Where Are They Now - February 2015 Yavoh
The prophetic scenario we call the Great Tribulation has a number of different personalities and groups defined in a variety of roles. From the Tribulation Saints to the multitude of unbelievers who will endure the three and one half years together, there are other specific persons and groups that will make up the cast in those days.
Virtually all Christians have heard of the coming “antichrist” and the “false prophet.” These two will cooperate with one another to lead the world in opposition to the coming Messiah. The prophecies speak of them in specific terms, and each has prophetic identifying clues and descriptions of what they will do. For example, the antichrist is defined as a prince who will arise from the people who destroyed the temple. Therefore we conclude that he must originate from the European theater—the successors to the ancient Roman Empire. The Romans were the entity that destroyed the temple in 70 A.D. There are a number of symbols associated with the antichrist, such as the composite beast (the body of a leopard, the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion). He also is connected with a red dragon. Probably the most well known identifying prophecy is that the letters spelling his name will equal the numerical value of 666.
The false prophet is symbolized by a lamb with horns, and he is to coordinate certain activities with the antichrist, including setting up a statue or likeness of him and causing it to miraculously speak. The false prophet promotes the antichrist before the world audience. Chapter 13 of the book of Revelation describes the antichrist and false prophet as two beasts.
If a person can identify the antichrist and false prophet from the clues given, then one can conclude that he is part of the last generation and very close to the days of the Great Tribulation. This is why the clues were give—to encourage believers to trust the Lord for the rest of the prophecy. This is part of the reason why determining their identity has been the pursuit of prophecy students for decades. Identifying them leads you to conclude that you are at the end of the ages, the Great Tribulation is about to happen, and the Lord is to return immediately afterward and establish His kingdom.
But rather than focusing this article on those two players in the Great Tribulation scenario, let’s examine some other important persons and groups of persons who have important roles in the end time prophetic scenario. I am referring to those who are not opposed to the Lord but are in agreement with His return. The book of Revelation defines them as well. First to appear will be the two witnesses who will stand by the shut-down altar to prophesy judgments on the world throughout the Great Tribulation. They appear on the day that the Abomination of Desolation is completed, namely, when the image of the beast is set up. And there is also a very large group of believers who will begin to appear all over the world. They are defined as “overcomers” in general and then subdivided into two groups: the 144,000 sealed sons of Israel and the “cannot be numbered” Tribulation Saints. Chapter Seven of the book of Revelation defines them in more detail.
Whereas you might be able to identify the antichrist and the false prophet prior to the days of the Great Tribulation based on the clues given in the prophecy, the same cannot be said for the two witnesses, the 144,000, or the Tribulation Saints. Let me explain why.
The Two Witnesses
Let’s examine some of the clues given to us about the two witnesses and see if they can be identified prior to beginning their ministry of 1,260 days on the temple mount next to the cold altar. The prophet Zechariah gives us some initial information about them.
They are likened to two olive trees flowing into a menorah and two lamps.
He said to me, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side." Zechariah 4:2-3
The prophet later asked for the identity and meaning of the two trees.
Then I said to him, "What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?" And I answered the second time and said to him, "What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?" So he answered me saying, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord. Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth." Zechariah 4:11-14
The final answer is the two anointed ones standing by the altar. The expression “the Lord of the whole earth” is the declaration at the time of dedication for the altar. It is utterly fascinating that the seal of the state of Israel has two olive branches on either side of a menorah, just like the prophecy of the two witnesses in Zechariah.
So what can we glean from this in helping to identify the two witnesses? It is safe to say that they will be in Israel, in Jerusalem, and probably involved with the altar being set up. The prophet Joel speaks of the ministers of the altar who will bemoan the altar being shut down. It is possible that the two witnesses may emerge from that group.
The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord. … Gird yourselves with sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Joel 1:9, 13
The popular belief concerning the two witnesses is that they are Moses and Elijah re-incarnate or two men in the spirit of Moses and Elijah. John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah but wasn’t Elijah, although he did wear Elijah’s leather belt. Moses and Elijah were seen with Yeshua at the mount of transfiguration on Mount Tabor, but others have speculated that it could be Elijah and Enoch, two men who did not suffer mortal death. The prophecy says that the two witnesses will be killed at the conclusion of their 1,260 day ministry.
It is possible that the two witnesses are just two new completely separate brethren who are part of the Great Tribulation scenario. Their ministry is like Moses and Aaron standing before Egypt and Pharaoh pronouncing judgments, but this time doing so before the whole world and the antichrist. The prophecy spends more time explaining what they do and what happens to them than trying to identify them as persons from the past.
