Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 3 – The Restoration of Israel
by Gerald R. Thompson
ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
Dan. 8:11-14 (summary) – The regular burnt offering was taken away from the Prince of the heavenly host, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”
Dan. 9:27 (summary) – The Antichrist will stop Jewish sacrifices and offerings, and then commit the Abomination of Desolation in the temple of God.
Dan. 11:31 – “Forces from him [the Antichrist] shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.
Dan. 12:11 – “And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.”
Mat. 24:15-28; also Lk. 21:20-28 (summary) – When Jerusalem is surrounded by armies, then its desolation is near. The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel will come, and then there will be great tribulation unlike any before or after in history. For the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short. False Christs and false prophets will arise. Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled.
2Th. 2:4 (summary) – The Antichrist (man of lawlessness) will take his seat in the temple of God and proclaim himself to be God.
We have mentioned the Abomination of Desolation many times, but have not yet defined it. The Abomination of Desolation is something that is always mentioned in the context of a desecration of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. An abomination is something shameful: something that is immoral and/or disgusting. Desolation means to make something empty, uninhabited and deserted. In the context of the temple, it implies that it will be laid waste in a shameful or immoral way.
For the desolator, it implies that the proper resident of the temple (God) and the caretakers of the temple (priests) have been displaced and overthrown. For the Jews, it means the temple will be made unclean, the laws of God violated, and a false god will occupy it.
The prophecy of the Abomination of Desolation is a classic example of a “double fulfillment” prophecy, being mentioned in both the O.T. and N.T., and having both a past and a future fulfillment. The past fulfillment was still future when the prophecy was written, but it is long past for us today. (No, I don’t think the book of Daniel was a forgery written in the second century B.C.)
The past fulfillment concerns the actions of one Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a regional king who ruled from 175 – 164 B.C. over the Syrian section’ of Alexander’s empire, which included Jerusalem. Antiochus killed 40,000 Jews and sold 40,000 more into slavery. He robbed the temple of all its treasures (gold and silver implements, etc.), placed an idol of the Greek god Zeus in the sanctuary, sacrificed a pig (an unclean animal) on the altar and spread its blood around the sanctuary, and even forced the Jews to worship Bacchus, the Greek god of pleasure and wine.
Antiochus further prohibited the reading of the scriptures and forbade the practice of circumcision which God commanded to Abraham. And, he stopped the daily sacrifices in the temple on December 25, 167 B.C. for a period of three years. Sacrifices resumed when Antiochus died in battle in 164 B.C.
I have not read anywhere that Antiochus sat in the temple and proclaimed himself to be God there, but he did have coins of the realm minted with his portrait on them along with the inscription, “God Manifest” (referring to himself).
Antiochus IV certainly did commit a type of Abomination of Desolation in the Jewish temple. However, no period of either 1,290 days or 2,300 days as Daniel prophesied can be correlated with him. No historian has ever shown how these time periods would apply to Antiochus IV.
Additionally, when Jesus talked about the Abomination of Desolation in Mat. 24:15, He treated it as a future event in the context of the sign of His returning and of the close of the age. He specifically referred to Daniel’s prophecies about the event as something that hadn’t happened yet. And at the time Jesus spoke, Antiochus IV had been dead for 194 years. So the Abomination of Desolation cannot have been completely fulfilled in the past.
Also be careful not to associate the Abomination of Desolation with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. It’s true the temple was laid waste due to its complete destruction, but nothing Emperor Titus did can be reckoned as stopping regular sacrifices mid-way through a peace treaty or cease-fire, and he did not sit in the temple and proclaim himself to be God. Remember, this was the second time the temple had been destroyed (the first was in 536 B.C. by the Babylonians), and that event had nothing to do with the Abomination of Desolation either. Destruction does not equal Abomination. Additionally, the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus (Mat. 24:2), not Daniel’s prophecy.
Which means that when 2Th. 2:4 tells us the Antichrist will take his seat in the temple of God and proclaim himself to be God, this must yet be a future event. And as mentioned earlier, this can hardly happen unless there exists a Jewish temple in the future which he will desecrate.
