Thank you for the free book, Warning! Revelation is about to be fulfilled. I received it last week and have read it twice. Before I requested the book, I briefly surfed over your huge website and found that you don’t believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. Your position on this topic doesn’t bother me since I’m not strongly convinced there will be (or has to be) a pretribulation rapture. However, I am puzzled by your omission of Israel’s end time role in your book. I think most Protestants believe the nation of Israel will play a major role during the Great Tribulation. Do you?
Thank you for your e-mail. I am delighted that you received my book, and even more delighted that you read it twice. Your actions speak volumes about your quest for understanding and truth. There is a reason for my silence in the book about the nation of Israel.
Here is the problem: I believe the Bible teaches that the saints of God will play a crucial role on Earth during the Great Tribulation, but as a nation, Israel has no end time role. Since my position appears to be contrary to what you presently believe and since this is an intricate topic, I hope you will thoughtfully consider this response to your question.
Two Major Problems
I have found several conflicts in the Bible relating to the idea that the nation of Israel has a prophetic role during the Great Tribulation. Since this response has to be short due to the length of the Wake Up Report!, I would like to present two significant problems. The first problem concerns the Old and New Covenants. The second problem concerns the rapture, the 70th week and the judgment bar of Christ.
Problem 1: Two Different Covenants – Two Different Schematics
Many Christians believe that salvation’s prerequisites change from dispensation to dispensation. In other words, advocates of dispensationalism believe that a person is saved in different ways at different times throughout history. I cannot accept this teaching because I believe that salvation from Genesis through Revelation always comes through faith. Hebrews 11 (New Testament) obviously indicates that salvation came through faith during Old Testament times.
In fact, I believe the Bible teaches that faith in God (a willful submission to the call and will of God) was necessary in Heaven before sin began and I believe that faith in God will be necessary throughout eternity. Lucifer and one third of the angels were cast out of Heaven because they refused to trust God.
Adam and Eve sinned because they did not trust God. God’s children, whether fallen or unfallen, sinful or sinless, are called to live a life of faith. Absolute trust in God is the only way finite beings can live with an infinite God “whose ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:9)
Abraham had a heart for God. When God called Abraham to leave his home, the Bible says that by faith Abraham “went out, not knowing whither he went.” (KJV, Hebrews 11:8) Abraham’s departure from home required a lot of faith in God and the Bible states that God counted Abraham as a righteous man because of his faith! (Genesis 15:6) In other words, because of Abraham’s faith, God considered him a saint instead of the sinner he actually was. (Romans 1:17; 4:16; Galatians 3:9) Remember, this happened before God made a covenant with the nation of Israel. Because Abraham humbly walked with God (lived in harmony with God’s calling and will), Jesus honored Abraham’s faith by making three unconditional promises to him. First, Jesus promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan. (Genesis 15:18) Second, Jesus promised a childless Abraham that his descendants would someday be as numerous as the stars in the sky. (Genesis 15:5) Third, Jesus promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him. (Genesis 18:18)
About four hundred years after making these promises, Jesus miraculously delivered Abraham’s descendants from Egyptian slavery and took them into the desert to prepare them for service. These slaves were the descendants of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, whose name had been changed to Israel because of his faith in God. At Mount Sinai Jesus entered into a covenant with the nation of Israel. It is important to understand that God’s covenant with the nation of Israel was not for the purpose of salvation. God does not save people in groups. Salvation is an intimate, personal matter. Salvation comes to one person at a time when he surrenders his life to God’s control (lives by faith).
The covenant that God offered the nation of Israel was that of serving as trustees of His gospel. From the beginning of sin, the plan of salvation has operated as a living trust. A living trust has three elements: A benefactor, one or more trustees, and one or more beneficiaries. In a living trust, the benefactor chooses trustees to deliver his benefits to his beneficiaries. Prior to Mount Sinai, the patriarchs were the trustees of the gospel. They spoke for God and the gospel they preached contained important information that was otherwise unknown. After God dispersed humanity at the Tower of Babel and nations formed, He decided to use one nation to reach all the other nations. So, God the Benefactor chose Israel as a trustee through which He would bless all nations (beneficiaries).
