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Rapture: Three Fascinating Discoveries!
by Grant Jeffrey

Over the last 30 years I have been fascinated with Bible prophecy because it authenticates the
Scriptures as God's inspired Word and it points to the imminent return of Jesus Christ to usher in
the Messianic kingdom. I am always delighted when God leads me to new information that confirms
His Word. In my ongoing research into recent archaeolological discoveries and into writings of
Early Church leaders I have made several exciting new discoveries that I want to share with my
In this chapter we will explore a number of interesting discoveries about the following subjects:
the finding of a teaching about the pre-Tribulation Rapture from the first centuries of the Early
Church; the archaeological discoveries of the tombs of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus that prove the
historical accuracy of the Gospels; and the proof that miraculous healings, raising of the dead,
and the charismatic gifts were common among believers during the first three centuries following
the resurrection of Christ.

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Was Taught by the Early Church

Obviously, the truth about the timing of the Rapture will ultimately be found only in Scripture.
The Protestant Reformation was based essentially on this return to the authority of the Bible. The
Latin phrase Sola Scriptura, meaning "Scripture Alone," became the rallying cry of the reformers
who ignored centuries of tradition and church councils in their insistence that truth could only
be discovered in the Word of God. While the ultimate resolution of this discussion must be based
on our interpretation of Scripture, it is important to answer the errors of our opponents who
disparage "the blessed hope" of the Rapture with misinformation about the modem rediscovery of the
truth about the pre-Tribulation Rapture.

Many post-tribulationist writers have attacked the pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine by claiming
that it cannot be true because no Church writer or reformer ever taught this doctrine until
approximately 170 years ago. While the real question for sincere students of Scripture must be
whether or not the Bible truly teaches this doctrine, the argument that no one ever saw
this "truth" throughout the 1,800 years of Church history has been very effective, causing many
Christians to abandon their belief in the pre-Tribulation Rapture. The only problem with their
argument is that they are totally wrong.

Many contemporary writers claim that the pre-Tribulation Rapture theory first originated around
A.D. 1820. They ascribe the theory's initial creation to either Emmanuel Acurnza (Ben Ezra, 1812),
Edward Irving (1816), or Margaret Macdonald (1830), and finally to John Darby (1830). For example,
Dave MacPherson in The Incredible Cover-Up, written in 1975, stated, "Margaret Macdonald was the
first person to teach a coming of Christ that would precede the days of Antichrist."' Before 1830
Christians had always believed in a single future coming, that the catching up of I Thessalonians
4 will take place after the Great Tribulation of Matthew 24 at the glorious coming of the Son of
Man when He shall send His angels to gather together all of His elect." Reverend John Bray, in The
Origin of the Pre- Tribulation Rapture Teaching (1980), declared, "People who are teaching the pre-
Tribulation Rapture today are teaching something that never was taught until 1812.... Not one of
those Early Church fathers taught a pre-Tribulation Rapture.... I make the offer of five hundred
dollars to anybody who will find a statement, a sermon, article in a commentary, or anything,
prior to 1812 that taught a twophase coming of Christ separated by a stated period of time, such
as the pre-Tribulation rapturists teach.

Those writers, among others who despise the teaching of the pre-Tribulation Rapture, dogmatically
assert that it was taught for the first time in 1830 by John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren or
one of the other individuals mentioned above.

A number of these authors will have to drastically revise the next edition of their books based on
two remarkable textual discoveries that conclusively prove that a number of Christian teachers,
centuries before John Darby rediscovered this biblical teaching, clearly taught that the Rapture
would occur before the tribulation period. During the summer of 1994, after more than a decade of
searching, I discovered several fascinating manuscripts that contain clear evidence of the
teaching of the pre-Tribulation Rapture in the Early Church.

Ephraem's Teaching on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

"For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the Tribulation that is to come, and
are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our
sins" (On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World, by Ephraem the Syrian, A.D.

The early Christian writer and poet, Ephraem the Syrian (who lived from A.D. 306 to 373), was a
major theologian of the early Byzantine Eastern Church. He was born near Nisbis in the Roman
province of Syria, near present-day Edessa, Turkey. Ephraem displayed a profound love of the
Scriptures in his writings as illustrated by several of his written comments quoted in Works of
Nathaniel Lardner (vol. 4, 1788). "1 esteem no man more happy than him who diligently reads the
Scriptures delivered to us by the Spirit of God, and thinks how he may order his conversation by
the precepts of them." To this day his hymns and homilies are used in the liturgy of the Greek
Orthodox and Middle Eastern Nestorian Church. While the 16-volume Post-Nicene Library includes a
number of homilies and psalms by Ephraem the Syrian, the editors noted that he also wrote a large
number of commentaries that have never been translated into English.