So who could they be? Any theory about anyone specific today would be sheer speculation. While there are many excellent believing brethren today, God’s choice of any of them would probably include a dramatic event like Moses and the burning bush. I don’t think they would float into the scenario by self-initiation. Remember, these are prophets who have themselves been prophesied about! We would be wiser to let God have all the glory in anointing them, keep our “betting pools” to ourselves. But, it is exciting to realize that these men are among us today observing what’s going on, as we are.
The 144,000 are sealed early in the Great Tribulation, not before the Great Tribulation. Furthermore, specific tribes of Israel are listed in Revelation Chapter Seven.
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. Revelation 7:4-8
If one were to go find some persons from the tribe of Judah, the task would be easy today. It is the Jews of today who are for the most part from the tribe of Judah. You might even be able to find members of Levi since some of the priests from the tribe of Levi have the names of Cohen or variations thereof today. But trying to identify specific persons from the other tribes is a daunting task. The Northern Kingdom of the House of Israel lost their identity as part of their judgment from God. That is not to say that they don’t exist; instead, they are in the world but there are no ancestral records to sort out who is who. Furthermore, the House of Ephraim (part of the House of Israel) was assimilated into the nations. You can’t even sort out Ephraimites from Gentiles in most cases. Many believe that the northern tribes were scattered into the Western nations and other groups within them. For example, British Israelism promoted the idea that citizens of Britain and the United States were descendants of Manassah and Ephraim. The World Wide Church of God espoused this while they were in existence. The Mormons believe that they are Ephraim (the House of Joseph) as the Latter Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ. There is even a strong belief among Hispanics that the descendants of Spaniards who traveled to Central America are the physical descendants of the tribe of Benjamin. The Apostle Paul, who was a Benjamite, wanted to visit his brethren in Spain as recorded in the New Testament.
Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. Romans 15:28
Hispanic names ending in “ez” or “es” are the most likely original Benjamites, they say. It is a fact that ancient Israel was scattered to all of the nations, and you cannot summarily dismiss any claims from any group trying to trace their heritage back to Israel, but the difficulty is proving it. Those who would deny an Israelite identity are no wiser than those who overtly assert such an identity. There is no way to prove it. I have yet to see solid proof for even the Jewish people, let alone proof for the other tribes. Jews are identified primarily because of culture and tradition instead of ancestral record. Even the recent advances in DNA tracing don’t answer all of the questions.
Our inability to trace back the ancestral records makes it virtually impossible to identify the sealed Israelites listed in Revelation Chapter Seven until the day comes when they are sealed. Instead, we should be considering some other aspects of this group. There is a striking parallel in the sealing of the tribes that goes back to the book of Numbers Chapter Seven. Moses had each tribe come to the tabernacle, present gifts, and participate in the dedication of the altar. Each tribe came one day at a time to do this. Since the altar of the Great Tribulation will be shut down, it seems that the scenario is the reverse this time – the tribes are sealed this time. There is another parallel. At the final battle in the wilderness before crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land, Moses selected a specific group of 1,000 soldiers from each tribe (12,000 total) to defeat the Midianites. One could argue that the Great Tribulation is the final battle before the saints come to the Promised Land (the Kingdom) and this is a repeat of that force of God. The original 12,000 suffered no death from the battle. They were all accounted for at the conclusion of the battle to receive their allotment of spoil.
…and they said to Moses, "Your servants have taken a census of men of war who are in our charge, and no man of us is missing. Numbers 31:49
The same result is said of the 144,000. None will be missing. They will all be on Mount Zion to welcome King Messiah.
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. Revelation 14:1
The 144,000 help protect the Tribulation Saints, and they are able to survive the entire 3 ½ year struggle until the Lord returns. In fact, they are the welcoming committee for the Lord. If you are a member of the last generation (the one referred to by Moses and Yeshua as not passing away until all is fulfilled) and staring into the days of the Great Tribulation, it would be advantageous for you to be one of the 144,000. But there is no way to know that before the Great Tribulation even if you believe yourself to be a member of the tribes listed. While the number of sealed is great, it is limited to only 12,000 from each tribe.
The only way to know if you are one of the 144,000 is for you personally to meet Gabriel (the angel with the inkhorn) after the Great Tribulation has begun and have God’s name inscribed on your forehead. At that point, you and everyone who sees you will know that you are one of them according to the word of God. Short of that it is sheer speculation.
To be honest, I think many will be shocked when the 144,000 are sealed. They will need to pay attention to which day in the sequence they are sealed. That will determine which tribe they are.