The wonderful thing about the eternal gospel is that whosoever will may come and enjoy the benefits of God’s salvation. As the Creator of mankind, God is not exclusive; instead, He is inclusive. At Mount Sinai the nation of Israel agreed to do whatever the Lord commanded. (Exodus 24:3) It is most important to understand the nature and structure of God’s covenant because God’s covenant with Israel was conditional from the beginning. Look at two passages (there are many) from the Old Testament showing that the covenant between God and the nation of Israel was conditional:
1. “Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:3–6, italics mine)
2. “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. . . . However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” (Deuteronomy 28:1,15, italics mine)
Fifteen hundred years after establishing His covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, Jesus came to Earth as the Messiah. The very nation (Acts 3:15) that He had chosen to be His representative on Earth rejected and killed Him. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11; Luke 20:9-16) The Old Testament is unmistakably clear! For 15 centuries, God did everything possible to get Israel to fulfill His objectives, but Israel rebelled at every turn. (Ezekiel 23, Romans 11:20–21) Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The eternal gospel of Jesus could not be given to the world by a rebellious group of trustees. How could Israel teach the world about faith in God when a majority of people in Israel refused to live by faith? So, Jesus, the Benefactor, terminated His covenant with the nation of Israel by pronouncing this benediction: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often [over the past 1,500 years] I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house [your nation] is left to you desolate [of God’s covenant, blessings and presence]. For I tell you, you will not see me [extending grace to this house ever] again until you [are forced by overwhelming circumstances to] say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord [at the Second Coming*].” (Matthew 23:37–39, insertions and italics mine, *See Matthew 26:64 and Revelation 1:7.)
A few days after Jesus terminated His covenant with the nation of Israel, He implemented a New Covenant (Luke 22:20) because Jesus wants the benefits of His gospel to go throughout the whole Earth. Now, the New Covenant differs from the Old Covenant in two critical ways.
First, instead of choosing a nation of people to serve as trustees of the gospel, the New Covenant opens the door and allows “whosoever will” to become a trustee of the gospel. In the New Covenant, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female (these distinctions had been important in the Old Covenant). (Romans 10:12)
Under the New Covenant, God approves every sinner who chooses to live by faith to serve as a trustee of the gospel of Jesus. Said another way, the Old Covenant pertained to a selected group of trustees, but the New Covenant pertains to a self-selecting group of trustees. One could also say that after Israel failed (Plan A), God created even a better covenant for those who would choose to participate in Plan B. (Romans 11:15, Hebrews 8:6) Keep in mind that a new covenant was required when the covenant with Israel was terminated because the plan of salvation operates as a living trust there is a Benefactor, trustees, and beneficiaries.
The second difference between the Old Covenant and New Covenant is profoundly important: The two covenants have different laws, different promises and different prophecies. Mixing or merging the terms and conditions of these two covenants will produce disastrous results. Millions of Protestants are hopelessly confused about Bible prophecy (including what will occur during the Great Tribulation) because pastors and theologians are mixing and merging the terms and conditions of the two covenants.
The prophecies and promises given to ancient Israel under the Old Covenant will not be fulfilled because God terminated that covenant with the nation of Israel. Even though God abandoned the nation of Israel as trustees, any Jew who surrenders to the gospel of Christ by faith in Him can receive salvation because the New Covenant does not distinguish between Jews and Gentiles. (Early Jewish converts understood this concept well. See Romans 11:23.)
Consider this: The Old Covenant does not say one word about the Second Coming because everything in the Old Covenant centers around the First Coming which was supposed to be the only coming! Had Israel been faithful to the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant, there would not be a Second Coming. Jesus would not have returned to Heaven and He would have established His kingdom on Earth just as John the Baptist predicted! (Mark 1:15)
Everything promised and prophesied in the Old Testament would have been fulfilled just as it was written in the Old Covenant if Israel had remained faithful as trustees and had accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah. The past 2,000 years of Earth’s history would be entirely different than we now know it if Israel had met the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant. Sadly, the Old Covenant had to be terminated because Israel persistently refused to cooperate with God and accomplish His objectives. Therefore, God made a New Covenant for those who are faithful to Him.
