Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, January 24, 2021
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun    24-Jan-2021        11th of Sh’vat, 5781
Ex 13:17-14:8     1 Ki 18    Ps 119:49-72         Jn 2    (1 Th 2)

Four Stages to Eternal Life (Part 1 – First Stage of the Journey)
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: In this four-part RR series, I will discuss four stages a Believer will encounter in his/ her journey from mortal life on Earth to immortal life in Heaven. This series may be a review of old knowledge for you. A review may be useful, however, as previous knowledge can be reinforced or updated and even new knowledge may be acquired. In today’s RR, I discuss the controversial rapture and resurrection. The Rapture theory, as presented in this RR, is the controversial teaching– whether it is true or false. Students on both sides of this theory use the Bible to “prove” their points. In this RR, I lean toward one theory for your consideration. Study to come to your own conclusions (2 Timothy 2:15): Make every effort to present yourself before God as tried and true, as an unashamed worker cutting a straight path with the word of truth.

Regardless of how God accomplishes this, it should be obvious that He must solve a tremendous logistical problem. He must provide a way for each overcoming Believer to leave his/ her earthly life, housed in a mortal body, to enter eternal life, housed in an immortal body while reuniting body and soul.

EXPLANATION: Bible students often interpret certain Scriptures differently. Different interpretations have produced several views on the transition from the present life to the next life, usually depending upon the relation of this transition to the time of the Tribulation. Related to the Tribulation will be two events– discussed in combination as the Resurrection and the Rapture. Different interpretations (theories) for this transition for overcomers (those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life) include:

Pre-Tribulation Resurrection/ Rapture theory: Saved (redeemed) souls of overcomers will be resurrected (brought to life from the grave) or raptured (snatched from Earth, while still living) BEFORE the Tribulation.

● Mid-Tribulation Resurrection/ Rapture theory: Saved (redeemed) souls of overcomers will be resurrected or raptured at the MID-POINT of the Tribulation (three and one-half years after the Tribulation begins).

● Post-Tribulation Resurrection/ Rapture theory: Saved (redeemed) souls of overcomers will be resurrected or raptured at the END of the seven-year Tribulation.

● And other theories, such as: amillennialism (the Millennial Kingdom is symbolic, not literal) and preterism (at least some or all end-time events, or end-time prophecies, have already occurred in the first century and are not future events).

SIDELIGHT: The Tribulation (“time of Jacob’s trouble,” as in Jeremiah 30:7) is a seven-year period in our future. In Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:27), the Tribulation is the seventieth shabua, poorly translated “week”in some Bibles. Each shabua in this prophecy is understood to represent seven years. Yeshua warned of this time (Matthew 24:21): [Yeshua said] “For then there will be great trouble, such as has not happened since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.” Here, “trouble” in the Tree of Life Version translates the Greek thlipis, which is translated “tribulation” in other versions. I no longer “argue” with anyone over which theory is correct. I personally believe in the pre-Tribulation theory, because I am not smart enough to cram seven years of events into three and one-half years of time. Do people become confused over the sounding of God’s trumpet at the Resurrection/ Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:52) and the last trumpet of the Trumpet Judgments (Revelation 11:15-19)? Belief in any theory is not a make-or-break condition for salvation. Just be ready, and let God be God. END sidelight.

WHAT IS THE RESURRECTION? Judeo-Christian faith is based on the death, burial, and resurrection of  Yeshua HaMashiach (1 Corinthians 15:14, 20-23 and other Scriptures). Yeshua, God’s perfect sacrificial Lamb, was crucified to establish God’s New Covenant with mankind. But, He was resurrected three days after being crucified to demonstrate His defeat of death and the promise that His followers would also defeat death (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, quoting Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14). We are assured that Believers (the redeemed) will be resurrected for their eternal reward, including awards at the Bema Judgment (Judgment Seat of Mashiach). Non-Believers (the unredeemed) must wait a little more than one-thousand years to be resurrected for their eternal punishment (Hell).

The first resurrection will include Followers of Yeshua (Believers) – those who have repented of (“overcome”) their sins and who have accepted God’s pardon for sins established through the New Covenant and Yeshua’s sacrificial, vicarious  death on the cross. Resurrection has been and will occur at different times. Yeshua was resurrected a short time after His crucifixion as the “First Fruit” of the New Covenant. At Yeshua’s crucifixion, faithful saints were resurrected and appeared to “many” in Jerusalem. Past and future followers who die before the Rapture will be resurrected at Yeshua’s appearance in the clouds. Those who die martyrs’ deaths during the Tribulation will be resurrected at a later date.

