The Faithfulness of Futurism

When I was a boy I was unsure of the future. Our family had their issues and there were many times that I would lay in bed at night and wonder if my parents would ever get a divorce as many of my friends parents had. That concern in my childhood mind would’ve been allowed to fester, always remaining a hopeless outcome, except for one thing: My parents would speak to me at various times and say, “Son, no matter how bad of a fight we have, we will never get a divorce. We will always stay married” This gave great comfort to my small, innocent mind. It gave me a handle to grab ahold of, a handle by which I knew something of security in my future: My parents would stay married.

My parents celebrated their 42 anniversary this year. They have been faithful to their words and for this I am thankful and very proud.

But imagine a different scenario where words don’t mean what they seem to mean. What if my parents had divorced, and upon me reminding them of the words they had told me their response was: “Oh son, we’re sorry, we didn’t really mean we’d never get a divorce. We just told you that to comfort you. Things have changed…”

I don’t use this analogy tritely knowing that many of had this experience as reality.

However, in this scenario the hope of the future has been shattered by a simple unfaithfulness to what was previously spoken. The hearer, in this case a small boy who trusted his parents words has had his future obliterated and must now pick up the pieces of a broken family to rebuild a new future. Anyone looking on they would say this is wrong for the boy because––

Words mean something.

Or maybe I should clarify in a generation such as this:

Words should mean something!

This is not a complicated concept, however, I am continually amazed at how simple life principles that we all abide by on a daily basis are not maintained when reading the Scriptures; or in how we think about God and the words He says. This post is a pragmatic plea for us to allow the future God has spoken of to remain the hope of what He said it would, and will be.

The hope of the biblical future being fulfilled remains the steadfast anchor by which the chains of our heart are mored to in desperate hope that God might be found true, and every other man a liar.

Hebrews 6: 11-12, 18-19 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises… in the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.

19This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast

The Two Camps

There is currently a growing number of Bible students who have been trained to disbelieve that a literal future fulfillment of the words spoken in Scripture, will happen as prophesied in the future. The position that believes the opposite is called futurism, believing firmly that from Genesis to Revelation the nature of biblical prophecy is to find its true end apocalyptically. Apocalypticism is the same, in that we believe the things spoken about the end-times in the Law, Prophets, Writings, Gospels, and Letters will have a true, literal fulfillment in a climactic end.

Simply put, exactly what God said will be fulfilled in real time and space and since many events come together to begin this great end and see it through, it is as a crescendo in nature, where many biblical prophecies come together in a sort of grand finale.

To give an illustration, when Jesus says in Matthew 24 that “this generation will by no means pass away until all is fulfilled,” futurists take this to mean that Jesus meant the generation that sees ALL of the things He mentions take place. Simply, everything He mentioned did not happen in the generation proceeding 70 AD, therefore He likely means the generation of His coming because His coming is the pinnacle event of His prophecy (see Luke 21, and Mark 13 also).

What orchestral piece have you heard that does not contain it’s crescendo? What fireworks show have you witnessed that does not have a grand finale? Futurists see the Bible in this light, that the God of Israel’s beautiful song, or His firework show, or whatever analogy you would employ in the place of biblical narrative, has a climactic end. Not because He is into putting on a dramatic show, but because the Scriptures teach us that He is really into putting on a dramatic show (misnomer intentional).

The opposing view to futurism is called Preterism, in which all things that are prophetic in nature are said to have been fulfilled on or by 70 AD. In one sense, Preterist’s say they are more literal than Futurist’s in their interpretation because they keep the “original context” in which things were written. They would say that Ezekiel was only speaking to those hearing him, his immediate generation, and that it has no application to thing in the future. They say the same about Daniel and his words and maintain that the fulfillment is immediate, not in the distant future. Many Preterist’s are honorable, bible loving people, who are truly seeking to interpret the Scriptures to the best of their ability. This is respectable, and something worthy of praise. To their credit they truly are seeking to understand the Scriptures and they see this as the best way.

For instance, they take the very same words of Matthew 24 that a futurist is clinging to in hopes of occurring, and say that Jesus exclusively meant the generation He was speaking to in that moment, and that he was not speaking to future generations. They say that even though only some of the events took place as Jesus said, he was mainly speaking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD which sealed up biblical prophecy for good. The slippery slope of this interpretation leads many to the conclusion that Jesus was just plain wrong because He did not come again as He said to the generation He was speaking to, and caused others to suffer shipwreck in their faith, leaving the faith entirely. I say this with sobriety, love, and an ache in my heart for these brothers and sisters. 

Unfortunately, with this interpretation, the larger sweeping nature of biblical prophecy is often ignored. I need to firmly say that I believe the view of preterism is detrimental to the Bible, how we understand it, and that it very simply does not honor the words that the Father has spoken, but rather takes away from what He has said in a very harsh, but disguised, format. It is my hope that this post might paint the larger picture of biblical prophecy and that the entire biblical narrative holds to a distinct futurist method of interpretation, beginning in Genesis and climaxing in Revelation.

The First Futurist

From the first biblical prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that a seed would crush the head of the serpent it is established that the nature of biblical prophecy is to say something that will have a latter fulfillment, and that the fulfillment is not immediate by any sense of the word. Genesis 3:15 is called the protoevangelium, or first Gospel. Just after Adam and Eve sin by their disobedience of God’s command in the garden to not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, God gives this incredible promise of hope, this good news––that the serpent who deceived them would one day be crushed by the promised Seed. It is interesting that God began biblical prophecy setting the hope of restoration in the very distant future, and it is extremely significant and instructional that the first Biblical prophecy is as such.

Although hindsight tells us this now, Adam and Eve would have seen this promise very differently. Adam and Eve had no context for the future. They had only lived in perfection in the presence of God from the time of their first breaths until that moment. Time, and its devastating longevity would not have been something they had any context for. Therefore, when Adam and Eve heard this promise we must ask the question, “What was their expectation of fulfillment?” How did they perceive the future? Based very simply on what God spoke, it seems that they would’ve believed that Eve would somehow bring forth another man immediately that would bring them back to the garden they were driven out of. At this stage Adam and Eve might have been Preterists.

For analogies sake, I like to picture Adam and Eve most likely living just outside the gate that led into the garden. Why else would God have had to protect it with the swords of fiery cherubim? They were close, and the promise that they had received from God they believed to be equally close. They thought that when this man came forth from her Seed he would crush that serpent imminently, the cherubim’s swords would cease their paths of crescent fire, and they would go back into the garden to be with God. If we can put ourselves in their shoes, this scenario is very plausible given their context since they did not yet understand time.

They couldn’t have been more naive however! We don’t know whether Abel or Cain were born first but their names give us a little hint. Abel in Hebrew means breath; son; breathing spirit; while Cain means acquired.  With Cain’s given name, is it possible they believed they had acquired the Seed that was promised? However, when Abel is murdered, Adam and Eve would’ve instantly realized that neither of the boys were the promised Seed of which God had spoken.

