Intertestamental Period - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight INT01
The Bible from 30,000 Feet, Soaring Through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Turn in your Bibles to the blank page between the Old and the New Testament. See I'm holding mine up right here. That's the blank page. Tonight, we're going to cover the intertestamental period. I don't know how many churches that would announce that as their sermon, especially, in a midweek. We're covering the intertestamental period, or that blank page-- that space between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
You know, because it's the Bible from 30k, I have taught on a book of the Bible in one night. I've also taught on a chapter of the Bible in one sitting. I've also taught on a paragraph of the Bible. I've also taught on a single verse of the Bible. I've taught on a phrase. I've taught on a word. I've even taught on the comma in Isaiah 61:2. Did a whole message on that.
But this probably is a first where I'm doing a whole message on a blank page-- on the space between the Old and the New Testament. And here's why I'm doing it. The average reader closes the Old Testament book of Malachi, which is a prediction, as you know, of Elijah the prophet coming again before the great day of the Lord.
The prophet said he's going to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. The heart of the children to the fathers. Lest I come and smite the Earth with a curse, period, end of Old Testament. You turn a page, you turn another page, and then you get to Matthew 1:1. The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
When you go from the Old Testament Malachi to the New Testament Book of Matthew, the average reader notices immediately a change has occurred. They just don't know what. There's a radical change in circumstances, radical change in conditions. The Old Testament closes where the world is under Persian control, the Jews are back in their land, only 50,000 of them. They have rebuilt the temple Ezra and Nehemiah brought them back. Really that closes off the Old Testament-- brings them back.
They start rebuilding their temple. They wane a little bit in the rebuilding of their temple. A couple prophets come along-- Haggai, Zechariah-- give them some messages. They start building it again. Then Malachi, then it closes. So you've got Jews in the land, Persian domination of the world. Only 50,000, small group in the lands struggling.
You open the New Testament things are different. Same people, same land, greatly multiplied. Not Persian domination, Roman domination. Things are completely different. Not only is there Roman rule in the world, but Israel is ruled by a vise regent-- a vise King who is an Edomite by the name of Herod.
And these names, these offices, these governments were not in place in the Old Testament. So when we opened the New Testament several things are different. The politics are different. The language base is different. The meeting places of worship is different. The Bible translation is different. The Jewish religion itself is different. And world communication is different.
And so we ask, why? And the answer is that blank page. And if it's blank maybe you'll take notes in it so you'll have not a blank page but a filled page by the end of tonight. Now I'm going to cover 400 years of history tonight. But it is the Bible from 30,000 Feet, so books have been written on these 400 years. I'm going to just give you, hopefully-- God willing, a skimmed over version.
400 years from the closing of the book of Malachi to the announcing of John the Baptist in the gospel accounts of the New Testament. Now throughout history, God has been in the communication business. He is speaking to people. The book of Hebrews opens up by saying, God who at different times and in various ways spoke in times past to our fathers by the prophets.
There the author announces God has always spoken. How has God spoken? He spoke through creation. He spoke through Moses. He sent prophets. He sent poets. He sent seers. He sent a number of different people, a number of different ways. But primarily, God spoke in two ways. God spoke through his world, that's creation. God spoke through his word, that's revelation. Through his world and through his word primarily is how God speaks.
Psalm 19 begins by saying, the heavens declare the glory of God. The firmament shows his handiwork. Day and today they utter their speech. Night and tonight they utter their voice. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. God speaks through the world. Go down a few versus. Verse seven of that psalm says, the law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul. The testimonies of the Lord are sure making wise the simple. So there in that psalm, it says God speaks through the world generally and through his word specifically.
For 15 centuries, almost, in the Old Testament, God was speaking through his world generally to unbelievers as well as believers and through his word in the revelation of scripture. Then we close Malachi and there's what they call in the broadcast business, dead air. Dead air is a term in radio and television broadcasting, it's like the worst thing that can happen for a radio broadcast-- to have dead air.
Dead air is where there's no broadcast signal either by user error or a malfunction technically it goes off the air. There's no sound. So we open our Bibles, we find that there are 39 books of the Old Testament, and then we turn the page and there's dead air for 400 years.
