Staycation in Babylon and Glimpsing the New Covenant: Prophesy Fridays

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Red Peppers

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. This is going to be a heavy dose today, so strap on your thinking caps!

Today we’re going to visit with Ezekiel – a man who was carried off to Babylon in 597 BC when the Hebrew kingdom of Judah was dismantled by mighty Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon – Emperor of the Middle Eastern peoples. Ezekiel’s prophecy is graphic, gritty, and at some points difficult to interpret. Jewish men traditionally were not to read it until they turned 30 because of the horrific nature of some of the pictures, and because of the sexually explicit imagery used to describe the spiritual whoredom of Judah and Israel (ch. 23).

It is a prophecy of disorientation and devastation, and in the midst of the events of the book, word reaches Ezekiel that Jerusalem has been destroyed (586 BC). At that point, Ezekiel begins to receive a new type of prophetic word: reorientation and restoration for the descendants of the Babylonian exiles. On this turn in the narrative, Charles Dyer writes

During these final years Ezekiel was ministering in Babylon, predicting the coming collapse of Jerusalem. His message fell on deaf ears till word of the city’s destruction was received in Babylon. The fall of the city prompted a change in Ezekiel’s prophetic message. Before Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel’s message focused on Judah’s forthcoming destruction because of her sin. After Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel’s message centered on Judah’s future restoration. [1]

Ezekiel

I give you all that information in order to provide context for what I want to highlight today. As Ezekiel begins his staycation in Babylon, he is given a hopeful prophecy for the future restoration of his nation… yet the prophecy of the restored Israel would grow and expand into the inclusion of the Church of Jesus Christ (as is the nature of much Old Testament prophecy).

Through the destruction of old Jerusalem, Ezekiel becomes a prophet for the New Jerusalem – the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and the better promises given to all who are in Him. Want to see a glimpse of it? If you read carefully and follow my thinking, I know you will be blessed like I’ve been.

We only have space for a very small slice of Ezekiel’s prophecy, as it is dense and difficult, but a small slice is enough to get a ton of Christ.

Chapter 34, Verses Wow through Hallelujah

Written around 580 BC, keep in mind Ezekiel is writing what God is giving him to write – and he is writing to the generations of Jews who will suffer through exile in Babylon… but because they are the words of the all-knowing God who is outside of time, they are also words that foreshadow a greater restoration, one which will include the entire world!

After condemning the leaders of the Jewish nation for failing to shepherd the people according to the covenant, Yahweh declares Himself to be the true shepherd (Ez. 34:11-13 NKJV):

11 For thus says Yahweh God “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.”

What’s that? 600 years later, Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd” John 10:11, and also

And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).

Do you see the connection? Let’s look back at Ezekiel 34 –

12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

That dark and cloudy day was first of all referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, but that dark day can also refer to the thousands of years where there was no hope for the Gentiles. They were born, lived, and died in spiritual darkness as the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. Jesus, as the Word of Yahweh in Ezekiel 34, claims He will seek out His people in every nation.

13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.

When He finds us, He restores us – both Jews and Gentiles! We are all feeding on the goodness of the “land” of Israel, metaphorically speaking – we are all within the covenant blessings spoken to Abraham… because of and in Christ!

But wait, there’s more. You may not be convinced of the connection between Ezekiel’s prophecy and Jesus. Look further as Yahweh through Ezekiel reprimands the Hebrew people who have despised the good gifts of God… but with the appropriate New Covenant lens, we see it was actually Jesus they trampled. Read this and think of Jesus’ trial, mocking, and crucifixion (Ez. 34:17-19):

17 ‘And as for you, O My flock, thus says Yahweh God: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.

(Read about how Jesus claims that power in Matthew 25).

18 Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?