Imagine the devastation. What they had hoped for, and likely thought close, was now an ambiguous time frame… 

Who would this seed be? When would he come forth? Had they done something wrong? Had they misunderstood the Lord? Was God Himself wrong about what He promised? BY no means.

With the promise that God had made crystallized in their minds they conceive again, and bring forth Seth.  It would seem that they’re hope of the promised Seed was forefront in their minds as Seth means appointed. I wonder at what stage they realized it wasn’t Seth either? When Seth gives birth to Enosh, which means mortal, his name is telling of what they clearly think––He is not the one. It is then that the Bible tells us, “then men began calling on the name of the Lord.”

What were they crying out for? The promised Seed who would come to crush the head of the serpent and restore them to the garden! Adam must’ve waited and waited with eager hope and expectation that this promised one would arise in his lifetime to no avail. In his 930th year, death creeps upon his tired lungs and when his eyes close for the last time they were most undoubtedly filled with tears of confusion and yet hope that the God he had personally walked with and spoken to would fulfill what He said with His own mouth. We can rest assured that on that day Adam died a futurist, knowing that the prophecy spoken to him would have a literal future fulfillment after his death. Thank you Adam for keeping the faith!

Often times, Preterist’s tell us that biblical prophecy must not be taken out of its original context. Futurist’s heartily agree with this. However, the problem with the preterist hermeneutic is that they do not allow any room for fulfillment beyond the original context. There is a glaring flaw with this method. As we have just witnessed, the very first biblical prophecy pointedly communicates a future hope that was not fulfilled within Adam’s life or context. Yet, I have never seen a preterist making the case that this prophecy never came to pass–– the entire biblical story hinges upon it! It is the very substance of redemptive history, the quintessential gospel that points to our Savior Christ Jesus.

It is here that we must ask a very reasonable question. Since the first prophecy God spoke had a distinct future context to its fulfillment, is it not also logical to conclude that other prophecies in the bible will possess a similar nature? Is it reasonable to use the first biblical prophecy as the interpretive key to the rest? Is it good sense to assume that prophecy simply contains this future component in its very fabric? As good students learning from experience, it would be a disservice to the Scriptures to not do so.

Still, this is exactly what the preterist position asks you to do to the ultimate demise of faith in what God has said.

Yes, Israel will be restored as Isaiah 60 says. Yes, Babylon will be decimated and judged as Jeremiah 51 exclaims. Indeed, Jesus will descend on the clouds of heaven and the tribes of Israel will mourn over Him, as one weeps for an only son. Truly, His feet will stand on the mount of olives and it will literally split in two as Zechariah 12 and 14 state and as Jesus Himself proclaims in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. All Israel will be saved on that day like Paul tells us in Romans 11, and as Revelation 20 declares Jesus will reign on this earth for 1000 years sitting upon a throne in a literal temple as Ezekiel described in chapters 40-48. Jerusalem will be elevated upon a glorious mountain as Isiah 2 emphatically declares, and the nations of the earth will come up to Jerusalem to learn from the God of Jacob, lay down their weapons and forsake war, and be healed by the waters that flow from His throne until He delivers the kingdom to the Father as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15. These words are the weight in the anchor of which our faith is joyfully roped to.

We must not overcomplicate the matter of futurist versus preterist interpretation. And here is the old horse that is belarboingly kicked: we are simply discussing a matter of faith.

From the beginning of the Bible men are asked to put their faith in what God says. The whole trajectory of the biblical hope is founded upon God saying things, and men believing that what He said will happen. If we do not do this we have no hope! If we do not do this we have no gospel! Therefore, it is my plea to suggest that we believe what has been spoken, and that we have faith that what was spoken will come to pass.

The glaring issue with the preterist interpretation is that it takes what God has spoken and discounts it by a scheme of thought that basically says God is like the parents getting the divorce, “Well, I didn’t really mean EVERYTHING I said.” This is harmful to faith. This effectively cuts the rope attached to the anchor allowing it to slip off into the bottom of the theological seas. It may never be recovered again.

This view is truly pessimistic towards the very promises God spoke with His own mouth. It is encouraging many to not believe that the things spoken in the Bible will happen as they have been spoken. If this be the case, then where is the plumbline? If Adam had believed this way, would he not have died an unbeliever? Rather, Noah’s father Lamech would’ve most likely sat with Adam, hearing from him the promise of the coming Seed and he also would have believed it would come to pass. He would have put his faith in that promise and then discipled His son Noah in righteousness with faith in drastic contrast to the landslide of wickedness taking root in his day. Thus when God said to Noah “build an ark because it’s going to rain,” the faith instilled in him from his father to trust God would’ve driven him to complete the task. Many looked on in Noah’s day mocking, marrying, laughing, drinking, and although the witness of an enormous ship was before them, they were blind to its significance.

Conculsion

Likewise brothers and sisters we are approaching a time in which “all things written will be fulfilled,” (Lk. 21:22). We desire to be those who heed Jesus words, cling to them faithfully, and not write them off by the words of men. He will be the only One found worthy on that day, His words entirely justified, upheld, and completed just as He said. He will remain faithful, He will not change what He has said. We can trust what He said:

“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it,” (Is. 55:11).

The amazing thing is that Genesis 3:15 still remains unfulfilled. Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion (1 Pt. 5:8), he is the prince and the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), thw ruler of this world (Jn. 14:30) and Paul confirms that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” (Rm. 16:20). Yes, Jesus sacrifice effectively “crushed” satan, however there remains a very literal crushing ahead. Rev. 12:9 and 20:10 tells us,

“And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him… And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

This one prophecy from Genesis 3:15 encompasses the last 6000 years of history unfolding. We take great joy in this future event when Jesus, the promised Seed finally triumphs over the Serpent, and squishes His head beneath His glorious heel consummating this spectacular sentence.

The vivid hope in what God has spoken, and the faith in His words remain as the only anchor for my broken soul.

And this is why I am still a futurist.

Determining to Know Christ and Him Crucified

A couple years ago we had a season in South Korea. Upon our arrival my children immediately noticed that their Grandpa had hung this beautiful transparent poster of Christ crucified upon a glass door. What took place after this was the most remarkable thing to me. In the morning, just upon waking, my children go over to it and without a word just stare for minutes at a time. It was as if they would fall into the great abyss of the crucifixion speechless and in awe. Throughout the day, without explanation they would return and look. Dumbstruck, I would watch on with tears in my eyes and ask for the same intrigue… the same wonder to overtake me that was so consuming to them.

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

-The Apostle Paul

This scripture has been paramount in my life for a little over ten years. I return to it often in order to reset my own system with the system of the apostle. Something of a simultaneous reckoning takes place and I rewire my mind back to this specific purpose to know only Christ and him crucified. In order to do so, I often need to cut some wires that have begun crowding the electrical box of my mind and heart. I yank them out and I throw them away. Then I pray… I pray that this one wire of Christ and Him crucified would again be plugged into the mainframe of my mind and heart and carried out in my own will and emotions. I determine within myself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that this would be the consuming flood of purpose carrying my life along on its waters until we reach that glorious beach of resurrection. As a fencing champion relinquishing his sword in the midst of the battle I surrender.

