KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Richard A. Riesen and David L. Roth
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027-4961. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in Religion Index One, Evanston, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.
ISSN 0888-8513 December 1996 Vol. 11, No. 3
Some Thoughts On Preaching
Charles G. Dennison
Like the apostle Paul asking the Corinthians to bear with him in a little foolishness (2 Cor. 11:1), I ask you to bear with me in the same. Paul "boasted" in order to answer those boasting in themselves. I'm engaging in a bit of non-preaching in order to address what passes for preaching in the church.
Preaching, I'm sorry to say, is in a bad state of repair. While many share this judgment, all do not realize how desperate the situation is. Particularly indicting is the fact that good preaching cannot be recognized by many in the church. Tragically, preaching, let alone good preaching, doesn't interest a large number of church-goers.
Now I'm not saying we lack good speakers to fill pulpits, even excellent communicators with large followings—not that I'm opposed to speaking ability in preachers. After all, the church permits too many to enter the ministry, who, frankly, have no business being in it because they are as dull in the pulpit as an old knife.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the denomination I belong to, is far from innocent on this score. Even this most careful of churches has seemingly said on occasion that a man need only a sense of his own call and a sincere effort in his presbytery exams in order to qualify. Poor licensure and ordination sermons have often failed to raise an eyebrow much less generate a rejection.
During my early days in the Presbytery of Ohio in the OPC, a young man seeking licensure preached a horrendous sermon to the excuse he had left his notes in Philadelphia where he attended school. No one thought it was a good sermon, but the presbytery in sustaining the man said, "Every preacher has a bad day." A number of the presbyters were feeling their own necks. Thus, this young man was licensed without any evidence of preaching skill.
At the same time, had this man been a fine communicator, that fact in itself would not have identified him as a preacher. However, you may point out to me Paul's boast about his own lack of skill (cf. 2 Cor. 11:6). Could it be that decent speaking ability cannot be insisted on in preachers?
We must remember that Paul was restating and sarcastically playing upon the criticisms he had received from the polished, highly-trained, well-rehearsed, and jealous masters of the communication arts. According to them, his style, his management of material, and his presentation were weak and fell far short of the canons of their craft. Paul's self-deprecating comments, clothed in the foolishness of his own boast, are actually the Spirit's protest against the demagoguery of these snobs, a protest aimed at exploding the pretensions of those whose use of rhetoric destroyed the message of the gospel.
Still, good preaching is not oratory. It cannot be equated with mastery of Public Speaking 101. It does not hail, for instance, from the principles of Aristotle's Rhetoric, but from the revelations received by the Hebrew prophets.
Good preaching stands in the line of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses' magnificent sermon preached to a people redeemed by God, lead through one world, and poised to enter another even as the law of that other world is communicated to them through a dying mediator. Good preaching stands in the line of the prophet Isaiah who ministers between the coming of the kingdom in David's reign and the coming of the kingdom in Jesse's more wonderful branch. Against the background of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, Isaiah exalts grace through the anguish, death, and vindication of God's faith-
ful servant for a blessing on his elect from all nations in the new heavens and new earth.
Ultimately, good preaching rests in the preaching of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed the good news about the kingdom's gracious arrival in his person and work before that kingdom's awful consummation (cf. the parables). Jesus' preaching called his hearers to the reality of the kingdom, effectively sealing those repenting and believing in him within that kingdom's superlative blessings presently hidden in a life of cross-bearing (cf. Mt. 5:3-16). Faithful preaching follows the risen Christ who, from Moses and all the prophets, declared to those going to Emmaus the necessity of his suffering before glory (Lk. 24:25-27).
Paul's preaching flows from this fountain. The coming of the kingdom in Jesus' message translates into the apostle's message about the advent of the end of the ages (1 Cor. 10:11), the fullness of the time (Gal. 4:4), the revelation of the mystery (Eph. 1:9), and the end of the law (Rom. 10:4). Kingdom blessings are mediated by faith through gracious union with Christ in the sufficiency and finality of his death, resurrection, and ascension (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. l:30; Col. 3:1-4). The Holy Spirit is given as down-payment of the heavenly reward and as the one by whom and in whom the church shares in the heavenly life of the world to come (Eph. 1:3-14), even as she, in the self-sacrifice of bondservice to her Lord (Phil. 2:5ff.), awaits in this world the appearance of her great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13).
Good preaching, therefore, consistently declares the mighty acts of God, supremely the redeeming work of his eternal Son. It labors to convince us about our place in relation to those mighty acts: We are participants in them, not spectators of them. Good preaching directs us to the word of God, the Scriptures, there to find our life in the drama of redemption. It draws us into the text to be confronted with the revelation of the awesomeness of God, the certainties of his justice, and the comforts of his mercy for the gathering of his elect into a holy assembly, the church of Jesus Christ.
Good preaching calls men and women, young and old, to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ so that they might be delivered from this present evil age and be made citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:13). It understands that we
live "between the times," i.e., between Christ's bodily resurrection and our own, between the time when the new has come and the old has ended and is being done away (2 Cor. 5:17), even while we wait for the Son from heaven (1 Thess. 1:10).
Good preaching is God-centered, not man-centered. Enough of these litanies of illustrations, autobiographical and otherwise, often more important to the preacher than the text itself. Enough of these shameful anecdotal homilies invented out of half truths and out-and-out untruths, the stuff of evangelical folklore. Preaching is not first of all about what may have happened to me or to you, disgracefully embellished and exaggerated, but what has most assuredly happened to Jesus Christ.
Engaging in my own litany of illustrations (this is a bit of foolishness, after all), let me pass on a couple of personal experiences. I recently heard a message on Isaiah 6 in which the preacher informed us that the prophet's adventure in the temple was merely a moment of new self-awareness, "a defining moment in his life," the kind we all need in the interests of "getting serious" about worship! Thus the life of the hearer was made the text of the sermon. This message rivals in absurdity the one I heard a number of years ago from the minister who preached on Abram's departure from Ur to the theme, "We all need a change from time to time." I have wondered, in light of these travesties, if we should not reconsider our definition of blasphemy?
I plead with you: Good preaching is Christ-centered, not morality or behavior-centered; Scripture-centered, not headline-centered; event-centered, not idea-centered; church-centered, not culture-centered; history of redemption-centered, not history of the world-centered.
But good preaching is even more. For it is vitally bound to the risen Christ. In him it touches the heavenly, transcendent truth of which Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 2:17. The apostle is quite conscious that he "speaks in Christ in the sight of God."
A number of years ago, Edmund Clowney presented a fine example of good preaching in his message "The Singing Christ." His text was Hebrews
2:12 and its quote of Psalm 22:22. Clowney's point was that the exalted Christ enters into and leads us in our worship.
Interestingly, these same texts contain the line "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." Not only, then, do we have the singing Christ; we also have the preaching Christ. The one whose worship is perfect and complete, whose worship even now is observed before the throne of his Father, is the very one who presently proclaims all God's wondrous works (cf. Ps. 26:7). He who leads the church in its preaching is the one into whom ministers of the word must enter, to whom they must be bound, in their preaching task.
Such a perspective both multiplies the glory and the grace of preaching. The ax is laid to the root of Arminian and Pelagian notions as the preacher enters into the already perfect proclamation of the preaching Christ and, as Paul says, speaks in Christ in the sight of God. Every preacher would do well to reflect deeply on Paul's words and reform his ministry in light of them.
Unfortunately, few in the pulpit are prepared to do so. Whether conservative or liberal, Calvinist or Arminian, most preachers pursue their task to the text of the world. Despite even the concern of some to be exegetical, most end up expounding the world's wisdom, its problems, its fears, its psychological state, and its methods. They labor somewhat nervously to insure a point of contact with their audience. To quote one Reformed spokesmen who, I'm sad to say, lends support to this approach:
. . . [the] effective
preacher . . . must be a sensitive observer and interpreter of
the "times and seasons," understanding the cultural ideas, the political realities,
the influential movements, and the challenging crises of a given era.
