Peace Between Israel and Judah … Then World Peace!

Tags

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men

Not since the creation of man and woman has there been enduring peace on this earth. Not with the best of governments; nor through education or man-made religions or treaties of all kinds. Not between nations; nor within nations, states, cities, communities, or families.

Even the Garden of Eden was short-lived when Adam and Eve fatefully disobeyed God; thereby, forfeiting the beautiful fellowship and Shalom (peace and tranquility) with their Creator.

The first murder was one brother of another. Whether through premeditated murder or justifiable homicide (such as in defensive wars), killing is the direct opposite of peace between people.

And so is (polarized … not even agreeing to disagree) political, social, and economic discord and disparity that affects the well-being of people all over the planet to some extent or another. In fact, one of humanity’s saddest ironies is that war unites people more than times of peace. But then, exposing another perplexing problem: war unifies ethnic groups and nations against other nations.

Despite the amazing advancements in 20th & 21st century technology and communication, there has been less peace in the world than ever. Two world wars and numerous regional and national conflicts bear witness that we have not progressed morally or spiritually. It’s just the opposite.

How can that be? Shouldn’t mankind by now have proportionally improved our relationships on all levels, beginning with the family? Will we never learn from our mistakes?

No, we won’t; not until we embrace God’s plan for peace—with God and (then) between people.

“…So love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).

The above order is not arbitrary. First love truth, then peace (will follow).

Jesus is the ONLY WAY to peace, the ONLY TRUTH about peace, the ONLY LIFE of real peace.

Such peace was proclaimed at his birth by an angel of the Lord: “…I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! …. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased’” (Luke 2:10-14).

“And it is impossible to please God without faith…” (Hebrews 11:6).

The object of the faith that pleases God: “He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us” (Ephesians 2:17-18).

Peace Will Come Only Through Israel and The Messiah

Immediately following the verse quoted earlier (so love truth and peace), we read:

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: People from nations and cities around the world will travel to Jerusalem. The people of one city will say to the people of another, ‘Come with us to Jerusalem to ask the Lord to bless us. Let’s worship the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I’m determined to go. Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies and to ask for his blessing…. In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zechariah 8:20-23).

What better exemplification of peace could there be, than representatives from entire nations and cities making pilgrimages to Jerusalem to receive the Lord’s blessings. May the Lord bless and keep you … and give you his peace (Shalom).

“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9).

In ancient times when a king rode into a city on a donkey, it was a symbol of peace (to come).

In fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy, Messiah Jesus first came to Israel as a righteous (without sin) king, one who would implement God’s New Covenant with people through his sacrificial death on a cross for the sin of the world. A covenant forever making people right with God. With only one thing required of us:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

The victorious feature of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem will be fully realized with his final conquest of the forces of evil. Then he will come as the, “Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne” (Revelation 5:5).

A conquering ruler would enter a city on a horse, emblematic of a king who established peace by force … a just war.

Referring to Christ Jesus, John writes:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war” (Revelation 19:11).

Continuing with Zechariah: “I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10, italics for emphasis).

Immediately followed by: “Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood (the New Covenant), I will free your prisoners…” (Zechariah 9:11a, parenthesis mine). Note the past tense, made. Which precedes Messiah’s return to earth in power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

Then later in that chapter and chapters 12-14, Zechariah provides a stirring scenario of how furiously and heroically the Jews will fight against Gentile armies, which are led by Antichrist and his coalition. But this time it will be different. Messiah, himself, will fight with them, when he “appears above his people” (Zechariah 9:14), as he descends to step foot on the Mount of Olives to begin his rescue of all Israel (Zechariah 14:3-4).

First, however, Zechariah says something unusual: “Judah is my bow, and Israel is my arrow. Jerusalem is my sword, and like a warrior, I will brandish it against the Greeks (Gentiles)” (Zechariah 9:13).

It’s a prophetic foregone conclusion that the Lord will save (all) Israel from final attacks during the Day of the Lord, i.e. the Great Tribulation; and restore her physically and spiritually to the nation God intended for the Jews from the time he called Abraham out from among the Gentiles.

So why mention both Israel and Judah? Why not simply say Israel (or Jacob)?

Answer: Both Israel (ten northern kingdoms) and Judah (two southern kingdoms) will fight their enemies together in unity; something that has not happened since King David unified all twelve tribes of Israel from one city … the Capital city of Jerusalem. Even though the miraculous rebirth of Israel as a sovereign nation in 1948 and the liberated reunification of Jerusalem with the rest of Israel in 1967 has resulted in more unity among the Jewish people than existed since King David’s and King Solomon’s time, there is still disagreement and even division within many sectors of Jewish society, both in and outside of Israel (Diaspora Jews).

This ultimate unification of Jews from all over the world will be a fulfillment of another prophecy, in the context of world peace and prosperity. One of paramount significance. So much so that global peace will not take place until there is unified peace between the still divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Kingdoms (plural)? Divided?

Your first reaction might be: The divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah are a thing of the past. Aren’t the ten northern tribes (called Israel or Ephraim in Scripture) the “lost tribes.” Aren’t they long gone, never to be heard from again? What do modern-day Israelis in Israel and Jews living outside Israel have to do with these divided Jewish kingdoms of ancient times?

As is said (not as funny as it once was): I’m glad you asked!

Although the designations of Israel and Judah are sometimes used interchangeably in Scripture (when the Lord is addressing his people as a whole), they are also used separately to identify which nation God refers to through his prophets.

The lost tribes of Israel are not at all lost to God. He knows from which tribe every single Jew on the planet is descended, even though most Jews themselves do not know. Israelites from the ten northern tribes didn’t cease to exist, any more than did the Jews from Judah (designation of two southern tribes), who also were exiled—first to Babylon, then to nations all over the earth when the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

For now, I’ll point to just one passage … albeit it one that is still future. To demonstrate that Jews from the twelve tribes (a slightly revised list to match what happened in Jewish history) are still intact. I’m referring to Revelation Chapter 7, in which 12,000 Jews from each tribe will be sealed (appointed) by God to be witnesses for Messiah Jesus during the soon to come Great Tribulation. Moreover, I’m convinced that among the approximately 14.7 million Jews on Planet Earth today, the 144,000 are among them! (See Eye of Prophecy articles, One Hundred Forty-Four Messianic Jews Part I & II. Posted 4-23 & 4-30-16).

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 which led to the rebirth of Israel was the beginning of the end times last (Omega) generation. Which includes the final rescue reunification of Jews, physically. A reunion that will culminate in the entire remnant of Israel—those who survive the Tribulation—being saved spiritually through faith in Messiah Jesus.

“And so all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:26).

The Jewish Apostle Paul goes on to say: “Many of the people of Israel are now (still are to this day) enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles (when the greater majority of Israel rejected the Gospel, it was then extended to the Gentiles). Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Romans 11:28, parenthesis mine).

This persistent enmity with the New Covenant has resulted in a continuing dichotomy among the Jews. See Eye of Prophecy article, The Jewish Dichotomy In & Outside Israel (Posted 6-30-18).

In that article, I wrote: Though there is significant solidarity of Jews within and outside of Israel, there are three basic Jewish dichotomies. Let’s examine this phenomenon; how these seemingly irreversible differences can be resolved and by whom. The remedy will impact the entire world.

Those three divisions: (1) Observant and Secular Jews; (2) Israeli and Diaspora Jews; (3) Messianic and non-Messianic Jews—the most obvious and deepest division.

*Note: There is a fourth dichotomy, i.e. right versus left (conservative/liberal), but that is common to virtually every people and nation.

Another excerpt from that article:

Since Israel’s rebirth as a nation, the unprecedented restoration of the all but dead Hebrew language, the amazing return of millions of Jews, the remarkable reclamation of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital, and the against-all-odds victory in four wars over vastly superior Muslim armies, the secular among them have recognized that these astounding achievements were in some fashion providential. It’s just that they have stopped short of giving the God of Israel (the only true and living God) credit.

Observant Jews are equally elated with Israel’s rebirth and the relative security of Jews world-wide (compared to past times, especially World War II and the Holocaust) but for a different reason: they once again can practice Judaism with much more freedom and safety. In that regard, they acknowledge the God of Israel as the source of Israel’s very existence, restoration, and final redemption. But not so good because they still refuse to accept that the New Covenant predicted by Jeremiah has come. They are still in practical denial that Temple Mount is devoid of the Temple and that the Levitical Sacrificial System is no more.

I then summarized by saying:

This dichotomy between Messianic Jews and their unsaved Jewish brothers and sisters in the flesh is the most noticeable of all, but one that God knew was both inevitable and necessary.

For unless and until God’s people fully realize that Messiah has already come, bringing with him the New Covenant through his once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice for Jew and Gentile alike, and that he is soon to return, they will continue to misunderstand, “…God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Romans 10:3-4).

Neither the dichotomy between secular and observant Jews nor the divergence between Israeli and Diaspora Jews will be fully resolved until the Jews recognize and turn to their Messiah, thereby fulfilling God’s ultimate purpose for choosing Abraham as the father of the Jewish people. Which was to bring the final Child of Promise to the entire world—the ultimate source of light and life to all people.

(Actually, its Verses 19 & 20)

Following God’s severe discipline of Israel (by Assyria) then Judah (by Babylon), there were three notable times when God’s people missed a golden opportunity to, as a nation, return to the Lord and to each other.

The first was after the return of some Jews to Israel from Babylon. Alas, their loyalty to God didn’t last long. They repeated the same mistakes of their ancestors. Read the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi for details of what (started out to be) could and should have been a permanent reunited restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land.

Then again, when the Maccabees of Judah miraculously defeated the mighty Syrian/Greek armies under Antiochus Epiphanes IV and the Hellenistic Jews that were disloyal to the God of Israel.

(Today’s Eye of Prophecy post is on day six of Hanukkah’s eight-day festival in celebration of that miracle and another one: the one-day supply of Menorah lamp oil lasting eight days).

But Jews and Judaism split into even more sects, each claiming superiority over the others in terms of what was best for Israel. They united only long enough to rally around their denial that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah—despite first hand evidence of his miracles before and after his crucifixion (his resurrection).

Had they accepted Jesus as Messiah (the third and by far greatest opportunity to reunify) the Messianic Kingdom of God would have been established right then and there. However, God knew that His Son would be rejected. This refutation would result in the fulfillment of the Lord’s redemptive plan for humanity.

Israel & Judah / How They Depict Dichotomies of the Jewish People in Modern Times

Obviously, the following differences between Israel and Judah (from ancient times to present day Jews and Judaism) is a generalization. But then, in addition to specific variations, the Bible also makes general distinctions between the two kingdoms; noting that there were faithful Jews in both kingdoms. And, we know that Judah, too, fell into idolatry and disobedience to the Lord by repeating the sins of the ten northern tribes. Yet Judah lasted for some 150 years after Israel fell to the Assyrians. There was a reason for that; thus, the main differences between the two kingdoms identified in Scripture.

Israel: Immediately after splitting the Davidic kingdom and establishing a separate capital in Samaria, the ten northern tribes began to worship man-made gods. False prophets emerged and many of their priests were not from the tribe of Levi, as God had ordained. None of their kings followed the Lord; nor did, by the ungodly leadership of king and religious leaders, the people (greater majority).

Judah: Most of the faithful prophets and priests were aligned with Judah, even though some of them warned Judah as well as Israel to return to the Lord. Several of Judah’s kings loved the Lord and followed him, as did the people—for a while. Most important: Jerusalem was (to always be) the capital of the Promised Land and the location of the Temple—where God dwelled among his people. For three of the annual (seven) Jewish Festivals, Jews were required by the Lord to travel to Jerusalem.

(Depiction of Jews traveling to Jerusalem and the Temple on Passover)

In today’s Judaism (the world over), the ten northern tribes of Israel are exemplified primarily by Diaspora Jews (those living outside Israel)—mostly secular; if observant, many belonging to Reformed Judaism. They are the more liberal Jews as represented by (for example) democrats in the United States; or, within Israel—Zionist Union and Yesh Atid parties of Israel’s Knesset.

Whereas, Judah is characterized more by observant Jews … predominantly conservative in their political, social, economic, and religious world-view. Represented, for example, by the Likud (30 of the 120 Knesset seats) and Shas coalitions. Proportionally, there are more observant Jews in Israel than in their Diaspora counterparts.

As indicated, these are broad generalizations. However, they track with Israel’s and Judah’s history and are parallel with contemporary times.

Yet, when it comes to the tens of thousands of Messianic Jews the world over, they are a cross-section of all Jews … no matter from which tribe they’ve descended. That’s the incredible power of God through Messiah Jesus to save his people—a prelude to salvation of all Jews (the remnant) when Christ returns to accomplish Israel’s final redemption and reunion—physically and spiritually.

Many forget or don’t even know that most Christians of the 1st century were Jews. Three thousand Jews from at least fifteen countries and regions in and around Israel were born-again in Jerusalem (in one day) after listening to the Jewish Apostle Peter’s (a fisherman by trade) stirring message about the resurrected Jesus.

Two named members of the Sanhedrin—Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus—believed in Jesus as the Messiah. The Apostle Paul had been a strict Jewish Pharisee whose life and eternal destiny was radically altered when Jesus interrupted Paul’s (Saul) trip to Damascus to arrest and imprison Christians. The Apostles John and his brother James also were fisherman and Matthew was a tax collector. In today’s world, there are Jews from all walks of life … conservative and liberal, religious and irreligious, who have acknowledged Jesus as Messiah and accepted him as their Savior and Lord.

Another Crisis in Israel’s Government

The parliamentary Knesset is an extraordinary example of a fragmented fraternity within a nation. A disunited unity! With (currently) 11 parties trying to run a government instead of the usual two, three, or four parties of most nations.

However, too much friction expressed too often can cripple or even topple a government at the most inopportune time. Israel narrowly avoided that a few months ago. See Eye of Prophecy article: A Government Crisis in Israel (Posted 3-17-18). Here is a summary excerpt from that article with a broader perspective (in italics):

Thus, the current crisis—seemingly resolved between the involved Knesset parties, but one that could erupt again—is ultimately good for Israel. It’s good because both secular and observant Jews realize that too much disunity could adversely affect Israel’s solidarity within the nation; but also jeopardize Israel’s security with its enemies. It’s good because the secular among them will hopefully see more clearly that ultimate (optimum) uninterrupted unity is only possible by once again returning to their God, the God of Israel. For secular and religious alike to fully realize that God’s appointed Messiah (the Son of God, Psalm 2, Psalm 110) will be the only one who can (and will) redeem and restore Israel to what God intended for them in the beginning—a nation of born-again priests—who will rule and reign with Messiah in Israel. And yet who are one in Messiah (Jesus) with Gentile believers, who have been grafted in to the prophetic tree of Israel. In that regard, they will fulfill their (Israel’s) destiny.

It’s also good for the United States and other nations/peoples when we more fully appreciate the miracle of Israel itself. That against all odds, Israel has won (survived) four wars against Arab nations. And not only survived but has grown in prosperity and posture among the nations.

Despite the sometimes-debilitating disputes among themselves, Jews in Israel (and all over the world) passionately exhibit one unifying trait and defend one ultimate purpose: the survival of Israel as a people, as a sovereign democratic state, as a nation reborn from the floods of dispersion and from the fires of Nazi death camps.

Jewish citizens of Israel synthesize over one common denominator: an enemy who wants to reduce them to ashes, to drown them in the sea, to erase Israel from memory, from all maps of the civilized world.

About three weeks ago, another crisis developed in Israel’s government.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned his post (in protest over the government’s alleged lack of toughness with Hamas’ launching of some 450 rockets into Israel as well as the now eight-month Palestinian rioting at the Gazan border with Israel) and withdrew himself and his coalition party … six-member Yisrael Beiteinu. Thereby, reducing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition from 67 to the bare minimum of 61 seats. Shortly thereafter, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (leaders of the Jewish Home Party—8 Knesset seats) threatened to exit the majority coalition government if Netanyahu didn’t appoint Bennett to Defense Minister to replace Lieberman.

If Bennett and Shaked didn’t back down, then the regular election scheduled for November 2019 likely would have taken place in 2-3 months. Netanyahu called the bluff of the Jewish Home party and Naftali Bennett withdrew his demand.

Out of cycle elections are a drain not only on legislators and government officials, but also the entire population. Worse, any government in a transitional crisis cannot deal nearly as effectively with national security issues.

Time/space does not permit more elaboration on this crisis except to say that Prime Minister Netanyahu once again demonstrated his skillful leadership of Israel by tirelessly working to resolve this divisive dilemma; successfully maintaining a majority coalition government (61 of the 120 Knesset seats).

(Naftali Bennett with Benjamin Netanyahu–on the right)

The following are excerpts from one of Netanyahu’s speeches just before Naftali Bennett withdrew his demand and agreed to keep his party in the majority coalition:

“I’m telling you from experience that we are currently facing one of the most complex security situations. This is not the time to dissolve the government. At a time like this, you don’t go to elections. That would be irresponsible. We have an entire year before the (scheduled) elections, and we are now in the middle of war—you don’t walk away in the middle of a war. You don’t play politics in the middle of a war. The security of the state is beyond politics, and the security of the state is also beyond personal considerations.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu summed up that speech with these words:

“You’ve seen the efforts that I’ve been making in recent days to prevent unnecessary early elections. I spoke with all the coalition leaders and I told them that it is time to display responsibility. Don’t topple the coalition, particularly in this security climate. I warned them not to repeat the mistake made in 1992 when a Likud government was overthrown and the replacement government brought about the Oslo disaster. We mustn’t repeat the mistake from 1999, when the Likud government was overthrown and the government that rose to power gave us the (Second) Intifada and more than 1,000 deaths. I hope that this time all the partners will act responsibly and won’t allow the government to fall.”

Truth That Leads to Freedom and Peace

Israel’s failure to keep God’s Covenant of the Law through Moses led to her division into two kingdoms some 2,900 years ago … around 930 B.C. Things only got worse, but God knew this would happen. At the proper time, he announced that a New Covenant would replace the Old (Jeremiah 31).

Jesus Christ put into effect this New Covenant that would forever change Israel’s and the world’s destiny … spiritually and physically.

“After supper he took another cup of wine and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you’” (Luke 22:20).

This New Covenant would also divide Jews (and later Gentiles), but with a division that makes the difference between eternal life and death. An enormous partition between the truth of God’s salvation to Jew and Gentile alike versus humanity’s way of trying to get right with God through good works or keeping rules that they could and would never keep in the first place. New Covenant truth that brings perpetual peace with God and, therefore, true freedom and peace among people.

Jesus said to his disciples (all believers): “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, NASB).

Jesus contrasted his (real) peace to a (fleeting) peace that the world thinks it can attain without acknowledgment of God in the affairs of people.

However, Jesus also made this startling statement:

“I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against. Father will be divided against son…” (Luke 12:49-53a).

Jesus is not contradicting God’s Word that he, as Messiah, would ultimately bring peace and unity to Israel and to the whole earth. The truth of God’s Salvation will burn away the dense, dark undergrowth of man-made religions. Of philosophical and political systems that foster false hope and promote pretentious peace that lasts only until the next conflict—among families, cities, states, and nations.

Messiah Jesus & The Prophecies Concerning Israel and Judah’s Reconciliation (Peace)

The Lord extended many opportunities and plenty of time (hundreds of years) for the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah to return to him and reunify as one people. But they would not do so. Jesus summarized this refusal in these poignant words not long before his people (the Jews) demanded his crucifixion and the Romans (Gentiles) put him to death:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate (predicting the Roman sack of Jerusalem). For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:37-39, parenthesis mine).

Now listen to the prophetic words of Jesus (the Pre-Incarnate Messiah) hundreds of years earlier. In this Messianic passage, he is speaking specifically of and to the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The prophecy is harsh compared to the compassionate expression of love for his people we just read in Matthew. Harsh because God would complete his discipline of Israel as foretold first by Moses (Leviticus 26) and then through other prophets, by intensifying this split between Israel and Judah until they finally reached up and out to Jesus as their Messiah Savior.

The passage begins with the Good Shepherd (Messiah) who cared deeply for the flock (all his people), despite their rebellious divisions—but only to a point.

“So I cared for the flock intended for slaughter—the flock that was oppressed. Then I took two shepherd’s staffs and named one Favor and the other Union … But I became impatient with these sheep, and they hated me, too. So I told them, ‘I won’t be your shepherd any longer. If you die, you die. If you are killed, you are killed. And let those who remain devour each other!’

“Then I took my staff called Favor and cut it in two, showing that I had revoked the covenant I had made with all the nations (most translations read “peoples”). That was the end of my covenant with them…” (Zechariah 11:7-11, parenthesis mine).

The covenant that would be revoked when Messiah came to earth was the Old Covenant of the Law through Moses, which also was to include foreigners (Gentiles) who wanted to know and follow the God of Israel. A New Covenant would take its place, as Jeremiah had already foretold.

“The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors… They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:31-32, italics for emphasis).

Returning to Zechariah, the passage even specifies that Messiah would be sold (valued at) 30 pieces of silver; precisely fulfilled when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders for that sum of money.

Zechariah continues: “Then I took my other staff, Union, and cut it in two, showing that the bond of unity between Judah and Israel was broken” (Zechariah 11:14, emphasis added).

This complete cut of an already torn Israel took place within a generation after Jesus ascended back to heaven. The sectarian strife among 1st century Jews and within Judaism contributed significantly, if not exclusively, to the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66 A.D. Which ended four years later with Israel’s crushing defeat and exile for nearly 2,000 years.

The grievous cut finally began to heal at Israel’s rebirth in 1948 and especially with the liberation of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Although the staff is currently taped together, it is not yet solidly welded. It won’t be joined permanently until after the worthless shepherd of Zachariah 11 (Antichrist)—who many Jews (and most Gentiles) will follow upon his reappearance—attacks Israel near the end of the Tribulation. And Messiah Jesus intervenes to forever bond the break between Jews both in and outside of Israel.

Things to Ponder

Even before Messiah’s prophecy (through Zechariah) of the debilitating disunion of Israel, God promised that Israel would be restored and reunified, as would the whole world as a result.

Isaiah Chapter 11 is one of the most well-known Messianic and Millennial passages in Scripture, which includes the famous description of the wolf and lamb living in harmony together (most people say lion and lamb). Then a little later in that chapter we read:

“In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives (undivided Israel, to also include Gentile citizens) will be a glorious place… He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah (once and for all … see Matthew 24:31) from the ends of the earth. Then at last the jealousy between Israel and Judah will end. They will not be rivals anymore” (Isaiah 11:10, 12-13, parenthesis mine).

Ezekiel uses the same illustration. “Now hold them together in your hand as if they were one piece of wood. When your people ask you what your actions mean, say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take Ephraim and the northern tribes and join them to Judah. I will make them one piece of wood in my hand’” (Ezekiel 37:17-19).

Then all the last days promises to and blessings for Israel and Judah will come to fruition. Such as:

“…But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me … I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land” (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

“But now I will not treat the remnant of my people as I treated them before, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you…. Once more I will cause the remnant in Judah and Israel to inherit these blessings” (Zechariah 8:11-12).

The time is short.

Let’s intently listen to, love, and learn from the Lord. Let’s also keep our eyes on Israel.

As Israel and Judah go, so goes the world. Global redemption and peace to the Jew first, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

Does Jesus Himself Say Anything About The Rapture?

Tags

You may be a believer in Messiah Jesus and know a lot about the Rapture or only a little.

You may be an unbeliever who knows virtually nothing about the Rapture, except for hearing about it from time to time. Wherever you are in this spectrum, the question posed in this week’s Eye of Prophecy article may be puzzling.

Some will respond incredulously to the question: Of course, Jesus spoke of the Rapture.

Others might think: I know that the Apostle Paul writes about the Rapture, because the (two) passages in which he describes it are the ones that many people cite exclusively. However, I don’t think Jesus himself spoke of the Rapture.

Still others might say: I think Jesus talked about the Rapture. But I’m not sure what words he used or where to find them. And if he was referring to the Rapture or just his second coming to the earth, or both?

And, there are those who don’t believe the Rapture will take place at all. What they do with I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15 is beyond me, but that’s okay. If they have accepted Christ as their personal Savior, they’ll know for sure when they ascend from the earth in their brand-new bodies to meet the Lord in the air! It’s likely they will exclaim, “It’s really happening?!”

For those of us who know the Rapture is for real, a shorter version: “It’s happening!”

Some think that the Rapture and the return of Messiah Jesus to the earth to end the Great Tribulation are one and the same.

You may or may not know that the term (Rapture) isn’t found in the Bible. However, the event itself is, including amazing details of what transpires and the sequence thereof. The Latin word is employed as a summary of all features of the event originally encapsulated in the Greek word, which means a catching or seizing up of believers by Messiah Jesus to heaven.

(See, Eye of Prophecy article, Biblical Terms Not in the Bible … Are They Biblical? Posted 3-10-18)

The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus will bring about the Rapture. But did Jesus, himself, say anything about this extraordinary event?

Answer: A resounding, YES!

Stay tuned and discover that, in fact, Jesus directly disclosed all the revelations concerning the Rapture, including the two passages recorded by the Apostle Paul.

But first, a brief review of:

The Spectacular Surge of Biblical Prophecy in the 20th & 21st Centuries

After Israel’s remarkable rebirth as a sovereign nation in 1948 and especially following the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem with the rest of Israel in the miraculous Israeli victory of the 1967 Six-Day War, there has been an explosion of interest in Biblical end-times prophecy unequalled since the first century A.D. Both events were part and parcel of hundreds of Biblical prophecies and both were accomplished against all (natural) odds. Not only on Israel; the world’s 20th century attention riveted on two World Wars and a host of other unprecedented events (like the formation of dozens of new nations) continuing into our 21st century that billions of people, believers and unbelievers alike, consider to be apocalyptic. A beginning of the end.

So much so that it didn’t even take another major war, or natural disaster, or ominous geopolitical or economic event to galvanize global awareness on what many believe to be the last days of the end times.

You remember the year 2000, don’t you?! The realization that it was not only a new century but a new millennium, generated an apocalyptic apprehension that swept over the planet.

Many predicted a millennial meltdown of computer chips and systems, which in turn would wreak havoc on the infrastructure of nations. Power grids would collapse; machinery would stop running; complex military, government, and economic networks would fail; and (worst of all!) the internet might self-destruct.

Most Christians were convinced that the Rapture would take place sometime during that fateful year. After all, it was the beginning of the third millennium since the birth of Messiah Jesus. And the seventh millennium of recorded time. There was nothing left in Biblical prophecy as a prelude to the Lord taking believers from the earth … to spare them from the Great Tribulation in preparation for Messiah’s second coming to this earth. Could there have been any time more prophetically pertinent than the year 2000?

I was one of what seemed to be only a few believers who were convinced that the Rapture would not take place that year. This certainly isn’t criticizing my brothers and sisters in Christ, as I, too, had the same fervent expectation that such a pivotal year in the history of mankind would be the year of Messiah’s Rapture of the true church … those who have placed their personal trust in the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus and have accepted him as personal Savior. I passionately hoped they would be right about the Rapture in 2000. And I was disappointed that they were wrong.

My exclusive reason for being persuaded that the Rapture would not take place in 2000 was based on what Scripture says. Which essentially is: when least expected. The Apostle Paul compares the event of the Rapture to: a thief in the night.

Although this analogy was mostly in the context of how the Lord’s return will affect unbelievers, it also applied to the expectation level of believers. Whereas Jesus and Paul (also Peter) encouraged believers to be ready and alert, waiting patiently and watching eagerly for the Day of the Lord, they also emphasized that it would happen at a time least expected—even for believers. This certainly relates to notable days, months, and (as we now know) to the year 2,000.

For example: many believers—both Jewish and Gentile—believe that the Rapture will occur on a major Biblical festival, such as Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, or Sukkot. Or perhaps Christmas or Easter or even Hanukkah! Non-Messianic observant Jews, who contend that Messiah’s arrival will be his first, also speculate that he will appear on a significant Holy Day.

Yes, it could be one of those days, but likely as not, it won’t be. Those days are too obvious!

