Believe in Jesus and you will inherit eternal life. This is what Jesus told Nicodemus. But look at the context of John 3:16 for a true understanding of the Gospel. The verse right before, in John 3:14-15, we read: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." The people of Old Testament Israel were told to look upon the serpent to be healed of sickness and disease. But Christ was lifted up so that we can be healed from sin. We must be saved from sin. All sins are habitual. If we still sin, we must continue to look to the cross in order to stop sinning, in order to be healed from all our sinful habits, so that we no longer sin. Only then can we inherit eternal life.
As we live and work for Christ the Holy Spirit changes us and we overcome all our sinful habits. Those who live and work for Christ will overcome all their sinful habits and will inherit eternal life. They will reign with Christ at the time of the resurrection, when Christ sets up his earthly kingdom.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus (John 3). Most of the Pharisees were very jealous of Jesus because of the miracles. The miracles drew big crowds to listen to Jesus. So, Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly at night to listen. Later, when they were trying to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus spoke up in his defense (John 7:45-52). After the crucifixion, Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea bury the body (John 19:38-42). Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple. Most likely, Nicodemus was also a secret disciple of Jesus.
When Nicodemus visited Jesus at night, Jesus told him the Gospel of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, Nicodemus was a bit confused. When Jesus talked about being born-again, Nicodemus was forgetting a very important Old Testament context to which Jesus was referring. Jesus said, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and don't understand these things?" Unfortunately, most pastors today miss this context and do not know where in the Old Testament it talks about being born-again. Thus, they miss some very important points about the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Today, Catholics believe that to be born-again is infant baptism. Then, there is a journey towards sainthood. Evangelical Protestants believe that to be born-again is the point in time when one becomes (past-tense) saved. They consider the journey to be much less important
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah (ch. 26) told us about the resurrection. In the future, the "earth will give birth to the dead." Literally translated, the spirits of the death come forth from the earth. But the context includes a metaphor of a pregnant woman about to give birth. Thus, many translations say the earth gives birth to the dead. This is what Nicodemus forgot. We get born-again bodies at the resurrection.
Isaiah also told us, in the same chapter, that not everyone will be resurrected. Most people will be resurrected. But the enemies of God will not be resurrected. Daniel (12:2) was told that "many" will be resurrected, some of which will have everlasting life.
To be born-again is to be resurrected. Jesus taught about two types of bodies at the resurrection. There are bodies of flesh and there are eternal-life spiritual bodies at the resurrection. Paul also talked about the two types of bodies at the resurrection. He asked, "How are the dead raised?" and, "With what kind of body do they come?" (1 Corinthians 15:35). It depends on the type of seed that is planted.
Nicodemus was a Jew. He was taught that salvation is a journey of holiness back to Paradise, which in their (Septuagint) Bible was the Garden (Paradise) of Eden. Salvation is not about going to heaven. It's about going back to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The Messianic reign will be here on the earth. Jesus told Nicodemus that "no one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man" (John 3:13). Nicodemus would have understood Jesus to mean that he alone knew how to get back to eternal life in Paradise.
Jesus reminded Nicodemus about the serpent that was lifted up by Moses in the desert. The people were told to look to the serpent in faith to be healed from sickness. Likewise, Jesus was lifted up so that we can be healed from sin as well as disease. Isaiah prophesied, "By his stripes we were healed." We must have faith in Jesus to be healed from sin, before we can get back to the tree of life in Paradise.
Salvation is a journey of faith in Jesus Christ to be completely healed of the disease of sin. By faith, the Holy Spirit helps us to completely overcome all sinful habits before we can be born-again (resurrected) with eternal life. God so loved the entire world that he gave his Son Jesus Christ to be crucified on the cross so that everyone of all generations can be resurrected. In Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). Christ's death was a ransom for sin, given to Adam and all his children. We can all be resurrected. But we must completely overcome all our sinful habits before we can be given eternal life.
Those who become enemies of God will not be resurrected. Others will become enemies of God after the resurrection and will die a second death. They will be tormented in the lake of fire after the final judgment, which is after Christ's millennial reign. Jesus told Nicodemus that those who reject this faith are "condemned already." Those who truly understand about Christ's salvation, but deliberately remain enemies of God, become condemned even before the millennial reign begins. Being "condemned already," they will not be resurrected. But during the millennial reign, the wise, with spiritual bodies, will teach and reign over those who will still have bodies of flesh. Flesh gives birth to flesh. Spirit gives birth to spirit. We must be born again to see the Kingdom of God.
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Matthew 25:1-13 Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom . (2) Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. (3) Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, (4) but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (5) Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. (6) But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!' (7) Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. (8) The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' (9) But the wise answered, saying, 'What if there isn't enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' (10) While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. (11) Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' (12) But he answered, 'Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you.' (13) Watch therefore, for you don't know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
The foolish virgins said, "Lord, Lord, let us in." Jesus replies, "Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (Matthew 25:1-13). How can the fact that these foolish virgins don't know the day or the hour possibly relate to the fact that they don't get into the wedding banquet? Is the problem really that they don't know the day or hour? The foolish virgins do not have as much oil in their lamps as the wise. Shouldn't they get caught up in the rapture no matter how much oil they have? Or is it because they don't watch the signs well enough? Does the fact that they don't study Daniel and Revelation cause them to be excluded from the wedding banquet?
Apparently, something is here that the average Christian does not understand, which will cause them to be foolish virgins. But surely one's understanding of obscure points of doctrine shouldn't cause these virgins to be excluded. Most Christians believe they couldn't possibly be one of the foolish virgins because they claim to know Christ as their personal Savior. ' But does Christ really know them? The only difference between the wise and the foolish virgins, according to the parable, is that the foolish virgins do not have enough oil in their lamps.
The foolish virgins believe they know Christ, but they continue to sin . They will insist that continued sin in one's life will not prevent them from getting into the wedding banquet. Is this the foolishness that Christ is warning about? What does John say about those whom Christ does not know? Can we interpret John's words in the context of Jesus?
1 John 3:5-6 ESV You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (6) No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Matthew 7:21-23 ESV Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' (23) And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
Matthew 25:11-13 ESV Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' (12) But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' (13) Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). But what does that mean? Is it the Greek-like concept of intellectual knowledge? Or is belief a continual action? Is salvation a one-time event? Do we say we are saved and that's it? Do we repent of our sins one time? Or do we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13)? Do we need to "endure to the end" to be saved (Matthew 10:22, 24:13 Mark 12:13)? Could it be that we must continue to look upon the cross for salvation?
Again, the foolish virgins said, "Lord, Lord, let us in." Jesus replies, "Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matthew 25) How can the fact that these foolish virgins don't know the day or the hour possibly relate to the fact that they don't get into the wedding banquet? And how does watching the signs relate to knowing Christ as your personal Savior? Ask these questions to most pastors today and they won't have a good answer. And yet this very parable directly relates to whether individual Christians will get into the wedding banquet! The only difference between the wise and the foolish virgins is the amount of oil in their lamps. How can we know that we are a wise virgin and not a foolish virgin if our pastors don't really understand the parables?
Matthew 13:10-13 The disciples came, and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" (11) He answered them, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. (12) For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn't have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. (13) Therefore, I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don't see, and hearing, they don't hear, neither do they understand.
I'm not saying that our pastors today don't love Jesus. But Satan has deceived them into thinking that everyone, even believers, must continue to sin. But the Gospel of the Kingdom is that by the power of the Holy Spirit we really can overcome all our sinful habits. Our pastors deny this.
1 John 3:5-6 ESV You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (6) No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
When John tells us, that Jesus appeared to take away our sins, he doesn't just mean that our sins are forgiven. John means that we no longer have sinful habits. He means that we no longer sin.
One dispensational-thinking pastor I know wrote two books on radical-grace or hyper-grace. He believes that Jesus was teaching during the "dispensation" of law and that things changed to a "dispensation" of grace at Pentecost. After the cross, Jesus gave us the great commission. In it, Jesus told us to teach people to obey everything that Jesus commanded. Because of that, this pastor believes the great commission was nullified at Pentecost!
John, however, wrote long after Pentecost. John tells us how to know that we know him. We know Jesus if we keep his commandments. And we keep his commandments if we no longer sin.
1 John 2:1-5 My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. (2) And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world. (3) This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. (4) One who says, "I know him," and doesn't keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn't in him. (5) But whoever keeps his word, God's love has most certainly been perfected in him. This is how we know that we are in him.
Jesus told us that "on that day" there would be many "false prophets" who prophesy in his name, and even cast out demons in his name. Pastors are prophets because they teach the word of God from their interpretations of Scripture. I'm not saying that pastors must interpret every aspect of Scripture correctly. But this issue of continuing to sin goes to the very core of the gospel because Jesus and John tell us that those who continue to sin don't know Christ! Most pastors today are unknowingly the wolves in sheep clothing that Jesus said would come.
Matthew 7:15-23 Beware of false prophets , who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves . (16) By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? (17) Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. (18) A good tree can't produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. (19)Every tree that doesn't grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore, by their fruits you will know them . (21) Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' (23) And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
Studies have shown that in evangelical churches today, there is no significant difference in moral habits between those who regularly attend church and the world around them. The fruit of the pastors is their flock. By their fruit, we will know them. The pastors today are not teaching how we can overcome all our sinful habits through the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead, they believe that nobody can overcome all their sinful habits.
These false-prophet pastors will be truly surprised, saying "Lord, Lord." They are surprised because they really believe they know the Lord. They really love Jesus because Jesus died on the cross for them. But they don't love Jesus enough to really take his words literally and seriously. They don't love Jesus enough to question all that's been taught by the false prophets that came before them. So, they unknowingly pass the false doctrines about the gospel of salvation along to the next generation of pastors.
If you don't have faith that God can change you to be "perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect," then you have a form of godliness, but you deny it's power to overcome sin.
2 Timothy 3:1-7 But know this, that in the last days, grievous times will come. (2) For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, (4) traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; (5) holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof. Turn away from these, also. (6) For of these are those who creep into houses, and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, (7) always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We can know the false prophets by their bad fruit. The foolish virgins are the bad fruit of the false prophets. The foolish virgins say, "Lord, Lord, let us in." They are also very surprised when Jesus replies, "Truly, I say to you, "I do not know you. Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matthew 25) How can the fact that these foolish virgins don't know the day or the hour possibly relate to the fact that they don't get into the wedding banquet? You won't find the answer from the wolves in sheep clothing who also say, "Lord, Lord", and to whom Jesus replies, "I never knew you." But the disciples of Christ would have understood this parable. In their culture, God's people were expected to overcome sin before the coming of the Messiah.
Don't just believe in Jesus. Become a disciple of Jesus, like Nicodemus. Go back to the top and read it again and again until you really understand.
Ask Jesus to be your guide in life. Ask the Spirit of Christ speak to you personally. Do the works that the Father wants you to do. As we live and work for Christ the Holy Spirit changes us and we overcome all our sinful habits. Continue to look to the cross to overcome all your sinful habits, and become the person Jesus wants you to become. Then, at the resurrection, you can be born again with a body of eternal life, a body that never dies.
Send a link to this gospel to all your friends. ( www.newwine.org/gospel/ )
To learn more, continue reading. It gets into doctrine. But don't let that scare you. The Scripture that supports this gospel of the kingdom is not hard to understand.
At the time of Christ, the Jews of Israel hated Roman rule over their lives and believed the Messiah would come to overthrow the Roman kingdom. The term "kingdom of heaven" or "kingdom of God" is a reference to the eternal kingdom that will begin here on earth when the Messiah comes. This can be seen in the context of Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, and 12. We must interpret the words of Jesus in the context of their end-time centric culture. With these words of Jesus taken out of the context of Old Testament Jewish culture, the gospel of the kingdom can be misunderstood. In this context, the Church is not ready for Christ to return.
Daniel 9:24 ESV Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression , to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy.
Many say sin was "put to an end" at the cross. But this is a requirement for "your people" and "your holy city." It's not something that Christ fulfilled at the cross. Vision and prophecy were not sealed up at the cross. Daniel had been praying for the forgiveness of Israel's sins and for the desolation of Jerusalem to come to an end. Seventy weeks of years (490 years) were decreed for God's people to completely stop sinning before the Messiah comes. But the Jewish pastors, at the time, continued to sin. They were broken off the olive tree of Israel. In turn, we as Gentile believers are grafted into that same olive tree, which is Israel (Romans 11:11-24). Thus, we must also completely stop sinning to be ready for Christ to return.
Israel was told when the Messiah would come. However, they failed to even recognize the Messiah and continued to sin. Therefore, seven of the seventy weeks were moved into the future for a second coming. The timing of the Messiah's return became unknown. They no longer knew the "day or the hour." But stating such would still mean we must stop sinning before Christ returns. We are told to watch the signs and be ready for Christ to return. That's the purpose of the seventy weeks.
That's why Jesus tells the foolish virgins that he doesn't know them and to watch the signs. The foolish virgins were told they don't know the day or the hour because in that culture, they knew that all of Israel must stop sinning before the Messiah comes. The false prophets and foolish virgins will miss the rapture. They will not get into the wedding banquet. But that does not mean they will go to hell. They will simply live in the nations during Christ's millennial reign.
This is like the watchman in the night. To watch for the enemy to come is to be ready. The enemy is sin. As we watch for the signs, we get ready by overcoming all our sinful habits. It's the wicked servant who will not know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:42-51). The wise servant will know when Christ will return. We watch for the sign of the great tribulation. Salvation is a journey of faith and belief in Christ. It's an active journey of salvation from sin during which we become like Christ , who did not sin.
One of the most well-known salvation verses is John 3:16. Read it in the context of John 3:14-21. Believe in Jesus and you will not perish but will have eternal life. But look at the context of John 3:16 for a true understanding of the gospel. The verse right before, at John 3:14-15, says: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." The people of Old Testament Israel were told to look upon the serpent to be healed of sickness and disease. But Christ was "lifted up" so that we can be healed from sin as well as sickness and disease. Sin is at the very heart of sickness, disease, and death. "By his stripes, we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
John 3:16 is in the context of Jesus talking to Nicodemus. Later, we will look at this passage in more detail, and learn about being born again.
We must be saved from sin. We become enslaved to sinful habits. All sins are habitual. Honest mistakes are not sins, because they are not habitual. If we still sin, we must continue to look to the cross to stop sinning, to be healed from our sinful habits, so that we no longer sin. We must daily take up our cross and follow Christ. Only then can we inherit eternal life. This journey, or process, is called sanctification.
