The holidays are upon us, and this year, December 1999, has special significance because it marks the end of the millennium. Some people are excited at the brave new world we're entering with mega leaps in scientific advances, cures for cancer, Aids, and who knows, maybe even arthritis? Others are terrified because of what they've been told to expect by well meaning religious leaders who predict that the beast, the dragon, the false prophet, the antichrist, death riding a pale horse, and locusts as big as attack helicopters with stinger missiles shooting out their tails are about to be unleashed, bringing about the vengeance and fury of God on an unrepentant planet. At the end of a tribulation period, the likes of which we've never seen, and the ultimate battel between "the Force" and the "Dark Side," these prophets of the apocalypse teach that the earth will enjoy a thousand year reign of the kingdom of God, with Jesus reigning on the Throne of David in Jerusalem, and the devil sniveling and smoldering in chains in the bottomless pit plotting his revenge against the day of his release. They get it mostly from the book of Revelation, with generous helpings of Daniel's and Jesus' prophecies mixed in. Add Jeremiah, Joel, Amos, Zechariah and other prognosticators of doom into the mix and it produces quite a recipe for end of the world terror. These same people thundering from the TV screens and pounding the lecterns in churches across the land are the ones who would have us know that we are shortly about to encounter our salvation, or lack of same. "Are you prepared to meet the Lord?" is the question asked by preachers and pew sitters alike.
As I'm sure you've noticed already, the title of this journal is "A Mark of the Beast." Hardly any topic in the "millennial madness" going on today has captured Christian's imaginations and brought terror to their hearts like this terrible apparition found in Rev. 13. The Apostle John wrote about this monster, "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666" (Rev. 13:16-18). End time doomsday sayers tell us that this means that we'll soon have computer chips in our hands, or on our foreheads and without them, we won't be able to buy or sell, or do anything else we deem important. Now, it is true, that there is technology available to encode a personal number for every person to protect our security for financial transactions, but don't you think if we all get the same number, 666, it will be a tad confusing to figure out whose account is whose? The truth is that John tells us in verse 18, that the number of the beast is man's number. Consider that 666 is one digit short of 777, which is the number of perfection, that which is attributed to God. In other words, if we open our spiritual eyes and ears, we can hear what the Spirit is saying to us. Man's efforts are what separate us from God. Man's efforts, even the best of them, are but filthy rags, Isaiah told us (Is. 64:6). And I submit to you that it is man's efforts in looking at spiritual things with natural eyes which has caused all the confusion, the terror, and yes, the error that surrounds us on every side concerning the new millennium and the things that they say will shortly come to pass.
Let's consider first the topic of the "second coming of Christ." Do you know that this phrase is nowhere to be found in the Bible? How can that be when fundamentalists and evangelicals and many others are convinced that He is coming soon? The end of the world is at hand; the millennial reign of Christ is almost here, they proclaim. How can so many believe in, and have all the details of this coming laid out, when it is nowhere spelled out for us in Scripture? Will you set aside your cherished ideas for a moment and take a trip with me? We're going to get in our time machine and return to the year AD 33, to the city of Jerusalem, to Mount Zion, the city of God. We'll join Luke, the writer of Acts who tells us that at the end of those precious 40 days of personal fellowship with His disciples, "He (Jesus) said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'" These were the last words Jesus spoke before He ascended into heaven. "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:7-11). And, indeed, He did return in like manner as He went, in power and majesty. It seems clear to me that the actual "second coming" of Christ occurred on the Day of Pentecost. Here's how Luke described that fateful moment:
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:1-4). When the Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven heard this, they supposed the Apostles were drunk, but Peter quickly set them straight. "This" he said "is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16; Joel 2:28-32). In that marvelous hour, this humble fisherman, rough of speech and recently guilty of cowardly betrayal was empowered by the promised Counselor, the Holy Ghost to deliver the most marvelous evangelical sermon ever preached from that day to this. In it, Peter acknowledged the sovereignty of God in all things, even in the death of His Son: "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:23-24). He concludes this glorious history of God's dealings with His chosen people by saying, "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Sometimes we hear preachers say that we need to make Jesus Lord of our lives. I understand what they mean. They are talking about a conscious bowing of our knee to the sovereignty of God, but never for a moment do we dare think that WE had anything to do with making Jesus Lord. God did that for our benefit and His glory when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His right hand on high.
