April 2011 Yavoh

The Beginning of Sorrows

Yeshua’s disciples asked Him what we should expect to see before His return at the end of the age. The question came about when the disciples marveled at the beauty and size of the temple in Jerusalem. Yeshua warned them that soon “not one stone will be left upon another.” It is only reasonable that they would then think that Yeshua was referring to the end of the age and the Day of the Lord! Surely, God would not allow the temple to be disturbed unless everything was coming to an end; however, the disciples did not fully understand the prophets’ earlier words when they said that even the House of Judah would be scattered to the nations just as the House of Israel had been some 700 years earlier. But, as we all know now, the House of Judah was scattered to the nations by the Romans after they destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D., approximately 40 years after Yeshua answered their questions.

Therefore, Yeshua’s answer to the disciples about the events just prior to His return and at the end of the age did not deal with the disciples’ question. Yeshua’s answer was for another group of believers’ future – the believers at the end. Since those days, believers of every generation have examined His words and compared them with their days to see if they were the generation that would see His return and the end of the age. Looking back one century, our grandparents and great-grandparents participated in the “War to end all wars” (World War I). The whole world went to war and shortly after it a flu epidemic killed more than 20 million people, adding to the number of war casualties. There had also been some severe earthquakes still in their memories. There was no doubt with them that they were in the days that Yeshua had spoken of as they experienced war, famine, disease, and earthquakes.

Every reasonable believer held to the words of many preachers in that day who said, “I don’t see how it can go another 10 years.” Various eschatological theories multiplied and believers were classified based on those theories. Millennialism (the 1,000 year reign of the Messiah on Earth) came into the mainstream of believers. Various teachers, called premillennialists, began to explain that the Messiah would return and then the kingdom would come about. Others, called postmillennialists, argued that the church was the kingdom of God and that eventually the church would see a thousand year reign of the church over the world, resulting in the Lord’s return. When WWI came, no one could conceive that those days were any part of a thousand year reign of the church in the world. There was still another group called amillennialists who simply said there was no thousand year kingdom, that it was all figurative and not literal, and that God would return to hand out eternal judgment on man with the righteous going to heaven forever. In their opinion, the world would be burned to a crisp and there would be “much ado about nothing” afterwards.

It wasn’t the end of the age and World War I ended.

Then came World War II and the fervor of eschatology roared to life again. This time it was a little different. There was still war, famine, disease, and earthquakes but suddenly the Jews and the land of Israel came to the forefront. The Holocaust saw the murder of 6 million Jewish souls in the midst of 50 million people slain in the war. The state of Israel was established to provide a home for the Jewish people, which made the prophecies of the end of the age take on a very literal slant that very few had dared consider. The Jews really were returning to the land of Israel as the prophets had predicted. The captivity to the nations was coming to an end and the scattered exiles of Israel were returning to the Holy Land (Palestine as named by the Romans years before).

Something else came out of WWII – the atomic bomb. Nothing prior to its development had matched the power of destruction of the world and mankind as described in the Bible. It seemed like even the Day of Lord had a literal component in our world.

Premillennialism rocketed to the forefront, commanding the attention of end-time Bible believers with the realization that Yeshua could literally return to the Mount of Olives and walk into Jerusalem. Evangelical Christianity (a heretical sect that said the Jews would return to the land) quickly became mainstream, leaving the major denominations and independent protestant elements promoting postmillennialism and amillennialism on the side of the road.

By the 1960s, end-time prophecy books became popular sellers in Christian book stores. The looming threat of Communism and the Soviet Union with “thermonuclear war” was on everyone’s mind. When Israel successfully captured Jerusalem in July 1967, another piece to the puzzle was in place. Jerusalem in the hands of the Jews was very much a part of the end-time prophetic scenario. One of the most compelling prophecy books published back then was The Late Great Planet Earth. It promoted the eschatological theory of the Pretribulation Rapture, that Jesus could come and gather the church in the twinkling of an eye—at any moment. The theory quickly caught on and many believers saw it as a way to escape all the wars, famine, diseases, and earthquakes.

