Will You Ever March in “Stephen’s Army?” FUTURE Martyrdom (Part 3)

A SPECIAL DATE: On today’s calendar is the Day of Pentecost. I digress from today’s intended RR to discuss something about the importance of this day.

** The Feast of Pentecost has been observed from the time of Moses as the “Feast of Weeks” (Deuteronomy 16:9-10). “Weeks” translates Hebrew Shavuot. 

** From Acts, chapter 1, we learn that Yeshua appeared to others for forty days after His resurrection. This time was necessary to provide eyewitness accounts that He had arisen from death, as He promised; to reassure hope for His followers that we, too, may be rewarded with eternal life; to teach the principles of the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) and to provide last-minute instructions about the coming of the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Acts 1:8). He, then, ascended into Heaven, with the promise that He would return (Acts 1:9-11).

Yeshua’s followers went to Jerusalem, as instructed, to await His promised gift. From Acts, chapter 2, we learn that the Ruach ha-Kodesh visited Yeshua’s followers with three manifestations of power and gifting:

** There was the sound of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2), even though the followers were housed in a room which should be free of a blowing wind. In the two major languages of the Bible, the same translations apply to the Holy Spirit of God–  Ruach ha-Kodesh (Hebrew) and Hagios Pneuma (Greek). Both Hebrew ruach and Greek pneuma may be translated as “spirit, or breath, or wind.” This blowing sound was tangible proof that the promised Holy Spirit– the Ruach ha-Kodesh, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of God– had come.

** “Tongues of fire” came to rest on each person (Acts 2:3). This vision was tangible proof that God’s Word of truth had been given to each person. 

** Each person was given the gift of glossolalia– the ability to speak in other tongues, or foreign languages (Acts 2:4). Paul lists “speaking in tongues” as one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10). Yeshua’s followers were immediately dispatched into the world to spread the Gospel. They had no time to go to “missionaries’ school,” even though none existed, to learn foreign languages. The spiritual gift of speaking in foreign languages was a necessary, practical gift for  these early “missionaries.” Some Believers (Pentecostals, Charismatics) still emphasize “tongues,” and I have been in several worship services in which these tongues were uttered. In an English-speaking audience, is there any practical advantage to speak in tongues? Some Believers claim “speaking in tongues” may be a form of a ”prayer language.” Is there a difference? Yes– some humans may understand (translate) speaking in tongues, with interpreting tongues also being a gift of the Ruach ha-Kodesh (1 Corinthians 12:10), but only God can understand prayer language (1 Corinthians 14:2, 14-15). Decide for yourself, or better yet, ask God.

In Judaism, the Day of Pentecost is observed on the sixth of Sivan to celebrate Moses’ receiving of the Ten Commandments on Sinai. In Christianity, the Day of Pentecost is observed as the seventh Sunday after Easter Sunday and marks the beginning of the “Christian Church.” The first Christian Church, located in Jerusalem, was established on the Day of Pentecost (Acts, chapter 2). (Church = an assembly of ekklesia– the “called out ones” – in this sense, persons called out from their homes to assemble for the worship of and service to God.) Thus, both Judaism and Christianity had their beginnings on the same calendar day, first recognized as a Jewish feast day, even though the two events were separated by nearly fifteen centuries. (Moses received the Ten Commandments in ca 1446 BC and the Ruach ha-Kodesh visited Yeshua’s followers in ca AD 33.) 

PERSECUTION– PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE: In the past two Sunday RRs, I discussed persecution and martyrdom in the past and at the present time. I find I cannot cover future persecutions in one RR and will write a brief summary in two RRs. In today’s RR, I discuss the conditions setting the stage for the Tribulation persecutions. In next Sunday’s RR, I discuss the actual Tribulations persecutions and the rewards for persevering through these persecutions. 

THE TRIBULATION: Yeshua warned that the Tribulation would be the worst time in the entire history of the world (Matthew 24:21). The TLV translates this time as great “trouble.” The Greek word, here, is thlipsis, which may be translated as “pressure, oppression, distress,” and so forth. To me, “trouble” softens the nature of the Tribulation. I am troubled, if I misplace my car keys, but such “trouble” does not rise to the horrors that will be imposed on the world by the Unholy Trinity.

