We all “know” that when Jesus returns, it will be “as a thief in the night”, a totally unexpected surprise, about which He has given us no clues about what to watch for and expect. This is the “doctrine of imminency”, the foundation of the pre-trib rapture error. We have also repeatedly heard that God has no interest in, or intention of, revealing His timing to us, preferring, if you will, that He might catch us all by surprise. It has also been well ingrained into our minds that any form of “date setting” is not only foolish, but forbidden.
But are these commonly held beliefs necessarily valid? Or have we misapplied what Jesus was trying to convey to His disciples? Is He really trying to sneak up on everyone to catch them unaware? Or is the general cluelessness, of which He spoke, a byproduct of the deadness of the professing church in these last days?
Paul clarifies an important distinction, which we need to seriously consider as we see that day approaching: “For you yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they are saying, `Peace and safety’, then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape. But ye brethren, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you as a thief.” (I Thess. 5:2-4)
There is no question that the majority of the world is totally disinterested in Christ never mind the oft-repeated promise that “someday” He will return. In their jaded eyes, such an indefinite reassurance is slightly less credible than the tooth fairy (or maybe drastically less, considering how readily worldly parents will tell their children about their vanishing teeth, while never mentioning Jesus except as a curse).
But it is not God’s intent that His children should wander blindly without any sense of the reality and imminency of His return. Jesus even tells us who it will be, of His followers, that will be caught by surprise at His unexpected return. In His letter to the church of Sardis, He laments that despite the fact that they’re still breathing, they are, in all other respects, dead. So He warns them: “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die,… If therefore thou shalt not watch I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Rev. 3:2-3)
God is going to deal with His elect, those who have walked faithfully with Him, seeking His strength and guidance in all that they did, in a vastly different way than He will deal with the rest of mankind. Unfortunately, He regards those who hear of His warnings, but still refuse to heed them in preparation, as being even less deserving of special treatment than those who have never known Him at all. This is evidenced as He tells of the time of tribulation and suffering that will come upon all mankind, which He tells us will be so severe that “unless those days be shortened, then should no flesh be saved, but for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened.” (Matt. 24:22)
He is speaking of a special act of mercy that He is reserving solely for His elect those who will prepare themselves and watch when He has told them to do so. Most, as revealed by the Parable of the Ten Virgins, will not have prepared themselves, missing out on this time of deliverance, and will find themselves, like the unbelievers, caught in the midst of the judgment that will grow ever more severe until the day of the final harvest.
This concept is not unlike the rapture teaching in some respects, except that all of us must endure a portion of this time of suffering. From the parable, the Bridegroom tarries, and it is well into the night before the cry goes out to go forth to meet Him. The “night” prophetically represents that time of intense tribulation “in which no man can work” but which all must endure.
It is important for us to recognize that God intentionally wants us to understand what is happening, and what will happen in the future. But as He reveals things, He doesn’t provide dates (although as we look back in retrospect, each of the major events in history was very precisely planned). Jesus was born precisely 4,000 years after creation; and He has revealed His pattern of six days of labor, followed by a Sabbath rest for a very specific reason. If we reject these concepts, we cannot hope to make any sense out of His prophetic timetable.
At this point, many will mention Jesus’ response to the disciple’s question of when He would establish His Kingdom rule: “It is not for you to know the times of the seasons which the Father has put in His own power.” (Acts 1:7) This is certainly true; but it is also true that on quite a few occasions, God has revealed very precise time intervals regarding when an important event would take place. Why the contradiction?
Picture what would have happened if Jesus had told the fledgling church that He wouldn’t return for 2,000 years, and they were on their own until then. How many would have patiently endured, knowing how much time still remained? There has always been a sense of urgency, when the body of Christ was actually doing something, that they needed to hurry up, because time was short.
The urgency was justified not because Jesus was due back at any moment, but because of the limited window of opportunity in the spirit realm to make inroads among certain people. Without that sense of urgency, the church would have been as dead then, as much of it is today. Would it have endured for these two millennia (or thousand year, “days”, from which we get the expression that these are the “last days”)? In all likelihood, it wouldn’t have, apart from God’s intervention. So then, He wisely concealed the “time factor” until it becomes essential that we understand it. Then we suddenly “discover” that its been in front of us all along we just didn’t realize what He was revealing. Daniel discovered, after the Medes and Persians overthrew the Babylonian Empire that God had told Jeremiah that, in precisely seventy years, He would restore Jerusalem and bring judgment upon the Babylonians. Based on that specific promise, Daniel began to intercede for the otherwise lackadaisical remnant, so that God might fulfill His promised restoration. Without that specific promise in Jer. 25:11-12, would Daniel have known to pray that way?
