Israel - It's Past, Present and Future - Dr. H.M. Ohmann (1928-2006)
Once again Isaiah?
Yes indeed: Isaiah! This second article on Isaiah is not going to be an article on "Second Isaiah" or "Deutero-Isaiah", the great unknown prophet, a mere invention of the critics of Holy Scripture, regarded as the author of the chapters 40 - 66, or of 40 - 55 anyway, and hailed by them as the first proclaimer of true monotheism and the greatest among the prophets ever. For a refutation of these statements, I may refer the interested reader to the work of Prof. E.J. Young: An Introduction to the Old Testament, pages 202 - 211. Rightly Prof. Young wonders, "if 'Second Isaiah' was so great, and a man who supposedly presented the most exalted doctrine of God which the world had ever witnessed, why such a man had dwindled so rapidly in stature that by the time of Ecclesiasticus his stature had disappeared entirely and his name had been forgotten."
But enough of this. Maintaining the viewpoint that Isaiah the son of Amos is the author of the entire prophecy, we may say that in one and the same book by the same author prophecies have been written down which have a quite different point of departure as far as time is concerned. Small wonder with a book covering such a large span of time. Part of the prophecies, to be found in the chapters 1 - 39, clearly bear the mark of the time the prophet himself lived in, around 700 B.C.; a period in which the kingdom of the two tribes was still in existence and the world-power Assyria dominated the scene. But from ch. 40 on, the scene is quite different. Assyria has disappeared from the stage of history and Babylonia its successor was already on the decline and the day of liberation was dawning for the Judeans led into captivity by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. These chapters, stamped by what was to happen a century and a half afterwards, make us transport ourselves mentally to another country and another period, around 550 B.C.
We do not fall in with Scripture Criticism, stating that something of the sort is impossible. It is indeed impossible with man that a man on his own accord would express himself in such a way far ahead of his time. But what is impossible with man is possible with GOD. And it is the LORD GOD who reveals Himself in this part of the Bible as having made His Divine plan in the long, long ago, far ahead of the events, with a view to the salvation of His people, whoever they may be: Jews or(and) Gentiles. It is that plan or counsel which is brought out clearly in the other part of the book. Even Scripture criticism must give Isaiah credit for that and does so, as we have seen above, stating however, that it is Isaiah's opinion rather than God's revelation that made him speak this way.
When you turn to a modern author like Max I. Dimont mentioned in one of my first articles, you soon find out how things are approached from a definitely human angle. In the chapter 1 "Religion is Packaged" he discusses the question of Judah's survival. On page 60 of his book Jews, God and History we read:
"Theremust be more to survival in exile than mere chance. There must be a continuous and conscious effort on the part of the exiles to retain their identities, both religious and national. The ten tribes did not have such a conscious will to remain Jews, whereas the captives of Judah carried with them into captivity an implacable will to survive as Jews. What gave them their will to retain their Jewishness in the face of every obstacle and threat? Somewhere between the fall of Israel and the fall of Judah a spiritual reawakening of the people of Judah took place. A new Jewish character and a new concept of Jewishness itself was forged."
"Iinspite of the theories of Spengler and Toynbee, that Jewish civilization should have come to an end at this point, since Judah did not respond with solutions permitting her to continue as an independent nation, Judah met the challenge of the times by responding with two ideas which not only saved her from national extinction but are still influencing the Western world today," Dimont says. The first was the canonization of Holy Scripture, making it the word of God, by king Josiah. The second was the "packaging" of Jewish religion for export by the prophets. "What in essence was it that the prophets taught and exhorted? What they said was, in effect, that ritual and cult in themselves were of no value to God. Humanity, justice and morality they contended were superior to any cult. God did not want rituals; He wanted higher moral standards from man."
Needless to say, the present writer totally disagrees with this picture, I better say, this misrepresentation of Israel's history and the history of God's revelation. It shows us Dimont as a man who runs away with the notions of Scripture-criticism. That it definitely is not Israel that manages to survive the captivity, that is what we are taught in the second part of the book of Isaiah, this wonderful part of the Bible, which is in complete accord with the teaching of the first part and with the other prophets, not to forget the Law of Moses: the One and Only God revealing Himself.
1. First of all it is the LORD who is in the focus here. The praise of His glory is sung and not that of Israel. He is proclaimed as Israel's Redeemer. And what does redemption mean here? Redemption from the Exile? Is it Israel's need and misery that they are exiles and that Jerusalem lies devastated for such a long time? As often as we hear or read of the Exile we are reminded of Israel's sin (e.g. Is. 40:2). And the misery of the exiles is basically a spiritual one, they being deprived of things bearing witness to God's love. By its sins, before and also during the exile, Israel had forfeited the LORD's grace. According to ch. 43:22 it was a sad thing that the sacrificial service was stopped all that time (quite contrary to the statements of Dimont and Scripture criticism!). The forgiveness of sins was at the base of the redemption (ch. 43:25). God's love came to light here (43:4).
That love is unchangeable (49:15). "For my name's sake I defer my anger" (48:9). He is the only Worker of redemption and He does so to the glory of His name, which is the ultimate goal of Israel's redemption (ch. 43:21). In the first part of the book it is Egypt, in the second part it is the idols which are set over against the LORD as the only source of salvation. That Salvation is not only negative (the return from Babel) but also to be conceived of in a positive way, we learn from a chapter like 55. With the liberation from Babel corresponds a life in the blessed communion with the LORD.
Everything else is to be subservient to His glory and greatness. Yes the LORD shows His greatness in making use of instruments like king Cyrus of Persia. We cannot help being surprised about what it says of this heathen king. Just read the first verses of ch. 45. This king is given a wide scope comprising much more than the delivery from Babel; he is even called the LORD's anointed. But it is the LORD's plan that is carried out by him. And this in view of a great future: "I gird you, though you do not know me, that men may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other." Whereupon a reference is made to creation, to the beginning, and we are given an insight into God's plan, comprising the world and its history from the beginning till the end. The fall of Babylon (ch. 46 and 47) is just a moment in this history and when it is spoken of it is given eschatological dimensions, Babylon being the representative of the kingdom of God's enemy Satan and the Antichrist. And the return of the exiles is pictured in such a way as to suggest the times of refreshing that come from the presence of the LORD and the restoration of all things. Cp. ch. 41:18ff. and 55:12ff. The wilderness is to be turned into a paradise. All these sounds, perceived already in the first part of the book, are now brought out into fuller relief. Israel's return from Babylon is just one stage in the long course of the history of God's revelation that leads His people, the Church, from creation via redemption to recreation.
