"THE SECOND EPISTLE OF JOHN" Warning Against Receiving False Teachers (7-13) INTRODUCTION 1. In our brief survey of 2nd John, we have seen that John stressed the importance of "truth" and "love"... a. Four times in the first six verses he uses the word "love" b. Five times in these same verses he uses the word "truth" 2. Indeed, our last study observed that in verses 4-6 we have: a. A commendation for walking in truth - 2Jn 4 b. An exhortation to walk in love - 2Jn 5-6 3. But what if someone comes our way, teaching doctrine contrary to what we have learned from Jesus and His apostles...? a. Should our desire to "walk in love" permit us to receive and support those teaching error? b. Can we do so, and still be "walking in truth"? 4. In the remaining portion of this short epistle, John (the "apostle of love") is very explicit about such things... a. He tells us to beware of deceivers and antichrists - 2Jn 7 b. He tells us to look to ourselves lest we lose those things we have worked for - 2Jn 8 c. He tells us of the danger of not abiding in the doctrine of Christ - 2Jn 9 d. He tells us we cannot support teachers who fail to teach the doctrine of Christ without sharing in their evil deeds - 2Jn 10-11 In this "Warning Against Receiving False Teachers", then, John warn us about several things worthy of our careful consideration. Let's take a closer look, beginning with the need to ...] I. BEWARE OF DECEIVERS AND ANTICHRISTS! (7) A. JESUS AND HIS APOSTLES HAVE GIVEN US AMPLE WARNING... 1. In His sermon on the mount - Mt 7:15 2. In His discourse on Mt. Olivet - Mt 24:11, 23-25 3. Paul, in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders - Ac 20:29-31 4. Paul, in his first epistle to Timothy - 1Ti 4:1-3 5. Peter, in his second epistle - 2Pe 2:1-3 B. EVEN IN JOHN'S DAY, THEY HAD BEGUN TO ARRIVE... 1. Deceivers had gone out, denying that Jesus had come in the flesh - 2Jn 7 2. Many false prophets had gone out into the world - 1Jn 4:1 3. Denying that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, they were "antichrists" - 1Jn 4:3; 2Jn 7 [With such ample warning, and seeing that they had started to come even in John's day, we should not be surprised to see many such deceivers and antichrists today! To guard against being misled by such deceivers, we do well to consider the next important theme in our text...] II. LOOK TO YOURSELVES! (8) A. THIS ADMONITION ALSO STRESSED THROUGHOUT THE SCRIPTURES... 1. Several times on one occasion by Jesus - Mk 13:5,9,23,33 2. By Paul in writing to the Corinthians - 2Co 13:5 B. THE NEED IS THERE, BECAUSE THE DANGER IS REAL... 1. John was concerned that they not lose the things they worked for - 2Jn 8 2. The writer to the Hebrews was concerned that we not fall short of entering our heavenly rest - cf. He 3:12-4:1 [With the real danger of falling short of our eternal reward, and with the ever present deceivers who can make it happen, it is imperative that we fully understand the basis upon which our relationship with the Father and Son rests. John is clear about what that entails as he stresses the need to...] III. ABIDE IN THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST! (9) A. THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST: OBJECTIVE OR SUBJECTIVE GENITIVE? 1. Is it the doctrine about Christ, or the doctrine taught by Christ? 2. As pointed out in the Expositor's Bible Commentary, the question is of little importance for John holds equally to both positions a. It is fundamental to the faith to hold to the proper views about Christ - cf. 2Jn 7 b. It is fundamental to the faith to obey the commandments of Christ - cf. 1Jn 3:24 3. Thus what John says here applies in either case B. THE NEED TO ABIDE IN THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST... 1. Those who do not abide, do not have God - e.g., 1Jn 1:6; 2:3-5 2. Those who do abide, have both the Father and the Son - cf. Jn 14:21,23 -- Note: This verse strongly supports the concept of the Trinity, in which there is only one God, but three distinct personalities in the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) [As long as we abide in the doctrine of Christ, keeping His commandments, we have no reason to fear being misled by deceivers, nor losing our reward. That brings us to the theme which may have prompted the writing of this letter...] IV. DO NOT RECEIVE FALSE TEACHERS! (10-11) A. THE CONTEXT IS LIKELY THAT OF SUPPORTING THEM IN THEIR WORK 1. It was common for first century missionaries to depend upon the hospitality of the early Christians - cf. Philemon 22 2. In his third epistle, John commends Gauis for this sort of hospitality - 3Jn 5-7 B. TO SUPPORT THEM IS TO SHARE IN THEIR EVIL DEEDS... 