A Word to the Wise Is Sufficient

04 The Open Door to HeavenEschatology Today launched in 2001 with the intent of giving the church the knowledge of inductive Bible Study to find the literally revealed truth of Bible prophecy in Scripture. Allegorical cut and paste views intended to substantiate a favored Rapture position are all too common. Our currently published, “The Truth About the Rapture”, and regularly published front page articles on The Rapture  (pre-, mid-, pos-trib, linked at the bottom of this article) are based on the the scholarly art and science of literal biblical interpretation, or hermeneutics. Where the Word of God Is Bound, So Are We, Where It’s Not, We Are Free is the basic rule of the study discipline. Hermeneutics and biblical theology were the two greatest take-aways in my Theology B.A. Based on this solid foundation, the most important point in each of these articles is, to STUDY God’s Word for yourself.  The Rapture is the most sought after subject in eschatology (the study [ology] of last [eschaton] things). Our “About Us” section examines the need to stay away from the “prophecy parrot” approach to intelligently defend the Scripture’s revelation of things to come. Only the Bible contains such revelation, setting it apart from other “religious” works that are written by man, not the Holy Spirit. If you’re a pretribber, you should be able to defend your position with the whole counsel of Scripture. The same is true of the mid and posttrib positions.  If you believe the trumpet in Revelation 4:1,2 is Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15:52 “last trumpet” that will bring about the mystery “change” (15:51 Gk: allaso) revealed only in Paul’s Corinthian passage of Scripture, defend it.  Because of the tremendous mystery surrounding most of eschatology, it is possible that trumpet is a last trumpet which may be connected with Jehovah’s annual October Feast of Trumpets that we have no other revelation to substantiate. I doubt it, but I’ve been at this long enough to understand even with “my Last Trumpet” Rapture eschatology based on Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, and John’s Revelation 10:7 voice of the seventh angel, there could be more to the event than is revealed in text.

When the Spirit says in Revelation 10:7…in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets, I key word connect that word, Mystery (GK: Musterion), with Paul’s 1 Corinthian 15:51 Musterion. Their resurrection/rapture following 3.5 days of lying dead in the streets is another key word connection. The time frame possibly types the first half of Daniel’s 70 weeks with 3.5 years that will culminate with the Rapture and Bema Seat of judgment/rewards for the saints (Revelation 11:15-19). Once the church is gone the bowls start pouring and the Great Tribulation in Revelation 13 begins. I am hermeneutically confident in my view, basing my Midtext Pretrib position on these key word and event assessments. Nevertheless, now 28 years into the serious study of eschatology, I understand I could be wrong. The angel’s15 Angel with Small Scroll  seven peals of thunder heard in Revelation 10 that John was commanded to strike from his record shows the mysterious nature of God’s last-days revelation, leaving me vulnerable to unknown revelation God chose to withhold from the church.

“Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.”

Revelation 10:1-7
1 I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire;
2 and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land;
3 and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.
4 When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.”
5 Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven,
6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, WHO CREATED HEAVEN AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE EARTH AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE SEA AND THE THINGS IN IT, that there will be delay no longer,
7 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.

