Turning “TULIP”s into “FACTS” – Acronym Re-education Camp

February 7, 2015

john calvin Calvinists have come up with a rather clever acronym to describe their “Doctrines of Grace” called TULIP.   TULIP stands for:

T  Total Depravity

U  Unconditional Election

L  Limited Atonement

I  Irresistible Grace

P  Perseverance of the Saints.

  Not to be outdone, Arminians created FACTS to refute TULIP:

F  Freed by Grace to Believe

A  Atonement for All

C  Conditional Election

T  Total Depravity (one doctrine the two camps agree on)

S  Security in Christ

Today I would like to examine the “L” in TULIP, Limited Atonement, relative to scripture and hope to convince you it really ought to be an “A”, Atonement for All.  In a nutshell, Calvinists believe Christ died only for the “chosen”, while Arminians believe scripture teaches He died for everyone’s sins, making salvation available to anyone who believes.

Of course we could go into a lot more depth, but let’s look at just a few New Testament verses:

1 John 2:2, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world“. (the Greek reads “the entire cosmos”)

Luke 19:9-10, “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (How was he a “son of Abraham”?  By faith.  Who did Jesus come to save?  That which was lost.  Who is lost?  Everybody.  Oops, now we’re chipping away at the “I”, but we’ll leave that for another time)

2 Cor 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died”  (“All” is a word that gets reinterpreted in Calvinism.  Its a rather simple word in real life.)

Heb 2:9, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.  (“Everyone”, another easily understood concept that can’t be taken at face value in Calvinism.)

John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  (I guess that could exclude those on the ISS, but the Greek is “kosmos” so you would think even they were included!)

Mark 16:15-16, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”  (Jesus and Calvin will just have to “agree to disagree” on this one–Jesus says anyone who believes will be saved, Calvin says only the saved will be believe, and oh, by the way, those who aren’t saved, their sins aren’t paid for.)

Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Because of Limited Atonement, staunch Calvinists must add a “yes, but…” to this verse.)

Last but not least we have:

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

So its in Jesus, the “crucified God”, where we find the entirety of God’s wrath poured out.  Any sinner who goes to Hell goes there because he or she rejects God’s provision for sin–God does not send anyone to Hell in order to glorify Himself; the atonement is complete, His wrath is fully satisfied by Christ who died for any and all.  There is no “L”, Limited Atonement in the Bible, its actually an “A”, Atonement for All.


Galatians 2 — If We’re Dead to the Law, How Can We Continue to Keep It?

July 13, 2014

circumcisionPicking up in Chapter 2 verse 3, following along with Jim Staley, we read about Titus, an “uncircumcised” Greek, whose appearance in the narrative baffles Jim—he says its like we ‘walked in on the middle of a conversation and there is missing information.’  But the following verses explain why circumcision is being discussed, and the next verse “it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage is incorrectly interpreted by Staley as meaning “bondage to legalism”, not “bondage to the Law”.  But bondage to the Law is bondage to legalism, as will be seen below in regards to circumcision.

Admittedly, Jim is clear that salvation does not come from the works of the Law but through faith in Yeshua’s sacrifice.  We are in complete agreement on that.  It’s how we walk out our faith that is in dispute—Staley says we keep the Law to “prove” we are followers of Christ, ala James’ “I will show you my faith by my works”.  So then I will ask why in v4 does Paul plainly state that “not even Titus… was compelled to be circumcised”?  If we are to follow the Law, then males must be circumcised per Leviticus 12:3 and elsewhere.  In fact, if Christians ought to follow the Law, then no other day than the eighth day after birth is acceptable for circumcision, per the commandment! Certainly if a non-Jew (Israelite) wants to “celebrate Passover” (i.e., join Israel) he must be circumcised per Exodus 12:48.

Staley attributes the meaning of Paul discussing Titus’ lack of obedience to the Law over a battle in the New Testament about “what it means to be saved”—Jim says 2/3 of the NT is about this battle.  I would also agree with Staley that “what it means to be saved” is a big topic in the NT, but I must ask:  If we “prove” we love God by obedience to the Law (Jim’s words, 31:45 on video), why didn’t Titus feel compelled to be circumcised?

