Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Woes of Matthew 23 Part 3

Matthew 23
23  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
24  "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
26  "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

In this third installment of the woes of Matthew 23 we will see how Christ continued to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  We will pick up with the fifth woe.

Fifth Woe
The fifth and sixth woes are clearly tied together.  One judgment is supportive of the other.  Let us see the words of Christ.  First He points out what they ARE doing.  They are those that tithe.  Now, I am not going to get into a discussion of tithing, so let’s not go there with comments.  That should wait for another post(  However, the people of the nation of Israel were clearly commanded to tithe of all that they possessed and this tithe was to be used for different things at different times.  Since we are not going to make this a commentary concerning tithing, I am going to refrain at this stage from referencing the fact that the tithe was used for anything from caring for the priests, to the governing of the nation, to care for the poor, to national festivals.  The tithe was thus very similar to how our taxes are today.

Jesus points to the details with which they were faithful to tithe.  He says they tithe of the minutest things.  He mentions mint (hduosmon), anise (anhyon), and cummin (kuminon).  Mint is simply a small garden herb and because of its sweet scent was used by the Jews and spread upon the floors of their synagogues.  Anise is defined as dill and was probably some sort of plant that would normally be used for medicinal purposes.  Cummin was a sort of anise or seed.  These various seeds or plants were to be tithed according to the tradition of the Rabbis.  

They were very insignificant things.  So insignificant were they that Matthew Henry in commenting upon these small items said,

“They observed smaller duties, but omitted greater; they were very exact in paying tithes, till it came to mint, anise, and cummin,  their exactness in tithing of which would not cost them much, but would be cried up, and they should buy reputation cheap.”

These men sought to build up their reputation through a certain duty of tithing.  They even passed this on to their proselytes, because they were more concerned with achieving some level of perceived “holiness” at little cost to themselves, than with a true love for God and towards their fellow man.

Remember the Pharisee from Luke’s account in chapter 18 and verse 12?
‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

We despise this type of false piety and so does the Lord.  This Pharisee thought himself to be the friend of God because of what he did.  

But note that Jesus did not condemn them for tithing.  This was what they were obligated to do.  There were “weightier” things of the law and “lighter” things of the law.   These things were important, but they were not the weightier matters of the law.  Jesus’ words earlier in Luke 11:42 were very similar condemning words:

"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

In other word, He did not tell them to stop tithing, but that they should have also been observing the more weighty matters of the law.  Remember, God owns all things, even those possessions which He entrusts us with.  All that we are and all that we possess are given to us because of the grace of God.  When we give, we are simply demonstrating that we trust God to sustain us and because we truly love Him and our neighbor.  If our giving is merely duty, then it is no better than the giving of the Pharisees.

Yet the Pharisees were those who would not do those things which might actually cost them something and truly minister to those around them.  They are condemned for neglecting justice, mercy, and faith.  They had not kept the entire law and thus they strutted about as though they were those who should be teaching the law.  However, when it all comes down, they are, as Jesus said, blind guides and they lead those who are blind and they both end up in the ditch.

Our example from Luke, which we cited earlier, comes to mind in the lack of true mercy shown to individuals.  That Pharisee would not so much as go and care for the broken publican, but rather stood in condemnation of him.  However, we will note that as he stood praying, his prayers were to himself (11a).  

These were spoken of as those men who had to be rebuked for failing to honor their mother and father, because of the fact that they were hard hearted covetous men who thought only of themselves, rather than even caring for those who were closest to them.  They bound men up with their traditions and then would not lift one finger to help them with such burdens, though they were not following these traditions any better than those they bound them upon.

Justice was a neglected issue for them as well.  Instead of leading righteously and governing justly, these men would seek to see what kind of gain they could receive from their positions of power.  Remember that these men were those who “devour widows’ houses”, and they oppressed the poor and the fatherless, which they had been warned repeatedly not to do (cf. Zechariah 7:10; Ezekiel 22:29; Deuteronomy 24:14).

On top of all of this lies the issue of faith.  They were not justified in the sight of God; therefore they would not fit into the category of those who lived by faith.  They were not determined to believe God, or to trust Him.  They were out for themselves and for no other.  They sought to spare their lives at the expense of others and Jesus exposed them for their hypocrisy.

