Remember God’s Plan of the Ages
As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you remember the plan of the ages!
SUNDAY: The Witness of Jesus
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, … for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.”
— Revelation 11:1-2
The verses above help us to understand the eleventh chapter of Revelation. Revelation 11:1-2 takes us to a temple in Jerusalem. Immediately we know that this is an earthly scene, and not in heaven, because there are Jews carrying on Old Testament sacrifices—just as Jesus, Daniel, Paul, and now John predicted would happen.
At this midpoint in the Tribulation, the Lord will send a survey crew to the city of Jerusalem to widen the road and clear the roadblocks the Jews laid because of their unbelief. Jesus will then lay claim to His chosen people.
This chapter confirms what Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount of Olives—that the temple will be rebuilt and in operation during the Tribulation period. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul wrote about the same thing, and now the apostle John sees it in operation.
The two witnesses (the evangelists) that are introduced are possibly the agents that lead the 144,000 Jews to Jesus in the first three and one-half years. As we learn what is going on, let us not miss the lessons of the four powerful truths in the eleventh chapter of Revelation: (1) God keeps His Word (vv. 1-2); (2) God protects His own (vv. 3-7); (3) God gives endless life (vv. 8-14); and (4) God expects worship (vv. 15-19).
Is the temple the church? Some people believe that verses 1-2 refer to the church, which is one in Christ. But if that were true, why are Jews and Gentiles being segregated? (Ephesians 3 says that the Jews and Gentiles are to be one.) How is it that the worldwide church is localized to Jerusalem? And why are we back to a temple and an altar? Since the middle wall has been broken down, God says that we no longer need temples and altars with Christ. No, as chapter 11 opens in Jerusalem, this is a yet-future event. Something will happen that would have started a World War had it occurred this week. (By the way, although the church has already been raptured by this point, multitudes will become believers throughout the Tribulation period.)
The book of Daniel, one of the most historically and archaeologically authenticated books of the Old Testament, also says that this is a future event. It is critical to realize that the book of Daniel existed in documented form almost five centuries before Christ was born.
While Daniel (originally deported as a teenager into Babylonian captivity) was in the middle of studying the book of Jeremiah, he understood that the seventy years of Jewish exile were almost up, so he began praying that God would forgive the sins of His people. The angel Gabriel, one of the seven angels that stand before God ready to be sent on His missions, interrupted Daniel’s prayer saying, “… At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision …” (Daniel 9:23).
The angel Gabriel gave Daniel a four-verse prophecy that is unquestionably the most remarkable prophecy in the entire Bible—Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy includes the following segments: (1) the scope of the entire prophecy (9:24); (2) the sixty-nine weeks (9:25); (3) the interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week (9:26); and (4) the seventieth week (9:27).
To help you better understand Revelation 11, I will cover each of the segments of Daniel’s prophecy during this week’s devotionals. I hope that you are looking forward to studying this remarkable prophecy!
My Prayer for You This Week: Oh Father, You who put Your seal of ownership on the temple by measuring it; You who raised up Your special witnesses and sent them throughout the earth with amazing powers; You, the great God who is always in control and never in a hurry, we bow before You. By Your grace and through Your Spirit empower us to understand this most critical chapter in Your Word—that the fullness of all that You have promised You will bring to pass. And that You will bring to pass Your powerful Word in our personal lives as well. May Your will be done in us as it is in heaven, and soon to be done on earth. I pray that death would be a sobering lesson for all of us to live our lives in such a way that we are ready to go home to You at any moment. May we not be fearful and worried, but rather confident and triumphant when that hour comes. Father, speak to us through Your Word. We thank You for the privilege of looking into it again. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
MONDAY: Daniel’s Prophecy Is an End-of-Days Road Map
"Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.”
— Daniel 9:24, emphasis added
God’s prophetic Word in Daniel 9 is directed at the future of Israel—not the church. In God’s Word, more than 75 percent of all prophecies (fulfilled and not yet fulfilled) are about the future of Israel. His Word always has and always will focus on Israel. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul reminded the church of this when he clearly warned them to not forget that they are grafted into the tree, which is Israel (Romans 11:11-36).
