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The Passover Lamb Was Not a Sin Sacrifice
Why Yahweh Ordered the Slaughter of Canaan
The Two Witnesses of Rev. 11
The Sixth Hour of John 19:14
Thieves and Malefactors
About the "Triumphal Entry"
What is a Prophet?
The Passover Lamb Was Not a Sacrifice
"According to Bahr, it (the Passover lamb) was a thank offering; but Hengstenberg has shown that it is a sin offering in the fullest and most proper sense, the basis and central point of all sin-offerings..." This quote from the Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown Bible Commentary makes the claim that the Passover lamb was a sin sacrifice: a sacrifice offered up to Yahweh as an atonement or covering for sin. This commentary stresses the fact that the Passover lamb was a blood sacrifice, automatically equating the shedding of blood with atonement (or "covering") for sin. This view of the Passover lamb as a sin sacrifice is a belief common to many, yet is it true?
Was the Passover lamb in fact a sacrifice for sin? What does Scripture say? The answer to this question is amazingly easy to find.
In Exodus 11:4-7 and 12:3-14 we see the circumstances and provisions for the first Passover. After the first nine of the well-known plagues inflicted upon Egypt because of Pharaoh's refusal to release the people of Israel, Yahweh speaks this word through Moses: "...About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh...even unto the firstborn of the maidservant...and all the firstborn of the beasts...but against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue...that ye may know that Yahweh doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." Again He says, "...take...a lamb...without blemish...ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly...shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it...For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast...and the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you..."
From this passage we learn the purpose and import of the death of the Passover lamb: to save the firstborn of Israel, whether man or beast (and perhaps also the firstborn of any others who obeyed Yahweh's orders in this matter - a possible explanation for the mixed multitude who went up out of Egypt with Israel in Ex. 12:38). While the blood of the Passover lamb was placed on the door posts of the houses as a type of covering, effectively hiding the firstborn inside from the death passing over them, nowhere is this blood connected with a covering for sin - it is always connected with salvation of, and later redemption of, the firstborn of Israel. In Ex. 13:1 & 2, Yahweh commands Moses: "Sanctify (or set apart) unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine." The explanation for this is given in verse 15: "...when Pharaoh would hardly let us (Israel) go...Yahweh slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to Yahweh all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem."
Interestingly enough, these redeemed firstborn were later exchanged for the Levites (Num. 3:12) - "...behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be Mine; Because all the firstborn are Mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto Me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: Mine shall they be: I am Yahweh." We see here a chosen priesthood, taken in exchange for the firstborn of Israel which were bought or saved by the blood of that Passover lamb. In like manner we see the fulfillment of this in that chosen generation and royal priesthood spoken of in I Peter 2:9, an assembly of firstborn (Heb. 12:22-23), who were redeemed by the shed blood of the "Lamb of God" (John 1:36).
Some will disagree with this understanding, arguing that the Passover lamb pointed directly to Yahshua as the fulfillment of the lamb's symbolism, and since we know for certain that Yahshua was a sacrifice for sin (Rom. 6:9-10; Heb. 9:11-14; 10:10-12; 13:10-15; etc.), then the Passover lamb must have been a sin sacrifice. This argument not only ignores the testimony of the Scriptures in Exodus and related passages elsewhere, it also shows a grievous lack of understanding of the fact that Yahshua came for many purposes. He was not only a sacrifice for sin, He was also our Passover lamb (I Cor. 5:7), He was the Seed in which all nations would be blessed (Gen. 22:18), He was that Prophet spoken of to Moses in Deut. 18:18 & 19; He was the Light of the Gentiles (Is 42:6, Luke 2:32, etc.); He was the Son of God spoken of in Psa. 2:7 & Heb. 1:5 - He came to fulfill many more types and prophecies than can be addressed in this type of article: one of those types that He fulfilled was the Passover lamb.
Yahshua's death as a sin sacrifice came not in fulfillment of the symbolism of the Passover lamb: it came when He died before the 15th day of the first month of the sacred calendar. This was the day before the beginning of the Days of Unleavening, when leaven - as a type and symbol of sin - was to be entirely removed from all households. It was a day when leaven (sin) was to be completely removed from God's people, from their daily diets, their households - in effect, from their lives. On the day when those obedient to His laws were removing the last of the leavening from their homes, Yahshua died in order to completely remove sin from this world.
Yes, Yahshua was a sacrifice for sin, given once and for all, as Heb. 10:10 clearly says. However, we must not confuse that sacrifice for sin with the death of the Passover lamb which was given for the salvation and redemption of the firstborn of Yahweh's chosen people, which later brought Him a sanctified group of servants, dedicated to Him and His service. Yahshua truly was our Passover lamb, the firstborn of many brothers (Rom. 8:29), our Redeemer and our Salvation; and we are His chosen people, considered firstborn sons in our Father's sight, and made kings and priests unto our Father (Rev. 1:6).
