Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Counting of the Omer

rUmV1947808[1]From the second night of Passover until the day before the Jewish holiday of Shavu’ot (Feast of First Fruits or Pentecost–May 15, 2013), the Jewish people engage in a time of “Counting the Omer.” A period of seven weeks or forty-nine days is counted, as commanded in Leviticus 23:15 and Deuteronomy 16:9.          The omer was a measure of barley (approximately 2 quarts) that the Jews brought as the afternoon offering on the second day of Passover.  All of these numbers have significant meaning. Seven is, of course, completion. Thus, seven times seven is the superlative way of saying “completion.” Fifty is the number used for the year of Jubilee, when servitude and debt were forgiven. The giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai happened on the fiftieth day from the second night of Passover, according to the rabbis.

At the end of the evening prayer on each of these forty-nine nights, a Jew recites a blessing and then verbalizes the number of that day. At the end of the counting a special grain offering was brought to the Temple. This offering was waved in different directions, to demonstrate God’s all-encompassing presence.

What is the significance of this counting for us today, you might ask? Foremost, this counting expresses one’s eager anticipation of receiving the Torah or Law on the fiftieth day after experiencing the liberation of Passover. The word for Egypt in Hebrew (mitzrayim) means limitations and boundaries. It represents all forms of conformity and definition that restrain, inhibit or hamper our free movement and expression. Therefore, leaving Egypt means freedom from constraints. After leaving Egypt, the Jewish people spent the next forty-nine days preparing themselves spiritually for the most monumental experience of all time: the giving of the Torah (Law) to Moses and the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. God did not just drop the Torah on the people. There was a journey and the forty-nine day period of the counting of the omer is that journey.

Hence, this forty-nine day period is meant to refine and spiritually prepare ourselves for the event, not unlike the Lenten period which is meant to prepare us for union with the Risen Lord. It is during this period that we strive to grow and mature in our spiritual state. The Torah, as well as other Scripture, does not allow us to become satisfied with our current level of spirituality. Instead, it tells us to set high goals for ourselves and then methodically strive to reach each goal. It is a forty-nine day spiritual journey from Exodus to Sinai. It is a fixed time, emphasized by the actual, out loud counting of each day, to become fit receptacles for God. There are specific attributes to be contemplated each week: lovingkindness, justice, compassion, fortitude, humility, bonding, and sovereignty. Further, each one of these is to be contemplated in light of the other for each day of the week.

After we have accomplished all we can do on our own, through our own initiative and contemplation, then we are worthy to receive a gift from above (God’s grace). We receive the ability to commune with the Devine. We made the journey into God’s all-encompassing presence. Hallelujah!

 “And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering-the day after the Sabbath-you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete; you must count until the day after the seventh week-fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the Lord.” Lev.23:15-16

IS THERE AN EIGHTH DAY FOR SUKKOT (The Feast of Tabernacles)?

imagesFirst came the blast of the Shofar or trumpet to assemble the people and to announce the coming of their atonement. Then the Day of Atonement came. At that point the people became cleansed of their sin and were able to fellowship with God. For God, it didn’t matter where the people were; in the city or in the field for harvest. He would meet them wherever they were. Therefore, during harvest, the Jews built booths (Sukkot) in their fields in order to fellowship with the Lord there. This was a time of great rejoicing, celebration, and fellowship.  It was to last seven days. Now, that’s a party! By the way, the number seven represents completion. Sukkot therefore is a complete time of fellowship and rejoicing with the Lord.

But then, what does the Lord do? In Numbers 29:35 the Lord tells us that on the eighth day of gathering, we are not to work again but to hold back or tarry with the Lord. We are to have a solemn gathering (atzeret). This day is called Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of gathering (October 8, 2012). Eight is the number of “dedication” in Hebrew (more of that in my Hanukkah teaching). Could it be that since we have heard the Shofar, since God provided the atonement, and since we have celebrated joyously for a week, that we are now to dedicate ourselves to the Lord?