Ephraem's fascinating teaching on the Antichrist has never been published in English until now.
This critically important prophecy manuscript from the fourth century of the Church era reveals a
literal method of interpretation and a teaching of the pre-millennial return of Christ. More
importantly, Ephraem's text revealed a very clear statement about the pre-tribulational return of
Christ to take His elect saints home to heaven to escape the coming Tribulation. In addition,
Ephraem declares his belief in a personal, Jewish Antichrist, who will rule the Roman Empire
during the last days, a rebuilt temple, the two witnesses, and a literal Great Tribulation lasting
1,260 days. It is also fascinating to note that he taught that the war of God and Magog would
precede the tribulation period. I discovered another text by Ephraem called The Book of the Cave
of Treasure that revealed he taught that Daniel's seventieth week will be fulfilled in the final
seven years at the end of this age that will conclude with Christ's return at the Battle of
Armageddon to establish His kingdom.

The following section includes key passages from Ephraem's important text, written about A.D. 373,
and translated by Professor Cameron Rhoades of Tyndale Theological Seminary at my request.

On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World

1. Most dearly beloved brothers, believe the Holy Spirit who speaks- in us. Now we have spoken
before, because the end of the world is very near, and the consummation remains. Has not the first
faith withered away in men? ...

2. We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging.
Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have
been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled, and there is not other which
remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of the Roman kingdom. Why therefore
are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or
the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and
prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that He may draw us from the confusion,
which overwhelms the world? Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is
nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it is the very
last time.... Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the
tribulation which is about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at
any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins [italics added]. And so,
brothers, most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of this world comes to the
harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their hands, awaiting the empire of the

3. When therefore the end of the world comes, there arise diverse wars, commotions on all sides,
horrible earthquakes, perturbations of nations, tempests throughout the lands, plagues, famine,
drought throughout the thoroughfares, great danger throughout the sea and dry land, constant
persecutions, slaughters and massacres everywhere....

4. When therefore the end of the world comes, that abominable, lying and murderous one is born
from the tribe of Dan. He is conceived from the seed of a man and from a most vile virgin, mixed
with an evil or worthless spirit....

5. But when the time of the abomination of his desolation begins to approach, having been made
legal, he takes the empire.... Therefore, when he receives the kingdom, he orders the temple of
God to be rebuilt for himself, which is in Jerusalem; who, after coming into it, he shall sit as
God and order that he be adored by all nations ... then all people from everywhere shall flock
together to him at the city of Jerusalem, and the holy city shall be trampled on by the nations
for forty-two months just as the holy apostle says in the Apocalypse, which become three and a
half years, 1,260 days.

6. In these three years and a half the heaven shall suspend its dew; because there will be no rain
upon the earth ... and there will be a great tribulation, as there has not been, since people
began to be upon the earth ... and no one is able to sell or to buy of the grain of the fall
harvest, unless he is one who has the serpentine sign on the forehead or the hand....

7. And when the three and a half years have been completed, the time of the Antichrist, through
which he will have seduced the world, after the resurrection of the two prophets, in the hour
which the world does not know, and on the day which the enemy or son of perdition does not know,
will come the sign of the Son of Man, and coming forward the Lord shall appear with great power
and much majesty, with the sign of the word of salvation going before him, and also even with all
the powers of the heavens with the whole chorus of the saints .... Then Christ shall come and the
enemy shall be thrown into confusion, and the Lord shall destroy him by the Spirit of his mouth.
And he shall be bound and shall be plunged into the abyss of everlasting fire alive with his
father Satan; and all people, who do his wishes, shall perish with him forever; but the righteous
ones shall inherit everlasting life with the Lord for ever and ever.

To summarize the key points in Ephraem's text on the last days:

1. Ephraem's manuscript lays out the events of the last days in chronological sequence.
Significantly, he began with the Rapture, using the word "imminent," then he described the Great
Tribulation of three and a half years duration under the Antichrist's tyranny, followed by the
second coming of Christ to earth with His saints to defeat the Antichrist.

2. Significantly, at the beginning of his treatise in section 2, Ephraem used the word "imminent"
to describe the Rapture occurring before the Tribulation and the coming of the Antichrist. "We
ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers which is imminent or overhanging."

3. He clearly described the pre-Tribulation Rapture: "Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord
are gathered together before the tribulation which is about to come and are taken to the Lord, in
order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our

4. He then gives the purpose of God rapturing the Church "before the tribulation" so that "they
may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins." Ephraem
used the word "confusion" as a synonym for the tribulation period.

5. Ephraem described the duration of the "great tribulation" (the last half of the seven-year
tribulation period) in sections 7, 8, and 10, as follows: "forty- two months" and "three and a
half years," and "1,260 days."

6. He summarized: "There will be a great tribulation, as there has no been since people began to
be upon the earth," and described the Mark of the Beast system.

7. He declared that Christ will come to the earth after the "three and a half years" tribulation
period in section 10: "And when the three and a half years have been completed, the time of the
Antichrist, through which he will have seduced the world, after the resurrection of the two
prophets ... will come the sign of the Son of Man, and coming forward the Lord shall appear with
great power and much majesty."

