Friday, November 29, 2013

The flame of Yah

Out of all the laws of God, the Law's requirement to love is most radical. Love embraces the impoverished, widow, fatherless, and orphans. Love cares for the downtrodden, helpless, destitute, and oppressed. Love supports the weak, encourages the disadvantaged, and protects the vulnerable. 
Love is more willing to give than we are to receive. Love is also not blind. Loves sees sin and covers its multitude. Love sees frailty and brokenness but then strives to piece it back together. Loves see idolatry and removes its high places. Love sees darkness and dispels it with light. Love doesn't just live until death parts it. Love conquers through death, for love is as strong as death, and it's jealousy as unrelenting as Sheol. Its flames are flashes of fire, the very flame of Yahweh, fueled from above by the baptism of spirit and water; fed down below at a table of bread and wine.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful for Turkey Day

Everyone is preparing for Turkey Day, the great day of "Thanksgiving." But not everyone is thankful. In part this is because not everyone knows what to be thankful for. What's so special about this holiday, some might ask? Why this day, as apposed to some other day? And why should I care? Some don't even go that far, connecting thankfulness with the holiday itself, partly because they've never been taught the historical significance behind the official holiday, but also because the history is meaningless to them anyway. For many American families, the children have been raised their whole life in an environment of unthankfulness and bitterness, so Turkey Day has become just another day to remain consistent with their upbringing. Other than having a day off work with holiday pay, life sucks, so why be thankful? Eat, drink, and be merry about the holiday pay, but let thankfulness to God remain an expendable option. People like this have been raised to be dirty, so the last thing they want is a holiday commemorating their need for a bath, and a house-party full of people expressing their thankfulness to Jesus for soap.

The major problem with unthankful people lies in the human heart. The fact that they don't want to give thanks at all is very telling. At best they just want to be left to themselves, laying quietly in the coffin of their own selfishness. At worst they want to be given thanks. They want attention, but they want most of it, or, at least to be the center of it. They want to be coddled, petted, and admired.

The apostle Paul had a name for people like this. He called them fools. In Romans 1:21 Paul describes the unbelieving, unrighteous landscape of mankind as knowing the living and true God (gnontes ton theon), while choosing to neither honor Him nor give Him thanks. Such thanklessness is foolish. Such thanklessness is also sin. But this is also nothing new to the history of fallen humanity, which is why Thanksgiving Day has transformed into Turkey Day over the last century. Sure, Turkey Day is still a day of feasting and celebration for many people, but many of them are not giving thanks to God, which is what this Thanksgiving holiday was originally about. Fast-forward 200 plus years and "Thanksgiving" has become a celebration and feast to America's god: their belly; their altar: a kitchen table (or couch); their sacrifice: a steaming turkey.

Like Israel of old, people feast in the Lord's courtyard and go through the motions of worship, offering one turkey after another. Burnt offerings are continually before Yahweh, as though that's what He really desires (Psalm 50:8). But there is a remedy for all of this. There is a remedy for all of the foolish, ignorant, selfish, unbelieving festivity which exchanges the truth of God for a lie. That remedy is prescribed by God too, part of which is offered to us in Romans 1, and another part is offered in Psalm 50.

After Paul describes the fool of Romans 1, he concludes with a comment about why God gives such fools over to greater foolishness. It's because "they did not see fit to acknowledge God" (Rom 1:21). In other words, they placed themselves in the seat of judgment, determining Gods worthiness to receive thanks. They determined God's thank-worthiness. Much like Israel of old, God graciously delivered people from bondage and blessed them to the point of maintaining an annual celebration of thanksgiving, rendering unto Him their sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection, for His signal and manifold mercies, for the favorable interpositions of His providence, and for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which they had enjoyed and He provided. The great fault of people of all ages --among Israel, those in Paul's day, and even up to our own day-- is that we place ourselves in the throne of God, judging Him to be worthy of our thanks. Far too often we think of God as one of us (Psa. 50:21). This is a sin which the people of this land need to repent of, for even when we give God thanks, if we are the ones remaining in the seat of judgment, seeing if God is fit to receive our expression of thankfulness, we're off at the wrong start.

