Tag Archive | "God’s elect"

The Unprofitable Servant

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If you’re learning just now that the Bible mentions an unprofitable servant, you might guess that this servant comes to a bad end.  And you would be right – but only half right.  The Bible actually tells us about two different types of unprofitable servants.  We will see that their situations are very different.


In the King James Version of the Bible, the word “unprofitable” appears only seven times.  If you check a concordance, you find that there are six different words (one Hebrew and five Greek) translated as “unprofitable” in seven different verses.  Of those six words, the only original-language word that appears as “unprofitable” more than once is Strong’s number G888.  That’s the Greek word pronounced “achreios.”


When you check “achreios,” you find that – aside from the two times it’s translated as “unprofitable” – it isn’t used anywhere else in the Bible.  There are a couple of words that are related to it, but “achreios” is only used twice.  It appears in Matthew 25:30 (“unprofitable servant”) and in Luke 17:10 (“unprofitable servants”).  We will see that even in just two uses, there are important spiritual lessons to be learned in connection with this word.



An Unprofitable Servant in the Parable of the Talents


Matthew chapter 25 consists of three parables.  Each one is concerned with the coming of the Lord Jesus on the last day.  The second parable is called the parable of the talents, and that’s where we find the word “unprofitable” used.


The talents in this parable aren’t special gifts or abilities that some people have (like a talent in art or music).  These talents are money.  The parable begins at Matthew 25:14:


For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.


In the parable, a man prepares to leave and travel to a far country.  He entrusts his talents to three servants, leaving more with one servant than with another.  The man determines the amounts based on his judgment of each servant’s ability, as we read in Matthew 25:15:


And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.


In verse 19, we read that the lord of those servants comes back “after a long time.”  He checks to see what the three servants have done with his money.  What does he find?


The servant to whom the five talents were entrusted has traded with them and earned five talents more, as we read in Matthew 25:20:


And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.


This servant hears the wonderful words we read in Matthew 25:21: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”


And the servant who had been entrusted with two talents has also doubled the money left with him.  This servant also hears his lord say “Well done.”  However, the servant who had received the one talent “went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money” (verse  18).  We read in Matthew 25:24-25 how he justifies himself:


Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.


This servant has not used the talent that was entrusted to him.  There was no growth or increase; and there is no compliment for this servant, as we find in verses 26-27:


His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.


This servant is called “wicked and slothful.”  What happens to the servant?  We find out in the last three verses of this parable, Matthew 25:28-30:


Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.  For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.  And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


The talent that had been given to this servant is taken from him, and he is cast into “outer darkness.”  Besides being wicked and slothful, this servant is also called unprofitable.


It’s easy to read this parable quickly and assume you have understood it, but it’s actually not so easy to understand.  In fact, the Lord has placed a trap in this parable.


It appears the unprofitable servant is being punished because he didn’t use the talent that was entrusted to him.  Based on this understanding, we might reason that people who do the Lord’s work will be rewarded.  We might conclude – incorrectly – that we can be like the two good servants, who worked and each doubled their talents, and so we will be saved if we do that.


This is what has been called a works-based, or do-it-yourself salvation plan: if we work and do certain things, then we will be rewarded and saved.  However, from many other verses we know that this parable is not teaching that.  In fact, when we look closely we find something in the parable that proves we aren’t saved by our own effort.  Notice verse 29:


For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.        


Here, the Lord tells us “every one that hath shall be given.”  These words tell us about the inheritance the elect will be given in the new heavens and the new earth.  Every one of them “hath,” and every one of them “shall be given.”  And what is it that every one of them has?  It is salvation!   The servant who is called unprofitable never had it.  He is the servant who “hath not.”


Each of the two servants who received approval was made “ruler over many things.”  These two servants were God’s elect.  That’s why they wanted to serve their master, who represents the Lord in this parable.  They wanted to serve the Lord because they were children of God.  When their master returned (and that is a picture of the Lord returning on the last day) they were made rulers over many things – a picture of eternal life.  On the other hand, the servant who hid his master’s money is denied the inheritance and eternal life, so he loses everything.  He was an “unprofitable” servant.


Unprofitable Servants with the Right Attitude


The second place where we find the Greek word “achreios” is Luke 17.  There we find another parable, and it’s about “unprofitable servants.”  The parable begins at Luke 17:7:


But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?


Notice that the Lord is telling us about specific types of work that a servant does.  From elsewhere in the Bible, we know that a field can represent the world.  The parable continues with Luke 17:8:


And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?


Even after working hard in the field, it is still not time for the servant to relax.  There is more work to do.  The master expects the servant to serve him until he has “eaten and drunken.”  Only then can the servant eat and drink.


This short parable has only two more verses.  In Luke 17:9-10 we read:


Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.   So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.


These servants, of course, are working for the Lord.  They will eventually “eat and drink,” so they represent God’s elect.  In telling this parable, the Lord shows us the kind of attitude He wants His children to have.  After faithfully serving the Lord, even if it was for most of a lifetime, they are to realize that it was only their duty to do what they did.  They are to think of themselves as “unprofitable servants.”



How Can Both Be Unprofitable?


From our two parables, we’ve seen that both the saved and unsaved servants are called “unprofitable.”  Why does the Lord consider even dedicated, hard-working servants to be unprofitable?  To answer this question, we must think about what it means to be profitable.


When anyone is hired for a job, the person doing the hiring expects the new employee to be profitable.  The hope is that the employee will make or save more money for the employer than he or she costs the employer.  In other words, if the employee is profitable, then what he gives back to the employer will be of more value than everything the employer gives him.


When we try to apply this standard to our relationship with God, we see that it’s an impossible situation for us.  How can any individual give God more than He has given that person?  He has given us life and any abilities we have to be productive, and He has given us the materials we use in any work we do.  Besides all this, He continues to sustain us.  It’s impossible to give God more than He has given us.


For a person whom God has saved, the situation is even more lopsided.  The Bible shows us that God paid for that person’s sins before the foundation of the world.  Then, God had to arrange the circumstances that existed at the time when God saved him.  God may have begun that work many years earlier – maybe even centuries before that person was born.


Think about it.   Let’s say that a guy named Harvey was the first one – maybe even the only one – in his family to be saved.  God still had to work in his parents’ lives, and their parents’ lives, etc. to make sure that Harvey was wherever he was when he heard the Gospel and was saved.


God also had to work in the life of the person who brought the true Gospel to Harvey.  That too made it necessary for God to work and plan long in advance of the day when God’s messenger brought Harvey the true Gospel.  When we start to understand how complicated the process is and how much God had to do for each of His children, we see that it’s really impossible for anyone to be a profitable servant.





We’ve read two parables about a man and his servants.  In the Matthew 25 parable of the talents, we read about a servant who was obviously not saved.  (Incidentally, the parable of the pounds in Luke 19:12-27 is very similar to the parable of the talents.)  And in the Luke 17 parable, we read about servants who faithfully serve the Lord and represent the elect.  In both cases, the man to whom the servants belong represents the Lord.


After reading these parables, we might begin to wonder just who is God’s servant.  Amazingly, even the man who conquered the ancient kingdom of Judah and destroyed the temple at Jerusalem is called God’s servant.  In Jeremiah 27:6, we read:


And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.


God even calls Nebuchadnezzar His servant.  Perhaps God wants us to realize that He may use anyone to accomplish His purpose.  Therefore, anyone who is doing something that God wants done – regardless of whether or not the person is saved – is one of God’s servants.  So it is possible for anyone, even a lifelong atheist or someone who follows a non-Christian religion, to be one of God’s servants.  However, the Bible puts much more emphasis on a different group of servants.  That group is the elect and, to a lesser extent, those who are identified with God’s kingdom even though they aren’t saved.  We read something about them in Matthew 7:21-23:


Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


Notice what the Lord tells us about the way these unsaved people think.  They assume they are saved because of their works, yet the Lord tells us that He considers their work to be “iniquity.”  We know that a “do-it-yourself” salvation plan is prevalent throughout Christian churches today.  The Lord’s statement in Matthew 7:23 appears to be directed at these local congregations and their false gospel.


In contrast to their way thinking, we read in Luke 17:10 about the humble attitude the Lord’s saved servants should have.  They know that nothing they do can merit salvation or an additional reward after they have been saved.  They know God’s servants are “unprofitable.”  Do you?



You Are Here

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In many areas such as city neighborhoods, college campuses, parks and even in large buildings, you’ll see a diagram like a map posted to help people there understand exactly where they are in relation to their surroundings.  Usually, the diagram is marked with an arrow and the words “You Are Here” to indicate the exact spot where a person would be standing in order to read the information.  Amazingly, God has done something similar to help end-time believers understand where they are in time according to His plan for mankind.



The Two Witnesses


One way He has done this is by telling us about the two witnesses of Revelation 11.  We know that they represent a group of end-time believers, based on events described in that chapter of Revelation and on related information in the Bible.


Revelation 11:4-5 tells us something about them:


These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.  And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.


These witnesses proclaim a message of judgment to the world.  The message of God’s judgment is the fire that “proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies.”  When we read about the two witnesses, we must realize that God isn’t telling us that there will be two real people who can blow fire out of their mouths to kill people.  He is telling us about a time when His message of judgment goes out to the world near the end of time.  Those who are enemies of this message are judged by God’s word and eventually destroyed, as required by God’s law.  Their destruction is by the fire that “devoureth their enemies.”


The two witnesses represent a group of believers near the end of time.  Their prophesying or preaching finishes at a specific time.  We know this from Revelation 11:7, which states “when they shall have finished their testimony.”  At that time, according to the same verse, “the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”


The beast, which is Satan, doesn’t literally kill the two witnesses.  Rather, he and the unsaved world – that is, people who are in his kingdom – silence the two witnesses, who are the elect.  Verses 8 and 9, which tell us that their bodies lie “in the street” because they aren’t buried, show us that the world wants to bring shame on them because the witnesses brought a message of God’s judgment.


