If you've ever read the New Testament, one thing you'll notice is that the New Testament writers like to quote the Old Testament…a lot. And, if you've ever gone back and looked up some of these Old Testament passages … in their original contexts … no doubt you've also noticed that something seems awry.
When looking at the settings of these Old Testament passages, combined with the New Testament applications of them, things just don't seem to add up.
And it starts right away.
Matthew 2:13-15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Flight to Egypt
13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
So far so good. If you're reading just the New Testament, you'd think: “Well, there's obviously an Old Testament passage that predicts the Messiah would flee to Egypt and then return again to the Land of Israel … as Matthew informs us Yeshua's parents did after Herod's death.
Having said that, let me ask this: “Has anyone actually ever gone back and looked up the Old Testament passage that Matthew quotes here?” If you have, it's kind of astonishing. Dare I say, it's actually kind of “weird” in light of the way in which Matthew understands it.
The passage is Hosea 11:1, and it quite frankly gets weirder when you read it in context … coupled with verse 2. Taken together, these two verses read as follows:
Hosea 11:1-2 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Lord's Love for Israel
11 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.
This clearly does not appear to be a forward-looking prophecy about the Messiah at all, but rather, a look backward into Israel's history at the Exodus Event. This is how Hosea's original audience would have understood it and it is, in fact, how anyone in history would have understood it up until Matthew's rather unique take on it in his Gospel.
So, what in the world was Matthew thinking when he wrote this?
If you're like me, quick to defend inerrancy, you might be tempted to argue: “Well, Hosea says, ‘My Son,' not “My People.' So, it's pretty clear that Hosea had Yeshua (singular) in mind, and not the people of Israel (collectively).”
This seems like a logical, coherent argument…right?
Well, this argument crumbles when we realize that… understanding national Israel collectively as “God's Son,” in conjunction with the Exodus Event, would have been second nature to ancient Israelite. Listen to what Yahweh says back in Exodus 4:21-23:
Exodus 4:21-23 English Standard Version (ESV)
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son,23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'”
Clearly then, there is nothing unique about Hosea's identification of Israel (collectively) as God's “Son” (singular) – especially in conjunction with their departure from Egypt. So, the usage of the term, “My Son,” WOULD NOT have caused an ancient reader to think that the prophet was speaking of anything other than ancient Israel as a nation.
Furthermore, the words of verse 2… “The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols” …are clearly looking back to the faults of Israel as a nation,rather than looking forward to Christ as God's perfectively obedient Son. You simply can't get around the fact that Hosea is obviously and unequivocally looking backward into Israel's history… and the original Exodus event.
Nevertheless, Matthew unequivocally takes Hosea's words and applies them as a forward-looking prophecy that pointed to Christ.
Again, what is Matthew thinking here? What type of hermeneutic is he using?
Certainly, if Matthew were alive today, he would not make a very good Dispensationalist…because he's clearly not interpreting the Bible literally here!
And it doesn't stop there.
Take, for example, Judas' Betrayal of Yeshua (John 13:18, 17:12, Acts 1:6). The New Testament repeatedly and consistently portrays this as the fulfillment of prophecy.
18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.'
12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.
16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
In each of these passages, Judas' betrayal of Yeshua is clearly cast as… the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture or prophecy.
The passage… to which Yeshua, Lazarus and Peter all refer… is Psalm 41:9. Yeshua quotes the passage verbatim, and Peter specifically attributes the passage to David. If you're looking for the Old Testament passage they're talking about, this is it.
Yet, in its original context, this Psalm is speaking of the treachery committed against David by his son Absalom and the sudden switch of loyalty, from David to Absalom, by David's trusted friend and counselor Ahithophel.
The background for this episode is laid out for us “plain as day” in 2 Samuel chapters 15-18.
In its original context, then, there is nothing inherently “messianic” about this Psalm…Nothing.
If anyone were to doubt this, it should be noted that there are portions of this Psalm that clearly cannot be ascribed to Yeshua at all. For example, verse 4 says: “…heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.”
No ancient reader would have read this and imagined it was talking about the sinless Messiah being betrayed by one of His disciples. No ancient reader would have understood this in terms of anything other than King David (who like all humans was a sinner) and the mutinous coup between his own son … and his trusted friend.
