Archive for the ‘family’ Category

ARK OF THE COVENANT IN FLESH AND SPIRIT

 

In the previous chapter the Ark of the Covenant was described as the enclosure located in the area of the temple known as the Holy of Holies. It was noted there that the ark of the covenant is mentioned again in Revelation, but that this ark is probably a very different one. In my novel Jacob, book three of the four-book Buddy series, Earl Cook connects this later ark with the earlier one in his talk to fellow Christians in a Bible study:

This one’s about the Ark of the Covenant. This ark was a wooden box, overlaid with gold and topped with two cherubs. Inside the box were relics of past interactions between God and man, including the staff that Aaron used, the one that turned into a snake in front of pharaoh, and a sample of the life-sustaining bread that fell from heaven during the great exodus from Egypt and, most important, the tablets upon which God had written the Ten Commandments and which he gave to Moses on the mountain. These tablets encapsulated the Law of the Old Testament in covenant between God and man. The Ark of the Covenant was placed within the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in Solomon’s temple. At the dedication of both of these temples the glory of God, called the Shekinah, descended in a cloud and dwelt within the temples. There is a great significance to this indwelling of the Shekinah glory, and I’ll probably go into it in another sermon. But for now I want to focus on the Ark, which has had a very colorful history. There’s a question as to whether Menelek, the queen of Sheba’s son with Solomon, went back to Ethiopia with a copy of it or actually had stolen the real thing. To this day, that version is jealously guarded by Ethiopians. The ark that remained in Israel was eventually lost. Apparently, the prophet Jeremiah buried it in a cave toward the end of the sixth century B.C. when Jerusalem was in danger of being overrun by enemy forces. There’s another story in that too, but to forge ahead, the Ark of the Covenant is finally mentioned again toward the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, where John sees it in heaven. But this may be a different Ark altogether.

Let me tell you why. In Revelation 12, immediately after John’s sighting of the Ark in heaven at the end of Chapter 11, he goes on to describe another heavenly wonder: a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a man-child who is to rule the world, obviously Jesus. This woman has variously been identified as several different personages by people of differing faiths, each one being the favorite of one faith or another. Many have thought of this woman as representing Israel. Catholics have picked up on this passage, claiming her to be Mary. For reasons that I won’t go into now, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. But it’s very close. Whether this woman actually is Mary or not, it does evoke an image that makes me want to say, ‘Of course! It can be no other way.’ That image, which I cherish now with all my heart, I know to be true, and I want to share it with you now. Mary herself, in containing the Word of God in her womb, was herself the flesh-and-blood Ark of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. That may well have been the Ark that John saw in heaven.”

But there may also be a yet greater Person to whom this later ark may be attributed, wherein the connection is spiritual rather than fleshly. The Biblical account of this ark is presented in Revelation 11:19 through 12:17:

“And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderclaps, and an earthquake, and great hail.

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven – a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and, behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.

“And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

“And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Could this spiritual Woman be the same Shekinah who indwells Christian believers, as described in an earlier chapter? Could She be the same Holy Spirit of whom Jesus spoke in John 3 as giving spiritual birth? Could She be the spiritual Mother of Jesus?

Just as Revelation 11 and 12 symbolize Mary as the ark of the covenant in flesh, so do those same passages symbolize God the Holy Spirit as the ark of the Word, God’s covenant to mankind, in spirit.

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TEN REASONS WHY THE HOLY SPIRIT MUST BE OF THE FEMININE GENDER

 

The following reasons are taken from Scripture, and are consistent with a view of the Bible as inspired and inerrant in the original.

ONE: The original Old Testament Scripture in the Hebrew language described the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. Evidence of this has been furnished by several language-expert Bible scholars, among whom is R. P. Nettelhorst of the Quartz Hill School of Theology. Dr. Nettelhorst’s specific examples include Genesis 1:2 that pointed to the role of the Holy Spirit in Creation and Judges 3:10, which represented a turning point in his understanding of God. He claims that there are 75 instances of either a feminine or indeterminable reference to the Holy Spirit, and no instances, other than descriptors of the Father, where in the original Hebrew the word “Spirit” is described in masculine terms. Other investigators have listed a multitude of specific Old Testament Bible passages that describe the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. Other passages, including Isaiah 51:9 and 10, furnish evidence of a deliberate switch of the Holy Spirit (Arm of the Lord) from feminine to masculine, as both feminine and masculine translations still exist, the feminine version being the earliest.

