Tag Archives: second coming

A Quick View of Revelation Through a Christian Lens

trumpets-on-the-lords-dayI was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

Revelation 1:10-16 (NASB)

Tales of the Messianic Era series

The previous entry is Trouble Breaking into Church with Messianic Prophesy.

Last Wednesday, Pastor and I talked about (among other things) a summary of his understanding of the Book of Revelation, that really confusing, mystic experience of the apostle John, the vision he experienced during his exile on Patmos.

In one of my previous blog posts, I had tried to sketch out my understanding of Pastor’s conceptualization of Revelation but missed the mark. This is my attempt to correct my mistake, but it’s also part of my investigation into “the end times,” that part of Christian/Hebrew Roots/Messianic Jewish doctrine I’ve been avoiding for so very long.

The following (and this time, I took notes) is my summary of Pastor’s summary of Revelation. Basically, I’m just laying a little groundwork for what follows. No conclusions, just the fundamentalist Christian mapping to the return of Jesus, the rapture, the tribulation, and the Messianic Era.

Here goes.

According to Pastor, in Revelation 1, we see the resurrected Jesus. As you might imagine, he’s not quite the way John remembered him during their time together in Israel.

In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, we see the churches, but according to Pastor, after this point in the book, the Church (big C), the entire body of Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ everywhere, disappears, to be taken up to Heaven with Jesus for the seven years of tribulation. For those seven years, there are no Christians on Earth at all.

Chapters 4 and 5 show us the Church in Heaven.

Chapters 6 through 19 show us the tribulation period, God’s judgment and wrath on the unsaved of the Earth. Since there is no mention of the Church in these chapters, Pastor believes the “argument by silence” here supports the Church being absent from the Earth during this time. Those people who come to faith in Jesus during the tribulation are saved, but they are not part of the Church. Those ancient Israelites who lived and died before Jesus are resurrected (Pastor says he’s not quite sure on the timing of this event) and are saved, but they too are not part of the Church.

Chapter 19 says something important.

And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.

Revelation 19:14 (NASB)

Depending on which Bible translation you use, the phrase could be rendered “armies in heaven” or “armies of heaven.” If it’s of heaven, then it’s most likely talking about angels. But according to Pastor, if it’s in heaven, then it’s likely talking about the Church, the group of Jewish and Gentile believers who were raptured up to Heaven with Jesus but who now follows Jesus back down to Earth. Their being “clothed in fine linen, white and clean” indicates their righteousness and purity. There’s a further implication that in Jesus striking “down the nations,” that as his army, the Church, will also “strike” (Pastor didn’t mention that last part, but seems to make sense, given the context).

Chapter 20 of Revelation is the Messianic reign. I mentioned to Pastor that one chapter being devoted to such an important time period seemed a little skimpy, but he reminded me that there are many prophesies in the Old Testament (Tanakh) that speak at length about the Messianic reign. I can’t wait to map them to the fundamentalist Christian interpretation of events to see how (or if) it all connects.

final_battleRevelation chapters 21-22 are the final battle, the new Heaven and new Earth and progressing into Eternity.

We spent some time covering a little theoretical ground on the rapture before tribulation (which is Pastor’s viewpoint), rapture after tribulation (which Pastor says most churches go with), and rapture in the middle of the tribulation. Pastor believes the following is the critical portion of scripture that supports his perspective and that all other perspectives must somehow explain it in order to be considered valid.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NASB)

Pastor also mentioned there are differences of opinion about when the Messianic Era will occur, but my current opinion is that the wars (all but the final one) must all occur and all of Israel’s enemies must be defeated before we experience a thousand years (or a long but undefined period of time) of peace under the reign of the King.

This all leads back to who and what is the church, the fate of ethnic Israel (Romans 11:26), and what I consider the “splitting” of “saved Israel” (the righteous Israelites such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and so forth) vs. the Jewish people who believed in Jesus and are part of the Church. It still bothers me that Israel has two separate expressions in the Millennial Kingdom, one as saved Israel and one as Israel in the Church (occupying the body of Messiah with the Gentile Christians).

The prophesies in the Tanakh don’t presuppose a divided Jewish people unless you consider those that mention Israel and Judah, such as the following:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 31:31-32 (NASB)

I don’t want to go too far down that road right now. Like I said, I’m just laying the groundwork for what follows, but if you have any ideas about how the Christian and Jewish points of view about the coming (or return) of Messiah are supposed to fit together, let me know.

