Years ago, a local church pastor pointed out a passage from Romans 8:29-30 wherein it is revealed that those foreknown by God are ultimately and irreversibly destined for heaven. The passage’s sequence: those foreknown are predestined, called, justified, and glorified (i.e., in heaven).
At another local church, a group of people kept a prayer book containing the names of unbelievers for which the group prayed consistently that God would save those listed in the book.
Combining the Roman’s passage with the group’s prayers, it became logically apparent that people
could be praying against God’s will. If the group prayed for an unbeliever who was not foreknown by God, then ipso facto that prayer was contrary to God’s foreknowledge and will.
One solution to this enigma is to pray, “God, if such-and-such an unbeliever is on Your to-be-called list, then please exercise Your call sooner rather than later.”
Such a prayer respects God’s sovereignty and unilateralism.
Does this mean God never changes His mind? God did change His mind with Moses (Exod. 32:14). But God never changed His mind about His salvation of His foreknown people.
MOSES’ FADING FACE
An enigma exists: how did the Apostle Paul know that Moses’ shinning face faded (2 Cor. 3:7) since it seems that Moses kept his shinning face veiled for much of the time (Exod. 34:33)?
And what is the theological significance of Moses’ fading face?
This essay will present possible answers for both questions from the scriptures. Please note: all scripture citations are from the New American Standard Bible, Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995.
Moses’ Shinning Face
For the second time, Moses spent forty days and forty nights atop Mount Sinai with God. God transcribed His commandments on two stone tablets which He had commanded Moses to bring with him to the top of the mountain. Thus, God’s Ten Commandments were recorded again.
Unknown to Moses, this event resulted in his face shinning (Exod. 34:29). Upon returning to the foot of the mountain, the sons of Israel headed to greet Moses but stopped short from fear when they saw his shinning face (Exod. 34:30).
When their fears finally abated, the sons of Israel eventually approached Moses in spite of his shinning face
Probably to assuage the fears of others who might come into contact with him, Moses covered his shining face with a veil after delivering God’s instructions to the sons of Israel.
The Fading Face
The question arises, “How did Moses discover his face was fading since he kept it covered with a veil?” The answer may come from the point in time when Moses removed his veil, went into the tabernacle, and spoke (sans veil) with the Lord (Ezek. 34:34-35).
The scriptures mention “. . . mirrors (emphasis mine) of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (Ezek. 38:8). Some uncertainty exists about the precise meaning and interpretation of the “mirrors” phrase. However, what is certain is that the mirrors had reflective properties, and that Moses would certainly have exposure to the doorway leading to the tent of meeting.
As Moses approached the tent of meeting (or, tabernacle), he would remove the veil from his face and likely catch sight of his face reflected in the mirrors—a reflection which alerted him that his face was fading. This alert need happen only once or twice for Moses to realize that the shining of his face would fade.
Upon talking with the Lord in the tent of meeting, Moses’ face would shine.
The “fading face” reality likely became a tradition transmitted by the sons of Israel to each generation, eventually reaching the ears of the Apostle Paul.
The Theological Significance of Moses’ Fading Face
The early chapters of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians are a dramatic contrast between God’s old covenant and His new covenant. Paul used Moses’ experience of receiving a shining face and its temporary nature as an illustration of the old covenant and its inferiority to the new covenant.
Theologically, Moses’ fading face illustrated the temporary nature of the old covenant. It also illustrated the external nature of the old covenant.
The new covenant is both internal physically and permanent.
An aside: Paul used the stone tablets from Mt. Sinai and the Spirit’s ministry upon human hearts to illustrate that the new covenant was indeed internal (2 Cor. 3:32-6).
God had revealed to Ezekiel the internal nature of the new covenant:
26“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put n new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27”I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Furthermore, God had revealed to Jeremiah the permanency of the new covenant.
31“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, (i.e., temporary) although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33”But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it (i.e., permanent, or “everlasting,” per Jer. 32:40) and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
The old covenant which God gave to the sons of Israel was both external and temporary as .pictured by Moses’ fading face.
The new covenant is God’s gift to the church—a covenant which is both internal and permanent. Over the years however, life under the new covenant for the church has sometimes become contaminated with bits and pieces of the external and temporary old covenant (e.g., the consecrated priesthood of the Roman church whereas all church saints are priests).
Envisioning the Trinity is sometimes made easier if one pictures the specific management organization of a large commercial company:
- God the Father would be the equivalent of the Chairman of the Board;
- God the Son would be the equivalent of the Chief Operating Officer; and
- God the Holy Spirit would be the equivalent of the labor force.
God the Father makes all the decisions. He is the exclusive decision maker. God the Son formulates the appropriate and perfect plans for carrying out the Father’s precise decisions. And God the Holy Spirit is the labor force (non-union) who actually does perfect works according to the Son’s plans.
Sometimes sin and/or Satan propose their own anti-God plans.