1. Supporting a teacher made one a fellow worker with him who taught a. That could make one a fellow worker for the truth - 3Jn 8 b. But if his teaching was contrary to the doctrine of Christ, supporting him would be to share in his evil deeds - 2 Jn 11 2. Therefore the admonition to the elect lady not to receive or greet such false teachers... a. Not we should never seek to study with those in error who may come our way b. But not to receive those false teachers who seek only our acquiescence to their doctrine and our support to help them spread it! CONCLUSION 1. With this "Warning Against Receiving False Teachers", John purpose in writing is fulfilled 2. He then signs off with a brief farewell... a. Having so much more to write, but desiring to speak in person - 2Jn 12 1) Why? "...that our joy may be full" 2) Despite the convenience of remote communication (e.g., writing letters, talking on the phone, sending email), nothing surpasses the joy of talking face to face b. Sending greetings from "the children of your elect sister" - 2 Jn 13 1) How one interprets "the elect lady and her children" in verse 1 determines one's understanding of verse 13 2) Either members of another church, or relatives of the "elect lady and her children" 2. As we close our perusal of this epistle, I hope that we are left with a strong sense of need... a. To walk in the truth b. To walk in love c. To be very careful about those teachers to whom we give our support How is our walk today? Are we walking according to the doctrine of Christ concerning truth and love? Remember the words of John... "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son."
Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Jesus Christ emphatically declared that the Old Testament Scriptures contained prophecies He would fulfill (Luke 24:27,44). Biblical scholars have catalogued more than 300 amazing prophecies that find precise fulfillment in the life and labor of the Son of God. One of these predictive declarations is found in Daniel 9:24-27, commonly referred to as the prophecy of “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.” In this article, I would like to consider this important Old Testament oracle.
A proper analysis of Daniel 9:24ff. involves several factors. First, one should reflect upon the historical background out of which the prophetic utterance arose. Second, consideration should be given to the theological aspects of the Messiah’s work that are set forth in this passage. Third, the chronology of the prophecy must be noted carefully; it represents a prime example of the precision of divine prediction. Finally, one should contemplate the sobering judgment that was to be visited upon the Jewish nation in the wake of its rejection of the Christ. Let us give some attention to each of these issues.
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Because of Israel’s apostasy, the prophet Jeremiah had foretold that the Jews would be delivered as captives to Babylon. In that foreign land they would be confined for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10). Sure enough, the prophet’s warnings proved accurate. The general period of the Babylonian confinement was seventy years (Daniel 9:2; 2 Chronicles 36:21; Zechariah 1:12; 7:5). But why was a seventy-year captivity decreed? Why not sixty, or eighty? There was a reason for this exact time frame.
The law of Moses had commanded the Israelites to acknowledge every seventh year as a sabbatical year. The ground was to lie at rest (Leviticus 25:1-7). Apparently, across the centuries Israel had ignored that divinely imposed regulation. In their pre-captivity history, there seems to be no example of their ever having honored the sabbath-year law. Thus, according to the testimony of one biblical writer, the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity was assigned “until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths” (2 Chronicles 36:21).
If each of the seventy captivity-years represented a violation of the sabbatical-year requirement (every seventh year), as 2 Chronicles 36:21 appears to suggest, this would indicate that Israel had neglected the divine injunction for approximately 490 years. The captivity era therefore looked backward upon five centuries of sinful neglect. At the same time, Daniel’s prophecy telescoped forward to a time—some 490 years into the future—when the “Anointed One” would “make an end of sins” (9:24). Daniel’s prophecy seems to mark a sort of “mid-way” point in the historical scheme of things.
