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Our proclamation this evening is taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24. As I pointed out beforehand, when the Bible says you, we say we, so we make it personal. We’re going to say it now.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify us completely, and may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls us is faithful who also will do it.”
I chose that scripture because I believe it’s appropriate for the theme. The title of my talk this evening, and it will be continued, God willing, tomorrow morning, other words, in two sessions, is “Israel, Glimpses of the Future.” In a previous talk I outlined a number of prophecies that had already been fulfilled in the history of Israel. I mentioned three main themes still to be fulfilled.
This evening I’m stepping out boldly in faith and I’m going to present what I call glimpses of the future; in other words, prophetic statements concerning Israel made in the Bible which have not yet been fulfilled. I’m going to suggest how they could come to fulfillment.
I want to begin by pointing out that the New Testament stresses the importance of giving attention to Biblical prophecy. I’m talking tonight about the written prophecies of the Bible. I also believe in the gift of prophesying but that’s not what I’m talking about. Human prophesying has to be judged, the Bible has already been totally purified and it is the standard by which we judge everything else.
I want to turn to a scripture in 2 Peter 1:19. Peter’s theme is the coming of the Lord Jesus in power and glory. He states in the previous verses that he and two of the other apostles were eyewitnesses on the Mount of Transfiguration of Jesus glorified; that is, as He will be when He comes. But then he goes on to point out that the personal testimony of eyewitnesses, though important, is secondary in importance to the written prophecies of scripture. He talks about the prophetic word; that is, the written prophecies of the Bible. This is what he says in 2 Peter 1:19:
“We also have the prophetic word made more sure which you do well to heed, as a light that shines in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
So, having spoken about their personal witness of Jesus glorified, Peter then says there is a more important an authoritative source of information which is the prophetic word. Concerning that, Peter says to all believers in the New Testament, “You do well to heed the prophetic word.” You need to find out and study what the prophetic scriptures say about the period up to and at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then Peter says it is a light shining in a dark place. This is very, very important because we are in a dark place. The world is getting darker. It has no real light to offer us. But Peter says God has provided a light in the darkness, it is the prophetic scriptures. He says you need to give heed to it.
For me this means that if we don’t heed the written prophecies of the Bible, if we don’t give attention to them, we are denying ourselves the light that God has provided and we shall be in the dark. I’m sorry to say that a very high proportion of the church is in the dark because it doesn’t know and doesn’t give heed to the prophetic scriptures. But that’s not necessary.
Then Peter uses a beautiful picture, he says you need to give heed until the morning star rises in your hearts. He’s not talking about the coming of Jesus but he’s talking about something to happen inside our hearts. This is very vivid for me because for a year or more I was living in the deserts of Egypt and Libya, without any real shelter, mainly sleeping on the sand. In those circumstances we went to bed with the sun and got up with the sun, which I don’t do today, I’ll have to admit. And so, at certain seasons of the year I observed that just about the time of dawn the whole eastern horizon became luminous. You’d think the sun is rising. But it wasn’t the sun, it was what Peter calls the morning star, which in the language of astronomers is Venus in the evening and Aurora in the morning. It’s not a star, it’s a planet. But at certain seasons of the year, just before the sun rises, the morning star comes over the horizon and it’s so bright that for a moment or two you think it’s the sun. But when the morning star rises you know one thing for sure, what’s going to happen next, the sun is going to arise.
And so, Peter compares the prophetic scriptures to the effect of the morning star in our hearts. He says if you give heed to the morning star in your heart it will give you the absolute confident assurance of the coming in glory of the true Son, Jesus Christ.
So that’s a little testimony from the apostle Peter to the tremendous importance, and I would say the urgent necessity, to give heed to the prophetic scriptures.
There is a problem which basically the body of Christ is divided into two unequal sections. There’s a small section of people who are fanatical about prophecy and they’re the people who tell you what’s going to happen next. They’re usually wrong and they tend to discredit prophecy and make the rest of the body of Christ reserved about prophecy. The rest of the body are those who don’t know much about prophecy and whether they realize it or not, they’re living in the dark when a light is available. It affects the way we live because we have to fit in with God’s program to be successful. It affects the way we pray. Many, many times Christians are praying for things that are contrary to God’s revealed plan. You can pray as much as you like but your prayer will not be answered because God has a plan and He works according to it.
I heard about a minister who said, “If we all pray enough, maybe Armageddon won’t happen.” That’s just silly because the Bible says Armageddon will happen. So no amount of prayer will change that. We need to learn to pray within the parameters of God’s revealed purpose. This is one of the main functions of prophecy.
There is a problem about understanding prophecy and I want to explain what I believe to be the root problem. It is a verse in Deuteronomy 29:29 in which Moses tells Israel this:
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever that we may do all the words of this Law.”
So Moses says there are two kinds of things in the Word of God, there are the secret things that are known only to God and there are the things that are revealed for our sake that we may act on them. Not just theorize about them, not just point out to people that we’re rather clever because we know what’s going to happen next, but fit our lives in with them.
