So, it’s been a terrible week, and a wonderful week. Who hasn’t been jarred by the split-screen views contrasting the exultant speeches at the Jerusalem embassy’s opening, with the mayhem on Israel’s border, and the horrible living conditions in Gaza? Who hasn’t stared in horror at the footage of wounded on stretchers?
I didn’t plan to talk about Gaza this week, but it’s the proverbial “elephant in the room” you can’t not talk about.
I would like to make a few points that I feel get overlooked in the coverage. Although it’s easy and convenient for the progressive media to blame Israel, there are many factors behind the horrible no-win situation of the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank.
For a fiery first-hand perspective on this from a Palestinian, please see this video:
During the years that Israel controlled the Gaza Strip, a consistent effort was made to get the Palestinians into permanent housing. The Palestinians opposed the idea because the frustrated and bitter inhabitants of the camps provided the various terrorist factions with their manpower. Moreover, the Arab states routinely pushed for the adoption of UN resolutions demanding that Israel desist from the removal of Palestinian refugees from camps in Gaza and the West Bank. They preferred to keep the Palestinians as symbols of Israeli “oppression.” – Jewish Virtual Library
The PA has received billions of dollars in international aid and yet has failed to build a single house to allow even one family to move out of a refugee camp into permanent housing. Given the amount of aid (approximately $5.5 billion since 1993) the PA has received, it is shocking and outrageous that more than half a million Palestinians are being forced by their own leaders to remain in squalid camps. – Jewish Virtual Library
The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby—and the AP wouldn’t report it. (This happened.) Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it. (This also happened.) Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying. (This too happened; the information comes from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of these incidents.)… To offer another illustration, the construction of 100 apartments in a Jewish settlement is always news; the smuggling of 100 rockets into Gaza by Hamas is, with rare exceptions, not news at all.
What’s the bottom line here?
“My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” (Is 46:10)
Tragically for them, the Palestinians have become the flashpoint around which prophecy is being fulfilled:
“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.” (Ps 2:1-6)
Apparently the Lord has no issue with recognizing Jerusalem… as the seat of His soon-coming King! The refugees in Gaza may repeat a narrative about the “right of return” to their villages, but make no mistake: at the end of the day it’s about Jerusalem and its glorious destiny.
But now to my planned topic for this week–because Divine Appointments (moedim–מוּאדם) don’t wait!
Timing, timing, timing. It’s fascinating to me that these things are also happening on top of an historic and prophetic Feast of the Lord: Shavuot, a.k.a. Pentecost, which Christians and most Jews will celebrate this weekend (although there is some debate about the exact date of the Biblical feast). And also on top of the opening of Ramadan (which happened on Tue May 15 this year), when jihadist violence typically increases. (Please pray!!! There are 30-day guides to pray for the Muslim world during this period here and here.)
This post continues the Divine Appointments: Insights from God’s Calendar series, which focuses on the Feasts of the Lord. It’s actually my second post on Shavuot / Pentecost. You’ll find the first one here.
Here’s a brief recap. Shavuot comes fifty days after what we call the Feast of Firstfruits, which is the feast on which Yeshua’s resurrection occurred. In Jewish tradition, Shavuot commemorates the day God revealed His law to His people and they covenanted to obey it. (Ex 24:7) To be set apart for Him. In the ancient Talmud,
But as always, these shadows and copies in the Hebrew Scriptures find deeper expression in the new covenant!
Please excuse me while my engineer shows for a minute.
Aren’t these parallels amazing? To me, God’s Feasts always demonstrate how unquestionably He is God!
God delivered a people out of Egypt, but it was through the commandments that He established a nation, a community set apart unto Himself through whom the world would see the one true God. – Rabbi Jonathan Bernis
Similarly, through His death and resurrection Yeshua delivered His people from sin. But it took His gift of the Holy Spirit to make us His body, His church.
In Torah, Shavuot was a harvest festival, where the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented in the Temple. And also one of the three pilgrim festivals, which all Jewish males were required to attend. Which explains why a great multitude was present from “every nation” when the Holy Spirit was given in Acts 2.
But wait… firstfruits? Didn’t we do the Feast of Firstfruits seven weeks ago?
Well, that’s a very interesting point. Yes, seven weeks ago we talked about the third Feast, which we call the Feast of Firstfruits. But that Feast was for the barley harvest. Shavuot was for the wheat.
In fact the Hebrew spring and summer involved a procession of firstfruits (ביכורים—bikkurim) celebrations, which would go on until the “Feast of Ingathering” (Tabernacles).
