When there is increased interest in the bible subject of prophecy, Christendom becomes interested in looking for signs in the world. Many believers, spurred on by so-called prophecy teachers and ministries, go into detective mode, finding messages from God in nature and science, while not holding the necessary respect for God’s word and the biblical principles God Himself placed there. I believe the ministry bears the brunt of responsibility here, both the ones who enter into these games of conjecture and the others who, not properly understanding biblical principles, fail to disprove the undisciplined and contrived speculations. Both are a level of failure in being taught the word of God by the Spirit of God, that is, being taught the things of God by the Spirit of truth, which all true believers have received and been sealed with (I Cor. 1:20 – 2:16).
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God…but he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
It is not that God doesn’t want believers to study prophecy and understand it. Why would there be so many prophetic passages found in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament, if God doesn’t intend for those given His Spirit to understand them? Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) And He adds that He had to go away so that the Holy Spirit would be sent, whose ministry in part is to reveal and teach us all these things given to Jesus by the Father (John 16:7, 13-15). But none of this is ever extra-biblical. All God’s revelation for us is contained in His word. The Spirit will never teach us anything not found in God’s word and fully supported by it. This is where the discipline is needed – we must always resist the temptation to go beyond God’s word. We have to be careful about the exaltation of human intelligence. Isn’t this what God calls human wisdom? And by human wisdom man cannot know God (I Cor. 1:21) – now there’s a bible principle to hold on to.
For some believers the seeking for signs turns into a fixation and fascination. If we don’t see signs, we may even go to the point of manufacturing them on our own, especially when it comes to the area of personal guidance. Many Christians simply can’t get the hang of being led by the Spirit. Many haven’t been settled in their salvation to the point where they are convinced they even have the Spirit, being sealed by God with the Spirit. Being led by signs in our personal walk is a lot easier. We can see signs, the Holy Spirit we cannot see. Being this way we would tend to impose these thoughts on the subject of prophecy. We want, even greatly desire, to see something. In our study we begin to look for prophetic events, and are excited when we believe we see or discover their fulfilment.
This isn’t really anything new for Christendom. Constantine tells us he saw a sign in the heavens before battle, and by this the Roman empire was eventually Christianized (a condensed version of events, but the result nevertheless). Putting aside questions concerning Constantine’s vision, and believe me I can think of many worth asking, we may reason this was a good thing overall. Maybe we should believe that God placed a sign in the clouds for Constantine? It certainly diminished the amount of state run persecution of Christians going on in the years following. However, others would say this was when the church stopped being poor and despised outwardly, but spiritually rich inwardly (in the midst of persecution and martyrdom – Rev. 2:8-11). They would say this event led to the whore of Babylon climbing up on the Roman beast, exerting her influence over the beast in the place where she commits her adulteries and fornications with the kings of the earth (Rev. 17). The outward presence of Christendom has an intoxicating influence over the inhabitants of the earth (Rev. 17:2).
Go back to our discussion of outward signs: In Romanism there must be confirmed signs or miracles for canonization of saints. The professing church has always had its holy relics of veneration, duplicating their forms for marketing and sale, or encasing them in glass for display, and charging admission fees to enrich its coffers. It is as if there is a certain amount of magic contained in these objects and idols. Does anyone remember the selling of indulgences? All very reputable stuff. What might we uncover if we took an honest look at the history of Christendom? What does God really think about these endeavors?
But I digress. Our topic is the four blood moons. These are known dates in which lunar eclipses may be viewed in certain parts of the world sometime in 2014-15. Some Christians perceive these as prophetic signs from God, and point to Joel’s prophecy quoted by Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost – God saying, “I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord.”
Let’s go right to the biblical principles that I feel Christians should have in mind when considering such things. The first principle relates to the differing character of the two religions in question – Judaism and Christianity. Paul tells us an important character trait of Jews and Judaism when he says, “For Jews request a sign.” (I Cor. 1:22) This is not the only place where this feature is implied – please see Josh. 4:6, II Kings 19:29, 20:8, Ez. 24:19, Matt. 12:38-39, 16:1, 4, 24:3, 24, 30, Luke 2:12, 34, 11:16, 29, 30, 21:7, John 2:11, 18, 30, 3:2, 4:48, 6:30, 7:31, 10:41, 11:47, 12:18, 37, 20:30. Also the story of Gideon and his fleece (Jud. 6:17-21. 36-37).
But it is not just these passages. What is the character of Judaism? Is it not a walk by sight? Is it not a religion for the physical senses? Carnal ordinances, washings to purify the flesh, a cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, tabernacle furniture, constantly repeated bloody sacrifices, the blowing of trumpets, an ornate temple beautiful for the eye to behold. God gave Israel a religion suited to the senses. Why? Because the Jews were only ever man in the flesh, man in Adam, and their religion had to be properly suited to the flesh. God was testing man’s fallen nature to see if man in the flesh could have a relationship with a holy God. Israel was this test case. Judaism is the one religion God gave to man in the flesh. It was God’s religion for the world as the world exists. The demand for signs is part of Judaism and part of man’s fallen nature. Therefore the Jews demand a sign!
Christianity is entirely different than this. Paul tells us the character trait of the Christian is that “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Cor. 5:7) At the end of the previous chapter Paul says this:
2 Corinthians 4:18 (NKJV)
“…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
If we have a walk by faith, we can know what faith is:
Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Again we see the phrase “things not seen.” So we aren’t looking for signs from God. And if we talk about things hoped for, as in Christian hopes, then Paul gives us the character of hope:
Romans 8:24-25 (NKJV)
“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
All these verses speak of the true character of Christianity and the believer. And looking for signs or following after signs simply doesn’t fit in. It can’t be pleasing to God. Look with me at this example and the distinction that is emphasized by the Lord Himself:
John 20:26-29 (NKJV)
26 “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The true character of the church is “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Thomas, and for that matter all eleven disciples, believed because they saw Jesus raised from the dead. That represents the character of the end time Jewish remnant. They will believe by looking upon Him whom they have pierced (Zech. 12:10). They will believe by seeing Him, in the same manner as Thomas and all the original disciples (I Cor. 15:3-7).
