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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Act of God? You Decide

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What I am about to share is too big to keep to myself.  A few weeks ago I set out to write the article below which I called “Times, Seasons, and 6,000 Years.”  I was compelled to blog on this subject after reading the first chapter of Mark’s gospel in my Greek New Testament.  When I read verse 15, I thought to myself, “What time/season had been fulfilled?”  Immediately I remembered the late Risto Santala’s observation of the three two-thousand-year “seasons” he discovered as he studied the ancient Hebrew writings.
Before you scroll down into the blog (my conclusion will be found highlighted about a dozen paragraphs into the blog below), you need to know that what I experienced as I was writing the blog is more important than the blog itself.
So please hear me out.  I decided to start the article by referencing Risto Santala’s work, and pointing out the difference between specific time and the Greek word that is used for “times” or “seasons.”
I was typing away, and copying and pasting until I worked my way down to the place where I would insert the 15th verse from Mark.  Then I began to type “That season which had been fulfilled was most likely that 2,000 year season called the Days of Elijah.”
As I finished typing “the Days of Elijah,” something astonishing happened.  I realized that I was hearing these words spoken as I typing them – exactly as I was typing them!  When I typed “the” I heard “the.”  When I typed “days” I heard “days.”  When I typed “of” I heard “of.”  And when I typed “Elijah” I heard “Elijah.”  These words where absolutely synchronized.  But I didn’t realize that I was hearing the words as I typed them until I was nearly finished typing “Elijah.”
Now let me tell you what happened.  We have an internet radio player in our office.  It plays a wide variety of Christian music from the past three decades.  A song had begun to play that I had not heard before on this station, nor or have I heard it played since.  Because I was concentrating on my writing I had completely tuned out the radio.  So as the brief instrumental introduction of the song began I didn’t notice it any more than I would have heard a clock ticking in the background.  By now you have probably figured out that the song was none other than “These are the Days of Elijah.”  As I typed the last letters of “Elijah” I realized what I was hearing as I typed.
Immediately I called a fellow office worker over to show him what had just occurred.  So within 10 seconds, while the refrains of the first verses were still playing, he was looking over my shoulder as I showed him the words I had just typed.  As we shared in amazement over this divine confirmation, I corrected my sentence.  I was so certain that Jesus Himself had confirmed my conclusion that the sentence was changed to, “That season which had been fulfilled was that 2,000 year season called the Days of Elijah.”  For me, “most likely,” was no longer applicable.
So what does all this mean?  I have shared my true experience.  So let me share my conclusion.  Seasons of approximately 2,000 years do exist, and God has spoken to man about their existence from ancient times.  Jesus began His ministry announcing that the Days of Elijah were concluded, which simultaneously initiated the Days of Messiah.  And lastly, since Jesus made the declaration almost 2,000 years ago, the end of this age is at the door.   I also believe that these deductions are ones that the Lord knew in advance that I would make based on this miracle of timing which He arranged to confirm the truth of the 6,000 year time of man’s kingdom on earth.
Please share this miracle with anyone who has any doubt about the Lord’s times and seasons.  You can link to my blog or just copy and paste this article freely.
May you walk in the light so that the Day will not come upon you like a thief.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Chris Steinle