TWO: The original New Testament Scripture in the Greek/Aramaic language described the Holy Spirit in feminine terms, exposing a deliberate switch in descriptors from feminine to masculine. Evidence of this has been furnished by several Bible scholars, among whom is Johannes van Oort of Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Dr. van Oort, another language expert, claims that the primitive Christian Church, until at least through the second century A.D., and in some places through the fourth century A.D. spoke of the Holy Spirit as feminine. His sources include the Gospel of the Hebrews, which, while now lost, was quoted widely by early Christians, who noted that the Holy Spirit in that Gospel was described as feminine. He observed from the extensive quotations from that Gospel that it apparently was quite popular among the early Christians. Dr. van Oort notes that more modern Christian leaders, including John Wesley and Count von Zinzendorf of the Moravian Church, were influenced by quotes from that Gospel. Other investigators, including S. Santini and R. Nettelhorst, point to the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the earliest currently known of Gospel passages still extant, as quoting Jesus in John 14:26 as referencing the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. It is the originals that are to be respected for inspiration and accuracy, not the various translations. Next in line for respect, the earliest available versions are generally considered to be the most faithful to the original. Other passages, including Romans 9:25, retain an understanding of the Holy Spirit as feminine. It is important to note also that some of the interlinear translations of the Bible in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic have also adjusted the language to conform to the Church tradition of replacing the feminine with the masculine.

THREE: The first Chapter of Genesis in commonly available translations and versions (including the King James) unequivocally depicts the Holy Spirit as feminine, regardless of the attempts to suppress that aspect of the Holy Spirit’s nature. The passage most strongly indicative of a feminine Holy Spirit is Genesis 1:26 and 27, which identifies the gendered nature of mankind as conforming to God’s own nature. While modern commentators on this passage refuse to address this gender issue, they have no basis to do so other than participating in a slavish conformance to Church tradition, and are dishonest in their attempts to remove this characteristic from the image of God.

FOUR: The account of the creation of Eve in Genesis 2 is a statement of the importance to God of gender. In opposition to the generally-accepted notion that the account of God’s creation of Eve in Genesis 2 took place well after the creation of Adam as an incidental afterthought, the Genesis 2 account is so central to the intention of God that it is more detailed than the original description and is presented again for the purpose of emphasis. Back in Genesis 1:26-31, God already had created both Adam and Eve as gendered and capable of reproduction. Furthermore, it is in Genesis 1:31 that God describes His creation, including gendered humanity, as very good. In Genesis 2:18, God describes Adam without Eve as being not good, which would be a contradiction to the earlier account in Genesis 1 if Genesis 2 represented anything other than an emphatic revisit of Eve’s creation. Yet more, in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6-8, Jesus strongly defended the gendered nature of mankind as being the express intent of God from the beginning of Creation, pointing to its importance within the Godhead itself. This emphasis suggests the importance of Eve’s creation from Adam to the extent that it says something about the gendered nature of the Godhead, which could easily be interpreted as a continuation of the information presented in Genesis 1:27 that the creation of Eve amounts to a reprise in mankind of God’s own family nature.

FIVE: Only a union of a romantic, possessive nature between a male and a female is capable of fulfilling the passion intrinsic to God. Despite Church tradition that, influenced by the odd, cold theology of Zanchius and others of his cloth, the attributes of God include passion, and that passion includes romance. Scripture often attributes passion to Jesus and the other Members of the Godhead, most notably so in the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon is an overt description of gender-driven passion. Many respected Bible commentators see in this book a connection between Jesus and His Church in the spiritual domain, which places the attribute of gender firmly within the Godhead. Given the romantic, passionate nature of that Book, if romantic, possessive passion was not an attribute of God, the Song wouldn’t belong in the canon of Scripture. Moreover, according to Jesus’ greatest commandment to us in Matthew 22 (echoing Deuteronomy 6) God demands that same passion of us with respect to our relationship with Him. If God was incapable of experiencing that same passion, the commandment would be meaningless.