2. Another significant point is the question: What about the position Israel is to get in the midst of the other peoples of the earth and in view of them? Israel is to return to its own land, and Sion, at one time representing the city of Jerusalem, at another time its inhabitants or all Judah, is in the focus. Not on account of the merits of the people, but since it is the LORD who shows His favour to her, bestowing His blessings upon her right there. Cp. ch. 51:17ff.; 54:1ff. Sion was known for that. It is the Sion from of old that is to be restored, yet it is different since now it is clearly the LORD who has been laying her foundations (ch. 54:11). Henceforth it really will be the Holy City, the righteous city that Isaiah was longing for and looking forward to in the first chapters of his book. This Sion is imperishable. Sion and the salvation given to her surpass all that is earthly and perishable. We hear Isaiah speaking in this context about a new heaven and a new earth (51:6f; 65:17). And again we see how prophecy exceeds the limits of the time in view of which it was uttered first of all: the time of the restoration after the exile. Jerusalem had been restored and populated again. The promise was fulfilled and yet not fulfilled. The contents of the prophecy are so rich and extensive that they cannot come true in that one city that is the capital of the promised land. Sion, Jerusalem, stands and must stand for much more: the centre of the Messianic kingdom. That is how the other peoples of the earth come into the picture.,
Although their destruction is spoken of as far as they had been the enemies of the LORD, it is especially their gathering together with Israel which is in the limelight. The destination of God's salvation is not just confined to Israel but is universal. That is why God's work of creation is spoken about repeatedly and his leading of world history to make an appeal to the heathen too. The heathen peoples are sought by the LORD (45:22). And it is a heathen again who is called to a very special service. A prospect of the future is held out, not only to Israel but also to the nations. Cp. Is. 51:4f. Sea peoples and inhabitants of the desert are summoned to sing the praises of the LORD (42:10; 45:14). Israel is given the task of being the servant, the messenger of the LORD in proclaiming His mighty deeds before the heathen.
Seemingly it boils down to the same as what Dimont tells us:"This time, anticipating an exile for the Jews of Judah, the universalist Prophets outline a workable blueprint for survival . . . It was Isaiah the greatest of Jewish Prophets, who became the chief architect of Jewish universalism . . . Who gave the Jews their universalist message of a future brotherhood of man to carry to the nations of the world ... They give the Jews a reason to remain Jews in exile and a purpose for their fate . . . The Jews, the Prophets said, must by their conduct, their ethics, their concepts of man, life and God, set an example for the rest of mankind . . . the Prophets turned political defeat into spiritual victory by transforming politics into ideology. Their ideas built a bridge for the Jews to escape from a crumbling political kingdom into the enduring fortress of the coming Diaspora. The Prophets preached the victory through surrender of the body and resistance of the spirit." (The Indestructible Jews, pages 66ff.)
It is an example of the view that humanists take of the history of Israel. The praises of the Prophets and their genius are sung, and the praises of the will-power and sagacity of the Jewish people. So, quite the opposite of what the greatest among the prophets intended himself: to magnify the LORD, who revealed his righteousness in the sight of the people.
3. This brings me to a third point I want to make, namely with regard to the task set for the Jewish people: to serve the LORD in the realization of His plan of salvation. Was the Jewish people a worthy servant? Did the people really serve the LORD? In the second part of the book of Isaiah we meet the figure of the Servant of the LORD. It is in four prophecies especially that this figure is in the focus: ch. 421-7; 491-9; 50:4-9; 52:13; 53:12.
Who may be indicated by this name, I better say this title? For we do not learn a name. The question of the Ethiopian eunuch - "About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" - has been reiterated ever since. By theologians, I mean. There is no end of books and articles on the subject and so is the number of solutions. The latter can be summarized roughly in two or three groups. First, the collectivist one, stating that the servant stands for the people of Israel. Second, the personal one saying that a person must have been meant, either one of the past, or of the time the prophet lived in (maybe the prophet himself), or of the future, e.g. the Messiah.
As for the collectivist view, it was taken first of all by the Jews, though not by all of them and not by those of the first centuries A.D., and with all sorts of modifications. To see in the servant the Jewish people which had gone through so many hard times full of persecution and sufferings did make an appeal to the Jewish mind. Wasn't Jewish history a corroboration of prophecy after the event? Since the last century a great many Christian or rather liberal exegetes also have taken this view. It cannot be maintained, however. Granted that Israel is named the LORD's servant once in a while (e.g. ch. 41:8; 42:19), in other instances the servant is obviously distinct from the people as such so as to make some adherents of this view take recourse to a modified standpoint, namely that by the servant not all Israel, but an ideal Israel, the "cream" of Israel, the prophets, the Godfearing, or the remnant, must be meant.
The picture given of the servant has an unmistakably personal character. Taking into consideration the glorious things we are told of Him, it must be a person not of the past, e.g. Moses, David, Uzziah or another pious king, but rather one to appear in the future; one to be identified with the Messiah known already from the first part of the book and from Isaiah's predecessors. You may be wondering: For what reason is the Messiah here presented in this way: as Servant of the LORD?
Probably since it is not so much the royal aspect of his office as the spiritual aspect of his work that is brought out, which aspect first of all implies: service. He is featured as a prophet; then as a sufferer. He came not to be served but to serve. When He is named "Israel", He is pictured as the real representative of God's people (is. 493). He is God's chosen One, in whom God delights. "I have put my Spirit upon Him" (ch. 42:1). Also in ch. 49 we are enlightened about his calling.
In his work He has had a bitter experience: "I said: I have laboured in vain." But He is comforted by the LORD to the effect that he who was disappointed in Israel will be given as a light to the nations (49:6). It is characteristic of his work that it is consolatory. "A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench" (42:3). So He will be for Israel as well as for the nations. "He will faithfully bring forth justice." "He will not cry nor lift up His voice." He does not make a show. He is humble and modest, sharing the lot of his people in exile. He is not after making a name for himself.
Of this Servant it says that He has come to bring Jacob back to the LORD. From the dispersion of the exile? Certainly, but there is more, since they all like sheep had gone astray and turned everyone to his own way (ch. 53:6).
Now we see that the Servant cannot be the people itself. Israel did not listen (49:4, 5) to Him. Surely He is counted with the people and shares its lot, but it is especially He who is to suffer (is. 50:6). More than others. So we have come to ch. 53, the moving and wonderful chapter in which THE MAN OF SORROW ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF is shown. In this very chapter you see brought out into full relief the difference between the Servant and the people estranged from Him. He is depicted here as the Silent, the Humble One, committing himself to the LORD, willingly accepting what his God brought upon Him. He suffered out of his own free will. If from any passage, then from this one we can gather what substitution is all about. "He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." He endured suffering and passion and death instead of others and to the benefit of others.