Now I just want you to get that perspective for a moment. God didn't send a prophet, didn't send a poet, didn't send a seer, didn't send a law giver. He was done communicating as he always communicated for four centuries. If you get worried because you haven't heard from God lately--
I have people say, you know it's just been weeks-- months, and God hasn't spoken to me. 400 years. That's a long, long time. They are called 400 silent years, not because everybody was quiet, they weren't. The world was tumultuous. But God wasn't speaking from heaven during that time. So what I want to look at is primarily tonight three things. What was going on between the testaments geopolitically, culturally, religiously? Those are the three prongs I'm going to cover in this message.
Geopolitically, what was going on culturally that set up the New Testament? And what was going on spiritually, religiously? OK. I mentioned, when you close the Old Testament, the big kid on the block-- the one in charge of the world is the Persian Empire. Cyrus was the one that allowed the Jews to go back and rebuild the temple. Artaxerxes, the Persian, allowed them to have further fortification of the wall, et cetera. You know that story.
So the Medo Persian Empire had taken over from the Babylonian Empire. And then there's 400 years-- again, silent probably isn't the best term for it, because they were 400 very active years. Now though we don't have any Bible history about what happened, unless you believe in the apocryphal books, which I don't. I'm not going to cover tonight. But we don't have history. But we do-- and you should know this-- have prophecy about those 400 silent years in the book of Daniel.
Very detailed prophecy that turned out to actually happen exactly like it was said. So if you don't mind-- if you want to, you could turn over to Daniel 7 and I'm going to show you something. Daniel 7. Since it is a Bible study, it'd be good, at least, not just to hold that book and hold that blank page, but go over to Daniel 7.
Now let me just set up Daniel 7. Daniel's in Babylon, they're in the captivity. The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, one night is troubled. He goes to sleep, he has a wild dream. He says he can't remember the dream. He calls all of the soothsayers and wise men of the kingdom to come in and not just tell him what his dream means because anybody can make some up.
He says, tell me what I dreamed because I'm not going to tell you, you tell me what it was I dreamed and then what it means. And if you don't, I'm burning your houses down chopping your heads off, all you guys are dead meat. That's the decree, take it or leave it. You've got to take it.
Daniel hears about it, calls his buddies together, they have a prayer meeting. Daniel comes before the King and he goes, I know exactly what you dreamed. I'm about to tell you. And it was revealed to me not because I'm holier than anybody else, but God wanted to spare our lives. So here's what you dreamed. King you are lying on your bed and you were wondering, what's going to happen after me? What's going to happen now?
I'm in charge. I'm Nebuchadnezzar. I rule the world, not only in Babylon, but I've conquered all these kingdoms. What's going to happen next? And so in your dream you saw an image. Nebuchadnezzar stroking that long Babylonian beard going, yep. Exactly right. The image had a head of gold. It had a chest and arms of silver. It had a stomach and thighs of bronze. Its legs were made out of iron. And the feet were partly iron and partly clay-- the 10 toes were partly iron and partly clay.
Nebuchadnezzar is just looking at Daniel because he knows that's exactly what he saw. He says, here's what it means. You, o King, are the King of kings you are that head of gold. But after you another kingdom will arise inferior to yours. And after that a third kingdom, the bronze. And after that a kingdom of iron. And Daniel says, King, you saw in your dream world dominating-- world governing empires. You're the first, but there's going to be others that will follow. You saw the future world history. World governing empires.
That's what the King saw, Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel himself got a similar revelation, though not of an image, but in chapter 7 of four ferocious beasts, which tell the same story. Now I'm in Daniel 7:1, the first year of Belshazzar, the King of Babylon. Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream telling the main facts.
Daniel spoke saying, I saw in my vision by night behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea and four great beasts came up from the sea each different from the other. The first was like a lion-- by the way, that was the symbol of Babylon-- and it had eagle's wings. You can go to the British Museum today and see a lion with eagle's wings, that represents the kingdom of Babylon. I watched till its wings were plucked off, it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man and a man's heart was given to it.
And suddenly, another beast, a second like a bear, was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it, arise, devour much flesh. That's the second kingdom of the Medo Persian Empire. This bear is displaced a little bit off to one side because the Medo Persian Empire was not equally dispersed. The Persian part of the Medo Persian Empire was much stronger than the median part of it.
And then verse 6. After this I looked, and there was another like a Leopard, which had on its back, for wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads and dominion was given to it. Without going through the book of Daniel and showing you, interspersed in the dreams and visions of the future, the kingdoms are mentioned by name. Babylon, Medo Persia, and the Grecian Empire are all foretold by name in the book of Daniel. The only one that is the Roman Empire, the legs of iron. The last beast in this for beast vision.