Titus was in a quandary if indeed we ought to keep the Law as Christians—he couldn’t get circumcised because that would play right into the party of the circumcision’s hands, but yet now he is not in obedience to what YHWH desires, if indeed we should keep the Law to prove we are followers, because the Law requires circumcision!  Staley seems to struggle with this issue (about 26 minutes into the video). I suppose Staley must believe at a later time, after the “party of the circumcision” left, Titus had himself snipped.  This serves to illustrate the sorts of issues we run into if we believe every OT command is still to be followed.

“The circumcised” are referenced three times in verses 7-9 (see more discussion in the Chapter 1 study)—“the circumcised” are Israel/the Jews. In verse 12 the “party of the circumcision” were “men from James”, the brother of Christ and leader of the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19, Acts 15:13-29).  These were Jewish converts who believed Christians must keep the Law to be saved and taught that “unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).  These people might have also been teaching obedience to non-Mosaic Law traditions (Staley believes this is the sole issue), but here they are only requiring what the Law prescribes.

When the “certain men from James” would not eat with the Gentiles in verse 12 Staley does not see a violation of OT food laws (i.e., eating pork) as it is not explicitly stated—he sees only a transgression of oral traditions such as hand washing or in this case, not being allowed to eat with non-Jews.  I would counter that this is also not explicitly stated. However, consider this:  Paul jumps on Peter’s (Cephas) case in v14 for compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews, so how can simply violating tradition be the question here? Jim fails to recognize that the Gentiles will never be able to meet the tradition of not eating with Gentiles, since they are Gentiles!  On the other hand, if what is meant is that they need to follow Moses’ food rules, then they are able do that.  So I think that again Paul is getting back to the basic thesis that will be seen throughout Galatians and elsewhere: we have died to the Law and are wed to another—we are not required to keep the written, Mosaic Law as an evidence of belief in Christ and salvation (see also Eph 2:15; compare with Col 2:14).

Staley admits that “it seems” like Paul is saying to Peter in verse 14 “if you live like a Gentile not keeping the Torah, why do you compel the Gentiles to keep the Torah?” I would answer, it seems like he’s saying that because he is saying that.  I think its funny, tragically funny, that even Staley sees that there are two sides—he has to have “bad guys” and “good guys” because the text demands it—but he bifurcates those keeping the Torah from those keeping the Torah and oral traditions, rather than as Paul does very clearly later in Galatians, differentiating those living under the Law with those walking by the Spirit (5:3&16).

Verses 17-21 are foundational to the Christian life; here is the correct interpretation, and the one Staley says as a “former Christian apologist” he used to put forth:

v17: We seek to be justified in Christ by faith and are no longer abiding by every requirement of the Law (for instance circumcision, see discussion above)—so now, per the Law, because I am no longer keeping its every requirement, I’m a sinner! Does that make Christ a “minister” of sin? Paul says “No!”

v18: If I went back to the Law and tried to keep it because I found I’m sinning, I would be rebuilding the old system that led me to Christ in the first place.

v19: The Law led me to Christ; in Him I’ve died to the Law so that I can live to God.  In other words, I can’t live to God if I’m alive to the Law.

v20: When Christ was crucified, I was too. I’m now “dead”, including to the Law (Rom 7). But Christ now lives in me and I live by faith in Him.

v21: If I believe I should be living by (keeping) the Law now that I’m dead to it, Christ died for no reason; I should have just kept living by the Law.

Staley says several times in his presentation that we need to be clear that when Paul talks about not keeping the Law he means only in regards to salvation; beyond that we are to live according to it.  I don’t see that in Paul’s writings; I see someone saying we were 1) led to Christ by the Law, 2) in Him we died to the Law, 3) now we live by faith, not by keeping the written commands of the old covenant.

Galatians 1–Examining Jim Staley’s ‘Understanding’

June 28, 2014

galatianswordsBefore we get started looking at verses along with Mr. Staley, let’s examine more of his introductory statements.  Staley asks (paraphrased) ‘does it make sense that “supposedly pagan Gentiles”, 100,000 pagans in Ephesus alone, would stop what they are doing, repent, and follow a Jewish rabbi (Jesus) who died for your sins on the word of another Jewish rabbi (Paul)?’

Jim says “it makes a lot more sense that these quote “Israelite Gentiles” knew exactly who their lineage was and they knew exactly what he was talking about and it became really good news” because “they had the way to come back to the (Mosaic/old-ed) covenant”.

