I realize that the topics in this post are some on which Christians vary. These are not central to the question of salvation, and those of us who differ, can agreeably disagree, and remain in love and fellowship.
A few years ago, when I started really studying Bible Prophecy, I learned something that made everything so much more clear to me. I learned that it is absolutely imperative to understand the difference between Israel and The Church. I learned that the (unbelieving) Jews are “blind in part” in regards to the Messiah, due to their earlier rejection of Him. That is what happens when we reject truth when it is presented to us. We lose the privilege of recognizing it.
The old Testament speaks of a mystery. Paul speaks of the same mystery in the New Testament. That “mystery” was completely foreign to the Jews until Christ came, that mystery has to do with the Church (a.k.a. “the Bride), and an eventual translation of the church, called “the catching away”. Daniel was told to “seal up the book” (Daniel 12:4), but in Revelation (New Testament) He who is Worthy, (Christ) removes those seals from the little book (which is why it is called “The Revelation”) Same seals which were applied back in Daniel’s day!
In the N.T. Jesus spoke in parables that were designed to hide the truth from those who do not love the truth, and reveal it to those who do. The mystery which Daniel could not have understood, was the mystery which Paul revealed (1 Cor. 15:51, Ephesians 3:3, Colossians 1:26) of the Gentile church the “called out ones” of this present age, and of their destiny. During the founding of the church, the gospel was first given to the Jews, few of whom received it, and the Messiah was rejected by the Jews “as a whole”, as in officially, by the priesthood. In the old Testament, believers were not in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit “was with” certain individuals-(for example, He was with King Saul for a time, and then departed- I Samuel 16:13), and the Spirit dwelt in the pillar of fire and column of smoke for the wandering Israelites, until the temple was built, and then the Holy Spirit dwelt in the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest had permission to access the H of H, and then only after the prescribed ritual cleansing, and then only once a year, and with bells on and a string tied to him so that if he died in there they could pull him out.
Christ instructed the disciples that after His death, they were to tarry there in the city for the feast Shavout. They waited 50 days, and the Holy Spirit came with mighty rushing wind, and filled them, after which they were able to do many signs and wonders and persuade others to believe the Gospel. (The unbelieving Jew requires a sign- 1Corinthians 1:22, for after all, that is how God had always dealt with them before, from Moses’ rod, to the Jewish wedding at Cana). The Jews had been following this practice of Shavout for many generations, but during this celebration which was the first one to occur after Christ’s death and burial and resurrection, the Holy Spirit, who had previously not dwelt within the individual believers, filled them, and empowered them for the Great Commission. The Commission was for them, and every believer coming after. The Holy Spirit was given to the Jews first, and not to the Gentile believers until Peter was sent to Cornelius’ house, which is when the Jews were made to understand that the “Middle wall of separation” (Ephesians 2:14) had been broken down. Jews were previously not allowed to worship together with non-Jews, and non-Jews were considered unclean. God sent the vision (See Acts 10 and Numbers 19:15) to Peter of the sheet lowered by the four corners with all those animals they previously couldn’t eat because they were “unclean”, and God said for Peter to eat. Peter argued, then God said “what God hath called clean, let no man call it unclean”.
The Holy spirit, like the Gospel, was given “to the Jew first”, and then to the non-Jewish believers because God had to first make Jewish believers understand this “change of program” and then the gospel could go out to every tongue and tribe and nation. Until that time, the Jews had known only “separation”. Now the “separation” would include non-Jews. This took some getting-used-to on the part of the Jews! It was a huge change.
After the Holy Spirit was initially given to all of the existing church of that day, both Jew and non-Jew, the Holy Spirit subsequently is received just as the believer receives Jesus as Savior. (Phil. 1:19 Jesus and the Spirit are One) The Holy Spirit was sent, as comforter and teacher, when Jesus ascended, as Jesus promised. (We are, however, commanded to be “filled with the spirit”, so I do contend that there is a difference between having the spirit, and being FILLED with the Spirit. We are filled when we study and read and learn, and ask, seek and knock”)
When the church is removed, the indwelling Holy Spirit will be removed with her, and the Holy Spirit will go back to dealing with men in the same manner that He did in the Old Testament, because that last “week” of years will be the finishing of matters pertaining to God’s Covenant with the Jews.
