Apocalypse: Then & Now


§I ICHABOD THROUGH THE AGES


Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.
Ezekiel 10:18 (ESV)

And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. [The Mount Of Olives]
Ezekiel 11:23 (ESV)

This took place before the destruction of the first temple in Ezekiel’s day.
And Jesus, who is Himself the Glory of the Lord, signifies again Jerusalem’s doom by following this exact path before the Day of the Lord came upon the second temple. I wonder how much the disciples realized how relevant this was to the question they asked Him next:

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when His disciples came to point out to Him the buildings of the temple. But He answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”
Matthew 24:1-3

He then proceeded to describe what would accompany the end of that age, (ostensibly the Jewish era in their mind), all of which things literally fell in a very real sense upon that literal generation, in 70AD. Not one stone of the temple was left upon another. Jesus indeed visited Jerusalem again in judgement; even according to the colorful apocalyptic language which God typically uses when speaking of the overthrow of nations in the old testament (coming on the clouds, sun darkened, moon turned to blood, stars falling from heaven, etc.) His warning about this very doom to the Christians, who would be living in that city some 35 years later, is also recorded by Luke:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill ALL that is written.
Luke 21:20-22 (ESV)

Josephus later recorded an incredible event in mid-65AD, right before the seige of Jerusalem properly began, which again mirrors the pattern of the Glory of the Lord departing:

Moreover at the feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests went by night into the inner court of the temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations; they said that in the first place they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that the heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”

But, what is still more terrible; there was one Jesus [a common 1st century name], the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for everyone to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!”

(Josephus, The Wars Of The Jews 6:5:3)

This occured in the year before Jerusalem’s seige began. Many things recorded by the historians of that time sound much like an earthly observer’s account of John’s apocalyptic book unfolding upon the land. All the tribes [Gk. φυλή] of the land [Gk. γῆ] indeed mourned because of He whom they had pierced (Rev 1:7). And those in Jerusalem from all about the land did so mourn, by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, before the later judgement of the unbelievers, just as Zechariah prophesied:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me, on Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
Zechariah 12:10 (ESV)

And afterwards, when the faithful evenually fled that city as Jesus had warned, there was no sacrifice for sins left in it; but only a fearful expectation of judgement, which consumed those particular adversaries of Christ, so that they also wailed on account of Him.

For example, some of the language in Josephus’ account as quoted above, secifically “a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides,” reminds us of the overthrow of that great city called by John “Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified”:

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more,
and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
Revelation 18:21-24 (ESV)

“…For it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”


§II MULTI-LEVEL FULFILLMENTS


These few years were full of great woe. All the plagues and woes fell upon that city as is written in the book of Christ’s unveiling [Gk. apokalupsis – unveiling, or revelation].

And as the earthly temple fell, and its practitioners were judged by the two witnesses of the Law and the Prophets, which they had proven to vehemently despise, the new temple was seen in heaven, heralded by seven trumpet blasts and many woes upon the disobedient; for then Christ had begun to reign (Rev 11:17).

I am becoming convinced that the great bulk of the book of Revelation, as well as Matthew 24:1-34, was in a very real sense fulfilled as of 70AD. In other words, Jesus meant exactly what He said when He spoke the words, “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” For He indeed came back to that city in judgement, since they rebelled against His newly inaugurated reign, having declared, “We have no king but Caesar!” In His judgement of them, Christ proved Himself to be the King of kings, the Prophet of a better covnant, and the Priest of a new temple made without hands.

That said, similar cycles do continue to repeat themselves upon the church whenever God’s people reject His Lordship; and just as there were many false Christs of the Synagogue of Satan in that day, so it remains even to our own. But again, it can be instructional to us to see that much of the book of Revelation appears to have been written to initially tell of the great tribulation of those days, which was “shortly coming to pass;” a day of peril at the end of one age to commence another age, the beginning of the time of which Christ said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been geven to Me. Go therefore…” And this He said as He went to the Father on the clouds of heaven. Daniel also tells us of His ascension in this way:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Here His coming on the clouds is directed not to earth, but to the Father; having bound the Devil and won that which the Father then presents to Him. Therefore the Lord is always slowly building up His kingdom in the midst of the earth just as He promised – perhaps appearing in our impatient eyes to be taking one step back then two steps forward; and He is always cancelling the Devil’s apocalypse, because the true apocalypse belongs to Christ, who is truly the One revealing Himself in the earth.

If our understanding of the nearness of the Day of the Lord is expanded beyond the last 100 years of one particular continent, and if we turn from the voices of proven liars and worldly apocalypse merchants, then I believe that this will slowly become apparent. It is just as wicked to give up, hoping to magically escape in the times of darkness, as it is wicked to pretend that there are no such times in this age. For the Day of the Lord appears first in the hearts of men; and winnows its threshing floor there before anywhere else. Therefore Christ will have for Himself a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation; and He will find servants willing to gather them, even if it takes centuries more.