In the first year of Darius, who had been appointed king over the realm of the Chaldeans (c. 538 B.C.), Daniel, reflecting upon the time span suggested by Jeremiah’s prophecies, calculated that the captivity period almost was over (9:1-2). He thus approached Jehovah in prayer. The prophet confessed his sins, and those of the nation as well. He petitioned Jehovah to turn away His wrath from Jerusalem, and permit the temple to be rebuilt (9:16-17). The Lord responded to Daniel’s prayer in a message delivered by the angel Gabriel (9:24-27). The house of God would be rebuilt. A more significant blessing would come, however, in the Person of the Anointed One (Christ), Who is greater than the temple (cf. Matthew 12:6). This prophecy was a delightful message of consolation to the despondent Hebrews in captivity.
THE MESSIAH’S MISSION
This exciting context sets forth the primary purpose of Christ’s mission to Earth. First, the Messiah would come to deal with the problem of human sin. He would “finish transgression,” make an “end of sins,” and effect “reconciliation for iniquity.” That theme is developed gloriously throughout the New Testament (see Matthew 1:21; 20:28; 26:28; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 1:5—passages that are but a fractional sampling of the New Testament references to this exalted topic).
The advent of Christ did not put an “end” to sin in the sense that wickedness was eradicated from the Earth. Rather, the work of the Savior was to introduce a system that could provide effectually and permanently a solution to the human sin predicament. This is one of the themes of the book of Hebrews. Jesus’ death was a “once-for-all” event (see Hebrews 9:26). The Lord never will have to return to the Earth to repeat the Calvary experience.
It is interesting to note that Daniel emphasized that the Anointed One would address the problems of “transgression,” “sin,” and “iniquity”—as if to suggest that the Lord is capable of dealing with evil in all of its hideous forms. Similarly, the prophet Isaiah, in the 53rd chapter of his narrative, revealed that the Messiah would sacrifice Himself for “transgression” (5,8,12), “sin” (10,12), and “iniquity” (5,6,11).
It is worthy of mention at this point that Isaiah 53 frequently is quoted in the New Testament in conjunction with the Lord’s atoning work at the time of His first coming. Since Daniel 9:24ff. quite obviously has an identical thrust, it, too, must focus upon the Savior’s work at the cross, and not upon Jesus’ second coming—as is alleged by premillennialists.
Second, in addition to His redemptive work in connection with sin, Daniel showed that the Messiah would usher in an era of “everlasting righteousness.” This obviously is a reference to the Gospel dispensation. In the pages of the New Testament, Paul forcefully argued that Heaven’s plan for accounting man as “righteous” was made known “at this present season” (Roman 3:21-26) through the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17).
Third, the angel’s message suggested that as a result of the Messiah’s work, “vision and prophecy” would be sealed up. The Hebrew term denotes that which is brought to a “conclusion” or is finished (Gesenius, 1979, p. 315). It should be emphasized that the major burden of the Old Testament was to proclaim the coming of God’s Son. Peter declared that the prophets of ancient times heralded the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them.” He affirmed that this message now is announced in the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12). Here is a crucial point. With the coming of the Savior to effect human redemption, and with the completion of the New Testament record which sets forth that message, the need for “vision and prophecy” became obsolete. As a result, “prophecy” (and other revelatory gifts) have “ceased” (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:11-16). There are no supernatural “visions” and “prophecies” being given by God in this age. [For further study, see Judisch (1978, Chapter 5), and Jackson (1990, pp. 114-124).]
Fourth, Daniel stated that the “most holy” would be anointed. What is the meaning of this expression? Dispensational premillennialists interpret this as a reference to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple during the so-called “millennium.” But the premillennial concept is not supported by the facts.
