Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting that archeology continues to substantiate the accuracy and historicity of the Bible, examines the discovery of a 2,700 year-old bulla, a clay impression about the size of a dime. On the bulla are the figures of two men facing each other; the inscription reads, "Governor of the City." The discovery substantiates the account of II Chronicles 34:8, which avers that King Josiah appointed Ma-aseiah to serve as Governor of Jerusalem, debunking the claim of Biblical Minimalists' (that is, scholars who aver that Biblical accounts cannot be trusted for accuracy) that Jerusalem was too small to warrant a "governor." Another archeological discovery, the Dead Sea Scrolls, lends support to the understanding of the Church of the Great God that the count to Pentecost should begin from the day of the wave sheaf offering adjacent to the Sabbath following the Passover.
Richard Ritenbaugh, continuing his excursion through the Book of Lamentations, observes that the expressions of sorrow in the Psalms far outnumber expressions of praise, indicating that the Hebrew culture has almost made the lamentation an art form. An organizational pattern useful in the examination of these lamentations is Elisabeth Kubler Ross's grief-model, positing five stages of grief: 1.) denial and isolation, 2.) anger, 3.) bargaining, 4.) depression, and finally 5.) acceptance. These five stages of grief processing seem to be universal, even though outward manifestations may vary from person to person. In Lady Jerusalem's case, isolation, anger and blaming, and inconsolable depression seems to dominate in the first two chapters of Lamentations. She is a long way from acknowledging her own fault, a confession which would lead to the peaceful acceptance of her lot. To this point, she has not even expressed a credible Mea Culpa. In chapter 2, the priests and prophets come under intense scrutiny for relying on their own feelings rather than God's counsel, proclaiming lies rather than truth. The narrator also chastens the people for enabling the false ministers by insisting on their comfort zone, believing they were God's people because they had Solomon's temple in their midst, while at the same time they tacitly accepted the 'pleasures' of sin. In chapter 2, Lady Jerusalem, wallowing in ocean currents of grief, still points an accusing finger at God.
Richard Ritenbaugh warns that these laments contain little that is jovial or uplifting, but instead are saturated in despair, sorrow, mourning, and even recrimination against God on the part of a personified Jerusalem, whom God depicts as a grieving widow, blaming others for her troubles while overlooking her own sins as the real cause of her sorrows. Solomon instructs us that the house of mourning contains more insight and serves as a better cathartic than the house of mirth. The reality of death imparts to us a sense of sobriety and wisdom about how to conduct our lives. We need to take the time to think about somber things and how they relate to the purpose of life. Godly sorrow, as opposed to worldly sorrow, leads to repentance, cleansing, change, and salvation. The proper effect of the Book of Lamentations is to motivate us to change. When we realize that God's punishment of Jerusalem was justified, we can apply the same godly standards to ourselves to determine if we are as culpable as ancient Judah. In Lamentations, following the Narrator's dire description of Judah's demise, Lady Jerusalem, in a self-centered protest, blames everybody (including her lovers and God Almighty) but herself. Even though God has left her there to think about the consequences of her sins, she does not properly introspect, but, rather, blames others, excusing herself. As God's called-out ones, we must carefully compare our own self-deceptions with her self-deceptions, lest we suffer the same fate. Like ancient Judah, if we embrace sin, God will craft a yoke made of our transgressions, bringing unfathomable burden and grief.
Richard Ritenbaugh, creating a hypothetical scenario in which God sends the Russians- to devastate America and reduce it to a vassal state, suggests that such a catastrophe would resemble the conditions described by the Book of Lamentations. The Scriptures describe the Chaldeans as a bitter and hasty nation, ruthless and tempestuous, riding roughshod over everyone in their relentless thirst for power and plunder, often compared to wolves, leopards and other predators. When God chose to punish Judah and Israel, He sent the absolute worst of the heathen. The Lamentations show poignant before-and-after vignettes of former happy times contrasted with the horror of the present. Because of Judah's harlotry, God exposes the lewdness of her faithlessness and the cruelty of the lovers she whored after. Judah has become abhorred, as was Hosea's Gomer, who symbolized the faithlessness of God's people. The Day of the Lord unfolds nothing but disaster, darkness, and stark terror, with each trial worse than the one before. God is longsuffering, but He will not allow multitudes of infidelities. Like ancient Judah, the current offspring of Jacob have squandered the blessings given to Abraham. It appears that, just as Judah did not repent until it had hit bottom, modern Israelites will not repent until the fruits of their own sins nauseates and gags them. God is a merciful God, but His justice must be satisfied sooner or later.
