Category Archives: THE NATION ISRAEL

What will Israel’s future re-gathering be like?

WHAT WILL ISRAEL’S FUTURE RE-GATHERING BE LIKE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers (Jeremiah 16:14-15). If you think God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt was spectacular, just wait until you see what He has in store in prophecy!

A survey of the so-called “Old Testament” (Genesis through Malachi) yields numerous references to the standard of God’s power concerning His dealings with Israel. One way JEHOVAH God reminded Israel of His power was to mention their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Pharaoh had so horribly treated their ancestors and he refused to release them, but, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had used Moses, the great “Law-giver,” to forcefully deliver and lead Israel to freedom in their Promised Land! So many centuries of hopeless oppression have given way to a magnificent exodus out of Egypt. For brevity’s sake, we will quote the verses without commenting.

“I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6). No idol had delivered Israel; however, JEHOVAH had. Therefore, in the First Commandment, He instructed them to worship Him alone. Israel was to lead a separate and unique life, for God had separated her from the world, particularly Egypt. Leviticus 11:45: “For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” It was what God did for them, not what they did for Him! Leviticus 26:13: “I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.” Let us proceed to look at other related passages.

The nation Israel is God’s great “sign” nation in Scripture. Miraculous demonstrations—physical, visible manifestations of God’s power—are Israel’s national birthright, meant to teach her doctrine (Exodus 4:1-9; Psalm 74:9; 1 Corinthians 1:22; et cetera). The standard of God’s power to Israel was His delivering them from their Egyptian bondage. Scripture makes many references to that event, particularly the parting of the Red Sea.

Note more examples. Exodus 32:11: “And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?” And, 2 Kings 17:36, “But the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a stretched out arm, him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship, and to him shall ye do sacrifice.” Jeremiah 32:21: “And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror.” Finally, Ezekiel 20:9,10: “[9] But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt. [10] Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.” Why did God manifest His power to Israel in this manner? How did Israel respond? Let us search the Scriptures and find out!

For centuries, Egypt held helpless Israel captive. However, JEHOVAH God would save them. It would be His power, not their efforts. As Exodus indicates, He poured out 10 mighty judgments on Egypt and her gods. Then, He destroyed Egypt’s armies with the Red Sea. Israel had simply let her God defeat Egypt by Himself. With Aaron’s help, only a few weeks after leaving Egypt, Israel made and worshipped a golden calf idol: “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt(Exodus 32:4,8). Israel forgot that JEHOVAH, the living God, had delivered her. Instead, they credited the work of their hands as their deliverer. Insanity! They had forgotten JEHOVAH their Deliverer once there at Mount Sinai. Forty years later, they were warned not to forget JEHOVAH God again (Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:14).

Just before Joshua’s death, Israel said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed” (Joshua 24:16-17). Centuries later, under evil King Jeroboam, Israel made two golden calves, saying again, “Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt(1 Kings 12:28). Israel had again forgotten the LORD God their Deliverer. Soon, His wrath would fall on them, and they would be forced out of His land, scattered worldwide!

Just before Israel was expelled from the Promised Land, just before she entered captivity among the Gentiles (nations), the LORD voiced a controversy against her in Micah 6:3-4: “O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” God wanted ungrateful Israel to speak up as to why she had abandoned Him in favor of worthless, lifeless idols. “What, O what, Israel, have I done to you that you want nothing to do with Me?! Did I not deliver you from Egypt, from bondage?!” (You can sense God’s broken heart.)

Israel had reached her sin limit. She had broken the Covenant of Law for centuries. Pagan idols polluted God’s land through and through. And so, with Israel refusing to reform and return to JEHOVAH God, the fifth course of judgment fell. Just as Leviticus 26:27-43 said, God let Gentile armies come in and take Israel captive again. He drove Israel so forcefully from that land of Canaan. “And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste” (verse 33). Historically, the Jews were gradually removed between 722 and 586 B.C., scattered worldwide. The Assyrians and Babylonians took them as prisoners of war. Israel was—and still is today—in bondage again. Jeremiah 16:14-15 says JEHOVAH God has a mighty deliverance planned for Israel. It will dwarf her release from Egypt!

Originally, God brought Israel out of Egypt so she would be His people: He would be their God and they would do His will in His land, the Promised Land. Yet, they were not interested. They wanted to do what they wanted. They preferred sin! Once they entered the Promised Land, they waxed worse and worse, until finally, God had enough of their idolatry. He ultimately evicted Israel, but not forever. For over 2,500 years now, the Jews have been scattered worldwide, living in and among the Gentile nations. Nationally, they have no Promised Land to own, no Davidic government to protect them, no earthly blessings to enjoy, no forgiveness of sins, nothing. All those centuries ago, they broke JEHOVAH God’s laws and commandments. They refused to turn back. In accordance with the final round of chastisement (Leviticus chapter 26), God permitted the Gentiles to come in and violently remove the Jews from Canaan.

Verses 44 and 45 of Leviticus chapter 26 are God’s promise to Israel: “And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.” No matter that fifth course of judgment, Israel’s dispersion and Gentile captivity, God would not destroy Israel. He would bring her back (Jeremiah 16:14-15)!

At Mount Sinai, the Jews had agreed to do “all” that the LORD had spoken (Exodus 19:8). Alas, an empty promise! They disobeyed Him for centuries. Whether you read the “Old Testament,” or secular history books, you learn that Israel failed under that Law Covenant. God, in order to cleanse His Promised Land, exiled the idolatrous Jews into foreign nations. Even today, the Gentiles dominate Israel and her land. This will continue until Jesus Christ returns.

God knew all along Israel—like all sinners—could never keep His commandments, but Israel was in denial and had to be taught it. Even though Israel failed miserably under the Law, it was only a temporary agreement. Long before Israel’s works were involved, God had promised to make Abraham’s seed His people forever (Genesis 12:1-3). Regardless of their works, God had promised to give Abraham, and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob, the Promised Land forever (Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:1-21). One day, Israel will learn once for all that she will receive God’s promises by God’s grace, not by her works!

As Israel needed God to deliver her from Egypt so He could bring her into His Promised Land, Israel needs Him to bring her back from Gentile captivity so she can enter that Promised Land forever. This prophetic return will be much grander than history. She was confined to one nation (Egypt); now, she is scattered worldwide. Her Egyptian bondage was just a few centuries; her worldwide captivity has lasted over 2,000 years. It looks hopeless, as if Israel will never return. Yet, the deliverance from Egypt was all a rehearsal for the future!

