What Happens to Believers in the Last Days?
The Book of Leviticus lists seven mandated annual “Feasts of the LORD” for Israel. But since all seven feasts point to Yeshua (Jesus), they are in fact relevant to both Jew and Gentile today. Some claim that the Feast of Trumpets is of particular interest to the future of the church.
Seen prophetically each feast marks a distinct event or epoch in God’s eternal plan for mankind. For instance, Israel’s Passover foreshadows salvation through the shed blood of Jesus, and First Fruits foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection. So in the prophetic sense the first four feasts have already been fulfilled, culminating in the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (the birth of the church).
The last three feasts foreshadow events concerned with the soon return of Christ. In particular, some claim that the next feast, the Feast of Trumpets, will be fulfilled in the so-called “rapture of the church”. To justify this viewpoint it is necessary to study prophecy, and especially the Book of Revelation in the context of the final seven years of this age (Daniel’s Week 70). End-time prophecy might be seen as “filling in the detail” surrounding the events marked by the last three feasts. It’s a pity the institutionalised church usually fails to recognise Israel’s feasts in this way! Although only shadows of what is to come (Colossians 2:17), they nevertheless point to major events of the near future.
Israel’s Feasts – Daniel’s 70 Weeks – Church & Trumpets – Pretribulation – World Dictator – The First 42 Months – Tribulation Saints – Mid-Week – The Last 42 Months – Atonement – Resurrection – Tabernacles – Overall Summary – 360-day Year
See also What is the Rapture? and Israel’s Annual Festivals
But they are not just of importance to the nation of Israel: they apply to both Jew and Gentile because they reveal major events or epochs in God’s complete plan for mankind. To this end they all point to the Lord Jesus Christ, link. The first four feasts (the Spring Feasts) have already been fulfilled by Christ and the last three (the Fall Feasts) will be fulfilled by Christ. It goes without saying that the last three feasts are of fundamental importance to any study of biblical end times.
The Spring Feasts (March-June)
Let’s look at these from a believer’s perspective: how do they point to Christ?
- Passover (Pesach): Salvation from death – through His crucifixion Jesus became our Passover Lamb
- Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMotzi): Jesus was without sin (without ‘leaven’) and so became the Bread of Life
- First Fruits (Reshit Katzir): The resurrection of Jesus, and the future resurrection of all believers
- Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Shavu’ot): Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and His Church (comprising both Jew and Gentile) was born
Exact Temporal Fulfilment
It’s important to recognise that Jesus fulfilled these four feasts in an exact temporal sense:
- The Perfect Sacrifice: Jesus lived a sinless life (as in the absence of “leaven”). So not only was He “the bread of life” (Jn 6:35), but He was also the perfect Lamb of God who could take away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29)
- Sacrifice: Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, died on Nisan 14. This was the same day and time as the selected unblemished Passover lambs died, link (Exod 12:6)
- Resurrection: Jesus resurrected three days later, on Nisan 17 – the day of the Feast of Firstfruits
- Pentecost: The Jews were instructed to count 50 days from the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on Nisan 15 (Lev 23:15-16), link. This brought them from Passover (also on Nisan 15) to Sivan 6, the Feast of Weeks (Shavout). So Shavout is celebrated 50 days after Passover, and commemorates history when, 50 days after the first Passover (after leaving Egypt), link, link, God descended in fire on Sinai and gave the Law via Moses. What happened? The nation of Israel was born (Exod 19:5-6). The important point here is that, in Jesus’ time, 50 days after Passover link, link, God descended in tongues of fire and gave the promised Holy Spirit to the disciples. What happened? A holy nation – the church – was born (1 Pet: 2:9), with God’s Law now written on their hearts
Will Jesus also fulfil the three remaining feasts at times related to the actual feast days?
The Fall Feasts (September-October)
These are the feasts of Trumpets (Yom Teru’ah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot). They occur in the seventh month (Tishri) of the Hebrew calendar and relate to the return of Christ, the suffering and atonement of Israel and the setting up of the Kingdom of God on this earth. Note that seven is the biblical number of “completion”. So today we are between the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost, the birth of the Church), and the Feast of Trumpets:
In the seventh month, on the first day of the month [Tishri 1], you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation (Lev 23:24)
On the Feast of Trumpets the priest would sound the shofar (a ram’s-horn trumpet, see photo) in synagogues to call field workers to stop harvesting i.e. to “rest” and to come and worship in the Temple. The “memorial of trumpets” reminds Israel of when God came down upon Mount Sinai to covenant with His people amidst the sound of a very loud trumpet that caused the people to tremble. The trumpets remind Israel that she is still under this covenant and she must prepare herself for the coming Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur on Tishri 10) when she repents and finds atonement for rebelling and breaking this covenant, link, link, link.
Today, Yom Teru’ah is celebrated as the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah (‘Head of the Year’), which relates primarily to the agricultural cycle and the beginning of a new harvest year. This renaming resulted from pagan influence on the Jewish people. The feast requires the sighting of the new moon, but because of the uncertainty of when exactly this will occur it is celebrated over two days [Tishri 1-2].
