Eschatology Outlines: No. 6B Israel and the Church (conc.)

Posted by R. Fowler White

The Typological Significance of Israel:
Hebrews 3-12

I. Doubtless the clearest example of how God’s covenants testify to Christ is Moses, Israel, and the old covenant. In summary, God fashioned Moses and Israel as a shadow and type of Christ and the church (1 Cor 10:1-11; Heb 3:1-6; 8:1-6; 10:1). According to Heb 3:1-6, God has one house (not two or more) in history, and that one house was once in the care of Moses the servant of God, but now is in the care of Jesus the Son of God. Hebrews also tells us that Moses was a testimony of the things to come in Christ. Later, in Heb 7–10, we’re told that the entire old covenant arrangement—from its covenant to its sanctuary, to its priests, to its sacrifices—was a shadow and type of the new covenant arrangement with its sanctuary, priest, and sacrifice. The following points will allow us to elaborate on this summary.

II. Periodization of history—The author of Hebrew divides history into two periods: the time before reformation and the time of reformation, 9:10. He also divides history into the time before the last days and the time of the last days, 1:1-2. In the context of his epistle, the time before reformation (i.e., before the last days) is the time of the old covenant; the time of reformation (i.e., of the last days) is the time of the new covenant.

A. God’s house: Israel and the church are presented as two covenantal administrations of one and the same house of God. Jesus the faithful Son over God’s house is greater than Moses the faithful servant in God’s house, 3:1-6.

B. God’s promise and warning: Israel and the church are the one house of God to whom He addresses His promise of rest and His warning against wrath. God’s people under Moses forfeited the promise of God’s rest preached to them, 3:7-19. We’re to heed, therefore, the warning in Ps 95: don’t be like the exodus generation, 3:7-11. The promise of rest and the warning of wrath still apply, 3:12-19. God’s people under Jesus have had God’s promise of rest reaffirmed to us, 4:1-13. Therefore, we’re to respond in faith to the promise of rest (in the New Canaan-earth), 4:1-2. The promise of God’s rest, issued at creation and reissued by David after Joshua, remains, 4:3-10. Therefore, we should remain diligent to enter the rest God still promises in the New Canaan-earth, 4:11-13.

III. The Levites’ priesthood, covenant, sanctuary, sacrifices, and ministry were all copies, types, and shadows of Jesus’ Melchizedekal priesthood, covenant, sanctuary, sacrifice, and ministry; the antitypical reality is better than the types, Heb 7:1–10:18.

Key: As God moves His house through the history of His revelation and redemption, He shifts our attention from earthly, temporary copies and shadows (pictures, models, patterns, types) of heavenly, eternal realities (archetypes, antitypes) to the heavenly, eternal realities themselves. The shadows are not simply replaced by the realities; they are fulfilled in them. The earthly was patterned after the heavenly. That is, the heavenly was the pattern for the earthly. The temporary was changeable and transitory; it pointed above and ahead to the unchangeable and permanent.

A. Jesus the Melchizedekal priest has replaced the Levitical priests, 7:1-28. As we should have anticipated from Ps 110 and Gen 14, the Levitical priesthood was not permanent. Melchizedek’s powerful and effective priestly order preceded (Gen 14) and has now replaced Levi’s weak and ineffective priestly order. Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, the father of Levi, 7:1-10. Melchizedek’s priestly order has therefore replaced Levi’s priestly order: Melchizedek’s order is a priesthood ministering with God’s oath; it has replaced a priesthood ministering without God’s oath, 7:11-28.

B. The new, better covenant has been enacted; the old covenant is now obsolete, 8:1-13. (Note: the old covenant was temporary, provisional, 9:8-10.)—Jesus is now ministering as a high priest in the heavenly sanctuary, 8:1-3. He cannot minister as a priest on earth, 8:4-5. He has obtained a better, heavenly ministry than the earthly ministry of the Levites, 8:6.—The new covenant is better than the old covenant, 8:7-13. The introduction of a second covenant shows that the first is “faulty,” 8:7. The new covenant is not like the old, in which the people did not continue, 8:8-9. The new covenant creates a new people, 8:10-12. The announcement of the new covenant shows that the old was to come to an end, 8:13.

C. The old sanctuary, sacrifices, and service were not fully and finally powerful to purify, 9:1-10. The old sanctuary—the tabernacle—was prepared, 9:1-5, and the old sacrificial ministry (liturgy) was performed, 9:6-10, to show that before Christ there was no direct access to God.

D. The new sanctuary, sacrifice, and ministry are fully and finally powerful to purify, 9:11-28. The new sacrifice and ministry of Christ our High Priest are powerful to purify, 9:11-14. The new sacrifice of Christ was necessary to put the new covenant into effect, 9:15-28.

E. The new sacrifice is fully and finally powerful to purify; the old sacrifices were not, 10:1-18. The Law’s sacrifices were powerless to purify sinners to meet God, 10:1-4. Christ’s sacrifice has replaced the sacrifices made according to the Law, 10:5-10. The finished work of Christ has superseded the endless work of the Levites, 10:11-14. As Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy told us, “forgiveness granted” means “sacrifice has ceased,” 10:15-18.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5B Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation (conc.)

Posted by R. Fowler White

Gentile Christians should understand the mystery at work in God’s salvation of Israel, Rom 11:25-27. In this context, the term mystery means something known and understood only by divine revelation.

I. A part of Israel, not all of Israel, has been hardened, Rom 11:25.

A. Note well: Paul says in 11:25 what he has already said in 11:5, 7: “a partial hardening has happened” = “the rest were hardened.” The hardening in Israel is not total; it is only partial. There is an elect remnant in Israel. Thus, “the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened.”

