Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Wise Men and Herod

In the New Testament, we are told that the Wise Men came from "the East".  What was meant by that reference?  Where was "the East"?  According to Genesis 29:1 and Judges 6:3, "the East" referred to the land of Babylon.

Let me ask you a question:  in the first century of the Common Era (C.E.), where did most of the Jews live?  If your answer is "the land of Israel", you would be wrong.  No, the greatest number of Jews in the first century lived in Babylon.  Here's why:
Remember when the Jews were deported to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar?  Well, when the Jews were allowed by King Cyrus to return to the land of Israel, the great majority of them stayed in Babylon.  They had become comfortable there, and just didn't go back "home".
So, these were Jewish wise men were looking for a Jewish messiah - - because they were descended from those Babylonian Jews.  (Who else would have been looking for a Jewish messiah?!) . This is also why they watched the stars.  They knew, because of the prophecy in Numbers 24:17 that a special star was associated with the coming of Messiah.

I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come forth from Jacob,
and a scepter will arise from Israel.
Numbers 24:17 (BSB)

And, it wasn't just the Wise Men who made this assumption.  About 100 years after the time of Jesus, a false messiah arose, called by many "Son of the Star", Bar Kochba.   You may have heard of the Bar Kochba rebellion, a very ill-advised revolt of the Jews against the Romans in the 2nd century C.E.1

As for the title of "Wise Men", it was applied to others in Scripture, namely Daniel.  "Chakamim" is a Hebrew term meaning "wise men", and it was applied to rabbis and sages.  Another term associated with the Wise Men of the book of Luke is "Magi", a Greek word derived from the Babylonian word "Mag", which can mean astrologer, scientist, scholar or even counselor.

Now, let's talk about King Herod for a minute, that monarch who ruled Judea during the time of Jesus' birth.  What an appalling man!  In current time, the USA is celebrating its successful murder of Al Bagdadi, the titular head of ISIS and a truly demonic individual.  King Herod said, "Hold my beer."  Caesar Augustus, a contemporary, wryly commented that it was better to be a pig in Herod's household than to be a relative2, because Herod's insanity led him to kill his favorite wife, his sons and thousands of other people.  He was paranoid over losing his throne, and this paranoia drove him, quite literally, mad.
It is very important to note that the Jewish historian, Josephus, documented in great detail the death of King Herod.  In the spring of 4 B.C.E., Herod was struck ill by God, because he had committed a very vile act toward the priesthood.  (Josephus records that his illness commenced at the time of a lunar eclipse, which occurred in March of that year - -  4 B.C.E.)  Also according to Josephus, Herod died in September of that year, around the time of Sukkot, which is when Jesus was born.  This is why there was a "stable" in which He was born; it was more accurately a sukkah, as it was called in Genesis 33:17.

So, let me suggest a re-oriented timeline, which is perfectly compatible with Scripture and also with the customs of that time.

1.  Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth, where they are "put up" in one of the many sukkot (plural of sukkah) that have popped up around the city for the festival.  This is another reason why it was so crowded there in Bethlehem.  It was not because of the census!  The census had been decreed and was being conducted over a period of months.  Bethlehem was experiencing the overflow crowd from Jerusalem, since Feast of Booths/Tabernacles/Sukkot was taking place at that time.  Sukkot is one of the three "required" feasts for Jewish males to attend.  Therefore, Joseph was "attending", and registering for the census while in the area.  "Two birds, one stone"
2.  Jesus is born, and as Bethlehem is only about five miles from Jerusalem, news of His birth reaches Jerusalem, probably via the shepherds (Luke 2:17).  "Herod is troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matthew 2:3).
3.  Then, concurrently, the Babylonian Jewish Wise Men follow the Star to Judea and naturally go inquire of Herod where the child would be born.  (Matthew 2.) . They were (wrongly) assuming this heir and future king would be of Herod's royal family....SO far from it...
4.  Herod meets with them and waits for them to return and tell him where the child is.
5.  The Wise Men pay homage to the young child shortly after his birth.  By this time, the sukkot have been disassembled, and they find Mary, Joseph and Jesus staying in a (relative's) house.  (Compare Luke 2:7 and 16 with Matthew 2:11.)  Warned by God in a dream the Wise Men return home, avoiding Herod.
6.  Joseph is warned in a dream to flee with Mary and Jesus into Egypt.  They go and stay for approximately a month.
7.  While they are gone, Herod realizes he has been duped, issues his murderous edict (Matthew 2:16) and succumbs to the dreadful illness that came upon him the previous spring. The baby males in Bethlehem area are murdered, in "execution of" (sorry...) Herod's command.
8.  Getting word of this fortuitous development, Mary and Joseph return to present Jesus at the Temple, forty days after His birth, in accordance with Jewish law.   (It is there they encounter Anna the prophetess and Simeon, the prophet.) . Luke 2:22-38

One last thing - - if you have studied carefully, you may say, "But Herod commanded all baby boys two years old and younger be slain."  Doesn't this support a later arrival time for the Wise Men?
This is the traditional Christian teaching, but it ignores the Jewish customs of the first century C.E.  In those days, it was common to count the time "in utero" as year one and to say on the 8th day after birth that the child was beginning his or her second year.  Therefore, in actuality, the way we count birthdays, only the baby boys under one year of age were murdered.3  What a horrible, evil man!  What a demon-possessed earthly ruler!

