June 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 14
The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (1)
In the sixth century BC, Jerusalem was devastated by the
Babylonians. Its temple, its palace, its houses, its city
walls—all were reduced to rubble by the ungodly invaders.
Along with that, there were very few people of God left.
Many were slaughtered or died of famine or diseases. Others
were scattered, never to return, and many apostatized.
It is harder for us to understand their deep grief at the
physical desolation of Jerusalem, for many of us have never
experienced anything like this; we probably have more of a
sense of their hardship due to their fewness.
So what does Isaiah do, by the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, to encourage God’s small band of afflicted people?
What does he draw upon from earlier biblical history? First,
he has recourse to the Abrahamic covenant and the narrative
concerning Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 11-25. Second, the
prophet writes of Eden, the paradisaical garden of the Lord
in Genesis 2-3.
This is what we read in Isaiah 51:1-3: “Hearken to me, ye
that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look
unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit
whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and
unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and
blessed him, and increased him. For the Lord shall comfort
Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make
her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of
the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein,
thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”
The introductory address, “Hearken to me, ye that follow
after righteousness” (1), does not refer to those Israelites
who sought after righteousness by works and who went about
to establish their own righteousness. “But Israel, which
followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained
to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought
it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For
they stumbled at that stumblingstone” (Rom. 9:31-32; cf.
Instead of self-righteous hypocrites, God is here speaking
to the godly, those who fear the Lord and obey the voice of
His servant, the Messiah (Isa. 50:10); those who know
righteousness, those who have God’s law in their heart
The righteousness of these people is the imputed
righteousness of justification (45:24-25). They are also
righteous with the infused righteousness of sanctification
so that they obey God’s Word not to merit but out of
gratitude. They “follow after righteousness” (51:1) by
pursuing it diligently.
Let us earnestly follow after righteousness in God’s way and
“hearken” to the prophet in the next issue of the News.
Interpreting Old Testament Prophecy (2)
A brother from continental Europe writes, “In a recent
conversation, I was told that, when Jesus comes back, He
will arrive on the earth on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4)
and come through the Golden Gate. I found it a really
strange and false idea, but I couldn’t think of a good
argument against it. (Personally, I reckon it’s senseless to
talk about the place of Christ’s return as, first, it shall
be seen from each point of the earth, and also the earth and
heavens shall be destroyed, and, second, we cannot imagine
that event and the Bible also uses only pictures for
illustrating it.) If you have a brief answer, that would be
nice for me.”
I answered the question that is quoted above in the last
News by addressing the issue of hermeneutics or the
interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Now I have two
additional points that I would like to make, before
presenting positively the meaning of Zechariah 14:4.
1) The first point is a question that arose out of what I
wrote last time (it would be good if you would re-read
that). That question is: Who are the true children of
The premills and Baptists claim that the true children of
Abraham are ethnic Jews. Their theology is based on this
assumption, that Abraham is the father of Jews only.
The truth is that they are dead wrong. In fact, if a Baptist
or premill can show me one passage anywhere in Scripture
where the expression “seed of Abraham” or “children of
Abraham” is used to refer to Jews only, I will publicly
apologize in the News. I am convinced that the Bible never
uses the expression “seed [or children] of Abraham” to refer
to Jews only.
The expression is found early in sacred history. It is used
in connection with the establishment of God’s covenant with
Abraham. This important event is recorded for us in Genesis
17. There God tells Abraham, “I will establish my covenant
between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their
generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto
thee, and to thy seed after thee” (7).
God Himself explains what He means by “thy seed after thee.”
He speaks of an “everlasting covenant.” It seems to me that
this term does not and cannot mean, as Baptists insist, that
God establishes a temporal covenant with Abraham. If such is
the case, words no longer have meaning.
I know, the Baptists say that the word “everlasting” in
Scripture sometimes means “temporal” or “a long time.” It is
more than passing strange that those who are so insistent on
interpreting Scripture literally, should suddenly want to
interpret “everlasting” as “temporal.” Are they not being
“hoisted on their own petard”?
But, if that is not enough, to God the question of who are
true children of Abraham is so important that He even
changed the patriarch’s name from Abram to Abraham to
express in his name that Abraham is not, most emphatically
not, the father of Jews only, but also of the Gentiles:
“Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy
name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I
made thee” (5).
Paul underscores this truth in Romans 9:6-8: “For they are
not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they
are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In
Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the
children of the flesh, these are not the children of God:
but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
What can be gained by denying this flat-out contradiction of
the premill position?
