Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Israel's Restoration

Israel’s Restoration
A Regathering, Rebirth, and Repossessing

(from unpublished "One Book Rightly Divided" appendix)

by Doug Stauffer & Andrew Ray

The Bible contains prophetic passages that are increasingly and unnecessarily dividing good brethren. Obviously, God is not the cause of these divisions; however, believers on both sides of the theological divide have misinterpreted key prophetic passages. Matthew chapter 24 is a prime example.

Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

In short, this conflict ensues because two phrases are misunderstood: (1) “after the tribulation” and (2) “gather together.” First,  we consider the faulty views concerning the meaning of “after the tribulation.”

After the Tribulation?

The first question that needs addressed concerns when the Tribulation” (more appropriately, Daniel’s Seventieth Week) ends? Many Post-tribulation Rapturists (some of which are Pre-wrath Rapturists) point to the phrase “after the tribulation” incorrectly assuming that this is the point where the Tribulation PERIOD” terminates. This assumption is not correct. One must carefully consider the context to grasp God’s intended meaning.

What saith the scripture IN CONTEXT? To grasp the truth, one must read the two verses from Matthew and Mark paying close attention to the peculiar wording. Doing so will bring to light key words which reveal to the reader the correct context. HINT: “of those days” in Matthew and after that” in Mark change the entire context and meaning from what is generally taught by those teaching the Church will go through Daniel’s Seventieth Week. These two phrases change the entire meaning.

Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

Mark 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,

Neither passage implies that the events that take place prior to these verses serve as the all-encompassing “Tribulation PERIOD,” nor do they serve as the terminus to the so-called Tribulation PERIOD. Instead, Matthew’s gospel states that the sun and moon will go dark “after the tribulation of THOSE DAYS.” In context, this clearly refers to the tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:4-28. Mark said the same thing: the sun and the moon will go dark AFTER THAT tribulation.” What tribulation is that? It involves the suffering mentioned in Mark 13:5-23

Gathering Together

After the world suffers tribulation described in the first 28 verses of Matthew chapter 24, the focus turns to the cosmic disturbances. Sometime thereafter, the Lord will return TO EARTH. However, prior to His return, He will send His angels to gather together the elect from all over the world. Plainly stated, this GATHERING IS NOT A RAPTURE (Matthew 24:31). A rapture implies that people depart the earth and there is no indication that anyone leaves.

Two primary purposes for Christ’s Second Advent are to judge the world and to deliver believing Israel. Yet, Israel had and still has a problem with walking by faith. They have grown accustomed to—and dependent upon—signs (1 Corinthians 1:22). God, therefore, in His infinite wisdom and boundless mercy, will provide three distinct and visible precursors announcing the return of His Son. These three forerunners are:

  • Cosmic and earthly disturbances,
  • The sign of the Son of man, and
  •  Christ’s sending His angels for the gathering of the elect.

Although no one can be completely certain concerning the duration of the cosmic and earthly disturbances, the second and third precursors seem to provide no time for the unbelieving to repent.

The Cosmic and Earthly Disturbances (Matthew 24:29)

Unfortunately, many prophecy teachers fail to recognize the distinguishing features between the Rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and Christ’s Second Coming. The Rapture, involving the Church’s call to meet Christ in the clouds and only forecasts decline in godliness as a precursor. The Church leaves this earth at the Rapture, but none of God’s people leave the earth at Christ’s Second Advent. That is not the purpose of His return to earth. In fact, Christ’s return to earth begins with judgment and soon follows with the blessings of His ruling in an earthly kingdom.

This Second Coming to earth is preceded by visible evidence, especially natural disturbances, or what the world refers to as “natural disasters.” Every “real” Rapture passage noticeably excludes any indicators of these physical precursors. Yet, these types of disturbances are prevalent and dramatic just prior to Christ’s Second Coming. In fact, the anxiety caused by the worldwide upheavals will cause men’s hearts to fail them. These events consist of at least five specific types of catastrophic events:

1)      the sun will be darkened (Matthew 24:29)

2)      the moon will stop shining (Matthew 24:29)

3)      the stars will fall from heaven (Matthew 24:29)

4)      the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matthew 24:29)

5)      the sea and the waves will roar (Luke 21:25)

When the world turns pitch black, earth’s inhabitants will not expect what is about to take place, nor how drastically things will change. The Day of the Lord will be introduced with the sun and moon being darkened, but this phenomenon of darkness is only temporary. Upon Christ’s return, things instantaneously swing to the opposite end of the spectrum with the normal light multiplied seven times brighter.