Most Christians of our present time are not aware of true church history and their very late part in that history. Most of them believe that their beliefs and opinions today are virtually identical to that of the first disciples of Yeshua. Their world is pretty simple: Jesus arose, the disciples ran down to Kinko’s and copied the Kings James Version Bible for everyone, and churches popped up everywhere with steeples and bells. Any mention of the Middle Ages with the church burning people at the stake and persecuting Jews is a reference to “unbelievers” that were masquerading as Christians. They weren’t “real” Christians like us today. The “real” Christians were the ones who went to church on Sundays, sang worship songs with an organ or piano, and listened to preachers who could on occasion strum a guitar like they did when Peter and Paul were doing the same.

Please forgive my attempt at humor and stereotyping present-day Christians. I am simply making the point that the vast majority of Christians today have no understanding as to how the church (Catholic and Protestant) came to be or how the Bible was compiled that they swear to be inerrant and must be believed to be saved. These are the same people who are the most interested in eschatology studies and are now looking for the soon return of the Lord in our day.

My grandparents were part of WWI, my parents were part of WWII, and I was born a “baby boomer” in the year that Israel fought their war of independence. My 62 years have paralleled the life of the modern state of Israel. Therefore, my eschatology is based not on theories but on literal events my generation has experienced.

Wars and rumors of wars is not an interpretation with me or others in this generation; it is all we have known (literally). Despite our modern age with transportation and technology, we still see famine and disease on a rampant scale. And now we see earthquakes in size and frequency beyond anything mankind has ever seen save the days of Noah and the postdiluvian era when the continents were formed. It was in the days of Peleg (Gen 10:25) when the land masses of the earth separated from a single Pangaea. The tectonic plates of the earth’s mantle are not that old and are still moving.

Critics of Bible prophecy, who hold believers in utter disdain, think everything that is happening in our generation is the product of the world population’s actions alone and that we are not acting out some ancient plan. They consider anyone quoting ancient prophecies from the Bible, the Mayan calendar, or Nostradamus has lost all track of reality and is endangering himself and everyone else in the world. They actually believe and declare that all human-made disasters of the past were caused by religion in general, and specifically, devout believers. This includes the black plague, all historical wars, economic disasters, sexually transmitted diseases, feared government conspiracies, conservatism in a multitude of forms, homophobia (anti-homosexuality), and the general sense of “bad luck” that may exist in the world today. I have not overstated their belief.

If any intelligent person is willing to consider the facts, he would reasonably conclude that we must be the final generation spoke of by Yeshua when compared with all previous generations since Yeshua answered the questions on the Mount of Olives. I say this despite all of the false prognosticators of the past and all of the incorrect expectations of previous generations. I also say this knowing that the majority of the world is joining critics of all religions and anyone with a bent toward eschatology, whether they be Christian, Jewish or Islamic.

National leaders and the national media now consider all “messianic” thinking among Christians, Jews, and Muslims to be extreme and the major blockage to securing reasonable agreements among nations. Specifically, Iran and its Shiite theology looking for their Mahdi (messiah) is the energy behind stirring up Islamic hatred of other nations. Jews who don’t favor an agreement with the Palestinians are considered too “messianic” and hold to the Biblical definition of the land of Israel. Evangelical Christians are looking at specific conflicts in the Middle East involving Israel to complete other prophecies leading to the Rapture and the Great Tribulation. Every one of them are considered by intellectuals and national leaders to be extremists and certifiable “loons.”

Maybe you didn’t know that in the middle of all this turmoil with wars, famine, disease, and earthquakes the rest of world has drawn the conclusion that it was you who caused of all human suffering. It used to be fashionable to just blame the Jews for anything that went wrong anywhere in the world. Now, Christians are also sitting on the bull’s-eye of the world’s contempt. And with Islamic extremists hell-bent on Jihad, governments believe it is better to appease them and invite them to the negotiation table than to find out what will happen if they resist.

In the last month alone, we have heard and seen the news reports of murders in public view, whether it be protestors or drug cartels. We have seen earthquakes and tsunamis killing thousands reaching and affecting multiple nations. We have seen nuclear power plant meltdowns and the threat of nuclear weapons in the hand of fanatical enemies. We have heard of imminent wars, inevitable wars, and now active wars. Presently, the United States is actively engaged in three separate war areas: Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. Iran is standing in the wings. We have seen the reports of Christians in Muslim lands being slaughtered in their churches, most recently in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Lebanon.

So what is really happening? Are these the signs of the end of the age that Yeshua spoke of with His disciples? Let us go back to the Mount of Olives with them and listen in on what Yeshua really said.

