Why is it so important that we understand God’s mystery-plan? For one thing, it was said of the tribe of Issachar, that they had an understanding of the times. Good for them. So what? “To know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32). In terms of what? The context of the passage is when King Saul had been told that God had rejected him as king. Samuel the prophet had anointed David instead. Saul wasn’t buying any of this, so David was in hiding. In this governmental turmoil, the tribes needed to know what Israel should do.
The New Covenant was set in motion through Jesus’s earthly ministry. It was established by His death on the cross. In effect, God’s agenda was no longer hidden, particularly as it relates to the Church and the new rules of engagement.
Understanding God’s times and divine agenda enables us to know what we are to do in our own time. Uncertainly breeds fear. Understanding breeds comfort, hope, and victory—even now. For as Christ is in Heaven, so are we now on this earth (1 John 3:17).
Because we are in Christ and charged with preaching the good news of the Gospel and making disciples, we are automatically also stewards of the mysteries. It is required of stewards to be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:1-2). It’s time for the mystery-plan to be understood and manifested.
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27). This series is designed to help you see the mystery from the first to the last book of God’s Word.
John opened his gospel account by reminding us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). The mystery of God is the mystery-plan, leading to the restoration of all things. Through God’s Word, as manifested in the earthly ministry of Jesus, we can come to see the end from the beginning.
It is clear that Jesus’ disciples understood very little about the mystery prior to the cross. They didn’t understand why He was leaving, much less that He would come back. On the night of His arrest, they all fled in a state of confusion. As we’ve seen, this is because the mystery had been hidden prior to Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection signaled that it was time for the mystery to be fully revealed.
Though prophets, lawgivers, and psalmists had spoken their respective parts of the mystery, the various prophecies lay strewn throughout the Old Testament record like a jigsaw puzzle, jumbled and unassembled. No one could see how the pieces fit together, not even the prophets themselves.
As we might imagine, these pieces did not come together overnight. It took some time to fully assemble the prophetic puzzle. The disciples’ encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, and later again that same evening, gave them a noble start.
The apostles perceived that a great mystery was beginning to unfold. As the Holy Spirit reminded them of what the Master had taught, Jesus’ words began to take on greater meaning. They remembered that He spoke of the mysteries of the kingdom. For example, after teaching a particular parable His disciples came to Him privately, asking, “What does this parable mean?” Jesus responded, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables” (Mark 4:10-12).
The knowledge of the mystery was not for impatient bystanders or disinterested hearers, but for those who had a desire to seek out the truth. The parables were merely designed to whet their appetite for such choice morsels. Therefore, the secrets were only parceled out to those who were really hungry to know.
So after the cross the disciples began to connect the dots, assemble the pieces, and comprehend the mystery. Quite remarkably, the prophetic puzzle (God’s plan) was fully assembled within the forty years that followed Jesus’ resurrection. Scholars generally agree that most of the New Testament was written and already in circulation prior to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD. Only the three letters of John, along with the book of Revelation, are generally assigned to the latter part of the century, between 85 and 95 AD. In other words, the mystery was fully revealed and understood by the first-century apostles.
The Chronos Lesson: Since the mystery of Christ also concerns His second coming, these foundational apostles eventually understood the secret things concerning His return at the end of this age. The truth is the first-century apostles had a much better grasp of end-time prophecy than our generation has exhibited up to this time! And with Christ’s return so near, it is time to retrieve what has been lost.
The Holy Spirit entrusted the first-century apostles with these revelations and they were faithful to record them as part of the New Testament record. Unfortunately, as the apostles passed off the scene, and in the centuries that followed, corrupt teachings infiltrated the Church. As a result, we lost sight of certain aspects of the mystery as it was revealed to these early apostles.
As it stands right now, we have a confusing assortment of views and interpretations concerning the end times. We are not unlike the perplexed disciples who made the journey to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. But they were not without hope, for the appearance of an unperceived Stranger on the road banished their confusion by the journey’s end (see Luke 24:13-45). By the end of the day, the Church was in one accord. If God could do it then, He can do it now if we honestly seek the truth and lay aside our preconceived, man-made views.
