Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 4 – The Historical Maturing of the Church
Lesson 207 – Review of Christ’s Ascension/Session
& Church History to Darby
14 Nov 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
What I’m doing this year is finishing up the last of the last section of the Framework, which means we are going to deal with the Second Advent and the details therewith and the end of the Church Age, but because there’s a lot of controversy surrounding those events, we need tools to approach the events. To do it you need a background and in particular we’ve been looking at the background over the years we’ve done this Framework series we’ve looked at the events and the doctrines from Genesis all the way up to the Book of Acts. The last thing we did last year was we worked with Chapter 4 of the notes. I want to review what it was all about. We’ve gone through our event train and we worked with the ascension of Christ; we started with the ascension of Christ and His session in heaven, and that gives us the location of the God-man. We have to keep reminding ourselves that Jesus Christ is sitting at the Father’s right hand. This isn’t normally preached very much, but it’s crucial when you start dealing with the return of Christ, because that’s where He’s returning from. The position He’s returning from is important so we know what’s going on here as history comes to its next climactic event.
That was the first event we studied and we referred to how the New Testament justifies the ascension in terms of the Old Testament; we went through Psalm 2, Psalm 68, Psalm 110, and Daniel 7. Those were the four key Old Testament passages that the apostles and prophets used in the New Testament to explain what’s going on here. And as they did so, all these passages refer to Jesus at the Father’s right hand, waiting - waiting for something to happen. The “something” that has to happen is that the Lord, the Father, makes His enemies His footstool. There’s a military type defeat that has to happen prior to this return of Christ. That is some of the dynamics that happens during the Church Age. That was the first event and we talked about various doctrinal truths associated with this event.
Then we talked about after the Lord Jesus Christ got in Heaven one of His first acts was to send the Holy Spirit to the church to form the church. That was Pentecost. That was the second event and when the Holy Spirit was sent it signaled a new ministry, because the Holy Spirit is omniscient, He’s omnipresent, He’s been around. What does it mean to send Him to the earth? It’s almost like He takes on a body of some sort; that, in fact, is nearer the truth that we would think. The Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost. Certain things happened on the day of Pentecost, Peter got up and gave his sermon because people were speaking in foreign languages and other people were sitting there watching this thing go on and asked what’s going on. At this point in the book of Acts it’s not clear that the church has formed at this point, because what Peter does is he talks in Old Testament terms to Old Testament people, the Jews in Jerusalem. And he says you crucified the Messiah and if you would accept Him then you would be ready for the times of refreshing. That’s in Acts 3 and 4.
While Peter is preaching this, he’s evidently preached the same kind of thing several times, what he was offering them was this “times of refreshing.” That’s a code word in the Jewish mind for the Old Testament kingdom. The church was not involved in that first set of preaching of Peter. So while Peter is doing his sermons here, however many times he did it, we believe that he was offering the Old Testament kingdom once again to Israel, following out that parable of Matthew 22, namely that the King went away, he sent his servants to those who were invited to the wedding feast and they rejected him, so he sent some more people to the people who were invited to the wedding feast and they started killing them. Nobody was killed in the Gospels but people were killed in Acts. So that’s why we say there were two invitations to the Kingdom. One was over here, this is invitation number 1, that was rejected by Israel nationally speaking, and this is number two over here with Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost and that was rejected by the nation because the book of Acts tells us that as Acts goes on there’s rejection in Jerusalem, there’s rejection in the synagogues around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, and finally the last chapter of Acts, Acts 28 Paul says I give up, I’m turning to the Gentiles.
You can see that, there’s a progress. So whereas the book of Acts starts out emphasizing Judaism, emphasizing Paul’s message to the Jews in Jerusalem it winds up with Paul going to Rome talking to Gentiles. So the Book of Acts is a book of transition. That’s why the book of Acts is not to be considered normative for the Church Age. There are people, dear Christians, who always want to get back to the Book of Acts and make it normative. The problem with the Book of Acts trying to be normative is the conflicting norms in the Book of Acts so which norm are you going to pick. In other words there’s a transition there and things are changing around.
So after the rejection it turns out that something new was formed on this day of Pentecost and we came to the third event that we studied and that was that the church begins to emerge out of the nation Israel. That’s the story of the Book of Acts; it emerges, it has a distinct identity now, it’s controlled by the apostles and prophets, it’s not Jerusalem centered, there’s not going to be a big revival of the temple, the Sabbath is not mentioned in the New Testament as the holy day to be observed. You have a shift that takes place, so the church becomes historical, it emerges.
Then we get to Chapter IV which we’re going to review right now, and that is we’re studying the period of time from the apostles to our present time and it’s some 1,900 plus years of maturing. The historical maturing of the church and this is a very brief superficial review of what we would call historical theology. I recommend to you if you’re interested in historical theology, there’s a book out by John Hannah called Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine and it’s a nice little one volume thing on church history. It doesn’t go into all the details of church history; it’s a history of the doctrinal development that went on over the last 1,900 years. John is the senior professor of church history at Dallas Seminary, so it’s basically his class notes that he’s published. So you get a seminary education by buying the book; it’s a very good book to have, it’s a reference book.
I think every Christian, every one of us as Christians, need to have some idea of what’s going on here. The reason is because the Holy Spirit taught other Christians in other ages than just us. We’re not the first people to get taught by the Holy Spirit. There’s 1,900 plus years of other people who were believers who were taught by the Holy Spirit before we came along and blessed creation with our presence. Let’s see what the Holy Spirit taught the church prior to our day.
We divided it up into sections and we covered the first section, the first thing was the church’s foundation was solidified. It took the first 200–300 years, so let’s go ahead and make it 500 years. For the first 500 years of church history the Holy Spirit was doing something. What was the Holy Spirit doing? How do you detect what the Holy Spirit was doing in the first 500 years of church history? By reading church history and finding out where the big debates were. And basically we said the church’s debates centered on two major issues. This is being very simplistic so don’t take this as the details of church history, I’m trying to be brief and overview.