B. Note well: Paul does not say, “a temporary hardening has happened.” Paul is not thinking of events that happen sequentially; rather he is thinking of events that happen concurrently (contemporaneously), 11:30-31: “the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened.” There is both obtaining and hardening at the present time.

C. How long does this partial hardening last? When does this partial hardening end? It lasts until—it ends when—“the fullness of [= the full number of the elect remnant from among] the Gentiles has come in.”

II. What follows the end (completion) of Israel’s partial hardening? Will the hardening be lifted so that there is no longer just a remnant, but rather a total—or at least a vast-majority—restoration/conversion of the Israelite nation? Is Paul’s point in 11:12 that, after the fullness of Israel comes in, there will be blessing for the Gentiles even greater than during the period of Israel’s apostasy? The context must decide. Note: if all the Gentile elect are saved with Israel in a state of partial hardening, then there will be no more Gentiles left to save if that condition is ever remedied. This can only mean that the full number of the Israelite elect is saved while, not after the full number of Gentiles is saved. This means that the “resurrection” in 11:15, which follows the salvation of the fullness of Israel, cannot be a massive Gentile revival, but is best taken as a reference to the general resurrection of the dead.

III. And thus all Israel will be saved, Rom 11:26.

A. And thus tells us not when (= “And then, after the full number of Gentiles comes in, … “), but how—“in such a manner; by such a process; by this means”—all Israel will be saved. Paul’s point is not the fact that the totality of Israel (head for head) will be saved, but the fashion in which all the elect remnant of Israel will be saved. In the preceding verses, Paul has looked to the past and the present to understand the fashion in which God brings salvation to Israel.

B. all Israel: who are they?

1. Are they “all ethnic descendants of Abraham”? No, that’s a form of ethnic universalism, at least in a given generation; in the past and the present God has saved according to the principle of particularism (remnant).

2. Are they “all ethnic descendants of Abraham living in the future”? No, this too is contrary to the historical principles of election and reprobation. Moreover, Israel was never defined purely in ethnic terms: circumcised Gentiles were counted as Israelites; similarly, covenant-breaking descendants of Abraham were counted as non-Israelites, Gen 17:14. Israel was defined covenantally, not ethnically.

3. Are they “most ethnic descendants of Abraham living in the future”? There is no basis in biblical history on which to quantify the percentage that God will save most of those in any given generation of ethnic descendants. What we know is that historically God has consistently applied the principle of election. We must also keep in mind that God defines Israel covenantally, not ethnically.

4. Are they “all the elect of ethnic Israel, the full number of elect from Israel throughout the ages”? This interpretation yields a good sense of the text. It is consistent with the parallel term the fullness of the Gentiles = the full number of elect from the Gentiles throughout the ages. Its weakness is that it neglects the union of Jew and Gentile by ingrafting into the one olive tree in Rom 11:16-24.

5. The most satisfying answer: all Israel refers to the full number of elect from Israel together with the full number of the elect ingrafted from the Gentiles.

IV. Summary: God works the disobedience and obedience of Jews and Gentiles to the gospel together according to His purpose in election and mercy. Jewish disobedience leads to Gentile obedience; Gentile obedience anticipates Jewish obedience. From the Gospel perspective, Israel is a nation hostile to the gospel for the sake of the Gentiles. From the Election perspective, Israel is a nation beloved for the sake of the fathers. In other words, there is a remnant among the children of the flesh as there is among all the Gentile nations. God has not rejected Israel completely, but He has done so partially. Israel’s stumbling served God’s purposes beyond their fall, namely, the purposes of Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy. We are not to think, however, that the provocation of the Jews to jealousy is a phenomenon only at the end of the age after the full number of the Gentiles has come in. Rather, the fullness of Israel and the fullness of the Gentiles are both coming in (i.e., being saved) throughout the interadvent age. When the fulness of the remnant from all the nations on earth comes in, then, Christ’s evangelistic mission will have come to an end, bringing about the resurrection and final judgment of the righteous and the wicked.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5A Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation

Posted by R. Fowler White

In my view, the best overall treatments of this subject are found in O. P. Robertson, The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Presbyterian and Reformed, 2001), ch. 6, and Sam Storms, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Christian Focus, 2013), ch. 10.

I. Context of Romans—Condemnation of sinners: the need for righteousness by Jews as well as Gentiles, 1:18-3:20. Justification of sinners: the imputation of righteousness by grace through faith in Christ, 3:21–5:11. Sanctification and glorification of the justified: union with and final conformation to Christ, 5:12–8:39. Vindication of the God of Israel: His righteousness in relation to Israel, 9:1–11:36. Application: God’s righteousness at work in His people, 12:1–15:13.

II. Overview of Romans 9–11—Vindication of the God of Israel: His righteousness in relation to Israel, 9:1–11:36. God’s rejection of Israel according to the principle of election, 9:1-29. God’s rejection of Israel explained: their refusal of God’s gift of righteousness, 9:30–10:21. God’s rejection of Israel qualified: neither complete nor without purpose, 11:1-32. Doxology 11:33-36.

A. God has not rejected Israel completely, but has done so partially, 11:1-10. The remnant of the present is Paul’s proof that God has not rejected His people (i.e., that God is faithful to His word). The living proof of Paul himself, 11:b-2a; the proof from the past: the parallel case of Elijah, 11:2b-6. The point: general apostasy does not mean that there is no remnant. The condition of Israel is twofold: blessing to the elect, blindness of the rest, 11:7-10. Note: Paul does not prove his point by citing a restoration in the future, but by citing the presence of a remnant in the present. God is dealing with Israel now as He has always dealt with Israel.

