Archive for May, 2011

The land promise in Hebrews 3:6-4:11

May 30, 2011 Comments off

Hebrews 3:6-4:11 is a lengthy exposition of Psalm 95, especially verse 8 of the psalm, which refers to the provocation in the wilderness, and the Israelites’ lack of faith.

Psalm 95 was originally written for people of Israel who were dwelling in the promised land, and yet, it admonishes readers not to “harden their hearts,” as their fathers had done. This suggests that the “rest” mentioned in the last verse of the Psalm, which remained and was still available for them to enter, must be something other than physically dwelling in the land. The Hebrews passage confirms this, as it says “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.” [Hebrews 4:8] What “rest” could that be?

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The wells of salvation

May 28, 2011 Comments off

What land is host of the “wells of salvation”? Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 12:1-3

In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

A literal well is dug into the ground, often through bedrock. The metaphor of a well suggests there are things corresponding to both land, and water. What are they?

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What the promised land means

May 26, 2011 Comments off

John the Baptist preached his message in the wilderness, about preparing the way of the Lord, and he identified Jesus as the one spoken of by the prophets. Isaiah’s prophecy that mountains will be made low, and valleys filled, was part of John’s message.

Isaiah 40:3-5
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

When we think about what Isaiah’s prophecy might mean, it is clearly not about literal changes in the earth; the highway in the desert is figurative. No literal highway was constructed, or even begun, as a result of John’s preaching. The mountains and valleys of the prophecy are not literal; the land had a spiritual meaning for the prophets. John’s dwelling and preaching in the wilderness was symbolic; it implies rejection of the established worship of the Jews.

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Ye are come unto mount Sion

May 25, 2011 Comments off

Both time, and place, in the prophecies of scripture focus upon Jesus, and his ministry in the first century, and upon his death and resurrection, and his reign in the throne of David in heaven.

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The earth helped the woman

May 24, 2011 1 comment

The prophecy in Revelation 12:15-16 is one of the most fascinating prophecies in the Bible. But it is also one of the most puzzling, and commentators have struggled to find the meaning of it.

“And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.”

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The river of water from the mouth of the serpent

May 23, 2011 Comments off

What is meant by the river of water, that goes forth from the mouth of the serpent in Revelation 12:15? Consider what land it is, where the river flows; it must be the same land, the wilderness, where the woman sojourns for the time, times and a half.

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Henry Alford on the woman in the wilderness

May 23, 2011 Comments off

In 1857 the Prime Minister of England, Lord Palmerston, appointed Henry Alford Dean of Canterbury. As a pillar in the Anglican Church, Alford would probably not have viewed the church as fleeing to the wilderness, at least in his time. Some have suggested that such a condition may have existed in the early centuries of the church, when Christians were persecuted. Alford’s comments about the vision of Revelation 12 indicate he struggled to understand the meaning of the part of the vision where the woman flees to the wilderness. He wrote: [1]

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Henry Alford’s commentary on Revelation 12

May 22, 2011 1 comment


The New Testament for English Readers Vol II.

by Henry Alford, DD.

Deighton, Bell & Co., Cambridge. 1872.

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Bishop Ryle’s napkin

May 22, 2011 1 comment

In Jesus’ parable of the ten pounds, Luke 19:11-27, a nobleman delivered ten pounds to his ten servants, before he journeyed to a far country, where he would obtain a kingdom. When he returned, some of the servants had traded with what they had received, and gained much more.

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Patrick Fairbairn on Ezekiel 37:24-25

May 21, 2011 1 comment

There was a striking change in Patrick Fairbairn’s approach to interpreting prophecy in the years between 1840 and 1855. This change involved his switch on how Israel in the Old Testament prophecies should be understood; do the prophecies apply to the Jews after the flesh, or to Israel in a spiritual sense, that is, the Christian church? It was a radical and fundamental change, that affected all of Fairbairn’s subsequent writing about prophecy. He became one of the most influential prophecy interpreters in the nineteenth century.

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W.D. Davies on Ephesians 2:14

May 20, 2011 Comments off

In Ephesians 2:14, Paul mentions the middle wall of partition, a wall in the court of the temple in Jerusalem that was about 5 feet high, built of marble, and beautifully decorated. Its purpose was to mark off the area of the temple at Jerusalem, beyond which no Gentile was allowed to enter.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul taught that this barrier has been broken down, and as the context shows, he was referring to the church as the temple where that was the case. In the church, and in Christ, there is no barrier separating Jew and Gentile; both have access to the things promised to the saints, which are spiritual in nature.