Sometime after the Day of Pentecost, seven of the disciples are back where it all began, along the Sea of Tiberius (Galilee). Restless, Simon Peter decides to go fishing, and the others join him. They’re out on the water all night and catch nothing. I can’t help but wonder if it reminded Peter of the moment when Jesus called the fisherman to follow Him. Or maybe his thoughts were still replaying the three times he denied Jesus.
When the weary fishermen start to make their way to shore, a man is there whom they do not recognize (John 21). He calls to them, “Children, have you any food?” The empty boat should have given the answer obvious, but they respond in the negative anyway. The man tells them to “cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”
That’s enough for Peter to recognize who it is. He plunges into the water and swims ashore. His fishing buddies are left dragging the boat and the net filled with fish to shore. When they finally arrive, Jesus has a fire going, along with fish and bread somehow. Okay, boys, how many hints do you need! Apparently they have an idea, but they dare not ask. It’s almost as if it is too good to be true. Could they all be hallucinating at the same time with the same mirage?
Then we’re told that this is the third time Jesus has shown Himself to them after His resurrection. Maybe they just couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of the resurrection and seeing Jesus appear again.
They break bread together and chow down on some fish. Jesus turns His attention to His disciple who is struggling with his triple failure back in Herod’s court. The account seems to indicate that Jesus took Peter aside to deal with him privately. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Peter confesses his love three times. Seriously, Lord, how many times do you need to ask? The same number of times that Peter fell short! The disciple’s heart is right, but he probably sees himself as a useless servant. So three times Jesus reaffirms the call: Feed My lambs, tend My sheep, feed My sheep. Like His Lord Peter shall be a shepherd, too.
The Chronos Lesson: Their first time together began with a miracle catch of fish. Jesus had called them to be fishers of men. Their last time together on the earth is another miracle catch of fish—153 to be exact. Jesus is the beginning and the end. Researchers have pointed out that there were 153 known species of fish at that time. It’s a vivid reminder that the disciples shall go into the known world and preach the Gospel, bringing people from every tribe, nation, and tongue into the Kingdom of God.
However, the impromptu breakfast by the sea ends in a peculiar manner. After reaffirming Peter as His disciple, Jesus prophesies Peter’s future. “ ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ”
To our natural minds, this doesn’t sound like the best way to encourage Peter to act on his calling! But spiritually speaking, Jesus is showing Peter that he indeed has the shepherd’s heart, one that is willing to lay his life down for the sake of the sheep and the Gospel. Tradition has it that when Peter was condemned to death in Rome, he requested that he be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
But before the significance of what Jesus has just told him could sink in, Peter looks at John and asks what that disciple’s future looks like. Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” In short, it’s none of your business, Peter. Our faith is personal, and God deals with each individual according to His design for them.
Not surprisingly, this got tongues wagging. “Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die,” even though that is not what Jesus said. It is interesting, though, that John is generally thought to be the only one of the original 12 disciples to have died by natural causes.
While in prayer and in the Spirit on the Sabbath on the Isle of Patmos in Asia Minor (Turkey), John hears a voice behind him. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.” Thus begins the Vision that is the Book of Revelation. Actually, it is a series of visions. More on that later. It is a vision of the “things which must shortly take place.” Jesus adds that the time is near, so it is time for the prophecies to be made clear.
At the end of the book, John is reminded that the time is at hand, so he is told not to seal up the prophecy. Why is this significant? You may recall that Daniel got a vision concerning Christ’s first and second coming as part of the 70 Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9). The prophet gets one last prophecy, recorded in Daniel 12. It foretells the time of the end as well.
“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness. Like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:1-3). But unlike John, Daniel is told to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end.” It is not yet time for the revelation to be understood.
Rest assured that time will come: “[Then] many shall run to and fro and search anxiously [through the Book], and knowledge [of God’s purposes as revealed by His prophets] shall be increased and become great” (Dan. 12:4, Amplified Version). Can you guess when that time is?
We’re in it now! As the end of this age draws so near—within this decade—the Spirit is bringing clarity to the end-time doctrine. It’s time to be in the know so that we know what we ought to be doing.
Our predecessors sought to understand, and passed along what they thought they knew. But the fact that there is so much confusion about the end-times tells us something is wrong, and it has to be on our end because God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Their motives were right, but it wasn’t time to see it fully yet. Now is the time to understand the things that shall shortly take place!