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FFOZ TV Review: Ingathering of Israel

tv_ffoz7_1

Episode 07: The shofar (ram’s horn) is probably the most intriguing and accessible of all Jewish ritual elements. Episode seven will show viewers that it is this great trumpet that will sound when Jesus finally returns to earth. The ram’s horn call will announce the ingathering of Israel, the return of the Jewish people back to their land. But this event, the ingathering of exiles, has significance not only for the Jewish people but for all non-Jewish believers in Messiah as well. We will all be raptured to Jerusalem.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 7: Ingathering of Israel

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Ingathering of the Elect

This episode looks at two related events: the second coming of Messiah and the ingathering of Israel. The episode is too short to really do justice to this topic. Whole books have been written on the second coming and all that it means. Thus, episode seven focuses on just a few key ideas within this vast area of information about the end times.

The first topic is the idea that a trumpet will be blown to herald the return of Messiah.

Then the sign of the son of man will appear in heaven, and all the families of the earth will mourn, and they will see the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven in power and great glory. He will send forth his angels with the sound of the shofar; they will gather his chosen ones from the four winds, and from one end of heaven to the other.

Matthew 24:30-31 (DHE Gospels)

FFOZ teacher Toby Janicki originally read these verses from the ESV Bible and in choosing to use the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, I’m tipping his hand a bit, but not too much.

In those verses, Toby tells us that Jesus actually was stringing together a number of different Old Testament (Tanakh) prophesies, which was a common way of teaching in the late Second Temple period. For the purposes of this episode, Toby focuses on verse 31, though I hope future episodes flesh out the other prophesies mentioned:

And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (emph. mine)

Matthew 24:31 (ESV Bible)

Since these episodes are dedicated to viewing New Testament concepts through a Jewish lens and the original Jewish context of the Biblical prophecies, we focus on the trumpet as something that many Christians may not understand. Pursuing the first clue, Toby takes us to 1 Thessalonians 4:16:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Again, this trumpet is mentioned, but what is the trumpet and where did Jesus and Paul get the idea that a trumpet would be blown at the second coming of Messiah? Did they just make it up? Was it a new revelation?

Not at all.

It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

Isaiah 27:13 (NASB)

Here we have the trumpet again, The prophet Isaiah is associating its being sounded with the coming of Messiah and the ingathering of those who were scattered in the land of Egypt. And this provides our first clue.

Clue 1: Jesus’s words about a trumpet blast and gathering of the elect are from Old Testament prophecies.

For our next clue and to discover more about the trumpet, the scene shifts to Israel and FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby. Aaron shows the audience a shofar or a ram’s horn, which today, is a common item that is sold in many tourist shops in Israel. Most Christians are at least somewhat familiar with the shofar, but for those who aren’t, Aaron describes its origins.

tv_ffoz7_aaronHowever, it’s not a horn in the classic sense. It’s used for signaling, not music. The ram and ram’s horn first appear in Genesis 22 at the Akedah or the Binding of Issac. Aaron tells us that we also see it (or hear it) in Exodus 19:16 during the giving of Torah at Sinai, in Leviticus 22:24 when describing the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which is a “holiday of remembering” and a “time of (shofar) blasting,” and in Leviticus 25 in recounting the details of the Jubilee Year.

The shofar is used on special occasions to signal fasting and repentance, to sound a warning, to indicate that an extremely important event is about to take place. In Exodus, Israel heard the sound of a loud shofar as the Divine Presence descended on Sinai in fire and great power. We see both in 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that the shofar will also be sounded at the return of Messiah, and will signal the raising of those who died in Christ.

We return to Toby now and the second clue.

Clue 2: The great trumpet is the shofar used in the Bible to announce important events.

From here, we move on to the second topic of interest: the identity of the exiles and the elect who will be ingathered. Who are they? Are they Christians? Jews? Both? Most believers think that it is anyone who is a Christian, and that we’ll all fly up to meet Jesus in the air, and then be raptured into Heaven.

But let’s look at what the Bible has to say:

“Ho there! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have dispersed you as the four winds of the heavens,” declares the Lord. “Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon.” For thus says the Lord of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. For behold, I will wave My hand over them so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me. Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.