He finishes with a graphic illustration of what they were doing.  This is tied intricately to their self professed laws.  John Gill is very helpful on this.  He says,

“The Jews had a law, which forbid them the eating of any creeping thing, #Le 11:41 and of this they were strictly observant, and would not be guilty of the breach of it for ever so much.

“One that eats a flea, or a gnat; they say  is  "an apostate"

one that has changed his religion, and is no more to be reckoned as one of them. Hence they very carefully strained their liquors, lest they should transgress the above command, and incur the character of an apostate; and at least, the penalty of being beaten with forty stripes, save one.”

So we see that if one was partake of a tasty gnat, then he was considered to be apostate and could be beaten severely, up to 39 lashes.  Incredible!!  Now I must ask, who would want to be a part of such a religion??!!  There are numerous citations from quotes that Gill gives, in my opinion, makes this utterly unthinkable that a Pharisee would ever let his buddy Pharisee watch him eat and drink at a family picnic.

Yet Jesus takes this illustration to demonstrate what they were involving themselves in and we obtain a very vivid portrait of their hypocrisy.  They were busy straining gnats and flies for their drinks, but swallowing whole camels, by not seeing clearly the most blatant things that the law pointed out to them:  justice, mercy, and faith (and the love of God, from Luke).

Thus the fifth woe has come upon them in the end for majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors.The sixth approaches as we find that Christ is relentless in His condemnation of these hypocrites.

The Sixth Woe
The sixth woe is clearly tied to the previous one.  Remember that Jesus has just made implication of their deeds tied to the straining of gnats and now He uses the analogy of a cup and dish.  

This is clearly a shot at their practice of washings.  We recall how they had previously chastised Jesus for the failure of His disciples for not washing their hands before they ate (Mark 7:5).  Luke 11:39 also records this indictment against them.

The Pharisees had a very detailed prescription of washing items.  There were to be certain places for washing, it was to take a certain amount of time and to be done in a proper way.  They gave all this attention to detail to the cleaning of their eating and drinking vessels and yet what they put into them were through the means of dishonest and cruel gain or plunder.  They have been cited for their taking advantage of widows, of the poor and of orphans.  We know that even in their giving they were seeking favors from some of the priests and always looking after their own interests without the faintest concern for those of their fellow man.

Again, as we have seen in the previous woes this comes down to one thing, their appearance before men.  They could care less about their true standing before God, they are simply “dressed to impress”.  These men appear to all who see them as though they are godly, righteous and pious.  They seem to be those who are chosen of God and have it all together.  Yet, they are those who are in most need of the mercy of God.  Unlike Pharaoh, they are not quite as openly blasphemous, yet they cloak their blasphemy and sinfulness in the rotting rags of their own righteousness.

Just like Jesus describe in Mark 7, these men had “made the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down”.  They had forsaken the care of the widow, the orphan and the poor and in the place of the command of God, they had indulged themselves with the delicacies of the spoils gained from their wicked plunder.  Therefore, the reasoning behind Jesus speaking of what was inside being extortion and self-indulgence was clearly tied to what they were doing in order to fill themselves.  They were unable to see their dirty and corrupt ways because of the deceptiveness of their thin veneer of professed godliness.

Jesus clearly is telling the Pharisees to repent.  The word “cleanse” is an active imperative.  It is a command for them to stop getting their food and wine and sustenance by means of dishonesty and plunder, but start doing that which is honest to obtain their own needs and from the previous woes we can see that implied is actually taking care of those, by honest means, whom they had plundered.  This would be cleaning the inside, so that there might be a consistent life of true holiness.

You heard that last part right.  Jesus clearly spoke to them concerning repentance, and yet Jesus also taught election and man’s total depravity (Jn. 6:37-71).  This is for those who think Calvinists are inconsistent.  We follow in the footsteps of our Lord.  Would many of these Pharisees repent?  Probably not.  The majority would probably go on in their hatred of the Son of God and be among those who sought His death.  There would probably be those among them who would be those who persecuted the apostles and those in the first church, but it wasn’t because they were not confronted and told to repent.  It wasn’t because they did not have the greatest preacher delivering the greatest messages to them in the power of the Spirit.  It was because they were hard hearted, self-righteous, self-seeking, covetous, plundering, wicked God haters.