It is an everlasting (Genesis 17:7, 21:12) Covenant that cannot be broken (even though Israel strayed -Ezekiel 16:59- God does not change and the covenant remained) and never ended. It was also unconditional and literal. This Covenant with the Jews had to do with land, descendants, and redemption/blessings. The New Covenant in Christ’s blood did not do away with the old covenant, rather the New Covenant amplified the old covenant. (Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13) But in Christ the Covenants are reconciled. (Ephesians 2 talks about the old man/flesh which lives under the law -as Israel did, the “flesh” is a “type” of the old Covenant. Ephesians 2 also talks about the breaking down of that wall of separation, how the non-Jews once had no hope)
God knew that the Jews would reject Messiah the first time. He “foreknew” and predestined a “people” and “bride” for Christ. But God’s Covenant for the Jewish people still remains and will be fulfilled during the tribulation period, once the Bride is removed. Jews-by-birth who are saved during this age of Grace, are a part of the Church/Bride. Jews in Daniel’s day were not part of the Bride, but those saints attained heaven by faith in the Covenant promises, which were not fulfilled until Christ came and died, for Christ fulfilled the law. The blood of the sheep and goats and doves they sacrificed did not cleanse or purify them, they simply acted as a memorial and also a “type” of the redemption which would come when Jesus the lamb would later die. Jews and Gentiles who get saved in the tribulation, will not be a part of the Bride.
All redemption, whether Old Testament or New, past, present, and future, was purchased by the shed pure and innocent blood of Jesus. All people, in every dispensation, are still saved only by Grace, through faith.
The Parable of the Virgins has to do with non-church-age believers. (Before Christ died, they had to “keep themselves” by obedience to the law, and by symbolic substitutionary sacrifices, after the church is removed, those who become believers during the tribulation, will have the same mandate, to remain true until the end, be it by beheading, or if they manage to survive the entire 7 years.
Types are all through the Bible. The flood and the Ark, Fire and Brimstone in Sodom and Gomorrah and the saving of Lot and his wife by the angels, these are “types” of Saints being spared, before God’s wrath fell. Understanding about “types”, following the threads in both New and Old Testament and cross-examining between New and Old, helps to verify these types and what they establish, and does it via the “dual witness” of both Old and New Testament. (2 Corinth. 13:1, Matt. 18:6 and other passages establish the “two witnesses” rule). If you don’t understand about these “types” and that there are some passages in the New Testament that were addressed to Jews as “believers who were also Jews” and some passages that are applied to “the church” (which includes Jews but are not all Jews) and if you do not understand that the dispensation of the 70th week will be a continuation and completion of something that was paused when the Jews rejected the Messiah, then it can be nearly impossible to see what pertains to the Jews as opposed to the Church. I think this is what it means to “rightly divide” the scriptures. Passages that don’t have the church in view at all, are often misconstrued as apply to the church, and I believe that is where rapture confusion gets generated. Salvation is based not on merit, but unmerited favor, also known as Grace. The “catching away” is that “blessed hope in Titus 2: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. NOTE that Jesus, by His death on the cross, is the One who purifies unto Himself this called-out people. Jesus purifies people. We do not and cannot purify ourselves. Pure is not relative. Just like you can’t be a “little bit sterile” or a “little bit pregnant”, you can’t be a “little bit pure”. All our work and effort, which we do out of gratitude and love, is striving to be “better” but perfection is only in the persons of the triune Godhead.