SIX: The selfless nobility intrinsic to God suggests a union within the Godhead of a harmony built upon complementary otherhood, which can only be fulfilled through gender differentiation. The Bible in its entirety, most emphatically presented in the work of Jesus on the cross, depicts God as selflessly noble. The alternatives to gender differentiation of an all-male or genderless Godhead would encourage narcissistic selfishness. The demand to love God with fervor requires us to view God in a family context as well. Any alternative to that view leaves us with confusion and a profound inability to obey the commandment of love that Jesus expressed in Matthew 22. The confusion is quite real: the confusion and lack of understanding has been confessed to me multiple times by theologians who possess impressive credentials, but who remain committed to a genderless or all-male Godhead. It is difficult to understand how a person who is confused about such an intimate detail regarding the nature of God would be able to worship Him with fervor.

SEVEN: In Ephesians 5, Paul claims that Jesus and His Church will be married, attributing functional gender to attributes within the Godhead. In Genesis 2, Adam states that Eve is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and that therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh. The latter phrase represents the very words that Jesus repeated in Matthew 19:5 and 6, and in Mark 10:7 and 8. The importance of this phrase is confirmed in Ephesians 5:31 and 32, where Paul repeats it yet again, and then goes on to claim that it applies to the union of Jesus and His Church. Here, the Bible explicitly states that Jesus and the Church are fully gendered and will, in the spiritual domain, unite in marriage. That this union will be productive is asserted in Romans 7:4. The fact that Jesus is a Member of the Godhead and is slated to be married plainly suggests that the other two members of the Godhead are also gendered, and, in fact, are united with each other.

EIGHT: The Old Testament Shekinah Glory, generally acknowledged to be feminine, is revealed in the New Testament as the Holy Spirit. Paul goes to great lengths to describe the Church as a spiritual composite of individual Christians, in which the individuals are contributing elements of a whole, each individual being somewhat akin to the various organs that comprise a human body. In that context, gender is not important with regard to the individual (how would a gendered heart work?), but is a vital necessity, as in the complete human body, to the complete Church. An important aspect of the integrated spiritual Church is the indwelling Holy Spirit. As Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, we Christians comprise a temple of God, wherein the Holy Spirit dwells. This temple described by Paul is a fulfillment of the type described in the Old Testament, where the Shekinah Glory indwelt the Tabernacle of the Wilderness and Solomon’s Temple at their dedications (Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8). The Shekinah Glory is generally acknowledged to be feminine in nature; the indwelling fulfillment in Christians identifies the Shekinah as the Holy Spirit.

NINE: The Book of Proverbs describes as feminine the Holy Spirit in Her role as complementary other to the Father. Proverbs 8:22-36, in particular, describes the Holy Spirit working alongside the Father in the Creation. That the feminine Persona of the Holy Spirit in Proverbs is far more than simply a figure of speech, is confirmed by Jesus Christ, who in Luke 7:35 described the Holy Spirit in terms of a sentient Mother. The connection between Wisdom and the Holy Spirit is also made in the Book of Wisdom, which, while having been removed from the canon of Protestant Scripture during the Reformation, remains canonical in the Catholic Church. In that book, Wisdom as a feminine Being is directly linked to the Holy Spirit.

TEN: In multiple passages, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. In the Gospel of John, Jesus frequently links the Holy Spirit with feminine descriptors, such as “Comforter” and “Helper”. This association is most direct in John 3, where Jesus connects the Holy Spirit with spiritual birth. Birth, of course, is an eminently feminine function. Moreover, many theologians see in Scripture the role of the Holy Spirit as an executive one. An executive function is feminine in nature, representing the essence of complementary otherhood in the carrying out of the will of the Father. More generally, even in translations that corrupt the original description of the Holy Spirit in feminine terms, the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2 is described as creatively responsive to the Father’s will. A responsive role is a feminine one.