Today many see deep prophetic significance in the Feast of Trumpets. In fact, it turns out to be essential to include all three Fall Feasts (Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles) in any end-times study. They apply to both Jew and Gentile and follow God’s timeline right into the so-called Millennial Age. They mark major events or time epochs in God’s end-time plan, and prophetic books like Daniel, Isaiah, Zechariah and Revelation, as well as New Testament texts, fill in some detail around these events.
Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy
Before examining the prophetic significance of the Feast of Trumpets it is necessary to outline this major prophecy. Whilst it is focused upon the nation of Israel (and particularly the Jews) it also applies to the whole world. Also, today it is common to take the “futuristic view” of this prophecy (as opposed to the historicist view) since it accommodates much of what is observed in the world today, link. This view maintains that Week 70 of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy over Israel is still future, but on a prophetic scale appears to be imminent:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. (Dan 9:24)
Here, each “week” comprises seven prophetic years each of twelve 30-day months. So Daniel’s Week 70 is 7 x 360 = 2520 days. This study concentrates upon Week 70 (the last seven years of this age) and the years immediately preceding and following this week. Those who follow the futuristic view of Daniel’s prophecy generally agree that the return of Jesus to earth occurs around the end of Week 70.
The Church Age and the Feast of Trumpets
A Picture of the Rapture
Although the Feast of Trumpets incorporates a memorial to how Israel broke her agreed Sinai covenant (Lev 23:24), many see in this memorial a picture of the so-called “rapture” of believers. They note from Exodus 19 that God called Moses up to the top of the mountain, and God came down to meet Moses in a thick cloud. And all this was accompanied with the sound of a loud trumpet, making the people below tremble. This event appears to foreshadow Paul’s description of the end time rapture of believers:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thes 4:16-17)
This alignment of the Hebraic scriptures with New Testament prophecy is remarkable, leading some to see the Feast of Trumpets as marking the end of the Church Age. It is claimed that at this time the true church (as opposed to the apostate church) is supernaturally removed from earth (or “raptured”) to meet the Lord in the air. In fact, this mysterious event appears to be the next major event on God’s prophetic calendar, as seen from the perspective of God’s seven mandated feasts. And observation of world events suggests it is imminent, link.
The Feast of Trumpets is not Christ’s Return to Earth
The Feast of Trumpets can be seen as one of God’s epochs – an event marking the end of the Church Age and the start of a brief but traumatic time upon earth (Daniel’s Week 70). But the rapture does not mark the return of Christ to the earth. This can be seen from at least two standpoints:
First, in 1 Thessalonians Paul refers to “the trumpet of God”, and not to “the last trumpet” as in 1 Corinthians 15:52. So, putting the Feast of Trumpets in an end-time context, the harvesting (of souls) stops, the harvest door “shuts” (Mat 25:10) and the saints are called up into the clouds to rest with the Lord. There is no mention in 1 Thessalonians of the Lord then immediately descending to earth with His saints.
Secondly, according to the sequence of the Hebraic feasts, the Feast of Trumpets is not the end of God’s timeline for this age (which sees Christ return to earth). Instead, the Feast of Trumpets is followed by the Day of Atonement, when a remnant of Israel under stress at last recognises and mourns for their true Messiah whom they pierced (Zech 12:10-14). So, as we approach the end of the age, the shofar’s of Yom Teru’ah and Yom Kippur increasingly sound like alarms, warning Israel of coming trouble and the need to repent (Joel 2:1,12-17).
The timing of the rapture is usually placed either at the end of Daniel’s Week 70 (Postribulation view), at the middle of Week 70 (Midtribulation view) or before the start of Week 70 (Pretribulation view). For reasons to be discussed, the latter view is favoured here.
Jewish Thought and Timing
The linking of the rapture to the Feast of Trumpets is also supported by Jewish thinking. In Jewish thought, the feast was said to be the opening of the gates of Heaven for the resurrection of the dead, link. Such a resurrection is referred to in Isaiah 26 verse 19 and also in 1 Thessalonians 4. In contrast, Jewish thought saw the Day of Atonement [Tishri 10] as the closing of Heaven’s gates after which there was no hope of salvation. This aligns with Jesus’ warning that there would come a day when the gospel door to salvation would shut (Mat 25:10).
Even the Jewish timing of the feast aligns with this thinking. In the Jewish calendar the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teru’ah) is actually celebrated over two days [Tishri 1-2], not one, link. This is because the start of the feast required the sighting of the new moon and the actual day this occurred was uncertain, link. So the rabbis later added a second day to this feast to make sure they didn’t miss it. Clearly, if the Feast of Trumpets is now aligned to the rapture then the actual rapture day is also uncertain. Is this the uncertainty Jesus talked about when He was referring to the “taking away” of believers (Mat 24:36-44)?
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Mat 24:36)
Jesus instructed His followers to observe signs of His return (as in the budding of Israel the fig tree), but they would not know the actual day or hour of His return.
