December Essays

Week 49: Hosea 3 - 14, Joel 1 - 3 , Rev. 1 - 5, Psalm 137 - 139

Seeing Prophecy Through Jesus


Last week in the Old Testament we read Daniel, and this week in the New Testament we are beginning to read Revelation. Both of these books are apocalyptic in nature - meaning that they are filled with visions of end times. Christians spend a lot of time discussing the end times and have many viewpoints on how to read prophetic material. One way to gain wisdom about prophecy is to look at it through the life and words of Jesus - how prophecy was fulfilled at His coming, and what He Himself says about it.

One thing that we can learn is that God doesn't necessarily fulfill prophecy as we think. Many of the prophecies that describe the coming of the Messiah also describe a time of judgment by God. For instance, in Luke 1:17, the angel tells Zechariah that his son John "will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children." The angel was quoting a prophecy from Malachi which says, Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse. (Mal. 4:5-6) The Malachi passage appears to describe the "great and terrible day of the Lord" as coming right at the time of Elijah. John the Baptist knew scripture well, and in his ministry we hear him preaching that judgment is right around the corner, in accordance with his scriptures.

These prophecies are also the reason why John sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one to come, or should we look for another"?  John knew he was to be the "messenger" prophesied in Malachi 3, and he had expectations for the one coming after him:

See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap... So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty. (Mal 3:1-2, 4-5)

John's question for Jesus came from the fact that Jesus wasn't fulfilling prophecy as he expected. It appears he was thinking that Jesus would be a mighty warrior who would destroy the wicked, including those who had imprisoned him. Jesus replies by quoting other prophecies about the Messiah, that "the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor" (Luke 7:22-23). John probably still believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but he was asking the question to show how perplexed he was at how Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

Jesus specifically avoids passages about vengeance, demonstrating that His ministry is one of healing and forgiveness. In one place Jesus selectively quotes a passage to avoid words about judgment. In Luke 4, He says,

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18 -19) 

He is quoting from Isaiah 61, but stops in mid-sentence, because after "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor", it goes on to say, "and the day of vengeance of our God". Jesus made a point of saying that He was the Messiah, and that His time on earth then was to bring forgiveness and a new relationship with God, but the judgment would come later. He was to suffer as in Isaiah 53, and only later come to judge and to reign.

Often Christians say that Jesus' people rejected Him as Messiah because they just wanted a political leader, not a spiritual leader. It is more likely that many rejected Him because He did not fit their reading of prophecy. They wanted vengeance and expected Jesus to come in judgment, as the Bible appeared to say. Even Jesus' disciples were waiting for Him to announce when He would begin the war and they would take their thrones to reign in power. They expected that He would kill all His enemies, and then usher in a great messianic age where He would reign as Prince of Peace. Instead, He fulfilled the prophecies about the  "suffering one" in Isaiah 53, who by His own death would justify many and make atonement for their sins. He ushered in the Kingdom of God by His death, not by war. Only in His second coming will He come in judgment.

God surprised everyone, even the most faithful, in the coming of Jesus. It should humble us to realize that He does not use our logic to fulfill prophecy, and should make us very careful to say we have definitive knowledge about the future from Bible prophecy. Jesus said of his second coming, "of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone". (Mark 13:32).  

One thing that Jesus does say about His second coming that we hear often is the need to repent and to be prepared. He will return when He is least expected. As Peter says, God is not tarrying - He is waiting patiently for as many to come to faith to avoid judgment as possible. In the next few weeks as we read Revelation and other prophecies about the end, it should give us a special urgency to share the gospel and live lives that are a witness to Christ.

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.