Segment One—The Scope of the Entire Prophecy: God worked with the Jews 2,200 years before the church and is going to work with them 1,000 years after the church. In our little period of time, 2,000 years, we are important, but we are not all there is. Israel is critically important. The church is blended together with them now; we are grafted in, but God is going to come and deal with them again. We should therefore diligently lead people to Christ, because as soon as the last one to be saved is saved, we will be raptured out of this planet.
Now let us look at the scope of the whole period. At the beginning of today’s devotional, we read Daniel 9:24 in which God said some specific things about the Jews. The idiom of “a week of years” was common in Israel as a “sabbath for the land.” You can read about this in Leviticus 25-26 and Deuteronomy 15. These passages talk about a sabbath for the land—about heptads, or periods of seven years; the land was to lie fallow every seventh year. It was their failure to obey these and other laws that led to God’s sending them into captivity under the Babylonians (2 Chronicles 36). They were to work for six years and take the seventh year off. After forty-eight years, the forty-ninth was the sabbath year—and the fiftieth year was the Jubilee year. It was a wonderful system. God said that they needed that rest and renewal “to anoint the Most Holy. And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).
Note that Daniel 9:24 is not directed to the church but focuses upon “your people [Israel] and your holy city [Jerusalem].” The scope of this prophecy includes a broad list of things that clearly are yet to be completed.
Segment Two—The First Sixty-Nine Weeks: A very specific prediction occurs:
“… From the going forth of the command to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street [open square] shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off [the Crucifixion], but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy [by the Romans, A.D. 70] the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate [the Antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 3].”
This passage encapsulates all of biblical prophecy. It also includes a mathematical prophecy. The Jewish (and Babylonian) calendars used a 360-day year (Genesis 7:24); sixty-nine weeks of 360-day years totals 173,880 days. In effect, the angel Gabriel told Daniel that the interval between the command to rebuild Jerusalem until the presentation of the Messiah as King would be 173,880 days. The “Messiah the Prince” in the King James translation is actually the “Meshiach Nagid”—“The Messiah the King.” (Nagid is first used of King Saul.)
This is a prophetic bull’s eye: the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 B.C.1 (The emphasis on “the street” and “the wall” in Daniel 9:25 was to avoid confusion with other earlier mandates confined to rebuilding the temple.)
When did the Messiah present himself as King? During the ministry of Jesus Christ there were several occasions in which the people attempted to promote Him as their king, but He carefully avoided it because His time had not yet come (John 6:15).
Then one day Christ meticulously arranged His timely triumphant entry. When He rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, He deliberately fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy (483 years earlier) that the Messiah would present himself as King in just that way: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
The crowds were thought to be mad when they cried out: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38). Some of the Pharisees in the multitude wanted Jesus to rebuke the people because they felt that the overzealous crowd was blaspheming by proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the King (Luke 19:39). However, Jesus did not rebuke the crowd, He endorsed their praise: “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). This is the only occasion that Jesus presented himself as King. It occurred on April 6, A.D. 32.
The divine precision of prophecy is indisputable. When we examine the period between March 14, 445 B.C. and April 6, A.D. 32, and correct for leap years, we discover that it is 173,880 days exactly—to the very day! How could Daniel have known this in advance? How could anyone have contrived to have this detailed prediction documented over three centuries in advance? But there is even more!
Segment Three—The Interval Between the Sixty-Ninth and Seventieth Week: There appears to be a gap between the sixty-ninth week (v. 25) and the seventieth week (v. 27). Look again at Daniel 9:26: “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.”
The sixty-two weeks follow the initial seven, so verse 26 deals with events after the sixty-ninth week, but before the seventieth. These events include the Messiah being killed and the city and sanctuary being destroyed.
As Jesus approached the city on the donkey, He predicted the destruction of Jerusalem: “… Your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround … and level you … to the ground; and they will not leave … one stone upon another because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43-44).
The Messiah was, of course, executed at the Crucifixion—“but not for Himself.” Christ presented himself, but they did not accept Him, so the Romans killed Him; He was cut off. Thirty-eight years later, in A.D. 70, the Roman legions under Titus Vespasian leveled the city of Jerusalem, precisely as Daniel and Jesus had predicted. Both the city and sanctuary were destroyed. In fact, as one carefully examines Jesus’ specific words—“because you did not know the time of your visitation”—it appears that He held the people accountable to know this astonishing prophecy in Daniel 9.