Similarly, God revealed to Daniel that He would deal with Israel for a total of seventy weeks, or 490 years, during which time, He would complete His purposes for establishing His Kingdom, and fulfilling all of His prophesied events. Furthermore, He revealed that 483 years would transpire from the time of the call to restore Jerusalem until the time of Messiah’s crucifixion in 30 AD.
It happened just as He foretold, when one corrects for the error in our own calendar of about 3 years, (Jesus was born in 4 BC, and there is no year “0”), then the timing is amazingly accurate. It pointed so glaringly to Jesus as the promised Messiah that, in the second century, the rabbis decided to change their calendar to remove this undeniable evidence. So they eliminated more than 240 years from their chronological count since creation.
The result of this not only masked the time-span from the restoration of Jerusalem until Messiah, but it also discredited all archeological study in Israel. Every excavated site in Israel reveals either that the city had been destroyed more than two centuries before the supposed “biblical” date, or it was inhabited by a different culture of nomadic people, totally unlike those revealed in the lower strata.
Was the biblical account wrong? Of course not! The excavations at Jericho, for example, revealed a large Canaanite city whose walls had collapsed outward, sometime in the 15th century BC; whereas it was an abandoned pile of debris when the Jewish reckoning of time suggested that Joshua captured it. Thus the integrity of all Israelite history has been severely compromised, so that many “scholars” deem it merely cultural “wishful thinking” – all so that a few stubborn, ignorant men wouldn’t have to come to grips with their own complicity in the death of their promised Messiah. It’s amazing to see to what extent some people will go to cover up for a lie or mistake.
But God gave man a precise time interval, following an identifiable event, according to which they should watch for a promised happening. It was a mystery until the actual starting point took place, just as the precise nature of the last remaining “week” remains a misinterpreted controversy until its actual fulfillment in the near future.
There is another interesting time interval revealed in Daniel, which points to our present world events. We all remember the famous account of the “handwriting on the wall”, in which a hand appeared out of nowhere, and wrote a message before the Babylonian king’s eyes, revealing the pending loss of his kingdom that very evening.
I have no problem with Daniel’s interpretation of the four words of the message. However, there is possibly an alternative meaning to be derived from these four words, which suggests a numerical value as well as their literal meaning. While there is much dissent among commentators, the revealed date is too uncanny to overlook. According to some writers, the word “mene” represents a thousand, “tekel” represents twenty, and “upharsin” represents half a mene, or 500. If we add these four numbers together we get 2520.
We know from history that the Persians overran Babylon in 538 BC. So if we add the 2520 years to that date, we get an improbable 1982. However, if we make the same correction for the 3-year error, we have a corrected date of 1979. What’s so special about that? In 1979, Saddam Hussein overthrew the government of Iraq, modern day Babylon, and proclaimed himself its undisputed leader, the successor of Nebuchednezzer, the god-king of the restored empire of Babylon. As one of his first civil projects, he began the archeological restoration of the ancient ruins of the city of Babylon as his showplace. Coincidence?
There are other examples as well; but I believe this illustrates the principle that, yes, God does give us accurate time milestones, which are concealed until the time when people actually need to understand their meaning. If we recall, this is what God told Daniel would happen with most of what He revealed to him.
Does this mean we will know the precise time of His return? Didn’t He say that we cannot know the day nor the hour? That’s correct. God’s calendar is unique from our carefully tabulated paper documents with their “leap years” and “leap seconds”. Any observant person can tell what day of the month it is merely by counting off the number of days since the first crescent moon was visible at sunset. The only drawback to this is that one cannot predict accurately, in advance, when the next “new moon” will occur, because the nodal point of the lunar cycle does not always occur at the same time of day, so there may not be a sufficient amount of the New Moon visible until the next evening despite the calculated timing.
Thus one cannot accurately know precisely which day represents, say the tenth of the month, until the actual beginning of the month, which is why the New Moon was such an important observance that its sighting was hailed with a trumpet blast. In fact, sometimes one cannot be 100% certain even of which month it is until the actual year has begun.