Paul tells us in Eph. 1:10, "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him..." In Col. 1:19-20, he says, "For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and...by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." We must understand that Yahshua came to fulfill many things, and we must rightly divide between His death for salvation of the firstborn and His magnificent sacrifice for the sins of mankind. If we understand the many types, prophecies, and promises He came to fulfill, we can clearly see that Yahshua truly was "Him That filleth all in all."
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Why Yahweh Ordered the Slaughter of Canaan
"But of the cities of these people, which Yahweh thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as Yahweh thy God hath commanded thee..." (Deut. 20:16-18)
This passage in Deuteronomy, along with others (Deut. 7:1-5; Josh. 6:17, 8:24, 9:24; etc.) make reference to instructions given to the Israelites by Yahweh to slaughter the inhabitants of Canaan when Israel came into possession of that land. Some people use these passages as examples of contradiction in Scripture: they claim that God's order to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan is a direct contradiction of the 6th commandment - "Thou shalt not kill" - given in Ex. 20:13. Others cannot understand such a broad and apparently merciless order to slaughter thousands of men, women, and children. While such confusion is understandable, if we search the Scriptures we may learn why these deaths were necessary and not contradictory to God's commandment.
The most obvious answer to the question of why Yahweh ordered such a large-scale death sentence for Canaan lies in Deut. 7:1-4: "When Yahweh your God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest...and hath cast out...the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites...thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them...For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of Yahweh be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly", and then in verse 16: "neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee."
This is clear enough for the simplest mind to understand. The people in the land which Yahweh was giving to Israel were pagans who worshipped false gods. Yahweh in His love for His people refused to allow them to be exposed to such idolatry and possibly be lured into participating in them. Such participation in idolatry and paganism would have brought condemnation and destruction upon them, for Yahweh forbade worship of any God besides Himself (Ex. 20:1-6). Rather than sending His people into temptation, He required that these Canaanites and their false religion be exterminated from the land so that Israel might come in and settle without the handicap of such pagan influences.
Related to this subject of paganism, some might ask, "Why such harsh punishment simply because these people worshipped false gods?" Aside from the fact that such false worship denied Yahweh the worship due Him as the only living God and Creator of this world, Deut. 12:29-31 gives us a precise and chilling explanation: "When Yahweh thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.' Thou shalt not do so unto Yahweh thy God: for every abomination to Yahweh, which He hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods."
Such a murderous and bloodthirsty people deserved immediate destruction - this is unarguably true - but even here we may observe an example of God's mercy: we know that Yahweh had given the Canaanites time to repent of their wicked acts, for when He covenanted with Abraham, He told him, "...Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs...and they shall afflict them four hundred years...but in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." We see here at least a four hundred year grace period before Yahweh began to send His people in to possess Canaan, during which time they could have repented and turned from their murderous ways. However, they clearly did not repent and therefore brought the judgment of God upon themselves and their children.
Why such judgment on the children as well as the adults? Because every inhabitant of Canaan was tainted by the idolatrous and murderous practices of the people of that land, up to and including the children of the land: children dedicated to worship of bloodthirsty, pagan gods and trained up in idolatry and bloodshed by their pagan parents. Rather than allow the offspring of such wickedness to mature and fall into the same wickedness and condemnation, Yahweh in His mercy ordained their destruction, thereby reserving them for a better existence in the future, free from the influence of such horrible sin.
As for the question of whether Yahweh's order for the destruction of Canaan contradicted His sixth commandment not to "kill" (a word better rendered "commit murder"), we need only look back to Genesis 9:6 - "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man." This does not simply mean, "Whoso sheddeth an adult man's blood", which some might claim would release the Canaanites from responsibility for simply shedding children's blood: the words rendered "man's" and "man" in this verse are Strong's #120 - "adam" - which refers to human beings of any age, i.e. mankind. As far back as Genesis, Yahweh specifically stated that the shedding of any human being's blood - regardless of the victim's age - required a death penalty which was to be carried out by other human beings. It is clear that this law was given to Noah to pass on to mankind in general as an active, immediate deterrent to murder until the Sinai law was given.
The law in Genesis 9 was given in order to prevent mankind from wantonly shedding each other's blood. However, the Canaanites had indulged in such bloodshed for hundreds of years without repentance or retribution. We know from Yahweh's testimony that the Canaanites as a group approved of and participated in the murder of their own children for their pagan worship. (We can only surmise what other murderous practices they followed, both in their worship and in their relations with each other and neighboring peoples.) When Yahweh ordered Israel to enter into Canaan and utterly destroy the inhabitants of that land, He was not only requiring fulfillment of a law older than the Sinai law, a law which embraced the Canaanites, a law against murder that was, in fact, complementary to the sixth commandment; He was also exacting a long-deferred justice against the murderous and idolatrous inhabitants of the land of Canaan who had spent centuries spilling the blood of their own offspring as part of their pagan worship.
