Part 4 – Israel’s Temple & Corrupt Priesthood
The original Tabernacle in the wilderness was replaced with King Solomon’s Temple, known as the First Temple in 949BC. It was the hub of Israel’s religious system. There, Israel’s priests served JEHOVAH, where “the Ark of the Covenant” rested, and her male Jews visited three times a year. The Temple was highly important because it was the place where JEHOVAH manifested Himself to Israel, hence, it was called “the house of the LORD” in Exo. 23:19 and “the house of God” in Ezra 3:8. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 523BC and later rebuilt as the 2nd Temple. In 453 BCE, exactly seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple, the Jews began building again. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman General Titus in 70AD, just as Jesus prophesied that it would. In each case the people of Israel had been disobedient and rebellious toward the God.
Yet, in Jesus day, He referred the rebuilt Temple as “my house” in Matt. 21:13 and “my Father’s house” in John 2:16. At that time there had been nearly 400 years of prophetic silence from the last prophet, Malachi, whose book ends the Old Testament. It was About 400 years later that Jesus of Nazareth, God Himself, came on the scene as seen in Matthew, to be Israel’s Prophet, Priest, and King.
In the time of Jesus, Israel’s religious leadership had defiled JEHOVAH’S pure Temple and thus His nation, in various other ways, such as adding their manmade traditions and, according to Malachi 1:8, her priests offered in it sick and lame animals, which God forbade per Deut. 15:21. A main theme of Malachi’s message is Israel’s corrupt priesthood. Micah 3:11 speaks about Israel’s priests who taught for “hire.” In John 10 Jesus refers to them as “hirelings” who “careth not for the sheep.” Jesus here in Mark quotes Isaiah 29:13 to describe Israel’s Apostate condition in His day.
“(they) have removed their heart far from (JEHOVAH), and their fear toward (Him) is taught by the precept of men (the false manmade teachings of Israel’s leaders).” (Mark 7:6-7)
Religious “tradition” had become venerated in Israel. God’s Word, the Old Testament scrolls of the Covenant, were largely ignored. Man’s religious Traditions trumping God’s word… doesn’t this sound similar to what we see has also happened in Apostate Christianity today!
Thus, God the Father sent John the Baptist “into the wilderness” … to CALL ‘OUT’ the people of true “Israel of God,” from the Apostate Israel, away from the false religious system that Satan had used to mislead and usurp Israel. Over 700 years before Christ, the Prophet Isaiah wrote of John the Baptist:
“The voice of him (John the Baptist) that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3; cf. Matt. 3:1-11; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18).
The Prophet Hosea wrote concerning the faithful remnant of the believers of Israel who would be restored to God as her “husband” when He brings her “into the wilderness.” This refers to the Tribulation at the end of the ages. This all sounds much like a repeat of the believing remnant that John had called “out’ of Apostate Israel and “into the wilderness” in his and Jesus’ day. We should also note here that it’s not the Christian “body of Christ” that will be His “bride,” clearly, believing Israel is to be “the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9).
“(JEHOVAH speaking) Therefore, behold I will allure her (Israel), and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her…. 16And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou (Israel) shalt call me Ishi (“My Husband”); and shalt call me no more Baali [“My Master”]. 19And I will betroth thee unto me for ever… 23Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:14, 16, 19, 23).
The Baptist’s calling and preaching “in the wilderness” to “make ready a people” was fulfillment of prophecy.
“And many of the children of Israel shall he (John the Baptist) turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before him (the Messiah, Jesus) in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; To Make Ready a People Prepared For The Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)
God the Father working through John (Jn. 1:6) was to call the real Israel ‘OUT’ from the Apostate, corrupted, Jewish system that had so gripped and entrapped Israel. The nation Israel was trapped in a system that her religious leaders, that those “vipers” (Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7), those spiritual “children of Satan” (John 8:44) had placed upon Israel, leading her away from JEHOVAH’S truth (Matt. 15:1-14).
In order to become JEHOVAH’S wife as seen in Hosea’s prophecy (above), Israel had to forsake her idols and its vain corrupted religious system. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” that John preached and was “at hand” in Matt. 3:2 was Israel’s chance to escape Satan’s religious bondage and become God’s chief nation in the earth. His message to Israel was simple, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of (from) heaven is at hand.”
Israel was to “repent” … that is to change her mind about JEHOVAH and remember His covenant with her, to acknowledge her failure to keep that covenant, and to stop serving Satan and his evil religious world system. Israel’s confession of sins, as in the Lev. 26:40-46, was to acknowledge her breaking the “Old Covenant,” the Mosaic Law.
John’s water “baptism unto repentance” was the means whereby Israel was to be cleansed of her idolatry, equipping her to become JEHOVAH’S “kingdom of priests” (Ez. 36:25; cf. Exo. 19:5-6). It formally marked the establishment of the true Israel within the Nation of Israel. At this time Israel’s conversion was urgent; for “The kingdom of heaven is at hand (near)” (Matt. 3:2). In the near future, Jesus Christ would be baptized of John, thus manifesting Himself as Israel’s Messiah-King (John 1:31). Israel’s long-promised kingdom that was foretold through the Old Testament prophets, was soon to be established, but… only if the Nation received Jesus as Messiah, not just the remnant of true believers.
John’s water “baptism unto repentance” became the distinctive marker or indicator of a Jews repentance for rebelling against God’s Covenant of “the Law.” That Covenant had been given to and for Israel only, therefore, water “baptism unto repentance” is not for the Gentile “the body of Christ.” Paul says the Gentiles had no part in such a Covenant relationship (cf. Eph. 2:12), we have God our “Father” (Rom. 8:15-16).
We today are also not called to work or even repent … but rather to simply believe (cf. Rom. 4:5), being “saved by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9). Upon believing, Christians thereby immediately become partakers in the ‘dry baptism’ seen here below. Note that there is not a word about water to be found here.
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized (immersed or placed) into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
And, being baptized or placed into His body, we are “baptized into His death” as being our death to Sin.
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3) “For he (the believer) that is dead (with Jesus) is freed from sin (freed from Sin’s dominion).” (Rom. 6:7)
Christians believers today enjoy this unique baptism when they are immediately placed by the “one Spirit” into the “one body” of Christ, and partake or “drink of” the water of His “one Spirit” of life (John 7:37-38).
In John’s day, most of Israel’s priests in Jerusalem were entangled in gross spiritual error, so John’s ministry was ‘outside the temple,’ in the wilderness, far from the Temple, far-removed from Satan’s religious system of the Jews. By this arrangement God ensured that John’s converts would become and remain pure, separated, outside of the Jews evil, corrupted, religious system.
God’s people would only hear God the Father’s message about His Son, Israel’s Messiah from John the Baptist (cf. John 1:6-34). It was a message unadulterated by Apostate Israel’s satanically-inspired Jewish priesthood.
Likewise, we of “the church, the body of Christ” in this age seek to gather and be in accord around the unadulterated, pure, (rightly divided) “word of truth” that reveals the formerly secret (mystery) “gospel of the grace of God” that Jesus from heaven gave Paul for us today (cf. Gal. 1:12, Eph. 3:1-5). We learn the details of our grace relationship with Christ from the thirteen epistles of Paul as “The Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13). There we may become “established” and built up in “the faith.”
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my (Paul’s) gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery (secret plan of God for the Gentiles), which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest…” (Romans 16:25-26b)