Please note: one would hardly expect any Chairman of the Board himself to install a sheet-rocking plan laid out by the Chief Operating Officer. So, the respective roles of the Trinity are exclusively each’s own—decisions by the Father, plans by the Son, and executions by the Spirit.
The Trinity functions as a unit.
We learn from the scriptures that: “. . . God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made (literally, had created to make),” (Gen. 2:3, NASB, 1995). The literal phrase “to make” suggests other members of the Trinity do the planning and the execution of the work.
By application of the above, a believer enters God’s rest by ceasing from making his own decisions, plans, and works (cf. Heb. 4:10-11 for entering God’s rest, NASB, 1995).
God revealed His yet-to-be-enacted decision for the Jewish nation to His prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:25-27, NASB, 1995). Enactment for the nation will involve both the Son and the Spirit.
In the Bible, God’s decision for the church was quite similar to His decision for nation Israel. He entitled His decision the new covenant. The essence of the new covenant is that the Trinity does everything spiritual for the believer—including making an unbeliever a believer.
While on earth, Jesus announced to His disciples the new covenant’s inauguration for the church (cf. Luke 22:20, NASB, 1995).
The kingdom of God for the Jewish nation and the church are two distinct entities separated by generations.
In God’s rest, does all activity by a believer cease? NO! Jesus, dwelling spiritually in the believer, carries out God’s decisions by the power of the Holy Spirit. The believer ‘accomplishes’ his/her rest by faith—i.e., by believing God’s decisions of the new covenant for the church and choosing to live his/her life simply by knowing and believing God’s decisions.
At the last Passover celebration in Jesus’ ministry, Philip asked Jesus if he might be honored the privilege of seeing God. This essay is a biblical adaptation of the Apostle John’s written record which highlights Jesus’ response to Philip’s request.
NASB 8Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
The adaptation: “The one who has seen a believer living by the new covenant has seen Jesus.”
Jesus’ Response to Philip
One might notice that Jesus’ response to Philip was not, “He who is seeing Me is seeing the Father.” Rather, the suggestion was that Philip had seen Jesus manifesting the Father on several occasions but not continuously. One of those occasions was likely when Jesus fed five thousand from five loaves and two fish.
Obviously, this meant that Jesus’ behavior did not manifest the Father for every single moment of His life on earth, e.g., when He was asleep in a boat covered with waves on the sea.
Please note: the adaptation does not apply for ‘just-saved’ believers, or for believers who are under the control of sin or Satan.
The New Covenant
A vital part of the adaptation is that the new covenant be in full force during the present age. The following biblical evidence is provided to substantiate that the new covenant is, in fact, Jesus’ revelation for the believer’s present life.
NASB 19And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
NASB 23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Origins of the New Covenant
The features of the new covenant date back to God’s promises to the Jewish prophet Ezekiel.
NASB 26“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put n new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27”I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Although promised to the Jews, one can discover those promises as active among gentiles in the present age.
NASB 14For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
Jesus Christ Lives Spiritually in Today’s Believers
The present reality is to establish biblically that Jesus Christ lives spiritually in believers.
NASB 27to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
What is at work for gentile believers is also at work for Jewish believers as well. The glory is likely the rewards dispensed at the judgment seat of Christ.
On Seeing Jesus
Jesus Christ, living in believers, can be observed by others.
NASB 12Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
2 Cor. 4:10-11
NASB 10always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Jesus Christ, living in believers, can be observed by others. Since all believers will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, sanctification is the precursor to seeing Jesus on earth. Please note: the observations one may see include physically casting out demons. Spiritually speaking, one may observe an unbeliever being born again. Spiritual gifts have likely ceased.
The New Covenant and Bible Study
Some believers are able and motivated to consistently study the scriptures. Others rarely open a Bible for several reasons. It is encouraging that God has made it possible that all believers are taught the new covenant by the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, i.e., with or without study of the Bible.
1 John 2:27
NASB 27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
For Certain Persons living under the new covenant, it is a legitimate and accurate statement that, “The one who has seen a believer living by the new covenant has seen Jesus.”
In 2 Pet. 1:10, the same Greek word (???????) has been translated into recent English-Bible editions as “election” (e.g., ESV, 2001 edition) or “choosing” (e.g., NASB, 1995 edition). Both the ESV and NASB translations are ‘word-for-word’ translations rather than ‘thought-for-thought’ translations. ‘Thought-for-thought’ translations mean that the translators concoct the thought content of the original human authors as they wrote the material which has become the New Testament.
The popular NIV, 1978 edition is a combination of ‘thought-for-thought’ and ‘word-for-word’ translations.
In our current culture, the word “election” implies an individual has been selected by a majority vote, whereas “choosing” implies selection by another single individual.
Either way, the elected or chosen individual is not self-appointed.
Spiritually speaking, it is God Himself who does the “election”/“choosing.”
In 2 Pet. 1:10, the word preceding “election” (ESV) or “choosing” (NASB) is the word “calling.” In Peter’s sentence, “calling” is connected to the words “election” (ESV) or “choosing” (NASB) by the simple conjunction “and.”