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Patrick Fairbairn on Ezekiel 36: discussion

May 19, 2011 2 comments

Patrick Fairbairn recognized that the land that God promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was a type; he wrote of the nation of Israel, “Their possession of the land of Canaan was a pledge and type of the inheritance of the redeemed and glorified earth, conferred in Christ on the whole of his elect church.” [1] Consistent with this, Fairbairn viewed Ezekiel’s prophecy about the mountains of Israel in as a prophecy about literal mountains of Israel, that were possessed by the people of Edom when the Jews were taken into exile. They were partially restored to Israel after the Jews returned from exile. Fairbairn wrote: [2]

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Patrick Fairbairn on Ezekiel 36

May 18, 2011 Comments off

The following is Patrick Fairbairn’s exposition of Ezekiel 36.

Ezekiel and the book of his prophecy: an exposition

By Patrick Fairbairn
T. & T. Clark, 1855

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Metaphors of unbelief in Ezekiel

May 18, 2011 2 comments

On Brian’s Blog, Brian commented on some verses in Ezekiel 11, and about the history of the Jews over the centuries, and their settlement in Palestine, that led to the formation of the Jewish state in 1948. He wrote:

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Is the land in Ezekiel 38-39 a metaphor?

May 17, 2011 Comments off

Jesus  promised his disciples, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32] He said that the Spirit which God would send to the church will “guide you into all truth.” [John 16:13] These two promises are among the most profound in the whole Bible.

The prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 tells of the Gog and Magog invasion, which Revelation 20:8-9 interprets as an assault by deceived nations upon the camp of the saints, and the beloved city.

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The land promise and the 70 weeks

May 16, 2011 1 comment

Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 was about the city of Jerusalem, which in those days lay in ruins, and was desolate.

Daniel mentioned Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70 years of desolation upon Jerusalem. [vs. 4]

The people of Israel and Judah had been removed from the land; some were in Babylon, but Daniel indicates they had become scattered in many countries. In verse 7, Daniel acknowledged that “confusion of faces” belonged to “the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.”

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On the continuity of the land promises

May 15, 2011 5 comments

Possessing the land of Canaan was at the heart and center of the covenant that God made with Abraham. But, as explained below, possessing the land is also at the heart of the New Covenant. Jesus inherited all the promises, including the land promise. Paul said, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” [2 Corinthians 1:20]

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Some problems in Covenant Theology

May 13, 2011 3 comments

Paul Henebury recently wrote about Some Problems I Have With Covenant Theology (2). He cited some examples where authors seem to discount or ignore the land, in their discussions of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Henebury wrote:

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Three views on the promised land

May 12, 2011 Comments off

Three views on the meaning of the promised land are presented, two of them by Jews, (Philo, and Eliezer Schweid) and one by a Christian author (Patrick Fairbairn).

Since the first century AD, Jewish conceptions of the promised land have found that it has symbolic meaning. Philo of Alexandria tried to harmonize Stoic philosophy with Jewish religious tradition. Gary M. Burge wrote of him: [1]

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Did Jesus reinterpret the land promise?

May 11, 2011 5 comments

In Did Jesus reinterpret the Old Testament? Mike Moore discussed the views of scholars who have suggested that the land promise of the Old Testament was reinterpreted by Jesus and the apostles. Moore wrote:

What do Colin Chapman, Stephen Sizer and other anti-Zionists mean when they tell us that Jesus and the Apostles “reinterpreted” the land promises found in the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures? The implications of such a claim are very serious.

If we can understand the Old Testament only through the lens of Jesus and the Apostles, as Chapman and Sizer claim, in what way can the Hebrew Scriptures be said to be “profitable … for teaching” in their own right? Why bother to read them at all? Why not just read the New Testament?

The idea of a lens is a metaphor, and I think it is one that is appropriate for this case. Jesus spoke quite a bit about the eye, and in most cases, his sayings seem to refer to the eye in a metaphorical sense, as if he were speaking of one’s ability to understand spiritual things. And the metaphor of a lens is similar, having to do with the eye, and perception of the meaning of great ideas or concepts of a spiritual nature, such as the gospel. A lens can be put on or taken off; Jesus even spoke of plucking out one’s eye, if it causes offense.

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