Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, June 14, 2020
Shavuah Tov,

Will You Ever March in “Stephen’s Army?”
TRIBULATION Martyrdom (Part 5)

By Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I conclude a series about men, women, and children who have been persecuted or murdered (martyred) for their faith in Yeshua. I  picture them as marching in a long army throughout history– marching in the footsteps of the first recorded martyr, Stephen (Acts 7).  Since Stephen’s death, a year after Yeshua’s crucifixion, tens of millions of Believers have been martyred.

The Bible warns us that the greatest persecution and martyrdom will occur during the Tribulation. Numerous Scripture passages foretell the Tribulation, including prophecies from Yeshua. The best-known source may be the Book of Revelation, with chapters six through eighteen covering the Tribulation. In his old age, the Apostle John was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos. He heard a voice in his spirit, telling him to write in a scroll the things he saw (Revelation 1:12). He saw the past, present, and future ordained for God’s children. When we read and heed the words written in this powerful book, we are blessed (Revelation 1:3).

Approximately 28 percent of Bible verses concern prophecy. Who is a prophet of God? Some Believers constantly “hear from the Lord.” I once worshiped with a man (not at Shomair) who always had a “word from the Lord.”  He began every conversation with: “God told me to tell you….” I politely listened, although I wondered why God would not tell me directly rather than going through “the Prophet” (the name this man insisted upon being called).  After “God” completely missed several prophecies this man conveyed, I decided this well-meaning, likable man was not a prophet at all.

Today there are prophetic voices and people who speak prophetically, but nothing on the order of a true Old Testament prophet exists in the world today.  A true prophet, if he/ she transmits a prophecy from God in His name, can never make a mistake. A mistake in prophecy would be an error or lie from God’s mouth. Who among us can be held to that standard?

Older Shomarians may remember Jean Dixon (b. 1904, d. 1997). Jean was a “psychic” / astrologer who gained notoriety in the twentieth century. Every December, a tabloid (“National Enquirer,” I believe) would publish Jean’s twenty predictions for the upcoming year. Of the twenty predictions, one or two seemingly came true, and gullible readers would marvel at Jean’s psychic powers. Jean’s tabloid exploits have caused mathematicians to describe “the Jean Dixon effect.” This effect is the alleged ability of psychics or fortune tellers, exploited by national media, to promote seemingly accurate (true) predictions, while ignoring the larger number of inaccurate (false) predictions. I admire Jean, though, because she was a trooper to the very end. Her last (dying) words are said to have been: “I knew this would happen.” When I die, I hope to remember to say this.

We have “prophets” like Jean Dixon, to which I would add Nostradamus, who are sometimes right, but are usually wrong or ambiguous in their predictions. I can “prophesy” a massive earthquake for southern California. When “the big one”  comes twenty-five years from now, am I a prophet or do I just listen to news reports? But, God’s prophets are always true (2 Peter 1:19-21): Furthermore, we have the reliable prophetic word. You do well by paying attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all understand this: no prophecy of Scripture comes about from a person’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever brought forth by human will; rather, people spoke from God as they were moved by the Ruach ha-Kodesh.

THE TRIBULATION AS RECORDED BY THE OLD APOSTLE: The aged Apostle John was imprisoned on the small penal island of Patmos, off the coast of present-day Turkey. Yeshua and angels spoke to the old man, and he saw visions of the future. John’s scroll, which he was commanded to write, combined with the visions given to Daniel and other prophets, provide us with an outline of the Tribulation. The Tribulation will be the most horrendous time of all times for Believers (Matthew 24:21). It will be equally horrendous for Jews, being called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).

I present the message given to John in brief outline form. You should read– no, you should study in careful detail and loving thanksgiving– what God has chosen to reveal to us! There is a reason God chose to devote so much time in preparing His children for the future (Isaiah 55:8a, 11b): [Adonai said] “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. |…| [My word] will not return to Me in vain, but will accomplish what I intend, and will succeed in what I sent it for.” Thank you, Adonai, for Your love for us!

The Book of Revelation was written for YOU, as you live in the YEAR OF 2020! I truly believe that you and I can both study the prophets, but you and I may receive different messages from the same writings. God’s Holy Word can be used by the Ruach ha-Kodesh to speak different messages to different Believers, according to different needs and circumstances (Ephesians 3:20-21): Now to Him who is able to do far beyond all that we ask or imagine, by means of His power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the community of believers and in Messiah Yeshua throughout all generations forever and ever!

