THE EAR OF MALCHUS
BY: E. M. ‘ED’ DUPAS
MARCH 15, 2006
SOME PRELIMINARY “TYPE-SETTING”
AN EAR-SPLITTING FORESHADOW?
IMPARTATION OF THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
GOD’S IDEA, OR PETER’S?
THE CASE AGAINST THIS PROPOSITION
TWO OR MORE WITNESSES…
SOME PRELIMINARY “TYPE-SETTING”
Throughout the bible one can find people, things and situations which are symbols of people, things and situations (not necessarily in the same order), occurring later in scripture, perhaps much later. These earlier representations are sometimes called types or foreshadows. They are very real events or things, arranged or allowed by God to signal His people to keep watch for a more significant thing. I can think of no better illustration of this than the following verses of Scripture:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Col. 2:16-17) (KJV)
A former pastor of mine explained it this way: Imagine you are walking past a building in an unfamiliar part of town. As you approach the corner, you notice the shadow of a man who is also nearing the corner, from your right. He is still out of sight, but the sun at his back casts a long shadow ahead of him. Because you are not sure of the neighborhood you want to be cautious about everyone you meet, so you study his shadow carefully – after all, he could be armed, or possibly something else in his shadow may give you information about him. The two-dimensional shadow can be helpful to you, letting you know the person’s gender, some idea of size, length of hair, etc. However, if the person happened to be armed, holding his weapon in front or in back of himself, the shadow would not reveal it. When he finally turns the corner, your eyes leave the shadow, because you no longer have need of it. The shadow has let you know someone was coming and gave you a sense of what to expect. This is what the apostle Paul meant in the above verse – the Old Testament laws and ordinances concerning eating, drinking, festivals, new moons or sabbath days were put in place to help us recognize the Messiah when He came. Now that he has appeared we have no need to follow the “shadow,” because we see the real person.
An inquisitive mind can find these foreshadows everywhere in the bible, possibly even where the Holy Spirit never intended. Jesus himself said, on the road to Emmaus “…the scriptures tell of me.”, implying that the main purpose of the entire old testament was to reveal the coming Messiah for later proof of who He was. One type or foreshadow most people can agree upon is the blood of the paschal lamb in Egypt, which protected the Israelites from the angel of death. This of course symbolizes the blood of Christ, called the Lamb of God, protecting God’s people from His wrath. Another example is the rock which accompanied the Israelites during their forty years’ sojourn in the wilderness. This is the “Rock of Ages” we sing about today. A third example might have Isaac’s sons Esau and Jacob representing the duality of God’s people, Jacob representing the children of promise, and Esau representing those excluded from the old covenant. The ground is fertile for “growing” interpretations of just who these two people symbolize. I have come across several, each with its own merits. Since most theologians agree on some of the main types or foreshadows, there is no need to debate whether such things exist – that is well established. Less clear is how active we ought to be in searching for them. Scripture makes it clear that the Jews did not recognize their Messiah when He came because they had not recognized the representations of Him in their books of the Law and of the Prophets. This tells me we may help our own case by being better prepared – by searching more diligently than the “scholars” of Jesus’ day.
Now that we have determined that types and shadows exist in the bible and that it is good to search for them (or rather, let the Spirit reveal them to us), it seems that an all-out quest for types and shadows would not be unthinkable, provided our claims are responsible (I hesitate to say provable) and that they can be helpful in our understanding of God’s plan and purposes for His children. Personally, I don’t go on hunting expeditions in search of these items, but I stumble across them frequently in response to clues in the bible, such as when I encounter what seems to be an unnecessary point of detail in a story. When this happens, I may find myself saying “Now why was that important?” One such example is Gen. 35:18, at the death of Jacob’s wife, Rachel, during childbirth.
“And it came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” (NASB)
The name Ben-oni means “son of my sorrow.” It seems Rachel wanted to leave behind a reminder of her frustration in life and in death, but Jacob intervened, naming the child Benjamin, which in Hebrew means “son of the right hand.” Jacob’s love for Rachel was legend. For him to deny Rachel her death wish we must conclude that it was most important, if not critical that the child be named “son of the right hand.” Whose right hand? Where else do we read about children of the right hand? Off the top of my head I can think of at least two such instances in the New Testament, so off I go, to find out if Benjamin’s life could be a pattern for some other person, or a nation, perhaps. We won’t follow the Benjamin trail just now, but I’m sure you get the idea, even if you don’t share my enthusiasm regarding types and shadows.
