Aside from the chronological pre-tribulational events we’ve been discussing, this week we are looking at several events that we don’t know when they’ll happen until they happen. The first event is a worldwide blackout. Fruchtenbaum says during the end time period, including the last days of the Church Age, as well as the Tribulation, the Scriptures speak of five blackouts that will occur. A blackout means that the light of the sun, moon, and stars is suddenly blacked out so that the earth is not receiving any light from these sources and is in total darkness (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 131).
The blackout set to occur before the Tribulation is prophesied in Joel 2:30-31 which says, “I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” LaHaye says, “No light from the sun, moon, or stars will penetrate to the earth” (Exploring Bible Prophecy, p. 279).
Another event set to happen before the Tribulation is the return of Elijah the prophet! Malachi 4:5-6 clearly prophesies that Elijah will return “before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come.” Elijah’s ministry is to the Jews to “turn the heart of the fathers toward the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” in preparation for Messiah’s Second Coming. Elijah is not to be confused with John the Baptist. Malachi speaks of John the Baptist in Malachi 3:1 when he prophesies a forerunner before the First Coming of Messiah. Malachi 4, however, is speaking of Elijah the prophet- who will be the forerunner before the Second Coming of Messiah.
Fruchtenbaum says, “Elijah will serve as a forerunner of Messiah’s Second Coming in the same way John the Baptist was the forerunner of Messiah’s First Coming. John was a type of Elijah in that he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. If Israel had accepted the message, then John the Baptist would have accomplished the function of Elijah, which was the work of restoration. However, John the Baptist and the Messiah were both rejected, and so Elijah is yet to come to perform the work of restoration before the Tribulation” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 134).
The next possible event is the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. We know the Temple will be rebuilt at the time of the Tribulation, but we don’t know specifically when. Fruchtenbaum says, “the biblical data is not sufficient to date the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple as before the Tribulation with any certainty. The Tribulation Temple is mentioned in four passages of Scripture” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 134). The only two options are that it will be rebuilt before the Tribulation starts or during the first 3 and a half years.
The Tribulation Temple is found in Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, and Revelation 11:1-2. “All four passages describe events which occur in relation to the Jewish Temple. In all of them the events described take place in the middle of the Tribulation” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 135). These passages describe a fully functioning Temple with the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law in place.
In light of this, I am amazed at the existence of The Temple Institute in Jerusalem that is “dedicated to every aspect of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the central role it fulfilled, and will once again fulfill, in the spiritual wellbeing of both Israel and all the nations of the world…. The Temple Institute’s ultimate goal is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem” (templeinstitute.org). The Temple Institute has already prepared the sacred vessels and high priestly garments for the coming future Temple. They’ve even built a transportable altar that is completely ready to use on the Temple Mount when the time is right. One of the latest developments is the arrival of five red heifers in Jerusalem from Texas. These red heifers are being watched to see if they stay pure red by the time they turn 2 years old. More than two white hairs would disqualify them for Temple service. The ashes of the red heifer are necessary to initiate Temple sacrifice.
Fruchtenbaum brings out an incredible fact about the Tribe of Levi. He says, “the Tribe of Levi was the only tribe permitted by Mosaic Law to take care of the Temple and conduct the sacrificial system. It is interesting to note that while all the other eleven tribes have lost their tribal identity since the records were destroyed in AD 70, the Tribe of Levi has not. Unless a Jew is a member of the Tribe of Levi, he is unable to know from which tribe he is a descendant. The Tribe of Levi has kept their identity… For the purpose of conducting sacrifice, only the Tribe of Levi matters” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 137).
He goes on to say that there is a group “training Cohens, descendants of the Aaronic line, in how to perform the sacrificial rites” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 137). I don’t know about you, but I am astounded at everything that is currently being done in preparation to rebuild the Temple. The only thing standing in the way is the Muslim Dome of the Rock sitting on the Temple Mount. I believe that somehow, in God’s timing, permission will eventually be granted for Israel to start building the Temple. It would probably take anywhere from 1 to 3 years to complete construction.
The last pre-tribulational event I want to mention is the Rapture of the Church. We are going to dive into this in more detail next week, but I do believe the Bible teaches that it will take place before the Tribulation. It is a signless event that is imminent. Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air?
Week Six: Homework Reflections
Day One: Blackout
- The first blackout is prophesied in Joel 2:30-31. How does Joel describe the blackout? How do we know from verse 31 that it happens before the Tribulation?
- There are 4 other blackouts set to happen during the seven year Tribulation. Read the following passages and note the specific details you learn about each: Revelation 6:12, Revelation 9:2, Revelation 16:10-11, and Matthew 24:29-30.
- How do these passages compare with Joel 2:30-31? If they are different, how are they different? Remember that Jesus is the LIGHT of the world. Even through these heavenly blackouts, He is still in control and bringing everything together under the word of HIS power.
Day Two: The First Forerunner
- Read Isaiah 40:3-5 and compare with Matthew 3:1-6, and John 1:23. Who is the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy?
- What does Jesus say about John in Matthew 11:7-10? What was John’s mission as prophesied in these verses?
- Read Malachi 3:1. This passage is referring to John the Baptist. What do you learn and how does it compare with the other passages you read today?
Day Three: The Second Forerunner
- Read Malachi 4:5-6 and record what you learn.
- What is the nature of his ministry according to verse 6?
- We know there are 2 witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3-14. We aren’t told who they are, but its been speculated that Elijah could be one of them. I can’t wait until we get to that part of our study!
Day Four: Was John the Baptist Elijah?
- This was an issue that clearly confused the disciples. However, John had a specific answer to this question. Read John 1:19-23. How did John answer?
- John the Baptist was a “type” of Elijah. After the Transfiguration, Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 17:9-13. Fruchtenbaum says, “the disciples were confused because they didn’t understand the twofold coming of the Messiah and were still expecting Him to set up the kingdom at that time” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 134).
- What further clarification does Mark 9:9-13 give? (Hint: Fruchtenbaum explains, “if Elijah had come before the first coming and restored all things, then all the prophecies of the sufferings of the first coming would remain unfulfilled” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 134).
Day Five: The Tribulation Temple
- Read the following passages referring to the 3rd Temple and record what clues you see that point to a rebuilt Temple during the Tribulation: Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Revelation 11:1-2.
- As exciting as it is to think about the Temple being rebuilt, the Tribulation Temple is not sanctioned by God because Israel rejected Messiah. Read Isaiah 66:1-6 and record what you learn about how God views this Temple and their sacrifices.
- The Tribulation Temple will be an amazing structure. But as we saw in Isaiah 66, God’s presence will not be there. I can’t even begin to imagine the Millennial Temple that God ordains. Take a look at Ezekiel 37:26-28 and describe what the Millennial Temple will be like. How is it different from Isaiah 66:1-6?