By contrast, as God was removing Herod, He was sending His son to "tabernacle" with us.  Hallelujah! Let's close by thanking God for His "inexpressible gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15) as we reflect on
Isaiah 9, considered by many Jewish theologians to be a Sukkot text.  Marvel at the majesty of God!

6For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,
and the government will be upon His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of His government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness
from that time and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (BSB)

Sources:

1    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_Kokhba_revolt

2    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_the_Great

3    Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Here's a warning, up front.  These next few posts are going to be provocative.

I don't seek controversy or "vain arguments", which the Bible tells us to avoid (Titus 3:9).  Because the Bible is an extremely complex, supernatural book, there is ample room for differences of opinion about interpretations.
Generally, I was "raised" with a very Western frame of reference for interpreting biblical events, a framework also influenced by church decisions made in the 4th century.  These factors can lead to erroneous assumptions, such as the date on which Jesus was born.  Most of us were taught in church that December 25th is Jesus' birthday.  We never had cause to question this date. 
This post, and those following, are written to cause you to consider whether or not that date is correct.  I present this information merely as a topic of interest, not to "convert" you to this position.  We, after all, live in a very different culture than that of 4 B.C.  It is a wonderful thing to celebrate Jesus' birth, any and every day of the year.

In reality, the actual calendar date of Jesus' birth is not overly important in the overall scheme of things.  It is not a major theological issue.  However, in my study of how culture operated in the first century A.D., and just prior, I've encountered some fascinating theories about this topic. 

In order to establish the date of Jesus' birth, we must look at what the Bible says.  It gives clear clues as to when Jesus was born.  The problem becomes our lack of understanding of Levitical practice and of Judaism in general.  These impede our understanding.  No detail given in the Bible is insignificant, though we may "read past" some phrases that seem so.

One such detail is found in Luke 1:5 - -

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and whose wife Elizabeth was a daughter of Aaron.
(Berean Study Bible version)

Of the many times I've read this verse, I've skipped right over the underlined portion.  "What does it even mean anyway?  What difference does it make anyhow?"
In 1 Chronicles 24, we see that King David divided the priestly, Levitical families up into 24 "courses" or "service divisions".  Each family was assigned two weeks each calendar year to serve in the Temple - - one week in the first half, and one week in the second half.  These two weeks of service were in addition to those of the three "mandatory" festivals - - the ones where all the Jewish males had to come to Jerusalem for the religious events. Those three were Unleavened Bread (which includes Passover), Shavuot (the Christian term is Pentecost) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).  During those three festivals, all of the priests served in the Temple, due to the many festival-related tasks needing doing.

In 1 Chronicles 24:10, the course of Abijah (each course or division was named for its ancestral family head) was listed as the eighth course.  Every year, the first division/course served the first week of Abib (Aviv) and so on, allowing for the "exception" weeks mentioned above.  That being the case, the Abijah group served the 10th week the first half of the year, which is when Zechariah would have been in the Holy of Holies encountering the angel.  (How do we know this event did not occur in the second half of the year, during Zechariah's week of service?  That will be explained in a later post about the "wise men"; hang on.)

In Leviticus 12:5 and 15:19 and 15:25, we learn that there were certain times priests were prohibited from having sexual relations with their wives.  Therefore, if two additional weeks are factored in, and allowing for a normal 40-week pregnancy, the birth of John the Baptist would have occurred at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (and Passover).1 
Traditionally, the Jewish people have looked for the appearance of Elijah at the Passover feast.  This expectation is so strong and widely held, the fifth cup of wine poured at the Passover feast is called "Elijah's cup", and is left untouched.  At one point in the meal the door to the home is held open, so that Elijah can enter and join the feast. This belief, that Elijah will return to herald the advent of the Messiah, is established from Malachi 3:1

1“Behold, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple—the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight—see, He is coming,” says the LORD of Hosts.

You may recall the words of John the Baptist, recorded in John 1:23.  His words echoed these words of Malachi, who had been hearkening back to Isaiah 40:3.  John the Baptist apparently saw himself as the Elijah who was to come, who would prepare the way for the advent of Messiah.
Twice in the gospels, Jesus referred to John the Baptist as having fulfilled that role, as being the "Elijah" of their day.  (See Mark 9:11-12 and Matthew 17:10-11.)

I'm getting rather far afield here, but the most cogent point is that John the Baptist was born at Passover.
Then.....
Luke 1:26-33 tells us that Gabriel visited Mary in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, which on the Jewish calendar would have been toward the end of the month of Kislev or the beginning of Tevet (December, on the Roman calendar).  This is the time of the more recent feast of Chanukah (Hanukkah), which runs Chislev 25 through Tevet 3.  If you count from there through the nine months of a normal pregnancy you arrive at . . . Sukkot, Feast of Tabernacles.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (King James 2000)

The Greek word translated "dwelt" here is eskēnōsen .  I have heard my pastor translate that word as "pitched His tent".  Biblehub.com3 translates it as: "to dwell as in a tent, encamp; have my tabernacle".  The Apostle John used a Sukkot reference (building a sukkah, or tabernacle) here because Jesus was born during Sukkot, perhaps?