Since this Servant humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, the LORD has highly exalted Him. It is said of Christ and it applies to the Servant of the LORD. As with CHRIST, His exaltation is first of all his justification (ch. 50:8 and 9). "Surely my right is with the LORD and my recompense with my God" (ch. 49:4). How great a favour is extended to Him, as it says: "Kings shall see and arise; princes and they shall prostrate themselves". He who was a prophet first of all in time of humiliation, will turn out to be the mighty Leader of His people. He who humbly served the plan of God's salvation is the One who is authorized to carry it into effect. Small wonder, for He is the man regarding whom the LORD once spoke: "I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations."
Considering these prophecies of the Servant in the light of all the Scriptures, it cannot but be the Mediator who is capable of doing that. In some respects He reminds us of Moses, but more than Moses is here. The greatest thing to be reported is his mission in the heathen world. "He will bring forth justice to the nations" (ch. 42:1). "The coastlands wait for his Law." Israel and the nations are on a par, on one level. That will be Israel's future. Do not feel sorry about it. That is the very favour, the greatest favour the LORD can ever bestow upon His people from of old, that His Servant is watchful of its interests. And when the heathen are permitted to share the same benefits, there is the more reason for rejoicing.
1. We all know Jeremiah the prophet. That is to say: We think we do, I better say, we have our opinion about him; which is a prejudice sometimes. How come? In the order of the canon, the books of the Bible, he follows upon Isaiah. When compared to this great predecessor it turns out to his disadvantage. Not so brilliant; we miss the touch of genius, and so on. His prophecy is all in the minor key, so to speak. And then that plaintive tone.
That is what we think and feel. However let us never forget that the LORD, the God of Israel, was pleased to use a variety of instruments, an Amos, a Hosea, an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, and so on, to have the message come through to the heart of His people according to the necessity of place, time, and circumstances. To an Isaiah it was given - given ! - to present in his days a magnificent picture of the great future that was ahead. A future comprising not only the exile but also the time thereafter, shading off into the day or the days of the Messiah. When reading his book we see ourselves, in a manner of speaking, lifted up and carried away on the wings of the Spirit into a distant future, so as to be deeply impressed by the greatness of the LORD's counsel.
To a Jeremiah it was given to live to see the exile and to be an eyewitness of things prophesied since the days of Deuteronomy. He was the first prophet to witness the exile. A prophet of doom, that is how he is generally known. However, is he to blame for it? Should the need arise, God sends a prophet to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow. As prophet of doom Jeremiah fulfilled his God given charge. Moveover, prophet of doom, he turned out to be a true prophet whose word was to come true over against the words of those many false prophets he met on his way, e.g. Hananiah, who prophesied peace (ch. 28).
This way his mission was significant to the Jewish people. To be a member of the Jewish people implied to know of God's anger as spoken of in the Law and the prophets; in the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy, e.g., Joel, Amos, Hosea, not forgetting Isaiah(!) and all the others. Taking his word of threat in all seriousness, it being one of the conditions on which the covenant was based, you clearly perceive in the book of Jeremiah the sound and the style of e.g. the book of Deuteronomy. Which does not mean that the latter book would date back only to this time, as Scripture criticism is used to stating. On the contrary, separated from the time of Moses by a span of eight hundred years, the consistency of the God of the Covenant is brought out so much the more. Wasn't He a God faithful in promise, requirement, and threat?
It was characteristic of Israel to have and to believe such a God. A thing to rejoice about, though it might bring in its train a flood of tears if the people deserved to be punished for its apostasy from the Covenant God.
So we know Jeremiah as the prophet of tears. But we should not blame him for that; or dislike him for that. Although the message is more than the person of the bearer, the prophet, the way the prophet bears and assimilates the word he is in charge of is significant. Throughout the book he is shown us as someone suffering under the burden the LORD imposed upon him. SO, not one to say: It leaves me as cold as a stone. He who has the interest of the people of Israel, the Church of olden days at heart, should not dislike but rather like the prophet because of his tears. He himself was moved by the message and doesn't he call to mind our Chief Prophet Jesus Christ, who had compassion for the crowds?
Maybe this is why his picture of the future of Israel and Judah is more sober, down to earth. More a restoration just of all that had been in the past and that Judah's eyes were accustomed to - I can refer to ch. 31:24: "And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks", cps. also 31:12 - than a new paradise with Sion in the centre of the earth, as we have it in Isaiah. We should appreciate this sobermindedness in the context of the prophet's time and message and be happy that such a prospect was held out by this very prophet indeed, that he, facing the imminent danger from the north and all the hardship that was to follow, was permitted by his God to speak of comfort nonetheless, preaching all the counsel of God unto salvation. And again we learn how to carefully handle the prophecies regarding Israel's future, taking into account the time in which and the man by whom and the audience before whom they were spoken, fitting every prophecy we have into its proper framework so as not to draw hasty and fantastic conclusions; or to be at a loss when we come across so-called discrepancies and contradictions.
2. A second feature this prophet was concerned about was the unity Of God's people. It is a striking thing that we hear this prophet - N.B. more than a century after the exile of the ten tribes to Assyria - still speak of Ephraim, which stands for the ten tribes. That is why he speaks of Rachel, (grand)mother of Manasseh and Ephraim, and through them foremost ancestress of the ten tribes and also of Benjamin, part of the two tribes to which Jeremiah belongs.
The lot of Ephraim preyed on his mind. Not as a theoretical question: What about the lost ten tribes? - as it is of interest to several people today, some of them launching into speculations - but since his sympathies went out to them. Some gather from the prophecies concerned that Jeremiah must have expected Ephraim's return from its exile fairly soon. They infer from a prophecy like that of ch. 3:11 ff. that Ephraim was to come back while Judah was still in the land. Such a return of the ten tribes, however, never has come true. Nay more, even after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah, Ephraim was never restored to its former national independence. Again we have an indication here of an "unfulfilled prophecy", that is to say, suppose we stick to the letter in employing the word "unfulfilled". Then there are a great many things in prophecy which cannot possibly be fulfilled. As I said before, this is the big issue and problem of PreMillennialism and Dispensationalism, which again tried to find its way out by positing the Millennial Kingdom.
