Abrogation of Progressive Revelation?

Essay Ten

Surah 2:106 of the Qur’an reads:

Such of Our revelations as We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things?” (from The Glorious Qur’an translation)

Another edition of the Qur’an, The Holy Qur’an, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Surah 2:106 reads slightly differently:

None of our revelations

Do We abrogate

Or cause to be forgotten,

But We substitute

Something better or similar:

Knowest thou not that God

Hath power over all things?

Though the renderings differ, the meaning is obvious; earlier verses received by Muhammad were replaced by later verses. And abrogation, the replacing of doctrines, is of great interest.


Very early Muhammad received from Gabriel the message that the Jews and Christians, people of the Book as they were known, and who shared a similar origin with Muslims, were not counted as disbelievers.[1] 

First, from The Glorious Qur’an:

Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans[2] – whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right – surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.

Then from the Ali translation:

Those who believe (in the Qur’an)

And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures),

And the Christians and the Sabians,

Any who believe in God

And the Last day,

And work righteousness,

Shall have their reward

With their Lord: on them

Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

Despite the differences in the two editions of the Qur’an, it is plain that the Jews and Christians—People of the Book—were not counted as disbelievers by Muhammad.

But things changed, due to any number of reasons, but mostly because of opposition to Muhammad’s preaching from both Jews and Christians. Thus was born the concept of abrogation, that is, the later truths replaced or superseded the earlier truths.

There are many examples of abrogation in the Qur’an. One is the oft-quoted axiom that there is no compulsion in religion. The first sentence of Surah 2:256 reads: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” But this was abrogated or changed such that Islam would later be required to be forced upon disbelievers. It is interesting to note that Islam means submission, and originally it was by choice not compulsion. That changed with the opposition Muhammad received, even in Mecca, and especially so in Medina. It became normative that disbelievers would either be forced to convert or pay taxes to their Muslim overlords. If not, only death remained as an option. This is clearly stated in Surah 47:4 (The Ali translation):

Therefore, when ye meet

The Unbelievers (in fight),

Smite at their necks;[3]

At length, when ye have

Thoroughly subdued them,

Bind a bond

Firmly (on them): thereafter

(Is the time for) either

Generosity or ransom:

From The Glorious Qur’an is Surah 5:33:

The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.

Of course, there are the Satanic Verses (about which Salmon Rushdie wrote), where Muhammad at first conceded that a particular Arab tribe’s god and goddesses would be honored, but later on, after receiving significant negative reaction from Muslim faithful, Muhammad reversed course and condemned the worship of the pagan deities. At one point Muhammad had compromised with a pagan Arab tribe, the Quraish, regarding their deities, Al Lat, Al Uzza, and Manat, and had said that he had received from Allah that these idols could be worshipped. While this news thrilled the Quraish, the Muslim faithful were quite unhappy about it. In time, the verses acknowledging the efficacy of the gods and goddess of the Quraish tribe were abrogated. Passages to look to on this matter are: Surahs 17:19–20, 22:52–53, and 53:19–20.

Muslims do not deny the practice of abrogation, but rather uphold it.

Muslims also see their religion as superseding or replacing Judaism and Christianity, as an intentional and natural progression ordained by Allah. Islam, Muslims believe, is the culmination of what is revealed in the Scripture, meaning the Old and New Testaments. Certainly, Christians claim the Old Testament to be inspired by the Creator God, while official Judaism rejects the New Testament in terms of it being revealed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Islam is not the only religion to regard their revelations to be the final message from God. This approach has been copied by many over the years, including the Mormons; in fact, Islam and Mormonism share an uncanny resemblance. In Mormonism you have an angel giving the book of Mormon on golden plates that present a new and improved truth that abrogates all that went before, especially referring to Biblical Christianity.

Progressive Revelation

Christians hold that the New Testament does not make much sense apart from the Old Testament. We see the prophecies of the Messiah sprinkled throughout the Hebrew Scripture, starting with Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel.

The woman Eve was a type extending on and pointing to Israel the nation, then Mary the mother of Jesus, then the Church. These entities are the “woman” of Genesis 3:15, and it has been understood in this manner down through the centuries. The offspring of the woman delivers a deathblow to Satan, the serpent, while the serpent merely bruises the offspring’s heel. And that is how it worked out, just as Genesis said. The Apostle John much later wrote, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).

Then there is Psalm 22 where King David describes a man dying on a cross, and he wrote it around 1,000 years before the actual event took place. Not only that, but history tells us that the Greeks did not use crucifixion as a means of execution until many centuries after David wrote his Psalm. Then the Romans picked it up from the Greeks some centuries later.

The 22nd Psalm begins with words Jesus spoke while on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This forsakenness is the subject of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (see Mark 14:32–42). In verses 16 to 18 of Psalm 22 we find,

For dogs encompass me, a company of evil doers encircles me, they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

There is more from this Psalm that makes it clear David is depicting a man dying on a cross.

In the eighth century before Christ, the prophet Isaiah described the suffering servant of Israel who dies for sin as an atoning sacrifice to the holy God of Israel. Following are just a few verses from Isaiah, but the whole of the chapter, even parts of chapters 52 and 54, could be presented as well. Here is Isaiah 53:5–6:

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every on to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Verse 9 of Isaiah 53 describes exactly what happened after Jesus’ death on the cross: “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” Jesus died as a criminal yet was buried in a rich man’s grave, that of one of the members of the elite Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea.

Isaiah did more than speak of the suffering servant of Israel; he prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. The key verse is Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Two key points are made in the verse. One, a virgin would conceive and give birth—“offspring”—(remember Genesis 3:15 and the offspring of the woman). And two, the child would be God. Immanuel means “God with us.” There it is, the child is actually God become flesh. Here is how the Apostle John put it: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a). We note that in verse one of chapter one of John’s Gospel he makes it clear that the “Word” is God.

Then the prophet Micah, long centuries before Jesus’ day, described His birthplace. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me, one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5–2). And that is just where Jesus was born—Bethlehem. Almost hidden in the prophecy is the idea that the one born is from ancient days, meaning one with a long history.

There is Daniel’s prophecy that actually describes the period of time when the Son of Man would appear. And also the prophet Malachi stating that there would be a forerunner announcing the coming of the Messiah, one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the arrival of that long promised Messiah. And it would be fulfilled when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptized in the Jordan River. John cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The point is that everything about Jesus, from who He is, what He did, when He did it, and what it meant was all outlined centuries before the events took place in real time.

The Distinction

Abrogation is utterly different from progressive revelation. In the Qur’an, changes in policy and understanding forced Gabriel, Allah, Muhammad, or someone, to change their mind. The Jews and Christians would be tolerated for only a few short years, until suddenly not tolerated anymore.

Progressive revelation is God beginning at one point and moving throughout history toward the end goal, His ultimate intention, which is to bring those made in His image, those whom He called to be His chosen people, to once again have perfect fellowship with Him in paradise.

The difference between Islam and Biblical Christianity could not be greater.

Two More Little Things:

*Works and Grace

Muslims depend on getting lots of points by performing rites and rituals so that they have a chance of going to paradise when they die. Stated another way, Islam is works-based. It all depends on what one does. The sure way to get to paradise is to die in violent jihad or maybe to build a mosque. In any case, it is chancy since Allah is a deceiver and might just lead one astray. Interestingly, one of the 99 names of Allah is Deceiver.

