What do we use as the foundation of our Biblical understanding? Is it the same thing that we should be using as our basis of belief?
[Frank Dunkle] Actually, my introduction, I’ve got just going into a little bit of a story or a narrative. And it reminded me the last time I visited down in, I believe it was Lexington. And there was a fellow there who used to attend in Prestonsburg, Kentucky when I was pastoring. So I told him, “Oh I’ve got a story or something I’m going to tell that you might have heard before.” He said, “Oh I bet it has something to do with history, doesn’t it?” I said, “Well, yeah,” I said. It gave away than a lot of my sermons do.
But this goes back about 400-some years. It was in the middle 1600s in England. A somewhat new way of looking at and interpreting a certain Bible prophecy began gaining prominence. And it captivated the minds of quite a few people, not an overwhelming majority but enough that it became significant especially because it captured the minds of some people who took a hand in interfering with politics and government. It was what became known as the Fifth Monarchy Movement, and they were often referred to as Fifth Monarchists.
I remember in my studies, a lot of times seeing that come up here and there as you’re studying government and political events, which I’m sure all of you are always reading about what happened in the latter 1600s in England. But you’d hear that referenced and often in reference to some fringe movements. It’s like, “Oh, those Fifth Monarchists again,” sort of with that tone of voice along with some other people that you wondered about where their minds were.
This movement flourished within those who were called the Puritans. Now, if you’re like most Americans, you think of Puritans, you’re thinking of Thanksgiving dinner and funny hats with buckles, and things like that, which isn’t entirely inaccurate. But it’s good to remember what we mean when we say Puritan historically. And it goes back to the reformation of the church in England.
You know, when Henry VIII separated from the Catholic Church, he did so primarily not because of theological or doctrinal reasons, he wanted a divorce, and the pope wasn’t cooperative. So following the advice of some of his advisors, Henry separated and started his own church, the Church of England. And instead of the pope, he was in charge and he got his divorce.
But he didn’t change much doctrinally. And thus, there were people within England who said, “We need to clean up the church more. We need to change doctrine.” And the way they said it is they wanted “to purify the church.” Now, as some Puritans, when they didn’t have as much success as they wanted, left England. Some went to Holland, some came to America to found their own separate pure church. But many more of them did stay in England, seeking to purify what became known as the Anglican Church from within. And some of them became Fifth Monarchists.
You know, Fifth Monarchy doesn’t sound all that impressive, but it was a powerful idea and one that had a strong element of truth. I’m looking because I just realized the projector is still on. I don’t know if it’s casting a blue light on my face, but… no, then you won’t have to worry about it. If you want to show those slides, I could read the scriptures backwards. No, I can’t. But this is as bad as when I saw the albino squirrel. I’m interrupting myself. And let me get back to that story.
The truth that the Fifth Monarchists understood is one that we understand. So it wasn’t bad that they knew this truth that a lot of people in their church didn’t want to agree with. It’s the fact that they decided to base everything upon that and take matters into their hand. It became the central feature of their worldview or what we might call their paradigm.
I struggled a little with whether I should use that word because I never feel like I’m using it quite correctly. But it was their framework for viewing the world. So to get an understanding of that, if you’ll turn with me to Daniel 2, and I’m going to go beyond the history lesson in a moment. But the prophecy that they gained an understanding of or at least partial understanding was one that we discuss fairly often.
And Daniel 2, of course, is the story of King Nebuchadnezzar, the first Babylonian emperor, having this disturbing dream. And he saw this dream and it included this fascinating image made of different metals. And he was so bothered he called all of his advisors, his soothsayers. He said, “You’ve got to tell me the meaning of this dream. Oh, and by the way, you have to tell me the dream itself.” And they sort of said, “What you’re asking is impossible. Nobody can tell your dream and tell you what you dreamed and then what it means.”
But of course, there was one man who was able to because God gave him the meaning. And Daniel did that. Daniel 2:31 Daniel 2:31You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and the form thereof was terrible.
American King James Version×, Daniel, through the miracle of God giving him this understanding, told Nebuchadnezzar. He said, “You, O, king were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; its form was awesome. The image’s head was a fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, and its legs of iron, it’s feet partly of iron and partly of clay. And you watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. And then the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold were crushed together, and became like chaff in the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away, no trace was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
Now, as I said, this was all the more miraculous because Nebuchadnezzar hadn’t told Daniel what he saw on the dream but it was this. God also gave Daniel the interpretation. As he continues in verse 36, “This is the dream. Now we’ll tell the interpretation before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them to your hand, has made you a ruler over them all — you are the head of gold.”
