Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

THE TIME OF THE ABOMINATION SPOKEN BY DANIEL

 

Note to the reader: this article was posted recently, but given the chaotic political events of the past few weeks and a forthcoming event in the heavens, it deserves to be repeated and thoroughly digested because of its uniqueness. The posting does engage in date-setting, not with respect to the day or the hour, but only, as Scripturally-encouraged, the year, and perhaps secondarily the season. It may or may not represent truth; like its many predecessor attempts, it could well turn out to be a false alarm; if that turns out to be the case, I’ll be relieved and happy to continue pursuing the joys of a normal life. As a matter of fact, this will be the last posting for about three weeks, not because I’ll be going into hiding, but simply because my wife Carolyn and I will be vacationing.

An effort to understand where we are in time with respect to Jesus’ second advent is considered to be improper in some Christian circles. After all, Jesus Himself declared in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) that “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Pastors for centuries have used those words to justify their neglect of prophecy despite the fact that at least a fourth of the Bible is devoted to prophecy, and that in Matthew 24 and elsewhere, including Revelation, Jesus Himself provided us with some very detailed prophecies of end-time events. Moreover, Jesus also chastised the Pharisees regarding their indifference toward prophecies relating to their own times, saying in Matthew 16 “When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and overcast. O you hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky; but can you not discern the signs of the times?”

The bottom line is that although we may not have access to the specific day or hour of the end of the age, we are encouraged – no – commanded – to understand that approximate time, perhaps even to the year and month. Paul seconds this perception in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6:

“But of the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as travails a woman with child, and they shall not escape.

“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all children of light, and children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober-minded.”

Courageous Christian scholars like Hal Lindsey have taken those words to be marching orders, developing a view of end-time events and timing that is now accepted throughout the Christian community as standard. In that view, derived chiefly from Daniel 7 and 9, Matthew 24 and Revelation, the world will endure a seven-year Tribulation Period, the latter three and a half years of which will be the terrible Great Tribulation of widespread suffering and enormous destruction. A prime cause of this pain will be a general descent into ungodliness and rejection of God which will support the rise of a one-world government, including an economic system in which anybody who wishes to conduct a normal life will be required to worship the dark leader to come by accepting an electronic implant. In the light of Daniel 9:26, the world leader will have Roman roots. Christians will escape the brunt of this awful period through the pre-Tribulation Rapture, where they will meet Jesus Christ in the air.

More recently, Irvin Baxter has challenged some of these assumptions. Among these differences, Baxter views the Rapture as occurring at the end of the Tribulation, rather than at the beginning. Because the actual destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple was carried out by local Arab conscripts under the Roman leadership, Baxter interprets Daniel 9:26 as allowing for an antichrist out of the Mideast. Baxter may well have the edge on Lindsey (and a great many others) on both of these points.

Lindsey and Baxter agree on a seven-year Tribulation, in the midst of which the antichrist commits the Abomination of Desolation in the Jerusalem temple. For that reason, they hold to the expectation, as do virtually all other prophetic scholars, that a third temple will be built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in order that an abomination may be committed against it.

The seven-year Tribulation and its midpoint deserve further clarification. The source of the generally-accepted view on how the Tribulation as its associated events fits into Bible eschatology is Daniel 9:27, in which the antichrist will confirm the covenant (interpreted as a peace treaty) with many for one week (of years); in the middle of the week he stops the temple sacrifice and initiates the Abomination of Desolation. Jesus Himself referred to this abomination in Matthew 24:15:

“When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whosoever reads, let him understand), . . .”

There is a problem with the standard interpretation of this passage, and it is far from trivial. Since the beginning of the Christian era, the temple of God has been considered to be the Church, with its members indwelt by the Holy Spirit as did the Shekinah Glory indwell the Tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s Temple. Moreover, and of more immediate import to the present discussion, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock also occupy space on the Temple Mount. This occupation for a very long time has excluded the possibility of rebuilding the Jewish Temple on that site. The Islamic presence there, having taken place after Jesus spoke of Daniel in Matthew 24, is itself an abomination that attempts to glorify Islam over the God of Scripture, a situation which is as monstrous as imaginable to the followers of the Hebrew God. I find it difficult to understand why such an important event would have been overlooked by Bible scholars and not have been spoken of in Scripture.

