OT | Jethro’s Advice (Exodus 18)

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

In our last Old Testament Study, we took a quick look at the closing of Exodus 17, and we left room for folks to catch up to where we are in the text. Today, we are going to take a look at Jethro’s Advice recorded in Exodus 18. We are going to see 2 major themes here, first we are going to take a look at the proper (Biblical) sharing of a testimony and worshiping God. Then we will look at Jethro’s advice to Moses and we will examine how churches today get this part wrong.

So let us dive right into the text beginning in the first verse of Exodus 18.

Exodus 18 (ESV) | Jethro’s Advice

Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.

Testimony… we give testimony not of ourselves and how awesome we’ve become or how wonderful our life has become now that we made a decision or said a prayer. Our testimony is of what the Lord has done on our behalf. Notice the section that follows that Jethro doesn’t lavish praise upon Moses; rather, he offers praise and worship to the Lord God.

10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

All praise and glory and honor be to God. They worshiped God (blessed His Name, confessed Him as God, offered burnt offering and sacrifices) and then they broke bread together. Now this act of worship takes a great deal of time, and led to the breaking of bread at the end of the day. The following day, we see Moses fulfilling his role as the Prophet of God to the Children of Israel, in the day-to-day affairs of leading such a large group through the wilderness. Until now, we’ve seen when the people murmur and complain to Moses, who then cries out to God and He acts, granting manna from heaven, quail from the wilderness, and water from a rock.

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws. 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

Now, we have not yet been given the 10 Commandments. Moses was God’s servant and he heard God’s voice and God listened to Moses. Jethro knew that Moses alone could not be the only judge over all of the people. Moses needed to appoint men and delegate authority to them to sit as judges over tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands. Delegated authority, not surrendered authority. Moses was still is held accountable to God for the people… he still represents the people before God. However, the smaller cases that have already been made clear can now be heard by able, God-fearing, trustworthy men who hate a bribe.

So how does the present-day church get this wrong? Modern-day pastors read themselves into the position of Moses when they should be reading themselves into the “able, God-fearing, trustworthy men who hate a bribe”. Jesus Christ is the head of His Church. Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father in Heaven… the role of Moses is a shadow of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the Head of His Church, not your senior pastor. Your elders/pastors are the ones to whom have been delegated authority in Christ Jesus to watch over, tend, teach, and feed His sheep. Some are placed over thousands, some hundreds, some fifties, and some tens. The children of Israel were divided up into tribes, clans, houses… but all were God’s Chosen People. The Church today is even more diverse and equally unified through the Gospel of Jesus Christ as written in His Word. Beware the false teacher, the false prophet, and the falsely anointed one (false christs). In closing, let us visit Paul’s exhortation to the elders of the church in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28-32 (ESV)

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

OT | The Lord is My Banner (Exodus 17)

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

In our last Old Testament Study, we looked at how after God had provided the Children of Israel with mana in the wilderness (Jesus is the Bread from Heaven) He also provided them with water (Jesus called Himself the fountain of living water in the wilderness). Today’s post will be extra short so that (hopefully) you can take some time to review the OT studies leading up to Exodus 17.

Let’s jump into the text.

Exodus 17:8-16 (ESV)

Israel Defeats Amalek

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Several interesting things here. The first thing I’d like to mention is that we shouldn’t read this portion as an isolated event, separated from all previous events. Such is the current, post-modern paradigm of viewing everything that happens as “new” and completely disconnected from everything that has happened before.

Who is Amalek?

They are descended of Esau (Genesis 36). Though himself a son of Isaac, God rejected him in favor of Jacob, whom he would rename Israel. Esau took wives from the daughters of Heth (Canaan) further separating himself from the Promise to Abraham. Now, after so many generations, Amalek is waging war with the People of God, the Children of Promise.

Whose Victory of Battle?