In essence, for Jim, the gospel is the good news of how Israel, the lost 10 tribes that Jesus was sent to redeem and retrieve, is able to get back into the Mosaic Covenant.

While this may make “a lot more sense” to Jim Staley, this is not the teaching of the Bible–that those who Paul is preaching to are exclusively “lost” Israelites–and it is particularly not stated in Galatians. In fact Galatians makes quite clear that Gentiles and “the circumcised” (Jews or Israel, see explanation below) are NOT the same:

Gal 2:7, “I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised

Gal 2:8, “Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles

Gal 2:9, “…so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

Gal 2:12, “he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.”

Who are “the circumcised”?  Paul says of himself in Phil 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews”.  In Rom 15:8 he writes For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.”  Can it be argued that “the circumcised” are not synonymous with “Israel”?

Moreover, Paul used the terms “Israel”, “Israelite” and “Jew” interchangeably, while Staley separates them into “two houses”, Judah and Israel (also sometimes called “Ephraim” for one of the sons of Joseph).  Paul is of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1, Phil 3:5), one of the two tribes making up the southern kingdom of Judah, the “Jews”, but also identifies himself as an “Israelite” (Rom 9:3,4; 11:1).  In Chapters 9, 10 and 11 of Romans he refers to “Israel” separate from the Gentiles (Rom 11:25) while Staley explains that “Israel” are now actually Gentiles, because this is vital to his entire doctrinal construct.  He bends scripture to support his doctrine rather than his doctrine to align with scripture.galatia

In Galatians 2:15 Paul unequivocally identifies himself as a Jew: We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles”.  So Paul in his writings has called himself both a Jew and a member of Israel; apparently he “lives” in both houses.   Although Paul makes quite clear the Gentiles/uncircumcised are other than the Jews/Israel, Staley says we can’t even understand Galatians unless we understand to whom it was written:  Out of covenant Israelites desperate to know how they might get into covenant with YHWH.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to Galatians 1 with Staley: Before beginning he explains that he will be reading from the NIV and sometimes the KJV.  More on the choice of translations later, but in the very first verse Staley, while reading the from the NIV replaces “Jesus” (Greek: Iesous) with “Yeshua” and Christ (Greek: Christos) with “Messiah” (an Anglicized version the Hebrew Mashiach).

There are two issues with these substitutions; the first is that he had just finished stating he would be reading from the NIV but then immediately substitutes words used by the NIV.  He does this repeatedly throughout his study.  Moreover, worse than substituting words as he is reading (how is the viewer to know this is happening unless they have open an NIV bible and are following along?) Jim adds words that are not there to cause the text to align with his views.  I will point out some occasions of this as we proceed.

The second issue is the choice of substitutions he makes: “Yeshua” for Iesous and “Messiah” for Christos.  Paul could have easily used the Hebrew versions himself since he no doubt knew Hebrew, having studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and can be seen speaking it when defending himself in court (Acts 21:40-22:1), but he did not. Why?

Why, especially if the people he was sent to were the scattered Israelites who wanted back into the Mosaic covenant? He did not because the New Testament (other meaning: covenant) was new—the gospel, the good news, is now going out to the entire world.  It is spread beyond Israel and the Jews into the entire world—read John 3:16 again!

The New Testament changed languages for a purpose:  Jesus is not referred to in the NT as “Yeshua” (I am not debating what His fellow Jews called Him) but Iesous and He is not referred to as “Mashiach” but Christos, “anointed one”, nor is “God” referred to as “YHWH” but Theos, consistently, by multiple Jewish authors.  There is a huge transition, from old covenant to new, from law to grace, from flesh to spirit, and a change in language is part of this.  So Staley’s use of “Yeshua” and “Messiah”, though accurate and acceptable on one level communicates his utter lack of understanding of the big picture.paul

In reading Galatians 1 Staley zooms right by verses 6-10, which states the whole purpose of the book: to refute those trying to distort the truth of the gospel, the good news, trying to “spy out our liberty we have in Christ Jesus” (2:4)

In v14 Mr. Staley makes a distinction between “ancestral traditions” and “the law”, as does Jesus in Mt 15:2 and Mk 7:3, but is that what is meant here?  From other Pauline writings we find that the word “traditions” (Greek: paradosis) does not always carry a negative connotation (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thes 2:15 for example). In the context of this book, those zealous for “ancestral traditions” includes the “party of the circumcision” (2:12)—Staley agrees, but who is this group? We will discuss that in depth next time.