After some reflection on this state of affairs, I have arrived at the rather obvious conclusion that this event was indeed spoken of in Scripture, being the very Abomination of Desolation noted by both Daniel and Jesus. The relevant account is Daniel 9:27:

“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

If indeed the mosque and the dome are the abominations, history records the start of their construction as 687 A.D. and their completion as 705/6 A.D. If indeed this construction represents the abomination of desolation, one of these dates would be an appropriate midpoint of the week spoken of by Daniel 9:27. The span of time involved would appear to be considerably longer than the present understanding of seven years. This assessment is confirmed in Daniel 12:11:

“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”

The temple was first destroyed by Nebudchadnezzar of Babylon in 586 B.C., an event that was foremost in Daniel’s mind. There is a precedent in Ezekiel 4:4 and 5 for assigning a day for a year. Another precedent, borne out in the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:26 regarding the timing of Jesus’ first advent, is that a prophetic year consists of 360 days.

Given this information, the 1290-year interval between the destruction of the temple in 586 B.C. and the abomination of desolation can be calculated in terms of actual time. Applying a conversion of prophetic to actual years to the 1290 figure results in 1272 actual years. Adding that to the time of the temple’s destruction in 586 B.C. one arrives at a date of 687 A.D. As noted above, this is precisely the date that construction, or the “setting up” began on the mosque and the dome. Whether or not it represents the midpoint of the week will be ascertained below.

That particular week begins with a different event, the confirmation of a covenant, commonly understood as the antichrist’s signing of a peace treaty with Israel. The duration of this “week” can be found in Revelation 11:1 and 2:

“And there was given me a reed like a rod; and the angel stood, saying, Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship in it. But the court, which is outside the temple, leave out, and measure it not, for it is given to the gentiles, and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty two months.”

If the gentiles here are taken as the followers of Islam and the court outside the temple refers to that area occupied by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, a time duration of forty two months would apply from the time that these structures were completed rather than begun, as then the Islamic structures would be in use. The projects were completed in 705/6 A.D.

A prophetic month has a duration of thirty days. Just as Daniel’s “weeks” were intended to represent “sevens” of years, so also may the “months” in this passage represent “thirties” of years. In that interpretation, forty two months is equivalent to 1260 years, which would be the midpoint of a 2520-year duration. (As a side point, it is interesting to note that 2520 years is equivalent to 360 weeks of years, or a prophetic year of weeks.) Looking backward 1260 prophetic years, or 1242 actual years according to the ratio of 360 to 365.25, from this “midpoint” of 705 A.D., one arrives at the date of 537 B.C. Is this date significant with respect to the confirmation of a covenant with Israel?

Yes, emphatically so. As described in the Book of Ezra, the Persian King Cyrus, as specifically foretold by the prophet Isaiah (Is 44:28) long before Cyrus’ birth, assumed control over Babylon seventy years after her captivity precisely as predicted by Jeremiah (Jer 25:12). Cyrus issued a decree permitting Israelites to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. Wikipedia and other sources place the subsequent Israelites’ return in confirmation of the decree, or covenant, at 537 B.C. Some Internet sources place the decree itself at that date.

Looking forward from this midpoint of 705/6 A.D., the corresponding interpretation of this passage in Revelation regarding the latter half of the “week” is that the Temple Mount is given to the gentiles for a duration of 1260 prophetic years, or 1242 actual years, from their completion in 705/6 A.D.

This leads to the year 1948 A.D., the year that Israel resumed as a nation. It would take another nineteen years for Israel to recapture the Temple Mount, but, like God’s promise to Caleb regarding the possession of Hebron, when Israel became a nation again, she clearly possessed God’s promise that the Temple Mount belonged to her as well.

In Daniel 12:12 another duration is listed, this one being considerably more optimistic:

“Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty five days.”

This duration is usually taken to include the 1290-day period noted in the previous verse. This interpretation is not necessary – it is just as likely that it refers to an entirely separate duration, consecutive rather than an extension. Assuming that to be the case, also assuming that the “days” represent prophetic years, a conversion from prophetic to actual results in the number 1316, which, when added to the completion date of the mosque and dome, results in the year 2021 A.D. Given the blessed nature of this date, it is possible that it represents the end of the Tribulation period, which would be the time of Jesus’ second advent.

But there’s other information to consider. Many prophecies have two fulfillments, one being of a long duration and the other being of a shorter time period. It is possible that this prophecy is one of them, wherein besides the long-term fulfillment noted above, the more common interpretation of a shorter, seven-year period at the very end will also come into play.