Galatians 3:28-29 is also important in this connection:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek ... And if ye be Christ’s,
then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the
2) The second point that needs to be made is a refutation of
the claim of the premills that they alone take Scripture
I see no need to go into this in detail. The fact of the
matter is that the premills themselves do not take Scripture
literally and cannot do this. But what is more serious is
that by their claim they make the Bible a rather dull book.
They are forced to deny that Scripture has in it all kinds
of figures of speech: metaphors, similes, apostrophes,
symbols and many other sorts of figures. God’s Word is a
beautiful book, even as a literary masterpiece. Figures of
speech make the truths of Scripture come alive and these
figures often carry us away with their pointed and sharp
But, more importantly, by means of figures of speech,
Scripture makes clear to us that this earthly (from which
all figures of speech are taken) is created after the
pattern of the heavenly; that the heavenly is the true
reality, while the earthly is the shadow. And, at the same
time, these figures of speech tell us to look ahead to that
reality that is to come, when this earthly shall be redeemed
by Christ and made like to the heavenly.
By rendering ineffective the many figures of speech, the
premills also take away the rich, beautiful and important
types in the old dispensation that pointed God’s people
then, and point us now, to new dispensation realities. The
whole subject of types is most interesting and enlightening.
Study the subject.
Let us now have the text to which the brother refers, as
well as the next verse, with which it is very closely
associated, clearly set before us: “And his feet shall stand
in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before
Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave
in the midst thereof toward the east thereof and toward the
west thereof, and there shall be a very great valley; and
half of the mountain shall move toward the north, and half
of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of
the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach
unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before
the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the
Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech.
Below is the positive explanation of the passage given by my
son, Pastor Ron Hanko, in his recent book
The Coming of
Zion’s Redeemer, a commentary on Haggai, Zechariah and
The literalists believe that Christ will actually stand on
the Mount of Olives and that it will split in two when he
returns a thousand years before the end to establish an
earthly kingdom with Jerusalem as its center. The rest of
this chapter, when compared with Revelation 21 and 22, shows
that this interpretation is faulty. Even in the prophetic
language of the Old Testament, the reference is obviously to
the end of all things and not to some period a thousand
years before the end.
Especially the last words of verse 5 remind us of the end.
The coming of the Lord with his saints is not some coming
long before the end, but at the very end. In 1 Thessalonians
it is announced by the last trump, not a trump that will be
followed by many others. In Jude it is part of his coming
for final judgment ...
Christ’s standing on the Mount of Olives, as so much of the
book of Zechariah, is symbolic. The point is that through
the coming of Christ, God’s people will escape the judgment
that is coming—a way of escape will be provided them,
something like their escape from Egypt. The walls of the
valley that is made between the two halves of the Mount of
Olives will be on each side of them like the waters of the
Red Sea, and the presence of the Lord will overshadow them
as the pillar of cloud and fire did in the days of Moses.
They will be protected on every side.
The Mount of Olives stands on the east side of the city of
Jerusalem and guards the city on that side. It also,
however, cuts off a quick escape from the city on the east,
except that in this case God provides a way. The picture is
of Jerusalem surrounded by enemies on the north, south, and
west, but God opens a way through the mount so that his
people are able to abandon the city and escape the city to
the east, toward the rising sun.
The passage does not speak of the place to which they
escape. The valley of the mountain is the valley that God
makes through the Mount of Olives, part of the way of
escape. That they escape to the east suggests that their
refuge is finally heaven, for in the east the sun rises, and
according to Malachi east is the direction from which Christ
also comes as the rising Sun of righteousness.
Having escaped, they find their way back to Jerusalem, not
Jerusalem as they knew it, nor Jerusalem as it once existed,
nor Jerusalem as it comes under the judgment of God, but a
Jerusalem that knows no night, from which flow living
waters, a Jerusalem in which even the bells of the horses
are holy, a new Jerusalem. The picture is somewhat
confusing, but the reality is not. The message is the
important thing. One must simply overlook the fact that
having escaped Jerusalem they are found again in Jerusalem
as a place of refuge. The truth is that, having escaped this
world, they find their way to heaven (The Coming of Zion’s
Redeemer [Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2014], pp. 394-395).
This book is available from the
CPRC Bookstore for £22 (inc.
P&P in the UK) or from the RFPA in the US. Prof. Hanko
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