In this chapter, I wish to look at how the Feasts look forward prophetically to events connected both with Christ’s first Advent and with his Second Coming, before going on, in the final chapter, to look at how the Feasts will be observed, if at all, in the World to Come. Before doing so, however, I should declare that I have written this and the final chapters from a premillennialist perspective, that is, from the perspective of someone who subscribes to the view that the “thousand” years of Revelation 20:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 are to be understood in their literal sense as referring to a one-thousand-year period immediately following the Return of Christ. This, it should be stated, is a view which is not shared by all Bible-believing Christians, some adhering to amillennialism, that is, the view that the “thousand years” in question are to be understood as referring to a period of indeterminate length spanning the whole of that period between Christ’s first advent and his Second Coming, and others to postmillennialism, that is, the view that the “thousand years” are to be understood as beginning at some point in the interadvent period and preceding Christ’s Second Coming. In defence of premillennialism, I will simply state that it can be demonstrated that it was implicitly, if not explicitly, taught by all Pre-Nicean Fathers who had anything whatsoever to say on the subject of the “thousand years”, and that the view that the saints are now reigning with Christ was not taught until the Church had risen to a position of considerable earthly power and wealth following its establishment as the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine.[1]

GOD’S PROPHETIC CALENDAR FORETOLD IN THE FEASTS

When I first began writing this book, I did so in the conviction that each of the feasts not only commemorates a past event in the history of Israel, but that they also typify, that is, they foreshadow, or look forward prophetically, to an aspect of Christ’s redemptive work. According to this view, the spring feasts look forward to events associated with Christ’s first advent and the autumn feasts look forward to events associated with His Second Coming.

Not only that, but, I also believed, the event which each of the feasts typifies has, in the case of the spring feasts, already taken place, or, in the case of the autumn feasts, will take place, on the very day on which the feast itself was observed.

 

Thus, Passover looks forward to the crucifixion, which, I believed, took place not, as is traditionally believed, on the 15th of Nisan, the day after Passover is observed, but on the 14th Nisan, that is, the very afternoon on which the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. Christ therefore rested in the tomb on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a special Sabbath, and which can be said therefore to look forward to the day on which he rested from his work. The omer, or firstfruits offering, which was offered on the Feast of Firstfruits, foreshadows his resurrection, which took place on the very day on which that feast was observed. The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, clearly foreshadows the birthday of the Church, or, rather, the transformation of the Old Testament Church into its New Testament form, which event took place, as most commentators agree, on the very day on which this feast was observed.

 If each of the spring feasts look forward to a future (from the point of view of the time in which the Feasts were inaugurated) event in Christ’s redemptive career, it seems reasonable to suppose that the autumn feasts also look forward to future events in “salvational history”. Since it is impossible to identify any such past events which took place on any of the days on which the autumn feasts were observed, I concluded that they must therefore look forward to future (from the point of view both of the time in which the Feasts were inaugurated and of that in which we are now living) such events.Thus, the Feast of Trumpets looks forward to the Rapture of the Church; the Day of Atonement looks forward to the conversion of the Jews; and the Feast of Tabernacles looks forward to Christ’s visible return to earth and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.And not only do they look forward to future (from the point of view of the time in which we are now living) events in Christ’s redemptive career, but those events which they look forward to will, like the events which the spring feasts look forward to, also take place on the day on which the feasts which looks forward to that event takes place. Thus the Rapture will take place on the Feast of Trumpets; the conversion of the Jews will take place on the Day of Atonement; and Christ’s visible return to earth, followed by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, will take place at the Feast of Tabernacles.I have tabulated this view as follows: 

Date of Feast Feast Commemorative Significance Event Typified
14/15th Nisan Passover The Egyptian Passover Crucifixion
15th Nisan First Day of Feast of Unleavened Bread The Exodus Christ “rests” in the tomb
16th Nisan Feast of Firstfruits   The Resurrection of Christ, “the firstfruits”
6th Sivan Weeks/Pentecost The Giving of the Law at Sinai The Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost
1st Tishri Feast of Trumpets The “birthday” of the World The Rapture of the Church
10th Tishri Day of Atonement Moses’ descent from the mount with the Second Tables of the Law The Conversion of the Jews
15th-21st Tishri Feast of Tabernacles The 40 years Wandering in the Wilderness Christ’s visible return to earth and the marriage supper of the Lamb

 I found what I initially took to be independent confirmation of this theory in Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal’s book, The Feasts of the Lord, in which a similar view is advanced.[i]That the complex of events connected with the Second Coming will take place at the time of the autumn feasts agrees with Jewish tradition. A rabbinical authority quoted in the Talmud states: “In the month of Nisan, our ancestors were redeemed, and in Tishri, they will be redeemed in the time to come.”[ii]This leads us to a further consideration. In the book of Revelation, we are told that the power of the beast will last for 42 months, and ends with Christ’s visible return to earth. If it is indeed the case that the events connected with the Second Coming take place during the autumn feasts, the beast’s 42-month period of rule will begin at Passover. Will his death and resurrection (apparent or otherwise) take place at the beginning of his 42-month period of rule? If so, this would take place at the same time as Christ’s own resurrection from the dead.I have been, from almost the time of my conversion, and before I even knew that there existed such a term, a confirmed posttribulationist—that is, someone who subscribes to the view that, contrary to what has been taught in recent years, the Rapture will not take place before a posited seven-year period into which the events described in Jeremiah 30:4-7, Daniel 9:27 (as it has been translated in the New International Version), Matthew 24, and chapters 4 to 19 of the book of Revelation have been placed. The scenario outlined above had the additional attraction of overcoming two of the principal objections to posttribulationism. These are, firstly, that the usual posttribulational scheme does not allow sufficient time for enough people to be converted between the Rapture of the Church and Christ’s physical return to earth to be converted in their natural bodies and to go on into the millennium to repopulate the earth; and, secondly, that the judgments described in Revelation 16 are of such severity that believers would unjustly suffer, together with unbelievers, during their outpouring. If, however, there is a fifteen-day time-gap between the Rapture of the Church and Christ’s visible return to earth, then the first objection can easily be overcome, and, in addition, the judgments described in Revelation 16 can be placed into this fifteen-day time gap, thus overcoming the second. The problem presented by Christ’s words recorded in Matthew 24:36, to the effect that no man knows the day or hour (of what?), could be overcome if it could be established that Christ was not referring to his Second Coming (either aspect of it), but to some other event, such as the setting up of the “abomination of desolation”.During the writing of this book, I have since been persuaded by the arguments presented in the Appendix to Edersheim’s book, The Temple: It’s Ministry and Services, to abandon my former confidently-held belief that the crucifixion took place not, as is traditionally believed, on the 15th of Nisan, the day following the Passover, but on the afternoon preceding the Passover itself. Christ did indeed die at Passover, the Jews reckoning the day from sunset, and Passover being thought to include the Chagigah, or “peace offering”, which was offered on the following day. But he did not rest in the tomb on the First day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a special Sabbath, but the day after, which was a weekly Sabbath, and the resurrection did not take place on the Feast of Firstfruits, but on the day after. If Edersheim’s arguments are accepted, then the above view is seriously weakened, unless some solution, such as that presented by Lightfoot (that the fulfilment of the spring feasts was postponed until the day following which the feasts were observed), can be found.Despite this, the indications that the autumn feasts not only foreshadow future events associated with Christ’s Second Coming, but that the events which these feasts foreshadow may also take place on the day of the feast which foreshadows that event are so strong that I will nevertheless look at each of the events which, I believe, the autumn feasts look forward to, as well as suggest reasons why they may in fact take place on the day on which the feast which typifies them is observed.

