|Posted by Murphy Henderson on February 14, 2013 at 7:25 AM||comments (105)|
Deception in the Pews
By Ron Graham
“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Luke 13:24. There is a prominent view these days among Christians which seems to have crept into the mainstream of Christianity. It is the view held by many professing Christians that sitting in a pew every Sunday morning is a good indication that a person is born again. Sadly, what we’re confronted with here is another of the enemy’s many deceptions.
Before continuing with the above deceptive view, I’d like to remind everyone that Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy. He will do everything in his power to keep people from God’s truth. He’s discovered that combining some truth with some lies brings about the results he wants. He’s also discovered that many of those he’s determined to destroy are willing accomplices.
From Jesus’ own words we know that there will be many who have been deceived into believing they are His, when in fact they are not. “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” Luke 13:25-27. The master of the house is God, and at this point He has locked the door to Heaven. Yet there are many who are outside still knocking, claiming they should be allowed entrance. Why would God not allow them to enter? I know you not… depart from me, all of you who work…for Satan.
Interestingly, when it comes to eternity humans are afforded only two choices. “He that is not with me is against me...” Matthew 12:30. We either say yes to Jesus, in which case we are with Him, or we refuse Him, in which case we are against Him. In regards to the above mentioned door knockers, they heard Jesus’ words as He taught in their streets, they even ate and drank with Him. Yet Jesus considered them workers of iniquity – in other words the opposition.
The unsaved are often taught that simply being a good person or doing good deeds is in accordance with God’s will, therefore God will not deny them their part in Heaven. This is a deception that in many cases resonates throughout many churches. All the “door knockers” works and good deeds were nothing to the King of kings. If we don’t believe in Him then His response to us will always be “I know you not.” Many will continue their bewailing and knocking as they are falling into the depths of Hell, all because they allowed the enemy to deceive them with the notion that all God desires is your good intentions and your good works. On the contrary, what God desires from each of us is a personal relationship with His only begotten Son.
Our relationship with God is twofold. First of all we must understand what constitutes a relationship. A relationship exists between people when we have established a link between us and them – there’s a connection. When Jesus said He never knew these folks He meant He had no knowledge of them ever attempting to establish a connection with Him. Secondly, what I mean by twofold is that both parties must acknowledge that there exists a relationship. No acknowledgement by one of the participants means there is no relationship. The people spoken of in Luke 13:25 who are crying Lord, lord were deceived into thinking they had a relationship with Jesus, but in fact the relationship they were convinced they had was only one sided.
What was it that was missing? Belief. They never got to a point that they actually believed in who Jesus was and is. Since Jesus plainly states He never knew them we can be assured something was missing that would link them to Him. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. The key here is belief. There is nothing to works or good deeds when we are considering our eternal salvation. There is only belief in the One who God sent.
When we first believe in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, and that He alone is our hope for salvation, we are then brought instantly into a relationship with the God of all creation. Believing who Jesus is, and what He did for us is the means to establishing an everlasting relationship with Him – only then do we have a connection. Many sitting in those pews on Sunday mornings have never established that connection – relationship. How’s that possible you might ask?
The deception that has been burgeoning for many years in most cases involves the attributes of God. Is God real? Did He create the universe? Did He create the earth in 6 literal 24 hour days? Did He create man as it plainly states in His word or did He use evolution and millions of years? Jesus didn’t really walk on water, there’s no such thing as a virgin birth, He’s not really God Almighty, and on and on the deceptions flow. The enemy owns the field of deception and doubt. First he introduces the doubt “Did God really say” and then he introduces the deception “You shall not surely die”. With these two phrases that make up the core content of the enemy’s lies he has managed to convince many that the God of all creation, Jesus Christ, is only a myth. In some pseudo-Christian circles we are confronted with those who believe in Jesus but only as a lesser god, or in some cases merely a wonderful teacher. This attitude towards our God and Saviour does not lend itself to a twofold relationship with Jesus Himself. Many profess they know Jesus, but if He refers to them as workers of inequity (children of Satan) they are deceived. When we listen to mere men and glean our faith in God from what many teach we run the risk of coming away with a skewed view of who God is. We must always wash what we are taught by men by running man’s teachings through the pages of Scripture for accuracy.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9. Here Paul gives us the simple truth on how to become a born again follower of Jesus Christ. Believe it or not, as simple a gesture as this seems many sitting in those pews have never confessed Christ. And if they never confess Christ it’s a good bet that they don’t believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead.
What does it mean to confess Christ? It means we’re saying that we trust Jesus to be perfect in all His ways, and we’ve completely and unswervingly given ourselves over to Him. He alone paid the price for our salvation, thus He is our redemption. He owns us; we are no longer Satan’s possession, but Christ’s.
As I sojourn in this world I walk in God’s precepts and I adhere to His doctrines. Nothing is going to lead me away from my Lord. But if I can’t trust Him to tell me the truth about who He is and what He’s done then how can I pretend we have a relationship? No pretentious relationship is going to give me everlasting life in Heaven with my God.
There are many who sit in a pew on Sunday morning erroneously believing that because they diligently attend those services and tithe from their income that they are born again. Because they do good deeds and they are, for the most part, decent people they’ve earned their way to Heaven. The very fact that people have this type of mentality should tell the rest of us that a huge deception has infiltrated those sanctuaries. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. All the good deeds in the world will not suffice as payment for entrance into Heaven. The only way to avoid finding ourselves standing outside and knocking, asking to be let in, is to believe on the one God sent. “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John 6:28-29. Only by believing in the One who came once and for all to reconcile us to God can we ever obtain entrance to that most glorious abode called Heaven.