When a man determines to do something he is set on the goal until it is accomplished. Paul does not mistakenly use this language here. For him this is exactly what has taken place within him as he testifies, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live…” (Gal. 2:20). We cannot all say that the same is true for us.

The determination we see within the apostle can actually be quite unfamiliar to the daily routine of our lives. And yet this is not something we can just add to our routine – no, it is far more consuming than that, far more detrimental to our pretty little worlds. Quite the opposite, we must die to our routine, and it, and us, must also become crucified with Christ so that the life we live in the flesh we live in the Son of God. It is all consuming and all encompassing and requires our certain crucifixion. It is as if you are standing on the brink of a sinkhole and wondering how deep it is when all you see is black. 

Yet this tunnel is the tunnel with the most glorious light at its end.

The light at the end of that abyss is the hope of becoming lost in Christ alone, while being yet found. There is only Christ, and Him crucified there. As His followers we must all jump in!

In jumping we do not allow this determination to remain a vague spiritualized idea. This determination must pass from idea to form as the clay was transformed into man by the hand of God in the garden. We must allow the breath of His Spirit to breathe into us again and raise us up from the dirt, that we might be pushed down into it again…. and again, just as He was. To know Christ and Him crucified is to allow Him to reciprocate our own crucifixion.

But no one likes to die!

This is certain. Dying is not something that is nostalgic. It happens once and you do not experience it again… unless of course you are the wicked who die a second death, or the apostle who dies every single day. “I die daily.” Paul’s words resound from 1 Corinthians 15, a reverberating echo, having ridden the shockwave through the chapters stemming from where we have started in chapter 2.

For Paul, death was nostalgic.

Every day he relived his death that was bound up inside the body of Christ on the Cross. When his flesh began to live again, then death was nostalgic, as he crucified Paul’s motives to the crossbeam and allowed Christ’s to live. We peer into the coffin of the apostle often as he tells the truth of his state: God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10We are fools for Christ’s sake… we are weak… we are without honor. 11To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.

Here is death… and yet here is life.

Indeed the funeral dirge is sounding in this genuine list of apostolic accolades. Each title is dressed in black as the spiritual morgue continues filling with true apostles. Before any man can claim to be apostolic, I have to see proof of this resume in his life––not his PhDs or MBAs. The apostle is living as one who is dead and this is equally how he perceives himself and the world perceives him. His life is lived calling out from the coffin of who he was, as he re-buries himself daily allowing the resurrected power of Christ to keep his body of death in the ground while the testimony of Christ walks on before him.

There is an odd requital at work in determining to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, in that, when you determine to only know only this, you are actually determining to know many other things. Namely, meekness, humility, kindness, servility, mercy – and the list goes on. It is in fact these very things that are pre-filling Messiah and driving Him to so willingly to lay down His life on the cross––to become crucified. If He was not these very things, our Gospel story would be avidly different, most likely having its termination point in a radical zealot Jesus who overthrew the Roman armies, instead of a man crucified by them. When a man then determines to know only Him and His crucifixion, the man is determining to know and become the attributes that gave Jesus the humility to be led as a Lamb to the slaughter. And rest assured, the Lamb will again come as the Lion King (and I don’t mean Sinba).

There is also theology to consider when we determine to know Christ. A commonly used phrase that drives me wild is, “Just Jesus man!” What people typically mean by this is: You don’t need a bunch of theology, Jesus is enough. This is interesting because theology simply means “What man knows about God.” The person who says, “Just Jesus brother!” has a belief system about the Jesus he speaks of, and it is his own theology. Being introduced to Jesus without theology is one thing, and it happens often, but worshipping Jesus in Spirit and truth without theology is not possible. We all have a theology, it’s simply what we think we know about God. It is actually irresponsible to leave vague definition to what we believe about God. It does Him and His Son a disservice. It equally does the person a disservice because they can remain in this odd state of immaturity for years thinking, “Just Jesus man!” However, as a large ship with a small rudder, the right theology directs our ship to Messiah–– Who He is, and what He is going to do, and instructs us to be like Him. 

Jesus is perfect theology, and in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge… (Col. 2:3).

Our New Testament starts with the sentence: The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, son of Abraham. This is one of the most incredible statements in the entire New Testament and one that strangely often means hardly anything to “Christians.” On a couple occasions, that one verse has been read to orthodox Jews and the response is outrage. Impossible! They shout. Because this phrase is one of the most powerful things the Bible can say about a person. This one verse speaks volumes about the person it is addressing. This great alarm sounds the warning for the reader to return to the 39 books prior and understand what it means to be the Son of David and Abraham. It provokes us to understand Jesus through a theology found in the Old Testament.

To determine to know Christ is undoubtedly determining to know the Scriptures that tell us the most about Him. This Man’s story begins in Genesis, not Matthew, and to understand what Paul means by knowing Christ, we must know the same words Paul knew because the New Testament did not exist was not something Paul read to learn about Jesus, it was what Paul wrote in regards to what the Old Testament had taught Him about Jesus. The glorious abyss of finding Christ in the TaNaKh, is to behold the heirloom of Jesus beauty, the embryo of His person. It is actually very interesting that Matthew doesn’t start his gospel by saying Jesus was the Son of God. His point is being based from the Scriptures of Genesis 12-22, and 2 Samuel 7 which are God’s covenant words regarding the promised one of Genesis 3:15 who will crush the serpents head.

The other process taking place in 1 Cor. 2:2 is that the apostle has also determined to know nothing else. This is a hard one to swallow. I have often knelt in prayer and asked the Lord to help me know nothing else except Christ and Him crucified. Then, within fifteen minutes I am often determining to know something else… usually something worldly like the news or social media. I don’t have the answer for this I blatantly confess! It remains an odd mystery to me that Paul could use such a blanket statement. It gives me hope to know that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul was telling the truth because He was writing inspired of God. Therefore I let this resolve, this overwhelming determination, consume me, teach me, reprove me, correct me, and train me in righteousness––I am ok with knowing nothing else.

When I was a boy I was determined to fly jet-fighters. There was a peace that would overtake my childhood mind as I pondered what the earth would look like from up there. I imagined the quiet amidst the roaring engines of that metal bird. I longed to rest in-flight between heaven and earth. This dream, albeit concocted from youthful naivety, was a pillar of determination in my mind. I am now 35 and have never seen the inside of a jet-fighter. You know why? Because determining to fly jet-fighters meant determining to learn many other things for many years. The idea of flying was fantastic and yet I have never flown because I was not determined enough to undergo the many challenges this determination would produce.

Determining to know Christ and Him crucified is similar. It is one thing to read the crucifixion accounts in the Gospels and think I determine to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. It is another thing altogether to relate to Him in His sufferings… to undergo a crucifixion of your own… to actually lay down your life and relate to Him there befuddled of knowledge unrelated to Him. Many times, a meek response can be a level of suffering. Other times suffering can be serving undeserving people or your enemies. At times, suffering can be having your life and actions completely overlooked or disregarded. Rest assured, many of us who choose to determine this will experience these things and more as preparation for the glorious day we meet Him there in the place of enduring physical pain and possibly torture and death as we become like Him in His death…

…and so somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:10-11).

