A Key Doctrinal Overview and Exegesis. Messianic Bible studies: Salvation, Jewish, Trinity, Man, messianic Bible study, BibleStudyProject

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A KEY DOCTRINAL OVERVIEW

AND EXEGESIS

A Compendium of Messianic Bible Studies

by Norman Manzon

This is page 3 of "A Key Doctrinal Overview." To access page 1 or page 2, click links.

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THE TRUE ROOTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Part 4: The Futility of Anti-Semitism

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.

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

~ Psalm 121:4 ~
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Each item is linked for your convenience *

INTRODUCTION
I. THE FUTILITY OF ANTI-SEMITISM
A. IT IS FUTILE TO ATTEMPT TO DESTROY THE JEWISH PEOPLE
B. IT IS FUTILE TO TRY TO PREVENT THE SALVATION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
C. THE CERTAINTY OF GOD'S DECREES ON THE MATTER
II. GOD'S DECREES CONCERNING ANTI-SEMITES
III. GOD'S DECREES APPLIED
A. APPLICATION TO SATAN AND HIS DEMONS
B. APPLICATION TO INDIVIDUALS
C. APPLICATION TO NATIONS
IV. MOVING FROM ANTI-SEMITISM TO PRO-SEMITISM
V. GOD'S DECREES CONCERNING PRO-SEMITES

A. APPLICATION TO HOLY ANGELS
B. APPLICATION TO INDIVIDUALS
C. APPLICATION TO NATIONS
VI. AN APPEAL TO MY JEWISH BRETHREN

ENDNOTES
RECOMMENDED READING

*

INTRODUCTION

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:

It was Judaism that brought the concept of a God-given universal moral law into the world...the Jew carries the burden of God in history and for this he has never been forgiven.1

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)

I. THE FUTILITY OF ANTI-SEMITISM

A. IT IS FUTILE TO ATTEMPT TO DESTROY THE JEWISH PEOPLE

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 66:22)

35. Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: 36. "If this fixed order departs from before Me," declares the LORD, "then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever." 37. Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done," declares the LORD.

~ Jeremiah 31:35-37 ~

25. Thus says the LORD, "If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, 26. then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them."

~ Jeremiah 33:25-26 ~

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:


If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?2

~ Mark Twain, 1897 ~

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By all reckoning, the Jews should have died out long ago. Their survival as a distinct people is a miracle of history. . . .

You cannot talk to a Babylonian today, nor a Hittite. You will not meet a Moabite or a Phoenecian on the street. But you can converse with a Jew.

By every measuring stick of history there should not be even one identifiable Jew alive today. For 4,000 years they have endured unbelievable hardships: exile from their land more than 60 per cent of the time; organized efforts to destroy them; the crumbling of the civilizations in which they sought refuge; the sophisticated brutality of the 20th century. Yet the Jews are alive and flourishing. They survive every effort to destroy them.3

~ David Egner, The Radio Bible Class ~

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The Jews have played an all-important role in history. They are pre-eminently an historical people and their destiny reflects the indestructibility of the divine decrees. Their destiny is too imbued with the 'metaphysical' to be explained either in material or positive-historical terms.

I remember how the materialist interpretation of history, when I attempted in my youth to verify it by applying it to the destiny of peoples, broke down in the case of the Jews, where destiny seemed absolutely inexplicable from the materialistic standpoint. And indeed, according to the materialistic and positive criterion, this people ought long ago to have perished.

It's survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of that people is governed by a special predetermination, transcending the process of adaptation expounded by the materialistic interpretation of history.

The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely peculiar conditions and the fateful role played by them in history; all these point to the particular and mysterious foundations of their destiny.4

~ Nicolai Berdyaev ~

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"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.

B. IT IS FUTILE TO TRY TO PREVENT THE SALVATION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE

The multitude of ways that Satan has tried to prevent the salvation of Israel include:

  • pre-cross attempts to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:16; 26:3-4; Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59; 10:31);

  • the rejection of Jesus' messiahship by Jewish leaders from the time of Jesus until today;

  • the denial of the Jewish identity of believing Jews by rabbis;

  • the denial of the Jewish identity of non-believing Jews by Christian theologians;

  • the claim by Christian theologians that believing Gentiles are Jews;

  • the teaching that Israel has been rejected by God and that the church has replaced Israel as God's covenant people;

  • the claim that the church is the true Israel, the New Israel, or the Israel of God;

  • making the Gospel odious to them by means of persecution by professing Christians;

  • attempts to annihilate them;

  • the repudiation of evangelism to the Jews so as not to offend them; or because they are spiritually blind (on the basis of 2 Corinthians 3:13-16, though the passage itself says that whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away); or because they have fallen out of favor with God and He has rejected them; or because they already are in a favored position before God.

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.

31. "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32. not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34. "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

~ Jeremiah 31:31-34 ~

The fulfillment of this new covenant will take place at the end of the Tribulation period:


8. "It will come about in all the land," declares the LORD, "that two parts in it will be cut off
and perish; but the third will be left in it. 9. And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'"

~ Zechariah 13:8-9 ~

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:


26. and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." 27. "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS."

~ Romans 11:26-27 ~

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.

C. THE CERTAINTY OF GOD'S DECREES ON THE MATTER

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?

Judges 2:1: I will never break My covenant with you.

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.

II. GOD'S DECREES CONCERNING ANTI-SEMITES

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:


7. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

~ Galatians 6:7-8 ~

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:
1. Genesis 12:3: And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

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 17:7: I 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 after you.

c. It is implied in the fact that God passed the covenant on to Abraham's son Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5,24), to Isaac's son Jacob whose name became Israel (Genesis 28:13-15; 32:28), and finally, to the twelve sons of Israel and all their descendants (Genesis 49:1-28).

d. It is made as plain as day as Isaac repeats the blessing/cursing provision in his blessing of Jacob: Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you. (Genesis 27:29),

e. and in Balaam's prophecy concerning the entire nation: He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, and cursed is everyone who curses you. (Numbers 24:9)

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 (Isaiah 59:19-21).

g. It is also implied in the fact that the blessing/cursing principle may be observed at work in the lives of those who blessed or cursed Israelites other than Abraham, as will be shown.

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:

a. He has sent me, that is, the LORD of hosts.

b. The Lord was not sent the first time to judge nations, but to die for sin. He will be sent the second time to judge nations (Joel 3:2; Zechariah 12:1-9; 14:1-2; Revelation 12:15-17).

c. Verses 10-12 are clearly set at the time of the Lord's return.

d. The passage speaks of the Lord being sent after glory, and Matthew 25:31 speaks of the Son of Man com[ing] in His glory, and . . . then He will sit on His glorious throne.

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).

Consider:
a. In Matthew 24:3, Jesus' Jewish disciples asked Him,
Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? In the course of His reply, He tells them, Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name (verse 9).

Strong 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).

b. Jesus continues,
15. Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16. then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.

Those 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.

c. In verse 20, He says,
But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. Who else would care about fleeing on a Sabbath, but Jews?!

d. Following through in the same discourse, He speaks of gathering the sheep and goat nations for judgment in Matthew 25:32. The word He uses for nations in this verse is again ethnos, Gentile nations.

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.

III. GOD'S DECREES APPLIED

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 will follow:
1. God may judge those whose actions harm Israel even if they do so unknowingly and without bias against the nation.

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.

A. APPLICATION TO SATAN AND HIS DEMONS


2. And [an angel] laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3. and he threw him into the Abyss, and shut it
and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

~ Revelation 20:2-3 ~

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.

Will his demons be bound with him? Perhaps some, but certainly not all. We can derive this from two groups of passages that reveal there will be demons in two locations on earth during the Millenniums. Isaiah 13:20-22; Jeremiah 50:39-40, 51:41-43; Revelation 18:1-2 and 19:3, when studied together, show that during the Millennium, Babylon (modern southern Iraq), will be a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit (Revelation 18:2); and Isaiah 34:8-15, which indicates that during the Millennium, Edom (modern southern Jordan) will likewise be inhabited by demons. According to Dr. Fruchtenbaum, hairy goat in verse 14, actually refers to a demon in goat form; and according to Keil and Delitszch, night monster [screech owl, KJV], also in verse 14, refers to a female demon.

As concerns eternal punishment, 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.

B. APPLICATION TO INDIVIDUALS

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 the Saved
a. Chastisement on Earth
Hebrews 12:6: For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and scourges every son whom He receives. (Also Proverbs 3:12.) One way or another, God will chasten those of His children who engage in anti-Semitic practices.

b. At the Judgment Seat of Christ
While dwellers on Earth will endure the tests and judgments of the Great Tribulation, the deeds of the members of the church will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven, at which time anti-Semitic acts and sinful acts of all kinds committed on Earth will bring the suffering of loss: 14. If any man's work which he has built on [the foundation of Jesus Christ (verse 11)] remains, he will receive a reward. 15. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).

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
a. Chastisement on Earth
In Genesis 12:10-17, Pharaoh took Abram's wife Sarai into his harem. Pharaoh had no idea that Abram would be the progenitor of the covenant nation, and could not possibly have desired to hurt him because of it. All he was interested in was Abram's good-looking wife, fair game for any self-respecting Pharaoh. But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife (verse 17). If he had retained Sarai in his harem permanently, the covenant line would have been cut off right there, and Christ would never have been born.

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
Revelation 20:15: And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

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.

C. APPLICATION TO NATIONS

Three points:
1. Only individuals - not nations - are adjudged fit for the Lake of Fire. This includes the goat nations, which are judged at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 25:41-46). Those individuals among the Dutch, for example, who will not offer succor to the persecuted Jews of the Great Tribulation, are viewed corporately as the Dutch goat nation, but will be adjudged fit for entry into the Lake of Fire on an individual basis. They will be condemned corporately to the Lake of Fire only because every individual among them will be unsaved; and whatever degrees of punishment may be due them will also be determined on an individual basis. The same is true of the rest of the unsaved, who will be judged at the Great White Throne after the Millennium.

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:

Egypt
Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish male newborns be drowned (Exodus 1:15-16). Egypt was eventually judged by the slaying of their own firstborn sons, and by the drowning of their army in the Red Sea (Exodus 11:4-5; 12:12,29; 14:21-28; 15:4).

Amalek
When the Israelites were passing through the wilderness, then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8). In verse 14, the LORD said to Moses, "Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." God carried out His vow some four hundred years later. Samuel announced to Saul,


2. Thus says the LORD of hosts, "I will punish Amalek for
what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

~ 1 Samuel 15:2-3 ~

The sentence was carried out later in the chapter. What Saul nearly completed was completed by Samuel.

The Edomites
The everlasting enmity (Ezekiel 35:5) of Edom toward Israel is detailed in our second anti-Semitism study, The Satanic and Human Aspects on page 2 of this Doctrinal Exegesis. God pronounced judgment on Edom in Jeremiah 49:9-22 and Obadiah 1:5-6,10,18.

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 Anti-Christ's Army
All the nations of the world, whose armies anti-Christ will gather in his final attempt to destroy Israel, will suffer the loss of their armies.


I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there 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 ~

19. So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

~ Revelation 14:19-20 ~

IV. MOVING FROM ANTI-SEMITISM TO PRO-SEMITISM

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?

V. GOD'S DECREES CONCERNING PRO-SEMITES

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.

A. APPLICATION TO HOLY ANGELS

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:


22. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23. to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the
righteous made perfect, 24. and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

~ Hebrews 12:22-24 ~

B. APPLICATION TO INDIVIDUALS

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)!

Note that the unsaved, such as Potiphar, as well as the saved, such as Ruth, experience earthly blessings for blessing Jews.

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).