This latter problem was evident this past year, in which the rabbinically derived formula for predicting the beginning of the month of Aviv failed to line up to its expectations. God actually decreed that the first month of the year would be when the green ears of barley were evident at the time of the New Moon. This year the barley ears were there in March despite the fact that the rabbis had decreed that Aviv wouldn’t begin until April. Who was right, God or the rabbis? Obviously, if one is trying to determine when God is going to do something, one must choose His timetable, not man’s.
So thus, if someone were to determine that God was going to do something on a certain day of a certain month this year, how many would have known which actual calendar “day” that was, in advance? It is therefore possible for God to reveal to us when something is going to happen, and yet we would still be unable to pinpoint the date, until just before it was to take place. This is also somewhat like how God was able to arrange for Jesus to celebrate a Passover Feast, and yet be offered up as a Passover sacrifice, without either day being incorrect.
So we can see that, despite Jesus’ statement, God does reveal certain aspects of His timetable, even to the point of revealing specific time intervals between certain fixed landmarks. This practice is not universal, and much of what He reveals is in very general terms with little or no insight as to exactly when these things will occur. Nevertheless, there have been several instances in the past wherein He has left detailed instructions; and as we draw closer to the end, we will again discover that He has provided us with quite detailed information.
It is interesting that Hosea actually answered the disciple’s question as to when He would establish the Kingdom: In Hosea 6:1-2, he writes, “Come, and let us return unto Yahweh for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us, on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.”
Here lies the answer to the widespread belief that God has forever rejected Judah. It speaks of their restoration, more that 600 years in advance of God’s temporary banishment of the Jews following their rejection of Messiah. It speaks of two “days”, or as we have discovered prophetically, 2,000 years, of hardship and rejection by God, until the beginning of the third “day”, or millennium, when He will restore Judah once again to their Messiah.
Lest one think this is my imagination, Jesus confirmed exactly the same pledge, and the same timetable regarding His corporate body: “Behold, I cast out devils and do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.”
(Luke 13:32) He is not speaking of His own crucifixion, since He was still several day's journey from Jerusalem.
Instead, He is speaking of the two “days”, or millennia, of the church age, which coincide with the same 2 “day” period in which He has rejected Judah for their unbelief. But in each case, the beginning of the third “day” marks a total change in His dealings with all of His children, as well as a time when that which was begun at conversion is finally physically redeemed, and rendered perfect in His image.
This pattern is very precise, and it remains consistent since Creation. This is one of the reasons why His Sabbath is so important. God created the world, and all of the life in it, in six days, and on the seventh He rested. In this, He revealed a very precise timetable for His redemption of His creation 6 literal days of creation, 6 thousand-year “days” of redemption.
If we study the chronological dates given in Scripture, as a man named Bishop Ussher did back in the 18th century, we see that the world was created in 4004 BC; and the very best of evidence shows that Jesus was born in 4 BC, precisely 4,000 years, or 4 “days” following creation. From then on, the disciples began to speak of “the Last Days”, which were the remaining 3 “days” or 3,000 years of God’s dealing with this earth. This latter period consists of the two millennia, which we refer to the “church age”, or the “age of the Gentiles”. The final “day” is the “Day of the Lord”, which is His millennium-long Sabbath rest.
Thus according to biblical reckoning, this is really the year 6008 or thereabouts, if we correct for the lack of a year “0”. It is most significant that the Freemasons actually use this date in their official documents, even though they regularly lobby against the teaching of biblical creationism in our public schools. They refer to it as “AL” instead of “AD”, meaning “Anno Lucis”, or the “year of light”. It represents the time elapsed since the “Enlightenment”, which is how they view mankind’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. Since their real belief is in man becoming God, they revere satan’s lie to Eve as their hope, rather than honoring Messiah’s sacrifice that delivered us from the curse.
God revealed only very general instructions for this two “day” long church age, giving us a broad outline of the wars, turmoil, earthquakes, famine, persecution, and suffering; but He pointed out that all of these things must happen before we come to that landmark event, which marks the beginning of His last revealed time interval.
This prophesied event serves the same prophetic function as the call that went forth to restore Jerusalem, which marked the beginning of the final 483 year countdown to Messiah. In it, Jesus confirms Daniel’s earlier vision; “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place. ..For . then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless these days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved, but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.” (Matt. 24:15, 21-22) (As an aside to those who believe that everything was fulfilled in 70 AD, if this were true, why was not all flesh destroyed then?)
