Updated: Apr 4
The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in the year of our Lord, 1620. For all intents and purposes, this was the year our forefathers attributed to the original founding of America. Approximately 156 years later, the American colonists declared their independence from a tyrannical England.
For the next 243 years, the United States would serve the world as a sovereign nation, providing a safe haven to the politically, ideologically, and religiously oppressed peoples of the world. To wit, the Jews, who were still in their millennia-long diaspora, found the New World a place of refuge from the rolling tides of European antisemitism. They resettled in America and ultimately flourished from then until today. Taken together since our nation’s original founding in 1620, 399 years will have passed. In fact, 2020 marks the 400th year of both the idea and the reality of the United States of America.
What are the Biblical significance to these four-hundred years, Elijah, and the Rapture of the Church you ask? The unconditional promise of the Promised Land. But more on that in a minute.
“Dr. Donald S. Lutz, a professor of political science at the University of Houston and the author of The Origins of American Constitutionalism points out that the Bible provided the concept of the covenant.” In reference to the Pilgrims, the Puritans, and early Christian settlers of British North America, Lutz told me:
These poor people came to the New World, they had the wrong technologies, their plows would not work, their houses that they constructed were inappropriate for the weather. All their technology was wrong, except for one technology they brought with them, which was the ability to use covenants to create communities. It was the perfect technology. It was the technology that mattered that allowed them to survive all up and down the coast. (Link)
Elijah the Tishbite (from Gilead) first shows up in the Old Testament in 1st Kings 17 around the same time as the prophet Obadiah. He is given neither backstory, nor lineage, but appears from out of nowhere to challenge the evil reign of King Ahab by declaring a three-year drought. He then seeks refuge with a widow and her son in a neighboring country, where he performs the miracle of the flour and oil, as well as resurrecting her son from the dead. He goes back and challenges the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (1 Kings 18:18-19) in the “mother of all showdowns.” After thoroughly destroying their credibility as prophets and their false gods, he then had all 850 of them put to death by the Jewish people who came to watch.
Afterward, he declares an end to the drought, but a scorned Jezebel puts a bounty on his head, and Elijah flees for his life. Even Elijah’s fleeing takes on superhuman feats of strength. He runs from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel (15 miles) beating King Ahab’s chariot back. He then goes on to run from Jezreel to Beersheba (100 miles) and after eating, goes on a forty-day fast while traveling and avoiding Jezebels’ hit teams. He ends up at Mt. Horeb where the Lord meets with Elijah. He instructs him to appoint a new king over Syria, a new king over Israel, and his successor, Elisha (1 Kings 19:15-16).
These leaders would help turn Israel away from the evil of idol worship and would facilitate the total destruction of the wicked line of Ahab and Jezebel: “And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death” (1 Kings 19:17). Elijah had dealt a death blow to Baal-worship in Israel, and the three men Elijah would anoint would remove the remaining vestiges of that particular form of idolatry. (Link)
King Ahab ruled during the time of the divided kingdom (Israel-North [209 years], Judah-South [326 years]) before its ultimate destruction by the Assyrians and Babylonians (respectively). He had been a morally weak Jewish King (of the northern kingdom) who essentially abdicated his throne to his pagan wife Jezebel. She worshipped Baal, who was the main god of the Canaanites and Phoenicians. She normalizes Baal worship in the north, and eventually, it became problematic to the identity of the Jewish people.
Nonetheless, Baal worship had become widespread in Israel during this time, primarily because of Jezebel’s influence, and was why God used Elijah (and his successors) to ultimately put an end to this vile practice.
According to Canaanite mythology, Baal was the son of El, the chief god, and Asherah, the goddess of the sea. Baal was considered the most powerful of all gods, eclipsing El, who was seen as rather weak and ineffective. In various battles, Baal defeated Yamm, the god of the sea, and Mot, the god of death and the underworld. Baal’s sisters/consorts were Ashtoreth, a fertility goddess associated with the stars, and Anath, a goddess of love and war. The Canaanites worshiped Baal as the sun god and as the storm god—he is usually depicted holding a lightning bolt—who defeated enemies and produced crops. They also worshiped him as a fertility god who provided children. Baal worship was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution in the temples. At times, appeasing Baal required human sacrifice, usually the firstborn of the one making the sacrifice (Jeremiah 19:5). The priests of Baal appealed to their god in rites of wild abandon which included loud, ecstatic cries and self-inflicted injury (1 Kings 18:28). (Link)
Similar to the worship of Molech, human sacrifice (usually children) was a common practice to the pagan people inhabiting the ancient area of Canaan. This was the same land to whom the Lord promised unconditionally to Abraham that his descendants would inherit, but would require a 400-year waiting period. This 400-year waiting period was important because God is longsuffering, and was given the then-current tenants (the Amorites), time to repent because their iniquity had not yet run its course (Gen. 15:16).
After the 400-years, God raises up a man named Moses and he leads his fellow Hebrews out of Egypt. After a forty-year jaunt in the desert, only the second generation (plus Joshua and Caleb) were allowed entrance into the Promised Land. The Hebrew tribes were then instructed to destroy all the giants and the pagans in the land, but failed to do so. After a period of general lawlessness…
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 18:25
…a golden era arrived (Saul/David/Solomon). But 120 years later, the country split between north and south, with ten tribes aligning with the north (Israel), and two in the south (Judah). Still, by the time Elijah comes upon the scene (circa 845BC), paganism remained an endemic problem polluting the land for over millennia. God had enough and sent Elijah to begin the purge.