Romans 6:22-23 HCSB But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification--and the end is eternal life! (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are "enslaved to God." This means we do the Father's works. The fruit of this labor "results in sanctification," which means we become holy. It means we overcome all our sinful habits. The result of this journey is eternal life, according to this verse. Under the New Covenant, we do the works of the Father because that becomes our desires as God writes his law on our hearts. The Holy Spirit fills us and changes us on the inside so that we no longer sin. God can, and will, complete this work that he has begun (Phil 1:6).
Galatians 6:7-9 HCSB Don't be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, (8) because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. (9) So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up.
We must realize that continued sin is like a disease. Jesus can heal us from that disease. If you want to inherit the kingdom and eternal life, you must be completely healed from all sinful habits. We must believe that Jesus can heal us. If we say that Jesus can't or won't do this, then we do not fully believe in Jesus for salvation from sin. Just as the people of Israel looked upon the serpent for healing, we must continually look to the cross for healing. We must have faith and not doubt. We must turn our lives completely over to Christ to inherit the kingdom. If any sinful habits remain, then we have not yet finished our journey back to the Father. When no sinful habits remain, then we are completely sanctified. This is necessary before we can receive the gift of eternal life.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it .
True believers are saved (sanctified) by God's presence and work in our lives. As we do the Father's works, the "God of peace himself sanctifies us completely" by the Holy Spirit. After overcoming all our sinful habits, we are then ready for Christ to return.
Notice that we don't sanctify ourselves. We don't make ourselves holy. It is the "God of peace" who sanctifies us. "Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6 HCSB). I believe Jesus was saying those who really want to overcome their sinful habits will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The true meaning of grace is God's presence or God's work. It's being filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul often started and ended his letters with something like "grace be unto you." It was like saying, "God be with you." Paul was not saying, "unmerited favor be unto you." Paul was asking for God's presence and/or works to be with us. Also, Christ was given grace as a young boy (Luke 2:40, John 1:14). He was not given "unmerited favor." The Holy Spirit was with Jesus.
What is the difference between the Law of Moses and grace? The Law is God's written word concerning what is good and what is bad. Sins, however, are habit forming. People become slaves to their sins. Under the Law, they had to overcome their sinful habits through self-effort, as Paul describes in Romans 7. Under grace, believers can all be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works on the inside to change us so that we no longer sin. We are filled with the Holy Spirit as we do the works of the Father. Grace is the presence and/or works of the Holy Spirit. Grace is not "unmerited favor" whereby we are simply forgiven of our sins. It's true that the blood of Christ ransoms us from sin. But sinful habits must be overcome. We need God's grace to change us.
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast . (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them .
This, and many other verses that speak of grace, can be vastly misunderstood if the definition of grace is misunderstood. It's by "God's work" that we are saved, through continual faith. It's not our own works, that no one may boast. We are "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." As we do the good works, the Holy Spirit works inside us to make us holy. This grace/presence/work is the "gift of God."
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Those who will inherit the kingdom are those who will have overcome all their sinful habits before Christ sets up his kingdom. They will reign with Christ, during the millennium, over those who don't overcome sin (Revelation 2:26). The point being, we need to go back to the basics of salvation and faith in Christ to completely overcome sin. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Overcome Sin, for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is Coming Soon.
We must interpret the words of Jesus in the context of their end-time centric culture. Matthew 24-25 is Matthew's account of what's called the Olivetti Discourse. It's what Jesus said about the signs that will be seen prior to his second coming. This is what we call the end times. Most pastors say that the various doctrines of the end times is unrelated to doctrines of salvation. That's why they tend to skip over verse 13, where Jesus says, "He who endures to the end will be saved."
Matthew 24:9-14 Then they will deliver you up to oppression and will kill you. You will be hated by all of the nations for my name’s sake. (10) Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another. (11) Many false prophets will arise and will lead many astray. (12) Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. (13) But he who endures to the end will be saved. (14) This Good News [Gospel] of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
This is clearly talking about a future time of world-wide persecution against Christians. The text seems to indicate that in the midst of this world-wide persecution against Christians, the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached to all the nations. Then the "end" of the age will come. After that, we will see the "abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel." When we see this sign, Jesus tells us that the greatest tribulation (or distress) of all times will come. In this context, is it great tribulation in the world, or is it great tribulation (or distress) for the Christians who are being persecuted?
Matthew 24:15-21 (ESV) So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (16) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (17) Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, (18) and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. (19) And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! (20) Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. (21) For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.
Most pastors think this tribulation occurred around 70 AD. But the pastors who believe this is a future tribulation tend to think it's tribulation for the world instead of tribulation against Christians. That's because they have been taught that the Church will be removed from the earth, in the rapture, before this great tribulation begins. Since they already believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, they naturally assume it's tribulation for the world. But if you don't believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, you can clearly see that Jesus is warning his disciples about tribulation (distress) for Christians. It's a time when Christians will be persecuted and killed in all the nations of the world.
Jesus is telling his own followers to "flee to the mountains." For the world it's a time of "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" (verse 38). Sudden destruction comes against the world at the end of the great tribulation when Christ comes to set up his Kingdom. During the great tribulation, the world is living normal lives and does not fear being destroyed, like the flood in the days of Noah (verses 37-39). It's great tribulation for the Church, not the world.
Matthew 24:29-31 (ESV) Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
There is no "coming" of Christ mentioned before the great tribulation. The only "coming" is that of verse 31. And the "coming" of verse 31 is "immediately after the tribulation of those days," according to verse 29. Again, there is no "coming" mentioned in the text before the "coming" of verse 31. So the unknown day and hour must be in reference to the "coming" that is after the great tribulation.
And yet the unknown day and hour is one of the primary arguments for the pre-tribulation rapture. It's considered to be the doctrine of imminence, which says that the rapture could happen at any moment and that there are no signs that must occur before it happens. Jesus tells us to look for signs of his coming. The most important sign he gives is the abomination of desolation. In contrast, these foolish pastors say there are no signs for which we need to to watch because his coming will happen before the signs, including the abomination of desolation.
The Church will know the day and the hour because we will see the signs. It's the world that is in unbelief. It's the world that will not know the day or the hour before sudden destruction comes. The Greek word for "knows" is not taking about knowing or not knowing in the future. The verb tense means that no man currently knows the day or the hour.
So we must watch the signs, especially that of the abomination of desolation, in order that we will know the day of Christ's "coming." Jesus makes reference back to Daniel. Daniel 12:11 tells us that from the abomination there are 1290 days until, by context, the resurrection as given in verse 2. The Church will go through this time of great persecution. But we will know the day of the resurrection, and thus the day of Christ's "coming" in the post-tribulation rapture. For the world, Christ will return like a thief in the night. But the wise Bride will know ahead of time when the Bridegroom is to come.
Matthew 24:14-14 ESV But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The foolish pastors of today believe they have preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to most, and in some respects to all, the nations. But they don't believe this gospel involves enduring to the end. Generally speaking, the gospel that's been preached involves simply making a decision for Christ. Jesus, however, puts both of these sentences are right next to each other. Is there any possibility that the gospel that's been preached in the nations, during this end-times generation, is lacking something that's very important with regard to salvation?
After preaching a sermon on once-saved-always-saved, a pastor asked me, after the service, if I believe in once-saved-always-saved. I told him the question doesn't make sense because salvation is a journey. To make my point, I pointed out that salvation involves three steps: (1) justification, (2) sanctification, and (3) glorification. Since sanctification is a journey, then salvation must also be a journey. He then asked me if I believe in once-justified-always-justified. You see, pastors just focus on getting people past-tense "saved." They think that if you are justified, would you go to heaven if you were to die or if the rapture were to occur. This make sanctification become unimportant with regard to salvation.
Pastors who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture often associate the rapture with salvation. They will sometimes preach that you need to get saved right now because the rapture could occur at any moment. The requirement of sanctification for salvation is simply ignored. These foolish pastors also say that you can't completely stop sinning. That means you can't be completely sanctified. But Paul seems to say we can become completely sanctified. This verse was quoted in the previous section, "Israel Must Stop Sinning Before Christ Returns."
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it .
True believers are saved (sanctified) by God's presence and work in our lives. As we do the Father's works, the "God of peace himself sanctifies us completely" by the Holy Spirit. After overcoming all our sinful habits, we are then ready for Christ to return.
As we have seen, the false doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture, as well as the disconnection of sanctification from salvation, makes "enduring to the end" become completely disconnected from salvation. Jesus said, "He who endures to the end will be saved." But these foolish pastors just skip over the verse, and instead focus on Christ's next sentence about of the gospel being preached to all the nations.
After giving us the signs to watch that the precede the coming of Christ, Jesus continues in the Olivetti Discourse with several parables about the pastors and other believers in our end-times generation. The first is a parable about a wise servants who Christ puts over all his possessions because they are ready for Christ to return, or the wicked servants who won't know the day or the hour.
Matthew 24:48-51 ESV But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ (49) and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, (50) the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know (51) and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
You see, not knowing the day or the hour is a bad thing. This can also be seen in the parable of ten virgins, which is the parable given right after this one. The five foolish virgins also don't know the day or the hour. But foolish pastors who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture equate themselves to the wicked servants and the foolish virgins by preaching that they also won't know the day nor the hour.
Matthew 25:11-13 ESV Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ (12) But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ (13) Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
You see, the wicked servants and the foolish virgins won't know the day or the hour because they are not enduring to the end. They are not being persecuted during the great tribulation. They are not being sanctified. They are not taking up their cross (of persecution) and following Christ. The wise servants "overcame him because of the Lamb’s blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn’t love their life, even to death" (Rev. 12:11). But the world is "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage." They are not standing against the antichrist and standing for Jesus Christ regardless of the persecution.
By enduring to the end, the wise become holy as the Holy Spirit works inside them to Help them preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations. By enduring to the end, they overcome all their sinful habits and become ready for Christ to return. They will reign with Christ during his millennial reign over the nations.
The wicked servants are cut to pieces and placed with the hypocrites (Pharisees), who will wind up in the lake of fire. They know the truth about Christ, but choose to beat their fellow servants because they think Christ's return is delayed. This plays out in pastors who use their positions to get money from their foolish-virgin followers. In some cases, these are pastors of mega churches who become very rich. The foolish virgins, who follow these evil pastors, don't get into the wedding banquet. They do believe in Jesus Christ as their savior. But they don't overcome all their sinful habits. They don't endure persecution to the end. But as we will see, these foolish virgins will have a chance to be resurrected and live in the nations with mortal bodies. We will learn more about this later.
Israel was given 490 years to stop sinning before the Messiah would come. But they did so under the Law of Moses. The Law was given on Mount Sinai at the time of Pentecost. The Law defined sin. They were told to stop sinning by means of self-control and self-effort. Israel was scattered to Babylon for 70 years because Israel continued to sin. At the end of those 70 years, Israel was given 490 years to stop sinning before the Messiah would come. But Israel continued to sin.
Under the Law, only a few "favored" were given the Holy Spirit. Everyone else was expected to stop sinning by their own power. But after the crucifixion of Christ, all believers were given the Holy Spirit. Again, this happened at Pentecost. Thus, Pentecost is all about the Law.
The presence of the Holy Spirit makes all believers "favored" by God. Thus, we are saved by grace instead of being under the Law of Moses. But the requirement remains to overcome all our sinful habits before the Messiah comes. The Holy Spirit is our Helper (John 13:26) so that we have the Power to stop sinning. Gentile believers are grafted into Israel. We stop sinning by faith in that Power.
Titus 2:11-14 ESV For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, (12) training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (13) waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (14) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Under the Law of Moses, God gave us his written words as to what we should and should not do. To disobey is sin. Under the New Covenant, we must still overcome all our sinful habits. But God gives us the Holy Spirit as a Helper to change us on the inside so that we no longer sin. The New Covenant was prophesied to come by Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (32) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (33) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me ,
from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
These verses are quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12. This is the longest quote of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Right after these words we find this verse:
Hebrews 8:13 ESV In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Notice that the New Covenant is with the "house of Israel and the house of Judah." Israel did not become obsolete. The Church did not replace Israel. Gentile believers are grafted into Israel. The need to stop sinning before the Messiah comes was not made obsolete.
But now there's a new way to fulfill the Law. Instead of living under the Law of Moses, whereby we try to obey with our own efforts, we have the Holy Spirit as a Helper. This is living under grace. But we must still overcome all our sinful habits before Christ returns. Right after this New Covenant in Jeremiah, we have an affirmation that Israel is eternal.
Jeremiah 31:35-37 ESV 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 shall the offspring of Israel 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 below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD."
Under the New Covenant, the law is "written on our hearts." That means our very nature is changed. Our habits of sin are overcome. The desires of our heart changes from serving self and sin to serving the Father and our neighbors. This doesn't happen overnight. Salvation under the New Covenant is a journey that tends to take time. But it remains a journey that must be completed before the Messiah comes. Those who won't know the day or hour are those who won't be ready.
Notice that the New Covenant states, "They shall all know me." This is opposed to the Old Covenant where, "each one teaches his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD.'" In other words, the old is learned from a written Law. The new is a change of heart whereby we really know God. But the foolish virgins and the foolish false prophets don't really know Christ . They continue to sin.
Overcome Sin, for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is Coming Soon.
The early Church believed in what's called the millennial week. Each day of the week is a thousand years. They believed the week began with Adam. The Sabbath of this week is the literal interpretation of the 1000 year reign of Christ as given in Revelation 20. The ancient Jews had a similar belief, except that the Messianic reign was the 5th and 6th day, and the entire world becomes desolate during the Sabbath. But later, this belief in a literal earthly reign of Christ was considered to be Jewish fables.
This early belief in the millennial week is considered to be anti-Nicene, which is before the council of Nicene (425 AD), which was called by Constantine. Constantine was the Roman emperor from 306-337 AD. He began to favor Christianity in 312 and converted Rome to Christianity. Under Constantine, Rome became completely Christian. Later, Rome was sacked by the Goths in 420 AD. This caused a theological crisis in Christianity because Rome was believed to be the eternal city. In response to this crisis, Augustine (354-430 AD) wrote a book titled "Two Cities."
This book argued against Rome being the eternal city by arguing against Millennialism and for Amillennialism. Millennialism views the 1000-year reign of Christ in Revelation 20 as literal earthly Kingdom. Amillennialism views Revelation 20 along allegorical lines, saying the Kingdom is heavenly, and that we are currently in this spiritual Kingdom. The majority of the Church (Western Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant) was Amillennial during the majority if Church history. Millennialism remained in a small minority of the Church.
