DEUTERONOMY 29

Filed Under Deuteronomy

In Deut. 29:22-30:6 (written c. 1405  B.C.), God revealed to Moses some astonishing information.  Keeping in mind that a biblical generation after Moses’ death was about 70 years (Ps. 90:10), the following interpretation may have important applications for our generation.

“The unique generation” in verse 22 came to an end in 1948, having its beginning in 1878—the year Benjamin Disraeli endorsed the Berlin Treaty that became foundational for Jewish homeland arguments.  “The foreigner from a distant land” was likely the British who had administrative responsibility over the land via the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate of July 1922.

In verses 23 and 27, the plagues and diseases of the land described like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, resulted from every curse upon the land triggered by the anger of the Lord.  Nowhere in the post-Moses historical or prophetic writings is such a description ever applied to the land because “The secret things belong to the Lord. . .” (verse 29).

The question from “all the nations” in verse 24 likely came from the League of Nations as alluded to in certain land-reclamation articles of the Palestine Mandate.

Those answering this question were likely Christian Zionists who understood literally God’s biblical promises to His people.  From 1878 to 1948, those Zionists worked unstintingly to provide the Jews a homeland in Palestine.

“The Lord uprooted the Jews from their land . . .” in 70 A.D. by Titus who “. . . cast them into another land . . .” (verse 28).  That other land was Italy.  The condition lasted, “. . . as it is this day,” that is, until the day the British left the land in May 14, 1948.

“. . . when all of these things have come upon you . . .” e.g., the curse of the Lord upon the land (verse 30:1) and “. . .  you call them to mind . . .” (30:2) in the Dispersion (implying, of course the spiritual revival among Diasporal Jews that will be initiated by those obeying the Great Commission), “. . . then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity . . . and gather you again (emphasis mine) from all the peoples . . .” (verse 30:3-6).  This is the second recovery alluded to in Isa. 11:11.

The curse of the land likely ended with the first recovery from many nations as reported in Ezek. 38:8, 12 which began after the generation starting in 1948 and ending in 2018—in our generation.

 

Introduction

  1. The Levitical Priesthood was terminated by Jesus, March 31, AD 33 (Mark 11:11-18).
  2. Institution by God of a new priesthood was not introduced or alluded to by prophecies for any or all of the generations from Moses to Malachi.
  3. Seldom, if ever, is the Ecclesiastical Priesthood referred to by preachers and/or teachers in present-day evangelical churches.
  4. The Ecclesiastical Priesthood is presently distorted by several ersatz priesthoods (e.g., Anglican, Mormon, and Roman Catholic).
  5. The Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, established in 1978 in Jerusalem’s Old City, is evidence of the pending restoration of Levitical Priesthood (cf. Matt. 24:15).

Biblical Characteristics

  1. The reality of a new priesthood’s existence was revealed by Peter (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) and John (Rev. 1:6; 20:6).  Peter’s AD 67 letter to Jewish believers in the Diaspora—Peter, the Apostle to the circumcision—was to integrate the generations of Jewish history and the Levitical Priesthood (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9 quoting from the Hebrew scriptures) with God’s new Ecclesiastical Priesthood of the church.  Gentile believers have no such need for an explanation or integration of a second priesthood so Paul (the Apostle to the uncircumcision) simply doesn’t address the issue directly in his letters.  However, there are allusions in his letters to the gentiles being part of a priesthood.
  2. The Ecclesiastical Priesthood is a “royal” priesthood because its members are sons of God (1 Pet. 1:9; Rom. 8:14-17)
  3. Members are called and chosen by God, are priests to God, and proclaim God’s excellencies (i.e., “worship” God), 1 Pet. 2:9.
  4. Temporarily replaces the Levitical Priesthood.
  5. Will reign over nations (with Christ) for a thousand years.
  6. Comprised of both male and female believers.
  7. An individual becomes an ecclesiastical priest at the moment he/she is called and chosen by God.
  8.  Provides service to others (e.g., some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers (cf. Eph. 4:11-12).
  9. Priesthood ushered in by God historically on Pentecost, May 24, AD 33.
  10. The priesthood lives under the New Covenant.
  11. The Ecclesiastical Priesthood is terminated or concluded (at the Rapture) when believers meet Jesus in the air.
  12. The Levitical Priesthood will be restored at the termination of the Ecclesiastical Priesthood.
  13. Ecclesiastical Priesthood is worldwide.
  14. Requires confession of one’s sins to God to maintain fellowship with the Father and Son.
  15. No special dress or attire specified.
  16. No particular language required.
  17. Activities not confined to a particular structure in a specific location.
  18. Comprised of men and women who can own land and work for their own living.
  19. Not supported financially by donations from others.
  20. Not chosen by the election of others.
  21. Intercedes for other believers (Col.4:12; 1 Tim. 2:1).
  22. Fulfills the law to love one another.
  23. No denominational affiliation.
  24. No hierarchy with the exception of Christ as High Priest (please note: the word “bishop” does not appear in the scriptures).
  25. A priest’s mortal body is a living sacrifice; one’s body becomes God’s property (Rom. 12:1).
  26. Behavior manifesting Christ’s presence within the believer-priest’s mortal body is metaphorically speaking a “sweet” aroma to God, 2 Cor. 2:14, versus a “soothing” aroma to placate God’s wrath under the Old Covenant, Exod. 29:18.
  27. No specific ethnicity or race required.
  28. Marriage among priests is quite appropriate.
  29. Members will receive glorified bodies.

Conclusion

An aspect of living under the New Covenant is being part of the Ecclesiastical Priesthood that includes sacrifice, service, and worship of God.  Sacrifice, service, and worship are not commandments that must be obeyed.  Rather, they are manifestations of Christ’s life in the believer through the believer’s life of faith.

Being a part of the Ecclesiastical Priesthood in NOT something which requires one to perform a retinue of activities at certain events (e.g., officiating the Lord’s Supper).

Two priesthoods cannot be functioning upon the earth simultaneously.  Therefore, when the prophet Daniel’s 70th week begins (featuring 12,000 sealed Levites who will live throughout Daniel’s 70th week, Rev. 7:7), the church with its Ecclesiastical Priesthood has to have been removed from the earth.

Finally, the seemingly total absence of reference to the Ecclesiastical Priesthood presently in local churches may signal the eschatological need and reality of returning to the Levitical Priesthood.

THE TWO GATES

Filed Under Gates

The Gates

Unless otherwise noted, Bible quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995.

Matthew 7:13-14

13Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to ruin (NASB, “destruction,” but humans are not destroyed; cf. 2 Cor. 2:5 for a comparable situation where the NASB features “perishing,”  and which should be replaced by ruining themselves), and there are many (not all) who enter through it, 14for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to (spiritual) life, and there are few who find it.”

A Picture

Imagine a conventional shoebox with its cover removed.  At the center of one end, a wide “gate” has been cut out with a sharp knife by making a vertical slice from the top to the bottom of the box.  At the box’s bottom, a single horizontal cut of four inches is made at the end of the vertical slice thereby producing a wide gate by folding back the slice.

Next, imagine a significantly smaller box with cover removed and placed inside the shoebox at the end opposite the wide gate.  Also, the smaller box has a gate facing the wide gate—but a gate of much narrower size than the wide gate in the shoebox.

The foregoing is a graphic picture of Matt. 7:13-14.

Both gates are symbols for Jesus.  Jesus is also the source of spiritual life (John 14:6).

The wide gate is for all called by God.  The narrow gate is for those both called and chosen (cf. Matt. 22:14 for Jesus’ revelation that many are called but few are chosen).  Those not entering the wide gate are destined for hell.

The Apostle Paul taught that any believer “living according to the flesh must die” (Rom. 8:13, where “death” connotes a relational separation from God and Jesus).

“Living according to the flesh” establishes that sin is controlling the believer causing the believer to commit an act of sin.  That act causes separation of the believer from fellowship with the Father and Son—sometimes labeled a relational “death” (cf. 1 John 1:6-8).  Confession of the specific sin will restore fellowship (1 John 1:9).

Conclusion

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ description of the wide and narrow gates corresponds theologically to the doctrine of the called, and the called plus chosen (2 Pet. 1:10-11 records both the calling and choosing of believers, resulting in the abundance of kingdom rewards determined directly from following Jesus’ narrow way (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15 for rewards).

It is likely that those simply called do not recognize that some are also chosen.

For those called, see Rom. 8:28-30.  For those called and chosen, see Rom. 9:10-11.

 

 

 

 

 

A DOORKEEPER

Filed Under Doorkeeper, Uncategorized

Introduction

    Of the three Synoptic Gospels, only Mark reported Jesus’ one-sentence simile about the doorkeeper (Mark 13:34).  Jesus’ simile provided two unique pieces of information: one, that the church will have gentile members; and two, that certain of those gentile members will have evidence about the Rapture’s timing to which Jews in the church should be alert.

While the word “rapture” itself does not appear in the Bible, an historical translation of 1 Thess. 4:17 has made the word Rapture a popular way of describing the church being caught up to meet Jesus in the air.  The event has been labeled or referred to in interchangeable ways: as being caught up and meeting the Lord in the air, as the Lord’s return, and as Jesus fetching His bride.

For the reader’s information, the Rapture of the church and Jesus’ Second Coming are two distinct events separated by seven years.

Immediately following His simile, Jesus’ comments (also reported by Mark) are significant regarding the Rapture.

This essay will provide biblical and historical info that explain about the doorkeeper and the signs/indicators which give evidence about the Rapture’s timing and pending approach.

A Doorkeeper

As a starting point, the study will trace the occasion and history resulting in a doorkeeper for Jews.  The sequence of events is fascinating.

The 4th Commandment (Exod. 20:8-11) unmistakably emphasized that the Sabbath must be observed without any Jew doing one smidgen or scintilla of work throughout the entire day.

For observant Jews in their respective households, this commandment presented a significant problem.  Some household activities—like opening a door—were definitely categorized as work.  To cope with this problem, Jews established the role of gentile doorkeepers to open household doors on the Sabbath so the Jews could avoid any work.

In Yiddish, Jews employed a Shabbos Goy who could open their doors.  The word Shabbos referred to the Sabbath, while the word Goy indicated a gentile.

Dr. Raymond Apple, noted author and retired renowned rabbi, wrote: “The Shabbos Goy phenomenon began in the Babylonian period, allowing the Halacha to accommodate social realities without transgressing Jewish law. However, it depended on a reasonable relationship between Jews and gentiles, and as the relationship varied so did the availability of the Shabbos Goy” (Apple, Raymond. “Looking for a Shabbos Goy.” Jerusalem Post 24 Feb. 2016).

Or, see http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Looking-for-a-Shabbos-Goy-446010.

