Why Do We Keep Watching?

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For a moment, I actually thought the rapture was occurring. I heard a trumpet blaring and for a brief moment I felt as though something was pulling me upward.

This happened when I was in college, over 40 year ago, during a time when I had been reading extensively about the rapture. Late one warm afternoon, I fell asleep at my desk in my dorm room. Suddenly, the sound of a loud trumpet fanfare awoke me from a deep sleep and I thought “this is it; the Lord is returning!” After a few seconds, I realized it was the sound of a trumpet warming up for a nearby band rehearsal.

I tell this humorous experience to stress that I have been watching for the Lord’s return for a long time, although not always that intently. After so many decades I do sometimes wonder, “Why do I keep watching? Why do any of us keep looking for Jesus to come and take us home?

It’s the Signs

Unlike when I was in college, today we see signs of biblical prophecies escalating all around us. The countries of Iran, Russian, and Turkey all have troops in Syria just as Ezekiel 38-39 predicts about an alliance of these same nations in the last days. Just in the past few weeks the world learned the following:

  • Iran is building a military base just eight miles north of Damascus that will soon have missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel
  • North Korea has shipped components for chemical weapons to Syria along with building materials for a facility to build these weapons
  • Russia said it would regard any nuclear attack on one of its allies as an attack on Russia (Could they be thinking that Israel might consider using such weapons against the Iranian base?)
  • Putin, the president of Russia, recently boasted of new nuclear capabilities on rockets that will travel several times the speed of sound rendering our defenses useless.
  • Russian has stationed super stealth jets in Syria, perhaps as an added deterrent to Israel attacking the Iranian base
  • A top military leader in Israel stated that a major war between Israel and Iran is likely in 2018.

What do all these things mean? When (not if) Israel attacks this Iranian base, the likelihood of it leading to major conflict appears almost certain.

Could this be the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39? We cannot know for certain. Even if it is a lessor conflict than the one the prophet predicted long ago, will it not almost certainly lead to the bigger war of Ezekiel 38-39 as Iran regathers its strength to invade Israel?

Add this to the mix the recent Iranian Parliament request for a timetable of one or two years for pulling its troops out of Syria. Is it possible that Iran, along with Russia and Turkey will strike before then? I believe if Iran’s Parliament enacts such a deadline, it’s likely this coalition will attack before that time.

And now Turkey is talking about a huge Arab coalition attacking Israel with a massive army. The drumbeats of the Gog-Magog war are getting louder.

What Do These Signs Have to Do with the Rapture?

At this point, you may be wondering what these signs have to do with the rapture. Why does the nearness of the Gog-Magog War point to the Lord’s return for His church?

Such a war would signify that the tribulation period is extremely close. Some commentators believe this war happens just before the Great Tribulation while some hold that it might happen right at its beginning. Either way, the nearness of this war points to the closeness of the seven-year time of God’s wrath upon the earth.

If the tribulation is rapidly approaching, and many signs point to it, then the rapture must be even closer since it is prophesied to happen just before the start of the Great Tribulation.

The growing turmoil in Syria and Iran’s constant threats against Israel are just two of numerous signs that we are living in the days of human history as we know it. If there was ever a time in history when the rapture could happen at any moment, this is it!!

The Early Church Watched As Well

Long, long before my experience in college at John Brown University, the earliest followers of Jesus also watched intently for His appearing to take them home. We see it all through the New Testament as turning to Christ meant waiting eagerly for Him to come (1 Thess. 1:9-10; Phil. 3:20-21; Titus 2:11-13).

The Didache, which means “teaching” in the Greek, is a brief document from the early years of the church that provides valuable insight into the anticipation of early believers for the return of Jesus. This document summed up the teaching of the apostles at a time when copies of the New Testament were not available or scarce at best. It provides a summary of what the apostles taught.

Chapter 16 of The Didache says this, “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come.”  These words indicate an immanency regarding the Lord’s appearing, such as would be the case for someone expecting Jesus’ return to occur at any moment. The early saints regarded Jesus’ command in Matthew 24:44 to mean they must watch for His appearing. They had the same expectancy as the New Testament saints.

I admit that after all these years it’s at times difficult to keep up a sense of watchfulness.

However, I then consider the signs and I also wonder about Israel’s upcoming seventieth anniversary, the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, and the new peace plan that is coming out soon from the United States.

As I hear about all these things added on to the events in Syria, my sense of eager watchfulness returns. It’s possible Jesus will return for us quite soon!