Moses sends Joshua to choose men for battle, but to whom is the victory attributed? The Lord. Moses goes up on a hill and holds, not his staff, but the Staff of God. While in some cases it might be referred to as Moses’s staff, in this case Moses is clear to Joshua what is going to take place. The very staff that God instructed Moses and Aaron to use for each the plagues against Pharaoh, the staff with which God parted the Red Sea and the same staff God commanded Moses to strike the rock with at Horeb. Moses wasn’t saying “I’ll make sure you win”, he was saying “the Lord God is your Banner in battle”.

Banner?

While researching this passage, there was an entry in the Reformation Study Bible I thought was very informative, demonstrating something that might be lost in translation for us.

17:15 The Lord is my banner. The Hebrew word translated “banner” underlies “staff” in v. 9 and is used for the “pole” on which the bronze serpent was later placed (Num. 21:8). Since “banner” suggests cloth to us, this connection is lost. A spear could serve as a standard in battle, with or without bits of cloth tied to it. Later, a staff might have a device on it to mark the rallying point for troops. In the ancient world, these were sometimes images or signs of the gods. Moses’ staff is the ensign to which Joshua’s army could look and that symbolized God’s saving power. Moses declares that God Himself is the Standard, the Ensign of His people.

Very cool. Once again, what we are seeing here is not the greatness of Joshua’s leadership, but the Mighty Hand of God at work, showing His favor upon Israel, Moses, and Joshua. Remember the Song of Moses as recorded in Exodus 15.

Exodus 15 (ESV)

The Song of Moses

15 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
    the Lord is his name.

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;
    pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
    trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 Terror and dread fall upon them;
    because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
    till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

In Hebrews 11, we are taught that all of the mighty deeds accomplished in Scripture were by faith. Faith in whom? In the Only Living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator of all things. The Lord is my Banner… while there was a physical symbol of the favor of the Lord, neither Joshua, Aaron, Moses, nor Hur were under any misgivings that there was something in the staff itself, nor in the efforts of Moses. This was God’s work and God’s victory over Amalek.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Benediction

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

May the Grace of God be with you today and forever,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

OT | Bread from Heaven (Exodus 16)

Bible card Illustration published 1907  by Providence Lithograph Company

Bible card Illustration published 1907
by Providence Lithograph Company

Last week, in our Old Testament Study, we looked at the Song of Moses and how it served as a model for true worship and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father.

As a quick review, the nation of Israel has been led out of Egypt. By the Mighty Hand of God Pharoah was utterly defeated and put to open shame before the nations as his army was utterly destroyed by God who parted the Red Sea for His people and then closed upon the Egyptian Army. In the aftermath of that destruction, the nation of Israel praised God and they sang the Song of Moses, praising God for His might work of Salvation. A song that we, too, will sing standing along the shores of the great sea of glass mingled with fire (Revelation 15), praising God for His work of Salvation.

The Provision of God

Now, Israel is truly free from the slavery of Egypt. They are separated from the house of slavery by the waters that God had used to crush the Egyptian army. Though they have been delivered out of the hands of Pharaoh and are now clearly under the protection of the One True God (who could deny His Mighty Works?) under the supervision of Moses. While we might be tempted to simply read on through as though reading a novel, stop and think about all that has happened. If this were a movie, the ending credits would have been rolling during the Song of Moses and the film would fade to black. But this isn’t a movie, these are real events in history. The biggest question probably in many minds is, “Now what?” As long as Israel is looking at the waters and the floating debris they are thinking about how awesomely God worked to rescue them from that army, but as soon as they turn around, they realize they are not in the Promised Land, they are in-fact in the wilderness. That would be daunting enough a thought if you were standing with your family, extended family, maybe even your church congregation. Do you remember how many people had left Egypt? Let’s turn back to chapter 12 for just a moment:

Exodus 12:37-39 (ESV) 37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

Woah! 600,000 men plus women, children, and a mixed multitude and livestock. Remember that livestock was what the sons of Israel noted as their profession when they were given the land of Goshen by Pharaoh in the time of Joseph. Before they were slaves, they were herdsmen.