WANT TO KNOW WHY THE SWITCH WAS MADE FROM A FEMININE TO A MASCULINE HOLY SPIRIT? WANT TO KNOW WHY GOD ALLOWED THAT TO HAPPEN? READ MARCHING TO A WORTHY DRUMMER BY ARTHUR PERKINS, AVAILABLE THROUGH SIGNALMAN PUBLISHING AND AMAZON.

Arthur Perkins

perkinsart44@gmail.com

360-832-6099

HOLY CLOUD

 

If one looks up the word “cloud” in a Bible concordance, even a modest one, he will see well over forty entries. They don’t all have the same meanings, of course, but there are several that do. And some that do have the same meanings don’t seem to at first, because they are used in different contexts. The Biblical clouds that are mentioned here all have the same meaning, and that meaning is a holy one.

In Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8, the Glory of the Lord, called by the Hebrews the Shekinah, indwelt as a Cloud both the tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s Temple at their dedications. This indwelling feminine Presence was a type – a representative precursor to – the Holy Spirit who indwelt Jesus’ disciples at the Pentecost described in Acts 2 and now, as the Comforter promised by Jesus in John 14, indwells every constituent of Jesus’ entire Church, described by Paul as living temples of God.

The Shekinah Glory of the Wilderness Tabernacle is described in Exodus 40:33-38:

“And [Moses] reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”

The description “cloud of the Lord”, “fire by night” and “taken up” leaves no doubt that this “cloud” is equivalent to the Shekinah of the Red Sea adventure and of Isaiah 4:5.

The Shekinah Glory of Solomon’s Temple is described in 1 Kings 8:5-11:

And King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be counted nor numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its staves above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the inner sanctuary, but they were not seen outside,; and there they are unto this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.”

In Daniel 7:13 and 14, and Matthew 17:1-5, the Holy Spirit, still represented by a Cloud, accompanies Jesus in His spiritual appearance before men.

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

“And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain, privately, and was transfigured before them; and his face did shine like the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light. And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you will, let us make here three booths; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him.”

In Matthew 24:30, Acts 1:8-11, and Revelation 1:7 and 14:14 that same Cloud conveys Jesus between earth and heaven:

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

“But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. And, when [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in while apparel, who also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heave, shall so come in like nammer as you have seen him go into heaven.”

“Behold, [Jesus] comes with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

“And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat, like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.”

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17 and Revelation 11:11 and 12, the cloud also conveys from earth to heaven special humans, constituting the Church and the prophetic witnesses in Jerusalem at the last days of the age:

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

“And after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into [the two witnesses], and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them who saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them.”

In each of the passages noted above, the settings, associations and contexts readily identify the Cloud as representing the Holy Spirit. But our appreciation of and involvement with the Holy Spirit is greater than mere recognition or even conveyance. As I noted in my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, the connection between the precursor temple Presence and the indwelling of Christian believers is given in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, wherein Paul asserts that the Church herself, through her constituents, is a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

“Know you not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

“Now, therefore, you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.”

NAMING THE ANIMALS

 

In Genesis 2, God pronounces it not good that Adam should be without a mate. But before He proceeds to do something about it, He brings the animals of His Creation to Adam and asks him to name them. Then he forms Eve out of Adam’s rib.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help fit for him.

“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help fit for him.

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

This passage raises a number of questions, particularly in the sequence of events, but with other issues besides. Why did God insert the naming of the animals between His concern over Adam being alone and His forming of Eve? What was so important about Adam naming the animals? How could he possibly name all the animals, given the enormous diversity of life?

As to the first issue, the sequence of the Biblical narrative, I like best an answer picked off the Internet on the Creation Moments website: God was using the simple tool of names to teach Adam to communicate, a skill that he would then pass on to Eve, enabling them to bond through joint communication. That answer is appealing, as it would be a valid prerequisite to the event of bringing Adam and Eve together, much to be preferred to the two staring dumbly at each other and at a total loss for words.

This reason also answers in part the second issue, the importance of Adam naming the animals. But there are other important reasons other than helping Adam to communicate with Eve, one of which is that in having Adam name the animals, God was asserting that these creatures were fixed kinds, finished designs whose basic properties would remain intact throughout history. Thus, this episode in Adam’s life is a slap in the face to Darwin’s theory of evolution, which postulates that life is unceasingly undergoing change. In Darwin’s view, all life is in constant transition from one form to another, so that the animals we see now are simply snapshots in time of what may be very different in the future.

