Catchy title, huh? Well, I didn’t write it. The following is pretty much taken right out of the latest issue of Zion’s Fire. Marv Rosenthal’s article "A Covenant With Death" contains material from The PreWrath Rapture of the Church, but it goes even deeper. Rosenthal ties the future apostasy mentioned in II Thessalonians 2:3, with the making of a future covenant between Israel and surrounding nations which will cause them to forsake the ways of Moses. The following is a synopsis of Rosenthal’s article with some commentary of my own.
Rosenthal rightly begins in I Thessalonians coming to the same conclusions that I have come to regarding the coming of the LORD. Christ brings the Day of the LORD with Him at His coming (parousia = physical presence on earth). The Day of the LORD (when Christ comes to resurrect dead believers, rapture living believers, and pour out His wrath) will come as a thief in the night, BUT, believers will not be overtaken like a thief in the night. It is only unbelievers who will be taken unawares as a thief in the night. Believers will not suffer the wrath that Christ brings with Him at His physical, bodily return since they will be resurrected/raptured to ever be with the LORD. I Thessalonians 4 and 5 states these very things. So when you’re reading the classic rapture passage, don’t stop at the end of chapter 4, the passage is continued well into chapter 5.
Next Rosenthal moves to II Thessalonians with another conclusion that I have previously come to. II Thessalonians is a commentary on I Thessalonians. When Paul writes of "the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and… our gathering together unto Him" He can be referring to no other event than that which was previously written to them in the first epistle. Paul uses strong language in not wanting the Thessalonian believers to be deceived. He states in no uncertain terms that "that day", the day of His coming and our gathering together unto Him, WILL NOT occur until after two specific events: #1- The Apostasy and #2- The revealing of the man of sin. The phrase in the KJV translated "falling away" is actually the word for apostasy.
Note to PreTribbers: This is where the PreTrib theory severely breaks down. Paul had written extensively concerning the catching up of the saints in the first epistle, now he clarifies even further. The first epistle mentioned the Day of the LORD as immediately following the catching up of believers, now he uses the term Day of Christ, or Messiah’s Day and narrows down the time frame. It must happen after these two events. This strikes a blow to the any-moment view of imminency which in my view simply does not exist in the scriptures. The revealing of the man of sin is accompanied with the description that he will sit in the temple proclaiming himself to be God. This must occur at the midpoint of Daniel’s seventieth week; therefore the catching up of living believers will be after this.
But now, on to Rosenthal’s main point. The apostasy is referring to a very specific event in Rosenthal’s view (which is very quickly becoming my own in this area). In Rosenthal’s words,
The word apostasy is used only twice in the entire New Testament; therefore, how it is used becomes exceedingly important. Dr. Luke used the word apostasy in describing an important occasion in the Book of Acts when the apostle Paul met with the Jewish elders at Jerusalem.
Many Jews had accepted Christ, but they continued to adhere to the Mosaic Law (Acts 21:20). They wanted to believe in Jesus but within the confines of Old Testament Judaism. They did not understand the implications of the new covenant instituted by Jesus (Matthew 26:26-29).
Speaking of those recent Jewish believers, the elders in Jerusalem said to Paul, "And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake ["forsake" is the translation of apostasia meaning to "fall away" or "utterly abandon"] Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs" (Acts 21:21). Here, then, is one of the only two times the apostasy is used in the Bible. And it is used in the context of the apostle Paul being repudiated for supposedly asking Jews to totally abandon their Jewish culture, custom, and fiath. Of course, nothing could have been farther from the truth.
So here in this instance the use of the word apostasy means Jewish people completely turning their back on the law of Moses. Rosenthal then moves to the person of Antiochus Epiphanes as a foreshadowing of the end times antichrist. Rosenthal cites I Maccabees and Josephus as history sources for his information. Antiochus sought to assimilate all cultures into his own culture. When he entered into the land of Israel, he sought to turn the Jewish people from their faith in God and (you guessed it) from the law of Moses. But it was in the form of a covenant. Here is how I Maccabees words what happened:
1:11 In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, "Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us." 12 This proposal pleased them, 13 and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. 14 So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, 15 and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.
Then note how the agreement which contains the abandonment of the holy covenant is referred to as later in the book.
2:15 The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice.
Rosenthal continues his article:
Specifically, this sacrifice was the killing of a pig as a sacrifice to the heathen deity Zeus Olympus. This was an abomination of great magnitude for observant Jews. Under the Mosaic Law, the pig was strictly forbidden (Leviticus 11:2, 7; Deuteronomy 14:3, 8). Some of the Jews rebelled against this abomination. Others capitulated to it.
