The Ark of His Covenant
Chapter 7 focused on the fifth and sixth trumpets (the physical appearing of the Antichrist and the establishment of Lucifer’s theocracy, including the mark of the beast). Chapter 8 focused on the seven bowls ending with the battle of Armageddon and the destruction of all of the wicked at the Second Coming. Now that you have an overview of these topics, we need to backtrack a little to discuss a very important development that happens when the seventh trumpet sounds (Day 1,264).
When the seventh trumpet sounds, “Then God’s temple in Heaven was opened [His temple in Heaven was exposed to the people on Earth], and within His temple was seen the Ark of His Covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” (Revelation 11:19, insertions mine) By now, you should be aware that God’s temple is located in Heaven and the physical events (the flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunders, earthquake and hailstorm) that occur at the seventh trumpet are the same physical phenomena that occur at the beginning of the seven trumpets. (Revelation 8:5-7) These same physical phenomena occur again at the end of the seven bowls! (Revelation 16:18-21) Jesus will use the same display of divine power to start the seven trumpets, to start the seven bowls, and to end the Great Tribulation. Each display will come with increased ferocity. In fact, Jesus will move every mountain and island out of its place during His final display of sovereign authority. (Revelation 16:17-21) When the seventh trumpet sounds, the sky will open as a scroll and everyone will see God’s temple in Heaven! Each person will also notice a small golden box called the “Ark of His Covenant” and the two groups of people viewing this scene from Earth will have opposite reactions.
The saints will be thrilled to see the Ark of His Covenant because its physical presence in Heaven’s temple is a token of a promise that Jesus made long ago. When Adam and Eve sinned, Jesus promised a day would come when He would remove the sinful nature from His children and write His laws in their hearts and minds. (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 30:5,6; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 11:19,20; 36:26,27; Hebrews 8:10-12) The importance, beauty, and value of this promise belong to those who desperately want to overcome their sinful nature. The curse of sin keeps us from doing the things we want to do, and doing the things we do not want to do. (Romans 7:14-25) When Jesus reveals the Ark of His Covenant, He will replace the sinful nature of each saint with the seal of the living God! Each saint will know that Jesus has fulfilled His promise! For them, the Ark of His Covenant represents God’s enduring faithfulness, His amazing grace, His eternal truth, and unfathomable love.
The wicked, on the other hand, will stand in awe and tremble. They will stare at the glorious temple in Heaven and correctly sense this spectacular event is an omen of punishment to come; in fact, the seven bowls will begin the following day. As the wicked gaze on the Ark of His Covenant, they will remember the freshly tattooed number, “666” showing on their right hand and recall the four inflammatory messages given by the 144,000. They will understand their guilt is on their own heads because the 144,000 spoke often and boldly about the importance of the Creator’s Ten Commandments. No one will dismiss, ignore, or mock the “higher” authority of God’s law on this day. The wicked will feel every ounce of their guilt’s damning weight.
A Third Temple?
Paul said the man of lawlessness will “set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4) Many people read Paul’s words and conclude that a third temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem before the Second Coming, because, they reason, “God’s temple” must exist before the Antichrist can set himself up in it. These ideas are naïve and misguided.
