Martin Collins, reflecting on Jerusalem's current reputation for violence, murder, immorality, multi-culturalism, and conflict, looks at the city's history and at its prophesied status as the capital of God's Kingdom. The reputation for the City of Peace derives from Abraham's tithing to the King of Peace, Melchizedek. Mount Moriah was the site of Abraham's aborted sacrifice of Isaac as well as Jesus Christ's sacrifice for our sins. David conquered this territory and made Jerusalem his capital. Paradoxically, Jerusalem has not been a city of peace, but a magnet for conflict, a situation which will not end until Christ returns. Three factors which impressed David about Jerusalem were: (1) its unity, closely compacted together, (2) its role in dispensing godly judgment, and (3) its role in bringing peace through adherence to God's judgment and statutes. These three characteristics have not described the city of Jerusalem over the past millennia but will accurately come to describe the New Jerusalem coming to Mount Zion, a venue where there will be no more sorrow or death—the peaceful city of the Great King.
Many in God's church have believed that humanity cannot be "at one" with God until Satan has been bound at the beginning of the Millennium. This misunderstanding, David Grabbe contends, has come about due to a general failure to grasp significant truths about the completed atoning work of Jesus Christ, something that Satan has no part in.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that. despite recent claims from the Evangelical conservatives, America was never established as a Christian nation. God called out Abraham, specifically blessing him, and through him, blessed the nations of the entire earth. The early European settlers of the North American Continent consisted of Israelitish immigrants from Europe—descendants of the immigrants who came from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land millennia earlier. God guided these descendants of Jacob to a virtually empty land. God brought the Israelitish people to certain lands in order to prepare them for the return of Christ. God follows patterns so that His converted children can see His invisible work, including immigration patterns. No one leader among America's Founding Fathers approached the stature of Moses, nor did any feel inclined to implement God's Holy Laws or Covenant. The founders established no single religion to ensure the sanctity of the Sabbath and the Holy Days. If they had established such a religion, it was, and remains, highly fractured. The founders made no covenant between the People of the United States and God. American citizenry never practiced true Christianity, America is still laboring under the curse of I Samuel 8, where Israel asked for a king to be like the nations around them. A human leader seemed more 'real' to them than an invisible God requiring faith to follow. Human governments are nothing but raw force, grasping for control in order to benefit the leaders. Human governments have no faith in God and they do not fear God. Even with the mandates Moses gave to a future king, Israel would always suffer from the rule of a human leader, The faith of physical Israel has been eroded through evil philosophers.
David Grabbe, reiterating that the focus for the Day of Atonement is on national, unintentional transgressions, points out that the preamble for the Day of Atonement instructions leans on the failure of the Aaronic priesthood. The sacrificial system—including the ceremony of the two goats—was added to the Abrahamic covenant because of transgressions. The Day of Atonement is 187 days into the Calendar year, possibly the same day Moses came back from Sinai the second time with a radiant countenance, giving the Law to the people a second time, making it clear that transgression of the law brings death. Israel's works had nearly condemned the nation to obliteration. The only work that could be performed was by the high priest and the man who led away the azazel, reminding us that only God can purge sins. The fasting reminds us of the three consecutive times Moses fasted. The effect of Christ's work is that we are reconciled, at one with God. The symbolism of the cleansing of Joshua's filthy robes in Zechariah 3 seems to replicate the symbolism of the cleansing in Leviticus 16. After the cleansing, the nation is absolved from iniquity. The Day of Atonement represents a bearing away of sin, removing it from the land. The Seventy Weeks prophecy is God's assurance to Daniel that God will intervene, lifting the nation of Israel out of its degenerate state to total reconciliation.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on the significance of the third day as a biblical motif, reiterates that the third day indicates a colossal turn-around from hopelessness and despair to victory and jubilation. The motif is also displayed in a secular event, the Battle of Gettysburg, in which, after two days of intense pounding from the Confederate Army, the Union forces finally rallied, turning the course of history around, to the ultimate saving of the Union. The third day rally, or revival motif, recurs throughout Scripture. For example, it manifests itself in David's sacrifice at the threshing floorof Aruna, when David finally realized the horrible depth of his sin. This action rallied Israel, leading to the construction of Solomon's Temple and a golden age for Israel. On the third day of creation, the sea and land were separated and seed life began to germinate. Another example is Jonah's revival from the belly of the great fish on the third day, which prefigured Christ's resurrection on the third day, at which time He was restored to His former glory. His post-resurrected body established His identity as the Messiah and Son of God. The disciples at that time internalized prophetic connections that were previously only academic in their thinking Isaac's rescue from certain death was another third day event, providing a type of Christ's resurrection. Because of Abraham's sterling obedience on this third day, his physical and spiritual offspring were richly blessed. After three days, Pharaoh's butler was restored, as Joseph's interpretation of his dream forecasted. Esther's petition before the king, restoring the well-being of her people, occurred on the third day. The Great Tribulation, using a year for a day principle, (two days of Satan's wrath and one day of God's wrath) will have its dramatic turn-around on the third day, when God's government will destroy and replace all the Satanic governments and replace them with the Kingdom of God. After incredible pain comes an indescribable reward.
