What Does The Church of The Firstborn Mean

This is from a teaching website and a standard interpretation.

A link to the site is at the end.    

What Does The Church of The Firstborn Mean?

Hebrews 12:22-24 states: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

First, in the original language, the term “firstborn” is in the plural. It should be translated as “church of the firstborn ones.”                                          

Second, we must recognize that Jesus is The “Firstborn.” He was given the preeminence (superiority) by God the Father over the new creation (Colossians 1:15-20). He was also preeminent because He arose from the dead and was the first person to die no more (Revelation 1:5).                                                

Third, sinners who trust and obey the gospel of Christ (John 8:24; Acts 17:30; Romans 10:9,10; Acts 2:38) will undergo water baptism to identify with Jesus (Ephesians 1:3,12; 2:13; Acts 22:16 – His precious blood which washes away our sins), the Firstborn One, to also become firstborn ones because they have been raised from water “to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3,4). They have experienced a death to the old life of sin, a burial of that old man of sin, and a spiritual resurrection of a new man by God’s grace through faith via water immersion. They also look forward if they are faithful (if they should die first) to a physical resurrection from the dead at the end of time (1 Corinthians 15) since Jesus was the first one to rise from the dead to die no more.

https://thegospelofchrist.com/knowledge-base/tgoc-kb–hwwgt

Discussion and Analysis

First, the fact that firstborn is in plural form is not Biblical interpretation, but Grade school grammar. The subject is ‘church’ which should require no explanation, as having many members. This requires the plural form in the object of the preposition, ‘firstborn.’                                                     

Second, Jesus is identified as the Firstborn, hence the church of the firstborn implies: His church, His body. This then supports the idea of ‘The Church of The Firstborn One’. Translating ‘church of the firstborn ones’ suggests to the reader that only firstborn children are allowed membership, and misrepresents the significance of the word.                                                                         

Third, and most elaborate is the explanation that sinners who are baptised in repentance become ‘firstborn ones’ by faith. No where in the New Testament are we ever instructed that we have become firstborn by grace through faith. To understand the significance of the firstborn, the seeker of Truth must look to the Law and the Prophets. 

Isaiah 8:20.  To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

[Here is an analysis based on Exodus 13 and associated scriptures.]  

Memorial of the Firstborn

Exodus 13:9.  And it shall be for a sign unto you upon your hand and for a memorial before your eyes that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.                                                     

After destroying all the firstborn males of Egypt and sparing Israel, both of man and beast, the Lord claims all the firstborn males who open the womb as His own possession. To eat bread without leaven for seven days is to acknowledge what God sanctifies unto Himself as an ordinance forever. These commandments are for a memorial to the strong hand of the Lord in our life, to direct our actions in accordance with His ways, not our own ability.

Exodus 13:1-8, (abbreviated).  The Lord spoke to Moses; sanctify unto me all the firstborn…remember this day you came out of Egypt, for the Lord brought you out with a strong hand, therefore you shall not eat with leaven….for seven days…and you shall tell your son in that day “This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when he brought me out of Egypt. 

Exodus 13:14, 15.   And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, what is this? You shall say unto him, with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the house of slavery…..therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that opens the womb but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.                                 

The Lord displays His strong hand in judgment against the strength of man as a display of sovereignty.

1 Corinthians 1:25.   “For the weakness of God is stronger than men.”      

This perception of man invested in the first born male is clearly understood in the words of Jacob in his final blessing upon his sons.

Genesis 49:3.  Reuben you, my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.                                     

“The beginning of my strength” is the expression of a man’s virility.            

Psalm 105:36.  He smote all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength. 

On the other hand, God displays His might and the beginning of His strength in creation:

Isaiah 40:26.  Lift up your eyes on high and behold who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one fails.                  

Moreover, this perception of the firstborn male is an expression of the pride of man. In this context, the Lord invests Israel before the witness of Pharaoh (the false man-god) with a severe warning:

Exodus 4:22&23.  And you shall say unto Pharaoh, thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn, and I say unto you; let my son go that he may serve me, and if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your son, your firstborn.      

The priesthood became exclusive to the tribe of Levi after the golden calf incident, and as a result, they took the place of the firstborn redeemed of the Lord.