Verse 10 indicates that their message reached around the world, for it states:


And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.  


Notice what happens after the witnesses are “killed,” according to Revelation 11:11-12:


And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.  And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.


These verses and the rest of Revelation 11 make it clear that this passage is telling us about the Rapture and the end of the world.  We have to realize that the number of days that elapses after the witnesses are killed – three and a half – is not to be taken literally.  It is like the number of witnesses, which represents the elect who bring the true Gospel (see Mark 6:7 and Luke 9:30-31).


However, there is something very important we can understand about the three and a half days: God is showing us that the elect remain here for a certain period of time after their warnings to the world are finished.


Notice how well Revelation 11 matches the situation of those who warned about May 21, 2011.  You may recall that, according to the timeline that was proclaimed with the message of judgment, there was a period of time (the first part of the great tribulation) when God was not saving anyone.  This period of time is identified in Revelation 11:2, where we read “the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”


After this, God gives power to His two witnesses.  They prophesied and brought a message of God’s judgment (see Revelation 11:3) until they “finished their testimony” (Revelation 11:7).  At that time, they were “overcome” and “killed.”  This is what happened to those who were discredited in the world’s eyes on May 21, 2011 because the Rapture did not occur then.  In all of this, God is identifying the time in which we are now living as the three and a half days preceding the Rapture.



The Locusts of Revelation 9


Visions corresponding to the seven seals and seven trumpets are a series of pictures of end-time spiritual events presented in chronological order.  We know this because God gives us a clear starting point in Revelation 6:1-2 with the opening of the first seal, picturing the start of the church age; and He gives us a clear finishing point in Revelation 11:15: the sounding of the seventh trumpet, marking the end of the world.  God also gives us verses in-between those two points (Revelation 6:11, Revelation 8:1, Revelation 8:13, Revelation 9:12, Revelation 11:14) to show us that events are following each other in time.


With this in mind, we can see something in Revelation 9 that matches what we find in Revelation 11.  In order to see this we need to realize that, besides the seven seals and trumpets, God gives us an alternate and partial path of end-time events: that path is the three woes.  We also need to realize that the vision associated with the sixth trumpet sounding (Revelation 9:13) is a picture of the Rapture.


The Rapture will occur on the last day and be immediately followed by the end of the world.  However, in the first part of Revelation 9 (before the verses describing the Rapture), we read about a vision describing the period of time that comes just before the Rapture.  This vision involves strange creatures called locusts.


Revelation 9:5 tells us the period of the locusts lasts five months.  Their time begins with the trumpet sounding by the fifth angel (Revelation 9:1).  The darkening of the sun (verse 2) indicates God’s judgment has begun.  It is the final time the sun darkens.  This vision is set in a time when the Gospel no longer shines with power to save anyone.  However, the Gospel is still proclaimed around the world in this vision.


Here, the Gospel is a witness of judgment against the world.  The locusts proclaim God’s word, and that is their sting.  It is the sting of judgment from God’s law.   This is the meaning of Revelation 9:5, which states:


And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

Like the other numbers in Revelation, the five months is only a representation of something.  It’s a spiritual number.  Here, it represents the time between the last day of salvation (which is the start of the period without salvation anywhere ever again) and the last day of the world.


Notice that the period of the locusts is the same as the period when the two witnesses are dead “in the street” (Revelation 11:8).  However, in the verses about the two witnesses prophesying God is showing us a picture of the time when the Gospel saved a great number of people.  Their testimony ends when judgment day begins.


The locusts, on the other hand, bring their message during judgment day.  It is the time when the sun has been darkened (Revelation 9:2) and the Gospel isn’t saving anyone.  In that sense, it is a “torment” to unsaved people who hear it.  It is too late for them to be saved; but there is no “hurt” for the grass, or any tree, or any green thing according to Revelation 9:4:


And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.       


Here once again God is showing us that the elect remain on earth after judgment day begins.  The grass, green things and trees clearly identify them.  The smaller plants may represent people or children who were among the last to be saved near the end of the two witnesses’ time of prophesying, just before the period of the locusts.  That was during the latter rain – the last part of the great tribulation.



The Midst of the Seventieth Week


Historical Background:


In Daniel 9:24-27, we find an amazing prophecy.  This is information God gave the prophet Daniel after he had prayed for his people (Daniel 9:2-3).   In order to understand this prophecy, we must be aware that God has revealed in the Bible a great deal of information about time.


How can we understand and use this information?  When we add up lifespans for successive patriarchs going back to the time of Adam and Eve, we can create a Biblical calendar.  As we continue adding, we eventually come to a period of time (about 3,000 years ago) from which there are reliably dated archeological artifacts.  These artifacts are of course dated according to the calendar we all use – the modern secular calendar.  We know that dates assigned to some artifacts are reliable because they are confirmed by written records that have also survived.  Because of these artifacts, we can synchronize the Biblical calendar with the modern calendar.


When we do that, we discover that the creation occurred in the year 11,013 BC, the great flood of Noah’s day occurred in 4,990 BC, and the Lord Jesus died on the cross in 33 AD.  We also discover that Israel’s exodus from Egypt was in 1,447 BC.  After 40 years of surviving in the wilderness, the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan in 1,407 BC.


Eventually, Israel became a mighty kingdom. It was at its height when King Solomon ruled.  However, even before he died the kingdom began to decline.  It was broken into two kingdoms shortly after his death.  In 587 BC, the last of the two kingdoms was conquered when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem.  Israel no longer existed as a nation.  In about four centuries, Israel went from being a mighty power to a people without a country.


Some survivors – Daniel was one of them – were carried off to Babylon.  Less than 50 years later, Babylon itself was conquered (Daniel 9:1).   God moved the heart of the new king (Cyrus of Persia, who was also known as Darius the Mede) to allow some Israelites to return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).  These Jews began the work of rebuilding the temple there, but opposition arose and the work required many years to complete.


A key event occurred during the reign of Artaxerxes 1, whose reign extended from 465 to 424 BC.  In this king’s seventh year (Ezra 7:7-8), a priest named Ezra returned to Jerusalem.  The king had made a decree allowing “all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem …” (Ezra 7:12-13).


In accordance with the decree, Ezra and hundreds of others (Ezra 8) went to Jerusalem.  Ezra 7:10 provides some insight into what Ezra hoped to do:


For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.


Based on this verse, we can say that Ezra went to re-establish the law of God in Jerusalem.  However, Ezra 9:9 compares Ezra’s mission to a building project:


For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.   


This was part of Ezra’s prayer some time after he had arrived in Jerusalem.  It was in the year 458 BC – the seventh year of Artaxerxes 1 (Ezra 7:7-8) – that Ezra went to Jerusalem.



The Prophecy:


With this background in mind, we can read the prophecy that begins with Daniel 9:24:


Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.


Notice that the prophecy involves a period of 70 weeks.  As we continue reading it, we see that God breaks up the 70 weeks in a very curious way.  Daniel 9:25 states:


Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.


Possibly, the first idea you have about this verse is that it concerns a commandment for the literal rebuilding of Jerusalem.  A great deal of work had already been done there before Ezra returned.  In fact, a new temple had already been finished (see Ezra 6:15).  A lot more work was done under Nehemiah several years after Ezra returned (e.g., see Nehemiah 6:1).  However, when we read about Ezra’s time in Jerusalem or in the decree that sent him there, we don’t find anything about construction activity.  Nevertheless, we will see that the decree sending Ezra to Jerusalem is the starting point for the prophecy of the 70 weeks.


The prophecy continues with Daniel 9:26:


And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.


This verse, when considered with the previous one, tells us “Messiah will be cut off” after 69 weeks.  This appears to be something that happens during the 70th week, and the following verse tells us more about that final week.  Daniel 9:27 – the prophecy’s final verse -  states:


And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.


What Does It Mean?


These four verses are an amazing prophecy that extends from Ezra’s time until the end of the world.  Notice the words “end of the war” in the third verse, and in the fourth verse the words “until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured out upon the desolate.”  The final words of the prophecy in the fourth verse point to God’s judgment on the last day.  That is “the consummation.”  And the words “end of the war” in the third verse remind us that God compares our experience in this world to a war (e.g., 2 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Timothy 1:18).  This war is a spiritual war that continues until the last day.


Therefore, the prophecy actually extends to the last day.  Only then is “the war” over.  However, we now have a big problem trying to understand this prophecy.  It clearly has to do with the Crucifixion, because of the words “Messiah shall be cut off” in the third verse.  Yet the prophecy also extends to the end of the world.  How can 70 prophetic weeks cover all of that time beginning from Ezra’s day?


The solution is to see that God breaks the 70 weeks into a period of 69 weeks plus one final week that is treated very differently than the others.  In fact, God is giving us two different pictures in this prophecy.  The first has to do with the Crucifixion, and the second with end-times.  Even though we may not understand every word of this prophecy as it applies to both situations, we can now understand a big part of it.


Going back to Daniel 9:24, the first verse of the prophecy, we see that there is a period of 70 weeks “to anoint the most Holy.”  Using the year-for-a-day principle (Numbers 14:34) with which the Lord decreed judgment against ancient Israel, we see that 70 weeks represents 490 years.  When we start at 458 BC and advance the calendar by 490 years, we come to the year 33 AD.  There is no year “0,” so we must add one additional year:


-458 + 490 + 1 = 33.