With this understanding, we see that there is no contradiction in God's commands concerning this subject. We know that our God hates murder and bloodshed, so much so that He devoted one of His ten commandments to outlawing it; but we also know that human beings have shed each other's blood since the blood of righteous Abel was shed by his brother Cain. In order to prevent such bloodshed from continuing unchecked and running rampant, very early in Genesis Yahweh ordered that anyone who shed another's blood should be put to death. Later on in Exodus, He outlawed murder specifically and made provision in the Sinai laws for punishment for any killing that should occur, as well as making a distinction between murder and manslaughter (Ex. 21:12-14; Deut. 19:4-5 & 11-12; etc.). He then sent the Israelites into Canaan and used them as the human avengers of blood required by the Genesis law to exact punishment for centuries of murder and bloodshed.
No contradiction exists in these events and laws - on the contrary, they only show the great concern God has for the creation of His hands. In every way He seeks to preserve human life - that precious life which was created in His image - by outlawing bloodshed and murder, by providing punishment for it, by deferring punishment in hope of repentance, and then finally by exacting punishment in order to provide an active deterrent to murder. In all of this we can see again, as always, the loving and non-contradictory nature of our Creator - unchanging and merciful forever.
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The Two Witnesses of Rev. 11
In Rev. 11:3-12 we are introduced to two witnesses - martyrs for the word and service of God:
"And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. these have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
"And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
"And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
"And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, 'Come up hither.' and they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them."
Who are these two witnesses? Some common interpretations include: the Old Testament and the New Testament; spiritual Israel and physical Israel; the angels Michael and Gabriel; the United States and Great Britain; and other such creative views. In order to come to a clearer understanding of the nature of these two, we must turn to Scripture and let it interpret itself.
In verse 4 of the above passage, these witnesses are called "two olive trees" and "two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." These are clear references to Zech. 4, where Zechariah is shown a candlestick with seven lamps and beside it two olive trees. In verse 11, he asks, "...'What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?' And (he) answered again, and said unto him, 'What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?'" The angel with him (v.1) explains: "These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
The key to this passage is the phrase "two anointed ones". The words here come from Strong's #1121 and #3323 - literally, "sons of oil". While the passage as a whole is couched in symbolism, this phrase tells us that it speaks of more than trees and candlesticks: these symbols refer to two anointed sons.
The next question is "Sons of what?" While these passages in Zechariah and Revelation do not explain this outright, their wording and connection to each other give us clues. According to Rev. 11, these are two people: they are clothed in sackcloth (v. 3); they prophesy, and they are able to inflict fire, drought, waters of blood, and plagues upon the earth (v. 6); they have a testimony to give, and they are able to be killed (v. 7); they have bodies (v. 8); and they are able to be resurrected (v. 11). According to both Zech. 4:14 and Rev. 11:4, they stand "by (or before) the Lord of the earth" - which in context obviously means that they are God's faithful servants, ever abiding in His presence as all the faithful do. From all of this, we can safely deduce that these two are considered sons of God: spiritually begotten individuals dedicated to God's service, given knowledge of His truth, and prepared to serve Him even unto death.
The fact that these two are called anointed sons can mean two things: The first is that they have literally been anointed to a particular calling and service to God, as many people and things were in the Old Testament (Gen. 28:18-19; Lev. 7:35 & 36; Lev. 8:10-12; Num. 6:15; I Sam. 10:1; I Sam. 16:13; I Kings 1:39; II Kings 9:3; etc.). The second is that, in connection with the lamps, pipes, and oil in Zechariah 4, the oil in question represents an outpouring of the Holy Spirit from them. If this interpretation is true, then the seven lamps on the candlestick into which their oil is emptied (Zech. 4:2) could be a reference to the seven candlesticks in Rev. 1:11-12, & 20 which represent seven assemblies. This possibility opens several interesting lines of thought concerning the connection between those assemblies and the two witnesses in Rev. 11. Because of the meaning of the passages, either view is acceptable: perhaps there is a duality in the prophecies that allows both to be correct.
The fact that these witnesses are called "two candlesticks" is a reference to Ps. 119:105; Matt. 5:15-16; Mark 4:21 & 22; Luke 11:33; and other Scriptures which teach us that God's word, those who obey that word, and the deeds of those obedient ones are given to the world in order to guide them in His path. They are to shine out like a lamp on a hill to show those in the dark the way to our Father's light. The two witnesses are given as a light to those in the troublous times of Revelation to provide a testimony and an example of faith to the inhabitants of the world at that time. They are a vivid proof of God's truth and power.
Are these two witnesses male? In Rev. 11 no clue is given to their gender - they are simply called "My two witnesses". However, Zech. 4:14 plainly calls them "sons of oil". While many may believe that this is proof positive that these two can only be male, since they are referred to as "sons", another possibility exists. If we possess an understanding of the concept of sonship as revealed under the New Covenant, we know that sonship applies to all of our Father's begotten people, male or female, transforming them spiritually into His own sons. (For more on the subject of sonship, see our article "An Introduction to Sonship".) With this understanding we can see that the two witnesses are not necessarily physical males, but rather spiritual sons of God, and can therefore be either male or female.
