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This article is the fourth in our series on anti-Semitism, and the tenth and final article in our much more inclusive series on Israel. For a foundational understanding of what is herein presented, it is suggested that a study or review of previous studies in the series be undertaken. This may be done most easily by going to page 2 of our Doctrinal Exegesis and clicking on the links in the Concerning Israel series in the Table of Contents.
As has been shown, the true roots of anti-Semitism are found in the spiritual realm, not the natural. Specifically, they are found in Satan's desire to thwart the ascendancy of Messiah - firstly, because it his long-time desire to usurp the throne and authority of God (Isaiah 14:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), and secondarily, to prevent his final and permanent demise and confinement in the Lake of Fire (Isaiah 14:15; Revelation 19:20, 20:1-3,10).
If Satan were able to destroy the Jewish people before the cross, prophecies concerning the first coming could never have been fulfilled. What this means is that Christ would never have been born, die for sin, defeat Satan, or be resurrected and seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Having failed to destroy the Jews before the cross, Satan has been unceasingly attempting to prevent Israel's national salvation. If he could do that, second coming prophecies could never be fulfilled. What this means is that Christ could not return, cast him into the Abyss for a thousand years, and then into the Lake of Fire for eternity (Hosea 5:15; Matthew 23:39; Revelation 20:2-3,10).
This study will
demonstrate the futility of Satan's
attempt to achieve his goals through
anti-Semitic means whether applied
directly, as in his provocation of
David to number Israel (1 Chronicles
21:1), or through the agency of people
and nations. Inasmuch as Satan often
employs people and nations as his
agents, the human goals of
anti-Semitism will also necessarily be
thwarted; and inasmuch as human
anti-Semitic acts are motivated by
Satan, the human goals of
anti-Semitism are ultimately the same
as his: They do not want God in their
lives, but desire to be god of their
own destinies and avoid accountability
for their actions. Edward H.
Flannery's assessment, presented
previously, captures it in a nutshell:
The ultimate conjunction of satanic and human goals is seen in the rise of the anti-Christ, the worship of him by the masses, and their combined effort to destroy Israel once and for all. (Revelation 12:1-17; 13:3-8)
Plainly and simply, Scripture declares that Israel will never be destroyed.
"For just as the new heavens and
the new earth which I make will
endure before Me," declares the
LORD, "so your offspring and your
name will endure." (Isaiah
For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, o sons of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)
With these passages, God has made it known unequivocally that He will never ever allow Israel to cease from being a nation before [Him] forever.
For this purpose and for every other purpose and plan that He has for her, God will be ever vigilant: Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:4). The Hebrew for keeps is shamar, which means to guard, to protect. With a Guardian like God, and with such promises as these, we can be assured that Israel will never be destroyed.
To illustrate the guardianship of God over Israel, let us view the unique phenomenon of Jewish survival by considering these observations, all by non-Jews:
"By every measuring stick of history there should not be even one identifiable Jew alive today." "What is the secret of his immortality?" Berdyaev answered correctly: "Their destiny reflects the indestructibility of the divine decrees." Specifically, I might add, God's unequivocal and unbreakable promises to sustain them.
The multitude of ways that Satan has tried to prevent the salvation of Israel include:
Notwithstanding all of Satan's schemes, preventing the national salvation of Israel is likewise impossible, as God has covenanted with Israel that He will save her.
The fulfillment of this new covenant will take place at the end of the Tribulation period:
In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. (Zechariah 13:1)
Thus the words of Paul will come to pass:
Also Isaiah 19:24-25; 59:20-21; 61:8-9; 66:21-22; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 16:60-62; 34:22-31; 37:26-28.
God will surely uphold His decrees on the matter of Israel's survival and salvation:
Numbers 23:19: God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
1 Samuel 15:29: Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.
Luke 21:33: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
Romans 11:29:The gifts and the calling of God [on Israel] are irrevocable.
2 Corinthians 1:20: For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
Hebrews 6:18: It is impossible for God to lie.
James 1:17: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
We have seen that Satan's pursuit of his anti-Semitic goals is futile. In this section, it will be shown that people who are anti-Semitic will experience futility as well, not only as regards the goals of their anti-Semitism, but in very personal ways.
God has issued decrees concerning those who practice anti-Semitism, but they fall within a more inclusive principle, that of sowing and reaping:
David sowed adultery and premeditated murder, and reaped a harvest of each in his own household (2 Samuel 11-20, especially 12:9-12; 13:28-29; 16:22). Surely, those who sow anti-Semitic acts, be they Jew or Gentile, saved or unsaved, can expect similar harvests in their own lives.
Four key passages:
The blessing/cursing aspect of the covenant that God made with Abraham applied to Abraham personally (Genesis 15:1: Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you); but not only to him, but to all in his chosen line:
a. It is implied in God's stated intention to bless all the families of the earth, which He did through the descendants of Abraham in the writing of Scripture, the bringing forth of Messiah, and the establishment of the church; and which He will continue to do during the Great Tribulation in the completion of the evangelization of the world by 144,000 Israelites (Revelation 7:1-10), and through the Millennial Kingdom as saved Israel ministers to the nations of the world (Zechariah 8:23).
b. God stated it
forthrightly to Abraham in Genesis
will establish My covenant
between Me and you and your
descendants after you throughout
their generations for an
everlasting covenant, to be God
to you and to your descendants
f. It is seen in
Romans 11:27, where Paul reiterated
God’s promise concerning Israel for
a time yet future: This is My
covenant with them, when I take
away their sins
In His foreknowledge, God knew that the satanic attacks on Abraham and his covenant nation would be numerous and great. It is in this context that He declared the blessing/cursing provision. Without a doubt, the blessing/cursing provision is a regularly used tool that God employs to insure the fulfillment of His divine purposes through Israel. This is exemplified in God's destruction of the armies that will gather to destroy Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation (Zechariah 12:1-9; 14:1-2; Revelation 12:15-17).
According to Strong, the Hebrew for curses in the one who curses you can mean to "treat lightly" or "bring into contempt," and the word for curse in I will curse is based on a root that means "to execrate, to bitterly curse."5 The English Standard Version renders the clause, him who dishonors you I will curse. Holman's Christian Standard Bible: I will curse those who treat you with contempt; and Young's Literal Translation: him who is disesteeming thee I curse. The passage may very well indicate that God will "bitterly curse" those who even dishonor or disesteem the covenant nation; and if that is the case, then what will the magnitude of the curse be on those who treat the nation with severity!
2. Zechariah 2:8: 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 [pupil] of His eye."
It is rather clear
that this passage will have its
fulfillment in connection with the
Lord's second coming:
3. Matthew 25:40,45: 40. Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. . . . 45. Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.
These brothers of Mine are generally identified as the poor and needy, or as Tribulation believers; but there is powerful evidence that it refers to the Jews of the Tribulation, who will be singled out by Satan for annihilation during this time of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7).
defines ethnos, the Greek
word for nations,
as "a race (as of the same
habit), that is, a tribe;
specifically a foreign (non-Jewish)
one (usually by implication pagan):
- Gentile, heathen, nation,
people." Jesus is telling His
Jewish listeners that their
descendants will be subject to
extreme tribulation at
the hand of all [Gentiles].
This is consistent with God's
pronunciation of end-time judgment
on Israel in Zechariah 14:2: For I will
gather all the nations against
Jerusalem to battle;
with Satan's ferocious persecution
of Israel during the Tribulation
in Revelation 12:1-17; and with
God's pronunciation of subsequent
judgment on all
the nations . . . on behalf of
My people and My inheritance,
Israel, whom they have
scattered among the nations;
and they have divided up My
land (Joel 3:2).
who reside in Judea are to flee to the
mountains. He could not mean that
all Tribulation believers are to
flee, for they will not be
residing just in Judea, but
throughout the world! He said that
those who are in Judea,
the land of the Jews, must flee.
To conclude, these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, refers to Jesus' brothers, the Jews. Lest there be a question about His referring to multitudes of unsaved Jews as His brothers, let's remember what Paul called the unsaved among his nation: my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites (Romans 9:3-4).
To get back to the point, Matthew 25:40 and 45 again state the principle brought out in Zechariah 2:8, that the manner in which people treat Israel is tantamount to the manner in which they treat God and His Son. It is the Lord Himself who speaks in both passages.
4. Romans 12:19: Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.
Though Paul used the verse as an exhortation to believers to not take revenge for offenses (as can be seen by verse 17: Never pay back evil for evil to anyone), it has general application. It is a restatement of Deuteronomy 32:35, Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in which God declares His impending judgment upon Israel because of her evil ways. It also harks back to Psalm 94:1, O LORD, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth!, where the psalmist calls upon God to take revenge upon those who crush Thy people [Israel] (verse 5).
Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord. God will take revenge on those who crush His people Israel.
God's decrees concerning those who stir up and commit anti-Semitic acts apply to Satan, his demon host, nations and individuals. Historian Paul Johnson notes, "What is in any case clear is that anti-Semitism, besides being self-inflicted, is also self-destructive, and of societies and governments as much as of individuals."6 History bears out what God has decreed!
Some observations, all
of which may be seen in examples that
2. God may use Israel's enemies to judge her, yet He holds them accountable because of their free will decisions to harm her.
3. Dr. Fruchtenbaum observes, "When God operates on the cursing aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant, he works on the sub-principle of curse for curse in kind."7 In other words, God applies such curses in an "eye for eye" manner: Therefore all who devour you will be devoured; And all your adversaries, every one of them, will go into captivity; And those who plunder you will be for plunder, And all who prey upon you I will give for prey (Jeremiah 30:16).
In Revelation 13:10, God applies the same principle to those who persecute the saints in the Tribulation.
4. God's decrees apply to the saved and the unsaved.
5. God will apply His decrees in this life and in the afterlife.
6. God may delay the application of His decrees in this life for a long time, but they will be applied.
Immediately after Satan's most successful attempt at annihilating the Jews (Zechariah 13:8; 14:1-2; Revelation 12:15-17), God commands an angel to cast him into the Abyss for a thousand years.
His demons will
apparently be cast into the Abyss
with him, as can be derived from the
Because of their pre-Adamic rebellion against God, the eternal punishment of Satan and his demons was decreed millennia before the birth of Abraham (Isaiah 14:12-14; Revelation 12:4). Nevertheless, their rebellion has never ceased, and the focus of their rebellion since the birth of Abraham has been the destruction of Israel and the prevention of their salvation. Their eternal destiny will be the Lake of Fire:
Revelation 20:10: And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Matthew 25:41: Then He will also say to those on His left, Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.
