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Category: Prophecy

Introduction: Who Is The Antichrist?

This is the first installment of a series titled “Who Is The Antichrist?”  Links to the remainder are at the bottom of this post.

Introduction to a series on "Who is the Antichrist?"

When I first came to Christianity, I couldn’t get enough of the Bible.  They call this “first love”.  In particular, I was very interested in Eschatology or the study of “the end times”.  I read and read.  I studied.  I watched videos on Youtube.  I did everything I could to learn more about “the end of days”, or “the end of the era”.

One Sabbath I decided to ask an Elder at my local congregation, a couple of questions about “the end times”.  His answers kind of puzzled me because he seemed to have many of the same beliefs as most in mainstream Christianity, which is rare for us, being Sabbath keepers.

At the end of our conversation, he concluded our talk by saying: “All that stuff is a LONG way off.  There’s no need to worry about that stuff now.  When you see the Two Witnesses preaching in Jerusalem…Then we should worry about the end.”

Now, this is a good man.  I respect him, and I respect his knowledge of the Bible.  But, that talk blew me away.  Not only did he agree with Mainstream Christendom, he also told me not to worry until the two witnesses were in Jerusalem.  It was almost as if he was telling me to not even study the end-time prophecies as they were so far off into the future that I needn’t even waste my time studying these things.  I don’t think that is what he was trying to communicate, but it FELT that way.

Can Antichrist really fool the whole world?

I found this to be very strange.  From everything that I had learned, identifying the “Antichrist” should be paramount to every Christian.  And, what about all of the things that were going to happen before the two witnesses came onto the scene?  And, what about Revelation 11 when speaking about the two witnesses, the angel describes Jerusalem as “…the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also our Lord was crucified.”  Wait!  This is a big deal.  Jerusalem is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt?!?

There just has to be so much more going on before the two witnesses come to Jerusalem.  And, I want to learn about that stuff.  Why?  So that if I see some of these things happening, I will know what’s going on.

In Matthew 24:24, Messiah says:

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect” (ESV)

If one were to read that backward.  Could it not be said that:  Only the elect will not be lead astray, or fooled by the false christs?  Or perhaps put another way:  To be counted as the elect, “the first resurrection”, you cannot be fooled by antichrist and the false prophet.

Now, I know that Matthew 24:24 isn’t necessarily saying that.  And, I know my argument would only apply to the final generation, while I do believe that Messiah’s message was intended for all generations.  It is something to consider.

Prophetic Harvest Seasons and Feast of Trumpets Food for Thought

I always find it interesting to see how people approach holy day studies and messages.  There are a couple of ditches that we can fall into when it comes to the holy days.

It’s understandable when something only comes around once a year to want to go over a certain set of scriptures that clearly pertain to that day.  Some people give the same message year after year or cycle through a few, sometimes taken almost straight from church literature, often implying that church leadership of a few decades ago figured out all the major things we need to know and that trying to dive deeper or consider something in a different way is simply a liturgical fidget at best and potentially hubris to think you could find something more.

Others try so hard to figure out every single detail, plot out specific timing and order of events, and connect every scripture that could possibly be related.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this at face value, because we’re supposed to be searching the scriptures and God expects us to have studied the events of the end time so we’re prepared for what’s to come.  The danger in this approach can be a myopic approach to individual holy days and how they fit together, and being too invested in our own way of looking at it to consider other ideas.

In giving each holy day its moment in the spotlight, we sometimes fail to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and some of the keys that God has given us to help made sense of His plan.  One of those big thematic keys is the idea of harvest seasons.

God’s holy days and the harvest seasons

The bible is chock-full of harvest symbolism, of sowing and reaping, cycles of growing and coming to maturity.  It’s no accident that God tied His holy day calendar to the agricultural cycles.  Based on what He laid out in His word, I believe that the spring holy days and the fall holy days picture two distinct harvest seasons—each separate and complete.  This isn’t earth-shattering or “new truth”, but sometimes the actual implications of the harvest seasons in prophecy get overlooked.