The church, the Body of Christ, is composed of all true believers. Yet is is still imperative that we “pray that we may be accounted worthy of escape of the things to come” because of the fact that there are many who profess Christ, who will hear “depart from me, I never knew you”. (Due to false doctrine and wolves in sheep’s clothing). The church is a group of people saved by grace, through faith, not works. The Saved person does not go through the same judgment as the unsaved. The judgment of the Saved is where rewards will be determined. (Luke 14:14 refers to Christians being “repaid” at the resurrection of the just). Rapture of the church has nothing to do with rewards. There is one Bride, we are one Body, and Jesus is not going to rapture a part of the Body and leave another part of the Body here to go through the tribulation.
Daniel talks about the seventy weeks that God would require to complete his dealings with the Jews and His covenant with them, but when the Jews rejected their Messiah, the clock stopped on that seventy weeks at week 69. In that time and culture the word “week” meant seven (of any) periods of time, not just 7 24-hour days, but could be 7 months or 7 years. The Tribulation is the 70th week. Daniel 9:24-27 enumerates the things which must be accomplished in those 70 weeks. It is interrupted before the last sentence in that passage: And on a wing of the Temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
Yes, I know about the past desecrations of the Temple, however in Matthew 34 and Mark 13 when Jesus was telling his disciples what to expect before the time of the end, He said “not one stone of the temple would be left standing”. Has that happened? If so, what is the Wailing Wall that stands in Jerusalem today? And the gate through which Jesus entered the City when He came down from the Mt. of Olives, the Eastern gate, which was sealed by the Ottomans in 30AD and has been sealed ever since, is the same “Outer Gate of the Sanctuary (Ezekiel 44:1), through which Messiah Jesus will triumphantly enter the city again after touching down on the Mt. of Olives in His second advent. That, also is still standing.
The second Advent and the Rapture also are two separate events:
The rapture and the second coming of Christ are often confused. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a scripture verse is referring to the rapture or the second coming. However, in studying end-times Bible prophecy, it is very important to differentiate between the two.
The rapture is when Jesus Christ returns to remove the church (all believers in Christ) from the earth. The rapture is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. Believers who have died will have their bodies resurrected and, along with believers who are still living, will meet the Lord in the air. This will all occur in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. The second coming is when Jesus returns to defeat the Antichrist, destroy evil, and establish His millennial kingdom. The second coming is described in Revelation 19:11-16.
The important differences between the rapture and second coming are as follows:
3) The rapture is the removal of believers from the earth as an act of deliverance (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 5:9). The second coming includes the removal of unbelievers as an act of judgment (Matthew 24:40-41).
5) The second coming of Christ will not occur until after certain other end-times events take place (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Matthew 24:15-30; Revelation chapters 6–18). The rapture is imminent; it could take place at any moment (Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
Why is it important to keep the rapture and the second coming distinct?
2) If the rapture and the second coming are the same event, the return of Christ is not imminent—there are many things which must occur before He can return (Matthew 24:4-30).
3) In describing the tribulation period, Revelation chapters 6–19 nowhere mentions the church. During the tribulation—also called “the time of trouble for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7)—God will again turn His primary attention to Israel (Romans 11:17-31).
The rapture and second coming are similar but separate events. Both involve Jesus returning. Both are end-times events. However, it is crucially important to recognize the differences. In summary, the rapture is the return of Christ in the clouds to remove all believers from the earth before the time of God’s wrath. The second coming is the return of Christ to the earth to bring the tribulation to an end and to defeat the Antichrist and his evil world empire. (Source)
Not seeing this division, not understanding that there was a mystery, not understanding (and keeping in mind) that the first Christians were also Jews, can lead to much confusion about the passages which deal with the last days. Unsaved Jews and unsaved Gentiles will be here during the tribulation, but the church will no longer be a factor then, because the church age will end when the church is raptured. The tribulation has nothing to do with the church. We are not appointed to wrath (I Thes. 5:9). The tribulation has only to do with the purification and salvation of the Nation of Israel in ultimate fulfillment of the Covenant with Abraham and his descendants!
