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 2003
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 5 – The Destiny of the Church
Lesson 221 – Applying Eschatology to the Christian Life (Part 2)
27 Mar 2003
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
What I’d like to do is take you to a totally fresh passage where a believer is dealing with a major problem in his life and I want you to see if you can spot the logic and how he resolves the issue. This is just an exercise to get to the point that I’ve made. It’s nice to study all the prophetic details and we’re doing that, though not like we would if this were a class in prophecy. But at least we’re doing it in the general schema, but there’s always the danger of losing the forest for the trees. So we’re going to take a few minutes to just dive into a passage of Scripture and we’re just going to observe a person in turmoil and how this person in the middle of the turmoil used eschatology to solve his problem.
Turn to Psalm 94; this could be any one of the 150 Psalms. The Book of Psalms is an excellent book to go to when you’re having personal difficulties, for several reasons. One is because the book of Psalms actually are biographical accounts of real people in real nasty situations (most of the time) and it’s a report that the Holy Spirit considered important enough to put in the Canon of Scripture. So think of the book of Psalms sometime for just examples. The book of Psalms also teaches doctrine, they teach various principles, but the book of Psalms primarily is wisdom literature. There are categories of literature and wisdom literature in the Bible, if you think of it this way, is really the art of living. Wisdom is the principles of life and almost every area is covered somewhere in the wisdom literature.
In Psalm 94 we have a problem that we all have at times. Psalm 94 is part of the 90s and the Psalms that are in the 90s section, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, are sometimes referred to as the enthronement Psalms and the reason they’re called the enthronement Psalms is that they tend to have a very eschatological motif to them, i.e., the Psalmist is distinctly looking to the time when Jehovah will come on earth and set up His Kingdom. The enthronement means the enthronement of Jehovah, which we now know to be Christ incarnate.
In Psalm 94 I want you to look at the logic. There are various types of Psalms. If we teach a class on Psalms we’d go through the different styles. There are the lament Psalms; there are the praise Psalms, the declarative praise, the descriptive praise, there is the national lament, there is the individual lament, there are all kinds of categories in there that people look at. This one obviously is an individual and he has a problem so it’s sort of a lament involved in it. In the first verse he says “O LORD, God, to whom vengeance, O God to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!  Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud.  How long shall the wicked, O LORD, how long shall the wicked triumph?” You also notice there’s a boldness in these Psalms; there’s really a command here in verse 2.
The Psalmist is not afraid of going to God in anger sometimes; a lot of the Psalms, in fact there’s one Psalm when I was translating it in the Hebrew years ago when I had proficiency in Hebrew, I remember being shocked, actually shocked looking at the verbs that I was looking up because basically what the Psalmist is saying is that he was discouraged because the Temple had fallen, the Babylonians were all over the place, the Iraqi’s were all over the place, so he was so angry at God he actually looks up to Jehovah and he says get your hands out of your cloak and come down here and walk through this mess. Now can you imagine if somebody that in a prayer meeting, how that would be received in the average church prayer meeting. People would consider that rude, they would consider that the guy was out of it, too much anger, shouldn’t have anger you know. The funny part is, however, is that God listens to those kind of prayers because the point is they’re going to God, they’re not going to other people, they’re not going to gimmick solutions, but directing it back to God with whom we have to do.
So this is one of those cases where in verse 2 there’s a very strong … this guy is hot under the collar here, there’s a lot of emotion in these words, and he’s asking for God “O Judge of the earth,” get going, move it; there’s an urgency here about God not resolving the evil issue. Now in verse 4 you notice it shifts. If you look at verses 1–3 to whom is he speaking? Just observe the text there. Look at those three verses, what’s the emphasis? Who’s the object of the Psalmist? Who’s he talking to? God, that’s the Lord.
Now look what happens in verse 4, observe the text. That’s how the Holy Spirit can strengthen your souls when you learn how to eat the meat of the Word of God. You can’t eat the meat of the Word of God if you don’t observe the text. That’s the first step. So observe that in verses 1–3 he’s talking to God, and now in verses 4–8 he’s talking, apparently to God but indirectly in the sense that he’s complaining. And in this lament motif, this section from verses 4–7 would be considered a complaint. So he’s come to God, in the first three verses he is hot under the collar, he’s angry about the situation, and now in verses 4–7 he begins to describe the situation, what it is that makes him mad. The interesting thing that you get out of the Psalms, forget all being pious and religious and just read it like you were the person.