You may recall from when we first set out on this journey through the Bible in light of God’s Chronos agenda that the knowledge of evil manifested itself on the earth very quickly. The first recorded murder occurred in Adam and Eve’s immediate offspring. It wasn’t very long before Scripture records, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
After the great reset of the Flood, the knowledge of evil still lingered in the hearts of men. A few chapters later (Gen. 11) we read about the prideful rebellion against God at Babel, as mankind determined in their hearts to disobey God’s command to be spread across the earth. Instead, they built a tower to Heaven. They wanted to be like God. Sound familiar?
The Chronos Lesson: Through Christ’s death and resurrection, the next stage in God’s agenda could take effect. God’s presence on the earth would be manifested by the 3rd Person of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit residing in the spirit of every believer. This is why the outpouring of the Spirit is the distinguishing mark of the latter Days. We are all “living stones” built on the foundation of Christ the Word and the prophet’s declarations. We are the living temple of God’s presence on the earth.
The Spirit empowers believers to continue Jesus’ earthly ministry with signs and wonders confirming the Gospel. Wherever there is a “living stone,” he or she is holy ground. We stand in this righteousness through Christ’s shed blood. Do you see yourself in this way?
We need to, because you-know-who will do all he can to deceive you into thinking you’re not good enough to display God’s power working through you by the Spirit. He’s right in one sense—since he sees us only in ourselves and not in Christ. But we are not on our own. We are in Christ!
This is why the baptism of the Holy Spirit is so important. It is why Satan has done his best to debunk this vital experience. This is a separate and distinct baptism by Christ with fire—symbolizing the anointing of God (Luke 3:16). It is different from the baptism into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit that happens the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior. We need both to function fully in God’s power in this age.
Along with the baptism into the Spirit comes the ability to speak with other tongues. The Holy Spirit enables us to pray in the spirit with heavenly languages unknown to us. As we yield our voice to the Spirit, we release what God has declared in Heaven on earth. In effect, it is the two-edged sword of God’s words and our words of agreement on earth.
We are united as one Body by the Spirit (Eph. 4:4). This is a reversal of the division that happened at Babel. Through the gift of tongues, we speak in one accord with the Spirit. This is the reversal of the language of mankind being confused at Babel. This sets us up for the final reversal that shall come at the last Day, when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever! (Rev. 11:15). God’s Word always accomplishes His purposes. The declarations of unredeemed mankind have no chance against the Almighty God, the Most High!
While they are together in the upper room, Jesus commands His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they have received the Promise of the Father “which you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5).
It is the next festival in the spring season, the Feast of Weeks, which marks the first harvest of their agricultural season. You may know it as Pentecost; pente is Greek for 50. Fifty days after the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the men and women who had been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and had received His righteousness. You may recall that the number 50 symbolizes release, as in the Jubilee Year.
Earlier, Jesus had foretold the event to His disciples, saying it was very needful and would be better than if He remained with them. Of course, as the third Person of the Godhead, Jesus could also honestly say that He would never leave them nor forsake them because God’s Spirit would abide in them. The Spirit would not only comfort them, but also bring what Jesus taught back to their remembrance and teach them all things concerning the truths of God’s Kingdom.
But there was more. In their last time together, Jesus drives home the point of why they must wait for the Spirit to fall upon them. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is the Spirit that directs and empowers our witnessing to others. To do so apart from that empowering is simply human effort.
Notice that the statement begins with another “but.” This pivotal statement is connected to the words Jesus had just spoken in response to a question asked of Him. The question shows us that the disciples still didn’t fully understand the mystery-plan. But as we read the New Testament letters, it’s clear that the Holy Spirit is an excellent Teacher because they came to understand the plan.
At this point, though, they ask, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They’re referring to David’s kingdom and the promise that his lineage would rule forever. Armed with hindsight, we know that the promise pointed to Jesus Christ, who was from David’s lineage. But they hadn’t seen this yet.
Jesus’ next statement is often taken out of context and therefore misunderstood. “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” Jesus wasn’t saying they could not know, for earlier He had said that they would come to perceive the times and seasons and understand what they were to do. Notice, too, that Jesus didn’t say that the kingdom would never be restored to Israel. He only said that it was not yet the appointed time. They had more important matters to attend to—namely, preaching the Gospel and establishing the Church.
What happened next is equally significant in terms of the end-times sequence of events. “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven’ ” (Acts 1:9-11).
