance to the food laws allegorizing them. A later treatise titled The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, composed about the 2nd half of the 3rd century, deals with the subject of food. It’s approach is much the same as Clement’s. The Christian was to eat whatever is served him, with the exception of food offered to idols.
The apologists missed entirely the point regarding God’s institution of food laws. It is only in recent years that medical investigation into the dietary laws have discovered their value for the health and longevity of the human.
PICTURES IN WORSHIP
The earliest of the apologists condemned the use of images in the paganism and mythology of their era. Any image was equated with the pseudo-gods of false-religion and considered idolatry. This is mentioned by Justin in chapters 9 and 10 of his First Apology. Justin defines the true worship of God in this section as conduct in accord with the established divine instruction. However true this statement be, like the other prohibitions of the OT divine instruction, it was soon overwhelmed by the future generation of church leaders. In time art was allowed into the worship service and subsequently images. Then followed the veneration of such images.
The point made by the later apologists to justify their use was that the images of the saints and divine entities were Christian, and so are permitted; while the images of the pseudo-deities were pagan, and so prohibited. A lessor reason for the entrance of images and portrayals of Biblical scenes follows the adage that, A picture is worth a thousand words. The later church leaders felt that events of the OT and NT, the lives of contemporary martyrs, and feats of Christian heroes, would be better conveyed to the audience through the use of pictures, rather than reading text from a book.
Tertullian, and no doubt because of his Montanist influence, equated the manufacture and veneration of an image for worship a violation of the 2nd commandment. His entire treatise On Idolatry is written to prove this. The historical basis of the early worship of Jehovah God in spirit and truth is well documented.
The primitive church, had no images of Christ, since most Christians at that time still adhered to the commandment of Moses. Ex 20:4; this pertained as well to the gentile Christians as to the Jewish and forbade all use of images. To the latter the exhibition and veneration of images would, of course, be an abomination, and to the newly converted heathen it might be a temptation to relapse into idolatry. In addition, the church was obliged, for her own honor, to abstain from images, particularly from any representation of the Lord, lest she should be regarded by unbelievers as merely a new king and special sort of heathenism and creature-worship…. The first representations of Christ are of heretical and pagan origin.
This use of the portraits of Christ and saints and other Bible figures caused conflict and controversy or the next 5 centuries. Those who fought against their inclusion in worship were labeled iconoclast. It was not until the 7th Ecumenical Council that a final verdict was decreed for the universal Christian religion.
The Pope was represented and the gathering is generally regarded as the Seventh Ecumenical Council. The council approved the use of icons, but regulated the manner in which they should be honored…. The decisions of the council did not immediately win universal acceptance.
The inclusion of images and figures within Christianity has varied from one extreme to the other. Some denominations prohibit them entirely, including the sign of the cross. The opposite extreme is the religion possessing an array of statutes of every ecclesiastical figure available, their veneration, and locating them wherever possible, along with a pantheon of saints.
The final point to be discussed in this section of deviation from Messianic teaching is that of military conscription. Of all the points covered so far, this is no doubt the most volatile. According to the gospel of the spiritual kingdom, military conscription, or participation in the war effort in any form, is a departure from the Messianic teaching. Even though there are records of individuals who claimed to be good Christians, believers and true worshippers of the living God, in the annals and ranks of the military, this is not a justification. The genuine followers of Jesus Messiah have always been pacifist, conscientious objectors to organized war.
The primary witness to the exclusion of early followers and disciples of the teachings of Jesus to military conscription is Tertullian.
There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters – God and Caesar.
Shall it be held lawful to made an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? … Touching this primary aspect of the question, as to the unlawfulness even of a military life itself, I shall not add more,…
Tertullian felt the allegiance given to the state through the military oath to defend the nation against all enemies as defined by their Senate to be disloyal to the true God. The oath would have included a testimony of obedience to the Roman Emperor, likewise repulsive to Tertullian. The flag or banner carried by the troops was antithesis to the spiritual signs and character traits of true Christians.
Clement of Alexandria inclines toward pacifism as a character trait of the Christian. This is recorded in chapter 12 of book 1 of The Instructor.
For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained. War needs great preparation, and luxury and craves profusion; but peace and love, simple and quiet sisters, require no arms nor excessive preparation. The word is their sustenance.
Cyprian, known to be a disciple of Tertullian likewise wrote in several passages that involvement in war was unacceptable to Christians as well as unjust and hypocrisy. The following is an excerpt from his Epistles.