So, what are the two witnesses and what do they mean for us today? They are two human beings, called and anointed to our Father's service, appointed to prophesy and testify to the inhabitants of the world in the end times, given as a light of God's truth the darkness of tribulation, destined to die as witnesses to God's word and His power over death. They may be male or female, will serve for three and one-half years, and will be filled with the Holy Spirit which gives them power to perform awesome deeds in Yahshua's name.
We do not yet see these two working openly in God's service, but even so, John's prophecy concerning them is a great comfort to us until the time comes for them to begin their ministry: we can look to them for immediate inspiration and encouragement. They testify to us that even in the darkest days, when it seems that evil has taken control of the entire world, our God will not abandon mankind: He will always provide a light to His people. They inspire us to hold to our faith until the very end, for then we may overcome even in death. They encourage us to remain faithful in our service to our God, for perhaps even we may perform great deeds in His name as they will. They remind us that the day is coming when God's people will serve Him before the entire world, acting as both a warning and an encouragement to all people.
May those days and that service come to us all soon.
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The Sixth Hour of John 19:14
"When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Yahshua forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, 'Behold your King!' But they cried, 'Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him.' Pilate saith unto them, 'Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar.' Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Yahshua, and led Him away."
In this passage we see the events immediately surrounding Yahshua's sentencing before Pilate. This passage clearly states that the sentencing occurred at "about the sixth hour". Contained in this one simple statement is the basis of a firestorm of confusion and debate concerning the time of Yahshua's sentencing, His crucifixion, and His death.
The problem becomes manifest when we compare the passage above with Mark 15:24 & 25 - "And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him." While John puts the sentencing at "about the 6th hour", Mark puts the actual crucifixion at the third hour - apparently three hours before the sentencing, which is an obvious impossibility.
Our goal here is to present a viable solution to this problem that not only reconciles these two passages but at the same time agrees with testimonies regarding other events during this period of time. In examining the subject we find three possible solutions to our problem, which we present and discuss here.
To begin with, the explanation most commonly offered is that the 6th hour given by John is midnight of Abib 14 according to the Jewish method of counting the hours of the day beginning first at sunset (approximately 6:00 p.m.) and counting twelve hours, then beginning again at sunrise (about 6:00 a.m.) and counting twelve more hours. This is explanation does not apply for three reasons. The first is that this interpretation requires an impossible amount of action be crammed into the hours between Yahshua's Passover observance soon after sunset and His sentencing at midnight - a period of only 6 hours. A careful examination of these events reveals this impossibility. The second problem with this interpretation is that it requires us to believe that Pilate disturbed himself in the middle of the night in order to participate in these proceedings, which is very difficult to accept. Finally, it says elsewhere that "as soon as it was day, the elders...chief priests, and scribes...led Him into their council...and the whole multitude of them arose and led Him unto Pilate" (Luke 22:66, 23:1). This last point alone forces us to reject the possibility that John's "sixth hour" was midnight of the 14th.
The second most common explanation is that John was using Roman timing, counting from midnight to midnight, (making his 6th hour fall at about 6 a.m.), while Mark was using the Jewish reckoning mentioned above. This interpretation would put Yahshua's sentencing at about 6:00 a.m. according to John, and His crucifixion at about 9:00 a.m. according to Mark. While this explanation is better than the first, it is still unsatisfactory: If Yahshua truly was first taken to Pilate at daybreak as weve noted from Lukes account, then we are still faced with the time spent passing Yahshua back and forth between Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:6-11), Pilate's questioning of Him (John 18:29:40), scourging and mocking Him (John 19:1-3), etc. Because of the time taken with these proceedings, this makes it impossible for Yahshua to have first been taken to Pilate at 6:00 a.m., as Luke testifies, and also have the sentencing fall at 6:00 a.m., as in Johns account.
The third possible explanation is that John and Mark (as well as Matthew and Luke) were all using a reckoning of the day that broke the day into 8 equal segments: four watches in the night, four "hours" in the day:
The Jewish day was divided from sunset to sunset, in 8 equal parts:
First Watch: Sunset - 9 p.m. Second Watch: 9 p.m. - Midnight Third Watch: Midnight - 3 a.m. Fourth Watch: 3 a.m. - Sunrise
First "Hour": Sunrise - 9 a.m. Third "Hour": 9 a.m. - Noon Sixth "Hour": Noon - 3 p.m. Ninth "Hour": 3 p.m. - Sunset
(A study into the use of the word "watch" (not only in the New Testament but also in the Old), as well as the frequent uses of "third hour", "sixth hour", and "ninth hour" in the New Testament lends credence to this concept of 8 broad divisions of a 24 hour period. The Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown Bible Commentary also supports this concept, as do several Jewish and Messianic web sites.)