AN EAR-SPLITTING FORESHADOW?
There is one episode in the New Testament that tugged at my mind for years, begging for further understanding. It concerns the disciple Peter, who was with the Master when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The verse in question is John 18:10:
“Simon Peter therefore having a sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.” (NASB)
In an action that made no sense whatever, Peter lashed out with his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest. I have always wondered a) why this outburst appears in the middle of the arrest of Jesus; and b) why the name of the slave was even included in John’s account. It seems Peter was protecting Jesus, who neither needed nor desired that kind of help. After all, what possible good could come from striking a lowly servant when there was a whole company of armed guards there?
As long as I have been studying God’s word, I have been finding such “bumps in the landscape,” and often judge them to be worthy of investigation, in the same way that a skin blemish or rash bears looking into, for it can signal a deeper problem within a person’s body. Wondering about this “blemish” led me to search for something deeper.
To begin with, why was a disciple of Christ carrying a sword? How does this align with the Sermon on the Mount, where disciples were admonished to not strike back, but rather to turn the other cheek? We don’t know how many of his disciples may have been armed, but it is reasonable to assume that Peter had a sword because Jesus advised his disciples to “sell their robe and buy a sword.” (Luke 22:36) This advice is so incongruent to the other teachings of Jesus that we must wonder whether Jesus was speaking in a type of parable, (as when He claimed to have come not to bring peace, but a sword—the sword of the spirit, i.e. the word [Gk: rhema] of God). Evidently Peter somehow misunderstood this advice. One thing is without question – Peter did have a sword, and did cut off the servant’s ear. THIS FACT IS RECORDED IN ALL FOUR GOSPELS. That alone cries out for revelation and understanding!
There may be some elegant foreshadowing here. The Greek name “Malchus” literally means “king.” It is possible that through this event we are being offered a symbolic message that Peter, using the sword, cut off the ear of the King. Let us explore this thought, using symbols we are already familiar with from scripture. Let’s consider the sword to represent the word [rhema] of God, as in Ephesians 6. Further, let’s assume that Malchus represents the church. We might say this because his name is “king.” The church is Christ (the King) on earth, as His body. Furthermore we find in Malchus, the slave of the high priest, an ideal symbol of the church, which is the slave of the true High Priest. Remember that symbols do not have to be perfect representations, but rather icons that point us to something, such as the seven cows representing seven years in Joseph’s dream. So far so good! Now, putting the symbols together and trying to interpret them, we might ask whether Peter’s apparently out-of-place action had a prophetic representation, where Peter, using the word of God, cut off (closed) the ears of the king (body of Christ).
Before we can entertain the idea that Peter’s act of violence foreshadowed the closing of the church’s ears, we must establish that the church’s “ears” actually were closed. But when could the fulfillment have taken place? Consider the fifth chapter of Acts. This is where Peter judged and condemned Ananias and Sapphira, for withholding some of the proceeds of the sale of their property. Peter used the gift of discernment [word of God] and the power of the Holy Spirit to deal with and dispatch the couple. First, he confronted Ananias with his sin, which apparently caused Ananias to drop dead, overcome with shame and guilt at being told he had sinned directly against the Holy Spirit. A little while later, when Sapphira came along, Peter did not wait for her to find her own response, but immediately pronounced a death sentence upon her – in effect, he cursed her.
This event stands alone in the New Testament as an immediate judgment of sin, an incredibly swift punishment of a disciple of Christ, with no opportunity for repentance. Are we to understand that God, who we know to be patient – as in 1 Pet 3:20, “…when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (KJV) – could not wait a single moment? In Noah’s day, the world deserved annihilation before he began building the ark, but God waited over one hundred years while Noah worked! Somehow the judgment against Sapphira does not seem consistent with God’s character. Remember Jesus’ instructions specifically to Peter about forgiving “seventy times seven times” (Matt. 18:21-22), along with God’s repeated messages that He will not be angry with us, and that our sins have been forgiven. Peter’s stinging rebukes and swift execution of justice seem as out-of-place as did his sword in the garden. When we consider God’s words “I am the Lord, I change not…” (Mal. 3:6) we must ask ourselves why the Holy Spirit would act with swift anger and rebuke, after saying He would never do that:
“In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer. For this is like the days of Noah to Me; When I swore that the waters of Noah should not flood the earth again, So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, nor will I rebuke you..” (Isaiah 54:8-9) Emphasis added.
