Tag Archives: tribulation

What I Learned in Church Today: Partakers in Tribulation, Kingdom, and Perseverance

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 1:9 (NASB)

John sees himself as a “brother and fellow partaker” with the Asian Christians in three things which are “in Jesus”. Does this mean that these are part of God’s design for them? Explain your answer.

-Charlie’s notes on Rev 1:9-20
for Sunday School class

As I mentioned last week, as a teacher, Charlie has few questions and presents limited material so that we can explore the great depths the Bible has to offer.

I won’t attempt to go over all that we discussed in class today, but I thought that the “three things” Charlie says John identifies as “in Jesus” were particularly interesting. What three things are we “fellow partakers” in?

Tribulation, Kingdom, and Perseverance.

When I saw those three words together, they just “clicked”.

Consider.

When Jesus died and was resurrected, he inaugurated the very beginning of the entry of the New Covenant into our world. In fact, even before the crucifixion, the central message of Jesus was “the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” as if the Kingdom could burst into our world at any second, even as he was speaking (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7, Mark 1:15).

seek first the kingdomBut even as the Kingdom is entering our reality, it will not reach fruition until the Messiah returns to us as King. We are to live in the present world, we believers that is, as if the Kingdom is already here and as if Jesus were already enthroned in Jerusalem as King Messiah. As D. Thomas Lancaster preached in his Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series, we are freedom fighters or partisans, fighting against the world’s current tyranny, against the brokeness of a world that thinks it’s getting better every day, and fighting for our allegiance to the King, who is steadily coming nearer and soon to return.

Until then, we will indeed face great adversity and tribulation, even as the freedom fighters in Nazi occupied France did during World War Two. But we fight for a great cause, and we represent the King’s justice and mercy. We are fellow partakers in this troubled world, in the hope of the coming Kingdom, and we must maintain patient endurance until the Master comes back and establishes his reign over Israel and nations of the world.

After I was done laying out my answer (and I was feeling really proud of myself), Charlie asked for Biblical support for all that. Oops. I didn’t put that in my notes. Pride indeed goes before a fall. Fortunately, other class members stepped up to the plate and provided what I was missing. I guess there’s some truth in what Paul E. Meier said in his article for Messiah Journal issue 116 Christian Theology and the Old Testament:

Scripture points out that the understanding of individual believers is fragmental; each one of us has been granted a different degree of insight (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). The dimensions of God’s love are so vast that the whole body of believers is needed in order to comprehend them (Ephesians 3:18). God may give more insight to some than to others; he gives to each one according to the measure of his grace (Romans 12:3, Ephesians 4:7).

In other words, it “takes a whole village” or in this case, a whole Sunday school class to properly interpret the Bible. No one of us holds all the keys or can open all the doors to the Word of God, since we’re all apportioned gifts of different types and to different degrees by the mercy of Hashem.

Torah at SinaiThat means, we are all fellow partakers in the tribulations, the kingdom, and in perseverance with each other as we are all in Yeshua our Master, the Messiah King and Priest. But I wouldn’t have put all this together the way I have without an understanding of how the New Covenant works and what the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven really means (see The Kingdom is Now, Seek First the Kingdom, Thy Kingdom Come, Keys to the Kingdom, and Foretaste of the Kingdom).

John’s Revelation, his mystic vision of the exalted Messiah King, is the source of a great deal of mystery and I can’t pretend to understand it all, but I do understand that we have one whose “voice [is] like the sound of a trumpet” as our High Priest.

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound…

Exodus 19:16 (NASB)

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet…

Revelation 1:10 (NASB)

Yes, my Master and Lord. May your Kingdom come soon.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 22:20 (NASB)

Amen.

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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.

Prophesies of the Master

jewish-revolt-against-romeDo the prophesies of Jesus Christ about the final tribulation really mean what we think they mean?