Suppose, in that context, the year 2021 A.D. does indeed represent the end of the seven-year Tribulation. The Great Tribulation, then, would begin three and a half years before that, or in the middle of 2017 to early-to-mid 2018. Interestingly, this would also be around the seventieth anniversary of Israel’s nationhood in 1948, and around the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 War in which Israel took back the Temple Mount. This anniversary could be immediately subsequent to a Jubilee Year for Israel, as there is a Jubilee after every forty-nine years, and the reclamation of the Temple Mount in 1967 would have been an excellent occasion for a Jubilee year.

It’s quite possible, almost probable, that the speculation made here will, like its numerous predecessors, fail to be fulfilled. But we do know one thing: it won’t take long to find out.

THE GOOD SEED

 

Matthew Chapter Thirteen begins with Jesus speaking the Parable of the Sower to a multitude of people from a boat. In that parable of seeds that represent people who hear the salvation-promising Word of God, only a portion of them are able to understand what they heard, bring it in fullness into their hearts, and maintain it through the tribulations and attractions of the material world. Jesus finishes this parable with an obscure reference to numbers, saying that these will bear fruit, some a hundredfold, others sixtyfold, and yet others thirtyfold. He places no difference in attributes or character among those who produce more fruit and those who produce less.

The only arithmetic relationship that I have found among these numbers that is both simple and meaningful is the partial sums of the arithmetic sequence

KMn=1 (n + (n+1) + (n+2) + (n+3) + . . .)

For the values K = 10 and M = 2, 3 and 4, the corresponding sums are 30, 60 and 100. I presented this pictorially in Part 5, Chapter 2 my book Family of God as four columns of people, where each column consisted of the number of people associated with a particular value of M, and where the top person in the first row bore fruit by passing the Word of God to those behind them, and, if there was an adjacent column, to the top person in the next column. In that pattern, the top person in the column would feed 30 people if there were two columns, 60 if there were three columns, and 100 if there were four columns. In such an arrangement, the amount of fruit that the top person in the first column would bear would be entirely dependent on the number of adjacent columns, which would be beyond his control, and, in fact, something he might not even know if he was able to perceive only his column and the next. I saw in this parable and the associated numbers an intimate connection between it and the accounts of Jesus’ feedings of the multitudes, as both processes resulted in manifold increases. In numerous places, especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly equates bread and eating with Himself as the Word of God. When He was feeding the multitudes He also was delivering the Word of God. The expansion of bread in these acts may be seen as merely symbolic of how the word of God is multiplied through word-of-mouth distribution. In fact, the miraculous element of the feedings was simply the restoration of the broken pieces of bread to wholeness with their transfer from one hand to the next, which is symbolic of the indestructible nature of the Word of God as it is handed from mouth to ear.

If some reasonable assumptions are made beforehand, there is sufficient numerical information in Scripture to calculate the answers to the numbers missing in the feeding accounts and to establish patterns by which the multitudes would have been fed. A vital piece of information beyond the Gospel accounts of the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand is the account in 2 Kings 4 of Elijah feeding a hundred people with twenty loaves of bread; another piece of information is the account, in Acts 2, of Peter feeding three thousand with the Word of God.

Picturing the feedings to be a process within an orderly array of people breaking bread, retaining a portion and passing the other to neighbors, I established the following restraints and relationships, particularly the ones that Jesus reminded His disciples about in Mark 8:

For the feeding of the five thousand: 5 thousand, 5 starting loaves given to His disciples to distribute per Matthew 6, 12 baskets of remainders.

For the feeding of the four thousand: 4 thousand, 7 starting loaves given to His disciples to distribute, 7 baskets of remainders.

All the twelve apostles, and only the twelve apostles, would participate in the initial distribution of loaves; thus five apostles would distribute for the five thousand and seven apostles would distribute for the four thousand.

The apostles would give one loaf each to a single company nearest them.

The basic organization of the men would be in companies of 50 and 100 per Mark 6, where the companies, per Elijah’s feeding in 2 Kings 4, would be arranged in a pattern of 20 x 5 for a company of 100, and 10 x 5 for a company of 50.

The collection of leftover bread would be on the basis of individuals rather than companies; each person in the final position would hand his leftover to a collector with a basket.

