"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Monday, June 3, 2013

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE

By James J. Fire

We have presented before us at the very beginning of the New Testament, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and this is entirely appropriate and right and good, because before anything else may be apprehended in the Christian faith, the Gospel must be understood, received and realized in the life of a repentant sinner who has fallen under the conviction of such by the Holy Spirit and as a result surrendered to Jesus as both LORD and Savior.

One cannot live in the kingdom of God, nor labor or experience any of its benefits until one is born into the kingdom of God; this spiritual rebirth is something that is initialized once God takes up His Holy Habitation in the heart of the humble believer, saved by grace and not of works, by the operation of faith placed in the LORD and His Gospel.

Why then are there four Gospel accounts, rather than just one? Does God have a stuttering problem? Or for that matter, why are there not five Gospel accounts or twelve (one from each of His twelve followers)?

A very good question with any number of legitimate answers!

I offer the following (for the full article, click on the web link below) as a very comprehensive yet concise answer from the site Spirit and Truth:

A TESTIMONY OF JESUS – FOUR GOSPELS


Many have wondered why there are four gospels? Especially if three of the four (synoptic gospels) have so much in common. There are at least two primary answers which can be given to this question:

  1.   Multiple WitnessesMultiple independent eye-witness accounts establishes the reliability of the testimony concerning the life and ministry of Jesus.
  2. Varied Perspectives - Each author recorded the events of Jesus’ life and ministry from a different perspective with different goals and objectives.

Both of these answers explain why there are four gospels. It is to the second of these reasons that we now direct our attention.
Throughout history, students of Scripture have recognized a correlation between the four gospels and four different roles of Christ . . . there is a correspondence between the faces of the cherubim seen by Ezekiel and John and the four gospels (Eze. 1:1-10; 10:14; Rev. 4:7; 21:13).

The Fathers identified [the cherubim and their four faces] with the four Gospels, Matthew the lion (“royalty” as in King of kings and Lord of lords, the Messiah King of Israel as depicted in this Gospel), Mark the ox (“laborious endurance” as in the servant of God and the servant of men, depicted in this Gospel), Luke the man (“brotherly sympathy” as in brotherly sympathy, friend, lover, companion, associate and a leader, the ultimate Man approved of God as depicted in this Gospel), John the eagle (“soaring majesty” as in Deity, eternal, all powerful, God Incarnate as depicted in this Gospel): these symbols, thus viewed, express . . . the manifold aspect of Christ in relation to the world . . .

 These four aspects of the Savior are revealed again in Ezekiel 10:14; Revelation 4:6.
[T]he table below provides compelling evidence of the divine superintendence of the various biblical authors to achieve this intentional result.
For example, the gospel recorded by Matthew has as its primary audience the Jews. Jesus is presented primarily as King of the Jews. His genealogy is given in relation to the father of the Jews, Abraham. This role corresponds to the lion face of the cherubim, the camp of Judah around the tabernacle (Jesus is the “lion of the tribe of Judah,” Gen. 49:9; Rev. 5:5), and the branch” from David who will be “king” (Jer. 23:5-6). Similar correlations occur for the other gospels.




The Gospels Compared

Gospel
Focus8
Portrait9
Key Verses10
Lineage
Face11
Camp of Israel
The Branch12
Matthew
Jews
King Messiah
Mat. 1:1; 16:16; 20:28
From Abraham (Mat.1:1)
Lion (Gen. 49:9; Rev.5:5+)
Judah (East)
King (Jer. 23:5-6)
Mark
Romans
Lowly Servant
Mark 1:8; 8:27; 10:45;15:34
None13
Ox
Ephraim (West)
Servant (Zec. 3:8)
Luke
Hellenists
Son of Man
Luke 19:10
From Adam (Luke 3:23)
Man (Dan. 7:13+)
Reuben (South)
Man (Zec. 6:12)
John
Greek World
Son of God (Ps. 2:7; Pr.30:4)
John 20:31
From Eternity 
(John 1:1)
Eagle (Gen. 49:16)
Dan (North)
Lord (Isa. 4:2)14


4.7.1 - Which Face, Which Gospel? 