It would seem, given this understanding of things, the preacher must be a confident, and therefore competent, historian, cultural anthropologist, sociologist, political analyst, psychologist, and in our own setting an expert surveyor of the pop scene. "Effective preachers" are primarily heralds for relevance, anecdotal and analytical masters of modern times, because they are,
in the words of our Reformed spokesman, "preaching for modern times" (emphasis added). They proclaim ". . . the word of God in all its relevance to the contemporary situation in which real people are called to responsibility before the Word."
But this is a very different approach than the one I have presented to you in this message. Rather than seeing the hearers of the word called and placed by grace within that word and its flow of the drama of salvation, this approach, as unintentional as it may be, allows the contemporary situation to determine the word's relevance. Moreover, instead of seeing the hearers living by grace out of the heavenly world into which they have been introduced by God's sovereign activity in his word, this approach finds no place for the present eschatological and transcendent environment of the people of God, the very environment that sets them above their culture.
Therefore, the message to preachers is not as it should be, namely, "You and your people have died with Christ to the world, therefore flee the world that, in following the cross and living from heaven, you might be given back as true servants of Christ in the world." Instead the message to preachers becomes, "Master the world, become experts about the world so that you and your people might have influence for Christ and thereby prevail in the world, even as you make your way to God's final benediction." The Scriptures are made subordinate to this perspective and preachers, to the excuse that they must "apply" the word, determine the word's relevance by making it meaningful to their age.
By contrast, good preaching does not make the text meaningful for us in our contemporary situation; rather good preaching makes us and our contemporary situation meaningful in the text. In other words, good preaching doesn't pull the word into our world as if the word were deficient in itself and in need of our applicatory skills. Instead good preaching testifies and declares to us that we have been pulled into the word which has its own marvellous sufficiency.
But a major hindrance to this point of view is the sad truth about the practical theology departments in the seminaries across this country. They assume we live in a qualitatively different world than did the first Christians to whom the word came. Their favorite textbooks prove the point, from Haddon
Robinson's, Biblical Preaching, to Sidney Greidanus's, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, to John Stott's Between Two Worlds.
This last title blatantly advances the program against which I object. By the two worlds, Stott means the world of the first century and word of today, not this world and the heavenly world, as the Bible has it. According to Stott, the word from the first century world must be applied to the qualitatively different world in which we live. Unnoticed by the evangelical and Reformed church, must less by Stott himself, is the fact that this is precisely the position of Rudolph Bultmann. While Stott is overcoming the distance between the then and the now by his program of application, Bultmann has pursued his program of demythologizing.1
Theological liberalism has been called modernism because it believes our modern situation and we in that situation are the supreme considerations. The conservative church, as the matter of preaching proves, moves dangerously close to the modernist impulse. However, if we are to be true to the Bible's concern in preaching, we must realize that we have been drawn into the drama of redemption, there to know the sufficiency of Scripture and ourselves as those who live not for ourselves but for God. Such preaching evidences, even in its methodology, the truth of the gospel: It is an enterprise in which we embrace the cross as we give up our life in this world in the interest of and by the power of life in another.
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian
1 For further comment, see Charles G. Dennison, "Preaching and Application," Kerux 4/3 (1989): 44-52; also Gary Findley's review of Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching in Kerux 11/1 (1996): 37-41.
Meredith G. Kline
In the concentric series of seven visions, the final vision (Zech. 6:1-8) parallels the first (Zech. 1:7-17), resuming its theme and imagery. Vision seven answers to the eschatological longings voiced in the "How Long?" cry of the opening vision. The marana tha prayer raised heavenward there was prompted by the state of the world report brought to the messianic rider of the red horse. As discovered by the celestial horsemen in their world reconnaissance, the nations were displaying defiant indifference to the Lord God, particularly by their oppressive domination of God's people, and they were doing so with apparent impunity. Their hostile arrogance had, however, provoked the Lord to jealous anger, which he makes known in an oracular response to the intercession of the messianic Angel (Zech. 1:14-17). God assures his suffering servants of his presence with them and his determination to deal in his wrath with the nations at ease. Vision seven announces the fulfillment of that divine commitment. Equine imagery is again employed for the heavenly agents and the scope of their judicial mission is again global. Visions one and seven thus form an inclusion, framing the series of visions.
Immediate preparation for vision seven and its prophecy of final judgment is provided in vision six (Zech. 5:1-11). One way it does so is by com-
*This study of Zech. 6:1-8 continues the series on Zechariah's night vision begun in Kerux 5:2 (September 1990).
pleting a two-directional sorting out process that transpires on a world-wide scale. The third vision had prophesied of a messianic evangel that would summon the dispersed people of God out of Babylon back to Zion, an efficacious call that would result in many nations being joined to Yahweh in that day (Zech. 2:6-11 [10-15]; cf. Zech. 6:9-15). Then the sixth vision foretells a movement in the opposite direction, an anathema-expulsion from Zion of those false to the covenant, carrying them away from Jerusalem to Shinar-Babylon. By means of this twofold movement God effects a clear-cut separation between his seed of promise, the children of heaven, and the denizens of the world, children of the devil. The stage is thus set for Zechariah's closing vision of the chariots of judgment.1
A. God's Presence in Glory. A site marked by two bronze mountains is the starting point of the mission of four chariots (Zech. 6:1). The identification of this site is given in the hierophant angel's statement that the chariots came forth "from standing before the Lord of all the earth" (v. 5).2 The setting alluded to is the heavenly court where the cosmic Sovereign sits enthroned in Glory. It is there that his angel-ministers stand in attendance upon him, harkening unto the voice of his word (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps. 103:19, 20; Zech. 4:14). This closing vision thus fits the consistent pattern according to which the celestial council is the background or even immediate setting of each of the seven visions.3 We may speak of this divine self-manifestation as a parousia in the sense of "presence."
1. Two Mountains: The imagery of two mountains with the God of Glory between (and above) them is a variation on symbolism we have observed previously, the symbolism of the divine Presence enthroned between match-
1 Similarly, Zech. 13:2-9, the parallel to Zech. 5:1-11 in the burdens-section of the book, prepares for the prophecy of final judgment in Zechariah 14 by its account of the removal of apostates from the covenant community.
2Even if we so translate Zech. 6:5 as to identify the chariots with the four winds, this last statement in the verse will refer to the chariots. On the translation question, see further below.
3 Cf. Kerux 8:1 (May 1993), p. 23.
ing objects on either side. In vision one, the messianic rider of the red horse is stationed between what may well be two myrtles, representing the holy community of God's servant-people.4 In vision five, the two olive trees overarching the menorah reflect the Shekinah theophany complex in the holy of holies, with the Glory-cloud above the ark, footstool of God's throne, and the two cherubim on the right and left.5 And as we have suggested, behind this imagery is the two-pillar theophany of the Glory-cloud, representing God standing on earth, particularly in oath-taking stance and in other judicial capacities.6 There is also an architectural dimension to this polyvalent imagery. The Glory above with the flanking cherubim were the lintel and side columns respectively, framing an entryway that leads from the terrestrial world into heaven. This gate of heaven symbolism found in the holy of holies was repeated in the entrance into the temple with its two bronze pillars (1 Kgs. 7:13-22).7
Similar symbolism of deities associated with a pair of cosmic mountains is found in Near Eastern mythological traditions. The sun-god is represented as appearing between two mountains, and two mountains mark the point of access to the realm of the netherworld deity. It has been suggested that the sunrise motif informs Zechariah's seventh vision. Appeal might be made to Psalm 19 as affording a biblical instance of the imagery of the sun, in a manifestation of God's glory, coming forth from a heavenly tent and entering on a world-traversing mission. But the concept conveyed in Zech. 6:1-8 is rather that of chariots of war passing through the boundary gate of heaven and earth, dispatched by the heavenly Suzerain-Judge on an earthly mission of world judgment.
One likely tributary of this two-mountain imagery is the scene of the covenant ratification ceremony conducted by Joshua at the adjacent mountains of Ebal and Gerizim (Josh. 8:30-35; cf. Deut. 27). There too the en-
4Cf. Kerux 5:3 (December 1990), p. 11.
5An unholy version of this theophanic formation appears in vision six in the imagery of the two stork-winged women carrying away the ephah. Cf. Kerux 10:3 (December 1995), p. 14.
6Cf. Kerux 9:1 (May 1994), pp. 4, 5.
