Part 3/5: The Great End-Time Gathering

Post Series: Jesus’s Olivet Discourse Framework
1/5: Laying out Jesus’s Olivet Discourse Framework – posted 1/12/2018
2/5: The Critical Role of the Old Testament – posted 2/10/2018
3/5: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 1 of 2) – posted 6/4/2018
4/5: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 2 of 2)
5/5: Lining up the Major and Minor Prophets with Jesus’s “Gold Standard” Framework

The Great End-Time Gathering
Apart from the actual return of Jesus Christ, the great end-time gathering could be considered one of the most monumental events in all of history. In context of the day of the Lord being “nigh at hand” (Joel 2:1), the prophet Joel says a time is coming unlike anything that has ever occurred in the history of mankind, or that will ever occur (Joel 2:2). I find this type of pronouncement remarkable. Likely, this unique characterization of the event’s status is due to its size and scope. Evil will gather toward Jerusalem from the ends of the earth (Zechariah 12:3). This horde of evil will be greater than any gathering. . . ever! Quite amazing and sobering.

The Great Climax
But now take a step back. What is the most powerful, significant, and single-greatest event to come? The Lord returning in power and glory! On the day of the Lord, the fire of the LORD’s wrath will suddenly come upon the evil, the pride of man will be thrust asunder, the splendor and greatness of the LORD will be vibrantly displayed, and the Lord will make Himself known in the eyes of the nations. Scripture describes the day of the Lord as great and notable—exceedingly magnificent, strong, and memorable.

So what do we have here? The climax of this age! A great gathering of evil, unlike any in the history of the world, that will be met by the greatest response of power. . . ever! Yet again, incredibly amazing and sobering to ponder.

Anti-Christian behavior, deception, betrayal, apostasy, persecution of the saints, iniquity, and general ungodliness will abound and grow in intensity. Prophetic events will occur as stated by Jesus (Olivet Discourse) and as seen by John (Book of Revelation). Ultimately, the bitter rage of evil will peak with this gathering toward Jerusalem, along with a great travail and time of distress for Jacob/Israel. Then “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19–20) and this grand finale of evil will experience defeat at the battle we know as Armageddon.

Seeing the Big Picture
How is it possible that Satan could bring about a massive gathering at the end of this age? Why are we headed toward such a peak of evil rage against the plans of God? Didn’t Satan experience his defeat when Jesus died on the cross? I admit, it is easy to envision a brutal footprint on the back of Satan’s neck as C.S. Lewis once wrote.

On the back of Satan’s neck is a nail scarred footprint. ― C.S. Lewis

It seems popular to hear that “Satan’s head was crushed” long ago at the cross—a complete fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. In part there is truth to this statement because Jesus indeed wields power and offers us an escape from Satan’s pursuits and ultimately from the curse of death. Christ’s sin-bearing sacrifice is available for mankind to receive the forgiveness of sins and the enemy can be conquered with the Holy Spirit, strength, grace, and wisdom from God. However, the statement isn’t totally accurate. We cannot obfuscate the distinct purposes of the first coming and second coming, and in turn miss the big picture.

Jesus is fully qualified and worthy to one day rule the world as King. But the time when Jesus is firmly seated on the throne of David (Luke 1:32) is not here yet. Today Jesus is at the right hand of Almighty God. . . waiting to return at the appointed time set by the Father (Acts 17:31). One day the time for judgment and restoration will come to pass according to the testimony of the prophets (Acts 3:21; Matthew 19:28). At that time, in the “day of His power”, Jesus will “strike through kings in the day of His wrath” and “judge among the heathen” (Psalm 110). Then, Jesus will reign gloriously over the kingdom of God from Zion (Luke 21:31; Acts 1:6; 2 Peter 1:11; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 11:15; Psalm 2:6; 72:8; Isaiah 2:2–3; 66:19).

Meanwhile, we are called to pick up our cross every day for the battle at hand. Who and what are we fighting? Satan, of course, in an ultimate sense. He, we must say candidly, is the current “ruler” of this world.

Why is there so much evil today? And why will evil continue to rage until defeated by Jesus at the battle of Armageddon? It is critical that we understand the following basic scriptural truths.

  • Satan is the present-day “god of this [age] world” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • Satan is the “prince and power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2)
  • As a result of this, we live in “a present evil [age] world” (Galatians 1:4)

The blessed hope for which we yearn (Titus 2:13) is that one day the Son of man will come to crush Satan, defeat the ungodly, restore all things, and establish His kingdom in power and glory. The Apostle Paul clearly states that the crushing of Satan had yet to occur in his day.