Noted biochemist Douglas Axe captures the essence of this contrast between God’s stability of form with Darwin’s corresponding instability in Chapter 6 of his book Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed. There, under the heading “Life A La Darwin”, Axe speaks of the salmon and the Orca whale, each very different but “utterly committed to being what it is”. Life, as Axe sees it, magnificently represents completion of form, creatures living precisely as God designed them to live.

This stability of form leads to the next issue, the question as to how Adam could have named all the animals, even within his very long lifetime. If all kinds of life are stable as was asserted above, the very diversity of life would not only indicate that this variety existed at the time of Adam, but also would make his task extremely difficult. At this point I’ll make a statement that appears to directly contradict this supposed stability of life: there were a relatively few “kinds” of animals that Adam was asked to name; first they were limited to birds and the larger animals; second, these “kinds” were the much-fewer basic precursors whose offspring branched out after Noah’s Flood to the diversity we see today. But then one might say, “See? Animals aren’t stable in form at all!” But the post-Flood diversity has much more to do with designed-in adaptability than actual change corresponding to the evolutionary model. The difference is that God’s engine of change is His inclusion in DNA of pre-existing alternate design modifications, whereas Darwin’s “engine” is dumb, random variation.

Take, for instance, the dog. There exists today an enormous variety of dogs of varying shapes, sizes and attributes. But they’re all still dogs, having the wolf as a common ancestor. The DNA of the wolf is information-rich, capable of accommodating plans “B”, “C”, and so on according to environmental conditions or the human interference of breeding. Most common breeds today are the product of the intelligent operation of selective breeding, and some, but not all, of their features would quickly revert back to those of their common ancestor if they were to be divested of their human overseers and go into the wild. It is true the Mexican hairless creature would be in serious trouble in another ice age because some features such as length of hair might be incapable of reversion. But that would be due to DNA information loss arising from forced breeding.

PERFECTION IN IMPERFECTION

 

This chapter is a digression from the primary theme of this volume, but is included here because it is so closely related to the information regarding Jesus’ feedings of the multitudes.

Having finished the analysis of the feedings as described in the previous chapter, I was left with a sense of disappointment in the little deviations from what I had pictured as what would be an ideal description of the details. Things just didn’t come together as I would have wished. The missing company of eleven in the array of the five thousand, for example, gnawed at me. Why would God do that?

Then I remembered that Elijah had fed a hundred individuals with twenty loaves. Those hundred, in a 20 x 5 configuration, actually furnished the template for a company. If Elijah’s company were to be inserted into the missing slot in the array of five thousand, it would make a perfect rectangle. Did God actually intend to imply that this should be done? What was His point?

The point, I finally realized, may have been that the arrays were intended to be integrated together. Applying that factor to the problem with the array of the four thousand being at right angles to the first array, I was astonished at the figure that was emerging from the integration: the array of the four thousand, placed atop that of the five thousand, began to look like a familiar figure, but yet imperfect in itself.

At this point, it will be useful to explore the Scriptural meaning of bread, and of Peter’s role with respect to it. In John 21, the risen Jesus shares breakfast with His disciples, and then addresses Peter, asking him the same question three times:

“Peter, do you love Me?”

Peter responds each time by affirming his love for Him, to which Jesus follows with a command:

“Feed my sheep.”

Peter, not appreciating that Jesus was gifting him with a threefold pardon for his denying Jesus three times, responds to each question with increasing anxiety. With the coming of Pentecost ten days after Jesus has left the earth, Peter is filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit, enabling him to fulfill Jesus’ commandment to feed His sheep. He does so, three significant times. The first time he preaches Jesus to the salvation of three thousand.

But Peter’s feeding is with the word, not the bread. Perhaps, with the doing, he came to understand John’s characterization of Jesus in Chapter One of his Gospel that Jesus is the Word in the flesh. Maybe he began, then, to appreciate Jesus’ words, recorded in John 6:30-35 and 51-58, that the Word is the spiritual equivalent of material bread, and that the bread Jesus gave the multitudes was only incidental to the Word.