Times, Seasons, and 6,000 Years

“Then the Pharisees and Sadducee's came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.  He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites!  You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” – Matthew 16:1-3
The Greek word used here for “times” is καιρῶν (pronounced kairōn).  The Apostle Paul said that Christians should be knowledgeable about times and seasons. Καιρὸς (kairos) is the Greek word for season, or a measure of time.  Both of these words from the ancient manuscripts are derived from the Greek word for time – χρόνω (chronō).  Our English word chronology comes from this Greek root.
The observation of seasons has suddenly become very important to me after finding out that the ancient Hebraic seasons had names and were about 2,000 years in duration.  In the Hebrew traditions these three seasons totaled 6,000 years, and were equated with the six days of creation.
Risto Santala, who died just last year, was an international authority of ancient Hebrew writings.  He was the author of the well known books: “The Messiah in the Old and in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings”, and "Paul The Man and the Teacher in the Light of Jewish Sources".  I picked up his book about Paul on one of my trips to Israel, but I didn’t get around to reading it until last year.  Many of the Pauline Epistles express concepts found in the ancient rabbinical writings.  As I was reading about Paul, I was taken by surprise when the author inserted several paragraphs expressing Santala’s own eschatological conjectures.  These were primarily based on the Hebrew 6,000 year doctrine.   I found these quotes from Risto’s website which state the basic assumptions of this ancient Hebraic doctrine.
[“The tradition of Elijah teaches that the world is to exist for six thousand years; In the first two thousand  desolation; in the next two thousand the Torah will flourish and the next two thousand are the days of the Messiah but on account of our sins, which were great, things turned out as they did.” - Sanhedrin 97a
It was essential to this traditional expectation that the sovereignty of the Torah -- the Law of Moses -- would last 2000 years, the same as that of the Messianic period. In the same far-ranging discussion from which the above citation is taken we find, in explanation, that:
"The seventh millenium will be war, and at the close of the millenium the Son of David will come". - Sanhedrin 97b
In the discussion which follows mention is made of "The war of Gog and Magog and the remaining period will be the Messianic era, whilst the Holy One, blessed be he, will restore his world only when the seventh millenium is over.
This so-called "Elijah Tradition", which represents the understanding of the majority of the Sages, brings to mind the mainstream Christian teaching of the Last Days and the Millenial Kingdom. When six millenia have passed, there will follow, according to some, a thousand-year Sabbath, shabaton. This could be the "Messianic era" after which the "world" will be renewed.][]
Risto Santala isn’t the only Biblical scholar who has relied on the ancient rabbis.  Irenaeus of Lyons lived about a hundred years after John and was instructed by John's disciple, Polycarp.  Irenaeus wrote extensively during the late second century in order to battle the onslaught of false teachers.  Fortunately he not only discredited false doctrines, but he also recorded what was believed universally by the true Church of his day in order to present sound and true doctrine.  In Volume 5 of Against Heresies Irenaeus states some of the eschatological views held by the Early Church.
["He says also: "And he will cause a mark [to be put] in the forehead and in the right hand, that no one may be able to buy or sell, unless he who has the mark of the name of the beast or the number of his name; and the number is six hundred and sixty-six,"that is, six times a hundred, six times ten, and six units. [He gives this] as a summing up of the whole of that apostasy which has taken place during six thousand years."
"For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: "Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works." This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year."

"But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that "many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."]
Obviously the Early Church continued to base their eschatological doctrines on the foundations laid by the Jewish scholars.  So now let’s see how the 6,000 year doctrine lines up with the Bible.  About the Hebrew year 4,000, Jesus came proclaiming “ὅτι πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ” (The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. – Mark 1:15)
The time has been fulfilled - καιρὸς.  Jesus spoke in other places about the Scriptures being fulfilled, joy being fulfilled: and Paul wrote that the law had been fulfilled.  But here in Mark, Jesus says the time (a measure of time, or season) has been fulfilled.  That season which had been fulfilled was that 2,000 year season called the Days of Elijah.  (Remember, the first 2,000 year period was the time of desolation, or, the Days of Wilderness.)
Today we are just finishing up the Days of Messiah – the third 2,000 year period.  Those who believe creation is billions of years old cannot fathom that man’s time upon the earth is about to come to an end.  But those who believe the Bible understand that only scoffers refuse to acknowledge the coming Catastrophe.
“. . . knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” – 2nd Peter 3:3b-7
Seasons do change.  It’s a God thing.  Today we live around the Hebrew calendar year 6,000 – the time of the end of man’s kingdom.  Experts have determined that the popular Hebrew calendar date is off by over two hundred years.
Jesus spoke of this final 2,000 year season in His Olivet Discourse.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? (καιρῷ)  Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.” - Matthew 24:44b-46
No man knows the hour.  But we can, and are expected to, know the season.  And the type of food that is needful in the final season is not the same as the food that nourished the Church in prior seasons.  Jesus announced the gospel of the kingdom at the onset of the Days of Messiah.  But now the time (season) has come to announce the end the kingdom of man.  God does not continue to affect the world in the same way from one season to another.  God refers to the people who believe that everything will continue “just as it has from the beginning” as mockers.
Isaiah 28:22-29
“Now therefore, do not be mockers,
Lest your bonds be made strong;
For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts,
A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.
Give ear and hear my voice,
Listen and hear my speech.
Does the plowman keep plowing all day to sow?
Does he keep turning his soil and breaking the clods?
When he has leveled its surface,
Does he not sow the black cummin
And scatter the cummin,
Plant the wheat in rows,
The barley in the appointed place,
And the spelt in its place?
For He instructs him in right judgment,
His God teaches him.
For the black cummin is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
Nor is a cartwheel rolled over the cummin;
But the black cummin is beaten out with a stick,
And the cummin with a rod.
Bread flour must be ground;
Therefore he does not thresh it forever,
Break it with his cartwheel,
Or crush it with his horsemen.
This also comes from the Lord of hosts,
Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.”