Sources:

1    Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva

2    https://reformjudaism.org/passover-mystery-fifth-cup

3    https://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/1-14.htm


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Sukkot


Last month I accepted an invitation to a "painting party" with these fine ladies.  We were to paint porch "boards", and I chose the theme of Sukkot, (due to the graciousness of Nona, who gave up her template for me).  Making the board, I pondered the fact that I was not terribly knowledgeable of this festival.  But, I had a lot of fun doing it!

Today is 18 Tishri 5780 on the Jewish calendar, which means we are in the week of the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths, also called Sukkot.  It lasts from 15 Tishri through 22 Tishri, with the last day being called "The Eighth Day" (Shemini Atzeret).  What is the significance of this 8-day feast in both the first advent of Christ as well as in bible prophecy?  Let’s explore that today.

The Feast of Sukkot, like the feast of Unleavened Bread, is primarily a festival celebrated in the Jewish home.  The feast, or festival, commemorates those days when the Hebrew people wandered in the wilderness of Sinai, dwelling in tents or booths, temporary dwellings called, in Hebrew, “sukkot”. Many of you readers are familiar with this story.  In commemoration, many practicing Jews and Hebraic Christians today construct temporary shelters (called sukkot) and sort of "live in" them (eating meals, entertaining guests) for the week of Sukkot. (The singular of "sukkot" is "sukkah".)

Here are some relevant scripture passages:

33And the LORD said to Moses, 34“Speak to the Israelites and say, ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Feast of Tabernaclesf to the LORD begins, and it continues for seven days. 35On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly. You are not to do any regular work. 36For seven days you are to present an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you are to hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you are not to do any regular work.
                                           Leviticus 23:33-36

We are told that it was at this feast that Solomon dedicated the First Temple (the one God allowed him to build).  (2 Chronicles 5:3) For this reason, one of the names for Sukkot is Feast of Dedication.

Nehemiah 8:13-18 shows the Israelites re-instituting this festival, after their return from Babylon.

Zechariah 14:9 and 16-19 foretells a future celebration of this festival by people from every nation on earth, during the Lord's Millennial Reign on Earth.
Some theologians believe this feast will manifest in the future as follows - -
1.  Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19) in Heaven (Tishri 7-21), and then
2.  Jesus Christ's 2nd coming with His saints, to occur on "the 8th day", 22 Tishri (at the end of Sukkot).  The feast of Sukkot portrays both the Millennial reign of Christ and the eternity afterwards.
In Rev. 21, after the millennial reign and the Great White Throne Judgment, the New Heavens and New Earth will be revealed.   The fullness of God will be among as, because God will be "tabernacling" among us.  Paul referred to this as "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard" (1 Corinthians 2:9)... we cannot even begin to imagine.

So, in contemporary practice, the feast of Sukkot is "party time", a time of happiness and rejoicing at the goodness of the Lord.  An additional name for Sukkot is The Season of Our Joy (Z'man Simchateinu).

The other six festivals center on the people of Israel alone, but this one includes the other nations of the world. (See Deuteronomy 16 passage at end of post.) Sukkot portrays that day when King Jesus will "tabernacle" with men and rule the world.  During Sukkot, there were 70 sacrifices offered, one to represent the "70 nations" the Jews believed made up the rest of the world.

Since Jesus and His disciples kept all of the Jewish feasts, being observant Jewish men, there are some interesting parallels in the gospels, concerning Sukkot, which Jesus and His disciples observed/kept.  For instance, in the Courtyard of the Women (a section of the Temple) four huge brazier lights were placed on high poles, giving light during the night, and earning this festival the Feast of Lights.  (Yes, Chanukah, another dedication feast, borrows liturgically from Sukkot...)  As a result, the three main peaks of ancient Jerusalem (Mount of Olives, Mount Moriah, Mount Zion) were "lit up like a Christmas tree", you might say, even at night.  In between the Mount of Olives and Mount Moriah lies the Kidron Valley, which houses the largest Jewish cemetery in the world.  Another name for this valley was "the shadow of death" (see Psalm 23 and Isaiah 9:1.)

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light;
they that dwelled in the land of the shadow of death, on them has the light shined.
Isaiah 9:1

Another important Temple rite of Jesus' era was the Water Pouring Ceremony, called Beit haShoevah (House of the Water Pouring).  Every day, during Sukkot, Temple priests performed three coordinated functions:
1.  Certain priests prepared the animal sacrifices laid out in Leviticus 23.
2.  Other priests went out and cut large tree branches (25 feet in length), which they placed on their shoulders and waved back and forth in a prescribed pattern as they processed in unison back toward the city.   The tree branches were of four varieties: willow (which has no smell and no fruit), citrus (has scent and bears fruit ), myrtle (has fragrance, no fruit ) and palm (no smell, has fruit).  Could Jesus' parable of the types of soil, in Matthew 13, have reminded the people of the trees used in this ritual?
3.  The High Priest would go with a third group of priests to the Pool of Siloam and retrieve a vase of Mayim Hayim (which means Living Waters).
As the group with the tree branches processed back to the city, so did the group that had gone to the Pool.  This was accompanied by the music of the shofar and the flute.  The group with the animals ascended to the altar and placed them on the fire as the group with tree branches encircled the base of the altar, leaning their cut saplings against the base to form a sukkah over the top of the altar.  Simultaneously, the High Priest ascended to the altar and poured the Mayim Hayim along with wine at the altar.  All during this ceremony, the assembled people sang a song based on Isaiah 12:3.

"Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation."

Now, why did I tell you all that?

In looking at John 7, we see that Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate this feast.  Sukkot was one of the three "mandatory" feasts, where every Jewish male was required to go to Jerusalem for the keeping of it.  The other two were Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost or "Weeks") Watch His words spoken on 22 Tishri, in verse 37:

37On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.’” 39He was speaking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. For the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Do you think He said this in the Temple as the people were rejoicing at the Water Pouring Ceremony?
Did you catch the reference to Living Water?
The very next day, according to John 8:12, Jesus proclaimed Himself the "Light of the World", in fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1.  Perhaps this was said on 23 Tishri, as the large light poles were being taken down?

I've been pondering with amazement and bemusement the fact that my local Baptist church is celebrating Sukkot without even realizing it.
Like the ancient Hebrews, our congregation is currently a people with no "permanent temple".  Each Sunday, we construct our "tabernacle", our church "tent", when we move our worship items into a local elementary school early on Sunday mornings; and then we move them out again in the early afternoon.  But this Sunday, on Tishri 21, we will hold a celebratory service in a huge tent as we  tabernacle with God on the land He so miraculously provided.  And, we will rejoice, yes, we will party in the season of our joy, celebrating the funds He has (again) miraculously provided for the construction of our eventual "temple".

14And you shall rejoice in your feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levite, as well as the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widows among you.
15For seven days you shall celebrate a feast for the LORD your God in the place He will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that your joy will be complete.
Deuteronomy 16:14-15 (BSB)

Chag Sukkot Sameach, Friends!

Sources:


Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva

https://www.khouse.org/articles/2013/1141/

http://biblelight.net/feasts.htm

https://www.hebrew4christians.com/About_HFC/Site_News/site_news.html

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement

Dr. Steve Coyle, of Sar Shalom congregation, Woodstock, GA

I am starting this post a couple of hours before sundown on Tishri 9.  Tonight, I will attend my first Messianic Yom Kippur service, in a neighboring town.  I'm very thrilled for the opportunity to deepen my worship through the Messianic believers' observance of this holy day.


Yes, in fact, Yom Kippur was (and still is to most Jews) considered to be the holiest of all the seven "holy convocations" instituted by God in Leviticus 23.


26And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 27“Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselvesd and present a food offering to the LORD28And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29For whoever is not afflictede on that very day shall be cut off from his people. 30And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. 32It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”
Leviticus 23:26-32 (ESV)

There is a theme in the keeping of Yom Kippur called "panim el panim"1, which is literally translated "face to face".  

The first instance of this phrase is found in Genesis 32:31, where Jacob wrestled with God all night and the next morning built an altar which he named Peni'el (meaning "I have seen God face-to-face, and survived.") Interestingly, no one else in the Torah could make such a claim.  Yes, Moses and Abraham spoke with God, and Moses saw God's retreating figure from the back.  There was only one other Old Testament character who saw God "panim el panim"; do you know who it was?  (I didn't...) Later, in the book of Judges, Gideon got that amazing privilege (Judges 6:22).  Ezekiel and Hosea referred to this special gift from God.2  This sentiment is also expressed with longing in Numbers 6:24-26, the Aaronic blessing.  My pastor blesses his people with it at the end of every Sunday service.....amen!


24The LORD bless you and keep you;
25the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26the LORD lift up his countenancec upon you and give you peace.
27“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

The apostle Paul echoed this longing to see God face-to-face in 1 Corinthians 13:12 - - 


12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Amen for that day!  https://youtu.be/23rNa6yoIHg
“When we all see Jesus
No more sickness, no more madness, no more pain.....
When we all see Jesus, face to face.”

Still, it is a fearsome thing to contemplate the holiness and righteousness of God, character traits we tend to minimize in much of modern Christendom.  It behooves us on Yom Kippur to remember that God hates sin and that He will judge it wherever it is found.
Fortunately, for the believer in Jesus Christ, our sin has been forgiven, removed as far from God "as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12).  Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus is our atonement.  The apostle Paul spoke of this extensively in Romans 5, especially verses 7-11.

That does not mean, however, we should ever ignore our responsibility to confess, to repent frequently of our sins.  Nor does the centrality of grace mean that we should lose our reverence for the holiness of our loving and merciful God, a God who loved us so much He gave His heart's greatest treasure to redeem us.

Yom Kippur, in the days of the Temple, was the only day in which the High Priest would enter the most holy room of the Temple complex, the Holy of Holies.  Here, at this time, that man, who represented all of the Jewish people, was "face to face" with God.

In Leviticus 16 God describes for Moses what Aaron and Aaron's descendants should do on this holiest of days.  The vestments were described; the types of animals to be offered and also the incense burning were described.

