by Pete Garcia – http://pastormiketaylor.blogspot.com.au/
As we draw closer to the end of the age, there will inevitably be more and more signs and wonders becoming increasingly evident to those who are paying attention. After all, isn’t the convergence all about the coalescing of signs and wonders all heralding the end of our age? But what are signs? Are signs the event themselves, or are they markers which point to some prescribed event forthcoming?
Revelation vs. Illumination
These days, there is an almost instinctive knee-jerk dismissal of anything outside the eschatological norm (i.e., within our community’s current echo-chamber). This rejection is usually conducted so quickly and with such finality, that little to no verification is actually done any more to see if what is being put forth is true. This seems to indicate two things;
That progressive illumination is no longer possible,
That all new information is false.
The current dilemma of deciphering signs seems eerily similar to that of Christendom’s confusion between salvation and sanctification when talking about the eternal security of the believer. So, for clarification purposes, let me explain the difference between revelation and illumination.
Biblically speaking, anything spoken by God to the prophets, apostles and writers of Scripture, was by divine revelation (ex. thus sayeth the Lord…). Anything recorded as canon in our Bible is there because the Holy Spirit moved men to write what they either saw, heard, thought, or were instructed too (2 Timothy 3:16). Over time, this revelation became progressive as God revealed more and more of Himself and His program to His people. The Apostle Paul’s understanding (as revealed to him) was far greater than say John the Baptist’s or even the other Apostles (Gal. 1:11-12, 2 Peter 3:14-16). This progressive revelation spanned from Adam to the Apostle John (and all there in-between) and is recorded as our Bible.
Progressive illumination on the other hand, comes from our understanding of that divine revelation over time as God’s plan unfolds. This illumination has been ongoing since the closing of the New Testament canon from 95AD, unto our present day. This knowledge then becomes accumulative as we build off of what was discovered by previous generations. For example, Martin Luther did not invent sola scriptura or sola gratia, but simply rediscovered what was already in Scripture.
The same thing could be said about John N. Darby. He didn’t invent dispensationalism, but by simply returning to a literal, grammatical, and historical interpretation of Scripture (to include the prophetic texts of the Bible), he rediscovered what was always there. From these individuals (and others), our understanding of Scripture expands exponentially because we are shown things in a new light. Thus, at the right time, God moves men and women in our Church age to understand things in a certain light that gives new life and meaning to what Scripture has already declared.
I believe the issue today is that many are confusing new revelation, with new illumination. This could be said concerning the Revelation 12 sign, Joel 2, Luke 21, or other passages that speak explicitly about signs in our day and age. We are coming back into the age of signs, primarily because the super-sign (Israel) is back in her land. We are currently living through what amounts to be a transition period between the final moments of the Church Age (dispensation of grace) and the coming 70th Week of Daniel (see Daniel’s 70 Weeks). The 70th Week is a ‘closing the loop’ of the dispensation of law that was a predetermined and specific amount of time for Israel and Jerusalem. This last week of years (seven years) was postponed (or put on pause) when first century Israel rejected and then executed her promised Messiah.
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8
I can already hear the Covenant and Reformed Theologians hyperventilating, so let me clarify what I am saying. It’s not that Law will return again and be in effect for salvation purposes, because Christ has already accomplished what was necessary to fulfill that once for all, perfect sacrifice (Matt. 5:17, Hebrews 10:11-14) at the cross. Rather, they (Israel) will reinstitute the law in their new temple because they think that is what is necessary to bring the messiah. Unfortunately, this opens the door for the man Antichrist to come in and pretend to be this messiah (Dan. 9:27, John 5:43). But for unregenerate Israel, it is this return to the Law that will ultimately culminate in judgment that will bring her to understand that Jesus Christ was her promised Messiah all along (Zechariah 12:10-14). The prophet Jeremiah records how this will come about in the last days;
7 Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it….
11 For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to save you;
Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you,
Yet I will not make a complete end of you.
But I will correct you in justice,
And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’ Jeremiah 30:7, 11
It then stands to reason that if 69 of the 70 weeks of years (483 years) were from Nehemiah’s day up unto the death of Christ on the Cross, then this all occurred under the dispensation of Law. That last week (the 70th) will be a culmination (completing) of the dispensation of Law, albeit, with a slew of both new revelation (the New Testament) and illumination (the rebirth of Israel, confederated Europe, Gog and Magog, the Rapture) thrown in as evidence to Israel.