C. APPLICATION TO NATIONS

Three points:
1. Only individuals - not nations - are adjudged worthy of entry into Heaven. This includes the sheep nations, which are judged at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 25:31-40). Those individuals among the Dutch, for example, who will offer succor to the persecuted Jews of the Great Tribulation, are viewed corporately as the Dutch sheep nation, but will be adjudged worthy of entry into Heaven on an individual basis. They will be welcomed corporately into the Messianic Kingdom and, by implication, into Heaven, only because every individual among them will be saved; and whatever rewards may be due them will also be determined on an individual basis. This principle can be seen at the Judgment Seat of Christ, where the degrees of the rewards of the church saints are determined on an individual basis (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

2. No one's salvation or condemnation is ever decided on the basis of their deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9). The deeds of the sheep individuals are indicative of their saved state, as faith is demonstrated by godly works, per James 2:14-26. Only saved Gentiles will have the conviction and courage to offer aid to the persecuted Jews. Therefore, the fate of the sheep nations is to be viewed as the fate of saved individuals, addressed above.

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).

VI. AN APPEAL TO MY JEWISH BRETHREN

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.

Shalom.

~ This concludes our series, Concerning Israel ~

Links to all ten Concerning Israel studies may be found on
page 2 of our Doctrinal Overview and Exegesis and in our Site Map.

*

Scroll past Endnotes and Recommended Reading for next study.

ENDNOTES

1. Edward H. Flannery. Judaism-now Blogspot, http://judaism-now.blogspot.com/2010/12/pagan-influance-of-christmas.html. Judaism-now.
2. "Concerning the Jews" from the March 1898 issue of Harper's by Mark Twain. Quoted from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Quote/TwainJews.html.
3. David C. Egner, Those Irrepressible Jews!, Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1983, back cover.
4. "The Meaning of History," London (1936) pp. 86-87, by Professor Nicolai Berdyaev, Moscow Academy of Spiritual Culture. Quoted from http://www.createforum.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?mforum=mepe&p=2729.
5. James Strong. The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), Hebrew Dictionary words 779, 7043.
6. Paul Johnson, "The Anti-Semitic Disease," Commentary Magazine, June 2005.
7. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Hebrew Christianity (Tustin, Ariel Ministries Press, 1983), p. 63.
8. For an extensive discussion of the eternal security of the believers, see the author's study, Eternal Security.
9. Johnson, op. cit.

RECOMMENDED READING

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. Fruchtenbaum*
2. The examples given in this study of the blessing and cursing aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant are drawn from Scripture. Yet, the principle may be seen to apply in extrabiblical history, as well. Dr. Fruchtenbaum has done a study on the matter, and his findings may be considered in his Hebrew Christianity. Tustin: Ariel Ministries Press, 1983.
3. The
Footsteps of Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events.
4. Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.
5.
Messianic Bible Study 005: How to Destroy the Jews.
6. Messianic Bible Study
191: The Remnant of Israel: Past, Present and Future. (Available for free reading and listening.)

By Mottel Baleston*
7. Publications on Jewish history and various aspect of it.

*Publications by Dr. Fruchtenbaum and Mottel Baleston are available at Ariel Ministries in various formats.


[He abolished] in His flesh the enmity, which is
the Law of commandments contained in ordinances
.

~ Ephesians 2:14-15 ~

*

TABLE OF CONTENTS
*
Each item is linked for your convenience *

INTRODUCTION
AMC STATEMENT
I. ORIGIN OF THE LAW
II. NATURE AND CONTENT OF THE LAW
III. PURPOSES FOR THE LAW
IV. ISRAEL BROKE THE LAW
V. THE LAW BECAME INOPERATIVE
A. THE LAW WAS TO BECOME INOPERATIVE
1. Mosaic Law vs. Millennial Kingdom Law
2. Jeremiah 31:31-34
3. Hebrews 8:13
B. WHEN, EXACTLY, DID THE LAW BECOME INOPERATIVE?
VI. THE ISSUE: SUPERIMPOSITION OR REPLACEMENT?
A. WHEN, EXACTLY, DID THE NEW COVENANT BECOME OPERATIVE?
B. IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES
C. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
VII. THE "OPERATIVE" PASSAGES
A. DECLARATIONS MADE BY JESUS
B. THE "FOREVER" PASSAGES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. Ledorot, Olam, Tamid: "Forever" Passages of the Law in Question
2. Olam: Literally "Forever"
3. Ledorot, Olam, Tamid: Until the End of a Period of Time
4. Resolving the "Forever" Passages of the Law

VIII. CONCLUSION
ENDNOTES

INTRODUCTION

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.

AMC STATEMENT

The Believer and the Law of Moses

We believe the Law of Moses as a rule of life has been fulfilled in the Messiah and therefore believers are no longer under its obligation or condemnation. While the Law of Moses is no longer obligatory for believers, the Law has much to teach us regarding a joyfully Jewish way of life. Both Jewish and non-Jewish believers have the freedom in Messiah to maintain any aspects of the Law of Moses which do not violate the entirety of the rest of scripture. (Acts 21:24-26; Romans 6:14;8:2;10:4;14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 9:20; 2 Corinthians 3:1-11; Galatians 3:3,3:10-13;6:2; Ephesians 2:14 )


I. ORIGIN OF 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:

  • They were obligated to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. . . . [B]e fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it. (Genesis 9:1,7)

  • Men, especially, were obligated to provide for their families by the sweat of [their] face. (Genesis 3:19)

  • Wives were to respect the leadership and authority of their husbands in the marriage. (Genesis 3:16)

  • They were permitted to eat meat and vegetables, but were prohibited from eating blood. (Genesis 9:3-4)

  • They were obligated to execute murderers (Genesis 9:6), which implied the necessity for police, judiciary and penal arms of government, and an individual or body of individuals to oversee all three.

  • They were required to offer up blood sacrifices for sin. This can be seen in Genesis 3:21, where God demonstrated the necessity for the shedding of innocent blood for the sins of Adam and Eve; and in Genesis 4:4, where God required Cain and Abel to offer up proper blood sacrifices.

The faithful among them also had the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant to hold on to. Key among them were the following:

  • God was going to make of them a great and numerous nation. (Genesis 12:2; 22:7)

  • He would give them all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:8) whose borders would extend from the river of Egypt (the Wadi El Arish, a seasonal watercourse flowing into the southeast corner of the Mediterranean) as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, in the north. (Genesis 15:18)

  • God would bless those who blessed them, and curse those who cursed them. (Genesis 12:3)

  • All the families of the Earth would be blessed through them. (Genesis 12:3; 22:18)

  • I 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 after you. (Genesis 17:7)

  • They were obligated to circumcise their sons on the eighth day to serve as the token of the Abrahamic Covenant. (Genesis 17:9-14)

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.

II. NATURE AND CONTENT 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.

III. PURPOSES FOR THE LAW

  • to provide a code of conduct for the nation and the individuals in it;

  • to reveal His holiness to them;

  • to train them in holy living;

  • to provide occasions for corporate worship;

  • to serve as the barrier of the dividing wall between Israel and the other nations (Ephesians 2:14-15);

  • to keep them distinct from the other nations (Leviticus 11:44-45; Deuteronomy 7:6;
    14:1-2);

  • to sequester them for ministry to the world: passively through God's actions on their behalf, and actively through prophesying to other nations (as Jonah to Nineveh), writing the Scriptures and bringing forth Messiah;

  • to drive them to saving faith in Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:15; Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 3:17,24-25).

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.

IV. ISRAEL BROKE THE LAW

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,

37. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39. For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! (Psalm 118:26)"

~ Matthew 23:37-39 ~

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.

V. THE LAW BECAME INOPERATIVE

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.

A. THE LAW WAS TO BECOME INOPERATIVE

1. Mosaic Law vs. Millennial Kingdom Law
There is a class of passages that proves that the Mosaic Law needed come to an end at some point before the establishment of the Messianic (Millennial) Kingdom because of irreconcilable differences between Mosaic Law and Kingdom Law. Two examples of such differences are:

1) Under Mosaic Law, observance of the Feast of Tabernacles was mandatory for Jews only (Leviticus 23:33-43); but under Kingdom Law it will be mandatory for both Jews and Gentiles (Zechariah 14:16-21).

2) Under Mosaic Law, only Jews could be priests (Leviticus 1:5; 21:1); but under Kingdom Law, Gentiles as well as Jews will serve as priests (Isaiah 66:18-21).

In order for Kingdom Law to operate, Mosaic Law must be inoperative.

2. Jeremiah 31:31-34
Perhaps the most familiar passage in the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures) that indicates that the Law was to become inoperative is the declaration of the coming New Covenant:

31. "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32. not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

~ Jeremiah 31:31-34 ~

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
Hebrews 8:13: When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. When God announced the coming New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, He made the Mosaic Covenant's coming obsolescence known.

B. WHEN, EXACTLY, DID THE LAW BECOME INOPERATIVE?

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.

Ephesians 2:14-15: 14. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15. by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances.

Colossians 2:13-14: 13. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God the Father] has made alive together with Him [ Jesus], having forgiven you all trespasses, 14. blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.

Hebrews 7:18: For truly there is a putting away of the commandment which went before, because of the weakness and unprofitableness of it.

Hebrews 10:9: Then He said, "Lo, I come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first so that He may establish the second.

To sum up, the Law was operative only until the Seed would come (Galatians 3:19). When Jesus died, the Law was brought to an end (Romans 10:14), faded away (2 Corinthians 3:7,11), broken down (Ephesians 2:14), abolished in His flesh (Ephesians 2:15), blotted out (Colossians 2:14), nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14), taken out of the way (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:9), put away (Hebrews 7:18), made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), rendered inoperative (katargeo, 2 Corinthians 3:7,11; Ephesians 2:15).

It was when Jesus died that the Law became inoperative. It is important to note that God views the Law as a unit, as has been brought out. James 2:10: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. What this means is that when the Law became inoperative, the entire Law became inoperative, and that no part of it remained standing - not the Ten Commandments, not the Sabbath commandment included in it, not the kosher laws - none of it. Not a single Mosaic law is operative today as a rule of life for anyone.

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.

A. WHEN, EXACTLY, DID THE NEW COVENANT BECOME OPERATIVE?

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.

We have seen that the Law became inoperative upon the death of Jesus. Here we see that at exactly the same moment, the New Covenant became operative. The New Covenant was never superimposed over the Old. It replaced it.

Nor could the New Covenant possibly be superimposed over the Mosaic. Conflicting liberties and requirements exist between the two. Some examples:

  • Believers in Jesus are written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3) - which is consistent with Jeremiah 31:33: I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people; and with Jeremiah 36:26: Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Also with Jeremiah 11:19.)

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, Israelites were required to worship in the place where [God] chooses (Deuteronomy 16:16). First, it was Shiloh (Joshua 18:1 with Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:3); later, the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 2:4). But under the New Covenant, the only "place" where believers are required to worship is in spirit and truth (John 4:20-24).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, all priests needed to be men of the tribe of Levi and a descendant of Aaron; but under the New Covenant, all believers - Jews of any tribe, and Gentiles, and men and women - are priests (1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10); and Jesus, our High Priest, is of the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, only the high priest could come into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, and only one day of the Year, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) (Leviticus 16:18, Hebrews 9:6-8); but under the New Covenant, all believers can draw near with confidence to the throne of grace at any time (Hebrews 4:16).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, execution was the penalty for breaking quite a few of the laws irrespective of repentance (Exodus 21:12-17,22-23; 31:14-15; Leviticus 22:2,9-16,27, Hebrews 10:26, etc.); but the New Covenant does not authorize the death penalty for any offense.3 The most severe penalty authorized by the New Covenant is excommunication, which may result in death at the hand of Satan (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:5), but is to be withdrawn upon repentance (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, one incurred the death penalty by profaning the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14-15), but under the New Covenant, there is no Sabbath day commandment, nor is there a commandment to observe the feasts of Leviticus 23 (Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16-17).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, strict dietary laws were prescribed (Leviticus 11:1-11); but under the New Covenant, all foods are clean (Acts 10:9-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-5).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, in order for a saved Gentile to partake of physical blessings of the Covenant (e.g., Temple worship, celebration of the Passover) he needed to become a part of the commonwealth of Israel by being circumcised if male, and by taking upon himself the entire burden of the Law (Exodus 12:48-49); but under the New Covenant, all that is required for a Gentile to partake of every spiritual blessing that a believing Jew partakes of is belief in the Gospel (Mark 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) whereupon he is instantly brought into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:11-22).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, the sins of the believer were merely "covered." (In Leviticus 17:11, the word for "atonement" is kaphar, the primary meaning of which is "to cover.") Under the New Covenant, the sins of all believers of all time are removed (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:1-18).