John Ritenbaugh, suggesting that much of Protestantism shares more of an approach to Deism (that is, God establishes His laws and then abandons His creation to their machinations) than to Theism (that is, God maintains watchful control on His Creation), takes issue with the Dispensationalist views of John Darby and Cyrus Scofield, both of whom believed that God, like an absent-minded inventor, continually changed His approach, in the process dumbing down the process for salvation. In reality, God has had the same plan from the beginning, creating godly seed in His image, having His inner character. From the beginning, God has set certain individuals apart, putting them through an intensive sanctifying process, purifying, cleaning, and perfecting their character until they reflect His image like a mirror. From the line of Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God has called individuals who demonstrated blamelessness in their dealings, providing them grace, giving them tools to perform tasks He ordained for them, continually proving their faithfulness. Sanctification requires that we clean up our act, from our physical lives to our spiritual lives, having clean and wholesome thoughts as we wear clean garments. As we, the descendants of Seth, Noah, and Abraham, progress in the sanctifying (sanitizing and cleaning) process, we can expect antagonism and enmity from the seed of Satan, that is, the descendants of Cain, those who, under Satan, move and shake to this present evil generation), those who hate and reject God's Law and His covenants.
Martin Collins, citing Dennis Prager's Town Hall article, Is America Still Making Men?, suggests that there is a profound dearth of real masculine leadership today, as young men seem to be protracting their pubescence, preferring to remain boys with no responsibilities than to embrace leadership roles. When boys fail to grow into men, women and all society suffers. The family is languishing for real leadership as well as all levels of government. As Joshua felt fearful at assuming leadership, most men also feel the same trepidation, but God Almighty has placed in their DNA the ability to lead, with a view that they lead their families with a balanced proportion of compassion and firmness. Courage is a gift given by God, augmented and amplified when we embrace His law as a part of us. God charges us to do a specific work (such as to lead one's family), requiring us to delve into the Scripture daily for guidance until we know the mind of God through continued practice of living and following His principles. The successful leader is first and foremost a follower of God and His Holy law. Confidence derives from a close relationship with God.