THE RAPTURE

The Rapture of the Church is referred to in several places in the New Testament, most notably in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52. It is arguably to the Rapture that Jesus refers in the wonderful promise recorded in John 13:3. It is the Rapture, I believe, which is described under the figure of “the harvest of the earth” in the vision of “one…like to the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle” of Revelation 14:14-17 (AV; cf. Jn. 4:35, in which conversion is spoken of as “harvest”), although not all commentators would agree with me on this point.[2] We also find what, I believe, is a “snapshot view” of the Rapture as it will appear to observers in what is called, “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8, AV)—whatever city is meant by the expression—in Revelation 11:11-12, although again other commentators have different interpretations of what is described in this scene.What indications are there that the Rapture will take place at the time of the Feast of Trumpets?In an earlier chapter, we looked at an ancient prayer which was said in the Temple on New Moons’ Day: “Blessed be He who reneweth the months.” To this, the synagogue, towards the close of the third century, added the following: “Blessed be He by whose word the heavens were created, and by the breath of whose mouth all the hosts thereof were formed! He appointed them a law and time, that they should not overstep their course. They rejoice and are glad to perform the will of their Creator, Author of truth; their operations are truth! He spoke to the moon, Be you renewed, and be the beautiful diadem [i.e. the hope] of man [i.e. Israel], who shall one day be quickened again like the moon [i.e. at the coming of the Messiah], and praise their Creator for His glorious kingdom. Blessed be He who reneweth the moons.”According to Edersheim, the blowing of the priests’ trumpets “would summon, as it were, the Lord’s host to offer their tribute to their exalted King, and thus bring themselves into ‘remembrance’ before Him”. He continues: “Of old the ‘blowing of trumpets’ had been the signal for Israel’s host on their march through the wilderness, as it afterwards summoned them to warfare, and proclaimed or marked days of public rejoicing, and feasts, as well as the ‘beginnings of their months’ (Num. 10:1-10). The object of it is expressly stated to have been ‘for a memorial,’ that they might ‘be remembered before Jehovah,’ it being specially added: ‘I am Jehovah your God.’ It was, so to speak, the host of God assembled, waiting for their Leader; the people of God united to proclaim their King. At the blast of the priests’ trumpets they ranged themselves, as it were, under His banner and before His throne, and this symbolical confession and proclamation of Him as ‘Jehovah their God,’ brought them before Him to be ‘remembered’ and ‘saved.’ And so every season of ‘blowing the trumpets,’ whether at New Moons, at the Feast of Trumpets or New Year’s Day, at other festivals, in the Sabbatical and Year of Jubilee, or in the time of war, was a public acknowledgment of Jehovah as King.” Does the apostle Paul allude to the “the host of God assembled, waiting for their Leader; the people of God united to proclaim their King” at the “blowing of trumpets” when he refers to the Rapture of the Church as “our gathering together to him” (2 Thess. 2:1, AV)?Edersheim also states that the object of the “blowing of trumpets” is “expressly stated to have been ‘for a memorial,’ that they might ‘be remembered before Jehovah”. Is there an allusion to this aspect of the meaning of the “blowing of trumpets” in the heavenly declaration which follows the sounding of the seventh angel: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying, /‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, /Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. /The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, /And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, /And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, /And those that fear Your name, small and great, /And should destroy those who destroy the earth.’” (Rev. 11:15-18, NKJ)Is it to the “blowing of trumpets” at the Feast of Trumpets that the apostle Paul alludes in his description of the “trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16, AV), and “the last trump” (1 Cor. 15:52, AV) which shall sound at the Rapture of the Church?

Watchfulness

In The Feasts of the Lord, which he co-authored with Kevin Howard, Marvin Rosenthal makes the following observation: “The Feast of Trumpets occurs on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishri. It occurs at the New Moon when only the slightest crescent is visible. However, clouds could obscure the moon, and witnesses were required in ancient days. Watchfulness was a critical ingredient of this feast. The rabbis later added a second day to this feast to make sure they did not miss it. This need for watchfulness and preparedness in connection with the Feast of Trumpets is echoed and reechoed throughout the New Testament in connection with Messiah’s coming.”Rosenthal goes on to quote a number of passages in which this need for watchfulness and preparedness in connection with the Feast of Trumpets is, in his words, “echoed and reechoed…in connection with the Messiah’s coming”, these being Matthew 24:42, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, Titus 2:13, Heb. 9:28, 2 Peter 3:12-14.That the Rapture of the Church takes place at the time of the Feast of Trumpets leads on to a further consideration.We have already stated that, in the Jewish calendar, months are dated from the first sighting of the New Moon, which can be predicted, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, to take place twenty-nine, or thirty days, after the appearance of the previous full moon. Just as it is possible to predict, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, the timing of the New Moon, so, once the 42-month rule of the beast begins, will it be possible, by counting off 1,263 ½ days from when his 42-month period of rule begins, to predict when the Rapture of the Church will take place.[3]  And, just as witnesses gazed heavenwards every twenty-nine (and, if the New Moon failed to appear on that day, thirty), days following the previous New Moon, will not those believers who survive that final onslaught against God’s people described in the book of Revelation (11:7, 8; 12:11, 13, 17; 13:7, 10, 15-17; 14:12, 13), similarly be found gazing heavenward 1,263 or 1,264 days after the 42-month rule of the beast begins, “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13, AV)?

THE CONVERSION OF THE JEWS

Following the Rapture of the Church, God will turn once again to his ancient people, the Jews, who, with the exceptions of those many who have received Christ as the Messiah, have remained, for a large part, in a position of unbelief for the last two thousand years, and who at this time will finally recognize Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah.

