FIRST POSTED ON 15 OCTOBER 2019.
Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!
In this and the next podcast, we will outline the common prophetic narrative running through the messages of the Old Testament Prophets:
First, the Prophets warned Israel that God would soon discipline and exile His people - by Israel, I am referring collectively to both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and Judah existing then. Instead of worshipping and trusting in God alone to protect the nation, Israel chased after the idols of its neighbours and relied on external political alliances for its survival. There was division and infighting within and between the two divided kingdoms, as well as widespread corruption and social injustice. Most of all, Israel had forsaken its mission as God’s lesser light to the world. As the end approached for these two kingdoms, there was widespread deception and many false prophets emerged who misled the people by promising peace or at most a short exile, instead of repenting of their sins and turning back to God.
All that the Prophets foretold eventually came to pass during the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. This pattern of discipline and exile would take place again to Israel under the Romans in Jesus’ time after they rejected Him, an exile that would last almost 2,000 years. Although Israel has been reborn since 1948 in fulfilment of prophecy, it is currently a secular nation and will once again come under God’s discipline during the Tribulation (“time of Jacob’s trouble”) before it finally acknowledges Jesus as its Messiah.
As mentioned before, the warnings of the Prophets also apply to the Church. We saw earlier how Christians were - and continue to be - taken into spiritual exile and slavery as it were by apostasy and corruption within the Church. The condition of the Church will only grow worse as we near the end. Like Israel, the Church is equally guilty of breaking the commandments to love God and man. There is widespread idolatry, division, infighting and injustice. Even today, many Christians are held captive by oppressive human doctrines and superstitions, while others suffer real persecution. Yet those who are spared for now, like their Jewish brothers in the past, remained caught up with materialistic pursuits during this brief period of peace and prosperity and forgot their core mission to be God’s light to the world. Instead of heeding God’s Rhema which is being proclaimed even now and repenting, their ears itch for the lies of false teachers promising endless “blessings” of health, wealth and happiness. They ignore warnings of the coming persecution and exile that will be God’s means to discipline and refine His people until it is too late.
That the prophets should first reprimand their own countrymen is not surprising. In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter spoke of how God’s judgment would begin with his own household. But the Prophets also recognised and declared God’s sovereignty over and ultimate judgment of His enemies. It was God who stirred up the ancient empires - from Egypt, Assyria and Babylon to Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome - as well as Israel’s pagan neighbours to act as His instruments to test and discipline His people. However, when their time was up, God would in turn bring about their eventual judgment for their wickedness and cruelty. The words of the Prophets were all fulfilled with the judgment and fall of every single one of these empires, the last being the Roman Empire in 476 AD.
Now, there are many passages in the Old Testament concerning Israel and its enemies that have yet to be fulfilled. As we near the end of the Sixth Day of Creation and Jesus’ soon return, we can expect all these remaining prophecies to come to pass. We are told, especially by the Prophet Daniel, that a demonic kingdom of man will emerge to try to destroy and replace God’s Kingdom on earth. Like its predecessors, this revived Roman-Babylonian Empire will come against Israel as it rallies many nations behind it in an attempt to rule the world. We already see the beginnings of this happening on the global stage. Its ultimate goal is to lead a worldwide rebellion against Christ Himself.
And just like how the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel tried to strike deals and compromises with their neighbours and enemies alike instead of running to God, modern-day Israel and the increasingly Apostate Church will do likewise with the nations of this world and ultimately with this evil empire itself. As with these two kingdoms, there will be a brief period of false peace, a lull before the storm. I draw this connection between the past and future because these two kingdoms are prophetic of modern-day Israel and the Church. Let me explain. The nation of Israel has usually been associated with Judah alone, because it was the exiles from Judah that returned from Babylon to resettle the Promised Land. Judah can also be said to be the legitimate kingdom, the true Israel of God, because it is home to Jerusalem and the royal line of King David and Jesus. The Church meanwhile is an ingrafted kingdom like the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Just as God tore away the ten tribes of Israel from Solomon’s son and gave it to Jeroboam, God tore away the kingdom from the Jews and gave it to the Gentile nations for a season. As we saw much earlier, this “mystery” of the Church was prophesied long ago by Jacob and will remain in effect until the “fullness of the Gentiles” have come in.
Now, for many of us, especially among the Protestant Churches, the idea that the Church will turn apostate and depart from God, like the idolatrous Northern Kingdom of Israel, is very hard to accept. Isn’t the Church the eternal Bride of Christ? At most, we believe that it must refer to some other “Church” and not our own - in fact, we won’t even label them as true churches at all. But that is precisely it. These institutional branches of the Church - the same earthly universal Church that we are all a part of - have become deformed to the point that we don’t even recognise them as belonging to the Body of Christ. But as the end draws nearer and darkness grows, so will the remaining branches of the Church suffer the same fate as the disease and rot of apostasy set in. It is only the true believers and children of God regardless of which church they come from, who will be made ready - often through the fires of apostasy and persecution - for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. This is the mystery of the end-time Church - Mystery Babylon as described by John in the book of Revelations.
As we end this section, in God’s Kairos, this satanic kingdom will eventually betray its true colours. The false promise of world unity and peace will turn out to be a lie as division and war looms. This evil empire will turn against Israel and the Apostate Church and war against rival nations, as it strives to put its mark and authority on all mankind. As it crumbles and falls in its own wickedness, it will make a last ditch attempt to invade and destroy Israel, setting the stage for the next pivotal scene - to be continued in our next podcast.
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