The Chronos Lesson: The Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. It is what distinguished that unique day in God’s plan. It is also what distinguishes the latter Days. It is one of the corresponding kairos signs of the last Days. Another is the authority to use Jesus’ name to continue His work of signs and wonders. For it is the goodness of God that draws people to repentance.
Now let me ask you a question. Did the disciples literally see Jesus ascending to Heaven? Yes, the wondrous details are recorded in Acts 1. This means that He will literally return to the earth because that is what the angels announced. What they said is confirmed in the Old Testament prophecies. So let me ask you another question. Have we seen Jesus literally descending from Heaven? Has the whole world seen Jesus coming in the clouds yet, as Scripture foretells?
No, so don’t let anyone rob you of this truth by saying that the Kingdom has already come. We are not Third Day Christians yet! We don’t count the time using our earthly calendars, which is why Y2K was not a big deal in God’s sight. Nor has the kingdom come figuratively, because the Spirit is within us. The Spirit within simply marks the first two Days of the latter half of the great Week (Today and Tomorrow when counting from Jesus or Days 5 and 6 when counting from Adam).
Hear God’s definitive Word on the matter. “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:28, emphasis added). At His first coming, Jesus appeared in order to take away the sin of the world. At His second coming, Jesus will appear to take us away to Father’s House to complete our full salvation—our soul and body made new, even as our spirit was when we first believed. This is when we shall fully and truly have the mind of Christ, and a glorified body like His.
As the Sabbath dawns, the women come to Christ’s tomb to prepare the body with spices. To their astonishment, the bolder that covered the tomb has been rolled away. They look inside and see that the Lord’s body is not there, and they are greatly perplexed. Two angels standing by in their shining garments ask, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’ ” (Luke 24:1-7). The women run to tell the others.
You know the story. We can only imagine what must have been going through the minds of the disciples. Yes, Jesus had told them what would transpire, but it is doubtful that they understood all the implications. No wonder they were hunkered down in the upper room in prayer, trying to figure out what to do next.
Luke goes on to record that two of them head back to the village of Emmaus, about a journey of seven miles from Jerusalem. They’re talking together about all the things that have happened. We can only imagine that they’re confused, disappointed, and discouraged. Have you ever found yourself in such a place in your journey of faith? I know I have.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a man joins them who they do not know. Actually, they do, but they don’t recognize Jesus because, well, He is out of “context,” to say it nicely. The Stranger asks them what they are talking about and why they are so sad. One of the two, Cleopas, can’t believe his ears. This man is totally out of the loop if he isn’t aware of the events of the last few days. The whole city is abuzz with the news of the latest crucifixion and the missing body. The stranger asks, “What things?” So Cleopas clues Him in, as if the Stranger didn’t know!
The Stranger responds, “ ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27). After having dinner together, the eyes of the two travelers are opened and they finally realize they have been with Jesus. Immediately, they return to the upper room to tell the others. And Jesus does a repeat performance for them all.
The Chronos Lesson: Notice that when the two disciples were feeling so low, Jesus showed up. But He didn’t reveal Himself to the disciples. To me that would have been the sensible thing to do to put them out of their misery. But instead of giving them a quick emotional fix by revealing that He is indeed alive and well, Jesus took the opportunity to give them something even better--how to take heed and take heart through the Word of God.
For the next few hours, Jesus methodically unveiled to the disciples the revelation of Himself throughout the Scriptures. All the while, He kept His true identity veiled. He knew He would no longer be present with them in the natural. He wanted to give them a way to take heed and fix their eyes on Him as seen in the Scriptures. Our eyes need to be on Him, and not the circumstances around us or even the outcome we think should happen. To understand the times, Jesus knew they needed to see the mystery-plan revealed in God’s Word.
This is the power of the revealed Word. After hearing what the Scriptures revealed, they were so unburdened of their confusion, disappointment, and discouragement that they got their second wind, turned around, and walked the seven miles back to Jerusalem to share the revelation with their fellow disciples!
When Jeff received the call of God to teach the Church about Christ’s return, he began his own sort of Emmaus Road journey that so far has lasted just over 40 years. Only this time it has been the Holy Spirit who has led Jeff through all the Scriptures concerning the things of the end. It was the Spirit who helped him put together the pieces of the prophetic puzzle scattered throughout God’s Word. It was the Spirit-inspired connections that enabled him to put together the various scenes of the whole puzzle, using what he calls the keys to understanding the times.