I imagine Nebuchadnezzar swallowed his gum at that point or breathed hard. And, “I’m the head of gold.” And Daniel said, “After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as iron… as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all others. And whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay, partly of iron, the kingdom will be divided; yet, the strength of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the ceramic clay.”
And he goes on here. I want to skip down to verse 44. “In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed; the kingdom will not be left to other people; it’ll break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it’ll stand forever.”
Let me stop there because I think you’ve probably heard this explained and discussed many times. The Fifth Monarchists came to understand as we do that the four kingdoms prophesied were ones that would dominate the world scene. First, was Babylon. As it said, Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. The second was Persia. The Persian Empire or Medo-Persian, as we say. The third would be the Greek Empire founded by Alexander the Great. And the fourth would be the Roman Empire. We believe and understand that the stone cut out without hands represents Jesus Christ when He returns to establish His Kingdom that’ll rule for a thousand years, which we refer to as the Millennium.
The Fifth Monarchists differed. They believed everything right up to that point, but they believed that the Fifth Monarchy in this dream, like the previous four, would be a human kingdom. But they believed that it would be religious in tone. They expected it to prepare the way for Christ’s return. Thus, with that in mind, they adapted prophecies that we read of the Millennium. And they believe that it meant that God’s chosen people and the Kingdom that they would establish would rule for a thousand years and then Christ would return. That’s a belief that still exists in some places among those who call themselves Christians. The technical term for that is post-millennialist, believing that Christ will return after the Millennium.
They believed that this Fifth Monarchy, depicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, would be established not by Jesus Christ, not by God Himself but by saints, by the Christians. When I say “saints,” the Puritans refer to themselves as the saints. Now, you might be thinking, “Okay. So far this is an interesting history lesson.” And I have avoided getting into the names of their leaders or some particular events.
But as I said, the reason I wanted to discuss it is that the Fifth Monarchists came to see everything that was going on around them and what they thought they should do through the lens of this particular belief. That belief guided everything they should do. And so that led them to get involved in an uprising against the government.
If we need this Fifth Monarchy to come about and it’s going to be led by the saints, we’re the saints. We got to get busy and overthrow the government. They joined in the rebellion against Charles I, fought in the civil wars. At first, they supported Oliver Cromwell. But when Cromwell made himself Lord Protector, the Fifth Monarchists were among those who said, “Well, you took the crown off Charles I and put it on yourself.” And so they joined the uprising against Cromwell. Yeah, I’m saying this too fast.
Later on, of course, the dynasty was restored. After Cromwell died and his son’s reign didn’t work out very well, Charles II came to the throne. The Fifth Monarchists realized that that was not going to be a thousand-year reign of godliness so they worked at overthrowing that government. And splinters of the Fifth Monarchist Movement would remain for many decades afterwards. And as I said, you see references to it in various histories of all those Fifth Monarchists. “Here they are again. We got to deal with them.”
Interestingly, as I said, they participated in movements and in actions because of their belief in one part of the Bible that directly contradicted other parts of the Bible. I think particularly of the sections of Romans 13 and of 1 Peter 2 that tell us to obey the governing authorities, to pay our taxes, to submit to rulers because God establishes them.
And it’s worth thinking about. Could this happen to us? Could it happen to you or to me? Could we ever have a part of the truth, and then let that shape… or shape that into a paradigm that gives us a limited or distorted view of all the rest of the truth? I thought of this idea actually in reading a scripture in the book of Isaiah, Isaiah 29. We’ll begin in verse 9 if you’ll join me there, because I likened what the Fifth Monarchists we’re doing to this.
Isaiah 29 beginning in verse 9, says, “Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They’re drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, not with intoxicating drink.” Here, it seems that he’s referring not… he said, “Oh it’s not wine, it’s whiskey.” No, it’s not any type of intoxicating drink. He says, “The Eternal has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; He’s covered your heads, namely, the seers.”
