Category Archives: Endtime Studies

The Pre-Trib Rapture: Did Jesus Ever Teach This Doctrine?

Did Jesus ever teach His disciples that He would come and remove them from the earth before the Great Tribulation happens?  If you listen to many ministers and evangelists, as well as watch such movie series as Thief in the Night or Left Behind, you would think that this teaching is all through the New Testament.  However, the problem is that Jesus never taught this doctrine; in fact, He taught the exact opposite.

WHAT IS THE “PRE-TRIB RAPTURE”?

According to Christian teaching, there’s coming a 7-year time period known as “the Tribulation,” in which Anti-Christ shall rule over the world, Christians shall be tortured and killed for their faith, the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the earth, culminating with Armeggedon, a thermonuclear World War III, and the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.  The “Pre-Trib (short for Pre-Tribulation) Rapture” doctrine is that there are two comings of Jesus Christ, a secret coming for only His true believers BEFORE this seven-year tribulation period, and His second coming which will occur at the end of the tribulation period.

MY BACKGROUND & DILEMMA

I grew up in the Pentecostal movement and I was taught and believed this doctrine that the “true church” would not go through the tribulation most of my life.  I remember as a teenager going from church-to-church just so I could see another movie of the Thief in the Night series.  It was widely discussed and talked about in churches, so much so, that my fiance’ and I at the time (she’s now my wife) wondered if we would even have time to get married or to start a family.

However, both my wife and I were also taught that we should take the Bible literally for what it says unless it’s obvious that what it’s teaching should not be taken literally.  For example, when Jesus says “I am the Door,” He obviously is not a door, so His statement is not meant to be taken literally, but figuratively.  And here lies my dilemma.  After many years of study and research in the Scriptures and the early writings of the Church, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that a literal interpretation of the Bible does not support the teaching of a Pre-Trib Rapture.

AM I SAYING THERE IS NO RAPTURE?

No, I am NOT saying that.  I absolutely DO believe in the rapture.  As the Scriptures teach, I do believe that there will be a literal resurrection of believers who have died and that those of us who are alive at the time of Christ’s return will meet the Lord with them in the clouds.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:17-18)

My problem is that I cannot find textual evidence in the New testament for a “Pre-Trib or even a Mid-Trib Rapture.”  Now I’ve heard many ministers argue that when Paul writes “comfort one another with these words,” he’s telling us to comfort people with the knowledge that they will not be here for the Tribulation.   However, there’s a problem with their interpretation.

THE PROBLEM WITH THE PRE-TRIB INTERPRETATION

The problem with the mainstream interpretation of this verse is that it takes this passage completely out of context.  The context of this passage is found in verses 13-14 of this same chapter.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

In Thessalonica, there was a persecution going on at the time, and many of the believers were concerned that those who were killed as martyrs for Christ would miss out on experiencing Christ’s coming Kingdom reign.  The “comfort” Paul is encouraging them to give is that those who have died as martyrs for the faith will not miss out on the Kingdom, but will be resurrected at the time of His return, to join those who are still alive, to experience and enjoy God’s Kingdom on earth together.

Consequently, the “comfort” we are to give is the exact opposite of what’s being taught by many churches. The “comfort” is NOT that we will avoid the tribulation, but that even though we may go through persecution, or tribulation, and even die as martyrs for the faith, we will not miss out on Jesus’ future Kingdom reign here on earth.  This is just one example of many passages that are taken out of context to support the Pre-Trib Rapture position.

WHAT JESUS TAUGHT IN HIS PARABLES

If we examine Jesus’ teachings concerning the Kingdom of God in His parables, there’s no indication at all of a Pre-Trib Rapture.

The Wheat and Tares

For example, in His parable of “The wheat and Tares,” where “the wheat” represents the believers (or “the sons of the kingdom”) and “the tares” represent the unbelievers (or “the sons of the evil one”) (Matthew 13:37), the question is asked in the parable, “Do you want us, then, to go and gather them [the tares] up?”  Jesus responds,

No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them.  Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:29-30)

If we look at this parable, we learn:

  1. The wheat and the tares will grow up together until the time of the harvest;
  2. It will be the tares – not the wheat – that will be gathered up first; and
  3. Then the wheat will be gathered up and put into the barn.

In other words, those who are in His Kingdom and those who are not will grow up together until the time of the “harvest” (i.e., Christ’s return and the resurrection of the dead), and then the unbelievers will be gathered up and separated from the believers by the angels,  and then they “will cast them [the unbelievers] into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42).

Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father;  He who has ears, let him hear.  (Matthew 13:43)

In the Pre-Trib doctrine, it is the righteous that are removed first from the earth, and then seven years later, the unbelievers are gathered up, but in this parable told by Jesus, the unrighteous is removed first shortly before (on the same day) the righteous are gathered up and brought into God’s Kingdom. Obviously, the Pre-Trib Rapture doctrine and Jesus are not in agreement with one another.

