By J. E. Becker
Remember the childhood game hide and seek. Remember how the person who was it called out at the end of his count to one hundred, “Ready or not, you shall be caught. Here I come.” Jesus voiced a similar warning when he said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day that your Lord will come . . . So you must be ready, because the Son of man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24:42, 44 NIV emphasis mine). In Luke’s account Jesus says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectantly like trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that ye may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:34-36 NIV).
An article in the October 2006 issue of Christianity Today posted what 114 Evangelical leaders thought the focus of the Church would be for the next fifty years. Not one of them mentioned the possibility that Jesus could return and that we should be ready. Is this a trend throughout the whole Church? Are we to assume that they think we have at least fifty years left before he comes? Do we? Or are we just repeating what happened to the Jews at Christ’s first coming when he wept over Jerusalem because they didn’t know the time of their visitation (Luke 19:41-44)? He told the people they could discern the signs of the weather and accurately predict them but he said, “Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye discern not this time?” (Luke 12:56).
Understandably, we have all been disgusted by over zealous “watchers” who set dates and caused many to do foolish things while awaiting the Lord’s return a la the prophet. But that can only happen if God’s people are so appallingly ignorant of prophecy, and the signs given, that they blindly follow those who prophesy from their own understanding.
Nevertheless, the Lord did command us to watch. Sadly, many in the Church today see this commandment as having less value than the command to preach the gospel or the commandments given in the Sermon on the Mount on how to live. All are important, but each addresses a different facet of Christianity. Setting eyes upon Jesus’ coming keeps the Church from deviating from God’s set course if we know it. Paul set forth this important principle in his letter to the Colossians (1:22, 23). He said that we could be presented, presumably at the judgment seat of Christ, as “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation NIV),
If [conditional] we continued in the faith, [rooted and] grounded [because we believed the preaching of the gospel and received the Lord’s righteousness, by which we are set apart, thus holy] and settled [making us steadfast, unmoveable, because we have lived out our sanctification according to Jesus’ commandments making us unblameable (KJV)] and be not moved away from the hope held out in the gospel [the part that makes us ready to serve him at his coming]: unreproveable (KJV) [because we were watching]. Watching implies that we know what to expect. The hope of the gospel, often referred to as the Christian’s Blessed Hope, is none other than his coming for his saints and their glorious future, a prophetic word.
To move away from it, is to replace it with our own hope. Setting aside his hope brings reproof because our focus is on other things. We are not watching. Jesus reproved the church in Sardis for their attitude of not watching (Rev. 3:3 NIV). He says “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” To be caught unaware apparently brings shame. The unfaithful and evil servant in Matthew 24:48 KJV said: “My lord delayeth his coming,” consequently his life was far off the mark. On the other hand the faithful servant was feeding the lord’s household in due season, that is, appropriate to the time.
He tells us to watch but he never says why. Why is it important to watch? Won’t we all go up when Jesus comes whether we are watching or not? Or is there another purpose why Jesus wants us to know these future things? In another parable concerning his coming he delights in those who are waiting, ready to serve him when he returns.
Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
Like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.
It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, and will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. [Again, why is he disposed to serve them? Does this have anything to do with Rev. 3:20 where his servants open the door to his knock?]
It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. Luke 12:35-40 NIV
[Again why? Does he have some special purpose for them after the rapture?]
Jesus promises a similar blessing to all those who read, hear and keep the sayings of the book of Revelation. The Greek word for “keep” is tyereo, which means to watch, to guard by keeping an eye upon, in other words watching for signs that these prophetic events are near.
We strive in every way to serve him now, but what if there is a service to be performed after the resurrection, which those who are not ready cannot perform? Perhaps like the unfaithful priests of Ezekiel’s day whose service in the temple will be denied a position close to the Lord’s presence because of unfaithfulness (See Ezekiel 44:10-14). Will a similar blessing be denied the Church who fails to watch because of misplaced priorities? Seeing that it is important for the Church to know prophecy, why aren’t we in the main stream preaching it along with the other commandments, so that the Church may be alert?