This seems to suggest that the action was provoked more by Peter’s displeasure than by the Holy Spirit. But to continue exploring whether this typology is possible – Peter’s dealing with the pair had to somehow result in the cutting off of the “ears of the King,” i.e., it would have had to cause the church to stop hearing the true gospel – the true gospel, because certainly the universal church has always been hearing a gospel, but could it be that this act of Peter somehow “cut off the ears” of the church to hearing the true (complete) gospel? Look at the following part of the account (Acts 5):
10And she fell immediately at his feet, and breathed her last; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things. 12And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. 13But NONE OF THE REST DARED TO ASSOCIATE WITH THEM; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number; 15to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16And also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed. (Emphasis added)
Notice that GREAT FEAR gripped the whole church (verse 13). Peter’s action resulted in fear, which leads to death, when he ought to have been displaying and instilling Jesus’ love and forgiveness, which leads to life. 1 John 4:18 says,
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
According to this verse, the church after that incident was not being perfected in love, because they were gripped by fear. Prior to that time it seems as though they were being perfected in love. Look at the following verses describing the operation of the early church:
“..And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47) (Emphasis added)
“..And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.” (Acts 4:32-35)
Here we see a living illustration of the church Jesus called for when He said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another…” (John 13:35). Was there ever a time when Jesus induced fear to correct or teach his disciples? Notice that after the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira the apostles continued to show great signs and wonders, but NO ONE ELSE DARED TO ASSOCIATE WITH THEM, (out of fear for their lives). This does not sit right, for Jesus came to free us from the fear of death, as we see in Hebrews 2:14-15:
Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who THROUGH FEAR OF DEATH WERE SUBJECT TO SLAVERY ALL THEIR LIVES. (Emphasis added)
IMPARTATION OF THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
In the early church the gifts of the Spirit were imparted by the laying on of hands (Refer to 1 Tim. 4:14, and 2 Tim. 1:6). This includes several gifts involving hearing the Holy Spirit speak (rhema), such as words of wisdom, knowledge, discernment of spirits, prophecy, etc. Without their “ears on,” to borrow from the Dukes of Hazzard TV show, the church was less able to receive specific ongoing instruction from the Spirit. It seems that God’s plan was that this was how the gifts were to be imparted – by physical contact. There is also evidence that one who received gifts through impartation displayed signs and wonders every bit as strong as did the first apostles. This is certainly true in the lives and works of Paul, Philip and Stephen. Can you see what a problem it would be, if, as stated in Acts 5:13, no one would associate with the apostles, through whom spiritual gifts might be imparted by the laying on of hands? Can you see how the distribution of the gifts could begin to dwindle, perhaps eventually die out? This can be easily imagined, as fearful people avoid the “untouchable” apostles?
With the Holy Spirit’s anointing on the apostles, it was as though Jesus Christ Himself were present, ministering to His church. Certainly the apostles’ ministries continued to evoke signs and wonders wherever they went, because the “gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29), but now a rift had been formed in the church, which would never be the same again—and as Jesus said, “.. a house divided against itself cannot stand..” (Mark 3:25). Because of Peter’s lashing out with the word, (the sword of the Spirit), against Ananias and Sapphira, the church became fractionated. Because of fear, no one dared to approach the apostles. However, the people still sought healing, as in Acts 5:15:
15to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.
Why did the people attempt to heal the sick by having Peter’s shadow fall on them? Surely Peter was not above stopping to lay hands on the sick! Isn’t it possible that the people feared the power that Peter’s touch or words might bring? Remember that even today, people have a great fear of the moving of the Holy Spirit. It is possible that with Peter’s action against the couple, the spreading of the gospel to the entire world was given a serious setback.