A Large Net

Let me give you another example.  In the parable of the “Large Net,” Jesus tells us this parable also about His coming:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto  a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:  Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the among the just.  And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)

Again, in this parable, we see the same basic pattern of events:

  1. All the fish were gathered together in the same net;
  2. All the fish were drawn to shore at the same time; and
  3. the “good fish” and the “bad fish” are separated at that time.
  4. the “bad fish” are “cast away”

So again, Jesus is telling us,

  1. Everyone, righteous and unrighteous, will be gathered together at the time of the harvest (“the same net”);
  2. It will be at this time that everyone will be brought to judgment (or drawn to shore at the same time”};
  3. At this time, the righteous (“the good fish”) and the unrighteous (“the bad fish”) will be separated; and
  4. The unrighteous (“the bad fish”) will be “cast into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

So in neither one of these parables is there any indication of two separate “harvests,” but only one.   In fact, there’s no indication at all of any other return than the one where He comes to finish setting up and establishing His Kingdom here on earth.  In fact, in speaking about His return Jesus says,

For just as the lightning come from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.  (Matthew 4:27)

The Ten Virgins

In the “Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13), all ten of them are waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom.  Obviously, this cannot include the unbelievers since they are not looking for His coming.  Instead, all ten of them are people who claim to be His followers.  But five of them were wise and came prepared with extra oil; however, there were five who were foolish and did not come prepared.  Now all ten of them fell asleep.  But then, Jesus tells us,

But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!” Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.”  But the wise virgins answered, saying, “No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and but for yourselves.” (Matthew 25:6-9)

Notice, all ten virgins fell asleep, but it was those who prepared beforehand who were ready when the Bridegroom, Christ, came.  Those who did not prepare beforehand were not ready for Him, and had to leave to try and get what they needed at the last moment.  He then says,

And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and THOSE WHO WERE READY WENT IN WITH HIM to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.  And later the other virgins came, saying, “Lord, Lord, open up for us.”  But he answered and said, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”  BE ON THE ALERT THEN, FOR YOU DO NOT KNOW THE DAY NOR THE HOUR.”  (Matthew 25:10-13)

Notice that it will be those who have taken the time to PREPARE IN ADVANCE that will go in with Him when He arrives.  Those who do not take the time to prepare by studying the Scriptures and developing their relationship with Him will be left out.  They will miss it and will not be allowed to enter.  And here too, there is no second chance, even though these five foolish virgins were those who were looking for His coming before they fell asleep.

THE TIMING OF HIS COMING

We may not “know the day nor the hour,” but this does not mean we will not recognize the season.  The signs of the season we are in are all around us.  But we need to be ready, for His coming will be quick and sudden, and as we’ve seen in His parables, there’s absolutely no indication that He’s planning on coming twice.  In fact, He gives some things to look for as signs of when He is coming:

But IMMEDIATELY AFTER the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Matthew 24:29)

First of all, Jesus said that His coming will happen “IMMEDIATELY AFTER the tribulation of those days,” NOT before it.  Again, the teaching that Jesus is coming BEFORE THE TRIBULATION for Christians is in direct opposition to what Jesus actually teaches.  Although Jesus doesn’t know the “day nor the hour,” He most certainly would know if He would be coming once or twice.  Also, there will be signs in the heavens that will happen right before His coming: (1) “the sun will be darkened;” (2) “the moon will not give its light;” (3) “the stars will fall from the sky,” and (4) “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”  Such a series of events would hardly make His coming a “secret one.”

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus describes this “TRIBULATION” that will be in those days:

For those days will be a time of TRIBULATION such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never shall.  And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened the days. (Mark 13:19-20)

Jesus tells us that this TRIBULATION will be the worst ever experienced in human history.  That means that it will be worse than the days of persecution by the Apostles and the early church under Nero and Domitian, and even the death camps of the Holocaust.  Are we seriously listening to the warnings given to us by Jesus, or we ignoring His warnings, in favor of listening to the false promises of the Pre-Trib Rapture preachers and teachers?

After warning us of what those days will be like, Jesus then teaches us,

And THEN the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then ALL the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.  (Matthew 24:30)

It will be AFTER these signs happen in the sky that Jesus will come, breaking through the heavens into the sight of all the world.  His coming will not be “in secret,” but He will come for all to see.

A COMPARATIVE STUDY

In fact, if we compare the next verse with what Paul teaches in I Thessalonians, the order of events are in complete agreement:

MATTHEW 24:30-31

I THESSALONIANS 4:16-17

And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. For the LORD Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the TRUMPET of God; and the DEAD IN CHRIST shall rise first.
And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and they will GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT from the four winds, from one end of the sky to another.  [Emphasis Mine] THEN WE WHO ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air, and thus we shall always be with the LORD. [Emphasis Mine]

Jesus and Paul here are describing the same event.  However, Paul is adding to our information about it, but these are NOT two different comings, but the same one.  In both descriptions, Jesus appears in the sky, a great trumpet is blown, and then “His elect” are gathered together: first those who were dead, and then those of us who remain.