The Time of Jacob’s Trouble

A number of passages of Scripture indicate that, shortly before Christ’s physical and visible return to earth, and perhaps immediately after the Rapture of the Church, Israel will be invaded and Jerusalem besieged. It is this military campaign which, on the basis of Revelation 16:16, has popularly been called “Armageddon”. Although not all commentators will agree with my interpretation of this passage, it is my contention that chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Ezekiel constitute the most highly detailed and extensive description of this “war to end all wars”. It is also my contention that the figure whom, through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord GOD addresses as “Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (Ezek. 38:10, RSV), or “Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal” (Ezek. 38:10, NKJ), and who commands the confederacy of invading nations, is that same figure whom the apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, describes as “that man of sin… , the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3, AV), and as “that Wicked” (2 Thess. 2:8, AV); whom the apostle John, in his first letter, describes as “antichrist” (1 Jn. 2:22; 4:3); and who is presented in various passages in the book of Revelation under the figure of “the beast” (Rev. 11:7; 13:4-8, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18).[4] A number of commentators believe, on a variety of grounds, that Magog is to be identified as Russia, and that Gog is therefore to be identified as a future Russian leader, although not all such commentators would agree with my contention that Gog and the Antichrist are one and the same figure, or that the end-time invasion of Israel described in these two chapters is “Armageddon”.[5] (Interestingly, this passage is to be found immediately following what early commentators understood to be a graphic description of the resurrection, others to be an allegorical description of the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile, and others still (both before and after 1948) to be a description of the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland at, or shortly before the Christ’s Second Coming.)Together with Gog, and all his army, horses and horsemen, a number of peoples, which can easily be identified with present-day nations, are described as being “brought forth” with Gog, Persia being easily identifiable as present-day Iran, Cush with Ethiopia (or the black African nations), and Put with Libya (or the Arab African nations). Gomer and the house of Togarmah are less easily identifiable, although some commentators see an etymological link between the words, “Gomer”, and “Cimmerian”, and the words “Togarmah”, and, “Armenia”. Certainly the Cimmerians were related to the Celtic peoples, who inhabited much of modern day Europe. Speaking of this period shortly preceding Christ’s physical and visible return to earth, the LORD, through the prophet Jeremiah, describes the response of the inhabitants of Israel to what will constitute the greatest threat to their survival as a nation since their formation as a nation following the Exodus: “And these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. For thus says the LORD: ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, /Of fear, and not of peace./ Ask now, and see, /Whether a man is ever in labor with child? /So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins/ Like a woman in labour, /And all turned pale?’” (Jer. 30:4-6, NKJ)The LORD also describes “that day” as “great, so that none is like it”, and declares that “it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7, AV). With dispensationalist commentators, I agree that the time period hereby referred to as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” corresponds to that interval of time between the Rapture of the Church and Christ’s visible return to earth. Unlike these commentators, however, I do not believe that this period of time lasts anything like the seven years allowed for in their programme of end-time events. For reasons which I will develop below, it is my belief that this brief will last for precisely fifteen days.[6] In a similar vein, the LORD declares, through the prophet Joel: “Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty… . Blow the trumpet in Zion, /And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; /For the day of the LORD is coming, /For it is at hand: /A day of darkness and gloominess, /A day of clouds and thick darkness, /Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. /A people come, great and strong; /The like of whom there has never been; /Nor will there ever be as such after them, /Even for many successive generations.” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 2, NKJ)Is there, in the words, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, /And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!”, an allusion to the trumpet which was sounded at the Feast of Trumpets, and an indication in this as to the timing of this end-time invasion of Israel?Speaking one final time through Joel, the LORD declares: “For behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat [judgment], and will plead with them for my people and for my heritage Israel… .” (Joel 3:1, 2) Biederwolf, in The Prophecy Handbook, says that the expression which, in the Authorised Version, is translated, “bring again”, “means to reverse, to make an end of”. However, more recent versions translates this clause variously as, “bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem” (ASV), “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem” (RSV, NASB, ESB, NIV), and, “bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem” (NKJ). The words which, in the Authorised Version, are translated, “plead with”, are, in the American Standard Version, translated, “execute judgment”, which Biederwolf considers “a much to be preferred rendering” to that in the Authorised Version.After foretelling Israel’s future conversion and deliverance, the LORD, this time speaking through the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, who prophesied after the return from the Babylonian captivity, declares: “‘And it shall come to pass in all the land,’ says the LORD, ‘that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it; I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and will test them as gold is tested… .’ Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” (Zech. 13:8, 9, 14:1, 2, NKJ)

Why does God allow Israel to be invaded?

After foretelling, through Jeremiah, Israel’s eventual deliverance (Jer. 30:8-10), the LORD declares the purpose of this end-time invasion of Israel: “I will chasten you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.” (Jer. 30:11, RSV) How shall Jacob be saved out of the time of Jacob’s trouble? And how shall the LORD chasten Israel?We come now to what those believers who love the Jewish people and who acknowledge that they are still, in some sense, God’s people, find to be one of the most amazing and exciting aspects of all prophecy. A number of passages of Scripture seem to indicate that, at that point when, all previous attempts to annihilate them having been of no avail, their extirpation as a race seems finally assured, those Jews who survive the terrible events of the last days before Christ’s visible return to earth will, in their distress, turn to the One whom they handed over to be crucified two thousand years ago and finally recognize him as their long-awaited Messiah (Jer. 31:18-20; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-28; Joel 2: 12-17).

The future conversion of the Jews declared in the New Testament

That the Jews would, as a people, one day recognise Jesus as their Messiah, seems to be indicated in two New Testament passages.As he departed the Temple for the final time, Jesus declared: “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you shall say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.” (Mt. 23:39, NASB) Some commentators understand the Greek word which, in the New American Standard Version, has been translated, “until”, to mean, “unless”, and say that Jesus is not, therefore, making a prediction as to the future conversion of the Jews, but stating a condition which had to be met before they again saw him. However, taken together with a number of other passages concerning the final conversion of the Jews, it would seem that what Jesus meant by these words was that there would come a day when the Jews as a nation would say of him, “Baruch haba ba shem Adonai!”—“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”Paul, in his letter to the Romans, also describes at great length the future restoration of the Jews (Rom. 11:11, 12, 15, 16, 25-32). Although some commentators have taken the words, “life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15), in their literal sense as referring to the resurrection, it is more likely that they are to be taken figuratively as referring to the enormous blessings which will be bestowed upon the world as a result of their conversion. Paul also says that “hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 1125, NKJ), which is not to say that each individual observant Jew is partially hardened to Spiritual truth, but that “hardening…has happened” to that portion of the Jewish people who rejected Christ as their Messiah during his earthly ministry, and who continue to do so today. This “hardening” will remain “until the fullness [Gr. pleroma] of the Gentiles has come in”—meaning, as I understand it, that, when the “fullness” (or “full number”, as this can also be translated), of Gentiles predestined to salvation has come to faith—and probably after the Rapture of the Church has taken place—there being no point in the Church continuing her sojourn in the world after the full number of elect Gentiles has been made up—God will then finally turn to those unbelieving Jews who have survived the events of the last days immediately preceding Christ’s visible return to earth, and who will then recognize Jesus as their Messiah.