There were two basic issues that were dealt with in this first 500 year period. One is the Canon of Scripture. What is the authority of the church? There was a debate about that and there still is, and we’re going to talk about that. Canon, not cannon, the Canon of Scripture, that’s the Bible you hold in your hands. They didn’t have a book like this when Paul was around, John was around; there was no Bible, no New Testament then. This had to come into existence. Somebody had to collect this stuff. The Old Testament was there, that was available in book form, but the New Testament wasn’t available so that had to be collected and somebody had to determine what went into it and what was excluded from it. That’s the debate over the Canon.
The other issue was the nature of God Himself, the Trinity and the Lord Jesus Christ. You can’t get much more basic than that. That was the issue and the discussion. I want to take you to a passage of Scripture that is cited by Roman Catholics to this day because of the Protestant Catholic dialogue over authority. Turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:15 because we’re going to go back and something you need to understand if you have Roman Catholic friends, their view of the church. You may disagree with it but you should know their view of the church. They will cite this verse to prove or try to prove that the church has two authorities, it has first the written Word of God and second it has the oral traditions of the apostles so there are two authorities. And Mother Church, they believe, is the custodian or oral tradition, passed down from the apostles, not in the New Testament. That’s the source of why they believe some of the things they believe. They claim that that goes back to the apostles.
2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul says, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” So they say see, that is talking about two things, “by word of mouth” which is oral tradition and “by letter from us” which is written tradition. So they say you Protestants, you say you have the authority which is the written tradition but we in the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox Church also, we believe we have the oral tradition that goes along with the written tradition. So Protestants only have half the story.
The problem with that is how you prove that what might today be called oral tradition is actually coming from the apostles. It’s easy to show it from the written tradition because we have the apostle’s letters that they wrote. But the problem with oral tradition is we don’t know whether it’s been distorted down through history or what. We can’t get back to the apostles, so that’s why after the church got into the middle age period the Protestants went back and paired off and said in their famous slogan, if you read history, out of the Protestant Reformation came this expression: sola Scriptura. It didn’t mean that there wasn’t a possibility of oral tradition around. It meant that as far as the authority goes for deciding theology there could only be one authority, sola, that’s what s-o-l-a means, only the Scripture, sola Scriptura. That was the battle cry of the Reformation and that to this day is what separates Protestants from Catholics, i.e., traditional Catholics from traditional Protestants. We’re not talking about modern Catholics and modern Protestants, both of them are so screwed up they couldn’t discuss anything theological anyway.
But if you go back to the old Roman Catholics, the people who are the traditional Roman Catholics, the people before the Vatican Council started introducing everything into the liturgy, etc. you talk to an older Catholic and you’ll get a better idea of what Catholicism is all about. If you don’t have a Roman Catholic older person, friend, the place to go to find out what Rome believes is the Council of Trent, because the Trentine theology is the attack against Protestantism after the Reformation. That’s where they let it all hang out on the table, and they said it. It’s right there; it’s in the history books.
That was one issue that was fought out in the first 500 years, the Canon, and basically the New Testament as we have it came into existence except for a few books of the Old Testament. If you go to a Roman Catholic Bible today and you look in the Table of Contents you will find that they have books in their Bible that the Protestants do not have in our Bible, such as 1 and 2 Maccabees, the book of Judith, but these books are all books that kind of circulated in the Jewish world prior to Jesus time. So they’re really Old Testament books.
But the Roman Catholic New Testament looks just like our New Testament. We have Old Testament, New Testament; they have Old Testament, the Apocryphal books and the New Testament. So it’s like they have three little parts to their Bible. And that goes back to the fact that they incorporated those books whereas the Protestants said that we will only incorporate those books in the Old Testament that the Jewish conservative rabbis accept. That’s why we don’t have those; those were never accepted by Jewish rabbis as equal to the Old Testament authority.
The issue in these first 500 years dealt with the Canon. Why was that important? Because you can’t decide theology, unless you agree on the sources of the theology. So you have to decide this early on. The Trinity and the Lord Jesus Christ came up for debate because the church went through some awful times, 300–400 years of arguing about who Jesus was. Some people believed He was a human body but God indwelt a human body. That was one argument. The problem with that is that if Jesus Christ wasn’t all human … what would Jesus have to have beside the body to be fully human? A spirit—a human spirit and a human soul. Well, these people didn’t believe Jesus had a human spirit and a human soul, they believed that God just took on a body and walked around. The problem with that is if that’s really true, then when Jesus is fighting Satan, when Jesus is fighting temptation and He’s God, He’s not doing what we have to do; He’s not doing it as a man, He’s doing it as God. He’s kind of cheating on the temptation issues. So that issue had to be decided, so it came out the fact that Jesus is both God and man. They had to deal with that.
But once you make Jesus God, now you’ve got a problem with the Trinity issue. So if Jesus is God who is the Father? Well He’s also God. Who’s the Holy Spirit? He’s God. How can God be three and be one? In some ways God is three and in other ways God is one. The Bible presents us with this. In fact, the Old Testament presents us with that and when we went through this in detail we took you to Isaiah where the Trinity is present. At creation where do you get an inclination of the Trinity’s existence? God said “Let us make man in our image.” Is that a singular pronoun or a plural pronoun? It is a plural pronoun. So that looks forward to the plurality of God right there in Genesis 1.
These issues were argued about for 500 years and basically the church pretty well got it straight. Again Roman Catholicism carried on in addition to the Canon the oral traditions. But at least they agreed what the books were to go into the Canon. There were some Protestants who had questions, Luther couldn’t stand the Book of James, called it a book of straw and he almost threw it out of the Lutheran Church. There have been these debates but usually the debate was because they didn’t understand how James can fit with Paul; that’s what was going on there. That was the first stage, that’s the foundational stage in church history.