Going to heaven to be with Jesus forever depends on the grace of God that is freely given to lost sinners like me. I cannot earn it, achieve it, or work so very hard, even die a martyr—no, nothing at all I do will make it happen, as it all depends on God’s love. “For God so loved the world, the he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And even the “believes” part is a gift, as Paul points out in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one my boast.”

*World Views

I do have to mention a second major difference between Islam and Christianity that involves the fundamental goals of the two religious systems.

Islam intends, as commanded by Allah in the Qur’an, to dominate the world. The state and the religion will be one under Shar’ia Law—this is the Muslim worldview. This is why Muslims claim Islam is the “religion of peace.” Because, when Islam dominates, all enemies will be subdued, and there will be peace. This will be accomplished by whatever means necessary and is the reason for the horrors perpetrated by Muslims who take the Qur’an seriously.

Christianity has one goal this side of the return of Messiah Jesus, and that is summed up by Jesus Himself in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Although there have been times when Christendom got it wrong and allied itself with military and political power—and forced conversions, as if such a thing were possible, Biblical Christianity is evangelical. True Christianity has always had its evangelicals from day one. By evangelical I mean all those, regardless of what group they belong to, who go about presenting the gospel of Jesus. Christians are to present the message of Christ, and the Holy Spirit does the rest. It is as Paul says in Romans 10:17: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Jesus, both who He is and what He did on the cross, is offered, simply preached, and those whom God has called will be convicted of their sin, the Holy Spirit will reveal Jesus as the Savior, and the miracle of conversion will take place.

The contrasts between Islam and Christianity are nearly endless, but this essay at least points out some of the more dramatic ones.

[1]     The exact process by which Muhammad received the recitations from Allah that eventually became the Qur’an, through the angel Gabriel, is unclear. Allah did not appear to Muhammad nor did Muhammad hear directly from Allah. The intermediary, Gabriel, was either physically present, or Muhammad heard the angel’s voice, or Muhammad’s mind was “impressed” and such impressions were passed on to others. This last idea is more probable, since it appears that Muhammad would enter a trance state to receive the revelations from Gabriel.

[2]     There is no nation or tribe known today as the Sabaeans. Little is known of their history.

[3]     “Smite at their necks” came to mean beheading.

Concluding Questions

Nine. Concluding questions: Coincidence, Evangelism, Conspiracy, or Something Else?

Do the Jewish holidays point beyond themselves to something that comes after? Do they point to the Messiah, the anointed of God, who in Himself and His work is the reality behind the shadow that the holidays were meant to be? Are the holidays of Israel prophetic historical depictions of events that would take centuries to realize?

            Our answer is a decided and a studied, Yes! This answer is indeed based upon a reasonable decision after an exhaustive study of Scripture, but it will only and always be a faith position.

            Certain questions must and will be asked, so this concluding chapter will pose a few of the possible ones.


Could it be that Jesus’ life, ministry, and death merely coincided with the meaning of the holidays? After all, our conclusions depend upon a backward look at the Hebrew Scripture through the lens of the New Testament, coupled with the influence of many Christian scholars and theologians. That looking backward was all necessary before it could even be suggested that Jesus did fulfill the spring holidays and will fulfill the fall holidays as well. Nothing is actually stated in the passages where we find accounts of the holidays—in Leviticus 23, Numbers 28, and Deuteronomy 16 among others—that there would be a future completion.

            It might also be argued that the feasts do not need completion—that they are whole in and of themselves. This argument has substance when one considers that there was a long period of centuries before the Christian era when they made sense to the original hearers and readers of the books of Moses and had relevance to them in much the same way that Independence Day, the 4th of July, has to Americans today. That is, they celebrated historical events in the life of Israel, events that God was calling them to remember.

            The possibility of coincidence cannot be easily dismissed, but it is peculiar that Jesus’ life, death, and promised return do connect so strongly with the holidays. It is not unreasonable that Christians would connect the dots. Having made the incredible discovery that Jesus not only completed the spring holidays, but that the fall holidays contain the very outline of His return in the “last days,” the Christian can see and anticipate the establishment of the ultimate intention of the Creator—the Kingdom of God.

            Coincidence? Maybe, but maybe not. 


Christians have been commanded by Jesus to proclaim what we call the Gospel to Jews as well as Gentiles. The message of the cross and resurrection was to be preached first in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and only then to the ends of the earth—the Gentiles.

            Paul reinforced Jesus’ missionary mandate when he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

            Could it be that connecting Jesus with the holidays is merely an evangelistic tool or strategy? Is this a matter of Christians saying, “Jewish people, see and don’t miss this, look at the evidence, this is for you so that you will also trust in Jesus as your Messiah.”

            If such a means of approaching Jewish evangelism was not fully implemented in the early days of the Church, it has become so now. However, there is no clear connecting of the dots between the Tanakh’s story of the holidays and any fulfillment or completion of them in the New Testament short of a few statements by Paul and others. Within the first few centuries of the Christian era there is little or no evidence that the early Church apologists and fathers focused on this fulfillment issue in the manner or extent that the authors of this book are doing. There is some evidence that Methodius of Olympus (d. A.D. 311) and Augustine of Hippo (d. A.D. 430) were acquainted, to some degree, with the types or foreshadowing found in the Old Testament, particularly as related to the Exodus and the Tabernacle/Temple, but no one to a substantial degree focused on the Jewish holidays. It was only starting in the eighteenth century that Christians were writing on the subject, but not much was written in the late second century into medieval times, when there was a decided effort on the part of the then predominantly Gentile church to distance themselves from the Jewish roots of the Gospel of Jesus and from any appearance of sharing something as important as major holidays with Judaism.

            It is reasonable to conclude that Christians gradually began to discover the connection between the Old Testament’s accounts of the holidays and the life and ministry of Jesus. In fact, it is not a simple relationship to grasp, and it is usual that few Christians ever see it at all. Even at this late date, it is not common that non-Jewish Christians view the holidays as presented in this book.

            Evangelistic methodology? Possible, but not probable. 


If the above question of evangelistic methodology is possible, then it could also be possible that there was a conspiracy motivating it. Again, however, the research has nothing to support this, so it would only be surmise, and this is not good enough to so easily dismiss the dramatic conclusion that Jesus, in His life, death, and future return, could complete the seven holidays of Israel.

            Conspiracy—so much of what we cannot figure out and don’t want to hear about or accept in the first place is consigned to conspiracy theories. While most conspiratorial narratives are political in nature—consider those about the deaths of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and  John F. Kennedy—a few are religious, such as the story about the Knights Templar and the intrigue associated with Jesus and Mary Magdalene in books like The DaVinci Code. Then there are lighter entertainments such The Robe, The Holy Grail, and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

            Little risk ensues in a quick dismissal of the idea that the relationship of the Old Testament holidays with Jesus is a Christian evangelistic conspiracy, since there is nothing in the historical records that research can discover to substantiate either position. Therefore, to dismiss Jesus’ relationship with the holidays would have to have some reasonable support.