Look at verse 15:  Paul contrasts his calling in “grace” with the “zeal for ancestral traditions” in v14—what is the opposite of grace elsewhere? The Law. What does that do to the meaning of “ancestral traditions”? Again, missed or ignored by Staley.

We will pick up with Galatians 2 in the next article.

Galatians and Jim Staley — Introduction and Discussion of “Two Houses”

June 26, 2014

staleyThis study of Galatians will be both my own, abbreviated commentary of the book and a critique of and rebuttal to Jim Staley’s video commentaries found here and here. After debating a poster on an online discussion board (see here) about whether the new covenant requires Christians to follow the Mosaic and Old Testament Laws or not (he and Jim Staley say “yes”, I say “no”), he suggested that I and other forum readers watch the teachings linked to above, which I have done.  So my principle purpose in this series will be to rebut the false teachings of those such as Jim Staley who prescribe following the old covenant as new covenant believers, not to elaborate on every nuance and uncover every nugget of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.

In the first video, prior to interpreting the Book of Galatians, Mr. Staley begins with a 15-20 minute summary of his “two houses” belief system wherein Christ was sent only for the “lost House of Israel”, i.e., the 10 northern Hebrew tribes taken into exile in 722 BC who never returned and whom God “divorced”.  Although in the Law God prohibits remarriage, because Christ “the Bridegroom” died, the prohibition of remarriage also died, allowing God to remarry Israel.  Staley postulates that we who have believed in Christ belong to these lost tribes of Israel—we are one of the two sticks that are to be reunited in the land, per Ezek 37.  This belief is absolutely central to his construct around which is built our need to keep the Torah (more than just the 10 Commandments, we are to keep all the Laws except the sacrificial ones or that have to do with living in the land) since we are being called back into covenant with YHWH. Thus, in nearly every teaching he encourages watching his “Identity Crisis” video in which he proceeds to tell Christians that they can’t understand 2/3 of the Bible unless they see things his way, namely that God has two houses, Judah and Israel, and that you can’t be saved unless you are part of one or the other. Fortunately, per some proponents of this belief, you can be part of Israel without knowing it. Whew.twosticks

Mr. Staley opens his talk with 1 Peter 1:1-2 which uses the Greek word eklektos or “elect” to describe those called to salvation by God including those in Galatia, to whom of course the epistle to the Galatians is written.  So then, when Paul went to Galatia and the rest of the Mediterranean he was only looking for the “lost ship of Israel”, and in fact, Jesus was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel (see Mt 15:24). But Staley, perhaps for a lack of time, perhaps not, ignores the context of Christ’s statement, namely a Gentile woman asking for help, which Jesus eventually gives.  The whole notion of redemption for the “lost sheep of Israel” only is preposterous when we look at the entirety of the new testament and specifically Paul, who declares that the gospel brings “salvation to everyone who believes—to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). Jesus statement is one of priority, not exclusion.  Paul describes himself as an “apostle of Gentiles”, which in the OT is the opposite of Israel.

Staley mistakenly says we, as Gentiles, are “split from one olive tree, one cultivated and one wild, and he’s grafting them both together…”  No, this is not what scripture says.  In Rom 11:24 Paul says “For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree…” Our (Gentile, v13, 25) tree was always “wild”—Israel (not Judah, see context and particularly v7 and v25) is of the “cultivated” olive tree.  We were never part of their tree; per v24 we are “grafted into a cultivated olive tree”, Israel. There is no “two houses”, there is one “house”, Israel, and the believing Gentiles have been grafted into it.

This falsestaley2 “two house” view could be explored in much more detail, and has been elsewhere.  I would recommend http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Two_House/two_house.html which says “Two House doctrine is sort of “Replacement Theology” in reverse.”  Exactly true. See also http://www.hebrewroot.com/Articles/two_house_answers.htm and http://www.torahofmessiah.com/2house1.html . Although I haven’t read every word of these and can’t endorse them without reservation, these will offer a good start at unmasking the non-biblicality of “Two House Theology”.

The next article will look at Galatians 1, compared with Staley’s view.