The law of sowing and reaping may work passively, as by the affliction of the conscience leading to migraines, insanity or other ailments, or it may work by active chastisements and judgments of God. This includes sins against Israel. However, it must be noted that whatever passive reaping may be experienced by anti-Semites, the cursing provision of the Abrahamic covenant guarantees active cursing by God above and beyond passive reaping: And the one who curses you I will curse.
Let us examine how these laws apply to those who engage in anti-Semitic activities.
1. Application to
b. At the Judgment
Seat of Christ
Note that even believers who engage in horrible anti-Semitic acts will not lose their salvation. They will suffer loss, yet [they] will be saved.8
2. The Unsaved
In Genesis 20:1-3, Abimelech, king of Gerar, exercised his royal prerogative in exactly the same way, and took Sarah into his harem. But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, "Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married (verse 3)." As with Pharaoh, if Abimelech were able to follow through on his desire, Sarai's womb would have been closed in regard to Isaac. Therefore, the Lord followed through with a plainly observable "curse for curse in kind." Verse 18: the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
Another example is Haman, who schemed to have Mordecai hung, yet ended up being hung on the same gallows he erected for Mordecai. (Esther 6:4; 9:25)
b. At the Great
White Throne Judgment
Some sins are greater than others (John 19:11); and the greater the sin, the more severe the punishment (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 12:47-48). Surely, God will factor in sins against His people when degrees of judgment are pronounced for the eternally condemned.
2. No one's salvation or condemnation is ever decided on the basis of their deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9). The deeds of the goat individuals are indicative of their unsaved state, as faith is demonstrated by godly works, per James 2:14-26. Therefore, the fate of the goat nations is to be viewed as the fate of unsaved individuals, addressed above.
3. Entire nations, though they may contain saved as well as unsaved individuals, do suffer earthly judgments for wickedness. There were many saved Jews in Israel during the judgment of 70 A.D., yet they had to endure the judgment along with the unsaved Israelites.
Here are examples of nations who have suffered for their oppressive actions against Israel:
The sentence was carried out later in the chapter. What Saul nearly completed was completed by Samuel.
Obadiah 1:18: Then the house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau will be as stubble. And they will set them on fire and consume them, so that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau.
There will be no survivor of the house of Esau. God also declared that during the Millennial or Messianic Kingdom, while virtually the rest of the planet will be restored to pristine beauty, Edom will remain a desolation (Isaiah 34:8-15, Jeremiah 49:17-18, Ezekiel 35:10-15, Joel 3:19).
The Nations of
Historian Paul Johnson, again: "Anti-Semitism is self-inflicted, which means that, by an act of will and reason, the infection can be repelled. But this is not easy to do, especially in societies where anti-Semitism has become common or the norm."9
If one who is engaged in anti-Semitic attitudes, words or actions is a believer, the biblical cure is confession and repentance (1 John 1:9; Revelation 2:5). If such a one is not a believer, repentance from anti-Semitism would best begin with belief in the Gospel, for being anti-Semitic is being anti-God, and Jesus said, He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23). True repentance from anti-Semitism will lead to pro-Semitism in attitude, word and action.
Pro-Semitism is not blinding oneself to the faults of individual Jews or Israel. Minimally, it is supporting fair treatment of Jews and Israel. The very least one can do is to speak up when one hears an anti-Semitic comment. Self-preserving silence and inaction in the face of anti-Semitism is odious to the Lord: Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17). Not every individual among the condemned goat nations will necessarily be an active persecutor of Jews; they will simply not get involved in the dangerous business of offering them succor.
For those who believe the Bible, pro-Semitism is an inclination to bless the Jews because God has chosen them to bless the world. For this reason, pro-Semitism ought to be a hallmark of every believer and local church or congregation. Believers' pro-Semitism must include bringing the Gospel to the Jews per Matthew 28:18-20, and doing so as a priority over other peoples per Romans 1:16. It should also include extending ministries of mercy to them as a priority. This is seen in Matthew 25:34-40, where the Lord is shown blessing those who so minister to Israel, and in Romans 15:27: For if the Gentiles have shared in their [the Jews'] spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. Another Gentile obligation is implied in Romans 11:11: I say then, [the Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. If Jews see the joy of salvation in the lives of Gentile believers, then many will desire to enter into the joy of their Jewish Messiah - and what better way to display this joy to Jews than in joyous ministry to them!
To be most effective in pro-Semitic activities, one ought to pray for Israel regularly according to Psalm 122:6, 137:5-6 and Isaiah 62:1,6-7, and become familiar with at least the basics of Jewish history and prophecy and what Scripture says about their unique call in God. One way to begin is by studying the ten studies in this series. Simply go to page 2 of our Doctrinal Overview and Exegesis, and click on the links to the Concerning Israel series in the Table of Contents.
It is obvious from the weight that Scripture gives to these matters that pastors and teachers should teach them in their churches and take the lead in pro-Semitic activities. Will you carry the torch?
There's a flip side to the cursing aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant: and I will bless those who bless you (Genesis 12:3a).
God promises to bless those who bless Israel. Here are some examples.
Just as Satan and his demons are anti-Semitic because they are anti-God, the holy angels are pro-Semitic because they are pro-God. An example of this is in 2 Kings 6:8-17, where a host of holy angels gather to protect Israel against the Aramean army.
The holy angels will be rewarded with an eternity in the presence of God in Heaven:
In Genesis 39:1-5, Potiphar, an Egyptian, initially treated Joseph well, and the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD'S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field (verse 5).
Another example is
Ruth, the Moabitess, whose dedication
to Naomi was rewarded by her marriage
to Naomi's relative, Boaz: So
Boaz took Ruth, and she became
his wife, and he went in to her.
And the LORD enabled her to
conceive, and she gave birth to
a son (Ruth 4:13. See
also Ruth 2:10-12). That, in turn,
enabled her to be a maternal
progenitor of Jesus, a blessing she
will enjoy forever (Matthew 1:5-16)!
Two examples from the New Testament are the centurion with the sick slave (Luke 7:2-10, esp. v. 5) and Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48, esp. v. 2).
In addition to earthly blessings, believers who bless Israel will also receive rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven. If any man's work which he has built on [the foundation of Jesus Christ] remains, he will receive a reward (1 Corinthians 3:14).
3. Entire nations, though they may contain unsaved as well as saved individuals, are blessed because of kindnesses to Israel.
Pharaoh believed Joseph's interpretation of his dreams, elevated him to the highest position in Egypt save himself, and entrusted to him the project of storing up grain for the years of famine that Joseph predicted. As a result, Egypt was blessed: and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread (Genesis 41:54). As for Pharaoh himself, Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh's (Genesis 47:20).
Few things make this author cringe more than to hear a Jewish name associated with a misdeed that causes people injury. If you are contemplating, or are engaged in, any such activity, please consider your responsibility to your people. The last thing we need is another excuse for an anti-Semitic outburst. If you do not believe in Messiah, may I respectfully appeal to you to reconsider. Your belief in Jesus will not only open up the blessings of God to you personally, but will plant seeds of salvation in Israel that will ultimately come to fruition in her national salvation, the return of Messiah, the end of anti-Semitism, and the dawning of the Olam Haba, the Messianic Age. These truths and promises may be looked into through a reading of HaB'rit HaChadashah (The New Testament) and consideration of studies on Salvation and Israel in page 1, page 2 and this page of our Doctrinal Overview and Exegesis, and our Site Map.
~ This concludes our series, Concerning Israel ~
Scroll past Endnotes and Recommended Reading for next study.
1. Edward H. Flannery.
1. Edward H. Flannery. The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism, first published 1965, latest edition: (Mahwah, Paulist Press, 2004).
By Dr. Arnold G.
*Publications by Dr. Fruchtenbaum and Mottel Baleston are available at Ariel Ministries in various formats.
This study was originally written as part of an exposition of the doctrinal statement of The Association of Messianic Congregations, and follows a series of articles on Israel. No study on Israel is complete without addressing the Law, and we did address it in that series. You may review it, if you wish, in section XII of The Chosenness of Israel on this website. With this present study, however, we will focus on the Law with the emphasis given it in the next section of the AMC statement, the relationship between the believer and the Law.
While enslaved in Egypt, the Israelites were under two bodies of law. The most obvious consisted of the laws of the Egyptians, particularly those concerning slaves. Less obvious was that body of law that had been provided them by God, and it consisted of those provisions that survived the changes in the dispensational requirements, penalties, rewards and promises of the unconditional covenants that had been established up to that time: the Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic. Having been liberated from Egypt, they were no longer under Egyptian law, but they were still obligated to the covenants.
As concerns what survived of the provisions of the Adamic and Noahic covenants, they were still required or permitted by God to observe the following:
The faithful among them also had the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant to hold on to. Key among them were the following:
Furthermore, judging by the fact that Moses later incorporated pre-existing records into the Book of Genesis,1 the Israelites also had within their corporate memory the sacrifices and offerings offered up by Noah (Genesis 8:20), Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 13:4,18; 15:4; 21:33; 22:1-18), Job and his friends (Job 1:5; 42:7-9), Isaac (Genesis 26:25) and Jacob (Genesis 28:18; 31:54; 33:20; 35:7; 46:1): sacrifices and offerings of atonement, obedience, dedication, thanksgiving and worship. They also had fresh within their memory the blood sacrifice of the Passover, which protected their firstborn sons from the tenth plague, the death of firstborn sons (Exodus 12:1-13). Also, between the Exodus and the giving of the Law, God commanded them to keep every seventh day as a Sabbath rest (Exodus 16:23-30).
That's it. Two to three million ex-slaves turned loose into a great and terrible wilderness (Deuteronomy 1:19) headed for a Promised Land to fulfill some divine, but vague, destiny, with a small handful of laws to observe, some ancient promises to count on, and fresh memories of miraculous deliverance to encourage them; but obviously, God knew they needed more - much more! The much more consisted of divine guidance and provision in the wilderness and the giving of the Law.
