John the Baptist preached his message of repentance in the wilderness, which had a certain symbolism associated with it, as it pictured a rejection of the existing Jewish social system, including the temple.
People who heard John had go to the wilderness. They were taught what true worship meant. The Pharisees were rebuked. Jesus went to Jordan and was baptized by John. After that, he went to the wilderness, where he fasted 40 days and 40 nights, and was tempted.
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
In response to this temptation, Jesus referred to a scripture that is found in Deuteronomy 8, where the reason for the 40 year sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness is stated. It was to prove or test them, whether they would keep God's commandments or not, the same reason Jesus went into the wilderness where he was tempted.
1 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
The significance of the wilderness is that it represents a trial or period of testing. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul showed that the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness was an example for the church. This implies that the church too is in some sense, in the wilderness, and the saints look forward to entering a promised "rest."
The inheritance of the saints is called a "rest" in Hebrews 4, where it is pictured by both the promised land of the Israelites, and by the sabbath day.
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
Paul showed that Christians experience a period of trial, similar to that which the Israelites experienced in their 40 year sojourn in the wilderness.
11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
A temptation that Paul specifically warns about is idolatry.
In Revelation 12, the church is pictured by a woman, who flees to the wilderness, not for 40 days, or 40 years, but for 1,260 days.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The period of 1,260 days is symbolic of the entire age of the church, as the present age is a period of trial, that prepares the saints for their eternal inheritance, and their promised "rest."
In verse 14, the woman's escape to the wilderness is described again:
And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
The period of her sojourn in the wilderness is expressed as "a time, and times, and half," which alludes to the prophecies of Daniel 7:25 and 12:7. This period is the Bible's symbol of the entire age of the church, and it corresponds to the last half-week of the 70th week.
The wings of an eagle that are given to the woman are associated with the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
The eagles' wings picture God leading and guiding the church, like the Israelites were taught to worship God, when they were in the wilderness.
10 He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
11 As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
12 So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
The church is warned against idolatry, and she is pictured as being in the wilderness, where she is nourished and fed. The wilderness clearly represents separation from the world. The source of her nourishment is the scriptures, as Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Paul taught that Christians need to be separate from the world.
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
James taught that friendship with the world means to be an enemy of God.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
In the light of these statements by Paul, and James, what can be said of the recent summit of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in Jerusalem, that was addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? In his welcome speech on Monday March 8, 2010, Netanyahu said:
Welcome to Jerusalem, the undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
Your presence here today represents a profound transformation in the relationship between Christians and Jews. This transformation has its roots in the 19th century when the early Christian Zionists came to the Land Israel and when they began exploring the land of the Bible, when they began to yearn for the Jewish restoration in this land, the restoration of our numbers, the restoration of our sovereignty. In fact, Christian Zionism preceded modern Jewish Zionism, and I think enabled it. But it received a tremendous impetus several decades ago when leading American clergymen, among them most notably, Pastor John Hagee, a dynamic pastor and leader from Texas, began to say to their congregations and to anyone who listened, it's time to take a stand with Israel. It was time to take a stand with the sole democracy in the Middle East. It was time to take a stand against the lies and the slander and the vilifications. It was time to defend the Jewish state's right to defend itself.
Today, Christians by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, by the hundreds of thousands, by the millions, by the tens of millions - today they have heard this call, and they stand with Israel. I salute you, the people of Israel salute you, the Jewish people salute you. Time after time, through thick and thin, you have stood shoulder to shoulder with our state, and I have come here tonight to thank you for your unwavering friendship. And today that friendship is more important than ever because Israel faces unprecedented challenges to its security and its legitimacy.
From the point of view of Paul, and James, pastor John Hagee and other so-called Christian Zionists have led their followers into what scripture describes as "adultery," or spiritual fornication, with the worldly Zionist movement. Clearly, the nuclear-armed Jewish state is of "this world."