They were those who clearly violated the third commandment.  They claimed to be the friend of God and represent Him, yet they were those who were in open violation of His Law.  Thus they, like their fathers before them, had sinned against God and had been sent prophets calling them to repentance.  Now the greatest Prophet was among them:  God Himself manifest in the flesh and they had the same attitude towards Him that their fathers had towards the prophets before them.

Jesus will address this shortly as He enters into Matthew 24.  We will look at this in the next post.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wise Words from Richard Baxter

"Would you know who it is that is the Christian indeed? He is one that liveth (in some measure) as if he saw the Lord: Believing in that God that dwelleth in the inaccessible light, that cannot be seen by mortal eyes, he liveth as before His face. He speaks, he prayes, he thinks, he deals with men, as if he saw the Lord stand by." -- Richard Baxter

The Woes of Matthew 23 Part 2

Matthew 23
14  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16  "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.'
17  "Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?
18  "And, `Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.'
19  "Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?
20  "Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.
21  "He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.
22  "And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

This is part two of the installments of the woes of Matthew 23.  I began in the first post with a very simple introduction to Matthew 24.  Ultimately, our goal is to establish the context surrounding, what seems to be very controversial in the church, Matthew 24.  

In this post I will try to take on the next three woes that Jesus lays out against the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, further indicating that they are worthy of the coming judgment against them.  These are serious charges, but they are not unforeseen.  The Old Testament repeatedly spoke of the judgment that would befall Israel in the last days.  Isaiah spoke of the coming destruction upon Jerusalem.  In chapter 28 he prophesied:

11  For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people,
12  To whom He said, "This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest," And, "This is the refreshing"; Yet they would not hear.
13  But the word of the LORD was to them, "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little," That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught.
14  Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,
15  Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, For we have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves."
16  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.
17  Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place.
18  Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it.

In chapter 29, we find, as John Gill so puts it,

The siege and destruction of Jerusalem are described in #Isa 29:1-6 the disappointment of their enemies, notwithstanding their taking and destroying it, #Isa 29:7,8 the stupidity, judicial blindness, and hardness of the Jews, which brought on their ruin, are predicted, #Isa 29:9,10 the ignorance of their learned, as well as of their unlearned men, with respect to the Scripture, and the prophecies of it, #Isa 29:11,12 their hypocrisy and formality in worship, #Isa 29:13 a blast upon all their wisdom and prudence, who thought to be wiser than the Lord, and too many for him, whose folly and atheism are exposed, #Isa 29:14-16, and a great change both in Judea and the Gentile world, by the removal of the Gospel from the one to the other, #Isa 29:17 the effects of which are, deaf sinners hear the word, dark minds are enlightened, and joy increased among the meek and poor, #Isa 29:18,19 the fall of the Jews, or else of antichrist, is foretold, #Isa 29:20,21 and the chapter is closed with a promise and prophecy of the conversion of the seed of Abraham and Jacob, #Isa 29:22-24.

Specifically note that this judgment comes because of the very things that we find our Lord Jesus Christ rebuking the Pharisees and scribes for.  Let us note verses 7-12.

7  The multitude of all the nations who fight against Ariel, Even all who fight against her and her fortress, And distress her, Shall be as a dream of a night vision.
8  It shall even be as when a hungry man dreams, And look--he eats; But he awakes, and his soul is still empty; Or as when a thirsty man dreams, And look--he drinks; But he awakes, and indeed he is faint, And his soul still craves: So the multitude of all the nations shall be, Who fight against Mount Zion."
9  Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine; They stagger, but not with intoxicating drink.
10  For the LORD has poured out on you The spirit of deep sleep, And has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, namely, the seers.
11  The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I cannot, for it is sealed."
12  Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I am not literate."