It is important for us to revisit this dramatic scene that took place on the Day of Pentecost, because for nearly 2,000 years since then, Christians have continued to stand gazing into heaven looking for Jesus to return. There always have been a few mystics who saw Him by the Spirit, but they usually had to hide themselves from the general population of believers because what they saw in the Spirit was so far removed from what the church was proclaiming that their visions and revelations actually put their lives in danger.
Meanwhile, after the resurrection, in the days prior to Pentecost, Luke reports that Jesus was "seen of the disciples forty days, 'speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). These were no doubt the things which He had told them earlier they could not bear (Jn. 16:12). There are 50 days between Passover and Pentecost (Lev. 23:1 5-16), which means that after being gone from their midst ONLY 10 days, Jesus returned in the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. "But that was the Spirit, not Christ!" you may be thinking. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that they are the same: "Now the Lord is that Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17). So, the first "second coming" of the Lord happened only 10 days after He left, on the Day of Pentecost! Before Jesus was crucified, He told the Disciples that He must go in order for the Comforter to come. The Greek word for Comforter is "parakleto." I'm indebted here to our dear friend John Gavazzoni for his research into the exposition of this word. It conveys this range of meaning: "intercessor, consoler, Comforter, counselor, helper, advocate, strengthener, standby." It is used at least in the following scriptures verses: Jn. 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7, I Jn. 2:1. John has an excellent writing on the subject entitled, "My Dad, God" (End note A), soon to be uploaded to the web. Jesus promised not to leave His followers comfortless. He knew what horrible tribulation was near to them, "even at the doors" (Matt. 24:33) Except those days be shortened, He said, no flesh would survive (Vs. 22).
In His sermon on the Mount of Olives, known to Bible scholars and students as the "Olivet Discourse" (Matt. 24), He told the audience that day, what they could expect at the end of the age. He spoke of "wars and rumors of wars, great tribulation, famines, pestilences, earthquakes" (Vs. 6-7), and "the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Vs. 30). All these things are what many Christians expect await us in the new millennium, but listen to this. Jesus was not talking to people 2000 years in the future! He was talking to the ones standing or sitting before him that day! He said, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34; Mk. 13:30; Lk. 21:32). And again in Matt. 23:36 "I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation." Mark quotes Jesus as saying, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power" (Mk. 9:1). Unless there are some very old Jews still alive on planet Earth today, the events described in these verses have already happened! But why was He so hard on that group of people? Why would this generation be singled out for the wrath of God? They were the only ones to whom God had personally revealed Himself in the face of His only begotten Son, and as Peter told them on the Day of Pentecost, they took the Son of the Most High and crucified Him. Jesus repeatedly told them that if the people in earlier times had heard Him preach, they would have repented. Luke reports that He said, "The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here" (Lk. 11:32). The parable recorded in Matt. 21:33-41 is a chilling word picture of what was about to happen to the generation alive in Jesus day. In that story, a man planted a vineyard, fenced it, put in a wine press, and then leased it out while he went to a far country. In his absence, he sent servants to get his share of the harvest. The men who were leasing his property took the servants he had sent and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. He sent more servants and they were treated the same. Finally, the man sent his son, thinking that they would surely treat him with respect. However, when the men tending the vineyard saw him, they killed him so they could seize his inheritance. Jesus asked his audience, "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,' they replied, 'and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time'" (Matt. 21:40-41). Matthew reports that the chief priests and Pharisees realized that He was talking about them (Vs. 45), and tried to figure out how they could kill Him. "Therefore" Jesus concluded, "this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation (the ones listening to the sound of His voice) will be held responsible for it all" (Luke 11:50-51).