But this third one is a prophecy of the Grecian Empire that would supersede the Medo Persian Empire. Remember, the Old Testament closed with the Medo Persian Empire in charge of the world. Opens up with the Roman Empire. So I'm giving you the in-between. The head of the Macedonian Empire that fought against the Medo Persian was ruled by a man named Philip-- Philip of Macedon.
Philip of Macedon was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. His son-- Philip's son was named Alexander. Alexander was not a fighting man, he thought. He was a bookworm. His dad, Phillip, actually thought that young Alexander wouldn't amount to much-- wouldn't become all that great. He'd just like to read a bunch of books. So he thought, well, if he likes to read books. I should get him a good tutor. So we got him a tutor by the name of Aristotle. Pretty good tutor.
Alexander was 19 years old when his father, Philip was assassinated. Something just steeled his nerves when his dad died. He decided to take up his cause-- his father's cause and March against the hordes of the Persians that had assaulted the Macedonian Empire. So he marshaled an army, not a large one, but a very fast one.
And this prophecy in Daniel speaks of the rapidity-- this fierce, fast moving army like a leopard with wings moving from west to east. So he marshaled his army, moved from west to east against the Medo Persians. Not only conquered them, but within about a decade-- a little over a decade, conquered the entire world. Still to this day, no one parallel the kind of victories that Alexander had. OK.
Snapshot, Alexander the Great moves to the city of Tyre to take out the Medo Persian hordes that are there. The Phoenician city of Tyre that is on the seacoast of Lebanon. After he pushes out the Medo Persians, he then decides I'm turning south to attack Jerusalem. This is where it gets interesting.
As he's coming to Jerusalem with his army-- this is from the writings of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian-- there was a high priest serving in Jerusalem named Jaddua-- J-A-D-D-U-A, If you're taking notes. Jaddua the high priest. Jaddua the high priest heard that Alexander was coming. Jaddua, with a contingent of priests, went out to meet him. He was dressed in his sacerdotal robes-- his high priestly robes. The other priests were dressed all in white. He had in his hand a copy of the scroll of Daniel the prophet.
You see, Jaddua believed after reading and hearing what was going on with Alexander the Great, that Alexander the Great fulfilled the prophecy of the leopard in Daniel 7. He said, this is the fulfillment of the scripture. So he goes out to meet him. When he sees Alexander, Alexander saw him, Alexander got off his horse-- this is all in Josephus and bowed down before Jaddua the high priest saying, I recognize you as a true representative of the God of heaven. I had a dream about you.
And I had a dream. And in my dream, I was told that you would tell me something good. Well, Jaddua was there with the scroll of Daniel to show him how he-- Alexander-- had fulfilled prophecy written by Daniel taking over the Medo Persian Empire. When he was shown the very plain reference of the Grecian Empire taking over the Medo Persian Empire, he swore to spare Jerusalem, which he did and give protection to the temple while it stood in Jerusalem.
So now you have not the Medo Persian, but you have a ruling world governing empire now called Greece. In 332 BC, 12 and 1/2 years from the beginning of his reign, now to the end of his reign, Alexander is in Babylon in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon. He has made it from Macedonia all the way to Babylon. And in 12 and a half years he conquered all the way from the Danube River and North Africa all the way to India. It was his.
In Babylon, he died at age 33. There's a dispute as to how he died. But he was sort of in a drunken stupor. They don't know if he was poisoned or what it was. But he dies. Problem. He didn't have a successor. He didn't make clear what should happen to his kingdom when he died. He just said give it to the strong. Alexander the Great, when he died, had an unborn son still in the womb that was born posthumously. His name was Alexander II.
His four generals decided that they would manage the kingdom-- the world that Alexander left behind and let Alexander II grow up. And they would manage the world until he came of age, and then they would set him as the new King over this world governing empire. Didn't quite work out that way. And here's why. It's awfully hard to let go of power when you have it.
So instead of giving it to Alexander's rightful successor, Alexander II-- who was born, again, posthumously after he died-- after Alexander died-- these four generals killed that child. Killed Roxanna, his mother, the wife of Alexander the Great. Killed a brother of Alexander. So he had no one from his ancestors-- from his posterity to rule. And they decided they'll split up the world and they ruled the world.