B. Israel’s stumbling served two purposes: Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy. Israel did not stumble merely for the purpose that they should fall, but for the purpose that Gentiles should be saved and they (Israel) should be made jealous by Gentile salvation, 11:11-15. God’s purposes included a good beyond the tragedy of Israel’s unbelief: Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy and salvation. Paul argues from the lesser to the greater, 11:11-12, 15: the lesser (trespass, failure, rejection) brings riches to the Gentiles, the greater (fullness, acceptance) means “resurrection.”

1. Note well: by magnifying his ministry to the Gentiles, Paul intends to make the Jews jealous now, in the present age, 11:13-14, 30-31.

2. The provocation of the Jews to jealousy, then, is not a phenomenon only, if at all, at the end of the age after the full number of the Gentiles has come in. It is a reality coming to pass in Paul’s 1st C. ministry and in the course of the present age.

C. Gentiles should not boast/gloat over the condition of Israel, 11:16-24. The lesson, 11:22-24, applied to Gentiles: warning of being cut off for those who don’t continue in faith; applied to Jews: promise of regrafting for those who believe.

1. The patriarchal root that supports Gentiles is the same root that supports Jews. Gen 12:3 (cf. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Jer 4:2; Acts 3:25), In you [the patriarchs through Christ], all the families of the earth—Gentiles and Jews—will be blessed. Abraham is reckoned the father of all who believe, Jews as well as Gentiles.

2. It is not that Gentiles replace Jews; it is that Gentiles are ingrafted to the same root.

3. God broke off the Israelite nation from His visible church through the ministry of Jesus, Matt 21:43, as prophesied by John the Baptist, Matt 3:11-12.

4. God re-grafts the elect Israelite remnant now by making them jealous. This is the merciful complement to His judgment on the nation. Acts gives us examples: the Pentecost conversions; Paul; Crispus; Apollos. In judgment God remembers mercy.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5B Paul on Israel’s Salvation and Rejection (conc.)

Eschatology Outlines: No. 4 The Apostolic Writings

Posted by R. Fowler White

Getting Our Bearings on the End from Hebrews

The author’s expectations appear to be shaped by parallels with the days of Noah and Lot and with the Sinai theophany. He anticipates the day of redemptive wrath (10:26) in which God will shake the present heavens and earth in the fury of theophanic fire (12:26-29), after which emerges an unshakable new heavens and new earth. In that day, the adversaries of God, among whom will be apostates and persecutors, will be consumed in the fiery conflagration (10:27, 30-39), and the people of God will receive their eternal inheritance of rest (3:7–4:11) in the lasting city (13:14) of that unshakable kingdom-homeland (11:14) in the world to come (2:5). The macrocosmic scale of the judgment with fire matches the scale of Noah’s flood, and in both cases the delivered remnant enjoys rest from their toilsome labors in a new earth. Also, the deliverance of God’s people into a new Canaan-earth is explicitly compared to the deliverance of Israel into Canaan, while the destruction of God’s enemies in Hebrews is implicitly compared to the fiery destruction of Sodom.

Getting Our Bearings on the End from Paul
(1 Corinthians 15; 2 Thessalonians 1-2; Romans 8)

I. The defeat of the last enemy, death, will mark the culmination of a complex of events (1 Cor 15:22-28), the essentials of which mirror the days of judgment in previous generations. As in the days of Noah and Lot, apostasy from the faith and lawlessness will bring cultural decline, provoking the wrath of Christ (cf. 2 Thess 2:3, 8-12; 1 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Tim 3:1-5 with Gen 4:17-24; 6:1-7, 11-12). Absent the restraint of God’s common grace (cf. 2 Thess 2:6-7 with Gen 6:3), the eschatological counterpart to Cainite Lamech (whether individual or corporate) will appear as a new abomination that brings defilement to and desolation upon the temple of God.

II. Special note on 2 Thess 2:4 and the expression temple of God

A. The phrase temple of God has multiple referents in Scripture: it is applied to the individual believer’s body, to the sanctuary structure in Jerusalem, to the church, and to the cosmos (heaven and earth). The question naturally arises, therefore: which temple, defiled as it is by the abomination of the man of lawlessness, does Paul have in mind in 2 Thess 2:3-12? We can reasonably exclude from consideration the individual temple of the believer’s body. Conceivably, the temple in view here, then, is either the temple at Jerusalem, or the church, or the cosmos. Though it is plausible that Paul, writing as he is before Jerusalem’s fall in AD 70, has that event in mind, the scale and finality of the phenomena mentioned in 2 Thess 1:5–2:12 fit most naturally with Christ’s second coming. Could the temple of God, then, be a reference to a future temple in Jerusalem? There is no basis in the Apostle’s writings for such an expectation. So, we are left to consider the church and the cosmos as the referent(s) of the phrase temple of God. Of these choices, it is reasonable to presume that the first referent in Paul’s mind is the church, that is, the visible church defiled by apostasy and by the man of lawlessness. Yet we are also able to discern a second referent when we consider that, once apostasy obliterates the boundary between the visible church and the unbelieving world, the defilement of the world fills the apostate church too. Furthermore, since it is clear in the context of 2 Thessalonians that the son of perdition fills the world with his lawlessness, we have to say that the cosmos-temple is defiled with lawlessness even as the church-temple is defiled with apostasy. It appears, therefore, best to see a twofold reference to the macrocosmic (world) and microcosmic (church) temples in the expression the temple of God in 2 Thess 2:4.

B. If the temple of God is interpreted as we suggest above, then, what Paul describes in 2 Thess 2:3-12 is a diabolical reprise of the idolatrous theocracy from the days of Noah and second temple Jerusalem, when the eschatological counterpart to Cainite Lamech will mock God as he assumes the posture of deity (cf. 2 Thess 2:3-4, 9-10 with Dan 9:26-27). To bring an end to his monstrous delusion, the Judge of Lot’s tormentors will again slay the wicked with fire and with His breath (2 Thess 1:8), sending His enemies to their everlasting destruction while rescuing His people (2 Thess 1:7) and bringing them into the glory of the new creation freed at last from the bondage of corruption and death (Rom 8:18-25).

