APOCALYPTISTS AND THE PROMISES (Apocryphas, IDB)
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord” (Jeremiah 24:7). “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams; your young men will se visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29). Christians linked Joel with Pentecost. Jews go back to Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, David and many others that did have dreams and visions. The dreams and visions of men like Abraham and Joseph had significant impacts on the outcome of Jewish history. It was when the leadership failed that God turned to the common people with apocalyptic perception to point God’s people in the right direction. They put meaning into aimless earthly schemes with new hope and a Kingdom run by heaven. Jesus held a similar view, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25). In other words, God was bypassing the theologians and the religious leaders and disclosed messages directly to the simple people. The Greeks called it “apocalypsis” meaning disclosures or revelations. And Jesus called them parables –- examples that paralleled events and persons not to be direct or personal about them. Those that were close to the Apocalyptists were able to grasp their meaning. The disciples asked Jesus, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them” (Matthew 13:10-11). Mark added this comment, “To those on the outside everything is said in parables so that ‘they may see but not grasp, they may hear but not understand; that would cause them to repent and be forgiven'” (Mark 4:11-12).
The Zoroastrians appear to have been the first to have such flashes from the gods. According to Paul the first Christian Apostle to the Gentiles held that God always had a witness in the world (Acts 14:17). Melchizedek was a Gentile (Genesis 14:18). By the time of the Jewish Exilic period, it had become a school of thought with new ideas and a language suitable for the oppressed. It was labeled as “apocalypticism.” It could go where no other movement had gone before, straight to God and to heaven. They spoke of God’s interest and involvement with humanity through allegory, riddles and parables at a time when it was fatal to speak directly to the offenders. They camouflaged the message and hid their identities with assumed names or numbers. The words “Babylon, Son of Man,” and the number “666” are examples. In The Parable of the Tenants, Jesus announced the end of God’s relationship with the people to whom the Promises were given and the new recipients (Matthew 21:33-46). The leaders understood the message clearly but could not charge him with anything that could stand up in court.
The Apocalyptists differed among themselves. They agreed that the old ideas of a monarchy and a theocracy have not been fulfilling their hope and expectation. The newly self-appointed priestly leadership Ezra–Nehemiah were taking them back in time. It was a repetition and a Competition of what they had. The realists turned to Moses and began to pour their efforts into an earthy new Messianic Israel under the leadership of a man like Moses and David combined. The idealists could not perceive that any human being could change or deliver the world from what humans produce. In that sense, the idealists were more realistic than the realists. No one in history ancient or modern, including Jesus could change or alter the course of cause and effect. Their hope was that a supernatural being would usher in a kingdom that would not perish. The disciples represented such a view (Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6). They presumed that Jesus had come to change the course or directions of cause and effect. It would be a small thing for God to halt cause and effect, but for humanity it would be a huge fatal bang. Every action requires a reaction within the system that moves in order to exist. Even a human being exist by what he sows and reaps. That is why Jesus had come to save man so that he in turn could plant seed that could keep the world running. That was why Jesus went about changing man.
The Apocalyptists were more hopeful than the prophets by assigning greater participation to God. Israel had a role but it had to be brought back to live by her God. God’s Promises were not material but spiritual tied to the laws and ordinances of God. The New Covenant was not a set of new rules, but a return to the original ones with an explanation where they should be applied (Matthew 5:17-20). It was a “Rebirth of the Spirit” who transferred the Statutes and Commandments from tables of stones and traditions to the human heart (John 3:1-36). Apocalypticism among the Jews began with the prophets and it was a divine tool to communicate God’s faithfulness regarding His Promises. It also outlined clearly man’s second chance to reenter the Promises by renewing his obedience to the Conditions of God. In the midst of tragedy, Isaiah was told to announce, “Yet some gleaning will remain” (Isaiah 17: 6). A group of faithful Yahweh worshippers would remain in the land. “The grass withers and the flowers fall; but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). “For the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in a wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Further more, “I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants” (Isaiah 44:3). “Return to me; for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22). “On that day the Lord will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you O Israel, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet shall sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:12-13). “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness; I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free; but not for a price or reward,” says the Lord almighty (Isaiah 45:13).
Jeremiah with Second Isaiah believed in a gathering of God’s people that history is unfamiliar with, but not the teaching of Jesus. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 23:3-4). Also, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart” (Jeremiah 24:7). It is a return to God rather than a return to a country. “They will come from east and west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom (Judea) will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12). There was a smaller gathering where some fortunes of Jacob were restored under Ezra–Nehemiah and in our own time by restoring Israel, but nothing global (Jeremiah 29:10-14; 31:8-10). More Jews have gathered in the U.S.A. than anywhere else, and so have other races.
The new message was that God was not just saving a remnant of Jews, but countless Gentiles. Israel’s God would become a global God –- an abiding moral force. The new David shall rule the nations with an iron rod. The Apocalyptists could not separate themselves from their race and nationality, a bias that is common in all races and nationalities to see one self as being superior. Such visionaries appeared to have double vision where the present and the future seem to collide. That is why some of the flashes of revelations have yet to find fulfillment. In the narrow sense, even the prophets had apocalyptic disclosures that have yet to be fitted into the course history is taking. This can be noticed in predictions regarding Israel and Judah that have never come to pass, but are very much akin to the kingdom Jesus announced. Unfortunately, the apocalyptic concepts of a spiritual or moral world order managed by God’s laws gave way to Jewish racism and nationalism. The spiritual and moral King Jesus was removed in favor of an earthly Caesar. In Christendom, not all Christians but a great majority have turned a simple faith with love for God in their hearts into secular organizations with racist and nationalistic identities. We are not being identified by our faith in Christ but by our relationships to race and nationalities.
The message of the Apocalyptists and the way to communicate a message that is not welcome to a public and a hostile government is still valuable today. The conditions of the world are not improving and the leaders that continue to perpetuate failure do not take kindly to direct criticism. It is ironic for a system that advocated the right to speak one’s mind tolerates comedians that slander and ridicule but not moral teachers that criticize behavior appalling to Biblical teaching and harmful to human existence. If there ever was a time for Biblical Apocalyptists then it is now, that is before we exterminate ourselves. Unfortunately, in the past, such people with unpleasant foresight were persecuted and the same thing will happen to modern Apocalyptists (Matthew 5:12). After our demise and their departure our descendants shall also erect statutes in their honor (Matthew 23:29-30). We are not a first in history that shall bemoan the fact that we had not listened to those that had our future wellbeing at heart and not our temporary happiness and success. Thus far, for twenty seven hundred years, the apocalyptist’s hope has delivered oppressed and conquered people from despair and destruction. From the Assyrian and Babylonian to the Nazi and Communist death camps, the faithful have found recourse or succor in the ever presence of the Invisible Almighty. The Apocalyptists have done this by linking God’s Promises to eternity. Rewards for having obeyed the conditions shall be handed out in heaven.