By Pastor Mitch Horton | November 2007 | Posted in • Featured Content | (0) Comments
God’s Overall Plan
We’re living in a time when the scriptures concerning the Second Coming of Christ are being fulfilled at a fascinating pace. It’s both an exciting and a dangerous time. With the Word of God as our guide, we can navigate successfully through this period, and be ready when Jesus decides it’s time to bring us home!
In the Old Testament, the sons of Issachar had understanding of the times, so that they would know what Israel ought to do.1 And today, the church has been given the wisdom of God through the Word to know how we should respond to world conditions and be prepared for the events ahead.
To understand what the Bible declares about end time events, it is necessary to understand God’s overall plan for the ages. Understand that God originally planned that we live in fellowship with Him for eternity in human bodies on earth! Death, sin, war, violence, and every other negative we experience in life were not part of His original plan.
Ephesians 1:9-10 in J. B. Phillips translations reads: For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan and it is this, He purposed long ago in His sovereign will that all human history should be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in heaven and earth should find its perfection and fulfillment in Him.
God’s plan is to restore back to us all that was lost when Adam sinned: restoring our fellowship with God, restoring immortality to the body, freeing the earth from the curse, and God’s enemy Satan being judged and removed from his place of mock authority. God devised a plan before creation that if man sinned, he would be restored back to his original place with Him.2
There is a scarlet thread of redemption that runs throughout scripture, and that is worked out through God’s people and through covenants He has made with them. It culminates with the return of Jesus Christ to defeat His enemies and to lovingly rule eternally over His creation.3
The Bible Divides the Human Race into Three Groups
To understand what is happening right now worldwide, we must realize that God divides mankind into three people groups: Jews, Gentiles, and the church.4 Each of these groups is dealt with in a different way by Him.
The Jews are God’s natural covenant people on the earth, and from them our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, was born!5 This covenant with them is still in force, and is yet to be completely fulfilled!6
The Gentiles (or unbelievers) have no claim of salvation. They have no relationship with God.7 According to the scriptures, though God loves them, there is a barrier of sin that prevents God from having fellowship with them. Jesus came to remove the sin barrier!8
The church is God’s spiritual family that has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. The church has been grafted into God’s family tree because of the unbelief of the Jews.9 Some incorrectly believe today in Replacement Theology, that is, that the church has taken the place of Israel in God’s eternal plan.10 That simply can’t be true, since many of God’s promises to Israel have yet to be fulfilled. In fact, the church exists today because of the failure of the Jews to believe!11
Four Eternal Covenants
To understand what’s happening in the world today, and to understand what will happen in the future, there are four major covenants that we must understand: The Abrahamic, the Palestinian, the Davidic, and the New Covenant. God made each of these covenants for a specific purpose, and each covenant is an eternal covenant, and will be completely fulfilled because God never lies!12
In the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised to bless Abraham and his offspring for eternity, and through them to bless the entire world! In the covenant God made with Abraham, God made eternal promises to Abraham concerning his ancestors and concerning certain lands that he has promised them for eternity.13
In the Palestinian Covenant, God promised to give the Israelites the land of Canaan as an eternal inheritance.14 The present land that Israel occupies is only a portion of what God has promised Israel. Anyone who tries to take away from Israel land that God has promised them will find themselves fighting against God. We need to be very careful as to what our policies towards Israel are as a nation. If not, we may find ourselves inheriting a curse instead of a blessing!15
In the Davidic Covenant, God promised David that his kingdom will be eternal. God promises him that one of His descendants (Jesus) will sit on the throne to rule over Israel for eternity.16
In the New Covenant, personal fellowship between God and the human race is restored.17 Through the blood of Jesus, we are cleansed from the state of sin, and made able to fellowship with a Holy God. Through the New Covenant, all of God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring become promises to every person who is born again!18
All of these covenants will be fulfilled! God always keeps His promises. There is a timeline for their fulfillment that we should remain aware of, and this timeline is found in Daniel 9:24-27.19
Daniel’s Prophetic Timeline
God gave Daniel a timeline that we use today to understand the season of the Rapture and of the Second Coming of Christ.