We see by this that the third "hour" embraces a three hour time span which ends at noon and the sixth "hour" embraces a span that begins at noon and ends three hours later. This may be the solution to our problem. John says that it was "about the sixth hour" when Yahshua was sentenced: here John is looking at the beginning of the sixth hour's three hour span, in essence saying "a little before noon". Mark puts the crucifixion at the third hour - meaning around noon - because he's looking at the end of the third hour's three hour span. While this interpretation places the crucifixion later in the day than is commonly accepted - around 12:00 noon rather than 9:00 a.m. - it does resolve much of the difficulty presented by the first two explanations. More importantly, this interpretation has the Gospelists all using the same reckoning of time: we see now that the difference is in how they perceive the time.
In support of this idea, we can look at how the different Gospelists counted the days between Peter's declaration concerning Yahshua being "the Messiah, the Son of the living God", and His transfiguration. Matthew 17:1 and Mark 9:2 put this interval at 6 days, while Luke 9:28 puts it at 8 days. Here we either have a contradiction of facts between the Gospelists, or else the writers are simply perceiving the time differently. If we reject the contradiction (as we must), we are left with the understanding that Matthew and Mark perceived the time as 6 days between the declaration and the transfiguration, while Luke perceived it as 8 days beginning with the day of the declaration and ending with the day of the transfiguration: Matthew and Mark counted "exclusively" and Luke counted "inclusively". In similar fashion, while John sees the period of time just before noon as "about the sixth hour" - i.e., almost the beginning of the third segment of the day - Mark sees that time as the end of the second segment of the day - or, the end of "the third hour".
Also, this interpretation does no harm either to the timing of "darkness from the 6th hour to the 9th hour" (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44) or to Yahshua's death at about the 9th hour (Matt.27:46-50; Mark 15:34-37; Luke 23:44-46), because this interval (6th hour to 9th hour) could embrace as much as 6 hours or as little as three, but it would still have Yahshua dying somewhere between 3:00 p.m. and sunset at around 6:00 p.m.
While this subject demands continued study, we present this as a possible solution to the vexing problem of John's "sixth hour". It is our hope that this article will provide a new way of approaching the subject, resolve some of the difficulty it presents, and perhaps inspire others to search Scripture in order to either prove its truth or to provide an even better solution to this difficult question.
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Thieves and Malefactors
When speaking of the events of Yahshua's crucifixion, most people believe that two men were crucified with Him, one on either side of Him. While this may seem to be a relatively unimportant subject, some people have pointed out that there are "contradictions" in the passages dealing with these men and when they were crucified. Rather than simply accept that these contradictions might exist, let us examine the passages and try to resolve them instead.
We find four specific passages which speak of those who were crucified with Yahshua:
"And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of the skull...they crucified Him, and parted His garments...and sitting down they watched Him there; and set up over His head His accusation written, 'THIS IS YAHSHUA THE KING OF THE JEWS'..Then there were two thieves crucified with Him, one on the right hand, and another on the left." (Matt. 27:33-38)
"And they bring Him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He received it not. And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take...And the superscription of His accusation was written over, 'THE KING OF THE JEWS.' And with Him they crucify two thieves; the one on His right hand, and the other on His left." (Mark 15:22-27)
"And there were also two other, malefactors, led with Him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left." (Luke 23:32-33)
"And He bearing His stake went forth into a place called [the place] of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Yahshua in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the stake. And the writing was, 'YAHSHUA OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.'" (John 19:17-19)
Two things immediately become evident here:
1 - It appears that in Matthew and Mark the other men were crucified well after Yahshua was crucified, while in Luke and John they were led to the place and crucified along with him.
2 - Matthew and Mark call the men "thieves", while Luke calls the "malefactors".
Are these contradictions, or is there an explanation for the differences in these accounts? Let's first look at the meaning of the words used here. The word "thieves" comes from Strong's #3027 - "leistes" (from "leizomai - to plunder), translated robber or thief. The word "malefactors" is Strong's #2557 - "kakourgos, a wrong-doer, i.e. criminal", translated evil-doer or malefactor. While the difference in these definitions may seem small, the fact is that the Gospelists used two completely different words to describe these men. This is a good indication that instead of only two men being crucified with Yahshua, there were two sets of men crucified with Him - two men were robbers, the other two were common criminals or evil-doers.
If we follow this line of reasoning further, we find support for it in the details of these accounts: in John and Luke the criminals (malefactors) were led to Golgotha along with Yahshua and crucified at the same time as He was. Matthew and Mark tell us that the robbers were crucified some time after Yahshua was, even after the soldiers had parted His garments. Either these details contradict each other, or there truly were two sets of men crucified when Yahshua was.
If this is true, then we have an explanation for another piece of this puzzle: Both Matthew and Mark tell us that those crucified with Him mocked Him, along with the priests, scribes, and elders (Matt. 27:41-44; Mark 15:31-32), yet in Luke 23:39 only one of them "railed on Him", while the other defended Him and was blessed by Him. Again, either this is a contradiction, or Matthew and Mark are speaking of both of the thieves mocking Him (as it clearly says), while in Luke only one of the malefactors spoke against Him (again clearly stated).