Please note: God alone is the One who does the calling which is sequentially preceded firstly by God’s foreknowledge, and secondly by His predestination (cf. Rom. 8:29). Foreknowledge and predestination likely occurred before God’s physical creation.
Furthermore, in Rom. 8:30, Paul made it clear—in his uninterrupted sequence of God’s salvation—that those called will be both justified and glorified (i.e., destined for heaven). But, in Paul’s sequence, elect/chosen believers are never mentioned! This strongly suggests that being elect/chosen is not something that takes place spiritually for all believers.
To express this in another way, all believers are called—and will end up in heaven—but not all believers are both called and elect/chosen.
This spiritual reality of all believers not being elect/chosen is recognized only by those believers who are both called and elect/chosen.
2 Peter 1:10
ESV “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
NASB “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;”
NIV “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,”
NASB 29“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become (italicized words added by translators) conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called, and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
When Paul wrote his letter to the Roman church in A.D. 57, he addressed six different believing groups comprised of gentiles and Jews. Among those six groups were believing Jews who boasted in God and were sanctified (Rom.2:17-22; 28-29). Also among those groups were believing Jews who boasted in the Law and were not sanctified (Rom. 2:23-25; 27b).
In Chapter Six, Paul explained that living by law for believers resulted in spiritual death (Rom. 6:13-14, where death means separation of one’s spirit from God).
This brief essay will elaborate the definition and spiritual realities of sanctification and its application in the churches of today.
Paul used the word sanctification seven times in his letters. The word literally means a separation or setting apart.
When an individual is “born again” (cf. John 3:3), God removes by separation one’s “heart of stone,” puts within a new “heart of flesh,” a “new spirit” and His Spirit (cf. Ezek. 11:19; 36:26-27). Please note: the heart referred to is not the physical organ. Importantly, under God’s arrangement statement in Ezekiel 11:19, “. . . they (i.e., the sanctified) may walk in My statutes and keep (my emphasis) My ordinances and do them.”
A heart is the ‘organ’ of belief (Rom. 10:10). This likely involves one’s brain.
Sin is a component of the forbidden fruit which Adam and Eve ingested in the Garden. Sin modified the genetic makeup of their respective bodies except for the seed of the woman; sin was transmitted by the male’s seed to all his progeny (Rom. 5:12, author’s translation: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world—and [physical] death through sin—even so it [sin] began to spread to all men, on the basis of which all began to sin.”).
Therefore, sanctification refers to separation—not removal—of sin in one’s mortal body. Thus, sanctification means that sin is separated from the new heart and new spirit but sin is still resident in the human body (cf. Rom. 8:13, where the Pauline phrase “according to the flesh” means under sin’s control and results in death—i.e., spiritual separation from God).
Simply stated, sanctification is separation from sin. Sanctification results from being sanctified by God.
However, not all believers are sanctified (Rom. 8:29-30, where Paul purposely omits sanctification in God’s detailed sequence of salvation, a critically important omission).
Finally, living according to one’s beliefs generated by the new heart’s response to God’s Word is referred to biblically as living by faith.
Many of today’s preachers and teachers are not sanctified but are none-the-less zealous for God (cf. Rom. 10:2). Therefore, they live and teach that a believer’s life should be lived by doing things rather than living and teaching that God is the One doing things in response to the believer who lives by faith.
The believer’s faith is that Jesus Himself lives spiritually within the believer’s mortal body, and Jesus’ life is manifested by the believer through the Spirit’s power (cf. 2 Cor. 4:11).
A clever fiction often taught is that the Holy Spirit Himself enables or empowers the believer himself/herself to do things during his/her Christian life. However, the biblical reality is that Jesus, living spiritually within the believer, manifests His perfect life for all to see (Heb. 12:14).
One of the great erroneous teachings of today’s Christian church is that all believers are expected by God to practice evangelism. This teaching arises from being unsanctified and is simply not biblical. God gave some believers as evangelists (Eph.4:11). Philip was an evangelist—but the only one mentioned in the Bible (Acts 21:8). Yet many believers were mentioned in the Bible who were not reported as doing evangelism. Furthermore, the work of a biblical evangelist was to baptize new believers and also performs signs (Acts 8:6, 12-13).
Present-day church members are not taught to baptize people and do signs. So even today’s teaching is limited and distorted.
Therefore, believers who have been sanctified should be aware that those believers who are called, but not chosen to be sanctified, are in fact justified, will be glorified, and are probably not communicating God’s Word accurately because they are not equipped spiritually by God to do so.
Remember, as Jesus said parabolically, “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).
Please note: the thing which activates and empowers sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56). So those teachers and preachers who advocate doing things to please God are actually suggesting doing something that activates and empowers sin.
The only thing a sanctified believer can do is to pray that if a particular believer is on God’s ‘to be sanctified list,’ that God would act sooner rather than later.
In Deut. 29:22-30:6 (written c. 1405 B.C.), God revealed to Moses some astonishing information. Keeping in mind that a biblical generation after Moses’ death was about 70 years (Ps. 90:10), the following interpretation may have important applications for our generation.