There will not be a third temple. Jesus will not permit the Jews to rebuild the temple; Jesus told the Jews before He left Earth that their temple was left to them “desolate.” (Matthew 23:38,39) This means that Jesus (who is the God of the Old Testament – Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 1:17,18) would never again enter a man-made temple. He would serve in Heaven’s temple only. (Hebrews 8:2)
To ensure that a temple honoring Jehovah would never be rebuilt on Temple Mount, Jesus gave the site over to the Muslims who built the Al-Aqsa Mosque and a shrine called “The Dome of the Rock” about A.D. 700. It has been under Muslim control since A.D. 1187. Given the importance of this site and these buildings to 1.5 billion Muslims, there is no possibility that a Jewish temple will be rebuilt on Temple Mount. More importantly, even if the Jews did manage to build a third temple on Temple Mount, it would not be God’s temple! The Bible plainly teaches that Jesus serves in the true temple of God which is now located in Heaven. (Hebrews 8:1-5) This is why Jesus will show the true temple and the Ark of His Covenant to the world at the seventh trumpet! (Revelation 11:19)
The following phrase also leads many people astray, Paul wrote, “He [the man of lawlessness] sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” This phrase should be understood theologically, not literally, because God’s temple is not on Earth. When the devil (the man of lawlessness) appears, he will claim to be Almighty God and perform amazing miracles to support his deception. Theologically speaking, “he will set himself up in God’s temple” by demanding and receiving worship that belongs only to God. To gain the honor and worship that belongs only to deity, the devil will perform awesome acts of deception for five months. (Revelation 13:13,14; 9:5) When the five months are over, at the sixth trumpet the devil will suddenly change character and become a ruthless and diabolical dictator. He will abolish the religions and governments of the world to set up a one-world church/state. This government will serve as the devil’s theocracy. He will rule the world with sovereign authority as King of kings and Lord of lords. This development is the ultimate pressure put on wicked people who still have free will. He wants the wicked to wake up and see the devil’s true character, observe the many harsh and impossible demands which the devil will make, repent of their rebellion, and be saved. Speaking through the 144,000, Jesus will tell the wicked that a God of love does not do such things! The struggle between Christ and Satan over souls during the sixth trumpet will be intense. Can you imagine the demonic hilarity and revelry that will go on when the devil meets with his demons behind closed doors to discuss their many successes?
A Promise Is Embedded in the Ten Commandments
About three months after the Exodus, Jesus descended on Mt. Sinai. He fashioned two tablets of stone and wrote the Ten Commandments on them with His finger. (Exodus 31:18; 32:15,16) Jesus did not create these commandments at Mt. Sinai because they and the two laws upon which they are based (Matthew 22:37-40) are from everlasting to everlasting. (Psalm 119:160) Jesus then called Moses to climb up the mountain so He could give Moses the tablets. After spending forty days and nights with God, Moses descended the mountain. As he neared the camp, he heard a commotion and saw thousands of Israelites dancing around a golden calf. Moses was overwhelmed, then became furious and righteously indignant. He had just been in God’s holy presence for forty days and Israel’s apostasy was more than Moses could bear. How could Abraham’s descendants, whom God had just delivered from centuries of slavery with mighty miracles, do such a thing in God’s presence? In frustration, He threw down the tablets and they shattered. It is ironic that the Israelites broke the law with idolatry but Moses destroyed the tablets out of righteous anger.
Later, the Lord commanded Moses to fashion two tablets of stone and bring them up the mountain so that He could rewrite the words that were on the first tablets. Given that Moses was eighty years old, I imagine the weight of the tablets was a physical reminder that God’s law is a weighty matter. Once again, “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28) Notice, the Ten Commandments are called “the covenant.” Do you know why?
Jesus spoke the Ten Commandments to Adam and Eve after they sinned. (Hosea 6:6,7; Romans 5:12) Prior to Adam and Eve’s sin, the Ten Commandments were written in their hearts and minds and they naturally did everything written in the law. There was no need for the Ten Commandments to be written in Eden. No one questioned the law in the same way no one questions the natural law of gravity. Until Adam and Eve sinned, they were in perfect harmony with God and His Ten Commandments.