“They said, therefore, to [Jesus], what sign do you show us, then, that we may see, and believe you? What do you work? Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

“Then Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. Then they said to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes on me shall never thirst.”

“I am the living bread who came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

“The Jews, therefore, strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.

“As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father, so he who eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven, not as your fathers ate manna, and are dead; he who eats of this bread shall live forever.”

Appreciating that the bread of significance in Scripture is the immortal Word of God, Peter’s feeding of three thousand with the Word took on real importance, to the extent that it should be integrated into the figure that was being formed. Accordingly, the three thousand were encapsulated in an array of ten symbolic rows of companies of 100 by three columns.

When this was added atop the array for the four thousand, which itself was atop the array of five thousand, the resulting figure stood out as a cross.

But what about that extra little three-company array? The answer was found in Matthew 27:37, which declares that a sign was placed on the cross over his head that stated in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” The sign is called the titulus, and belongs with the cross.

In passing on this message of the sign of the cross in Jesus’ feedings, I encountered a person who pointed out to me that my assumption that all the baskets had the same size was false. The basket for the feeding of the five thousand, I was told, was a small handbasket, whereas the basket for the feeding of the four thousand was larger. The smaller handbasket would be appropriate for 5 loaves per basket, but the larger basket could hold more.

Actually I didn’t assume a common basket size; rather, I assumed that the leftovers from the feeding of the menfolk were of a common number of five per basket.

There were women and children in addition to the menfolk in both feeding events. According to Mark 7:31 the four thousand were fed near Decapolis on the south shore of the Sea of Galilee, while, according to Luke 9:10, the five thousand were fed near Bethsaida on the north shore, the implication being that the four thousand were mostly Gentile, while the five thousand were primarily Jewish. Further weight is given to this difference by the fact that the seven baskets of the four thousand correspond to the seven representative Churches that Jesus addressed in Revelation 1:20, while the twelve baskets of the five thousand match the twelve tribes of Israel.

Christianity is more inclusive of women than Judaism as suggested in Acts 2:16-18, and this difference supports the possibility that the larger baskets for the four thousand included the leftovers from the womenfolk as well as those for the men. Yet the contribution from the menfolk in each basket would have remained at five.

SIX MILLENNIA OF MANKIND’S HISTORY

 

Like the number forty in Scripture, the number seven also appears often, and actually is the most prominent of numbers. The multiple associations of a day with a millennium as presented earlier in Chapters One, Two and Five of this Part suggests that God has taken seven days of Creation and stretched them out into seven thousand years of human history.

That in this stretching of a day of the Lord into a thousand years is clear from Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3:8. Beyond those direct equations of days to millennia is God’s obvious equation of the first day to a millennium in Genesis 2:17:

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall surely die.”

As P.J. Hanley remarked in Chapter Five his book The Seven Lost Keys of End-Time Prophecy, Adam died before the end of a millennium at the age of 930 years. In fact, no human has ever lived to be a thousand years old. Given that limitation of Adam’s life to just under a thousand years, the “day” intended by God in Genesis 2:17 must have been a millennium. Hanley also asserts that the association of a day with a thousand years of human history was a common interpretation among the Jewish prophets and rabbis.

Further confirmation of this is abundant: the four days of keeping the Passover Lamb; the four days Jesus waited to resurrect Lazarus; the fourth millennium that had passed before Jesus’ first advent; the third day after the fourth day that Jesus referred to multiple times regarding His return to earth, the third day after the fourth day that brought Jesus to the wedding at Cana in anticipation of His marriage to His Church; Hosea’s prophecy in Hosea 6:2 of the restoration of Israel after two days; and the final millennium specified in Revelation.

A number of ideas were spawned around the middle of the nineteenth century that had a large effect on our perception of Scripture. Many of these ideas arose from our successes in technology and science. Some of them attempted to toss God away as no longer necessary, while others displayed a growing awareness that the time of Jesus’ return to earth may be approaching.