Any view that one adopts regarding this phraseology must be consistent with other biblical data. The expression “most holy” probably is an allusion to Christ Himself, and the “anointing” a reference to the Lord’s endowment with the Holy Spirit at the commencement of His ministry (Matthew 3:16; Acts 10:38). Consider the following factors. (1) While it is possible that the grammar can reflect a “most holy” thing or place (i.e., in a neuter form), it also can yield a masculine sense—“Most Holy One.” The immediate context tips the scales toward the masculine since the “anointed one, the prince” is mentioned in verse 25. (2) The “anointing” obviously belongs to the same time frame as the events previously mentioned, hence is associated with the Lord’s first coming, not the second one. (3) Thompson has observed that the act of anointing never was associated with the temple’s “most holy” place in the Old Testament (1950, p. 268). (4) Anointing was practiced in the Old Testament period as a rite of inauguration and consecration to the offices of prophet (1 Kings 19:16), priest (Exodus 28:41), and king (1 Samuel 10:1). Significantly, Christ functions in each of these roles (see Acts 3:20-23; Hebrews 3:1; Matthew 21:5). (5) The anointing of Jesus was foretold elsewhere in the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1), and, in fact, the very title, “Christ,” means anointed.
Fifth, the Anointed One was to “make a firm covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27a, ASV). A better rendition would be: “Make a covenant firm....” The meaning seems to be: the Messiah’s covenant surely will remain firm, i.e., prevail, even though He is killed. The “covenant,” as E.J. Young observed, “is the covenant of grace wherein the Messiah, by His life and death, obtains salvation for His people” (1954, p. 679).
Sixth, as a result of Christ’s death, “the sacrifice and the oblation” would cease (9:27a). This is an allusion to the cessation of the Jewish sacrifices as a consequence of Jesus’ ultimate sacrificial offering at Golgotha. When the Lord died, the Mosaic law was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). That “middle wall of partition” was abolished (Ephesians 2:13-17), and the “first covenant” was replaced by the “second” one (Hebrews 10:9-10). This was the “new covenant” of Jeremiah’s famous prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:7ff.), and was ratified by the blood of Jesus Himself (Matthew 26:28). This context is a rich depository of truth concerning the accomplishments of Christ by means of His redemptive work.
THE PROPHETIC CHRONOLOGY
The time element of this famous prophecy enabled the studious Hebrew to know when the promised Messiah would die for the sins of humanity. The chronology of this prophetic context involves three things: (a) a commencement point; (b) a duration period; and (c) a concluding event.
The beginning point was to coincide with a command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” The time span between the starting point and the concluding event was specified as “seventy weeks.” This would be seventy weeks of seven days each—a total of 490 days. Each day was to represent a year in prophetic history. Most conservative scholars hold that the symbolism denotes a period of approximately 490 years (Payne, 1973, p. 383; Archer, 1964, p. 387; cf. RSV). Finally, the terminal event would be the “cutting off,” (i.e., the death) of the Anointed One (9:26). [NOTE: Actually, the chronology is divided into three segments, the total of which represents 486½ years. This would be the span between the command to restore Jerusalem, and the Messiah’s death.]
If one is able to determine the date of the commencement point of this prophecy, it then becomes a relatively simple matter to add to that the time-duration specified in the text, thus concluding the precise time when the Lord was to be slain. Let us therefore narrow our focus regarding this matter.
There are but three possible dates for the commencement of the seventy-week calendar. First, Zerubbabel led a group of Hebrews out of captivity in 536 B.C. This seems to be an unlikely beginning point, however, because 486 years from 536 B.C. would end at 50 B.C., which was eighty years prior to Jesus’ death. Second, Nehemiah led a band back to Canaan in 444 B.C. Is this the commencement point for computing the prophecy? Probably not, for 486 years after 444 B.C. ends at A.D. 42—a dozen years after the death of Christ. However, in 457 B.C., Ezra took a company from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Does this date work mathematically? Indeed. If one starts at 457 B.C., and goes forward for 486½ years, the resulting date is A.D. 30—the very year of Christ’s crucifixion! This is the common view (Scott, 1975, 5:364).