I believe the main problem with interpreters of prophecy is that they’re busy with the secret things and they ignore the revealed things. Like, whenever I give a talk on prophecy somebody will come up to me at the end and say, “Pre, mid or post?” You know what that means? Is the rapture going to take place at the beginning of the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation or at the end? I always answer I don’t know. I think that’s a secret thing, I don’t believe God has fully revealed those details because He’s a battle strategist and He’s not going to reveal His battle strategy to His enemies. But the problem with those people is that the things that are revealed they’re not doing much about. For me, one clear scripture revealed is Matthew 24:14:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end [of the age] shall come.”
The apostles had asked Jesus what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? Jesus gave them a number of signs, plural, and then He gave them the sign, Matthew 24:14:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”
This is the final decisive sign of the end of the age. But the problem is many of these people who are so occupied with prophecy are doing nothing about getting the gospel proclaimed in all the world to all nations.
So, one of the conditions for receiving understanding of the Word of God is obeying what you already know. If you obey what you know God will give you more. But if you don’t obey He’s not going to give you anything.
I believe the key to understanding prophecy as we need to is obeying what’s already revealed. For Ruth and me, as she’s already told you this evening, that means proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. And by the grace of God we are doing it to at least 120 nations. We’re doing it by various different media. I’m not saying that to boast nor am I promoting our ministry but I want to say we are doing something. What are you doing? How much are you involved in getting the gospel to all nations?
I pointed out earlier in this series Paul says in Romans 11:25:
“When the full number of the Gentiles has come in, then all Israel will be saved.”
If you want to see all Israel saved then get busy bringing in the full number of the Gentiles because all Israel will not be saved until that has happened.
What I’m saying is the Bible makes sense to those who obey what is clearly revealed. Don’t let’s bother about the things we don’t understand, let’s not try to pry God’s secrets out of Him, but let’s act on what we know. And as we act, my experience is God will give you further understanding as you need it. But if you don’t obey what you already know, don’t expect God to give you further understanding, He won’t do that.
The theme about which Peter was speaking in the verse that we read from 2 Peter was the coming of the Lord Jesus. I want to make one observation about the Greek word that’s used in the New Testament for the coming of the Lord Jesus. I have studied Greek since I was 10 years old and I was once qualified to teach it at university level. It doesn’t mean I’m always right but it means I’m entitled to my opinion. Let me try to give you this simple instruction about the Greek word that is regularly translated the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Greek word is parousia, and it is derived from a verb parimi, which means to be present. The literal meaning of that word is the presence of Jesus. But, if Jesus has been away then He can’t be present until He comes back, you understand? So, the use of the word presence implies the return of Jesus. But, it implies a lot more. It does not refer merely to the event that He’s actually coming back but it refers to the state of affairs which will exist when He comes back.
Let me give you just a few examples. In the New Testament it’s used 17 times of the return of Jesus Christ. But in 1 Corinthians 16:17 it’s used of a man named Stephanas, one of Paul’s disciples, coming to where Paul was. He says, I’m glad for the coming of Stephanas. How did he come or how was his coming a reality? Because he returned to where Paul was. But, what it actually says is I’m glad for the presence of Stephanas. In other words, it’s not just the single event of Stephanas coming back but it’s that event and the ensuing consequences.
The same phrase is used in 2 Corinthians 7:6 of Titus. Paul says Titus has come and he’s here. The word is parousia.
In Philippians 1:26, Paul is writing to the Philippians from jail and he said:
“I believe that you’re going to be glad for me at my coming to you.”
But the Greek word is at my presence; in other words, my presence will be with you again.
Interestingly enough, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, it’s used of the antichrist, the coming of the antichrist. Not only does Jesus have a parousia, the antichrist has a preceding parousia.
But in every case it’s not just one single incident, it’s that incident and the situation that results from it. I hope I’ve communicated that.
Let me give you another example. The verb is used in John 11:28 at the tomb of Lazarus. When Jesus had returned, Lazarus was dead in the tomb, Martha went out to meet Him and Mary, typically enough, stayed at home. Then Martha sent a message to Mary saying, “The Master has come and is calling for you.” The Greek says “the Master is present and is calling for you.” I hope I’ve communicated that because it enables us to view the return of Jesus and the language about it in a slightly different way. We’re not talking just about one single dramatic incident but we’re talking about that incident and all the ensuing consequences which probably may go on for a considerable period of time. In other words, I believe it’s logical and possible that the coming of the Lord extends over an unspecified period of time. And I believe that’s almost essential because all the things that are related to the coming of the Lord could not all happen instantly in one moment.
Now I’m going to give you today and in the session tomorrow, God helping me, what I call eight glimpses of the future in connection with Israel; that is, eight different passages of scripture that predict things that are going to happen at the close of the age in connection with Israel. I am not infallible, I’m giving you my sincere understanding after reading and meditating and praying and seeking God. I actually believe that God has called me to this particular ministry, to be an interpreter of the scriptures in the light of the present world situation and what lies ahead. That’s my belief. But you are at liberty to disagree with me and you could even go to heaven even if you disagree with me!