Israel Redefined Not Displaced
Given this discussion on the two covenants, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with modern Israel and the end of the world. Here is the point: When Jesus initiated the New Covenant, He created a self-selecting group of trustees who would choose to live by faith.
You might be surprised to learn that Jesus’ new trustees are also called “Israel” because He made three unconditional promises to Abraham. To fulfill these unconditional promises, Jesus had to redefine Israel; that is, Jesus redefined the “heirs of Abraham.” Consider this verse: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed [the Greek word for seed is sperma], and [therefore] heirs according to the promise [that will be fulfilled at the appointed time].” (Galatians 3:29, insertion mine) “It is not as though God’s word had failed [when He established the New Covenant].
For not all who are descended from Israel [Jacob] are [part of] Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, [biology means little to God. Faith means everything to God. This is why God said to Abraham] It is through Isaac [the son who was promised to you and Sarah, not Ishmael] that your offspring will be reckoned. In other words, it is not the natural [biological] children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise [like Isaac, those who live by faith] who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:6–8, insertions mine)
The Apostle James knew that Israel had been redefined because he calls the believers in Christ the twelve tribes of Israel. (See James 1:1 and 2:1.) Of course, current saints do not know which tribe is theirs, but this information will be clarified when the time comes for them to enter the Holy City.
(By the way, no one belonging to the Jewish race today knows their biological tribe of origin either. The Roman army destroyed all of Israel’s genealogical records in the first century A.D.) So, biological origin, temple services, sacrificial offerings, circumcision, and all of the Old Covenant terms and conditions mean nothing to God today. (Galatians 2–4, Romans 2:28–29, Hebrews 7–10) God has terminated the Old Covenant, with its promises and prophecies, and has declared it null and void because there is a New Covenant, a new group of trustees and new promises and prophecies.
Because the twelve tribes have been redefined, the 144,000 will come from all nations and religions. They are identified as the “twelve tribes” of Israel in Revelation 7 because the 144,000 will be people who have faith in God, just like Abraham and Jacob (also called Israel).
These people will love God with all their heart, mind and soul as Abraham and Jacob did. Carefully study this passage and notice how Jesus defines the issue of ancestry: “Abraham is our father, they answered. If you were Abraham’s children, said Jesus, then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. . . . You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” (John 8:39–44)
If our behavior reflects the faith of Abraham, God considers us children and heirs of Abraham. If our behavior reflects the rebellion of the devil, God considers us children of the devil.
Throughout the ages, the saints of God have been tested with persecution and the same holds true for the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 3:9; 12:17; 13:7) The Great Tribulation will separate people of faith from people of rebellion. Thus, in the end, all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26) because the Israel of God (the descendants of Abraham) consists only of people who have a faith in God like Abraham and Jacob.
When the Israel of God goes marching into New Jerusalem at the Second Coming, the twelve tribes will enter through their respective gates! (Revelation 21:12) Think about that glorious day! When the time arrives for all of Abraham’s children to enter into the Holy City, twelve great processions will form, and after marching through those pearly gates, a numberless group of “Jews” will gather around the throne of God and together as one man, they will bow down before Jesus, the Messiah, the eternal King of the Jews. (Mark 15:2, John 19:19–22)
A thousand years later, when the Holy City comes down from God out of Heaven and lands on Earth, the three unconditional promises made to Abraham will THEN be fulfilled. (1) The Holy City will physically encompass all of the land that was promised to the patriarch.
Abraham’s descendants will possess the land, and the Holy City will be their home throughout eternity. Incidentally, the Holy City, built by God Himself, is the city that Abraham anticipated. (Hebrews 11:10) (2) When the saints of all ages are gathered around God’s throne, Abraham’s heirs will be as numberless as the stars in the sky. They will come from all nations and religious backgrounds, and a “once childless” Abraham will rejoice as he looks over that vast throng.