New Testament Support for a Pretribulation Rapture
As already mentioned, each of God’s mandated feasts for His people Israel can be seen as foreshadowing an event or epoch which is part of God’s plan for mankind. For example, the Feast of First Fruits foreshadows the resurrection of Jesus and the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) foreshadows the church epoch. Similarly, the Feast of Trumpets appears to foreshadow the supernatural removal of the true church before the end of this age.
Let’s examine some New Testament support for this concept, as in 1) the sudden “taking away of believers” as taught by Jesus, 2) God’s harvesting of the earth, 3) the judgement (rewarding) of the resurrected saints, 4) the protection of the end-time saints, and 5) the absence of the church in most of the Revelation!
1: Believers are simply “taken”
Jesus taught that there would be a sudden and unexpected “taking away” of living believers from the earthly scene (Mat 24:36-44; Lk 17:26-37):
Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left
Jesus said life will be as in the days of Noah, when people were building, planting, marrying and eating and drinking until sudden judgement came upon them via the Flood. But Godly Noah and his family were taken out of normal life to protect them. It seems that life will be as today in that believers in Christ will be working alongside unbelievers without the need to have the “mark of the beast” (see later). But since such technology is virtually here, it seems the rapture is imminent!
2: The Reaping of Two Harvests
Revelation 14 refers to two “reapings”. The first one (Rev 14:14-16) describes Christ reaping the good and ripe harvest of the earth (believers). Note that the Lord does this “sitting on the cloud”, which aligns with Paul’s vision of the taking up of the saints into the clouds (1 Thes 4:17). So if the first reaping in Revelation 14 aligns with the rapture before Week 70 (Pretribulation view), there is a time interval before the second reaping (Rev 14:17-20). The latter gathers the godless of the earth to await God’s wrath. This time interval allows for the rewarding of the risen saints at the judgement seat of Christ (see below), and the brief reign of the beast of Rev 13:1 (to be discussed).
A Contradiction? Some point out that one of Jesus’ parables appears to put the reaping in reverse order; the “tares” (unbelievers) are gathered first, and the good “wheat” is gathered last (Mat 13:24-43). But note the difference to Revelation 14. First, Jesus’ parable is about the coming of the fullness of the kingdom of heaven at the very end of this age, whilst Rev 14 does not refer to the fullness of the kingdom, or to the end of the age. Secondly, both reapings in Jesus’ parable are done by angels and do not directly involve Jesus. So the two reaping scenarios seem different.
Continuing in Mathew 13, verse 48 foresees the separation of “the good and the bad” just prior to the Kingdom Age (the Millennium), whilst “the bad” are gathered to await judgement at the end of the Millennium (Rev 20:5). In contrast, Revelation 14 appears to foresee the rapture of the church, followed by a period of time to allow for the execution of God’s wrath upon the earth at the end of the age.
3: After the Rapture: The Judgement Seat of Christ
At the time of the rapture the saints are given glorified (resurrected) bodies and then judged at the Bema Seat of Christ. This is not a judgement for sin but a tribunal for giving rewards for how we have served Christ (1 Cor 3:10-15), link. Now arrayed in fine white linen, the church – the bride – is ready for the marriage of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-8). These resurrected saints form the “armies of heaven” at Christ’s return to earth (Rev 19:14).
4: God’s Protection of the True Church
Some view the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 as a timeline up to present day. But it is perhaps more usual to see all seven churches coexisting at any one time. There are just two of the seven churches whom Jesus does not criticise: Smyrna (the tested church in tribulation/martyrdom) and Philadelphia (the church with little power, but keeps God’s word). The latter is kept from “the hour of trial” coming upon the whole world:
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Rev 3:10)
Of course, there’s no neat division. So today those Christians suffering in North Korea for example – but who survive and overcome (the Smyrna church) – will surely be kept from that hour of trial alongside those of the Philadelphia church. Clearly, the prior “taking away” taught by Jesus is one possible way God can provide this protection. The true church does not experience the coming wrath of God (1 Thes 5:9).
5: The True Church is absent from most of the Revelation
After describing the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Revelation 4 starts with the command: “Come up here”. Some take this to infer the rapture. Certainly, the true church is not mentioned again until she is seen as Christ’s bride in Revelation 21. Note that it is important to distinguish between the true church that Jesus loves and the apostate church, the “ecclesiastical Babylon” described in Revelation 17.
Summary so Far
The Feast of Trumpets supports the Pretribulation View
God’s seven Feasts for Israel clearly show how Jesus interacts with the world at key times in history. And the last three unfulfilled feasts provide the bedrock for interpreting end-time prophecy. For example, the Feast of Trumpets, when enhanced by other biblical texts, supports the Pretribulation interpretation of prophecy. According to the Feast of Trumpets and the New Testament, the true church appears to be supernaturally “taken” from the earthly scene to be with Christ before the start of Daniel’s Week 70. See also the rapture.
But taking this interpretation raises the question “who are the saints mentioned in Rev 4-20?” The following study of the Book of Revelation and related prophecies provides an answer. It also suggests how the two last Fall Feasts, Atonement and Tabernacles, can be seen embedded in the last seven years of this age (Daniel’s Week 70).