It is in this vein that we have been traveling through the Scriptures in this series, so that the eyes of our understanding can be enlightened. I hope you are enjoying your own Emmaus Road journey. 1/31/22
We know from Scripture that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. The religious leaders were eager to get the job done before the Sabbath started at sunset. Jewish days are counted from evening to evening of the next day, which means that from Friday evening to Saturday evening was day two of the crucifixion scenario. The darkness falls again on Saturday evening, only to be dispelled by the morning light of the 3rd day, which was Sunday, the start of the new week on the Jewish calendar.
This particular day dawned with the Light of the Morning Star. This dawn was unlike any other experienced on the earth so far in history. For this 3rd day dawned with resurrection—also something that had never occurred on the earth so far in history. It shall be seen again on the 3rd Day, the last Day in Christ’s prophetic great Week when counting from Christ.
The Chronos Lesson: Why did God wait to resurrect Jesus from the dead? Why didn’t He do it immediately? It all had to do with the appointed time. For Christ’s resurrection would foreshadow our own resurrection as members of His Body on the 3rd Day.
We also know from Scripture that very early on the third day, the Sabbath, the women who had witnessed the crucifixion came to prepare the Lord’s body for burial with spices. His body was gone! Probably fearing that the Romans had taken the body, they were startled by two angels that assured them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, just as He had taught them.
Still stunned, Mary Magdalene lingered at the tomb, crying in grief. Then she heard a familiar voice. Turning, she recognized the Teacher. She saw the risen Lord! Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17).
But before Jesus ascends, He descends. Ephesians 4:9 records: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” We don’t have to guess what this means. We use the Spirit-inspired connections so that Scripture interprets Scripture. I Peter 3:19 tells us that Jesus “went and preached to the spirits in prison.” Who were the spirits in prison?
The Old Testament saints who followed God’s ways. They could not go to Heaven when they died because Jesus the Seed had not yet been planted in the earth and had not yet overcome death for all mankind. Instead, they went to a separate, protected compartment within Hell preserved for them called Abraham’s Bosom. Jesus preached the Gospel to those held captive by death.
Scripture then tells us that Christ ascended on high with all these Old Covenant saints. Hosea prophesied about this event: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes” (Hosea 13:14). So, too, did Zechariah: “As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit” (Zech. 9:11).
Hebrews 12:23 reports that these Old Covenant saints are now before the throne of God, “the spirits of just men made perfect.” For the record, these saints will not come with Christ at the rapture. He will only bring the dead in Christ who are part of His Church, those who believed by faith without having seen Him. The Old Testament saints will receive their resurrection at the end of the Day of the Lord, at the final judgment.
By descending into Hell, Colossians 2:15 affirms that Jesus “disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” No wonder in Revelation 1:18 the ascended Lord makes this triumphant declaration to the apostle John, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades [Hell] and of Death.” For believers, death has lost its sting! This triumphant declaration continues to ring throughout the Church Age.
By overcoming death, Jesus triumphed over Satan’s power to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). So how is it that he is allowed to go about as a roaring lion? Because it is not yet time for Satan and his forces to be incarcerated. That comes in the age to come, the 1,000-year Day of the Lord. For now, he goes about spreading lies and deceptions, seeking who will be lured into his lair or at the very least take his bait.
This is why knowledge of the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection—His finished work—is what sets people free. Once you know the truth, Satan’s deceptions no long have any power of you. That is, unless you let him deceive you. He may roar his lies at you in an effort to devour your faith in God. Yet all you have to do to drown him out is to submit to God and resist the devil.
When Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was and Peter passed the test, Jesus gave them a surprising command. “And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day’ ” (Luke 9:21-22). It was all about the events unfolding according to God’s mystery-plan at the appointed time.
Before long they are gathered together for the first festival of the Jewish year. It is the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. You may recall that Jesus compared leaven (yeast) to sin. The festival covers seven days, with the first and the last days being high Sabbaths in which no work is done. It starts with the Passover memorial, which celebrated Israel’s deliverance from the last plague of Egypt, when the angel of death passed over every house that had the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the doorpost. This particular Passover meal that Jesus had with His disciples is known today as the Last Supper.