The calculation brings us to 33 AD, and we know that was the year of the Crucifixion.  Recall that the Lord was anointed a few days before He died (John 12:3) and then again shortly after He died (Mark 16:1).   And so we see the first verse of the prophecy fulfilled in 33 AD.


What about an end-time fulfillment for the first verse?  As a whole, the prophecy clearly deals with end-times.  Will the first verse also be fulfilled on the last day?  The last of the 70 weeks extends to the last day, so in some way the Lord must be anointed again on or near the last day to fulfill the first verse if it too is an end-time prophecy.  The solution may be something we find in 1 Kings.  When the time had come for Solomon to rule, David commanded that he be anointed as king.  In 1 Kings 1:39, we read:


And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.


Notice the next verse, 1 Kings 1:40:


And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.


In several places in the Bible, God uses Solomon to represent some aspect of His salvation plan.  Also, the Hebrew word for “rent” in this verse (Strong’s number H1234) is the same word we find in Genesis 7:11, where it’s translated as “broken up.”  That’s the verse telling what God did to the earth at the beginning of the flood!  It appears that God is using Solomon’s coronation and anointing as a picture of the Lord Jesus on the last day.  In this way, we can see how Daniel 9:24 will be fulfilled a second time when the Lord returns.  On that day, the Lord Jesus will begin His rule over the new heavens and earth.


In the second verse of the prophecy, we read:


Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.


Here, we see how God is breaking up the 70 weeks and telling us something about the final week.  This verse describes the situation after 69 weeks (seven and threescore (60) and two) have passed.  That brings the prophecy up to week number 70.  In his booklet entitled  “The 70 Weeks of Daniel 9,” Mr. Harold Camping showed that the Daniel 9 prophecy allows for a second path to the Lord’s first coming.  This path goes from 458 BC up to the year 29 AD.  The year 29 AD is of major importance, because that was the year the Lord Jesus was baptized and began His ministry (John 1:35-39, Luke 3:1-3).


This second path begins at the first Jubilee year following the decree: 457 BC.   It then goes to the next Jubilee year: 407 BC.  That is the seven weeks or 49 years of the prophecy’s second verse.  (The Jubilee is a special year that God instituted after Israel crossed the Jordan River into Canaan in 1407 BC; it comes every 50 years.)  Then, counting 62 weeks of years from 407 BC (434 years), we arrive at 29 AD.


Notice that the second verse of the prophecy states “unto the Messiah the Prince.”  This verse isn’t telling us about His death; it’s telling us about His ministry.  During three and a half years, the Lord Jesus did what we might call “spiritual building.”  In that way, He fulfilled the prophecy that “the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”


This activity also occurs during the final week, so we see that this way of viewing the final week differs from what we saw earlier.  From the prophecy’s first verse, we determined that the final week goes from the Lord’s anointing (33 AD) to the end of time.  But in the second verse, the final week goes from 29 AD to the end.  It includes the period of His ministry.


Now let’s again look at the prophecy’s third verse:


And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.


After the Lord’s ministry was over, He was crucified.  Even though the Lord didn’t bear our sins at that time, He was still “cut off” for the sake of His people.  The verse continues by telling us something about the “people of the prince that shall come.”  History tells us that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Based on this fact of history, someone might easily conclude that the “prince that shall come” was the Roman general who led his army against the Jews.  Undoubtedly, there have been other explanations as well.  However, once we understand that Daniel 9 is an end-time prophecy, we know this verse must have a different kind of meaning.


The prince that shall come is the Lord Jesus.  This is a reference to His second coming.  And it is His people who “destroy the city and the sanctuary.”  How can this be?


We know from the Biblical timeline that, years ago, God removed the Holy Spirit from all congregations of Christian churches.  They became “desolate,” because God was no longer there.  In other words, God abandoned them.  After a while, God began a great program to save many outside the local congregations.  This program has now ended.  However, the churches are still identified with the Lord Jesus Christ because the world calls them Christian churches.  In a sense, they are still His people; but the verse tells us that it is they who destroy “the city and the sanctuary.”


The city and the sanctuary identify the elect – those are true believers and they have become saved.  The third verse of the prophecy indicates that the “people of the prince” destroy the elect.  This agrees with the silencing of the elect, as pictured by the death of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.  The remainder of the verse compares God’s end-time judgment to a flood, and tells us that the condition of desolation continues to the very end.  It indicates the end of salvation.


The prophecy’s fourth and final verse is Daniel 9:27:


And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.


We know that when the Lord died, the great veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51).  (It is believed that this veil was about 50 feet high: Herod’s temple was a magnificent structure – much bigger than that of Ezra’s day).  The tearing of the temple veil signifies the end of sacrifice; and so we see that the Lord did indeed “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” in 33 AD, thereby fulfilling the prophecy at that time.  But this is also an end-time prophecy: events of the fourth verse are prophesied to happen in the 70th week, which goes to the end of time.  How do we understand this verse as an end-time prophecy?


The first part of the verse indicates God’s work of saving many people through the entire New Testament period.  However, the “sacrifice and the oblation” have now ended because God is no longer saving anyone anywhere.  This confirms what we have learned about God’s judgment on the churches at the end of the church age, and how this judgment eventually includes the whole world.


The Bible reveals that God has abandoned the local congregations of Christian churches, just as He abandoned the Jewish temples in the first century.  He was no longer there after 33 AD to save people, and He is no longer in Christian congregations now.


As an end-time prophecy, that is how we must understand the fourth verse.  Notice that the translators have added a word to this verse: the word “it” is in italics.  Without the “it,” we see that the desolation can apply to the whole world.  This desolation is “until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured out upon the desolate.”  These words agree with our understanding of the last day.


When we consider the prophecy as a whole, we can now see that it reveals some of the same truths we find elsewhere in the Bible.  The prophecy extends to earth’s last day and reveals that salvation ends at some date before then (as in Daniel 9:26, “unto the end of the war desolations are determined” and in Daniel 9:27, “desolate, even until the consumption, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate”).  The amazing Daniel 9 prophecy not only revealed the year of the Crucifixion several centuries before it happened, it also reveals that God’s elect remain here after salvation has ended.




The Unexpected Guest


The Lord Jesus told a parable about a man who received a guest whom he did not expect to visit.  The man is not prepared for his guest, as we see in Luke 11:5-6:


And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;  For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?


The man needs bread, so he goes to his friend for help.  To help us understand this parable, notice the verses preceding it.  In Luke 11:14, the Lord told His disciples about prayer.   Prayer includes our requests that God meet our needs (for example, for daily bread – as in verse 3).  Knowing this, we see that the friend who has the loaves is actually God.  The parable continues with verse 7:


And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.


From this verse, it looks like the man will be disappointed.  However, the next verse reveals that the man gets the loaves he requested.  Luke 11:8 states:


I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.


Why would the Lord Jesus tell us about the negative answer in verse 7, when the man actually gets the loaves he has requested?   Take a look at that negative answer.  It tells the man “Trouble me not.”  In other words, “Don’t bother me.”  The answer continues: “the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.”  In telling us about this answer, the Lord Jesus is showing us what the answer could have been.  In other words, God could answer that way at a certain time.


And when is that?  The parable tells us that it is midnight.  We know that in the Bible midnight is a time of spiritual darkness.  It is the time when salvation has ended.  Also, “the door is now shut.”  This means it is too late to be saved.  The answer continues, “my children are with me in bed: I cannot rise and give thee.”  This is another way of telling us that, at the time setting in this parable, no one else can be saved: all of God’s children are safely with Him, and that is pictured by the bed.   Also, He “cannot rise and give thee.” God’s plan is revealed in His law, which is the Bible.  But God has bound Himself to follow His law, and that law sets a date when salvation ends.  Once that date has passed, God “cannot rise and give thee.”


However, as we have seen, the man does get the loaves he needs.  In order to understand what has happened, we need the rest of the parable.  It continues with verses 9 and 10:


And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 


In these verses, God is encouraging us to continue in prayer in every situation, no matter what the need or when the need arises.  But there is a problem here.  Notice the words, “to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”  Does this mean God will open the door to save someone who has not been saved after the cutoff date has passed?  We can understand the parable after we read the remaining verses.  Luke 11:11-13 declares:


If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?


In these verses, God is comparing two kinds of relationships.  The first is the relationship an unsaved man has with his children.  Notice the words “ye then, being evil.”  Even unsaved people give “good gifts” to their children.  The second relationship is the relationship God has with His children.  This means the parable is concerned with prayers from God’s children.  God hears their prayers even after salvation has ended.  However, His answer to anyone who has not yet been saved is “Don’t bother me.”


God always hears His children and provides them with spiritual food from His word.  He provides as many “loaves” as they need.  And so we see what this parable reveals: God continues to take care of the elect while they remain here waiting for the last day, even after salvation has ended.


The Ten Virgins


The parable of the ten virgins is found in Matthew 25:1-13.  It’s a brief parable, but it may be the Bible’s clearest picture of our day.  It begins with an event that precedes the Lord’s return and ends when He does return.  Notice that the virgins “went forth to meet the bridegroom” (verse 1) at the start of the parable.  Then, “they all slumbered and slept” (verse 5).  Finally, when the Lord returns at the end of the parable, they are still alive; so the parable portrays events that happen within a lifetime of some people who witness the end of the world.


Let’s focus our attention for now on the five wise virgins.  These five were definitely children of God, as we find in verse 10:


And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.


They were “ready” and went in with the bridegroom to the marriage feast after he arrived.  That of course is a picture of the elect inheriting the new heaven and earth on the last day when the Lord returns.


It’s important to notice that the five wise virgins had already been saved when they went forth to meet the bridegroom in verses 1-2, and none of the others were saved afterwards.  Only the five wise virgins had the “oil” (verse 4).  Even so, they were mistaken to expect their Lord’s return when they went forth to meet Him.