Could it be that God so jealously desires the fellowship of His people that He doesn’t want to let us go? In Zechariah 8:2 the Lord says “I am exceedingly jealous for Zion. . .” Does He so jealously desires our fellowship that He is unwilling to let us go and begs us to stay with Him yet another day? The answer is a resounding “yes.” His people (in the Old Testament) will not gather again for six months (Passover). Hence, he pleads “stay longer, be with me, let us worship together.” God will miss the gathering of His people, the music, the festivities, the unity.

Shemini Atzeret is a separate holiday. The symbols and rituals of Sukkot are not observed. A prayer for rain is recited because the rainy season is coming. There is candle lighting and a prayer over the wine (Kiddush) is said. In Israel, this eighth day is combined with a non-biblical holiday, Simchat Torah (rejoicing over the Torah). In the Diaspora, Simchat Torah becomes the ninth day of celebration. Nine, in Hebrew, is three (perfection) times three (perfection). Another subject for another time, but could it be that God wants to perfect us until we become like Him? You know that answer!

For the Jewish people, perfection comes in the Torah. Although it is a non-biblical holiday, Simchat Torah marks the completion of the cycle of the Torah readings in the synagogue. The rejoicing over the Torah makes a statement. Whatever the law denies, whatever suffering God’s people have undergone for upholding His law, the covenant as written in the Torah, affirms and enriches life. On this eighth or ninth day, the Torah is taken out of the Ark, and delight in His law is observed with great rejoicing, dancing, and singing. It is customary on this day for the Jewish people to go outside and dance around the Torah announcing their solidarity with world Jewry and declare “Am Yisrael Chai,” the people Israel lives, and to declare “Od Aveeynu Chai,” our Heavenly Father lives.

One further note of reflection, Shemini Atzeret is the eighth day—that is the day after seven. Seven being a perfect number in Judaism, signifies a complete unit of time. Thus, the eighth day is the day after time. It is not just the promise of redemption but the actual moment of it. God said, “Remain with me (atzeret) an extra day,” a time beyond time. Shemini Atzeret is a taste of the Messianic Age, a time when we are one with God. This all climaxes with Simchat Torah. Instead of circling around the Torah scrolls (as is done on Sukkot), the Jewish people circle with the Torah scrolls. We take the connecting link between us and God (His Word), our marriage contract, and circle around with the One who fulfills everything. What greater joy is there than to know we are one with God.


imagesSunday, September 16, 2012, at sun down begins the Jewish year of 5773. Does this year have any prophetic significance? Do the numbers really mean anything? Well, the prophets of “doom and gloom” are certainly out there saying “yes.” Let’s take a look at the Hebrew letters and numbers 73 or “ayin gimmel.”

Ayin (ע) is the symbol of sight and insight. It also represents the number 70. It is the letter or number of perception for its name “ayin” means eye. Ayin is related to the Hebrew word that means spring of water (as in Gen 16:7). Just as a spring brings water from the dark depths to the light of the sun, so the eye brings the perception of the world into the human mind. Through the narrow eye the entire universe is brought into focus. There are approximately 248 organs in the human body, and their movements are directed by the eyes!

The eye is the window of the brain, since it is through the sense of sight that man perceives external impressions that he then internalizes, enabling him to understand them more thoroughly.

Just as man is considered a miniature world, corresponding to the universe, so is the eye of man regarded as a microcosm of the universe. In Jewish tradition, the eye is the world: the white represents the ocean, and the iris the land; the pupil is Jerusalem; and the image in the innermost center is the Temple. According to Jewish sages when an observer looks into someone else’s eye, he sees his spiritual self. If he makes himself worthy, his reflection may be described as that of a living Holy Temple. For the Jew, the Divine dwells within the person himself not just in a Temple.

Man’s outlook and perspective, represented by the ayin, is considered the barometer of his character. Just as the person is guided by his eyes, so also is a nation guided by its leaders. If the leaders are proper and correct, then that generation is regarded in that light.