Even as we remember that moment when Christ saw the future desolation of Israel, we also remember that He wept. Christ’s compassion, even in the face of well-deserved punishment, should move our hearts. He is so aware of our weaknesses; He knows we are dust. He ever lives to intercede for us. And today Jesus wants to be invited to walk through this day, hand in hand with us—guiding us, protecting us, and receiving from us our adoration and love!
TUESDAY: The End of Days Described
“Then he [the Antichrist] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week ….”
—Daniel 9:27, emphasis added
In yesterday’s devotional we saw that Daniel 9:24 says that seven weeks are determined; we have found sixty-nine of them. Daniel 9:27 now references the remaining “one week,” or seven-year period yet to be fulfilled, which is the most documented period in the entire Bible. Revelation 6-19 is essentially a detailing of that climactic seventieth week. That is why we say the Tribulation is seven years—there is one week of years still left to be fulfilled.
Segment Four—The Seventieth Week: The interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week continues at the present time, but it is increasingly apparent that it may soon be over. The more one is familiar with the numerous climactic themes of end-times prophecy, the more it seems that Daniel’s seventieth week is on our horizon. Have you done your homework? Are you and your family prepared?2
Christ said, “… When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place …, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16). And Paul tells us: … That Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
This temple they spoke of is coming; that is why Jerusalem is such a hot piece of real estate to God and to Satan. Scholars of prophecy do not agree on all the details of future events, but the next two paragraphs are a fair representation of what many prophetic scholars believe concerning the order of events.
First, the church will be raptured (1 Corinthians 15:51–58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18), which can occur at any time. Once the true church is gone, the leader of the ten European nations will make a seven-year agreement with Israel (Daniel 9:26–27). After three and one-half years, he will break that agreement (Daniel 9:27). The Antichrist will subsequently begin to control the world and force all people to worship and obey him. At this time God will send Great Tribulation upon the earth (Matthew 24:21). The Antichrist will then set up his image in the temple at Jerusalem (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4; Revelation 13).
Next in the order of events is that the nations will gather at Armageddon to fight both the Antichrist and Israel. (Antichrist will aid Israel at first, but later turn against them.) However, as they all see the sign of Christ’s coming, everyone will unite together to fight against Him (Zechariah 12; Revelation 13:13–14; 19:11ff). But Jesus will gloriously return to the earth, defeat His enemies, be received by the Jews, and establish His kingdom (Revelation 19:11ff; Zechariah 12:7–13:1). He will then reign on earth for 1,000 years, which is the period known as the Millennium (Revelation 20:1–5).
What happens to allow this temple to be put in place and not destroy the earth? Ezekiel 37-39 may have the clue. When Ezekiel wrote, he was a captive in exile. Israel was defeated, occupied, and no longer a nation. From the sixth century B.C. until 1948, there has never been a nation called Israel. So this passage must be future by every way of consideration. This event may even happen before the Tribulation because at the midpoint of the Tribulation the temple is fully functional, and the Antichrist desecrates it. Things will fall apart so greatly in the Tribulation that I don’t think there will be much building going on during that time, so the temple will probably be built before the Tribulation starts—or very soon after it begins.
Chapters 37-39 of Ezekiel are so important to God that He repeats himself eight times. Let’s start with Ezekiel 37, which is all about the regathering of Israel, and Israel as the “valley of dry bones.” In verses 1-6, Israel is going to be regathered, and the dry bones are going to come home. In 37:9 He says, “… Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” The Jews came back to Israel from every corner of the earth!
In 37:12 we read: “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” ’ ” What graves are being referred to? It could be that it is all of those graves including Dachau, Treblinka, Auschwitz, and other concentration camps all around Eastern Europe. I have been to many of these places, and it made me grieve and weep to see what the Jews went through!
In 37:13 He opens the graves: “Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.”
The European Jews (which were the vast majority of all the Jewish population) were so close to extinction that God intervened. The Germans were actually smarter and better soldiers. They had better technology and had the upper hand, but they made some key mistakes. They went to Russia instead of the oil fields in Romania. Hitler could have won. But God says, “You can be the smartest and have the biggest army, but you are not going to win because I am going to let everybody know that I am the Lord!”
Now look at 37:14: “ ‘I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the LORD.”