My dad, who was a pilot, once told me that flying an airplane is like flying an iron dinosaur through the air. “It’s loud and clunky,” he said. “The birds… they are the ones that really fly!” He then talked about “heaven” and with glossed-over eyes would imagine the day he would spread out his own arms and fly. I am long past the age of being able to fly that jet-fighter but I am young in the hope of flying in the resurrection of the righteous! I am connecting new wires that support who Christ is, and still cutting old ones that divert attention to other things. I am resolving that my determination remain steadfastly fixed upon Messiah and Him crucified. As scary as it is, I want to draw near to Him in the fellowship of His sufferings and be conformed to His death. I want to stumble through the darkness of that pit, bleeding, weeping, and following in His footsteps only emerge into that light at the end of the tunnel and hear, “Well done…”

The joy that will be ours on that day will pale in comparison to the sufferings we endured in this life. Take hold of that hope and plow on!

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” -The Apostle Paul

Audio

How Deep The Fathers Love (Hessed): Why the Gospel is “First to the Jew” and How Gentiles Should Respond

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Tears Like Glory

old-man-wept

(What provoked this blog from within the depths of me, came during a morning of prayer and meditation while listening to the instrumental song above on repeat. It is a close friend of mine’s music and carries the emotional weight of the words in this post within the borders of its musical arrangement. I would love for you to listen to it while you read this post for a more dramatic experience.)

Weeping is not something that can be conjured up. It strikes a person as a bolt of lightning, unpredictable, from a course not of ourselves. Bound up in the endless depths of the human heart is restricted emotion from years of wounding, hurts, pains, and wrongs… and when the dam holding back those floodwaters bursts its torrent is an uncontrollable flood… a deluge of something divine. Tears trace paths down our cheeks like streams through a parched desert devoid of rain for seasons past. Truly, who can explain what it is that makes one cry? Who can declare from where it is conceived? Born in that stored-away place that is rarely seen by many, the fetus of emotion grows and grows until the event that causes its birth. With heaving and groaning the baby is born and the tears on one’s face are like the wet newborn baby that has just entered the world. Is it overly allegorical to observe why we have at times returned to that fetal position in times of weeping?

There is no time or pattern to the rhythm of weeping, and it knows no metronome. It follows no clap, or tapping foot, and albeit random, its heaves produce a song of its own. The wise listen and add to their learning, the discerning get guidance.

The eyes of those who empathize become moist as well, because the chord struck deep within the person upon whom the dam has just broken can oddly cause other dams to break. By relation of experience, and of proximity to the dam, others are suddenly swept away in its forceful waters. As though the one drowning in the beauty of release should not be left alone, another swims down to join them in a sea of their own tears. Behold the power of weeping and the strength of such weakness! Behold the beauty of the broken.

No one knows the bounds or depths of sobbing uncontrollably… the untethered chorus of a crowd in mourning is staggering to behold.

Some cheeks are more desperate to savor those moments than others and like droplets of rain dripping from the leaves of forests in a downpour their tears fall to the ground where the earth desperately drinks them up. Or, they fall into the very hands of God, where they are stored until the day He wipes every single one of them away and replaces them with the oil of joy.

Lest we become overly sentimental towards the idea of simple sentiment, let us progress to the biblical thrust of weeping and the object of our attention––weeping with God. The valuable lesson we learn from the Scriptures regarding the God of Israel is that He is the divine Creator who possesses weeping as an attribute. We should think that when the Alpha and Omega weeps it is due to the most profound of circumstances. His divine heart of unchanging love and sacred refuge bursts and the longsuffering tears of deep emotional pain regarding His creation are expended, an uncontrollable geyser that sinks the arrogance of man into the deep ocean of His humility. Indeed, in Noah’s flood the wicked could have been drowning in the very tears the Godhead was shedding from their heavenly temple. As the warm droplets touched the faces of those under His judgment as they peered wide-eyed towards the heavens, they would’ve recognized His everlasting mercy before they sank down immersed in the waters of His unwavering justice.

When I was small my father would leave the room as soon as he spanked me. I never understood why until I got older and mentioned it once to him. He explained that the pain he had to inflict upon my brother and I was too much for him to bear and he would leave the room only to immediately burst into tears of his own. It was never long before he would enter the room again with wet cheeks and cradle us in his arms, sorry that his love had to manifest as judgment. I distinctly remember my young boy cheeks rubbing against his and pondering their wetness as I sat loved in his lap. In that experience I have beheld one of the most accurate pictures of our heavenly Father and I still marvel today at the revelation it holds. (My prayer for you dad is that as you read this you would be able to finally let your own dam burst and be drowned there in the waters of your heavenly Father’s love.)

To take the liberty of this example and look upon the Scriptures we look in Revelation chapter 15. You don’t have to agree with my theological perspective on this chapter to glean from what I am about to present. The example is simple. In Revelation 15:1;7-8 judgment is taking place and something called the bowls of wrath are about to be poured out. The text reads:

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished… Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.”

At the pinnacle of wrath and the precipice of His judgment being unleashed full-force we see God desiring to be alone. I wonder if this is similar to my earthly father’s discipline, in that, He is “leaving the room” to weep His own tears that His great love must now be manifested in judgment. Thus, He makes everyone leave His room as He deeply grieves and travails over the fierceness of His wrath being manifested towards those who hate Him. But, those who love Him will very shortly thereafter be taken into His arms and received forever!

Uniquely, we find in the God-breathed Scriptures a blessing for those who mourn in this life bound to the promise that they will be comforted. We find Paul excavating the principle of mourning, enjoining us to fellowship with those who are currently engulfed in their own tears (Rom. 12:15). Do we find there true relationship? And what if mourning with those who mourn has implicit suggestion concerning those with understanding who will mourn with God––since He is in fact the one weeping!?

The mysterious abyss from which tears arise has hardly been considered in relation to God in the flesh. That is to say, Jesus wept, but because of our own lack of weeping our interpretation of what is happening within Him is most likely misunderstood. I doubt that any one of us has ever sobbed until sweat like great drops of blood pushed from underneath our skin and fell from the pores of our epidermis. Again, our lack of weeping might normally write this off as an odd event––just as something that possesses its own mystique, unable to be described by the faculties of men. But, is that true? Or have we just not wept enough?

Is it possible that Jesus, as the second person of the Godhead had waited since the beginning of time to release those tears from distinct human eyes on the night before His crucifixion? And there, as He heaves and wipes the tears from his face they mix with the atoning blood that is seeping from his skin. His mourning over the sin that has brought about His fateful crucifixion merges with the deep pain of bearing the sin of the world. How often have we seen tears and blood mix? His bound-up effort of longsuffering with humans and His pent-up rage against the sin and wickedness of His creation inverts and is there becoming the cup of wrath and long-suffering which the Father is dumping out upon His Son as Calvary is only a sunrise away.