We see these same series of events in Jesus’ teaching in both Mark and Luke:

MARK 13:24-27 LUKE 21:25-27
But in those days, AFTER THAT TRIBULATION, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in heaven will be shaken, and then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

What I find interesting here is that although Mark provides us with the same details as Matthew, Luke summarizes it all.  Like Matthew, Mark tells us that these events will come AFTER the tribulation, but then describes the phenomenon in the heavens which will precede the Lord’s coming.  Luke summarizes this phenomenon and also says that the Lord’s coming will happen after this occurs.

THE ONLY THREE RESURRECTIONS IN REVELATION

Even in the book of Revelation, written in 100 A.D., by the Apostle John, there are only three resurrections mentioned.  There’s the resurrection of the two witnesses during the seven-year tribulation (Revelation 11:3-12), and then there’s the resurrection for the believers at the end of the Tribulation for the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6), and then a resurrection for the unbelievers after the millennium for the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:12-15).

THE DIDACHE‘S VIEW OF THE LAST DAYS

The early church did NOT believe in two comings, one in “secret” and one in public, even 100 years after the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We can see this in one of the oldest Christian writings outside of the New Testament, called the Didache (pron. “Did-uh-kay“), also called “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles,” dated to have been written from between 75 – 150 A.D.   These were teachings were given and taught among the Gentile Christians of the time, and it ends by describing the events of the last days and the coming of Christ.  I am not trying to say that this writing was “divinely inspired,” but it does tell us how believers who lived during and after the time of the Apostles understood their teachings regarding these same events.  But in this writing, there’s a warning prior to the discussion of the actual events.

“Watch” over your life: “do not let your lamps go out, and do not be unprepared, but be ready, for you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming.” Gather together frequently, seeking the things that benefit your souls, for all the time you have believed will be of no use to you if you are not found perfect in the last time. (qtd. in Trans. Lightfoot and Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., 157-158)

However, when looking at this, what comes to mind for me is how completely different the attitude and beliefs this gives than what many Christians believe today.  For example, many Christians believe in “eternal salvation,” or “once you’re saved, you’re always saved;” however, these believers did not believe that.  They believed that we needed to “watch” or guard our lives, so that “our lamps did not go out.”  This implies, of course, a belief that they could, in fact, “go out,” leaving one in darkness.  Also, instead of meeting together more frequently as we see the day of His return “drawing near,” as is taught here and in Hebrew 10:25, we are meeting less frequently, the exact opposite.

This passage then continues by describing what the last days will be like:

For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate.  For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another.  And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.  (158)

I definitely believe that we are here in the last days when “the false prophets and corrupters will abound.”  They are everywhere we look, both inside and outside of our churches.  In fact, I have seen a multiplication of Scriptural errors and deceptions being taught among Christians than when I was a child.  And as a result, many people who were once “sheep” [true believers] have been “turned into wolves” [false believers], and have left the true faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

In addition, “lawlessness,” or iniquity, “continues to increase,” and how many times have we seen Christians “hate and persecute and betray one another”?  Yes, we are here.  And what’s next?  The coming of the Anti-Christ, “the deceiver of the world,” who will “appear as a son of God” and will (1) “perform signs and wonders;” (2) will have “the earth… delivered into his hands;” and (3) “will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.”

Yes, as these very early believers understood, we will be here for the days of the Anti-Christ and his deceptive lies.  Are we preparing?  Are we getting into the Word so that we will be able to discern the “truth of God” from the lies of the enemy? According to statistics, the answer to that question is “No, we are not.  Instead, again, we are doing the exact opposite.  The biblical illiteracy rate within the church is at a “crisis level,” making them prime candidates for the lies of the Enemy when he comes.  And then it describes the final last days:

Then all humankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish; but “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved” by the accursed one himself [a reference to Christ].  And “then there will appear the signs” of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of a trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead – but not all; rather, as it has been said, “The Lord will come, and all his saints with him.” Then the world “will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.”  (qtd. in Trans. Lightfoot and Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., 158)

As we can see, these mid-first century to mid-second century believers did not understand Jesus or His Apostles to teach that there was going to be two comings, but only ONE, and that they would be here to suffer persecution, “the fiery test,” of the great tribulation, but that only “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved.”  How very different is this view from many of those who preach and teach today.

LIKE THE DAYS OF NOAH

In addition, Jesus taught that His coming would be “like the days of Noah,”

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  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.  And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man.  (Matthew 24:38-39)

Just prior to the flood, life went on just as it always had.  Besides the preaching of Noah, there was no indication that the lives of all the people on the planet were in jeopardy.  Instead, they continued their jobs, getting married, having children, raising their crops, going to the store and paying bills.  It wasn’t until the flood came, that they realized they were about to die.  But at the same time, there was no second chances for these people.  The flood came once, and that was it.  If they were not in the Ark, their lives were lost.

LIKE IN THE DAYS OF LOT

In Luke’s Gospel, Luke records a second example of this same point, not included in Matthew’s Gospel.

