Everyone expects that a time of great distress is coming. But why will God permit a Great Tribulation and will he allow believers to endure it?
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus instructed his disciples to “watch.” This passage teaches us how to watch and pray in the end times.
On the Night He Was Betrayed
In our last article (READ HERE), we went into great detail on what the command “watch” means in Jesus’s great end time teaching, the Olivet Discourse.
In this article, we will examine the parallels between Jesus’s instructions to his disciples on the night he was betrayed and watching in the end times. It is a great demonstration of how to watch. In Matthew’s Gospel we read:
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” (Matt. 26:36)
Gethsemane is a word that means “Olive Press.” And certainly, both Jesus and the disciples were about to enter a “pressing” time of trial. Jesus was aware of what was to come upon him, but the disciples, however, were clueless. In many ways, this is just like us. Jesus sees the challenges and what we will need to overcome them, but we don’t always see it coming.
Night of the Vigil
Now what is interesting is the night of Nissan 15 (after the lamb sacrifice of Nissan 14) is a night of watching or vigil for all Israel as described in Exodus:
It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. (Exo. 12:42)
Yet this night of Jesus’s betrayal was, by all accounts, the evening of Nissan 14 right after sundown. However, and this is key, the disciples had just eaten the Passover meal with Jesus. So in that way, I would assume this was the required night of vigil for them. This makes the disciples inability to watch with Jesus, even more egregious . A fine article on the net explains this vigil . In this article we see that the Hebraic concept of this night is a vigil kept by YHWH and Israel, which of course is what was happening in the Garden that night. Jesus was with his people, both should have been watching.
This article also discusses how the Greek word for vigil translated in the Septuagint carries the additional meaning of preparation. So this was to be a night of preparation for the disciples; preparation that they failed to heed and take advantage of. When the testing came, all the disciples fled, and later Peter committed apostasy.
If we consider the events of that night as similar to events in the end times, they are a model of how we are not to fall into apostasy when that future time of trial comes.
A Future Vigil?
Is it possible that the timing of the vigil, the night of Passover, might be significant in the future as well? It absolutely might be. Readers of my book Revelation Deciphered (BUY IT HERE) are aware that it is my guess that the 1260 days of the Antichrist’s reign might end on Yom Kippur. Back dating these 1260 days would land on or about Passover 3 ½ years prior. The event that begins the countdown will likely be the Abomination of Desolation when the man of sin sits in the Temple of God.
Could this be the same event being “foretold” by analogy in the account of the night our Master was betrayed? On that day in the First Century, it was Judas who was revealed as the betrayer. Both Judas (John 17:12) and the coming Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:4) are called the “son of destruction” or the “son of perdition” in Scripture. So Judas is definitely a “foreshadow” of the coming Antichrist. IMO, this makes the night of the vigil and Jesus’s instructions to watch a perfect match with the coming Abomination of Desolation and the Great Tribulation that immediately follows it.
If this is correct, Jews and Christians should be “Watching and Praying” during the “night” of the first three and a half years of the 70th Week of Daniel. IMO, Christians should also consider keeping the vigil on Passover evening between now and that fateful day. Although we are not obligated to “watch” as we’ve been freed from the Law and regulations of Israel, I believe it is an awesome opportunity for churches and small groups to get together and “watch and pray” as part of their ongoing preparation for the tribulation to come. If we do this, it will be a wonderful reminder to us of how to watch.
Interestingly Jesus gave his disciples three chances to “wake up” during that night:
And he (Jesus) came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. (Mark 14:37-41)
In the end times, Christians will also have 3 opportunities to “wake up” before the revealing of Antichrist at the midpoint of the 70th Week of Daniel. What are these three wake-up calls? Why, the first three seals, of course: Deception by False Messiahs, War and Chaos, and Famine. This further analogy between the night of Jesus’s betrayal and the coming end times just re-enforces to me that we should assume that evening in the first century WAS a metaphor for us to use in terms of our preparation for the future Great Tribulation.
Jesus’s specific instruction to the disciples was that they “watch and pray.”
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)
And this is his instruction to us as well. We will spend the rest of this article examining what this command means. But before we begin that, I want to bring to your attention the Greek word peirasmos which is translated “temptation” in Mark 14:38 above. In our previous article about the Pope and his recent rewriting of the Lord’s Prayer, we discussed this word. In an eschatological setting, it refers to the time of trial, the Wrath of God that is poured out after the sixth seal. So if this passage is an extended metaphor about preparing for end times, we are to “watch and pray” so that we don’t enter the Wrath of God! This would mean not denying Jesus and not taking the Mark of the Beast.
Now obviously, temptation can also mean just that, temptation to sin, and denying Jesus and taking the Mark are obviously sins as well! However, in an end time setting, there is little doubt that every one will likely face the “temptation” to take the Mark. It is succumbing to the Mark and thereby being left behind by the Rapture and entering the Wrath of God that Jesus is warning us about.
How to Watch and Pray
Now we are finally ready to begin to examine this important question. “How” do we watch? If we closely examine the account in Mark, it is pretty obvious that Jesus wanted them to watch in a spiritual way and a physical way. In our previous article we saw most Christians consider the command to watch to be only spiritual:
It is spiritual watching coupled with prayer that gives one the strength to survive temptations and difficult situations.
But if the disciples were physically observant on that night, they would have seen Judas and the temple guards ascending the Mount of Olives with their torches. They would have had time to consider the trial that was about to come upon them and Jesus. They would have had time to pray for the strength to stand with Jesus rather than run. Peter would have had the time to pray about whether using a weapon was a good idea (it wasn’t). In all these ways they would have been able to prepare. They would have been “ready” (“You also be ready.” [Matt. 24:44])
In the same way, during the 70th Week of Daniel, believers will have the chance to observe the first three seals and the rise of the Antichrist. They will have time to prepare themselves for the trial of the Great Tribulation that will be about to come upon the world.
Jesus is clear that we will not overcome the Great Tribulation in the flesh. It is too weak. Our spirits, however, are WILLING to endure whatever comes and obey Jesus. But we need help. That is why we are to watch AND pray. Only the Holy Spirit can empower a believer to overcome the trial ahead.
So this year, consider observing the Passover Vigil with me. Consider staying up to “watch and pray.” Contemplate what will come upon you, your family, and the world, and how you might prepare for persecution, starvation, and martyrdom. A believer who understands that the will of the Father may include these things and seeks the assistance of the Spirit will overcome. Those who don’t “watch” and are taken by complete surprise by the Great Tribulation may not.
Watch and pray.
The Feast of Hanukkah and the events around it are a wonderful picture of the coming Antichrist. Read on to learn about Hanukkah and the Great Tribulation.