Week 50: Amos, Obadiah, Jonah 1-2, Rev. 6 -10, Psalm 140 - 143

Gracious, Compassionate, Slow to Anger


Joel, like many prophets, tells the nation how angry God is with their sins, and then describes a time of judgment that is coming if they don't repent. But then he says:

"Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. (Joel 2: 12-13)

This description of God, that He is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness..."  is quoted nine times in the Old Testament. The first place that this is heard is on Mt. Sinai, when the Lord passes by and shows all His glory to Moses, and utters these profound words about Himself: 

The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  (Ex. 34:6)

Because they are God's own revelation about Himself, they are some of the most important words in all of the Bible about the nature of God. It begins with God saying His divine name, so holy that for thousands of years Jews including Jesus did not utter it out loud, even to this day. Then it describes His great mercy, patience and willingness to forgive even the worst sin. This description of God comes up several times in the psalms (Ps. 86, 103, & 145 and others) and was probably part of many worship liturgies during Bible times. It is traditionally called by Jews the "Thirteen Attributes of God", counting thirteen ways God's mercy is described (some are not obvious as we read it). The Jewish people still recite this every morning as part of their congregational prayers, and every time they read from the Torah. On Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement , and on other fast days, many prayers focus on this verse.

In the Exodus passage, God says another thing about Himself as well that is usually not included with the first verse later in the Bible:

...Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation"  (Ex. 34:7)

The reason for not including this, according to rabbinic literature, is because of the words of Ezekiel 18 which say that children who are innocent are not punished for the sins of their fathers. (See the article from Week 46, "Sins of the Fathers".) They interpret the verse about God's punishment of children as only applicable as long as the children do not repent, but carry on in their father's sin. So, while God does not let the unrepentant go unpunished, He is ultimately forgiving. Therefore, in Jewish prayers, they focus on the first verse about His mercy.

At the end of this week, when we read the book of Jonah, we will hear this passage used in anger with God. God sent Jonah to Ninevah to warn them of God's judgment, and Jonah ran the other way to Tarshish. Why? Jonah knew about the incredible cruelty of the Assyrians in war, who were well-known for the horrific things they did to their prisoners. He knew that of all peoples, they deserved punishment. Finally he did go to Ninevah to tell them to repent, and they did! When God saw how they turned from their evil ways, He did not bring the destruction He had threatened. And Jonah was outraged at God's mercy! We read ...

He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." (Jonah 3:10 - 4:3)

It is amazing to hear that Jonah is so furious with God for His forgiveness that he wishes he was dead. What a contrast between the emotions of sinful humans and the grace of a holy, but compassionate God! While we usually look to the New Testament for stories of God's mercy, we find one of the most powerful accounts of God's grace in the Old Testament in the book of Jonah.

Christians sometimes think that the God of the Old Testament was an angry, unforgiving God until He poured out His wrath on Jesus. Yet we see here that when God reveals Himself in all His glory, that He describes Himself in terms of His grace, love and mercy. His mercy runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Because Jesus says that He does nothing but what He sees His father in Heaven doing, we know that His life and death reflects to us His Father's great desire that we be forgiven and reconciled with Him.

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.




Week 51: Jonah 3-4, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Rev. 11 - 15, Psalm 144 - 145

The Kingdom Breaks Forth

As we are reading the minor prophets this week we will read several messianic passages, especially in the book of Micah. In Advent, as we think of Bethlehem, we remember Micah's famous prophecy about the town that is mentioned in Matt 2:6.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

Micah has another prophecy about the coming Messiah that Jesus alludes to when he is describing the coming of the kingdom of God. It brings together much of the Messianic prophesy of the Old Testament, and Jesus uses it to describe his mission.

“I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people. One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the LORD at their head.”  Micah 2:12 - 13

This passage was understood as quite messianic in the time of Jesus. But to us, it doesn't make a lot of sense unless we understand the imagery behind it.


Regathering His People

First of all, it describes the gathering of the remnant of Israel. What does that mean? Back in the book of Deuteronomy, God forewarns Israel that they will wander from the covenant He made with them and lose their love for Him. He says that if they forsake him, they will lose their promised land where they worshipped him, and will be scattered to different lands, where they will serve other gods. But He promises that if they repent, He will regather this remnant of His people who seek Him. To "regather" doesn't just mean a physical gathering - it also means to give them hearts to worship Him as well - to bring them back to Him. Deuteronomy 30 says:

“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, ... and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you....Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. (Deut 30: 1-3, 6)

So, even back when Israel made the covenant, God promised them that even after they broke His covenant, if they repented, God would search them out and bring them back to Him again. Several times in the Old Testament, God is described as a shepherd that will search for his people (see Jer. 23, Ezek. 34). When Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, He is claiming that He is the fulfillment this promise. (See Week 47, The Great Shepherd).