It was at Sinai that God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments on the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18), which outlined Israel's basic responsibilities to Him and to those created in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). These ten were followed by six hundred and three others that God imparted to Moses during the subsequent wilderness wanderings, which Moses transcribed to scrolls of parchment: six hundred and thirteen commandments (Heb. mitzvot) comprising a single body of Law (James 2:10). This body of Law, the Law of Moses, was the central feature of the Mosaic Covenant, which is spelled out from Exodus 20:1 through Deuteronomy 28:68. The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant, conditioned on Israel's obedience to God's commands, its conditionality expressed in terms of promises of blessings for obedience, and judgments for disobedience (Exodus 15:26; 19:3-6).
The Law contains two hundred forty-eight "You shalls" and three hundred sixty-five "You shall nots." The Judaism 101 website,2 categorizes the Law under the following headings: God; Torah; Signs and Symbols; Prayer and Blessings; Love and Brotherhood; the Poor and Unfortunate; Treatment of Gentiles; Marriage, Divorce and Family; Forbidden Sexual Relations; Times and Seasons; Dietary Laws; Business Practices; Employees, Servants and Slaves; Vows, Oaths and Swearing; the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years; the Court and Judicial Procedure; Injuries and Damages; Property and Property Rights; Criminal Laws; Punishments and Restitution; Prophecy; Idolatry, Idolaters and Idolatrous Practices; Agriculture and Animal Husbandry; Clothing; the Firstborn; Kohanim (Priests) and Levites; T'rumah (the Heave Offering), Tithes and Taxes; the Temple, the Sanctuary and Sacred Objects; Sacrifices and Offerings; Ritual Purity and Impurity; Lepers and Leprosy; the King; Nazirites; Wars. There was hardly an aspect of an Israelite's life that was not governed by one or more of these laws - a far cry from the small handful of laws they exited Egypt with.
They now had the structure with which to function as a nation; but there was more to it than that. God had used Egypt as the greenhouse for the formation of a numerous people: Seventy entered Egypt, two to three million left. Now He was preparing to carry them forth in a great quantum leap toward the fulfillment of their call in Abraham. To see this more clearly, let us view in summary the reasons that God gave the Law to Israel.
If they would keep His commandments, they would be exceedingly blessed (Deuteronomy 28:1-14): He would make them the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13), and a kingdom of priests to the nations. Exodus 19:5-6: 5. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6. and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Israel broke the Law on countless occasions. Among their offenses were the desecration of the Sabbath, repeated rebellions against Moses, and refusal to enter Canaan because of unbelief. Once in the Land, they practiced idolatry on a broad and protracted scale and failed to give the land its sabbatical year rests; but the most critical commandment that they broke is that which Moses declared in Deuteronomy 18:15: The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
Many parallels exist between the lives of Moses and Jesus, but what makes Jesus the only possible prophet like [Moses] is that, of all humanity, only Moses and Jesus spoke with God face to face (Moses: Exodus 33:10-11; Deuteronomy 34:10. Jesus: Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; John 5:19; 6:46; 8:38; 10:15,30; 14:10). Indeed, the scattering of the nation to the four corners of the earth did not take place until Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah though He proved Himself in accordance with detailed prophecies and Pharisaic benchmarks. After His rejection, He declared in the hearing of the Pharisaic and scribal leaders,
Instead of being gathered by Him as He longed to do, they were scattered in keeping with the consequences for disobedience, which included all of the attendant miseries that they've experienced from that time until today (Deuteronomy 28-29); and their house (Temple, בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, Beit HaMikdash, "House of the Holy") was indeed left to [them] desolate when the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D. as they crushed the First Jewish Revolt and slaughtered, enslaved and scattered multitudes out of the Land. The second and final wave of the worldwide scattering took place when the Romans crushed the Second Jewish Revolt in 135 A.D.
Why was listening to the prophet like Moses the most critical commandment? The chief purpose of the Law was to drive Israel to their Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:15; Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 3:24-25). When they rejected Jesus they broke the central purpose of the Law, and the Law became inoperative upon His death. At that moment, it ceased to exist as a rule of life, and no point of it needed to be heeded from that moment on. This claim will be addressed.
Quite a few passages declare that the Law became inoperative. Yet, there are also quite a few that appear to declare that the Law is still operative and needs to be followed today. First, we will see that the Law actually did become inoperative; then we'll examine those passages that appear to say that it is still operative.
Mosaic Law vs.
In order for Kingdom Law to operate, Mosaic Law must be inoperative.
God declared that He will make a new covenant with Israel unlike the Mosaic Covenant which they broke; and on the basis of that new covenant, He will cause the entire nation to be faithful to Him. The provisions of the Mosaic Covenant did not cause Israel to be faithful to Him, but the provisions of the New Covenant will.
Israel broke the Mosaic Covenant. It is instructive to note the various definitions of the Hebrew word translated they broke. The word is הֵפ֣רוּ, he-phe-ru'. According to Strong, it is based on the verb parar, "A primitive root; to break up (usually figuratively, that is, to violate, frustrate): - any ways, break (asunder), cast off, cause to cease, clean, defeat, disannul, disappoint, dissolve, divide, make of none effect, fail, frustrate, bring (come) to nought, utterly, make void."
When Israel violated the covenant they caused it to cease, disannulled it, dissolved it, made it of none effect, brought it to nought, voided it. This is brought out again in Hebrew 8:13.
3. Hebrews 8:13
That the New Covenant is currently operative and the Mosaic Covenant is not is stated in these passages:
Romans 10:4: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes. The Greek word for end is telos. Strong renders its primary meaning as "(by implication) the conclusion of an act or state"; and Thayer, "termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be."
2 Corinthians 3:7,11: 7. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was. . . . 11. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. The Greek word translated fading and fades away is katargeo, which means "to render inoperative." The letters engraved on stones refers to the Ten Commandments.
Galatians 3:19: Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions . . . until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Christ was that Seed, and the Law was in effect until the seed would come. Clearly, then, the Law is no longer in effect.
For He Himself
is our peace,
who made both
one and broke
barrier of the
His flesh the
is the Law of
Then He said,
"Lo, I come to
do Your will,
O God." He
takes away the
first so that
was when Jesus
died that the Law
inoperative. It is
important to note
that God views the
Law as a unit, as
has been brought
out. James 2:10: For
the whole law
one point, he
guilty of all.
What this means is
that when the Law
inoperative, the entire
that no part of it
- not the Ten
included in it,
not the kosher
laws - none of it.
Not a single
Mosaic law is
operative today as
a rule of life for
It is hard to shake ingrained beliefs. Therefore, for the sake of those who are not ready to give up belief that at least some of the Law is still operative as a rule of life, we will carry our examination further.
The issue, now, is this: Did God replace the Mosaic Covenant (with its Law) with the New Covenant, or did He superimpose the New Covenant over the Mosaic? If God replaced the Mosaic Covenant with the New, then the Law is no longer operative. If He superimposed the New Covenant over the Mosaic, then the Law is still operative.
To resolve the issue, we'll consider two things: exactly when the New Covenant became operative, and the irreconcilability between the Law and the New Covenant.
Luke 22:20: This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
1 Corinthians 11:25-26: 25. In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
have seen that the
inoperative upon the
death of Jesus. Here
we see that at
exactly the same
moment, the New
operative. The New
Covenant was never
the Old. It replaced
Nor could the New Covenant possibly be superimposed over the Mosaic. Conflicting liberties and requirements exist between the two. Some examples:
the two covenants
They cannot be
the New Testament
the Law, or did it
The New Covenant was not superimposed over the Mosaic. It replaced it. If one believes that the New Covenant is presently operative,4 he cannot logically hold that the Mosaic Covenant nor any of its six hundred and thirteen commandments still is. Particulars will be addressed in Part 2: What It Means for the Christian.
What about those passages that seem to declare that the Law is still operative?
Two categories of passages may give that impression: certain declarations made by Jesus, and those passages in the Old Testament that speak of the Law as "everlasting" or a similar term. We'll address them each.
Jesus that give
people cause to
believe that the
Law is still
probably the most
The Law was operative until the cross, and Jesus made these comments before the cross. Therefore, the Law was operative when He made these comments, and everything He said in the passage regarding the Law applied when He said it.
Another is Luke 16:17: But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fall. Every last little bit (tittle, the smallest stroke of a letter) of the Law - every requirement and purpose - will be accomplished. Context seems to allow two possible meanings in the immediate situation: 1. The condemnatory aspect of the Law will be applied to the unrighteous Law-breaking Pharisees, and 2. Jesus Himself will fulfill the messianic prophesies of the Law. Whatever the case, Jesus' declaration could have meaning only if the Law was still operative, and it was operative because He had not yet been crucified.
Matthew 23:2-3: 2. The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3. therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. The Geneva Bible Translation Notes seems to capture the meaning: "We ought to listen to whatever we are truly taught from the word of God, even by wicked teachers, but in a way so that we abstain from their evil behaviour."5 Here again the presupposition in Jesus' comment is that the Law was still operative, and it was so because He had not yet gone to the cross.
Does it Mean
fulfilled it in
John 8:46: Which one of you convicts Me of sin?
Hebrews 7:26: For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;
Hebrews 9:14: who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God.
1 Peter 2:22: who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth.
2. He fulfilled all prophecies regarding His first coming:
Once the blemishless Lamb of God came and took away the sin of the world (John 1:29), the central purpose of the Law was fulfilled and the Age (or Dispensation) of the Law could now pass the baton to the Age of Grace.
There are passages in the Old Testament that use certain words and phrases in regard to the Law that are translated forever, perpetual, permanent, continual, everlasting, eternal, unending, throughout your generations, or similar renderings, which give the impression that the Law is still operative. On the other hand, there are passages that use some of the same words in contexts where they can only mean "until the end of a period of time." We will look at examples of both. Dr. Fruchtenbaum points out that these words and phrases are all forms of ledorot, olam (which may be used in the form of le-olam or ad-olam), chok6 olam, and tamid.7
Passages of the
Law in Question
On Passover observance: Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations (ledorot) you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance (Exodus 12:14). Permanent ordinance is chukat olam. Chukat is a form of chok, which means statute or ordinance.
On the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Sabbath observance: 31. You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute (chok olam) throughout your generations in all your dwelling places 32. It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath (Leviticus 23:31-32).
On the Tabernacle lampstand: You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually (tamid). (Exodus 27:20).