“The unique generation” in verse 22 came to an end in 1948, having its beginning in 1878—the year Benjamin Disraeli endorsed the Berlin Treaty that became foundational for Jewish homeland arguments. “The foreigner from a distant land” was likely the British who had administrative responsibility over the land via the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate of July 1922.
In verses 23 and 27, the plagues and diseases of the land described like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, resulted from every curse upon the land triggered by the anger of the Lord. Nowhere in the post-Moses historical or prophetic writings is such a description ever applied to the land because “The secret things belong to the Lord. . .” (verse 29).
The question from “all the nations” in verse 24 likely came from the League of Nations as alluded to in certain land-reclamation articles of the Palestine Mandate.
Those answering this question were likely Christian Zionists who understood literally God’s biblical promises to His people. From 1878 to 1948, those Zionists worked unstintingly to provide the Jews a homeland in Palestine.
“The Lord uprooted the Jews from their land . . .” in 70 A.D. by Titus who “. . . cast them into another land . . .” (verse 28). That other land was Italy. The condition lasted, “. . . as it is this day,” that is, until the day the British left the land in May 14, 1948.
“. . . when all of these things have come upon you . . .” e.g., the curse of the Lord upon the land (verse 30:1) and “. . . you call them to mind . . .” (30:2) in the Dispersion (implying, of course the spiritual revival among Diasporal Jews that will be initiated by those obeying the Great Commission), “. . . then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity . . . and gather you again (emphasis mine) from all the peoples . . .” (verse 30:3-6). This is the second recovery alluded to in Isa. 11:11.
The curse of the land likely ended with the first recovery from many nations as reported in Ezek. 38:8, 12 which began after the generation starting in 1948 and ending in 2018—in our generation.
- The Levitical Priesthood was terminated by Jesus, March 31, AD 33 (Mark 11:11-18).
- Institution by God of a new priesthood was not introduced or alluded to by prophecies for any or all of the generations from Moses to Malachi.
- Seldom, if ever, is the Ecclesiastical Priesthood referred to by preachers and/or teachers in present-day evangelical churches.
- The Ecclesiastical Priesthood is presently distorted by several ersatz priesthoods (e.g., Anglican, Mormon, and Roman Catholic).
- The Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, established in 1978 in Jerusalem’s Old City, is evidence of the pending restoration of Levitical Priesthood (cf. Matt. 24:15).
- The reality of a new priesthood’s existence was revealed by Peter (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) and John (Rev. 1:6; 20:6). Peter’s AD 67 letter to Jewish believers in the Diaspora—Peter, the Apostle to the circumcision—was to integrate the generations of Jewish history and the Levitical Priesthood (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9 quoting from the Hebrew scriptures) with God’s new Ecclesiastical Priesthood of the church. Gentile believers have no such need for an explanation or integration of a second priesthood so Paul (the Apostle to the uncircumcision) simply doesn’t address the issue directly in his letters. However, there are allusions in his letters to the gentiles being part of a priesthood.
- The Ecclesiastical Priesthood is a “royal” priesthood because its members are sons of God (1 Pet. 1:9; Rom. 8:14-17)
- Members are called and chosen by God, are priests to God, and proclaim God’s excellencies (i.e., “worship” God), 1 Pet. 2:9.
- Temporarily replaces the Levitical Priesthood.
- Will reign over nations (with Christ) for a thousand years.
- Comprised of both male and female believers.
- An individual becomes an ecclesiastical priest at the moment he/she is called and chosen by God.
- Provides service to others (e.g., some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers (cf. Eph. 4:11-12).
- Priesthood ushered in by God historically on Pentecost, May 24, AD 33.
- The priesthood lives under the New Covenant.
- The Ecclesiastical Priesthood is terminated or concluded (at the Rapture) when believers meet Jesus in the air.
- The Levitical Priesthood will be restored at the termination of the Ecclesiastical Priesthood.
- Ecclesiastical Priesthood is worldwide.
- Requires confession of one’s sins to God to maintain fellowship with the Father and Son.
- No special dress or attire specified.
- No particular language required.
- Activities not confined to a particular structure in a specific location.
- Comprised of men and women who can own land and work for their own living.
- Not supported financially by donations from others.
- Not chosen by the election of others.
- Intercedes for other believers (Col.4:12; 1 Tim. 2:1).
- Fulfills the law to love one another.
- No denominational affiliation.
- No hierarchy with the exception of Christ as High Priest (please note: the word “bishop” does not appear in the scriptures).
- A priest’s mortal body is a living sacrifice; one’s body becomes God’s property (Rom. 12:1).
- Behavior manifesting Christ’s presence within the believer-priest’s mortal body is metaphorically speaking a “sweet” aroma to God, 2 Cor. 2:14, versus a “soothing” aroma to placate God’s wrath under the Old Covenant, Exod. 29:18.
- No specific ethnicity or race required.