Heavy use of allegorical interpretation, as used by Augustine, goes back as far as Origin (185—254 AD). Today's Conventional Theology (Reformed) dates to the 16th and 17th centuries. It makes use of three covenants that are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture. The third is the covenant of grace. All the covenants in Scripture are progressive subcategories of the covenant of grace. It begins with Adam after the fall and continues to the Church. This means that Israel and the Church are equivalent, and are a progressive unfolding of God's redemptive plan, centered around Jesus Christ.
Conventional Theology maintains that the Kingdom is heavenly in nature, and exists in our hearts. For example, they would cite what Jesus told Pilate when he said, "My Kingdom is not [currently] of this world" (John 18:36). As such, there is no distinction between Israel and the Church. There is no expectation of a restoration of Israel as a nation. The modern-day nation of Israel is not considered to be part of God's plan. Old Testament prophecies of the restoration of Israel are interpreted as allegories. For example, the literal boundaries for Israel as given to Abraham might be considered along the lines of the Church eventually converting the whole world to Christianity.
Around 1830, John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) developed a system of interpretation called Dispensationalism. Revelation 20 is literally interpreted as an earthly Kingdom. Dispensationalism draws a strong distinction between Israel and the Church. The word dispensation comes from a Greek word that means "economy." All are saved by grace through faith. But God's "economy," plan, or arrangement for governing men changes from dispensation to dispensation. It says that Old Testament Israel has a different "economy" from that of the Church. However, because of God's promises to the Old Testament patriarchs, God must switch back to the older "economy" before the Millennial reign can begin. The Church becomes a "parenthesis" between two dispensations of Israel.
Dispensationalism relies heavily on their interpretation of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. The first 69 weeks are believed to have been fulfilled by the time of the crucifixion. The week of the covenant, as given in Daniel 9:27, is considered to be the 70th week and is considered to be at an unknown time in the future. The second half is the great tribulation. Dispensationalists believe that during this week, God unhardens the Jews and they turn to Christ. But it's on the basis of the "economy" of Old Testament Israel. In order for this to happen, God must first remove the Church. Thus, the Church must be caught up in a pre-tribulational rapture. The word "rapture" comes from the Latin "raptus", meaning "to be caught-up," as given in Latin Vulgate Bible for 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Dispensationalists know that in Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27, Jesus tells us about a gathering of the elect that occurs after the great tribulation. This gathering includes angels in the clouds and the trumpet-call of God, just as in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But it's considered to be a different gathering and is thus called the "glorious appearing." Many dispensationalists also know that "the dead in Christ will rise first" (verse 16). So the resurrection must be before the rapture.
They also know that Revelation 20:1-5 teaches about the resurrection of those who are martyred for their testimony of Jesus Christ and for refusing to take the mark of the beast. They come to life and reign with Christ for a 1000 years. This reign is considered to be the earthly Kingdom of Israel, while the Church remains in heaven. Thus, there would be two resurrections and two raptures. The first resurrection-and-rapture is for the Church and the second is for Israel. . Of course they won't call the second event a rapture. It's simply called a gathering of the elect. And they rarely talk about their belief in two resurrections because the second of these two resurrections is called "the first resurrection" in Scripture (Rev. 20:5). At this point they start talking about both resurrections being the first "type" of resurrection. All this is done to hold onto their belief in a pre-tribulational rapture. It's much simpler to just acknowledge that there is one resurrection for all of God's people, and one rapture, both of which occur after the tribulation.
After Jesus told us about the gathering of the elect, which is after the great tribulation, he gives us a parable that illustrates the fact that we don't know the day or the hour of his coming. Of course the only "coming" that's mentioned in the text is the one that's after the great tribulation. The world will be eating, drinking, and giving in marriage when this "coming" occurs. They won't know the day or the hour. They will be suddenly destroyed, after the great tribulation. Thus, it's not great tribulation for the world. It's great tribulation, which is persecution, for God's people. God's people will know the timing of Christ's coming. It's the world that will not know the day or the hour and will be surprised and suddenly destroyed, as in the days of Noah.
This parable, as given by Jesus to illustrate the unknown day and hour, is about a thief in the night (Matthew 24:36-51). The thief-in-the-night symbol is used later by Peter, by Paul, and by John in Revelation. As we have seen, the context of the parable requires that the "coming," at unknown day and hour, be the only "coming" mentioned in the text. It's after the great tribulation. However, Dispensationalists will insist that this unknown day and hour refers to the "coming" of the pre-tribulational rapture that's not mentioned in the text. They called it a "secret" coming. Thus, in their system, the thief-in-the-night symbol must be a reference to the pre-tribulational rapture.
Right after telling us about the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul uses the thief-in-the-night symbol in chapter 5, verses 1-4. This is in the same context as the rapture verses of chapter 4. Remember that the original text did not include chapter and verse numbers. In verse 1 Paul states that we, as the Church, don't currently know the "times and the seasons" because the day of the Lord will come like a "thief in the night." But will we know later, before Christ's actual appearing?
Paul says that while people are saying "peace and security," sudden destruction comes. He says it's like the labor pains of a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. The labor pains is an allusion back to the words of Jesus and the days of Noah. Thus, Paul is not taking about a gathering that Jesus didn't mention. It's the same thief-in-the-night coming after the great tribulation. Then Paul concludes by saying, "But you, brothers, aren’t in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief" (verse 4). We will know the day of Christ's post-tribulational coming and won't be surprised and suddenly destroyed with the world. If Paul was really talking about a "secret" pre-tribulational rapture, why does Paul assure us that we won't be suddenly destroyed?
In Revelation, the thief-in-the-night symbol is used twice. The first in in the letter to the church at Sardis. Jesus warns them to, "Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it and repent. If therefore you won’t watch , I will come as a thief, and you won’t know what hour I will come upon you" (Rev. 3:3). Jesus associates the lack of watching with sinfulness. The sinful will not know the day or the hour and will be destroyed when Christ comes, at the end of the great tribulation (persecution). The sinful world will not suffer this tribulation. However, since Dispensationalists associate the unknown day an hour with believers and unbelievers alike, they must associate this thief-in-the-night with the pre-tribulational rapture.
The second thief-in-the-night symbol is in Revelation 16:15. "Behold, I come like a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his clothes, so that he doesn’t walk naked, and they see his shame." This verse is after the six bowls of wrath, which is undeniably post-tribulational. Dispensationalists are forced to say the thief-in-the-night happens twice, once pre-tribulational and once post-tribulational. Thus, they must believe that the resurrection, angels in the clouds, the trumpet-call of God, the gathering of God's people, and the thief-in-the-night coming, all happen twice.
Dispensationalism and it's pre-tribulational rapture centers around a distinct separation of Israel and the Church, and the doctrinal need for God to switch back to the "economy" that was used for Old Testament Israel. Is this consistent with Paul's teaching about Israel?
Romans 9 through 11 addresses the doctrinal problem of Israel rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. Old Testament Israel is a nation that God choose for the purpose of ruling over all the other nations, in an earthly Kingdom, teaching the nations righteousness. Thus, Israel will be a blessing to all the other nations. But this earthly reign cannot begin before the Messiah comes. If this is the case, then how could Israel have rejected the Messiah?
Paul answers his dilemma by saying that not all of natural Israel are a part of the Israel that will reign with the Messiah. He says, "For they are not all Israel that are of Israel. Neither, because they are Abraham’s offspring, are they all children" (Romans 9:6b-7). He clarifies this in Galatians by saying:
Galatians 3:26-29 For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to promise.
In Romans 9 through 11, Paul goes on to clarify that the individuals of Israel are chosen by election. He gives examples from the Old Testament. Jacob is part of Israel, but Jacob's brother Esau is not part of Israel even though both are children of Abraham. Likewise, not all of Jacob's children are part of the election of Israel. Each individual might or might not be part of the chosen nation of Israel. Continuing in Romans 9:24, Paul clarifies that it's not just Jews who can be elected to be a part of this chosen nation of Israel. Gentiles can also be elected to be a part of Israel. He then quotes a couple of verses in Hosea to make his point.
An important point needs to be made here. The election of Israel is not an election of salvation. It's an election to be part of the nation that brings salvation to all the other nations during Christ's earthly millennial reign. Israel is to be a blessing to all the nations, through the earthly reign of the Messiah, through Israel, over all the nations. This is true for all generations. We will get into the details of this in a later section titled, "Election and Free Will." Also, the section titled, "The Blood of Christ is a Ransom for Everyone" is very important in the understanding of the election of Israel and what that means for the nations.
Before Dispensationalism came along, most all of Christendom believed that God permanently rejected the Jewish people. Jews could convert to become Christian. But there would be no millennial reign of Christ here on the earth. This means that the Church replaces Israel. The Kingdom of God is a heavenly Kingdom. This is known as supersessionism. It's called Covenant Theology, which is a part of the Reformed Theology of Luther and Calvin. The Old Testament prophecies that were given to Israel become allegorically interpreted as fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
With Covenant Theology and supersessionism, any understanding that Israel will reign over all the other nations is removed by using allegories. But with Millennialism, Gentile Christians should be understood an being grafted into Israel. The purpose, definition, or "economy" of Israel does not change. Thus, the Church really is a continuation of Israel. The Kingdom is here and now but not yet. It's a kingdom that's in our hearts now. But in the future it's a Kingdom that will be an earthly reign of Israel over the nations. Israel includes both Jewish and Gentile individuals. There is neither Jew nor Greek. Those who are in Christ are considered to be Abraham's offspring and will inherit all the promises of Abraham in a literal sense.
From this perspective, any distinction between Israel and the Church completely disappears. Conventional Theologians are correct in that God's people are a continuation of Israel, which is the Church. God's purpose or plan for Israel has not changed. God's covenants have progressed over the ages. But with no distinction between Israel and the Church, there is no need for God to switch back to an older covenant or dispensation. The Dispensational need for a pre-tribulational rapture completely disappears.
The Church is Israel. But it doesn't replace Old Testament Israel. God's promises to the patriarchs are still literally fulfilled in the literal Jewish children of Abraham who are chosen by election to be a part of Israel. Gentile believers, who are elect, also become children of Abraham. There is no difference between Israel and the Church. Thus, the doctrinal argument for the pre-tribulational rapture completely disappears.
In Romans 11, Paul continues his reasons for why God's word didn't fail when the Jews rejected the Messiah. He illustrates with the metaphor of the olive tree. Most of the natural branches were removed so that wild branches could be grafted in. Some Dispensationalists will argue that the olive tree is not this elected Israel. But most of the natural branches were broken off of something. They weren't broken off Christ. They were broken off of Israel. Once God revealed Jesus as the Messiah, those who refused to believe were no longer a part of the elected nation of Israel. And even before that, those who continued in their sin, without the help of the Holy Spirit, were not a part of the elected Israel. Gentile believers were grafted into Israel and became Abraham's offspring, thus we are a part of the elected Israel.
If there is a pre-tribulational rapture, does that mean part of the olive tree will be split off an go to heaven while the rest of the olive tree remains here on the earth to fulfill the promises to Abraham? Does part of the olive tree become split off so that we will no longer reign with Christ over the nations? The pre-tribulational rapture simply doesn't fit Paul's explanation of the olive tree.
Revelation 2:26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations .
The election of Israel is not a matter of being a Jew or a Gentile. When the Messiah reigns, those reigning with him must have already overcome all their sinful habits. Otherwise, this global one-world Kingdom of God will be ruled by sinners, just as the nations of today. That's why a one-world government before the time of the Messiah is not in God's will. The bigger the government, the more it can be corrupted by sinful men. The only way to have true world-wide peace is for the King of the world to be Jesus Christ, who never sinned, and for those who reign with him to have already overcome all their sinful habits before they are given this power to rule. Any government, especially a one-world government, that is against Christ becoming the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is a government of anti-Christ, which means against Christ.
Covenant Theology predates Dispensationalism. Covenant Theology rightly states that all salvation is through a "covenant of grace," centered around Jesus Christ, and that there is no difference between Israel and the Church. The problem with Covenant Theology is in their strong use of allegorical interpretation which effectively changes Old Testament prophecies of a restoration of national Israel, making the Kingdom be only heavenly and denying a future earthly reign of Christ. Their motivation for this seems to be that they could not believe the Jews were really still part of God's plan. Millennialism was called a "Jewish Fable." Most of Christendom hated the Jews and considered them to be "Christ killers."
Dispensationalism came along later. It corrects this doctrine and returns to seeing Old Testament prophecies as a future earthly Kingdom. But what was their motivation in going against Covenant Theology in separating Israel from the Church? Why didn't Darby simply say that Gentile believers are grafted into Israel and therefore we, as Israel, will be a part of the literal fulfillment Old Testament prophecies in the restoration of national Israel? Why didn't Darby understand that we would reign with Christ over the nations? Could it be that the motivation for separating Israel from the Church was to provide a doctrinal reason for the pre-tribulational rapture? The pre-tribulational rapture needs Dispensationalism. As Dispensationalism fails, so does the pre-tribulational rapture.
God will not pour out his wrath on us. But God never promises we won't see great tribulation (persecution). The Church will go through the great tribulation, by God's will, because for those who endure to the end, persecution brings holiness.
Nicodemus came to Jesus, secretly in the night. Most of the Pharisees would not admit that Jesus was a teacher who had come from God. But Nicodemus was open to Christ's teachings because of the miracles that Jesus was doing.
John 3:1-7 ESV Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (2) This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him ." (3) Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (4) Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born" (5)Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6)That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7)Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'"
Those who believe salvation is a journey tend to believe that baptism is the start of that journey. If salvation is not a journey, or if the journey is unimportant regarding salvation, then one tends to assume that to be born-again is a one-time event that transforms one's life into a person who is saved (past tense). Later, a person may rededicate one's life to Christ. But they are not considered to be born-again for a second time. The very term, "born-again," strongly suggests a one-time event and not something that repeatedly occurs during a journey.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 ESV). The Greek word for "way" literally means "road." Thus, the verse can be translated as, "I am the [road], the truth, and the life. No one [journeys] to the Father except through me." The early church called themselves "The Way" (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23). Literally speaking, the early church called themselves "The Road." They understood that the Christian life is a journey.
So, how does being "born-again" relate to this journey? Augustine believed "born of water" is infant baptism. Baptism is symbolic of dying and then coming up out of the water in a new life. Catholics today continue to believe that being born-again is infant baptism, and that this begins one's journey back to the Father.
