The Final Shaking

No nation or living creature can escape the fierce shaking judgment of God in time in reference to His plans for this world. God shakes all living creatures, nations and the earth for the purpose of bringing about the purpose for which He created the world and all mankind. He shook Israel in order to bring about the intended purpose for which he called Israel into existence to continue the seedline of Abraham that resulted in the Seed of woman, the Christ (See Gl 3:16). In order to remind us of this eternal purpose of God, Ezekiel was called to direct the thinking of the faithful remnant of Israel to another “shaking” that would happen in the years to come in their history:

“The fish of the sea and the birds of the heaven, and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth, will shake at My presence. And the mountains [governments] will be thrown down and the steep places will fall, and every wall [of every city] will fall to the ground” (Ez 38:20).

Israel was shaken by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The nations who took Israel into captivity were themselves shaken in order that they release the seedline remnant of Abraham in order that they might return to the promised land. This brings us to the time of the prophecy of Haggai, and the preceding prophecy of Ezekiel. After their captivity, it was time in the history of Israel to give the remnant of God hope for something that was coming in the future. Therefore, according to Haggai there was another “shaking” that was to come in the history of Israel. This was the “shaking” about which the Hebrew writer referred in Hebrews 12:26,27.

At the time of the prophecy of Haggai, the remnant of captives had returned to the land of promise and were to be prepared for the future. Haggai was called by God in order to encourage Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest (Hg 2:2). The Lord encouraged these two leaders of the returned remnant with the following exhortation, “Now be strong” (Hg 2:4). The Lord promised them, “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Hg 25).

In the middle of the Lord’s encouragement that the people rebuild the physical temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, there was an implanted prophecy that would not be fulfilled until four hundred years later. The Lord promised, “Yet once again in a little while I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land” (Hg 2:6). The phrase, “a little while,” did not refer to something that would happen 2,400 years later, supposing that the “shaking” would be at the end of time with the final coming of the Lord Jesus. Neither did the statement refer to something that would take place in their lifetime. Since the Hebrew writer quoted this prophecy of Haggai, which quotation was made about thirty years after the ministry of Jesus, then we must conclude that there was yet one more “shaking” by which national Israel would be sifted in order to separate the chaff from the grain.

In the historical context of Haggai, Zerubabbel and Joshua, the Lord continued to historically contextualize the shaking that would come. Haggai continued, “And I will shake all nations, and they will come to the desire of all nations. And I will fill this house with glory” (Hg 2:7). The prophecy Haggai moved beyond the physical temple that the Israelite remnant was to rebuild. The physical temple would be a symbol of the temple of the spiritual house of the Lord. Isaiah explained: “And it will come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established on top of the mountains, and will be exalted above the hills. And all nations will flow to it” (Is 2:2). Both Haggai and Isaiah revealed that all nations would come unto the temple (church) of the Lord at sometime in the future from the time they prophesied.

When the Lord eventually shook the nations with the gospel of King Jesus, it was then that the mountains of the nations came tumbling down. People from all nations submitted to the kingdom reign of the Son where there is “neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither bondservant nor free. There is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gl 3:28). The final shaking of Israel began during the ministry of Jesus and continued until the consummation of national Israel in A.D. 70. The first part of the shaking was spiritual with the preaching of the gospel message by Jesus, and then after Acts 2, by the apostles. The second part of the shaking was physical when God brought down national Israel in A.D. 70. The patience of God prevailed during the forty years from the beginning until the end (See 2 Pt 3:9).

When the gospel went into all the world, it was then that the prophecy of Haggai 2 began to be fulfilled. The gospel brought all men under the kingdom reign of Jesus (See Dn 2:44; 7:13,14). This is the meaning of the following final words that the Lord gave to Haggai to deliver to the people: “I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations” (Hg 2:22).

A. One more “shaking”:

And now we come to the conclusion of God’s “shakings.” This brings us to the “shaking” of Hebrews 12 that in these times has “end-of-time” speculators trying to shake everyone in their boots. Unfortunately, in their efforts to shake us by twisting the meaning of Hebrews 12, they are promoting the end-of-times in reference to the world. Unfortunately, these end-of-time prophets have simply missed the in-time “shakings” of Israel in order to bring about repentance, and finally, to bring about the end of national Israel in A.D. 70. They forget that the “shakings” of God were always in-time events that had in-time results. When we understand the purpose of why God shook people in time, then we can easily determine that the work of God to shake humanity never refers to end-of-time events.