This one single event, in conjunction with Jerusalem being surrounded by the armies of her oppressors, marks the beginning of that time period which is universally known as the “Great Tribulation”. It has a very definable beginning, which will be so evident, and so sudden, that Jesus warned all those still remaining in Judea, (which today is referred to as the “West Bank”), to immediately drop everything, and flee to the Jordanian wilderness.
It also marks the beginning of the last specific time interval, which God regarded as so important that He repeated it several different times, in widely different contexts. For example, He tells us in Rev. 11:2-3 that the Holy City of Jerusalem will be trodden under foot by the Gentiles for “forty and two months”. During this same precise time interval, His Two Witnesses will prophesy, clothed in sackcloth for “a thousand and two hundred and three score days (1260 days)”. As a result of the flight of the believing remnant of the Jews to the wilderness, the “woman shall be fed there a thousand two hundred and three score days.” (Rev. 12:6)
The reason for all of this grave concern is because of the fourth beast of Daniel’s vision who “shall wear out the saints…and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times, and the dividing of time (3 1/2 years)”. (Dan. 7:25) All of these events will occur concurrently, and despite the diversity of time constants, they all represent a distinct time interval of 3 1/2 years. The very diversity of time units supports the idea that He is referring to a specific interval of time not merely some allegorical imagery.
It is also important to note that it is not a 7-year interval of time, but is merely 3 1/2 years. There is a final 7-year period, which we will discuss later. Many have erroneously labeled this the “Tribulation Period”, but, like the “pre-trib rapture”, this too is wrong.
Also, if one compares these four separate happenings, it is obvious that all was not fulfilled in 70 AD; and we must therefore interpret the events portrayed in The Revelation as literal, present and future events, not merely quaint allegories to contemplate “now that all prophecy has been completed”.
The abomination of desolation is a discrete event marking the beginning of God’s countdown to the end, which culminates with the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet at the end of the forty two months. Prior to this event, Daniel and others present a series of other things which also must come to pass before this Great Tribulation actually begins. The combined list of these is actually quite detailed, so we have much opportunity to mark our progress along the way.
Most of these associated events have already come to pass, and the cultural and technological climate that is unique to this prophetic interval is already evident around us. We have written about many of those events in the past, as have others, so I’ll not belabor the reader with a listing. But what is evident from all that we have seen, is that there is not much more that remains to be fulfilled before this milestone can take place.
So we have seen that God does reveal His timing to us; although not always in an obvious and literal way. Nevertheless, He is quite specific in His presentation during those times when there is much confusion and crises. The greater the danger and need, the greater the Grace and provision that He extends to us.
We have, so far, seen that God has clearly pointed out that Jesus shall return not long after the end of the 20th century. The final time of suffering will last 3 1/2 years and will end at the sounding of the “last trumpet”. However, He also promised that He would shorten that time for the sake of His faithful elect who have allowed Him to deal with their lives all along, instead of stubbornly resisting His sanctifying work. Is there evidence of two “ingatherings” of believers in Scripture? Or must we rely on the “secret” rapture teaching that is never mentioned in Scripture but which we must, nevertheless, trust implicitly?
Before we answer this question, it is essential to correct a widely held misconception about the Revelation account. There are three distinct sets of “trials” and “judgments” described in it: the Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Vials. Each of these sets proceeds sequentially. They are not concurrent: All of the seals must have been opened before any of the trumpets are sounded, and the same way with the outpouring of the vials.
John clearly demonstrates this pattern: “And when He had opened the Seventh Seal, there was silence in Heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. …And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.” (Rev. 8:1-2, 6)
Thus the Trumpet Judgments don’t even begin to sound until after all of the Seals have been opened, (an important exception as we shall soon discover). We also see the same thing about the Seven Vials of Plagues, which come only after the Seventh Trumpet has been sound-ed, as is illustrated in Rev. 15:1.
We also see something else: Immediately after the Seventh Trumpet, but before the outpouring of the vials of God’s wrath, we see the final harvest of those who weren’t ready at the time of Christ’s return for His elect, like the five foolish virgins. Because of this, they had to endure the full misery represented by the sounding of the Seven Trumpets.