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:20)
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation [between the courts in the Temple], having abolished in His flesh the enmity… so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross….” (Eph 2:14-16)
To me, the emergence of Messianic Judaism and this “one new man” is one of the most exciting things God is doing in our day!
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Cor 15:20,23-24)
Do you see it? This is so exciting! Just like there’s an order to these presentations of firstfruits, there’s an order to the resurrections. Christ first, as symbolized in the waving of the (unleavened) sheaf and the sacrifice of the (unblemished) lamb at the third feast. Then His body, as symbolized in the waving of the two leavened loaves at Shavuot!
This is one of the key reasons some scholars believe the Rapture will occur at Shavuot. With everything going on in Israel right now, in the midst of their seventieth year, with the Ezekiel 38 war apparently in the offing, could this be the year?
Of course it could. We’ve been put on alert in so many ways. Here’s my personal top four list.
But regarding this business of firstfruits, we’re not done…
The mitzvah of bikkurim (first fruits) began when a farmer in Israel (and some of the surrounding areas) would go out to his field and find budding fruit, and tie a reed around them, verbally declaring them “first fruits.”… Wealthy people would use trays of gold and silver, and simple folk would use baskets of grass and reeds…. Villagers of each region would gather [periodically] in a central town…. An ox with horns coated in gold would lead the procession, a crown of olive branches on its head…. A flute was played before the procession until it approached Jerusalem…. All of the artisans in Jerusalem would stand and greet them: “Our brethren, the inhabitants of so-and-so, you have come in peace.”
The seven species of ancient Israel.
Barley, wheat, grapes, figs,
pomegranates, olives, dates–all
would be presented in the Temple
as “bikkurim.” (Stamps from 1958)
And this is also exciting! If the waving of the first fruits of the barley harvest represents Christ’s resurrection, and the waving of the twin loaves at Shavuot represents our resurrection, whose resurrection do these first fruits of the other crops represent?
Check this out:
Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads…. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. (Rev 14:1,4)
These 144,000 Jewish tribulation saints have been marked, like the crops for the bikkurim observance, and stand in the heavenly Temple as firstfruits.
We see them twice. The first time, they are accompanied by the “great multitude” of tribulation saints “which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” (Rev 7:9).
Here’s what strikes me. These saints who come out of the tribulation–the 144,000 and the “great multitude”–are the mid-summer firstfruits.
The procession of firstfruits offerings ended prior to the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Ingathering. At that point all of the harvest had been gathered in. (“…the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.” Ex 23:16.)
So look at this parallel. What happens in Revelation 14, pretty much immediately after we see the 144,000 for the second time, now standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb (Rev 14:1)? Answer: the “harvest of the earth” (Rev 14:16).
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped….
And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. (Rev 14:14-19)
To put it a little differently, after the 144,000 Jewish tribulation saints appear as “firstfruits” with the Lamb in the heavenly Temple on Mount Zion, the Ingathering begins.
So here’s the picture:
So Shavuot is a picture of our blessed hope!
…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… (Titus 2:13)
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thes 4:15-17)
This episode with marking and separating the righteous prior to a period of harvest recalls another tragic passage in scripture. In Ezekiel 8, the prophet is given a vision of men and women, even the very “elders of the house of Israel,” given over to idolatry. The Lord declared His people had “filled the land with violence” (חָמָ֗ס–hamas)–yes, those are the same words used in Genesis 6:11 before the flood.
What happened next in Ezekiel’s vision?
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark….” (Ezek 9:3-6)
As in the book of Revelation, the righteous remnant was marked prior to the reaping, which in this case was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.
But as we’ve seen again and again, what happens in the Hebrew Scriptures foreshadows events in our age. “As in the days of Noah” (Luke 17:26, Gen 6:11), and as in Ezekiel’s day, the earth today is filled with violence–חָמָ֗ס–Hamas! And with Ramadan cranking up, I fear we haven’t heard the last of Hamas, and of the nations raging against God and against His redemptive plan for “the holy hill of Zion.” (Ps 2:6)
“Sixty years ago when I first started preaching, you had to scratch around like a chicken to find one sign of the Lord’s soon return. But today there are so many signs I’m no longer looking for them. Instead, I’m listening for a sound—the sound of a trumpet!”
– Elbert Peak at a Bible prophecy conference in the early 1990’s, as quoted by David Reagan
Brothers and sisters, come to Yeshua for salvation NOW, before the tragic reaping. While you can still meet Him in the air as a “firstfruit offering”!
He stands at the door and knocks! (Rev 3:20)
Would you rather meet Him as Kinsman Redeemer or as Righteous Judge?
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.