Conspiracy? Very unlikely.

Something else?

What else could this stunning relationship be? While not an easy question to answer, it is certainly a critical one.

            What if the Jewish Holidays are God’s roadmap to world history? To miss it would be a huge loss.

            The authors’ position is that the holidays point beyond themselves in the Tanakh itself. The Prophets of Israel interpreted the holidays messianically and eschatologically.  That is, they saw embedded in the accounts of the five feasts, one offering, and one fast a promise of a Messiah who would complete the ultimate intention of the Creator God at a point in the future. These prophets found clues in the accounts of the holidays about future realities. In the fullness of time God sent forth His Anointed One Jesus, whose life and death corresponded to these realities. And then the authors of the New Testament identified Jesus as the fulfillment of the holidays in either His first or in His second coming.

            From a human point of view, Jesus’ fulfilling of the holidays may well appear to be an incredible and staggering coincidence. Certainly it has evangelical value, since God desires all to be rescued in His Messiah—the Jew first and also the Gentile. And yes, it is a conspiracy of God’s own making, woven throughout the entire length and breadth of the fabric of human history. 

Glory House

 Chapter 24 

Not far from the house that the Philpotts lived in on Knocknaboul Way we started another Christian house. It was a cheaply built home about twenty years old, with four bedrooms, two baths, and a garage (which meant a fifth bedroom to us). It was located on Los Colindas Avenue, almost exactly where I later crashed my new Honda road bike head on into a pickup truck. Son Vern was riding on the back. Neither of us were injured too badly, but the motorcycle was totaled. 

The rent on Glory House was manageable and, as usual, I signed the lease—one of about a dozen of them at that point. The house leader was a fellow recently arrived from New York—a small Jewish man whom I will call Jonathon, and he was a wild-eyed Pentecostal, to put it mildly. He had been involved in a leadership capacity in some church where I suspected he had run into trouble because of his excesses. However, over time he tuned things down, and I grew to like him. 

Jonathon started dating a young lady in the fellowship, and I think I performed their wedding ceremony. The couple’s first residence was Glory House, and it wasn’t long before they put in a request for an item they needed to keep the house spiffy—a new vacuum cleaner. I approved the purchase, and the money came out of funds collected from the residents. 

All went well for some period of time, other than a steady stream of folks moving in and out; other than that, I was satisfied. 

One day, however, I received a call from the landlord, who informed me that he had received no rent for several months. I called the house, but no one answered the phone, so I walked down the street and thought I would handle the situation directly. 

One of our good praise team guitarists, Steve Smith, answered the door, but he didn’t know where Jonathon and bride were, so we knocked on the door of the master bedroom and found the place empty. Not an article of theirs was found, nor a note, and they had told absolutely no one that they were leaving. My first thought was the new high end Kirby upright. Sure enough, it was nowhere to be found. 

I was mad about the vacuum cleaner for days; I was sure the newlyweds had absconded with it. Yes, we had enough money to cover the rent, but the vacuum symbolized the betrayal we had experienced. 

At an elders meeting some weeks later the mystery was solved. Bob Burns, who also lived at the house and has been my dear and enduring friend (he’s had a lot to endure to be my friend) told us the rest of the story. While he was living at Glory House, he saw something that made him suspicious about the vacuum cleaner and the young couple. They were way too attached to each other. While no one was around, Bob grabbed the Kirby and put it in the trunk of his beautiful Chevy Impala. So it was safe, and we all felt a lot better. 

Shame Versus Guilt

Essay Nine

There is a world of difference between a shamed-based culture and a guilt-based culture.

“Culture” can mean a whole nation, religion, tribe, clan, family, church, or any other similar entity.

As an example let us say that a Christian leader is found to be guilty of a sin, which then is made know to others.

The shame-based church, of which there are many, particularly among churches that tend toward legalism, and might be either a works-oriented or a grace-oriented church. The fallen Christian leader is an embarrassment to the church, maybe a wider grouping of churches, perhaps a whole denomination. This leader may be cast aside, fired, shunned, or any number of things might happen. This is known as “shooting the wounded” and is demonstrative of a shame orientation.

The guilt-based church with a fallen leader will not shoot the wounded but will take steps to bring healing and reconciliation. And this will work when the Christian leader acknowledges the sin and moves away from it, confesses his sin to God and man, and repents. If treatment or therapy is required, very well, but the fallen leader is restored.

The difference between a shame-based and a guilt-based church could not be greater.

Now then, let us change the scenario. Islam is founded on and produces a shame-based culture. For instance, if a young woman rejects an arranged marriage, she dishonors her family, clan, and tribe, indeed the religion of Islam itself. It falls to the family to restore honor, and this is very often accomplished by the killing of the young woman. The father, a brother, even a mother, will carry out this act. The young woman brought shame, and the only way to restore honor is murder. The murderer is not shamed but honored.

Or, to site another example, a member of the family or clan converts to another religious faith. Knowledge of this might be discovered and become widely known. To restore honor, the apostate must be killed. The murder covers the shame, and again, the murderer(s) are honored.

Or again, let us say a starving ten-year-old boy steals a loaf of bread at the town’s market, is caught, and has his hand chopped off without anesthetic in the public square (common in Saudi Arabia), for honor to be restored to the community.

The above are examples of what may happen in a shame-based culture.

So too, in shame-based cultures there is a great deal of secrecy and silence. For instance, homosexuality is harshly condemned among Muslims, and a homosexual caught in the act may well be killed, depending on the country. At the same time, homosexuality is widely practiced, especially in Muslim-dominated countries, but it is concealed from public view. Shame only comes when forbidden acts are exposed. The sin of the act itself it not what brings shame; it is the exposure of the act that brings shame.

Consider a guilt-based culture, say an evangelical Bible-based church, which will probably view homosexual behavior to be sinful. If a case comes up in such a church, the sin does not tarnish the entire church community. The individual involved hopefully will receive appropriate ministry aimed at restoration and recovery.

The Bible Way

Most readers of the New Testament know that when Jesus was arrested and taken away to trial, Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus even told Peter and the rest of the disciples that such would be the case (see Mark 14:26–31). It turned out just as Jesus had foretold (see Mark 14:66–72).

Peter thought he was so strong, but fear got the better of him. When the pressure came, Peter crumbled completely. After the third denial, Peter finally came to himself: “And he broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72).

The early church was not a shamed-based culture but a guilt-based culture. The chief apostle fell and did so publicly, and everyone who has ever read a Gospel knows this. Peter was not shunned and did not suffer violence; rather, he continued to be the one who preached the first Christian sermon, which we find in Acts, chapter two, and upon whose name the Roman church claimed to be founded.

Jesus Himself demonstrated for His Church the way things ought to be. We find a gripping and amazing story in the twenty-first chapter of John’s Gospel. The scene is a beach beside the Sea of Galilee after Jesus’ resurrection. It was a spring morning, and Peter, along with six other apostles, went out in a boat to fish but without success. Then at dawn the fishermen saw on the shore a stranger who told them where to cast their net. Immediately, the net was nearly bursting with fish. It was then Peter realized who the stranger was, so he jumped into the water and rushed to Jesus. Later on after the breakfast, which Jesus had prepared for the seven, Peter and Jesus took a stroll along the beach. As they walked, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Three times Peter answered, “yes” and three times Jesus responded with, “Feed my sheep.”

Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus gave Peter the blessed opportunity to affirm his love for his Master three times. Jesus did not bring Peter’s sin up to him; there was no need, since the Holy Spirit does this far better, and Peter was encouraged to continue to follow Him.

This is the great model for a guilt-based culture, which the Church must be if it is to be healthy. The legalists get in the way, however, and twist things to shame-based. This is what Islam has done, along with so many other religions, and certainly most of the Bible-based cults in Christianity have followed this pattern.

And it is to the legalists, those who are sinners as we all are, to whom I am reaching out with this essay—whether Muslim, Christian, or whatever.

Jesus died on the cross to cover sin, not shame. Biblical Christianity is guilt-based and thankfully so, since sin may be forgiven. The healthy church is not shamed by the acts of an individual. And most importantly, God delights in redeeming guilty sinners and erring Christians.

The Real Problem

The real problem with a shame-based culture is that guilt is never dealt with but persists and often resurfaces as depression, anger, or self-hatred—maybe all of these.

Imagine the father who is forced to kill his daughter who refuses to marry a man she neither knows nor loves. The shame may be covered by the murder of the girl, or so it is assumed, but what about the conscience, the heart, or the mind of the family members? Guilt, a natural occurring brain function, remains. And there is no forgiveness.

A young boy or girl steals a loaf of bread, is caught, and brings shame upon the family and clan. Sharia Law demands a public amputation of a hand and/or a foot. What about the boy or girl, the family, the friends? What about the observers of the event or those who have the responsibility of carrying out the punishment? Everyone is traumatized, unless all of these people are inoculated against such atrocities, which I suspect might be the case when a person is brought up in a shame-based culture.

I was a medic with the U.S. Air Force from 1961 to 1965. My unit was 2nd Casualty Staging Flight, which is based at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. For years my duty hours were from 5 PM to 8 PM. Many a green beret or ranger who had been wounded in Vietnam (starting in1963) would wonder down to my office late at night, and we would spend hours talking about what happened to them. It was known then as combat fatigue, and it was real. Not all had suffered actual bodily wounds. Many were listed as psychiatric on the flight manifest. Some had killed, raped, and maimed innocent civilians. They knew horrors such as I had never heard. My own brother, a combat engineer in Vietnam, came back emotionally wounded from experiences there and eventually committed suicide. With my college background in psychology and my newfound faith in Jesus, I was able to talk about forgiveness with traumatized young men. And for some, not many, the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ and His cross made all the difference.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be deadly. Those who have experienced it have a high rate of suicide, become psychotic, and sometimes go off on murderous rampages. (The statistics are available by means of a Google search.)

I cannot help but wonder about the wrenching struggles many experience in Muslim cultures where the covering of shame is virtually mandated. Guilt does not go away. There it sits, eating away like a cancer deep in the interior. And this is why I emphasize the shed blood of Jesus in my witness to Muslim people.

At the conclusion of every morning service at our small Miller Avenue Baptist Church in Mill Valley, California, we observe the Lord’s Supper. We do it because Jesus directed His Church, the Body of Christ, to do so. (There is no set frequency of observance.) We also do it because it is a wonderful presentation of the forgiveness that we have in the finished work of Jesus, the Son of God. I conclude this essay with some of the passages we recite just prior to receiving the Bread and the Cup.

The Confessional:

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

The Jesus Prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The Promise of acceptance and forgiveness

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Individual, silent prayer of confession

The Confirmation:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

The Assurance:

“Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:30

The Sabbath Rest of God

Chapter Eight

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9

The Sabbath seems to be the central theme in the creation account in Genesis.  It’s actually the only inanimate thing that God blessed. He blessed the living animals; He blessed mankind; but unusually, He also blessed a day—the Sabbath:

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that in had done in creation.

Genesis 2:2-3

This theme of rest is pervasive, not only in the Torah, but it was the reason God brought His people into the promised land—it was to be a place of rest. It was not the Garden of Eden as it was before the sinning of Adam and Eve known as the Fall, but it was a step in that direction. And it may be argued that the location of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:1-14 and the land to which God brought Abraham in Genesis 15:17-21 is the exact same place. So the Sabbath seems to be the foundation of everything that God wanted to do for humanity—His people being in His presence.

            Presence and rest—these two themes are closely allied in Scripture, not only in the New Testament, but especially in the Tanakh. To be in God’s presence is to rest. God met with or “rested” Adam in the Garden,[1] that perfect place where all that was necessary for life was present—water, food, and especially the tree of life. God walked with Adam and Eve and spoke with them. Adam was to care for the garden, but the work was easy, one might assume enjoyable. Actually, the words used to describe Adam’s duties in Genesis 2:15 are also used in the Pentateuch to describe the duties of the Levites in the tabernacle. Adam’s duties were of a priestly nature. He was a proto-typical Levite serving God in a beautiful sanctuary. The garden was a place of rest and worship.

            The seventh day, in the scriptural account, has no ending to it as the first six days have. Of course, the cycle starts all over, but it is to be noted that the creation account ends with a day of rest, an open ended period of time. The creation account seems to be pointing to something more than a prosaic account of God’s creative work.

The story continues

Enoch walked with God in Genesis 5:18-24, and Scripture says, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (verse 24).

            Noah, whose name literally means “rest,” also walked with God, and the ark Noah built was a place of rest and salvation. After the ark had settled and the inhabitants had disembarked, Noah built an altar and sacrificed an offering that had a pleasing or soothing aroma to God. The root word for “pleasing” comes from the word “rest” (see Genesis 8:21).

Biblical history then turns to the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s people were enslaved in Egypt until Moses led the people out under God’s power and authority. Then the Law, the basis of the covenant between God and His Chosen People, was given. The fourth article of the covenant had to do with the Sabbath rest:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8-11

Notes on the passage:

One. “Remember” means to continue to observe the Sabbath day—to never let it disappear from the consciousness or observance of the people.

Two. The Sabbath day is holy, different from the other days.

Three. No work is to be done on the seventh day—it is a day of rest.

Four. The concept of the Sabbath day is directly tied to God’s resting on the seventh day of creation.

The Sabbath day points beyond itself

The Mosaic Sabbath was only intended to be a temporary solution to the

problem of the curse that came as a result of The Fall, which was the breaking of the one commandment God had given Adam and Eve (see Genesis 2:15-17). Throughout the remainder of the Hebrew Bible, every rest that God provided—the feasts, the entry into the promised land, the construction of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem—are temporary but point beyond themselves. God was present in the most holy place in the Tabernacle and Temple, and people met God there; thus, the structures were a place of rest. But these were not permanent.

Rest—almost a code word

It is more than interesting that the listing of the feasts in Leviticus 23 (and Numbers

28, a second place in the Torah where the feasts are described) starts with the

Sabbath, and that the word rest plainly permeates the descriptions of the feasts. The key to everything that God intends, embedded in the discussions of the feasts, is to establish a rest for His people.