My aim in reading the Bible has always been for years to be objective. I think that’s part of my philosophic background, because that’s the approach of what a philosopher should come in. Let’s find the facts and analyze them and form our conclusions.
It’s very difficult to be objective about the Bible because most of us have inherited traditional interpretations which may not be scriptural and most of us have personal prejudices and attitudes which are just part of our make-up which may stand in the way of our objectively receiving what God has said. Let me give you an example. For a year on end in World War II in Egypt I was in hospital with a skin condition which the doctors were not able to heal. At that time, I don’t want to go into this in detail, I experienced tremendous depression because I was already a Christian, just recently saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. I kept saying to myself, “I know God would heal me if I had faith.” Then the next thing I said was, “But I don’t have faith.” And at that point I was at the bottom of the valley of despair. But then a ray of glorious light shone into my darkness out of Romans 10:17:
“So then, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
I said to myself, praise God, if I don’t have faith I can get it, it comes. If I will make up my mind to listen to what God says in His Word, faith will come. I armed myself with a blue pencil and I set out to read throughout the whole Bible from beginning to end, underlining in blue everything that had to do with healing, health, physical strength and long life. When I’d finished, do you know what I had? A blue Bible. That objectively convinced me that the Bible’s got a great deal to say about healing. But my religious background was an Anglican and I don’t blame the Anglican church but out of attending church every day for about ten years, twice on Sundays, I formed the conclusion that if you were going to be a Christian you had better expect to be miserable. I eventually decided that I could be less miserable if I wasn’t a Christian. So, that was my decision.
Then the Lord gloriously met me in the middle of the night in an Army barrack room, saved me, baptized me in the Holy Spirit, and I began to think differently. But I still had a considerable hangover from my previous attitudes. Every time I read something in the Bible which said God wants you healthy and prosperous and blessed, I thought to myself that’s too good to be true. I couldn’t believe that.
So as I was saying that to myself one day sitting up in the hospital bed, as I said that, that’s too good to be true, there must be something wrong with that. The Lord spoke to me inaudibly but very clearly and He said, “Now tell me, who is the teacher and who is the pupil?” I said, “Lord, you’re the teacher and I’m the pupil.” Then He said, “Well, would you mind letting me teach you?” I realized that I was not able to receive the Word of God objectively because of previous preconceptions which had formed in my mind. So, don’t think that it’s always easy to objectively receive the truth of the Word of God. It takes time, it takes prayer and it probably takes laying down some of your pet theories and presuppositions and humbling yourself before the Word of God.
Having said that I’m going to give you today and tomorrow, God willing, eight glimpses of the future, all of them connected with Israel. I say glimpses of the future because I don’t believe that prophecy gives us a clear complete run through of all future events from now till then. I believe prophecy focuses on certain scenes and situations, paints them vividly, moves on to another scene and another situation. But what lies in between very often is not revealed.
So the first scene or glimpse I have entitled “Unique Tribulation,” which is something which is clearly and emphatically stated many times over in the Word of God. We’ll go, first of all, to Jeremiah 30:3–7. This is a clear, specific prediction about how God plans to deal with Israel at the close of the age, because at the end of the chapter the Lord says “in the latter days you will understand.” In other words, it’s a prophecy that is not to be understood until the latter days. I believe we’re living in the latter days and I believe understanding is now available. This is what the message is from Jeremiah 30, beginning at verse 3:
“For behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will bring back from captivity [or from exile] my people Israel and Judah, says the Lord. I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.”
As I pointed out earlier, there’s only one land that answers to that description, the land of Israel. God says at the close of the age He will cause the Jewish people to return to that land and they shall possess it. No matter what Yassir Arafat may say, or the United Nations, or the American administration, the bottom line is they shall possess it. God is right and the rest are wrong if they disagree.
You know, I’ve noticed in American culture we have an attitude the customer is always right. That’s misleading. There’s only one person who’s always right and that is God. We better come to God with that attitude. He’s right and if we disagree, we’re wrong.
Having introduced the scene, the return of the Jewish people to their land after 19 centuries of exile, God gives a warning of what’s going to happen. For those of you who are considering making aliyah; that is, immigration, you better listen to this warning because it may cause you to reconsider. Not that I’m saying it should but at least don’t go into it with your eyes closed. These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:
“For thus says the Lord, we have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.”
In other words, the return of Israel is not going to be followed by immediate peace, exactly the opposite. Israel has been a nation for 45 years, they haven’t known one month of peace. So you have to admit the Bible is accurate.
“Ask now and see whether a male is ever in labor with child. So why do I see every male with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale?”
The Lord says something is going to develop so frightening and terrifying that even men will lose all their color and behave like women in childbirth.
Then it goes on:
“Alas, for that day is great so that none is like it.”
It’s a unique period in the history of Israel. There never has been a period like it, there never will be.