In contrast to unbelievers who will be shocked at the Rapture and ensuing Tribulation, Paul compliments believers by saying that they: “…aren’t in the dark about these things … and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief” (I Thessalonians 5:4). However, not being surprised relates to the surety that the Lord will return. Intensified by the awesome privilege of knowing beyond doubt why the Rapture part of his return will take place. “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us” (Verse 9).

The anger referred to is none other than: “…then disaster will fall on them (unbelievers)” during the Tribulation, shortly after the Rapture takes place. (verse 3).

Believers not being surprised at the event of the Rapture is different than the Rapture occurring when least expected. Jesus said so himself: “You (talking to believers) also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:44, parenthesis mine).

In the last 50 years, the imminent return of Messiah Jesus so enthusiastically embraced by the early Church, has once again been the “talk of the town.” What God says will happen has always happened and will continue to unfold before our 21st century eyes. However, despite the clear evidence that hundreds of Biblical prophecies have been fulfilled, most unbelievers scoff at the idea, “that Jesus is coming again” (II Peter 3:4).

And, when they see the first part of his Second Coming (the Rapture) for themselves, many of those left behind will still mock. Good riddance; we’ve got the whole world to ourselves now.

The Imminent Return of Messiah Jesus (in Two Phases)

The term that Bible scholars, teachers, and students use most often to identify the return of Messiah Jesus is: Second Coming. Or: Second Advent.

In addition to coming and appear, Jesus also uses the term, return. “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return” (Matthew 25:13).

The Second Coming of Messiah Jesus is part of what Old Testament prophets referred to as the Day of the Lord.

The Apostle Paul explains it this way:

Jesus was the first to warn that his (second) coming would catch an unsuspecting world off guard. However, he also spoke of many things that would transpire before his powerful and glorious appearance (return) to earth. These events are revealed in both general and specific detail throughout Scripture, especially in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew, Luke, and Revelation.

For example: Messiah’s spectacular return to earth to do battle with the combined armies of the Antichrist and Kings of the East as recorded in Revelation Chapter 19. Which clearly doesn’t take place until after the entire chronological sequence of the Great Tribulation. With the obvious conclusion that his Second Coming to earth will not be at all unexpected and will be preceded by signs and wonders for all those left behind at the Rapture to see. With multiple opportunities (depending on how long they survive) to know beyond any doubt that the same Messiah who took believers to heaven before the carnage began would be returning to judge the world. Sadly, most of them will still reject the true Messiah in favor of the one vainly parading himself before the world as God.

Yet, both Jesus and Paul tell us that the Lord’s return will (also) come like a thief in the night, unexpected and without warning. The only possible way to accurately juxtapose what seems to be a paradox between unexpected and clearly expected is to fully understand that Jesus’s return is in two parts … two distinct phases.

Please refer to Eye of Prophecy article: Messiahs’ Return and the Rapture (Same or Separate Events?) Posted 12-3-16. In which this subject was covered in detail.

In keeping with today’s article (title), we’re going to focus more on what Jesus, himself, said about his Second Coming. Identifying critical passages pertaining to the first part of his appearance (Rapture) in contrast to his second (final) physical return to the earth.

Which will help to better understand that the imminent aspect of Jesus’s Imminent Return, concerns the Rapture phase of his Second Coming … only for believers. Whereas, the return part applies to his glorious appearance to the entire world, an immediate prelude to his victorious conquest of Satan, Antichrist, the False Prophet, and rebellious humanity that had spurned the true and living God and His Messiah. This second phase comes with myriad events preceding his actual return to earth, unfolding with prophetic precision just like Scripture said they would.

Don’t be confused or even puzzled over this phenomenal two-part event; one at the beginning and the other at the end of seven years of the last days of the end times.

In fact, it is one of the four epic events of God’s interaction with humanity, all of which involve two parts or phases. Four (and its multiples … forty, four-hundred) is one of those divinely significant numbers found in both natural and supernatural conditions throughout human history.

Here is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article, Countdown to Armageddon … End of the Fourth 400-Year Era (Posted 7-29-17). The excerpt, in turn, was taken from a prior article, Four Locusts Kingdoms! (8-22-15). In italics:

Several numbers in the Bible bear a great deal of meaning … we are going to see how the number four relates to and explains a huge portion of Israel’s history; in the context of God’s providential direction for the Jews and their interaction with mighty Gentile nations.

The number four derives its significance from God’s creative work especially pertaining to the earth, including God’s dealings with and disposition (rise and fall destiny) of nations. It is the number of wholeness, totality, entirety, and summation. It is a number concept that would be completely incomplete if we eliminated just one of the component parts of any given foursome.

If we want to move from one place to another, we must go forward, backward, left or right. Up or down doesn’t count; if we go beneath or above the earth, we must then travel in one of four directions.

…There are four seasons, four primary lunar phases, and four sides to what is probably the most perfect geometric object we can think of … a square. And many more fours:

I went on to list fourteen more fours prominently displayed in Scripture and the universe, including one that you may not have thought about…. Which is, as quoted from Four Locusts Kingdoms:

“Each day has four component parts: Seconds, minutes, hours, and day. One day is cyclical … it begins, ends, and starts all over again. Weeks, months, and years are linear, continuous.”

In addition to the two-part Imminent Return of Messiah Jesus, the other three grand Biblical events also come in pairs—each of which is typified by and reflected in the juxtaposition between the Covenant of the Law (Old Testament) and the Covenant of Grace (New Testament).

They are:

God’s Two-Part Plan for Humanity: I’ve discussed these panoramic plans at varying lengths in prior articles. They are: (1) Selection of Abraham to father the Jewish race. With Israel as the perpetual Promised Land and Jerusalem as its eternal capital for Abraham’s descendants. Through the Jews would come the Messiah, which is part two of God’s magnificent design for humanity. (2) Messiah Jesus’s redemptive sacrificial death for the sins of all who believe and receive him as personal Savior. Followed by his astonishing resurrection that will (soon) enable believers to also be resurrected with the same glorified body in which Jesus arose.

God’s Discipline of Israel / Two Exiles and Twice Return of Jews: (1) Israel’s ten northern tribes conquered by Assyria, then the two southern tribes by Babylon; for their disobedience to and abandonment of the Lord. The southern tribes (remnant) returned to Israel after exile to Babylon, but lasted only until: (2) Rome sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the second Temple, which began a far lengthier exile of Jews to the four corners of the earth. This was a direct result of God’s people as a nation rejecting their Messiah, the one who brought the New Covenant to them and the whole world. See Eye of Prophecy article: Double Israel’s Trouble and Double Her Blessings! (8-13-16).

Messiah’s First and Second Advent: (1) Jesus of Nazareth born of a Virgin at the appointed time that changed the very keeping of time (B.C. to A.D.). He came 2,000 years ago as, “…The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). (2) He will return as, “…the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne…” (Revelation 5:5). Each advent is prophesied several times in the Scriptures. In Isaiah Chapter 9, both events are proclaimed in just two verses. Beginning with: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end…” (Verses 6-7a).

Each of these two-part plans/events correlate with the other. They prophetically and existentially validate the profound observation that:

And now to look more closely at the fourth of these (two-part) monumental milestones.

Messiah’s Rapture of Believers / Followed Seven Years Later by His Return to Earth

(1) The Rapture

This phenomenal event precedes the even more spectacular physical return of Christ; thus, it is separate from his return. The Rapture is the catalyst of, but not his actual return to rescue Israel by conquering her enemies; thereby, saving the entire world from annihilation. The Rapture is the trigger-point of the Great Tribulation, which includes God’s wrath poured out on the world, followed by Messiah’s Millennial Reign on earth from Jerusalem.

Let’s begin with Jesus’s direct disclosure to the Apostle Paul, one of the most well-known passages in the Bible.

However, to note that this wasn’t the first time Jesus had revealed something to Paul through direct communication with him. These divine encounters began when Paul saw and heard Jesus on the road to Damascus; a life-changing, destiny-altering meeting with the risen Messiah. Even changing his name from Saul (a die-hard Jewish Pharisee who persecuted Christians) to Paul—the greatest apologist for the Christian faith who has ever lived.

Another example (precedent) is found in Acts 18:9-10, when Jesus spoke to Paul in a vision. Saying, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you…”

Then later Jesus said: “…Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you much preach the Good News in Rome as well” (Acts 23:11).

Now, the famous passage which contains Paul’s first reference to the Rapture (he wrote I Thessalonians before I Corinthians). Notice that he begins by telling us this is a direct revelation from the Lord Jesus.

We tell you this directly from the Lord. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18, italics for emphasis).

Just a couple of brief comments concerning this passage:

First, “we” that begins the passage (as opposed to what would be the usual first person, “I”) refers to Paul and the Lord together. Secondly, to make the major distinction between the Rapture and the Return of Christ, Paul specifies that all believers will meet the Lord in the air. Messiah Jesus does not come down to earth. That will take place (about seven years later) when he physically returns to end the Great Tribulation.

Subsequently in I Thessalonians Chapter 5 (verses 2 & 10), Paul uses the term return … of the Lord. Return (also used by Jesus) is an all-purpose description that incorporates both phases of Jesus’s Second Coming or Imminent Return. Nonetheless, we can distinguish between the two and determine which part of Messiah’s return is being described, by whether Jesus and Paul are attaching the word (return) to that which will take place unexpectantly … imminently, meaning The Rapture. Contrasted to his physical return that will take place only after the succession of events that constitute the Tribulation.

In other words, the purpose (timing) of these two phases of return is identified and characterized by HOW Jesus will appear and to whom.

A feasible analogy could be as follows:

A press release from the United States Executive Staff announces that the President is scheduled for a breakthrough engagement with the leaders of several European countries. This sojourn in Europe will last seven days, then he will return to the White House. However, before the seven-day period begins, the President will make a stop in Great Britain to personally arrange with England’s Prime Minister the send-off of the United States ambassador to a brand-new home on an island paradise for a long-anticipated rest (retirement from the affairs of this world).

The transfer of the ambassador was imminent, but the exact day or hour would not be announced. This to accommodate the flexibility of the President’s schedule. Also, for the world at large to focus on the critical seven-day period during which time the development of ominous world events would be discussed. Though the European leaders intensely disliked not knowing when the President’s imminent trip to Great Britain would take place, the President would consent to meet with those leaders who would agree to drop what they’re doing and welcome him.

(Note: Jesus’s parables of the Ten Bridesmaids and the Master and three servants in Matthew 25:1-30, part of his Mount Olivet end-times discourse, relate primarily to the time between Messiah’s First and Second Advents. But they also pertain to the time (second-chance for those left behind) between the Rapture and physical return of Christ to earth. They’re obviously much better analogies than mine!)

My analogy is limited but you can you see that the President’s trip is distinctly divided into two parts: one unannounced, the other itinerary known to the entire world, including the fact that the President would return in seven days. So it will be between the imminent Rapture and the seven-year Tribulation, the end of which will come when the Son of Man returns to the earth (His white house will be the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem!).

The other well-known passage of the Rapture written by Paul is preceded by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to Paul, in which the fact of the resurrection and the spiritual bodies of resurrected believers is explained. See I Corinthians 15:12-50.

Then, however, Paul abruptly shifts the narrative to precisely what will happen to cause this tremendous transformation of believer’s bodies (dead and living) to our immortal spiritual bodies. Once again, pay special attention to the beginning of this passage, as it, too, confirms that this revelation came directly from the Lord.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It (the transformation itself, not the entire sequence of the Rapture as presented in I Thessalonians) will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown…. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies” (I Corinthians 15:51-53, italics for emphasis, parenthesis mine).

(For the detailed sequence and proposed time-lapse of the entire Rapture, please see Eye of Prophecy article: The Shout Heard Around the World (Published 4-22-17).

This secret or mystery was directly from the Lord, just like Jesus revealed a mystery to John in Revelation 1:20, and an angel of the Lord to John in Revelation 17:7-8.

This was Jesus’s second direct revelation to Paul concerning the Rapture, one that expanded on the first disclosure in I Thessalonians 4.

In the first revelation, Paul tells us, “…that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectantly, like a thief in the night” (I Thessalonians 5:2). That “day” is the day when the Rapture will take place … without warning, just like a thief would strike.

Followed soon by the onset of the Great Tribulation, with Paul graphically portraying the world’s lifestyle and condition at the time. “When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor paints begin. And there will be no escape” (Verse 3).

Jesus uses the same kind of illustrative warning with his analogy to God’s first world-wide judgment of the Great Flood. We know that he’s referring specifically to the Rapture phase of his return as he prefaces his comparison by one of the four statements that he makes … no one knows the day or hour of his return.

One of those four is as follows:

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 24:37-39).

Noah entering the ark is a parallel to the Rapture. At that point he and his family were safe from what was about to happen.

By the time the horrific Tribulation nears an end—with all the shocking plagues, some man-made, others inflicted by God himself—no one is going to be surprised. Especially during the last half of the Tribulation, nearly everyone will have fully realized what was happening and why. Sadly, most will still not repent and turn to the Lord.

However, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of revelry and carefree things going on. Not with millions of people dying all over the earth on a regular basis. The terrible turmoil of the Tribulation won’t end until Messiah Jesus returns to the earth to set things right. The partying referred to by Jesus is prior to the Rapture, which will precipitate the Tribulation.

The above verses are followed immediately by another startling statement from Jesus, which continues his reference to the Rapture, confirming that it will be completely unexpected. An explanation affirming that believers will be taken from the earth and unbelievers will be left behind at the Rapture. Just like Noah and his family and Lot and his family were taken out of harm’s way and saved from God’s wrath, so will believers taken at the Rapture be spared from God’s final judgment of the earth.

Said Jesus: “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Matthew 24:40-41).

The context is crystal clear: This could only happen at the Rapture, as the taking is abrupt … without warning, at any time. As opposed to the ensuing Tribulation that will affect only those who are “left” (behind) to experience seven-years of calamities that will literally shake the world to its very core.

(2) Part Two: The Second Coming of Jesus Personally to the Earth

Other than the astonishingly abrupt reappearance of the Antichrist (Nero) at the outset of the Tribulation, there’s nothing unscheduled during the Tribulation itself. As thoroughly and sequentially (the twenty-one plagues) recorded in the book of Revelation, with the resulting conclusion that they come with plenty of warning (2,000 years’ worth) in contrast to the unexpected Rapture of which no one knows the day or hour. In fact, anyone left behind at the Rapture who cares to read the seven seal, seven trumpet, and seven bowl judgments of Revelation, will know exactly which one is coming next. And WHO is coming afterward!

Sometimes specific—like the moon turning to blood—but usually in more general terms (composite effect) the catastrophes of the Tribulation also are prophesied by Old Testament prophets. And, by Jesus, himself in Matthew 24:4-29, in which he is describing the Tribulation, not the Rapture. His words about the Rapture come later, some of which we’ve already covered.

[*Note: Mark’s Gospel (Chapter 13) also records Jesus’s Mount of Olives discourse. As does Luke’s Gospel, except that Luke discloses one additional feature. That of Jesus including the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (which took place in 70 A.D.) as a (parenthetical) prelude to the Great Tribulation. Specifically in the context of Gentile domination of the Jews until the last days (during the birth pains immediately preceding his return). Referring to the Roman conquest of Israel/Jerusalem, Jesus says: “They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end” (Luke 21:24). (See Eye of Prophecy article: Times of & Fullness of the Gentiles … What Do They Mean? Posted 4-21-18]

In conclusion to what he calls, “greater anguish than at any time since the world began” and later in the chapter, “the anguish of those days” (Matthew 24:21 & 29, respectively), listen to Jesus’s dramatic description of his actual return, which is accompanied by a sign in the heavens.

“And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

Thus, there is a clear time-lapse differential between the Rapture and Messiah’s return to the earth.

See Revelation 19:11-21 for a stunning account of Jesus’s final descent to the earth. There’s more: We believers will be with him, also descending to the earth. We’re not going up, we’re coming back down—after seven years of (blissful) waiting in heaven for this glorious moment.

Here is how I summarized it in Eye of Prophecy article, Messiah’s Return & the Rapture (Same or Separate Events?)

Believers will not meet Christ going (up) and coming (down) all at once. That makes no sense at all. That would be like an elevator full of employees going up to meet their boss with the unmistakable understanding that he is waiting for them in the Penthouse Suite having prepared a great Christmas party for them. Only for the boss to change his mind after they arrive, and then take the elevator back down with all the guests to first “take care of business” below.

Praise and thanks to God … born again believers will sit out the tribulation! There will be seven years between our elevator rides.

Things to Ponder

Indeed, Jesus had much to say about the Rapture.

In fact: He is the ONLY ONE to directly reveal the unfolding of this awesome event.

Am I saying that the Apostle Paul didn’t tell us point-blank about the Rapture?

Answer: Yes, I am saying that!

With, however, the qualification that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God through the Holy Spirit as Paul and Peter tell us (II Timothy 3:16 & II Peter 1:20-21, respectively). But that applies primarily to the specific writing (recording) of the Word of God as a Biblical whole. The Holy Spirit brought to remembrance and directed the thoughts and words of the actual composition of Scripture through individual writing styles of the various authors.

God proclaimed his Word to mankind through prophets, apostles, and angels … through dreams and visions and actual appearances. With much of Scripture containing the direct spoken words of God the Father and God the Son—Messiah Jesus.

“Thus, saith the Lord,” is a frequent expression of and representation by the Lord regarding direct verbal or visionary revelations to people. This is not a superior means of disclosing God’s truth. It’s just different; a more direct way than the Holy Spirit guiding and motivating the recording of these revelations and historical facts of people, places and events. A Holy Spirit inspired synthesis of, for example, the three parts of redemption—justification, sanctification, glorification—for all those who accept God’s atoning salvation through His Son, as presented in the New Testament epistles.

All Scripture is intrinsically equal in importance and impact. But when we read words spoken directly by God and His Son, we get a first-hand, up close and personal appreciation of the Lord’s direct involvement in and concern for the eternal life or eternal death of every human being. From the beginning God gave us the freedom to choose between the two and tells us in his own words why the choice will determine our eternal destiny.

Said Jesus:

And then the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, inspired the prophets and apostles to fuse God’s (Father and Son) powerful and precious Words of light, life, and truth into sound doctrine.

The significance of the mysterious Rapture being revealed directly by Messiah Jesus himself reinforces the absolute truth that God’s plan of salvation revolves around and is found in what He did for us that we could not do for ourselves. Beginning with his First Advent to sacrificially die for our sins, the efficacy of which was validated by his resurrection from the dead.

Culminating in his Second Advent that begins with the Rapture, in which he will resurrect dead believers in Christ and transfigure the bodies of all believers—dead and alive—into a spiritual body equipped to live forever in heaven.

“We tell you this directly from the Lord…” (I Thessalonians 4:15).

“So encourage each other with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:18).

Then: The Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

Antichrist / A “Back To The Future” Prophecy

What does the past have to do with the future Antichrist?

After all, isn’t the Antichrist a component of end-times prophecy that includes the Rapture; his appearance at the outset of the seven-year Tribulation; defeat at Armageddon by the true Messiah; then thrown into the Lake of Fire? Don’t the predictions about his arrival as found in Daniel 7, 9, and 11; Zechariah 11; II Thessalonians 2; Revelation 11, 13, 16, 17, & 19 apply to the future, by the very definition of that which is prophetic?

Yes and no.

Webster’s Dictionary defines prophecy (noun) as: “the inspired declaration of divine will and purpose; an inspired utterance of a prophet; a prediction of something to come.”

That definition accurately reflects the dual dynamic of Biblical prophecies: (1) Forthtelling—telling it like it is in the context of blessings for trusting and obeying the Lord and (contrasted to) warnings for distrust and disobedience. (2) Foretelling the future.

Scripture contains an abundance of both.

The verb form prophesy (prophesying or prophesied) is similar, but with more of an emphasis on: “to make a prediction.”

Old Testament prophets and John, the prophet of Revelation, certainly prophesied the future, but they also professed and refreshed God’s sovereign plan for the present and past.

God is timeless; therefore, the past, present, and future are simultaneous to him. For humanity, time is linear … unfolding one moment to the next. In the context of future tense prophecies, a reminder of the present and past was sometimes included as a backdrop to better understand the full scope of the prophesied event. A more panoramic perspective as it were.

Will the Antichrist (logically) be a modern-day man? If so, then no one would know anything about his pre-Antichrist life until he becomes Antichrist. But what if Bible prophecies about this evil man also speak of him in the past tense before he appears on the Tribulation scene? If they do, then he wouldn’t be born in the Omega (final) generation of the last days … The Day of the Lord.

Borrowing the title of the blockbuster movie, fasten your prophetic seat belt as we ride the high-octane vehicle of Biblical prophecy and go Back to the Future.

Prophecies Applying to Select People

There are only a handful of Biblical prophecies that apply directly to individuals chosen by God in advance for an express reason to accomplish His plans for Israel and all humanity. For example: Samson … to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines; John the Baptist … to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

For a few, the Lord instructed the parent(s) to give the child a name that God had selected, e.g. Ishmael, Isaac, John (the Baptist), and Jesus.

God revealed the name of Cyrus to the prophet Isaiah, as the ruler who would issue a decree for the Jews to return from Babylonian captivity and rebuild the Temple (Isaiah 44 & 45). This was some 150 years before the Persian King Cyrus was born and named!

By far, the prophets foretold of the Messiah more than any other person, with several titles ascribed to him such as Prince of Peace and Immanuel. Yet, it was not until the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, when Messiah would be given his Incarnate name of Jesus. It was an awesome announcement that would propel into motion God’s magnificent plan of redemption—the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (Chapter 31).

Said Gabriel to Mary: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever. His Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33).

Then later to Joseph—who had decided to break his engagement with Mary because of her “unfaithfulness” to him—an angel explained what really had happened and what Joseph must do.

“…Joseph, son of David … do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us’” (Matthew 1:20-23, quoting Isaiah 7:14).

The prophecy of Messiah Jesus given to Joseph relates to God’s plan of redemption—to the Jew first, but also to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). Concerning Mary, the prediction pertains to Jesus’s rule and reign over the Kingdom of God on earth … fulfilled upon his glorious return.

There’s another feature of Messianic predictions fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth that is unique in the annals of prophecy. At that time, he was the only person prophesied who had a past long before he arrived on the earth as the Messiah. Several passages in Scripture testify to this. We’ll look at just two: one in the Old Testament, one in the New Testament.

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past” (Micah 5:2).

Then, the Jewish Apostle John tells us that Jesus’s existence stretched beyond even the distant past.

Jesus existed with his Father (and the Holy Spirit) before time began. That’s as far back as anyone can be! But, then, Jesus is also God.

The Prophecy of One Other Man Who Also Had A Past

One other prophesied person in Scripture also has a past (tense). No suspense here, as he (his designation) is identified in the title of this week’s Eye of Prophecy article. It is this past that will enable him to mesmerize billions left behind at the Rapture; to be worshiped as Christ even though he is Anti-Christ.

He is also referred to as the little horn (Daniel 7); prince/ruler (Daniel 9); king (Daniel 7, Revelation 17); worthless shepherd (Zechariah 11); man of lawlessness (II Thessalonians 2); the beast (Revelation … all chapters previous cited). Each of these titles relate to specific things this depraved man would do; even more importantly, when he would do them. As Roman Emperor from 54 – 68 A.D; then as the Antichrist beast who returns from the Abyss (Revelation 17) at the commencement of the Great Tribulation.

Please see Eye of Prophecy trilogy: A Beast by Any Name…. Posted 3-14, 3-21, & 3-28-15.

Those articles provide extensive Biblical and other historical evidence and rationale to show that each of the labels assigned to Antichrist (the most common reference to this evil man) is for a special reason. Not the least of which is to ascertain his identity, which is also to understand that he had a past long before his (short) future will begin again in the (near) future.

No secret here either, as my second book, Out of the Abyss along with many of the 54 Eye of Prophecy articles (to date) in the category of Antichrist, document in detail. The Antichrist is none other than the Roman Emperor Nero.

The reason for the prevailing presumption (logical and reasonable, but not what the Bible is telling us) that the Antichrist will be a modern-day born man is because we’ve missed this very fact: He has a past. One that was already past tense when the book of Revelation was written!

When he comes up out of the Abyss and arrives on the scene at the outset of the Tribulation, it will NOT be his first appearance on earth.

However, Nero’s past is nothing like the true Messiah, i.e. from the very beginning of time.

Obviously, the appellation of Antichrist (found only in I John) means the exact opposite of Christ. He will claim to be both Messiah and God when he reappears from the Abyss. Just like he declared during his 14-year reign as the fifth Roman Emperor—designating himself as both God and Savior. When, in fact, he is everything that Messiah Jesus isn’t: evil, ruthless, deceitful, ungodly, unholy, lawless, and other characteristics of all that is “anti” Christ.

Antichrist is also a term and characteristic that signifies one who will mimic the true Messiah, but in a cruel counterfeit way. In a way that will be allowed by God because that is what/who most people left behind at the Rapture will want. They want a messiah, but not the Messiah. (See Eye of Prophecy article, The World Wants A Messiah … But It Needs (The) Messiah. Published 1-28-17).

I, too, was (once) among those mainstream Bible scholars, teachers, and students who subscribed to a modern-day born Antichrist. What or who else could he be? Although I’ve studied Biblical prophecy for several decades, it wasn’t until November 2008 that the Lord gave me some mind boggling insight. I wrote about the details of this discernment in Out of the Abyss, published February 2011.

This disclosure (I call it that because it was a dramatic departure from contemporary conceptions about the Antichrist) was staggering in its implication.

It was a passage in Revelation Chapter 17 that riveted my attention, that launched my journey into a deeper study of all other passages on the Antichrist. As captioned on the back cover of Out of the Abyss:

On an unforgettable voyage to the ancient Roman world, to the very origin and lair of the beast, to the first-century church, to the Abyss and back again, to the pre-emptive death and eternal destruction of Antichrist, to the mesmerizing visions of John, Daniel, and Zechariah, and to high-level heavenly counsels. Out of the Abyss will expose and declassify that which has been concealed and classified: the secret of the beast presumed to be confidential until the body of Christ is taken from the earth.

The Book of Revelation

Bible teachers, students, and commentators who are familiar with the book of Revelation to some extent or another, easily recognize that the first three chapters of Revelation are a present tense record of what John witnessed. In real-time he saw the majestic risen Christ, who told him what to write to the seven churches—all of which existed at that time in John’s life.

However, Revelation Chapter 4 begins with: “…Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” Instantly, John was taken to heaven “in the Spirit” (Revelation 4:1-2).

Without doubt, nearly all of what John heard and saw thereafter would take place in the future, which is still our (soon to come) future nearly 2,000 years later. Please see Eye of Prophecy article, End of the World Events … In Chronological Order! (Posted 2-25-17). Also, Stunning Catastrophes of the Tribulation / Their Timing and Purpose (11-14-17).

But not everything that John saw from then on was exclusively future. As previously indicated, some Biblical predictions include past and present conditions for clearer context and better comprehension of what was to come.

For example, Revelation 12:1: John states, “Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance…” Yet, the first part of what he saw included images that represented what had already taken place, i.e. out of Israel the birth of the Jewish Messiah just a few decades earlier; also, Satan and one-third of the angels cast out of heaven (in ancient times).

Please refer to Eye of Prophecy article, A Mysterious Sign in Virgo … What Does It Mean? (9-13-17). Which among other things, examines Revelation 12 in more detail.

Another partly past tense passage is Revelation Chapter 18, which describes the astonishing annihilation of Babylon (Rome). As a build-up to this future catastrophe, much of the chapter depicts Rome’s notorious past and present, which obviously included the 1st century in which Revelation was written … when the Roman Empire was arguably at its peak. But also, a back to the future panorama of Rome (the woman) morphing from a secular empire to a religious one. Summarized by: “For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God remembers her evil deeds” (Revelation 18:5).

Three of a few Eye of Prophecy articles on that subject are: Shameful Saga of the Great City (Revelation 17); Cunning Makeover of the Great City (Revelation 17); Humiliating End of the Great City (Revelation 17). Posted 5-26, 6-2, & 6-9-18, as a trilogy.

