By Nathan Barnard
When examining Christian eschatology and Bible prophecy concerning the Day of YHVH, you are instantly hit with a plethora of contradicting schools of thought, all of which argue that what they believe, is found within scripture and is divine truth on the subject. However, when you examine in more depth the scriptures quoted you find that in part they have been taken out of context, and/or misapplied to propagate erroneous teaching. That does not negate nor detract us from seeking to ascertain what the Bible actually states regarding the period before Messiah’s return. For scripture states that God seeks His people, those who follow Him, who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Therefore, we must be able to know what
The apostle Saul states ‘But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4: 13). Informing believers regarding the Day of YHVH that they would not be ignorant.
Saul further writes in Chapter 5:1-6 of his letter to the Thessalonians:
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
Saul here informs the believers that he does not need to discuss/educate them regarding the times and seasons, as they know the day of YHVH comes as a thief for those in the darkness, but for them in the light it will not come as such. For they know the times and seasons, the pattern YHVH has placed within scripture. Furthermore, we must understand that Saul was a highly educated and learned man, he knew Torah and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, along with the Jewish writings of His day as he was a student of Gamaliel. We can only understand the prophetic writings in the reNewed Covenant if we understand the books of the prophets. Moreover, to understand Saul we need to understand the culture Saul and the authors of scripture came from. Moreover, if we seek to understand what scripture is saying we must seek to understand the meaning ascribed to the text at the time of it being given. For YHVH does not change and thus He has placed within scripture the eternal meaning of the text, one which He seeks for us to know. It is His eternal message which does not change or alter with time, it is relevant to all.
Within the different schools of thought we find the pre-tribulation rapture, mid tribulation rapture and a post tribulation rapture. When Messiah returns, we see that those who believe in a millennium reign of Messiah prior to HaSatan and those who have not followed YHVH’s word and accepted Messiah as their LORD are judged and thrown into the lake of fire, along with death and Hades and those that oppose Messiah.
But the question is: ‘What does the Bible teach concerning this and how do we know what is true and what is error?’ One thing we must comprehend is that when we read scripture we don’t read our own thoughts into the text; reading what we believe rather than believing what we read. Within psychology this is referred to as conformation bias, that being our preconditions/beliefs regardless of whether they are true and the lens that through which we interpret. Therefore, if our starting point is erroneous, then our interpretation will also be, due to our held bias. Thus, it is important that what we believe holds true against all of scripture and not just part.
We need to remember that we are instructed in scripture to examine everything and only apply that which is true. Therefore, as we examine scripture to ascertain what is true we must understand that one passage of scripture cannot contradict another. If we find it does, then it is our understanding of the text that is incorrect and not what scripture states. Although we do need to bear in mind that we do find translational errors in different translations; because some have more errors in than others. This is why it is crucial that we use at least three translations when studying scripture to ensure that we are not applying an error in translation. Furthermore, we also need to examine words in the Hebrew to fully understand what is being conveyed within a text, as the meaning in the English might be different from the Hebrew.
It is my opinion that many of the errors within Christian theology, stem from a misunderstanding of the elementary principles of the faith – Hebrews 6; comprehension of these principles will assist in understanding Bible prophecy. Scripture states that we lay precept upon precept, little by little. But if what we build our understanding on is erroneous in the first instance, then we are already misguided and our understanding of more complex topics like Bible prophecy will be difficult for us to comprehend.
It is my intention in this study to examine what the Bible says about the return of Messiah, while also allowing us to audit our knowledge as we reject any unbiblical misunderstandings through applying the word of God. Furthermore, I do not intend to expound upon eschatological doctrines, but to examine scripture with regards to what it states about the coming of the Messiah.
Prior to doing this, let me first give an example from a text that I have already quoted as we seek to examine scripture from the author’s perspective, so as not to add or take away from scripture but to understand the fullness of the text.
What was Saul referring to when he stated, 1‘But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope’, and ‘But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night’? I Thessalonians 4:13
First, we must understand a basic principle of how Saul and Messiah would have looked at any text. The Hebraic understanding of examining a text is one which sees multiple layers within the text; that first we read it plainly. Secondly, we look at what it is hinting at, and thirdly at how it relates to other scriptures. After going through this process, what is revealed is the deep meaning of the text, the mystery which YHVH has hidden within it.
Back to the text; we note that Saul informs believers that they are not to be ignorant. If we read the verse in context we would find that this is also referring to those who are dead at the time of Messiah’s return and those who are still alive at this time. It informs us that we will be caught up to be with Messiah in the air; those who are dead will rise first and then those who are alive.
It is not my intention to expound upon the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead or what happens to us when we die. Scripture tells us that this is an elementary principle and many believers still continue to be fed milk. Many teachers do not seem know what the Bible states will happen to them when they die. This saddens me because many believers remain ignorant and are confused about what happens when Messiah returns. I therefore urge you to study what happens when we die.
For now, it is sufficient to say that we are able to know what will happen when Messiah returns, as Saul states that he does not want us to be ignorant. We also note what he states concerning the time and seasons, “I have no need to write to you for you know that the Lord comes as a thief in the night.” However, Saul clarifies that it is only for those who are not watching, that it comes upon them as a thief, those in the darkness. So, what is Saul inferring ?