Then we came to the middle age period (on page 92) that deals with the issue of the Cross. Once again because this issue keeps coming up, it keeps coming up in our day and that is what was accomplished by Jesus on the cross. This is the atonement issue. That probably is the next 1,000 years. From AD 0–500 you have this; from AD 500–1500 you have this. What’s the issue here? Briefly what’s the issue? There are two issues; there’s what did Jesus do on the Cross and how do we benefit from what He did on the Cross? Two questions.
The first question, what did Jesus do on the Cross? The church was very fuzzy about this for many centuries. There were theories that Jesus gave ransom to Satan on the Cross. There were other theories that were circulated around the church. People just didn’t think about that much, they knew Jesus died for them and they said Jesus died for my sins and hey, that’s it, and didn’t get pressed on it. But what did we say the Holy Spirit always does to make us grow? What kicks us in the behind? Always sends a heresy along, always sends a crisis along because we don’t learn unless we get our heads banged up against the wall and that’s when we are most at our learning stage, when we’ve messed around and fallen flat on our face, then we’re all ears. But that’s the way the Holy Spirit’s worked down through church history and that’s what happened here.
After we got through all the heretics denying Jesus, now we have a whole group of new ones come along. The new guys, personified in a guy by the name of Abelard, argued that Jesus really didn’t do anything on the cross except He died a martyr’s death, in other words like the people in the Vietnam War, the Buddhist priests used to pour gasoline on themselves and burn themselves to death and that was supposed to be a big demonstration. What Jesus did was nothing more than what a normal martyr would do for his faith and the Cross what it accomplished, it just was a demonstration of integrity and martyrdom and that’s supposed to turn you on, by viewing the Cross as a martyrdom. Was the Cross a martyrdom? In a way it was, but there was a lot more to it than just martyrdom. There was something that Jesus did on the Cross. What was He doing for a couple hours while the sun didn’t shine? He was absorbing the sin of the world, your sins and my sins were laid upon Jesus Christ. He was a substitutionary atonement? The people who sat there on the day of Pentecost, when they referred to substitutionary by the lamb all the way from the Exodus should have understood what was going on when Jesus died on the cross.
But the guy that stood up against Abelard was another guy with a name that begins with “A,” and his name was Anselm. So these two guys—the bad guy is Abelard and the good guy is Anselm. Basically liberal theology today still follows this [Abelard]. You can go to a liberal church today and they’ll talk about the Cross of Christ, a guy will give a sermon and use all the buzz words, but if you listen real carefully and begin to think about what you’re listening to, you’ll find that he’s not really talking about Jesus’ cross as a substitutionary atonement for our sins before a holy God. That’s slaughter house religion, bloody religion, we don’t bother with that.
So the debate goes on but the church in its core, by the end of this period realized that objectively Jesus Christ did something on the cross. We all have to face a holy righteous God and what you’ve got as far as your good works doesn’t cut it with Him. What I have doesn’t cut it with Him, so if we’re going to walk into His presence we’d better have something that is the key for the door. The only righteousness that unlocks the door is Christ’s righteousness—not ours—Christ’s righteousness. You don’t count; I don’t count as far as our merit. We don’t have merit before God, before a holy God, not the God of the Bible. So that being the case then we have to have a substitutionary atonement to pay for our sins.
The second issue that came up along with this in the same period, this second period, was the issue of: then if that’s so, how do these benefits get to me? There again, two sides to the issue. The Roman Catholic Church has said that in effect the benefits of the cross come to you on the installment plan, come to you in segments. That’s why, and again I say the old Catholics that knew what they believed versus the new ones that don’t know any more than Protestants know about, they believe that when you go to mass that Jesus is re-sacrificed. When that priest gets up there and he goes through his ritual that Jesus is being sacrificed again and by going and partaking of the wafer that you are feeding on the Lord Jesus Christ and you are thereby benefiting, actually benefiting not as a memorial to His work but as a channel transferring grace to you through that. So you get grace on the installment plan.
Whereas the Protestants believe that you were justified by faith the instant you trusted in Jesus Christ. We have peace with God because we have been justified, Paul says. It doesn’t say we are having peace with God, we have had it. In other words, past tense, it’s given to us. So that’s the difference of what happened here. Do you see what’s happening? As the centuries go on, see how slow this is, it took 500 years to get this straight then 1,000 more years to argue about this. We really are slow learners, no wonder the Church Age has taken 1,900 years; it took us 1,500 years to get this understood.
Then we say okay, what’s the next issue that comes up after the Protestant Reformation, and we’re still in this period. This period started around 1500–1600 and goes on today so we’ve been about 400 years in this new one and that’s the issue of what is the church, the destiny and purpose of the church. Rome believed, and you can call Roman Catholicism more than a church, the Roman Catholic idea is the church is a state as well as a church. It’s a country; the Vatican is a country, they have ambassadors, we have ambassadors to the Vatican. We treat the Roman Catholic Church like it’s another country.
If you go to Williamsburg you get these guys that play the role of the Colonial, one time there was a smart guy down there, they were talking about jury duty in the colonies, etc. one lady, you could tell she must have come from the modern liberal perspective, they’re always worried about somebody being discriminated against. She came out and said well I read that you people persecuted Roman Catholics in the colony of Virginia, and she had this very pompous accusing attitude, you could just tell by the tone of her voice. This guy looked at her and he said, No Ma’am, we didn’t persecute the Catholics, we just treated as what they are, they’re foreigners. What he meant was that in the colony of Virginia and the American colonies Catholics were considered to be citizens of another nation and therefore suspect and fully trustable as loyal American citizens, which is very interesting. That was the source of a lot of turmoil in our early history. And it was because, not necessarily because the colonies were bigoted, it was just that they realized that the Roman Catholic had pledged their allegiance, ultimate allegiance to Rome and the Vatican, not to the 13 colonies. If that were the case, then to what country do we belong here?
