Wednesday, 19 October 2016

What is meant by Christ coming “with all his saints”?

     We read in 1 Thess. 3:13, “so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (NKJV). Then Jude 14 states, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints.’”
     Since the Lord is to come for his saints, not with his saints (1 Thess. 4:16-18), this apparent discrepancy needs further clarification. The Greek word hagioi, rendered “saints” in some translations, actually means “holy ones.” Who are the “holy ones” who will accompany the Lord at his second coming? The Bible gives a clear answer: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy [hagioi] angels with Him …” (Matt. 25:31). The “holy ones” who will accompany Jesus at his return are holy angels (cf. Matt. 13:39; 2 Thess. 1:7), not the living and resurrected faithful who will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
--Kevin L. Moore

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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Isaiah's “New Heavens and a New Earth”

     Are the “new heavens and a new earth” of Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22 the same as the “new heavens and a new earth” in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1? No. A major problem among many interpreters of OT prophecies is the failure to consider the immediate historical context, the common use of symbolism, the subsequent dispensation in God’s overall scheme, and NT information showing the fulfillment of these prophecies.
     Isaiah’s prophetic ministry covered the period between 740 and 698 BC, during which time Assyria rose to power and conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel. While much of Isaiah’s message warned of impending doom, particularly against Judah and Jerusalem, it was also a message of hope including a number of messianic prophecies (2:2-4; 7:14; 9:6-7; 11:1-16; 42:1f f.; 53:1 ff.; et al.). All of these prophecies were fulfilled over 1900 years ago when Christ came to earth, suffered on Golgotha, and set up his spiritual kingdom (the church).
    The expression “new heavens and a new earth” was a figure Isaiah employed to symbolize the new spiritual and moral arrangement to be set up by the Messiah some 700 years after these words were penned. Paul writes concerning this new order: “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him” (Eph. 1:10 NKVJ). Again he writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Isaiah foretold that this new spiritual arrangement would center on “Jerusalem” (65:18-19; cf. 2:3). Not only did the church begin in Jerusalem (Luke 24:47), but the church is figuratively described as “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22-23). Other symbols Isaiah used illustrated that one’s spiritual stature, in this new system, would no longer be assessed by length of days (cf. Matt. 11:11; 18:1-6; 20:1-16), and there would be spiritual security under God’s providence (Isa. 65: 20-24). While many are tempted to take Isa. 65:25 literally and envision animals among the inhabitants of God’s kingdom, remember that the same symbolism is used in 11:6-9 in a context which clearly portrays the initial coming of the Lord (cf. 11:1, 10; Rom. 15:12). The idea conveyed is that under the Messiah’s reign the “animal nature” of man is to be transformed (Rom. 8:5-10; 2 Cor. 5:17) and one-time enemies will be at peace (Eph. 2:13-17).
     To remove these prophecies from their historical context and attempt to directly apply them to a time yet in the future is to completely skip over the wonderful workings of God in the 1st century AD as he set up the new spiritual arrangement under Christ. Peter and John, living in this new Christian system as citizens of God’s spiritual kingdom (Matt. 16:19; Rev. 1:9), simply borrowed the figures used by Isaiah to symbolically describe the next arrangement in God’s scheme (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1), namely the future heavenly realm [see previous post <Link>].
--Kevin L. Moore

Related PostsNew Heavens & Earth

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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

What is meant by “new heavens and a new earth” in 2 Pet. 3:13 and Rev. 21:1?

     The Jews considered three different “heavens” (Deut. 10:14; 1 Kgs. 8:27; 2 Cor. 12:2). The first heaven is the atmosphere, where the birds fly and the rain falls (Gen. 1:20; Psa. 147:8). The second heaven refers to outer space, where the sun, moon and stars are located (Psa. 8:3; Ezek. 32:7). The third heaven is the spiritual realm, the habitation of God and His angels (Eccl. 5:2; Mark 13:32; Eph. 6:9). The word “earth” is also used in different senses: the planet on which we live (Gen. 6:1; Ezek. 38:20); the ground, dirt or soil (Ex. 20:24; Neh. 9:1; Psa. 146:4); a metonymy for the inhabitants of the earth (Jer. 6:19; 22:29); and a descriptive term for physical/worldly mindedness (John 3:31; Phil. 3:19; Jas. 3:15). When the words “heaven(s) and earth” are used together, this phrase refers to the physical place of man’s inhabitance, the only portions of God’s creation where man dwells (Isa. 51:6; Jer. 51:48; Joel 3:16; Matt. 24:31,35; Heb. 1:10-11). Man does not merely live on the earth, but he also relies on the air, the rain, etc. contained in [the first] heaven. 
     What will eventually happen to the present heavens and earth? “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner …” (Isa. 51:6). The physical heavens and earth will pass away as they are burnt up (Matt. 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:7-12). They will perish and be discarded like an old garment (Psa. 102:25-26), and will be replaced by something new. The “new heavens and new earth” cannot be the same as the present ones, since the new is not the same as the old, and the present heavens and earth will be destroyed (Rev. 20:11; 21:1). The current dwelling place of God’s people serves as a figure of the future dwelling place. Since God’s faithful ones are to live with him eternally in [the third] heaven (Matt. 5:12; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:4; et al.), the “new heavens and new earth” figuratively represent the spiritual (not physical) dwelling place of the righteous (cf. 1 Cor. 15:48-54). This is one of the many examples in the Bible where physical symbols are used to illustrate spiritual concepts (cf. 1 Cor. 15:22,45; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 12:22-23; 1 Pet. 2:5-9; 3:20-21; et al.).
--Kevin L. Moore

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