The Stone grows into a Mountain,
The Leaven permeates the whole lump,
The Son sits at the right hand of the Father,
Until all enemies are made a footstool for His feet.


§III THE AGE OF RESURRECTION


“Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.”

Or as the apostle Paul stated it for this age,

For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:25-26

And later in the same discussion, Paul goes on to say:

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:50-52

Now if this trumpet is in one sense the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15, then it is that which inaugurates the same reign of Christ of which we have already spoken:
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”
They also say thereafter, “for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”

We these things in mind, we can begin to understand that the seals, trumpets, and bowls of Christ’s unveiling are not particular to any one period in history, past or present; but they are ever being opened, blasted, and poured out at all times in every generation and in various ways. They even were fulfilled in one sense long before John’s time, when the Lord overthrew Jericho by the hand of Joshua. For since the book of Revelation concerns the unveiling of Christ, all things in it therefore have a fulfillment in what was, what is, and what is to come.

In John’s day, the fall of earthly Jerusalem, as initially announced by the trumpets he describes, marked for them the beginning of a new iteration of God’s kingdom through the church; which before had subsisted on earth in the earthly temple, but now would spread across the earth from a Cornerstone into a very great mountain, from a Seed into a very great tree: a greater temple made of living stones; a better covanent enacted on better promises. For as long as the earthly temple still stood, its age was not yet ended (Heb 9:8-9). But now He has begun to reign; and of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, though Satan is again fully loosed for but a very little season at the end of this age (Rev 20).

And concerning this present age, the apostle Paul continues:

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:53-57

The victory in this present age is “through our Lord Jesus Christ;” and it is also called by the book of Revelation “the first resurrection” (Rev 20:5). The second death (the lake of fire) has no authority over the ones who partake in this resurrection life by the Spirit of Christ. The first generation of this new Israel overcame the persecution which accompanied the fall of the old order of things (42 months under Nero Caesar), and we still continue to find Christ’s same victory over the first death by that first resurrection, in all the trials that have followed on earth under His current reign.

But note especially the remark about the perishable putting on imperishability, and the mortal putting on immortality. This describes our translation to meet with the Imperishable One who put on what was perishable, the Immortal One who put on mortality; yet who also rendered both imperishable and immortal once again: so that, as the apostle said before, once all enemies are put under His feet in this age, He at last will fully defeat that death in us, even as He did so in Himself. Therefore we work in the hope of the second resurrection triumphing over the second death, as judgement is passed over the children of His covanent, who sing the song of Moses.

It is with this perspective, I believe, that great meaning is retained in Paul’s closing remark on the matter:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58


§IVTHE WARNING


Now, if the church inherits all the blessings of Israel, then it also inherits all the same temptations, all the same risks of idolatry, and all the same curses for disobedience. Whoever steps outside of Christ’s rule steps outside of where all the promises of God are “yes” and “amen.”

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Revelation 22:18-19

That book is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. To add to Him or to take away from Him, is to reject Him. From such He will “remove hence.” There must be a remnant out of every generation, and in every age, who overcomes the dreadful condemnation of Christ, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate.”

Just as those who did not obey Christ in the last age were not able to proceed into the greater glory of His kingdom in this age; so also will those who disobey Him in this age not proceed into its greater glory in the next.

When the church of the previous age (Israel) fully rejected what was given to them, it was succeeded in the present age by a remnant, but with a better promise to bless all nations IN CHRIST. Therefore, when the present remnant of Israel (the church) fully obeys what has been given to it – and God will indeed see it done – it will be translated into a more blessed age.

And though it is now the age of the first resurrection, it was the second resurrection (translation) for which Paul longed even in this life when he said:

…to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, having been conformed to His death, if somehow I may attain to a resurrection out of the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

And Enoch walketh habitually with God, and he is not, for God hath taken him.
Genesis 5:24 (YLT)

“Now the day of the Lord comes not where the carnal mind might imagine, nor when man wills; neither according to the carnal desire of the carnal heart; neither according to the evil eye that looks out, can it be seen.

And as the day of the Lord is a mystery, the Spirit of the Lord is the only discoverer of it; for none can know the things of God, but by the Spirit of God. The day of the Lord; even his bright shining forth in the heart of man, is one of the glorious things of God, which only the Spirit of God gives the knowledge of to man, and in man.

The further men draw from the Light, the darker their hearts become; and their understandings being closed up, they cannot behold the Lord, neither his glory, which is revealed only by God’s Holy Spirit; which Spirit is near man, though he sees it not.”

– Francis Howgill

2 comments on “Apocalypse: Then & Now

  1. BT says:

    Very good word, especially the last section. You continue to bless me often 🙂

    BT

    Like

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