The strongest objection to this argument is the claim that Ezra issued no charge to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and so the starting point of the prophecy could not date from the time of his return. Noted scholar Gleason Archer has responded to this allegation by affirming that Ezra’s commission:
...apparently included authority to restore and build the city of Jerusalem (as we may deduce from Ezra 7:6,7, and also 9:9, which states, “God...hath extended lovingkindness unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of God, and to repair the ruins thereof, and to give us a wall in Judea and in Jerusalem,” ASV). Even though Ezra did not actually succeed in accomplishing the rebuilding of the walls till Nehemiah arrived thirteen years later, it is logical to understand 457 B.C. as the terminus a quo for the decree predicted in Daniel 9:25 (1964, p. 387, emp. in orig.).
In “the midst” of the seventieth week, i.e., after the fulfillment of the 486½ years, the Anointed One was to be “cut off.” This is a reference to the death of Jesus. Isaiah similarly foretold that Christ would be “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8).
But why are the “seventy weeks” of Daniel’s prophecy divided into three segments—seven weeks, 62 weeks, and the “midst” of one week? There was purpose in this breakdown. (1) The first division of “seven weeks” (literally, forty-nine years) covers that period of time during which the actual rebuilding of Jerusalem would be underway, following the Hebrews’ return to Palestine (9:25b). This was the answer to Daniel’s prayer (9:16). That reconstruction era was to be one of “troublous times.” The Jews’ enemies had harassed them in earlier days (see Ezra 4:1-6), and they continued to do so in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. [For further discussion of this circumstance, see Whitcomb (1962, p. 435).] (2) The second segment of sixty-two weeks (434 years), when added to the previous forty-nine, yields a total of 483 years. When this figure is computed from 457 B.C., it terminates at A.D. 26. This was the year of Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. (3) Finally, the “midst of the week” (3½ years) reflects the time of the Lord’s preaching ministry. This segment of the prophecy concludes in A.D. 30—the year of the Savior’s death.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING CHRIST
No historical revisionism can alter the fact that the Lord Jesus was put to death by His own people, the Jews (John 1:11). This does not sanction any modern-day mistreatment of the Jewish people; it does, however, acknowledge that Israel, as a nation, suffered a serious consequence as a result of its role in the death of the Messiah.
Daniel’s prophecy depicted the Roman invasion of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple. The prophet spoke of a certain “prince that shall come,” who would “destroy the city and the sanctuary” like an overwhelming flood (9:26b). All of this was “determined” (see 9:26b, 9:27b) by God because of the Jews’ rejection of His Son [Matthew 21:37-41; 22:1-7; see Young (1954, p. 679)].
The interpretation of this portion of the prophecy is beyond dispute. Jesus, in His Olivet discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-34), talked about “the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (24:15). The Lord was alluding to Daniel 9:27. The “abomination that makes desolate” was the Roman army, under its commander, Titus (“the prince”—9:26b), who vanquished Jerusalem in A.D. 70. [NOTE: The “prince” of verse 26a is not the same as the anointed “prince” of verse 25a. The “prince” of verse 26 comes after the anointed Prince has been cut off.]
The historical facts are these. In A.D. 66, the Jews, who were subject to Rome, revolted against the empire. This plunged the Hebrews into several years of bloody conflict with the Romans. Titus, son and successor of the famous Vespasian, overthrew the city of Jerusalem (after a five-month siege) in the summer of A.D. 70. The holy city was burned (cf. Matthew 22:7), and the “sanctuary” (temple) was demolished. Christ had informed His disciples that the day was coming when the Jews’ “house” would be left desolate (Matthew 23:38); indeed, not one stone would be left upon another (Matthew 24:2). Significantly, only one stone from that temple, and parts of another, have been identified positively by archaeologists (Frank, 1972, p. 249). J.N. Geldenhuys summarized this situation by noting that Titus
...overran the city with his army, destroyed and plundered the temple, and slew the Jews—men, women and children—by tens of thousands. When their lust for blood had been sated, the Romans carried off into captivity all the able-bodied remnant of the Jews (for they had done away with all the weaklings and the aged), so that not a single Jew was left alive in the city or its vicinity. Only on one day in the year—the day of remembrance of the destruction of the temple—were they allowed to mourn over the city from the neighboring hill-tops (1960, 3:141).