There’s a catchy truism I’ve read lately that goes something like this, “Going to church makes you as much a Christian as standing in your garage makes you a car”. Granted, attending services might help you decide to say yes to Jesus, but in many congregations today you might be just as inclined to say no to Him, or nothing at all. Many things taught by cults and false teachers concerning who Jesus is quite often contradicts God’s inerrant word. A person might more easily be led astray than to be lead to the strait path and thus through the narrow gate which is Jesus Christ our Lord.
If we consider again that verse from Luke 13:24 it must be pointed out that the Greek word “polys”, which is translated into our English word “many”, actually means “a great number”. The numerical equivalent of that great number isn’t mentioned. However, we must see this as a mass of people. When combined with those who out and out reject Christ the numbers are innumerable.
Thinking we have a relationship with the One who created everything without actually believing who He really is, is folly. Many are caught up in this foolish mindset. Attending Sunday services and doing good deeds are not prerequisites for salvation. This incredibly pervasive deception continues almost unabated while taking a horrible toll on multitudes of folks around the world.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22-23. There’s that word “many” again. As I’ve stated, numerically we have no figure to place here but the language of those two verses indicates a vast number of deceived individuals all headed in the same direction, ultimately to destruction.
It’s interesting that we are given the words many and few to describe how many will perish vs. how few will enter Heaven. Jesus tells us few will enter in through the strait gate and narrow way. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14. Our English word “few” is translated from the Greek word “oligos”, which is another numerical term and means little, small, few, slight. In other words, Jesus will be saying “I know you not” to a multitude of very disappointed people. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. When we believe in Him we are acknowledging Him as God and Saviour and we can depend on our entering into a personal relationship with the King of kings.
Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees of His day, was very blunt as He responded to their disbelief “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am…, ye shall die in your sins.” John 8:24. Call Him a liar, deny His deity, write off His word as myth while sitting in your pew and your eternal destination will not be what you’ve planned – you will die in your sins.
God bless you all,
|Posted by Murphy Henderson on April 2, 2012 at 8:10 AM||comments (1)|
By Chris Schang
Every Christian living in these end times should be watching for the rapture of the church. I like to think of this as being on "Rapture Watch" as we eagerly await the imminent rapture of the church. While the rapture could have happened at any point in past history, the fact is that it didn't should motivate believers to get that much more excited about the "blessed hope" of the rapture.
However, as the end times move on and we get closer to the fulfillment of the prophetic end times we can expect to see more and more people abandon the rapture watch. The Bible warns that in the last days scoffers will come and mock the coming of the Lord. As a result, many people will fall into despair as we move closer to the final end times events and the rapture may or may not have occurred. This is why it is so important to be on the rapture watch as the Lord said that he would come like a thief to take believers to glory. The Lord emphasized how important it was to carry on with the rapture watch as he would come when people least expected it.
Today, the average Christian has very little interest in the rapture and many have stopped looking for it at all. They have abandoned their posts on the rapture watch. Why people would abandon hope of the rapture of the church is something I can't understand. It should be of the most importance of Christians as Jesus will return in the air, call all believers both those that are dead and those who are alive, and take them home to glory. No more sickness, no more sorrows, no more death, no more things of this world. The former things will have passed away. Only bright and happy days will be ahead at the rapture. So with this in mind let this be a call for everyone to return to their posts and be on the rapture watch!! Jesus is coming soon!!
|Posted by Murphy Henderson on April 2, 2012 at 7:40 AM||comments (0)|
By Chris Schang
One of the most astonishing and interesting events in the end times is the rapture of the church. The rapture is when the Lord Jesus Christ returns in the air to gather his church age believers and wisk them off to Heaven to the place he has prepared for them. The rapture will result in the disappearance or vanishing of an untold numbers of people who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his completed work on the Cross. In contrast, those who do not place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in the last days will find themselves going through the dreaded Tribulation period. This is the described as the "time of Jacob's trouble" as God pours out his wrath on unbeleiving Israel and unrepentant sinners.
A question that is frequently asked is are there any rapture signs that indicate that the rapture is about to take place? In my opinion that the answer is a yes and no. You see, the rapture of the church is a secret event in that it's timing is not known by man. The Bible declares that only God knows the timing of the rapture of the church. This is repeated several times in the Book of Matthew as the Bible makes it clear that it is impossible to know the day or the hour of the Lord's rapture of his church age saints:
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Mat. 24:36).
"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Mat. 24:42).
"Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Mat. 24:44).
"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Mat. 25:13).
However, despite the warnings that the rapture could occur at anytime, a church doctrine known as imminency, the Bible does tell us that the rapture will happen before the seven year tribulation period. This can be seen in the many Bible verses that stress the fact that the rapture could occur at anytime, that the church is not destined for wrath, and that God never judges the righteous with the wicked. The church in this case is made righteous by grace through faith in the Lord's atoning death on the Cross for sin. Since the rapture of the church can happen at anytime, the Bible warns believers to be ready and always looking in anticipation for the "blessed hope" of the sudden disappearance or vanishing of the church.
Now while we have made a good case for there being no rapture signs necessary for this sudden event to occur, at this point in time we can see that we are clearly in the end times or last days before the forewarned tribulation period. The signs of the end times include apostasy, an increase in wickedness, and a turning away from God by more and more people. Despite there being ample evidence of God's existence through the Creation, many have turned away from God to serve the Creation rather than the Creator. The Bible warns us about this in the Holy scriptures:
Psa 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, [there is] none that doeth good.
Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Rom 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Rom 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
2Pe 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
2Pe 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation.
