Monday, December 17, 2012

The Gathering, Part 2

Daniel's seventieth week, the seven years leading up to the Lord's return, will be hard. And I have to say that it drives me crazy that so many pastors simply won't deal with it.  Perhaps they can't defend what they were taught in seminary.  I've heard some say that they just don't want to cause division.  Where is the iron sharpening iron?  We are to be LOOKING for the return of the Lord and many churches avoid the subject completely.  Often we hear Hebrews 10:25 preached in regard to church attendance, but they forget to mention the second half of the verse:  exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  That would be the Day of the Lord.  The return of the Messiah.  We are supposed to be WATCHING for it.

Revelation chapter 6 talks about the seals of the scroll being opened.  What is the scroll?  Daniel 12:1 and 12:4 reveal to us that it is the book that contains the names of His people who will be delivered.  Look what verse 9 says:  And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.  Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.

During the breaking of the seals in Revelation (before the scroll is opened), there is plenty going on, and it is amazing how there is a precise parallel to Matthew 24.  Let's look at the seals in Revelation and how they compare to Matthew.

  • Seal One (Rev 6:2)  And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.  It sounds like someone who has been given the ruling power of a king - could this be the antichrist?  Matthew 24 says And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 
  • Seal Two.  Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.  Matthew 24:6 says:  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.

  • Seal Three.  Behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "“A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”  Uh oh, food shortages.  Matthew 24:7 - And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

  • Seal Four.  So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.  (It doesn't sound pretty, does it?)  Matthew 24:9 says, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 

  • Seal Five. When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.  This is the great tribulation!  Matthew 24: says,   For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

  • Seal Six.   I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold,there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,  and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  Look at that - God's wrath is about to begin!  But the tribulation has already happened!  If the pattern continues, we should see a parallel in Matthew 24.  Oh yes, here it is, right in order:   “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (emphasis mine). 

  • Seal Seven.  In Revelation, there is a break in the action while the Jewish people are sealed, and then a whole bunch of people show up suddenly in heaven.  Verses 13-14 clarify exactly who they are:  Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”  And I said to him, “Sir,you know.”So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."  Does Matthew 24 give us a parallel?  You bet it does!  Verse 31 says, And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.   Then in chapter 8, the last seal is broken, the saints are gone, God's covenant people (The Jews) are redeemed and sealed, and God prepares to pour out His wrath on the earth.  This harmonizes what is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 5:9... For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The short version of "happily ever after" is that when God's wrath is complete, the wedding of the Lamb will take place and we will dwell with Him on Earth during His thousand year reign.  It will be the seventh millenium of human history - a Sabbath, if you will; following the pattern of the week of creation.  Satan will be bound and it will be a time of peace and safety.  A honeymoon with our Messiah!  After that, Satan is released for a short time and vanquished, and the New Jerusalem will come down from the heavens and join with the New Earth to be our dwelling place with Him.

I'd like to see HGTV top THAT home makeover!  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gathering, Part 1

Back in the 90s, when the Left Behind books were so popular, I (like many others) became interested in End Times theology.  Having been raised Catholic, the "End Times" was not something that was ever taught or discussed.  So as I began to read the books (and yes, I read them all), it was my first realization that the Bible really did talk of the return of Jesus.  Growing up, I had heard references to the "second coming," but frankly, I had no idea what that meant.

I told my pastor (at that time) that I was reading the Left Behind books, and he said, "That's good, but you really need to watch their theology."  That's all he said.  He did not elaborate, or try to convince me of his own viewpoint.  Hmmm.... the researcher in me really woke up!  (Turns out he was an amillenialist - see the next paragraph to find out what in the world THAT is).

I discovered that there were numerous theological opinions regarding the End of the World.  I began to study all of them.  One thing became clear to me:  the events of the last days are completely centered on Israel!  For centuries, the church taught Replacement Theology and had to allegorize away most of Revelation (amillenialism), because the coming kingdom is centered on God's covenant people in the physical land of Israel.  If you are teaching that the church replaced Israel, Revelation can be a tough book to rationalize.

Today, it seems that within evangelical Christianity, the pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint is the most popular.  This is the idea that the church will be zapped away into heaven before the start of Daniel's seventieth week, which is the final seven years of History on Earth before the Lord's return.  It is a step in the right direction, because at least it acknowledges Israel, but it still separates out the"church" from Israel.  I don't know about you, but I'M grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel and an heir according to the promise to Abraham.

The history of the pre-trib viewpoint goes back to about 1830, with a supposed dream or vision had by a fifteen-year-old girl, Margaret MacDonald in Scotland. 

John Nelson Darby, the founder of a group known as the Plymouth Brethren, began teaching this new theory after visiting Miss MacDonald.