It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.  (Luke 17:28-30)

Again, we see the same point being made.  There’s absolutely no indication in the lives of these people that there was anything different on that day than they had lived any other day.  On the same day that Lot and his family was removed from the city, all of the people of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.  Again, there was no warning to the people that they were about to be destroyed, and they had no second chance.

A QUESTION OF IMMINENCE

Jesus tells us that “of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  So although no one but the Father knows when Jesus will return, Jesus teaches that we are to “keep on the alert” (Mark 13:33).  Jesus couldn’t tell us when to expect Him, because He didn’t know, so all He could tell us is that we needed to be ready and on the alert.

Therefore, be on the alert – for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cock-crowing, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: “Be on the alert!” (Mark 13:35-37)

Now just because Jesus warned us to be on the alert, does that mean He could come anytime?  Actually, no.  The Father has an appointed time for His Son’s return, and it won’t happen before that day, nor will it happen after that day.  But since we do not know what day, month, and year the Father has chosen, we are to remain ready and always be on the alert.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, the deception of the Pre-Trib Rapture is that it gives people the false belief that if they don’t make the rapture, they still have a second chance to get their lives right before the Lord comes back seven years later.  But please understand that this completely violates the comparison that Jesus makes here with Noah and with Lot, not to mention Jesus’ other teachings regarding His return.  Jesus says that people will NOT have a second chance, and that many of those who will not be prepared for His coming will be destroyed; whereas, those who preach a “Pre-Trib Rapture” claim, in contrast to this, that people will have “a second chance.”

Christians need to be preparing themselves for the coming of the Anti-Christ and the coming persecution.  We need to be reading and studying our Bibles and memorizing as much Scripture as possible, so that when our Bibles will be taken away, we will be able to endure.  If we don’t prepare, what will we have to draw upon during those dark days ahead?  How can the Holy Spirit remind us of Scriptures that we have not even studied?  In consideration of the evidence, I think the question you really need to stop and consider is the following:  “Who am I going to believe, Jesus or the Pre-Trib teachers?”

 

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The Mark of the Beast or the Mark of God: Which One Does Your Life Reflect?

“More Than One Mark?”

Although most people have heard of “the Mark of the Beast,” very few have heard of the Mark of God.  Yet both marks are discussed in the Bible, and both marks are placed on the forehead of the recipients before the outpouring of God’s judgment.  Although they have these similarities, they also have their differences: one is a mark given by the Anti-Messiah (or Anti-Christ), and the other is given by God.  So in this article, I want to first discuss “the Mark of the Beast” and then “the Mark of God,” as well as the attitudes that these two marks represent.

Book of Revelation – Introduction

The last book of the Bible is Revelation, an apocalyptic book written by the Apostle John (Heb. Yochanan) in 100 C.E., while he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos, an island for convicted prisoners, much like Alcatraz.  It was while on this island that John (Yochanan) received the various visions from God that make up the book of Revelation.  After writing each vision, it was smuggled out of the prison to the churches in Asia.  His visions were then put together to formulate the book of Revelation as we have it today.  John (Yochanan) was released and pastored in the church in Ephesus up until he died.  He would have seen the collection of his visions in this single book (or scroll) before he died.  Therefore, if the visions had been put into the wrong order or if something needed correction, he could have corrected it.  One of these visions dealt with the Beast and his mark:

And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, saved he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom.  Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.” (Revelation 13:16-18)

There are those who speculate that the “mark of the Beast” prophesied by the Apostle John (Yochanan) in Revelation 13 is either here in the form of the new RFID microchip that’s being inserted into people or it’s right around the corner.  But why will so many people accept the mark?  I believe it’s because what it represents most people today have already accepted, including its attitudes towards life.  What does it represent?  What attitudes? What mindset do people have today that will make them susceptible to accepting this mark?

The Number of a Man

First of all, in interpreting this mark, we need to realize the significance of the number. The number specified by the prophecy for “the number of the beast” is 666.  Why the number 6, and why is there three of them?  According to the Bible, man (Heb. ‘adam) was created on the sixth day:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.  So God created man [Heb. ‘adam] in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them…And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.  And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-27, 31)

The number 6 then represents man (‘adam) because he was created on the sixth day.  But why is the number 6 repeated three times?  There are various views on this.  One view is that the number 3 represents God because in the Bible, God is a unique Oneness comprised of 3: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  So as a result of the number 3 representing God, many people have speculated that the number 6 is repeated three times because the Beast will proclaim himself to be a god.  Now there is New Testamental support for this, such as,

  • The Beast shall be worshipped.
    And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
  • The Beast shall proclaim himself to be god.
    Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin (“the Beast”) be revealed, the son of perdition; who [continues to] oppose and [continues to] exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as god sits in the Temple of God, showing himself that he is god: (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Although this is a part of it, I believe that there is also something else that’s communicated by this mark.  It represents a personal value or belief of one’s complete and total independence from all things, including God, which I shall discuss  further, i.e., “a life that wants to live and do what it wants without God ruling and reigning over him or her.”