There is objective evidence found within Scripture itself which reliably establishes the intended emphasis of each gospel. This evidence is found in the genealogies of Christ which establish the line of Jesus from  Abraham  (Matthew),  Adam (Luke), and eternity (John). Thus we know with some certainty that Matthew presents Jesus as King of the Jews, Luke as the Son of Man, and John as the Son of God. The only remaining question is that of the presentation of Mark. There being no genealogy in Mark, it seems plain that the emphasis of servant (servants or slaves in the Roman Empire never bore genealogies) fits his gospel.

 The fourfold identification of “the BRANCH” in the Old Testament provides additional objective Scriptural support for the fourfold correlation: King (Jer. 23:5-6); Servant (Zec.3:8); Man (Zec. 6:12); Lord (Isa. 4:2).


4.7.2 - Camp of Israel

Scripture informs us that the earthly patterns given by God are often a shadow of a greater heavenly reality (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 9:8, 23; 10:1; Rev. 15:5). So it is not a great surprise when we find similarities between Israel’s encampment in the wilderness around the tabernacle of meeting and the heavenly realm surrounding God’s throne. Given the level of detail which attends God’s instructions concerning the encampment (Num. 2), it would be unusual if there were no symbolism to be found in it.
The camp was to be set up as follows:
The tabernacle of meeting was in the center.
The camp of Judah, consisting of the tribes of Judah (74,800), Issachar (84,400), and Zebulun (57,400), a total of 186,400 men, camped to the east (Num. 2:3-7).
The camp of Reuben, consisting of the tribes of Reuben (46,500), Simeon (59,300), and Gad (45,650), a total of 151,450 men, camped to the south (Num. 2:10-16).
The camp of Ephraim, consisting of the tribes of Ephraim (40,500), Manasseh (32,200), and Benjamin (35,400), a total of 108,100 men, camped to the west (Num. 2:18-24).
The camp of Dan, consisting of the tribes of Dan (62,700), Asher (41,500), and Naphtali (53,400), a total of 157,600 men, camped to the north (Num. 2:25-31).
Each group was to “camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house” [emphasis added] (Num. 2:2).

The tribe of Levi was unnumbered and camped around all sides (east, south, west and north) of the tabernacle (Num. 2:17, 33). “Between these camps and the court surrounding the tabernacle, the three leading mishpachoth of the Levites were to be encamped on three sides, and Moses and Aaron with the sons of Aaron (i.e., the priests) upon the fourth, i.e., the front or eastern side, before the entrance (Num. 3:21-22).”
 The word for his own standard means “to put up the flag” and is used of “a troop with banners.”19 It is derived from the word meaning look, behold.20 The standards provided a visual rallying symbol for each camp when stationary and on the move (Num. 2:2-3, 10, 17-18, 25, 31, 34; 10:14, 18, 22, 25). Ensign is “This is the general word for ‘sign,’ and it covers the entire range of the English term and the Greek word sÄ“meion. On the pedestrian end of the scale it includes what amounts to a ‘signboard’ or ‘standard’ (Num 2:2). It also includes such important concepts as the rainbow ‘sign’ to Noah (Gen. 9:12-13, 17).”