So as we can see from the above verses in addition to apostasy (a falling away from the Gospel and Biblical truth), an increase in wickedness, there will also be scoffers in the last days who will mock the return of the Lord. Although 2 Peter 3:3-4 might be referring to the Second Coming, we already see scoffers on the scenes today despite the fact that the rapture has not occured. We also see apostasy and a great increase in wickedness in our society. There will also be people who have departed from the faith and instead of worshipping the one true God (Creator) have instead worshipped the Creation. We can see this with the constant promotion of evolution in our schools which denies the biblical account of Creation. This has been going on ever since the mid 1800's when the theory of evolution was brought into the mainstream by British scientist Charles Darwin.
So while the rapture of the church is a secret event where the Lord descends from Heaven, with the sound of an archangel's trumpet, and calls believers up to Him in the air. The Lord will then take the church to Heaven to the place he has prepared for them. This secret event can happen at anytime and without notice, but with the end times signs abounding all around us that the tribulation period is coming quickly down the road we can also figure that the rapture of the church is ever so close as well. Yet at the same time the rapture could have occured at anytime during the church age since we know that nothing is needed to preceed the rapture before it could happen.
With other end times puzzle pieces moving across the prophetic chess board like the worlds current focus on Jerusalem, we can also see these as signs that the rapture is getting closer and closer with each passing day since it has not already occured. In fact any day the rapture could occur. The fact that many people have lost interest in the rapture and have become apathetic towards the rapture of the church further points to the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ to remove his bride from the earth before the great and terrible day of the Lord commences.
It is our prayer and recommendation that if you have not made a decision for Jesus Christ, please do not wait another day to make this choice that will determine your eternal destiny. The Lord Jesus Christ has paid the sin debt on your behalf, all you have to do is accept it and have eternal life.
|Posted by Murphy Henderson on October 8, 2011 at 6:10 PM||comments (0)|
By Gary Stearman
We all watch the continuing cycle of discussion about the timing of the rapture of the church. It ebbs and flows, rises and falls. Sometimes, the subject wanes almost to the level of being forgotten for a little while. Then, for a variety of reasons, interest in it rises again. Occasionally, it rises to such an extent that it becomes a vital issue, with accompanying emotion and vitriolic disagreement. At each peak, several competing camps weigh in upon the matter, bombarding each other with proof texts and theoretical challenges.
We seem to have reached such a peak again, measured by a number of standards, which we shall discuss later in this article.
Many students of Bible prophecy well remember the year 1988, when a variety of “proofs” were published. It was the year that brought us the ubiquitous little booklet, offering “88 Reasons” why the rapture would occur in that year. But it was also the year of great excitement among Christians. Only a few years before, in 1967, Israel had won a war that allowed them to reclaim the Temple Mount, if only briefly. Then, in 1973, fighting against astronomical odds, Israel had won the “Yom Kippur” war. To prophecy watchers, it seemed that Israel was favored by the Lord, and poised to take charge and reclaim the land grant that God promised Abraham. The mechanism of this process is clearly described by the Old Testament prophets.
In 1988, excitement was at fever pitch. Many of the faithful expected the Lord’s soon return. And here, a fine distinction must be made by those who expect the any-moment return of the Lord. There is a big difference between “soon” and “imminent.” The former means that something will come within the lifetime of the believer, sooner rather than later.
But the Bible speaks of Christ’s return for the Church as happening imminently – at any moment – without the necessity of any event coming to pass between the present time and His coming.
The Apostle Paul taught his early followers that the Lord might return at any moment, perhaps in the next few seconds. No prophecy needed to be fulfilled before this coming. This is referred to as the doctrine of imminency.
For example, he writes in the present tense as he refers to faith of the believers in Thessalonica, assuring them:
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (I Th. 1:9,10).
The verb tense that Paul uses here intends the assurance of the continuous present … “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” In other words, he wants those then alive to be watching for the rapture, which he presents as imminent. Paul uses such language repeatedly. This is demonstrated again and again. Here is another quote that comes a little later in the same letter:
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (I Th. 2:19).
Here, Christ’s coming for the Church (the rapture) is a promise, which those then alive would take personally, as applying directly to them. Paul never spoke of the rapture as an event in the far future, but as a distinct and real possibility that might occur within the lifetime of any believer who reads his letters.
Returning to the year 1988 and the word “soon,” most of us can clearly recall that around this time preachers around the world began to proclaim, “Jesus is coming soon!” Certainly, they also believed that He might come imminently. But, soon? That implies an arrival within the next few years. Certainly, there was nothing wrong with their level of expectation. Given world events and the prophetic truths of the end times such excitement was – and still is – perfectly justifiable.
But to say that He is coming soon is far different from saying that His coming is imminent. Why were they making this proclamation? Clearly, they had picked up on clues that linked developments in Israel with the teachings of the prophets. Then and now, prophesied events in the Land of the Bible are developing on a daily basis.
The Middle East is a boiling pot of conflict, and the nations at the center of the action are all mentioned in prophecy. Iran (Persia), Iraq (old Babylon), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia (Sheba and Dedan), Syria (Damascus), Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia and others are all prominently mentioned in Scripture. And they are all falling under the control of the master plan that has long been the dream of the Islamic Brotherhood, that is, the destruction of Israel. Moreover, all have been contacted by the great power to the north. Russia has offered them “aid” as it wraps its tentacles around their oil wealth and strategic locations. Of course, that “aid” includes military pacts and armaments. All of this is perfectly in keeping with the idea that the Church could be caught away at any moment.
Forty: the Number of Testing
The faithful offered many hopeful scenarios – mathematical, calendrical or Scriptural – that made the rapture a sure thing in that year. But at their core, each of these systems were driven by the fact that the nation Israel, founded on May 14th, 1948, had arrived at its fortieth birthday. Israel, God’s timepiece, had gone through its modern “wilderness march,” and would now arrive at the promised Land, meaning that it was highly probable that the Church would be taken out of the way so that the events of the end times could come to culmination.