The Flock and the Shepherd

If we look at the Micah passage again, it says that the flock will be gathered together like many sheep in a pen, and "one who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out." Here we need to know how shepherds took care of sheep in biblical times. The shepherd would lead the sheep around open land to graze all day, and at evening, would herd them into a makeshift pen made out of boulders rolled near the mouth of a cave. Sometimes the shepherd would even sleep just inside the rocks so that he blocked the exit for the sheep himself - he was the "gate" for the sheep (think of John 10:7-9.) But in the morning, one of the shepherd's helpers would "break open the way" by pushing aside a boulder so that the sheep could exit from their overnight confinement. The sheep wouldn't just leave calmly - they would be hungry, wanting to graze and have their freedom, and they would burst out in a stampede, breaking through the other boulders in their way. The shepherd would exit along with them and they would follow the shepherd out to pasture.

In the time of Jesus, the passage in Micah 2 was understood to be messianic. They knew that two figures were supposed to come - a messenger to prepare the way, and the Messiah who was going to be a king who would reign over His people. In this passage, they imagined that the "one who breaks open the way" was the messenger, who would cause people to repent and be ready for the Messiah, and then the Messiah was the shepherd with the sheep. Interestingly, the passage says that the Shepherd is the LORD - hinting that the Messiah is God himself! We can see how this would apply to John the Baptist and Jesus.

The picture in this prophecy is really that of a people who are full of joy at the coming of their Messiah - like sheep that are stampeding out of their pen after a night of being confined, the "sheep" of the messianic shepherd will be exuberant at His coming, and eager to follow where ever He leads. A very similar thing is said in another messianic passage in Malachi:

But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. (Mal. 4:2 )


The Kingdom Suffers Violence, or Bursts Forth?

It is not immediately clear to us that Jesus speaks about this image in Micah 2, because difficulties in translation have obscured the meaning of the passage. In Matt 11:12, in older translations it says,

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. "

As it has been translated, it sounds as if Jesus was talking about the kingdom "suffering violence" in terms the persecution that He and John went through. Some have even said that Jesus was advocating a kind of violence in order to be a part of it. It has been assumed that the kingdom is the victim of violence. The word "suffers" is not literally there in Greek at all - it is a way to explain how the kingdom and "violent" can be connected. But the word for "violence", biazo in Greek, also can mean "forceful", or "bursting out", or even "explosive", which in Hebrew, is poretz, that is used in Micah 2. Instead of the kingdom being victim of violence, it appears that Jesus is describing the bursting out of the kingdom! In the New International Version this verse is now translated:

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

Jesus appears to be alluding to the bursting out of the sheep with their shepherd as in the Micah 2 passage. He is speaking of John the Baptist as the "breaker" who has begun the explosive effect of the kingdom of God on earth. A similar verse appears in Luke 16:

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing (biazo) his way into it. (Luke 16:16)


W
hat does this mean?

This is one more example of how we see Jesus using messianic imagery of the Old Testament to describe the amazing implications of the Kingdom of God being among them. He is saying that God had begun doing a powerful new thing on earth at the coming of John the Baptist, who with his ministry called people toward repentance. And now that He, the Messiah had come, the movement was exploding outward as people were filled with joy at the coming of their redeemer and telling others about Him. This movement was like yeast or a mustard seed that had started small, but was rapidly gaining force and power. And when people realized its worth, like a pearl of great price, they were excitedly forcing their way into it.

Jesus is giving us a potent picture of the fulfillment of the promise of the ages - that the Lord would come to His people, to forgive their sins and restore their relationship with Him. The messianic age had arrived with His coming! And the Spirit of God would propel this movement outward until it would fill the whole earth. It is easy for us to become complacent, to feel that the need to grow and expand has waned. From this passage, it seems that Jesus is reminding His followers of the force behind them - that the Spirit was bursting out on earth in an entirely new way, and they should be filled with excitement. And so should we, as well!

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A major reference for this essay is chapter 5, "The Kingdom Suffers Violence, or the Kingdom Breaks Forth" of Jesus, the Jewish Theologian by Dr. Brad Young (Copyright 1995; ISBN 1-56563-060-2). Another reference is The Kingdom of Heaven: God's Power Among Believers, by Robert Lindsey, at www.JerusalemPerspective.com, also found at a link at the top of the En-Gedi Topical Articles page.