There are some places in the Bible where alcohol or inebriation is used to be symbolic of people’s thoughts being clouded by some ideas. Sometimes, it’s a philosophy or a false doctrine. And it’s portrayed as being somewhat intoxicating. I’ll give you a couple references in the book of Revelation. For instance, Revelation 17:4 Revelation 17:4And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
American King James Version×, mentions a woman with a wine cup full of abominations, and that’s a familiar image. But we don’t think of her carrying a cup that’s full of literal wine. Likewise, a bit later in Revelation 18:3 Revelation 18:3For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
American King James Version×, it says, “All the nations drank the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
All I’m saying is, you know, that catching on to an idea if it’s a wrong idea and using it incorrectly can distort proper view of other things. You know, it can happen to God’s people. It’s happened to people in the past. I thought I would look at some other examples besides the Fifth Monarchists. For one example of a case study let’s consider a broad easy one first. We can find it starting with Colossians 2. Colossians 2 beginning in verse 13. This is one that a lot of our men might be familiar with seeing it on the list of what we call difficult scriptures, a great source for a sermonette to describe, “Okay, why doesn’t this mean what it’s commonly interpreted to mean?”
Colossians 2 beginning in verse 13, and I’m breaking into a thought. But here Paul writes, “You being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven all your trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
He took it away and nailed it to the cross. Imagine if this passage of scripture is your starting point with Christianity. What if you come across this first and you say, “This is going to shape everything I look at and believe.” What if it shapes your paradigm? You would look through it and say, “What is the requirements that was against us?” Well, the easy answer is all the Old Testament law.
And you might say, “Well, hey! It’s nailed to the cross.” If that’s my paradigm, it’s going to strongly affect how I read the Old Testament. I might not bother to read it at all. What an intoxicating idea. When you read all the requirements on all the things it says to do, how liberating. “Tithing, do I need to do that? Nailed to the cross. Do I have to worry about dietary laws? Nailed to the cross. Seventh-day Sabbath? Nailed to the cross.”
If what I do or don’t do is guided by this, it’s going to give me a very different view than we have today. And by the way, please, no one take this out of context. I’m not saying that God’s law is nailed to the cross, not in the least.
Now, I’m not going to take the time today to thoroughly explain this scripture, but it’s about Christ’s sacrifice freeing us from the required death sentence. You know, the handwriting of ordinance as you could say is the sentence that of the punishment that’s due, you know, because of breaking God’s law. But God’s law was in no way nailed to the cross. But Jesus Christ, when He was crucified, did pay the penalty that we owe.
The fact that you’re all here today, I believe, is a good indication that you understand that. Your paradigm for viewing the institution of God’s law is superior than seeing it as nailed to the cross. But there’s other ways we could look at things, and there’s one I thought of that has affected many people in God’s Church including me and probably many of you.If we turn to Exodus 18. We read an interesting account. It’s an event that happened after God had brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. But before He spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai.
So the Israelites are somewhat disorganized and they’re moving through the wilderness. And in this account, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, comes on the scene bringing Moses’ wife and children. The professor in me can’t resist mentioning that the Hebrew for father-in-law could properly be and translated as brother-in-law. Basically, it’s relative by marriage because I’m thinking, “Boy, Moses is 80 years old. How old is his father-in-law at this point?” Although father-in-laws can live a long time and be very robust. I have to say that since mine’s here visiting.
That’s off the subject of what I wanted to talk about here. But here in chapter 18 verse 17, “Moses’ father-in-law said to him,” that is to Moses, “The thing you do is not good. You and these people that are with you will surely wear yourselves out. This is too much for you.” He said this because he saw Moses standing all day with a line of people waiting to see him to ask about God’s law and what to do.
He said, “Listen now to my voice,” this is verse 19, “I’ll give you counsel, and God will be with you: stand you before God for the people, so that you may bring difficulties to God. And you’ll teach them statutes and laws, show them the way that they must walk, and the work they must do. Moreover, select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. And it’ll be that every great matter they’ll bring to you, but every small matter, they’ll judge themselves.”
And it goes on to say that Moses, he did it. You know, and we wonder, it doesn’t describe him talking to God about it, but we know another place as it says Moses talked to God very often. Probably, he got God’s approval. And they set this up, a very effective form of administration and government. So effective that many armies, most armies use this, so do many organizations.
And it would be possible to look at this and say, “Okay, that’s my paradigm for how every organization has to be formed. I can view all other aspects of administration and leadership through it.” If I have that as my central focus, I’m going to look at in the New Testament for that type of structure. You know, and I would probably see Peter as being outspoken and at the forefront and say, “He must have been the chief apostle.”
We know the Catholic Church did exactly that. And they put a pope at the top of a hierarchical government, you know, with layers through cardinals and archbishops, bishops, priests. And I know I’m leaving some out, but all the way through deacons to the masses of people. Within the Church of God in previous decades, we did something similar. We designated an apostle as the unquestionable leader of the church under Jesus Christ, of course, and we always said that.