Martin Collins, reiterating that the devastating locust plague in Joel prefigures the devastating Day of the Lord, following a great tribulation and frightful heavenly cataclysms engineered by the prince and power of the air, asserts that God will judge with fury the heathen nations who have aligned themselves against His people. God will regather the remnant of Jacob's offspring, returning the land and wealth their enemies have stolen, restoring their inheritance. The plowshares and pruning hooks that God's enemies converted into weapons will prove futile against God's Army; they will soon rapidly unlearn war and the useless 'skills' of combat. Going to war with the Creator of the universe will prove an effort of utter futility, as the winepress of God's fury will spill an inordinate amount of rebel blood in this harvest of carnage. The Day of the Lord will certainly not be a pleasant time, but God's called-out ones are admonished to trust in God's sovereignty and His ability to protect those He has sealed with His Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, God will pour His spirit on all peoples, including the misguided Gentiles who had formerly directed their hostility on God and His chosen people. In the meantime, it behooves God's called-out ones to cry out in order to be worthy to escape the horrid plagues to be poured out on the earth.
Martin Collins, in the second part of his second part of his sermon Refufe! Refuge! , reiterates that Christ is our refuge (Passover) and that we need to make the Feast of Tabernacles a refuge for others. Realizing that human nature is prone to mistakes and sin, God commanded the ancient Israelites to construct six cities of refuge to protect those who had accidently committed manslaughter from being t themselves killed by the Avenger of Blood. The name of each of the six cities is significant: 1.) Kedesh signifies sanctifying others with godly presence.2.) Shechem represents patience by bearing up under a horrendous trial. 3.) Hebron represents unrequited love by being a home for refugees. 4.) Bezar represents defending the weak against the strong, reminding us that God is no respecter of persons. 5.) Ramoth signifies the necessity of making the Church a home. 6,) Golan signifies striving to be a joy for others. Jerusalem subsumes all these qualities and adds the capstone principle of making peace. Six cities of refuge represent mankind's attempt at perfection, while seven (represented by Mount Zion) is God's number of completion and perfection—a type of the World Tomorrow. God is our refuge; if we call upon His name in repentance, we will be saved.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on an article in Christianity Today which suggests that American Christians are becoming increasingly confused about whether abortion is equivalent to murder, concludes that we live in a moral garbage dump, every bit as vile as Sodom and Gomorrah. America (and the other Israelitish nations), like mother-like daughter, disgustingly has eclipsed the sins of Sodom and Egypt and is the primary target of Ezekiel's prophecies, words which were written after the captivity of Judah and Israel. Ezekiel's prophecies are unfolding right now, before our eyes, describing contemporary news events—real end-time material. Sadly, the haughtiness with which modern Judah and Israel embraces immorality makes the people of Sodom appear moral in comparison.
David Grabbe, contending with the popularly held assumption that the days preceding Christ’s return would be characterized by near-apocalyptic, cataclysmic disaster, points to the Scriptures that people will be eating, drinking, and marrying as in the days of Noah and the days of Lot, indicating that there will be enough relative normalcy to allow for commerce and “business as usual” for much of the world. Right up to the day of the flood and the firestorm on Sodom, people were carrying on with mundane everyday activities, with a certain amount of ease in committing sins of self-indulgence and complacency, with people having enough security to kick back and bask in protected mediocrity as their work ethic eroded. Like Sodom and ancient Babylon, modern Babylon’s obsession is with materialism and guaranteed security, as government, union, and many academic positions protect—even encourage—mediocrity, incompetency, and malfeasance. God is not against prosperity unless it leads to materialism and self-indulgence, displacing godliness, righteousness, and contentment. Our current moral and economic state is not terribly unlike the days of Noah and the days of Lot.