Nevertheless, if we believe that Yeshua, Lazarus and Peter were in fact inspired by God, we must believe that…tucked away in the words of Psalm 41:9…there is a veiled and hidden prophecy of Judas' betrayal of Yeshua ... Just as there is a veiled and hidden prophecy in Hosea 11:1 about Yeshua's parents fleeing to Egypt.
Amos 9 and Acts 15
We could probably go on all morning with examples such as these.
Think about our own David Curtis' message at the Conference this year back in April: Restoring David's Fallen Tabernacle(Amos 9:11). If you're an ancient person reading Amos' prophecy, you're thinking about rebuilding a fallen, physical structure. But, when you come to Acts Chapter 15, where James actually quotes the passage, guess what, it's not about a physical structure at all! It's about the resurrected Christ and His gathering of all people (Jew & Gentile alike) unto Himself. It is about “God's strategy” of reclaiming all people groups of the world. It's about “kickstarting the Kingdom of God”(NBP, Transcript 51, p. 9).
But, you're not going to get any of that in Amos Chapter 9 alone. This strategy is concealed and hidden in Amos 9, but revealed and made known by James in Acts Chapter 15.
Paul's Use of Hosea 2:23
Another really good example, along these lines, is Paul's usage of Hosea 2:23 in Romans chapter 9:
Romans 9:24-26 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25 As He says also in Hosea,
“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,'
And her who was not beloved, ‘My Beloved.'”
26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,'
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
In its original context, this passage in Hosea is talking about God disinheriting, and then re-inheriting … the Northern 10 Tribes of Israel. Paul takes this a step further … and includes Gentiles in the equation.
But, the idea of Gentile inclusion is certainly not readily apparent in Hosea; to say the least. It's veiled, it's cryptic, it's nuanced. To be frank, without the further Revelation of Romans Chapter 9, it's just not there!
And, this should not really surprise us at all. Paul actually goes so far, in Ephesians 3, as to say the message of Gentile inclusion was in fact “hidden” in ages past!
New Testament Usage of Psalm 8
Perhaps the best example of this veiled, cryptic or hidden message is the New Testament usage of Psalm 8. Psalm 8:4-8 reads:
Psalm 8:4-8 English Standard Version (ESV)
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[a]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
and whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
This passage, for all intents and purposes, is talking about mankind's dominion over the animal kingdom. There is absolutely NOTHING, in the Psalm itself, to indicate otherwise. But, this not at all how the New Testament writers interpret, understand and apply this passage.
Over and over, the New Testament writers use this Psalm in reference to Yeshua's victory over the powers of darkness in the unseen realm. We see this in 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and Hebrews Chapter 2.
In 1 Corinthians 15:24-27, the “all things” … that are being “put under His feet” … are .. “all rule, power and authority” … all of His “enemies” … including the “last enemy… death.”
In Ephesians 1:19-22, the same thing is going on: Christ is raised from the dead and seated at God's Right Hand “far above all rule, authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” … these are the “all things” being put “in subjection under His feet.”
The Writer to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 8:4-6 verbatim and says that … the “all things … that are being placed under Christ's feet” … are in fact in reference to … the “world… to come.”
Obviously, the New Testament Writers are not … understanding Psalm 8 in terms of mankind's present dominion over physical animals. We can clearly see that the Psalmist's “oxen, sheep and all wild beasts,” have become Paul's “rule, dominion, power and authority.”
Now, an understanding … of the Ancient Near Eastern worldview …kind of tips you off as to how … this connection can be made. Not unlike the language of the sun, moon and stars… many of the ancient gods of the other nations, were in fact … also represented by various animals.
In ancient Egypt, for example, Horus (the son of Ra), was represented by a Hawk. The underworld deity, Anubis, was represented by a Jackal. Seth was represented as a composite canine animal. And Apophis, the Egyptian's version of Chaos, was represented by a snake or serpent. We could go on…this type of thing is just all over the place in the religious literature of the ancient world.
Nevertheless, the language of Psalm 8 itself is phrased in such a way … that it sounds like the Psalmist is in fact talking about the physical animals themselves … and not the deities they may have represented. And, in its original context, it may have been.
But, tucked away in the Psalm, are clues … to let the New Testament Writers know … that it's talking about so much more.
Two thousand years later, reading the New Testament back into the Old Testament … with 20/20 hindsight, it's very easy NOT to recognize just how cryptic and concealed these prophecies really were.
When you first got saved, you probably ALREADY READ the New Testament usage of Psalm 8 BEFORE you even went to Old Testament and actually read Psalm 8 for itself. I know I did.
