THE FINAL GATHERING OF THE JEWS IN ISRAEL

It is almost unreal how some Christians, and especially those who practice Replacement theology, reject the fact that God still has a plan with Israel. Especially when taking the detail of prophecy into account. Sadly, they always choose to defend their unbiblical eschatology in a holistic way when confronted with detail. If only Christians would take heed of the warning in Revelation 22:18-19.

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

This is an extract from my forthcoming book, “ON A DAY … LEAST EXPECTED.” This part of the book only covers the return of the Jews to their promised land.

The Jewish Diaspora

For 2000 years, the term Diaspora (with an upper-case D) was associated almost exclusively with Jewish history. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary cites Deuteronomy 28:25 in support of its primary definition: “the dispersion of Jews among the Gentile nations; all those Jews who lived outside the biblical land of Israel.”

The Diaspora started with the dispersion of Jews among the Gentiles after the Babylonian Exile and then to the Jews scattered “in exile” outside present-day Israel. Although the term refers to the physical dispersal of Jews throughout the world, it also carries religious, philosophical, political, and eschatological connotations, as the Jews perceive a special relationship between the land of Israel and themselves.

The Diaspora started soon after King Solomon died (between 926 BC and 922 BC), as the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam, and revolted. Since then, there were two kingdoms of Hebrews, namely Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The northern kingdom of Israel immediately went into idolatry and turned away from worshipping God. After 200 years, in 722 BC, they went into national captivity at the hands of the Assyrian Empire. The ten tribes of Israel were scattered throughout the Assyrian empire. They then virtually disappeared from history and are known as “the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.”

The tribes of Judah, Benjamin and a part of Levi stayed with Rehoboam and became the southern kingdom of Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted more than a hundred years after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. Unfortunately, Judah also turned away from God and on several occasions, righteous kings instituted reforms. God also sent prophets to warn them but eventually they would no longer listen. The Jewish nation was taken into national captivity by the Babylonians, which started in 586 BC.

After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, some of the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Jesus, the Messiah, would come through the tribe of Judah, but His own people rejected Him.

In 63 BC, Judea came under the control of Rome, and in 6 AD, it was declared a Roman province. The estimated 5 million Jews from the kingdom of Judah considered Judea as the centre of their religious and cultural life, but were outnumbered even before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Thereafter, the main centres of Judaism shifted from country to country (e.g., Babylonia, Persia, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Russia and the United States – diasporas). While some lived in peace, others became victims of violent anti-Semitism.

When Hadrian became the Roman emperor in 118 AD, he was sympathetic to the Jews. He allowed them to return to Jerusalem and granted permission for the rebuilding of their Holy Temple. The Jews’ expectations rose but Hadrian quickly went back on his word. He also began deporting Jews to North Africa.

The Jews started a rebellion and in 132 AD, under the strong leadership of Shimon Bar-Kokhba, the Jews captured approximately 50 strongholds in Judea and 985 undefended towns and villages, including Jerusalem. The Bar Kokhba revolt was followed by violent despair and the Jews were crushed in the final battle of Bethar. In 135 AD, Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina where Jews were forbidden to live and the country’s name was changed from Judea to Syria Palestina.

During the Middle Ages, the Jews divided into distinct regional groups The Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to Central and later Eastern Europe, while the Sephardi Jews settled in Iberia and later North Africa. The Mizrahi Jews remained in the Babylon after the destruction of the First Temple.

Although this picture seems very dark for the Jews, God will never break His covenant, and those who deny this truth is making God a liar and abominate His character.

“For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer. “ This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:7-10)

Aliyah

Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel. It is also referred to as “the act of going up,” towards Jerusalem. “Making Aliyah” is one of the most basic tenets of Zionism.

The first re-gathering of the Jews took place after the Babylonian captivity.

Although some Jews returned to Israel in the early 1900’s, the second re-gathering officially began in 1948. Approaching the 20th century, many Jewish groups wanted to return to their ancient homeland, Judea.
Great Britain’s support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine was already made public in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, but it only become a reality on May 14, 1948. The Law of Return is an Israeli law, passed on 5 July 1950, which gave Jews the right to live in Israel and to gain Israeli citizenship.

The first returning Jews came primarily from eastern Arab countries. Then followed a major movement from the western countries of Europe, especially Germany. Then they came in great numbers from Russia (north) during the end of the 1980’s. The last great migrations of Jews returning to Israel came from Ethiopia in the south. The order of return was accurately predicted by Isaiah.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, `Give them up!’ and to the south, `Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth…”
“… the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” (Isaiah 43:5-6,21)

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, And gathered out of the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south.” (Psalm 107:2-3)

The establishment of the Jewish state on 14 May 1948 is undoubtedly the biggest sign to date, of end-time prophecies being fulfilled, that would lead to the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

Prophecy in indicates that the Jews will resume animal sacrifices before the return of Christ, for which they need their own homeland to enable them to do so.

“For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.” (Hosea 3:4-5)

“And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.” (Daniel 12:11)

After 2000 years, God’s people will return home from the Diaspora and will once again be a single Kingdom for the first time since 900 BC. Surely, this must be a miracle from God.

“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?” says the LORD; “shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?” says your God.” (Isaiah 66:8-9)

“He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, And gather together the dispersed of Judah, From the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:12)

Isaiah 11 and 14 also indicates that the so-called “Palestinians” and other enemies of Israel will cease to be a problem for God’s people.

“For the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the LORD’s land as male and female slaves. They will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them. “I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 14:1-2,22)

“you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;” (Isaiah 41:9)

“And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength. Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.” Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.” (Isaiah 49:5,8,12,22)

“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11)

“Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful. (Isaiah 60:4,9)

“I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered — with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.” (Ezekiel 20:34)

With the return of the nation, the ancient Hebrew language has been revived and become the official language of the state. Prior to this happening, the Jews spoke an impure form of the language called Yiddish. The return to a pure common language was also predicted in Zephaniah 3:8-10.

After nearly 2,000 years the shekel has been reinstated as the common monetary unit in Israel, again, just as predicted in Ezekiel 45:12-16.

There are many cities in Israel that bear the ancient names of previous Biblical Jewish cities, such as Cana, Nazareth, Jericho, Nain, Bethany, Bethlehem, Hebron, Gaza, etc. Again, as the ancient nation was in the process of being destroyed, Ezekiel predicted that many of the ancient cities would be re-inhabited and settled in the exact locations.

“And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better [unto you] than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD…. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36:11; 24)
The restoration of the agriculture and of the trees and forests of Israel has been another remarkable miracle, as prophesied. Almost 75 years ago, the land was a desolate waste, full of malarial swamps and deserts. Today the replanted forests are flourishing and the Israeli agricultural production is one of the great wonders of the world. This tiny country exports quality produce around the world.

“Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, And fill the face of the world with fruit.” (Isaiah 27:6)

“The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)

Final return of the Jews (Ezekiel 39:21-29)

The second re-gathering will be completed after the Battle of Ezekiel 38.

“Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind” (Ezekiel 39:28).

Though God caused the Jews to be scattered all over the world, He will now bring them back, not leaving any behind. Having witnessed His defeat of their enemies, Jews from all over the world will flock to Israel and to Him, yearning for a reinstatement of their Old Covenant relationship.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1)

And so this battle will mark the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, the last 7 years of human history before the Lord returns.

The third temple

Today, many orthodox Jews long to re-establish the temple and its ancient systems, including the sacrifices. Soon the Jews will build the third temple, which is the temple that will be made desolate by the Antichrist and later cleansed at the beginning of the Millennium, just as the second Temple was first made desolate and then cleansed in the time of the Maccabees.

The third temple will exist during the Great Tribulation. Daniel refers to this temple when he says that “the prince who is to come” (the Antichrist) will enter it and stop the sacrifices in the middle of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27). Paul mentions it when he declares that the “man of lawlessness” will profane the temple by entering it and declaring himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). The Third Temple is also mentioned in Revelation 11:1-2 when John is told to measure it — a symbolic way of telling him to assess its spiritual condition.

Isaiah said, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains. . . . Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the temple of the God of Jacob’ ” (Isaiah 2:2,3).

Amos said: “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter—I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins—and will rebuild it as it used to be” (Amos 9:11).

Solomon had constructed the original temple over a period of seven years, which by all accounts was a wonder. But the Babylonians invaded and burned it to the ground.

Isaiah predicted that the Persian monarch Cyrus would rebuild Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:24–28). God called Cyrus by name more than a century before Christ was born. He gave orders to rebuild the edifice, and he returned all the temple valuables that had been looted by the Babylonians.

The second temple lasted until AD 70, when it was destroyed by Roman soldiers under Titus.

(Extract from the forthcoming book “ON A DAY … LEAST EXPECTED” by Gerhard Woest)

ISAIAH – THE LITERAL TRUTHS ABOUT ISRAEL

There will always be a small remnant of Jews, preserved by God’s sovereign grace that preserved, obeyed, and passed on God’s law. Through this remnant of Jews, God will honour the Abrahamic Covenant.

God will gather these Jews and bring them back to their promised land (as already begun in 1948). They will be freed from their foreign oppressors. The first return of Israel to her land was from Egyptian captivity. The second will be from her worldwide dispersion.

Instead of their miserable state of captivity, endured in the tribulation under Antichrist, the Israelites will be the rulers of those nations that once dominated them, during the millennial reign of Christ.

The redeemed remnant will sing praise to God over their impregnable city, Jerusalem.

The book of Isaiah provides a more than enough evidence to back this issue.

“If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.” (Isaiah 1.9,25-27)

“And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,” (Isaiah 4:3)

“And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump*. (Isaiah 6:13)

*Note: Though most will reject God, the tenth, also called the “stump” and “holy seed,” represents the faithful remnant in Israel who will hear and believe.

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.” (Isaiah 10:20-23,25,27)

“In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, … He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth… And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.” (Isaiah 11:11-14,16)

“For the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the LORD’s land as male and female slaves. They will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them. “I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name* and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 14:1-2,22)

*Note: Israel will have a remnant, but not Babylon, according to the Lord’s promise.

“In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.” (Isaiah 26:1)

“In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people,” (Isaiah 28:5)

“And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 37:31-32)

“you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;” (Isaiah 41:9)

“Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,” (Isaiah 43:5-6)

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

“And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength. Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.” Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.” (Isaiah 49:5,8,12,22)

“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11)

“For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer. “ This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:7-10)

“When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,” (Isaiah 57:13-18)

“Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful. (Isaiah 60:4,9)

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; [1] he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.” (Isaiah 61:1-4,7)

“Thus says the LORD: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me.” (Isaiah 65:8-10)

“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?” says the LORD; “shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?” says your God. and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, …that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.” (Isaiah 66:8-9,19)

THE PURPOSE AND BENEFIT OF UNDERSTANDING PROPHECY

Between a fourth and a third of the Bible is prophecy. Some of its longest books, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel are prophetic. Other books, such as Genesis, Psalms and Paul’s epistles, also contain important prophecies.