All the mathematics and biblical proofs were driven by this simple truth … and they were wrong. But there is nothing wrong with being watchful. In fact it is encouraged. In Jesus’ own words,
“For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
“And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
“And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him” (Lk. 21:35-38).
This discussion has been going back and forth for over a century now. It began in earnest in the 1870s, when the land of Israel began to be repopulated with Jews. The revivals and missionary movements of that time brought the First Zionist Congress of 1897. Foreseeing the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, Jews and Christians worked together. As Israel returned to the Land, the rapture began to loom large as a real possibility.
The pretribulation rapture began to be taught in earnest. Others rose to say that would be impossible, because the Tribulation had already taken place… long ago, in the first century. Still others taught that yes, the Tribulation lies ahead, but the Church is scheduled to pass through it, enduring its rigors to the end … its entire seven years. Others say that no, the Church will only go through the first three-and-a-half years of this horrific period, not the violent wracking tortures of the second half. And the discussion will no doubt continue, with varying degrees of passion.
Why is there such disagreement upon a subject that seems so clearly laid out? Paul writes, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Th. 5:9). The “salvation” mentioned here is not the initial receiving of Christ by the believer, but the act of being removed from the earth before the Tribulation. Still, there is a great misunderstanding of the rapture. At this point, we’re going to ask a question that’s not often discussed:
Why Is There A Rapture At All?
Why has God planned a removal of the Church from the Earth? If the Lord is coming back to set up His Kingdom (which He certainly is), why doesn’t He simply return, resurrect the righteous dead and proceed with it from that point? Why would He bring the righteous – both living and dead – upward into the air, when all He would have to do is resurrect believers at His Second Coming?
This raises still another question. At the Second Coming, who will serve at His throne as His earthly representatives? Some say it will be the Church.
In that case, what happens to the twelve tribes of Israel, and all the prophecy that speaks of their priesthood, rising to service again in the end times? And what do we do with the Antichrist’s temple, mentioned by Daniel, Jesus and Paul? He is able to convince the Jews that He is their Messiah. Where would Christians fit in this scheme? Answer: They would not fit at all.
Do the passages that speak of the rapture (I Thessalonians, Chapter 4) also speak of Jesus establishing His throne at the Second Coming? They do not. Actually, they speak of a coming judgment, coming just after the rapture. But why is there a rapture?
1. Is the rapture an escape from the world’s troubles?
Many deride the rapture as a “great escape,” and claim that it misleads Christians, who should be preparing for toughening times, but instead, are living in the vain hope that before times get really horrible, they will be taken from this earth. These critics teach that the concept of the pretribulational rapture was invented out of whole cloth in the nineteenth century, never having been taught before that. They are partly correct; the rapture was taught in the early Church, but the rapture was not taught while Israel was in exile. Once the Jews returned, the rapture question began to be emphasized once again.
Still, they scoff at Christians whom they perceive as naively believing in such an escape. For them, the rapture is a denial of the Lord’s ability to take the well-prepared Christian through the perilous times that lie just ahead.
2. Is the rapture waiting until the last sinner to be saved has been added to the Church?
Some teach that the rapture operates on some kind of “quota system.” They believe that the timing of the rapture is dependant upon a certain number of saints, predestined to salvation, who must be saved before the Church can be taken out of the world. When that number is reached, the Lord will give the word. Then, the rapture will take place. These people can be heard to say, “When the last saint is saved, the Church will be taken home.”
This idea makes the rapture completely dependent upon the Church. Is says, in effect, that there is no real reason for the rapture, and it makes the timing of the Tribulation rely upon the development of the Church. Under this thinking, one might even come to believe that the faster we get Christians saved, the sooner the rapture will come. But certainly, the rapture is never pictured as being linked to the success of the Church. On the contrary, the latter-day Church exists within the deteriorating environment that is described as coming just before the rapture.
3. Is the rapture an escape from the trials of the Tribulation period?
Critics of the pretribulational rapture often criticize it as a desire to flee the rigors of the coming Tribulation. They teach that the Church must, in some way, prepare for the coming of the Kingdom, by participating in it. Perhaps, they say, we will be God’s representatives during the great judgments to come. But the Church is never seen in this role. Quite the opposite, it is well out of the way before those judgments take place. As we shall discuss later, the Church is simply not in Scripture that describes the events of the Tribulation.
An objective study quickly and emphatically reveals a basic truth: The reason for the rapture is quite clear. It will come specifically to make way for the rise of Israel as prophesied in the Old Testament. With the Church in its present position, Israel cannot rise to its prophesied destiny.
The Controversy: Israel’s Return
From its very beginning in the first century, the era of the Church has been marked by a central dispute, involving the prophetic destinies of Israel and the Church. Within the institutionalized church, there has been fundamental disagreement about the centrality of Israel in the plan of God. Early in the 5th century, AD, the major theologian of the Roman church, Augustine, established the basic theological position regarding Israel.
His doctrine was amillennial. That is, he regarded the present age as the prophesied Millennium; it was not a thousand-year period in the future. Taking this position, he reasoned that since the Tribulation comes before the Millennium, it must already be past. He and others were predisposed to connect it with the defeat of Israel in the years between 70 and 135 AD. Israel was regarded in the past tense; the Church would then rise as the world’s leader. It would progressively purify the world until Christ returned again in the Second Coming.
To a greater or lesser degree, Augustinian eschatology came to dominate the Roman Catholic church, and the state churches of Europe and America in the centuries following the Reformation. In short, the reformers threw off the constraints of Roman Catholic legalisms, but retained its view of the last days.