There is a longing throughout the Tanakh, not just for the once per week Mosaic Sabbath, but a longing for that rest when the curse of sin and separation from the presence of God is ended. Work is contrasted with rest—both words seem to contain meanings beyond their obvious definitions. When humans work they are not at rest in the presence of God.

Exodus 33:14 and Matthew 11:28

These two verses are chronologically separated in the Scripture by over fifteen hundred years, are written in different languages, and narrate different circumstances completely, but they both end in the very same way. Consider them:

                        “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

                        Exodus 33:14

                        “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I

                        will give you rest.”

                        Matthew 11:28

Is Jesus’ deliberately quoting Exodus 33:14 and thus identifying Himself with both the presence of God and God’s rest? At the very least, Matthew may have made the connection, and so this may be indicative of the kind of reflection on Scripture in which both the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New engaged.

            The Exodus passage records the words of God to Moses. The Matthew passage records the words of Jesus to us all. This is not likely accidental or plagiaristic; this is a deliberate quoting by Jesus of words God the Father spoke to Moses. Jesus identified Himself with God the Father. Of course, this brings us deep into the mystery of the Trinity, but Jesus is the One who gives rest. One of the names of Messiah, based on Isaiah 7:14, is Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus—God in the flesh, present with His people—gives rest. The curse of sin, which brought all the trouble and the burdensome work (see Genesis 3:17-19), was placed upon Jesus—God the Son—by God the Father, just as the sins of Israel were placed upon the Scapegoat by the high priest (see Leviticus 16:13-22).

            The great annual event in which the sins of Israel were placed upon the scapegoat, which was then sent into the wilderness away from the camp of Israel, was to be observed on the tenth day of the seventh month (see Leviticus 16:29), and was the very day upon which fell the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 23:27).

Jesus, the scapegoat of God, sent away from the camp of Israel, crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, sent into the grave burying our sin, gives us rest by bringing us into the presence of God. In the pages of the New Testament we see that this is God indwelling the believer by His Holy Spirit. Paul wrote of the mystery of the glory or presence of God: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

 This radical changing of the nature of the agreement or covenant originally revealed to Moses is exactly what Jeremiah prophesied about centuries before the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: ‘I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Notes on the passage:

One. A contrast is made between an external covenant, the law, and an internal covenant, one which results in knowing God. Knowing means something close to intimate fellowship, and so the concept of being in the presence of God may be associated with Jeremiah’s words.

Two. The range of people who will know God grows greatly—men, women, least to greatest—no longer the professionals and leaders only.

Three. All of that which is coming is dependent on the forgiveness of iniquity and sin—the breaking of the plain laws, however that may occur. God puts the sin of His people away so they may enjoy His presence, because no sin can come before God, for He is holy, and we must be holy in order to be in His presence. Sin must be put away, forgiven.

Four. By implication then, God and humans are in fellowship again; those creatures made in His image will once again enjoy His rest, His presence.

The end point

It began in a garden, and in a garden it will end. But the garden is unlike any garden anyone might imagine. A garden is simply a perfect environment to enjoy the presence of God. There in that garden or paradise, all things are perfect, pure, and holy. It is the kingdom of God come.

            It is no accident, no coincidence, that the Scripture ends with an image of a garden, this one outside of space and time, eternal in that place where God dwells. John paints the picture:

            Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were  for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb  will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will  see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5

Notes on the passage:

One. The Genesis garden has become a city in Revelation. Jerusalem is the great city, and it is fitting that the ultimate destination for God and man in fellowship is depicted as a specific city.

Two. Once again all the elements for life are present, especially the tree of life—the tree, the cross of Jesus perhaps, the water, and the fruit—the perfect garden restored, regained, now permanent with perfect rest.

Three. God is there and the Son is there, and there is no mention of the Spirit, but it is not germane to John’s purpose.

Four. God and humans are in intimate fellowship, for the face of God will be seen. This may be a way of saying that sin is gone, with no enemy and nothing twisted nor spoiled, nothing but the pure enjoyment of God, which alone would require a never-ending eternity to experience.

Once again—the main point

What started out as a rest, however perverted, will once again come around to a rest, the endless Sabbath rest.

            Embedded in Scripture, perhaps most pointedly in the holidays of Israel, is the grand theme of God’s holy writ. Prophetic, dramatic history at the very core of the religious observance of Israel—“Come to me and I will give you rest.”  

[1] In Genesis 2:15 the Hebrew gives the idea that God “rested” Adam in the garden. The same word, in the hiphil, is used several times in Deuteronomy and the Former Prophets to refer to God’s bringing Israel into the Promised Land.

More Christian Houses

Chapter 23

Expanding the number of Christian houses was not a strategy as such; rather, their addition was driven by necessity. Through our continuing street evangelism in San Francisco with the hippies, we constantly took on newly born again youth who wanted out of that hell hole but had nowhere to go. It seemed to us it was like the early church, having “all things in common.” First was Soul Inn in San Francisco, then Zion’s Inn in San Rafael. Berachah House in San Anselmo followed, Solid Rock in Novato, a house in Mill Valley, more houses in San Rafael, and on and on it went. We rented these houses, and I was usually the one signed on the lease as the tenant. The first house in Sonoma County was actu- ally the Berachah House moving to Petaluma. It was a rustic farm, sort of, and the landlord was sympathetic to what we were doing. We turned its A-frame house into living quarters for about ten people. When that was full, we turned an out building into a bedroom as well. Cliff Silliman was in charge of Berachah, and he did a wonderful job of it, being a solid Christian and a hard worker. He loved the young people coming to stay there, and some were not very easy to deal with. I showed up every other week to teach a Bible study, and I recall standing by the back door of the place teaching from the Bible. Residents sat on the floor of the kitchen and spilled over into a dining area just beyond that. (In addition to the farm we opened up a Christian book store right in the heart of town which Cliff also operated and looked after. But that story follows soon.) 

Gradually, youth from the surrounding community began to attend the Bible study. Cliff and the guys (it was for men only) made evangelistic forays into the lovely little town of Petaluma, handed out flyers containing an invitation to the Bible study, and news spread about the Jesus freaks in town. We also twice held “concerts” featuring the band Joyful Noise in a park in the town’s center. Lots of kids showed up and we told them about Jesus. 

Beginning to circulate on the East Coast was a Jesus People publication, a kind of funky newspaper. In one edition it listed the addresses of Christian houses around the entire country, and our houses were included. Traveling hippie types began showing up on a regular basis, almost using the houses like bed and breakfast inns. And it was partly due to this phenomenon that the Jesus Movement was cross-pollinated. The year that this reached its peak was 1970. It became obvious that what God had done in the San Francisco Bay Area was happening all over the country. 

A Silly Decision and a Big Gift 

On one of my visits to “the farm,” as we called it, Cliff and I discussed what to do with a tiny red foreign car that had been left behind by someone. There was no paper work, and the car’s engine was shot, but there it remained. Money was always in short supply, so we thought the best way to dispose of it was to bury it. Cliff created a great plan and oversaw the work, except the hole the guys dug was not deep enough. The next time I showed up I asked to see the burial spot, and even from a distance I could see the red roof of the car jutting up about one foot above the ground. There was no way it could be dug up, so we got some sledge hammers and beat the roof down as far as possible, piled up a little hill of dirt around what was still showing, and left it like that. When we finally had to move off the land, however, our lack of foresight meant we had to dig up the little red car and have it towed away. 