Now before I give you their names, I want you turn a few chapters in Daniel to 11. I'm not going to explain a lot here because there's 135 fulfilled prophecies in this one chapter. So it would take a monumental amount of time to go through it. And I have done that on other occasions. But in 11:4 it's a prophecy about Alexander. It says, and when he has arisen his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward-- notice-- the four winds of heaven. Just like the beast had four horns, now that's the four winds of heaven.
But notice this. But not among his posterity, nor according to his dominion with which he ruled. For his kingdom shall be uprooted even for others besides these. Alexander had other relatives, they were all killed by the generals. The generals didn't want to let go of power. And so these four generals, by the name of Cassander, Lysimachus, Selucus, and Ptolemy-- their names will be up on the screen, I believe-- ruled the world.
This is how it was divided. Cassander, general number one, took Greece and Macedonia. Lysimachus took the area of Asia Minor and Thrace-- or what we would call modern Turkey. Leaving two generals, General Selucus took Syria and Babylonia. And the last general, Ptolemy took Egypt, North Africa and Arabia.
Now those last two generals are the most important-- Selucus and Ptolemy-- because the Kings that came out of Selucus and Ptolemy became the Seleucid and the Ptolemies-- plural. The Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemaic Empire. It lasted for a couple centuries. Now why are those two important? Because you've got Syria and Babylonia, you've got North Africa and Egypt down here. And they're fighting each other for control.
In between the North and the South is a very particular country called Israel. And so in chapter 11 there are several verses about the Kings of the North, and the King of the South. Then the King of the South did this. And the King of the North-- and it's 200 years of history, 135 fulfilled prophecies from our vantage point that have to do with the Seleucid Dynasty and the Ptolemaic Dynasty. You follow?
There's a series of kings that fight each other. And the reason they are talked about in such detail is because they're fighting for control over this land called the debatable land, and that is Israel. Israel is in the crossfire. So because their activities touch the Jewish people, the prophecies get very, very complicated.
Now this brings up a larger point. And that is, what is the center of the world? I know, you're going, I know. The United States. And in class, I remember being shown a world map, and all the world maps in my schools had the United States right in the middle. America, North America, South America that's the center of the world. And we Americans are kind of naive and proud to think that's the way it is. Not in God's mind. In God's mind, Israel is the center of the world.
In fact, in Ezekiel 5:5 God says, see, I have set Jerusalem in the midst of the nations and the countries all around. God says, in my geography class, Israel's in the midst-- the middle of all the nations. So that when you read about the directions in the Bible-- north, south, east, and west-- the four winds-- it's always in relationship to the nation of Israel.
So the kings of the north, kings of the south are north of Israel and south of Israel. We're not talking the Hatfield and the McCoys, it's not the deep south or the Civil War of the north. It's north and south, east and west in respect to Israel. In fact, there is a little quote in the Jewish commentaries of the Old Testament known as the Midrash that state, the land of Israel is at the center of the world, and Jerusalem is at the center of the land of Israel, and the temple is at the center of Jerusalem.
It's their way of saying the Temple Mount is the epicenter of God's plan in the world. Turns out to be true. So chapter 11, there's all these prophecies-- Seleucid, Ptolemaic history that happened between the testaments. I'm going to take you to a couple of particular versus. This will be the last ones that we right about here. Daniel 11, go to verse 21.
As these two empires fight it out, there comes, eventually-- it's prophesied here, but now it's history. There comes a very particular King in the Seleucid Dynasty. Remember the Selecids are up north. They're the Syrian Dynasty. So this Seleucid kings-- the eighth Seleucid of King is a guy by the name of Antiochus IV. There were several Antiochus'.
But Antiochus IV, the eighth Seleucid King, is spoken about here in verse 21. And in his place-- that is the guy before him-- shall arise a vile person to whom they will not give the honor of royalty. But he shall come in peaceably and seize the kingdom by intrigue. With the force of a flood, they shall be swept away from before him and be broken and also, the prince of the covenant.
And after the league-- or covenant is made with him he shall act deceitfully. For he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people. He shall enter peaceably even to the richest places of the province. He shall do what his fathers have not done nor his forefathers. He shall disperse among them the plunder, spoils, riches, and shall device his plans against the strongholds only for a time.