In spite of that, we still hold that what had been prophesied concerning Ephraim has been fulfilled. I think of what it reads in ch. 31:6: "For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: 'Arise, and let us go up to Sion, to the LORD our God!" That is the point at issue! Not the political restoration of the kingdom of the ten tribes, but rather as it says in ch. 3:18, "in those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage"; cp. 30:3. It is Ephraim as well as Judah that will be adopted by the LORD in times to come. Read the moving words in ch. 31:20.
A prophecy paying so much attention to Ephraim is characteristic of Jeremiah. The ten tribes were unforgettable to him. Perhaps because he was a Benjaminite, who might have felt himself more related to the northern tribes than the average Judean. A remarkable fact is also that this way the line of Hosea's prophecies is extended. Compare Jer. 31:20 with e.g. Hosea 11:8. With the more reason we dare state that there is a future for Ephraim, that is to say, as part of the larger whole constituted by all the tribes of Israel. So Jeremiah's, just as Hosea's, prophecies regarding Ephraim have come true indeed; in stages, to be sure, and so we see it fulfilled already in Jeremiah's own time when the area of the former ten tribes was drawn into the sphere of influence of Judah by king Josiah (2 Kings 23:15ff). Or when we see some of the northerners accepting the invitation to king Hezekiah's Passover, humbling themselves before the LORD and coming to Jerusalem (2 Chron. 30:12) and later on in the prophetess Anna, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. That is all we can say about the ten tribes. It is the best we can do.
3. Hence we come to the third point: What the restoration of the reunited people is to be all about. Neither the restoration of Israel's (Ephraim's) nor that of Judah's political independence. It would have been of no use if the LORD had permitted the two peoples to do it all over again. History does not repeat itself. History as outlined and portrayed in the Bible is not a circular course but a straight line leading and guiding the people to a definite goal. First of all what had been broken for so many years was to be restored. The rupture between Ephraim and Judah and the one between the exiles of the year 597, the first basket of figs of Jer. 24, and those of the year 586, the second basket of figs, was to be healed. Life reassumed its usual course. Sion would be in the centre once more. And Sion, just as in Isaiah, was not just an ordinary capital of a terrestrial kingdom, but obviously meant the throne of the LORD. Henceforth not the Ark, nor the temple, but all the city was to be His firm abode and residence. Ch. 3:17: "At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall gather to it (an Isaianic sound, H.M.0) to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart."
It is the condition of the people's heart which is in the focus in the well-known chapters 30 and 31, where we learn that it is the restored relationship to the LORD that matters most in time to come. A prelude to the New Testament? Yes, indeed. If the prophet has high expectations of the future, it is because the relationship with the LORD GOD is to take shape in a new covenant. I now point to Jer. 31:31-34, where we learn that all the blessing, peace, and salvation is implied in the new Covenant that will be made by the LORD. A prophecy to be fulfilled in stages, so not only applying to what we are used to calling: the New Testament dispensation.
Israel and Judah both are mentioned. Not so much because of their being two nations, but because of the members, the Israelites and Judeans individually, children of the covenant who are to benefit by this new provision of the LORD.
"Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt," we read. So compared to that of Mount Sinai, the new covenant should be an improvement. In which respect, we wonder. What was the drawback, the imperfection, of the first one? Wasn't it made by the LORD GOD as well, so as to be meant in all seriousness? Wasn't it, because of that, supposed to be grounded on a solid foundation, having all kinds of provisions to keep the covenant intact? It certainly was. The name Yahweh answers for the genuineness. And wasn't it something great to be taken by the LORD's hand and to be considered to be the LORD's wife? We do not make light of that. The LORD does not repent.
Yet, in the light of later events, viewed in retrospect, it did not satisfy; it did not answer the purpose. It was in itself a good covenant, but "good" for the time being. In the final analysis it was to be replaced by another, better covenant. The difference between the two would be a gradual one, not one for reasons of principle.
The reader of these articles knows that when it comes to this, often distinctions are made which are beside the point and definitely wrong. E.g., it has been said - I think especially of the time around the liberation that the former could be broken and the latter could not be broken, which would imply that during the Sinai covenant apostasy was possible, as. was to be expected with such a league comprising all the people, whereas during the second covenant apostasy was out of the picture, the new covenant being restricted to the saints, those predestined to life eternal. A statement which clearly runs counter the teaching of the epistle of the Hebrews, where we find our text quoted in full. The addresses of this epistle are emphatically warned against apostasy. In the same vein it was held, in departing from the wrong presupposition, that the writing of the Law on the tables of the hearts was equal to what Reformed Dogmatics would call: regeneration - regeneration as confessed and elaborated on in the Canons of Dordrecht. A distinction or difference which is highly disputable and untenable. As if the members of the Sinai-covenant would have been excluded from those benefits of the covenant. For then immediately the question arises: How come that we read of so many true believers and Godfearing people under the Old Testament? Or was it an inferior type of belief? But Scripture does not teach us this way. On the contrary, references to the belief of the fathers as answering the LORD's calling are made over and over in the New Testament!
That in the time of the Liberation the Church was bound to suchlike constructions and all the bad consequences they brought in their train, I need hardly tell. The distinction, however - and there is one; otherwise the comparison does not make sense - 'is to be sought in something else! During the covenant of Mount Sinai, it was all the things making Israel a separate nation, a nation by itself: the patriarchs, consanguinity, the common language, the giving of the law, the worship, and so on, which were to keep the members of the people together. All those outward things, one may say, provided he is very very careful in handling this expression. All those outward things were instruments by which the LORD was pleased to deal with the people in full earnest. The Israelite who would despise them would not go unpunished. Yet from the very outset everything was arranged in such a way as to make room place for something superior, something more appropriate in a relationship between God and man, namely that man, all and everyone, would know the LORD.
That is what is characteristic of the new covenant or the new phase in the covenant. The Law, the statute of the covenant, the charter, we may say, which lay some place in the Ark, in the temple, and was read on set occasions, e.g. the feast of booths, ought not just to lie there and be read in the hearing of the people henceforth. As charter of the covenant with God, it ought to be written upon their hearts, since this God was to be loved by his believers with all their hearts. Having the Law in their hearts, they would carry the law with them wherever they would go. When the outward supports of faith - land, temple, palace, among other things would slip away one by one, the people was in need of an inner support. Israel setting out on a march that will bring them outside their homeland to the remotest corners of the earth, will be accompanied by the Law, that is to say, by the cordial knowledge of the LORD. Which implies that each and everyone, who knows the Law by heart (with all his heart) is considered a member of the covenant. The door to the New Testament is open.