Getting Our Bearings on the End from Peter and Jude
(2 Peter 2–3; Jude 7)

I. 2 Pet 1:19-2:9; Jude 7: Peter and Jude teach us to compare the coming of Christ in judgment with the judgment of the world of Noah (2 Pet 2:5) and the judgment of the city of Lot (2 Pet 2:6-9; Jude 7).

II. 2 Pet 3:1-7, 10-13: Peter teaches us to compare the coming of Christ to judge by fire with the coming of God to judge by flood.

III. Summary—Clearly, as Peter and Jude read the Bible, they teach us to see recurring patterns in God’s governance of history: the past is repeated in the future. It is remarkable to notice in these texts the traits of the days of Noah and of Lot: the decline of culture, the deliverance of a godly remnant, and the destruction of the ungodly.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5A Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation

Armageddon in Rev 16:16

Posted by R. Fowler White

Many sincere Christians have concluded that the term Armageddon in Rev 16:16 describes the predicted geographic location of the final battle between Israeli and anti-Israeli armies, the decisive war to be fought in the plain of Megiddo, near Mount Carmel approx. 25 miles east of the Sea of Galilee. In common parlance, folks apply the term more broadly to a worldwide, age-ending war. Our purpose below is to provide evidence supporting an interpretation of the term in the light of biblical theology.

I. The Holy Wars of the Lord God in the OT

A. The Lord our God as King waged holy war on behalf of His people to make them secure and pure for fellowship-worship in His dwelling place.

B. God’s presence in holy war was manifested in earthquake, thunder, phenomena in sun, moon, and stars, rain and hail, terror and panic. The following are examples.

1. Holy war victory through Moses against the Egyptians; see Exod 15

2. Holy war victory through Joshua and then the faithful judges against the Canaanites; see, for example, Judges 5

3. Holy war victory through David and his faithful sons against their enemies; see, for example, 2 Sam 22:1-16, 32-40, 47-51; Ps 2

4. Holy war victories for Zion; see Pss 46, 48

5. Holy war victory against even faithless apostate Israel; see Habakkuk

6. The final holy war victory against the last assailants of the Spirit-filled Messianic Israel; see Joel 3:9-21 with Joel 2:28-32

7. Interestingly, holy war is never presented in Scripture outside of Revelation as a secular military struggle between nations.

II. The issue in God’s holy wars was not primarily geography, nationality, or ethnicity; the issue was principally theology, Christology, ecclesiology. The issue in God’s last holy war in Revelation is, Are you the Lamb’s Bride or the Bride’s enemy, the Harlot?

A. Taking our point of departure from Revelation, it’s noteworthy that the entire world population before Christ’s return will be divided into the Bride of Christ the Lamb, on the one hand, and her enemy, the Harlot Babylon, on the other. The Bride of the Lamb, Jerusalem-Zion, is a composite entity made up of the tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples of the earth, Rev 5:9. The Harlot Babylon is also a composite entity made up of the peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues of the earth, Rev 17:15.

B. Question: in the context of holy war, how was the identity of Israel’s enemies characterized? Answer: not merely by their geographical or ethnic origin, but by their hostility to the Lord their God. We read of certain Gentiles like Canaanite Rahab in Joshua’s day, Moabite Ruth in the judges’ days, and the Ninevites in Jonah’s day who were marked by conciliation (expressed in faith and repentance), not hostility toward the Lord God.

III. Conclusion: Armageddon is best understood as the worldwide site—the worldwide battleground—of the war at the end of the age between the Harlot and the Lamb on behalf of His Bride.

A. The word Armageddon probably combines two Hebrew words that mean “Mountain of Assembly, Mount of Meeting.” Three contexts in Revelation—16:13-16, 19:19-21, and 20:8-9—all have the same plot and tell the same story. In those contexts, Armageddon is the Mount of Meeting, the encampment of the saints, the beloved city.

B. As the Mount of Meeting, Armageddon is the place where—better, it is wherever—God is present as Divine Warrior to save and to judge.

1. It is wherever He assembles the spirits of the righteous-made-perfect with myriads of angels: it is “Ecclesia Mountain.”

2. It is wherever He engages in judicial surveillance of the world: it is “Lookout Mountain.”

3. It is wherever He convenes His heavenly court for deliberations: it is “Council Mountain.”

4. It is wherever He marshals His troops for battle: it is “Staging Mountain.”

D. Armageddon is wherever God is present as Divine Warrior in final judgment against the Harlot as He brings about the final salvation of the Lamb’s Bride.

1. God’s presence in the final holy war will be manifested in cosmic collapse: earthquake, thunder, phenomena in sun, moon, and stars, rain and hail, with the terror and panic that accompany these phenomena.

2. The Lamb will wage the final holy war against the Harlot to make His Bride secure and pure for fellowship-worship in His eternal dwelling place on the new earth.

Who are the 144,000 in the Revelation to John?

Posted by R. Fowler White

I. Two proposed answers

A. The Christian remnant of ethnic Jews either at the end of the 1st century, or in the future tribulation, or at the 2nd Coming; the number is usually interpreted as figurative, occasionally as literal.

B. The Christian remnant from all nations, Jews and Gentiles; the number is figurative.

II. My answer: The Christian remnant from all nations, Jews and Gentiles, the Church; the number is figurative.

A. The list in Rev 7 is a military census list, and the vision in Rev 14 describes the army of the Lamb. Both chapters in Rev follow the pattern of the military census lists in the OT: see Num 1; 2 Sam 24.

