Between 85-90 A.D. a twelfth petition of the Amidah (“standing prayer’) was added to exclude Jewish believers from the synagogues. In 132 A.D. the Bar Kochba revolt began against Rome. Rabbi Akiva declared Bar Kochba the Messiah, and the Jewish believers could not accept this and refused to fight for him. As a result, they were totally excluded from the Jewish community and were labeled as “Minim” (heretics). This group will be called the Nazarenes and the Ebionites and they will continue to thrive, observing the commandments and believing in Yeshua for several hundred more years. However, they were isolated from the Jewish community (no more God-fearers).
Modern day Christianity began to emerge following the Jewish revolt in 70 A.D. This group became very antisemitic and to be against the Jews was seen as “patriotic.” The Romans never accepted the Jews and after a terrible war with them, you can understand their feelings on this. It was like how America felt towards the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Nero burns Rome and blames it on the Christians, and along with this early Christian movement came Replacement Theology. But the Jewish believers (Nazarenes, the Way, etc) will continue to follow the Torah. The God-fearers disappear about 66 A.D. and we don’t have a group of non-Jews who are not a part of the God-fearers at this point.
However, after 66 A.D. the group of non-Jews that develop will be antisemitic and it will have a Replacement Theology mindset (God has replaced Israel). They will only read books that are being written currently, not the Tanak (Old Testament). They borrowed and merged over time pagan festivals, concepts, customs and beliefs and that has been passed down over the centuries. So, with all that said, let’s go back to the Jewish Model of the Natzal (Rapture).
Gen 1.14 says that the sun and the moon are for “signs and seasons.” Lev 23.1-4 says the festivals (“Modai”) of Yehovah are to be proclaimed as “holy convocations” (“Mikai Kodesh”) and “these are my festivals” (“moedim”). Convocation in Hebrew does mean to gather, but it also means “proclamation” but a proclamation of what? God will use the festival ceremonies and Scriptures to convey his eschatological plan. Moed/Moedim means “appointed times.” Now, an appointment for Israel to be at a certain place, at a certain time by performing certain ceremonies and liturgies.
These festivals are appointments and rehearsals for the Messiah to come and to fulfill his mission with a certain people (Israel), at a certain place, at a certain time by performing certain things. The seven festivals of Lev 23 are Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits of the Barley (Waving the Omer), Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Teruah (Day of the Awakening Blast of the Shofar, also known as Rosh Ha Shanah), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Booths).
Yeshua was slain on Passover, buried on Unleavened Bread, resurrected on First Fruits and the Ruach Ha Kodesh was sent to empower the eschatological congregation on Shavuot. These are called the Spring festivals and appointments. As Israel celebrated these festivals as commanded in the Torah, Yeshua had an appointment to literally fulfill these according to God’s plan of salvation and redemption. In like manner, Yeshua will fulfill the three remaining fall festivals which teach about his second coming, as we shall see later.
There are other seasons associated with these festivals. The one we will be concerned with in this study is the season of Teshuvah (repentance) which starts on Elul 1 and goes 40 days to Yom Kippur on Tishri 10. There are special psalms, Scripture readings, prayers and the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn) for these 40 days, including Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur. This concept will apply to our subject. Another concept to remember is that in 1 Chr 28.11-19 it says that God gave David all the plans for the Temple services, called the Avodah.
Around 50 A.D. Paul wrote his first letter to the Kahal at Thessalonica. The letter was sent to both Jews and God-fearers who believed Yeshua was the Messiah. These people kept the moedim of God (festivals) and obeyed the seasons of the Jewish people. 1 Thes 4.13-18 is our passage about the Natzal (Rapture). 1 Thes 5.1-2 tells us that the “times” (festivals) and seasons (of the Jewish calendar) have been taught to the God-fearers in Thessalonica. This book (and others) are written in the terms, phrases, idioms and concepts of the festivals concerning the coming of Yeshua. That is the key to understanding the Natzal (Rapture) and when it occurs.
