Drawing Near To God In The Last Days

Isaiah and Micah prophesied that in the Last Days, a ‘mountain’ of the House of the Lord would be established and all the nations, i.e the Gentiles would flow into it.

“Now it will come about that In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.” ~ Isaiah 2:2

“these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” ~ Isaiah 56:7

“And it will come about in the last days, that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, And the peoples will stream to it.” ~ Micah 4:1

Micah also prophesied about the corrupt priesthood in the last days and that the Jerusalem temple would become a heap of ruins and would be ploughed like a field.

“Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” ~ Micah 3:11-12


The Temple, The Courts, And The Barriers

The House of the Lord throughout scripture has always meant the tabernacle or in later generations, the temple in Jerusalem. It was the place where Yahweh dwelt with His people.

The temple was structured in such a way that the closer you got to the Holy of Holies the closer you got to Yahweh. But there was a system of courts and barriers that were demarcation lines that allowed only those of special status to get the closest to the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies.

image21
No Gentile was allowed to come within 5 metres of the exterior walls of the Temple building.

Josephus recorded details about the different courts and I’ve written my own words below his in red text:

Into the first court everybody was allowed to go, even foreigners, and none but women, during their courses, were prohibited to pass through it;”

  • Between this court and the temple building, there was a 4 1/2ft high Soreg (balustrade) marble stone wall that wrapped around the temple with inscriptions to go no further or face the death penalty.



“All the Jews went into the second court, as well as their wives when they were free from all uncleanness;”

  • The Beautiful Gate marked the entrance into the temple sanctuary – The Second Court. This Court was also known as the Court of the Women. Josephus also called this court ‘the sanctuary” in his writings. A wall blocked the full view into the 3rd court of the temple. The people could see the sacrifices and offerings being performed by the priests by climbing steps to a raised gallery in this court.



“Into the third court went in the Jewish men, when they were clean and purified;”

  • This was the Court of Israel and the barrier between here and the 4th Court was a gate, however, the men could see into the fouth court.



“Into the fourth went the priests, having on their sacerdotal garments;”

  • The 4th Court was the Court of the Priests, which led to a door into the Holy Place which was set apart and only the priests were allowed to enter.



“But for the most sacred place, none went in but the high priests, clothed in their peculiar garments.” [1]

  • A huge thick veil acted as a barrier and separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
  • Yahweh dwelt in the Holy Of Holies in the Tabernacle and 1st Temple. but never in the 2nd Temple as the Ark of the Covenant had disappeared by then. Only the High priest could enter the Holy of Holies.

Separating the Jews From The Gentiles

The Soreg Barrier Around The Temple

TempleHerod_Courts

The Gentile nations were forbidden from going any further into the temple other than the First Court, The Court of the Gentiles. But even in that court, there was a buffer zone around the temple building called the Hel that even the Gentiles were not allowed to enter.[2]

In New Testament times there were warning signs in Greek and Latin on pillars along a 4 1/2ft high balustrade (Soreg) of marble around the perimeter of The Hel zone stating that if the Gentiles went any further they would receive the death penalty.

Jerusalem_Temple_Warning_Inscription
Istanbul Archaeology Museums / CC BY-SA

Archaeologists have found one of the signs and it reads: “No foreigner is to go beyond the balustrade and the plaza of the temple zone. Whoever is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.” [3]

Josephus also mentioned these inscriptions in his writing:

“Those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts. When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone, all-round; whose height was three cubits, its construction was very elegant. Upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another; declaring the law of purity, some in Greek and some in Roman letters; that no foreigner should go within that sanctuary.” [4]


How The Pharisees Discriminated Against The Lame and the Blind

It said in the Torah that male adult Jews were to appear in the temple three times a year.

However, the man-made traditions of the Fathers i.e the Oral Law / Mishnah had added its own additional laws that discriminated against the lame and the blind and others, prohibiting them from worshipping with the rest of the men of Israel.

It stated that any male with a disability or illness was unclean and was not to travel to Jerusalem to appear in the temple sanctuary (the 2nd Court).

“All are subject to the command to appear [before the Lord] excepting a deaf-mute, an imbecile, a child, one of doubtful sex, one of double sex, women, slaves that are not been freed, a man that is lame or blind or sick or aged, and one that cannot go up [to Jerusalem] on his feet”. Hagigah 1.1

One example of how the religious leaders twisted The Law and discriminated against the blind and lame was that they were only allowed as far as the Beautiful Gate in the First court. There they would be restricted to begging for alms as people entered the Second Court, the temple sanctuary. [5]

The only restriction Leviticus 21:16-24 placed on the blind and the lame was that they could not serve as priests in the Court of the Priests. So the religious leaders had created a man-made barrier discriminating against the blind and lame from drawing as near to Yahweh as He deemed respectable.

A scroll found at Qumram also stated that:

“No man smitten with any human uncleanness shall enter the assembly of God; no man smitten with any of them shall be confirmed in his office in the congregation. No man smitten in his flesh, or paralysed in his feet or hands, or lame, or blind, or deaf, or dumb, or smitten in his flesh with a visible blemish; no old or tottery man unable to stay still in the midst of the congregation. None of these shall come to hold office among the congregation of the men of renown, for the Angels of Holiness are with their congregation.” [6]

This is another reason why Jesus spent so much time healing the sick. He wanted them to be allowed to draw as near as possible to Yahweh in the only way they knew – through temple worship.


Draw Near To God, And He Will Draw Near To You

The physical temple was set up in such a way so that the closer you got to the Holy of Holies the closer you got to God’s presence.

When Paul wrote to the Hebrews about the temple he wrote about the physical barriers between the courts remaining in place until a time of reformation and said:

that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly, both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” ~ Hebrews 9: 9-10

Although Paul was specifically speaking about the barrier between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place; the principle would be that the first barrier that prevented the Gentiles from getting closer to the Holy of Holies would also remain in place while the physical temple was still standing.

Paul told the Hebrews that the temple in Jerusalem was symbolic for the time they were living in i.e the Old covenant Age and that the temple would remain until a time of reformation.

Some of the bible translations say ‘until the time of a new order’, ‘until a better system could be established’, or ‘until God would establish a new way of doing things’.

In Hebrews 8:13, Paul said that the Old Covenant “was becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away”. So until the Old Covenant age ended, the Jerusalem temple would still be standing in the city. Therefore if a Gentile wanted to worship Yahweh in the physical temple He would only be allowed as far as the First Court, and the priests would only be allowed as far as the Holy Place. The better way of doing things was moving away from a physical temple in a fixed location to the Heavenly New Jerusalem. As the Apostle Paul said, “But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother”.

  • So how does all of this fit in with what the Prophets Isaiah and Micah prophesied?

The House of Prayer For All Nations

Isaiah and Micah were declaring that in the last days a new mountain would be established. This mountain was Mount Zion, The City of the Living God, the heavenly  Jerusalem, with its New Covenant. There would be no outer courts or barriers. All nations, Jew and Greek could freely enter to worship God, face to face in the Holy of Holies.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” ~ Galatians 3:28 and also Romans 10: 12.

“The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” ~ Rev 22:2-4

“…that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle or any other defect, but to be holy and unblemished.” ~ Ephesians 5:27

“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things newBy its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.” ~ Revelation 21: 24-26

Their prophecies were fulfilled!


God Will Tabernacle With His People

In 70AD, when the Kingdom of God came in power, God established a new way of doing things. The prophecy in Jeremiah 31 was fulfilled as Israel had spent its entire history rehearsing the Feast of Ingathering i.e The Feast of Tabernacles.

The blind, the lame, and women together with a great company of Gentiles from the nations would freely be able to worship the Lord along with Jews in the Heavenly Temple and on earth.

“Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.” ~ Jeremiah 31:8

They could stand before the throne without any hindrance, as it has no barriers.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;” ~ Revelation 7: 9

For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.

 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them …” ~ Revelation 21:3


Is not the Lord in the midst of us?

  • In Micah 3:11 the apostate Jews asked, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us?”

They received their answer when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70AD.

As Josephus wrote:

 it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.[7]

Aswell as Micah prophesying that Jerusalem would become a heap of ruins, he also prophesied that Zion would be ploughed as a field. One visitor to the Holy Land in the 1800s wrote:

“what is seen is only Mount Zion now for the most part a rough field …It is the only portion of the general area of the Holy City that is now or ever has been ploughed as far as I can discover… the southeast end of Zion are either ploughed field or overrun with cactus”[8]

Today while we live in this world we worship around that throne in spirit and in truth. But one day when we die and receive our new individual resurrected immortal bodies we will be around that throne in the New Jerusalem. For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven.


Footnotes:

[1] http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/war-5.html

[2] The Greeks made thirteen breaches in the Soreg (balustrade) in order to demonstrate that Gentiles could enter the Hel. The Hel was an empty area ten cubits (about five meters) wide. When the Hasmoneans expelled the Greeks, they repaired the breaches and enacted that anytime a person would pass one of them, he would bow down and thank God for their victory over the Greeks. From an explanation of Middot chpt 2 Mishnah 3

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Warning_inscription

[4] Josephus, Against Apion, Book 2, chapter 1

[5] https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/beautiful-gate/

[6] 1QSa II.3-9

[7] Josephus War of the Jews, Book 7, chapter 1

[8] pgs 410, 464, 540,561 The Land and the Book by Dr. William Mc Clure Thomson 1806-1894

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