Dr. Paul Alexander, perhaps the most authoritative scholar on the writings of the early Byzantine
Church, concluded that Ephraem's text on the Antichrist taught that the Lord would supernaturally
remove the saints of the Church from the earth "prior to the tribulation that is to come." Ephraem
wrote that the saints will be "taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm
the world because of our sins." Dr. Alexander believed this text was written by some unknown
writer in the sixth century, but he concluded that it was derived from an original Ephraem
manuscript (A.D. 373). Other scholars, including the German editor Professor Caspari, who wrote a
German commentary on this Latin manuscript in 1890, believed that Ephraem's manuscript was written
by the genuine Ephraem in A.D. 373. Professor Cameron Rhoades translated Ephraem's Latin text into
English at the request of my friend Dr. Tommy Ice and myself.

Ephraem and Daniel's Seventieth Week - the Tribulation Period

A question naturally arises in the mind of Bible students about how long Ephraem believed the
Tribulation would last. While Ephraem correctly describes the "great tribulation" as three and a
half years, his other writings revealed that he believed the whole tribulation period, "that sore
affliction," would last "one week" of seven years. Ephraem's book, The Book of the Cave of
Treasures, taught about the genealogy of Christ. He wrote that the sixty-ninth week of Daniel 9:24-
27 ended with the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah. He stated, "The Jews have no
longer among them a king, or a priest, or a prophet, or a Passover, even as Daniel prophesied
concerning them, saying, 'After two and sixty weeks Christ shall be slain, and the city of
holiness shall be laid waste until the completion of things decreed' (Dan. 9:26). That is to say,
for ever and ever" (italics added, The Cave of Treasures, page 235). In Daniel's prophecy he
foretold that Jerusalem would be rebuilt "even in troublesome times" during the initial period
of "seven weeks" of years (49 years). Daniel's prophecy declared that this initial period of
seven "weeks" of years would be immediately followed by a further period of 62 "weeks" of years
ending with the cutting off of the Messiah (483 years). The combined total of 69 weeks of years (7
weeks plus 62 weeks) was to conclude with the rejection of Christ. As quoted above, Ephraem taught
that Jesus Christ was slain at the end of the combined 69 weeks of years.

However, in the section of his book dealing with the future war of God and Magog, Ephraem wrote
about the final (seventieth) week of Daniel as follows: "At the end of the world and at the final
consummation ... suddenly the gates of the north shall be opened. ... They will destroy the earth,
and there will be none able to stand before them. After one week of that sore affliction
[Tribulation], they will all be destroyed in the plain of Joppa. . . .

Then will the son of perdition appear, of the seed and of the tribe of Dan.... He will go into
Jerusalem and will sit upon a throne in the Temple saying, 'I am the Christ,' and he will be borne
aloft by legions of devils like a king and a lawgiver, naming himself God.... The time of the
error of the Antichrist will last two years and a half, but others say three years and six months"
(italics added). Although there are some curious elements in his description of prophetic events,
it is clear that Ephraem believed that the seventieth final week of Daniel's prophecy of the 70
weeks will finally be fulfilled during the final seven years of this age when the Antichrist will
appear. This evidence of a belief in a "gap" or "parenthesis" between the sixty-ninth and
seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27 from the fourth century of the Christian era is significant. It
is worthwhile to note that the teaching that there would be a "gap" or parenthesis between
Daniel's sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week of years was also taught by others in the Early
Church, including the epistle of Barnabas (A.D. 110) and the writings of Hippolytus (A.D. 220).

Dr. John Gill Taught the Pre-Tribulation Rapture in 1748

Dr. John Gill, a famous eighteenth-century Baptist theologian, published his commentary on the New
Testament in 1748. He is considered a serious Calvinist scholar who wrote many volumes on
theology. In his commentary on I Thessalonians 4:15-17, Dr. Gill points out that Paul is teaching
a doctrine that is "something new and extraordinary." Gill calls the imminent translation of the
saints "the rapture" and calls for watchfulness because "it will be sudden, and unknown before-
hand, and when least thought of and expected." This is a clear, detailed 1748 teaching on the
imminent pre- Tribulation Rapture (80 years prior to John Darby in 1830).

"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the
coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep" (I Thess. 4:15). Gill's commentary on
this passage is: "The Apostle, having something new and extraordinary to deliver concerning the
coming of Christ, the first resurrection, or the resurrection of the saints, the change of the
living saints and the Rapture both of the raised, and living in the clouds to meet Christ in the
air expresses itself in this manner" (italics added).

"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet
the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:17). In commenting on this
verse Gill revealed that he understood there would be an interval of time between the Rapture and
the return of saints with Christ at Armageddon.