SOME FUTURE PERSECUTIONS OF BELIEVERS: The Revelation mentions  various persecutions, with martyrdom, for Believers, some of which include:

JUDGMENTS OF GOD: Adonai will visit twenty-one judgments upon men and women of the world during the Tribulation. Some of these judgments include:

SEVEN SEAL JUDGMENTS (Revelation 6:1-17, 8:1). In his vision of Heaven, John saw a scroll held closed by seven seals (Revelation, chapter 5). It was the custom at this time to ensure privacy of a scroll’s content by affixing wax seal(s). As long as the seal(s) remained unbroken, it was inferred that no one had read the scroll. But, who will be found in Heaven worthy to break the seals and read Adonai’s message? Only the Passover Lamb– Yeshua– will be found worthy. As Yeshua will break a seal, a judgment from God will be released upon the earth. The Seal Judgments, yet to come, will be:

** First Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:2) – the completely evil Antichrist will be revealed and will assume power and authority.

** Second Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:3-4) – global, nuclear war will engulf the world.

** Third Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:5-6) – grinding famine, especially affecting the poor, will come.

** Fourth Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:7-8) – massive number of deaths follow global wars, famines, and plagues (arising from animal vectors).

** Fifth Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:9-11) – martyrs will accumulate under Heaven’s altar, pleading that their cruel deaths be avenged: When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those slaughtered for the sake of the word of God and for the witness they had. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “O Sovereign Master, holy and true, how long before You judge those who dwell on the earth and avenge our blood?” Then a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants was complete– their brothers and sisters who were to be killed as they had been.

** Sixth Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:12-17) – natural catastrophes will befall the earth’s inhabitants, adding to the woes they already endure from the Unholy Trinity.

■- SEVEN TRUMPET JUDGMENTS (Revelation 8:2 – 11:19): Then, John saw seven angels, as they will stand before Adonai. Each angel will hold a trumpet. In turn, each angel will sound his trumpet, and another judgment from God will be unleashed. Immediately before these horrible judgments, John witnessed an angel, holding a golden censer and standing before God’s throne (Revelation 8:2-5). [DEFINITION: Among first century Jews, a censer was a chafing-dish, covered by a dome and suspended by a chain, used to offer perfume, or incense, in sacrifices.] From this angel’s censer, prayers of the saints, mixed with incense, will rise up before Adonai. What will these prayers be? Will they be the prayers from martyred saints, asking that their deaths be avenged (Revelation 6:9-11) ? Or, will they be prayers begging for the soon return of Yeshua to end the Tribulation, as John concluded his book of the Revelation (Revelation 22:20b): … Amen! Come, Lord Yeshua! The Trumpet Judgments, yet to come, will be:

** First through Fourth Trumpet Judgments (Revelation 8:7-13, 9:1-12) – these judgments represent natural calamities (fiery objects, including asteroid strikes,   from the sky; fouling of the water supplies and oceans; supernatural darkness; and locust plagues). Although not caused by mankind, they greatly add to the misery endured by the world’s population.

In the Fifth Trumpet Judgment, John saw (Revelation 9:1b): a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key to the bottomless pit was given to him. [bottomless pit also = the abyss] This “star” will be one of the fallen angels (demons) who followed Satan, when he left Adonai’s presence. His name is Abaddon, in Hebrew, or Apollyon, in Greek (Revelation 9:11). In this judgment (Revelation 9:1-12), John seems to divide the world’s population into two groups– the 144,000 sealed Jewish evangelists and the unredeemed. Where are the redeemed? Those who argue for a pre-Tribulation resurrection/ rapture use this verse, among others, to claim the redeemed of the Lord are already in Paradise with their Savior.

** Sixth Trumpet Judgment (Revelation 9:13-21) – this judgment is important in the evolution of the end times. In an earlier RR, I tried to explain the forces coming together in preparation to fight the last great war, the Battle of Armageddon. Recall that the Antichrist, with his forces from western Europe and parts of the Middle East, will camp in Israel. There, he gets word of a 200-million man army (Revelation 9:16) advancing to his positions. Preparations are now being made to permit such massive troop movement. Adonai has authority over the Euphrates River, which will be shut off at the appropriate time (Revelation 9:14). Great wars will rage, and a third of the world’s population will be killed (Revelation 9:18). Mankind will not repent, when these wars are being fought (Revelation 9:20-21).

SIDELIGHT: Interestingly, John learns that one of the sins for which mankind will not repent during the Tribulation is strangely translated “sorceries” (Revelation 9:21, 18:23). The Greek word, here, is pharmakeia. You recognize the pharmak- root, from which we get pharmacy, pharmacist, pharmaceutical, etc. [pharmak- root = drug] People under the influence of a mind-altering drug (and alcohol is such a drug) act as though under a sorcerer’s (magician’s) spell. At least eight times in the B’rit Chadashah, we are told to be sober or sober-minded (see https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=sober&t=NKJV#s=s_primary_0_1 ). END sidelight.