Although Israel messed up God’s purpose and plan for them once they came out of Egypt, Jeremiah 16:14-15 loops back to show us God will still fulfill His will with them (cf. Leviticus 26:44-45). Jeremiah chapter 16 resembles a passage descriptive of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming to be Israel’s King. Jeremiah 23:5-8: “[5] Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. [6] In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. [7] Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; [8] But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.”

Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was glorious, but there is a greater deliverance yet future. The famous “Valley of Dry Bones” passage (Ezekiel chapter 37), which you should read in your own time, illustrates how God will bring redeemed Israel back from all those foreign nations. They will finally enjoy God’s earthly kingdom… they should have experienced it after leaving Egypt! Regardless of their failures, God will still be faithful to them. He will make them His people, fill them with His Spirit forever, and they will never disappoint Him again!

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31).

Also see:
» “All Israel shall be saved?”
» Why did Jesus tell Israel they do not know the date of His return?
» Is Israel “cast away,” or not? Has Israel “fallen,” or not?

Why was Moses ordered to be shoeless?

WHY WAS MOSES ORDERED TO BE SHOELESS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

We are all aware of that classic passage of Moses meeting the LORD God in the burning bush. Why did the LORD God order Moses to remove his shoes, and why was Moses “afraid to look upon God?” Let us search the Scriptures to find out.

The passage is Exodus 3:4-6: “[4] And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. [5] And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. [6] Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. As we have already stated, everyone familiar with the Bible has heard of Moses meeting the LORD in the burning bush. Unfortunately, meaningful details of the account have usually been overlooked. Let us begin reading chapter 3 of Exodus at the beginning—the context of our main text—and proceed to expound it.

“[1] Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. [2] And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. [3] And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. [4] And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. [5] And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. [6] Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”

In the decades previous to Moses, his nation Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt. A new Pharaoh—fearing the Jews would outnumber the Egyptians and side with their enemies during wartime—ordered his people to kill the Hebrew baby boys (Exodus chapter 1). Chapter 2 chronicles Moses’ birth and his mother’s attempt to spare his life by placing him into a basket in the river; Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and raises him as her own son (verses 1-10).

According to Acts 7:23, “And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” Return to Exodus chapter 2: “[11] And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. [12] And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. [13] And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? [14] And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. [15] Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.” Another 40 years pass!

Indeed, at the time of Moses meeting the LORD in the burning bush, he was 80 years of age. He had spent his first 40 years in Egypt, before fleeing to live in the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula for another 40 years. What was his reason for departing? The Prophet Stephen, speaking as the Holy Ghost led him, revealed the motive in Acts chapter 7: “[23] And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. [24] And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: [25] For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. [26] And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? [27] But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? [28] Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? [29] Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons. [30] And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.”

Moses left Egypt because he had abandoned Israel. Remember, 40-year-old Moses, when he had approached his Jewish brethren in Egypt, was rejected. Again, recall Acts chapter 7: “[24] And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: [25] For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. Exodus chapter 2, verses 13 and 14: “And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.”

Moses left Egypt because he had given up on Israel! Remember the Jews’ hardships under “the king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8)? They are slaves, oppressed and seemingly forsaken of God. Moses attempted to help them, “but they understood not,” so he, rejected, fled to Sinai. Forty years later, Exodus chapter 2 says: “[23] And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. [24] And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. [25] And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.”

God now appears to Moses in the burning bush. Continue reading in Exodus chapter 3: “[7] And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; [8] And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. [9] Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. [10] Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.”

Moses feared to look upon God because he knew he had abandoned Israel in Egypt. God appeared to remind him that, contrary to what Moses believed, He had not forgotten Israel, and that he (Moses) was negligent in forsaking Israel 40 years earlier. Concerning “the burning bush [that] was not consumed” (verse 2), that pictured Israel undergoing intense persecution in Egyptian bondage and yet not being annihilated. Moses had to be taught that God was still preserving her in that “iron furnace” (Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; Jeremiah 11:4), and now it was time for Moses to return to Egypt and rescue her from Pharaoh. Moses was to bring them into God’s land, the Promised Land.

After Moses met the LORD in the burning bush, chapter 4 of Exodus reads: “[24] And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. [25] Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. [26] So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.” Why did God want to kill Moses? Moses, while in the wilderness 40 years, saw the Abrahamic Covenant as invalid. Contrary to God’s commandment in Genesis 17:9-14, he had not physically circumcised his son!

Once Moses heard “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” was addressing him, he recalled the Abrahamic Covenant. Although Israel was suffering in Egypt, their God had not forgotten them: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them” (Exodus 2:24-25). When Moses encountered God, he was terrified. It was more than a sinful, mortal man seeing a holy, righteous God. The LORD ordered him to remove his shoes, for not only was Moses standing on “holy ground,” he had been in unbelief! Since Moses forsook Israel in Egypt four decades earlier, he was to take off his shoes. In Israel, the shoeless man was confessing his failure to fulfill his duty (see the levirate marriage situation of Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and Ruth 4:1-8). Now, Moses was ready to return to Egypt.

Moses had forgotten the LORD’S words to Father Abraham centuries before Israel’s Egyptian bondage: “[13] And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; [14] And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. [15] And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. [16] But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again [the Promised Land!]: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Genesis 15:13-16).

Now, God’s message to Abraham in chapter 17: “[6] And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. [7] And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. [8] And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Moses was in unbelief when he left Israel in Egypt. God had not forsaken them as assumed. Despite their temporary captivity, the Abrahamic Covenant was permanent. As per God’s faithfulness, they would return to the land in which Abraham sojourned.

CONCLUSION

Once he met the LORD in the burning bush, Moses—although corrected with the removal of his shoes—reluctantly confronts Pharaoh. After intentionally delaying even more to judge sinful Egypt, God finally frees Israel with a mighty hand. For the final 40 years of his life, Moses leads Israel from Egypt to the eastern edge of the Promised Land. (The trip that would have lasted a few weeks was greatly lengthened after Israel’s unfaithfulness and subsequent wilderness wanderings!) Upon Moses’ decease, Joshua becomes Israel’s new leader and brings them westward across the Jordan River. Through a series of victorious wars, God enables them to conquer Palestine’s Gentile inhabitants.

Almost three decades later, aged and dying Joshua counsels Israel in Joshua chapter 23: “[4] Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward. [5] And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you. [6] Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;….” Alas, Israel forsook the LORD once she settled Canaan—worshipping and serving idols, and ultimately being scattered around the world!

Where Moses failed, God was faithful; where Israel was unreliable, God will be reliable. She will return to the land of her fathers in due time!

Also see:
» Why was the levirate marriage important in Bible times?
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?
» Who are the “lawyers” in Scripture?

Why was the levirate marriage important in Bible times?