Years later, the Bible says that Enoch and Noah “walked with God.” We can be sure that Jesus explained the Ten Commandments to them because the patriarchs were responsible for passing the knowledge of God, His laws, statutes, and ordinances to their descendants. (Deuteronomy 4:9) Over time, subsequent generations ignored this spiritual responsibility and the patriarchs allowed their sinful natures to lead them “into lusting after the flesh.” (Genesis 6:1-3; Romans 8:14; 1 John 2:16,17) Within a mere ten generations, humanity largely forgot the Ten Commandments so evil flourished. Violence and sexual immorality became so great that Jesus destroyed the world with a flood in Noah’s day. (Genesis 6:5)
About one thousand years after the flood, Jesus took those same laws that had once been within Adam and Eve’s hearts and turned them into a promise (a covenant). Many people do not understand this promise. Jesus promised Adam and Eve that one day He would restore them and all of their faithful descendants to the sinless state they once enjoyed. He promised to restore His laws in the hearts of all who would live by faith. Those who died without receiving the fulfillment of this promise will receive it (the covenant) at their resurrection. For those who live during the Great Tribulation, Jesus will fulfill the covenant by removing the sinful nature after they pass a test of faith. This test includes accepting and obeying the fourth commandment and being persecuted for doing so. When there is a price to pay for obedience, faith in God is tested. Remember the fiery furnace test that Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego faced.
When God’s laws are written in our hearts and minds, we will naturally want to do the things written in the Ten Commandments just as Adam and Eve did before they sinned. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:10-12; Romans 7 & 8) However, for as long as the sinful nature is within us, we will do what it wants on occasion. (Romans 7:9-25; 8:5-12) Therefore, Jesus made the Ten Commandments a covenant, a promise that He would fulfill near the end of the age.
The Ten Commandments were always kept out of sight, secreted in the Most Holy Place of the temple. Other than Moses and those people who saw him descend Mt. Sinai, very few people have actually seen the Ten Commandments. Normally, the High Priest was the only person who ever came physically close to the Ten Commandments unless the Ark was being moved. On occasion when Israel traveled, the priests covered the Ark with the temple veil and the Ark led the way as the nation followed about one-half mile behind it. (Joshua 3:4) Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place, but even on that holy day, God did not permit the high priest to look inside the golden Ark of the Covenant.
God kept the Ten Commandments out of sight because He wanted to display the Ten Commandments (which represent His character and ways) through the lives of His people! God wanted a nation who loved advancing truth, a nation energized by fresh experiences in faith. God wanted a nation who respected His laws as infallible guides to happiness and nobility of character. God also kept the Ark and the Ten Commandments out of sight because He did not want Israel honoring or worshiping sacred relics or idols. In fact, the second commandment forbids sacred pictures, images, and statues. (Exodus 20:4-6) God did not want His people to become legalistic and arrogant, thinking that they were superior to other nations because they had possession of a holy relic or special knowledge. Through the ages, God sent His prophets to Israel to keep the nation on track, but Israel killed most of them. The sinful nature hates divine correction! God wanted Israel to worship and love Him with all its heart, mind, and soul, and to love their neighbors as themselves. (Matthew 22:37-40) God wanted Israel to be a special kingdom of people on Earth where Heaven’s rules were applied; a kingdom where the trustees of His gospel genuinely loved God and one another as the angels in Heaven love God and one another. Unfortunately, Israel rejected many opportunities to be God’s special people on Earth and God’s patience finally ran out.
The Ten Commandments Are Universal
God gave the Ten Commandments through Israel to all people in the same way He gave Jesus through Israel for all sinners. The Ten Commandments contain a promise to those who will receive the Holy Spirit and a curse for those who reject it. If we allow the Holy Spirit to awaken our spiritual nature and show us our need of a Savior, if we allow the Spirit to create the new birth experience within us, the Spirit will give us a strong desire to overcome the sinful nature so that we can live in harmony with God’s laws. If we refuse the Holy Spirit and allow our sinful nature to rule over us, we may enjoy sin’s pleasures for a while, but the Ten Commandments will condemn us as sinners, and the penalty for sin is death. (Romans 6:23) It is ironic that the Ten Commandments are a law for some people and a promise for others. Our relationship with the Holy Spirit determines the difference.
God knows that the devil tempts well-intentioned sinners into thinking that living a legally righteous life leads to salvation, but such a relationship with the Ten Commandments is toxic. Obeying the Ten Commandments cannot produce eternal life. Each sinner needs a Savior because no sinner can save himself. Instead, salvation comes through faith. Salvific faith means doing what is right in God’s sight and leaving the consequences with Him.