And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil  13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die.
Leviticus 16:12-13 ESV

The word "incense" means to "come near".  Incense speaks of prayers.  In the Temple the place of incense was right in front of the Holy of Holies, on the "outside" of that room.3  All the other days of the year, the priests would burn the incense and offer prayers there in front of the Holy of Holies.  The "sweet-smelling savor" would fill that place.  The smoke of the burning incense represented the prayers of the faithful, prayers ascending to God.
But on Yom Kippur, the high priest would approach God, as He had commanded, "face-to-face" in the Holy of Holies.  He would go "behind the veil" (Hebrews 6:19).  The high priest would "draw near" additionally through the burning of the incense on the fire, so that the cloud of fragrant smoke covered the mercy seat.

Most Jews and Christians who keep this most holy day fast and pray, while doing no work.  Last night, as the day began at sundown, we gathered together to meditate on the holiness of our God, celebrate how our Savior made His once-for-all sacrifice for us, to confess our sins and become restored in our hearts.  At the end of the service, the Dr. Steve Coyle led us in the burning of incense.

Ephesians 5:2 tells us that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, "gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor".  We also were reminded that our High Priest, Jesus, has made us priests after His own order, the order of Melchizedek.  The apostle Peter told us this:


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 (BSB)

So, at the end of the service last night, any of the royal priesthood who wanted to walked to the altar and put a pinch of dried frankincense and dried myrrh into the burning censer.  As we did, we prayed.  Soon, the room was filled with the glorious aroma of ... our prayers.  (Revelation 8:3)

Dear God, thank you for Jesus, my Savior, the One and Only who, as our High Priest in Heaven, intercedes on our behalf.

24But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore He is able to save completelyc those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.
Hebrews 7:24-25 (BSB)

28Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. 29“For our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

G'Mar Chatima Tova!

Sources:

1    Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Betrothal, Wedding and Rewards


Today's post is going to be so exciting and fun to write.  Remember how I told you a few posts back that the Spring Feasts were fulfilled by the LORD during the Spring of His Passion (the Spring when He was crucified, buried, resurrected)?  I blogged about these extensively in the Spring of 2018.1  We have been examining how very likely it is that the LORD will, with His return, similarly fulfill the Fall Feasts.  Today, we are going to examine the topic of the Church's marriage to her Savior.

The theme of Jesus Christ Messiah (Yeshua HaMashiach) as Bridegroom and His Church (that body of believers who worship Him as Lord) as Bride is played out all through Scripture2.  Currently, the Church is betrothed to Christ.  At the time of His return, the spiritual wedding will occur.

In Western thought, we have no concept of betrothal, as the ancient Jews practiced it.  And, again, in order to understand the Bible in the context in which it was written, in the culture of that day, we must in this case look at ancient Jewish wedding customs, many of which persist to this day in orthodox Jewish communities.

The first, which I found most amusing, is that there was really no such thing as "adolescence".  (Can you imagine how wonderful, lol?!) . Seriously, children were children until around age 13, at which time wedding plans began to be carried out.  That does not mean all Jewish children married at 13.  The age of 12 is the age of bar mitzvah (male) or bat mitzvah (female), the ceremony which confers upon the child adult status.  But, a child's marriage may have been settled from infancy.

Let me back up a moment, to provide some clarity.  There was betrothal and then, later, marriage.  Don't think of betrothal as engagement; betrothal was much more serious and binding.  In fact, betrothal was looked at as binding as marriage, sort of as a beginning of marriage.  There were 3 ways this could be accomplished:
1.  By fiat of the parents of the children, i.e., "arranged marriage".
2.  By the use of a marriage broker ("Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match", etc.)
3.  By the young man himself.

For the sake of simplicity, let's play out the third option.  As we go, I am going to provide some New Testament scriptures to show the parallels between this betrothal process and what Jesus said/did during His ministry, at The Last Supper and/or at Pentecost, as well links made by New Testament authors. I am referencing many scriptures in this post.  Please look the scriptures up as you read.

So, the young man desires a young woman for his bride.  He goes to the home of the young woman to meet with the woman's father (and older brothers, if applicable).  He takes with him "the bride price" (1 Corinthians 6:20 & 7:23) (a large sum of money), a betrothal agreement and some wine.  He discusses the price with the men of the bride's family, and they agree together on the price (if the young man is accepted).  At this point, the young maiden is brought into the room.  If she accepts the young man, they sign the betrothal agreement, after which a cup of wine is shared (Mark 14:23-25)3.  At that point, the two are betrothed; this betrothal period was called the kiddushin4. Only divorce could dissolve the betrothal.  The two were from that time forward referred to as "husband" and "wife".  The young woman, given a betrothal ring, was sealed, (Ephesians 4:30 - the Holy Spirit is our "betrothal ring") consecrated, "set apart", to her husband.
Next, the young man would say something to the effect of "I am going to my father's house to prepare a place for my bride." (John 14:2-3) This place has a couple of names, the chadar (which means chamber), or the chupah (canopy). 
During this time of preparation, the bride prepared herself to become a wife and mother of Israel.5  She would be collecting her dowry to bring to the marriage (James 2:20).  She would have something akin to a bridal reception (a tisch), where her friends would immerse her into a bridal bath called a mikvah, so that she was ceremonially clean before proceeding to the marriage (1 Corinthians 6:11).  She would anoint herself with fragrant oils and change into her best clothes (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 6:10-13, Revelation 19:8,14).
No one knew the day or the time of the marriage ceremony.  Only the bridegroom's father knew, because he had to be satisfied that all had been made ready in a superior manner to receive the new member of his family.  Only when the father gave the word could his son go get his bride. (Mark 13:32) So, when Jesus returns to get His Bride, the betrothal period will end, and the wedding in Heaven will commence.
Then, at the wedding ceremony, the ketubah was signed.  This was the marriage document.  Given to the parents of the bride, it contained all the promises of the groom to provide for his wife.
Following the ceremony, the bride and groom entered the chupah, where he gave all manner of gifts to his bride. (Romans 14:10,12; John 5:24-29; Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Corinthians 3:12-14; 1 Peter 1:7)
The marriage was consummated, and the bridegroom and bride stayed in the chupah for seven days.  After proof of the consummation and during this period, the marriage festivities with wedding guests were ongoing. There was much feasting and celebrating during that 7-day period.  (The future Marriage Supper of the Lamb corresponds to these ancient Jewish festivities.  See Revelation 19:5-9.  This celebratory feast seems to take place just before the Lord Jesus, the Lord of Heavenly Hosts, returns, based on where it falls in the book of Revelation {19:11-16}.)