WHY WAS THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE IMPORTANT IN BIBLE TIMES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The levirate marriage was the practice in ancient Israel whereby a widowed woman married her late husband’s brother. Such a union would produce at least one child to take the dead man’s place in the land. (“Levir” is Latin for “brother-in-law,” although, depending on the limitations of the situation, the woman could have even married her husband’s nephew, cousin, et cetera.) While we, of a different culture and time, consider this revolting, if we understand it as touching their conditions, there was nothing perverted or inappropriate about it.

In the Law of Moses, Deuteronomy chapter 25, the LORD God outlined the rules for this levirate marriage: “[5] If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. [6] And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. [7] And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. [8] Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; [9] Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. [10] And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.”

Blood lines were very essential in Israel, as land allotted to the 12 tribes was to stay within their respective tribes and not be transferred to other tribes. The death of a childless man meant his bloodline would cease, jeopardizing his inheritance, the estate possibly being lost to another tribe if his widow married a man of another tribe. If his surviving wife married his blood relative (brother, cousin, et cetera), however, the firstborn child of this new union would take the place of the deceased man. The birth of this new child, of the same bloodline as the man who died, would cause the inheritance/land to remain within the original family or tribe.

The classic example of a levirate marriage in Scripture is Ruth’s marital relationship with Boaz, her husband’s relative. Read the Book of Ruth for more information. Some bungled levirate marriages in the Bible are in Genesis 38:8-14—although this was long before the Law of Moses formally sanctioned such arrangements. By the way, the levirate marriage was the basis for the captious question the Sadducees posed to Jesus in an unsuccessful attempt to trap Him (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-38).

Also see:
» Why was Moses ordered to be shoeless?
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?
» Who are the “lawyers” in Scripture?

How can Luke 2:1 report “all the world” was subject to Caesar Augustus?

HOW CAN LUKE 2:1 REPORT “ALL THE WORLD” WAS SUBJECT TO CAESAR AUGUSTUS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Luke 2:1-2 tells us: “[1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. [2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)” How can the Bible suggest Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus decreed a tax for “all the world?” Is Scripture implying he had jurisdiction outside the Roman Empire?

The Holy Spirit, of course, was aware Caesar Augustus could tax people only within the empire’s borders. We are not to suppose, for example, the mandate extends to the North and South American continents, or Antarctica, or Australia. The point is this: Gentiles, not Jews, are the chief nation in the Earth. Why?

Remember, Adam relinquished to Satan his God-given dominion over the Earth when he sinned in Eden (Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8). Israel became God’s supreme nation in the Earth (Genesis 12:1-3), but lost her dominion in the Earth because of King Solomon’s habitual pagan idolatry (cf. Leviticus 26:18-19; 1 Kings 11:1-43). Here, circa 930 B.C., Israel’s 12 tribes were divided into two nations or kingdoms—Israel (10 northern tribes) and Judah (two southern tribes). As the centuries passed, the Jews waned politically. Ultimately, approximately 722 B.C., the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom, thus beginning Israel’s Assyrian Captivity (2 Kings 17:6-23; cf. Leviticus 26:27-39). Between 606 and 586 B.C., the Babylonians thrice invaded the Southern Kingdom, culminating in the Fall of Jerusalem and the burning of Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C. (2 Kings chapters 24–25; cf. Leviticus 26:27-39). Thus commenced Judah’s Babylonian Captivity.

Study the Book of Daniel, especially chapter 2. World history agrees with Scripture. The Babylonians conquered Judah, the Medes-Persians overcame the Babylonians, the Greeks vanquished the Medes-Persians, and the Romans conquered and extended the Greek Empire. All these military conquests occurred during the six centuries prior to Luke chapter 2. The Holy Spirit through Luke is reminding us that Israel is under the fifth course of chastisement, still subject to Gentiles, and it will remain this way until Christ’s Second Coming and subsequent earthly kingdom (see Daniel 2:44-45). JEHOVAH God, having temporarily removed Israel from the chief political position, afforded Caesar Augustus the potential to conquer every known people on Earth. Rome can possibly acquire all the governmental potency Adam and Israel lost.

Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar confessed that was the case with him in Daniel 4:1,22. Had God not brought in the Medes-Persians to overthrow prideful Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar would have eventually conquered all continents. The Medes-Persians would have had worldwide dominion, but God used the Greeks to defeat them (most humbly) before that happened. Before the Greeks became too powerful, the LORD brought in the Romans to conquer them. Eventually, the Roman Empire collapsed. These successive kingdoms and empires have come and gone because of God’s allowance of it.

As touching the entire duration of our Dispensation of Grace (last 2,000 years), Israel has been without the Davidic dynasty. The evil world system is still awaiting a thorough purging. Satan is still reigning in the Earth. After our dispensation closes, the Antichrist will endeavor to overtake all nations (Revelation 13:7,14,16), but Christ’s return will interrupt and destroy him (2 Thessalonians 2:8), thus bringing to a permanent end Gentile dominion in the Earth. The Lord Jesus Christ will restore David’s throne to Israel—yea, to universal supremacy—and thus reign for Father God’s glory forever (Luke 1:31-33; Revelation 12:15; cf. Isaiah 9:6-7). Satan and pagan Gentiles will no longer rule in the Earth! Furthermore, through us the Church the Body of Christ, David’s throne will extend out into the heavenly places throughout the endless ages to come (2 Timothy 2:8-13). (For more about David’s throne impacting the heavenly places in the future, and our role in it, see our related study about the heavens, whose link you will find below.)

Also see:
» Is there an historical mistake in Luke 2:1-2?
» Why does “overturn” appear thrice in Ezekiel 21:27?
» Can you explain, “My kingdom is not of this world?”
» Is the “Divine right of kings” a Scriptural concept?
» Where in the Bible did God give Satan domain over the Earth?
» Are we “doom and gloom” prophecy believers?
» Why are the heavens not clean in God’s sight?
» Who was “Caesar?”
» Who was “Herod?”
» Who will be Israel’s King in the Millennium—Jesus Christ or David?

Who were the “elders?”

WHO WERE THE “ELDERS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The “elders” were members of the Sanhedrin, or Jewish Supreme Court (see our related study linked at the end of this article). As their name implies, they were elderly men in leadership positions. They are important characters in Matthew through John, as well as Acts, since they were among the Lord Jesus’ enemies. The elders were influential in putting Christ to death, and harassing and persecuting His Apostles and other disciples. Remember, contrary to popular belief, old age does not necessarily imply wisdom! “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness(Proverbs 16:31).