Performing the required calculations, the relationships were used to solve first the number of remainders per basket from the menfolk. The resulting number of 5 supported the following details:

For the five thousand, there were 5 columns corresponding to the 5 loaves and 5 apostles participating in the initial distribution; the center column consisted of companies of 100; the four outside columns consisted of companies of 50, resulting in 60 columns of individuals and 12 baskets of remainders; there were 17 rows of companies, resulting in 85 rows of individuals and producing 5100 individuals; one company of 100 was subtracted from this array to produce an exact number of 5000 individuals.

For the four thousand, a solution demanded that the orientation of this array be at right angles to that of the five thousand, requiring a substitution of rows for columns. With that orientation, there were 7 rows corresponding to the 7 loaves and 7 apostles participating in the initial distribution; all companies were of 50, resulting in 35 rows of individuals and 7 baskets of remainders; there were 11 columns of companies, resulting in 110 columns of individuals and producing 385 individuals, and leaving a much smaller array of 150 individuals in 3 companies of 50.

These patterns weren’t perfect. Jesus’ two feeding events seemed to generate three arrays rather than two, the largest array had a missing piece, and two of the arrays were at right angles to each other.

Yet the derived numbers matched perfectly with the numbers given in the Gospel accounts, and the patterns described above were the only ones that did so.

I found that once the calculations established the patterns for the feedings, the math was not necessary to verify the satisfaction of all the information in the Gospel accounts. A mere visual inspection of the patterns is all that is needed to confirm that they correctly represent that information. The calculations are presented as appendices in Family of God. A verbal description of the feedings with figures is included in my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer as Appendix Two. A strictly verbal description also is given in my novel Cathy.

If there is nothing else to say about the results, it is their proof of the amazing self-consistency of Scripture, even down to the smallest details. Scripture, as the Word of God, is pure truth.

But there is more to say about the results. It turns out that there is a message in the very characteristics that are thought of as imperfections. That will be the topic of the next post.

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.

FORTY DAYS IN THE LIVES OF MOSES AND JESUS

 

After Moses’ return from the top of mount Sinai with the stone tablets upon which God had written the Ten Commandments, he found that the people had returned to worshiping a golden calf cast from jewelry. In his intense anger, he broke the tablets. In his mercy, God allowed him to return to the mountain, where God would inscribe a second set of tablets with the Ten Commandments. The episode is recorded in Exodus 34:1-10 and 27-29:

“And the Lord said to Moses, Hew you two tables of stone like the first; and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you did break. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with you, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. And [Moses] hewed two tables of stone like the first; and he rose up early in the morning, and went up to Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.

“And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generation.

“And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. And he said, If now I have found grace in your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray you, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance. And [the Lord] said, Behold, I make a covenant: Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord; for it is an awe-inspiring thing that I will do with you.”

“And the Lord said to Moses, Write you these words; for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. And [Moses] was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”

Moses’ time spent on Mount Sinai had a prophetic element, as the forty days and forty nights of his stay on the mountain in the presence of the Lord pointed to Jesus Christ and the identical time which He spent in the wilderness as His first act after being baptized. The account is given in all the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). The following is Matthew’s version of the event, Matthew 3:16 and 17, and 4:1-11:

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went immediately out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry.

“And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Then the devil took him up to the holy city, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you, and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. Again, the devil took him up to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus to him, Begone, Satan; for it is written, You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him only shall you serve. Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.”

Shortly after this forty-day period of trial, Jesus started His ministry. The Gospels don’t mention the number of days that passed between the two events, so one cannot dogmatically assume that it was ten. Nevertheless, it is a possibility that fifty days passed from the time of Jesus’ baptism to the beginning of his active ministry.

If that is indeed the case, the pattern of forty plus ten days continues beyond Jesus. In John 12:26 and 14:12, Jesus indicates that His disciples will follow His lead:

“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.”

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to my Father.

In John 20:22, apparently on the day following His resurrection, Jesus breathes on His disciples, conferring on them the Holy Spirit. He remained with them for forty days. From the time of Jesus ascension until the Pentecost ten days later, the disciples didn’t appear to have responded to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Their power from God came at the Pentecost, as described in Acts 2. Could that forty-plus-ten-day period have been a time of testing and strengthening for the disciples, as it may have been for Jesus?

The number forty is common in Scripture. Moses communed with God with a backdrop of terrifying violence while Jesus as God communed with His Word with a backdrop of terrifying evil. Both of them fasted for the duration. God granted Nineveh through Jonah forty days to get its act together.

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years; both David and his son Solomon reigned as kings for forty years.