One of Jesus Christ’s longest recorded discourses, found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, is an extensive prophecy given shortly before He was crucified. At the end of the Bible we find the book of Revelation, a series of prophetic visions describing the period from the early Church up through Christ’s return and beyond.

Prophecy is thus important to God and Scripture reveals a number of key purposes thereof.

Prophecy reveals the greatness of God

Prophecy reveals God’s greatness and power to inform us of the future. In Isaiah 42, He connects His creative power with His ability to reveal the future long before it happens:

“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:5, 8-9).

Prophecy can be viewed as God exercising His creative power in the dimension of time, by foretelling the future and then bringing it to pass when, where and how, according to His will.

Prophecy gives evidence that God exists and that the Bible is His revealed Word

Throughout the centuries, people denied the reality of God, preferring to believe that He does not exist. In the first century Paul wrote that people “did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” since accepting His existence interfered with acting out their selfish and evil desires (Romans 1:28-32).

But God offers this challenge to any who would doubt Him:
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’” (Isaiah 44:6-8).

History itself is a witness that God foretold many events hundreds and thousands of years before they happened, then brought them to pass exactly as He said.

The Bible is unlike any other religious “holy book” as the Bible alone contains hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled just as they were recorded years ahead of time and with many more waiting to be fulfilled.

In Ezekiel 33:33 God tells us why He revealed the future to His servants: “And when this comes to pass—surely it will come— then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

Prophecy shows that God is in ultimate control

Not only can God reveal the future well ahead of time, but He can also bring to pass what He has foretold. In Isaiah 46:9-10 He declares that no one or nothing else can remotely approach His power, using prophecy as an example:
“Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

The prophet Daniel said that God “removes kings and raises up kings” and “reveals deep and secret things” (Daniel 2:21-22). God is in complete and ultimate control according to His plans and purpose!

Prophecy reveals the consequences of obedience and disobedience

A theme found repeatedly in Bible prophecy is that choices and actions have consequences. One of the biggest mistakes individuals or nations can make is to assume they can act as they wish without those actions eventually catching up with them.

Paul summarized this very well in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

Two long chapters of the Bible—Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28—spell this out clearly. They are commonly known to Bible students as the “blessings and curses” chapters. They describe in considerable detail what happens when a nation chooses to obey and honour God (blessings) and what results when a nation turns its back and disobeys Him.

Sadly, the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah failed to heed these warnings, and they stand as a stark example to nations such as the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others who’ve been greatly blessed by God but now increasingly deny Him and trample His laws and Word underfoot. Their fate is likewise spelled out in prophecy if they refuse to turn from that treacherous path!

Prophecy reveals God’s will, that He wants all to receive His gift of salvation

Much of Bible prophecy is grim and at times even frightening. God wants us to understand the painful consequences that will follow from choosing the wrong way and the blessings that come from obeying Him. But the prophecies of the Bible almost always end with hope and good news. Paul told Timothy, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Prophecy reveals God’s plan for humanity

Bible prophecy reveals that God is working out an incredible plan for how He will bring us to salvation and eternal life in His divine family. Notice a few key prophetic statements from His Word that hint at the marvellous future awaiting those who surrender their lives to Him now:
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).

Prophecy should motivate us to repent and turn to God

In Jeremiah 25:4-5 we see Jeremiah himself summarizing the message of God’s prophets to His people: “The Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets … They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings …’”

We see that another of God’s purposes for prophecy is to urge humankind to repent. The apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:9, tells us: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”

The message of every prophet of the Bible is that if you turn your life around, if you listen to God and heed His warnings and change, you can avoid the terrible times prophesied to come on our world.

He tells us what we must do in Isaiah 55:6-7: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11-13)

Knowledge about God’s end-time program, as well as the expectation of the coming of Christ, are given as a strong incentive towards holy living and an unwavering commitment to Christ.
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12).

THERE WILL BE A DAY …

For many centuries God was patient and long-suffering with humanity.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

But… THERE WILL COME A DAY … MOST UNEXPECTED, when God’s patience and long-suffering with an unbelieving and unrepentant human race will be over.

The Lord Jesus calls His disciples to live vigilant and prayerful lives: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to ESCAPE all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).

Of course, there are many mockers and scoffers out there. “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:3-7)

When warned that we are living in the latter days, they are also quick to point out that nobody knows the day or the hour. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)

However, as Bible believing Christians, God gives us so many warning signs and prophecies, that it is not difficult to realize that we are in the season regarding the coming of Christ. Those who ignore prophecy, would be caught unexpectedly. “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)

THE FOUNDATION OF BIBLICAL ESCHATOLOGY

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND APPRECIATION

At HEAVENLY REMNANT MINISTRIES, we have decided to write a book on End Time Prophecies and proper biblical eschatology. SAMANTHA KELLEY at GRACE THRU FAITH MINISTRY has granted us permission to use their material for research and incorporation, upon agreed terms and conditions, for which we are extremely grateful.

Samantha’s late husband, JACK KELLEY, published over 9,000 Bible Study resources on their website from 1999, until the Lord called him home in the fall of 2015. His teachings made the Bible clear and easy to understand, and impacted millions of lives. Samantha maintains their site as well as their missionary outreaches.

INTRODUCTION

The storms, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, wars and rumours of war and diseases dominating our news, the signs are clear that we are living in the latter days. It is therefore surprising how little most Christians actually know about prophecy, especially since by some accounts it comprises approximately 35% of the Bible’s content, more than any other topic.

The purpose of this article is to provide a solid foundation for further study and will serve as the basis for the book, planned by HEAVENLY REMNANT MINISTRIES. With a solid foundation, powerful arguments from scoffers and unbelievers cannot shake us or weaken our faith.

This article mainly contains extractions from JACK KELLEY’S excellent book, called “SEVEN THINGS YOU HAVE TO KNOW TO UNDERSTAND END TIME PROPHECY.”

SEVEN THINGS YOU HAVE TO KNOW

There are seven pieces of information that are essential to understanding End Times Prophecy. These seven things are the building blocks for the strong foundation we want.

They are, 1) The Sequence of Major End Time Events, 2) The Destiny of the Three Components of Humanity, 3) The Purpose and Length of the Great Tribulation, 4) The Purpose of the Rapture, 5) The Conditions Surrounding the 2nd Coming, 6) The Purpose and Length of the Millennium, and 7) Eternity.

This combination of facts will give you the ability to put all the prophetic verses in the Bible into their proper context.

1) THE SEQUENCE OF MAJOR END TIME EVENTS

The sequence in which major End Times events will occur is very logical. The best way to figure it out is to perform a back scheduling exercise. It involves going to the very end of a process and identifying the final outcome. Then you list all the things that have to happen to produce that outcome. Then you put them in reverse order, backing into the present. First, we will list the major events then we will organize them.

There are 9 major events, namely the 2nd Coming , Eternity, the Rapture of the Church, the Great Tribulation, the Millennial Kingdom, Daniel’s 70th Week, the Battles of Ezekiel 38-39, Psalm 83and Isaiah 17. Now let’s organize them, beginning with the obvious ones first.

THE ORDER OF EVENTS

Eternity is the final outcome, so we begin there. But the last major event described in detail in the Bible is the Kingdom Age or Millennium, when Jesus will reign on earth for a 1000 years. Eternity cannot happen utill the Millennium is over.

The Millennium obviously can only begin after the Second Coming. And according to Matt. 24:29-30 the Second Coming would not happen until the end of the Great Tribulation. And that cannot happen till the Antichrist stands in the Temple in Israel declaring himself to be God (2 Thes. 2:4). That is the event Jesus warned Israel to look for as the Great Tribulation’s starts. He called it “The Abomination of Desolation” in Matt. 24:15-21. Daniel 9:27 indicates it will happen in the middle of the last seven-year period, which scholars call Daniel’s 70th Week. But the Abomination cannot happen until there is a Temple.

The 70th Week cannot begin until the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 is won because God will use that battle to awaken Israel and reinstate His covenant with them. In Romans 11:25 Paul said Israel has been hardened in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in, a reference to the rapture of the Church, after which Israel will be saved. That means the rapture has to happen before the Battle of Ezekiel 38.

When we put the Sequence of Major Events in its proper order, it looks like this:
1. The Rapture of the Church,
2. The Battle of Ezekiel 38,
3. Daniel’s 70th week begins,
4. The Great Tribulation,
5. The 2nd Coming,
6. The Millennium,
7. Eternity.

RAPTURE OR EZEKIEL 38 WAR – WHICH ONE FIRST?

To those who read Scripture as it is written, only two of the events in this sequence are subject to debate as to timing. These are the Rapture of the Church and the Battle of Ezekiel 38, the first two on our list.

So let’s find out why they have to be where we have placed them in the sequence. We start with Ezekiel’s battle and work back to the Rapture.

“And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward.

Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek 39:21-22, 28-29)

The Lord has declared in no uncertain terms that He’s going to use Ezekiel’s battle to spiritually awaken His people and call them to Israel from all over the world. This will result in the reinstatement of their Old Covenant relationship, reviving Daniel’s long-dormant “70-Weeks” prophecy for its final seven years and requiring that a Temple be constructed. Both the Old and New Testaments refer to a Temple in Israel at the End of the Age. Without one there’s no way for them to keep His covenant.

This was proven once before in history during the Babylonian captivity. When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the 1st Temple, Israel ceased to exist. But as soon as Cyrus the Persian defeated Babylon and freed the Jews, they returned to Israel and began building a Temple before they did anything else. Without a Temple there’s no sacrifice for sin, and without that sacrifice, Jews cannot approach God.

But this means that their Muslim neighbours should be out of the way. Ezekiel’s battle results in both a Jewish nation re-awakened to the presence of God in their national life and an utterly defeated Muslim attack force in no position to resist. For these reasons, Ezekiel’s battle has to take place on the threshold of Daniel’s 70th week. Now why does the Rapture of the Church have to precede Ezekiel’s battle?

Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)

According to Ezek. 37:7-10, Israel would be reborn first in unbelief. Paul said they will remain partially estranged from God until the Gentile Church reaches its full complement (predetermined number) and arrives at its destination. (The Greek words translated “come in” in Romans 11:25 means to arrive at a designated place.)

God will use Ezekiel’s battle to begin His work with the Jews by renewing the Old Covenant with them, later transitioning Israel from the Old Covenant to the New toward the end of the Great Tribulation (Zech 12:10). He is picking them up where they left off.

After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ (Acts 15:13-18)

After He had taken this “people for His name” (Christians) from among the Gentiles he would return and rebuild His Temple. The Greek words translated taken means to carry something away or remove it from its place, so the passage implies that He would take the Church somewhere and then come back to rebuild the Temple, restore Israel, and give what’s left of mankind one final chance to seek Him.