THE ELDERS MISTREATED CHRIST (QUICK SUMMARY)

The “elders” were instrumental in arrogantly challenging, surreptitiously betraying, fraudulently trying, incorrectly accusing, mercilessly torturing, wrongly convicting, irreverently mocking, and brutally executing Jesus Christ!

  • Matthew 16:21: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
  • Mark 8:31: “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
  • Luke 9:22: “Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”

THE ELDERS CHALLENGED CHRIST’S AUTHORITY

  • Matthew 21:23: “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”
  • Mark 11:27: “And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,….”
  • Luke 20:1: “And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,….”

THE ELDERS PLOTTED TO KILL CHRIST

  • Matthew 26:3-5: “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

THE ELDERS ARRANGED AND PARTICIPATED IN CHRIST’S ARREST

  • Matthew 26:47: “And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.”
  • Matthew 27:3: “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,….”
  • Mark 14:43: “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
  • Luke 22:52: “Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?”

THE ELDERS PRESIDED OVER CHRIST’S “TRIAL” (A SHAM, TO SAY THE LEAST!)

  • Matthew 26:3: “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,….”
  • Matthew 26:57: “And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.”
  • Matthew 26:59: “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;….”
  • Matthew 27:12: “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.”
  • Mark 14:53: “And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.”
  • Mark 15:1: “And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.”

THE ELDERS PERSUADED MULTITUDE TO DEMAND CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION

  • Matthew 27:20: “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.”

THE ELDERS MOCKED CHRIST AS HE HUNG ON CALVARY’S CROSS

  • Matthew 27:41: “Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,….”

THE ELDERS BRIBED THE ROMAN SOLDIERS TO COVER UP CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

  • Matthew 28:11-15: “[11] Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. [12] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, [13] Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. [14] And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. [15] So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”

THE ELDERS PERSECUTED THE 12 APOSTLES AND STEPHEN IN EARLY ACTS

  • Acts 4:5: “And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,….”
  • Acts 4:8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,….”
  • Acts 4:23: “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.”
  • Acts 6:12: “And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him [Stephen], and caught him, and brought him to the council,….”

THE ELDERS SUPPORTED THE APOSTLE PAUL’S WRONGFUL CONVICTION AND DEATH (MURDER!)

  • Acts 23:14: “And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.”
  • Acts 24:1: “And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.”
  • Acts 25:15: “About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.”

Also see:
» What was the Sanhedrin?
» Who were the “chief priests?”
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “Sadducees?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Who were the “chief priests?”

WHO WERE THE “CHIEF PRIESTS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The “chief priests” are important characters in Matthew through John, as well as Acts, since they were among Christ’s enemies. (We will get to those verses later.) For now, let us provide some Old Testament background to identify their origin.

In chapter 24 of 1 Chronicles, King David organized Israel’s Levitical priesthood (which had begun with Moses and his brother Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, some 500 years earlier). Levitical priests were classified according to their forefathers, arranged by “courses” (ranks, orders, positions). They served the LORD God by following an annual schedule as touching ministration in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple.

“[1] Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. [2] But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest’s office. [3] And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service. [4] And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar, and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers. [5] Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar. [6] And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar.”

In all, there were 24 courses, lots, or ranks of priests. You can read these names in verses 7-18. Verse 19 summarizes: “These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.” Other sons of Levi (men of the tribe of Levi) served in non-priestly roles, and they are listed in verses 20-30. Verse 31 recaps: “These likewise cast lots over against their brethren the sons of Aaron in the presence of David the king, and Zadok, and Ahimelech, and the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites, even the principal fathers over against their younger brethren.”

Following the Jews’ Babylonian Captivity, Ezra, some 500 years after David, conducted his ministry as a priest-scribe. “Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware” (Ezra 10:5). Israel and her religious leaders agreed to turn from their idols and worship the LORD God alone. However, their descendants were not believing. Let us skip over to Christ’s earthly ministry now, five centuries after Ezra. The “chief priests” are aware that their Hebrew Bible pinpoints Bethlehem of Judaea as Jesus’ birthplace, but they do not accompany the Gentile wise men to worship Him (Matthew 2:1-11; cf. verse 4). This is just the first of many sins the chief priests commit against the Son of God and His servants.

THE CHIEF PRIESTS MISTREATED CHRIST (QUICK SUMMARY)

Such men show us how possessing a Bible and being religious leaders are really not honorable at all unless we believe God’s Word in the heart. Despite their outward appearance, they are not people of faith. Hence, they will be instrumental in arrogantly challenging, surreptitiously betraying, fraudulently trying, incorrectly accusing, wrongly convicting, mercilessly torturing, irreverently mocking, and brutally executing the Son of God!

  • Matthew 16:21: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
  • Matthew 20:18-19: “[18] Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, [19] And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.”
  • Mark 8:31: “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
  • Mark 10:33: “Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:….”
  • Luke 9:22: “Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PLOTTED TO KILL CHRIST

  • Matthew 26:3-5: “[3] Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, [4] And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. [5] But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
  • Mark 11:18: “And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.”
  • Mark 14:1-2: “[1] After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. [2] But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
  • Luke 19:47: “And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,….”
  • Luke 22:2: “And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.”
  • John 11:47,53: “[47] Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles…. [53] Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”
  • Matthew 27:1-2: “[1] When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: [2] And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS CHALLENGED CHRIST’S AUTHORITY

  • Matthew 21:15: “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,….”
  • Matthew 21:23: “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”
  • Matthew 21:45: “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.”
  • Mark 11:27: “And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,….”
  • Luke 20:1: “And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,….”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS ARRANGED AND PARTICIPATED IN CHRIST’S BETRAYAL AND ARREST

  • Luke 20:19: “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.”
  • John 7:32: “The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.”
  • John 7:45: “Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?”
  • John 11:57: “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”
  • Matthew 26:14-16: “[14] Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, [15] And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. [16] And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.”
  • Mark 14:10: “And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.”
  • Luke 22:4: “And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.”
  • Matthew 26:47: “And while he yet spake, lo, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.”
  • Mark 14:43: “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
  • Luke 22:52: “Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?”
  • John 18:3: “Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PRESIDED OVER CHRIST’S “TRIAL” (A SHAM, TO SAY THE LEAST!)

  • Matthew 26:59-62: “[59] Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; [60] But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, [61] And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. [62] And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?”
  • Matthew 27:12: “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.”
  • Mark 14:53,55-59: “[53] And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes…. [55] And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. [56] For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. [57] And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, [58] We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. [59] But neither so did their witness agree together.”
  • Mark 15:1-3: “[1] And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. [2] And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. [3] And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.”
  • Luke 22:66: “And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,….”
  • Luke 23:4-5: “[4] Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. [5] And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.”
  • Luke 23:10: “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS SOUGHT TO TAKE LAZARUS’ LIFE

  • John 12:10-11: “[10] But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; [11] Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.” (Sadducees, who denied resurrection [Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8], were influential in the Sanhedrin, especially since the high priest was both a Sadducee and the leader of the Sanhedrin [cf. Acts 5:17]. To be sure, Christ and His Apostles performing miracles of raising the dead made them most unpopular with the chief priests, Sadducees forming some 90% of the Sanhedrin!)

