HOME, SWEET HEAVEN INSTALLMENT #26

Chapter Twenty Four

 

 

“That’s all there is to it?” one congregant asked Earl at the next Wednesday night’s Bible Study run by pastor Arnold Bliss. Earl had followed his presentation from Second Kings 4 of Elisha’s feeding of the hundred with a presentation of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. In the process he had described the nature of the miracle, which was simply that every time a loaf was broken, both halves became whole again.

“That’s it. The rest is in the process and the patterns.” Earl then described the process of distribution, followed by a figure that he had Joyce display in front of the crowd. “That’s the pattern,” he said, pointing to the figure. “Seventeen rows by five columns of companies, four of which are companies of fifty, and the middle one being a company of a hundred. Each of those five columns is given one starting loaf of bread, which is then distributed within the column by the process I’ve described. With the company of a hundred being twenty people wide and each of the four companies of fifty being ten people wide, the number of columns of people within those five columns of companies amounts to sixty. If each basket contains five leftover loaves, then it takes twelve baskets to collect all the remainders, one from each column of people. There you have it – starting with five loaves, Jesus fed, at least symbolically, five thousand people, with a remainder of twelve baskets. All the numbers in the Gospels for that event fit the pattern.”

“Remarkable!” one person exclaimed.

“But I just did the math,” said another. “Seventeen rows by four companies of fifty and one company of a hundred amounts to five thousand, one hundred people. There’s an extra hundred in there.”

“Very good. Okay, so then remove a company of a hundred.”

“But then you’re left with an awkward partial rectangle. I’d think God could do better than that.”

“So do I. Okay. So then insert Elisha’s company of a hundred.”

“Oh. Oh, my gosh.”

“Which is a very important, because it suggests that the several feeding events should be integrated together.”

The following week Earl continued with his discussion of the feedings, this time addressing Jesus’ feeding of the four thousand. “The interesting thing about this event,” he told the people, “is that if you perform the same process as with the feeding of the five thousand, you don’t come up with a pattern that satisfies the numbers given in the Gospels. The only way you can get a meaningful pattern is if you rotate the process so that the rows become columns and vice-versa. If you do that, two distinct patterns emerge: one rectangle of three companies of fifty, and another rectangle of eleven horizontal columns by seven vertical rows of companies of fifty. The smaller rectangle contains one hundred fifty people, and the large one has three thousand eight hundred fifty people. Together, they make four thousand people. The smaller company can be added to the larger during the distribution so that there are seven companies that each receive one loaf. There’s a total of thirty-five rows of people in all, so that with each row producing a leftover loaf, at the same five loaves per basket there are seven baskets of remainders. That’s all there is to it – seven beginning loaves, seven baskets of remainders, and four thousand fed.”

“Awesome,” someone spoke up. “But were the baskets of the same size in the two feedings?”

“Very good question. Actually, they weren’t. The baskets used in the collection of leftovers from the five thousand were small handbaskets, while the ones used in the feeding of the four thousand were larger. But here’s the point – in each case the feeding of the menfolk contributed five loaves to each basket, regardless of its size. The two groups were very different. The five thousand were fed on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. These people were primarily Jewish, as confirmed by the number twelve of baskets, which corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel. The four thousand were fed on the south side, where Gentiles predominated, also as confirmed by the number seven of baskets, which corresponds to the seven Churches described by Jesus in Revelation 2 and 3. The Jewish religion was very patriarchal, which supports the notion that the smaller baskets of remainders from the feeding of five thousand held only the loaves from the feeding of the menfolk. The Christian faith is far more inclusive toward women and children, so it makes sense that this characteristic is emphasized by the larger baskets from the feeding of the four thousand included the remainders from the unspecified feeding of the children and women as well as the men.”

“That’s even more amazing,” the man said.

At the Wednesday Bible study the week after that Earl presented the pattern from Peter’s feeding of the three thousand with the Word of God, a strictly symbolic pattern that integrated quite astonishingly with the pattern of the feeding of the five thousand and Elisha’s one hundred and the pattern of the feeding of the four thousand into the figure of a cross.

Most of the congregation were speechless with that revelation. Finally one person spoke up. “You forgot something,” she told him. “What about the three companies of fifty that weren’t part of the bigger rectangle?”

“Oh, yeah,” Earl replied in mock surprise. “Three companies that can be hung on the cross as the Titulus, which in Jesus’ case, said the words “This is Jesus, King of the Jews” in three languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin. I’ll let you digest that over the next week before giving you some new material. I’ll just say this about the feedings: it’s the details that make Scripture so rich and believable, like the account in the Gospels of the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head at the time of His crucifixion. In Matthew, for example, I think it’s in Matthew 29, the Roman soldiers fashioned a crown of thorns and shoved it onto His head, and then they mocked Him. Emperors often wore crowns that highlighted their majesty, but there was a different crown, one that was made of some kind of vegetation, that was conferred upon a person who was considered to be a savior of the nation, and placed on the head of the person to be so honored not by the emperor or one of his officials, but by a fellow soldier. It was treated like we in America used to respect the Congressional Medal of Honor. In view of that, Jesus our Lord was acknowledged right there as our Savior, perhaps inadvertantly, but confirmed as such nonetheless.”

A chorus of “Ohs” ripped throughout the room.