And the God of peace shall bruise [crush] Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:20)

Never lose sight of the living power of Jesus, but please don’t underestimate and under-appreciate Satan’s position and power today, both in the air and on earth. Our acknowledgment of Satan’s present reign as “god of this world” is biblical. It forces the humble Christian into a greater dependence in the grace and power of Almighty God. Further, it builds our hope in the day of the Lord and the glory and salvation to come! The first coming of Jesus brought a sin-bearing offering through love, suffering, and death. The second coming will not find Jesus bringing an offering to deal with sin, but rather He will come to save those who are ready, prepared, and waiting for Him in eager anticipation (Hebrews 9:28)!

Our acknowledgment of Satan’s present reign as “god of this world” is biblical. It forces the humble Christian into a greater dependence in the grace and power of Almighty God. Further, it builds our hope in the day of the Lord and the glory and salvation to come!

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s return to our subject!

Understanding the End-Time Gathering
Seeing the “day of the Lord” profusely mentioned throughout Scripture is no surprise to any bible student in tune with the forthcoming return of Jesus. Although much less frequent, I believe we can find similar repetition pertaining to the evil end-time gathering. Being such an epic event in all of history, it is reasonable to expect the prophets to clearly speak about this gathering of a vast and strong people against Jerusalem. This is confirmed by Scripture because the great end-time gathering led by Antichrist is an oft-repeated refrain of the prophets (Ezekiel 38:17). With that said, let’s review its meaningful characteristics.

The Purpose:
It will happen for reasons much deeper and broader than my mind can process. Some of the purpose is severe discipline and chastisement to soften the hearts of the house of Israel for the moment they behold the Redeemer with their eyes. Some of the purpose is to gather the tares of the earth for burning and the grapes for crushing. Some of the purpose is for the divine holiness of the great “I AM”. God knows the end from the beginning and the monumental gathering unto the day of the Lord and the end of this age will come to pass accordingly. I summarize the purpose as follows:

  • To bring chastisement and discipline upon the house of Israel which then leads to them knowing the LORD their God from that day and forward (Isaiah 59:21, 62:12; Jeremiah 23:6, 30:7–9, 31:33, 32:39-40; Ezekiel 36:27; 39:7, 22, 25–29; Zechariah 9:16, 12:10, 13:8–9; Joel 3:16; Romans 11:26).
  • To gather the heathen together into one place, like sheaves are gathered for the threshing floor (Micah 4:11–13); to gather the “kings of the earth” together as prisoners so they can easily be cast into the pit (Isaiah 24:21–22); and to gather together the ripe clusters of grapes from all over the earth so they can be crushed in the great winepress of the wrath of God (Revelation 14:18–19; Joel 3:13).
  • So that the LORD may vindicate the holiness of His great name and make the nations know that “I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel” (Ezekiel 36:23; 38:16, 23; 39:7).

The Place:
In Micah 4:10–11, what is the focus when the nations are gathered? It is Zion in Jerusalem. And in Zechariah 14:1–3 what is the focus? The eyes of the gathering in the last days are upon Jerusalem.[1] Several other passages help bring the location of Armageddon into focus. In my opinion, it becomes quite clear after reviewing these passages that Jerusalem (and Mount Zion in particular) is in view at the end of this age where evil climaxes in a rage toward Mount Zion, only to be met on the day of the Lord by the mighty right arm of God, the Lord Jesus.

  • Isaiah 10:12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.
  • Isaiah 31:4–5 For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. (5) As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.
  • Jeremiah 4:6, 16–17 Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. (16) Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. (17) As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.
  • Jeremiah 25:17–18 Then took I the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: (18) To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; as it is this day;
  • Zechariah 12:2–3 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. (3) And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

The Provocation:
In the latter days (Ezekiel 38:16), a provocation, as caused/allowed by the Lord, will sweep across the world in a moment of time. All who have aligned with the beast kingdom will blindly heed the stimulating force and in a short period of time armies of people will head toward and eventually surround Jerusalem. I cannot imagine the intensity of the spiritual force that will create such unification of evil, all with a focused resolve toward the city of God (Jeremiah 33:16; Psalm 48:1–2). In my opinion, the following Scriptures indicate that the Lord is the One who ultimately stimulates the evil gathering: Isaiah 10:5–6; 42:13, 24; Jeremiah 4:6; 25:29, Ezekiel 38:4, 39:2; Joel 3:2, 11–12; Micah 4:11–12; Zephaniah 1:7, 3:8; and Zechariah 12:2, 14:2.