Before we look at Hebrews 12 that was written about thirty years after Jesus made the pronouncements of the demise of national Israel in Matthew 24, we must focus on one statement in Luke’s parallel account of what Jesus said was coming in the lifetime of some of His disciples (See Mk 9:1). In Luke’s record of Jesus’ prophecy of the end of Israel, which was written less than a decade before the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, Luke referred to an emotional state of the people that is always prevalent in the hearts of man every time God shakes humanity. Jesus prophesied that this state of emotional distress would exist among the Jews when Rome finally brought down judgment on the insurrectionist Jews of Palestine: “Men’s hearts will be failing them for fear, and for expecting those things that are coming on the earth. For the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Lk 21:26). The “powers of heaven” (Rome) would be shaken in order to shake the chaff of unbelieving Israel from the grain of believers. The chaff (national Israel) would then be gathered up in Jerusalem and burned (See Mt 13:40). The seed (grain) of the kingdom of God would then continue unhindered by the chaff. After A.D. 70, there was never again any persecution of Christians by the Jews that was so prevalent during the forty years that led up to that date.

Jesus placed the fulfillment of that about which He spoke to occur in time, not at the end of time. This was a shaking in time because of “those things that are coming on the earth” at the time he spoke. But when the Holy Spirit spoke of the final coming of Jesus at the end of time, He revealed things that would happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Co 15:52). In reference to the end of time, Paul added, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Th 4:16). These are events that will take place instantaneously. When speaking of end-of-time events, the New Testament does not speak of events that would unfold gradually over a period of time. Regardless of how long it would take Rome to bring destruction upon national Israel, the day of the Lord in A.D. 70 was more than a 24-hour day. It was judgment that was planned in Rome, which judgment eventually came upon national Israel over a period of several months. This is certainly not within the instantaneous time frame of the events that will take place on last day when Jesus comes again.

This introduces us to the text of Hebrews 10:26,27. The Hebrew writer was directing his words to those who were forsaking the kingdom reign of King Jesus. They were going back to live under the Jews’ religion of the day. Because of the intimidation of the radical Jews at the time in their efforts to restore national Israel, the Hebrew writer penned a document to save the lives of young Christian Jews who might be encouraged to take up a sword and head to Jerusalem in order to fight the Romans. At the time, there were nationalistic zealot Jews at work throughout the Roman Empire who were recruiting all Jews to go to Jerusalem on the Passover of A.D. 70 in order to consolidate their resistance against Rome. Strategically, it was also at that time that Rome planned that the Roman army should show up at the same time.

The finality of the Hebrew writer’s arguments were based on the affirmation of Hebrews 10:39: “But we [faithful Jews] are not of those [apostates] who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” If any Jew fell away from their allegiance to King Jesus, then there was only certain doom waiting him in Jerusalem. God was again going to shake national Israel in order to separate the chaff from the grain. Through and after the destruction, Jesus had prophesied the result: “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). Once the tares were gathered up and burned, then the true grain would be revealed. It would be as Jesus said at the conclusion of the parable of the Tares: “Therefore, as the tares [unbelieving Jews] are gathered and burned in the fire [of the destruction of Jerusalem], so it will be at the end of this [national Israel] age” (See Mt 13:40). (During the final weeks of the destruction, the Jewish historian Josephus stated that hundreds of thousand of Jews were killed by the Romans. The bodies of the dead were burned outside the walls of the city.)

When we read the statement of Hebrews 12:26,27 that was written only a few years before the calamity (shaking) that came upon national Israel in A.D. 70, we must understand that Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 (Lk 21) was in the process of being fulfilled. About thirty years later when the book of Hebrews was written, national calamity was indeed coming upon the Jews. Notice carefully how the Hebrew writer took the minds of the recipients of the letter back to God’s shaking of Israel in the past when Israel continually went into apostasy: “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they [apostate Jews] did not escape when they refused Him [Jesus] who spoke on earth, much less will we escape if we turn away from Him [King Jesus] who speaks from heaven” (Hb 12:15). At the time this statement was made, King Jesus continued to speak from heaven through His apostles whom He sent into all the world (Mt 28:19,20).