And then it says:
“It is the time of Jacob’s trouble [or Jacob’s tribulation]...”
But don’t miss out the last line:
“...but he [Jacob] shall be saved out of it.”
Not from it but out of it. So, there is a very clear prediction of a unique period of tribulation and anguish awaiting the Jewish people after their return to their land. Some of you are not looking as happy as you were.
Now I want to turn to the greatest of all the Hebrew prophets, whose name is Yeshua, that’s right. And bear in mind Jesus was not merely a teacher, not merely the shepherd, not merely the savior, He was also a prophet—the greatest of all the prophets. In Matthew 24, which is His last prophetic discourse given from the Mount of Olives, Jesus outlines a series of events that will take place. The key word in understanding this chapter is the word “then” which occurs nine times. There was a great Jewish believer of a previous generation names Meyer Pearlman, who was one of the general council of the Assemblies of God in the United States, who was a student of prophecy. Basically most Jews have a clearer insight into prophecy than most Gentiles, unless God has helped them. He said if you want to study prophecy, it’s like putting a body together out of the bones. If you want to succeed you’ve got to start with the right part of the body, which is the spine. Don’t start with the left toe because it doesn’t give you any clue about where the rest is to go. But if you start with the spine, basically all the other members fit in one way or another to the spine. Then he said the spine of Biblical prophecy is Matthew 24. That has been an invaluable help to me over many, many years. If you want to approach prophecy, start with the spine. Get to know thoroughly what Jesus taught in Matthew 24, which is paralleled in Luke 21 and in Mark 13. There are three versions of the same discourse.
So, we’re going to go now to Matthew 24 and the scripture that I’ve quoted several times already, verse 14, is the answer of Jesus to what will be the sign of your coming. It says:
“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Now, that’s a very broad perspective. The gospel of the kingdom to all nations in all the world. But in verse 15 there’s a total change of focus, dramatic. It parallels exactly Romans 11:25–26, which says:
“When the full number of the Gentiles has come in, then all Israel will be saved.”
So Matthew 24:14 focuses on all the Gentiles, the coming in of the full number. Matthew 24:15 changes the focus totally to a tiny little strip of territory at the east end of the Mediterranean, and to one city: Jerusalem. That exactly parallels the transition from Romans 11:25–26. First of all, the whole world, all the nations; and then God’s final focus is on the land of Israel.
Now I’ll read the words and then comment on them.
“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolations spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place, whoever reads let him understand...”
In other words, it could be politically dangerous if the identity of the person was given, it could lead to persecution of Christians which is not necessary. I will give you my frank opinion, the holy place is the temple area. It’s the one place on earth which was specifically sanctified and set apart by God for His dwelling place and His glory. The abomination of desolations I believe is some particular sign, and it could be various things, that the antichrist has now taken over and declared himself to be god, and requires total submission and worship from everybody. This is going to pose Orthodox Jews with the most crisis that they’ve ever faced because one reason they have rejected Jesus is they say Jesus is just a man, not God, and we worship only God. Now they’re going to be confronted by a man who says he is god and if you don’t worship me, I’ll put you to death. I believe personally God has ordained this situation because the Orthodox Jews have to be confronted with the issue.
Now Jesus says, and here we get one of our “thens,” in verse 16:
“Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...”
He doesn’t say the West Bank, notice, He says Judea. But you understand, the focus is now on Jerusalem and the little strip of territory called Judea. Then He talks with tremendous urgency:
“...let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house...”
You know in that part of the world the houses have flat roofs and very often there’s an outside staircase leading up to the roof. Jesus says if you’re on the roof, come down the outside staircase and take off, don’t go back inside the house, you don’t have time.
Then He says:
“...let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.”
Again, tremendous urgency. You don’t have time to go back and get your main items of clothing, take off. I mean, there’s no way that Jesus could make it more dramatic and more urgent.
“But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days.”
For obvious reasons. A pregnant woman or a woman with a nursing baby is going to find it difficult to go through this flight.
“And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.”
Now that is a very vivid example of the importance of knowing prophecy because if you were confronted by that situation you would naturally pray, “God, don’t make us flee.” Jesus said you don’t have that option, you’re going to have to flee but you can pray that you won’t have to flee in winter or on the Sabbath day. See, this is a little specimen of how important it is to know prophecy. Many, many times people are praying for things that are outside the revealed will of God.
Why was it important that it didn’t happen on the Sabbath day? This is interesting, too, because I lived in that country when it was still under the British Mandate for four years, and it would have mattered the least bit if people had had to flee on the Sabbath. But since the state of Israel came in to being, the Sabbath is treated as a totally distinct day. There’s a very strong move to prevent most forms of public transportation on the Sabbath. In fact, it’s already there. So, people trying to flee on the Sabbath would have special difficulties and we’d be particularly conspicuous. Jesus says pray that that won’t be your problem. But He doesn’t say pray that you won’t have to flee, He says you’re going to have to flee just as quickly as you can.