This compliant that comes, notice how he phrases the compliant. “They utter speech, they speak insolent things, all of the workers of iniquity boast in themselves.  The break in pieces Your people, O LORD, and afflict Your heritage.  They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.  And yet they say, The LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand.” The paraphrase in verse 7 that I quote, “yet they say, the LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand,” is probably… it’s not necessarily that they’re going around saying that explicitly but that’s what’s going on in their heart. The guy is not stupid, he’s lived, he’s been around, he can tell attitudes and these people have an attitude, and behind the attitude is a false doctrine or false theological belief. So think about verse 7, The LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand.” That’s a remarkable insight into the human heart and how depravity works because they’re doing the evil things in verses 4, 5, and 6 but they’re doing it out of the fantasy that God lost His omnipresence.
So the evil coexists always with false theology, even when we’re dealing with our own flesh. Our own flesh is a great theologian and it will generate false doctrine faster than you can say it, that’s the depravity of our hearts, we love false theology, we love to deny doctrine when we’re out of fellowship. This goes back to the Garden of Eden, because what did Adam and Eve do? They fled. Why would they flee an omnipresent omniscient God? Clearly because they thought He wasn’t omnipresent and omniscient, maybe they could hide in the bushes. The fact that they thought they could hide in the bushes shows you what theology did they hold? A false theology. See how sin spawns false theology; all false theology comes forth from sin. So here’s the false theology in verse 7, “as a man thinks in his heart so is he,” and verses 4–6 what they’re doing; they’re going around killing people at random, no problem, God doesn’t see this, He’s not really here, I can get away with it. … I can get away with it, that’s always the art form behind sin.
So this is the man’s complaint and if you notice as a complaint what the Psalmist is doing here, do any of you observe something in this complaint that makes you think that this guy is arguing a case while he’s making a complaint? He’s not just complaining. How does he phrase the complaint so that he would imagine that God should take notice of this particular complaint? Notice in verse 5 he uses God, he weaves God into the issue, so he’s not just complaining what they’re doing to me, he’s complaining what they’re doing to God. That is a powerful truth about levering your prayer requests; it’s really just a practical point about prayer requests because that’s what’s going to happen here, basically this guy is angry that God hasn’t done something and he’s trying to get God to move it.
Now what is he going to do to make God move? Well, God is going to be concerned with His glory, basic theology, doxological, so he’s saying look God, they’re desecrating Your reputation because every time they do this, they “break in pieces Your people, O Lord, they afflict Your heritage.” What they’re doing is they’re making it look like You don’t care for Your people when You elected them, You chose them, You have a sovereign plan for history and they just get shoved all over the place. What kind of a testimony is that? And God is very concerned about His glory because there are several passages in the Old Testament that very poignantly show that, when He says Israel, Ill come to your aid, not because you’re so great but My name is there and I’m concerned about My own reputation. It almost sounds like He doesn’t care for Israel but that’s not really the case, it’s just that He made this promise and it looks like He doesn’t keep His promises which reflects on His character, so therefore He says I’m going to take care of this situation.
But notice how the Psalmist complains by weaving… he gets God in the middle of the complaint. Verse 5 is very clever phraseology because by bringing God into that picture. In the first 3 verses the Psalmist has addressed God, he is angry at God for not solving this problem of evil and in verses 4–7 he makes his complaint. Now verses 8–11 it’s hard to distinguish what he’s doing here; he’s talking to himself about the situation or actually addressing the people that are involved in this, the evil people. But whatever it is, notice the progress in the Psalm. First there are the raw, bare, naked emotions in verses 1–3 of getting angry at God about the situation. Then in verses 4–6 there is a rationale in all this. The guy is thinking it through. That’s important. We don’t feel our way to God, we think our way, He demands some response here. You can’t be on drugs and have a mystical experience and think that’s contact with God. Contact with God is always with the mind active; the mind can’t be shut off, drugged into a stupor or whatever, the mind has to be active. That’s why the Lord Jesus, while He was dealing with sin on the cross, He refused medication, He didn’t get the sponge of stuff until after He was through, then He accepted it. Why was that? Because while He was going through the stress He needed to think; yeah, it was painful, but in the middle of the pain He had to be able to think because you can’t talk to God without thinking, so He was trying to protect His mind while this was going on.