The Scope:
I started off this post by noting the historically unprecedented nature of the gathering. The worldwide scope is a staggering thought, but this fact is supported by Scripture. Each of the following scriptures lend support to the vastness of the gathering which develops from “all the ends of the earth”: Isaiah 10:14, 13:4–5, 14:9, 24:21–22, 34:1–2; Jeremiah 25:26, 29, 31–32; Micah 4:11; Zechariah 12:3, 14:2. This “all-nations” aspect or worldwide scope is very important to consider.

The Presence of the Lord:
I’m sure there are more, but from my count around twenty-one passages in the Old Testament directly refer or make inference to this end-time gathering of nations. What becomes evident is that the gathering occurs very quickly. It is like the sudden appearance of storm clouds (Jeremiah 4:13, Ezekiel 38:9, 16). And, the gathering is met directly by the presence of the Lord. For reference and study purposes, some of the more explicit examples are as follows:

  • The gathering in Isaiah 13:4–5 is met by the presence of the Lord in Isaiah 13:9–13.
  • The gathering in Jeremiah 4:6, 13, 17 is met by the presence of the Lord in Jeremiah 4:26.
  • The gathering in Ezekiel 38:4–11, 15–16 is met by the presence of the Lord in Ezekiel 38:18–23.
  • The gathering in Joel 2:1–2, 20 is met by the presence of the Lord in Joel 2:11, 20.
  • The gathering in Zephaniah 1:7, 3:8 is met by the presence of the Lord in Zephaniah 1:15–18, 2:4–15, 3:8.
  • The gathering in Zechariah 12:2–3, 14:2 is met by the presence of the Lord in Zechariah 12:4–9, 14:3–4, 12–15.
  • The gathering in Psalm 18:3–5 is met by the presence of the Lord in Psalm 18:7–18.
  • The gathering in Psalm 118:10–12 is met by the presence of the Lord in Psalm 118:13, 16, 26.

Let’s review a few of these end-time gathering passages.

Zephaniah 3:8
(8) Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

Gathering of the nations:
. . . for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms

Direct response of the LORD:
. . . to pour upon them [i.e. the gathered nations] mine indignation, even all my fierce anger

Zechariah 12:2–4, 8–9
(2) Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. (3) And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (4) In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. . . (8) In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; . . . (9) And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

Gathering of the nations:
. . . all the people round about (v2)
. . . though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it (v3)
. . . all the nations that come against Jerusalem (v9)

Direct response of the LORD “in that day”:
. . . defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem (v8)
. . . seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (v9)

In addition, Jerusalem will be like a “cup of trembling” to all the nations round about her. The picture is a large, shallow basin filled with intoxicating drink (i.e. cup of “reeling”) from which the nations are enticed to drink. Ultimately this is a word picture of judgment and correlates to the “wine of the wrath of God” and the “cup of indignation” poured out upon the followers of Antichrist (see Revelation 14:9–10). Finally, another method of judgment caused by the LORD is internal confusion, conflict, and madness. This theme, where the nations turn against one another is unsurprisingly found in other last days passages like Isaiah 10:26, Ezekiel 38:21, and Zechariah 14:13. In the chapter of my book on “The Egyptian Corollary of the End Times” I wrote about a similar parallel when the Lord “troubled” the host of Egyptians into a confused state just prior to the waters returning in strength and overthrowing all who were in the sea.

Zechariah 14:2–3
(2) For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (3) Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

Gathering of the nations:
. . . I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle (v2)

Direct response of the LORD:
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations (v3)

The Abrupt Halt to the Travail
A tight chronological connection is evident between the gathering and the day of the Lord (i.e. the presence of the Lord). I see a direct response by the Lord to this gathering of evil. In other words, the gathering is “unto” the return of Christ.

Jews will be expelled, the city will be run over, and people will experience terror, anguish and death (Isaiah 13:7–8; Jeremiah 30:5–7; Zechariah 14:2). This is a picture of sudden destruction (I Thessalonians 5:3) that comes when Jerusalem is overrun by a massive force of evil. What if the force of the gathering is not stopped? What if Jesus doesn’t put an end to the rampage? What if Jesus doesn’t return to defend Zion and the remaining inhabitants?

We read in the Olivet Discourse that “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved”. So what do we find prophesied in Zechariah 12:8? The LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem! The Lord will put a stop to the great travail caused by the gathered armies. Otherwise, no human being in and around Jerusalem would be saved from the destructive force of the gathered enemies of God!