The Rise of a World Dictator
In the foreseeable future a clever, proud, pompous, secular, military world dictator or ruler will arise from the “sea of mankind”. He is the “little horn” of Dan 7:8, the “prince” of Dan 9:26-27, the “king” of Dan 11:36, “the man of sin” of 2 Thes 2:3, the “lawless one” of 2 Thes 2:8, the conqueror of Rev 6:2, the beast of Rev 13:1-2 and the beast of Rev 19:20. He rises to kingship rather subtly (hence the little horn) out of the fourth and last secular kingdom to subdue Israel (Dan 7:19). According to Dan 2 and Dan 7, this last kingdom is crushing and tyrannical and appears to be a revived form of the historic, Roman Empire.
A False Trinity: Many refer to this person as the “Antichrist”. But is this biblically accurate? The first beast of Revelation 13 is given satanic authority to rule the world for 42 months or 1260 days (Rev 13:5), and he rules alongside the “beast from the earth” (Rev 13:11). But is the first beast of Revelation 13 really the Antichrist, as many assume? Some identify the beast from the earth as the real Antichrist i.e. anti or false Christ, since it is this person who points the world to the first beast (Rev 13:12), just like Jesus points the world to the Father. But, unlike Christ, it is this beast who kills those who won’t worship the first beast, and it is this beast who eventually organises the imposition of the mark (Rev 13:11-16). With this view, the beast from the sea is seen as a false god. In fact, he eventually sets himself up as God (2 Thes 2:4, Dan 11:36). So a false Christ (Rev 13:11) points to a false God (Rev 13:6), all prompted by Satan, the false Holy Spirit (Rev 13:2). That’s a satanic trinity masquerading as the true Trinity!
The Papacy is the real Antichrist
With this view, the secular world dictator of Revelation 13:1 aligns better with anti-God than with anti-Christ, and the ‘ecclesiastical’ beast of Revelation 13:11 aligns well with the Papacy and the end-time apostate church of Revelation 17. Certainly, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Bunyan, Huss, Knox, Edwards and Wesley associated the Papacy with the Antichrist, link, link and this teaching gave rise to the Protestant Reformation. Note that, like the persecuting ecclesiastical beast of Revelation 13:11, Rome has persecuted the saints for centuries (Rev 17:6) and today heads an “ecclesiastical Babylon”, a confusion of faiths (Rev 17:5) – as in Chrislam.
For this reason it it is necessary to distinguish between the true church that Jesus loves, and the apostate church so evident in the word today.
It is probable that under the beast’s 42 month (1260 day) reign the Vatican strongly influences the secular world government or New World Order. This is symbolised in Revelation 17 by a woman, the apostate church, riding the ten-horned beast. Even today the Vatican is given “observer status” at the UN, link.
The First Half of Week 70 (42 months, 1260 days)
To many this brief period may feel almost normal. There will be a degree of global stability since the nations will be under the control of a new and all-powerful world leader (Rev 13:4) and his New World Order. Today the world is looking for such a leader. He is totally Godless (Dan 11:37), blasphemes God and all who dwell in heaven (Rev 13:6), and persecutes God’s chosen people, Israel for 3.5 years (Dan 7:25, Rev 13:5-7). However, all this doesn’t seem to worry a world that has turned to Satan worship (Rev 13:4)!
The Mark: Given some degree of economic stability, a cashless society, and hi-tech banking infrastructure, it is likely the 666 mark is imposed during this relatively stable 42 month period. Certainly, a well developed global telecommunications infrastructure using large computer systems linked by satellite and optical fibre cables would need to be in place for global financial control. Such a hi-tech system will undoubtedly be destroyed once God’s judgements begin in earnest under the Trumpets and Bowls. Also, it would bring the true church under severe persecution if she was present at that time. But is she? Is the answer in the “spiritual revealing” mentioned in Thessalonians?
The Revealing of the Beast
When does all this happen? The first beast is revealed to the world when a “restrainer” is “taken out of the way”:
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed … (2 Thes 2:7-8)
Whilst some see Michael, Israel’s protector (Dan 10:21, Dan 12:1) as the restrainer, the most likely reading here is that it is the restraining power of the Holy Spirit (and by implication the presence of the true church) that is “taken out of the away”. To restrain satanically inspired evil surely requires nothing less than the almighty power and authority of God. As discussed, Jesus implied such “taking away” of the true church in Matthew 24:36-44 and Luke 17:26-37 – texts which are difficult to explain in the Post-Tribulation view.
The False Covenant with Israel
Once he is revealed as the invincible world leader (Rev 13:4) the beast of Rev 13:1 makes a seven-year covenant of peace with unsuspecting Israel (Dan 9:27). In reality, blind unregenerate Israel makes “a covenant with death” (Isa 28:15) [note that the threat to Israel from militant Islamists may have been removed through their humiliation in the coming Gog-Magog war].
So the start of this covenant probably marks the start of Week 70 (seven prophetic 360-day years), and could align with the rapture of the true church about the time of the Feast of Trumpets on Tishri 1, link.