This illumination, in my estimation, has in about the last 40-50 years begun to move more from the academic arena, to the supernatural. Israel is coming up on her 70th year as a nation again, and to date, has not come to the realization that Christ is their Messiah. Granted, there are more Messianic Jews alive today than at any point in history, but nationally speaking, Judaism is still the main religion. What is required for Israel to believe, will be overwhelming signs (Ezekiel 38:18-23; 1 Cor. 1:22).
If the Gentiles seek after wisdom (they do), have we not obtained about the best understanding we could (this side of the veil) with the Dispensationalist movement for the past two centuries? What could be better than returning to a literal, grammatical, and historical understanding of all Scripture without the Catholic and Protestant biases and dogmas clouding our understanding? This is why prophetically speaking, we have plateaued academically in terms of illumination. In the face of the collapse of Western society, knowledge is no longer enough to pierce the increasingly hardened hearts of an unrepentant world.
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4
There seems to be a discrimination (intentional or not) in our community over the validity of what constitutes a sign which unfortunately creates bias in our understanding. This bias exists primarily in the West where knowledge is placed at a premium and the supernatural is relegated to the fringe. But in the rest of the world, where knowledge has lacked (due to a variety of reasons), the supernatural is primary. Let me provide two examples:
If a geopolitical event unfolds in the Middle East where Russia puts troops in or near Israel, or Israel strikes a weapons depot in Syria, we have no issue prophetically relating it to Isaiah 17 or Ezekiel 38 because many desperately want our newspaper to confirm what our Bible says (i.e., newspaper eisegesis). But if something happens in the heavens (celestially), those same folks are quick to dismiss any prophetic correlation.
Another example is the star of Bethlehem heralding the arrival of Christ’s first coming at His birth. We don’t typically think of Christ’s birth as prophetically explosive, because relatively few people even knew what was happening. But concerning the star itself, was it only the Wise Men from the east who saw this, or was that star visible to anyone who happened to look into the sky? I’m willing to bet that many, many people saw that star but thought little of it. Yet, that star represented the greatest moment in all of human history where the Divine became flesh and would make salvation available for all mankind.
To be clear, Bible prophecy is unfolding in just about every sector we can define: Technologically, economically, militarily, religiously, and culturally have all seen a convergence (in varying degrees). In nature, we have seen and are seeing an increased “groaning” via earthquakes, volcanos, hurricanes, etc., which we can also point at as evidence of the ‘birth pains.’ Yet, if we experience four ‘blood’ moons in a row (all on biblical feast days), as well as a full solar eclipse crossing the United States, with another projected to cross the opposite direction seven years later…well, that couldn’t be Joel 2:30-31 because that is just crazy.
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord”.
Concerning the September 23rd/Revelation 12 proponents, a predictable kneejerk-reaction came from the traditional talking heads (many of whom are respected prophecy experts). While I am appreciative of their past and even present contributions to our shrinking community, I was somewhat put-off by their apparent lack of scholarship in ‘earnestly contending’ for the truth. It’s easy to simply label someone a date-setter and move on, but becomes a little more challenging when they actually have to ‘see if these things be so’ (Acts 17:11). The fact is they didn’t bother or they simply honed in on the fringe elements of the group as evidence. Isn’t that the same thing we decry about our own detractors (skeptics, main stream media, etc.) do to us concerning Bible prophecy? Nevertheless, it reminded me of something a wise man once said,
He who answers a matter before he hears it,
It is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13
Instead, what the “Pre-Trib Establishment” did rather, was to go on record condemning without confirming, and then claiming if the rapture was going to happen, it wouldn’t happen on that day. Not claiming something would happen on September 23rd is in my opinion, just as egregious and audacious as claiming something will. The fact the respectable types chose not to actually contend with the reasoned-voices (as opposed to the kooks), is what I found disappointing. It is possible that this particular astronomical alignment has meaning, we just don’t know what it is yet.