The whole world is wet with mutual blood; and murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale.
Origin likewise, though in a very subtle manner, mentions pacifism as a trait of the new Christian. This is in Book 5, Chapter 33 of his treatise Against Celsus.
Because the Messianic communities were a spiritual kingdom, enlistment in a military detachment into the service of any nation was alien to their beliefs. The thought of military conscription to wage organized war against another nation labeled as an enemy was repulsive to them. Lactantius wrote his massive treatise The Divine Institutes about 300 AD. He records also the attitude of the earliest Christians toward military conscription in Book 6, Chapter 20.
For when God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but He warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself, not to accuse any one of a capital charge, because it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or rather by the sword, since it is the act of putting to death itself which is prohibited.
In was later and especially during the reign of Constantine the Great and his secularization of Christianity, that the attitude towards military conscription changed. Since the government was “Christian,” then to join the military and fight the emperor’s battles was to give to both God and Caesar. The military was under the authority of a “Christian” ruler, which then promoted the enlistment of Christians; this same government also accepted the conversion of many soldiers to Christianity. At a church council held in Arles in 314 AD, church leaders decided, “They who throw away their weapons in time of peace shall be excommunicated.”
In essence this was only a massive deception and apostasy from the gospel of the Prince of peace, a maneuver for the emperor to gain the service and support of adherents to this new religion. The people confused the status of the spiritual kingdom with the secular Empire of Rome, even though the 2 are contradistinctive and alien to one another. This identification of the kingdom of God with the contemporary secular government created in the minds of the new recruits the attitude that service to the government was service to God. This was no longer a distinction between the divine and secular; the 2 were blended together until no distinction was noticeable.
THE FALL OF CHRISTIANITY
It was especially the later church fathers of the post-Nicene era that promoted the necessity of Christians to support the secular authority with military conscription. Both Ambrose and Athanasius supported military conscription for Christian men as a service unto God in defending their Christian nation from the enemy.
Athanasius, the father of orthodoxy, circa 350 AD, led the succession, “Murder is not permitted, but to kill one’s adversary in war is both lawful and praiseworthy.” Ambrose, circa 375 AD, followed, “And that courage which either protects the homeland against barbarians, in war, or defends the weak at home, or saves one’s comrades from brigands, in full of righteousness.” Yet Augustine most systematically and effectively defended the right to go to war.
Augustine’s attitude toward war was molded by the defeat and sack of Rome by the Goths in 409-410 AD. He now viewed the church as having a responsibility to save the nation, including defense against enemies. During this period after the defeat of Rome, Augustine compiled his just-war theory. Not all wars would be approved or sanctioned by God, Augustine felt, but only those considered “just” wars. But the conditions to define a “just war” could be applied to almost any war! Under Augustine’s criteria, every edict or declaration of war by one sovereign against some formidable and defined enemy could be classified a just war. This same attitude is prevalent among all nations that have some Christian population, governments using this criteria to gain the support of the churches whenever recruits are required.
The attitude of religious people towards war and the identification of the divine kingdom with the secular was earlier provided by Plato as an advantage for the stability and strength of a nation.
Plato believes that a nation cannot be strong unless it believes in God…. All the more so if to belief in God is added belief in personal immortality: the hope of another life gives us courage to meet our own death, and bear with the death of our loved ones; we are twice armed if we fight with faith.
Augustine was heavily influence by Plato, as were most of the apologists. Augustine died in 430 AD, in Hippo, North Africa, just prior to its devastation by the Vandals. The attempt of the Nicene Fathers working together with the secular authority of the Roman state to create a Christian nation was in reality the materialization of Plato’s dreamed Republic.
THE FALL OF ROME
The so-called Christian Empire began under Constantine the Great about 322 AD, but did not even last a hundred years. In 410 AD, Rome was sacked by the Goths, barbarian tribes under their leader Alaric. During the 3rd and 4th centuries Christian Rome regressed and tended toward ruin, both moral and material. While the Jewish communities of the middle east and north Africa prospered. The enigma is provided here not to justify the Jewish sages whose grandparents earlier rejected Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah and led their country to devastation in a war against Rome, but to show that the basic concepts of the morality of the OT was still adhered to by Jewish communities, which promoted their success and prosperity. The gentile Christian apologists gravely lacked this revelation and enlightenment, and which led them away from the Biblical precepts of a salvation of a community and person on earth.