Genesis 47:1-3 (ESV) | Jacob’s Family Settles in Goshen
47 So Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan. They are now inthe land of Goshen.” 2 And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. 3 Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.

Now they were all on the other side of the Red Sea, in the wilderness, without provisions. They had unleavened bread, but for a people who knew no such luxuries as grocery stores, convenience stores, nor fast-food restaurants, the idea of making provisions for a long journey extend well beyond having some unleavened bread. How do the children of Israel respond? Let us turn now to Exodus 16.

Exodus 16 (ESV) | Bread from Heaven

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

I’m actually fairly impressed that so many people walking in the wilderness went that long (2.5 months?) on the scant provisions they had left Egypt with. Nevertheless, they burn through what little they had from Egypt and by now the Mighty Hand of God was sooo 2 months ago. Do people evolve? No, no we don’t. Our technology might, but we don’t. The whole congregation grumbled against Moses and Aaron. And what are they saying? Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full… our fallen flesh is so weak and completely turned in on itself. They would rather die in slavery with full stomachs than be free, following Moses toward the Land of Promise on an empty stomach. Not only that, but they accuse Moses and Aaron of malice, having brought all of these people into the wilderness to die of hunger. They’ve lost sight of the Promise, and long for what used to be considered comfort… in the house of slavery. In the Parable of the Sower, the children of Israel here are demonstrating the rocky soil, Matthew 13:21 (ESV)21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” We mentioned it before when Israel thought they were going to get slaughtered by Pharaoh’s army, but now their hunger is what has them falling away, losing their faith in the Promise.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

So, hold on just a second… the Law has not yet been officially given. I’m not saying God hasn’t revealed His laws, or statutes, but when we currently talk about the Law, we look back to when God gives Moses the Law on the tablets of the Testimony on Mount Sinai. But in this story we have not yet reached Mount Sinai. God has issued commands and in this new command God specifies that He is testing His people, the ones He has already pulled out of Egypt, whether they will walk in His Law or not. God already knows the hearts of every person, He’s not testing for His sake, but for ours. What is the purpose of the Law? To expose sin. No one will walk in His Law until Jesus Christ comes to fulfill the Law for us. Here we see the first Law regarding the Sabbath, and it comes in reference to the provision of the Lord God. God will rain down bread from heaven, to meet their needs for the day, until the 6th day, where they will receive a double portion.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” 10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’

13 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” 24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, fortoday is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”

The Lord will provide for His people, so that they will know that He is the Lord their God. They needed to let go of Egypt. They were free from the house of slavery, by a Mighty Hand of God, but their hearts still turned toward Egypt whenever they grumbled against the Lord. God now demonstrates His superior greatness by raining bread from heaven to meet all of their needs. Those who gathered much did not have excess and those who gathered little lacked nothing. How were they performing in their test? Not well. A stark reminder that our sinful state isn’t just a matter of a lack of effort or knowledge, it is a failure in our being, our flesh is cursed by sin, and we have fallen away from the perfection of God.

27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Notice the wording God used in his rebuke directed at the people in verse 29, “the Lord has given you the Sabbath”. Let’s jump ahead at how Jesus responded to the Pharisees who accused Jesus and His disciples of breaking the Sabbath according to their tradition.

Mark 2:27-28 (ESV) 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The failure of Israel to obey is foreshadowing the reality that despite the Grace and Mercy of God the Father throughout the history of Israel, man will refuse to keep His commandments and laws. With this question fresh in our minds, let’s take a peek at what Jesus said in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:17-18 (ESV)| Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

The Law continues to do what it was intended to do, convict us of sin while testifying of God’s Greatness and Perfection. But Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and when He returns all will be accomplished. The keeping the Law is not the means of Salvation; it points out how lost we are. Salvation is by faith in the Promise of God. The Apostle Paul lays this out very well in Romans (particularly the first 8 chapters), but let us look at just a portion for now.