Here the mind in verses 4–7 at least he’s getting into a groove where he’s able to bring the complaint back up to God in such a way that he can make a case why God ought to do something. In verses 2–3 he’s just angry, do something! But now he’s arguing why He should do something, there’s a reason God why You should be concerned with this. Now he apparently has a little bit more confidence because by verses 8–11 he begins an analysis of the nature of the problem and this actually, as you think about it, we’ve all as believers have had this experience, first you’re upset, but if you find in the middle of being upset you can go back to God, and after a while your spirit calms down and you can begin to think through the problem better. So verses 8–11 are actually His own analysis of what’s going on.
He says, “Understand, you senseless among the people, and you fools, when will you be wise?  He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see?  He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches men knowledge?  The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile.” What do you observe in verses 8–10 that is related to the false theology of verse 7? This guy has thought about his problem, he’s just not gagging on an issue here, he’s thought through something, very carefully. We said verses 4–6 are the actions that are going on; verse 7 is the motive behind those actions. Verse 7 is a false theology, it’s a sinfully born, sinfully triggered theology, it’s a deception of darkness these people have.
What do you notice in verse 7? Think of one of the attributes of God, that’s the easy way. By the way, that’s the easy way on a lot of these texts. If you want to get your muscle, your soulish muscle involved in the text, and you’re puzzled sometime, one easy way of at least getting the juices flowing is to say okay, what attribute of God is this guy zeroing in on? It could be three or four attributes but just for starters. What do you think the attribute is in verses 9–10? His omniscience, omnipresence, He’s got that. Now isn’t it interesting that he would think of those two attributes because in verse 7 what is the attribute being denied? His omnipresence. So by the time we get to verses 8–11 the Psalmist is already taking true theology and doctrine and opposing it directly at the point of rebellion. He’s able to spot in the situation, here’s his problem and it’s going, there’s a big mess out there, but he understands that the people that are doing this have a false theology and he knows what is false about their theology, he’s got it pegged exactly what their problem is. So what does he do? He reaches over in the doctrines and truths that he knows, that he’s been taught, that he has remembered, doctrine and things that he’s learned from the Word of God over the years and he reaches down in that memory and he pulls out just exactly the truths that argue against that point, bam. He puts them in collision and here we have the collision going on. There’s the battle; there’s the spiritual battle. It’s not seeing lights, it’s not rolling on the floor - it’s the collision of truth with falsehood. He goes on and he starts to see that, he says God is going to hear, omniscience.
Now he returns, because he’s still got an evil problem, he hasn’t resolved it yet. He says “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O LORD, and teach out of Your law.  That You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until a pit is dug for the wicked.  For the LORD will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance.  But judgment will return to righteousness and all the upright in hear will follow it.” Now where in verses 12–15 do you observe him bringing in eschatology? Eschatology is a very powerful tool here and he’s using it.
This is a biblical example of how prophecy is used to control a disaster, by disaster I mean inside the soul, because if you don’t have the power of a rigid biblical eschatology you fall apart in situations like this, you don’t have any strength. The strength you get inside comes from these great prophetic truths of who it is that controls history and where is history going. If history is going in a big sense to a certain goal, your part of history and therefore your life has meaning and purpose. But you can’t get to that point if you don’t have a confidence that history is going somewhere and it’s going to be by God’s plan and there are specific things to look at in how He’s moving history along. History is not static; it’s not cyclic like the Greeks [where] you go around five times. [It’s] nothing like that. You go around once in the Scripture, not five times. And then after death is the judgment. History in the Bible is linear, it’s progressive; it’s not cyclic.