Richard Ritenbaugh asks us to consider how we would discipline a recalcitrant, obstinate child, examining a repertoire of techniques from harsh to indulgent, reminding us that good parents should have a whole quiver of solutions, not just a carrot or a stick. The children of Jacob have throughout history behaved like spoiled brats, perennially earning God's wrath and discipline. Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets, pictures a shout of warning, a time of gloominess and dread, the Day of the Lord in the valley of decision, the great tribulation when God's wrath will be poured upon mankind, a curse they bring on themselves. Sadly many in God's Church will also ignore the warning, reaping the consequences of their lack of submission. God is full of grief that it has come to this sad state of apostasy. Our worship on the Day of Trumpets should constitute praise and worship, extolling the attributes, blessings, and promises of God. The Feasts of God establish God's statutes, laws, testimonies, ordinances, and rulings. If we would keep God's Feasts properly, we would be in sync with God's noble purpose for us, defending us from falling into apostasy and idolatry. God tested physical Israel and is continuing to test spiritual Israel, the Israel of God. We dare not imitate the rebellion of our forebears on the Sinai who fell into idolatry, but rather must hallow God and keep His Commandments.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing upon Book IV of the Psalms, corresponding with the fall festivals, singles out the Feast of Trumpets for its themes and imagery, as well as the Summary Psalm 149. Trumpets could be considered the opening salvo of the fall feasts, beginning with a blast of the trumpet or shofar, reminiscent of the event on Mount Sinai in which God visited His people, brought the Law, and brought righteous judgment—an event which depicts another judgment coming upon the earth following the Seventh Trumpet and the seven trumpet plagues or bowls of judgment in which God will shake the earth and destroy those whose goal has been to destroy the earth, and a time when Christ will claim His Bride and the Marriage of the Lamb will commence. Psalm 91 anticipates the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ coming for judgment, and destruction, but also putting a protective hedge around His people. Psalm 90, written by Moses, wistfully asks how long it will be before this condition of temporariness can be turned to eternal life. Psalm 91, perhaps also written by Moses, discusses a kind of place of refuge in which the protected saints can view the destruction of Satan's evil system. Psalm 94 seems to reflect the point of view of saints not in a place of safety, anxiously waiting for the end of times of tribulation. The key to weathering these fearful times is drawing close to God with a view of emulating His life and getting to know Him, preparing for rulership in His Kingdom.
Martin Collins, speculating as to why Joshua was left out of the honor roll of the faithful in Hebrews 11, suggests that possibly Joshua's deeds far eclipsed Joshua the human being. It is clear that all of Joshua's remarkable deeds were actually a demonstration of God's mighty power. Joshua was the faithful assistant of Moses, qualifying to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. At one point, Moses seemed to reprimand Joshua for his apparent jealousy that he was not allowed to prophesy. The name Joshua means "God will save" or "God will help." Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who told the truth and remained faithful to God. Joshua was anointed and granted God's Holy Spirit, capable of leading God's people. Joshua, whose name has the same etymology as Jesus Christ, has been designated as a type of Christ, leading his people into the Promised Land as Christ leads us into the Kingdom of God. The farewell blessings of Moses, Joseph and Paul indicate the special nature of Joshua's leadership. Joshua similarly charged those who would continue the leadership of God's people, admonishing them to remain courageous, loving God and His Law ardently, serving Him with all their heart and soul. Joshua, after reminding the people how God had intervened for them, warned the new leaders not to assimilate into pagan culture, but instead to choose to follow God and His Holy Law, reminding them that obedience brings blessing; disobedience bring curses.
Martin Collins, reflecting on the phenomena of rogue waves (unpredictable destructive waves that reach up to 100 feet), suggests that many lives have been lost at sea because of them. Sea imagery and maritime metaphors are used throughout scripture to depict chaos, destruction, turbulence, and disorder. In contrast to the tumultuous waves, the sea of glass in front of God's throne is tranquil and serene, as well as awe-inspiring. Before we can stand before God on this sea of glass, we are required to be totally cleansed and consecrated. Solomon had a bronze sea constructed (holding 17,000 gallons of water) to symbolize the sea of glass before God's throne, used for the cleansing of the priests in the temple. The imagery of the turbulent worldly sea (from where the Beast emerges) stands in stark contrast with the imagery of the sea of glass like crystal before God's throne, depicted in Revelation 4, a throne surrounded by an emerald rainbow. God's throne will be the focal point for all future periods of judgment and installation into His family. Even when it is seen in vision, the throne room of God itself makes stalwart individuals weak as gelatin because of the awe and splendor of the surroundings.