  • The spring holy days are a smaller harvest, focused on the journey of God’s spiritual firstfruits from calling, repentance and reconciliation (Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread) to resurrection and acceptance into God’s spiritual family (Pentecost). The spring holy days are focused on a very small, specific group of people, and do not apply to the world at large.
  • The fall holy days tell the same story, but for the whole world—and because this physical world is hostile to God, the process of reconciliation requires its complete destruction as a starting point.
    • Traditionally, the Jews believe that Adam was created on Trumpets. In this case, then, we have Trumpets picturing the creation of physical man and this physical world, and then finally Jesus reclaiming dominion of the kingdoms of this world from Satan as the earth nears self-annihilation.
    • In Atonement we see (again, traditionally) the fall of man with the first sin in the Garden of Eden (requiring the death penalty), and ultimately Jesus’s perfect sacrifice being applied to all mankind to wipe away its sins, which makes reconciliation possible.
    • This larger harvest ends with a seven-day journey toward eternal life for those still alive and the establishment of God’s kingdom on this physical earth, followed by the resurrection of all of humanity since the beginning of time.
    • The entire plan is capped off with the cessation of the physical and creation of a new heaven and new earth on the eighth day, as all of mankind is brought into God’s family and this physical world ceases to exist.

From Wave Sheaf to Wave Loaves—The Acceptance of the Elect

Ancient Israel was an agricultural society revolving around two harvest periods, one in the spring and one in the fall.  The harvest timing was governed by God’s holy days, and vice versa.  We understand from the scriptures that the holy days provide a picture of His plan for mankind, but the fact that there are two distinct harvest periods often gets overlooked in favor of a purely linear interpretation.

Most of what I’ve heard talked about where the Feast of Firstfruits (also called Pentecost) is concerned is that it pictures the giving of God’s holy spirit, a historical event.  But I believe that the bible very clearly outlines a much greater future fulfillment that brings the spring harvest season to an end—when the saints are resurrected, changed to spirit, and brought before God’s throne for the marriage supper of the Lamb and His Bride.

Historically, both the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and the giving of the holy spirit shortly after Christ’s resurrection occurred on Pentecost.  Neither of these is accidental, but instead are two sides of the same coin.  Law and grace, old covenant and new covenant.  The future and final fulfillment of this day will be when God’s elect—obedient to His laws, redeemed from sin through grace, and having His holy spirit—are brought before His throne as newly-resurrected eternal children of God.

There are so many other aspects of this holy day, it’s impossible to cover them all in one study (and this one is long enough as it is)—the seven weeks, the Year of Jubilee and receiving our inheritance, the kinsman redeemer, the book of Ruth.  But in this study we’ll cover some of the reasons why I believe that the feast of Pentecost pictures the resurrection of the saints and the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The Firstfruit Harvest

In order to get a deeper understanding of Pentecost’s ultimate meaning for God’s elect, we have to first start a little bit earlier with an often-overlooked ceremony that happened during the Days of Unleavened Bread.  After commanding that they keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, God continued His instructions:

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave [elevate] the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath [during the Days of Unleavened Bread] the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma, and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin.  You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (Lev 23:10-14)

Until the wave sheaf was cut and brought to the priest for offering, harvesting could not begin.  Once the first of the firstfruits harvest was offered, only then did it become ceremonially legal for the Israelites to begin bringing in the rest of the grain.  To my knowledge, this is the only time this ceremony is spoken of in the bible but it’s the only way that we can get to Pentecost, because God’s instruction continues:

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord…The priest shall wave [elevate] them [the meat and drink offerings] with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering, before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.” (Lev. 23:15-20)

Pentecost is unique among God’s holy days because it does not fall on a fixed date—it’s the only floating holy day and must be counted based on another of God’s commands.  We have no way of getting to Pentecost without the wave sheaf.  Similarly, understanding the wave sheaf offering is key to understanding the future events signified by the Feast of Firstfruits.