See how important it is for the people that are going to be there at that time to know prophecy. I’m not saying any of you will be there but who knows?
Then He goes on, verse 21:
“Then there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
Again Jesus says there will be a period of unique tribulation without any precedent beforehand and without anything that will ever parallel it in the future. It is directly connected with events in the state of Israel and in the area of Jerusalem.
Then He goes on to say:
“Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved...”
Humanity would perish. A scientist that I know was talking to me sometime ago and he said there is enough material for nuclear explosion on earth at this time to kill the entire human race 250 times over. People used to laugh and make fun of that statement that no flesh could survive. Today it’s a threatening reality. I’m not saying that it will be a nuclear war, I’m just saying that is a scientific fact.
“But for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.”
For the sake of those whom God has chosen, and you will really not fully understand Biblical prophecy concerning the end of the age unless you grasp the fact that God has His elect. People don’t like it but it doesn’t change God, He has it. The humanists object strongly but God didn’t consult them! You find the word elect is used twice in this chapter. In a certain sense, God’s primary concern in the midst of all this is with those whom He has chosen for Himself.
You see, most contemporary Christians have got it all wrong. They say, “I chose Jesus.” You didn’t. Jesus chose you. Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” We’re like the people who believe that the sun revolved around the earth. We think we’re the earth and everything revolves around us. That’s not so. Everything revolves around the Son who is Jesus and we have to take our place in that relationship.
But what I’m pointing out to you is there’s going to be a time of trouble that is without parallel in the history of humanity, never has been up till now, and never will be repeated.
In Romans 2:8–9, Paul gives one of the principles of God’s judgment. He says in the middle of the sentence:
“...but to those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, God has appointed indignation and wrath...”
That’s God’s reaction.
“...tribulation and anguish...”
That’s the result of God’s reaction. Tribulation and anguish, two of the strongest words in the Greek language.
“...on every soul of man who does evil; of the Jew first and also of the Greek [or Gentile].”
So there is an order of tribulation. Tribulation begins with the Jew and moves over to the Gentile. That should frighten us Gentiles because if you think of what happened in the Holocaust, it gives an awful picture of what’s going to happen to the Gentile nation. I’m inclined to think the situation that’s developing in Eastern Europe and Russia will be the outworking of that principle because those were the areas that most harbored anti-Semitism. I believe they’re coming under the judging hand of God.
Going on into Revelation 7 we have a further scripture which I think must refer to the same period. Revelation 7:13–14. John had a vision of a tremendous company of people coming up before the throne of God with palms in their hands, crying, “Salvation and glory to the Lamb.” Then it says in verse 13:
“One of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these arrayed in white robes and where did they come from?”
John gave a very wise answer, he said:
“Sir, you know. So he said to me, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
There again is the great tribulation. The Old King James Version used to say great tribulation but the more accurate text is the great tribulation. We trace something from Jeremiah 30 through Matthew 24 through Revelation 7. And, though it begins with the Jews its ultimate impact will be on all nations.
Our next glimpse is entitled “144,000 Sealed.” We’ll go on or back in Revelation to chapter 7, verses 1–8. The exact relationship of this to what I’ve been describing is not clear. They may be simultaneous or one slightly precede the other. In Revelation 7:1, John says:
“After these I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the winds should not blow on the earth or on the sea or any tree.”
Four angels were holding back the judgment of God for a brief period.
“Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the Living God. He cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, Do not harm the earth, the sea or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
In other words, there must be a special company of sealed servants of God before this tribulation finally explodes. John says:
“I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel.”
Then he lists twelve tribes and there were 12,000 out of every tribe. One tribe is missing, do you know that? How many of you know which tribe is missing? Dan, that’s right. Why you could speculate but I’m not going to offer any theory. Do you know what I believe? I believe there will not be 143,999 and there will not be 144,001. There will be 144,000. I believe God is exact. If you study the things which God plans, they’re planned with the utmost exactity.
In the tabernacle and in the temple of Solomon, every dimension was exactly specified and nothing was left to human decision. I believe that’s the God that controls history.
So we have these 144,000 Israelites sealed. Then we have what we’ve already just glimpsed at in Revelation 7:9 and following:
“After these things I looked and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes with palm branches in their hands...”
I’ll offer you a suggestion. Because of the order in which these events are described, I believe myself that God is going to save 144,000 young Jewish men. He’s going to send them to all the nations of the earth and the fruit of their ministry will be a multitude which no man can number. That’s my interpretation. Because you see, I believe it’s God’s plan always to bless the Gentiles through the Jews. Did you ever hear that little saying which was given by a Jewish believer of a previous age, “God has two principles of judgment. He blesses the Gentiles through the Jews but He judges the Jews through the Gentiles.” If you look at history, that’s happened again and again and again.
Let’s go on to Revelation 14 which is the climax of the 144,000. John says, beginning at verse 1:
“Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 having His Father’s name and His name written on their foreheads.”