 

Why Must There be a Third Temple?

 

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Model of the Proposed Third Temple in Jerusalem

 

President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked much talk of the third temple. The people of Israel have already shown great support for a new temple; now the excitement for this is even stronger than before in light of President Trump’s announcements.

Is this renewed anticipation in itself prophetic? Yes it is. Scripture tells us there will be such a temple at least by the midpoint of the coming tribulation. As such, the indicators pointing to its construction tell us that this time is getting closer.

We will start with the prophecy and then explain what it means.

The Prophecy

In Matthew 24 Jesus said this about an event that will take place during the tribulation, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place . . .” (v. 15). Here Jesus refers to another prophecy where Daniel tells us that the antichrist will put an end to sacrifices at the temple for the second half of the seventieth week, or the time of tribulation (Dan. 9:27).

Revelation 11:2 records the instructions the apostle John received to measure the temple during the time of the tribulation. It’s curious that the voice tells him not to measure to outer courts of the temple because “it has been given to the Gentiles.” This fits perfectly with the proposed placement of the temple on the temple mount with the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently occupying the place where the outer courts would be.

Based on these prophecies, the Jews will build their third temple before the half-way point of the seven year tribulation. This will happen to fulfill the prophecy of Jesus regarding the antichrist’s desolation of the temple.

Has Jesus’ Prophecy Already Happened?

Some believe the prophecies of Matthew 24 happened in 70 AD when Titus and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. They claim this event fulfilled Jesus’ prediction regarding the “abomination of desolation” (v. 15) regarding the temple as well as His second coming, which they believe also happened at that time.

However, this does not take into account the writing of five books of the Bible after 70 AD that do not mention anything about the Lord’s return. The book of Revelation, written in about 95 AD, describes in detail the Lord’s return and the tribulation as future events. This date comes primarily from Irenaeus, who grew up in the church at Smyrna and was mentored in the faith by a disciple of the Apostle John. This timeframe is also confirmed by many internal evidences in Jesus’ messages to the churches in chapters 2-3.

In addition, both the apostle Paul and John refer to Jesus killing the antichrist when He returns (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20). Titus, the Roman general, not only survived destroying the temple, he eventually became emperor over Rome.

There is no mention in history or in church history for that matter of Jesus’ return happening in the first century AD.  How could this happen without reference to in the first few centuries of the church? It’s impossible. When Jesus returns to earth, it is something the entire world will witness (Rev. 1:7).

The Preparation for the Third Temple

If the tribulation were to start today, could Israel finish the huge task of constructing the temple in three and a half years? Yes. This is truer today than a decade ago because of all the work that a group in Israel has already done in preparation for its construction.

The Temple Institute spent the last thirty years researching all the many facets of the temple. Consider a few of their preparations:

  • They spent $100K on the architectural drawings for the temple; one can even take a virtual tour of the temple design at the Temple Institute website.
  • They started a school to train Levites to serve as priests in the new temple.
  • They located the perfect red heifer for the purification sacrifice.
  • They have constructed several of the furnishings for the temple including the altar.
  • After years of research and finding the proper dyes, they have prepared the required garments for the priests and high priest.

A newly constituted Sanhedrin has also appointed a high priest to serve in the new temple. The picture at the top of the post shows him offering a sacrifice on the streets of Jerusalem.

In addition, the transportation department within the government of Israel recently announced it is planning the infrastructure to deal with the large crowds they expect will be coming to the newly constructed temple.

The Significance

What does this mean in terms of the nearness of the tribulation? It signifies that everything is ready for the building of the third temple as never before in history.

Many believe that the building of the temple will come about as the result of a peace treaty with Israel, perhaps the one initiated by the antichrist. If the covenant were to grant Israel permission to build its temple, t’s a reasonable assumption it could be ready within three and a half years. The Temple Institute recently boasted that once they have the necessary access to the temple mount, they could begin offering sacrifices on the Temple Mount within a matter of weeks.

The early church father Irenaeus wrote about the antichrist defiling a future temple in Jerusalem.  In his book Against Heresies, written about 180 AD, he wrote, “But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem.” Isaac Newton, after studying the books of Daniel and Revelation, came to the belief that God would restore Israel as a nation someday and that the antichrist would defile their temple after that.

We now see prophecy coming to life before our eyes. If after all these years we see so much progress toward the building of the temple, can the tribulation be very far away?

And if that is getting ever closer, how much more so Jesus’s return for us!