JERUSALEM MISSED THE BLESSING
Michael F. Blume
© 2002 Michael F. Blume
Reading Matthew 20:20-29 gives us the account where James and John's mother ask Jesus if her boys can sit at His immediate right and left in the Kingdom. She heard him refer to the opportunity that He gave to the disciples to sit with Him on thrones in His Kingdom [Matthew 19:23]. Jesus responded that she did not at all realize what she said. The great ones of the world are recognized as the ones who dominate others, but in God's kingdom, the great ones are recognized as the ones who serve others.
Even Jesus, Himself, served others more than anyone could serve anybody. He died as a ransom for many, making Him the greatest of all.
He continued and explained to them all that position in the kingdom is prepared by the Father. And the Father determines servitude. This goes along with the reward of willingness, in the parable when some laborers who worked all day were paid the same wage as those who came to work in the eleventh hour. God pays by willingness. Those who came late in the day would have worked had they been called early in the day.
This principle begs us to ask ourselves, "Are we willing to serve others?" This is God's will. The two greatest commandments are to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. And that speaks of servitude both towards God and towards one another.
The issue of Kingdom Eschatology comes into play at this point, since the prophetic words of Jesus' discussion on the Mount Olives, in Matthew 25, also has a reference to positions in the kingdom prepared by the Father. And it involves serving others. It also shows why the two disciples' mother did not know what she said when she asked if her boys could be seated at His left and right [Matthew 25:31-46].
Jesus said that the time when He should come, according to Matthew 24, would be the time when the kingdom of God would be like the scenario of the ten virgins. Here is the parable of the well-known five wise virgins and five foolish virgins. It is similar to the story of the talents. There will be a day, Jesus explained, when He separates Sheep on his Right and Goats on his Left. The Lord used these words, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." It is no wonder that He told the boys' mother that she did not know what she said! He said that the Kingdom is prepared of the Father, and here we read that standing on the left would be to be accursed as a goat! The blessed disciples would be on His right as sheep. The cursed ones would be on His left as goats.
This refers to the destruction upon Jerusalem in 70 AD. Matthew 24:1-3 expressly refers solely to Jerusalem's destruction. The reference to the "end of the world," in that scripture is literally translated "end of the age." An age ended at the destruction of Jerusalem. Although the cross finished all that was necessary for salvation, 70 AD, forty years later, was scripturally notable, as we shall see.
The issue of the temple destruction in Matthew 24 continues on into Matthew 25. And when we read of the cursed goats at the left and the blessed sheep at the right, we see a direct reference to Deuteronomy chapters 27 and 28 where Moses instructed Israel about entering the Land of Canaan. It was the entrance into their promised land, and the land was very much noted in Moses' words to Israel. They finally gained access into that land. However, there were some warnings about the land their possession of it that had to be given to Israel at that time.
Blessings were placed upon Mount Gerizim and cursings were put upon Mount Ebal. This is similar to Jesus' words in Matthew 25. The cursed would go on His left as goats and the blessed would go on the right as sheep.
Notice the element of hearkening to the voice of God in this scripture. That is hearing and doing what the Word says, much like the wise man who built his house on the rock, in Matthew 7. In Jesus' parable of the houses on the Rock and sand, the wise believer is blessed, and as a sheep, if one obeys the Word.
The issue is about obedience to God. Like the wise and the foolish, there were two choices. Moses spoke about blessings and cursings. When Israel entered the Land, Joshua obeyed Moses' command to build the two altars at Gerizim and Ebal as recorded in Joshua Chapter 8. It was then that Israel went forth to conquer the land. And in chapter 24, Joshua returned to this location where the altars had been erected. It was the place between the two mountains, named Shechem. (This was where the woman at the well met Jesus - Shechem was later called Sychar and Sychem in the New Testament).
Notice that the Ark of the Covenant was placed between the two mountains of blessing and cursing as the Lord stood between the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. One group on the left, and one group on the right. And the scriptures of Joshua 24:14, 15, 16, 18 all speak about servitude, the very issue that Jesus spoke about with the mother of James and John, in referring to the Kingdom of God and the positioning therein that was prepared by the Father.
Beneath Joshua's leadership, Israel entered into a land of blessings. They labored not for those blessings [Joshua 24:13]. This is so much like it is with the followers of Christ. We have blessings of salvation and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places that we did not labor to construct [Ephesians 1:3].
Moses told the people that if they would do the will of the Lord, they would be blessed, but straying from God's Word would surely bring a curse upon them.
Notice the rewards of disobedience.
Josephus recorded the now-famous words of how this very prophecy was fulfilled in Jerusalem's destruction by Rome. People ate their own offspring due to starvation caused by the siege.
God said that a "nation of fierce countenance" would come against Israel. In Daniel, we read of "four beasts" that rise in the world. The second and third beast-kingdoms are named in chapter 8 of Daniel.
Daniel 8:1 reads that the vision was linked to the one in chapter 7 of the four beasts. Babylon was the first beast, as is obvious, since Daniel was in Babylon during captivity and directed the first beast to mean Babylon. Medo-Persia was the second. Greece was the third. The fourth was not named. However, we do read these words.
Compare that with:
Moses said this would be one of the curses upon Israel should they disobey God's word. Daniel said this would be the fourth beast, following Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. Historically, that beast was Rome. And there were no more than four beasts in Daniel's prophecy.