7Cf. my Images of the Spirit, p. 40.
throned divine presence, symbolized by the ark, stood in the center between the two mountains. That ceremonial scene at Shechem in the center of the promised land proclaimed Yahweh's sovereignty over the whole land. The altar erected on Ebal was a virtual victory stele celebrating the Lord's defeat of the gods and nations of Canaan and the vindication of his claims to this domain, the prototype of his cosmic kingdom.8 It is this sovereign status of the God of Israel, Potentate of all the earth, that is also signified by the two-mountain scene in Zech. 6: 1-8.
Within the Book of Zechariah, and indeed in the section of the second half of the prophecy that parallels the seventh vision in the first half,9 another pair of mountains appears, identified as the Lord's (Zech. 14:5). These two mountains are produced in the course of a parousia event, an advent of Yahweh with his holy ones.10 As the Lord stands on the Mount of Olives before Jerusalem, it is divided into two mountains (v. 4; cf. Exod. 19:18; Judg. 5:5; Ps. 68:8 ), the feet of the towering figure of the Lord now standing astride the two (cf. Rev. 10:1, 2, 5). The valley created between the parted halves of Olivet provides a passage to safety for God's people, a mountain guarding both their flanks, the overarching Presence of the Lord a shield above them. This eschatological deliverance prophesied in Zech. 14:4-5 is antitypical to the exodus passage through the Egyptian sea." Zechariah 14 thus includes more explicitly than Zech. 6:1-8 the soteric aspect of the two-mountain parousia episode, but the association of the two-mountain imagery with the parousia in Zechariah 14 supports the interpretation of the two mountains in
8Cf. my Kingdom Prologue (1993), pp. 229, 230. By the same token the Joshua 8 transaction represented to the Lord's people a fulfillment of the land grant promised to them in the Abrahamic Covenant. Cf. A.E. Hill, "The Ebal Ceremony as Hebrew Land Grant," JETS 31:4 (1988), pp. 399-406.
9For the striking parallel features, cf. my "The Structure of the Book of Zechariah," JETS 34:2 (1991), p. 192.
10This exegesis follows the Masoretic text. According to another view, suggested by alternative readings in the versions, "my (God's) mountains" would be Zion and Olivet, with the Kidron as the valley between.
11The final judgment is a time of salvation for God's elect, a safe passage through Jehoshaphat, the valley of judgment (cf. Joel 3:2, 12 [4:2, 12]), only because the Lord himself has first undergone the passage through the dark valley of death, suffering the divine judgment in their place (cf. Gen. 15:17).
Zech. 6:1 as symbolic of the Lord's parousia-Presence.
2. Bronze Mountains: The two mountains were mountains of bronze and prominent in the use of bronze elsewhere in biblical symbolism is its association with Glory-theophany, more particularly with the legs of the theophanic figure, and with related celestial beings. Ezekiel's chariot-throne theophany is a conspicuous source of the imagery in Zech. 6:1-8 and the fiery cherubim creatures who bear this vehicular throne of the Glory-Spirit are pictured with legs of gleaming bronze (Ezek. 1:7), harmonious with their total shining appearance, a reflection of the Glory-light of God's Presence (Ezek. 1:13). The luminous human form on the throne above the cherubim (Ezek. 1:26-28) appears in Daniel 7 as the one like a son of man and again in Daniel 10 as a man with face of lightning, eyes of flame, and arms and legs of burnished bronze (Dan. 10:5, 6; cf. Ezek. 40:3). This same son of man, with face shining like the sun, appears in the opening vision of John's Apocalypse and once more his legs (as visible below a robe reaching to his feet) are likened to glowing bronze (Rev. 1:15; 2:18). We may also recall here the related symbolism of the two bronze pillars (lit. "standing things") at the temple entrance (1 Kgs. 7:13-22). In this gate of heaven symbolism, the two bronze pillars represented the side columns, an architectural translation of the anthropomorphic image of the bronze legs of deity standing on the earth.
When dealing with Zechariah's second vision (1:18-21 [2:1-4])12 we interpreted the four horns as the horns at the corners of an altar, and, viewing the altar as a stylized ziggurat, a structure also capped by four horns, we observed that in the case of both the altar and ziggurat the horns were bronze. Since ziggurats represented the cosmic mountain of the gods, their bronze horns would have a significance appropriate to the divine realm. In the context of the second vision the bronze horns would signify divine power. Similarly the bronze nature of the two mountains in Zech. 6:1-8 might be taken as secondarily connoting the invincible strength of the Lord who resides there and the impregnable permanence of his kingdom. But primarily the bronze here reflects the identity of the two mountains as the site of brilliant divine Presence, the locus of the radiant parousia of the God of Glory. Indeed, the
12 Cf. Kerux 7:1 (May 1992), pp. 26-27.
allusive connections we have noted indicate that the two bronze mountains represent the resplendent Lord as planting his feet on the earth, taking his stand in the midst of his people. They thus symbolize much the same reality as the scene of the rider of the red horse stationed between the myrtles by the deep in Zechariah's first vision.
3. Mount Magedon/Zaphon/Zion: As a representation of the Lord's place of enthronement, the two bronze mountains are a bifid by-form of what elsewhere appears as a single holy mountain. One of the designations of that mountain of God is har mo'ed, "mount of assembly," referring to the gathering of the council of angelic beings there in the court of the King of heaven and earth (cf. Isa. 14:13). In Greek transcription har mo'ed becomes har magedon (Rev. 16:16).13 An overlooked but decisive clue indicating that har magedon does indeed mean "mount of assembly (or gathering)" is that it is identified in Rev. 16:16 as Hebraisti, "in Hebrew," a label consistently accompanied in the Johannine usage by a contextual explanation. And Rev. 16:16 is no exception. The explanation of the "Hebrew" term there is found in the main verb: "And they gathered14 them together unto the place called in Hebrew Har Magedon (Mount of Gathering)."
In apposition with har mo'ed in Isa. 14:13 is another designation for this mountain: yarkete sapon, "the heights of Zaphon." A secondary meaning which sapon acquired was "north," but in Isa. 14:13 yarkete sapon refers to the heights of the mount of assembly, the polar opposite on the cosmic axis from the yarkete bor, "the depths of the Pit" (Isa. 14:15). Zaphon was the name of a mountain to the north of Israel that was regarded as the residence of Baal, an earthly localization of the cosmic abode of the gods. Possibly Zaphon appears in Babylonian magical texts as the name of a city (Zabban) mythically inter-
13 Cf. Kerux 5:3 (December 1990), p. 20; 8:1 (May 1993), pp. 27-29. In. Isa. 14:13, the celestial mount is the exalted location to which the king of Babylon vainly aspires.
14 This verb, synago, used in LXX for the Hebrew ya'ad, root of mo'ed. For a full discussion of the term har magedon and of related topics dealt with under the present heading see my "Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium," JETS 39:2 (1996), 207-222.
preted as a cosmic city, guardian of the entry-point into this world for denizens of the netherworld and heaven.15 In addition to Isa. 14:13, other biblical instances of yarkete sapon denoting God's mountain-city of Har Magedon or a pagan equivalent are Ps. 48:2 and Ezek. 38:6, 15; 39:2. Also, sapon by itself may refer to this heavenly realm, as in the introduction to the chariot-throne theophany of Ezekiel 1. Echoing his opening statement that the heavens were opened and he saw visions of God (Ezek. 1:1), the prophet in verse 4 says he saw the storm-cloud theophany coming out of sapon. Sapon here is the heavenly Zaphon, site of God's Glory-Presence (not the geographical north, as usually interpreted).16
The Zaphon designation of the mountain (more specifically yarkete sapon) provides a connection between Har Magedon (har mo'ed]), to which it is appositional in Isa. 14:13, and Zion, with which it is equated in the opening two verses of Psalm 48:
Great is Yahweh,
and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God; the
mountain of his sanctuary, paragon of peaks, joy of all the earth; Mount
Zion, the heights of Zaphon, city of the Great King.
Zion is the earthly ectypal manifestation of the archetypal heavenly reality of God's temple-city, Mount Zaphon/Magedon.