(The Vatican in Rome)

A little later, we’ll examine the past tense verses of Revelation 17, which will help refine and even revise the otherwise reasonable assumption that the Antichrist must be a modern-day born man.

We need to wrap our minds around another highly significant feature of Revelation. One that is obvious, but one that we tend to neglect (not think about) because everything from Revelation 4 onward is viewed from the perspective of being exclusively future.

We need to remember that John saw all these visions in the PRESENT TENSE; on the Isle of Patmos on the Lord’s Day—Sunday. Most of what John sees concerns the (still future) Day of the Lord, particularly what will take place during the Great Tribulation and thereafter. If the present tense reality of John’s visions is overlooked, then it’s easy to forget that some of what he sees has already happened. This is especially true for Revelation 17 after his 2nd observation of the beast; the angel does something different after this vision. He tells John, “…I will tell you the mystery of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits” (Revelation 17:7).

The main reason that the angel called John’s second vision of the beast a mystery (this time with a woman sitting on the beast) is because the beast, in fact, was past tense—in addition to the future tense of the Antichrist during the Tribulation. Unless the angel had explained the reality of the beast’s past, we wouldn’t be able to accurately identify the beast and his origin (which the angel challenges us to do in Revelation 13:18 and again in Revelation 17:9).

Revelation Chapter 13

From books, articles and commentaries I’ve read, and messages heard about the Antichrist beast, Revelation 13 is the passage referred to and discussed most often. In and of itself, there’s obviously nothing wrong with this.

However, a problem arises when we don’t carefully correlate Revelation 13 with ALL other passages on the Antichrist, especially Revelation 17. Then, to compare these Scriptural references to first century church and secular history. Especially that of the Roman Empire and the Caesars—the seven heads of Revelation 13 & 17 who are seven kings just as Revelation 17 says they are. That and three misapplications that many (including myself in the past) mistakenly make in Revelation 13.

(1) Misperceived Profile of the Antichrist:

The primary premise is that Antichrist will attract a world-wide following because he is a political, economic, and military genius. Yet, that conclusion is reached via a circular argument. Which is: he must be a genius (no one else could do what he will do) because he’s able to galvanize global allegiance to himself. But that is not how Scripture profiles him nor the Biblical reason why so many will follow him. In Daniel 7 & 11 and Revelation 13, we are told that he is a tyrant who comes out with both barrels blazing blasphemies against God.

For example, neither Adolph Hitler nor Antiochus Epiphanes IV (the Biblical prototype forerunner of Antichrist … Daniel 11) were considered genius as such. Both were cunning and charismatically compelling because of their oratory and boasting, but they weren’t necessarily brilliant. Hitler not only ill-advisedly assumed direct logistical command of the Third Reich armed forces, he made several strategic blunders to the dismay of some authentically intelligent German generals.

(Hitler and some of his generals … He often wore a military-style hat)

However, nowhere in Scripture do we find a direct or even indirect description of the Antichrist as a great orator, a consummate politician, a brilliant military strategist, or even a charismatic leader. A despotic boastful blasphemer of God, yes.

In fact, the subsequent miracles that will compel many to take the mark of the beast or his name on their forehead or right hand will be performed by the False Prophet, not Antichrist (Revelation 13:11-16). It’s also quite evident in that passage that the False Prophet does most of the speaking for the beast.

There is one and only one reason (will be considered a miracle) that billions left behind at the Rapture will worship the Antichrist. I’ve commented on this in some prior articles and in Out of the Abyss.

The reason is plainly stated: “I saw that one of the heads of the beast seemed wounded beyond recovery—but the fatal wound was healed! The whole world marveled at this miracle and gave allegiance to the beast. They worshiped the dragon (Satan) for giving the beast such power, and they also worshiped the beast. ‘Who is as great as the beast?’ they exclaimed. ‘Who is able to fight against him?’” (Revelation 13:3-4).

How can anyone (those who may want to oppose the beast) fight or kill someone who has already been killed and come back to life?! Not three days after he was died, but 2,000 years later!

There is no other reason given for this sudden world-wide devotion to a man many will believe is both God and Messiah. Or at least a messiah who will usher in a utopia.

(2) Misunderstood Time of Antichrist’s Death:

The prevalent presumption is that Antichrist will be killed during (most say half-way through) the Tribulation, then come back to life. Again, this stems from portrayal of the Antichrist as contemporary man born a few decades before the Rapture will take place.

First, a reminder that it is Jesus, himself, who kills the man of lawlessness. Only the Apostle Paul refers to him by that term.

“Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming” (II Thessalonians 2:8).

It’s important to know that the beast will be killed as the man of lawlessness. To explain that, I’ll refer to an excerpt from my book, Out of the Abyss. As follows (in italics):

Expressing it another way: Jesus did not kill the beast; he killed the man of lawlessness. Although the man of lawlessness and the beast are one and the same (Nero), this is not a contradiction. Why … because the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is telling us when the beast would be killed. The beast would be killed by Christ while the beast was the man of lawlessness, before he reappeared as the beast! As the beast, Nero will be cast into the Lake of Fire, alive. (Note: Lake of Fire is fulfillment of the second part of II Thessalonians 2:8).

According to the prevailing view, the Antichrist is murdered like millions of people have been murdered in the course of history. Many scholars speculate that he is killed at the hand(s) of a Jew, or maybe a member of Antichrist’s inner circle, or whomever. This same impression maintains that when he comes back from the dead, Antichrist is completely possessed by Satan, displays his true colors, begins his blasphemy against God, and leads the world to total destruction.

Again, I repeat: It’s the Lord who slays this man of lawlessness. And again, I would ask: What reason would the Lord have in killing Antichrist at this point, or any point in the beast’s tribulation reign? Why wouldn’t the beast simply be allowed to run his seven-year antichrist course?

…Of equal significance: If, in fact, a modern-day Antichrist is murdered during the seven-year tribulation, why would Jesus imprison him in the Abyss? Why wouldn’t the man follow the path of all the unsaved before him and travel to hell? (Page 206).

The Lord hadn’t revealed to Paul that the man of lawlessness would later be called Antichrist and beast. Those labels came after Paul died.

(Depiction of the Apostle Peter crucified upside down. The Apostle Paul was beheaded. Both executions took place during Nero’s reign)

In Out of the Abyss and a couple of Eye of Prophecy articles, I explain why Jesus killed the man of lawlessness (Nero) before John’s visions even took place. Time/space does not permit elaboration in this week’s article.

In Revelation 13, John sees (first vision of the beast) the beast rising from the sea, which is where the Abyss is located. The very next thing he observes is the deadly wound that had been healed, which generated world-wide awe. He says nothing about the beast being killed during the vision (meaning during the Tribulation).

When John first saw the beast, its deadly wound had already been healed. I’m convinced that if the beast was killed after he (re)appeared on the Tribulation scene, the Lord would have revealed this to John. Just like John describes the world’s reaction of glee over the death of the two witnesses (Revelation 11); he certainly would have seen and recorded the world mourning over the beast’s death. If that is, the beast dies during the Tribulation—which he won’t.

The sequence of events in Revelation 13 and the compelling rationale presented above makes for a strong argument that the beast is not killed during his Tribulation tenure. However, Revelation 17 provides a stronger case, one that complements Chapter 13 and greatly enhances our understanding that the beast died long before he reappears shortly after the Rapture. Indeed, one that is watertight and makes any deductive reasoning that the beast will not be killed during the era of the Tribulation a moot point. We’ll get to Revelation 17 in a moment.

(3) Presupposition That Antichrist’s Identity Can Only Be Known After the Rapture:

This widely disseminated hypothesis has been stated in several ways. Such as: “If you think you know the identity of the Antichrist, then (unfortunately) you have missed the Rapture.”

This conjecture is tendered despite the crystal-clear statement of the angel to John, which was more in the form of a stimulating challenge … albeit one that required a healthy dose of wisdom.

“Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666 (six hundred and sixty-six)” (Revelation 13:18, parenthesis mine).

As found in other translations, it reads (as directly from the Greek): six hundred, sixty-six. Which is the key to solving the number of the beast.

If first century Christians and all believers right up to the Rapture were not meant to know the identity of the Antichrist, then the angel would have made this clear to John. If his identity couldn’t or shouldn’t be known until after the Rapture, then why urge the early Church and subsequent believers to exercise wisdom and find out? Why even mention the number of the beast, let alone stipulating that it could be solved? Soon after the Rapture, everyone would know anyway.

In fact, near the end of Revelation the angel told John: not to seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near (Revelation 22:10). Contrasted to Daniel’s prophecies that couldn’t be fully understood until Messiah arrived, followed by more end-times prophecies, many of which came from Jesus, himself. Such as:

Thus, we are meant to understand the essentials of Revelation, INCLUDING the identity of the Antichrist beast. In Revelation 13, the specific criterion was the number of the beast. It just so happens that Nero’s name matches Hebrew gematria (that’s how Jews counted back then) of Nero’s name in Greek—the language of which the New Testament is written. And, as indicated, there are other persuasive passages in Scripture to match Nero to the ruler prophesied by Daniel, the man of lawlessness described by Paul, and certainly the beast of Revelation—whose (Tribulation) future is intricately linked to his past tense existence in a back to the future phenomenon.

Now let’s look at the passage that rocked my understanding, one that prompted a refitting of the prophetic puzzle concerning the Antichrist and a handful of other prophecies. However, with my restated respectful acknowledgment of other prophecy scholars who have skillfully and accurately assembled most of the prophetic puzzle; but not all pieces—including those pertaining to Antichrist. Not what he will do upon his reappearance, for that is understood by most students of prophecy. Rather, who he is. AND, who he was.

Revelation Chapter 17

John had just witnessed his (2nd) vision of the beast, along with the first introduction to the woman. Once again of paramount importance: we need to realize that John’s vision is over … ended. He’s already seen the beast and (this time) the angel tells John not to be so amazed, because the mystery of the beast (and the woman) would be explained to him.

“Why are you so amazed? the angel asked. I will tell you the mystery of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits. The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now. And yet he will soon (abruptly, at any time) come up out of the bottomless pit (Abyss) and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to this world, whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made, will be amazed at the reappearance of this beast who had died” (Revelation 17:7-8, italics for emphasis, parenthesis mine).

Please read again just the first set of italicized words, then I’ll ask you a couple of easy questions.

Question: When is the now of the verse?

If you’ve never thought about it before, now you know the obvious answer. The now is right then and there at that precise point in time in the first-century A.D. The wording is unambiguous and the meaning irrefutable: The beast had already lived and died! Once alive but isn’t now.

The life and death of the beast also had to be in the first century, not long before John saw the visions recorded in Revelation. Which is confirmed by more of the mystery unveiled by the angel.

To wit: “This calls for a mind with understanding (same challenge as in Revelation 13): The seven heads of the beast represent the seven hills (of Rome) where the woman rules. They also represent seven kings (a totally different Greek word than kingdoms). Five kings have already fallen (died), the sixth now reigns (at that very time when John saw the vision), and the seventh is yet to come, but his reign will be brief (all seven kings were Roman Emperors). The scarlet beast that was, but is no longer (more validation that the beast is past tense), is the eighth king. He is like (Greek word is ek, meaning of, out of, from, one of, like) the other seven…” (Revelation 17:9-10, parenthesis mine for additional commentary).

What had John witnessed? Answer: He had prophetically witnessed the same thing those left-behind at the Rapture will see and be utterly amazed at (still in the future … beginning of the Tribulation).

What will amaze them? Answer: the reappearance of this beast (Antichrist) who had (already) died. Or, as phrased in Revelation 13: they will marvel at the miracle of the beast whose fatal wound had been healed.

It is a back to the future spectacle that will mesmerize the world’s attention and capture their loyalty like no other since the resurrection of the true Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Summary

Once a secret is revealed, it is no longer a secret. When the angel explained the mystery of John’s second vision of the beast, it would clarify and confirm John’s first vision; the beast was one of the seven heads, also the composite beast (man) as a whole. Also, to dispel any doubt as to when the fatal wound was inflicted. The solved mystery would provide insight to the very origin of the beast—one that also corroborates Daniel’s disclosure that the little horn (Antichrist) comes directly from the fourth Gentile Kingdom—the Roman Empire.

Not from a (7th kingdom) Revived Roman Empire, because there is no such empire identified in Scripture.

I repeat for emphasis: no such kingdom because there are only four Gentile kingdoms designated by Daniel—known to be Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. The kings of Revelation are just that: kings … seven Roman Caesars. Of which Nero was one of the five who had died before John saw him in the symbolic form of a beast. The ten kingdoms are those that belong to the ten kings in existence during the Tribulation; they will yield their kingdoms to the beast who reappears from the Abyss. Thus, the past tense (seven heads) and future tense (ten horns) unveiling of the mystery.

For sheer emphasis, here is an excerpt from the last portion of Out of the Abyss (in italics):

The beast had already died before John received this revelation. How else can this passage be understood? Is there any other way to see or read this verse? If some can’t let go of a contemporary Antichrist, then what will they do with this verse … and all the other passages that help refit the prophetic puzzle?

John didn’t see the vision in the future; he saw it in the present—that hour of that day. The beast is past tense … no longer alive when John saw the vision. The beast isn’t born and doesn’t die in the future; he’s already dead. When will the beast become future tense? Correct: When he reappears from the Abyss. At the beginning of the Tribulation, the world will be amazed at the reappearance of the beast who had died. Will the beast die during the Tribulation? No, he died even before John saw him from Patmos (Page 271).

Things to Ponder

As said before, I believe that the longer-term purpose and benefit of identifying (correctly) the Antichrist is for those who will have missed the Rapture. That some left behind will quickly realize the awesome accuracy of God’s Word the Bible. That there will be some unbelievers who will not be so amazed at the reappearance of the beast who had died long ago.

Just like John’s amazement ended when the angel revealed to him the mystery of the beast’s and woman’s identity, without naming names to protect believers in the first century from even more Roman retaliation. The names are: Nero and Rome, the beast and the woman, respectively.

Also, for believers and unbelievers alive now. For those of us whose loved ones still have not decided to believe and receive Messiah Jesus as personal Savior. With love and concern, we eagerly want them to make that decision, NOW. So, they don’t have to experience the horror of the Great Tribulation. But if they are left behind, perhaps they won’t be so amazed at this evil man when he abruptly reappears from the Abyss.

Instead, they will choose the true Messiah, Jesus … even on pain of death.

“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Now that will be truly amazing!

The Three Greatest Trials of All Time

Wars; rumors of war; natural and man-made disasters; political, entertainment, and holiday events; exceptional economic fluctuations; lifestyles of the rich and famous; personal milestones—all captivate our interest.

However, for sheer suspense concerning innocence or guilt, right or wrong, and even life or death decisions, hardly anything arrests our attention like a sensational trial that grips an entire nation … indeed, the whole world. Some of which have long-term repercussions.

In the United States, we’ve come to call some of these historical trials: “The Trial of the Century.” It doesn’t matter that, by definition, there can only be one trial of the (a) century. Any court drama that grabs national and sometimes international headlines can be granted that title.

We are mesmerized by high-profile trials because it’s not our fate that hangs in the balance. We even get to choose sides. We reach our own verdict of guilty or innocent and impose our own sentence on the accused, sometimes before the trial begins. Some rely on the facts; others on the personalities involved. Some people like loopholes, others do not. Some put themselves in the place of the accused, or a witness, or a jury member, or prosecutor, or defense attorney, or judge. What would we do and say?

Top 10 Trials of the 20th Century

That is the title of an article posted online at the website of History Lists. The list was not necessarily arranged according to the author’s opinion as to the historical rank of the trials, i.e. from ten to one in prominence. Some of these were:

  • The Scopes Monkey Trial (1925): Should evolution be taught in the public schools of Tennessee as opposed to Biblical creation? Evolution lost that battle. Nowadays in most public-school systems, the Biblical account of creation cannot be taught—only evolution.
  • The Rosenberg Trial (late 1940s): Husband/wife Julius & Ethel Rosenberg found guilty and executed (1953) for treason, i.e. espionage in passing secret documents on the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. The Rosenberg’s maintained their innocence; claiming that they were arrested and convicted because they were Jewish.
  • The Nuremberg Trials (1945-46): Twenty-two Nazi leaders such as Herman Goering and Rudolph Hess tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Three were acquitted; twelve found guilty and executed; seven convicted and sentence to life or lengthy imprisonment.
  • Lindbergh Kidnapping Trial (1932): 20-month old son of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh kidnapped and murdered by Bruno Hauptmann. Although the title had been casually used before, this case was constantly referred to as, “The Trial of the Century.” Decades after Hauptmann was convicted and executed, legitimate questions arose as to his innocence.
  • O.J. Simpson Murder Trial (1995): Another trial with racial overtones. Many African-Americans wanted him to be acquitted even before the trial began. Americans were glued to this televised trial in the same fashion as a miniseries or a daily soap-opera. Hardly any other sensationalized trial generated such agony or ecstasy at the verdict.

Two trials of the 21st century also garnered international headlines: The Michael Jackson Trial of 2005. And Saddam Hussein’s capture and trial, 2004-2006.

(Charles Lindbergh & his son)

Top Ten Historical Trials That Shook the World

The above titled article authored by Matt Hayes and Igor Itkin, posted on 11-13-2012, can be found in the on-site location of ListVerse.com. The authors expanded the Trial of the Century concept to the top ten trials throughout history. However, this list ranks the ten trials, “that shook the world” in order of prestige, counting down from ten to the one most notable of all. These ten and dozens more can be found on other internet websites.

The authors cite a common denominator for all ten … that of an injustice against the accused. Whether these top ten were chosen because of that injustice or whether the outcome of the trials just happened to include an unjust verdict is difficult to ascertain. Yet one fact stands out: They did shake the very fabric of society at the time, with some of those repercussions continuing to our post-modern world.

Only six of them will be presented … each identified by its’ number rank.

Number Ten – Salem Witch Trials (1692): A few movies and T.V. programs have been aired and numerous books and articles have been written about this infamous trial.

Number Nine – Alfred Dreyfus Trial (1894): Many allege that anti-Semitism motivated the wrongful arrest, trial, and conviction of this Jewish official for alleged treason against France. Several years later, Dreyfus was exonerated on all charges.

Number Eight – Martin Luther’s Trial (1521): Charged with heresy, Luther was imprisoned and excommunicated. He escaped prison and remained in hiding for most of his life. His courage to confront the hierarchy of Roman Catholicism was the foundation of the Protestant Reformation back to the basic truths of the Christian message: Salvation by grace through faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice alone … not by membership in or keeping of unbiblical sacraments of a church organization.

Number Three – Joan of Arc Trial (1431): Another notorious trial of heresy with the Catholic Church verdict of guilty and execution by burning her alive at the stake.

Number Two – Trial of Socrates (399 B.C.): Accusations of corrupting social and moral values.

Number One – Crucifixion Trial of Jesus Christ (around 30 A.D.): Whether a believer in Messiah Jesus or a religious or secular unbeliever, billions were and still are familiar with what is undeniably (in terms of both human and divine impact) the most famous trial of all time.

(Depiction of Martin Luther on trial)

Introduction to the Three Greatest Trials of All Time

The crucifixion of Messiah Jesus ended the first of the three greatest trials of the ages. The other two have not yet taken place. But they, too, will surpass all other court cases because, like the trial of Jesus, each of them directly involves God. Each one was prophesied in the Bible long before the occurrence. Each marks the end and then a new beginning of three epic periods of God’s providential interaction with humanity. They will determine the destiny of all nations and peoples.

The trial of Jesus marked the end of the Old Covenant of Law and beginning of the New Covenant Age of Grace. It is the only event in history in which God, himself, was on trial … literally, not symbolically. The very Son of God (Second Person of the Triune God) stood accused. In the next two monumental court hearings soon to come, many people will be on trial.

Class action trials, so to speak.

The second trial will take place at the end of the Great Tribulation just before the magnificent Millennial Reign of Messiah Jesus begins. In fact, he will be the judge. The verdict of this trial will be imposed on nations of the earth which oppressed and persecuted Jews all over the earth during the final generation of the last days in which we are now living … particularly during the Tribulation period.

The third and final trial of all time will include all raised to life unbelievers, those who are the unforgiven. It will take place at the end of the Millennium … the trial to end all trials. For this will be the beginning of ETERNITY. A glorious timeless and trial-less existence in heaven and the New Jerusalem for all of God’s people.

First Trial: Arrest, Interrogation, Verdict, and Execution of Messiah Jesus

To say that the trial of Jesus Christ was unique (one of a kind) would be the understatement of “the century.” Of any century. Indeed, it was God on trial; for a radical reason with far-reaching, everlasting results.

With his illegitimate arrest, illegal trial, and unwarranted crucifixion, Jesus Christ not only stood trial for mankind; he also suffered the penalty of a sentence for every person who ever lived.

“For the wages of sin is death… (both physical and spiritual)” (Romans 6:23a, parenthesis mine).

However, a verdict that can be overturned by a once for all pardon of sin and guilt (spiritual death—eternal separation from God;) if we only believe and receive the one Person who took that sin and guilt for us … Messiah Jesus.

“…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

He is the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous, the innocent for the guilty.

Here are some of the other remarkable differences in the trial of Jesus:

Predicted Hundreds of Years Before It Happened (In Parenthesis, O.T. & N.T. Passages)

The birth, life, death, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Messiah was prophesied dozens of times in the Old Testament. All fulfilled in decisive detail by Jesus of Nazareth. None more so than his trial—from the time he was arrested to when he arose from the grave.

Including but not limited to: rejection by his own people (Isaiah 53:3 … John 1:11); betrayal by a friend—one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot (Psalm 41:9 … Mark 14:17-20); beaten viciously (Micah 5:1 … Mark 15:19); silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7 … Matthew 27:12-14); unjustly tried and condemned (Isaiah 53:8 … Matthew 27:1-2); nails driven into his hands and feet (Psalm 22:16 … Matthew 27:35); dice thrown for his garments (Psalm 22:18 … John 19:23-24); given vinegar and gall (Psalm 69:21 … John 19:28-29); buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9 … Luke 23:50-56). And of course, his resurrection (Psalm 16:10 … Luke 24:1-7, 47).

Prophesied by Jesus, Himself

As recorded in the Gospels, at least three times Jesus predicted his death at the hands of his enemies. How could he have known with any degree of certainty that this would happen, let alone with the details he gave, unless he was the divine Son of God? In the first of these, we read: “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things… He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead” (Luke 9:22).

By that time, Jesus’s disciples, as well as thousands of the common people and many of the religious leaders, had heard of or had seen first-hand his tremendous teaching and magnificent miracles. Many believed in Him. Yet most still would not accept him as the Messiah, the Son of God. Despite the irrefutable evidence, they chose not to believe. Jesus knew they would reject him, and he knew that the result of that rejection would cost him his life.

Yet, the prophetic announcement was just one of several distinctive features of Jesus’s trial.

Jesus’s Trial from Beginning to End Was Illegal

It’s one thing to accuse and try an innocent person. Sadly, that happens. Even worse: when the innocent is found guilty for any number of reasons, such as inaccurate testimony—either deliberate or inadvertent. In that regard Jesus’s trial was not unique.

However, it’s a seriously different matter when the trial itself is illegal.

Jesus was tried in the middle of the night which was a violation of Jewish law. The Jewish Sanhedrin and its High Priest Caiaphas knew this. They also knew that for serious charges an accused must be brought to the High Council’s regular chambers; they tried Jesus in Caiaphas’ home.

(Jesus and the Sanhedrin, from the movie Jesus of Nazareth)

False witnesses were produced. Normally Jewish trials involved a sophisticated protocol of screening witnesses to assure that true justice would prevail. Nor was a prisoner to be struck or physically assaulted during a trial. In short, the entire trial was conducted surreptitiously without due process, a violation of the Law of Moses that the Jewish officials were so keen to enforce.

Because the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus (knowing they needed permission from the Romans) before the Sabbath began, they circumvented all the Law’s procedures and principles. To the point where the Sanhedrin elected to cut to the chase and bluntly asked Jesus, “Tell us, are you the Messiah…?” (Luke 22:67; Matthew’s Gospel includes, “…Messiah, the Son of God”).

Jesus was then handed over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate who further interrogated him. All born-again believers know (or should know) as do millions of unbelievers that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent of the crime of treason (the bogus reason given by the Jews, because they knew a religious violation of the Law of Moses was not a concern to the Romans). Moreover, Pilate could have released Jesus instead of Barabbas according to an annual tradition of freeing one Jewish prisoner on Passover. Do you know or remember what Pilate said and did after he capitulated to the demands of the Jews to crucify Jesus?

“Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!’ And all the people yelled back, ‘We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!’” (Matthew 27:24-25).

Not only were the Jews responsible for Jesus’s unjust death, so were the Romans (Gentiles). The Jews had the first chance to release Jesus, and the Romans had the last chance. Both were complicit in his death, as are we all.

Thank God! The story doesn’t end there.

“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:4-5, parenthesis in the text).

The Accused’s Right to Defend Himself; Jesus Was Silent Before His Accusers

The rule of law both civil and criminal (patterned after traditional Jewish law) was ingrained in the Roman Empire. Everyone had the right to a trial and to innocence until proven guilty. In today’s world all democratic nations are founded on this principle.

Would the accused (especially if they’re innocent) remain silent in their defense? At the very least the accused would seek a lawyer or advocate to speak for them.

Concerning the Messiah, Isaiah wrote: “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away” (Isaiah 53:7-8a).

In answer to the confrontational demand as to whether he was the Messiah, Jesus did speak. He also answered Pontius Pilate’s question as to whether he was the King of the Jews. Essentially, that’s all Jesus said. Isaiah’s prophesy of the Messiah being silent was a direct reference to the critical component of Jewish law … those accused had the right to speak, or to be spoken for by an advocate. To include as much evidence and time reasonably needed to establish that defense.

Jesus could have responded with a long dissertation demonstrating why he was, in fact, Messiah? He could have quoted passage after prophetic passage in the Old Testament, then cited (for example) three dozen miracles he had performed. Then asserted his rights that the “court” bring in some of those he had miraculously healed from crippling deformities and diseases. He could have produced proof that he was born in Bethlehem as prophesied by the prophet Micah; not in Nazareth as mistakenly assumed by the religious leaders. That he was a direct descendant of King David from the tribe of Judah. And he could have summoned Lazarus to testify that Jesus had raised him from the dead!

In that regard, Jesus did not by any stretch of the imagination offer a defense, let alone extensive evidence that he could have presented. His only reply was that of answering the crucial question of his Messiahship.

Here is part of Yeshua’s response to the Sanhedrin:

“…If I tell you, you won’t believe me. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.

“They all shouted, ‘So you are claiming to be the Son of God?’

“And he replied, ‘You say that I am.’” (Luke 22:67-70).

Thus, Jesus was agreeing with them; he was, indeed, The Messiah—the Son of God.

Concerning the question(s) he could have asked them as well as their unbelief, he had already posed several probing questions to the religious leaders during his ministry that they could not answer. In fact, they were dumbfounded at his astounding questions and answers. That’s why the religious leaders were so jealous of Jesus. They also were envious of the common people’s responses to what Jesus said and did. For example: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law” (Matthew 7:28-29).

(Please see Eye of Prophecy article, The Incomparable Power and Authority of Jesus Christ; posted 5-28-16).

Jesus also declined to defend himself in front of Pontius Pilate. Neither Pilate nor any other Roman official or court of law could imagine anyone not speaking up in their defense, especially when the accused’s life hung in the balance.

(Jesus before Pilate, from the movie, The Passion of the Christ. Barabbas is portrayed on the right)

As with the Jewish leaders, the only response Jesus gave concerned Pilates’s question, “…Are you the king of the Jews?”

Part of Jesus’s reply was, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world … You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into this world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true” (John 18:33-37).

Indeed, the offense for which the Jewish leaders tried Jesus was part of the Mosaic Law that warranted the death penalty, i.e. claiming not only to be Messiah, but (even more blatant to the religious leaders) saying that he was God’s Son. Though Jesus was completely man, he was also fully God. Therein lies the rub. If he was exclusively a human being, then he would have been guilty of the charge.