So notice, in verse 12, he’s talking about a source of his confidence. “Blessed is the man whom You instruct and teach out of Your law,” so again the strength goes back to the Word of God, it goes back to people who are paying attention to the Word of God, who are learning from it. Verse 13, “That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,” that’s kind of like a purpose clause, verse 13, and the implication is that you can’t have rest in the days of trial, in the pressures of life if you’re not instructed under the Law. Unless you know the truths of Scripture then you will not have rest. The reason for the instructions in the Word of God is that, purpose, that we may have a rest from the days of adversity. “Until,” the days of adversity don’t go on forever and ever, there is the eschatology, “Until the pit is dug for the wicked.” There will be a day of reckoning. That’s why eschatology is … here is an example that I wanted you to see.
He continues this, verse 16, “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?  Unless the LORD has been my help, my soul would have soon settled in silence.  If I say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ your mercy, O LORD will hold me up.” Look at verse 19, what a wonderful promise verse 19 is, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Let’s take that apart, let’s look carefully at that. “In the multitude of my anxieties,” this guy is upset, he has a lot of things going on inside, because a lot of things are going on in his life outside and there’s a whole multitude, there is a crowd of these anxieties within me. The battle, the big battles aren’t outside of your soul, they’re in the soul, they’re in our minds. 95% of the struggle in the Christian life is up here, it’s not in the overt circumstances. They’re bad, yeah, but the struggle is always in our heart. That’s where the battle is and that’s why knowing the Word of God is so important because you’ve got to have something circulating in your soul that stabilizes you and gives you a reference point, otherwise you’re flubbing all over the place.
A good example is right now you have all this probably a coverage of war like we’ve never seen before and all of a sudden people are discovering war is bloody. Gee, this isn’t a video game, this is real history, and we have people falling apart because we lost five Marines or something, and it is terrible that five guys got killed, it could be my son, he’s in the military on the front line, not there but facing another idiot, North Korea. So it’s bad, yeah, but the world hasn’t come to an end here. What did Jesus say? There will be wars and rumors of wars until I come, don’t be upset. Why is there war? It’s always amazing to me to watch the anti-war people. These are the re-treads from the Vietnam days I think, and they come out like cockroaches every time there’s food around or something. But the anti-war people come out on these demonstrations and like in Portland, Oregon I was at a conference where a pastor was from Portland, Oregon so he was telling me all this, they come downtown Portland, tear up, burn up police cars, tear up homes, etc. Now excuse me, I thought this was about peace; I think they’re missing something here. But here these people are worrying about violence and war and what are they doing? They’re doing exactly the same thing. The reason that they’re doing that is because they have ulterior motives. Some of them are anarchists, he was telling me there’s a group that’s in Portland, every five months there’s another cause that comes up for them to riot. They obviously have a lot of time on their hands; they must not be very productive people because they have all this time to waste. Most people have a job to do instead of hanging around in the streets. But these are the people, these anti-war people and they love to be judgmental because they are pointing to “something’s wrong.” And the funny thing is, they can’t tell you why it’s wrong. It’s their opinion against yours.
It’s interesting, here are these moral relativists who could care less, fornicating drug-taking idiots, who all of a sudden bring morals into a question. Excuse me, where are you getting that from? So if you do happen to get into a conversation with somebody like that, say by what standard are you saying it’s wrong? Just ask the question; it’s not threatening, by what standard is war wrong, just war in general? Well, I think it’s terrible. Why is it terrible? And then you can throw Darwin in, say Darwin says it’s survival of the fittest, wars are healthy, they get rid of the weak and [can’t understand word] the strong. See what they say to that. What you’re doing is you’re making fun of unbelief. They were so proud of their unbelief and we were the idiots, the Christians, but you turn that around, make them be the idiot, because here they are making moral judgments and they haven’t got any foundation to make the judgment with. By what standard, remember the question, by what standard, keep pushing back, where do you get the standard from. They say well where do you get your standard from? Jesus Christ! Oh well, that’s just your opinion. No it isn’t, I respect Jesus more than I do you that’s for sure. So I have this standard and it’s an absolute one and I can show you where there are just wars and unjust wars, it’s all spelled out in Scripture and if you were an intelligent person and had time to read, you could read the same thing I read.