Suddenly, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and with force and power; by the power of
Christ, and by the ministry and means of the holy angels; and to which rapture will contribute the
agility, which the bodies both of the raised and changed saints will have; and this rapture of the
living saints will be together with them; with the dead in Christ, that will then be raised; so
that the one will not prevent the other, or the one be sooner with Christ than the other; but one
being raised and the other changed, they'll be joined in one company and general assembly, and be
rapt up together: in the clouds; the same clouds perhaps in which Christ will come will be let
down to take them up; these will be the chariots, in which they'll be carried up to Him; and thus,
as at our Lord's ascension a cloud received Him, and in it He was carried up out of the sight of
men, so at this time will all the saints ride up in the clouds of Heaven: to meet the Lord in the
air; whither He'll descend... here Christ will stop and will be visible to all, and as easily
discerned by all, good and bad, as the body of the sun at noonday; as yet He will not descend on
earth, because not fit to receive Him; but when that and its works are burnt up, and it is purged
and purified by fire, and become a new earth, He'll descend upon it, and dwell with His saints in
it: and this suggests another reason why He'll stay in the air, and His saints shall meet Him
there, and whom He'll take up with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and
burning of the world is over, and to preserve them from it: and then shall all the elect of God
descend from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband, and He with them ... then they shall be
with Him, wherever He is; fist in the air, where they shall meet Him; them in the third heaven,
where they shall go up with Him; then on earth, where they shall descend and reign with Him a
thousand years; and then in the ultimate glory to all eternity.

To summarize Dr. Gill's 1748 pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching about the sequence of prophetic
events it is vital to note that he declared: to all.

1. The Lord will descend in the air.
2. The saints will be raptured in the air to meet Him.
3. Here Christ will stop in the air and will be visible.
4. As yet, He will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive Him.
5. He'll take up the saints with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and
burning of the world is over.
6. He will preserve them from it.
7. And then shall all the elect of God descend from heaven to earth with Christ.

Gill then summarizes the sequence:

1) They shall be with Him, wherever He is; first in the air, where they shall meet Him, then Him;
2) In the third heaven, where they shall go up with
3) On earth, where they shall descend and reign with Him a thousand years.

Therefore, in addition to Ephraem's pre-Tribulation teaching from the fourth century, we have
another clear statement of this doctrine from Dr. John Gill, more than 80 years before John Darby
in 1830. Those who have stated that the pre-Tribulation Rapture was never taught throughout the
entire history of the Church until 1820 are simply ignorant of these important Christian texts.
The French writer Joubert once wrote, "Nothing makes men so imprudent and conceited as ignorance
of the past and a scorn for old books."

Why is it important to teach the doctrine of the pre-Tribulation Rapture? The apostle Peter warned
that many people would challenge our Lord's promise of His second coming in the last
days. "Knowing this first; that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their
own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?' (2 Pet. 3:3-4).

What does the Bible teach us about the proper attitude of a Christian on the subject of Christ's
return? Paul tells us, "So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of
our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 1:7).

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a true follower of Jesus is that of a faithful,
waiting, and watching servant. Dr. Klink, one of the great students of the faith of the Early
Church, wrote, "This constant expectation of our Lord's second coming is one of the characteristic
features of primitive Christianity." Paul also commends a constant expectation of the Rapture in
Philippians 3:20 where he said, "For our citizenship is in heaven; from which we also eagerly wait
for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."

The great reformer John Calvin wrote of the vital importance of the hope of the Second Coming: "It
ought to be the chief concern of believers to fix their minds fully on His Second Advent." Martin
Luther, in his Sermon of Consolation, declared that the hope of Christ's return is an absolute
necessity for a Christian: "If thou be not

filled with a desire after the Coming of this day, thou canst never pray the Lord's prayer, nor
canst thou repeat from thy heart the creed of faith. For with what conscience canst thou say, 'I
believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,' if thou dost not in my heart
desire the same? If thou didst believe it, thou must, of necessity, desire it from thy heart, and
long for that day to come; which, if thou doest not desire, thou art not yet a Christian, nor
canst thou boast of thy faith."

Throughout the New Testament we read continual exhortations to hold the hope of our Lord's soon
return as the focus of our spiritual

life. Far from being an unimportant issue, interesting only to students of prophecy, the "blessed
hope" of the Rapture should be a cornerstone of every Christian's spiritual life.

The message and hope of the imminent second coming of Christ to rapture the saints has the
following purposes:

1. - It calls us to constant watchfulness for His return (I Thess. 5:4-6).
2. It motivates Christians to witness to unbelievers in light of His imminent coming (John 9:4).
3. It reminds us to walk in holiness in an immoral world while we await His return (I John 3:3).
4. It comforts the saints by reminding them of their eternal destiny with Christ (John 14:1-3).
5. It warns of the coming judgment on those who reject His salvation (2 Thess. 1:8-9)
6. It inspires us to persevere against opposition in light of His reward (2 Tim. 4:1-8).
7. It encourages sinners to repent and accept the Lord while there is still time (Acts 3:19-21).

The promise in the Scriptures of the imminent second coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the
last best hope of mankind. It is the promise of the ultimate vindication of God's plan to redeem
mankind and the earth from the curse of sin and death. The final realization of Jesus Christ's
claim that He is the promised Messiah, and the fulfillment of prophecies about the coming kingdom
of God will culminate when the heavens open to reveal Christ coming in all His glory at the Battle
of Armageddon. However, the Scriptures teach that another event will occur before Christ comes to
defeat the Antichrist and the armies of the world at Armageddon at the end of the sevenyear
tribulation period. This separate and earlier event is often called the Rapture. Throughout the
Bible the passages that detail the revelation of Christ at the end of the tribulation period
describe a totally different event than those passages describing the coming of Christ in the air
to take the saints home to heaven.