In Daniel 9, Daniel was praying and confessing the sins of his people. They had been removed from their land and taken captive to Babylon for seventy years. The prophet Jeremiah had predicted that Israel would be captive to Babylon for 70 years,20 one year for each year that Israel had violated the land rest Sabbath.21 As Daniel was praying, God gave him a word of wisdom concerning 490 years of Israel’s existence in the future, which would cover from the time that Israel rebuilt Jerusalem until the Messiah rules the earth!
This 490-year period is divided into three main parts. The first part is found in the beginning of Daniel 9:25,22 and covers a 49-year period, which includes the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem after Israel’s captivity to Babylon, and then the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem itself.23
The second timeline in this prophecy is found in the latter part of Daniel 9:25, and covers a period of 434 years, from the completion of the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity until the crucifixion of Jesus.24
So from what we’ve just mentioned, 483 years of the 490 years of Israel’s future as revealed to Daniel has already been fulfilled. That leaves only seven years of Daniel’s prophecy to be fulfilled, and it hasn’t happened yet!
The third part of Daniel’s end-time timeline is found in Daniel 9:27: Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even the consummation, which is poured out on the desolate. Let me explain what this verse is saying to us.
This one week mentioned in verse 27 is what we call the Tribulation. It’s the final week or seven years of the 490 years of Jewish history as revealed to Daniel hundreds of years ago. The “he” in verse 27 is speaking of the anti-Christ. He will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel and her neighboring Arab countries. This “anti-Christ” will break his peace treaty agreement 3½ years into the seven-year agreement. Again, this is where we understand that there is a period of seven years yet to be fulfilled in God’s dealings with the Israelites. And as we will see, it seems as though it’s almost time for its fulfillment!
Israel returning to their God-given land is a major sign of the Second Coming of Christ.
In Daniel 9:26, the Jews are predicted to be driven from their land. This happened in 70 A.D. when the Romans, led by the emperor Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and drove the Jews away. They were almost completely removed and dispersed from their land by 135 A.D., and the land was renamed Palestinia by the Romans, to eradicate any thought of the Jews’ previous occupation of the land. Please notice that there has never been a nation of Palestinians! The current proposal by our president of two nations side-by-side, one called Palestine, and the other called Israel, will never work. This proposal takes land that God promised Israel and gives it to Israel’s sworn enemies! Any nation siding against Israel and working to divide its land is promised to inherit a curse!25
Israel was removed from their promised land again in 70 A.D. because of their rebellion to God’s law and their refusal to obey His word.26 The Jews were in exile out of their promised land for almost 2000 years. During that time, the land became a barren desert.
The exciting thing for us to realize is that God has promised to bring Israel back into the land He promised Abraham just before the return of the Messiah!27 This return of the Jews to their land began in the late 1800’s and culminated in 1948, with Israel becoming a legitimate nation again! This is one the most notable signs to us that the Second Coming of Christ is near!
The Church Age is a Mystery
I want to briefly mention that the church is never mentioned in the Old Testament. The church is a mystery that has been hidden and was revealed by God after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.28 There is an undefined time period, a “gap” between Daniel 9:26 and Daniel 9:27. And that gap is the church age.29 Verse 26 mentions Israel being driven from their Promised Land, and verse 27 mentions the anti-Christ making a seven-year peace treaty with Israel. In between these two events is us, the church!
The church has been the center of God’s attention for the last 2000 years. And we’re living at the close of this church age, an age of the grace of God being in prominent manifestation.