Numbers 3:12 & 13.  Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that open the womb from among the children of Israel, therefore the Levites shall be mine because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast, mine shall they be: I am the Lord.                                                                                                  

The census established the number of Levite males qualified to serve with Aaron in the priesthood, the sons of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The census of the firstborn males totaled 273 souls above that of the qualified Levite males, and these were redeemed by a five shekel per man redemption price.

In modern day Israel, the government mints a five shekel coin that can be purchased for a family to commemorate a son as the firstborn, by natural childbirth. Family restrictions in some countries, birth control, abortion and cesarean birth all restrict the number of firstborn males who open the womb, and thus the church of the firstborn.

Take heed to understand that the church is not exclusive to firstborn males of natural childbirth, but the number establishes a limit to the fullness. 

God has taken for Himself the firstborn reflecting the fact that the Son of God is the firstborn of all creation, as well the firstborn from the dead.

Luke 21:24.  For Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the gentiles until the time of the gentiles be fulfilled.                                                                                   

Romans 11:25. For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 

Thus these prophetic scriptures apply to the gentiles, and this age has an established end.

A True Prophet

Beginning with the Law:

 Deuteronomy 18:21,22.    You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. 

Sounds a little bit simplistic doesn’t it? And yet you have to know the Law and the prophets. Here is why.  Jesus knew every Word of God, and it is the basis for understanding every word He spoke. Satan knows every word of God, even trying to use that word in tempting Jesus.

Every Word of God that you have failed to learn and keep in your heart becomes a weapon for the enemy to use against you. For every Word of God you know and keep is a weapon of warfare for your spirit, under the Remembrance of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s something Jesus said about His return:

Matthew 24:27.  For just as lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man.  

Based on Deuteronomy 18:21 above, understanding this verse is simple; you will see me when you see me. All speculation about when Jesus is going to return is harmful, and I have in fact spoken in detail about this in the previous essay.

Here is what Jesus says about the day of His return:

Luke 17:26-30.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building;  on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.  So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.  

So to answer the question do we think Jesus returns at a time of imminent destruction of the earth, the answer is no, this is a Shia Muslim belief, and the reason Iran is so eager to provoke a nuclear confrontation with the U.S. and the world.

What this also tells us is that just before each of these judgments, essentially one man stood between the everyday life of everyone and imminent judgment, thus we should continue to intercede and try to delay the coming of the Lord as if  we are that man.

 2 Peter 3. ‘for His longsuffering is reckoned as salvation.’ 

All eschatology dealing with interpreting prophecy to predict when something is going to happen is the work of error. Prophecy is rightly interpreted when we see fulfillment and know this is from God. No prophecy is given for experts to use to make predictions. God’s purpose in giving us prophecy is to insure us that He is, in fact, in control. If He can tell us the end from the beginning, we can rest assured.

John 16:1.   These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.   

2 Thessalonians 2:3.   Let no one deceive you in any way, for that Day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the one destined to be destroyed.

The Day of the Lord will not come until after the man of lawlessness is revealed. We will know him when we see him, because he has been described to us. Yet so many commentators continue to speculate on who they think he is, calling him the antiChrist,  until we find out that he isn’t. There should be a Hall of Fame for world leaders who were identified as the antiChrist, and a Hall of Shame for the false teachers who speculated on prophecy that is given so that we will know him when we see him.

Wait on the Lord. What I say to one I say to all: Watch and Pray.

FALSE PROPHETS

People often speak of “war and rumors of war”, as well as global disasters as being signs of the end time. I would ask you today to look with fresh eyes and consider the Lord’s heart in this regard.

Matthew 24:1.  And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to Him to show him the buildings of the temple.

At the end of a busy day,  Jesus and his disciples find a quiet place, and they simply comment on the view of the temple mount. The Lord surprises them with a very precise and shocking prophecy.

Mt. 24:2.  And Jesus said unto them,  See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.         

Jesus has mentioned a few times that He would face rejection and death in Jerusalem, but now He speaks of God’s soon judgment on the city and they immediately make a jump in their own minds that this pertains to the end of the age.

Mt. 24:3.  And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?     

We know that most of the Lord’s followers would have lived to see the destruction of the temple, this event was not a herald of the end times. While the questions reveal what was on their hearts, only the Lord’s answers can show us His priorities.

Mt. 24:4.  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you 

Now if we pause here in the discourse and ask the question, “what do you think was the Lord’s primary concern regarding the subject of signs and the end of the age? Your answer should be that He was concerned with deceptive teachings that would come forth in this regard. Did He not once say this concerning signs:

Matthew 16:4.    A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.