- Marriage among priests is quite appropriate.
- Members will receive glorified bodies.
An aspect of living under the New Covenant is being part of the Ecclesiastical Priesthood that includes sacrifice, service, and worship of God. Sacrifice, service, and worship are not commandments that must be obeyed. Rather, they are manifestations of Christ’s life in the believer through the believer’s life of faith.
Being a part of the Ecclesiastical Priesthood in NOT something which requires one to perform a retinue of activities at certain events (e.g., officiating the Lord’s Supper).
Two priesthoods cannot be functioning upon the earth simultaneously. Therefore, when the prophet Daniel’s 70th week begins (featuring 12,000 sealed Levites who will live throughout Daniel’s 70th week, Rev. 7:7), the church with its Ecclesiastical Priesthood has to have been removed from the earth.
Finally, the seemingly total absence of reference to the Ecclesiastical Priesthood presently in local churches may signal the eschatological need and reality of returning to the Levitical Priesthood.
Unless otherwise noted, Bible quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995.
“13Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to ruin (NASB, “destruction,” but humans are not destroyed; cf. 2 Cor. 2:5 for a comparable situation where the NASB features “perishing,” and which should be replaced by ruining themselves), and there are many (not all) who enter through it, 14for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to (spiritual) life, and there are few who find it.”
Imagine a conventional shoebox with its cover removed. At the center of one end, a wide “gate” has been cut out with a sharp knife by making a vertical slice from the top to the bottom of the box. At the box’s bottom, a single horizontal cut of four inches is made at the end of the vertical slice thereby producing a wide gate by folding back the slice.
Next, imagine a significantly smaller box with cover removed and placed inside the shoebox at the end opposite the wide gate. Also, the smaller box has a gate facing the wide gate—but a gate of much narrower size than the wide gate in the shoebox.
The foregoing is a graphic picture of Matt. 7:13-14.
Both gates are symbols for Jesus. Jesus is also the source of spiritual life (John 14:6).
The wide gate is for all called by God. The narrow gate is for those both called and chosen (cf. Matt. 22:14 for Jesus’ revelation that many are called but few are chosen). Those not entering the wide gate are destined for hell.
The Apostle Paul taught that any believer “living according to the flesh must die” (Rom. 8:13, where “death” connotes a relational separation from God and Jesus).
“Living according to the flesh” establishes that sin is controlling the believer causing the believer to commit an act of sin. That act causes separation of the believer from fellowship with the Father and Son—sometimes labeled a relational “death” (cf. 1 John 1:6-8). Confession of the specific sin will restore fellowship (1 John 1:9).
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ description of the wide and narrow gates corresponds theologically to the doctrine of the called, and the called plus chosen (2 Pet. 1:10-11 records both the calling and choosing of believers, resulting in the abundance of kingdom rewards determined directly from following Jesus’ narrow way (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15 for rewards).
It is likely that those simply called do not recognize that some are also chosen.
For those called, see Rom. 8:28-30. For those called and chosen, see Rom. 9:10-11.
Of the three Synoptic Gospels, only Mark reported Jesus’ one-sentence simile about the doorkeeper (Mark 13:34). Jesus’ simile provided two unique pieces of information: one, that the church will have gentile members; and two, that certain of those gentile members will have evidence about the Rapture’s timing to which Jews in the church should be alert.
While the word “rapture” itself does not appear in the Bible, an historical translation of 1 Thess. 4:17 has made the word Rapture a popular way of describing the church being caught up to meet Jesus in the air. The event has been labeled or referred to in interchangeable ways: as being caught up and meeting the Lord in the air, as the Lord’s return, and as Jesus fetching His bride.
For the reader’s information, the Rapture of the church and Jesus’ Second Coming are two distinct events separated by seven years.
Immediately following His simile, Jesus’ comments (also reported by Mark) are significant regarding the Rapture.
This essay will provide biblical and historical info that explain about the doorkeeper and the signs/indicators which give evidence about the Rapture’s timing and pending approach.
As a starting point, the study will trace the occasion and history resulting in a doorkeeper for Jews. The sequence of events is fascinating.
The 4th Commandment (Exod. 20:8-11) unmistakably emphasized that the Sabbath must be observed without any Jew doing one smidgen or scintilla of work throughout the entire day.
For observant Jews in their respective households, this commandment presented a significant problem. Some household activities—like opening a door—were definitely categorized as work. To cope with this problem, Jews established the role of gentile doorkeepers to open household doors on the Sabbath so the Jews could avoid any work.
In Yiddish, Jews employed a Shabbos Goy who could open their doors. The word Shabbos referred to the Sabbath, while the word Goy indicated a gentile.
Dr. Raymond Apple, noted author and retired renowned rabbi, wrote: “The Shabbos Goy phenomenon began in the Babylonian period, allowing the Halacha to accommodate social realities without transgressing Jewish law. However, it depended on a reasonable relationship between Jews and gentiles, and as the relationship varied so did the availability of the Shabbos Goy” (Apple, Raymond. “Looking for a Shabbos Goy.” Jerusalem Post 24 Feb. 2016).