That was/is the crux of the matter. For two reasons: (1) The Hebrew Scriptures unequivocally state that the Messiah is divine (Isaiah 9, Micah 5, other passages). This fact was missed, dismissed, or erroneously explained away by many Jewish rabbis—then and now. Considering Jesus’s claim to be the (divine) Messiah, the very Son of God, the Jewish leaders and people should have closely examined their Scriptures to at least give him the benefit of the doubt. (2) This benefit of the doubt was denied outright despite the extraordinary evidence that Jesus had performed many miracles, not just one or two. For example, would they have believed Lazarus’ testimony? Perhaps. Would it have made a difference? No.

Jesus knew that the hearts of his accusers were rock-hard; their eyes irreversibly blind; ears irrevocably deaf. No matter if or how he defended himself, he would have been condemned. He didn’t speak a word in his defense. The only words he spoke affirmed the accusations.

What other trial in history resulted in the execution (and an excruciating inhumane one at that) of someone who was found innocent by the ruling court?! And this someone wasn’t just some-one. He was and is the Messiah, the Son of God. He is Lord and Savior for those who believe in Him.

Our Redeemer lives!

Jesus Stood Trial and Died Voluntarily

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd… So I sacrifice my life for the sheep (referring to Israel, the lost sheep). I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold (Gentiles). I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd… I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:14-18, parenthesis mine).

Although Jesus knew precisely what would happen, he did nothing to orchestrate the sequence of events relating to his trial and crucifixion. As the Son of Man, he left that to the inexplicable, incomparable sovereignty of his Father, Almighty God.

As a man, he even asked his Father if there could be another way to accomplish God’s plan of redemption. Do you remember what he said in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before he was arrested?

“Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will…. (Mark 14:36, NASB). Go ahead and finish Jesus’s words.

Yes, Jesus voluntarily laid down his life. As the Son of God, at any time he could have stopped what was happening to and around him.

Eternal praise to our God and His Messiah that this did not happen! All glory to Yeshua who did not send a legion of angels to annihilate those who had arrested him in the garden! Everlasting gratitude to our Lord for not saying I’ve had enough and stepping down from the cross! All power and dominion to the Son of Man for arising from the grave and conquering death once and for all! Go ahead, say it aloud with me. Amen! (Out of the Abyss, page 219)

Just after he was nailed to the cross, with incredible love even for those who crucified him, we read these stirring words:

Just before Jesus died on the cross, he uttered these amazing words that would forever change the course of history: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Those words meant the debt of sin had been paid once and for all.

It was a trial unlike any other before or since; the trial of a lifetime … yours, mine, everyone who has ever lived on this planet. One that determined our destiny of eternal life or death, depending on what we decide about Jesus—who he is and why he died. An unjust trial and sentence willingly endured by Messiah Jesus. His was the greatest sacrifice ever made by the highest price ever paid.

Second Trial: Judgment of the Nations / Trial of the Sheep and Goats

To some extent or another, several prior Eye of Prophecy articles have addressed God’s two universal plans for humanity: (1) Individual redemption for all—Jew and Gentile alike—who place their trust in the only source of salvation, the Jewish Messiah for all people. The final trial/judgment for all people who have died without acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior will take place at the end of the Millennium. That is the 3rd greatest trial of the ages, which will be discussed shortly.

(2) God’s second plan is Israel. It is tied into the first … salvation would come through the Jews and the nation of Israel, specifically through the Messiah. God’s Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob first and foremost guaranteed that the Promised Land of Israel would always be the permanent inheritance (possession) of their descendants, the Jews. All nations of the earth that bless Israel will be blessed. Those countries that denigrate and delegitimize Israel would be severely punished (Genesis 12).

The final phase of this punishment will take place during the Tribulation culminating in the 2nd greatest trial in human history at the end of the Tribulation. This is commonly referred to as the separation of the Sheep and the Goats, as announced directly by Jesus. It will usher in his Millennial Reign.

Those who survive the Great Tribulation will stand before Jesus Christ, separated into nations or ethnic groups that supported Israel (the sheep) and those that fought against Israel (the goats).

Prior to this trial, God will have already destroyed the coalition of Gog/Magog nations in the early part of the Tribulation. Then Messiah Jesus will crush the ten-nation coalition led by Antichrist (Nero) near the very end of the Tribulation … Armageddon. (See Eye of Prophecy articles: End of the World Events … In Chronological Order, posted 2-25-17; and Armageddon & Messiah’s Return … An Amazing Sequence of Events, 2-3-18).

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left” (Matthew 25:31-33).

In the rest of that chapter, Jesus explains the explicit criteria for this trial and the verdict.

Concerning the sheep who generously help the Jews:

(Matthew 25:40)

The brothers and sisters of Jesus are his Jewish kinsfolk in the flesh.

For those in the goat nations, it will be just the opposite. Their hostility toward God’s chosen people will result in: “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life” (Verse 46).

Judgment of unbelievers alive at the end of the Tribulation will be based primarily on their (national) treatment of Israel, as such treatment was though they had done it (good or bad) for Jesus himself—Israel’s King. Both the (sheep/goat) trial of the nations and the Tribulation pre-trial destruction of the armies of these anti-Semitic nations are found in several Old Testament prophecies. Such as:

“I will gather the armies of the world into the valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will judge them for harming my people, my special possession, for scattering my people among the nations, and for dividing up my land” (Joel 3:2).

“The day is near when I, the Lord, will judge all godless nations! As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you. All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads” (Obadiah 1:15).

Right in the middle of the well-known prophecy that depicts the four Gentile world kingdoms, and the little horn’s (Antichrist Nero) sudden appearance (reappearance or return from the Abyss as found in Revelation 17) at the outset of the Tribulation, Daniel switches to a stunning vision of the Messiah:

“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14, italicized to emphasize that Jesus will divinely judge and rule over nations).

Please see Eye of Prophecy article, Messiah’s Ascension & Coronation … Seen Long Before It Happened! Posted 5-27-17.

And the oft-quoted passage: “I will make Jerusalem like an intoxicating drink that makes the nearby nations stagger when they send their armies to besiege Jerusalem and Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move it, but they will only hurt themselves” (Zechariah 12:2-3).

Third Trial: The Great White Throne Judgment

The Great White Throne Judgement was discussed in a very recent Eye of Prophecy article; however, with emphasis on the resurrection of dead unbelievers, only to face their eternal fate. (Resurrections / How Many Will There Be? One, Two, or Could There Be Three? Posted 10-27-18).

This final trial, verdict, and sentence is profoundly personal and permanent as found in Revelation 20:11-15, in contrast to the more corporate punishment of the sheep/goat nations which pertains to the treatment of Israel and the Jews. It ends the Millennial era and initiates the age of Eternity.

One of the exceptional features of this trial is that the verdict is not directly based on the offenses (sin) of those being judged … all unbelievers. Yes, you read that right.

Here is what all unbelievers are being judged by: “…And all were judged according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:13). It doesn’t say according to their sins. In fact, some of these acts were undoubtedly good deeds. Unless done from strictly a selfish motive or gain, no good deed or work (objectively defined by all involved) is a sin.

They were “judged” (measured or cross-examined) on the only defense that unbelievers can and will offer. This argument is based on the most perfidious perception and malignant misconception ever befallen humanity. Which is: The good things I’ve done should be given greater weight than the wrong things.

But the actual sentence (Lake of Fire) was based on something much more comprehensive, one with eternal consequences, which we will see in a moment.

During their life on this earth, what all the unsaved ultimately want to be measured by is their accomplishments, mainly through “good works” which they will try to argue should be enough to merit God’s approval. That will be their defense before Almighty God, who will not beg to disagree during this trial. That disagreement had already been unequivocally quantified:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…” (Romans 3:23-25).

God is both just and fair. He will allow unbelievers at this final trial to be judged (measured) by their works. If anyone can prove to Him that their deeds are enough to earn and reach God’s perfect standard of righteousness, then they’re home free. Or are they?

“No one is righteous—not even one” (Romans 3:10). None of us has any innate or earned righteousness of our own.

“…The Lord is Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16).

Thus, Messiah Jesus is the ultimate test of those on trial before the Great White Throne of Father God.

When the people asked Jesus what they could or should do to perform works acceptable to God, Jesus summarized the whole basis for right standing with God (righteousness) with these words: “This is the only work God wants from you. Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).

Therefore, the final sentence (Lake of Fire) of all unbelievers is based on what they did or didn’t do about Jesus—who had already been judged by God for their sins and the penalty thereof. That is why we read:

“And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). The unbelievers standing on trial before God had not accepted the only remedy that could have pardoned them from their sins … trust in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus holds the keys of death and the grave (Revelation 1:18). He conquered death when he arose from the grave. Only Jesus can unlock the door (prison) of physical and spiritual death.

He is the Book of Life. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Summary

The Great White Throne passage doesn’t specify just how this trial will unfold. Will the Lord “cross-examine” every unbeliever one at a time? Though speculation, I would suggest that God will extend the opportunity to all those who want to speak up in their own defense to present their case. Most will simply remain silent, knowing the futility of their defense. Certainly some of the religious among them will step forward to remind the Lord of the great things they did for him.

Everything except the most important … to acknowledge and accept Jesus as their personal Savior. Only then, after it’s too late, will they bow their knee and confess with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

Jesus mentions them: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day (Great White Throne Judgment) many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws’” (Matthew 7:21-23, italics for emphasis, parenthesis mine).

And what is the “will of my Father” referred to by Jesus? We’ve already read that: Believe in the one (Jesus) whom God sent.

Things to Ponder

Nobody needs to be tried as a goat or according to their works. No one need be sentenced to the worst fate imaginable—eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire. A guilty verdict that could have been set aside with the right answer to the life-changing, destiny-altering question posed in Jesus’s deposition of all people. One that must be answered in this life-time on earth.

“But who do you say I am?

“Simon Peter answered: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:15-16).

God loves you. Jesus died for you.

Say, “yes,” to him before it’s too late.

Grace and Law … A Biblical Balance

Tags

Though not a major variation from most Eye of Prophecy articles, this week’s post is a slight departure.

Certainly not different in content, as I’ve touched on the Old Covenant of Law contrasted to the New Covenant of Grace through faith alone when it fit the main subject of several articles. In fact, the entire content of three articles discusses this topic in detail. See articles, Age of Grace, Part I, II, III (Posted 1-24; 1-31; & 2-7-15).

With a few revisions, today’s article is a reproduction of a letter I sent to a friend several years ago. Written in (tough) love and with consideration for the person involved; yet a message that unequivocally exposed the age-old error of adding works and law to Biblical redemption. Salvation so great and glorious that it needs nothing else except to believe and receive the essence and object of that grace: the powerful and precious sacrifice of Messiah Jesus to save us from our sins and give us eternal life with our Great God and Savior.

The modifications include paragraph restructuring; some changes or improvements in the wording; the obvious addition of sub-headings and pictures (for visual illustration). However, the heart of the letter remains intact.

If you’re uncertain about or even struggling with a Biblical balance between Law and Grace, hopefully this article (letter) will be of some help.

A Letter to a Friend Concerning the Old Covenant of Law & The New Covenant of Grace

Regarding your regular email commentaries to those on your address list, specifically regarding Grace and Law, I have remained silent. But no longer. Your most recent statement that, “…Some say we’re living in a period of Grace and the laws were done away with, NO, NO,” is simply not Biblical.

In fact, it’s walking on thin ice. It’s the kind of thinking that Paul warned the Galatians and Ephesians and Romans about in those epistles. Over and over the apostle Paul tells us that the Grace of God not only saves us but keeps us saved. Trying to keep the law to get saved or stay saved is not only impossible, but an affront to God.

You frequently quote part of Matthew 5:17 where Christ says, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”

But Paul says in no uncertain terms that Christ, himself, did away with the law. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations….” (Ephesians 2:14-15, italics for emphasis).

So, who’s right: Jesus or Paul? Of course, that’s a senseless question because they’re both right; even though they’re saying what appears to be (at face value) opposite things.

Many verses in Scripture are completely stand-alone verses, such as John 3:16.

(Another of many Biblical stand-alone truths)

There are other passages, however, that must be compared, Scripture with Scripture (the whole counsel of God), and not quoted as a means to defend a viewpoint or position that is wrong to begin with; because the verse is used either out of context or apparently (if not adequately explained and understood) contradicts other passages. The Bible never contradicts itself. If there are two or more passages which seem to do just that, then they must be carefully analyzed, correlated, and explained together as a whole. As you well know, all cults are based on a handful of verses that, when not compared to other Scripture, will distort the main truths of the Bible (especially salvation) and create a whole new religion, which Paul calls a false gospel.

Why do you keep repeating Jesus words of fulfilling the law, unless you’re trying to “protect” the law or convince yourself and others that unless the law is of paramount importance in their lives, there’s no way to be born-again and/or successfully live the Christian life?

You went on to say in that email, “If we didn’t have the laws, how would we know when we were breaking God’s commandments, Laws?”

That statement is entirely correct. But the problem is that you are giving your audience the impression that the Law is still necessary to accomplish one or all of the following: (1) stay saved or keep God’s grace intact right up to the time of death, in order that one not lose or forfeit their salvation; (2) gain God’s favor/blessing; (3) those who are unsaved would think that grace without the law is not enough to be born again.

In other words, do you fully understand why Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, which is the Mosaic Law? What did Jesus mean by saying that? A correct understanding will reconcile and balance what Jesus and Paul taught.

Jesus said this to emphasize and fully confirm that it was he, and only he who fulfilled the law. Which totally qualifies him as the only one who could make the once and for all sacrifice for our sins. Christ said this to reinforce the fact that no human being could ever fulfill the law either as a means of salvation or to keep us saved, or to gain favor/blessings during our walk with the Lord. When he says, “I came to fulfill the law,” the emphasis is on “I,” … Christ, himself.

He didn’t say or mean that he fulfilled the law in order that we, too, must strive to fulfill it. Just the opposite: he fulfilled it because we couldn’t. He did that in our place, then paid the penalty for our sins by dying in our place.

Once he fulfilled the law, there was no need for any of us to try or keep trying to satisfy it ourselves; we can’t … never could and never will. The New Covenant of Grace focuses on Jesus alone. Conversely, for us to stop relying on (impossible or at least inconsistent) obedience to the Law that could never save us in the first place, nor guarantee our salvation … keep us saved. Daily and life-long obedience to the Lord and His Word will then come more naturally (supernaturally).

The Moral Law of God Will Always Remain … But Not as The Means of Redemption

Christ is saying that the law itself will never be abolished.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” and other commandments will always be God’s moral standard of conduct; however, no one can or ever will keep the whole law. Break one law and you break them all, as you know. Of course, the Ten Commandments are still a moral standard and compass that is every bit as applicable today as it was when the law was given. But what about the hundreds of years before the law was given, going at least back to the time of Abraham? How were those folks made right with God, when there was no law?

You are thinking and saying that the Ten Commandments are still relevant, which they obviously are. However, you are mistaken when you think that Christians (me or any other believer who emphasizes Grace) deliberately sin because Grace is always there to forgive and forget. Of course, we shouldn’t see Grace that way or abuse it. However, most wrongs that we all do does not involve an elaborate mental process of thinking that I’ll go ahead and sin, knowing that God will forgive. I (and most Christians I’ve talked to or read) simply do not think in those terms, any more than you do.

According to Jesus and Paul, the most grievous sin of all is the sin of the Pharisees, whom Jesus called sons of the devil, sons of hell, hypocrites. Why? Because not only did they consider themselves righteous by keeping the law, they also were making others “sons of hell” by telling them that the only way to gain God’s favor and forgiveness was by keeping the law of Moses. And not just the Mosaic Law, but dozens of requirements that they added to the Law. That’s why they rejected him; to them the Mosaic Law was the only way to God.

Jesus told the religious leaders: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life” (John 5:39-40).

Then he made this startling statement (indictment) about the self-righteous religious leaders: “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me” (John 5:45-46).

How could Moses condemn anyone for keeping the law? Because they placed the law above the only way of true righteousness—faith in Christ (and before Jesus came, faith in the promise of his coming).

The only thing abolished is: keeping of the law or fulfillment of the law to be saved and to stay saved.

In fact, that never existed in the first place … meaning salvation through the law. But neither is trying to live the Christian life ever successful or even recognized by the Lord through self-effort attempts to conform to the law. That’s why Paul told the believers in Galatia that they were “foolish.” (Galatians 3:1).

He went on to say, “Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ (grace through faith) … How foolish can you be … why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Verses 2-3).

Paul continues: “Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child (meaning Christ as a final prototype of Isaac) who was promised….” (Galatians 3:19). Scripture is crystal clear that the law was only temporary. It’s purpose was to show us just what sinners we are, so that we will stop trying to keep the law as a means of salvation or as a means of trying to please God and keep in good standing with him after we’re saved.

We can try all we want to “fulfill” the law or any rules and regulations that we impose on ourselves and others, and it will do us absolutely no good, whatsoever. In fact, it only leads to frustration and failure.

Unbelievers in general as well as Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and even some born-again Christians are constantly trying to earn God’s favor by keeping/fulfilling the Mosaic law or whatever precepts they follow. Frankly, that’s an insult to God because it contradicts and replaces the source of a right relationship with God … Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that when we make the law our primary focus and falsely believe that maintaining it will keep us in good standing with God, we are “crucifying Christ” all over again.

The Apostle Paul had much more to say:

“But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law–I stopped trying to meet all its requirements–so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die” (Galatians 2:17-21, italics for emphasis).

Keeping the law is a result of our salvation, not the means. When we trust in the Lord, we acknowledge that his grace is more than enough for us to be born (again), to live, and to grow in Christ.

Legalism v. Living by Grace

Christians who have a legalistic mindset are those who live by a list of do(s) and don’t(s), including the law and other things they think must be followed. They (erroneously) believe that God’s favor is earned by good behavior.

True Christianity is expressed by those who live in gratitude for the (free) gift of grace and eternal life. They realize that “keeping the law” or “fulfilling the law” is impossible on anything approaching a consistent and regular basis. For you to tell others that Christ came to fulfill the law without explaining what that means or without explaining that both salvation and the Christian life, itself, is through grace and grace alone, is to confuse and mislead them. Cults do that all the time. They take one or two verses and make an entire doctrine out of them, without fully explaining them or without comparing them to the whole counsel of Scripture.

A few years ago, during a two-hour conversation I had with a devout Mormon, that’s exactly what he was preaching. He maintained that the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross (which true believers accept as a gift, through the grace of God) is simply not enough. To enter God’s complete favor, this man insisted that: “the commandments must be kept.” For him, the commandments were the Mosaic Law plus all the rules/regulations/requirements of the Mormon church.

But it doesn’t matter whether this man was a Mormon or Catholic or misguided Protestant; the fact is he placed the “law” above the grace of God. The Age of Grace is nothing more than completion of the ancient promise God made to Abraham; this promise of the Messiah and redemption through him (by faith) would come through Isaac. Not through Hagar’s son Ishmael, both of whom were symbols of the law. You know that, but unfortunately you still want to mix law with grace.

Paul explains the ultimate purpose of the law: “…The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we would be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian” (Galatians 3:24-25).

Going back to the last part of what Jesus said concerning the law and the prophets: “I have come to accomplish their purpose.” His statement is that he came to fulfill the purpose of the law. That purpose is presented in the verse just quoted in Galatians.

Absolutely, Jesus fulfilled the law. Only the Son of God could do such a thing, which qualified him to be the one and only perfect sacrifice for our sins. He fulfilled the law so we wouldn’t have to, either to get saved or to stay saved; or to earn his favor or anything else that we try to obtain through our merit, worth, good works, or whatever. God knew that we could never, ever in a thousand lifetimes completely keep the law. That’s why the Levitical sacrificial system was given as a foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice for sins through Messiah, himself … the only sinless person in all humanity.

Nor did Jesus abolish the Law. What Jesus replaced (did away with) was the purpose of the Law.

Is obedience better than sacrifice? Yes, but only when we understand what obedience truly is. Which is: we obey because we want to obey; not just because the Law tells us that we must. In that respect, Paul said that the Gentiles didn’t even need the law, because conscience was their law. Innately we know right from wrong. What the law did was to make it “official.” Meaning that if we have any doubt as to the consequences of breaking God’s moral laws, the law will erase all doubt that (for example) it’s wrong to steal.

We obey because we love the Lord, and we love him because he first loved us. We also realize that we disobey (all too often). And then we even better comprehend why Jesus kept the entire law … to qualify as the absolute, perfect sacrifice for those who could never even come close to keeping (fulfilling) the law. Which includes complete forgiveness for breaking God’s laws for those who have placed their trust in Jesus.

There is no condemnation whatsoever for those who are (born-again) in Christ Jesus, including condemnation for failure to keep/obey the law. (Romans 8:1). Jesus took that condemnation for us; the penalty of sin was poured out on him.

Technically, it’s not our sins that will send us to hell; rather it’s rejecting the perfect sacrifice for those sins. That’s crystal clear in Scripture. The legalistic Galatians were giving people the impression that the law (and fulfilling it) was as or even more important than God’s grace. In doing so, they were preaching a false gospel.

Please, don’t get me wrong or misunderstand: I am NOT saying that the Law is unimportant. I’m just saying what Paul said (and what Jesus pointed out to his disciples and to the Pharisees).

Here’s how Paul puts it: “…You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you” (Galatians 1:6-8). Then he goes on to explain in detail what that different gospel was/is. In a nutshell: mixing law with grace. The two simply do not go together.

That doesn’t imply the law is invalid. It only means that when you add keeping of the law to salvation through faith in God’s grace, then you have a destructive hybrid that will send those who mix the two straight to hell. Millions of people down through the ages have sadly died in their sins because they wouldn’t let go of works (keeping or fulfilling the law or just doing good deeds in general) as the way of achieving a right relationship with God.

So, when someone tells a believer (and certainly an unbeliever) that keeping the law (because Christ did) is imperative to, in some measure, earn God’s favor or forgiveness, then they are doing exactly what the legalistic Galatians were doing. They were imposing impossible standards of obedience to the Jewish laws, with the insidious implication that salvation and staying saved depended upon performance as opposed to our position in Christ.

God doesn’t measure us by our performance. If he did, no one could possibly measure up. He relates to us exclusively through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son; then our faith to believe and receive that gift which is exactly what the Grace of God and the Age of Grace is all about. Same thing with the Christian life. He doesn’t grade us based on how well we keep or don’t keep the Mosaic Law. It is our position in Christ and Christ (through the Holy Spirit) in us that guarantees the eternity of our salvation.

The Lord doesn’t look at us as law-keepers. Rather as fruit-bearers.

Said Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NASB). Meaning … can do nothing right (in God’s sight).

There’s Danger in Adding Law to Grace

Paul also told the Galatians that he, “feared for them.” Those who were trying to put the fear of God into others for not meticulously complying with legalistic rules and conduct, best be afraid for themselves. As Paul described it: “…fallen away from God’s grace” (Galatians 5:4).

For sure, abusing and misusing God’s grace is wrong. Deliberate, planned sinning just because God will forgive when confessed, is a serious error. But the falling away from God’s grace was a twofold danger about which Paul warned the legalistic Galatians. (1) Falling from grace does not mean loss of salvation to those Galatian believers who truly had been born again. Rather, it means a falling away or departure from the Grace of God as the basis for Christian living, in favor of legalistic rules and behavior. (2) However, it also applied and was a warning not to mislead unbelievers who were/are on the bubble of whether to rely exclusively on the grace/mercy of God. Or to take matters into their own hands and devise ways to help God show his favor (grace) to them … by first observing the Law of Moses.

(A pause here before continuing this letter to my friend with a notation that the following was italicized for even more emphasis).

The best thing any of us can possibly do is to say, “Lord, I can’t do this (meaning keep His law); please, you do it through me.” And, yes, that is possible only when we yield to Him, but that yielding is not a matter of keeping rules, whether imposed by the law or by ourselves or by others. By the very fact that we say that we can’t do this on our own, we are yielding to the grace of God that says he will do it through us. That’s the difference between Works and Grace. Works (keeping the law and doing good) says, ” Thanks anyway, but I’ll do this myself, because it’s up to me to see that it’s done.” Grace says, “I’ve tried, but I can’t do it. Thank you, Lord, for doing it for me, all the way to the Cross. Your grace is sufficient to get me through this day, no matter what happens.” (And that also means if I mess up, i.e. disobey).

Once more, read what the Holy Spirit through Paul says, “You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. I fear for you … I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles–free from those laws…” (Galatians 4:10-12).

What an astounding statement! Paul is telling the legalistic Jews that the law no longer had any hold on him; he was free from the law just like the Gentiles who made no effort whatsoever to keep the Jewish law in the first place. Thus, the only thing that would/could save the Gentiles and condemn them if they refused, was believing in and accepting the Grace of God through the gift of salvation … by Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Paul wanted the Jews to understand the same thing (salvation was by grace through faith plus absolutely nothing else) regarding redemption and as the means of living the Christian life.

The observance of certain days, etc. was just one example of many that Paul could have given. In fact, he also talked about Galatian Jews who had demanded circumcision for the Gentiles to be saved or stay saved. In other letters he wrote (such as Romans), Paul talks about eating certain food and drinking (wine). In other words, he includes all those things that legalistic Christians impose on themselves and others including the Law of Moses.

Paul rebuts that by explaining that if the Galatians are going to insist on circumcision (or anything else that they demand obedience to), then they must keep the entire law ALL THE TIME. (Galatians Chapter 5). And if they can’t (which is obvious), then stop trying to convince themselves and others that they must continue keeping the law in order to be righteous and stay righteous through their own effort, merit, or self-worth, including good works. Good works and obedience are a heartfelt RESPONSE to and RESULT of our salvation, not a means to it; nor a means of maintaining a right relationship with the Lord.

Trusting in the Grace of God Is A Much Better Way—It Is the Only Way of Redemption & Living the Christian Life

We are not only saved by GRACE, we live by it every day, or at least we should. There would be no need for grace or forgiveness if each of us could “fulfill the law.” The Lord, through Paul, is telling us to stop trying to keep the law as a condition before, for, and after salvation by grace.

Jesus blasted the Pharisees for their self-righteousness which they claimed was achieved (exclusively) by adhering to the law. But especially their mindset that the law was above (more important and more rewarding) and better than the Son of God, himself; who introduced a whole new “law” … the Law of Grace. The Law of Grace says that the old law is no longer the way to righteousness with God; in fact, it never was. Instead, it was trust in the Lord’s forgiveness via shedding of innocent animal blood, a forerunner of the ultimate sacrifice through the blood of Messiah Jesus.

Faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice is the NEW WAY, the new law. In fact, Paul terms it: “the law of Christ.” The Law wasn’t even given to the Jews until Moses, hundreds of years after Abraham died. It was Abraham’s faith that was credited to him as righteousness.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith…” (Hebrews 11:6). If that precept applied to obedience, the verse would read: “without obedience….” But it doesn’t say that.

For example, should we expect a special blessing or God’s favor or the certainty of our salvation just because we obey the commandments such as, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.” No, it’s expected that we keep the commandments. But in the age of Grace, it’s imperative that we do not insist that our relationship with the Lord depends on our law-keeping performance. That’s exactly what the legalistic Jewish Christians were doing and why the Holy Spirit through Paul reminded and warned them that the Christian life (from start to finish) is lived in, by, and through the grace of God.

Trusting the Lord IS obedience. Because it comes from the heart, not from an external, superficial sense of obligation to keep the law to obtain God’s favor.

Of course, obedience is important; but because we, in fact, disobey, then how much obedience is necessary (considering our frequent disobedience) in order to please God? Do you know how much, does anyone? But even a little faith (trusting the Lord) as small as a mustard seed can move mountains … meaning that God will honor that faith and do great things for/through us.