In the context, the Hebrew writer spoke specifically of the incarnate Son of God speaking to national Israel during His earthly ministry. But during His ministry, the Jews rejected Him and His word. The writer then continued in Hebrews 12:26, “His voice then shook the earth.” The voice of Jesus shook the earth during His ministry on earth because His word became the standard by which all would be judged both in time and at the end of time: “He who rejects Me and does not receive My words” Jesus reminded the obstinate Jews, “has one who judges him. The word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day” (Jn 12:48). From the time Jesus ascended to the throne of God in heaven, until the time He comes again in the last day, it is the word of King Jesus that will judge all men (At 17:30,31).

In the historical context of the recipients of the Hebrew letter, there would be another “shaking” after Jesus shook the earth with His personal words while He was on earth. “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven” (Hb 12:26). We must not miss the metaphors of this statement. Paul’s statement in Ephesians 1:20,21 is a needed commentary. The Father “worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” It is there that King Jesus is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named.” Paul continued with his commentary on this matter in Philippians 2:9,10: “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the earth.” Jesus is now King of all nations of this world (1 Tm 6:15). He is King of all the realm of Satan (See 1 Pt 3:22). There is nothing outside His present kingdom reign.

The Hebrew writer continued to identity the obedient subjects of the kingdom reign at the time the Hebrew document was written. In view of all those kingdoms of the world that can be shaken out of existence, the obedient subjects of King Jesus “are receiving [accepting] a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hb 12:28). “Those things that can be shaken” were about to be taken away in A.D. 70. They were to be taken away in order to reveal those things that cannot be taken away. Therefore, “let us show gratitude, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hb 12:28). It is significant that the Hebrew writer concluded his exhortation in view of the fact of the fire that was soon to come upon Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. “For our God is a consuming fire.”

[Next chapter: May 7]

Identifying A Shaking

In order to guard ourselves from being deceived, we must allow the Bible to be our final dictionary in reference to establishing our world view. If one today would rise up and claim a supposedly inspired proclamation to be directly given to him by the Holy Spirit, then we must use the Bible to determine if such a self-proclaimed prophet is simply being presumptuous. Even before the close of the first century the Holy Spirit gave us the following warning: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” In conjunction with this, we must never forget the warning that God gave to His people Israel when they were about to enter the land of promise:

When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not follow or come to pass, that is the thing that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You will not be afraid of him (Dt 18:22).

The principle that is mandated in preceding statements must not be ignored. They must not because, throughout history, there have been and always will be those who seek to highlight themselves by speaking presumptuously in times of either social or national calamity. These self-pronounced prophets will always arise among us during times when the Lord finds it necessary to “shake” a society or civilization in order to bring us back into spiritual alignment with that which will preserve humanity. We learn this from the examples of God seeking to wake up the spiritual side of His people throughout Old Testament history.

Amos was such an “awakening” prophet. However, he was first proved to be a true prophet by the fulfilled proclamations that he made according to the preceding test of a prophet. He had no right to be heard as a prophet of God unless the prophecies he spoke came to pass. If he were not proved to be a prophet by fulfilled prophecy, then he would have been a false prophet. Therefore, he had no right to speak about those things that were beyond the common knowledge of the people unless God first proved him to be a true prophet. We would ask no less from the self-proclaimed prophets of today.

We will not listen to anyone whose presumptuous prophecies are unfulfilled. We will speak only when the Bible clearly speaks on a matter. In those areas where we can voice only our opinions, then we will speak, but we will let the people know that we are simply voicing our opinions. And such we are often doing in the context of how God now works in the affairs of man. We have not been inspired by God to tell the people that our opinions are sent directly from God.

A. Historical timeline:

Sometimes just one word or phrase in Scripture is enough to dispel a most commonly held theology. In the context of any discussion concerning God working in the affairs of man, a commonly quoted phrase is found in Hebrews 12:26, which is a quotation of Haggai 2:6. Haggai prophesied in reference to the work of God among humanity, “Yet once again in a little while I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.” By quoting this same passage from the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament, the Hebrew writer stated, “And this word, ‘Yet once more,’ signifies the removing of those things that can be shaken, as of things that are created, so that those things that cannot be shaken may remain.”