Last year I attended a prophecy conference where one of the speakers brought forth 40 reasons why we are the generation Jesus is coming for. Do we know what we are supposed to know? According to prophecy his coming is forever linked to God’s promises to the Jews, which have already begun to happen. You might be surprised, however, by some of the signs. Some are obvious such as the return of the Jews to their land, their sovereignty being restored over it, and the city of Jerusalem back in their hands. But did you know that the Jewish priesthood has been identified by DNA? This could not have happened before 1953. It seems there is a particular strain in the Y chromosome that comes from Aaron and even though the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic Jews were separated over a thousand years ago, the DNA of the priesthood is the same in both groups.
Not only have they discovered the priesthood, but they have also built the furniture for their new temple, except the Ark of the Covenant that they expect to find. All the vessels of gold and silver are already made and waiting to be used in a future temple. (I saw thefurnishings myself in 1998 and again in 2010.) Three different theories have narrowed the actual site of Herod’s temple down to three possible sites on the temple mount. All they really need is the land to build on.
The Jews are actively looking for their Maschiach (Messiah). Orthodox Jews must have a Sanhedrin, a body of 71 Sages and Rabbis chosen according to Maimonides, in order to authenticate the Messiah when he comes. On October 13, 2004 their Sanhedrin was reestablished for the first time since 425 C.E. They met on February 9, 2005 to consider rebuilding the temple including a discussion on which site is the right one.
With the priesthood recognized, the next step is to consecrate them for service. For this they need the anointing oil, and the priest’s garments including the robe for the high priest. The ancient vessel, containing the anointing oil, was found in an Archeological dig in April 1988. They have the regular priest’s garments but to make the robe of the high priest they must have the precious blue and the purple dye. This comes from the Mediterranean Sea Snail, which disappeared in AD70. It’s returned in great numbers now makes it possible to procure the dye.
One thing still hinders their establishment. No one in the priestly line today is ceremonially clean because of their contact with death. Thus they can not be cleansed with out the sprinkling water of separation made from the ashes of a perfectly red heifer under four years old that has never carried a burden (Numbers 19). They search for a red cow, not having one hair of any other color, to sacrifice then burn. The Jews have imported Red Angus cows from the US to increase their chances of finding one.
But besides the problem of finding the cow, they have to produce a priest who is ceremonially clean to sacrifice it. Since none already exist, he will have to be born and raised in the same manner that they produced a clean priesthood when they returned from Babylon. That requires raising children in an environment that prevents any contact with the earth―a house raised up on stilts. Priests’ children would be raised and taught the ways of the priesthood up to the age of thirteen. Male children, being esteemed ceremonially clean, are able to sacrifice the red heifer to produce the water of separation, which can cleanse the rest of the priest hood. According to Randall Price in his book The Temple in Prophecy, a special compound has been donated by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Idea Yeshiva and four priestly families donated their unborn children to the purification project sometime before 2005.
The most blatantly obvious sign concerning Israel is the fulfillment of Zachariah’s prediction that Jerusalem would become a burdensome stone to all peoples (because of the Palestinian and Arab situation? Zech. 12:3).
Turning now to signs brought about by modern technology, Daniel said men shall go to and fro on the earth (meaning the whole earth, fulfilled today by people flying in airplanes everywhere) and knowledge would increase before the end came. Actually knowledge now doubles every two years because of our fantastic communication systems. TV makes it possible for the whole world to watch the two witnesses (Rev. 11) killed and lie dead in the street on the world news via satellite transmission. The gospel is preached 24/7 to the whole world by the same system. With nuclear power in the hands of rogue nations, nuclear war is a very real possibility. The war of the first four seals uses a weapon whose power kills 1/4th of the world’s population directly or by its after affects.
Religiously, some of the Church apostatizes. Some Church leaders compromise the gospel with Catholic dogma, who in turn seek compromise with Islam, believing that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Homosexual leaders demand tolerance for the sake of political correctness.