02b John TurningWhatever the angel revealed, Jesus didn’t want the church to know.  I remember in 1988 when a NASA scientist convinced much of the church the Rapture would take place in September, many charged up their credit cards thinking they would be raptured with no accountability to pay them back. You figure it out.  When the Last Revelation Trumpet blows (you will only find a sequence of trumpets that you can identify a last trumpet with in the Book of Revelation), the Ark of the Covenant appears in heaven with lightening, thunder, and an earthquake. What’s that all about? Though the New Testament antedates its purpose,  it could be a message of then entering into  God’s presence.  The time for judgment of the dead and the reward of God’s bondservants, prophets, and saints occurs at that time with “God’s reign”. As is true that the Book of Hebrew’s  revelation is essential to understand the Old Testament Hebrew sacrifices: Paul’s  Rapture/Ressurrection eschatology in Thessalonians and Corinthians are essential to understanding John’s Revelation. Yet,  today, we look through a glass darkly. Then, when we will see and know Him, face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). As is true of Bible study in general, as we look to Jesus’ return and study the prophetic Scriptures, His presence empowers us to know Him better in the NOW, and opens our minds and spirits to discern His return.  Squabbling over a rapture position defeats the reason for John’s revelation in Revelation 1:3: Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Knowing that Jesus will one day return (Rev 1:7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be) should inspire a consecration in our lives. Jesus’ parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-27) promising age to come rule is a weighty revelation, and a powerful reason to be ready for His return – whenever that might be. The church has been waiting for it since Jesus was raptured off Bethany (Acts 1:6-11). It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds and arguments of a rapture position. So keep studying with us! Know what you believe, get out of the position-slamming business, and continue with all of us getting ready for His return. Maranatha!

Mark Norris, Eschatology Today Publisher, MA

Click on the following articles to develop your own (not some expert’s) Rapture view.Eschatology Today Three

About Eschatology Today

Eschatology and the Kingdom of God

Interpreting the Rules of Revelation

Hunting for Key Words the Inductive Way

Parables, Anointings, Visions and Dreams

The Truth About the Rapture

Rapture Right or Wrong, Are You a Pretribber?

Rapture Right or Wrong, Are You a Midtribber?

Rapture Right or Wrong, Are You a Posttribber?

Apocalypse Now!

 

Happy Independence Day America! – Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor

Founding Fathers Paid the Price for the United States of America
…we are in their debt to this day…

By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist
Copyright 2000 Boston Globe

_LibertyOn July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted 12-0 — New York abstained — in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s resolution “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”

On July 4, the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson — heavily edited by Congress — was adopted without dissent. On July 8, the Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Philadelphia. On July 15, Congress learned that the New York Legislature had decided to endorse the Declaration. On Aug. 2, a parchment copy was presented to the Congress for signature. Most of the 56 men who put their name to the document did so that day.

And then?

We tend to forget that to sign the Declaration of Independence was to commit an act of treason — and the punishment for treason was death. To publicly accuse George III of “repeated injuries and usurpations,” to announce that Americans were therefore “Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,” was a move fraught with danger — so much so that the names of the signers were kept secret for six months.

They were risking everything, and they knew it. That is the meaning of the Declaration’s soaring last sentence: “And for the Revolutionsupport of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Most of the signers survived the war; several went on to illustrious careers. Two of them became presidents of the United States, and among the others were future vice presidents, senators, and governors. But not all were so fortunate. Nine of the 56 died during the Revolution, and never tasted American independence. Five were captured by the British. Eighteen had their homes — great estates, some of them – looted or burnt by the enemy. Some lost everything they owned. Two were wounded in battle. Two others were the fathers of sons killed or captured during the war.

“Our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” It was not just a rhetorical flourish. We all recognize John Hancock’s signature, but who ever notices the names beneath his? William Ellery, Thomas Nelson, Richard Stockton, Button Gwinnett, Francis Lewis — to most of us, these are names without meaning. But each represents a real human being, some of whom paid dearly “for the support of this Declaration” and American independence.

Lewis Morris of New York, for example, must have known when he signed the Declaration that he was signing away his fortune. Within weeks, the British ravaged his estate, destroyed his vast woodlands, butchered his cattle, and sent his family fleeing for their lives.

Another New Yorker, William Floyd, was also forced to flee when the British plundered his property. He and his family lived as refugees for seven years without income. The strain told on his wife; she died two years before the war ended.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, an aristocratic planter who had invested heavily in shipping, saw most of his vessels captured by the British navy. His estates were largely ruined, and by the end of his life he was a pauper.

revolutionary-war-soldiersThe home of William Ellery, a Rhode Island delegate, was burned to the ground during the occupation of Newport.