How long will the Tribulation last? In my interpretation of the Book of Daniel, the Revelation, and other Scriptures, it appears the Tribulation will last “seven years.” This period is the seventieth shabua (“week”) of Daniel’s seventy shavuot– seventy “weeks” – prophecy (see Daniel, chapter 9). A prophetic year of 360 days, rather than a calendar year of 365.25 days, appears to be used in end- time calculations. Therefore, the Tribulation’s seven years are 7 x 360 = 2,520 days.

When will the Tribulation begin? A well-known televangelist, whom I occasionally watch, claims the Tribulation has already commenced, the four horseman of the Apocalypse (Revelation, chapter 6) are riding now, and the end can be only a few years away. (This same evangelist sells 30-year shelf life food, even though, by his reckoning, Yeshua must return in less than seven years.) Yeshua plainly, emphatically taught that no one except the Father knows the day and hour of His return (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). 

MY INTERPRETATION: My interpretation of Scriptures may be of little value. (My views and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.) Even so, I disagree with this televangelist. Things may be bad in 2020 and most certainly will worsen, but we are NOT presently living in the Tribulation hell of the future. Let us look at the first four “horsemen of the Apocalypse” (more correctly, the first four Seal Judgments) of the Revelation, chapter 6. (Translate correctly “Apocalypse.” The last book of the B’rit Chadashah is titled in Greek Apokalypsis. Greek Apokalypsis may be translated to “uncovering, revealing, exposing, revelation” in English. In Catholic Bibles, the last book is left untranslated– “The Apocalypse.” In Protestant  Bibles, the last book is translated, in English– “The Revelation.” Hollywood incorrectly labels horror movies as “apocalyptic.”)

SIDELIGHT: The King James Version erroneously heads this last book as, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.” Errors contained in this title include: (1) This book is not the revelation of the Apostle John, but the book is the revelation of Yeshua to John. John only acted as a scribe (stenographer), who merely wrote down what he saw and heard. In some verses, he admitted he was completely confused. (2) Titles given to the old apostle are unnecessary or erroneous. Why call him “Saint?” All Believers are “saints” (Philippians 4:21) – from Greek hagios = “most holy thing”) and are made “holy” by faith in Yeshua. Why call him “the Divine?” “Divine” means “of, from, or like God.” A Believer is both a Saint and Divine. Most Believers need to act more saintly and divine, though. END sidelight.

** Seal Judgment 1 (Revelation 6:2): This rider, mounted on a white horse, represents the Antichrist. (The TLV, popular in this congregation, translates this man as anti-messiah. The Greek text for this man is Antichristos, which is obviously translated to Antichrist. I probably will refer to him as the Antichrist because this title is much more readily recognized, although the two titles are identical and reflect only language differences– Hebrew (HaMashiach, the Messiah) versus Greek (ho Christos, the Christ). 

Sarcastic Note: Thanks for the confusion, Nimrod and the Tower of Babel builders (Genesis, chapters 10 and 11). End Sarcastic Note.

The Tribulation cannot occur until the Antichrist is revealed and affirms a seven-year covenant, probably a peace covenant (Daniel 9:27). Has this charismatic leader, who is marveled by the entire world, been revealed? No! Has he signed a seven-year peace covenant? No! I will have more to say about this covenant, following.

** Seal Judgment 2 (Revelation 6:3-4): This rider, mounted on a red horse, represents war. While we hear much about “wars and rumors of wars,” as prophesied by Yeshua (Matthew 24:6), we have had such conflicts almost continuously during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and earlier throughout the world’s history. World War II, ending in 1945, was far, far greater than any conflicts we presently have. 

** Seal Judgment 3 (Revelation 6:5-6): This rider, mounted on a black horse, represents famine (and the unjust, selfish treatment of the poor by the rich). We have had droughts and famines “forever.” (Joseph rose to leadership in Egypt because God showed him how to save Pharaoh’s people during a famine.)

** Seal Judgment 4 (Revelation 6:7-8): This rider, mounted on a pale horse, represents global deaths from many causes (war, starvation, and epidemics from “beasts of the earth”). “Pale” translates the Greek chloros, which is actually “green.” While COVID-19 deaths have been of great concern recently, this pandemic is nothing like the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 (at least 500-million deaths), or the bubonic plague, the Black Death, of 1347 – ca 1352 (deaths of approximately one-third of Europe’s population). 

All of these events were catastrophic. Bible students of these times undoubtedly attributed the wars, famines, and pandemics to God’s judgments, telling others that Yeshua’s return was at hand. But no, the sun kept coming up and the human race persisted. These “prophets” overlooked key teachings about the end of the Age– as many modern-day “prophets” continue to overlook key teachings.