These three Bible prophecies make it clear that as the End of the Age approaches, God will begin preparing Israel to be His once more. But He won’t be exclusively focused on them until He has finished building the Church and has taken us to our appointed place. And where is that? In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3) (He didn’t promise to come back to be with us here where we are, but to take us there, where He is.) After that, He would see to Israel’s reawakening and the construction of their Temple.

Those seven years, called the 70th Week of Daniel, have to be fulfilled to complete the Old Covenant. The Old and New covenants, as practiced in Israel and the Church, are theologically incompatible, and therefore the two can only be on Earth at the same time while Israel is out of covenant. For Israel to return to the Lord, the Church has to be gone.

For this reason, the rebirth of Israel in 1948 and the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 are seen as the most important signs of all that the End of the Age is upon us.

PSALM 83 AND ISAIAH 17

There are two events we haven’t put into the sequence yet, because they are not easy to locate there. These are the battles of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17. When Israel wins these two battles all their next door enemies will be defeated and they will enter into a brief period of peace that sets the stage for Ezekiel’s Battle (Ezekiel 38:11). They’re called battles instead of wars which means they’ll be of short duration and can happen within a fairly short span of time. They can come either before or after the Rapture but do have to happen before the Battle of Ezekiel 38 takes place.

2) THE DESTINY OF THE COMPONENTS OF HUMANITY

It is of utmost importance to consider whom the Lord, or one of His prophets, is addressing. Just because something is in the Gospels does not necessarily mean that it is for the Church, or being in Isaiah that it is only for Israel.

His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephes. 2:15-16)

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks (Gentiles) or the church of God. (1 Cor. 10:32)

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

In the 4,000 or so years from the Creation to the Cross, the human race came to be divided into three distinct components from God’s perspective. From the Creation there was one race of Humans, the family of man, later called Gentiles. Then in Genesis 12, God called Abraham to build a great nation. He and his descendants were first called Hebrews (Genesis 14:13), and later Jews (Ezra 4:12). From that time on, the world’s population was either Jew or Gentile. But at the cross God created the Church, taken from among both Jews and Gentiles. Now there were three, and everyone on Earth belongs to of one of them. In his epistles, Paul always took pains to distinguish the Church from both Jews and Gentiles, in effect calling the Church a new race of Human in the passages cited above. I’ll describe each group’s destiny so you can see how different they are.

DESTINY OF THE GENTILES

According to Isaiah 56:6-8, Gentiles who converted to Judaism before the cross became part of Israel and share its destiny as long as they died in faith of a coming Redeemer. Gentiles who are born again during the Church Age become part of the church and after the Rapture/Resurrection will populate the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27). Many of us were taught to call it Heaven, but heaven is a separate entity. (More on this in our discussion of the Millennium, item 6 on our list of 7 things.)

Gentiles who meet the Lord after the rapture are called tribulation saints. If they are martyred for their faith, their spirits will go to serve God in His Temple (Rev 7:13-17) and will be joined with resurrection bodies at the time of the 2nd Coming (Rev. 20:4). If they survive the Great Tribulation, they will help re-populate the nations of Earth in the Kingdom age (Millennium).

DESTINY OF THE JEWS (REFUTING REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY)

The spirits of Jews who died in faith of a coming redeemer before Jesus went to the cross were taken into Heaven with Him after His resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53). They will also receive resurrection bodies at the Second Coming (Daniel 12:1-3). Jews who are born again during the Church age become part of the Church and after the Rapture/Resurrection will also populate the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27). Jews who receive Jesus as their Messiah after the rapture will be hidden in the Jordanian desert (Petra) during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:14). Along with their Old Testament counterparts, they will dwell in Israel during the Millennium (Ezekiel 43:6-7).

Whether Jew or Gentile, those who don’t do any of the above during their lifetimes will be tormented in Hell until they’re brought back to life to stand trial at the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15. It takes place at the end of the Millennium. At that time, they’ll be sentenced to eternal suffering in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14).

In the Old Testament, God promised Israel that He would return one day to dwell among them in their land on Earth forever (Ezekiel 43:6-7). In the New Testament, Jesus promised the Church that He would come back and take us to be with Him in His Father’s House (John 14:1-3). Both promises come true. Israel is not the Church nor is the Church Israel, and both groups are distinct from the Gentile nations. Much of the confusion surrounding End Times prophecy results either from the failure to understand, or the refusal to accept, this truth.

For instance, many Christians today believe that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan and has inherited all of Israel’s blessings. Israel no longer serves any purpose in the world, they think, so when God talks about Israel in the New Testament, He really means the Church. Therefore, they misunderstand the Doctrine of Election, the Olivet Discourse, the Great Tribulation, and other New Testament teachings having to do with Israel.

Also, many Gentiles sit in pews on Sundays and think they’re in the church even though they’re not born again. They think they’re saved because they try to live a good life, or give money, or belong to a particular denomination. They’re wrongly convinced that the Church’s blessings are theirs.

3) THE PURPOSE AND LENGTH OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION

How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it. I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’ (Jeremiah 30:7,11)

Jesus said that the Great Tribulation would be the most intense period of judgment the world has ever seen, greater than the World Wars, and even greater than the Flood of Noah. He said that if it was left to run its course, not a single human being would survive. But for the sake of His people, He would stop it at its appointed time. (Matt. 24:22)

The purpose of the Great Tribulation is two-fold. It is explained in the Jeremiah passage above, where it is called by its Old Testament name, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. God will use it to completely destroy the nations among whom His people, Israel, have been scattered, and to discipline Israel, purifying them to dwell with Him in the Promised Land. The Church, being purified at the cross, requires neither destruction nor discipline and has no business in the Great Tribulation.

The length of the Great Tribulation is variously given as 3 1/2 years (Daniel 12:7), 42 months (Rev. 11:2), or 1260 days (Rev. 12:6). If you use a 12 month 30-day calendar for a total of 360 days in a year, these three measurements all turn out to be the same length. Daniel 12 was written several hundred years before the Lord spoke on the matter, John wrote Revelation 60 years after the resurrection. So it’s length was made clear in testimony given both before the Lord’s time and after it. Matt. 24:22 is to explain that if the Lord doesn’t return to put an end to the Great Tribulation at the appointed time, no one would survive it, but for the sake of His elect He will return to put an end to it.

Also, Daniel 9:27 warns that an Abomination That Causes Desolation will occur in the middle of the last seven years, or 3 1/2 years from the end. In Matt. 24:21 Jesus identified this event as the official beginning of the Great Tribulation. Paul confirms this and adds detail by describing the Antichrist standing in the Temple proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thes. 2:4) This confirms the length of the Great Tribulation as being 3 1/2 years.

The Abomination That Causes Desolation is a particular defilement of the Temple that has happened only once in history. In 168 BC. Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes captured the Temple and converted it into a pagan worship center. He erected a statue of Zeus with his own face on it in the Holy Place, thereby proclaiming himself to be God, and demanded the Jews worship it on pain of death. It was called the Abomination That Causes Desolation because it made the Temple unfit for use and triggered the 3 1/2 year Maccabean Revolt. The Jewish re-capture and cleansing of the Temple in 165 BC is celebrated in the eight-day Feast of Hanukkah.

To summarize, Daniel spoke of an Abomination That Causes Desolation that would mark the middle of the last 7 years. An event called the Abomination That Causes Desolation in 1st Maccabees took place in 168 BC, over 300 years later. But 200 years after that, Jesus told His Disciples that the people of Israel should watch for a future Abomination That Causes Desolation and referred to Daniel’s prophecy in doing so (Matt. 24:15-21). He said it would kick off the Great Tribulation. Paul also described a future event similar to the one in 168BC saying the “Day of the Lord” could not precede it (2 Thes. 2:3-4).

People know to look for a man standing in the Temple calling himself God and demanding that his image be worshiped. Jesus told those living in Judea (Israel) that when they see it to flee into hiding immediately, for the Great Tribulation then have begun.

4) THE PURPOSE OF THE RAPTURE

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thes. 1:9-10)

The Greek word translated from in the above passage is apo. Literally it means to keep the subject (us) away from the time, place, or any relation to the event being referenced, in this case the coming wrath. This verse is one of several that explain the purpose of the Rapture of the Church.

After Revelation 3 the church is not seen on Earth again until we come back with the Lord in Rev. 21:2, as predicted in Rev. 17:14. In Rev. 4 John sees a door standing open in heaven and is told to “Come up here!” Instantly he finds himself in the spirit, standing before the throne of God at the end of the age. He has been transported to the time of the Rapture.

He sees 24 elders there, seated on thrones of their own around the throne of God. They are all dressed in white with crowns of gold on their heads. They bow down before the Lord and place their crowns at his feet giving honour and glory to him. In chapter 5 they call themselves Kings and Priests as they sing praises to God. By their titles, clothing, crowns, thrones, and activities it is clear that they represent the raptured church.

There are four Old Testament views of the Throne of God. Those in Isaiah 6:1-4 and Ezekiel 1 and 10 do not include these 24 elders. The one in Daniel 7:9-10, an end of the age vision, hints at multiple thrones but offers no detail. But in the Book of Revelation, the 24 elders are mentioned 12 times. Some group has arrived in Heaven that was not there in Old Testament times, and 12 is the number of government. It is the Church, come to rule and reign with Christ.

So the Church is Raptured in chapter 4, and is shown in heaven in chapter 5, while on Earth God’s wrath is loosed in chapter 6 as the passage above clearly states. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was written in 51AD and contains the very first clear mention of a Rapture ever given.

So if the Rapture is so important for us, then why did Jesus never mention it? 1 Cor. 2:6-10 gives us the answer. “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

The phrase “rulers of this age” refers to Satan & Co. Had they known the astonishing abundance of blessings the Lord would shower down upon those who accept His death as payment for their sins, they would have done everything in their power to prevent the crucifixion. “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).

Now read two of Paul’s most popular Rapture disclosures. “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thes 4:15-17).

“Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (1 Thes. 5:1-5). “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Chris”. (1 Thes. 5:9).

Rapture is a word of Latin origin, not Hebrew or Greek, the languages of the Bible. (The earliest translation of the Bible was into Latin, and the term rapture comes from there.) Its Greek equivalent is harpazo, which is found in the Greek text of 1 Thes. 4:15-17. When translated into English, both words mean “to be caught up, or snatched away.”

5) CONDITIONS SURROUNDING THE 2ND COMING

A couple of days before He was arrested, Jesus had a private conversation with four of His disciples, His inner circle. They were Peter and Andrew, and James and John, two pairs of brothers. The purpose of the conversation was to answer questions they had asked Him about the 2nd Coming and the End of the Age. They were confused because according to the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 these events were only seven years away, and yet Jesus had just told them the Temple and all the surrounding buildings would be torn down so completely that not one stone would be left standing on another. He had told the crowds the same thing on Palm Sunday and said it was going to happen because the nation hadn’t recognized the time of His coming to them (Luke 19:44).

