"The Tribulation - Another Look" by Tricia Tillin
pART tHREE: tHE CYCLE OF THREE AND SEVEN
Having looked at the type of Jesus' trial and death, the prison escape of Peter [as also the bridesmaids waiting for the Bridegroom], we see that the middle of the night is the turning point, and the "midnight moment" begins the journey to deliverance.
The Midnight Moment
This "midnight cry" Christians recognise comes from the parable of the bridesmaids waiting for the Bridegroom to appear and take them to Heaven. But there are other examples of deliverance in scripture.
At midnight the Bride arose to greet her Bridegroom Matt 25:6-10
At midnight the Psalmist arose to give thanks to God Ps 119:62
At midnight Samson arose to destroy the Gazites Judg 16:1-3
At midnight Boaz the Kinsman arose to accept Ruth as his bride. Ruth 3:6-9
At midnight God slew the Egyptians and the Israelites arose to flee slavery. Ex 11:4-5
At midnight the sleeper arose to minister to his friend Luke 11:5-8
At midnight Paul and Silas were delivered from prison with a mighty earthquake Acts 16:25-28
At midnight Paul raised the "young man" from the dead Acts 20:7-12
Remember that, at the first Passover it was Midnight that God sent the angel to slay the firstborn of Egypt, BUT it was only afterwards that the Israelites escaped the land, after Pharaoh had been confronted with the consequences of his defiance. Similarly, the bridesmaids hear the cry "He comes" at midnight, but they still had time to arise, trim their lamps, and do what needed to be done, although there was NOT time to go shopping for more oil.
Also, the thought-process that led to the PREPARATION had already taken place as far as the wise bridesmaids were concerned, and we need to learn from that. Their wisdom did not come from waiting, nor from waking up (all of them did that) but from having made sufficient preparations in advance to last through to the End!
"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying,'Lord, Lord, open to us!'12 But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. Matt 25:1-13
So the night BEGINS the deliverance process, and it is in the darkness of our night that we need to stay awake and be prepared.
Resolution and Boldness comes after Trial
Jesus faced a dreadful choice in Gethsemane, and was in so much anguish that an angel needed to come and strengthen him. However, AFTER the decision had been taken that he would never place his own comfort, safety and needs before the will of his Father, he arose calm and resolute.
The struggle was great, not just against the fear of pain and death but the thought of abandoning his disciples and ministry after three short years. To compromise must have seemed very attractive. YET, despite all this, "NOT MY WILL but Thine (O Father) be done!!" Even if obeying God seems no longer to make sense, even if it means losing everything, we go on trusting God's words and commands.
That is the key. Jesus warned us that a time would come when we would face the same testing, by the same devil, and would have to apply the same resolve and dedication as he did. Are we to choose the everlasting Kingdom of God, or this life? Which is more important and more attractive?
Mark 8:34-38 Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it . For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
First Comes Apostasy
The judgement coming to this earth is not a random act. It will come because of sin, rebellion and apostasy, for Israel, for the Church and for the World. And we also could call 'apostasy' the act of making the wrong decision in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Each time Israel - God's chosen people - worshipped something or someone other than God, made friends with the world and became lax with regard to their faith, they suffered loss. First the apostasy, and afterwards the "abomination that causes desolation". When we look into our own future we see the same sequence of events. Paul is perfectly plain about it - "that day (of our gathering together to meet with Jesus in the clouds) WILL NOT COME except the APOSTASY comes first!
Apostasy means "falling away from belief". Or, as the bible puts it "the love of many will grow cold". Not only false doctrines, but the pleasures of sin, love of this world, friends and family, belief in a glorious future for the Church, the lukewarmness of faith, and the hatred of unbelievers will all combine to create a life-or-death struggle in the hearts and minds of all believers at that time.