The latter half of the nineteenth century produced two men of exceptional intellect, vision and devotion to God, and who possessed a glimpse of the closure of this age. Their names were Sir Edward Denny, who wrote The Seventy Weeks of Daniel in 1849 and Henry Grattan Guinness, who published The Approaching End of the Age in 1878. Both of them pictured human history as occupying six millennia prior to the return of Christ on earth with His Church for the final millennium of Revelation. Each of them constructed cyclic representations of the six millennia of human history, but on very different logical bases and with equally different numbers. Astonishingly, they ended up at the same place. Just as amazingly, they were complementary, one cycle displaying the prominence of the number twelve, and the other of the number seven.

The numbers twelve and seven are both Scripturally significant, one being associated with Israel and the other with the Church.

Israel had twelve tribes; Jesus had twelve apostles; when Jesus fed the five thousand, Luke 9:10 tells us that the event took place near Bethsaida on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, a locale consisting primarily of Jews; from that event there were twelve baskets of leftovers.

In Revelation 1 through 3, Jesus addressed seven Churches; according to Mark 7:31, the four thousand were fed near Decapolis on the south shore of Galilee, where Gentiles were the dominant group, as with the Church; from that event there were seven baskets of leftovers.

Taking his cue from Daniel 9:24, Sir Edward Denny split his seven millennia of human history into twelve periods of 490 years each.

“Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and the prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

Daniel’s weeks were periods of seven years each; seventy of them amount to 490 years. A period of 490 years also can be derived from the Books of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Joshua. Exodus 12:40 and 41 is very specific regarding the length of the Israelites’ stay in Egypt:

“Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”

After that 430-year duration, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and then spent the next thirteen years, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, in conquering the Promised Land. These three durations add up to 483 years, or sixty-nine weeks of years. A final seven years is assumed for a period where the Israelites settled into their new home in peace. Denny himself constructed a 490 period somewhat differently, using the 430-year duration of the Israelites’ stay in Egypt as the final segment of that period.

Each 490-year interval of Denny’s cycles, consisting of seven seventy-year periods, also introduces the number seven into his system. His twelve cycles amount to five thousand eight hundred and eighty years, which seem to be rather random until one realizes that each period of 490 years also includes ten symbolic Jubilee years. If these are added together, they amount over the twelve cycles to one hundred twenty years. Adding these 120 years to the 5880 years yields a total of six thousand years, or six millennia of human history.

Henry Grattan Guinness constructed his cycles from an entirely different perspective. He noted from Genesis 25:7-11 that Abraham died at the age of one hundred seventy five years, during which some important events in his life, like the birth of Isaac, occurred at twenty-five year intervals. From that, Guinness perceived that Abraham’s lifetime, in seven cycles of twenty five years, might represent the entire six-thousand-year sweep of human history. Dividing six thousand by seven, he came up with a figure of 857 and a lot of numbers past the decimal place. But then he may have noted that in six millennia there would be 120 Jubilees. If he subtracted these 120 symbolic years from the six thousand, he would arrive at a number of 5880 years. In dividing that number by seven, he found that it came out exactly to 840 years, furnishing a firm basis for his seven cycles. Furthermore, if he divided the number 840 by seven again, he came up with the number of 120, or twelve times ten. Attempting next to expand the 25-year duration of each cycle to 840 years, he came up with the number of 33.6, which he discovered to be the lifetimes of both Adam and Jesus.

So Denny, with his grand cycle of twelves, and Guinness, with his grand cycle of sevens, managed to come up with the same numbers for the six-millennium duration of man on earth prior to the final millennium: 5880 actual years plus 120 symbolic Jubilee years. Associated with these cycles is a wealth of information yet untapped.

THE TEN PERIODS OF SMYRNA’S PERSECUTION

 

In Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 Jesus dictated messages to John regarding seven Churches located in what is now Turkey. At the time John was in exile on the Island of Patmos, having been banished there by the Roman emperor Domitian for placing his Christian belief above the worship of the emperor. John’s vision occurred toward the end of the first century, before John was released at Domitian’s death in A.D. 96.