Scripture’s testimony of this final harvest, after the “last trump”, is as John describes: “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire, and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass and holding the harps of God.” (vs. 2)
This, as I previously mentioned, is the second group of people standing before the throne of God. The first such gathering occurs immediately after the opening of the Sixth Seal. John describes the scene: “After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man can number of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white linen and with palms in their hands. ..These . are those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9, 14)
There are a couple of noteworthy details in this account, the first of which being that they came out of great tribulation. Nowhere does it say, “They came out before tribulation”. All must suffer and be tested and proven. The idea that the lukewarm, compromised church of today will be “caught away” without hardship or trial is a barefaced lie!
But it is also important and encouraging to observe that His faithful elect, who have prepared, and watched for His return, will be caught away long before the end of the 42 months. In fact, they will depart before His Trumpet Judgments even begin contrary to the teachings of a lot of people who have tried to assign fairly quiet present-day happenings in place of the global catastrophes described in John’s writings.
God is not going to allow those who have faithfully prepared themselves to taste of His wrath. But they will certainly experience all that is described in the first five of the Seals although the first two have largely passed already.
Where does the abomination of desolation fall in this timeline of unveiling judgments? Scripture is a little vague in tying the two prophetic streams together; but if we consider why Jesus would tell those still living in Israel to flee as far away as possible, just as soon as they see it, it becomes clear. If we consider the prophesied twofold battle, foretold in Ezek. 38, (WW III, followed later by the Battle of Armageddon), we would quickly realize that the worst of the battle centers in and around Jerusalem, and will encompass most of the Middle East.
No, America is not Israel, and Ezekiel is not foretelling the invasion of America; although we will have our share of bloodshed. In fact, America and Britain, rather than being the “good guys”, are in actuality Gog, the seat and driving force behind the world-dominating beast empire. This goes to show how important the seemingly inconsequential details of the last days really are.
Should we support everything that America chooses to do in the next few years, because we believe she is the “New Israel”? If so, we will find ourselves defending and supporting the very antichrist system that is seeking to enslave and destroy all that God is doing.
If we look at the sequence of Seals, we discover that the fourth one represents warfare, disease and famine that will destroy ¼ of the whole world. In all likelihood, the abomination of desolation will occur at the very beginning of the war that initiates all of this destruction.
So thus we see that from the beginning of this great time of destruction and persecution, through Christ’s return, and the loosing of the beginning phase of His judgment on mankind as represented by the Trumpet Judgments, encompasses a total of just 3½ years. This represents a whole lifetime, and more, of suffering, condensed into just 1,260 days!
Someplace in the midst of this 42 month interval of time, Jesus is returning to deliver those who have been watching, and have patiently made themselves ready. Does Scripture show us any more precisely, when this will be?
Jesus repeatedly told His disciples how important it was that we should be prepared, so that we might be found watching and ready when He comes. While He didn’t come out and actually give a time, He did narrow down the time interval for consideration even further: “And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch and find them so, blessed are those servants.” (Luke 12:40)
Jesus repeatedly referred to this time of great trials and suffering as the “night in which no man can work”. It was the priestly custom to maintain the temple 24 hours a day; and their nightly service was divided into four three-hour watches in much the same manner as the watches that were maintained on the city walls.
Thus, in speaking of either the second or third watch, Jesus is defining a time period roughly akin to that between 9 PM and 3 AM. If we transpose this idea to a 42 month stretch of blackness and despair, He has just narrowed it down to some time between 10½ and 31½ months.
Does Scripture show us anything else whereby we can more precisely pinpoint His return? Out of the Seven Trumpet Judgments, all of which must be fulfilled before the end of His dealings, two specify an interval of time over which they will occur. The Fifth Trumpet Judgment shall “hurt men for five months”, (Rev. 9:10) The account of the Sixth Trumpet speaks of judgment that has been “prepared for an hour and a day and a month and a year, to slay a third part of mankind.” (vs. 15)
So far, with just these two judgments alone, we are speaking of at least a minimum of 18 months before the end. If we consider that the other four judgments also must require a certain amount of additional time, we can see that Jesus must return sometime during the first half of the Tribulation Period; but we can say categorically that we have now narrowed it down to the interval between 10½ and 24 months.
Does Scripture give us any other clues whereby we can narrow it down any further? If we consider each of the things we have discussed so far, each level of pinpointing of the time has been more and more subtly concealed. Yet, when one begins to examine what is being said, they have, in fact, spoken clearly of God’s timing.