WHY ARE WE NOT YET READY FOR THE TRIBULATION? There are certain things that must occur before the Tribulation can commence. I will mention what I believe are some of these things. Do not get too complacent. God can accelerate His timetable and can stack events atop each other so that the end could come at breakneck speed. And it is obvious that if Yeshua did not know the date (Matthew 24:36), neither do I. There is an end-time principle of Yeshua’s “imminent return” that we must observe, which means we must be prepared at any moment to hear the trumpet of God and the Archangel’s shout, “Come up here!” At least these things seemingly must occur before we enter the Tribulation:

** The fig tree must leaf out. Read the Olivet Discourse (Matthew, chapters 24 and 25; Mark, chapter 13; and Luke, chapter 21). After visiting the Second Jewish Temple, Yeshua and His disciples walked over to the Mount of Olives to rest or admire the Temple’s beauty. While there, the disciples asked Yeshua three questions: When will the Temple be torn down, stone by stone? What will be the sign of Yeshua’s return? What will be the sign of the end of the age? The King James Version mistranslates this last question. They did not ask (KJV) when will be the end of the world (Greek = kosmos = world), but when will be the end of the age (Greek = aion = age, which is the Age of Grace, the New Covenant Age). Yeshua patiently told them some things for which Believers should watch, even though He surely knew that none of them would live that far into the future.

In Scriptures, three plants are associated with God’s people– the fig tree, the olive tree, and the grape vine. Yeshua taught an important parable, the Parable of the Fig Tree, to explain a necessary event before His return (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.”

What did Yeshua tell us? The fig tree represents Israel. See a discussion of the fig tree as symbolic of Israel at: http://www.hope-of-israel.org/symbolfigtree.html . 

Ezekiel’s prophecies were completed in May, 1948. After nearly two-thousand years (from AD 70 until AD 1948), the Jews were subjected to their final Diaspora. (The Jewish “Diaspora” is a dispersion or exile from their Middle East homeland.) Rather than use space to discuss all diasporas of the Jewish people, I refer you to a summary at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_diaspora . Never before have a people returned from worldwide dispersion with religion and customs intact and language recoverable, but the Jewish nation did.

God’s prophets foretold the Diaspora, a worldwide dispersal of the Jewish people. In Deuteronomy 28:25, Moses prophesied the Jews would be driven from their country by their enemies. In Ezekiel 22:15, Jews were warned they would be scattered into other countries. The LORD warned Israel about dire punishments for disobedience (Leviticus, chapter 26), including laying waste to cities, making the land desolate, and occupation of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) with foreigners (Leviticus 26:32-33). Yeshua prophesied (Luke 21:24) that the Jews would be exiled and scattered throughout the world “into all nations… until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Yeshua prophesied the magnificent Second (Zerubbabel’s, Herod’s) Temple would be destroyed– taken apart, stone by stone (Matthew 24:2). This destruction occurred exactly as prophesied on Tisha B’Av, AD 70 by the Roman legionnaires under command of Titus. And, other prophecies were made and have already been mostly fulfilled.

Beautiful prophecies are given in Ezekiel, chapters 36 and 37. Read these two chapters. You know enough modern history about the re-birth of Israel to realize  the importance of what God showed Ezekiel: the valley of the dry bones (Jews scattered throughout the world as a “dead people” during the Diaspora), the dry bones coming together to form an army of living beings (the rebirth of Israel, beginning with passionate desires of Zionism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), the miraculous United Nations’ agreement (against all odds) to form a tiny Jewish nation, and the merging of the previously divided Northern and Southern Kingdoms into one nation under the common name of “Israel.” Ezekiel wrote his book of prophecy in ca 571 BC, or a little more than 2,500 years before the United Nations’ charter to grant the rebirth of Israel in 1948! If you are not impressed, what does God need to do to impress you!?

Israel (Hebrew, Yisrael) was the second name given to Jacob. Israel (Yisrael) translates to “God prevails.” Israel was given this promise after being re-united (Ezekiel 36:33-38): Thus says Adonai Elohim: “In the day that I pronounce you clean from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited and the ruins will be rebuilt. The land that was desolate will be tilled instead of being a wasteland in the sight of all that passed by. They will say, ‘This land that was a wasteland has become like the garden of Eden. The waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you will know that I, Adonai, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted what was desolate. I, Adonai, have spoken it. So I will do it.” Thus says Adonai Elohim: “I will again be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them– I will populate them with people like a flock. Like the holy flock, like the flock of Jerusalem during her moadim, so the waste cities will be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am Adonai.”