2. Olam: Literally "Forever"
but Sarah your
wife will bear
you a son, and
you shall call
his name Isaac;
and I will
him for an
(Genesis 17:19). The
covenant referred to
is the Abrahamic,
and it is, indeed,
his master shall
pierce his ear
with an awl; and
he shall serve
21:6). This is a
law; and le-olam
here cannot mean
for eternity, but
until the end of
But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD and stay there forever (ad-olam) (1 Samuel 1:22). Ad-olam here can only mean until the end of Samuel's life.
As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always (tamid) with her love (Proverbs 5:19). Tamid cannot mean for eternity here, but as the traditional marriage vow says, "for as long as you both shall live."
4. Resolving the
Passages of the
the meaning of a
word or passage is
equivocal (can mean
one of two things),
one must search for
passages on the
matter that are
are the New
quoted above: When
Jesus died, the Law
was brought to
an end (Romans
broken down (Ephesians
in His flesh
(Ephesians 2:15), blotted
2:14), nailed to
(Colossians 2:14), taken
out of the way (Colossians
2:14; Hebrews 10:9),
put away (Hebrews
2:15). The Law was
operative only until
the Seed would
The Law of Moses was abolished at the cross, and it, and each of its individual commandments, is inoperative today as a rule of life for the believer, and for everyone else, for that matter. This will be examined further in Part 2, below.
Scroll past Endnotes for next study
Indicated by the
Hebrew word toledot
2:4; 5:1; 6:9;
25:19; 36:1,9 and
translated as These
This is the
account of, This
is the book of,
This study is the second and final part of the series, The Believer and the Law of Moses. In the first study, Part 1: The Abolition of the Law, it was demonstrated that, at the moment of Jesus' death, the entire Law and each of its 613 commandments became inoperative as a rule of life. This theme will be further developed here. We will then shift our focus to what the abolition of the Law means for the Christian. Before the reader proceeds, it is essential that he grasp the issues, arguments and conclusions presented in our first study. It is therefore urged that a study or review of Part 1: The Abolition of the Law.
We'll begin again with a presentation of the Association of Messianic Congregation's Statement on the believer and the Law, for which this series was originally written, followed by the conclusion of our Part 1 study.
I. THE LAW IS A UNIT
A. GENERAL DEVELOPMENT
In numerous places in the Hebrew scriptures, the Law is referred to as Torah. In the New American Standard translation, "Law of Moses" appears fourteen times, and in each case, the word for Law is Torah. In the New Testament, the Greek word used for Law is nomos. "The word Torah, meaning 'law,' is always singular when applied to the Law of Moses, even though it contains 613 commandments. The same is true of the Greek word nomos in the New Testament."1 Therefore, when the Scripture says that the Law came to an end with the death of Christ - Galatians 3:19 and Ephesians 2:15, above, specifically use "Law" - it means that every single Mosaic Law without exception became inoperative at that time.
James 2:10-11 also makes the point. 10: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. Puncture any part of a balloon, and the whole balloon explodes!
Galatians 3:10 also makes the point.
The Law has been categorized in various helpful ways. The distinction between the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law is made clear in Scripture: The former was given to Moses at Sinai and was written by the finger of God on stone (Exodus 31:18), and the rest of the Law was given to Moses subsequent to Sinai, and was written by the hand of Moses on parchment (Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9-13,22,24-26). Other categorizations have been made by virtue of purely human reasoning, such as the division of the law into the moral, civil and ceremonial, or into laws concerning the priesthood, property, diet, etc.; but no matter how the laws may be distinguished or categorized, not a single category - not a single law - is operative today. In 2 Corinthians 3:7,11 letters engraved on stones specifically refers to the Ten Commandments:
Again, the word translated fading and fades away is katargeo, which means "to render inoperative."
The Mosaic command to circumcise became inoperative when the entire Law became inoperative; yet, circumcision is still enjoined upon Jewish males because it is the token of the prior Abrahamic Covenant, which still stands. A parallel situation exists with the Sabbath command as it was enjoined upon Israel before it was incorporated into the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:4-5,23-30; Exodus 20). It would be logical to conclude that the abolition of the Law has no bearing on the prior Sabbath commandment, and that it should still be obeyed; yet, this is not the case. New Testament teaching to the contrary will be explored below.
The abolition of the Law has various ramifications for the believer.
Since the Law has been abolished, no believer is under the Law.
Romans 6:14b. You are not under law but under grace.
Galatians 3:23-25: 23. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
It must be emphasized that the Law was in effect only from Moses to the cross; that it was given solely to Israel (Exodus 19:3-8; Deuteronomy 4:8; Psalm 147:19-20; Malachi 4:4; Romans 9:4);* that Gentiles who were not proselytes to the Law were never under the Law; that Gentiles who formally took upon themselves the burden of the Law were never called Jews or Israelites, but proselytes;* that the church is never considered Israel in any sense;* and that Gentile believers are never called Jews or Israelites in the New Testament.* So whether the church as a whole or individual Jewish or Gentile members within it are considered, no valid argument can be raised to show that the church or any of its members is under obligation to any Mosaic law. (To follow-up on items with asterisks, see footnote 2.) This does not mean that the believer is not under a biblical system of law, and this, too, will be addressed.
the Law has
not under the
Law, he has no
obey any of
the laws of
Romans 8:2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Acts 15:8-10 makes it clear that neither Jewish nor Gentile believers are obligated to the Law:
Also, in Galatians 2:3, Paul resisted pressure to circumcise the Gentile believer Titus.
Believers are free from the bondage of the Law.
What, exactly, is the bondage of the Law? Let us observe some contrasts and then draw our conclusions.
Romans 8:15 contrasts the spirit of slavery to the Law with a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
1 Corinthians 15:56-57: 56. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57. but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:4 contrasts the liberty which we have in Christ Jesus with the bondage of the Law.
Galatians 4:3-6 contrasts bondage under the elemental things of the world (the Law) with the adoption as sons in whom God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
in Christ with
of the Law.
Galatians 4:22-26 contrasts Sarah, the free woman, the mother of the children of promise, with Hagar, her bondwoman, who represents Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves.
Galatians 5:18: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
In Hebrews 2:14-15, Christ died that He might . . . free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
Bondage to the Law, then, may be defined as required obedience to the Law while in a state of powerlessness to keep it. This bondage resulted in, and included, bondage to sin, eternal condemnation and fear of death. (Though God provided the sacrificial system by means of which Israelite and proselyte transgressions could be "covered" until Christ would die to forgive the faithful among them, none had yet entered into that state of forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life because Christ had not yet died and risen.)
The bondage of the Law is set in contrast to the liberty of the believer who is forgiven of sin, is able to be led by the Spirit in power over sin, and live in the blessed hope of eternal life. It is the difference between being a beloved son of an "Abba! Father!" and being a slave under a taskmaster.
Condemnation is the judicial pronouncement of guilt, and may be human or divine. It is the opposite of justification, which, in the divine context, is the declaration of being in right standing with God. Divine condemnation may be temporal or eternal.3 One who dies in unbelief is eternally condemned, and must spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15), but the believer is never eternally condemned. The Law brought condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:9; Galatians 3:10); but now that the Law has been abolished, no believer can be condemned by the Law.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE." (Galatians 3:13)
He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
So, here's "no" summary of what not being under the Law means for the believer: no obligation, no bondage, no condemnation. To expand a bit, no obligation, no bondage, no powerlessness, no unforgiveness, no condemnation, no fear of death. No kidding!
Two more no's may be added to the above, but they are in a different category. The above no's were yeses under the Law, but the no's of justification and sanctification were not.
Justification. Justification has to do with one's legal standing before God. The believer has sinned; but because he is "in Christ" he is declared righteous or justified by God because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to him: It has been placed on his account. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which God gradually conforms the believer's walk to the holiness of Christ's. (Romans 6:19; 8:29; 12:2; Philippians 1:6; 1 Timothy 4:3)
Despite the fact that the Law had become inoperative, some early believers were under the notion that they needed to combine obedience to the Law with faith in Christ for justification and sanctification. Some today are under the same notion. However, the following passages attest that the Law never contributed to either:
1 Corinthians 1:30: But by [God's] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. Old Testament saints were called righteous or just, but only in the sense that their sins were "covered." It took the death of Christ to confirm their justification in actuality.
Hebrews 7:18-19: 18. For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19. (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
The Law made nothing perfect. It did not justify, nor did it sanctify the believer in the sense of transform[ing] him to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; 12:2).
The above passages apply to both justification and sanctification. We will now view passages that apply to one or the other.
Romans 3:20: by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.
Roman 3:28: For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Galatians 3:11: Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Before the Lord's ascension, the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:39), and the following passages show that it is only by the Spirit that the believer is sanctified. Therefore, since the Spirit was not yet given under the Law, the Law did not sanctify.
Romans 8:13: if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body
1 Peter 1:1-2: 1. Peter . . . to those . . . who are chosen 2. . . by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ.
The above passages show that sanctification takes place in Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, in Colossians 2:20-23, Paul teaches that placing oneself under a set of rules for the sake of sanctification is futile: 20. The elementary principles of the world . . . such as, 21. "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" . . . . 23. . . . are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
There are valid, though not obligatory, reasons for observing certain Mosaic laws, and these will be discussed; but it is never valid to observe any Mosaic law for justification or sanctification.
Though the believer is not under the Law of Moses, he is not in an antinomian (lawless) state. He is under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), also called the law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:12).
According to Finis Dake, "There are 1050 commands in the N.T. for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under about 800 headings."4 - and heeding them is as serious a matter as heeding the commandments of the Law was because transgressions under both bodies of law contributed to Christ's death.
Nine of the ten Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) have been resurrected in the Law of Christ. It would be misleading to say that they appear in the Law of Christ as they have been abolished, nailed to the cross. They have died with Christ and have been resurrected in glorified form.
The following study is courtesy of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.5 The wording and scripture references are his, but I have added the scripture texts.
1. The Sabbath Commandment
Hebrews 4:9 reads, So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. This verse is often misinterpreted to mean that the believer is required to rest physically on the seventh day of the week - but verse 10 interprets it as enter[ing] His rest, the rest that comes through obedience to Christ as opposed to one's own works, that is, to any other course of action. This is brought out by verse 4, which quotes Psalm 95:11 and refers to the general disobedience of the Israelites in the wilderness (Psalm 95:10).
