Having been raised in a Church that believed in the literal interpretation of Scripture (for the most part), I grew up mostly familiar with the pre-Tribulation rapture teaching. Consequently I am often baffled when I am confronted with those who want to allegorize everything in Scripture.
Take, for instance, those who say that we are in the millennial reign of Christ right now. This is one of the teachings of Amillennialists. This philosophy, originating with Augustine, says that the millennial reign of Christ is occurring right now, and it will end with the rapture of the Church, as well as the separation of the goats from the sheep, and judgment day. Some of them seem to believe that there will be a literal Antichrist shortly before this time, though many teach that the various popes have been occupying the “office” of the Antichrist since Constantine.
Very frequently, though not always, you find that these people also teach that the Church is the Israel of God. This is known as replacement theology, where the Church replaces Israel, and all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel apply to the Church, unless they are negative, and then they still apply to natural Israel. I tackled this idea in my posts The Israel of God and The Israel of God Revisited.
While reading through Zechariah the other day I came across three unusual prophecies that should end the idea of replacement theology, unless you allegorize them, of course. Funny, I don’t remember any pastor ever preaching from this part of the Word of God. This is a prophecy of the millennial reign of Christ, which concerns the actions of the Gentile nations during this time;
16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. 18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16-19
The nations which come against Jerusalem will include all the nations of the whole world, as we can see in Jeremiah 25:26, and in Revelation 19:19.
I have often noted that the bible repeats things for emphasis. Here we have three mentions that the feast of tabernacles will be celebrated by the Gentile nations during Christ’s earthly reign. This may be because this is the day that Jesus will return, to rescue Israel.
It may also be to commemorate the fact that God has left his mansion in Heaven to dwell in shacks (tabernacles) among men.
The question I have for those who think we are in the millennial reign right now is; How come you don’t celebrate the feast of tabernacles? I don’t know of any Christian denomination, except maybe the Jewish Messianic denominations, who keep this feast, but this prophecy is specifically for and about the Gentiles. Yes, Israel is in the prophecy too, but they will already be in Jerusalem. It will be the Gentile nations who make this annual journey.
Gentile nations who do not send representatives to Jerusalem to observe the feast of tabernacles, during the millennial reign, will be cursed with droughts and sickness. Does this happen today? There are droughts, and plagues, from time to time, but this is not because we do not observe this feast. No. None of the conditions outlined in these verses can be observed today.
The only answer is that this is a prophecy for another time, a time that is soon coming, but is not quite here just yet. More evidence that Jesus will return for a literal thousand-year earthly reign!
One little note of interest; It appears that some of our modern technology may make it into the millennial reign. Since every nation will be required to send representatives to this feast, and some of those nations are a long way away, some form of rapid transportation will be needed to get them to Israel. If we were to return to the era of sailing ships, and horses and buggies, a round trip from many nations to Jerusalem, and back, would take the better part of a year.
Of course this would also mean that the Gentile nations should have been celebrating this feast for the last 2,000 years, and yet we don’t have any evidence that this was ever done, or even attempted!
While I would never doubt the salvation of someone who claims to have been saved through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am certain that some eschatologies did not come from God. Preterism, Amillennialism, and Replacement Theology, appear to be prophetic schemes that were introduced into the Church with the purpose of causing confusion among Christians.
I am so often frustrated at the modern Church’s ignoring of the Old Testament. Most Christians don’t know what the Old Testament says, let alone believe it. The New Testament is solidly built on the Old. In the book of Revelation alone there are over five hundred references to the Old Testament!
Here’s what Paul had to say about the Old Testament law and prophets;
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: Acts 24:14