Therefore, a Shabbos Goy was quite familiar to those of Jesus’ generation.
In Jesus’ generation, one is introduced to a special Shabbos Goy (Acts 12:1-17). Her name was Rhoda, a Greek name derived from the Greek word for “rose” indicating that she was—in all likelihood—a gentile. Rhoda was a servant retained by Mary (John Mark’s mother) to perform various household tasks which would of course include opening the door.
Turning one’s attention to Jesus’ preeminent apostle, Peter had been recently incarcerated by King Herod, but then freed supernaturally by an angel. Upon release, Peter eventually headed for Mary’s residence and knocked at the gate.
The Shabbos Goy Rhoda recognized Peter’s voice. She became so excited that instead of opening the door, she ran into the household and announced to all the believers who were in prayer for Peter that Peter was, in fact, just outside. The response from those gathered in Mary’s house was one of acute skepticism and the bizarre suggestion that it was Peter’s angel outside.
In fact, the entire episode of Peter’s release from prison and eventual presence in Mary’s residence is an informative illustration of what can happen if a doorkeeper’s alert response is disdained by those present in the household.
The point in all this is that Mark had been raised in a Jewish household which featured a gentile doorkeeper. Mark’s familiarity with a doorkeeper in the household and his close personal association with Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 5:13) may be the reasons why only Mark among the Synoptics picked-up and recorded in his gospel the instructions to the doorkeeper contained in his Lord’s one-sentence simile originally heard by Peter.
Jesus’ Direct Instructions to a Doorkeeper
In His simile, Jesus’ direct instructions to a gentile doorkeeper were clear and simple: “. . . stay on the alert.” So, quite without any hubris, a gentile believer in a local church could properly play the role of a doorkeeper by being alert for Jesus’ return.
Furthermore, Jesus also used the word “alert” twice to His four Jewish disciples thereby emphasizing the importance of alertness. And in closing, Jesus included that all His Jewish disciples should also be on the alert for His return.
Thus, all church members—both Jews and gentiles—would require some information about signs and observable events which would signal Jesus’ return.
Jesus’ Return in a Narrow Time Frame
Jesus’ comments immediately following His simile are significant. Mark reported that Jesus revealed His return for the church would be on one of two contiguous days. And He commanded both Jews and gentiles to be on the alert.
In other words, His return will be within a narrow time frame (cf. Mark 13:35).
The Narrow Time Frame for Jesus’ Return
(New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995)
33“Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34“It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35“Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37“What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”
In the above simile, a man away on a journey—also referred to as the master (literally, the lord) of the house—is Jesus. The journey is Jesus’ ascension from earth to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The house probably represents a local church. The slaves are local-church members, i.e., Jesus’ bond-servants. The doorkeeper is a gentile servant, a Shabbos Goy, commanded to stay on the alert for Jesus’ coming. The tasks given the church members would likely include being apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers (cf. Eph. 4:11-12).
Being on the alert (“alert” being mentioned several times by Jesus) means that all His Jewish disciples, and a gentile as well (the doorkeeper), will be privy to the appropriate signs and indications of His return from His journey. By application, the “all” who are also commanded to be alert are the members of the church congregation which will include gentiles. The individual alertness of Jews is reliant upon listening with a positive attitude and responding thoughtfully and realistically to a gentile’s information which he presents.
Interestingly, the response by the believing guests in Mary’s house to Rhoda’s announcement that Peter was standing at the front gate is absolutely antithetical to the intention of Jesus’ alertness instruction to members of a local church.
Please note: without any appropriate signs or recognizable indications, Jesus’ command to the doorkeeper (a gentile) to be alert would simply cause the doorkeeper only consternation and frustration. To be effectively on the alert, a doorkeeper must have sufficient and recognizable info regarding his Lord’s return.
Also, if being alert means 24/7 throughout the year, the doorkeeper would soon become bored and indifferent—emotional states that would be anathema to alertness. However, awaiting his Lord’s return in the narrow time perspective of one or two consecutive days in a year would not produce boredom and indifference, but rather anticipation with excitement.
To avoid the disheartening emotional states, observe that the Lord’s return will actually take place on one of two contiguous days, indicated by the evening of the first and the morning of the second (Mark 13:35; cf. Luke 12:38 for two contiguous days shown by the watches, the first from 9 p.m. to midnight, and the second, from midnight to 3 a.m.).
A critically important fact to recognize is that only the Jewish Feast of Trumpets takes place on just two contiguous days, something Jewish church members would readily know while gentiles might not. This reality is tremendously important in identifying the timing of Jesus’ return because Paul had mentioned that the Lord’s return will involve the trumpet of God (1 Thess. 4:16) which will be blown as the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52).
Selecting and appointing a gentile doorkeeper was a clever way to keep the church’s gentile population informed of the yearly dates for the Jewish feast days. Being informed was necessary because the doorkeeper had to be on duty if any feast days happened to land on a Sabbath.