THE CHIEF PRIESTS WERE NOT BOTHERED WHEN JUDAS ISCARIOT CONFESSED HE BETRAYED “THE INNOCENT BLOOD”

  • Matthew 27:3-8: “[3] Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, [4] Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. [5] And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. [6] And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. [7] And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. [8] Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS BETRAYED CHRIST TO THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT

  • Luke 24:20: “And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.”
  • John 18:35: “Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PERSUADED MULTITUDE TO DEMAND CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION

  • Matthew 27:20: “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.”
  • Luke 23:23: “And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.
  • John 19:6: “When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.

THE CHIEF PRIESTS REFUSED CHRIST AS THEIR KING

  • John 19:15: “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.”
  • John 19:21: “Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS ENVIED CHRIST (IT WAS THEIR MOTIVATION TO MURDER HIM)

  • Mark 15:10-11: “[10] For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. [11] But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS MOCKED CHRIST AS HE HUNG ON CALVARY’S CROSS

  • Matthew 27:41-43: “[41] Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, [42] He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. [43] He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.”
  • Mark 15:31: “Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS OPPOSED CHRIST EVEN AFTER HIS DEATH, CALLED HIM A “DECEIVER”

  • Matthew 27:62-66: “[62] Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, [63] Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. [64] Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. [65] Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. [66] So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS BRIBED THE ROMAN SOLDIERS TO COVER UP CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

  • Matthew 28:11-15: “[11] Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. [12] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, [13] Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. [14] And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. [15] So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Sadducees, who denied resurrection [Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8], were influential in the Sanhedrin, especially since the high priest was both a Sadducee and the leader of the Sanhedrin [cf. Acts 5:17]. To be sure, Christ resurrecting made Him most unpopular with the chief priests!)

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PERSECUTED THE 12 APOSTLES IN EARLY ACTS

  • Acts 5:24: “Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS GAVE SAUL OF TARSUS PERMISSION TO PERSECUTE AND ARREST MESSIANIC JEWS IN EARLY ACTS

  • Acts 9:14: “And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.”
  • Acts 9:21: “But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?”
  • Acts 26:10: “Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.”
  • Acts 26:12: “Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,….”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS OPPOSED THE APOSTLE PAUL

  • Acts 22:30: “On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.”
  • Acts 23:14: “And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.”
  • Acts 25:15: “About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.”

Also see:
» What was the Sanhedrin?
» Who were the “elders?”
» Who were the Pharisees?
» Who were the Sadducees?
» Who were the Herodians?”

Did the 12 Apostles ever join the Church the Body of Christ?

DID THE 12 APOSTLES EVER JOIN THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Brethren, the answer is a resounding NO! There was absolutely no reason for them to do so.

Unfortunately, Acts is the most misunderstood Books of the Bible. Dispensationalists—especially we Pauline dispensationalists—should be the most skillful in this regard. If anyone should be capable of shedding light on the subject, it should be we ourselves. Alas, we are often just additional contributors to the preexisting confusion. It is not God’s fault! In this our special-edition Bible Q&A article #800, we can delineate at least 10 problems that arise if we incorporate the 12 Apostles into the Body of Christ.

1. OBSCURING THE DISTINCTIONS IN SCRIPTURE

Let us begin with this. To assert the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ is to do nothing but blur the distinctions between it and the Little Flock. Anyone who mixes, or appears to combine, the Messianic Church (Israel’s Little Flock) with the Mystery Church (Body of Christ) should be watched with a great deal of suspicion. Whether a subtle blending (“some of the Little Flock became members of the Body of Christ”) or a full-blown grouping (“there has always been and will always be only one church in the Bible”), heresy and apostasy are nigh. Eliminating such differences is a sure way to wind up on a slippery slope, bound for the chasm of unanswerable confusion. We had better be on guard and promptly flee upon discovering the error!

2. TALLYING IS AMBIGUOUS

If we add the 12 Apostles to the Body of Christ, when do we stop taking from the Little Flock? Since the leaders of the Little Flock join the Body of Christ, why not have the entire Little Flock join the Body of Christ? What is good for the teachers is good for their disciples, right? If the most important members of the Little Flock—that is, the 12 Apostles—migrated into the Body of Christ, why did all members of the Little Flock not transfer to the Body of Christ? Or, again, maybe they all did! When is enough, enough? How do we reckon what percentage of the Little Flock moved into the Body of Christ? Will we ever answer it with certainty? It just results in more questions.

A similar argument can be made against the Apocrypha, the so-called “missing books” or “banned books” from the Bible. If the 66 Protestant Books are not enough in the canon of Scripture, how many are? Why stop at 73 or 80 like the Roman Catholics? We could add many more Books than the Roman Church if we wanted, right? Again, we are just blurring the distinctions between the Little Flock and the Body of Christ. Leave the 12 Apostles in the Little Flock, and we will avoid a lot of complications.

3. RE-JUSTIFYING THE 12 APOSTLES

The only reason someone is placed into the Church the Body of Christ is to be moved from being “in Adam” (lost, no fellowship with God, dead in trespasses and sins) to being “in Christ” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). Requiring the 12 Apostles to move from the Little Flock to the Body of Christ implies their “re-justification”—as in, the 12 Apostles had no right standing before God until they joined the Body of Christ. To say they were not justified until the Body of Christ began is to then claim they were lost and dead in trespasses and sins throughout Matthew through John, and even into early Acts!

We know the 12 Apostles had already believed the Gospel of the Kingdom—that Jesus was Christ, Messiah, King of Israel (Matthew 16:13-19)—and were justified before God then. They had believed John the Baptist’s message (cf. John 1:35-50). In order to join the Body of Christ, they would have to “come to Christ by faith” a second time, believing Paul’s Gospel or the Gospel of Grace (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This would be totally unnecessary. We have no reason to believe they lacked any right standing before God after believing the Gospel of the Kingdom, for they were members of the Little Flock and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Someone cannot be forgiven of their sins twice, cannot move into God’s family twice, cannot be justified twice, et cetera. It makes no sense, and it causes us to question whether or not the Little Flock was ever a valid part of God’s family.