He continues the discourse by elaborating on the subject of deceptions, not signs.

Mt. 24:5.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

To be clear here, the Lord is not talking about anyone claiming to be the Messiah. Anyone who comes “in His name”, are claiming to be legitimate ambassadors speaking on His behalf.  The claim “I am Christ”, should be translated: “I am anointed”, because christos means anointed, and this is a claim that every false teacher, preacher and prophet is making these days. This is more than a sign of the end times, this is a caution for the wise follower to avoid being deceived.

Mt. 24:5.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 

These words “the end is not yet” should be enough to convince you that quoting “wars and rumors of wars” as if to imply that the end of the age is upon us is to greatly discredit your understanding.

Mt. 24:7.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
Yada, yada, yada….
Mt:24:8.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.  

Now this is something to consider. This expression of early birth pangs says a lot about being misinformed. Most people know that you don’t rush to the hospital with the first contractions of birth. Couples are coached to time contractions to be sure that labor has begun. However, there are still occasions where an expectant mother is rushed to a hospital, only to return later that evening saying; “false alarm”. A good possibility is that  greater awareness avoids reacting inappropriately to the beginning of sorrows.

Mt. 24:11  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  .

Again with the warnings and concerns over being deceived.

Mt. 24:12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

This verse uses the word agape for love and therefore cannot be interpreted as a state of the world we live. Only believers can know the agape love of God, and only believers can lose their “first love” and fall away due to lawlessness (iniquity) within the church.

2 Thessalonians 2:3  Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.

This is why Jesus now says:

Mt. 24:13.   But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

There are two verses I will now post for consideration on this topic.

Luke 21:24.  And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until “the times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled.

Notice that this is the “the end of the age” for the Gentiles, and the sovereignty of Jerusalem is a legitimate point of inquiry.

Romans 11:25.  For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should  be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Again with the Gentiles in the age we now occupy. With a growing number of Jews in Israel who see the historical Jesus (Yeshua) as the Son of God and Messiah, we draw closer to a true remnant in the promised land. Another reality worthy of attention.

Matthew 24:24.  For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Let me speak frankly to younger readers. Years ago, few preachers claimed to be anointed or to have “the anointing”. Now, essentially everyone on television, radio or otherwise makes this claim. They are the same people who love to talk about “the signs of the end times” in Matthew 24, without realizing they are fulfilling prophecy in so stating.

Galatians 3:29.  And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

The text of Galatians 3:29 begins “de ei hymeis christos”, and the word christos means anointed, thus “if you are anointed” (or claim to be). Compare this to Matthew 24:5: For many shall come in my name saying I am anointed (christos) and shall deceive many.

This is why Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit”, not who they claim to be as testimony of themselves. This is an antichrist spirit that had already manifested in the first century church.

1 John 2:18.  Little children it is the last time and as you have heard that antichrist shall come even now are there many antichrists whereby we know that is the last time.

Now please consider what Paul is saying:

2 Corinthians 10:7: Do you look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is anointed let him of himself think this again, that as he is anointed even so are we anointed.

Among the first century church there already were many preaching “in that name” and claiming an anointing to do so, and yet they were contradicting what Paul and his companions were preaching!

I implore you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ:

1 John 4:1.   Beloved believe not every spirit but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Ways and Means of the Lord

Ezekiel 14:22, 23. Yet behold, there shall be left in it a remnant who will be brought out, sons and daughters; surely they will come out to you, and you will see their ways and their doings. Then you will be comforted concerning the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, all that I have brought upon it.  And they will comfort you, when you see their ways and their doings; and you shall know that I have done nothing without cause that I have done in it,  says the Lord God.

derek aliylah=ways and means

This Word informs us that the remnant will demonstrate a right way of acting based on pure intentions from a heart directed by the Lord. Not just the ways that the people accomplish, but also the means by which they fulfill them. When people see their works, they will be comforted, that God is still with the people, even in the face of great catastrophe or hardship. The Brenton Septuagint renders this expression ‘their ways and their thoughts’, the emphasis on the reasoning behind the action being expressed.

Psalm 99:8. You answered them, O Lord our God: you were a God that forgave them, though You took vengeance of their inventions.