In keeping with the typological idiom of the prophets, it is the earthly temple-city of God's theophanic Presence, Mount Zion, that is represented by the two bronze mountains of Zech. 6:1-8. Indicative of this earthly location of the royal Presence in the seventh vision is the geographic perspective of the account of the chariots' mission—they issue from a Palestinian site and proceed in various directions relative to that Palestinian point of origin. As Mount Zion, the two bronze mountains speak of the Immanuel Presence of the God of heaven—Ichabod reversed (cf. 1 Sam. 4:21; Ezekiel 10-11). They prom-
15 Cf. Tzvi Abusch, "The Socio-Religious Framework of the Babylonian Witchcraft Ceremony Maqlu: Some Observations on the Introductory Section of the Text, Part II," Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield (ed. Z. Zevit, S. Gitin, M. Sokoloff; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 467-494.
16Cf. also Job 26:7; 37:22; Ps. 89:12 .
ise the return of Glory (cf. Ezek. 43:1-7; 40:2), which is fully realized in the antitypical New Jerusalem/Mount Zaphon/Magedon, where the heavenly and earthly become one.
B. God's Advent in Power. Parousia means presence and also coming. In Zechariah's seventh vision the static imagery of the two bronze mountains symbolizes God's presence-parousia and the emergence of the dynamic chariots to charge throughout the earth portrays his advent-parousia. Divine advent-parousia is a majestic coming of heaven's King with his myriad of holy angels, mighty agents of his judgments on the earth (cf., e.g., Zech. 14:5; Matt. 24:30, 31; 2 Thess. 1:7).
1. Divine Transport: It is on the chariot-agents speeding on their several ways that Zechariah's vision focuses. But it is not as though the divine Presence has been left behind at the two bronze mountains. This is a parousia-advent, a coming of the Lord himself. We may think of the visionary action in terms of the four-directional chariot-throne of the Glory-Spirit in Ezekiel 1, a living creature and a wheel facing and moving in each direction. What we have in Zechariah's vision is a dividing of that one chariot complex of four faces into four individual chariots, or better, an explosive extension of it to the four winds of heaven, without, however, the loss of the coherence of the one chariot-throne and without separation from the unifying divine Presence. Like the one chariot-throne, the four chariots are bearers of the Glory-Spirit; the Spirit is indeed their Driver (Ezek. 1:12, 20; 2:2; Ps. 104:3).17 This explains how the arrival of the chariots at their ultimate destination involves a presence and working of the Spirit there (cf. Zech. 6:8).
Procession of the Lord from his mountain, advancing on a mission of redemptive judgment, answers to the Sinai prototype. As celebrated in Psalm 68,18 the God of Sinai went forth from his holy habitation (vv. 7, 8 [8, 9]) as the Rider of the clouds (vv.4, 24 [5, 25]), amid the thousands of his chariots (v. 17 ), to show himself the Savior of the righteous from their enemies (vv. 19ff. [20ff.]). Such is the agenda of the advent of the Lord of the two bronze mountains. It is a time for the injunction of Zech. 2:13 : "Be still
17Cf. Kerux 5:2 (September 1990), p. 5.
18Cf. Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3, Ps. 18:9 ff. [10 ff.]. Cf. Kerux 5:2 (September 1990), p. 6.
before Yahweh, all people, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling place."
2. Universal Mission: The heirophant angel's response to Zechariah's inquiry concerning the chariots (Zech. 6:4) revealed their provenance and their destination (v. 5). In disclosing the source of their mission, that they came forth from standing in the presence of the Lord, he was identifying the chariots as ministers of the Lord of Glory. The chariots would still be so identified, indirectly, even if we translated: "These are the four winds of heaven." On that translation, the servant-agent status of the chariots would be further suggested by the familiar role of the winds as messengers in God's service (Ps. 104:4). If the chariots are thus equated with the winds, an indication would also be given of the nature of their mission, for elsewhere the four winds of heaven carry the connotation of destructive power (e.g., Jer. 49:36; Rev. 7:1, 2; cf. Dan. 2:35).
However, the preferable translation is: "These to the four winds19 of heaven are going forth." A four-direction mission is entailed in our understanding of the four chariots as a development out of the four-direction Glory-chariot of Ezekiel 1. Also, on this rendering of v. 5 as a general statement that the chariots as a group went to all the cardinal points of the compass, v. 6 follows naturally as a specifying of the particular direction each of the chariots took. Moreover, the equivalent phrase employed in the summary statement in v. 7 is "over the earth," signifying the universal scope of the judicial mission of the agents of the one who is "Potentate of all the earth" (v. 5).
In the Masoretic Hebrew text, the account of the directions taken by the individual teams of horses (with the chariots) omits reference to the red horses, the first of the teams listed in vv. 2, 3. And while the second (black) team goes north and the fourth (piebald) team heads south, it is uncertain whether the third (white) team is said to go along after (or with) the black team to the north, or whether 'aharehem (either alone or with some addition to the text) signifies "to the west. " Understandably but not necessarily correctly, many______________________________
19 This is an accusative of place whither put first for emphasis (GKC 118f.) Cf. siyyon in Zech. 2:7. The preposition 'el is avoided after 'elay 'elleh. For the concept, cf. Zech. 2:6.
suggest that the original text supplied the apparent omission by including the red team and directing them to the east. The related attempt to demonstrate an association of each color with the assumed direction of its chariot is not persuasive. If we limit ourselves to the data in the extant text, there is a change in perspective when the account proceeds from the general statement in v. 5, which indicates the global scope of the four chariots, to the specifying of the directions of the individual chariots in v. 6. The orientation of the latter is adjusted to the peculiar topography of Palestine and to the visionary circumstance of an (evidently) north-south valley running between the bronze mountains. In that scenario the chariots would emerge from that valley in just those two directions, north and south.20
The list of the chariot teams in Zech. 6:2, 3 concludes with a summarizing epithet, "powerful ones." Again in v. 7 the whole contingent of horses is designated by this term. Whereas the first vision of the horses on world-wide surveillance evinces the divine omniscience, the divine omnipotence is to the fore in vision seven. The strength of the horses and their high-spirited eagerness to be on their way (v. 7) highlight the nature of the four-chariot mission as a parousia in power. It is an advent of the Almighty.
II. Final Judgment
A. Chariots of Wrath. Chariots were mainly employed in warfare and were indeed the pride of the royal military establishment. Accordingly, the chariot symbolism of Zechariah's seventh vision is to be understood as signifying an advent of God as the divine warrior, advancing in wrath against his enemies. Similarly the boast of Psalm 68 that God has at his command thousands of thousands of chariots (v. 17 ) is set in the context of his smiting the head of his foes (v. 21 ). And in Isaiah 66 the whirlwind-like chariots of the Lord accompany him as he comes to show fury against his adversaries
20Similarly in the first vision the horses are possibly divided into just two groups. Cf. Kerux 5:2 (September 1990), p. 7. Another shared feature of these visions is that the colors in both are natural colors of horses and not to be taken as symbolic of particular forms of judgment in the absence of explicit indications to that effect, such as are found in the vision of the four horsemen in Revelation 6.
end to execute judgment on all mankind (vv. 14-16). As extensions of God's chariot-throne of Glory, the four chariots of Zech. 6:1-8 are insignia of his supreme sovereignty, but the primary military association of chariotry indicates that their particular purpose as they break forth from between the bronze mountains is the judicial enforcement of that divine dominion. They are chariots of wrath. It is the day of the Lord.
In the introductory comments on the seventh vision we noted that the theme of God's wrath against the hostile nations appears in the first vision in the form of the Lord's determination and promise to bring them into judgment, a promise whose fulfillment is depicted in vision seven. Meanwhile, in the intervening visions the theme of the Lord's judgment on the satanic world powers has surfaced repeatedly, leading up to the climactic treatment of it in the final vision, and preparing the reader to recognize it there.