Barry Elegant, a Jewish man, visited the house after riding a motorcycle across country from New York and was converted under Cliff’s preaching. When he left, he gave Cliff a check for three thousand dollars. Cliff called me, and I came up to the farm, so we could plan what we would do with the money. Our decision proved to be a good one.

My First Essay on Islam, in 2002

Essay Eight

I am sixty years old, born in Portland, Oregon, and now live in Mill Valley, California. I became a Christian at age twenty-one. I am married with five children and eight grandchildren. I was ordained in 1966; most of the time my denomination has been Baptist.

The first spiritual truth I knew was that I was a lost and hopeless sinner. This is while I was in the military. My life was ordinary, no crises, but after hearing the message of Jesus and the cross, I understood for the first time that He died in my place, taking my sin upon Himself. The second truth I learned was that Jesus is the Savior, raised from the dead, who loves me and would give me the gift of eternal life.

I have been in the ministry ever since my ordination, most of that as a pastor, and have seen many hundreds become followers of Jesus. For Christians this means conversion, or the new birth, one and the same thing. We are not born Christian, though we might be born into a culture heavily influenced by Christianity. But this can be problematic since we can mistakenly believe that we are Christian due to our physical birth.

Now, as to the issue of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism worshipping the same God—yes and no. Certainly Judaism and Christianity see the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the Creator God. Islam, however, worships Allah, and Allah was a local deity worshipped by people of a particular area, the area where Mohammed lived.

Mohammed was born in Arabia and lived in Mecca. He belonged to the Quraysh tribe that controlled the worship at the Ka’bah shrine, which contains the “black stone.” This shrine was the center of idol worship with more than 360 idols being honored. The Arabic word for idol is “ilah” and “al” is Arabic for god. Allah, a combination of these two, and was the name for the primary god worshipped in Mecca. In addition, Allah was the name pre-Islamic Arabs used for the moon god, which was represented by the crescent moon. This symbol, the crescent moon, was used for many idols in pre-Islamic Arabia. Indeed, it was common among pre-Islamic Arabs to pray facing Mecca and to observe a fast one month a year. Mohammed incorporated many pre-Islamic religious concepts into the Qur’an. Mohammed merely declared that only Allah would be worshipped to the exclusion of all other idols. Allah was essentially then the name of a local moon god.

The claim that Islam worships the same God as Judaism and Christianity is false. This is not to say that Muslims are not people of good will who are seeking peace. Some may and some may not. My concern is spiritual not political. If I had a merely political agenda, I might overlook the theological differences between the religions. However, the issue that transcends all others is a personal relationship with God. Error here is ultimate, the greatest of all enemies.

Now Judaism, in rejecting Jesus as Messiah and Savior, makes a mistake. To worship the Son of God, Jesus, is to worship God the Father. He who has the Son has the Father, but he who does not have the Son does not have the Father. To love one is to love the other. The Scripture is plain on this point. Many Jewish people do trust in Jesus, however. And Muslims may also trust in Jesus—anyone may. The names of the various religions are merely man-made designations. The fact is there is one God and we are all made in His image. I am not personally concerned about religious labels, but I am a follower of Jesus Christ, He is my Lord and Savior. He is not God of the Christians; He is the Lord of heaven and earth.

Many groups claim the God of the Bible as their God—groups like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on. But they reject or deny what the Bible says about the Messiah in both the Old and New Testaments. Are we Christians bound to accept the picture of Jesus that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, give us? They say Jesus is the archangel Michael and not Emmanuel, God with us, despite, for example, what the prophet Isaiah wrote (see Isaiah 7:14). Am I bound to accept the pronouncements of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Because groups like the Mormons say their prophet is the latest prophet superseding all others, am I bound to believe this? The Mormons say their Book of Mormon is the final truth and all that came before is good but not the final revelation of God. Do I have to believe this?

Mohammed claimed to be the final prophet and the Qur’an to be the final revelation. Am I bound to believe this? Numerous so-called prophets have come along with new versions of truth—so what! They each diminish or do a re-make on Jesus so they can insert into the place of the Lord Jesus Christ their own prophet, revelation, or holy book. No, we are wise to this in America; these prophets and angelic revelations—they are a dime a dozen.

I live in a free society that has freedom of religion. My faith is personal, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. I did not choose God anyway, He chose me. He called me and gave me faith in Jesus, His only begotten Son. I am not a Christian because I was born one, I did not even want to be a Christian. But when God, by His Holy Spirit, showed me that Jesus, the perfect lamb of God, had died in my place, had taken all my sin upon Himself, and through His resurrection gives me the gift of eternal life, well, that was enough for me. I did not figure anything out, I did no good religious work; no, God changed my heart, helped me repent, and gave me faith.

This is the Gospel. Please know that I wish all the people of the world would live in peace and harmony. I have no anger or resentment toward Muslims. For what it is worth, I am also the manager of a baseball team, and I just appointed as my primary coach a Muslim man. And my leadoff hitter and second baseman is also a Muslim.

Would you be a Muslim if you did not have to be? Could you walk away from Islam? What might happen if you decided to be an atheist or even a Christian? You made no choice in the beginning—you were born Muslim, so then you had no real choice about  who you are and what you believe?

America is my country, though I do not think all we do is correct. I am a Christian first, an American second. Being an American does not commend me to God in any way. Christian does not equal American and vice versa. Wherever I live the Scripture commands me to be a good citizen. We do stand for freedom and an open society, and these are great things. I hate war, as anyone would, and I wish there weren’t a reason for a war on terrorism. But there is, and we can pray that it will end soon and we can all live in peace.

Would the destruction of America solve Islam’s problems? Would the destruction of Israel solve Islam’s problems? Is not the problem sin and rebellion in the human heart? Isn’t the human heart deceitful and desperately wicked, as the prophet said (see Jeremiah 17:9). Perhaps Muslims might feel superior and vindicated, if America and/or Israel should fall, but would that stop the warfare that constantly goes on within the “Muslim brotherhood”? The problem is a proud spirit and evil that lurks within—and it was for all this that Jesus died on the cross. Jesus died in our place, taking the death and judgment and hell upon Himself that we would have to bear, if we were to die unforgiven. Jesus was sacrificed instead of us; He atoned for the transgressions of those who believe in Him.

Over and above all that goes on in this crazy world, there is the reality of God. Let us seek Him, let us honor Him, let us worship Him, let us love Him. He has made this possible through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Kent Philpott

March 2002

Mill Valley, CA

Booths, Tabernacles, of Ingathering

Chapter Seven

The authors’ thesis is that Jesus will complete or fulfill what is embedded in the feast of Booths at the time of His return, by gathering all of His people, both Jew and Gentile, into His Sabbath rest. Is this warranted on the basis of the biblical material itself?

The third and last of the fall holidays is the Feast of Booths, also called Tabernacles or

Ingathering. The literal transliteration from the Hebrew is hasukot “the tabernacles,” but is most often denoted from the Hebrew as Succoth, Succot, or Sukkot. One booth is a sukkah, so multiple booths are sukkot.In Leviticus 23:33 and 42 the same word is translated booths. When Solomon dedicated the temple he did so on Sukkoth, and there it is called “the feast” (see 1 Kings 8:65). In Rabbinic literature it was simply known as “The Feast,” ha chag in Hebrew, because it was a large celebration, a time of rejoicing for the last harvest of the year. 

