Hebrews 11:39, 40, Faith and Final Things.

[39]And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, [40]God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect without us.

These are tremendously interesting verses.  The writer has listed a whole bunch of “heroes of the faith,” going clear back to Abel, but then he seems to be saying in these verses that we have something to do with them, indeed, that without us, they would be lacking something.

Read the verses again:  And all these [heroes of the faith], having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect [or, “brought to completion”] without us, emphases added.

???

As I’ve thought over these verses, I’ve come to a different view of them than I had originally.  In fact, I had to rewrite most of this post.

There’s a lot of discussion, and has been through church history, about what the church is, her place in God’s redemptive purpose, and, especially, her relationship with Israel .

One view is that God did indeed choose Israel to be His people, and Jesus came to “offer” the kingdom spoken of in the OT to her, but when she rejected and crucified her Messiah, God in effect said, “Oops,” and began the church as sort of a plan B.  This was the view I grew up around and the view of the Bible college which I attended.

As I began to read Puritan and Reformed writers, I came across another view.  This view taught that when Israel rejected and crucified her Messiah, God in effect said, “That’s it!  I’m done!”  The church came in as a replacement to Israel, and all the OT promises became hers.  The church is the goal and fulfillment of all those promises and prophecies.  “The church” is a spiritual kingdom; there is no “literal, earthly” kingdom with Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem.  Believers are “spiritual Israel.”  There is no future for ethnic Israel; God is finished with her.

There is a wide variety of teaching in both of these viewpoints.

I don’t claim to have all the answers or to understand everything in the Scriptures, and I’m sure that this post will not lay the discussion to rest, but I believe both views are wrong.

The church is not “Plan B”!  It seems to me that the very idea that God could be, as it were, caught by surprise and have to come up with “Plan B” doesn’t say very much about our view of Him, to say nothing of what it says about Him!  And I don’t know about you, but if God had to change or rework His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond Plan B.

It seems to me to be more Scriptural to say that the church is “Part B” in God’s redemptive purpose.  We’ll return to this thought in a minute.

Now, there are a lot of things we could say about and around this topic.  Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that, if words have any meaning at all, the Bible is clear that God is not done with Israel.  True, Scripture says that she had been temporarily (emphasis on “temporarily”) put aside.  Micah 5:1 says they shall strike the judge of Israel on the cheek, as a result of which, therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth, v. 3, emphasis added.  Indeed, the rejection of the Messiah is the means through which Israel will ultimately be redeemed.  Romans 11:25, 26 refers to this.  Paul wrote to the church at Rome, For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  Israel has been put on the shelf, so to speak, and Gentiles have come into the blessings of the Gospel.  But Paul doesn’t stop there.  He doesn’t say that God is done with Israel.  On the contrary –

 And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written:  ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.’

“All Israel shall be saved.”

Not “every Israelite who ever lived will be saved,” as some have said we believe, but rather that every Israelite alive at the time will be saved.  In chs. 9-11, Paul is writing about ethnic Israel, his countrymen according to the flesh, and so, the “Israel” of 9:26 cannot refer to “spiritual Israel,” that is, you and me, as a preacher once claimed in the worst exposition of Romans 9-11 I’ve ever heard.

There is coming a time in which Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit, Isaiah 27:6, a time which Paul refers to as their fullness, Romans 11:12. In vs. 11, 12, Paul wrote I say then, have they stumbled [see 9:23] that they should fall?  Certainly not!  but through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.  Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

As an example of the difficulty some people have with the idea that God still has plans for the nation of Israel, the preacher whom I mentioned above interpreted v. 12 like this, “Now if their (Israel) fall is riches for the world, and their (Israel) failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness.”  This is how he actually wrote it out.  He simply would not or could not see that if the first two instances of “their” referred to Israel, then the third one has to, as well.  Israel has yet to have, and will have, fullness.

So what does all this have to do with our text?

There are books and books about prophecy, from every viewpoint.  Although, as I’ve said elsewhere, I expect that when it’s all said and done, that all of us will discover that we didn’t have everything figured out.

One thing is certain.  In the final description of the city which has foundations, Hebrews 11:10, the Apostle John wrote that he saw the great city, the holy city, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.  Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:  three gates on the east, …on the north, …on the south, and…on the west.  Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, Revelation 21:10-14.

Although I’m not sure how it’ll all play out, it seems that Israel and “the church” will never lose their distinctive identities.  Without “the church,” in this sense, it seems to me, Israel would not be “complete.”  This is why the OT saints never “received the [fulfillment of the] promise.”