Not that there was not such a knowledge prior to the time of Jeremiah. It was no less than the forgiveness of sins. But as time went by, in process of time, this item was stressed more and more. Everything pivots around that more than ever. And the breach of the covenant, thrusting a spoke in the wheel - how much hadn't Jeremiah reprehended the people for that! - is not consigned to the realm of fancy or impossibilities henceforth (just read the letter to the Hebrews) but brought out into full relief and put in the proper light as to be the worst of all sins and very insulting to the LORD who promised forgiveness of sins.
Jeremiah was the prophet to witness the exile. Seemingly it was a Ioss. Jerusalem, the temple, especially the Ark, everything was lost. But really it was a gain. The covenant partner Israel itself comes back renewed, changed for the good. They will commit sins. What otherwise do you expect in this sinful and broken world. There will be breakers of the covenant. But it is the covenant itself which is safeguarded on better conditions. The Messiah, the LORD JESUS CHRIST, comes into the picture here. This officebearer will stand the test in which all his predecessors (prophets, priests, and kings) have failed.
Jeremiah, the prophet of tears, was privileged to convey a great message full of comfort.
Particularly a prophet like Ezekiel, though he has the name of being hard to understand, is worth being studied with a view to what God says through His prophets regarding Israel's future.
To be sure, the prophet Ezekiel is a figure apart among the other prophets, but that is no reason for not considering him an equally useful instrument of the Holy Spirit. "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit," Paul says with regard to the N.T. congregation. This holds good for the O.T. prophets as well. With each prophet we have to ask: Who is it who says this, in what place and in what time?
He comes after Isaiah - also in this respect, that he ranks after Isaiah; he takes a narrower view of things. He was not an Isaiah, taking in the whole scene in a glance, it is said. Is that right? However gifted and talented the former has been, that does not remove the fact that it was the latter who was to experience that which the former had seen in a bird's eye view and put into words in an unequalled way.
He is a contemporary of Jeremiah and, like him, Ezekiel describes the future first of all as a restoration of Israel on its native soil, in the land of the fathers. Besides, in his visions of the future the temple and its service is to occupy a large place, as we learn from the first and the last chapters. So, the prophecy presents itself in the setting of the cult. The restoration of the cult is of great importance to him.
The message is meant for Israel's remnant. First of all the exiles by the river Chebar, in whose midst he was (ch. 1:1). In ch. 11:15 they are called: "Your brethren, the men of your kindred". Those are the people led into captivity already in 597 B.C., featured in Jer. 24 as the basket with good figs. But also in Jerusalem, where in the time of the prophecy of ch. 11, (so years before the destruction) people fancied themselves quite a bit and looked down upon those who had gone already into exile, there was a remnant. Though it is featured as the basket with bad, very bad figs - and rightly so, because of all the abominations in the sanctuary - there, too, were men who sighed and groaned over all the abominations that were committed in it (ch. 9:4). The latter were to go into exile as well.
Ezekiel had to experience as an eye witness things prophesied long before by an Isaiah, and he found out to the cost of his wife's life what it meant to the LORD that His sanctuary was profaned (ch. 24:15). In this respect Ezekiel resembles Hosea, whose married life was affected on account of Israel's breach of the covenant. Yet his message is a message of salvation!
First, the LORD will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them. He will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh (ch. 11:19; 36:25, 26, 27). This He will do after having taken them from the nations and gathered them from all the countries into their own land. And the LORD says that He does so "not for your sake, 0 house of Israel . . . but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came." "I will vindicate the holiness of my great name ... and the nations will know that I am the LORD."
That this restoration of the people into its former state is no less than a miracle is portrayed in an unforgettable way in the vision of ch. 37, the valley full of dry bones. This vision is related to the prophecy of Hosea 61-3. In both, Israel's restoration is depicted as a resurrection of the dead. It is the misery of the people in exile that is brought out here clearly: they were dead through their trespasses and sins. And so it is the power of God's Spirit that comes to light, He being the only One able to restore them to life. The vivification of the dead, city bones is the image of the restoration of the people of Israel, and the restoration of the people in its turn is an image of the great restoration at the close of the centuries. The line drawn in the history of Israel is extended into the future in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is His work and the fruits and effects thereof which come into the picture.
Elaborating on this theme we learn that Judah is to return to its own land. "And I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all: and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms," says the LORD (ch. 37:22; cp. Hos. 1:11). The mountains of Israel shall shoot forth their branches and yield their fruit to the people of Israel, for they will soon come home (36:8). The Lord will provide for them prosperous plantations (34:29). The land that was desolate will become like the garden of Eden (36:35). The people will dwell securely in the land (34:28) and none shall make them afraid. There is no need of fortifications. On the other hand it reads (36:35) that the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now inhabited and fortified. A contradiction? If you take prophecy as having to be fulfilled to the letter, it certainly is and we are getting into serious trouble. But if understood in the proper way as figurative language, to be explained according to its own standards, there is no problem: No fortification implies sufficient fortification.
This comfort has its solid foundation in that which the LORD says (ch. 16:62): "I will establish my covenant with you." "Establish", not make, as some translate here, which translation is not correct, however. The covenant of the future is- the establishing of that concluded in days of old. Israel's God remains the same. In token of it the LORD will set His sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore (ch. 36:26). This is a continuous thread in the book, as I said already. We'll come back to the subject in respect to ch. 40-48. And as it is with a real covenant: "I will be their God and they shall be my people" (36:27). "And I will not hide my face anymore from them when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, says the LORD GOD" (39:29).
It is concerning a remnant that these words are spoken. In ch. 20:35 the LORD says: "I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face . . . I will make you pass under the rod, and I will let you go in by number. I will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD." The last words are the steady refrain of the book.