This is a picture of how Jesus was treaded down and trampled by His nation. Ezekiel’s contemporaries had similarly despised the good gift of God’s covenant and favor to them, but look then at this:

19 And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.”

Oh my. Yahweh makes a difference here between His flock and the people of Ezekiel’s nation. In other words, the people of Ezekiel’s time are excluded from the flock of Yahweh – excluded and cursed by their breaking of the covenant. They have treaded and trampled God’s gift, but His flock will eat and drink from that very trampled gift.

Do you see the prophetic power here? He’s talking about you and me in the New Covenant – those in Jesus Christ which for Ezekiel would be another 600 years in the future!

Look carefully at it: what is it the Church eats and drinks? What else but the broken body and blood of the Lamb?Communion Our communion supper! Our Jesus, coming to us in the bread and the wine, offering His saving benefits to His flock!

Even More Clear

Ezekiel continues to speak the Word of Yahweh, and Jesus becomes crystal clear in the passage:

23 I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, Yahweh, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, Yahweh, have spoken.

Just so there is no confusion about who it is that is at the head of all these blessings. Just so we’re clear, oh Israel, who will be your King and benefactor. This is an echoing of Yahweh’s promises to David that his own offspring would sit on the throne of the covenant nation forever, from 2 Samuel 7:16.

But realize something about Ezekiel writing this Word from God in 580 BC: David had been dead and moldering for over 400 years, so when Yahweh declares that David will be His shepherd and servant to rule His people Israel, He is speaking of David’s descendant.

And here’s the last piece of the puzzle. In 70 AD when the Romans wrecked the temple and destroyed the Jewish nation (again), all of the family records of the Jews were lost. After that time, no one can say for certain which person belongs to which family or tribe. What Jew today can be crowned as the Son of David? Not one. There is no line from David to the present day Jew, and so that Shepherd and Prince who will be ruler over the New Covenant, restored nation… had to have lived and been revealed before 70 AD. And since there was no restored Davidic kingdom at that time, there is only one possibility left: that Shepherd, King, and servant of Yahweh did not stay dead, rose from the earth into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting to return again to earth and consummate His visible rule over all people. The great Shepherd of Israel and Son of David is alive and ready to be revealed in His majestic reign, just as promised.

For now, He is reigning until the Father places all His enemies under His feet. He is the King of Zion. He is the Son of David. He is the Lamb slain for His flock – and He is coming back to rule the earth in judgment and power. He is the fulfillment of these, and many other prophetic pictures in Ezekiel. Read it for yourself!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

[1] Charles H. Dyer, Ezekiel, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1226.

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A Grand Piece of Spiritual Yum – Gregory Nazianzen

You’ll want a fork, knife, and napkin for this one. From Gregory Naziazen, a fourth-century theologian from Cappadocia. In defending the deity and ministry of the blessed Lamb of God against the heresies of the Arians, he wrote:

Gregory-Naziazen

He was born—but He had been begotten:  He was born of a woman—but she was a Virgin.  The first is human, the second Divine.  In His Human nature He had no Father, but also in His Divine Nature no Mother.  Both these belong to Godhead.  He dwelt in the womb—but He was recognized by the Prophet, himself still in the womb, leaping before the Word, for Whose sake He came into being.  He was wrapped in swaddling clothes—but He took off the swathing bands of the grave by His rising again.  He was laid in a manger—but He was glorified by Angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshiped by the Magi.

. . . He was driven into exile into Egypt—but He drove away the Egyptian idols.  He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews—but to David He is fairer than the children of men.  And on the Mountain He was bright as the lightning, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future.

He was baptized as Man—but He remitted sins as God—not because He needed purificatory rites Himself, but that He might sanctify the element of water.  He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God; yea, He bids us be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world.  He hungered—but He fed thousands; yea, He is the Bread that giveth life, and That is of heaven.  He thirsted—but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.

Yea, He promised that fountains should flow from them that believe.  He was wearied, but He is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy laden. He was heavy with sleep, but He walked lightly over the sea. He rebuked the winds, He made Peter light as he began to sink. He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish; yea, He is the King of those who demanded it.  He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac;—but He saves him that came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves; the demons acknowledge Him, and He drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits, and sees the Prince of the demons falling like lightning.