The longing for the Rapture and the return of Christ has motivated generations of Bible students
to examine the Scriptures in a search for clues as to the exact timing of His glorious appearing.
Unfortunately, despite clear scriptural warnings against date-setting regarding the time of His
return, many have indulged in unhelpful speculation about the time of the Rapture. Harold
Camping's book 1994, for example, claimed that Christ would return on September 17, 1994. Millions
of followers of these writings have been deeply disappointed when their foolish predictions proved
false. However, despite these disappointments, we must not abandon our hope for an imminent
Rapture. We must simply be obedient to Christ's command that "Now when these things begin to
happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28).

John Wesley de Fletcher wrote a fascinating letter to Charles Wesley in 1755 that expressed the
proper attitude we should have toward the return of Christ. "I know that many have been grossly
mistaken as to the year of His return, but, because they were rash, shall we be stupid? Because
they say 'Today!' shall we say, 'Never!' and cry 'Peace, peace,' when we should look about us with
eyes full of expectation?"

The Bible warns us to live in holiness because Christ could return at any moment, without warning.
Jesus, in Luke 12:37 and 40, admonished, "Blessed are those servants, whom the master, when he
comes, will find watching .... Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an
hour you do not expect." Peter, in his second epistle, said, "You therefore, beloved, since you
know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led
away with the error of the wicked" (2 Pet. 3:17). We must live in a dynamic spiritual balance.
While we are commanded to live in holiness and urgently 'witness as though He will return before
the dawn, we are called to plan and work to fulfill the Great Commission as if He will tarry for
another hundred years. We are to "do business ['occupy' in the Authorized Version] till I come"
(Luke 19:13), fulfilling Christ's Great Commission to "go therefore and make disciples of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20).

This discovery of texts written before 1820 brings us to the conclusion that a remnant of the
faithful, from the beginning of the Early Church until today, have upheld the great precious
biblical truth of pre-Tribulation Rapture. Ephraem the Syrian's A.D. 373 manuscript On the Last
Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World, along with Dr. John Gill's 1748 Commentary on the
New Testament refute the dogmatic declarations of a post-Tribulation Rapture. In my earlier book,
Apocalypse, I quoted from the early Christian writing called Shepherd of Hermas (A.D. 110),
proving it taught the preTribulation Rapture as the hope of the Church.

The Discovery of the Tombs of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

Some writers have claimed that there is virtually no archaeological evidence to back up the
historical claims of the Gospels. The truth is that tremendous archaeological evidence has been
discovered in Israel that proves the accuracy of the New Testament!

Over a century ago a French Christian archaeologist, Charles Claremont- Gannueau, wrote a little-
known report, dated November 13, 1873, from Jerusalem to the Palestine Exploration Fund. In this
report he told of his monumental discovery, in a sepulchral cave near Bethany, of a group of
Jewish ossuaries (stone coffins) from the first century of the Christian era. To his great
surprise, Claremont-Gannueau found that these ancient Jewish stone coffins contained the names of
numerous individuals mentioned in the New Testament as members of the Jerusalem Church. Despite
its importance, this report was not published in the newspapers of the day. As a result, it was
virtually lost to history. Several years ago I purchased a book, from a rare book dealer in
London, which contained this obscure report by Charles Claremont-Gannueau. The 1874 report,
published by the Palestine Exploration Fund, included his translation of several of these
inscriptions, which indicated that he had discovered the tombs of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as
well as numerous other Christians from the first- century church. A Christian newspaper from
Israel, the Jerusalem Christian Review, has carried several fascinating articles in the last few
years about the wonderful archaeological discoveries that confirm the historical accuracy of the
Gospel account.

In the spring of 1873, Effendi Abu Saud, while constructing his house on the eastern slopes of the
Mount of Olives near the road to ancient Bethany, accidentally discovered a cave that proved to be
an ancient burial catacomb. Inside, he found 30 ancient stone coffins. Professor Charles Claremont-
Gannueau examined the ossuaries in this ancient family sepulchral cave carved out of limestone
rock. The Jews in the first century buried their dead either in the ground or in a tomb. Several
years later they would clean the bones of the skeleton and re-bury these bones in a small
limestone ossuary, often 45 inches long, 20 inches wide, and 25 inches high. The lids of these
ossuaries are triangular, semi-circular, or rectangular. Inscriptions containing the name and
identification of the deceased were painted or engraved on the sides or on the lids of the
ossuaries, in Hebrew or Greek. Claremont- Gannueau was excited to note that several ossuaries were
inscribed with crosses or the name "Jesus," proving that these Jewish deceased were Christians.
Although he was unable to take photographs, he did take squeezes with a special cloth of the
ornamented surfaces as well as of the inscriptions.