Undoubtedly that must be the 144,000 who were sealed on their foreheads. The seal was the name of God the Father and the name of Jesus the Messiah. It’s interesting because one of the themes of Revelation is people getting sealed. There are two sources. One is the true Messiah, the other is the false messiah. Those who are the servants of the true Messiah are sealed on their foreheads with the name of the Father and the Son. Those who submit to the false messiah are sealed either on their forehead or on their hand with his name or his number. His number, you all know, everybody knows this, is 666.
Let me mention something in passing which is interesting. Both Greek and Hebrew, the letters of the alphabet have numerical value. You can write any number in letters. I thought to myself if the false messiah in Greek has the number 666, what about the true Messiah. I took the name Jesus in Greek, wrote it vertically, wrote the numerical number of each letter opposite, added it up. Do you know what it came to? 888. That kind of convinces me I’m on the right track because it would be an amazing coincidence if it weren’t planned of God.
What I want to point out here is God will only seal His people on their foreheads. He requires a willing understanding submission. But the antichrist will seal them either on their forehead or on their hands. In other words, whether they’re willing and understanding or not, as long as they obey, that’s all he wants. God requires intelligent cooperation and submission.
Let’s go on, we haven’t read the whole of Revelation 14. I’m going on to the next verse, verse 2:
“I heard a voice from heaven like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.”
I love the Old King James, if you remember it said, “I heard the sound of harpists harping with their harps.” There’s something about repeating that three times that makes an impact.
“And they sang, as it were, a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one could learn that song except the 144,000 who were redeemed from the earth.”
As I understand it, at this point they have completed their earthly task and they are in heaven before the throne. I believe they got there through martyrdom. I believe every one of them laid down their lives. This is my opinion.
Now it says of these:
“These are those who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and the Lamb, and in their mouth was found no falsehood.”
The picture that this gives me is a group of young men, probably teenagers, maybe between the ages of 15 and 18, because it says they had not been defiled with women, they had kept themselves pure. Also, they were totally honest, there was no lie in their mouth. Let me tell you, you’d have to search a long while in Israel today to find 144,000 that answer to that description.
You see, more and more the Holy Spirit is singling out young people for the work of evangelism. In China, most of the effective evangelists are well under the age of 20. They say 25,000 Chinese are being saved every day. I’m glad I have a little part in that because I think it’s worthwhile. I see a picture of young Jewish boys or men sovereignly chosen by God, set apart to the task which the whole Jewish nation should have been engaged in, proclaiming the good news of Messiah. It blesses me.
After this John says:
“I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth, saying with a loud voice, Hear God and give glory to Him. Then another angel followed, saying, Babylon is fallen. Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God.”
And then there’s a warning of the judgment that will come on all those who worship the beast.
What impresses me is at this point the proclamation of the gospel is committed to angels, which never has been previously. My suggestion is the situation on earth has become so totally out of order and confused that no longer is it possible for human beings to preach. So, angels are given the job just temporarily. This is an opinion.
Now we come to the two last harvests of earth in Revelation 14:14:
“I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat one like the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come for you to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
But the Greek says “is dry.” In other words, if it’s not reaped it will be lost.
“So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth and the earth was reaped.”
As I understand it, this is the last great harvest of mercy, the harvest of salvation.
Then, which is true to the order in the land of Israel, the grain is followed by the grapes. The final judgment is described here.
“Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar who had power over the fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.”
God doesn’t reap until things are ripe.
“So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”
You do understand what I mean when I say wrath. A lot of Americans have a problem with that. W-R-A-T-H. Okay?
So this great winepress was the winepress of God’s angry judgment on the wicked. It says:
“The winepress was trampled outside the city [which is presumably Jerusalem] and blood came out of the winepress up to the horses’ bridles for 1,600 furlongs [which is about 184 miles].”
To those people who spiritualize prophecy and make it metaphorical, I always ask this question: Was that metaphorical blood or was it real blood? Because, it’s important to know. I believe it’s real blood.
There’s a little passage in Isaiah 63 which relates directly to that. Isaiah 63:1–6:
“Who is this who comes from Edom with dyed garments from Bozrah...”
Bozrah was one of the main cities of Edom and Bozrah means “the grape harvest.” That’s the meaning.
“...this one who is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? [the answer is] I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
That’s the Messiah. The question is given:
“Why is your apparel red and your garments like one who treads in the winepress?”
And the answer comes from Messiah:
“I have trodden the winepress alone and from the peoples no one was with me, for I have trodden them in my anger and trampled them in my fury. Their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I’ve stained all my robes.”
You know that in a winepress in Biblical times they put the grapes in this rock pit and then the people jumped up and down on it. And as they did that the grape juice splattered their robes. So this is the picture.
“I have trodden them in my anger and trampled them in my fury. Their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I’ve stained all my robes. For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed has come.”
So it’s vengeance on God’s enemies, the redemption of God’s people.
And then he goes on:
“I looked but there was no one to help, and I wandered but there was no one to uphold. Therefore my own arm brought salvation for me and my own fury, it sustained me. I have trodden down the peoples in my anger, made them drunk in my fury, and brought down their strength to the earth.”