EZEKIEL’S PROPHECY OF ISRAEL’S RETURN

 

According to Bible scholar Dr. Grant Jeffrey, God had foretold in Scripture not only the return of Israel as a nation into her land in 1948, but the exact date of that event. Dr. Jeffrey claims that he was given the ability by God to piece together the items of Scripture by which that event was foretold, thus demonstrating two points: first, that Scripture is supernaturally accurate, and second, that God had everything to do with the return of Israel as a modern nation in bold opposition to those who would claim that Israel is no longer the apple of God’s eye.

Before addressing the specifics of Jeffrey’s research in this area, we note that his conclusions are corroborated elsewhere in Scripture. The Book of Hosea contains prophecies regarding Israel’s lengthy dispersion and her subsequent revival as a nation. While not as precise as the prophecies that Dr. Jeffrey investigated, they are quite remarkable in their own right as to the accuracy of the general timing of Israel’s revival after two millennia of dispersion. The dispersion itself is addressed in Hosea 4:4 and 5:

“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim; Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord, their God, and David, their king, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”

Hosea 6:2 addresses the general time frame of Israel’s return, in which a day is interpreted as a thousand years according to Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3:

“After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.”

Returning to Dr. Jeffrey’s work regarding Israel’s return as a nation, he received his first clue regarding the nature of Israel’s return from Ezekiel Chapters 36 and 37, in which the ‘dry bones’ connect together, are clothed with flesh, and are given life. Many eschatologists view these chapters as applicable to the Jews having been given new life and a return to their homeland after the Holocaust they suffered in Nazi Germany.

As to the timing of their return to their homeland, Dr. Jeffrey received his first clue from Ezekiel 4:4-6:

“Lie also upon your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it; according to the number of the days that you shall lie upon it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so shall you bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have accomplished them, lie again on your right side, and you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have appointed you each day for a year.”

Here the Word of God specifically laid on Israel a judgment of a year for each day that Ezekiel was commanded to lie on his side. Adding 390 and 40 together, Dr. Jeffrey arrived at a total of 430 years of God’s judgment upon Israel. Ezekiel himself was a captive in Babylon, so Dr. Jeffrey assumed that the judgment was to begin at the beginning of Israel’s or Judah’s captivity. Israel was captured by the Assyrians in the eighth Century B.C., while Judah became captive to Nebudchadnezzar somewhere between 606 and 605 B.C. Dr. Jeffrey attempted to apply the 430 years directly to each of these dates, but came up with no historically meaningful end date.

Pursuing this topic in greater detail, Dr. Jeffrey came to an astonishingly relevant passage in Leviticus 26:17, 18, 27 and 28:

“And I will set my face against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies; they that hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. And if you will not yet for all this listen to me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. . . And if you will not for all this listen to me, but walk contrary to me, Then I will walk contrary to you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.”

Here is where Dr. Jeffrey demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit and the depth of his knowledge of Scripture. He realized in connection with this passage that during Ezekiel’s time, the northern tribes of Israel had been under continuous captivity while Judah was undergoing a punishment that, according to Jeremiah 25:11, would last for precisely seventy years. Jeffrey also realized that the passage in Leviticus quoted above was conditional upon the Jews failing to turn back to God after an initial punishment. Judah’s captivity did indeed end after seventy years, when the Persian King Cyrus, who was called by name by Isaiah over a century before his birth (Isaiah 44:28), decreed at some time between 536 and 535 B.C. that Israelites could return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. The fulfillment of that prophetic message is recorded in the Book of Ezra. (This prophetic event is not to be confused with the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9 regarding the appearance of Messiah 483 years after the commandment permitting the Jews to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. That prophecy was fulfilled in the beginning event by Artaxerxes Longimanus in 445 B.C. as recorded in the Book of Nehemiah and at the conclusion by Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem 32 A.D.)

Grant Jeffrey appreciated that the outcome of Leviticus 26 would depend on the behavior of the Jews following the termination of their captivity in Babylon, which meant that the 70-year period of their captivity must be subtracted from the 430-year period of Ezekiel 4 prior to the application of the sevenfold punishment of Leviticus 26. The resulting calculations are:

430 – 70 = 360

360 x 7 = 2520 (prophetic) years x 360 = 907,200 days

Applying a 907,200-day interval to the assumed earlier date of the end of the Babylonian captivity results, according to Jeffrey, in an end date of 1948, the precise year that Israel became a modern nation in fulfillment of Isaiah 66:7 and 8:

“Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.”