John the Baptist showed God's rejection of the Jewish society of his day, by going into the wilderness to preach. Jesus rejected the efforts of Jews to make him a leader and king. He said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world." [John 18:36]
The New Testament identifies those who would be "a friend of the
as enemies of God. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he
In Revelation, John shows that the church, pictured by the woman in Revelation 12, flees to the wilderness, which is mentioned in verse 6, and again in verse 14. The 1,260 days of verse 6, and the "time, times and a half" of verse 14 are symbolic of the entire age of the church, the last half-week of the 70th week in Daniel's prophecy. It is the week in which Christ confirms his covenant with his saints, the church. Most Christians, however, have not needed flee to a literal wilderness. Paul showed what it means, in 1 Corinthians 10, where he draws comparisons between the Israelites in the wilderness, and the Christian life and calling. "Now these things were our examples," he wrote, "to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." [1 Cor. 10:6]
Paul said, "Neither be ye idolaters... Neither let us commit fornication... Neither let us tempt Christ... Neither murmur ye... "
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
And so, it is the different behaviour of the Christian, that separates them from the world. Their departure from iniquity is pictured by the wilderness. It is not a literal wilderness! And in the same way, the "land" promises of the Old Testament are a "shadow" of the reality of life in Christ, who is the fulfilment of the promises.
It makes no sense for Christians to reject the Mosaic food laws, but not the idea of a literal, earthly territory for ethnic Jews.
It makes no sense to reject the requirement of circumcision of the flesh, but not the idea of a literal, earthly territory for ethnic Jews.
It makes no sense to reject the requirement of keeping the literal 7th day sabbath (Saturday, not Sunday) and not the idea of a literal, earthly territory for ethnic Jews.
It makes no sense to reject the requirement of keeping the annual holy days in the Mosaic law, but not the idea of a literal, earthly territory for ethnic Jews.
It makes no sense to reject the requirement of observing the sabbatical seven year cycles, when the whole land is allowed to rest, but not the idea of a literal, earthly territory for ethnic Jews.
Both the sabbath day, and Israel's possession of the promised land, were types or "shadows" of the reality of the "rest" we have in Christ by faith.
1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
"So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest.' " And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5 And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest."
6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
"Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts." 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
The scripture quoted above explains what the promise of the land pictures; like the sabbath, it is a shadow or type. It is not a literal, earthly territory for ethnic Jews. Those who believe in Christ don't need to support Zionism!
The quotation below is from the article An Alternative Theology of the Holy Land: A Critique of Christian Zionism by Rev. Stephen Sizer, that clearly explains how the teaching of Christian Zionism is flawed.
Christian Zionism errs most profoundly because it fails to appreciate the relationship between the Old and New Covenants and the ways in which the latter completes, fulfils and annuls the former. It is fundamental that Christians read the Scriptures with Christian eyes, and that they interpret the Old Covenant in the light of the New Covenant, not the other way round. In Colossians, for example, Paul uses a typological hermeneutic to interpret the Old Covenant: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col 2:16-17)
Similarly, the writer to the Hebrews stresses:
The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: 'See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.' But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. (Heb 8:1-6)
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (Heb 10:1)
Under the Old Covenant, revelation from God came often in shadow, image, form and prophecy. In the New Covenant that revelation finds its consummation in reality, substance and fulfilment. The question is not whether the promises of the covenant are to be understood literally or spiritually as Dispensationalists like to stress. It is instead a question of whether they should be understood in terms of Old Covenant shadow or in terms of New Covenant reality. This is the most basic hermeneutical assumption which Christian Zionists consistently fail to acknowledge.
So, for example, in the Old Covenant animals and food are sacrificed anticipating the offering of the body of Christ. A portable tabernacle foreshadows the permanent presence of the Spirit of God indwelling his people. God provides Israel in the desert with manna from heaven, water from a rock and a serpent on a pole. All these images find their fulfilment not in more manna, or water or indeed in a higher pole but in the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ of which the Old Covenant forms were but a shadow. By their very nature the Old Covenant provisions must be seen as shadowy forms rather than substantial realities. The same principle applies to the promises concerning the Land which also serve as revelational shadows, images, types, prophecies, anticipating God's future purposes, not only for one small people, the Jews, but the whole world, revealed fully and finally in Jesus Christ. Hebrews sums this up succinctly: 'In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe' (Heb 1:1-2).
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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