Therefore, a Shabbos Goy was quite familiar to those of Jesus’ generation.

In Jesus’ generation, one is introduced to a special Shabbos Goy (Acts 12:1-17).  Her name was Rhoda, a Greek name derived from the Greek word for “rose” indicating that she was—in all likelihood—a gentile.  Rhoda was a servant retained by Mary (John Mark’s mother) to perform various household tasks which would of course include opening the door.

Turning one’s attention to Jesus’ preeminent apostle, Peter had been recently incarcerated by King Herod, but then freed supernaturally by an angel.  Upon release, Peter eventually headed for Mary’s residence and knocked at the gate.

The Shabbos Goy Rhoda recognized Peter’s voice.  She became so excited that instead of opening the door, she ran into the household and announced to all the believers who were in prayer for Peter that Peter was, in fact, just outside.  The response from those gathered in Mary’s house was one of acute skepticism and the bizarre suggestion that it was Peter’s angel outside.

In fact, the entire episode of Peter’s release from prison and eventual presence in Mary’s residence is an informative illustration of what can happen if a doorkeeper’s alert response is disdained by those present in the household.

The point in all this is that Mark had been raised in a Jewish household which featured a gentile doorkeeper.  Mark’s familiarity with a doorkeeper in the household and his close personal association with Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 5:13) may be the reasons why only Mark among the Synoptics picked-up and recorded in his gospel the instructions to the doorkeeper contained in his Lord’s one-sentence simile originally heard by Peter.

Jesus’ Direct Instructions to a Doorkeeper

In His simile, Jesus’ direct instructions to a gentile doorkeeper were clear and simple: “. . . stay on the alert.”  So, quite without any hubris, a gentile believer in a local church could properly play the role of a doorkeeper by being alert for Jesus’ return.

Furthermore, Jesus also used the word “alert” twice to His four Jewish disciples thereby emphasizing the importance of alertness.  And in closing, Jesus included that all His Jewish disciples should also be on the alert for His return.

Thus, all church members—both Jews and gentiles—would require some information about signs and observable events which would signal Jesus’ return.

Jesus’ Return in a Narrow Time Frame

Jesus’ comments immediately following His simile are significant.  Mark reported that Jesus revealed His return for the church would be on one of two contiguous days.  And He commanded both Jews and gentiles to be on the alert.

In other words, His return will be within a narrow time frame (cf. Mark 13:35).

The Narrow Time Frame for Jesus’ Return

Mark 13:33-37

(New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995)

      33“Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35“Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37“What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”

In the above simile, a man away on a journey—also referred to as the master (literally, the lord) of the house—is Jesus.  The journey is Jesus’ ascension from earth to heaven (Acts 1:9-11).  The house probably represents a local church. The slaves are local-church members, i.e., Jesus’ bond-servants.  The doorkeeper is a gentile servant, a Shabbos Goy, commanded to stay on the alert for Jesus’ coming.  The tasks given the church members would likely include being apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers (cf. Eph. 4:11-12).

Being on the alert (“alert” being mentioned several times by Jesus) means that all His Jewish disciples, and a gentile as well (the doorkeeper), will be privy to the appropriate signs and indications of His return from His journey.  By application, the “all” who are also commanded to be alert are the members of the church congregation which will include gentiles.  The individual alertness of Jews is reliant upon listening with a positive attitude and responding thoughtfully and realistically to a gentile’s information which he presents.

Interestingly, the response by the believing guests in Mary’s house to Rhoda’s announcement that Peter was standing at the front gate is absolutely antithetical to the intention of Jesus’ alertness instruction to members of a local church.

Please note: without any appropriate signs or recognizable indications, Jesus’ command to the doorkeeper (a gentile) to be alert would simply cause the doorkeeper only consternation and frustration.  To be effectively on the alert, a doorkeeper must have sufficient and recognizable info regarding his Lord’s return.

Also, if being alert means 24/7 throughout the year, the doorkeeper would soon become bored and indifferent—emotional states that would be anathema to alertness.  However, awaiting his Lord’s return in the narrow time perspective of one or two consecutive days in a year would not produce boredom and indifference, but rather anticipation with excitement.

To avoid the disheartening emotional states, observe that the Lord’s return will actually take place on one of two contiguous days, indicated by the evening of the first and the morning of the second (Mark 13:35; cf. Luke 12:38 for two contiguous days shown by the watches, the first from 9 p.m. to midnight, and the second, from midnight to 3 a.m.).

A critically important fact to recognize is that only the Jewish Feast of Trumpets takes place on just two contiguous days, something Jewish church members would readily know while gentiles might not.  This reality is tremendously important in identifying the timing of Jesus’ return because Paul had mentioned that the Lord’s return will involve the trumpet of God (1 Thess. 4:16) which will be blown as the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52).

Selecting and appointing a gentile doorkeeper was a clever way to keep the church’s gentile population informed of the yearly dates for the Jewish feast days.  Being informed was necessary because the doorkeeper had to be on duty if any feast days happened to land on a Sabbath.

The Fig Tree Parable

Something of particular interest and extremely noteworthy is that Jesus immediately preceded His instructions to the doorkeeper with His parable about the Fig Tree.  The Fig Tree Parable sets the stage of events preceding Jesus’ return, providing helpful information about His return from a broad or long-term time frame (cf. Mark 13:29-30 for a generation being the long-term time frame).

The Broad Time Frame for Jesus’ Return

Mark 13:28-32

(New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995)

28“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29“Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door (literally plural, i.e., “doors”). 30“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

The complete interpretation of the Fig Tree Parable can be found elsewhere on a blog site with the title “Two Important Fig Tree Parables” (cf. www.mcclymont.org).  Suffice it to say that the fig tree represents the Levitical priesthood of the Jews.  And the door(s) to which Jesus is near might be a metaphor for the human heart (cf. Rev. 3:20).

The fig tree’s branch became tender and its leaves were put forth in 1978 when the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim was established in Jerusalem’s Old City (for an interesting account that is more political than religious, see Johnson, Ann. A United Jerusalem The Story Of Ateret Cohanim. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 1992).

Furthermore, Jesus had prophesied that the generation seeing the above event—a generation beginning in 1948 with the first of two returns to the land by Jews from the Diaspora (Isa. 12:11 for the prophesied two returns)—would not come to an end until His Second Coming to receive His inheritance, to assume His righteous rule over Israel’s restored kingdom, and to rule over the world’s nations (cf. Psa. 2:1-12).

Fulfillment of Jesus’ generation prophecy began some 68 years ago!  And Moses wrote that a generation could be anywhere between 70-80 years (Psa. 90:10).  Such a length for a generation was validated when believers born on Jesus’ birth date fled Jerusalem in AD 67 at age 70 to avoid the city’s invasion by Rome.

Therefore, the clear biblical signs and indications of the first return of Jews to the land, and the training of eligible priesthood candidates for ministry in an about-to-be rebuilt temple (see www.templeinstitute.org), are presently available to correctly stimulate a doorkeeper to be on the alert.  However, no one—not even the doorkeeper—will know the day or hour of Jesus’ coming for His church.

Thus, the interesting point is this: the very next item in Jesus’ discourse after the Fig Tree Parable as a sign for His return was a well-known Jewish event (the Feast of Trumpets) of two contiguous days which would absolutely prevent any knowledge about the day and hour featuring His return.  But the feast could promote the church being alert for His return.

 The Feast of Trumpets

The following information serves as orientation about relevant Jewish feasts.  The Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24; Num. 29:1) and Rosh Hashanah are discussed in great detail by Kevin Howard in a fascinating little book entitled, “The Feasts of the Lord.”  Howard points out two very important facts: one, Rosh Hashanah is often referred to simply as the Feast of Trumpets; and two, The Feast of Trumpets—biblically, a single day—now lasts for two contiguous days (Howard, K. and Rosenthal, M. The Feasts of the Lord. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997, 103-117).

The founder of Ariel Ministries, a Messianic Jew, a scholar, and a meticulous author, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum has written an explanation about the Jewish Feast of Trumpets which could prove quite helpful to a doorkeeper.

An aside: in 2016, the Feast of Trumpets will take place on the 3rd and 4th of October.

Paul wrote about the church meeting Jesus in the air at the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52; see also 1 Thess. 4:13-17).  Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes the following regarding the last trumpet:

“. . . it is evident from the fact that Paul used the definite article the last trump that he expected the Corinthians to know what he was talking about.  The only knowledge they would have of trumpets are those spoken of in the Old Testament; especially those of the Feast of Trumpets.  The last trump refers to the Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish practice of blowing trumpets at this feast each year.  During the ceremony there are a series of short trumpet sounds concluding with one long trumpet blast which is called the tekiah gedolah, the great trumpet blast.  This is what Paul means by the last trump.  His point is that the Rapture will be the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.” (Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Footsteps Of The Messiah. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press, 1983, 101).

Several—if not all—the synagogues in Jerusalem will celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, blowing the last trumpet blast at various hours.  No one knows which of those trumpet blasts God will select as “the last trumpet.”  The same holds true if God were to select a trumpet in a diasporic synagogue located anywhere in the world.

From Fruchtenbaum’s description of this Jewish practice, a doorkeeper would be able to pinpoint the general time frame during a year—knowing neither the day nor hour—on which the Lord would return to gather His household—the church.

Additional Information for the Doorkeeper and Other Church Members

    Eight genuine and incontestable biblical signs/historical indicators presently pointing to the Lord’s pending return for His church are: the

  1. Jewish single-day Feast of Trumpets made into two contiguous days around 500 BC;
  2. Jesus’ unknowable day and hour of fetching His bride to occur on one of the two contiguous days;
  3. gentiles added to initially all-Jewish church membership;
  4. Jesus’ return to be at the last trumpet’s blast;
  5. worldwide birth pangs of wars, earthquakes, famines, viruses, and tornadoes likely to increase in intensity and frequency;
  6. worldwide materialism, immorality, unrighteousness, mendacity, and deception similar to the days of Noah just before he entered the ark;
  7. in 1948, the first of the two predicted returns of Jews from the Diaspora; and,
  8. in 1978, establishment of a school to train candidates for the Levitical priesthood.

Knowing an approximate time for Jesus’ return is important for two reasons: one, because Jesus commanded that we be on the alert for His return; and two, because it’s about our involvement in the most important event of our lives which we are all about to experience.

How important is the event?  It is more important than winning a sports event, getting a driver’s license, graduating, watching a positively entertaining TV show, getting a job or getting married, buying a house or a car, attending the wedding of a daughter or son, becoming a parent or grandparent, watching the burial of a deceased loved one, or receiving publicly an honorary award.

The event will consist of meeting our Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-18; cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-55).  No doubt it will be a unique experience, but not a surprising one.  The eight signs/indicators given above provide adequate information for us to be alert for the event.