By the time the Jewish revolt against Rome began, only a few of the Master’s original twelve disciples remained alive. Most had already fallen asleep in various places throughout the world. Thomas continued his work in India; tradition says he died in 70 CE. Simon the Zealot followed up on the work of Thaddeus in Armenia and Parthia, but according to “The Golden Legend,” he did not escape martyrdom, and he may have already been dead by the outbreak of the war with Rome. John continued his labors in Asia Minor where he kept a low profile through the years of the Jewish revolt. James the Less appears to have been still alive in Galilee near the end of the Jewish revolt.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
“War in Perea and Judea,” pg 1037
Torah Club, Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

This is how Lancaster begins the study of the “Acts of the Apostles” for the week of Torah Portion Balak. This part of Volume 6 of the Torah Club covers the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome, which leads up to the siege of Jerusalem and culminates in the destruction of the Holy Temple and the dispersion of most of the Jewish inhabitants of Israel into the diaspora.

I thought it was appropriate, since we are currently in the three weeks of mourning between 17 Tammuz and Tish’a B’Av, that I cover a little bit of that “territory” in the history of the Jewish people.

Actually, what captured my interest in the Torah Club study, were the prophesies of the Master regarding this period in Israel’s history. Within this particular lesson, Lancaster recounts several prophesies of the Messiah that not only provide a direct revelation regarding this tragic time for the Jewish people, but which, in my opinion, tells us something new about the words of Christ. For the sake of length, I’m only going to comment on three of the prophesies.

“Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

Matthew 23:35-36 (NASB)

The Zealous implemented a state of martial law in the city. They positioned guards at all the exits and allowed no one to leave as they rounded up men culpable in the uprising against them.

-Lancaster, pg 1041

Lancaster recounts the general circumstances in Jerusalem during the Shevet-Tevet, 68 CE time period as recorded by Josephus in Jewish War. In describing the events associated with the above-quoted prophesy of the Master, he relates how the original Sanhedrin was executed by the Zealots and an illegal court was created in its place. But at the “trial” of Zecharyah ben Baruch, a wealthy citizen in Jerusalem who was thought to be a Roman collaborator, Zecharyah’s defense was so convincing, that the Zealot’s puppet court found him innocent of the charges.

But the Zealots were not out for justice and their response fulfilled the Master’s prophetic words:

The Zealous rose up in fury. Two of the Zealot leaders unsheathed their swords and ran the plaintiff through. They said, “You also have our verdict. We acquit you too.” Then they dragged his body into Solomon’s Colonnade and threw it from that height into the valley below. The other Zealots struck the seventy legislators with the flats of their swords and drove them from the Temple. That was the last trial a Sanhedrin conducted in the city of Jerusalem.

The incident fulfills a word spoken by Yeshua in reference to the murder of Zecharhiah the son of Jehoiada in the Temple.

-ibid, pg 1042

The second of the prophesies of Jesus I’m citing here is even more illuminating and perhaps controversial.

I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”] And answering they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.”

Luke 34-37 (NASB)

nyc-sandy-aftermathMost Christians believe they have a complete understanding of the meaning of these verses, and it provides a great deal of theological comfort to them. But notice that the section in brackets is not contained in the oldest manuscripts, which may hint at something about the meaning of what Luke is trying to communicate.

The Zealots kept the city under their martial law. They punished all crimes with death, regardless of how serious the offense. They refused to allow anyone to leave lest he defect to the Romans. They struck down those they discovered escaping and left them unburied. Corpses lay along the roadways into the city. They refused to allow burial for any man they put to death.

To the people of Jerusalem, it seemed as if the Zealots had declared war against Rome and God both. They left the dead bodies to putrefy in the sun. They put to death anyone who dared to bury one of their victims. Josephus says, “He that granted the favor of the grave to another soon stood in need of a grave himself.” In those days, the words of the Master were fulfilled.