Spiritual Revival Amongst the Jews Foretold in the Old Testament to Take Place on the Day of the Lord

Concluding the oracle concerning Gog of Magog, the Lord GOD, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, speaks of a future spiritual revival amongst the Jews. The timing is thus declared: “When I have brought them back from the peoples, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations.” (Ezek. 39:27, ASV)That there will be a widespread revival amongst the Jews “before the great and the terrible day of the LORD comes” seems to be indicated by the well-known passage in the book of Joel describing the pouring out of the Holy Spirit “upon all flesh” (Joel 2:18-32) which Peter quoted in his address to the multitude which had gathered following the coming of the Holy Spirit of the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). Although, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter stated that “this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16), it is my belief that the fulfilment of Joel’s words is not limited to the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but will be completed with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on those Jews who survive the events of the last days immediately preceding Christ’s visible return to earth.Having uttered his pronouncement of doom upon those nations which come up against Jerusalem in the last days immediately preceding Christ’s visible return to earth, the LORD, speaking through the prophet Zechariah, declares: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced… .” (Zech.12:10a, ASV) There can be no doubt in the minds of those who acknowledge the New Testament to be part of the Divinely-inspired Word of God as to whom these words refer. Following his description of the final stages of the crucifixion, the apostle John, in his gospel, writes: “And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced.’” (Jn. 19:37, NKJ) What, through the prophet Zechariah, the LORD is saying, therefore, is that those inhabitants of Jerusalem who survive the events of the last days immediately preceding Christ’s visible return to earth will “look unto”, or “look to”, “by”, “towards”, or “in the direction of”, Jesus Christ himself, meaning that they will finally turn to the one whom they as a people handed over to be crucified and finally recognise him as their long-awaited Messiah.[7] Still speaking through the prophet Zechariah, the LORD, now curiously switching to the third person, declares, concerning the One whom they pierced, and whom they now recognise as their Messiah: “they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem… . And the land shall mourn, every family by itself… ; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.” (Zech. 12:10b-12a, 14, NKJ)[8] Commenting on Zechariah 11, Lance Lambert, in his book, The Uniqueness of Israel, writes: “…it appears that this mourning will be national and official. … This national mourning over the death of the Lord Jesus will be an event without parallel in the history of the Jewish people, but an event unique in world history. No nation has ever nationally mourned an action which took place around two thousand years before—an action which it has come to recognize as the key to its whole history and destiny. Yet this is what Zechariah prophesies will happen with Israel.”[iii] Commenting on Zechariah 12:12-14, he writes: “Those acquainted with Jewish mourning customs know that they are no light or brief matter. For seven days the life of the chief mourners is disrupted, and for thirty days life for them is abnormal.”[iv] The devastating impact which the realization that the Messiah, for whom they have so long awaited, has already come, and that they, as a people, handed him over to Gentiles to be tried and put to death in the cruellest possible manner, will have upon those Jews who survive the events of the last days, and who, hitherto, have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, cannot be imagined.Moments after Jesus had made what some commentators believe to be a prediction concerning the future conversion of the Jews (Mt. 23:39) and departed the Temple for the final time, he stated, in the context of a long discourse spoken in response to four of his disciples’ question, put to him privately on the mount of Olives, as to when the predicted destruction of the Temple would take place, and what the “sign” of his parousia, or “coming”, and of the “end of the world” (or end of the “age”, as the word which, in the Authorised Version, has been translated, “world”, can also be translated), should be: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt. 24:30, AV) It is not clear whether Jesus is here referring, in what Robert Gurney calls, “the technical language of prophecy”, and what R. T. France calls, “the symbolic language of apocalyptic”, to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple at the hands of the Romans in AD 70, or to his Second Coming. The Greek word which, in the Authorised Version, has been translated, “earth”, can also be translated, “land”, and if it is to the tragic events of AD 70 that this verse refers, then what Jesus was saying, therefore, was that when the tribes of the land of Israel saw Jesus’ vindication in these events they would mourn. If, on the other hand, these words are to be taken literally, they can only refer to the Second Coming. Those who subscribe to the latter view generally understand the tribes of the earth to refer to the nations of the world mourning as a result of the cosmic disturbances described in the previous verses (cf. Rev. 6:12-17). However, even if Jesus’s statement does refer to his Second Coming, the word “earth” could still refer to “the land” (in Hebrew, ha’aretz), that is, the land of Israel, in which case the mourning here referred to is that described by Zechariah.

When will the conversion of the Jews take place?

According to John Lightfoot, it was on the 10th day of the seventh month (Tishri), the same day on which the Day of Atonement was later observed, that Moses descended Mount Sinai with the second tablets of the law to announce the Divine pardon after the worship of the golden calf. Would the Day of Atonement not be an appropriate day for the Divine pardon to be announced to the Jews’ for their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah? Jews traditionally mourn for seven days. The fast of the seventh month, that of Gedaliah, who was murdered after the fall of Jerusalem, takes place on the 3rd Tishri. If the Jews begin to mourn their part in Christ’s death on that day, their mourning will finish on the 10th Tishri, that is, on the Day of Atonement.We find a curious allusion to the Day of Atonement in the book of Revelation. Following a description of the ascension to heaven of the “two witnesses”, John writes: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” (Rev. 11:19, AV) It is significant that the “ark of his testament”, which, in the time of the first temple was hidden from public gaze by the veil, which symbolized the sin which separates man from God, “was seen in his temple”, and that this same veil was “rent in twain” when Jesus died on the cross. We saw earlier that John Lightfoot calculated that it was on the 10th Tishri that Moses descended from the Mount following his second (or third?) sojourn there and announced the divine pardon for the worship of the golden calf. Is this the means by which God will announce the Divine pardon for a large part of the Jewish people’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah?