In Matthew’s gospel, the writer added four points of additional information that would help the doorkeeper be on the alert and execute his ministry satisfactorily.

First, throughout the world there will be “birth pangs” as signs of Jesus’ Second Coming (Matt. 24:6-8).  The birth pangs will feature events that will be quite noticeable to the doorkeeper and will likely increase in both intensity and occurrence as Jesus’ Second Coming arrival nears.  Those birth pangs have already begun.

Second, the world’s condition will be much like that of the world’s condition prior to Noah and his family entering the ark (Matt. 24:37-39).  People are completely preoccupied with material things like food and drink rather than spiritual things like a relationship with God.

Furthermore, via marriages—some quite as corrupt as in Noah’s era—it will be obvious that the world’s population is focused completely on the future rather than on the presently pending divine judgment.  The world then (and now) was totally ignorant of judgment until Noah and family entered the ark, and rain began seven days later.

To summarize, the two worlds manifest materialism, immorality, unrighteousness, mendacity, and deception.

An interesting occurrence has taken place in Cincinnati, Ohio.  A full-scale replica of Noah’s ark has just gone on display for the public.  Could this be a harbinger of things to come, or is it simply a reminder of things past?

Through news reports and advertisements on modern radio, TV, and the Internet, the doorkeeper will be able to monitor worldwide conditions in a timely and accurate fashion.

Third, the exact timing (day and hour) of Jesus’ coming for the church is completely unknown except by God—i.e., even the doorkeeper is in the dark (Matt. 24:36).  This secrecy is God-intended to keep Satan unaware of the timing so that he cannot interfere with the church’s departure from planet earth (Matt. 24:42-44).

And finally fourth, the departure of the church from the earth will take place simultaneously worldwide (Matt. 24:40-41 plus Luke 17:34).  This will make the doorkeeper’s ministry much more than a simple parochial exercise—suggesting there may be several doorkeepers throughout the world.

The Meaning of the Church Being Alert

Since Jesus admonished the “household” (church) to also be on the alert, it is important to understand what it means for the church to be alert.  Two possibilities exist: some church members will be asleep, while others will be awake.

For those who have just retired for the evening, it would be important to realize that they might be treated to a shout from the Lord Jesus before dawn.  Their sleeping attire might also be a consideration.  Further, someone who is expecting Jesus’ shout will be spared the false alarm that the house has just been broken into by an intruder.  And finally, an alert believer will realize the shout is not someone in the household having a terrible dream or nightmare.

For those awake, of primary importance is that when meeting Jesus, one has no unconfessed sins (see the “Lord’s Prayer” in Luke 11:4 for petitions of daily forgiveness of sins).  This includes any sins against one’s conscience. Confession would also be important for those believers who have just retired for the night.

Informing children about the Rapture in a non-alarming way would also be important.

Unbelieving family members might also be apprised in the event that they may become involved with distributing the material assets of their departed relatives.  Knowledge of the whereabouts of important papers, such as deeds etc., would help in the distribution.

If one is at work, or involved in some activity like driving a car, suitable action would be fitting to avoid any potential accident or disaster.  Provisions for pets would be important from a humane standpoint.

Also, suitable action would be appropriate if one is in the shower and hears the shout.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, an urban legend persists among those of the Christian community.  The legend holds that it is verboten for the Rapture to be a subject of study or discussion because Jesus said no one would know the day or hour of the event (cf. Miller, D.A. Forbidden Knowledge, Or Is It? Updated Expanded Ed. Fountain Valley, CA: Joy Publishing, 1998).

In addition, the erroneous theological doctrine asserting the imminence of Jesus’ Rapture has distorted biblical reality and believers’ thinking (cf. http://mcclymont.org/?p=49).

However, the Lord’s commissioning of a doorkeeper and repeated orders of alertness adequately deflate the legend as well as the theological doctrine because the issue of the exact time for the Lord’s coming is obviously one of ignorance, not one of forbiddance or imminence.

Finally, the Christian community should be “. . . looking for (emphasis mine) the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus . . .” (Titus 2:13), alert to our Lord’s coming to fetch His bride, and to make appropriate preparations accordingly.                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For called and chosen believers in fellowship with the Father and the Son, free will is a window of opportunity to either live by faith in Jesus’ manifestation of His life in one’s mortal body, or to make an initiative according to the flesh leading to some deed—i.e., according to sin’s deceptive prodding.

Faith yields rewards at the judgment seat while an initiative yields wrath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Jesus in the Air

Filed Under rapture

PART I

MEETING THE LORD HIMSELF IN THE AIR

15For this we [Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy] say to you [the church of the Thessalonians] by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be *caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15-17 from the New American Standard Bible. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995).

*Please note: the words “caught up” were recorded as “rapiemur” by Hieronymus, Eusebius S., aka St. Jerome. Vulgate Bible. AD 4-5. Rapiemur is the Latin first-person-plural future passive of the verb “rapi?,” and can be translated into English as “we will be raptured.”

Introduction
The purpose for the Lord’s descent from heaven is to catch up individual dead and alive believers to meet Him in the air, transporting both to His heavenly habitation. This event is referred to (either directly or indirectly) 27 times by 9 different authors over a period of 35 years in the New Testament.
Because of St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible, the word rapture has become a popular description for this event of believers being “caught up.” Thus, the word rapture will be used throughout this essay.
The rapture will occur worldwide “. . . in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye . . .” (1 Cor. 15:52).
At least 9 topics (both biblical and historical) are germane to understanding the rapture’s timing. This essay will provide a brief discussion on each of those 9 topics.

Topic 1: The Doorkeeper
With 4 of His disciples, Jesus discussed His earthly departure and return using a simile and a parable both recorded by Mark in his gospel (Mark 13:28-37). This present topic of The Doorkeeper will focus on Jesus’ simile. Below, under Topic 5 (The Priesthood), Jesus’ parable of the fig tree will be interpreted and explained.
The elements of Jesus’ simile (Mark 13:33-37) are:
1. “A man away on a journey” is Jesus after His ascension (Acts 1:9-11);
2. the man’s “slaves” are also labeled Jesus’ bond-servants (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1);
3. the man’s “house” and his “slaves” comprise a household of church members (cf. 1 Pet. 4:17);
4. Jesus assigned the role of doorkeeper to one of His bond-servants;
5. one example of Jesus “. . . giving the authority to . . . ” each bond servant (Mark 13:34, author’s translation) was Jesus giving authority to Simon Peter as an apostle (cf. 2 Pet. 1:1);
6. Jesus’ “command” to the doorkeeper was to “stay on the alert;”
7. the precise timing of Jesus’ coming will be unknowable, but will likely occur on 1 of 2 adjoining days (Mark 13:35 in the evening at midnight of day 1, or at the hour of daybreak when “the rooster crows” on day 2, or throughout the morning of day 2); and,
8. household members were also commanded to be “on the alert” for His coming.
The last point strongly suggests that today’s faithful believers should be expectantly alert for Jesus’ coming. However, some of today’s believers are ignorant, apathetic, indifferent, disinterested, or even antagonistic to the subject of His coming as it relates to the rapture’s timing.
One final responsibility of a doorkeeper may be discovered from a New Testament example. A servant-girl named Rhoda performed the role of a doorkeeper at the Jerusalem house of Mary, John Mark’s mother (cf. Acts 12:12-16).
Rhoda announced to the many believers in Mary’s house (who were likely praying about Peter’s Passover incarceration by Herod) that Peter was, at that very moment, present at Mary’s door following his miraculous escape from prison. As a doorkeeper, it was not only Rhoda’s responsibility to be alert, but also to announce Peter’s arrival. Of course, before announcing Peter, Rhoda had identified who was at the door by Peter’s voice.
Therefore, an alert doorkeeper (i.e., Jesus’ bond-servant) is also responsible for making an identification (perhaps by recognizing Jesus’ voice, cf. 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 3:3), and by announcing Jesus’ coming to members of the church with whom he has contact.
An aside: one might speculate that the role of doorkeeper among Jews of Jesus’ generation was sometimes filled by a gentile, similar to a Shabbos Goy of today (cf. John 18:16-17 for a slave girl being a doorkeeper, and John 8:33 for the Jewish view of never having been enslaved). Should this speculation be valid, Jesus may have assigned the role of doorkeeper to a gentile church member.
The clear and uncontested implication of the above simile is that one of Jesus’ bond-servants could be, and therefore would be, alert to His coming and “. . . looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of . . . Jesus” (Tit. 2:13).
To be alert requires some specificity of the timing for His return. Otherwise the bond-servant would soon become apathetic, indifferent, and confused about his role were he required to be alert every day of every year within every time zone worldwide. For example, it would be like instructing a crossing guard to be on the alert without ever telling the guard when school opened and closed.
In other words, within certain specific time limits, knowledge of the timing for Jesus’ return could never, ever have been forbidden by the Lord.

Topic 2: The Secret
On the Mount of Olives just days before His death, Jesus made it quite clear that the day and hour of His coming was a secret—even from “the angels (emphasis mine) of heaven” (Matt. 24:36). Moments later, Jesus revealed the purpose for such secrecy.
One particular angel of heaven—Satan—would not allow the rapture to happen if he knew beforehand the precise day and hour that Jesus’ coming in the air would occur (Matt. 24:43 wherein a thief was pictured as breaking into Satan’s “house;” Eph. 2:2 for Satan’s domain (house) being the air; and cf. Rev. 3:3 for Jesus’ prophetical warning of His own action as coming unexpectedly “like a thief” even to some believers).
Were Satan to know the precise time, he could and would surreptitiously identify and detain just a single believer anywhere in the world thereby preventing the entire rapture. Knowing the time, Satan would “not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt. 24:43).
The time limits set on a general ignorance of the rapture’s timing were limited specifically to the day and the hour (Matt. 24:44). Because of the precision set for the time limits, one might argue justifiably that the week, month, and year for the rapture could legitimately be known. Otherwise, the doorkeeper would be rendered helpless to obey His Lord’s specific command.
Recall from the beginning passage quoted above that the apostle Paul had revealed the rapture would occur “with the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). Describing the rapture, Paul had previously identified that very same trumpet as “the last trumpet (emphasis mine)” (1 Cor. 15:52).
At God’s direction, each year the Jews celebrate the Feast of Trumpets during a specific month and week (Num. 29:1). The celebration is also known as Rosh Hashanah. The 2 events coincide with Israel’s civil New Year.
Rosh Hashanah begins at the New Moon. Because of possible cloud covering or a lack of witnesses to the New Moon, Rosh Hashanah and the Feast of Trumpets began to be observed for 2 adjoining days (Howard, Kevin and Rosenthal, Marvin. The Feasts of the Lord. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997, 104).
At the Feast of Trumpets, it is customary to sound a total of 99 staccato-like trumpet blasts ending with a single long blast—i.e., “the last trumpet” (Kevin and Rosenthal, 106, 110; also Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Footsteps of the Messiah. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1983, 101).
According to Kevin and Rosenthal, the ancient rabbis suggested the trumpet blasts were intended to confuse Satan (Kevin and Rosenthal, 110).
Worldwide, there are myriads of synagogues in which the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated for the 2 adjoining days at various hours. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to know which particular synagogue will be selected by God as the one sounding the last trumpet, thus making unknowable the precise day and hour the last trumpet will sound.
Since the rapture will take place at the last trumpet, it is understandably impossible—as Jesus had said—to know which day and hour the rapture will occur.
However, Jesus never specifically addressed which week, month, or year the rapture would occur. But He did provide enough information so that His teaching (coupled with Old Testament information) makes it possible for the doorkeeper to be alert during a potential and fairly narrow time-frame for the rapture’s occurrence.