The older people here can remember this, the young people won’t but if you remember back when Kennedy was elected President and we had the Nixon–Kennedy presidential campaign, if you think back, one of the controversies that happened in that Kennedy campaign was could we ever elect a Catholic President? Would a Catholic elected President be loyal to America or would he be a puppet of Rome. That was an issue then. Of course, Vatican II came along and American Catholics practically don’t know what the Vatican is. That never materialized, but that was the debate back then.
Now we have various things that happen here. We have the issue of politics because what happened here is the church dominated politics in the medieval period. The church basically dictated who would be king. When the Protestants first happened they replaced the Roman Catholic Church state with state churches. Think about it; what was the state church in Germany? Lutheran Church. What was the state church in Switzerland? It was Zwingli, Calvin, and the people in Geneva. So basically what happened was the Protestants didn’t really reform the idea of the church; what they did is they broke it up in pieces and said Christians who are in Germany can form a German state church; Christians who are in Switzerland can form a Switzerland state church. And who was the guy who started the Church of England? He got on the outs with Rome because he divorced his wife. King Henry VIII. So what did the Protestants in England do? They formed a state church.
So everywhere early Protestants went they really hadn’t thought through what the church is and when they came to Colonial America what went on in Massachusetts? Who owned the church property in Massachusetts? Was it the local congregation or was it the town? The town was the congregation. You couldn’t vote in Massachusetts unless you were a member of the church. The church and the state were mixed. Ever hear the story of Roger Williams trotting down to Rhode Island, Thomas Hooker to Connecticut? Why were those guys ejected out of the Massachusetts Bay colony? Because they couldn’t get along with the Puritans, and if you couldn’t get along with them, you weren’t part of the community. Now historically something happened here that you want to remember because now we’re going to get into the nature of the church and you’ve got to understand this because when Christ comes back, all this debate about the Rapture and everything else is contingent on us understanding what a church is.
In Massachusetts when the theology started to dissolve, and men and women started making compromises, how many citizens in a town would it take to dilute theology so you could take over and control the church? 51%! So all you have to have was 51% of the voters acting like unbelievers to dilute the godly people that were trying to teach the Word of God. And that’s what happened in Massachusetts; the people who were unbelievers were called the Unitarians. And Unitarianism destroyed New England. It did so by the mechanism of the state church again, that if you were a Christian, you belonged to the church, you were automatically voting and you were a citizen. They tried to tie the church and the state together like that. And there’s historically the folly of what happened.
Out of this later on came people who began to cut this out. The early people that said no, the church is not the same as the state were called Anabaptist radicals. That was the name in the Middle Ages for people who didn’t go along with Luther and Calvin on this point. The Protestants punished the Anabaptists. Now let’s tie baptism into this and see if you can see the connection. Look at this word, see that prefix on there, “Ana,” it means again. What do you mean again? Well, if the state and the church are the same you have infant baptism carried over from Rome and when a baby is baptized they are identified as part of the church and part of the community. The problem is, as we all know, that didn’t guarantee that the baby was regenerated; it didn’t guarantee the baby was a real Christian, did it? It just indicated he’d gone through a ritual.
So what do you suppose the Anabaptists believed? That after you were mature enough to decide and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ personally, then you would be baptized again, because you had already been baptized as an infant, so they called these people the Anabaptists, meaning they baptized them again. That’s, by the way, from which we get the word “Baptist,” we dropped the “Ana” off, but the “Ana” was the sign that they said if the community is this big, there’s only a subset of the community that are genuine born again Christians. And if there’s only a subset in the community of born again genuine Christians, what does it mean when it comes to the state? It means that all these people are in the state. All the people were, say, Germans, the guy over here a born again German and an unbelieving German. They’re both Germans, they’re both in the same country but only one of those two guys is a Christian, a real Christian. So that the Anabaptists were called radical Protestants; to most Protestants they were radical because they extended the sola Scriptura principle to define what the church was.
Later there was a guy by the name of Darby, who lived 1800–1882. Darby pulled together an idea. You’ll hear this from the Reformed people that don’t like Darby; they think he was a cultist and all the rest of it because he was the first (quote) “Dispensationalist.” Let me tell you a story about Darby. First of all, he wasn’t an idiot, he was a trained lawyer. He was also an ordained priest in the Anglican Church and he had a mission in, of all places, Dublin, Ireland. What Darby was trying to do, obviously, was win the Irish to Jesus Christ. The problem, as you know, is “What is the religion of the Irish?” If there’s anyone that’s known for it, it’s Roman Catholicism. Here you’ve got Darby there, he’s an Anglican. An Anglican is part of what church? The Church of England. The Irish don’t get along with the English, haven’t got along with the English for centuries. They don’t get along with the English any more than the Palestinians get along with the Jews.
So here’s Darby over there in Dublin and he’s winning these people to Christ, meaning they were unregenerate Roman Catholics. He doesn’t want to make them unregenerate Protestants; he wanted to make them regenerate Christians. He’s having a great ministry and everything is going great until the Church of England gets this clown to be the head of the Church of England, big Archbishop of Canterbury or something, and he decides that he’s going to make those Irish people loyal to England. So he comes out with a decree and says if you become a Christian and join the Anglican Church you swear your allegiance to England. The Irish said we’re going do what??? We’re not going to swear allegiance to this England. See how politics got all screwed up here because the church’s definition wasn’t correct. So Darby’s ministry went right down the tube. It stopped him cold because how can you win Irish people to Christ and then add to the gospel, oh, by the way, you’ve got to swear allegiance to the throne of England. That’s adding something to the gospel that the gospel doesn’t have in it. You don’t have to swear your allegiance to the King of England to become a Christian in Ireland. But that’s how politics got involved.