God’s greatest masterpiece of foreshadowing was His deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage, as He led them to His Promised Land. The one blemish to its perfection was when Moses struck the rock twice, instead of speaking to it, to produce the water of life. Apart from this slight error, and the fact that Israel failed to respond when He told them to go and possess the Land at His prescribed time, it is a flawless picture of the salvation process, as well as an illustration of our own wilderness experience that must precede Christ’s return.
Many people don’t realize that God never intended for the journey to last for 40 years. He had planned to lead them in to possess the Land much earlier than that. How much earlier, may be a significant clue to God’s timing with Jesus. God led Israel out of Egypt on Passover day. From there, He brought them through the wilderness, across the Red Sea and up to the base of Mt. Horeb in time for His visitation to them on the day of Pentecost.
He then led them back into the wilderness, while they prepared all of the necessary accouterments and furnishings for the Tabernacle. They returned to Mt. Horeb, and celebrated their second Passover, then they headed north toward the Promised Land. Camped on the other side of the mountains, they sent forth twelve scouts to search out the land. Having spent 40 days doing this, they returned with evidence of a bountiful harvest, including a single bunch of grapes that it took two men to carry.
God intended for them to set out the next day, and begin their conquest of the land; but the people, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, rebelled, and refused to go. After God pronounced judgment upon them for their disobedience, they relented, and set out on their own the following day which was one day too late, as far as God was concerned. Why would one day make such a difference, unless God was specifically trying to draw attention to a single day? (It's most interesting that some Orthodox Jews observe a 40 day period of introspection before the Day of Atonement.)
There is no mention made about time until several chapters later it speaks of them entering the Wilderness of Zin in the first month of their third year of travel. It was clearly the harvest season in the fall, when the scouts returned; so it is obviously a specific day during the time of the fall feasts that God intended for them to foreshadow as they entered the Land. (The Feast of Tabernacles, for example, occurs exactly 6 months after Passover.)
There are four separate observances during the fall feasts: the sounding of the trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the seven-day long Feast of Tabernacles. Immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles is an 8th day, referred to only vaguely as the “Great Day of the Feast”. It is obvious that God intended them to commemorate one of those four “feasts”.
We do see that God never intended for Israel’s wilderness trials to last longer than a year and a half. It was their unbelief and lack of willingness to allow God to change them that resulted in their 40 years of wandering. Likewise, as we consider that Parable of the Ten Virgins and other references, we can clearly see that God intends for a minimal amount of exposure of His elect. It is only their lack of preparedness that will cause them to suffer for the full 42 months, or to fail entirely.
I believe that God’s original intent for the wilderness journey was meant to be an exact foreshadowing of our struggle before Christ’s return; and we will soon see that there is other evidence to support this conclusion. But to understand the full meaning of all of this, we must first begin to understand God’s specific feasts, and the reasons for them.
The church has almost completely rejected all of the biblical observances, choosing instead to create its own by modifying convenient pagan celebrations; but not only is this custom forbidden, it also causes us to lose all of the associated meaning that God Himself incorporated in these special days. In addition, by avoiding all observance of these days, we guarantee that if God should choose to do something special on any one of these days, we are certain to miss it totally.
It is this last factor that poses our greatest danger, because God has an uncanny habit of fulfilling His feasts by the very event they were intended to foreshadow. For example, Jesus was crucified as our blood offering for sin on the day of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. He rose from the dead as the first fruits from the dead, on the day the High Priest was to offer up the wave offering of the First Fruits. Similarly, the first church conversion took place on Pentecost, the observance of the beginning of the harvest season. Each day was specifically chosen and then faithfully fulfilled.
There remain five other observances, each having its own associated meaning, which remain unfulfilled as of yet. Before Jesus has completed all that He needs to do at His return, He will have fulfilled all prophecy. Since these feast observances are prophetic in nature, that means He will fulfill each of them, according to its designated meaning. Thus they will all represent some milestone in the unfolding of the drama of His return.
Which brings us back to the original pattern that God set out to establish with the wilderness journey. First of all, He led the people out of Egyptian bondage on Passover day, which also represented the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He then led them through the various wilderness trials in an attempt to purge them of their worldly affections, and to make them fit to go in to possess His promised inheritance. During that same training time, He also revealed Himself to them repeatedly as a faithful God.
His intent was that after a year and a half of this training, He would them lead them into their promised inheritance on a specific, but unnamed, fall feast day. The timing of all of this falls well within the limits we have already discovered elsewhere in Scripture. The one remaining question is whether we can literally accept everything as a specific model for what is about to happen.