A lot of the book of Daniel talks about this eighth Seleucid King, Antiochus IV. He did not have the right to reign. He seized the throne by intrigue. He seized it illegally. And he gave himself the title. He wasn't just happy with Antiochus IV, he called himself theos, Greek word for God. Theos Antiochus. Theos Epiphanes, which means, I am Antiochus, God manifest in the flesh.
You think he had a pride problem? He had no self-esteem issues whatsoever. He so hated the Jews, he tried to actually eradicate Judaism. How? He attacked Jerusalem, killed 80,000 Jews, sold 40,000 of them as slaves. Placed guards around the temple so nobody could come in and offer sacrifices. So he stopped the daily sacrifices.
One Sabbath day he sent in soldiers to round up infants and kill every infant child they could find and every mother after that-- every woman after that that their soldiers could summon up in that raid. He made idolatry mandatory in Jerusalem. Set up a statue of Zeus in the temple, sacrificed a pig on the altar of sacrifice.
You know how unkosher that is. And forced priests to eat that pig on the altar. He stopped the Sabbath observations. He burned scripture. He did not allow men and women to circumcise their children on the eighth day.
There is even a story-- there's several little pericopes of that. But one little story that speaks about two women that decided to defy Antiochus Epiphanes. They had their children circumcised on the eighth day. He found out about it, killed the babies in front of the mothers. Tied the dead babies around the mother's neck, paraded them through the streets of Jerusalem to the wall of the city. Then threw them over to their deaths. This guy was cruel.
He desecrating the city for 2,300 days from September 6, 171 BC, to December the 25th 164 BC. How did it end? Well, that's where Hanukkah comes in. Now I've explained this on a few different studies. But the Syrian raids were getting heated and oppressive. So they traveled from Jerusalem-- these contingent of soldiers-- and they went to one of the town's called Modine.
Modine is 12 miles to the Northwest of Jerusalem. In it was a priest by the name of Matthias, and he had five boys. Mattias, the head priest of that village-- you can visit that village today, by the way. We often go through it when we're in the land of Israel. The Syrians came in, built an altar, sacrificed a pig on that altar in the town of Modine. Told Matthias that he has to set the example and eat unkosher flesh.
Not only did Matthias refuse to do it, the Jew who stepped forward to do that, Matthias killed, and then killed the Syrian general. And started a revolt called the Maccabean Revolt. The Maccabean Revolt would grow in caves with stones and sticks-- this ragtag kind of army of farmers-- over next several years. And finally-- making a long story hopefully shorter-- one of his sons named Judas Maccabeus-- one of the Maccabean Dynasty-- marched to Jerusalem, overtook the temple area. Took it back from Syrian hands into Jewish hands. Cleansed the temple and decided to reinstitute the sacrifices.
There was one cruse of oil-- he wanted to line up the lamp inside the holy place that burned every day that the priest kept oil in. There was only enough oil to last one day. The story goes-- the legend goes-- we don't know how true it is, might be a miracle. The Hanukkah miracle. But it supposedly lasted not one day, but eight days. Eight days.
So that's why you see a menorah is a seven branched candlestick. But then you see this thing around wintertime that people pull out called a hanukkiah. And I have everyone say, why does this one have seven and this one have nine? The hanukkiah has nine branches on the candlestick. The reason why is because candle in the middle is the lead candle, and then you have eight on the side that represent the eight days the oil lasted.
So they burn those for the eight days of Hanukkah. So Hanukkah is called the Feast of Dedication. So when we read the New Testament gospel of John it says, Jesus was in the temple, it was winter time-- 25th of December-- and it was at the Feast of Dedication. Jesus was celebrating Hanukkah in Jerusalem. You don't read about in the Old Testament, it didn't exist. Now it exists in the New Testament.
OK, fast forward. After Babylon, after Medo Persia, after Greek, after the split up of the four generals conquering the world, the north and the south fighting it out, the Maccabean Revolt, 63 AD, a general by the name of Pompeii-- the Roman general-- conquers Jerusalem. Places Israel under Roman control-- Judea under Roman control, and then to balance out power in the north-- the Galilee region-- he puts a ring of 10 cities just south and east of the Sea of Galilee called the Decapolis.