Topic 3: The Generation
An explicit prolonged-period of time is popularly referred to as a century (i.e., 100 years). However, the Jews never used the word century in the scriptures. Instead, the word generation was used for prolonged time periods (Harris, R. Laird, Archer, Jr., Gleason L., and Waltke, Bruce K. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1980, 186.1-187.6).
Biblically, a generation was related to a person’s life span or life expectancy. In the days of Moses, that life expectancy had become between 70 and 80 years (Ps. 90:10).
For example, Jesus’ generation (referred to in Isa. 53:8) began in the winter of 5/4 BC (Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977, 143). As described below, a climactic moment for believers of Jesus’ generation in Jerusalem came in AD 67, precisely 70 years into their generation.
Peter had counseled his listeners at Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:40) to “be saved from this perverse generation” (emphasis mine). Peter could have had in mind a physical salvation as well as a spiritual salvation. Peter’s admonishment may have stemmed from Jesus’ warning for believers to flee Jerusalem when the city became surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20-24).
The military surrounding of Jerusalem took place in AD 67—for a generation of believers into their 70th year for those born at that moment historically marking the beginning of the Jesus Generation (cf. Fruchtenbaum, 438-439).
Over one-million unbelieving Jerusalem Jews were killed 3 years later, some of whom were likely of the Jesus Generation and thus a generation that experienced physically a 73-year life span.
To summarize: from Moses’ era forward, a prolonged time period in the scriptures was referred to as a generation which was at least 70 years long.

Topic 4: Setting of the Stage
We now come to a remarkable prophecy in the scriptures. The prophecy is remarkable for 2 reasons. One, it was recorded by Moses in 1405 BC (for dates, see Wilkinson, Bruce and Boa, Kenneth. Talk Thru the Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983, 38). Moses’ words were recorded generations upon generations before their fulfillment. And two, some of Moses’ prophecy has already been fulfilled during the present lifetimes of many church believers, thus setting the stage for them to alertly expect the Lord’s coming.
The prophecy was recorded by Moses in Deut. 29:22-30:6. The elements of the prophecy include a 70-year Jewish generation which began in 1878 and ended in 1948.
An historical record of the fulfillment may be found in Gold, Dore. The Fight for Jerusalem. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2007, 120-123, 275.
The prophetical elements and their respective identities are:
1. “ . . . the foreigner who comes from a distant land . . . ” (Deut. 29:22) were the British who came to the land from a distant Britain (aka England), and who had become administrators of Palestine from 1922 to 1948 under the Palestine Mandate;
2. the extensive God-produced waste condition of the land which God had originally entrusted to the Jews in 1405 BC (Deut. 29:22-23; cf. Ezek. 38:8, 12);
3. “All the nations . . . ” referred to the League of Nations (Deut. 29:24);
4. the Lord’s uprooting of Jews from His land took place in AD 70 (Deut. 29:28);
5. the land into which the uprooted Jews were cast was Rome (Deut. 29:28);
6. restoration of the Jews from ‘captivity’ for a second time will take place at Jesus’ second coming (Deut. 30:3); and
7. Jews restored to the land will live under the New Covenant (Deut. 30:6).
Please note: the extensive waste condition of the land was confirmed by being significantly reversed through the Jews establishing kibbutzim following the first restoration from ‘captivity’ in 1948. The kibbutzim were primarily agricultural communities throughout the land that restored the land’s fecundity (cf. Ezek. 38:8, 12).
A former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gold recounted the fascinating circumstances, beginning with the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, that introduced the concept of establishing homelands for certain ethnic groups like Bulgaria for the Bulgarians and Serbia for the Serbians.
Interestingly, Benjamin Disraeli (born a Jew) was the prime minister of Britain and the nation’s delegate to the Treaty of Berlin. The concept of a homeland for the Jews was stimulated by the Treaty of Berlin’s negotiations, promulgated by Britain’s Balfour Declaration of 1917, motivated by the Nazi’s Jewish atrocities of World War II, and was culminated with the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947 that established a homeland for the Jews in Palestine.
The first restoration of Diaspora Jews to the homeland took place in 1948 marking the beginning of the rapture generation.
Please note: the Diaspora was referred to biblically as a captivity, banishment, or dispersion.
A prophecy of 2 gatherings of the Diaspora Jews to the land had been made by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 11:11-12, which confirmed Moses’ similar prophecy in Deut. 30:3). The gatherings would occur in the same generation—one gathering at the beginning of that generation, and the other at the generation’s end (Matt. 24:31, 34, and Fruchtenbaum, 293-299).
But the length of that generation was never defined.

Topic 5: The Levitical Priesthood
One of the critical (and often overlooked) subjects contributing to understanding the prophecies of the scriptures is the Levitical priesthood—a priesthood instituted by God Himself (Num. 3:13, 41, 45). God had established a perpetual priesthood with the tribe of Levi (Num. 25:13).
However, in 432-425 BC (Wilkinson and Boa, 295), the prophet Malachi had warned roughly 1,000 years after God’s priesthood establishment that a future (and temporary) hiatus in the priesthood would occur due to the blatant and wide-spread corruption of the priests themselves.
This brings our study to Jesus’ parable of the fig tree (Mark 13:28-32; Luke 13:6-9). The fig tree was a symbol of the Jewish priesthood and not the nation Israel as some Christians suggest. The biblical symbol for Israel was clearly the vine (Isa. 5:1-2).
The parabolic fig tree had been planted in a vineyard. In other words, Jesus’ parable unambiguously taught that the Levitical priesthood was situated in the land of Israel.
The man in the parable represented Jesus, the vineyard-keeper represented God (cf. John 15:1-2; Matt. 21:33-45), and the ground represented the God-ordered tithes of Israel’s population intended exclusively for the material support and well-being of the priests (Num. 18:21, 26).
Finally, cutting down the fig tree in a year—were it to remain fruitless—was synonymous with delaying priestly-service termination of the then-current priesthood members for a year.
According to the parable, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, He had checked on the spiritual condition of the priests for 3 consecutive years, likely while making the obligatory annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem (Exod. 23:17; 34:23 for the obligatory pilgrimages, and John 2:13; 5:1; and 7:2, 10 for Jesus’ 3 visits to the temple in AD 31, AD 32, and AD 33 respectively).
On each visit, the priests had relentlessly and publically exhibited a lack of righteousness by making unacceptable offerings on the altar as well as having divorced their wives. That is, there was no “fruit” (righteousness) on the “fig tree” (priesthood).
A year after His 3rd temple visit, during His last week of earthly ministry, and immediately after arriving in Jerusalem riding on a colt, Jesus headed for the temple (Mark 11:11), probably to observe and evaluate the priests’ behavior in fulfillment of Mal. 3:1-3.
The next day, on His way to the temple, Jesus cursed a barren fig tree, predicted its permanent fruitlessness, entered the temple, and prevented the priests and/or Levites from executing the morning’s religious ritual (Mark 11:12-16).
Please note: bringing the Levitical priesthood to a halt was a necessity tribally so that Jesus—from the tribe of Judah rather than the tribe of Levi—could become high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb.7:1-28).
Probably 3 days after stopping the temple’s religious rituals, Jesus was on the Mount of Olives teaching 4 of His disciples about the future destruction of the temple, the sign of His coming, and the sign for the end of the age (Matt. 24:3).
During His teaching, He ordered His disciples to “Now learn the parable from the fig tree; . . .” (Matt. 24:32-34; Mark 13:28-30). Remember, the fig tree was a symbol for the Levitical priesthood.
Interpretation of what Jesus said to His 4 disciples is not complicated. When one sees the Levitical priests begin training for temple service, i.e., parabolically speaking “. . . when its branch [the fig tree] has already become tender and puts forth its leaves . . .” His coming for the church (the rapture) “. . . is near, right at the doors (emphasis mine)” (Matt. 24:32-33; Mark 13:28-29).
Flash, doorkeeper alert! A nascent priesthood in Jerusalem is the doorkeeper’s clear and unique cue to be on the alert because the priesthood’s presences indicates that Jesus is now right at the doors (Matt. 24:33; Mark 13:29; Jas. 5:9). The word “doors” is plural suggesting many households of believers.
The generation (at least 70 years long) that sees the priesthood in training will not come to an end until Jesus’ return to the earth at His second coming (likely 7 years after the rapture).
Following the Six-Day War of 1967 in Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem became available to the Jews. In 1978, a school was established in the Old City, within sight of the Temple Mount. The school was named Yeshivat Ateret Kohanim—“the Crown of Priests School.” The school’s teachers began training eligible candidates for the priesthood.
Particularly noteworthy: 1978 is exactly 30 years after the first restoration from the Diaspora ‘captivity’ in 1948. And 30 years is the precise age for initiating priests into the Levitical priesthood (Num. 4:3). From Jesus’ teaching about the fig tree, establishment of the Yeshivat is right on schedule, marking the 30-year-old Jewish generation of priests that will witness (but not be included in) the rapture of the church.
Therefore, present-day history of the school’s establishment confirms Jesus’ descent from heaven for His church is within the generation that began in 1948.