B. The number “1,000” is technical terminology for a military division, as it was in the OT. – It is comparable to the name Legion, which means “thousands,” a word taken from a Latin term for a large group of soldiers that could vary in number from as few as 3,000 to as many as 6,000 men.

C. The 144,000 are an all-male army, 14:4, as the armies of the OT ordinarily were.

D. The 12 tribes of Rev 7 are the 12 tribes of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21. The New Jerusalem is the Church Triumphant, the True Israel composed of the innumerable remnant from all nations, 21:12, 14, 24; 22:2-5. Gentile Christians receive the name of the New Jerusalem, 3:12. These tribes are the Israel of God from whom the idolatrous tribe of Dan (Judg 18) has been omitted. They are Israel according to the Spirit, not Israel according to the flesh.

E. The number “144” is evidently the number of apostles (12) multiplied by the number of tribes (12) of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21. It represents the complete number and perfection of the Church, the whole of God’s people, 21:9-10.

F. The number “144,000” describes the totality of the army of the redeemed, conscripted, and made ready by Christ the Lamb to fight in His holy war.

G. In Revelation John takes OT labels (names, epithets, titles) for Israel away from unbelieving Jews and applies them to the Church, which included both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.

1. Rev 2:9; 3:9 – John takes the name “Jew” away from unbelieving Jews and gives it to believing Gentiles, 2:17; 3:12. They are Israel according to the flesh; they are not the True Israel who worships God in Spirit and truth.

2. Rev 1:5-6; 5:9-10 – John takes the label of “kingdom of priests” from Israel and applies it to believers from all nations, regardless of ethnic origin.

H. This is consistent with the rest of the NT.

1. Christ Jesus declared that the kingdom would be taken from Israel and given to a new nation and people, the Church, Matt 21:43. Israel forfeited its kingdom identity in the fall of Jerusalem.

2. The Apostle Paul takes OT labels for Israel away from unbelieving Jews and applies them to the Church, in which Jews and Gentiles together are the one new people of God, Rom 2:28-29; Gal 6:15-16; Phil 3:3; Eph 2:14-21.

3. The Apostle Peter takes OT labels for Israel away from unbelieving Jews and applies them to the Church, 1 Pet 1:1; 2:9.

I. This is consistent with the OT.

1. Unbelieving Israelites, who didn’t share Abraham’s faith, were declared “Not My People” – they lost the labels of Israel. They lost their national identity in the exile.

2. Believing Gentiles, who like Rahab and Ruth shared Abraham’s faith, received the labels of Israel.

III. Summary: The 144,000 is a symbol representing the Lamb’s army of holy warriors from among the Jews and the Gentiles. They are the Church Militant who becomes the Church Triumphant, the “overcomers” of Revelation. They are not Israel according to the flesh, but the True Israel who worships God in Spirit and truth. They are the true Israel sealed by Christ the Lamb to keep them from apostasy. As many as believe in Christ alone for salvation are among the 144,000.

What’s an Exile to Do? Trust in Your God, Stand Firm in His Grace

Posted by R. Fowler White

With this post we come to the end of our series on the Apostle Peter’s first letter, his survival manual for Christian exiles. His letter is as relevant now as it was in the 1st century because, in the ebb and flow of God’s providence, we Christians find ourselves increasingly pushed to the margins of public life, relegated to social-cultural, if not geographical exile. There’s little doubt that we who confess the historic Christian faith are increasingly viewed as terribly outdated by some and as simply insufferable by others. In that light, we ought to know how Peter would have us live life in this world. His closing message to us in 5:10-14 is as fundamental as it gets: mistreated by the world, embattled by indwelling sin, and threatened by the devil, trust in your invincible God (5:10-11) and stand firm in His grace (5:11-14). We should take a closer look at each of these closing exhortations.

First, continuing his theme of humility under God’s mighty hand (5:6-7), Peter urges us to keep trusting God, casting all our anxieties on Him, because He truly cares for us. Trials, even from the devil, are His “provide-ence” for us, meant to purify us, not damage us. Those whom our God calls to glory He brings through suffering. Our destination is not in the valley of the shadow of death. With Him, we walk through that valley, yes, suffering along the way but only for a little while. You see, our suffering is not eternal. It won’t last forever. Only glory is eternal; only glory is forever. Though we’re broken and hurt, stumbling, the God of all grace … will Himself restore us, putting all that was out of order in order, repairing whatever is damaged. He will Himself confirm us, placing us in a firm and fixed position, causing us to stay the course and remain constant in our faith. He will Himself strengthen us, making us courageous to endure all suffering without stumbling beyond recovery. He will Himself establish us, fortifying us to withstand whatever assaults may come. Peter knew this promise in his own life, for after the ordeal of his infamous threefold denial Christ had restored him, so that he reemerged as that first apostle, that rock of foundation, fixed and solid. No wonder Peter is moved to a doxology: to Him be dominion forever and ever! The promise that Peter had lived applies to us, his fellow exiles, as we make our way through this world. The God of all grace permits our suffering but overrules it to purify us. The God of all grace allows the devil to rage, but his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure! The God of all grace is the Divine Warrior, not only gracious but also omnipotent. The power to accomplish His will is forever His. He will ultimately triumph over evil. What a promise this is from our God! How can we not trust in our invincible God and join Peter in his doxology?