Both standard and ensign speak of flags which uniquely signify each camp or tribe. In order for the camps to be differentiated, such standards would necessarily differ in color, insignia, or both.
Since the tabernacle was quite small, it seems impractical for the four cardinal directions to have been restricted in width by the dimensions of the tabernacle itself. It seems likely that the Levites, who were not numbered, camped around the tabernacle equally in all four directions and then the other four camps extended outward from there. Given Levitical attention to detail, whoever camped outside of the clear directions of east, south, west, and north (e.g., northwest) would be violating these directional instructions (e.g., by being both north and west).
. . . the view from above [therefore], as Balaam saw it (Num. 23:9) may have resembled a cross:
Camp of Israel
This assumes a uniform width for each camp—which cannot be known with certainty. If the boundary between each camp was taken to be on a diagonal (e.g., northwest, northeast, etc.) then the formation of the camp would have not been that of a cross. Even so, this does not adversely affect our main point—that the camp of Israel is a shadow of the heavenly throne.
As to the contents of each camp’s standard, tradition tells us that each camp had a different symbol upon its standard:
Neither the Mosaic law, nor the Old Testament generally, gives us any intimation as to the form or character of the standard (degel). According to rabbinical tradition, the standard of Judah bore the figure of a lion, that of Reuben the likeness of a man or of a man’s head, that of Ephraim the figure of an ox, and that of Dan the figure of an eagle; so that the four living creatures united in the cherubic forms described by Ezekiel were represented upon these four standards.
Jewish tradition says the “four standards” under which Israel encamped in the wilderness, to the east, Judah, to the north, Dan, to the west, Ephraim, to the south, Reuben, were respectively a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man, while in the midst was the tabernacle containing the Shekinah symbol of the Divine Presence.
Jewish tradition holds that the standards contained the very symbols Scripture reveals in association with the four living creatures (Eze. 1:10; 10:14; Rev. 4:7).

4.7.3 - A Shadow of the Heavenly

Even if some of the details of the camp of Israel differ from those shown above, it would appear that the camp is intended as a shadow of the heavenly throne room. God’s shekinah glory dwells between the cherubim over the mercy seat above the Ark in the tabernacle. Around the tabernacle the Levites (priests) are camped. Around the Levites are the four camps of Israel, each with a standard bearing one of the faces of the cherubim seen by Ezekiel. These picture aspects of heaven.


Camp of Israel as a Shadow of Heaven
Earthly
Heavenly
Tabernacle in the Wilderness (Ex. 25:9; 26:1)
Temple in Heaven (Rev. 7:15; 11:19; 14:15-17; 15:5-6, 816:1, 17)
Ark of the Testimony (Ex. 25:10)
Ark of the Testimony (Rev. 11:19)
Cherubim upon the Ark (Ex. 25:1)
Cherubim in Heaven around the Throne (Eze. 1:10; Rev. 4:6-7)
Levites (priests) around the Tabernacle (Num. 1:5; 2:17)
Elders (priests) around the Throne (Rev. 4:4)
Standards of the Camps around the Tabernacle (Lion, Ox, Man, Eagle)
Faces of the Cherubim around the Throne (Eze. 1:10; Rev. 4:7)

 
It is our view that the camp of Israel in the wilderness is an intentional shadow of the four faces of Ezekiel’s cherubs (Eze. 1:10) and the likenesses of John’s living creatures (Rev. 4:7) which, in turn, reflect the four primary roles of the Messiah which the gospels record. In their proximity to the throne of God, the faces of the cherubim provide an “echo” or “reflection” of these roles.

Here ends the material provided by Spirit And Truth ministries.

THE TWO DICHOTOMIES –

Jesus Christ Who is the Holy King of Israel is the KING of Kings, and history shows what Kings have been like; many were notorious and self-seeking; some others have been good and faithful stewards over their kingdoms. Yet none of them took on the role of a lowly servant whose objective was to serve their people in the most humbling and demeaning fashion.
Yet we have Jesus Who was entirely lowly and wholly meek (Matt. 11:29) and took upon Himself the role of a servant, but even more so, a servant who served His people by dying for their sins (Phil. 2:6-8)!

Never has such a dichotomy with these two roles of both Sovereign and Almighty King and the suffering servant as sacrifice found at polar opposites been seen in any man, and yet we have Jesus here who embodies both perfectly.

An even more profound dichotomy is found with Jesus being entirely, one hundred percent human in quality and yet also being entirely, one hundred percent Deity. In humanity, entirely untarnished by sin in any way – one of His titles is “the last Adam” being the perfect man (as was Adam prior to the fall, but to an even greater degree and with some essential differences).
He is fully God with the entire mind and heart of God, the power and glory of God which He laid aside for a time during His earthly ministry, and having within Himself the innate, life giving Spirit in His Person, being One with the Father.