The point is that what we’re seeing here is everybody panicking because we’ve got a war. Most of its history we’ve had wars. The point is you have to have a reference point, a compass, something stable. So yeah, there are wars but you don’t fall apart because of this, you just keep on going because you have a standard because history is bigger than the war, history is going somewhere. God could have an interesting purpose in all this. It’s interesting that the two places in the world the Bible speaks the most of is Jerusalem and Babylon. Where do you think the big battle is going to be? Almost within miles of Babylon and here we are after twenty-one centuries of history when people laughed at literal interpretation of Scripture and allegorized it and said God’s Kingdom isn’t going to be here and Jerusalem isn’t really Jerusalem, it’s a spiritual Jerusalem or a spiritual Babylon, or Babylon is Rome or something else, isn’t it interesting that the world is held spellbound by what is happening in these two places. It’s all over again, Jerusalem and Babylon. It was true in the time of Nimrod right after the Noahic Flood, it was true all during the Old Testament and here it is true today.
You’ll also notice something else about what’s going on in history, is that the three countries who are the big opponents of America and the Security Council, the three big ones, Russia, Germany and France are the three out of the four most anti-Semitic nations on the planet. Where do you have Jewish synagogues desecrated regularly? France. Which country killed more Jews than any other country? Germany. Which country has driven their entire Jewish population to Israel? Russia. The fourth county I didn’t mention is Poland, they have been traditionally very anti-Semitic also. But the point is that it’s interesting to watch how things are developing here. It’s almost as though after this whole episode goes away or gets halfway resolved, it’s going to be interesting to watch if God splits off the United States out of … there has become such animosity between the United States and the European powers that we’re separated now, more like we were 200–300 years ago. Pull troops out of Germany maybe and say bye-bye, next time you want help call someone else. If that happens, it’s good because it’s the European cesspool where the Revived Roman Empire is going to form, the antichrist and all of his power, that’s where it’s going to be, in that area. So by getting our country out of it, maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s what the Lord is doing here. We’re in it primarily because of Israel and Israel has a purpose in history and God is not going to let Israel be destroyed.
Here in Psalm 94:19 we have an example of stability, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comfort,” now let’s look at the word “comfort,” it’s plural, it’s a plural noun, “comforts.” What are the comforts? You have to go to the context. What’s the context? Verses 17–18 he’s talking about God’s mercy to him, the concept of mercy, however, in the Old Testament is the concept of covenant love, it’s loyal love, which in back of that lies the Mosaic Covenants and the Covenants with Israel. You notice verses 14–15 again reference that covenantal commitment, the contract that God has, the contract that God will keep in history. So, the comforts that he’s talking about that delight his soul are the truths of God’s plan, including eschatology. This is why I want to spend this time because eschatology is what gives stability; it’s eschatology that gives you the big picture.
Verse 20, “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You?  They gather together against the life of the righteous and condemn innocent blood.  But the LORD has been my defense, and My God the rock of my refuge.  He has brought on them their own iniquities,” notice it’s past tense in verse 23 and that’s often a thing that you notice in the Hebrew text in the Psalms and that is it starts out in the present tense and then all of a sudden the Psalmist speaks as though the whole problem has been resolved, past tense. In most cases there is no evidence the problem was resolved, so how do we explain these past tenses, like the verb in verse 23. We have to explain it this way; we have to say that those kinds of past tenses are prophetic past tenses, i.e., so overwhelmed is the Psalmist with the eschatology, with the promises of God, with the contractual program that he can see way down the corridors of time and in his consciousness in the middle of his problem, his problem is here, what he has been able to do using eschatology is he has been able to step away from the problem, look down the corridors of time, stand in the corridors of time and look back and see that God’s resolved the problem. He’s only able to do that because of the eschatology that’s involved in this.
