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The Three Final Gatherings: One if by Land, Two if by Sea and Air (Part 1)

You have heard it said that there was a big bang in the beginning, but I tell you it is the end that begins with a bang. Specifically speaking, the end of this age will commence at the sound of a trumpet blast and a great shout, a command from one who gathers his troops for battle. At this time there will be war under the banner of "peace." The kingdom of God will be at hand, and there will be the merging of realms, the unveiling of a false king and, ultimately, the return of Israel's true King and rightful Heir of all the earth (Ps. 2:6-9; Rev. 5:5).

In two separate posts, I will present a birds-eye view of three major gatherings to occur at the end of the age. Just as the U.S. military has three theaters of operation (Army, Navy, Air Force), so also I will use these three domains of land, sea, and air to categorize the last days gatherings of Israel, the Gentiles, and the Church. My goal will be to demonstrate that these final events are distinct from one another, especially the gatherings of the Church and Israel, which both involve the return of the Lord Jesus and a trumpet blast.

Further, based on God's calendar laid out for us in Leviticus 23, these three final gatherings apply to the LORD's three final feast days yet to be fulfilled. The Church can anticipate a future fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets, possibly this year, a mere day or two, before the stunning astral alignment of Revelation 12 on September 23, 2017. The exact prophetic fulfillment of this particular feast day has remained fuzzy for some, but for discerning hearts and minds, I think there is enough revealed in Scripture to see how Christ's gathering of the Church completes the 5th feast. Let's take a closer look at the first of three Fall feasts to occur in the seventh month on God's prophetic calendar:


The Gathering of the Church [the Air]

Through the years I have heard many a prophecy teacher say that the Resurrection/Rapture of the Church is "a signless event," or "it could come at any moment." The so-called doctrine of imminence has also been trotted out on numerous occasions in order to defend a Pre-tribulation Rapture. Those who disagree with a Pre-tribulation view (which seems to be gaining in popularity), see the inconsistencies of "imminence" and "signlessness" and have other sophisticated arguments to suggest something other than a Left Behind scenario. And I get it. I also understand why the arguments of imminence and signlessness prevail among Pre-trib adherents in discussions involving the timing of events during the last days.

The "doctrine of imminence" appears to be a systematic explanation for the thief-like, surprise return of Christ indicated in numerous texts regarding the Second Coming. The argument goes somewhat like this: "Well, if those who are alive during the Tribulation can count the days until the Abomination of Desolation, then it goes to show, they can also anticipate the date of Christ's return to earth given the day-counts in Daniel and Revelation; thus, the Rapture must be first because it comes as a surprise...and it could happen today!" Now, it's true that Christ comes as a thief, but He comes as a thief to the unbelieving and those not watching (1 Thess. 5:4; Rev. 3:3). Consequently, someone who stubbornly holds to the doctrine of imminence may not be open to the signs in the heavens being unveiled and discussed by those of us here at Unsealed and many, many, many others on the Internet. For those who believe that the Revelation 12 sign is trumpeting the soon commencement of Daniel's 70th week [a.k.a Jacob's (Israel's) trouble], you might say, "So much for signlessness..."

...and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven...there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars..." (Luke 21:11, 25).

A wariness of accepting a Feast of Trumpets fulfillment for the Rapture most likely stems from a strong reaction to the failed date-setters of the past (and present). I get it. Most of us who are earnestly studying and watching get it too. Humility and caution are warranted. However, we should be quick to remember that "the traditions of men" once blinded the Pharisees and teachers of the law during the 1st century (Matt. 16:3; Lk. 12:56), and it appears that the same issues are with us today. In an effort to protect God's reputation, many long-time prophecy teachers have overreacted by rigidly clinging to a doctrine that prevents one from assuming a fulfillment at the appointed time in the Fall. Moral of the story: When we become too systematic, and then stubbornly dogmatic, we run the risk of becoming erratic.

After seeing the great sign of Revelation 12, it's time to take the training wheels off [the doctrine of imminence]. It's time to fly free now and embrace a concrete sign pointing to a specific time of Christ's return.

So, if you're open to it, let's dig deeper into the mystery surrounding the 5th feast day on God's calendar. Indeed, upon searching for details in the Torah, we find very little in comparison to the other feast days, so from its inception it appears that clarification was going to be necessary as God's revelation progressed and developed over time.