Another part of the remedy is in Psalm 50. This Psalm is about covenant renewal, and it describes all the people together sacrificing to Yahweh in his courts, very much like people do today across America today on their holy-days ("holidays"). Among many of those who gave thanks to "god," much of it was mere lip-service. God the confronted them, describing their life this way:
You hate discipline. You cast My words behind you. If you see a thief, you're not bothered by him, and the same is true with your company of adulterers too. You give your mouth free reign to speak evil things, and your mouth frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother. You even slander your own mother's son! You've done all these things while I watched silently. You thought that I was one like yourself. (Psa. 50:17-21) 

He then says to them:
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me. To the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.
Earlier in the same Psalm, this was said as well:
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High...

Striving to maintain a day of "Thanksgiving" in a faithless and Godless culture is like trying to shepherd the wind. It's futile and fleeting in a world that is faithless and Godless. And by Godless I mean Christless. What this Christless world needs is true thanksgiving, a giving of self that performs vows, a giving of thanks from one who orders his way rightly. What this world needs is Jesus Christ, who modeled the perfect giving of thanks in a thankless world. Jesus performed every vow faithfully to his Father, and he gave thanks. Jesus ordered his way rightly, and he gave thanks. After ordering his way rightly, and after paying all his vows, Jesus then gives himself as a thank-offering. In contrast with a world whose god is their belly, Jesus emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a servant, humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:7-8). For that reason God highly exalted Jesus and bestowed upon him a name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The Church therefore celebrates this thank-offering of Jesus in weekly eucharist, weekly "thanks-giving" (which is what eucharist means in Greek: to give thanks). In turn the weekly eucharist, ordered rightly, prepares the body of Christ to give thanks to God in all times and places, especially in those times and places where a national holiday of thanksgiving to God is commemorated. 

So, if you want to give thanks to God this holiday, here's where people should start. Start by remembering that Advent season begins three days after Thanksgiving Day. Continue that thought with humble adoration of the Son of God who lived and died and rose from death to life for you. After that, keep in mind that the Son of God became man to enable men like you to become sons of God. Acknowledge that your Father in Heaven has placed His Son upon the seat of judgment, not you, and be thankful for that. Be thankful that as sons, your Heavenly Father is more willing to give than you are willing to receive. Be thankful that as sons, your Heavenly Father graciously and repeatedly calls you to renew your covenant with Him, so you can perform your vows; so you can order your way rightly before Him. Don't just eat turkey and say 'thanks.' Render unto Him their sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection, for His signal and manifold mercies, for the favorable interpositions of His providence, and for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which you have enjoyed--that He provided. These are the things which were publicly acknowledged by George Washington, President of these United States of America, on the first national Thanksgiving celebration, issued October 3rd, 1789. That public address can be read here

Be thankful for turkey, and be thankful for holiday pay, but prove that thankfulness of yours to Jesus Christ by cleaning up your life, fearing God, paying your vows to Him, and trusting that He is more willing to give than you are to receive. Repent of whatever unwillingness to receive there may be on your part, but then thank Him for His willingness to give even more still. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. 

Thanksgiving Day Address

The very first national thanksgiving celebration issued October 3rd, 1789, by George Washington was as follows: 

Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor; and, whereas, both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me 'to recommend to the public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness;'
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country, previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence, in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors, which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And, also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science, among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

Citation is from William J. Johnson, George Washington the Christian [Abingdon Press: NY; 1919], pp. 173-174; See also Jared Sparks, The Writings of George Washington; Vol. XII, 1834; p. 119.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Review: Through New Eyes, By James B. Jordan

Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend of mine once described James Jordan's Through New Eyes as a book which teaches how to eat, drink, and dream in a language called "Bible." After reading this book a couple of times, I find myself agreeing with that opinion. Scarcely a month goes by when I don't peek into this book to see what Jordan said about a given passage or symbol in Scripture. Even in significant areas where I once disagreed with Jordan’s interpretation, I find myself agreeing more and more as long as I continue to immerse myself in the text of the Bible itself. For that very reason, I commend Jordan for his ambitious attempt to teach the language of the Bible from the Bible itself.