These are strong words against Jerusalem.  The Lord has caused them to sleep.  He is bringing about their judgment prior to sending His armies against her.  Let us learn now that judgment is not always fire and brimstone, but sometimes it is simply being in a spiritual stupor, unable to know the right way and perceive the light of the Word of God and heed it.  Sadly we can see this in our own society (especially the very literal spiritual “drunkenness” that takes place in much of the more popularized charismatic movement) and in many churches throughout our land.
The Second Woe
Now, let us take each of these woes one by one.  The first woe (the second in our study) is that they make a pretense of holiness at the expense of those in Israel (vs. 14).  Notice that Jesus says they engage in devouring widows houses.  The term devour is used figuratively, but also is indicative of what they literally did as well.  These evil men appeared to be men of God who would come to those without husbands, who had fatherless children and seek to take advantage of them, while at the same time making pretense that they were indeed helping them.  These same men who would not honor their father and their mother because of their own greedy, hypocritical nature went into the weakest of women and sought to plunder them for their own gain.

Paul also described such men in his second letter to young Timothy.  In chapter three we see him exposing these types of men for what they really are.

lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
6  For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,
7  always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Instead of doing what was pleasing to God and caring for the widow and the orphan (Jas. 1:27) , these men sought to profit from the poverty those whom they were to take care of (Tit. 1:11).

They also were guilty of making a show or pretence (prophasis) of prayers.  Their “form of godliness” was just that:  a form.  There was no power, because there was no true godliness.  These men engaged in prayer for their own self aggrandizement rather than to humble themselves before the Lord and submit themselves to Him for His glory.  

Remember the parable that Jesus taught concerning the Pharisee and the Publican from Luke 18?  

10  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11  "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank You that I am not like other men----extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
12  `I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'
13  "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!'
14  "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

The Pharisee sings his own praises before the Lord, where the wretched sinner simply desires mercy from God.  Which then is justified?  Jesus said it was the tax collector was justified.  

However, let us note the last words of this second woe:  “You will receive greater condemnation.”  Remember that Jesus instructed His disciples earlier to obey these men who occupied Moses’ seat, but not to practice the things they practiced that were not a part of the teaching of Moses.  It seems appropriate then that this condemnation is a great condemnation because they are in fact teachers.  They have a greater accounting to give.  The apostle James said,

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (3:1)

Those of us who are teachers must constantly be examining our lives and our doctrine in order that we live holy lives before the Lord.  We are not to do this for pretence as the Pharisees and seek to “appear” holier than others, but in sincerity of heart, realizing that the judge of all men listens and sees all things, even the things which reside in our hearts.

The Third Woe
The third woe comes in verse 15.  There we read, “For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”  These Pharisees, like their fathers were prone to make converts to their religion.  These converts they called proselytes.  

Obviously, these would not be Jews, but Gentiles.  They formed these proselytes into two categories:  proselytes of righteousness and proselytes of the gate.  Both were converts to Judaism.  However, it appears that the ones who converted wholeheartedly are in reference to group one, the proselytes of righteousness.  This group was circumcised and bound themselves to keep the whole Mosaic Law, as well as, the requirements placed upon them by Judaism.  The second group remained uncircumcised, and observed some specific laws, especially those under the precepts of Noah.

These hypocrites thought they were doing what was right and that they were pleasing to God.  They even thought they were leading others in the right way, but in the end it was the path of death.  Those who became their converts were corrupted by their doctrine and practice rather than edified by it.  These were promised liberty, but were made slaves of corruption.  The system itself offered them no hope or forgiveness of sins, but rather heaped upon them more condemnation.  Thus the Lord Jesus says that these scribes and Pharisees made them “twice as much a son of hell” as they were.

These men as John Gill documents in his commentary on this verse sought to obtain proselytes as quickly as they could.  They would take them with baptism or without it.  They would accept them with circumcision or without it.  As long as they gave some sort of receptiveness towards Judaism, then they found a way in which they could justify one being referred to as a proselyte.  Sound familiar??  Certain people within a certain convention should pay particular heed to this.  Note one of the comments Gill offers from Rabbi Joshua ben Levi:

R. Joshua says, even dipping delays it; (i.e. the want of it, hinders a man from being a proselyte;) but R. Joshua ben Levi says, it should go according to the tradition of Bar Kaphra; for the tradition of Bar Kaphra is,

``that he that is circumcised, and not dipped, lo! he is right; for there is no proselyte but what is dipped, because of the pollutions that happen to him {e}.''

