Messiah In the Feasts and Their Eschatological Implications, Part 7/7 (Chialism in Ancient Jewish & Christian Thought)

Tony Wray is not only a recording artist but is also a teacher, and lecturer; having taught Messianic apologetics at numerous conferences, churches, and congregations.  If you would like to view a list of referrals from leaders, scholars, and theologians, or are interested in having Tony speak at your congregation or event, send an e-mail to hazakimbooking@gmail.com.

 

Up to this point we have seen how the Messiah’s fulfillment of the Spring feasts was exact, precise, and in successive order, on the actual Feast days.  We also looked at the Fall Feasts, which remain unfulfilled, and how the Messiah will likely fulfill these as well.  I argued that, based on a plain reading of passages such as Zechariah 14:16, it would seem that Tabernacles will be fulfilled at the end of a literal thousand year reign of the Messiah, on the earth, when the New Jerusalem comes down out of Heaven.

So what of the belief that the millennial Kingdom described in Revelation 2o is literal?  Was this chapter written in a vacuum?  Is there any evidence from within the corpus of 2nd temple Judaism that would suggest such an expectation among the ancient Jews?  And how did the early church view the idea of a thousand year reign?  Did they primarily see it as literal or figurative?  As we shall see, the belief in a literal thousand year reign of God/Messiah (known as “chialism”) goes back to before the time of John’s writing of Revelation.  The chief “appointed time” from which they formed this belief is not one the 7 annual Feast days of the Lord but the weekly Sabbath, which comes at the end of the 7 day week, as well as the 7 year shmita cycle.

The “Six Thousand Year” Tradition and the Millennium

While the following traditions are not canonical, they reflect the dominant ancient Jewish & early Christian/Messianic understandings of eschatology – some of these traditions predating the disciples by hundreds of years (such as Rabbi Elias).  The quoting of these traditions serve to simply present the backdrop against which John, and perhaps even Zechariah, were writing in reference to a future period of divine rule upon the earth.  Given the clear layout of events found in Zechariah 12-14, the following references seem to fit beautifully within a traditional premillennial scheme.katina

  • Rabbi Elias, who lived 200 years before Jesus, wrote: “The world endures 6000 years: two thousand before the law, two thousand with the law and two thousand with the Messiah.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 96b-99a)
  • Rabbi Kattina in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 96b-99a:  “The world endures 6000 years and one thousand it shall be laid waste, that is, the enemies of God shall be laid waste, whereof it is said ,’the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.’ As out of seven years every seventh is a year of remission, so out of the seven thousand years of the world, the seventh millennium shall be the 1000 years of remission, that God alone may be exalted in that day.
  • Reiterated in Sanhedrin 97a: “Rabbi Kattina said: six thousand years shall the world exist, and one thousand it shall be desolate, as it is written, and the Lord shall alone be exalted in that day (a reference to Isaiah 2:2).  It has been taught in accordance with Rabbi Kattina: just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as it is written and the Lord shall alone be exalted in that day.”

If John, writing the book of Revelation, wanted to simply convey an undefined “long period of time” during which Jesus would reign spiritually from Heaven, why would he borrow language from an already established tradition that existed within Judaism which anticipated a literal/physical 1,000 year reign of YHWH on the earth?  Would this not confuse those familiar with this tradition into believing that John was affirming the same kind of earthly, tangible, physical millennial reign?  But there’s more.  The earliest writings of the church fathers, with rare exception, also affirm this belief.  One such example is the Epistle of Barnabas, written between 70-135 AD.

barnabas2The Epistle of Barnabas is an early non-canonical book that was greatly esteemed by many of the early church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, & Eusebis.   While the rabbinic traditions reflect a chialist belief among rabbinic scholars even before the time of Jesus, the Epistle of Barnabus reveals how this belief was shared by the earliest Christians.

“And God made in six days the works of his hands; and he finished them on the seventh day, and he rested on the seventh day and sanctified it. Consider my children what that signifies, he finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this: that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. For him one day is as a thousand years…therefore children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, shall all things be accomplished…then he shall rest on the seventh day (seventh millennium).

According to the most ancient Jewish and early Christian understandings of eschatology – without citing commentary on passages such as Revelation 20 – there is to be a future 1,000 year period of rest and Divine rule on the earth.  I contend that this chialist view is the backdrop of Revelation 20, and it is hinted at in the words of the Jewish prophets.  Having laid this issue to rest, let us return to the relevance of the Feasts of the Lord in understanding both eschatology, and the God we serve…

What Do the Feasts of the Lord Mean for the New Covenant Believer?

The analogy has been used of a professional pool player.  When you play pool against a true professional, they call the shots before they make them.  In this way all who are watching, including their opponent, knows that the shot was intentional and purposeful – putting the skill of the professional on display.  In like manner, when God flung our galaxy into being, initiating His appointed times, He was calling the shots thousands of years in advance…on this day my Son will die for the sins of many…On this day I will raise Him from the dead….On this day I will pour out my Holy Spirit…On this day I will return to wage war on the ungodly and save those who trust in my Son….On this day I will cleanse Israel from their sin….On this day I will make all things new and bring down my heavenly tabernacle – New Jerusalem.

It’s laid out so intricately, the disciples couldn’t have made this stuff up!

What does this mean for us?  It means we can rest upon the accuracy of Scripture and the plan of God.  It means the Messiah is coming back with the sound of the trumpet and we must be ready.  It means we must live in a way that reflects appreciation for our Redemption.  Therefore let us go and preach the Gospel, and live in a way that pleases our Lord.