Against the entire United Nations, the whole assembled world, and everyone’s better judgment—Israel was allowed to have a land on May 1, 1948—and that was a miracle. We should be really amazed that Israel even exists today. But all this is so we will know that the Lord is God!
As we reflect on how God has kept His Word for Israel, it should thrill us to know that the very same awesome power of an omnipotent God is at work each day in us. Christ’s invitation to abide in and live through us (John 15) is the key to living fruitfully. I encourage you to pause right now and renew Paul’s prayer and make it your own: “… Nevertheless as I live—it becomes less of me and more of Christ who lives in and through me …” [author’s own translation] (Galatians 2:20).
WEDNESDAY: Russia and the End of Days
… Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, … and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them …; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.”
—Ezekiel 38:3-6, emphasis added
In the above passage, Israel is in the land and something is about to happen. Have you ever wondered whether the names in verses 3-6 are connected with Russia? To find a possible answer, one must first identify the areas against which Ezekiel prophesied, and then determine the countries that occupy those land areas today. Ezekiel’s prophecy does not point to Russia merely because the words sound similar. Neither should one identify “Meshech” with Moscow or “Tubal” with Tobolsk. Ezekiel had historical rather than modern-day places in mind, so these areas must be located according to Ezekiel’s time. This represents the entire Arab confederacy and some great power in the far north. Russia, with the largest landmass on the planet, is the only power that fits. As far back as the Scythians, they have historically been an enemy of Israel.
However, while one must avoid dogmatic assertions, these reasons suggest including Russia within Ezekiel’s prophecy. Some of the geographic places named by Ezekiel may have been located in what is now Russia. The armies are said to come “from the far north” (Ezekiel 38:6, 15; 39:2). This probably includes the land bridge between the Black and Caspian Seas, now part of Russia. Ezekiel spoke of a coalition of several nations, many of which are today aligned with or under the influence of Russia. These include Iran (Persia), Sudan and northern Ethiopia (Cush), Libya (Put), and Turkey (Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth Togarmah). All these nations, possibly led by Russia, will unite to attack Israel (see Ezekiel 38:2-3, 5-6).
Ezekiel was describing a battle that will involve Israel’s remotest neighbors. “They will sense their opportunity to attack when Israel feels secure under the false protection of her covenant with the Antichrist sometime at the beginning of the seven-year period. The nations involved in the attack will likely include Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Libya. Ezekiel first pictured the invasion by Gog and his allies (38:1-16), and then described their judgment (38:17-39:29).”3
Every time there is a big battle in the Bible, God fights for Israel. Gideon is a classic example of this: with torches, pitchers, horns, and 300 men—180,000 soldiers were routed because God caused the soldiers to turn their swords on each other! And He will display His sovereign intervention again in Ezekiel 38:19-23 by using natural, and possibly even supernatural, means to protect Israel. In His “jealousy” and “the fire of [His] wrath” He will send “a great earthquake in the land of Israel,” and “call for a sword against Gog” so that every “man’s sword will be against his brother.” Furthermore, He will judge them “with pestilence and bloodshed … and will rain down … great hailstones, fire, and brimstone” (which is a supernatural event). His ultimate purpose is to “magnify” himself so that they shall know that He is the Lord!
In verses 19-23, a coalition of armies is moving toward Israel from the north (all of Israel’s invaders usually came from the north—the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians). When they get to Israel there is going to be such a severe and devastating earthquake that it will be felt all over the planet.
The word “pestilence” in verse 22 is interesting. Do you remember the “beasties” we saw in Revelation 6? The beasts of the earth are more than lions, tigers, and bears; there are also little beasts of the earth. In laboratories all over the world, terrorists and governments are making anthrax, botulism, typhoid, and all kinds of other lethal organisms.
Although soldiers today don’t carry swords, God says that their swords turn on themselves. A normal army today carries enough munitions to destroy the entire army. God turns these weapons against their owners supernaturally. (See also Ezekiel 39:1-9.) It is interesting that God himself will give Israel the victory even though they could use their scores of nuclear weapons. (Israel’s stockpile of nuclear weapons is probably what has kept the Arabs at bay.)