Thus we have Matthew’s and John’s Gospels coupled together depicting Jesus as both the Messiah King and God made flesh.
Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels are coupled together portraying Jesus as both Servant and Man.
These four testimonies form the quintessential quintet of commentary that reveals Jesus in all of His holy, glorious, amazingly wondrous and worshipful aspects. 

BACKGROUND ON THE WRITERS –

Many Bible scholars believe of the four, the Gospel of Mark was probably written first, that being actually the Gospel according to Peter, but with John Mark (Acts 12:12, 25) as his amanuensis because the apostle at that time couldn’t read or write. It is believed that much that is contained in Mark was copied over by Matthew, but with the addition of discourses (such as the Sermon on the Mount, Chapters Five through Seven) and parables (Matt. Ch. 13) added.

Of the Gospel Writer that concerns this particular study we have this to share:

Matthias Levi (of course, from the tribe of Levi) was eligible for the priesthood, to serve in the temple, but instead, we find him in the profession of tax collector for Rome; an occupation much despised by those whose patriotism for their homeland of Israel was unquestioned and who sought liberation from the heavy yoke of the Roman Empire. The Jews hated publicans (tax collectors) and believed them to be traitors, which is a marvel when one considers that the LORD Jesus Christ chose him to be among the twelve.

The LORD Jesus is such a marvel Himself that He would choose any of us is a profound act of grace, far more to choose from among those that are least esteemed or even hated by society and their popular views! The fact that the LORD also chose Simon Zealotes to be among the chosen twelve, a man whose affiliation was with an extremist group of Jews that actively sought the overthrow of Rome – representing the opposite end of the social spectrum. A tax collector for Rome and a zealot that hated and wanted its overthrow – brought together in service to the LORD Jesus Christ!

Here is the Prince of Peace, bringing together those whose animosity for each other would be most evident, and yet bringing peace in the midst and harmonious ministry between them!

Being a tax collector, Matthew was most likely a learned writer and may well have employed a kind of ‘Hebrew short-hand’ (as he would have to take dictation at speed and there were no recording devices in that day obviously, such a skill would prove highly useful). This sort of linguistic skill is suggested in the Psalms (Psalm 45:1) of “the ready writer”. Having such a skill at taking dictation quickly and accurately would make Matthew the perfect choice to record the discourses and parables of Jesus. One could picture him sitting on a rock nearby as the LORD spoke the various teachings, pen in hand and writing industriously the very words spoken by the WORD Incarnate!

So then, the idea that the Gospels were written centuries later is absurd, as much that is recorded in them indicates facts and observations that would had to have occurred at the time that they happened.

Early on in the ministry of the LORD, He came across Matthias Levi, busy at work at his booth and beckoned him to follow Him (Luke 5:27-28); he believed on Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) as did all of His followers (Matt. 16:15-16).

The Messiah in the Old Testament Scriptures is seen as the Shepherd of Israel and we see this in type with the man, David (of the tribe of Judah) who was a simple shepherd at the time when he was anointed by Samuel the prophet to be King over Israel (to replace Saul of the tribe of Benjamin).

The beloved Psalm 23 declares that “The LORD is my Shepherd” and this Psalm is positioned between two other Messianic Psalms (22 and 24) and together, these three form a triad of testimony regarding the Messiah: Psalm 22 speaks of His sufferings and atonement for His people, vividly describing in prophetic voice, an uncanny first-hand accounting of the very occurrences on Golgotha when Jesus was crucified.
Psalm 23 reveals the LORD as the Shepherd Who now tends His flock, gathering into one fold (John 10:16) all that are His, both Jews and Gentiles; yet once He has called out a “people for His name” (Acts 15:14) and the church is completed, He will “build again the tabernacle of David” that is to re-establish the kingdom of Israel with Himself reigning over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:33).
And this brings us to Psalm 24, a Messianic Psalm that speaks of the rule of Messiah during that kingdom age we know as the Millennium period (that follows directly after Daniel’s 70th week or the “time of Jacob’s Trouble; Dan. 9:24-27; Jer. 30:6-8); see Rev. 20:2-5.

Here ends the first segment of our study. We shall pick up from here next time and turn out attention to "The MISSION of the MESSIAH"!

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