Catholics believe salvation is a journey to perfection, or sainthood. (The word saint, in the Greek, literally means "holy ones.") What happens if one doesn't complete their journey? Catholics believe those who complete their journey become saints. Those who don't must spend some time in Purgatory before entering heaven. This belief also goes back to Augustine.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Evangelical Protestants, also known as born-again Protestants. Salvation is viewed as occurring in three steps: (1) justification, (2) sanctification, and (3) glorification. The justification step is when you become a believer and are born-again. Thus, to be born-again is to become a believer. Just how much sanctification is needed for salvation? Many Evangelical Protestants don't believe sanctification is necessary for salvation.
At that point you are "justified." They tend to think the amount of sanctification that occurs later does not determine one's final destiny. This view came about when Luther rejected Purgatory. If there is no consequence for not completing one's sanctification, then sanctification becomes unimportant. The completion of sanctification becomes something that is not possible, even though Scripture clearly says otherwise. That's why born-again Protestants don't believe that we can overcome all our sinful habits.
My position is in the middle, between Catholics and Protestants. I do not believe that Scripture teaches Purgatory. But I do believe that Scripture teaches a free-grace alternative to Purgatory. During most of Church history, the high majority of the Church did not believe in the millennial reign of Christ. This included Luther and Calvin. So, they had no way of seeing that the millennial reign of Christ is a clear alternative to Purgatory, and that reign is in fact taught by Scripture. The Messianic reign of Christ is also clearly taught in the Old Testament. But again, Luther and Calvin didn't believe in the Old Testament Messianic reign of Christ.
The application of Old Testament Jewish eschatology to the New Testament Church solves this and six other major problems of Scripture, which have divided the Church over the centuries. But we must be willing to look at the New Testament with new eyes. How would the Old Testament Jews have interpreted the words of Jesus, John, and Paul?
John 3:5-7 ESV Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
As we will see, Jesus is talking about two different types of bodies. There are bodies of flesh, and there are bodies which Paul calls spiritual bodies. "That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit." Jesus really is talking about literally being born again into a new body. Jesus is talking about the resurrection. We should interpret verse 5 along the same parallelism as is seen in verse 6. In other words, Jesus is simply clarifying himself. Being born of water is being born of flesh. When the mother's water breaks, the baby comes from the womb. Then later, at the resurrection, we can get a new spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15 is on the resurrection. Paul also talks about to types of bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:35-44 ESV But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" (36) You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (37) And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. (38) But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. (39) For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. (40) There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. (41) There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. (42) So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. (43) It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (44) It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
These words of Paul to the church at Corinth should be interpreted in the context of Paul's own words in Acts 24:15.
Acts 24:14-15 ESV But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, (15) having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept , that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
Paul speaks of the resurrection of both the just and the unjust. Notice that Paul is speaking to his Jewish accusers. He was on trial. The fact that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of both the just and the unjust is assumed in this passage.
To say that Paul is talking about a resurrection of the unjust to be judged and then dammed isn't a natural reading of the passage. Paul speaks of the "hope" of these two resurrections. The belief that Paul is speaking of the "hope" of a resurrection for the unjust to be dammed stems from a strong presupposition in Christians to believe that death determines one's final destiny. But based on the Old Testament, that presupposition would not have existed at the time of Paul and Jesus. This Old Testament context is covered in the next section titled, "Born Again in the Old Testament."
What does Paul mean in his letter to Corinth? Paul asks, "With what kind of body do they come?" Do all those resurrected get heavenly bodies? Or do some get bodies of flesh? Does it depend on what type of seed is planted? Perhaps the just who die are one type of seed while the unjust are another type of seed. What does Paul mean when he speaks of the "hope" of the resurrection of both the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15). The answer comes from Old Testament context.
We have seen that Paul was talking in the context of Jesus. But Paul clarifies that being born of the Spirit is talking about the resurrection. We can get a spiritual body at the resurrection. Thus, to be born again is to get a new body at the resurrection. We will get confirmation of this, in the next section, when we look at the resurrection in the Old Testament.
John 3:8 ESV The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
With this understanding, consider what Jesus said in John 3:8. Those who are born of the Spirit can come and go like the wind. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared in the middle of a locked room (John 20:19). He could literally disappear from their sight (Luke 24:31, 24:36-42). When we are born-again into spiritual bodies, we will do the same.
Also, Jesus characterizes these things as "earthly things (verse 12)." In other words, to be born again is not a spiritual conversion of the heart. It's a real-world literal event. After verse 12, Jesus begins with the "heavenly things." The "heavenly things" includes what it takes to receive eternal life. This includes John 3:16. Read it in the context of John 3:14-21.
John 3:13-16 ESV No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Believe in Jesus and you will not perish but will have eternal life. But look at the context of verse 14 for a true understanding of the gospel. The people of Old Testament Israel were told to look upon the serpent to be healed of sickness and disease. But Christ was "lifted up" so that we can be healed from sin as well as sickness and disease.
How many pastors are there today, who can tell you, where in the Old Testament it talks about being born again? Would Jesus say to them, "Are you the teacher of the Church and yet you do not understand these things?" The problem is that they do not think of "born again" in terms of the resurrection. But once you realize that we are born again into new bodies at the resurrection, it's not hard to find the Scripture.
As we have seen, the unknown day and hour is better understood when Old Testament context is considered. Generally speaking, all the words of Jesus are better understood when interpreted in Old Testament context. Let's go back to Isaiah 26 for a better understanding about the resurrection and what Jesus meant about being born again.
Isaiah 26:17-19 ESV Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; (18) we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. (19) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
This passage establishes the metaphor of the pregnant woman that is found throughout Scripture. Isaiah 66:8-9 refers to the pregnant woman in reference to the nation of Israel being born in a day. Isaiah is talking about the resurrection. "The earth will give birth to the dead."
We will be born again. That's what Jesus spoke of in John 3:1-13. Jesus said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6 ESV). The wise will be born again with new spiritual bodies. This doesn't mean we won't have bodies. The wise will have heavenly bodies like Jesus after the resurrection. To be born again is to be resurrected.
This prophecy of Isaiah concludes with the following two verses. Right after the resurrection is the wrath of God. Also, note that the earth will no longer cover its slain.
Isaiah 26:20-21 ESV Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. (21) For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.
Hosea 13:12-14 refers to the pregnant woman in saying that many in Ephraim (the northern kingdom) will not be resurrected. They turned to other gods and did not repent. This passage is where Paul gets the saying, in reference to the resurrection, that "death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:54-55). In the original chapter of Isaiah 26, verses 11-14 tells us that the enemies of God will not be resurrected.
Isaiah 26:10-11,14 ESV If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. (11) O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them. (14) They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.
This chapter of Isaiah 26 tells us, "the earth will give birth to the dead." Literally, the souls come from the earth. Some translations render it this way. Others use the context of the pregnant woman and say that the earth gives birth to the dead. But the wicked will not arise.
Isaiah 26:19 HCSB Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust! For you will be covered with the morning dew, and the earth will bring out the departed spirits .
Thus, we see this very early teaching about two regions in Sheol (Hades). Almost everyone is resurrected. But the enemies of God are not resurrected. This is seen in the parable of Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The parable describes a "great chasm" between the enemies of God and those like Lazarus. Does this mean the wicked in Hades are already in torment? No, when they awake from their sleep, they will be in torment in the lake of fire. Time is not perceived while asleep. The point of the parable, as given in the last verse, is that even if Lazarus were to come back and preach about the torment, the enemies of God would not repent. This was demonstrated when the real Lazarus was resurrected .
No other passage associates Hades with torment. Instead, Jesus uses Gahanna for hell-fire torment. Gehenna was developed during the intertestamental period . It refers to the time of the end, and thus torment would have been understood to take place after the resurrection. After the millennial reign of Christ, the enemies of God will awake, be judged, and then thrown into the lake of fire, where there is no sleep day or night (Rev. 14:11). From their perspective, the dead wake up right after they die. Hades (Sheol) is death, not torment. Gehenna is torment.
Let's continue with our study of the pregnant woman. Matthew 24:8 speaks about the beginnings of the birth pains. The pregnant woman is about the time of the resurrection. The gathering of the elect (verse 31) is "immediately after the tribulation" (verse 29). Paul describes the time of the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10. This is in the context of grief over those who have already fallen asleep. Thus, Paul is talking about the resurrection. The dead in Christ will rise first, before the rapture. In this same context of the resurrection, Paul refers to the pregnant woman in verse 5:3. We are "born again" when the "earth gives birth to the dead."
Revelation 20:4-6 tells us that the first resurrection is after the tribulation . And as we have seen, Paul tells us that the rapture is after the resurrection. So, the rapture must also be after the tribulation.
Revelation 12 is all about the metaphor of the pregnant woman. The head of the woman has a crown of twelve stars. Twelve is symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel. The woman is clothed with the sun, and the moon is under her feet. This comes from Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9-10. In the dream, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bow down to him. The dream was about his father, mother, and his eleven brothers bowing down to him, which was fulfilled years later after Joseph became a ruler in Egypt. So, the woman is Israel.
The firstborn of the pregnant woman (Israel) is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is taken up to heaven. Satan makes war on the rest of her offspring. These are the people of Israel, including Gentile believers, who are grafted into Israel. The "earth will give birth to the dead." The people of Israel are the elect . They will be resurrected with heavenly bodies, like the angels. They are the wise virgins who all their sinful habits before Christ comes. They are the Bride of Christ. They get into the wedding banquet. They are resurrected at the first resurrection.
But after that, those in the nations who have not yet overcome sin can be resurrected. They are still under judgment. The foolish virgins and foolish pastors, saying "Lord, Lord," who believe in Christ, and the false prophets, saying "Lord, Lord," who believe in Christ, will be resurrected in the second resurrection. They will have natural, mortal, earthly bodies like they have now. They will live with the nations. The foolish, who do not overcome their sinful habits, can still be resurrected with mortal bodies. It's a resurrection of judgment because they are still under judgment. This second resurrection is in the "same hour" as the first resurrection. Then at the end of the millennium, the wicked who have rejected Christ will come to life and will be judged. They will be thrown into the lake of fire where there is "no rest day or night."
Daniel 12:2 ESV And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Notice that not everyone is resurrected. Many are resurrected, but not all. The wicked are not resurrected. Notice that they "sleep in the dust of the earth" and awake. This matches what's said in Isaiah 26:19, quoted earlier. Of those resurrected there are two groups. The first resurrection is for the wise unto everlasting life. The second resurrection is for the nations and is unto "shame and everlasting contempt." The Hebrew word used here for "shame" was often used for Israel. It's forgivable. The Hebrew word for "contempt" is not forgivable. In other words, they are still under judgment. Some will learn righteousness during the millennial reign. Others will not.
John 5:28-29 ESV Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice (29) and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Both resurrections take place at the same "hour". This can be interpreted as the same time. (The Greek word can mean time.) These two resurrections cannot be separated by a thousand years. The wicked will not be resurrected. Christ's sheep hear his voice. Even his lost sheep can still hear his voice. The wicked do not "come to life" until after the thousand years. They no longer hear Christ's voice.
Acts 24:14-15 ESV But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, (15) having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept , that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
Paul speaks of the resurrection of both the just and the unjust. Notice that Paul is speaking to his Jewish accusers. He was on trial. The fact that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of both the just and the unjust is assumed in this passage. That's because the natural reading of Isaiah 26 is that almost all the dead will be resurrected. Isaiah is part of their Bible. We need to start interpreting New Testament Jewish authors in the context of their own Jewish Bible.
This is not two resurrections separated by a thousand years. In Revelation 20, after the thousand-year reign of Christ, the word "resurrection" is not used for the souls who are awakened for judgment. It's not a resurrection because they are not being brought back from the grave to live again. A "resurrection of damnation" (KJV of John 5:28-29) is an oxymoron.
Any doctrine of Scripture that is different can be difficult to accept, even when it lines up with Scripture. Why would God have allowed the Church to be mistaken about the doctrines of salvation for all these centuries? But is not the Catholic doctrine of salvation very different from Protestant doctrines? Will Christ return and say one is right and the other is wrong? Has not God allowed at least one or the other to be wrong? The New Wine System is somewhere in the middle between the Catholics and the Protestants. Could it be that the truth hides in the middle? The word "Catholic" means "one", or "unity".
John 17:9-11 ESV I am praying for them . I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me , for they are yours. (10) All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. (11) And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
Has this prayer of Jesus been answered? Is it true today? Can we expect this prayer to be answered? Is it possible that there will be true unity in the Church before Christ sets up his kingdom? I'm not saying we will agree on everything. But we must agree on doctrines of salvation before we can be considered one, even as Jesus and the Father are one.
I believe doctrinal error began to creep into the Church when the Church disobeyed Paul with regard to the Jews. The Church became more and more anti-Semitic throughout the centuries.
Romans 11:17-18 ESV But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, (18) do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
The early Church became very arrogant towards the unbelieving Jews. They distanced themselves from the Jews, even to the point of excluding the Old Testament Scripture. They began to interpret the New Testament without considering the context of the Jewish Bible when the New Testament authors were themselves Jews. In the second century, there was even a movement to exclude the Old Testament from the Christian Bible. As we have seen, this causes the New Testament reader to misinterpret the Scripture. The Greek mindset Christians began to read concepts like Hades under Greek presuppositions instead of in the context of Old Testament Jewish understanding.
Over time, the idea of a millennial reign of Christ became known as "Jewish superstitions." Old Testament prophecies about the Messianic reign became allegorical and interpreted as being about this present age, making the millennial reign less than attractive to say the least. This is called amillennialism and was predominate in both Catholic and Protestant circles. Millennialism regained some popularity when dispensationalism came along, starting in 1830. But even then, the dispensationalists separated Israel from the Church. The Church went to heaven in the pre-tribulation rapture while Israel would have their Messianic reign here on the earth. Centuries-old views of the doctrines of salvation could still be applied to Gentile believers without forcing the New Testament to be interpreted in the context of the Old Testament.
Amillennialism goes hand-in-hand with supersessionism, also known as replacement theology. The Jews were considered to no longer be a part of God's plan. Even Martin Luther and Calvin were amillennial and thus believed the Jews were a problem for God. Luther became extremely anti-Semitic after the Jews made it clear that they would not join his Reformation. Hitler's case, in Germany, for the "Jewish problem" originated with Martin Luther, who was also German. Without a restoration of Jewish (and Gentile) Israel, to reign with the Messiah, the words of Jesus and Paul about salvation become vastly misunderstood. Tradition is a very strong motivator.
