Sunday, November 15, 2015

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Posts

I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled posts with a special post that has been weighing heavily on my mind for several months.

No one Knows the Day and the Hour

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:36 & 37

To the contemporaries of Jesus the words “no one knows the day and the hour,” had special significance to them. The first is related to the marriage traditions of Jesus’ day, which is extremely significant to Christians, due to the fact that we are the bride of Christ. The second is related to the Feast of Trumpets, which is the ultimate fulfillment of the Jewish Feasts which God commanded Israel to follow. Though the two events come in proximity, they are not the same where the fulfillment of the end of times is concerned. Let me explain each in turn.

In the Jewish marriage custom, a man became betrothed or engaged to a woman and made a formal announcement of his intension to marry her. That’s not particularly different from what we typically do today, however, there is a difference in the planning and timing of the actual wedding ceremony.

In our culture, after a couple announces their engagement, they usually set a date and, usually, the bride starts planning out where and how the wedding is going to carry out, what everybody is going to wear, what colors will be the theme, etc. Invitations are sent out for a specific day and everybody knows exactly what day and hour the ceremony is going to take place. Not so in Jewish custom of Jesus’ day. (Yes, I know, every day is Jesus’ day, but what I’m referring to is the contemporary time when He was walking among us in the flesh.)

In Jesus’ day, after the bridegroom made his engagement announcement, he returned to his father’s house to build an addition onto the house. It was to this addition on his father’s house where he would bring his new bride. Jesus uses this parallel when He is speaking to His disciples and consequently, His church, in John 14:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. – John 14:1-3

Returning to the rest of the parallel to the wedding, it is critical to understand that it is neither the bridegroom nor the bride who sets the day and hour of the wedding in Jewish custom, but the father. Basically, the father would inspect the addition on his house and make certain that it was ready before he gave his final approval. Once the father of the bridegroom gave his final approval, then the bridegroom would go out and blow his shofar (trumpet) and that would be the signal for the bride to come and meet him.

The two would meet somewhere between their respective houses and then go to the house of the bridegroom’s father for the ceremony. Because the father is the only one who can approve and announce when the proper time has come, consequently, “no one knows the day and the hour… except the father.”

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17

At what point in the final days this will take place is open to speculation, however, it is my belief that it will take place before the tribulation, but only for one reason, which is found in the 5th Chapter of Revelations:

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ – Revelations 5:11 & 12

I don’t think this is a literal number of 100,000,000 plus 10,000, but instead the best exaggeration of the numbers that John could see in his vision. Basically, there is a massive number of people and angels, which tells me that the saints have already been caught up to heaven. Now this scene takes place before the opening of the seven seals of judgment, which is to touch off the tribulation.

There is another reason that I believe this to be true and that is because I believe that the prophesy of Daniel is specific to the people of Israel, thus the last week of years, the seventieth week, will apply only to the nation of Israel. Further discussion of this is not really necessary at this point, so, let’s shift gears for a moment and focus on Messiah and His fulfillment of the law of God where it relates to Israel.

Though we celebrate Jesus’ birth in December, it is much more likely that he was born in the first week of spring; the first month (known as Nissan) and likely the first day of God’s calendar year, which is in the spring. Now, before you start arguing for traditional Christmas, which was actually connected to pagan celebrations around the winter solstice by the Catholic Church, let’s look at several factors. The first and, to me, the most telling one is the fact that there were “shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.” – Luke 2:8. This is something they would not be doing in the middle of winter when the flocks were shut up in the stables at night.

Those of you who are familiar with lambing and calving season will probably understand this better than most. It was the time for lambing, which took place in the spring time, just like it does today. When this time comes, today’s ranchers, just like their ancient counterparts watch over their flocks and herds diligently, day and night. I know this, because I used to do this on my father’s ranch in Colorado.

Now, if you draw the parallel of Jesus being “the lamb of God,” this begins to make even more sense, however, that’s only the beginning. There are four more, very significant, parallels to this which coincide with aspects of the spring feasts which God commanded Israel to keep in Leviticus 24.

