The “Focal Point” of End Times Prophecy - Israel
Are we close to the return of Christ? As clearly stated in Matthew 24:36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. Based on this information there is really no accurate way to know when end times prophecies will occur. Logically speaking though, the Church should be able to recognize the season and identify the signs that will lead up to the Return of Christ. There is a very intense debate in the Church today over the idea of an imminent rapture of the Church. In simplistic terms imminence means that something can occur at any moment. For example, if you were expecting someone to pick you up between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. the pick up would become imminent at exactly 4:00, meaning your ride could show up at any moment between the two given times. The imminent Rapture of the Church began after Jesus ascended into Heaven in the first century and many scholars feel that the disciples taught the idea of Christ returning at any moment for the Church. Basically that means the rapture could literally right now as you are reading this article.
The bible describes an intense period of tribulation that will occur before the end of the age when Christ returns to set up his earthly kingdom. Verses on the second coming of Christ can be found in Revelation 19:11 and Zechariah 14:4. This predicted return comes at the end of what is referred to in scripture as the Great Period of Distress found in Matthew 24:21 and Daniel 12:1-2. Generally there is little debate in the Church on the fact that a tribulation period clearly occurs on the prophetic timeline before the Return of Christ and the end of the age. This is confirmed by both the Old Testament and New Testament prophets. Based on this fact, we can easily surmise that the Second Return of Christ to stand on the Mount of Olives cannot be imminent simply because the tribulation period prophecies must be fulfilled prior to that. So what is imminent if the Second Return of Christ to stand on the Mount of Olives is not?
I believe in what is referred to as a Pre-Tribulation rapture, meaning that the Church will be removed before the tribulation period begins and taken to the Fathers house (John 14:1-3). Before any of you Berean's point this out, let me save you the time. The word Rapture is not found in the bible. The word rapture comes from the Greek word “Harpazo” found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 translated out of the words “caught up”, which means to snatch, seize, or to take. Latin translations of the words “caught up” introduced the word Rapturo that was then brought into the English translations as “Rapture”. See the translation below.
From a derivative of G138; to seize (in various applications): - catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
For those of you that are super interested in the rapture please stay tuned for more articles on this subject in the future.
The Ethnic Lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
Since no one knows the exact time the rapture will occur we can only watch the signs and wait patiently for Christ to come back for his Church as Paul outlines in the book of Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Now, here is where it gets very interesting in terms of what signs might be available as we approach the end of the age. One of the main focal points of end times prophecy in both Old and New Testament scripture is the tiny nation of Israel. Multiple prophets stated that the nation of Israel would be judged and dispersed to the nations, but that they would also be sustained and gathered to the Holy Land before the Messiah returned. According to prophetic scripture God will never forget his covenant with the nation of Israel as outlined in Jeremiah 31:35-37. This all began when God choose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the heirs to the covenant promise of the land and to be his chosen people. See Genesis 15:17
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river [a] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites
The only condition that is listed with the promise of the land was circumcision found in Genesis 17. This covenant was later confirmed through Isaac (Genesis 17) and Jacob (Genesis 28). It is interesting to also note that the promised amount of land is much larger than the tiny sliver of land they occupy today.
Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway [d] resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it [e] stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
If one studies the scripture associated with the land covenant we see that it was confirmed through Abraham and two specific children, Isaac and Jacob. Ishmael and Esau were also Abraham’s offspring, but did not receive the specific covenant promises from God. It is very important to understand the lineage and the implications that it holds. The Messiah Jesus Christ came through this Genetic Lineage as a Jewish Messiah from the offspring of Abraham and then through the seed of David by way of Isaac and Jacob. Even today the true people of Israel can be traced back through this same ethnic Lineage beginning with the covenants in Genesis with Abraham. The reference to the Lord as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob not only identifies the Lord as the God of Israel, but also references his eternal promises and confirms the fact that the nations of the world would be blessed through this first chosen people.
God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
"Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.
Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."
Some other very interesting things to pull from the scripture dealing with the covenant promises are the unconditional and eternal nature of the promises. God does not list condition after condition required for Abraham or his descendants to continue to receive the promise of the land. In fact, the only condition associated with the covenant promise of the land is circumcision. Unlike the Mosaic covenant that was conditional on obeying the laws of the 10 commandments the promises of the land are both eternal and for the most part unconditional. The only conclusion we can draw from the Abrahamic Covenant promises is that they are still in tact today, for how else can an unconditional and eternal promise from a Sovereign God be broken? The covenant promises have far reaching implications that go much deeper than we can imagine. In Romans Saint Paul outlines the importance of the first chosen and what the nation of Israel brought into the world.