While scholars debated over theology, defined heresy, and discredited Jews and dissidents, Rome as a empire morally disintegrated. Instead of implementing rules for proper conduct and initiating organizations for the welfare of the people, they implemented rules demanding proper belief and profession of their new religion, and anathematized those who confronted and disagreed with them.
Rome was next in the sequence of devastation after Jerusalem for apostasy. The real heretic was Rome and the real heresy was the new religion of the apologists and Nicene fathers. Just as Rome executed and excommunicated those they judged as heretic and apostate, so did Jehovah God do to Rome in 409-410 AD. Next after Rome was Constantinople in 1452; and then Moscow, the 3rd Rome, in 1917. Each was summarily judged, sentenced and excommunicated and executed for apostasy and heresy: not by man, but by Jehovah God. As they did to others, so did Jehovah God unto them.
Based on the conclusions drawn in this volume, it was not the intention of Jesus or his apostles to create a new religion. That a new religion should arise separate and distinct from Israel, the faith of the Scriptures, was totally alien in the mind of Jesus and his apostles, including Paul apostle. The term Christianity is a paradox, because never did Jesus organize or direct anybody toward establishing a new religion having that designation. The attempt of the Nicene Fathers working together with the secular authority of the Roman state to create a Christian nation was in reality the materialization of Plato’s dreamed Republic. This author contends that sufficient evidence was provided to prove that historical and orthodox Christianity since the era of the apologists is the materialization of the philosophy of neo-Platonism along with pagan inclusions.
The Messiah, as spelled out in this volume, had 2 primary purposes to fulfill in his career.
1. Establish the spiritual kingdom; thereby delivering his nation from devastation by their enemies.
2. Institute the new covenant and perfect the religion; thereby including also the gentiles in the promise of Jehovah God.
The goal of the apostles was to publish this gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Paul apostle especially was to introduce the gospel and new covenant to the gentiles for their entrance into it. The perennial question is whether the effort of Jesus Messiah to achieve fulfillment of these goals was attained or not. This author contends that both of these goals were accomplished by Jesus Messiah among those who accepted his message and his person. Nothing was accomplished among those who rejected his message and his person.
A greater success would have been achieved by the apologists of the early centuries if the attitude of anti-Semitism was set aside and the study of Greek philosophy abandoned. A theology of Sacred Scripture in accord with the concepts outlined in the initial sections of this volume would then develop among them. The spiritual kingdom would arise and last forever and ever with the grace and blessing of Jehovah God abounding in the life and community of us all.
 Talmud. Sanhedrin 5ba.
 Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, Bk. II, Chap. XV.
 History of the Jewish People, Emil Schurer. 1st division, volume 2, page 84.
 Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 3, chap. 5.
 The Early Days of Christianity, F.W. Farrar, pages 471-472.
 Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, page 63.
 Christian Anti-Semitism, William Nicholls, pg. 43.
 Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, page 209.
 Ibid, page 210.
 Ibid, page.210.
 Ibid, vol. 3, pgg. 414-417.
 Ibid, vol 4. Page 421.
 Ibid, vol. 5, pg. 213.
 Ibid, vol. 7, pgg. 211-223.
 A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell, pg. 309.
 Col 2:21-23.
 A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell, pg. 135.
 Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pg. 204.
 Ibid. vol. 1, pg. 26.
 The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, pg. 103.
 The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Pg. 54.
 Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pg. 80.
 Ibid. pg. 185.
 Ibid. pg. 528.
 Ibid. vol. 2, pg. 241.
 Ibid. vol. 1, pg. 204.
 Ibid. vol. 1, pg. 143.
 Ibid. vol. 7, pg. 469.
 Ibid. vol. 1, pg. 165.
 Ibid. vol. 3, pgg. 61-76.
 History of the Christian Church, Phillip Schaft, Vol. 2, Section 110.
 A History of Christianity, K.S. Latourette, pg. 296.
 I.e. the Roman military oath.
 i.e. the flag.
 Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, pg. 73.
 Ibid. vol. 3, pg. 99-100.
 Ibid. vol. 2, pg. 234-235.
 Ibid, vol. 5, pg. 277.
 Ibid. vol. 4, pg. 558.
 Anti-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7. Pg. 87.
 Fall of Christianity, G.J. Heering, pg. 35.
 Ibid. pg. 36-37.
 The Story of Philosophy, Will Durant, pg. 27.