But then there was a level of evangelists and then pastors, preaching elders, local elders, deacons. And I’m not saying or implying that the form of church government we used was wrong. No, it had some problems, but it also had great advantages, and it followed a biblical model. I have no criticism of that form of organization. But what I would criticize is adopting a paradigm that says, “That’s the only form of organization that could ever be valid.” The only thing the Bible would support.
I think if I did that, I would be blinding myself to some other things that are within the Bible. For instance, Acts 15. We’ll turn there to see not necessarily a father-in-law saying, “Do this,” but an example of a different way of doing things. Acts 15 describes the early Church finding a way to settle a disagreement. A large disagreement had to reason about, “Hey, we got people coming into the Church who aren’t Jewish. They haven’t been circumcised. Do they need to be, to be part of the Church?” Some people said, “Well, yes, of course, they do.” Other people said, “No, that’s not for them.”
We’ll pick up reading in chapter 15 verse 6. “Now the apostles and the elders came together to consider the matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up.” So much dispute means a lot of discussion, different opinions, you know, different arguments for different ways of interpreting. “Peter rose up and said: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth, the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.’”
I’m going to break off reading there, but Peter was referring back to an incident that’s described in this book in chapter 11. When God showed Peter a vision, a vision of the sheep coming down with different animals and such, and that led to him going to this Roman army soldier, Cornelius. And basically, God gave Cornelius the Holy Spirit before… I shouldn’t say before he was circumcised. For all we know, Cornelius was never circumcised, but Peter baptized him. Who am I to withhold water when God’s poured out the Spirit on him?
What we see here in this story though is not Peter presiding as chief apostle and then making a ruling. We see him so far of one voice, a very significant and influential voice giving testimony as part of this conference.
We move on then in verse 12. It says, “Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.” Okay. They made their testimony.
After that in verse 13, we see the apostle James. “After they had become silent, James answered, and said, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me.’” James answers and he’s going to give a proposal. “And then it would seem…” actually, I want to skip down to verse 19, his proposal. “Therefore I judge that we shouldn’t trouble those who are among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but write to them that they abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, and from things strangled by blood.’”
And it goes on, and the conference then makes a decision. As it says in verse 22, “It pleased the apostles and the elders, and the whole of the church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas and Silas, and leading men among the brethren.”
And my point isn’t to focus on church government today, but rather to use this as an example. It’s possible that in this conference, they might have taken some type of a vote or a consensus, or, you know, they discussed this. We don’t really know for sure. But we do know that today, the United Church of God follows an organizational structure closer to what we see in Acts 15 than what we read about in Exodus 18.
You know, our structure has some problems, and it has great advantages, and it follows the biblical model. A person could adopt a paradigm with this at its core so that he would judge all the church organizations by this model. And to be honest, I think that would be as blinding as saying the other one is the only way. But this came to mind because I remember well back, especially the late ’90s early 2000s when, you know, there was division among those who left of what was then the Worldwide Church of God.
You know, I talked to some people who had been good friends but they said, “I can’t consider the United Church of God to be a valid part of the body of Christ,” because they said, “you don’t have a one-man in charge government.” That single reference point colored their view of everything about this organization. It made me think what was not decisive in their view? What was not was how well we were preaching the gospel. That wasn’t a consideration. How much we were teaching? I was about to say treaching. Were we teaching true biblical doctrine? Were we caring for the brethren?
As I said, “I think that should be a part of that paradigm.” But the particular paradigm of it’s got to be this form of organization or nothing at all I think has caused and maintained division within the Body of Christ. It’s not hard to think of other things that can come up, other ideas, other interpretations that could cause division or maintain division. You know, there are some that are shaping people’s paradigms today.
And I should pause because I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have a paradigm or that there are no hard and fast rules to make decisions by, you know, of course, we have to. What’s wrong is when… or what can be damaging, I don’t even want to say wrong because I struggled with giving this message because I thought this is an important subject. But that I’m not the pastor in the congregation. I don’t want to be corrective. And that’s not what this is meant to be. I thought maybe it’s more of a cautionary tale. When I think of those Fifth Monarchists and what they got involved in. And as I say, it can be harmful when you adopt one very narrow point of view through which you see everything else especially if that one point is not correct.
But as I said, there are hard and fast truths that everything does have to fit. And that’s where we want to make sure we’re aligned with. But some of the things that I think shouldn’t be central to us or some of what we sometimes call are fringe doctrinal issues. You know, there’s things that come up on a regular basis. How do you pronounce God’s name? These various Hebrew roots issues. You know, should I be wearing tassels? Am I allowed to trim my beard? I hope so. I did. You know, can I have my furnace run on the Sabbath day? That’s kindling a fire. How am I supposed to observe the land Sabbath?