However, what about the Messiah? What do we read about Him in this book? Although not so often as in the book of Isaiah, we meet Him (ch. 17:22) in the sprig from the lofty top of the cedar, a tender one among the twigs which the LORD will plant upon a high and lofty mountain; "on the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar." The cedar definitely means the Davidic dynasty, and the twig stands for the Messianic king of the future. Again we meet Him in 21:27, where it is He who must be meant with the words: "Until he comes whose right it is; and to him I will give it." Furthermore we see Him introduced in 34:23 and 37:24 as "My servant David". An example of Premillennialist exegesis of the passages concerned is given by John Walvoord p. 121 of his book Israel in Prophecy where it reads:"One of the interesting aspects of the millennial government is the fact that resurrected David will apparently be a prince under Christ in administering the millennial kingdom in so far as it relates to Israel. According to Ezekiel, David will act as a shepherd over the people of Israel . . . Some have interpreted this mention of David as a reference to Christ. However, there is no good reason for not taking it in its ordinary literal sense inasmuch as David will certainly be raised from the dead and will be on the scene. What would be more natural than to assign him a responsible place in the government of Christ in relation to the people of Israel? The concept that David will rule under Christ is found not only here, but also in Jer. 30:9, 33:15-17; Hosea 3:5." In my article on Hosea I pointed out already that the reappearance of the "old" David would be of little avail to Israel, that is, the Church of the future, since the King that restored Israel is in need of has to surpass and to outshine David in every respect. It is sad that Premillennialism ties itself down to the earth and the past in such a way as to lose sight of the unique significance of our only King and Mediator Jesus Christ, who was obviously indicated by the name David. Yes indeed, David. not to present a mere repetition but to show that the LORD GOD is faithful to His promises made to David in providing his people with the Shepherd who will be completely in the line of what in God's view a king should be.
A special and also enigmatic place in the book is occupied by the prophecy against GOG, of the land of Magog.
We learn in the ch. 38 and 39 that, returned from the exile in the future, Israel will have to face a hard time again. The reason is the evil scheme of Gog. Ch. 38:14 reads: "Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the LORD GOD: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, you will bestir yourself and come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army; you will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land." That is Gog's scheme. Behind it, however, is the LORD, who will bring him against his very land, that the nations may know Him "when through you, 0 Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes."
The big point is: Does it refer to concrete facts and persons who have appeared on the stage of history already or are to appear, be it under the real name Gog or rather under Gog as pseudonym? I ask so not without reason. Unlike in Revelation 20:7-10, where, immediately upon their appearance, Satan, who stirred them up, will be bound and the last judgment will have come, in Ezekiel the whole scene is laid somewhere in the course of the ages. After the defeat of Gog, life on earth returns to normal for Israel; the burial of Gog by the people of Israel is pictured in detail. So, many attempts were made to identify this GOG with some famous king of ancient history: the Persian king Cambyses, Alexander the Great, or Antiochus Epiphanes. But it was not satisfactory. Which was to be expected. What otherwise can we expect from "historiography" in O.T. prophecy? In portraying the great future, the prophets had to take recourse over and over to life and circumstances as known to them in their own time and to what was fitting somehow or other in this framework. That is why the idea of some historical person naturally suggests itself. However, he who insists on it in seeking a subject of identification, will get into difficulties and easily go astray. Premillennialism gives evidence of it. 0. Allis writes in his book Prophecy and the Church (p. 27): "Ezekiel's picture of the destruction of Gog is one of complete annihilation; and this destruction precedes the kingdom age. Yet in the Apocalypse the destruction of Gog follows the thousand years. Is Gog to be destroyed for ever and then brought to life again to fight a last great battle against Messiah and the saints? Or, are there two Gogs? Or, are we to reverse the sequence of events in Ezekiel? Or in Revelation?- And again (p. 239): "Premillennialists insist that the establishing of the millennium is to follow God's judgment upon evil. One of the signal proofs of this to which they appeal is the fact that the overthrow of Gog and Magog described in Ezek. 38:39 immediately precedes the description of the establishment of a kingdom which apparently is to have no end. Yet in Rev. 20 the millennium is followed by a worldwide revolt of which Gog is definitely declared to be the leader. This difficulty has been always referred to as a crux of literal interpretation.
So I wonder: Isn't it rather a mysterious name indicating some so far unidentifiable power in the future, and does not the composition of his army suggest the four corners of the earth? The prophecy obviously has eschatological features. The expression "in the latter days- also points in this direction, and so does the earthquake of vs. 19. So the prophet Ezekiel is taking very very long views here. Coming back to what I said in the beginning, we see that compared to Isaiah his horizon is not so restricted. Otherwise than Isaiah, whose prophecy leads to the future in successive stages, Ezekiel's prophecy points at the future directly. With an Isaiah it is first the Assyrian Empire of his days and then subsequent kingdoms of a more distant future looming up behind it. Assyria is featured first as the rod of God's anger against Israel and then as the object of the same anger. With Gog, on the other hand, the first stage, that of being the rod of God's anger and the staff of his fury, is skipped, and this enemy of the distant future is featured right away as object of God's anger.
It is the redemption of God's people Israel that is in the centre. The prophecy against Gog is a prophecy of salvation of Israel. It is the LORD GOD whom Gog intends to attack. For that purpose he gathers the peoples from the four corners of the earth, most of all from the far north and east (38:6): Meshech, Tubal, Gomer - names referring to Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and the area north of this mountain. But the south, Cush and Put, is not absent from the rollcall.
Enemy of God and his people: so we meet him again in the N.T. book of Revelation as the one taking the lead among those who are gathered for battle by Satan in an ultimate attempt to bring down the kingdom of God. Whatever the difference, or distinction I better say, between Ezekiel, where Gog is to appear during the course of history on earth, and Revelation, where his appearance is the beginning of the end, the message worded in both O.T. and N.T. language is the same: God's enemy has suffered crushing defeat. And the life of God's people that according to Ezekiel's picture continues here on earth in a glorious way must be the same as the vision of glory and resurrection of Rev. 20:11f.
The book of Ezekiel ends with the vision of the Temple. A vision which has raised quite a few questions among scholars. They have wondered, for example: Is it indeed a vision? Does a vision go into details so far as is done here?
Furthermore: What does it refer to? To the restoration of Israel as people? That is what those say who are in favour of a literal explication. Since it did not come true immediately after the return from the Babylonian exile, Premillennialists project it in the millennial kingdom. John F. Walvoord writes: "A number of Scriptures also describe the temple worship which will characterize the millennial kingdom. According to Ezekiel, a magnificent temple will be built, and a system of priesthood and memorial sacrifices will be set up. Scholars have not all agreed as to the interpretation of this difficult portion of Ezekiel. Some have felt it impossible to have a system of animal sacrifices subsequent to the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross in the light of N.T. passages stating that the sacrifice of Christ makes other sacrifices unnecessary. Though varied explanations have been given for Ezekiel 40 - 48, which unfolds these details, no satisfactory explanation has been made other than that it is a description of millennial worship. In any case, it is clear that the sacrifices are not expiatory, but merely memorials of the one complete sacrifice of Christ. If in the wisdom and sovereign pleasure of God the detailed system of sacrifices in the O.T. were a suitable foreshadowing of that which would be accomplished by the death of his Son, and if a memorial of Christ's death is to be enacted, it would seem not unfitting that some sort of sacrificial system would be used. While problems remain, it seems clear that Israel will have an ordered worship with Jerusalem once again the centre of their religious as well as political life."