Let’s walk it through. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which remained unfulfilled 2,000 years ago, speaks specifically of Israel’s hasty flight from bondage into the wilderness. As we’ve just discussed, this too must be literally fulfilled in these last days. So it wouldn’t be unreasonable that its first day might actually represent, or immediately follow, the appearance of the abomination of desolation. As we’ve discussed in earlier articles, it is very likely that the abomination of desolation would have some association with an Easter-season observance.
This brings us to the fall feasts, The Day of Atonement represents the day in which the High Priest ministered within the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle, and then emerged to bring forth God’s redemptive blessing to mankind. Jesus made His sin offering 2,000 years ago, and then sat down at the right hand of His Father’s throne. When we undergo our conversion experience, we spiritually assume a position alongside His. However, He has yet to return to physically redeem His creation on earth, which is indeed what His impending return is all about. Such being the case, what could be more logical than for Him to return in His redemptive role on the day of the Atonement offering? If the reader desires more information on this, I refer them to the recent article I wrote on the subject entitled, “Entering the Jubilee”.
Since it is quite likely that the year of His return may be one of the years of ambiguity regarding either the beginning of the first month, such as this past year, or a question regarding the beginning of the seventh month. Thus the Feast of Trumpets, with its associated warning, is a real wake-up call as to the beginning of the needed preparation for the Day of Atonement. It would mark the start of the 10-day period of soul-searching and cleansing that God prescribed as an essential preparation for His Day of Atonement.
It is quite noteworthy that He decreed that all who failed to afflict their souls in preparation would be cut off from the midst of their people. Yet in the last 3,500 years, I’m certain that there have been millions of sincere believers who have failed at, or neglected entirely, that commandment of preparation yet Scripture gives not a single instance of any who suffered such a fate.
Was God bluffing when He said that? Or was He speaking of the day in which Christ will return but only for those who have made themselves spiritually ready, as demonstrated by the fate of the five foolish virgins? Unless God, at some point, intends to enforce that requirement, then His Word is a lie and we know with certainty that this is not the case. Therefore God gave His commandment to fast and repent, as a prelude to His Day of Atonement, in anticipation of its marking the day of Christ’s literal return.
There is much mythology within our present-day church system, which maintains that God is our source of “unconditional love”; and as the author of our “unconditional covenant”, He would never resort to anything harsh or harmful like that. After all, isn’t that the promise behind the rapture, the culmination of our “unconditional eternal security”: that one day Jesus is going to come and take everyone home despite His repeated warnings that we must “watch” lest we miss out?
This is the doctrine that brings in the big bucks in churches today. Although I can’t quite understand how they can reconcile it with Jesus’ own words, when He said, “And that servant, who knew his lord’s will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who knew not and committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whom, even much is given, of him much shall be required”. (Luke 12:47-48) What He is saying in this passage is that the fate of the five foolish virgins, who knew what they should do, but refused out of unbelief and laziness, was far worse than that of the unbelievers, beside whom they ended up suffering.
Next among the fall feasts is the seven-day, (representing 7 actual years), long Feast of Tabernacles, which is a joyous celebration, even though it is conducted while dwelling in rude “booths” made of sticks and branches, reminiscent of exile in the wilderness. It will begin with the flight to the wilderness, following the appearance of the abomination of desolation. But even though it begins under great hardship, it marks God's preserving hand of deliverance through the 3½ years of persecution.
For those who persevere through the initial phases, it marks a joyous reunion with Messiah, as He, and all of His remnant children over the past 6000 years, are united in a wilderness that shall be then transformed to be like the Garden of Eden. While unbelieving mankind is receiving its just compensation for its rejection of His promise, and for the persecution and contempt that they poured out on God's people, His chosen ones will be enjoying a season of healing and rest.
The very purpose of Christ's return is to proclaim and establish His Jubilee, which is the fiftieth year in God's cycle in which all indentured servants are to be set free, and all property that has been sold is to be returned to its original owners. Jesus is setting the captives free; and all of Creation will be returned to Him, its rightful owner. Because of this obvious tie-in, the Great Day of the Feast must represent the Jubilee Year, which immediately follows the seven years of the Feast of Tabernacles.