The prophecies of the Minor Prophets are frequently overlooked, and Joel's prophecy—a slim three-chapter book—is no exception. Mike Fuhrer contends that church members are likely to misunderstand the literal meaning of the prophecy of Joel 2, in which God's mighty army sweeps across the countryside and into the city without serious opposition.
John Ritenbaugh, reminding us that Ecclesiastes chapters 1-6 contains a sub-theme of materialism—specifically an indictment of the supposed satisfaction one receives from it suggests that materialism contains no lasting fulfillment. According to some studies, the higher a person is on the economic scale, the less altruistic he is inclined to become. The only lasting enjoyment comes from establishing a relationship with God, understanding that: (1) life is God's gift; (2) He desires us to spend our time preparing for an eternal relationship with Him; (3) the fruit of active involvement with God is eternal life; (4) by faith, seeking God will lead to an above-the-sun life; and finally, (5) if there is no kingdom of God, then nothing matters except what is going on in the here and now. We desperately need to seek Godly wisdom, a multi-faceted spiritual gift which helps us make practical use of all the other spiritual gifts. Wisdom is practical skill in living, coexistent with the fruits of God's Holy Spirit, a whole collection or spectrum of skills for living God's way—something that takes a lifetime to learn.
Richard Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that the Psalms have been divided into five books, suggests that there is methodology in the organization, reminding us of the number of Divine grace, as well as a number of handy organization emphasizing groups of five, including the summary Psalms (Psalms 146-150), the Pentateuch, the Megilloth, and the Israelite's division of the year into five seasons. The Pentecost season generally corresponds to Book II of the Psalms, the Book of Exodus, and the story of Ruth, typifying counting to Pentecost (the 50th day commemorating the harvest), in which wave loaves baked with leaven (a symbol of corruption) would be offered. Themes of the Pentecost season include leaving the corners of the field un-harvested, the trek of the Israelites to Sinai to receive the Law and the Covenant (a marriage covenant occurring on the same day as Pentecost, depicting another marriage covenant), and the giving of the Holy Spirit on the anniversary of the giving of the Law. Exile, leaving, departing, separation, and redemption are also major themes of this season and Book II of the Psalms. The Book of Exodus also provides instructions for construction of the Tabernacle (prefiguring the church and a future nation of priests). The summary Psalm 147 indicates that God gives His Law and Spirit, building up the Heavenly Jerusalem through the redemption of a remnant (the redeemed outcasts transformed through trail and distress into the Israel of God), the Bride of Christ.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Garden of Eden, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Temple Mount, and Mount Moriah were all names of God's house on this earth. In the Holy of Holies, within the Ark of the Covenant, Aaron's almond rod that budded symbolizes God's power over the tribes and salvation by grace through the sacrifice of Christ. The golden lamp stand, a seven bowled menorah, symbolized an almond tree in full bloom. Jesus crucifixion took place outside the camp of Israel, just outside the border of the Garden of Eden, the general area where the Miphkad Altar stood, where He was evidently nailed to a cross piece on a living tree, a tree of light. Perhaps the Tree of Life located in the middle of the Garden of Eden was an almond tree. The golden pot containing manna in the ark symbolized Jesus as the Bread of Life. The tablets of stone are found right under the mercy seat of the ark, representing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, perhaps symbolized by a fig tree, forming the basis from what we are judged. The law of God should be a perpetual source of delight for us. The testimony represents the entire Holy of Holies. The Miphkad Altar located outside of Jerusalem's east gate in the region of the Mount of Olives where Jesus had begun His triumphal march into Jerusalem and where he was arrested (in direct line of sight from the eastern side of the Temple), a place of public execution, where the red heifer was sacrificed, where Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac, was the most probable location of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the real cradle of civilization is not Mesopotamia, but Jerusalem, a venue where God started His physical creation and where He will bring it to spiritual fruition. The world's corrupt civilization did begin in Mesopotamia, between the rivers, but God called Abraham and his descendents out of this