This event was referred to by Daniel as the “abomination of desolation” because the city of David was desolated by the Roman army—an abominable force because of its idolatrous fabric. It is not without considerable interest that apparently even the Jews recognized that the destruction of the Hebrew nation was a fulfillment of Daniel’s remarkable prophecy. Josephus, the Jewish historian, stated that “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them” (Antiquities, X.XI.7).
Daniel’s inspired record regarding the “seventy weeks” is a profound demonstration of the validity of scriptural prophecy. It foretells the coming of the Messiah, and details His benevolent work. The prophecy pinpoints the very time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Finally, it reveals the disastrous consequences of rejecting the Son of God. How thankful we should be to Jehovah for providing this rich testimony.
[NOTE: For a more thorough analysis and refutation of the premillennial-dispensational view of Daniel 9:24ff., see my extended essay on this subject, available in the Apologetics Press Research Article Series.]
Archer, Gleason L. (1964), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody).
Frank, Harry Thomas (1972), An Archaeological Companion to the Bible (London: SCM Press).
Geldenhuys, J. Norval (1960), “Luke,” The Biblical Expositor, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Philadelphia, PA: Holman).
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Jackson, Wayne (1990), “Miracles,” Giving a Reason for Our Hope, ed. Winford Claiborne (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University).
Judisch, Douglas (1978), An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Payne, J. Barton (1973), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (New York: Harper & Row).
Scott, J.B. (1975), “Seventy Weeks,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Thompson, J.E.H. (1950 reprint), “Daniel,” The Pulpit Commentary, ed. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Whitcomb, John C., Jr. (1962), “Nehemiah,” The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody).
Young, Edward J. (1954), “Daniel,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Cyrus the Great: King of Persia
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, is mentioned twenty-two times in the Old Testament—an evidence of his prominence in the biblical scheme of things in those declining days of Judah’s history. When Cyrus overthrew the Babylonian regime in 539 B.C., he was disposed quite favorably toward the Jews. Ezra 1:1-2 reads as follows:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah, Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and he also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, Jehovah, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Exactly how the Lord “stirred up the spirit” of the Persian ruler no one is able to say precisely. That God is able to operate in international affairs—to effect His sovereign will—is certain (Daniel 2:21; 4:17), but how He accomplishes these things, using seemingly natural means, remains a mystery. But there is an interesting possibility. Josephus, the famous Hebrew historian who had access to historical records long since lost, stated that Cyrus was exposed to the prophecies of Isaiah (44:26-45:7), who, more than 150 years earlier, had called the Persian monarch by name, and had announced his noble role in releasing the Hebrews from captivity and assisting in the rebuilding of the Jewish temple (XI.I.2). It is a fact that Daniel was still living in the early years of Cyrus’ reign (see Daniel 10:1), and he might well have been the very one who introduced the Persian commander to Isaiah’s testimony. Interestingly, there is archaeological information that lends support to the biblical record.
During excavations at Babylon (1879-82), archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam discovered a small (ten inches), clay, barrel-shaped cylinder that contained an inscription from Cyrus. Now housed in the British Museum, the cylinder reported the king’s policy regarding captives: “I [Cyrus] gathered all their [former] inhabitants and returned [to them] their habitations” (Pritchard, 1958, 1:208). As noted scholar Jack Finegan observed: “The spirit of Cyrus’s decree of release which is quoted in the Old Testament (II Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2-4) is confirmed by the Cyrus cylinder...” (1946, p. 191).
The science of archaeology frequently has been a willing witness to the integrity of the sacred Scriptures.
Finegan, Jack (1946), Light from the Ancient Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Josephus, Flavius (1957), The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, transl. William Whitson (Philadelphia, PA: John C. Winston).