History of the Feast of Trumpets

Every year, the ancient Israelites were to gather together during the first of the seventh month; the only feast day to occur on a new moon. Here are some other relevant observations about this feast derived from the context of Scripture:

1. The seven feast days are called Yahweh's moedim in Hebrew. Whenever the term moedim (appointed times) occurs in Leviticus 23, it is a "holy convocation" or "sacred assembly" (Lev. 23:2, 4). Therefore, this particular day is not just any ol' gathering, or any ol' Sabbath; this is a day set apart as special—at the exact calendar date determined by the lights in the sky (Gen. 1:14), God's people gathered together for a specific task.

2. In the Hebrew text of Lev. 23:23-25, you won't find the word for trumpet (shofar). However, the term translated "shout" or "loud blast," is teruah, and the use of the ram's horn is strongly implied on this day of remembrance (zakar). *Side note: the word "trumpet" is found in the Greek translation of Lev. 23:24 (LXX).

3. The blowing of trumpets on this day appears to fit with the common biblical theme of remembering and celebrating God's past victories in battle against Israel's enemies. I first discovered an interesting connection with the conquering of Jericho by reading a pamphlet from Zola Levitt's ministry several years ago; take a look at this passage from Joshua:

It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him" (Joshua 6:5, NKJV).

Note also the references to the number seven (Josh. 6:4), and keep in mind the link between these three things: 1) blowing of trumpets  2) a great shout  3) wall comes down and the people go up in victory. While this event in Israel's history may not have occurred at the appointed Fall feast, I think there is a compelling parallel to some New Testament passages that we are going to look at in a moment...in the twinkling of an eye, I promise ;)

But first! More Old Testament references to ponder before we look at the final fulfillment:

Numbers 10:9-10 — very helpful in seeing the connection of blowing of trumpets, the new moon, "being remembered before the LORD," and delivered from the enemy.

Nehemiah 8:2, 9-12 — the returning exiles gathered together at the Feast of Trumpets to hear the word of the LORD preached and explained to them; three times they were exhorted not to grieve or mourn. It was a day of celebration and rejoicing. Remind you of a New Testament contextual parallel in 1 Thess. 4:13-18?

Psalm 81:1-3 — this is a psalm that would be sung as the Israelites gathered together to offer praise to Yahweh; the term often translated as "strength" in verse one is synonymous with "refuge" and "protection" (see Ps. 46:1). For the purposes of our study, notice the clear references to the new moon, the appointed time [feast day], "shouting/singing," and "blowing the shofar."

Ezekiel 46:1 — assuming a close relationship between God's residence in heaven (Rev. 4; 11:19) and the future Millennial temple practices, the gate of God's temple will open on the Sabbath day and on the day of the new moon. Makes good sense to me that heaven's door will open to us on the day of the new moon as well (Rev. 3:8; Rev. 4:1).


The Feast of Trumpets and the Gathering of the Church

Ok, now that we have covered briefly the OT background and biblical precedent for a Feast of Trumpets fulfillment, I would like to examine the apostle Paul's reference to "the last trump" in his first letter to the Corinthians. Based on several clues in this letter and other New Testament passages, I believe that Paul had in mind the specific appointed time in Lev. 23:23-25 as the context for 1 Cor. 15:51-52.

Keep in mind throughout the OT connection of "trumpet blasts," "shouting/singing," and "victory over the enemy."

First, take a look at the references within First Corinthians to the first four appointed times on Yahweh's calendar:

  • 1 Cor. 5:7-8 (Passover + Unleavened Bread)
  • 1 Cor. 15:20, 23 (Firstfruits)
  • 1 Cor. 16:8 (Pentecost)

This goes to show that Paul was indeed, a Hebrew of Hebrews (Php. 3:5), who knew his Bible well and how the Messiah fulfills the seven moedim of Lev. 23. Also, the reference to Pentecost reveals his intent to keep God's calendar of appointed times. Further still, in the context of his argument against a resurrection-less "kingdom now" or church-dominion-type theology, here is the apostle's description of the believer's hope—the coming resurrection of the dead and bodily transformation of the living in Christ:

Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, HCSB).