Topic 6: The Birth Pangs
One of the first topics Jesus addressed in response to His 4 disciples’ request for signs of future events came in the form of a birth-pangs metaphor intended for believers. Five general characteristics of birth pangs are:
1. they seldom occur in private;
2. are painful for the woman;
3. vary in time span;
4. increase in frequency and intensity as delivery time approaches; and,
5. end in joyous relief.
The birth pangs which Jesus enumerated were: rumors of wars, wars of nation and kingdom against other nations and kingdoms, great earthquakes, plagues and famines in various places, and terrors plus great signs from heaven (Matt. 24:6-7; Luke 21:10-11).
The distinction between a nation and a kingdom is probably governmental. Fruchtenbaum makes a strong argument that the first birth pang—an idiomatic combination of nation and kingdom—means a world-wide conflict which began with World War I in 1914 and continued with World War II from 1939-1945. He goes on to point out that this Jewish idiom for a world-wide conflict signifies that the last days have begun, and that the earthly appearance of God’s Messiah is near (Fruchtenbaum, 64).
Terrors from heaven may include tornadoes which were likely referred to in scripture as whirlwinds.
From modern media coverage on radio, TV, and in print, citizens of the world are kept well informed of the “birth pangs” which seem to be increasing world-wide in both frequency and intensity. A good example of that coverage is the Drudge Report that is, ironically, composed by a Jew.
Please note: the obvious present-day state and thinking of world rulers is symptomatic and inexorably linked to the Father’s timely dispatch of His Son from heaven to receive His earthly second-coming inheritance (Ps. 2:1-12).
At least 1of those “great signs from heaven” mentioned by Jesus might have been prophesied by Joel about 835 BC (Wilkinson and Boa, 241), and was intended specifically for the Jews (Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15). That sign is the “blood moon(s)”—i.e., the total lunar eclipse(s) caused by the earth’s shadow making the moon appear red. Such an eclipse is forecast for the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles on Sept. 28, 2015.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a harbinger for the presence of the kingdom of God on earth which is why Peter suggested making 3 tabernacles at Jesus’ transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:4).
Furthermore, the lunar eclipse forecast for September 28, 2015 will be preceded by a partial solar eclipse on September 13, 2015. The Feast of Trumpets begins at sundown on September 13, 2015 and includes the two adjoining days of the 14th and 15.th
Perhaps this partial solar eclipse will be a significant sign from heaven intended for a portion of the church—suggesting the rapture will occur sometime during either the 14th or 15.th
Finally, a joyous relief after the birth pangs represents the believer’s response to the Lord’s fetching of His bride, the church.

Topic 7: The Days of Noah
On 2 separate occasions, Jesus specifically likened the world’s behavior during the days of Noah just before the flood to the world’s behavior immediately preceding His own coming for the church (Matt. 24:38-39; Luke 17:27). A summary highlighting Jesus’ synopsis of the days of Noah follows:
1. with the single exception of Noah and his household, informed mankind was engaged in every-day normal behavior intended exclusively to maintain physical life—i.e., “eating and drinking” emphasizing mankind’s uninterrupted focus on present-time. For example, informed mankind’s behavior would be similar to today’s residents—living directly in the path of impending tornadoes, wind storms, or wildfires—being consistently preoccupied with normal every-day behavior after being warned to take cover or evacuate;
2. all mankind was also engaged in “marrying and giving in marriage,” emphasizing an ancillary focus on future-time physical life;
3. Noah and his family entered the ark through a door specified by God, thereby disappearing from sight (cf. Gen. 6:16 for the door which made Noah the first doorkeeper);
4. for a floodless period of 7 days after the ark had been entered, mankind remained clueless and ignorant about God’s imminent judgment (Gen. 7:10 for the delay) ; and,
5. God’s judgment was the worldwide removal of mankind by the flood.
In Noah’s day, mankind’s exclusive emphasis on physical life disregarded the essential nature of spiritual life. God Himself has always provided acceptable sacrifices for maintaining the spiritual life of the righteous (e.g., Gen. 7:1-3). For example, immediately following the flood, righteous Noah used such sacrifices as burnt offerings thereby manifesting a focus on spiritual life (Gen. 8:20).
For both Noah and the church, the righteous are removed from God’s physical judgment.
Today’s world is remarkably similar to the pre-flood days of Noah suggesting that the Lord’s rapture of believers is close at hand. A summary comparison between the days of Noah and the days leading up to the rapture follows:
1. because of righteousness, Jesus’ church—featuring teachers and preachers—is similar to Noah (a preacher of righteousness, 2 Pet. 2:5);
2. like the days of Noah, today’s world population is focused on the present and future but with total disregard for spiritual matters of righteousness—an issue addressed, expounded, and demonstrated by the church;
3. God Himself judges by death—the flood during the days of Noah and a tribulation following rapture of the church (Matt. 24:21; cf. Rev. 6, 8-9, and 16 for details of the tribulation);
4. Jesus’ church disappears from sight by the rapture (Matt. 24:40-41) as did Noah and family by entering the ark;
5. as in the days of Noah, the unrighteous of the world today have no clue about God’s impeding judgment. However, recently a famous unbelieving talk-show host referred on the air to the world situation 4 times in about 20 minutes as apocalyptic. The popular definition of apocalyptic is describing or prophesying the world’s complete destruction. Thus, there is some secular recognition of the world’s current state which is actually setting the stage for the appearance of the one who will be heralded instead of Christ, i.e., the antichrist (cf. Topic 8 below for his role);
6. like Noah, the church is aware of, and alert to, the coming judgment; and,
7. God assigned Noah as doorkeeper to be alert for His instructions about entering the ark, just as Jesus assigned one of His bond-servant as a doorkeeper (cf. Topic 1 above).

Topic 8: The Administration
After removing Israel’s foundational administrative and management role of the land (a role held for generations), God assigned world-wide kingdom administration and management to the church on Pentecost AD 33 (cf. Matt. 21:33-45; Acts 1:1-8; 2:39).
A future event, which do doubt will restore kingdom administration to Israel, was prophesized by Ezekiel in 565 BC (Wilkinson and Boa, 214; Ezek. 38:1-39:16).
Ezekiel’s prophecy featured an invasion of Israel by a Russian-led coalition directed personally by Russia’s ruler. A strong candidate for that particular Russian ruler is Vladimir Putin.
The coalition definitely included Iran (aka Persia biblically and presently partnered militarily with Russia), and may be joined by Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Sudan, and Libya (Hitchcock, Mark. Is America in Bible Prophecy? Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2002, 48).
God Himself will openly and miraculously defeat the coalition’s invasion (Ezek. 39:3-7). God’s initiative in response to the invasion will provide the Jews with an enormously convincing sign. Remember, the Jews ask for signs of God’s activity (1 Cor. 1:22), perhaps due to their historic experience in Egypt with Moses and his 11 God-given signs to Pharaoh (Exod. 7-11).
God’s personal, sudden, and total defeat of the invasion, plus His subsequent direct commands to the Jews (Ezek. 39:9-16), provide ample evidence that Israel’s administration and management of God’s kingdom on earth will be restored immediately following the coalition’s defeat.
Since the church and Israel cannot manage the kingdom simultaneously, the church will have been removed from the earth via the rapture. This reality is critical for heightening the alertness of both church members and the doorkeeper just prior to the Russian invasion.
Perhaps during the rapture, the announcement’s content by Israel’s archangel to the nation’s leadership in Jerusalem (i.e., “the voice of the archangel”) will be that nation Israel is now in charge of the earthly kingdom of God (1 Thess. 4:16 for the archangel speaking, Dan. 10:21 plus Jude 1:9 identifying Israel’s archangel, and Acts 1:6 for the question leading to the announcement). “And be sure to read the New Testament.”
In parallel to Noah’s experience of a 7-day delay between his disappearance into the ark and God’s rain beginning, a 7-day hiatus may occur between the rapture and the Russian invasion.
At that moment in time of Russia’s invasion, fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week of 7 years will begin (Dan. 9:26-27). The antichrist will be revealed; he will sign a firm covenant (for peace) with the leaders of Israel, and construction of the Jerusalem temple will begin with completion in a year.
The Jews already have the temple’s cornerstone prepared. In 3½ years, the antichrist’s covenant will be broken and the great tribulation will be initiated (cf. Matt. 24:15-22).
At the end of an additional 3½ year period allotted for the great tribulation, Jesus will return to earth for His inheritance of the nations (Ps. 2:8).
Five observations from Ezekiel’s prophecy may prove helpful:
1. the first gathering of Diaspora Jews in 1948 precedes the Russian invasion (Ezek. 38:12);
2. Sheba and Dedan are Arab states, and the merchants of Tarshish are likely personnel from Britain and the USA (Ezek. 38:13);
3. the great earthquake could cause Jerusalem’s Western Wall to collapse thereby solving the problem of the Dome of the Rock’s location atop the Temple Mount, and clearing the way for Israel to rebuild the temple (Ezek. 38:19-30);
4. the mountains of Israel came under Israel’s control during the 1967 Six-Day War thereby providing an Israeli path for the invaders (Ezek. 39:4, and Fruchtenbaum, 75); and,
5. the 7 years of Israel using the coalition’s weapons for fuel suggests that their weapons will have nuclear content (Ezek. 39:9-10).

Topic 9: The Delay
Historically, God’s initial Jerusalem judgment took place in AD 70 which marked the 73rd year of the Jesus Generation. At Jesus’ second coming, the Jerusalem population will likewise have experienced God’s judgment.
Using the 73 years as a generation’s length, and 1948 as the first gathering of Diaspora Jews, a Jerusalem judgment and the second gathering of Diaspora Jews should occur in 2021 (i.e., 1948 plus 73 years). Allowing 7 years for the tribulation’s total length, and presuming a pre-tribulation rapture, the rapture should have occurred in 2014 (i.e., 2021 minus 7 years).
Presently, it is 2015. No rapture has taken place. Why the 1 year delay?
We use to attend regularly the services of a Messianic Jewish congregation. Start of the Sabbath services were consistently delayed from 10-15 minutes, leading to an assumption that Jews’ arrival at scheduled events might be somewhat flexible.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise to discover that Jesus would be delayed for His own wedding following the start of tribulation judgment (cf. Matt. 25:5). This unexplained delay affects the calculation of the precise year for His second coming, and thus for the rapture as well. Please note: the delay may have been due to the time required to accommodate growth in righteousness for some local church believers who were also part of the kingdom of priests to God (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5, 9 and Rev. 1:6 for the priesthood of believers; Rev. 3:1-3 for the necessary growth).
Hence, the rapture’s delay is well within the realm of possibility, thereby adding to the impossibility of calculating the specific year for the rapture.
However, God’s elect can pray day and night to the Righteous Judge that any further delay be significantly shortened—i.e., that the rapture would occur sooner rather than later (Luke 18:7).
Of course, if the faith on earth proves exceedingly sparse when the Son of Man comes for His bride, such prayers to the Judge may also be quite sparse (cf. Luke 18:8).
But fear not, for the “effective prayer of a [single] righteous man (emphasis mine) can accomplish much” (Jas. 5:16b).

