This is the second in a series of articles that discusses Israel’s expectation for the tribulation as outlined in the the introductory article. Recall that these expectations are derived from writings by Jewish scribes and commentators during the Late Second Temple period. We’ll continue to view the next two expectations(1) with the understanding that they are derived from a period prior to Jesus of Nazareth delivering his gospel of the kingdom of God, and they relate to both Israel(2) and Judah(3):
- The righteous suffer and/or die during the tribulation. This sometimes includes the suffering and/or death of a messianic figure.
- The tribulation is tied to the coming of a Messiah, sometimes referred to as the “Son of Man.”
As we did in Part 1, let’s outline the expectations given in these two points:
A) A Messiah is coming and is sometimes referred to as the Son of Man
B) During the tribulation, the righteous experience suffering and death
C) Included in this suffering and death is a messianic figure
A Messiah is coming . . .
The expectation of a Messiah arising from among those living in Judea, before and after the time of Christ, was alive and well. Well known among them were the prophesies that established this expectation, especially those of Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks prophecy which set the timing for the arrival of an anointed one, a prince (Daniel 9:24-27)(4). What we can notice from those whom Yeshua, the anointed one, encountered is the variation in their expected role of the Messiah.
- Some saw only the restoration of the two kingdoms of Israel and the end to their exile (Isaiah 45:14-17,25; Jeremiah 30; 31:1-30)
- Others, a righteous and faithful remnant (Romans 11:2-7), understood a broader role for the Messiah as a rock of offense and the suffering servant of God to bear the sins of many (Isaiah 8:14-15; Isaiah 53).
Free Us from Oppression
So ingrained into the culture of the Jews of Yeshua’s day was the desire for the restoration of Israel and Judah that it often blinded them to anything else. Even the twelve, called by God and his Christ, had difficulty letting go of this expectation. Repeatedly they sought to know his plans to release God’s people from the oppression of the Romans.
In one example, Peter recognizes the identity of the Messiah as the Son of the Living God in one moment, and in the next moment shows his lack of mindfulness surrounding the role of the Son of God at that time (Matthew 16:13-17,21-23; Mark 8:27-30,31-33). Again when the disciples were boasting about the glory of the temple in Jerusalem, and Yeshua responds by suggesting its future destruction (Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6), there was no lack of questions about the timing and indicators of this event.
One of the indicators Christ gave to them was the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 11:36-12:3). Little did they realize he was speaking of an event to occur in their own lifetime, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. By the Romans. This and many other things were to occur before the restoration of Israel could take place.
Yet even after Christ’s death and resurrection, they could not let go of this expectation for Israel’s restoration and the end of the exile. When the eleven were assembled with Christ just prior to his public ascension, they are still focused on this expectation; wanting the Messiah to remain and setup his kingdom (Acts 1:6-7). In spite of all they’ve seen and heard from the Messiah, they’re unable to let go of this expectation.
It wasn’t until after the apostles received God’s Holy Spirit did the mystery of God in Christ become clearer, and they finally bridged their expectations for the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Now they were partakers of an everlasting kingdom, which, when finally established, would extend beyond the borders of Israel, beyond the limits of earth, into the farthest reaches of the heavens, and to the very throne of God Almighty (Revelation 21:1-4).
For an introduction to the Mystery of God and what it means for the faithful, the descendants of Israel, and even for the nations,
Recognize the Suffering Servant
When we examine Christ’s interactions with his other disciples, like Lazarus and his sisters, we can see they are operating from a deeper knowledge, understanding, and especially a deeper faith than many of those around them, even the twelve. As part of the faithful remnant of Israel, which Paul speaks about later in Romans 9 and 11, they’ve attained through faith what others in Israel have not. This is one of the reasons that I can see why Yeshua might express love and affinity for them; their faithfulness.
Lazarus, and by extension his sisters, since they would have been trained by their brother or another man in their lives, understood the very thing which the High Priest Caiaphas unknowingly prophesied; that one should die for Israel.
Fourth Gospel(5) 11:47-52
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
In this case, Caiaphas was prophesying in their day, but where in scripture might Lazarus and his sisters understood that the Son of Man, and the Son of God, might suffer even unto death. Isaiah the prophet speaks of God’s suffering servant.
13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
Isaiah 53 continues with greater detail describing the will of God for his suffering servant and the role he plays in accounting righteousness to many. From this and other scriptures, Lazarus and his sisters understood that the Messiah in their midst would suffer as the servant of God for many. This understanding impacted their behavior toward him.
Fourth Gospel 12:1-3,7-8
- At Lazarus’ house for dinner, Martha serves and Mary anoints the Lord’s head and feet with nard (spikenard) ointment. (Matthew 26:1-2,6-13; Mark 14:3,7-9)
- This she did in preparation for his burial
As we can see, Lazarus and his sisters were among those who saw and understood this broader role for the Messiah as the suffering servant; placing the cross before the crown. What they could not have expected, but were later shown, was the resurrection to glory. This is what Lazarus realized at the tomb (Fourth Gospel 20:8-9), and the others didn’t believe until Christ appeared to them; Yeshua is the resurrection and the life, the source of eternal life and immortality. This is a key component of the mystery of God hidden in ages past, but now revealed in Yeshua, the Christ.