The number seven is also significant in the last days time period called The Great Tribulation.  While the believers in Jesus Christ are in Heaven celebrating the Marriage and the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ (The Bema Seat judgment), people who were left on the Earth will be undergoing the most awful seven years of horror the world has ever known.  It was likened, by Jesus, to be "as in the days of Noah" Luke 17:26), which were so bad God destroyed the entire Earth by flood; but, many believe these days will be far worse.   The days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe.  They are the last 10 days of Teshuvah, and are a time of the most intense introspection, repentance and making things right with one's neighbor.

As I close this post, tonight begins Tishri 10, Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.  This High Sabbath concludes the Days of Awe.  Yom Kippur, analogous to the highly-visible, future 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ, will be the subject of the next post in the Fall Festivals series.


Sources:

1.    https://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2018/03/first-fruits.html .   This is the culminating post in that series, with a chart which summarizes all the parallels/fulfillments.

2.    Isaiah 54:5, Jeremiah 31:32, Hosea 2:16, Matthew 9:15, to name a few.

3.    https://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2018/03/passion-week-wednesday-not-so-silent.html

4.    Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva

5 .   https://www.compellingtruth.org/Jewish-wedding-traditions.html

Friday, October 4, 2019

Coronation of the Messiah

Image of Bavarian crown is by skeeze, on Pixabay

Usually, when blogging, I generally believe I know what I'm talking about.  LOL!  I mean, come on, shouldn't that be the case?!  However, I want to state up front here that this topic is way out of my league.  So much so that I almost decided against writing about it - - not studying about it - - but against sharing it with you.  I freely admit I don't know all there is to know about this topic.  Not even close.  With that inglorious disclaimer, let's begin.

Coronation is not a theme familiar to Americans.  We have watched with awe the ceremonies of the Brits, most notably the royal weddings, but few of us have witnessed a coronation or even seen one on television.  A presidential inauguration would be the most similar American event.  The Bible has few verses that deal directly with coronation.  When King Saul was coronated, there was rejoicing and peace offerings were made1 (1 Samuel 11:15).  When King David was coronated, there was anointing oil used (2 Samuel 5:3).   1 Kings 1:33-46 records the coronation of Solomon by the high priest, Zadok, and the prophet, Nathan.  Once again we see anointing taking place, along with shouting/rejoicing of the people and the blowing of the shofar.  At the coronation of Joash, God's Law was presented to the new king (2 Chronicles 23:11).  Although there is no established, recorded ritual, all of the Hebrew kings appear to have had some sort of coronation.  They did not assume the throne of David without it.  Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that Jesus will have a coronation in Heaven.

Chabad.org2, a distinctly Jewish website, speaks of "yirat haromemut", which means "in awe of God's kingly grandeur".  They state how Rosh Hashanah is a reaffirmation of God's Kingship over our lives.  In that sense, it is an annual coronation.  On Rosh HaShanah each Jew contemplates his or her own role in the King's coronation.

If you had asked me what the first century Jews believed about Messiah, I would have said, "Well, the Jews believed (and still believe) that their Messiah would be (will be) a conquering King/Deliverer." That's not an untrue statement, although it is an incomplete statement.

The Bible teaches in Genesis that during the period of the Garden of Eden the Kingdom of God encompassed the entire Earth, with Adam being the Earth's human ruler/agent of God.  In that time sin was not a part of either the created world or of the First Man, Adam.  Then came, The Fall.  The epoch from The Fall to The Great Flood showed severe deterioration of both the Earth and mankind.  After the Flood, the next era (the one we are in now) was/is one of continuing deterioration, accelerated by the cataclysmic changes to the Earth's atmosphere and ecosystem caused by the Flood.  Sin continues its destructive rampage today, with the Bible telling us that in the "last days" things will be as bad as they were in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39).