So you read about Jesus going through the Decapolis-- the 10 cities. So you have 10 cities-- the Decapolis, and then you have Judea down south. Now at this point, the Roman Empire is about at its peak-- at its height. And the Roman Empire was an amazing-- that's the fourth empire. The fourth world governing empire that takes over that Nebuchadnezzar saw, that Daniel saw in his vision-- the legs of iron. The fourth beast is the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire managed to bring world peace, relatively speaking. An enforced peace, but world peace. First of all, they built roads around the world. They built-- get this-- 250,000 miles worth of roads around the world. 50,000 miles of those were paved roads. I'm talking about stone pavers. You can walk on many of those roads to this day, they're still around.
So now they're letting the world communicate to each other, letters can be sent freely. People can move freely and safely because there are soldiers garrisoned everywhere on the roads enforcing peace. This makes it really handy when Paul the Apostle decides it take some missionary journeys. The waterways are opened up. The roadways have been built just in time for the gospel through Paul the Apostle.
OK. So now the fourth world governing empire, Rome, is in control. There was a guy who was named Antipater. Spelled with an A, Antipater. He was an Idumean. Idumea is the area of Petra. It's the area of Jordan today. He was he was Idumean background. Antipater helped Rome to settle Judea. And because of that he became the Roman appointed governor of Judea-- Antipater.
Antipater had a son named Herod the Great. Herod the Great gets a senatorial decree from Rome to be called-- get this-- the King of the Jews. Now that's the first time that ever happened. They were waiting for their messiah. But now you've got this part Idumean married to a Jewish woman, Herod the Great, who becomes the vise regent-- the vise King of Judea.
And Rome-- the Roman Senate calls him the King of the Jews. A title he proudly displayed. And this is why his ire is up when a group of magi from the east come in they say, where is he to be born who is called King of the Jews? The reason he went on a rampage against the children of Bethlehem because that's a title he got from the Roman Senate. So that's that background.
Anyway, enough geopolitically. Let me move to the second two, quickly. And that is culturally there were changes between the testaments. OK. Who's ruling the world at this time? Rome. Roman rule but still the culture is Greek, the language is Greek, the lingua Franca of the world. Sorry about that. The lingua Franca, the language understood by everyone is the Greek language. It was spoken everywhere.
At the time of the New Testament, there were three, in antiquity, principal population basis, Rome Babylon, and Egypt. Principally, a town called Alexandria, because of Alexander the Great. Now Jews had-- in a minute I'm going to blow your mind with this statistic-- Jews fled to Egypt. One of the places they fled when the temple was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians, they went down to Egypt. That was the closest southern neighbor. So they took refuge down there.
In fact, about a million Jews at the time of the New Testament, were living down in Alexandria, Egypt. It wasn't called Alexandria until Alexander the Great. Before that it was just several cities along the coast. Alexander formed the city, gave favor to the Jews. It is thought that half of the population of the city of Alexandria were Jewish. He gave them really great parts of the city to settle in.
About a million Jews lived in Egypt altogether at the time of Jesus, including, by the way, Jesus. He went to Egypt after the Herod thing in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary took Jesus down to Egypt for a while, down to Alexandria where the Jewish people lived for a while. A million Jews lived in Egypt.
You know how many Jews live in Egypt today? 18. Less than 20, one eight, 18 Jews. That's the population. And that'll be an interesting little homework I'm assigning you. Why? I'm not going to give you the answer now because I don't have time. But I'll just throw that in as a little teaser. There are 18. At the time of Jesus, there were a million Jews down there.
They're down there speaking Greek. Everybody is speaking Greek. So you've got a Jewish population, they have Hebrew scriptures, but everybody is speaking Greek. And the new generation is all speaking Greek. Fewer and fewer know Hebrew. Hebrew is becoming a dead language. So there's the need to translate the Hebrew scriptures into the language of the people, which is Greek.
And so-- remember I talked about the kings of the north, kings of the south? The Ptolemies down south, the Seleucids up north. One of the Ptolemaic kings by the name of Ptolemy Philadelphus thinks it would be a good idea if the Jewish scholars-- gave the permission to do that-- would translate the Hebrew scriptures into the Greek.
They translated the first five books of Moses. It took him several years to do the whole Old Testament. About a century to get it all done. But they were able to translate the Old Testament Hebrew into the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint version of the scripture. The Septuagint joint version of the scripture is the Bible Jesus read from, its the Bible the apostles read from.