Rather than ‘inventions’ for aliylah here , most modern translations state ‘misdeeds’. The Septuagint is translated by Brenton as ‘devices’.   Simply punishing deeds without correcting the faulty reasoning behind the acts would accomplish very little. The Lord desires to lead in the right way. 

1 Samuel 2:3.  Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth. For the Lord is the God of knowledge;  And by Him aliylah is assessed.

This is the derek aliylah of the Lord.

Ezekiel 20:43, 44. And there shall ye remember your ways and your means, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.  And ye shall know that I am the Lord when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupted means, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord God.

What is the offense that perpetuates the falling away of the people? Not only in disregarding laws and statutes, but grievously profaning their memorials.  The Lord gave the people His Sabbaths, that they may pass down the righteous way to their children. Sin was magnified by what a chosen people passed onto the next generation.

Ezekiel 20:18. But I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols.   I am the Lord your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them;  hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.

Forty years of wandering in the wilderness resulted in an entire generation passing away before the nation entered the promised land. 

Psalm 103:7. He made known His ways to Moses, His means unto the children of Israel.

A clear division was presented by how that generation worshipped, and how their children had learned to walk.  The memorials of the Torah were to ensure that this refined generation passed on righteousness to their children.

Ezekiel 21:24.  Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have made your iniquity to be remembered [by your children], in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your means [aliylah] your sins appear; because you have perpetuated their memory in passing them on, you shall be taken in hand.

While aliylah is most typically translated deeds, it actually strikes deeper to the reasoning and planning that precedes the action. Even if the motive seems pure, the method will be faulty without the wisdom of God. The remnant of God will ultimately declare His ways and means.

Zephaniah 3:11.  On that day you shall not be shamed for all of your wicked aliylah, in which you transgress against Me; For then I will take away from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain.

And in that day you will say:

Isaiah 12:4.  Praise the Lord, call upon His name; declare His aliylah among the peoples.  Make mention that His name is exalted.

Psalm 9:11.  Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion!  Declare His aliylah among the people.

A Parable of Faithful Ministry

The Beginning of the Gospel

According to Mark, the gospel begins with John the Baptist, the focus of our parable.

Mark 1:1-3. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets: behold I send my messenger before your face which shall prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.                                                  

We are given two scriptures, from Isaiah 40, and from Malachi 3, from which the ministry of John the Baptist draws an anointing from the Spirit of Truth. The gospel of John tells us the ministry of John the Baptist also served as a test on the hearts of all who heard his message.

.John 1:6, 7. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness to testify of the Light that all through him might believe.

It is said of John that he was sent from God. Compare this to the answer Jesus gave to the question: what must we do to perform the works of God?

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said: this is the work of God: that you believe the one whom He has sent.

The words of all who are sent by God become a basis for faith.

Ephesians 2:20.  Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.  

A Voice in the Wilderness

Jesus was asked by what authority he acted upon.

Matthew 21:24-27 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, did it come from heaven or of men? They answered Jesus, we cannot tell. And He said unto them, neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.  .

Because the chief priests and elders refused to acknowledge the ministry of John the Baptist as being sent from God, Jesus refused to answer their questions, though they had the authority to ask, for He answered to a Higher Authority.

 Matthew 21:32.  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and when you had seen it, repented not afterward, that you might believe him.

We can see here a fulfillment of the word spoken in John 1:7, that all through him might believe. The religious leaders were denied repentance even with the witness of mighty miracles of God, because they rejected John. 

Luke 7:30.  And all the people that heard him justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves (literally ‘within themselves’), not being baptized of him.        

John 10:41, 42. And many resorted unto Him and said John did no miracles but all things that John spoke of this man were true. And many believed on Him there. 

So we see that those who received the baptism of John also remained to hear him preach. Jesus fulfilled the words spoken before by this prophet, which confirmed their faith. Those who rejected the baptism of John knew nothing of the word that he preached concerning the Christ.

The Spirit and Power of Elijah

Matthew 11:13-15.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you will receive, this is Elijah which was to come. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.

The relationship between John the Baptist and Elijah was a stumbling block for the Jews at the time that Jesus was ministering the gospel. When the authorities in Jerusalem sent emissaries to inquire into the baptism of John, he was asked point blank:

“Are you Elijah?” 

John 1:19-23.  He answered, I am not. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord, as spoken by the prophet Isaiah.                   

John again testifies to the scriptural authority and anointing for his ministry. The Holy Spirit clarifies this by a prophecy given to Zachariah by the angel who announced the child’s conception.