Faith in God starts with a humble attitude – a willingness to go, to be and to do all that God requires. (Proverbs 6:16-24; Matthew 5-7) This attitude produces good fruit. (Matthew 7:17-20; Galatians 5:22,23) At God’s appointed time, He will justify those who live by faith! (Romans 3:28; Hebrews 11:6) Prior to Paul’s conversion, he had a toxic relationship with God’s law. (Philippians 3:4-6) Many Christians today suffer from the same relationship. This may sound strange, but many Christians actually suffer from a toxic relationship with God’s grace!
When Paul discovered the Ten Commandments were spiritual in nature and that his sinful nature was religiously oriented (Romans 7 & 8), his relationship with God and his perception of God’s law dramatically changed. Paul went from pursuing righteousness through obedience to the law, to pursuing salvation through faith in God and loving his neighbors as himself. His love for and faith in Jesus empowered Paul to suffer often at the hands of Israel’s leaders. He was able to leave legalism and Judaism behind when he learned that God justifies those who live by faith. Many Christians do not read enough of Paul’s writings to understand his thoughts. They read a short passage and come to the erroneous conclusion that Paul was opposed to obeying the Ten Commandments. This was not the case. After Paul’s conversion, he was opposed to obeying God’s laws as a means to salvation. Paul stressed in his writings that a person must follow the Holy Spirit and when the Spirit convicts a person to do something, he must obey regardless of the price! This is the essence of living by faith. Of course, the Spirit of God will never lead a person to violate God’s laws. God is so generous. Millions of people have lived and died and the Holy Spirit did not reveal or give them any particular conviction about the first four commandments! Therefore, these people have no guilt in God’s sight. God winked at their ignorance. (Acts 17:30,31) However, when the time comes for “present truth” to be proclaimed and new light is announced from God’s Word, God will hold everyone accountable according to his response to the Holy Spirit. There is a world of difference between obeying God’s laws to be saved (that is, rewarded) and obeying God’s laws because the Holy Spirit within you has convicted you to do so (regardless of the consequences)!
Paul discovered that faith in God means surrender to God’s will in a spiritual sense, first, and in a physical sense, second. If a person does not steal because the law says not to steal, this is legalism. If a person does not steal because he loves his neighbor as himself, the motive comes from love and this is the intent of the law. If a person keeps the seventh day Sabbath holy because the law demands it, this is legalism. If he keeps the seventh day Sabbath holy (even when persecuted for his faith) because he wants to keep the Sabbath out of love for God, his motive is love and God is pleased. Such a person’s Sabbath rest experience is wonderful. When situations arise and we are tempted to disobey God to avoid embarrassment or loss, this is when our motives reveal whether we are legalists or led by the Spirit. Again, the Bible is clear. Keeping the law cannot produce salvation. Obeying the Holy Spirit’s voice and doing right in God’s sight, without regard for the consequences, is the road to salvation and unfortunately few find it. (Matthew 7:13)
Is the Ark on Earth or in Heaven?
Some Bible scholars believe that between 605 and 586 B.C, a group of priests at Jeremiah’s bidding hid the Ark of the Covenant to keep it safe from the advancing Babylonians. It is fair to say that currently, no one knows where Jeremiah hid the Ark (the GPS coordinates have not been published). People have made claims and written books purporting to know the location of the Ark, but I think they are fake. I believe the original Ark of the Covenant, built by Bezalel at the base of Mt. Sinai, is not on Earth. The Father took the Ark to Heaven after Jesus ascended because services in Heaven’s temple require the Ark of His Covenant. (Hebrews 9:24)
Please consider the following thoughts concerning the location of the Ark:
- During the Great Tribulation, people will be unable to travel because of badly damaged roads, dams, and bridges. Fuel for travel will be scarce or non-existent. People will be unable to communicate due to inoperable power grids, cell towers, radios, television, internet, and limited electricity. This isolation will separate people and nations into small geographic areas. There would be no purpose to reveal the Ark in or near Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation when very few people would hear about it and even fewer would get to see it. Revelation 11:19 predicts God will deliberately show the Ark from the sky at the seventh trumpet so that everyone on Earth will see it! A local discovery would not fulfill such a divine objective.