So Darby quit and got out, that’s it, I’m sorry and he went back, he was so discouraged by this, he went back and he started studying the Word of God. And it was Darby who, out of that tension, that struggle realized, and it’s not like he originated all the ideas, it’s just rather that it sort of jelled with him; these ideas were in the air, Darby isn’t the sole cause of dispensationalism, he’s the guy that systematized it, kind of. But what he argued was this: the church is not a nation; the church cannot be identified politically. The church can only be identified by those who have personally trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. Extension of the idea: the church, because it isn’t a nation isn’t what in the Old Testament? What’s God’s channel in the Old Testament? A nation called Israel. Israel is a nation, and Darby said the church is not Israel. Ooh, now we’ve got some issues here because now we’ve got an entity clearly distinguished from Israel. Israel had the Law; what’s the most famous part of the Law that everybody talks about and nobody knows? The Ten Commandments. Do the Ten Commandments apply to the church? Is the church under God’s law? Yeah, but if you look in the New Testament only nine of the Ten Commandments were repeated for the church; one isn’t. And the one that isn’t repeated for the church is the one that is identified with Yahweh God as the God who redeemed the nation Israel. “I am the Lord your God, I have redeemed you out from the nation Israel, six days you shall work and the seventh you shall rest,” the signature that He is the Creator God of the nation. The church is not given that.
Think about that; why do you suppose the church isn’t given that? The Seventh-Day Adventists believe they are. But I believe the church is not given, by the way, quite a bit of things, the sanitary codes of the Mosaic Law, do you read about those in the New Testament? No. Do you read about building temples in the New Testament? No. So there’s a lot of stuff in the Old Testament that’s not repeated for the New Testament. Let’s think about why. All those sanitary codes, the identification of a six day work week out of a seven day week, that has to do with a national and political structure of a community, does it not? That’s talking about laws; it’s talking about a community, a nation.
If the church isn’t a nation and you’re going to have people like this, let’s draw a picture of the church, here are four nations, A, B, C, and D. What we’ll do is we’ll make a little slice, call this nation D and this one will be Israel. If I live inside this nation Israel, Israel can have its own social law codes and structures, can it not. What do I do if I’m a believer in nation C? Nation C isn’t Israel; Nation C might not have those six days thou shalt work and the seventh you shall rest. Well then what do I do, everybody else in this nation is this way. So what do I do in this thing, I don’t have the power, maybe King C is a dictatorship ruled by King so and so. So now the believer has to have a modus operandi that enables him to survive in nation A, nation B, nation C, nation D, and he’s got to have the basics so he has a personal relationship with God established. But there are certain things he can’t do because he’s not empowered to do those in those nations; he’s got to live in multitude of nations. And the body of Christ lives in a multitude of nations. So the New Testament wisely refrains from giving the church a lot of legislative details.
The big idea here is that the church is not Israel. Here’s the basic idea. The church is NOT Israel, there is a difference between them. That is the essential thing and that’s the thing that we have to understand as we proceed into the new chapter. So I’m going to point out some things on the notes. We’re going to talk about the destiny of the church. So we’re talking not about the destiny of Israel; we’re talking about the destiny of the church. On page 112, “The Church ‘Completed,’ ” and I’m going to cover some important material to understand prophecy with. “To grasp the significance of the church’s destiny, we have to understand how the church’s historical existence differs from that of Israel. Then we must see what features ‘measure’ the ‘progress’ of the church so that its end point can be understood.” If we’re talking about the end of the Church Age, how do we tell when the end comes? How do we tell what’s going on in the Church Age to get to the end? We’ve got to have some idea of continuity. I’ve listed two key differences that distinguish Israel from the church.
The first one is quite important when it comes to prophecy and we’re going … [blank spot, notes say: “Unlike Israel that is regulated as a nation by the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic and New Covenants, the church is directly regulated] … as a worldwide body through the New Testament. Whereas Israel received news of its destiny in terms of calendar time, the church’s destiny isn’t related to calendar time.”
Turn to Genesis 15, let me give you examples. Here’s how Israel’s march through history is described in Scripture. It’s characteristic of God’s program with the nation Israel. By the way, we’re not saying the church is more important than Israel. We’re not saying that the church is some hyper-spiritual thing and Israel is just a peon. Israel has a very important place under God’s plan. What we’re saying is one is one thing and one is another. In Genesis 15:13, all the way at the beginning, this is even before it became a nation, when you just had the first Jewish family, Abraham and his sons. Look at what Genesis 15:13 says, “And God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed” for how long, “four hundred years.” Calendar time, it is measured in calendar time. You don’t see those kinds of passages in the New Testament, the church is going to be around for 500 years; you don’t read that in the New Testament. You read that in the Old Testament for the nation Israel.
Let’s go to Jeremiah 25:11–12, here’s another example. Let me draw a little time line so you can connect this in your head and it makes sense. Here’s Old Testament history, here’s the call of Abraham, then you have Isaac, then Jacob and God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because that’s the Covenant. Finally you have the “Big E,” the Exodus because the family has gotten bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger, now there’s lots and lots of Jews in the nation Egypt, and they come out of Egypt and that’s the Exodus. That’s around 1440 BC. They go into the land, that’s the conquest period, under Joshua, and they’re in the land and there are lots of adventures, they get a king finally, and they have a split and you have the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom, but we won’t get into that detail, we don’t need it at this point. The point is that God says you disobeyed Me, negative volition here, negative volition here, volition here, negative volition here; I’ve had it with you guys so now you’re going to get the switch and the nation is going to be disciplined.