  • The Law did not serve as a means of salvation, but the New Covenant does. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16; 3:11-12, 21)

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, only a small handful of Israelites had the Spirit "with" them (rare exceptions had Him "in" them, as well), but under the New Covenant, all believers have the Spirit "in" them. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the Spirit did not always rest on those few Israelites permanently, but under the New Covenant, the Spirit indwells all believers forever. The contrasts are: a few, all; with, in; temporarily, forever: (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Numbers 11:17-25; 27:18; 2 Kings 2:9-12; 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11).

  • Under the Mosaic Covenant, power was not given to the believer to obey the requirements of God, but under the New Covenant, such power is given (Romans 7:14 - 8:4).

These irreconcilable differences render the two covenants mutually exclusive. They cannot be operative simultaneously.

Was the New Testament superimposed over the Law, or did it replace it?

1. Jeremiah declared that Israel broke, disannulled, the Mosaic Covenant, and that God would make a new covenant with them unlike the Mosaic.

2. At the death of Jesus, the Mosaic Covenant became inoperative, and the New Covenant became operative.

3. Irreconcilable differences exist between the two covenants.

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.

VII. THE "OPERATIVE" PASSAGES

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.

A. DECLARATIONS MADE BY JESUS

Among the declarations of Jesus that give people cause to believe that the Law is still operative, Matthew 5:17-19 is probably the most prominent.

17. Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

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.

What Does it Mean that Jesus "fulfilled" the Law? He fulfilled it in two ways:
1. He kept the Law perfectly:

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:

44. Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46. and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47. and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

~ Luke 24:44-47 ~

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.

B. THE "FOREVER" PASSAGES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

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

1. Ledorot, Olam, Tamid: "Forever" Passages of the Law in Question
These passages give the impression that the Law is to literally last forever:

On Sabbath observance: But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations (ledorot), that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. (Exodus 31:13)

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"
Other passages not having to do with the Law lend strength to the impression that the Law is still operative:

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God (El Olam) (Genesis 21:33). No one doubts that God is literally everlasting!

No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting (olam) covenant for his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:19). The covenant referred to is the Abrahamic, and it is, indeed, literally everlasting and still operative.

3. Ledorot, Olam, Tamid: Until the End of a Period of Time
However, the following passages use the same words in contexts where they can only mean "until the end of a period of time":

And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently (le-olam) (Exodus 21:6). This is a specific Mosaic law; and le-olam here cannot mean for eternity, but until the end of the servant's life.

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 89:1). To all generations is ledor vador, twice containing dor, "generation," the same root found in ledorot. Obviously, the psalmist did not mean that his mouth would literally make the LORD's faithfulness known to all generations; his mouth could only make it known until the end of his life.

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 "Forever" Passages of the Law
Though we've seen two passages in which olam literally means forever, we've also seen cases in which ledorot, olam, and tamid can only refer to a limited period of time. So which is it? Do these terms mean that the Law as a unit will literally be operative forever, or that it will be operative only until the end of a period of time, as the passage about piercing a servant's ear clearly did?

When 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 unequivocal for clarification. Such are the New Testament passages quoted above: When Jesus died, the Law was brought to an end (Romans 10:14), faded away (2 Corinthians 3:7,11), broken down (Ephesians 2:14), abolished in His flesh (Ephesians 2:15), blotted out (Colossians 2:14), nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14), taken out of the way (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:9), put away (Hebrews 7:18), made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), rendered inoperative (katargeo, 2 Corinthians 3:7,11; Ephesians 2:15). The Law was operative only until the Seed would come (Galatians 3:19).

These passages resolve the matter. The "forever" passages of the Law must be taken to mean "until the end of a period of time," that period of time which began at Sinai and ended at the cross.

VIII. CONCLUSION

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

ENDNOTES

1. Indicated by the Hebrew word toledot in Genesis 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10,27; 25:19; 36:1,9 and 37:2, and translated as These are the generations of, This is the account of, This is the book of, etc.
2. "A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments)." Judaism 101. http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm.
3. This is not to be confused with the rights of civil governments (Romans 13:1-5).
4. The New Covenant's promises of blessing are not dependent upon Israel's meeting any conditions, but solely upon the sure promises of God. This makes it an eternal covenant; and once it is operative - and it already is - it will remain operative for eternity.
5. Geneva Bible Translation Notes. E-sword download at http://www.BibleSupport.com.
6. Chok rhymes with choke, but the ch is pronounced as in Bach.
7
. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr., Messianic Bible Study 176: The Sabbath, pp. 31-33, pdf.

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Part 2: Abolition of the Law:
What It Means for the Christian

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It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing
firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

~ Galatians 5:1 ~

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Each item is linked for your convenience *

INTRODUCTION
AMC STATEMENT

CONCLUSION OF OUR PART 1 STUDY
I. THE LAW IS A UNIT
A. GENERAL DEVELOPMENT

B. ALL CATEGORIES INOPERATIVE
C. THE SABBATH COMMANDMENT: A SPECIAL CASE
II. ABOLITION: WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE BELIEVER
A. THE BELIEVER IS NOT UNDER THE LAW
B. NO OBLIGATION
C. NO BONDAGE
D. NO CONDEMNATION
E. "NO" SUMMARY
IV. TWO IMPORTANT "NO'S" FOR NOT PLACING ONESELF UNDER THE LAW
A. NO JUSTIFICATION
B. NO SANCTIFICATION
C. FINAL WORDS FROM PAUL
V. THE LAW OF CHRIST
A. HUNDREDS OF EXHORTATIONS OR LAWS
B. NINE OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS RESURRECTED
C. THE SABBATH AND OTHER MOSAIC LAWS
1. The Sabbath Commandment
2. Further Considerations
VI. BLESSINGS OF THE LAW FOR TODAY
A. STUDYING THE LAW
1. Types and Prophetically Illustrative Content
2. Principles
3. Understanding Israelite Culture and Scripture

4. Preparation for Keeping Parts of the Law

B. KEEPING THE LAW
1. To Affirm Our Love for Our Heritage
2. Conscience
3. To Avoid Causing a Weaker Brother to Sin
4. Celebration
5. Fellowship, Teaching, Learning and Jewish Evangelism
C. CAVEATS TO KEEPING THE LAW
1. Kinds of Laws
2. Reasons and Motives

VII. RABBINIC LAW
A. WHAT IS RABBINIC LAW?

1. Mixture of Mosaic and Rabbinic
2. Drastic Contradictions
B. OBSERVANCE OF RABBINIC LAW AND CUSTOM

1. Keeping Rabbinic Law in General
2. Praying the Liturgy
3. Who May Pray?

4. Distinguishing the Mosaic from the Rabbinic or Cultural

VIII. ONE LAST WORD
ENDNOTES


INTRODUCTION

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.

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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.

AMC STATEMENT

The Believer and the Law of Moses

We believe the Law of Moses as a rule of life has been fulfilled in the Messiah and therefore believers are no longer under its obligation or condemnation. While the Law of Moses is no longer obligatory for believers, the Law has much to teach us regarding a joyfully Jewish way of life. Both Jewish and non-Jewish believers have the freedom in Messiah to maintain any aspects of the Law of Moses which do not violate the entirety of the rest of scripture. (Acts 21:24-26; Romans 6:14;8:2;10:4;14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 9:20; 2 Corinthians 3:1-11; Galatians 3:3,3:10-13;6:2; Ephesians 2:14 )

CONCLUSION OF OUR PART 1 STUDY

The Law was operative only until the Seed would come (Galatians 3:19). When Jesus died, the Law was brought to an end (Romans 10:14), faded away (2 Corinthians 3:7,11), broken down (Ephesians 2:14), abolished in His flesh (Ephesians 2:15), blotted out (Colossians 2:14), nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14), taken out of the way (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:9), put away (Hebrews 7:18), made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), rendered inoperative (katargeo, 2 Corinthians 3:7,11; Ephesians 2:15).

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.

B. ALL CATEGORIES INOPERATIVE

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:

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.

Again, the word translated fading and fades away is katargeo, which means "to render inoperative."

C. THE SABBATH COMMANDMENT: A SPECIAL CASE

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.

II. ABOLITION: WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE BELIEVER

The abolition of the Law has various ramifications for the believer.

A. THE BELIEVER IS NOT UNDER THE LAW

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.

B. NO OBLIGATION

Because the Law has been abolished and the believer is not under the Law, he has no obligation to obey any of the laws of the Mosaic system.

Romans 7:6: But now we have been released (Gr. katargeo, to render inoperative) from the Law.

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:

8. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9. and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?

Also, in Galatians 2:3, Paul resisted pressure to circumcise the Gentile believer Titus.

C. NO BONDAGE

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!"

Galatians 5:1 contrasts freedom in Christ with the yoke of slavery of the Law.

Romans 6:14: For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

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.

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.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has
set you free from the law of sin and of death.

~ Romans 8:2 ~

11. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12. instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,13. looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14. who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

~ Titus 2:11-14 ~

D. NO CONDEMNATION

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)

1.Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has set you free from the law of sin and of death
.

~ Romans 8:1-2 ~

E. "NO" SUMMARY

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!

IV. TWO IMPORTANT "NO'S" FOR NOT PLACING ONESELF UNDER THE LAW

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).

1. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2. This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3. Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

~ Galatians 3:1-3 ~

The above passages apply to both justification and sanctification. We will now view passages that apply to one or the other.

A. NO JUSTIFICATION

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.

16. nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 21. . . for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.

~ Galatians 2:16,21 ~

Galatians 3:11: Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

B. NO SANCTIFICATION

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

25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26. so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . . 32. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

~ Ephesians 5:25-26,32 ~

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.

To review,
1. It is the Spirit that sanctifies.
2. There was no sanctification during the Age or Dispensation of the Law because the Spirit had not yet been given.
3. Even now, while we have the Spirit, placing oneself under the Law, or any law, contributes nothing to sanctification.

C. FINAL WORDS FROM PAUL

9. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10. You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

~ Galatians 4:9-11 ~

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

~ Galatians 5:1 ~

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.

V. THE LAW OF CHRIST

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).

A. HUNDREDS OF EXHORTATIONS OR LAWS

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.

B. NINE OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS RESURRECTED

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.

  • The first commandment, which is against having other gods, is found in the Law of the Messiah in Acts 14:15: [Paul and Barnabas said] We . . . preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God.
  • The second commandment, which is against images made to be worshipped, is found in 1 John 5:21: Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
  • The third commandment, which is against taking the name of the Lord your God in vain, is taught in James 5:12: But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
  • The fourth commandment was: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. This commandment is nowhere repeated in the Law of the Messiah. That is why the believer has no obligation to keep the Sabbath today.
  • The fifth commandment was to honor your parents, and this is also taught in Ephesians 6:1: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. [I would add that verses 2-3 refer back to, and quote, the fifth commandment - NM.]
  • The sixth commandment, which is against murder, is taught in 1 John 3:15: Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
  • The seventh commandment, which is against adultery, is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: 9. Do not be deceived; . . .nor adulterers. . . 10. . . will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • The eighth commandment, which is against stealing, is found in Ephesians 4:28: He who steals must steal no longer.
  • The ninth commandment, which is against bearing false witness, is found in Colossians 3:9: Do not lie to one another.
  • The tenth commandment, which is against coveting, is found in Ephesians 5:3: But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

    Nine of the original Ten Commandments are found in the Law of the Messiah, and that is why we must obey them. But the commandment relating to the Sabbath is not found anywhere in the Law of the Messiah.

C. THE SABBATH AND OTHER MOSAIC LAWS

1. The Sabbath Commandment
Let us follow up on the "truant" 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
Sabbath worship was never enjoined in the Law. Sabbath rest was: complete rest. . . in all your dwellings (Leviticus 23:3). Families were to rest in their own homes. Required corporate Sabbath worship was a non-Mosaic development. (The corporate Sabbath worship enjoined in Ezekiel 46:3 is part of Millennial Law that will take effect in the future Millennial or Messianic Kingdom.) In addition, no biblical command carried the Sabbath over to the Age of Grace in which we live, nor switched it to Sundays.