The present dispensation should be labelled the kingdom of heaven in mystery (Matt. 13:11). This would be its accurate title. Christendom exists as the crop in the field based on a profession of faith in the absent Son of Man (Matt. 13:24-30). He planted the wheat and went away. The wheat are the sons of the kingdom who together form the true church as the treasure hidden in the world (Matt. 13:44). Yet we know the believer is not of this world (John 15:19, 17:14-16). Also then, Christianity is not God’s religion of the world like Judaism. Where Judaism is for man in the flesh and man in Adam, Christianity is the believer in the Spirit and “in Christ,” the second Adam (Rom. 8:8-9, I Cor. 1:30, 15:45-47). The Jews request a sign, while the true Christian walks by faith. Israel has an earthly calling, while the believer has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). The Jews are of the world and the earth, only their religion builds a wall up around them, separating them from the Gentile nations. The church has a heavenly citizenship and will be seated in heavenly places “in Christ.” These are the principles that we should all be familiar with.
Should we be looking for blood moons? The real question is should we start walking by sight? Here is another biblical truth and principle we may become familiar with – the rapture will take the church to the Father’s house in the heavens (John 14:1-3). It is called the blessed hope of the church (Titus 2:13). Israel was set aside after they rejected their Messiah when He was sent to them. If Israel is set aside by God, then prophecy has been set aside, because prophecy is about Israel. We should know, and this is true because of these principles, that there is no prophetic event and its fulfilment that ever stood between the inception of the church and its removal from the earth. There is no prophecy that needs to be fulfilled in order for the church to be caught up to meet the Lord. Prophecy has been set aside while the church remains on the earth. The body of Christ is the mystery of God hidden from prophecy. That is why Paul included himself among the living when he described the rapture:
1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NKJV)
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
This was true for Paul and the Thessalonians in the first century. It remains true for believers today. There is no prophetic event between this moment and the Lord Jesus coming for His bride. The rapture has always been an imminent expectation. This is the proper doctrine. Since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, leaving no stone upon another, there hasn’t been any prophecies fulfilled (Matt. 24:2). All we’ve had is what men have conjured in their minds. We are living on the earth during the time of the mystery. The church is not found in prophecy. We see this clearly in Daniel nine. Here the prophecy counts time relating to the Jews and their city (Dan. 9:24-27). When Messiah is cut off and has no kingdom, the Romans come and destroy the city (v. 26). Then there is a suspension of time and prophecy. It simply skips over the church and restarts at the end of the age. The church must be taken out of the way in order for God to turn back and deal with Israel. The church must be removed in order for God to judge the world – think of the principles discussed above. Then time and prophecy will begin again.
The wisdom of God in Scripture was that the body of Christ, the church, is the mystery of God hidden from prophecy – it is hidden from Old Testament scriptures (Eph. 3:1-11, Rom. 16:25-26). The gathering of the church could not begin until the Holy Spirit was sent (I Cor. 12:12-13). The Holy Spirit could not be sent until Jesus went away and was glorified (John 7:39, 16:7). The revelation of the mystery, along with all its proper doctrine, was dependent on waiting for these events. The revelation of the mystery could not be known until the Spirit was sent, for the Spirit is the one who revealed it (Eph. 3:3-5). Paul is given the stewardship of the knowledge of the mystery, and this, as the last revelation, actually completes the word of God (Phil. 1:24-27).
It shouldn’t be hard to understand that Paul, given the responsibility of this revelation, given the stewardship of this knowledge, is the only one who teaches the doctrine of the body of Christ. None of the others – Peter, James, or John – ever use either terms “the body of Christ” or “the church” in their writings. We find the term twice in Matthew’s gospel, but this is Jesus speaking prophetically of it. Peter gives an allusion of it (I Pet. 2:4-5), but that is all. Paul was given the responsibility to teach the doctrine of the church. As such, when Paul teaches the rapture of the church, it is part of the mystery (I Cor. 15:50-52, I Thess. 4:13).
It is the wisdom of God in Scripture that delay was never to be taught, that is, Jesus returning for His bride, to catch the church away, and take her to the Father’s house. As I said above, the proper view of the rapture of the church is that it was always to be held by true believers as a constant and imminent expectation. It must be viewed this way for the doctrine to have its proper sanctifying influence. Yet if we are waiting for prophetic events to be fulfilled, we are automatically introducing delay. But we don’t see Paul doing this when he taught the Thessalonians saying, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up…” He never mentioned waiting for the sign of blood moons.
Here is the important difference. Do you see delay being taught in Scripture?
Luke 12:34-37 (NKJV)
34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
When the thought of delay enters in there cannot be the constant imminent expectation. But the proper understanding of the doctrine of the rapture itself excludes delay. Then it will have its proper sanctifying effect, as all Scripture should – as a believer, how would you behave if you knew the Lord was coming for us tonight? Does the bride prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom? Not if she knows or thinks there is delay. Look at this moral outcome connected with the thought of delay found in this same chapter in Luke:
Luke 12:45-46 (NKJV)
45 “But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”
Are we looking for blood moons? I believe that is somewhat beneath the believer. What I am looking for is the Lord to come tonight and catch us away. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” May we always be able to say without hesitation, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”