Let the people of God respond : “AMEN”

Messiah In the Feasts and Their Eschatological Implications, Part 6/7 (Sukkot)

Tony Wray is not only a recording artist but is also a teacher, and lecturer; having taught Messianic apologetics at numerous conferences, churches, and congregations.  If you would like to view a list of referrals from leaders, scholars, and theologians, or are interested in having Tony speak at your congregation or event, send an e-mail to hazakimbooking@gmail.com.

 

Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles: This is the final Feast of the Lord as recorded in Scripture.  Celebrated on Tishri 15, this Feast falls in the September/October timeframe. It is outlined in Deuteronomy 16:13 – 15, where the Lord tells the Israelites: “You are to keep the festival of Sukkot for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing-floor and winepress. Rejoice at your festival – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levi’im (Levites), and the foreigners, orphans and widows living among you. Seven days you are to keep the festival for ADONAI your God in the place ADONAI your God will choose, because ADONAI your God will bless you in all your crops and in all your work, so you are to be full of joy!

sukkah2Leviticus 23:39-43: “‘But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered the produce of the land, you are to observe the festival of ADONAI seven days; the first day is to be a complete rest and the eighth day is to be a complete rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit, palm fronds, thick branches and river-willows, and celebrate it in the presence of ADONAI your God for seven days. You are to observe it as a feast to ADONAI seven days in the year; it is a permanent regulation, generation after generation; keep it in the seventh month. You are to live in sukkot (booths, tabernacles) for seven days; every citizen of Israel is to live in a sukkah, so that generation after generation of you will know that I made the people of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am ADONAI your God.'”

We can comfortably say that this Feast will find its ultimate fulfillment with the New Jerusalem – which comes down out of heaven as the eternal heavenly dwelling place for redeemed man.  Interestingly, the dimensions of this stratosphere defying City are amazingly identical to the traditional “booth” or ”Tabernacle” constructed during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Notice the language used by John when the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven.

newjerRev 21: 2-3, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

The Greek word used here for “dwelling” is the same root word used in John 1:14 when it declares that God’s Word became flesh and “dwelt” among us.  The word literally means “to tabernacle”.  This word appears in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) in relation to the Feast of Sukkot.  Scripture teaches that God will tabernacle with us in the New Jerusalem.

Further Proof that Tabernacles Will Await Fulfillment Even After the 2nd Coming

For those who would accuse me of reading too much into the text of Revelation 21:2-3, there is more.

Zechariah 14:16 tells us that, in the coming Messianic age, the survivors of the nations, will be required to come annually to Jerusalem to worship the King during one particular feast.  Those nations who do not do so will experience famine:

“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

I would argue that the reason Tabernacles is singled out as the only Feast still required to be observed during the future millennial Kingdom is that it will be the only Feast still awaiting fulfillment up to that time (when the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven as the celestial tabernacle – at the end of the 1,000 year reign)!  Remember, Sukkot is the last of the 7 Feasts of the Lord on the Hebrew calendar.

I would argue that this is more than mere conjecture… we can rest assured that if Jesus fulfilled the Spring Feasts (with exact and sequential precision) He will fulfill the Fall Feasts as well.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Why should Zechariah 14 even be understood literally?  Because it points to the sequel of a very literal and historical parallel event.

Yahweh’s Feet Upon The Mount of Olives & New Testament Confirmation of a Literal Fulfillment of Zech 12-14

The prophet Zechariah, in addition to laying out a clear Millennial scheme based on the observance of Tabernacles in the coming age, gives us an interesting detail about the “moment of contact” in which Yahweh (the God of Israel) descends to the earth at the end of days.  This detail is corroborated by the New Testament as we shall soon see:

“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women ravaged. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord (Yahweh) will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.”  Zech 14:2-4

mt-olive-panoramic-1It is the location of Yahweh’s descent, which shows up later in the Book of Acts, that clearly affirms a literal hermeneutic regarding Zechariah 12-14 on the part of the disciples – namely Luke.  In Luke’s faithful telling of the ascension of the risen Messiah, he confirms the truthfulness of Zechariah’s prophecy written hundreds of years before:

“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city…”  Acts 1:10-12

The implications are clear:  In the first chapter of Acts the disciples are told (by angels no less) that the Messiah will return “in the same way” that He left.  He ascended physically, and visibly from the earth – and will return physically and visibly to the earth.  He ascended in the clouds of heaven and will return in the clouds of heaven.  But there is more…  He ascended, as the fullness of deity in bodily form, from the Mount of Olives – east of Jerusalem.  Is it any wonder that, according to Zechariah, Yahweh (God Almighty) will touch His feet upon the Mount of Olives when He comes at the end of days?  If this aspect of Zechariah’s vision is to be literal, pray tell why we should shift gears after verse 4 and interpret the rest (which is quite specific in detail) in an allegorical fashion?  Furthermore, is there a single prophecy concerning Messiah’s first coming that He did not fulfill literally – almost always hyper-literally!?

After presenting this Zechariah/Acts – Mount of Olives connection to multiple people, I have yet to hear an  interpretation that could point to a non-literal, allegorical “a-or-post” millennial eschatology.

In the next post we will look at an interesting tradition passed on by early rabbinic and Christian fathers in ancient times.  Their words, while not Scripture, give us insight into the early understanding of the “millennium”, based on the texts of Scripture.