He is stoned, but is not taken.  He prays, but He hears prayer.  He weeps, but He causes tears to cease.  He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was Man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God. He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the Price was His own blood.  As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.  As a Lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word, and is proclaimed by the Voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is bruised and wounded, but He healeth every disease and every infirmity.

He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree, but by the Tree of Life He restoreth us; yea, He saveth even the Robber crucified with Him; yea, He wrapped the visible world in darkness.  He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall.  Who?  He who turned the water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is Sweetness and altogether desire.  He lays down His life, but He has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise.  He dies, but He gives life, and by His death destroys death.  He is buried, but He rises again; He goes down into Hell, but He brings up the souls; He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead…

Catch your breath, and worship our Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Gregory Nazianzen, The Third Theological Oration: On the Son, NPNF2-7, sec. 19-20, http://www.ccel.org.

Prophesy Fridays: The God of Israel will be Pierced

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy, so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to scald the demons.

habanero peppers

Be sure to subscribe to the Citizen on the right side column to get an e-mail when a new post is published.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. Zechariah wrote his book of prophecy about 450 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, but when Yahweh, the God of Israel speaks His Word to Zechariah, you might think old Zech was time-traveling to be at the foot of the cross almost five centuries later.

Messianic Jams and Hebrew Lunches

Six years ago I had an internship with the New York State Department of Education in their Child Nutrition office. I worked in Albany, and on any given day of the week, was called upon to go out into the field to visit the locations that participated in our summer food program for kids. We had to show up unannounced (just like government thugs like to do 😉 ), and count the number of kids eating the summer lunches we funded, as an accountability for how much the locations were being compensated.

Anyhow, the great Jewish city of Brooklyn, New York empties out in the summer, and every tassled, bearded, kosher man takes his family north into the Catskill Mountains. There are Hasidic Jewish summer camps everywhere through those hills, and they just happen to be big time participants in the summer lunch program… so there I went throughout the summer to count kosher kiddies.

We would show up and shout Surprise! and then do a little dance with the Rabbi, and play the fiddle while singing about tradition. Oh wait… no, that was another thing. Actually, we would show up and sometimes sit around for a while as the staff at the camp was getting all the children together so we could count them and check their meals for program standards.

At one particular camp, we State workers had some time to mill around in the cafeteria before the kids showed up for lunch, and so I began to look around and explore. At the time I was getting pretty good at reading Hebrew, so I found myself reading a wall chart instruction guide on hand-washing. Two young Jews spotted me reading the Hebrew-only chart, and approached from behind. They were very curious if I were a Jew as well.

“No,” I replied, noticing they were about my age, “but I do try and read Hebrew.” We talked some about the language, and then I felt a bubble of confidence (or maybe it was just gas), but either way I asked them if I could run a Hebrew sentence by them, and they could “critique” my pronunciation… if you know what I mean 😉

Over the couple years before that I had been really digging Lamb (a messianic music group from the 70’s and 80’s). My favorite song from Lamb (which everyone who knew me was sick of to the point of death I think) is called V’sha Fac’ti – the first words of Zechariah 12:10. Now, Lamb sang it all in Hebrew to a very catchy, banjo-strumming beat – so I had the entire passage memorized in Hebrew.

As I began to recite the passage (song) to my new Jewish friends, one of them particularly seemed to cue in on my words. His eyes locked on mine, and as I spoke out the glorious picture of Jesus, he confirmed my Hebrew by translating into English:

Me: V’sha fac’ti al beit David 

Him: And I will pour out on the house of David

v’al yoshev Yerushalayim

And on the inhabitants of Jerusalem

ruach chen v’ta’a’cha’nu’nim

The Spirit of grace and of prayer

v’hi’bitu eli et asher

And they will look upon Me

dakaru

Whom they have pierced.