I truly am saying these things for your benefit, not to condemn you. You do well in your emails when you talk about Jesus as our source of salvation. Unfortunately, you dilute that when you constantly tell your family/friends that grace is not enough (that is what you are telling them whether you realize it or not). That they have an obligation to obey the Ten Commandments and the laws of the land (which is true). BUT NOT AS A MEANS OF SALVATION OR STAYING SAVED OR GETTING TO HEAVEN or any other favor that the Lord might bestow on them.

(My letter ended with some kind remarks to my friend and an invitation to dinner)

Things to Ponder

Though this friend has since departed the earth, I believe the letter did help clarify the balance between Law and Grace.

As recorded in the Bible, God’s letters to us are far more important.

Listen to the Jewish Apostle Paul … a devout Pharisee and defender of the Law of Moses until he met the risen Messiah:

“If the old way (Covenant of Law), which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way (Covenant of Grace), which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which remains forever! (II Corinthians 3:9-11, parenthesis mine).

It was God’s very Son who established the everlasting New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah.

Resurrections / How Many Will There Be? One, Two, Or Could There Be Three?

Let’s begin with a three-question quiz; a Q&A for eternity.

The choices are: Yes___, No___, I don’t’ know___.

Is there life after death?

If so, will there be a bodily resurrection of the dead?

If we live forever, will everyone be in heaven with God?

For those who selected, “No” to the first question (now or at any time in their life), the next two questions would be irrelevant to them. Why? Because it’s evident they haven’t read the Bible or don’t believe what it says if they have? Even if they acknowledge the Bible as God’s Word, it’s apparent that they prefer the temporary enticements of this world to the incomparable paradise of everlasting life in heaven.

Scripture is crystal clear that the answer to the first two questions is a resounding, “Yes!” With the answer to the third question a solemnly sad, “No.”

For believers in Messiah Jesus, Heaven awaits us. For unbelievers when they die … Hell. Followed by the “second death” (eternal separation from God) in the Lake of Fire after they, too, are raised from their graves. They remain under God’s wrath for not believing and receiving God’s Son as personal Savior (John 3:36).

The promise of Romans 8:1 applies only to believers: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

As does, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of underserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” (Romans 5:1-2).

If you answered, “I don’t know” to one or more of these questions, my response would be, “Why? Don’t you want to know? Don’t you want to be sure?” The Bible plainly states that we can know, we can be sure.

Why is that? Because the historical fact is that Jesus Christ arose from the dead, attested to by many who saw him and were with him.

“…Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died” (I Corinthians 15:3-6, italics for emphasis).

In addition to this greatest miracle of all time, the Bible is replete with numerous other miracles performed by God and by His Son. As well as hundreds of prophecies that have come to pass, with 100% accuracy. Such mighty miracles and perfectly fulfilled prophecies cannot be found in any man-made religion or so-called sacred texts. Nor can their adherents be certain of where they will spend eternity, because all man-made religions and cults are based on self-worth or good deeds. They cannot know for sure if they’re good enough or have done enough.

In stirring contrast, God’s salvation is a matter of believing and receiving Messiah Jesus as Lord and Savior, who did for us what we could do for ourselves. Who was and is what we could never hope to be without him.

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21).

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John says, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).

Concerning the third question in the quiz, let’s look at:

The Righteous (Saved) & the Unrighteousness (Unsaved)

When the Lord bodily appeared to Abraham as the Pre-Incarnate Messiah and confided in Abraham his intentions to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked God to reconsider if there were but 10 righteous people in the city. Said Abraham: “…Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25, a rhetorical question).

Hundreds of years later after God chose Moses to deliver the Israelites, we read:

“Then the Lord came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, ‘Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty…” (Exodus 34:5-7a).

Who are the guilty … the unsaved, the unrighteous according to God? Numerous Bible passages answer that question, both Old & New Testament. The guilty are those who have refused to place their trust in God’s simple yet profound plan of redemption. A plan that began when God shed the blood of an innocent animal to provide clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Clothing necessary because their sinful disobedience had taken away their innocence (exemplified by their nakedness) and had exposed them to God’s guilty verdict of death … both physical and spiritual. Remember, the word death throughout Scripture means separation, not annihilation.

A plan culminating in the once for all substitutionary sacrifice of God’s own Son, Messiah Jesus; to replace the Old Covenant of the Law which required ongoing animal sacrifices to cover the sins of the people.

The Bible is decidedly clear that God divides people into two human hemispheres: the righteous and the unrighteous … believers and unbelievers. And it is by faith in the Lord’s gift of salvation through His Son that gives us right standing with God … righteousness. The same faith through which God declared Abraham righteous long ago also saves us today.

The only difference is that Abraham and Old Testament saints were looking forward to Messiah’s redemptive remedy for sin. The truth of which was foreshadowed in the Levitical Sacrificial System; though offerings to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were already underway before the Law of Moses. Thus, Jesus’s once for all sacrifice is adequate for all people—past, present, and future. However, we must make that salvation personal.

Resurrection in the Old Testament

God’s creation plan of eternal existence for every person ever born has not changed, except for one thing: RESURRECTION!

A bodily resurrection … for both the saved and the unsaved.

The New Testament offers considerable testimony regarding the resurrection of the dead. But there is also ample evidence in the Old Testament, as God systematically revealed his plans to the prophets.

Messiah Jesus definitively declared: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25). Before that dynamic disclosure, even the prophets didn’t completely comprehend how the unrighteous could stand before God one day and the righteous would live with God forever.

Would it be a literal resurrection of the body, or in spirit only? Would there be a single resurrection for both the righteous and unrighteous, or more than one … separated by time and space? The prophets and those who listened to them and followed the Lord faithfully didn’t know all the details; still, they believed God and his promises.

“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

Said Jesus to his disciples about the many who didn’t believe in him: “…For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand” (Matthew 13:13).

Then a few verses later: “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it” (Verses 16-17).

“All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had planned. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us” (Hebrews 11:39-40).

Despite his great suffering and despair because he had done nothing wrong to deserve the loss of his family, possessions, and health, Job believed that God would vindicate him. Despite not knowing why these things happened, and despite coming up with inaccurate cause and effect correlations and conclusions (by both Job and his “friends”), Job uttered an astounding affirmation of faith and hope.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25-27).

I, too, am overwhelmed with this terrific truth: Resurrection … body, soul, and spirit!

King David (along with Isaiah) understood eternal life as well or more than anyone in Old Testament times, including the remarkable revelation that the Messiah would die for our sins and be raised again bodily.

(Words of King David from Psalm 23, that begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd.” This Psalm is known by many, including unbelievers)

In the first Gospel message preached after Christ ascended to heaven, Peter emphasized above everything else the resurrection of Jesus from the dead—to prove that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. In part of his message to the crowd (of which 3,000 would accept Jesus as Savior that day) Peter quoted David, “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave” (Acts 2:27, quoting Psalm 16:10).

Peter went on to say: “…David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us… David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection… God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this” (Acts 2:29-32).

Both Elijah and Elisha raised a boy from the dead. However, like a handful of resurrections recorded in the New Testament, those raised (for example, Lazarus by Jesus) died again. Thus, many observant Jews believed that resurrection was possible; yet most refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, let alone that his resurrection would be permanent … forever!

See Eye of Prophecy article, There’s Resurrection … And There’s Resurrection! (Posted 3-19-16). Which is a comparison of Old and New Testaments resurrections to the once for all resurrection of Messiah Jesus.

Will There Be More Than One Resurrection of the Dead? If so, How Many?

To eliminate suspense or to confirm what you may already know (but can you explain your answer?), the question will be answered now; then supported with examination of some decisive passages.

There are TWO (types of) Resurrections. However, there will be three separate times when these two resurrections take place. That is not a contradiction!

In Revelation Chapter 20, the return to life of the Tribulation saints is called the “first resurrection.” There’s also the resurrection of the dead in Christ that occurs at the Rapture, which precedes the tribulation believers. Then, after the Millennium, Revelation 20 dramatically describes yet another raising of the dead—those who are unbelievers.

First (foremost) we need to remember that the Rapture and physical return of Messiah (Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19) to the earth are separate events. Please see Eye of Prophecy article: Messiah’s Return & The Rapture (Same or Separate Events?) Published 12-3-16. And, End of the World Events … In Chronological Order! (2-25-17) Also, Armageddon and Messiah’s Return … An Amazing Sequence of Events. (2-3-18).

Let’s examine the chronological order of these three resurrections. With documentation and commentary to show that the first two are bundled together in what the Bible labels the “first resurrection.”

(1) Resurrection of Believers at The Rapture

After the risen Messiah ascended back to heaven, 1st century believers eagerly expected him to return any day. Though 2,000 years have gone by, the reality of his imminent return (at any moment) is as relevant today as then. In fact, his return is more imminent that ever, considering other Biblical prophecies unfolding in the 20th and 21st century, paramount of which is the rebirth of the State of Israel. (See Eye of Prophecy article: Just How Imminent is Messiah’s Imminent Return? Posted 1-18-17).

For unbelievers who have ridiculed Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world as well as his return, and for some believers who sometimes wonder when and even if this will happen, let’s not forget what the Apostle Peter said not to forget:

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created’” (II Peter 3:3-4, emphasis added). *Note: the italicized words are rendered “first” or “first of all” in several Bible translations. Later, you’ll see the importance of this as we analyze the first resurrection.

Peter continues: “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends. A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly as a thief…” (II Peter 3:8-10a).

Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am so eager for that day to arrive. On the other hand, I’m eternally grateful that the Lord has waited this long. Because the question (thought) is: If he had returned before I was born, then would I have been born … let alone born-again to experience the Rapture? Note: Thanks to one of my sibling sisters for that thought/question.

Including this week’s post, 42 Eye of Prophecy articles in the category of The Rapture deal extensively with this spectacular subject. Such as: The Tremendous Transfiguration of Believers, posted 7-23-16. And, of course, the first five articles published in July/August 2013; concerning the What, Why, When, Who, and How of the Rapture. Since the purpose of today’s article is to clarify the number of resurrections, discussion of the Rapture will be limited.

Beginning with an excerpt from Why the Rapture? In italics:

Primary Purpose: Resurrection (both dead and living believers) with a spiritual body equipped to live forever.

Secondary Purpose: Sparing believers from the tribulation. And giving unbelievers one last chance (up to seven years) to accept the true Messiah over the false Messiah….

If Jesus had not arisen from the dead, there would be no credibility to his or the Bible’s claims that redemption comes exclusively by God’s grace (unmerited favor). But Christ did arise, so all the Biblical truth and promises about salvation in Christ are true….

Perhaps the most absorbing is the Apostle Paul’s introductory use of the term, “spiritual bodies.” Think about it: Aren’t these two words mutually exclusive? How can there be any such thing as a “spiritual body.” Our earthly bodies are flesh and bone; they house our soul and spirit, which are anything but physical. Has anyone ever seen the spirit of another human being? Have you ever seen your own soul?

See Eye of Prophecy articles, Spiritual Bodies … A Contradiction of Terms? Part I & II. Posted 9-26 & 10-3-15.

Continuing with the excerpt:

But for Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a spiritual body is a perfectly “natural” fact that will one day be physically experienced by all who have been raptured … not virtual, computer-generated, or cybernetic reality, but actual reality. Just how real is the new resurrected body? Jesus, himself, showed us how awesomely real it is: After he arose from the dead, he walked, he talked, he ate with his disciples, and he could be touched! How real is that?

Listen to what Paul says, “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised in glory … They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies” (I Corinthians 15: 42-44).

I see this spectacular change taking place in the same light (pun intended) of what happened to Jesus during his transfiguration on the mountain, when Elijah and Moses appeared with him (Matthew 17: 1-7). In fact, I believe the term transfiguration is the best way to describe what will take place at the Rapture. Why transfiguration? Webster’s Dictionary defines transfiguration as, “a change in form or appearance….”

How will this transfiguration take place? The question concerns only the transfiguration itself, not the chain events of the Rapture as explained in I Thessalonians 4. For a detailed account of the fascinating sequence of the Rapture and approximately how long it could take, please read Eye of Prophecy article: The Shout Heard Around the World (4-22-17). Which expands on the older article, How the Rapture (will take place).

(In trying to depict believers ascending to heaven artists have inadvertently corrected the prevailing premise that the entire Rapture sequence will happen in the blink of an eye. Only the actual transfiguration will be that quick. Those left behind will hear and see the entire sequence of the Rapture)

Read with me the Apostle Paul’s second revelation of the Rapture, following the entire sequence of this extraordinary event as first disclosed in I Thessalonians Chapter 4:

“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It (the transformation or transfiguration) will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown, for when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed” (I Corinthians 15:51-52, parenthesis mine).

One more excerpt from Why the Rapture?

To live on this earth requires a special kind of body that God so wonderfully, uniquely, and masterfully created: one that can breathe life-giving air; drink life-sustaining water; eat life-growing food; feel life-producing pleasure and life-warning pain; see and hear life-enabling sights and sounds; produce life-perpetuating children; and know life-changing truths. However, the bodies we currently possess are not in any way, shape, or form adequate to live forever in the new earth and the new heavens that the book of Revelation so majestically portrays.

God has promised and will give us a brand new “heavenly body.” One that far surpasses the limitations of our earthly space suit. One immune to pain, sorrow, suffering, sin, disease and most of all, death itself. (See Revelation 21:4). One that can “leap tall buildings with a single bound and is faster than a speeding bullet!” Okay, a little facetious here; but isn’t that the underlying idea of Superman? Christ is the only “Super Man” who ever lived, and he will give us a heavenly body like his, to enable us to do extraordinary things, above and beyond our wildest expectations. I, for one, want to fly! And I’m not talking about jumbo jets.

Now for the other well-known passage that describes the Rapture’s startling sequence of events.

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (I Thessalonians 4: 16-18, italics to emphasize the Greek word, harpazo).

As clearly indicated by Paul, this resurrection applies only to believers in Messiah Jesus—the saved; those declared righteous by God, both Old and New Testament saints. See article, Old & New Testament Saints … Is There A Difference? (Published 7-7-18).

In I Thessalonians Chapter 5, Paul continues with more details on the Rapture that triggers the Day of the Lord, which encompasses the Tribulation and the Millennium.

“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever” (I Thessalonians 5:9-10).

This is one supporting passage for those of us who ardently believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of true believers in Christ. The anger of God referenced by Paul in this verse is in the immediate context of the Rapture and the Day of the Lord—which includes God’s final judgment (wrath, anger poured out on the world) during the Tribulation.

(2) Resurrection of Tribulation Saints

“…And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

“This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6, parenthesis in the text).

Two integral features of the passage just quoted will be clarified to hopefully eliminate any confusion even among Bible scholars and teachers. One is whether the resurrection of believers at the end of the Tribulation (those who “had not worshipped the beast … nor accepted his mark…”) is exclusively the “first resurrection.” If it is, then what do we do with the Rapture resurrection of believers? This will be discussed under Part A to follow.

The other focal point of this passage: whether only the Tribulation saints will reign with Christ during the Millennium. Which, in turn, would presumably (absent astute analysis and careful correlation of this passage to other passages) exclude hundreds of millions of believers, both living and dead who will be caught up to heaven before the Tribulation begins … at the Rapture. This will be covered in Part B to follow.

(A) First Resurrection

There are two (main) reasons to conclude that the first resurrection identified in Revelation Chapter 20 includes all believers … those raptured before and those who died during the Tribulation. They are: (1) The Greek word translated first; (2) Other key phrases in the text itself.

A (1) Greek Word for First:

There are over a dozen Greek words in the New Testament conveying the concept of first in succession, one (of many), principal, prototype, etc. In Revelation 20, the Greek word employed by John is: Protos. This translated Greek word is found frequently in the New Testament. For example: 156 times in the New American Standard Bible.; sixteen times in the book of Revelation.

Thayer’s Greek Dictionary contains three applicable definitions for protos.

*Note: Whenever there are two or more meanings (variations thereof) for any defined word, the context of the passage—compared to other passages if necessary—will determine the primary or best application.

Protos is defined as: “1. first in time or place. a. in any succession of things or persons. 2. first in rank. a. influence, honor; b. chief; c. principal; 3. first, at the first.”

This multiple application of the Greek word protos is affirmed by its English translation.

First is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: “preceding all others in time, order, or importance.”

Protos—translated as first (resurrection) in Revelation 20—is (should be) the key application or meaning of rank, influence, chief, principal; a prototype but not necessarily first in chronology. The secondary application of protos in Revelation 20 does relate to sequence, but in contextual contrast to the next (2nd) resurrection, which is that of unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment.

The primary contextual meaning is that of chief in rank or honor, because raising of the Tribulation believers is part of the preeminent resurrection of all believers … vital extraordinary events during the end times Day of the Lord. Both of which (Rapture and Tribulation saints) precede the 2nd resurrection, which is also an important event (at the end of the Millennium). But one without the prominent eternal joy and triumph of the resurrection of all believers, beginning with the Rapture and culminating with the raising of the Tribulation saints seven years later. Both of which are components of the “first resurrection.”

Instead, the second resurrection (of unbelievers) will be one of hopeless gloom and eternal doom, as every one of them will be thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Satan (and the Antichrist and False Prophet, who were consigned to the Lake of Fire before the Millennium begins).

In Revelation 20, the pyramid order of protos (first) is that of principal, chief, or first in rank; secondarily, that of chronology—both of which are in the immediate context of and comparison to the 2nd resurrection of the unbelieving dead in Christ.

It’s the predominate meaning in some other New Testament passages where protos is used.

Such as: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking…” (II Peter 3:3, NASB). *Note: Recall, this verse was quoted earlier from the NLT with the wording that of “most importantly” instead of “first of all.”

The “first” (of all) is not primarily referring to chronological order; rather it’s applying to what is foremost important to understand. We sometimes blend the two together in a common English phrase: First and foremost.

Although the resurrection of believers at the Rapture and those at the end of the Tribulation take place at separate times, that doesn’t mean they are two DIFFERENT resurrections, which are separate or distinct in rank, i.e. a first then a second kind. In fact, they are the same type or in the same category (in contrast to resurrection of dead unbelievers). Both are part of the first resurrection of the dead in Christ. The only thing that makes these resurrections of believers distinctive is that of knowing (or not) when they will take place. The Rapture will happen without warning; whereas the Tribulation believers will be raised as part of an exact enumeration of events during the last days of the Tribulation.

A (2) Key Phrases of the Text:

Other wording in Revelation 20 is also of vital importance to realize both raptured and tribulation believers are part of the first resurrection.

To wit: “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power…” (Revelation 20:6a, italics for emphasis).

Although the immediate reference is that of the Tribulations saints being raised to life again, the broader context of Revelation 20 includes a sequence of events: Satan imprisoned in the Abyss for a thousand years; bodily resurrection of Tribulation saints; the Millennial reign of Messiah; release of Satan for the final battle of all time; and the raising of the unbelieving dead in preparation for the Great White Throne Judgment and their 2nd death in the Lake of Fire.

John is classifying the resurrection of Tribulation saints as the “first”; but is doing so in the general succession of events and in specific juxtaposition to the subsequent (next, or second) raising of the (unbelieving) dead.

In fact, immediately after he employs the term first resurrection, we find the following in parenthesis—highlighting this contrast: “(The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.)” (Revelation 20:5).

Hence, John extended and incorporated the first resurrection to all believers, not just those at the end of the tribulation. He does so with the all-important phrase of those, “who share in the first resurrection.” Who else could John have been referring to but those who were already in heaven having been raised from the dead at the outset of the Tribulation (Rapture). This sharing convincingly combines both set of believers into the first resurrection. It is the resurrection of the saved that happens first and foremost; to be followed by the (2nd and final) resurrection of the unsaved.

Do you see that … first and foremost?!

B. Reigning with Messiah During the Millennium

The question of whether just the Tribulation saints will reign with Messiah throughout the Millennium has already been answered by amplification of the scope (sharing) and inclusiveness of “first resurrection.”

Of course, Raptured believers will rule with the Lord during his magnificent Millennial reign as King of all kings. This is cemented by the wording of the last part of verse 6:

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death hold no power; but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6, emphasis added).

Early in the book of Revelation, we read:

Who are the “us” of this verse? None other than all believers (both dead and alive) when Revelation was written and all those who would become believers thereafter. (Also, see I Peter 2:5).

(3) Resurrection of Unbelievers

Indeed, this is the third resurrection that will take place in chronological sequence. However, it is still the second resurrection concerning prototype or rank or principal. With the Rapture and Tribulation believers’ part of the first (type of) resurrection.

“And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it… I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne… The sea gave up its dead and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

These verses expand on what was revealed earlier in verse 5: “The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.”

John doesn’t specify this Great White Throne Judgment as a (the) second resurrection. Rather he refers to the eternal fate of all unbelievers as the, “second death.” Nonetheless, the passage is crystal clear that all those standing before God had been raised from their graves. Because this takes place 1,000 years after the Tribulations saints are raised from the dead and because it comes after the first resurrection which we’ve already covered, it must by default be the second (the one to follow the first) resurrection of the dead.

Things to Ponder

In his breathtaking description of the resurrection of believers, then transfiguration and transportation of both the living and the (raised) dead in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, the Apostle Paul didn’t use the term, first resurrection. He didn’t need to; it was understood that this was the resurrection spoken of by Old Testament prophets and by Jesus, himself—the one that is first and foremost in rank.

On the other hand, John in Revelation labels the resurrection of believers who died during the Tribulation as the first. But he did so in the immediate context of and contrast to the ensuing resurrection of unbelievers. John also says that (all) those who “share in the first resurrection” will reign with Christ for a thousand years. Therefore, all believers—those at the Rapture and those raised seven years later—will participate in the first resurrection.

Officially, however, the first resurrection in a body that would live forever was that of our Lord and Savior, Messiah Jesus.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection. Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (I Corinthians 15:20-23).

When does Messiah return (come back)? Answer: during the Day of the Lord. Which begins with the Rapture (resurrection, transfiguration) and culminates with his majestic bodily return to the earth, seven years later. Both of which include resurrection of dead believers, all of whom share in the first resurrection.

The first (foremost … most significant) resurrection is unto eternal life. The second resurrection is unto eternal death … the living dead as it were.

Except for one thing, both pre-Tribulation and Tribulation believers in Messiah Jesus have everything in common, which includes partaking in the (first) resurrection.

What is that one thing?

Tribulation saints were unbelievers with everyone else on earth the moment after the Rapture.

They did not heed the warnings of Scripture; thus, they will not be spared from the Great Tribulation.

However, the Lord is so loving and merciful.

He is the God of second chances!

Ambassador Nikki Haley & The Truth About Israel

Tags

A Surprising Announcement

On October 9, 2018, Nikki Haley (age 46) unexpectantly resigned as United States Ambassador to the United Nations but will remain at her post until year’s end.

Amid rumors regarding her reasons (including possible preparation for a presidential bid in 2024), Haley simply said that she needed, “to take a little time off.” Citing her six-year tenure as South Carolina Governor and what will be almost two years as U.S. Ambassador, she also explained: “I have given everything I’ve got these last eight years. And I do think it’s good to rotate in other people who can put that same energy and power into it.”

Whether they acknowledge it or not, the giant world organization known as the United Nations lost an ambassador for truth and justice. And Israel—one tiny nation among the 193-member nations of the UN—has lost a watchman (watchperson if you prefer!) who often defended Israel during UN General Assemblies and against anti-Israel UN organizations such as UNESCO, UNRWA, and the Human Rights Council. Supported by many anti-Semitic NGOs, these agencies have sponsored baseless resolutions against Israel for decades. Including a UN resolution (silently) endorsed by former US President Obama just weeks before he left office.

See Eye of Prophecy article, United Nations Downsizing of Israel (Resolution 2334) Posted 1-7-17.

In fact, Haley presided over the recent U.S. departure from Israel-bashing UNESCO and the hypocritical Human Rights Council of the United Nations, both of which continually refer to Israel as Palestine and make fraudulent claims that distort the true heritage (sites) of Israel. Ironically, UNESCO is the agency that identifies and declares “heritage” sites all over the globe. They constantly rewrite history by, for example, alleging that Jewish sacred sites (like the Patriarch’s Tomb) belong to the Palestinians because they are within “occupied Palestine.” Even going so far as labeling some of these Jewish fixtures with Arabic names.

*Note: Seriously! The Patriarchs buried in that tomb are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who are Jewish through and through. Which also proves that the Jews of Israel were there LONG before the Arabs … by some 2,500 years.

Please refer to Eye of Prophecy article: UNESCO / “Theatre of the Absurd” Against Israel. Published 10-29-16. Also: What Is Palestine & Who Is a Palestinian? Posted 12-2-17.

Nikki Haley understood that her job was to first and foremost represent the United States. She also skillfully used her ambassador platform to defend Israel whenever the opportunity arose.

(Ambassador Nikki Haley at her United Nations seat)

Haley rigorously defended our Executive Staff’s rulings on international issues such as the Iran Nuclear Deal, despite not being in full accord with President Trump on some matters. She staunchly supported Trump’s decision to shutter the Palestinian Liberation Organization Office in Washington D.C. as well as reduced funding of the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which illegitimately and illogically expands the definition of refugee to successive generations of the original Palestinian refugees. With considerable doubt that Arabs in late 1940’s Israel were refugees at all, as they were not forced from their homes by the Jews. Instead, they voluntarily left Israel at the behest of the five Arab countries that attacked the Jews the day after Israel declared Statehood on May 14, 1948.

Moreover, Israel’s sovereign right to statehood had been approved by the United Nations resolution (back when the UN was not antagonistic toward Israel) of November 29, 1947. And not to forget that the Arabs rejected their right to autonomy afforded by that same UN declaration because they would not under any circumstances consider a state alongside a Jewish nation. That mindset has not changed to this very day.

See Eye of Prophecy article: Palestinian Refugees … Are They Really Refugees? Published 1-27-18. Also, The” Right of Return” … For Palestinians or Jews? Posted 4-7-18.

Referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ constant tirade against the United States for declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and for the soon to be released U.S. drafted Middle-East peace deal (without Abbas even knowing the details of that deal) that Abbas alleges will favor Israel, Nikki Haley said: “All they’ve done is have their hand out asking for money … badmouthing the U.S.”

Said Haley during an interview with Fox News: “(The Palestinians) have not come to the table on the peace deal—why should we have a PLO office. Why would we continue to fund the Palestinians?”

Early into her position as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley launched American support of Israel on a global level. In a March 2017 address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, she boldly declared herself as the (United Nations) “new sheriff in town … the days of Israel-bashing are over.”

In a subsequent 2018 speech to AIPAC the audience warmly welcomed Haley, with standing ovations for her unwavering support of Israel. In that meeting, she said: “Some people accuse us of favoritism towards Israel. There’s nothing wrong with showing favoritism towards an ally… Our approach to Israel is tied to one major idea—the simple concept that Israel must be treated like any other normal country.”

Regarding a trip Haley made to Israel in June 2017, accompanied by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, she commented: “I went to Israel to see firsthand the country the United Nations spends half its time on. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding—it’s ridiculous. It seems like the rough breakdown at the UN is half the time on Israel and half the time on the other 192 countries.”

Haley’s assessment is an understatement. For example, since 2009, UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel and only two criticizing other nations. That elevates the theater of the absurd to a whole new level.

International Praise for Nikki Haley

President Trump applauded her performance as Ambassador, saying that, “she’s done a fantastic job … we’re (still) in the process of solving a lot of problems.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often praised Nikki Haley’s unequivocal promotion of Israel. Regarding her resignation, he said: “I thank Ambassador Nikki Haley for leading an uncompromising struggle against the hypocrisy at the UN and on behalf of the truth and justice of our country.”

(Nikki Haley & Benjamin Netanyahu)

Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin said that Haley’s ambassadorship, “…will be remembered as a turning point in the U.S.’s approach to international organizations and the bias they often show against Israel.”

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres published a statement expressing “deep appreciation” for Nikki Haley.

Despite some disagreements (undoubtedly over Israel!), French UN Ambassador Francois Delattire gave Haley a glowing accolade: “Nikki Haley is one of the most talented, most authentic U.S. government officials that I have ever met.”