Jesus uses the birth pain analogy in His discourse, and what we see that the “great tribulation” is the climax of pain and sorrow in the last days—a direct result of this evil gathering. Following the analogy, the coming of the Lord to defend Mt. Zion is equivalent to the delivering of the baby. After a peak period of excruciating agony and travail, pain subsides quickly and joy erupts!

Word Pictures—Bees, Grapes, Tares, Wheat, and Shining as the Sun
The Scripture describes relief coming from the Lord when the land of Israel is being flooded with the presence of the enemy (Isaiah 59:19–20). We must consider the vastness of the gathering. Many will be within the city of Jerusalem causing destruction while others are gathered outside the city and others still making their way toward Jerusalem. The enemies of God will be “within and without” the city at this time.

Like swarming bees
According to Psalm 118:10–12, hordes of people will still be surrounding Jerusalem “like bees” when the fire of the Lord falls upon them.

All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them. (11) They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. (12) They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. (Psalm 118:10–12)

Like grapes assembled into the press
The gathering is for the purpose of bringing together the ripe clusters of grapes from all over the earth so they can be crushed in the great winepress of the wrath of God (Revelation 14:18–19).

The bundling of tares
Jesus taught a parable about this in Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43. The context is the harvest at the end of this age. Both the wheat and tares grow together until the end! Verse 30 says that when the time for harvest has come, the first thing that occurs is the gathering and bundling of the tares (i.e. Antichrist and his followers gather around Jerusalem).

The wheat is put in the barn
Next, Jesus comes with the angels, and the faithful dead in Christ are resurrected and the faithful living in Christ are raptured. This is the harvest of the righteous (Revelation 14:14–16). From Luke 17 we understand that this will occur much like Noah and his family escaping the flood in the ark or Lot fleeing Sodom prior to its destruction by fire and brimstone.

Burning of the tares
Third, the Lord dispenses His wrath and judgment against the ungodly. This is the harvest of the wicked (Revelation 14:18–20). The tares are “bundled” through the provocation to head toward one single geographic location on the earth, the city of Jerusalem. The gathered tares are then burned in the fire (Psalm 68:2, 97:3; Isaiah 9:19, 10:17, 24:6, 30:30, 31:9, 34:9, 64:2, 66:15; Ezekiel 38:22, 39:6; Nahum 1:5; Habakkuk 3:5; Zephaniah 1:18; Zechariah 12:6; Malachi 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Revelation 14:10).

Shining as the sun
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:21). However, once the tares are burned and the battle of Armageddon is over, the righteous (the resurrected and raptured, along with redeemed remnant of Israel) will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of God! The restoration of the earth begins as does Jesus’s glorious reign from Zion!

A Wrap-up
We have reviewed the purpose for, the place of, and the provocation that spurs the gathering from all the ends of the earth. This leads to the climax of labor pains—a very great travail—which is then halted by none other than the Lord Himself at the end-of-the-age harvest of the righteous and wicked. We’ll continue to explore this remarkable subject next time.

 

 

[1] These passages all reference Zion and/or Jerusalem as the place of the gathering for the great battle between evil and the LORD (Isaiah 10:12, 31:4–5; Jeremiah 4:6, 16–17; 25:17–18; Micah 4:10–11; Zechariah 12:2–3, 14:1–3). Due to the Lord’s personal participation in the battle, we know this great, final battle is Armageddon. Where is Armageddon? Armageddon is har megiddô, or “mountain of Megiddo”. Megiddo is a city located within the valley of Jezreel, nearly 70 miles north of Jerusalem. While Megiddo was the site of several historical battles because of its strategic location, how is it possible for the battle of Armageddon to occur at Megiddo when there is no mountain at Megiddo? This is confusing, and something seems amiss. The most reasonable explanation of Armageddon that I have come across is that the Hebrew phrase underlying the Greek is not har megiddô (“the mountain of Megiddo”) but har moed (“the mountain of assembly”). Thus, “Armageddon” would mean “Mountain of Assembly,” which is a reference to the assembly at Mount Sinai, and to its replacement, Mount Zion. The issue stems from translating Hebrew to Greek where it is common for the letter gamma to represent the Hebrew letter ayin. This is taught effectively by Michael S. Heiser, and according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armageddon, other scholars also argue that the word is derived from the Hebrew moed (מועד‎), meaning “assembly”.