When writing in 600 B.C. about this warfare, Ezekiel referred to weapons such as shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, and javelins and spears. Would he have been able to describe modern warfare? No, Ezekiel did not have the necessary vocabulary. But this doesn’t mean the armies are going to revert back to chariots and weapons made of wood: “They will not take wood from the field nor cut down any from the forests, because they will make fires with the weapons; and they will plunder those who plundered them, and pillage those who pillaged them,” says the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 39:10).
The useable length of life for atomic material is seven years. It is possible that their atomic power plants will have enough plutonium out of those weapons to power the whole nation of Israel for seven years. (Steel or titanium can’t be burned.)
How is this possible? They will be following the proper protocol for biological or atomic warfare. If there is an outbreak of atomic warfare the area would have to be isolated. Ezekiel 39:12-16 tells us that “For seven months the house of Israel will be … burying, and they will gain renown for it on the day that I am glorified,” says the Lord GOD. … “At the end of seven months they will … pass through the land; and when anyone sees a man’s bone, he shall set up a marker by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon Gog. The name of the city will also be Hamonah Thus they shall cleanse the land.”
The valley of Hamon Gog is southeast of the Dead Sea, down wind from Israel, on the Arab side. Crews will be going throughout the land to decontaminate the battle area. Even though it would be much easier to dig a big pit where the battle took place and simply push the bodies and weapons into it, they won’t want to contaminate the headwaters of the Jordan River. Therefore, all the bodies and weapons will be removed to Hamon Gog.
Now look at 39:17: “And as for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field …’ ” God will send 60 percent of carnivorous scavenger birds to fly their migration routes over Israel every year, and there will be a big feast.
Ezekiel 39:22—“So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward”—is what I think will embolden them to say: “God did this!” Though there is no conversion to Christ, they will be impressed to build the temple once the militant Muslims and possibly the Russians are destroyed: “ ‘… Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 39:28-29).
In conclusion, it is possible that a pretribulation invasion of Israel will spur them on to build the temple with no opposition. But if not, then it will certainly come about because of the false promises of the Antichrist.
Since we don’t know when this may occur, we need to keep that same attitude the early church lived—“Perhaps today ...” If Jesus did come today, what do you wish He would find you doing? That is what you should seek to do. And what would you wish to not have Him find you doing? That is what you should avoid. Such choices make life so simple. There are only two options each day: please Jesus, who may come at any moment, or please ourselves, which is so empty.
THURSDAY: The Future Temple in Jerusalem
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.”
—Revelation 11:1, emphasis added
John now begins to weave together one of the longest Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s future. Ezekiel devoted nine long chapters to a prophetic description of a massive temple built in Jerusalem. In Revelation 11, John picks up with God surveying for a temple in Jerusalem.
Almost all prophetic writers place the temple of Ezekiel in the millennial times, but the proximity of Ezekiel chapter 39 to chapter 40 is very interesting. The biggest section in which the Bible discusses a future temple is right after this invasion, which reminds us of God’s long-term plans for Jerusalem. Therefore, whatever mankind does to oppose Israel only serves to accomplish God’s ultimate purposes for them.
In Revelation 11:1 “measuring” speaks of someone setting an area aside to claim it for one’s own self. This could be for destruction, preparation for building, restoration, or something else. Now look at the second verse: “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth” (Revelation 11:2-3).
There were four courts in the temple—each opening into the other until the Holy of Holies was reached. These courts were:
1. The Courtyard of the Gentiles: This was the only place non-Jews could enter without the penalty of death for violation. There was a fence with posted warnings on tablets that spoke of the death penalty for crossing over into the next court by any Gentile.
2. The Courtyard of the Women: This was next, and it was the extent of a woman’s access to the temple in those days.
3. The Courtyard of the Israelites: This was the third courtyard, and it marked the limit of where non-priestly men could enter.
4. The Courtyard of the Priests: This was the final area. In this area were the laver, the brass altar of the burnt offering, and the Holy Place. In the temple proper were the two chambers: the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
Old Testament worship centered first on the tabernacle, and later the temple; that divinely designed liturgy was carried on for 1,500 nearly unbroken years, except when Israel sometimes lapsed into apostasy. The Israelites followed the instructions God gave Moses when he was on Mt. Sinai. The epicenter of that worship was the Holy Place. In the front half of it stood the altar of incense, golden lampstand, and table of showbread. A curtain divided the room; this curtain was actually a finely woven rug four inches thick, sixty feet high and forty feet wide. It was massive and towering; no natural light ever penetrated its dark depths. Even the light of the ever-burning lampstand never reached behind the veil.
