Seeing Symbolic Signs; Dividing Rightly

John 6:41-53

“The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ And they were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven?”‘ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. ‘It is written in the prophets, “AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.’ The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.'”

Ego Eimi; I am. In John’s gospel account, John records Jesus saying Ego Eimi almost two dozen times. The use of Ego Eimi in and of itself doesn’t dictate definitive deity. Other people also are recorded in John using this phrase and they are far from deity. Much like the phrase “son of man,” the context in which it is used and the author’s aspiration determines its definition. This is one reason why we utilize a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method, where; 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. It’s not only important to consider the context and aspirations of author in the immediate text but also in the examples.

For example; Jesus quotes Isaiah in today’s text and had an absolute aspiration to his audience; we also want to understand this aspiration and that aspiration in Isaiah; and since both author’s are ultimately God, the only presupposition we want to have is that this points to that because that points to this.

Sometimes my subtle simplicity is stupefying. Jesus points back to Isaiah because Isaiah points forward to Jesus. Other allusions are also implied– Jeremiah prophesied many similar statements as Isaiah did. This is not a suprise to us because of the ultimate author’s aspirations to his audience. Nevertheless misconceptions are many and metaphorical meanings are misconstrued by many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers. Many see Isaiah 54 as a far-future fulfillment but Jesus applied it to his day and himself– his body and his blood. The author’s aspiration to his audience is expounded even further if chapter and verse breaks are ignored and the context of Isaiah 55 is considered as well. Likewise we have to remember the continuing context in John’s gospel account. The Bible is a book of stories, historical narratives, poetry and even letters, it was never intended to be read a verse at a time. So let’s look at the big picture, one verse at a time. Yes, that was tongue and cheek. We want to take the long view, slowly, so that the narrative is fully seen. I believe that we take verses, especially prophecy, out of context because we infer this practice from the appearance of this practice from the New Testament writers. Lest we forget that scrolls were short and expensive in the first century and the writers point back to what was already written with a pin prick of prophecy. It’s up to the reader to go back and read the context and then understand the author’s aspiration after quoting the Old Testament and applying it directly to their narrative.

Something that the doubley doggedly, dogmatic dispensationalists miss– the ones who insist that the entire Bible was written in Hebrew– and I am baffled as to how, is that the New Testament writers, who wrote in Greek, quoted the Greek translation of the Old Testament– the Septuagint, or LXX. This is the reason why some quotes look like misquotes. Most modern translations use a blend of the DSS, M.T., LXX and other MSS. Don’t fret over the alphabet soup, it simply means that the translators are using all available sources to compile the truth in a readable yet accurate way. The reasoning for this reminder is because the Isaiah quote in our Bible, looks a little different than John’s quote. We are not necessarily looking for exact interpretations but the essence of the aspiration of the author.

Isaiah 54;13 “And all your sons will be taught of the LORD.”

Honestly, does anyone actually believe that this is all Jesus wanted them to understand? It’s probably the most obscure and unremarkable prophecy, left alone, by itself. Forgive my redundancy but it’s to demonstrate how verses were never intended to stand alone. But even if the only aspiration of Jesus was for the people to know and remember that God (himself) was the teacher, notice how he even expanded on, expounded on and explained that. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” Once again, Jesus points to himself as the Ego Eimi or YHWH. But it’s difficult bread to digest for the people present because they knew his parents.

But what am I thinking– beginning in the middle, which is actually towards the end of the context of the past few days in the life and ministry of Jesus, according to John. Let’s do a little review, as I have deja vu. Speaking of deja vu, like Peter, I have no problem repeating the same things over and over, it’s how we memorize things. And please don’t get all legalistic on me about deja vu, if you have not experienced the feeling you’re doing something that you have done before, you must never be bored or are bored in perpetuity. Again, I write with my tongue in my cheek. I know that I repeat myself, often and for at least three reasons: memorization, reminder and for newcomers to be as up to speed as possible without wasting everyone’s time. The CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics…just kidding. I’m quite cheeky today.

For review: the people to whom Jesus is speaking are the same people who ate the multiplied loaves and fish, we commonly call, “the five thousand,” not to be confused with the four thousand, not mentioned by John. That’s it, a simple review of the Galilean Jews, who had their bellies filled once, as Passover dawned.

Like their forefathers they were grumbling, only not before they ate nor after they ate the same thing for years. “The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ And they were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven?”‘”

Did I forget to mention that Jesus told them that “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.”

Grumble, grumble toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. That’s a parody of Macbeth for those keeping score– have I mentioned my cheekiness? On a serious note, how many of us actually believe that Jesus came to give life to the world?