Thomas Heyward Jr., Edward Rutledge, and Arthur Middleton, three members of the South Carolina delegation, all suffered the destruction or vandalizing of their homes at the hands of enemy troops. All three were captured when Charleston fell in 1780, and spent a year in a British prison.

“Our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Thomas Nelson Jr. of Virginia raised $2 million for the patriots’ cause on his own personal credit. The government never reimbursed him, and repaying the loans wiped out his entire estate. During the battle of Yorktown, his house, which had been seized by the British, was occupied by General Cornwallis. Nelson quietly urged the gunners to fire on his own home. They did so, destroying it. He was never again a man of wealth. He died bankrupt and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Richard Stockton, a judge on New Jersey’s supreme court, was betrayed by loyalist neighbors. He was dragged from his bed and thrown in prison, where he was brutally beaten and starved. His lands were devastated, his horses stolen, his library burnt. He was freed in 1777, but his health had so deteriorated that he died within five years. His family lived on charity for the rest of their lives.

In the British assault on New York, Francis Lewis’s home and property were pillaged. His wife was captured and imprisoned; so harshly was she treated that she died soon after her release. Lewis spent the remainder of his days in relative poverty.

And then there was John Hart. The speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, he was forced to flee in the winter of 1776, at the age of 65, from his dying wife’s bedside. While he hid in forests and caves, his home was demolished, his fields and mill laid waste, and his 13 children put to flight. When it was finally safe for him to return, he found his wife dead, his children missing, and his property decimated. He never saw any of his family again and died, a shattered man, in 1779.

The men who signed that piece of parchment in 1776 were the elite of their colonies. They were men of means and social standing, but for the sake of liberty, they pledged it all — their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Our Model of Before-and-After Christian Faith

Ilike Peter’s writings better than any New Testament contributor because he’s so much like most before the Holy Spirit’s change.  Babbling Peter said whatever he wanted, whenever he felt it, just like so many Christians and nonChristians do every day.

Peter IIIRemember when Jesus moved to wash his feet, Peter said, “Right Lord, but if you do, give me a complete bath” (John 13:5-11).  Peter’s intent wasn’t rebellious, just emotional to the point of blabbing what he was feeling at the time.  He didn’t get the servant teaching Jesus was trying to show him, and made it clear.

When Jesus appeared on the mount of transfiguration, Peter said he’d get James and John to help him build three tabernacles for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. The Father Himself silenced his foolishness mid-sentence by thundering out of heaven: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:1-7.)

When Jesus announced He would sacrifice His life, Peter warned the Lord to avoid it, earning Jesus’ rebuke of the devil speaking through him shaming the disciple for his foolish words (Matthew 16:21,23).

When Jesus prophesied He would be denied by all when arrested for crucifixion, Peter said, “Others may fall away from you Lord, but I won’t be one of them. No, not me!” to which Jesus prophesied Peter’s three-fold denial when confronted Passover night (Matthew 14:27-31).

When the resurrected Jesus prophesied Peter’s bleak end in John 21:18-23,  even then Peter mouthed off by looking at John and asking, “what about him Lord?” to which Jesus answered, “Don’t worry about John, Peter. If I want him to remain, until I come, what is that to you?”

Teachable Peter

But it was also Peter who spoke up when none of the others dared answer Jesus’ question regarding His identity. For that, Jesus changed his name from ”Swaying Reed” (Cephas) to “Rock” (Peter) and signified the heart of this man who received the revelation as the foundation on which Jesus would build His church (Matthew 16:13-20).

It was Peter who Jesus personally taught regarding a local Philippi tax by having him pull up a fish that had the exact amount in it. Wow. (Matthew 17:24-27.)

Peter on the Water IAnd it was Peter who by faith is the only mortal to ever walk on water. While the others trembled in fear thinking they saw a ghost on Galilee, Peter said, “Lord if it is you, say come, and I’ll come,” and he came. That’s right, Peter walked on the water before he got his eyes on the storm raging around him and started to sink (Matthew 14:22-32).