The answer can be found in the phrase of ‘times and seasons’. This is a term used when referring to YHVH’s seasons, His moedim, His appointed times found in Leviticus 23, often referred to as Jewish feasts. However, these Jewish feasts are not Jewish at all. They are YHVH’s appointed times, clearly stated in the text, which God instructed Israel to keep – not just the Jewish people, but all of the tribes of Israel. Furthermore, it was because Israel turned away from keeping these, and His commands, that God judged the tribes and scattered them. Please note that the commandments cannot save you, nor bring you salvation; they only reveal that one needs a saviour, because they reveal what sin is.
Scripture informs us that the appointed times and seasons of YHVH are a foreshadow of the Messiah, as they reveal YHVH’s plan of salvation, redemption and restoration of creation. Thus, it was these feasts that Saul was speaking of, as it is a Hebrew idiom for YHVH’s appointed times.
There is a feast of YHVH mentioned in Leviticus 23 commencing with the Sabbath that marks the seventh day from the remainder of the week. It is from the Sabbath that the other days of the week revolve/centre on. However, the Sabbath was not just given to Israel but for mankind, yet it acts as an eternal sign between Israel and YHVH. Furthermore, the Feasts of YHVH are also known as Sabbaths, plural.These too are a sign between YHVH and Israel, identifying them as His children/people, while also acting as a prophetic image of YHVH’s plan of redemption, salvation and restoration of creation and humanity back unto Himself.
Thus, in the feasts and the appointed times and seasons of YHVH, we see God’s plan of restoration unfolding. In Passover we see the redemption of the first born, Ephraim, the House of Israel, as Messiah died to enable the house of Israel to return and enter back into covenant with Him, through the reNewed Covenant:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Therefore, because Messiah was faithful and diligent to keep the promise to redeem His people, the nations were given to Messiah as His inheritance, thus fulfilling the promise to Israel, as outlined in the Passover. God made a way for the nations/gentiles, to be grafted into the wild olive tree, into the commonwealth of Israel. Saul reinforces this in his writing to the church at Corinth:
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: 8 therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (AKJV).
Messiah is and was the Passover Lamb, the one who redeemed the House of Israel and made a way for the nations to be brought into the reNewed Covenant. A covenant made between the House of Israel and the House of Judah and YHVH. The misconception that most Christians/believers have is that of ‘gentile believers.’ This very concept is an oxymoron as ‘gentile’ means ‘out of covenant’, thus you cannot be a gentile in covenant with God. You are as Saul writes in his letter to the Ephesians former ‘gentiles’ who are now in covenant with YHVH and thus part of Israel and therefore citizens of the commonwealth of Israel, YHVH’s people.
In the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we see an image of the Messiah, the one without sin. We also see an image of the Bride of Messiah who will be made spotless through the washing of the word.
Thus, within the Feasts: Feast of Unleavened Bread, Passover, the Feasts of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks, we see a clear image of how the Messiah would come, suffer, die without sin and become the first to be resurrected and receive an incorruptible body to redeem creation and to fulfil YHVH’s promise to Israel. This was then affirmed with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks, in fulfilment of prophecies recorded in the book of the covenant.
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28
However, while we read in the book of Acts that this was in fulfilment with what the prophet Joel wrote, it was not a fulfilment of Joel. Rather, it was a foreshadow of what will transpire during the day of the LORD. For this is what Joel states.
We read in the book of Acts 2:14-21 that Peter stated that what was happening was in fulfilment of what the prophet Joel wrote.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
However, what we must understand is that the passage being quoted from in Joel 2 commences and finishes with discussing the Day of the LORD, the period prior to the return of Messiah.
For the Day of the LORD is a thousand years, the Millennium reign. In scripture, each day commences with night, then light. For the night is extinguished by the light of the sun. Therefore, the Day of the LORD commences with a period of darkness, the tribulation, unlike any period that has ever been before. This darkness is extinguished by the Light of the World, Messiah Yeshua’s return to reign from Zion and liberate His people from the antichrist.
Scripture informs us that God redeems His people not because Israel has done anything special but for the His holy name’s sake.
“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. Ezekiel 36:22-23
While the spring feasts reveal a picture of redemption we must understand that they have only been partially fulfilled. This is something that will become apparent as we study scripture. However, as we look to the fall Feasts we see that Yom Teruah – Day of Trumpets, Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement and Sukkot – Tabernacles, speak of the Day of the LORD and the return of Messiah. Furthermore, if we want to understand Bible prophecy we must understand the Feasts of YHVH, as they assist us in comprehending God’s plan. Thus, as we examine scripture in a quest to comprehend what it states regarding the days ahead, we will expound upon the Feasts as we seek to understand the shadow they reveal.
A further biblical concept we need to grasp is that of scripture being cyclical. Bible prophecy repeats itself, revealing partial fulfilment until its final complete fulfilment in Messiah. This is evident in scripture as we see Messiah type figures such as Joseph and Moses redeeming God’s people. It is as we examine the patterns within scripture against prophecy and the Feasts that we see a picture being formed, one that gives us insight into what God has hidden within His word for those who will be diligent as they draw close to Him and humble themselves to find that which YHVH has hidden.
Thus, as we search out scripture we will seek to audit our theology as we bring our thoughts in line with it. As we lay line upon line, precept upon precept allowing scripture to speak for itself.
This article was intended to be an introduction, to set out the premise for future articles, while also beginning to define key terms which will be expounded upon in further studies. In the next article we will examine the reNewed Covenant. The scriptures below regarding Messianic expectations of the people of God along with other key texts is an endeavour to start our understanding of what is going to happen.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Jeremiah 16:14-16“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 15 but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.
16 “But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the Lord, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks.
Jeremiah 23:7-8 “So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 8 but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”
By Nathan Barnard