How is it that the God of Israel has chosen such vulnerability to be one of the most personal manifestations of His nature? We deduce this through simplicity in the equation: When one weeps they are vulnerable, they are weak, they are exposed. No one has ever looked at a person weeping and said “What great strength!” Yet, we have the God of the Bible continually make this odd disposition true in verses like,

“…we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,29so that no man may boast before God (1 Cor. 1:23-29),

and also God’s response to Paul,

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness,” (2 Cor. 12:9).

In these passages we find a direct definition from God concerning strength that is contingent upon manifest weakness. This is entirely opposed to the wisdom of the world! In fact, it is so entirely different than the way the world sees things it is actually confounding their wisdom to behold the beautiful weakness of Christ crucified

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe,” (1 Cor. 1:20-21).

There on the Cross, the story of great weakness prevails triumphantly over the strength of man. Now, to us being saved we behold the power of God! But to those who are perishing––weakness. But, it is not as though one party sees something different than the other, rather it is how the party interprets what they are seeing. For the Christian, he looks upon the weakness of God being flogged, pressed with a crown of thorns, nails thrust through His flesh, and hanging in the air seemingly helpless and he says, “What great strength!” The others behold the same elements and wag their heads saying, “Physician, heal yourself!”  To one it is wisdom, and to the other foolishness. And in this great mystery the Messiah of humankind is being perfected through the weakness and vulnerability of suffering,

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered,” (Heb. 5:8).

I wish to join in on the grief our Lord shared with the Father that night in the garden of Gethsemane. I want to touch that emotion and have it be real. I want to feel what God feels at this hour of history and let it manifest in warm streams on my face, where the spring’s head is centered in the overflow of God’s heart connecting to my heart, and I want it to run its torrential course out through the tear ducts of my eyes and fall to the earth or into the very Hands of God Himself.

I want that weakness… that vulnerability. I want to weep. I want to cry. May we be led by the Spirit into those uncontrollable times and cultivate a heart that is open to the infinite bounds of weeping with God. It’s ok to cry! Feel the freedom of weeping! Let it all out and see the fruit it might bear in your life with God.

Let Love Abound

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ…” Phil 1:9

From the musty prison cell where Paul sits comes a prayer for the church in Philippi. When the apostle starts something with, “And this I pray” it is best we tune our ears to those intimate words. Paul felt the need to pray for the small church of Philippi, most likely under 50 members, that their love would abound (overflow) still more and more. When dealing with people inside of a church I don’t think that any of us needs to ask why Paul might have prayed such a thing. We can be very unloving and selfish people! To understand however the love Paul is speaking of we need to revisit the place of where his definition of love would have been conceived––the Old Testament.

The love in Paul’s mind is not ambiguous and certainly not generalized sentiment, but it is a strong and well-defined love derived from his understanding of Who YHWH was in the Old Testament (Tanakh) Scriptures. The prayer that love would abound comes from the idea that YHWH had done and was currently doing this very same thing, and simply mandated for His followers also. For the Christian this might be the hardest process for the Holy Spirit to enact within us. I am rarely found letting love overflow to the people surrounding me.

The most powerful form of love found in the Old Testament is YHWH’s covenant love which in Hebrew is checed חָ֫סֶד . This word appears around 250 times in the Tanakh, always referring to the very specific promises God has made to Abraham and by relation to Israel. In our bibles it is normally translated as lovingkindness but this doesn’t quite emphasize the depth of its true meaning. It literally means covenant loyalty which to YHWH is His bond of love to Israel. When employed, it communicates the idea that His love is so strong and so faithful that the covenant He has made will never be broken on His end.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love (checed) shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Is. 54:10)

This is an amazing concept, and furthermore, the premier definition of how we as believers in YHWH and His Son Yeshua ought to understand love. YHWH defines His love in simple faithfulness to the covenant He made with Abraham. Furthermore, it gives the clearest context to the meaning of agape love, which is the strongest form of love found in the Greek New Testament. Agape love, in how Jesus and the apostles perceive agape to be when they use it, is most likely directly connected to the idea of the Hebrew word checed since this was the strongest context they would have had to define this type of love. Stemming from this idea comes the exhortation Paul makes above, as well as Jesus’ very simple words that the entire Law and Prophets are summed up in Love (agape) the Lord Your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:40; Gal. 5:14). 

When Jesus hangs all the Law and Prophets upon something, we take care to notice the hook upon what He is hanging. It is love – and it is actually the strongest type of love – a tenacious love that is forgiving seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22), turning the other cheek when hit (Matt. 5:39), blessing when reviled (1 Cor. 4:12), leaping for joy when persecuted (Lk. 6:23) and covering a multitude of sins (1 Pt. 4:8). This is why the greatest of these is love – because love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8).

Recently I found myself in a major situation with a close friend whom I love. Over a period of several months however, because of our conflict, I became very unloving. In the midst of the conflict which began to seem unbearably irreconcilable, another friend exhorted me to, “let love abound.” Though I persisted that I felt wronged and that my friend was in the wrong, this was the only exhortation that my friend had left me with – “Let love abound.”

It was the most simple thing he could’ve said but it was the “word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hb. 4:12)… and that is exactly what it did! My heart was revealed and judged before that Scripture and the solution to the problem was simpler than I had ever perceived: Let love abound. The very problem was that I was not letting love abound––I was letting my own will, flesh, and rights abound.

As this verse continued to judge my heart’s intent I became increasingly grieved to the point where I had to write this post. And here is my public confession: I have not lived as a man that has allowed love to abound! To anyone that I have harmed with my intense personality, to every person that I have wronged with my “words of truth” that have cut you, and to every person that I have slandered or back-bitten, I repent. With tears before the Father in heaven I repent! 

I want to be a man who loves like YHWH loves lest I never become a man.

YHWH picked the hardest people to love. Just after crossing the red sea, they grumble against Him. While He is there still making the covenant with them at Sinai, they make an idol before His eyes and worship it. After He delivers them into the promised land, they turn away from Him unto other idols. He expels them from the land in discipline and yet He brings back a remnant. He draws near to them in the flesh and they crucify Him. He destroys their temple and casts them from the land again, and yet God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! (Rom 11:1)Simply, For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer. (Is. 54:7-8) Yes, it is true, “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us (Israel); He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old (Mic. 7:18-20).

In the fashion of YHWH we are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

I want to love like YHWH. I want to imitate the God of Israel in my love. I want a love that passes over sins committed against me. I want a love that is compassionate in the face of betrayal, and merciful in the presence of judgment. This is YHWH’s checed, His strong covenant love, a fixed love that “shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Is. 54:10). Seeing how YHWH loves Israel in the Bible gives me hope that by His Spirit I can love in this same way. I can be wronged and forgive. I can be hit and not strike back. I can be reviled and pray blessing. This is what is bound up in the death of our great God and Saviour as He “suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Pt. 2:21).