That’s a little sample of many things that we could refer to in Scripture. Turn to the notes, page 137, we are looking at pre-tribulationism, we’ve looked at the different views. Again to review, the issues in eschatology primarily concern how to mix and match in a coherent way the program that God outlined for Israel in the Old Testament and the program that God outlines for the church in the New Testament. Traditionally Reformed Theology has argued that basically this is the same body and we have to agree sociologically, yeah, there are elect people in Israel, elect people in the church and yeah, there’s one group of believers all down through history. But there are different teams, if you will, there’s different maneuvers that God goes through in history so how do you put these two maneuvers together.
We went through pre-tribulationism and introduced it and said pre-tribulationism is like this: it takes the seven years of Daniel’s 70th week, it takes those seven, recognizes as mid-tribulationism that there’s a midpoint here, recognizes that the second half is called the Great Tribulation, that is a phrase that’s used for that three and a half years; true, it’s not used for the whole seven. It recognizes that the Day of the Lord has multiple meanings in Scripture; it can refer to an instantaneous event or a period of time. So pre-tribulationism argues that Day oaf the Lord can have the larger meaning for the whole Tribulation period as well as the small narrow meaning of the great and terrible day of the Lord when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back, the return. But what pre-tribulationism does, “pre” meaning before, it places the Rapture out ahead of the Tribulation. What this difference in time is we don’t know. We do not know that and there is no Scripture that tells us that. It could be years, it could be minutes, we don’t know. All that has to happen is the Rapture precedes the revelation of Christ.
Notice a feature about this view. By doing this, two things immediately, if you look at the chart carefully you’ll see that two things immediately occur. Observe number one, that if the Rapture happened before the start of the Tribulation, if that’s true, what does that tell you about signs that the Rapture is predictable? Not just near but predictable. There is no sign; the first concrete sign is when the antichrist makes his covenant or treaty with Israel, but apart from that there is no imminent sign of the Rapture. The Rapture then, in pre-tribulationism, and here’s the key difference, in pre-tribulationism the Rapture is imminent, meaning that it is not prophesiable, it could happen today, it could happen tomorrow, it could happen 55 years from now, there is no way of telling it. And that’s a feature true only of pre-tribulationism. All the other views, by placing the Rapture inside the 70th week allow you, once the 70th week starts, to predict it; it’s a predictable event. In pre-tribulationism the Rapture is not a predictable event.
Let’s develop that logic a little further. So we say the Rapture is not predictable. Now every once in a while you’ll get somebody that writes a book and talks about the Rapture is going to happen … somebody said the Rapture was going to happen in 1988. If you’re a futurist there’s no way you can date that. Everybody who tries to set dates makes the Book of Revelation be true now. In other words the clock is running now; if it wasn’t running they wouldn’t be making the dates. The very fact that someone is going to try to date the Rapture tells you immediately that they think a clock is running that they can check this text or that text and compute this and add these days and get that. That implies that the clock is running.
But what did we say when we introduced this whole chapter, months ago. Israel is the one who has the clock. The church is never given a clock. So beware when you hear somebody date-setting. Let me qualify that; that’s not to say that we can’t say that it seems like God is arranging the furniture for a little thing that’s going to happen here. What events can you cite objectively in history that suggests that God is bringing the furniture into play within the last three or four generations of people that is utterly unknown in the rest of church history? Number one, what have we had? We have had the return of Jews to Israel. In 1948, all of a sudden now there’s a nation Israel. Here’s a good exercise for you. Go back in history and try to identify any group, any group, anywhere, any people group that disappeared and reappeared as a nation twenty-five centuries later. Find one! Maybe there is one but I haven’t found one, where a people group was destroyed, dispersed, their nation was crushed and they disappeared. And then five centuries, 586 BC, up to Christ and then 2,000 years, so you have twenty centuries this side, plus five, that’s twenty-five centuries. Find a people group that disappeared nationally and then resurrected nationally twenty-five hundred years later. That’s amazing. In 1948 that happened.