What was the discipline of the nation Israel? Exile. They had lots of other disciplines: military defeat, their economy went to pot, the climate changed on them, they had droughts, all these things where God the Creator, who was the controller of the environment, was disciplining His children. By the way, He’s not going to destroy Israel; He’s going to discipline Israel. So Israel goes into exile and she’s going to be out of the land. Now come to Jeremiah 25:11, “And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years,” calendar time. So Israel is said to be in exile for seventy years. In 586 BC, she went into captivity; 586 minus 70 is 516. In 516, some of Israel comes back into the land, and who were the two guys that wrote books at the time that they were going into the land? Ezra and Nehemiah. So they go back in the land and they go on some more.
The point I want to show you is that their time in the land and out of the land is timed by calendar time. Verse 12, “ ‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation.’ ” Turn to Jeremiah 19:10 the same thing; in this verse you read, “For thus saith the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” What’s “this place?” Back to Palestine.
While they were in exile, during this period, there was a group of the young teenage noble people, the upper class, ruling class, but they were all teenagers when they were taken into captivity, and one of those young boys that was a teenager came to become the Prime Minister of two nations. His name was Daniel. Daniel became Prime Minister of the nation that today is Iraq and he became the Prime Minister of the nation which today is Iran; Iraq and Iran had Daniel, those two nations historically had one of the most brilliant foreign ministers that history has ever seen. So Daniel was involved in these two nations, and Daniel was studying Jeremiah because Jeremiah wrote before, probably before Daniel was born. So here’s the young boy, now he’s growing up, he’s in his 20s, 30s, he’s ascending power in the structure on the basis of his integrity, he didn’t compromise anything but he rose up because he had tremendous skills that God had given to him and like Joseph he used them wisely. So he’s floating up to the top of the political picture in a Gentile nation and he’s saying wait a minute, Jeremiah said that in 70 years we could go back to the land. So he says to himself, “Let me check the calendar here. You know, God, it’s about 70 years.” So Daniel starts to pray, “God, at the end of the 70 years you promised the end of this exile. Now I’m holding You to Your promise.”
So in Daniel 9 we have God’s answer to Daniel, and with this answer we have a very interesting thing about how God works in history. I’m going to introduce this to you, we’re going to come back to it many times before we’re through with this, but this is the passage of Scripture that basically forms the outline of the Book of Revelation. Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel is praying, and let’s get the context, because it’s kind of neat. Look at Daniel 9:1-2, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent,” that means we’re talking about Iran, “who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans—  in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, observed,” now here he is, he’s telling us what he was doing, I “observed in the books the number of years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” I just gave those two references, Jeremiah 25, Jeremiah 29. So Daniel sees those two references and because he’s a godly man who looks to the Scriptures, he reads those Scriptures, and as a politician who knows politics, he knows that this has implications for international relations. Something big is going to happen here.
Verse 3, “So I gave my attention to the LORD God to seek Him by prayer and supplication, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes,” he really went to work in prayer meeting, he didn’t just make a two minute prayer here. Verse 4, “And I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed,” and notice verse 5 he’s confessing the sins of the nation, he doesn’t just waltz in, oh God, by the way, time to cash in on a promise. No, he walked into the presence of a holy God here and we’ve got to tend to our accounts. You can see in verse 7, verse 8 he talks about a shame, he talks about the lack of righteousness, verse 8 “Open shame belongs to us, O LORD, to our kings, or princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee.  To the LORD our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him;  nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings….  Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside…  As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us,” we’re going to study that process, “this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God…  Therefore, the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.  And now, O LORD our God, who hast brought Thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand… we have sinned, we have been wicked.  O LORD, in accordance with thy righteous acts, let now Thine anger and Thy wrath turn away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers…  So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Thy servant. …”
Verse 20, “Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the of the holy mountain of my God,  while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me …  And he gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel,’” now this is the messenger boy from God, here’s Gabriel; he’s a top ranking angel who outranks the other guys. This is the guy that shows up with stars on his shoulder, lots of badges down the front; this is Gabriel. And he says he gave me instruction. He said, “Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.  At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.’ ”
Now watch the word “seventy,” watch the numbers here, watch the calendar time. Verse 24, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city,” now what’s a week? It’s a translation of the Hebrew word “seven,” so he’s saying seventy sevens. What are seventy sevens in year time? 490 years. “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.  So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.  Then after sixty-two sevens, the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; and desolations are determined.  And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abomination will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
The point is that Daniel has been told by Gabriel that yes, there’s going to be an exile return in seventy years, and that’s not under discussion, there is going to be a return. So that prophecy of Jeremiah will literally be fulfilled. But God has a bigger view. Not all Jews are going to be involved in this restoration, and this restoration is only the city of Jerusalem, it’s not really the whole nation. What God says now is I’m going to make an order of magnitude larger; it’s going to take 490 years to complete what I want to do with this nation Israel. He says 62 weeks, “after sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” So you have the first sevens broken away, the 490 years, you have sixty-two weeks, sixty-two times seven which is going to be the period between the return to the land and this event to happen in the future, whatever this event is that’s going to happen. “The Messiah is going to be cut off and have nothing,” and that of course is the prophecy of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s another set of weeks here so this all comes out, it turns out it’s actually 483 years, we’ll get into the details of this but I don’t want you to get lost in the numbers here. The principle right now I want you to see is that it’s calendar time and there are events out here that are marked off, and we’ll study the details. These events are all marked off in terms of calendar time. If you look, it doesn’t require a genius to look at verse 26 and see where some of this prophecy has been fulfilled. “Messiah” is cut off, there’s the Cross, “and has nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city,” who destroyed Jerusalem? Rome destroyed the nation. What do you think if you read in verse 26 that “the prince who is to come,” the people of the prince who is to come,” who are the people? Romans, AD 70. But the prophecy says the people who destroy the sanctuary are “people of the prince who is to come.” That’s why you hear prophecies that talk about the Revived Roman Empire; that’s why everybody is looking at Europe now, the United Europe. Where is united Europe centering now? The old Roman Empire.