The Spirit quickened the words, "this generation" to me several years ago, and with a burst of light in my spirit, I "got it" that all the frightening things that Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24, as well as the events that Peter, quoting Joel, said would mark the "great and dreadful Day of the Lord" (Acts 2:20; Joel 2:30-32) have already happened! At that time, my knowledge of what actually occurred in AD 70 was sketchy. Subsequently, the Lord has led me to three books on the subject that I recommend to any who do not know the historical facts of that dreadful time when there actually were signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth; when Christ came with the terrible swift sword, taking vengeance on those who with wicked hands crucified the Son of Glory. God used General Titus and his Roman legions outside the gates of Jerusalem and the Jewish Zealots inside the walls to bring the end of that age to pass. When the New Testament writers spoke of the "end of the age" (Matt. 13:40, 49; 24:3), they were NOT talking about the end of the world, but rather were prophesying the end of the Old Covenant, with its redemptive system of sacrifices and rituals, and the beginning of the kingdom reign of Christ on earth. A significant part of the carnage in the onslaught on Jerusalem involved the temple, which was completely destroyed. As Jesus had foretold, there was not one stone left on another (Matt. 24:2; Mk. 13:2; Lk. 19:44). The Holy of Holies was desecrated with more than one "abomination of desolation" in evidence (Dan. 9:27, 31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14). The temple vessels were melted down so that the Romans had to chip the gold out of the cracks in the stone to retrieve it. Remember what happened to Belshazzar, King of Babylon, for merely drinking wine out of these sacred vessels? (See Daniel 5:1-31.) God took his life and his kingdom away from him and gave it to Darius the Mede because the Babylonian monarch had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven and profaned the vessels of the house of God by drinking wine in them. The finger of judgment this terrified king saw writing on the wall, wrote these words, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin," which means "God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting." (Dan. 5:25-28).
Like some zealous Christians today, the first Century Zealots were a fanatical sect who believed they would force Messiah to come and save them from the tyranny of Rome. So, they deliberately provoked the Romans into armed conflict, probably hoping that Zechariah's prophecy would be fulfilled in their time. To refresh your memory, what Zechariah foresaw was this: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zech. 12:2-3). The events in that verse took place in graphic detail in AD 70. The Roman legions were comprised of people from "every nation under heaven." It is also very reminiscent of Jesus' comments to the disciples shortly before the Olivet discourse: "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed" (Matt. 21:43-44). Zechariah described what the Zealots were expecting, in Chapter 14:3-4: "Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south." Modern day Dispensationalists are singing on that same page. (These folks believe that much of the prophecy in the Bible has yet to be fulfilled, that we're probably on the verge of it happening, even as we speak. Most believe in a premillennial rapture and a literal kingdom ruled over by Christ from David's throne in Jerusalem. See End Note B).
In the 1970's, one of their number, Hal Lindsey scared me spitless with his book, The Late, Great Planet Earth, in which he used these verses and others to predict horrific end time events culminating in a rapture of the church, a great tribulation, and the end of the world as we know it. Needless to say, like countless prognosticators of the end of the world before him, Lindsey was wrong. However, honesty compels me to admit that I once believed in a soon to be revealed tribulation and rapture for a time, until God grew me past this by showing me that there is no solid scriptural evidence for either a rapture or a world wide tribulation in our future. Cowardly though it is to admit it, I did hope that Lindsey was right about the rapture snatching us away before these dreadful things could fall upon us. I was always aware that the word "rapture" itself is nowhere to be found in the entire Bible, and in fact, later, I learned that the concept was never believed by the early church. At some point in the 1800's, a peasant girl received a vision from the "Blessed Mother" that these things were shortly to come to pass and this is where the rapture theory began.
Subsequently, what I have seen in the Scriptures is that Jesus was speaking to the generation alive when He ministered on Earth, many of whom were still living when He returned in power and vengeance in AD 70 to end the age. Which age? The Jewish age of the Old Covenant. "Behold, in those days, (the days when the Messiah would come) I will make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Jer. 31:31 KJ). "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Jer. 31:33-34, NIV). (See also Heb. 8:8-12; 10:16-17.) To get the scriptures to say what Dispensationalists want them to say, you have to twist them around to suit yourself and you have to put a 2,000 year gap somewhere between Daniel's 69 and 70th weeks (Dan. 9:24-27. Likewise, you have to put the same 2,000 year gap between Matt. 24:34 and verse 39, or thereabouts in order to be able to project all that horror into our future. (The Dispensationalists say that the first 69 weeks of Daniel's prophecy were fulfilled in Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension, but the 70th week is still to come.) This is just not supported by the facts as the Bible proclaims them nor is it supported by the physical evidence. To make their claims true, the temple would have to be rebuilt, a very difficult feat since the Muslim Dome of the Rock now sits precisely in the spot where Herod's Temple once stood, (the one both Jesus and Paul referred to), which is now long gone. This is a perfect example of manipulating Scripture to fit your theories, instead of basing your ideas on what the Scriptures actually say.