Socially, our world has reverted to the days of Noah. Greedy corporate leaders cheat stockholders, crime increases and our prisons overflow. We worship pleasure, sex and our own bodies (seeking younger looks and to live longer using anti-aging supplements, etc.), and we have thrown off all restrictions of God’s laws concerning marriage and morality―murdering the unborn. We are experimenting with human embryos. Some English scientists have applied for a license to cross a human embryo with a cow, for medical research of course.
Politically, Jesus said we would hear of wars and rumors of wars—Ethic group rises against ethnic group (“nations” translated from ethnos) giving rise to terrorists all around the world. Kingdom rising against kingdom happens in countries where tribal groups abound with many kings. Look at Africa, wars on top of wars; look at Afghanistan’s war lords and Iraq’s ethnic religious battles.
Natural events―recent weather breaks all records since men began keeping them. Fires rage, floods sweep away in one country; while droughts consume the land in others. Tornadoes and hurricanes increase each year in frequency and ferocity. Volcanoes ring the earth, old ones coming back while more and more erupt, even under water in the Pacific Ocean. Is man causing global warming? I doubt it, scientists know that all the planets are heating up. Earthquakes increase. Something is afoot on the earth.
Jesus said there would be great signs in the heavens. Scientists had dismissed any thing drastic happening to the earth via space until the Shoemaker-Levy comet slammed into Jupiter in 1994. That was a wakeup call to the scientists that objects and orbits in space are not as stable as they once thought. In 2002 an asteroid had a close encounter with the earth and we did not even know it until it passed by. In one of the nearest passes ever recorded, a rock the size of a football field passed extraordinarily close to our planet on June 14 and went undetected until June 17. The asteroid — speeding along at 6.2 miles per second — missed us by only 75,000 miles. That's only one-third the distance to the Moon. In Revelation chapter 8 a “star” plunges all the way through the earth’s crust to the soft bottomless interior. It’s beginning to sound plausible.
The Giant Red Spot on Jupiter (a possible source of the sign of the great red dragon of Revelation chapter 12) has been observed by astronomers for 300 – 340 years with little to no change. In 1998-2000 it underwent a drastic change, it shrunk by half. Then three white spots in a nearby belt collided to form what scientists are calling Red Spot Jr., which is approximately the same size as the earth. It was white in color for five years, turned brown in December 2005, now it has turned red. The two spots pass each other every two years. Since then another rapidly growing red spot has joined them. So far nothing has happened. What will happen in the future? Nobody knows. Something is afoot in the heavens.
These are but a few of the signs that Jesus told us to look for. Do we dare to stand before him and say, “I did not know?” By knowing we also keep our faith sharp and our life clean as John says, that “every one who has this hope in him purifies himself . . . ” (1 John 3:3). Today, of all times in the entire history of the Church, we need to hear this message. The world needs to hear this message. What a vibrant way to preach the gospel!
I saw a sign on a marquee in front of a church that read: “Jesus is coming soon and this time he won’t be nice.” Is any message more relevant today? Wake up Church! It’s time to watch. Jesus is coming. Ready or not, you shall be caught . . . up!
(Facts herein gathered from the Internet and The Temple in Prophecy, by Randall Price, who has an archeological dig in Qumran and keeps abreast of Jewish things. Also From Frieda M. Porter author of On the Brink of the Rapture.
J. E. Becker is the author of the book Rightly Dividing the Book of Revelation ,and a fiction series on the time of the end, The Armageddon Trilogy: Book 1, The Beginning of the End and Book 2, The Sign of the End, which are now available.
Terry James, partner in raptureready.com with Todd Strandberg, says of J.E. Becker: "The author has uncanny ability to boil the massive overall geopolitical realities of these end times into stories that I honestly can say are written as powerfully as those international spy-thrillers by Clancy, Grisham, and the rest.
We will hear more from this budding master storyteller!"