Zechariah 2:6-10 (NASB)

The identity of the exiles and the elect is in verse ten, “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion…” This can only be the Jewish people. The four winds of the heavens, according to Toby, is a poetic way of saying “from the four corners of the Earth,” indicating that the exiled Jewish people will return to Israel from all the places on the planet to which they had been exiled. This will be accomplished by angels, according to the prophecy, so when Messiah returns, he sends out his messengers to finish the return of the exiles to their Land, the return of all the Jewish people everywhere to Israel.

I think Toby’s right when he says that the first fruits of the ingathering began with modern Zionism and the creation of the modern state of Israel. For over sixty years, Jews from every nation on Earth have been making aliyah and returning to their rightful homeland. However, the return of the exiles will not be complete until all the Jewish people are returned to Israel to live in peace.

Since this television show is produced primarily for a Christian audience, Toby asks the question most viewers will be asking themselves at this point: What about us? What about the Christians?

“Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. The Lord will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

Zechariah 2:11-12 (NASB)

So along with the Jewish people, the faithful Christian Gentiles will also have a role in the ingathering. Toby said something like “we’ll be along for the ride,” and described how we will all be caught up in the air with Messiah and that we, along with all who had died in Messiah and the Jewish people, will be raptured to…Israel.

ffoz_7_toby1No, not to Heaven at all, but to the Land of Israel, where we’ll celebrate the Return of our King.

I’m sure this part of the program will raise more than a few eyebrows of the many Christian viewers since it gives quite a different interpretation of a popular Christian teaching. The idea is that when Jesus returns, we get to escape the worst of the bad times by going to Heaven, leaving behind those who are unsaved.

Toby doesn’t address this at all, and the absence of any mention of not being raptured to Heaven makes me believe that more on the second coming and the end times will be covered in future episodes of this series. When this episode first aired, I can only imagine that FFOZ received many emails, letters, and phone calls asking why they are teaching about the rapture this way.

And we have the third and final clue:

Clue 3: The elect are the Jewish people and Gentile believers will also be gathered to Jerusalem by Messiah.

What Did I Learn?

I’ve never been comfortable with the modern Christian doctrine of the rapture, so episode seven provided me with an alternate explanation that frankly, sounds a lot more reasonable than taking the escape hatch to Heaven while letting the rest of humanity suffer. Of course people who are very interested in the end times and the rapture are bound to have a lot of questions about all this, and as I mentioned before, the Christian audience is likely to be surprised and maybe even dismayed by Toby’s interpretation of events. For me, I’d rather be partying in Jerusalem with the King.

But I also wonder exactly what role the Gentile Christians will play in returning the Jewish exiles to Israel. To me, it’s clear that all the Jewish people will live in the Land and regularly make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to pay homage to the King. But after the initial celebration is over, where do the Gentiles go? Back to our homes in the lands where we live? That seems reasonable, but then, why are we “raptured” to Jerusalem in the first place?

I’ll review the next episode very soon.

Did Jesus Make a False Prophesy About His Return?

warner_bros_wolf_in_sheepBut any prophet who presumes to speak in My name an oracle that I did not command him to utter, or who speaks in the name of other gods — that prophet shall die.” And should you ask yourselves, “How can we know that the oracle was not spoken by the Lord?” — if the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and the oracle does not come true, that oracle was not spoken by the Lord; the prophet has uttered it presumptuously: do not stand in dread of him.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (JPS Tanakh)

As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

Mark 13:1-2 (NASB)

Last Friday, in my commentary on Torah Portion Shoftim, I stated that of the various prophesies of Jesus, we can verify those that described the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE. However, a bit of a challenge came my way, questioning the certainty of my statement. The question was whether or not Jesus was foretelling of the destruction of ancient Jerusalem or a future Jerusalem.

Here’s what I mean.

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Mark 13:24-30 (NASB)

If this is Jesus talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, we have to ask ourselves if the sun and moon went dark, the stars fell out of heaven, and the powers in the heavens were shaken. Of course, this part of his prophesy is generally applied to the return of Jesus in some unknown future except that he says, “I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” A plain reading of the text in English seems to indicate that Jesus was talking about his eventual return after a future destruction of Jerusalem and that he expected all of these events to take place during the lifetime of the (then) current generation.

Guess what? It didn’t happen.

However there are a few things to consider. We tend to read the Bible chronologically front to back, but it’s not always presented that way, even in the same book. I remember sitting in our local Reform/Conservative synagogue many years ago and hearing the Rabbi say that even the events that occurred in the Torah portion for that week (Mishpatim) may not be in chronological order. I don’t remember the details of that discussion, but it certainly got my attention.

