The Stage is Not Yet Set: Critical Distinctions

What do you think of this article Reggie?

Good thoughts, good points, raising a very timely question. However, and it’s a big however, we must never forget the larger surrounding context of Zech 12:2-3. Obviously, the final siege of Jerusalem ends when the repentant survivors of Israel “look upon Him whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10), as a fountain for cleansing is opened (Zech 13:1). So when do “all” nations gather against Jerusalem? (Zech 12:3; 14:2), and what are the circumstances that will be prevailing at the time?

It may come as a surprise, but not all nations that come to fight at Jerusalem are being driven by an antisemitic hatred. Not all the nations that are gathered to Armageddon are coming against Israel. This is not well known, but contrary to popular prophecy scenarios, the final siege of Jerusalem is not directed against the Jews but against the Antichrist (Dan 11:40-45). The modern state of Israel will have already been overwhelmed and conquered 3 1/2 years earlier. This is clear from Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:1, 7, 11 with Mt 24:15-16, 21; Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14. A careful comparison between Eze 39:8, Dan 11:40-45, and Rev 16:12-17 will show that “at the time of the end”, the nations are directing their attack against the Antichrist, little expecting that they will be meeting the returning Lamb of God. Armageddon is the time at the end of the tribulation that all nations, deceived by demons (Rev 16:13), are rushing headlong into the trap that God has prepared for all who have ignored His everywhere declared covenant Word.

At this time (i.e., the end of the tribulation), the nations are not coming to destroy the Jews. They are coming to oppose the Antichrist who will have set up his royal pavilion on God’s holy mountain (Dan 11:45). It is then that the gathered armies of the nations will come flooding into the valleys of Esdraelon, Jehoshaphat (Decision), and Jezreel (Hos 1:5; 2:22-23; Joel 3:2, 12-17), only to “fall upon the mountains of Israel” (Eze 394, 17). God will use, not only the rabid antisemitism of the Antichrist and his ten, but the revolt of other great nations that have apparently found his yoke unbearable. In this way, God will fulfill His long declared intention to bring all the nations into a final trap of judgment for their defiance or indifference to the prophetic Word of God (see Isa 5:26; 13:4-6; 14:24-26; 17:12-13; 29:7-8; 34:2; Eze 38:4-6; 39:8; Dan 11:40-45; Joel 3:2; Mic 4:11; Zeph 3:8; Zech 12:3, 9; 14:2-3, 16; Rev 16:12-17).

Not all nations will unite with the Antichrist against Israel. Some will express astonishment and helpless disapproval (Eze 38:12-13), while others such as Egypt will be ravaged at the same time that Israel is ravaged by the same fierce king (Isa 28:2; 19:4; Dan 8:23-25). Notice that whereas Ezekiel is notably prolific in his prophecies concerning Egypt, curiously, Egypt is not mentioned in the list of nations that come against the Land under the leadership of Gog (i.e., the Antichrist; cf. Eze 38:17). This strange silence speaks volumes. Evidently, Egypt is among the moderate Arab nations that are at peace with the peace, intensifying the hatred of the Antichrist that will also break out with fury against Egypt at nearly the same time he makes his move against Israel (Dan 11:42).

If we are correct to understand that the covenant that the Antichrist ‘confirms’ (strengthens / gives formal approval) in Dan 9:27 is indeed the “holy covenant” of Dan 11:28, 30 that is violated in the middle of the week (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), then apparently the Antichrist was only one among “many” other nations who lent his support to the holy covenant that manifestly recognized Jewish right of return to the temple mount, (perhaps in some agreement to share the temple mount). This too suggests a divided world, since some nations will be in support of the ill-fated peace, as others who have hated the covenant from the start will join the Antichrist’s secretive plot to overthrow it (Dan 11:23-31).

We know from a number of scriptures that before the fateful invasion of the Antichrist, there has been some kind of peace arrangement that has worked to greatly relax Israel’s guard (Isa 28:15, 18; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 11:23-24). This helps to explain why the invasion will take Israel so suddenly by complete surprise (Isa 28:17-18; 1Thes 5:3). That Jerusalem is not under siege before this time is made clear by Jesus’ reference to Daniel’s mention of the abomination of desolation (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The demand for urgent flight is in plainest connection with this particular signal event (Mt 24:15-16). This tells us that Israel does not come under final siege until the middle of the week. Before this, the Jews suppose themselves safe and secure in their alliance with the Antichrist, with other nations that are doubtless pledged to protect the peace (Isa 28:15; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 11:23-24).

All of this goes to show how tremendously secure this peace will seem. It would appear from Isa 28 & Eze 38, in light of the presumption depicted in 1Thes 5:3, that at least the orthodox will perhaps (?) suppose that that the messianic era has dawned, or is soon to dawn. Therefore, what seismic changes must be expected between the present status quo and the kinds of conditions described in scripture? Certainly recent events are moving us along an inexorable trajectory in that direction, but radical changes are required to get us there. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet!