And elsewhere {f} this is debated in the following manner:

``a proselyte that is circumcised, and not dipped, R. Eliezer says, lo! this is a proselyte; for so we find concerning our fathers, that they were circumcised, but not dipped. One that is dipped, and not circumcised, R. Joshua says, lo! this is a proselyte; for so we find concerning our mothers, that they were dipped, but not circumcised. The wise men say, one that is dipped, and not circumcised, or circumcised, and not dipped, is no proselyte, until he is both circumcised and dipped.''

Again, this becomes an issue of pride and arrogance and somehow promoting one’s own aims rather than the purpose of God.  Numbers are achieved for bragging rights and a power base rather than simply for the love of the other person and the glory of God.  Thus this third woe falls upon them from the lips of our Lord, because of their misplaced passion and the fact that they passed it on to others.

The Fourth Woe
In this fourth woe, which is followed by several examples of their error, the scribes are condemned for swearing by God while blaspheming God.  They are called blind guides in this verse.  This must really have annoyed them.  As on previous occasions when Jesus addressed them and ask rhetorical questions like, “Have you not read?” or “Do you not know?”, He did so and clearly showed exactly how little of the Scriptures they actually knew and practiced.  They were those who did not have the light of the gospel shining upon their hearts, nor the spiritual eyes to discern the truth, but rather were darkened in their understanding and groping about in the darkness trying to establish some form of light by which they might see.  Yet the light they produced was a great darkness.

Notice their hypocrisy.  Jesus says that they would say that whoever swore by temple is nothing, but whoever swore by the gold of the temple is obliged to perform it.  In the first place, these men should have had the integrity and character that there “yes” should have been “yes” and their “no” should have been “no”.  However, they wanted to make others believe they were lending weight to their words by bringing in oaths and swearing.  Since an oath was something that called whatever they swore by to account for what they were saying, then it made it seem serious and legitimate to the one they swore to.

One way they were known to do this was to swear by the gold of the temple.  By the gold of the temple, the reference is not to the gold utensils or golden vessels used in the temple.  Rather it speaks to any gifts brought to the temple.  The monies and offerings that were brought in by the people is what is in focus here.  These are referred to as “Korban”.  Jesus elaborates on this in a moment.  With that in mind we can already see the covetous nature of these men.  For if someone swore by the temple, what were they going to do?  But if they swore by their gifts, then they were obliged to pay them or else they would be guilty of perjury and who had their hand in the cookie jar?  Why it’s the blind guides!  They knew how to work the system and so their oaths were towards the temple, but they could, in much the same way little children (and some grown ones) do, pull their crossed fingers from behind their backs and say, “But I didn’t swear by the gold of the temple so you can’t touch me, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na!”

Jesus gave them strong rebuke for this.  They were making light of the temple of God and thus God Himself.  They did the same thing concerning the altar and the sacrifices offered on it.  Jesus rebukes them for all these things and brings them to account by declaring that when they take an oath it is before God.  Whether it is an oath by sacrifices, the altar, the gold of the temple, or the temple itself, makes no difference.  Also whether they decided to swear by heaven, they were guilty of the same thing.  Ultimately, the rebuke is not for the oath itself.  It is for a deceitfulness behind the oath and a failure to recognize that God demands that men honor their word and fulfill their oaths even when it is difficult to do.  Listen to the words of Jesus.

Matthew 5
33  "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.'
34  "But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne;
35  "nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36  "Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.
37  "But let your `Yes' be `Yes,' and your `No,' `No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Notice anything more than your affirmation or denunciation is from the evil one.  These men were following in their father’s footsteps.  No they were not following in Abraham’s footsteps, which were steps of faith, rather they were liars and of their father the devil (cf. Jn. 8:44).

Ultimately these men fooled a lot of men into thinking they were spiritual, but in the end they stood naked before the Son of God.  We will also note that Jesus didn’t give them a pass.  He was not “gentle Jesus” with them.  No way.  He was straight forward, bold and some might say antagonistic.  At any point Jesus could have stopped, but it doesn’t seem that He even so much as took a breath, but continued right on into His condemnation all the way through the rest of the chapter.

