“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“When Shall These Things Be?” Part 14…March 2009
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall seethe Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matt. 24: 29-30.
Many of us grew up in Christian homes, having to be in Sunday school every Sunday, and having to be in two or more services on the Lord’s Day. Many who were not church goers still heard preachers telling forth the gospel message from street corners, little buildings with bamboo seats, on radio and later, on television. When it came to Matthew 24, we grew up hearing, learning, and even began preaching one particular version of the entire chapter. That version was all we knew, so we in turn taught it the way we learned it, and that is how the natural process works. Even in politics, when someone comes along and speak against the “norm” by introducing something completely different from what the establishment accepts in general, that person is called a radical.
A bishop who invited me to Southern California for the first time, in whose home I stayed, while discussing doctrinal issues said to me, “I am from the old school.” That meant that he had very little room for change. He still held his teacher in high esteem and his teachings as prominent as the bible itself, who, by this time was a long time dead. To my mind, what was the problem with being from the old school? Being from the old school is no demerit and should not be an impediment to growth. What I think is wrong in this case, is wanting to bring along the concepts of the old school and failing to embrace the unfolding of present truths. A scientist never stops with present discoveries, but each discovery encourages even more research.
Consider for a moment the first auto mobile that was built and put on the road in America! Now, take a look at the Ford products being driven off the assembly lines! What do you see in contrast with the first line of Fords ever built? One could say that auto mobiles have changed immensely over the past decades. Would that assessment be correct? Absolutely not! The auto mobile has not changed one iota over the years, but man’s concept and ideas of the product have changed. The fundamentals of the combustion engine remains the same, but the dynamics in performance, reliability, efficiency, style, and comfort have changed to match current times, current technology, and the demands of current markets.
In religion, those who boast that they belong to the old school, very quickly show the limitations they have placed upon themselves, because they have provided for themselves no room for growth or expansion. My former presiding bishop once said to a full house one Sunday morning in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, “Use the bible as a floor under your feet, but not a roof over your head.” Yes! We stand on the bible, but we leave over our heads an open space for growth. We must bear in mind that truth is progressive, and the person who cannot move forward in truth, who cannot embrace the concept of “ever unfolding truths” will indeed be left behind in the old school. Whether it is truth or even the anointing, God imparts them in waves over time. Jesus himself said that he had some truths to share with his disciples but that they could not bear them then. To whom much is given, much is required, so our growth in grace and in the knowledge of God comes in stages and over long periods of time. Like a little baby bird in the nest, we once saw the nest as the world, and then when we took our first step out on a limb, and we thought that was the world. But when we began to soar through the air over valleys and hills, we really begin to see the world.
As touching Matthew 24, many among the masses of God’s people prefer to remain with the old school. They read it as it is written, believe that it is to be understood exactly that way, and they shut out any thing that sounds different to their ears. They willingly forget that Jesus spoke in parables. “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitudes in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.” Matt. 13: 34. However, to render a candid application of the truth, we must present both sides of the issue. It is evident that Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, but not so much to his close disciples as outlined in the following passage. “And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto the them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear , and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” Mark 4: 10-12.
When we consider how Jesus described the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, we have to agree that his sayings were not wrapped in symbolisms. The temple was actually destroyed as Jesus predicted that there would not be left one stone upon another that would not be thrown down. We cannot spiritualize this prophecy as it pertained to the temple itself. But there was a greater meaning behind the actual events of that fateful period during the Roman siege.
When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was rent asunder from the top to the bottom exposing the holy place of the temple. That event marked the end of service in the Mosaic worship in which the priest alone could go behind the veil. The path to the most holy place was now open for all to freely approach the throne of God to find grace and mercy on a personal basis. But the temple itself stood as a symbol of the Levitical Priesthood that ended at the cross. As long as it stood, it would represent a relic of the passing age. By it, the Jews would still lay claim to divine supremacy, and would never let go of the Mosaic order. The destruction of the temple meant God’s final act in ending the Jewish economy as it was known then and what it represented.
When Jesus left the temple for the last time, it marked the silent end of the religious order of the day, controlled by the high priests. Whether the temple stood or not, if Jesus was crucified within the walls of the city, redemption through his blood would still rest with the Jews. His eternal salvation would have become the property of the high priests, who would combine it with the fading Mosaic administration of death. Listen to what the writer of the Hebrews said: “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people (both Jews and Gentiles) with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” Heb. 13:12-13. J. B. Phillips translation renders the passage this way: “When the blood of animals was presented as a sin offering by the High Priest in the sanctuary, their bodies were burned outside the precincts of the of the camp. That is why Jesus, when he sanctified men by the shedding of his own blood, suffered and died outside the city gates. Let us go out to him, then, beyond the boundaries of the camp, proudly bearing his “disgrace.”