Naturally, there were dissenters such as Amnesty International, whose representative brooded: “We hope that Nikki Haley’s shock resignation will bring an end to the current low point in relations between NGOs and the U.S. mission to the U.N. and that her successor will work to repair the relationships. Under her tenure, human rights organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch were singled out by her simply for having a different opinion, including on the importance of the Human Rights Council.”

Indeed, Haley did offer a singled-out alternative! However, one dramatically diverse from these and other organizations whose opinion is anything but different. In fact, theirs’ is the same old opining of anti-Semitic groups, anti-Israel nations, and NGOs on a global scale. In a nutshell, their perpetual pathetic position and cleverly couched opinion is that Israel as a Jewish State shouldn’t exist in the first place.

On behalf of Israel, which has precious few allies in the United Nations, Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN said about Haley: “We appreciate the new spirit of ambassador Nikki Haley; she has been very important and helpful. We work very closely with ambassador Haley and her team. We see similar issues and understand the challenges and threats. That’s why you see the cooperation because we come from the same values.”

(Israeli Ambassador to UN, Danny Danon)

Speaking on behalf of the huge Christian evangelical support for Israel, Pastor John Hagee exclaimed: “Nikki Haley has been an example of a shining city on a hill for the nations of the world to follow. Her uncompromising leadership will be missed by lovers of peace and friends of Israel. She was a voice and not an echo. We are very grateful for her service to America and for her unwavering support of U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Other tributes came from U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham, from Vice President Mike Pence, and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ambassador Haley didn’t eulogize Israel just because her boss, President Trump, did. In fact, her defense of Israel often exceeded the U.S. President and his Executive Staff’s support for Israel.

With sincere gratitude for her tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations as a platform to defend her country and the one and only democratic nation (that just happens to be Jewish) in the entire Middle-East, Nikki Haley stated: “All I’ve done for Israel is tell the truth.”

Let’s examine more closely what that truth concerning Israel is all about. But first:

What is Truth?

Not to worry. This isn’t going to be some complicated philosophical dissertation. It’s going to be profoundly simple.

Either there’s a universal (source of) truth or there isn’t. If there isn’t, then what’s true for me may not be true for you. If so, truth does not objectively exist. It’s subjectively reduced to perception and preference. If I perceive something to be cold that is (in reality) hot, then the independent truth that it’s hot is irrelevant. It’s cold to me … that’s all that matters. I perceive and prefer it that way. Moreover, such an analogy pales in comparison to such things as good and evil.

Truth becomes what each person thinks is true; or wishes to be true. And so on….

Do you see how precarious this relative approach to truth is? More than that: it’s dangerous. For example, see Eye of Prophecy article: Can a Murderer Be a Martyr? Posted 1-30-16. Which relates to Palestinian Lone Wolf Attacks on Israelis, publicly praised or privately approved by most Palestinians because they presuppose the lies about Jews to be true. And either from ignorance or deliberate distortion of the truth about Israel, they make up many of these lies themselves.

As best they can, most people of this world vigorously defend their right to freedom (to the death if necessary), especially the right to choose actual truth or even perceived truth. Yet so many also disregard, or criticize, or reject outright the Bible and the God of the Bible (who gave us free will) when He declares that this liberty comes with a responsibility to choose … eternal life or death. That eternal life comes from believing and receiving God’s Son, Messiah Jesus, as personal Savior and Lord. Eternal death—separation from God forever—results from rejecting Jesus as The Way, The Truth, and The Life—no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6).

(Patrick Henry along with many of our founding fathers acknowledged the God of the Bible and Biblical principles including parallels between the formation of ancient Israel and the United States. Several publicly professed personal faith in Messiah Jesus).

Let’s simplify even more. The God of the Bible begins His Word to humanity by declaring: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Then, on the sixth day of creation: “So God created human beings in his own image … male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Therefore, the right to life comes from and belongs to the Creator. The created (being) has the God-given privilege to believe as he/she chooses. But we do not have the inalienable right to (eternal) life with our Creator God apart from the conditions that He has revealed to us as absolute truth in His Word. Truth that we can accept or reject; with the choice determining our eternal destiny, as well as the course of human events on earth. Concerning such things as life-giving birth or life-ending abortion, blessings or curses, liberty or tyranny, peace or war—all under Scripture’s umbrella truth of good and evil.

The God of the Bible asserts: “…I am the First and the Last; there is no other God. Who is like me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power… (Isaiah 44:6-7a).

And, “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer and Creator: ‘I am the Lord, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with me when I made the earth! I expose the false prophets as liars and make fools of fortune-tellers… But I carry out the predictions of my prophets! … When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple’” (Isaiah 44:24-28).

Which is exactly what the yet unborn Persian King Cyrus would do some 150 years later! He would authorize the Jews exiled by Babylon to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple.

Truth (fact): Only the God of the Bible has performed mighty miracles (still does); and has foretold the future hundreds of times with 100% accuracy to prove that he alone is God. Is there any other religion or god or prophet who can do that? If there were, then the so-called sacred texts of man-made religions like Islam would have said so. But they don’t, because they can’t.

Truth is God. God IS Truth. And the God of the Bible IS God. Either we believe Him, or we don’t. If we don’t then the only alternative is to try to manufacture our own truth.

Which is exactly what Pontius Pilate did when he facetiously asked Jesus, “What is truth?” With the clear inference that this kind of truth is whatever fits the moment or is manipulated to justify a life of doing things our way, apart from God and absent His Truth.

Inevitably, however, we do not make the Truth. It makes us … into believers or unbelievers. The choice is ours, but we must choose. According to God, neutrality is not an option.

Truth or Consequence?

Truth: “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life…” (John 3:36a)

Consequence: “…Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment” (John 3:36b).

The Bible is replete with such truth as found in hundreds of passages, both Old and New Testaments. Just one more for today’s article:

One of these magnificent rewards is eternal life in heaven (John 3:16). Another is the awesome realization that there is absolute truth upon which we can stake our lives and eternal destiny while on this earth and after leaving it. There is a universal standard of right and wrong, good and evil. God has given us this truth beginning with the Ten Commandments and then extending to God’s marvelous plan of salvation for mankind, as found in God’s Word, the Bible.

What Is the Truth about Israel?

Getting back to Nikki Haley’s statement regarding the truth about Israel. Certainly, she is no prophet. Nor has she supported Israel by necessarily referring to the Bible as proof of God’s Promised Land Covenant with Abraham—Israel’s God-given right for the Jews to inherit and inhabit Israel forever. However, she has defended Israel’s heritage based on these Biblical patterns and principles.

Please see recent Eye of Prophecy article, Israel’s Controversial Nation-State Law. Posted 8-11-18. Which explains in detail why Israel was, is, and always will be a Jewish nation. A nation that affords equal rights to her minority citizens as well as self-governing authority to her Palestinian non-citizens.

To that end, this week’s article is not primarily about Nikki Haley. It is, like several prior Eye of Prophecy articles with emphasis on varying aspects of Israel’s birthright as a sovereign nation, a condensation of those articles that explain the truth in contrast to the lies about Israel.

Nevertheless, I believe Haley could be considered a Watchman for Israel after the pattern of prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel. Not on that level, only in that fashion. Not unlike those of us who have taken on the mantle of Watchman: reminding the whole world that God’s eternal plan and consummate destiny for humanity goes through Jerusalem … His Holy City in the Holy Land of Israel. As Jerusalem goes, so goes the world.

“O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord. Give the Lord no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth…. Go out through the gates! Prepare the highway for my people to return! Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders; raise a flag for all the nations to see” (Isaiah 62:6-7 & 10, italics for emphasis).

(Israel’s national flag. Another specific example of not only symbolic, but literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, as the last phrase of the above quoted verse states)

Prayer on behalf of Israel—including salvation to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) which is an integral part of God’s work in and for Israel—is the most important attribute of being a Watchman for Israel.

Israel has been reborn as a nation! Some are needed to defend this rebirth and to explain the whys and wherefores of such an amazing fulfillment of prophecy. Against insurmountable odds, the Jews have returned to Israel in great numbers and made Israel to bloom and grow again, literally and metaphorically. No other people or nation on earth that was completely crushed has been restored like the Jews and Israel. Just as the Lord God said long ago (not once but dozens of times) would happen.

For example: “But the mountains of Israel will produce heavy crops of fruit for my people—for they will be coming home again soon! … Your ground will be plowed and your crops planted. I will greatly increase the population of Israel, and the ruined cities will be rebuilt and filled with people… O mountains of Israel, I will bring people to live on you once again. I will make you even more prosperous than you were before. Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 36:8-11).

Watchman on Israel’s walls are needed to preserve and promote Israel’s right to those foundations and walls that house their government—the Knesset. On the land which they have built sacred synagogues, beautiful galleries, grand theatres, contemporary concert halls, modern restaurants, seaside skyscrapers, and luxurious beach hotels. Exemplified in and by Tel Aviv … the modernization of Israel to rival the large cities of the world in kind and quality.

Facts on the ground truth that Israel’s miraculous restoration in/as the Promised Land can no longer be denied. No matter how big the lie that Jews do not have a right to this land or how often the lie is told that they are merely “occupiers” in Palestine—a nation that never existed in the first place. Nor were the Arabs called Palestinians until the Palestinian Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat began referring to themselves by that appellation around 1964.

Palestine is Israel. More accurately: Israel is Israel! Period. Not just Israel’s geographical boundaries with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. But the full scope of the original Promised Land as described in the Bible. The entire chronicle of Israel, both Biblical and secular, clearly demonstrates and documents that truth. To ignore these fundamental facts is both an affront to the true and living God as well as a denial of the extraordinary evidence of God’s unfolding plan and purpose for Israel.

Such truth as God’s enduring promise and warning: “I will bless those who bless you (Israel) and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you (Abraham and his descendants as a people and nation)” (Genesis 12:3, parenthesis mine).

Or when the Lord, who is called the Holy One of Israel, solemnly speaks against those who would dare to destroy Israel: “…There I will judge them for harming my people, my special possession, for scattering my people among the nations, and for dividing up my land” (Joel 3:2).

And then there is rural Israel and Old Jerusalem, the “ancient city.” There you will find the long, storied past of Israel, with its patriarchs, judges, prophets, kings, and divinely appointed destiny of land and people.

Old Jerusalem divided into four quarters: Armenian, Muslim Arab, Christian, and Jewish. And Temple Mount, the most holy place of Judaism where the temples once stood. Where now the Islamic Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque stand, built by Muslims for the sole purpose of replacing Jewish history with Arabic tradition, some of which is myth. Despite the glaring fact that Jerusalem is not once mentioned in the Koran. I repeat for emphasis: Not once! How then could Jerusalem be the third holiest site of Islam, or a holy site at all to Muslims?

Please see Eye of Prophecy article, The Myth of Al Aqsa Mosque (4-16-16).

Which deals with Muhammed’s alleged visit to Jerusalem and ride to heaven on his steed. Plus, the misleading myth that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the “farthest mosque” or that this alleged mosque was even in Jerusalem, because (once again) Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran. This is just one of many lies about Jerusalem foisted on an all too gullible world to distort the truth about the historical existence of Solomon’s Temple and later Herod’s Temple on Temple Mount. In fact, the Al Aqsa mosque was built decades after Muhammed died.

Other Truths (Facts) vs Lies (Myths) about Israel

Both Palestinian factions (bitter rivals that claim they want a Palestinian State with both groups demanding rule over that state) Hamas of Gaza and Palestinian Authority of the so-called West Bank have adopted the sinister strategy of the perpetrator assuming the role of the victim. Making the offender the offended.

This is especially true concerning the appalling accusations (lies) against Israel most often heard from Palestinians, Muslim nations, and even several non-Muslim countries: (1) Jews are “settlers occupying” Palestine; (2) Israel is an apartheid state; (3) Israel and the Jews are racist.

Another myth is that Israel is constantly “murdering” Palestinians. With the disturbing deception and warped logic that when Palestinians are killed while murdering Jews with knives, guns, vehicles, mortars or while trying to infiltrate Israel by breaching the border fences of Gaza, the Palestinians are the victims and Israelis the criminals.

In addition to the ones already addressed, there are multiple mutually exclusive truths/lies about Israel, nearly all (if not all) of which I’ve covered in several prior Eye of Prophecy articles. For purpose of this week’s article, we’ll look at only one more of those:

Ethnic Cleansing/Apartheid

Myth (lie): Israel and Jewish Israelis are engaged in systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs via an apartheid mentality.

Both concepts can lead and have led to genocide, the worst of which was the horrendous Holocaust. And who was it that suffered by far the most innocent civilian deaths at the hands of the Third Reich, hell-bent on achieving the diabolical Final Solution. Easy answer: The Jews … six million of them. Which makes it inconceivable that anyone, even Israel’s worst enemies, would compare modern-day Israel to World War II Germany or Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler. More than that: This comparison is manifestly evil.

Let’s pause for a moment and look at Webster’s definition of Apartheid which literally means, separateness: “racial segregation: a policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of So. Africa.”

The first feature that should grab our attention is the last part of the definition relating to what took place in South Africa years ago. In fact, the very idea of apartheid related to South Africa; however, subsequently became a generic term applicable to other regions of the world. Intrinsic in the concept of separateness and those practicing discriminations and segregation is that apartheid is administered by a minority race or ethnic group (by economic power and military might) over the majority race of a country.

(One of many segregation signs posted in South Africa before apartheid was eliminated)

Truth (fact): Israel isn’t remotely guilty of ethnic cleansing or apartheid.

Immediately we see that apartheid could not apply to Israeli Jews, for they are the majority. But even if they were in the minority of Israel’s total population, there is NO evidence whatsoever of discrimination, segregation, or intentional economic deprivation of the Israeli Arab citizens of Israel. Nor of Arab non-Israeli citizens—now called Palestinians.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections or to hold office, only because they are not citizens … no different than any other democratic country. They have chosen not to be citizens of Israel, primarily because they loathe Jews and hate the very existence of Israel. On the contrary, the 1.8 million Arabs who are citizens of Israel have the right to vote and to serve in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) and other administrative positions. They can attend Israeli schools and have freedom of movement throughout Israel. They work in Israeli businesses (as do tens of thousands of Palestinians who have work permits). They can start and run their own businesses or farms … on and on we could go.

If Israel is apartheid or guilty of ethnic cleansing, then I simply don’t understand the meaning of those terms.

For decades I have studied both Biblical and secular Middle-East history and current events. With due humility, I can honestly say that I am not prejudiced concerning race or ethnicity, and that includes Palestinians. I’m sure much of that (if not in its entirety) has to do with being a born-again believer in Messiah Jesus, the Jewish Savior. Two good friends of mine through the years were Chinese and African-American, respectively. Two of my best buddy fellow Caucasians were the least bigoted men I’ve ever known.

My expose of the Palestinian agenda is simply that of stating the facts and declaring the historical and contemporary truth in much detail (as did Nikki Haley in a more limited way, albeit on a much bigger platform) of what Israel is all about, and what’s really happening in the Middle East—including but not limited to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. To that end, dozens of Eye of Prophecy articles provide an abundance of Scripture and secular documentation and commentary.

For example, The Real Reason for Palestinian Terrorism, posted 9-30-17.

Also: Ethnic Cleansing of Jews … The Real Palestinian Agenda (9-17-16). Here is an excerpt from that article (in italics):

Benjamin Netanyahu is a consummate diplomat in all of the positive connotations of political diplomacy. He is firm but fair; passionate in his pursuit for true peace in Israel but objectively realistic of the obstacles to peace; completely committed to Israel, but considerate of any reasonable coherent demands made by the Palestinians and by surrounding Arab nations. When it comes to a matter of Israel’s survival, which is still an all too real threat facing the only Jewish nation in the world, Benjamin can tell it like it is.

Nevertheless, I was dumbfounded as I watched this video and listened to his words. My incredulity was not of being aghast that he would characterize the actual Palestinian agenda—whether it be from the Palestinian Authority or Hamas—of “ethnic cleansing” of all Jews in Israel. Rather, it was astonishment of how bravely accurate and daringly appropriate the phrase is to explain the real reason why Palestinians have rejected a two-state proposal on any terms but their own.

Personally, I would not have used the phrase, ethnic cleansing, because it conjures up the more common image: forced removal of ethnic or religious groups of people from a given territory. Yet, the more I thought about Netanyahu’s use of the term, the more I realized how it reliably reflected the true Palestinian narrative.

Later, to validate my eventual agreement with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s choice of words (ethnic cleansing) exposing the fact that it is the Palestinians who harbor an apartheid mentality against the Jews, I provided the following evidence and quotes:

For example: In 1996, just three years after his farcical participation in the Oslo Accords (signed on September 13, 1993) with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (moderated by US President Bill Clinton), PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat uttered these words at a public press conference:

“We Palestinians will take over everything … You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel, and establish a purely Palestinian State … I have no use for the Jews, they are and remain Jews.”

Can anything be more callously clear? It’s equally clear to this very day: The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have every intention to continue Arafat’s atrocious agenda.

Then later in that article:

If anyone thinks that “cleansing” is too harsh of a description, I will once again quote the words of Palestinian Authority President Abbas, as cited in a couple of previous Eye of Prophecy articles. “We must not permit the filthy feet of the Jews to desecrate our holy places.” He was referring first and foremost to Temple Mount. Do you see the connection, the irony? Clean those filthy feet of the Jews by removing them completely … ethnic cleansing.

Summary

Mahmoud Abbas, who replaced Arafat as President of the Palestinian Authority also has said that if a Palestinian State is established alongside Israel, then no Jews would be allowed to live within those borders. If that isn’t ethnic discrimination and racist bigotry, then I don’t know what is. Furthermore, it’s the exact opposite of what the Jewish Nation-State of Israel currently is and allows: Arab residency throughout Israel to include Arab Israelis (and Palestinians) working in Jewish offices and factories.

(One of several Israeli businesses in the Barkan Industrial Park of Judea/Samaria–the West Bank–that employs thousands of Palestinians and Jews working together. On 10-7-18, a former Palestinian employee of one factory shot and killed two Jewish employees and wounded a third. The woman killed was a mother of a young child, the man killed a father of three)

One last excerpt from the above quoted Eye of Prophecy article:

A subtler strategy of ethnic cleansing is the removal, desecration, or denial of physical and cultural evidence that the targeted group has any valid historical existence in the land in question. The Palestinians have done all these things to Israel by excavating and then removing valuable Jewish artifacts from and around Temple Mount, Hebron, and Bethlehem. Also, the rewriting of Israel’s history in Palestinian school curriculum, maps that depict Israel as “Palestine” (a state that never has existed), and in daily rhetoric denial of Israel’s legacy and heritage in the land.

During a trip to Israel in 2006, my sister and I drove a rental car throughout the land; also took several taxis. Two of them stand out in my memory. Each of those two taxi drivers were independent, i.e. they owned their own taxi business. One was half Jew and half Egyptian, a citizen of Israel who supported the existence of the state of Israel, the Jews, and even knew much about Biblical prophecy concerning Israel. Another driver was an Arab Israeli (citizen of Israel). I asked him several questions. In one response, he acknowledged that the Arabs were better off (standard of living) in the State of Israel.

However, he, like so many other Israeli Arabs and nearly all Palestinians, still disdain Israel and the Jews simply because they are Jews and have done what the Arabs never came close to doing: renovate, replenish, and restore the land of Israel.

I developed some admiration for this 60 some year-old Arab taxi driver in the short visit with him, if for no other reason than his demeanor and balanced bluntness. Nonetheless, one thing was clear in his words and written on his face: despite his preference that Israelis govern Israel, he was envious of their success. I left his taxi with the understanding that he reflected the mindset of most Arabs and Palestinians in Israel. Minus (in his case) the radical hatred.

Things to Ponder

Temple Mount is the highest point of Old Jerusalem, with the higher hills around Jerusalem (like the Mount of Olives) part of what is called Mount Zion. Read with me what the true and living God has to say about Zion:

“…I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her. 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, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain’” (Zechariah 8:2-3, NASB).

Then, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they will be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness’” (Zechariah 8:7-8, NASB).

As for me, I have staked my salvation and eternal destiny on the God of Israel and His Son. The Lord willing, I shall continue to give a clear witness for Messiah Jesus (Revelation 19:10). I will confirm and defend the truth of the Good News—the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:7).

And I will with the prophet Isaiah shout to all who have ears to hear:

I will keep my place on Jerusalem’s walls as a Watchman for Israel.

Will you join me? If all you do is pray, that’s more than enough. In fact, it’s, by far, the ultimate way to watch over Israel.

Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).

Messiah’s Amazing Appearances Before He Was Born

The Incomparable Influence of One Man

No other person on the face of the earth has impacted humanity like Jesus of Nazareth. He altered the keeping of time itself and changed the course of history.

Who else healed deadly diseases instantly with a touch or a command; made the lame to leap, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the dead to rise. And in whose name, his disciples did the same.

Miracles that proved Jesus is who he said he is: God’s Incarnate Son.

His phenomenal Virgin birth into this world and stunning resurrection from a sacrificial death are still celebrated every year by billions, even those who have never received him as their Savior and Lord.

The Christian faith is global … crossing national, social, and racial lines. No other creed on earth claims followers from virtually every nation; religions are restricted mostly to ethnic groups or within the confines of certain countries. But then the Christian faith is not a religion or cult. It is a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Messiah Jesus.

No other belief system offers a Savior as the exclusive source of salvation, nor do their followers want one. Because that would mean the principles and procedures demanded by their dogmas or religious leaders or philosophical pundits need not be kept and membership in their organization would be unnecessary. If a Redeemer was necessary to do for them what they could not do for themselves, it would mean that the adherents were incapable of earning their god’s favor or meriting eternal life or experiencing a high enough level of self-enlightenment. Which, in turn, would insinuate that their belief system was flawed.

In one of several spectacular visions that John recorded in the book of Revelation, we read this about Jesus Christ and his remarkable redemption for mankind that is truly universal in scope.

“…You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth. Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels… And they sang in a mighty chorus:

‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing’” (Revelation 5:9-12).

This powerful passage is looking back with deep indebtedness to Messiah’s First Advent (appearance); and looking forward triumphantly to his Second Advent (return appearance). Both Advents are the heart and soul of the Christian faith—a New (and better) Covenant birthed from a Judaic Old Testament heritage which also experienced appearances of the Messiah.

(Jesus came first as the sacrificial Lamb of God for redemption. He will return as the Lion from the Tribe of Judah to rule and reign on the earth)

God’s Interaction with People Through the Ages

In last week’s article, we looked at some extraordinary events in which God the Father not only spoke to, but appeared to men, specifically Abraham and Moses. However, when the Lord manifested himself he always concealed his glory (essence of pure light and holiness) mainly through fire or dense clouds. Purpose of which was to protect the on-looker.

We also examined an event in which the Lord appeared up-close and personal to Jacob and even wrestled with him. With convincing evidence that this man was the Lord but could not have been God the Father for the two reasons given: (1) God is Spirit only; (2) unless the Lord veils his glorious presence, no one can look on him and survive.

It was one of several Old Testament events in which the Lord appeared as a man, with the default conclusion that this man could only have been the 2nd Person of the Trinity, God’s Son, Messiah Jesus. There is no one thing that Judaism takes issue with more than the Christian belief that God has a Son, and his Son was (Virgin) born as a human being. Non-Messianic Jews, both observant and secular, do not believe in the Triune God, despite the Hebrew Scriptures plainly stating that God has a Son.

Messiah Jesus’s pre-birth Epiphanes were prototype previews to prepare the Jews (and Gentiles) for his once-for-all arrival as God the Son in human form. Immanuel … God with us! To overlook or dismiss these marvelous manifestations is to miss the Old Testament revelations of the Pre-Incarnate Messiah—who was, who is, and who is to come again. Whom God’s angels jubilantly heralded at the appointed time in history:

The Jewish author begins the book of Hebrews with:

“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.” (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Just a brief commentary on that magnificent passage before we examine some of the Pre-Incarnate appearances of Messiah Jesus.

  • The many ways in which God spoke to Old Testament men and women included visions, dreams, audible voice, tangible manifestations of his glory (shrouded to protect those to whom he appeared), through his messengers the angels. AND in human form of God the Son.
  • Through the prophets refers not only to God speaking directly to the prophets, but also the prophets’ inspired written record of God’s words to our ancestors. Meaning the ancestors of 1st century Jews, some of whom were not prophets.
  • All of which prepared the way for God’s “final days” revelation of himself directly through His Son. The final days apply to the last age or epoch of God’s interaction with humanity via the New Covenant that the Lord promised through Jeremiah. It is the Age of Grace, in which we are still living; one that will lead directly to the soon-to-come Day of the Lord and Kingdom of God on earth.
  • What makes this revelation of God through Jesus Christ different than the Pre-Incarnate appearances of Messiah? Answer: It is permanent, in that the Son of God was born as Jesus of Nazareth, who is still alive; having risen from the dead! He is the eternal God/Man radiating God’s own glory and expressing the very character of God.

That is why God the Father’s last appearance was to the prophet Ezekiel, a younger contemporary of Jeremiah, through whom God had announced the New Covenant. Later, we’ll look at Ezekiel’s exceptional encounter with the Lord.

After Malachi there were no more prophets, until God spoke to John the Baptist over 400 years later. Said John the Baptist about the Incarnate Christ:

“I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one (meaning to begin with), but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God’” (John 1:32-34, italics for emphasis, parenthesis mine).

Do you remember what God proclaimed at Jesus’s baptism in an audible voice for all to hear?

Correct: “…You are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22, NASB).

Though Jesus is God the Son, he lived and spoke as the Son of Man; to validate his appearance to and existence in the world was that of flesh and blood. That he came to do the will of his Father, not the least of which was his excruciating death on the Cross for your sins and mine.

John the Baptist also said this about Jesus:

Just a brief pause to more fully express my love for Messiah Jesus and never-ending appreciation for what he did on the Cross. If you are a child of God, I think the following excerpt from my second book, Out of the Abyss will also be meaningful to you. Referring to Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and what is called the Passion of the Christ (in italics):

Yet, it was the temptation scene that dealt the first Messianic blow to Satan’s plans, because that was the devil’s first opportunity to create an antichrist right then and there; to, in one fell swoop, twist and turn the true Messiah into Satan’s messiah.

Eternal praise to our God and his Messiah that this did not happen! All glory to Yeshua who did not send a legion of angels to annihilate those who had arrested him in the garden! Everlasting gratitude to our Lord for not saying I’ve had enough and stepping down from the cross! All power and dominion to the Son of Man for arising from the grave and conquering death once and for all! Go ahead, say it aloud with me. Amen! (page 219).

Examples of Messiah’s Pre-Incarnate Appearances

Time/space only permits examination of a few. Two others were covered in last week’s article: (1) Jacob realized that the man he wrestled with was the Lord. The primary purpose: to confirm God’s perpetual covenant made with Jacob’s father Isaac and grandfather Abraham by blessing Jacob.

(2) The appearance of the Lord as a man to Abraham and Sarah along with two angels in the form of men. Purpose of which was to reaffirm God’s guaranty that Sarah would conceive and bear the promised child Isaac … fathered by Abraham, as opposed to Ishmael through Hagar.

Nothing short of astonishing is that the ultimate Promised Child (Messiah Jesus) through Isaac was the very one who appeared to Abraham that day!

These events also were detailed in a previous Eye of Prophecy article, Does God Really Have a Son? Part II (Posted 11-7-15). A third Pre-Incarnate manifestation of God the Son in that article will be the first of the examples presented in this week’s post. I’m using that episode again because it was the first appearance of God (the Son) as man to more than just one or two people at a time. Though the description in Exodus Chapter 24 is brief, it is nonetheless electrifying. Here is an excerpt from the above-mentioned article (in italics):

Moses & The Seventy Elders

Did you know that the Ten Commandments (along with other features of the Mosaic Law) had been given directly by God to Israel even before Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and received the stone tablets upon which the “finger of God” wrote the Ten Commandments? You can read about that in Exodus Chapter 20. In fact, when God delivered the Commandments to the people, his thunderous voice so frightened them that they pleaded with Moses: “…You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” (Exodus 20:19).