Among the redeemed, Abraham will be known as “the father of the faithful.” (3) Last, there will be endless rejoicing throughout Heaven at the end of sin’s drama because the redeemed will realize that all nations were truly blessed with the gift of salvation through Abraham’s seed.
Jesus, the Lamb of God and the Lion from the tribe of Judah, will be eternally praised to the highest Heavens for the salvation that He so generously provided to all who were willing to live by faith. Thus, the three unconditional promises given to Abraham will be fulfilled.
The salient point is that in this marvelous drama, the modern nation of Israel is not in the picture. The establishment of modern Israel is no different than the recent establishment of Serbia. Neither event is prophetically significant. (For further study, please review these four articles:
Unfulfilled and Forfeited Prophecies
What Was Nailed to the Cross
God’s Covenants )
Problem 2: The Judgment, the Rapture, and the 70th Week
Because the terms and conditions of the two covenants are often mixed up and inappropriately merged together, advocates of dispensationalism have devised a mechanical solution (called “a pretribulation rapture”) to solve their problems of mixing and merging the two covenants. In a nutshell, dispensationalists believe that God is still obligated to fulfill His promises to the biological offspring of Abraham because God’s calling and promises are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)
Let me be clear, God’s unconditional promises are irrevocable. Heaven and Earth will pass away before God’s Word fails. (Matthew 5:18) For this reason, we can be sure that God will fulfill everything He unconditionally promised to Abraham, but His conditional promises to the nation of Israel are another matter.
In fact, if it were not for the revocation of the Old Covenant, there could not be a New Covenant! Jesus terminated the Old Covenant because the nation of Israel passed the point of no return. “But God found fault with the people and said : The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the [redefined] house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” (Hebrews 8:8, insertion and italics mine) See also Isaiah 24:5 and Ezekiel 23.
Because Israel refused to receive Christ as the Messiah, dispensationalists believe that God raised up Christians to temporarily fulfill the gospel commission that is, Christians were appointed as trustees of the gospel commission until the times granted to the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:24)
Then they believe, when the world is seven years away from the Second Coming, Jesus will remove “the believers” from Earth via a pretribulation rapture so that He can fulfill His promises to the nation of Israel. Dispensationalists believe this event will somehow cause 144,000 people within the Jewish race to convert to Christianity and these people will then go throughout the Earth during the seven years of the Great Tribulation proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.
I have several problems with this schematic. Here are three: First, let us suppose there was a pretribulation rapture and all the Christians were removed from Earth. Isn’t it true that anyone converting to Jesus Christ after the rapture would have to fall under the provisions of the New Covenant?
Think about this: The Old Covenant required converts to be adopted into the nation of Israel (Genesis 17:12,13, Exodus 12:48, Deuteronomy 23) and this adoption process involved circumcision and it required the services of priests from the tribe of Levi. (Hebrews 7:11)
The problem now is that Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the New Covenant sits at the right hand of God and He comes from the tribe of Judah! In other words, if the terms and conditions set forth in the Old Covenant are still valid and binding, who from the tribe of Levi is worthy to mediate in Heaven for those who missed the rapture?
It makes no sense to remove the trustees of the New Covenant with a pretribulation rapture so that the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant terms such as circumcision, temple sacrifices and a Levitical priesthood can be reestablished. The Old Covenant was abolished long ago. (Colossians 2)
The second problem with the pretribulation rapture and modern Israel’s role during the Great Tribulation concerns the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. I believe advocates of dispensationalism have badly distorted Daniel 9 to make the rapture doctrine plausible and the result is total confusion. Dispensationalists claim the 70th week is detached from the 69 weeks. They believe that a gap of almost 2,000 years must be inserted between the 69th week and the 70th week.
I cannot find any support for this claim in the Bible. I believe the Bible affirms that the 70th week immediately followed the 69th week which immediately followed the 68th week, etc. In other words, the Bible does not teach there is a gap of centuries between any of the 70 weeks, including the 69th week and the 70th week.