This feast is also referred to as the “Feast of Ingathering.”“You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor” (Exodus 23:16). “Ingathering” is a most interesting way to refer to the feast and is a major clue to understanding how Jesus will “keep”this feast.

Leviticus 23:33-44

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

            “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day, besides the LORD’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.

            “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, braches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that you generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

            Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.

Notes on the passage:

One. The Feast came two weeks after Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets and the head of the year, and it fell on the same day of the week. It would have also begun on the seventh full moon of the year—not an insignificant fact.

Two. Booths were flimsy, non-permanent structures made out of tree limbs and other plant foliage that could be quickly constructed. The Hebrews, during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness (desert) after the exodus from Egypt, of necessity were forced to build temporary and easily transportable shelters.

Three. Tabernacles is a synonym for booths, and based on Exodus 23:16, Ingathering would be another way of referring to this feast.

Four. Again, no ordinary work was to be done. This admonition appears twice in the passage. It is also stated that the first and last day of the feast were to be days of solemn rest.

Five. The feast began and ended on a Sabbath.

Six. Offerings of varying types were made during the feast days.

Seven. The booths were to be made in remembrance of the days of the exodus when God providing for them in the wilderness.

Tabernacles was the third of the pilgrimage feasts when Jewish males were expected to be present at the Temple in Jerusalem. But because Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles came so close together, pilgrims would likely have remained in Jerusalem and then be present for all three of the fall holidays.

A key term

There is a key term found in verse 39 of Leviticus 23, the “gathering of the harvest.” That word gathering is frequently used in Scripture to speak of the end of human history when God will gather His people. It is probable that the prophets meditated and studied to understand what it was going to be like when the Messiah came. For instance, in Zechariah 10:8-10 and 14:2 the key word is “gather,”  that God is going to gather all the nations, that the Messiah is going to stand on the Mount of Olives, and it will split so the people will go from slavery to freedom, just as they did at the Red Sea. When the Messiah arrives all the gathered nations will worship the Lord and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles year after year—or forever. And the celebration will be in the presence of God with great rejoicing.

            The gathering of the nations is the fulfillment of a promise God gave to Abraham. In Genesis 12:3 He said, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  The gathering of the nations, that is the Gentiles, was part of the messianic hope. And it is interesting to note, that during the Feast, seventy bulls were offered up as sacrifices during the course of The Feast. In Genesis 10 the “Table of Nations” divides the world into seventy nations (and the Talmud also reflects on this accounting).

Jesus and the Feast

Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles just as He kept the other feasts or Jewish holy days. Jesus attended at least three and maybe four Passovers in Jerusalem, based on the Gospel of John, and John’s seventh chapter finds Jesus present in Jerusalem for a Feast of Tabernacles.

            To understand what happened in Jerusalem on that feast day when Jesus was there, it is necessary to recall what took place when Israel was in the desert and without water. God, through Moses, provided Israel with water that sprang from a rock. (see Exodus 17:1-7). Now on the great last day of The Feast, when the high priest poured out water from the Pool of Siloam from a golden flask into a basin near the great altar at the Temple, Jesus cried out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38). Jesus quoted from Isaiah 12:3.

            The whole of Isaiah chapter 12 seems like a hymn of praise for God’s provision of salvation. Its messianic overtones are quite unmistakable. Isaiah 12 is the conclusion of what is called the “Book of Immanuel” that begins with chapter 7. Chapter 11 of Isaiah is focused on the Spirit-filled Messiah from the tribe of Judah whose ministry includes the Gentile nations:

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Isaiah 12   

These are words of praise and great joy, just the kind of words that were shouted out on the last day of The Feast. That last day was known as Hoshana Rabba in Hebrew, or the great Hoshana. It meant that the people offered a great shout of joy for God’s salvation.

The prophet Haggai and Hoshana Rabba

Hoshana Rabba came on the seventh day of Tabernacles, the twenty-first of the month. Remarkably, Haggai means “my feasts,” and in chapter two we find that a word of the LORD comes to Haggai on the very day of the Hoshana Rabba. The prophet Haggai receives a vision of the nations coming into the glory of the temple, here the second temple, the very same temple, though enlarged by Herod the Great, where Jesus taught during the days of His earthly ministry. Haggai 2:9 reads: “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.”  The word “glory” is a way of saying that God is present and thus Haggai points to a future time when God will be present in the Temple in a way never experienced before. In addition, “peace” may well refer to the restored fellowship of God and His creation, as in the days of the Garden of Eden or Paradise.

            In other words, on the day of Hoshanna Rabba, Haggai received a vision that the Messiah, since Messiah is God’s presence among His people, is going to make the second temple more glorious than the first, and all because Messiah will be there.  And in John 7, on the very day that Haggai envisioned, Jesus announced to the people that He was the Messiah. Jesus’ words might not be plain to us now, especially if we are Gentiles and not familiar with the words of the Tanakh, but the people who heard Him that day would have understood.

Jesus’ parables about wedding feasts

There are several parables that Jesus told that contain the idea of a wedding feast or a bridegroom coming for a bride. Among them are: Matthew 9:14-17; 22:1-14; 25:1-13; and John 3:29. The wedding feasts have an end of history sense to them, a gathering proclaimed by and prepared for by the King of the kingdom. Matthew 22:1-10 will serve as the best example of this material:

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invited to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all who they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

The wedding feast was a gathering of vastly different kinds of people, even some considered to be “bad.” Some of those who should have come to the feast refused, perhaps pointing to many of the religious authorities who were in the process of rejecting Jesus. Some servants of the king were badly treated, even murdered. It is thought that Jesus was either referring to earlier prophets who had been shamefully treated by those leaders of Israel who should have welcomed them, or that Jesus was thinking of how both He and His apostles would be treated in the very near future. Maybe it is both.

The essential point is that Jesus used the idea of a wedding feast to speak of a future ingathering.

The Church as a Bride in Revelation chapter 19

Then in Revelation the Church is referred to as a Bride:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”  

Revelation 19:6-9

The revelation John receives from Jesus Christ (see Revelation 1:1) moves toward a grand finale—a joyous and worshipful marriage celebration. The bridegroom, here referred to as the “Lamb,” which is plainly Jesus, the Passover Lamb sacrificed for us and our sin, is the resurrected Lamb now come for His Bride, who is the Church and which has been watching and waiting for His arrival. Now commences the marriage feast that lasts forever and forever.

            Marriage is at the heart of God’s creation. In Genesis God prepares Eve for Adam and they live in fellowship with Him, that glorious presence, which is at once the original and ultimate intention of the Creator. A sinful rebellion and provisions for a remedy intervened.