As you may already know, the term mysterion is something that was hidden in past ages but now revealed to God's people (Eph. 3:3, 9; 5:32; Rom. 16:25-26). All right, fair enough. But what exactly from this passage is truly new revelation? I mean, it can't be that God would raise the dead on the last day, that was old news (Dan. 12:1-2; Jn. 11:24-26; Acts 23:6). He also had just stated that the dead would be raised in proper order after Christ returns (1 Cor. 15:22-23). The mystery then is what he presents first in verse 51, "...we will not all fall asleep [die and be buried]...," and there will be a sudden, instantaneous transformation of the body of Christ at the sound of the shofar blast. Remember, this is not Israel's resurrection/transformation, and we should keep in mind the distinction that Paul makes in this very letter regarding "the Jews," "the Greeks," and "the church of God" (1 Cor. 10:32).

We get caught up [pun intended] with the phrase "the last trumpet," rushing it out of context and going into Matthew and Revelation, mixing and mangling things, twisting it to fit our schemes, and all-the-while butchering the intent of Paul's overall message in 1 Corinthians 15. Instead, let's bring in some familiar Old Testament imagery: 1) trumpet blast  2) shouting/singing  3) victory over the enemy. Now, with the understanding that Paul is thinking in terms of Old Testament fulfillment, let's bring in a sure-fire parallel from the same author(s) [a.k.a. Paul and the Holy Spirit] from 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.

The picture becomes a little clearer now that we have the emphasis of the shofar, a shout, and victory over the enemy (on this last point, see 1 Cor. 15:54-57, where "victory" is mentioned 3 times). In addition to these important themes, the location of this gathering is noteworthy. It is why I have designated the first of the three final gatherings as "one if by air." Doesn't this momentous event fit with what we know about the Feast of Trumpets? Conception of the Church by the Spirit of Christ at Pentecost (the first believers are gathered together at the appointed time in Jerusalem), all the way to full delivery and salvation by the Lord Jesus himself at Trumpets (first and last in the body of Christ are all gathered together at the appointed time above the earth).


All Together Now

If you are with me shofar (I couldn't help myself...sorry), let's bring what we know and venture into Revelation. I covered in a previous post how the apostle John skillfully reveals the timing of the catching-up of the male child, the body of Christ (Rev. 12:5; Isa. 66:7). The Resurrection/Rapture of the Church occurs before Jacob's trouble begins. Daniel Matson has added further insight concerning Isa. 66:7-8 (see here). Interestingly, two Old Testament referents to Rev. 12:5 in the book of Isaiah show a resurrection of a corporate nation, a surprising and shocking birth of a people in one day; and coupled with Isa. 26:19-21, these departed spirits are "born from the earth" and kept hidden and secure on the day when Yahweh goes out to "punish the inhabitants of the earth." And so goes the paper-thin line of discernment regarding the continuity/discontinuity of Israel and the Church—but rightly divide, we must!

Therefore, our gathering in the air by the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:1) takes place in the context of a resurrection, dramatic rescue, and surprising turn of events (but not a surprise for those who understand and are watching). Once we grasp the seemingly disjointed timing structure of Revelation 12, familiar elements begin to surface that are typical of what we've seen from our brief study of the Feast of Trumpets. Here is a helpful excerpt from Svigel's The Apocalypse of John and the Rapture of the Church:

The war in heaven of 12:7-12 appears to be an expansion of the fate of the dragon upon the catching up of the male child to heaven. Then, 12:13-18 recapitulates the events after the catching up of the male child, filling in details regarding the pursuit of the woman and the preservation initially described in 12:6" (pg.56).

Basically, John is seeing the same event in 12:7-12 as 12:1-5, but we are getting a different angle, another view. At the appointed time, the Lord Jesus Christ gathers together the Church in the air (1 Thess. 4:17), along with a special guest, the archangel, Michael (Dan. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:16). There is a trumpet blast, a shout and battle cry, the dead awaken, we are transformed and snatched away from the gaping jaws of the dragon. A song of triumph fills heaven as we go up and the devil goes down...but woe to the earth/land [Israel], and woe to the sea [the Gentiles] (Rev. 12:12). Jacob is now alone and his trouble has come...

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this" (Rev. 4:1, ESV).

