John 6:10-14; 31&32; et al
“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.’ And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten. When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.‘”
[The people present said,] “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.'”
We have skipped ahead a bit in order that we can contextualize the meaning of the metaphor masked in a miracle and see the symbolism. The more I read the gospel according to John, the more I realize it was written to be read as a whole– thematically. However, due to time restraints and our attention spans, we have to take it in bit by bit and piece by piece.
More controversially, I believe that John’s gospel account was written after the book of Revelation and during his penning of his epistles. I believe that John was inspired to write by the visions he saw. But I am not dogmatic about this, certain sentences seem to indicate otherwise and the same Holy Spirit inspired all the books so that the sequence is irrelevant. Nevertheless the vocabulary and themes are stunningly similar.
In these themes we see Jesus as the Messiah, the greatest prophet, the creator of the universe, the light of the world, the bread from heaven, the King of kings and the dividing line between true Israel and apostate Israel amongst many other symbolic attributes and actual attributes. Jesus is the door, for example. However we must also remember that Jesus is also the righteous judge and acts according to the writings on the flying scroll in Zechariah, purification penned in Malachi and refine his people as in Isaiah.
I definitely don’t desire to delve into a diatribe against dogmatic dispensationalist discourse, however, these dogmatic dispensationalist don’t dispel with doubling down on dubious dogma. Radio shows and prophecy updates, livestreaming roundtables and podcasts devoted to the dogmatic and dedicated to the doubtful discourse that the church falls into absolute apostasy, is rescued in a rapture and then Jesus returns to once again deal with ethnic Israel. But when one holds tightly to this eschatology, meanings in metaphors and symbolism in signs are lost and the manuscripts are manipulated. What I mean is that the Bible and it’s stories are caged into a tight box and the masterpiece that is the Bible must fit into dispensationalism and not the other way around. In dogmatic dispensationalism, dispensationalism’s dogmas steer the ship and not the genre of the book or aspirations of the author.
The “Antichrist” is an excellent example. The dogmatic dispensationalists argue that the beast of Revelation 13 is the Antichrist. They let the dogma define words but we don’t do that here. We utilize the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where the context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens, and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. We let the Bible interpret the Bible. John wrote today’s text, he also wrote about the beast in Revelation 13 and John, and only John, defines antichrist for us.
In John’s second epistle he writes, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
Why don’t we ever hear the dogmatic dispensationalists urging us to tell those who will be “left behind” not to let the antichrist into their home? Honestly, think about this, based upon John’s definition of the “Antichrist” and the context, most pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers talk about the LDS or JW missionaries going door to door with regards to not giving a greeting. But what’s the context? It’s the Antichrist, nevertheless this was written to a first-century audience. Let’s rewind a bit and explore the example of “Antichrist” in the only other mention of antichrist in the entire Bible. Some who have never read my missives may be shocked to find that antichrist is not found in Revelation or used by any author other than John and only in the first 2 of his 3 letters.
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you.”
Therefore we can sum up the Antichrist absolutely Biblically: he came from John and the others, but wasn’t really from John and the others because he denied the Son of God and his coming in the flesh. To me, based upon the context and the only examples given, these antichrists and the Antichrist are clearly the dogmatic Judaisers of the mid-first-century. Remember that they were of them but not really from them because they didn’t remain with them. And as an aside, if John declared that he was living in the last hour, how could we be in the last days? But I digress.
Now let’s let John define the beast from the sea; “And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
It gets better; “And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”
Pop quiz: who causes the people to take the Mark of the Beast? Is it the Antichrist, the Beast of the Sea or the Beast from the Land? Even though we just read it, we don’t know because the dogmatic dispensationalists have concocted a composite conglomeration of the antichrist, sea beast and land beast–three seperate and distinct types and images of evil. The answer is that the land beast makes men take the mark but even this is misunderstood.
The point I am trying to make by showing you the texts which should speak for themselves with a little help from our Old Testament tutor, is that the antichrist is not the beast from the sea and the beast from the sea is not the beast from the land and the beast from the land is not the antichrist– though the antichrist is from the land-beast. Therefore we must call into question dogmatic dispensationalism.
Cerinthus of Ephesus was probably the antichrist of whom John writes about but only in his letters, the sea beast was certainly Rome and the beast from the land was obviously apostate Israel– search the Scripture and history and you’ll find this to be true. However my aspiration to my audience is to see that the alleged Antichrist is not what we have been taught by the dogmatic dispensationalists. Therefore we cannot let dogmatic dispensationalism steer the ship, which leaves room for the Scripture to interpret prophecy, Law, Jesus and the kingdom.
The dogma of dispensationalism takes away from today’s text, and almost all texts to a certain degree because it’s a mode and model, a structure rather than an explanation. Some of dispensationalism actually understands metaphorical meanings, merely misplacing moments in time but others completely corrupt the continuing context. Taken as a whole, letting dispensationalism dictate the discourse, the dogma of dispensationalism will not allow one to see the sublime string woven throughout the Scripture. We have to look no further than today’s text to see this. What would the meaning of the miracle of feeding the five thousand be if dispensationalism was definite dogma and not dubious? There would be a mistaken metaphorical meaning. We don’t want to look at passages through the lens of a man-made system.