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that we are to follow Abraham and Sarah's example of relying on God's guidance, learning to trust in the wisdom of Almighty God rather than the world. In order to avoid strife, Abraham allowed his forward nephew Lot first choice. Likewise, the apostle Paul admonished the New Testament church to refrain bringing law suits before the public. Abraham and Sarah were willing to suffer loss in order to achieve peace. Regarding the current scattered flocks, any spirit of competition is the way of enmity and strife. The sheep do not belong to any man or any one group, but they belong to Christ, given to Him by the Father. It is Christ's, not the minister's responsibility to get the sheep into the Kingdom of God. The Church of the Great God sees the other splinter groups as brethren in the greater church of God rather than competitors. Unlike certain understandings in our previous fellowship, each person is directly and individually responsible for his own submission to God's government. No external coercion will develop character or submission to God. Throughout history, the large congregation has been the anomaly rather than the norm. The scattering of the flock has been a blessing, forcing people to take individual responsibility to develop godly character, responding to a still small voice rather than to brazenly get out in front of God. The Bible is replete with examples of great leaders, with hubris, presumptuousness, or pride who got out in front of God (Satan, Abraham, Sarah, Korah, and Josiah) causing irreparable consequences for their descendents. The antidote to presumptuousness involves patiently waiting on the Lord, following God's lead, resisting any impulse to get out in front of God.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the significance of the Day of Trumpets, asserts that it is characterized by shouting or a memorial of blowing of trumpets (teruah), signifying alarm, joy, or excitement. Before the commandment to keep this feast, only one event involving trumpets had occurred to the Israelites, namely the giving of the Covenant on Mount Sinai, when God spoke audibly to Moses and the people, intentionally intimidating them to test their faithfulness, to instill the fear of the Lord in them, and to keep them from sin. Most Israelites soon forgot the magnitude of God's power. When the psalmist Asaph remembered God's power, he was motivated to worship Him properly. This fear enables us to learn to walk in God's ways, acquiring wisdom and understanding, avoiding and hating evil, loving and finding refuge in God, ultimately attaining the reward of eternal life. The fear of the Lord is the basic attitudinal setting for a Christian, called by Jesus "poor in spirit."
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the account of Simeon in Luke 2:25-30, speculates about the specific things Simeon did to sustain his hope. Simeon's life serves as a precursor to that of God's called-out ones, demonstrating the elements necessary to bring a person to spiritual maturity. The first is hope in God's law. Like Moses, we as firstfruits stand as a kind of mediator, meticulously digesting God's law in order to teach it to the rest of mankind. The second is hope in God's Holy Spirit, which enables us to overcome, produce fruit, and provide witness. The third is hope in God's judgment of the Pentecost offering, representing us, presented to God for inspection, evaluation, and acceptance. The fourth is hope in being God"s firstfruits, the wave loaves that are totally consumed by the Priest in His service, giving us hope that we will indeed be in His Kingdom.
Richard Ritenbaugh focuses upon the memorial aspect of the Day of Trumpets, especially the blowing of trumpets and shouting. One major incident involving the blowing of trumpets, occurring at the outset of Israel's incursion into Canaan, was the fall of the city of Jericho, when Joshua (a type of Christ) meets the Commander of the Armies of the Lord, whose sword is drawn in a posture of judgment. Jericho, undoubtedly the most invulnerable fortress in all of Canaan, nevertheless was delivered (as an inheritance) into the hands of God's chosen people through the blowing of trumpets or rams' horns (announcing the presence of God). The battles of Jericho and Armageddon provide the opening salvos establishing God's chosen people in occupied territory, driving out the abominable influence of the previous occupants.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the shock and awe bombardment in Iraq, focuses upon the original shock and awe display on Mount Sinai, as well as the ultimate shock and awe campaign the world will experience at the second coming of Christ. Descriptions of this calamitous event abound throughout the Psalms and prophecies, depicting in awesome graphic detail the carnage and destruction of the Day of the Lord—the time of which no one knows! When these events begin to unfold (like a thief in the night), they will occur at meteoric speed. We dare not be caught sleeping but must show continual vigilance.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that Old Testament activities picture New Testament realities, far from done away, but raised or elevated to their spiritual intent. As a parallel to the Aaronic priesthood, the church has been chosen as a royal and holy priesthood (in training) offering up spiritual sacrifices and proclaiming praises of God (I Peter 2:5,9). Paul insists that our sacrifices (reasonable service) should extend to everything we do in life (Romans 12:2), including prayer, study, meditation, as well as sharing goods and experiences (Hebrews 13:15-16).