corruption back to the region of the promised land - probably within the geographical region of the Garden of Eden, the location of Abraham's abortive sacrifice of Isaac (renamed Yahweh Yirah) Mount Moriah - the site of Solomon's Temple, the Lord's Mount, and the most probable site of the Garden of Eden) in the current Jerusalem area - the Temple Mount, Mount Zion, and the Mount of Olives. Both Moses in his instructions for building of the tabernacle and David in his instructions for building the temple were obligated to follow the pattern that God explicitly gave them. Like the temple and tabernacle, the Garden of Eden was probably an enclosed place with a single entrance on the east side, all replicas of heavenly originals, designed specifically to give us understanding and faith. The sacrifice of the red heifer on the Miphkad Altar displayed many differences from the sacrifices on the Brazen Altar. The midst of the Garden of Eden and the Holy of Holies (typifying God's throne room in Heaven - surrounded by Cherubim) were evidently in the same location. When Cain sinned, God admonished him to provide a sacrifice on what would be the location of the Miphad Altar.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon geography and place names of the Bible, asserts that God has often allowed different groups of people to use different names for the same geographical location (i.e. Mount Hermon and Mount Zion describe the same location). A major perennial theme throughout the Bible involves copies, shadows, symbols, and patterns, with the original pattern residing in the heavens and the copies made on the earth. The objects in the tabernacle derive their original form and pattern from God's pattern in Heaven. In the same respect, God is the original and we are copies. The river flowing eastward out of Eden (God's personal residence on this earth) and the river flowing from God's throne (Revelation 22:1) are both symbolic of God's Holy Spirit. Cain, the real progenitor of Babylon, wandered eastward, systematically away from God. Conversely, Abraham's descendents migrated west and northwest, eventually occupying the western-most countries. Jerusalem (the location of Mount Zion as well as the Gihon Water Course and underground spring - a virtual never-ending aquifer of water) occupying the centermost position among the nations becomes the likely location of the Garden of Eden and the likely location for the Heavenly Jerusalem. Mesopotamia is ruled out as the locale of the Garden of Eden.
The Bible tells us that the time is coming when God will regather His people Israel to the Land of Promise, a greater Exodus than that from the Land of Egypt. David Grabbe gathers the prophecies of this momentous future event, focusing on when it will occur.
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that religious and cultural differences, especially the raging Western-Islamic conflict, will become the fault lines of dangerous conflicts and clashes of civilizations. The King of the South (Daniel 11:40) might be a confederation of Arab nations continually at war with the people of Israel. Psalm 83 identifies such a confederation that continually harasses Israel'events that appear in today‚s headlines. The Bible's characterization of Ishmael, Esau, Amalek, Moab, and Ammon fit the national traits of present-day, anti-Western Arab peoples. Numerous prophecies (including Nahum, Zephaniah, and Amos) predict the eventual demise of their evil efforts. Throughout history, the Kings of the North and the South, always reckoned from the viewpoint of Jerusalem, have changed identities, but the principal players of the conflict exist today in the bitter conflict between militant Islam fundamentalism and the West.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on the five parakletos sayings of Christ, affirms that the Holy Spirit is the essence, mind, and power of God and Christ in us, providing us assistance and counsel. Many of the definitions of parakletos, a verbal adjective in the masculine gender, connote distinctive legal or judicial dimensions: advocate, counselor, advisor, intercessor, mediator, or proxy. Many Old Testament figures served in the capacity of an intercessor for others before God. The apostle John, the other Gospel writers, and the apostle Paul emphatically declare that Jesus Christ, the Lord, is our intercessor or parakletos. Jesus describes the function of the Holy Spirit as 1) helper, 2) teacher, 3) witness (proof of Jesus living in us), 4) prosecutor (convicting of sin and prompting to righteousness), and 5) revealer and guide (making God real to us, preparing us for eternal life in God's Family).
Who is the Woman of Revelation 17 and 18? John Ritenbaugh explains that this fallen Woman displays no religious characteristics but instead acts as a city or nation involved in the politics, economics, and culture of its time. What nation fits the symbolism?