Later, by 1917, C. I. Scofield had published his improved edition of the Scofield Reference Bible which contained the pre-tribulation teachings of Darby and others. Soon many Bible Colleges such as Moody Bible Institute and seminaries such as Dallas Theological Seminary became staunch promoters of dispensational theology that included the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture.
In 1970 Hal Lindsey, who attended Dallas Theological Seminary, popularized this teaching with his book titled The Late Great Planet Earth. Several million copies have been sold and a movie by the same title was made.

The more I studied scripture, however, the less I agreed with this point of view.  There were just too many things that didn't line up.  Eventually a friend gave me a book, "The Rapture Question Answered, Plain and Simple," by Robert Van Kampen.  This book helped greatly in clearing up my confusion, and helped to harmonize all the scriptures regarding the End Times for me.  I went on to read his very thick book "The Sign," which helped to further clarify things (even though I don't agree with all of his conclusions).

There are several scriptures that pre-trib people use to help justify their viewpoint.  One is 1 Thessalonians 1:10 -  and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  See?  God wouldn't have us undergo the wrath that is coming in the tribulation.  Hmmm, ever read Foxe's Book of Martyrs?  There has been persecution and tribulation for believers since Jesus went back to heaven. 
Another verse used is Revelation 3:10, from the letter to the church at Philadelphia:  Because you have kept My command to perservere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  Bullinger's Greek Lexicon explains "keep from" in this manner:  "to watch over, take care of, keep an eye on, observe attentively."  In other words, it's a promise of protection to the faithful within a sphere of danger.  But it's a promise made to only one of the seven churches in Revelation.  What about the warnings to the other six?  I want to be a part of Philadelphia, the faithful church!

The problem I have with the pre-trib viewpoint is that it assumes that the whole 70th week of Daniel is "the tribulation."  This just ain't so.  The first three and a half years will be relative peace and safety, albeit with birth pangs.  The second half is the great tribulation - severe persecution by satan against the people of God.  The pre-trib view also lumps together the great tribulation and the wrath of God.They are two separate things!  The gathering of the saints DOES happen, just not when the PTs think. 
I have found that Matthew 24 and the seven seals of Revelation 6-8 parallel each other and give us the clearest picture of what is to come.  So in my next post, I will take a closer look at them.  Stay tuned!

Click here for part 2.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Yeshua and Yosef

A few months ago, I finished reading a lengthy commentary on the book of Genesis.  At one point, the author disparaged the idea that Yosef (Joseph) was a prophetic picture of Yeshua (Jesus).  I could almost hear his eyes rolling as he dismissed the idea, saying that SOME commentaries tend to go overboard in trying to make that connection.

Let’s see if he is right.

Both were the beloved sons of their Fathers.

Both were given special, colorful robes.

Both were sent by their Fathers to their brethren.

Both were 30 years of age when they began their ministries (the same age as a priest).

Both were shepherds of their Fathers’ sheep.

Both were tempted.

Both were taken to Egypt.

Both washed the feet of their brethren.

Both brought bread to people.

Both were rejected by their brethren.
Both were subject to a plot to kill them.
Both were betrayed for silver.

Both were falsely accused.

Both were stripped of their robes.

Both had blood on their robes.

Both suffered although they were righteous.

Both were bound in chains.

Both forgave those who wronged them.

Both were in the ground for three days.

Both had stories made up about their deaths.

Both brought salvation to their nation Israel.

Both were elevated to the position of second in command.

The wrongs that men did to them, God used for good.

Both were placed with two prisoners, one who was saved and the other who was not.

Both saved the world for 2(000) years after being rejected by their brethren.

Both were exalted after suffering.

Both had brethren who vowed never to bow down to them. (Most Jewish people today want nothing to do with Yeshua)

*Both appear as a foreigner so that their brethren would not recognize them.

*Both reveal themselves to their brothers privately.

*Both have brothers who weep in sorrow and fear as they recognize them.
The last three similarities, marked by asterisks, are still awaiting final fulfillment by Yeshua.
* First, Yosef appeared as an unrecognizable Egyptian to his brothers.  In the same way, Yeshua has been removed from His Jewish context and presented over the centuries to the Jewish people as a foreign, pagan Gentile god.  I can almost see it now when they finally recognize Him:  "Is it really YOU?? Our Messiah?"

* Secondly, Yosef had everyone leave the room when it came time to reveal himself.  I believe that this is the moment that the believers are gathered from the Earth (aka "the rapture"):  just before the Lord returns in Revelation 6 and 7 and seals the tribes of Israel before God pours His wrath on the rest of the Earth.
* Thirdly, this will be the fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10; when they look with sorrow and fear upon Him whom they have pierced.
Yes, I guess I can see how the commentator would be hestiant to see the similarities between Yosef and Yeshua.  NOT!  How much more obvious can it be, anyway?  The Jewish sages taught that there were two pictures of the Messiah in the holy scriptures:  Messiah ben (son of) Yosef  - the Suffering Servant - and Messiah ben David - the Conquering King.  Some believed that there were two messiahs, since the messianic pictures were so different.  And some thought that there would be one Messiah that comes TWICE.
Imagine that!