Every act of those who tortured and finally nailed Jesus to the cross, was according to God’s own plan from the foundation of the world. Look back on the temple today and what do you see? A mosque where Arabs meet in worship now stands where the original temple stood. The Jews are not allowed to attend this holy shrine to the Arabs (Palestinians). The Jews are left with the wailing wall against which they read and pray almost banging their heads against its rough edges. In the meantime, where is the seat of salvation? Some teach and look forward to a rebuilt temple and a time when the Jews once again are given preeminence over all other nations of the world. Who, or what, is going to take the mosque out of the hands of the Arabs? Why would God put the Jews above all other nations when we are told in bold and explicit terms that God has place no difference between the Jews and the Greeks? “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. But in ever nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable with him.” Rom.10:12; 11:32; Acts 10. 35.
In previous lessons we explained that the tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24 had to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, also the perilous times that the remnant among the Jews had to suffer. In a matter of a few years they rebelled against Rome again, and again, thousands upon thousands of them were slaughtered. So Jesus gave a picture of what it would be like after this particular tribulation. But we need to remember that Jesus is giving answers to a three-part question; “When shall these things be, the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world.” However as we outlined in previous lessons in this series, Luke renders the same set of questions this way; “And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? (Namely, the casting down of the temple) and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass.” (Such as the Roman armies laying siege to the city of Jerusalem, and without warning or opposition from within, pulled up stakes and left. It was at this point that those who remembered the words of Jesus fled the city and did not perish when the Roman armies returned. But although in Luke there was no mention of “the end of the world” Jesus went on to issue predictions that are relevant to these times in which you and I are living.
Listen to this prophecy from our Lord! “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.” The word “perplexity” simply means “no way out.” And as we examine the full spectrum of worldwide events, we are compelled to agree that the issues are so complex and far reaching, being multiplied on a daily basis, that world leaders are at a loss, trying to find solutions and seemingly, there is no way out, just as Jesus said. In the mean time, we should not think that Jesus spoke of literal waves and literal seas, for we read in Isa.57: 20, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
Paul offers a candid picture of the days we are now living in, and we will do well to observe the unfolding of events around us. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, (isn’t that why one man can swindle $50 Mil from people’s life savings, live in a penthouse apartment on the east side of New York, while men and women on the verge of retirement will have to start all over again?) boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection (embracing that which is unnatural as being appropriate) trucebreakers, false accusers, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” 11 Timothy 3: 1-4.
We do not binoculars to look off in the distance to see these lifestyles being exhibited around us. If you cannot accept the following remark, please don’t get offended with me, simply keep on reading till you find something that you can accept, but I am not alone in saying that the “Church Age” has silently slipped away unknown and unrecognized by even members of the clergy. It did not end with thunder and lightening, earthquakes and thick blackness. No! While many continued to play church and continued to rehash old concepts like soup that has been sitting in the refrigerator for a week or more, God’s plans for his ever unfolding kingdom continues to fall into place. Yes! Times will get harder and harder, for it could be the way God has chosen to sake out of place all that is false, ungodly, and unfit to possess his kingdom. All things MUST be shaken, until all that can be shaken is shaken out of place, and is finally replaced by God’s unmovable kingdom. Let us examine more about the sun being darkened, the moon failing to give her light, etc.
Because of the tribulation, or immediately after it, the sun would fail to give her light, and the stars from heaven would fall, and even the moon would not give her light. While we have the light, we need not grope about as if in darkness to understand the metaphor being used in this text. First of all, stars do not fall to earth. If a star should begin to fall to earth, along the way it would burn up into gases that would float about in space. What we normally call shooting stars are only dust particles in space and we call them meteoroids. Once again, it becomes necessary for us to go back to scripture and search for the answers among it many pages. Listen to this and use your own mind because we hardly need the Holy Spirit to direct us here! “And after the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fell from heaven unto earth: and to HIM (a personal pronoun is used here, not to it—but to him) was given the key of the bottomless pit and he opened the bottomless pit.” Rev. 9: 1. Can a star (a planet) walk up to an angel, take a key, find the bottomless pit, and open its door?
Let us read another account! “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp.” Rev. 8: 10. Come on folks, let’s get real here! Am I to believe that an actual star fell out of the heavens on to earth, and instead of obliterating earth by turning to mere ashes, cities, states, and even continents it is burning as a lamp? This lamp is not like those along the Strip in Las Vegas, or the lights along 42nd Street in New York City. The lamp in question is more like those torches used in the movies when filming wars in past centuries, and they are like rags tied to the end of long pieces of wood or branches, and soaked with a flammable liquid such as kerosene.
Listen to Daniel’s choice of words designed to shed more light on the subject! “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Dan. 12: 3. Does this declaration mean for us to start staring up to view the milky way? Listen to something that happened a long time ago; somewhere around 1729 B.C. “And he (Joseph) dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuke him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” Genesis 37: 9-10.