Isaiah 30:26 Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.

This overpowering, brilliant light will shine forth sometime following the piercing darkness and blackening of the heavens. This bright light heralds the coming of the Son of Man from heaven’s glory. Imagine when the light of the moon becomes as the sun in its normal strength and the sun shines “sevenfold, as the light of seven days.”

To the human eye, these events might seem simultaneous; yet the following sequence seems to take place.

  • the brightness of the sun will be magnified seven times (Isaiah 30:26);
  • the Son of Man appears (Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27);
  • all the tribes of the earth mourn (Matthew 24:30);
  • a great trumpet will sound (Matthew 24:31);
  • Christ sends His angels to gather the elect for protection (Matthew 24:31);
  • Christ comes to earth from heaven to execute judgment upon the enemies of Israel (Revelation 19:11-13, 15-16);
  • the armies which were in heaven follow Christ to earth (Revelation 19:14); and
  • an angel stands in the sun, inviting the fowls of the air to gather for the supper of the great God (Revelation 19:17-18).

The Sending of Christ’s Angels (Matthew 24:31)

This next issue reveals the importance of every word of scripture. Those who insist that the Church will enter Daniel’s Seventieth Week fail to distinguish certain key elements and differences between two major events. Most confusion can be eliminated by simply noticing the differences between Christ’s return for the Church before the beginning of Daniel’s Seventieth Week and His return to gather the Jewish remnant toward the end of that period.

Nowhere in any of Paul’s writings where he refers to the Church’s Blessed Hope (also known as the Rapture) is there any indication of angels being sent to gather the saved. Instead, all believers will be brought UP to meet the Lord Jesus in the clouds. The Lord HIMSELF gathers the Church to Himself. 

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

At the Rapture, the Lord will meet the saved in the clouds followed by all believers returning into heaven where we will remain with Christ until His Second Advent. This is not the scenario presented throughout the Old Testament or the Gospels when describing Christ’s return at the close of Jacob’s Trouble to establish a kingdom for the Jews. Instead of Christ HIMSELF gathering at the Second Coming, the Bible says that Christ will send His angels to gather the elect (believing Israel) to protect them from the onslaught of judgment proceeding from the Saviour. In fact, the Bible is clear that Christ will lead His armies into battle rather than meeting with believers in the clouds (Revelation 19:11, 14). This is likely the reason why the angels must precede Christ and His armies.
Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Unfortunately, many Bible teachers and students fail to grasp three of the key components of this passage concerning Christ’s Second Coming: (1) the identity of the elect, (2) the meaning of the four winds, and (3) the heaven referred to within the context. Clearly, the elect of Matthew chapter 24 identifies believing Israel (Isaiah 45:4). Now, the four winds and heaven must be defined in light of the context and other correlating scriptures.

If the angels are going to gather the elect from the four winds, it would make sense that the elect first had to be scattered into the four winds. The Bible repeatedly mentions this scattering of the Jews toward all the winds. Here are just a few of the many examples:

·         Notice that the Bible clearly says that God scattered His people into and toward all the winds.

Ezekiel 5:10b the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.

Ezekiel 17:21 And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken it.

·         The scattering into all winds is defined as the utmost corners of the earth.

Jeremiah 49:32 And their camels shall be a booty, and the multitude of their cattle a spoil: and I will scatter into all winds them that are in the utmost corners; and I will bring their calamity from all sides thereof, saith the LORD.

·         The four winds are mentioned in conjunction with the four quarters of heaven.

Jeremiah 49:36 And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.

The nation that God previously scattered toward the four winds will be gathered by the angels prior to the physical return of Christ and His armies. Any diligent Bible student can recognize that these four winds cover the earth and are associated only to the first heaven[1] where the winds blow. John, in the book of Revelation, provided additional confirmation in Revelation 7:1 when he prophetically wrote of another event involving the four winds during Daniel’s Seventieth Week: “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth.

Despite these truths, some Post-tribulationists assume that the mere mention of heaven means the third Heaven (God’s abode); however, the context remains consistent since the passage refers not to the Heaven of God’s abode but to the first heaven where the winds blow (1 Kings 18:45 – see below; also Psalm 78:26; Daniel 7:2; Daniel 8:8; Daniel 11:4).