I will continue to remind us that these things are the very reasons why the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in A. D. 70.  Christ would come to fulfill His own words against these who hated him so and would call for His death.  It should become apparent to anyone as we are going through this that Matthew 23 is clearly laying the groundwork for the questions of the disciples and the response of Jesus.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Woes of Matthew 23, Part 1

In our ongoing study in the gospel of Matthew at Heritage Community Churchwe have seen from chapters 20 and following how Jesus is clearly pointing out that judgment is going to come upon the generation that He is speaking to. Over and over He warns them of the impending judgment spoken of throughout the Old Testament that would come upon the nation of Israel if she turned from the Lord. We recall that she continually turned from the words of the Lord and was continually sent prophets to call her to repentance. The remnant of Israel always did respond to the call of God and repent. Yet the majority of Israel continued to turn from God.Ultimately, in trying to understand the eschatology of the Scriptures, we have tried to put together an eschatalogical view from the perspective of exposition of various books. As I mentioned previously in my posts on Daniel 9 and other eschatology posts (found here, here, here here and here), my perspective on eschatology seems to be more preterist than futurist, though I am in agreement with the orthodox confessions of the church throughout history in affirming that there is a future return of Christ and that there is a future bodily resurrection and judgment to come. Other than that, I am not really looking for a future Great Tribulation, which obviously makes the point of a pre, mid, pre-wrath, or post Trib rapture moot to me. However, I have made it clear that it does seem to me that our view of eschatology does have some impact on our understanding of the gospel, politics, the nature of Christ's kingdom and, as a point in fact that I shared with Nathan White, effects our view concerning whether or not we are cessationists or not. So, I am convinced now more than ever that eschatology does have a significant impact upon our thinking and practice.Since we have been through these things in our assembly over the past year or so in our exposition and have touched on them in the past years in other books we have studied, I don't want people to think that I have fallen into a camp such as those who can't speak of anything else but Bible prophecy. I am enthralled by all doctrine and the God of that doctrine, but let's remember that God put these things here for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Therefore, I'll share some a few points from our study in Matthew 23, which directly leads into Matthew 24.These will be a series of posts, but I think the context of Matthew 24 is principally derived from what comes before it.

There are 8 woes given in Matthew 23.  These are primarily aimed at those who were the leaders in Israel, primarily in Jerusalem.  In speaking to his disciples and the multitudes and it appears that He specifically ends up addressing the scribes and Pharisees, He calls upon the people to follow the teachings of the Pharisees as they sit in Moses seat.  He is not calling them to follow their practice.  In other words, when the Pharisees were in accordance with what Moses taught, the people should obey, but when they strayed from that authority, then the people should not follow.

Jesus begins the message of doom upon Jerusalem and the scribes and Pharisees in verse 13.  He refers to them as hypocrites (hupokrites).  The term here is used descriptively as a stage actor, a pretender, or impersonator.  The Pharisees were those who outwardly appeared to be lovers of God and adherents to the Law, but Jesus pulled back the fa├žade that they put up and exposed them for what they really were:  white washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones.

Thus, part of the judgment against them is their false faith.  They are the great pretenders.  Notice that the declaration of judgment in the first woe is geared towards something that they were intentionally doing.

For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

These follow in the line of their fathers, which Jesus will address shortly.  They have opposed those whom God has sent.  They have opposed the Word of God and they have been in the practice of opposing the Son of God, the promised Messiah.  They will not follow Christ.  They are much like the Muslims and self professed Jews today.  They claimed to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but openly rejected Him when He came in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.  He speaks of them “shut(ting) up) the kingdom of heaven against men.  They are a blockade against the narrow way.  They are content to allow men to jump on the broad path of destruction, which they are on, but then they jump in front of the doorway that leads to life and attempt to keep men from entering therein.  Therefore, Jesus pronounces judgment upon them.

In the next few posts we will go through Matthew 23 and 24 and try to get a clear understanding regarding eschatology being fulfilled in the time of Messiah.