Now we are going to look at the Natzal (Rapture/gathering) from a Biblical perspective and Jewish thought. We know that Paul taught the times and seasons as we have said above (1 Thes 5.1-2), so let’s loo at the concept of biblical time.
Time began in the Book of Genesis “in the beginning” or “Bereshit” (the Hebrew name of the book). Yehovah created the days, weeks, months and years. The first day of creation was Tishri 1, year 1. This was the original “head of the year (Rosh Ha Shanah) and we will establish this. The sun was placed in the heavens on the fourth day. The sun will be used as a picture in the Scriptures for the Messiah. Man was created on the sixth day, Tishri 6, and the first Sabbath was the seventh day, Tishri 7.
There is a concept called “The World Week.” We learn from the Jewish Encyclopedia in an article called “Eschatology” that in Jewish eschatology there is a “World Week” of seven, one thousand year periods that correspond to the week of creation. Psa 90.5 says, “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday.” This suggests the idea that the “present world” (Olam Ha Zeh) is to be followed by a 1000 year period called the Olam Haba or “World to Come.”
During the week of creation we have six days, and then the Sabbath. This is a picture of a 6000 year period followed by the Sabbath of God, or Lord’s Day. That period is what some call the Millennium. The Day of the Lord was a popular topic with the Biblical Prophets and a future day of judgment (Yom Ha Din). This term denotes two things. It was the time when Yehovah judged the earth with devastation (Gen 19.24; Exo 9.23, 11.4, 12.12; Josh 10.11). It was also used by the prophets in an eschatological way to speak about the time when God’s justice is visited on his enemies and the time when his people are saved, delivered and victorious. In other words, the Day of the Lord was a time of doom for the enemies of Israel and a time of salvation for the people of God. The Day of the Lord is a picture of the one thousand year Sabbath of God.
The article in the Jewish Encyclopedia says, “It cannot be denied, however, that these Hasidean or apocalyptic writers took a sublime view of the entire history of the world in dividing it into great world epochs counted either after empires or millenniums, and is seeing its consummation in the establishment of the Kingdom of the Lord, called also in order to avoid the use of the Sacred Name, the Kingdom of Heaven. The prophetic goal of human history at once lent to all struggle and suffering of the people of God a higher meaning and purpose, and from this point of view new comfort was offered to the saints in their trials. This is the idea underlying the contrast between the Kingdoms of the powers of the earth and the Kingdom of God which is to be delivered over at the end of time to the saints, the people of Israel (Dan 2.44, 7.14,27). As may be learned from Tobit 13.11, 14.6 and from the the ancient new years liturgy the ‘conversion of all creatures to become one single band to do God’s will’ is the foremost object of Israel’s messianic hope; only the removal of the ‘kingdom of violence’ must precede the establishment of God’s kingdom. This hope for the coming of the Kingdom of God is expressed also in the Kaddish and in the eleventh benediction of the “Shemoneh Esrai” whereas the destruction of the Kingdom of Wickedness first found expression in the added (nineteenth) benediction (afterward directed chiefly against obnoxious informers and heretics.”
So, we find from all these Jewish sources, whether it is the Tanak, Mishnah, Talmud, the Liturgy (daily prayers) or the Apocrypha (additional Jewish writings) preceding and including the time of Yeshua, and the Pseudopigrapha. All of these Jewish sources will overlap and talk about the Jewish concept of time.
People were taught about this coming “Millennium” but it is referred to as “the Day of the Lord” or the “Sabbath of God.” They key is God set up time in order to communicate messages to us. Did the Lord need a week to create the universe? No, he could have done it in six seconds, six years or six million years. God id telling us something by doing it in six days, and then having a Sabbath day. However, we cannot go from our American or European concept of time, we have to go back to a biblical concept of time.
In Part 6 we will pick here as we look deeper into God’s concept of time. This will relate to our study of the Natzal (Rapture/gathering).