But before we consider that there is a misplaced metaphorical meaning or no metaphorical meaning at all, I must prove that there was a metaphorical meaning. Yet I could not prove that there was a metaphorical meaning if I didn’t call into question dogmatic dispensationalism. I am attempting to unwind the circular reasoning; how am I doing? Don’t worry, I am about to shut up and let the Scripture interpret Scripture, yet I owe you an explanation concerning their circular reasoning.
Dogmatic dispensationalism states that: “‘it will not come‘ this is the rapture ‘unless the apostasy comes first,’ this is the mockers and scoffers who dismiss the “blessed hope” of a pre-tribulational rapture, ‘and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,’ this is the Antichrist, ‘who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God. You know what restrains him now,‘ this is the Holy Spirit, ‘so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.‘ This is the believers who have the Spirit and therefore must be raptured.”
Don’t be deceived by dubious dispensationalist dogma, this is the definition of circular reasoning. Where in the Bible is the Spirit called the one who restrains? Where in the Bible do we see the Antichrist taking a seat, or anyone taking a seat in the temple? Where else in the Bible are an entire group of people “raptured” or is a there a prophecy or promise of a rapture? Far beyond circular reasoning, this is the perfect picture of eisegesis and reading things into the context. I realize that taught traditions run deep but zoom out and consider the context without inserting the words not in italics. There is no rapture there, there is no Holy Spirit there and there certainly is no religious Antichrist but an irreligious man who thinks he himself is divine and wants to be worshiped. They begin not with a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method but begin with a presupposition. This is evident in their ignoring that in every text that they claim to be about a “rapture” rescue, judgment and destruction come first, not last.
Pretend that I have convinced you and put aside preconceived notions and presuppositions, then reengage with today’s text and see the masterpiece in the metaphorical meaning.
Here is the miracle as described by John: “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.’ And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.”
Simplistically stated, Jesus made little into much. Let’s let Jesus explain what and why?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.” The people present at the miracle, looked around and finally found Jesus a little while after he preformed the miracle– they actually wanted to make him king. Jesus tells them that it wasn’t because of the miracle that they looked for him but because he fed them, albeit temporarily. As we also have read, the people point back to Moses and manna. We must explore this example. But before we do, remember that Jesus knew what he intended to do and knew the heart of man but still had compassion on them and fed them for free, even though he knew that they would not seek him because of the sign but the food.
“Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin…And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction…Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.’ And the sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat.”
“Now it came about on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’ So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul, nor was there any worm in it. And Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.’ And it came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.”
Jesus explains the metaphorical meanings: “‘Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.’ They said therefore to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’ They said therefore to Him, ‘What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.”‘ Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ They said therefore to Him, ‘Lord, evermore give us this bread.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.'”
The people present were just like their ancestors, they sought Jesus for the bread, for physical fillings. They missed the sign for the sustenance. It’s utterly ironic that Jesus performed a great sign for them, they wanted to make him their king because of it but when he described their attitude towards said sign, they want a sign. “They said therefore to Him, ‘What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You?'”
This was the sign, actually one of many promised by the prophets but even though they saw it and ate, they didn’t believe. 2000 years later and Israel is still Israel. 2000 years later and we are still Israel.
Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, especially the mega-church types, look to this miracle and proclaim that God will fill us up with sustenance and provide provisions in the form of food and financial fulfillment in the form of wealth. They believe that this is the meaning of the miracle but actually the antithesis is true. Many Christians will go hungry tonight.
On the flip side of the coin are the social-justice pastors and preachers who proclaim the compassion of Jesus towards the people present as a metaphor for social justice. They believe the meaning of the miracle is as an example to us that we need to feed the poor, and even take the metaphorical meaning as a call to fight for the oppressed. We are commanded to do these things, we don’t need a miracle to paint us a picture. However, they have also blurred the lines between the oppressed and the oppressors. But I can’t cover every aspect of christianity and injustice in one missive. I have already written too much for our ability at absorption.
Today’s missive is like every other missive– I urge everyone everywhere to simply keep reading. Lord willing, we will do this and watch Jesus himself explain the meaning of this miracle. From those who insist on a rapture rescue to those who insist on speaking in tongues: if you would only understand the continuing context and see the sublime string, you would see that you are wrong. Problem; the most difficult thing for a person to admit is when they are wrong. I should know, I have a history of being wrong, hence my need to carefully consider the context. Paul tells us that the gift of tongues was a sign of judgment against Judaism by quoting Isaiah. Jesus also quoted Isaiah when explaining the miracle of making little into much.
Jesus, once again, points to the Law and prophets that point towards him, namely, Moses and Isaiah but Jeremiah and Zechariah are also in mind to the astute observer.
Isaiah 54 reads; “‘And all your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great. In righteousness you will be established; You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; And from terror, for it will not come near you. If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you. Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, And brings out a weapon for its work; And I have created the destroyer to ruin. No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,’ declares the LORD.”
Yet what we are about to witness seems to be in contrast to this. I love a good cliffhanger.