Engraved on the sides of three of these ossuaries from this cave were the names of "Eleazar" (the
Hebrew form of the Greek name "Lazarus"), "Martha," and "Mary." These names were followed by the
sign of the cross, proving they were Christian. In the Gospel of John we read the touching story
of Christ raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of
Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha" (John 11: 1).

Claremont-Gannueau noted that this was one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever
made concerning the origins of the early New Testament Church. He wrote, "This catacomb on the
Mount of Olives belonged apparently to one of the earliest families which joined the new religion
of Christianity. In this group of sarcophagi, some of which have the Christian symbol and some
have not, we are, so to speak, [witnessing the] actual unfolding of Christianity. Personally, I
think that many of the Hebrew-speaking people whose remains are contained in these ossuaries were
among the first followers of Christ.... The appearance of Christianity at the very gates of
Jerusalem is, in my opinion, extraordinary and unprecedented. Somehow the new [Christian] doctrine
must have made its way into the Jewish system.... The association of the sign of the cross with
(the name of Jesus) written in Hebrew alone constitutes a valuable fact."

The 1874 report contained the following additional inscriptions found on ossuaries:

Hebrew Inscriptions:

1. Salome, wife of Judah, engraved in very small characters ... a cruciform sign.
2. Judah, with the cross. Perhaps the husband of Salome.
3. Judah the Scribe. On another face of the sarcopha gus, Judah, son of Eleazar the Scribe.
4. Simeon the Priest (Cohen).
5. Martha, daughter of Pasach. Perhaps the name is Jewish as well as Christian.
6. Eleazar, son of Nathalu. The form "Nathai" for Nathan is not uncommon.
7. Salamtsion, daughter of Simeon the Priest. The name of the woman, Salam Sion, is of the
greatest interest.

It is the name Salampsion of Josephus (daughter of Herod).

Greek inscriptions:

1. Jesus, twice repeated, with the cross
2. Nathaniel, accompanied by a cross.

It is interesting to note that Claremont-Gannueau also found in one of the ossuaries "three or
four small instruments in copper of bronze, much oxidized, consisting of an actual small bell,
surmounted by a ring. The Arabs thought they were a kind of castanets. Can we trace here the
equivalent of the bells hung on the robe of the high priest? And do these omaments come from the
sarcophagus of our Simeon?"

The French archaeologist realized that there is a high degree of probability that these tombs
belonged to the family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the close friends of Jesus. Claremont-
Gannueau wrote, "What gives additional value to these short inscriptions is that they furnish a
whole series of names found in the Gospels, in their popular and local Syro-Chaldaic forms. The
presence of the names of Jesus and Martha, of which we only knew historically that it was the
feminine form of the Aramaic, would alone be sufficient to make this collection important from an
exegetic point of view. By a singular coincidence, which from the first struck me forcibly, these
inscriptions, found close to the Bethany road, and very near the site of the village, contain
nearly all the names of the personages in the Gospel scenes which belonged to the place: Eleazar
(Lazarus), Simon, Martha ... a host of other coincidences occur at the sight of all these most
evangelical names."

In addition, the Italian scholar P. Bagatti discovered another catacomb holding 100 ossuaries on
the western side of the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple Mount, near the Catholic chapel
called Dominus Flevit. Coins minted by Governor Varius Gratus (A.D. 16) proved that these tombs
were used for burial of Christians before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Several of the coffins
in the cave belonged to a family of priests buried in the first century. Based on the inscribed
crosses and the name "Jesus," Baggati concluded that several of these priests were followers of
Jesus Christ. Bagatti found many ossuaries containing the following names inscribed on their
sides, together with the sign of the cross or the name of Jesus: Jonathan, Joseph, Jarius, Judah,
Matthias, Menahem, Salome, Simon, and Zechariah. Many of these names appear in the New Testament
records of the Early Church at Jerusalem. One ossuary contained the Greek inscription "Iota, Chi
and Beta," which read "Jesus Christ, the Redeemer."

Without question, the most fascinating ossuary was the one inscribed with crosses and the
name "Shappira." This is a unique name which has not been found in contemporary Jewish literature
outside the New Testament passage of Acts 5: 1. Luke recorded the death of this woman and her
husband when they lied to God and the Church (Acts 5:1, 5-10). "But a certain man named Ananias,
with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. . . ."

During the fall of 1945, Dr. Eleazar Sukenik of Hebrew University investigated another first
century Jewish catacomb at the southem end of the Kidron Valley on the road to Bethlehem. He found
several ossuaries with the sign of the cross, Greek inscriptions, a coin minted in A.D. 41 for
King Herod Agrippa 1, proving the tomb was sealed by A.D. 42. Professor Sukenik concluded that the
ossuaries "contain almost the whole dictionary of names in the New Testament.