Notice also that the Lord doesn’t reprimand the wise virgins for going to meet Him too early.  The parable doesn’t tell us they were false prophets, or that they had done anything wrong.  In fact, the parable’s lesson is stated in verse 13:


Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.


It’s almost as if the Lord is using this parable to tell us: “Look, you’re going to misunderstand something about the time information I have given you and think you know when I’m coming.  After you are disappointed, you’ll be sorrowful.  In spite of this, you must remain watchful about how you live in this sinful world.”


It’s very important to think about the word “watch” in verse 13.  The Greek word translated “watch” is Strong’s number G1127: “gregoreo.”  In order to understand what the Lord meant by using this word, we must compare its use here with other verses where it is used.  We can find several helpful verses.  For instance, in Revelation 3, the Lord Jesus gives a warning to the “angel of the church in Sardis.”  In verse 2, we find the word “gregoreo” used:


Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.


Here the word “watchful” is that word “gregoreo,” and it has to do with taking care to “strengthen the things which remain.”   In Colossians 4:2, we find it used again:


Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;     


The word “watch” in this verse is associated with prayer and has nothing to do with the end of the world.  It has to do with the way we should live, regardless of whether or not we are living in end-times.  So we see that “watching” has nothing to do with an attempt to discover the date for the Lord’s return (also see 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 1 Peter 5:8, where the word “vigilant” is another translation of “gregoreo.”).


In fact, God made it very clear in the parable of the ten virgins that this date is something we can never know.  God did this by showing that the lesson of the parable applies to the ten virgins, and that includes the five wise ones.  It’s very important to realize this point: the parable’s lesson applies even to the elect who live in the last days.  These are God’s children who live during end-times and who will be alive when the Lord does finally return.  The date is unknowable even for them.


A question now arises.  In view of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 25:13, how could anyone ever think he or she could know that date?  Most people today have heard of Sir Isaac Newton and know that he was a great scientist.  Some even think he may have been the most brilliant scientist to ever live.  He was also very familiar with the Bible; so he definitely would have read the parable of the ten virgins and known the Lord’s clear teaching that we cannot know the date of His return.  Yet Sir Isaac also believed the Bible revealed that date.  In fact, he believed the year 2060 would be it.


From his study of secular history, Sir Isaac determined that the year 800 was a key year in the decline of the Christian church.  To that date he added a Biblical number of days – 1,260, based on the year-for-a-day principle.  And so he arrived at the year 2060.


We don’t have to do any checking to know that the Bible does not reveal 2060 to be the date.  God has made it very clear that even the last generation of true believers will not know the date of His return.  In fact, when the Lord told His hearers in Matthew 25:13 that they would not know the date, it was the fourth time in quick succession He had given that teaching (see Matthew 24:36, Matthew 24:42, and Matthew 24:44).


Considering the Lord’s clear statements that the date of His return cannot be known, we can reasonably ask why Sir Isaac Newton, or Mr. Harold Camping, or anyone else would ever predict such a date.  We can understand why they did.  God tells us He would reveal new information about time near the end of time.  This Biblical teaching was always understood as a promise that God would reveal the date of His return.  However, the Bible does not make that promise; in fact, it specifically excludes that piece of information from the promise.


God has in fact revealed a great deal of time information in recent years.  His promise was that the wise would understand time and judgment (Ecclesiastes 8:5).  The evidence is that God has given us that information by allowing us to understand the Biblical calendar and directing us to announce May 21, 2011 as the beginning of Judgment Day.


The parable of the ten virgins shows us a picture of people who misunderstood the promise, just as Sir Isaac Newton did.  The virgins in the parable were mistaken and disappointed when they expected the Lord’s return.  In that way, the parable matches the experience of those who warned that the date for the Rapture was approaching.


Notice that in the parable the cry comes at midnight (verse 6).  This cry is the shout we read about in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.  It announces that the Lord has returned!  This agrees with our understanding that when the Lord does finally return, it will be at a time (midnight) when salvation has ended.  The parable doesn’t tell us that the Lord will return at 12:00 AM; but it does reveal that it will be a time of spiritual darkness when the Gospel has stopped shining with power to save anyone.


Also notice that the wise virgins were brought into the marriage feast even though they too had “slumbered and slept.”  They weren’t “watching” as they should have been, but they were saved anyway.  This reveals that salvation is totally based on the Lord’s choice.  It was His decision at the “foundation of the world,” and has nothing to do with anything anyone can ever do.  In these ways, the parable is a picture of God’s people shortly before and then after May 21, 2011.  It shows that they remain here after Judgment Day, waiting for the Rapture and not knowing when it will be until it actually begins.



The Faithful Servant


Near the end of Matthew 24, God gives us examples of two different types of people living in the last days.  Taken together, they paint another picture of end-times and also help us understand the parable of the ten virgins.  In Matthew 24:45-47, we read:


Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.


Unlike the wise virgins who “slumbered and slept,” this servant continues to provide for the Lord’s household so that they have “meat in due season.”  This is not a picture of sowing seeds, which is spreading the Gospel.  It’s a picture of someone helping to make God’s word available to the elect (“his household”) after a time when the Lord was expected to return.


On the other hand, this parable also tells us about an “evil servant” in Matthew 24:48-49:


But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;  And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 


The evil servant is a picture of someone who misuses God’s word: he begins “to smite” fellowservants.  This indicates the evil servant is bringing a false gospel.  Notice that he too has misunderstood God’s word, because he expected the Lord to return at a certain time.  So we see in this parable too how God illustrates what He wants His children to do and to not do in a period after the day they expected Him to return, continuing until He finally does return.





The Maiden Waiting For Her Beloved


The Song of Solomon tells us about God’s love for the true believers.  In this book, a maiden represents them.   We learn something about her early in the first chapter in an interesting verse -Song of Solomon 1:5:


I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.


We might wonder about this and the next verse as well, for in verse 6 we read:


Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.


We know that the sun represents the Gospel’s power to save someone, so this verse actually explains why the maiden is black.  She tells us “the sun hath looked upon me.”  In other words, she has been saved.  God is using her skin color to show us that she is a picture of the elect.


We may not understand a great deal of this book; but there are some key verses that show us something amazing.  Much of the book consists of poetic dialog back and forth between the maiden and her beloved.  The dialog begins in verses 7 and 8 of the first chapter:


Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?   If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.


The maiden asks where she can find her beloved’s flock.  She is told that, if she doesn’t know, she can follow the footsteps of the flock.  Recall that the Lord Jesus identified Himself as a shepherd in John 10:14:


I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  


We find the Lord Jesus identified as a shepherd in the Old Testament too, for in Psalm 23:1-2, we read:


The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.


The maiden’s beloved is the Lord, and she is seeking His flock.  Throughout much of this book, she is seeking Him.  There are verses indicating that at certain times she is with her beloved; but in other verses, it is absolutely clear that her beloved is gone.  How are we to understand these things?


When we read the Bible, we see that God was physically present with mankind at certain times.  God’s physical presence was never required for Him to save anyone.  However, in the Song of Solomon God appears to be using the beloved’s absence to indicate a time when salvation has stopped or ended.  When he is present, there is salvation; and when he is gone there is no salvation.  When we use this rule, we will see that the Song of Solomon provides a picture of end-times.


In the second chapter, we read about the maiden’s joy to be with her beloved.  For example, Song of Solomon 2:3 reads:


As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.


But in the next chapter, we see the maiden searching for her beloved.  In Song of Solomon 3:1-2, we read:


By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.  I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.  


During the New Testament era until our day, God used the local congregations of Christian churches as an external representation of His kingdom.  We need to keep that in mind as we read the next two verses.  Song of Solomon 3:3-4 continues the passage about the maiden searching for her beloved:


The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?   It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.


The watchmen of the city are identified with the local congregations.  After the maiden went past them, she found her beloved.  We will see later how this incident fits into the Biblical timeline.


As we continue reading this book up to chapter 5, we find more dialog between the maiden and her beloved.  However, there are some very strange verses in the second half of chapter 3.  They begin with Song of Solomon 3:6:


Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?


This verse follows right after the maiden has found her beloved.  So it should indicate that God was present and that salvation was once again continuing.  The next two verses are very strange.  In Song of Solomon 3:7-8, we read:


Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.  They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.


The number – threescore – is of course important.  We know that the number three represents God’s purpose, and a score equals 20 or 2 x 10.  The number two is used to represent those who bring the Gospel (e.g., the two witnesses) and the number ten represents completeness.  Also, notice that each man has a sword.  We know that the sword represents the word of God.  We will also see how this passage fits the Biblical timeline.


After dialog between the maiden and her beloved in chapter 4, we come to chapter 5.  In the first verse, which is very mysterious, we read:


I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.


This verse seems to indicate completion.   It’s as if the beloved is telling the maiden that he has finished what he had been doing.  This idea is also consistent with the next two verses.  In Song of Solomon 5:2-3, we read:


I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.  I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?  


In the next verses, the focus shifts to the maiden again.  In Song of Solomon 5:4-5 we find the maiden expecting her beloved,


My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.  I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.


The maiden is certain her beloved is there; but, as we find in Song of Solomon 5:6, she is terribly disappointed:


I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.


Notice what happens next.  In Song of Solomon 5:7-8, we read:


The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.  I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.


Here again we read about the watchmen: they are identified with the local congregations.  They smote and wounded the maiden as she searched for her beloved.   They also took away her veil.  This indicates an attempt to bring shame on the maiden.


The remainder of this book mostly consists of poetic dialog by the maiden, the beloved and the “daughters of Jerusalem” (e.g., see Song of Solomon 5:9, 6:1).   These appear to be other true believers.