Finally, this explanation will clarify one passage in John 19 which seems somewhat illogical if we believe that there were only two men crucified with Him. "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him. but when they came to Yahshua, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs." (John 19:32-33) If there were only two crucified with Him, then according to this passage the soldiers would have had to break one's legs, pass by Yahshua in order to get to the other one, break the second one's legs, and then come back to Yahshua. This not only makes no sense, it also contradicts the implication of the passage, which suggests that two had their legs broken one after the other and then they came to Yahshua, as if the soldiers had worked in a straight line. This is best explained by the fact that there were two men crucified on either side of Yahshua, which would allow the soldiers to break two men's legs before getting to Yahshua.
The understanding that four men, not two, were crucified with Yahshua not only resolves the seeming contradictions between the accounts of the Gospel writers, it also clarifies the events immediately surrounding Yahshua's crucifixion and death. Scripture shows us that four men were crucified with Yahshua: two common criminals were crucified on either side of Him at the same time that He was, and two thieves were crucified on either side of Him well after this. Thus, with a thief and a malefactor on each side of Him, He truly was "numbered with the transgressors." (Isa. 53:12)
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About the "Triumphal Entry"
In John 12:12-19 we read the account of the "triumphal entry" which Yahshua made into Jerusalem before the last Passover and His crucifixion:
"On the next day much people that were come to the Feast, when they heard that Yahshua was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, 'Hosanna; Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.' And Yahshua, when He had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 'Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.'"
Obviously, this is an entry into the city of Jerusalem - the Triumphal Entry by the King into the city of peace. Though this passage is clear enough, much controversy has existed over the perceived contradictions between this account in John and the accounts in Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-10, and Luke 19:29-38. Most of this controversy is focused on exactly what Yahshua rode as He entered into the city - an ass or a colt - and any search on the internet on this subject will unearth a multitude of solutions to the problem of one man, one entry, an ass, and a colt. As it turns out, the majority of these solutions are unnecessary and wrong: once again common perception has created a problem where there is none.
In order to come to an understanding of these passages we must look at the details of each:
Matt. 21:1-9 - "And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Yahshua two disciples, saying unto them, 'Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto Me. And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, 'The Lord hath need of them': straightway he will send them.' All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 'Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.' And the disciples went, and did as Yahshua commanded them. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, 'Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.'"
Mark 11:1-10 - "And when they came nigh unto Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, He sendeth forth two of His disciples, and saith unto them, 'Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, 'Why do ye this?' say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.' And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, 'What do ye, loosing the colt?' and they said unto them even as Yahshua had commanded: and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Yahshua, and cast their garments on him; and He sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off of the trees, and strawed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, 'Hosanna; Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.'"
Luke 19:29-38 - "And it came to pass, when He was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, and the mount called the mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying, 'Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, 'Why do ye loose him?' thus shall ye say unto him, 'Because the Lord hath need of him.' And they that were sent went their way, and found even as He had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, 'Why loose ye the colt?' And they said, 'The Lord hath need of him.' And they brought him to Yahshua, and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Yahshua thereon. And as He went, they spread their clothes in the way, and when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, 'Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.'"
A simple comparison of the details of each of these accounts gives us some very important facts:
1. Matthew's account clearly describes a procession in Bethphage: in this account (which occurs after His departure from Jericho - Matt. 20:29) both an ass and a colt are used, with no questions asked of those who borrow them. This event occurs to fulfill a spoken prophecy which specifically mentions the King "sitting upon an ass" - therefore in this procession, Yahshua must have ridden the ass as the colt walked along beside.
2. Mark and Luke 19 are both describing the same event which appears to occur after the event in Matthew - a procession near Bethphage and Bethany in which Yahshua rides a colt which has never before been ridden. Notice that His instructions in how to answer questions are now needed, because the two sent disciples actually are questioned about their actions. Also notice this vital detail - this particular event occurs "nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives..." Yahshua has not entered the city, for in verse 41 it says, "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it."
3. Finally, the event in John shows us the final entry into Jerusalem, where Yahshua Himself finds the "young ass" and rides it into the city. Notice that here palm branches are specifically mentioned, yet we are never told how they are used, or nor does it speak of garments being strewn in the way. In the other two processions only "branches of (unspecified) trees" are spoken of, and these are spread in the way along with people's garments.
This examination of details reveals to us a marvelous chain of events: as Yahshua neared Jerusalem and the glorious event for which He was born, He was met three times in three different places along the way with rejoicing and praise. We clearly see the very widespread excitement, hope, and faith the common people of Israel had in Him as their coming King. We see the significance they placed upon His approach and arrival at Jerusalem. And most important of all, we find agreement and consistency in the Scriptures as written.
May the day come soon when there will be celebration and joy again at the arrival of our King as He returns to redeem His people and to finally take up the reigns of His everlasting kingdom. Hosanna in the highest!