I like to say: “We are blinded to what was concealed, because we already know what was revealed!” Just because it is clear to us … does not mean that it was clear to those who lived before the fulfillment.
From the New Testament, we know that it's the powers are darkness that are going to be put under Christ's feet, and the means by which this is going to be accomplished will be His death on the cross.
But, God's Plan…as it plays out in the pages of the New Testament…was simply NOT readily transparent to someone who only had the Old Testament.
This is why, when Jesus begins to explain to His disciples that “He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and rise again on the third day” (Matt. 16:21), Peter exclaims: “God forbid!” “May it never be!” “This … shall never happen to you!” (Matt. 16:22 – various translations).
We look at that and think: “Peter should have known this was going to happen. He should have known what was going on. He should have read it in his Bible!”
We miss the point: He couldn't read it in his Bible because it wasn't spelled out!
As Christians today, I think we miss the full impact of Luke 24:44-45:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything that is written about me … in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms … must be fulfilled. Then … He opened their minds … to understand the Scriptures.”
Did you get that? Yeshua had to supernaturally “open their minds” in order for them to understand what the Old Testament was really saying about the person and work of Christ. And, the only reason we get it today, is because their words are recorded for us… in this thing we call… the New Testament.
So, let's not deceive ourselves into thinking we possess some superior intelligence the disciples lacked! The only reason we know… what we know today… is because The Lord's Apostles have spelled it out for us… in the pages of the New Testament… after He “opened their minds to understand” these things.
The Opening of Mark's Gospel
Mark obviously had his eyes “opened” … to something that wasn't t so clear in the Old Testament … regarding John the Baptist paving the way for all of this to happen. He starts his Gospel out like this:
Mark 3:1-3 (NASB)
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way;
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.'”
This is actually considered by many to be a so-called, “problematic citation,” because it's essentially a conflation of three different passages which, in their original contexts, seem to have nothing to do with each other (Holy Carey, Jesus' Cry from the Cross, pp. 71-75 – for this and what follows).
The first line, “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,” is actually from Malachi 3:1, and not Isaiah, and…in its original context…is dealing with judgement on the Levitical priests for cheating God and robbing His People (Mal. 3:2-9).
The second line, “who will prepare your way,” comes from Exodus 23:20 and, like the Hosea passage we opened with, is dealing with the original Exodus event.
The third line, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight,'” does in fact come from Isaiah…Isaiah 40 verse 3.
However, Mark's usage here would have been seen as unique and innovative to an ancient reader. When we read Isaiah 40 verse 3 today, John the Baptist seems to “jump off the pages,” but this is NOT the original context of the passage, NOR is it the way in which an ancient Israelite would have understood it.
This portion of Isaiah…chapters 40-55…is known to scholars as 2nd Isaiah…and it's dealing with the Babylonian exile and looks forward to the Israelites return from captivity. Chapter 40 is actually a polemic against Babylon and its “ceremonial parades” … parades that depicted the triumphal entry of its gods and deities.
Against this backdrop, “a call goes out,” by “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” for “the preparation of Yahweh's triumphant return to his people.”
Rikki Watts summarizes the original context of Isaiah 40 verse 3 as “One coming to his people” whose “coming would wither the pretensions of Babylon … and its gods” and deities (Watts, Isaiah's New Exodus in Mark, p. 77).
Throughout the chapter, this messenger, whose “voice is crying in the wilderness,” is “couched in veiled terms,” as Claus Westerman puts it.
Nevertheless, Mark obviously sees a common theme here running through all of these Old Testament passages. But, it's scattered like a puzzle across the pages of the Old Testament, and it's NOT readily apparent unless you're reading the New Testament back into the Old.
We can do that now because Mark, like the other Gospel Writers, had his eyes opened to understand the Scriptures.
Hence, we “get it.” But, we couldn't “get it” without Mark's help.
Michael Heiser puts it this way: “Only someone who knew the outcome of the puzzle, who knew how all the elements of the messianic mosaic would come together, could make sense of the pieces. Jesus had to enable the disciples to understand what the Old Testament was simultaneously hiding and revealing” (TUR, p. 242).
Why the Concealment?
So, the question now becomes why? Why not just come out and say it? Why cloak the language in such obscurity? Why the concealment?