- If someone finds the Ark of the Covenant on Earth prior to the Great Tribulation, it would be a sensational find, gaining worldwide attention for a few days. However, an archaeological discovery would not have the spiritual significance that goes with the display of the Ark at the seventh trumpet. The Ark would be considered a religious relic which belongs to the Jews. They would take possession and immediately hide it from view; the way it was hidden during Bible times. Additionally, if someone finds the Ark before the Great Tribulation begins, it would have no moral or spiritual importance for most of the seven billion people on Earth. This is because most of mankind does not recognize God’s Ten Commandments as God’s will. In fact, most Christians consider the Ten Commandments to be part of the Jewish religion in the same way a black stone mounted into the Kaaba’s wall in Mecca is considered part of the Muslim religion.
- If the Ark of the Covenant is found prior to the Great Tribulation and no one is killed when touching it (as Uzzah was – 1 Chronicles 13:10), this would assure everyone that the Ark is no longer holy and God’s consuming power no longer rests on it. Many Christians would use this outcome to prove that the Ten Commandments were abolished at the cross. According to 1 Kings 8:9, the only items in the Ark at the time of Solomon were the two stone tablets. If the Ten Commandments were abolished at the cross, God would have no reason to show an empty box to everyone at the seventh trumpet.
- In Bible times, the only people permitted to touch the poles attached to the Ark were Kohath’s descendants. Before the Ark could be moved, the high priest had to cover it because they were not even permitted to look at it! (Numbers 4:15; 3:31) If someone finds the Ark on Earth prior to the Great Tribulation, who could look at it and move or handle it? If God’s consuming power no longer defends the laws which He wrote with His own finger, the stone tablets would be of interest only to archaeologists. They would study the tablets, not for what they declare, but as samples of God’s handwriting.
- God could have easily removed the Ark from Earth in the same way that He removed Enoch and Elijah. There will be a war over worship during the seven trumpets. Therefore, God will show the Ark of His Covenant at the end of the war to vindicate the faith of His saints; to condemn the wicked for refusing to believe His Word; and so everyone can see that His laws are eternal and higher than all others. Earth indeed is His footstool. (Isaiah 66:1)
It is interesting to note that Jesus will not show the Ten Commandments at the seventh trumpet. I believe this is because they are spiritual laws. (Romans 7:14) God’s laws only make sense to those led by the Spirit! (1 Corinthians 2:14) Jesus promised long ago that He will write His laws in the minds and hearts of those led by the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 8:10; Romans 8:14) Jesus will complete this process during the Great Tribulation when He removes the sinful nature of each person after he passes his test of faith. If, during the Great Tribulation, a person wants to see what the Ten Commandments look like, he can study the lives of the 144,000 and those who have been sealed! When the wicked see the Ark of His Covenant in Heaven’s temple, anxiety will torment them similar to the night when a hand wrote on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast. (Daniel 5:5,6)
- Jesus will mark the completion of the judgment of the living and the close of salvation when He displays the temple in Heaven. (2 Corinthians 5:10) He will also show the Ark because it represents the covenant/law He used to judge mankind. This is intentional because Jesus will not destroy the wicked arbitrarily. The seven bowls that follow the temple display in Heaven will be legitimate judgments on the wicked because they willingly and knowingly rejected the clearest evidences of God’s will. They defiantly refused to obey His laws, and unjustly persecuted and deliberately hurt His innocent saints during the Great Tribulation. God’s wrath against the wicked is declared righteous in Revelation 16:5 when an observing angel says, “You are just in these judgments, You who are and who were, the Holy One, because You have so judged.”