Pritchard, James B. (1958), The Ancient Near East (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Critics and the Cosmos
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Some believe the Bible contains notions about the Cosmos that create a natural world which is completely foreign to reality. Because the inspired writers spoke of the heaven’s being “rent asunder” after Jesus was baptized (Mark 1:10, ASV) and the “windows of heaven” opening to allow rain to fall upon the Earth (Genesis 7:11), Bible critics have suggested that the writers believed the sky to be the same old blue, solid wall that uninspired men from so many other cultures professed.
Modern-day liberalism frequently has employed this type of argument to indicate the Bible writers’ alleged “unscientific view” of the Universe. Does the Bible imbibe ancient mythological misrepresentations? Is its information on the Cosmos “unscientific”? What is the truth of the matter?
The fact is, the Bible no more teaches that the heavens were a “solid wall” than modern day weathermen believe the Sun literally “rises” in the morning and “sets” in the evening. The Bible no more indicates that there are literal windows in heaven than doctors believe that a woman’s water can literally break. Technically, it is not correct to refer to a woman’s amniotic fluid as water; nor is it correct to refer to the water as “breaking.” Yet doctors frequently employ this kind of language. It is not scientifically correct to speak of the Sun “rising” and “setting,” but everyone understands weathermen to mean that the Earth is turning on its axis. Surely, if modern man, with all his advanced technology, can use such phenomenal language as “sunrise and sunset” in reference to the dawn and dusk of his day, the Bible writers can be afforded the same luxury.
Why do skeptics not allow the biblical writers as much literary license as they themselves employ? No doubt it is because they take extreme measures—by ignoring the type of language used in different parts of Scripture (i.e., literal or figurative)—in an attempt to find some kind of error in the Bible. Such arguments are destined to fail because common sense has been omitted from the interpreting “equation.”
Beware of dogs ... and people!
This mosaic is in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy.
The dog that bit me, did not bark. When I was twelve, I was distributing advertising for my father’s TV repair business. An elderly dog silently walked up behind me and left a clear set of teeth marks in my leg. He obviously had an intense dislike of advertising distributors!
Roman villas in Paul’s day often had a floor mosaic in the entrance showing a dog on a chain, sometimes with the words, “CAVE CANEM” (Beware of the dog)!
It is wise to beware of dogs, but when Paul tells us, “Beware of dogs” in Philippians 3:2, he is referring to dogs of the human variety. Jesus tells us, “Beware of people” (Matthew 10:17).
“Beware of” means to be on guard against, to be cautious about, to be alert to potential danger from, to be ready to avoid danger from.
Humans are the most dangerous creatures on earth. What other form of life has destroyed cities with atomic bombs, and maintains huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons?
The most powerful hydrogen bomb ever detonated (by the Soviet Union on Severny Island above the Arctic Circle on October 30, 1961) had 1400 times the power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined, and ten times the power of all other explosives used in World War II. This picture was taken at a distance of 160 km. The atmospheric shock wave broke windows in northern Norway and Finland, a thousand kilometers away.
In 1985 there were 68,000 active nuclear weapons. In the meantime this has been reduced to about 20,000 that are active or could easily be reactivated. Some of this reduction comes from treaties, but most of it results from decommissioning outmoded, obsolete weapons. Although there are fewer bombs, their destructive capability has been increased.
This is not something that mankind may be proud of. Consider the resources this gobbles up, when much of the world lacks food.
Yet, spiritual dangers are even greater.
A volcanic eruption in 79 AD buried Pompeii, Italy under five meters of ash, killing 15,000 people. Excavations have unearthed several “Beware of the dog” mosaics. Someone should have warned: “Beware of the volcano!” There are greater dangers than dogs.
Although the danger of nuclear destruction threatens us like a smoking Mount Vesuvius, we live in a world that is even more dangerous spiritually. God warns us about spiritual dangers that threaten our souls. Satan has laid spiritual landmines along both sides of the narrow way that leads to life.We must beware of falling away because of sin. We must beware of false teachers, of religious leaders who exalt themselves, and of persecutors.
Beware of falling away because of sin.
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12, 13).
The deceitfulness of sin is our greatest spiritual danger. We must beware of anything that tempts us to sin and leads us away from God.