The Bible quoted in the New Testament-- if you ever read the New Testament, you read an Old Testament quote you go, it didn't sound exactly like what it says in the Old Testament. I read it in the Old Testament. Because you are reading from a translation of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the Septuagint version that they were quoting from in the New Testament. You follow me? So there is a different language base that shows the minor variations in the translation.
OK, back to Judea because that's where Jesus comes, that's where the apostles lived, et cetera. Now you have-- because of all these factors in Judea-- a multi cultural population of Roman citizenship, Greek culture, Hebrew language in the synagogues. You got Roman, Greek, and Hebrew cultures all being mixed together in Judea. This is why-- again, very different from the Old Testament-- Pilate needed to put a sign on the cross what he was doing, this is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews, in Latin, in Greek, in Hebrew. Because of this conglomeration of population.
So that is sort of painting the picture culturally. Now religiously is the third and final arm of this study. Take a breath. We're doing OK? You still with me? Your brain juice is still flowing? You're tracking? OK. Good. OK. So let's think the Jews religion. In 586 BC-- this is a note you already know-- a building was destroyed down in Jerusalem called the-- the temple. The temple was destroyed. It was burned by fire.
The population was taken captive to Babylon, including Daniel and his buddies. A whole bunch of people were taken to Babylon. So now the temples destroyed, they don't have a temple. They certainly don't have a Jewish temple in Babylon. So now you've got Jews dispersed in a whole other population base. They cannot practice ceremonial law. They can't offer sacrifice, even though the Old Testament says they have to for remission of sins. They can't, there's no temple. They can't practice ceremonial laws.
So they decide, the only thing we can do is study written law. So the office of the scribe develops during the captivity. The institution of the synagogue develops in Babylon. You never read about a synagogue in the Old Testament, never once. They don't exist. People migrate to the temple for worship, and they don't meet in synagogues. Now they do.
In Babylon they start having synagogues. Sunagógé is the Greek word. It means a gathering together. So they gather together. They go to the synagogue, the scriptures are read. By the way, service opened up very simply raising of the hands toward Jerusalem. The prayer, [SPEAKING HEBREW]. The Lord, our God, the Lord is one.
The scriptures were read. They were then translated into Aramaic, which they learned in captivity. And then later in the Greek. Because of Alexander's idea to make the world Greek culture, to be favorable to the Jews, synagogues were being placed in cities around the world-- around the world. This happened between the testaments. So you have synagogues around the world.
Why is this important? Well, when Paul travels on those Roman roads with the language everybody can now speak, he can have a point of contact. And that is the religious community, the sunagógé. The synagogue, the meeting place. According to Jewish law, 10 men are required to start a synagogue. And so now they're throughout the entire Mediterranean world.
Also, during this blank space between the testaments-- the 400 years, two strong leadership groups emerge in Judaism. Not read about at all in the Old Testament, but suddenly they appear in the New Testament. Pharisees. Sadducees. And you think, where did these crazy cats come from?
Well, in the Old Testament, you had priests and prophets. But now you've got Pharisees and Sadducees. Pharisees were the result of the Babylonian captivity. They were the ones studying the scripture. Saying, what would Moses do in this situation? Writing down all of their thoughts. We read about Pharisees in the New Testament, usually nothing good about them. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs, woe unto you hypocrites-- you know the narrative.
They didn't start out that way. They started out really good. They started out as separatists, [NON-ENGLISH]. Pharisee means separated ones. They said, we don't want to be like the world. We don't want to have practice idolatry. We don't want to do what our forefathers did in getting us in trouble. So we don't want to go into captivity again. Good idea.
As time went on, they got legalistic, narrow minded, crotchety, angry. They started loving the traditions of the rabbis as much as the scripture itself. And it became separated from the people. Now the Pharisees produced many good people. They weren't all bad people. Gamaliel was a Pharisee. Josephus was a Pharisee. Paul the Apostle had his roots in Phariseeism. He called himself a Pharisee of the Pharisees. But over time, they got bad.
Other group was the Sadducees. Not because they were always sad, you see. Although, the name fits because they, unlike the Pharisees, denied everything supernatural. They denied a supernatural-- they denied miracles. They denied a Resurrection. They didn't believe in angels. They did not believe in the Old Testament scriptures except the first five books of Moses.
They were very wealthy, very aristocratic. They controlled the temple because they controlled the Sanhedrin. And they scorn the legalism of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the ones that had trouble with Jesus. And the Sadducees had trouble with the early church in the book of Acts. Very good reason for that.