Well, think about it. Is it a wise military strategy to reveal your plans, purposes and intensions to the enemy? Would you broadcast them so anyone and everyone could know what you were going to do and how you were going to do it?
No, in fact, you do just the opposite, you conceal them; you hide them.
On our way here to Virginia, I picked up this brochure: “THE NATIONAL D-DAY MEMORIAL.” This is what D-Day was all about. In the months leading up to the invasion of Normandy, the Allied forces conducted a deception operation, “Operation Fortitude,” aimed at misleading the Germans with respect to the date and place of the invasion. In the same way, God mislead the powers of darkness.
Think about it: If Satan had known that Joseph and Mary would flee to Egypt with the child, he wouldn't have wasted his time having Herod kill all the newborns in Bethlehem, he would have simply intercepted the Holy Family on their way to Egypt.
Likewise, if Satan had known that Yeshua's death would ensure Yahweh's victory, and Judas' betrayal of Yeshua was the pathway to that victory, He would have never entered Judas and enticed him to betray Yeshua in the first place!
And, this is exactly what the Bible says as to the reason why …the truths we now take for granted … as almost self-evident at this point … were in fact “hidden” in ages past:
1 Corinthians 2:6-10 says:
6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
Did you catch that? What was“hidden” … is now “revealed!”
And, exactly what was “hidden” in ages past?
What was “hidden” … was the fact that the cross itself would spell the doom for the powers who crucified Christ. The powers who engineered Christ's death actually met their own defeat at the cross.
The cross is the turning point of the ages, from this point on, everything begins to change. God's People become more than just the Nation of Israel, the other gods allotted to the nations are put under Christ's feet, and eternal life … in the heavenly realm … becomes a reality for all people.
But, it all hinges on Yeshua's crucifixion. If He doesn't go to the cross, none of this will happen.
But, no one was expecting these things to be accomplished through a suffering .. and dying Messiah. Everyone was expecting the Messiah to do things the old way. The way it was done the first time.
When the Israelites occupied the land of Canaan (Baal's territory), they drove out the physical inhabitants (Baal's worshipers). So Much of the Old Testament reads like a rivalry between Baal and Yahweh; with Baal constantly trying to get his territory back … by infiltrating Israel's worship practices. If you've been reading through the one-year Bible Plan, you see it all this time.
This time however, Yahweh's not going to remove the people from the lands of the false gods; He's going to take out the false gods themselves…all of them.
As Zephaniah 2:11 says, and I'm reading from the Lexham English Bible: “Yahweh will be awesome against them, for he will destroy all the gods … of the earth!”
Again , however, destroying them through a suffering and dying Messiah was something that no one saw coming.
The Messiah was supposed to physically overthrow Israel's earthy oppressors. This is what they were expecting. As N.T. Wright says: “A messiah who was executed by the occupying forces was not, after all, a true Messiah” (Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 485). “Jesus the Galilean,” continues Wright, “envisioned a different sort of revolution … than that of Judas the Galilean” (JVG, p. 505).
As Yeshua told Pilate at His trial: “I am a king. For this purpose, I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world,” but, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews” (John 18:36-37).
His servants didn't fight because it was the cross itself… that would be the pivotal moment… in history… that would turn the tide of the age-long war.
It was … a different sort … of revolution indeed.
One of my favorite songs, from my younger years, is: “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered,” by Petra.
And, we just heard a great rendition on this song here this morning. Thank you so much to Cathy and all the musicians for that!
Now, I don't know if the band Petra was attuned to the Divine Council Worldview or the idea of the cryptic message, but the lyrics to this song capture exactly what was going on … just as well as … if not better … than any academic work on the subject:
He came alone into the battle
He knew nobody else could face His foe
He left His throne, He left His glory
He knew nobody else could ever go
He called their bluff, He took the challenge
He came into this world to seek and save
No one could know, no one could fathom
The way to win… was only …through the grave
No one could know it, no one could fathom it, because this is precisely how Yahweh intended it to be.
So, why was the message so veiled…so cryptic…so nuanced…in the pages of the Old Testament?
To quote Heiser again: “Paul tells us why in 1 Corinthians 2. If the plan of God for the Messiah's mission had been clear, the powers of darkness would have never killed Jesus…,” thus “…the Old Testament profile of the Messiah … was deliberately veiled” (TUR, p. 241).
IF the “rulers of this age” had understood the plan, they would NOT have crucified “the Lord of Glory.”
Human or Supernatural Rulers?