I have mentioned the translators and translations, both today and in the past. I tip my proverbial hat to them, doing a very good job with a difficult venture. (You sense the “but” coming) but I can’t figure out why they missed the difference between “kosmos,” the world; todo el mundo, and “oikoumenē,” the land or region; earthy; la tierra. While the words are similar in definition, their use in context speaks volumes. Let’s look at oikoumenē first.

Luke 2:1; first in the ESV. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” The KJV; “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” The NASB does a bit better; “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” Problem, even Caesar Augustus couldn’t tax all the world or even all the inhabited world; though he probably wished he could have. My point is that the use of words, in their context, exploring other examples and ascertaining the aspirations of the author, help us define words. We also notice the word “all” which gives emphasises to the total, which is complete yet can be used hyperbolically. Clearly Caesar didn’t and couldn’t tax all the world, but he could tax his land. The indication then, by considering the context is that oikoumenē probably has its limitations but could be as large as the Roman empire.

Look at the word “Kosmos.” We know it is distinct and different from “oikoumenē” simply because it was used in similar but different contexts and is a completely different word. We see it in John 3:16-17; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”

Even with the adjective “all,” descriptive of the totality in the oikoumenē of Luke two, we clearly see by the context and history that oikoumenē does not mean the entire world. On the contrary, it appears as though “kosmos” may mean more than simply the world but the entire created order. Nevertheless we aren’t there yet and time constraints prevent us from doing an exhaustive exegesis of examples. We have seen that John, more than any other Biblical writer, utilized the word “Kosmos.” The word, which is always singular and never plural, was used 180+ times in the New Testament, more than half were by John. This begs the question: why did John use neither oikoumenē nor kosmos in Revelation 1:7, but rather, gé? I believe it was because John narrowed it down from the created order and the land of Rome to a very specific place– Israel.

However we are looking at the world in today’s review. Yes, John, as he frequently does, has Jesus using the word Kosmos– “the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Why is this important? We have to go back to the beginning of John’s gospel account to see the significance.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not ccomprehend it…There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man… and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Enter John the Baptist who proclaimed; “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Kosmos, I would argue is a bigger, larger, much more all-encompassing word than is oikoumenē and certainly gé. Therefore the significance is simple– Jesus brought life back to a dead and dying world. Yet we see problems in the perception of the people then and in our own cultural clutter. To them, he was supposed to be their king who was against all other kingdoms, reestablishing the reign of David. Did I forget to mention that they wanted to “rapture” Jesus and make him king in my review? Nevertheless Jesus claimed higher aspirations than being their king, making himself equal to God, he claimed to be the Savior of the world. Though they were fed miraculously like manna and Moses and were moved to make the Messiah their king, the multitude remembered Mary the mother of Jesus and Joseph his father. They couldn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah because they knew his mother and father. They didn’t understand Genesis 3:15 or it’s context.

“I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” The first promise of a Savior, immediately after the fall of man, tells the reader that the Messiah will be born of a woman. Nevertheless they couldn’t believe that Jesus was the bread of life that came down from heaven, giving life to the entire world. They didn’t see it in prophecy, even when Jesus points back to Isaiah.

We’re quite like them, we miss the miracles for the feeding and the prophets’ promises for our own perceptions, presuppositions, presumptions, preconceived notions and taught traditions.

In Isaiah it was promised; “‘Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous Than the sons of the married woman,’ says the LORD…’your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you, Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, Even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,’ Says your God. ‘For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ Says the LORD your Redeemer. ‘For this is like the days of Noah to Me; When I swore that the waters of Noah Should not flood the earth again, So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, Nor will I rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ Says the LORD who has compassion on you. ‘O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of crystal, And your entire wall of precious stones. 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. ‘Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you. Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. For you will go out with joy, And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up; And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up; And it will be a memorial to the LORD, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.'”

The prophecy pundits point to modern day Israel and the proverbial nettle giving way to the proverbial myrtle trees. Israel the country has done a relatively remarkable job turning a relative wasteland into a fully functional land with farms, industries and even water purification. Nevertheless, this is neither considering the continuing context of prophecy nor seeing the symbolism. If one were to continue reading the context of Isaiah, as is always a good idea, one would alor read; “My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed. How blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who takes hold of it; Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil. Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from His people.Neither let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples... Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered. All you beasts of the field, All you beasts in the forest, Come to eat. His watchmen are blind, All of them know nothing. All of them are dumb dogs unable to bark, Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber; And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; They have all turned to their own way, Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.”

I have been told in the past that I give too much Scripture; “just tell us what it means.” I don’t consider telling what Scripture means to be teaching. It is also dubious and dangerous to listen to explanations without all, or at least much, of the context. True teaching is to demonstrate how to learn not an indoctrination of ideas. In our current cultural climate, kids are shipped off to indoctrination factories called universities. Even within the walls of technical high schools, those graduating are often times ill equipped to encounter the entire encapsulation of employment. Much on the job training still exists and is usually learned faster, and for pay, than in a classroom setting. The reason is because “real world” context applies, things that can’t be replicated or conducted in the confines, constructs, constraints and context of the classroom. A good teacher doesn’t fill a student’s head with possibly pertinent information but demonstrates how to learn, adapt and apply that which they are learning, not in an absolute way but as a starting point. In the field lay many surprises and special situations that can’t be replicated in the classroom. One needs to train for long term learning.