There will also be, I believe, a strong spiritual (demonic) pressure oppressing believers. New thoughts about the bible, doubts about classic beliefs, elders who insist on new teachings, disapproval and distrust from all around and an almost irresistible draw towards a new way of seeing God and the world - all of this and more could contribute to the Gethsemane we face. (In addition, there will be a physical or emotional threat due to persecution! As for Jesus, so for us).
But God be praised for his mercy and love! We are urged to pray that we might be found worthy to escape all these things, and God will answer that prayer if we stay faithful.
Just like Daniel in the lion's den, and the three Israelites in the furnace, we say "God will deliver us, but even if not, we WILL NOT deny Him." We will be like those spoken of in Revelation who "love not their lives, unto the death". (Rev 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.)
Courage comes from Submission to the Will of the Father
Let nobody imagine that Jesus was taken by force. After having decided on the course set before him, he did not resist his attackers at all. Twelve legions of angels could have arrived to rescue him, (Matt 26:55-56) but he did not summon them. Despite prompting he did not respond to the lies of the false witnesses. He said that nobody had TAKEN his life, but he freely laid it down: "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18)
Therefore the role of Gethsemane's trial and temptation by the devil (both for Jesus and for us) is to make us steadfast and resolute, so that whatever happens next, we are fully in faith and prepared.
Anybody who avoids the agony of that dark night of watching will be in a poor position to react boldly and without fear thereafter. As Jesus said, if you hang onto your earthly life of carelessness, safety, comfort and ease, with your possessions, friends, family and career, then you will lose sight of his coming and stand in danger of losing what is most important - your eternal reward.
Peter was an example of one who caved in to the pressure. It happened at a precise moment (between Gethsemane and the Crucifixion) that symbolically points out the timing of our own journey to deliverance.
Peter had a choice to stay and support his Master as best he could, or be discovered and thrown out - or worse. He feared discovery, he feared mockery and he feared death. So when asked to confirm that he was a follower of Jesus, a "little white lie" seemed no big deal. Yet it was the single most dreadful and humiliating moment of his life. At the time there must have seemed a good reason to justify his denial and it wouldn't have seemed so very evil. What harm could it possibly do?
Looking back at Peter, we think we would have stood firm - but would we? This event has been described in scripture for a reason.
What we will face in our dark night.
Please do not underestimate the pressures that will come upon us to deny the Lord and turn away from full blooded Christianity. Compromise will appear very attractive in that moment, I assure you. But as both Man and God in completeness, Jesus knew our every need, our every sorrow, our every temptation, and what it feels like to suffer under pressure. He will support us during that dark night.
Heb 4:14-16 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When this world turns its back on God and detests Christians, it will be for us as it was for Jesus, and Peter. We will face the ultimate pressure to abandon our faith for safety and security. And the alternatives will seem reasonable to our minds.
Especially after the disappointment of 2012, will you go on believing that Jesus is coming, and that you will be rescued? Will you resist the tempting offers of acceptance and worldly comfort? Or will you start to waver, thinking perhaps love, unity, peace, "respect" and religious belief can be preserved just as well without your suffering a terrifying ordeal, with no great loss to anybody?
How important is it to stick to God's exact plan, and lose everything including your life, when a slight compromise would earn you safety and acceptance? After all, you could still worship God, still go to church, still read your bible - all that would be safeguarded as long as you don't "get all fanatical" and "fundamentalist" and preach the end of the world and the coming of Jesus!
Perhaps, after all, this world IS worth saving (so the devil whispers) and - just think - if you only backed down just a little and didn't act all puritanical you might be able to save your friends and family - wouldn't God want that? Well, wouldn't he?
The middle of the night; also the week, day and hour!
The mathematical exactness of Jesus' suffering is predictive of our own, and it teaches us a very important message, that the dramatic high-point of betrayal and pressure is not at the beginning nor at the end of events, but mid-way through. The "midnight moment" that launches us towards the Rapture is not at the beginning of the Endtimes events, nor at its culmination, but in the MIDDLE. The timescale THREE AND A HALF is central to much of prophetic scripture (as I mentioned in another study here).