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.

VI. BLESSINGS OF THE LAW FOR TODAY

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.

A. STUDYING THE LAW

The chief value of the Law today is its capacity for instruction.

1. Types and Prophetically Illustrative Content
The sacrificial system foreshadowed the once for all the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:13; 10:10); Deuteronomy 18:15-18, identifies the coming Messiah and commands obedience to Him; the weekly Sabbath rest is a "type" of the rest that believers have in Messiah (Hebrews 4:9-10); the seven annual feasts enjoined upon Israel in Leviticus 23 are prophetic of seven landmark events from the death of Messiah to the Messianic Age; Hebrews 8:4-5 tells us that the tabernacle and the Levitical service were a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.

2. Principles
We can glean countless principles from the Law. Fundamentally, the undergirding of the Law, love of God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40; 23:23), are now to be written in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). Other principles are: the need for reverence of God and the exclusive worship of Him with clean hearts; the necessity of obedience toward Him; the need for physical rest and spiritual reflection; the need for times of celebration because of God's love for us and the works He performs on our behalf; the sanctity of appropriate sexual relationships and of marriage and the family; the need for exercising justice and kindness toward one's fellow man, including the poor and the stranger; the need for righteousness in business and judicial proceedings; the severity of sin in general and of specific sins in particular; the fact that innocent blood was always required for the atonement of sin (Leviticus 17:11).

3. Understanding Israelite Culture and Scripture
The Law was a foundational element in the culture and mindset of all Bible writers and Israeli personages from Moses through the first century. Jesus was born under the law (Galatians 4:4), and major portions of the New Testament deal with issues concerning the Law. Understanding the Law contributes much to understanding not only the Old Testament, but the New.

4. Preparation for Keeping Parts of the Law
There are valid reasons for choosing to keep some laws.

B. KEEPING THE LAW

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 Our Heritage
In Acts 21:21-24,26, Paul kept the law of Nazirites (Number 6:1-21) to falsify the rumor that he taught Jews that they needed to reject the Law and Jewish customs, lock, stock and barrel.

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.

2. Conscience
Romans 14:23 says, Whatever is not of faith is sin. If a Jewish believer grew up eating only kosher foods, his conscience might strike him if he ate non-kosher foods, such as pork or shellfish. Scripture allows him the liberty to restrict his diet to his satisfaction. He must, however, not judge those who do have the liberty in themselves to eat non-kosher (Romans 14). To use an example apart from Jewishness and the Law, converts from Islam may restrict their corporate worship to Fridays, and to make sure that they pray personally five times a day.

3. To Avoid Causing a Weaker Brother to Sin
To use the same example, if a believer has the faith to eat non-kosher, and does so in the presence of one who does not, that might encourage the one without that faith to stumble, as it says in some versions (Romans 14:13), which, in light of verse 23, means to cause him to go against his conscience and thereby sin. The freer brother is required to observe the kosher laws in such a case, and to not sit in judgment of his weaker brother. (Romans 14).

4. Celebration
Our AMC Statement reads, "The Law has much to teach us regarding a joyfully Jewish way of life." Every culture has its own way of celebrating, and these are all fine as long as spirit and content are acceptable to the Lord. Many Jewish and non-Jewish believers alike like to celebrate in traditionally Jewish ways, such as, by celebrating the Passover and Tabernacles, and this is perfectly acceptable.

5. Fellowship, Teaching, Learning and Jewish Evangelism
Such occasions as celebrating the feasts are valuable for fellowship, teaching, learning and Jewish evangelism. Concerning evangelism, Paul said, To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law (1 Corinthians 9:20).

C. CAVEATS TO KEEPING THE LAW

1. Kinds of Laws
One must avoid observing any Mosaic law that contradicts or negates the New Covenant. For example, Leviticus 4 mandates that animal sacrifices be made for various sins. A believer must never offer a sacrifice for sin as that would negate the sacrifice of Christ, who, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD (Hebrews 10:12). The New Testament prescription for a believer's dealing with his sin is confession (1 John 1:9).

2. Reasons and Motives
One must never keep Mosaic laws out of a sense of legal obligation or for justification or sanctification. Nor may he keep any law so he could look Jewish or pious or to promote godliness or religiosity via Jewishness, as Jewishness never drew anyone closer to God. Scripture never called anyone to Jewishness, but to a holy walk. This matter was settled in the Acts 15 council and is exemplified by Paul's refusal to circumcise the Gentile believer Titus (Galatians 2:3). Jesus decried such Pharisaical attitudes (Matthew 6:5; 23:5). If Jesus proved to be a Chinaman, what a traumatic shock that would be for those who are puffed up because of their Jewishness or appearance as Jews! Paul said, We recognize no one according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16); and 1 Samuel 16:7: But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

VII. RABBINIC LAW

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.

A. WHAT IS RABBINIC LAW?

1. Mixture of Mosaic and Rabbinic
Rabbinic law is an encyclopedic body of legal debates and opinions written by numerous rabbis over the course of many centuries. It is said to include the "Oral Law" given to Moses on Sinai at the same time he received the Written Law. However, Exodus 24:4 leaves no room for an Oral Law. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Also Deuteronomy 31:9-13: So Moses wrote this law . . . . that they may . . . carefully observe all the words of this law . . . . If Moses wanted Israel to obey God fully, why would he allow the supposed Oral Law to remain unwritten? With these things in mind, it would be good to remember what Moses exhorted Israel: You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you (Deuteronomy 4:2). Also Revelation 22:18-19.

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
Some rabbinic law drastically contradicts the Mosaic. Jesus spoke of this (e.g., Mark 7:9-13). From the perspective of the believer, the most significant thing about rabbinic law is the universal rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and the rejection by many rabbis of the Jewish identity of Jewish believers. This is in stark contradiction to Deuteronomy 18:15-18, which is in reference to Messiah. In verse 15, Moses commanded on behalf of the LORD, The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. Yet, to the Shemonah Esrei, the Eighteen Blessings that observant Jews pray three times every weekday as the central prayer of the liturgy (with abbreviated forms on Sabbath and other occasions), the following "blessing" was added at the end of the first century, making it nineteen:

For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the nozerim [Nazarenes] and the minim [heretics] be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.6

B. OBSERVANCE OF RABBINIC LAW AND CUSTOM

1. Keeping Rabbinic Law in General
Many believers desire to keeps parts of the Mosaic Law, but do not realize that much of today's Jewish observances are of rabbinic or cultural origin. Many elements of the modern Passover ceremony are nowhere found in the Law of Moses, and none of the Friday night Sabbath ceremony elements - standardized prayers, candles, challah bread, wine - are found in Mosaic Sabbath law. Certainly, if believers ought not to keep Mosaic law under a sense of obligation or for justification or sanctification, neither ought they to keep rabbinic law or cultural custom for the same! Paul had these words to say about observing the commandments and teachings of men for such reasons:

20. If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21. "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22. (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23. These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

~ Colossians 2:20-23 ~

However, they may be observed for the same reasons noted above for keeping Mosaic laws, and with the same caveats.

2. Praying the Liturgy
One matter that needs to be thought through by messianic synagogues, and churches in general, is that of liturgical worship, the repetition of standardized prayers, which was the dominant feature in synagogue worship in Jesus' day, and is today. It is the standard practice in major sections of the church, and it is common for messianic believers to hold Friday night Sabbath services and celebrate Passover and other such events that invariably contain standardized prayers.

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.

These point are certain:
1. Keeping congregants mesmerized by that which is unbiblical, or because "that's the way we've always done it," is not a good rationale.
2. Those who are prisoner to liturgy need to be weaned away from it.
3. Many entire congregations need to be weaned away from it.
4. There comes a point, after adequate instruction from the pulpit, when appropriate changes need to be made no matter how congregants may respond. Jesus drew such a line with the truth that He brought, and leaders must follow suit (Matthew 10:34-36).
5. In any case where liturgy is retained, adequate time must be provided for extemporaneous prayer even if it means scaling the liturgy way back.

3. Who May Pray?
One thing that rabbinic synagogues get right, and many churches where even extemporaneous prayer takes place do not, is the fact that everybody prays, not just the rabbi or selected elders or deacons. Acts 2:41-42 speaks of repeated corporate New Testament prayer that included everyone: 41. So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Based on verse 42, it is likely that many of these meetings were called and overseen by some whom the Lord was raising up as leaders. Certainly, the apostles led some of them. In other words, such meetings functioned as incipient local congregations where everyone had the liberty to pray.

4. Distinguishing the Mosaic from the Rabbinic or Cultural
Within the limits of the caveats, a believer may observe modern Jewish observances; but he must be careful not to assume that any particular aspect of the observance is of biblical origin. What is required for such discernment is the study of the Scriptures.

VIII. ONE LAST WORD

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free,
and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

~ Galatians 5:1 ~
*

Scroll past Endnotes for next study.

ENDNOTES

1. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr., Messianic Bible Study 021: The Eight Covenants of the Bible, p. 24, pdf.
2.
See former studies "Contrary Claims" Part 1 and Part 2, and The Gentile "Jews" of Esther.
3. The believer falls into temporary condemnation when he sins (1 Timothy 3:6; 5:12), but, in the eternal context, his justified position remains intact. His condemnation brings discipline upon him, and this discipline is evidence of his sonship, not of disownment, and his condemnation is rescinded upon repentance or death. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 with 2 Corinthians 2:5-8; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:5-9; 1 John 1:9)
4. Dake, Finis. Dake's Annotated Reference Bible: Old and New Testaments Compact Edition (Dake Publishing, Inc., 2001) "New Testament Commands," pp. 544-548.
5. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr., Messianic Bible Study 137: The Spiritual Life and the Believer's Rule of Life, p. 15., pdf.
6. Ehrlich, Uri. "Birkat Ha-Minim." Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_02999.html.

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THE DESTINIES OF THE DEAD


It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.

~ Hebrews 9:27 ~

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Each item is linked for your convenience *

INTRODUCTION

AMC STATEMENT
THE DESTINIES OF THE DEAD
I. HEBREWS 9:27
II. FROM ADAM TO THE ASCENSION
A. PASSAGES AND POINTS
B. EPHESIANS 4:8-10
III. FROM THE ASCENSION TO THE RAPTURE
IV. THE RAPTURE
V. FROM THE RAPTURE TO THE GREAT TRIBULATION
VI. DURING THE GREAT TRIBULATION
VII. DURING THE MILLENNIUM
VIII. DURING THE ETERNAL AGES
IX. SUMMARY OF THE DESTINIES OF THE DEAD
A. DESTINIES OF THE UNSAVED
B. DESTINIES OF THE SAVED
X. ONE MORE THING

ENDNOTES

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INTRODUCTION

Most of the studies presented thus far have been adopted from studies by the same name in The Shofar magazine found at www.MessianicAssociation.org. The Destinies of the Dead is the first study in a series on eschatology, or last things, which I have chosen to call The Future, the Afterworld and Eternity. We’ll begin with the entire Association of Messianic Congregations' statement on last things, and then proceed with The Destinies of the Dead.

AMC STATEMENT

Last Things

We believe that upon physical death believers enter into the joyous presence of God, whereas non-believers enter into conscious suffering apart from God. We believe in the personal, bodily, visible, and pre-millennial return of the Lord Yeshua. At that time He will lift the corruption which now rests upon the whole of creation, totally restore Israel to her own land, give her the realization of God's covenanted promises and bring the whole world to the knowledge of God. We believe in the bodily resurrection of all men. Believers shall be resurrected to enjoy eternal life with God. Non-believers shall be resurrected to experience judgment and then eternal suffering/separation apart from God. (Jeremiah 30:7 Daniel 9:24-27; Ezekiel 20:33-40; Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11; Romans 8:19-23; 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; Titus 2:13; Revelation 3:10)
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Excerpts Relevant to The Destinies of the Dead

We believe that upon physical death believers enter into the joyous presence of God, whereas non-believers enter into conscious suffering apart from God. . . . Believers shall be resurrected to enjoy eternal life with God. Non-believers shall be resurrected to experience judgment and then eternal suffering/separation apart from God.