The Tribulation Saints
The Tribulation Saints are also specifically defined in the book of Revelation.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." Revelation 7:9-10
It is safe to say that the Tribulation Saints are believers. They come from all over the world. They believe in Messiah Yeshua (the Lamb of God). They believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the God of Israel) who sent the Messiah to us as our Savior.
Most Christians immediately put themselves into this final group; that is, they think all professing believers are included in the description of the Tribulation Saints. However, that is NOT true. Let me explain.
Christians who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture don’t think they will be part of the tribulation, so they don’t consider themselves as Tribulation Saints. They also ignore the counsel and instruction given to the Tribulation Saints by the Messiah. There is a very specific prophecy that says that there will be a great apostasy (falling away from the faith) in the last days. They are not Tribulation Saints. According to the book of Revelation, there are some specific characteristics associated with the Tribulation Saints not shared by average Christians today.
According to Revelation Chapter Seven, they have palm branches in their hands. These are the palm branches in preparation to celebrate the Feast of Booths, the first feast prophesied to be observed in the kingdom according to Zechariah.
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. ZEC 14:16
Many believers don’t know this but when Yeshua went up to Jerusalem at Passover, the people who believed in Him brought palm branches. They thought He would waltz into the temple, present Himself as the Messiah, and they would celebrate the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), as Zechariah said. Their timing of events was off because it was just before the Passover, but they did understand the importance of Tabernacles to the start of the kingdom.
The Tribulation Saints will also understand that those palm branches (the materials to make a sukkah) are an important element of the Lord establishing His kingdom here on the earth. They are prepared for the Master’s return. The average Christian today has no understanding of, nor does he observe, the Feast of Tabernacles. The Tribulation Saints apparently do understand and observe the Feast of Tabernacles.
I wish I could say that all of the Tribulation Saints make it through the Great Tribulation and see the coming of the King, but that would not be accurate to the Scriptures. In fact, Scripture speaks of three broad destinies for the Tribulation saints. The first is the sword: some brethren will take up arms to defend themselves and possibly others. The Scripture is straightforward on this point. They will die by the sword. The second destiny speaks of those taken captive. It says they will die as well. The Messiah calls on them to be faithful to Him until death to receive the “crown of life.”
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10
But there is a third destiny for some of the Tribulation Saints. They are those who escape, survive, and endure the Great Tribulation, who actually observe the coming of the Lord and who are changed from mortal to immortal without suffering mortal death. They are not resurrected; they are changed when the resurrection occurs. They are described by the Messiah in the seven letters to the churches here.
I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Revelation 3:8-11
The first thing we note about this group of saints is that they keep His word and don’t deny His name. This specific characteristic is spoken of about the Tribulation Saints who make it through the Tribulation.
So the dragon was enraged with the woman [Israel], and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring [the remnant of Israel], who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Yeshua. Revelation 12:17
Here is the perseverance [those of escape, survive, and endure] of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Yeshua. Revelation 14:12
It is sad, but many Christians today do not have this testimony. Their testimony is that they believe in Jesus and hold to grace. They actually deny the commandments and refuse to state in positive terms that they keep His commandments. This is very disturbing because the Apostle John speaks directly to this kind of testimony.
The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 1 John 2:4
The Tribulation Saints who make it all the way through to see the coming of the Lord will put on robes of righteousness because they have been tested and remained faithful to the commandments of the Lord.
From our vantage point, can we see who the Tribulation Saints are before the Great Tribulation? I think we can to a certain extent. They are obviously believers of Yeshua but, as you know, not everyone who proclaims Him as Lord or acts religiously is really a believer.
Yeshua warned on this issue very directly.
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23
It is important to point to the word “lawlessness,” which means that they denied the Law of Moses and the commandments given by God to Moses for all of mankind. Sadly, there are many Christians today who do exactly that—deny the Law of Moses and the commandments of God. They won’t be the Tribulation Saints who endure the Great Tribulation.
The book of Revelation also offers specific instruction to the Tribulation Saints. It comes in the form of seven letters from the Messiah to the “churches” in chapters Two and Three. Most Christians think that those letters are directed to “church-going Christians,” but if you examine the content of the letters they are directed at believers who have a “Hebrew” way of thinking and are linked to the imminent return of the Lord. The Messiah warns repeatedly that His coming to them will be “quickly.” Furthermore, the Messiah defines the recipients of His letters as “overcomers.” This is another direct reference to the soon-coming events of the Great Tribulation. We say this conclusively because the whole purpose of John’s writing of the book of Revelation was …
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3
Therefore, the named cities of the churches are not about the historical communities. They only serve as titled markers to define future assemblies, future assemblies that will be part of the end of days and the Great Tribulation. If you examine all seven letters together, they fit together as a single message. However, the Messiah addresses specific issues in the various assemblies calling for their correction. Failure to correct means more trouble in the Great Tribulation for them. Correcting them improves their future in the coming kingdom.