I could be wrong, but the “mountain of Megiddo” doesn’t make sense based on reality (there is no mountain at Megiddo) and based on scripture to scripture comparison. Scripture works together and surveying a host of relevant passages is the best way to make a conclusion about the location. The verses cited above all point to Jerusalem as the focus of the great gathering at the end of the age, and more specifically Mount Zion. This is congruent with the big picture of God’s plans. God has a Holy Hill in Zion destined for glory and Satan wants to annul the plan of God. Further, this “mount of the assembly” is referenced in Isaiah 14:13. Satan wants to “be like the most High” and as part of that desire the Scripture states that he also aims to “sit upon the mount of the congregation [assembly—Strong’s H4150]”. But, will Jesus Christ or the Evil One rule from Zion in glory and righteousness? Praise God we know the answer.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. (3) And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2–3)

Part 2/5: The Critical Role of the Old Testament

In the last post we laid out the framework that Jesus gave us from the Olivet Road Map of the End Times in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. It is my opinion that Christ’s straightforward chronology of events should be our “gold standard” framework. In this post, I intended to immediately launch out and start comparing prophecies from the Old Testament with this New Testament framework. However, I feel that it is best to lay some groundwork first. Below is a tentative outline for this series of posts.

Post Series: Jesus’s Olivet Discourse Framework
Part 1: Laying out Jesus’s Olivet Discourse Framework
Part 2: The Critical Role of the Old Testament
Part 3: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 1 of 2)
Part 4: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 2 of 2)
Part 5: Lining up the Major and Minor Prophets with Jesus’s “Gold Standard” Framework

The Critical Role of the Old Testament
When Jesus was walking to Emmaus, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). At Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul “reasoned with them out of the scriptures” that it was necessary for Christ to first suffer, die and then rise from the dead (Acts 17:2–3). Jesus and Paul taught about the first coming from the Tanakh (the Law, Prophets, and Writings)—what we today call our Old Testament.

Teaching from the Old Testament held great value and importance despite the first coming of Christ, as a suffering Savior, being a hidden mystery and not clearly visible except through hindsight (I Corinthians 2:7–8, Romans 16:25–26). The disciples couldn’t even grasp it though Jesus told them in advance. And when Mary Magdalene told the still sorrowing disciples that Jesus was risen, they didn’t believe it (Mark 16:10–11, Luke 24:9–11). God’s plan for the death and resurrection of Christ was so subtle in the Old Testament (i.e. hidden wisdom, a mystery) in order that Satan would be duped and God’s marvelous plan through Christ’s death and resurrection could begin.

1 Cor 2:7-8 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: (8) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

On the other hand, the second coming is not subtle in the Old Testament. So with the more apparent and obvious prophesies of the day of the Lord in the Old Testament, how much greater value does Jesus and Paul’s teaching method engender as it pertains to the second coming of Jesus?

The Mississippi River Analogy—If you have ever studied the testimony of the major and minor prophets you undoubtedly grasped how repetitively and consistently the prophecies arced toward the time of the end and the day of the Lord (i.e. the second coming). While there are many prophecies with a near-term or contemporary fulfillment, the ultimate trajectory of the Bible’s prophetic accounts takes us all the way to the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is a central and unifying theme throughout Scripture. Therefore, the “testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).

To understand this pictorially, I like to use an analogy with the Mississippi River. The headwaters originate in northern Minnesota at Lake Itasca, a name coined from a combination of two Latin words: veritas (“truth”) and caput (“head”). While the waters of the Mississippi sometimes flow east, west, or north, their general direction is from north to south. The flowing water that begins at Lake Itasca is fed and supported by numerous water-carrying tributaries all along the way until reaching their destination in the Gulf of Mexico.

Consider the inspiration of the Spirit of God as the headwaters, the tributaries that support and feed into the Mississippi as the prophets, and the consolidated words of prophecy as the Mississippi River itself. The ultimate trajectory of these inspired “waters” is toward a common destination: the first and second comings of Jesus Christ.

We can take this a step further to depict the importance and relevance of prophecy, which some say is nearly 30 percent of Scripture. If we equated the United States of America to the Holy Bible itself and the placement of the Mississippi and its tributaries to prophecy, what would we find lies at the heart of Scripture? Prophecy. And what is the heart of the message of prophecy? Jesus Christ.

From this simple illustration, can you see the valuable nature of prophecy? The prophetic message of Jesus Christ is the heartbeat of Scripture.