Conclusion
The day and hour on which the rapture of the church will occur is unknowable by God’s design so as to prohibit Satan’s preventing the event. However, significant prophetical evidence from the scriptures, coupled with widely-publicized present-day events corresponding to prophetical fulfillments and the present world’s rapidly burgeoning unrighteousness, suggest the rapture could happen in the year 2015.
Furthermore, Jesus delegated the role of doorkeeper to one of His bond-servants with emphatic instructions to be on alert for His coming so as to announce His approaching arrival to His church.
Therefore, knowledge of the week, month, and year of His coming in the air was never, ever forbidden by Jesus and may be determined by integrating biblical revelations with past and present historical events.
Alertly then, “Maranatha” i.e., O [our] Lord come! (1 Cor. 16:22b).

PART II

HOW SHALL ONE THEN LIVE?

The Human Condition
1. Rom. 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and (spiritual) death through sin, and so it [sin] spread to all men, on the basis of which all (emphasis mine) sin (cf. Eph. 2:1).
2. John 8:34 Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave (emphasis mine) of sin (Rom. 3:9).
3. Therefore, no free will exists in humans because all are enslaved to sin which has its own agenda of deceit quite independent of, and inimical to, its host.
4. It is humanly impossible to modify this condition.
5. Christ was the one exception to this condition because of His virgin birth.

How Shall One Then Live? A Scriptural Response
1. All regenerate Christians are going to heaven.
2. All regenerate Christians live life on earth in one of two mutually exclusive ways:
a. by works (of law), or
b. by faith.
3. To live life by works means that one must do God’s will by one’s own initiative (decidedly unlike Jesus, John 14:10). But, one’s own works activate and empower sin (cf. Rom. 5:20; 7:8-13; 1 Cor. 15:56). God does not enable one, by oneself, to do His will (cf. Isa. 14:14 for the egregiously erroneous Satanic concept that a creature can make oneself godly, and Gen. 3:5 plus Ezek. 28:13-15, together with 2 Cor. 11:14, for application of the concept).
4. To live life by faith means that:
a. One believes that Jesus Christ lives spiritually in one’s mortal body, and
b. Jesus Christ’s life is manifest in one’s mortal body (2 Cor. 4:10-11; 13:5; Gal. 2:20). Such manifestation is always perfectly in accordance with God’s will.
c. All of Jesus’ words and works are done on God-given opportunities, are completely acceptable to God, and will receive a positive response at the believer’s judgment (cf. Rom. 2:10; 1 Cor. 3:14; 2 Cor. 5:10).
d. When one commits an act of sin, one becomes separated from fellowship with God and Jesus. This separation (known biblically as “death”) can be reversed by confession to God of the sinful act (1 John 1:6-9).
e. Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father . . .” (John 14:9). In similar fashion, one might say, “He who has seen a believer living by faith has seen Jesus.”
5. Should one so desire, one can switch from a life of works to a life of faith simply by ceasing to do works on one’s own initiative, and instead, believe that Christ’s God-acceptable life is being manifest in one’s own mortal body.

PART III

BEING ALERT FOR THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH

One of the first questions to arise about the rapture of the church comes from believing parents: “In the rapture, what will happen to our children?”
Two possibilities come to mind. One, if a child has believed that Jesus is his/her savior, that child will be raptured with the parents. Two, if a child is at an age where he/she still has “. . . no knowledge of good or evil . . .” (cf. Deut. 1:39), then he/she will also likely be raptured with the parents. Please note: God knows the heart irrespective of one’s age.
Should neither of these possibilities exist for children in a family, then concerned parents who have obeyed Jesus’ command to be alert for the rapture might benefit from some of the following actions—as might all believing adults. Being alert means being prepared for appropriate action and could include:
1. confession of one’s sins;
2. recruiting unbelieving relatives beforehand who might be willing to assume responsibility for adolescents left on earth;
3. making necessary resources readily available to those relatives;
4. informing believing children about the nature of the rapture;
5. taking appropriate action depending upon the immediate situation in which he/she is involved at the rapture (e.g., driving an auto or flying a plane);
6. ceasing immediately present activities (e.g., sleeping);
7. not being totally preoccupied with, or immersed in, earthly matters and activities so that a positive and enthusiastic response immediately ensues Jesus’ shout to join Him in the air (e.g., “wait a minute” is probably not a good response); and,
8. informing beforehand an unbelieving spouse, unbelieving family members, or unbelieving friends of the believer’s pending departure.
At the rapture, the dead in Christ will be raised suggesting some may not have had opportunity to follow all the above-listed items. Recognizing this reality implies that living believers probably will not be adversely affected if they fail to be on the alert.
Of course, some believers are loath to mention the rapture to others—especially to unbelievers.
The scriptures do not address directly the case of pregnant believers’ unborn children.

PART IV

A VIABLE CANDIDATE FOR THE ANTICHRIST

Introduction
With only weeks between the present time and the probable rapture of the church, it may be a timely moment to consider a viable candidate for the antichrist.
To maintain some brevity herein, the assumption is made that the reader follows daily media reports—both progressive and conservative—with some consistency.
The following essay will provide scriptural information and qualifications suggesting the identity of a viable candidate.
Scriptural quotations are from the New American Standard Bible. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995.

The Scriptural Meaning of the Word Antichrist
In the English language, the prefix “anti” carries the meaning of “against,” like antifreeze means against freezing. However, the Greek preposition “anti” means “instead of,” or “in the place of” (Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1996, 364.A.1). Therefore, the scriptural meaning of antichrist in English can be “instead of Christ,” or “in place of Christ.”
In other words, the antichrist will be a substitute Jesus.

Unbelieving Jews and Jesus
An argument sometimes used by present-day unbelieving Jews is that Jesus could not possibly have been the Messiah because Jewish understanding of Messiah’s role is that He brings peace to the world. Since Jesus’ earthly ministry, world peace has clearly been wanting.
However, what unbelieving Jews have failed to recognize is that Jesus presently brings spiritual peace with God to His Jewish and gentile followers—not physical peace (cf. Gal. 1:3 and Eph. 1:2 for peace from God).
So Jesus is indeed God’s Messiah. He will soon bring physical peace to the world by ruling all the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:8).

The Antichrist Filling Jesus’ Role
Combining the scriptural meaning of antichrist with the role of establishing world peace means that the antichrist will initially bring world peace instead of, or in the place of Jesus. The antichrist’s role is not to denigrate or destroy the character, reputation, and ministry of Jesus from Nazareth. Thus, unbelieving Jews are likely to accept the antichrist as the leader who will establish peace throughout the world.
Furthermore, if a recognized world leader has recently received the Nobel Prize for Peace, wouldn’t that particular individual have at least one positive credential recorded on his resume in the eyes of unbelieving Jews?
A piece of scriptural information which buttresses the role of the antichrist as peacemaker was recorded by the apostle John in the book of Revelation. John’s attention was called to a man riding a white horse (Rev. 6:2). A horse symbolizes the speed at which world events will occur. And the man had a bow, but no arrows!
Bible expositors have identified the man on the white horse as the antichrist imitating Jesus (cf. Rev. 19:11 for Jesus on a white horse). Furthermore, the expositors have speculated that, because of the absence of arrows, the rider’s world-wide conquering will be accomplished primarily through diplomacy and negotiations rather than military warfare—a contemporary approach enthusiastically and consistently practiced by the US President. Note the recent agreement with Iran.
Incidentally, the President chose to ride a horse to his inauguration.

Scriptural Characteristics of the Antichrist
In his outstanding book, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum articulates the scriptural characteristics of the antichrist (Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Footsteps of the Messiah. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press, 1983, pp. 135-146).
Two of those characteristics are that the antichrist will be a gentile, and a gentile of Roman descent. The antichrist’s Roman descent likely refers to the Roman Empire as it was configured during and immediately following Jesus’ life. In those years, the Roman Empire included Switzerland and Britain.
An individual’s ethnicity is related directly to the ethnicity of his mother. Therefore, the ethnicity of the present US President must derive from his gentile mother whose ancestors descended from the former Roman Empire which included both Switzerland and Britain.

Jesus’ Message to the Congregants of Nazareth’s Synagogue
On a Sabbath morning in Nazareth’s synagogue, Jesus stood, opened a scroll of the scriptures to Isaiah 61, read therefrom that—among other things—He had been sent to proclaim release to the captives, sat down, and stated astoundingly that this scripture had just been fulfilled in the congregant’s hearing (Luke 4:16-21).
However, there was a major problem. John the Baptist had been arrested by Herod who put John in prison (Matt. 14:3). So when John (still captive in Herod’s prison) heard of Jesus’ astounding words about the prophecy of release to the captives being fulfilled, he sent two of his disciples to inquire of Jesus, “Are you the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:18-19).
John had made a spiritual miscalculation. Release to the captives referred to the spiritual release of those held captive by sin—not to a physical release from prison. Therefore, no basis existed for John to look for someone other than Jesus.
How is the above scriptural and spiritual situation related to the viable candidate for the antichrist? The answer is not complicated. By executive order, the President is presently providing physical release to prisoners nationally (federal prison) and internationally (Cuba) in accord with Isaiah 61, thereby asserting (perhaps inadvertently) that he is the one qualified instead of or in the place of Jesus.

The Religious Origin of the Antichrist
The apostle John revealed that many antichrists had gone out from “us” (1 John 2:18-19 for Jews going out, and Rom. 11:17-24 for church gentiles going out by virtue of having been separated from fellowship with God). The pronoun “us” referred to religious church members (cf. 1 John 1:3 where “us” clearly refers to church members). To put the foregoing in contemporary parlance, according to John, the religious origin of an antichrist would include having attended a Christian church.
For about 20 years, the US President was a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ located in Chicago—a prominent Christian church from which the President has “gone out.” Furthermore, he rarely attends present church services.

The President’s Current Attitude toward Christianity, Islam, and Israel
Some of the recent public and recorded statements by the President suggest his quasi-antagonism with Christianity and his positive, supportive attitude toward Islam which is currently anticipating the appearance of its messiah, Mahdi. His statements of antagonism and support are consistent with what the antichrist might assert or represent. The Mahdi and the antichrist are likely one-and-the-same person.
An aside: Christianity certainly merits enthusiastic and supportive endorsement world-wide, while the tenets of Islam are most assuredly denigrating to the God of the scriptures. For example, Islam viciously demeans and erroneously attacks Christianity’s doctrine of the Trinity which results in bogus charges of Christian polytheism. At the same time, Islam ignores the fact that in the Qur’an, Allah (Islam’s ersatz god, cf. Gal. 4:8 for other gods) refers to himself using the plural pronouns of “Us” and “We” (Shakir, M. H., translator. The Qur’an Translation, 15th U. S. ed., Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2005, SURAH XVII, 182). Allah clearly features himself as more than a singular entity highlighting a serious inconsistency in Islamic tenets—something the antichrist will no doubt overlook.
Back to a viable candidate for the antichrist: the President has been less than enthusiastic with his support for Israel. Such a view is consistent with the anti-Semitic inclination of the antichrist derived from his father Satan (cf. Rev. 12:5-6).