I know all about tweaking the Scriptures to get them to prove your point. The church I grew up in believed and taught for years that the Holy Spirit went back to heaven after the last Apostle died. They came up with this by saying that what Jesus promised His disciples was for them only, not for us today, which is a common dispensational ploy. What we have, they said, in place of the Holy Spirit, is the Bible, which they asserted was "the perfect" thing that was to come, mentioned by Paul in I Cor. 13:10. Thus, they reasoned, prophecies, tongues, healings and all manifestations of the Spirit will cease when the perfect comes, and since they said the Bible was "the perfect" (the King James Version, they meant, with all its 20,000 errors); they concluded that all these spiritual gifts which Paul said were given to edify the church and bring the body of Christ to maturity (Eph. 4:11-14), were done away with today. After many years, and God's dealings with them, they have changed their position, updated their research and understanding of what the Bible actually says about the Holy Spirit, and now, cautiously (so as not to offend anyone) they do teach that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives today. Hooray! God moves slowly but surely to bring truth to us all.
I mention that only to show that what Jesus warned about in the First Century still plagues the church today, i.e. "teaching for doctrine the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9; Mk. 7:7). Great theories like the rapture make for good reading, but if they are not supported by Scripture, they are just pulp fiction, if you ask me. Here's what it boils down to, in my opinion. People are terrified that when the tribulation comes upon them, assuming it's like the Dispensationalists teach, that they will be weighed in the balances and found wanting. Years ago, a Christian friend told me sadly that she feared if she were tortured, she wouldn't be able to be faithful to Christ. Bless her heart, how it would have gladdened her mind and lightened her Spirit to know that all that took place in AD 70. This subject is too vast to do it justice in this writing. I merely wanted to introduce it to you and pique your curiosity to find out more on your own. There's a Bibliography at the end of this writing that gives you names and addresses of publications where you can get more information on this very timely topic. (End Note C). John Bray has done a thorough job of documenting the historical facts of the sheer terror of those last days of the Old Covenant, in his book entitled, Matthew 24 Fulfilled. He also has a little booklet entitled, "The Rapture of Christians," which is well done and shows unequivocally that the rapture theory is just that, i.e., supposition, not based on Scriptural fact. God had shown me this earlier when He quickened to me Zech. 9:10, for instance, which says that we shall "speak peace" to the heathen. Now, how could we possibly speak peace to the heathen, if we're ripped up off the earth and remain up in the air until the Lord comes? Besides, if what the Dispensationalists say is true, there won't be any heathen left to speak with because He will have annihilated them all with "the brightness of his coming." (II Thess. 2:8 is one of their proof texts.)
This reminds me of a man Lenny and I knew when we lived in CA. He believed that Jesus was coming back again in Oct., 1988, because he had a friend, a "techno nerd" who had used a super computer to calculate various dates mentioned in Bible prophecy, and he had calculated that the Feast of Tabernacles in Oct., 1988, would make the 50th Jubilee year, which occurred every 50 years. (See Lev. 25:10-55.) Since that year long celebration symbolized setting the captives free, and redemption of all that was lost, this man believed that he had the inside track on when Jesus was coming again. He sold everything he owned and wrote and distributed a little booklet proclaiming that all should get ready, for Judgment Day was coming. I'll never forget, one night in the beginning of the month of Oct., that year, Lenny and I were watching TV, when there came a great banging on our front door. Lenny opened it, and in strode this same man with fire in his eyes and thunder in his voice. "Christ is coming," he proclaimed, "and boy is He pissed!" I knew instantly that whatever spirit motivated the man, was not the Spirit of the Lord, for in Him is liberty, not damnation; forgiveness, not condemnation. When Jesus came the first time, He associated with the common folks, the ones church people frown on. He was criticized constantly by the Pharisees because He hung out with "publicans, sinners, and harlots" (Matt. 9:11; 11:19; Mk. 2: 15-16; Lk. 5:30; 7:34; 15:1). He set the example for us today, if we could but see it. So many Christians are terrified to be seen with a sinner lest their reputations become stained. "What will people think if they see me with this person" is usually our first thought. How sad, and how like the Pharisees that behavior is.