Now, the idea of equating “the rulers of this age” (in this passage) with the “powers of darkness” … may seem strange to many not accustomed to the Divine Council Worldview.
I think it's safe to say that most modern-day Christians (pastors included) would read this passage and simply assume that Paul is talking about the earthly, human rulers who had Christ nailed to the cross. But I don't believe this is the case … for a couple of reasons:
First It says, “the rulers of this age,” who “crucified the Lord of Glory,” ARE“passing away.” In other words, they were currently in the process of passing away, or being made powerless, as Paul penned his letter to the Corinthians.
In earthly terms, the human rulers responsible for nailing Yeshua to the cross would have been Herod Antipas, Caiaphas the High Priest and, of course, Pontius Pilate. Herod died in 39 AD, and Caiaphas and Pilate both died three years earlier in 36 AD. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 20 years later; sometime in the mid 50's.
If Paul had the human or earthly “rulers” in mind, then he would be saying that “Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate were presently being destroyed” as he wrote the letter, and this is just historically… and factually…not true.
As Robert E. Moses says: “The High Priest, Herod, and Pilate cannot bear the weight of the title ‘Rulers of this Age,' for … at the time of Paul's writing … these earthly rulers… who were involved in Jesus' death… would have already passed away.”(POWERFUL PRACTICES: PAUL'S PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS REVISITED, p. 133).
Second There would have been no need to “hide” the message from human … or earthly rulers. According to Paul, the “word of the cross” is “foolishness” to human beings anyway (1 Cor. 1:18).
Paul goes on to say, in Chapter 2 verse 14, that humans…in their natural state…cannot accept or know the things of the spirit. You need to be born again before you can even begin to comprehend spiritual truth.
This being the case, there would be no reason to “hide” the message from humans since they are incapable of understanding the message to begin with. Why hide the message from people who aren't going to “get” the message in the first place? It would be like saying, “Don't let the dog know our plans.” It's pointless.
Again, quoting Moses: Hiding the message from humans “is unnecessary in light of what Paul says about the spiritual transformation that is needed to understand the message, and available only to believers (1:26-31)” (POWERFUL PRACTICES: PAUL'S PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS REVISITED, p. 133 – the quote has been slightly altered here - RC).
Third: Paul refers to Yeshua as “The Lord of Glory.”
You might be thinking…so what?
Well, this is a very rare phrase, and it comes from 1 Enoch– The Book of the Watchers (1 En. 22.14; 25.3-7; 27.3-5; 36.4; 40.3; 63.2 – NIGTC: The 1st Epistle to the Corinthians p. 246).
Paul is using distinctively Enochian terminology here. The fact that Paul is drawing his readers back to 1 Enoch is significant because Enoch specifically says … regarding the “destroying spirits” and “the watchers” … “All the mysteries have not yet been revealed to you” (1 Enoch 16:1-3).
It would seem then, that Paul is updating the antiquated term “watchers” … with Greco-Roman terminology that the Corinthians would have been more familiar with. In short, Enoch's Watchers have become Paul's “Rulers of this age.” And, Enoch informs us that Yahweh did in fact withhold certain information from the watchers.
These things being the case, you wonder how … anyone can take the position that Paul's talking about human, or earthly, rulers in these verses.
While doing the research for this message, I've done a lot of reading from those who maintain the “human rulers view.” Their main argument seems to be that, apart from Satan entering Judas to betray Yeshua … and set the whole process in motion … there isn't much evidence … that supernatural powers were involved in the course of the crucifixion.
In other words, they would argue: read the Gospels, read the narratives, do you see a lot of demonic activity in conjunction with the crucifixion event?
Now…apart from pointing out that this is an argument from silence… I would answer it by calling your attention to Psalm 22 and Psalm 68.
Psalm 22 is another Psalm, like so many others, that “wasn't originally Messianic in Focus” (Heiser, TUR p. 291). In the pre-Christian era, it was generally understood in terms of David's early life as a shepherd.
With our 20/20 New Testament hindsight, this seems shocking. The parallels with the passion narratives in the Gospels are impossible to miss when we look at Psalm 22 …after the fact.
Verse 18 says: “They divided my garments and for my clothing they cast lots” (we see this fulfilled in Matt. 27:35)
Verses 7 & 17: “All who see me. They open wide their lips.; they shake their head…they gaze, they look at me” (we see this fulfilled in Matthew 27:39 & 41).