As a caution, it should be noted that men can be misled by their tempted eye (like Adam and Eve) and can turn their vision toward uses for which their Creator had not intended them. By doing so, they turn their bodies (and nation) into instruments of shame and sin. The safeguard is to make the eye a vehicle through which we can remind ourselves of God and His commandments and thus, overcome that temptation. That’s why the Scripture in Deuteronomy 6:8 commands God’s people to always set the Scripture before them, as a reminder of what our eyes should see.

Jewish teaching states that God has 70 names, gave the Torah, which has 70 names, to Israel, which has 70 names and which originated from 70 people who went down to Egypt with Jacob and was chosen from among 70 nations, to celebrate 70 holy days in the year (52 Sabbaths and 18 feasts). The Torah was transmitted to 70 elders and safeguarded by the Sanhedrin of 70 sages, who were called the eyes of the community. There are 70 facets to Torah which was translated into 70 languages to make it understandable to 70 nations, and was engraved on 70 stones after Israel crossed the Jordan on their way to the Holy Land. In the Holy City of Jerusalem, which had 70 names, they built the Temple, which had 70 pillars.

After the Flood, 70 nations descended from Noah; 70 languages emerged at the building of the Tower of Babel; the Jewish nation began with the 70 people who came with Jacob to Egypt; and in Eternity or the world to come, 70 prime nations will recognize God as the One and only God and ruler of the world!

As you can see the decade of the 70’s has much significance. This is year 73, so that our eyes must be directed to the number 3. Three is the number of Divinity. It is also the number of kindness and culmination. Gimmel (ג) is the name of the number 3. It has the same origin as the word “gamol” which means to nourish until completely ripe. These words represent the performance of kind deeds as well. The word also means “camel.” The camel received this name because it can go for a long time without drinking; and thus, is equipped to endure tremendous stress, which enables it to survive the perils of the desert. Thus, the camel for man is a performer of kindness!

The letter gimmel and the number 3 represent God’s eternal beneficence. Without God’s loving kindness (chessed in Hebrew), the entire world could not exist, even for a moment. Day in and day out He gives us his loving kindness and grace. He gives us the spirit of life, wisdom and strength, the use of our limbs, sensation, speech, and sight. Psalm 25:10 tells us that all the paths of God are kindness and truth.

The number 3 is an anchor number. It is said to unite two opposing factors into a perfect entity. For instance, when kindness and justice are united, we find truth. In man, there are 3 parts: spirit, soul, body and father, mother, God. The number 3 is a unifying number.

Here is an interesting illustration of Hebrew gematria (the Jewish system of assigning numbers to letters and words). The 27 letters of the Hebrew alphabet can be divided into sets of 3. When they are set in triplets the gematria of the middle letter of each triplet is the average of the other two. In any of these triplets, if we add al 3 letters and divide the total by 3, we get the value of the middle letter. Proverbs 22:20 says: Have I not written for you threefold things of counsel and knowledge?

For the Jewish people, using the eye to see what God has done and will do and to see the presence of God in all things is the essence of the year 5773. The convergence of all this for the Jew is explained in their prayer: “Blessed is the All-Mericiful who gave His three-part Torah (Pentateuch, Prophets, Writings) to his three-part nation (Preists, Levites, Israelites), through the third-born Moses (Miriam and Aaron came first) on the third day in which the people sanctified themselves in the third month of the year.”

Let us use our eye to see God clearly this 5773.


images“For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” 1Samuel 12:22

God promised Abraham and Jacob that their descendants would be like the sand on the seashore. The waves on the shore have been stirred up, they have roared and have tossed the sand to and fro. Nevertheless, the sand is there. God’s word is being worked out. The rage of man and demons has unleashed countless onslaughts against the Jewish people in many different areas and at many different times; but like the sand on the shore, they are here.