To this day, in fact, they have set Israel aside in the plan of God, bringing monumental consequences to the interpretation of Bible prophecy. A major theology, stating that the church has replaced Israel, has grown to such proportions that it sets the standard for organized Christianity.
But with the return of Israel to the promised Land, a dramatic situation has developed, in which Israel is the world’s pariah. The tiny new nation is considered by the world at large as a presumptuous upstart, without any real reason for existence, except for their collective suffering in the Holocaust era of World Wars I and II. Their great despair at the end of this period provided the momentum for their return to the land of Israel. Today, those memories have faded, and the Gentile world has an increasing tendency to scoff at their right to exist as a nation.
This growing problem now threatens to bring a major war to the Middle East. Israel’s legitimacy is being seriously questioned by the nations, as they meet in infamous concord in the same U.N. building where members awarded justice to the Jews in 1947.
The Mystery of Two Houses
In parallel with these developments, a very small wing of the Church began to grow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It taught that the classic disagreement between the Church and Israel as claimants to the Kingdom could be resolved. It contended that the Lord works through successive periods of time, called “dispensations.” Today, in the dispensation of the Church, individual salvation is at the center of God’s plan; after that, in the dispensation of the Kingdom, Israel will reign. The transition between these two time periods will be marked by catastrophic convulsions that will bring the collapse of the Gentile power that now controls the world.
Dispensationalism revived the Apostolic teaching that there were two houses of faith in the plan of God … that the age of the Church was finite, and would come to an end, dictated by God’s timing. Then, Israel would rise again, amidst the tumult and chaos of the Tribulation. Out of that upheaval would come a renewed Israel, a new Temple and a thousand-year Kingdom ruled by Christ on Earth.
Paul, writing to the Church in Rome, lamented the fact that national Israel had rejected its Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. But he never went so far as to condemn Israel to a spiritual death. Quite the contrary. In Romans, Chapter 11, he asks a rhetorical question that resounds through the centuries:
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
“God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew …” (Rom. 11:1,2).
Here, Paul’s question is asked and answered in no uncertain terms. His rhetoric begins with the certainty that Israel had denied its Messiah and received the consequences of that act. But he quickly follows that observation by saying that God has not irrevocably cast them off.
He goes on to say that in the plan of God, Israel is to play an ongoing role, because it has among its numbers an elect lineage:
“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
“(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day” (Rom. 11:5-8).
It is extremely important that today’s Christians understand that what Paul refers to as the “present time” extends all the way to our day. It is his way of stating truth about the current dispensation. In effect, he is saying that “under the present conditions,” Israel is still under God’s grace. The nation has not been cast aside, nor will it be. It now operates under the conditions of “the election of grace.” Nothing could be clearer.
Paul also asks another question that brings forth an amazing truth that is generally overlooked. Certainly, it is not usually used to support the idea of a Pretribulation rapture. Yet it is one of the greatest proof texts in the entire Bible. It makes a statement that can’t be ignored. Israel’s fall brought salvation to the Gentiles. In other words, the cataclysmic defeat of first-century Israel had a purpose. This is simply another way of saying that the fall of Israel brought a new dispensation:
“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
“Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?(Rom. 11:11,12).
This is an astounding statement! Israel’s fall brought with it a blessing to the entire world system. It is perfectly logical, then, to conclude that when Israel once again rises to power (“their fullness”;), the world of the Gentiles will fall. This is, in fact, the major theme of the book of Revelation, which details the collapse of Gentile world power and the reinstatement of Israel.
This simple fact is made so utterly clear that it can’t be misunderstood, except by those who are driven by an agenda that is unalterably biased in favor of a continuing dominant and unbreakable Gentile world power. In the following passage, Paul concludes his dissertation, stating that the mystery of the two houses will conclude with the collapse of Gentile domination and the subsequent salvation of national Israel.
Paul earnestly pleads that the Church keep Israel’s prophesied future in the center of its thinking. Otherwise, there is the tendency to believe that Israel has forever lost its Scriptural promise … the promise that it would return in power. You can hear the passion in his words.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
“For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
“As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
“For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
“Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
“For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? “Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:25-36).
Romans 11, which begins with Paul’s
sorrow over his people’s spiritual failure, ends on this high note of glory. Paul wonders aloud at the astonishing truth that Israel’s great diaspora fulfills a major part of God’s plan for the ages. He foresees the regathering and rising again of Zion and the redemption of national Israel.
Israel, in Paul’s time, was the enemy of the Gospel, yet it remained the beloved of God, because of the promises he made to their forefathers. Not only that, the Old Testament contains a profusion of prophetic references to the coming change from Gentile to Jewish world power. Interestingly, they are all focused upon the Day of the Lord.
What is the Day of the LORD?
Properly viewed, the phrase, “Day of the Lord,” is, first of all, a phrase that marks the great transition from the age of the Church to the Age of the Kingdom. It appears under this title 25 times in Scripture. Under other names, such as “The Tribulation,” “The Day of Israel’s Calamity,” or “The Wrath of God,” it is found in over 40 additional biblical passages.
Every biblical reference to it presents it as a time of unprecedented anguish, both in scope and scale. It will be the worst catastrophe to hit this planet since mankind began to walk upon its surface. Its judgments are aimed first at national Israel in the rise of the Antichrist, then at the wicked world system of Mystery Babylon.
Isaiah 13:9 notes that one of its purposes is to purge the Land of Israel of the sinners within it:
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.”
This time of unprecedented calamity will also bring perhaps the greatest revival in the history of the world as 144,000 men from the twelve tribes of Israel (not the Church) are sealed, and go forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the entire world.