On the other hand, those who reject God’s offer of salvation will not be resurrected until approximately one-thousand years later, which will be the second resurrection. I know it may be confusing, but read and study pertinent Scriptures. It seems perfectly logical, once you fit every part into place.

SIDELIGHT: Water baptism is symbolic of resurrection. Yeshua encouraged this practice, I think, for our benefit. I believe you can go to Heaven without baptism (as did the criminal on the cross). Water baptism likely had its origin in Jewish ceremonial (ritual) bathing in a mikveh. The symbolism of water baptism is: the old sinful person dies to sin, is buried in a watery grave, and is raised to new life as a sin-forgiven person. The B’rit Chadashah Greek word for “baptism” is baptisma, which is properly translated as “submersion” or “immersion.” Other forms of “baptism,” such as sprinkling, are poor substitutes for baptism by submersion in water. Infant baptism makes a mockery of John’s baptism of Yeshua. The person being baptized should understand the meaning of baptism and should willingly submit to baptism. In addition to water baptism, some denominations recognize baptism by the Ruach HaKodesh. These denominations commonly emphasize that glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is an integral manifestation of baptism by the Ruach HaKodesh. Having experienced both types of baptism, I understand one type is as real as the other. Incidentally, before mocking those who speak in tongues, understand that the Apostle Paul did so (1 Corinthians 14:18). There are many ways to worship/ serve God. END sidelight.

WHAT IS THE RAPTURE? Prophecy scoffers claim the word “rapture” does not occur in the Bible. “Rapture” translates the Greek harpazo (example: 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Harpazo means to “be carried away suddenly, to be seized, to be caught up, to be snatched to be plucked away.” When the B’rit Chadashah Greek text was translated first into Latin and then French/ English, harpazo (Greek) was translated to raptura from raptus (Latin) and, then, to rapture (French/ English).

“Christophany” is the appearance of the Christ (the Messiah) to man before Yeshua’s birth in Bethlehem. Several Christophanies are recorded in the Bible. Use a search engine (Google) to find them. “Theophany” is the appearance of God on Earth. The three major appearances of Yeshua on or near Earth follow:

FIRST APPEARANCE (COMING, ADVENT): Yeshua, born in Bethlehem a little more than two-thousand years ago, lived among mankind to teach by word and example; to experience and empathize with mankind’s hardships, including temptation by Satan; to die as the perfect, only acceptable Passover Lamb sacrifice to save any person from his/ her sins; and to be resurrected from death, proving His Divinity and giving hope to His promise that His followers, too, can be resurrected from death to eternal life. In other words, Yeshua came to establish God’s New Covenant. Yeshua came as the Suffering Servant, who would lay down His life for the sins of mankind (Isaiah, chapter 53). In short, Yeshua’s appearance was the coming of the promised Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13-14).

SECOND APPEARANCE (COMING, ADVENT): If Yeshua was crucified and His body returned to dust, as Adonai promised Adam that was man’s fate (Genesis 3:19), Yeshua would, then, have been merely a mortal and must be considered no more than a good Man or Teacher. If Yeshua was resurrected from the dead as prophesied in the Tanakh and recorded in the B’rit Chadashah, He is the First Fruit of God’s New Covenant and His promises of eternal life can be believed. Consider these passages:

● Yeshua promised that He would return in the clouds to call His “bride” home. (The Bible refers to Yeshua as the Bridegroom and His followers or “the called out ones,” who form His Body, as His “bride.”) Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the blast of God’s shofar, and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left behind, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air– and so we shall always be with the Lord. Two “men dressed in white” (angels) told of Yeshua’s return, in a similar manner as He left Earth to return to the Father in Heaven (Acts 1:9-11): After saying all this– while they were watching– He [Yeshua] was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. While they were staring into heaven as He went up, suddenly two men stood with them in white clothing. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you keep standing here staring into heaven? This Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” 

● In both Scriptures, the “cloud” possibly refers to a host of angels clothed in pure white. Many white-robed angels might appear as a cloud from a distance.