It is tribulation believers who must endure to the end and purify themselves, but they will not be believers who were saved before the tribulation and failed to make themselves ready. Jesus finished that work on the Cross and we can neither add to or take away from it. Just as Jews have been saved ( we call them Messianic Jews) during this, the dispensation of Grace/Age of Grace/Church age, so too, non-Jews (Gentiles) will be saved during the tribulation, but they will not be a part of the church.
The Feast Of Pentecost
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley (Via: http://thelightseed.blogspot.com)Pentecost comes in the early summer (mid May-mid June). It’s the only Levitical Feast Day between the 3 Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits) and the 3 in the fall (Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles). The Hebrew name for this Day is Shavuot, which means weeks, so in Israel it’s often called the Feast of Weeks.
This is because it’s supposed to occur 7 weeks after the Feast of First Fruits (Lev. 23:15-16). Deut. 16:9 confirms this. “Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain.” The first cutting of the grain took place on the Feast of First Fruits. Since First Fruits was the first day after the Sabbath that follows Passover, it was always observed on a Sunday. Shavuot, being 7 weeks later, was always on a Sunday, too, and celebrated the beginning of the summer harvest.But in 140 AD, following the final defeat of the Jewish nation after the bar Kochba revolt of 135 AD, the Sanhedrin changed the focus of Shavuot from the summer harvest to the giving of the Law. They did this because Shavuot was one of the three feasts all Jews were required to observe (Exodus 23:14-17 tells us Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles were the other two) and the defeated and dispersed nation would no longer have any national harvests to celebrate.
From that time on, the count down began from the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day the Israelites left Egypt. So now Shavuot can come any day of the week and takes place on the 6th day of the Hebrew month called Sivan, which is the traditional day Moses received the Law from the Lord. Making this change placed the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai exactly seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt and preserved the Feast of Weeks in Jewish life.
Christians call this day by its Greek name, Pentecost, from a Greek word that means “50 days”. There were 50 days from the Sabbath that followed Passover to the Feast of Pentecost, and that’s where the Greek name comes from.
Early Christians also changed the way the various dates are determined, although we’ve retained the Sunday requirement for Pentecost. Christians now start counting on the day we call Easter Sunday, which is officially the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the Spring Equinox. We count Easter Sunday as day one, so Pentecost is always 49 days after Easter and always comes on a Sunday. By counting Easter Sunday on both ends of the span we can arrive at 50 days (Pentecost) and still keep the celebration on the 7th Sunday after Easter.
I know all this is really confusing, but the bottom line is that in 2013 the Jewish observance will take place on May 15 and Christians will celebrate Pentecost on Sunday May 19, and it won’t be the Biblically established date for either group.
What’s a Pentecost?
As I said, Jews now celebrate Pentecost (I’ll just use its Greek name to avoid any more confusion than necessary) as the day Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai and the nation of Israel was born. (Exodus 19-20) Christians celebrate it as the day the Holy Spirit came upon the Disciples in Jerusalem and the Church was born (Acts 2). If you agree with my view that the parables of Matthew 13 describe the Kingdom of Heaven during the Church Age and that the parable of the yeast (Matt. 13:33) predicts the Church will be filled with sinners, you’ll be interested in the fact that unlike all the other Jewish Feasts that call for unleavened bread (no yeast), Pentecost calls for two loaves of bread baked with yeast (Lev. 23:17). In the Bible leaven, or yeast, is a model of sin because it causes the dough to begin spoiling.
Other Jewish Pentecost ceremonies also reveal a subtle link to the coming church. In synagogues, the Book of Ruth is read on Pentecost. The story of Ruth has been called “The Romance of Redemption”. It’s about Naomi, a Jewish woman from Bethlehem who lost her land due to a famine in Israel and was forced to flee into neighboring Moab, where there was no famine. Shortly thereafter her husband passed away leaving her penniless and alone in a foreign country.