Luke 1:17. He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 

The angel here references a prophecy of Malachi that Jesus also alludes to in Matthew 17:11 when He said Elijah truly shall come first and restore all things.

Malachi 4:5, 6. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 

Jesus understood that anyone waiting for Messiah would expect Elijah first, and he was provided in the person of John who came in “the spirit and power of Elijah”.

The Acceptable Year of the Lord

The greater stumbling block for the Jews was that the Messiah would come twice, first as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. At the end of the age He will complete all prophecy with the day of God’s wrath. Consider how he works around this issue in Luke chapter four in the synagogue of Nazareth one Sabbath day when He was chosen to read from the prophet Isaiah chapter 61.

Luke 4:18, 19. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are bruised.

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 

After stopping the reading abruptly, he sits back down and every eye is on Him, wondering why He has stopped. He then declares, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing.” So why suddenly stop reading? Because Isaiah 61:2 continued, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God”. We see the first and second coming mentioned in one verse, and Jesus declaring the fulfillment of only the acceptable year of the Lord.

So why do Bible scholars claim that the ministry of Jesus lasted three years?  In  accordance with the Law of Moses, all Jewish men were required to appear “before the Lord” for three feasts. Do we really think that Jesus came to Jerusalem three times as prescribed by the Law, worked miracles, declared Himself to be the Son of God and provoked the religious authorities by calling them a generation of vipers and then said No? Okay, I’ll try again next year for the less acceptable year of the Lord round two. Once Jesus reached the age of 30, He began His ministry and fulfilled His Father’s Will. When He comes again it will the Day of the Lord.

Receive from Heaven

John 3:22-24.  After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea and there He tarried with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim , because there was much water there and they came and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.                             

There comes a point in everyone’s ministry when they must make the right decision and abide under the anointing they received for the work they were chosen to do. Two ministries are in the Judean wilderness, both baptizing. This is an awkward situation but nothing bad has come of it yet. Ultimately questions will be asked and there will be an accountability required of us.

John 3:25-27. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John and said unto him Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan to whom you bore witness, behold, the same baptizes and all come to him. John answered and said a person can receive only what is given them from heaven.                                                  

This discussion raises more questions than answers and demands a serious pause for consideration. John’s ministry is quickly becoming a lesson for future disciples to draw wisdom. Why does John even still have disciples? And is he now addressed as Rabbi? Notice the way they describe the Lord as “he that was with you”. Why did he not become a disciple of Jesus with the revelation he had received concerning Him?

John 3:28.  You yourselves testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah,’ but rather, I am sent before Him.

Friend of the Bridegroom

John 3-29,30. He that has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice, this my joy, therefore is fulfilled. He must increase and I must decrease.

We now come to one of the more frequently quoted verses: He must increase but I must decrease. If only that were true, John would have quietly faded into the background. We would say “whatever happened to John the Baptist, he was so prominent at first and then he just seems to disappear from the narrative.”  

Oh, that makes sense, once Jesus was baptized he had fulfilled his mission. The only lingering question would be, why did he not follow Jesus? Instead he ceases to be a voice in the wilderness and goes to Jerusalem. Notice the Bible doesn’t say “and the word of the Lord then came again unto John and said, go tell that rascal Herod he can’t have his brother’s wife.”  Maybe he was just bored, but now we find him in prison, his head soon to be placed on a platter.

Matthew 11:2, 3. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him are you He that should come or do we look for another? 

This is astonishing! John was informed of God how to identify the Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descend from heaven in a bodily form and light on Jesus like a dove. He testified, this is the Son of God! And now he asks, “Do we look for another?” He is actually saying, if you are the Messiah, why am I in prison!? Aren’t you supposed to be restoring the kingdom of Israel, aren’t you supposed to restore the throne of David!?

The Least in the Kingdom

Matthew 11:4.  Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see. 

Jesus tells John’s followers that the works of Christ speak for themselves. Then he adds another critical word for us to always consider:

Matthew 11:6.  And blessed is whosoever that shall not be offended in Me.          

This was the Lord’s pointed word to John, are you offended in me? We can never allow our own expectations to distort our understanding of what God has chosen us uniquely to have as a stewardship. John and his followers were expecting a King, not a Lamb of sacrifice.

