The Grateful Dead

The first verses of 2 Thessalonians 2 have been an unnecessary battle ground. The Day of the Lord would not come until after the Man of Sin had been revealed. This reasoning seems obvious to Paul. It should be obvious to us if we know the early chapters of Genesis and their corporate expression in Israel’s festal calendar.

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 NKJV) [1]

What was this “gathering together” of the saints, and how does it relate to the gathering mentioned by Jesus in Mark 13?

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mark 13: 24-27 ESV)

This period in history would bring about the end of “Israel according to the flesh,” the nation which was elevated above all the nations of the world upon an earthen altar (the Land) as a living sacrifice. Israel was a firstfruits to God, but her own entire history follows the pattern of her annual feasts (see Bible Matrix p. 191).

Israel’s festal calendar has its structural origin in the testing of Adam, the first “high priest.” Day 6 of the Creation week (land animals and Man) corresponds to the sixth feast (as they are listed in Leviticus 23). The Day of Atonement involved Land animals and Man. Only once Israel was purified could she minister to the nations through hospitality in the Feast of Booths.

The four decades between AD30 and AD70 would finish this process with the Atonement of Jesus and the fulfillment of Booths (Tabernacles), the bringing in of both Jews and Gentiles in a union of “Land” and “Sea.” This final feast, the one in which a purified Israel is ready to minister to the other nations, was also referred to as Ingathering.

Ingathering comes after Atonement. The end of the Old Covenant (and inauguration of the Church) would culminate in the first resurrection. [2] But this could not happen until the unfaithful priesthood was dealt with.

This reasoning is based on the first atonement, the shedding of blood to cover the first Man of Sin, Adam. [3] Just as Adam and Eve were refused entrance into God’s rest, so Israel’s Day 7 could only happen after Israel’s Day 6 was done with. The Hebrew Christians were exhorted not to turn back, but to enter into this new rest. Reading Hebrews 4 and 10 in this light is a real eye opener.

Only once the blood of the prophets was avenged could the sleeping faithful, including Abel and Abraham, receive their inheritance. Just as the High Priest approached the veil twice with blood, once for the priesthood and once for the people (as Head and Body), so Jesus, who had ascended as Head, would return “in like manner” to purify the body, and accept her into the place which He had prepared. This is the “ingathering” to which the apostles refer. It is prefigured in Old Covenant language.

“Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” (Genesis 25:8) [4]

This gathering of the Old Testament faithful in Abraham was only temporary. Christ was the first Man who would not be gathered but instead become the gatherer.

“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.” (Acts 13:36-37)

To gather faithful Israel, He would also have to scatter His enemies, that is, false Israel. Paul’s statement, in the light of Covenant structure, means that the new order cannot have begun if the Day of the Lord, the day when the Overlord turns up to administer the Sanctions of the Covenant, has not yet occurred. The entire New Testament takes place not only in the shadow of the cross, but in the shadow of Herod’s Temple and its claim to divine authority. The God-fest of all nations could not be enjoyed until after the rival priest-kingdom was demolished.

Only a logical reference to the Covenant structure allows us to see all the promises to Abraham fulfilled finally in a heavenly country (though they were certainly fulfilled completely by the end of the conquest of Canaan under Joshua). Before the old Temple would be turned into ashes, all the saints, the “cloud of witnesses” (as sacrificial incense filling the house) would finally find their rest in Christ, a better Adam, in heaven. Daniel saw a vision of their ascension (Daniel 7) and Josephus records the appearance of armies in clouds over Jerusalem, just before the Roman siege, that is, after days of the tribulation of the saints. The saints under the altar, the “grateful dead,” would discover that the promises to “corruptible seed” would all be fulfilled in ways incorruptible (1 Peter 1:23). The courts of God in heaven are now the halls of fame.

[1] For the literary structure of this passage, see The Breath of His Coming – 1.
[2] See The End is Not Yet and The Last Trumpet.
[3] See also The Man of Sin.
[4] This is much more to this. See What Lies Beneath.

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