These Churches are, in the sequence that Jesus presented them, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The messages generally followed the same seven elements: Church name, the name Jesus chose for Himself in addressing them, a commendation, a concern over a matter that needed correction, an exhortation, a promise to the overcomer, and a closing statement. The closing statement was identical for all seven Churches: He that hath an ear, listen. Two Churches were singled out for having no commendation: Sardis and Laodicea; another two Churches were singled out for having no concern: Smyrna and Philadelphia.

These seven Churches are variously identified as seven Churches representative of Christianity at the time that Jesus delivered the message, as well as Churches that typified the prevailing character of the Church over seven sequential eras of Christianity, and Churches representative of Christianity over the entire Christian era from the first Pentecost to the Second Coming of Christ. In actuality, the views are not mutually exclusive; they all have some validity. Corresponding to the sequential view, Christian theologians have associated an identification and time period for each Church, as follows:

Ephesus: Apostolic, first through fourth centuries

Smyrna: Persecuted, first through fourth centuries

Pergamos: Heretical, first through fourth centuries

Thyratira: Post-Constantine, fifth through ninth centuries

Sardis: Medieval, tenth through sixteenth centuries

Philadelphia: Missionary, sixteenth through nineteenth centuries

Laodicea: End-Time, twentieth century to the return of Jesus Christ to earth

The specific message given to Smyrna is presented in Revelation 2:8-11:

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things say the first and the last, who was dead, and is alive. I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of them who say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things that you shall suffer. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried, and you shall have tribulation ten days; be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.”

Over the years many Christians have wondered what Jesus meant by the ten days of persecution. I favor the opinion given by John Foxe in Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World. During the time interval ranging from A.D. 64 under the reign of Nero to A.D. 313 under Diocletian, Foxe in Chapters 1 and 2 of his work identified ten separate periods when persecution was particularly violent and widespread, typically a result of the Christian refusal to worship the Roman emperor as god. During these and subsequent persecutions, Christians remained nonviolent, holding fast to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, particularly His Word in Matthew 5:43-48 regarding the treatment of enemies:

“You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy; but I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you. That you may be the children of your Father, who is in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors the same? And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? Do not even the heathen so? Be you, therefore, perfect, even as your Father, who is in heaven, is perfect.”

In fact, as a rule Christians under persecution have, in the spirit of Titus 3:1, generally attempted to follow the dictates of the governments of which they have been subjects. It only has been under a direct conflict of loyalty between God and the government that Christians have practiced civil disobedience. An example of that is given in Acts 5:26-29:

“Then went the captain with the officers, and brought [the apostles] without violence; for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council; and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we strictly command you that you should not teach in [Jesus Christ’s] name? And, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered, and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Persecution typically is not unexpected in the Christian community, except, perhaps, in those Churches having the Laodicean character. Jesus Himself gave Christians plenty of warning about it, typical examples being given in Matthew 5:10-12 and John 15:18-20:

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of this world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

It is an interesting fact that the persecution of the early Christians didn’t harm the Church in the least, but rather helped it grow. It strengthened those Christians who held fast in its wake and in the scattering of those who fled, it served to propagate the Gospel to lands that otherwise would not have known of Jesus Christ and the salvation that He offered.

A summary of Foxe’s take on the ten “days” of Smyrna’s persecution is presented in the table below.

PERIOD DATES PERSECUTOR COMMENT

1 54-68 Nero Peter and Paul killed

2 95-96 Domitian John Exiled to Patmos

3 104-117 Trajan

4 161-180 Marcus Aurelius Polycarp martyred

5 200-211 Septimus Severus

6 235-237 Maximus

7 249-251 Decius

8 257-260 Valerian

9 270-275 Aurelian

10 303-313 Diocletian worst persecution

After Diocletian’s persecution, Constantine became Emperor of Rome and legitimized Christianity, which led to growing complacence thereafter, a condition that continued to worsen until the Reformation, of which Martin Luther played a major part. The persecutions that occurred during the Middle Ages were largely associated with the Catholic Inquisition. Modern persecutions are primarily the result of the Muslim hatred toward Christians and the attempt of morally weak governments to maintain an uneasy peace between themselves and the Muslim communities within their borders.