Verse 1 of Psalm 22 opens with the very words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me.”
Verses 14-16 read:
I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
15 My strength is dried up,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
You read this today, 2,000 years after the crucifixion, and you're thinking: “This is so obvious! How could they have missed it!” Again, they missed it because this was not the Messiah they were looking for.
Today, we understand this Psalm, originally non-messianic, as another encrypted prophecy about Christ, and it completely dispels the idea that supernatural powers weren't heavily involved in the crucifixion. In the midst of this Psalm, we read these words in verses 11-12:
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
The place name, “Bashan,” is a loaded theological term. In Psalm 68:15, it is called “The Mountain of God,” or…the be more accurate… “The Mountain of Elohim” …Quite literally: “The Mountain … of the gods” (Heiser, TUR, p. 291).
Bashan was, for all intents and purposes, “ground zero” in terms of Old Testament demonic geography. It was associated with Mt. Hermon, the place where…according to Enoch…the fallen watchers chose to launch their rebellion against Yahweh. And, Bashan was also … part of Baal's territory, and Baal himself was represented as … a “Bull.”
So, the phrase, “Bulls of Bashan,” is about more than merely wild animals that may have at one time surrounded the young shepherd, David. And … there were no literal “bulls” at the foot of the cross when Yeshua was crucified.
There is obviously something more going on here…but what? What does all of this mean?
What all of this means is this, and I can do no better than to quote Heiser again because he just nails it: “The implication is that Jesus, at the moment of agony and death, was surrounded by the ‘bulls of Bashan' – demonic elohim who had been the foes of Yahweh” for thousands of years(TUR, 291).
So, it's just not true that “there isn't much evidence that supernatural powers were involved in the crucifixion of Christ.” On the contrary, there is strong evidence. You just need to know where, and how, to look for it.
These “Bulls of Bashan,” these “demonic Elohim,” these ancient foes of Yahweh…were Paul's “rulers of this age” and Enoch's “destroying spirits” and “watchers” who, if they had known the plan, would “not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”
They thought they were spelling His doom, instead, the crucifixion of “the Lord of Glory” … meant they were spelling their own doom. They were there, at Calvary, and they were there because Yahweh Himself brought them there.
It was a ruse; it was a trap. And they fell for it.
Psalm 68 talks about the mountain of Bashan, the mountain of the Elohim (or the gods) …looking with envy upon the mountain that Yahweh has chosen… Psalm 68 then goes on to say, of Yahweh's Servant: “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives…” (Psalm 68:18 cf. vs. 15).
Now, in the pre-Christian era, this words were understood in terms of either Moses' ascent up to Mount Sinai, David's ascent to the throne, or just generally some past victory of Yahweh (Heiser, TUR, 292).
Today we know… from Ephesians 4…that this Psalm is speaking about Yeshua and His victory on the cross.
With this in mind then, Psalm 68 goes on to tell us that it was Yahweh Himself who brought these “enemies” (vs. 21) back “from Bashan” that His foot may “shatter” them (vs. 23). In other words, He lured these “bulls of Bashan” (these “demonic Elohim, as Heiser calls them) to the foot of the cross … where they thought they would “shatter” Yeshua…instead…He “shattered” them!
In short, they played right into His hand, and they never saw it coming.
Why didn't they see it coming? Because Yahweh gave no indication that these Psalms were talking about more than just Moses; more than just David; more than just some past victory of Yahweh. He purposely withheld this information.
And, this shouldn't surprise us at all…
Think about Moses…who was specifically instructed by God to tell Pharaoh: “Hey, we just want to take a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to our God – that's all” (Ex. 3:18). Folks, they weren't planning on coming back! Moses isn't giving Pharaoh the whole story, and it's God Himself who's instructing Moses to withhold this information.
Another example is Samuel going to Bethlehem to anoint David as King. Samuel says, “Lord, I can't do this…when Saul finds out, he's going to kill me!”
So, what does Yahweh do? He instructs Samuel to mislead others by creating the false impression that he was only going to offer sacrifices when, in fact, the real purpose was to anoint the king-elect of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-5).
Thus, it is not at all unusual for God to withhold information from His enemies.
In two keys parts of His Plan, the Exodus Event and the anointing of David as King, He did not show His hand. Should we expect that the cross event would be any different?