It’s no coincidence that Jesus introduced the practice of communion at the Last Supper. The Lamb of God told His gathered disciples, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16).
Jesus informs them that one of their own will betray Him to the religious authorities. That led to a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. Even at this late stage in His ministry, the disciples still don’t get it. As further proof, Peter carries a sword with him when they go the Garden of Gethsemane afterwards to pray. In the heat of the moment, he uses it to cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. In the grace of the moment, Jesus restores the man’s ear.
The Gospel writers record that Jesus was crucified on Friday at the third hour (9:00 am). From the 6th to the 9th hours (noon to 3:00 pm) the first of four unusual signs occurs. In the Bible, the number four symbolizes the earth. For three hours starting at midday, darkness covers the land. Darkness signifies judgment. “For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Back in the Temple, the thick, heavy curtain that separates the Holy of Holies from sight is rent in two from top to bottom. Given the size of the Ark of the Covenant, the curtain is probably 30 feet tall. Human hands could not have done the deed.
On the cross, Jesus declares, “It is finished.” And then He cries out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” He bows His head and gives up His spirit. He breathes His last breath.
Hebrews 9:12 records, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Hebrews 10:19-20 describes the veil as His flesh. Through the blood of Jesus, believers can now have boldness to enter the presence of God by a new and living way, which Jesus consecrated for us. For Christ “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
As the veil is being torn, a huge earthquake shakes the earth (Mt. 27:51). I wonder if the people made the connection to Mount Sinai, when the “Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Exodus 19:18).
But most astounding of all, Matthew 27:52 also records that “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Talk about a wake-up call!
The Chronos Lesson: Jesus taught that the final sign before His return will be total darkness over the whole earth. We are not told how long this darkness will last. Perhaps three hours, three days, or three weeks? Only God knows. But at some point, God will rent the heavens and we will see Jesus coming in the clouds to gather His Body and take us back to Heaven.
When He comes, He will literally stand on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the same mountain ridge where He was crucified. His presence will cause an earthquake that will split the mountain, providing a way of escape for the Jewish remnant that has finally acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. They will go to their prepared place of deliverance from the invading armies of the Antichrist.
The earth will give up the dust of the bodies of the dead in Christ. Those of us who are alive when He comes, will be instantly changed. All those who are His will be glorified and receive immortal bodies. The Head and His Body will then reenact His ascension to Heaven, finally united as one new Man. Together we will be taken to our prepared place in Heaven, to Father’s House, and before the throne of God. At this point, the six Days allotted for the work of mankind shall be finished.
Now seated as the Heavenly Court, our previous earthly assignment will be handed over to the revived Jews who will preach the Gospel to all the nations. Our new heavenly assignment will be to rule with Christ from above during the final great Day. Stay tuned for more details on what that looks like. 1/15/24
From the Genesis Fall to today, people have been trying to reshape the Godhead according to their own ideas. How ignorant and foolish of us! Paul explains that “truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a Day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:29-31).
The last Day is also called the Day of Judgment. Those who are in Christ shall be judged at the beginning of the Day, when He comes for those who are judged to be “in Christ.” All other people, both past and present at that time, will be judged at the end of the 1,000-year Day.
The basis of that judgment is if we have the righteousness of Christ, having received that gift by grace through faith. In short, the only criterion for that judgment is if we believe in Jesus as our personal Savior. He holds this position by virtue of having overcome the penalty of sin, which is death. Overcoming death is resurrection—being raised from the dead and living forevermore.
This resurrection is our blessed hope as well. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
This is our inheritance as joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). It is an incorruptible inheritance in the same way that our reborn spirit is sealed and incorruptible. The fullness of our salvation is guaranteed. This is the hope of our calling as the ekklesia, the called-out Church.
The Chronos Lesson: It is clear that the foundational disciples and apostles came to understand the appointed times and had seen it as an integral part of the Gospel message within the first century of the Church. Paul wrote in 1 Thess. 5:1 that “concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.”
Unfortunately, you may have heard someone preach that the rapture and the end-times sequence of events wasn’t really part of the New Testament message. Really? Then why was the first sermon that was preached on the Day of Pentecost by Peter (Acts 2) all about the end-times?