Others, also sticking to a literal interpretation, see Ezekiel appear here as legislator more than as prophet. He does not tell how it will be, but rather how it should be in the future. Ez. 40ff. is a projected design.
Over against the literal interpretation there is a symbolic one. Others try a combination of the two.
Whatever the suggested solution, I freely admit that this part of the Bible raises several problems. E.g. what does the second group of interpreters mean by symbolic? That a visible terrestrial temple cannot be meant at all? In Solomon's temple, built by man's hand and as palpable as possible, the various parts had a symbolic meaning. So in spite of symbolism, Ezekiel's vision can point at a material structure, as far as that goes. Taking into consideration so many details, e.g. the measures, it is hard to discover any symbolism, unless one is going to allegorize, but that is not the intention of this part of the book.
I hear somebody ask: So you would say that the temple shown in the vision like a blueprint was to be constructed after the exile in accordance with the measures given by the LORD, just like the tabernacle of Moses: "See that you make everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain"?
Prof. J. Ridderbos wonders whether it might not have been the intention of the LORD by means of those concrete data and measures to create the impression of some structure to be erected in reality; a vision that was to materialize.
This way there are two elements in the vision, the first being the encouragement of exiles cherishing hopes for a new temple, to whom a new hope is held out by the prophet.
A temple was built, by Zerubbabel, but not according to the "blue. print" of the last chapters of Ezekiel. However, so the reader wonders, isn't prophecy deceiving? Well, here the word applies that we shall love the LORD "with all our mind". For he who gives the matter a thought, will find out that the "project" is impracticable, unworkable.
Questions arise. For example, is it feasible that the city lies at a distance from the sanctuary? How is the land to be divided among the tribes in equal portions? What about the scenery? One really wonders: "Are we still in the land of Canaan or is the scene laid someplace else? And what about the very high mountain on which the temple is located? This cannot be Mount Sion, which in reality was not so high. What we read in ch. 47 about the river of life issuing from below the threshold of the temple cannot possibly have been fulfilled in such a literal way.
In conclusion we must say that, taking it all in all, the scenery of the last chapters of the book exceeds the bounds of what is possible and feasible on this earth in this dispensation, in preparation for a better life on an ideal earth where everything is to be seen in its correct proportions.
In our Bibles the Book of Daniel is numbered among the Prophets, even among the four major prophets. Such in imitation of the Vulgate and the still older Septuagint, the Greek translation of the O.T. In the Hebrew Bibles, on the contrary, the book was assigned a different place, not among the prophets, but among the Writings, i.e. the third group of books of which the Hebrew Canon consisted. "The reason why the book is not included among the Prophets is that Daniel did not occupy the office of a prophet although he did possess the prophetic gift . . . A prophet must be an Israelite, raised up by the LORD in order to serve as a mediator between God and the people. Just as a priest would represent the people before God, so the prophet would represent God before the people. I 'will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him' (Deut. 18:18). In any correct definition -of the prophet, therefore, this mediatorial character must be kept in mind.
"The ministry of Daniel was not to the people of Israel, but to a heathen court. In this respect he stands in contrast with his contemporary Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a man who occupied the prophetical office. But Daniel must be regarded primarily as a statesman. In referring to Daniel as a prophet, the N.T. uses the word in a broad sense, as it also does in the case of Balaam (2 Peter 2:16)." (E.J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, p.20.)
As for the character of the book, in the heading of this article I called it the O.T. Apocalypse. That is to say, among all the books of the O.T. it is the nearest approach to the last book of the N.T., the Revelation (= Greek: Apocalypsis). So it does not mean that I would like to class it under the so-called apocalyptic literature that originated after the exile in such a large quantity - a literature known for its fantastic character and all sorts of mysterious speculations into which it launches; books as we find them among the Apocrypha and especially the Pseudepigrapha. That does not remove the fact that there are mysteries and problems in this very Book of Daniel. The author himself already was puzzled about the meaning or interpretation. And wasn't the last order he received: "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" (12:4), and: "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end" (12:9). This man, very privileged as far as the knowledge of the future of his people was concerned, simultaneously had to bear the heavy burden of hardly being able to comprehend it himself. However, the LORD had called this man first of all to be of benefit for future generations, who were to understand more than Daniel in his days was able to, and to this call he willingly submitted.
It is small wonder that this very book is in the centre of interest within the circles of premillennianists and dispensationalists, they being of the opinion that this book comes their way. So we'll first see what they deduce from this writing and pay a special attention to the significant prophecy in ch. 9: 24 - 27, often called the most difficult text of the O.T.:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy 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 prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.The various attempts made to come to a satisfying explanation can be classified as follows:
25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off but not for himself. and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary,. and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
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. (Authorized Version)
24 -Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.
25 Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.
26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war,. desolations are decreed.
27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease,. and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.
(Revised Standard Version)
A) The traditional Messianic Interpretation: This view was stated in its essentials by Augustine, and has ever since been adopted in orthodox commentaries. It regards this passage as a prophecy of the first advent of Christ in the flesh, the central point of which is His death and it also speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
B) The second view is one which applies the passage to the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes. Scholars in favour of this approach differ among each other about the precise elaboration of figures and designations, but generally the picture is this, that the 7 sevens are counted from the destruction of Jerusalem (586) to Cyrus (538); the 62 sevens from Cyrus to Seleucus, a king of Syria (176) or the high priest Onias III, who was assassinated; and the last seven to the notorious king Antiochus Epiphanes.
C) The Christian Church Exposition of Kliefoth: The sevens are not to be taken as designating weeks of years, but are merely symbolic numbers. After the expiration of the seventy years of exile, there is to follow a period of indefinite length during which the people of God will be brought to salvation, a period which will endure as long as the world and time, indeed, until the very consummation. This indefinite period is itself divided into three parts: The first 7 sevens is the period which begins with the edict of Cyrus (Ezra 1) and extends to the appearance of a Person, an anointed one, Who is also a prince, namely Christ. Following this is the period of 62 sevens. During this time there will be a return and rebuilding, figurative expressions for the preaching of the Gospel and the conversion of sinners. This will continue until the anointed One is cut off. That is to say: In His position as Messiah, Christ will be brought to naught so that He loses all that He could have. He has no longer any power over the world nor any influence in it. Then there will appear a prince who, opposed to God, will take the position of the Messiah as prince. So this last seven comprises the period of the domination of this prince, the Antichrist. His domination is brought to a close by the absolute consummation. Thus, according to Kliefoth, this prophecy parallels that of ch. 2 and 7.