Born-Again Peter

Following his conversion, it was Peter who preached on Pentecost, causing great revival (Acts 2). It was Peter who healed  the lame man in Jesus’ name while passing by for afternoon prayer in the temple, causing great revival (Acts 3:7). It was Peter who healed Aeneas (Acts 9:34, 35) and raised Tabitha from the dead, causing great revival (Acts 9:40-42). In fact, Peter was so anointed with God’s healing power that the people “…even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them” (Acts 5:15). And it was Peter who was entrusted with the in-grafting of the Gentile church, while receiving a prophetic vision that taught Gentile salvation was God ordained, a Roman captain received the visit of an angel, putting the two together for Peter’s preaching in the officer’s home. All assembled were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10).  Wow.

Peter, Christian Model and Guide

The early church looked to Peter as its founding Christian leader.  There is no other church leader in Acts, until the Peter IVconversion of Paul, the Spirit consistently chronicles. Philip’s ministry in Samaria gets a chapter of Acts press, revealing a model of ministry similarity to the Lord Jesus Christ’s (Acts 8). Signs and wonders and even the apostle’s translation are revealed in this powerful chapter. Peter’s epistles reveal him as a model of Christianity and serve as a revelation guide-book for the general church. Peter’s blabbermouth days ended after the resurrection. When he says in 1 Peter 4:11,”Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God,” we see a born-again man who understands Christian faith. Peter came to learn that his words were empowered by God when he conversed with others, preached a sermon, healed the sick, and raised the dead.

In 1 Peter 3:18 the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter Jesus’ netherworld preaching to those who were once disobedient in Noah’s Day that leaves you simply wondering about the event. Wow.

Second Peter gives the most comprehensive teachings on the ministry of a prophet anywhere in Scripture. Peter’s prophetic insight into last-days mockers and immoral teachers out for wicked gain reads like TV news and newspapers today (2 Peter 2).  It is Peter only who tells us the Spirit of Christ dwelt in God’s prophets to reveal His revelation (1 Peter 1:11).  It is Peter who reveals our church conversion as living stones of a temple in which the born-again Christian is a chosen priesthood who offers up sacrifices of praise (1 Peter 1:9).  Peter gives us as much lifestyle teaching as Paul in his directives of social humility.

Before his conversion Peter was an honest, interested, and misguided man. After his conversion Peter was an  honest, interested, and Holy Spirit guided man. Study his acts and words in the Gospels. Then study his words and actions in the New Testament Book Acts and Peter’s First and Second Epistles.

Is Peter your Christian model of “before – and after?” Do a word search on Peter this week in the Gospels and spend time in his two epistles. His before-and-after-conversion-snapshot will inspire your Christian life.

Yes, Jesus is coming again. Until then there is abundant life to be lived on this earth that God created for us. Like Peter, are you believing God daily in prayer and in the study of His Word?

2 Peter 1:16-19
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased” —  18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

Mark

Noah and the Blood Covenant

Leviticus 17:11-12
11 ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’

Noah is the first believer in scripture to overtly offer God innocent animal sacrifice, making him the first literally revealed man of blood covenant in the Bible. This article will show how this world renowned patriarch’s salvation through the Great Flood is rooted in the blood covenant of atonement that foreshadowed Jesus Christ.

Written by Moses, the Bible’s book of beginnings, “Genesis,” moves quickly through 11 chapters before spending the rest of its revelation and the rest of the Old Testament on the family of Abraham that was blessed by God to bring mankind’s redeemer Jesus Christ into the earth.  We see Abram and God making mankind’s redeeming covenant, walking through innocent blood (Genesis 15:8-21).  But Noah is the first man revealed in Scripture at God’s ordained altar of sacrificial blood, which every succeeding patriarch and priest understood was the way God chose to deal with sin.

Genesis 8:21
21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.”