Within the first triad of visions, the second (Zech. 1:18-21 [2:1-4]) develops the divine threat of Zech. 1:14, 15. The bestial powers that have lifted their horns to assault the saints and usurp Zion will be overthrown by God's agents of vengeance, four expert destroyers. In vision three (Zech. 2:1-13 [2:5-17] ), the messianic Angel declares that he will shake his hand over the nations that have plundered the sons of Zion and the plunderers will become a spoil to their former victims. Vision four (Zech. 3:1-10) unveils the underlying conflict of Christ with Satan, the instigator of the enmity of the nations against the Lord and his people, and reveals the redemptive secret of the believers' victory. In vision five (Zech. 4:1-14), Messiah, typologically prefigured by Zerubbabel, overcomes the imperial world enemy, symbolized by a great mountain that is leveled into a flat plain before him.21 And as the culminating contribution to this pervasive theme of judgment, vision seven prophesies of an apocalyptic intervention of God. Through his chariot agents sent forth from heaven the divine warrior directs his final judicial vengeance against the nations guilty of offering their affront against his holy majesty.22 God's
21On the special preparation for vision seven in vision six (Zech. 5:1-11), see the introduction to this article.
22Also confirming the military-punitive nature of the mission of the four chariots in Zech. 6:1-8 is the warrior role of Yahweh in Zechariah 14 (the parallel passage in the second half of
retributive justice is satisfied. The Judge of heaven and earth can declare: It is finished.
B. Land of the North. Whatever questions there may be as to which direction each of the several chariot teams went, the conclusion of the vision (Zech. 6:8) makes it clear that "the land of the north (sapon)" was the chief target. Babylon is this "land of the north." Another instance of this identification in Zechariah is in vision three, where the exiles dwelling in Babylon are summoned to flee "from the land of the north" back to Zion (Zech. 2:6, 7 [10, 11]). This usage is frequent in Jeremiah's warnings of the judgment to be brought on Jerusalem and Judah by the Babylonians (cf., e.g., Jer. 1:14; 4:6; 6:1, 22; 13:20; 25:9), although Jeremiah also identifies the north with other nations whose hostile entry into Palestine would be from that quarter (e.g., Jer. 1:15). In fact, Jer. 50:9 foretells an alliance of nations from the north which God will bring against Babylon.
Babylon is an appropriate symbol of the world in its opposition to the Lord because it was Babylon that destroyed Jerusalem, took captive the Davidic king, and exercised dominion over God's people. Babylon was the head of gold in the imperial colossus of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and the first of the beast kingdoms in Daniel's vision. Babylon was the revival of Babel in Shinar, center of the world in its antichrist propensity to build a pseudo-Har Magedon and to exalt itself against the God of heaven.23 As we have seen, Isaiah portrays the king of Babylon as a prototype antichrist, scheming to ascend to a place of preeminence in the divine council, above the heights of sapon, the celestial Zaphon (Isa. 14:13, 14). In terms of its ideological connection with this celestial sapon, Babylon, land of the north (sapon), was an apt symbol not just for the hostile world in general but for the satanic world in the final antichrist stage that evokes God's final judicial wrath.
Daniel's treatment of the antichrist theme had similarly associated this development with the north, but he used a different historical situation as his typological model. The Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes, adversary of
the book), where he goes forth to fight against the world-wide gathering of nations to attack Jerusalem (v.3).
23Cf. Kerux 7:1 (May 1992), pp. 25-27.
God's faithful in the second century B.C., is "the king of the north" whose career in Daniel 11 becomes transmuted into a prophecy of the man of sin who exalts himself above all gods (vv. 36ff., cf. 2 Thess. 2:4).24 In this king of the north/man of sin of Dan. 11:36ff., the world power symbolized by the bestial little horn of Daniel 7 comes to a climactic individual expression of satanic working.
Corresponding to Daniel's little horn is the beast from the sea in Revelation 13, more specifically that beast at the stage symbolized by the sixth and seventh heads. And Daniel's antichrist king of the north would be the one who heads up the final irruption of evil represented by the eighth king (Rev.17:11). It is he who leads the deceived kings of the earth to Har Magedon for the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:16; 17:12-14) and is overwhelmed by the parousia of Christ, the King of kings, coming in the furious wrath of God Almighty (Rev. 19:11-16; cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:8).25 This judgment of the antichrist king of the north is what is signified in Zechariah's seventh vision by the parousia-advent of the four chariots with the land of the north as ground zero of their attack.
Ezekiel 38-39 is also part of the allusive background of "the land of the north" in Zech. 6:1-8. There again the world to the north of Israel is drawn upon for the figurative depiction of the ultimate outbreak of evil. As in Daniel 11, an individual leader of the world power comes into view, Gog by name, a king of kings whose more immediate domain is the nations to the north in the Asia Minor area (Ezek. 38:2, 3, 6; 39:1). There too Magog is located, Gog's imperial base, which is called "your [Gog's] place" (38:2, 15; cf. 39:6).26 Of key import is the identification of Gog's place as the yarkete sapon, "heights of (Mount) Zaphon" (38:6, 15; 39:2). We have seen that yarkete sapon is har mo'ed/magedon, "the mount of assembly" (Isa. 14:13). We have also seen
24 If the chariots in Zechariah's seventh vision are understood as moving from Zion in just the two directions, north and south, the geo-political outlook of Zech. 6:1-8 is comparable to that in Daniel 11 with its concentration on the Ptolemies to the south and the Seleucids to the north, threatening the covenant people in between.
25In Dan. 11:45 the antichrist king of the north challenges "the temple-mount of glory" (Har Magedon/Zion) and there comes to his end at the advent of Messiah-Michael (Dan. 12: 1).
26The name Gog apparently arises by interpreting the term Magog as "place (ma-) of Gog."
that Mount Zion represents this celestial court; it is the true yarkete sapon (Ps.48:2 ). That means that Gog's establishing of Magog as a yarkete sapon was the erecting of a pseudo-Zaphon (a kind of Esagila tower of Babel) in the land of the north. Ezekiel thus presents the remarkable picture of a coming of Gog with his hordes from pseudo-Zaphon/Magedon to challenge the Lord on Zion, the true Mount Zaphon/Magedon.
From Gog's claim to lordship over Zaphon and his universal gathering of armies against Zion/Har Magedon, it is evident that he is to be identified with the antichrist of the final Har Magedon crisis of Rev. 16:14-16; 19:17-21 (and other passages in Revelation). This is confirmed by other features in Ezekiel 38-39, like the beast symbolism applied to Gog (38:4; 39:2) and numerous parallels to the judgment of the beast of Revelation in the description of God's destruction of Gog, most striking of these the feasting of the birds and beasts on the slain hordes (Ezek. 39:4, 17-20 and Rev. 19:17, 18). Likewise, parallels between Gog's career in Ezekiel 38-39 and that of the Pauline "man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2 corroborate Gog's antichrist identity. Thus, Gog's advance against Israel in a storm-cloud theophany (Ezek. 38:9, 16) matches the (pseudo-) parousia nature of the man of sin's appearance (2 Thess. 2:9). Also, in both cases the Lord responds in a parousia-advent with almighty vengeance (Ezek. 38:18-23; 39:1-21 and 2 Thess. 2:3-10).
The Ezekiel 38-39 Gog crisis, which has been found to be the same as the Har Magedon/antichrist crisis of Rev. 16:14-16, the prelude to Christ's parousia, is also to be identified, of course, with the Gog-Magog event of Rev. 20:7-10. Since the latter follows the thousand year era, so does the Gog/Har Magedon battle (and the parousia). This falsifies the idea that the millennium follows the parousia; the millennium must be the church age which issues in the antichrist/Har Magedon/Gog-Magog crisis. The parousia which visits final judgment on antichrist-Gog does not introduce a transitional stage in the coming of God's kingdom in glory, but the eternal consummate reign of God.27
Comparison of Zechariah's seventh vision with these kindred prophecies leads us to recognize in "the land of the north" in Zech. 6:7 an allusion to the world's final satanic insurrection. In the light of Ezekiel 38-39 we perceive
27 On the millennium, cf. Kerux 7:3 (December 1992), pp. 48-49.
that the parousia movement of the four chariots from the two bronze mountains against the land of the north is a judicial response to a previous titanic challenge of the northern pseudo-Zaphon power under antichrist-Gog against the Lord enthroned on the original, authentic Har Magedon.28 Agreeably, in the Zechariah 14 development of this theme, the parousia-advent of the divine warrior is clearly a counter-attack against the nations that have gathered against Jerusalem.