His response to the disciples’ questions is contained in Matt. 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Theologians call it the Olivet Discourse because the conversation took place on the Mount of Olives.

His answer to their questions begins in Matt. 24:4 with a general overview. He said false Messiahs would deceive many and that there would be wars and rumours of war, but they wouldn’t be signalling the end. He characterized them, along with famines and earthquakes in various places, as the beginning of birth pangs. Birth pangs tell an expectant mother the labour and delivery are coming, but do not say exactly when they will take place.

He said they (the Jews) would be persecuted and put to death and hated by all nations, causing many to turn away from the faith and even betray each other, but those who stand firm to the end would be saved. Then He finished His summary in Matt. 24:14, saying the gospel would be preached in all nations, and then the end would come. (According to Rev. 14:6-7, this prophecy will be fulfilled by an angel shortly after the Great Tribulation begins.)

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:15-16).

These two verses give us the first specific clues as to both the intended audience and the timing of His answer. The Holy Place is the Jewish Temple, and the abomination that causes desolation is a specific defilement that makes it unfit for further use. The last Temple to stand in Israel was destroyed in 70 AD before this prophecy could be fulfilled. The nation itself ceased to exist about 135 AD and did not reappear until 1948. But because there is still no Temple there, the prophecy remains unfulfilled. In addition, it’s directed to those who are in Judea, the Biblical name for Israel. The Lord was warning people in Israel who will be alive when a Temple is being built there to watch for this, and when they see it to flee immediately.

“Pray that your flight will not take place in Winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matt. 24:20-21).

The mountains of Judea are treacherous in the winter, and Jews are forbidden under the Law to travel more than 1000 paces on the Sabbath for any reason. This confirms that the warning is intended for latter-day Israel, back in its Old Covenant relationship at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, 3½ years from the Second Coming. The Church will already be gone.

Then in Matt 24:29 He said that immediately after the tribulation ends, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” When they see these signs they will know that The Great Tribulation has ended.

Matt 24:30 has people on Earth seeing the Sign of the Son of Man in the sky, and then His visible return to Earth with power and great glory. This will cause all the peoples of the Earth to mourn. It is now too late for them to be saved and they intuitively realize it. This is the Lord’s Second Coming.

Matt 24:36 begins with “No one knows about that day or hour …” The specific timing of the 2nd coming is shrouded in mystery. No less than four times within a span of 27 verses Jesus said the people alive on Earth at the time will not know the day or hour of His coming in advance (Matt. 24:36, 42-44, 50, Matt. 25:13).

Matt 25 begins with the phrase “At that time, …” which is the time immediately following the 2nd Coming, and contains three illustrations the Lord used to describe judgments He will conduct after He returns.

THE PARABLE OF TEN VIRGINS

Matt. 25:1-13 is a story about ten young women waiting for a bridegroom to come. All have oil lamps, but because they have been waiting a long time, five have run out of oil and are trying to buy more when he arrives. Lacking oil, they are denied entry into the Wedding Banquet. This parable is sometimes used to illustrate the precarious position of “backsliders” in the Church, but even if you disregard the problem with timing almost everything about that interpretation is wrong.

First, if oil is being used symbolically here then the principle of Expositional Constancy demands that it represent the Holy Spirit. This principle says that when things are used symbolically in Scripture, the symbolic use is consistent. For example, yeast (leaven) always symbolizes sin, and oil always symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Can the Church lose the Holy Spirit, or exhaust our supply of Him? Ephesians 1:13 and 2 Cor. 1:21-22 both say that the Holy Spirit has been sealed within us as a guarantee of our inheritance, and that it happened solely because we believed the Gospel message. There is nothing anyone anywhere can do to change that.

But no such guarantee is indicated for Tribulation saints. In fact Rev. 16:15 specifically warns them to stay awake and maintain their righteousness, symbolized by keeping their clothes with them. (Clothing is often used to represent righteousness, as in Isaiah 61:10). Rev. 16:15 implies that Tribulation saints are responsible for remaining steadfast in their faith to avoid losing their salvation. Matt. 25:8 agrees, telling us that all ten virgins had oil in their lamps at the beginning, but the five foolish ones did not have enough to carry them through.

Second, these ten women are called virgins or bridesmaids, but never the Bride. Conversely, the Church is the Bride, and is never called a bridesmaid! And when did you ever hear of a bride having to plead with the groom for admission to her own wedding banquet?

Third, it looks like these young women are trying to get into the Seudas Mitzvah (wedding feast), a banquet that follows the wedding ceremony. If so, none of them made it to the actual marriage ceremony, oil or not, so none of them can be the bride. In fact, there is no bride mentioned anywhere in this parable.

These virgins are not the Church. They represent Tribulation saints trying to get into the Millennial Kingdom. Five were saved in the time between the Rapture and the end of the Great Tribulation (signified by the oil), remained steadfast, and are welcomed in. The five without oil when He arrived did not remain steadfast and lost their place.

THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS

In Matt 25:14, at the beginning, the word “again” indicates the same time period as the parable of the 10 Virgins, the Day of His Coming.

A talent was a Greek unit of measure, usually monetary. In this parable, a talent represents something valuable to the Lord that he wished to have invested on His behalf. Upon his return, He asks those to whom he had entrusted it what they have accomplished.

Those who teach that the talents are gifts given to the Church to be used wisely, producing a measurable return, have not read the last verse of the parable. The servant who buried his talent in the ground and produced nothing with it was thrown into the outer darkness, the destiny of unbelievers. Surely, the Lord is not teaching a works-based salvation here or threatening us with the loss of our salvation if we do not produce enough with the gifts He gave us!

Reading the Bible, it is clear that money isn’t important to the Lord. But Psalm 138:2 says that He values His Word above all else. Therefore, the talents represent His Word. Those who sow it into the hearts of others find that it multiplies in new believers. Those who study it find that their own understanding grows, multiplying their faith.

But those who ignore His word find that it is like burying it in the ground. Out of sight, out of mind, until what little they began with is lost to them. This proves it never held any value for them, and condemns them as unbelievers, to be cast into the outer darkness. They had heard the truth and ignored it. Now it is too late. In 2 Thes. 2:10 Paul describes them as those who perish because they refused to love the Truth and so be saved. Some will bear the further responsibility of having led their followers astray by their refusal to teach the truth.

In His Word, the Lord laid out every action He would take regarding His plan for Planet Earth. “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets,” He said (Amos 3:7). Again the point is that some who survive the Great Tribulation will be welcomed into the Kingdom and some won not, and faith is the determining factor.

THE SHEEP AND THE GOAT JUDGMENT

Matt. 25:31 leaves no doubt as to its timing. It begins “When the Son of Man comes … ” and goes on to talk about the Lord setting up His throne on Earth after His return for the judgment of the nations, actually a judgment of Gentile tribulation saints. The Lord does not judge nations in the eternal sense, only individuals. The Greek word here is ethnos, and means “people of every kind.” They will be judged by how they treated “His brothers” during the Great Tribulation. It has been called the Sheep and Goat judgment, with the sheep being those who helped His brothers through the horrific times just past and goats being those who did not.

Some say His brothers are believers, whether Jew or Gentile, and others say they are specifically Jews, but the most important point is that these tribulation survivors aren’t being judged by their works. Their works are being cited as evidence of their faith, as in James 2:18. To give aid to a believer, especially a Jew, during the Great Tribulation will take even more courage than it did in Hitler’s Germany, and according to some will be an offense punishable by death. Only a follower of Jesus, certain of His eternal destiny, would dare do it or even want to. Those who helped “His brothers” will have demonstrated their faith by their works and will be ushered live into the Kingdom. Those who refused to help will have condemned themselves to the outer darkness by this evidence of their lack of faith.

All three illustrations teach the same lesson. Surviving believers go live into the Kingdom. Some will have relied exclusively on the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith, as in the Parable of the 10 Virgins. Others will have multiplied their faith by studying and sharing His word, as in the Parable of the Talents. Still others have put their faith into action, risking their lives in the bargain. They are the Sheep of the Sheep and Goat Judgment. But just like it’s been throughout history, all are saved by faith.

The Sheep and Goat judgment is actually an expansion of Matt. 24: 40-41 “One taken and the other left … ” Because of the timing problem, these verses cannot be describing the Rapture. The Greek word translated taken in verses 40 and 41 means “received.” No problem so far, the Lord is taking some but not others.

This passage isn’t describing the Rapture. The timing, the context, and the disposition of the parties are all wrong. It is a summary of the Sheep and Goat judgment. Those taken (received) go live into the Kingdom in their natural bodies and help to re-populate the Earth, while those left (sent away) are put into the Outer Darkness, forever banned from the presence of God.

“As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37). In the days of Noah, the people of Earth could be separated into three groups. There were the unbelievers who perished in the Flood, Noah and his family, who were preserved through the Flood, and Enoch who was taken from Earth before the Flood. (Enoch was translated in Genesis 5. That means that God took him alive into Heaven. The Flood came in Genesis 6.)

In The Time Of The 2nd Coming the people of Earth will also fall into three groups. The unbelieving world will perish in the End Times judgments, Israel will be preserved through the judgments, and The Church will be taken from Earth before the judgments.

6) THE DURATION AND PURPOSE OF THE MILLENNIUM

Like rapture and Lucifer, millennium is a word of Latin origin and does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures. We get it from two Latin words, mille, or 1000, and annum, or year, from the Latin translation of Rev. 20:6. Mille annum, millennium, the Lord’s 1000-year reign on Earth, is known to Israel as the Kingdom Age. It is the seventh and final thousand years of the Age of Man, begun with the birth of Adam. It is often confused with Eternity, but as we saw earlier, the two are distinct. A Millennium is obviously a defined span of time, while by definition Eternity is the absence of time as we know it.

THE MILLENNIUM ON EARTH

During the Millennium, the Lord will be King of Heaven and Earth, Earth being restored to the condition it was in when Adam was created. This will include restoring peace between man and the animals, bringing back Earth’s original garden-like environment with its worldwide sub-tropical climate, eliminating foul weather, killer storms, earthquakes, and extremes of heat and cold. The span of man’s life will begin increasing again to equal those of the Genesis patriarchs. Sickness and disease, those by-products of sin, will be greatly reduced. It appears the population of Earth will be sustained by the return to an agrarian economy, but with all the obstacles Adam faced gone as the curse of Genesis 3 is finally lifted. Man will easily produce enough for his family’s use, and enjoy doing it. None will labour unproductively, or primarily for the benefit of others. Children will grow up without fear and adults will grow old in peace (A summary of Isaiah 2:1-5, 4:2-6, 35, 41:18-20, 60:10-22, 65:17-25, Micah 4:1-8).

