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Understanding Eschatology

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December 2021 - Understanding Eschatology

Issue #401
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Issue #401December 2021

Understanding Eschatology

It is commonly taught in the church today that Israel is “God’s time clock” for the world. I was taught this as a child in the church. This view became popular after the Israeli state was established in 1948.

Israel certainly is, in many ways, God’s time clock, as long as we know who Israel truly is. Most assume that the Jews are Israel and that the Israeli state is Israel. But for thousands of years the Jews have prayed in their synagogues to be reunited with the lost tribes of Israel. They understood the difference between Israel and Judah. “Jew” is short for Judahite, or Judean.

When the Kingdom was divided in 931 B.C. after the death of Solomon, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom were known as the house of Israel, The two tribes of the southern kingdom were known as the house of Judah.

Thereafter, the prophets never confuse the two nations. In other words, Judah was a term used to distinguish it from Israel. Hence, when the prophets gave prophecies of Israel’s restoration, they were not talking about the Jews of Judah but of the lost tribes of Israel.

The state of Israel, created in 1948, is a Jewish state. Its founding did not fulfill the prophecies of biblical Israel, because, until this day, the so-called “lost tribes of Israel” still remain lost—at least to most Christians. Until they are motivated to study history, they are not likely to find the Israelites.

Meanwhile, the prophecy in the name of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, will continue to hold sway, for his name prophesied that “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (Gen. 41:51). Joseph had been lost in Egypt and was presumed to be dead, and his life prophesied of a time that his descendants would be lost in Assyria. Their identity would be lost, even though they would continue to multiply according to the prophecy that was seen in the name of his brother, Ephraim, “fruitfulness.”

Two Cities, Two Destinies

In 1971, after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit of Truth, my understanding of prophecy was rocked to the core when I discovered the difference between Israel and Judah.

When I studied Jeremiah 18 and 19, I learned that Israel was like a vessel made of wet clay, and because it was marred in the hand of the Potter, it was to be rebuilt into a new vessel (Jer. 18:3, 4). Judah, on the other hand, was like an old jar (Jer. 19:1), and it was to be cast into the valley of the son of Hinnom (Greek: gehenna).

In Jer. 19:11 God says, “Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired.”

The destiny of Judah and Jerusalem was the opposite of the destiny of Israel in Jer. 18:4. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and again by the Romans in 70 A.D., but in each case, the city was “repaired.” Hence, if we believe the prophet, we can only conclude that another destruction will occur in the future. In the end, the city will cease to exist.

This means the earthly city of Jerusalem will NOT be the capital of Christ’s Kingdom. Instead, His capital will be the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city—the city which Abraham sought, “for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). This city is the capital of “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16).

Better than what? Better than the old land of Canaan or Palestine, which was later known as Israel and Judah. When God then makes Israel into a new vessel, He is not going to retrieve and repair the old earthen vessel that Jeremiah had cast into gehenna. Neither is He going to fulfill His promise by bringing the Israelites back to the old land. How do we know? Because Heb. 11:14-16 says,

14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed, if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one…

The “country” that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sought was not the “country from which they went out,” that is, from which they were exiled by the Assyrians. Therefore, the Jewish return to that old land did not fulfill God’s prophecies to Abraham nor to the Israelites as a whole.

The old land was only a prophetic type and shadow of the real Promised Land. That is why Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, being in the old land, yet “confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

Old and New Jerusalem

Another major key to understanding eschatology is to see that the name Ierushalayim is a Hebrew dual. It literally means “two Jerusalems.” Hence, when the prophets refer to “Jerusalem,” we must discern which city. Old Testament prophets did not distinguish between the two cities, even though the ancient rabbis debated the reason why the city was a Hebrew dual.

The New Testament writers knew the answer. Paul compares the two cities to Hagar and Sarah, telling us also that these two “women” represented the “two covenants” (Gal. 4:24-26). In the end, Paul says, Hagar and her son must be “cast out” (Gal. 4:30), because the earthly city and her fleshly children will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

This understanding alone turns modern eschatology on its head. Anyone who clearly understands this revelation in the word of God cannot be a Zionist. Instead, they confess to be children of Abraham, born of their mother Sarah.

The Destruction of Jerusalem

Hagar and her children will be “cast out” in the end. Jeremiah 19:10, 11 describes this in terms of Jerusalem’s complete destruction. Isaiah 29:1-8 agrees with Jeremiah, giving more details. It is God’s verdict against Ariel, a poetic name for Jerusalem.

God says in Isaiah 29:2,

2 “I will bring distress to Ariel… 3 I will camp against you, encircling you, and I will set up siegeworks against you, and I will raise up battle towers against you. 4 Then you will be brought low…”

God then tells the city, “The multitude of your enemies will become like fine dust.” Here is where most Bible teachers misunderstand, for they define God’s “enemies” as if they are foreign armies who are laying siege to Jerusalem. Yet God claims to be the One leading the siege against the city. Is God, then, the Leader of God’s enemies?