In Genesis 1-11 we are quickly informed of the creation of the heavens, earth, mankind, and the earth’s animals; mankind’s transgression that separated him from God; a great flood that purged sinful man from the earth, and the dispersion of the nations who all shared a common language before their rebellion at the Tower of Babel sent them   packing with different languages throughout the earth.  There are few details in the 11 quick chapters that teach man where we came from, and why we are here now. The rest of the book of Genesis from chapter 12 on focuses on another man of blood covenant, Abraham, whose family lineage would fill the rest of the Old Testament.

Blood Covenant
The first thing we see Noah doing after releasing the animals when stepping off the ark was blood covenant sacrifice on an altar he had obviously built before. Mizbeach is the Hebrew word for “altar,” which means, a slaughtering platter.

Genesis 8:13-22
13 Now it came about in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the surface of the ground was dried up. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15 Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.

mount-ararat-noahs-ark20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night Shall not cease.”

Reading backward to Genesis from Leviticus, the Old Testament student can see that the Old Testament Patriarchs, beginning with Adam and Eve’s son Abel had one, to atone for their sin.

3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.

Understanding blood covenant from succeeding Scripture, the Bible student knows that Abel offered the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions on an altar, which God was pleased with.  He wasn’t please with Cain, because Cain did not.

Leviticus 6:12
12
The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it.

In fact, Jesus said in Luke 11: 51 that Abel was a prophet. So this second born son of Adam was not only a worshiper on the altar of blood sacrifice, but a preacher of it.

49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’

We can presume that Cain and Abel’s  parents, mankind’s progenitors, learned of the atoning rite from God, who covered them with animal skins right after they sinned in Genesis 3:21: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”

Genesis 6:9 tells us Noah was a righteous, blameless man, who walked with God, because he was a man of blood covenant.  As we are justified today through our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood (Romans 3:23-25), Noah and those who offered innocent blood on behalf of their sin were also justified. This is the high wisdom of God’s redemption from death that He established in the garden.

tabernaceReading backward in Scripture from Leviticus, where Moses brought blood covenant public,  we can see how Job was a man of the altar in Job 1:5 (mizbeach, slaughtering platter) who didn’t offer again after we see him doing so in chapter 1, until chapter 42; Jacob built altars, so did Isaac, and of course Abraham.  Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and fat portions to atone for sin. Cain did not. When Moses went public with bereth we see the tabernacle  surrounding tent, the bronze altar, the water cleansing laver, and the Holy of Holies present a gospel of the “eye” revelation of God’s atonement for sin. Paul tells us in Hebrews 9:23 the tabernacle in the wilderness was an exact copy of God’s throne room in heaven.  Read the entire chapter to understand blood covenant and the priesthood God established through Moses in the wilderness. Pretty astounding stuff. Each of the tabernacle sacrifices commanded by God displayed a ceremonial cleansing for the sinful offerer, all of which were shadows and types of God’s sacrificial lamb who forgave the sins of the world.

John 1:29
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The Bible’s blood sacrifice Old Testament foreshadowing pointed to Jesus, who John the Baptist said was the LambAltar IV images of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29).  Our Lord Jesus’ altar was the cross. As we move into this year’s Easter season, we can rejoice that Noah shed God’s bereth’s blood sacrifice for his sins, sparing the world for we who can now be saved through innocent sacrifice of Jesus’ blood in it.

The Truth About the Christmas Wise Men

12-24-08 

It’s that excellent time of the year again when the miraculous birth of Jesus and all its amazing encounters are given world-wide press. The angels that appeared to Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, and the shepherds are remembered this time of year.

I worship God in awe each Christmas season when rehearsing the fact that every one of these key biblical figures were from the priestly lineage of Moses, except Joseph, who was from the family of David according to God’ Messianic promise (Matthew 1). Mary’s powerful faith; Gabriel’s rebuke of Zacharias’ unbelief and silencing until John the Baptist’s birth (Luke 1); Joseph’s unbelief and illumination through an angelic dream (Matthew 1:19-25); the meeting of Mary and Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-58); the shepherds’ angelic leading (Luke 2:1-20); and Simeon and Anna’s temple revelations (Luke 2:21-38) are all powerful confirmations of the prophecies confirming Jesus’ birth.