Second and last, Peter exhorts us to stand firm in God’s grace (5:12-14). Here is Peter’s letter in one phrase. Through Silvanus (aka Silas), Peter’s courier, this letter would be circulated among the churches of the Roman provinces in Asia Minor as an exhortation and declaration to them of God’s true grace. As an apostle of Christ, he has laid out the doctrinal and moral truths we need as exiles. He has told us what God has graciously done for us in Christ. Based on Christ’s work, we’re commanded to live holy lives in keeping with that grace. And so, Peter exhorts us one final time to stand firm in grace, to resist all temptations to apostasy. Remember: despite suffering and trial, we’ve been born again to a living hope. We must live therefore in the holiness of that hope. Jesus, having Himself conquered all evil through His suffering, has called us to follow in His steps through suffering into glory. All who do so will be vindicated with Him. Stand firm, then; stand fast in the knowledge of His grace. As we do, we take courage from her who is in Babylon, that is, from our fellow exiles in the church-at-large throughout the known world (in Peter’s time, the Greco-Roman world). Peter may even be referring to the church in ancient Rome, the center of the then world empire and regime as ancient Babylon once was. But here’s Peter’s point: we’re not alone as we stand at the margins. While standing there, we do so firmly, taking courage from others, like John Mark, Peter’s son in the faith (5:13). Peter had known Mark from the earliest days of Jesus and His Church. This same Mark had traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their 1st missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Though Mark had turned back when they got to Asia Minor (Acts 14:24-28) and Paul had rejected him as a co-worker for the next journey, his relationship with Paul had later been restored for ministry together. Having learned of this reunion, Peter had seen the grace of restoration at work. We should see it too and be sure to take encouragement from it. Lastly, while standing firm, we should take courage from each other (5:14a). As we exchange the legendary “holy kiss”—here called the kiss of love, Peter’s point is not a kiss itself, but any outward expression of communion with and affection among us saints as we share in the love and peace of Christ. Fittingly, in that communion of love, we find peace in our God (5:14b). As Peter’s readers, marginalized or worse, we know ourselves to be under some stress, even in distress. How timely it is, then, to hear a benediction of peace from the Apostle who would have us persevere to the end.

So, what’s an exile to do when pushed to the margins of public life, relegated to social-cultural, if not geographical exile? Trust in our invincible God, and stand firm in His grace. The hatred of the world, the fleshly desires at war with our souls, the roar of that diabolical lion—all threaten to undo us. Did we in our own strength confide, we know our striving would be losing. But we’re assured of even more: the right man [is] on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Christ, it is He, Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle. So, again, what’re we exiles to do? We’re to listen to His benediction: Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. … Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27). We’re to read again—and again as needed—the words of His Apostle: Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Pet 1:8b-9).

What’s an Exile to Do? Resist the Devil

Posted by R. Fowler White

In our last few posts from First Peter, we’ve noticed that the Apostle has been focusing our attention on the type of people we need to be to assure our perseverance in times of persecution. In such contexts, we usually hear or read about our three chief enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. In that light, we notice that Peter has talked to us about the world and about the flesh (the sin that indwells us) in 2:11-12. It’s remarkable to realize, then, that in 5:8-9 he nears the finish line by talking about the devil. Peter’s exhortation brings to mind the words that someone has said: “One great error we make is to underestimate the power of Satan. We need a sober and a vigilant understanding of his person and work.” So ask yourself, as I ask myself: do I underestimate Satan’s power? Do I have a sober and vigilant understanding of his person and work? Some might ask, why think about these questions? Because the Apostle tells us that to assure our perseverance in times of marginalization and even persecution, we must resist the devil. To find out just how do we do that, check out the details that Peter provides.

The Apostle declares to us: be sober-minded; be watchful (5:8a). Twice before he has exhorted us in similar terms in chaps. 1 and 4 (1:13; 4:7). He does it again here in chap. 5, and his point is basically the same: “Don’t let the tests and trials of this life make you careless or make you lose sight of the goal.” In other words, Peter doesn’t want us living our lives with distractions or blurred vision. He knows, and we must know, that the trials of exile can divert our attention from our ultimate destination or distract us from the dangers around us. The right state of mind is, therefore, vital to our perseverance. So, he says, stay focused; stay vigilant.

In 5:8b-9, Peter turns specifically to one danger he has in mind, and it’s an enemy whose presence should rivet our attention. Why be sober-minded and watchful? Because your adversary the devil is on the prowl. This is the only place in First Peter where the Apostle mentions the invisible powers of this present darkness who threaten us. This particular foe often works through others whom he has influenced, attacked, or even indwelt. He is said here to prowl around like a roaring lion, looking for and stalking his prey. We hear his roar in the slanderer who undermines God’s word, in the deceiver who distracts us from God’s glory, in the tempter who corrupts our relationships with God and others, particularly His people. He’s a destructive predator whose roar is meant to terrorize us, to force us to cower or even to deny the faith. Don’t give in, says Peter. Resist him. Remain firm in your faith. Continue entrusting yourself to your faithful Creator and the righteous Judge. Through that faith He is protecting us (1:5). Through that faith our souls are on deposit with our trustworthy God for safekeeping (4:19). Clearly, the danger to us is not that we’re helpless; the danger is that we’ll fail to resist. So, Peter says, in effect, hold steady; watch and pray. Stand firm. Resist the devil, and do so knowing that we’re not being singled out. The same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. We’re not the only ones being verbally insulted or physically attacked for Christ. Throughout the world there are others going through exactly what we’re going through—and, yes, some are going through unquestionably worse than we are. So, resist the devil, recognizing that for all of us who suffer unjustly there’s a fellowship in Christ that binds us together. No, we’re not being singled out: the devil’s evil campaign is worldwide, and there are others just like us throughout the world.