4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised![a] Amen
Paul lists an amazing list of things in reference to Israel - Adoptions as Sons, Divine Glory, The Covenants, Receiving of the Law, Temple Worship and Promises, The Patriarchs and the human ancestry of Christ who is God over all, forever praised. Israel is deeply rooted as the chosen nation from the very beginning. In other words Israel did in fact bless the nations by being the chosen nation that brought the covenant promises and the Messiah to the world who in turn gave birth to the Church. The Church today owes a strong debt of gratitude to the people of Israel.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
The Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the Dispersion of Israel
For those of you not familiar with this whole thing you are probably going, “well what is the big deal here”. Well, hopefully God willing I am about to open your eyes to the fantastic world of prophecy and it is nothing less than miraculous. Let’s begin with the prophecy of destruction of the temple and the dispersion of the people of Israel. According to historical record in 70 AD the nation of Israel was invaded and the temple was burned to the ground. This prophecy was mentioned in both Daniel 9:26 and by Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2 and it happened exactly as prophecy indicated it would. Take a look.
1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. [h] The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed
After 62 sevens (7 year periods) or 434 years the prophecies of Daniel state the Messiah would be crucified. This occurred exactly to the day according to Daniel when Jesus was 33 years old. The verse continues by saying that the people of the ruler who will come would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. Historical records indicate this in fact did happen in an invasion led by the Roman General Titus and his armies burned the temple to the ground. The mighty pillars and stones that were used to build the temple and pointed out by the disciples in Matthew 24 were thrown down.
After 1800 years Israel is brought back to the Holy Land
Beginning in 1948 something very miraculous happened… Israel not only began another exodus back into the Holy Land, the world stage recognized Israel as a geopolitical nation again. From 70 A.D. to 1948 the people of Israel were dispersed to the four winds and the nation of Israel ceased to exist for 1878 years! Scripture outlines a pattern of Israel being given the land and then scattered more than once in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 11:17). The idea here is that God does not forget about his covenant with his first chosen, he simply takes them through periods of discipline and judgment. Even so, the prophets always spoke of a future time towards the end of the age when the people of Israel would be re-gathered to a land that had long been desolate. In Ezekiel 37 the prophet sees a vision of dead bones that suddenly come to life and are brought back to the Holy Land. Let’s take a look at the scripture.
11 Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD
Other prophecies concerning Israel’s re-gathering to the land can be found in Deuteronomy 30:3-5, Jeremiah 23:3-6 and Amos 9:14-15. After almost 2000 years of dispersion the wandering Jews were finally brought back to the land that was promised to them in the book of Genesis. Prophetically speaking that is nothing short of a miracle and what Scholars believe started the countdown to the end that would be come shortly thereafter.
Jerusalem – The Spiritual Navel of the Earth
Scriptures like Zech 12-14, Revelation 7 and Revelation 12 and Ezekiel 37 prove that Israel will be a main focal point during the tribulation period. Jerusalem the capital of Israel is referred to as both the physical and spiritual navel of the world and is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Temple Mount, which is the exact location of Solomon’s temple received an interesting addition between the first century and 1948. The Dome of the Rock a Muslim holy place was erected right smack dab on the temple mount! For those of you that are familiar with the tension between Jews and Muslims you immediately understand the implications of the Dome of the Rock being built on the Jewish Temple Mount. Jews see the temple mount as the absolute most Holy Place in Israel based on the faith outlined in the Torah (Old Testament). Muslims see the Dome of the Rock as the third most Holiest Muslim site in all of Islam, a place where Muhammad ascended into Heaven. Christians see Jerusalem as Holy because of Christ’s ministry and his death on the cross. In the same manner as the Jews, Christians also feel a connection to the temple and the promises made to the Jewish people in the Old Testament. Talk about volatility, it does not take much for the Middle East to explode with violence when it comes to Jerusalem and the temple area. Just like in Zechariah chapter 12, Jerusalem is in fact becoming a burdensome stone to all people and this little sliver of Real Estate causes an emotional reaction with almost every living human being on the planet.