With amillennialism, eternity must be determined at the time of death because there is no millennial reign in order to begin or continue one's journey of salvation after the resurrection. This prevents us from accepting any notion that we must overcome all our sinful habits before the Messiah comes to set up his kingdom. John Wesley believed in a form of Christian Perfection. But he considered it to be a "second blessing" instead of a journey of salvation.
Luther had big problems with the book of James. He called it an "episcopal of straw." It didn't fit his understanding of grace.
James 1:22 ESV But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:17
This made no sense to Luther. These verses should be on the walls of every church building. Without works, there is no filling of the Spirit, which is grace. Without works, foolish virgins and foolish pastors are deceived and remain foolish. Every Christian needs to have faith in God to make him "perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). It's not just salvation from death. It's faith to be completely healed from sin before the Messiah comes.
The early church consisted of two main groups. The believing Jews were led by Peter. The believing Gentiles were led by Paul. The Jews grew up in a culture that had strong hopes of the Messiah coming in their generation. There were several false messiahs during those generations. They all centered around the overthrow of Roman rule over their lives. Just before Christ's ascension into heaven, the disciples ask him about the coming kingdom.
Acts 1:6-7 ESV So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ?" (7) He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
The Old Testament teaches about a kingdom of Israel which will be a literal reign of the Messiah over all the nations, here on the earth. They believed God would overthrow Rome and the people of Israel would become rulers over the nations. When Jesus taught about the "Kingdom of Heaven," or the "Kingdom of God," the Jews would have understood Jesus to be talking about this Messianic earthly reign that will come. Jesus taught the Jews to pray, "Let [the Father's] Kingdom come, let [the Father's] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10). In other words, Israel will reign with the Messiah here on the earth, but the people of Israel must first become holy. We, as Gentile believers, are grafted into Israel. We must also become holy, overcome all our sinful habits, before the kingdom comes. That's why Jesus taught parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. The holiness of God's chosen people must come first.
Revelation 2:26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.
Jesus does not deny that Israel will rule over the nations. He is just saying they would not know the time or season. But Jesus also taught, "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34). In the same discourse Jesus taught, "The one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13). He is talking about enduring to the end of the great tribulation. Thus, the believing Jews would have remained focused on being a disciple of Jesus and not becoming spiritually overcome by the great tribulation that they believed was to come. Those who become enemies of Christ during this great tribulation will not be resurrected. They will suffer the fire of Gehenna, as was taught by Jesus (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 33).
I'm not saying the disciples saw the abomination of desolation which will precede the great tribulation (Matthew 24:15). But there is no doubt they expected to see these events within their lifetimes. As it turns out, there are two generations that will not pass away before all these things take place. The Jews saw the armies surround Jerusalem, followed by the Jews being taken as prisoners to all the nations (Luke 21:20-24). Then, after Israel was restored in 1948, this end-time generation will see the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation before this generation passes away (dies).
The point is that the Jewish believers at the time of Christ understood about the "hope" of the resurrection of both the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15). They grew up believing in this "hope" of two types of resurrections. The just will be resurrected with eternal life to reign with the Messiah during this earthly Messianic reign. The unjust will also be resurrected, but not with eternal life. They will live in the nations. The just will teach the unjust righteousness, as the just reign over the unjust in the nations (Daniel 12:3).
Thus, the believing Jews would have interpreted the words of Jesus, as given in Matthew, in the context of this belief. They would have understood about the resurrection from the writings of Isaiah 26 and Daniel 12:2. They would have understood that non-believers will also be resurrected and will be taught righteousness by Israel during the Messianic reign. Again, this would have been understood because of their Old Testament Jewish cultural background.
The believing Jews would have fully understood that Israel will rule the world when Christ returns. And they believed Christ would return in their lifetimes. But they also understood that great tribulation would come first. Based on the words of Jesus, they believed that their generation would not pass away before this great tribulation would come. They would have endeavored to seek holiness, and to "endures to the end" for salvation. During the great tribulation, those who are spiritually weak and continue in their sins would be tempted to turn against Christ in the face of persecution.
The book of Hebrews was written to the Jewish community of that time. The primary purpose of the book is to warn against forsaking Christ in the face of Christian persecution. Those who do so are willingly and knowingly becoming an enemy of Christ. When the Messiah returns, God's wrath will be poured out on all of God's enemies. This would include former believers who willingly and knowingly decide to forsake Christ, even in the face of persecution.
I believe, along with the early church fathers, that Paul wrote Hebrews. Today, seminary students are taught that Paul didn't write Hebrews. In any case, the writer of Hebrews warns true believers against turning against their faith. These are true believers because they have shared in the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come , (6) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (28) Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. (29) How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (30) For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." (31)It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
This doesn't mean that Christians who fall into sin because of weakness are doomed to the wrath of God. They can repent of their sins and come back to the Father. Paul is talking about a deliberate and prolonged decision to forsake Christ after they really know Christ through the Holy Spirit. Even believers have the free will to forsake Christ. Believers who undergo the persecution of great tribulation really need to seek God and rely on the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said in the context of the great tribulation, "Those who endure to the end will be saved." In the face of great tribulation, we cannot forsake Christ and have any hope of being resurrected, even in the second resurrection, when Christ returns.
I think that the early Jewish believers understood this gospel, but the assembly of Jewish believers didn't last. After some time, the disciples, including Peter, went on missionary journeys to the Gentiles. It's believed that Peter died in Rome. The Jews were "taken as prisoners to the nations" in 70 AD. After that first generation of the first century, most believers were Gentiles.
With believing Gentiles, we have a bit of a different story. Believing Gentiles of that early generation did not have a Jewish Old Testament cultural background. They distanced themselves from the Jews. They were probably aware of the Jewish beliefs about Israel ruling over the nations. But they would have grown up with distaste for those beliefs. They would not have cared for the idea that the Jews would rule the world. Such beliefs were regarded as Jewish superstitions. Also, they would not have grown up with a hope in the resurrection. They would have viewed death as one's final destiny that determines one's everlasting fate in the afterlife.
The two types of resurrections can be seen in John 5:28-29. But the gospel of John was not written until much later, during latter part of the first century. The first-century Gentile believers did not have the gospel of John or the book of Revelation. And they did not have a good Old Testament background. Paul speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust in Acts 24:15. But he was speaking to Jews who were putting him on trial. Paul didn't clearly teach about two types of resurrections in his letters to his Gentile churches. Yes, we can see it in 1 Corinthians 15 in which Paul argues for a belief in the resurrection. But that teaching can be interpreted in two ways. (We discussed this in the section above titled, "You Must be Born Again.")
Over the course of the centuries, amillennialism became the predominant view of the Orthodox, the Catholics and the Protestants, especially since Augustine. Amillennialism rejects a literal earthly reign of Christ. Even the Reformation leaders such as Luther and Calvin were amillennial. They had no way to understand that Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, and Acts 24:15 describe two premillennial resurrections for people who will be resurrected to live in the earthly Kingdom of Heaven. The dispensationalists, beginning in 1830, brought back millennialism. But they forced all three of these three verses into saying that these two types of resurrections are separated by the millennial reign. They denied that the second type of resurrection is also premillennial.
This end-time generation is evidenced by the fact that the Jews of ethnic Israel became a nation again right after World War II. I believe the baby-boom generation is the end-time generation that will not pass away before we see the great tribulation and the start of the earthly reign of Christ. We must make ourselves ready for the coming great tribulation, which is great persecution of Christians. We must make ourselves ready for Christ to return. In preparation, we must overcome all our sinful habits through faith in Christ and by God's grace. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom, which will be preached to all the nations before the end comes (Matthew 24:14).
The early Jews at the time of Christ would have understood the "Kingdom of Heaven" or the "Kingdom of God" as the coming Messianic reign of Israel over all the nations. The word "gospel" means good news. So, the "Gospel of the Kingdom" is not simply good news about salvation. It's good news about Christ's coming Kingdom here on the earth. And, of course, Jesus places emphasis on holiness in his messages and parables about the coming Kingdom. Those who reign with Christ over the nations must first become holy. They must first overcome all their sinful habits. Otherwise, the world would continue to be ruled by people who are not entirely motivated by love. This good news (gospel) about that reign of holiness must be preached to all the nations before the end will come. The end will include the great tribulation.
Matthew 24:13-15,21 ESV But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (15) So, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), . .. (21) For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.
Most commentators simply state that the gospel of salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ must be preached to all the nations before Christ will return. They relate this to the goal of completing the Great Commission before Christ returns. They would say this has been on-going throughout church history. But in this baby-boom generation, the salvation gospel that's been preached has typically not included the need to overcome all of one's sinful habits. They even say you can't completely stop sinning.
In all of church history, the gospel being preached has rarely included the promise of reigning with Christ during the coming earthly Kingdom. It became the gospel of a spiritual kingdom instead of the literal earthly Kingdom, which would have been understood by the Jews who heard these words of Jesus. The gospel of the Kingdom is last in a series of signs that are related to the birth pains of a woman.
Matthew 24:6-8 ESV And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. (7) For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. (8) All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
These beginning signs have been seen, but the end is not yet. When did the birth pains begin? Most commentators simply say the signs occur more and more frequently, like the birth pains of a woman. But we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. This is not the main point of what the birth pains would have meant to the early Jew at the time of Christ. We learned about the metaphor of the pregnant woman that's used throughout Scripture back in the section titled, "Born Again in the Old Testament."
The metaphor goes back to Isaiah 26. The pregnant woman is Israel. In 70 A.D, the people of Israel were taken as prisoners to all the nations. Israel no longer existed as a nation in the land. This continued until 1948, when ethnic Israel became a nation again. The pregnant woman would have been interpreted by Isaiah and his audience as ethnic Israel. How can we see signs that are the birth pains of a woman without having the woman? The signs that are given must be interpreted as signs that began after Israel again became a nation. How can there be a literal earthly Kingdom that literally reigns over all the nations without a literal earthly Israel? The beginning of the birth pains can only be signs that occurred since Israel became a nation again in 1948.
There are two generations that will not pass away before all these signs take place (Matthew 24:34, Luke 21:32). This was introduced in the last section titled, "Great Tribulation for Two Generations." Most commentators assume that what's called the "Olivetti Discourse" in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are three separate accounts of the same discourse. But is the major sign the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14), or is it Jerusalem being surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20)? Commentators will even equate these two signs as being the same event. But which sign did Jesus verbally state when giving the discourse?
This discrepancy is a bit more than simply the same event as told by two or more observers. In Luke, the Jews are taken as prisoners to all the nations. In Matthew, Christ returns immediately after the great tribulation. In Luke it's a prophecy of defeat. In Matthew it's a prophecy of victory after great tribulation. The discourse in Matthew has the disciples asking Jesus about the signs privately on the Mount of Olives. The discourse in Luke seems to be more public and ends with:
Luke 21:37-38 ESV And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. (38) And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.
If the discourse in Luke were interpreted on its own, without being merged into Matthew's and Mark's account, we would interpret the discourse in Luke as being given publicly in the temple. With all these differences, it's easy to interpret these as two separate discourses. Publicly, in the temple, Jesus warns the Jews of armies that would surround Jerusalem and that they would be taken as prisoners to all the nations.
Luke 21:20, 24 ESV But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. . .. (24) They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The disciples are in shock. The Jews understood about Jerusalem becoming desolate. It had happened when they were scattered to Babylon. But they also knew God would bring them back. So, they ask him privately, up on the Mount of Olives, what would be the signs of Christ's return after the Jews are taken as prisoners to all the nations.
We have two generations that don't pass away until all the signs for each are fulfilled. The time between is a second desolation of Jerusalem. The birth pains of the woman symbolize the rebirth of Israel when the prisoners begin to return to Jerusalem.
The disciples likely interpreted what Jesus said at the temple and on the Mount of Olives as both pertaining to their own generation. Jesus had hopes of returning in that generation. The "scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat" (Matthew 23:2). They must acknowledge Jesus as Messiah before he returns (verses 37-39). While Israel was scattered nobody sat on that seat. But today, the Sanhedrin have been re-established.
I believe that during this final preaching to all the nations, there will be a third Great Awakening world-wide. I believe that those who today sit on the seat of Moses will turn to Jesus as the Messiah during or before the great tribulation. Once it was clear that the Jews would continue to reject Christ over the course of that first generation, it became obvious that there are really two generations that don't pass away (die) before all the signs of their generation are fulfilled.
Interpreted this way, we can see that the birth-pain signs given in Matthew 24 are only signs that began to take place after Israel again became a nation. The woman is Israel. The woman was taken prisoner to all the nations.
Jerusalem became desolate. The woman (Israel) must return to Jerusalem before she can give birth. Now that the woman is at least in part back in Jerusalem, the signs of the birth pains have begun.
These birth-pain signs include the last climatic sign; the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the nations. This third Great Awakening is not going to be just a gospel of salvation. It's going to be the gospel (good news) of the coming Kingdom. It's going to be focused on the return of Christ to set up his earthly Kingdom. But the great tribulation comes first.
Some people say we are in the end times because things are getting worse and worse. But there have been times in the past when things were must worse than today. One pastor I know does not believe we are in the end times because in many ways things are getting better. Does Bible prophecy really say things will get worse and worse during the end-time generation? That has been the conclusion of many Christians who read about these signs in Matthew 24 as being, "like the birth pains of a woman." We know that the great tribulation is coming. Therefore, many assume that things will get worse and worse during this generation as it climaxes to the great tribulation.
But the great tribulation is not about things getting worse and worse for the world. It's about persecution of Christians getting worse and worse. The great tribulation is persecution and tribulation for God's people. The persecution of Christians is bad in some areas of the world, such as in Muslim countries and in China. But Christians are not really persecuted in most of the world.
The signs given in Matthew 24 seem to indicate that the real persecution comes closer to the end. At first there are "wars and rumors of wars. . .. But the end is not yet." After the beginnings of the birth pains, we start to be "hated by all nations for my name's sake." That's not really happened yet. The real persecution will come when the real Gospel of the Kingdom begins to be preached in all the nations.
When it's preached that Christ and his followers will rule the world, the world will react by hating all of Christ's people. This true Gospel of the Kingdom will cause a great divide between Christ's followers and the world, who will really begin to follow the Antichrist. Most of the false-prophet church leaders of today will react against this gospel. They are antichrist. The antichrist will be "against Christ." The word "antichrist" means "against Christ."