- Finally, some people claim the Ark used in the Earthly temple was a copy of the Ark used in the Heavenly temple. I cannot accept this claim because Jesus wrote the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone provided by Moses. These tablets were then placed in the Ark of the Covenant which Bezalel made. (Deuteronomy 10:4) This means the Ten Commandments in Bezalel’s Ark are originals, not copies. If the original Ark with the Ten Commandments is still hidden on Earth, revealing a different Ark of the Covenant from Heaven during the Great Tribulation would be far less significant and impressive. I believe the Father took Bezalel’s Ark to Heaven after Jesus ascended because the Ten Commandments in Bezalel’s Ark will endure as a testimony for all eternity. This explains why the Ark of the Covenant is called, “The Ark of the Testimony” sixteen times in the Old Testament! (Exodus 25:16) There is one Testimony declaring God’s laws and one set of originals.
These seven points summarize why I believe the Ark in Heaven’s temple is the only Ark that has ever existed. If my conviction is true, this explains, in part, why God adorned this one article of furniture when it was on Earth with brilliant light – His consuming Shekinah presence.
Was the Sabbath Created At Mt. Sinai?
Many Christians casually agree that the Ten Commandments are important and we should live according to them. However, when pushed to acknowledge the requirements of the fourth commandment they suddenly change position saying, the Ten Commandments were abolished at the cross. Observing God’s seventh day Sabbath rest creates a problem because those who keep it face all kinds of headwinds. Resting on God’s Sabbath is out-of-step and contrary to the ways of the world. Most Christians believe it is still a sin to steal, commit murder, commit adultery, worship idols, and take the Lord’s name in vain, but they will not admit that it is a sin to break the fourth commandment. They have not studied the Sabbath issue and are surprised to learn that God made the seventh day holy long before He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Jesus did not suddenly make the seventh day holy at Mt. Sinai; He made it holy Creation week! “Thus the Heavens and the Earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
God’s Sabbath Rest was Renewed Prior to the Exodus
Some people argue there is no record of anyone keeping the Sabbath before Mt. Sinai, but this is false. God’s Sabbath rest became a test of faith for Israel prior to Mt. Sinai! About 2,500 years after Creation Week, the Lord sent Moses to Egypt with this message to Israel’s elders: If the Israelites want to be delivered from slavery, the Lord commands the Israelites to take a three-day trip into the desert to meet with Him. Friday will be used for travel, Sabbath will be used for worship and rest, and Sunday will be used for the return trip. During this festival, the nation of Israel must corporately recognize and worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on His holy Sabbath day and offer atonement sacrifices as the Lord requires. After this festival, the Israelites must cease working on the Lord’s Sabbath. The Bible does not explicitly state this message, but I believe there is sufficient evidence to uncover the details. Consider these five passages:
- “Afterward [after informing the elders of Israel of the Lord’s commands and after considerable speculation among the elders about Pharaoh’s reaction to the Lord’s commands, and after getting their agreement to proceed] Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.” ’ Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.’ Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or He may strike us with plagues or with the sword.’ ” (Exodus 5:1-3, insertion mine)
- Even though Pharaoh would not permit the Jews to take the three-day journey, the Israelites stopped working on God’s Sabbath. When Pharaoh learned of this, he summoned Moses and Aaron to his court. He said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work! Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.” (Exodus 5:4,5)
- When the Israelites stopped working on God’s Sabbath, they challenged Pharaoh’s sovereign authority. Slaves are not permitted to dictate anything to their owners, including their work days or working hours! From an economic point of view, Pharaoh did not want to kill or lose his slaves. Rebellion always comes with a price, both to the rulers and the resistance. Therefore, to regain control over the situation, Pharaoh chose to increase the use of torture. Pain can humble rebellious people. Pharaoh continued to purchase straw from Egyptian farmers, but he no longer required the farmers to deliver the straw as before. Instead, the Israelites would be forced to go into the fields and gather straw, and Pharaoh made it perfectly clear they would have to produce the same number of bricks as before. “The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, ‘Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.’ The Israelite foremen appointed by Pharaoh’s slave drivers were beaten and were asked, ‘Why didn’t you meet your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?’ ” (Exodus 5:13,14)