D) The viewpoint in Pre-millennialist circles: The already frequently quoted Prof. Walvoord writes on page 97 of his book: "A broad future program for Israel can be established in the Bible. This anticipates that the regathering of Israel, begun in the twentieth century, will be continued. If the rapture of the church may be assumed to be pretribulational (so: something to take place prior to the future tribulation, H.M.O.), Israel's program will unfold immediately after the church is translated. With the realignment of nations, Israel will enter into a covenant with the Gentile rulers of the Middle East, as anticipated in Daniel 9:26, 27. (N.B. That is what Walvoord gathers from the text under consideration!!) A covenant will be signed for a period of seven years, which will be the last seven years of Daniel's 490 years allotted to Israel. During the first half of this seven years Israel will enjoy prosperity. Orthodox Jews will apparently revive their ancient sacrifices and a temple will be provided. After three and one half years of the covenant have run their course, it will be abruptly broken, in keeping with the predictions of both the Old and New Testaments and especially the words of Christ in Matthew 24:15 - 22.
"A period of great trouble which Jeremiah refers to as 'the time of Jacob's trouble' will follow. Israel will be persecuted, and their only hope will be to escape their enemies by hiding. The period of great tribulation will feature not only a time of trouble for Israel, but will be a period in which divine wrath is expressed on the earth. Great judgments will take place including warfare, earthquakes, famines, and stars failing from heaven. According to the book of Revelation, the majority of the earth's population will be destroyed in these catastrophes. A major world war brings the period to a close. As Christ returns from heaven, He descends on the Mount of Olives and delivers his persecuted people. The precise situation is described in Zachariah 14 and Revelation 19 and is confirmed in Romans 11:26, 27.
"With the destruction of the enemies of Christ and the establishment of the millennial kingdom, the process of Israel's regathering and restoration will be completed. According to Ezekiel 20:34 - 38, regathered Israel will be judged and rebels or unbelievers will be purged out. Only those who pass the searching judgment of Christ are allowed to enter into the millennial period. These are brought back to their ancient land and possess the area from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. Over this land Christ will rule as He rules over the entire world. David who is raised from the dead (The name 'David' does not indicate the Great Son of David but the king who once bore this name, H.M.O.) along with the Old Testament Saints has a part in the government of the people of Israel. This will also be shared by the twelve apostles, whom Christ assured participation in His government of Israel in the millennial state.
"During the thousand-year reign of Christ, the remnant nation Israel surviving the great tribulation, will greatly increase as will the Gentile nations, and repopulate the earth and rebuild its cities. At the end of the millennial reign of Christ, Satan is loosed and divine judgment overtakes any born in the millennium who rebels against Christ, who are Jewish and Gentile unbelievers. (Here the reader sees how strange and conflicting and contradictory views are held regarding the Millennium, e.g. the' idea of a visible reign (rule) of Christ on earth and the presence of unbelievers, rebels, in that state!) Though all the details are not supplied, it seems clear that the saints living on earth at the end of the millennium will be translated into their eternal state. The new heaven and the new earth will be created. The heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, will descend and rest upon the new earth. The description of the new earth given in Revelation 21:22 seems clearly to include Israel as well as the Gentile saints of all ages. It is interesting to note, however, that the people of Israel retain their identity as Israelites even as the Gentiles retain their identity as Gentiles in the eternal state. Though there are distinctions depending on their backgrounds, all alike enjoy the presence of the King of kings and the countless blessings that belong to the eternal state."
So far Prof. J. Walvoord. I gave a lengthy quotation, since you can here get an idea of what Premillennialism teaches and expects with respect to the future. In the plan of God for the future, Israel is to have a prominent place, because of the fact that it had such a place in the plan of God for the past, "the children of Israel constituting one of the major vehicles of divine revelation". In the scheme drafted by Premillenialism (and that is the big point and my most serious objection) Israel is given the position not of a receiver - and that is how I for one should like to see them as well as the New Testament Church first of all - but more or less that of a mediator of God's grace. The N.T. Church cannot do without the people of Israel and becomes more or less dependent upon Israel in this respect. That is also why Israel is to retain its identity as Israel in the eternal state, as Walvoord writes.
Returning from this more general expose to Daniel 9:24f., the reader may be struck by the passage in the above quotation in which it reads: "With the realignment of nations, Israel will enter into a covenant with the Gentile rulers of the Middle East, as anticipated in Daniel 9:26, 27." So the text refers to events we may possibly witness in our time. A new problem however arises. What about the seventy sevens as a united and uninterrupted series of periods? Therefore representatives of Premillennialism have brought to the fore the so-called " Parenthesis Interpretation". Prof. E.J. Young writes: "The most recent exposition of this view is by Ironside (The Great Parenthesis, 1943). Ironside places the terminus a quo (= point of departure) of the 70 sevens in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, i.e. c. 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2). The period of 7 sevens refers to the 49 years during which Jerusalem was rebuilt, i.e., the restoration from the Exile. The 62 sevens begin immediately and bring us down to (most likely) the Triumphal Entry, after which, within less than a literal week, the Messiah was cut off. The promises made in vs. 24, however, were not fulfilled at Christ's first advent, for 'Israel did not recognize their Messiah. They do not know Him yet as their Sinbearer. Their transgression has not been finished' (lronside).
"The 70th seven IS NOT TO FOLLOW the 62 sevens IMMEDIATELY (emphasis mine, H.M.O.). 'Between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks we have a Great Parenthesis which has now lasted over nineteen hundred years. The seventieth week has been postponed by God Himself, who changes the times and seasons because of the transgression of the people. As I have put it elsewhere, though some have objected to the expression, the moment Messiah died on the cross, the prophetic clock stopped. There has not been a tick upon that clock for nineteen centuries. It will not begin to go again until the entire present age has come to an end, and Israel once more will be taken up by God' (lronside).
"When the Parenthesis ends and the 70th seven begins, the Great Roman leader appears, pretending at first to be a friend of the Jews. He will make a covenant with the nation for seven years, promising them protection and liberty in religion as they return to their land. In the midst of the 70th week, i.e., at the end of 31/2 years, he will seek to break the covenant and demand that the Jewish worship cease. For the remainder of the week will occur the Great Tribulation or time of Jacob's trouble. Such in essence is the Parenthesis view of Ironside ... This view is very popular today."
If the reader will carefully study the above interpretations, he will be prepared for the explication of our text, which we hope to give in another article.
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