The Trinity can be found in the Old Testament. In Genesis 18, three men come to visit Abraham. One of them is Yahweh. They eat and talk with Abraham like any other men. In Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob wrestled with God. In verse 30 he says, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered." The "Angel of the Lord" appears numerous times in the Old Testament. Many theologians believe the "Angel of the Lord" is the preincarnate Son of God. Thus, in the Old Testament, God can appear as a man. Also, the Holy Spirit is spoken of numerous times in the Old Testament. Therefore, the Old Testament has God as Spirit, God as a man, and God as the Holy Spirit that is poured out for us. This is the Trinity.
Old Testament prophecy is all about the time when God, as a man, will reign as King over Israel. Christ is referred to as the "Son of David" because of God's covenant with David. When Christ (God) reigns as the King of Kings, Israel will reign with Christ over all the nations. But you can't reign with Christ if you still have sinful habits. Otherwise, Christ's millennial reign would wind up being as corrupt as any other government today. As Paul said, "Not all Israel is Israel".
Romans 9:6-8 But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel that are of Israel . (7) Neither, because they are Abraham’s offspring, are they all children. But, “your offspring will be accounted as from Isaac.”Genesis 21:12 (8) That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as heirs .
Paul goes on to explain, in Romans 11:11-32, that unbelieving Jews were broken off the olive tree of Israel and that believing Gentiles were grafted in. However, when the fullness of Gentiles have come into the olive tree, many of the Jews of natural Israel will be unhardened. This must include the Jewish leaders in modern-day Jerusalem who "sit on the seat of Moses" (Matthew 23:2,39). During the end-times, "all Israel will be saved," as Paul said in Romans 11:25-27. In verse 27, Paul quotes Jeremiah 31:33-34 in saying this happens "when I will take away their sins." In other words, Israel will reign over the world, but they will reign after overcoming all their sinful habits, as believers in Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit. This includes the Gentile believers, grafted into Israel, who will have also overcome all their sinful habits.
Many Old Testament prophecies refer to this future time as "The Day of the LORD." In the Hebrew, the word for "LORD" is Yahweh. It's not just a 24-hour day. In the New Testament it's known as the "age to come."
The Day of the Lord is when Christ returns. But it's also a day to be dreaded. The Gospel of the Kingdom is preached to all the nations, and then the end comes (Matthew 24:14). Then, we see the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation. It's great distress for God's people. In Amos, we read about the dreaded Day of the Lord:
Amos 5:18-20 Woe to you who desire the day of Yahweh! Why do you long for the day of Yahweh? It is darkness, and not light. (19) As if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him; Or he went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a snake bit him. (20) Won't the day of Yahweh be darkness, and not light? Even very dark, and no brightness in it?
Back in the section titled, "Great Tribulation for Two Generations," we learned that the disciples most likely believed they were in the end-time generation that would see the great tribulation and Christ's return. Every generation should expect Christ to return in their generation. This belief brings holiness because we are taught that we must overcome all our sinful habits before the Messiah comes. To those who aren't ready, Jesus will say, "I never knew you." And, "You don't know the day or the hour" (Matthew 24:48-51, 25:11-13).
The Old Testament focuses on the Day of the Lord. But there are two places in the Old Testament that describe what happens before the "great and terrible day of the LORD." The first is in Joel 2. Peter quotes Joel during his sermon on the day of Pentecost. He mentions the signs what will occur before the Day of the Lord.
Acts 2:17-21 It will be in the last days , says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams. (18) Yes, and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days, I will pour out my Spirit, and they will prophesy. (19) I will show wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood, and fire, and billows of smoke. (20) The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood , before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. (21) It will be that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Here are the verses in Joel that Peter quoted:
Joel 2:28-32a And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (29) Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (30) "And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. (31) The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. (32a) And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Paul quotes verse 32a in Romans 10:13 saying, "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." It's a statement of evangelism. In Joel, it seems to be the time when the Gospel of the Kingdom is being preached to all the nations just before the end of this age comes. The Day of the Lord, at least the start of it, is dreaded. In other words, Peter and Paul both quoted Joel about a time just before the dreaded great tribulation of the Day of the Lord.
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel in his sermon. Peter believed that the Day of the Lord would come very soon, and thus he interpreted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as the fulfillment of this passage in Joel. He understood that God would "pour out his Spirit on all flesh." So he believed the day of Pentecost was just the start of that outpouring.
I'm not saying Peter was wrong in quoting Joel. I believe the Holy Spirit led him to quote these verses. Many aspects of Christ's first coming are partial fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies along the lines of "here and now but not yet." The Kingdom of God itself is "here and now but not yet." It's here in our hearts but not yet in the world.
I believe Jesus had real hopes the Jews would accept him as the Messiah. Paul always preached to the Jews first and then the Gentiles. So Paul also had real hopes that his people would repent during his lifetime. Paul even included himself when talking about the rapture saying, "We who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:17). So Peter and Paul were right in quoting Joel's passage about the time just before the Day of the Lord.
Pentecost was, in fact, a precursor to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will occur in the end times, when Joel's prophecy is completely fulfilled. Pentecost is all about the fulfillment of God's Law. But it's under the New Covenant, where God's Law is written on our hearts. Thus, the end-time fulfillment will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will be centered on Christ's message of holiness. People will completely overcome all their sinful habits because of the fact that they are being filled by the Holy Spirit.
The prophecy in Joel, and Peter's quote thereof, include signs in the heavens. The sun is turned to darkness and the moon to blood. There is no indication that this happened on Pentecost. One can argue that this is a figure of speech. But I think it's not because it's going to be something that gets the world's attention. The world will be terrified. And this is before the Day of the Lord. The signs are a precursor to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh and the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached in every nation.
Ezekiel 38 is probably the next Biblical prophecy that happens, after Israel became a nation again in 1948. Israel has had to fight small proxy wars against terrorists. But the Yom Kippur War of 1973 was the last big war against the surrounding nations. Since then, Israel has lived in safety. But Ezekiel 38 says Israel will be attacked again, led by Turkey, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Russia. God shows up and stops Israel from being destroyed when these Islamic nations attack Jerusalem. Joel's prophecy tells us the signs of war that are given on the earth: blood, fire, and billows of smoke. It looks like these events of Ezekiel 38 are lining up in the middle-east already. Ezekiel 39, on the other hand, tell us about similar signs at the end of the Great Tribulation.
Ezekiel 38:18-20 But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. (19) For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. (20) The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.
Thus, the world will be terrified when God shows up to stop the surrounding nations from destroying Israel. But the believer should rejoice because a Great Awakening is about to begin, followed by the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
Joel 2 starts by talking about the dreaded Day of the Lord.
Joel 2:10 The earth quakes before them. The heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.
But then Joel starts talking about God's mercy and tells us about a time before the Day of the Lord. The signs in the heavens are given again. That's what Peter and Paul quoted. The difference in the signs is that before the Day of the Lord, the moon turns to blood instead of simply being darkened. The signs in the heavens are given several other places in Scripture. Usually, it's about the Day of the Lord. Jesus tells us the signs are "immediately after the tribulation" (Matthew 24:29). He's quoting Isaiah 13:10; 34:4. This sign of a blood moon, before the Day of the Lord, is just one other place in Scripture. It's the sixth seal of Revelation.
Revelation 6:12-17 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, (13) and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. (14) The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (15) Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free , hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, (16) calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, (17) for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
The seven seals of Revelation all relate to the end-times baby-boom generation that saw Israel become a nation again. The great earthquake of the sixth seal is probably the earthquake in Ezekiel 38. Bottom line is that the signs in the heavens happen twice. In Joel, the blood moon is before the Day of the Lord. The signs, in Joel, without the blood moon is after the Day of the Lord. And we will see, the other thing that happens before the Day of the Lord is the coming of Elijah.
There are two places in the Old Testament that describe what happens before the "great and terrible day of the LORD." The first, as was shown in the previous section, are signs in the heavens followed by God pouring out his Spirit on all flesh. It was prophesied by Joel and quoted by Peter in his sermon at Pentecost. The second prophecy, to occur before the Day of the Lord, is the coming of Elijah. This prophecy is given in the last verse of the Old Testament. As we will see, the expectation of the coming of Elijah was a very important part of the ancient Jewish culture at the time of Jesus.
Malachi 4:4-6 Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances. (5) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. (6) He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
We are told to remember the Law of Moses. This is a message of holiness. The prophecy speaks of turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. This is an allusion to the fifth of the ten commandments that God gave Moses. The fifth divides the first four from the last five. The first four are all about loving God. The last five are all about loving your neighbor. These two commandments of love are of key importance in the road to holiness.
When God pours out his Spirit on all flesh, there will be a Great Awakening of holiness. The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the nations. It's a gospel of holiness, saying that we must seek God's holiness before Christ returns. Similar to the message of John the Baptist, it's also a gospel of the soon return of Christ who will set up his earthly Kingdom. It's a time for the Days of Elijah.
It's a gospel that says those who overcome all their sinful habits before Christ sets up his earthly Kingdom will reign over the nations with Christ. But church-going Christians who still have sinful habits will not reign with Christ because Christ will say, "I never knew you." The world will hate this gospel. Those who embrace this gospel for Christ's name's sake will be hated by all the nations (Matthew 24:9). Many of the false-prophet pastors who lead the churches of today will oppose this Gospel of the Kingdom.
Matthew 24:9-11 ESV Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. (10) And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. (11) And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
Back in the section titled, "The Foolish Pastors," we learned about all the false-prophet pastors and teachers who lead the churches today. We know them by their fruit.
Unlike previous generations, the foolish false-prophet pastors of this generation don't lead their congregations to seek Christ's holiness. They don't teach salvation through the grace of the Holy Spirit to help us overcome all our sinful habits. They will oppose the Gospel of the Kingdom. Remember that grace is God's presence and/or God's works; it's not "unmerited favor."
The Gospel of the Kingdom will bring a Third Great Awakening to all the nations. It will be preached that Christ will soon return to set up his Kingdom, but that the antichrist comes first. At the opposite end of the spectrum is what's called full or hyper preterism. (Preterism means past fulfillment.) Full-preterism teaches that Christ has already come and did so when Jerusalem was surrounded by the armies in 70 A.D. Full-preterism teaches that everything in Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled, including the great tribulation and the antichrist.
Full-preterism initially makes use of three verses of Jesus to argue that Jesus returned in 70 AD. Then, they proceed into complex doctrines that twist Bible prophecy such that everything has already been fulfilled. We have already studied one of these three verses. "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32). The disciples likely interpreted this to mean Christ would return in their generation. But today we can see there are two generations that don't pass away until all is fulfilled. We saw this back in the section titled, "Great Tribulation for Two Generations."
The second of three verses that's used by full-preterists is, "You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes" (Matthew 10:23). But the context of this verse sounds very much like what Jesus said in Matthew 24:9-14 where the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached to all the nations.
Matthew 10:20-23 ESV For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (21) Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, (22) and you will be hated by all for my name's sake . But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (23) When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
There was hope that Jesus could return in the generation of the disciples. But it would have required those who sat on the seat of Moses to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. But those who sat on the seat of Moses during that generation were scattered to all the nations along with the rest of the Jews. Therefore, the fulfillment of this verse also moves to the end-time generation. The end-time fulfillment is not just the towns of Israel. The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the nations of the world.
The third of the three verses that used by full-preterists is, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). Can this verse also be fulfilled during the end-time generation? Well, no. Everyone standing there would later taste death. But remember that Jesus really hoped to return in that generation. But those who sat on the seat of Moses didn't recognize Jesus as the Messiah during that generation. So, they tasted death before Christ returned.
Full-preterists argue that if Christ didn't return in that generation, it would make Christ be a false prophet. However, there is a fulfillment just a few days later, that connects directly to the coming of Elijah. And it's Elijah who will come to restore all things. In this context, the restoration of all things is the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom, which makes the true Church ready for Christ to return. This coming Great Awakening will also lead the Jews in Israel into recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Those who sit on the seat of Moses will accept this gospel and recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
As you can see, this verse that's used by full-preterists is in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). In all three cases, the very next verse begins an account of the Mount of Transfiguration. (We must remember that chapter and verse numbers were not in the original Greek texts.) Peter, James, and John his brother had been standing with Jesus when he said some would not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. Six days later they saw Jesus transformed, with has face shining like the sun. This is Jesus coming in his kingdom.
Matthew 16:28-17:3 ESV Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (17:1) And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. (17:2) And he was transfigured before them , and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. (17:3) And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah , talking with him.
While coming down the mountain, the disciples ask about the coming of Elijah.
Matthew 17:9-13 ESV And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead." (10) And the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" (11) He answered, "Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. (12) But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands." (13) Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was not the original Elijah. But he came in the spirit of Elijah.
Luke 1:16-17 ESV And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, (17) and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
John the Baptist did have some impact on the Jews. But those who sit on the seat of Moses did not recognize John as Elijah any more than they recognized the Jesus as the Messiah. From Luke's account we know the transfiguration happened after John the Baptist was dead (Luke 9:7-9, 27-36).
Jesus is saying that what they did to John they would do to him. If the Jews had recognized their Messiah, John the Baptist would have fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah, which was given in Malachi 4. But since they recognized neither John the Baptist nor Jesus, the prophecy of Elijah will be fulfilled in the latter part of the end-time generation.
Mark echoes Matthew's account. Jesus said, "Elijah does come first to restore all things" (Mark 9:12). Elijah will prepare Christ's people for his return. And Christ's people, under the leadership of Elijah, will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations.
Will the coming Elijah be the original Elijah? Or will he be like John the Baptist who came in the spirit of Elijah? In other words, John was not the original Elijah. But he had the mission of Elijah. John the Baptist was beheaded for preaching against king Herod. I believe the Elijah that will come, to restore all things, will be someone like John the Baptist. He will preach holiness. Like John the Baptist, he will preach against left-wing (antichrist / against-Christ) governments.
The Democratic party platform has support for child sacrifice, which is called abortion, five places in that platform. I believe the coming Gospel of the Kingdom will preach against the left, both the Christian theological left and the political left. These are issues that most mainstream churches today will not touch. The Kingdom of Christ that is to come will not embrace the values of the left. And the world needs to know that the left is inherently evil because they are against Christ, which is antichrist. The left embraces globalism, which leads to a one-world government. Globalism ultimately leads to the one-world government of the antichrist.