This calculation may be roughly confirmed first by assuming that the Babylonian captivity ended sometime between 535 and 536 B.C., the two dates most commonly noted by Biblical historians. Multiplying 536 solar years by the number of days in a solar year of 365.25 results in 195,774 days between the end of the Babylonian captivity and the end of the B.C. era. Subtracting 195,774 from 907.200 results in 711,426 days remaining in the A.D. era to the completion of the prophetic time interval. In converting this to years it is noted that the A.D. era starts at A.D. 1 rather than A.D. 0, requiring the addition of 1 to the conversion:

Years A.D. = 1 + (711426/365.25) = 1 + 1947.7782 = 1948.7782

This roughly-calculated date of 1948+ is extremely close to the actual date of the beginning of the modern nation of Israel of May 15, 1948. differing from it at most by less than a year. Indeed, the difference may be brought to zero by assuming an initial day (Cyrus’ proclamation) of only a few days later in the year than the end date of May 15.

Dr. Jeffrey, in fact, makes that very claim, asserting that the precise date of Cyrus’ proclamation results in the foundation of the nation of Israel May 14, 1948, the exact day when she became a modern nation. Until I have been able to verify that claim, I will refrain from making the same assertion. Nevertheless, having a prediction actually come to pass within a year over 25 centuries after it was made is entirely sufficient to demonstrate beyond all doubt the supernatural origin of the prophecy.

Nevertheless, the rough verification made above, viewed in the context of the remarkable prophecy of Hosea 6:2 noted earlier and the equally remarkable prophecy of Israel’s return as a nation made in Ezekiel Chapters 36 and 37, is more than sufficient to demonstrate both the supernatural source of Scripture and God’s continuing love of Israel.

THE TIMING OF THE WISE MEN’S VISIT TO JESUS

 

This discussion of the timing of the Wise Mens’ visit to Jesus includes a reconciliation between the alleged inconsistency between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in their accounts of Jesus’ birth.

At first glance, the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew appears to conflict with the account given in the Gospel of Luke. The event, in Matthew’s account, is accompanied by violence against the young males in Bethlehem, danger for Jesus, and the flight of Jesus’ family into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. Luke, on the other hand, presents a peaceful scenario surrounding the birth of Jesus.

According to Matthew 2:1-16:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And when they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah in Micah 5:2], And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of you shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, enquired of them diligently about what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they left him; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Keep in mind two items from the above account: first, to enquire diligently is to ask for details. The details were such that Herod must have suspected that Jesus was up to two years old at the time of the Wise Men’s visit.

Second, the wise men came into Jesus’ house, not the manger. Both of these facts point to the visit of the Wise Men having taken place at some time after His birth.

The corresponding account of the event of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s perspective is presented in Chapter 2 of his gospel:

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Luke’s account, unlike that of Matthew’s, paints a peaceful scenario, one in which the family of Jesus makes an uneventful return from Bethlehem, one that includes the presentation of Jesus to the Lord at Jerusalem. But Mary also had to wait until her purification was completed before Jesus was presented at the temple. The Mosaic law that specifies the post-birth purification is given in Leviticus 12:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a woman has conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying thirty three days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are fulfilled.”

According to this purification rite, Mary had to wait at least forty one days, and possibly longer, depending on her health, before presenting Jesus to the temple. During this time, there is no suggestion in Luke’s account of any violence or effort of Herod’s attempt on Jesus’ life. Rather, in harmony with the details of Matthew’s account, this peaceful interlude points to the likelihood that the visit of the Wise Men didn’t occur until after Mary’s purification period, and possibly years after.

The distance that the Wise Men had to travel after seeing the star in their homeland also suggests a lengthy time duration between their first sight of the star and their arrival at Bethlehem, which would place their arrival well after Jesus’ birth. But why would the Wise Men associate that star with the birth of Jesus? Bible scholar Hal Lindsey has suggested that the Wise Men were members of a cadre of Persian mystics whose Chaldean forbears had access to the teachings of Daniel during his captivity in Babylon. The information imparted to them by Daniel may well have included the prophecy of seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24-27, which would have given the Wise Men an understanding with virtually pinpoint accuracy of when Jesus would appear. When the star appeared to them, its timing must have identified it with Jesus as well as pointing to the direction of Jesus’ birth from their location.