I’m going to run through these briefly, because I am working toward the second point of the second instance where Jesus’ contemporaries would have understood the phrase “no one knows the day and the hour,” rather than making a major exposition of this parallel. If you want a more detailed explanation, I would suggest that you watch the following video at the following link:

When you read the gospels, it is very obvious that Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension all took place in the time frame of the spring feasts that were laid out in Leviticus 23. Those are the first three of seven: Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. The next on the calendar occurs 50 days to the day after the seventh Sabbath of the year. That feast is the Feast of Weeks, which coincides, precisely, with the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first came upon the church. I think that it is pretty easy to draw a parallel that the last, nearly 2000 years, we have been in the growing season and awaiting the time of the harvest. It’s not hard to connect that Jesus’ fulfillment of the last three feasts of God’s year which come in the fall: the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.

Now, I’ve come to the second reference to “no one knows the day and hour.” The Feast of Trumpets had no definitive day, because the beginning of each month for the Jews occurred whenever the watchmen saw the first sliver of the new moon. That could be anywhere from the 28th day of the month up until the 30th day of the month. The Feast of Trumpets is unique, because its beginning is marked for that moment when that first sliver of light reflecting off of the moon is witnessed by those who were appointed to watch the sky and then blow their trumpets to signal the beginning, not only of the seventh month, but of the Feast of Trumpets. Therefore, Jesus was also making reference to that “no one knows the day and the hour.”

Essentially, Jesus’ fulfillment of the final three feasts with judgment, atonement and dwelling or tabernacling (or dwelling) with God will follow on the heels of that trumpet call. Reread Matthew 24 through the filter of what I’ve just shared with you, because it helps bring a better sense of order to both Daniel and John’s prophesies.

Allow me to toss out a few indicators that the time for both of those trumpet calls, whenever they occur, is drawing very near. The first, actually, comes from the 24th Chapter of Matthew that we have already been examining.

Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. – Matthew 24:32-34

Summer would be the season when the fig tree blossoms and begins to bear fruit for the coming harvest, right? It would follow along perfectly after the Feast of Weeks, when the first fruits of the early harvest were gathered in. Think of your summer garden as you reflect on this.

Understanding that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel, there ought to be little mystery to believers when they read this passage. The fig tree was restored in 1948, which is certainly significant. “This generation, which sees the restoration of the fig tree (paraphrasing), will not pass before all things take place.” Just using Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as an example, who was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv and fought in the Six Days War in 1965, which recouped all of the land that God had promised to Abraham, we begin to see how very near the final day of the Lord is. Netanyahu is symbolic of that generation who came at the same time that the fig tree was restored.

There are several other indicators that the day is drawing very near throughout the epistles:

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” – 2 Peter 3:3 & 4

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. – 2 Timothy 3:1-7

One can certainly argue that these things have existed throughout the intervening time since these words were written, however, in the past 30 to 50 years, we have seen a steady rise in the acceptance of the attitudes that Paul warns Timothy about. Television, movies, music and literature have steadily pushed back the boundaries of the accepted norms of morality to the point that those vices that are listed above, to mainstream society, really are thought to be bad or evil, but acceptable and cherished behaviors.

The headstrong attitude of non-believers (which sadly enough tends to trickle over into our churches), the mockery of Christ’s second coming and the fact that our leaders are crying out for peace and safety (and doing everything that they can to bring it about, even establishing and crying out for a one world government), are enough for us to begin to consider how seriously close our Lord’s second coming is. So, what are we to do? How are we to prepare ourselves for the Day of the Lord? In Luke’s parallel account of Matthew 24, he records Jesus’ words, which are to be our guide in these final days:

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” - Luke 21:34-36

Brothers and sisters, we as the Bride of Christ, ought to be preparing ourselves to be presented to our bridegroom. If you take a moment to consider the diligence with which a bride prepares herself for her wedding day, it ought to spur you into a different attitude concerning your own preparation. A bride doesn’t prepare on her wedding day in the same manner that she does on every other day. She is much more focused on looking and being her best for the moment when she is to be presented to her groom. Looking at the words of Jesus above, drawing a parallel to the preparation of a bride for her wedding and comparing those two things with your daily life, can you honestly say that you are truly prepared for that Day? Are you “watching and praying that you will stand worthy” or are you “weighed down with the cares of life?”

Whether you believe the rapture will come before the tribulation, during the tribulation or after, one thing is entirely certain, the cares of life and those things that weigh us down, are about to become of much less importance than we have previously given them.

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