It’s not wrong to think about these questions. Not wrong to necessarily have differing opinions on them. I think we should find answers to them. I think though it could be harmful to myself and to others in the Church if I allow that one of those topics to become the center of a paradigm by which I view and just interpret everything else.
I thought of this imaginary scenario I made up. So please don’t think this is real. It’s not happening that I know of. But imagine a group of people have become enamored with the land Sabbath. As it’s first described in Exodus 23. I’m not going to turn there, but it first comes up in Exodus 23:10-11 Exodus 23:10-11 10 And six years you shall sow your land, and shall gather in the fruits thereof:
11 But the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie still; that the poor of your people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner you shall deal with your vineyard, and with your olive grove.
American King James Version×. Imagine there’s a group that says, “This is a moral eternal law, a spiritual law that we must follow on every detail as described in ancient Israel.” And I’m not entirely unsympathetic to that… well, to part of that line of reasoning. I believe God gave that law. I believe God wants us to be very good stewards of our property, and that’s one of the reasons He gave the land Sabbath. God doesn’t want us to overwork and exhaust our land.
God also wanted to teach the people of ancient Israel to trust Him, you know? And you’re in an agricultural society, and say, “Once every seven years, I’m just not going to plant anything. You know, my God is going to make so much grow in the sixth year that I can get by.” That’s exercising faith.
Now, modern Christians don’t live under the civil administration of Israel’s national law. But we can ensure to observe the spiritual principles that underlie the land Sabbath and allowing the land to like fallow once every seven years will accomplish that. And what I’m looking at is if focusing on that land Sabbath became my central paradigm. You know, I view everything through that. Imagine how it might lead to some imbalanced thinking and actions.
I might say “Since God established the land Sabbath, He must have done so from creation, and that those particular seventh years are the only ones. So I’ve got to study the calendar very thoroughly. I’ve got to make sure I’m keeping the land Sabbath on the right year.” And so I immerse myself into the study of history and calendars. So I study intensively. And I’m so convinced of this. I believe that all people everywhere have to keep it exactly on those years. I turn myself into a missionary to convince everybody that they’ve got to keep the land Sabbath the way I understand it to be. And if they’re not, they’re not true Christians. By the way, please nobody edit and take that out of context.
But I might then look at Leviticus 25, and it talks about the Jubilee year, which is based on the land Sabbath, these 50-year cycles. “Wow! That’s very significant. If I study those then, I’m sure I can determine all types of prophetic events. I’ll be able to figure out what year the Great Tribulation is going to start. I’ll know when Christ is going to return if I can just study the land Sabbaths and keep them properly.”
Does that sound like I’ve become intoxicated with an idea? I’m letting it carry me away. I’ve created this paradigm that, you know, puts things out of wax. Out of whack, not wax. I’m looking through a distorted lens. You know, and I don’t think that’s what God intended. And I say that… I put a note in here in different colored ink to remind me anytime I’ve planted gardens on my property, I’ve kept the land Sabbath. I think it’s a good thing to do, but it’s not at the center of my thinking of how to practice Christianity. And again, that’s just an imaginary scenario of how things could maybe get out of whack, not wax.
Okay. So if I’m trying to make a case that there are things, there are understandings that we should not make central to how we live and how we discern and interpret the world, you know, is it better to make a list of what those things are? You know, I could think of some. I think what should not be central to my view of Christianity is an interpretation of end time prophecy, you know? And I don’t think end time prophecy is unimportant. I like to study it. I think we need to pay attention. Jesus did tell us, “Watch.”
But, you know, if you let one particular interpretation shape everything, you know, if you want some interesting reading when you go home later, Google the Great Disappointment of the 1800s. You’ll see some interesting stuff. I don’t think my central viewpoint should be shaped by who I believe or do not believe as the only God-ordained person to be in charge of the Church. I don’t think that wouldn’t be instructive. It shouldn’t be my determination of what’s the proper way to pronounce the name of God. And there are plenty of other things. As I said, I could start making up a long list of what I think shouldn’t guide my paradigm.
But then, “Come on, Frank, what should it be?” That’d be a lot easier, right? Does the Bible say this is the central thing? This is first. And actually, I think the Bible does tell us in a sense. It doesn’t use those terms but Jesus Christ answered some important questions along that line. I want to turn to Luke 10, Luke 10:25 Luke 10:25And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
American King James Version×. I find this interesting because this part of my message fits very well with what Mr. Metzel was covering. And I don’t plan to turn to Mark at all. So between the synoptic gospels, we’ve got this covered.