It is clear from Song of Solomon 5:7-8 that the beloved has gone; and when we continue reading to the end of the book, we realize that the beloved has not returned.  There is a verse (Song of Solomon 8:5) in which it appears at first that he may have returned.  However, the final verse (Song of Solomon 8:14) shows us that he hasn’t:


Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.


The beloved is absent from the time the maiden expected him to be standing in the doorway, until the end of the book.  This identifies a time when salvation has ended.


When we compare events in the Song of Solomon against the Biblical timeline, we find something amazing.  Recall that the maiden went “about the city” looking for her beloved in chapter 3.  In Song of Solomon 3:4a, we read:


It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth:  


The timeline indicates that God stopped using the local congregations to save anyone in 1988.   There was a period of a few years (until 1994) when salvation stopped.  This period matches what we read in the above verse, for it was “but a little” after passing the watchmen that the maiden found her beloved.


For a while, she couldn’t find her beloved.  This was a period without salvation.  It matches the “silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (Revelation 8:1) that came after the start of God’s judgment, which began at the local congregations (Revelation 6:12, a picture of the end of the church age).  Then, after “a little,” the maiden did find her beloved.  So God was once again saving people.


When God began saving people again, it was outside the local congregations.  This was the period of the “latter rain.”  During that time, God saved a great multitude.  He also caused a great warning to go out to the world to warn of His coming judgment on the whole world.   That judgment would be the final end of salvation.


This time of warning the world matches what we read in Song of Solomon 3:6-11.   Those who brought the warning are apparently identified as the threescore valiant men (Song of Solomon 3:7).  Notice that they all hold swords, as we read in verse 8:


They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.


In many verses, the Bible compares the word of God to a sword.  (Also notice the command in verse 11: “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion….”).   Verses 6-11 certainly agree with our understanding of what happened during the latter rain, from 1994 until May of 2011.


We know that God began the church age in 33 AD.  For many years until then, he used the kingdom of Israel to represent His heavenly kingdom on earth.  In Song of Solomon, this long period of time appears to be the setting for everything that comes before chapter 3.  For example, in Song of Solomon 2:13, we find a reference to the fig tree’s fruit.  In the Bible, the fig tree is used to represent national Israel.  So the first two chapters appear to take place during Israel’s time as a kingdom and to continue through the entire New Testament era, right up to the end of the church age.


When the maiden finds her beloved in Song of Solomon 3:4, we know that salvation has resumed.  He continues to be present with her until chapter 5, verse 6:


I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.


This verse matches what many people experienced on May 21, 2011. There was great certainty that the Lord Jesus would return on that date, but it did not happen.  They “sought him,” but “could not find him;” they called, but there was no answer.  At that time, the Lord had finished His work of saving people (Song of Solomon 5:3).  Continuing to Song of Solomon 5:7, we see this verse also matches what many experienced after May 21, 2011:


The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.


This verse paints a picture showing the ridicule that many experienced, largely from members of local congregations.  Some suffered much more than just ridicule, even suffering physically.  Despite this, God shows us in this book that He continues to love His people, as in Song of Solomon 6:9:


My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

Just as the maiden misses the beloved (that is, as God’s people yearn to be with Him), God here shows us that He also wants to be with His people.  This condition of separation, however, must last until God’s pre-determined time has arrived – according to His plan.


We’ve seen how events in the Song of Solomon match God’s end-time salvation plan according to the Biblical timeline; but there is even more evidence that this book of the Bible is a picture of end-time events.  That evidence is found in a very strange verse near the end of the book.  In Song of Solomon 8:8, we read:


We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?


What could this verse possibly mean?  A verse that helps us understand this is 1 Corinthians 3:2:


I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.


In the Bible, milk often represents the truth of God’s word.  More than that, it represents the first truths that God gives a new believer out of His word.  With this in mind, we can understand the verse about the maiden’s little sister.  The little sister represents the last group of people to be saved.  She is a picture of the great multitude (Revelation 7:9) saved out of the end-time great tribulation (Revelation 7:14).  She will have no milk to feed any true believers who come after her because there won’t be any!


We can contrast the little sister with the maiden.  In Song of Solomon 8:10, we read:


I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.


This verse applies to the maiden.  Notice that it comes near the end of the book, so it is after the time when the maiden expected her beloved to be at the door.  The maiden will now have plenty of “milk” for those who are newly saved (also see Song of Solomon 4:5).  This agrees with what we have learned about God’s plan to open His word to our understanding: in the last days, there is more understanding of His word than ever before.  God’s word is open to reveal more truth than man has ever before understood.


So we see that this amazing book is actually about end-times.  It shows us pictures of the end of the church age, the pause in salvation, the latter rain, and the end of salvation.  It also shows us that God greatly opens up His word to our understanding in the end-times.  Most importantly, it shows that God’s people remain here after salvation has ended.





In several different ways, God shows us that the world does not end until some time after salvation has ended.  Even before May 21, 2011, this was understood and taught correctly.  The mistake back then was to think the Rapture would happen when salvation ended.  It is now clear that there is a period of time – and we cannot know how long it will be – until the Rapture does take place.  That will be earth’s last day.  We can now understand this truth; but it is part of God’s mercy on the unsaved world that they do not.


God paints different pictures to show us that His children would mistakenly believe they had discovered the date for His return (the ten virgins, the faithful and unfaithful servants, the Song of Solomon).  He also shows that there would come a time when His people have been overcome or silenced and humiliated (the two witnesses, the 70th week of Daniel 9, the Song of Solomon).


There have been many occasions in church history when a group of believers became convinced that the Lord was just about to return.  However, we can be certain that the ten virgins, the faithful/unfaithful servants and the maiden in Song of Solomon do not portray believers from one of those early events.  When we read about them, we clearly see that God is telling us about end-times.


God also tells us something about how we should live during the time after salvation has ended.  He shows us that the true Gospel brings only judgment on the unsaved (the locusts of Revelation 9), so it is no longer necessary for God’s people to try to reach anyone who is clearly unsaved: the believers’ testimony is “finished” (the two witnesses).  He shows us that we need to “watch” (the ten virgins) how we live our lives, and to be concerned about fellow believers (the unexpected guest and the faithful servant).


Another place in the Bible where the Lord tells us how end-time believers ought to live is found in Luke 12:35-36:


Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;  And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.


Notice here also that the Lord tells us He will be returning “from the wedding” when He comes.  The Greek word for wedding in this verse is actually plural.  In other words, the Lord will be returning from the “weddings.”  Here too, we see that God is teaching us that salvation has already ended by the time the Lord returns.  The “great multitude” has been saved: the “weddings” are over.  Until then, He wants His people to be prepared for His return at any time (“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;”).


Also, until then we should continue searching God’s word and be prepared to learn anything new He may want to teach us.  This was the maiden’s prayer in Song of Solomon 8:13:


Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.


The final verse of this book is also the conclusion of the maiden’s prayer.  In Song of Solomon 8:14, we read:


Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.


May this and the apostle John’s prayer (Revelation 22:20) also be our prayer: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”



Have You Been Amazed?

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In many verses, the Bible tells us something about itself and how it relates to man.  Some verses show us how we got the Bible.  For example, in 2 Peter 1:21 we read:


For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.


On some occasions, God’s prophets actually heard His voice speak to them and later recorded what God had said.   Moses, for example, was one of these men (see Exodus 33:11).  In most cases, however, it seems that the “holy men of God” who recorded the various books of the Bible didn’t actually hear God’s voice in their ears.  Rather, they simply recorded the words that came into their minds.  They sat down to write and wrote the words God wanted them to write.  God gave them the words by putting into their minds exactly what He wanted them to record.


Some of the verses they recorded deal with the Bible itself, even though there may be no obvious words in them to suggest that.  For example, in Matthew 7:6 we read:


Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.


Is this verse telling us not to give any holy objects to dogs, and to be careful with any pearls we may have if we are ever around swine?  Of course not; but it is telling us something about the Bible.   That which is holy is God’s word, and the truths we find in it are like precious pearls.  However, many people will not accept those truths.  Even some people who appear to be very devout Christians have no real interest in God’s word.  That’s because God motivates His people to search His word for truth.



Eyes to See, Ears to Hear


If God has truly allowed someone to hear or read His word with understanding, it’s because he or she is one of the elect.  God reveals spiritual truth to such people through His word.


When God tells or shows us that a person has ears to hear or eyes to see – and we find verses like that in several places in the Bible – He is telling us about someone who understands spiritual truth and has a desire to do God’s will.  For instance, in Proverbs 20:12 we read:


The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them. 


This verse is telling us about God’s children: they have hearing ears and seeing eyes.  The Lord Jesus also used this idea when He was teaching.  In Matthew 13:43, He said:


Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Most people cannot really “hear” God’s word.  However, those who can will inherit eternal life.  We find these ideas in John 10:26-28:


But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.



Multiple Meanings


Even those whom God hasn’t saved can understand certain things in the Bible.  That’s because many verses teach truth on more than one level.  A verse may have one or more spiritual meanings, but also teach about morality.  Such verses tell us how man should conduct himself with his fellow man.  God gave such teachings to anyone who might take a little time to read His word.


In some Bible verses, we find what can be called practical wisdom.  Their spiritual meaning may not be apparent, but they may very obviously teach morality or something helpful.  People from different cultures all over the world have such sayings based on common sense or practical experience.  Here are a few of them:


“If you want your dinner, don’t insult the cook.”

Chinese proverb


“A stitch in time saves nine.”

English proverb


“He who refuses to obey cannot command.”

African proverb


“There are those that cluck but never lay an egg.”

Mexican proverb


“Little by little, the bird builds its nest.”