In actuality the war over Jerusalem can be traced back to two beings. The one true God of Israel and the created Angel that desires to be worshiped like the most high. Since the prophecies include Christ coming back to Israel to take the promised throne of David there is both a spiritual and earthly battle raging for dominance of the Holy Land. How else do we explain all the attention and emotion this tiny country gets and the intense persecution that it undergoes? This showdown will prophetically explode with the coming rapture of the Church and the beginning of the tribulation period. Satan will introduce his counterfeit Messiah referred to as the Antichrist who will try to overthrow the promised eternal throne of Jesus Christ. The Antichrist will have his eyes fixed on Israel and the tiny town of Jerusalem first appearing as a powerful world leader doing something no one has ever accomplished to date, creating a short term peace with Israel. Within 3.5 years this leader will go from peacemaker to war monger attempting to force the world to worship him in a period referred to as the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-17) and eventually trying to destroy Jerusalem and eliminate Israel from existence. Christians and Jews will come under intense persecution during this time referred to by the bible as the greatest period of distress in human history. For if this time were not cut short then no person would survive. (Matthew 24:22)
In Zechariah 12-14 we see a clear picture of Israel in the Holy Land during this intense time of tribulation with the armies of the world gathered against her.
1 This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: 2 "I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves
During this intense battle the people of Israel will recognize the Messiah Jesus Christ and they will mourn for the one they pierced.
10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit [a] of grace and supplication. They will look on [b] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Today in 2006 this verse makes very good sense to us in the Church. We realize that the Jews were visited by Christ in the first century and many did in fact reject the true Messiah leading to his crucifixion. In Zech 12:10 during the coming tribulation period Israel will recognize the one they pierced who has the power to pour out grace and supplication on them. Think about the implications of Zechariah 12 through 14 for a moment. There has never been a time in recorded history when the armies of the world were gathered around Israel followed by a large conversion of Jewish people in the Holy Land, triggering the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. No one can argue past fulfillment of these verses, not to mention the harmony we find with other prophecies in both the Old and New Testament that confirm this order of events in detail. For example, Matthew 23:39 confirms this order of events with the people of Israel. That means that these verses can only have a future fulfillment during the predicted tribulation period that will come directly before the second return of Jesus Christ.
39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Christ said with his own lips to the Pharisees that they would not see him again until they recognized him as the Messiah and called out to him. There is something else to be said here about the return of the Messiah. When the Messiah returns the second time he is not going to be throwing rose petals down to the earth. He is going to be returning as a warrior to fight for Israel and to take the throne of David. There is a tendency in the Church today to try to tame the Lion of Judah and create this frail picture of Christ as someone who constantly turns the other cheek. Let’s take a look at Christ’s return from both a New Testament and Old Testament prophecy and harmonize the verses together.
3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake [a] in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is
called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many
crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the
Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him,
riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike
down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the
wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he
has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Notice in Revelation 19:14 the armies of Heaven were following him riding on white horse with fine linen. If you go back a few verses in Revelation 19 it will show a picture of the wedding supper of the lamb that takes place before Christ rides out. The Church is in Heaven with Christ during the tribulation period and the Church rides out with him. The Church is not the focal point of the tribulation period – Israel is. The focus of the Lord returning with battle will be to destroy the Antichrist and to save his first chosen people and restore the nation of Israel. Let’s look at one last prophecy in Ezekiel 21 when Ezekiel is predicting judgment on the wicked king that was allowing wicked things to take place in the temple. The harmonization of this same event in Zech 14 and Revelation 19 forces us to look at the event from two perspectives.
What does all this mean for the Church? The Rapture of the Church could literally happen while I am typing this or while you are reading it. Paul speaks of this time coming upon the world with unbelievable speed catching people off guard. There is absolutely no reason for anyone in the Church to be caught off guard when this time comes. What can we do as members of the Church armed with this knowledge? The 1st thing we can do is educate ourselves on the prophecies of the bible and wake up to the time we are in. Jesus tells us not to sleep but to be awake. In the Parable of the 10 virgins Jesus speaks of those that are ready for the return of the bridegroom after a long absence. Those people that were not ready were left behind. Time is growing short and the return of the bridegroom is quickly approaching. It is our responsibility not only to be ready and waiting, but to also tell everyone that the time is short. He has been a long time coming, but prophecy tells us that we can be certain of his imminent return and not to grow weary. We might not know the day, but we can see the signs around us and the events concerning Israel as a reinstated nation with ethnic Jews in the Holy Land is a very big sign that end time events could be about ready to happen.
Please stay tuned for more articles on prophecy in the future.
© T. Lynch, July 24th 2006.