A Belief in Human Diplomacy

Another possible interpretation of the number 666 is the belief in human diplomacy.  For example, the number 666 could be looked at as “man” (the first 6) and man (the last 6) being brought together into unity by man (the middle 6).”  The idea of the Beast (or Anti-Christ) rising up through the power of diplomacy is also attested to in Scripture:

And I saw, and behold, a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. (Revelation 6:2)

Notice that although the rider has “a bow,” there’s no mention of any weaponry.  Also the “crown was given to him,” he did not acquire it through warfare.  As a result, the traditional interpretation of this prophecy is that this rider on the “white horse” is the Anti-Christ, who will rise to power through diplomacy, for through it he will go “forth conquering, and to conquer.”  He is also the first of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In fact, this ideal of approaching all issues and problems with diplomacy fits in perfectly with the mentality of most of the world today,  People are tired of warfare and feel that peaceful diplomacy is how issues and problems should be handled.  It should be remembered though that the “Anti-Christ” is a false “Substitute Messiah/Christ,” and just as Jesus (the real Messiah/Christ) is called in the prophets Sar Shalom (“the Prince of Peace”), so this false substitute will likewise portray himself as “a man of peace.”

Although there are many people in the world today who have not physically received the “Mark of the Beast” in their forehead or in their right hand, they have accepted and are living right now His attitudes and beliefs in their day-to-day lives.  Consequently, when the Mark does become available, people will not have to be forced to take it because it will represent a mindset and belief system that they already embrace.

What is this “Beastly Belief System”?

These are attitudes and beliefs that many people in the world today, including the majority of Americans, embrace as their ideals in life.  The one consistency we see in all of these attitudes and beliefs is that they exclude God and His Son, the Messiah Jesus  (Heb. Yeshua).

“This is my life; I’ll live it my way.”

As I mentioned above, this belief asserts that the individual is master over his or her own life, and is, therefore, free to choose how to live that life: what to believe, say, eat, what career to choose, who to sleep with, marry, etc.  This attitude and belief is seen reflected in songs like “I Did It My Way,” or even TV commercials that encourage people to “Have It Your Way.”  When I was teaching college English, I read many essays, written by students, men and women, who made assertions like this concerning their lives, including students who said they were Christians, but argued, for example, that abortion was a woman’s right because “It’s her body, she can decide what she wants to do with it, and no one else should be able to tell her to do otherwise.”

The problem with this attitude and belief is that it is in direct opposition to what is taught in the Scriptures.  The Bible teaches us that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to die for us, and that through His death, He “redeemed” (or “bought” or “purchased”) us with His own blood, and He freed us from the slavery of sin and death, so that we could be “servants of righteousness,” freely serving God now as part of His Kingdom.

But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.  For just as you presented your members (your body) as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification….But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.  (Romans 6:17-19, 22)

When the Messiah (Christ) died upon the cross, He shed His own blood for our redemption.  The word “redeemed” means “to purchase back.”  The idea that Messiah’s death was the price paid to “buy” or “purchase” us is seen in several places in the New Testament:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN?  FOR YOU HAVE BEEN BOUGHT WITH A PRICE; therefore glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20; emphasis mine)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, EVEN DENYING THE MASTER WHO BOUGHT THEM, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned. (2 Peter 2:1-2; emphasis mine)

Worthy are Thou [Jesus/Yeshua] to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou was slain, and DID PURCHASE FOR GOD WITH THY BLOOD Men [and women] from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9; emphasis mine)

So what’s my point?  In a monarchy or kingdom, the King owns everything within His Kingdom.  Throughout the Bible, God is seen as “the King of all Kings.”  So when we give our lives to Messiah (Christ), we are not only acknowledging Him as our “King,” but we are giving Him complete and total ownership over our lives.  At that point, we are no longer the “owner” of our lives, He is.

We can see this same attitude over and over again throughout Scripture.   For example, we see this attitude in the young Jewish virgin girl, name Mary (Heb. Mir’yam), Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) mother, when visited by the angel Gabriel.  After receiving the news that she was going to conceive and give birth to a son, and she was to name Him “Jesus” (Heb. Yeshua) and further prophecies regarding His coming rule and reign upon the earth, she responded by saying,

Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)

The term “bondslave” here in the New American Standard is translated in the King James Version as “handmaiden,” but the Greek word doulos means “slave.”  In John MacArthur’s book Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity In Christ, he notes the following:

Whenever it [the Greek word doulos] is used, both in the New Testament and in secular Greek literature, it always and only means slave. (16)

Interestingly, he also notes that the word “slave” (Gk. doulos) “appears 124 times in the original [Greek] text” (15).  But “in almost every English version – going back to both the King James Version and the Geneva Bible that predated it,” the word “slave” has been translated as “servant” due to “the stigmas attached to slavery in Western society” (17).  So in Mar’s response, she is acknowledging God as her “Master,” and she is agreeing to do what He has said.