GOD’S IDEA, OR PETER’S?
Theologians have asserted that the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira exists in Scripture as a lesson to us – to remind us of the wrath of a supreme and sovereign God, in case we think He is ready to forgive only, and never punish. They claim that the Holy Spirit was purifying the Body, giving evidence of this by pointing out that the church continued to grow. I suggest that God allowed but may not have orchestrated the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. I think there is a better lesson here – that EVEN SPIRIT-FILLED BELIEVERS SUCH AS PETER CAN REACT OUT OF ZEAL AND SENSE OF PURPOSE, RATHER THAN OUT OF GOD’S WORD AND HIS PERFECT TIMING. No servant was more dedicated or anointed than Moses, and yet he did what he considered the right thing, striking the rock which God told him to speak to. In judging Ananias and Sapphira, Peter was simply being Peter, as always, shooting from the hip, or the lip, as it were, without thinking. Instead of correcting the errant disciples and then nurturing them back into the fold, as Jesus taught him us do to a brother found in a fault, it may be that Peter chose to purge the church of this blight, as an example to others of what happens when the Holy Spirit is affronted. The Holy Spirit did not need Peter’s protection any more than Jesus needed it in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Lest we are tempted to hold the early church’s leading apostle so high as to believe him incapable of acting outside the will of God, we should recall that this is the same spirit-filled Peter who drew the censure of Paul, regarding eating with the Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-12). This is the same spirit-filled Peter who reminded God on the housetop of what The Lord had said about clean and unclean foods (Acts 10:13-14). We cannot prove from Scripture that Peter was totally led by the Spirit in dealing with Ananias and Sapphira. Actually; if we’re willing to forget about traditional “church” beliefs and consider only God’s word along with what we know of Peter’s character, it is easier to suggest that he wasn’t completely Spirit-led. Our best hope for getting to the truth is to rely on the words of the Master, who said we would know a tree by the fruit that it bears. It seems the fruit of this “judgment” was A FEARFUL CHURCH WHOSE NUMBERS WERE BEING INCREASED GREATLY.
While Peter seems to be acting for God in Acts 5:10-ff we must leave room for the possibility that he was not, particularly since the rebuke contradicts God’s own promise for dealing with his people, the Jews, and since the fruit of Peter’s action is questionable. We should also not assume that because of the demonstration of power Peter must have been acting for God. We have evidence from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 7:22-23 that such power is available to people who claim to be acting in His name, but who are not doing so according to His will:
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you…’ ”
THE CASE AGAINST THIS PROPOSITION
Many theologians would say this notion is false, because according to Acts 5:14, the church continued to grow after this event. They would say what happened was a good thing, resulting in the further growth of the early church. The point would be fairly well taken, because grow it did! Notice that its growth was based on a fear of the wrath of God, that is, on a desire to escape punishment, as churches still do today. Furthermore, after the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira the disciples began to esteem and revere the apostles, which should be a signal to us that the church was in danger of taking a wrong turn, where the apostles would begin to replace the man Jesus as the object of the Church’s fear and reverence. We still see this happening in the church today with some of the more powerful religious or charismatic leaders.
Yes, the church still grew, (even as churches grow today), perhaps because the people were in fear of being “killed” by God at the hands of the apostles, doomed to spend an eternity in hell. That is clearly not the true gospel, the rock upon which the promised church was to be built. The true gospel (good news) is revealed by the Apostle Paul to the church at Colossi in the following verses:
25 “Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. (Emphasis added)
Recall that on the day of Pentecost, when 3,000 people believed, and were ushered into the Church, no mention was made of God’s wrath, nor of His judgment. Clearly a new day dawned on the Church with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, with the introduction of the fear of death, not at the hands of their earthly enemies, but from God himself. I believe the fire of the early church began to be quenched that day – I further suggest that the enemy succeeded in “dividing and thereby weakening” God’s church.