And as He was sitting 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?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.” MAT 24:3-4

It still amazes me how easily we as humans can be misled. Sometimes we actually mislead ourselves by being overly enthusiastic about something. We abandon reason and common sense to pursue something that has literally captured our imaginations. Don’t get me wrong; I believe we should be enthusiastic about our faith, but even the Bible warns us not to be overly religious and destroy ourselves. The overall and primary focus of maturity in faith is based on the ability to make good judgments. We are to weigh the evidence, establish the truth, and cling to it.

The world is full of deceptive people who do not believe in God at all. They career through life viewing others as “suckers.” They relish the idea of taking advantage of and “jerking” other people’s “chain.” A professional con man will tell you that his stock and trade is based on finding that thing you want or desire, offering it to you, and then relieving you of what he wanted to get from you.

Yeshua’s exhortation to not be misled is a call to common sense. Yes, expect Me to come; watch for the signs; but don’t allow yourself to be misled.

For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many. MAT 24:5

In the last twenty years, and still to this day, I am aware of various individuals who have become cult leaders suggesting directly or indirectly that their followers believe that they are the Christ. You would think that such a thing would be so obviously wrong to everyone, but it happens.

And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. MAT 24:6-7

This is the most quoted prophetic sign among those looking for the imminent return of the Lord. Given our generation’s history, it seems like a fulfilled prophecy, but let us examine what Yeshua is saying here.

As I said before, Yeshua’s words—although given to the disciples in His days—were specifically intended for the end-time believers that would see His return. Therefore, the meaning of these words is based on end-time events, not general history. For example, it is meaningless to say that there will be thunderstorms and lightning before someone returns home, but it would be meaningful and significant to say that the thunderstorm will flood your house and it would be struck by lightning. It is only when the event affects you that it become significant.

Critics of prophecy (even believers) have argued that there have always generally been wars and rumors of wars throughout history. There have also been famines and epidemics at various times. They usually go together. There have also been earthquakes, big ones and little ones all around the globe. Virtually everyone who has lived has seen or learned of some cataclysmic event that fits this prophetic description. So, what could Yeshua really be saying to end-time believers?

What if you lived in a different time from everyone else where there was not just one war happening and a rumor of another about to happen, but instead, the world you were living in had a multitude of wars in several regions of the world, with internal uprisings in still other nations and each one had hundreds and thousands of souls being lost. Let us say that the majority of the nations in your world had so many internal conflicts that the protests and uprisings were actually threatening to bring down the national leaders or the dictators or monarchs. Let’s add to those conflicts the destruction of governments in your area of the world causing the cessation of all basic services for food and medicine. Despite the best efforts of those noble nations still left, tens of thousands die each year due to the lack of food, clean water, and disease. Now, let’s really crank it up a notch and have some earthquakes. Not just a few earthquakes, how about a lot of massive killer earthquakes, the kind of earthquakes that tilt the axis of the earth slightly, which trigger volcanoes, and build tsunamis if they are in the sea? Let’s have a whole series of great earthquakes that command the entire world’s attention when they occur.

Step back for moment... The world we live in today has more wars and rumors of wars than anything we have seen in this last generation. Check your history books. The world has never seen anything like what we see right now; and because of our technology, most citizens of this world are aware of these happenings. No other generation has ever seen such a thing. It is as Yeshua said: the believers at the end of the ages would see many wars and rumors of wars. They would be aware of many nations rising up and many kingdoms in conflict. The news reports of our world are so numerous and catastrophic and many just don’t listen anymore. In fact, psychologists will tell you not to watch the news in order to reduce stress in your life. Just hearing what is happening in the world produces a whole other level of stress in people. I don’t need to remind you of what has happened with earthquakes in just recent months. They have dominated the news and run out of adjectives trying to explain their size and devastation. Japan’s recent quake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant meltdown did reach a new level for the world. As if the 9.0 earthquake and 33 foot tsunami wave was not enough, we have to think about leaking radiation flying in clouds to the West Coast of America.

But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. MAT 24:8

These are just the beginning of sorrows; the end is not yet. Presently, the Great Tribulation and last three and a half years of this age have not started yet. The prophecy of that time period has not yet been satisfied. Only the preliminary events that mark the final generation are being satisfied today. We are seeing all of these signs happening not one after another as we did ten, twenty, and thirty years ago, but they are now happening at the same time, in the same day, week, month, and year. Yeshua described a unique aspect in our day, events the world has seen before, but happening in an unprecedented simultaneous fashion.