The Great Harlot of Revelation 17 has intrigued Bible students for centuries. John Ritenbaugh explains her peculiar characteristics and tackles the questions, "Is she a church?" and "What does it mean that she is a 'mother of harlots'?"
Charles Whitaker, focusing upon the proclamations of two Gentile kings (Cyrus and Artaxerxes) in the book of Ezra, examines the impact they had on the remnant of Israel- as well as the lessons we may derive from their lack luster behavior. Those who returned to Jerusalem did not completely fulfill their commission, failing to completely rebuild the walls and failing to totally rebuild the temple. These people lacked resolve and stamina. Sadly the re-establishment of the God's law, educational system, and civil system- (a theocracy governed by God's laws) was embarked upon with less than optimal results because they refused to expunge the Babylonian system from their culture and separate themselves from the pagan customs around them- assimilating (through intermarriage) the religious culture around them, including the Sabbath defying business practices, and sports events. The wall serves a symbol of the separation of God's people from pagan culture ' a partition between sin and righteousness ' a special sanctification. Unfortunately the lack-luster effort aborted this sanctification process. We dare not emulate their foolishness.
In concluding this series, Richard Ritenbaugh explains that before the Beast kills the Two Witnesses, they will have accomplished their work. Revelation 11:7-14 contrasts the Beast (a disciple of Satan) and Christ's Two Witnesses, showing stark diametrical contrasts between righteousness and defilement. The 'great city' where they die must be Jerusalem (called in this context 'Sodom' and 'Egypt' for its sinfulness and ungodliness). Humanity, totally given over to carnality, will feel short-lived relief at the Witnesses' death—whom they consider to be tormentors—but stark terror at their resurrection, when 7,000 are exterminated, perhaps many of whom are prominent supporters of the Beast. The glorification of the Two Witnesses will follow the pattern of Jesus Christ.
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that the first major concern of the Two Witnesses will be directed to the church rather than to the world at large, expunging worldliness out of the church. Their work to the world will last 1260 days, 42 months, or three and one half years (Revelation 11: 2-3, 13:5). Christ will endow them with power to do miracles, to communicate or give testimony (evidence) to what they have seen about the Creator God, testifying against the evil of the world and the necessity for Christ's coming. The symbolism of the olive trees, lampstands and golden bowl in Zechariah 4:1-5 is connected to Revelation 1:20 and 2:1.
The latest round of violence in Palestine highlights a major flaw in the peace process: Neither side necessarily wants peace! Both sides want control of Palestine and specifically Jerusalem. The City of Peace is the key factor in the coming world crisis!
The State of Israel has come to a point in its history when it must take a hard look at where it wants to go in the next few years. Whatever it decides, it will likely lead to the events of the end of the age!
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon the breakup of our former fellowship into hundreds of pieces, examines the prospects for future unity. God gave His approval for the destruction of our prior fellowship into myriad splinter groups, allowing heresies to emerge enabling God to see who really loves Him. God has authorized and ordained the splitting for the best interests of everyone at this time. Historically splitting has eventually allowed a wider geographical spreading of the message wherever the house of Israel was forced to flee from persecution. When we understand that the churches in Revelation 2-3 will be all extant at the end-time gathering, we can see God's plan of providing special instruction for the individual groups, all having different personalities and different focuses, for specialized uses in the regathering when Christ, the son of David, having the key of David, will put all these pieces back together, assigning the roles which best fit the specialized training.
Jerusalem is prophesied to be a burdensome stone to all peoples, and such is the case today. Recent events illustrate that Jerusalem is the match that will light the powder keg!