Jesus: the new Moses

February 23, 2014

Photo-Red-Sea1Moses told the people of Israel regarding the future that YHWH would raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.  It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him (Deut 18:18-19)”

Has this prophet arisen yet?  If so, who was he?  Followers of Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha Mashiach) know this to be a prophecy of the Messiah that was to come–He would be a Prophet, an Israelite, would be “like” Moses, would speak YHWH’s words, and men would be judged for not listening to Him.  Lets examine the criteria in Deuteronomy 18 for this predicted one to come:

He would be a prophet  In Mt 21:11 the crowds declared “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee” and in John 4 the Samaritan woman at the well said “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet” when Jesus accurately told her about private details of her life.  In John 6:14 after feeding the 5000 the people actually declared that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Deut 18 prophecy of Moses: “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  Peter also declared that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in Acts 3:22-23.  There are many other NT examples of Jesus’ prophethood including the chief priests being afraid of seizing Jesus because they knew He was considered to be prophet (Mt 21:46), and being declared a prophet upon raising a young man from the dead (Lk 7:16).  Criterion one met.

He would be an Israelite  Mt 1:1 states that Jesus is “the son of David” and goes on to list his genealogy.  In his Luke 3 genealogy, verse 33 declares Him “the son of Judah”.  Criterion two, check.

He would speak in God’s name and authority, and those who don’t listen will be judged by YHWH  Jesus stated plainly in John 12:48-50 that  “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” When Jesus was transfigured into His glory on the mountain, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, a voice spoke from the clouds saying “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”  This event is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  We are told in Hebrews that God “spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son Clearly the NT views Jesus as authoritative; he fulfills Criterion number three.

He would be “like” Moses  Jesus had many commonalities with Moses–lets examine some major ones:

1.  Lawgivers–Moses gave the 10 commandments and the Mosaic law (Exo 20/the Pentateuch); Jesus brought the New Covenant (predicted in Jeremiah 31:31; fulfilled in Luke 22:20)

2.  Deliverers–Moses set the people of Israel free from slavery in Egypt (Exo 3:10, 5:1); Jesus set us free from sin and death (Rom 8:2, Jn 8:36, 1 Cor 15:56-57)

3.  Mediators–Moses represented the people before YHWH (Exo 20:18-21); Jesus is the mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5)

4.  Direct Relationship with God–Moses knew YHWH “face to face” (Deut 34:10); Jesus had seen the Father (Jn 6:46, Lk 10:22)

5.  Other typological similarities–both survived existential attacks as infants, both sojourned in Egypt, both left a home of royalty to be a servant of the people and God, both were raised by a step-father, and both were rejected by the nation Israel at their first coming.  Moses divided the sea for the people of God to walk through, Jesus walked on the sea and invited one of His disciples to walk on it with Him.  Both were leaders–Moses led the twelve tribes, Jesus led the twelve disciples, later to become apostles.  Both led people to “the promised land”.  Both were prophets, intercessors, and both performed great miracles.Jesus-Walking-on-Water  All four criterion met.

Before concluding, lets examine one other aspect of this prophecy–was Moses speaking of just one prophet or a succession of prophets?  There are several compelling reasons to believe that scripture is pointing to a single individual and not a collection.  First, Moses has already covered the topic of prophets in Deut 13:1-5.  Also, the meaning of the phrase “like you” from 18:18 is expounded upon in Deut 34:10-12:

Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

No one else in the history of Israel came close to fulfilling these requirements but Jesus fulfilled them all.

Is the Kingdom of God here now?

February 17, 2014

economics.politics.kingdom-of-godSome well-meaning teachers have declared (in opposition to the “Kingdom Now” or “Dominion Theology” views) that the Kingdom of God does not presently exist and will not exist until Jesus returns to establish it.

If you are not familiar with Kingdom Now (or the similar Dominion Theology) adherents, they believe that we can usher in the Kingdom of God by political action and changes in law, or that it can “believed” or “prayed” into existence.  They hold that Christians will transform society on on world-wide scale, with sin and sickness decreasing, and that Heaven-like conditions will exist on earth prior to the return of Christ.

But is it entirely one or the other?  The world will become an earthly paradise before Jesus returns OR that the Kingdom of God is entirely future?  What does scripture say?  We find that Jesus indeed speaks of the Kingdom of God in the present tense, for example:

Matthew 12:28, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Mark 1:15, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

We certainly ARE in the Kingdom of God if we belong to Him by faith.  We are His hands and feet, we bring His kingdom to our lost world wherever we go, as we walk in His Spirit.  This is what God has always been after–even Israel was to be YHWH’s representative on earth.  Jesus was stern with the Jews and national Israel when He said:

Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.”