The Wave Sheaf

What does Leviticus 23 tell us about the wave sheaf offering?

  1. The offering was given on the day after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread
  2. It was the very first of the firstfruits harvested
  3. It was offered by the High Priest to God to be accepted on behalf of God’s people

Leaving Egypt & The Fall of Jericho:  Prophetic Implications of the Days of Unleavened Bread

“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe” (Heb. 11:29-31)

The spring holy days are aligned with, and represent the firstfruit harvest, and each has specific themes that keep showing up.  Passover is a sacrifice and redemption from slavery.  The Days of Unleavened Bread are overcoming sin and acceptance or victory.  Pentecost is a celebration, receiving an inheritance.

The holy days show us God’s plan for His people and all mankind, and give us a framework for prophecy.  But while we often talk about the fulfilled prophecy of Passover and future implications of the fall holy days, people get really mealy-mouthed around both the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost.  We’ve been told the Days of Unleavened Bread picture our journey out of sin and putting sin out of our lives.  These are likely true, but what if there are even more concrete fulfillments?

This time of year I think it’s important to look at two significant occurrences on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread that help us begin to figure out its place in the future prophetic framework.  God performed similar baptism-like miracles for two generations of Israelites, then destroyed the worldly system standing in the way of establishing His chosen nation in the land He had promised them.  Together these show us a picture of the future when God will destroy sin and the carnal world—the death knell of Babylon—and help His people enter His kingdom.

Coming out of Egypt

The children of Israel started their journey out of Egypt on the first holy day during the Days of Unleavened Bread, after experiencing the horrifying and humbling tenth plague and God’s favor as their own firstborn were spared death.  Over the next few days, God led them away from the heart of Egypt, by day with a pillar of cloud and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light along the dark path.  His presence was visibly with them every second of the day.

The Day of Atonement & Covering the World

The meaning of the Day of Atonement

When I was a kid, I was told that the meaning of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was “at-one-ment”, or becoming one with God.  For something that’s a linguistic lucky coincidence, it’s surprisingly not too far off in terms of the end result, but it’s also a massively over-simplistic view of the Day of Atonement and misses a lot of the day’s meaning.

In fact, as a kid I always had trouble connecting this idea of “becoming one with God” or drawing near to Him (which seemed like a good thing) with the command to fast on this holy day (which seemed like a bad thing, like I was being punished somehow).

The day’s name itself tells us that there’s more to the story, though.  Kippur means “expiation”—making amends for something, reparation of guilt and that guilt being cancelled, or when another takes the punishment for sin.  Kippur comes from the root word kaphar, which means to placate, reconcile, extend mercy, cancel, or cover over.  The Israelites were told that the Day of Atonement was a sabbath of solemn rest, when they were to afflict their souls and the priest was to make atonement (literally “covering”) for them, to cleanse them from all their sins (Lev. 16:30-31).

It’s the concept of “covering” that this study dives into.  Like two sides of a coin, there are two separate-but-related “covering” aspects of the Day of Atonement and drawing near to God.  The first is Christ’s sacrifice covering the sins of (by finally being applied to) the whole world, while the second involves removing the covering (or veil) that Satan has cast over the whole world to separate them from God.

One way to look at God’s holy day plan is as two harvest seasons that kind of mirror each other—the firstfruits in the spring, and the rest of mankind in the fall.  In this scenario, the Day of Atonement is really the flip side, or final fulfillment, of the Passover.  When Jesus gave His life and was resurrected, He made it possible for humans to receive God’s spirit, have their sins wiped clean, and eventually become spirit beings as God’s children in the kingdom.  As He breathed His last, the veil on the temple sealing off the Holy of Holies was ripped from top to bottom, granting initial individual direct access to God.