Who needs the Great Physician except those who are sick? Who needs their sins forgiven except the sinner? Who needs mercy and kindness except those who are downtrodden by the world, the flesh and the devil? So, does it make any sense, that God has spent all this time (nearly 2,000 years), energy, and yes, even money training us to work in His vineyards, and then when the harvest is nigh, that He would snatch us up, up and away where we cannot minister to the world? No, we'll be where Jesus always was and still is, with the poor, the hungry, the unforgiven, the troubled, the sad, the sinners. And what will we be doing? Distributing living water to thirsty people. Paul affirmed that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). That indicates to me that this life with all its trials and tribulations is our ticket into the kingdom.
Through terrible ordeals that so many have endured, God trains us to see Him. He reveals Himself to us in the midst of the flames of the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:19-27); inside the lion's den (Dan. 6:12-24); within the belly of the great fish (Jonah 1:17); on the battlefield against the Goliaths we encounter (I Sam. 17:32-51); on Mount Moriah when we must sacrifice that which we love the most (Gen. 22:2-13; Heb. 11:17); and on the storm tossed seas of turbulence and testing (Acts 27:23-44). All of these encounters with the divine strengthen us and show us who the Father is within us. Then, when He begins to manifest Himself through His body, both corporately and individually, as He already is all over the planet, we will be right there on the front lines of the action. We won't be lounging around in some ivory palace somewhere, watching in horror as the rest of earth's population gets plagued, quaked, drowned, poisoned, fried, pulverized and otherwise decimated. No, we'll be right on this earth manifesting the light and power of Almighty God to people who are hungering and thirsting to know Him. They don't even know yet how much they need Him, but when they realize it, by whatever means the Father chooses to show them, we'll be there for them. Rivers of living water will flow forth from us, a mighty stream of love, mercy, kindness, redemption, and forgiveness to bring in the stragglers so that we all can come together for the wedding feast of the Lamb.
The Apostle John, on the Isle of Patmos, had a REVELATION of Jesus Christ, and it was of things "which must shortly come to pass." (Rev. 1:1). Far from being the scary book that most Christians perceive it, Revelation was written to comfort the first Century Jewish Christians who were in the midst of terrible persecution, not just from the maniacal Nero Caesar, emperor of Rome, but from Old Covenant Jews who were determined to stamp out the heresy of Christianity. It was the Jews who were hounding the Christians from town to town and breathing out threatenings and slaughter to the infant church. Calling those Jews the "Synagogue of Satan"(Rev. 2:9), John was telling the Christians, in symbolic language, which they all understood, that God was going to save them, deliver them, and He was going to bring down Babylon in ruins for her sins. (Chapter 17-18). When you think about it that way, if the book is supposed to tell us what is in OUR future, as the Dispensationalists claim, then it would have been no comfort at all to the ones being martyred for the name of Christ during that apocalyptic reign of terror in the first Century. Now, I have heard every kind of explanation for Mystery Babylon, starting with the Roman Catholic Church, the Trilateral Commission, the European Common Market system, and more, but to understand the Bible, we need to think like they thought and understand how they would have understood it.
Often a name like Babylon, which symbolizes corruption and man glorifying himself rather than God (Remember Nebuchadnezzar and Belchazzar?), will be substituted for the real name to make a point. In Rev. 11:8, for instance, John refers to Jerusalem as "Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified." He knew very well the actual location where Christ died, but Sodom and Egypt are metaphors for wickedness and rebellion against God. Therefore, I think that it is likely that John's extensive commentary about the fate of Babylon is also referring to Jerusalem, which at this point in time was completely apostate to God's plan, having killed His Son in the name of truth and was in the process of killing the new converts as well. John described these events symbolically: "the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17). This horrific persecution of the church was happening at the time he wrote this. So, the Apostle is telling them to hang on, have courage, because their deliverance will "shortly come to pass" (Rev. 1:1), "for the time is at hand" (Rev. 1:3). In other words, the triumphal entry of the King of kings and Lord of lords was to take place after the battle of Armageddon, within their time frame, not ours.