The late Cris Putnam wrote an excellent book entitled The Supernatural Worldview in which he discussed the overwhelming neglect the supernatural aspect of our faith has suffered during the ‘age of reason.’ During this period, the church attempted to distance itself from its supernatural nature all while trying to validate itself almost exclusively from just a moral, ethical, and scientific standpoint. While the Christian faith can do both, what happened then was a lopsided, desensitization process that effectively deadened the mainstream denominations.
In the Middle East and other places, dreams and visions have become increasingly common place where the Gospel has all been shut out. Once North Korea opens up due to its coming regime change, I imagine we will hear all about how God used dreams and visions in that country to reach the North Korean people. I’m also willing to bet that many Christians will be equally dismissive of these since they don’t fall into some scientifically verifiable category.
Going back to my original point, shouldn’t we expect to see more signs as we draw closer to the end? I mean, isn’t the purpose of signs? Signs are meant to be discovered, talked about, and to serve as warnings. We are commanded to watch and be ready (Matthew 24:43-44). I understand being ready, because Rapture or not, any of us could breathe our last breath at any time. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. But if signs can’t be known, why are we commanded to watch for them? Watch what?
But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Matthew 12:39
This verse is often quoted (or misquoted rather) in an attempt to debunk anyone who thinks the signs of the time are pointing to the soon return of Jesus Christ. But if we look at the context of the passage, we see that Jesus was pointing explicitly to that generation present in His midst. They dismissed the signs and prophecies concerning His coming, which resulted in them not knowing the time of their visitation (Luke 19:41-44, Matt 16:1-4, 23:1-39).
I understand that as a community of Christ loving, sign-watching ‘watchmen on the wall’ types, we have become somewhat jaded with all the previous false predictions about our Lord’s return. William Miller (1844-45), the Jehovah Witnesses (numerous times), Edgar Whisenant (1988-89), Harold Camping (1994, 2011) and many more false claims have been made to make the point. My point is not to defend the September 23rd proponents. My opinion was the 2017 seemed a likely year (given the significance of her timeline), but we can’t know for sure.
What we can know, is that Christ’s return (as of 23 September 2017) has all but been made a punchline for jokes and movies. What I can say though for sure, is that if there is only one sign we can hang our hats on (given the current climate), is that 2 Peter 3:3-4 is in full effect with an intensity and frequency not seen for millennia.
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.”
THE END OF THE WORLD DIDN’T COME
Bill Wilson – www.dailyjot.com
In the past several weeks, predictions of the end of the world have been coming into my inbox. Several Christians were predicting the Rapture and others were talking about a planet colliding with the earth, ending it all. The specific date for some was Saturday, September 23. Since we are all still here, some are moving that date to September 29. Certainly, these predictions and many like them are a lot like what Jesus said in Matthew 24:11, “And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.” The “many” are deceived because they are relying on man’s interpretation of isolated scriptures rather than making the effort to read and study the Bible in its context.
Fact is, if people read their scriptures in context, they would have a good idea of what to expect regarding the prophetic future. Unfortunately, there are many, many false teachers who take verses out of context to support their theories. Also unfortunate is that many are well-respected for these falsehoods. These same false teachers come up with excuse after excuse about why what they predicted didn’t happen. Many times they use a convoluted and completely out of context “Bible” study to explain why they missed the mark, and to predict the next event, which doesn’t happen either. People will believe them and all will go on until the next time. And the cycle will start all over again.
It is always best to go to your Bible and read the context about these contemporary predictions. By context, I mean ALL the verses related to the event-not single verses that can be twisted to fit the imagination, but the chapters before them and after them, and what the Biblical prophets said in them. For example, In Matthew 24, Jesus, responding to his disciples’ direct question about his return and the end of the age, gives the most complete step-by-step chronology of the events that will occur in the end of times. His explanation is supported in Daniel, Revelation, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Ezekiel and others. Putting specific dates on the Rapture or on the end of the world makes a liar-of either the Holy Scriptures or those making the false predictions. The Holy Scriptures are not lies.
Ephesians 4:14 exhorts, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” We don’t want to be that person who is just seeking the latest craze in Christianity. We want to be grounded in the Word of God and have understanding that we may edify others and provide truth in love. Let’s not fall for the extra-Biblical seducers. Let us seek the Lord with all of our heart having understanding of his Word and Holy Spirit discernment that we might not be led astray, and that we may provide proof of our testimony to others.