- Week after week, the torture went on. Some of the Israelite foremen appealed to Pharaoh to stop the harsh treatment saying, “ ‘Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, “Make bricks!” Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.’ Pharaoh said, ‘Lazy, that’s what you are – lazy! That is why you keep saying, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.” ’ ” (Exodus 5:16-17)
- “The Israelite foremen realized they were in trouble when they were told, ‘You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.’ When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, ‘May the Lord look upon you and judge [condemn] you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’ ” (Exodus 5:19-21, insertion mine)
If you understand that Jesus is changeless (Malachi 3:6) and that He made the seventh day holy during Creation Week (Genesis 2:1-3), the elements in this story are easy to discern. The Children of Israel had to honor God’s holy day by resting from their labor. Having faith in God (doing what is right in God’s sight without regard for the consequences) was required for deliverance from slavery! Jesus tested the Israelites to see if they would obey Him. When a person is willing to suffer for what he believes is God’s will, the Bible declares that person “lives by faith.” (Romans 1:17) God tested the faith of Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace because they believed the second commandment forbade worshiping idols. God tested the whole nation of Israel when He required them to quit making bricks on His seventh-day Sabbath. Although Exodus 5 does not explicitly state there was a dispute between Pharaoh and Israel over God’s Sabbath, there is no other logical explanation why this conflict arose.
I find it interesting how the Exodus story parallels the Great Tribulation although the events are thousands of years apart.
As a condition for deliverance from the bondage of sin (the removal of the sinful nature and receiving God’s seal), God will require the people of Earth to keep the Lord’s Day (Saturday, the seventh day of the week) holy during the Great Tribulation. The 144,000 will proclaim this condition in the first message they deliver. “The hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the Heavens, the Earth, the sea and the springs of water [on His seventh day Sabbath].” The seven-headed beast will behave like Pharaoh. Its laws will be contrary to God’s laws and its penalties will be severe. This will set up a test of faith. The sheep will say, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)
Law enforcement will beat, persecute, imprison, and torture those choosing to observe God’s Sabbath rest. Many saints will die from their punishment. However, God will give everyone who passes His test of faith the “seal of God” and with this gift comes freedom from the bondage of sin that lives within us. The sinful nature will be no more! The saints will deem this gift more wonderful and valuable than anything on Earth. They would rather die than miss out on this amazing gift (and many will die).
When the devil physically appears, he will establish a fake “kingdom of God” (his theocracy). Each person will be forced to worship according to the dictate of the devil. To avoid death, billions of people will volunteer for the tattoo, the mark of the beast, to avoid death. Everyone who receives this mark will be assigned a task and a task master. Lucifer’s subjects will become slaves and the devil will literally work millions of his worshipers to death. Slaves were marked with tattoos in ancient times by their owners and the devil will do the same during the Great Tribulation. Slavery is mentioned three times in Revelation (Revelation 6:15; 13:16; 19:18) because the devil will use slavery and punishment to control his miserable subjects.
Finally, when Jesus appears at the Second Coming, Lucifer and the kings of Earth with their armies will meet the same end as Pharaoh and his army. After the waters of the Red Sea covered Pharaoh and his army, they were seen no more.
The Sabbath Rest Test and the Manna
Because God’s Sabbath existed before the Exodus, God tested Israel’s faith prior to speaking the fourth commandment from Mt. Sinai. This test is described in Exodus 16 and it indicates Israel knew that the seventh day was to be kept holy before Jesus spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. The story begins with God miraculously feeding the Israelites with manna from Heaven each morning. For the first five days of the week, the Lord commanded that the people should gather enough manna for one day. However, on the sixth day, they should gather enough manna for two days because no manna would fall on the seventh day Sabbath. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from Heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.’ ” (Exodus 16:4,5, italics mine)
“On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much – two omers [about two quarts] for each person – and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, ‘This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. ‘Eat it today,’ Moses said, ‘because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.’ Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?’ ” (Exodus 16:22-28)
Consider four interesting points:
First, some people claim that time has been lost, so there is no possible way to know which day of the week is God’s seventh day. This claim has no merit because 2,500 years after Creation Week, God identified the seventh day of the week for forty years! No manna fell on the Lord’s Day . . . the seventh day Sabbath.