Finally (and still centered upon Israel and the Jewish people) the Day of the Lord will bring down the pride of the twelve tribes. Characteristically, the Jews are quite proud of their ability to survive, no matter what befalls them. They have 2,000 years of history in this position. Since their return to the Land, they have won a series of wars, often against overwhelming odds. As a result, their self-sufficient pride is one of their chief cultural characteristics.
The prophet Ezekiel makes it more than clear that the Day of the Lord will at last bring Israel to her knees. Hearkening back to the wilderness march of the Exodus, God speaks through Ezekiel, telling His people that they will undergo yet another wilderness experience, just like the one they endured after their ancient departure from Egypt.
In the end, they will repent and turn again to the Lord:
“As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:
“And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
“And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.
“Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.
“And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
“And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezek. 20:33-38).
No matter what biblical reference you study, you will find that the Day of the Lord is not only centered upon Israel, but extreme in its effects. Often it has been held up as a kind of day of salvation for Israel. And those in the Church who are convinced that they will go through the Tribulation, think that they will be able to survive, and even thrive. But there are many warnings about the severity of this day.
Amos and Joel
The prophet Amos sounds a special warning about the day, noting that its intended recipient is Israel. In the context of the rapture, this is most important, since the church is never intended to experience the Tribulation:
“Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel” (Amos 5:1).
In verse 18 of this chapter, Amos specifically warns Israel about the severity of that day:
“Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18).
And in verse 20 of the same chapter, Amos puts a note of finality on the matter: “Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:20). The message: Don’t wish for the Day of the Lord, and don’t desire to go through it. Many in the Church today are preparing for exactly that!
Speaking generally, those who follow the dispensational model of redemptive history interpret the Day of the Lord as the millennial kingdom, including its opening seven years of judgment, called the Tribulation. But again, it must be emphasized that this initial period of severe judgment is intended for Israel.
As the following Scripture from Jeremiah tells us, the Day of the Lord is directly centered upon Israel, so much so that it has Jacob’s name attached to it. Furthermore, the Lord has the purpose of releasing Israel from the bondage of the world system, just as He freed them from Egyptian bondage in the days of the Exodus:
“Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?
“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.
“For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:
“But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” (Jer. 30:6-9).
Here, Israel is depicted as experiencing birth pangs, even as Jesus said in the Olivet discourse, when He spoke of Israel during the Tribulation, describing their pain as, “… the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:8). In the Greek language of the New Testament, “sorrows” is hodin, or “birth pangs.” Of course, the metaphor wouldn’t be complete without saying that the birth in question is that of national Israel, being born as a new, cleansed, and redeemed nation in the Kingdom Age.
From Jeremiah to Matthew and onward into the epistles, we encounter the same language. There can be no doubt that the Millennial Day of the Lord is initiated by a well-defined upheaval that lasts seven years and constitutes the birth of a new Israel.
Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians is the definitive exposition of the rapture. When the blessed hope of the Church is mentioned, it is the passage we turn to first. But it must be stated that its context places the rapture at the beginning of an ordered series of events. Chapter 4, verse 17 speaks of the Church being, “… caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
This statement leads directly to the next chapter – Chapter 5 – the subject of which is the Day of the Lord. This sequence is perfectly in keeping with the dozens of Old Testament passages that feature Israel as the key player. But in this case, modern Israel, experiencing the Tribulation, is referred to simply as “they,” while those whom Paul addresses in the Church are called, “you,” “ye,” “yourselves,” and “we.”
Those left behind to experience the Day of the Lord are called, “they.” They are seen calling for “peace and safety,” which has long been a slogan in modern Israeli politics. Even as we see Israel doing today, idealistically offering peace while encircled by nations that openly call for their complete annihilation. “They” are modern Israel.
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (I Thess. 5:1-5).
And “we,” members of the Church, the body of Christ, are not in darkness. We understand the fine distinctions of grace, which would never put the redeemed of the present age under divine judgment.
Yes, there are those who say that the Church can go through the Tribulation without being touched by God’s wrath … sealed, as it were, against any difficulty that might come their way.
But they should look again at the Day of the Lord. There is nothing in Scripture that says a small, select group will escape the ravages of that terrible Day.
Isaiah’s so-called “Little Apocalypse” sets the scene of the Tribulation. Note that it makes the point of saying that everyone is affected. We know from the figures given in Revelation that literally billions will die:
“Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.
“And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. “The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath
spoken this word” (Isa. 24:1-3). Geologists tell us that in the past the earth has wobbled from time to time. They always add that if it happens again, the surface plates on the planet will slide, producing titanic earthquakes and volcanoes. Isaiah describes exactly that:
“The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
“The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isa. 24:19-21).
Isaiah 30:30 foreshadows the horrific weather disruptions that will be witnessed in the Tribulation:
“And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.”
Revelation speaks of hailstones almost a hundred pounds in weight! Certainly, the Tribulation will feature the greatest display of breakaway plate tectonics ever witnessed by man. Imagine the following horrifying vision from Revelation 6:14:
“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” Later in Revelation, the same theme is repeated: “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (Rev. 16:20).
And we must also mention the “great mountain burning with fire” that falls into the sea, as well as the infamous star called “Wormwood,” which also falls from the heavens and poisons the waters, bringing death to many.
Add to these the unprecedented famines and plagues that wrack the entire globe, and you have some idea of the Day of the Lord. The Church will be taken out of the way precisely because it is the Spirit-filled body of Christ, and must be removed in order that the program of God can proceed as prophesied. That program: to establish Israel – not the Church – as head of the nations.