It is so important to understand that the Jews did not choose to be God’s people. It was God who chose them. It cannot be a wrong choice because the Creator of the universe is the One who made that choice. No matter how contrary circumstances may seem, God will not forsake His choice, His people. It is not because the Jews deserve His faithfulness, but rather it is for God’s own name’s sake. It is God who is faithful whether we are or not. God’s name is committed to Israel, the Jewish people; His honor is at stake.

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself gave us the same assurance: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). At times we may not be in any way conscious of His presence, but by His Holy Spirit, He is with us. No matter where we go, God is present by His Spirit; invisible, often imperceptible, yet inescapable. For the unbeliever this may be a terrifying thought; but for the believer, it is a comforting, strengthening assurance.

Several thousand years ago, Jeremiah proclaimed: “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock’” (Jeremiah 31:10). This scripture has been and is continually being fulfilled today. God is gathering the Jewish people into the nation of Israel and will keep Israel as a shepherd would do.

These are days when absolutely no one knows, in the natural, what will happen tomorrow in Israel. A war could break out at any time without warning. But in the midst of it all, God’s protection of Israel is guaranteed, no matter the political pressures. We have His word on it and God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19).

In Psalm 147:1-2 we read: “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” This scripture is being fulfilled as you read this. It is taking place in Israel today, as the descendants of Nazi victims rebuild the land to which God has called them. This is good news not only for the Jews but also for the church as well. God is bringing His people, Jew and Gentile, into their inheritance, healing wounds and binding up broken hearts.

It is important for us all to acknowledge the truth of what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Without the Jews, we would have no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible, and most importantly, no Savior! The Bible makes it clear the God requires the Christians of all other nations to acknowledge their debt to the Jews and to do what they can to repay it. In Romans 11:30-31, Paul summed up what he had been saying about the debt and the responsibility of the Gentile Christians toward Israel.

For just as you (Gentiles) once were disobedient to Got, but now have been shown mercy because of their (Israel’s) disobedience, so these (Israelites) also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you (Gentiles) they (Israel) also may now be shown mercy.

In other words, because of the mercy that has come to the Gentile Christians through Israel, God requires the Gentiles in turn to show mercy to Israel. How can this be done? First, the church can cultivate and express an attitude of sincere love for the Jewish People. The church can seek the good of Israel through prayer as Romans 10:1 exhorts. Finally, the church can seek to repay their debt to Israel by performing practical act of kindness and mercy.

The Lord says that the regathering of Israel in our day is a banner raised by Him for the nations to see. Events in Israel and Middle East today are at the center of world attention and media coverage. This period of Israel’s regathering at the end of the age was marked out clearly on God’s prophetic calendar 3000 years ago.

Thou wilt arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come. Surely Thy servants find pleasure in her stones, and feel pity for her dust. So the nations will fear the name of the Lord and all the kings of the earth Thy glory. For the Lord as built up Zion; He has appeared in His glory…This will be written for the generation to come; that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.  (Psalm 102: 13-16, 18)

Now is God’s appointed time to have mercy on Zion and to show favor to her. This is not something that Zion or the Jewish people have earned, but something that comes from God’s sovereign grace and mercy. The main purpose here is to bring glory to God’s name in the sight of all the nations by fulfilling His promises to Israel. We have the privilege of living in the time that the psalmist foresaw. It is the church’s duty to bring praise to God by showing mercy and love to Zion, the Jewish people.

It is of tremendous importance that we grasp the fact that when God makes a covenant, He will never break it. We need to know that. “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips” (Psalm 89:34). The essence of divine revelation is centered in covenant. If God were to break His covenant, we would have no hope. If He were to break His covenant with Israel, why would anyone think that He would not break His covenant with the church? You may say, “Well, Israel failed God.” No doubt. But can you honestly say that the church has not also failed God? Frankly, in my own eyes, I see Israel receiving a covenant and failing dismally. However, I also see the church receiving a covenant and failing even worse than Israel.

The Bible is true, relevant, and up-to-date. God keeps His covenant and promises. He is sovereign. In restoring the Israelites to their land, God has set the stage for the last act of the drama of this age. Every prophecy that relates to the close of this age is predicated on one important factor—the presence of Israel as a sovereign nation within its own borders.

