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 3/7 (First Fruits)

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.

In the last post we looked at Passover, and it’s ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah.  Staying in chronological order, the next Feast on the calendar is First Fruits…

firstfruits

First Fruits, also known as the “Feast of Weeks” (Bikkurim in Hebrew) is the third of the seven “Feasts of the Lord” commanded by the Lord to be celebrated by Israel.   

 “Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel.  I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.”       Exodus 34:22 

It was a designated time when Israel was to bring a sheaf (Hebrew: omer) of the firstfruits of the harvest to be waived by the priests before the Lord, and was to be observed the DAY AFTER THE SABBATH following Passover (or Sunday).  In essence, it was the dedication of the “brand new” and “first” of the seed which had been planted in the ground – blossoming into something new and beautiful.

Remember what happened the day after the Sabbath after the Passover Jesus died on?  That’s right!  Messiah became the “First Fruits” of the resurrection!

FULFILLED!!  That’s 2 for 2!

empty-tomb-jesusMark 16: 1, “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Predicting His own death, Jesus draws a clear connection between His death and First Fruits when He says:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  (John 12:23-24).

It is interesting to note that this very Chapter begins by telling us that the context of the chapter is the time of the Passover…it is logical to conclude that these words of Jesus were spoken at the time of First Fruits (the first Sunday after the Passover).  The use of “harvest language” in reference to His death is a clear allusion to First Fruits.

Paul, a Jewish believer in Yeshua who was very familiar with these details, further explained:

“But now is Messiah risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Messiah’s at His Coming” (1Corinthians 15:20-23).

resurrectionHe further develops this “First Fruits” concept of the resurrection in verse 35 of the same chapter:

“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  (1Corinthians 15:35-44).

Praise God! Since Messiah has risen as the First Fruits of the new glorified resurrection body, we need not fear death!  It is simply the sowing of the corruptible in preparation for a harvest of incorruptible new and beautiful eternal bodies!

In the next post we will explore the next Feast day on God’s calendar: Shavu’ot, also known as “Pentecost”.  So much richness in God’s Word – excited to see what we can discover next!