It wasn’t time yet.

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The Sabbath and the Prophets

In this fourth post, we continue our look at what the Old Testament says about “the Sabbath”.  We saw it’s origin in the “rest” that God took when He was finished with creation.  This rest, as we noted, wasn’t because He was tired or at an impasse, but because He was finished; there was nothing more to be done or that needed to be done.  Creation was complete and successful.

Then we saw that the Sabbath was incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant, the covenant which God made with Israel at Mount Sinai by which they became a nation.  Emphasis was placed on the Sabbath as being a sign to Israel of their redemption from Egyptian slavery and of their unique relationship with God.

In our last post, we looked at how well Israel obeyed God in the keeping of the Law, especially their observance of the Sabbath.  We found that even after the 70-year Captivity and their return to the land under Nehemiah and Ezra, Israel didn’t do a very good job of it.

In this post, we want to look at what God had to say about all this.  He spoke mainly through Isaiah, before the Captivity, and Ezekiel, during the Captivity, though there are some other references as well.

  • Isaiah 1:13, “Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me.  The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.”

Not only were men like Nehemiah and Ezra angered by the people’s unfaithfulness, God was angered as well.  Isaiah began his prophecy with a long list of Israel’s sins and what would happen to her as a result.  True, there are wonderful prophecies of renewal and restoration, but Israel will still suffer because of what she has done.  Even those things which they did in supposed obedience to God were rejected by Him.  Quoting from a different portion of Isaiah, the Lord Jesus put it like this, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, but their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” Matthew 15:8, 9.

This is a solemn warning to us, as well.  In our service, in our worship, do we do it “from the heart,” or is it just “routine”? Do we come into the presence of God forgiven and cleansed because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, or do we come with our hands, as it were, dripping with the blood of our own “futile sacrifices”?

  • Isaiah 56:2, 4, 6, “…who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.  …  to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me…  …  “Everyone who keeps from defiling My Sabbaths, and holds fast My covenant…”  

Even “eunuchs,” who for whatever reason were unable to father children, and so would seem to be kept from blessing, and the “son of the foreigner,” who had no inherent right to blessing, even these men, if they held fast to “the covenant,” as exemplified by the Sabbath, would be blessed.  As we mentioned above, though, the NT has further teaching on “keeping the Sabbath.”

Notice here, too, that it wasn’t to be just a matter of “keeping the Sabbath”.  One was to “keep his hand from doing any evil,” to “choose what pleases Me,” to “hold fast My covenant.”  One day of the week, whether it’s Saturday or Sunday, doesn’t mean anything if the other six days of the week don’t mean anything.  Serving and worshiping God is a seven-days-of-the-week thing, not just one day of the week.  And “worship” isn’t about having the right kind of music during one part of a “service,” it’s about having the right kind of heart.

  • Isaiah 58:13, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day….”  

Isaiah 58 is a chapter which, like others, lists God’s complaints against Israel.  You really ought to read the whole chapter.  Apparently, Israel couldn’t understand why God wasn’t blessing them as they thought He should, vs. 1-3.  After all, they were doing a good job – in their own minds – of serving Him.  They fasted.  They wanted to know “the ordinances of justice.”  They sought Him every day, and “delighted” to know His ways.  They “afflicted their souls.”  And they asked God why He “took no notice.”

However, God pointed out to them that even in their fasting, they “found pleasure” and “exploited those who worked for them”.  V. 13 is just one of several in which God gave them the remedy for their problems.  Keeping the Sabbath as more than just another day of the week was only part of it.

  • Isaiah 66:22, 23, “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “so shall your descendants and your name remain.  And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD.

We included v. 22 to give a little context to v. 23.  Actually, you should read the whole chapter.  In the first part, God again lists the sins of Israel and the judgments on those sins.  From v. 7-10, God indicates a sudden and unexpected change in the nation, which He describes more fully in vs. 11-21.  V. 15 may be further described by Zechariah 14:3, 4 and the rest of Zechariah 14 ties in with Isaiah 66:23.

There is so much more here that we don’t really have space to develop beyond a couple of comments.  “The new heavens and the new earth” may lead some to conclude that this is talking about eternity.  The phrase also occurs in Revelation 21:1.  However, Isaiah 65:17 mentions the phrase first, and the rest of Isaiah 65 describes it.  For now, we focus on v. 20, No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days. In his book, “What Is The Gospel,” Greg Gilbert comments on this, “Never again will any of God’s people suffer death, and never again will tears burn our eyes at a graveside.  Never again will an infant live but a few days and then die.  Never again will we mourn, or hurt, or weep.”  (Greg Gilbert, “What Is The Gospel?”  Wheaton, Illinois:  Crossway, 2010.  121 pp.)