The Antichrist and Lying
From a sound scriptural and theological analysis, Fruchtenbaum concluded that, “. . . the seed of Satan can only be the Antichrist” (Fruchtenbaum, 144).
In a passionate exchange with Abraham’s children, Jesus asserted, “You are of your father the devil . . . for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:39-44). Combining the Fruchtenbaum analysis with Jesus’ assertion, one can make the accurate observation that the antichrist lies.
The public record, combined with some commentator’s “Pinocchio” comments, indicates the President does indeed lie thereby making him a viable candidate for the antichrist.

The President and His Birth Certificate
According to Fruchtenbaum, the antichrist will have both a natural and supernatural origin (Fruchtenbaum, 143-144). If this is true, how such origins will be manifested in the President’s future is presently an enigma. However, the questions raised (which still remain) regarding the President’s birth certificate may provide an open channel for demonstrating both a natural and supernatural origin in the future.

Conclusion
The foregoing discussion presents sufficient information to acknowledge that the President of the US could be a viable candidate for the antichrist—a satanic substitute for Jesus.

New Covenant living begins with accepting God’s free irreversible gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Eternal life is distinct from (but impacts) one’s physical life.

Eternal life results in five events promised by God:

First, all one’s sins are forgiven—sins past, present, and future.

Second,  God installs a new human spirit—a spirit that can be in contact with God and is not necessarily susceptible to Satan and his minions.

Third, God removes one’s “heart of stone” and replaces it with “a heart of flesh.”  In biblical parlance, one’s heart is the ‘organ’ of belief, so this removal and replacement equip the person to believe God’s words which are recorded in the Bible.

Fourth, God dispenses the Holy Spirit to take up residence (joining sin’s residence) in one’s mortal body.  The Spirit can render sin powerless, does not enable nor empower one to obey God, teaches one God’s word, and causes one to exhibit righteous behavior.

And fifth, Jesus and the Father also take up residence in one’s mortal body resulting in a believer’s fellowship with Jesus and the Father.

Separation from this fellowship—sometimes referred to biblically as death—results from one committing an act of sin.  Fellowship is restored simply by confession to God of one’s act of sin.

One’s belief and expectation are that the combination of the Spirit and Jesus functioning together in one’s mortal body produce Jesus’ righteous words and works emanating from the believer.  Or, “he who has seen the believer has seen Jesus.”  Be advised, a believer is a saint, not a sinner.

Please note: one’s faith is living in the belief and anticipation that God’s promises will take place.

The righteous works of Jesus are credited to the believer’s account.  At the Judgment, these works receive rewards.

New Covenant living may be summarized by the statement, “everything coming from God, nothing coming from me.”

Re “New Covenant Living 101:” the Spirit’s ministry revealed by God in Ezekiel 36:27 can be problematic because of how one word in this verse is translated from the Hebrew.

Two kinds of bible translations are in use.  One is referred to as a word for word translation; the other, as a thought for thought translation.  Word for word translations tend to be objective and literal (example, the NASB).  Thought for thought translations mean the translator formulates what the author was thinking when using a specific word in the original language.  Then, the translator selects a translated word that best expresses the author’s thought (example, the NIV).  The translator’s personal theological biases can color a thought for thought translation.

From a sample of 240 translators, 75% translate the critical word in Ezekiel 36:27 literally as “cause” (NASB).  The others translate it as “enable” (GWT), “empower” (ISV), or “move” (NIV).  The difference between the translations has to do with cause and effect.  In the one case—the literal one—the Godhead unilaterally produces the results (cf. Jer. 31:33); in the other case, the Godhead joins with the believer to achieve a cooperative result.

Many local churches teach that God enables or empowers (by the Spirit) the believer to obey God.  On the other hand, in New Covenant Living, God alone produces the results Himself.

 

 

 

Follow the fig tree

or

The tale of two parables

Two Important Parables

In The New Testament

Luke 13:6-9 and Matthew 24:32-35

Introduction

The context in which Jesus told the first parable was Pilate’s murder of some Galileans who had sought forgiveness for their sins by their sacrifices offered through the Jerusalem Temple priests in accordance with God’s instructions to Moses.  Therefore, the issue of priests, the character of their ministry, and their spiritual standing during Pilate’s reign provide the context for Jesus’ parable.

All Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995.

The Initial Parable, Luke 13

    6And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.  7“And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’  8“And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;  9and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”

Elements of Jesus’ Parable

  1. The man was Jesus;
  2. The fig tree was the Jewish priesthood, both priests and Levites;
  3. The vineyard was the land of Israel;
  4. The fruit was righteousness;
  5. Absence of fruit was due to a corrupted priesthood;
  6. The vineyard-keeper was God;
  7. The three years were Jesus’ presence in Jerusalem;
  8. The ground was the financial support mandated through Moses and supplied by the citizens of the nation Israel through their annual tithes’ supporting the priesthood;
  9. God’s digging and fertilizing were His efforts to produce righteousness in the priesthood, perhaps by changing their environment; and
  10. Jesus’ response of silence implied His acceptance of God’s proposed approach to achieving righteousness in the Jerusalem priesthood by the next year.

The Next Year

During the week that eventually culminated in His death, Jesus departed from Bethany for Jerusalem.  Approaching the city, He became hungry.  On the way, a fig tree caught His attention.  However, the fig tree had no figs because it was out of season for figs.  Astonishingly, Jesus cursed the barren fig tree.

Arriving in Jerusalem, the next action Jesus took was to stop the priests from performing their daily temple ministry.

How is one to understand Jesus’ actions of cursing the fig tree and stopping the priesthood’s ministry?

A Temporary End to the Levitical Priesthood

Obviously, God’s work (described in the first parable) for producing righteousness in the priesthood within a year had proved unsuccessful so the fig tree had to be cut down.  Therefore, the Levitical priesthood came to an end a year later as indicated by Jesus’ cursing of the fruitless fig tree and immediately halting the priests’ temple ministry.

Please note: the Jewish priesthood was soon to be replaced by the priesthood of church members.

The Eschatological Impact Featuring Another Parable, Matthew 24

32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;  33so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Reinstatement of the Levitical Priesthood

The parabolic fig tree would put forth recognizable evidence of life.  Figs would become available within the growing season.  From Jesus’ previous parable about the barren fig tree, one may interpret the fig tree as representing the Levitical Priesthood.  The priesthood would be restored ultimately, but there would be recognizable signs of the nascent priesthood.

Those signs began in 1978 with the founding of the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim (the Crown of Priests School, cf. Exod. 39:30) in the old city of Jerusalem.  Remember, when coming out of Egypt, candidates were selected from the tribe of Levi for the priesthood who were 30 years old.  Interestingly, Yeshiva candidates selected in 1978 were 30 years away from Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948.

So it’s quite possible that the Yeshiva set the time frame for discovering Jesus’ presence at “the door,” as well as His Second Coming.

In His teaching ministry, Jesus presented to His disciples a simile about His departure and return (Mark 13:33-37).  The departure and return were directed to His “slaves,” clearly a reference to the church.  Responsibilities for one specific slave were those of being a “doorkeeper.”  By orders, the doorkeeper was to be alert for his master’s arrival at the door.  Therefore, the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim is a sign that Jesus “. . . is near, right at the door.”

And the doorkeeper—perhaps a Shabbos Goy—has the responsibility of at least alerting household members and maybe even believing neighbors.

Conclusion

Jesus’ teachings about the “fig tree” clearly have much significance.  The Levitical Priesthood would be temporarily suspended, replaced by the church, become a nascent sign for Jesus’ return, used by His doorkeeper to alert the church, and become restored and functional as righteous ministers in the rebuilt Jerusalem Temple.

But why does the Levitical Priesthood play such a dominate and consistent role in the Scriptures?  Remember, the first Passover made all the Jewish first-born males God’s private possession.  At the Exodus from Egypt, God substituted the tribe of Levi for His possession of first-born Jewish males, and designated those from the tribe of Levi as His permanent personal priesthood.  Perhaps this is why the Levitical Priesthood enjoys such a high profile in God’s word.

Introduction

Translators of the New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995) have entitled the ending statement of Matthew’s Gospel as The Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).  The event so entitled is Matthew’s first-hand record of Jesus’ mandated post-resurrection meeting with His eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee.

Today, the church applies Jesus’ Galilean instructions to His disciples as the biblical basis for the practice of church-wide evangelism.

In addition, church members and church leaders often append the phrase “. . . in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .” to baptisms, prayers, and as the closing statement for other religious events (Matt. 28:19).

A problem arises because Jesus’ eleven disciples were not church members at the time Jesus declared His heavenly and worldwide authority, and gave His Galilean instructions to the eleven.  The vacancy left by Judas’ treachery had not yet been filled so the eleven disciples’ potential church “ministry and apostleship” had been unfavorably compromised (Acts 1:15-28).

The church did not even exist until Pentecost, AD 33 (Acts 2:1-4; for dates, see Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects Of The Life Of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977, 143).  That particular Pentecost in AD 33 (when the Spirit was given) was an estimated 40 days after Jesus’ Galilean instructions to His eleven non-church members.

So what is the biblical basis for applying “The Great Commission” to today’s church?

Perhaps absence of actual church representatives on the mountain suggests the possibility that Jesus’ Galilean instructions may have been intended for another group quite separate from the church.

From the Bible, this study will propose that “The Great Commission” actually was intended for a generation of Jews living when the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy begins (cf. Dan. 9:24-27).

 

The Doubtful Worshipers

A quite disturbing revelation by Matthew was that some of Jesus’ disciples were doubtful about worshiping Him on the Galilean mountain (Matt. 28:17).  A likely explanation for these doubts of some may revert back to Jesus’ Transfiguration on a high mountain (Matt. 17:1-9).

Please note: in the Old Testament Scriptures, a mountain was sometimes used figuratively as a kingdom (Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Footsteps Of The Messiah. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1983, 31; Unger, Merrill F. Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd Ed. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966, 765).  A mountain was never used figuratively for the church. Therefore, Jesus directing his disciples to a mountain was likely Jesus setting the stage for kingdom matters, not church matters.

At the Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John personally witnessed Jesus’ face shining like the sun, Moses’ presence, Elijah’s presence, and additionally they heard God speaking from a bright cloud acknowledging that Jesus was His beloved Son.  Peter then volunteered to construct three tabernacles, aka booths.  Peter was likely motivated to suggest construction due to the annual celebration of the Feast of Booths throughout the future millennial kingdom (Lev. 23:34; Zech. 14:16).  Peter was obviously thinking ‘kingdom,’ not church.

Finally, Jesus ordered Peter, James, and John to tell no one of their experience until after His resurrection (Matt. 17:9).  They also understood that Jesus’ just-given instructions of keeping silent probably encompassed the millennial kingdom.