In order to make this covenant with Israel some speculate that the beast could well be an apostate Jew. A curious phrase is used in Daniel 11:37. Speaking of the end-time world dictator, it says “He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers …”. Prior to the days of Moses, the Hebrews knew God generally as “the God of the Fathers”, and so Dan 11.37 implies he could be an apostate Jew. More on this at World Government.
Note that if the true church was still on earth at this revealing and the setting up of the seven year covenant, the saints would be able to date the time of Christ’s Second Coming to earth. But since that time is not revealed in scripture, this implies the true church as been “taken” i.e. raptured from the earth before the start of Week 70.
The Tribulation Saints
Revelation chapters 7, 13 and 14 describe end-time believers who suffer under the reign of the beast.
The Saints in Revelation 7
According to the Pretribulation view, when Jesus gathers His church in the clouds the so-called Church Age closes and “the door is shut” (Mat 25:10). The true church has been “taken” to be with Christ. But if the church has been taken away at this point, who then are the believers in Christ seen in Revelation 7?
I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations … who come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:9,14)
These must be new believers in Christ who have come to realise the satanic nature of the New World Order. After all, the sudden removal of millions of believers and the sudden appearance of a prophesied world leader will surely make millions think! They will have the end-time prophecies to compare with reality and many will become believers.
How do they come to Christ? In the absence of gospel proclamation by the true church, it appears it is left to Israel to serve in her place. After all, Israel is God’s chosen witness and servant in the world (Isa 43:10). It appears that 144,000 chosen from the twelve tribes come to know their true Messiah and are sealed to serve God as evangelists to the world (Rev 7:3-8, Rev 14:1-5). A similar event happens at the start of the Millennial Age when saved Jews evangelise the Gentile world (Isa 66:19). As a result, a great multitude of people from all nations comes to recognise Christ through Israel’s witness, link, link.
The Saints in Revelation 13
Revelation 13 describes a 42 month (1260 days) world dictatorship under the beast of Rev 13:1. This is the first half of Week 70. Since the beast’s nature is “anti-God” he persecutes anyone, Jew or Gentile, who worships God and His son, Jesus (Rev 12:13-17). In fact, he eventually destroys the apostate church headed by the Vatican for the same reason (Rev 17:16). So during his 42 months of authority the beast wages war against any believers in Christ:
It was also given to him to make war with the saints (the holy ones) and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe and tongue and nation. (Rev 13:7)
Commentators generally agree that these are true believers in Christ, and so they probably correspond to the great multitude of new believers described in Revelation 7. But being young in the faith some appear to try and resist through armed conflict (war), but will be captured and killed (Rev 13:7,10). War is not God’s way, and today’s persecuted believers (over 260 million across the globe) tend to suffer rather than fight. Likewise, it seems that during these 42 months many new believers refuse to take the mark and worship the beast, but also refrain from fighting. Consequently they are killed (Rev 13:15). This is their “great tribulation” described in Revelation 7.
The Saints in Revelation 14
Is this the last gospel call of the age? As discussed, the 666 mark of the beast will probably be introduced during the first half of Week 70. The eternal consequences of taking the mark are so serious that God tries once more to warn rebellious mankind. In the absence of the true church, this time God sends three angels flying in mid-heaven (does this refer to satellite gospel broadcasts?). The first angel preaches the plain gospel and warns that judgement is imminent. The second angel says that the economic and ecclesiastical “Babylons” are about to fall (Rev 17 and 18). The third angel gives a strong warning not to worship the beast and his image, or to receive his mark on their body (Rev 14:6-11).
Whilst most appear to reject this call to repent (Rev 16:9), many of the new believers described in Revelation 7 appear to heed the angelic warnings. As just discussed, they reject the mark and suffer martyrdom (Rev 14:12,13).
The Middle of Week 70
The opening of the First Seal (Rev 6:1) and the vision of an angry conquering king (the first beast of Revelation 13) probably corresponds to the middle of Week 70. His permitted 42 months of reign has been declared over by the heavenly court (Dan 7:26) and the next 42 months or 1260 days will see a decline in his dominion, the start of world economic breakdown, and the intensification of God’s judgements. Man’s ecclesiastical and economic Babylons will soon fall (Rev 17 and 18). At this point in time many new believers may have been removed from the world economic system (via the need for the mark). But those remaining are told to escape such an evil system (Rev 18:4), link.
At mid-Week the beast turns on Israel and breaks his seven-year covenant with her and abolishes the Jewish sacrifices (Dan 9:27, 11.31). His subsequent actions closely follow the actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Dan 8:9-14) who desecrated the Temple in 168 BC. Antiochus was the archetype of the beast of Rev 13:1. So at some future date:
Forces from him [the beast] will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. (Dan 11:31)
Although not immediately apparent in this text, there is a time interval between the Temple desecration (mid-Week) and the setting up of the abomination of desolation:
From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. (Dan 12:11)
Jesus refers to this abomination in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14. At the end of 1290 days (1260 + 30) from the taking away of sacrifices, the forces of the beast set up the “abomination of desolation” in the Temple. What is this abomination? It could be when the beast takes up his seat in the Temple, declares himself to be God, and demands to be worshipped as God (Dan 11:31, Mat 24:15, 2 Thes 2:4), link. That act is surely an abomination in the sight of God. Alternatively, it could be that the image of the beast is set up in the Temple and has to be worshipped (Rev 13:15). This is another clear abomination.