Slavery in ancient Israel and in the first century, C.E., was not like it was in America.  In fact, if the Colonists had actually followed the Bible, there never would have been slavery in the United States.  Biblical slavery was designed so people could pay off their debts.  They didn’t have welfare or food stamps back then.  So, for example,  Jacob wanted Rachel to be his wife, but he did not have the money to pay for the dowry, so he indentured himself (or became Laban’s slave) for a period of 7 years, so that he could work to pay off the price of the dowry.   This is how it worked in the ancient world.  Both sides agreed to the terms, and once the debt (or amount) had been paid and the terms satisfied, then the individual was allowed to go free.  America, though, violated this model over and over again.

On the other hand, there were slaves who were treated and cared for better being someone’s slave than they would be as a “free man.”  So in response, the person would choose to be that person’s slave for life.  This is what was known as a “bondslave.”  How one became a “bondslave” is described in Exodus 21:5-6,

And if the servant [slave] shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.  Then his master shall bring him unto the judges, he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever.

So in the ancient world, the wearing of an ear-ring identified one as a “bondslave.” Even the word “Lord,” I discovered has “slave connotations.”  Like most people today, I have used the word “Lord” in reference to Messiah [Christ] the majority of my life, but I used it just thinking that it meant “God.”  I used it that way because I heard other people use it and how they used it.  But the word “Lord” actually means “Master” or “Owner.”  God is called “Lord,” because He created all things; therefore, He owns everything that He created.  Just like any artist today, if they create something, they own what they created.   But man and woman sinned, and by so doing, they rejected Him and His claim of ownership.  And when they did this, they did not gain the freedom that they believed they would, but they were enslaved instead to sin and to the kingdom of darkness.

This is why Messiah (Christ) came to die for us, so He could free us from sin, and bring us back into fellowship with God and to be a part of His kingdom.  By His suffering and death on the cross,  Messiah (Christ) redeemed or “purchased us” for Himself.  So when we acknowledge what Messiah has done and we give our lives to Him, and we accept Him as our “Lord” and “Savior,” we are giving Him the “ownership rights” to our lives; and therefore,  we do not belong to ourselves.  We now belong to God.  He now becomes the rightful Owner and Master of our lives, not us.  Consequently, to say “This is My life, and I will do what I want with it” is a clear denial and recognition of God’s right of ownership.  It is a belief or attitude that’s clearly represented by the Mark of the Beast.

The belief that I am to be self-sufficient and take care of myself.   This is also a belief that runs contrary to Scripture, because it excludes God and His Son, the Messiah Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).  It is the belief that “I don’t need anyone else to help me, I can do it myself.” In America, this belief is looked upon as an ideal, something to strive for.  We in America have been taught by our society and culture that this is what it means to be an adult.  However, when we look to Messiah (Christ) as our model, we find a very different ideal. Jesus (Yeshua) never went about doing His own will, but the will of His Father (God):

I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  (John 5:30)

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (John 6:38).

For example, Jesus (Yeshua) sought only to do the Father’s will, not His own, in regard to what He said and taught, His doctrine, which was given to Him by the Father:

My doctrine is not Mine, but His [God’s] that sent Me.  (John 7:16)

For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak.  (John 12:49-50)

If a man love Me [Jesus], he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loves Me not keeps not My sayings [or teachings]: and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.  (John 14:23-24)

So over and over again, we see in the Gospels that Jesus (Yeshua) lived a life that was completely dependent upon God in every way: what He said and what He did.  And sometimes this was a struggle for Him.  This is most clearly evident in His prayer while in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Father, if You be willing, remove this cup [His upcoming passion] from Me; nevertheless NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.   And there appeared an angel to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  (Luke 22:42-44; Emphasis Mine)

Even though Jesus (Yeshua) suffered great agony here in the Garden, He still submitted Himself to the will of the Father.  Paul highlights this in his epistle to the church at Philippi:

HE [Jesus/Yeshua] HUMBLED HIMSELF, and BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH,  EVEN THE DEATH OF THE CROSS.  Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus [Yeshua] every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [Yeshua HaMoshiakh] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:8-11; Emphasis Mine)

Jesus (Yeshua) lived His life totally dependent and obedient to God in all things, and as a result, God rewarded Him by elevating Him to the second highest position of authority in all of creation.  Only God the Father is higher in authority than He is now.  Consequently, Jesus (Yeshua) is our role model on how we are to live our lives.  We must ask ourselves each day: Are we seeking to be dependent upon God?  Are we obeying God in all things?  Do we seek His will in all that He taught from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21?  Or are we seeking to do our will instead?  Who do we see on the throne of our lives whenever we need to make a decision?

The belief that we can fix whatever problems arise ourselves.  Again, when we seek to fix our own problems, instead of looking to God and the leading of His Spirit, we are leaving Him out of our lives, and by so doing, we are embracing the attitudes and beliefs of the Beast.  Am I saying that it is wrong to fix problems that arise?  No, I am saying that it is wrong when we try to do it on our own and leave God and Jesus (Yeshua) out of it.  We must learn to work WITH the Lord to get things done, not APART from Him.  You may think your way will work best, but He may have a much better way, if we would only listen to Him.