To quote Heiser again: “the cross” was the “catalyst” to God's Plan for “redeeming humanity” and “reclaiming the nations,” it “couldn't be emblazoned across the Old Testament in transparent terms. It had to be expressed in sophisticated and cryptic ways to ensure the powers of darkness would be misled” (TUR, p. 243).
And, “misled” they were!
And, it should also be pointed out, that this methodology is actually quite typical of, what can be called, “resistance literature.” This type of literature is often characterized as “cunning” or “deceptive” … as a result of its statements being phrased in the form of “disguised expressions”.
Make no mistake about it…Yahweh and His Prophets were leading a resistance movement…the greatest resistance movement in history…a resistance movement against the gods allotted to every other nation on earth…and the Old Testament, the Tanakh, is the greatest example of resistance literature in history. The Plan was literally “hidden in plain sight” …and the powers of darkness missed it… completely!
The Cryptic Message and the Parousia
In His excellent book, Tyrant: Rise of the Beast, Brian Godawa captures the essence of what must have been going through the heads of the Powers of Darkness after their defeat at Calvary.
Godawa writes: “The dark lord Apollyon roamed unseen through the massive throngs of citizens filling the streets of the city. His city. Well, not entirely… Ever since the Nazarene had accomplished his coup d'état a generation ago … The Nazarene had outfoxed him and achieved atonement for sins through his death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of Yahweh. Apollyon still boiled with anger over his failure to figure out the plan and stop the Messiah. Ever since Eden, he had been at war with the seed of Eve, from Enoch to Noah to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and who could forget that treacherous king, David—all the way to the Son of David.
How … could he have missed it?” (Tyrant – Rise of the Beast, pp. 3-4)
Now, this is from Book One of Brain's “Chronicles of the Apocalypse” series. And I think it's quite fitting that he opens the book with a “dark lord” roaming the streets…frustrated about…and agonizing over…the fact that Yahweh pulled the wool completely over his eyes.
This scene, in Brian's book, takes place during the beginning of the events of the Book of Revelation … as they unfolded. And, just as the powers of darkness were duped when it came to the first part of Yahweh's Plan, the cross, so too would The Lord completely outsmart them with regard to the second part of the plan, the Parousia.
I think this is especially the case in … what can be called: “The Pilgrimage Prophecies” – Those prophecies where the nations of the world make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the end times.
Consider for example, this portion of the Old Testament's Prophecy regarding the New Heavens and New Earth:
Isaiah 66:18-23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 “…the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. 19 I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations … And they will declare My glory among the nations. 20 Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots … on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the Lord.
22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the Lord,
“So your offspring and your name will endure.
23 “And it shall be from new moon to new moon
And from sabbath to sabbath,
All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord.
Now, when we read an Old Testament passage like this…with 20/20 New Testament hindsight…we understand certain things.
For example, the doctrine of the Priesthood of all Believers (1 Peter 2:9). That's pretty basic and fundamental Protestantism. There are no Levites anymore.
We also understand from Paul, in Colossians 2, that “new moons” and “sabbaths” were merely “shadows” of the things to “come; but the substance is in Christ.”
So, we're going to look at an Old Testament passage like this and understand it now, not in terms of Old Covenant types and shadows, but in terms of the New Testament realities that these things typified.
There isn't anything wrong with this; this is how we SHOULD look at these things. Otherwise, you're going to end up with the Dispensational idea that all these Old covenant practices…the rituals, the sacrifices, the Priesthood…etc., are going to someday be restored. I have many Dispensational friends, whom I truly love in the Lord, but this idea is an affront to the finished work of Christ! There's no other way to say it.
Now, another thing we're going to understand, with our 20/20 New Testament hindsight… and this is BIG…is that there were two Jerusalems.
In Galatians, Paul speaks of the “present Jerusalem” … which represented “slavery,” and the “Jerusalem above” …which was “free” (Gal. 4:24-25). When he says, “present Jerusalem,” he meant the Jerusalem that was present and standing, in the first century, as he wrote his letter to the Galatians. He tells the Galatians that they were children, not of the earthly, physical Jerusalem…but of the heavenly, spiritual Jerusalem.
The Writer to the Hebrews says the same thing, telling Christians that they “have come near to Mount Zion, the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22).
When we read the New Testament back into the Old, it's pretty easy to look at a passage, like this one in Isaiah, and understand that it's talking about the spiritual, heavenly Jerusalem. But, not so easy if you didn't have the New Testament.