Do not be like the scoffers who will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2Pe. 3:4. Just because the rebuilding of the Third Temple hasn’t happened yet, and just because it doesn’t look possible now, doesn’t mean it won’t happen exactly as God has predicted.
Rev. 7:1-8 (summary) – Four angels are standing at the four corners of the earth (presumably representing north, south, east and west) holding back the four winds of the earth that are about to blow. Another angel comes from the rising of the sun, having the seal of God, and calls to the first angel, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” Then John heard the number of those to be sealed – 144,000 “from every tribe of the sons of Israel.” Then, each tribe is listed, with 12,000 coming from each tribe.
Rev. 14:1-5 (summary) – Jesus is standing on Mount Zion, and with him are the 144,000 “who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” John hears a voice from heaven, sounding like the roar of waters, loud thunder, and harpists playing harps singing a new song before God, the four living creatures and the elders. “No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” The 144,000 are described as virgins (“not defiled with women”), they follow the Lamb wherever he goes, they have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God, and no lie was found in their mouth “for they are blameless.”
We have seen in this Part 3 how God will restore Israel, regather the Jews, usher in a Golden Age and in all probability provide for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple which will, at some point, be desecrated. Now we will get a glimpse of how God is going to begin the process of turning the hearts of the Jews towards Him during the Tribulation. In fact, the 144,000 will be sealed and turn to Christ in all likelihood at the very beginning of the Tribulation, because we are told they will be sealed before the earth or the sea or the trees are harmed by the judgments of the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, or 7 bowls.
We have in Rev. 7 and 14 the account of 144,000 bond-servants of God who will follow the Lamb wherever He goes, selected evenly from the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. These two texts refer to the same group of people: in each instance, there are 144,000 people sealed by God on their foreheads and acting as His bond-servants. These cannot be different groups of people.
The difference between the two texts, and the reason they are separated by several chapters, is that we have a before and after picture of the 144,000. In Rev. 7, we see the 144,000 when they are called by God and first set apart near the beginning of the Tribulation. In Rev. 14, we see the 144,000 triumphantly standing with Jesus after the Tribulation – because only after the Second Coming will Jesus stand on Mt. Zion. What happens in between is more implied than overtly stated, but they are all probably going to die.
Why Are They Sealed?
The scripture doesn’t say what the 144,000 will do, or what their function is, except to say that they are firstfruits to God and the Lamb. Rev. 14:4. Since all of the 144,000 are Jewish, this strongly suggests that the 144,000 will be the first among the Jews to turn their hearts to Christ, and this will happen during the Tribulation itself. This is what I view as the first phase of the restoration of Israel.
Logically, it implies that the rest of Israel will not turn their hearts to God at this time, but will follow after the Tribulation. I mean, the firstfruits have to be first. This correlates with what we have already indicated about the spiritual renewal of the Jews during the Messianic Era (a/k/a the Golden Age, i.e., the Millennium).
The concept of firstfruits is a common one in scripture. The concept applies to the first reaping of the harvest, the first produce collected each season (oil, wine, honey, etc.), and the first born son of every family. In each case, God regards the firstfruits as the strongest and the best, and He regards it as due to Himself (as an offering).
Two quick examples: 1) Cain and Abel – Abel brought the first born of his flock and the fat portions; Cain only brought “fruit of the ground” – no firstfruits, no choice portions. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Gen. 4:3-5. 2) The tenth plague – when God struck down the first born of Egypt, He took away their firstfruits. Ps. 78:51; 105:36.
There are also spiritual firstfruits. Paul referred to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the firstfruits of the Spirit. Rom. 8:23. Jesus is referred to as the firstfruits of those who will rise from the dead (because He was the first to do so). 1Co. 15:20, 23. For this reason Jesus is also called the firstborn of the dead. Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5. The early Christians were called the firstfruits of those who believe (because they were first). 2Th. 2:13; Jam. 1:18. And so we have here the firstfruits of Israel – the first to turn their hearts to Christ.
Popular culture and some commentators assume the 144,000 are evangelists whose mission is to gain converts during the Tribulation, but this is not stated anywhere in the text, nor is it to be implied. There are a couple of factors mitigating against it. I have already mentioned that scripture elsewhere indicates the Jews in general will not turn their hearts to Christ until the Messianic Era. In addition, it would be strange for God to pick 144,000 Jews to evangelize the Gentiles – it doesn’t make any sense – unless you discard the idea that the 144,000 are actually Jewish (see below).