In the following passages, which apply to the Sabbath commandment in the Law - and the Sabbath commandment prior to the Law - Paul affirms that the Sabbath rest for the people of God does not refer to physical rest on the seventh day of the week:
Romans 14:5: One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
Colossians 2:16-17: 16. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - 17. things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus disclosed the nature of the rest that is in Him: 29. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
The Sabbath rest for the people of God refers to a rest of the soul, not of the body.
2. Further Considerations
Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16-17, cited above, likewise make it clear that the believer is not required to observe any of the Leviticus 23 feasts. Neither is he required to keep the kosher (dietary) laws (Matthew 15:11; Acts 10:9-15; Romans 14:14,20; 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; Hebrews 9:10), nor the laws concerning tithing. Tithing is mentioned in the New Testament only in reference to giving under the Mosaic Law.
The key passage for New Testament giving is 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NKJV): 6. But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. The key principle is Let each one give as he purposes in his heart. We are encouraged to give bountifully, but not to the point of doing so grudgingly or of necessity, which obligatory tithing often engenders. Giving according to these New Testament principles guarantees that one will be a cheerful giver, which God loves.
The Law was abolished - but what, exactly, was abolished? The Law of commandments contained in ordinances (Ephesians 2:15). The Law was abolished as a rule of life. It was not obliterated from the pages of Scripture. We can still read it, study it, and be blessed by it in various ways (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Many blessings can be reaped from the entire Old Testament, but our focus will be strictly on the commandments of the Mosaic code.
The chief value of the Law today is its capacity for instruction.
Parts of the
Though no one is required to keep any part of the Law today, one may validly choose to keep certain parts of it for various reasons, among which are:
1. To Affirm Our Love for
When I became a believer, my Orthodox Jewish mother almost lit a memorial candle. Almost twenty years later, I flew from Hawaii to Florida with my wife and two daughters, wore a yarmulke (a skullcap, a custom that has gained the force of Orthodox law) and celebrated the Passover with my parents and a brother. My brother later told me that my mother said, "I can see how Christianity is good for him." There was more to it than that! but she saw that I loved and respected my Jewish upbringing, and that blessed and honored her.
Kinds of Laws
This section is really an addendum; but since many confound the rabbinic with the Mosaic, and much messianic practice is rabbinic, it would be helpful to distinguish between the two and draw some applications.
1. Mixture of Mosaic and
Rabbinic law has its roots in the Written Law, and some of it is Mosaic; but far more has been added. For example, the Mosaic Law commands, You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21), an ancient Egyptian rite. The command is very specific: boil, not roast; not just any animal, but a goat; not just any goat, but a young goat; not just any milk, but the milk of its mother. Nevertheless, out of this command has grown the rabbinic need for two sets of dishes to keep even the tiniest specks of any kind of meat and dairy from being consumed together, the need to wait a half hour (or hour with some) after eating dairy before eating meat, six hours after eating meat before eating dairy, and much more.
2. Drastic Contradictions
1. Keeping Rabbinic Law in
However, they may be observed for the same reasons noted above for keeping Mosaic laws, and with the same caveats.
2. Praying the Liturgy
In Matthew 7:6, Jesus instructed, And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. The Greek for meaningless repetition is battologeo. One definition that Thayer gives is "to repeat the same things over and over." Strong defines it as ". . . to prate tediously: - use vain repetitions."
Having just spoken these words, the Lord could not possibly have meant that "the Lord's prayer" immediately following in verses 9-13 was to be such a prayer. He said, Pray, then, in this way. He presented it as a pattern for prayer that contains particular elements in a particular sequence. Nowhere is it recorded that He or any other believer repeated it. All recorded prayers of believers were extemporaneous.
I would therefore say that, at the very least, if there is no strong rationale for instituting or retaining liturgical praying, then it ought to be avoided or eliminated and replaced by extemporaneous praying. Such rationale may conceivably include accommodating a significant number of new Orthodox or Conservative Jewish believers until they are weaned away from liturgical prayer, or when working with similar groups in Gentile populations such as Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox, where liturgy has the force of law.
Theologizing is easy. Application is, at times, difficult, especially for pastors, who know that bringing their flocks to maturity is a process.
3. Who May Pray?
021: The Eight
p. 24, pdf.
Most of the studies presented
thus far have
by the same
name in The
of the Dead is
study in a
I have chosen
to call The
of the Dead.
Hebrews 9:27 declares, It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.
With the exception of those who experience death, resurrection and then death again (as those whom Jesus raised during His earthly ministry), or who bypass death and are carried directly into Heaven or cast into the Lake of Fire (examples will be given), the great mass of humanity dies once and, at that time, discovers experientially whether their eternal fate will be one of blessing or of woe.
This study will include glimpses of what Scripture tells us about the various destinies of the dead. Since Heaven has been mentioned already, we'll begin with a glimpse of what Scripture tells us about Heaven.
In 1 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul states that he had been taken up into the third heaven. The first heaven in Scripture is the atmosphere, where the birds fly and the clouds hover, as in Genesis 1:20. The second is outer space, where the sun, moon and stars and other “heavenly bodies” are located, as in Genesis 1:14-17. The third heaven, the Heaven of note in this study, is not part of the natural world as we know it, but is the dwelling place of God, which can be seen in Revelation 11:13 and numerous other passages.
We will now examine a number of scriptures and establishing a few points.
1. In Acts 2:25 and 27, Peter declared, 25. For David says of [Jesus] . . . . 27. Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades.
Peter quoted from Psalm 16:10, from which we see that the Greek word Hades was translated from the Hebrew word Sheol. The point of note here is that Sheol and Hades are identical.
2. Psalm 89:48: What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?
What can be seen here is that the souls of both the righteous and the unrighteous went to Sheol or Hades upon death.
3. Luke 16:19-26:
The passage describes the rich man as being in Hades, a place of torment, and Abraham and Lazarus being in a place of comfort. Relative to Lazarus, the place of comfort was called Abraham’s bosom, a term denoting closeness of relationship and security (John 13:23). Between the two places there is a great chasm fixed. It would seem from the passage that Abraham and Lazarus were not in Hades. Nevertheless, on the basis of Psalm 89:48, which we've just looked at, we can conclude that all three were in Hades. How can that be? New York City is in New York State. The Hades that the rich man was in is like New York City. Some may find the similarity striking, but it is strictly coincidental; and the Hades that all three were in is like New York State, the greater Hades, so to speak, with Abraham and Lazarus living comfortably out in the suburbs or in some other pleasant part of the State beyond the City.
In Luke 23:43,
Jesus said to
the thief on
the cross who
faith in Him,
I say to you,
shall be with
Me in Paradise.
body was yet
on the surface
of the Earth
His body, went
From the Ephesians passage especially, and others that we will examine, we learn that our Lord’s Ascension marked a significant dividing line in regard to the destinies of saints.
In the two
noted, Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth, the
heart of the
We can thereby
greater Hades. But into which section? Luke 23:24
said to the
thief on the
shall be with
Me in Paradise
It was the comfort section, Abraham's
to which He
27:60 and Mark
and burial of
we see that it
was only His
not His body.
Hades was emptied of pre-Ascension saints
we can deduce
that the souls
are still in the Pit portion of Hades,
and that the
souls of the
who die right
up to the end
will go there,
20:14 tells us
that, at the
end of the
Millennium, Hades [will be] thrown
into the lake
line in the
destiny of the
Rapture is an
future that is
alluded to in
15:35-58 and 1
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
Unlike the various ages we are considering, the Rapture takes place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Prior to the Rapture, the bodies of all saints remain somewhere in the natural world; but at the moment of the Rapture, in the twinkling of an eye, the bodies of those saints in Christ will be caught up2 to join their spirits and become alive, resurrected, to always be with the Lord; and those saints who are alive on Earth at that time will not see death, but will be caught up, body and soul, also to always be with the Lord. The bodies of all who are caught up will no longer be the earthly bodies that we are familiar with, subject to decay and death, but will be glorified, transformed into bodies that are imperishable (not subject to decay) and immortal (not subject to death), fit for life in the presence of God in Heaven.
4:16 says, the dead in Christ will rise first. Only
raptured. In Christ, or in
is a term that
is used in
It is not the Rapture that signals the beginning of the Great Tribulation, but the signing of the seven-year treaty between Israel and the anti-Christ (Daniel 9:27). If the Rapture and signing occur concurrently, then there will be no interim between the two events. If the signing takes place subsequent to the Rapture, then there will be an interim. If there will be an interim, then the spirits of believers who die during this period will go to Heaven, and their bodies will remain in the natural world. The spirits of nonbelievers who die will be sent to the Pit, and their bodies will remain in the natural world.
will be marked
by the signing
leading to its
end will be
Kingdom Age is
Coming of the
Lord, and the
end of the
will be marked
by the passing
away of our
here refers to
for it is the
Genesis 3, not
dwells. As it
says in Romans
For we know
that the whole
there will be a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven
and the first
and the holy
out of heaven
will rest upon
It is here
saints of all
and soul, in
of God for all
With the exception of those who experience death, resurrection and then death again, or who bypass death and are carried directly into Heaven or cast into the Lake of Fire, the great mass of humanity dies once and, at that time, discovers experientially whether their eternal fate will be one of blessing or of woe.
From Adam until the Great White Throne judgment, the bodies of the unsaved who die will remain in the natural world, and their spirits will be in the Pit portion of Sheol or Hades. They will be resurrected at the Great White Throne Judgment to hear the degrees of punishment that they have earned, and will then be cast alive into the Lake of Fire, to remain there for eternity.
Adam to the
bodies of the
will remain in
will be in Abraham's Bosom, the Paradise
and those who
are alive at
the moment of
death as they
and soul. All
the moment of
will remain in
with the Lord
at the end of
at which time
the Lord to
It is rather obvious that one's eternal destiny is a concern of the greatest import. However, in God's eyes, there is an even greater concern: whether or not one has the humility to admit that he or she is a sinner that has offended God and man, and to run to God for salvation.