There is a reason for the rapture.
|Posted by Murphy Henderson on May 1, 2011 at 9:35 PM||comments (0)|
Wow! Everything we see happening around the world says the LORD JESUS CHRIST is surely Coming soon! Thats why I believe the LORD give me the song "A Thief In The Night" in 1991 during the Gulf War: Then the LORD let me record it fifteen years later in 2006: Then after I recorded it the LORD give me five more songs. Sweet Buelah Land was a request from my wife. All songs are dealing with the end times and the LORD"s soon return! JESUS said in Luke: 21: 25-28 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh..Amen. We are there Now, I feel in my spirit! You can download my songs for free on soundclick. Thanks and May GOD Bless and Keep Looking Up..........."Murphy"
|Posted by Murphy Henderson on April 30, 2011 at 8:05 PM||comments (2)|
The evidence for the soon return of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. It could be any moment. One scholar lists 167 converging clues just in the last few years. The following are eight:
1. Israel’s rebirth. As Jesus prophesied, the Jews were scattered during the Jewish-Roman war of A.D. 70 (Luke 21:24). Also prophesied to occur before Christ’s return, the nation of Israel was miraculously reborn on May 14, 1948. Israel is called “God’s time clock.”
2. Plummeting morality. Studies show a shocking breakdown just since mid-century (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
3. Famines, violence, and wars. Jesus said the signs before his return would come as intensifying birth pangs, seeing increased famines, violence and wars, a clear picture of our planet (Matthew 24:6-8). One of six people on earth suffers from hunger. Violence is epidemic. A study of wars since 500 B.C. shows a recent dramatic increase. More than 100 conflicts have erupted since 1990, about twice the number for previous decades.
4. Increase in earthquakes. Also prophesied to be as birth pangs (Matthew 24:7), a recent study shows a dramatic increase in earthquakes worldwide, just since the decade of Israel’s rebirth. Between 1920 and 1990, a 70-year span, there were 10 major earthquakes. But in 1990 to the year 2005, a 15-year span, we have had 13 major earthquakes." (Associated Press) The U.S. Geological Survey data shows in 2000, there were 22,256 recorded earthquakes worldwide but steadily increased to 31,199 earthquakes in 2004. (WorldNetDaily)
5. Explosion of travel and education. Two key conditions described about 2,500 years ago for the Second Coming are that “travel and education shall be vastly increased” (Daniel 12:4, Living Bible). In all of history, the vast increase in travel has come just since mid-century with the explosion of both ground and air transportation; in education, with the advance of science and computers.
6. Explosion of cults and the occult. Counterfeit spirituality is everywhere with cults and false Christs (Matthew 24:24), psychic phenomena, spiritism, Satan worship, witchcraft, nature worship and the New Age movement (1 Timothy 4:1). What is a cult or the occult? See "What is a cult or the occult" Report on this website.
7. The New World Order. Increased centralization of world financial and political power is a prelude to the soon-coming world power system in the hands of the “Antichrist,” who will be the incarnation of Satan and who will deceive most of the world (Daniel 7-12, Matthew 24:15, Revelation 13). Beware of the “mark of the beast”. Beware of the Mark of the Beast Report" on this web site
8. Increase in both apostasy and faith. The Bible predicts in the last days, “A form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). Today, many churches deny the eternal truths of Scripture and power of the Holy Spirit, replacing them with ungodly, temporal and “politically correct” values. But also, a prophesied outpouring of God’s Spirit is causing hundreds of millions worldwide to come to true faith in Christ in record numbers, virtually unnoticed by the media.
The Escape Plan
Christ’s death and resurrection have opened the way to heaven and life with the Father forever for all who put their trust in Him and His great sacrifice on our behalf. Christ will soon come and rescue His people from the approaching “Great Tribulation” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). He will later rule and bring peace on earth- after He judges the world and every person (Matthew 25:31-46).
God’s judgment is indeed coming on a world in rebellion. He cannot deny His nature. His attributes of perfect holiness and justice demand judgment for sin, of which we are all guilty. “For all who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The result of sin is death, or separation from God. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Wages are something we earn, or deserve.
But “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Is “love” in conflict with “judgment”? Answer: God’s wisdom reconciled the dilemma- the Son of God would take all our judgment upon Himself! “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
To escape God’s judgment, we each must receive His free gifts of forgiveness and love, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). A gift is something we do not earn, or deserve.
How to receive Him
In any gift exchange, there has to be giver and receiver. God has already given us the gift, His Son; now we must receive Him. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
We receive Him by faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
We receive Him by personal invitation, (Christ speaking) “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20). Do you hear His voice?
The following is a suggested prayer: “Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God and that you died on the cross for my sins to save me from eternal death. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior and Lord. I give you my life. Help me to be what you want me to be. Amen.”
|Posted by Murphy Henderson on June 3, 2010 at 8:15 PM||comments (1)|
by J. R. Church
Shortly after his historic meeting with Jewish elders in Rome, in A.D. 64, as reported in Acts 28, the Apostle Paul wrote a series of epistles — one to the Jews (the book of Hebrews) and seven to Gentile congregations. Among them was the letter to the Philippians, in which this passionate apostle wrote, "The Lord is at hand" (Phil. 4:5).
He wrote this incredible statement only seven years before the destruction of Herod's Temple. Why not? There was still time for Nero, the supposed Roman Antichrist, to commit the abomination of desolation, enslave the world and bring on the battle of Armageddon.
Even after the Jewish elders rejected Paul's message about their Jewish messiah, and his announcement that he was going to take the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the apostle was still convinced that Christ would soon return.
A decade before, in A.D. 54, Paul had penned his first two epistles (I&II Thessalonians), in which he taught the doctrine of the rapture and resurrection. In fact, all of the apostles were preaching on prophetic subjects, expecting Christ to return in their generation. It was a popular doctrine in the first century.
In Hebrews 3:9, Paul reminded the Jews that God only gave them forty years in which to repent. It is possible that Paul was alluding to the fact that Christ was crucified around A.D. 30, and that they only had about six more years to repent.