4. IGNORING THE CIRCUMCISION/UNCIRCUMCISION DIVISION

In the Church the Body of Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 3:6). Of course, God’s purpose in forming the nation Israel was to make a Jewish body of believers. The only group of believers prior to the Body of Christ is the Little Flock (Israel’s believing remnant). As we noted in #3, Israel’s 12 Apostles believed the Gospel of the Kingdom during Christ’s earthly ministry.

Later, in the Book of Acts (chapter 9, specifically), the middle wall of partition—the distinction between Jew and Gentile—is broken down (see Ephesians 2:11-18). This was done in order to make Paul himself qualified to join as the first member of the Body of Christ. In Paul’s ministry, in the Church the Body of Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. All who join the Body of Christ come by faith in Paul’s Gospel, lose their Jewish or Gentile identity. God sees no racial or national distinction in the Body of Christ. Therefore, would the 12 Apostles (if they join the Body of Christ) retain or lose their Jewish standing before God? It is not only unnecessary but also impossible for them to be both saved before the middle wall of partition and then saved again after its abolishment. Again, the suggestion is rubbish. The 12 Apostles were not incorporated into the Body of Christ!

5. REPLACING ISRAEL WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST

If the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ, that would necessarily mean they could not remain in the nation Israel. What exactly happened to Israel then? Did it just disappear into thin air? If they were once part of Israel, but now part of the Body of Christ, we are left to wonder if the Body of Christ absorbed the Little Flock simply because the Body of Christ replaced Israel. Let us take it a step further. If the 12 Apostles were heirs of Israel’s covenants, and they joined the Body of Christ, would that not then make the Body of Christ—or, at least a portion of it—recipient of Israel’s covenants? Once we make the 12 Apostles members of the Body of Christ, it will not take too much to then convince us the whole Body of Christ replaced Israel. We wind up on more unstable theological ground.

Additionally, since Matthew 19:27-29 has the 12 Apostles inheriting material possessions and goods, will they receive these or not? “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

Nothing in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, ever suggests the Church the Body of Christ is promised material possessions or earthly blessings. Therefore, how can the 12 Apostles be recipients of earthly blessings in the Body of Christ? That would conflict with Pauline doctrine, for the Body of Christ does not inherit earthly blessings. If the 12 Apostles do not inherit earthly blessing, then God broke His promise to them. Even in the future (Millennium), there is an incongruity. The 12 Apostles cannot be both heirs of something on Earth and not be heirs of something on Earth. It is either one or the other.

6. COMBINING GOVERNMENTAL ROLES

As we noted in #5, Scripture is clear that, in the ages to come (Millennial Kingdom), the 12 Apostles will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. Look again at Matthew 19:27-28: “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Now, if the 12 Apostles are part of the Body of Christ, then that means a portion of the Body of Christ rules over Israel. But, are not Israel and the Body of Christ two equal entities, the former exalted in the Earth and the latter exalted in the Heavenly Places? Ephesians 1:8-10: “[8] Wherein he [Father God] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; [9] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….”

Also, Colossians 1:16-20: “[16] For by him [God the Son, Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

Making the 12 Apostles join the Body of Christ confuses the matter. Israel really does not have supremacy in the Earth then, for the Body of Christ would be the governmental authority in Heaven and Earth. Now, we have Heaven and Earth scrambled, with part of the Body of Christ (the 12 Apostles) in Heaven… but, if the Apostles moved into the Body of Christ, they have lost their position on Earth? Who then reigns over Israel on the Earth, if not the 12 Apostles? Will Israel be governed from Heaven? We have part of the heavenly government reigning over the earthly realm… or part of the earthly government reigning over the heavenly realm? Which is it?! Do you see the unfathomable complexity and perplexity?

7. INSERTING THE APOSTLES WHERE THEY DO NOT BELONG

Nothing in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, indicates the 12 Apostles ever became part of the Body of Christ. None of the Books of Hebrews through Revelation—writings of Apostles James, Peter, Jude, and John—ever suggest they joined the Body of Christ. Here is the evidence.

The Apostle Peter appears by that name in Paul’s epistles five times, and “Cephas” five times. He is confined to Galatians and 1 Corinthians. See for yourself:

(PETER)

  • Galatians 1:18: “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.”
  • Galatians 2:7: “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;….”
  • Galatians 2:8: “(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: )….”
  • Galatians 2:11: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
  • Galatians 2:14: “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

(CEPHAS)

  • 1 Corinthians 1:12: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:22: “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;….”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:5: “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:5: “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:….”
  • Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”

(JOHN AND JAMES)

As for the Apostle John, he is found only once in Paul’s epistles. That is in Galatians 2:9, where the Apostle James also appears. See our last verse quoted. The Apostle James is found two other times in Paul’s writings. Like Cephas/Peter, he too is restricted to 1 Corinthians and Galatians.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:7: “After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.”
  • Galatians 2:12: “For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.”

Now, let us examine it from another angle. Instead of looking for James, Peter, and John in Paul’s epistles; let us see if we can find Paul in their writings. As it turns out, Paul appears only once in the Circumcision or Jewish Epistles. Read 2 Peter 3:15-16: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

Second Peter was Peter’s final epistle. In it, the Holy Spirit directs Peter’s readers to consider the Divine revelation given to Paul. Peter confessed he himself did not have that insight, for the revelation of the mystery was not his ministry (it was Paul’s—cf. Colossians 1:23-29). How could Peter be a member of the Body of Christ and yet be so unable to adequately communicate truths associated with it? Evidently, Peter assumed the Body of Christ was something totally unrelated to his ministry or what God was doing in and through him. Remember, this is Peter at the end of his life. He would gain no further revelation, which is why he urges his audience to consult Paul’s epistles for more information.

We will yet take it a step further. If we search the Scriptures for the term “body of Christ,” or “the church which is his body,” we will discover one plain and simple fact. It is exclusive to Paul’s ministry and writings. Look at the references yourself, brethren. Read Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 4:4,12,16; Ephesians 5:23,30; Colossians 1:18,24; Colossians 2:19; and Colossians 3:15.

Contrariwise, there is absolutely nothing about the Church the Body of Christ in the Books of Hebrews through Revelation. If you doubt this, take a concordance and look up the term “body” in Hebrews through Revelation. You will find not so much as one verse about the Church the Body of Christ. Peter, James, and John do not write about it. Would they have not done so, had they been part of it? Now, search for the word “church” in Hebrews through Revelation. It always appears in conjunction with the Messianic Church (Israel’s believing remnant), for the word “body” is never attached to it. “Church” in the Hebrew Epistles is strictly Israel’s Little Flock, the group of Jewish believers God calls out of the apostate nation to form His kingdom of priests. Again, take a concordance and see for yourself. Do not take anyone’s word for it—including mine!

