GOD’S DIVORCE DECREE IN REVELATION (7)

PMW 2020-015 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

As we continue our study of Revelation’s seven-sealed scroll, we must continue with our insights into Jesus’ earthly ministry, which I began in the last article.

During his three and one-half year ministry, the Lord comes to his own but they do not receive him (Jn 1:11). The Apostle John is particularly concerned to demonstrate this recurring problem (Jn 12:37–41), so that he characteristically calls them “the Jews” in order “to denote the Jewish nation as hostile to Jesus.” And no wonder! They are of their father the devil (Jn 8:44). Early in John’s Gospel we witness the Baptist’s wilderness message (Jn 1:23) which reminds us of God’s marrying Israel in the wilderness (Ex 19:1–2); see an allusion to the coming destruction of the temple (Jn 2:19); learn of the dullness of Israel’s leaders (Jn 3:10); and discover that worship will be de-centralized away from the temple (Jn 4:21–23). In John’s Gospel “Jesus is largely rejected in Jerusalem and Judaea” whereas “it is in Galilee and Samaria that he is received and that many believe in him.” In Jerusalem “‘the judgment of this world’ and of its ruler takes place.”

Christ’s tender calling to Israel falls upon deaf ears, so that he deems first century Israel — like her Old Testament fathers — “an adulterous generation” (Mt 12:38–39; 16:4; Mk 8:38; cp. Jos., J.W. 5:9:4). New Testament scholars note that it is “skeptical Jews who ask for signs as ‘this adulterous generation.’” Thus, in John a “common theme in 2:1–4:42” is Jesus’ teaching on the “replacement of the old with the new,” the replacement of Israel’s story with that which Christ brings about: Israel’s water is replaced with Christianity’s wine (Jn 2:1–11), the temple is replaced by Christ himself (Jn 2:14–19), the old birth into Israel with the new birth (Jn 3:1–21), the old well water with the new living water (Jn 4:7–15), and finally the replacement of Zion as the place of worship with universal worship in Christ (Jn 4:16–26). Interestingly, in the pericope de adultera we discover that though they are presenting a woman allegedly caught in adultery, not one of them is without guilt so that he can properly witness against the woman (Jn 8:7–11).

When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyperpreterism


When Shall These Things Be?
(ed. by Keith Mathison)
A Reformed response to the aberrant HyperPreterist theolgy.
Gentry’s chapter critiques HyperPreterism from an historical and creedal perspective.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


As I have shown in a previous blog post, Matthew drives home the Jewish rejection of Christ throughout his gospel. In fact, Telford cites Barclay in noting that “there is no gospel which so unsparingly condemns the Jews, and especially the Pharisees.” I will repeat some of Matthew’s later material that I rehearsed in Chapter 1 and make a few additional observations relevant to the present argument.

During the last few days before his crucifixion, Jesus increasingly denounces Israel and prophesies her coming destruction for rejecting his overtures. After zealously attacking the corruption in the temple, he charges that it has become a “robber’s den” and cites Scripture calling it “My house” (Mt 21:13). Shortly thereafter he curses the barren fig tree and calls for an unyielding faith from his disciples (Mt 21:18–22). This is clearly a symbol of Israel’s curse for “the passage coheres with Jesus’ teaching about impending judgment on the temple, his teachings about radical faith, and his commissioning disciples to carry on his work.” Thus, “the ravaged or withered fig-tree is a vivid emblem of God’s active punishment of his people in Jer. 5.17; 8.13; Hos. 2.12; 9.10, 16 and Am. 4.9 (cf. also Ps. 105.33; Is. 28.4; 34.4; Na. 3:12).”

The lesson from the withered fig tree intensifies in Jesus’ response to his disciples’ surprise: “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” it shall happen’” (Mt 21:21). Here Jesus urges his disciples to believe that the temple Mount will be destroyed for it “in like manner has failed to fulfil its raison d’être.”

Shortly thereafter he presents the Parable of the Landowner which shows God’s loving care for Israel and her continuing disregard for him (Mt 21:33–44), while warning that “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it” (Mt 21:43).