Photo taken from TIME magazine, Jan. 30, 2017
(President Donald Trump pictured on the front cover)


Part 2: The Final Gatherings of Israel (Land) and the Gentiles (Sea) to come in the next post...
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17 comments :

  1. Great post Jeff! I have to admit though... I'm only halfway through it... bookmarked to finish tonight.

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    1. Thanks, Gary! Glad you took your time through it.

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  2. Jeff, excellent column! Another article very much worth saving as a reference!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sam! I appreciate your encouragement.

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  3. I'm humbled to be around such scholarship and gifted writing. Excellent.

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    1. Thank you, Greg. That's kind of you, brother. I enjoyed putting this together in order to share it with the body, and I'm humbled by how gracious the Lord has been as He reveals things to us (Prov. 2:6).

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  4. Outstanding article, and very interesting indeed. "Does Revelation Chapters 1 to 11 be fulfilled before Chapter 12 up to the last Chapter 22 or can it be in any sequence". Reason being is because the 144,000 (12,000 from each 12 tribes) & 2 witnesses has not been revealed (or if so then can please enlighten us). Just my clarification and not a critique to the excellent article. Thanks

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    1. Hi Frank, thank you for your response. At the risk of oversimplifying, I think a good rule of thumb for an outline of Revelation would be Jesus' statement in 1:19. Many sound teachers out there agree that this is a good general outline for navigating the book, or what was originally a single scroll (1:11)! The "what you have seen" describes John's initial vision in chapter 1 and the bookend of 22:6-21; the "what is" covers the seven letters in chapters 2 and 3, or what can be prophetically said to be the present "church age," right up until today; the "after this" indicates what is yet future, specifically the events of the Resurrection/Rapture of the Church, then the 7-year Tribulation period, then the return of Christ to establish a 1,000 reign on earth, then the final, great white throne judgment, and on into eternity.

      So, from chapters 4 through 22:5, you have things described as future events. Most of the events depicting the Tribulation period are not laid out in a linear fashion, or what we would call "chronological order." It's more like John gets a kaleidoscopic play-by-play of the whole Tribulation period in rapid-fire visions. Some parts are revealed in sequence, such as chapters 4, 5, and 6. However, it becomes more difficult to place certain visions in their chronological sequence as we progress through the book. At times he gets to the end of the Tribulation, and then is told to write down events from the beginning again (10:11).

      A few things we can be certain about:

      1) Chapter 12 is one of these instances where John gets a birds-eye view from the top, revealing a vision of the Day of the LORD from start to finish. It's a central passage that fills us in on all the major players involved.

      2) It's a good thing we haven't seen the 144,000 witnesses + 2 other Jewish witnesses revealed yet! If we did, then there is no Pre-tribulation rescue for us.

      3) Thankfully, given what is being discovered now by many from Revelation 12, we do have a rescue and escape coming, and we will be viewing, like John, the events unfolding on earth from God's throne in heaven (Rev. 4–5; 12:5).

      I hope this helps! Great question.

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    2. Hi Jeff thanks for the spot on answer.On my Christian upbringing I thought we Gentiles have replaced the Jews because of their rejection of Christ. Great Article again the Fall Feasts. Thanks

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  5. Very good article. I think God is revealing the picture and it is getting clearer by the day.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tim. I agree! The picture is getting clearer the closer we get.

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  6. Excellent! Thank you so much!

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  7. Good article. I really enjoy Daniel Matson great article and have in the past linked Isaiah 66:7-8 with Revelation 12.

    Christ also spoke in a proverb to explain travail that was to come upon his people.
    Joh 16:19-22 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

    I have also put this video together for some visualization of Revelation 12. I do not think we will literally see a women in the heaven's but there is now doubt that symbolically it could be represented as virgo placement in the heavens.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lg1sPuPKNM&list=PL4B9FFWT7NyUeDBEqEwgY19HVyPrSeu98&index=12

    God bless,

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  8. Jeff, Just wanted to let you know that I often use 1 Corinthians 10:32 on why I believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture when in a discussion with others. Praise the Lord...Wonderful article, Jimmy

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  9. hola , alguno de ustedes a leido el libro de melquisedec ? hallado junto a los rollos del mar muerto de QUNRAM en 1947 lean ese libro y veran como todo encaja perfectamente con todo este drama , alli en el libro de MELQUISEDEC estan todas las respuestas a este gran drama aleluya ¡¡¡¡. bendiciones

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