What he says is true, and the Christian looks forward with great longing for that time.  However, I’ve always wondered why Gilbert didn’t finish v. 20:  For the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. 

Either there’s a contradiction in Scripture, which I deny, or there are two different renewals of creation.  Isaiah and Zechariah refer to what is known as “The Millennium,” a period of time ending this earth’s history in which the Lord Jesus will rule over this planet from Jerusalem.  Reformed scholars throw up their hands in horror or ridicule at this idea, but if words have any meaning at all, more is required of what the Old Testament says about a worldwide time of righteousness, peace and prosperity than some sort of “spiritual kingdom” in the church.  While we agree that the Lord Jesus “rules” in the hearts of His people, that idea is found in the OT as well:  God ruling in the hearts of His people.

  •  Jeremiah 17:19-27.

In this portion, God, speaking through Jeremiah, warns the people to observe and honor the Sabbath, promising them great blessing if they do, and great calamity if they don’t.

  • Lamentations 2:6, The LORD has caused the appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion.

The 5 lamentations in this book all come from Jeremiah’s broken heart at the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of his people.  The verse we quoted simply reminded the people that what happened to them wasn’t just some “accident of history;” it was God’s judgment on their sins.

The KJV has another occurrence of “Sabbath” in Lamentations 1:7, but that’s a different word in the Hebrew, and the NKJV translates it as “downfall.”

  • Ezekiel 20:12-24.

In this portion, God mentions the Sabbath six times, emphasizing to Israel that even from her very beginning, she had disregarded and profaned the Sabbath, which had been given to her as a special sign of her relationship with God and her redemption from Egyptian slavery.

  • Ezekiel 22:8, 26.

These two verses regard the same thing, the profaning of the Sabbath.  Verse 8 speaks of the princes of Israel, and v. 26 of the priests.  These leaders were responsible to guide Israel in a right way, according to God’s Word, but they were at the forefront of her apostasy.

  • Ezekiel 23:38.

Ezekiel 23 is about two harlot sisters, Jerusalem and Samaria, both capitals of their respective kingdoms.  After the division of Israel into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom, Samaria, had been led away from the true God by Jeroboam, who is ever  afterwards remembered for that act of apostasy.  The Lord’s point in Ezekiel is that Judah, the southern kingdom, had become no better than her “sister” to the north, even though she still supposedly held to the true God.  They both defiled and profaned the sanctuary and the Sabbath.  They both were guilty of terrible idolatry, yet Judah would still come to the Temple and think she was worshiping God.  God would have none of it, and in just a few years that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

  • Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:1-4, 12.

We’ve listed these verses together, which have 6 references to the Sabbath, because they’re all part of a controversial portion of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel 40-48 describes in great detail the building of a Temple, the worship there, descriptions of a city and a land with incredible productivity.

What we might call fundamental or evangelical Christians have difficulty with this portion because of its references to animal sacrifice.  This seems to them to deny the sacrifice of Christ.  Others view these chapters as merely symbolic.  Or, as a church bulletin quoted a Reformed scholar as saying, these chapters were “fulfilled in Jesus,” because of the references to “water” and other things.  In any event, actual things and events are said not to be expected.

These 9 chapters have 270 verses of minute detail, down to the length of a priest’s hair and whom he could or could not marry.  It seems to me that this is a great deal of trouble for a few symbols, or to dismiss it all as “fulfilled in Jesus.”

As far the animal sacrifices, I confess that I don’t fully understand them.  At the same time, without meaning to be irreverent or flippant, since God instructed Ezekiel to “look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you.  Declare to the house of Israel everything you see,” Ezekiel 40:4, I can say that it’s God’s problem.  He told Ezekiel to pay attention to it.  He will take care of it.

The point is, there is coming a time – not yet – when the Sabbath will be restored to its proper place and it will be observed and celebrated as it was supposed to be.  Isaiah 65 and Zechariah 14 refer to this same time.

  •  Hosea 2:11, God says, “I will cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths – all her appointed feasts.”

This in the middle of a lengthy list of consequences for Israel’s sin.

  • Amos 8:4, 5, Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fail, saying, “When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain?  And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat?” 

