“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 CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics: Context, Aspirations of Author, Genre, Examples and Divide Rightly.
In John chapter 14, verse 6, speaking to his disciples, specifically answering Thomas, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” But what was Thomas asking Jesus? What was the context? I may be mad but there is method to it, for the patient, let my digress for a moment.
I wonder what began our current cultural climate of soundbites, misleading headlines, Twitter-esque limited characters in communication, ripping words out of their context? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Do we form opinions from words ripped out of context or do we intentionally distort words to fit our preconceived notions and presuppositional narratives?
Twitter didn’t invent the proverbial soundbite but has amplified it. Misleading headlines are as old as headlines themselves. Joel Osteen didn’t create the 20 minute sermon based on a few words and a story ripped out of context, Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes were doing it 2000 years ago. As I write, conflicting notifications are floating around the inter-webbing concerning crowds and the building that houses the house and Senate. Not only are the accounts conflicting but are actually exact opposites. But the false report will be swept under the rug and soon forgotten– it already has as I continue to write. Yet more often than not, it is the false narrative and soundbites that persists and become the normal narrative.
I try to stay consistent, so when I see riots around business and riots around government buildings, the only thing that irks me other than the riots themselves is the inconsistency of the narrative. Riots are riots, unless they need to fit into a narrative and then they become either a “peaceful protest” or “sedition and treason.” A spade is a spade and a riot is a riot.
I don’t mind getting a little political because it highlights our hypocrisy– and their’s. The people who were fed by Jesus exclaimed, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world,” and they are extremely similar to those who descended [geographically; ascended] on Capitol Hill. Yes, it was absolutely an erroneous election but stooping down stymies– we should take the high road. Like the antichrist, they’re not from us. The president should step down, even though he didn’t incite insurgents, like H.R.C. did in Benghazi. Nevertheless it would not have happened if he simply let it go. We knew that they would cheat and rather than speak truth to our neighbors with the hope of changing minds, we doubled down on rhetoric and arguments. If only for two weeks, President Pence has a nice alliteration to it. But with my expectation of Trump’s resignation comes the expectation that most governors and congresspeople would resign as well. I’m done with politics because hypocrisy reigns supreme. What do I do about church? Back to the Scriptures.
Thomas confessed to Jesus; “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” He did not consider what Jesus was saying. We’ll come back to this because it is a greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted text by the prophecy pundits.
The majority of dispensationalists disciple, evangelize and hope and pray for revival. But the dogmatic dispensationalists argue to not “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.” A meaningful metaphor which makes we wonder why they don’t see the metaphorical meanings in miracles, prophecy and even the literal Law. The apostle Paul helps us understand the metaphorical meanings in the literal Law; “For the Scripture says, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE IT IS THRESHING,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages,'” Paul wrote to Timothy. And to the church in Corinth Paul wrote, “For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while it is threshing.’ God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we should reap material things from you?”
Ironically enough Paul is actually arguing against himself being paid for his ministry to the church in Corinth. This goes to considering the entire context. Nevertheless we see within Paul’s defense of his free gift of the gospel to freely preach the gospel, the metaphorical meanings of the literal Law. We live in the best of times because we have the completed Scripture and libraries full of concordances, maps, atlases, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and the like, all at our fingertips.
Unfortunately all pre-tribulational dispensationalists agree that this is not true. The world, according to their dubious dogma, waxes worse and worse as the world heads towards the greatest tribulation ever– one never seen before and will never be seen again. They base this on a verse ripped out of context– “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will again.”
But what’s the context and aspiration of the author to his audience? To whom was Jesus speaking? Look at the preceding verse; “But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath…” Consider the context; Jesus was speaking to his disciples according to Matthew. And according to Luke, only four of them. “Pray that your flight,” and not “pray that their flight.” “I have told you in advance,” and not, “I am telling them in advance.” “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” and not, “Truly I say to them, that generation will not pass away…” Allow me to demonstrate the danger of ripping verses out of context.
Another tenet of pre-tribulational dispensationalism is that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. The church is raptured to make way for the return of Israel. But what does Jeremiah promise concerning Israel? “Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever,” and “everyone will die for his own iniquity.”
But what’s the context? “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD.”
Still not nearly enough context to consider, is it? How then do the dogmatic dispensationalists develop dubious dogma based upon a few handpicked verses and phrases? How does a verb become a noun? How does the verb “caught up” become a title and a noun, with a definite article– “The Rapture?” It’s the proverbial egg before the chicken and cart before the horse. It’s a headline without an article, a tweet without a link and a syllabus without the lectures. Like a sermon from Joel Osteen, dispensationalism misses the meanings and the mark, including the mark of the beast.
In a similar way, the five thousand fed missed the meaning of the miracle but had their bellies filled. However, after witnessing the sign, they said, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
With little doubt, the reader would assume that they were referencing Moses speaking of a prophet like him coming to Israel. Surely they saw the signs, they confessed it, but Jesus told them that they missed the meaning. Like misguided rioters who thought…who knows what they were thinking, the five thousand plus women and children thought wrongly, with their stomachs, even though Scripture was in their minds.