To me there’s no question that that depicts the Lord Jesus Himself coming as the Judge of the nations and trampling underfoot the enemies of His people. One thing we tend to forget, we churchgoers, is that Jesus is not only the Savior, He’s also the Judge. He’s just as faithful and efficient and thorough in His judgment as He is in salvation. And everyone has a choice. You may confront Him as Savior or confront Him as Judge. But in one character or the other, everyone will ultimately confront the Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t know how it is with you, but there’s no way that I can spiritualize those prophecies, they’re very vivid descriptions of actual scenes that will take place on earth.
And incidentally, if you study the prophetic word, Edom is a nation appointed to total desolation. For eternity the smoke of Edom’s destruction will go up.
Now we’re going to go on to glimpse number three which I entitle “Israelites Flee into the Wilderness.” You remember that Jesus said when you see the abomination of desolation, take off, run, flee. I think I’ll read those words again because it’s so important to emphasize them. Matthew 24.
“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolations... then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...”
It doesn’t tell us which mountains, you’re entitled to form your own opinion. Jesus commands to flee.
There is a historical precedent to that because in Luke 21—keep your finger in Matthew 24 if you’ve got enough fingers, and turn to Luke 21. Speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem that took place by the Roman armies in 70 A.D., Jesus had been asked what will be the sign of your coming and of the fulfillment of your prophecies concerning Jerusalem, its destruction. That is not answered in Matthew 24 but it is answered in Luke 21, and here’s the answer, verses 20 and following:
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her; for these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
Whose vengeance? God’s vengeance. All things that are written, written where? In the scriptures. And if you want to find one place, read Leviticus 26.
Then he goes on:
“But woe to those who are pregnant, to those who have nursing babies in those days, for there will be great distress in the land...”
What land? The land of Israel.
“...and wrath upon this people...”
What people? The Jewish people.
“...and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Now as I understand it, that was fulfilled in 70 A.D. The Roman armies under Vespacian attacked Jerusalem, surrounded it and began to lay siege. Then Vespacian received news that he had been elected emperor and he had to go back to Rome to take the position. Temporarily he raised the siege and the armies of the Romans withdrew for a short period. Those Jews in Jerusalem who acknowledged Jesus a prophet saw this as the warning sign. Get out while you can, and they left. That is basically the Messianic believers in Jerusalem. History records that they went east of the Jordan to a place called Pela and there were preserved. The rest of the Jews who didn’t accept Jesus remained in Jerusalem. Titus, the adopted son of Vespacian, returned, laid siege to the city a second time and did not raise the siege until the whole city had been destroyed, and the temple thrown down so that not one stone was left upon another.
That, I believe, was at the beginning of the age in 70 A.D. What we’re talking about in Matthew is at the end of the age. But the principle is the same in this, that those who know Jesus and acknowledge His authority will obey. Those who don’t acknowledge His authority probably will not obey and get caught in the trap.
So Jesus says, “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” And He doesn’t say which mountains, that’s an interesting theme for speculation but I’m not going to go into that.
I believe there’s a parallel passage in Revelation 12. This is my belief, I could be wrong. Revelation 12 begins with a very vivid double sign in heaven. It says:
“A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a garland of twelve stars.”
That’s a Biblical picture of Israel. It goes back to the dream of Joseph when he saw Jacob and Leah as the moon and the sun that came to bow down to him and his brothers as the stars. So, it’s directly related to that.
“Then being with child she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. An another sign appeared in heaven, behold, a great fiery red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his head. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them down to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth to devour her child as soon as it was born.”
So here is a direct confrontation between Israel and the dragon who is Satan. Many people believe that the child referred to is Jesus but I don’t because it doesn’t fit in in the whole time scheme, but you have to make your own decision. It says:
“She [that’s Israel] bore a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”
Now that could apply to Jesus but it also could apply to any Jewish ruler whom He appoints as, for instance, the prince in Ezekiel 40–48. Jesus does say earlier in Revelation, “He who is faithful to me will share my throne with me and rule the nations with a rod of iron.”
Incidentally, in the millennium, which we’re talking about, Jesus rules with a rod of iron. It’s not altogether a sweet and lovely time, the nations deserve to be ruled with a rod of iron and they’ll get what they deserve. God is going to exercise very strict authority.
It says in verse 6 of the woman after the child was born:
“Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there 1,260 days.”
That’s why I don’t believe that refers to Jesus because this is the period right at the close of the age and there are three ways in which it’s given” 1,260 days, 42 months and three and a half years. If you’re a mathematician, that tells you that a Biblical year is how many days? 360. See, that’s why I have some reservations about all these calculations about the year 2,000. I don’t believe that God calculates by the Gregorian calendar, He has His own calendar. And what might seem a very significant year to us may not be the real significant year. That’s just by the way.