Having then named his successor, God then spectacularly raptures Elijah from life into eternity and does it all in front of Elisha.
So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 2 Kings 2:10-11
We know according to Revelation 11:1-10, that Two Witnesses will come back to the land of Israel in the last days and perform judgments against the Antichrist, his forces, the city of Jerusalem, and the people there. They will do this in very much the same way that Moses and Elijah did, i.e. there are great similarities in the kinds of judgments and the manner that they are carried out. They will have the power to cause a drought for three and a half years. They can turn the waters into blood. They can cause plagues as often as they like. They will strike down with fire from their mouth, anyone, who tries to harm them.
My personal opinion is that these Two Witnesses are Enoch and Elijah. Enoch because he represents the Gentile Saints and Elijah for the Jewish Saints. Although we have no record of Enoch causing plagues or other miraculous signs, we know that he was perhaps the very first prophet and foretold the coming judgment of Christ’s Second Coming (Jude 1:14-15). We are told that Elijah must come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5-6). Again, my personal opinion here is that whenever the phrase the day of the Lord is used, if it does not have a modifier before it (great, dreadful, terrible, etc.), then that phrase is speaking to the general use of the word talking about the whole 70th Week. However, we see the way Malachi uses it, is speaking to the actual day of the Second Coming. Thus, my two candidates are Enoch and Elijah. Although nothing to break fellowship over, I contend that it is possible that it could also be Moses and Elijah-see Mt. of Transfiguration (Mark 9:4).
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness 1 Cor. 1:21-23
I like to draw correlations between things that are seemingly out of man’s control to influence. Some might call that destiny or fortune, but with God, we know that it is divine providence. Although Abraham’s descendants would have to wait for four centuries in bondage in order to inherit the Promised Land, the waiting was not in vain. Not only did it serve to deal with the Amorite people, but it also created a shared experience that would unite the Twelve Tribes forever. It was at the foot of a smoking and thundering Mt. Sinai that the Hebrews came together for the first time as a nation. It was here that they bound themselves to the conditional covenant of God’s law (Exodus 19-34).
Their regathering as a nation in 1948 after two millennia of diaspora was meant to be an even greater miracle than their deliverance from Egypt. Not only were the Jews coming from just one geographic location (e.g., Egypt), but from all over the world (Num. 32:13, Deut. 28:64). Not only did the Jews wander about the desert for forty years for their disbelief, but would spend the next two-thousand years wandering the world for their ultimate act of disbelief by rejecting their Messiah (Matt. 27:15-26, Zech. 12:10-14). Not only would God remove the Amorites, but God would geopolitically restructure the entire world order by way of the creation of the United States, two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the creation of a United Nations to make it happen.
The United States was a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It was at one time, the greatest proponent of spreading the Gospel the world had ever seen. When the US began to turn into a post-Christian nation toward the end of our 400-year run, the Internet was developed and the Gospel began to go out that way. Now the Internet is under assault (and freedom of speech online) because of its effectiveness in spreading the Gospel and truth.
When the last bastion of religious freedom has been shut down, God’s usefulness for this nation will have run its course. Interestingly enough, at our 400-year mark, God raised up a President like Donald Trump, who, despite his personal faults, has been an invaluable and strategic-ally to Israel. He then partnered Pres. Trump with a devout Christian Vice President, and Secretary of State.
Nevertheless, Israel’s rebirth as a nation would happen because the Bible said it would. The finality in this divine providence demonstrates the specificity with which the Jews could see its fulfillment with their own eyes. It also further demonstrated God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises (Isaiah 11:11, 66:8, Amos 9:15, Ezekiel 37:11).
Now consider the fact that the US was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and that the Church is neither Jew, nor Greek… (Gal. 3:28), and we are in the Laodicean-era of the Church age, therefore, it makes sense that the nature of our Rapture is reflective of that reality. We are translated from mortal to immortal, meeting Christ in the air, visible to the entire Church, yet hidden from the world. Makes one wonder why Elijah was taken up in such dramatic fashion, e.g., the fiery chariot, while Enoch’s departure was so enigmatic?
Think back to Enoch for a second. Enoch walked with God, and then he was not, for God took Him (Gen. 5:24). We know later in Hebrews 12, that his being “took” meant he did not see death, but was translated into eternity alive (Heb. 12:5). Enoch as far as we can know from Scripture was the seventh generation from Adam, and was not a Jew/Hebrew/Israelite, because that would not come about until the life of Abraham many centuries later. Presumably, Enoch’s unexplainable disappearance was just, unexplainable, until the writer of Hebrews by the Holy Spirit, explained the why, late in the first century AD.
Elijah’s disappearance was about 180 degrees opposite of Enoch’s. First, he and everyone with him knew when his rapture was coming (2 Kings 2:1-5). Second, aside from the timing, Elijah’s rapture (or manner of departure) was not a mystery. He knew he was going up to heaven, although, he may not have known exactly what that would look like. Last, his deliverance upward was not some instantaneous translation from mortal to immortal; in fact, there is no mention of Elijah’s physical transformation at all. Instead, he is taken up in an over-the-top, chariot of fire which becomes a whirlwind of fire that could be seen from a distance (vs. 16).
Volume III will discuss The Rapture of the Church