However, this access to God’s spirit is currently only extended to a small group of people, His firstfruits.  In the final fulfillment of the Day of Atonement after Christ’s return, His sacrifice will be applied to all mankind, their sins will be blotted out, and the dark veil that shrouds the world (along with its creator, Satan) will be entirely, permanently removed (Is. 25:6, Lev. 16, Rev. 20).

The Feast of Trumpets:  Dark Before the Light

In scripture, there are prophetic descriptions that evoke images of terrible destruction.  Zechariah 14 describes the inevitable end of what we term as the “trumpet plagues”.  There are, of course, other passages in the Old and New Testaments that describe the destruction associated with the last seven trumpets.  It is not my goal in this study to describe the trumpet plagues, which can easily be found in the book of Revelation.  My goal is to shed light on the actual holy day of Trumpets—what it does and does not symbolize.

There are historical events in the bible that, I believe, paint a picture of just what the Feast of Trumpets foreshadows.  I will attempt to clarify the symbolism of the Feast of Trumpets.

The Feast of Trumpets in the Bible

I am of the viewpoint that the holy days give us important milestones in God’s plan, so let’s start here.

“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation” (Lev. 23:24)

The first thing mentioned is the day.  It’s easy to jump right over this after noting it on your calendar and letting your boss know.  The fact is, the Feast of Trumpets is the only holy day that is kept on the new moon.  This particular new moon was the beginning of the civil year, and that in itself may have significance.  But more important is the new moon itself, or more correctly, the phase of the new moon; does this have significance in determining what the Feast of Trumpets is all about?

The New Moon Holy Day

There has been controversy for centuries over the new moon, mostly the question of what constitutes the new moon (to simplify, you would have the ‘dark of the moon’ and the ‘first crescent’ crowds).  This issue has attained a higher profile in the past several years as it relates to the topic of the calendar/holy days.  The calendar debate is beyond the scope of this article, but the actual symbolism of the new moon is very important when discussing the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets in the bible.

There are scenarios in scripture that paint a picture of what the new moon symbolizes.  These stories all have to do with something being ended—done away with—so something new can begin.  The “dark” of the moon—the period of time between the disappearing crescent and the first crescent—is right at three days.  I don’t think that this is random.  Our Savior was dead for that same period of time.  During that time, the spiritual world was dark.  It wasn’t until He rose from the dead and ascended to be accepted that the light started to shine again.  The new covenant (bringing light) could not come without the death and burial of the Messiah (which caused darkness).

The seven trumpet plagues (depicted in Revelation 8 and 9, and continued in chapters 11 through 15)  mark the ending of a society that mankind has built.  It will have no redeeming qualities that should be saved.  The politics, governance, values, use of technology, business practices, etc., will all have to be swept away to make way for something that is 100% new.   Two examples from the Old Testament that encapsulate the trumpet plagues (which is what the Feast of Trumpets foreshadows) are the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6), and the image dreamt of by King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2).

Year of Jubilee & Pentecost — Inheritance & Freedom

“Count Fifty”:  Pentecost & the Year of Jubilee

Fifty is an interesting number in the bible.  Many significant numbers (such as seven or twelve) have common threads that show up throughout the entire bible and weave in and out, but there are only a few places where the number fifty is of great significance.

In general, fifty symbolizes complete perfection, the completing of a cycle, or the ending of an old cycle and beginning of a new one.  The concept of firstborn or firstfruits is also associated with the number fifty.  For instance, God redeemed the tribe of Levi as a substitute for the firstborn of the land of Israel, and consecrated them to serving Him in the tabernacle.  Levites would begin service in the temple at age 30, and finish their service at the age of 50 (Num. 4:3, 39, 43, 47).  The tabernacle itself, and later the temple, was measured off in various segments of fifty curtain loops, knobs, cubit lengths, etc. (Ex. 26, 27, 30, 36, 38).

And then there are two major events in the bible that revolve around the number fifty.  The command for the first is found in Leviticus 23, where God outlines the Feast of Firstfruits, or Pentecost.

