Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:00

The Changing of the Guard: From Israel to the Church

Revelation 17:3-6 (NASB)

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.

 

Revelation dramatizes the "changing of the guard" in redemptive history. John prophesies the Lord's judging his Old Testament people while establishing his New Testament church. As he does so, he follows the replacement pattern of Jesus' warnings to Israel:

"And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:11-12)

There are TWO kingdoms mentioned above: (a) The kingdom of heaven, and (b) The kingdom of Israel. The kingdom of heaven (the people who follow Jesus) REPLACES the kingdom of Israel in God's economy!

"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it." (Matthew 21:43)

The New Covenant people of God (those who receive Jesus by faith) are called "a holy nation" (I Peter 2:9). We learn elsewhere in Scripture that the Jewish people will one day be converted to Christ (see Romans 11:1-25). Jews will come to her Messiah on the same gospel terms as everyone else and be the church!

Revelation prophesies the Old Covenant and the introduction of the New; Israel replaced by the church.

"He carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, 'BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.' And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus" (Revelataion 17:3-6).

  1. The Great Harlot riding the Beast is first-century Jerusalem and home of the Temple of God.
    It's one thing to say that the Great Harlot is first century Israel, but it is another thing to prove it.
    1. Judgment against the first century Jerusalem is John's theme in Revelation.
      In the first chapter he writes Christ will come in judgment on "those who pierced him" (Revelation 1:7). The Hebrew Paul says the Jews "both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men" (I Thessalonians 2:15). In the very next verse, he writes "Wrath has come upon them to the utmost" (I Thessalonians 2:16). Israel was to be judged!
    2. The judgment of God in Revelation is limited to first century Jerusalem.
      1. John specifically mentions the treading down of her Temple (Revelation 11:1-2; Luke 21:20-24).
      2. John agrees with Jesus' rejection of first century Jews (Matthew 12:39; Mark 8:12, 38; Luke 11:29).
      3. "This generation" is the group whom Jesus curses (Luke 11:50-51; Luke 17:25).
    3. The Harlot is called "Babylon the Great" and "the great city" which is Jerusalem.
      (see Revelation 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 21). But how do we know Jerusalem is "the great city"? In the Law of First Mention, the FIRST time a descriptor appears in a text, it controls the meaning. Turn to Revelation 11:8 and read it. Jerusalem is the place "where also their Lord was crucified."
    4. Jerusalem is the great city because of her covenantal status with Jehovah.
      When God made a covenant with the nation of Israel, He established the capital and His Temple! "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, the joy of the earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King" (Psalm 18:1-2).
    5. The Harlot is "filled with the blood of the saints as Jerusalem was believers.
      (See Revelation 16:6; 17:6; 18:21, 24). "This generation of Jews" is responsible for the deaths (Luke 11:50-51). Christians are persecuted in the generation of Christ by Jews (see Acts 7:51-52, Hebrews, etc.).
    6. Harlotry is a symbol of the covenantal failure of Israel to abide faithful to their commitments.
      "You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2). The first covenant (Hebrews 8:13) was an "if you ... then I" type of covenant. You begin to understand the entire Bible when you see God's judgment of Israel (Hebrews 10:28-32).
    7. The Harlot is dressed in a similar manner to the priests of Jerusalem. (Exodus 28:4-5, 36, 38).
    8. Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon, now she is spiritual Babylon (and Sodom and Gommorrah).
  2. Jerusalem is destroyed and the Old Covenant comes to a complete and final end.
    Having named the Harlot as "Babylon the Great" and displayed her evil character in Chapter 17, John prophesies her destruction in Revelation 18-19. "And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! And she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird'" (Revelation 18:2). "Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come" (Revelation 18:10).
  3. The second woman of Revelation is the NEW Bride of God, the New Covenant people of faith.
    John records for us his visionary experience in witnessing both the Great Harlot and the Bride from heaven. The record so closely parallels them that one becomes the negative image of the other. "And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spake with me, saying, 'Come here, I shall show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters'" (Revelation 17:1). "And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plague, came and spoke with me, saying, 'Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb'" (Revelation 21:9).

    "And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns" (Revelation 17:3). "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." (Revelation 21:10). John draws intentional contrasts between the two women. This underscores the relationship of the two women, one (the new Jerusalem) being the glorious replacement of the reprehensible other (the old Jerusalem).

    Revelation dramatizes the "changing of the guard" in redemptive history. John prophesies the Lord's judging his Old Testament people while establishing his New Testament church. As he does so he follows the replacement pattern of Jesus' warnings to Israel (see Matthew 8:11-12). The geo-political distinctiveness of Israel has ended; she will not be exalted above or distinguished from the other nations. Isaiah gloriously prophesies this change of status with these words: In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel my inheritance" (Isaiah 19:23-25). With the coming of the new covenant, "there is neither Jew nor Greek" for "you are all one in Christ" (galatians 3:28). Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.The Book of Revelation Made, American Vision.

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