First things first—Our approach is backwards If we start studying eschatology by reading the book of Revelation. It’s wonderful to read, and one should do so multiple times. But prior to developing strong positions, we first need to understand the major themes, covenants, prophecies, and general story of the Old Testament. We need to feel out the basic tenor of the testimony of the prophets which is the very foundation of our eschatological house. The Old Testament—as a lens through which we look when viewing prophetic texts from the New Testament—undergirds and supports the New Testament. As Jesus and Paul, we must rely on Old Testament scriptures to shape, mold, and influence our understanding of the second coming of Christ.

Restoration of all things—The day of the Lord will rid the heavens and the earth of evilness and ungodliness and restore creation to its original glory. This is a future reality that provides a real and legitimate anchor of hope. The power of the air will be dissolved, sin will be judged, the curse upon the earth will be removed, paradise and the tree of life will be restored, and Satan will be bound. We look forward with eagerness to this “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). Both Acts 3:19-21 and Matthew 19:28 reaffirm the revealed plan of God from the Old Testament of an earthly restoration.

The driving force of the covenants—The Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New covenants undergird the prophets and the entire story of the bible. The day of the Lord will usher in the kingdom of God. By its very nature a kingdom isn’t complete with land only; it must have laws and a king or it is no kingdom at all. The Lord said that He would establish an everlasting kingdom and throne through the seed of David. Ultimately this points to Jesus Christ sitting on the throne and ruling the everlasting kingdom (Luke 1:32–33; Matthew 2:2; Jeremiah 30:9, 33:14–17; Ezekiel 34:23–31; Hosea 3:5).

  • LAND: Abrahamic Covenant (promised inheritance of land – Genesis 15:8)
  • LAW: Mosaic Covenant (fulfilled by Christ – Romans 10:4, called to fulfill in Christ – Romans 8:4)
  • KING: Davidic Covenant (the throne of David – 2 Samuel 7:10-16; 1 Chronicles 17:11-15)
  • OBEY: New Covenant for Israel (Holy Spirit, new heart, and salvation – Jeremiah 31:31-34)

We need to deal with the reality that God has a plan for Israel as well as the nations. What God has said, He will bring to pass. His veracity is at stake.

The kingdom of God—Jesus will have reign and dominion over all the earth during a millennial (that is, a thousand-year) kingdom (Daniel 7:13–14, 26–27; Revelation 11:15; Zechariah 14:9; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 60:19–21; Isaiah 66:22–23; Psalm 72:8; Revelation 20:4). Jesus will be king, and out of the LORD’S house and out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2–3).

Redeemed Israel is the primary focus during the millennium, but what about the saints who are resurrected and raptured on the day of the Lord? During the millennium, the resurrected and raptured will have immortal, glorified bodies like the angels (Luke 20:35–36). The resurrected and raptured will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years as priests of God and of Christ (Revelation 3:21; 20:4, 6). In His kingdom we will in some manner function as intercessors, ambassadors, and stewards on behalf of His royal and righteous rule. Simply amazing.

In summary—Just as the Lord Jesus is the focus of the first coming, the Lord Jesus is equally the focus of the second coming. Jesus will serve as king (Luke 1:30-33, Zechariah 9:9-10) ruling righteously (Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah 11:1-10, Habakkuk 2:14) from Jerusalem (Matthew 5:35, Isaiah 24:21-23; Isaiah 62:7, Ezekiel 37:21-28) on a glorious throne (Matthew 19:28, Psalm 132:11-17). The spirit of prophecy is Jesus Christ. This is clearly and plainly evident throughout the Old Testament!

God bless.
-Brandon

 

Part 1/5: Jesus’s Olivet Discourse Framework

Whose framework should we use as the “gold standard” for the end times?

Jesus, in His sermon on the end times recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, provided extensive details about events leading to the time of the end. In this sermon Jesus describes what is going to happen at the end of this age (Matthew 24:3). Jesus gave us a road map for the end times. The destination? The day of the Lord.

Essentially, the day of the Lord will be the fulcrum point where this current age transitions to the age to come. I love to ponder this. Here we will see the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy when the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and the god of this [age] world (2 Corinthians 4:4) receives an overwhelming blow to the head (Genesis 3:15). While we live in a world today that is evil (Galatians 1:4), the day is coming when Jesus will come again to restore all things (Acts 3:19–21; Matthew 19:28) and establish the kingdom of God (Luke 21:31) when He has reign and dominion over all the earth during a millennial kingdom (Daniel 7:13–14; Revelation 11:15; Zechariah 14:9; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 60:19–21; Isaiah 66:22–23; Psalm 72:8; Revelation 20:4). This is beautiful and inspiring. It will be so wonderfully glorious that “the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). Jesus will be king, and out of the LORD’s house and out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2–3).