This covenant, which many of the Jews entered into with Antiochus Epiphanes, prefigures the covenant which many from among Israel will enter into with the Antichrist in a soon-coming day. The prophet Daniel spoke of that covenant in this way: "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease" (Daniel 9:27).
The circumstances surrounding Antiochus Epiphanes, his defilement of the Temple, and the apostasy of many of the Jewish people are among of the most conspicuous events in Jewish history. It would, therefore, be appropriate and natural to use the same term (apostasy) concerning the same people (the Jews) regarding an event to occur at the same place (the Temple at Jerusalem) in describing a future day when many of the Jews will totally abandon the God of their fathers and the messianic hope in the same way they did in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, only to embrace a heathen religion and a false messiah.
The parallels between the historically fulfilled events under Antiochus Epiphanes and the prophetic events awaiting fulfillment under the Antichrist are amazing. There can be no question but that in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25) the Lord himself assumed that His hearers were familiar with the events surrounding Antiochus Epiphanes and Israel’s great apostasy.
Rosenthal goes on to make another conclusion that I had come to in my own studies as well. The covenant with death described in Isaiah 28:14-18 is a shadow of the end times covenant that Israel will make with the antichrist. Here is the passage followed by some of my observations.
14 Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. 15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: 16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. 17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. 18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
The covenant in the immediate context referred to either the agreement that Ahaz made with Tiglath-pileser in II Kings 16:7-8 or to the agreement between Hezekiah and Sennacharib in II Kings 18:14-16. The overflowing scourge is no doubt Assyria, see Isaiah 8:7-8. The agreement, of course, did NOT stand. Although Assyria did not take Jerusalem, the prophecy was true since the agreement literally did Jerusalem no good at all since Sennacharib was ready to invade Jerusalem. Isaiah 28:16 shows where they should have put their trust. In this verse, believing on the precious cornerstone is contrasted with trusting in the false covenant. So based on this, the principle would be the same for any agreement that Israel would make with another and not put their trust in the precious corner stone. The end times covenant that the antichrist will make with Israel can be no exception. It will literally be a covenant with death and hell.
After covering quite a bit of background, Rosenthal turns back to the passage in II Thessalonians 2 and applies what we see concerning the term apostasy.
The apostasy, then, to which Paul referred (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), will involve Israel. It will commence when many within the nation sign a covenant with the Antichrist (unknown to them it is a covenant with death) at the beginning of that seventieth week. They will embrace a counterfeit religion (humanism, or the deification of man) and a counterfeit Messiah (the Antichrist) who offers a counterfeit peace and solution to the Middle East dilemma.
In the middle of that seventieth week of Jewish apostasy, the Antichrist will break the covenant with Israel. Having entered Israel on the pretext of protecting her from her enemies, he will defeat forces to the north and south of Israel. Then he will "plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas [the Mediterranean and Dead Seas] in the glorious holy mountain [Mount Zion]" (Daniel 11:45). Only then, in the middle of the seventieth week, with the setting up of his image in the Temple, will the Jews realize his true character and real identity and that they have made a covenant with death.
Some commentators, focusing on Paul’s statement to the Thessalonians that says, "and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3), have placed that event at the signing of the covenant (Daniel 9:24-27) and, therefore, at the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week. In doing so, they have missed the whole point of Paul’s argument. Two facts are of utmost importance: (1) the apostasy must come before the Day of the Lord commences (that apostasy can only be understood as the total abandoning by "many" of the Jewish people of their covenantal relationship with the Lord during the first half of the seventieth week); (2) in the middle of the seventieth week, again, before the Day of the Lord commences, the man of sin will be revealed. Paul makes that clear in a most conspicuous way. After stating that the man of sin must be revealed, he does not relate that event to the time of the signing of the covenant but to the occasion of the setting up of Antichrist’s image at the Temple at the mid-point of the seventieth week of Daniel.
So to sum up in a very inadequate way, Daniel’s seventieth week (a future seven year period in time) scripturally begins with a covenant which later turns out to be a covenant with death. When Israel makes the covenant, they will commit the apostasy spoken of in II Thessalonians 2:3. When the midpoint of the week comes, three and one half years later, the man of sin will be revealed by proclaiming himself to be God from the temple. The word apostasy may very well have some other implications such as the way Pastor Shane has been preaching on in the evening services, but I think Rosenthal is on target given the limited use of the word in scripture, the description of the covenant with Antiochus as the apostasy, and the knowledge that Paul assumed his readers had concerning other end times events. In leaving the word apostasy undefined here, there is an assumption that they knew the meaning behind the meaning so to speak.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
Note: Everything colored purple is a direct quote from Zion’s Fire Vol. 18, No. 1, article by Marv Rosenthal titled A Covenant with Death. Given that the article covers 14 pages, I recommend reading it for yourself.