I want to follow Him and therefore I will love as He has loved.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

“…may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” 1 Thess. 3:11

Love is not an option that is presented to the Christian, rather it is the very object which makes us disciples of Christ. It is also the standard by which we are judged on the Day of the Lord as both apostolic prayers directly connect (Phil 1:9; 1 Thess. 3:11). I have felt His burning eyes lately staring into my heart to see what’s there. I have heard Him saying to me very gently, “Son, I am not going to ask you about your biblical theology on the day you appear before me.” At this I weep and come back to the simplicity of the new commandment Jesus gave us. I want my heart to be established without blame in holiness before God our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints! I want to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ! Paul hinges both of these things upon LOVE abounding in our lives. This is our response to His Cross, this is not salvation by works! Therefore, let us continue fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hb. 12:1-3).

The Lamb to the slaughter is leading the way of love and Paul was following Him all the way to his own head being lopped off. This is apostolic––the life laid down in love––as Stephen the martyr mimics His Lord, falling to the ground and uttering the same words as His savior, “Forgive them!”

But love is so hard! Yes, so let love abound. But, that person has sinned against me in the most horrible way! Indeed, let love abound. But it’s all their fault! You might be right, let love abound! We cannot do it by our own strength, so let us not deceive ourselves with such vanity. Rather, let us turn to the Holy Spirit in prayer and cry out for the Helper’s help that we might imitate YHWH and His Son, and abound in love towards each other. This is His command and the highest honor we can give Jesus is by simply following it as best we can.

Rather than my words, let us end with Paul’s exhortation from Galatians 5-6:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 15But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5For each one will bear his own load.

The Lamb to the slaughter is leading the way of love! Let us follow Him though it cost us everything.

 

#10 Between the Lines of Exodus 20-The Deuteronomy 18 Prophet Like Moses

Diagram Position

We are chronologically working through the diagram pictured above, having started with the far left Earth icon, and are now in the second pillar titled covenantal. On the third line down we identify Exodus 20-24. We have now taken several posts to carefully meditate upon Exodus 20-24 and we are still not done. Before moving on we must dive into Deuteronomy as the Exodus is expounded upon with far greater detail.

Introduction

A couple years ago I began to reevaluate my theology regarding the first coming of Jesus. After all, I thought I had it down: Jesus, who was God, came as a man and lived and died as the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. In His death humanity finds forgiveness before the Father when they repent, and in His resurrection we have hope of the reward that is in store for us if we stand firm in the faith until the end. Surely this is true and magnificent! However, as I began to ponder the details of the life of Jesus, particularly in the gospel of John, I began to realize some very important things of which I was previously unaware. One of these things namely was that Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees and Sadducees had a specific context. His words seemed very well thought out and pointed, as that of a sniper taking aim at targets. His acts, such as his cleansing the temple, healing on the sabbath, and many others seemed to point to a greater purpose. I had generally just swept everything under the rug of, “Jesus was displeased with the Jewish authorities and their view of the law and He was making that clear.” This again is true, but it is only scraping the surface of what He viewed as the purpose of His first coming.

I now believe that the large majority of the church including some Messianic Jewish brothers are missing a vital component of Jesus’ identity. This identity is revealed in Deuteronomy 18 as a person who would be The Prophet Like Moses. This person, as we will see, was to come to the nation of Israel in the prophetic fashion of Moses, speaking words to the nation with which they would be held accountable for.

I recently read a book by a messianic brother that was a biblical theology of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Within none of its pages did I discover a single paragraph regarding what we are about to discuss. This concerned and saddened me, and although it is a topic I am fairly new to as well, I am hopeful as we look into this together. Therefore, it is the aim of this post to pointedly show how Jesus emphatically sees Himself as fulfilling the role of the Prophet from Deuteronomy 18 as well as to pinpoint the importance of teaching this part of His identity today. It is critical as the text will reveal to understand how primary the identity of the Prophet like Moses is to Jesus Himself as well as the apostles, the Jewish people of the first century, and even the Father in Heaven.

 

Here is a link to the notes for this subject, yet they end incomplete as the apocalyptic identity of Jesus will be handled later. The two other links are audio sessions of teaching I recently did regarding this subject.

PDF Notes           Audio Session 1          Audio Session 2

The Context of the Prophet from Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5 and 18

One of the most significant messianic foreshadowings in the Old Testament is found in Deuteronomy 18 even though the exchange takes place at Mt. Sinai within the very chapters we have been looking at. Although a very short segment of Scripture, it is one of the most important things to see, behold, meditate upon, and let affect how we interpret the remainder of Scripture and our premier definition (as far as expectation is concerned) of the Messiah. In Deuteronomy 18 Moses gives a snippet of previously unheard information regarding what happened that day at the mountain in Exodus 20. To produce a thorough and cohesive picture of this event we need to look at many portions of Scripture.

In Exodus 20,

All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

Now, let’s read how Moses recaps this same event in Deut. 5.

These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23“And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24“You said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. 25‘Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. 26‘For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27‘Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ 

It is here that something very unique occurs. After the people say this to Moses, God responds to their statement with His own declaration:

 28“The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken.29Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

Wow. God is overflowing with the truth of His emotions here! He is longing for Israel to be able to keep what they’ve committed to although He already knows that they cannot. Still, in all of His foreknowledge He does not respond harshly but rather optimistically.

30‘Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31‘But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’ 32“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.

Deuteronomy 18 gives us an even clearer picture as Moses gives the last detail in this story that isn’t mentioned previously.

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’17“The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19‘It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.  

In my entire life I have never heard a teaching on Jesus being the prophet spoken of and prophesied by God in Deuteronomy 18. Does that not occur to you as odd?

Let me explain why this information is so vital. Firstly, it is one of the clearest pieces of information we have regarding the Messianic figure in the Old Testament. At this stage of our story we have been given some amazing foreshadowing concerning the Messiah. In Genesis 3:15 we have been told what He will inevitably do. In Genesis 15 we behold a priest/king who foreshadows Messiah. In Genesis 22 we see Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac, for “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type,” (Hb. 11:19). In Joseph we see a man thrown in a pit by His brothers, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused and imprisoned, and then vindicated and seated at the right hand of Pharaoh while his brothers come to Him in need. Yes, we have seen many pictures that are glorious and that instruct us in the nature of the Messiah that will come to fulfill Genesis 3:15. However in Deuteronomy 18, we have very concrete information which is in fact a direct pronouncement of the Messiah’s identity. Let’s break these few verses down to further discuss the scope of what is being revealed.