If the mission of the four chariots symbolically prophesies the Lord's advent in final judgment against the Har Magedon challenge of antichrist, the consequence of that mission will be the inauguration of the eternal order of God's kingdom. And that is what we shall find to be the case as we move on to examine the oracle of Zech. 6:8, which concludes the seventh vision.29
C. The Spirit's Sabbath. A kerygmatic oracle interprets the accompanying imagery in visions one, three, five, and seven. The oracle in vision one (Zech. 1:14-17) conveys the Lord's promise of his eschatological return to his people; at that time he would vent his wrath on the enemy nations and his house would be rebuilt in restored Jerusalem. The oracle in vision seven (Zech. 6:8) proclaims the fulfillment of that prospect: "Lo, those who go to the land of the north have set my Spirit at rest in the land of the north."
Here is a vista of the world to come. The holy war is over. At the great battle of Har Magedon the Lord has triumphed; he has eliminated the hostile forces. The final trumpet has sounded and there is "delay no longer;" the mystery of God has been finished as he announced to and through his servants the prophets (Rev. 10:6, 7). Sabbath time has come.
Some have interpreted Zech. 6:8 as describing God's punitive judgment on the wicked. It is argued that the main verb in this verse (Hiph. of nuah) can be used for a visitation of God's anger, whether in the sense of bringing it
28Depiction of God's judgment on Gog in Ezekiel 38-39 contains only a suggestion that retaliation against Gog's Magog-base in the north is involved (cf. Ezek. 39:6).
29Similarly, the consummation of the kingdom is presented as the direct consequence of the equivalent crisis episodes of Gog-Magog in Ezekiel 38-39, the king of the north in Daniel 11-12, and the universal gathering against Jerusalem in Zechariah 14.
down on someone or of causing it to rest by giving full expression to it so that it is satiated and satisfied (cf., eg., Ezek. 5:13; 16:42; 21:17 ; 24:13; Zech. 9:1). Moreover, the term ruah, object of this verb in Zech. 6:8, at times means "wrath" (cf. Judg. 8:3; Ecc1. 10:4; Prov. 16:32). However, that does not appear to be the sense of these terms here. Although the destruction of the wicked is indeed assumed to have transpired, what this oracle itself contemplates is something subsequent to the act of judgment, the designed consequence of it.
In the context of this set of visions, ruhi is to be understood as God's Spirit rather than his anger. That is its meaning in vision four. There, in connection with the assertion that the hostile world mountain would be leveled as God's temple was raised to completion, the secret of this triumph is revealed: "by my Spirit" (ruhi, Zech. 4:6; cf. Hag. 2:5). In vision three the messianic mission of vengeance against the evil nations (the mission executed by the four chariots in Zech. 6:1ff.) is carried out in conjunction with the Glory-Spirit.30 But most conclusive is the imagery in vision seven itself. The four chariots are individualized extensions of the chariot-throne of the Glory-Spirit; they are bearers of the Spirit. It is the Glory-Spirit they have carried to the land of the north and therefore it is the Glory-Spirit that they set down at rest in the land of the north. Also to be noted here is the sixth vision's counterfeit parallel to the imagery of the chariots carrying the Spirit. There it is the woman Wickedness who is carried by the winged women and is then set down at the destination point. This parallel elucidates more than the carrying action of the four chariots in vision seven, for the verb nuah is used for the act of setting down in both visions. The meaning of the verb in Zech. 6:8 will, therefore, parallel that in Zech. 5:11, where it signifies the setting of the woman at rest on a prepared site. More precisely, and highly significant for the interpretation of Zech. 6:8, the locating of the ephah with the woman in Zech. 5:11 is an act of enthronement.31
Looking beyond the pouring out of the last bowl of wrath, beyond the final judgment on the antichrist world, the oracle of Zech. 6:8 announces the
30 Cf. Kerux 7:3 (December 1992), p. 42.
31Cf. Kerux 10:3 (December 1995), p. 18.
eternal glory of the Spirit. The enthroned Glory-Spirit's sovereign Presence, which was represented by the two bronze mountains, will be established even in the north country, and, if there, then everywhere. In the consummate state Mount Zion, throne of the Spirit, will be universalized.32
We have compared the two bronze mountains to the scene at mounts Ebal and Gerizim reported in Josh. 8:30-35. The Lord was present there as the victor, taking possession of the land he had claimed for himself in the Abrahamic Covenant, setting up his victory stele in his typological kingdom. Zech. 6:8 represents the universal antitype, the Presence of the Glory-Spirit as the victor celebrating the enforcement of his perfect rule over his creation-wide domain.
The basic outline of the seventh vision: the going forth of the Glory-Spirit from the bronze mountains for battle and his victorious coming to rest, follows the Conquest paradigm. On the larger scale this Conquest pattern covered the history from Sinai to Zion, but it was also reproduced repeatedly on a smaller scale in the order of the Lord's procession through the wilderness. "When the ark set out, Moses said, 'Rise up (qum), Yahweh, and let your enemies be scattered and let those who hate you flee before you.' When it came to rest (nuah), he said, 'Return, Yahweh, to the midst of the ten thousand thousands of Israel'"(Num. 10:35, 36; cf. Ps. 68:1). This ascending of the Lord refers to the Glory-cloud's rising up from its session on the ark-throne in the Tabernacle to proceed above Israel and the ark on the ground below, directing the tribes to a resting place (menuhah, Num. 10:33, 34). Num. 9:17-23 (cf. Exod. 40:34-38) indicates this was the procedure followed during all Israel's journeying. Similar to Moses' plea for Yahweh to rise up is that of Solomon at the temple dedication, calling on the Lord to be up and doing in behalf of Israel and their anointed king: "Now rise up (qum), Yahweh God, from your resting place (menuhah, cf. Ps. 132:8); arise, (from) the ark of your strength" (2 Chr. 6:41; cf. Ps. 132:8).33
32Cf. Isa. 2:2; Dan. 2:35; and, in Zech. 2:6 , the Lord's promise to spread his kingdom people to the four winds of heaven.
33The synonymous parallelism is missed in the usual translations (which also lose the connection with Num. 10:33, 34). "Your resting place" and "ark of your strength" are obviously equivalent, and the personal pronoun 'atta, "you", in the second half functions resumptively
Zechariah's seventh vision answers to these prototypes. It prophesies the ultimate granting of Solomon's prayer for God's saving action and the perfecting of the pattern of the wilderness procession from Sinai to establish the Lord's sovereignty over Canaan on Zion. The Lord rises up from his royal resting place on the mountains of bronze, up from the ark of his strength, and, as symbolized by the going forth of the chariots, he sets out on his judicial mission accompanied by the heavenly forces associated with his ark-throne. Then, the mission of judgment concluded, the Lord resumes his sovereign repose on his chariot-throne, which has brought him to rest in what had been enemy occupied terrain but now and forever is his unchallenged royal domain.
Such is the interpretation of the seventh vision endorsed by its counterpart in the burdens half of the prophecy. Presented there in Zechariah 14 as the sequel to the eschatological advent of the divine warrior to destroy the hostile nations (vv. 3-5) is an elaborate picture of the eternal order of the new creation (vv. 6ff.). The saints will possess a holy and blessed world, purged of all God's enemies. The consummation of joy and glory typified by the Feast of Tabernacles will be realized.34 And echoing Zech. 6:8, Zech. 14:9 characterizes that day as the time when Yahweh alone will be king over the whole world.
The key verb of Zech. 6:8, nuah, and its derivative noun, menuhah, are used in Num. 10:36 and 2 Chr. 6:41 (cf. Ps. 132:8), as we have seen, for God's royal rest, his session on his ark-throne. In Isa. 25:10 the enthronement of the Glory ("hand") on Zion in the day of resurrection triumph is denoted as a coming to rest (nuah) on the mountain. Isa. 66:12 identifies God's resting place (menahah) with his heavenly throne. And in Isa. 11:10 that "Glory" throne-site is said to be the eschatological menuhah of the royal messianic Root of Jesse.
for the remainder of the first half, i.e., for the verb and vocative. (This stylistic feature can be shown to resolve perplexities in a number of passages, as I hope to show elsewhere.) "From" is, of course, an attested meaning of the preposition la.
34Cf. Kerux 5:3 (December 1990), pp. 13, 14.
The Sabbath connotation of these terms is clear. Indeed, in the Exod. 20:11 reference to Gen. 2:2, the verb nuah takes the place of the verb shabat used in the original account for God's seventh day rest.35 The throne-session that is identified with God's menahah is in fact the essence of the divine Sabbath.36 Accordingly, when Zech. 6:8 speaks of setting God's Spirit at rest, what is signified is the Spirit's Sabbath.
The Spirit enthroned over the world at the beginning (Gen. 1:2) was the quintessential Sabbath reality. In the Creator's seventh day rest this Sabbath reality was translated into temporal-eschatological dimensions,37 and this royal Sabbath rest of God, the archetype Sabbath, was symbolically replicated in the ordinance of the Sabbath. The Sabbath ordinance in turn is the type that points to man's eschatological arrival at the consummation of kingdom history, at the archetype Sabbath become antitype Sabbath. The setting of God's Spirit at rest, as presented in Zech. 6:8, is the dawning of that antitypical, eternal Sabbath, the epiphany of the parousia-Presence of the Glory-Spirit enthroned in the new heavens and earth.
35Cf. Kerux 10:3 (December 1995), p. 18.
36On this see my Kingdom Prologue, pp. 22, 23.
37Cf. my Images of the Spirit, p. 111.
Guarding the Entrance to the Place of Rest
Robert Van Kooten
Hebrews 4:12-13 is a passage which raises questions in the minds of many commentators and those involved in biblical interpretation. Most people, when they talk about these verses, isolate them from the rest of the passage. I am sure that most of us have heard sermons, or participated in bible studies, in which these two verses were detached from the rest of the book of Hebrews and were used to teach something about the power and judgment of the word of God.
There is certainly nothing wrong with using these verses in that particular way. Yet did you ever ask yourself, "Why did God put these two verses at this point in the book of Hebrews?" When we read the surrounding verses about the sabbath rest of God and about Jesus our great high priest, these two verses about the word of God seem to be out of place. However, when we look at the text more closely, we can see that God has placed these verses very carefully in the text. In fact, he has a very important reason for placing them right where he did.
In chapter 3 of the book of Hebrews, the author compares his recipients to the Israelite generation in the wilderness. He warns them not to grumble as
the former generation did when God put difficult circumstances into their lives. In chapter 4, he gives the people hope despite the difficult circumstances. He tells them that even though the previous generation is no longer with us, there is still a promised rest ahead for God's people (4:1).
The author better explains all of this by directing our attention to two other places of rest in scripture. The first place of rest he mentions is in the second part of verse 3 and all of verse 4. Here the author focuses our attention on God's finished work of creation, and he mentions the rest that God enjoyed after he had finished his work of creation. He even quotes Genesis 2:2 when he writes, "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." The "rest" which the author refers to looks backward and forward. It looks backward by referring to the Sabbath rest that God's people (Adam and Eve) once enjoyed after the creation in the book of Genesis. It looks forward because this Sabbath rest once enjoyed in the Garden is a picture of the sabbath rest that God's people will someday enjoy when they are with him in heaven.
Yet when we read verses 5-6, the author makes it clear that some people in the past never entered that rest. Even though they had the gospel preached to them they did not enter because of their disobedience. The mention of disobedience directs us back again to the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2, Adam and Eve enjoyed the Sabbath rest of God in the Garden that he created. Yet because of their disobedience they could not continue to enjoy that rest. In Genesis 3:24, we read that Adam was driven out of the place of rest and that a flaming sword was placed at the entrance of the place of rest, preventing him from entering. If Adam the sinner had tried to reenter, he would have been destroyed. Adam needed a savior to reenter God's place of rest.
The second place of rest mentioned in Hebrews 4 is in verse 8. Here the author reminds us that Joshua did not give God's people rest. In drawing our attention to Joshua, the author reminds us again of the picture of God's final rest that he gave to his people in the Old Testament. The Old Testament Israel referred to in Hebrews 3:7-11 wandered through the wilderness in long anticipation of entering God's rest. They were promised a land of milk and honey in which they could live in peace from their enemies and glorify God and enjoy him forever. Yet, says the author of Hebrews, that was not the final rest because God was still speaking of another day (4:8). The land of Canaan was
only a shadow of God's final rest that he has for his people in heaven. It was a sketch so that God's people could see what God's final rest would someday be like when it was completely fulfilled.
In the Hebrew language Joshua's name means "savior." Joshua, Israel's savior, tried to lead the people into God's rest. In Joshua 5, we read that Israel was ready to enter the land of Canaan, but in verse 13 Joshua runs into a problem. Joshua meets a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua asks him, "Are you for us or against us?" The man answers, "Neither, but as commander of the Lord's army I have now come." Joshua knows that because of his own disobedience, he cannot pass through the sword. Just as Adam needed a savior, Joshua needed a savior. Joshua then falls on his knees and worships the commander of the Lord's army. Only after he worships the leader of God's army is he allowed to pass through.
Later in the book of Joshua, we read that Joshua leads the people into the promised land. Yet Hebrews 4:9 reminds us that this was not the final resting place for the people of God. Joshua could lead them into God's rest, but he could not lead them into God's final rest. In fact, the author of Hebrews tells us that there still remains a sabbath rest for the people of God.
Clearly the author is driving us to a greater rest. He first reminded us of the sabbath rest that God's people enjoyed before the fall of man in verse 4. He then reminds us of the earthly rest that Joshua gave to God's people in verse 8. Now he is driving us to the greater rest that God has for all his people when they someday will go to live with him forever. And how do God's people enter that rest? What stands in the door blocking the entrance to the land of rest?
In the first land of rest mentioned, a flaming sword guards the entrance. In the second land of rest mentioned, a man with a sword blocks the entrance. And what about the sabbath rest that still remains? What must God's people face before they pass through the entrance into the land of heaven?
The author makes it clear in verse 12. "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword." Blocking our entrance into the land of rest is the written word of God. The written word of God that we carry under our arm into church on Sundays. The written word of God that we read
daily for our devotions. The written word of God blocks our entrance into the land of rest. According to verse 12, we will be judged by this word. We will be required to keep every jot and tittle of the word before we can enter.
There is no hiding from this judge. The verse goes on to tell us that this judge penetrates to know our deepest thoughts and the attitudes of our hearts. It does more damage than any earthly sword could ever do, because it not only divides flesh, it also divides our soul, our joints, and our marrow. No earthly sword can judge like this sword.
There is no part of us that can hide from this judgment. The author emphasizes his point in verse 13, "Everything is uncovered before the eyes of him to which everything is laid to account."
With this kind of judge, what hope do we have of ever enjoying God's promised Sabbath rest? How could we ever withstand such a judgment so that we could enter into God's holiness? The author of Hebrews tells us in verse 14. "Therefore we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens." We have a high priest who has passed through the sword of judgment for us and has gone into the land of rest. Jesus has already passed through the sword by dying on the cross. Adam could not enter the rest because he needed a savior. Joshua could not give the people final rest because he needed a savior. We cannot enter the rest because we need a savior! Jesus is that savior! He has gone through the judgment of the word and has taken the punishment for us! He has done that so that we can pass through!
How could Jesus pass through that kind of judgment? None of us by our works could pass through such a sword. Yet, in the second part of verse 15, the author tells us how Jesus did: "We have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin."
Jesus is there because he was righteous to pass through. Jesus was obedient to every part of the written word of God. He obeyed every jot and little. He alone is worthy to pass through the sword and enter the land of heaven. Because Jesus has passed through, we can pass through.
In these verses, the author of Hebrews has driven us to our savior. Jesus is the savior that Adam was waiting for and to whom Joshua bowed. Jesus is
the savior that enables us to rest from our work (4:10). Jesus as our high priest has done the work for us. We are now at rest from our works and resting in his righteousness. He has passed through the sword and has already spiritually brought us into the land of rest without blemish and without stain. We now eagerly wait to go completely home to the rest that is forever.
Sovereign Grace Covenant
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Oak Harbor, Washington
E. John Hamlin, Surely there is a future: A commentary on the book of Ruth. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996, 82 pp., paper, $10.00. ISBN: 0-8028-4150-3.
This is a politically correct commentary on the book of Ruth. The agenda of the commentator is to use the ancient text as a foil for the modern interpreter's application. Since exegesis begins with contemporary application, Hamlin is eager to show his twentieth century audience that Naomi (for example) is a modern existentialistic woman exercising the freedom to decide on her own ("According to Sartre, freedom of choice is the essence of life"—quoting sister Mary Corona of India, p. 14).