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [during the Days of Unleavened Bread], from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord…they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest” (Lev. 23:15-17, 20).

The Israelites are told to count seven cycles of seven days (symbolizing perfect completeness), and on the next (eighth) day, to observe a holy convocation.  This holy day also included a peace offering, which was a joyful celebration, symbolic of eating a meal with God.

The second event, the Year of Jubilee, was commanded only a few verses later:

“And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family” (Lev. 25:8-10).

Leviticus goes on to explain that the fiftieth year was to be a rest for the land (coming on the heels of a 49th year rest as well), “neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine” (Lev. 25:11).  But more importantly, inherited land that had been lost or sold reverted back to the original family owners.

God, in His omnipotence, knew that despite all the measures He instituted in Israel to maintain economic and societal equality, some people would still get themselves in way over their heads—drowning in debt, without family to fall back on, unable to support their families.  While all of Israel had received land as an inheritance in the Promised Land, some would give up or lose their inheritance through misfortune, ineptitude, or negligence and be forced to sell themselves into slavery or indentured servitude.  The Year of Jubilee was the societal failsafe.

Christ As Our Kinsman Redeemer: Redemption From Slavery (Passover Themes)

“As for our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel” ~ Is. 47:4

Each of God’s holy days has many themes to be explored, Passover maybe even more so because it has already been fulfilled—so we see much more of the whole picture.

The first time we see the Passover commanded and celebrated in the bible, it directly precedes God redeeming His chosen nation out of slavery and leading them toward the Promised Land.  Many see this story as a specific event in time that the Passover commemorates, and nothing more.  However, the theme of redemption from slavery and how it ties to the Passover goes far beyond just Israel and Egypt.  It’s actually one of two core stories that permeate the entire bible from start to finish (the other being that of a betrothal and marriage that build a family).

Passover & the Days of Unleavened Bread: Our Betrothal to Jesus Christ

There are myriad topics, allegories, and themes that can be used to learn about God’s holy days. It’s always interesting to see what filters or “lenses” I’m viewing the holy days through each year as they come and go, particularly during the Passover season. This year there have been a few larger themes playing through my mind, in particular the holy days as picturing the marriage of Jesus Christ to His anointed bride.

Passover represents each and every one of us individually, as well as us collectively, entering into covenant with God and Jesus Christ. There are two types of covenants symbolized here—blood and marriage. It’s the marriage covenant and what it can teach us that I’m focusing on here.

The Bride of Christ

When looked at through one filter, the bible is a love story.  It is the story of God bringing the whole world into His family, starting with His Son and His bride.  In studying the marriage customs of ancient Israel, we can see how the holy days are an allegory for this process.

We’re told in Revelation of the actual wedding ceremony in heaven, the marriage supper of the Lamb. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory,” John relays, “for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:7).  This happy occasion does not happen out of the blue, though.

Instead, there are several important steps in this relationship that bring the bride and Groom to this point.   If we tried to look at the marriage allegory only through our modern wedding rituals, we’d miss much of the deep and rich meaning laid out for us.  It’s not perfect and all-encompassing—all analogies and allegories break down at a certain point—but the spring holy days help teach us about God’s relationship to us and how He will bring us into His family as His son’s pure bride.

Christ frequently used the rituals of this very familiar, very exciting event to illustrate things about Himself and what would happen in the future.  He based several parables and sayings around marriage, including that of the marriage supper (Matt 22:2), the ten virgins (Matt 25:6, 10), and the bridegroom (Mark 2:19-20).

Paul took this theme further, telling us that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church”, and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church—even laying down His life for her (Eph. 5:23, 25).

Weddings in ancient Israel consisted of three main stages:  contract, consummation, and celebration. The contract stage, which is largely pictured by the spring holy days, involved making the marriage contract, paying the bride price and giving the bride gifts, and the departure of the groom, after which both bride and groom made themselves ready for the coming ceremony, consummation, and festivities.

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