This just shows the attitude that was in the land prior to its destruction:  impatience for the feast days, including the Sabbath, to be over so that they could get back to the important business of making money.

 

The End of Days

For some reason, my wife and I like disaster movies.  This is not to be confused with movies which are a disaster.  Or maybe it’s just me,and she puts up with it.  She does that, – a lot.  If there’s a DVD with background information on how it’s done, so much the better. I’m fascinated by the “hows” of the disaster scenes.  My comment to my wife is often, “I wonder how they did that.”  One of my favorites along that line is “Dante’s Peak.”  Even knowing how they do the dam rupturing or the highway collapsing and seeing how they “shoot it,” especially since there’s no such highway near the town where they shot the movie, it’s amazing to me that, knowing all that, you cannot tell it in the movie.  It looks real.  Another thing that amazes me is the amount of work it must take to build the stuff they destroy in the movie, especially if they have to shoot the scene several times.  Along this line, think “Lord of the Rings” or “Matrix”.  I know a lot of it’s computer graphics, but a lot of it isn’t.

What brings up this post was a movie we watched recently about “Armageddon.”  It was a Christian film purporting to show what is going to happen at “the end of days.”  One of the actors used that expression in explaining what was going on.  I didn’t think the movie was very realistic, either as to photography or plot.

There is a lot of discussion among Christians, sometimes rather heated, about what is going to happen in the future.  This includes a lot of discussion about the Scriptures which talk about the future.  Some says it’s all just symbolic, that we shouldn’t look for anything  “real” to happen.  I don’t agree.  Now, I don’t think we have the ability to imagine what is going to happen when this wicked world finally runs into the end of God’s patience, and He begins to give us the “tangible evidence” of His existence that rationalists and unbelievers are always asking for.  We certainly can’t picture it on film.  Our Lord Himself told us that unless those days were shortened, humanity would be destroyed (Matthew 24:22).

There is an Old Testament chapter which gives a clear and graphic description, without “symbolism,” of what’s going to happen at “the end of days.”  That chapter is Zechariah 14.  I’ll ask you to read it before continuing in this post.  Thanks.  All references, unless otherwise identified, are from the NKJV.  

There are two main sections to the chapter.

1. The destruction of Jerusalem and the return of the LORD, vs. 1-15

2.  The description of the post-return world, vs. 16-20.

The destruction of Jerusalem and the return of the Lord, vs. 1-15.

1.  The destruction of Jerusalem, vs. 1-2.

Jerusalem has probably been fought over more than any other city in history.  Over and over again she has been surrounded by her foes.  Many of them have been temporarily successful in defeating her.  Zechariah prophesies a time when it will seem that, finally, Jerusalem has met her end.

The movie mentioned above showed Jerusalem with plumes of smoke rising here and there from the city.  I think the scene will be more like pictures I remember from WWII showing the bombed-out cities of Germany after her defeat.  There was nothing left.  What little that might be left in Jerusalem will be looted, terrible atrocities will be committed against the women, and those citizens who are left will be carted off “into captivity.”

Zechariah mentions that “half the city will go into captivity.”  I’m not sure exactly what this means.  There are those in our time who want to divide Jerusalem into two.  Perhaps this will have happened, and the “half” of the city that’s destroyed is the “Jewish” section.  In any event, it will be a terrible and terrifying time, and Israel will seem to be “down for the count,” much to the joy of her enemies.  “Peace and safety” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3) will be said finally to have arrived in the Middle East.  The cause of all the troubles has been defeated.

However, like in the old western movies where the cavalry comes swooping in at the last minute, trumpets blaring, to rescue whoever is in trouble, something will happen.  This brings us to

2.  The return of the Lord, v. 3.

Many Christians have this idea of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” or of “sweet Jesus.”  This isn’t the description given by Zechariah.  While it’s true that we receive grace and truth in abundance from our Lord, John 1:14, 16, it is also true that today is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2.  The time of which Zechariah prophesies are part of what is called the great day of His wrath, Revelation 6:17; Psalm 110:5, 6.  Jesus is going to return  in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.  [For a little more on this, look at our post on “Sticks”.]

In passing, it is the LORD Who is said “go forth” and Whose “feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” [Olivet].  Yet, in the New Testament, it is Jesus Whose feet will stand on that mountain, Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9-11.  Bethany, Luke 24:50, is on the side of Mt. Olivet away from Jerusalem.  This is just one of many seemingly coincidental proofs of the deity of the Lord Jesus.