8. IGNORING THE ACTS 15 & GALATIANS 2 BIBLE CONFERENCE

Had the 12 Apostles joined the Church the Body of Christ, the Bible conference of Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 15 would not have ended in the fashion it did. Paul and Barnabas would not have parted from James, Peter, and John. We remind ourselves of Galatians 2:9 once more: “And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”

They would have all been part of one Body of Christ, preaching the same Gospel of the Grace of God. Yet, we can see their mutual promise to remain separate and distinct groups. Paul and Barnabas would preach and minister to the heathen (all lost people, whether Jew or Gentile); whereas James, Peter, and John would preach and minister to the circumcision (Israel’s Little Flock). Obviously, the Church the Body of Christ and Israel’s believing remnant remained apart. The leadership of the Little Flock (James, Peter, and John) would in no way join Paul and Barnabas because the leadership of the Little Flock knew the division was there. It was a joint agreement, and the rest of the Book of Acts bears that out. Paul visits synagogues (lost Jews), pagan Gentiles, and so on. There is no record in latter Acts or Paul’s epistles that James, Peter, or John ever taught Paul’s converts or evangelized synagogue worshippers. From Acts 15 / Galatians 2 onward, the lost were given over to Paul’s ministry.

9. OVERLOOKING THE LAW/GRACE DIVISION

The 12 Apostles were told to preach the Law in Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Yet, the Church the Body of Christ is under Grace and not Law. Romans chapter 6, verses 14 and 15: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

So, are the 12 Apostles under the Law, or under Grace? If they are under the Law, they cannot be part of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is under Grace. However, if the 12 Apostles are under Grace, then they are least in God’s earthly kingdom. Continue reading in Matthew chapter 5, verses 17-20: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” How could we make the leaders of God’s earthly kingdom least in that kingdom at the same time?

As an extra sidenote, many years (a decade?) after the Acts 15 / Galatians 2 Bible conference, we read chapter 21 of Acts: “[18] And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. [19] And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. [20] And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: [21] And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”

We will notice the Apostle James—the same one of Acts chapter 15 and Galatians chapter 2—is still associated with Jews “which believe… [who] are all zealous of the law” (verse 20). If James is under Grace and not Law, what is he doing here? Should he not be discouraging these Jews, members of the Little Flock, from being under the Law? Maybe he is following his promise in Acts and Galatians? Perhaps he is restricting his doctrine to match the group of people to whom he is ministering? Of course he is!

10. CAUSING CONFUSION ABOUT APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY

With the 12 Apostles being incorporated into the Body of Christ, what happens to their apostolic authority? Do they retain it, or lose it? If they retain it, why? They can in no way function in the Body of Christ as apostles, for the only apostles in the Body of Christ were given their offices after Christ’s ascension (Ephesians 4:8-11)! If they lose it, then that means Israel herself is without 12 Apostles now. Consequently, once the Body of Christ began in the Book of Acts (chapter 9 with Saul’s salvation), Israel’s believing remnant had no Apostles leading it. All Apostles would be in the Body of Christ now. Preposterous!

CONCLUSION

The idea that “the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ” breaks down into nothing but hopeless confusion. It is simply denominationally-minded Christians, or even lost people, not making the distinctions in Scripture that they should. Since they have not fully broken from religious tradition, their thinking is clouded. It is natural-man wisdom, an attempt to harmonize differences in the Bible, and it does nothing more than complicate Scripture. Such people need to grow in God’s Word rightly divided before they attempt to teach it. Dear brethren, if you make the 12 Apostles part of the Church the Body of Christ, the best of luck to you in reducing that chaos to order! (You will need it.)

Also see:
» Can you explain Peter and the 11’s ministry from Acts chapters 7 through 15?
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during Acts?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» What is Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology?
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?
» Is Hebrews 13:3 a reference to the Body of Christ?
» Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts 2?

“For such an high priest became us?”

“FOR SUCH AN HIGH PRIEST BECAME US?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;…” (Hebrews 7:26). Is that proper grammar? “For such an high priest became us?”

It is not to say we became a high priest. This would be utter nonsense… even more so when we consider the adjectives in the verse in no way apply to us. It should be understood in the sense of “he is a high priest appropriate/suitable/proper for us.” The Lord Jesus Christ can meet all our needs: He is everything we are not, and He has everything we do not have but need. Therefore, He is fitting—and, in this context, it is His ministry as Israel’s High Priest. You can read Hebrews 4:14–10:39 for all the details.

Our King James translators rendered this Greek word (“prepo”) in six other verses, all carrying the same meaning:

  • Matthew 3:15: “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh [is proper, suitable for] us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 11:13: “Judge in yourselves: is it comely [proper, suitable] that a woman pray unto God uncovered?”
  • Ephesians 5:3: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh [is proper, suitable for] saints;….”
  • 1 Timothy 2:10: “But (which becometh [is proper, suitable for] women professing godliness) with good works.”
  • Titus 2:1: “But speak thou the things which become [is proper, suitable for] sound doctrine:….”
  • Hebrews 2:10: “For it became [is proper, suitable for] him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Also see:
» Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?
» How was there healing in touching Jesus’ garment hem?
» Can you explain Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me a sinner?”

Why did Christ need to heal that blind man twice?

WHY DID CHRIST NEED TO HEAL THAT BLIND MAN TWICE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Let us first read the passage, Mark 8:22-26, and then we can expound it: “[22] And he [the Lord Jesus Christ] cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. [23] And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. [24] And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. [25] After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. [26] And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.”

Doubtless, this strange miracle has puzzled many Bible readers. However, if we look at it in context, and remember to approach it dispensationally (2 Timothy 2:15), we need not stumble over it. Like the healing of the deaf and speech-inhibited man (Mark 7:31-37), this passage is unique to Mark. It is found nowhere else in Scripture. The miracle occurred in the area of “Bethsaida,” near the northernmost tip of the Sea of Galilee. People bring a blind man and ask Jesus to recover his sight. The Lord agrees to perform the miracle, but does so in secret. Firstly, He grabs the man’s hand and directs him away from Bethsaida. Secondly, after healing him, He forbids the man to enter the town or share the news therein. Why are privacy and silence so important here?

What is unexpected is the fact the miracle here in Mark chapter 8 was performed in stages. Jesus spits on his eyes and touches him, but his vision is only partially recovered. The man confesses, “I see men as trees, walking.” His eyesight is still quite poor, so Jesus places His hands on the man’s eyes a second time. “He was restored, and saw every man clearly.” Once again, we remind ourselves Jesus sends the man to his house, ordering him not to enter Bethsaida or tell anyone in the town about that miracle.