Jacob at this point in time in his old age, had extensive knowledge of what the heavenly luminaries meant as touching the times and the seasons, and how man is inter-related with these heavenly bodies. So when Joseph told his dream and mentioned that the sun, moon, and stars bowed down before him, his father had the interpretation at his finger tips. He was the sun, the mother was the moon, the eleven brothers were the eleven stars. We can fast forward to the book of Revelation and quickly look at the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. I don’t suppose that even those that believe in the literal interpretation of Revelation would attempt to infer that this is a literal woman, actually clothed, or wrapped about with sun, while standing on the moon. It would be ludicrous to think so! We must conclude that the woman is symbolic of some other entity, and so do the moon and stars mentioned here.
If Jacob, his wife, and eleven sons answer to the sun, moon, and stars in this passage, and the woman, the moon, and the stars in Revelation 12 answer to yet other types and symbols, why should the words of Jesus in Matthew 24: 29, be seen as literal heavenly bodies shining over our heads at night, and lighting our day? We are handed a religious system mired and packaged in inconsistencies. We are taught to believe that “me and my house will serve the Lord” means that my family and I, or my entire household will serve the Lord. But by the same token, we are taught to believe that “in my Father’s house are many mansions” means that Jesus has gone to prepare the mansions and soon as they are finished, he’ll come again and take us to them. House in one sense means people, and in another sense it means a place where saints will dwell one day. The bible once again supplies us with the correct answers to all our questions on the subject we are now studying.
As a simple exercise, go to your computer and log on to google.com, then type in—Can a star fall to earth—and you will find among a number of references that they all agree that stars cannot actually fall to earth, and as we mentioned before, what we call shooting stars are actually meteoroids. But let us turn to the bible for a “biblical explanation”. “And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. And in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” Let us suppose for a moment that Jesus did not offer an explanation, what would we be left to make of this picture? We would come up with scores upon scores of different “suppositions.” I would not call them interpretations; just mere suppositions! As if not to leave us in the dark, or to avoid wild speculations and confusion among his people, Jesus himself decided to offer the true interpretation. We can always depend on our dear Lord to turn on the light, so that his children will not walk in darkness and in confusion.
“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. (In other words, let me explain the meaning of the seven stars and the seven golden candlesticks.) The seven stars are the angels (messengers be it spirit beings or ministers in the flesh) of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” Rev.1: 12-13, 20. Over and over, we are being shown quite clearly that the sun, moon, and stars in scripture speak of people serving in their several capacities of power or importance. What Jesus has done in this very first chapter of the book of Revelation, is to lay the foundation or the principle for interpreting the rest of the book.
Let us look at another example of how we could easily be led astray in our thinking if it were not for the bible supplying its own answers to difficult to understand symbols. “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters.” Rev. 17: 1. The natural man is likely to begin to think of the great seas, and the whore having something to do with these huge bodies of water. But here is what we learn as we proceed: “And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Rev.17: 15. So then, the “many waters” mentioned above in the verse, had nothing to do with liquid water that we drink and bathe in. Can you imagine that people are referred to as “waters”? What is all this about? We are trying to show a very clear and distinct picture that the sun, moon, and stars mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24 do not in reality refer to the natural heavenly luminaries.
What about the golden vials full of odors? “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.” Rev. 5: 8. Do you remember the old “Negro Spiritual” that was popular with Lois Armstrong and many black congregations? It went like this! “You got robes, I got robes, when I go to heaven, gonna put on my robe and walk all over God’s heaven, heaven, heaven. When I go to heaven, gonna put on my robe and walk all over God’s heaven.” Many of us, when we knew no better, actually envisioned ourselves in long white robes flying all over heaven. But what does the scripture say the truth of white robes is? Let us walk a little bit through parts of Revelation again and see how much light we can shed upon this matter.
“And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest for yet a little while, until their fellowservants also and their brethren should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Rev.6: 11. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” Rev.7: 9. So what can we learn by studying the white robes? “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.” Rev.19: 8. But should not every true child of God be wearing these white robes or robes of righteousness right now? TODAY?
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Isa.61: 10. Do you see a rich church today, that can boast that it has increased in goods and stand in need of nothing? Well listen to Jesus himself! “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Rev.3: 17-18. Jesus Christ is that white raiment that we are to wear. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Rom.13: 14. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal.3:27. The essence of the message we share in these trying times, is that while the world gropes as it were in the dark, and political leaders scramble in meetings after meetings, trying to solve the world’s problems, we see ourselves stepping through a bigger and more glorious door that leads us to a more immense place of glory and joy in Jesus Christ. Some of us are now being awaken by the Spirit of Christ, and are being told, “Arise my son, your day has arrived! I have long kept you in reserve for this your day, so step forward to the task.
Royce O. Kennedy