Jesus told Peter that he should forgive not just seven times but seventy times seven, which is too much of a coincidence for Jesus not to be recalling the Daniel 9 prophecy that it would be 70 “weeks” (literally “sevens”), or 490 years, until the coming of Messiah and the ultimate fulfillment of the temple sacrifices, after which desolation would be brought on the Jerusalem temple.   I believe the verse above complements the view that the 490 years represent the extent of God’s tolerance with national Israel for repentance.  The Kingdom of God is a present reality, on some level, whose fruit needs to be produced.  The Jewish nation after corporately rejecting Christ would no longer be the means of executing its authority and prerogatives–this was being transferred to a primarily, but of course not exclusively, Gentile ekklesia (translated “church” in English).

But that’s somewhat of a bunny trail–returning to our present discussion, Jesus shows that the Kingdom of God existed presently during His day and would continue to exist going forward.  Particularly deadly to the view that the Kingdom of God is exclusively future beginning with the millennial reign of Jesus, is the following:

Luke 17:20, 21,“Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

If its not coming with “signs to be observed”, i.e., the sun and moon darkened, then we do not have to wait until after the tribulation for it to appear.  It is wherever Jesus’ followers are.

On the other hand, Jesus also makes clear that the Kingdom’s full reality is not yet here:

Luke 21:31, “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.”

Luke 22:16, “for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

Luke 22:18,“for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”

Kingdom-of-HeavenJesus doesn’t promise a Utopia–He said “in  this world you have tribulation”.  Thankfully He added “but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  This world will not gradually become “Christianized.”  Unfortunately we have to be content with the understanding that we are in the Kingdom of God and that we bring the Kingdom of God near to whoever we engage (I suppose if we are walking in the Spirit; if in the flesh, not so much), but that its full reality will not appear until “YHWH Saves” stands personally on the earth.

Will a Temple Be Built in Jerusalem Before Yeshua Returns? Shavuot/Pentecost Tells Us “No”

December 3, 2013

Southern-temple-stepsMany Christians are anticipating that a literal, physical “Jewish” temple will be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem prior to Christ’s return at the beginning of a 7-year peace treaty that Antichrist will make with Israel.  They base this belief primarily on two passages, one from the Old Testament book of Daniel and the other from Matthew in the New Testament.

Since Matthew quoted Yeshua (Jesus) saying

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains… (Matthew 24:15-16)

And since “the holy place” refers to the holy of holies in the temple that was destroyed in 70 AD by Roman-led legions, it follows that the temple must be rebuilt prior to Jesus’ return.  These Christians, primarily “Dispensationalists” that believe God will begin dealing again with the Jews/Israel during the 7-year Tribulation once Christians are raptured (removed physically from Earth to appear in Heaven with Jesus), think they find in Daniel 9:27 the perfect explanation for how this temple gets rebuilt– Antichrist will make a 7-year peace treaty with Israel and allow them to rebuild their temple and begin sacrifices.  They think they find this peace treaty here:

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Daniel 9:27)

Dispensationalists/full-Futurists (who both hold that the last, 70th Week of Daniel’s “70 Weeks” in Daniel 9:24-27 is delayed until the future, just before Christ returns) think that “he” in v27 refers exclusively to “Antichrist”.  The purpose of this article is not to deconstruct this conclusion, nor to argue against the 70th Week as a future event, although both notions are certainly wrong.  Rather, from the Leviticus 23 Feasts (for a background on them, read this and this) I want to argue that Feast #4 of 7, Shavuot (also called the Feast of Weeks), on which the Day of Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred, shows us that no temple will be rebuilt prior to the return of Christ, because followers of Yeshua (Christians) have become the Temple of God where His Spirit indwells our bodies, replacing the Old Testament temple, made of wood and stone, destroyed after Yeshua’s death & resurrection.

As a background, the Apostle Paul clearly teaches that Christians are the Temple of God:

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Cor 6:19)

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God (2 Cor 6:16)

in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.  (Eph 2:21-22)

Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, occurs 50 days after Passover and is traditionally celebrated as the day the Law, or Torah, was given to Israel gathered at Mt. Sinai in the desert after the exodus from Egypt.