But wait... He said there would be more than just wars, famines, and earthquakes.

Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. MAT 24:9-10

It is a historical fact that the world has always hated the Jews and Israel, but the world has now added another group to the list along with the Jews – the Christians. Presently, more than 75% of the attacks worldwide on religious groups and peoples are directed at Christians. Christians individually and in groups are being murdered in nations like Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, and others. It is a disturbing growing trend. Do you hear any nations, including the United States, complaining about this?

Here in the good ‘ole USA, being Christian is no longer fashionable or intelligent. The elite (they think that of themselves) of our nation are much more enlightened today [sarcasm intended], preferring the humanistic principles of social justice, equal rights, and universal human rights. Judeo-Christian ethics are considered contemptible practices and basic Christians who believe in the Bible are automatically branded right-wing homophobes.

I am reminded of my past studies trying to understand how Germany and Europe turned so quickly to mass murder the Jews in the Holocaust. One characteristic stands out. When a group of people classifies another group of people as Not Human (they are vermin to be eradicated), the deed is done. Hatred overwhelms the soul and they have no empathy for anyone. It is the same mental state for a psychotic serial killer.

Let me be very clear at this point. Yeshua has declared that in the days before the end we are going to be hated without cause, as was He, because of our connection to Him. It has already started, friends. It has already started here in the United States. Don’t kid yourselves. Very soon, in a matter of months and a few years, Messianic believers will be held in utter contempt by good church folks (in an attempt to remove attention from themselves) and the government of the United States. Proclaiming your faith publically will be dangerous.

And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. MAT 24:11

I know many Christian folks who sling this quote around without the slightest concern for the truth. I myself have received this label, even from my own Messianic Jewish brethren. In these last days, a host of prophetic theories have been submitted to the brethren. There are numerous interpretations and offers of new insights of the written prophecies of the end. There are even more suggestions for who the antichrist could be. Prophecy students have built charts and searched for ancient patterns in history and in Scripture. These have included Bible Codes, astronomical signs (solar and lunar eclipses) mixed with year counting and day counting models. They are not false prophets; they are people struggling to understand the prophecies of the end. We don’t call a student of the Bible a heretic simply because he is trying to understand different teachings and theological concepts. But when it comes to the prophetic many people get a little crazy, and those who have something to protect love to accuse others quickly.

Let me also say this. Anyone telling you that he has the absolute truth on end-time prophecy and is, therefore, capable of declaring other ideas different from theirs to be false prophecies, is self deceived. There is no consensus in Christianity for the prophecies of the end of the ages. They are all theories based on their interpretations of the Scriptures. Given all of the date-setters and hokey ideas that have ever been submitted for review, the greatest example of false prophets today in the Christian world are those who preach and teach that Jesus can come at any moment in the form of the rapture to gather His church. These same preachers and teachers scorn as false anyone else attempting to understand the prophetic beyond repeating what they say.

Let me examine that for a moment. If Jesus can come at any moment then why would you call a date setter a false prophet. He only picked one moment in time. A person who believes in the pretribulation rapture preaches and teaches that God will come at this moment, the next moment, the moment after that last moment, or the moment after that. He is setting every date. Therefore, according to a pretribber a false prophet is the one who sets only one date instead of setting every date in the future.

Am I suggesting that date setting is okay? Of course, no one should speak presumptuously of the Lord and attempt to influence the flock. I am saying that the pretribulation rapture teaching of the sudden return of the Lord is a huge presumptive teaching of the end times. If you are looking for false prophets who will match what Yeshua warned us of in the final days before the end, then look no further than to what is rampant among us.

Once a Messianic sees how the Messiah fulfilled the Passover and the spring feasts with His first coming, he can no longer be deceived about the prophecies of His second coming in the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles. God has a plan and is fulfilling His plan and is not impulsive or spontaneous about His return.

And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. MAT 24:12

The word “lawlessness” is the key to this statement. Most people can understand what the second phrase means. Lawlessness is not talking about criminals and outlaws. Lawlessness is referring to God’s commandments (the laws of God) and ignoring or annulling them.

Christianity does not endorse fully the Law of Moses where the commandments of God are given in Scripture. Instead, they have picked out what they want to keep and left the rest to the Jews. Christian laws have sustained the Western nations for centuries. Eastern nations had their own laws to establish themselves and no matter what nation, western or eastern, the rule of law has produced what freedom and civilization we have seen. Even the Eastern nations have a sense of right from wrong which matches closely the laws of God given by Moses.