Nero was the Roman emperor at that time and, because his name added up to 666 in Hebrew gematria, many considered him as the prophesied Antichrist. Nero came to power on October 13, A.D. 54, following the death of Claudius — the same year that Paul wrote II Thessalonians 2:3&4, in which he mentioned the "man of sin ... the "son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
He is the emperor that had Paul beheaded on June 29, A.D. 66 — the same year that the Jewish revolt started in Jerusalem. However, two years later, Nero was deposed by a military coup and, facing execution, Roman historians claim that he committed suicide on June 9, A.D. 68.
The Burning of Rome
On July 18, A.D. 64, a fire started just south of the Circus Maximus in shops that sold flammable goods. To Paul, this burning of Rome may have seemed like the fulfillment of a mysterious prediction about the burning of Mystery Babylon. In short, it seems like those seven years prior to the destruction of Herod's Temple were typical of the future Tribulation Period. Nero blamed the Christians, but many historians believed that he had the city torched.
The Jewish Revolt
The Wikipedia (an encyclopedia on the Internet) mentions a possible Jewish connection with Nero: "At the end of A.D. 66, conflict broke out between Greeks and Jews in Jerusalem and Caesarea. According to a Jewish tradition in the Talmud (tractate Gitin 56a-b), Nero went to Jerusalem and told his men to shoot arrows in all four directions. All the arrows landed in the city. He then asked a passing child to repeat the verse he had learned that day. The child responded "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel" (Ezek. 25,14). Nero became terrified, believing that God wanted the Temple in Jerusalem destroyed, but would punish him if it was. Nero said, "He desires to lay waste His House and to lay the blame on me," whereupon he fled to Rome and converted to Judaism to avoid such retribution. Vespasian, head of the Roman army, was dispatched to put down the rebellion. The Talmud adds that the sage Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, a prominent supporter of the Bar Kokhba rebellion against Roman rule, was a descendant of Nero."
The Wikipedia also adds: "In A.D. 422, Augustine of Hippo wrote about II Thessalonians 2:1–11, where he believed Paul mentioned the coming of the Antichrist. Though he rejected the theory, Augustine mentioned that many Christians believed that Nero was the Antichrist or would return as the Antichrist. He wrote, so that in saying, ‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work,' he alluded to Nero, whose deeds already seemed to be as the deeds of Antichrist."
The Rise of Vespasian
Vespasian, the father of Titus and Domitian, was a successful military commander, partaking in the Roman invasion of Britain in A.D. 43, and subjugating Judea during the Jewish rebellion of A.D. 66. While preparing to besiege Jerusalem, Nero committed suicide, plunging the Roman Empire into a year of civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors."
After Nero's removal Galba, and then Otho, ascended the Roman throne. Both men perished in quick succession. Vitellius became the emperor in mid A.D. 69. In response, the Roman armies in Egypt and Judea declared Vespasian emperor on July 1.
In his bid for imperial power, Vespasian joined forces with Gaius Licinius Mucianus, the governor of Syria, who led the Flavian forces against Vitellius, while Vespasian himself gained control over Egypt. On December 20, A.D. 69, Vitellius was defeated, and the following day, Vespasian was declared emperor by the Roman Senate. He ruled for a decade, while his eldest son, Titus, led the Roman army against the Jewish rebellion.
In A.D. 70, Titus surrounded Jerusalem and began to starve the people, hoping to secure the city without destroying it. On the 9th of Av, his troops overran the Temple Mount, killing over 100,000 Jews and burning Herod's Temple.
During all of this, Jesus did not return to judge the wicked and establish the messianic kingdom. It must have been a great disappointment to all Christians, since Paul had announced, "The Lord is at hand."
Paul wrote these words in the second year of a Sabbatical cycle. The previous Sabbatical year was observed from September of A.D. 61 to September of A.D. 62. The chart is as follows:
61/62 - Sabbatical Year
62/63 - First year
63/64 - Second year - Paul met with Jewish elders
64/65 - Third year
65/66 - Fourth year - Apostle Paul beheaded
66/67 - Fifth year
67/68 Nero - suicide on June 9.
68/69 - Sabbatical Year
69/70 Temple burned Av 9. Titus took 100,000 captives.
Note that the Temple was burned in the year following a Sabbatical year. Therefore, even though Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians in the first of seven years before the destruction of the Temple, these events did not occur within a seven-year Sabbatical cycle.
As we reported in last month's article on page 34, Paul wrote four epistles in A.D. 64. They were Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.
In Ephesians, Paul alluded to the messianic kingdom as one of the ages or dispensations. He said that Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father that he might reign over all, "not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Eph. 1:21). He said that Christ has raised us up, "that in the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of his grace" (Eph. 2:7). In Eph. 3:2, he spoke of the "dispensation of the grace of God," and distinguished it from "other ages" (v. 5). These references tell me that Paul expected the messianic era to appear soon.
In Colossians, Paul writes about "the hope which is laid up for you in heaven" (Col. 1:5,6). He speaks of God, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13). He tells them that he is "a minister according to the dispensation of God" (Col. 1:25). He says that holy days, new moons and sabbaths ... "are a shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:17). And finally, Paul tells the Colossians, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). All of these terms allude to the expected return of Christ.
Finally, Paul writes a short epistle to Philemon, a rich slave-owner with vast holdings. One of his slaves had run away, only to find the Apostle Paul and be converted. Paul asks Philemon to receive the converted runaway, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. It is a shining example of the rapture and resurrection, in which all believers, once enslaved to sin, will be received into the portals of glory, not as sinners, but as family. It seems to me that Paul continually thought about the return of Christ and the establishment of heaven's kingdom.