The problem was it was Scripture ripped out of context. Notice that they were looking for a prophet and not the creator of the universe. Like the rioters, they misplaced the meaning. Without further ado about nothing, let’s look at the promise to Abraham, not Jacob.
“And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants [lit, seed] be.’ Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
I wonder about many things– I have a curious nature as I am sure is made apparent in my writings. It gives the reader the impression that I excel in research but the truth is the rapacity of my curiosity knows no satiety. That is, sometimes the answers are elusive and not concrete. Other times the answers are simple– I like to keep it simple. I wonder why the NASB, amongst most other translators, chose to use the word “descendants ” when Paul quotes and explains that the word in Hebrew is the singular word “seed.” I don’t know exactly why but I do let Paul interpret it more accurately than NASB translators. Nevertheless, I have a hint as to why.
Notice; And God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants [seed] will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions.”
We have to consider the context and explore examples. The context defines the word “seed” but we also, always look for Jesus in the types and shadows. Israel was literally the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac. Notice what Paul wrote to the Romans; “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither [conjunction, not either; moreover not; two different and distinct thoughts yet tied together] are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants [seed], but: THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS [seed] WILL BE NAMED.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants [seed]…For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'”
And yet dogmatic dispensationalism demands that God has two distinct plans for two distinct people. Read Romans 9,10 and 11, zooming in on the carefully constructed olive tree. But take care, how people read Romans 9-11 is almost always based upon their presuppositions. Nevertheless, it has changed the minds of many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers.
After reading Romans, putting aside preconceived notions and presuppositions, the truth about Abraham’s seed is obvious. Like in Galatians 3, Paul defines Israel as those with the faith of Abraham and not his flesh and bones. Though I would love to see how many people in the world have even a minute amount of Abraham’s DNA– my guess is it would be a large percentage of the population. Nevertheless, that’s not the point.
The point is that God promised one, single, old-man that his seed would be innumerable like the stars of the sky or the sand on the seashore. One man of faith, reproducing into an innumerable number, through his Seed.
Jesus took a small remnant of Israel and discipled them. When he ascended to his throne in heaven and was given dominion, the Holy Spirit came and a few hundred followers became a few thousand followers in one day– impressive but certainly not the sands of the seashore or stars in the sky. Nevertheless the promise remains and the kingdom starts small like a mustard seed and slowly grows into a tree, to the Jews first and then to the Greek. It’s like the little rock not carved with human hands in Daniel, that becomes a giant mountain and crushes all other kingdoms. Jesus said his kingdom had come, but he also said that it was like a little leaven hidden in three pecks of meal until it was all leavened.
Now look at the miracles in John beginning with the feeding of the 5,000. We know that the metaphorical miracle meaning wasn’t being filled with bread and fish, although Jesus was happy to give them food. Jesus said, “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 meaning of the miracle wasn’t to be temporarily filled with food. Jesus told them to work for eternal food and that he was this eternal food.
“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.'”
In the miracle of feeding the 5,000, Jesus takes a couple fish and five loaves, for a total of seven, gives thanks to the Father and after everyone is filled the leftover loaves fill twelve baskets, gathered by the twelve apostles. They didn’t leave any behind even though everyone ate until they were full.
Like the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore there was an abundance of bread. Like Abraham and Sarah, starting small, being but two people, they were multiplied as were the fish and bread. And as always, it all revolves around Jesus. Notice again his explanation; “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.”
We have already seen the distinction between those who believed Jesus and those who believe in Jesus. Jesus takes it to another level, one of which we will discuss further in the future, lord willing. Jesus tells them that they must eat more than manna because those who ate the manna died. Jesus said that the bread they must drink was his flesh. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.”
Context is king. The seven signs seen in John were all intentional and all had metaphorical meanings. From the worthless water used for ritualistic reasons becoming wonderful wine, to the healing of a man 38 years in sickness at the festival on the Sabbath. There is imagery in these signs, images painted and promised in our Old Testament tutor.
Isaiah 61; “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting…And I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Then their offspring will be known among the nations, And their descendants in the midst of the peoples. All who see them will recognize them Because they are the offspring whom the LORD has blessed.”
Prophecy points to Jesus and the signs Jesus did point back to prophecy and even the Law. The problem we have is that we don’t let the Bible interpret the Bible. We don’t see Jesus in the life of Jesus, much less in the Old Testament tutor. After the promised Messiah made many miracles, the people present said, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
Looking for the prophet like Moses, they were looking for a prophet similar to Moses. But Jesus was Moses on steroids– no sacrilege intended, it’s merely a metaphor. The problem with the people present, on whom Jesus had great compassion, is that they were looking for a leader, a prophet, a king. Remember that Jesus slipped away from them because “they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king.”
It wasn’t his time, it wasn’t his realm, and like the devil giving him the world and the nations, it wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Jesus receives the kingdom from his Father and delivers the kingdom to his father. All prophecy points to Jesus.