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What is a Prophet?
Prophet: In Hebrew, Strong's #5030 - nabiy, from 5012, "a prophet or inspired man." Strong's #5012 - naba, "to prophesy, i.e. speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse.)" In Greek, Strong's #4396 - prophetes, from 4253 (pro - in front) and 5346 (phemi - to show or make known one's thoughts, i.e. speak or say); "a foreteller; by analogy, an inspired speaker."
In Scripture we find the word prophet(s) used over 500 times, throughout both the Old Testament and the New. Reference is made to prophetesses at least eight times. While every student of the Bible is familiar with the concept of prophecy, how many know the Scriptural application of that concept and exactly what makes a person a prophet by God's own definition? And where are Yahshua's prophets today?
It may be surprising to learn that the first mention of a prophet is in Genesis 20:7, in reference to Abraham. Aaron is called Moses' prophet in Ex. 7:1, and in Deut. 18:15 we see reference to Yahshua as "a Prophet [raised up] from the midst of thee, like unto [Moses]; unto Him ye shall hearken..." There are "major" and "minor" prophets, as they are commonly called, in the Old Testament. While John the Baptist denied being "that prophet" (John 1:21), Yahshua Himself said, "...Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist..." (Luke 7:28). Deborah is called a prophetess in Judges 4:4. There are many references in both the Old Testament and the New to "false prophets". Philip the evangelist had four daughters that prophesied (Acts 21:8-9). In Rev. 10:11, the apostle John was told to "prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings."
In our search for clear understanding of this subject, we must begin in the Old Testament. There we learn in 1 Sam. 9:9 that "Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, 'Come, and let us go to the seer': for he that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer." The term "seer" is used in many other places (i.e., 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chron., and Amos), and two words are translated as seer: Strong's #2374 - chozeh - "a beholder in vision" and #7200 - ra'ah - "to see, literally or figuratively". Both obviously indicate a person who has literally seen something: the later substitution of the word "prophet" (speaker) for "seer" emphasizes the importance of the prophet's duty not only to see but also to speak of that which he has seen.
So, what is it that these people see? The best answer to that is found in Num. 12:6: "And [Yahweh] said, 'Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, I Yahweh will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.'" This tells us that the seer/prophet sees (and hears) visions and dreams given to him by God: Nahum and Obadiah are good examples of this, as they say, "The book of the vision of Nahum,,," and "The vision of Obadiah..." as they begin their writings. Abraham was undoubtedly a prohet by this definition, for he saw at least one vision (recorded in Genesis 15).
Though receiving visions and dreams is an important part of being a prophet, it does appear that the primary responsibility of a prophet was to speak to the people, relating both the visions and the words given to him by God. While the visions recorded by Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and others in Scripture are striking and important, we see much more often the simple delivery of God's words. This vividly illustrates the vital connection between seeing the dreams and visions given by God, hearing His words, and then speaking of these things in warning or encouragement to others. Common sense tells us how useless it is for God to give anyone a prophetic message if that message is never passed on to those it is intended for.
We must note here that Scripture gives us two simple guidelines with which to test a prophet and his message: "If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, 'Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them'; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams...and that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death..." (Deut. 13:1-3, 5), and "When a prophet speaketh in the name of Yahweh, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Yahweh hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18:22). First and foremost we are told to judge by the message, not by miracles. If a prophet's message is used to draw people away from God's truth, then even if he performs miracles, he and his message are false and must be rejected. If the prophet passes this test, then we test again: even if a person prophesies in Yahshua's name, if that prophecy does not come to pass, then it and the prophet are to be disregarded.
As we've noted, the concept of the prophet as a spokesman relaying the very words of God is found throughout Scripture. Jeremiah, a man ordained to be a prophet even before his birth (Jer.1:5), protested when Yahweh called him to prophesy, saying, "Ah, Lord Yahweh! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child", and Yahweh responded, "Say not, 'I am a child': for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak." (Jer. 1:6 & 7) Then Yahweh touched Jeremiah's mouth and said, "Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth" (Jer. 1:9). In Ezekiel 3:10, Ezekiel is told, "Son of man, all My words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. And go, get thee to them of the captivity...and speak unto them, and tell them, 'Thus saith the Lord Yahweh...'" Yahweh Himself alludes to this prophetic function as He says in Zech. 1:6, "But My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets..."
It is in this very capacity that we see Yahshua, the Son of God, speaking God's words as a Prophet in the New Testament. He says of Himself in John 12:49 & 50, "For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to Me, so I speak." We see this same scenario presented over and over in the Old Testament as the prophets are set to their work ("Go and tell this people..."; "Yahweh sent me to prophesy..."; "Son of man, prophesy against them..."; etc.), and they repeatedly preface their prophecies with the phrase, "Thus saith Yahweh...". It is abundantly clear that the prophet's job is to speak only what God has given him to speak and not things which spring from his own mind.