Luke 10:25 Luke 10:25And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
American King James Version×, “Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him,” the “Him” being Jesus Christ, “saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” What’s the key to living forever? Surely, nothing we can think of is going to be more central to our thinking. What’s more important and how do I live forever? Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question of His own. I think not because Jesus was unwilling to answer but He knew that the answer was readily available.
Jesus said, “What’s written in the law? What is your reading of it?” He said, “What do you think? What do you think is the right paradigm? What lens should we view it through, Mr. Lawyer?” And he answered. He didn’t say Mr. Lawyer, but that lawyer answered and said, “Well, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind.” We were there earlier. That’s Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
American King James Version×. And he adds to it, “And your neighbor as yourself.” That’s from Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×. I’d love to say I’ve got that in my memory all the time, but I’ve got it written in my notes.
Okay, Jesus asked him, “What do you think is the key to having an eternal life? What’s central?” “Love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.” And you know what Jesus answered? He said, “You have answered rightly. Do this and you will live.” That’s pretty succinct. “Do this and you will live. Love the Lord with all you’ve got. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Is that it?
You might say, “Surely, there has to be more to it than that,” but he didn’t say that. Well, the lawyer talking to Jesus maybe thought so because then he’s got a follow-up. “Well, who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling the parable of the good Samaritan, which I’m not going to study today. It’s always good reading, but I think we understand it basically teaches us that human beings are all our neighbors. Someone in need is our brother that we should love as ourself.
Aside from that, there might still be room to further elaborate on these commands. You know, how do I love the Lord my God with everything I’ve got? How do I love my neighbor besides if I see him wounded on the side of the road, binding him up and taking him to an inn? Well, that’s where Matthew 19 comes in. Sorry, I keep glancing up at the clock. I wasn’t sure how long this would take.
Matthew 19 beginning in verse 16, a similar question comes up and in this time, Jesus did answer with further detail. And I’m glad because rather than me coming up with a long list of what I think is the way to fulfill, love the Lord your God first and love your neighbor as yourself, He gives an answer that shows us exactly where to get the greater elaboration.
So Matthew 19 beginning in verse 16, “Now behold, one came and said to Him,” once again, to Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Same question. What do I have to do to live forever? Jesus Christ clears up one thing first. “He said, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that’s God.’” So Jesus Christ properly deferred to the Father, which we have always taught. But then He goes further. “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” That’s the answer to how to have eternal life. Keep the commandments. “And he said, ‘Which ones?’”
And if you read from, you know, basically starting in Exodus 20 to the end of Deuteronomy, there are quite a few commandments including the land Sabbath. Is that one? Well, Jesus said… I imagine He might have got a little-exasperated look, He says, “Well, ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘Don’t commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
These are several of the Ten Commandments, and then the second of the greatest commandment, which sums them up. Now, there has been the theological debate since the Middle Ages and I think before about, “Well, why didn’t He list the first four commandments?” You know, “Have no other gods before Me. No graven images. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”
We can guess and argue because the answer isn’t given, but part of me thinks perhaps if this fellow was representing the Pharisees, I think they had that part down. They’ve learned their lesson from the Babylonian captivity to not worship idols and not take God’s name in vain. I think they had a lot to learn about loving their brother as themselves.
So rather than worry about… “Are the first four commandments out of the 10 included?” I think the Ten Commandments come and go as a unit, and we see that pretty clearly in the Bible. But we could pause and give some thought to what else did Jesus not say was vital for having eternal life? As I said, I think the first four of the Ten Commandments are implied in what Jesus said, “If you want to have life, keep the commandments.”
What did he not say you have to do to have life? How about being able to correctly calculate the 70-weeks prophecy? Nope. Properly pronouncing the Hebrew version of God’s name? Nope. Wearing tassels on your garments, never trimming your beard? He doesn’t mention that, nor does Christ mention church government. You have to have captains of 10s and captains of 50s. No. He doesn’t even mention the land Sabbath, much to my chagrin. That was meant to be funny. So I’m not really hung up on the land Sabbath. Although like I said, I keep the land Sabbath.
I’m not saying that none of these things matter. They do matter. They’re worthy of our study. Matter of fact, before I was reviewing this in my mind, thinking, “Wait. If I go too far, people will think, ‘Oh, all you had to do is know the Ten Commandments.’” We’d cut A.B.C. down to a one-week session or less. I’d be out of a job. So I think it’s worthy of studying all of the Bible, certainly.