Several decades ago, during a presidential campaign, a political ad ran with the following words: There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear. Fellow Christian exiles, marginalized or worse, the Apostle Peter reminds us that, unlike that bear in the woods, there’s no “if” about the roaring lion on the prowl. Some don’t see him at all, but there’s no doubt about his sinister presence in this world. He’s vicious and dangerous, seeking unsuspecting prey to devour. In that light, maturing Christians will be alert to the reality that lurking behind various powers and forces that dominate life in this world is a diabolical enemy who roams the earth, hunting for victims. Listen for his roars in those voices that slander God’s word, that distract from God’s glory, that corrupt your relationships. Even as you discern his presence, don’t underestimate his power or his purpose. Don’t be his unsuspecting prey. As the Apostle tells us, resist that lion-like devil, trusting in God’s mighty hand, and watch him flee (Jas 4:7). He’s powerful, but he’s not invincibleand he knows it. In doing so, gain the assurance that you’ll persevere to the end of these times of marginalization and persecution.

What’s an Exile to Do? Submission and Humility in God’s Sheepfold

Posted by R. Fowler White

In Peter’s first letter—his “Survival Manual for Marginalized Christians”—he focuses our attention on the type of people we Christians need to be to assure our perseverance through the time of our present exile (1 Pet 1:17). He’s exhorted us to pursue moral excellence as we deal with both the world and the sinful passions that wage war against our souls (2:11-12). He’s told us our duties to civil authorities, to bosses, to spouses, to our fellow Christians, and to critics and other persecutors. Having turned again to discuss life in God’s sheepfold in 5:1-11, Peter has talked to us about the ministry of discipleship that elders must perform to assure our perseverance (5:1-4). Now, in 5:5-7, he begins his final appeal to those in the flock whom he calls younger (5:5a) and to all of the sheep (5:5b-7).

When we turn to 5:5a, Peter issues a call to be subject that we’ve heard before (2:13, 18; 3:1), but translators and commentators differ as to who the younger and the elders are. Do both terms refer to men? Do they differ in age, or in Christian maturity, or in office? The Apostle’s immediately preceding reference to the elders as shepherds of God’s flock and the specific duty he enjoins on the younger (be subject) tell us that he’s shifting his focus from what the elders owe the flock to what the flock, particularly those younger in the faith, owe those installed as their elders. Presuming, then, that the flock has recognized their shepherds, Peter instructs us how we non-elders must respond to their ministry. He tells the younger sheep, likewise, be subject to the elders (5:5a; cf. 2:13, 18; 3:1). Clearly, the Apostle doesn’t look on the younger as mere consumers shopping for a church that meets their every preference. No, for Peter, church life is about entering a sheepfold in which there are shepherds qualified to care for God’s sheep. It’s about submitting ourselves to those overseers, placing ourselves in their care, taking our place responsibly under them (cf. 1 Thess 5:12-13; Heb 13:17). Furthermore, as Peter showed in 5:1-3 and will show again in 5:5b-6, the relationship of God’s flock to the elders is not about us non-elders adopting servile, much less rebellious dispositions and behaviors toward our shepherds. On the contrary, flawed and finite as elders are, our submission to them is conditioned first by our obedient humility before God. As such, submission in the sheepfold is, as in every other human relationship, an act of faith: we who are non-elders keep entrusting ourselves to God as we subordinate ourselves to elders, knowing that the Chief Shepherd holds them accountable.

Having called us non-elders to take our place under our elders’ care, the Apostle moves promptly to call all of us to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (5:5b). Interestingly, Peter’s command is for us all to put on one and the same garment, and not just any garment: he specifies that we put on humility. Perhaps Peter here is thinking of what Jesus did (John 13:4-15) when He girded Himself with a towel and taught the disciples—Peter in particular (John 13:6-11)—the lesson of humility (John 13:15). Why humility? Because, as Peter has already told us (3:8), in a colony of exiles, competition for privilege or power is toxic; commitment to the common good is essential (cf. Phil 1:27–2:5). In times of social marginalization or even persecution, then, mutual humility within the sheepfold is an indispensable virtue. We must mortify dispositions and behaviors that domineer, usurp, or withdraw, and instead find our places in honoring and serving others according to our gifts (4:10). But there’s something even more fundamental that lies behind Peter’s exhortation: God’s actions toward the proud and the humble. The former He resists; the latter He favors (cf. 2:19-20). Once again, Peter engages critically with the world’s expectations: he shows us how God deals with the proud and the humble and, in the process, he reforms how we should order our social relationships.

The truth that it is God’s prerogative to apportion honor leads Peter to reassert his call for humility in 5:6-7, but now he underscores that God’s actions toward the proud and the humble require our humility under His almighty hand. Peter has told us that suffering comes to faithful Christians and is part of God’s providence. He’s told us that painful trials are part of the normal Christian life and are the way God purifies us. It is for us, then, to bow ourselves low before Him and to entrust ourselves to Him. If we confess that He really does use even unjust suffering to accomplish His refining purpose in our lives, we must also confess that He has it under His control and us under His care. Our mighty God is more concerned about our welfare than we could possibly be: after all, both His glory and our good are at stake. What greater incentive could there be for us to cast all our anxieties on Him?

So, fellow exiles, do we wish to assure our endurance throughout this time of our present exile (1:17)? Then we must heed the pointed word that Peter has for us in 5:5-7. He would have us recognize what social marginalization and even persecution do to us: they tempt us, out of pride and its fruit anxiety, to compete for the privilege and power denied to us. But such carnal competition has neither efficacy nor place in God’s sheepfold. Why? Because God resists the proud and favors the humble. The Apostle, therefore, commands us to mortify all desire to domineer, usurp, or withdraw and to take our places in honoring and serving others according to our gifts, whether we’re elders or non-elders. He commands all of us in God’s flock to humble ourselves before Him, because His hand is mighty to bring down the proud and to raise up the humble at the proper time. These are our duties, says Peter, because God has made submission and humility twin means of our perseverance in this time of our exile.