John assured them that Christ would come and avenge the blood of the martyrs who had been "slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held" (Rev. 6:9-10). All that did take place in A.D. 70. The Synagogue of Satan was destroyed. "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." (Rev. 18:2). "And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea saying, 'Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.....And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth" (Rev. 18:21,24). The trusted Jewish historian Josephus, who was employed by Titus because he knew the language, wrote about all this carnage in the overthrow of Jerusalem. He graphically reported atrocities that would make your hair curl. I had no idea what happened in those days before reading these accounts. There were over 1,100,000 people killed in the siege of Jerusalem. Blood did flow in the streets; bodies were stacked on top of each other because there was no possibility for burial. There was plague and famine everywhere making John's prophecy in Rev. 14, a chilling reality: "The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia" (Rev. 14:19-20).
Josephius reported that many Jews who were trapped between the Zealots inside the walls and Titus outside the walls, tried to flee. They swallowed their gold and jewels and crawled over the walls. The Roman soldiers slew them the minute they hit the ground, and ripped open their guts with their swords in search of treasure, leaving the unburied, mutilated bodies as a chilling reminder of Rome's wrath. Though Titus had his way, and Rome destroyed Jerusalem, historians tells us that this was the beginning of the end for the mighty Roman Empire. God had used her as his terrible swift sword to bring judgment on those who rejected and murdered His Son, but in the end, this kingdom which Daniel said was made part of iron and part of clay (Dan. 2:33), was swept away by the stone not made with hands which became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:34-35). All of it was part of God's plan; nations and kings being no more than pawns on God's divine chess board to be moved at His command and then swept away like rubble by His divine wisdom and power when their usefulness was over.
The thing that thrills me about the book of Revelation is that it pictures in apocalyptic language the absolute sovereignty of God: the triumphal victory of the Lamb over the nations of the world and the powers of darkness, as men and women are released from their groanings and bondage into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Listen to this thrilling account: "And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Rev. 19:14-15).
The Bible begins with a garden planted by God eastward in Eden (Gen. 2:8), from whence man began, and follows him along a trail of blood and glory as he rises up from the mirey clay of his beginnings. It describes his struggles with law and sin, sacrifice and betrayal, and finally, in the last chapters of the book of Revelation, records His triumphant return to the Holy City and the garden from which he was banished so long ago. What God is showing me is that all Scripture is for our edification, and while we need to be careful to stay within the time lines of what was written, nevertheless, on a spiritual level, everything God ever said to man still has value in our lives today. The problem comes when we try to interpret world events today by letters written about events that transpired 1,500 or so years ago, and when we interpret spiritual things with our natural minds rather than by the Spirit of God. Lenny gave me this excellent example of how we lose the true meaning of a passage when we put a literal interpretation on a spiritual symbol. He used the word cloud, saying that in Scripture, it does not mean "a white, gray, or almost black mass in the sky, made up of tiny drops of water," as the dictionary defines the word, but rather, is used to signify the power, authority and judgment of God, and is often associated with His presence and glory. The Jews understood this language. Consider these passages:
Exod. 13:21 "By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night."
Exod. 19:9 "The LORD said to Moses, 'I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.' Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said."
Exod. 33:9-10 "As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent."
Ezek. 30:3 "For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near, a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations."
Matt. 17:5 "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" (See also Mk. 9:7.)
II Pet. 1:17 "For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory (the cloud), saying, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"
In all these instances, the cloud was the symbol of God's power and authority. Likewise it is in these passages:
Luke 21:27 "At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."
Jude 12 "These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm - shepherds who fee only theselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted, twice dead." In this verse, Jude refers to men as "clouds," a perfect example of how a word is used as a symbol of something other than the literal meaning.
Hebrews 12:1: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Here is another example of the writer giving the word cloud a symbolic rather than a litteral meaning. My thanks to a reader, Bill O., who reminded me of this verse and the one in Jude.