Second, Muslims regard Friday as the sixth day of the week, a day for sermons and prayers. Jews regard Saturday, the seventh day of the week, as their holy day. Most Christians regard Sunday as the first day of the week, the day Jesus was resurrected. Given that these three ancient religious systems are in theological conflict, it is interesting that they unanimously agree on the sequential order of the weekly cycle. In other words, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the sixth, seventh and first days of the week. This universal agreement also contradicts the claim that time has been lost. The Jews have been worshiping on the seventh day ever since the Exodus. If, at the time of Christ, the Jews had been observing the Sabbath on the wrong day of the week, the Creator would have made a correction. Instead, He actually affirmed the timing of the seventh day when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man [the Creator of the Sabbath] is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27,28, insertion mine)
Third, our sinful nature is naturally hostile toward God’s laws. This is an attitude that lurks within all mankind (even those born again) because of sin’s curse. (Romans 7) Some of the Israelites exhibited this hostility when they went out to gather manna on the seventh day and the Lord rebuked them for it. Paul describes the problem this way: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8) Nothing has changed since Adam and Eve sinned. Humanity today is no different than in ancient times. Obeying God is still difficult for the sinful nature. Joyfully surrendering to God requires a rebirth, a whole new creation; (2 Corinthians 5:17) and even then, sometimes, obeying the Holy Spirit is difficult.
Finally, the claim that the fourth commandment is “Jewish” is totally false. Committing adultery or bearing false witness are not Jewish, so why is the fourth commandment rejected? The seventh day was Adam and Eve’s first full day of life. Jesus gave them His Sabbath as a day of physical rest and spiritual renewal, a day for coming apart from their regular activities and work. In God’s sight, there is a great difference between a holy day and a holiday. Man creates holidays and they are ours to do as we please, but only God can make a day holy. God said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” Clearly, a holy day is not a work day. God’s holy day is the seventh day of the week and we honor Him when we rest from our work as He did at Creation. This is where the conflict lies. The sinful nature does not want to give God time or money. We are naturally selfish and hostile to God’s authority. This is why God tested Israel with His Sabbath in Egypt and again in the wilderness before He spoke the Ten Commandments.
Did Noah and Enoch Keep the Sabbath?
Another thought I find interesting is that the Bible says Enoch and Noah walked with God. (Genesis 5:22; 6:9) God did not hide His Sabbath day from them. In fact, Jesus probably walked with them on the Sabbath! I believe this is true because Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man.” (Mark 2:27) It is unreasonable to think that our Creator made the Sabbath for man and did not tell Enoch and Noah about it.
Observing God’s Sabbath will create family problems, work problems, social problems, and even unforeseen problems. I often say that Sabbath keeping does not benefit everyone; it really only benefits those who are led by the Spirit to see the importance and beauty of keeping it. Keeping the Sabbath will not merit salvation any more than keeping the other nine commandments. However, when God’s Sabbath becomes a spiritual delight and the highlight of the week, we know that we are on the right track. Jesus spoke to Israel through Isaiah saying, “ ‘If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’ The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13,14)
The coming war over worship will last forty-two months. (Revelation 13:5) A great conflict will arise over God’s Sabbath which will become a global test of faith. In some places, the Sabbath is already a test of faith! God’s people will be persecuted and ridiculed for no other reason than resting on God’s Sabbath. The devil will do everything within his power to make the seventh day an object of contempt because he does not want anyone worshiping Jesus! When God shows the Ark of His Covenant from Heaven’s temple, those who have passed the test of faith will rejoice when they see the reality of what they believed to be true. Their faith will become fact. On the other hand, those who rebelled against the law of God will be shocked when they see “the handwriting on the wall.” The wicked will realize their doom and soon drink the seven bowls of God’s wrath.