Since Earth will be re-populated mostly by Tribulation survivors in their natural bodies, there will still be sin although to a much lesser extent, especially at the beginning. In the so-called Millennial Temple in Israel, priests will conduct daily sacrifices for sin, just like in Old Testament days. But while Old Testament believers observed Temple sacrifices to learn what the Messiah would one day do for them, Millennial believers will observe them to remember, and their children to learn, what He’s already done (Ezek 40-47).

The Lord will reign supreme on Earth as King and High Priest, the head of both a one-world government and a one-world religion. He will brook no threats to His established peace, nor any deviation from His doctrine (Psalm 2).

In the beginning, only believers will inhabit Earth, enjoying the truly utopian environment that mankind has always dreamed about, but only God can create. They will soon begin bearing children who, as they mature, will fall into sin again. By the time Satan is released at the end of the Millennium, there will be so many who’ve rejected the Lord that he’ll quickly find a huge army of recruits for his final attempt to kick the Lord off the planet.

But with fire from Heaven, the Lord will destroy Satan’s army, casting him into the Lake of Fire, where he will be tormented day and night forever. Never again will he or any of his accomplices be free to afflict God’s people (Rev. 20:7-10).

What began as an age of unimagined peace and prosperity will have ended in open warfare against the very King who made it possible.

In the Millennium, Earth dwellers will live in the ideal circumstances that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden. The curse will be gone, and the Lord will be there among them, everyone is a believer, and Satan will be bound. And yet, there’s enough residual sin in the hearts of unregenerate man that he will rebel the first chance he gets. Sinful man cannot dwell in the presence of a Holy God, being unable to keep His commandments. He needs a Saviour and Redeemer to reconcile him to God, and a heart transplant to cure him of his sin nature. The whole point of the Millennium is to prove once and for all that man’s heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jere. 17:9) making it impossible for him to live in a manner pleasing to God.

7) ETERNITY

The Bible ends at the end of the Millennium, yet teaches us that everyone ever born lives forever. The question is not whether you have eternal life. The question is where you will spend eternity. There are only two possible destinations and we have described them both. Eternal bliss in the presence of God, or eternal shame and punishment banished from the presence of God.

Here then are “Seven Things You Have To Know To Understand End Times Prophecy.” Mastering them will allow you to successfully avoid all the heresy and false teaching that swirls about in these last days. The study of prophecy is not a salvation issue, but the Lord did admonish us on several occasions to understand the signs of the times so we would not be caught off guard. We are to watch with expectation and wait with certainty.

In Revelation 1:3 we are promised blessings for our diligent study, and in 2 Timothy 4:8 a crown for longing for His appearing.

(SOURCE: GRACE THRU FAITH (ORIGINAL BOOK WRITTEN BY JACK KELLEY))

SHOULD BIBLE BELIEVING CHRISTIANS BE PREMILLENNIALISTS? (Part 6)

This is the 6th and last part in this series. If you say that you believe in the doctrine of election, from the Old Testament is should also be very clear that God had elected Israel for a future glorious Kingdom and salvation.

Premillennialism is biblical. Scripture indeed teaches a future one-thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, explicitly and exactly as Revelation 20 describes it. There will be the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel in the past, given through the Abrahamic Covenant, Davidic Covenant and New Covenant. All of God’s people through history, and not only Israel, including the redeemed church and the redeemed in the time of the Tribulation all enjoy the blessings of that glorious reign.

Unfortunately, Amillennialists deny the truths of an actual earthly Kingdom and the future salvation of Israel. On the other hand, Post-millennialists say there is going to be some sort of spiritual kingdom on earth, but Christ will not come until it’s over.

Now to go back to the foundation where we will end up with Christ on earth, reigning in Israel, in Jerusalem, over a redeemed nation of Israel and all the saints gathered around. These saints include both those who returned from heaven with Christ, and those who were saved during the Tribulation and will enter into the Kingdom in physical form.

That is explicitly what Scripture says and there is never a reason to spiritualize, to allegorize, or to try and explain a text away if the plain meaning is clear. Only if the context gives compelling reason to assume that the language is somehow symbolic or spiritual should you ever look for any other than the obvious meaning.

Christ will return to earth to judge the world and establish His Kingdom for a thousand years during which Satan and his demons will be bound. Revelation 20 settles this and there is no other passage in Scripture that suggests any different scenario. All of the many Old Testament prophecies concerning this final Kingdom harmonize best with literal earthly kingdom. Christ reigning, Israel receiving the fulfillment of all its promises and all the saints gathered there as well.

God made covenants with Israel, promises to Israel, plans for Israel for a future Kingdom, and these are reiterated again and again in the Old Testament and repeated even in the New Testament. This Kingdom is described so clearly in the book of Revelation, along with the salvation of Israel, necessarily since 144 thousand Jews in the future will preach the gospel. There will be a great awakening in the city of Jerusalem where the whole population will give glory to God, as described in Revelation 11. The promises of God are unilateral, unconditional, and irrevocable.

LUKE 20 – THE PARABLE OF THE WINE GROWERS

So where does Amillennialism come from? Let us look at Luke 20. It is in the context of a parable that our Lord gave about a man who owned agricultural land. He owned a vineyard and went away on a long journey and he rented out his land to contract workers. They had skill in developing grapes but did not own the land. They get to keep a fair portion of the crop and they pay to the owner a percentage agreed upon in a contract. Then time comes for the owner to send his slave to collect what is his but they abuse the slave and give him nothing. He sends a second and a third one and they do the same. He then send his beloved son as he thought that they would at least have respect for his son. But when the vine growers saw the son, they reasoned with one another saying, “This is the heir, let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours.” They then killed him. The owner of the vineyard would then destroy those vine growers and give the vineyard to others.

Very clear story. It is a story about Israel’s history. Israel is God’s vineyard. God chose them to be His special people, to receive His revelation, to be stewards of the covenants and the Scriptures and all divine truth. God puts over them certain leaders, the priests, even the kings and the elders, all of those who are responsible to bring leadership to that people with a view toward producing in them fruit unto righteousness, which then could be offered to God in an expression of worship and praise. The leaders of Israel failed miserably. In fact, they killed the prophets.

Remember that Jesus described Jerusalem in Matthew 23 and again in Luke 13, as Jerusalem who killed the prophets and stoned those that were sent to them. Through all their history when prophets came from God demanding some spiritual fruit, demanding that the people give an account for what they owed God by way of obedience and worship, they rejected the prophets. Finally God says, “I’ll send My Son.” He sends His Son, they kill the Son. What will He do? He will give the vineyard to others.

Now there are people who think that this spells out in very clear terms the end of Israel and that all the promises are therefore cancelled. God is giving spiritual privilege, the stewardship of Scripture and the custodianship of divine truth to others. And that is absolutely true.

But the question is, just exactly who the others are? In Matthew 21:43 where the story recorded by Matthew, it says, “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation or a people bringing forth the fruit of it.” So the vineyard is the Kingdom of God, and the sphere where God works. It is the sphere of God’s Kingdom. The sphere in which God is working His salvation. And the first group of people who could be called God’s vineyard, or God’s Kingdom, were the Jews but their leaders were false and did not lead them into righteousness.

So God will carve out a new people with new leaders. The first generation of those new leaders is the Apostles who were given power and authority by Christ over disease, death, and demons. They were given insight into the truths that were hidden from everybody else, who were given the explanation of parables and analogies and stories that our Lord told while the others never heard the explanation. So while it was darkness to the others, it was light to His Apostles and His disciples. They were given, as Matthew 16 says, the keys to the Kingdom. They were given the gospel and the gospel truth to open the doors to salvation.

Following them, we see the New Testament prophets. Then, according to Ephesians, the evangelists and the teaching pastors, all the way down to today, those who are the guardians, the proclaimers, the teachers and the instructors of New Testament gospel truth. They are the new vine growers. And under their leadership the Kingdom of God has moved from being predominantly in the realm of the Jews to being predominantly Gentile.

This is all true and not arguable. Luke, in Acts 13:46 as a matter of fact said, “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the Word of God should be spoken to you first because you were God’s original chosen nation. Since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles, for thus…verse 47…the Lord has commanded us. I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth.’ And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord and as many as been appointed to eternal life believed.”

There was definitely a turning to the Gentiles, a new leadership and a new vineyard, a new people that embody the Kingdom. In Acts 18:6, Paul once again said, “Your blood be upon your own heads, I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.”

The church extends to the ends of the earth. The question is, is the displacement of Israel as God’s chosen people in the middle of His redemptive plan, with the Apostles and prophets and evangelists and teaching pastors of the church, permanent? And that gets us to the question that must be answered.

THE DISPLACEMENT OF ISRAEL – PERMANENT OR TEMPORARY?

Amillennialists and Postmillennialists say yes – the displacement is permanent. Scripture says no. You can see that the leaders of Judaism are not the leaders of God’s vineyard, that the Jewish people are not the people of God but rather that the leaders of the true church and the true church are.

The answer whether permanent or not, is given in Romans 11:25, “I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed,” or to put it another way, “I do not want you, brethren, to be Amillennialists.” “Lest you be wise in your own estimation that a partial hardening,” has happened to Israel. Only partial because there are many Jews who have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Then in Acts 18, or Acts 13:48 and in Luke 21:24-26 we read that when the fullness of the Gentiles come and all of them have been gathered, then all Israel will be saved. This goes back to Isaiah 59:20, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.” This is a partial hardening of Israel and it is a temporary one. Yes, from the standpoint of the gospel, they are enemies for the sake of the church because they rejected the gospel. But from the standpoint of God’s choice, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. What does that mean? For the sake of God’s promises and covenants made to the fathers in Genesis. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevokable. God does not go back on His Word.

If you then look at the future, you see then a time for Israel’s salvation and for all the Kingdom promises to be fulfilled. Zechariah 8:1, “Then the Word of the Lord of host came saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of host, I’m exceedingly jealous for Zion,’” that’s for Israel, “‘I’m jealous for great wrath for her.’” I’m angry jealous. “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.’” “Then Jerusalem will be called the city of truth.” It’s not now, it wasn’t the first time Jesus came. Not only will Jerusalem be called the city of truth, but the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the holy mountain. Jerusalem will become the source of truth and holiness.

And then go down to verse 20. “Peoples will come, nations will come, inhabitants of many cities will come.” This describes the Kingdom, they’ll come from all over the world. “They’ll go to one another saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, to seek the Lord of hosts I will also go. So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and entreat the favor of the Lord.’” The twenty-third verse, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, in those days ten men from all the nations, ten Gentiles, will hang on the garment of a Jew saying, Let’s go with you for we have heard that God is with you.” God will come back to Israel, save Israel, dwell in the presence of the people of Israel gathered in the Kingdom. This is basically echoed in Micah 4 as well.