Overcome Sin, for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is Coming Soon.
Matthew 24:15 When, therefore, you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).
Who is the reader and what is he to understand? Some commentators say that Matthew added in hopes the reader of Matthew would understand. But the words are also in Mark's account (Mark 13:14). Most likely, Jesus said these words. Jesus would have meant that the words of Daniel would be understood when the signs, including the abomination of desolation, are seen.
In Luke 21:5, the people were marveling at the temple stones. Jesus said the stones would all be thrown down (Luke 21:5, Matthew 24:2). So, they asked him for the signs of when it would happen. The major sign given was that the armies would surround Jerusalem. Later, up on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately and asked for "signs of your coming, and of the end of the age" (Matthew 24:3). The major sign given was the abomination of desolation. This sign only occurs at the return of Christ. It didn't happen in 70 A.D.
Daniel has three references to the abomination of desolation: Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. Daniel 11:31 is part of fulfilled prophecy. The abomination of desolation in this verse refers to 168 B.C. when Antiochus IV Epiphanes conquered Israel, sacrificed a pig on the altar, and set up a statue of Zeus on the temple mount. Hanukkah celebrates the retaking of Israel six years later. Hanukkah is mentioned in John 10:22 as the "festival of lights." The disciples would have understood this reference to the "abomination of desolation" because they celebrated Hanukkah. Jesus is saying it will happen again. He specifically says it will be "standing in the holy place," which is on the temple mount.
The other two references to the abomination of desolation in Daniel is in 12:11 and 9:27. Both have mysteries that directly relate to the question which was asked by the disciples. In Daniel 12:1-2, we have the great tribulation followed by the resurrection. In verse 3 we have the wise "shining as the brightness of the expanse" and teaching righteousness. In verse 4, Daniel is told to seal these words until the time of the end. In verse 6, an angel asked a question. "How long will it be to the end of these wonders?" An answer was given but Daniel didn't understand. He was again told to seal the words until the time of the end (verse 9). But a sign was given: the abomination of desolation. Thus, understanding when it will happen remains a mystery until the end-times. That's one reason why Jesus said, "Let the reader understand." Another is understanding the seventy weeks of Daniel 9.
Back in the section titled, "Israel Must Stop Sinning Before Christ Returns," we looked at the seventy weeks of Daniel 9. If the reader of Daniel properly understands this vision, we get a timeline of events. "Let the reader understand."
Daniel had been praying for the forgiveness of Israel's sins and for the desolation of Jerusalem to come to an end. Seventy weeks of years (490 years) were decreed for God's people to completely stop sinning before the Messiah comes. We are grafted into Israel. Likewise, we must also completely stop sinning to be ready for Christ to return. The coming of the Messiah is equated to the "Day of the LORD." Let's take a closer look at this prophecy in Daniel 9.
Daniel 9:24-27 ESV Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. (25) Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one , a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. (26) And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. (27) And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.
I interpret this prophecy a bit differently than most futurists. Instead of splitting the week of the covenant off into the future, I split the seven weeks off into the future. The Messiah is circumcised (cut-off) after the sixty-two weeks. Then Christ returns after the seven weeks. I think that split more naturally follows the text. I also believe that the "prince" always refers to the antichrist. There is a parallelism in the text between the Messiah and the prince. Both come at about the same time, after the seven weeks. But at first, the Messiah comes in his Bride, as Elijah and the true Church preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations. The two pronouns "he" in verse 27 follow this parallelism. Christ makes a covenant with many. The prince puts an end to the sacrifice and offering.
The antichrist is not revealed with a treaty. (That teaching comes solely by interpreting the covenant of Daniel 9:27 as being with the antichrist, and not Christ.) The antichrist is revealed in his response to the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to the nations. He blasphemes the Messiah and those who live in heaven (Daniel 11:36, Rev. 13:5-6). In 2 Thess. 2:1-4, Paul seems to be saying that the man of lawlessness will be revealed before the Day of the Lord.
The week of the covenant is not part of the seventy. It's after the text describes the end in verse 26b. However, 62+7 is 69. This leaves one week prior to the end of the seventy before the Day of the Lord. But only a few find this narrow gate of holiness. Christ's Bride will have listened to the Gospel of the Kingdom, but most will not overcome all their sinful habits. Therefore, when the Day of the Lord comes, Christ makes a covenant for one more week with the many. The end is basically extended for seven more years in addition to the seventy. During that week is the great tribulation, which is a one-word government run by the antichrist. It's great tribulation for those who have listened to the Gospel of the Kingdom but have not yet overcome all their sinful habits. But great persecution brings holiness for those who endure to the end.
There is another reason the week of the covenant is not part of the seventy. It doesn't fit Daniel's prayer. He brings up Jeremiah's prophecy that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years (Daniel 9:2). He confesses that Jerusalem is desolate because of Israel's sins. He prays for the forgiveness of Israel's sins, and for the desolation of Jerusalem to come to an end. This vision was given in answer to Daniel's prayer. Seventy weeks of years are given for Israel to stop sinning during which the Jews could return to Jerusalem and the dispersion would end. During the seventy weeks, Jerusalem is not trampled on by the Gentiles. But during the week of the covenant, Jerusalem is again trampled on by the Gentiles (Rev 11:1-2). So, it's after the seventy weeks.
The Messiah comes after the seven weeks. Then there is this mystery of the 70th week, that's not mentioned in the text, which is before the Day of the Lord. After that, we have the week of the covenant which includes the great tribulation. This sounds very much like Josephus' interpretation of Pharaoh's dream. There were seven years of plentiful harvest followed by seven years of famine. It's a week of harvest in the Great Awakening followed by a week where no one can work.
John 9:4-5 I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. The night is coming when no one can work. (5) While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Here is a summary of the timeline as outlined by this prophecy of seventy weeks. The signs in the heavens occur twice, each of which corresponds to an attack on Jerusalem.
1) Sixty-two weeks from the decree of Cyrus to the circumcision of the Messiah.
2) Jerusalem is trampled on by the Gentiles (Rome) beginning after the death of Herod the Great. The Messiah grows up and preaches. He is crucified and is raised from death on the third day. The Messiah's Church (assembly) begins to grow.
3) Jerusalem is surrounded by armies. The prince (antichrist) destroys the city and the sanctuary in 70 A.D. Jerusalem becomes desolate. The Jews are taken as prisoners to all the nations (Luke 21:24). Jerusalem continues to be trampled upon.
4) Seven weeks are split from the seventy. Israel becomes a nation again in 1948. This baby-boom generation will not pass away before the Kingdom comes.
5) There are "wars and rumors of wars" for Israel. Israel was at war on its first day of May 15, 1948. The trampling of Jerusalem (Luke 21:24) comes to an end, beginning with the Six Day War of 1967. Israel finally gets some peace after the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
6) After the seven weeks, there are signs in the heavens (Joel 2:31) of Christ's return (presence). This is before the Day of the Lord begins. The signs are also given in Luke 21:25 and Ezekiel 38:17-23. This is in response to the Islamic nations listed in Ezekiel 38 attacking Jerusalem and trying to destroy Israel.
7) Elijah and the true Church begin to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations (Matthew 24:14). During this final week of the seventy, there is a Great Awakening. Elijah restores all things (Matthew 17:11, Mark 9:12) because God's people seek holiness by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
8) Then the end comes (Matthew 24:14, Daniel 9:26). This is the end of the seventy weeks and the start of the Day of the Lord. Some are redeemed from the earth. But the "many" of Christ's Bride are still not ready. Christ makes a "covenant with many" for one more week (Daniel 9:27). They have another seven years to make themselves ready (Revelation 19:11).
9) In the middle of that seven years, the antichrist stops the sacrifice and offering. The abomination of desolation is set up on the temple mount (Matthew 24:15). Jerusalem is trampled upon again for 42 months (Revelation 11:2).
10) The resurrection is on the third millennial day (Luke 13:32-33). The "first resurrection" occurs after the great tribulation (Revelation 20:1-5). The rapture occurs after this because the "dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
11) A countless number (Revelation 7:9) comes out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14) and stand before the throne (Revelation 7:15-17).
12) The signs in the heavens occur a second time. (Joel 2:10-11, Isaiah 13:9-11). The nations of the world, as a one-world government, attack Jerusalem again to try and stop Jesus Christ from taking over the earthly reign of the world (Ezekiel 39).
Why are seventy weeks decreed for Jerusalem to be non-desolate? Why was it seventy? Scripture tells us. In Leviticus 26, God warns of the punishment He would bring if Israel, as a nation, didn't keep His commandments, especially with regard to the Sabbath (see Leviticus 26:2). In chapter 25, Israel was told to grow crops for six years. Every seventh year, the land was to be given a Sabbath's rest. It's doubtful that Israel obeyed this commandment. God said He would give the land it's rest by driving the people of Israel out of the land.
Leviticus 26:32-35 I will bring the land into desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it will be astonished at it. (33) I will scatter you among the nations, and I will draw out the sword after you. Your land will be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. (34) Then the land will enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land. Even then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. (35) As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, even the rest which it didn’t have in your Sabbaths when you lived on it.
Thus, for every week of years that Israel disobeyed God and planted crops during a Sabbath year, the people of Israel would be driven from Jerusalem to live in captivity. The land would be given it's years of Sabbaths to make up for each week of years during which Israel was disobedient. The land was allowed to rest one year for each week of years during which Israel was disobedient. In 2 Chronicles, we read about the number of Sabbaths the land was given.
2 Chronicles 36:19-21 They burned God’s house, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all of its valuable vessels. (20) He carried those who had escaped from the sword away to Babylon, and they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia, (21) to fulfill Yahweh’s word by Jeremiah’s mouth, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. As long as it lay desolate , it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
The land was given seventy years of Sabbaths. This means Israel had planted crops in the land during the Sabbath years of seventy weeks of years, which is 490 years. Here is the prophecy of Jeremiah saying that Israel would be captive in Babylon for 70 years:
Jeremiah 25:11-12 This whole land will be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. (12) “It will happen, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation ,” says Yahweh, “for their iniquity. I will make the land of the Chaldeans desolate forever.
When the seventy years were complete, Babylon and their king were punished. We can read in Daniel 5 about how Belshazzar saw the writing on the wall and was killed that very night as the Medes and the Persians conquered Babylon. But the land of Babylon did not become desolate that very night. It took many years. In Daniel 2, we learn that when the fourth kingdom is destroyed, then the prior three kingdoms will be destroyed forever (Daniel 2:35,45). It's a divided kingdom of iron and clay, which will be a revived Islamic caliphate.
The fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy of seventy years is recorded in Ezra 1.
Ezra 1:1-3 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that Yahweh’s word by Jeremiah’s mouth might be accomplished, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, (2) “Cyrus king of Persia says, ‘Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (3) Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Yahweh, the God of Israel (he is God), which is in Jerusalem.
Notice all the Scripture about the seventy years of captivity. The seventy years came to an end right after Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon. In the very first year of Cyrus, he proclaimed a decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The seventy weeks of Daniel 9 is given in response to Daniel's prayer. Then, the desolation of the temple (sanctuary) in Jerusalem came to an end. The decree of Cyrus was an obvious answer to Daniel's prayer (Daniel 9:17-18).
God's response to Daniel's prayer states that from the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem there would be another seventy weeks. Daniel makes reference to Jeremiah's prophecy of seventy years in his prayer (Daniel 9:2). From Daniel's perspective, the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem must be the decree of Cyrus. And yet most commentators on Daniel's seventy weeks deny that the seventy weeks start with the decree of Cyrus. They say the dates don't add up. And yet these dates are computed from sources outside of Scripture itself.
Seventy years of captivity were given in response to 490 years of disobedience to God's commandments. After the seventy years of captivity, God gave Israel another seventy weeks, which is another 490 years, during which Jerusalem would be rebuilt and would not be desolate. At the end of these seventy weeks of years, the prince (antichrist) will stop the sacrifice and offering. This means Jerusalem will again be trampled upon by the Gentiles.
Israel was scattered to Babylon seventy years because of 490 years of disobedience. The captivity lasted 70 years. Then Israel was given another 490 years to stop sinning. (Refer back to the section titled, "Israel Must Stop Sinning Before Christ Returns.") After the 490 years is the Day of the Lord. Christians, as believers, are grafted into Israel. That means we must also stop sinning before the Messiah comes.
We look to the cross of Christ to stop sinning. We have all sinned and deserve God's wrath. But Jesus paid the ransom, on the cross, by his blood, so that our sins can be forgiven. We must look to the cross and repent of our sins. This means we must have faith in Jesus to overcome all our sinful habits. We must have faith to stop sinning. And yet many, if not most, of our pastors say you can't completely stop sinning.
Sure, we don't have the ability to overcome all our own sinful habits. But as believers, we receive the Holy Spirit as a Helper. The blood of Jesus Christ gives us the Power to overcome all our sinful habits. We can't save ourselves. We can't stop sinning on our own. But God can save us by working in us to overcome all our sinful habits. As we do the Father's works, the Holy Spirit changes us on the inside to become like Jesus Christ, who did not sin. Thus, by Christ's blood we are saved. Without this faith in the cross, which leads to this holiness, nobody will be able to see the Lord. Without this holiness, nobody will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Shortly before the Day of the Lord is before the 490 years are completed. Before the day of the Lord, after the seven weeks of Daniel 9, Israel will be attacked by the surrounded Islamic nations that are listed in Ezekiel 38. There will be signs in the heavens as God shows up to stop this invasion. This is not figurative. The invading armies are literally defeated by the very presence of God, which will terrify the world. This will lead to a Great Awakening during which God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:31). These are the days in which Elijah will restore all things. (See the section titled, "Elijah Will Restore All Things.")
Those who hear God's voice will begin to see and understand God's presence in the stopping of Israel's destruction. They will not be terrified by the signs in the heavens. They will understand that these signs truly are the beginning of Christ's return. Those who hear God's voice will not be terrified about Christ's return and his earthly reign over the world. Those who hear Christ's voice are not just believers. Many unbelievers are not hardened to the point where they no longer hear Christ's voice. However, many believers are really wolves in sheep clothing and think they know God's will, but actually don't hear Christ's voice. Over the course of this coming world-wide Great Awakening, most will either become believers, or they will become hardened to the point of no longer hearing Christ's voice.
Today, those who hear God's voice are beginning to understand the difference between the political left and the political right. On the right, truckers form convoys in protest of government mandates. People lose their jobs because they don't want to take a vaccine. Mandates are even affecting our children. Protest by the truckers block traffic, but are peaceful.