Notice that this time period is given in three ways: 1,260 days, 42 months, three and a half years. Three different ways of specifying the same period and my opinion, whatever way it’s given, it’s the same time period that is referred to. It’s the period during which Israel will be protected in the wilderness from the wrath of Satan.
I have to determine where I’m going to go because I don’t want to go too far. We’ll turn on to verses 13 and 14 of the same chapter, which says:
“Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child, but the woman was given two wings of a great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness to her place where she is nourished for a time, times and half a time.”
One year, two years and half a year—three and a half years from the presence of the dragon. This is the reason why I cannot believe that the child was Jesus, because Israel was never nourished at that time for three and a half years from the presence of the persecutor. On the contrary, Israel was exposed to tremendous persecution. So we have this interesting question, where was the woman Israel preserved? As I say, as far as I know, the Bible doesn’t tell us.
But there are certain references to the wilderness in connection with the period immediately prior to Israel’s final restoration and I want to direct your attention to two of them. The first is in Hosea. Those of you who have been here with me before, you’ve got to find out where Hosea is, haven’t you? Hosea 2:14–16. The her or the she is Israel. You have to accept that but it’s clear from the context. God says:
“Therefore behold, I will allure her [Israel], will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfort to her [speak to her heart].”
God has a place where He’s going to deal with the remnant of Israel and speak to the heart, which is always words of comfort.
“I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.”
So God says it’s from the wilderness that I will bring her back into inheritance, and the Valley of Achor, which is trouble, will become the door of hope—which in Hebrew is pi-tha-tic-var, which is the name of a suburb of Tel Aviv.
“She shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.”
So there is a parallel to the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Then it says:
“It shall be in that day, says the Lord, that you will call me ‘my husband’ and no longer call me ‘my master.’”
Master is baali, husband is ishi, my man. In other words, Israel will come into a totally new relationship of intimacy with the Lord. Baal means master and it’s the standard Hebrew word for husband. God says that’s not going to be the kind of relationship that I’m going to have with Israel, I am going to relate to her as a loving husband.
Then this is the final scripture, be patient with me, Ezekiel 20:32–38. This all relates to God’s dealings with Israel. Ezekiel 20, beginning at verse 32. God is speaking to the Jewish people and He says:
“What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, we will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries serving wood and stone.”
What is the aim of the Jewish people at that time in one famous word? Assimilation. It’s exactly what Prime Minister Rabin said the first day of his prime ministership, “We are a people like all other people.” Let’s get out of this awful position of being specially chosen and set apart because we’ve had nothing but trouble from it for 2,000 years. I can truly identify with that reaction but God says it’s not going to happen the way you plan it, it’s not going to come that way. Apparently this passage indicates that that attitude provokes the anger of God. God says it won’t be.
And then God goes on in verse 33:
“As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm and with fury poured out. I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples...”
Again, what wilderness is that?
“I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples and there I will plead my case with you face to face.”
I’m going to deal with you face to face in this particular appointed place.
“Just as I pleaded my case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead my case with you, says the Lord God.”
And Ezekiel, like Hosea, said it’s going to be closely parallel to the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt.
And then God says:
“I will make you pass under the rod and I will bring you under the bond of the covenant.”
You know the metaphor of passing under the rod is the way a shepherd counted his sheep back into the fold. And as each sheep came he lowered the rod, checked that it was his sheep and admitted it to the fold. So God says that’s how I’m going to deal with your Israelites. I’m going to check every one of you before I let you into the fold, and only those that truly belong to me will come in.
And then He says:
“...I will bring you into the bond of the covenant...”
I’ll bring you back into a covenant relationship with me. We’ll be related from then on in the bonds of a covenant with one another.
And then He says something which I hesitate to explain:
“I will purge the rebels from among you and those who transgress against me. I will bring them out of the country where they sojourn, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
That’s one of the phrases of Ezekiel, “then you will know that I am the Lord.”
So, as I see it there’s a consistent picture at a certain period when the antichrist has set himself to destroy all the Jews, a chosen remnant who obey Jesus will escape into a place which isn’t revealed. I don’t know what it is. I tell you, I have a sort of feeling that it could be the Negev. About 20 years ago I took a journey with my first wife through the Negev with a Jewish believer. And as we traveled through I had such a sense that there’s a destiny for this place that is not yet fulfilled. But that’s purely a subjective reaction, that’s all. But whatever happens, God is going to bring Israel back out of the wilderness into a covenant relationship with Himself in the land.
So, that’s the third of these glimpses. I’ll just recapitulate them and we’re left with five more for tomorrow morning. Be strong and of good courage is what the Jewish people say each time they finish a book of the Bible. So, you’re going to need to be strong and of good courage. I’ve got five more glimpses to give you.
Let me just repeat the three that we’ve looked at. A period of unique tribulation; 144,000 young Jewish males sealed to become God’s ambassadors; and Israel collectively fleeing into the wilderness, protected there for three and a half years, God speaks to them, deals with them and brings them out into their own land, giving them the Valley of Achor which is the valley of trouble for the door of hope. Amen.