What’s an Exile to Do? Elders, Shepherd God’s Exiled Flock

Posted by R. Fowler White

For well over a year now, the congregations of Christ’s church in our nation and world have been dealing with fast-developing, stress-producing changes in public health, economics, politics, and culture. In more ways than we Christians may realize, this current season of testing has offered us a trial run for future times when our marginalization may worsen. If that’s the case, we elders ought to ask: how’s it gone for us and the sheep in our care? Constrained by recent providence, have we elders learned what’s required of us, particularly in seasons of harder trials? Do those in our care regard us as examples to emulate in times of difficult testing? It’s not too late to examine ourselves in light of the instruction Peter has for elders in 1 Pet 5:1-4.

As the Apostle has worked through his plan for “the perseverance of the exiled saints,” he reminded us in 4:12-19 that trials of suffering for righteousness are part of the process by which God removes sin and its impurities from His church and ultimately the world. Following the order of Ezekiel’s prophecy, Peter addresses the church’s elders first, commanding them to shepherd the flock of God in their care (cf. 5:1-4 with Ezek 9:6). As we read these words, let’s recall that the eldership is one of two special offices in God’s house (the other being deacons; cf. Phil 1:1). Pointedly, elders are not a board of directors among whom one is a paid chief executive officer accountable to the others. No, the context in 1 Peter shows us that the terms elder, overseer (bishop), and shepherd (pastor) are essentially interchangeable titles, referring to all those men who by their example and instruction distinguish themselves as those who live a life of faith and practice worthy for others to emulate and who are therefore set apart for the ministry of discipleship, whether they make their living in that ministry or not (1 Tim 3:1-7; 4:12, 16; 5:17-18; 2 Tim 2:2, 24-25; Titus 1:5-9; Eph 4:11; Heb 13:7, 17 with 1 Pet 5:1-3). Having been recognized by congregations for their qualifications, Peter presumes that the non-elder members will submit themselves to their elders’ care, holding them in high esteem because they keep watch over them, give them instruction, serve as judges on their behalf, and otherwise manage the flock’s affairs (1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 3:5; 5:17-18; 1 Cor 6:4, 5 with Exod 18:21-26; Num 11:16-17). Given their responsibilities, it’s easy to see why Peter addresses the elders first.

Interestingly, to start off his exhortation, the Apostle Peter (1:1) cites his own qualifications as a fellow elder (5:1). He acknowledges his official connection with the other elders in the Dispersion (1:1) and presumably elsewhere. He also reminds readers that he’s a witness of Christ’s sufferings. Though Peter did not see Jesus’ crucifixion, he did remain with Jesus during the trials of His ministry (Luke 22:28) and certainly did know about the crucifixion and proclaimed it to others (Acts 2:23; 5:30; 10:39). Faithful, then, as a witness of and to Christ’s sufferings, the Apostle is assured that eternal glory will be his reward (5:1, 10). With his own qualifications laid out, Peter has now let his fellow elders know that he’s not asking them to undertake a ministry that he himself hasn’t undertaken. The particular tasks he has in mind follow.

Knowing that sheep need shepherds to keep them from straying as they suffer unjustly, Peter exhorts us who are elders to give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among us (5:2a NET). As shepherds, we’re obligated to know, feed (teach), guide, and guard the sheep under us. To clarify what he means by shepherding, Peter adds exercising oversight (5:2a), that is, watching over or supervising the sheep whom God has assigned to our care. As overseers, we’re stewards and guardians of the flock (cf. 2:25b), particularly as we defend them against any teaching, belief, or behavior that threatens to scatter or devour them (5:2a). But what attitude and approach are we to take in our work? Peter tells us, first negatively, then positively (5:2b-3). “Shepherd God’s flock,” he says, “not reluctantly or against your will, not because you’re coerced into doing it; but voluntarily, in keeping with God’s revealed character and will. Watch over His sheep, not to get money (like Judas) or influence, but to give care with a holy zeal. Exercise oversight, not by treating the sheep as your subjects or slaves, certainly not by bullying or intimidating them or by being abusive or harsh to them (2 Cor 1:23-24 with 11:20), but by setting an example for them to follow.” In sum, just as Peter framed husbands’ authority within limits defined by obedience to God and by Christ’s example, so he does the same with us who are elders. The Apostle emphatically forbids us shepherds from adopting ways that marginalize or otherwise injure the flock of God in our care.

Lastly, as if his qualifications weren’t enough to motivate us, Peter urges us elders to comply with his directions by pointing us to the future reward for faithful shepherds (5:4). It’s true, of course, that Paul requires elders who do their work well to receive a reward matching their labor now (1 Tim 5:17). Peter, however, looks to the future: if we elders do our work as undershepherds accountable to Jesus the Chief Shepherd, we who have shepherded as God would have us do it (5:2) will receive the unfading crown of glory. The Greco-Roman world rewarded athletes, soldiers, and politicians with crowns of unfading flowers. Peter, however, like Paul, sees God Himself granting that special reward on the last day (e.g., 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tim 4:8). His point is clear: when Christ returns, God will openly acknowledge and honor faithful elders, even though the world may reject and vilify them now (2:4-8; 4:12-19).

According to Peter, God’s process of purifying the church and the world of sin and its impurities has begun with fiery trials at His house, and first in line for purification are the elders. And so our assignment is set before us: would we who are elders show others the lessons of perseverance that we have learned during recent providence? Would we prove ourselves worthy to be emulated by others moving forward? Then, following Peter’s example, we must devote ourselves, as the Chief Shepherd’s undershepherds, to knowing, feeding, guiding, and guarding the sheep in our care. Only then will we show that we’ve made good use of the current season of hardship and are worthy of emulation by others, particularly exiled (i.e., marginalized) saints.

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