There is a very curious link between the Day of Atonement, which falls on the year preceding the Jubilee: “And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years, and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month on the Day of Atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Lev. 25:8-10)
There are a couple of important details about this one event: The blowing of a trumpet is not normally part of the observance of the Day of Atonement. It only happens once every fifty years, during the fall before the actual beginning of the Jubilee Year. In our previous article, we pointed out the relationship between this “exceptional” trumpet blast, and the one that will precede Christ's actual return. If the trumpet were merely intended to represent part of the observance of the Day of Atonement, they would sound it each year. Clearly God is trying to draw attention to the unique relationship between these two events.
The second peculiarity is why sound the trumpet on the Day of Atonement instead of on the New Moon that actually represents the beginning of the Jubilee? (The biblical year does not begin at “Rosh Hashanah”, but rather in early spring with the month of Aviv corresponding to March or April.) The Day of Atonement actually occurs 5½ months before the beginning of the Jubilee. I pondered this mystery, and the Lord showed me a simple explanation: If Jesus returns 1½ years into the seven-year Feast of Tabernacles, He is returning 5½ years before its end, which marks the beginning of the Jubilee. The time relationship between the trumpet blast on the Day of Atonement and the Jubilee is numerically representative of the number of years remaining of the Feast of Tabernacles before the real Jubilee celebration, as represented by the “eighth day”.
This final seven year period of time is equally divided between the 3½ years of His final dealings with His harvest; and it is followed by 3½ years of judgment of those who defied Him, and the cleansing and purging of His Creation afterward, to once again make it fit for habitation. Once all preparation is complete, then the true Jubilee of redemption and restoration can be celebrated just as the final “Great Day of the Feast”, follows on the heels of the seven “days” of the Feast of Tabernacles.
This all may seem simplistic; but everything that I've included is found in God's Word, and in the carefully crafted foreshadowings that He created. God is not desirous that we be ignorant; but it is not simply a matter of marking a date on a calendar, saying, “Jesus returns today.” (You will note that throughout this, I have not incorporated a single “date”.)
When one considers the uncertainty that surrounds the scheduling of biblical observances, and the often great differences that exist between various groups in how they interpret how these days are determined, there is little likelihood in anyone accurately pointing to a calendar and saying “Jesus is coming then”. This will continue to be true, even as we see the last of the milestones that He has given us slip away. The world that will exist, once the real tribulation begins, will be vastly more confusing than even now. The challenge of even knowing what day of the week it is may prove more than we can master, never mind knowing whether there was green barley in March.
The real purpose behind this exercise is to address the long-held argument that we're not supposed to watch for the antichrist, or any of the other signs He gave us. We're just supposed to keep watching for Him. But I guarantee that all who are watching for Him now will give up out of exhaustion or despair long before He does appear.
He has a very precise timetable in mind, (some of which He has indeed revealed to us), which He prepared from the beginning. It is not dependent, moment by moment, on the readiness of the church, nor on our state of elevated spirituality. Scripture contains a whole collection of vignettes of future events that all must come to pass before His return. Paul said that the man of sin must be revealed first; and that has yet to happen. Nevertheless, there are churches filled with people who are convinced that Jesus will be here any moment.
Jesus repeated and confirmed Daniel's milestone event of the abomination of desolation. Until that is revealed, with its accompanying world ruler, there is no point in counting days, or years, or anything else. But once that prophesied event happens, He has concealed, and is now revealing, a very precise timetable until the end, to guide and encourage us when it looks like everything has fallen apart.
Jeremiah recorded God's promise of restoration after seventy years, to encourage a despondent nation who had largely given up all hope of ever seeing their homeland again. Likewise, Daniel presented God's countdown until His promised Messiah, to guide them in discerning the real from the counterfeits and pretenders that would arise.
Yet despite His detailed timetable, and the number of rabbis and scholars who could answer the questions about His coming, how many were actually aware of His birth? a bunch of lonely shepherds, a few Babylonian astrologers, an old prophet who was about to die, and an old godly widow who loved and served God.
Even with the carefully delineated information that God has given us, how many will He find waiting and watching when He does come? Jesus asked a very pointed question, which we should all take to heart as the day approaches: “Who then is that faithful and wise servant, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh shall find so doing. In truth, I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” (Luke 12:42-44)
In the current religious system, in which many shepherds and leaders have already quit seeking after the meat to feed unto their followers in favor of more lucrative pursuits, how many do you think will remain and persevere when the real hardship and persecution starts?
May we be found patiently waiting and serving. Maranatha!
(Ed Spurlin 12/12/05) Voice in the Wilderness, 35 Summer Street, Milford, NH 03055 603-673-2770