One coffin had a surprising dedication in Greek to "Jesus" followed by the exclamation "Y'ho,"
meaning "Jehovah" or "the Lord." The inscription reads: "[To] Jesus, the Lord." In light of the
A.D. 42 date for the sealing of this tomb, the presence of this dedication to "Jesus, the Lord"
attests to the acceptance by Christians of Jesus Christ as God within ten years of the death and
resurrection of Jesus. Christian theologian Professor Alexander Hopkins commented on this
significant inscription as follows: "The inscription which was hidden for almost 2,000 years and
inscribed at least two decades before any part of the New Testament was written. . . bears a
personal testimony of faith ... a message from the past with a very modem meaning for the

Several years ago they found another Jewish Christian ossuary in Jerusalem that contained the
inscription "Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene." The Gospel of Mark refers to this person as
follows, "Now they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus,
as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear his cross" (Mark 15:21).

Miracles, Healing, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit Continued for Centuries

Many Christians have been told that the miracles, healings, and charismatic gifts of the Holy
Spirit, enumerated in I Corinthians 12, were given to the early Christians solely to launch the
Church, and that these supernatural signs ceased when the apostles died. Several writers have
declared that a search of the writings of the Early Church confirms that there are no references
to these "gifts" continuing in operation beyond A.D. 100. 1 recently acquired a CD- ROM computer
disk that contains the writings of the Early Church writers from the time of Christ until the
Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, known as the Ante- Nicene Fathers. After an exhaustive search of
these early Christian writings, I can confirm that God continued to manifest His supernatural
power in the display of miraculous hearings, raising from the dead, and other charismatic gifts of
the Holy Spirit for the next three centuries following the resurrection of Christ.

There are brief references to these gifts still continuing in the Early Church manual known as the
Testimony of the Apostles - the Didache (11: 10- 13, 11:20) composed in A.D. I 10. Additional
references are found in the Letter to the Corinthians (2:1-5) by Clement, bishop of Rome, written
in A.D. 100, and the Shepherd of Hermas (43:9; 24-33; 52-54), written in A.D. I 10. However, in
addition to those above there are a number of significant references to these supernatural gifts
continuing in the Church for centuries following Christ's resurrection.

Irenaeus - Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So Called

The Christian teacher Irenaeus wrote a treatise called Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge
Falsely So Called in A.D. 185 that mentioned the continued operation of miraculous powers that
were exercised by believers in his day. He demonstrated clearly that right down to his own time,
manifestations of divine and supernatural power were witnessed in some churches. "Some drive out
demons really and truly, so that often those cleansed from evil spirits believe and become members
of the Church; some have foreknowledge of the future, visions, and prophetic utterances; others,
by laying-on of hands, heal the sick and restore them to health; and before now, as I said, dead
men have actually been raised and have remained with us for many years. In fact, it is impossible
the gifts which throughout the world the Church has received from God and in the name of Jesus
Christ crucified under Pontius Pilate, and every day puts to effectual use for the benefit of the
heathen, deceiving no one and making profit out of no one." In addition, Irenaeus
wrote, "Similarly, we hear of many members of the Church who have prophetic gifts and by the
Spirit speak with all kinds of tongues, and bring men's secret thoughts to light for their own
good, and expound the mysteries of God."

Justin Martyr - Dialogue with Trypho

Justin Martyr wrote his Dialogue with Trypho in A.D. 165 and referred clearly to many gifts of the
Holy Spirit appearing in the daily life of the second century Church (chapter XI). In chapter
XXXIX he wrote, "Daily some of you are becoming disciples in the name of Christ, and quitting the
path of error; who are also receiving gifts, each as he is worthy, illumined through the name of
this Christ. For one receives the spirit of understanding, another of counsel, another of
strength, another of healing, another of foreknowledge, another of teaching, and another of the
fear of God."

Tertullian - The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas

Tertullian was a major theologian and Christian writer from Carthage, North Africa. In A.D. 215 he
described these supernatural visions and prophetic gifts of the Holy Spirit as operating normally
in the third century Church: "And thus we who both acknowledge and reverence, even as we do the
prophecies, modem visions as equally promised to us, and consider the powers of the Holy Spirit as
an agency of the Church for which also He was sent, administering all gifts in all, even as the
Lord distributed to every one."

Origen - Against Celsus

Origen was a Christian theologian who lived and taught in Alexandria, Egypt, from A.D. 185 to 254.
In his book Against Celsus, written in A.D. 250, Origen described the gifts of the Holy Spirit as
still appearing, but he notes that these miraculous signs are beginning to diminish. "Traces of
the Holy Spirit who appeared in the form of a dove are still preserved among Christians. They
charm demons away and perform many cures and perceived certain things about the future according
to the will of the Logos" (book I, chapter XLVI, 2,8).

In book VII, chapter VIII of his book Against Celsus, Origen noted that these charismatic gifts
were diminishing, although some "traces of His presence" are still evident. "Moreover, the Holy
Spirit gave signs of His Presence at the beginning of Christ's ministry, and after His ascension
He gave still more; but since that time these signs

have diminished, although here are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls
purified by the Gospel and their actions regulated by its influence."