Micah 5:2
2          “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

MSNBCChristmasAlso, again this year, the wise men (KJV) (Magi NAS) who were divinely led to find Jesus will be in the news. What is normally remembered of these biblical figures is the star that led them and their unique gifts, and this article will too. But if you dig a little deeper you discover their story has more.

What was it about these spiritual leaders that entrusted them with special revelation regarding the birth of Christ?

Why were they chosen to know of Jesus’ birth?

How did they know to bring the typical gifts of royalty and suffering that would finance Jesus’ family while living in Egypt?

And, what else, if anything, can be known about their guiding star?

Good historical research reveals who the Magi were. They were philosophers, scientists, and priests with roots in the Median empire stemming back to the regions of Abram’s Babylonian hometown of Ur. It is true that many evolved into the kind of crystal ball gazing turbaned mystics that pepper popular culture. But Matthew’s Magi obviously had deeper aspirations, and a hunger for God’s righteous truth.

The Magi’s Religion
In my article, The Truth About Alexander the Great, I point out the godly interactions of Cyrus (who released the Hebrews to return and rebuild their nation), Artexerxes (who favored Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls), and Ahasuerus (the one Esther won over to withstand his anti-Semitic Persian elements who wanted to destroy the Jews). 

By the time Alexander conquered Darius III, the Persian’s national religion was Zoroastrianism. A close look at this ancient 12-24-08Persian religion shows its roots were planted in Daniel’s heyday. A closer look discloses that his influence, and others among God’s captive Hebrew remnant, had much to do with Zoroastrianism’s faith. It incorporated one God, Satan, and a lifestyle of goodness as revealed in the Hebrew prophets. Though its religious strains were mixed with “dark side” cultic beliefs in astrology and witchcraft, its core was monotheistic. It proclaimed an eternal realm of reward for the righteous (heaven), and a spiritual realm of torment for the evil (hell). This was the ancient Magi’s religion. Here is what secular history has to say about their ancient Persian faith: “Although the roots of this religion can be traced as far back as the fifteenth century B.C, its real founder was Zoroaster (the Greek form of the Persian name Zarathustra), who appears to have lived shortly before 600 B.C. According to him, two spiritual principles ruled the universe: one, Ahura-Mazda, supremely good and incapable of any wickedness, embodied the principles of light, truth, and righteousness; the other, Ahriman, treacherous and malignant, presided over the forces of darkness and evil. The two were engaged in a desperate struggle for supremacy. Although they were about evenly matched in strength, the god of light would eventually triumph, and the world would be saved from the powers of darkness. On the last great day Ahura-Mazda would overpower Ahriman and cast him down into the abyss. The dead would then be raised from their graves to be judged according to their deserts. The righteous would enter into immediate bliss, while the wicked would be sentenced to the flames of hell. Ultimately, though, all would be saved; for the Persian hell, unlike the Christian, did not last forever.”[1]

All counterfiets must have an original. Zoroastroism’s doctrines clearly copy Old Testament scripture. The books of Daniel and his contemporary Ezekiel are replete with the truths of Zoroaster’s doctrinal struggles between evil and good. Ezekiel 28  reveals Satan’s origin and rebellion. Daniel 12 prophesies mankind’s last-days resurrection. Daniel’s chapter 9 “Seventy Weeks” prophecy gave an exact year (1 wk = 7 yrs) count from the time of rebuilding the Hebrew temple, to the coming of the Messiah that the Magi could have referenced to initiate their trip.