All of this requires a response from God’s church, His believing people. We are not permitted to remain neutral, apathetic, or indifferent. God demands a response. God commanded us through the prophet Jeremiah: “For thus says the Lord, sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chiefs of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save Thy people, the remnant of Israel.’ Behold I am bringing the from the north country and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child together; a great company, they shall return here” (Jeremiah 31:7-8).

God is asking us to intercede for Israel. He is saying, “I am restoring My people. I am regathering them, and I am asking you to unite with Me and My purposes.” When God intends to do something, He tells us we need to pray it into existence. It’s one of those mysteries of God. In other words He says, “This is My intention but it will not happen until you pray.” The church has a tremendous responsibility to be totally committed to the outworking of God’s purposes in history. Are you part of that church upon which God is relying?

Who Wrote The Bible, Really?

imagesShavuot, the Jewish holiday that celebrates God’s giving of the Torah to His people, begins usually at the end of May. God’s law or torah is the spelling out of the details of the Covenant that was agreed upon and sealed at Sinai (see Ex 19:1-23; Num28:26-31). So, it is fitting to ask the question that if the Bible is God’s word, did he sign it? Is His signature there? Is it evident? How do we know it is His word, and so on? Let’s take a look.
Let’s look at 1Kings 7:23. These are instruction for making a cylinder of some sort that has a diameter of 10 cubits. We as moderns know that there is a ratio of radius/diameter to circumference; there is a fixed relationship. Hence when given the radius or diameter of a circle we can find the circumference. We know the circumference is a little more than 3 times the diameter. This is modern geometry.
Ignorant people use this passage in 1Kings to say that God didn’t write the Bible (or even worse that there is no God and if there were He is not all knowing). This passage states that the diameter of the cylinder is to be 10 cubits and the circumference is to be 30 cubits. Why, that is impossible, they proclaim. And, indeed, if that were the end, it would be impossible; but it is not.
The Hebrew text reads that cylinder is to be 10 cubits from lip to lip. The word used for “circumference,” however, has no vowels written with it. This is one of several places in Hebrew Scripture where a word is pronounced one way and written another way. Two meanings can be extracted from the same word. If it is written, the word is kava. If it is spoken, the word is Kav. As you know from my other writings, all letters in Hebrew have a numerical value. Kav equals 106 and Kava equals 111. In Hebrew when a word is written one way and pronounced another way, there is a message which comes out of it showing that God is true.
Samuel or the writers of Kings wanted to tell us that there is a relationship between these numbers. Indeed there is. Three times 111 divided by 106 equals 3.1415! We call that Pi. Archimedes first knew of this relationship about 150-200 years before Christ; but it was Fibonacci who really formulated it around 1200 C.E.. Yet the Bible describes it years before either of these two men. In fact, 3.1415 is more accurate information than one needs to send a man to the moon!
Modern science accredits the formulation of the water vapor cycle to Bernard Palissy, who lived in the 1500’s. Yet the Bible explains this cycle in Gen 2:6 and in Job 37:26, which happens to be the oldest written book in the Bible. It is also told again in Amos 5:8. Apparently, God wanted us to understand how He waters the earth!
In the creation story in Genesis, there are 34 verses in the Hebrew to describe it. Those verses are composed of 92 Hebrew words. How many elements do you need to create the universe? Ninety-two! Just as an aside: the elements from 93-115 don’t exist naturally. They are made artificially and only last a few seconds. Hence, there are 92 building blocks for everything around you and 92 words used to describe it. There is no word for “coincidence” in Hebrew!
There are many, many more examples of God’s signature in the bible. Then why do people insist the Bible was made up by primitive, tribal Bedouins? Did God use man to write it? Of course He did. But He is the author behind it. His signature runs throughout it. And if Bedouins wrote the Bible, where is the rest of their literature they’ve done since then? There isn’t any!
The problem is “cognitive dissonance.” Our minds will block out information that causes our hearts pain. To restate: we block out painful information. Recognizing that God is the true author of the Bible means it has to be taken seriously, man is not in control, and someone is watching us all the time! So man sturctures a world view that the Bible is nonsense, a fiction made up by primitive people a long time ago. They believe the Bible is not the instruction manual for life and if you suggest otherwise; you become the idiot, bigot, religious fundamentalist! One point missed is, of course, that there is someone watching OVER mankind, not just watching mankind. Suggesting that someone is watching over us and protecting us might be something we can offer those who deny the authenticity of the Bible. In other words, they don’t have to be frightened! We understand their everyday life will change when they accept what is written; but, they can know this is the Word of God. In fact, if anyone studies it enough, they will realize the Bible is a love letter from God and that He is speaking to them directly. The purpose: to fulfill our lives!
By the way, the Hebrew word for learn and repeat are the same. That’s how we learn, by repetition. God says that if we want to learn, we do it by repetition. Study, Study, Study His Word! Enjoy this short video showing God’s signature in His creation.