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:


19. Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21. and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24. And he cried out and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.” 25. But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”

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.

4. In Luke 23:43, Jesus said to the thief on the cross who had expressed faith in Him, Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise. While Jesus' body was yet on the surface of the Earth (Matthew 27:57-60), His spirit, not His body, went to Paradise.

At this point, it would be good to note several things:

1. The greater Sheol or Hades, which includes both the torment and the comfort sections, is described as being in the earth beneath, the lower parts of the earth, the heart of the earth or some similar designation (Ezekiel 31:14,16,18; 32:18,21,24; Matthew 12:40; Ephesians 4:9).

2. Other designations for the torment section are:
a. the Pit (Ezekiel 21:16; 26:20; 31:14,16).

b. Abaddon (Hebrew), which means destruction, and its Greek derivative, Apollyon (Job 26:6; 28:22; 31:12; Psalm 88:11; 27:32).

Abaddon and Apollyon are also designations for the angel of the Abyss, a third portion of Hades, which is a temporary abode for fallen angels (Luke 8:31; Revelation 11:9; 17:8; 20:2-3). Another portion of Hades, called Tartarus, is reserved for a particularly odious class of fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6,7). The term is derived from the Greek tar-tar-o'-o in 2 Peter 2:4, and appears as Tartarus in only a few translations, such as, Young's Literal: having cast them down to Tartarus.


3. Another designation for the comfort section of Hades is Paradise (Luke 23:43). According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Paradeisos (Greek), means “’an orchard of pleasure and fruits,’ ‘a garden’ or ‘a pleasure ground.’” As has been noted, in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul reported that he had been caught up into the third heaven, which he also called Paradise. In addition, a comparison of Revelation 2:7 and chapters 21 and 22 shows that the final destination of the saints of all ages is called both Heaven and Paradise. Paradise, then, is used in Scripture of both Abraham's Bosom and Heaven.

To summarize some essentials,
1. Sheol or Hades, in the heart of the earth, is where the spirits of both the unrighteous and the righteous went after death. The unrighteous went to the torment section, called Hades, the Pit, Abaddon and Apollyon, and the righteous went to the comfort section, Abraham's Bosom.

2. Heaven is the place where God dwells, and is the final destination of the saints of all of Earth's ages.

3. Paradise denotes a place of great pleasantness, and is used in Scripture of both Abraham's Bosom and Heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7).

B. EPHESIANS 4:8-10

8. Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” 9. (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10. He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)

~ Ephesians 4:8-10 ~

For just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER,
so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.


~ Matthew 12:40 ~

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 passages just noted, Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth, the heart of the earth. We can thereby tell for certain that He descended into the greater Hades. But into which section? Luke 23:24 makes that clear: Jesus said to the thief on the cross, today you shall be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:24). It was the comfort section, Abraham's Bosom, to which He descended. In addition, from such passages as Matthew 27:60 and Mark 15:43-45, which describe the handling and burial of Jesus' corpse, we see that it was only His spirit that descended into Abraham's Bosom, not His body.

Jesus was no ordinary man. He was God. Why, then, did He go to Abraham's Bosom, and not to Heaven until it was time for His resurrection? Perhaps the answer lies in this: The sacrifices that the pre-Ascension saints had offered for their sins merely covered their sins and qualified them for entry into Abraham's Bosom, but not Heaven (which explains why they are called captives in the passage, though they were in a place of comfort); but now that the Lamb of God had offered Himself as the true sacrifice, they could now be welcomed into Heaven. Apparently, Jesus descended into Abraham's Bosom to announce to the pre-Ascension saints that He had prepared the way for them to enter Heaven and that He was shortly to escort them there. On the third day, His spirit rose from Abraham's Bosom to join His body, and He was resurrected. Upon His Ascension to Heaven forty days later, He escorted the pre-Ascension saints with Him into the presence of God in Heaven, leaving the unrighteous in the Pit.

III. FROM THE ASCENSION TO THE RAPTURE

Hades was emptied of pre-Ascension saints upon Jesus' Ascension, but we can deduce that the souls of the pre-Ascension unrighteous are still in the Pit portion of Hades, and that the souls of the post-Ascension unrighteous who die right up to the end of the Millennium will go there, because Revelation 20:14 tells us that, at the end of the Millennium, Hades [will be] thrown into the lake of fire.

What about the spirits of the post-Ascension righteous? In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul said, we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord; and in Philippians 1:21-24,

21. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 22. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24. yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

From these passages, we see that the souls of saints who die between the Ascension and the Rapture - the period of time in which Paul made the declarations, and in which we live - enter immediately into the presence of God in Heaven to join the souls of the pre-Ascension saints, whom Jesus escorted there.

After the Ascension, the Rapture will constitute the next dividing line in the destiny of the saints. The Rapture is an event yet future that is alluded to in several passages, but is described most clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18. Some key excerpts:

1 Corinthians 15:51-54:

51. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory."


1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

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 17. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

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.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, the dead in Christ will rise first. Only those in Christ will be raptured. In Christ, or in Messiah, is a term that is used in Scripture only of believers between Pentecost and the Rapture. Only the church saints, the saints between Pentecost and the Rapture, will be raptured.

16. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17. and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21. that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 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. 24. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25. But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

~ Romans 8:16-15 ~

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.

VI. DURING THE GREAT TRIBULATION

The beginning of the Great Tribulation will be marked by the signing of the seven-year treaty, and the events leading to its end will be initiated by the Lord’s Second Coming (Zechariah 14:1-4; Matthew 24:30-31; Acts 1:11; Jude 14-15).

Having been raptured, the entire body of Messiah will be with the Lord in Heaven during the seven year period of the Great Tribulation. However, great multitudes on Earth will come to believe during this period, and will be martyred (Revelation 6:9-11; 14:13; 17:6). Others who come to faith will no doubt die by other means, just as they do today; but by whatever means they die, their bodies will remain in the natural world, and their spirits will go Heaven to be with the Lord, as Revelation 6:9-11 shows is the case with the souls of the martyred. The bodies of nonbelievers who die will remain in the natural world, and their spirits will be sent to the Pit. The anti-Christ and the false prophet will not die, but will be thrown alive, body and soul, into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

Another term for the Lake of Fire is Gehenna. It is a term not found in all translations, but in some. For example, in Matthew 5:22 in Young’s Literal Translation, Jesus declares, whoever may say to his brother, Empty fellow! shall be in danger of the sanhedrim, and whoever may say, Rebel! shall be in danger of the gehenna of the fire. Another passage that identifies Gehenna with the Lake of Fire is James 3:6 (YLT), where we find the phrase, set on fire by the gehenna. Geenna (gheh'-en-nah) is the Greek term found in both passages. In Matthew 5:22 it is usually translated by such terms as fire of hell, or hellfire, and in James 3:6, by such terms as fire from Hell or fire by Hell.

The term Gehenna is derived from the Hebrew Ge bene Hinnom, the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom. It is a valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem where idolatrous Israelites in pre-Captivity times offered their children as burnt offerings to the heathen God Molech, and which had since served as a place for the burning of the carcasses of animals and criminals and all sorts of refuse.

VII. DURING THE MILLENNIUM

The harbinger of the Millennium (meaning, the Thousand Year Period) or Kingdom Age is the Second Coming of the Lord, and the end of the Millennium will be marked by the passing away of our present heaven and Earth (Revelation 21:1). No doubt the heaven referred to here refers to the created heavens, the atmosphere and outer space, for it is the creation that bears the curse of Genesis 3, not the Heaven where God dwells. As it says in Romans 8:22, For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

When the Lord returns from Heaven, He will bring all the church saints with Him in their glorified bodies to reign with Him for the thousand years (Jude 1:14; Revelation 20:6). Shortly after, all pre-Ascension saints will be resurrected (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2) as will the Tribulation saints, the latter group of whom will also reign with Messiah (Revelation 20:4).

As for the kinds of bodies the Millennial saints will have:
1. All Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26) at the very end of the Tribulation. They will remain in their natural bodies as the Lord builds the Kingdom and renews the Earth.

2. The bodies of the church saints were glorified at the Rapture, and they will retain their glorified bodies when they return with the Lord, and throughout the Millennium.

3. As far as I have been able to discover, Scripture does not state explicitly whether or not the pre-Ascension or Tribulation saints will receive glorified bodies at their resurrection. However, since they will not be taken into Heaven, but will be resurrected to life on Earth, it seems doubtful.

Isaiah 65:20 makes it clear that there will be human death during the Kingdom. There will certainly be no death for those in their glorified bodies, and surely nonbelievers will be included among those who die. The passage also seems to imply that saints in their natural bodies will die as well, though their lives will be much longer than ours today. Virtually all commentators hold to this position, even the noted Hebrew scholars Keil and Delitzsch. The bodies of the deceased will remain in the natural world, and the spirits of the nonbelievers will be sent to the Pit. Where will the nonbelievers come from? All who enter the Kingdom will be believers, but those who are born in the Kingdom from those in their natural bodies will still need to exercise faith in Messiah for salvation. Revelation 20:7-9 informs us that, after Satan is released from his prison at the end of the thousand years, he will have no problem gathering a great multitude (of nonbelievers, obviously) from all over the Earth to attack the camp of the saints and the beloved city. Where will the spirits of deceased saints go? Good question! Abraham's Bosom had been cleared of the spirits of the pre-Ascension saints, Heaven had been cleared of the spirits of church saints, and the Lord Himself will be on Earth. Why, then, should the spirit of any saint who dies during the Millennium be sent either to Abraham's Bosom or to Heaven?! Perhaps this is an indication that no saint at all will die during the Millennium!

The Kingdom will terminate with the Great White Throne Judgment, at which time all the unrighteous of all the Earth’s ages will appear, body and soul, before the Lord to determine their degree of eternal punishment, body and soul, in the Lake of Fire (John 5:22; Revelation 20:4-6; 11-15; 21:8), And Death and Hades (the bodies and souls of the unsaved, respectively) were thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14).

VIII. DURING THE ETERNAL AGES

According to Revelation 21:1-2, after the Great White Throne Judgment, there will be a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God will rest upon the new Earth. It is here that the saints of all ages will dwell, body and soul, in the presence of God for all eternity.

22. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23. to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24. and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

~ Hebrews 12:22-24 ~

IX. SUMMARY OF THE DESTINIES OF THE DEAD

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.

A. DESTINIES OF THE UNSAVED

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.

B. DESTINIES OF THE SAVED

From Adam to the Rapture, the bodies of the deceased saved will remain in the natural world, and their spirits will be in Abraham's Bosom, the Paradise portion of Sheol or Hades. At the Rapture, they will be resurrected, and those who are alive at the moment of the Rapture will bypass death as they will be raptured, body and soul. All who are resurrected or raptured at the moment of the Rapture will receive glorified bodies, and will remain in Heaven with the Lord until His Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation, at which time they will return with the Lord to Earth.

The bodies of believers who die between the Rapture and the end of the Tribulation will remain in the natural world, and their spirits will be in Heaven. During the Kingdom, those who are in their glorified bodies will never die. If, indeed, there will be any death among believers in natural bodies in the Kingdom, it seems that Scripture is silent as to what will become of their bodies and spirits. Surely their spirits would be in a Paradise, just as the spirits of believers who died in all previous ages were. During the Eternal Ages, all believers since Adam will live in the new Jerusalem on the new Earth in the new heavens along with the holy angels in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forever.

X. ONE MORE THING

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.

16. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
~ John 3:16-21 ~

He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him
[Jesus].


~ 2 Corinthians 5:21 ~

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

~ Romans 3:23 ~

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.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

not as a result of works [any action we could take], so that no one may boast.
~ Ephesians 2:8-9 ~

Grace is a free gift. All we need to do is to believe in this great act of God's love on our behalf for the salvation that Christ died for to become ours.