During the Tribulation, the Righteous Suffer
There are few who would argue that tribulation is viewed as the suffering and death of the righteous at the hands of the unrighteous. Christianity has recognized and traditionally taught that tribulation and difficulty should be the expectation for most followers of Christ. Because the world was hostile and cruel to the Son of God, it will certainly be hostile toward those who follow him (Fourth Gospel 15:18-25). This has been the experience of many Christians since Yeshua inaugurated his kingdom of firstfruits here on earth over two thousand years ago(6).
In addition, our Lord warned his faithful followers about the events that would characterize this expected tribulation, which would begin with them and increase until he returns to redeem his righteous elect out of it (Matthew 24:4-13; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-19).
- False Christ’s come to deceive
- War, famine, and pestilence among the nations
- Martyrdom of the faithful
- Increased lawlessness, decreased love
These initial events are what Christ refers to as the beginning of birth pains. Notice that he makes it clear these events will continue until the end. That is the duration of time these birth pains are to be endured (Matthew 24:13-14; Mark 13:13).
Note also the impact these events will have personally on his followers (Matthew 24:9-12; Mark 13:9-12; Luke 21:12-19).
- You will be delivered up and killed
- You will be hated by all for my name’s sake
- You will endure betrayal and hatred
- You will be led astray from the truth by false prophets
- The love of many will grow cold due to increased lawlessness
- You will have an opportunity to bear witness before them, and I will give you a mouth to speak wisdom
If we step back and look at the history of Christ’s body of believers, we can see these events and their impact on the followers of Christ have occurred for millennia. Today they continue to increase, especially the lawlessness. We would also be negligent if we failed to see that similar things impacted the saints of old, those who likewise died as a result of their faithfulness and loyalty to the Lord their God. (1 Kings 19:9-18; Matthew 5:11-12; 23:29-36; Luke 13:33-35; Acts 7:51-54)
The Son of Man Suffers Tribulation
Thankfully for all those who suffer according to righteousness, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is faithful to those who trust in him, even unto death (1 Samuel 2:6-10). So faithful is he that he gave his only beloved son as a ransom for many, and to complete his workmanship in them (Ephesians 2:1-10). Yet this Son of God, Yeshua, was not ignorant of the fruit his suffering and sacrifice would bring for many, but gladly laid down his life for all that he might raise it up again as a source of hope for all.
Fourth Gospel 10:17-18
17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned . . .
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In times past, God made known the fate of his suffering servant through the prophet Isaiah.
- He is despised and rejected by men
- He is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief
- He is pierced for our transgressions
- He is crushed for our iniquities
- His chastisement is the source of our peace
- By his wounds we are healed (made whole)
- Upon him is laid the iniquity of us all
- He is the lamb led to the slaughter, yet opens not his mouth in defense
- By oppression and judgment he was taken away, though he was innocent
- Yet it was God’s will to crush him; his soul and offering for grief and to bear the iniquities of many
- His soul is poured out to death, and numbered with the transgressors
- Yet he bore the sin of many and intercedes for the transgressors
Though some knew of his suffering, they did not perceive the full fruit of his sacrifice – the reconciliation of the world (Fourth Gospel 3:16-17). This was hidden from them in ages past, but revealed through the mystery of God in Christ, our Redeemer (1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Ephesians 3:1-12).
24 Now I (Paul) rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Again we can see that these expectations from the Late Second Temple period alignment well with the work Christ was engaged in. The Lamb of God foresaw tribulation and death for himself in the process of redeeming the world, and for his chosen people as they continue in the power of the Holy Spirit as the firstfruits of salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). In this work our Lord continues to turn death into glory (1 Corinthians 15:53-57; 2 Corinthians 3:7-8).
There is much more to learn about each of these topics and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
To discover more about the plans Christ has for his body of believers, for Israel, and for the world, read my recent book –
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
- Dr. Michael S Heiser’s – The Naked Bible Podcast, Number 101: Jesus, the Exile, and the Tribulation and blog post: https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/podcast/naked-bible-101-jesus-the-exile-and-the-tribulation/
- When I refer to Israel, like the authors of Scripture, I’m referring to the descendants of Jacob (renamed Israel). This does not fit the description of the modern nation of Israel which consists of people from many assorted nationalities. In the near future, God will call to himself, for a specific purpose, descendants from all twelve tribes as part of his kingdom-building process (Romans 9:4-5; 11; Revelation 7:4-8).
- The modern reference to Jews is often understood to represent the entirety of the people of God, but in fact represents only one of the twelve original tribes of Israel, Judah. Even here, the reference is to a single tribe, but in the time of Christ consisted of individuals from other tribes, like Benjamin (Acts 13:21).
- Desolation of the Temple and Messianic Enthronement in Daniel 11:36-12:3, Jason Thomas Perry, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54.3 (September 2011, pages 485-526)
- Due to the dispute over the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, traditionally attributed to John, I will refer to this book as the Fourth Gospel. I have concluded on the side of such authors as J. Phillips (ISBN13: 978-0-9702687-3-0) who has shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved.
- Technically, the inauguration of the kingdom of God could be said to have begun with God’s covenant with Abraham, the father of the faithful. That covenant of faith has been the basis for the covenant at Sinai and the new covenant in Christ. Faith in God through Christ our Lord is the essential pillar by which the sons of God inherit the kingdom and its glory (Ephesians 2:4-10).
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