3. Environmental and social changes, vs.4-10.

We can’t even begin to picture the devastation when our Lord comes back to claim what is His.

a.  The Mount of Olives will split in two, making a very large valley, v. 4.

The geologic fault lying under the Jordan River goes all the way into the middle of Africa, about three thousand miles.  If that is involved in this, it will be “a very large valley indeed”!  However, Zechariah does place a limit to it, “Azal,” mentioned only here.  So, we’re not sure of the length of this “valley.”  Regardless, this won’t be some little tremor that rattles a few dishes and then is over.  Isaiah 2:19,21 speaks of a time when the LORD arises to shake the earth mightily.  This in the context of what happens in Revelation 6:15-17.

To go along with this, v. 10 says, All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem.  This is a distance of about 35 miles (if this is “En-Rimmon” on the map I consulted).  It seems to me that this would make room for the things spoken of in Ezekiel 40-48.  One of the many complaints against that portion of Scripture is that there isn’t enough room.  Who knows what other geologic changes in the land might accompany vs. 4 and 10?

b.  There will be one day neither day nor night, vs. 6, 7.

I can’t even begin to explain this.  We are so used to day and night, sunrise and sunset – the orderly progression of time.  This will be something outside our experience, but known to the LORD.  That’s enough for me.

c.  Living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, v.8.

Zechariah just mentions it, but Ezekiel 47:1-12 give an extensive description of what will happen with these “living waters”

One thing:  there will still be “seasons:” summer and winter. Isaiah 4:6 tells us that there will still be “weather:” storm and rain.

d.  The LORD shall be King over all the earth, v 9.

“The Kingdom” is a debated subject.  Some tell us that it’s only God’s spiritual rule in the hearts of His people.  But “heart religion” is something required throughout the Bible, not  just in the New Testament.  A large segment of Christendom rejects any idea of a “carnal, political, earthly” reign of the Lord Jesus.  I’ve never been able to understand this.  What difference would it make “where” the Lord Jesus sits on David’s throne?  Would He somehow be less “holy…and undefiled” in Jerusalem than He is in Heaven?  This idea seems to me to be a great slander against Him.

This verse is another “coincidental” proof of the deity of Jesus.  Zechariah wrote that Jehovah will be King over all the earth.  Revelation 19 and 20 refer all this to the Lord Jesus.

Many confidently assert that the Lord Jesus is reigning over all the earth, right now.  He is, right now, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”  But where is there, today, at this very moment, as you read this, a single nation which submits to Him as such and seeks to live by His laws?  That can’t even be said of many churches and Christians, churches which deny His Word and have substituted their own agendas for His.  Christians who view Him only as some sort of heavenly Concierge, existing only to fulfill every desire of their “faith”.

The title “King of kings and Lord of lords” is always used in connection with Jesus’ return to this earth, not His absence from it.

When the Lord comes back, there will be no doubt, no argument.  It is often taught that when the Lord Jesus comes back, He will sit in the Judgment and then usher in the new heavens and new earth.  No “millennial” reign is to be expected.  The “1000 years” of Revelation 20 can’t possibly mean an actual length of time, but is only symbolic of the gospel age in which we now live.  However, Revelation 19:15 says that He will strike the nations,…and…rule them with a rod of iron.   The word translated “rule” means “to shepherd.”  It’s the same word used by the Lord in John 10 as He spoke of the Shepherd and His sheep.  Zechariah gives us some examples of this later in the chapter.

e.  Jerusalem will be safely inhabited, v. 10-11.

There’ll no longer be any disputes over who “owns” Jerusalem.  No more rockets fired into her from hostile territory.  No more terror and death.

f.  Israel’s enemies will be judged, vs. 12-15.

Zechariah gives a graphic description of the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem.  Some try to identity this with the result of a nuclear explosion.  Perhaps.  I don’t know.  The “means” of its happening is unimportant.  The fact that it will happen is what is important.  Not forever will humanity thumb its nose at God.  Vs. 13 and 14 indicate something of the battles that will surround Jerusalem in the end.  There is nothing in earth’s history to parallel what will happen then.  Ezekiel 39 tells us that it will take 7 months or more to bury all the bodies and 7 years to clean up the mess left behind.  It will be no minor thing!

The description of the post-return world, v. 16-21.

There’s only one thing emphasized in this section, and that is the worship that will take place after the Lord returns.  A lot of people have great difficulty with the idea of the continuation of some of what seem to be the Old Testament rituals in a time plainly after the end of the gospel age.  Ezekiel 40-48, with its detailed and exact description of a Temple and sacrifices – the grain offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering, 42:13, cf. 45:17, is another such portion.  These Scriptures seems incompatible with the NT teaching of the finished work of redemption wrought by Christ on the Cross.