There is a Jewish precept called "basar"2.  It literally means "good news" or "gospel".
The Jewish "gospel" was all about the restoration of the Kingdom of God to an Edenic state.  It would include the restoration of: the reign of God over the universe, the re-establishment of the throne of David, the ingathering of exiles, Israel returned to her former glory, the resurrection and the Last Judgment.  The Messiah would be the One to bring about the basar.
Centuries before Jesus was born and lived, this basar, this gospel about the Kingdom of God, was drilled into the hearts of every Jewish child.  It was against this backdrop that Jesus began His ministry.
Do you remember the scripture with the words of Jesus, after the arrest of John the Baptist:  "The kingdom of God is near; repent and believe the good news." (Mark 1:15) Do you see more clearly what the people of that day would have read into those words?  Moreover, did Jesus fulfill this "Jewish" gospel?

The answer is that, yes, He did, and He will continue to do so, with the events to occur at the end of days.  During His birth and life, Jesus established Himself as the rightful heir to David's throne.
(Compare Isaiah 9:7 to Matthew 1:1,6.  Compare Zechariah 9:9 to John 12:13-14.)
Then, Jesus conquered sin and death through His death, burial and resurrection.  By being the first to experience this restoration into a resurrected body, He opened the way for all believers to experience the restoration, the resurrection into a glorified body like His.  Then, 50 days after His resurrection, the Kingdom of God was delivered to His followers at Pentecost/Shavuot (Acts 2:1-4).  His work to accomplish our salvation is finished. We see that in His fulfillment of the first four mo'ed, the Spring Feasts.  But, there are Messianic prophecies yet to be fulfilled, and He will fulfill them when He returns, which could be I believe, on a future Rosh HaShanah.

What will the coronation of King Jesus look like?  We don't know.  Will it have elements of the coronations of the earthly kings of Israel/Judah?  We don't know.  Some have postulated that Revelation 4-5 is a sneak-peak, a vision of what Jesus' coronation ceremony will be.  I concede this is possible, although I also think this event could have taken place immediately after Jesus' ascension to Heaven.  Bottom line: we have no idea of the majesty we will be privileged to witness.  Of that I am sure.

So, we talked in the last post about what most Christians call "The Rapture" (Natzal - - the snatching  - - in Hebrew) occurring on a future Rosh HaShanah.  The Jewish sages also believed that coronation of Messiah would occur on that mo'ed, that same sacred festival, with the Marriage of Messiah closely to follow, during that 7-year period known by names such as The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Seven Days of the Chupah, to name a couple (pun intended).

Next post, the marriage of the Bridegroom to His Bride.

Sources:

1      https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Coronations

2.     https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4412/jewish/The-Coronation.htm

3      Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva

4      Additional scriptures which prophecy the Messianic coronation of Jesus Christ:  Psalm 47, Psalm 2, Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Luke 1:32-33, Jeremiah 23:5, Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Day of the Lord

Photo credit to Peter Kraayvanger, Pixabay

"This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice in it, and be glad!"  (Psalm 118:24).
What a wonderful way to make up our minds to live each day God gives!
Today, I am studying along with you the topic of The Day of the Lord which, actually, is not merely one calendar day.  Rather, this term is used in Scripture to designate a period of a few years, beginning with the Natzal (snatching away, harpazo, Rapture) of the Bride of Christ (aka as The Church), and ending with the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom of Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we are going to do a bit of speculating as to how the One and Only, my Beloved, my Savior, may choose this holy time of year to bring all of that about, that is, during the Fall Feasts.
So, let's get to it.

Because the LORD fulfilled, with His first coming, the four Spring Feasts, it is reasonable to conclude that He will similarly fulfill the three Fall Feasts when He returns.  Why?
It is crucial to remember that the seven mo'ed . . . (remember that this term means - - a time appointed by God, a holy observance keyed to a specific calendar date, Jewish religious festivals which foreshadow and serve as rehearsals for the work of Messiah)  ...all seven Festivals are rehearsals for the work of Messiah, based on an examination of Jesus' first earthly ministry.

As another reminder: the Day of the Lord permeates scripture, from Deuteronomy through Revelation.1  It goes by many names.  Here are just a few others:
Day of Adversity, Great Day of His Wrath, Day of Redemption, Day of Jacob's Trouble, Day of Rebuke, Day of Battle. There are many more.

The first element of the Day of the Lord is a disappearance.  That's right, the snatching away of The Church.  I've mentioned this briefly in prior posts in this series.  The living Church of Jesus Christ, that worldwide body of true believers, will suddenly disappear from the Earth, immediately after the severe disruption of graveyards all over the world as the righteous dead are snatched from their graves.

You might think, how could this occur without a worldwide revival happening afterward?!
In short, based on the research of Christian theologian, David W. Lowe2 , I believe this cataclysmic event will be accompanied by a worldwide earthquake, such as the world has never seen.  This will be the first of many Earth cataclysms which will be the hallmark of the Day of the Lord, and it will mask, obscure, the disappearance.
In the aftermath of such an event, the disappearance of relatively few religious nuts is not going to be the uppermost thing in the minds of the remaining earthlings.  Survival will be; and, here will come the Antichrist, a worldwide ruler, to "save the day".  (Please note, this is just a private interpretation; a worldwide earthquake to mask the resurrection of the righteous is not clearly indicated in Scripture.)