Let us deal with the issue of concealment first. Several months earlier, Jesus had pronounced judgment on Bethsaida for its obstinate refusal to believe on Him. Despite His many miracles in their midst, they remained in unbelief! See Matthew chapter 11: “[20] Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: [21] Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [24] But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”

By the time of Mark chapter 8, the Lord has already given Bethsaida over to spiritual darkness. Consequently: (1) He does not minister in the city, (2) He insists the man be healed outside the town, (2) He directs the man not to return to the city, and (4) He orders him not to share the news of his healing with the town.

Now, we address it being a double miracle. Oddly, Jesus performed this bodily healing in phases—as opposed to His normal instant cures (Matthew 8:3; Matthew 20:34; Mark 1:31,42; Mark 2:12; Mark 10:52; Luke 4:39; Luke 5:13,25; Luke 8:44,47; Luke 13:13; Luke 18:43; John 5:9). One “faith healer” used Mark 8:22-26 against this writer to defend the gradual “healings” in religion today. However, this miracle is the exception as opposed to the norm. The God of the Bible can and did perform miracles immediately. Yet, Jesus needed to touch the blind man twice for him to see perfectly. Why?

This is not the disciples’ gradual enlightenment but rather Israel’s enlightenment being pictured. Bethsaida, recall, is spiritually blinded. She has been given over to darkness, just like Israel as a whole because the nation has constantly rejected Jesus these past two years (Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10). However, at Christ’s First Coming, there is a believing remnant within the nation. This remnant has been restored to spiritual sight, and the nation partially recovered from spiritual blindness. This corresponds to the first stage of the blind man’s cure. It will not be until the second time (the second laying on of Jesus’ hands, His Second Coming) that Israel is nationally converted and given spiritual sight (cf. Romans 11:25-27). Hence, the two stages of sight given to the blind man in Mark.

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving—these websites do cost money to run! 🙂 You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! By the way, ministry emails have really been backed up this year. I am handling them as much as humanly possible. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

Also see:
» How was there healing in touching Jesus’ garment hem?
» What about modern-day “faith healing?”
» Is there “healing in the Atonement?”
» Why did Jesus Christ heal on the Sabbath day?

Who were the “scribes?”

WHO WERE THE “SCRIBES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “scribes.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

As their title implies, scribes were literate men—able to read and write. They were copyists of the Old Testament Scriptures in the nation Israel. Also, they were teachers of the same. Scribes were of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe.

“And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar” (1 Chronicles 24:6). “Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service: and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters” (2 Chronicles 34:13). Shaphan the Scribe appears in this chapter.

Living circa 500 B.C., Ezra was another Levitical priest and scribe. These verses from Ezra chapter 7 describe his job: “[6] This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him…. [11] Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel. [12] Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time…. [21] And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,….” Ezra faithfully copied the words of God, and was influential in getting the Old Testament Scriptures to us to read even now!

Ezra also taught the Hebrew Old Testament, as we see in Nehemiah chapter 8: “[1] And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel…. [4] And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam…. [9] And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law…. [13] And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law” (cf. Nehemiah 12:26,36).

Baruch was the Prophet Jeremiah’s scribe, writing the words of the LORD as He spoke through Jeremiah. See Jeremiah chapter 36. Another scribe, Elishama, is mentioned here as well. Verse 4: “Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.”

Around 600 B.C., Israel really did not care to read the scribes’ work, the Hebrew Bible. “How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain” (Jeremiah 8:8) By the time of Christ’s arrival, even the scribes were in unbelief… some of Jesus’ greatest critics. They knew the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, including His birthplace (Bethlehem of Judaea), but they did not visit Him when He was born (Matthew 2:4-6). Possessing the Word of God, and yet not believing it, profited them nothing (Hebrews 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Jesus paired the scribes with the Pharisees—self-righteous, conceited people who were not right in God’s sight (Matthew 5:20). Both scribes and Pharisees considered others to be “sinners,” but they viewed themselves as sinless (Luke 5:29-32; Luke 15:1-10).  Jesus said of scribes in Luke 11:44: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.” They were hypocrites—appearing to good and righteous, but really as defiled and disgusting as corpses! “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46-47).

When teaching their Jewish people the Old Testament Scriptures, the scribes relied on others’ interpretations of the Bible. However, Jesus was His own authority, never quoting rabbis, which impressed the crowds (Matthew 7:28-29). Some of the scribes manifested themselves as unbelievers in that they accused Jesus of blasphemy when He forgave a man of his sins (Matthew 9:3; Luke 5:21). Like the Pharisees, scribes were strict Sabbath observers. They watched Jesus closely to see if He would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath—a violation of rabbinical tradition (Luke 6:6-11). Right here, they are “filled with madness [insanity]; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” The scribes will reject Him to the point of His death (Luke 9:22).

In Luke 11:53-54, the scribes partnered with the Pharisees to try to cause Jesus to stumble in His words: “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” Some scribes and Pharisees even took an adulteress and brought her before Jesus for condemnation—another unsuccessful attempt to embarrass Him (John 8:1-11).

“And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, And they could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luke 19:47-48). The scribes united with the chief priests and deliberately challenged Jesus’ authority in Luke 20:1-8. “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them” (Luke 20:19). Also, Luke 22:2: “And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.” The scribes assembled with Israel’s other religious leaders in trying and condemning Christ (Luke 22:66-71). During His Gentile trial before King Herod Antipas: “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him [Jesus]” (Luke 23:10).

The scribes gathered with Israel’s other religious leaders in opposing the Apostles in early Acts (chapter 4, verses 1-22). Scribes were some of those who were convinced to be antagonistic against Stephen, the Holy Spirit’s preacher to Israel at the time of Acts chapters 6 and 7 (cf. Acts 6:12). A portion of the scribes of the Pharisees “somewhat” came to the Apostle Paul’s defense during his trial many years later (Acts 23:9). While not clear in Scripture, some scribes (likely few) seem to have some spiritual receptivity, though we cannot ascertain to what degree. See Matthew 8:19 and Luke 20:39.

In closing, the scribes copied and taught the Old Testament Scriptures in Israel. If anyone in the nation should have been familiar with the writings of the ancient Jewish prophets, these were the men. They were the educated, literate crowd—alas, they could not care less about God’s Word or God’s Son. A good many such “scholars” today exist in Christendom. They do not believe the Bible, and, using their vast influence, they encourage others not to believe it either. Remember, the scribes possessed and copied the Scripture… but did not actually trust the Scripture. Let us learn this lesson. It is not enough for us to have the Bible: we must also read, study, and (most importantly!) believe it in the heart!

Also see:
» Who are “lawyers” in Scripture?
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “Sadducees?”