Going back to Mark 13, what was the interval of time between the statement Jesus made in verses 1 and 2 and what he was saying in verse 3 and beyond? Remember, in verses 1 and 2, Jesus and his disciples were leaving the Temple. Starting in verse three, he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple. At least minutes and perhaps hours passed, but we don’t really know. We also don’t know in the first two verses, if he was talking about the 70 CE destruction of the Temple or the future destruction. Certainly the context would imply that all of Chapter 13 in Mark was a discussion of the same topic, but it’s not necessarily so. Remember, when this Gospel was written, there were no such things as chapters and verses. For that matter, the exact construction of sentences and insertion of punctuation isn’t absolutely fixed. Chapter 13 could involve more than a single topic, though the ancient and future destructions of Jerusalem are related.

messiah-prayerBut that doesn’t solve the problem that Jesus seemed to believe his return was going to be in the lifetime of his disciples, which makes it a matter of years or decades at most. How do we solve “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place”?

I’m sure someone must have addressed this puzzle throughout the long history of Christianity. It’s an obvious question. I also don’t doubt (sadly) that this chapter may have contributed to the loss of faith in more than a few people.

Without being a theologian or being able to ask one, I did find one thing. The word “generation” in verse 30 can also be translated as “race.” If that’s the case, then the sentence could read, “Truly I say to you, this race will not pass away until all these things take place” (emph. mine).

I’m assuming that “race” is being used as in racial type or addressing an entire people group. If that’s true, then maybe Jesus is saying that the Jewish people will not pass away before his return, which would seem obvious but it takes the idea of an imminent return out of the sentence. He may simply be reassuring his disciples that the Jewish people will not all be exterminated by the Romans (or anyone else) before he comes back.

On the other hand, multiple translations of that word always render it as “generation.”

I dunno. A plain read of the text still presents a problem. Here’s what a couple of Christian commentaries say about this verse:

“This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished.” This is one of those prophecies which admit of a growing fulfillment. If the word “generation” (γανεὰ) be understood (as it may undoubtedly be understood) to mean the sum total of those living at any time on the earth, the prediction would hold true as far as the destruction of Jerusalem was concerned. The destruction of Jerusalem took place within the limits of the generation living in our Lord’s time; and there might be some of those whom he was then addressing who would live to see the event. His prediction amounted, in fact, to this, that the destruction of Jerusalem would take place within forty years of the time when he was speaking. But it may have a wider meaning. It may mean the Jewish people. Their city would be destroyed their power overthrown. They would be “peeled and scattered.” But they would still remain a distinct and separate nation to the end of the world. And there are other prophecies which show that with their national conversion to Christianity will be associated all that is most glorious in the future Church of God.

-Pulpit Commentary

Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass fill all these things be done—or “fulfilled” (Mt 24:34; Lu 21:32). Whether we take this to mean that the whole would be fulfilled within the limits of the generation then current, or, according to a usual way of speaking, that the generation then existing would not pass away without seeing a begun fulfilment of this prediction, the facts entirely correspond. For either the whole was fulfilled in the destruction accomplished by Titus, as many think; or, if we stretch it out, according to others, till the thorough dispersion of the Jews a little later, under Adrian, every requirement of our Lord’s words seems to be met.

-Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Seems kind of thin. It’s possible that Jesus was talking about all Jews who would ever live when he said “this generation (race)” or that what was to be “accomplished” wasn’t literally all the events leading up to his return, but only the beginning of a long list of signs that signal his eventual return. Yeah, like I said. It seems kind of thin.

waiting-for-mannaA number of other Christian commentaries on the same verse yield similar results. I can’t help but think these Christian Bible commentators are all reading into the text what they need to see in order to justify the fact that Jesus has yet to return. Unless there’s something about the original Greek that strongly suggests Jesus couldn’t have been talking about a literal generation of men, then Houston, I think we have a problem.

To add to the problem, there are other verses where Jesus spoke of “this generation” seeing his return.

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Matthew 16:28

“Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

Matthew 23:36

Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

John 21:22

I can’t imagine that generations of Christian theologians simply missed all this or explained it away using inadequate interpretative methods, but then again, I don’t like to make assumptions. OK, Bible smart people, what is a credible way to refute the rather annoying problem…or does it exist?

The floor is now open.