Prior to that God had given explicit instructions to Moses that the people were not to ascend Mt Sinai or even touch the mountain—upon the pain of death. But then the Lord made a temporary exception that Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders could accompany Moses in a climb up the mountain; for the express purpose of meeting with God to worship him and to celebrate the Covenant that all the people had agreed to, “…do everything the Lord has commanded” (Exodus 24:3). Listen to the short, but stunning description of what transpired:

“Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!” (Exodus 24:9-11).

Later, God again veiled his presence in a dense cloud of fire and smoke on the mountain. God called (and spoke) to Moses from within that cloud.

Although Moses doesn’t provide a detailed description of “The God of Israel” in this scene, it is fully obvious that who/what they saw was a man… Why can I say that? Because the passage says, “under his feet…” with the clear connotation that they were the feet of a man….

Yet we also know that Moses, himself, was not allowed to look on (the face of) God directly. That fact is inescapably evident from the equally well-known story of what happened when Moses subsequently pleaded with God to, “…show me your glorious presence” (Exodus 33:18).

Why would God make an exception and allow Moses and a group of more than seventy Israelites to stare directly at him and survive? …Or a better question: Was it an exception at all?

There is only one explanation.

Which is the same answer for all the Old Testament appearances of God in human form: It is not God (Spirit) the Father, but rather God the Son who physically appeared to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses and the elders. And later to Joshua, Gideon, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. Then to arrive for the final time in human form as Jesus of Nazareth…. With the providential purpose to demonstrate that God would appear in human flesh once and for all.

Purpose/Timing of Messiah’s Appearance on Mount Sinai: To ratify and celebrate the Covenant of the Law that included the Jewish festivals and Levitical sacrificial system. Which would be a foreshadow pattern of a far better Covenant, mediated by the heavenly High Priest who came to earth and provided the final (perfect) sacrifice of all time as God’s Son Incarnate. Messiah Jesus was the one man who would perfectly keep and faithfully fulfill the Law of Moses. How appropriate for God’s Son to meet with Moses and the elders on this momentous occasion!

Gideon and Samson

Those who have read the book of Judges know that between Israel’s previous national leader Joshua and Israel’s first king Saul, God chose eleven men and one woman (Deborah) over a period of about 300 years to rescue Israel from her enemies; whom God had allowed to conquer portions of the Promised Land because of Israel’s disobedience. For two of these judges (Othniel & Jephthah) we read that, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” and “At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah” (Judges 3:10 & 11:29, respectively).

Yet regarding Gideon directly and Samson indirectly, something even more dramatic occurred. Most Jews and born-again believers, but also secular Jews and millions upon millions of Gentile unbelievers know at least something about Gideon and/or Samson.

Concerning Gideon, what was that saga? Correct: Gideon twice testing the Lord’s promise through the wool fleece. Also, the Lord whittling Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 10,000 men; then down to 300 elite warriors.

And Samson? An even easier answer: His supernatural strength to (for a time) bring an entire nation to its knees. Philistia—the Philistines, Israel’s archenemy. Until that is: he let Delilah cut his hair. Even then, the Lord returned Samson’s strength to him one last time. With each of his hands pushing against a pillar, Samson brought down a pagan temple, killing more Philistines as he died than when he lived.

Yet, I would venture to say that most people, including observant Jews (even Rabbis) and Christian students of Scripture pay little attention to who it was that appeared and what took place when these two Jewish heroes were chosen to deliver Israel.

Gideon

Beginning with: “The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years” (Judges 6:1).

As the Israelites did before and would happen after Gideon’s tenure as Israel’s 5th judge: “When they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites…” (Verses 7-8).

Followed by the Lord reminding his people that even though He had delivered them from Egyptian slavery, they still followed pagan gods and would not listen to him (Verses 8-10).

Abruptly, God ends his verbal chastisement of the people with a promise to mercifully rescue Israel yet again, this time through Gideon; with a dynamically different beginning to this deliverance. You may want to read the entire account, as only a portion will be provided for sake of time/space:

“Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah … Gideon was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress…. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’” (Judges 6:11-12, emphasis added to show that “the” angel of the Lord appeared as opposed to an angel).

Following Gideon’s response, we read, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’” (Verse 14). The Lord also said, “…I will be with you…” (Verse 16). *Note: The Lord would use (enhance) whatever courage and initiative Gideon possessed to accomplish a stunning victory over the Midianites.

In this astonishing appearance of the Lord to Gideon, it’s crystal clear that he is not God the Father. Instead, it was a man (the angel of the Lord … also referred to as the Lord) who “sat beneath the great tree…” and spoke with Gideon face to face. None other than the Pre-Incarnate Son of God.

During this opening scene (even before Gideon twice asked God for more signs … the fleece), Gideon also asked for a sign. Here’s what happened after Gideon asked the Lord to wait while he prepared an offering:

“Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and the fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, ‘Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’” (Judges 6:21-22).

Do you see what’s going on here? Like those before him, Gideon knew that no one could meet with God “face to face” and live. Whom they described as the angel of the Lord, or a man, or the Lord, or even as God; because they didn’t yet grasp that God also was appearing to them as the 2nd Person of the Trinity—Messiah Incarnate. Nor did God expect them to know at that time. The Father was preparing them and their descendants for the permanent arrival of his Son in the flesh.

However, by the time the entire Old Testament had been written, the people could and should have made the general composite connection of these appearances to the coming Messiah. Then, specifically after Jesus was born of a Virgin (conceived by the Holy Spirit) and indisputably provided first-hand evidence of his divinity (profound teaching, powerful miracles) neither Jews nor Gentiles to this very day have a valid reason for their unbelief. There are only inexcusable excuses. Especially after Messiah Jesus arose from the dead.

Samson

God’s choice of Samson to be Israel’s 12th Judge also began with the angel of the Lord appearing. But not directly to Samson; instead to his mother (before Samson was born) and then to his mother and father together. The following verses are enough to show that it was a phenomenal appearance of God’s Son, the Incarnate Messiah.

“The woman ran and told her husband. ‘A man of God appeared to me! He looked like one of God’s angels, terrifying to see… he didn’t tell me his name” (Judges 13:6, italics for emphasis to verify that the person she saw was a man, whose majestic form she could only describe as an angel of God, of which there’s no record that she had ever seen an angel before).

Later, when her husband, Manoah, also met the Man of God and asked him to reveal his name, the Man replied: “Why do you ask my name? … It is too wonderful for you to understand” (Judges 13:18).

(Who else had asked the man who appeared to him for his name, with the Pre-Incarnate Son of God effectively inferring it wasn’t yet time to know his name? Answer: Jacob).

Continuing with the passage: “The angel of the Lord did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Manoah finally realized it was the angel of the Lord, and said to his wife, ‘We will certainly die, for we have seen God!’” (Verse 21-22, emphasis added).

His wife wisely replied that if the Lord had intended to kill them he wouldn’t have accepted their offering. As with Gideon the Lord consumed their offering with fire, but also disappeared just like he did in front of Gideon.

Purpose/Timing of Messiah’s Appearance to Gideon and Samson’s Parents

Returning to Messiah’s Pre-Incarnate appearance to Gideon:

“It is all right, the Lord replied. Do not be afraid. You will not die. And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means ‘The Lord is peace’)” (Judges 6:23-24, parenthesis in the text).

Almost always when the Bible speaks of peace in Israel (and the whole world) it is in the immediate context of the Messiah. For it is only the Son of God, Messiah Jesus who will finally rescue and save Israel (and the whole world from extinction during the Tribulation). Who will establish God’s Kingdom on earth—a kingdom of justice, righteousness, and shalom … peace.

The immediate purpose for the Messiah’s Pre-Incarnate appearances to Gideon and Samson’s parents was to demonstrate that he would (through these two judges) deliver his people and restore peace again to Israel. He can do such things against all odds, i.e. Gideon’s 300 men against a vast army, or with just one man’s supernatural strength against an entire nation—Samson.

The period of the Judges was a representative forerunner of the subsequent era in Israel’s history with no kings and/or prophets—all the way from Malachi to the present time. Interrupted by the appearance of the Incarnate Messiah himself (Jesus) who would have rescued Israel from Rome had his people not rejected him. They were managed by governors and religious leaders … as it was in the period of the Judges. Even during Israel’s two exiles (Babylonian for 70 years and Diaspora for 1,900 years) Jews sometimes served in high-profile positions as advisors, assistants, administrators, and ambassadors … as did Daniel and Nehemiah.

So, too, modern-day Israel is led by (elected) officials but with one major difference—as a sovereign state reborn from the floods of dispersion and the fires of Nazi death camps. A nation and people now defended by a mighty military … the Israeli Defense Force. Still, the principle is like the time of the Judges. Israel’s sovereign protection is ultimately through God the Father … not by military might alone. And her redemptive rescue (past and future) through the angel of the Lord—God’s Son, the Incarnate Messiah Jesus. With Israel’s final restoration, both physical and spiritual, achieved by that same Messiah upon his return … Israel’s final king, the King of all kings!

Ezekiel’s Remarkable Meetings with God the Father and God the Son

One of the most astounding appearances of God the Father was his last, when Ezekiel gazed upon God’s glory more than once. What made these events even more amazing is that both the Father and the Son (Pre-Incarnate Messiah) were there! It is another familiar passage of Scripture, to include the four angelic Cherubim—the same living beings seen by John as described in the book of Revelation.

In his initial appearance to Ezekiel, God called him to be a prophet. Ezekiel (at the age of 30) even gives us the place and date on which his prophetic ministry began … calculated to be July 31, 593 B.C.

Wrote Ezekiel: “…while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1).

The second appearance took place on September 17, 592 B.C, about six years before the Babylonian Empire destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple. During this gap of a little over a year between visions, the Lord instructed Ezekiel—who had been taken captive in Nebuchadnezzar’s second invasion of Israel—to warn Judah of its final destruction, which occurred in 586 B.C.

The following passages demonstrate that both God the Father and Son were present in these two majestic manifestations to Ezekiel, the second of which was a detailed account of God’s Shekinah glory (presence) leaving Solomon’s Temple.

God the Father: Confirming it was the Father because his glory was (similar to Moses) enshrouded by, “…a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone will brilliant light. There was fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber” (Ezekiel 1:4).

Then in the second incident we read: “Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel was there, just as I had seen it before in the valley” (Ezekiel 8:4).

Before God’s presence departed from the Temple, we read, “Then the glory of the Lord rose up from above the cherubim and went over to the door of the Temple. The Temple was filled with this cloud of glory, and the courtyard glowed brightly with the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 10:4).

God the Son: In these startling scenes there is someone else that Ezekiel beholds. Our first clue is Ezekiel 1:4, already quoted, where he sees in the magnificent cloud of fire and light, “something like gleaming amber.”

Then, he beholds the source of this gleaming amber.

“Spread out above them (the cherubim) was a surface like the sky, glittering like crystal” (Ezekiel 1:22, parenthesis mine).

“Above this surface was something that looked like a throne made of blue lapis lazuli (remind you of Moses and the seventy elders seeing that same kind of beauty). And on this throne high above was a figure whose appearance resembled a man. From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me. When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground…” (Ezekiel 1:26-28, parenthesis mine).

In the subsequent episode, Ezekiel again saw the cherubim, the glory of the Lord, and this (same) man whom Ezekiel also described as a burning flame from the waist down and gleaming amber from the waist up (Ezekiel 8:2).

Later, the man appears once again with the Lord (the Father). Ezekiel writes: “Then the glory of the God of Israel rose up from between the cherubim, where it had rested, and moved to the entrance of the Temple. And the Lord called to the man dressed in linen who was carrying the writer’s case” (Ezekiel 9:3).

God the Father spoke to Ezekiel on subsequent occasions, as well as other contemporary and post-exile prophets but he did not appear to them. However, the Pre-Incarnate Christ continued his appearances up to the time of Malachi, again to Ezekiel on April 28th, 573 B.C. The setting was Ezekiel’s vision of what would be (in the end times Tribulation) another Temple. In this vision from God, Ezekiel again saw, “…a man whose face shone like bronze standing beside a gateway entrance. He was holding in his hand a linen measuring cord and a measuring rod” (Ezekiel 40:3).

Purpose/Timing of Messiah’s Appearances to Ezekiel

To prepare Israel for the Old Covenant yielding to the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah a few years earlier. Exemplified by the fact that the Lord’s glory (presence) had left the Temple and wouldn’t reappear until (in the form of) the Messiah would arrive as prophesied by Isaiah and other prophets. But only for a short time, because the 2nd Temple would also be destroyed (foretold by Daniel, also by Messiah Jesus) and the Temple would then be embodied as Messiah himself.

Jesus is the heavenly Temple, of which the earthly tabernacle and temple were but patterns. With the 3rd person of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit, indwelling all believers in Messiah. Concerning Jewish and Gentile believers alike: “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21).

Individually, believers are:

That’s why both God the Father and God the Son appeared to Ezekiel! For Israel to carefully consider and prayerfully ponder how much better the New Covenant would be. Even more important: to recognize the Messiah of that New Covenant when he arrived as God (the Son) Incarnate.

Still, the Lord gave his people another 600 years or so to prove to themselves and to him that they could keep the Law of Moses as what they perceived to be their source of right standing with God. Which they couldn’t or wouldn’t … nor their ancestors or descendants, right up to this day.

One day soon all that will change. The tens of thousands of Messianic Jews on this planet will become millions upon millions. For you see it won’t be long until, “…all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, ‘The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins’” (Romans 11:26-27).

That began when the Incarnate Son of God died on the cross and three days later arose from the dead. And now our generation has experienced the rebirth of national Israel, with the return of Messiah as imminent as ever before. To rescue the remnant of Jews from the Antichrist and Gentile nations during the Great Tribulation and restore Israel spiritually to her God.

All who have believed and received Messiah Jesus as personal Savior will see him as he really is: fully glorified as he was in Old Testament times and on the Mount of Transfiguration.

We will see him as John saw him: “…He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves… And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13-16).

John continues: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he … said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last'” (Revelation 1:17).

And then Jesus said:

Things to Ponder

Of Jesus, the Apostle John wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NASB).

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NASB).

There are other Pre-Incarnate appearances of Messiah Jesus. Like the episodes we’ve examined, each was for a special reason. With the ultimate purpose: To demonstrate that neither Judaism nor the Jews should be surprised, dismayed, or even insulted that Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Son of God. For at least three reasons:

First: the Hebrew Scriptures irrefutably declare that God has a Son. Second: This Son is the Messiah, because the Bible is equally transparent that Messiah would be divine (Isaiah 9 and other passages). Third: Jesus fulfilled all Messianic prophecies in meticulous detail.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And then he said, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9).

The Jewish Apostle Paul, who saw the risen Christ after Jesus had ascended to heaven, boldly and beautifully proclaims: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

And, “For God in all his fulness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Verse 19-20).

Do you really want to know the Lord and his great love for you? Do you understand God’s only requirement for your redemption?

“Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).

Do you believe Jesus? Do you believe in Jesus?

Then open the door of your heart and invite him to be your Savior and Lord. If you do, God will immediately give you eternal life, because:

“…this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life (I John 5:11-12).

Did God Really Appear to People? When & How?

High Holy Days

It’s too early to wish you a Merry Christmas, so I won’t! Although it’s just a matter of a few short weeks before Christmas merchandising begins.

The month of Kislev (November/December) is also when Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication is celebrated on the Jewish calendar. As important as Hanukkah and Purim (February) are to Israelis and Jews the world over, neither is one of the seven festivals ordained by God in the Torah.

For Judaism and Jews, even the secular among them, four of these festivals bear more significance than the others: Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

Passover is observed during the month of Nisan (March/April). The Christian counterpart is Good Friday and Easter Sunday—when the Passover Lamb of God, Messiah Jesus was slain for the sins of the world, then arose from the dead three days later to seal the New Covenant God made with Israel almost 2,000 years ago. The other three commemorations take place in the Hebrew month of Tishrei (September/October … occasionally into early November), making it the single-most important month of the year for Jews … the High Holy Days.

Rosh Hashana—Jewish (civil) New Year Feast of Trumpets, Tishrei 1.

Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement, Tishrei 10.

Sukkot—Feast of Tabernacles, Tishrei 15-21.

Then one extra-day called Simchat Torah that means Rejoicing in the Torah, which is all the Hebrew Scriptures, but more specifically (especially for Orthodox Jews) the five books of Moses and The Law.

Today’s Eye of Prophecy article posted on September 29th is the 6th day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the 20th day of Tishrei. This is also the time of year in which many Christian scholars (me included) believe that Messiah Jesus was born. Some narrowing it down to the seven-day Festival of Tabernacles.

(Jews celebrating Feast of Tabernacles in a Sukkah, a makeshift hut or tent)

Whatever month/day a person is born is important to them … it’s their birthday!

On a brief personal note, this time of the year is meaningful to me for another reason: my birthday was yesterday, September 28th. Long before learning what day on the Hebrew calendar I was born; my favorite numbers were and still are three and seven. My email address contains those numbers … 773. When I discovered my Hebrew calendar birthdate, those numbers became even more relevant (for me). I was born on the 3rd day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the religious (original) Hebrew calendar. And in a Hebrew year that contains two sevens (as does the current Jewish year … 5779).

Jesus’s exact birth date would be great to know. Yet, it is not as imperative (to know) as is remembrance of the fact that he came into this world and why. Sadly, many who honor the Christmas season don’t know why Jesus was born and/or ignore the reason in favor of just celebrating the season. For example: among other magnificent names and titles ascribed to him (such as found in Isaiah 9:6-7), the coming Messiah would be Immanuel—God with us.

“As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’

“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us’” (Matthew 1:20-23, quoting Isaiah 7:14).

Messiah would literally “tabernacle” among his people.

No Sacrificial Offerings … No Redemption

Notably, the Feast of Tabernacles is the final of the seven ordained feasts which makes it exceptional for that reason alone. Sukkot brings together the six previous festivals of the year by remembering everything the Lord did for his people before, during, and after the Exodus. Beginning with Abraham, God manifested himself (appeared), then dwelt among them in the Tabernacle’s Holy of Holies and later the Temple, from the time of Moses to the time of Ezekiel … approximately 700 years.

First, the Lord redeemed his people physically from Egyptian slavery and spiritually from themselves—through the atoning sacrifice of the Passover Lambs. He provided everything they needed in preparation for their entrance into the Promised Land (given to them as a perpetual inheritance) to serve him and to be a conduit of God’s Word and the light of his salvation to all people.

In spectacular fashion, he gave them the Law of Moses with universal moral decrees found in the Ten Commandments (written by the finger of God on stone tablets) as well as civil and ceremonial regulations. Included in the Covenant of the Law was the (mandatory) Levitical sacrificial system; on-going atonement for sins of commission and omission—individually and as a nation. Setting apart Israel from the pagan nations that idolized many man-made gods, whose standards or lack thereof resulted in self-absorption, immorality, slavery to sin and to each other (tyranny).

(Scene from Movie, The Ten Commandments)

Judaism continues to adhere to the Law of Moses as the ultimate means of redemption, despite the loss of the Temple and the all-important sacrificial system. That is the subject of the last two Eye of Prophecy articles: God’s New Covenant with Israel … Minus the Temple, Part I & II, posted 9-8 & 9-15-18.

It’s good that many Jews continue to observe the festivals enacted by their (and our) Creator—the God of the universe; also called the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From the Patriarchs came the Promised Child to bring salvation to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles.

Yet, they keep these festivals without the required sacrifices, most notably Passover, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Why? Because they are in denial that Messiah has already come; that the New Covenant promised through Jeremiah arrived two thousand years ago with the birth, life, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. That his sacrifice was the once-for-all redemption for sin, freely given to all Jews and Gentiles who would believe and receive him as personal Savior.

The substitutionary sacrifice of God’s Son, Messiah Jesus, not only ended the repeated offerings for atonement, it solved the otherwise unsolvable dilemma of (practicing) Judaism. As first expressed in Eye of Prophecy trilogy Where is the Temple? (Posted 11-29-14 through 12-13-14). And repeated in the articles listed above. As follows:

No Temple, no sacrificial offerings. No sacrifices, no atonement forgiveness of sins. No forgiveness, no redemption. No redemption, no right standing with God.

Except for tens of thousands of Messianic Jews around the world, to this day Judaism cannot or will not make the cause and effect connection between rejection of their Messiah Savior to the subsequent loss of the Temple and sacrificial system. Even though both Daniel and Jesus foretold these ominous events and in the order of their occurrence: Messiah would be killed, then Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed (Daniel 9 and Matthew 23-24).

This week’s article and next week’s sequel will examine one other point of denial or dismissal, one that comes in two parts:

(1) Judaism’s denial that Jesus is the Son of God or even that God has a Son, with a corresponding conclusion that Messiah is not divine. As alluded in several Eye of Prophecy articles and thoroughly covered in two articles (Does God Really Have A Son? Part I & II posted 10-31 & 11-7-15): not just the New Testament, but the Old Testament emphatically and incontrovertibly declare that God does, in fact, have a Son. That the Son is also God, with compelling evidence that God’s Son is the Messiah; therefore, the Messiah is of divine origin.

Although there are more, the most recognizable passages are: Psalm 2 & 110; Micah 5; Isaiah 9. With, of course, New Testament Scriptures identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, e.g. Matthew 1, Luke 2, John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, and many other passages, not the least of which is John 3:16. Plus, the historical fact that Jesus precisely fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. All in keeping with crystal clear testimony that the true and living God is one God in Three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as found in several portions of Scripture.

Beginning with Genesis in which the Lord says, “…Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added). Culminating with the last book of the Bible: Revelation—in which God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ (the Son) are all mentioned.

(2) Accordingly, most Jews, even those knowledgeable in the Hebrew Scriptures, have overlooked, minimized, or dismissed altogether several amazing Old Testament events that had one thing in common: In addition to God’s appearances to people (in other than bodily form), the Lord ALSO appeared on select occasions as a man. What has been termed: Pre-Incarnate Appearances of Messiah Jesus.

It’s not just non-Messianic Jews. Many students, teachers, and commentators of the Bible don’t always grasp or differentiate between the distinct ways in which God communicated or interacted directly with people in Old Testament times. Meaning which Person of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit appears and/or speaks to someone (however, with consensus that the Holy Spirit never appeared, rather He “came upon” people or inspired the writers of Scripture). Or the difference between an angel of the Lord and the Angel of the Lord who manifested themselves in human form on special occasions.

I suppose an Orthodox rabbi would respond: If Christians would simply discard their belief that God has a Son and the Holy Spirit is not the third Person of the (non-existent) Trinity, then there wouldn’t be any confusion over the Lord’s palpable appearances to people.

That skeptical viewpoint is precisely the point (theme) of this and next week’s article that begs the question: How does one explain those differences considering what Scripture plainly teaches about God (the Father)? To wit: God is Spirit; moreover, no man or woman can look on God and live to tell about it. In many of the Lord’s manifestations as a man, the person or people to whom he appeared voiced relief that they did not die from that direct encounter with the Lord. Why did they not die when they knew from even before Moses’ era that a face to face (so to speak) meeting with God would be fatal?

We’ll look at both types of the Lord’s astounding appearances; this week focusing on God the Father’s direct meeting with people. (Plus, a third means of God’s indirect interaction with people through angels). With an emphasis next week on the powerful Pre-Incarnate Epiphanes of the Son of God—Messiah Jesus.

God (the Father) Speaking and/or Appearing to People

Normally these engagements were with the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—or God’s prophets; in visions or dreams or audibly (or personally!).

Regarding the non-tangible events, the Bible is not always clear whether God the Father spoke to someone externally (audibly) or they internally processed the Lord’s message through inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Nor does that really matter, as Scripture plainly indicates the person heard precisely what God was saying, sometimes answering back. Frequently, the Lord conversed in the first person … I, my, me. God even spoke to a child, although the child didn’t at first know that it was the Lord speaking to him. Do you know the name of that child?

Correct: Samuel. Who would grow up to be one of Israel’s greatest prophets.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, who experienced first-hand the awesome presence of God in the Garden of Eden; with the obvious implication that the Lord spoke with them from the time they were created, though they could not see him. Obvious, because right after they sinned against God, we read the following with the clear connotation that Adam and Eve weren’t at all surprised that the Lord showed up and spoke to them. In fact, they foolishly hid themselves thinking the Lord wouldn’t find them.

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ the Lord God asked…” (Genesis 3:8-11).

You probably know the entirety of that scene, one that changed mankind’s destiny; yet one that God would remedy with his awesome plan of redemption and restoration.

Later the Lord spoke audibly to Cain. Do you know or remember the reason? Hint: It had to do with the first murder in the world.

Next up was Noah and again the subject was sin and wickedness, but not Noah’s.

“So God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth! Build a large boat…’” (Genesis 6:13-14a). Before, during, and after the Great Flood, the Lord spoke to Noah several times.

In the post-Flood era, Abram (God later changed his name to Abraham) was the next person with whom God spoke: “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country … and go to the land that I will show you’” (Genesis 12:1, capitals in the text as in many other passages because it was YHWH, himself speaking).

Whenever LORD is capitalized in Scripture (over 6,000 times), it is a substitute for Yahweh, God’s Holy Name … I AM.

In the next five verses of Chapter 12, we read that Abram obeyed the Lord and journeyed to this land, called Canaan at the time. Later we’re told that Abraham’s faith in God and obedience to what the Lord told him to do was “credited to Abraham as righteousness;” right standing with God—forever (Genesis 15:6). It is this same faith (trust) that is the basis of redemption for all people—first in God’s promise of the Promised Child (through Isaac), then in the Promised Child, himself—Messiah Jesus whom God sent at his appointed time in history.

Some forget that Abram and his family (virtually all the people of his time) worshipped many gods … polytheistic. I’ve convinced that one of the reasons—most likely the main or only reason—that Abraham believed it was, in fact, the LORD (the true and living God) who had graciously chosen him to be the progenitor of a nation in a land promised to Abraham and his descendants was because God spoke to him. No other (man-made, non-existent) god had ever spoken to anyone. They can’t … they’re not real. However, hundreds of times we read in the Bible that, “God said.” Or, “I, the Lord, have spoken.”

Soon after Abraham and his family (including Lot) arrived in Canaan, something even more breathtaking took place—though most people including observant Jews and even we believers in Yeshua tend to take for granted. We do so because we read that God spoke to people so often, which is amazing enough; but is not quite the same thing as what comes next in Abraham’s life.

“Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the LORD, who had appeared to him” (Genesis 12:7, italics for emphasis). Where and why did Abram build an altar? He built it there because the LORD appeared to him (there).

Astounding! God appeared to Abraham, but not bodily. Otherwise Scripture (as it does in many scenes in which the Lord shows himself in person as the Preincarnate Christ) would have said so. Nor does that chapter tell us how the Lord’s appearance was manifested. Later, however, when the Lord appeared again to confirm His covenant with Abram, God’s presence was revealed in a “flaming torch” (Genesis 15:17).

And, of course, many—both believers and unbelievers—know that God tangibly appeared to Moses in/from a blazing bush. A bush that burned without being consumed; the purpose of which was to protect Moses from God’s glory. Even then, Moses could only get so close to the bush. Obviously, this was no ordinary fire. Nor any ordinary god!

“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of the bush… When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’

‘Here I am!’ Moses replied.

‘Do not come any closer,’ the Lord warned. ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:2-6).

Before Moses knew that it was the Lord God talking to him from the fire, he began by saying, the angel of the Lord (appeared to him).

The word angel means messenger. That is what angels are: messengers and agents of God who speak and act on behalf of the Lord. In just a few seconds, Moses knew full well that it was God himself who was there, speaking to him … not one of God’s angels. This is one time when the angel of the Lord turned out to be God. However, notice that God wasn’t there in bodily form, another indication that it was God the Father who met with Moses.

Face to Face

God spoke with and appeared to Moses far more than any other person in history. So much so, Scripture tells us in the context of Moses’ eulogy: “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

When the Lord summoned Moses’ brother and sister (Aaron and Miriam) to stand in front of him alongside Moses, he admonished them for challenging Moses’ authority: “And the Lord said to them, ‘Now listen to what I say: If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face … He sees the Lord as he is…” (Numbers 12:6-8).