Alarm bells went off in his friend’s head. He chuckled at our little translation session. “I know what you’re doing.”

“What?” I asked, feeling outed.

He turned to his friend who had just recited Zechariah 12:10 with me, the gentile State worker.

“He’s going to convert you to Christianity,” he said, smiling knowingly. They both looked at me with humor in their eyes.

“We’re talking about your Bible” I replied.

Yahweh, Eternal God – Pierced and Mourned

And we were. And there He was – Jesus, doing what He always does: standing tall on the pages of His Old Testament. I didn’t win any Jewish converts that day in the Catskills, but without having to say anything about the meaning of the passage, they knew who we were talking about. Yahweh God of Israel, uncreated and supreme above all – speaking in the first person in Zechariah 12, states clearly that it is He who they will look upon when He is pierced.

Wow. Pierced. Where was God ever “pierced”? In the Person of His Son, on the Roman death cross, 400+ years after Zechariah wrote those words, and all for you and me. Jesus took on flesh, having been alive and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, and He humbled Himself to the point of death, even the desperately ugly, criminal’s death on the torture cross.

It’s no wonder this shows up in the Old Testament: it was the pinnacle of all cosmic history. The glorious, worthy Son of God bows His head to be murdered by His own creatures. Stop your internet schedule for a moment and ponder that. He did that to pay your sin debt. He loves you. Ponder it.

Decades after Jesus had risen from the grave and returned to His Father, the Apostle John saw a vision of God’s glory and Word, and introduced the book of Revelation with this in 1:7

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (NKJV)

John quoted Zechariah’s prophecy, and saw in it the future fulfillment when Jesus returns to His earth in glory. Those who remain enemies of Jesus will look upon Him and mourn – mourning for their own doom and imminent destruction… but it does not have to be so for you, friend. Today is the day to look upon Him who was pierced for your transgressions, who suffered the death of an eternal separation from the Father in His holy wrath against sinners. I urge you, place all your eggs in this basket: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, and He did it in fulfillment of powerful, clear prophetic words which described how it would happen, even centuries before He was born. Oh, and pray for our Jewish friends; that they might see Him and yet not mourn any longer…

What a glorious Savior. Praise Him!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Prophesy Fridays: Isaiah Sees the Atonement 740 Years Out

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy, so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your mental mouth.

Hot Peppers

Be sure to subscribe to the Citizen on the right side column to get an e-mail when a new post is published.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. Isaiah wrote over 700 years before Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, but he wrote so clearly about Him that we might suspect old Isaiah had been the first time traveler.

How did he see Jesus so clearly from seven centuries before?

This is the signature of the divine Holy Spirit, guiding and carrying the authors of the biblical text, and should be more than enough “evidence” for each of us to bow the knee in repentance from sins, faith and trust in the magnificent, mighty Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s look at Isaiah 25:6-9, where the prophecy of the atonement is clear, glorious, and weighty.

What do you see, Isaiah?

I see…

On this mountain Yahweh Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples, (the body of Jesus upon which we feast at communion)
a banquet of aged wine— (the blood of Jesus which we drink in at communion)
the best of meats and the finest of wines. (there is no sacrifice and meal like His)
On this mountain he will destroy (Jerusalem = “this mountain” where Jesus died)
the shroud that enfolds all peoples, (spiritual darkness over the nations)
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever. (when the Son of God died for the sins of the world!)
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth. (reconciliation has been achieved in the body of Jesus for all peoples)
Yahweh has spoken. (it is as good as accomplished)

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is Yahweh, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (NIV 1984). (and so it is – all these things have come to pass)

Do you see Him there? Do you see the Son of God in flesh, taking on the sins of the world, dying in your place? If you see Him, be baptized in His Name for the forgiveness of your sins, and rise to take the bread and wine of the communion supper with the rest of His people. We will be with Him in the New Jerusalem, beloved. Rejoice!

We’ve been peppered by the prophet.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

P.S. I recommend milk or bread for cooling a spicy, burning mouth.