French proverb


The above proverbs (even the ones about birds!) tell us something about man and various aspects of life.  They are based on worldly experience.  The Bible, on the other hand, is a spiritual book.  If we find a Bible verse that appears to be like one of the world’s proverbs, we should expect it to have more meaning than we see at first.



Ecclesiastes 12:12: A Proverb About God’s Word


It isn’t only in the book of Proverbs that we find Biblical proverbs.  For example, earlier we saw that in Matthew 7:6 the Lord Jesus spoke about dogs and swine in a verse that looks very much like a proverb.  We might say it is a proverb for God’s people, to teach them something about living in a world where most people are unsaved.


In Ecclesiastes 12:12, we find another verse that looks very much like a proverb:


And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


Without doing any investigating, we might think this verse is telling us something about all the books men write and about the effort required to learn by studying those books.  However, notice the verse that precedes it.  Ecclesiastes 12:11 states:


The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.


When we read about “words of the wise,” we should expect the verse to be about God’s word.   Many Bible verses are concerned with wisdom, and wisdom is associated with God’s word.  We also know that the Lord Jesus compared Himself with a shepherd caring for a flock of sheep, as in John 10:14:


I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.


Our Good Shepherd is also the Word of God who gave us the Bible (John 1:1).  Therefore, based on the context of Ecclesiastes 12:12 we expect it to be about God’s word.  But if it has to do with God’s word, there is a problem understanding it.   How can the “making of many books” continue?   After all, we know that the Bible is complete and nothing else will ever be added to it (Revelation 22:18).  So how can it be that the “making of many books” has no end?


In Ecclesiastes 12:12, the word translated “books” is Strong’s number H5612 (“cepher”).  It appears in many verses and is most often translated as “book” or “letter.”   For example, in Isaiah 30:8, we read:


Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:


The word for “book” here is the same word we find as “books” in the phrase “of making many books there is no end.”  Also, notice that here the “book” is compared with a “table.”  The word translated “table” in this verse is the same word God used in some verses about the Ten Commandments: those commandments were written on tables of stone and were God’s words.   However, Isaiah’s book was a scroll – the same kind as Jeremiah’s.  In Jeremiah 36:2, we read:


Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.   


The “books” of Ecclesiastes 12:12 have the words of God, just like the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  The original language word used for “books” certainly agrees with the verse’s context.  It indicates that the verse is concerned with God’s word.  But why is there “no end” to the making of these books?


The word translated as “making” in Ecclesiastes 12:12 (Strong’s number H6213, “asah”) is used over 2,000 times in the Bible.  It’s translated in many different ways.  Besides being translated as “make,” it’s also translated as “do” (over 1,300 times), and as “work,” as “deal,” as “keep,” and in some other ways.  These different meanings can tremendously change our understanding of the verse.


We know that God has finished writing the Bible, so the word translated as “making” cannot mean that He is still giving us new books to add to the Bible.  The number of Bible books is frozen at 66.  Instead of the word “making,” we can see how another one of the possible meanings for the original word allows the verse to make sense.  God isn’t “making” new books and He’s not telling us anything about books written by men; but He is telling us that there is no end to our “working” at His books!


The Bible reflects God’s mind, and there is more in it than anyone can understand in a lifetime.  God wants us to be interested in His word all of our lives; that’s why there is no end to our “doing” these books or “working” at them.



Studying to Exhaustion?


This way of understanding the verse fits with other things we find throughout the Bible.  However, there still appears to be a contradiction.  Notice the last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12:


And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


In the words “much study is a weariness of the flesh,” it looks like God is telling us we might spend too much time in His word; but that doesn’t agree with other things we find in the Bible.  For example, in Joshua 1:8, we read:


This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.


Here, God told Joshua to think “day and night” about the “book of the law.”  God had even told Moses to instruct the children of Israel to sew a “ribband of blue” onto their clothes so that they would remember His commandments whenever they looked at it (“ribband” is an archaic form of “ribbon”).  We find that law in Numbers 15:37-40:


And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:  And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:  That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.


Whenever they saw that color on their own clothing or someone else’s, they would be reminded of God’s commandments.  This was one of many ceremonial laws God gave the children of Israel.  Although God’s people today are no longer required to keep the ceremonial laws (see Acts 15:28-29), they should always be aware of His commandments.  We find this idea in the New Testament too, for in Matthew 4:4 the Lord Jesus emphasized the importance of God’s word:


But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  


This verse tells us that man should live by every one of God’s words.  Like several other verses, it stresses the Bible’s importance – for that is where we find God’s word.  The last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12, on the other hand, appears to teach something entirely different.  In order to reconcile these verses, we need to do some investigating.  Perhaps there is something about the words in the original language for that last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12 to help us understand.


When we use a concordance to check the word translated “flesh,” we find many verses where it refers to man.  Whatever the last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12 means, here it definitely applies to man.


The word translated “much” (“much study is a weariness of the flesh”) is Strong’s number H7235.  It’s a verb that is most often translated as “multiply” or “increase.”  The word translated as “study” is used only that one time in the Bible.  It seems to carry the idea that someone is eager or devoted to study; so the words “much study” seem to be telling us about someone who has become more eager to study God’s word.


There’s another key word in the phrase “much study is a weariness of the flesh,” and that’s the word translated as “weariness.”  In the original language, it is Strong’s number H3024: “yegiah.”  It is used only that one time in the Bible, and it comes from H3019: “yagiya.”


“Yagiya” is also used only once (Job 3:17) and is translated “weary.”  It’s sometimes especially difficult to understand a verse having a word that’s used only once, but that is the situation with these words.   “Yagiya” in turn comes from H3021:”yaga.”


Now this word is used in 25 verses.  It conveys the idea that someone is doing hard physical work.  According to a concordance, “yaga” (a verb) is a primitive root word meaning “to gasp.”  Therefore, the idea is that someone is working so hard that he or she is gasping for breath.  However, someone reading or studying isn’t doing hard physical work.


When we think about it, we realize that physical exertion isn’t the only reason for a person to gasp: a person might also gasp in amazement.  This makes sense when we consider that people have all kinds of wrong ideas about the world, themselves and God unless He opens their eyes to truth.  If and when He does, they may be so shocked that they will gasp at what they have read.




Ecclesiastes 12:12 states:


And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


Even though it looks like one of the world’s proverbs, we know from its context that this verse is telling us something about the Bible.  When we check a concordance for individual words in the verse, we discover a meaning very different than what the King James translators gave us.


Rather than telling us there is no end to the making of books, it tells us there is no end to our working at books of the Bible; and rather than telling us we will be fatigued by too much study, it tells us that those who are eager for God’s word will be amazed at what they find there.  This idea is also found in Psalm 119:18:


Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.


There really are wondrous things in the Bible; but no one can discover them unless God allows it.


If we only checked Ecclesiastes 12:12 in the original language, it would be difficult to state with certainty that we have understood it correctly; but when we compare it with other verses in the Bible, we find its meaning confirmed.  In several verses, God emphasizes how important His word is.  He wants us to think about it all the time, and He has hidden amazing truths in it.  He does not reveal these truths to everyone.


There’s something else about Ecclesiastes 12:12 that we should notice.  It’s the word “admonished.”  The verse tells us:  “And further, by these, my son, be admonished.”  This is a warning that some things in the Bible are disturbing and a cause for sorrow.  In Ecclesiastes 1:18, we read:


For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.


Some truths in the Bible are painful to learn.  In fact, they may cause a person to gasp, just as someone who experiences a sharp physical pain may gasp.  Perhaps it is at just such a moment that God saves people – when He opens their eyes to something in the Bible, and they are amazed.



Have You Been Bundled?

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The Lord Jesus gave His disciples a little help in understanding some of His parables.   For instance, in Mathew 13:24-30 we find a parable about wheat and tares growing together in a field. 



A Field at Harvest Time


Right from the start we know that the parable will teach us something about the kingdom of heaven, because we read in verse 24:


Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:


As the parable continues, we find that it concerns tares or weeds that have been intentionally sown in the man’s field.  In verses 25-26, we read:


But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.  But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 


The man in the parable sowed good seed in his field, but his enemy came and sowed tares in the field.  In time, the man’s servants discovered the problem and reported it, as we read in verses 27-28:


So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?  He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?


The man’s decision is to let both the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest.  He instructs his servants accordingly in verses 29-30:


But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.



Even though that’s the end of the parable, there’s more about it.  When the Lord spoke this parable, there were many people gathered about to hear it.  A while later, after He had sent them away, His disciples asked Him to explain the parable.  The Lord begins His explanation by telling the disciples what is represented by the various elements in the story.   In Matthew 13:37-39, we read:


He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;  The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;  The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.


Notice that the harvest in this parable is at the end of the world.  The Lord continues His explanation in Matthew 13:40:


As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.


Tares are weeds that are to be bound in bundles and then burned; but they represent people in this parable.  They are the “children of the wicked one.”  The Lord compares their end with that of the tares, as we see in Matthew 13:41-42:   


The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;  And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.


The final verse explaining the parable is Matthew 13:43:


Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


The parable really emphasizes judgment, as we have seen; but the Lord’s final verse about it is a wonderful promise for God’s people.



A Vineyard With Wild Grapes


There are many other verses using the word “field” besides those found in the parable of the wheat and tares.  God often uses ideas associated with a field to teach spiritual truths; but He also uses the idea of a vineyard to do this.


In Isaiah 5, we read about a vineyard that God planted.   Isaiah 5:1-2 tells us:


Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:  And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.   


Instead of bringing forth good grapes, this vineyard yielded wild grapes. In Isaiah 5:5-6, we read God’s pronouncement – delivered by the prophet Isaiah – of what will happen to the vineyard:


And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.