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that we are manufactured goods designed specifically to glorify God. We have been summoned or separated from the rest of the world for the specific purpose of having God reproduced in ourselves — becoming clean and pure, transformed into God's image. As God's royal priesthood, we have a responsibility to draw near to God, keeping His commandments, witnessing to the world that God is God. Chipping away at the living stones, fitting them into their proper places, God works continually shaping and fashioning His new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing upon Peter's Pentecost sermon, suggests that the accompanying signs attracted attention, confirmed God's Word through His servants, and provided symbolic meaning to the unseen effects of the Holy Spirit. Both wind and fire have destructive potential, providing threat or negative reinforcement. The positive reinforcement or motivating power of the Holy Spirit consists of God's Word—or the still small voice, preached through His messengers. If we continue undergoing the sanctifying process and exercising righteous judgment, we will not have to worry about the negative reinforcement (the Day of the Lord). We have the choice of falling under God's wrath or calling out to the Savior for protection, yielding to His Holy Spirit, preparing ourselves for His Kingdom.
The church plays a major role in God's Word, so it is no wonder that the church is represented by literally dozens of symbols. These symbols, taken together, paint a very detailed picture of the future bride of Christ.
The Sermon on the Mount is as vitally important to us today as it was when Christ preached it. It contains within it the very way we are to conduct our lives as God's representatives on this earth. How well are we following what Christ taught?
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that the practical advice in Hebrews 12-13 fits our current condition like a glove. Like the recipients of this epistle, the greater church of God, having drifted away and given in to sin, we must also lay aside every weight which encumbers, accept God's chastening, receive encouragement from those who have already succeeded (Hebrews 12:1), and energetically get back into the spiritual race. We should allow nothing to deter us from the goal, remembering the consequences if we fail. All of our behaviors — including demonstrating brotherly love and hospitality, exercising empathy, strengthening our marriages, being content with God's blessings, submitting to leadership, avoiding strange doctrines, coming out of this world, praying without ceasing, and being charitable — must be done out of a pure heart.
The history of Israel is not only a fascinating study, but it also reveals important facts and principles necessary for proper understanding of prophecy. Once Isreal is identified prophetically, Bible prophecy opens up and God's plan becomes plain!
We know the holy days typify the steps in God's plan. What happens between Pentecost and Trumpets, the long summer months? John Ritenbaugh expounds on the subject of sanctification.
What does God see in Israel that so affronts Him that He has to swear "by His holiness"? Israel had every opportunity that the Gentiles did not have: His calling, His promises, His Word, His laws. He gave the Israelites these gifts to help them develop into His sons and daughters, but God sees them as diametrically opposite of Himself. Should not God expect to see some of His characteristics in His sons?
In this sermon on the meaning of Unleavened Bread, John Ritenbaugh warns that emphasizing our initiative at putting out sin is wrong. Unleavened bread serves as a memorial of God's initiative of delivering us from the bondage of sin. Like our forebears, we have to realize that our part of the salvation process is to follow God's lead, cooperating with His will. When we metaphorically leave Egypt (a type of the world), we leave the location of our sin, leaving behind anything that will hinder us from reaching the Promised Land. Eating unleavened bread symbolizes following God's lead, doing righteousness, and imitating the righteousness of God.
Sometimes, we get down because we think that all our labors for God have gone unnoticed. Elijah did, and his story points out a major lesson we all would do well to heed today.