● The Apostle Paul gave more information about the Resurrection and Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-55): Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and what decays cannot inherit what does not decay. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [“sleep” = euphemism for death], but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar. For the shofar will sound,
and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruptibility, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible will have put on incorruptibility and this mortal will have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”

● In these two passages from 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, Paul taught us: (1) The bodies of dead Believers will be raised up to be united with their immortal spirits or souls (Resurrection). (2) Not all Believers will die before Yeshua’s return. Living Believers will pass directly (will be translated) from mortal beings to immortal beings (Rapture). (3) The Resurrection and Rapture will be instantaneous (“in the twinkling of an eye”). (4) The Rapture will be announced by the blowing of God’s trumpet and a shout from God’s archangel. Will only Believers (but not non-believers) hear this trumpet and command? Could this be what Yeshua meant in John 10:27-28: [Yeshua said] “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life! They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (5) Every follower of Yeshua will be changed from a corruptible (mortal) form to an incorruptible (immortal) form. A Believer’s eternal body will never age, become ill, or suffer pain. A Believer’s eternal mind will never experience sadness, including recollection of sad earthly memories; will understand mysteries that now elude all of us; and will be focused on sinless worship of God. The Apostle John (1 John 3:2) wrote that we resurrected or raptured saints will be like Yeshua and we will see (understand) Yeshua as He truly is. The Apostle Paul on Earth bemoaned the fact that he could not understand the mysteries of God, but I suspect God told him to be patient and some day he would understand these mysteries, when he wrote (1 Corinthians 13:9-10): For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect [Yeshua and His perfect Kingdom] has come, then that which is partial [the mortal mind] will pass away. Daniel also was told he would not understand what he had written until he was resurrected some day (Daniel 12:13). I have heard many complain, “I just can’t understand the Bible.” Relax– you are human. There are parts of the Bible no one can understand… parts that God has shielded from us (not revealed to us). If Paul and Daniel could not understand God’s words– words they had written for the rest of us– it is presumptuous for anyone to think that he/ she can understand all parts of the Bible, including what others have not understand for centuries. Some day, questions will be answered!

● The overcomers (brides) will spiritually marry the Bridegroom Yeshua toward the end of their stay in Paradise (Revelation 19:7). The hell of the Tribulation still rages on Earth, as Satan and the Antichrist realize their time is nearly over. Brides in Yeshua’s time, as in our time, often spend much time searching for “the perfect dress” to wear at the wedding. A Believer fashions his/ her wedding attire during earthly life by his/ her righteous acts (Revelation 19:7-8). As in Jewish weddings of the first century, a wedding supper (banquet) will follow the marriage to the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). John did not reveal the menu (it may contain food we have never before tasted), but I suspect we will have a Communion meal. Will Yeshua re-create that first Communion meal? Imagine eating the finest food and enjoying the fellowship, as we walk between tables and see old friends and relatives who now only exist as fading memories. We can truly know, then, how great is our God!

THIRD APPEARANCE: As the seven-year Tribulation (Revelation, chapters 6 through 18) comes to a close, billions will have died in wars, famines, and illnesses in that terrible time. Armed forces of the world will have met in Israel (Armageddon) for what would be the greatest battle of all time. Military forces will include those of the Antichrist and the 200-million man forces from the Kings of the East (China and her neighbors). Worldwide use of nuclear weapons would destroy all mankind, without God’s intervention. Yeshua will return with the army of Heaven– angels and resurrected-raptured saints. [WORD STUDY: All redeemed souls in Heaven are “saints,” not just the few thousand people now recognized by Catholic or other denominations as saints. “Saint” translates the Greek hagios, and means “a most holy being.” After reaching God’s Kingdom and being purified in the final judgment, every Believer’s walk in the footsteps of Yeshua will be completed, and he/ she will be worthy of being in God’s presence as a holy being–   a saint.] Yeshua will defeat the armies which oppose Him and which have oppressed His people. See Revelation 19:11-21 for Yeshua’s appearance as King of kings and Lord of lords to defeat the forces of evil– throwing the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the fires of Hell and binding Satan for the thousand years of the Millennial Kingdom. Believers, alongside the Lord’s angels, will be in Yeshua’s army and will shout for joy as evil is defeated. Yeshua, then, will begin His thousand-year reign (the Millennial Kingdom).