Obviously, there must be renewed Jewish access to the controversial temple mount in order for there to be a temple that the man of lawlessness can enter, not only to exalt himself above all forms of deity (Dan 11:36-37; 2Thes 2:4), but also to place what appears to be an idol image of himself in the holy place (Dan 11:38-39; Mt 24:15; Rev 13:14). We know too that with a temple, and probably before the temple is finished, there must be the restoration of the ancient sacrifice (Dan 8:11; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The continual sacrifice is “stopped” / “taken way” 3 1/2 years before the end (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11). This is very plain. It is this twin event (namely, the placing of the abomination and removal of the daily sacrifice) that starts the unequaled tribulation (compare Dan 12:1, 7, 11; Mt 24:15-16, 21; Rev 11:2; 12:14; 13:5).

Due to the massive amount of error that is currently circulating, it is important to stress the point that it is Jesus Himself who sends His disciples (and therefore us), to “read and understand” Daniel’s prophecy concerning this decisive event that signals the start of the tribulation (“let the reader understand”). Jesus well knew that when this simple command would be obeyed (as Daniel “set his heart to understand”; Dan 10:12), not only would one discover what follows, but also what precedes this pivotal event that would work to align and put in order all of the most strategic events of the end. In view of what is being taught, it is very critical that we note very carefully that this unequalled tribulation that begins with standing up of Michael in heaven (Dan 12:1 with Rev 12:7-14), coupled with the removal of the continual sacrifice and invasion of the temple on earth (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:7, 11) ends in nothing short of the return of Jesus (Mt 24:15-31) and the resurrection of the righteous (compare especially Dan 12:1-2, 13 with Mt 24:21, 29-31).

To miss the vital interconnection between the abomination, the cessation of the sacrifice, the tribulation, and the resurrection is to run adrift. For example, with only one exception, every misleading interpretation that I’ve encountered invariably disjoins and separates the abomination of desolation from the cessation of the regular sacrifice. Note this connection carefully. It will help you when you encounter any number of highly influential viewpoints that separate the inseparable. No less than the abomination, it is the cessation of the daily sacrifice that starts the final half week of unequaled tribulation. Both aspects of this single event are at an equal distance from the resurrection (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11).

The sacrifice is stopped at the same time the abomination is placed in the temple. It should be obvious that these are two aspects of a single event that cannot be separated. For many, this will seem obvious, but it may surprise to know that the throughout the vast literature over the centuries, the abomination is seen as one thing (often the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), and the cessation of the sacrifice another (usually imagining that when Jesus died, the sacrifice became obsolete). But any careful comparison will demonstrate that these two aspects of a single event cannot be separated, and the tribulation that follows this event, though very brief, cannot end with anything short of the resurrection at Jesus’ return (Dan 12:1-2; Mt 24:21, 29-31).

All’s to say, these inextricably conjoined aspects of the single event that starts the unequaled tribulation cannot be exegetically separated without unconscionable violence to the text. But this is precisely what has been done, yet nothing could be more vital for the church’s awareness and preparation against the great deception so urgently stressed and forewarned by Jesus and Paul (Mt 24:4; 2Thes 2:3). The connection is crucial, not only to escape from the great deception but also the means by which those of understanding will be made ready agents of world witness, holding the critical key of interpretation for the final great, unparalleled harvest of souls that will come out of ‘the tribulation, the great one’ (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10; Mt 24:14; Rev 7:9, 12-13; 14:6).

As much as many of us are convinced that the time is very short, we are to hold the church steady by helping our brethren to avoid the false alarms of prophetic speculation. Not only because this has discredited the witness of many, but because of what God has invested in that time when those of understanding will know the time with utmost certainty. It is for this cause, we are to guard with utmost diligence the proper order of events. For many, the time will become very certain at the outset of the last week. For others, this certainty may not come until more nearly the middle of the week when the man of lawlessness is about to be revealed.

Personally, I believe God has been pleased to reveal even more than this. We have made no secret of our conviction that a compelling case can be made from many interrelated scriptures that the two days of Hos 6:2 represent the 2 thousand years since the cross and ascension, as the third day represents the millennium that follows Israel’s national resurrection. As compelling as we believe the case to be, and the greater glory of God in the marvel of such a fully foretold timeline, we too are held in check. Only by confirmation of these necessary preliminary events sometime within the next few years will our confidence be vindicated. Until then, we must remain tentative and restrained. What is NOT tentative, but most certain, is the necessity of a temple and sacrifice before the tribulation can begin.

What great use God will make of such unprecedented certainty seems implied by the great power and anointing that is seen to rest on the godly remnant of the last half of the week (Dan 11:31-35; 12:3; Rev 11:2) and the fruit that comes of it (Dan 11:33; 12:3; Zech 12:10; Ro 11:26-27; Rev 7:9, 13-14). This is why Satan will do all in his power to discredit, confuse, and obfuscate the certainty of the time that will spell his downfall (Rev 12:12), as these things will be seen and known by the saints with utmost certainty at that time. I love to quote G. H. Lang, “The History and Prophecies of Daniel”, pg 140.

“When this agreement shall have been confirmed, the wise will know that the final Seven of years has commenced, that the end days are present, that the consummation of the age has arrived. They will expect the violation of the covenant after three years and a half, and will not be overwhelmed with surprise, having been told beforehand by this prophecy. Then will it be seen in fullness that the knowledge of the prophetic Scripture is simply priceless.”

In the patient waiting (James 5:7-8), reggie

Filed under
The Dilemma of the Covenant, The Order of the Return
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