Sin is glorified in the media, on the Internet, on television, on the radio, in magazines.
At school, young people are taught how to be immoral, and are fooled into thinking that immorality has no negative consequences.
The fashion world emphasizes sensuality. Social pressure encourages us to be “like everyone else.”
We must beware of these corruptive influences.
We must exhort one another not to depart from the living God through sin.
Referring to people who twist the Scriptures “to their own destruction,” Peter gives a similar warning: “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17, 18).
These verses refute the false doctrine of “Once saved, always saved”!
We must beware lest we “fall from our own steadfastness”; we must beware lest we “depart from the living God”!
To avoid falling away through the deceitfulness of sin, we must beware of anyone who tries to lead us into sin.
This includes being alert to dangers from false teachers, religious leaders who exalt themselves, and persecutors.
Beware of persecutors.
Jesus warned His followers: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:16, 17).
How do Christians react to persecution? Jesus said: “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another” (Matthew 10:23). “Do not fear them” (Matthew 10:26). “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
Paul warned Timothy: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Timothy 4:14, 15).
Paul was thankful that God had protected him: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:17, 18).
We must beware of persecutors. Yet, we need not be afraid. An eternal home with God is waiting, whatever happens to us.
Beware of religious leaders who exalt themselves.
Jesus warned, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers” (Mark 12:38-40).
Pretentious religious leaders glorify themselves, not God. We must beware of them.
Beware of false teachers.
We must beware of those who introduce teachings and practices that are contrary to sound doctrine, that deviate from the original teaching of Christ and His apostles: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).
Jesus warns about their deceptive appearance and tells us how to identify them: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15, 16).
Jesus warned His followers against two prevalent errors: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). The disciples did not know what He meant by leaven until He clarified it. “Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).
The Pharisees and Sadducees were the two major denominations among the Jews at the time of Christ. They both taught false doctrine.
The Sadducees rejected most of the Old Testament outright, recognizing only the five books of Moses. They did not believe in a resurrection, in angels, or in spirits (Acts 23:8). They were liberalistic in their interpretation and application of Scripture.
The Pharisees were “the strictest sect” of the Jews (Acts 26:5), but their piety was superficial. Jesus told them, “You pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23); “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9). They were also “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14).
Thus, we are duly warned to beware of these doctrinal errors, which are still prevalent today: a liberalistic interpretation and application of Scripture, and a superficial piety that exalts human doctrine above the word of God.
Jesus refers to these errors as leaven because they spread easily.
Beware of those who base doctrine on the Old Covenant.
In the early church certain false teachers tried to impose requirements of the Old Covenant, such as circumcision and Sabbath-keeping, on Christians (Colossians 2:11-17). Paul warns against them in the harshest of terms, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:2, 3).
Beware of those who base doctrine on philosophy and human traditions.
Paul warns: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, 9).
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
Referring to John’s baptism, Jesus asked the Jewish leaders, “Was it from heaven or from men?” (Mark 11:30). We ought to ask this question about all religious principles, doctrines and practices: Is it from heaven or from men? Everything that is not from God must be rejected.
During a recent walk I saw on a gate: “Beware! Poisonous frogs!” Although I doubt that poisonous frogs were lurking behind that gate, they really do exist! Touch the moisture on the back of a Yellow Golden Poison Dart Frog and put your finger in your mouth, and almost instantly you die. As the name indicates, their poison was used on arrows. They are among the most poisonous creatures on earth.
It is certainly wise to be wary of poisonous frogs, vicious dogs, and a nuclear holocaust. But even more we must beware of spiritual dangers.
“Take heed to yourselves” (Luke 17:3). “Take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24). “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Matthew 24:4). “Take heed , watch and pray” (Mark 13:33).
God warns us to beware of falling away through the deceitfulness of sin, to beware of persecutors, to beware of money-loving religious leaders who exalt themselves, to beware of false teachers who interpret the Scriptures liberalistically, to beware of false teachers who follow their own rigid regulations rather than the Scriptures, to beware of false teachers who base doctrine on the Old Covenant, on philosophy or on human traditions.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive