From a Question of Fasting to the Sermon on the Mount

A Question of Fasting – The Bridegroom and His ChildrenEdit

MATTHEW 9:14-17 14 'Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? 15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.

MARK 2:18-22 18 'And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? 19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

LUKE 5:33-39 33 'And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? 34 And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

There are two primary points to make from these parallel passages.

  1. The first is rather obvious and has little controversy. Jesus Christ is the bridegroom. The church is the bride. We see this analogy throughout the NT and most importantly in Revelation 12, 19-21.2.
  2. The second, and definitely the one that will have more impact, is that the disciples are referred to as “the children of the bridegroom”. The importance of the relationship is seen in Revelation 12 when the woman with the starry crown has a “manchild” who Satan seeks to devour and other children as well. These children are Christians and here is a definite connection to that interpretation.

The Dead Hear the Voice of Jesus and LiveEdit

JOHN 5:17-47 17 'But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. 20 For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. 21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. 22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. 31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. 33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. 37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

Two ResurrectionsEdit

Jesus actually speaks of two different Resurrections in this passage and it is very important to understand the difference between them. There are notable differences and they are important.

1. The first resurrection that Jesus speaks of is verse 25.
a. The key to understanding this resurrection is the timing words Jesus uses. “The hour is coming and now is…” The resurrection He spoke of was imminent.
b. This resurrection is that found in John 3:5; Romans 6; and anywhere spiritual resurrection is referenced in scripture. Jesus said, “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” This is the power of the gospel, the Word of God. It is a spiritual resurrection from death (unrighteousness) to life (righteousness).
2. The second resurrection that Jesus speaks of is verse 28. There are several distinctions from the one in verse 25:
a. It is a resurrection from the grave, a physical resurrection.
b. It is a resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous as opposed to a resurrection from death (unrighteousness) to life (righteousness).
c. Whereas the former resurrection is entirely to life (righteousness) through the power of the gospel, this resurrection is unto judgment: resurrection of life or resurrection of damnation.
d. This resurrection follows the first and is ultimately a consequence of it.
e. This resurrection has a different timing phrase. “The hour is coming…” There is no phrase of imminence.

The ImportanceEdit

The distinction is important because it shows the difference in the spiritual resurrection that happens countless times anytime anyone hears and obeys the gospel and the coming eventual resurrection of everyone at the end of the kosmos such as found in 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15. That there are at least two resurrections indicates that not every time the word “resurrection” is used it has to be one single resurrection.

III. Sermon on the MountEdit

There are many things that Jesus speaks of in this sermon. I will only highlight those things that pertain to the apocalyptic material.

The BeatitudesEdit

Matthew 5:3-11

3 'Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Luke 6:20-23

20 'And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. 22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

Within the Beatitudes there is a great connection to the coming system of things.

1. The coming kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven is the church and its institution was imminent (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). In fact, the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is intimately linked to the arrival of the church and the apocalypse to shortly come.
2. The inheriting of the earth by the meek is not a reference to Christians receiving the physical earth as an inheritance. This is a huge one because so many are fixated on physical things. The actual idea Christ is conveying (which we’ll address more just a few verses down the road) is that Christians will inherit the new earth, the new system of things. Meekness, the restrained power, is part of the Christian attitude. It is both an attitude of turning the other cheek and praying for enemies as well as submission to Christ and allowing Him to take vengeance on those who are persecuting them. Note that this verse is surrounded by verses that speak of poorness of spirit, hunger, peacemaking, and persecution for righteousness.
3. Those that hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled because the gospel was being preached in their time. Note that Luke uses the word “now” to emphasize the transition and imminence of the events. It was the time of the fulfillment of the Law when the Word of God would be completed, the new Law would be written in their hearts and minds. The water of life would be poured out and the bread of life broken to them. The kingdom was at hand.
4. Those that mourn, are persecuted and reviled for righteousness are all wrapped up in the coming issues the church would face for the forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Their comfort would come in the victory of Christ over Satan, the end of their persecutors, the wicked Jews. Their persecutors are explicitly identified in the last phrase: “for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Contrast of Persecuting Jews to Those Who Obeyed the GospelEdit

Luke 6:24-26

24 'But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. 25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

Matthew does not carry this direct contrast, but Jesus’ indictment of the persecuting Jews is nothing but a reflection of what the prophets had always accused the Jews of doing. It is nothing new. Just read Isaiah through Malachi. When Jerusalem was sacked, the Temple destroyed, and the Jewish system taken out of the way for ever, what state would that leave the Jews in then?

Salt and LightEdit

Matthew 5:13-16

13 'Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

1. Salt of the earth refers to the seasoning of the current earth. While it may yet be difficult to understand “the earth” here as an apocalyptic reference, Jesus will soon make that clear in this context. Jesus admonition to the Jews gathered there to listen were that they were the example to the whole nation of obedience to God. They would be those who recognized who He is and what He had come to do. If they lost sight of that, they would be “trodden under foot of men” (a direct reference to passages like 15-18 Isa. 18:7 and Rev. 11:2).
2. This is also the first of several references in scripture to (future) Christians being a city. The Jews listening to Jesus that converted to Christianity would shine their light to the world. That light would be a reflection of Christ’s light, the gospel. (Acts 13:47; Romans 2:19; 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 1:7; and many others). The city is the church, and the hill is Zion (Heb. 12:22-23).

Heaven and Earth Passing Before the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses Edit

Matthew 5:17-20

17' Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

This section is probably one of the most important with regard to our understanding of things apocalyptic in nature. This is not to say it is more or less important than other verses, just for our purposes here on this blog right now.