Then his next parable picks up on the image of marriage which introduced his ministry (Mt 22:1–7). The Parable of the Marriage Feast presents a king (God) preparing “a wedding feast for his son” (Mt 22:2). The call goes out to invite all to the feast, only to be rejected (Mt 22:3–6) causing the king to be so “enraged” that he sends his armies to destroy “those murderers and set their city on fire” (Mt 22:7). The A.D. 70 destruction of the temple “is here clearly predicted.” This parable once again shows the faithless “lack of response among the Jews to Jesus and his message.” Regarding this recurring wedding motif in Christ’s teaching: “the image can hardly be accidental.”

In Matthew 22:14 he holds out hope for a remnant in Israel, for “many are called, but few are chosen.” That is, many (all) of Israel received the call, but only a few (the remnant) were chosen and accept it. In Revelation 7:4 John pictures these few as the 144,000 “out of all the tribes of the sons of Israel” (ek pases phulēs huion Israel). They appear again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb on heavenly Mount Zion. In Revelation 14:4 they are designated as “chaste (lit., “virgins” parthenoi), which sets them apart from “adulterous” Israel (Mt 12:38–39; 16:4; Mk 8:38). They are an important part of those appearing in Revelation as the “purchased” ones (Rev 5:9) — they have been purchased with the bride price (Ge 29:18; 34:12; Ru 4:10; cp. m. Ket 4:4, 7–8) leading to their marital union with the Lamb in Revelation 21–22.


Theological Debates Today (5 mp3 messages)
Conference lectures on contemporary theological issues: 1. The Great Tribulation; 2. The Book of Revelation; 3. Hyperpreterism; 4. Paedocommunion; 5. God’s Law. Helpful insights into theological truths that are vigorously debated among Christians. Excellent tool for personal or group Bible study.

See more study materials at: http://www.KennethGentry.com


In Matthew 23 Jesus denounces Israel’s religious leaders, then weeps over Jerusalem for spurning his loving overtures: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Mt 23:37). He then not only declares the temple “desolate,” but no longer calls it “my house” (cp. Mt 21:13; cp. Lk 2:49; Jn 2:16) but “your house” (Mt 23:38) as he prepares to dramatically depart from it (Mt 24:1). “In doing so he took the presence of God with him, confiscating it from the Temple.” Indeed, “Jesus’ final departure from the temple should be understood as a sign that the sentence of God’s judgment in the words ‘your house is abandoned to you’ is immediately being brought to realization.”

After his declaring the temple is desolate, he pronounces its coming total destruction (Mt 24:2). In the Old Testament God’s judgment on Israel’s sin included his forsaking of his house (1Ki 9:6–9; Jer 12:7; 22:5; Eze 8:6; cp. Ps. Sol. 7;1). In fact, Ezekiel sees the Spirit departing the temple to stand over the Mount of Olives (Eze 11:22–25), which Jesus re-enacts by leaving the temple desolate and walking to the Mount of Olives (Mt 23:38; 24:1–3; cp. 24:15). The New Testament hereinafter expects the closing down of the temple system (Heb 8:13; 12:25–27).

Surprisingly, Josephus records various remarkable signs that the temple is now without God’s presence. He records one of these as follows:
as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple], as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.” (J. W. 6:5:3).
This is even recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus who was born during the reign of Nero:
There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. (Hist. 5:13)

Though Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ confirming his ministry to the Jews (Mt 10:6; 15:24), it is to no avail for they eventually demand his crucifixion — even though Pilate declares his innocence (Mt 27:17–24). In the end they cry out: “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” (Mt 27:25) — which language is picked up from the first temple’s destruction in the Old Testament (Eze 33:4–5). Matthew appropriately closes his Gospel with the Great Commission to “all nations” (Mt 28:19), just as John closes Revelation with the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven with God’s provision for the “nations” (Rev 21:24; cp. 21:3).

In the first century the temple’s final destruction accomplishes God’s conclusive divorce of Israel. In his New Testament divorce action God so dis-establishes her that redemptive history is no longer the story of a Jewish-focused, Israel-exalting, geo-political work as in the Old Testament (Mt 8:11; 21:43; cp. Am 3:2a; Ps 147:19–20). God’s work now reaches out to “all nations” (Mt 28:19; Ac 1:8; 13:46–48; Col 1:6) whom will marry in Christ (Eph 5:25b–27, 32; 2Co 11:2).

The Apostle John’s early statement that “He came to his own but his own received him not” (Jn 1:11) is recalled in one of his closing scenes: As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” They therefore cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified. (Jn 19:12–16)

The end draweth nigh. Stay tuned for my final article next time.

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