** Interlude between Sixth and Seventh Trumpet Judgments (Revelation 10:1 – 11:14) – several events occur during this delay, but I will omit them (space, not directly related to persecutions). A great earthquake will strike Jerusalem. In the Seventh Trumpet Judgment, Heaven was opened and John saw God’s Temple and the Ark of the Covenant (Revelation 11:19).

■- THE BEASTS: The apostle takes a detour in writing his scroll to tell us about two “beasts” he saw (Revelation, chapter 13):

** The Beast Out of the Sea (Revelation 13:1-10): This evil man is the same satanic servant introduced to us as the rider on the white horse (Revelation 6:2). We commonly call him the Antichrist (anti-messiah). Note that Scriptures distinguish the Antichrist (a person) from the antichrist spirit (infecting many persons).

The Antichrist, part of the Unholy Trinity, will work with the other two members to replace Yeshua. His prototype lived before Yeshua’s birth as the evil Hellenistic (Hellenistic = of Greek origin) king over the Jews, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Maccabbean Revolt ended Antiochus’ evil, blasphemous reign over the Jews. I do not have space in this RR to discuss the significance of this man’s appearance (crowns, horns), which correspond to Daniel’s vision, but know that he will forge strong alliances with many nations and will build up a mighty military force. He will cause inhabitants in his empire to worship him as a god. A number of men have been suggested to be the Antichrist, which often border on the ridiculous (Ronald Reagan, Prince Charles, etc.). I personally believe: (1) the Antichrist is alive at this moment, living (in Europe? in Israel?) without drawing attention to himself; (2) he has “sold his soul” to Satan; (3) he awaits word from his master, Satan, that it is time to rise up; and (4) he will appear on the world stage to “save the world.” Could a dramatic unveiling of a peace plan be the roadmap to peace between Israel and her neighbors following the Battle of Gog and Magog? In trying to bridge gaps in the Bible’s incomplete prophetic narrative, I may be completely wrong, but this scenario seems possibly logical, though. Characteristics of the Antichrist have been summarized in: http://tribulationrisingcom.fatcow.com/the-characteristics-of-the-antichrist/ .

** The Beast Out of the Earth (Revelation 13:11-18): The Unholy Trinity will recognize a desire among people to worship something higher than themselves, and they will create a new religion. Interestingly, some believe there is a “God gene” (vesicular monoamine transporter 2 [VMAT2]), which is responsible for a  genetic need to worship a deity or express spirituality. Quote this gently. This view will likely be refuted in the future. The False Prophet will likely blend beliefs from many faiths into a religion of his liking. His religion will be nonsense, but it will be popular. The religion will work toward making gods out of Satan and the Antichrist. Through modern technology (holography, animatronics), he will make an image of the Antichrist which will defile God’s newly-built Third Temple (Revelation 13:14-15). He will order people to worship this image as god, executing any person who refuses to worship the image (Revelation 13:15). He forces every person to receive a “mark” in his/ her right hand or forehead. Only by having this “mark” can  a person participate in society (purchase, sell, own property, hold a job, etc.). Many scholars believe this “mark” may be an implantable microchip. This device, now about the size of a grain of rice, can be inserted under the skin through a trocar (a large-bore needle). Such a device can transmit data to an overhead satellite and, then, to earth-based computers. With existing technology, the False Prophet would be able to track any citizen within a one-meter (one-yard) radius on any spot of the earth. Characteristics of the False Prophet have been summarized in: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/07/20/revelation-1311-18-seven-characteristics-false-prophet/ .

SIDELIGHT 1: You may think: “I will never receive the Mark of the Beast.” Good. To do so will cause you to lose you soul. If you live during the reign of the Unholy Trinity, attempts will be made to force you to accept the Mark. The pressure will be extreme and heart-breaking, especially for parents. Children’s bellies will be empty, and they will cry out for food. Dad, all you need to do is transfer your bank credit information to an electronic gizmo inserted almost painlessly beneath your  skin. Then, you can act in society like all your neighbors. You can purchase food for your little baby. What can be wrong with that? God does not want your baby to suffer, does He?