Romans 3:19-31 (ESV) | The Righteousness of God Through Faith
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

We will jump more heavily into Hebrews and in Romans once we reach the Law given at Horeb (Mt Sinai), but for now, let us close out Exodus chapter 16.

Exodus 16:31-36 (ESV)

31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept. 35 The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 (An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.)

I love how this reminder of what God had done for Israel, this miraculous provision doesn’t point backward to Egypt, rather, it points forward to Christ. So often we get this wrong picture in our minds that sharing a testimony involves highlighting the sin in our lives “before we were Saved”, but that only glorifies Egypt, the house of slavery. The testimony that matters, is the one that points to Christ. In closing, let us turn now to John 6, where Jesus taught us how to rightly understand what God was doing here in Exodus 16.

John 6:26-71 (ESV)26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

I know we took this well beyond our target word limit, but I firmly believe this was well worth it. What we feast on here is the Word of God, the Words of Life, the Testimony and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, our Savior and Our Lord. He is the mana from Heaven, who ascended back into Heaven and who is returning to take His people to the Promised Land, where we will be with Him forever, Amen.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)| The Coming of the Lord
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

May the Grace of God be with you today and forever,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Eschatology: No Secret Rapture

sunriseIt has taken me quite a while to return to this subject. Toward the end of our previous discussion of Eschatology, I confessed that I saw no basis for any pre-Tribulation or even mid-Tribulation rapture of the Saints. I grew up in the “Left Behind” generation. I spent several years of my childhood fearful that Christ might have secretly raptured all of my friends and family, leaving me behind because of some unrepentant sin, or that I accidentally might have committed the unpardonable sin. Rough times for me, but eventually I learned to just ignore those fears. But why did I have those fears in the first place? Because I was taught that there would be some pre-tribulation rapture and that teaching was reinforced by the “Left Behind” movie. But is this concept taught in Scripture? Sure people pull together a lot of proof texts, but is the concept plainly taught in Scripture? In our last blog, we took a look at what Jesus had to say when His disciples asked Him about the end times. In that discourse, He made no mention of any rapture; rather, He made it clear that , “he who endures to the end would be saved”. He also says plainly that His return would happen “immediately after the tribulation” (Matt 24:31).  No one leaves early except those who die in Christ.

I believe there are a couple of definition problems at play in various eschatologies with regard to proof-texting efforts. The first is “tribulation”. To make the case for pre/mid-tribulation rapture, often times the definition of “tribulation” becomes carelessly intertwined with the definition of “judgement” or the “Wrath of God”. The Judgement of Jesus Christ comes after the tribulation. We who are in Christ will not be recipients of His judgement, for Christ has already paid the price for our sin. Those who remain will be those who have rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ and persecuted the church. Another problem is the definition of “rapture”. It is not a Biblical term, it is one we have invented after the canon was closed, but most point to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for its definition. Let’s look at that chapter of the Bible.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV) 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Praise the Lord. So this event, the resurrection of the dead in Christ and then those of us who remain until the coming of the Lord will be caught up together with our Lord in the air. This will happen once. Paul doesn’t leave room for this happening in stages. His encouragement to the Thessalonians continues in the next chapter (remember, Paul didn’t write in chapters and verses… he just wrote a letter)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (ESV) 1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

It is tempting to stop reading at verse 3 with an Aha, so it will be a secret event! However, in verse 4, Paul makes it clear that we (brothers and sisters in Christ) should not be surprised by the day (though, clearly, we don’t know what day or hour when it will come). Jesus explained the day of the Son of Man in much the same way in Luke.