No one can enter the presence of God in Heaven with the stains of sin on their souls, but God loved us so much that He made a way for us. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place for our sins so that we would not have to pay the penalty for our sins for eternity, and Jesus willingly paid the ultimate price for our salvation. There's only one thing left for us to do: believe.
is a free
gift. All we
need to do is
to believe in
this great act
of God's love
on our behalf
for to become
thank God. If
you are not
Him, and ask
Him is this is
you, in Jesus'
The entire We
may be found
I. WHAT IS THE RAPTURE?
The two central passages on the Rapture are 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 and 1 Thessalonians
Let us begin by examining some of the text.
Asleep, used in both passages, is a euphemism for the state of those who have died, and is used in this manner in both Testaments by those who believed in the resurrection because of the obvious parallel between resurrection from death and awakening from sleep. For example, in Matthew 9:24, Jesus referred to the synagogue official's daughter as being asleep before He resurrected her, and in John 11:11, to Lazarus as being asleep before He resurrected him, who had been in the tomb for four days (verse 17).
Caught up, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, is translated from the Greek harpazo. It is the same word used in Acts 8:39, where the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The word rapture is derived from the Latin raptus, which itself is derived from harpazo, and means "to snatch up or away" and other similar meanings. Therefore, although the English word rapture is not found in Scripture, it has come to identify the event plainly described in the above passages.
Now as to the meaning of clouds and air. It is more than reasonable to take air literally. After all, the Lord descend[ed] from heaven to catch up believers from the Earth to meet the Lord in the air and bring [them] with Him to Heaven, and literal air exists between Earth and Heaven. What about clouds? At times, Scripture uses clouds to refer to the clouds of the air, and at other times, to the Shechinah Glory cloud, as in Solomon's dedication of the Temple: then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God (1 Chronicles 5:13-14. Also, most likely, in Luke 21:27 and Revelation 1:7). All things considered, there doesn't seem to be a way to definitively determine which kind of cloud is referred to in the Thessalonians passage, but it is reasonable to believe that Jesus will meet the saints in the literal air.
Now, to summarize the key points of the Rapture: At one point yet future, the Lord Jesus will descend from Heaven into the atmosphere. Then, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (twinkling. Gr. rhipe, rhee-pay'. A quick movement), He will resurrect those who have died in Christ, that is, deceased Church Age believers, into glorified, immortal, imperishable, heavenly bodies. An instant later, the bodies of those in Christ who are alive at that moment will likewise be translated2 or transformed into heavenly bodies, and will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air to always be with the Lord from that time forth. Though all of the events from the descent of the Lord through the catching up of the saints into Heaven may be thought of as the Rapture, the actual catching up of the saints is the Rapture proper.
One thing we must note: Neither the passages we've already reviewed nor any other passage shows any indication that the Rapture is to be taken symbolically or allegorically. Scripture straightforwardly presents it as a literal event involving literal resurrections and translations and instant bodily removal of the saints to meet the Lord in the clouds.
There is no passage that tell us exactly when the Rapture will occur. In fact, Jesus declared, But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Matthew 24:36); but there are passages that locate it relative to other events or periods of time.
In Leviticus 23 and elsewhere, God enjoined Israel under the Law to observe seven annual feasts, each of which carries prophetic significance, and which together constitute a blueprint for God's plan from Calvary to the Millennial Kingdom. They are divided into spring and summer festivals with a significant summer hiatus between. Here they are in summary.
The Spring Festivals
1. Passover or Pesach (Leviticus 23:5)
The Summer Hiatus
After prescribing the four spring festivals and before prescribing the three fall festivals to begin four months later, the Lord declared, When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 23:22).
This seems completely out of context. What was the Lord up to here? Listen to what Jesus said to His disciples: Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest”? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest (John 4:35).
Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost have all been fulfilled, and now is the season for us, Jesus' disciples, to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19) and thereby bring in the harvest for Him. We see, then, that the four month summer hiatus is also prophetic and has its fulfillment in the sequence of events from Calvary to the Kingdom. It is prophetic of the Church Age. (See also the Parable of the Sower: Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:3-9.)
The Fall Festivals
5. Trumpets or Yom T'ruah
The only biblical requirement for the keeping of the Day of Trumpets is the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn. Scripture gives no reason for it; but does the blowing of trumpets ring a bell in regard to the Rapture? 1 Corinthians 15:52: the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable. 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. We see, then, that Trumpets is prophetic of the Rapture, and in the sequence of prophetic events, it occurs after the Church Age.
6. Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur
We see, then, most significantly, that the Rapture takes place at the end of the Church Age and before the Great Tribulation. But to complete our picture of the prophetic significance of the Feasts, we'll take a look at the seventh and final feast.
7. Tabernacles, Booths or Chag HaSukkot
To conclude, the placement of the Feast of Trumpets between the summer hiatus and the Day of Atonement is powerful proof that the Rapture will take place at the end of the Church Age and before the Great Tribulation.
Some representative passages:
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
Wrath is one of the terms used in Scripture to refer to the Great Tribulation. It does not refer to Hell in the passage: No believer is in jeopardy of being sent to Hell,4 and the thrust of the letter has to with the Great Tribulation, not Hell. Paul was pleased that the Thessalonians were wait[ing] for [God's] Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. It is obvious that the Thessalonians were waiting for deliverance before the Tribulation began, and we know that the Rapture is the deliverance that they were waiting for because in 4:13-18, Paul answered a concern that they had about the Rapture, namely, what happens to believers who die before it takes place. So this passage likewise shows that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation.
1 Thessalonians 5:9
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
In this context, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ obviously refers to the Lord's coming in the clouds for the Rapture, not to His return to Earth, a subsequent event. In verses 2-4, Paul assures the Thessalonians that the Tribulation will not begin until anti-Christ is revealed. He had not been revealed at the time of Paul's writing, nor has he yet been revealed because Daniel 9:27 informs us that he will be revealed when he signs a seven-year covenant of peace with Israel, and no such treaty has yet been signed. In other words, the passage says that the church will be gather[ed] together to Him at the Rapture before anti-Christ is revealed - before the Great Tribulation.
Who say that they are Jews and are not may either be taken literally, just as many through the centuries have said that they are Jews and are not, (e.g., British Israelites) or it may mean literal Jews who are not fulfilling their calling as Jews by believing in their Messiah, Jesus, as in Romans 2:28-29 as understood in the context of verses 14-29, particularly verse 17. In any case, those who have kept the word of My perseverance are distinguished from the obvious unbelievers referred to in verse 9, and the Lord promises that He will keep them from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. He did not say that He will snatch them out of the Great Tribulation, but keep them from it, necessitating a pre-Tribulation Rapture.
The Structure of the Book of Revelation
In Luke 21:28, Yeshua said to His disciples, But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. This redemption is the same as the redemption of the body in Romans 8:23 and the day of redemption in Ephesians 4:30, namely, the Rapture.
But what things? The main body of this (Olivet) discourse (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-6) consists of Jesus' answers to three questions that His disciples asked: Tell us, when will these things happen? and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3b)? To paraphrase, "What will be the sign 1. of the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 24:1-2), 2. of Your Second Coming, and 3. of the end of the world as we know it before the Messianic or Millennial Kingdom?
But when will these things begin to take place? Chronologically, the first of the three events was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. In addition, and significantly, Yeshua opened the discourse by saying of the temple, Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down (Matthew 24:2). His focus was not on the sign that the destruction was about to take place, which was the siege of the city in 66 A.D., nor on the flight of the believers which He commanded once the city became besieged (Luke 21:20-21) - and if He commanded them to flee, the Rapture certainly could not have taken place before their flight! - but on the actual destruction of the city, which was God's judgment on Israel for rejecting Him (Matthew 23:37-39). We can reasonably conclude, then, that the Rapture could have taken place any time after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
First some verses, then conclusions:
In John 14:2-3, the Lord told His disciples,
2. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so,
told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3. If I go and
prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself,
that where I am, there you may be also.
Before the Lord comes to Rapture His church, He must complete the
dwellings places for all church saints, and only He knows when they are
James 5:8: The coming of the Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5b: The Lord is
The Lord says three times in Revelation 22, I am coming quickly (verses 7,12 and 20). According to Strong, one possible translation of quickly is (by surprise) suddenly. Even in common speech quickly doesn't always mean right away. It can mean suddenly: "When you cross that street, be careful. Traffic will be coming quickly."
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10: 9. For they themselves report . . . how you . . . 10. wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Yeshua, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
Other verses exhorting believers to wait for our resurrection, glorification, and our hope of righteousness in state as well as in present standing are Romans 8:25 and Galatians 5:5. In all three of these verses, the Greek word for wait means to eagerly wait.
2. When it will occur, it will occur suddenly
- yes, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye!
The Rapture could have occurred immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Relative to the present moment, it will occur after the Lord has completed the dwelling places for His church saints, and it will occur at the very end of the Church Age and before the Great Tribulation. From our limited perspective, it can occur at any time: It is imminent.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 states that those in Christ will be raptured. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:22-23: 22. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming. Again, the Festival of Firstfruits is prophetic of Christ's resurrection, and Trumpets is prophetic of the Rapture of those who are Christ's at His coming. In light of verse 22, the latter part of verse 23 refers specifically to the resurrection of the deceased in Christ. But who, exactly, is in Christ?
Obviously, it includes only believers. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 distinguishes those in Christ from the rest who have no hope, and verse 17 states that they shall always be with the Lord. But believers since Adam?
An examination of Scripture will show that in Christ and other such terms, in Yeshua, in Christ Jesus, in Him, in whom and in the Lord, are used, without exception, for believers from Pentecost through the Rapture - in other words, for church saints; for the Church Age began at Pentecost and will terminate with the Rapture.5 Remember: On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Spirit baptized two sinful “loaves” into one body: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles (1 Corinthians 12:13) that He might make the two into one new man (Ephesians 2:15).
All pre- and post-church saints will likewise come to dwell with the Lord in Heaven,6 but the Rapture involves only those in Christ, the church, believers from Pentecost to the Rapture - and all in Christ.
The church is raptured before the Great Tribulation; yet, there are many who believe that at least some believers who are alive at the time of the Rapture will be left behind by the Lord to remain on Earth during the Tribulation. We will now address this issue.
The Scriptures say all:
1 Corinthians 15:51
1 Thessalonians 5:3-5
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In verse 18, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians, Therefore, comfort one another with these words. Now, if Paul had left any impression that some of the Thessalonians might be left behind at the Rapture, on what basis could they comfort one another?