We are being groomed for the Antichrist’s future society. I give two examples: (1) Have you been watching how the world has been managed like a herd of cattle during the COVID-19 pandemic? We have lost businesses, jobs, been forced into quarantine, and so forth, and most of us have done these things willingly without force of the Antichrist’s army. (2) Have you been mystified by the use of in-home surveillance gadgets (like, Alexa)? This “virtual assistant” constantly snoops on conversations in many homes (not my home!). This and many other instances have made privacy a thing of the past. Benjamin Franklin would not have Alexa or similar devices in his home, as he said: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.“

SIDELIGHT 2– IMPORTANT WARNING! You are explicitly warned: DO NOT RECEIVE THE MARK OF THE BEAST, as promoted by the False Prophet in Revelation, chapter 13. Read this warning in Revelation 14:9-11: And another angel,… followed them, saying in a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he shall also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. Those who worship the beast and its image and those who receive the mark of his name have no rest day or night.” 

It seems the penalty for accepting the Mark is eternity in Hell. Most of us have credit/ debit cards and bank checks. If we use these instruments to “buy and sell,” why is this Mark different? The Bible is silent on this question, but I suppose the recipient of the Mark must, first, accept Satan and/or the Antichrist as gods, before being “marked.” There must be something very different about this Mark. A Believer, well-grounded in Scriptures, should readily understand why God would be offended by this “marking” procedure. He/ she, then, can choose whether to accept the Mark (and forfeit his/ her soul) or refuse the Mark (and become a martyr by being completely cut off from society). END sidelight.

SEVEN BOWL JUDGMENTS (Revelation 15:1 – 16:21): Then, John saw seven angels, each of whom held a bowl filled with Adonai’s wrath. Each angel will throw his bowl on the earth, unleashing another judgment from Adonai.

** First Bowl Judgment (Revelation 16:2) – this judgment will be the appearance of painful sores on every person who had received the Mark of the Beast.

** Second Bowl Judgment (Revelation 16:3) – this judgment will be turning of sea water into something like putrid blood, with death of fish, worsening famine.

** Third Bowl Judgment (Revelation 16:4-7) – this judgment will be turning of fresh  water sources into “blood,” with death of fish– worsening thirst and famine.

** Fourth Bowl Judgment (Revelation 16:8-9) – this judgment will be scorching of people from the sun. Still, people will refuse to repent and glorify Adonai.

** Fifth Bowl Judgment (Revelation 16:10-11) – this judgment will be supernatural darkness of the world. Although in great distress, people will refuse to repent of their sins.

** Sixth Bowl Judgment (Revelation 16:12-16) – this judgment will be the release of evil spirits from the mouth of the dragon [dragon = Satan]. The Euphrates River has been a historical barrier to troop movement. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Southeastern Anatolia Project was completed across the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The largest dam was the Atatürk Dam. Turkey built this system to provide irrigation water and hydroelectricity to arid southeastern Turkey, the Turkish government believed. In truth, Adonai had them build this system to permit movement of troops toward Armageddon. Water flow in the Euphrates River can now be stopped at will. Troops can move in massive numbers along the Trans-Himalyan Highway, recently under construction, and across the Euphrates, to threaten the Antichrist in Israel. God is always ahead of Satan.

** Seventh Bowl Judgment (Revelation 16:17-21) – this judgment will finalize Adonai’s end-time plans. Great tectonic displays will be made, including the greatest ever earthquake in Jerusalem (Revelation 16:18). Israel is riddled with numerous fault lines. Israel sits on the Sinai microplate, which is part of the gigantic Nubian plate. Seismologists agree that Israel is centuries overdue for “the big one.” Gigantic hailstones, weighing approximately a Roman talent, or approximately one-hundred pounds, will pelt the people. (This hail will need to be of Divine origin. The current record for a hailstone is approximately two pounds [Gopalganj, Bangladesh,  April 14, 1986]). People will not repent after all of these trials, but will curse Adonai because of their misery.

SO? If you are martyred, is that merely your tough luck, or is there more? The Bema Judgment (Judgment Seat of Mashiach) is a time in which Yeshua sets worldly wrongs right in Paradise. If you lose your life for Yeshua, you will be awarded the Crown of Life for Martyred Believers (Revelation 2:10): [Yeshua said] “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, so that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

FINALLY: The time of the Tribulation (Jacob’s Trouble) is coming fast. If you are unfortunate enough to live during this time, you, a Believer, will be hated by your government and by most of your fellow citizens. Yeshua warned (John 16:2b-4): “… Yes, an hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they have never known the Father or Me. But I have spoken these things to you so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. I did not tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.” If you must someday march in Stephen’s Army, march with courage and hopeful anticipation. In “A Tale of Two Cities,” Charles Dickens ended his novel with these words: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Shalom and Maranatha.