Jordan divides this book into four parts: 1) The nature of the world, 2) The features of the world, 3) The transformation of the world, and 4) The movement of history. The first part is an attempt to clarify not only how Christians ought to view the Scriptures, but how Christians ought to view the world in which they live. For Jordan, one major key to viewing the world properly has been missing among Christian scholarship in the 20th century, and that is the need for viewing the world (inside and outside of the Bible) as a fundamentally symbolic creation. Because creation as a whole is fundamentally symbolic, the theological point of the Scriptures is not to reduce the data about the world contained therein to a mere set of ideas, but rather to reveal who God is; and God has revealed Himself in a world of symbolism.

In this first part, Jordan demonstrates that through the lens of Scripture the purpose of the world is two-fold: first, it reveals God (p. 20). Secondarily, and just as important, its purpose is also to reveal man (p. 25). “All of this can be boiled down to a simple fact:” Jordan writes, “The universe and everything in it symbolizes God. That is, the universe and everything in it points to God” (p. 23). Following this “simple fact,” Jordan concludes: “it inescapably follows that just as the world symbolizes God, so also the world must symbolize man, the image of God.” (p. 26).

The second part is an attempt to answer why God created mountains, rivers, seas, wildernesses, men, angels, animals, plants, trees, fish, birds, rocks, and even the sun, moon, and stars. In brief, it’s an attempt to answer why God has given man—his image bearer and symbol maker—a cosmic blueprint from which to work. For those students of Scripture in need of a lexicon for the symbolic language of this cosmic blueprint, I can’t think of a better place to start than with this second part of the book. The Scriptures most definitely portray a symbolic world, and to remain unfamiliar with its own symbolic message of mountains, trees, stars, birds, angels, and man—all working together for the glory of God—is a real tragedy.

The third part is an attempt to view man’s place within God’s world in it’s proper Biblical perspective. In this part, Jordan summarizes how man functions in a three-fold manner as both prophet, priest, and king in this world, and how this world is also a “three-decker universe,” (p. 144) understood through the lens of the triple-layered Paradise in Genesis, the Holy Mountain of Sinai, and the holy altars of ascension to Yahweh. As Jordan notes: “The Bible uses these images to express its worldview, according to each stage of history” (p. 163), and “each of these pictures a social or human environment” (p. 161) that is “absolutely fundamental to Biblical imagery” (p. 163).

For me, the fourth part of the book is perhaps its most ambitious aspect. It is an examination of each stage of history in light of the Bible’s own imagery. In no other single book (that I’m aware of) can someone find a connected narrative of symbolism from Eden to Ark to Altar to Sinai to Tabernacle to Zion to Mount Moriah to the World of Exile to the World of Restoration to the New Heavens and New Earth. Nowhere else can you find, in one place, a historical development from the kingly role of Adam in the Garden/Land to Judges and Kings, and then to Nations and Empires, or even the priestly role of Adam developing toward Priests & Seers to Synagogues, Churches, and Elders.

This book does have its weaknesses though. Some sections seem out of place and don’t seem to fit the logical flow at hand, which indicates to me that they may have been better off receiving more attention in an appendix to the book if a more suitable placement for them can’t be found. To list a few examples, the “Three Special Symbols” (p. 33) and “Secondary Symbols” (p. 34—35) don’t seem to be essential to the message of the first part of the book, and even the entirety of chapter ten, titled “Breaking Bread: The Rite of Transformation,” seems to be more applicable as the starting point of part four, instead of where we currently find it (starting the third part of the book).

Of course, with differing minds there will always be differing interpretations of historical events and their symbolism, and I myself have found a handful of the arguments to remain tenuous without further explanation. For example, Jordan asserts that “Jethro was a Noahic priest-king,” citing Exodus 2:16; 18:12 in defense of this claim. But do those Scripture references really justify his claim? Even more surprising, from that premise Jordan concluded that “for forty years Moses had observed Jethro managing a nation (Acts 7:30)” (p. 202). Even if we were to grant that Jethro functioned as a priest-king from the Noahic dispensation, can we really deduce—without any doubt—that Jethro managed a whole nation? This isn’t the only place in which Jordan makes dogmatic assertions without providing sufficient clarification. Based on the limited Scriptural support that he presents, I’m also not convinced that the freestanding pillars named Jachin and Boaz represented the Courtyard, Holy Place, and Most Holy Place and the trunk, neck, and head of a symbolic man (pp. 231—233). It seems to me that Jachin and Boaz represent the angels guarding the garden-gate (and maybe a symbolic man also), but not the boundaries of the tabernacle.