No, the “enemies” of Ariel are already occupying the city. The “enemies” are not the troops that God is leading, but the Jews who are occupying the city. This took place in 1967, when the Israelis took full control of the city and began pushing out the Palestinians.

God’s enemies are defined legally in Lev. 26:40, 41. God says that when any of the tribes of Israel or Judah acted with hostility against God (i.e., Jesus Christ), then He would also treat them as His enemies. Isaiah 63:10 agrees, saying,

10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore, He turned Himself to become their enemy; He fought against them.

This is how we are to understand the “enemies” of Ariel in Isaiah 29:5. God’s enemies are the Zionists who have occupied the place where David once camped. The place should have been Ariel, “the lion of God,” but God turned it into Ariel, “the hearth/fireplace of God.”

Ariel has a double meaning. Lion is ari; Lion of God is ari-el. But Ezekiel 43:15, 16 (NASB) translates ariel  “altar hearth.” Isaiah thus uses the term to tell us what the city was supposed to be (the lion of God), and also what it was to become—an “altar hearth,” a place of burning. This also fits with the description in Jer. 19:12,

12 “This is how I will treat this place and its inhabitants,” declares the Lord, “so as to make this city like Topheth.”

Topheth means “place of fire, burning.” An alternate spelling is Tophet, “spitting.” The prophets use both terms to convey the idea that God would spit upon this place as a curse. Thus God displays His great displeasure upon the city of Jerusalem, in contrast to His love for the heavenly city, which is His bride (Rev. 21:2).

God’s Spit is a Curse

Jer. 24 speaks of two baskets of figs that represented two kinds of Jews, one good, the other bad. The good figs were those who submitted to the righteous judgment of God, while the bad figs were those who refused to agree with God’s judgment.

Jer. 29:17, 8 says of the bad figs,

17 … I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will make them a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and a horror and a hissing and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them.

The prophet was persecuted by the bad figs in his day, who did not believe his message. So he wrote in Lam. 3:65,

65 You will give them hardness of heart; Your curse will be upon them.

This curse did not violate God’s promise to Abraham when He said in Gen. 12:3, “the one who curses you I will curse.” The bad figs were not the children of Abraham, for they did not have the faith of Abraham. Paul tells us who the children of Abraham are in Gal. 3:29,

29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Hence, God did not sin by cursing Judah or by spitting on Jerusalem. Neither will God curse anyone for daring to believe the word given to Jeremiah and to teach what God says about cursing the bad figs. In fact, those who take the side of the bad figs are liable to be cursed by God.

God’s Curse on the Prophets and Seers

Isaiah’s prophetic vision of the destruction of Ariel in Isaiah 29:1-8 had serious implications when other prophets of that time refused to hear the word of the Lord. When men reject any portion of the word, he becomes deaf and blind to that word. This is a natural consequence.

So in the next verses, we read,

9 Be delayed and wait; blind yourselves and be blind… 10 For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep. He has shut your eyes, the prophets, and He has covered your heads, the seers. 11 The entire vision [in verses 1-8] will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, “Please read this,” he will say, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, “Please read this.” And he will say, “I cannot read.”

In other words, because the prophets and seers in Isaiah’s time refused to believe Isaiah’s vision, and because they rejected the idea that Jerusalem would be destroyed by God’s siege, and that the people occupying the city were God’s enemies, God shut their eyes and put a blanket over their heads so that they could not understand the word.

This condition has continued to the present day, for we see many great prophets and seers, having unusual giftings, who cannot understand Isaiah’s vision. They think that Jerusalem will never be destroyed. They think that the earthly city will be Christ’s capital in the Kingdom. They think that the children of the flesh are God’s chosen people. They think that God is on the side of the Israeli Jews who presently occupy Jerusalem. They think that those who oppose Zionism and the Jewish occupation of Ariel are God’s enemies.

Though they are literate, they say (prophetically), “I cannot (read this), for it is sealed.” The problem did not begin in our time, or even in the past few centuries. The blindness came in Isaiah’s day, specifically upon the prophets and seers, and this legacy has been passed down to their spiritual sons and daughters to the present time.

Fortunately, God has always kept for Himself a small remnant of both prophets, seers, and people in general to carry the word of truth through each generation. I look forward to the day when this curse of blindness is removed. This too is the promise of God. Isaiah 29:18 says,

18 On that day the deaf [prophets and seers] will hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.

We who see can read Isaiah 29:1-8 with understanding and are forerunners of a future promise to all. It appears, though, that the eyes and ears of the prophets and seers will not be opened until Jerusalem has been destroyed and Hagar and her fleshly children have been cast out. This is probably the event that will astonish the prophets and force them to seek the truth with their whole heart.