Rev. 1:7 "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." Notice that in this passage, John says that those who crucified Jesus would see Him coming in the clouds (power and authority of God), another indication that He was referring to God's judgment of Israel executed in AD 70. Many of those who crucified Him would still have been alive at that time, as was the Apostle John. Do you remember what Jesus told Peter about that? "Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me'" (John 21:22). Peter and Paul were martyred before AD 70. Only John lived to see the "dreadful day of the Lord." (See Isa. 13: 6,9; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14; 14:1; Mal. 4:5; Acts 2:20; I Cor. 5:5; II Cor. 1:14; I Ths. 5:2; II Ths. 2:2; II Pet. 3:10.)
There are many other examples I could give of how common words were used to convey spiritual ideas, rather than what they actually literally mean, but this gives you the flavor of it for your own investigation. Do NOT believe it because I say it. Ask the Lord to guide you in your studies.
One of the things I found interesting about the books I mentioned earlier is that they carefully document many of the cataclysmic world events which have happened over the centuries, and they show how the religious leaders at the time interpreted these to mean that Jesus was coming soon. In one sense, they were all right because He has never stopped coming to any heart which was open to Him, but in a literal sense, they were all wrong. Every one of them. What does this mean? Simply, that we have to be led by the Spirit, for He alone will lead us into "ALL TRUTH" (Jn. 16:13). Jesus rebuked His followers for looking for signs. (Matt. 12:39;16:4;24:3; 24:30; Mk. 8:12; 13:4; Lk. 11:16; 29-30; 21:7; Jn. 2:18; 6:30). Neither should we look for signs of the times, or listen to men to tell us what is about to happen in our lives. We have to go to God for our comfort, our peace, and our guidance. For me, John's telling phrase that the mark of the beast, "666 is man's number" says it all. Man's mark is what brings us down to the pit. If you are hounded by guilt and plagued by duty, you carry a mark of the beast. If you are hide bound by tradition and the doctrines of men, chained to the dictates of an organization which began and continues to be directed by men, you wear a mark of the beast. If you are looking to man's government to guide, guard, and protect you from Y2K or any other situation or threat, you bear a mark of the beast. Don't you think it interesting that the mark John wrote about was to be placed either on the hand or the forehead? Both places are visible, seen of men. God's mark, the New Covenant, "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart" (II . Cor. 3:3), where it cannot be seen except by eyes of the Spirit.
The only time the word "second" is used in connection with Christ's coming is Heb. 9:28, KJV, which says, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Two wonderful points leap out at me from this verse. l) He will appear to them that look for Him (Open your eyes. He's here!) and 2) He will appear the second time without sin (The NIV says, "Not to bear sin" unto salvation.) How can that be? Because as I say over and over in these journals, the sin issue was settled once for all on the cross. "IT IS FINISHED," He said (Jn. 19:30). Now, we have only to see Him as He is, and then, Oh glory, we shall be like Him (I Jn. 3:2). So, dear friends, if you have put your kingdom walk on hold until the second coming of Christ at some future date, I urge you to ask God to open your eyes to see Him as He is, "high and lifted up and his train filled the temple" (Is. 6:1), ruling over the house of Jacob forever in a kingdom without end (Lk. 1:31), totally in charge of all things (II Cor. 5:18), "working all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11). The millennial reign of Christ began long ago, and continues still until all flesh shall see the glory of the Lord together. How do I know? "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (Is. 40:5). May God open your eyes to see and your ears to hear what the seventh angel sounded: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). As it is written, so let it be done. Amen.
By Jan Austin Antonsson
Jan & Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
End Note B: J. Preston Eby has an article entitled, "Crowning the King Within" in which he discusses the crowded conditions which would exist in Jerusalem if Jesus were to physically come back and reign on the throne there. It's very timely and makes you reconsider your desire to see Him personally in Jerusalem, considering that you would have to share Him with all the other millions of saints who want and need to see Him.
"Crowning the King Within"
End Note C: These are the books describing events in AD 70.
1) Matthew 24 Fulfilled by John Bray
You may order this directly from him at P.O. Box 90129, Lakeland, FL 33804; Or phone him at (863) 858-6625.
2) Apocalypse Then, Not Now by Michael Hall, Ph.D., E.T. Publications, 1904 N. 7th Street, Grand Junction, CO 81501-7418. You may order this from http://www.barnesandnoble.com
3) Last Days, Obsession of the Modern Church by Gary DeMar American vision, Inc. 2512 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna, Georgia 30080
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web in December, 1999,
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 11/06/08.