Deuteronomy 18:15-22

  1. 15a “The Lord Your God will raise up for you a prophet like me…”
    1. God is the one choosing to raise up this prophet of His own wisdom and accord.
    2. Also, we note that the person will be a prophet. The person who was a true prophet in Scripture is someone who is actually hearing and declaring the true word of God. Also, the case is usually that this one is calling Israel to return to the covenant of God in order to, in effect, renew their vows and repent, by rehearing God’s words. We see this with Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the remainder of the biblical prophets. So we know that this is the foundation of the Deuteronomy 18 person, He will actually speak the very words of God in calling the people to repentance–– to return to the Lord their God.
    3. A Prophet like Moses has many deep implications that we can only briefly discuss here:
      1. Moses was called out of Egypt before he was the deliverer.
        1. Jesus was called out of Egypt after Joseph and Mary had fled Bethlehem from Herod.
      2. God appeared to Moses in the Wilderness
        1. Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness in which He is specifically meditating on Deuteronomy 6-8. In Deuteronomy 8 we read that Moses says “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that Me might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”
        2. Likewise, Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days, which is significant of Israel’s forty years in the desert. Jesus was also humbled and hungry in his human frame, being tested by God to know what’s in His heart and whether or not He would keep the commandments of God or not. He responds to the devil from this exact section of Scripture saying, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God!”
      3. Moses stood in the direct counsel of God
        1. 33:11 “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”
          1. Jesus was in the presence of the Father His whole life speaking to Him face to face.
        2. The command to Moses is: But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess (Deut. 5:31).
        3. In Proverbs 8:30 we see this same language applied to Jesus “Then I was beside Him, as a master workman, and I was daily His delight.”
      4. Most profoundly though is simply that the prophet spoken of will fulfill the same duty as Moses when the people requested: “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
        • This is brutally ironic in that the Prophet will come to speak the very words of God as the people requested, and yet the prophet will actually still be God the Son speaking. The mystery of God taking on a human frame and masking His glory so that He might draw near to the people and fulfill what they asked of Him on that day at Horeb, and to do it in this way, is very mysterious and awesome.
        • Whether they knew it or not the people of Israel were requesting what God had preordained before the ages in God the Son.
      5. The overarching themes to consider in Jesus being a Prophet like Moses are:
        • Moses led the Exodus
          • Jesus leads the Second Exodus at His Second Coming
        • Moses institutes the Passover
          • Jesus becomes the Passover Lamb
        • Moses was the Mediator of the Sinai Covenant
          • Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant in His blood
        • Moses read the law from Mt. Sinai
          • Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount which is in effect the Law of the Spirit by grace through faith.
  2. 18:15b “…from among you, from your countrymen.”
    1. This clearly tells us that the Prophet will have an ethnic identity––the lineage of Abraham, the stock of Israel––He will be Jewish. The simple announcement of this identity of the prophet irrefutably confirms God’s choice of Abraham and his lineage. This gives us proper context of why Jesus the Prophet is born to Mary and Joseph, ethnic Jews, in the town of Bethlehem, in the physical piece of land that was called Israel. Often times we overlook these details because they are profoundly simple. Yet, in their simplicity they are actually confirming the everlasting covenant.
      1. Jesus was Jewish and Jesus didn’t arbitrarily choose his ethnicity to be Jewish. There wasn’t a conversation in the Godhead with ten different ethnicities Jesus could pick from when He came in the flesh––There was only one story, and one people that possessed a covenant with that Godhead––the lineage of Abraham. It is the very people standing at Horeb asking for the Prophet.
  3. 18:15c “…you shall listen to him.”
    1. The word hear here is exactly the same as Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” So YHWH is employing the same word in regards to this prophet, in that Israel should Shema the prophet.
      1. It is profound that the Lord gives the Shema twelve chapters earlier, and then links the Shema to the prophet. The Shema is that the LORD your God is ONE, and here the Lord is commanding Israel to Shema the Prophet, which foreshadows the divinity of the prophet. Since the command was initially Shema the word of the Lord, and now the command is Shema the prophet, it is completely ingenious of the Lord to frame it this way as He hides within the mystery.
      2. The command to listen to this Prophet again re-emphasizes that He will carry the direct Word of YHWH.
  4. 16 “This is according to all that you asked of the Lord Your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’”
    1. The words of Israel on the day at Horeb played directly into God’s foreknowledge regarding His interactions within the covenant. It is actually quite profound that God Himself cries out, “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” Here we can see a picture of God desiring to have mercy on His people whilst knowing that He will have to bring judgment because of their unfaithfulness. And then Moses says here that with regard to all that you said at Horeb this Prophet is coming forth. So, just after God declares this to Moses, He immediately declares that the Prophet like Moses will come and speak His words. The Lord answers their request with this Prophet who will pronounthe very judgment God wishes them to avoid through obedience to His Words.
    2. It is as if God finishes what He was saying at Horeb through Jesus on the earth.
  5. 17 The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well.
    1. They have spoken well is God’s agreement with their response. Moses said that the Lord was testing them to put His fear within them. This has seemingly been achieved as the people in fear speak these words.
    2. I have several times heard people say that it was a mistake for Israel to do this and that it was at this stage that they forsook the closeness that God wanted to have with them. It is normally portrayed as if this was their one opportunity to have nearness to God but because they were afraid they forfeited the one chance they had. This however is not in accord with God saying, “They have spoken well.” God’s desire was not for Israel to draw as near as we might think that day, but that His fear would remain within them (Ex. 20:20). His desire was actually fulfilled that day.
  6. 18a “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you,
    1. Since this is repeated twice within these few verses we should note that the Prophet’s ethnicity is being emphasized.
  7. 18b “…and I will put My words in his mouth…”
    1. The word used here for words in Hebrew is the same word used in Exodus 20:1 (dabar), “And God spoke all these words.” It would only be logical to assume that YHWH is saying that He will put these same words found in Exodus 20 in the mouth of the Prophet. That is not to say that He will not speak other things, but only to say that the Prophet will confirm those very words and indeed speak them from His own mouth.
  8. 18c “…and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”
    1. Here we should note the simple yet terrifying nature of the spoken word. The promise from YHWH is that the Prophet will speak all that I command Him and that the Prophet’s words will warrant a divine accountability from all those who hear.
    2. We should rightly identify the them in this verse as pertaining to the future lineage of Abraham.
    3. This is a beautiful picture of Jesus and the mystery of God coming in the flesh. His choice was to come as a person and speak these very words, His testimony, as one of their own kinsmen. The beauty of YHWH’s faithfulness to Abraham is stunning.
      1. It is helpful to consider the juxtaposition here. In the first encounter, God comes down on the mountain trembling under His glory, with fire, lightning, thunder, and trumpets and causes His fear to be within them. He instructs them in the fear of the Lord, which Proverbs tells us is the beginning of wisdom. Yet, here is the other side of the coin! In Jesus, YHWH draws near to His people––save terrifying glory––humbly coming as a servant, a prophet in human skin, to declare to them the same words He had spoken from the mountain of Sinai. This is not a contradiction in His character but the very height of His wisdom in dealing with Israel covenantally.
  9. 19 “It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I myself will require it of him.
    1. Again we have the reemphasis that this Prophet will be speaking the direct words (dabar) of YHWH––His testimony. We also have shema again, but this time in a negative sense. Whoever does not shema the dabar of the prophet will be held accountable.
      1. We will later look at how this functions throughout the Gospel of John with Jesus often saying, “You do not listen to Me, and you do not hear Me.”
    2. YHWH’s confidence in this person to be a faithful witness to His Words is astounding. YHWH shows such confidence in this Prophet revealing a great dichotomy between the Prophet and Israel. He has already shown that He knows He cannot trust Israel to fulfill His words because of their heart, which foreshadows that this Prophet will be more than a typical Israelite––He will be God Himself, since He is the only one able to fulfill His own word.
    3. YHWH also identifies His reciprocation of judgment upon those who do not listen to this Prophet. Again, we see His astounding confidence in this Prophet in that He is willing to judge every person  according to the words the Prophet speaks.
    1. The significance of spoken words in Deuteronomy.
      1. God speaks to Moses.
      2. God speaks to the people.
      3. God promises He will speak again through a Prophet.
      4. Moses speaks to God
      5. Moses speaks to the people.
      6. God will raise up a prophet like Moses who will speak to the people.
      7. The people speak to God (usually bad things)
      8. The people speak to Moses (usually bad things)
      9. The people are supposed to listen to what God spoke, what Moses speaks, and what the Prophet will speak.
      10. The origin of speaking is rarely discussed as something that finds its premier anchor in relationship to God, His Words, and that He has created words for His purposes.
        1. Gen 1:1 God speaks words to create everything.
        2. John 1 the Word was with God and was God and everything was made through Him.
        3. The Prophet, who is God in the flesh, speaks the final Words of God which every man is accountable to.
  10. The Simple Formula of Deuteronomy 18:18-19 This Prophet will be like Moses
    1. This Prophet will be one of Israel’s countrymen
    2. This Prophet will be like Moses
    3. The Prophet will speak the words of God Himself
    4. The people should listen to this Prophet
    5. Whoever does not listen to what He speaks will be held accountable.

