Wednesday, 19 December 2012
The 'Prize' of the Messianic Age
At the end of last week's Blog I wrote that I hope, pray, and trust that you will be hidden from the dramatic, frightening, and devastating Great Tribulation, because you know that you know Him, if you keep His Commandments.
So what happens next?
The Earth and all the surviving 'nations' of people are reeling from the effects of the Great Tribulation Judgments. The Autumn harvest time approaches, and the peoples of the world search for the crops that have survived when hail and fire, mingled with blood, were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up, as Revelation 8.7 described the first Trumpet Judgment.
It is at this point in time that the 4 events described in Matthew 24.29-31 occur:
Immediately after The Tribulation of those days:
1. the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;
There will be an eclipse of the sun followed by a lunar eclipse.
2. the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Following the two eclipses, there will be some dramatic astronomical activity which will probably cause people to fear a repaet of the Revelation Judgments. But, rather than more Judgments:
3. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great Glory
Firstly, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. The sign of the Son of Man is the Planet Jupiter which has been known by Jews to be the Planet of Messiah since the time of the Exile in Babylon. It seems that Jupiter will appear in an unusual and surprising way.
Secondly, all the tribes of the earth will mourn in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 12.10-14, which refers specifically to the House of David, the Jewish people, and followers of Rabbinic Judaism, who will be the descendants of those who rejected Jesus as their Messiah at His First Coming:
The House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem ...will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
Thirdly, they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great Glory. What they will actually see will be what Daniel saw, what the Apostle John saw, and what Peter, James, and John saw at His Transfiguration:
The Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire... Daniel 7.9
I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw ... One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. Revelation 1.12-16
He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Matthew 17.2
4. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Then comes ‘The First Resurrection’ events described in Matthew 24, 1Corinthians 15, 1Thessalonians 4, and Revelation 20, which ALL happen at the same time....immediately following a great sound of a trumpet, 'The Last Trumpet' on Rosh HaShanah, when the LORD Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with The Trumpet of God.....at His Second Coming.
Paul explains in 1Corinthians 15.51-53 that we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at The Last Trumpet. For The Trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
It is clear from this passage, and from other hints in Paul's Letters, that he expected that Jesus would return at His Second Coming in his lifetime. Paul's expectations were similar to John the Baptist's, in that as John expected Jesus to be the 'conqurering King' of Zechariah 14, and the bringer of 'the wrath to come', so Paul, also, expected the same events to follow very soon after His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Disappointingly for Paul, it was not to be in his lifetime.
Although disappointed, Paul was still able to press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
We sometimes miss that when Paul describes the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, the upward call is specifically referring to The First Resurrection.
In addition, Paul writes that we shall not all sleep, which implies that many will continue to sleep. The prize of the Bible is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus at The First Resurrection, and the subsequent experience of living and reigning with Christ for a thousand years, as described in Revelation 20.4.
The rest of the dead will not live again until the thousand years are finished because, as we noted in last week's Blog:
Matthew 7.22-23 Many will say to Me in That Day, ‘LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Matthew 15.1-12 The Kingdom of Heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.....And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’....And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’....And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘LORD LORD, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
The 'many' of Matthew 7, and 'the foolish virgins' of Matthew 25, will continue to sleep, and will not experience the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, at The First Resurrection. This does NOT mean that they will also fail to receive Eternal Life. They will receive Eternal Life when the thousand years are finished.
There is a vital and oft missed difference between the Jewish hope and the Christian hope in the Bible. The Christian hope is Eternal Life as summarised in John 3.16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have Everlasting Life.
For the Jew, Eternal Life is a given reality, because the Jewish hope is the upward call of God in Messiah, and the subsequent experience of living and reigning with Messiah for a thousand years, as many of the Prophets describe in detail, particularly Isaiah and Micah:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’S House shall be established on the top of the mountains, ...and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, ...He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion the Torah shall go forth, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. Micah 4.1-4
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,... and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; ... righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them..... They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11.1-9
Both parties in the hope of the Bible, Jew and Christian, have a problem:
For the Jew to experience the upward call of God in Messiah, and the subsequent experience of living and reigning with Messiah for a thousand years...he needs to accept and trust in Messiah, Jesus, that he rejected at His First Coming.
For the Christian to experience the upward call of God in Messiah, and the subsequent experience of living and reigning with Messiah for a thousand years...he needs to know Him, by keeping His Commandments...which he has rejected on the basis that His Commandments in the Torah given to Moses have been abrogated and set aside in favour of the 'Law of Christ' in the New Testament.
It is because both Jews and Christians have their respective problems that Paul writes in Romans 9.6, they are not all Israel who are of Israel, and Jesus remarks in Matthew 20.16, many are called, but few chosen.
When Paul writes they are not all Israel who are of Israel, he means that the qualifications to be a member of the House of Israel are twofold:
1. To trust in Messiah Jesus and
2. To keep His Commandments.
For many Jews, to trust in Messiah Jesus is not possible, and therefore, for Paul, they are not of Israel. It is the House of Israel that will experience the upward call of God in Messiah, and the subsequent experience of living and reigning with Messiah for a thousand years
When Jesus commented many are called but few chosen, He was referring to the necessity to trust Him AND to keep His Commandments. To reject His Commandments on the basis that His Torah given to Moses has been abrogated, will result in few being chosen to experience the the upward call of God in Messiah, and the subsequent experience of living and reigning with Messiah for a thousand years.
So, the choice is yours whether you are a Jew or a Christian. Your best decision is to become a member of the House of Israel which is not limited to, or defined by, any ethnic Jewish content.
The House of Israel is composed of those who:
1. Trust in their Messiah, Jesus, Who redeemed and saved them at His Crucifixion and Resurrection
2. Know Him, by keeping His Commandments.
If we qualify on the basis of thes two qualifications, we shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, ...and this corruptible will put on incorruption, and this mortal will put on immortality....and we will have an early preview and experience of Eternal Life for a thousand years, ruling and reigning with Messiah Jesus Himself....before He brings about the renewed heaven and renewed earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Revelation 21.1
That is some prize....and it is the prize that I, for one, and I hope that you also, will press toward the goal!!!
Until next week, when we will discover what happens to those who remain asleep until the end of the thousand years...