Jesus Christ brought so much to mankind at His first coming, but so much is yet to come! Jesus is truly the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10).

Jesus Christ is not only the essence of prophecy, He is to be considered the greatest of all the prophets! Jesus prophesied of many things that were literally fulfilled during his lifetime. Here are just a few examples: Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:2, 21, 34; John 2:18–22; John 14:26. Also, Jesus was declared a prophet multiple times in the New Testament (Luke 7:16; 24:19; John 6:14; 9:17; Acts 3:22; Hebrews 1:1–2). So not only was Jesus a prophet, He fulfilled prophecy at His first coming and He will fulfill prophecy yet future at His second coming.

Considering that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, considering Jesus’s prophetic record, and considering that three of the gospels record Jesus’s extensive prophetic sermon on the end times, I believe without reservation that we should use Jesus Christ’s straightforward end-times framework from the Olivet Discourse as our “gold standard”.

What I mean is that we should use this simple framework as a “measuring rod” to not only keep our bearings when studying prophetic scriptures, but to evaluate our own personal interpretation of prophetic scriptures.

The blue boxes contain a high-level summary of the events foretold by Jesus along with a handful of additional New Testament passages. This end-time chronology as summarized below is vitally important.

Olivet Discourse Framework for the End Times

I encourage you to take time and familiarize yourself with these important scriptures. If we don’t, how can we effectively obey Jesus’s command to be awake, to be watchful, to be prayerful, and to be ready for the coming of the Son of man? See Matthew 24:42–44; Mark 13:34–36; Luke 21:36.

In the next blog post, we will compare Jesus’s Olivet Discourse “framework for the end times” with the testimony of the prophets from the Old Testament. I think that you will be favorably impressed with how their testimony consistently aligns with Jesus’s “gold standard” framework.

Blessings,
Brandon

The Resurrection and Rapture

Controversy abounds on this topic. Pre-trib? Post-trib? Pre-wrath? When is the rapture? Due to the integral connection between the resurrection/rapture and the day of the Lord, there are several places in my book that this important topic is discussed (pages 34-40, 111-112, 174-177, 198-203, and 256-260). Personally, I’m not sure that I fit into a predefined category. I would hold to a post-tribulation rapture position, but not in a “classic” sense.

More important than what “camp” we endorse is the need for our hearts to elevate the words of Scripture higher than any position we hold. Therefore, should we become aware of a biblical truth that we previously had not considered, we are in a surrendered position where our understanding can always be moved closer in alignment to the Scripture as a whole. Easier said than done!

The purpose for today’s post is two-fold. First, I would like to share a snippet from my book found on pages 34 to 36 (see below). Second, I would like to introduce you to a presentation file (The Resurrection, Rapture, and the Day of the LORD) that I recently put together and uploaded to the Resources area of my website. I believe that there are several important factors we need to consider when studying this topic. With the background of those considerations, and in light of the snippet posted below, I make an effort in the presentation to:

a) evaluate the timing of the resurrection/rapture; and
b) uniquely synthesize several “day of the Lord” Scripture passages to try to simplify this complex and difficult subject.

The Resurrection, Rapture, and the Day of the LORD

Please enjoy, and warm regards,
Brandon

**********

[the following is an extract from pages 34-36 of The Day of the Lord and the Coming Kingdom]
Next to occur, I believe, is the resurrection and rapture of the saints. The timing of the resurrection and rapture is discussed in greater detail in the chapter on the Olivet Discourse. It is also discussed in the chapter on Revelation in the review of the seals, trumpets, vials, and thunders, as well as the harvest of the earth. Briefly, I believe in a post-tribulation resurrection and rapture on the last day. Jesus referred to the resurrection occurring “at the last day” (John 6:40, 44, 54), as did also Martha (John 11:23–24). After cosmic events, I believe the seventh trumpet will sound. In context, Scriptures teach that the day of the Lord and the “gathering together” are accompanied by the great sound of a trumpet, also referred to as the last trump (Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 15:52, et al).