In better times, the shekinah glory of the presence of God made the Holiest of Holies behind the veil brighter than noonday. In all Israel’s history, probably no more than fifty men had ever gone into the Holy of Holies. Even David, Daniel, and Jeremiah never went in. Only the High Priest could enter, and then only once a year.
Inside that room was a gold-covered box containing the stone tablets of the Law, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that had budded. Above the ark of the covenant stood two golden cherubim with wings shielding the mercy seat—their faces forever gazing downward, focusing upon the blood to be offered.
When the day came for the High Priest to pass behind that veil, he was garbed carefully in the God-directed robes and priestly garments. He wore bells on the hem of his garment to let the other priests know he was still alive as he was inside. With trembling hands cradling a basin of blood, veiled by a cloud of smoking incense burning in a pot he carried, the High Priest would enter. After sprinkling the blood on that mercy seat on behalf of all the people of God, he hastened out. Why? The only purpose of the veil was to keep people out of the holy presence of God. God was saying: “I AM HOLY. YOU ARE NOT. STAY OUT!”
In Revelation, God’s panorama of the end of days has a curious reference to the period of time we call the Tribulation. The Tribulation, and portions of it, are called by many different names such as a “week,” “forty-two months,” “one thousand two hundred and sixty days,” and “a time, times and a half.” All these refer to the seventieth week of Daniel 9—a week of years, or seven years. The forty-two months, 1,260 days, and “a time, times and a half” are all references to half of these seven years. But as often happens in prophetic portions of the Scriptures, there are near and far fulfillments.
In Jewish history, a three and one-half year time period is not only a time measurement for the future, but it is also a memory of an event that deeply touched the Jews of the intertestamental period. For three and one-half years, the rebellion against the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes’ desecration of the temple was waged. The brave soldiers of Judas Maccabaeus fought from June 168 B.C. until December 165 B.C. and, through some amazing victories, drove out the pagan intrusion into the worship of the Lord. Many martyrs fell during this time that was described prophetically four hundred years before it took place (Daniel 7-12).
Regardless of whether God is pouring out great blessings upon His people, or deserved judgment, He wants us to know that He is the Lord—and deserves worship. Is that your heart toward Him today?
FRIDAY: God Stakes His Name on Israel
“At the same time,” says the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.” Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness—Israel, when I went to give him rest.”
God has staked His name on one nation—Israel. No city on planet Earth has the history of God’s city—Jerusalem! For over 4,000 years Jerusalem has been the city of God. Look with me at this timeline of God’s association with Jerusalem.
Well over 4,000 years ago, Jerusalem was the city of Melchizadek (a type of Christ [see Genesis 14]) and Abraham’s offering of Isaac; over 3,000 years ago Jerusalem was the city of David, the city of Solomon, and of God’s personally designed temple. God calls it “My city” (Hosea 5:15). Two thousand years ago Jerusalem was the place of Christ’s Crucifixion—now a place sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In A.D. 70 the temple (built by Herod) was destroyed. The first temple (Solomon’s) was destroyed in 586 B.C. The second temple was built by Zerubbubel, and then greatly enlarged and embellished for over 40 years by Herod. In A.D. 685-691 the Dome of the Rock was built over the same area, and in A.D. 1520-1566 Suleman the Magnificent added the present walls. Today this city of less than a square mile is the focus of most of the nations of the world for one reason: God has chosen Jerusalem to be the focal point for His plan for the end of the world!
God keeps His Word. Now look at Revelation 11:1-2 again where God says that there will be another temple: “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.”
Daniel also said that there would be another temple (9:27 and 12:11), as did Christ in Matthew 24:15-16 and Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Thus, no matter how bleak Israel’s situation may become in our fast-darkening world, or how impossible it may seem that they can even survive as a nation, God is in control working out His plan. He has a building project, and all that He has written and promised will come to pass.
God protects His own—to the finish: “ And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner” (Revelation 11:3-5).
God has always had His witnesses: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Job, Moses, Samuel, and so on. But who are the two witnesses in verse 3? There are several possibilities. Perhaps they are Joshua and Zerubbabel, as mentioned in Zechariah 3-4. Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-11) are possibilities because neither saw death, and both were fearless prophets during times of apostasy (Jude 14-15).