After the Roman Empire there has never been another world empire. And it was Rome who destroyed the City of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The discussion of Matthew 25 and the blessed sheep on the right and the cursed goats on the left indeed does continue from Matthew 24's discussion about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And this reference to Deuteronomy and the cursed and the blessed, and its reference to the nation of "fierce countenance", referred in Daniel 8, pointing to Rome [through historical proof], confirms that fact all the more! Matthew 25 is the fulfillment of Deuteronomy's curse due to the disobedience of Jerusalem in not hearkening to God's Word.
And after Moses, in Deuteronomy 27 and 28, spoke about the curses and blessings, God instructed him that Israel would indeed disobey God and stray from serving Him in the distant future.
Notice that God said they would go "a whoring." This is a direct connection to the reference of the "great whore" in Revelation 17 who rode atop the beast [Rome] to crucify Jesus, and was thrown down by the beast, and devoured by the very beast upon which she rode.
It is interesting to note that the siege by Rome against Jerusalem took 3.5 years, in light of the following scripture.
The cross was the most pivotal of events of all time. And the perpetrators of that crime, who used Rome to carry it through, would be the single sign and wonder of all ages to attest to the wrath of God that is kindled against disobedience to His word. Moses described this very note in Deuteronomy 28:46.
God foretold that Israel would go a "whoring" after other gods. The great whore was one that rode upon the fourth beast and was slain by the very same beast later on. Truly this was Jerusalem. Jerusalem rode atop Rome and used Rome to slay Christ and persecute the Church. And later Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome.
The cross is understood to be central to all teaching in the Bible. Therefore, the Jerusalem that rejected Christ and slew Him would be the greatest example of disobedience one could find in the Bible. That is why 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem is such a key thought in Matthew 24 through 25 and most of the book of Revelation. It is a sign and wonder for all ages, as to how God deals with disobedience.
Like Sheep and goats on either side, and fools and wise ones, we read the following in Deuteronomy.
Saying that Matthew 24 and 25 refers to some future "beast" is to remove all the centrality of the cross and the ramifications of the denial accomplished by Jerusalem.
It was forty years after Israel doubted God to enter Canaan, that the doubters were destroyed, and Joshua and Caleb, the believers, entered. The "Joshua and Caleb crowd" in the New Testament were those who accepted Jesus as Messiah and Saviour. But the doubters, and their fellow doubters of old time, speak of Jerusalem and Israel as a whole in Christ's day. Forty years after Jerusalem rejected Jesus, the sentence of Deuteronomy's curses came upon her, just as death came upon the doubtful Hebrews forty years after they rejected the Promised Land in unbelief.
The sheep in Jesus picture are the Joshua/Caleb crowd, or the Church. The goats are the people of Jerusalem who rejected Jesus, and died forty years later.
SONG OF MOSES
God said that a song would be sung as witness of God's foreknowledge, telling Moses that Israel would reject God's Word and be besieged by a nation of fierce countenance, and scattered over the earth.
This is shown in the book of Revelation. Please follow this sequence of events.
The book of Revelation shows the destruction of Jerusalem for crucifying the Lord and rejecting God's Word. We see Jerusalem fall while the Church stood. This is an incredible parallel to the picture in Matthew 7 of the fool's house that fell in the storm while the wise house stood strong.
While the Beast of Rome issues its mark, and the wrath of God came down upon Jerusalem, we read...
The wise house stood!
Babylon, the house of fools, fell. Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome.
As David took the weapon from his enemy, Goliath, and destroyed his enemy, the weapon that Jerusalem used to slay Christ, Rome, was taken and used to destroy Jerusalem. And after Babylon/Jerusalem falls in Revelation 14, we read...
God told Moses that after Israel rejected Him, this song of Moses would be sung as a witness. And lo and behold we see the song sung after Babylon falls and the 144,000 stand with Christ. Babylon is Jerusalem, the whore, who went a whoring after other gods, and the 144,000 are the church. What is the servitude that was stressed to John and James and the disciples in Matthew 20?
Jesus command is to serve one another in love. And notice why the sheep are blessed on the right:
These sheep on the right are the people who did not stray from the Lord's command to love one another, and serve one another. Jesus told Zebedee's wife that she knew not what she spoke about in referring to His right hand and left hand. Matthew 25 informs us that Jesus shall separate the goats on His left and the sheep on His right.
Jesus told Zebedee's wife that the Father prepared the positions in the Kingdom. Matthew 25 shows Jesus speaking of the kingdom prepared by the Father. Jesus told the disciples that greatness in the Kingdom is ascertained by their degree of servitude to one another. Jesus said in Matthew 25 that the sheep served each other and in effect did it unto the Lord.
Since Moses said that the destruction of Jerusalem would be a sign and wonder forever, after they were destroyed by Rome, and since Matthew 25 indeed refers to that event, as the sheep and goats are seen in Deuteronomy 27's curses and blessings, may this ever be a sign to us. We, too, will suffer God's wrath if we do not accept Jesus' word.
What was Jesus' word to the disciples? Love one another. Serve each other.
What was Jesus' reason for setting sheep on His right? They served each other. We need to get hatred between ourselves out of our hearts. We need to ensure that we do not harm our brothers and sisters and put the others first.
How would you treat Jesus? Treat each other in that manner, because that is what was done when the sheep loved one another. They were rewarded as though they loved the Lord, Himself.
Physically, Jerusalem was destroyed. But spiritually speaking, people are destroyed today for straying from the command to love one another. Be part of the Joshua/Caleb company and get on the right side of Christ. Receive the blessings. Love each other. God still works as he did in 70 AD, albeit in a spiritual manner now.
Michael F. Blume works with Rightly Dividing the Word and is assistant pastor with Bible Truth Church in El Campo, TX. His website’s address is: www.mikeblume.com
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