John the Baptizer -Judgment-The End of Torah
Paul informs us repeatedly that his eschatological hope and theology was taken directly from Torah. This is simply beyond dispute (Acts 24:14; 26:6f; 26:21f). In spite of this, it is truly sad that much of modern day eschatology is divorced from this background, and a “new eschatology” unrelated to Israel is created. Instead of an eschatology posited at, and related to the end of the Old Covenant age, Christianity has created a “Christian eschatology” which it anticipates will bring time, history and the Christian age to an end.
Richard Hays (Echoes of Scripture In the Letters of Paul) has done a magnificent job of calling Bible students’ attention to the need for hearing “echoes of Scripture” in the NT corpus, and especially in Paul. Whereas many modern Bible students seemingly demand a specific statement from a NT writer that they are citing Torah, it is now increasingly recognized that such statements are not necessary for those so intimately familiar with the Old Testament. In fact, those who demand a, “The prophet Isaiah said…” type of terminology are in fact revealing an unfortunate ignorance of how the ancient Hebrews wrote and expressed themselves.
While a great deal could be said on this, suffice it to say that it was perfectly acceptable, perfectly normal and perfectly common practice, for Jewish writers to use key words, terms and phrases from the Tanakh (the OT) which the readers would instantly recognize as from a given text. By giving these well known key words, terms and phrases, the writer or speaker was cuing their readers to think back to the prophetic texts that he had in mind.
With this in mind, I will offer here some of those “echoes of Scripture” that have a bearing on our understanding of Paul’s eschatological thought. Furthermore, this article will demonstrate that the mission of John the Baptist (more accurately, the Baptizer) is of critical importance for our understanding of when the Law of Moses passed away.
Take a look at Malachi chapter 3:1-5:
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts. “ But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the LORD, As in the days of old, As in former years. And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the LORD of hosts.”
It is of critical importance to take note of the nature of the coming of the Lord foretold in this prophecy.
☛ The messenger was to prepare for the coming of the Lord in judgment.
☛The Lord would come to his temple. This may, per the commentators, have a two-fold aspect to it. It may refer to the coming of the Lord to and against the Old Covenant temple, being judged because of its inadequacy and the abuses linked with it (cf. Isaiah 65:8-13; 66:1-10; Malachi 1) and it may well also refer to the coming of the Lord into the New Covenant Messianic Temple.
☛ No one could stand before him at the Day of his coming – except the righteous (3:15f).
☛His coming would be like fire. This is the Day of fire to destroy the wicked, root and branch of chapter 4:1-3.
☛ His coming would undeniably be in judgment: “I will draw near to you in judgment and I will be a swift witness against you” (v. 5). This coming of the Lord is not the Incarnate, Suffering Servant coming of Jesus. It is his coming in judgment.
☛His coming would be in application of Mosaic Covenant Wrath! Read again verse 5 where God said: “I will come near to you in judgment. I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien….”
There can be no dispute about the nature of this coming. An examination of the language of verse 5 in comparison with Torah settles the issue. This coming would be in judgment:
Against sorcerers– Forbidden in Leviticus 20:27.
Against adulterers– Forbidden in Leviticus 20:10.
Against perjurers– Forbidden in Exodus 20; Leviticus 19:12.
Against those who exploit the wage earners, widows and orphans– Forbidden in Leviticus 19:13.
Against those who turn away the aliens– Forbidden in Exodus 20:21-24; Deuteronomy 27:19.
Notice particularly Exodus 22:21-24:
You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
Look at the nature of the punishment that YHVH threatened them with– which is therefore the punishment to be meted out in the judgment of Malachi 3:5. It would be a historical, in-time judgment: “I will kill you with the sword.”And, once again, it cannot be over-emphasized, this would be an outpouring of Mosaic Covenant Wrath.
So, here is what we have so far:
Malachi foretold the coming of a messenger who would prepare the people and warn them of the coming of the Lord.
The coming of the Lord for which the messenger was to prepare the people was the coming of the Lord in judgment.
That coming of the Lord would be in the application of Mosaic Covenant Wrath, for their violation of Torah.
You simply must catch the power of this!
Malachi foretold the coming of the messenger, who would proclaim and prepare for the coming of the Lord in that covenantal judgment. Who was that messenger? There is no doubt. Jesus answered the question. Speaking of John the Baptizer, Jesus said: “This is he of whom it was written, “Behold I send my messenger before you face and he will prepare the way before you” (Matthew 11:10).
So, John was the messenger to be a sign and herald of the coming of the Lord in judgment– in application of Mosaic Covenant Wrath. Did John do what Malachi foretold, proclaim coming judgment? Of course he did!
He warned the Pharisees and Sadducees:
“Who has warned you to flee from the wrath (about) to come?” (Matthew 3:7).
He said of that judgment: “The Axe is already at the root” (Matthew 3:10-12).
He said of Christ: “His winnowing fork is already in his hand, he shall gather the wheat into the barn and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:10-12).
Now, John did not proclaim two judgments. He did not preach two disparate events, separated in time by millennia. He proclaimed one judgment, which means he preached one coming of the Lord. And he said that the axe of that judgment was already at the root, ready to fall.
The language is unambiguous, and unmistakable. John did proclaim the coming judgment and he said that judgment was near.
At this juncture we need have a side-bar to see the implications of the ministry of John the Baptizer.
All three futurist eschatologies claim that the Law of Moses– which of course would include Exodus 22, Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 27, (would it not?), was done away with at the cross. In fact, the claim that the Law of Moses was abrogated at the cross is absolutely fundamental to virtually all futurist paradigms. Sam Frost, former preterist, has said repeatedly over the last year or so, that the Law of Moses ended at the Cross.
I have debated numerous Amillennialists and every one of them claims that after the cross, God had no covenant relationship of any kind with Israel. Torah died at the cross. In numerous debates with other futurists, almost all of them have affirmed this very position.
Lamentably, this view is espoused by those who claim to be preterists as well. In my formal written debate with Kurt Simmons, he claims that the Law of Moses– at least some or most of it– was annulled at the cross. He claimed that all of the provisions for the death penalty as punishment for violation of Torah were annulled. He said that all of the ceremonial laws were abrogated. That debate is in book form, available from this website: The End of Torah: At the Cross or in AD 70? (Contact me for how to order). He has since claimed that God left Torah and Israel behind at the cross. Well, the ministry and message of John the Baptizer is prima facie falsification of Simmons and all futurist claims about the passing of Torah at the cross. Let me express this as simply as possible.
The messenger foretold in Malachi 3 was to proclaim the coming of the Lord in judgment.
The coming of the Lord foretold in Malachi 3, the coming that the messenger would preach, would be in application of Mosaic Covenant Wrath.
John the Baptizer was the messenger foretold in Malachi 3.
John proclaimed the imminent coming of judgment (Matthew 3).
Therefore, John proclaimed the imminent coming of the Lord in application of Mosaic Covenant Wrath.
This is where it gets problematic (i.e. fatally so) for the view that Torah was “left behind at the cross.” We will continue that discussion in the next installment, so stay tuned as we continue our discussion of John the Baptizer and the End of Torah.