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The En-Gedi Bible Commentary was sent out weekly during the year 2002, and has now ended. However, a monthly Director's Article by the same author is also available by email. If you would like to receive this please send a note to us at: egrc@egrc.net



Week 52: Hag. 1 - 2, Zech 1 - 12, Rev. 16 - 20, Psalm 146-148

Forever and Ever ... Hallelujah!

As we are coming to the end of reading the Bible, we are at the culmination of the entire biblical story. An important theme we will read in both the Old and New Testaments this week is the idea of God becoming king over all the world. In Zechariah we will soon read.

The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. (Zech. 14:9)

And in Revelation we are also reading a similar vision of God becoming king over creation:

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." (Rev 11:15)

It seems odd to us that the creator of all the universe would not be considered its king at all times. But the biblical picture is that even though God is creator over all of his creation, once humanity fell, they excluded themselves from God's kingdom because of their disobedience. After the fall, the world was in bondage to sin and was given over to worshipping other gods. While God is the sovereign judge over all creation, the Bible says that only those who accept Him as their king are actually a part of His kingdom.

One of the main themes of the Bible is that after the fall, God's plan is to repair the breech and bring humans back into His kingdom. Only a couple stories after the flood, the time of man's worst rebellion, we begin to hear about how God finds one man who will be faithful to Him, Abraham, and He tells him that He would make him into a great nation. Later, God makes a covenant with Abraham's descendants, the Israelites, that He would be their God and they would be His people. God's kingdom started with one man, Abraham, and expanded to the nation of Israel. The goal was that the whole world would see the true God by this nation who worshipped Him as King. He would give them a land that was in the middle of the international trade routes, so that their culture would impact the world as they lived according to His instruction. In addition, God promised that one of king David's descendants would be king and have a kingdom without end. The plan was that this righteous king, the Messiah, would come to establish God's kingdom over the whole world. The Bible's vision is finally, at the end of all things, the LORD will be king over the whole world once again through the messianic king that God promised to send.


Jesus and the Kingdom of God

We can imagine that there would be much speculation about how God would establish His reign over the whole world. At the time of Jesus' coming, this was especially important to Israel, who was under oppression by the pagan Romans. Obviously, when the Messianic King came, He would establish God's reign by conquering the Romans. They read many prophecies about the Messiah that were images of a mighty king who defeated his foes and then took the throne, for instance:

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One (Messiah, in Hebrew). Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery. (Ps. 2:2,4-6, 8)

And, they read about the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" where He would come to judge the enemies of Israel, and they longed for that day. Messianic prophecy also talks about a "suffering servant" and a "Prince of Peace", but the people of Jesus' day expected that the Messiah would bring God's judgment. They imagined that there would be one sudden event when he would assert His power and vanquish His enemies, the "wicked" of the nations around them, and then God's kingdom would be established because God had destroyed all his enemies. Only the righteous would be left to be God's Kingdom. They assumed that they were the righteous that would survive the judgment, and that their enemies would not survive.

When Jesus comes and proclaims Himself as Messiah, He spends much time talking about the Kingdom of God, because it was the role of the Messiah to establish God's kingdom on earth. Much of His teaching deals with the fact that God's way of establishing His Kingdom on earth would be very different than their expectations:

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."(Luke 17:20 - 21)

Jesus explained that the kingdom was not going to be established by a sudden, great war to kill all the wicked, but would grow like a mustard seed as each person repented and enthroned God as their king. It would be a spiritual kingdom that would expand as people heard about the mercy of God, that he would forgive their sins and they could have new life as His people. It would be good news to the poor in spirit, those who were humble and realized their need to repent, but not to the arrogant who wanted his judgment to fall on the other "sinners". God would hold off His judgment, allowing the wheat and tares to grow together - meaning that He would allow His kingdom to grow in the midst of evil, rather than wiping it out. Only at the end would Jesus return as judge between good and evil, and then His kingdom would then be fully established and have its greatest glory.