Novatian - Treatise Concerning the Trinity

In A.D. 270, Novatian of Rome wrote a strong defense of the doctrine of the Trinity and died as a
martyr during the second last wave of persecutions of the pagan Roman emperors. Novatian wrote
toward the close of the third century of the Church Age about the key role of the Holy Spirit in
empowering the Church. "They were henceforth armed and strengthened by the same Spirit, having in
themselves the gifts which this same Spirit distributes, and appropriates to the Church, the
spouse of Christ as her ornaments. This is He who places prophets in the Church, instructs
teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, offers discrimination
of spirits, affords powers of government, suggests counsels and orders, and arranges whatever
other gifts there are of charismata; and thus make the Lord's Church everywhere, and in all,
perfected and completed."

These documents from the first three centuries of the early Church Age tell us that God continued
to empower the saints with supernatural gifts and healing miracles to demonstrate that the Holy
Spirit's power was undiminished.

How You Can Be Assured of Eternal Life in Heaven

Someday each of us will meet Jesus Christ face to face: "It is appointed for men to die once, but
after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). God declares that "all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). It is impossible for a Holy God to allow an unrepentant sinner into a
sinless heaven. In light of the many signs that His return is very near, each of us must make our
final choice. Every day their sinful rebellion is leading men and women inexorably toward hell and
an eternity without God. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). However, God loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus the
Messiah to suffer the punishment for our sins for everyone who would confess his sin and ask
forgiveness. In the Gospel of John the prophet declared: "But as many as received Him, to them He
gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1: 12).

Final Warning - Final Choices

The Holy Scriptures declare that the choice regarding eternal salvation is very clear. Who will be
the god of your life? Jesus Christ or you? Either you will admit you are a sinner in need of a
pardon and will accept Jesus to become your Lord, or you will insist on remaining the god of your
life, even though that decision will lead you to hell. If you insist on being your own god, you
will succeed, but at the awful cost of an eternity in hell. Pride is the first and greatest sin.
Sinful pride is displayed in the stubborn attitude of many people who insist on having their own
way, even at the cost of an eternity without God.

Milton declared in his epic poem, "Paradise Lost," that in the end, either we shall say to
God, "Thy will be done," or in the end God will say to us, "Thy will be done." Finally, it is your
choice. Ultimately, you must choose heaven or hell as your eternal destination. If you choose to
commit your life to Jesus Christ you will be assured that you will meet Him at the Rapture as your
Saviour. If you reject His claims to be the Lord of your life, you will have chosen to meet Him as
your final judge at the end of your life. The apostle Paul quoted Isaiah when he said, "Every knee
shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom. 14:11; Isa. 45:23).

The New Testament recorded the crisis which prompted the jailer of the Philippian prison where
Paul and Silas were imprisoned, to make his final choice. God used an earthquake to break the
chains that bound the two preachers and to open the prison doors. When the jailer awoke he was
afraid that the prisoners had escaped. As he drew his sword to commit suicide, the apostle Paul
announced that the prisoners were still there. The frightened jailer recognized the power of Jesus
Christ to save His servants. He called out, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Paul gave him the
key to eternal life: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your
household" (Acts 16:30-31). The Bible confirms that this man and his family found faith in
Christ. "He rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household" (Acts 16:34).

Jesus Christ's invitation to salvation remains open to anyone who is willing to repent of their
sins. There is still time to accept Jesus as your personal Saviour. "Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. If any one hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and dine with
him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also
overcame and sat down with My Father in His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the
Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 3:20-22).

For those who have already chosen to follow the Lord, I encourage you to obey the Great Commission
of our Lord and Saviour. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commanded, "Go therefore and make disciples of
all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even
to the end of the age."

Our knowledge of the nearness of the return of Jesus Christ should awaken a renewed love of Christ
and a passion to witness to those around us while there is still time. The purpose of this book is
to introduce non-believers to faith in Christ and to encourage Christians in their faith. In
addition, my goal is to provide believers with prophecy material that they can give to their
friends and neighbors who do not yet have a personal faith in Christ. The incredible events of the
last decade are causing many to ask what lies ahead for the earth. There is a growing fascination
in North America with Bible prophecies regarding the last days. This tremendous interest provides
us with the greatest opportunity to witness in our lifetime. The Lord has not left us in darkness
concerning the general time of Christ's return. Although we cannot know "the day nor the hour in
which the Son of Man is coming" (Matt. 25:13), the fulfillment of three dozen prophecies in our
generation indicate that He is coming back to earth in our generation. Someday soon the heavens
will open with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God" (I Thess.
4:16) announcing to the Church the awesome news that our time of waiting is finally over. At that
moment Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds to receive His bride, His faithful Church, rising
supernaturally in the air to meet their Lord and King. Despite the dangers that lie ahead for
mankind, those who love Jesus Christ as their Saviour can rest in the knowledge that all these
events are in the Lord's hands. The apostle John concluded his prophecy with the great promise of
Christ. "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.' Amen. Even so, come,
Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20).



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