  1. Jesus first states that He did not come to destroy the law [of Moses] or the prophets but to fulfill them. Not only do we see where Paul gets his penchant for calling the law of Moses simply “the law”, but the idea that Jesus did not come to overthrow or contradict the Jewish system of things. He embodied all that they pointed to as the Messiah and in Him would their purpose be realized.
  2. Verse 17 is critical to understand something about Jesus mission and the time table of these events. There are those who teach that the Old Testament still had spiritual authority over men, that they were still capable of violating that law in such a way as to incur the debt of sin according to the law of Moses after Jesus' death on the cross! However, this cannot be the case. Jesus said "I am not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill." This isn't a reference to some future coming, metaphorical or literal. He was using the present tense, talking about His current presence there among them. He had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. Now, either Jesus succeeded in His mission to fulfill the law and prophets while on Earth or He failed. I don't worship a God who can fail. So Jesus must have succeeded in fulfilling the law and the prophets. He fulfilled all the types that pointed to Him, all the prophecies related to Him as Messiah, all the promises to Abraham and others concerning His being a blessing to not just the Jews, but all nations, and the promises of true salvation that are to be found in Him. In this fulfillment, Jesus ended the purpose of the law and the prophets, which purpose was to point to Him. What about verse 18 though? Do these two verses contradict one another? Of course not.
  3. Verse 18 uses language that indicates that in some sense, the law remained until all of the law and the prophets were fulfilled. Jesus said that nothing of Moses’s law would pass until heaven and earth passed first.
    • The first problem that so many have is that they take this to mean the literal Heaven and the physical Earth. What this leads to is the idea that the Law of Moses is somehow still in authority today, that the Jews are still a special people (they aren’t) and the “Ten Commandments” are somehow still in authority over all men (they never were). I will cover this more in another post some time, but it is important to point out that the Law of Moses is NOT in authority today (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15; Hebrews). It passed away to all extents remaining within the generation Jesus spoke to (Heb. 8:13). Why this is important is that “heaven and earth” had to pass first. If this is the literal Heaven (which is eternal and cannot change or pass) and the physical Earth we have some major issues because the law of Moses passed a long time ago, but the planet still exists. IF, however, this is a reference to the system of things (as we have covered so many times in this blog), then there is no conflict.
    • The second problem is that there are some who teach that this means that the law of Moses still had spiritual authority over men after the cross, that men could still sin by transgressing that law. However, as already noted in verse 17, Jesus put an end to sin according to that law by fulfilling it as it related to Him. That includes sin and the inability of the Mosaical Law to forgive sin. It could not do so because animal sacrifices were insufficient to remove sin (Heb. 10:4). As stated above, either Jesus failed or succeeded in that purpose. I believe He succeeded. In what way, then, did the law and the prophets remain until heaven and earth passed away? Part of the key to understanding this is the multitude of references in this blog that show that heaven and earth are metaphorical references to the system of government and the people ruled. This is the first indication we have that the sense in which the law would not pass refers not to the spiritual authority, but to the civil system that was built on the law. The second indication of this are the two words indicating the legal existence of that system, the jot and the tittle. The law and the prophets pointed to Messiah. The nation of Israel was the vehicle to bring about this fulfillment. The purpose of that system was fulfilled in Jesus and so it had no purpose after the cross. The last thing for the prophets to be fulfilled in was the removing of the old system completely to make place for the new. Verse 18 is about the system, the Jewish civil state, and its removal, not about the spiritual authority of the Mosaical Law or the Old Covenant.
  4. The last portion of this passage is a confirmation of point #2. They needed to look to the Law of Moses and keep it to understand what was coming with regard to the Kingdom of Heaven. Their righteousness had to exceed that of the Pharisees (who represented the wicked Jews). They had to experience true righteousness which could only be found in Christ. This passage is fulfilled first in Acts 2. He then goes on to address the Law of Moses and how His kingdom’s laws will be superior, a richer purer form of that Law.

Entering the ChurchEdit

Matthew 7:13-14; 21-23

13 'Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

21 'Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

1. The gate here is to enter the kingdom, the church. The strait and narrow gate is the same as the gates of pearl found in Revelation 21:21.
2. Obedience, conformity to the Will of God, is the requirement to enter through these gates for only the gospel can purify, can make one righteous (James 1:21; Romans 1:16). The context here is a direct statement to the Jews of that day. They thought they were doing things God’s way and they were not. They were going about establishing their own righteousness (Romans 10:1-4) instead of submitting themselves to God’s righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus the Anointed King.
3. “That day” therefore is a reference not to the end of time, but to the coming end of Judaism. Prophecy, the casting out of devils, and similar “wondrous works” only happened up through the establishment period of the church (and just a bit beyond). When the day of the Lord came, the judgment of wrath upon physical Jerusalem and the end of Judaism, these things were not sufficient to save them. This is a powerful verse even in application today for those who think their faux-miracles are some great thing with regard to their salvation. They are like the Jews Jesus describes in this passage.

Sheep and Fruit TreesEdit

Matthew 7:15-20

15 'Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

1. False prophets are spoken of throughout the NT. They are referenced in Acts 20 and said to come from among the elders of the church at Ephesus. They are referenced in Matthew 24:5 deceiving many. They are even depicted in Revelation 13:11-17 as one of the beasts deceiving the people and drawing them away from God through wonders and idol worship.
2. Jesus makes a comparison of the people to fruit trees as well, which is a metaphor used in several places throughout the Old and New Testaments. The fig tree is a symbol for both individuals and the nation of Israel (Isa. 34:4; Jer. 8:13; Matt. 21:19-21 AND Matt. 24:32; Rev. 6:13). Paul speaks of the fruits again in Gal. 5. These are spiritual fruits. The fire the unfruitful trees would be cast into would be the fire of judgment coming soon (Matt. 3:11; 13:40-50; 2 Thess. 1:8; 2 Pet. 3:7; Rev. 20:10).

In Truth and Love.