The Power In Giving A Blessing

imagesIn Mark 10:16 we are told that Jesus took children up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this event. What was Jesus doing and why was it important enough for the synoptic writers to record this event?

Children are a sign of the covenant. God’s promises spoken over His people include the promise of offspring. God’s first pronounced blessing was to Adam and Eve when He spoke that they should be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). God pronounced the same type of blessing to Noah in Gen 9:1. And then again to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Gen 17:2, 22:18, and 28:14). Again God promised offspring to David in 2Sam 7:11-12.

It is through our offspring, natural or spiritual, that God’s plan for the future unfolds. He has a plan, not just for today but tomorrow as well. Through our offspring the life of Christ is given to the world.

God instructed Aaron, His first High Priest how to bless. (By the way, if you are a believer in Christ, then you have been called as a priest as well.) God told Moses to speak to Aaron and his sons saying: “Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall SAY (emphasis added) to them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace. So they shall put My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” Num 6:23-27. God said if we pronounce the blessing, He will bless. In the Hebrew this is very much in the present tense. Today we hear preachers saying: “May the Lord bless you…” But it is rather: “The Lord blesses you…” He is the Great I Am not the maybe-I-will-if-I-feel-like-it-sometime-in-the-future.

God does not institute rites for the fun of it. There is no wasted motion in what God does, nor is there a lack of purpose. Every thing that God does, he does so to produce life at a higher level when it is observed. This blessing in Numbers 6 was the vehicle God chose so that He could bless His people. He is present in the blessing, when it is invoked, to impart the blessing. “And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them. (emphasis added)” This is the way God chose to impart something of Himself to His people.

Jesus continued to use this rite of blessing to impart life to His followers and to the future generations. This blessing must be spoken; it is not something wished for silently. In fact, everything man ever receives from God is by the spoken word. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. “The word is nigh thee, even in they mouth, and in they heart; that is the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:8-10).”

Simply put, God is present in the blessing when it is spoken. Why would you not choose to bless your children in the same way Jesus did? The building of Godly character is one of the benefits children receive when the blessing is imparted to them by their parents and others.

When you speak the blessing over others the last part is about God imparting “peace” to His people. The Hebrew word is “Shalom,” which means the sum total of ALL the good which the Lord does for His people. Isn’t that what we want for our children and others?

Children as well as others who receive blessings from their parents and others on a regular basis will notice a difference in their lives. It is God who blesses when His name is invoked over our children and friends. In Jewish families, parents will take a dip of honey and place it on the lips of their small children when invoking the blessing and remind the children that the Word of God is as sweet as honey and much to be desired; a wonderful custom that you might want to begin.

Read how Jacob struggled to receive his blessing (Gen 25), how he fulfilled it in Gen 27—29, and just how important the blessing pronounced and received is. The Apostle Peter tells us that we are called for the very purpose of inheriting a blessing (1Peter 3:9). The Scripture is replete with stories of pronouncing and inheriting a blessing. Search them out. You will be amazed.