John the Baptist teaches us that we can come out from under our anointing, we can walk and speak in the flesh what we believe to be the word of God, even quoting scripture verbatim, and there will be consequences. Condemning Herod was not kingdom business, not the Gospel message that Jesus came for: “to save the world, not condemn”.

Matthew 11:11. Truly I say unto you among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.                                                   

My beloved brethren, abide in Christ, and remain among the least of these.                    Keep a good head on your shoulders!

John 1:15.  John testified about Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, The One who comes after me is above me, because He existed before me.’” 

Israel High Above All Nations

John 3:31.   He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

There is a multitude of Bible teachers who embody the notion of an earthly man that speaks of the earth while failing to lay hold of The Spirit of Truth.  A perfect example is the many teachings that refer to the early monarchy in Israel, as represented by Kings David and Solomon, being the “Golden Age” Of Israel. This view from the earth fails to identify the True Golden Age of historical Israel from the view of the One from above, who is above all. 

Joshua 24:31.  Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.

Before Messiah Yeshua came to earth, this time prior to the falling away in the time of the Judges would be the Golden Age of Israel as viewed from a heavenly perspective. This also gives us a unique lesson in faith from an Old Testament narrative. This period stands out by a complete lack of description for the era. One verse! One statement, and moving on.

2 Corinthians 4:18.  For  we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Romans 8:25. If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

In the absence of a narrative, we have to believe that God’s Word is True, without a testimony for confirmation. For if Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, AND all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, then we must believe that they lived under the blessings promised for those who were faithful.

Deuteronomy 28:1, 2.  Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.  And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.

Clearly, the people did not abide under the blessings of Deuteronomy 28 long enough to see themselves set over all nations of the earth. However, as a people who served the Lord for most of a generation, the blessings would have been tangible.

Even more so, after using only 14 verses to describe the blessings of a faithful people, Deuteronomy 28 goes on to use over 50 verses to describe the curses to be brought on by disobedience! Surely this generation avoided all of these calamities. 

By faith, we must believe that life was more bountiful for Israel at this time than any other. Because:

Numbers 23:19. God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

We can now contrast this period with the time of the monarchy of Israel.

What stands out immediately even from this scant information is that even after the leader Joshua passed away, the elders of his generation were able to keep the people walking in the Way of the Lord, without a central figure. 

There was no king in Israel, and there was no intention in the heart of God for there ever to be one. When the elders demanded a king from Samuel, he received this word from God;

1 Samuel 8:7.  And the Lord said to Samuel, Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.

While God did not desire to see a king reigning over His people, He did anticipate their demand and gave instructions for how a king in Israel should conduct himself.

Principles Governing Kings

Deuteronomy 17 :14-17. When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me, you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 

And he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, You shall not return that way again. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.

Now we can grade this so called Golden Age of Solomon by the expectations of God in the Law.

Solomon multiplied wives, who turned his heart away. Strike One.

1 Kings 11:4. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Solomon multiplied horses for his military.  Strike Two.

1 Kings 4:26.   And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.

1 Kings 10:28.   And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt….

Solomon greatly multiplied gold in his kingdom, silver was not accounted.   Strike Three.

1 Kings 10:21.  And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.

1 Kings 10:27. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones.

1 Kings 10:14. The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was 666  talents of gold.

The Golden Age indeed!

Before anointing Saul the first king of Israel, Samuel warned the people of what a king would demand of them.

1 Samuel 8:11-20. And he said, This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots.  He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 

 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.  And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take a tenth of your sheep. 

And you will be his servants.  And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you on that day. 

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.

King David fed his people as his flock, but this king’s levy came into full effect under the reign of Solomon. After forty years, the people had enough of this hardship. When his son Rehoboam ascended to the throne, they immediately voiced their grievances.

1 Kings 12:4.  Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he placed on us, and we will serve you.

The kingdom was soon divided and the rest is history. Israel fell to Assyria first, later Judah was taken into captivity to Babylon. The Lord spoke on this through the prophet Jeremiah that the captivity would last seventy years, for each year that the land of Israel was denied a Sabbath year of rest.

2 Chronicles 36:20, 21. And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

During the Golden Years of Israel after Joshua, the land enjoyed a Sabbath rest every seventh year, according to the Law of Moses. If the land required 70 years of rest, then no Sabbath year was kept for 70×7=490 years. The people would not keep the Sabbath year for fear that they would not meet the king’s levy.