But I think I can say with great confidence if there is a paradigm through which we should view life, if there is a central element that we have to look at first and then the others, it seems to be the Ten Commandments. You know, what must I do to have life? And Jesus Christ said, “Keep the commandments.”
Now, looking, it’s in that Luke version He said, “Do this and you’ll live.” The Ten Commandments are a breakdown of how to love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, how to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s the perfect law of love. If I let any other thing, any other idea take center place in my thinking, then I’m doing what the Fifth Monarchists did. I’m making a mistake. I might become blinded. I’m setting myself up to become intoxicated by some other ideology or some philosophy. That’s not what Jesus said to do to have life.
Now, there’s one other question that comes up or at least… maybe, I shouldn’t say one other one because I don’t want to limit because I learned that people can come up with a lot of questions that I don’t think of. But you might think, “Well, what about what’s ahead? Keeping the Ten Commandments is great, but what about Christ’s return and prophecy. And you know, a whole lot of the Bible is made up of prophecy. The Ten Commandments don’t seem to address that.” We’ve got a legitimate interest in prophecy. You know, I’ve got this goal of inheriting eternal life. That makes me wonder, “Okay, when does that start? You know, what’s going to happen first?”
You know, a lot of the Bible is prophecy. As I said, the Ten Commandments were basic to understanding everything else, but do they address that at all? I’ve got a thought that they do in a way we might not think of. If we… and maybe I think of this because I’ve been going through the book of Deuteronomy and I teach that. And there is one school of thought that much of the book of Deuteronomy consists of expansion on the Ten Commandments. After Deuteronomy 5, there’s sections on… you know, part of Deuteronomy 6 is showing how do you love the Lord your God first, you know, how is you have no other gods before Him, and other things like that.
And I’m not sure if I buy all of that, but one of the thoughts is it goes into the Holy Day schedule. And of course, we call the seven annual Holy Days, seven annual Sabbaths. If we consider the command to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, to include the annual Sabbath, I think it gives us a good paradigm for looking at prophecy. God calls the Sabbaths, holy convocations. They are listed in Leviticus 23 right alongside the weekly Sabbath.
When we begin obeying the command to keep them, and we study God’s Word guided by His Holy Spirit, we as a Church have come to realize that they do give us a paradigm, a framework for looking at all the rest of prophecy. We call it God’s plan of salvation. In other words, I say the Holy Days provide this paradigm through which all of prophecy I think could be viewed. And it does so much better than calculating the Jubilee year back to creation.
I thought it might be worth just thinking about it just as a brief review. Every day, the Holy Day season begins with Passover. Of course, Passover is listed as a Festival, not a holy convocation in itself. But what does it represent? It reminds us partly of the commandments because it reminds us of the unavoidable penalty for sin. That penalty had to be paid and Jesus Christ, our Creator… you know, the Father created us through Jesus Christ. To refer back to Mr. Myer’s sermon, but He paid the penalty, makes it possible for there to be a future, for prophecy to have meaning.
And then immediately following, there’s the week-long Days of Unleavened Bread, showing us that we must strive to live by the commandments. We must put sin out of our lives, which we symbolize by putting leaven out of our homes. But we also need to put something else in, we eat unleavened bread.
We think of Jesus Christ representing the bread of life. And I think there’s a direct tie that goes into the next Holy Day on the schedule, which is Pentecost, the Feast of Firstfruits, the day when God poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church. Of course, it reminds us that it’s only possible to live by His commandments through His Holy Spirit. That’s what gives us the power, makes it possible.
But another important thing when we think of that paradigm of prophecy, this opens up the understanding that God is working with all of mankind in stages. There are firstfruits. That means, there’s going to be later fruits. That makes it understandable or much more understandable that term first resurrection that comes up in the book of Revelation. Well, if there’s the first resurrection there must be one that’s not first. We commonly use the term second and sometimes, third.
We keep that in mind as we go to the autumn Festivals, the Feast of Trumpets. Putting all the prophecies with that, it reminds us at the end of this age, there’s going to be a time of tribulation, a time of trouble. But that’ll culminate in the return of Jesus Christ. He’ll set up that Kingdom of God that the Puritan Fifth Monarchists were not able to do. And God will then resurrect all those people whom He’s called and in whom He’s put His Spirit. That first resurrection that we talked about. They all inherit eternal life and rule with Christ for, as we’ll see, a thousand years.