Daniel 9:25
25        “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

_ScrollHistory also claims the Magi had a long tradition of serving ancient, eastern kings. Daniel’s refutation of them in Nebuchadnezzar’s court (leading to the king’s “wilderness” salvation [Dan 4]); God’s supernatural confrontation with Nebuchadnezzar’s son through his handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5); Daniel’s angelic deliverance from Darius I lion’s den and the king’s subsequent submission to God’s will (Daniel 6); and the prophet’s many Persian-directed prophecies (7-9) were all a part of Persian history beyond Daniel’s day.  So were Ezra and Nehemiah’s encounters with Artexerxes, and Esther’s with Ahasuerus.

Because the Christmas Magi were men of importance, they could have had access to Old Testament scrolls. The pathway paved between the Persians and Hebrews could have supplied them. Ezekiel instituted the synagogue, Ezra restored God’s Law.

And, it is possible, as Abram, that one or all were personally confronted by God. But this simply isn’t known.  If they were, they chose to say nothing of it in their conversation with Herod or Mary when they finally found the Lord. What is known, is they sought the Hebrew Messiah, and were led, very supernaturally, by a single, moving star.

The Star
One of the most astounding revelations of the Christmas Magis’ story is the star that led them some 300 desert milesImage2 along their redemptive search. This year scientists and pseudo-scientists will again attempt to fit its appearance into some normal seasonal orbit. But there was nothing natural about it. The Christmas story’s wondrous guiding star was a miraculous sign, created by God out of nothing (ex nihilo), to direct the wise men where God led. They traveled toward it from east to west, then were miraculously guided as it moved north to south (Jerusalem to Bethlehem) overhead.

Matthew 2:9
9          After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over (the place) where the Child was.
10         When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 

Once at their destination, the Magis’ missions were fulfilled. They were prepared to honor Jesus’ royalty with gold (Exodus 25:10,11 [which they would use for their move into Egypt]), His Godhood with incense (typical of prayer [Ex 30:7]), and his sacrificial death with Myrrh (the herb used by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus when entombing Jesus [John 19:38-40]). Foreknowledge of each supports a hermeneutic supposition of their personal revelation of Jesus’ birth, and the purpose of His death.

Then these very wise men were warned by God’s Spirit in a dream to bypass Herod and go straight home.

Matthew  2:11-12
11        And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
12        And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

Other stories go into great detail on their encounter with Herod. Some believe the wise men were accompanied by an army, and of course numbered more than three. Others don’t. What is biblically known about the encounter is Herod’s curiosity about the sighted star, the reading of Micah 5 during his query, and the Magis’ warning in a dream to leave Herod in the dark. Not long after, a dream directed Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt, where they stayed until Herod’s death.

13        Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
14       And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt;
15       and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Out of Egypt did I call My Son.”

Others question the Magis’ worship of Jesus in a house (v. 11).  Some believe it happened two years after Christ’s birth because of the age (two years and younger) Herod decreed for the slaughter of Jerusalem’s children (Matthew 2:16). Others are satisfied it could have happened not long after the manger episode, even a few days, as census numbers dwindled, and Bethlemites showed sympathy to a new born in a barn.

One final question regarding these world famous biblical figures this Christmas holy day is this: did these Eastern men eventually receive the gift of Jesus?

Though I can’t prove it from history or Scripture, I would certainly think so.

Why? They were seekers of spiritual truth who were eager in their pursuit of God’s Messianic promise.

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The Hebrew word for “fear” in this verse means awe and respect. It is the attribute of holy (sanctified) devotion that leads to wisdom, which ultimately leads to understanding the ways of the LORD. Because the Magi shared it, they were wise.

How Wise Are You?
ChristmasstargirlThe Christmas wise men were wise because they understood the signs and seasons of their times, and sought God’s Messiah. How wise, this Christmas, are you? The next time you look at the star that tops your tree, ponder its place in history and let it guide you and others, like the Magi, to honor the birth of God’s Son.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Eschatology Today Publisher, Mark Norris, M.A.


[1] Western Civilizations, Edward McNall Burns, Robert E. Lerner, Standish Meacham:W.W. Norton & Company, NY, NY, 1980: The Persian Empire and its History,  p. 66