The Last Half of Week 70 (Rev 6-19)
The last half of Week 70 is again a time of great tribulation for the new believers (Rev 7:14). Not only have they been targeted by the beast in the first half of Week 70; they also experience increasing world chaos as God’s judgements intensify through the Seven Trumpets and Seven Bowls of God’s wrath. Note that the fifth, sixth and seventh trumpets are described as “woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth” (Rev 8:13). So, whilst the seventh trumpet looks to the removal of the kingdoms of the world and the establishment of God’s Kingdom, it also heralds one last “woe” as it looks to the coming bowls of wrath (Rev 11:18).
The Beast Wages War
As mentioned, at the opening of the First Seal (Rev 6:1-2) the angry beast is given a crown by Satan (Rev 13:2) and rides a white horse like a king. He has a “bow” and, threatened with a disintegrating world empire he starts to wage worldwide war, resulting in widespread famine and death. It seems 25% of earth’s population dies (Rev 6:8). And, as in the first half of Week 70, new believers are martyred for their faith (Rev 6:11, Rev 12:17).
God Judges the World: Seals, Trumpets and Bowls
The Sixth Seal sees the first of God’s judgements upon the world through dramatic and frightening cosmic disturbances (Rev 6:12-17). The “great day of His wrath has come”. This again underscores the concept of the prior “taking out” of the true church since she is assured that she does not come under God’s wrath (1 Thes 5:9). So the true church will probably not be on earth during the Seals.
The Seventh Seal (Revelation 8) is a prelude to the Seven Trumpets. Each trumpet brings more of God’s wrath upon rebellious mankind. As noted, whilst the Seventh Trumpet gives a promise of God’s coming Kingdom, it is not the end of God’s wrath. Rather, it is the third and last “woe” (Rev 11:14) and brings “lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail” (Rev 11:19). Then follows God’s seven Bowl Judgements which “complete the wrath of God” (Rev 15:1).
The Final Day of Atonement
Israel’s Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur falls on Tishri 10, between the Feast of Trumpets [Tishri 1] and the Feast of Tabernacles [Tishri 15-21] (Lev 16:1-34, Lev 23:26-32). It is a time for “afflicting the soul” (Lev 23:27) and so is a solemn day on the Jewish calendar. The detailed Hebrew ceremony for Atonement is found in Leviticus 16.
Unlike the first four of Israel’s feasts, all three of these feasts are as yet unfulfilled in the prophetic sense; they are future events. But, as discussed, the Feast of Trumpets appears to align prophetically with the rapture, and is the next major event on God’s seven-point plan for mankind. After that comes the final Day of Atonement (which may occur just days before Christ returns to the earth). So how might the last Day of Atonement be fulfilled?
Note that the last half of Week 70 (42 months or 1260 days) is extended by 30 days, after which the “abomination of desolation” is set up in the Temple (Dan 12:11). Jesus said when the Jews in Judea see this they are to “flee to the mountains” (Mat 24:16). Why? Because this marks the start of extreme persecution of the Jews, also known as “Jacob’s trouble”. The trouble is the worst ever seen and those days have to be shortened to preserve a remnant:
Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he will be saved from it (Jer 30:7)
Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued (Dan 12:1)
Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short (Mat 24:22)
These three texts refer to the same short period of distress. Jeremiah calls it Jacob’s distress or trouble. It seems that after another 45 days these terrible days come to an end (Dan 12:12).
Who are “the Elect”?
In Matthew 24:22 Jesus refers to “the elect”. An alternative reading is “chosen ones”. So if the true church has been taken, who are the elect? A direct cross-reference here is Isa 65:8-9 which refers to “My servants … My elect”. God chose Israel to be His servant, so Matthew 24:22 probably refers to God’s people, Israel, and not to Christians. God has always preserved a remnant of His people despite some 2500 years of persecution. So these tribulation days of Israel are shortened to preserve a Jewish remnant. This conclusion is underscored in Daniel 12:1 which refers to the tribulation of “your people”. So since Daniel was a noble Jewish youth of Jerusalem, his people were Jews.
Some expand “the elect” to include not only Jews (the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Simeon) but also Israelites from the so-called Lost Tribes of Israel. According to prophecy, Israelites descended from the northern kingdom (Israel) are even now being drawn back with the Jews to their homeland (Jer 3:14, Jer 30:3). And it seems all are being drawn back in unbelief.
So according to prophecy, some from the northern kingdom, together with the Jews (Dan 12:1) could be “the elect” who suffer great tribulation during the last Day of Atonement. That said, note that it was the Jews, the men of Judah, who crucified Christ, whilst most of the other tribes had already been scattered.