The Hebrew writer evidently assumed that there would be speculators who would twist the Haggai 2:6 prophecy in order to make it refer to end-of-time events in reference to the removal of the present world. Therefore, because he did not want to be misunderstood in reference to his quotation of the prophecy, he sought to emphasize the statement, “Yet once more.” However, the Haggai statement in Hebrews reads, “Yet once again.” If one is not obsessed with all the present-day hysteria concerning end-of-time speculations, then he or she will notice a point in this quotation that is revealed in a change of a word of the Haggai prophecy in the Hebrews quotation.

We first must understand that in the phrase, “yet once again,” or “yet once more,” there is the assumption that the reader can deduct that there were many times before the “shaking” under consideration by the Hebrew writer when God shook things. God’s “shaking” of that which was coming had previously happened many times in the past. “Once more” assumes that at least there were “shakings” in the past that would be evidence of the same that would occur in the future. In fact, the power of the Hebrew writer’s use of the metaphor finds its substance in the many “shakings” of the past.

B. The past shakings:

When the Bible speaks of “shaking,” the metaphor was originally taken from the harvest practice of shaking the chaff out of the grain, as well as the shaking of the earth in an earthquake. In reference to an earthquake, Isaiah wrote, “He arises to shake terribly the earth” (Is 2:19; see Is 2:21). The Lord shakes the earth in order to bring down obstructions. The power of the earthquake is overwhelming, and thus strikes fear in the hearts of men. This is the substance of the metaphor. Therefore, Ezekiel could use an earthquake as a metaphor to symbolize God’s impact on the emotional state of humanity when He shook the environment of humanity: “All the men on the face of the earth, will shake at My presence. And the mountains [obstacles of man] will be thrown down and the steep places will fall, and every wall will fall to the ground” (Ez 38:20).

When God shakes the earth, both humanity and the physical world submit to His power. Realizing this power should strike fear in the hearts of all men, and thus bring submission to the presence and power of God. When the metaphor “shaking” is used, we must understand that God was seeking to get the attention of those He shook in order to accomplish a spiritual goal.

In reference to the shaking out of the grain of the harvest, the metaphor focuses on shaking the grain in order to separate the grain from the chaff, and thus discard the chaff while preserving the grain. In reference to Amos’ prophesy concerning the captivity of the northern tribes of Israel, the Lord stated, “For behold, I will command and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like grain is sifted in a sieve, yet a kernel will not fall to the ground” (Am 9:9). The shaking of the captivity was God’s way of sifting the faithful remnant out of the apostate Israel.

The farmer shakes the sieve in order to sift out the chaff, but save the grain. In reference to the many “shakings” that God did with Israel throughout their history, the purpose for the national calamities of shaking was defined by Ahijah in reference to a “shaking” in time in the history of the nation of Israel:

“For the Lord will smite Israel as a reed is shaken in the water. And He will root up Israel out of this good land [of Palestine] that He gave to their fathers. And He will scatter them beyond the River [to Assyria and Babylon] because they have made their Asherim [Baal gods and their prophets], provoking the Lord to anger” (1 Kg 14:15).

Throughout the history of Israel there were many “shakings.” In their historical context, the “shaking” meant that they would go into both Assyrian and Babylonian captivity in order to be cleansed. They would be taken out of the land of Palestine in order to be sifted clean of their religious gods and prophets that they had imagined, and whom they followed, which idolatrous gods and prophets led them away from God. As the civilization of humanity before the flood of Noah’s day, the apostates of Israel had given up on God. They discarded the one true and living God from their minds, choosing rather to create gods and religious behavior after their own lusts. For this reason, God would discard them through captivity. Their shaking as a nation on many occasions, therefore, resulted because they forsook God.

When they forsook God, they forsook His standard of morality. When a nation does this, then it is due for a good shaking. When a world does this, as in the case of the civilization that existed before the days of Noah, then it is time for God to shake heaven and earth and start over again. We must not forget that within the purpose of God “shaking” humanity He seeks to generate a moral restoration through a restored faith in Him. If the shaken society, or civilization is beyond repenting, then it is shaken out of existence. Such happened to Noah’s generation. The same happened to the generation of both the apostate northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. Those who were taken into captivity from those kingdoms died in captivity. Only their children eventually comprised the remnant that returned to the promise land.