Luke 17:22-37 (ESV) 22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Again, the flood was not a surprise to Noah, who likely spent 60-70 years building the ark. Similarly, the Angels of the Lord made it clear to Abram and Lot that God was going to bring judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah and that they must leave. It was only to the wicked, the lost, those living in darkness that the judgment of God came as a surprise. Another thing I’d like to point out here is that in verse 24, Jesus makes it clear that though the world will be caught completely unaware, it will not be a secret event. He warns his disciples not to be deceived, that His coming will be as unmistakable as lightning flashes and lights up the sky. It will be obvious to everyone, on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

Let’s take a look at how Paul instructed and encouraged the Corinthians regarding the return of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:42-58 (ESV) 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

So here, Paul is instructing the Church of Corinth on the Resurrection. I recommend reading the whole chapter to see how he’s building up the concept of resurrection, culminating in an explanation of what we can expect when Jesus returns. Those who have not “fallen asleep” (euphemism for death used often in Scripture) will still have to be changed on the Day of Christ’s return. That change will happen in a “twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet”.  When the trumpet of God sounds… all will hear it.

Whenever Paul points toward our goal, our end-state, he points to the Return of Jesus Christ and to the Resurrection. In the Book of Revelation, there are 2 resurrections mentioned.

Revelation 20:1-6 (ESV) | The Thousand Years
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit[a] and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

The second resurrection will be for judgement before the White Throne (v11-15). I don’t know how to explain the details provided in v7-11, but notice that there are still saints mentioned, and a deception. Satan will at-last be permanently destroyed and then the final judgement will take place. I encourage each of you to read through the Book of Revelation. Just read it through. There is no “pre tribulation rapture” event described. It is a prophetic book, and as such there is a great deal that simply cannot be understood in advance. We should not add to it, nor take away from it no matter how noble we consider our motives to be.

Revelation 22:18-19 (ESV) 18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

I am not going to try to explain all of Revelation at this time, but I would like to point out some key phrases that point me away from any notion that simply being a Christian means that I should expect to be secretly spirited away from the Earth before the tribulation. Again, the driving force behind my rejection of pre-tribulation is how Jesus described the tribulation and His return and how Paul described it. If you’ve never read through Revelation in one sitting, please do so, even if only to try to prove me wrong here. Revelation opens up with letters to the churches, and the first prophetic visions described are of the throne room in Heaven and of a scroll with seven seals. As each seal is opened, events are foretold to take place. Notice this declaration between the fifth and sixth seals:

Revelation 6:9-11 (ESV) 9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Here we have the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the witness they had borne under the altar. They long for God to judge and avenge their blood. They are told to rest a little longer… until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete… killed as they had been. There are still saints on the Earth at this time, still being persecuted, and martyred for the Word of God and for bearing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 13:5-10 (ESV) 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

Revelation 14:9-13 (ESV) 9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

This takes place in the vision that follows after the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets. Even here, in the second half of the book (theologians divide Revelation into two major sections) we see the saints remaining on the Earth while these events take place. In the closing imagery of Revelation, we see God’s judgment against the Babylon, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations (Rev 17:5). Early in His judgment, we see the following command to the saints:

Revelation 18:4 (ESV)4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;…

The Book of Revelation closes with a final exhortation:

Revelation 22:6-15 (ESV) | Jesus Is Coming

6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

At the end of Revelation, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins, so that by His blood, we might wash our robes and gain access to the city by the gates. In closing, I wonder why it is that we’ve held on so tightly to a false hope that our faith in Jesus will allow us to escape tribulation or persecution? That certainly didn’t hold true for the Apostles, the Prophets, nor a great many of the early church, nor of the present day church in nations that are currently openly hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (China, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, etc). We are called to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ… until the end. Until the final Judgement, where Jesus in His Justice and Righteousness will judge the Living and the dead and God’s Wrath will finally be poured out on all who have rejected Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Jesus will also reward us for our deeds, our testimony, and our faithfulness to endure until the end. As Paul and James put it, those of us who have been blessed to share in the persecution and afflictions of Christ.

I’d like to close again, by returning to Jude:

Jude 1:17-25 (ESV) 17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May the Lord Bless you and keep you, May He grant you peace and strength to endure until the end, firmly rooted and grounded in Christ Jesus.
Jorge