July 2018 - Christian Evidence

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Esther: The Hidden Hand of God

July 18, 2018 Add Comment
The Book of Esther is rather odd because it is the only book of the Bible in which the name of God appears to be missing (Martin Luther considered excluding it from the Bible for this reason1). Nonetheless, in this short book consisting of just 167 verses, the Median King is mentioned 192 times, his kingdom is referred to 26 times, and his name "Ahasuerus" is given 29 times. So why isn't God explicitly mentioned?

Deuteronomy 31:17-18 gives us a clue:
"Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods." (Deuteronomy 31:17-18)
God declared that if His People forsook Him, He would hide His face from them. The Book of Esther is a clear example of God fulfilling His Word. God was hiding His face from His people on account of their sins; they had deliberately chosen to continue in the land of their captivity among the heathen, instead of availing themselves of the opportunity of returning to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. But, though He was hidden from them, He was working for them. The name Esther gives us another clue: it means "Something Hidden"!

Hidden Acrostics

An "Acrostic" is when the initial letter of each line spells out a word, and it can be used as a mechanism for including a hidden message. The name of God is hidden several times in acrostics in the Book of Esther! Four times it appears as an acrostic, the famed Tetragammaton, "YHWH" or "Yahweh" or "YeHoVaH", and once as "EHYH" or "I AM". (Note: This phenomenon is only found within the original Hebrew Bible.)

 The First Acrostic 
"And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small." (Esther 1:20)

The name YHWH reads backward with the initial letter (Note: Hebrew reads from right to left).

 The Second Acrostic 
"And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him." (Esther 5:4)

The name YHWH reads forward with the initial letter.

 The Third Acrostic 
 "Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate." (Esther 5:13)

The name YHWH reads backward with the final letter.

 The Fourth Acrostic 
"And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king." (Esther 7:7)

The name YHWH reads forward with the final letter.

 The Fifth Acrostic 

The above are four of them, and the final one validates the others. It is "I AM" or EHYH in Esther 7:5, meaning 'I shall prove to be'.

The following phenomena are noticed in examining the four Acrostics which form the name "YHWH":

1. All four acrostics appear in four consecutive words.
2. (At least) three ancient manuscripts are known in which the Acrostic letters in all five cases are written Majuscular (or, larger than the others) so that they stand out boldly and prominently.
3. Each of the acrostics are words spoken by a different voice:
  • Memucan (1:20)
  • Esther (5:4)
  • Haman (5:13)
  • The author (7:7)
4. The first two Acrostics are a pair, having the name formed by the initial letters of the four words.
5. The last two are a pair, having the name formed by the final letters of the four words.
6. The first and third Acrostics are a pair, having the name spelt backward.
7. The second and fourth are a pair, having the name spelt forward.
They thus form an alternation:

A  Backward
   B  Forward
A  Backward
   B  Forward

8. The first and third (in which the name is formed backward) are a pair, being spoken by Gentiles.
9. The second and fourth (in which the name is spelt forward) are a pair, being spoken by Jews
They thus form an alternation:

C  Spoken by a Gentile (Memucan)
   D  Spoken by a Jew (Esther)
C  Spoken by a Gentile (Haman)
  D  Spoken by a Jew (the inspired writer of Esther)

10. The first and second form a pair, being connected with Queens and Banquets
12. The third and fourth are a pair, being connected with Haman
13. The first and fourth are a pair, being spoken concerning the Queen (Vashti) and Haman respectively.
14. The second and third are a pair, being spoken by the Queen (Esther) and Haman respectively.
They thus form an introversion:

E  Words concerning a Queen
  F  Words spoken by a Queen
E  Words spoken by Haman
  F  Words concerning Haman

15. It is also remarkable that, in the two cases where the name is formed by the initial letters, the facts recorded are initial also, and are spoken of an event in which God’s overruling was initiated; while in the two cases where the name is formed by the final letters, the events are final also, and lead rapidly up to the end toward which God was working. Thus in the two cases where the name is spelt backward, God is seen overruling the counsels of Gentiles for the accomplishment of His own people; and where the name is spelt forward, God is ruling directly in the interest of His people Israel even though it is unknown to them at the time.

In these five Acrostics we have something far beyond a mere coincidence; we have design!

But that's not all...

The names: Meshiach ("Messiah"), Yeshua ("Jesus"), and El Shaddai ("The Almighty"), also appear as equidistant letter sequences! (ELS are similar to acrostics, but instead of reading the initial letter, hidden words are looked for by reading the text every 2, or 3, or 4, (etc.), letters, skipping over the letters in between.)

1. In Esther 1:3, counting in 8 letter increments, we find the letters spelling "Meshiach", the Hebrew name of the Messiah. The interval of eight is significant as the number of Jesus is 888 (in gematria).

2. Again, in Esther 9:17, counting in 8 letter increments, we find the letters spelling "Yeshua", the Hebrew name of Jesus.

3. Finally, in Esther 4:2, counting in 7 letter increments, we find the letters spelling "El Shaddai". El is the familiar name of God; Shaddai, from the root for "breast" or "provider"; the Almighty. And the use of seven shouldn't surprise us.