But in between, there’s another important event, the Day of Atonement. It reminds us, I like to say, of the necessity for taking responsibility. Jesus Christ took the responsibility for the sins of mankind by paying their penalty. And that’s why, of course, in the ceremony described in Leviticus 16, there were two goats. One goat represents Jesus Christ paying that penalty. The other goat represents Satan the devil, taking responsibility for leading all mankind into sin. He’s got to take the responsibility for what he has done, and he’ll be banished for a thousand years.
That’s a great part of my framework for prophecy because I wonder “How could people possibly… you know, how could the world be different?” It’s going to be different. That leads into the 1,000 year reign of Christ pictured each year by the Feast of Tabernacles, in contrast to the era of misery with mankind’s self-rule deluded by Satan. People are going to be prosperous, healthy, happy, led by Jesus Christ and the saints who will rule with Him, who by the way, hopefully, will be us.
I say hopefully only because we have to do our part in that. And as good as that sounds, it’s not the end because most of mankind for thousands and thousands of years hasn’t had the opportunity to take part in this. And so there is one last Holy Day, the Eighth Day, which we commonly call the Last Great Day. It shows us that all people who have ever lived are going to live again. They’re going to have a full and legitimate opportunity to turn to God, to choose eternal life.
Now, there’s lots of details about God’s plan and about what happens within that framework, how it’s going to unfold. You know, we can pull that out of prophecies scattered throughout the Bible. But that framework of the Holy Days, that annual system that shows us God’s plan of salvation shows us how to put those in their proper place, how they relate to each other. It’s viewing these prophecies and viewing those prophecies through the lens of the Holy Day calendar, makes it all clear and helps us not get off track. I believe that framework is the correct framework. It’s the one that we want to look through at prophecy.
We don’t interpret all other prophecies through the Olivet Prophecy, as fascinating and exciting as it is. We don’t start with Ezekiel 4 and 5, even though it’s fun to act that out. Well, not literally. I’ve never shaved off all my hair and weighed it out. But you know, the message is to the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Interesting and fascinating but it’s best to look at those through the Holy Day plan, not even the image that Nebuchadnezzar saw and described in Daniel 2.
And as I said, the Holy Days provide a proper long view of God’s plan. And then the Ten Commandments give us a proper view and guide for how to conduct our lives knowing what’s ahead. And I think Jesus Christ put the Commandments first because… well, I’ve thought about this. What if we didn’t understand the plan? What if we didn’t know about the Great Tribulation, about Christ’s return? About, maybe even the second resurrection, but we did follow God’s Law and live by the Commandments?
There’s a part of me, and this is my own personal speculation because I think understanding one will lead to understanding of the other. As I said if you understand that you need to keep the Sabbath that leads you to understand that you need to keep the annual Holy Days, and keeping them and studying the Word leads to understanding that plan. But if for some reason it didn’t, and you just obeyed the Commandments, I suspect you’d come up in that first resurrection and you’d get the rest, maybe get caught up as you go.
And, getting what I’m saying? I suspect and I’m guessing, you know, we can ask Christ when he comes if that’s the case. Now, maybe we’ll ask some people who are resurrected. “Hey, did you know about this? You know, back in 1300 A.D.?” Maybe.
But one of the points I want to leave us with, we have the right principles to shape how we understand the Bible, how to conduct our lives, how we look ahead to our future. Now, it’s possible. We could get caught up in an incorrect paradigm. We could get intoxicated with ideas that would get us out of perspective, lead to bad decisions. We could do as the Fifth Monarchists did. You know, their misunderstanding of one point of one prophecy, led them to engage in some activities that the Bible condemns.
As I said, they looked at one first and it distorted the other. I don’t think members of God’s Church are likely to get caught up in rebellion, civil war, and regicide. I hope not. But members of God’s Church could get intoxicated with the perceived prophetic understanding, with a captivating doctrinal understanding. And being caught up in something like that could lead a Christian to separating from the Body of Christ. It could lead to causing division, alienation, even perhaps if you became disillusioned to abandoning the way of life that we know is the way of life. And I say it could but it doesn’t need to. That’s why I was saying, think of this as not corrective but just cautionary, you know?
Because we might from time to time ask that question that the lawyer did to Christ. “What do I have to do to have eternal life? If I hear a lot of things that I’m not sure, what do I have to do to have life? What do I need to know and what do I need to do to be in God’s Kingdom?” Jesus said, “Keep the commandments. Love God with all you’ve got. Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s pretty simple. And Jesus said. “If you do this, you will live.”