In the context of this passage, Yahweh says: “For behold, I create New Heavens and a New Earth…I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, and I also will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My People.” While the passage does speak in terms of a renewal or recreation of Jerusalem, an ancient reader is going think that God is planning on doing something new and different with the present, physical, earthly city of Jerusalem.
Again, we know from the Books of Galatians and Hebrews that this isn't what Isaiah is talking about at all, but the ancient Israelites didn't have the Books of Galatians and Hebrews. Isaiah couches the prophecy in terms of physical earthly language.
So, pretend you don't have Galatians, pretend you've never read the Book of Hebrews, what conclusions would you come to regarding this “new” Jerusalem?
1. It sounds like people from all over the world are physically coming to earthly Jerusalem,
2. It sounds like grain offerings are going to continue in the new age,
3. It sounds like the Levitical priesthood continues right into the New Heavens and New Earth,
4. It sounds like we're going to continue to observe new moons and sabbaths.
It sounds like… whatever new thing Yahweh is going to do when He finally reclaims the nations…it will center on physical, earthly Jerusalem with the rituals and practices of the Old Covenant continuing just as they'd been in the past. And, this exactly what He wanted the false gods and the powers of darkness to believe.
And they fell for it…hook, line and sinker!
So, why is so much of the language of these Old Testament prophecies couched in such physical, earthly terminology? Why wait until the New Testament to REVEAL that all of these things were merely types and shadows that were going to be replaced by a greater reality? Why CONCEAL it in the Old Testament?
Well think about it: Being a member of the Heavenly Jerusalem… the Jerusalem from Above, the True Jerusalem…would no longer be a matter of physical location. It's not tied to geography anymore. The second you get saved or believe, you become a member of the heavenly Jerusalem; the true Jerusalem; the Jerusalem from above.
This being the case, the earthly Jerusalem had to be destroyed, so it could become evident that the heavenly Jerusalem was now in fact a reality for all peoples everywhere. During the transition period (AD 30-AD 70), Yeshua had inaugurated the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), but Hebrews 8:13 informs us that…while the Old Covenant was “becoming obsolete” and “growing old,” it had not yet “vanished” or “disappeared.”
It needed to vanish. It needed to disappear. The temple needed … to be destroyed.
And, the powers of darkness, through the Roman armies, would be the very vessels God would use to accomplish His purpose. Just like at the cross, they thought they were foiling His Plan when, in reality, they were playing right into His hand! And, Yahweh was SIMPLY NOT GOING to give that type of information to His enemies.
So, what is He doing in passages like this? He's baiting the enemy. And, guess what, they took the bait. Yahweh lured them into His own territory, used them to accomplish His own purposes, and then annihilated them.
Thus, freeing all people everywhere from their enslavement to false gods, and enabling them to come to the true and living God, wherever they may be on earth … with 24/7 open access. Anyone and everyone…from any nation on earth… can now become citizens of the New Jerusalem, the Spiritual Jerusalem, the Jerusalem from above.
I would suggest then that the physical, earthly language of the pilgrimage prophecies, and so many other Old Testament passages, should be understood as a ruse … to keep the powers of darkness in the dark … and entice them to destroy the epicentre of the entire Old Covenant System.
Otherwise, you're left with the Dispensational idea that the Old Testament sacrifices and rituals will be reinstituted after the Return of Christ. This goes against the grain of the whole tenor of the New Testament, which informs us clearly and unequivocally, that these things were merely types and shadows…the substance is in Christ.
None of this is readily transparent in the pages of the Old Testament, and it was intended to be that way. From the day Yeshua's parents took Him to Egypt to escape Herod, to His death and victory on the cross, all the way to His Parousia, the Old Testament prophecies about these events were phrased in such a way as to mislead and misdirect the powers of darkness. The message was encrypted, veiled and nuanced.
The Old Testament prophets were the greatest authors of resistance literature in the history of mankind, and Christ's accomplishments, from AD 30 to AD 70, were the greatest victories, in the greatest war, that was ever fought.
From the cross to the Parousia, Christ's enemies are being made a footstool under His feet. At the Parousia, He steps on that footstool and crushes it! And, right up until the end, the powers of darkness are clueless as to how He's going to do it. And this, I would maintain, is precisely how Yahweh designed it to be.
**It should be noted that there is a discrepancy about the death of Caiaphas. Some put Caiaphas' death at 36 AD and others at 46 AD. Either way this does not detract from the point being made.