Jerusalem, the center of the Kingdom of Christ over this whole earth, will be the source of truth and from it will go the Word of the Lord and from it will go holiness and He will rule with righteousness and peace over the whole earth. And the Jews will be at the center of that in the fulfillment of everything God promised to the fathers.

There is nothing in the writings of the New Testament that says the promises to Israel are cancelled and transferred to the church. There is nothing that cancels the future earthly reign of Jesus Christ in favor of some spiritual reign from heaven.

GALATIANS 6:16 SPEAKS TO THE JEWS

One other passage Amillennialists use is Galatians 6:16. Paul says, “Those who walk by this rule,” that is those who walk according to the salvation in the cross, according to grace, and are new creations, “For them peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God.” Amillennialists say the Israel of God must refer to the church. That is certainly not apparent in the text. The very simple meaning here is Jews who are saved, they are the Israel of God, as contrasted with those who are the subject of this Galatian letter. Judaizers came in and corrupted the churches of Paul, spreading their salvation by circumcision, by ceremony and by keeping the Law. They did not flagrantly deny Christ, they just wanted to add law-keeping and circumcision. They are not the true believers. They are not the Israel of God.

This is language that is not unfamiliar to Paul. Romans 2:28, “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that which is of the heart by the Spirit.” Paul is talking about the Jew who really belongs to God because he has been transformed by belief in the gospel on the inside. In Romans 9:6 Paul continues, “It is not as though the Word of God has failed, they are not Israel who are descended from Israel. Not all Israel is Israel.” The Israel of God simply means genuine Jewish believers and there are in the church many genuine Jewish believers. In fact, when the church began in Jerusalem and three thousand Jews were saved, and expanded in Jerusalem to as many as twenty thousand or more and they were Jews until the gospel went to Antioch and from there was launched into the Gentile world. But even when the gospel was taken to the Gentile world, they went, first of all, to the synagogue and preached the gospel to the Jews.

AMILLENNIALISM CAME AFTER THE BIBLE

So the Apostles didn’t teach Amillennialism. Jesus didn’t teach it. If it is not in the Bible, then it has to be after the Scripture. Let us look at the early church fathers. Papias, who was born when John was still alive and who lived right at the close of the apostolic era, said there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on the earth.

There are others who also said there definitely will be a Kingdom. Even Justin Martyr who lived from 100 to 165 said, “But I and others who are right minded Christians on all points are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem which then will be built, adorned and enlarged as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.” On and on the history goes and they all agreed on the earthly Kingdom. They took a literal, normal, natural approach to Scripture and they came up with a millennium. And Christ coming first, establishing the Kingdom, followed by, of course, the general resurrection and judgment.

Even John Calvin could not ignore this. Calvin, by the way, was hard on any allegorical interpretation of any passage. He wrote, “The error of allegory has been the source of many evils, not only did it open the way for adulteration of the natural meaning of Scripture, but also set up boldness in allegorizing as the chief exegetical virtue.” Calvin, of course, resented all of that. He was instrumental in the Geneva Bible, 1575, and the Geneva Bible says this, “The blindness of the Jews is neither so universal that the Lord has no elect in that nation, neither will it be continual, for there will be a time in which they also will effectually embrace that which they now so stubbornly and for the most part reject and refuse.” There is no other way to interpret Scripture.

Unless you change the meaning of Israel and Israel does not mean Israel, or unless you come up with some wild allegorical interpretation of what is otherwise simple and straight-forward language, you can’t have the church replacing Israel and receiving some spiritual fulfillment.

THE EARLIER DAYS OF AMILLENNIALISM

But even though some of these fathers saw an actual reign of Christ to some degree or another, a growing anti-Semitism began to crawl through the early church and cause some to resent the Jews and seek to replace them. There were actually early church fathers who called the church the new Israel like Justin Martyr, from 100 to 165, who wanted to hold on to a millennium, but wanted the church to replace Israel.

He was followed by another somewhat familiar church father named Origen, who established the allegorical method for interpretation of Scripture and he allegorized the text related to Israel. But perhaps the most notable contributor to making the church the new Israel was Augustine in the fifth century. And it did come from a growing resentment toward Jews related to the fact that they had rejected Christ.

It had a very, very profound effect on the church in the Middle and Dark Ages. Israel had rituals, rather than preaching. Roman Catholicism came right out of that concept. If the church is the new Israel, we need an altar. You will never see an altar in a Christian church. We do not offer sacrifices, even a repeated supposed sacrifice of Jesus Christ, horror of horrors. We do not have priesthood. We do not have a Jubilee Year. We are not caught up in symbols, ceremonies, and ritual. But all of that got imported out of the worship of the Old Testament into quasi-Christianity in the Medieval church. From the formation of the church in those early centuries through to the present day, Roman Catholicism is Judaism recast. They commune with God through rituals, sacraments, which is it is in the hands of priests. It is institutional and not personal.

THE EFFECT OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY ON EVANGELIZING JEWS

Another effect of replacement theology, it the damaging effect on Jewish evangelism. How do you explain to an orthodox Jew in Israel that Jesus is his Messiah? His first response would most probably be, Where is the Kingdom?” If all the cruel realities of this world and the treatment of Israel by the nations are taken into consideration, it would be very hard to sell, if you tell him that the Kingdom is already here. Where is the Son of David reigning on the throne? Where is truth and holiness?

Are you, as an amillennialist going to tell him, “Well, it’s not for you but Jesus is still your Messiah. God cancelled all His covenants and promises with you and He’s given them to us and we’d like to share them with you. We are God’s new elect people, chosen by Him for eternal salvation and blessing, and you’re out?”

Then the Old Testament is not true and can’t be trusted. And if God did that to the Jews, why could He be trusted for what He said to the Gentiles?

Even the amillennialis can not get away from what Scripture says. Jonathan Edwards says the Jews and all their dispersions shall cast away their old infidelity and shall have their hearts wonderfully changed and hate themselves for their past unbelief and obstinacy. And it was Edwards who said the church was the new Israel, but he still couldn’t deny the future conversion of Israel.

The future salvation of Israel is established unmistakably in Romans 11. First of all, God is glorified. God is glorified in advance of what is coming. His Covenants and all His promises do not depend on human inability. They depend on sovereign grace. He reigns in glory on the earth. The last vision of this earth, seeing Jesus, was hanging on a cross. They’ll see Him again when He comes in blazing glory. Every eye sees Him, fills the earth with His glory and judgment and the Kingdom. Getting it right in the future glorifies God and exalts Christ.

The Holy Spirit is honored in the mighty work of regeneration of that final nation Israel, that final group of ethnic Jews who according to Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 and 37, will be given the Holy Spirit.

Another benefit of getting it right is Scripture becomes clear. A uniform hermeneutic or set of principles is maintained, not arbitrarily set aside to eliminate Israel and substitute the church which leads to all manner of eschatological confusion and spiritualization of redemptive history. You keep intact the greatest historical illustration of sovereign election. God has elected Israel and He preserved them to their final salvation. This is how His election works. He keeps His promise and His Covenant.

Also the meaning of mystery in the New Testament is maintained. Over, and over, and over in the New Testament we are told that the New Testament is the mystery hidden in ages past, now revealed. The church is not just Israel moved into a new segment. The church is a mystery hidden, not seen. It is something brand new, unknown in the Old Testament.

Normal language serves to interpret all Scripture including eschatology. Just take what it says. Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near.”

The book of Revelation is not written for mystics, it’s not written for allegorists. It’s not written for people who are academics. It’s not written for people with wild and vivid imaginations. It is written for the life of the church. That means it has to be taken at face value.

Also, the chronology of Scripture should be left intact. For example, Revelation, chapters 1 to 3, you have the church on earth. Chapters 4 and 5, the church appears in heaven, which means the church has been Raptured. Chapter 6 through 19, back to earth, the Tribulation, divine wrath explodes on the earth. Chapter 19, the Tribulation ends with the return of Christ. Chapter 20, He sets up His Kingdom, reigns for a thousand years. Chapter 21 and 22, the New Heaven and the New Earth. Simple chronology left intact.

Premillennialism is the only view that allows Christ to be honored as supreme ruler over His creation now temporarily in the hands of Satan.

SHOULD BIBLE BELIEVING CHRISTIANS BE PREMILLENNIALISTS? (Part 5)

Many of the prophecies that God gave were directed at the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. His birth to a virgin, His sinless life, His substitutionary death, His literal resurrection, His exaltation, all of these are promised in the Old Testament and they came to pass historically. It is no change in the nature or character of Scripture that there are predictions about the future and the final end of world history. When we consider the great coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, there are many elements to the prophecy that are very clear, unmistakable, unambiguous and precise.

For example, the Bible predicts the Rapture of the church, in the twinkling of an eye and gathering them into heaven after they have been changed in the process. Those that are dead rising first. Those who are alive being caught up with them to be with the Lord. The Bible predicts a future time called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the time of Tribulation, also called the seventieth week of Daniel. The Bible tells us that during that period of time, there will be horrible things happening in this world because the judgment of God is then released. The Bible predicts the final appearance of the last Antichrist and the false prophet, who will attempt to displace Christ, to seduce the whole world into his false religion. The Bible also predicts the death, destruction and damnation of the final Antichrist.

The Bible predicts the final battle against, the battle of Armageddon. The battle is followed by the return of Jesus Christ and it ends when Christ comes triumphantly with His saints in His Second Coming to judge the ungodly, to destroy them. The Bible talks about the Kingdom, the establishment of the Kingdom when Christ returns. This Kingdom will have unique characteristics laid out in great detail in Scripture in the Old Testament, as well as in the New. It will be a Kingdom centered in Israel and Jesus will reign from Jerusalem.

The Bible predicts the final Kingdom lasts a thousand years, during which Satan and all demons are bound, and peace, justice and righteousness will prevail across the earth. The Bible then predicts the eternal judgment of the ungodly and their being sent into the Lake of Fire. The Bible then predicts the creation of the new heaven and the new earth.

Those are just general categories of eschatological areas that are laid out in Scripture in detail. The study of last things. If you are faithful to a straightforward reading of Scripture, you need not be confused at all.

Interpret all prophetic eschatological texts the same way you interpret everything else. Do not change the rules of interpretation. Secondly, interpret all the promises and covenants with Israel normally and literally. Take all the texts at face value. Let Israel be Israel and God’s promises to Israel valid and to be fulfilled.

The Old Testament laid out promises to Israel. Israel is God’s elect, God promised them a great nation, a great land, great blessing, a king, a kingdom, salvation, redemption, peace, righteousness. And we, the church, will share in that fulfillment by participating in the great blessing, in the great Kingdom and in the great New Covenant of salvation through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Strangely, however, there is a widespread and deep seated idea in Christian theology that Israel by unbelief and rejection of Christ has thereby forfeited all the promises and covenants. This dominates Reformed theology, though they are the protectors of divine election and divine sovereignty. The idea is that the church has replaced Israel and all the promises to Israel are to be fulfilled in the church spiritually now and in heaven. Messiah will not establish an earthly Kingdom and sit on a throne in Jerusalem. This view is called Amillennialism.