In the end, must we treat our understanding of Jachin and Boaz, or even Jethro’s national reign as a Noahic priest-king, as vital for developing a Biblical view of the world? I don’t think we must, especially if Jordan’s work is preliminary for preparing future generations of scholarly research on the subject. And so, even when Jordan sometimes fails to fully justify certain claims, that should not hinder the student of Scripture from immersing himself (or herself) in this book in order to learn how to eat, drink, and dream in a language called "Bible."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Speaking in Parables (St. Chrysostom on Matt. 13:10-11)

I recently stumbled upon this gem of a quote from St. Chrysostom, commenting on Matthew 13:10-11. It concerns Jesus' enigmatic statement about some disciples receiving "the mystery of the kingdom of heaven" and others being condemned because "seeing, they see not." In this commentary,  Chrysostom balances the free-will/divine-sovereignty dilemma by simply asserting that what is revealed in Scripture is the Christian standard for reasoning, however paradoxical it may seem to finite creatures such as us. Human volition is not contrary to God's sovereign involvement in human affairs, therefore speaking in parables is appropriate for the condemnation of some and the vindication of others. He writes:
What then saith Christ? “Because it is given unto you,” so He speaks, “to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given.” But this He said, not bringing in necessity, or any allotment made causelessly and at random, but implying them to be the authors of all their own evils, and wishing to represent that the thing is a gift, and a grace bestowed from above.

It by no means follows, however, because it is a gift, that therefore free will is taken away; and this is evident from what comes after. To this purpose, in order that neither the one sort may despair, nor the other grow careless, upon being told that “it is given,” He signifies the beginning to be with ourselves.
…Then He also made what He had said more distinct, pointing out the meaning of, “To him that hath, shall be given, but from him that hath not, even that which he seemeth to have, shall be taken away.”
“Therefore,” saith He, “speak I to them in parables; because they seeing see not.”
“It were meet then,” one may say, “to have opened their eyes, if they see not.” Nay, if the blindness were natural, it were meet to open them; but because it was a voluntary and self-chosen blindness, therefore He said not simply, “They see not,” but, “seeing, they see not;” so that the blindness is of their own wickedness. For they saw even devils cast out, and said, “By Beelzebub, prince of the devils, He casteth out the devils.” They heard Him guiding them unto God, and evincing His great unanimity with Him, and they say, “This man is not of God.” Since then the judgment they pronounced was contrary both to their sight and hearing, therefore, saith He, the very hearing do I take away from them. For they derive thence no advantage, but rather greater condemnation. For they not only disbelieved, but found fault also, and accused, and laid snares. However, He saith not this, for it is not His will to give disgust in accusing them. Therefore neither at the beginning did He so discourse to them, but with much plainness; but because they perverted themselves, thenceforth He speaks in parables.1

2.  St. Chrystostom, Homilies on Matthew's Gospel 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sowing the Word of the Kingdom (Matt 13:1-23)

We have finally arrived at the center of Matthew's gospel: chapter thirteen. Chapter thirteen is the third extensive discourse of Matthew's gospel (as seen here and here), and it's most obvious attribute is it's emphasis on parables. It can also be divided into three large sections (as seen here). In the following series of posts on chapter thirteen, I will be using Layout #2 as presented in that post. In this post I will be commenting on the first section of that layout (Matt. 13:1-23; A1, B1, & C1).

In sections A1 & C1 of that layout, Jesus delivers and explains his famous "parable of the sower," and in that parable four types of soil have "seed" sown on them. The typical approach to that parable is to interpret Jesus' words as describing something entirely future. In other words, Christians today often interpret these parables as the time which began with the incarnation of Jesus and will end at the consummation of global human history. However, that will not be my approach to the text. Instead I will be treating the "field" and world of these parables as the field and world in which Israelites lived, scattered throughout the Roman empire of that day, and I will be treating the time-frame of these parables as describing the culmination of the end of the old covenant age. That is to say, instead of describing the entire future history of humanity on earth earth, Jesus instead seems to be describing the last days of the Old Covenant and that present age in which the word of his kingdom could be sown. 