Let's overlay:  Rosh HaShanah is the first of the Fall Feasts.  What indicators do we have that the Rapture of the Church will occur at a future Rosh HaShanah?
Rosh HaShanah is called Yom Teruah, Feast of Trumpets (shofars).  Paul spoke of "The Last Trump" in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  This event is also prophesied in Zephaniah 2:1-3.  Many trumpet/shofar blasts are blown on Rosh HaShanah, but the very last one, the 100th one, is one long, loud blast.  Jews refer to it as "the Last Trump".  As mentioned in a prior post, one of the names for Rosh HaShanah, according to Jewish tradition, is Yom HaKesh, Day of Concealment.  In that post, that name was applied to the concealment of the moon, which is often a symbol of the Bride in Scripture. The moon is "hidden", concealed, during Rosh HaShanah, just as the true Church will be "concealed" at its Natzal, it's snatching away to Heaven.

1Gather together, yes, gather,
O shameless nation,
2before the decree takes effecta
—before the day passes away like chaff—
before there comes upon you
the burning anger of the LORD,
before there comes upon you
the day of the anger of the LORD.
3Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;b
seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the LORD.
Zephaniah 2:1-3  

According to Jewish tradition, the First Trump and the Last Trump refer to the two horns of the ram sacrificed at Mt. Moriah, in place of Isaac.  Similarly, each prefigures the redeeming work of Messiah.  The First Trump sounded at Mt. Sinai, with the giving of the Torah to God's People.  The Last Trump, in Jewish tradition, will be blown at the coming of Messiah.  Believers in Jesus Christ know, from Paul's writings, that the Last Trump refers to "the resurrection of the righteous", the Rapture of the Righteous.

Keep in mind the rabbinical tradition that, on Rosh HaShanah (Yom HaDin - - Day of Judgment), all people of Earth are divided into 3 groups:  the righteous, the in-betweeners, and the evildoers.  Although this tradition is not part of the Biblical canon, I'm discovering that God, in His perfect wisdom, has allowed some Jewish traditions to come about and to be given as prophetic pointers toward the future.  These do not carry the iron-clad authority of holy scripture, certainly, but they are interesting to note.
Going on... the Rapture of the Church takes the righteous out of the Earth, and to Heaven for examination.  Some might call this a "judgment", although Jesus Christ has already taken our hell for us through His work on the Tree/Cross.  This judgment seat will be one of examination, commendation and rewards.  (The BEMA Seat of Jesus Christ.)
The coronation of Messiah (a separate topic, which will be explored later) will occur during this period in Heaven, and the Bride (Church/righteous) and Bridegroom (Jesus/Bridegroom) will celebrate the spiritual marriage for seven years, the seven years of the Day of the Lord as it continues to unfold on the Earth.

As of this writing, today is Tishri 2, the second day of Rosh HaShanah, October 1, 2019.  Rosh HaShanah 5780 began at dusk on Sunday, September 29 and will conclude at dusk "today", October 1st.  It is a two-day celebration.  Today is also the second day of the Days of Awe (Yomim Noraim), a designation given by Jews down through the centuries to refer to the 10 holiest days in the Jewish calendar.  They are the first 10 days of the civil new year and the last 10 days of Teshuvah, the season of repentance.

These 10 days correspond to, prefigure, the future Day of the Lord.  Events unfolding on the Earth after the Church is taken are horrendous.  "Awe" is a mild word to describe them.  Beginning with the worldwide cataclysm that masks "the disappearance", the Earth will be plunged into events which will rival the Great Flood in destruction. Over the course of the seven years, the majority of the Earth's population will die, and the planet will be nearly destroyed.  Sin's utter hideousness will be on full display, as those remaining on the Earth will either become more entrenched in their hate of and rebellion against the true God, and His Son.  OR, they will turn to Him for the salvation of their souls.

There is disagreement among Evangelicals as to whether people will be able to find Jesus as Messiah during this Tribulation Period, so called.  Some contend that the Holy Spirit will leave Earth during this time, because the Church will be in Heaven with Jesus.  But, because of the picture presented in the 10 Days of Awe (Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur), I believe that not only will some people turn to Jesus Christ as Savior, but that many of them will be Jews.
Remember that Tishri 1 - 10 are the most intense days of self-examination, repentance and restoration in the Jewish year.  We have not yet talked much about Yom Kippur.  But, according to Jewish tradition and the mo'ed of God revealed in Scripture, Yom Kippur is the day the eternal fate of all is finalized.  (I'll devote an entire post to Yom Kippur to end this series.)
During literally the worst time on Earth in its nearly 7000 year history, many will be saved.  In fact, they will be martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ.  These are pictured in Revelation 7:14 "those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of The Lamb".  Hallelujah!  Gives me chills!  These include the 144,000 who are "sealed" during the Tribulation, so that they may bear witness of Messiah Jesus to the Earth.  12 tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each tribe.  They will be evangelists such as the world has never seen.  Yes, it will be a great and terrible time.

Are you seeing the parallels yet?  What do you think?  Do you believe that Jesus will fulfill the Fall Feasts upon His return?  Next post: the Coronation of Messiah.


Sources:

1    Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva

2 .   https://www.earthquakeresurrection.com/