On the left, people protest in response to perceived racism that is an extreme exaggeration from the left-oriented media, and left-oriented politicians. Protesters want to defund the police and left-oriented politicians push that agenda. The left oriented media claim the protests are peaceful while business buildings are burning in the background. If you disagree, you are "canceled" and called a racist.
The difference between the left and the right has become more and more clear. The time is right for a Great Awakening that will include a public condemnation of the left. This is in stark contrast with most pastors today, who fear talking about politics. In this evil end-times baby-boom generation, pastors avoid politics out of fear of losing members and their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
The Democratic party of the US has support for abortion in their party platform. People who hear God's voice know there is no difference between killing a baby inside the womb and killing a baby outside the womb. The birth event doesn't make the baby more human. Babies inside the womb should have the same legal protection as babies outside the womb. Abortion is evil. This means the left is evil. A murderer is still a murderer even if they do some good. If you vote Democratic, you are aiding an abetting the murder of children.
Daniel's seventy weeks is a parallelism between the Messiah (Christ) and the prince, who is the Antichrist. This makes it a parallelism between the kingdom of good and the kingdom of evil. It gives a timeline to the appearance of both Christ and the Antichrist. After the seven weeks, both appear. The signs in the heavens appear and the final Great Awakening begins, before the Day of the Lord. Then, Christ makes a covenant for one more week of years, during which the Antichrist will rule over the entire world for 42 months. But then Christ will defeat the Antichrist and will set up the Kingdom of God (Christ), here on the earth.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul tells us about the time before the Day of the Lord. First, there is a falling away and the Antichrist is revealed. The falling away was during this end-time baby-boom generation since Israel was formed as a nation. The Antichrist will be reveled when Christ shows up and stops the Islamic nations from destroying Israel. The Antichrist will blaspheme Christ in attempts to get the world to not fear Christ's presence. This will result in the world continuing in abortion and other acts of evil. Paul tells us that God will send a strong delusion, so that those who believe the lie will be condemned and will continue to take pleasure in evil. The strong delusion is the lies of the Antichrist, which occur in reaction to the very presence of Christ.
Calvinists argue that God chose, before the foundation of the world, who would be saved and who would not be saved. Arminianists, on the other, hand, believe that while God draws us to Himself, that we have the free will to choose wither or not to repent of our sins and come to into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Both sides have their arguments of Scripture. But what if Election is misunderstood because we miss the Old Testament context? Consider a verse of Peter which is often used for election.
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race , a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (10) In the past, you were not a people, but now are God's people, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Peter was addressing Christians. Does this mean that all Christians are chosen? Peter was quoting an Old Testament verse from Exodus 19.
Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; (6) and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
God did not choose all the individuals of Old Testament Israel before the foundation of the world. He chose a whole nation. God even puts a condition upon this election. The individual people of Old Testament Israel had to choose to obey his voice and keep his laws (covenant). Some individuals in Israel would not choose to obey God's voice. But God still intends to fulfill his purposes using the nation of Israel.
Today, when we hear Christ's voice, we can choose to obey Christ's voice and keep his commandments. If we decide to obey Christ's calling in this way, we are grafted into Israel. That means we are grafted into God's purpose for Israel. God chooses to call us as individuals to himself. But it's not an irresistible drawing, as Calvinists would say. We must individually decide whether we are going to hear and obey Christ's voice in that calling.
But what about the verses in Revelation that say we were chosen before the foundation of the world? I addressed this issued in my book titled, "New Wine for the End Times." I've copied section 7.5 here, as follows.
Two verses in Revelation, 13:8 and 17:8, are generally translated as, "all whose names have not been written in the book of life." The argument is that if their names have not been written in the Book of Life, then they never were written, and were not blotted out.
The Greek word used here for "have been written", parsed in the same way, occurs 67 times in the New Testament. In the majority of these verses, most translations render the word as "is written." These two in Revelation are the only two cases where "not" is included. Therefore, in these two verses the word can be translated as, "is not written." Since we are talking about more than one name, the grammar in the English would be, "are not written." The King James Version seems to be the only version that translates 13:8 in this way. The KJV renders it as "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb" (13:8). Then, unfortunately, the KJV renders 17:8 as "were not written." But in the Greek, it's the same word parsed in the say way, which is: indicative, perfect, passive, 3rd person, singular.
In his book, Basics of Biblical Greek, (2003) William D. Mounce writes (pg. 225, paragraph 25.2):
The Greek perfect is one of the more interesting tenses and is often used to express great theological truths. The Greek perfect describes an action that was brought to completion and whose effects are felt in the present. Because it describes a completed action, by implication the action described by the perfect verb normally occurred in the past.
He goes on to say:
Another example is the verb "to write." When the Bible says, "It is written," this is usually in the perfect tense. Scripture was written in the past but is applicable in the present. That is why some translations choose the present "It is written," instead of "It has been written." This emphasizes its abiding significance. The translation "It stands written" would state this nuance even clearer.
Thus, it's perfectly correct to translate both verses like the KJV of Revelation 13:8. "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (KJV Revelation 13:8).
Revelation 13:8 can be translated more literally as, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been continually written from the foundation of the world." Revelation 17:8 should be similarly translated. This says that anyone whose name gets blotted out fails to be able to say, "My name has been continually written since the foundation of the world."
We have the free will to accept or reject Christ's voice when he draws us to himself. Likewise, we have the free will to reject Christ even after experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. This is addressed in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-27.
Many Calvinist (election) preachers use Romans 9 as a primary text. We need to look at Romans 9 in its context. Romans 1 to 8 is all about grace. For a detailed, verse by verse, look at Romans 1 to 8, refer to my book titled, " Romans Under New Light".
The new covenant of grace was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-37. We have the new covenant, but what about the prophesied kingdom of God? What about the earthly reign of the Messiah? Since Israel rejected the Messiah, did God's word fail? This question is asked and answered by Paul in Romans 9 to 11. Finally, since we are living in God's grace, Romans 12 to 16 addresses the issue of how we should live. Given this overall context of Romans, is Romans 9 taken out of context when a Calvinistic election of individuals is preached?
God has given us a new covenant of grace. Given this fact, why did Israel reject the Messiah? Paul answers his own question by explaining election. There is a remnant of Jews who believe in Jesus. But in this context, it's an election of Israel as a nation. It's not about the election of individuals for salvation. In the Old Testament, election is about God's chosen people. Individuals must still obey God's voice to participate in this corporate election. It has never been about an election of individuals.
After explaining the corporate election of Israel, Paul tells us why God's word has not failed. God has not rejected Israel forever. God is bringing salvation to the Gentiles to make ethnic Israel envious. He uses the metaphor of the olive tree (Romans 11:11-24). Most of the natural ethnic branches were broken off Israel to make room for the wild branches from the Gentiles (nations). But have the Jews ever become envious of Christianity? Ethnic Israel has remained hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles has come into the Olive Tree of Israel (Romans 11:25).
Some Jews have become Messianic Jews. They have accepted Jesus as their Messiah but still consider themselves to be Jews. This was also true of the early Jewish believers. They considered themselves to be a sect of Judaism called the 'way'. Messianic Judaism has been growing during this end-time generation. But the Messianic Jews are still only a remnant. Israel is still hardened. For the most part, they still react very negatively towards the idea that Jesus could be their Messiah. They have not become envious of Christians. The end-time harvest of Gentiles, as the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, will bring about that envy. When Israel accepts Jesus as their Messiah, Elijah will have restored all things.
To accomplish God's purpose of electing a nation , he shows mercy to some individuals, and hardens the hearts of others . But as we will see, that doesn't mean they stay hardened forever . In the kingdom of God, the first will be last and the last will be first. The hardened will be last.
Romans 9:6-8, 11-18 But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel that are of Israel. (7) Neither, because they are Abraham's offspring , are they all children. But, your offspring will be accounted as from Isaac. (8) That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as heirs. . .. (11) For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election [of a nation] might stand, not of works, but of him who calls, (12) it was said to her, "The elder will serve the younger." (13) Even as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (14) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? May it never be! (15) For he said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (16) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. (17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth ." (18) So then, he has mercy on whom he desires , and he hardens whom he desires.
Romans 11:11-16, 23-26 I ask then, did they stumble that they might fall? May it never be! But by their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. (12) Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? (13) For I speak to you who are Gentiles. Since then as I am an apostle to Gentiles, I glorify my ministry; (14) if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh, and may save some of them. (15) For if the rejection of them is the reconciling of the world, what would their acceptance be, but life from the dead? (16) If the first fruit is holy, so is the lump. If the root is holy, so are the branches. . .. (23) They also, if they don't continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. (24) For if you were cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more will these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (25) For I don't desire you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you won't be wise in your own conceits, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, (26) and so all Israel will be saved.
Disobedience to the Creator results in death. But Christ died for us, which reversed God's decree of death for our disobedience. This was done for all of Adam's children. But we still have free will. Can we be given eternal life before we mature in Christ? We still have the tendency to sin. We have been slaves to sin. Many of our sinful habits remain with us. If God simply changed us so that we would no longer sin, then we would no longer have free will. But we can't change ourselves. God must change us on the inside.
Under the Law, Israel made sacrifices for sins. But that easily becomes a payment that does not involve true repentance and true unconditional love. Even with personal sacrifices, we cannot change ourselves. Our sinful habits remain. But God can change us if we seek those changes in faith and a true love for God. Without faith and love, such changes would remove free will. It must be through our own will, in true love, that we are changed. It must be through a journey (process) of maturing in Christ.
Our love for Christ must be given time to grow. A bride should not marry until the relationship has matured to the point where it is certain that disobedience will not return. Otherwise, the marriage could wind up in divorce and death.
Salvation from the grave has been given to everyone by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The original penalty of eternal death has been removed by the blood of Christ, which was a ransom for everyone. But we all still have free will. Some people will reject Christ's salvation because of their own pride and a desire to continue to sin. They will eternally lose their salvation.
Hosea 13:14 KJV I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
1 Timothy 2:3-6 KJV For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; (4) Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (6) Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Romans 5:18-19 So then as through one trespass , all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness , all men were justified to life. (19) For as through the one man's disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous.
All men have been "justified to life." But not all men will be made righteous. To be made righteous, we must overcome our sinful habits. Our Father does not abandon any of his children, especially now that all of them have been "justified to life." This means that everyone can be resurrected.
1 Timothy 4:10 KJV For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
1 John 2:2 KJV And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world .
Hebrews 2:9 KJV But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Titus 2:11 KJV For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.
Titus 2:11 ESV For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; (15) and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Everyone can be resurrected because everyone has been ransomed from the grave . But there is still the problem that all of Adam's children continue to sin. The Father has a plan for that too. He doesn't just sit back and Judge. He is our Father and has an active plan to help us stop sinning. But that requires faith in Christ. We must become believers to overcome our sinful habits. Faith is belief in our Father to help us stop sinning.
We become justified into God's kingdom (Israel) when we become believers. Eventually, everyone will be given the opportunity to become believers. Is God's plan only for the select few? Or would a loving Father have a plan that includes all his children? Jesus will eventually draw everyone to himself.
John 12:32 KJV And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
If this doesn't happen before we die, then it can happen after the resurrection, because everyone has been ransomed from the grave. Jesus is the second Adam for everyone ! Does this mean everyone will inherit eternal life? No, because some will lose their salvation and will be tormented in the lake of fire. But what would it take for that to happen? What does it take for a child to lose his relationship with his loving Father?
Can a five-year old tell his Father, "You are not my daddy?" The Father would gently correct him. Can a twelve-year old tell his Father, "I hate you! You are not my Father!" No, the Father would punish the rebellious teenager, but he would still be a son to the Father. Can a thirty-year old man tell his Father, "You are not my Father?" At this stage, probably yes. The Father would reluctantly let his son go. And since that relationship was redeemed by the death of Jesus, the adult son would not be able to return. It would require the crucifixion of Christ all over again (Hebrews 6:4-6).
God's continual work saves us. And it's through our continual faith. It's not our own works that no man can boast. This means God's work changes us on the inside, it's not our own work, so that no man can boast. And the faith by which we are saved is the continual faith that God can, and will, change us to be like Christ. Salvation, grace, and faith are not one-time decisions. Salvation (change) is a journey (process) unto completion.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22 KJV For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (22) For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Some people continue to be hardened, and continue in their disobedience to the Father, even to the point of death. But they will be resurrected at a time when Christ himself is reigning over the world. This will hopefully show them the truth about the loving Father, and their hearts will be unhardened. Many people, throughout all the generations, never had the opportunity to hear about Christ. They will get their chance.
Others will have heard but did not understand. Or perhaps they lived a life under the deceit of Satan because they were born into a culture where Christianity was not the dominant religion.
This includes all generations of all people living under other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. But when Christ returns, Satan will be locked up so he can no longer deceive the Father's children. The nations will be resurrected to live in Christ's kingdom. This is the second resurrection , which is in the same "hour" as the resurrection of the saints (John 5:28-29).
Most in the nations will respond and begin to mature in Christ. Those who do will inherit eternal life. Others will reject Christ's reign. They will die a second death and will be tormented in the lake of fire. But those who are resurrected in the first resurrection are no longer under Judgment. They will immediately have eternal life.
Revelation 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won't be harmed by the second death.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power , but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years.
Revelation 20:14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:8 But for the cowardly, unbelieving , sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
When Christ returns to reign, who will reign with him? Who will help Christ in reigning as priests and kings over the nations, so that the Father's children can mature and become like Christ? Doesn't it need to be some of the Father's children who have already matured in a discipleship relationship with Jesus Christ? Would not Christ's kingdom need rulers who will have already become perfect as the Father is perfect, so that they are like Christ? Doesn't it need to be people who have already overcome all their sinful habits?
Revelation 2:26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations .
The Father chooses (elects) some people to whom he reveals His Son. This holy nation is called Israel. By serving Christ in this age, they will be ready to reign with Christ in the age to come. But the nations will be resurrected with natural bodies that can die again.
The harvest is eternal life. Israel is the firstfruits of that harvest (Jeremiah 2:3, Romans 8:23, James 1:18). The rest of the harvest is from the nations over which Israel rules during Christ's millennial reign. God chooses the people of Israel by election. But all the nations, of all generations, will have the opportunity to put their faith in Christ and to mature in righteousness unto eternal life. Christ ransomed the world. Death is not an obstacle for God.