Moreover, because the first three types of seed-embedded soil are often presumed by Christians today as describing pagans and "outsiders" of God's covenant family, and there doesn't seem to be any immediate indication of those factors, that also will not be my approach to interpreting these parables in context. 

As an example of what this might look like today, it would probably help to offer a sample of a modern typical approach to this parable. That might look like the following:

With the first seed sown "beside the road" (v. 4), creatures come and devour them. These could not possibly be covenant members of God's family because they are completely devoured, or so it is believed. With the second seed sown on "rocky places," there is little soil (v. 5). The sun scorches them after growing a little, but they, like those "beside the road," also wither away and die. Again, this seed is believed to be outside of the covenant people of God because they eventually wither away and die. The third seed is also similar, having been sown "among the thorns" (v. 7). That eventually gets choked and withers away. But the fourth seed is different. The fourth seed is a "believing" seed, a covenant-member-seed, which falls on good soil and yields a huge crop. It's a "regenerate" crop. Bottom line: the fourth seed is an "elect" crop and the first three are not, or so it has been treated.

I'm going to suggest an alternative to this. Given the progressing context of Matthew's gospel so far, it seems that all four seeds are sown among God's covenant people, the land and people where the people of Israel dwell as a whole, without further distinction or emphasis (especially not upon "regeneration" or "election"). Surely no honest theologian or historian believes that all of Israel who received God's word in the first century would endure to the end. First century history is abundantly clear that not all of Israel would follow Jesus and His apostles up to the point of old Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D.. And that actually helps clarify what the Apostles would expect to see in the last days of the old covenant. They would expect to see vast blessings of faith from sowing the word of Christ's kingdom on earth, but only a remnant of Israel would remain faithful to the end. A new Israel, an Israel of faith whose seed is of Abraham through faith in Christ (Gal. 3) would emerge from the rubble of the old creation. Just because some did not endure to the end does not mean all four seeds could not possibly be describing all of Israel, who all were generally recognized to be the covenant people of God. If Jesus was describing all of Israel, which generally is a description of all of God's covenant people, then the underlying principles of Jesus' parables could apply to the new covenant church as well. Just like Israel of old, the christian church today contains hypocrites and others with faith as frail as soap bubbles. But the only way to find out in time and history if someone is a hypocrite, or just plain weak in faith, or whatever, is if they are first identified among God's covenant people as God's covenant people. And that seems to be the kind of scenario Jesus is describing in his parables. He seems to be describing Israel. He seems to be describing seeds that are scattered across the land of God's covenant people as a whole.

This brings up an important factor worthy of a brief digression. God's people, in time and history, are identified by their inclusion in the covenant, not by their hypocrisy (or lack thereof). Hypocrisy is a measure of one's faithfulness to the covenant, not a boundary marker of the covenant itself. If two people are married and one of them is a hypocrite, i.e. an unfaithful spouse, there is still a covenant between the two. The same is true about God's covenant with Israel. So this parable of the sower should be thought of as describing, not only hypocrites with faith as stable as an upright toothpick, but also enemies of the faith outside the covenant. In Jesus' first century context, the hypocrites would be those of Israel who would follow Jesus for a time, but then revert back to the idolatries of Judaism and it's old covenant temple, priesthood, and sacrificial system. The main point of all this is that unfruitful seed-embedded-soils can be among those identified with God's covenant family.

In verses 18-23 (section C1) Jesus describes the "seed" as "the word of the kingdom." Notice carefully that he does not describe it as the word of God. There is a difference. The difference is obvious too. The difference is that the word of the kingdom is much more specific and pointed in its focus. In a previous post I described what the "kingdom of heaven" is (and no, the answer is not "heaven"). The kingdom of heaven is life in union with Christ under the new covenant. The kingdom of heaven is not a place called "heaven," therefore the "word of the kingdom" is not a word about a place called "heaven" either. Rather, the "word of the kingdom" is the word about the kingdom of heaven being very near in its arrival in the first century (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7), with only some of its hearers actually entering into it. The word of the kingdom is the proclamation of good news about entering the new covenant administration under King Jesus (Matt. 5:19-20; 7:21; 11:12).