The resurrection/rapture is not imminent. Our “gathering together” to Him at “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:1) will not occur until after the time of Antichrist and the abomination (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4). The “coming” in verse 1 is the parousia (Strong’s G3952), defined by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as “the advent, i.e. the future, visible, return from heaven of Jesus, the Messiah, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God.” The occurrence of Antichrist’s abomination before the second coming is simply and plainly taught by the apostle Paul. He tells the church not to be “shaken in mind” or “troubled” that the day of the Lord is present or will be coming in an instant (2 Thessalonians 2:2). The Greek word Paul uses is enistemi (Strong’s G1764), which teaches that the day of the Lord is not imminent, nor is it even presently on hand! Paul further writes, don’t let anyone deceive you, for that day shall not come (i.e. the parousia) except there first comes a defection from the truth and the man of sin is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Essentially Paul is calming their anxious hearts by stating that a specific event must occur before the second coming. That event is the revealing of the Antichrist and later his abomination where he “exalts himself” so that “he as God sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)!

Is the resurrection and rapture of the church distinct and separate from the future resurrection of the Old Testament saints? What did the apostle Paul know when he wrote to the Corinthian church? What we know is that his inspired letter was penned decades before John’s Revelation. And we know that Paul was well acquainted with the Old Testament. In that light, he ties together our future resurrection/rapture with that noted by the prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 25:8) and Hosea (Hosea 13:14) by quoting Isaiah in 1 Corinthians 15:54; “then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory,” and Hosea in 1 Corinthians 15:55; “O death, where is they sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” I believe the Scriptures most plainly teach a resurrection of all the righteous dead, both the church and the Old Testament saints, at the last day and at the last trump. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:6).

It is a wondrous thought that the resurrection and rapture will include the righteous saints of old along with the church, who we recognize are all part of a singular body (Ephesians 2:12–22, 3:6, 4:4–6), though with clear distinctions since Pentecost. The fact that Isaiah remarked on his personal resurrection in the context of the day of the Lord and indicated that “in that day” a great trumpet would be blown is marvelous (Isaiah 26:19, 27:13). And it stirs my heart to consider the faith of Job and the longing in his heart to picture the day when he himself would be resurrected and behold God with eyes made new (Job 19:25–27). Job understood death and the resurrection of the body in the context of Job 14:12, a verse that states clearly “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more.” This is unmistakably the day of the Lord when the “heavens shall pass away with a great noise” (2 Peter 3:10).

Will the resurrection/rapture be a sneaky event with no advance warning? Absolutely not. The believer who is watching, waiting, and “of the day” (1 Thessalonians 5:4–6) will be armed with awareness due to the warnings and signs from Scripture leading up to that powerful and glorious day.

From the following Scriptures, we can be confident that the resurrection and rapture will be:

  • Preceded by the aforementioned cosmic events
  • Audible (there will be a trumpet sound, the voice of the archangel, and the Lord will roar and shout)
  • Visible (Jesus will be seen coming in the clouds)
    [end of extract]

Daniel’s Prophecy of Seventy Weeks

The 70th Week Tenet that most students of biblical prophecy adhere to goes something like this…

“There is a future seven-year period, and at the midpoint the Antichrist will be revealed and commit the abomination of desolation, initiating his great tribulation against Israel and the Church.”

Note: Generally speaking, pre-trib adherents do not expect the Church to endure tribulation from the Antichrist and his followers, nor does the mid-trib camp expect the Church to be on earth during the great tribulation.

Regardless of how the resurrection and rapture is viewed within the context of the future tribulation period (i.e. pre-trib, mid-trib, prewrath, or post-trib), there is a consistent expectation for a future seventieth week, and thus a future “seven-year” tribulation period. It is generally accepted that Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy should be interpreted as weeks of years instead of weeks of days. This is what drives the presupposition for a future seven-year tribulation.

Without a doubt, I concur that Scripture teaches a future tribulation period, but is it seven years?

This broadly-accepted interpretation seems matter-of-fact and non-debatable. After careful study, I am confident that it is time to reevaluate this interpretation. The framework of our end-times understanding has major implications. In my book The Day of the Lord and the Coming Kingdom: A New and Biblical Framework for the End Times, I spend twenty-five pages on this important topic. Then, the entirety of my book presents a comprehensive study of the prophetic Scriptures, and explains how majestically, and almost supernaturally, all of the end-times pertinent Scriptures fit together within a newly proposed framework.

I conclude that the currently accepted framework is shaky and unstable, and that it requires an enormous amount of faith in human assumptions. However, I don’t have all of the answers, and iron sharpens iron. I invite and encourage humble students of the Word of God to test and reexamine the framework of our eschatological understanding. The Lord wants us to get it right, especially if the time of His return is near. For the glory of God, it is vital to ensure that we are standing on a solid, biblical footing.

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