TWO OR MORE WITNESSES…
The Lord laid down in scripture the basis for establishing a thing as truth. This requires at least two witnesses (Deut. 19:15). I’d like to offer for your consideration the following two testimonies from scripture, one from the Old Testament, and another from the New. These seem to support the notion that the church would fall asleep (a euphemism for becoming ineffective). For purposes of further discussion I would like to equate the idea of the church falling asleep with the church not hearing from God. This is supported by Jesus’ comment that His words are spirit and they are life. I am assuming that a church actively hearing from God would not fall asleep. The examples given below are asking you to see certain events as symbols, and to the extent that the symbols seem to support my argument we have circumstantial rather than hard evidence. Remember though, that if there is enough circumstantial evidence in courtroom trial, it can become compelling.
A possible old testament foreshadowing of the closing off of the church’s ears can be found in Genesis 42:24, part of the story of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt, to wit:
While he was still unidentified to them and before he would turn over any food to his brothers, Joseph requested that his brothers return home and bring Benjamin, the youngest brother before him. We have seen earlier that the name Benjamin means “son of the right hand” (probably a type of the true believers, who are seated with Jesus, at the right hand of the Father – Jesus is the head, they are His body). Most bible students agree that Joseph was a type of Jesus Christ. We should also be open to the possibility that Joseph’s brothers are a type of the church, who are being saved. I realize this is not provable from scripture, but it is suggested by Romans 8:29, which states, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29) (KJV) If Joseph represents Christ, his brothers may represent the church, who are brothers of/in Christ. Among the brothers is Benjamin, the last brother to be born, possibly representing the bride of Christ, who are seated with Him and will one day rule and reign with Him. Notice that Joseph sent for Benjamin who would eventually serve him and rule with him over ancient Egypt. However, for assurance that the brothers would return, Joseph had Simeon bound while his brothers were gone. The Hebrew name Simeon means “hearing with acceptance.”
I suggest that when Simeon was imprisoned and not allowed to go on the journey to bring young Benjamin to Egypt, God was foreshadowing a time when the church would be sent out with the task of bringing the “sons of God” (sons of the right hand, represented by Benjamin) to the presence of Jesus without the ability to “hear with acceptance,” that is, to hear the rhema of God spoken directly to their hearts. Over these many centuries since the early days of the church, without the knowledge that the Spirit has been speaking, we have not been listening for His voice, in the same way that a turned off radio will not receive transmitted signals. Without the gifts of wisdom and the words of knowledge imparted to believers by the laying on of hands we have not been able to “tune in” to the Holy Spirit. Recall the following verses from the New Testament:
“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;” (1 Cor. 12:8) (NASB)
There is no reason to feel bad or look for culprits for the last 2,000 years of impaired hearing. We are now hearing more clearly and our responsibility is to forgive our forefathers and react appropriately to the truth TODAY.
I should add concerning this that there is rich symbolism in the Genesis story of Joseph and his brothers, from which I am culling out a single verse. I thank the Lord and Elaine Cook for her teaching called “The Benjamin Company,” wherein she takes the story of Joseph and his brothers and masterfully rolls out a parade of beautiful types and shadows which may reveal the end time delivery of God’s remnant of Zion.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus left his disciples at one place and went further, taking only Peter, James and John. You know the story. Jesus said to the three, “…Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” (Matt. 26:36) Three times during a one hour period Jesus came out to check on the men, only to find them sleeping. His comment to them in the following verses is VERY interesting:
Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:40-41) (NRSV)
For many years I was so moved by the passion of Christ in the Garden that I may have “built an altar there in that ‘Holy Place.’” What happened there was crystal clear to me and everyone else – no need to gild the lily, as it were. However the time came when the eyes of my understanding began to be opened. Then I found myself wondering about things in the bible that seemed unnecessary to the story. This scene, too, became fair game. I found myself asking some questions like…
- Why one hour? Did Jesus know his schedule ahead of time?
- Why did He say “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak? Didn’t He mean “The mind is willing, butthe body is weak,” or are these two statements equivalent?
- What did Jesus mean by “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial (lit.
What testing? Certainly Jesus knew that his disciples would flee in the garden and would not face trial as He would.
