In the fourth cycle of John’s first epistle, the apostle shifts from the stipulations of the New Covenant (Ethics) to the role of the saints as faithful representatives of that Covenant (Oath/Sanctions). Since John’s deep structure is a recapitulation of the Torah, his major theme is now the book of Numbers.
Oath/Sanctions brings the Levitical sword down upon Israel to cut off the oath breakers from among the oath takers. In Exodus 32:27-28, those who had worshiped the golden calf were slain. In Numbers, all but two of the Israelites of the original “Egyptian” generation were condemned to die in the wilderness. Here, the divide is between those who persevered in the testimony of Jesus from those whose allegiance to the Temple in Jerusalem, a city which had taken on the characteristics of Egypt (false priesthood: flesh), Sodom (false kingdom: fire), and Babylon (false prophecy: smoke), ultimately entailed the rejection of Christ.
This ties John’s epistles directly to the Revelation, which depicts the deceived Jews – those who remained loyal to a corrupted Aaronic priesthood – as worshiping the “image of a beast.” 1See The Dark Trumpets of Revelation. The saints to whom John writes are being prepared for the imminent execution of old Israel based upon their maledictory oath: Christ is faithful Phinehas, a flaming sword coming from His mouth to slay the spiritual adulterers (Revelation 19:15).
TRANSCENDENCE (Creation – Initiation – Genesis)
Little children, the last hour it is, (Creation)
and as you have heard (Division)
that antichrist is coming, (Ascension)
whereby we know (Conquest)
that the last hour it is. (Glorification)
- The first stanza contains references to time in its first, last and central lines.
- At Division, the Churches are an Israel under the sword, commanded to hear (circumcision of heart). At Conquest, the Churches are Israel bearing the apostolic sword, the testimony of Jesus (circumcision of lips).
- The antichrist is singular at Ascension (a false Covenant Head, the Herodian High Priesthood) and plural at Maturity (a demonised Judaism as a plague or a swarm, a false Covenant Body, Revelation 9:3).
HIERARCHY (Division – Delegation – Exodus)
- The heptamerous pattern which shines here is that of the rite of sacrifice. As a priesthood, the Church is not a whole burnt offering, but a body divided, discerned, tried, by the Word of God (Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:12).
- False teaching always divides the Church, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. In the Hierarchy section of Revelation, the letters to the pastors of the seven churches in Asia, Jesus exhorts them to deal with the sin in their own midst – the false prophets and spiritual harlots – that it might not become full grown as it had in Jerusalem, which was ripe for judgment. Thus, false doctrine is allowed by God to purify and mature the Church, just as it was in Eden, and just as it is now.
ETHICS: Priesthood (Ascension – Presentation – Leviticus)
- The theme in this stanza is the anointing of the Levitical priests, but under the New Covenant this anointing comes not from below (genealogy) but from above (John 1:32; 3:3-6).
- The true sacrifice is the holy one, Christ (Division – Passover) who sent His Spirit (Ascension – Firstfruits). Once again, John’s letter is to enlighten the saints that they might not be deceived (Testing – Pentecost).
- The final line refers to the wisdom of God’s legal representatives, sons of God, the elohim who comprise His council.
ETHICS: Kingdom (Testing – Purification – Numbers)
Who is the liar (Genesis – Sabbath)
if not the one denying (Exodus – Passover)
that Jesus is the Christ? (Leviticus – Firstfruits)
The one confessing the Son (Joshua – Atonement)
also has the Father. (Judges – Booths)
- In this stanza, the plan of King Balak to curse Israel through the ministry of the Bible’s most famous false prophet, Balaam, is alluded to in John’s condemnation of a Judaism which denied the incarnation of Christ. The prophecy concerning the seed of the Woman crushing the head of the serpent was a just measure upon the serpent who had attempted to cut off mankind by tempting the Woman. His plans to destroy the seed can be identified throughout the Old Testament and culminated in the slaughter of the innocents by Herod the Great.
- Line-by-line, satan is the liar in Genesis, unfaithful Israel at Sinai at Exodus, Jesus the High Priest in Leviticus, and the Herodian beast and false prophet are Balak and Balaam in Numbers. Moses’ testimony of the fatherhood of God through the prophets reminds us of Deuteronomy.2For more discussion, see Ralph Allan Smith, Hear, My Son: An Examination of the Fatherhood of Yahweh in Deuteronomy. Here the Father and Son are a double witness. Confession in line 6 matches chiastically the denial in line 2, and Succession belongs to the true sons who know their ultimate Father in line 7.
ETHICS: Prophecy (Maturity – Transformation – Deuteronomy)
You, what you have heard from the beginning, (Creation)
in you let it abide. (Division)
If in you should abide (Ascension)
And this is the promise that he promised us: (Conquest)
life eternal. (Glorification)
- At Maturity, the saints are prophets of God – if they allow the Word to abide in them.
- Lines 1 to 4 are symmetrical, taking us from Genesis to Numbers. Once again, there are time indicators in lines 1, 4 and 7, but 7 is now eternal life, New Covenant Succession.
- Besides prophetic ministry, the other regular themes at Maturity are martyrdom and resurrection. We must remember that these saints were mostly Jewish, and constantly challenged by unbelievers with the lie that Jesus was a false prophet. Abiding in the original apostolic testimony became more difficult as persecution increased, and also as the glorious Temple in Jerusalem, covered in marble and gold, was finally completed. Despite what they witnessed with their eyes, they were to remember what they had heard with their ears. They were not to fear the sword of men, but trust in the coming sword of God, to whom vengeance belongs (Luke 21:22-28).
OATH/SANCTIONS (Conquest – Vindication – Joshua)
- In this stanza, which corresponds to the Day of Atonement, the architecture of the Tabernacle shines. The saints are reminded that they are ones who enjoy the “mutual indwelling” of God by the Spirit, as His temples. The obedience of Christ has opened their eyes to the truth, removing the scales of the serpent.
SUCCESSION (Glorification – Representation – Judges)
- The final stanza concerns the future, the inheritance of the saints. It begins and ends with children, but not children according to the flesh. The New Covenant focus is not the fruit of the womb or the land but the fruits of the Spirit, the fruit of righteousness. The saints themselves are the branches of the great tree of the kingdom, a booth which shelters and feeds the nations.
- The theme here is the original tabernacle, the temple of Creation, and these Jewish saints are the first fruits of the land, those able to “face” God without shame as the true “facebread.” Christ is the true king at His coming, and the saints in Him possess all the riches of wisdom and knowledge.
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See The Dark Trumpets of Revelation.|
|2.||↑||For more discussion, see Ralph Allan Smith, Hear, My Son: An Examination of the Fatherhood of Yahweh in Deuteronomy.|