WHEN WILL BELIEVERS’ RESURECTION/ RAPTURE OCCUR? The disciples asked Yeshua when He would return, and what would be the signs of the end of the age. He taught them limited prophecies of His return, included in the Olivet Discourse (a conversation on the Mount of Olives). Read this conversation in Matthew, chapter 24; Mark, chapter 13; and Luke, chapter 21. (NOTE: As taught in earlier RRs, if you use a King James Version, one of the questions is mistranslated. The disciples did not ask what would be a sign of the end of the world. The Bible clearly states that the world is without end. New Jerusalem [Heaven] will descend to Earth and rest here throughout eternity, which would not be possible if the world ends some day. The disciples asked what would be a sign of the end of the age. The Greek text reads aionos [“age”] and not kosmos [“world”]. The “age” to which they referred is our present Age of Grace.)

Yeshua told the disciples that He, in His human form as Son of Man, did not know the specific time of the Resurrection/ Rapture (Matthew 24:36): [Yeshua said] “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone.”

Although we cannot know the day and hour of Yeshua’s return, He commanded us to know the season (general time) of His return through the Parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 24:32-35): [Yeshua said] “Now learn the parable from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the door. Amen, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

Two trees were used in prophecy to portray Israel– the olive tree and the fig tree. In this important parable, Yeshua taught: (1) He will not return until the fig tree (Israel) buds. Many scholars interpret this budding to have been the return of Jews (the Aliyah) to Israel from the four corners of the world into which they were dispersed from AD 70 until AD 1948. This time of  dispersal is referred to as the Diaspora. In May, 1948, Jews began returning to Israel, fulfilling numerous Bible prophecies; in June, 1967, Jews re-captured the Temple Mount. (2) When the fig tree buds, we can know that summer is near. When Jews began returning to Israel, we can know that Messiah’s return is near. The fig tree buds in the spring, but produces fruit in the summer. The “summer” of God’s Kingdom is not the literal harvest of figs, but is the harvest of redeemed souls. Yeshua will return when the Father tells Him it is time to gather (to “harvest”) the “called out ones” to be with Him in Heaven throughout eternity. (Greek ekklesia, commonly translated “church,” is literally “the called out ones.”) (3) The generation alive in 1948, when the “tree” of Israel budded, will not all die until He returns in the clouds. If you were alive in May, 1948 you are part of that generation which will witness His return. Read also Luke 17:20-37 and John 5:25-29.

All prophecies necessary for Yeshua’s return have been fulfilled. The next event–  Resurrection/ Rapture– requires no additional warning signs. That is, Yeshua could return in the next minute; or, He could delay His return for years. In either case, all prophecies would be fulfilled. The sense of imminency (Yeshua’s return when no one can predict) is part of God’s plan that Believers should always be in a state of anticipation and preparation. Read an example of wise and foolish preparation for return of the Bridegroom (Yeshua) by “virgins” (His followers) in the Parable of the Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Be ready to meet Yeshua now, because no further preparation can be made when He returns (Philippians 1:6 and other Scriptures). Many will ridicule your belief in Heaven and Hell. The Apostle Peter prophesied that scoffers would come in the last days to attack Believers’ faith (2 Peter 3:2-4).

MUCH MORE: This RR has only scratched the surface of discussing Resurrection and Rapture. Know this: God has prepared a future life for Believers. You and you alone decide whether you will spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell. Choose wisely!

SUMMARY– THE FIRST STAGE TO YOUR ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN: In this RR, I have discussed my understanding of the first stage of a Believer’s journey to eternal life in Heaven, fully acknowledging that other well-intentioned Believers’ hair will ignite at my ignorance and “heresy” because I have presented the “false  doctrine” of a rapture. The truth is, a Believer must be transported from temporary life on Earth to eternal life ultimately in Heaven, whether he/ she is dead (resurrection) or living (rapture) at the time of Yeshua’s return. In next Sunday’s RR, I will discuss the second stage of a Believer’s journey.

If you have not done so, you can– at this moment– secure your eternal life in Heaven by accepting Yeshua as Savior and having your name inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life (among other Scriptures, Revelation 21:27): And nothing unholy shall ever enter [New Jerusalem or Heaven], nor anyone doing what is detestable or false, but only those written in the Book of Life.

Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.