Further Instructions For The King

Deuteronomy 17:18-20.  Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

Solomon clearly did not follow these instructions, nor would it appear that any of the kings who followed. In comparison, we have seen that after Joshua died the elders of Israel were able to keep the people in service to God with the Law of Moses. When you consider that Solomon was very young when he ascended the throne, were there not enough priests, scribes, elders and advisers in Jerusalem to impress upon the new king the need to follow God’s Law? He was sincere enough to pray for wisdom when God first appeared to him and inquired of his request. God then blessed him with all the things that any man would desire. When he then applied his wisdom to the things of the earth, all was vanity and anguish of heart.

Guided By Wise Counsel

Psalm 73:24.    You shall guide me with your counsel and afterward receive me to glory.

The counsel of the Lord is one of the “great themes” of the Bible and highlights the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The counsel of the Lord provides a covering for those who walk in obedience to His living Word of instruction. We may look to the Bible for guideposts to living, but by the Holy Spirit we receive personal counsel.

John 16:13.  When the Spirit of Truth is come He will guide you into all truth, for He shall not speak of himself but whatsoever He shall hear shall He speak and He will show you things to come.

The Holy Spirit fulfills the word of Isaiah 9:14 regarding the Christ when he refers to Him as Wonderful Counselor. The Holy Spirit testifies to the Truth of Jesus Christ and is therefore the Spirit of Prophecy. (Revelation 19:10.)

It comes as no surprise in reading the words of the Old Testament that the people of God are condemned in not seeking and heeding the counsel of the Lord. This counsel revealed the work of the Holy Spirit among the children of Israel.

Isaiah 30:1. Woe to the rebellious children says the Lord, that take counsel but not of me; and that cover with a covering but not of my Spirit that they may add errors to their error.

The idea of counsel first appears in the Bible in Exodus 18:13-26; when Jethro the father-in-law of Moses, advises him on sharing the burden of responsibility for providing judgment to the people. While the modern world has evolved into an elaborate system of courts for both criminal and civil matters, the idea of judgment in the Bible is concerned with settling disputes between individuals, and ultimately between man and God. This system of able, experienced men to provide wise counsel later evolved into the royal advisers beginning with David and commented on extensively by his son Solomon in the book of Proverbs.

The ability to resolve matters of disagreement is vital to the health of the body of Christ. We see this immediately become an issue in the early church.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8.    Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge. I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!

This is a difficult passage to read and consider, but we are all aware of the problems that develop between individuals that must be resolved wisely to avoid conflicts that destroy fellowship. This is why every single member must seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit and contribute their gift to the congregation. (1 Co 12).

James 3:16.   For where envy and strife exist, there is confusion and every evil work.

Consider this verse while thinking on the terrible sin that is able to rise up within a congregation. Infidelity, embezzlement, even murder. James says it begins with the problems we often refer to as “petty”. Gossips and contentious people are often referred to as petty. Minor criminal acts are referred to as “petty crimes”.

1 Peter 4:15.   But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

Notice Peter mentions busybodies along side murderers, thieves and other evildoers. Busybodies are often thought of as petty persons, but they are actually trying to play God in another person’s life in Christ. This is idolatry. In the kingdom of heaven, there can be no petty crime! This requires mercy, and the wisdom that comes from above:

James 3:17.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

1 Co 10:23.  All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

These are problems that can only be resolved by the Spirit of Truth. We ease one another’s burdens by providing words of knowledge, wisdom and comfort from the throne of God. This is the manifestation of our first love and the gifts of the Spirit. The first principle of a covenant relationship with God is that all things must be done according to His purpose.

2 Tim 1:9.   Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.

The Father is able to work out every detail after the counsel of His own will.

Ephesians 1:11.  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

Acts 11:23.  Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

What is meant by this expression “purpose of heart”?
This word translated purpose is also used in the New Testament for the show-bread that was laid out before the Lord in the Temple Sanctuary.

Hebrews 4:13.   Thus our hearts must be laid open before Him; And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Even as the Holy Spirit spoke through Zacharias:

 Luke 1:74,75.  That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.                    

And again from Ephesians:

Ephesians 1:4.  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.

The Presence of the Lord

1 John 2:28.  And now, little children, abide in him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him in His presence.

Isaiah 1:26. And I will restore your judges as at the first and your counselors as at the beginning; afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.

3 John 4.    I have no greater joy than to hear that my brethren walk in Truth.