Antichrist and Tribulation

Meanwhile, the majority of the prophets and seers are blind in this area, and in a related area. By considering the children of the flesh to be God’s chosen people, they cannot possibly understand John’s concept of antichrist. Hence, they think that “The Antichrist” is the “beast” in John’s Revelation, when, in fact, it is the fourth beast in Dan. 7:19.

By not understanding the principle of a day for a year, they usually teach that the “Great Tribulation” is a future 7-year period, instead of 7 x 360 years. They seldom date the biblical tribulation from the fall of Jerusalem in 604 B.C. but shove it into the future.

By not understanding the two covenants, they think that Christ will reside in Jerusalem and will subject the world to an Old Covenant form of worship, complete with a physical temple, Levitical priests, and animal sacrifices. They say that the “Age of Grace” will end, as if the New Covenant was a temporary disruption of a more permanent Old Covenant arrangement.

The blood of Christ and grace itself is trampled upon.

Understanding the Prophetic Feasts

A flood of truth is coming with the flood of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Jesus said in John 16:13, “when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…

God’s truth has been spoken openly from the beginning, but the deaf cannot hear, nor can the blind read it with clear understanding. The truth of Jerusalem’s destiny is not the only blind spot. For centuries, the church almost totally forgot the third great feast of the Lord, the feast of Tabernacles. They had some understanding of Passover and Pentecost, but Tabernacles was largely lost.

This feast began to be revealed to the body of Christ as a whole in the Latter Rain movement (1948-1952), along with the restoration of all things. But even that move of God was divided, for some rejected the revelation of restoration that George Hawtin (the father of the movement) came to understand.

Nonetheless, Tabernacles was revealed and presented to the world through George Warnock’s book, The Feast of Tabernacles. Hence, progress was made, and men began to catch a vision of going beyond Pentecost into the third feast.

Years later, Clayt Sonmore, one of the founding fathers of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association, wrote Beyond Pentecost, an excellent book that many have read.

The Rapture

The Rapture teaching, developed by Darby in the 1850’s, was constructed without any knowledge of the feast days. He and his successors, such as Scofield, did not have the eyes to see that the Spring feasts prophesied of Christ’s first coming and the Autumn feasts prophesied of His second coming.

If they had known about the feast of Tabernacles, the Rapture theory would have never taken root in the church. But Darby’s theory was also based on a multitude of other errors, which I have described in this series. Scofield’s Reference Bible solidified these errors into the hearts and minds of the believers in the past century.

The crowning achievement was when the Israeli state was established in 1948, for this appears to confirm the entire system of Darby and Scofield. But if men had known the history of Esau-Edom, they would have recognized what was really happening. The promise given to Esau was that Jacob would have to give back the Dominion Mandate at some point in history (Gen. 27:40 KJV) to allow Esau time to prove his unworthiness.

The Edomites were conquered and absorbed into Jewry in 126 B.C., and so we must look to world Jewry to fulfill this promise to Esau-Edom. So Mal. 1:4 prophesies of Edom’s Zionism, which has been fulfilled in modern Zionism. It is an Edomite movement, and God’s motive was to give Esau the justice he deserved after being defrauded by Jacob. Nonetheless, Esau’s success is only temporary.

Jewry also was required to fulfill the prophecies given to Judah in Gen. 49:10. Judah was called to bring forth the Messiah, the King. They did that, even though “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).

This caused a rift in the tribe of Judah between those who accepted Christ and those who rejected Him. It was the same rift that was seen in Jeremiah 24 in the two baskets of figs. (In fact, the same rift is seen in every nation today.)

Paul tells us in Rom. 2:28, 29 who a Jew is and who is not a Jew. Those who depend on the Old Covenant with its sign of physical circumcision are not Jews, nor do they draw God’s “praise.” On the other hand, those who have faith in the Mediator of the New Covenant are indeed Jews (i.e., are of the tribe of Judah) by God’s definition.

Jesus prophesied of the end times in Matt. 24:32, 33,

32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

The fig tree in question was the fruitless one that Jesus had cursed earlier in Matt. 21:19, saying, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” That tree had many leaves but no fruit. Jesus was looking for fruit and was not at all impressed with its leaves.

So in the fig tree “parable,” Jesus made one final point to us today. When you see this fig tree putting forth more leaves, you know that the end is near. Most Bible teachers understand that this was fulfilled in 1948, and I agree. Where we differ is that they think this fig tree will bear fruit at some point. If it does, then Jesus would prove to be a false prophet, for He said the tree would never bear fruit again.

Though it is written plainly, most prophets today cannot read with understanding, for their eyes are darkened. But your eyes are blessed and opened to know His word.