-Lancaster, pg 1043

This is a very different interpretation of the Master’s prophesy I quoted above than what we are used to hearing. There is no relation to “the rapture” at all (and I know I’ll probably “get in trouble” for even quoting Lancaster’s interpretation). One is taken by the Zealots for various crimes, real or imagined, and the other, who is not a suspect, is left behind. And where the dead bodies are left in the street, there the vultures gather.

You may have heard stories of Hitler’s Gestapo kidnapping political enemies in the middle of the night from their homes and from their beds. Similar stories have been told of the KGB in the Soviet Union. Under any despotic rule, citizens can be taken away without due process, imprisoned, or killed. There is no justice and no mercy. Why then could this not be the fate of many in Jerusalem during the Roman siege against the city as the Zealots ruled inside the city’s walls with brutality and force?

For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

Matthew 24:21-22 (NASB)

This is another prophesy that is attributed, in Christian tradition, to “the rapture,” stating that “the elect” will be whisked into Heaven before things get too bad on earth in the last days before the Messiah’s return.

However, according to Lancaster’s commentary, this prophesy may well have been fulfilled during the Fall of Perea in the month of Adar, 68 CE. Again, Lancaster’s source is Josephus’ Jewish War.

As the springtime drew near, Vespasian commenced his campaign. The rebels in Perea held the city of Gadara (or Gedora), which Josephus called “the capital of Perea and a city of some strength.” The leading men of Gadara had sent ambassadors to Vespasian urging him to come and liberate their city from the rebels. Vespasian took the tenth legion from Scythopolis (Beth-shan) and marched them to Gadara. On the fourth day of Adar, the legion came within sight of the city. At the sight of the approaching legion, the rebels abandoned the city and fled. Gadara surrendered immediately.

Vespasian left his tribute Placidus and five hundred cavalry and three thousand footmen to pursue the fleeing rebels. He returned to Caesarea.

-Lancaster, pg 1043

Placidus pursued and harassed the rebels, killing them as they ran and eliminating the populations of any hapless villages the rebels happened to take refuge in. Finally the rebel forces were trapped, hemmed in between the rain-swollen Jordan river and Placidus and his men.

By the time it was all over, more than fifteen thousand corpses floated down the Jordan and washed into the Dead Sea. Placidus continued his assault all the way to the Dead Sea, taking all the villages and towns of Perea except the fortress Macherus.

This slaughter happened just south of Pella where the Jewish believers had taken refuge inside the walls of that city. From their perspective in the city, it seemed as if the Master’s words had come to pass.

They prayed ardently for the coming of the Son of Man to cut the days of tribulation short. They looked for a sign of the Son of Man in the sky, and they listened for the sound of His shofar, but He did not come.

-ibid, pp 1043-44

Broken FaithLancaster presents more prophesies of Jesus as applied to the says that preceded the fall of Jerusalem, verses that most Protestant churches attribute to a final tribulation in which the faithful will be taken up and those who are not chosen are “left behind.”

Can I say what these prophesies mean? No, of course not. I present this interpretation from the Torah Club for two reasons. The first I’ve already mentioned, to recount and commemorate these three weeks of mourning in solidarity with the Jewish people. The second is to illustrate that prophesy is one thing and theology and doctrine based on long-held Christian tradition is something else entirely.

I’ve often wondered what would happen in the final days of tribulation, before the return of Christ, if we all finally realized that there is no rapture…what would happen to us…what would happen to the faithful?

However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Matthew 24:8 (NASB)

If there is no rapture, if terrible times arrive and we are not rescued, if like the believing Jews who sought refuge in Pella, we look to the sky and pray, if like those devout ones, we gaze up to in the air and the Master does not come in the clouds when we expect him to, what happens to us? What will become of our faith if we fail to hear the sound of his shofar? Then, when Messiah does come at the time appointed by the Father, will he find that we still have faith…or will it have fled along with our courage as our theological expectations and the traditions of the church turn to dust?