The church age will come to a close with the Rapture of the church.30 And God’s dealings with the Jews will become the focus of God’s attention at that time. Remember that there are seven years of Jewish time yet to be fulfilled according to Daniel.31
These seven years of unfulfilled Jewish time are what we call the Tribulation.32 This will be a period of unprecedented difficulty worldwide. It’s explained in detail in Revelation, chapters 6-19. And it’s mention by Jesus in the gospels in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
During the Tribulation, God will once again begin to deal with the Jews for their rebellion to His word and for their rejection of Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. When the Tribulation begins, the church age as we know it will come to a close with the Rapture of the church to heaven. The Tribulation will be a period of the wrath of God being displayed against the rebellion and sin of mankind and against their mistreatment of Israel. Because the Tribulation time is a period of divine judgment, the church will not be involved!33 God has not appointed us as believers to experience His wrath. Jesus has endured the wrath of God for us already. Because of His sacrifice, we receive God’s mercy! When the church is raptured or taken suddenly to heaven, the Tribulation begins. According to Daniel 9:27, the anti-Christ will enact a seven-year peace treaty between Israel and their bickering neighbors. And when this occurs, we the church will be removed!34
The earth will spiritually revert back to God dealing with the Jewish race after the Rapture of the church. Many Jews will become born again during this time, and will become the evangelists of the Tribulation period.35
Jesus gave us pertinent signs to look for so that people living during this time could be aware of the coming judgment. He mentioned false religions, wars, ethnic strife and tension, famine, disease, earthquakes, and disruptive weather patterns as signs of the beginning of this time of trouble.36
Where we are right now according to the scriptures
It’s clear that right now we are at the close of the church age. The Rapture could occur at any moment! There are currently no scriptures to be fulfilled for this wonderful event to occur!
Israel has reoccupied their land. They obtained control of Jerusalem again for the first time in thousands of years in 1967. The Arab nations around them cause constant friction and are seeking their ruin. Anti-Semitism37 is at an all-time high. And the nations that are ruled by radical Islam are praying to their god for the total destruction of Israel and of any nation that aids her. The U.S. has become a target because we’re Israel’s strongest ally.
Iran has been seeking nuclear weaponry for years now, and is close to realizing its goal. The president of Iran is vowing the destruction of Israel and its allies, and the emergence of an Islamic-dominated world.
Russia, freed from the rule of Communism in the late 1980’s, is now seeking to re-establish itself as a world power. Ezekiel 38 and 39 speak of an attack on Israel led by Russia, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and perhaps other Islamic-dominated countries.38 It’s interesting that Russia and Iran now have military agreements, and many of the countries mentioned above are supported militarily by Russia and Iran.
The timing of this attack in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is not certain. It could come either before or after the Rapture of the church. But it is seems probable that the current instability will one day culminate in war.
A troubling thought is that the United States is not mentioned as a world power during the time of the Tribulation and the rise of the anti-Christ. The book of Daniel predicts the rise of European power during the time of the Tribulation, and seems to indicate that the anti-Christ will come from one of these European countries.
The present rise of Europe politically and now economically is a foreboding cloud for the U.S. The stretching of our military to the breaking point with current conflicts, the devaluing of our currency, the enormous debt of the U.S. government, and the destabilizing of family and cultural values in our country may speak of the U.S. falling from its status as a world power.
The political correctness that runs rampant on our college campuses, the inclusive ideology that rules public dialogue in the U.S. right now, and the disdain for Christianity in public life all point to a possible coming judgment on our nation.
Jesus told us that during this time, we should be ever watchful and prayerful. This is not a time to be lulled to sleep by the flesh. It’s a time to rouse ourselves from spiritual slumber and be ready to be used by God for a mighty moving of the His Spirit worldwide!
Paul said in Romans 13:11-14: And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Jesus said: But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed - weighed down - with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to (the business of) this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose; for it will come upon all who live upon the face of the entire earth. Keep awake then and watch at all times (that is, be discreet, attentive, and ready), praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things (taken together) that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.39
And Isaiah’s prophecy is for what I believe is our time period: Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.40
Let’s be ready daily for the Father to use us to bring His truth and light to our generation. It looks as though “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King!” 41
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