Adonai’s promise to make Eretz Yisrael desolate during the Diaspora was  confirmed by others. For approximately four centuries (ca 1516-1917), the Holy Land was under control of the Ottoman Empire (primarily, Turkey). The Ottomans neglected present-day Israel, and it became a sad, ugly land (much like my backyard, I fear). American author Mark Twain toured Israel (then, Palestine) in 1867, and wrote “The Innocents Abroad.” Twain was most uncomplimentary about the Ottoman Empire’s Palestine, which later would become the nation of Israel, describing it as a sparsely populated, hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land.

SIDELIGHT: Rabbi Jonathan Cahn (Messianic Rabbi of the Jerusalem Center/ Beth Israel, Wayne, New Jersey) has written a best seller, “The Oracle: The Jubilean Mysteries Unveiled,” about a Holy Land visitor (Mark Twain) whose nineteenth-century visit to Palestine fulfilled God’s prophecies about Israel. Cahn has blended Bible prophecy and historical events into his novel. END sidelight.

Other authors confirmed the horrible condition of Palestine (Israel) at that time. Two examples are:

** Dio Cassius, born 155 AD, died 235 AD (recall the Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70), was a Roman statesman and historian of Greek origin. He published 80 volumes of history on Ancient Rome. He described the ruin of the land beginning with the destruction of Judah: “Of their forts the fifty strongest were razed to the ground. Nine hundred and eighty-five of their best-known villages were destroyed…. Thus the whole of Judea became desert,….”

** Pierre Loti, a French author, wrote in 1895 of his visit to the land: “I traveled through sad Galilee in the spring, and I found it silent. . . .” In the vicinity of the Biblical Mount Gilboa, “As elsewhere, as everywhere in Palestine, city and palaces have returned to the dust; this melancholy of abandonment, weighs on all the Holy Land.”

Since 1948, Israel has become a model for the rest of the world. The land has been restored. Adonai grieved that His land would be stolen from Him, has required restoration by Him as a testament to His holy name. Read Adonai’s prophecy in Ezekiel, chapter 36.

The fig tree (Israel) has sent forth its tender branches (return of Jews to their homeland). This momentous event occurred in May, 1948. This was the first step to the end of the Age of Grace. This concept was confirmed in the Parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 24:34): [Yeshua said] “Amen, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen.” How long is a “generation?” In different Scriptures, a generation may be counted as forty, seventy, one-hundred, or other periods of years. Whatever Yeshua counted as a “generation” at that time, is it not reasonable to believe that some now living will still be alive and witness Yeshua’s return in the clouds?

NEXT SUNDAY: In next Sunday’s RR, I will discuss future persecution and martyrdom during the Tribulation. Only God can know the future. Only He can know if you or a member of your family will some day march in Stephen’s Army– marching to honor and glory, as one who gives up life in love for Yeshua (John 15:13): [Yeshua said] “No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” 

I intended to complete this RR in three parts, but I am struggling to complete it by next Sunday’s fourth part. I will finish next week, even though I should take even  longer. I will discuss a few things that may need to be completed before Yeshua’s return, bolstering my belief that we are not yet in the Tribulation. For example:

** What wars are prophesied?

** Will one of these wars– the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39) – be the way an evil, charismatic leader (the Antichrist, the anti-messiah TLV) rises to world recognition? Will this war be the way he affirms a peace accord that divides the Temple Mount (permitting Muslims to worship in existing buildings and providing land for the Jews to build the Third Temple in time for the Antichrist to defile the Temple in mid-Tribulation and in time to receive King Yeshua for the commencement of His Millennial Reign)?

** What will some of the Tribulation’s persecutions entail?

** What technology, presently developed and commercially available, can be used to permit tracking of citizens during this horrendous time?

** What does Yeshua’s Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) have to do with Tribulation persecution and martyrdom?

** If you do march in Stephen’s Army (that is, you die a martyr’s death), will you be rewarded for your sacrifice?

Our future lies in the holy words of the Bible. God promised that all major events will be, first, revealed to His prophets (Amos 3:7): For the Lord ADONAI, will do nothing, unless He has revealed His counsel to His servants the prophets. God’s prophets knew our future many centuries ago. They wrote our future in our magnificent Holy Bible. The prophets’ future age is our present age! It is time you know your future by reading the prophets’ writings. All major events are foretold. Shalom and Maranatha.