So there’s going to arise a man who is going to come, “the prince who shall come,” and verse 27 tells you what he’s going to do. He’s going “make a firm covenant with the many for one seven,” there’s a seven year period he’s going to make a covenant, and in the middle of that seven,” what’s halfway through seven? Three and a half. Three and half years into that period “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering,” in other words, he’s going to interfere with a future temple that apparently is functioning. This is Israel’s destiny, so somewhere out in the future, this is all future, there’s going to be a seven year period and halfway through that period at three and a half, 3.5 years this guy, the setting of the seven-year period starts off with a covenant, so there’s going to be a treaty made between the antichrist and the nation Israel. And apparently, you infer from this, if he’s going to stop sacrifices, what must be happening in the first three and a half years? They must be offering sacrifice. How can Jews do that without a temple?
That’s why prophecy students are looking at the city of Jerusalem right now. There are Jews right now in the city of Jerusalem that have already bred a red heifer and they need the red heifer because that’s the only thing acceptable for temple sacrifice. There are Jews right now building the utensils for the priesthood. The only thing that is a problem now is that Arafat and the Muslims control the place where the temple is supposed to be built. How that’s going to be resolved we don’t know. But by this period of time, when the antichrist makes his treaty with the nation Israel the temple must be there because they’re sacrificing. Then along comes a three and a half year period right smack dab and halfway way through that seven year period this guy says that’s it and he comes in and he stops the temple worship. Then it goes on, the book of Revelation is an expansion of this whole period.
That’s all details, don’t walk away from here tonight lost in the numbers; that wasn’t my intent, what I’m trying to get across tonight is that do you see how Israel conceives of its history in terms of calendar time. You do not see that in the New Testament. What epistle ever speaks of the church life in terms of calendar time? There’s only one passage that really could even be remotely associated with that and that’s in Thessalonians.
I wanted to finish that thought on page 112. That it’s calendar-based progress typifies Israel’s existence, but not the church; there is a difference between the two.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a good question; does the church hesitation to carry out its program impinge on the calendar preciseness of Israel? Actually it does in this sense, that those weeks, I’ll show you the scheme that happens there, I didn’t want to get into the second seven year thing because of the commandments to restore Jerusalem, it’s an involved process there and I felt like if I said that then we’d get off in numbers, so that’s why I aborted that. But the point is that there are periods of time in Israel’s history that are clocked, and there are other periods of time that are not clocked. For example, let’s forget the prophecy for a moment and go backwards.
If you had been a Jew at the time of the Exodus, and you had heard Moses talk about going into the land and you were part of that generation that was arguing and “meribah-ing” in the desert and all the rest of it, and things are going on, and then you heard Moses come out and say this generation shall not inherit the land but will die in the desert, wouldn’t you get the impression that the clock had slipped a little bit? In other words, you hadn’t been given an actual prophecy that said when you would conquer the land but distinctly that kind of an event you would interpret it, we’re wasting time, we’ve lost time. And that’s exactly what goes on in Israel’s history, is that when obedience doesn’t happen, time gets dragged out. The classic instance is right here because that exile period to Jeremiah was only going to be seventy years. But then when Daniel starts praying about it, and he’s confessing the fact that even in the middle of the exile nobody had confessed their sins, they still hadn’t acknowledged nationally, national acknowledgment of their sin. So God says, “All right, we’ll just extend it some more, extend it some more—seventy times seven I’m going to extend it. So what he’s saying is that the years will march on before Israel nationally confesses.
But then when you get into this long period of time it’s broken up into three pieces. It’s broken up into a 462-year period and then there’s the seven years and so forth, all these little sub sections that are not connected, necessarily. In other words, the seven-year period is something yet to happen because the starting point of that seven-year period is when “the prince that shall” come makes a treaty. So the count is busted right now in the sense that we’re operating in between the time the Messiah was cut off and the time that the prince that shall come makes that treaty. So there’s another gap, and it’s these gaps that are where you have this contingency going on.
One of the contingencies has nothing to do with the church; one of the contingencies that you can think about in this regard had to do with had the nation listened to John the Baptist and had listened to the Lord Jesus Christ, then maybe the years wouldn’t have worked out, you know, because Jesus was too early for that whole 490-year period. So you wonder then, were they doomed by the calendar not to believe? Well, something was going on there because Jesus genuinely offered the Kingdom and yet the nation rejected. It’s as though that calendar time has to exist, and beyond the calendar period of time there are these intercalations or expansions and that’s what you can’t control.
I’m not saying here, by standing up here and saying Israel is controlled by calendar time, I don’t mean that it’s all cut and dried; I’m just saying that there are chunks and periods of its existence that are clocked periods. Just like a runner, you know, he may do five laps around the track and the coach is sitting there and he’s timing, say the first lap and the fourth lap. That’s the way Israel is, there are certain time periods in history where she’s clocked. What I’m saying is that’s a feature peculiar to the nation Israel, it’s not true of the church.
Why I’m making this distinction now, before we get any further, is because the whole Book of Revelation, this whole issue of what we’re going to call the tribulation, is one of those periods where the clock is running for Israel, and people always want to mix Israel up with the church. And the clock has nothing to do with the church, even the clock in the Book of Revelation. That clock in the book of Revelation, three and a half years and this and that, that’s all taken from Daniel 9. In fact a guy wrote his PhD dissertation in which he pointed out in excruciating detail that the outline of the Book of Revelation is actually found in Daniel 9:24-27. So the Book of Revelation is an expansion of that little message that Gabriel gave Daniel, with more detail. But when Gabriel gave Daniel that message, was he talking about the church? He was talking to Israel, that’s Jewish. So when that period of time is expanded in the Book of Revelation, it’s also Jewish, it’s also tribulational; it’s also part of the same thing because the tribulation is a period during which the clock is going. It’s time and it’s going to end once the seven year period starts it’s going to end in seven years.