In conclusion, every blessing in the Bible is a verbal one. The blessing is not just a desire hidden in the heart. It must be spoken. Words have power when they are released. God said it this way: “Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel, You shall SAY to them. . .”

What Is Apocalyptic Literature?

imagesApocalyptic literature is an ancient literary form or genre in literature. The word apocalypse means revelation. Please note, the word is singular. Usually, an apocalypse is a first-person narrative in which the author relates one or more revelatory visions about the present, future, heavenly world or all three. Jewish apocalypses often reflect a sharp distinction between the present evil age and the imminent future age of blessing. The conflict between a righteous minority and wicket majority is understood as representing a clash between God and Satan. After a period of intense conflict and great suffering, God will decisively intervene in history to vindicate and reward His people and punish or eliminate their earthly oppressors. Further, most Jewish apocalypses use a great deal of symbolism, often quite bizarre.
Apocalyptic literature as noted above is its own genre. If I told you that a “paid political advertisement” was about to come on the television, you would know what to expect. You would expect to hear the degradation of the opposing candidate along with the adulation of the candidate for whom the ad is written. As another example, if I told you the Star Wars movies were being played, you would know that they depict a universe that has been subjected to evil forces; that the high tech background mirrors our society; and that even though the power of good seems to be reduced to one young man, good will triumph over evil.
If you haven’t seen a paid political advertisement or the Star Wars trilogy, you might not know what to expect; and the language, illusions, and symbolism would be lost to you. Apocalyptic literature is the same. It is full of images that have a long history stretching from ancient Near Eastern myth through the Old Testament prophets to Jewish apocalypses like the book of Daniel. These images were also used in the New Testament.
Apocalypse is the Greek word for revelation. From Daniel at the end of the Old Testament to Revelation at the end of the New Testament, we have a wide variety of such visionary writings from both Jewish and Christian circles. Their audiences were familiar with this form of expression, just as people today are familiar with the two examples used above of t.v. ads and movies. Their audiences understood the symbolism used: numbers, colors, horses, messengers, wars, good and evil, names of ancient battle sites, corrupt government, beasts, dragons, lambs, eyes, heads and horns, and so forth. They knew that an apocalypse with symbolic visions of world history was about to unroll the plan of God. The audience understood that they were much closer to the end of history than to its beginning. The apocalypse would reassure the audience that their suffering would visited with divine judgment, that the faithful are not forgotten, and that their reward was to be happiness, fulfillment, and blessings in the future.
Apocalyptic literature comes from people oppressed by imperial powers. That situation is, of course, another reason that they used highly symbolic language, which only people familiar with the tradition of interpreting such images could understand. Criticism of political rulers could be a dangerous business! In fact, oftentimes in ancient apocalyptic writings, the author would hid behind a pseudonym or ancient sage. In the New Testament book of Revelation we see a “revealing angel” instead.
This type of literature involves then more than just a style. It is a specifically religious response to the experience of persecution from without and erosion from within. In literary terms, apocalyptic answers the question posed by the choice between “king” and God. To those suffering for God, it says, be comforted; to those tempted to leave the faith, it says hold fast. There is tension between conviction and experience. The people of the Old Testament knew the law. They knew that to obey it meant they were blessed. But soon came the experience of persecution. They were being put to death simple because they were obeying the law; not because they were impious but because they were pious! Their children and possession were being ripped away and their own taken. God did not seem to be in control. This conflict between experience and conviction was real. It was usually addressed the literary form called apocalyptic.
The key to a proper appreciation of the apocalyptic tradition lies in the realization that apocalypses are more of the nature of poetry than dogma. They are works of art and imagination which are not in general sources of factual information. They were not written with that purpose. Rather, their value lies in their ability to envision alternatives to the world of present experience and thereby provide hope and consolation. As such, they speak to enduring human needs and are a vital part of our religious heritage and experience.