The Fig Tree Parable
Something of particular interest and extremely noteworthy is that Jesus immediately preceded His instructions to the doorkeeper with His parable about the Fig Tree. The Fig Tree Parable sets the stage of events preceding Jesus’ return, providing helpful information about His return from a broad or long-term time frame (cf. Mark 13:29-30 for a generation being the long-term time frame).
The Broad Time Frame for Jesus’ Return
(New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995)
28“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29“Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door (literally plural, i.e., “doors”). 30“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
The complete interpretation of the Fig Tree Parable can be found elsewhere on a blog site with the title “Two Important Fig Tree Parables” (cf. www.mcclymont.org). Suffice it to say that the fig tree represents the Levitical priesthood of the Jews. And the door(s) to which Jesus is near might be a metaphor for the human heart (cf. Rev. 3:20).
The fig tree’s branch became tender and its leaves were put forth in 1978 when the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim was established in Jerusalem’s Old City (for an interesting account that is more political than religious, see Johnson, Ann. A United Jerusalem The Story Of Ateret Cohanim. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 1992).
Furthermore, Jesus had prophesied that the generation seeing the above event—a generation beginning in 1948 with the first of two returns to the land by Jews from the Diaspora (Isa. 12:11 for the prophesied two returns)—would not come to an end until His Second Coming to receive His inheritance, to assume His righteous rule over Israel’s restored kingdom, and to rule over the world’s nations (cf. Psa. 2:1-12).
Fulfillment of Jesus’ generation prophecy began some 68 years ago! And Moses wrote that a generation could be anywhere between 70-80 years (Psa. 90:10). Such a length for a generation was validated when believers born on Jesus’ birth date fled Jerusalem in AD 67 at age 70 to avoid the city’s invasion by Rome.
Therefore, the clear biblical signs and indications of the first return of Jews to the land, and the training of eligible priesthood candidates for ministry in an about-to-be rebuilt temple (see www.templeinstitute.org), are presently available to correctly stimulate a doorkeeper to be on the alert. However, no one—not even the doorkeeper—will know the day or hour of Jesus’ coming for His church.
Thus, the interesting point is this: the very next item in Jesus’ discourse after the Fig Tree Parable as a sign for His return was a well-known Jewish event (the Feast of Trumpets) of two contiguous days which would absolutely prevent any knowledge about the day and hour featuring His return. But the feast could promote the church being alert for His return.
The Feast of Trumpets
The following information serves as orientation about relevant Jewish feasts. The Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24; Num. 29:1) and Rosh Hashanah are discussed in great detail by Kevin Howard in a fascinating little book entitled, “The Feasts of the Lord.” Howard points out two very important facts: one, Rosh Hashanah is often referred to simply as the Feast of Trumpets; and two, The Feast of Trumpets—biblically, a single day—now lasts for two contiguous days (Howard, K. and Rosenthal, M. The Feasts of the Lord. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997, 103-117).
The founder of Ariel Ministries, a Messianic Jew, a scholar, and a meticulous author, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum has written an explanation about the Jewish Feast of Trumpets which could prove quite helpful to a doorkeeper.
An aside: in 2016, the Feast of Trumpets will take place on the 3rd and 4th of October.
Paul wrote about the church meeting Jesus in the air at the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52; see also 1 Thess. 4:13-17). Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes the following regarding the last trumpet:
“. . . it is evident from the fact that Paul used the definite article the last trump that he expected the Corinthians to know what he was talking about. The only knowledge they would have of trumpets are those spoken of in the Old Testament; especially those of the Feast of Trumpets. The last trump refers to the Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish practice of blowing trumpets at this feast each year. During the ceremony there are a series of short trumpet sounds concluding with one long trumpet blast which is called the tekiah gedolah, the great trumpet blast. This is what Paul means by the last trump. His point is that the Rapture will be the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.” (Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Footsteps Of The Messiah. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press, 1983, 101).
Several—if not all—the synagogues in Jerusalem will celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, blowing the last trumpet blast at various hours. No one knows which of those trumpet blasts God will select as “the last trumpet.” The same holds true if God were to select a trumpet in a diasporic synagogue located anywhere in the world.
From Fruchtenbaum’s description of this Jewish practice, a doorkeeper would be able to pinpoint the general time frame during a year—knowing neither the day nor hour—on which the Lord would return to gather His household—the church.
Additional Information for the Doorkeeper and Other Church Members
Eight genuine and incontestable biblical signs/historical indicators presently pointing to the Lord’s pending return for His church are: the
- Jewish single-day Feast of Trumpets made into two contiguous days around 500 BC;
- Jesus’ unknowable day and hour of fetching His bride to occur on one of the two contiguous days;
- gentiles added to initially all-Jewish church membership;
- Jesus’ return to be at the last trumpet’s blast;
- worldwide birth pangs of wars, earthquakes, famines, viruses, and tornadoes likely to increase in intensity and frequency;
- worldwide materialism, immorality, unrighteousness, mendacity, and deception similar to the days of Noah just before he entered the ark;
- in 1948, the first of the two predicted returns of Jews from the Diaspora; and,
- in 1978, establishment of a school to train candidates for the Levitical priesthood.