Moses and Elijah are the most likely choice, however, because of their presence on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17); position in God’s plan (head of the Law and head of the Prophets); and their God-given power in ministry (Moses’ plagues in Egypt and Elijah’s fire and drought). Note verse 6: These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy [Elijah]; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues [Moses], as often as they desire (Revelation 11:6).
It is intriguing to read that the two at the tomb of Jesus (Luke 24:4, 7) and the two at the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9-11) were called “men,” and not angels. Malachi 3:3 and 4:5-6 is a very strong prophecy of Elijah’s coming. It is very possible that Elijah and Moses witnessed for Christ at the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. The timing of the ministries of the two witnesses and the 144,000 evangelists is not entirely clear. But if the two witnesses are in the first half of the Tribulation, then the 144,000 could very well be saved and called into duty by the ministry of these particular witnesses.
Now, the first reference to “the beast” (which appears thirty-six times in the book) is in Revelation 11:7: When they [the two witnesses] finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
While it is true that God protects His own, the two witnesses will be destroyed by the Antichrist. How can that be explained? God’s protection does not preclude disease, death, and martyrdom. However, He protects us from doing anything less than serving Him and fulfilling His will—and His will just might happen to be disease, death, and martyrdom. We don’t know what His plan is. We are simply to serve Him by life or death, and trust that He will grant protection for as long as is needed for us to finish His plan.
Jacob followed his Shepherd: And he blessed Joseph, and said: “… The God who has fed me … to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:15-16).
David finished God’s purposes for his life: “When David had served God’s purpose …, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed” (Acts 13:36, NIV).
Paul finished the race course God laid out for him: I have fought the good fight, … finished the race, … kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord … will give to me on that Day, and … to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Jesus confidently cried out in victory: So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit (John 19:30).
God gives endless life: And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then [all] … will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. [All] … will rejoice over them … because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, … and great fear fell on those who saw them. … And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and … seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly (Revelation 11:8-14).
Imagine the world’s immense shock when they see the two witnesses alive again! Raising the dead is certainly nothing new for our omnipotent God—the One … who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did … (Romans 4:17). He gives this same wonderful promise to us: … He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11). Hallelujah!
There will be a quake at the end of each of the series of judgments: the sixth seal, the seventh trumpet, and the seventh bowl. This huge earthquake will kill thousands of people and thereby bring terror to those yet alive. Some will become so afraid that they give “glory to the God of heaven,” which may be an indication of the salvation of a Jewish remnant.
We can glean three practical lessons from today’s devotional: (1) God keeps His Word; (2) God protects His own; and (3) God gives endless life. Do you trust Him? Do you rest in the confident hope that He will be with you to the finish of the race He’s laid out for you? Do you communicate that hope to those around you?
SATURDAY: God Expects Worship
Then the seventh angel sounded: and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders … worshiped God, saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, he One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name …, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.” Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
—Revelation 11:15-19, emphasis added
Heaven is a worship-focused place where God rules and reigns (vv. 15-16). Are you experiencing heaven as you worship Him? Worship flows out of the wonders of God’s revelation of himself: He is eternal in character (v. 17a), awesome in power (v. 17b), righteous in judgment (v. 18), and mighty in faithfulness (v. 19)!
The activity in heaven consists almost entirely of worship (Revelation 4; 5; 7:9-12), for there will be no more hunger, thirst, or scorching heat (Revelation 7:16). God will wipe all tears away (Revelation 7:17; 21:4). Death, mourning, and pain will vanish because “the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Heaven is a wonderfully protected place; all evil is excluded: There shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie …”(Revelation 21:27). The sheer freedom from fallen experience is pictured by city gates that “shall not be shut by day (there shall be no night there)”(Revelation 21:25). Oh, how I hope that your heart is filled to overflowing with adoration for the God who loves you so—the One with whom you will dwell eternally!
People of faith will “desire a better, that is, a heavenly country”—for the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 8:18)! God expects worship—do you wholeheartedly adore Him?
Make a choice to live in hope: What is your response to God’s plan of the ages? If you want to have living hope for the end of days, reflect upon the glorious afterlife ahead .
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