These all passages leave no loophole for "most" or "some."
To emphasize the fact that no Church Age believer will miss the Rapture and be on Earth during the Tribulation, let us see who the Tribulation is for.
1 Thessalonians 5:3-5
The Great Tribulation is not for church saints, who are all sons of light and sons of day, but is for those who are in darkness, a reference to those who have not received the Lord as Savior.
2 Thessalonians 2:8-13
The Tribulation is not for those who have been chosen . . . for salvation, but is for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For what reason is the Tribulation for them? That they all may be judged who did not believe the truth. Can a passage be more exclusive of Church saints than this?
Both passages clearly distinguish between believers, who will not experience the Tribulation, and unbelievers at the time of the Rapture who will be left on Earth to be judged during the Tribulation because they chose darkness and wickedness over light and salvation.
All church saints will be Raptured and none will experience the Tribulation; yet, some passages have been misunderstood to mean that some church saints will be left behind for the sake of chastisement or sanctification. Often such misinterpretation is influenced by having observed some who claim to be believers but act as if they are not, and by the fact that believers are promised chastisement by the Lord as a means of sanctification (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:5, Hebrews 12:6-11). To begin with, personal observation ought never to be used as a basis for interpreting Scripture: Scripture ought to be used to interpret our personal observations! Let us now examine some relevant categories of Scripture.
Not all who appear to be believers really are believers. They appear to the natural eye to be members of the church, but they have never, from the heart, exercised faith in the Lord to be saved (cf. Romans 10:9-10). In Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, the Lord metaphorically identifies such as tares. A tare is a weed that looks like wheat, but is not wheat. They are not believers, at all, and those who are alive at the time of the Rapture will be left behind. Tares are also the subject of Matthew 7:21-23: 21. Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 21. Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" 23. And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS."
Of course, tare "believers" will be left behind at the Rapture. They were never believers, at all: I never knew you.
Carnal (KJV) or men of flesh (NASB) believers are to be distinguished from what 1 Corinthians 3:1 refers to as babes (KJV) or infants in Christ (NASB). Verses 1-3 describe carnal believers as ones who are no longer babes, but have not yet matured, who act as if they had never been saved. It is this class of believers that is truly the subject of the issue: Will they be left behind for the sake of chastisement and sanctification during the Great Tribulation? Let us examine some passages that are often taken to say that they will, and then a real eye-opener that shows who could have gotten raptured.
1. Passages in
Which event does this refer to, the Rapture or the Second Coming? At the judgment of the sheep and goats immediately following the Second Coming, none will remain in the field or at the mill as the Lord said that He will gather them all for the judgment (Matthew 25:31-46, esp. v. 32); but in this passage, some will be taken and some left, a phenomenon consistent with the Rapture.
Will any believers be among those who will be left? The passage simply does not say so, and we must be content to answer our question on the basis of the "all" passages: All believers living at the time of the Rapture will be raptured.
The passage must be understood on the basis of the Jewish wedding traditions of the day, which those whom Jesus was addressing knew well:
The passage does not refer to the Rapture, but to those survivors of the Tribulation who are and are not allowed entry into the Messianic Kingdom. It cannot be taken to indicate that some believers will be left behind at the Rapture.
2. The Corinthian
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul spends thirteen verses taking the Corinthians to task. He begins, It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife (v. 1). Paul considered this man's offense so severe that he urged the church to excommunicate him (v. 13), and he himself decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (The destruction of his flesh refers to the destruction of the body, even unto death, if necessary, if there is no repentance.) Now note: Paul did not know whether or not the man would repent; yet it was to this same church - in the same letter - that he wrote, we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - even that Corinthian man.
There are passages that refer to tribulation that is common to all believers, but do not refer to the Great Tribulation. Such passages may be thought of as general tribulation passages, and must be distinguished from Great Tribulation passages. Yet, some believers confuse the former with the latter and conclude that some believers will experience the Great Tribulation.
Two such passages are John 16:33 and Romans 8:35.
John 16:33: In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
Romans 8:35: Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
On what basis shall we distinguish between the two classes of passages? If there is no direct or contextual reference to the Great Tribulation, it is only reasonable to view it as a general tribulation passage.
The Book of Revelation reveals that there will be multitudes of believers on Earth during the Great Tribulation. Some take this to mean that some church saints will miss the Rapture and experience the Tribulation. However, a simple, thoughtful reading of Revelation 7:4-10 will indicate that these people become saved during the Tribulation: 144,000 Jews will be sovereignly saved by God, and these, in turn, will lead multitudes to salvation.
But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)
Does this mean that if believers don't pray for strength to escape all these things that they will be left behind at the Rapture to endure the Great Tribulation?
Strength is translated be counted worthy in many other translations, including Young's Literal and the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible. Also, the same Greek word translated escape is found in Romans 2:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, and Hebrews 2:3; and in all of these cases, it clearly means "to avoid." Therefore, the verse cannot refer to believers escaping out of the Tribulation, but of avoiding it completely. Other than dying before the Tribulation, how may one avoid it completely? By receiving the Lord - the only way of being counted worthy (2 Corinthians 5:21) to be Raptured and to stand before the Son of Man at the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven to receive their rewards (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Now, the disciples whose questions Jesus was responding to were already saved; so when He used you, He could not have been referring to them: He must have been prophetically exhorting all of Israel to receive Him as their Messiah and to thereby be sure of avoiding the time of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) - yet, He spoke it in the hearing of His apostles, for it was to be their commission to carry these and all of His words to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:16).
He was not exhorting believers to pray to be counted worthy to avoid the Tribulation. He was prophetically exhorting unsaved Israelites to be counted worthy to avoid it by receiving Him as Christ.
There appear to be three major points of significance in regards to the Rapture:
2 Peter 3:3-4: 3. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4. and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." The passage is specific to the Lord's Second Coming, but it may easily said of the Rapture, as well.
The Bible records events akin to the Rapture, and we believe that they actually happened; yet, when it comes to the Rapture, some wonder. Perhaps reviewing these events may strengthen faith where such strengthening is needed. It is suggested that the reader decide which elements of the Rapture are in common with these events, which are different, and which we cannot discern as not enough information is given. For example, the Rapture takes place in an instant, but we know that the Lord's ascension was gradual because it is recorded that His disciples watched Him rise.
Do we believe these things? If so, there should be no doubt about the Rapture, either. Speaking specifically of a pre-Tribulation Rapture, Paul exhorted, Therefore, my brothers, stand fast and hold the teachings which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. 28. You heard that I said to you, "I go away, and I will come to you." This exhortation appears to make immediate reference to His resurrection, but it obviously has application to the Rapture, as well.
Romans 8:23: And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57: 55. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" 56. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57. but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:10: and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. Also Romans 8:25 and Galatians 5:5.
Titus 2:13: looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ . . . .
These passages were all written in the context of the Rapture:
VIII. CHURCH SAINTS REWARDED
Once the church has been raptured and in Heaven with Christ, each of its members will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Romans 14: 10b. For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. . . . 12. So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God; 2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad; and Luke 21:36, which we already addressed: But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. Here, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, each believer will be rewarded for the quality of his or her service for Christ while here on Earth. Paul declared,
Some passages shedding light on what the Lord will look for as He judges, and the rewards that He will bestow, are Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5, 4:8; James 1:12, 3:1-9; 1 Peter 5:1-6 and Revelation 2:10.
chosen by the author are in the New American Standard version
otherwise noted. Scriptures in quotes by others may be in
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1. The entire We
Believe statement of the Association of
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By Norman Manzon
This study is an attempt to convey the nature of the Great Tribulation, place it in its prophetic setting and present an outline of its key events; but even more so to explain the why of it. Why will the Lord bring such a terrible judgment? What purposes will He accomplish by means of it? May the reader be built up in his understanding and appreciation of this aspect of it especially.
It is impossible in this brief study to prove the context of every passage presented or to connect all the dots in regard to the sequence of events. It is suggested that the reader remember these limitations when formulating his or her own doctrine - not rejecting what is presented, but holding it in abeyance until he or she gathers more information. For this purpose, I cannot recommend better sources than The Seventy Weeks of Daniel by Dr. David Cooper and The Footsteps of the Messiah by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, both of which are noted in the Recommended Reading section at the end of the study.
Immediately preceding this study in our series on future things is The Rapture, above. It is suggested that it be studied or reviewed before preceding further as much foundational material for this study will be found there.
We’ll begin with our entire AMC Statement on Last Things. Some details were covered our recent studies, The Destinies of the Dead, and The Rapture, some will be covered in this present study, and the rest will be covered in the next study, The Second Coming and the Kingdom.
Tribulation simply means "pressure (literally or figuratively): - afflicted, (-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble" (Strong), and can refer to anything from the daily trials of life to very severe trials including persecutions for the faith (1 Thessalonians 1:6; Revelation 1:9; 2:9-10); but what we refer to as the Great Tribulation is derived from Matthew 24:21: For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will, Revelation 2:22: Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds, and Revelation 7:14: And he said to me, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
A review of other designations for the Great Tribulation should impress upon us its essential character.
The nature of the Great Tribulation is summed up in the
How much of the world will the Great Tribulation encompass? Enclosing Matthew 24:21, just quoted, are these verses: 14. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come, and 30. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn. Each places the Great Tribulation in a worldwide context. Isaiah 24 does the same: 19. The earth is broken asunder, The earth is split through, The earth is shaken violently. 20. The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard and it totters like a shack.
The Great Tribulation will be an event which encompasses the whole world.
Placement in the Seventy Weeks
Seven weeks means seven groups of seven years, or 49 years, and sixty-two weeks means sixty-two groups of seven years, or 434 years, for a total of sixty-nine weeks or 483 years.3 Using the Bible’s method of counting “regular solar years"4 from the creation of Adam,5 Dr. David Cooper determined that from the year of the decree of Cyrus the Persian to permit the Jews who were captive in Babylon to return to Judea to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until Jerusalem was rebuilt, was 49 years; and that 434 years later, Messiah was cut off. “From all the data, we see that the terminal date of the 483-year period is the time of Messiah's being cut off or executed for the sins of His people. From this conclusion there cannot possibly be any escape."6
Connected with the end of the sixty-ninth week (the sixty-second week after the first seven weeks) when Messiah will be cut off is the following event: The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. Who is this prince? He could not be Messiah as it was not Messiah's people who destroyed the city and the sanctuary . . . with a flood (a symbol of a military invasion [e.g., Isaiah 8:5-8 and Nahum 1:8]). It was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. The Prince is the one we've come to know as the Antichrist, and he will be a Roman, for the people of the prince are Romans.