The Pharisees didn't want their legalism stepped on. And Jesus stepped on it all day long all the time. The Sadducees were against the church because if they denied the Resurrection, the disciples were saying Jesus just rose from the dead. That was the very central tenet of their faith, The Resurrection of the Savior. So the Sadducees become the enemies in the book of Acts.
Pharisees and Sadducees were polar opposites. Pharisees were ritualists. Sadducees were rationalist. Pharisees were legalistic. Sadducees were liberals. Pharisees were separatist. Sadducees were compromisers. They wielded political power, schmoozed with political power in Rome to keep their aristocratic status. OK? The people despise the Sadducees, loved more of the Pharisees even though they were oppressed by both groups.
All of that is the setup geopolitically, culturally, religiously so that when we open up to Matthew we'll go, oh, OK. I get it. Herod-- OK, I get it. Feast of dedication. Oh, OK. I get it. Pharisees, Sadducees, et cetera. But here's the big deal. By the time you get to the New Testament, now you have the gospel in the most precise language ever, Greek.
Under the most ideal circumstances ever, Pax Romana-- or Roman peace-- enforced peace. People who are hungrier than ever because of Roman oppression, Medo Persian oppression, et cetera and the gospel going to more places than ever before, no wonder Paul said in Galatians 4:4, so that in the fullness of the time God sent forth his son.
When the time was perfect. So silent years? Yeah, silent from heaven. But I love what JN Darby used to say. He said, God's ways are behind the scenes, but he moves all the scenes that he is behind. He's backstage setting things up for the entree of his son. So when was the 400 silent years broken? How was it broken? By a UFO.
Those shepherds heard something, looked up. And suddenly, broadcast from the heavens, the radio was active again. KNGL was broadcasting-- k-angel. Glory to God in the highest. And on earth, peace, goodwill toward men. God's words where he was announcing from heaven through that angel, Heaven was speaking once again. My son, at just the right time, has come. So God was in this speaking business once again.
And I started out with a verse. I have to close with the same verse because I didn't finish it on purpose. The beginning of Hebrews, I announced, begins this way. God, who at various times in different ways spoke in times past to our fathers by the prophets, has-- and it would be better translated-- has once for all spoken to us by his son, whom he made heir of all things. And through whom also he made the world.
God's final word to humanity was Jesus. It's his son. Here is my last word to humanity, my son has come to save you from your sin so that you can rule and reign with him when he comes again.
400 years in about, I don't know, 55 minutes. Father, thank you that you were working powerfully behind the scenes. Though not speaking directly through a prophet or a poet or a law giver or a songwriter or a seer, but you were moving so that when the voice was active once again-- the angelic voice announcing the Savior, and then the prophetic voice of John the Baptist, and then finally, the ultimate voice of our Lord Jesus who is called the word made flesh, you were setting things up.
Just like, Lord, you set it up for us the day the night, we said yes to Jesus. You set up the right person, the right set of circumstances, the concert, the friend we had a conversation with, the evangelist we went to go hear, the sermon we went to go attend. Whatever it was, you were setting things up, just the right time. And, Lord, we're thinking that just maybe, even though this was a history lesson on a blank page, you may have reserved this night for a few more who have not yet entered the Kingdom of God, who have not said yes personally to Jesus.
If you're here tonight, your heads are bowed, our eyes are closed-- if you have not given your life to Jesus, if you've not surrendered your life to Him, but you want to surrender your life to the God who has history in his hands, who holds the universe and measures it by the span of his hand-- you want to place your life in the capable hands of creator and Saviour, there's a good opportunity for you right here.
No matter who you are, what you've done, what your past is, if you haven't given your life to Christ, but you are willing to do so-- not be just a religious person, but a child of God by faith, or if you need to come back home-- maybe you've wandered away from Him, but you're willing to place your faith in him, you just raise your hand up in the air while our heads are bowed and eyes are closed.
Raise your hand up so I'll notice your hand. I'll pray for you as we close this service. I saw a hand right there. Keep it up for just a moment so I can see. God bless you to my left. Right here in the left, in the middle. Anybody else? Raise that hand up.
God bless you in the balcony. Thank you for that hand. Anybody else? Anyone in the family room? Just raise your hand up. Way in the back, God bless you. Back row, love the back row. Father, we pray for each one of these and pray that you'd strengthen their commitment to faith. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
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