God’s messengers who are on the same page with God will be found feeding His flock with a message that fits the season.  But the mockers that believe God is taking His time will not be watching, and they will not be preaching a timely message.
But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying (χρονίζει - chronizei) his coming, and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 24:48-51
The evil servants were saying in their heart that the master would not come for a long time.  “In their hearts” indicates that these evil servants didn’t think that their master would return soon, and so they held a relaxed attitude and began to act as if they were their own masters.  That is why they began to beat the other servants and put them under their own submission – in effect, taking the place of their master in his absence. They believed that they could take their ease because it would be a long time before anything changed.  And these are the ones who, in the future, will be caught off guard at His coming; “at an hour that he is not aware of”.  Jesus was warning His servants not to ignore the changing of the seasons.
St. Paul reiterates the distinction between those who know the seasons, and those who continue to proclaim “peace and safety”.
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.  For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.  For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.  But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.  You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” – 1s Thessalonians 5:1-6
Both Jesus and Paul condemned the people who are not ready for the end of the final 2,000 year season.  They say, “Peace and safety”.  They will be unwittingly overtaken.  Jesus refers to them as evil servants.  This is difficult to understand because any true servant of the Lord would not be condemned with the unbelievers, as is portrayed in Jesus’ illustration above.  Maybe Jesus is merely using strong language to make a point.  That point being - that when the signs of the times line up with the timeline of Biblical history, good servants will be found feeding the people with the right food.
The peace and safety message is not the proper food for this season.  The pre-trib teachers may not be putting their sheep to sleep on purpose.  But nevertheless, their followers are behaving as if all things will continue just as they have from the beginning.  They blow the signs of the times off, as if they were irrelevant.  And they are far from being ready for a real-life end of the world as we know it.  They will be overtaken as a thief, because they have been taught that being “overtaken” is equivalent with the rapture – that being overtaken is a good thing!
Jesus said those servants who ignored the seasons would be cut in two and appointed a portion with the hypocrites where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  So if the Day of the Lord comes upon you like a thief, you’ve got a big problem.  Woe to those servants who are found preaching that everything will continue just as it has from the time of the fathers, right up until a pre-tribulation rapture.  But those who are found feeding the flock with a timely message will be blessed.  Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.” -  Matthew 24:47
Our gospel today is the same gospel that Jesus proclaimed; “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”  But today we proclaim the fulfillment of a different season – the fulfillment of the Days of Messiah.  So the tone of the message must express the reality that ancient and reliable measurements place our generation at the end of the last 2,000 year season – the end of the age of man.  Because Jesus came at just the right time – right at the 4,000 year mark, we have every reason to believe the events of the Tribulation will begin at the 6,000 year mark – at any moment.
And the call to action is the same call that has been heralded from the beginning.  “Repent and believe the gospel of God.”  And that gospel tells us that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day.  And all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Those who believe in Son of God have laid hold of eternal life.
But continuous comfort in this world is not part of the promise.  In fact, that attitude of the heart will be judged when the Master comes.  The stark reality is that persecution, war, famine, and plagues are among the sorrows that the world will face shortly.  It is time to build ourselves up in our most holy faith so that we might be able to stand in the evil days that will ensue before the Lord returns.
The Lord is coming soon - and very soon!