As we have tried to answer the critical question “When will the Messiah return?” on various levels, we have to recognize that there are many Believers today who are not really asking this question, or at least thinking it through fully. Many today are looking for a pre-tribulation rapture escape to Heaven prior to the Seventieth Week of Israel. They do not consider themselves a part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13) or the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), or that God’s Torah is relevant instruction for their lives. Of those who do enter into the emerging Messianic community are many theological and doctrinal questions which often do not relate to the eschatology. Those who do address prophecy, often address it in a sensationalistic fashion, and do not examine things as objectively as they should.
Today’s Messianic movement has seen a great deal of end-time speculation. Much of the growth of the Messianic community has come because of various end-time teachings. But how many of us have used the excuse of the end “imminently forthcoming” to put aside some of the important, daily work of God’s Kingdom that has yet to be accomplished? How many of us have failed to consider the issues that are taking place in today’s society—that will lead to the end—and have done nothing to offer solutions to the lost? How many have decided that making the investment and time in living life is not necessary because Yeshua may return this year or next year?
The grand restoration of Israel, and the arrival of God’s Kingdom on Planet Earth, is the whole focus of the Last Days. The seventy-weeks prophecy given to Daniel says that “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place” (Daniel 9:24). I believe that the most important of the things to happen is “eternal righteousness ushered in” (NJPS). Has this happened? Have we seen eternal righteousness fully manifested in the world today? Are we living in the restored Kingdom of God on Earth?
One of the most critical prophecies in the Bible as it relates to the Great Commission, which is to spread the good news of Messiah Yeshua to the world and instruct others as disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), is stated by the Lord Himself in Matthew 24:14: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” It is only after this prophecy is fulfilled that Yeshua speaks of “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15; cf. Daniel 9:27), where the antimessiah/antichrist reveals himself.
Thinking about or contemplating the topic of apostasy is not necessarily the most positive thing that someone could be doing. The Biblical and historical record both indicate that apostasy against God—a denial of Him and His ways—has been present with us since the very beginning (which should hopefully relieve at least some of the anxiety we may have about this). Yet, sometimes we need to have our consciences pricked regarding what the apostasy is, especially as we survey some of the things going on in the religious world today, both Christian and Messianic. Now is an excellent time for us to review once again what the prophesied great apostasy is, so that rather than being impartial to it—or worse somehow being a part of it—we can all stand up as men and women of God who warn others against the torrent that is coming! Let us be those in a position to offer answers to people lost in sin, being all the things that Yeshua calls us to be.
The presupposition of the “Jewish Marriage Analogy” is that “the Church” is the “Bride of Messiah,” and is thus eagerly awaiting a marriage to her Lord. Pre-tribulationists commonly teach that “the Bride” would never be subject to the horrors of the Great Tribulation and must be removed from the Seventieth Week of Israel, so God “can deal with the Jews.” While the Bride is in Heaven consummating the marriage, pre-tribulationists advocate that Israel or the Jewish people will be on Earth experiencing the Tribulation.
Teachings about the Bride of Messiah actually being the Body of Believers have come under substantial criticism in recent years from those in the post-tribulational community. Pre-tribulational teachings most often are connected with “Bride of Messiah” teachings, and as such we must reexamine them from the Scriptures.
Anyone, who surveys the spectrum of today’s broad Messianic movement, should be able to acknowledge that something very unique and special is going on, and that God is truly moving! Four to five decades ago in the late 1960s, the contemporary Messianic Jewish movement formally began, some thinking that its arrival on the scene was connected to the retaking of the Old City of Jerusalem by Israel in 1967. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, many Messianic Jewish congregations and fellowships began being planted in North America and across the world, as places where Jewish Believers could believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, and still maintain a high level of being Jewish—keeping the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, the appointed times, kosher, and having a generally traditional Synagogue experience, hopefully still feeling connected to other Jews.
In the past ten to twenty years, there has been an evitable explosion in the amount of popular literature present, detailing the importance of the appointed times of the Torah, more colloquially known as the Biblical feasts. Some of this literature has been composed by evangelical Christians interested in the Old Testament, and other books have been written by Messianic Jews, for both their fellow Jewish Believers and Christians wanting to enrich their faith in Yeshua. Much of the talk and writing and commentary, has been to probe each of the appointed times for their likely prophetic significance (cf. Colossians 2:17), particularly as they are thought to paint a theological and spiritual picture of the Messiah’s First and Second Comings. No compilation of discussions would be complete, in our analysis of the Messiah’s return, without considering the Lord’s appointed times.
In the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation, Yeshua the Messiah directs His revealing or apokalupsis to the Apostle John, who is in turn commanded to send this message “to the seven assemblies in Asia” (Revelation 1:4, LITV). Among many pre-tribulationists, who think that the Body of Messiah is to be removed from Planet Earth before the events in Revelation occur, exists a very intriguing paradigm. At the close of Revelation, Yeshua clearly says that “these things [concern] the assemblies” (Revelation 22:16, YLT), meaning that each congregation, which was sent a copy of the message given by the Messiah to John, is to benefit in some way from studying and heeding it. Yeshua specifically says, “Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7), which obviously extends beyond the original, ancient recipients of Revelation.
When many sincere Believers contemplate the return of the Messiah, there is a tendency for a variety of terms to be thrown around: the Second Coming, the rapture, the parousia, His arrival, the coming epiphany. Some of these terms are used more frequently than others. Some of these labels are taken or derived directly from Holy Scripture, and others of them, while not being unbiblical at all, have undoubtedly taken on a life of their own in contemporary religious culture. How do we each sort through the different labels associated with the Messiah’s return, and carefully be able to discern where various people may be coming from in their presuppositions and ideas surrounding it?