After the famine ended, she returned to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, a gentile woman who had sworn never to leave her. Ruth was a Moabite who had married one of Naomi’s sons (who also died) making her Naomi’s daughter-in-law and a destitute widow as well.
Once back in Bethlehem Naomi’s close relative, a prominent Jewish man named Boaz fell in love with Ruth and married her. In the process he also regained Naomi’s land as her kinsman redeemer. Both these events were accomplished according to the Law. For Naomi it was the law of redemption (Lev 25:25), and for Ruth it was the law of leverite marriage (Deut. 25:5-6).
The modeling here is dramatic, with Naomi in the role of Israel, destitute and alone; Ruth as the Church, the gentile bride; Boaz as the Messiah and the story itself as a prediction of the relationship that would involve all three of them. In the process of redeeming Israel, the Messiah takes a gentile bride. In doing so, He saves both from their destitute condition and restores Israel’s Land. The identification of the Church with Pentecost began in the prophecies of Ruth. To learn more about these incredible prophecies, and enjoy one of the world’s classic love stories, read Ruth’s Story.
By the way, Boaz was the son of Rahab, the harlot from the Book of Joshua (read “The Gospel in Joshua … The Story of Rahab” ), and 3 generations later his great-grandson David became the King of Israel. Rahab and Ruth are both listed in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 1:5), and King Solomon named one of the pillars at the entrance to the Temple after his ancestor Boaz.
When’s Your Birthday?
By tradition Enoch, one of the patriarchs from Genesis 5, was born on the day later to be known as Pentecost. Enoch’s name means “teaching”, a primary function of the Church (Matt. 28:19-20) For this reason many scholars see him as a “type” of the church as well. Genesis 5:21-23 indicates that Enoch had a close relationship with God and was actually taken live (raptured) into Heaven before the Great Flood. Pre-Trib scholars see this event as one of several Old Testament hints that the Church will disappear from Earth before the Great Tribulation.
These same traditions also hold that Enoch was taken on his birthday. So here’s a man identified with the church being born and raptured on the day that would become Pentecost, the day the church was born. Will the Church be raptured on our birthday too? Personally I don’t believe the Rapture of the Church will be the prophetic fulfillment of any of Israel’s Holy Days. But if I’m wrong and the Rapture does fulfill a Jewish Feast, Pentecost is by far the most obvious candidate.
As you probably know, I believe the reason no one on Earth can accurately predict the day of the Rapture is because it’s a number specific event, not a date specific one. In Romans 11:25 Paul implied the church has a “full number”, when its ranks will be considered complete. When that number is reached the Church will “come in” which means it will arrive at its scheduled destination, like when a ship “comes in.” Jesus said the destination of the Church is His Father’s house (John 14:2). Put it together and I believe it means we’ll be raptured as soon as the pre-determined number of Christians has been born again, no matter what day it happens to be.
Soon And Very Soon
One day soon now, all who are in Christ, having heard and believed the Word of Truth, the Gospel of our salvation (thereby receiving the seal of the promised Holy Spirit) will suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth along with all children and others who are intellectually incapable of making informed choices about their eternal destiny. In one instant we will have been going about our daily routines on Earth and in the next we’ll be standing in the presence of our Redeemer, our sins forgiven and forgotten, and all our imperfections gone. Among us will be all the faithful dead of the Church Age, reunited with perfected bodies and restored to eternal physical life. Together we will begin the most incredible journey of exploration and realization ever dreamed of, and it will last forever.
Neither we, nor the unbelieving world, will have received any advance warning of the timing for this event; it will have come totally by surprise. Maybe it will happen on Pentecost, maybe not. But one thing is certain, when it does happen, none of us will care one bit whether we had predicted it’s timing accurately. We will only express in unimaginable joy our gratitude for being there. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephe. 2:8-9)
As it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him – but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9-10). You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 05-18-13.