Just as with the story of Joseph and his brothers, this event can be viewed in more than one way. For the sake of exploration let’s consider this time in the Garden as a representation of the church, particularly the early church. Jesus’ prayer before the father is a type of his intercession for us before the Father, even to this day, as indicated in Heb. 7:25. (I won’t discuss at this time the meaning of Jesus’ plea that “the cup might pass from Him” other than to say it was not just about his impending death.) In our imaginary scenario Peter and the two sons of Zebedee are a type of the church leaders, responsible for guarding the affairs and destiny of the early church – keeping watch, if you will. In talking about the “spirit and the flesh,” Jesus is not showing his disappointment that the disciples can’t stay awake, rather he is indicating that the disciples are in for a spiritual struggle – our first real clue that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Jesus’ comment about the “trial” may be alluding to the difficulty the church would have in staying alert during times of great testing which were to come.
Understanding the significance of “watching one hour” requires us to take a little more creative license, and readers are free to disagree. I am merely offering a type of grist for the mill, or is it grist for the “type” mill? Those readers acquainted with the “seven days of creation” throughout the bible, where a thousand years is represented as one day (as suggested in 2 Peter 3:8, and Ps. 90:4) may already see where this is heading. In biblical times the day was considered to be twelve hours long, lasting from 6AM to 6PM. Now, if a day is a thousand years, then an hour might symbolically be one-twelfth of a thousand years, or approximately eighty-three years long. If this is true, then the disciples’ snoozing in Gethsemane may be a foreshadowing of the “church” falling asleep before the first eighty-three years had elapsed, in spite of Christ’s intercession, and repeated attempts to revive it. Also, if this view is correct, it would say that for almost 2,000 years we have been in a time of testing which might have been avoided if the church had not “fallen asleep.” This is speculation, but darned interesting to consider!
Why even bother to go there? Even if this idea about Peter “cutting off the ears of the church” were true, what possible good could it do to reopen history which can’t be changed anyway? It is true that we can’t change the past, but if the church’s ears have been closed or partially closed for the last nineteen centuries or so, we can ask what they were closed to. If, as John Wesley said, “God does nothing on earth save in answer to believing prayer.”, He will work out His plan for the ages through His people, and not by Himself while His people watch from cloudy sidelines. He will be looking for us to hear and see very clearly the full gospel. Notice that God’s intention is clearly spelled out in Amos 9:9-15 and Acts 16:14-18, that God will restore the tabernacle of David (bringing His “remnant” – His elect, who are called by His name, into the one-on-one relationship David had with Him) and use them to reach out to the nations, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord. Many believers’ approachs seem to be – to hang on until they are rescued away, at which time the Lord will bring judgment to his enemies all by Himself. While this seems to be suggested in the “rapture” of the church, it would mean a great many of the old testament prophesies would never be fulfilled. It is wise to remember that Christ is the Head of the church, which is His body. He is also the Captain of the Host, or the Lord of Armies. This suggests a possible different relationship for the deliverance of the nations, rather like Gideon and the three hundred delivering God’s people in the book of Judges. But there I go again, getting lost in the shadows…
I would like to add a footnote in support of this wild notion. In Daniel 12:4, the angel told Daniel to seal up the book. Quite possibly the book contained information about these latter days which, if revealed, might have influenced the behavior of the early church, causing them to be more patient, and also giving them an excuse for their inaction. As we can see from Scripture, most of the disciples felt Jesus’ return was imminent. The tone and urgency of Paul’s writings make it clear he was convinced Jesus could come at any time. Jesus himself had said that “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His glory.” (Matt. 16:28) Because of this sense of urgency the early church was committed to evangelizing the known world as soon as possible. Somewhere along the way the flame began to sputter. We know by the letters to the churches which Christ gave to John on the Isle of Patmos around 94 a.d., that the “church” was no longer on fire as in the first few years after Pentecost, again suggesting it had “fallen asleep,” This is not hard evidence, but it seems like only after the church had missed the opportunity, could the more of the “book” be revealed, otherwise the knowledge in the book shown to Daniel might have somehow changed the course of history. In other words, God saw all along we would miss the chance, but just as with the Israelites in the wilderness it was always in our power to seize it, so God wanted to give us every chance to do so.
It seems that only after the church had “fallen asleep” was it safe to open up the book again.
THE EAR OF MALCHUS [E. M. ‘Ed’ Dupas] 3-15-06 1