1 Kings 18:45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.

Other passages clearly associate the four winds with the first heaven. For example: “I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven” (Jeremiah 49:36) and “the four winds of the heaven” (Zechariah 2:6). In each case, the winds and the heaven refer to the first heaven and never the “third Heaven” of God’s abode (2 Corinthians 12:2) where the Church will have resided for nearly seven years. Read the passage again with these truths in mind.

Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Interestingly, it truly does not change the outcome of Matthew 24:31 regardless of what heaven is being referenced. After all, in both Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27 the elect are being GATHERED FROM heaven and NOT UNTO heaven. In other words, no one is leaving the earth and going UP during this event. Any other private interpretation destroys the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 30:4 where the Lord promised, “If any of thine be DRIVEN OUT unto the outmost parts of heaven, FROM THENCE will the LORD thy God GATHER thee, and FROM THENCE will he FETCH thee.” Where was Israel DRIVEN? Verse 1 says they were driven “among all the nations.” Verse 3 says they were SCATTERED into the nations and He will “gather thee from all the nations.” Read the entire context that shows that the prophecy does not point to a gathering TO Heaven.

Deuteronomy 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.

The scriptural truth taught is that those who had been scattered by God all over the earth (to the four winds of heaven) will be GATHERED by His angels just prior to Christ and His armies arriving to the earth! The gathering will bring them “into the land.” Those who had endured persecution will find refuge, being protected and preserved! Those accused and attacked by Satan will be redeemed and secured in Jesus! Jacob’s testimony that once was “all these things are against me” (Genesis 42:36) will become “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Furthermore, Matthew, at the time of his writing, neither knew of nor wrote of the New Testament Church’s removal from the earth. Paul, on the other hand, knew of both the Blessed Hope and the Second Coming and clearly distinguished between the two by pointing out that the Lord HIMSELF would come and get His Church while sending His angels as forerunners of Christ’s Second Advent. If the calling UP of the saints at the Rapture is the same event as that described in Matthew chapter 24, why no mention by Paul of the armies following the Lord at the Rapture (Revelation 19:14)? It is because they are two separate events.

Don’t miss this! There is no general catching up in the days approaching the Second Advent. It is simply NOT A RAPTURE. The angels will GATHER together the elect for protection UPON THE EARTH. This protection takes place toward the end of Daniel’s Seventieth Week and almost simultaneously with Christ’s return in vengeance on the Day of the Lord. They are gathered into the land.

Israel’s Gathering Versus the Church’s Rapture

In the passages describing the Church’s Blessed Hope, there is only one usage of the word gather. In fact, even that single reference distinguishes the Church’s Rapture as “our gathering together UNTO HIM” (2 Thessalonians 2:1), not unto the land The word unto identifies destination. In other words, the Church’s departure is a gathering of the saints UNTO the destination [Christ in the clouds]. While the significance may not be self-evident until one considers that the gathering of Matthew chapter 24 matches the promised gathering of the Old Testament. To understand this better, consider a few of the promises of Israel’s future final “gathering” as the Bible repeatedly uses this terminology to describe God’s promise to Israel.

Deuteronomy 30:3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:

Nehemiah 1:9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Isaiah 11:12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

(more scripture references in the book)

Matthew 13:29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

These verses should sufficiently prove that Israel will be regathered into the LAND! God promised He would one day gather a remnant of the nation of Israel. That gathering would take place upon this earth with them being led back into their own LAND for safety. Not one time is the third Heaven (the place of God’s abode) in view and the context in each passage suggests the timing is Christ’s Second Advent followed by Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. Replacement Theology teachings will struggle to pervert this event by calling it a Rapture!

The Witness of Ezekiel and the Dry Bones

Simply believing the Bible changes one’s perspective about even the most familiar passages. For instance, Ezekiel chapter 37 contains the prophecy of the Dry Bones. It has been incorrectly taught as a Last Days revival when it teaches no such thing. Instead, Ezekiel points to Israel’s future restoration as a rebirth and regathering, along with a repossessing of an earthly land once possessed by the Jewish fathers. Notice the gathering mentioned in verse twenty-one. According to Ezekiel chapter 37:

1)      God will GATHER the children of Israel and bring them INTO THEIR OWN LAND.
Ezekiel 37:21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
2)      God will make the children of Israel one undivided nation IN THE LAND under one king.
Ezekiel 37:22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
3)      The remnant of Israel (also known as the elect or believing Israel) shall be SAVED.
Ezekiel 37:23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
4)      David will be restored as KING of a united Israel.
Ezekiel 37:24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
5)      Israel will dwell IN THE LAND safely and FOR EVER.
Ezekiel 37:25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
6)      God will make with Israel an EVERLASTING COVENANT—the New Covenant.
Ezekiel 37:26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
7)      The vision of the valley of dry bones at the beginning of the chapter brings the whole prophecy together. 