This is easily proven in two ways. First, time itself is an unbroken continuum. When one day ends, another begins. When one month ends, another begins. When one year ends, another begins. Therefore, it is impossible to insert a span of 2,000 years within a period of 490 years (70 weeks).
Second, and more importantly, history proves the 70th week immediately followed the 69th week because the specifications given in Daniel 9 were fulfilled between 457 B.C. and A.D. 33. The 70 weeks of Daniel 9 began and ended on time.
Here is a very brief explanation on the fulfillment of the 70 weeks: The decree that marked the beginning of the 70 weeks was issued by King Artaxerxes in the Spring of 457 B.C. Of the four decrees issued to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, only one decree occurs in a Sunday year always the first year in a week of seven years, and 457 B.C. also happened to be a Jubilee year.
It is important to know that 457 B.C. was a Jubilee year because Daniel 9 divides the 69 weeks into two segments by calling them ” seven weeks and 62 weeks.” God divided the 69 weeks into two segments to give Israel an important clue. He wanted Israel to know that the decree which started the 70 weeks would occur in a Jubilee year which is always the first year of a Jubilee cycle of 49 years.
According to Daniel 9:25, Messiah would appear at the beginning of the 70th week. According to Luke 3, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in A.D. 27. A.D. 27 is the first year of the 70th week and it is a Sunday year, exactly 484 years (counting inclusively) from the decree of Artaxerxes.
Jesus appeared on time and Jesus died on time, in the middle year of the 70th week. (Galatians 4:4) Astronomy and Bible history leave no wiggle room on this. Zero. Jesus died in the middle of the 70th week (a Wednesday year) in A.D. 30. Jesus, the Author of oblations and sacrifices caused oblations and sacrifices to end at the cross. Daniel 9 has been fulfilled. The 70th week followed the 69th week and everything predicted for the 70th week has been fulfilled. The bottom line is this: Someone has to give the gospel to the world during the Great Tribulation.
Will it be the twelve tribes from all religions preaching under the terms and conditions of the New Covenant, or will it be people from the Jewish race preaching under the terms and conditions of the New Covenant? (This really is not a valid question because under the New Covenant, there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.) (For further study on the 70th week, please review these articles:
God’s Timing is Perfect
Great Clocks From God )
The third and final problem is that of the judgment bar of Christ. Dispensationalists have tied modern Israel’s end-time role and a pretribulation rapture together and made them codependent doctrines. Given the intricate relationship between these two concepts, here is a problem that every rapture believing Christian should thoughtfully consider: Many advocates of a pretribulation rapture doctrine have not stopped to realize that the rapture doctrine requires two separate and distinct judgments of the living.
In other words, the rapture doctrine presupposes a judgment of the living before the rapture (to see who will be taken and who will be left behind) and then there’s a second chance. A second judgment of the living must be held near the end of the Great Tribulation to see who will be saved at the Second Coming. The problem is that the Bible does not teach a second chance nor does it teach there will be two judgments for the living!
The judgment bar of Christ occurs once for the living. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10) Since the rapture doctrine requires two judgments of the living and the Bible does not teach a second chance nor multiple judgments, this is an insurmountable problem.
The Bible reveals without ambiguity that the saints of God will be persecuted during the Great Tribulation. “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.” (Revelation 13:5–7)
God permits persecution to rise during the Great Tribulation to separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep will put their faith in God and give up their lives if required, but the goats will do everything possible to save themselves. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) For more information on these topics, review these links:
Parallel Temple Services
What Happens at Death
Jessie, I am convinced the combined doctrines of a pretribulation rapture and the alleged prophetic role of Israel during the Great Tribulation stem from mixing and merging Old Covenant and New Covenant promises and prophecies. Without trying to sound arrogant, I believe these concepts are flimsy and like a house of cards, they will fall one day. Of course, the passage of time will prove all things. I hope you will continue to study this topic by reviewing the various articles listed above. Your question on the prophetic role of modern Israel is a good one and it deserves considerable attention. I hope this has been helpful.