“Another thing about the feeding details,” Earl told those in the Bible study the next week, “is that they furnish another rich illustration of the Bible’s truth. Throughout the centuries since the beginning of the Christian era, numerous people, when they encountered the Gospel accounts of the feedings, found it inconceivable that while five thousand could be fed with five loaves and produce twelve baskets of remainders, it took seven loaves to feed four thousand and produce seven baskets of remainders. The numbers were counter-intuitive. They just didn’t seem to make sense. For that reason, many people thought that the feedings were simply allegorical of a moral truth despite the sloppy math, although they couldn’t figure out what that truth might be. You now know that the feedings indeed made mathematical sense, the presentation wasn’t sloppy in the least, and the feedings produced a very significant sign.”

After the clapping died down, Earl continued. “I hope you’re not clapping for me, but praising the Lord for the transcendent beauty of His Word. Speaking of which, today’s lesson will give you another jolt about the astonishing accuracy of Scriptural prophecy. I’ll be talking about Israel’s becoming a modern nation and in the process fulfilling a very specific prophecy in the Bible. Pastor Arnold, would you happen to have a whiteboard and some felt-tipped pens?”

“Sure thing,” he replied, and left the room, returning shortly with a whiteboard in one hand and an easel in the other. He set them up in front of Earl and then left again, returning with a number of colored pens. Earl continued after he sat back down.

“Can anyone tell me when Israel became a nation?”

“It was 1948,” one woman said.

“Great. When in 1948?”

“I think it was in May of that year,” she said.

“Yes. Around midnight of May 14 to be precise. Remember that day. Now I’ll tell you about an astonishing discovery that the late Grant Jeffrey, a superb Bible scholar, had made some time toward the end of the last century. He’d had clues from the Book of Hosea that the restoration of Israel to a nation would occur about that time. I wish that I could remember those passages, but . . . “

“I can,” Joyce spoke up. “They’re in Hosea four and six. I’ve memorized them. Shall I . . .”

“Please do, Joyce, and thanks.”

“I may have to paraphrase in places, but here’s the gist: ‘For the children of Israel will abide many days without a king, and without a sacrifice, and without an image. In the latter days the children of Israel will return and seek the Lord.’ That was in Hosea Four. In Hosea Six he says ‘After two days shall He revive us. In the third day He will raise us up and we will live in His sight.’ I’ve alway interpreted the days in this prophecy to represent a thousand years, in accordance with 2 Peter 3:8, where Peter equates a day with the Lord to a thousand years. In saying that, Peter is echoing Psalm 90.”

“Thanks, Joyce. I agree with you about the day being a thousand years, which would place Israel’s return close to the beginning of the Third Millennium A.D., or, in other words, some time between the last century and this. There’s some good agreement with those prophecies and the actual date of 1948, but Jeffrey’s review of Ezekiel and Leviticus brings Ezekiel’s prophecy much closer – to the very day, in fact.”

There was a murmur of astonishment in the room. “It’s right there in the Bible,” Earl told them. “Pray for me that my memory won’t fail me here. In Ezekiel Four, God tells the prophet to lay on his left side for three hundred ninety days. Each day that he does so represents a year of Israel’s iniquity. After that Ezekiel is to lay on his right side for an additional forty days, where again each day represents a year.” Earl put the numbers on the white board and added them up. “This represents a period of four hundred thirty years, which, by the way, is the exact time that Israel was in Egypt, to the selfsame day according to Scripture. “Anyway, Dr. Jeffrey figured that this time of judgment was to begin with Israel’s first captivity, which began around 606 or 605 B.C. , when Nebudchadnezzar carted the citizens of Judah off to Babylon as prisoners. According to Jeremiah, that captivity lasted exactly seventy years.” Earl subtracted seventy from 606 on the whiteboard and displayed the answer of 536. He also subtraced seventy from four hundred thirty to arrive at a figure of three hundred sixty.

“Okay, then,” he resumed. “We are left with three hundred sixty years of Israel’s punishment for iniquity, starting from around 536 or 535 B.C. The numbers didn’t make sense to Grant Jeffrey, because nothing like a resumption to statehood happened to Israel in that time period. Something – I believe it was the Holy Spirit – led him to read Leviticus Chapter 26, where he was astonished to find a possible answer. The gist of that passage states that if Israel persisted in her iniquity, God would increase the time of her punishment sevenfold. As Israel did indeed persist in iniquity past the time of her first captivity, Jeffrey multiplied the three hundred sixty years by seven and tacked it onto the date of 536 B.C.” Earl performed the calculation on the whiteboard, displaying the answer of 2520 remaining years. “Bear with me now, because it becomes rather complicated. We need to convert years to days, assuming that a prophetic year amounts to three hundred sixty days as it does elsetwhere in the Bible. We also need to remember that there is no zero year between one B.C. and one A.D.” On the whiteboard Earl multiplied 2520 by 360 to arrive at a total number of days of 907,200. He then converted days back to actual years according to the equivalence of one solar year with 365.25 days. His whiteboard computation gave a result of 195,774 days between the end of the Babylonian captivity to the beginning of A.D., and 711,426 days thereafter. In terms of solar years, this latter number of days amounted to 1948.

“Grant Jeffrey claimed that the actual day according to that prophecy is May 15, 1948, the exact day that Israel became a nation, if one assumes that the event actually occurred past that midnight. It would be beyond me to attempt to verify that claim here, but even so, I think you’ll agree that from my crude calculation the year alone, 1948, makes for an astonishingly accurate prediction.”

The handclapping that followed indicated their agreement with his assessment of the Scriptural accuracy of this prophecy.

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