To support their denial of the Kingdom, they reject the plain sense of Scripture. But no mandate from God appears in Scripture to do that. Now that is what we have been looking at all along. The Old Testament is millennial, as we saw in Zechariah 12, 13 and 14 among many other passages. The Jews of Jesus’ day, were also millennial as we saw in Luke 1, 17 and 19. Jesus was Millennial. Jesus believed in and taught the coming Kingdom for Israel, as clear from Acts chapter 1 verses 3 through 7.

That takes us to the question of whether the Apostles and those associated with them were Amillennialists. Acts chapter 3 is very straightforward and uncomplicated on what the Apostles taught.

First of all, let us consider Peter, the leader of all the Apostles. In the middle of verse 12 he says, “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Why do you gaze at us as if by our own power and piety we had made him walk?” Peter and John just made a lame man walk. Peter then says in verse 13, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up and disowned in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release Him, but you disowned the holy and righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you but put to death the prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” You killed the Messiah and you cannot deny it.

Was this an interruption in the purpose of God? Was this a breach that God had not expected or planned for? Not at all! Verse 18, “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” This is not leading God into Plan B but it was the plan from the beginning. Verse 19, “Repent therefore and return that your sins may be wiped away in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”…times of refreshing…that is a promise of the future Kingdom, refreshed by peace and righteousness and salvation. “And that He may send Jesus the Christ appointed for you.”

In other words, if you repent and return to God, your sins will be wiped away and the Kingdom will come because Jesus the Christ will return. Verse 21, follow Peter’s words. He had just ascended. “Whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things.” That is the Kingdom, when all things are restored to a condition similar to what they were before the Fall. He is going to send Christ from heaven when it is time for the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. He goes all the way back to Moses who said, “The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like Me from your brethren, to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you.” Nothing has changed.

You rejected Christ and killed the Prince of Life. You disowned the holy and righteous One. But if you repent and when you repent and return, your sins will be wiped away, the promised times of refreshing will come because Jesus Christ will return who is only in heaven until the period of restoration, the very period spoken of by God through the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

In verse 25, Peter closes out his sermon by saying, “It is you who are the sons of the prophets,” now listen to this, “and sons, implied, of the covenant which God made with your fathers saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” He is saying you disowned the holy and righteous one, the Messiah, but you are still the sons of the Abrahamic Covenant which He restates, in which God said to Abraham, “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” and so forth, “For you first God raised up His servant and sent him to bless you by turning everyone of you from your wicked ways.”

Peter is affirming that nothing has changed in terms of God’s Covenant promise. Christ will come and bring the time of refreshing, the period of restoration which was promised by God through the mouth of the prophets from ancient time. He will come and you will give heed to Him. He will come because you are the sons of the Covenant, that means you belong to that Covenant, and everything promised to Abraham originally will come to pass. God will raise up His servant. He will turn you from your wicked ways. This all happened after the church has already been established in chapter 2, but that does not cancel God’s promises to Israel.

In Chapter 15 of the book of Acts, Peter could have said, “God is finished with you, the Kingdom is cancelled or you are now blended into the church of Jew and Gentile. There’s no future for the nation.” He does not say that. You are still the sons of the prophets and of the Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is still in place. We hear from James in Acts 15, pick it up at verse 13, Paul and Barnabas have just come back from visiting the Gentiles and seeing how God had brought salvation to them. After they had stopped speaking, James answered saying, this is James, the brother of our Lord, “Brethren, listen to me. Simeon…that’s the old name of Peter…has related how God first concerned himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.” Now we could say this is an indication, James could say, that it is over for the Jews..

That’s not what he says. God has taken from among the Gentiles a people for His name. This is true. The gospel is now being preached to the Gentiles. Verse 15, however, “And with this the words of the prophets agree. The words of the prophets agree.” The prophets always said God would save the nations. Israel was never the end of God’s salvation work, they were the means. It was through Israel that the world was to learn about the true and living God and put their trust in Him. We start in verse 16 to see language that comes right out of several Old Testament passages. This is what James says. “After these things I will return and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen. And I will rebuild its ruins and I will restore it.”

What is the tabernacle of David? It is the house of David. What is the house of David? Jewish people and the Messianic Kingdom. “I will rebuild the tent, the tabernacle of David which has fallen.” After what? “After these things.” What things? After God has gathered out from the Gentiles a people, He will return, rebuild the tabernacle of David, fulfill all Messianic promises with regard to the Messiah as David’s greater Son and King, rebuild its ruins, restore it in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord.

And all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.

In other words, there will be Gentile salvation, there will be a rebuilding then of the house of David, the Jews, with their King, with their Messiah, with the Kingdom, and from that Kingdom again salvation will extend across the nations of the world. It will happen in the Tribulation when Israel believes, a hundred and forty-four thousand Jews are saved, twelve thousand from every tribe, they spread over the earth and they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and an innumerable number of people are saved from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. God has not set them apart or aside permanently, but only until He has gathered His Gentile church.

In Luke 21:24, the Lord says that Jerusalem is trodden down only until the times of the Gentile is complete. In Hebrews chapter 6 verse 13, “For when God made the promise to Abraham since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself saying, ‘I will surely bless you, I will surely multiply you.’” When God made the promise in Genesis 12 and then repeated it in 13, 15, 17 to Abraham, God swore by Himself.

John wrote the Revelation and in chapter 7 describes the hundred and forty-four thousand, twelve thousand from every tribe. John describes salvation hitting the city of Jerusalem in chapter 11 under the power of two witnesses. He describes the establishing of the Millennial Kingdom in the great vision of chapter 20. Peter didn’t introduce Amillennialism. James did not introduce it. The writer of Hebrews did not introduce it. John did not introduce it. Maybe Paul introduced it. Let us go to Romans and find out.

Romans chapter 2 talks about the sinfulness of the Jews. They were Jews outwardly but not inwardly. Circumcised spiritually but not spiritually, concerned about praise from men and not praise from God. And so the question comes up in chapter 3, what advantage then is it to be a Jew? What’s the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. They were stewards of Scripture. “What then,” verse 3, “if some did not believe? Their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?” You could not speak more directly to the issue. Verse 4, “May it never be. No, no, no, no, let God be found true though every man be found a liar.”

Let us get a little deeper into this. Capter 9 gives us good insight into God’s understanding of the apostasy and defection of Israel. In the opening it is clear that Israel is not saved even though they have the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service, the promises, the fathers and from them Christ has come, humanly speaking, as a Jew. But Paul has nothing but sorrow and grief in his heart for them because even though they have all that, they are not saved. Then you come to verse 6, “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed.” No, “For they are not Israel who are descended from Israel, neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but through Isaac your descendants will be named.” God makes choices. Not all the children of Abraham are the children of promise. Abraham had a son named Ishmael, he was not chosen as a son of promise. “Only the children of promise, verse 8, are regarded as descendants.” And then he goes on to talk about Isaac. And even when Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, verse 13 says, God said, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.”

So what we’re learning here is the unbelief of Israel is not outside the plan of God. God never included all Jews as children of promise…never. Even among twins, one was loved and one was hated. And so we say in verse 14, “Is there injustice with God?” He is God. Said to Moses, “I’ll have mercy on whom I have mercy, I have compassion on whom I have compassion,” and in that sixteenth verse, “it doesn’t depend on man who wills, or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.” Verse 18, “He has mercy on whom He desires. He hardens whom He desires.”

Therefore, to believe in divine election, divine sovereignty and divine choice and come up with Replacement theology is a bizarre twist. God did not choose the generation of Jews living at the time of Jesus. They did not believe, He did not show them mercy. Therefore, their unbelief could not have the power to thwart His plan to cancel His promises.

That leads us in to chapter 11 verse 1. Has God rejected His people? No. Chapter 10 ends with the fact that they are a disobedient and obstinate people. This is a perfect place to inject Replacement Theology, right here. BUT … down to verse 8. “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not, ears to hear not, down to this very day.” This is sovereign. God has done this.

And then in verse 11, “I say then, they didn’t stumble so as to fall, did they?” Did they stumble for the moment so as to finally and permanently fall? No!

Verse 11 tells you, “By their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” In God’s purpose, God gave them a spirit of stupor so they would not believe in order to turn to the Gentiles to gather His church. But that’s not the end. End of verse 11, “To make them jealous.” Jealous of what the Gentiles, as true believers have. Some day that will happen. In verse 12, Paul says, “If their transgression be riches for the world …, how much more will their fulfillment be?” What does that word “fulfillment” tell you? That God is not finished with them at all. If so much good can come out of their unbelief, what is going to come out of their belief? Verse 17 and 18, “Branches were broken off and you, the church, the Gentiles, like a wild olive branch were grafted in to the stock of blessing … But don’t be arrogant.” Verse 19, “You will say then, branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” They were broken off for their unbelief and you stand by your faith. “But don’t be conceited but fear, for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.”

The church in the end is going to become apostate and God is going to save Israel and graft them back in. Verse 23, “If they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in for God is able to graft them in again.” Down to verse 25, “I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation that partial hardening has happened to Israel.” Why does he say partial? Because Paul himself is a Jew and the Apostles were all Jews. The early church was Jewish. There are even now thousands and thousands of Jewish believers. Hardening has happened partially to Israel only until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Exactly what Jesus said in Luke 21:24. “And…verse 26…thus all Israel will be saved, just as it is written in the Old Testament.” Isaiah 59:20, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Nothing has changed.

The Covenant is still in place. This Covenant being referred to here is the Covenant made to David, the Davidic Covenant, of a great King who would come and deliver them. It is also the New Covenant given to Ezekiel and to Jeremiah, a Covenant of salvation when God takes away their sins. Romans 3:28, “From the standpoint of the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. They are enemies so that you would be given the gospel, but from the standpoint of God’s election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” Who are the fathers? The patriarchs to whom the promises were given.

The setting aside of Israel is partial, passing and temporary. It is indeed purposeful to bring about salvation through the church. And so this great section ends in verse 33 to 36, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, unfathomable His ways, for who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor, or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again, for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things to Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

This is a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Nothing is changed. They are still the sons of the prophets and of the covenant. They are still headed for the Kingdom, the fulfillment of all the promises given to Abraham, given to David and given in the New Covenant. As Gentiles now who have been brought to salvation by the mercy of God, we will inherit with them all the promises to Abraham and to David and have already begun to inherit the promises of the New Covenant because our sins have already been forgiven. The Holy Spirit has been planted in us, stony heart has been removed, we have been given a transformed nature, a heart of flesh.

