Tag Archives: revelation

The Coming Exile of Jerusalem in Revelation 12

When I look at all the tiny nation of Israel has endured through the years, my heart goes out to her. As a follower of the Messiah, I would love to believe, as some actually teach, that the worst is behind her.

Scripturally, that is an untenable position. Israel has been through hell. Worse still is coming before the glory days begin.

Will Israel dramatically and miraculously escape from the Antichrist’s clutches? In the end, yes. Before that, however, in the middle, the rescue (however dramatic) of God’s holy people is a partial rescue only.

Even this partial rescue requires their obedience. Obedience, it might be noted, to a prophecy found in the New Testament, a portion of Scripture few Jewish rabbis are reading:

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader [help the congregation] understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16, NASU)

An idol will, according to Daniel 12:11, be set up in the Temple when the regular sacrifice is abolished. “He [the Antichrist] will make the temple abominable (and therefore desolate) by setting up in the temple an image of himself to be worshiped (2 Thes. 2:4; Rev. 13:14–15).”[1] Such an event will be clearly recognizable by everyone.

In Daniel 9:27, we read of “the prince who is to come” (the Antichrist). He will put an end to the Temple sacrifices in the middle of “the seventieth week.” The term “week” in this usage consists of seven years of 360 days each, according to conservative scholarship.

How is it that many of the Jews will flee from Jerusalem and Judea when the Abomination is set up in God’s Holy Temple? Are they really aware of the Lord Yeshua’s warning (quoted above) from the Olivet Discourse? Or are they perhaps just prudent? When the Antichrist (whomever he turns out to be) sets up the Abomination, his evil intentions toward the Jews will be clear to everyone. The wise will flee without delay.

Revelation 12 portrays Israel as a woman wearing a crown of twelve stars, one star for each of Jacob’s sons. This imagery harkens back to the dreams of Joseph in Genesis 37.

The woman gives birth to the Messiah. Satan tries to kill Him, but He is caught up to heaven.

His mother—Israel, the woman—flees to the wilderness. There she finds a place God has already prepared for her. She will be nourished there for 1,260 days. She will also be protected from the Antichrist and his murderous intent.

This number of days corresponds to the 42 months that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 testify and also to the “time, times, and half a time” (3½ years) mentioned later in this chapter and in the twelfth chapter of Daniel. These are all parallel expressions for the second half of the seventieth week.

The 42 months end when the seventh trumpet is about to be sounded. In other words, the “woman” of Revelation 12 hides in the wilderness for the entire second half of the seventieth week of Daniel. So Israel is safe from the Antichrist during these 42 months, right?

Yes and no. This particular set of Jews is safe, yes. Those who fled from Judea and Jerusalem the minute that the Abomination was set up, yes. But we know from Zechariah 14:2 that only one-half of the city of Jerusalem will be exiled. No mention is made of how many in the surrounding area (Judea) also head for the hills.

Life will be hard during the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week. Those not in the safe haven, the “place prepared” in the wilderness, will be subjected to intense persecution.

Furthermore, Zechariah 13 contains a severe, sobering statistic. Of those Jews who enter the seventieth week of Daniel, only one-third will survive to the end. The majority will be slaughtered by God’s enemies.

That is the truth of what the Bible says, in my view. A desire to spare Israel further suffering, however noble, will not prevent these prophecies from being fulfilled.

Brothers and sisters, weep for Israel. Pray for Israel. Witness to, bless, and love the Jews you know personally.

God has told us in advance what it will take for the Hebrews to cry out to Him for rescue. It will take severe persecution, the “worst ever” period of tribulation, and the shattering of their power (Hosea 5:14-15, Daniel 12:7). What is this “power” that will be shattered? My vote goes to Israel’s military might. Their famed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will fail them. They will have no other nations helping them, no allies at all. Then, at last, with no one else to rely on, they will seek Yehovah, the Most High God, and live.

May it be that our witness and our help is a blessing to many Jewish people even before the time of their greatest need, soon to transpire. May it be that many of their unbelieving neighbors bless and protect them as well. May the ranks of the “sheep” swell and their efforts prosper (Matthew 25:40).

Meanwhile, please join me in praying for the flight of the Jerusalemites. Should their exile occur in on a Sabbath day, things will be harder for them. Buses and trains do not run on the Sabbath in Jerusalem.[2] Some roads are even blocked to prevent vehicular traffic.[3]

In the winter, Jerusalem and Judea sometimes experience snow. Depending on where their safe haven is located, those who flee may need to navigate mountains and hills, possibly on foot. This explains why the Lord Yeshua directed (in Matthew 24:20 and Mark 13:18) those living in Jerusalem and Judea to pray their flight would not be in the winter or on a Sabbath day.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers will have a particularly rough time (Mark 13:17). Love dictates that we pray in advance for their successful flight.

Let us also pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as Psalm 122 directs:

I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Our feet are standing

Within your gates, O Jerusalem,

Jerusalem, that is built

As a city that is compact together;

To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD—

An ordinance for Israel—

To give thanks to the name of the LORD.

For there thrones were set for judgment,

The thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

“May peace be within your walls,

And prosperity within your palaces.”

For the sake of my brothers and my friends,

I will now say, “May peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek your good.

(Psalm 122, NASU)

All Scripture verses are taken from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition (NASU), unless otherwise noted. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. Brackets mine, added for clarity.

[1] Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. Brackets mine.

[2] http://www.touristisrael.com/shabbat-in-jerusalem/11023/ Accessed 24 July 2015.

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/27/us-israel-religion-idUSTRE55Q21L20090627 Accessed 24 July 2015.