The Wise Mens’ wisdom consisted in their faith in Daniel’s prophecy and their diligence in observing the sky for confirmation and direction.

THE IMPORTANCE OF JONAH

 

The book of Jonah in the Old Testament is tiny, occupying but one or two pages in the Bible. Because his story is so short, Jonah is often mistaken for the most minor of prophets, interesting to us only for his adventure with the fish where he gets swallowed alive and comes out of it still living. But if this is true, why did Jesus refer to him several times in a way that makes Jonah out to be a pretty important person? As a matter of fact, Jesus seems to puff him up out of all proportion to anything that Jonah might have done to deserve this honor. But then, we already appreciate that the Word of God is far deeper than we might see from a quick reading of it.

At first, the story of Jonah makes him out to be anything but noble. Jonah had run away from God after He had told him to preach to the inhabitants of Nineveh to repent of their wickedness. He went aboard a boat that was going in the opposite direction from where God told him to go.

“But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man to his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them . But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him, and said to him, What are you about, O sleeper? Arise, call upon your God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we don’t die.

“And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us draw straws, that we may know who is responsible for this evil. So they drew straws, and Jonah got the short straw. Then they said to him, Tell us, we ask you, why this evil is upon us; What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?

“And he said to them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who has made the sea and the dry land.

“Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said to him, Why have you done this? . . .Then said they to him, What shall we do to you, that the sea may be calm to us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.

And he said to them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm to you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. . .So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

. . .Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. . .”

When Jonah was expelled from the fish he went on to serve the Lord by preaching to the Ninevites. From the king on down they heeded his words, so that to him was attributed the saved souls of the entire city (which now is overlain by the city of Mosul, in Iraq).

The reason for Jesus’ promotion of Jonah to the ranks of the great prophets is that Jonah was allowed to represent the sacrificial Jesus who willingly laid down his life for his fellow man. In being swallowed by the sea creature and eventually being vomited out, Jonah also represented the Jesus who descended into the claustrophobic grave for three days and was resurrected.

Jesus recognized Jonah’s contribution to His nature and purpose by the most intimate of methods: He re-enacted the essence of Jonah’s Old Testament drama in the New Testament, and by so doing notified His disciples that He, too, must die and descend into the grave for three days and three nights. The account is given in the eighth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel:

“And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we’re about to die.

“And he said to them, Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”

As a side point, there are several accounts, some as recent as the past century, in which whalers have been swallowed whole by their quarry and emerged alive through the ordeal, some having been trapped for several days. In one of the modern events of this nature as related in a Readers’ Digest story, the seaman was blinded by the gastric juices and remained an albino for the rest of his life. But he lived.

In John 21:15-17, after Jesus’ resurrection, He forgave His disciple Peter three times for the three times Peter denied Him. In this instance, Jesus again refers to the prophet Jonah, this time applying the name to Peter.

“So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these? He said to him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs. He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me? He said to him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep.”

Peter eventually must have figured out that instead of grieving over Jesus’ repetitive commands, he should have been very grateful, for in commanding Peter three times to feed His sheep, Jesus was also forgiving him three times, once each for Peter’s three denials of Him. As described in Acts, Peter did indeed go on to feed Jesus’ sheep three times: in the first incident, given in Acts 2 Peter brought three thousand people to salvation in Jesus; in the second, described in Acts 3, Peter saves five thousand; and in the third, according to Acts 10, Peter through the conversion of the Italian Cornelius, extends salvation to the entire Gentile community.

Why did Jesus label Peter as the son of Jonah? Probably because, like Jonah, Peter feared the anger of those around him if he were to try to fulfill what God wanted to do with him. In Jonah’s case, God had told him to preach repentance to the citizens of Nineveh. Jonah tried to duck out of this responsibility by boarding ship and sailing away as far as he could from that business. In Peter’s case, he tried to distance himself from Jesus in the face of the crowd’s clamor for Jesus’ punishment and death. Both Jonah and Peter eventually mustered the courage to complete God’s tasks for them, at considerable risk to their lives. Peter himself was eventually crucified for his commitment to the risen Jesus but by then, of course, he had the comfort and guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

As another side note, Nineveh’s repentance lasted only a little over a century. The city’s debauchery eventually grew to such an awful extreme that God was moved to destroy it through the armies of Nebudchadnezzar in 612 B.C. This sad event was foretold by the prophet Nahum in the book of that name in the Bible. Eerily, this book reads like a modern news account of trends in the United States and God’s response to them.