Jews Mourn and are Saved
So let’s return to the question: “How is the final Day of Atonement fulfilled?”
At the end of this age the nations are satanically deceived and drawn together for “the battle of the great day of God Almighty” (Rev 16:12-16). They gather on the great plain of Megiddo in northern Israel, but their objective is Jerusalem (Zech 14:2). At the same time Christ returns to earth with the armies of heaven to defend Jerusalem. So this is a unique man-God war (Rev 19:19), with the world dictator (the beast) and his armies arrayed against Christ and His armies.
The return of Christ is highly visible, just as lightening strikes from the east to the west (Mat 24:27). And so the Jews in Israel see Him too as they come under great suffering (Zech 14:2). This traumatic time seems to open the eyes of the Jews such that they at last recognise Yeshua (Jesus) as their true Messiah. Of that day the LORD says:
I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him … and grieve for Him … (Zech 12:10)
Note that Zechariah 12:10-14 is essentially referring to clans of Judah i.e. Jews. These are the tribes of Judah, Levi and Benjamin who were taken into exile and later returned. After all, it was the Jews and not the other tribes who crucified the Lord. During this terrible time there will be great mourning in Jerusalem. But, as mentioned, these days are cut short when Christ returns to earth with his armies of resurrected saints and the beast’s armies are defeated (Rev 19:11-21).
These are the days when “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rev 6:11), enabling the “partial blindness of Israel” to be removed:
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Rom 11:26-27)
At last Jesus’ feet stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4) and His Kingdom comes in all its fullness upon earth (Dan 7:27). Jesus will then be “King over all the earth” (Zech 14:9)
The Binding of Satan
Many link the final Day of Atonement to the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3, link. This can be seen in the Hebrew Atonement ceremony involving two goats (Lev 16:8-10). The first of the two goats is killed (a parallel with Jesus death) whilst the second goat, the Azazel goat, is paralleled with Satan since it is seen as unclean (bound with sin) and sent into the wilderness (Lev 16.20-22,26). So Christians view the Day of Atonement as the foretelling of Jesus’ sacrifice. He became the sacrifice and scapegoat for all who call upon Him.
The Resurrection of Tribulation and Old Testament Saints
Just as the true church appears to be resurrected at the close of the so-called Church Age, what about the tribulation saints? Consider:
I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or on their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Rev 20:4)
When does this resurrection take place? According to Hebraic Feasts, the dead in the LORD will rise again after the last shofar blast, which is the long, final and mighty blast at the very end of Yom Kippur, link. It is on Yom Kippur that the great trumpet, known in Hebrew as the Shofar HaGadol is blown, link. The concluding service of Yom Kippur, known as Ne’ilah, link, has been described like this:
“At nightfall the sound of the shofar blowing of the tekiah gedolah, a long blast, resounds around the synagogue for the last time as heaven’s gates are closing”
So these covenant people, Israel, were taught by God that it is at the very last trumpet (shofar) blast on the last Day of Atonement that their resurrection will happen. It is interesting that Paul, a Jew, could be referring to this same end-time event when he said:
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Cor 15:52, emphasis added)
The sounding of a great trumpet at the end of the age is also described in Isaiah 27:12-13 and Matthew 24:31.
According to both the Old and New Testaments it seems that the martyrs of the tribulation will be resurrected at the very end of the last Day of Atonement when Christ returns to earth. In other words, the resurrection of the tribulation saints occurs at the commencement of the Millennium, link.
The same goes for the resurrection of Israel’s past saints. They will rise at the same time as the tribulation martyrs (Rev 20:4) at the end of Israel’s great tribulation, link, link. For example, Daniel appears to foresee this resurrection:
There will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time … many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake … (Dan 12:1-2, emphasis added)
The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)
This is the seventh and last of Israel’s biblically mandated feasts and it completes, prophetically, God’s declared plan for mankind on this earth. It is held in the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, starting on Tishri 15 and lasting for seven days (Lev 23.34).
Historical Background: Sukkot means “booths” and it commemorates the time when Israel lived in tents or booths as they came out if Egypt. So it commemorates the historic transition of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt to sovereignty in the Land of Israel, and is a feast of joy and celebration following the harvest.
Prophetic Implications: Sukkot foreshadows the in-gathering or harvesting of the saints (Rev 14:16) and the Millennial reign of Christ. During the Millennial or Kingdom Age the Lord establishes His great Tabernacle in Jerusalem (Isa 60:13, Ezek 43:7). Sukkot is one of the feasts that is a “statute for ever”, and so during the Kingdom age the nations of the earth go up to worship Christ the King in Jerusalem, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech 14:16).
The LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Isa 52:10)
The prophetic implication of Sukkot goes even further. Note that the week of Sukkot is followed by an eighth day (Lev 23.36). The 8th day (also a Sabbath rest) has great significance. Number 8 symbolizes the start of something new – a new beginning. It foresees the new heavens and new earth and the New Jerusalem (Isa 65.17). The 8th day is preceded by the great white throne judgement of those who do not have their names written in the Book of Life (Rev 20:11-15). Only those who’s names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enter the New Jerusalem.