Israel delivered

Earlier, we saw how the LORD calls this brief period shortly preceding Christ’s visible return to earth, “the time of Jacob’s trouble”. However dreadful this brief period will be for the inhabitants of Israel, the LORD nevertheless declares that Jacob “shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7).How will their deliverance come about?Speaking through the prophet Zechariah, the LORD declares: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling unto all the peoples round about, and upon Judah also shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be sore wounded; and all the peoples of the earth shall be gathered together against it.” (Zech. 12:2, 3, ASV)A number of passages of Scripture describe the destruction of Israel’s enemies—presumably in response to their prayers for deliverance at this time.Through Joel, the LORD declares: “…I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, with his face toward the eastern [Dead] sea, and his back toward the western [Mediterranean] sea; his stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous (lit., “great”] things.” (Joel 2:20, NKJ). Although, as we have seen, these words are to be found in the context of a passage which some commentators believe to constitute a call to repentance addressed to the inhabitants of Judah of Joel’s own day, they may, as I have already said, have an at least secondary reference to the repentance of those Jews living in Israel in the period immediately preceding Christ’s visible return to earth. There seems also to be a reference to the two goats on the Day of Atonement in these words, the scapegoat likewise facing east when the high priest laid his hands upon its head, and following which it was driven into “a barren and desolate land”. (See also Jeremiah 30:8-11, Ezekiel 38:18-39:10, which describes the destruction of Gog “on the mountains of Israel”, and Zechariah 12:4-9.) Perhaps alluding to the destruction of Pharaoh and his forces in the Red Sea, Zechariah makes it clear that it is the LORD himself “who shall…go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” (Zech. 14:3, NKJ). This event would appear to be none other than Christ’s visible return to earth with power and great glory” (Mt. 24:30b; cf. Lk. 21:27), which the apostle John describes in greater detail in the book of Revelation: “[And] I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. And he who sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him upon white horses. [And] out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev. 1911-16, NKJ)Continuing his description of what, I believe, is the Second Coming of Christ, Zechariah says: “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem in the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And you shall flee to the valley of the mountains… .” (Zech. 14:4, 5a, AV) It would seem that, just as the waters of the Red Sea parted to enable the Israelites to flee from Pharaoh and his chariots, the Mount of Olives will divide into two to enable the inhabitants of Jerusalem to flee through the resulting valley from the forces of the Antichrist which will by then have invested Jerusalem.[9]Zechariah also tells us that “the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal” (Zech. 14:5b, AV). There is no known place to the east of Jerusalem which goes by the name “Azel”. As we saw in an earlier chapter, the Hebrew word which, in our English versions of the Bible, is translated, “scapegoat”, is Aza’zel. With regards to the meaning of “Aza’zel”, this is probably, “a goat [in Hebrew, aze] of departure [in Hebrew, azal]” Should the words, “to Azal”, be translated “to escape”? Or was the name “Azal” given to the place where the scapegoat was taken into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement?The destruction of Israel’s enemies is further described in Ezekiel 38:22, which speaks of six plagues of “pestilence”, “blood”, “an overflowing rain”, “great hailstones”, “fire”, and “brimstone”, and Zechariah 14:12, 13, and Ezekiel 38:21, in which the LORD describes what appear to be the effects of theatre nuclear and/or chemical and/or biological weapons upon the invaders, and how, in the ensuing confusion, the invaders will panic and turn their weapons on each other.Following a description of the “harvest of the earth”, which, I believe, is a description of the Rapture of the Church, John describes what he calls “the great winepress of the wrath of God”: “And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed out of the winepress, as high as the horse bridles, for one thousand six hundred stadia.” (Rev. 14:20, RSV) Earlier, we saw that, just as the waters of the Red Sea parted to enable the Israelites to flee from Pharaoh and his chariots, it seems that the Mount of Olives will divide into two to enable the inhabitants of Jerusalem to flee from the forces of the Antichrist. Is “the great winepress of the wrath of God” a reference to the Mount of Olives at that time? Just as Pharaoh and his chariots and horsemen pursued the fleeing Israelites across the path in the Red Sea, might not the forces of the Antichrist similarly pursue the inhabitants of Jerusalem as they flee from them into the valley created in the midst of the Mount of Olives? And, just as the Red Sea closed in on Pharaoh and his chariots and horsemen as they pursued the Israelites across the path in the Red Sea, might not the two halves of the Mount of Olives similarly close in on the forces of the Antichrist as they pursue the inhabitants of Jerusalem into this valley, thus forming this “winepress”.[10] The words, “one thousand six hundred stadia” (about 180 miles or 300 kilometres), may refer to the distance between the “winepress” and the Red Sea, into which the blood will flow.[v]The devastation occasioned by this invasion of Israel will not be confined to the area in and around Jerusalem, for, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord GOD declares: “And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly [that is, without care, or in apparent security] in the isles.” (Ezek. 39:6) The word, “isles”, or “coastlands, as this word is translated in more recent versions of the Bible, could refer to distant continents rather than just to the coastline of the Mediterranean. In a similar vein, the apostle John, following his description of a “great earthquake” of unprecedented proportions (Rev. 16:18), writes: “And great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent. And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” (Rev. 16:21, NKJ)