Do you believe? Will you believe? If you believe, thank God. If you are not yet sure, spend some quiet time alone before Him, and ask Him is this is true.

Bless you, in Jesus' Name,
Norm

Scroll past Endnotes for next study.

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ENDNOTES

1. The entire We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations may be found at http://www.messianicassociation.org/believe.htm.
2. Caught up. har-pad'-zo (Greek). According to Strong, "From a derivative of [hahee-reh'-om-ahee]; to seize (in various applications): - catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
3. Destinies takes an overview of the Earth’s ages. Therefore, a number of statements made herein concerning the future are not supported in detail, but will be examined more thoroughly in future studies of the series.

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Scriptures chosen by the author for this study are in the New American Standard version unless
otherwise noted. Scriptures in quotes by others may be in different translations.

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THE RAPTURE

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16.The dead in Christ will rise first. 17. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together
with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ~

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Each item is linked for your convenience *

I. WHAT IS THE RAPTURE?
II. THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE
A. PROPHETIC PLACEMENT IN THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL
B. TIMING IN GREAT TRIBULATION PASSAGES
C. TIMING RELATIVE TO THE 70 A.D. DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
D. TIMING RELATIVE TO THE PRESENT MOMENT
E. THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE: CONCLUSION
III. THOSE IN CHRIST WILL BE RAPTURED
A. THE SCRIPTURES SAY ALL
B. WHO IS THE GREAT TRIBULATION FOR?
IV. PASSAGES MISTAKEN TO SAY OTHERWISE
A. "TARE" BELIEVERS
B. CARNAL BELIEVERS
1. Passages in Question
2. The Corinthian Man
C. GENERAL TRIBULATION PASSAGES
D. PASSAGES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
E. "WE MUST PRAY TO ESCAPE THE TRIBULATION"
V. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RAPTURE
VI. BIBLICAL ATTITUDES CONCERNING THE RAPTURE
A. WE ARE NOT TO DOUBT, BUT BELIEVE
B. WE ARE NOT TO BE TROUBLED OR AFRAID, BUT AT PEACE
C. WE ARE TO WAIT EXPECTANTLY AND THANKFULLY IN HOPE
VII. BIBLICAL ACTIVITIES IN LIGHT OF THE RAPTURE
VIII. CHURCH SAINTS REWARDED
ENDNOTES
RECOMMENDED READING


I. WHAT IS THE RAPTURE?

The two central passages on the Rapture are 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

50. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

~ 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 ~

13. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 17. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ~

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.

II. THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE

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.

A. PROPHETIC PLACEMENT IN THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL

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)
Passover is prophetic of the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). For Christ our Passover also has been crucified (1 Corinthians 5:7b).

2. Unleavened Bread or Chag HaMatzot (Leviticus 23:6-8)
Unleavened Bread speaks of the sinlessness of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7).

3. Firstfruits or Chag HaBikurim (Leviticus 23:9-14)
Firstfruits is prophetic of the resurrection of Jesus. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).

4. Pentecost or Shavuot (Leviticus 23:15-21)
Pentecost is prophetic of the formation of the church. Part of the ceremony consisted of the simultaneous offering of two leavened (sinful) loaves before the Lord (Leviticus 23:17). 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).

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 (Leviticus 23:23-25)
At some point after the Babylonian captivity (586-516 B.C.), the holiday came to be called Rosh HaShanah, the Head of the New Year, because of the belief that God created the heavens and the earth on the first of the month of Tishrei; so although the biblical new year begins in the month of Nisan (Abib) (Exodus 12:2), the fourteenth day of which Is Passover (Leviticus 23:5), Rosh HaShanah is recognized as the first day of the year in Israel today even though it is six months away from the biblical first day.

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 (Leviticus 23:27)
The Day of Atonement is not a feast, but a day of solemnity in which all Israelites were to afflict their souls for their sinfulness. A goat was to be sacrificed, and its blood brought by the high priest into the holy of holies as an offering for the sins of the people. A second goat was then driven into the wilderness, symbolically carrying Israel’s sins away. Leviticus 16:10: But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. (Cf. Leviticus 16:1-34)

The removal of Israel’s sins will be actualized at the end of the Great Tribulation when all Jews who survive Satan’s most virulent attempt to annihilate them (afflicting their bodies as well as souls) will receive Jesus as their Messiah, fulfilling the key provision of the New Covenant that God made with them: they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them (Jeremiah 31:34), the basis of Paul’s declaration in Romans 11:26, all Israel will be saved. (Also Zechariah 12:10, 13:1.) The fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, then, is the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7 ASV), the central purpose of which is the salvation of all Israel, meaning all Israelites alive at that time.

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 (Leviticus 23:33-44)
Of the first coming of Jesus, John tells us, the Word became flesh, and dwelt (Greek. tented, tabernacled) among us. Of the presence of the Lord with His people in the New Heavens and New Earth in the Eternal Ages after the Kingdom period, he tells us, Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them (Revelation 21:3). Note how He is identified with the tabernacle. Paul and Peter likewise refer to their own bodies as tabernacles (2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Peter 1:13-14 [ASV]). It is clear, then, that whenever the Lord dwells bodily with His people, He tabernacles with them. And indeed, the Lord does return to Earth to tabernacle with His people Israel, the glorified church saints, the pre-church saints and those who come to faith during the Great Tribulation,3 as it is the salvation of all Israel at the end of Yom Kippur that triggers His return (Hosea 5:15; Matthew 23:39). Zechariah 14:16 tells us that, during the Kingdom, Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. Indeed, they will celebrate of the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles in the presence of the Him who is the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.

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.

B. TIMING IN GREAT TRIBULATION PASSAGES

Some representative passages:

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 Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

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
Verses 1-10 are set in the context of the Tribulation; and in verse 9, Paul assures the Thessalonians unequivocally that God has not destined us for wrath. Again, no Church Age believer is destined for the Great Tribulation. Of necessity, then, the Rapture must occur before the Tribulation.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
Paul described the Rapture in his first letter to the Thessalonians; but some had, since that time, become concerned that the Tribulation had already begun because of persecutions that they had endured (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4,6). In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul responds to that concern:


1. Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2. that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3. Let no one in any way deceive you, for
it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4. who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

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.

Revelation 3:10
9. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie - I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. 10. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

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
Revelation 1-3 deals with church events prior to the Tribulation, and 19-22 deals with events involving the church beginning with the Second Coming of the Lord from Heaven with His church; but the church is not so much as mentioned in chapters 6-18, the chapters dealing with the Great Tribulation. Where was the church during the Tribulation? In Heaven with the Lord, having gotten there by means of the Rapture prior to the Tribulation.

C. TIMING RELATIVE TO THE 70 A.D. DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

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.

D. TIMING RELATIVE TO THE PRESENT MOMENT

First some verses, then conclusions:

Verses

In John 21:22, Yeshua said to Peter of John, If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? He didn't say that He would come while John was still alive, but He could have come between the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of John.

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, I would have 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 complete.

Romans 13:12: The night is almost gone, and the day is near.

James 5:8: The coming of the Lord is near.

Philippians 4:5b: The Lord is near.

One meaning of the words for near in the previous three verses is approaching, which is consistent with the way a number of translations have it: draweth nigh, or draws near.

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.

Conclusions
In light of these possible translations and the fact that the Rapture has not occurred in the more than nineteen hundred years since these scriptures were written, it seems reasonable to conclude the following:

1. The intended meaning was not that the Rapture was near, or was to be coming soon (a minority translation instead of quickly or swiftly), but that it was approaching.

2. When it will occur, it will occur suddenly - yes, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye!

3. Based on John 21:22, even before the Lord revealed that the destruction of Jerusalem must occur before the Rapture, He wanted His saints from very early in the Church Age to realize that the Rapture could occur at any time, that it is imminent.

E. THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE: CONCLUSION

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.

A. THE SCRIPTURES SAY ALL

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
We will all be changed.

1 Thessalonians 5:3-5
3. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5. for you are all sons of light and sons of day. The Tribulation will not overtake the Thessalonian believers like a thief, because they are all sons of light and sons of day.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
A plain reading of the passage gives the impression that all will be included, and no hint is dropped that any will be left out. We who are alive and remain is found twice, in verses 14 and 17, and is all inclusive.

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."

B. WHO IS THE GREAT TRIBULATION FOR?

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
3. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5. for you are all sons of light and sons of day.

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

8. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9. that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10. and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,12. in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 13. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

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.

IV. PASSAGES MISTAKEN TO SAY OTHERWISE

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.

A. "TARE" BELIEVERS

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.

B. CARNAL BELIEVERS

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 Question
Probably, the two most popular are Matthew 24:40-42 and 25:1-13.

Matthew 24:40-42
40. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. 42. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

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.

Matthew 25:1-13
In this passage, the five virgins who had oil in their lamps were welcomed to the wedding feast, and the five who did not were refused entry. Do the five foolish virgins represent believers who did not make the Rapture?

The passage must be understood on the basis of the Jewish wedding traditions of the day, which those whom Jesus was addressing knew well:

"In the Jewish wedding system, when the marriage was to be consummated, the bridegroom would go to the home of the bride to fetch her and bring her to his home. As he approached his own home, he would be met by a procession of virgins who would conduct the bride and groom for the marriage ceremony to be followed by the marriage feast. This is the background of this parable.

"When the bridegroom, the Messiah, returns to earth with His Bride - the Church - for the marriage feast, the virgins will be responsible for both watching for His return, and being ready to light the lamps upon His return. The five virgins who were wise will be the ones who are believers; hence, they will be both ready and watching. They are the ones who have the oil, a common symbol of the Holy Spirit. Only the wise ones enter the marriage feast, the common symbol for the Messianic Kingdom. Because the Messiah is pictured as already with His Bride, the Church which had been raptured, these who have the oil are people who became believers during the Tribulation. They are saved and invited to the wedding feast as guests. The five foolish virgins will be the unbelievers and, therefore, will be neither ready nor watching. They do not have any oil. It should be noted that the text does not say that the foolish virgins ran out of oil, but that they have no oil with them. They never had the oil or the Holy Spirit to begin with."7

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 Man
Surely, in the Corinthian and Thessalonian churches to whom Paul addressed the "all" passages there must have been some carnal believers; yet Paul told the Thessalonians 4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5. for you are all sons of light and sons of day (1 Thessalonians 5) - but let's look at one Corinthian believer of especial notoriety.

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.

C. GENERAL TRIBULATION PASSAGES

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.

D. PASSAGES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION

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.

E. "WE MUST PRAY TO ESCAPE THE TRIBULATION"

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.

V. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RAPTURE

There appear to be three major points of significance in regards to the Rapture:

  • End of the Church Age. The Rapture marks the end of the Church Age. This, in turn, is significant because the Lord will deal differently with those who come to faith after the Rapture than He does with the church.

  • Absolute Victory. The Rapture marks the commencement of absolute eternal victory for the church and all of its members (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). It is when deceased believers become resurrected, when all church believers receive their heavenly bodies, and when the church will forever be delivered of the sin nature and of sinning, and to thenceforth and forevermore always be with the Lord.

  • It Sets the Stage for the Consummation of All Things. After two thousand years or more since the epochal event of Pentecost, the Rapture of the church will set the stage for the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Great Tribulation, the salvation of Israel, the Second Coming, the Messianic Kingdom, the Great White Throne Judgment and the Eternal Ages.

VI. BIBLICAL ATTITUDES CONCERNING THE RAPTURE

A. WE ARE NOT TO DOUBT, BUT BELIEVE

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.

  • Enoch
    Genesis 5:24: Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

    Hebrews 11:5: By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

  • Elijah
    2 Kings 2:11-12: 11. As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. 12. Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw Elijah no more.

  • Jesus' Ascension
    Mark 16:19: So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

    Luke 24:51: While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

    Acts 1:2, 9-11: 2. until the day when He was taken up to heaven . . . . 9. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11. They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

  • Philip
    Acts 8:39-40: 39. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. 40. But Philip found himself at Azotus . . . .