Jesus explained that God's way of establishing His kingdom over the whole world was just the opposite of what humans had imagined. The Messiah had come to extend mercy to humanity rather than judgment. God's kingdom would be established by the atoning death of the Messiah, by which sinners, even the most wicked, could enter by repenting of their sins and being forgiven. In that way God's kingdom could expand as the whole world would hear about His amazing grace. Jesus came and brought God's kingdom to earth, and its expansion is unstoppable as God's spirit is poured out, the lost are found, and God's glory fills the whole earth.

"For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea!" Habakkuk 2:14

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.



Week 53: Zech. 13 - 14. Malachi, Rev. 21 - 22, Psalm 149 - 150

Our Final Dwelling

As we finally come to the end of our reading of the Bible this year, we are meditating on the culmination of the entire plan of God. Last week we described how God, through Christ, is reestablishing His reign over the world after mankind rebelled and walked away from Him, so that in the end, "The LORD will be king over the whole earth." (Zech. 14:9). This week we will look at another fundamental aspect of God's plan, which is to reestablish His intimate relationship with humanity so that they can dwell together with Him.

When God first makes man and woman, He puts them in a garden, and He dwells there with them. When they sin, they are cast out of the garden and therefore barred from entering His presence. Mankind rapidly increases in wickedness until the whole world is filled with corruption. He makes a covenant, however, with the people of Israel that they will be His people, and He will be their God. After the covenant is first enacted, before it was broken in any way, seventy elders of Israel could enter God's presence and not suffer harm (Ex. 24:9-14). This showed that God had, through this covenant, begun to mend the severed relationship between mankind and Himself, so that people could enter His presence once again, even if only temporarily. The break in intimacy was beginning to be healed, but still was only partial - only a few could enter God's presence, from one nation that He had chosen to extend His covenant.

When the Israelites left the presence of God on Mt. Sinai, He gave them instructions on how to make a portable facility where they could meet with God once again, the tabernacle. God said to Moses,

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. (Ex. 25:8)

This sentence is interesting - God tells them to make a sanctuary for Him, but His goal is not to dwell in it, but to dwell among them. His goal is to have intimacy with His people, for them to live in His presence. After it is built and consecrated, God's Holy Spirit indwells it, and His people can worship Him in the desert wherever they go. When the Israelites sin by worshipping the golden calf, God threatens that His presence would not go with them into the Promised Land, but He relents after Moses pleads for them and says they do not want to go if His presence does not go with them (Ex. 33). Later, Moses reminds them that they are unique among the nations in having their God so near them (Deut. 4:7). This was a central aspect of the blessing of Israel, that they could come near the true God.

Looking ahead to the New Testament, we see fulfillment of the messianic imagery of God's presence coming near His people in a powerful new way. Certainly, when Jesus walked on earth as Emmanuel, God with us, God's presence was at its peak in the person of Jesus, but yet He said there was coming something better - God's presence as the Holy Spirit being poured out on humanity. While before the people worshipped God in the temple where His presence dwelled, then God's presence dwelled in the people, making God's people the temple. The blood of the first covenant made it so that the seventy elders could enter God's presence, but the blood of the new covenant by the atonement of Christ made it so that God's presence could be poured out into the whole world. 

“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD. “Many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. “ Zech 2:10-12

Here, God had accomplished an even greater thing than in His first covenant in terms of healing the breach between Himself and humanity. While the first covenant allowed a few to enter His presence, this new covenant allowed people of all nations to repent and enter His presence. His presence would flow out into the world through them!

The final picture of God's presence fully among His people is that of heaven in Revelation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4)

It is impossible to imagine the glory of God we will experience when we are present with Him in heaven. But if there is any doubt that this is not the ultimate goal from the very beginning of scripture, we only need to compare the vision of heaven at end of the book of Revelation with the garden of Eden in the beginning of Genesis. In Revelation we read a description of heaven that includes a tree of life, a river of life, no sin, no death, and many other things that remind us of the the garden of Eden in Genesis. In Hebrew, the word for "heaven" is actually "gan eden", the Garden of Eden! It is a picture of what all of the Bible is about – that the Lord made humans to dwell with Him in intimate relationship. When that relationship was severed by sin, God immediately made a plan to redeem humanity. Over history He worked out that plan so that the end is even more glorious than the beginning. At first only two people live in the presence of God, but at the end an entire kingdom of people live with God for all eternity!

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.