The Book of Esther is designed to show God's providential care of His people. Even in the explicit absence of God’s name, the Book of Esther reminds us that He is always present and always in control. See related article: ELS in the Bible

1 Colloquia Mensalia, or The Table Talk of Martin Luther , trans. by William Hazlitt, World Publishing Co., 1952. "I am so great an enemy to the second book of the Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities. The Jews much more esteemed the book of Esther than any of the prophets; though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains." (Ed. Note: He was in error; that was Song of Songs - CM.)
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The Eastern Gate in Prophecy

July 06, 2018 Add Comment
"And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east." (Ezekiel 43:4)
Eastern Gate with Muslim graves before the gate with top of the Dome of the Rock in the background.

Approximately 2,600 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of the Glorious Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 10:18–19; 11:23; 43:1–5; 44:1–2; 46:12). In Ezekiel 43, we read:
“Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.” (Ezekiel 43:1-4)
It seems reasonable to suggest that Jesus Christ will enter the Temple Mount via the Eastern gate in one of the most momentous events in the history of mankind (the Second Coming)!

The Eastern Gate

The Eastern Gate (also known as the Golden Gate) is one of eight gates built into the walls which surround the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Eastern Gate provides the only entrance from the East, and it is also the only gate that gives the most direct access to the temple mount. The Eastern Gate was destroyed during the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, and the subsequent destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, thus fulfilling Christ's prophecy that "not one stone will be left on top of another" (Matthew 24:2). But sometime in the sixth or seventh century, the Byzantines rebuilt the Eastern Gate making it the oldest of all the gates to the city. In 1969, Jerusalem archaeologist James Fleming confirmed that the ancient gate is located right under the current Eastern Gate. While investigating the Eastern wall of the Temple, he suddenly fell into a mass burial site and clearly saw five large wedge-shaped stones set into a massive arch.

James Fleming's photo from 1969 from inside a grave on the outside of the Eastern Gate looking at the arch of an ancient Eastern Gate.

The Eastern Gate was sealed shut, with fifteen feet of cement, in AD 1540–41 by order of Suleiman the Magnificent, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The reasons for this remain unclear, however, it is likely that the Muslim Suleiman became aware of the prophecies which predicted the Messiah’s entrance through the Eastern Gate and, as a result, attempted to thwart the Messiah’s plans. And just in case a sealed entrance didn't thwart the Messiah's coming, Muslims even built a cemetery directly in front of the gate, thinking that a Jewish Holy man would never defile himself by walking through a Muslim cemetery.

However, little did they know, they were fulfilling prophecy by doing this. Ezekiel prophesied the shutting of this gate itself around 600 BC, more than 2100 years before Suleiman actually shut the gate:
"Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, "This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut." (Ezekiel 44:1-2)
There are eight gates in modern Jerusalem, but only seven are open. The Eastern Gate, and it alone, has remained sealed just as the Lord proclaimed to Ezekiel over 2,600 years ago!

It is a miracle how the Eastern Gate has survived for nearly 500 years of turmoil in Israel, and in spite of numerous well-documented attempts to open it. Four times in the last century an attempt to open the sealed Eastern Gate has failed... 

The first attempt was on December 9th 1917 during the Battle of Jerusalem. Muslim leaders in control of Jerusalem wanted all, but one, of the gates in Jerusalem sealed to deter the approaching allied Expeditionary Army led by the British General Allenby. The one gate chosen to remain open just so happened to be the Eastern Gate. On the exact day the workmen were preparing to demolish the mysterious sealed gate, Allenby's airplane flew over the city, telling the Arabs to flee. Miraculously, without a shot being fired, the opposing soldiers fled the city. The city was delivered into the hands of the Britain, and the gate remained sealed as Ezekiel had prophesied. 

A second attempt was in 1967. King Hussein of Jordan, who had control over the ancient city of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, decided to build a hotel for Arab pilgrims on a section of the Western Wall to close off the area to Jewish worship forever. The hotel was planned to be built over the Magreb Gate, which Moslems used to enter the Temple Mount. This meant another gate would have to be opened so that Moslems could still get to the El Aksa Mosque (on the site of the Jewish Temple Mount). King Hussein chose to open the sealed Eastern Gate. But, on June 5th of 1967, as the workmen prepared their air-hammers to shatter the huge stones sealing the Eastern Gate, an intimidating array of Israeli aircraft flew overhead. The Six Day War had begun, and the workmen put down their tools. At the end of the Six Day War, the workmen were unable to resume their project because the Jews had managed to recapture their ancient capital of Jerusalem. What a coincidence!

There was another failed attempt around this same time. When the Six Day War first broke out, some members of the Jewish military suggested catching the Jordanian defenders of the city off guard by blowing open the sealed Eastern Gate. But the leader of the group, an Orthodox Jew, had vehemently protested the idea, stating that “the Eastern Gate can be opened only when the Messiah comes.” After a heated debate, they launched an attack at the Lion's Gate instead.

Back in October 31 of 1997 the Denver Post had an extraordinary news item which headlined "Israel plans to alter wall." Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Israel's Housing Ministry wants to reopen a sealed gate in the wall ringing Jerusalem's Old City...The plan to break through the 15-foot-thick stone wall - part of a project to build up the Jewish ‘Quarter and increase its population - also is likely to anger the Palestinians, who oppose any changes in Jerusalem's eastern sector." 
Whatever came of this plan is unknown, but today, true to Ezekiel’s prophecy, the Eastern Gate remains sealed.

The gate will remain sealed until the day when the promised Messiah will enter into His Kingdom. Its sealing is clear evidence that we are living in the end times, and given the amazing accuracy of this prophecy, we have no reason to doubt it will remain shut until the return of the Lord as this prophecy reaches its fulfillment.
"Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah" (Psalm 24:7-10)
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