Just as the Lord Jesus explained something about the parable of the wheat and tares, God gives us a verse about this parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:7:


For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.


If we had only the Old Testament writings of the Bible, our understanding of this parable would probably be limited to seeing it as a prophecy about the nations ofIsraelandJudah.  We know that Isaiah lived and recorded his message before they were destroyed (Isaiah 1:1).  The parable tells about their destruction, and so the prophecy was clearly fulfilled.   However, we find in the Gospels another parable that we need to consider.  



A Vineyard Taken and Given to Others


In Mark 12, we find another parable about a vineyard.  However, in this parable the vineyard is not destroyed.  Verses 1 and 2 provide the setting for this story:


And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.  And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.  



We know that God sent many prophets to warn ancientIsraelandJudahfor hundreds of years.  In the parable, the man’s servants represent those prophets.  What we read in Mark 12:3-5 shows us what happened to them:


And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.


If you read the books named for the “major” and “minor” prophets in the Old Testament, you will find many instances in which these men were persecuted.  God’s servants indeed were “shamefully handled” and even killed.  


As the parable continues, we see that the Lord predicts His death at the cross.  In Mark 12:6-8, we read:


Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.  And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.


In Mark 12:9, the Lord tells what will happen to the evil husbandmen:


What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.


Who are these “others” that will be given the vineyard?  We know that God used ancientIsraelto represent His kingdom on earth.  TheKingdomofIsraelreached its height under King Solomon.  It was then broken into two different nations:JudahandIsrael.  After a couple of hundred years, the Assyrian Empire conquered the nation then calledIsrael.  Then, over a century later, the Babylonian Empire conqueredJudah.  EvenJerusalemwas destroyed at that time (Jeremiah 52:12-16).  Solomon’s mighty kingdom was completely gone.


WhenJudahwas conquered, some of its people survived.  Most were brought toBabylonin captivity.  After a few decades had passed (in 539 BC),Babylonitself was conquered (see Daniel 5:30-31).  That set the stage for the eventual return of some Jews back toJudea(see Ezra 1:1-2).  Some of these people were undoubtedly saved (e.g., see Nehemiah 8), and so we can say that they still (or once again) represented God’s eternal kingdom.


However, after the Crucifixion God made a major change.  To represent the eternal church, He no longer used those who were physical descendants of Jacob (to whom God gave the name “Israel”).  Instead, He began the Church Age and switched to using local congregations of Christian churches.  They would represent the invisible or eternal church throughout the Church Age.  That period lasted from 33 AD until 1988.  The overwhelming majority of these people were not Jews who could trace their ancestry back to Abraham through Jacob; but they were the “others” who would be given the vineyard (Mark 12:9).         


When the Lord Jesus told the parable of the vineyard as recorded in Mark 12, some of the Jews’ religious leaders were present.  Mark 12:12 tells us:


And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.    


These religious leaders wanted to arrest the Lord Jesus right there.  They understood that He was saying they would no longer be God’s people.  They would have known about the Old Testament parable of the vineyard with its wild grapes (Isaiah 5), and they certainly understood that this new parable was spoken against them.



 More Bad Grapes


Neither one of the two vineyard parables we have seen tells us about the end of the world, as does the parable of the wheat and tares.  However, there is a place in the Bible that uses the idea of grapes that are ripe and ready to be reaped when the Lord returns.  It’s found in Revelation 14.


In the Book of Revelation, we read about a series of visions given to the apostle John.  One of those visions is found in Revelation 14:14-20.   It’s a very strange vision, like all those recorded in Revelation; but the three parables we examined earlier help us understand it.


In Revelation 14:14, we read:


And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.


Perhaps you remember one or more similar verses associating clouds with the Lord’s return on the last day.  For example, in Mark 13:26 we read:


And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.


There’s no doubt that Revelation 14:14 is telling us about the Lord Jesus on the last day.  Continuing with the account for this vision, we read in Revelation 14:15-16:


And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

These verses don’t tell us what was reaped, but we will be able to understand what they are teaching after we finish reading about the vision and compare it against other things we have learned.  Continuing with the next verses in Revelation 14:17-19, we read:  


And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.


Notice that more reaping is done.  In this case, we read about an angel who has power over fire.  We know that fire is associated with God’s judgment.  Matthew 7:19 is a verse illustrating this:


Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.


The same Greek word used for “fire” in Revelation 14:18 is also used in Matthew 7:19.  Also, notice that in the vision John saw a “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  This also tells us about judgment.  The final verse describing this vision is Revelation 14:20:


And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.


This vision is actually a parable; but what does it mean?



“Here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10)


The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20 is a parable about the destruction of the unsaved on the last day of the world; but in order to realize this we must understand several truths God reveals here and there throughout the Bible.  The three parables we examined earlier help us understand the vision.  We saw that God used the parable of the wheat and tares to show us a picture of the end of the world (Matthew 13:40).  The wheat gathered “into the barn” is a picture of the rapture – that’s when God gathers all the elect to bring them to heaven.


From other verses, we know that the unsaved will witness the rapture.  For example, in Revelation 11, we read about God’s two witnesses who prophesy in the last days.   Notice Revelation 11:12:


And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.  


Their enemies, who are unsaved people of the world alive on the last day, beheld them or saw them ascend to heaven.  The two witnesses represent all of God’s people who are still alive on the last day.  Therefore, the rapture precedes the destruction of the unsaved.   The unsaved of the world will see the rapture before they are destroyed, and it is the rapture that is pictured by the first reaping in Revelation 14:16:


And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.


What was reaped?  The verses describing this vision do not tell us.  They don’t plainly state that the first reaping pictures the elect being gathered in the rapture; but other verses – such as Matthew 24:31 – show us it is:


And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.   


Like the “wheat and tares” parable, Revelation 14:16 is a picture of the “wheat” being gathered into the “barn.”  It’s a picture of God gathering His children from all over the world when the earth is “reaped.” 


What about the second reaping?  Recall what we read in Revelation 14:18: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”  Then in Revelation 14:19 we read:


And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.


What do the grapes that are in “clusters” and the “vine of the earth” represent?  We know that the Lord Jesus told His disciples that He was the vine.  In John 15:5, we read:


I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.


Does the vine in Revelation 14:19 also represent the Lord Jesus?  Recall that in the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah, the vineyard was planted with “the choicest vine.”  Yet in Isaiah 5:5-6, God announced that He would destroy the vineyard:


And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.


The vine in Revelation 14:18 is a wild plant that has produced wild grapes.   It represents the local congregations of Christian churches years after God finished using them to save anyone.  In fact, the destruction of the vineyard in the Isaiah 5 parable fits as a picture of God’s judgment on the local congregations.   The “vineyard” was taken from Jacob’s descendants and given to the local congregations.   This is what the Lord Jesus spoke of in the parable of the vineyard in Mark 12 (see Mark 12:9).  Then, many years after this transfer, God finished using the local congregations.


Even though the prophet Isaiah delivered his message centuries before God even began the Church Age, the message can be seen as a prophecy of the time when God would bring judgment on the churches.  The Isaiah 5 vineyard identifies with the congregations, and from the day it was destroyed there was “no rain upon it.”  In other words, God’s judgment had begun and no one would be saved in the churches anymore.


Revelation 14:18-19 tell us the “clusters of the vine of the earth” are to be gathered  – that is, the grapes – and cast into the “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  These grapes are like the “wild grapes” growing in the vineyard of Isaiah 5:1-2 and like the “tares” growing in the field.

Even though the word for “clusters” is only used in that verse and is of uncertain derivation, we know that grapes do grow in bunches or clusters.  The idea of clusters matches the idea of the bundles in which tares are bound before they are burned, as in the parable of the wheat and tares.


The Focus of God’s Anger  


It’s interesting to note that God’s anger seems to be directed more against some people than others.  For example, in Ezekiel 34:2, we read:


Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 


God directed this message especially against the religious leaders of Ezekiel’s day.  These men, instead of seeking the spiritual welfare of the people, used their positions for selfish gain.  The Lord Jesus also had harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees during His ministry.  In Matthew 23:14, we read:


Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.


Also, remember how God identified the people against whom He spoke the parable of the vineyard.  In Isaiah 5:7, we read:


For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.


The prophecy that this vineyard would be destroyed was apparently fulfilled when God ended the Church Age.  The wild grapes in this parable are not good grapes, but are like the grapes that are cast “into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:18-19).  They also appear to be like the tares in the parable of the wheat and tares. 


In that parable, Satan sowed the tares through a false gospel.  This false gospel may seem to differ from one church denomination to another; but wherever it’s found, it teaches that man has a degree of control over his own salvation.  This is what has been called a “do-it-yourself” salvation plan.  It’s a false gospel because it doesn’t give all the glory to God.   


Now we can understand the treading of the winepress in Revelation 14:20:


And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.


The blood flowing out of this winepress has nothing to do with the Lord’s blood, the blood of the elect or a testing of the elect.  It represents God’s wrath against those following a false religion claiming to be based on the Bible in some way (see also Isaiah 63:3-4).


Notice that the winepress is “trodden without the city.”  In other words, this happens out of the city or away from it.  Remember that in this vision the first reaping represents the rapture.  When the winepress is trodden, the rapture has already happened.  The eternal city ofJerusalem(see Revelation 21:2), which represents all of God’s elect, is gone by this time; so we may understand the words “without the city” in that way.


Blood up to “the horse bridles” is another very striking image.  What are we to make of it?  In the Bible, both horses and chariots are used to represent strength.  For example, in Isaiah 31:1, we read:


Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!


The unsaved of the world do not look to God to do all the work required for their salvation.  They place faith in their own actions.  This way of thinking is represented by trusting in horses or chariots.  A horse is controlled by using a bridle; so blood reaching that height points to God’s vengeance against people who have not placed their faith in Him, but in their “horses” instead. 