This explains much of what Jesus was describing when he mentioned "the mystery of the kingdom of heaven" being given to his disciples, but not to the remainder of his audience, which only received parables of the kingdom of heaven (vv. 10-11). The eyes and ears of the apostles are blessed because they see and hear the King and His Kingdom coming. They also have the King of the kingdom of heaven revealing and explaining the mystery of His kingdom to them, but not to others. The unique privilege of having this mystery revealed to them is even more obvious when connected with the previous discourse of Jesus to his disciples in chapter ten. There Jesus revealed to them and commissioned them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel preaching that the kingdom of heaven was near (10:5-7), and that judgment upon the house of Israel was near as well (10:16-23). That judgment included the removal of Israel's landed inheritance, or, to speak in terms which Matthew records Jesus as saying,  "for whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away" (13:10-12). 

All of what Jesus was saying about having an losing makes perfect sense in this context of the kingdom coming near along with God's judgment upon unfaithful Israel. Perhaps the connections might be easier to understand if the translation was amplified a bit. By studying B1 together as one unit (13:10-17), it's easier to grasp a summary idea of what Jesus was describing in 13:10-12: 
"For whoever has [been granted to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven], to him more [knowledge] shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have [knowledge of the mystery of the kingdom granted], even what he has [been given] shall be taken away from him." 
For Jesus, "having" and "taking away" has to do with something near to that generation, which would most clearly refer to Israel's inheritance in the kingdom under the rule of King Jesus. Those who know that the Kingdom is near will strive to enter into it. Those who don't will lose their inheritance. Israel as a whole is addressed, and the word of the kingdom of heaven is scattered among them all, but not all of Israel will endure to the end and inherit the kingdom. At that point when the old covenant creation comes to an end, even what has been given to many Israelites shall be taken away, because knowing Jesus they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful. Whoever does not follow King Jesus, even what he has shall be taken away by 70 A.D. But the one who follows Jesus to the end, to him more shall be given.

In verse 14, Jesus says that in their case --that is, the case of Israel who would reject the word of the kingdom of heaven preached to them-- "the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled." The word used here by Jesus and translated as "fulfilled" is anapleroutai, which is quite different in its emphasis than other times the word "fulfill" pops up in Matthew's gospel. In Greek, anapleroutai describes the filling-full to the brim of that which is lacking. In brief it means to really fill full. Therefore Jesus, by quoting Isaiah 6:9-10 (cf. Matt. 13:15), was teaching his apostles that the promise of judgment inflicted upon Israel in the days of Isaiah was only a partial outpouring of God's wrath, and if they imagine for one second that God's wrath upon Israel back then (in the days of Isaiah) was great, the outpouring of God's wrath upon the generation of Jesus' apostles would be much greater; and the correlative deliverance for God's people, the new Jerusalem, at that time would be exceedingly great as well. The winepress of God's wrath would press upon old covenant Jerusalem and fill up all seven bowls to the fullest before the new Jerusalem would descend from heaven. This, of course, means that the new Jerusalem is analogous to the kingdom of heaven,1 but I'll save more conversations about that for another post, for another time.

1. Doug Wilson's comments in this regard are particularly insightful and worthy of further reflection. He writes: "The New Jerusalem is not the same thing as heaven, but it necessary to say a few things about it here. This is because much of the imagery we have of heaven comes, not from the biblical descriptions of heaven, but from the descriptions of the New Jerusalem—pearly gates, streets of gold, and so forth. This confusion is perpetuated principally through hymns and cartoons. The New Jerusalem is a biblical metaphor for the Christian church—both on earth and in heaven. This identification is not speculation—it is explicitly made in Scripture." -- Douglas Wilson, The Forgotten Heavens: Six Essays on Cosmology [Moscow, ID: Canon Press; 2010], p. 19