    The Greek word translated snatched here is harpazo, the same word translated caught up in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds . . . .

  • Paul
    2 Corinthians 12:2-4: 2. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago - whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows - such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3. And I know how such a man - whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows - 4. was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

    Caught up
    here is also harpazo.

  • The Apostle John
    Revelation 4:1-2: 1. After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." 2. Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.

  • Various Resurrections
    Then, of course, there are the various resurrections apart from that of the dead in Christ at the Rapture, such as, Elijah's resurrection of the widow of Zarephath's son (1 Kings 17:17-24); the Lord's resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-12:17); the Lord's own resurrection (Matthew 289:2-8, Mark 16:2-8, Luke 24:1-8); Peter's resurrection of Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42).

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).

B. WE ARE NOT TO BE TROUBLED OR AFRAID, BUT AT PEACE

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.

C. WE ARE TO WAIT EXPECTANTLY AND THANKFULLY IN HOPE

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 . . . .

VII. BIBLICAL ACTIVITIES IN LIGHT OF THE RAPTURE

These passages were all written in the context of the Rapture:

  • We Are to Stand Fast in the Word
    2 Thessalonians 2:15: Therefore, my brothers, stand fast and hold the teachings which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter.

  • We Are to Comfort and Encourage One Another
    Thessalonians 4:18: Therefore comfort one another with these words.

    1 Thessalonians 5:9-11: 9. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10. who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

    2 Thessalonians 2:16-17: 16. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, who has loved us and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17. comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

  • We Are to Steadfastly Abound in the Work of the Lord
    1Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

    2 Thessalonians 2:16-17: 16. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, who has loved us and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17. comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

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,

10. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13. each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

~ 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ~

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.

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Scriptures chosen by the author are in the New American Standard version unless otherwise noted. Scriptures in quotes by others may be in different translations.
In many cases, names, titles and other terms within quoted scriptures have been changed from the English to the Hebrew form for the sake of cultural sensitivity
.

Scroll past endnotes for next study.

ENDNOTES

1. The entire We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations may be found at http://www.messianicassociation.org/believe.htm.
2. The raising of the dead is called resurrection, but the catching up of the living is called translation, a term found in some translations in Hebrews 11:5: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death (KJV).
3. See the author's study, The Destinies of the Dead, at http://www.biblestudyproject.org/destinies-of-the-dead-messianic.htm.
4. See the author's study, Eternal Security, at http://www.biblestudyproject.org/Eternal-Security-messianic.htm.
5. Biblical support for this point may be found in section VI.B.8 in the author's study, Who Is Israel? Who Are the Jews? at http://www.biblestudyproject.org/israel1-jews,hebrews,israelites-messianic.htm.
6. See the author's study, The Destinies of the Dead, at http://www.biblestudyproject.org/destinies-of-the-dead-messianic.htm.
7. Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, pdf, p. 645. Available at Ariel Ministries in various formats.

RECOMMENDED READING

By Norman Manzon
1. The Destinies of the Dead, http://www.biblestudyproject.org/destinies-of-the-dead-messianic.htm.
2. Eternal Security, at http://www.biblestudyproject.org/Eternal-Security-messianic.htm.
3. The Prophetic Feasts of Israel, at http://www.biblestudyproject.org/feasts-of-israel-messianic.htm.

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THE GREAT TRIBULATION:
WHAT, WHEN, WHO AND WHY

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For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred
since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will
.

~ Matthew 24:21 ~

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Links to Article Divisions

INTRODUCTION
AMC STATEMENT
I. WHAT IS THE GREAT TRIBULATION?
A. THE TERM
B. OTHER DESIGNATIONS
C. CONCLUSION
II. GEOGRAPHICAL SCOPE
III. WHEN WILL IT BEGIN?
A. THE SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL
1. Historical Placement in the Seventy Weeks
2. What Specific Event Will Mark Its Beginning?
B. RELATIVE TO THE RAPTURE
C. IN LIGHT OF RECENT WORLD EVENTS
IV. ONE FULL WEEK
V. WHO IS THE GREAT TRIBULATION FOR?
VI. WHY SUCH A TERRIBLE JUDGMENT?
A. OVERVIEW OF MAN'S REBELLION THROUGH THE AGES
B. SUMMARY OF MAN'S REBELLION
VII. GOD'S GOALS FOR THE GREAT TRIBULATION
1. For the Nations in General
2. For Israel in Particular
VIII. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION
IX. TRANSITIONAL PERIOD BETWEEN THE TRIBULATION AND THE KINGDOM
X. THE PUPIL OF GOD'S EYE
XI. WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES

ADDENDUM: DEFENDING THE TRIBULATION SCRIPTURES
A. DEFENDING THE LITERALITY OF THE PROPHECIES
B. DEFENDING THE CHRONOLOGICAL PLACEMENT OF THE PROPHESIES

ENDNOTES
RECOMMENDED READING

INTRODUCTION

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.

AMC STATEMENT

Last Things

We believe that upon physical death believers enter into the joyous presence of God, whereas non-believers enter into conscious suffering apart from God. We believe in the personal, bodily, visible, and pre-millennial return of the Lord Yeshua. At that time He will lift the corruption which now rests upon the whole of creation, totally restore Israel to her own land, give her the realization of God's covenanted promises and bring the whole world to the knowledge of God. We believe in the bodily resurrection of all men. Believers shall be resurrected to enjoy eternal life with God. Non-believers shall be resurrected to experience judgment and then eternal suffering/separation apart from God. (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 9:24-27; Ezekiel 20:33-40; Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11; Romans 8:19-23; 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; Titus 2:13; Revelation 3:10)1

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I. WHAT IS THE GREAT TRIBULATION?

A. THE TERM

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.

B. OTHER DESIGNATIONS

A review of other designations for the Great Tribulation should impress upon us its essential character.

In the Old Testament, the most common name for the Great Tribulation is the Day of Jehovah or the Day of the Lord. . . . It is also found in various passages of the New Testament. . . . But there are a number of other names or designations for this time period found in the Old Testament. Following the translation found in the American Standard Version of the 1901 edition, these names include:2

The Time of Jacob's Trouble - Jeremiah 30:7
The Seventieth Week (a seven) of Daniel - Daniel 9:27
Jehovah's Strange Work - Isaiah 28:21
Jehovah's Strange Act - Isaiah 28:21
The Day of Israel's Calamity - Deuteronomy 32:35; Obadiah 12-14
The Tribulation - Deuteronomy 4:30
The Indignation - Isaiah 26:20; Daniel 11:36
The Overflowing Scourge - Isaiah 28:15, 18
The Day of Vengeance - Isaiah 34:8; 35:4; 61:2
The Year of Recompense - Isaiah 34:8
The Time of Trouble - Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Wrath - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Distress - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Wasteness - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Desolation - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Darkness - Zephaniah 1:15; Amos 5:18, 20; Joel 2:2
The Day of Gloominess - Zephaniah 1:15; Joel 2:2
The Day of Clouds - Zephaniah 1:15; Joel 2:2
The Day of Thick Darkness - Zephaniah 1:15; Joel 2:2
The Day of the Trumpet - Zephaniah 1:16
The Day of Alarm - Zephaniah 1:16

The New Testament names and designations include:
The Day of the Lord - I Thessalonians 5:2
The Wrath of God - Revelation 15:1, 7; 14:10, 19; 16:1
The Hour of Trial - Revelation 3:10
The Great Day of the Wrath of the Lamb of God - Revelation 6:16-17
The Wrath to Come - I Thessalonians 1:10
The Wrath - I Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 11:18
The Great Tribulation - Matthew 24:21; Revelation 2:22; 7:14
The Tribulation - Matthew 24:29
The Hour of Judgment - Revelation 14:7

C. CONCLUSION

The nature of the Great Tribulation is summed up in the following passages:

Daniel 12:1: At that time . . . there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time.

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.

II. GEOGRAPHICAL SCOPE

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.

III. WHEN WILL IT BEGIN?

A. THE SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL

1. Historical Placement in the Seventy Weeks
In Daniel 9, the angel Gabriel gave Daniel insight into epochal events of the future both near and far:

24. Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 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.

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.

2. What Specific Event Will Mark Its Beginning?
2 Thessalonians 2 declares that the Tribulation will not begin until Antichrist is revealed: 2b. the day of the Lord . . . will not come unless . . . the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4. who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

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?
Antichrist will make a firm covenant with the many. 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 considered the many? The other is the view held by Dr. Cooper, that the many are those Israelis who agree with the treaty.7 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.

What will be the fate of the many during the Tribulation? It is possible that some of them will be saved during the preaching of the first half of the Tribulation. The rest will subsequently take the number of the Beast along with those of other nations who have resisted the preaching, and will be the rebels whom God will purge out of Israel by means of death (Ezekiel 20:36-38). What of the few who disagree with the treaty? No doubt the Lord will draw the 144,000 from among them. Others may be saved from among them during the first half, as well, and the saved from among the few who disagree with the treaty and survive until the middle of the Tribulation will be among those in the world who refuse the number of the Beast. More on these details below.

B. RELATIVE TO THE RAPTURE

1. Placement in the Prophetic Feasts of Israel
As was demonstrated in The Rapture, the seven annual feasts of Israel are prophetic of seven sequential landmark events in the Lord's timetable from the crucifixion to the Kingdom. Four have been fulfilled by the crucifixion, the sinlessness of the slain Lamb of God, His resurrection and the Day of Pentecost. The next two feasts to be fulfilled are Yom T'ruah or the Feast of Trumpets, which will be fulfilled by the Rapture of the church, and then Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, which will be fulfilled by the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation will occur after the Rapture.

2. How Soon After the Rapture?
Scripture does not say. Having said that, Luke 17:26-30 calls for examination.

26. And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27. they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29. but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

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.

C. IN LIGHT OF RECENT WORLD EVENTS

In light of certain events prophesied to take place relevant to the Tribulation, at least these three things need to be in place:
1. Israel needs to be in the Land of Israel, and they are. After being countryless for nineteen hundred years, God brought them back to their own Land en masse beginning in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, and on May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence as a sovereign nation.
2. Israel needs to be in possession of the "old" city of Jerusalem, that part of modern Jerusalem which contains the Temple Mount, and they are. In 1967, in the defensive Six Day War that contained much evidence of divine intervention, Israel took possession of the old city.
3. The nations of the world need to be able to act quickly and as a unit; and indeed, with modern modes of communication and transportation, they can.

It is easy to see how the Lord is setting the stage for the Great Tribulation.

Two other signs are these:
1. The great bulk of the nations of the world are turning against Israel, which is in keeping with the great worldwide persecution of the Jews that Antichrist will lead (Revelation 12, esp. vv.1-2, 5-6, 13-17); and
2. The great apostasy of the modern visible church. The Lord commanded John to write letters to seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, each of which represents a period of church history. The first six periods have been fulfilled. The seventh and last period, which is characterized by apostasy, is being fulfilled today and has been for the last hundred and fifty years. Apostasy is a departure from the truth that one professed to have. Though beliefs vary on different issues within the apostate church, it has generally departed from belief in the Bible as the Word of God, the virgin birth, Jesus' divinity, the atonement aspect of His death, and His bodily resurrection. The apostate church does not believe or preach the Gospel.

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.

IV. ONE FULL WEEK

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.

  • The seventieth week begins with the antichrist's signing of a seven-year treaty with your people, Daniel's people, Israel.

  • It is divided into two exact halves by Antichrist's declaring himself to be God in the Temple of the Jews.

  • It climaxes near its very end when the Lord spiritually and physically saves the Jews and ascends the Mount of Olives in Israel.

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.

V. WHO IS THE GREAT TRIBULATION FOR?

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
3. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5. for you are all sons of light and sons of day.

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

8. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9. that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10. and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,12. in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 13. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

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.