Whether we believe in the Law of Moses or not, if we keep God’s commandments, we get the blessing of obedience. No matter what our philosophy or theology, if we don’t keep God commandments, we suffer.

In our present day, and more recently since the last few decades, the world has been changing the laws that have been traditionally accepted by all nations. One glaring example of what I am referring to is the law of marriage.

A few years ago, a couple of states began issuing marriage licenses to homosexual and lesbian couples. The question of marriage came to the forefront of the nation. In response, the congress passed a law called the Defense of Marriage Act. It defined marriage for all states as a relationship between one man and one woman. The law was recently challenged in the courts and found to be unconstitutional on the grounds of equal rights. Under the Obama administration they have agreed with the ruling and refused to defend the law before the Supreme Court. So, the law has now be ruled invalid.

Presently, there is no law on the federal books or any state that clearly defines marriage. As a result we are in a state of lawlessness on this issue.

This issue is of particular note for anyone studying end time prophecies. Yeshua referenced the days of Noah as being the same type of activity prior to the Day of the Lord. It is well understood that in the days prior to Noah and the flood, men were messing with the definition (law) of marriage. Yeshua also stated that man would be “marrying and giving in marriage” before the final judgment.

For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, MAT 24:38

There is no question that the institution of marriage has broken down in our generation due to divorce and remarriage. It is not unusual to meet a person who has been married multiple times. However, no one a generation ago would have ever believed the days we now are in with homosexuals demanding the laws of marriage bend to their will and preference. Yeshua’s words are unique to us today.

But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved. MAT 24:13

In recent weeks, I have received calls to my office from brethren who think the world is about to end and wanting to know what they should do right now. The fear of the days we are in is now beginning to well up in the hearts of men. When they hear secular people talking about the collapsing dollar, nuclear meltdowns, or our own country changing, they are alarmed about what to do right now. Mix that with end-time prophetic signs popping up in spades and there are a lot of folks who are afraid.

Should we be preparing for the days ahead of us? Yes! But our preparation should match the threat and conform to Yeshua’s counsel. First, God has said He is going to save us. God will never leave us or forsake us. Secondly, God has a plan and we need to be a part of that plan, not make our own plan and be separate from Him. So, let’s be specific and answer a couple of questions I know you want to ask.

Do I believe that the end will begin this year 2011? Answer: No. Do I believe that the end will come in 2012? Answer: No. I don’t think so. Do I believe the end will come in 2013? Answer: I don’t know and you need to be concerned with what is going on right now in 2011.

Ask me this time next year and I will give you an update. Actually, you don’t need to ask me. If I believe the end is about to start, I will let you know. In the meantime, let me encourage you with what Yeshua said about this point. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.

In the meantime, I intend to share the Lord with as many people as will listen and try to walk out my faith by obeying the commandments of the Lord. If I stay focused on that, everything will work out fine and the end will get here when it is supposed to. Yeshua said it this way.

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come. MAT 24:14

Before we conclude this article, I want to make sure that you know what the event is we are looking for that will convince us that the end is very near and the Lord is about to return. Yeshua stated it as clearly as He could, but many times we get caught up in all the other stuff and don’t quite see it. The sign of the end is a specific prophecy given by the prophet Daniel called the Abomination of Desolation. It contains two events: first, an altar will be operating on the temple mount with the daily sacrifice; second, an image of the antimessiah will be set up on the temple mount and perform miracles. This is when the antimessiah will come to power and rule for 42 months (three and a half years). This is how Yeshua stated it.

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) ... For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. MAT 24:15, 21

As I conclude this article about the beginning of sorrows, there is one more thing that I should point out that Yeshua said. Most people miss it and gloss over without it registering because it hasn’t entered our thinking yet. Only in recent weeks have I seen brethren showing the first signs of it. I am referring to the fear that about to come upon the world and us.

Great cataclysmic events are now taking shape. More trouble is coming and very soon we will be hated for our faith. In the midst of all these things, Yeshua told us not to be afraid. His assurance was buried in the middle of that popular verse you have heard all along.

And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. MAT 24:6-7

What we are seeing today is unusual. It is as Yeshua said.
These are the beginnings of sorrows. A new world is about to be born with the Messiah returning and these are birth pangs that come before the end.

In other words, this is not the End, but we are at the beginning of the End.