Compare the differences between the giving of the Law on Shavuot and the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost:

Giving of the Law Giving of the Holy Spirit
50th day after Passover 50th day after Passover
Written on tablets of stone (Exo 24:12) Written on our hearts (Jer 31:33; Psm 40:8; 37:31; Is 51:7; Ezek 11:19-20; 36:22-27;   2 Cor 3:3; Heb 8:10)
Written by the finger of God    (Exo 31:18) Written by the Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:3; Heb 8:10)
3,000 slain (Exodus 32:1-8,26-28) 3,000 saved (Acts 2:38-41)
The letter of ‘the Law’ The spirit of the Law (Rom 2:29, 7:6)
Mt. Sinai (Exo 19:11, Heb 12:18-21) Mt. Zion (Rom 11:26, Heb 12:22)

There is clearly a relationship between the two–the giving of the Holy Spirit (inspiring inner motivations and attitudes) supersedes the giving of the Law (regulating outward behaviors).

Paul equated the old covenant with Mt. Sinai and “present” Jerusalem:

But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.  But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. (Gal 4:23-26)

So Mt. Sinai and Jerusalem, under the Law, were “covenantally” the same.  The focal point of the old covenant/Law in Jerusalem was the temple since the sacrifices and ceremonies performed there were prescribed by the Law and its entire existence was due to Torah commandments; sacrifices were required to atone for sins against the Law.

Hundreds of years before the temple was constructed, Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac on the mountains of Moriah (Gen 22), later to become Jerusalem.  The temple is thought to be built on the exact spot where Isaac was nearly sacrificed.  One of the hills of Moriah/Jerusalem was Mt. Calvary, where Jesus was crucified.  Isaac’s near sacrifice was a prefigurement of Christ’s sacrifice, who is God’s only Son, just as Isaac was Abraham’s only promised son (born of Sarah).  Yeshua was the ram caught in the thicket (the cross), the substitutionary sacrifice for Isaac.  Note that both the temple and Yeshua’s sacrifice are co-located on the mountains of Moriah, and both concern the atonement for sin.

ascensionYeshua prophesied the destruction of the temple (Mt 24:2, Lk 19:44) and the desolating of the old covenant (Mt. 23:38, Lk 21:20); the old covenant “died” when Yeshua died–the temple was part of the old covenant, given on Mt. Sinai, home of the descendents of Abraham and Sarah’s bondwoman, Hagar.  Remember, we are born of the promise, not of the flesh.

After His resurrection, the last place Yeshua was seen was on the Mt. of Olives, east of the temple mount.  Yeshua then ascended directly to Heaven from the Mt. of Olives, across the Kidron Valley (also called the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2), the Valley of Decision and it was used as a trash dump) from the temple.  So by His death and resurrection, Yeshua crossed over from the covenant of the law of sin and death, to life.  The Mt. of Olives is even higher in elevation than the temple mount, transcending it.

The Mt. of Olives is so called because of the olive tree groves that grew there–olive oil represents the Spirit of God, the Spirit was given on Shavuot/Pentecost, replacing the Law, given on the same day.  Some olive trees there have been alive since the time of Christ, interestingly.

Jesus will return to earth at the same place (Zech 14:4, Acts 1:11), the Mt. of Olives, not the temple mount.

The Mt. of Olives will be split in two on the Day of the Lord when Yeshua returns, so that the suffering remnant in Jerusalem may flee (Zech 14:5); Mt. Olives represents the new covenant under Christ; they will be fleeing from the Law to the Spirit.

The population of Jerusalem will flee eastward away from the temple mount/Mt. Moriah/the Law to the Mt. of Olives/the Spirit, where Jesus will return to earth.

Four of the Seven Leviticus 23 Feasts have been fulfilled, the last of which was Shavuot, marking the end of the Law/temple of stone and the beginning of the Spirit/temple of believers.  The Law was given on Shavuot and then superseded on Shavuot/Pentecost by the giving of the Spirit.

There is a large break before Shavuot from the three early Spring Feasts and after Shavuot to the three Fall Feasts–there has been a break from the Law to the Spirit.

The giving of the Spirit on Shavuot is one more evidence to the desolation of the old covenant and all that goes with it–the temple and the sacrifices.  This Leviticus 23 feast is further testimony to the fact that the temple system will not return prior to the return of Christ.

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