And when it ends then something interesting takes place because when that period ends now Israel’s transgressions are fulfilled, which must mean that they’re going to confess, they’re going to do what Daniel tried to do for them. We know how, probably, they’re going to do it, because what were Jesus’ last words just before He was crucified, when He was riding into the city of Jerusalem? He said you will not see me again until you say blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. It’s speculation, but it’s believed by most conservative scholars that Isaiah 53 will be the text that will be discovered. All of a sudden, the veil comes off the eyes of the nation and they suddenly realize, “What have we had here for almost 3,000 years? We’ve had Isaiah 53 in front of our face; 3,000 years we have had Isaiah 53 in front of our faces and didn’t understand what Isaiah 53 was all about, and they will then. That day they will realize that He was smitten and afflicted for us and bore our sins—that’s Jesus, and once they realize that and confess nationally, what did Jesus say? “You’ll see Me, but you won’t see Me until you confess.” Now He’s not addressing that to the church either; that is addressed to Israel.
So in this sense as well as the church, we’ll get into how the church kind of messes around the clock but this is a good case where Israel is the one that’s causing the problem by not seeing what Isaiah 53 says. As long as she doesn’t see what Isaiah 53 is talking about, we can’t have the return of Christ, because He’s not going to come back until Israel says “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” If you think about it, that’s a whole event in the future and what’s the trigger event for that? The nation Israel confessing the Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament when it talks about the end of the Church Age, that event, the Rapture, is said to just happen. There’s no precursor there. Nowhere in the New Testament can you say well, you can tell when Jesus is coming back because the Jews are all going to confess Him as Messiah. That’s not in the New Testament. So that’s the basis of why we say that Second Advent of Christ has to be distinguished from what we call the Rapture. The coming of Christ for the church is different than the coming of Christ to the nation Israel, because again there are two different entities here.
You can’t just take all the pieces of prophecy and glue them together in one piece, there are details with it. What we have to do with the Second Advent is what Jews had to do with the First Advent. When Jesus first came they had prophecy all lumped together too, because they anticipated a suffering Messiah and a glorious Messiah; they were all lumped together. What happened? We know that it didn’t come out that way, He separated the two. Now it was ooh, there’s a First Advent and there’s a Second Advent. Now we come to the Second Advent and lo and behold, we’re going to pull it apart and find there are pieces of that too; one is the Rapture and one is the Second Advent of Christ. That all falls out of the structure. That’s why I’m trying to lay the basis for that structure. Next week when we get in we’re going to go all the way back to Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 to the mechanism of the Mosaic Law Code and we’re going to define what “tribulation” means. And we’re going to anchor this whole idea of the Tribulation to Israel’s ordained program, how Jehovah administers His agenda to the world through Israel. It’s all mapped out there in those early chapters. That’s where you define the Tribulation. Once you define the Tribulation as an Israel centered thing, then it solves a lot of these problems that people get into.
In the handout, there’s a footnote on page 112, and I point out something that happens if you’re not careful if you get a little sloppy and don’t make these careful distinctions. “For this reason ‘date-setting’ the end of the church and return of Christ is doomed to failure.” Why is that? Without reading anything more? Because the church isn’t measured by calendar time; Israel is measured by calendar time. “All date-setting attempts arise from what theologians call ‘historicism’, i.e., the view that biblical prophecy, chiefly the Book of Revelation, is being fulfilled by church history. Historicism became widely popular during the Reformation when Protestants saw themselves suffering under the Tribulation of Rome. Through historicism they were able to argue that the Pope was the Antichrist.” See their thinking; that’s why historicism became popular in the Middle Ages. “Historicism reached a frenzied peak with the Seventh-Day Adventism’s founder, William Miller, who predicted Christ’s return in 1844. This debacle and Protestantism’s strengthened position led to the demise of historicism. Even today, however,” and here’s the point for us, “confused prophecy students occasionally drift into historicism in trying to set dates for Christ’s return. The problem here is that the church isn’t Israel and isn’t regulated in the same manner God uses for Israel.”
I’ll give a modern example of where this had a horrible political derisive effect in our country in our lifetime. Remember Waco, that guy, Koresh or whatever his name was. Do you know what his background was and how he got that cult started at Waco? He came out of a Seventh-Day Adventist Church and he believed that he was the one who was going to end the Tribulation. He got all screwed up in historicism, he was setting dates, see these people always get into setting dates and Koresh believed that the return of Christ was very imminent. That’s why he had everybody gathering guns and everything in his little place in Waco. And the news media never get the point because the news media don’t read the Bible; they didn’t understand where this guy was coming from. It’s obvious where Koresh was coming from if you know his background. He came out of Seventh-Day Adventist, it’s this historicism thing. But there’s an example in our modern American history of somebody that didn’t put two and two and get four, got five instead and wound up doing some fool thing like that. That’s how you can get trapped in historicism. Koresh at Waco was a historicist.
There was another guy, a book came out, I forgot the title, I saw it in a Christian book store, that Christ is coming in 1998 or 1988 or something; it never happened. Every time some fool does that the whole world laughs at him and they should, because it’s wrong. It’s not coming from the Bible, but if you read his book he does the same thing. He’s trying to put the church inside the calendar. That’s the only way you can do it, and you can’t put the church inside the calendar. That’s why I’m going through all this. The church is not on a clock, Israel is on a clock.
Next week we’ll get into the mechanics of the Tribulation.