Now, even to the end of the period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the seventieth week, there will be war in the Promised Land. True to the prophecy, since 70 A.D. numerous wars have been fought over the trans-Israeli trade routes that join Egypt and the rest of Africa with nations north and east, and over possession of the entire Land; and because of the wars, desolations are determined. The Promised Land has been made desolate and will remain so until the end of the seventieth week. Despite the agricultural and industrial wonders that have taken place in modern Israel, one is still struck by the desolation of vast areas of it.
To sum up, within the seventy weeks of Daniel, the Tribulation will begin at some point after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. during which the land of Israel will be decimated by warfare.
Specific Event Will Mark Its Beginning?
But how will he be revealed? Daniel 9:27: And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
The verse reveals three things: 1. He will make a covenant with Israel. 2. It's duration is to be a full week, or seven years. 3. Its nature: We can determine from the but clause of the verse that the covenant is one by which Antichrist will guarantee Israel's security so that the Temple sacrifices and offerings may carry on unhindered: but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering. In other words, after three and a half years, he will put a stop to that which he guaranteed. It is by virtue of this unique seven year covenant that Antichrist will be revealed and the Tribulation will begin.
3. Who Are the Many?
The entire passage has to do with
Daniel's people, the Jews, and focuses primarily on events in Jerusalem.
Therefore, the treaty must be with the nation of Israel; but is the nation of Israel the many?
Compared with the rest of the world, they
are the few. There are two other views that I am
aware of. One is that the many are
the Israeli leadership. At least today, any treaty that Israel
enters into must be made with the support of its Knesset (Parliament) -
but how can such a tiny percentage of Israel's population can be
the many? The other is the view held by Dr. Cooper, that
the many are those Israelis who agree with
Keil and Delitzsch agree with this. They comment, "the
many, i.e., the great mass of the people in contrast with the few,
who remain faithful to God; cf. Mat_24:12." (Matthew 24:12-13 reads,
Because lawlessness is increased, most people's
love will grow cold. But the one who
endures to the end, he will be saved.) Dr. Cooper writes,
"Should one speak of this section of the Jewish race in terms of
present-day phraseology, he would say that those making the covenant are
the modernistic crowd, which has given up largely the national hope and
has abandoned faith in the inspiration of the Scriptures and the plan of
God. One also comes to the conclusion that the faithful, orthodox Jews
who believe in the Scriptures as the Word of God are the ones who hold
aloof from such an alliance." To my mind, the best solution seems
to be a combination of the latter two views; but I would say that
the many will be those Israelis who
favor the proposed treaty after having rejecting any spiritual insight
that the Lord may offer. How can a treaty be made with them? Through
their representatives in the Knesset who would carry the vote.
1. Placement in the Prophetic Feasts of Israel
2. How Soon After the Rapture?
At first glance the passage seems to indicate that the Tribulation will begin right after the Rapture on the same day. The reasoning is thus: On the day that Noah entered the ark . . . the flood came and destroyed them all. . . . on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Therefore, the Tribulation will begin right after the Rapture on the same day. But there is a problem here: It is true that on the same literal day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven (Genesis 19:12-25. The day was reckoned from sundown to sundown); but it is not true that on the same literal day that Noah entered the ark . . . the flood came. Genesis 7:7-10 states that it was seven days after Noah entered the ark that the rain began. According to Strong, the Greek for day can refer either to a literal twenty-four hour period or "figuratively a period (always defined more or less clearly by the context)." As Genesis reveals, the Luke passage contains an example of each. The passage cannot therefore be used to prove that the Great Tribulation will begin on the same literal day as the Rapture, nor can any other passage. There may be a significant "period" of time between the two events.
In light of certain events prophesied to
take place relevant to the Tribulation, at least these three things need
to be in place:
It is easy to see how the Lord is setting the stage for the Great Tribulation.
Two other signs are these:
2 Thessalonians 2:3: Let no one in any way deceive you, for [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first.
1 Timothy 4:1: But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.
2 Timothy 3:1-5: But realize this, that in the last days . . . men will be . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.
There are those who believe that the Great Tribulation encompasses only the last three and a half years of Daniel's week because it is during that period that Antichrist attempts to annihilate all Jews as well as all those alive who have come to believe the Gospel (Daniel 2:25, Revelation 12), but consider these key facts:
1. Tremendous judgments of God are exercised on all of mankind for the full seven years. An examination of the judgments of both halves of the week should convince anyone that what the Lord characterized in Matthew 24:21 as one of great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be, and is that which is called the great tribulation in Revelation 7:14, lasts for the full seven years .
2. The seventy weeks are concerned with your people, that is, the Jews.
3. This point alone should carry the day: Revelation 7, especially verses 9 and 14, reveal that a great multitude of martyred saints will come out of the great tribulation - and they will come out of it during the first half. This, combined with the fact that the Bowl judgments of the second half (Revelation 16) are more severe than the Seal and Trumpet judgments (Seal: Revelation 6:1-17; 8:1. Trumpet: Revelation 8:1 - 9:21; 10:6-7; 11:15) of the first half can hardly limit the designation, the great tribulation, to the first half.
The seven years of unprecedented judgment coinciding with the seven years of the Lord's final dealings with Israel to fulfill the new covenant that He made with them (Jeremiah 31:31-34) should leave no doubt that the Great Tribulation encompasses the full seventieth week of Daniel.
The Rapture made it abundantly clear that no church saint will miss the Rapture and endure the Great Tribulation; but whom does Scripture say the Great Tribulation is for?
1 Thessalonians 5:3-5
The Great Tribulation is not for church saints, who are all sons of light and sons of day, but is for those who are in darkness, a reference to those who have not received the Lord as Savior.
2 Thessalonians 2:8-13
The Tribulation is not for those who have been chosen . . . for salvation, but is for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For what reason is the Tribulation for them? That they all may be judged who did not believe the truth.
Both passages clearly distinguish between believers, who will not experience the Tribulation, and unbelievers at the time of the Rapture who will be left on Earth to be judged during the Tribulation because they chose darkness and wickedness over light and salvation.
Though multitudes will be saved during the Tribulation, all on Earth when the Tribulation begins will be unbelievers.
This question will be addressed in two stages. The first will be an overview of the key areas of rebellion prior to the Great Tribulation, and the second will be with a view toward the goals of the Great Tribulation.
When one considers the epochal, dispensational (age-related) dealings of God with mankind, he finds that they progress in a logical manner. (This is not to judge what might have been God's best courses of action, but we can see the logical progression in what He has chosen to do.)
God began by giving our first parents every possible advantage to make the right choice. He created Adam and Eve without a sin nature and placed them in an Eden. Everything they needed for sustenance and enjoyment was at their fingertips and they had an untainted and glorious relationship with one another and with God. Nevertheless, they broke the one "thou shalt not" that He had given them to demonstrate their recognition of their dependence upon Him for all good things. God necessarily applied judgment, set in motion the process by which He would send His Son to die for the sins of the world, and consistent with their choice to lean on their own understanding, withdrew the sweetness of His fellowship and close guidance from them and left them and their descendants in a state in which they would be tested to see if they would obey Him on the basis of the dictates of their own consciences.
But man refused to live by the dictates of his conscience. Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). God therefore destroyed the entire race by means of a flood, sparing only righteous Noah, his wife, their three sons and their three wives. Having begun afresh with a righteous patriarch, God took the next logical step to bring the wild dog of man's sin nature to heel: He put the fear of capital punishment in them for murder: Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:6). In so doing, it is implied that God authorized the establishment of a police force to make arrests, a judicial system to conduct fair trials, executioners to carry out their duty, etc., and an overseer or body of overseers to manage these activities. In other words, to promote respect for human life because of the image of God in man, God authorized the establishment of human government or, shall we say, human governments, because He also commanded them to be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it (Genesis 9:7), repeating what He had commanded Adam and Eve before their Fall: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28). This "dominion mandate" was a commission to man to take stewardship of the resources that God had provided for the blessing of mankind and the glory of God.
True to form, man defiantly spurned the command to fill the earth, and subdue it. "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4). The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:9) represented an active rejection of God Himself. It was an astrological observatory built for the purpose of seeking guidance from the stars instead of the Creator; and Romans 1:21-23 in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 tells us that it is only a step from the turning to creation for guidance to idolatry and the worship of Satan and demons. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. The Tower of Babel, then, was the institutional fountainhead of all the false and demonic religions and philosophies in the world. (The woman of Revelation 17:3 is called BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. Babylon and Babel are translated from the same Hebrew word, bavel, which means confusion; abominations is a common term for idols; and harlotry is a common term for idolatry.) God therefore confused their languages to scatter them for the purpose of restraining their collusion in evil and that the earth might be filled and subdued. This scattering also divided mankind into the first nations, which served another purpose. Acts 17: 26. and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27. that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Mankind again proved himself unwilling to seek or obey God, so God took the next logical step. He called out one nation, Israel, to be His channel of revelation to all the nations (Genesis 12:1-3). Yet even Israel rebelled against Him continually, sinking even into Baal worship, which required them to lay their children in the red-hot metal arms of the idols of Baal where they burned to death. God expelled them from the Land for this by the hand of cruel conquerors, but returned them to the Land that they might receive their incarnated Messiah and be saved from their enemies and from their sins. True to form, however, they turned Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified; and yet, this was the next logical step that God took to shock Israel and mankind into the conviction of sin and repentance toward God. However, Israel hardened their hearts even after the miraculous events surrounding the crucifixion, not the least of which was Messiah's resurrection; and these same Romans whom the Israelites turned to for deliverance from their Deliverer proved to be the rod of God's judgment upon them. They destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple with a great slaughter and scattered the survivors from the Land.
If Israel would have received Jesus during His earthly ministry He would have established His earthly Kingdom (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 23:37-39) and Israel would have been His ministers to the rest of the world (Zechariah 8:23), but they did not; and though God did not reject Israel as His chosen nation (Romans 3:6; 11:1,11) and will yet fulfill all His promises to them and purposes for them, He o