This is why I give much content and context to consider. This is why we utilize the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics. This is why we take the long view and put aside our preconceived notions and presuppositions.

I have now listened to a recent sermon from a very well respected, godly pastor, twice. I also listened to a recent prophecy conference that he held at his church, twice. He was speaking like an underpaid, substitute, tech-school teacher who is actually an aspiring actor and politician. I don’t mean to be offensive towards one of America’s favorite pastors but we all should be offended by him– yet he received an aggressive ovation. He did what his arch nemeses, the mainstream media does, he absolutely ripped things out of context, to fit his narrative.

I am actually saddened by this and wish I was making it up. In order to prove dogmatic dispensationalism and a pretribulational rapture, this pastor of thousands, points back to Moses and the two silver trumpets. Yet he gives neither reference to the book, chapter or verse so that the surrounding context can be considered nor an actual quote but a parody. He also uses his best hasidic, Brooklyn, Jewish accent in an absurd attempt at humor.

Speaking on “the last trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15; “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed–” the pastor of thousands attempts to assign this verse to a pretribulational rapture, forgetting that in the context of this passage is Paul’s explanation of the most quoted verse in the new Testament. “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.”

Quoting this pastor verbatim: “the reason why there’s a last trumpet is because there is a first trumpet. And it goes back– listen– the whole context is gathering God’s people together. Do you agree; do you see that its gathering God’s people together? God told Moses ‘I want you build two trumpets, made out of silver, for the gathering together of my people.’ Moses says ‘ok.’ He builds two trumpets. Every time Moses gathered God’s people together– the Jewish people, he would blow a trumpet. And to this day, the Jewish people will say, [in a mocking accent of east-coast, hasidic, former European, stereotypical Jewish person and not an Israeli accent] ‘what’s the other trumpet for? Why two?’ And some will say ‘it’s a backup. It’s in case the other one breaks.‘”

He continues;

“It’s a mystery– the first trumpet calls the Jews together– God’s been calling the jews together for…well certainly since 1948– back into their own land. He called them together for battle. He called them together for convocations, he called them together for announcements, but the second trumpet, the last trumpet’s never been been blown. That last trumpet is to gather a new group of God’s people together– you!”

Problem; Context is King! Context of which he neither quoted nor considered. Watch!

Number 10:1-4; “The LORD spoke further to Moses, saying, ‘Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Yet if only one is blown, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall assemble before you.'”

Despite the dogmatic dispensationalists dubious discourse, the last trumpet is the last or final trumpet. That was absolutely the aspiration of the apostle to his audience. It’s only connection to the trumpets in Numbers is for the calling of God’s congregation– now all peoples from every nation, both Jewish and gentile. Is it not Paul himself who wrote; “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him?” And, “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” And, “there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” And, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…” et al.

Therefore we utilize the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics and actually consider the context and examples, ascertaining the author’s aspirations to his audience. We see the similarities in Isaiah to Christ proclaiming that he was the bread of life. And the similarities we don’t see, we jive with the genre and explore other examples of an apocalyptic address. We dig deep to see the symbolism and divide rightly, letting the Scripture interpret Scripture, taking the long view. We don’t want to be short sighted, like this pastor of thousands, but want to consider the continuing context. In his sermon he not only assumed that the last trumpet meant an un-blown, second trumpet but that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. We have dually destroyed this part of the discourse by letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Therefore the rest of their dubious dogma should fall like a house of cards in a historical hurricane. Nevertheless they double down rather than having a metanoeo moment, having minds changed after engaging the Scripture.

Isaiah 54, 55 and 56 are not a far-future fulfillment but fulfilled in Jesus, the great I Am, the bread of life, the light of the world. The things Jesus did and said were actually an amplifier of Isaiah. Jesus places himself at the center of Isaiah’s prophecy and expounds on it.

Notice; “My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word..and the Word became flesh…” Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Lord willing we will see the symbolism in greater detail next time as we discuss the disaster of taking the eating of the flesh of Jesus literally. Jesus is not saying, “eat me.” Look at the prophecy to which he points, especially the exact quote John recorded. The sons are being taught by God– the word made flesh. Jesus is the fulfillment and he uses the same imagery as Isaiah. Jesus wants them to figuratively partake of the Word made flesh, the flesh that kept the law, taught the sons and died on the cross. Consider the continuing context and see the symbolism.

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