C. Israel’s continued shaking:

The timeline of the Old Testament statements concerning God’s shaking is very important. When the Hebrew writer stated, “Yet once more,” the indication is not only that there had been “shakings” before the one that was coming in the context of the Hebrew readers, but also the fact that there were many more “shakings” before this coming final “shaking” that is in the prophecy of the Hebrews 12:26. Since Haggai 2:6,7 is quoted in Hebrews 12:26, then we must understand the prophecy of Haggai first in the context in which the prophecy was originally made.

It is necessary to understand the difference between the reading of the prophecy of Haggai 2:6 and the Holy Spirit’s quotation in Hebrews 12:26 from the Greek Septuagint. There is some difference because the Hebrews 12:26 in our New Testaments is a quotation from the Greek text that was a translation from the Hebrew text. Therefore, it must be noted that the English translation of the Hebrew text in Haggai 2:6 reads, “Yet once again.” The Hebrews reading is, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven” (Hb 12:26).

The Holy Spirit assumed that we would notice the difference between the two readings. “Once again” assumes that there were “shakings” in the past, which “shakings” indicated that again in the future from the time Hebrews 12:26 was written, there would be one more shaking. But in reference to this “shaking,” the Hebrew writer wanted us to understand that this would be the final “shaking” that would be cause directly by God in reference to national Israel.

“Yet once more” in the Hebrews 12:26 statement assumes finality in reference to “shakings.” There were several “shakings” by God in the past, but there would be, in the historical context of the time the book of Hebrews was written, one more “shaking” that was brought about directly by God. After this “shaking,” there would be no more “shakings” what would be brought into the world as a direct act of God upon the physical and biological world of humanity. However, this does not discount the fact that there would be natural calamities that would emotionally shake societies, or the world as a whole. These “shakings” often accomplish the same result as those “shakings” that were cause directly by God. Since the final “shaking” about which the Hebrew writer wrote, there have been many calamities throughout the world that have caused us to be reminded that we live in a fragile world, and that we live in an environment over which we have no control.

But in reference to the Hebrews 12:26 “shaking,” the Hebrew writer sought to call our attention to all those “shakings” that occurred throughout the history of the Old Testament. Specifically, we must understand the reason why God shook Israel, and what He wanted to accomplish by bringing social upheaval among His people. We must not forget that these were “shakings” in time, and thus we must conclude that the “shaking” to which the Hebrew writer referred was also a calamity that would happen in time, not at the end of time. The Hebrew writer was not speaking of something that would happen at least two thousand years from the time he wrote the words of Hebrews 12:26. He was speaking of something that would transpire within the lifetimes of those to whom he wrote the document of Hebrews. His timeline was similar to Jesus’ prophecies concerning the end of national Israel which He mentioned would happen in the lifetime of some of His disciples (See Mk 9:1).

In the Old Testament we discover what is meant by God’s “shaking” of both His people and the nations around Israel. In both situations, the metaphor is that God causes a great social disturbance. The psalmist explained, “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness. The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh” (Ps 29:8). If the people were inside a house during an earthquake, they would stand in the doorway, believing that the lentil of the doorway would protect them from the falling debris of the house. Because the northern ten tribes of Israel went into apostasy, Amos was called from his farm in order to pronounce the judgment of God. But notice the metaphor that Amos used in the following proclamation of God that there would be no safe place to go for deliverance from this judgment: “Strike the lintel of the door so that the posts may shake. And break them on the heads of them all. And I will slay the last of them with the sword” (Am 9:1). God would indeed shake down the house of Israel, and in the shaking, He would also take out the apostate Israelites.

There would be no safe place to hide from this shaking of the Lord. This shaking of the northern kingdom took place when the Assyrians overthrew the capital of Samaria, and subsequently took the northern kingdom of Israelites into Assyrian captivity in 722/21 B.C. We must assume, therefore, in our understanding of the concept of God’s “shaking,” that God will always accomplish His purpose for shaking humanity. God does not shake people without bringing about His intended result.

In reference to Israel’s timeline, we must turn from the demise of the northern kingdom to the history of the southern kingdom of Israel. It too was shaken because of their idolatrous apostasy. The southern two tribes of Israel were shaken into Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C.

However, God’s shaking in the Old Testament did not only apply to His judgment on His people, but also on those who took His people into captivity. Of the Babylonian captors, Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore, I will shake the heavens and the earth will move out of its place at the wrath of the Lord of armies, and in the day of His fierce anger” (Is 13:13).

[Next chapter: May 3].]