Having warmed to this ridiculous eisegesis, our author further informs us that gleaning (as in Ruth gleaning Boaz's fields) is the basis for modern government food surplus programs—as if Boaz's personal generosity could be socialized or communized by a bureaucracy (p. 27). But by page 28, Hamlin has hit his stride. Ruth is, in reality, a third-world feminist: "Ruth is easily recognizable today as a vulnerable woman in a world dominated by men." A series of anti-patriarchal (patriarchy being labeled the original sin of this late twentieth century) quotes from a Chinese female pastor dominates pages 52-54. These paragraphs assure us that "Ruth's commitment to her mother-in-law" may be likened to "the dedication of women pastors to their church" (p. 52).
By the time we reach the end of this book ("Interpreting the Story of Ruth Today") we realize that Ruth is a 1300 B.C. disciple of Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("costly decision"), a member of an oppressed minority ("marginalized person"), a leader against ethnocentrism and a closet female pastor ("Ruth . . . remind(s) some of the reluctance of many congregations to accept women pastors or give them their rightful place in church leadership," p. 78).
I'll bet none of our readers ever drew these applications from the book of Ruth!! Aren't you delighted that Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (are there any doubts about the agenda of this firm!) has finally enabled you to see the true contemporary meaning of this biblical story?! When application dominates exegesis, this is the drivel we get. May the savior of Ruth and Boaz (who receives minimal attention in this work) enable us to begin with him and not with the (un)veiled agendas of E. John Hamlin.
Kerux subscribers will be better served by the short but lovely commentary by Leon Morris published by IVP (Judges-Ruth, 1968). For more detail, consult Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth (Eerdmans, 1988). Both the above should be supplemented by the superb study of chapter one by Donald Rauber, "Literary Values in the Bible: The Book of Ruth," Journal of Biblical Literature 89 (1970): 27-37.
Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1992, 933 pp., cloth, $37.99. ISBN: 0-8308-1777-8.
This is a useful summary (to about 1990) of recent discussion of Jesus and the gospels. More than 170 articles treat each of the four gospels including key synoptic and Johannine issues, persons, places and religious groups.
The theological point of view is evangelical with some qualification. The virginal conception of Christ is affirmed (with a tip of the hat to J. Gresham Machen, p. 70); Jesus taught eternal punishment (p. 311); Christ rose bodily from the tomb (p. 673). Elsewhere we discover evangelicals using the (outmoded) techniques of dialectical theology (i.e., neo-orthodoxy). Fast-track, evangelicals are ever Johnnie-come-latelies racing to catch up to where liberalism was about twenty years ago. M. M. Thompson uses the saliah model to reduce the Johannine Jesus to the "agent of God" who is less than ontic deity. The death of Christ is not an atonement, yet his life culminates in his "significant" death. Jesus' eschatological expectations are reflected in Albert
Schweitzer's "consistent" eschatology (the "future" ended at the cross). Form criticism, redaction criticism, document "Q" receive respectful, albeit cautious, treatment. Evangelicalism slouches toward accommodation with the culture of higher criticism. The uniqueness of the revealed and inspired word is submerged in attempts to mimic fadish critical methods. One article is a model of scholarship and fairness: Colin Brown's "Historical Jesus, Quest of" (pp. 326-41) surveys the old quest (Schweitzer), the new quest (J. M. Robinson) and the third quest (Jesus Seminar).
The indexes (pp. 897-933) are superb—every biblical passage is listed together with thorough subject fields. All the articles have bibliographies appended. Contributors reflect the tone and goal of the volume: firmly orthodox (Edwin Yamauchi), moderately critical (Craig Blomberg), outright radical (Scott Bartchy and John Painter). While the volume provides updated information on gospel questions, its limited focus (only the four evangelists) may make it generally less helpful than a Bible encyclopedia set.
Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and his Letters. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1993, 1038 pp., cloth, $37.99. ISBN: 0-8308-1778-6.
This companion volume to the previous title completes a set intended to survey gospel and Pauline material from a contemporary evangelical point of view. The tone of the volume is set by Scott Hafemann in "Paul and his Interpreters." Gathering up the current discussion as it has evolved from Schweitzer's "mystical" approach to Paul, Hafemann describes Bultmann, the post-Bultmannians (Kasemann, Stuhlmacher) and the "new perspective" (E. P. Sanders, J. D. G. Dunn). This is a helpful overview of the present state of Pauline studies. Other outstanding articles include: David Wright, "Homosexuality"; Richard Gaffin, "Glory, Glorification"; Edwin Yamauchi, "Gnosticism." In the latter, Yamauchi reminds us that there is still no proof for the
existence of pre-Christian gnosticism (p. 352) and that those who find gnostics underneath every Pauline antithesis are fantasizing. Several authors concede their debt to the works of Geerhardus Vos and Herman Ridderbos. The eschatological tone of Paul's epistles (especially the now/now yet dynamic) is accepted as a general scholarly consensus. Even the centrality of the resurrection for Paul is acknowledged. Yet there are some blemishes among the 214 articles. Deutero-Paulism is a term bandied about freely. This is the concept that Paul is not the immediate author of the thirteen epistles which claim his name (Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians and the Pastorals being assigned to Paul's disciples). The article on "Judgment" hesitates to use the term hell or eternal condemnation even hinting that those justified by grace may lose it (the article on "wrath" is more orthodox). Alister McGrath's article on "Justification" is a major disappointment. More a history of doctrine than an elaboration of the Pauline concept, McGrath seems blithely ignorant of the eschatological aspect of justification central to Rom. 1:4, 5; 4:25; 1 Tim. 3:16.
Each article contains excellent bibliographies. The Scripture and subject indexes are superb. But weighing the cost and limitations of this volume make investment in a current multi-volume Bible encyclopedia a better decision.
Alfred J. Hoerth, Gerald L. Mattingly, Edwin M. Yamauchi, eds. Peoples of the Old Testament World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994, 400 pp., cloth, $29.99. ISBN: 0-8010-4383-2.
Biblical theology is dependent upon history. The principle of the progress of redemption in and through history is fundamental to the science. Thus historical background, as it impinges on revelation, is essential to the biblical-theological student. Topicalist, moralist, reductionist managers of the modern church are ahistorical existentialists, i.e., the immediacy of the religious encounter is the heart of the matter. History is a distraction—indeed an irrelevancy in the "church of what's happening now!" The volume above will be
of no interest to contemporary advocates of gratification hermeneutics. But for those devoted to the exposition of the Bible in its Old Testament historical context, this book will be a significant help.
All major nations of the Old Testament world are included: Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Hittites, Canaanites and Amorites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Philistines, Egyptians, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites. Each group is surveyed historically, archaeologically and with respect to the Bible (the volume contains subject, author and Scripture indexes for ease of use). The biblical theologian cannot understand the book of Hosea without understanding the resurgence of the Neo-Assyrian empire in 745 B.C. The biblical theologian cannot explore the context of the book of Obadiah without comprehending the history of the Edomites. Thus the goal of this book to provide summary sketches of each contingent Biblical group is salient indeed. In fact, the editors have attempted to revise and update a volume edited by D. J. Wiseman twenty years ago (Peoples of Old Testament Times). The Baker volume is more evangelical in its treatment than the former title (dependent on various strains of higher criticism). However the Baker volume is not as well written as the earlier work. The prose is often merely factual and stiff. One article is an exception in every way. Edwin Yamauchi's "Persians" is a remarkably stimulating summary of the great empire of Cyrus II (559-30 B.C.). Essentially a condensation of his full-length treatment in Persia and the Bible (Baker, 1990), Yamauchi shows why he is a world-class historian and orthodox believer. (Incidentally, his 1990 volume is essential for background to the books of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai and Zechariah.)
Peoples of the Old Testament World is a worthy addition to the biblical theologians' library. It is more up-to-date than most Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias and Old Testament commentaries (i.e., sections on historical context). Its chief competition now comes from the four-volume Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited by Jack Sasson (Scribners, 1995). Baker's offering is handier, cheaper and more friendly to conservatives.