Of course, the number of furlongs stated in Revelation 14:20 is also important.  The verse states the blood is “by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”  We have learned that God uses certain numbers to teach spiritual truth.  In the number 1,600, we see the factor 40 multiplied by itself; but the number “40” is associated with testing.  Revelation 14:20 portrays the last day, so this way of understanding the 1,600 furlongs doesn’t fit.  It has nothing to do with testing.


There are several ways of looking at this number through its factors.  Here are factors that do fit our understanding of the vision: 


4 x 10 x 4 x 10 (or 4 x 4 x 100)


We have learned that the number 4 corresponds with the number of points on a compass and represents the farthest extent in time or distance that God spiritually has in view.  The number 10 (or 100) represents the completeness of whatever is in view.  Therefore, with the number 1,600 God seems to be showing us that His judgment will extend all over the earth and possibly even through time – from the end of the world back to a time shortly after the creation. 


It’s important to realize that 1,600 is a spiritual number.  It is not to be understood literally, and of course the 1,600 furlongs has absolutely nothing to do with a literal number of days or years.  In fact, none of the numbers in the book of Revelation can be taken literally except possibly for the 200 million mentioned in Revelation 9:16.  That’s because God calls our attention to this number with the words “I heard the number of them.”  This number represents God’s elect and might be the exact number of people God has saved out of all the human race.





The two parables about a vineyard that we considered (Isaiah 5 and Mark 12) and the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13) all show us pictures of God’s wrath against particular groups of people.  The Isaiah 5 parable was directed against ancientIsraelandJudah, while the Mark 12 parable was spoken against their descendants who were alive during the Lord Jesus’ ministry. 


The Isaiah 5 parable also appears to show us a picture of God’s wrath against the local congregations of Christian churches, even though the Church Age was more than two thousand years into the future from Isaiah’s day.  We know from the Biblical timeline that God eventually finished using the local congregations in 1988.


The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20, which is also a parable, shows us something similar; except here the time setting is the last day.  This vision is a picture of God’s wrath against those who are following a false gospel – a religion that is supposed to be based on the Bible.  The great majority of those who claim to be Christians today are following such a religion.


Most people who think of themselves as Christians are not really God’s children.  They are pictured in the Revelation 14 vision as grapes that have become wild or otherwise gone bad.  In the parable of the wheat and tares, they are pictured as tares – weeds to be bound in bundles (Matthew 13:30) before they are burned.  On the last day, they pay for their sins with their lives.  In the vision, their end is pictured by a great outpouring of blood from “the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:19).  


We have learned that God focuses our attention on His great anger against people who have deviated from Biblical truth.  He does that in the parables we examined and in many other places; but He doesn’t appear to mention all the other unsaved people of the world.  That includes all the people following any religion other than the Christian religion, and those who consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics.  That’s about two thirds of the world today.   What about them?  In Luke 12:47 and the first part of verse 48, we find something that appears to tell us about these people:


And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.


Here the Lord Jesus tells us there will be less punishment for those who did not know God’s will.  What is their punishment?  We have learned that the promise of life after death is only for God’s children.  Everyone else will be annihilated.  For them, it will be as though they had never existed.  By using the words “beaten with few,” God is telling us about this annihilation.   He is showing us that the end for all non-Christians will be merciful when it comes on the last day.


Of course, this way of understanding the verse raises another question: what is the additional punishment for anyone who “knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will?”  The same scriptural passage indicating mercy for non-Christians tells us that those “which knew his lord’s will” and “prepared not” shall be “beaten with many.”  What could this mean?     


God’s anger is especially directed against those who shall be “beaten with many.”  These are people who are following a false gospel and are confident they have been saved; but they won’t be – they will be annihilated on the last day in the same manner as all non-Christians.  Their additional punishment will come when they realize the Lord Jesus has returned to take His children to be with Him and they won’t be going.   That is when they shall be “beaten with many.”  They will witness the rapture and understand what is happening.  Matthew 24:41-42 helps us to understand this truth:


Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.


From its context, we know that this citation is telling us about Christians on the last day.  It distinguishes between someone who is a true child of God and someone who has trusted in church doctrines and self-righteousness.  The one who is taken is caught up in the air to be with the Lord.  The other one was also “grinding at the mill,” but is left behind.  This person sees what has happened and now understands.  Luke 13:28 tells us about these people at that time:


There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.


A similar verse is Matthew 8:12:


But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Yes, there will be great sorrow when these people realize they have not been saved; but it will not be the kind of sorrow that a person feels when God has saved someone.  Notice that there will be “gnashing of teeth.”  These words indicate anger, and these “children of the kingdom” will be angry with God. 


Sadly, this is how it will end for most of the world’s Christians.  Many true believers have loved ones among them.  However, we can thank God for the many promises He has given His children and for mercy on the last day to all the unsaved – even to those who have been “bundled.”



The Two Great Lights And Your Star

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And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.  (Genesis 1:16)


Even in the creation account at the beginning of the book of Genesis, there is hidden truth about the Gospel.  For example, Genesis 1:16 tells us about two great lights. We know that the “greater light” is the sun.  Psalm 19:3-5 reveals something interesting about it:


There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.


These verses are telling us about the heavens, and they help us understand something about the significance of the sun in the Bible.  Notice that the sun (at the end of verse 4) is compared with a bridegroom in verse 5.  From other verses, we know that the bridegroom is the Lord Jesus.  We see this in Mark 2:19-20:


And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.


At this point we might conclude that the sun is a picture of the Lord, because the sun is identified with a bridegroom – who in turn is identified with the Lord Jesus.  That could be what God is telling us in Genesis 1:16; however, there are some other verses about the sun that we should consider.  One of them is Matthew 24:29:


Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:


We know that the Lord is eternal: His light won’t ever be darkened, as we see from Revelation 22:5:


And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.


However, according to Matthew 24:29 there is a time when the sun becomes darkened; it is telling us about the end of the era when God was saving people.  Therefore, Genesis 1:16 seems to mean that the “greater light” is the Gospel’s power to save.  


Of course, the lesser light in Genesis 1:16 is the moon.  To understand what the moon may represent there, first read Leviticus 18:4:


Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.


Notice that here the word “ordinances” is associated with keeping God’s laws; but there is another verse in which the word “ordinances” is associated with the moon.  Read Jeremiah 31:35:


Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: 


It’s the same Hebrew word (Strong’s number H2708) translated as “ordinances” in both verses.  Therefore, we see that the moon is associated with the ordinances or the laws of God.


Getting back to Genesis 1:16, we see that the greater light rules the day and the lesser light rules the night.  As we read the Bible, we find that the unsaved are in darkness; but God’s elect have been called out of darkness.  We find this explained in Colossians 1:12-13:


Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:  Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:   


Whenever God saved someone, He rescued that person from the kingdom of Satan and brought him or her out of spiritual darkness and into spiritual light; so we see that the night in Genesis 1:16 is associated with the unsaved, while the day is associated with the saved.  The unsaved remain in spiritual darkness and are under the law, but God’s children are under grace.  This is exactly what we learn from 1 Peter 2:9:


But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:   


There’s a verse in Revelation that also mentions the sun, moon and stars; and it may help us understand Genesis 1:16.  In Revelation 12:1, we read:


And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:


This woman appears to represent the body of true believers that God saved out of ancient Israel.  In a way, the Lord Jesus came out of this group of believers because He was born to one of them: a young virgin named Mary.  The “man child” of Revelation 12:5 is clearly the Lord:


And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.


Notice that the woman of Revelation 12:1 has the moon under her feet: she is no longer “under” the law, because she has been clothed with the sun.  She has been saved through the Gospel and is clothed in the righteousness God gives His children. 


We know that our moon produces no light by itself.  Rather, it reflects light from the sun.  Just as nature proves the existence of God, so does the Bible.  They both reflect God’s glory, just as the moon reflects sunlight. 


What about the stars?  Stars are identified with the seed of Abraham in Genesis 15:5, where we read:


And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.


Recall that there is a reference to ordinances of the stars in Jeremiah 31:35.  Obviously, no man had anything to do with creating God’s law; but they bring God’s law whenever they bring the Gospel. 


Perhaps we can understand the relationship between ordinances and stars in this way: once God saves a person, he or she shines with the light of the Gospel.  God uses His elect to bring the Gospel, and they are a witness to the world.  They are stars shining in a world of spiritual darkness.


You may find a verse in which stars do not represent God’s elect.  For example, in Jude 13, we read:


Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.


If you read in Jude the verses preceding the above verse, you see that the wandering stars represent people who are enemies of the true Gospel.  However, in Genesis 1:16 the stars are mentioned with the sun and the moon.  There, the stars certainly appear to represent the elect.


Read Matthew 24:29 again:


Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:


When the sun becomes darkened and the moon no longer gives her light, then the stars fall from heaven.  What can that mean?   The Bible shows us that before the Rapture, God allows His elect to be overcome.  We see this in Revelation 11, which tells us about two witnesses.  These two represent God’s elect near the end of time.  In Revelation 11:7, we read:


And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.


As we continue reading, we find that the world rejoices over the death of these two witnesses. Revelation 11:11-12 tells us what happens after that:


And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.  And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 


The three and half days represent the time God’s elect remain here after they are “overcome,” until the last day.  Although the Bible indicates that salvation has ended before the last day, it is also clear that the Gospel must continue to go out until then to sustain God’s elect.    


The Bible also reveals that God chose His elect before the foundation of the world.  Ephesians 1:4-5 illustrates this truth:


According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,


If you are one of God’s children, then one of those stars mentioned in Genesis 1:16 represents you!


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