THE LONG MARCH HOME

The Long March Home was the title of an Oscar-winning documentary which was released in 1998 to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the modern State of Israel. It relates how, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, many displaced persons, or DPs as they were called, made their way from the camps (sometimes former Concentration Camps, like Dachau), into which they had been herded, to British-ruled Palestine. The Jews’ Long March Home stirred the imagination of the world at the time, but it will be nothing like the final ingathering of Jews to their ancient homeland which will take place at the Second Coming, as we shall see.As we have seen, every fiftieth year, or Jubilee Year, the Israelites were to cause “the trumpet of the Jubilee [yobel] to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement” (Lev. 25:9, NKJ), and to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants.” (Lev. 25:10, NKJ) During the Jubilee Year, the Israelites were to “return every man to his possession” (Lev. 25:13, AV) Even Israelites who had sold themselves to foreigners were to “be released in the Year of Jubilee, both he, and his children with him” (Lev. 25:54, NKJ). The LORD also stated the reason why Israelites who had sold themselves as hired servants were to be freed in the Jubilee: “For they are my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. …For unto me the children of Israel are servants: they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt… .” (Lev. 25:42, RSV, 55, AV) We have seen how the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles possibly foreshadow various events connected with the Second Coming. Does the Jubilee Year in any way foreshadow any event connected with Christ’s return?A number of Old Testament passages describe what many commentators believe to be the final ingathering of Jews to Israel at the Second Coming of Christ, beginning with Isaiah 11:11, 12. That the gathering of “Judah from the four corners of the earth” described in this passage is declared to be “again the second time”, excludes the possibility that the return from the Babylonian exile, which was unprecedented, is in view.In a second passage from the book of Isaiah, the LORD declares: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown… .” (27:13, AV) Is the “great trumpet” that “of the Jubilee” which the Israelites were “to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement…throughout the land” in the “fiftieth year? A number of Christian commentators, most notably Lance Lambert, see the fulfilment of Isaiah 43:1-7, perhaps the most beautiful of all the passages in the entire Old Testament, in the return of a large part of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland which took place in the last century, especially in the aftermath of the Shoah, or Holocaust.[vi] However, for reasons which I will develop below, I believe, rather, that it still awaits its final fulfilment, and that what it describes is that far greater regathering of God’s ancient people from the nations at about the time of Christ’s Second Coming. It would seem from a literal reading of the wonderful promises recorded in verse 2 of this passage that this final, and greatest, of the many Alayot (meaning “return”, literally, “ascent”), which the Jews have made, often in the wake of pogroms and persecution, to Israel, will be attended by miracles every bit as stupendous as those which accompanied the Exodus.One of the lands of the nations is especially singled out as the source of this final regathering of the Jews to the land which God promised to Abraham and his descendants. Speaking through the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, the LORD declares: “Therefore, behold, the days are coming… , that it shall no more be said, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.” (Jer. 16:14-15, NKJ) Some commentators believe that the LORD is here speaking of the return of large numbers of Israelites from the Babylonian captivity four centuries before Christ. However, it is clear from the wording of this passage that this exodus “from the land of the north and from all the lands where [the LORD] had driven them” is going to be of such proportions that it will completely eclipse that first exodus out of the land of Egypt. Nothing which has happened so far in history constitutes anything like the fulfilment of these words.So what is “the land of the north”? Although situated to the east, because the Babylonians invaded Israel from the north, many commentators assume that Babylon is the land hereby referred to. But Babylon cannot fulfil this passage, for the simple reason that this country is no longer in existence. Nor can Syria, which, although situated to the north of Israel, is not home to enough Jews to make an exodus of such proportions possible. Today, between two to five million Jews live in the nations which once made up the Soviet Union, and, because Russia lies to the north of Israel, some have wondered whether Russia is “the land of the north” hereby referred to. Russia’s long history of antisemitic persecution, both under Tsarist and Communist regimes, has been well documented, and a recrudescence of anti-Jewish sentiment could well provide the catalyst for the final ingathering of Jews described in the passages under discussion.The words, “they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed” (Jer. 23:4), found in a second declaration concerning this final ingathering of Jews recorded in the book of Jeremiah, could hardly refer to the situation of Jews living in Israel at any time other than after that final war to end all wars described in Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah. The words, “the days are coming…when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer. 23:5), whose “name by which he will be called” is “The LORD is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6, RSV), which are to be found in the same passage, clearly refer to the reign of the Messiah, and it would seem that the gathering of what the LORD refers to as “the remnant of [his] flock out of all the countries where [he has] driven them” takes place only after the Messiah has established his kingdom “in the land” (Jer. 23:3, 5, RSV), that is, after the Second Coming of Christ. The same declaration concerning the “land of the north” quoted earlier is repeated in this second passage from the book of Jeremiah (23:7, 8)In a third declaration concerning the final ingathering of Jews and the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 301-11), the LORD, speaking one final time through the prophet Jeremiah, declares, concerning the Jews: “…they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” (Jer. 30:9) These words also make it clear that the regathering of Jews will take place following the period of time hereby referred to as the “time of Jacob’s trouble” and during the reign of the Messiah.Concluding the oracle concerning Gog of Magog, the Lord GOD speaks of a future spiritual revival amongst the Jews, the timing of which is thus declared: ““When I have brought them back from the peoples, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations.” (Ezek. 39:27, ASV)Following what many commentators understand to be a literal description of his visible return to earth, Jesus, in his “Olivet Discourse”, declared, concerning the Son of man: “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mt. 24:31, AV) In common with a number of other posttribulationist commentators, I earlier assumed that the “great sound of a trumpet” hereby referred to was that to which Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 15:52, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and that the gathering of the elect hereby referred to was the Rapture of the Church. However, on the basis of my view that the Jubilee Year foreshadows that final gathering of Jews from the lands of the Gentiles, when every man will return to his own possession, I now think that it is rather to be identified with the “trumpet of the Jubilee” which the Israelites were “to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement…throughout [their] land” in the “fiftieth year, and which, I believe, is also that which was referred to in the passage from Isaiah quoted above.

CHRIST’S VISIBLE RETURN TO EARTH

It is my belief that Christ’s visible return to earth will take place at the time that the Feast of Tabernacles begins, and that the “marriage supper of the Lamb” coincides with the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Day of the Lord

A number of passages of Scripture speak of “the day of the LORD” (Isa. 13:6, 9; Joel 2:31; Amos 5:20; Ob. 15; Zeph. 1:14; Zech. 2:11; 14:1; Mal. 4:5), as the Hebrew expression in the Old Testament is translated; “day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:10), as the New Testament Greek phrase is rendered; “the great day of their wrath” (Rev. 6:17); and “the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14). It is clear from the similarity of the descriptions of “the great day of their wrath” (Rev. 6:17), and “the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14), which speak of Christ’s Second Coming, with Old Testament descriptions of the day of the LORD, and from the fact that the New Testament expression, parousia, which is translated “coming”, and which refers to Christ’s Second Coming, is on one occasion used interchangeably with the expression, “day of the Lord”, that this day is synonymous with the Second Coming.This day will be marked by cataclysmic cosmic phenomena (Isa. 13:10, 13; 34:4; Joel 2:2a, 10, 11d, 30, 31; 3:15; Mt. 24.29, 30a; Lk. 21:25, 26; Rev. 6:12-17; Rev. 16:17-20), in which the sun will be darkened and the moon will no longer give her light. There will be an earthquake, resulting not only in geological or topological changes in Israel, but all over the world (Ezek. 38:18-20; Rev. 6:12-17; Rev. 16:17-20). Israel’s enemies will be destroyed (Isa. 34:2, 3).

How does the day of the LORD relate to the festive calendar?

When I first began to explore the prophetic significance of the feasts, I wondered whether the day of the LORD was a reference to the day on which, I suggest, the Rapture will take place, that is, the 1st of Tishri, when the Feast of Trumpets is observed, or to the fifteen-day period beginning with the Rapture and finishing with Christ’s physical return to earth, which, I also suggest, will take place on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. However, there are a number of problems with this view. If the seven vials are poured out during this fifteen-day period, then it is not until this period is considerably underway that the sun is darkened, and Scripture says that the sun will be darkened on the Day of the Lord. Another consideration is that at Rosh Hashana, there is a New Moon. The darkening of the Moon at this time would scarcely go noticed. It seems more likely, therefore, that the day of the LORD will occur on a day when the Moon is full, i.e. on the fifteenth day of the month, when the Feast of Tabernacles, on which day, I think possible, Christ will return, begins.[11]The cataclysmic events which mark the day of the LORD will be followed by healing. Night shall not fall over Jerusalem (Zech. 14:8); a freshwater river will flow from the house of the LORD westward to the Mediterranean and eastward to the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea (Ezek. 47:1-8; Joel 13:18; Zech. 14:8); the water of the Dead Sea will become fresh, with the result that fishermen will spread their nets there (Ezek. 47:8-10).