Therefore, Peter, James, and John had no doubt whatsoever about worshipping Jesus—God’s beloved Son—on the Galilean mountain because they had witnessed first-hand His Transfiguration in the kingdom context.  This interpretation is substantiated by the disciples’ pre-ascension question to Jesus about the timing for restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6).  This interpretation is also validated by the fact that Peter did not baptize newly minted church members in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Probably during the eleven disciples’ journey to the Galilean mountain, Peter, James, and John had related to the other eight disciples with them what had taken place at Jesus’ Transfiguration.  However, due to not being eye witnesses themselves to the Transfiguration, some disciples had doubts about the appropriateness of worshipping Jesus on the mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:17).  Here, then, is the reason behind the worship skepticism of some of Jesus’ disciples.

The Apostle Peter’s ‘Disobedience’

Peter may have blatantly disobeyed his Lord Jesus by not baptizing the early church members in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  The only way this was not a purposeful act of gross insubordination on Peter’s part would be if Jesus’ instructions on the Galilean mountain were intended for a time yet future to the church.  Peter realized the future nature of Jesus’ instructions did not apply to the church.  Therefore, Peter was not disobedient.

A Never-Used Phrase  

Baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit was never used in the New Testament.

Baptisms Done in Jesus’ Name

Four times recorded in Acts, baptisms were done in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5).

The Apostle Paul’s Instructions to a Gentile Church

Paul specifically instructed a gentile church that any deed done or word spoken should be in Jesus’ name (Col. 3:17).  Therefore, church baptisms were to be done in Jesus’ name confirming that “The Great Commission” was not intended for the church.

Paul himself never mentioned “the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Please note: deeds and a single command in Jesus’ name were recorded in the New Testament (Acts 3:16; 16:18, and 2 Thess. 3:6).  Throughout biblical literature, church-member deeds and commands were never ordered to be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Evangelism and the Church

Evangelism was never assigned as a church-wide practice, or as a biblical command.  An evangelist was like a prophet or an apostle—a receiver of a spiritual gift from Jesus, given to specific individuals (Eph. 4:11).  Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8).  Paul ordered a single person, Timothy, to do the work of an evangelist, not to become an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5).

The only explanation for this quite limited practice of first-century church evangelism is that Matt. 28:19 (i.e., “make disciples”) was intended for a group other than the church.

Please note: evangelism is assumed to be the beginning step or precursor of making disciples.

A Spiritual Commission Vs. The Great Commission

If the entire church had been commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of all nations, then the Holy Spirit would not have said, “Set apart for Me (emphasis mine) Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2; cf. Acts 13:4 for the ‘Spiritual Commission’).  The Spirit’s command to “set apart for Me” clearly implies a work that is not incumbent upon all members of the congregation at Antioch, but rather just upon two prophets and teachers (i.e., Barnabas and Saul).

Were the entire congregation part of a ‘Great Commission,’ the Spirit would have simply said, “Send Barnabas and Saul for the work to which Jesus has commissioned them.”

The Other Group

Jesus’ final statement in “The Great Commission” was: “and lo, I am with you all the days (emphasis mine), even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20; see also Matt. 24:14 for the phrase “the end will come,” noting that the gospel mentioned in verse 14 was about the kingdom—not the church).  Actually, Matt. 24:14 was a precursor summary-statement of “The Great Commission,” a precursor specifically highlighting the kingdom which Jesus had first announced in His Olivet Discourse, easily predating “The Great Commission.”

Furthermore, two points in the Commission are noteworthy.  Firstly, Jesus’ promised daily presence with the disciples obviously implies that the disciples will remain alive throughout executing “The Great Commission.”  And secondly, the question arises, “what age will be contemporaneous with the end of the disciples’ activities of making disciples?”

Responses to both points direct one’s attention to the seven years of Daniel’s 70th week (Dan 9:27).            At the outset of those seven years, Jesus will be dispatched to fetch His bride—the church (cf. Rev. 2:25 and 3:3 for the two ancient churches that are types of today’s congregations, as discussed in www.mcclymont.org/?p=40).

Please note: the voice of Michael (Israel’s archangel, Jude 9) will be heard at Jesus’ fetching of His bride (1 Thess. 4:16).  Michael will likely announce to the Jews the arrival of the seven-year Tribulation (Dan. 12:1).

Absent the earthly presence of His bride, the group left to make disciples of all nations will be the 144,000 sealed (i.e., protected from physical death) at the outset of the seven years.  The 144,000 are identified by the Apostle John in Rev. 7:3-8 as 12,000 from each of the 12 Israeli tribes.

During Daniel’s 70th week, God will be preparing the nations’ citizenry to become righteous, honest, and moral as a fitting and suitable inheritance for His Son (cf. Psa. 2:1-8).

Except for the 12,000 sealed from the tribe of Levi—priests and Levites who will minister briefly in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple (cf. Matt. 24:15-16)—a group of 132,000 will comprise the disciple makers about whom Jesus had described symbolically in “The Great Commission.”

The 132,000—who will be alive throughout the seven years—going into all the nations in the 21st century with air travel is significantly more probable than 12 disciples in the 1st century traveling worldwide.  And besides, Peter, James, and John—who all heard “The Great Commission” firsthand—hung out in Jerusalem for years ministering almost exclusively to the Jews (Acts 15:2-20; Gal. 2:1-9).  So much for going into all nations!

Baptism of converts will be in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, or perhaps Elohim.  This epithet makes it clear the converts are not part of the church.  Furthermore, it also indicates the converts are living under the New Covenant which allows vocalizing God’s name unlike Jewish practices of respect under the Old Covenant.  Finally, “the Son” validates Jesus’ identity as deity.

The age in “The Great Commission” statement will be the age of Aliyah for the Jews’ return to the land—the land that God had promised Abraham.  The return comes to an end after seven years of the Tribulation culminating in Jesus’ Second Coming (Matt. 24:29-31).

Gathering of the Jews remaining in the captivity of the Diaspora (some of whom having been made disciples via “The Great Commission”) will fulfill those ‘double return to the land’ prophecies mentioned by Moses (Deut. 30:3) and Isaiah (Isa. 11:11-12).

Please note: the first gathering from the Diaspora was made possible by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 which prepared the way for Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 15, 1948 (Gold, Dore. The Fight for Jerusalem. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2007, 275).

Conclusion

A biblical analysis has shown “The Great Commission” was not Jesus’ assignment given to the church.  The Commission was intended for Jews at the outset of Daniel’s 70th week which is yet to begin.

 

Two Important Parables

In The New Testament

Luke 13:6-9 and Matthew 24:32-35

Introduction

The context in which Jesus told the first parable was Pilate’s murder of some Galileans who had sought forgiveness for their sins by their sacrifices offered through the Jerusalem Temple priests in accordance with God’s instructions to Moses.  Therefore, the issue of priests, the character of their ministry, and their spiritual standing during Pilate’s reign provide the context for Jesus’ parable.

All Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Ref. Ed. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995.

 

The Initial Parable, Luke 13

    6And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.  7“And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’  8“And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;  9and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”

 

Elements of Jesus’ Parable

  1. The man was Jesus;
  2. The fig tree was the Jewish priesthood, both priests and Levites;
  3. The vineyard was the land of Israel;
  4. The fruit was righteousness;
  5. Absence of fruit was due to a corrupted priesthood;
  6. The vineyard-keeper was God;
  7. The three years were Jesus’ presence in Jerusalem;
  8. The ground was the financial support mandated through Moses and supplied by the citizens of the nation Israel through their annual tithes’ supporting the priesthood;
  9. God’s digging and fertilizing were His efforts to produce righteousness in the priesthood, perhaps by changing their environment; and
  10. Jesus’ response of silence implied His acceptance of God’s proposed approach to achieving righteousness in the Jerusalem priesthood by the next year.

 

The Next Year

During the week that eventually culminated in His death, Jesus departed from Bethany for Jerusalem.  Approaching the city, He became hungry.  On the way, a fig tree caught His attention.  However, the fig tree had no figs because it was out of season for figs.  Astonishingly, Jesus cursed the barren fig tree.

Arriving in Jerusalem, the next action Jesus took was to stop the priests from performing their daily temple ministry.

How is one to understand Jesus’ actions of cursing the fig tree and stopping the priesthood’s ministry?

 

A Temporary End to the Levitical Priesthood

Obviously, God’s work (described in the first parable) for producing righteousness in the priesthood within a year had proved unsuccessful so the fig tree had to be cut down.  Therefore, the Levitical priesthood came to an end a year later as indicated by Jesus’ cursing of the fruitless fig tree and immediately halting the priests’ temple ministry.

Please note: the Jewish priesthood was soon to be replaced by the priesthood of church members.

 

The Eschatological Impact Featuring Another Parable, Matthew 24

32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;  33so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

 

Reinstatement of the Levitical Priesthood

The parabolic fig tree would put forth recognizable evidence of life.  Figs would become available within the growing season.  From Jesus’ previous parable about the barren fig tree, one may interpret the fig tree as representing the Levitical Priesthood.  The priesthood would be restored ultimately, but there would be recognizable signs of the nascent priesthood.

Those signs began in 1978 with the founding of the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim (the Crown of Priests School) in the old city of Jerusalem.  Remember, when coming out of Egypt, candidates were selected from the tribe of Levi for the priesthood who were 30 years old.  Interestingly, Yeshiva candidates selected in 1978 were 30 years away from Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948.

So it’s quite possible that the Yeshiva set the time frame for discovering Jesus’ presence at “the door,” as well as His Second Coming.

In His teaching ministry, Jesus presented to His disciples a simile about His departure and return (Mark 13:33-37).  The departure and return were directed to His “slaves,” clearly a reference to the church.  Responsibilities for one specific slave were those of being a “doorkeeper.”  By orders, the doorkeeper was to be alert for his master’s arrival at the door.  Therefore, the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim is a sign that Jesus “. . . is near, right at the door.”

And the doorkeeper—perhaps a Shabbos Goy—has the responsibility of at least alerting household members and maybe even believing neighbors.

 

Conclusion

Jesus’ teachings about the “fig tree” clearly have much significance.  The Levitical Priesthood would be temporarily suspended, replaced by the church, become a nascent sign for Jesus’ return, used by His doorkeeper to alert the church, and become restored and functional as righteous ministers in the rebuilt Jerusalem Temple.

But why does the Levitical Priesthood play such a dominate and consistent role in the Scriptures?  Remember, the first Passover made all the Jewish first-born males God’s private possession.  At the Exodus from Egypt, God substituted the tribe of Levi for His possession of first-born Jewish males, and designated those from the tribe of Levi as His permanent personal priesthood.  Perhaps this is why the Levitical Priesthood enjoys such a high profile in God’s word.

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