The church at large has downplayed the fuller dimension of the fear of God by emphasizing awe, respect, or reverence, while ignoring its other dimensions such as fright, dread, or terror. Consequently, many have inadvertently adopted a soft concept of God, disrespecting and showing contempt for God's authority and power. Mistakenly, we transfer or appropriate our fear to human beings, who cannot revoke the penalty of death hanging over us. When Moses and Isaiah recognized God's presence, they became aware of their own vileness in comparison to God's holiness and power. By legitimately fearing God, we lose our human terror, finding sanctuary in God Almighty. Godly fear is a gift given to us as a result of His calling, compelling submission to His purpose and leading to godly knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that understanding comes through sacrifice and that our lives alternate between light (understanding) and darkness (confusion). Abraham's experiences teach us not to try to force God's will by contrivances of the flesh. When any sin or self- will is involved, the fruits of such an endeavor will be bitter and disappointing (as was the incident involving Abraham and Hagar). Abraham's righteousness equated with his acquired humble unflinching trust in God rather than his skill at law keeping. The gift of grace comes only to those who yield to God by faith, establishing a warm working relationship with Him, performing righteousness through the power of His Holy Spirit.
John Ritenbaugh explains that Stephen ignited the ire of the Hellenistic Jews, a group passionately devoted to the temple, law and land as a defensive reaction to their historical scattering. Stephen rebukes them for their reactionary (almost superstitious) devotion to the past or reverence to a specific temple location, advocating instead a pilgrim mentality, realizing that God is not confined to a fixed location. Stephen points out that historically, God has dealt with His people without land or temple, but instead through a series of deliverers (Joseph, Moses, and ultimately, Jesus Christ), initially unrecognized or rejected by their own people. Stephen suggests that his audience has rejected the Deliverer and has replaced it with an idol (of worshiping the temple) as their forefathers had turned to a golden idol, while rejecting God and His living law.
John Ritenbaugh warns the greater Church of God that since we constitute the Israel of God, the book of Amos directly applies to us. The pilgrimages to Gilgal made by the people of ancient Israel were repulsive to God because no permanent change (in terms of justice ' hating evil and loving good or righteous behavior) occurred in their lives as a result of these pilgrimages. In terms of human relationships, instead of God's Commandments and instead of the Golden Rule, Israel zealously practiced self-centered, pragmatic situation ethics- liberally mixed or syncretized with pagan religion. Unlike ceremonial religion, true religion reaches out and touches every aspect of life, making a permanent transformation or change in thought and behavior. Ceremony and sincerity cannot be considered mutually exclusive components of religion. God, totally impartial in His dealings with all people, demands a higher standard of righteous behavior from those who have consciously made a covenant with Him and are acquainted with His Law.
John Ritenbaugh observed that ancient Israel had regarded Bethel (as well as Gilgal and Beer Sheba) as a sacred shrine (a place where Jacob had been transformed —his name changed to Israel) but were not becoming spiritually transformed as a result of pilgrimages to these locations. One example of their residual carnality was the corruption of their court system- a striking parallel to modern Israel. We need to remember that Amos is written to the end-time church, urging that true religion is not a way to God but from God, emphasizing that (1) we must have a real love for God's truth, (2) submit to God as our part of the relationship, (3) be concerned about earning God's approval, (4) have moral integrity, and (5) exercise social responsibility. Amos warned ancient and modern Israel not to exalt symbolism over substance- a condition leading to Jacob's trouble or the Great tribulation. We need to secure our relationship with God (and our quest for holiness-involving action, emotion, and thought), not taking His grace for granted realizing that God will not budge one inch with his law.
John Ritenbaugh warns that we dare not allow a root of bitterness to spring up in us as a result of the trials we go through - those burdens intended by God to strengthen us and perfect us. We are warned not to emulate the example of Esau, whose worldly mindset blunted his ability to distinguish the sacred from the profane, leading him to give up his birthright to satisfy a bodily craving. We have superior promises (of future Eternal life and a place in God's very family as well as current access to God's presence through the work of Jesus Christ). The intense admonitory quality in the twelfth chapter stems from the stark, inescapable reality that God will not budge one inch on sin. Far from being an indulgent lenient parent, God is a consuming fire to those who will not obey. We need to develop the same white-hot hatred for sin as does our Heavenly Father. Finally we are admonished to (1) increase our fellowship with our brethren, (2) practice hospitality, (3) sympathize and empathize with those going through trials, (4) strive for pure and chaste marriages, (5) resist covetousness, and (6) ease the ministry's burden