After the Rapture of the Church, God will again turn His focus toward His people—the nation of Israel. He will gather the children of Israel and make of them one nation in the land; thus, the believing remnant of Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26). David will be restored as king and God will make an everlasting covenant with Israel. This restoration is taught throughout both Testaments.

In fact, consider again the 37th chapter of Ezekiel and the prophecy of the valley of dry bones. The prophecy began, like John in Revelation, with Ezekiel carried forth in time (Revelation 1:10).

Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, 2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

These bones represent a spiritually and physically dead Israel. As such, they had no marrow and are brittle and bleached. The question was whether God could revive such dead matter.

Ezekiel 37:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.

The solution for deadened Israel will be the same as it is for sinners who are dead in trespasses and sins today—hear the word of the LORD. Heeding the charge from Heaven, Ezekiel prophesied upon “these bones.”

Ezekiel 37:4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

These lifeless dry bones will get their “second breath” or as the LORD puts it in Ezekiel 37:14, He will put His Spirit in them and they shall live!

Ezekiel 37:7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.

Ezekiel did his part and God will do what only God can do. Although there was a gathering of the bones, they remained lifeless until the wind of God’s Spirit blew upon them!

Ezekiel 37:9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

While it is God’s Spirit that comes from the four winds and not the elect as it is in Matthew chapter 24, this designation helps to pinpoint the timing and significance of this event. Those who had historically been scattered into the winds will be regathered.

Ezekiel 5:10 Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.

Ezekiel 5:12 A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.

Ezekiel 12:14 And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them.

Those scattered will be gathered, revived and regenerated by God’s Spirit, and brought into the land of Israel. The once-dead bodies are restored and clearly identified as the “whole house of Israel.”

Ezekiel 37:10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

It is important not to miss the significance of the meaning of the prophecy of the dry bones of Ezekiel chapter 37. Israel’s future points to a time when God opens the GRAVES and brings believing Israel into the LAND OF ISRAEL to dwell there safely for the Millennial kingdom.

Ezekiel 37:12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

This is clearly Israel’s restoration and rebirth performed by the Spirit. John says, The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).  Notice that the bodies are resurrected and brought into the land of Israel. One could even say that this is a resurrection when God puts His spirit in these once dead bodies. It certainly does not match the bodies resurrected and “changed” in the “twinkling of an eye” at the Church’s last trump when the dead at the end of the Church Age are raised (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

Ezekiel 37:13 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.

Additionally, it is important to note that man consists of three parts—body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This prophecy only mentions the body and spirit but one might infer that the soul too must reenter these bodies to complete the rebirth. Regardless of this unaddressed aspect concerning the soul, the truth is that Israel will be regathered into the land and the prophecy of the dry bones is another confirmation of that glorious truth.

Israel and Judah: The New Covenant

The spirit reentering the bones/bodies likely refer to the institution of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31). This New Covenant takes place “after those days” indicating the timing taking place at the end of Daniel’s Seventieth Week at the commencement of the Day of the Lord.

Hebrews 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:  

Hosea’s prophecy of Israel’s reviving takes on special significance too if one day with the Lord could represent one thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). This reviving certainly could match the two millennia since Christ’s death (“two days”) and point to the final millennium of Christ’s earthly kingdom yet to come (“in the third day”).

Hosea 6:2 After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

Many of the prophesies in the Bible points to Israel’s future:

·         Restoration,

·         Regathering,

·         Rebirth, and

·         Repossessing of the land.

[1] The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven where the birds fly, referred to as the “open firmament of heaven” (Genesis 1:20). The second heaven is the starry heaven that we call outer space and is referred to as the “firmament of the heaven” (Genesis 1:14). The third heaven is where God dwells and is referred to as “heaven” (Genesis 1:1) or the “heaven of heavens” (Deuteronomy 10:14).

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