If we consider ourselves to be future Tribulation Saints, then the seven letters become extremely important to ensure that we remain in that category. Furthermore, in the content of those letters, the specific corrections are only associated with brethren today who have a testimony of Yeshua the Messiah and keep His commandments (the Torah)! The average Christian and church today does not relate to these letters. Let me explain.
The content of the seven letters are based on the understanding that comes from lessons taught from the Torah. Consider these examples:
At the conclusion to Chapter One, just as John is instructed to write the letters to prepare the saints for the Tribulation, Yeshua reveals a mystery about how to see His flock. They are symbolized by seven stars, seven angels, and seven golden lampstands. The lampstands in question are the seven-branched menorah. How many assemblies of believers do we see today with such a symbol? I see them frequently in Messianic assemblies. The temple menorah is not the symbol of the Christian church today. The most ancient symbol of the believers is not the “cross.” It is a Menorah on top of a star on top of a fish. It is also the symbol of Messianic believers today.
When Yeshua threatens to correct the first church called Ephesus because they have lost their first love, He threatens to remove their lampstand. That is not much of a threat to an assembly that doesn’t have a lampstand or know what it means, but it certainly is to one that has one.
Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Revelation 2:5
When Yeshua encourages them to get back to their first love, He cites from the first Torah teaching the tree of life in the garden.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. Revelation 2:7
I believe that our first love is God and His word, the love of His Law and His commandments, just as King David said.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law, and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Psalm 119:33-35
I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes. Psalm 119:47-48
O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Psalm 119:97
Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold. Psalm 119:127
How many assemblies have moved away from the Torah and desperately need to get back to it?
When Yeshua speaks with the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia (Rev 2:9 and 3:9), He speaks of some kind of conflict with believing Jews. In both cases, he rebukes these “Jewish” believers for spending their time and energy accusing others. That means that the Tribulation Saints interface with believing Jews who misbehave. The Christian church doesn’t have this problem today, but Messianic assemblies do.
When Yeshua speaks to the church at Pergamum, He speaks of a particular Torah teaching called Balak. Balak hired Baalam to curse Israel, but he couldn’t. Instead, he counseled the enemies of Israel draw the children of Israel away from Moses and the commandments by inviting them to mix with them in their festivals and parties. The teachings of the Nicolaitans—who preferred pleasure and sensuality—are also mentioned. The Tribulation Saints are those who have been instructed in the Torah, specifically the portion called Balak. This same assembly is promised “hidden manna” and a brightly lighted stone (the Urim and Thummim of the High Priest). Again, these are teachings from the Torah.
When Yeshua speaks to the church at Thyatira, He speaks of a woman named Jezebel who is tolerated by the church body. In Scripture, Jezebel caused Israel to dismiss the God of Israel and called on the people to worship Baal. Yeshua promises that those who follow that teaching will most directly be part of the judgments in the Great Tribulation.
Behold, I will throw her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. Revelation 2:22-23
Let me conclude this segment by showing that the Tribulation Saints also have a special affinity with Jerusalem and the temple. Yeshua says that the saints who are part of the church of Philadelphia are spared from the test coming on the whole world (the Great Tribulation), and their reward will be the temple of God and the new city of Jerusalem.
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth… He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. Revelation 3:10, 12
Based on what we have considered, it is safe to say that the Tribulation Saints are those who believe in Yeshua the Messiah, have a testimony of keeping the commandments, love the Torah, relate to the temple menorah, keep the feasts of the Lord (looking forward to the Feast of Tabernacles in particular), and know the teachings of the Torah (the lessons in the wilderness). If we expand the evidence to be considered for determining a Tribulation Saint to the remainder of Scripture, then we must include one more descriptor. They will be the “Remnant of Israel” and the “Children of Promise” described by the Apostle Paul.
So, let’s conclude this matter. If we are in the last days, if the Great Tribulation is to begin in our generation, then where is the antichrist, the false prophet, the two witnesses, the 144,000, and the Tribulation Saints? Even though there are questions of identity, we can conclude this:
They are among us.
Let us, therefore, walk humbly before God and not be shocked when they are revealed at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Yeshua summed this matter up seven times with these words.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.