Knowing an approximate time for Jesus’ return is important for two reasons: one, because Jesus commanded that we be on the alert for His return; and two, because it’s about our involvement in the most important event of our lives which we are all about to experience.
How important is the event? It is more important than winning a sports event, getting a driver’s license, graduating, watching a positively entertaining TV show, getting a job or getting married, buying a house or a car, attending the wedding of a daughter or son, becoming a parent or grandparent, watching the burial of a deceased loved one, or receiving publicly an honorary award.
The event will consist of meeting our Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-18; cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-55). No doubt it will be a unique experience, but not a surprising one. The eight signs/indicators given above provide adequate information for us to be alert for the event.
In Matthew’s gospel, the writer added four points of additional information that would help the doorkeeper be on the alert and execute his ministry satisfactorily.
First, throughout the world there will be “birth pangs” as signs of Jesus’ Second Coming (Matt. 24:6-8). The birth pangs will feature events that will be quite noticeable to the doorkeeper and will likely increase in both intensity and occurrence as Jesus’ Second Coming arrival nears. Those birth pangs have already begun.
Second, the world’s condition will be much like that of the world’s condition prior to Noah and his family entering the ark (Matt. 24:37-39). People are completely preoccupied with material things like food and drink rather than spiritual things like a relationship with God.
Furthermore, via marriages—some quite as corrupt as in Noah’s era—it will be obvious that the world’s population is focused completely on the future rather than on the presently pending divine judgment. The world then (and now) was totally ignorant of judgment until Noah and family entered the ark, and rain began seven days later.
To summarize, the two worlds manifest materialism, immorality, unrighteousness, mendacity, and deception.
An interesting occurrence has taken place in Cincinnati, Ohio. A full-scale replica of Noah’s ark has just gone on display for the public. Could this be a harbinger of things to come, or is it simply a reminder of things past?
Through news reports and advertisements on modern radio, TV, and the Internet, the doorkeeper will be able to monitor worldwide conditions in a timely and accurate fashion.
Third, the exact timing (day and hour) of Jesus’ coming for the church is completely unknown except by God—i.e., even the doorkeeper is in the dark (Matt. 24:36). This secrecy is God-intended to keep Satan unaware of the timing so that he cannot interfere with the church’s departure from planet earth (Matt. 24:42-44).
And finally fourth, the departure of the church from the earth will take place simultaneously worldwide (Matt. 24:40-41 plus Luke 17:34). This will make the doorkeeper’s ministry much more than a simple parochial exercise—suggesting there may be several doorkeepers throughout the world.
The Meaning of the Church Being Alert
Since Jesus admonished the “household” (church) to also be on the alert, it is important to understand what it means for the church to be alert. Two possibilities exist: some church members will be asleep, while others will be awake.
For those who have just retired for the evening, it would be important to realize that they might be treated to a shout from the Lord Jesus before dawn. Their sleeping attire might also be a consideration. Further, someone who is expecting Jesus’ shout will be spared the false alarm that the house has just been broken into by an intruder. And finally, an alert believer will realize the shout is not someone in the household having a terrible dream or nightmare.
For those awake, of primary importance is that when meeting Jesus, one has no unconfessed sins (see the “Lord’s Prayer” in Luke 11:4 for petitions of daily forgiveness of sins). This includes any sins against one’s conscience. Confession would also be important for those believers who have just retired for the night.
Informing children about the Rapture in a non-alarming way would also be important.
Unbelieving family members might also be apprised in the event that they may become involved with distributing the material assets of their departed relatives. Knowledge of the whereabouts of important papers, such as deeds etc., would help in the distribution.
If one is at work, or involved in some activity like driving a car, suitable action would be fitting to avoid any potential accident or disaster. Provisions for pets would be important from a humane standpoint.
Also, suitable action would be appropriate if one is in the shower and hears the shout.
Unfortunately, an urban legend persists among those of the Christian community. The legend holds that it is verboten for the Rapture to be a subject of study or discussion because Jesus said no one would know the day or hour of the event (cf. Miller, D.A. Forbidden Knowledge, Or Is It? Updated Expanded Ed. Fountain Valley, CA: Joy Publishing, 1998).
In addition, the erroneous theological doctrine asserting the imminence of Jesus’ Rapture has distorted biblical reality and believers’ thinking (cf. http://mcclymont.org/?p=49).
However, the Lord’s commissioning of a doorkeeper and repeated orders of alertness adequately deflate the legend as well as the theological doctrine because the issue of the exact time for the Lord’s coming is obviously one of ignorance, not one of forbiddance or imminence.
Finally, the Christian community should be “. . . looking for (emphasis mine) the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus . . .” (Titus 2:13), alert to our Lord’s coming to fetch His bride, and to make appropriate preparations accordingly.
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