Now that we have established what the Prophet will be like, let us look at several Scriptures in the New Testament that confirm that Jesus truly was this Prophet like Moses.

The Expectation and Confirmation of the Prophet

There is a very clear expectation for the Prophet like Moses seen in the Gospels which gives us our first clues. We turn our attention to John chapter 1, where the Pharisees send men to speak with John the Baptist,

John 1:19-22 “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And He confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

The prophet in their minds finds its only context in Deuteronomy 18 as the one who would “speak all that God commanded him.” John the Baptist appeared to them to be that person but John explicitly tells them that he is not the prophet. Here we have a profound example showing that the leadership of Israel was expecting this prophet from Deuteronomy 18 to be a real person that would come to them.

The first disciples of Jesus profess their expectation as well:

John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote––Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'” 

After Jesus rose from the dead it is very clear that the apostles firmly believed Him to have been the Prophet like Moses:

Acts 3:22 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you.”

Furthermore, we have in the Gospels the people of Israel confirming Jesus to be the prophet:

John 7:39 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.”

With these passages we can easily confirm that there was an expectation for the Prophet like Moses and that the apostles and many others believed that Jesus was that person. But how about the Heavenly Father’s voice coming from heaven?

Matt 17: 1-8 1Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

We may have overlooked the simplicity of what the Father is saying here, since what He is saying is simply a verbatim of what He said in Deuteronomy 18: The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him! If Moses standing on the mountain with Jesus is not ironic enough, the Father speaks to confirm from heaven that Jesus is the Prophet like Moses.

However, the nail in the coffin so to speak, is when Jesus Himself confirms by His own words that He is the Prophet like Moses. There are so many verses to quote here, but it serves us best to reveal the key to interpreting His words and then hope you continue study on your own. First we look at His direct mention of Moses speaking about Him:

John 5:39-47 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life…I have come in My Fathers name, and you don’t not receive Me… Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for He wrote about Me. But it you do not believe His writings how will you believe My words?”

John 5 is an incredible picture into our discussion where Jesus articulates that Moses wrote about Him. Many times in the gospel of John Jesus uses these references to point through the haze surrounding His identity. Those who were willing to hear His words would know that He was the Prophet like Moses sent by God. This direct line of thought by Jesus reveals how He viewed Himself and His ministry as the Prophet. Case and point is a passage like this:

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak,” (Jn. 12:49).

There is no denying that this is the quintessential fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:18:

“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”

It is almost like looking upon twins! In this passage, Jesus is very plainly revealing that He is the promised Prophet like Moses who has received words directly from YHWH, His Father, to speak to the people. This really is incredible. Let’s juxtapose another example with Deuteronomy 18:19,

John 5:24 “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” 

and its sister:

Deut. 18:It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which He shall speak in My name, I myself will require it of him.

In the gospel of John Jesus continually addresses and reinforces the fact that the man who hears His words and believes His Father sent Him has eternal life and does not come into judgment, while Deuteronomy makes clear that whoever does not receive the Prophet’s words will come under judgment. The same is true in John 8:26-28

“I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world… “So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught Me.”

The final passage that punctuates this study is Matthew 5 (thanks Yazan!). 

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…”

In the passage above, Jesus basically says, “Moses told you this, and now I am telling you this.” There can be no question that this is again Jesus directly completing the prophecy of the Prophet like Moses. Moreover, the entire Sermon on the Mount is Jesus undoubtedly expounding upon the law of Moses, which obviously makes Him the Prophet like Moses. This premier identity of Jesus gives a pointed foundational, though often neglected, definition of how Jesus perceived His own identity, role, and purpose of His first coming.

Concluding Thoughts

All of the passages we’ve evaluated incontrovertibly reveal Jesus’ identity as the Prophet like Moses. The pertinence of how Jesus views Himself with regards to this identity is revealed in many proofs throughout the Gospels and is something that should be understood and considered by any serious student of the Bible. It is not an overstatement to say that every single word Jesus speaks while in His human frame is because of the framework of His identity stemming from Deuteronomy 18. With this understanding in place you can peer much deeper into the gospels, but also assert the covenantal context of Jesus’ life in its entirety.

Jesus very plainly saw His first coming as accomplishing this very unique purpose of being the Prophet like Moses that would speak words to His own Jewish countrymen––the very words of YHWH Himself! At Sinai, YHWH appeared in a terrifying measure of glory, splendor, and awe. His power was revealed in an awesome way that taught the people to fear Him. There in their fear they cry out, “Moses you go and speak to God so that we do not die!” God then cries out, “The people have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put my words in His mouth and hold them accountable to what He says.” Then in consistency with what was said, God the Son is born in the flesh in the small town of Bethlehem. In contrast to the power and glory of Sinai, He draws near to His own people in a humble human frame to speak the very words that YHWH began at Sinai. How drastically different than the top of the mountain of Sinai where He began His speech, yet equally terrifying! The words that He would say throughout His life would effectively seal prophecy for good and present the final standard regarding the judgment of Israel and mankind at large.

The prophetic acts of Jesus’ life are testifying to the truth that He was the final prophet given to Israel by God––He was the Prophet like Moses. He chose this identity and it is precious to Him. Jesus’ Jewishness possesses the most exemplary form of Jew, in that He not only speaks the divine words of YHWH as the Prophet like Moses but He also fulfills perfectly the Ten Words spoken at Sinai. The culmination of His life breathes the life of the covenant into our tired lungs and gives hope that He will yet fulfill His promises for Israel, Jerusalem, and gentiles too. We glory in this soon coming fulfillment and say Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!