The belief that with diplomacy and compassion we can solve any conflict peacefully, whether at the local, national, and international levels.  Again, am I saying that diplomacy is wrong?  No, but even in diplomacy, we should seek the mind and will of God in a matter.  God has insights into situations that we just do not have.  He does not just look on the surface of the situation like we do; instead, He can see into the very hearts and thoughts of all those involved.  He can also see the past, the present, and the future all at the same time, we cannot.   Therefore, it is to our benefit to seek His wisdom and counsel in any matter.

The belief that with the right time and technology, we can make this into a better world.  This is a belief held by many, and although science has discovered and invented many wonderful things, God is the one who gave us the capability to make such discoveries and inventions.  But He also gave us a free will, so we may choose what to do with that capability, either to use it to do good or to do evil.  Science has been used to do good, such as to create medicines to heal, but it has also been used to do evil, such as create weapons of mass destruction, like chemical weapons or the atomic bomb.

Why are these the attitudes that make one susceptible to receiving the “Mark of the Beast”?  Because God and Jesus (Yeshua) are not a part of any of them; it is the attitude that people can face issues, problems, and fix their own lives without God and His Son.

FOR THOSE WHO ACCEPT THE MARK OF THE BEAST

But what will happen to those who do accept “the Mark” and “worship the Beast”?  The Bible tells us,

  • He (or she) will experience the wrath of God.
    And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If any man [or woman] worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation;…” (Revelation 14: 9-10a)
  • He (or she) will be eternally tormented with fire and brimstone in the Lake of Fire.
    “…and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name.”  (Revelation 14: 10b-11)

Obviously, the “Mark of the Beast” is something we want to avoid at all cost to not suffer the wrath of God, as well as experience the “Second Death,” which is to be eternally tormented in the Lake of Fire, which burns with “fire and brimstone” forever and ever.  But what about the other mark?  What is it about?

THE MARK OF GOD OR “ANOTHER MARK”?

The first time the Bible mentions God placing a “mark” on someone is in the book of Genesis.  In Genesis 4, Cain, the eldest son of Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah), kills his younger Abel out of anger and jealousy.  As punishment for this crime, God tells Cain,

And now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened her mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand; when you till the ground, it shall not from here on yield to you her strength, a fugitive and a vagabond shall you be in the earth. (Genesis 4:11-12)

In response to his punishment, Cain tells the LORD:

Behold, You have driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from Your face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that everyone that finds me shall kill me. (Genesis 4:13-14)

In response to this concern, the LORD tells Cain,

Therefore whosoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.  And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.  (Genesis 4:15)

What was this “mark”?  Do we know what it looked like?  No, the Bible does not tell us.  What I am calling “the Mark of God” is placed on a person to keep them from experiencing God’s judgment and destruction.  Although the “mark of Cain” and the “mark of God” is put on someone’s forehead to keep them from being killed or destroyed, the “mark of God” is put on someone to prevent them from experiencing God’s judgment; whereas, Cain received his “mark” while under God’s judgment.

THE MARK OF GOD – TEFILLIN (PHYLACTERIES)?

Another “mark” given by God to His people are the Tefillin, usually translated as “phylacteries” in the New Testament.  In his book, To Be A Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin defines tefillin as,

The tefillin (translated as phylacteries) consist of two small black boxes, containing small scrolls of parchment upon which are written four biblical passages.  They are: Exodus 13:1-10 (“Consecrate every first born to Me…”); Exodus 13:11-16 (“When the Lord will bring you into the land…”); Deut. 6:4-9 (“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One…”); and Deut. 11:13-21 (“If you will diligently obey my commandments…”).  (145)

After providing this definition, Rabbi Donin then goes on to explain,

  • Each of the black boxes comes with leather straps (Hebrew: retzuot) so designed as to enable one to be bound upon the hand and for the other to be worn above the forehead. (145)

As Orthodox Jews, Jesus and His disciples would have also worn tefillin during prayer.  One of the criticisms that Jesus had of the Pharisees dealt with tefillin (or phylacteries).

But all their works they do for to be seen of men.  They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.  (Matthew 23:5)

The criticism was not that they wore tefillin (phylacteries), since Jesus and His disciples did as well, but that they widened the size of the tefillin, in order to make it more noticeable that they were wearing them, that they may “be seen of men.”

Although the tefillin are not referred to as “a mark,” they do relate.  God commands His people to wear tefillin on the hand [usually left hand] and on the forehead.  Why the “left hand,” I believe it is because it is closest to the heart, indicating that our obedience to God must come from the heart.  But as we read, the “mark of the Beast” is on the “right hand” and “forehead,” the mirrored opposite of what God has commanded in His Word.  But why the “right hand”?  Because it is furthest from the heart.  So in commanding the “mark of the Beast,” Satan is trying to provide His own corrupt imitation of God’s command concerning the Tefillin.