Now we may ask, where are Yahshua's prophets today? We all know of people who have claimed to be prophets, proclaiming dates and times for certain disasters or events, foretelling the end of the world, or simply claiming to have information or doctrine given directly to them by inspiration of God. However, upon closer examination and by applying the tests set out by God Himself, we see that most of these people are at best presumptuous in their actions, speaking of things which never come to pass even though they may speak in the name of Yahweh or Yahshua, and at worst they are deceivers, speaking lies in order draw others away from God.
The fact is that true prophets are a rarity in the world, even rarer now than ever before. Amos tells us that "...the days come, saith the Lord Yahweh, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Yahweh; and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of Yahweh, and shall not find." The apostle Paul tells us that "Love never ends, but prophecies will pass" (I Cor. 13:8). There are many end time warnings about false prophets, some given by Yahshua Himself, in the New Testament (Matt. 24:11 & 24; Mark 13:22; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 16:13; etc.). Clearly, as the time of Yahshua's return draws near, we should consider and test more carefully than ever before anyone who claims to be a prophet. Though it may seem difficult in these days to judge between truth and deception, in fact it is not: God in His great mercy has given us a clear standard by which to measure these things.
The greatest tool available to us in testing any prophetic claim is Scripture. 1 John 4:1 commands us, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the word." The test of every spirit and message is this: Does it contradict Scripture or does it uphold it? Any message that seeks to wrest, ignore, deny, or contradict any part of Scripture is no message from God. Our Father has provided us with His written, inspired word so that we have the perfect means to test those spirits which seek to prophesy to us, allowing us to discern between truth and lie. As the time of Yahshua's return draws near and false prophets abound, we must use this tool relentlessly in order to avoid being deceived and drawn away from God's truth.
Though there will be a multitude of false prophets before Yahshua's return, we take comfort in the fact that our God will continue to send us His own true prophets, at least until very close to the end of the age. Although he speaks of a famine of the word of Yahweh, Amos also tells us, "Surely the Lord Yahweh will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). Paul, too, tells us that gifts of prophecy are given to members of Yahshua's assembly (1 Cor. 12:10) and that God Himself sets prophets into the body of the Messiah (1 Cor. 12:27-28). While he tells us to follow primarily after love, Paul also instructs us to desire "that ye may prophesy" (I Cor. 14:1), which tells us that as long as a body of believers exists to seek it, the gift of prophecy should remain in the world.
We can also look to the two witnesses of Rev. 11. The Greek word "martus" (translated both as "witness" and "martyr") means "a witness, literally or figuratively". What else is a witness but someone who has seen something and is then willing to testify or speak publicly about it? This is the very work of a prophet, and indeed verse 3 tells us that these two "shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days...". These two witnesses are present during the second woe (which is the sixth trumpet) testifying to God's truth. Though these two are slain by the beast (v. 7), they will be resurrected and will "ascend up to heaven in a cloud" (v. 12). Then the seventh trumpet sounds, and "there [are] great voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord, and of His Messiah; and He shall reign for ever and ever'" (v. 15). Whatever events may follow the resurrection and ascension of these two prophets, it appears that there is only a very short time left after that until Yahshua's return. (Perhaps this interval is the time of Amos' famine of Yahweh's word, as the work of prophecy ceases and fulfillment of it comes to completion.)
Now we've seen that Scripture tells us clearly what a prophet is and what work he or she must perform. We've also seen how rarely a prophet will truly be sent from God, and what diligence is required of us to be on guard against false prophets. This may seem cause for dismay as we face the end time with so much deception and so little encouragement; however, we can find comfort in one more interpretation of prophecy given to us by God's word.
In both Eze. 3:1 and Rev. 10:9, God's prophets were instructed to eat something written - a roll (volume) or small book - before they began to prophesy. In both cases, the taste of what was eaten was described to be as sweet as honey (Eze. 3:3; Rev. 10:10). While we're not told what these writings are, a clue is given to us by the prophet Jeremiah: "O Yahweh...Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jer. 15:16). In Ps. 19:10, David enlarges on this: "The law...testimony...statutes...commandments...fear...and judgments of Yahweh are...more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb", and again in Ps. 109:103 he says, "How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" From these passages we can easily conclude that the sweet writings which both Ezekiel and John ate before they began to prophesy were Scriptures - for it is only in God's written word that we find His law, testimony, statutes, etc.; even those words of prophecy He sent His prophets to speak unto all His people.
If these things are true, then a comforting thought logically follows: All of God's people are not only commanded to "eat" God's words as we read and study Scripture ("Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" - Matt. 4:4), we are also commanded to speak Yahshua's words (Matt.10:27 & 28:19-20) in the same manner as Yahshua spoke the Father's (John 12:49). In this broad sense that we can say that all of Yahshua's people are prophets, eating the honey-sweet words of truth and then speaking those words to others in warning, encouragement, and testimony to that truth. In this way we can say that as long as even one member of the body of the Messiah remains, Yahshua will never lack a prophet to speak His words to the world.
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away."
(Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33)
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