All seven “Feasts of the LORD” found in Leviticus 23 are centred upon Christ. Given to the nation of Israel at the time of Moses, they foreshadowed how Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua) would intervene in world affairs at times chosen by God. They point to events, or epochs, when God enacts His plan for mankind on this earth. So they apply to both Jew and Gentile – and that includes the church! Bible prophecy adds detail to this fundamental God-defined framework.
Jesus has accurately fulfilled the first four feasts, up to and including the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Today the world is between Pentecost and the fifth feast, the Feast of Trumpets. Some call this epoch the Church Age or Age of Grace. The Feast of Trumpets appears to foreshadow the “taking away” of the true church into the clouds to be with Jesus before God judges the world (1 Thessalonians 4). Some call it “the rapture”.
The short epoch (probably just 7 years) that follows the Feast of Trumpets sees the most traumatic times of history. It seems that after the rapture many turn to Christ and suffer persecution under the beasts of Revelation 13. Towards the end of the 7 years, these “tribulation saints” are joined by a suffering Jewish remnant who at last recognise Yeshua as their true Messiah. God calls this Israel’s “Day of Atonement”. The birth pangs of this short but terrible epoch are seen in the relentless drive towards the cashless society (a technological requirement for the imposition of “the mark of the beast”). It all ends when God’s wrath is poured out upon the rebellious, Godless nations, as described in the Seals, Trumpets and Bowl Judgements of Revelation.
The Good News
The true church appears to be kept from earth’s “hour of trial” (Revelation 3). In fact, for all deemed worthy the seventh and last feast (the Feast of Tabernacles) ushers in the Kingdom reign of Christ on earth. Some call this “the Millennium”. So are you ready for Christ to call you up into the clouds before such traumatic times start and before the gospel door “shuts”? Jesus said:
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21 verse 36, NKJV)
The Hebrew Calendar and the Prophetic Year
There is a distinct difference between the years and months of the Hebrew calendar and the years and months mentioned in Bible prophecy. For example, the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation are based upon 30-day months, whilst the Hebrew calendar has variable length months.
The Hebrew Calendar Year
The Hebrew/Jewish calendar is based on the cycles of the moon (God explicitly commanded His people to celebrate the New Moon and the beginning of each month). So each of the twelve calendar months begins with the new moon, and each month is specified to be 29 or 30 days long, link. Now, even if all months were 30 days long, this would only lead to a 360 day year, compared to our solar year which is actually 365.2422 days long (and our lunar month is 29.531 days).
To compensate for this discrepancy, periodically an extra month (a “leap month”) is added to the Hebrew calendar to catch the Hebrew Lunar Calendar up to the cycles of the sun. So Jewish time reckoning is really “lunisolar” (and rather imprecise) and the calendar year can range from 353 days to as long as 385 days, link.
Importantly, the Hebrew calendar determines the dates for observing the Feasts of the Lord. So, the actual date of each feast varies from year to year, link.
The Prophetic Year
In contrast to the Hebrew calendar, the Bible uses 30-day months and 360 day years. This applies from Genesis to Revelation. For example, the Flood waters of Noah started on the 17th day of the second month (Gen 7:11) and increased (prevailed) for 150 days (Gen 7:18,24). After 150 days the Flood mechanisms ceased, the waters started receding and the Ark rested on Ararat on the 17th day of the seventh month (Gen 8:3,4). Aligning this “resting” with the end of “prevailing” gives a 150-day time span over exactly 5 months. So here God (and presumably Moses) used 30-day months and a 360-day year.
Another example is found in the Book of Esther. The book begins with a six-month long drinking feast given by King Ahasuerus. And in verse 4 it is described as lasting 180 days, again implying 30-day months. These events happened in the 5th century BC.
A Mystery: Historically there is evidence that many early civilisations also used a 360-day year, link. Look at the Mayan Calendar for example. Even Isaac Newton acknowledged that early nations used a 360 day year. Only later did it seem necessary to add extra days, link. One theory is that the need for extra days could be explained by a slight slowing of earth’s orbit speed around the sun, from 30.22379 km/s to its present value of 29.79 km/s, link. This would change the solar year from 360 days to the current 365.2422 days.
The 360-day Year in Prophecy: Leaving the science on one side, the fact is that God still uses a 360-day year in the future. Consider for example the end-time persecution of Daniel’s people (the Jews) under the World Ruler. Daniel 7:25 says that the Jews will suffer under him for “time and times and half a time”. It is usual to read this as three and a half years or 42 months. Revelation 13:5 confirms the period of authority of this despicable Ruler as just 42 months. Now look at Revelation 12:6. Here Israel is helped during this persecution for 1260 days. This aligns with the forgoing prophecies if we assume 42, 30-day months (=1260 days) and a 360-day year.
Conclusion: To understand Bible prophecy it is necessary to adhere to this timing, and not to the Hebrew calendar. Only time will tell if earth’s solar year suddenly returns to 360 days at the end of this age!