THE MARK OF GOD IN EZEKIEL

However, in the book of Ezekiel, we are presented with “The mark of God,” a “mark” that God is using to distinguish and separate those people who are truly His and those who are not, thereby preventing His people from experiencing His judgment and wrath:

Then the glory of God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the Temple.  And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case.  And the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”  (Ezekiel 9:3-4)

In this passage, we can see that God instructs an angel to go and place a mark on all those that “sigh and groan over all the abominations (sins) which are being committed in the midst” of the city.  And as we will see, this mark is to designate who is to be saved.

But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity, and do not spare.  Utterly slay [kill] old men, young men, maidens [young girls], little children, and women, but do not touch any man [or person] on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary [Temple].”  So they started with the elders who were before the Temple.  And He said to them, “Defile the Temple and fill the courts with the slain.  Go out!”  Thus they went out and struck down the people in the city. ” (Ezekiel 9:5-7)

Those who do not have this “mark” (what I am calling “the Mark of God”) are destroyed, regardless of their age, group or gender.  Ezekiel then cries out to God in utter horror:

Then it came about as they were striking and I alone was left, that I fell on my face and cried out saying, “Alas, LORD God! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath [anger] on Jerusalem?” (Ezekiel 9:6)

God then responds to Ezekiel:

Then He said to me, “The iniquity [sin] of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very great, and the land is filled with blood, and the city is full of perversion; for they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see!’  But as for Me, My eye will have no pity nor shall I spare, but I shall bring their conduct upon their heads.” (Ezekiel 9:8-10)

Did this horrific thing actually happen?  Indeed, it did.  I believe this is a vision of what Ezekiel saw of Babylon coming against Jerusalem and utterly decimating the city in 586 B.C.E.  In fact, in the very next verse, we read,

Then behold, the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case reported, saying, “I have done just as You have commanded me.” (Ezekiel 9:11)

God’s judgment was poured down upon all the city, except for those who mourned over the sinful acts that was going on around them.  I believe that this destruction is also a picture of the destruction and judgment that is coming upon all nations at the end of time when God’s wrath will be poured out on all nations.

In the  book of Revelation, there is a parallel passage in which destruction is again about ready to be poured out, but this time on all the nations, and God again sends His angels out to put a mark of the foreheads of those who are God’s people:

And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”  (Revelation 7:1-3)

And earlier in the book, there is a scene where Jesus (Yeshua) promises to write upon those who overcome:

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 3:12)

Could these two passages in Revelation be referring to the same “seal”?  Could this “seal” be the same “mark” that was placed on the foreheads of the ancient Israelites that marked them for salvation?  Those in Ezekiel who received this mark were “saved,” while everyone else was destroyed.

WE ARE GIVEN A CHOICE

From the very beginning of creation, humanity has (and continues to be given) a choice between two options: obedience to God or disobedience to God.  For example, we read about these choices:

OBEDIENCE TO GOD

DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD

The Tree of Life The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
The way that led away from Sodom The way that led towards Sodom
The Commandments, blessings and life Sin, cursings and death
Serving YHVH, the true God Serving Ba’al, the false god.
Entering the Narrow gate/way Entering the Broad gate/way
living the crucified life not living the crucified life
Led by the Spirit Led by the Flesh
Being Spiritually-minded Being Carnally-minded
Living in subjection to the Law of God not living in subjection to the Law of God
Doing what pleases God Not doing what pleases God

These are just some of the choices we see discussed within the Bible, but the ultimate decision that each of us must make that’s also in the Bible is in regards to the person of the Messiah Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).  To accept Him as our Lord, Savior, and King, OR do we reject Him as our Lord, Savior and King?  This is not just a one-time decision, but it is a DAILY decision that we must make and live out each and every day.

ONE FINAL CHOICE

But there is coming to humanity, ONE FINAL CHOICE.  Do we choose to follow God and the Messiah Jesus (Yeshua) OR do we choose to follow the Beast and receive His mark?  When that day does arrive, what “mark” will your life reflect?  What “mark” does your life reflect today?  Does your life reflect the “mark of God,” the beliefs and values of God and His Word?  Are you sighing and mourning over the sins and abominations that you witness around you each and every day?

Or does your life reflect the “mark of the Beast”?  Do you seek to live independently from God?  Do you choose what you think is best, rather than God, and do you follow the popular saying, “If it feels good, do it”?  And not only do you engage in sins condemned by God, but do you also give your approval to those who do them as well?  For the Scriptures teach, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them”  (Romans 1:32).

IT’S TIME TO DECIDE

The time of the Lord’s coming is quickly coming upon us.  We do not want to wait until it is too late.  We need to accept Jesus as our Lord, Savior and King, and begin working with Him to get our life right with God.  But how do we know that we’ve been legitimately saved and we’re on the “narrow road” that leads to eternal life?

I believe a sign that we have truly chosen and made God and His Son Jesus Christ (Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiakh) as Lord, Savior and King over our lives is that we share His heart in sighing and mourning over the sins and abominations we see committed around us each and every day.  And by sincerely daily following Jesus (Yeshua) and His teachings found throughout the whole Bible, God will bless us as Jesus (Yeshua) promised by saving us from the coming judgment and destruction, the “Second Death” (Revelation 20:11-15), for “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

 

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