Listen to the vision of Daniel 7. “I kept looking…verse 19…in the night visions and behold, with the clouds of heaven, one like a Son of Man was coming,” He is seeing the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. “He came up to the Ancient of Days, God the Father, and was presented before Him.” “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a Kingdom.” This is the Son receiving His Kingdom from the Father. “That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away, His Kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” Here is Daniel’s vision of the Messiah coming to take His Kingdom and it is a Kingdom that involves people of every nation and language.

To say that God has made promises to Israel is not to say that the ultimate Kingdom is isolated to Israel, it is the place where those promises will be fulfilled to His people but they will also embrace all who belong to God. We will all be there.

SHOULD BIBLE BELIEVING CHRISTIANS BE PREMILLENNIALISTS? (Part 4)

Isaiah chapter 44 provide a foundation for the things we are going to address in part 6 of our study. First of all, from verse 6, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts, I am the first and I am the last and there is no God besides Me. And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it, yes let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation and let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. Do not tremble, do not be afraid, have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me or is there any other rock? I know of none.”

In those few verses, God identifies Himself as the Lord the King of Israel and Israel’s Redeemer. He is a God who fulfils what He proclaims and what He declares, who brings to fruition what He establishes, who declares things that are yet to come and events that have not yet taken place. Down to verse 21, again God is the speaker and He says, “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant. I have formed you, you are My servant. O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.”

And then looking at the future salvation of Israel, God says, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud, and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me for I have redeemed you. Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it. Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth. Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob and in Israel He shows forth His glory.”

Isaiah prophesied that the children of Israel would be taken into captivity and they would be recovered from captivity, but that would only be a historical preview to the great redemption that God had planned for the nation. In verse 24, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, I the Lord am the maker of all things.” That is to say, I do what I will to do.

In chapter 45 and verse 17, Israel has been saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation. You will not be put to shame or humiliated to all eternity. In chapter 46 of Isaiah and verse 9, “Remember the former things long past, I am God there is no other. I am God there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done saying, My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” Verse 13, “I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off, and My salvation will not delay and I will grant salvation in Zion and My glory for Israel.” Here is God affirming His nature, His purpose and His promises to Israel, promises that ultimately bring about the redemption, the salvation of Israel and God manifesting His glory through that salvation.

To put it simply, God has already written history. It is all moving in the direction and toward the objectives that He has already designed and determined. Scripture reveals much about how the world will end and how redemptive history will come to its final consummation. The foundation of any understanding of end times is an understanding of God’s future promises to the Jews. The history of the world is really the redemption of the world.

Scripture tells us the truth about the future. In fact, Scripture records the future before it happens and therefore He speaks of it in the past tense even though it has not yet happened.

The fulfilment of God’s purposes in the end will come only when a future generation of Jews repents and acknowledges Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord. Only then will God bring salvation to Israel, and then will the Messiah come and establish His Kingdom. That is the sequence in Zechariah 12 through 14, which we looked at in part 3.

The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the establishment of His messianic Kingdom is contingent upon the salvation of a future generation of ethnic Jews who will collectively understand the horrors of the crucifixion of Christ and embrace Him as their Lord and Savior. It will come to pass, because God promised it would come to pass. In fact, God calls Israel, “My elect…Israel, My elect.” We all understand that the gifts and callings of God, as Romans 11 says, are without repentance. If God elects some to salvation, He is bound to fulfill His purpose.

We clearly saw that the Old Testament is not Amillennial. It does not deny a future Kingdom. In previous parts we looked in detail at the Abrahamic, the Davidic and the New Covenant (in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36 and 37). The Old Testament is precisely clear on all of the promises that relate to the future of Israel and the Kingdom to come, to which God bound Himself.

JEWISH ESCHATOLOGY AT THE TIME OF JESUS

So, were the Jews of Jesus’ day Amillennial?” How did they interpret the Old Testament? Had something happened in the four hundred years between the end of the Old Testament and the time of our Lord when the New Testament was written? Had something happened in that period of time which gave reason to change the interpretation that they put on the Old Testament?

It was back in 1880 that a man named Amel Schurer wrote a book on this very subject. He did a very definitive study on existing Jewish eschatology at the time of Jesus. It lays out what they believed concerning Old Testament Covenant promises. Here is the sum of it.

The coming of the Messiah will be preceded by a time of severe trouble. That is what the Bible calls the Great Tribulation and they believed it even without the New Testament. Jewish eschatology at the time of our Lord also believed that before Messiah comes, Elijah or one like Elijah would come. Jewish eschatology affirmed that Messiah will be a Son of David who will exercise power to set up His Kingdom on earth in Israel and fulfil all the promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs and to David. The Jews also believed that the Old Testament taught that the Kingdom would be established in Israel and Jerusalem would be the capital city. They also believed that dispersed Jews would be gathered from around the world into the land for that great Kingdom. They also believed that the Messianic Kingdom would extend to cover the whole earth and the whole of human society would be dominated by peace. There would be no war, only joy, gladness, health, prosperity. They also believed that the temple would be rebuilt because that is what Ezekiel says in Ezekiel 40 to 48, and temple worship would be at its apex. The eschatology of the Jews at the time of our Lord is precisely the eschatology what the Bible teaches. They were just interpreting the Old Testament in its normal sense.

They also understood that there would be renovation of the world because that is what Isaiah said would happen. They also understood there would be a general resurrection, Daniel 12, of the righteous, there would be final judgment and they even understood that there would be a new heaven and a new earth because that also is specifically prophesied by Isaiah. So at the time of our Lord, nothing had changed in terms of how you interpret the Old Testament.

In Luke 1:67, Zecharias, the father of John the Baptist, is filled with the Holy Spirit, and he has been given a message that he was going to be the father and his wife, Elizabeth, was going to be the mother of the great prophet who will be the forerunner of the Messiah, the herald of the Messiah. He will have a son though he and his wife have been barren and they are likely in their eighties and past the possibility of conceiving children. They have never been able to anyway, but now they will miraculously give birth to a son. His son will be the forerunner of the Messiah, therefore the Messiah is coming. Zechariah says this in verse 68, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David, His servant.” They understood literally what the Old Testament prophesied. Verse 70, “As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” Instead of being abused and hated and embattled, they would rise to a time of glory. This God would do, “Showing mercy toward our fathers, to remember His holy Covenant, the oath which he swore to Abraham, our father, to grant us that we being delivered from the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”

Zacharias is a priest like a whole lot of other people who function as priests in the land of Israel. He is still in an Old Testament environment, pre-Christ. He teaches the Old Testament.

Our course Zacharias would have assumed that all of that would have happened at His first coming. The fact that it did not happen at His first coming is no justification to assume that it will never happen and that some other people have taken Israel’s place.

Jesus in this constant encounter with the Pharisees is confronted in Luke 17:20, with the question of when the Kingdom of God was coming. That tells you that the Pharisees, the elite, the fundamentalists, the scholastics, the purveyors of Judaism to the populous believed that a real Kingdom was coming.

In chapter 19 verse 11, “He went on to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem and they supposed that the Kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” There was only one way to understand the Old Testament, a real Kingdom is coming. The Old Testament is not Amillennial and the generation of Jews at the time of our Lord were not Amillennial. They believed in the coming of the promised King and Kingdom.

WAS JESUS AN AMILLENNIALIST?

Nothing in the Old Testament gives any hint of the cancellation of Kingdom promises which include the land, the primacy, the reigning Messiah, salvation, and all of those things. Nothing in the 400 years between the Old and the New Testament. So if it is now changed and if it no longer is to be believed that there is a real Kingdom for Israel, as defined by the Old Testament, the shift probably should come with Jesus.

Acts 1 is hard-pressed to get around if one wants to hold to the cancellation of God’s promises and replacement theology. This is post-cross and post-resurrection, therefore it is post-rejection and post-apostasy. It is after our Lord has said, “Your house is left to you desolate,” in Luke 13. It is after our Lord has said, “I will not answer your questions. You have enough light, you have rejected the light, I will give you no more light.” It is after the fickle crowd screamed for His blood on Friday calling, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Jesus has died, He has risen. Now we’re in to the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension. Jesus already declared in Luke 19:41 to 44, that there would be a siege against Jerusalem. He predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and reiterates it later in Luke’s gospel before He was crucified. Judgement has already been pronounced on Israel.

And so during this 40 days, Jesus taught them concerning the Kingdom of God. Acts 1 verse 6, “So when they had come together, they were asking Him saying “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the Kingdom to Israel?” The question is not…why did You cancel the Kingdom? He must in 40 days have affirmed to them unmistakably that the Kingdom promised to Israel was still coming. He said to them, “It’s not for you to know… times, seasons, which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” In all Jewish sources, “restore” is a technical eschatological term for the end time.

If Jesus was an Amillennialist, He would have told them that they have been replaced by a yet to be identified new redeemed people called the church, made up of Jew and Gentile. And what was once physical promises will become spiritual promises because Israel has rejected Him and crucified Him.

If Israel’s rejection and crucifixion of Christ cancelled the Kingdom for them, then we would have assumed that if they wanted to receive the Kingdom, they would have had to embrace Christ and not kill Christ. And if that had occurred, then there would be no salvation for anybody. Are we to assume then that the cross is an adjustment, plan B, a contingency, a reaction to an apostatizing Israel? Did He not Himself say that He was born to die?

At the end of Luke’s gospel in the twenty-fourth chapter, verse 25, He said to those disciples on the road, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken, was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” The Old Testament promised the suffering and the crucifixion of Christ. Psalm 22 describes it, Isaiah 53 describes it, the sacrificial system of the Old Testament typifies it, Zachariah 12:10 talks about Him being pierced. Same chapter, Luke 24:44, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the prophets in the Psalms must be fulfilled, including that Christ should suffer and rise again the third day.” The Old Testament prophesied His resurrection, Psalm 16, “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption, but show Him the path of life.”

The cross is not an afterthought. It is not an adjustment to Jewish apostasy. Luke 18:31, “He took the Twelve aside and said to them, Behold, we’re going to Jerusalem and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished, He will be delivered to the Gentiles, will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him.” Matthew says, “Crucify Him.” “And the third day He will rise again.” He says that will happen.

When Jesus came the first time, He came in humiliation. He was born to die to propitiate God’s justice as a satisfaction for the sins of all who would ever believe in order that sinners could be redeemed, including Jews and Gentiles and in the end a whole nation of ethnic Israelites.

Israel’s rejection of Christ was written by God. It does not diminish their guilt and was not a reason to cancel the promises. In fact, it was necessary for the fulfilment of the promises that He bear sin and rise from the dead. Jesus was no Amillennialist. The Kingdom is not conditional on what men do. History is God’s story.

In part 5 of the series, we will deal with the question, whether the Apostles were Amillennials or not.