Rethinking the First Resurrection

Who likes to be wrong? It’s usually hard to recognize an error and change. Yet if you’re in a field of study where new discoveries are being made, you’ll end up needing to change your views from time to time.

For years, I have regarded the phrase “the first resurrection” as a synonym for “all the righteous dead.” That would include all who have been or will be resurrected. I even threw in those alive at the return of the Messiah, the ones who will be translated from mortal bodies to immortal without ever dying.

Is that really who these people called “the first resurrection” are? Let’s examine the text.

Revelation 20 starts with a description of the binding of Satan for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-3). Then judgment is given to an unnamed group seated on thrones:

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. (Rev. 20:4a)

At that point, a different group, those martyred by the beast (AKA the Antichrist), are raised to life:

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4b-c)

We learn that they are special in two ways. First, they will reign with the Messiah for the 1,000 years (the Millennium). Second, they have been resurrected 1,000 years before the rest of the dead will be:

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. (Rev. 20:5)

If my belief is correct, then these particular martyrs were killed after the rapture of the Church. They were killed for their faith in God and His Messiah during the Day of the Lord.

“This is the first resurrection,” Revelation 20:5b says. But what is “this”?

Is “this” the group of martyrs under discussion here, those raised at the start of the Millennium? Or is “this” all believers through the ages? Or some subgroup of the saints that includes those martyred during the Day of the Lord?

The very next verse describes them:

Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)

Can all of the saints, the redeemed, be said to be blessed and holy? Will they all reign with our holy Yeshua (Jesus) for 1,000 years? I don’t think so. Part of my reasoning follows:

  • Some saints will be raised later at the Great White Throne Judgment. Their names will be found in the Book of Life, so they will not be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
  • The overcomers are a subset of believers, according to what we read in the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Not all of the saved will overcome.
  • Some believers will have all their works burned up. These are generally called “carnal Christians.” They will escape destruction but not receive rewards. Rewards are to be based on deeds. The Messiah will not hand out “participation trophies.” (See 1 Cor. 3:11-15.)

My conclusion is that “the first resurrection” refers to one specific, greatly-blessed group. They have endured the worst of the persecution by the Antichrist. They are, therefore, counted worthy of the greatest honor. They are entrusted with authority, since they have proven faithful even unto death.

How are these, then, the “first” resurrection? We know that others have been raised to new life before them. Yet the Greek word that means “first” allows for more than one interpretation. A thing—or in this case a group of persons—may be first chronologically (in time) or first hierarchically (in honor). We find this also in English. Remember how Henry Lee described George Washington? “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

The Bible Knowledge Commentary states of this “first resurrection” group:

It should be obvious, however, that in no sense could this be the number-one resurrection chronologically because historically Christ was the first to rise from the dead with a transformed, resurrected body. There was also the resurrection “of many” (Matt. 27:52–53) which took place when Christ died.

(Walvoord, J. F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

It goes on to ask, “In what sense then can this resurrection in Revelation 20:5 be ‘first’?” Here is my answer:

Many other saints will be quite blessed, but not all rule and reign with the Messiah for the 1,000 years, the Millennium. The “first resurrection” saints will exercise authority under the Messiah throughout the Millennium. Ruling alongside them will be the apostles of the Lamb (as Yeshua promised them in Matthew 19:28) and those we saw in Revelation 20:4a, rulers already seated on thrones before the “first resurrection” saints were brought back to life. About those already seated, we have much to say—in a future blog post.

All Scripture verses are taken from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition (NASU), unless otherwise noted. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.

Do the Earth Dwellers Give God Praise?

Several verses in the book of Revelation feature a group called “those who dwell on the earth,” which students of Scripture generally shorten to “the earth dwellers.” This group follows after the Antichrist (the “first beast” in Revelation). They oppose Almighty God and His good plans.

They never repent of their wickedness nor of their worship of false gods. They close their ears to the gospel message.

What are we to make, then, of the great earthquake in Jerusalem at the sixth trumpet? The holy city, Jerusalem, has been given to the nations. The Gentiles are trampling it underfoot, except for the holy temple. These unrighteous Gentiles have opposed the ministry of the two witnesses. They throw a party when the Antichrist kills them:

And those who dwell on the earth {will} rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets [the two witnesses] tormented those who dwell on the earth. (Rev. 11.10 NASB)

These earth dwellers get the shock of their lives when the two witnesses come back to life again and ascend to heaven. Yet the earth dwellers are still called “enemies” of the two witnesses, not “converts” of them.

Here we come to the bit about the earthquake:

And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell [many buildings collapsed]; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Rev. 11.13 NASB)

It’s understandable that those living in Jerusalem will be terrified. Yet it is totally unlike the earth dwellers to give glory to Almighty God. We don’t see them praising God or repenting anywhere else in the 70th Week of Daniel or thereafter.

Do they really repent here? There are basically two options. One is that yes, the earth dwellers do give glory to God, but it’s not really the ascribing of worth to His holy name that is usually meant by “give glory to.” It’s a lesser form of praise. While the Greek words involved may technically allow for this option, it is not persuasive.

Could “the rest” refer instead to the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem? Only half of the city was exiled (Zech. 14.2), which implies that a large number of Jews remained in Jerusalem.

The Jewish remnant will not side with their persecutor, the Antichrist. All Israel will be saved, Paul says in Rom. 11.26. The 70 Weeks decreed for the Jewish people will end their transgression and usher in their everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9.24). So we see that those who give glory to God at the sixth trumpet are likely the Jews who have survived, and who sincerely praise their God and give Him the honor due His holy name.

Scripture taken, unless otherwise noted, from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Updated Edition (NASB), © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Brackets mine (added to some verses for clarity).