In each case, the pattern is the same. The seven is sub-divided at the three-and-a-half point. The first portion of the seven is one of preparation and trial; the second is the resolution.
The last week:
In this first example, the last WEEK of Jesus, the seven is sub-divided by the Cross. The days are counted from 6am-6pm as in the Hebrew calendar. The "midnight moment" as far as Jesus was concerned was the crucial event that changed everything, and it delivered him over to his fate. As he said "the hour has come" and watchfulness was no longer the issue because the events leading up to the End were under way. We'll explore this further in a moment.
|(3) TUESDAY||Last Supper/ Gethsemane/ Midnight|
|(4) [3-1/2] WEDNESDAY (Note One)||TRIALS/ DEATH ON THE CROSS|
|(4) THURSDAY||Tomb Day One|
|(5) FRIDAY||Tomb Day Two|
|(6+7) SATURDAY+SUNDAY Morning||Tomb "The Third Day" and RESURRECTION|
The last day:
The second example zooms in to look at the final DAY of Jesus. There are eight "watches" of three hours in a biblical day, and seven of these concern us, since from 6pm to 9pm Jesus enjoyed the last fellowship supper with his friends before his ordeal began. The count begins as they enter the Garden around 9pm that night.
As you see from the table below, the first three and a half concerns trial, betrayal, arrest and condemnation; whereas the second concerns the consequences which for Jesus were death. Once again the "midnight cry" or the 12th hour in the Hebrew clock was the crucial turning point
|(1) "Second watch of the night"||9pm - midnight. Betrayal and Arrest||Hebr."midnight = the sixth hour"|
|(2) "Third watch of the night"||Midnight - 3am. Trials||Hebr. "3am = the ninth hour"|
|(3) "Fourth watch of the night"||3am - 6am. Trials "Crucify Him"||Hebr. "6am = the twelfth & final hour of night"
Roman = "sixth hour" (John 19:14-15)
|(4) [3-1/2] "1st watch of the day"||6am-7.30am Led out to die||
Hebr. "the first hour of the day"
|(5) "Second watch of the day"||9am - midday. On the Cross||Hebr. "about the third hour" (Mark 15:25-26)|
|(6) "Third watch of the day"||midday - 3pm. On the Cross; Darkness||Hebr. "the sixth hour" (MIDDAY)|
|(7) "Fourth watch of the day"||3pm - 6pm. Death and Tomb||Hebr. "the ninth hour" (Matt 27:46-50)|
The last hours:
This pattern even holds true when we zoom in closer and look at the last HOURS of Jesus! How exact is this. At the midway point or shortly thereafter "about the 6th hour until the 9th hour" according to the gospels, "there was darkness over all the land. And about the Ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt 27:45-46).
|(1) 9am - 10am||Hebr."the third hour"||(Mark 15:25-26)|
|(2) 10am - 11am||Hebr. "the fourth hour"|
|(3) 11am - Noon||Hebr. "the fifth hour"|
(4) [3-1/2] Noon - 12.30
|Hebr. "the sixth hour"||(Luke 23:44-45 " about the sixth hour")|
|(5) 12.30- 1pm||Hebr. "the seventh hour"||Darkness|
|(6) 1pm - 2pm||Hebr. "the eighth hour"||Darkness|
|(7) 2pm - 3pm||Hebr. "the ninth hour"||Death (Matt 27:46-50)|
Scripture establishes the pattern that it is THREE (days, hours, years or time-periods) and not seven that mark out the trial period. As the FOURTH time-period begins, so does deliverance!
Finally, let's apply this pattern and what we have learned from scripture to Revelation and the Endtimes, and find out at what point our own "midnight moment" and deliverance comes.
(3) Jesus died on Wednesday, not Friday. But how could Wednesday be called in the bible "the day before the Sabbath". And what about the timing of the Passover Feast? How come the women did not go to the tomb to anoint the body on the Friday? For a complete answer to this, please read here.