However, whether these face-to-face encounters were on Mt. Sinai or at/in the Tabernacle or elsewhere, Scripture is abundantly clear that God’s presence (his holy, brilliant, lethal light… as he is) was veiled by a dark cloud or fie. Why? Because no man can look directly at God and survive.

In the scene just described, the Lord told them to meet him at the Tabernacle. “Then the Lord descended in the pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle. ‘Aaron and Miriam!’ he called, and they stepped forward” (Numbers 12:5).

As many people know, it was in a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night through which God (his very presence) led his people for forty years in the wilderness.

The one time that God permitted Moses to look at God’s unshielded glory, he was not allowed to look at God straight on.

“Moses responded, ‘Then show me your glorious presence.’ The Lord replied, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you … But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live … As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen’” (Exodus 33:18-23).

*Note: God the Father is Spirit … always has been, always will be. That’s why he sometimes used anthropomorphic terms, ascribing human features to himself, i.e. hand, face.

(God’s glory passing in front of Moses took place when Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments on stone the second time)

From Abraham’s time (even before God told/reminded Moses) those who subsequently believed in the Lord—including the entire nation of Israel during Moses’s ministry and thereafter—knew that no one could look on the LORD and live to tell about it.

Thus, Scripture is unequivocally clear that whenever God’s actual (proximate) presence appeared to people, his glory (the very essence/holiness of God) was concealed in some fashion. For example, when the Lord met with Job, he spoke and protected Job from God’s glory through a whirlwind.

God the Father’s manifested appearances ended with the prophet Ezekiel, who witnessed “the glory of the LORD” depart from Solomon’s Temple, even before the Temple was destroyed some six years later. At the beginning of his ministry, Ezekiel witnessed God’s glory that radiated from within, “…a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. There was fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber” (Ezekiel 1:4).

Yet, there are several other events in which the Lord appeared to someone as a man. Was this man, God? Answer: Yes and no. Yes, he was God. No, he was not God the Father. He was God the Son. The Bible is not contradicting itself, as Scripture is equally transparent that God is Three in One.

In the remainder of today’s article and in the entirety of next week’s sequel, we’ll look at some of these remarkable occurrences. Beginning with one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. Talk about “face to face!” This encounter was so up-close and personal that the person touched God.

I’m thinking that some of you already know which one.

Read with me a portion of this extraordinary episode: “This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break…. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’

But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

‘What is your name?’ the man asked.

“He replied, ‘Jacob.’

‘Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’

‘Please tell me your name,’ Jacob said.

‘Why do you want to know my name?’ the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

“Jacob named the place Peniel (which means ‘face of God’), for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared’” (Genesis 32:24-30, parenthesis in the text).

There’s no doubt whatsoever: Jacob knew that this mysterious man was God. Who but the Lord had the authority to change Jacob’s name to Israel or Abram’s name to Abraham, or Sarai to Sarah? Who but God had the sovereign power to bless Jacob, thus confirming God’s covenant with Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob. A covenant that would create an entire nation, a nation that would be called Israel. In the context of when this scene took place, it’s also deductively evident that Jacob wanted the man’s (God’s) immediate blessing to spare Jacob from the wrath of his brother Esau, whom he would meet that very day.

What Jacob didn’t know, nor others who had subsequent encounters with the Lord in human form during Old Testament times: this man with whom he wrestled was the Incarnate Son of God. The God/man who could have easily defeated Jacob in a minute but wanted to test Jacob’s perseverance to obtain the blessing. The same man who would arrive once-for-all as Mary’s child—the Son of God, Son of David, and Son of Man (Messiah) to establish God’s New Covenant with Israel. A Covenant that would also extend to Gentiles who believed and received this man as their Lord and Savior.

That’s why Messiah (Jesus) didn’t reveal his name to Jacob. His entrance into the human race that he created, permanently taking on human form and bearing a human name (in addition to all his divine titles) wouldn’t take place until the appointed time, over a thousand years later.

God Interaction Directly with People Via His Angels—angelic beings

In lieu of God the Father or God the Son (whose description is sometimes the angel of the Lord, as opposed to an angel), some of the Lord’s messages to or actions on behalf of people came through angels. With these angels appearing either as a man or in their actual angelic form (heavenly beings/bodies), depending on the situation.

One example of angels in the form of men were the two who met with Abraham and Sarah. Along with a third man, who was clearly the Lord himself—the 2nd Pre-Incarnate appearance of Christ to Abraham. The first being that of Melchizedek. (See Eye of Prophecy article, Melchizedek … A Man of Mystery! Posted 3-3-18).

Abraham knew convincingly that this third man was the LORD, because he called him by that very title. And exclaimed during his intercession for Lot and his family: “…Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25).

An example of angels materializing (crossing dimensions) in their created form is first found in the book of Genesis following God’s indictments against Adam and Eve. “So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden … After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23-24).

(See Ezekiel Chapters 1 & 10 & Revelation 4, for description of Cherubim–living beings–which are somewhat accurately depicted in this painting)

One other well-known scene is that of angels (as angels) descending and ascending on Jacob’s stairway or ladder; a real occurrence but experienced as a dream or what could be termed a vision while asleep … rather than a fully conscious (awake) encounter. Also, when Gabriel approached Daniel in real-time and place and conveyed to him some of the most astonishing end-times revelations found in the Bible (see Daniel 8 & 9).

Something I hadn’t fully realized until writing this article: There aren’t that many instances in the Old Testament in which angels appear to men in their angelic form. At least not compared to the number of Pre-Incarnate appearances of Messiah Jesus. However, there are several angelic appearances in the New Testament, including Gabriel to Mary to announce that through her the Messiah would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. And before that, Gabriel’s announcement in the Temple’s Holy of Holies to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth (in their old age) would conceive a son whose name would be John (the Baptist).

And not the least of which are angels appearing at the birth of Jesus, in his anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, at his resurrection, and immediately after his ascension back to heaven.

“So they went in (to the tomb), but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, ‘Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!’” (Luke 24:3-6).

Although appearing as men, their dazzling attire left no doubt that they were angels.

He is risen, indeed!

Things to Ponder

Yeshua never sinned. He perfectly kept and faultlessly fulfilled the Law of Moses. Thus, he alone qualified as the once for all substitutionary offering to atone for our rebellion against God. The Father accepted that incredible sacrifice; the innocent for the guilty, just for the unjust, righteous for the unrighteous and will pardon the penalty of sin (eternal death—separation from God) for all who believe and receive His Son as personal Savior.

From the time when Jesus of Nazareth came into this world and altered time itself (B.C. to A.D.), the greater majority of people have refused to believe that Jesus is both man and God.

Yet unbelieving Gentiles ascribed human characteristics to their pagan gods, e.g. Zeus, Venus, Mars. Modern-day comic-book (and other genre) movies do the same thing. Both super heroes and super villains are imbued with supernatural powers, able to transform themselves into whatever suits the writer’s and director’s fancy and whatever entices audiences. With an underlying implication that is anything but subtle: these characters possess God-like features in the flesh. But when it comes to the real thing, the real-deal; so many dismiss and even ridicule any thought that God would become man through the Son.

Most Jews to this day believe it’s an anathema to claim that God has a Son; thus, except for Messianic Jews, they do not believe that the coming Messiah (for believers, His return) is Divine.

As we’ve seen and will see more of next week, this conflicts with the indisputable evidence found in the Hebrew Scriptures: God appeared to men not only as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but also in the form of a man. When that happened, the people whom the man met in person recognized that they had come “face-to-face” with God. Yet, this man couldn’t have been God, the Father, because God is Spirit, and no one can look on him and live. Moreover, when God the Father (his glory) did appear before men, it was never in bodily form.

Why is it so difficult to apprehend and accept clear Biblical truth that God is one God in Three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Especially when we see perceptible examples (albeit not totally adequate to explain the Trinity) in nature. Such as water in three forms—liquid, ice, and gas. Or the essence of the sun itself, visible only by its burning rays (light) and felt only by its heat.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

The people involved in these direct Old-Testament encounters didn’t realize at the time that their face to face meeting with the Lord was the 2nd Person of the Godhead, the coming Messiah. Nonetheless, by the time the entire Old Testament was written, all of God’s people could have and should have known that the man who appeared personally to some of their ancestors was Divine—the Lord. Just as King David said he was.

While teaching in the Temple, Jesus presented David’s astounding proclamation regarding the Son of God (Psalm 110) as a question … a probing challenge. In doing so, he identified all three Persons of the Godhead:

“…Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? For David, himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ Since David himself called the Messiah, ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?’” (Mark 12:35-37).

Jesus’s question was rhetorical. The answer was obvious. David had already announced that God has a Son (Psalm 2). And this Son (of David) was also David’s Lord, as much as “the LORD” (God the Father) was David’s Lord.

Though David’s Lord was a descendant of David, he also preexisted David. As the prophet Micah later said: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past…. And he will be the source of peace” (Micah 5:2 & 9).

Messiah Jesus said the same thing regarding himself and Abraham. “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!’” (John 8:58).

Don’t miss next week’s sequel. More of God’s physical appearances to people will be identified, some of which even ardent students of Scripture sometimes fail to recognize as the Pre-Incarnate Messiah (Jesus).

Hopefully, with two significant results: (1) To demonstrate especially to the Jews and Judaism that these appearances were a prototype preview to prepare 1st century Jews (and Gentiles) for the stunning reality of God in human form—in the person of God’s Son. (2) The correlation of these encounters to God’s choice of Israel and the Jews to accomplish his magnificent plan for them, for the entire human race.

God’s New Covenant with Israel … Minus the Temple (Part II)

Tags

The New Covenant as Described by Jeremiah

In a few prior Eye of Prophecy articles, when citing the Old Testament revelation of the coming New Covenant, I normally quoted Jeremiah Chapter 31 directly. Which I will do again; however, from the book of Hebrews—which beautifully contrasts the Old Covenant Sacrificial System with the once-for-all sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God, Messiah Jesus, for all people. As follows:

“But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said (Then the writer quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34):

‘The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people … And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins’” (Hebrews 8:6-10, 12, parenthesis mine).

For you see, the Lord did remember the people’s sins under the Old Covenant; hence, the need for constant atonement through continual sacrifices required by the Law of Moses.

God’s Love for And Discipline of Israel

Though sometimes severe, the Lord’s discipline was rooted in his love for his special possession Israel and for his chosen people—the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From the perspective of the last days, Daniel wrote that the subjection of the Jews would accomplish a divine purpose:

“…In this way, they will be refined and cleansed and made pure until the time of the end, for the appointed time is still to come” (Daniel 11:35).

This persecution reached its apex during the horrific Holocaust of World War II. See Eye of Prophecy article: Two-Thirds of the Jews Killed … Past or Future? (Posted 9-19-15).

God’s passion for Israel is eternal and his plan for her, though interrupted by Israel’s disobedience, will not be denied. In the immediate context of Babylon’s imminent invasion of Judah, but also looking ahead to Israel’s subsequent exile to many nations (later called The Diaspora), God promises through Jeremiah:

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me … I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).

*Note: The “disaster” referred to is both stated and implied in the Old Testament as complete annihilation of Israel. God would never let that happen, though many Jews would be murdered by merciless Gentile nations down through the ages. As well as Israelites killing each other (sometimes with huge casualties) in civil wars after Israel split into two kingdoms. Nor would the Lord eliminate his people himself; though he threatened to do so on more than one occasion—but for getting their full attention concerning the seriousness of the contemptible things they had done.

For example, see Exodus 32, the well-known incident depicted below in which God threatened to wipe them out and start over with Moses and his descendants.

There are several passages in which the Lord guarantees Israel that he would never perpetually reject, abandon, and certainly not eradicate them. Soon after announcing the New Covenant through Jeremiah, the Lord reassured Israel:

“I am as likely to reject (forever) my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature! This is what the Lord says: Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away (permanently) for the evil they have done. I, the Lord have spoken!” (Jeremiah 31:36-37, parenthesis mine).

Earlier in that same chapter before the marvelous New Covenant is announced, the Lord states:

“Is not Israel still my son, my darling child, says the Lord. I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That’s why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him. Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Mark well the path by which you came. Come back again, my virgin Israel; return to your towns here. How long will you wander, my wayward daughter? For the Lord will cause something new to happen—Israel will embrace her God” (Jeremiah 31:20-22). *Note: Those signs and guideposts and markings are literally along the highways, in the streets, and on the buildings of the reborn nation of Israel.

God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is (finally) materializing before our 20th and 21st century eyes, i.e. the return of Jews to the Promised Land of Israel from nations all over the world. This is in preparation for the completion of the Lord’s covenant with King David, as well as the climactic culmination of the New Covenant by which all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

(Another joyous group of Jews making Alijah to Israel; Alijah literally means “going up” or going home … from other nations to Israel)

God’s Four Major Covenants

The Lord has created four prominent covenants with Israel and the Jewish people (to make them a conduit of God’s Word and salvation to all peoples). In chronological order: Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant of Law, Davidic Covenant, and New Covenant of Grace.

It’s interesting to note that the first and third covenants were made with one man and his immediate descendant(s): Although those two covenants obviously included all of God’s people as beneficiaries, His unconditional covenant (Promised Land & Promised Child) was constructed directly with Abraham, then Isaac, and finally Jacob—father of the twelve tribes that would become the nation of Israel.

Subsequently, God’s covenant with David was unconditional (extended to Solomon for the duration of his life/reign) but conditional for all subsequent kings of Israel. Unconditional because an everlasting King would one day rule forever on David’s throne … a perpetual dynasty.

“…Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you (David)—a dynasty of kings!” (II Samuel 7:11). Then in verse 16: “Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.”

In one of the most well-known passages of Scripture (one of my favorites quoted several times in my articles), we read this powerful prophecy of both the first and second advent of the Messiah. Listen carefully to the titles ascribed to him:

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Which is why the Lord frequently cites Abraham (also Isaac and Jacob) and David (including Solomon) as the reason why He will faithfully extend those unilateral covenants to Israel as a nation. As a result, the remnant of Israel and Gentile believers will be richly blessed—both now, and especially beginning with the Millennial Reign of Messiah Jesus.

However, the Davidic Covenant was applied conditionally to the succession of Israel’s kings, if they would continue to obey and serve the Lord. None of the kings of the northern tribes followed the Lord; consequently, that kingdom ceased to exist 208 years after Solomon’s reign ended. Because several kings of Judah (at least in part), particularly Hezekiah and Josiah, sought the Lord’s guidance and served him willingly, the southern kingdom was spared for another 136 years.

(Depiction of the angel who killed 185,000 Assyrian troops overnight in a miraculous victory for and deliverance of Judah and King Hezekiah in 701 B.C. The southern kingdom would last for another 115 years)

*Note: The kings of the ten northern tribes (called Israel) did not descend from David, rather mostly from Jeroboam; whom God chose as their first king because the Lord knew that the northern tribes would revolt against Solomon’s son Rehoboam, which is exactly what they did.

In contrast to the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, the Covenant of the Law was not given to just one man. Although the Law was given through Moses it was to all of Israel. It was a conditional covenant with the entire nation of Israel, with direct nation-wide consequences for obedience or disobedience. Thus, it was necessary for all of Israel to agree to the terms of this covenant. And why God would (and later did, via the New Covenant) revoke this agreement if the people failed to keep it.

“Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the Lord had given him. All the people answered with one voice, ‘We will do everything the Lord has commanded’” (Exodus 24:3).

A little later we read: “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again, they all responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey’” (Verse 7).

Alas, as both Biblical and secular history painfully record, the people wouldn’t (nor couldn’t) keep the Covenant of the Law. Therefore, the New Covenant began with the death, burial, and resurrection of Israel’s (the whole world’s) Messiah. Said Jesus to his disciples just hours before he was nailed to a cross:

This remarkable covenant would be for all people. However, unlike the Covenant through Moses, it would be unconditional—to parallel the covenants with Abraham (everlasting possession of the Promised Land) and David (eternal dynasty) and to merge and fulfill those covenants. Under the New Covenant, there was nothing that Jews (or Gentiles) need do except simply believe in Messiah Jesus and receive him as personal Lord and Savior. Salvation is to be received as a gift from God’s grace, not earned by doing anything, including keeping the Law of Moses—which no one has ever done or ever could do, except Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The New Covenant is so much easier and so much better and so much more permanent (as in forever) than the former covenant through Moses. In the very next chapter after announcing the New Covenant, Jeremiah refers to it as an everlasting covenant.

“And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land” (Jeremiah 32:39-41).

This everlasting covenant is mentioned by one other prophet prior to Jeremiah. In the context of the entire passage (chapter), it’s clear that the everlasting covenant will be a new one which would consolidate and bring to fruition the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (See Isaiah Chapter 61).

The eternal New Covenant would be the all-important spiritual component and counterpart—salvation through Messiah Jesus—of the unending land and dynasty covenants with Abraham and David, respectively: From Jerusalem the capital of the Promised Land of Israel, Messiah will rule and reign forever.

Israel’s National Rejection of Their Messiah

Alas, it’s taken nearly 2,000 years for God’s people to (begin to) recover from the reason why their second temple was destroyed, and why they were exiled to the four corners of the earth. Jesus knew this would happen. And it broke his heart. He also predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the utter destruction of the Temple, which took place less than 40 years later.

First, Jesus’ poignant plea for Jerusalem and the people he and his Father formed as a nation separated to God; a people to whom he brought the New Covenant and for whom he would die:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” (Matthew 23:37-39, NASB). In Hebrew, the last sentence reads: Baruch haba b’shem Adonai.

Your house being left to you desolate is what would happen to Israel (dispersion) as/when the Temple was destroyed. In the very next chapter, we read Jesus’ graphic description of the Temple’s fate:

About 40 years elapsed from the onset of Jeremiah’s ministry—during which time he foretold the New Covenant and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple—to when that Temple was destroyed. It would be a prophetic preview of Israel’s rejection of the New Covenant (their Messiah) followed by the subsequent destruction of the 2nd Temple and (this time) complete loss of the sacrificial system, and (this time) a horrifically long dispersion.

Remarkably, this was the same time-frame (40 years) from when Jesus established the New Covenant and foretold the fate of the 2nd Temple, to the time when that Temple was leveled by the Romans.

The destruction of the rebuilt temple was a painful but residual (cause and effect) result of a new and better way (Covenant) in which God would once and for all redeem and reconcile fallen humanity. One that did not need a temple and repetitive animal sacrifices to maintain ongoing atonement for sin.

The New Covenant would be God’s love and law written on their hearts, not just on tablets of stone. It would come through forgiveness of sins by believing and receiving Messiah’s substitutionary sacrifice on a cross, so dramatically described by Isaiah: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:5-6, NASB).

The reason the Babylonian captivity was so (relatively) short and the temple subsequently rebuilt is because the Lord was giving Israel one more opportunity to demonstrate that they could faithfully keep the Law of Moses.

The people didn’t. They couldn’t.

Led by Zerubbabel, over 42,000 Jews returned from Babylon to Israel and rebuilt the Temple. About 80 years later (August 4th, 458 B.C.), Ezra guided a much smaller contingency of former exiles to Israel and found that the Jews had, “…taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites.” (Ezra 9:1).

Ezra was both dismayed and appalled at what he found. The following is just a portion of his lengthy prayer to God:

“I prayed, ‘O my God, I am utterly ashamed. I blush to lift up my face to you. For our sins are piled higher than our heads, and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, we have been steeped in sin. That is why we and our kings and our priests have been at the mercy of the pagan kings of the land. We have been killed, captured, robbed, and disgraced, just as we are today. But now we have been given a brief moment of grace…. He has given us security in this holy place. Our God has brightened our eyes and granted us some relief from our slavery’” (Ezra 9:6-8).

Ezra continues: “And now, O our God, what can we say after all of this? For once again we have abandoned your commands! Your servants the prophets warned us…. Now we are being punished because of our wickedness and our great guilt. But we have actually been punished far less that we deserve, for you, our God, have allowed some of us to survive as a remnant” (Ezra 9:10-11 & 13).

However, Israel’s loss of their second temple and catastrophic dispersion to nations all over the earth in 70 A.D. was NOT far less than they deserved. It was as God said it would be through Moses (as alluded in last week’s article regarding the fourth and harshest phase of the seven-times over discipline):

“If in spite of all this you still refuse to listen and still remain hostile toward me, then I will give full vent to my hostility. I myself will punish you seven times over for your sins” (Leviticus 26:27-28, italics for emphasis).

The Earthly Temple Gives Way to the Heavenly Temple

In the closing portion of last week’s Part I article, I wrote:

“Summarily revisiting the first heading of this week’s article: Judaism Is Still in Denial … Of What & Why?

“Of what? Of the overwhelming evidence that the New Covenant (of Grace)—implemented when Messiah Jesus died on the cross and arose again from the dead—was providentially connected to and resulted in the subsequent destruction of the Temple, because God’s people rejected their Messiah.

“Why (still in denial)? Because they cling to the Law of Moses as the ultimate means of redemption, despite the cessation of the Old Covenant sacrificial system.”

In fact, the Jews were in the beginning stages of denial before their exile to Babylon. They had not come to terms with the fact that God’s presence (Shekinah glory) in Solomon’s Temple had been withdrawn six years before the Temple was razed by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel Chapters 8-11). Nor did God return to the Temple for some 600 years, when the Son of God (God the Son) first stepped foot in the rebuilt Temple.

(Depiction of Jesus with the religious teachers in the Temple. Even at the age of 12–when this scene took place: “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” Luke 2:47)

In one of his visions of both the first and second coming of Messiah, the prophet Zechariah, who recorded his prophecies during the rebuilding of the Temple, wrote: “Then the angel of the Lord spoke very solemnly to Jeshua and said, ‘…If you follow my ways and carefully serve me, then you will be given authority over my Temple and its courtyards… Listen to me, O Jeshua the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon, I am going to bring my servant, the Branch’” (Zechariah 3:6-8).

As we’ve already seen, neither the priests of Israel nor most of the people followed the ways of the Lord and carefully served him. This disobedience continued to and through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, even if they had, they were still only symbols of the coming Messiah (as the Tabernacle and the earthly Temples and the sacrificial system only shadow patterns of the New Covenant to come). Indeed, God did send the Branch, none other than Messiah Jesus, only to be denied by his own people.

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God” (John 1:10-13).

In Jesus’s time, the lamentable lip service condition of Judaism had not changed. So much so that Jesus blasted the Pharisees; calling them hypocrites and comparing them to vipers and to tombs that were white-washed on the outside but full of death (spiritual) on the inside.

Twice, Jesus purified the Temple in a manner we would describe in modern terms as: cleaning house.

“When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers … and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, ‘The Scriptures declare, My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have turned it into a den of thieves’” (Mark 11:15-17).

Messiah Jesus is the real (heavenly) Temple of God. He contains and expresses God’s glory (his very essence) because he is God—the Son.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

“So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come (through the New Covenant). He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:11-12, parenthesis mine).

In turn, those who have believed and received Messiah Jesus as personal Savior are also individual temples of the Lord indwelt by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

The following is excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article: Where is the Temple? Part III. Those remarks were meant primarily for the Jews, but also for all Gentile unbelievers. (In italics):

Where is the Temple?

…Does the question even have an answer? The answer to that question depends upon whether anyone earnestly and honestly searching for the truth will agree that a New Covenant is necessary and is in place. For, without the sacrificial offerings, the Law can only judge. Without a replacement to the Old Testament system of Atonement that ended with destruction of the Temple, the Law can only condemn.

However, for all who agree that Jesus is the Messiah who arrived on the scene of history as Biblically prophesied; …that he died and rose again as the ultimate perfect sacrifice for their sins; then place their complete trust in his redemptive atonement thereby entrusting their eternal destiny to his finished work on the cross, they will have positively answered the question.

Let’s get personal: If you prefer to stake your eternal destiny on your ability to keep the law, then you still haven’t answered the question. Indeed, there is no answer to your dilemma. Why? Because the Law of Moses demands perfect compliance—with continual sacrificial offerings as a divine solution for noncompliance, either willfully or carelessly.

Which is why, “…the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. This new system was established with a solemn oath. Aaron’s descendants became priests without such an oath, but there was an oath regarding Jesus. For God said to him, ‘The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: You are a priest forever.’ Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God” (Hebrews 7:18-22).

…God still gives us free will, the option to choose. But concerning atonement, redemption, salvation: forgiveness is available only through the shedding of blood. The Old Covenant was a temporary shadow. It is gone, along with the Temple. Will you choose the Old or the New?

Also see Eye of Prophecy articles, The Cross and the Torn Curtain, Part I & II. (Posted 2-6 & 2-13-16).

A Third Jewish Temple?

Will there be another Jewish Temple? According to Ezekiel and Daniel the answer is an absolute, Yes.

*Note: Although Ezekiel’s Temple (Chapters 40-48, with Ezekiel 47:12 highlighting the ongoing existence of that Temple) will be the final Temple, it may or may not be the (third) rebuilt Temple constructed early in the seven-year Tribulation period. Which is the one that both Daniel and Jesus said would be desecrated by Antichrist. The temple described by Ezekiel in extraordinary detail could be a 4th Temple. Also, there will not be a temple in the (heavenly) New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22). Only in the earthly Jerusalem.

But why? If the New Covenant did away with the need for a material Temple and the Levitical sacrificial system, what will be its purpose? Because time/space in this week’s article doesn’t permit extensive elaboration and because I’ve written about this (in detail) in a few Eye of Prophecy articles, observations will be limited to an excerpt from one of those articles.

From, A Third Jewish Temple Part II, Posted 5-3-14 (in italics).

As follows:

So what about the 3rd rebuilt Temple and/or Ezekiel’s Temple? Just as the earthly city of Jerusalem will remain forever, so will Ezekiel’s Temple. To support this conclusion, we read the following: “In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters. Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain” (Zechariah 14:16-17).

The annual Festival of Shelters or Booths (Sukkot in Hebrew) is the only festival in which God will require that all nations send representatives to attend. Why? Because the Festival of Booths is a remembrance of God’s provisions, protection, but most of all his presence among his people … going all the way back to Israel’s wanderings for forty years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.

Though it’s crystal clear in Scripture that the sacrifice of Messiah’s blood and life was once and for all time to replace the Levitical sacrificial system, that doesn’t mean that animal sacrifices will not be resumed. According to Daniel Chapter 9, sacrifices and offerings will be reinstated during the seven-year treaty (Tribulation) with Israel. It’s just that the reason or purpose for them will be changed and understood by all after the Tribulation. Everyone will plainly comprehend that animal sacrifices are not the means of/to salvation; instead they will be a means of remembrance for what Christ accomplished in the past.

We know that sacrifices will continue after the Millennium begins, because in that same 14th Chapter of Zechariah which explains that nations (their representatives) must attend the annual Festival of Shelters, we also read:

“…All who come to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices…” (Verse 21, italics for emphasis).

Also, see Eye of Prophecy article, Sukkot … The Forever Festival! Published 10-22-16.

Things to Ponder

I love Israel and the Jews because God loves them (and you and me) and has given me and many other believers a love for his chosen people. Not chosen because they’re special. Instead, special (set apart) because they are chosen. To bring us God’s Word and the light of God’s salvation through Messiah Jesus, who is the God/Man—the Son of David from the tribe of Judah—who makes us right with God.

Hear the words of God the Father through his prophet, Jeremiah: “In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: The LORD is Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).

Messiah Jesus IS our righteousness!

Said the Lord to Israel: “Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. O Israel, if you would only listen to me!” (Psalm 81:8).

Hundreds of years later, the Father said the same thing, this time about the Mediator (I Timothy 2:5) of the New Covenant, Jesus of Nazareth: “…This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy! Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5, italics for emphasis).

And long before that, Moses wrote about the great Prophet (who would also be the final High Priest and King of all kings) to come:

“Then the Lord said to me… ‘I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf’” (Deuteronomy 18:17-19).

This message is found in God’s New Covenant with Israel … extended to Gentiles.

“…And that message is the very message about faith that we preach. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved … Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect … For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved’ (quoting Joel 2:32).

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:8-14).