True, there are numerous scriptures in which it is promised that Israel will be a light to the Gentiles (i.e., the nations). Lk. 2:32; Acts 13:47; and Isa. 42:6, 49:6, 60:3. But Israel as a nation won’t be a light to the nations until the Second Coming. Ah, but some will say, the 144,000 are that light. Except the Bible never says this. I have heard some argue the Tribulation Saints, because they are mentioned in Rev. 7:9-17 – verses immediately following the first mention of the 144,000 – are meant to signify that their conversion was a result of the activity of the 144,000. Except the Bible doesn’t say that either. Read into it what you want, but I don’t see the connection.
So if the 144,000 aren’t going to evangelize the Gentiles and the Jews aren’t going to convert, as it were, they probably won’t evangelize anyone. Although, it is possible they could share the gospel with the Jews and no one will believe as a result. It wouldn’t be the first time in history such a thing has happened.
What I expect will happen is that the 144,000 – whether they openly evangelize or not – will be well known in the world. They will be visibly marked by God, their presence will be public and most likely spread around the world, and will probably cause a stir in Jewish circles as a result. So even if no one converts at the time, there will be a strong collective memory of the 144,000 when the survivors of the Tribulation enter the Millennium.
When Jesus returns, the Jews will draw upon this collective memory, and put it together with a recognition that Messiah has come. This will cause the Jews to then turn their hearts to Christ en masse shortly thereafter – phase two of the restoration of Israel. See Rom. 11:25-29; Isa. 66:7-9.
The fact that God seals the 144,000 with His name on their foreheads suggests a protective measure. Protection against what? Certainly, the judgments God inflicts on the earth during the Tribulation. In other words, God will not harm these people while He is punishing others around them. Rev. 7 clearly indicates the 144,000 are sealed in order to be protected from the four winds of the earth that are about to blow destruction. The four winds that are under the control of God and sent by Him.
Apparently this includes protection from the torture of the locusts of the 5th trumpet, which are only allowed to torture those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Rev. 9:4. Since scripture makes no reference to any group other than the 144,000 of Israel as having the seal of God on their foreheads, Rev. 9:4 probably refers to them. We can also infer that if the locusts can torture anyone other than the 144,000, there may not be any other Christians alive at this time.
We don’t know how long the 144,000 will remain on the earth, but we can fairly imply God is not going to immediately take them up into heaven. They would not need to be protected from God’s judgments if they are going to immediately leave. No, they are sealed because they are going to stick around at least for a short while and need protection during that time. It is simply their job to pave the way for the regathering of the Jews.
But the implication seems to be that the 144,000 will nevertheless not live securely or in safety. Notice the text never says how long the 144,000 will be on the earth. Their time may be very brief.
The question is whether the 144,000 will also be protected from being killed or tormented by the Antichrist and forces aligned with him. Some commentators take the fact that the 144,000 will stand with Christ on Mount Zion as evidence they will survive the Tribulation unharmed. Since the sealing of God is a protective device – designed, apparently, to be an obvious counter-sign to the mark of the beast – this is a possibility.
But the immediate impact of having the seal of God on their foreheads – a very visible sign they won’t be able to hide – will be to mark them as anti-Antichrist. It will be equivalent to having a target painted on their backs. The followers of the Antichrist will know exactly who these 144,000 are, and target them for elimination.
By referring to the 144,000 as being purchased or redeemed from the earth, Rev. 14:3-4 confirms this possibility. That is, they will pay a blood sacrifice by their own deaths at the hands of others in the same sense that Jesus purchased our salvation, i.e., martyrdom.
If this is true, then when the 144,000 stand on Mount Zion with Christ, it most likely refers to a post-first resurrection event. But the text is simply not clear on this point. The one thing we do know is that the 144,000 signify God isn’t done with Israel as a nation yet, even in the Tribulation. That’s why the 144,000 are not part of the Church or any Protestant sect – these are truly Jews for Jesus.