(Israel Conference – Langensteinbacherhohe: “Eschatological Convictions”, Nov 20- 25, 2007)
I was saved almost 27 years ago now. I was saved by grace through faith in the good news of God in Jesus Christ, not even yet convicted of being a sinner despite my sins. And I was saved in hope: Jesus was God’s plan for making the world right! The Lord Jesus Christ is going to come back to bring righteousness and peace to this world, and with that, there will be joy in the Holy Spirit. And I thought and hoped that He would come back even that very year! He didn’t, but I still hope and think He will come back during my generation.
As I began to read the Bible, along with my perception of history, it was clear that Christians/the Church were doing no better with their call unto God in Messiah than the Jews/Israel had done with theirs. Now that I am a Jew and a Christian, I can relate to both – as well as to all humanity as children of Adam. The Word of God is true, and is the truth. In those days of 1981, there was an excitement and an anticipation that the Lord might actually come for His own that year during the Autumn Jewish holy days. This was according to certain teachings and calculations of many evangelical dispensational believers in their interpretation of prophesy. All the teaching I received, and all the books I was given to read, and the study Bible I had then – they all taught what is called the pre-tribulation rapture and pre-millennial return of Messiah, who would reign over Israel and the nations with the saints. My initial understanding when I was born-again and received the Holy Spirit was that Jesus was indeed coming back to restore the Kingdom of God to Israel and to the entire world. Upon hearing all the teaching on the pre-trib rapture, my instinct was both to hope that it might be true, but also that the Christians did not deserve to be spared the tribulation. Every time I read the Bible, I saw that the Scriptures seem to teach that the Church would go through tribulation and great tribulation – in other words, the 70th week of Daniel, the last seven years of this age. But all the teaching I was getting said that God would take up His saints before this last period of much suffering and judgments would begin.
My view and understanding of the Word of God and of His ways leads me to believe that the Body of Christ will be on Earth during the final period of testing and purging, and will be raised on the last day (Jn 6:39-40). The Church is promised by God to be saved from His wrath; He has also promised that we will suffer tribulation; and the Scriptures are clear in both the Old and New Testaments that Satan will war against the saints and overcome them (Dan 7:21-22; Rev 13:7). The apostle Paul warns the believers – us – against being deceived, saying that the appointed day of being gathered together to Him will not come until after the falling away/apostasy and the man of sin/the antichrist is revealed(2Thes 2:1-5).
Paul had previously written to the believers in Thessalonica (1Thes 4:15-18) to comfort them and us “that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. . . .the dead in Christ will rise first (the first resurrection [Rev 20:4-6]). Then we who remain alive shall be caught up (the rapture) together with them to meet the Lord in the air. . . . Elsewhere (1Cor 15:51-52) Paul writes that at the last trumpet the dead and the living in Christ will be raised and changed. The apostle John writes by the same inspired Spirit of the last and seventh trumpet (Rev 11:15-19) through which the Lord takes the Kingdom from the rulers of this world, and there is judgment and reward according to one’s relationship with Messiah. All these passages together speak with one voice and of the same time and events.
The Holy Spirit expressly warns (1Tim 4:1) that in latter times some will depart from the faith/falling away/apostasy, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. . . . The Lord Jesus Himself warns His disciples (Mk 13:24-27) that the enemy will seek to deceive even the elect, if possible. Yeshua goes on to say in the same passage , “in those days, after that tribulation, . . .they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds. . .and He will. . .gather together His elect . . .”
We are not saved by our own understanding, but by our faith in who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished for our salvation by His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection from among the dead. Yet we are warned many times against being deceived and deceiving others. Our Father in Heaven and our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to be ready for, anticipating, loving His appearing and return. There is much danger if we hold to a false teaching which does not properly prepare our hearts and minds for that day, especially, of course, should we be alive during these times we are discussing. If we hold to a teaching that says we will not be here when the antichrist is revealed, then we will not be prepared – except that God graciously straightens us out in time, which we should not simply take for granted, whatever our confidence in His love for us and in our salvation – when he actually is manifested and begins his terror campaign against the believers/the saints. More dangerous still is if we believe that we will not be here when the mark is imposed, then we may – except that God graciously and providentially prevents it – take the mark, thinking that it is not the mark; for the Word of God plainly says (Rev 14:9-11) that anyone who worships the beast or receives his mark, whatever it may actually be, is doomed.
All of the prophets of God look towards the last days and to the righteous judgments of God on evil and on evil doers, and the establishment of the righteous rule and reign of YHVH’s appointed Priest-King Messiah. The Day of YHVH is a prominent theme in nearly all the prophetic outlook, a day of judgment upon the unbelieving, upon the hypocrites, even upon cowards, and also a day of salvation and deliverance for those whom the Lord declares righteous, and upon whom He chooses to show mercy and compassion. The letters to the churches by Jesus Himself carry the church/the believers through to the end. He who endures to the end shall be saved.
The Scriptures can not be broken (Jn 10:35). It is important to know the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ by believing what Moses wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit concerning things of the beginning that only God could know and make known. It is important also to believe what the apostles by the same inspiration write us concerning the things of the end. “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”