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Following the great “Alleluia” chorus which greets the news of the destruction of that great end-time commercial and maritime metropolis which is cryptically called “Babylon the great”, and which is said to be “that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18), John hears “as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted [that she should] be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God’”. (Rev. 19:6-9, NKJ)In Scripture, the Church is presented as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-32), and, in this passage, Christ’s Marriage Supper, which will immediately follow his Second Coming, is described. Will the “marriage supper of the Lamb” take place at the time that the first Feast of Tabernacles following the Second Coming is celebrated, and will that first Feast of Tabernacles following the Lord’s return serve as the occasion for the “marriage supper of the Lamb”? We find what, I believe, is a description of this Feast of Tabernacles earlier in the book of Revelation.Following his vision of the 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel, John describes how he beheld “a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, people, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands …” (Rev. 7:9, NKJ). These are later identified as “they who [come] out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them” (Rev. 7:14, 15, NIV). Commentators differ as to the precise identity of this innumerable body of saints, some identifying them as the entire company of saints, from righteous Abel to the last tribulation convert; others as all believers from the time of the birth of the New Testament Church onwards; and others still, as those believers who have been converted during that posited seven-year period which is said to elapse between the Rapture of the Church and Christ’s visible return to earth, and who seal their witness with their blood, although there is no mention of martyrdom here.In an earlier chapter, I argued from Scripture that believing Gentiles form, with believing Jews, part of one body, and I consequently rejected both the view that “the Church” has somehow replaced Israel and the view that the Old and New Testament Churches are entirely separate entities. I can see no reason therefore to identify the uncountable multitude as anything other than the entire company of saints, including the faithful “remnant” of Old Testament times, and Jewish and Gentile believers in Jeshua ha Meshiach, a.k.a. Jesus Christ, gathered in worship before Christ’s throne immediately following his visible return to earth, and which event, I suggest, takes place on the fifteenth of Tishri, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.David H. Stern, in his Jewish New Testament, translates the words which, in the New International Version, are rendered, “…spread his tent over them” (other versions have “tabernacle” instead of “tent”, and the Revised Standard Version has, “will shelter them with his presence”), thus: “will put his Sh’khinah upon them”. Although not a literal translation of the original Greek, such might well be the speaker’s intention.We are told that this innumerable body of saints hold palms in their hands. These, surely, are not, as Matthew Henry suggests, victor’s palms, but the lulavim which were held during the Feast of Tabernacles.We are also told: “They shall hunger no more; neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat” (Rev. 7:16, NIV). There is, in these words, surely an allusion to the forty years Wandering in the Wilderness, during which the Israelites were fed and watered by miraculous means, and protected from the sun and the heat by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, and which the Feast of Tabernacles commemorates?Finally, in the words, “For the Lamb… will guide them to springs of living water” (Rev. 7:17, RSV), there is surely an allusion to the water libation ceremony which marked the close of the Feast of Tabernacles (see also John 7:37-39).There is one final reason why I believe the “marriage supper of the Lamb” will take place at Tabernacles. As we saw in an earlier chapter, it is on Simchat Torah (the “rejoicing of the law”), which the Jews of the diaspora continue to observe as a separate ceremony on 23rd Tishri, but which in Israel it is observed as part of the Eighth Day of the Solemn Assembly, that Jews are symbolically married to the Torah. Would it not be appropriate for the bride, consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles, who lice under grace, not under the law, to be married to her groom on that date?Whatever the case, it will turn out to be the greatest party of all time. Taking part will be the saints of all ages, including those who are named in the Bible and countless believers down through the ages, the vast majority of whose names mean nothing to those of us alive today, but which are nevertheless “written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. There will also be those believers known to us personally.I am not, by nature, a partying animal, preferring the quieter and more intimate setting of a meal for two or a small dinner party. The “marriage supper of the Lamb”, however, is one party which I do not intend to miss.


[1] Harry Bultema, in his book, Maranatha, originally written in Dutch and first published in 1918, and since published in English, cites Barnabus, the author of the epistle, and possibly Paul’s co-worker, Hermas, Irenaeus, a pupil of Polycarp, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Hippolytus, who were demonstrably premillennialists, and Clement of Rome, Papias, a pupil of the Apostle John, Polycarp, one of the youngest disciples of John and possibly the “angel” of Revelation 2:8, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, Lactantius, Commodianus, Melito of Sardis, Methodius, Victorinus of Pettau, author of the first commentary on the book of Revelation, and Sulpicius Severus as those who were arguably so. Bultema cites Clement of Alexandria as “a fiery opponent of chiliasm”, but that is hardly an advertisement for amillennialism. Describing Augustine of Hippo’s adoption of the idea of a “present” millennium, the Brethren historian, Roy E. Coad, writes (p. 13): “The clue had been given by the Donatist Tichonius, who suggested that just as it was possible to interpret the visions of the Seals, the Trumpets, and the Vials as recapitulations of the same history, so Revelation 20 could be taken as a further recapitulation of the history of the Church. Tichonius saw the millennium (which for some reason he fixed at 350 years) as the period of the present ‘remnant’ church. Augustine, turning from his earlier millenarianism, took up this idea; but applied it to the Imperial Catholic Church.”[2] Walvoord, in his commentary on the book of Revelation, says that what is being described here is a judgment. Since, in his view, the Rapture has already taken place seven years before the event described in this passage, he could hardly arrive at any other conclusion.[3] I get this figure by adding the three and a half days, during which the two witnesses’ bodies lie unburied in the street of the Great City to the 1,260 days during which they prophecy. The termini of this period of time are presumably identical to those of the beast’s 42-month rule.[4] The word which, in the Authorised Version, has been translated “chief”, is, in the original Hebrew, “rosh”, the literal meaning of which is “head”, hence the translation, “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”. Beginning with the translators of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Bible produced in Alexandria in the second century before Christ, and including the translators of the Revised Standard Version, a number of authorities have taken the word “rosh” to be a proper noun (cf. Gen. 46:21, in which it is used as the name of one of Benjamin’s sons), and translate these words, “Gog of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal”, by which word, many commentators believe Russia to be intended. Whatever the case, a number of ancient writers identify Magog with the Scythians, the ancestors of many of the present-day inhabitants of Russia.[5] Most popularizers of dispensationalist eschatology, such as Hal Lindsey, and J. F. Walvoord believe, on a variety of grounds, that Magog is to be identified as Russia, and that Gog is therefore to be identified as a future Russian leader. They would not, however, agree with my contention that Gog and the Antichrist are one and the same figure, as they identify the latter personage with a future leader of a Revived Roman Empire (whatever that is supposed to mean). While Lindsey would agree that the end-time invasion of Israel described in these two chapters is “Armageddon”, his fellow dispensationalist, J. F Walvoord, wouldn’t, placing the “Gog War” shortly after the beginning of that final posited three-and-a-half year period preceding Christ’s visible return to earth which he calls the “tribulation”. The amillennialist commentator, Ralph Woodrow, following the early nineteenth-century commentator, Adam Clarke, argues, on the basis of the fact that ancient, and not modern, warfare is described, argues that the war here described is not a future invasion of Israel, but an invasion of Israel by Antiochus Epiphanes which has gone otherwise unrecorded by history. But it is difficult to see how a prophet living more than two thousand years ago could have described a modern war, involving the use of armoured vehicles, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, other than with the vocabulary at his disposal, namely that of ancient warfare.  [6] Although some believe “the time of Jacob’s trouble” to refer to the second half of that final seven-year countdown to Christ’s physical and visible return to earth which they call the Great Tribulation, this cannot be demonstrated from Scripture. It is my personal belief that it refers, rather, to a far shorter period which will begin at or around the time of the Rapture of the Church and finish with Christ’s return to earth.