I’ll admit that I don’t understand all that might be involved in this.  Some have suggested that these sacrifices will simply be memorial in nature, like the Lord’s Supper.  Perhaps.  I don’t know.  Perhaps an analogy may be drawn between the Old and New Testaments.  There are things in the Old Testament which were made clear only in the New Testament.  Perhaps the things which so puzzle us here and now will be made clear during the time of which Zechariah wrote.

Pay close attention to God’s instruction to Ezekiel about what he was to write.  In Ezekiel 40:4, Ezekiel was told, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you.”  Then in 44:3, And the LORD said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes and hear with your ears all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD and all its laws.”  In other words, I don’t think a casual dismissal of these things because we can’t understand them, or because we might think they’ve all been “fulfilled in Jesus,” as one school of thought teaches, is appropriate.  Without any desire to be flippant or irreverent, these things are God’s problem, if I may put it that way, since He inspired both Ezekiel and Zechariah to write them down, and then He preserved them so that they have come down to us and we can read them.  It’s up to Him as to their fulfillment.

Returning to Zechariah, some have taught that the section from vs. 16-20 “picture the universal blessing that God will bestow in the final state” (Reformation Study Bible, note on Zechariah 14:16-20, p. 1341).  If this is true, then what do the ideas of refusal to worship and the punishment of such refusal mean? – in a perfect, sinless eternity?  And if the “kingdom” is simply “Christ’s rule in the hearts of His people,” then what does He “rule them with a rod of iron,” Revelation 19:15, mean?  Who are the “them”?

Does all this really matter?  We’re told that “prophecy” isn’t really about “the fundamentals of the faith,” that a belief about prophecy isn’t necessary for a person to be saved.  And that’s true.  Believers in all different views of prophecy will be in heaven, and believers of all views of prophecy will be in hell.  So…

why all the fuss?  Simply this.  It is the Word of God.  The prophetic portions of Scripture involve a large percentage of its content.  It was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  It is important.

Now, I don’t agree with those who spend all their time there.  There are some who, every time someone important sneezes in the Middle East, they rush to the Scripture to see what’s being fulfilled.  Ministries are built on this.  Neither do I agree with the “popularization” of it in movies and books which can’t possibly portray what will happen.

But we should know something about what the Bible says about the future because that where we’re all headed.  Cf. 2 Peter 3:11.

As I read over this post, I see places where much more could be said.  For anyone who might be interested in a thorough and excellent treatment of the subject, I highly recommend Alva J. McClain’s “The Greatness of the Kingdom.”  I’ve made no attempt to make an “exact” chronology of prophecy.  I’m not sure that’s entirely possibly.  People get into trouble when they try to fit all the details of Scripture into where they think they should go.  I expect when all is said and done that all the “schools of prophetic thought” will discover they were wrong in some areas.  This leads me to the final thought of Zechariah 14.

In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD.

This seems to be a strange ending to the thoughts of worship and holiness that precede it.  Well, who were the Canaanites?  They were the original inhabitants of the land of promise, who, because of their sin and depravity, were to be destroyed in judgment.  Some escaped this judgment through deceit, – the Gibeonites, Joshua 9, and others simply because Israel was disobedient.  The point is that there will be people who won’t be included in the blessings Zechariah wrote about.

Our Lord agreed.  In Matthew 7:21-23, He said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name?  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  This should be a sobering thought.  Some who have been active in “serving the Lord” will be excluded from eternal blessing.  But why?  Read the statement over again.  It’s all about “them:” “what WE have done.”  Nothing about what the Lord has done.

Oh, listen.  There are many who will be astonished beyond words at their being rejected by the Lord.  Jesus mentioned “the will of My Father in heaven.”  What is that “will”?  Listen to our Lord in John 6:40, “…this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life….”  Don’t mistake that “may” as being uncertain.  It speaks of purpose.  And don’t believe that one actually has to “see” the Son, as in some vision.  We see Him by faith.  Him, and Him alone, as the Savior of our souls.  It isn’t Christ and the Church, Christ and baptism, …and the Sabbath, …and good works, … and keeping the Law, and….  The list goes on and on.  Some of these may have their place, AFTER the Lord alone has saved us, but never in order to get Him to save us.

Oh, that none who read these words may be among that group on that sad day.