VI. WHY SUCH A TERRIBLE JUDGMENT?

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 orchestrated the crucifixion and resurrection and then took the next logical step beyond that. On the Day of Pentecost He began to call out a new man (Ephesians 2:15), the body of Christ, the church, composed of all believers, whether Jews or Greeks (1 Corinthians 12:13), to be His ministers to the world. He commanded, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Corollary to this command to the church is this command to the hearers of the Gospel: God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent (Acts 17:30); but despite the fact that the Gospel has already penetrated most of the world, only a small percent of the world's population has received it. Indeed, major world religions and numerous national governments oppose it. As for the visible church, its history is rife with self-aggrandizement and has engaged in such horrors as military conquests, forced conversions, mass persecutions of Jews and true believers; and, as has been pointed out, gone apostate to a great degree, denying the very basics of the Gospel.

Two other principles need to be addressed:
1. The integrity of the family unit. A healthy family unit is necessary for the optimum well-being and spiritual influence of its members, and is most conducive for the bearing and nurturing of future generations who can, by number and spiritual health and maturity, best fulfill the dominion mandate and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). The family unit begins with one man and one woman committed to be sexually and emotionally faithful to one another and to bless one another "for as long as they both shall live." While monogamous marriage is not explicitly mandated in Scripture, it is that form of marriage that God established in Eden, honored when He selected four monogamous couples to board the ark, upheld as the picture of marital happiness in Psalm 128:1-6 and Proverbs 31, honored by the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, upheld as the picture of Christ and His church in Ephesians 5:22-31, and is, without exception, that form that is upheld as ideal by Jesus and the New Testament writers (Matthew 19:8-9; Ephesians 5:22-27; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). In contrast, Deuteronomy 17:17 says that a king shall not multiply wives for himself, and Scripture graphically reveals the strife that is so easily engendered in polygamous or polygamy-like relationships in the story of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah (Genesis 16-18, 21) and in the childbearing olympiad between Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29:31-30:24).

Has man adhered to the ideal model of marriage and of wholesome child-rearing? Of course he hasn't. The world is filled with fornication, homosexuality, adultery, polygamy, divorce, abortion and infanticide, all of which are destructive of the family unit and the carrying out of the dominion mandate and Great Commission, and all of which are denounced by Scripture or, in the case of polygamy, shown in a negative light. It should be noted that God destroyed Sodom, Gomorrah and the cities of the Dead Sea valley because of widespread homosexual practice (Genesis 18:16 - 19:29), and that by May 14, 2013 (the day that this paragraph was written), fourteen nations of the world had legalized same sex marriage.8

2. The necessity of blessing Israel. God declared to Abram, I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. Scripture records that God did bless and curse individuals and nations according to the manner in which they treated Israel and individual Jews (e.g., Genesis 39:1-5, 41:55-57; Obadiah 1:10; Zechariah 12:9), and Jesus prophesied that He will judge the sheep and goat Gentiles on the basis of how they will treat these brothers of mine (Matthew 25:31-46).

How have the nations treated Israel? Egypt tossed Israeli male newborns into the Nile, and Israel was invaded by Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome and was dispersed by Rome to the four corners of the earth where it has, in turn, suffered persecutions unmatched by any other nation in scope and frequency. Since Israel's reestablishment as a nation in 1948 they have fought four major defensive wars and are continually defending themselves against attacks of lesser scope. At the time of this writing (Spring, 2013), virtually the entire Arabic and Islamic world is in favor of Israel's disappearance, and a significant portion of that world is actively pursuing that end. Anti-Semitism is rising at a rapid rate in Europe and other parts of the world and is manifesting itself in forms ranging from insults to lies to physical attacks to academic and economic divestitures and boycotts. In one week in December of 2012, the United Nations General Assembly issued twenty-two resolutions condemning Israel, and only four for the entire rest of the world while all the while, in Syria alone, forty thousand people have been killed, more are being killed, and millions of Syrian refugees are suffering the cold of winter.9 Surely the overall level of anti-Semitism through the ages will be a factor in God's judgment of the world. 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; and Joel 3:2: I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land. Note the last phrase in light of today's political efforts to further divide the Land of Israel.

As a whole, man has rejected every opportunity that God has given him to demonstrate his trust in Him by obedience to Him.

  • He has spurned and attacked the family unit.
  • He continues to murder and kill by means of abortions, personal vendettas and 21st century weaponry. By the end of 2012, eighty-six of the world's two hundred countries had departed from the Noahic mandate to execute murderers, and abandoned the death penalty for all crimes.10
  • Man has not carried out the dominion mandate. Though vast areas of the earth have been populated and much of its resources have been brought into the service of mankind, vast areas remain unpopulated while in hundreds of thousands of cities and towns people are stacked in layers in apartment buildings, condominiums and office buildings; nor have as much of Earth's resources been brought under control for the elimination of disease, hunger and homelessness as could have been. Counterproductively, much of the earth has been decimated and polluted. Imagine the progress that could have been made if the trillions of dollars that nations and individuals have invested in warfare, defense and security been invested in housing, agriculture, industry and medical research. Eskimos have learned to live in the Arctic, and Arabs have learned live in the desert; and as for turning such forbidding places into productive food-bearing areas, and the seas into fish and vegetable farms, look what Israel has done with its malarial swamps and much of its deserts since the latter half of the nineteenth century, even while defending itself against annihilation.

    A former forest ranger wrote me the following in February of 1999:

    All the population of the world could be placed on a chair with plenty of elbow room within the city limits of Jacksonville, Florida. The Mesopotamian Plain, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, if irrigated (as it was in Nebuchadnezzar's day) could raise enough food to feed the population of the world. The arable land in the rest of the world is more than adequate to feed the whole population of the world.

    If man had allowed God to take the lead he could easily have fulfilled the dominion mandate by now without ravaging and poisoning much of the earth as he has.

  • Major nations and peoples have attempted to destroy Israel and, as prophesied, the entire world is turning against her. (Zechariah 12:2-3; 14:2)
  • Even in this day of mass and instant communications the great bulk of humanity continues to reject God and His Son. On the contrary, the world is filled with vast numbers of atheists, idolaters, and adherents to numerous false religions and philosophies. Much of this is true even of Israel.
  • Much of the visible church has embraced the imperial power structure of the world with its pretension, pomp, ostentation and gaudiness, in contrast to the servanthood and humility exemplified by Jesus (John 13:3-17; 1 Peter 2:21-23); and, as has been pointed out, has turned apostate.

2 Timothy 3: 1. But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3. unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4. treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5. holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.

So what will be the next logical step? God delayed Israel's exodus from Egypt, return to Canaan and conquest of its inhabitants because the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete (Genesis 15:16). The day will come when the iniquity of our present world will be complete and man will have demonstrated that he is hopelessly wicked and incapable of establishing anything approaching an edenic earth without God - yet, he will not repent. Then will come the Great Tribulation, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). It will be a judgment so severe as to destroy every ungodly man-made institution and humble mankind to the point where multitudes will to turn to God, including every Jew alive at the end of it.

Therein lies the why of the Great Tribulation.

VII. GOD'S GOALS FOR THE GREAT TRIBULATION

1. For the Nations in General
God's goals for the nations in general may be summed up as follows:
1) The destruction of every ungodly man-made institution, philosophy and religion. Hebrews 12: 26. "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN." 27. This expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain (cf. Haggai 2:6).
2) That they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:12. Also Isaiah 13:11).
3) The humbling of the proud and the exaltation of Himself. The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day (Isaiah 2:17).
4) The completion of the Great Commission. Matthew 24:14: 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.
5) The salvation of multitudes. Revelation 7: 9. I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count from every nation and tribe and people and language standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . 14. “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.” Also Revelation 5:9 and 14:6.
6) The setting of the stage for the Millennial Kingdom.

2. For Israel in Particular
Daniel 9:24 declares the six purposes of the 490-year period for your people - Daniel's people - the Jews: Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.

1) The third mentioned purpose, which laid the foundation for all the rest, has already been accomplished: to make atonement for iniquity. Iniquity refers to the sin nature. In the context of your people, the phrase refers to the atonement made for the sin nature of Israelites after the sixty-two weeks following the first seven weeks when the Messiah [was] cut off. The other five will be completed either during, or as a result of, the events of Daniel's seventieth week. They are:
2) to finish the transgression. Transgression is the committing of a known sin. The phrase addresses the transgression, the one transgression that towers above the rest: Israel's rejection of Messiah. With all the first-coming prophesies and pharisaic benchmarks for recognizing Him,11 there was no excuse for Israel's rejection of Him. This ongoing transgression will be finished by Israel's reception of Him at the end of the seventieth week.
3) to make an end of sin. Does this simply mean that Israel will be made a holy, godly people? Ezekiel 27:23 clarifies the matter. The NASB translation is representative of many: They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. The phrase, to make an end of sin, is to be taken literally: Israel will be made permanently and absolutely sinless.
4) to bring in everlasting righteousness. The bringing in of everlasting righteousness will commence with the Lord's establishment of His Messianic or Millennial Kingdom.
5) to seal up vision and prophecy. Old Testament prophets did not see beyond the Messianic Kingdom. The eternal ages beyond the Kingdom is a New Testament revelation. Therefore, from Daniel's perspective, what the phrase means is that by the end of the Kingdom Age, which the Great Tribulation will prepare the way for, all Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled.
6) to anoint the most holy place. There will be a new Temple in the Millennium (Ezekiel 40:5-43:27), and its anointing will also be brought about on the foundation of the events of the seventieth week.

VIII. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION

I am no expert on Tribulation prophesies. Therefore, with bibles, commentaries and the very scholarly studies of Drs. Cooper and Fruchtenbaum in front of me, I have compiled the following sequence of Tribulation highlights with as much critical judgment as I could muster. Both men point out that chapters six through nineteen of the Book of Revelation describe those Tribulation events that Revelation deals with. In addition, Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes, "The value of the Book of Revelation is not that it provides a lot of new information, but rather that it takes the scattered Old Testament prophecies and puts them in chronological order so that the sequence of events may be determined."12 Dr. Cooper writes, "Those chapters which give the chronological order of events are: 6, 8, 9, and 16. The other chapters give details concerning the conditions which will then obtain upon the earth."13

The following sequence is not to be taken as "gospel," but as a best effort.

  • The Tribulation begins when Antichrist enters into a seven-year treaty with Israel guaranteeing her his protection. (Daniel 9:27)

  • Great and devastating world wars and judgments abound throughout the Tribulation and destroy great portions of the earth, the seas and humanity, even affecting the heavens. (Jeremiah 24:23-26)

  • Two witnesses begin a three and a half year prophetic ministry supported by signs and wonders that will center in the Temple and include messages of judgment and repentance, particularly to Israel. (Revelation 11:3-6)

  • 144,000 Israelites will be saved; many, perhaps, as a result of the preaching of the two witnesses, and are sealed by the Lord for protection. (Revelation 7:1-17)

  • The 144,000 will preach the Gospel throughout the world and lead great multitudes to salvation. (Isaiah 24:1-23; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Revelation 7:1-17)

  • The world-wide apostate church reigns over the kings of the earth . . . and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus (Revelation 17:1-18). This false church will slaughter multitudes of those who were saved during the first half of the Tribulation.

  • Before the end the first three and a half years, Antichrist destroys ecclesiastical Babylon, freeing him to exercise absolute political and religious control over the nations of the earth. (Revelation 17:17)

  • As the first three and a half years draw to a close, Satan and his demons are cast out of heaven to Earth and thoroughly fill Antichrist. (Revelation 12:7-13)

  • In the middle of the Tribulation, Antichrist breaks his treaty with Israel, puts a stop to the Temple sacrifices, sits in the Temple of God as a king, and proclaims himself to be God. (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:1-3; Revelation 13:11-15)

  • An angel preaches the Gospel to every nation, tribe, language, and people, offering a final call to receive the Lord. (Revelation 14:6-7)

  • The False Prophet prohibits buying and selling by anyone who refuses to ally himself with Antichrist by taking the number of the beast (Antichrist), 666. He creates and gives life to a statue of the Beast so that it will kill anyone who refuses to worship the Beast and his statue (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; Revelation 13:11-18). Jesus had warned the Jews, 15. Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16. then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains (Matthew 24:15-16). Those who ta