The vision of the New Heaven and the New Earth in Revelation chapter 21    

The vision of Revelation 21 is of a new heaven and a new earth, and at the center of the renewed creation is the holy city, New Jerusalem. It is a story of a recovery of all that was lost in the great rebellion of Genesis chapter 3 that culminated in the exclusion from the Garden of Eden. As in Revelation 19:6-9 and the marriage supper of the Lamb, the vision is that of a grand ingathering:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of god is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”                          

Revelation 21:1-4

John sees God dwelling with His people. The word translated “dwell” could just as easily have been translated “tabernacle.” In the Greek version of the Tanakh called the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX meaning seventy), in Leviticus 23:34 the word translated “booths” is the same root word as that in Revelation 21:3 translated “dwell.” The writer John, and of course the Revelator, Jesus the Messiah, look all the way back to the Garden of Genesis where God dwelt with man. The thread that began in the first chapters of the first Bible book stretches all the way to the last chapters of the last Bible book. And that thread ran right through the Feast of Booths.       

The vision of the River in the Garden in Revelation chapter 22

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord god will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.                                                        

Revelation 22:1-5

This is the fullest expression of fellowship with God found in Scripture. As in the Garden of Genesis, all needs are met. There is no sin or threat of sin or rebellion. God, the Creator, the Father, is present as is the Lamb, the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah. Even the face of God will be seen—the most dramatic means by which a person of Jewish understanding could speak of being in the presence of God. There is also a belonging, the strongest possible bonding portrayed in the phrase “his name will be on their foreheads.”

            What was lost in Genesis is found in Revelation—the permanent Ingathering, no longer or ever again in flimsy booths or tents, but in the City of God, the New Jerusalem, the new heaven and new earth, a house not made with hands.

A house not made with hands

Paul the apostle also understood the intent of God. He wrote: “For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Again, “tent” in this text could also be translated “tabernacle.”

            Garden, house, tent, booth, tabernacle, city of God, New Jerusalem, new heaven and new earth, assembly, synagogue, church, temple—all are metaphors or pictures used to speak of God being with His people.

In Jesus the feasts of Israel are fulfilled

John, writer of Revelation, who had the great vision of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s intent, also recorded words of comfort and hope given by Jesus to His disciples shortly before His betrayal, trial, and execution. Jesus said:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”                                                               

John 14:1-3

            “Where I am you may be also” is the goal of creation and is the completion of the will of God. Why this should be so will never be answered in a satisfying manner, since we are aware that we are rebels against God and have broken His laws constantly. Yet, the purpose of God will not be thwarted by sin or Satan.

            God’s people, His elect and chosen, will be gathered up at the end point of history and will enjoy Him forever.

Is there a biblical warrant?

Is it possible to state that Jesus completed, satisfied, and fulfilled, in His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost something that God had laid the foundation for in the Jewish holidays and which mark the roadmap of world history?

            The prophet Zechariah connects the Feast of Booths with the end of world history. The relevant passage is Zechariah 14:16: “Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” There will be toward the end of human history a mighty battle waged against God’s Chosen People by the nations or Gentiles, and out of the Gentiles God will rescue some and these will join with the elect of the Jewish People to worship together at the time of the Feast of Booths. The point is this: the prophet points toward the future and sees the world’s ending point culminating in the Feast of Booths.

            Daniel Fuchs’ book, Israel’s Holy Days: In Type and Prophecy (Liezeaux Brothers, 1985, page 79) contains this succinct and beautiful summary of Jesus’ fulfilling the fundamental intent behind the canonical writers’ composition of the material on the feasts found in Scripture:

Christ our Passover became Christ the Firstfruits from the dead. At Pentecost, the firstfruits of Israel’s ripened harvest were presented to the Lord. The first sheaves were reaped from Israel. But Israel did not keep the harvest to herself. The gospel, which was to the Jew first, has been proclaimed to the uttermost parts of the earth. It has been a long time since Pentecost, and we longingly listen for the sound of the trumpet, the return of our Lord. Then after that we look for Israel’s Day of Atonement and the nations of our Lord keeping the Feast of Tabernacles.

This is the last feast—the ingathering—God’s ultimate intention, paradise

restored, back to the garden, is complete. It is the Jubilee.

Colossians 2:16-17:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Why I Decided not to Kill Myself

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The We/They Mentality

Chapter 22 

Perhaps we were trying to cast ourselves as New Testament disciples. One of my favorite Bible passages was then and still is Acts 2:42-44: 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 

We began to think we were living the same life as the early church experienced close after the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. And it began to produce in us a dangerous, indeed a cultic-like notion, that we were more spiritual than other Christians. 

After all, we were seeing miracles. We saw people healed of real disease and medical problems. We saw many dramatic conversions. Our meetings were jammed with people. We were speaking in tongues and seeing other gifts of the Holy Spirit. We were witnessing on the streets when no one else was, just like Jesus, Peter, and Paul. All of these things were real and apparent, leaving us with a view that the “churches” were being by-passed. We were the elite, and we started being treated as such. 

How I was living from 1967 to 1972 was nothing like what I had known at First Baptist Church of Fairfield or the Excelsior Baptist Church in Bryon. Even at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, where I was a student, I heard of no reports of great workings of God among the students. Sad to say, I developed an elitist attitude, a silly arrogance that I regret now.  

Without the influence of the wonderful folk of Evangelical Concerns, it might have been worse. Real life would eventually be a teacher also, but we were blinded by what we thought was God’s favor, a favor bestowed on us because we were, of course, so sold out for Jesus.

1 Actual favor or grace is a sovereign work of God independent of any merit on the part of the recipient of the grace. For instance, Mary, the mother of Jesus, found favor with God, which had nothing to do with her personally.And although we had no personal wealth, our needs were continually being met, either by our own labor or by unexpected and large gifts. It was, without doubt, an unusual time. 

Awakening vs. Normal Times 

Not until I read Iain Murray’s book, Revival and Revivalism, did I understand the difference between “awakening” and “normal” times. At no time in my ten seminary years did I run across the concept, and that was much to my detriment, indeed the detriment of so much of the JPM. Murray, who inherited the mantle of David Martin Lloyd- Jones as a world-class expert on revival and awakenings, pointed out that in awakenings God pours out His Spirit in special and powerful ways. During normal times, however, although Christians pray, prepare, and plan, there are few conversions and miracles. 

Without knowing it, what I had previously experienced were normal times, and now in a time of awakening I began to actually judge others who were not “walking in the Spirit” as somehow failing. We commonly said, “Well, they are not Spirit filled.” This was the language and the mentality of the Pentecostal/charismatic folk, and the Jesus People quickly adopted it. Another of our statements was, “They are not flowing in the move of God.” And it actually got more ungracious than that, but we were full of ourselves and saw ourselves as special and thus without need of correction. We were moving in the Spirit and no one could tell us anything different. 

Going over this chapter for the last time prior to handing it off to the editor, I am reminded of Dr. Fred Fisher, a renowned professor of New Testament at Golden Gate Seminary during the early days of that institution. He called me sometime in 1970 and asked me to visit him in his office at the seminary. The next day I arrived, and he spoke kindly to me but warned me of the trouble I was heading for. I listened patiently to my former teacher, but when I walked out of his office, I left behind all the good counsel I had just received. After all, he was not baptized in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues like I was. 

The fruit of this mentality was undermining me and my ministry at the time and would bear much worse fruit in the years to come. Little by little, I will recount that process.