[6] Noting the references to mourning in these verses, Lambert (p. 97) continues: “This verse does not breathe the atmosphere of the dreadful finality of God’s judgment and wrath such as we find in Revelation 1:7. On the contrary, this prophecy suggests that as a result of the Spirit of God’s being poured upon the Jewish people, they will begin to recognize the significance of the person and work of Jesus. Then, in deep and utter repentance, they will be saved. The prophecy suggests the godly sorrow which works repentance to salvation, and not the sorrow of the world which works death (2 Corinthians 7:10). In the same way that countless numbers of Gentiles have discovered the ‘fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’ so too, through the finished work of Messiah, the Jewish people will experience the saving grace and power of God. (See Zechariah 13:1.) This mourning will end not in judgment, but in salvation! This is not shallow mourning, but mourning ‘for him, as one mourneth for his only son…as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn’. It speaks of a broken-heartedness that will lead to glorious salvation.”

[7] Although, in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation, the apostle John declares that “every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him” (Rev. 1:7), the words, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced”, are not necessarily to be understood to mean that the inhabitants of Jerusalem will at this time see him. Commenting on these words, Lance Lambert (p. 96) observes: “The Hebrew word translated ‘upon’ is ‘to’, ‘by’”, ‘towards’, or ‘in the direction of’. (The same construction is in Psalm 2:7, where it is translated ‘to me’.) This word is quite different from that earlier translated ‘upon’ in the same sentence of Zechariah 12:10: ‘upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants…’.” After commenting on Revelation 1:7, he writes (p. 97): “The wording of Zechariah’s prophecy seems to suggest that it is a spiritual awakening to the person of the Lord Jesus, and not a physical seeing of him at his second coming.” Note, also, how it is the LORD, speaking through the prophet Zechariah, who declares, “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced,” providing proof positive, for all who are willing to accept the plain meaning of Scripture, of the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

[7] Noting the references to mourning in these verses, Lambert (p. 97) continues: “This verse does not breathe the atmosphere of the dreadful finality of God’s judgment and wrath such as we find in Revelation 1:7. On the contrary, this prophecy suggests that as a result of the Spirit of God’s being poured upon the Jewish people, they will begin to recognize the significance of the person and work of Jesus. Then, in deep and utter repentance, they will be saved. The prophecy suggests the godly sorrow which works repentance to salvation, and not the sorrow of the world which works death (2 Corinthians 7:10). In the same way that countless numbers of Gentiles have discovered the ‘fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’ so too, through the finished work of Messiah, the Jewish people will experience the saving grace and power of God. (See Zechariah 13:1.) This mourning will end not in judgment, but in salvation! This is not shallow mourning, but mourning ‘for him, as one mourneth for his only son…as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn’. It speaks of a broken-heartedness that will lead to glorious salvation.”

[8] Noting the references to mourning in these verses, Lambert (p. 97) continues: “This verse does not breathe the atmosphere of the dreadful finality of God’s judgment and wrath such as we find in Revelation 1:7. On the contrary, this prophecy suggests that as a result of the Spirit of God’s being poured upon the Jewish people, they will begin to recognize the significance of the person and work of Jesus. Then, in deep and utter repentance, they will be saved. The prophecy suggests the godly sorrow which works repentance to salvation, and not the sorrow of the world which works death (2 Corinthians 7:10). In the same way that countless numbers of Gentiles have discovered the ‘fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’ so too, through the finished work of Messiah, the Jewish people will experience the saving grace and power of God. (See Zechariah 13:1.) This mourning will end not in judgment, but in salvation! This is not shallow mourning, but mourning ‘for him, as one mourneth for his only son…as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn’. It speaks of a broken-heartedness that will lead to glorious salvation.”  [9] Remarkably, a geological fault line cuts across the Mount of Olives from west to east in precisely the direction in which this valley appears. I have also heard that this fault line runs through the German Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, and that a mosaic of Kaiser Wilhelm II and his Empress on the floor of this church disappeared into a crack made by this faultline, although I have been unable to verify this story.[10] Most commentators have regarded the words, “blood came out of the winepress, even to the horse bridles”, as somewhat far-fetched, but Dio Cassius, the Roman historian, records that following the defeat of Bar Kochba and his followers at Beitar, southwest of Jerusalem, in which 580,000 Jewish soldiers fell by the sword, the horses of the Romans were wading in blood up to their girths in the mud and mire of the valley battleground.[11] I am reminded of the eclipse of the Moon which occurred on the night of the Passover in 1996. This, obviously, was a Full Moon, Passover taking place on the fifteenth day of the month, when the Moon is full. The Moon gradually took on an eerie clay-red colour which reminded not a few Christian acquaintances of mine of Biblical prophecy.


[i] Howard and Rosenthal, pp. 14, 19, 21, 23, 25-26, 29.[ii] Rosh Hashana 11a[iii] Lambert, p.98.[iv] Idem.[v] Footnote, NIV.[vi] Lambert, p. 74.

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