Peter explained that what the people were witnessing was the outpouring of the Spirit prophesied by Joel. Furthermore, this outpouring came because it was now the last Days. Peter marked the times from the prophets to Jesus’ earthly ministry, to Jesus’ ascension, where He is awaiting the restoration of all things. As we draw nearer to the end of this age, we should expect a similar timely hour of outpouring.
All of the confusion about the rapture and the end-times comes from teachers and preachers ignoring all the prophetic pieces about the end-times placed in God’s Word. Think about this: they ignore one-third of the Bible! Granted, it is sometimes hard to let go of our preconceived ideas.
Hebrews 12:5 reminds us: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.’ ” The Greek word for chastening actually means correction and being teachable. Just as we need to humble ourselves to receive salvation, we need to humble ourselves to receive God’s Word for time and season. 1/10/24
The angelic proclamation at Christ’s first coming declared that mankind could be reconciled to God through the shed blood of the Son that was given. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. The only catch is that people have to open that free gift by grace and receive Christ’s finished work on their behalf. “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool” (Heb. 10:12-13).
This is what Jesus meant when He stood before His hometown synagogue and declared His ministry according to Is. 61. His declaration stopped short, a third of the way through verse 2. “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” That phrase refers to the year of Jubilee when the people were set free from their debts.
When Jesus came, He released mankind from the bondage of sin. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2).
In Romans 1 the Apostle Paul declared “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [Gentile]. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” This was the “good news” announced by the angelic host as Jesus’ birth.
When the Son that was given appears as the Prince of Peace at His second coming—with the government upon His shoulders—those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior have this assurance, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Which brings us back to the rest of verse 2 in Isaiah 61—“to proclaim the Day of vengeance of our God.”
Romans 2:5 explains that this vengeance comes upon those who in accordance with their hardness and impenitent hearts are treasuring up for themselves wrath in the Day of wrath and the revealing of the righteous judgment of God. In other words, those who have refused God’s free gift of reconciliation and salvation through Jesus Christ.
The bottom line is this. There are still only two choices as in the Garden of Eden. They are the same two choices declared to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19-20. As always, God wants us to choose life. He doesn’t want mankind to suffer the same consequences of those who know evil. For “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe…” (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
This is why we cannot ignore God’s appointed timetable that we call the Great Week of 1,000-year Days. When Jesus taught His disciples about His coming and the rapture at the Day of the Lord, He warned that this last Day would come as a snare, for those who are not “in Christ” shall be trapped by their rejection of the Savior and have to face the trumpet judgments of that Day meant for Satan, his evil hierarchy, and all those who follow his rebellious, ungodly ways. 1/2/24
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:13-15)
I have always been intrigued by this passage. It was finally time for the next pivotal time period in God’s mystery plan of redemption to be declared on the earth. The first four great Days of the Old Covenant were drawing to a close and the next two great Days were close at hand. A Child had been born and 3½ years later the Son would be given. This changed everything.
So who does God choose to make this all-important announcement? The outcasts of society—shepherds. That tells us a lot about the Father’s nature. His nature would become even clearer through Jesus’ ministry. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15).
Looking at the state of the world, it seems far from peaceful. But the announcement wasn’t about peace among mankind but between God and mankind. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus would make it possible for every person to be reconciled to God and be reconnected to Him through the new birth. The gift was made available to all by God’s grace, but the gift would have to be accepted by each person. Our faith is personal. Sadly, many still refuse to open the gift. They still do not know God’s loving nature.
Now as we draw near to the end of the sixth great Day in God’s plan, another pivotal event shall be announced. But this time it will not be a heavenly choir singing a joyous chorus. It will be an earth-shaking announcement in the midst of total darkness upon the earth.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt. 24:29-30). Luke’s gospel tells us that this Day will come as a snare, for it brings God’s vengeance against evil.
But for those who have accepted the best Christmas gift ever—that of salvation is Jesus Christ—it shall come as our blessed hope—our hope of glory, as the Heavenly Esther, as the immortal government of Heaven. No wonder our enemy has worked overtime to rob believers of this blessed hope by saying there is no rapture, that the kingdom of God has already come and it’s up to us to bring it to pass in our culture, or that we cannot know when Jesus is coming back.
Can you imagine what the shepherds would have missed out on if they decided this miraculous chorus was not real? What if they had allowed their fear to keep them from the manger? Or they had decided the announcement was fake news? “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).