John Ritenbaugh asserts that things written in the Old Testament were written entirely for Christians. The operations of both the Old and New Covenants overlap. The differences focus on justification, access to God, and eternal life, but not doing away with the law (especially the Sabbath) which Protestant theologians would have us believe. Modern Christianity, like the mongrelized Samaritan religion, is a syncretized mixture of some biblical truth with unadulterated paganism. To worship God in spirit means to put heart and mind into applying God's law, with a circumcised heart (Philippians 3:3) realizing that the motivating principle behind every one of God's laws is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the power of God's Spirit. (Romans 5:1-5)
John Ritenbaugh asserts that keeping the Feast of Tabernacles in a central location enables us to realize that we are involved in something larger than our own salvation- part of a universal and eternal mission, giving us unity toward God's purpose. Jeroboam, motivated by political ambition and self-centered fear, incrementally and surreptitiously established a more convenient idolatrous festival, replacing the Levites, and establishing new centers of worship in order to prevent his people from keeping the legitimate Feast of Tabernacles in Judah. The modern parallel seems quite clear.
John Ritenbaugh stresses the importance of making preparations, gathering our thoughts, and turning our lives around while there is still time, rather than squander our opportunities like the foolish virgins (Matthew 25:3) and the timid Shulamite (Song of Solomon 5:3). The Apostle Paul gives two significant warnings, signaling the impending Tribulation: (1) The falling away or Apostasy and (2) the appearance of the man of sin who exalts himself above God, ultimately setting up headquarters in the temple in Jerusalem (II Thessalonians 2:3-4). Because of the immense international geopolitical significance of this personage, it is unlikely that an errant leader of a small church, as speculated by some, could remotely fulfill this role.
Prior to the study of Lamentations, John Ritenbaugh probes the question as to why the tribe of Dan is not mentioned in the 144,000 (Revelation 7). Because of its intense involvement in willful apostasy and organized idolatry, the tribe of Dan disqualified itself from inclusion in the 144,000, and will have to wait until after the Tribulation to be repatriated. The second chapter of Lamentations reflects the emotional state of a stunned observer, realizing that God had wreaked havoc and destruction upon His chosen people, making them the focus of scorn and ridicule of all of their enemies. Chapter three focuses on the abject terror and hopelessness (immense psychological damage) of someone who can find no escape from this imminent horror (famine, captivity, scorn, etc). Amidst this devastation, the narrator has hope that God would rescue his humbled people from these afflictions. Though He punishes, God (in supreme love) is still faithful and loyal to His people.
Prior to the study of Lamentations, John Ritenbaugh explores the topic of visions and dreams from the biblical point of view. Visions and dreams, used very rarely by God to communicate to people (God does not play around with people's minds), must be corroborated by scripture or God's law to establish their veracity. The second chapter of Lamentations, preceding the first chapter in time sequence, describes the stunning and disorienting shock of seeing the total systematic devastation and utter destruction of something formerly considered indestructible, and realizing that God was responsible for the devastation. The prophets and the religious leaders bear the greatest blame for this destruction by providing a quasi-religion (with smooth and feel-good teachings condoning sin) and not teaching the Law of God.
Prior to the study of Lamentations, John Ritenbaugh, focusing on the subject of alleged out-of-body experiences, provides scriptural corroboration of their impossibility. In the opening chapter of Lamentations, Jerusalem, personified as a widow who has had to endure watching the destruction of her family, must also endure the mocking, derisive scorn from the captors. Although the United States, like Jerusalem of old (indicted for committing spiritual harlotry), has piously presented itself as the guardian of righteousness, it has, through its perverted media, exported more sin around the world than any other culture. Its humiliation and sudden fall will ultimately be apparent to even the basest pagan and most degenerate heathen. Trusting in adulterous political alliances or technology instead of God will bring devastating humiliation.
John Ritenbaugh contends that while Scripture does allow for individuals to share their faults with one another for encouragement and brotherly advice, no man has the power to forgive sins or grant absolution, a prerogative retained by Christ and God the Father alone. Trusting human allies rather than God to also seems to be a main theme of Lamentations. An acrostic poem with highly structured multiple meters, Lamentations mimics the agitated talk of someone uncontrollably sobbing or crying. Personified as a grieved widow, Jerusalem recounts her sins as a nation, depending on her own strength or on her lovers (political alliances representing spiritual harlotry) rather than upon God, her Husband. Like Ezekiel, Lamentations also applies to modern Israel, which also has the faithless tendency to form adulterous political alliances with other nations rather than rely upon God, bringing the curse of captivity and mocking scorn.