What happened in 1967 that was prophetically interesting? Jerusalem, the Israeli armies entered Jerusalem. Now they don’t own Jerusalem, Jerusalem is shared and the world is still angry at the Jews for occupying Jerusalem when in fact what people have been more identified with Jerusalem down through history than anybody else? It’s like saying the English don’t have a right to London. The point is that we have that happen. Now in this Iraqi conflict we’re having something interesting happen right in the geographical spot, only down the river a few kilometers from Babylon. So now something new has been added, we don’t know what God is doing now. Are we saying the Rapture is going to happen next week? It could happen, it could happen tonight, it could not happen until you have a grandson somewhere, but the point is that it looks like things are filling out, God has things that He’s doing before our eyes. And we live in a very exciting time of history to see that behind all the king’s men and all the people, the politicians and people voting this way and voting that way and demonstrating in the streets and wanting this and wanting that, behind it all is His sovereign hand. History is moving the way He wants it to move and interesting things are happening.
If the Rapture is not predictable, there follows from this something else that falls out of this picture. What we’re trying to do is just think a little bit about the inherent logic of this position, just like we did the other positions. If the Rapture is not predictable and if it can come at any time, then what is the focus of the hope of the church, the future focus; in other words, what the church looks forward to historically. If it’s not a sign, it’s not the antichrist, and it’s not the Tribulation, what is the church’s focus? The return of the Lord. Isn’t that interesting because when Paul deals with death in Thessalonica he doesn’t talk about the antichrist; he doesn’t talk about the prophetic signs, what does he talk about? He talks about the coming Rapture, that we will be with the Lord. There’s the focus. So the other feature of pre-tribulationism is that the focus equals the Rapture, not the Tribulation.
In fact, one post-millennialist wrote a book looking forward to the antichrist. On his position I can see why he’d have to say that, because who’s going to come first in his position? Christ or the antichrist? It’s going to be the antichrist, so what do you look forward to? The antichrist. Now isn’t that sweet, that’s a great hope. In pre-tribulationism you have the focus on the Lord coming for His people. That’s the great hope of the church; they call it “the blessed hope,” the hope that makes happy.
That’s the diagram of the pre-tribulation position. By moving the Rapture out ahead of the Tribulation it resolves a problem that we’ve seen in all the other views. What was the problem they all flounder around on; eventually it catches up with them? The Bible promises the church will not see the wrath of God. If this is the period of the wrath of God, then how does the church not see the wrath of God if it goes through the wrath of God? You remember the devices; some of them say well the wrath of God really isn’t the whole seven years, it’s down here at the end or the Three-quarter people say it’s down here or the mid-trib people say it’s here, but not in the first half. And the criticism of that is, since it’s Jesus ripping the seals of judgment off, He’s unleashing judgments, what is He? Is He not divine as God, not causing judgments to happen? Is this not the wrath of God when He’s breaking the seals? So this has to be compromised.
Another way to be fair to the adherents of these positions is that they sometimes visualize the church as what? If they’re going to deal with the wrath of God, if they don’t have this problem out here they’ve got to say that the church is somehow protected from [blank spot] … but the post-trib does have the problem because he doesn’t get the Rapture going until the last part, so now he’s got all this wrath, wrath, wrath to deal with. So one way they have of trying to escape that problem is to protect the church in some way and their example would be Israel in the Exodus. But the problem with that maneuver is that when you look at the text in the Book of Revelation you find believers being martyred; it doesn’t look to me like the church is being protected there if that’s the church. Pre-tribulation doesn’t have that problem because it moves the Rapture out ahead of the whole thing.
Moreover, if you turn to Revelation we’ll look at Revelation 2 and 3 for some of the observations of the letters to the seven churches there. In Revelation 3:10 the key in that verse is because you have kept My commandment to persevere, which may be attached to verse 9, may not even be a part of Revelation 3:10 in the Greek, “I will also keep you from the hour of trial, which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” Notice it doesn’t say I will keep you from the trial. What does he say? “I will keep you from the hour of trial,” i.e. the time of trial. It’s pretty hard to think how God is going to keep the church from the time of trial if He doesn’t get the church out of that period of history. It’s not an airtight argument but I think it’s useful.
While we’re in the Book of Revelation turn to Revelation 2:10, notice the logic of the Lord’s letter here. The Lord is instructing the church that’s being persecuted, the church is going through an awful period of time and the Lord’s direction to endure those trials is “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” How about that one! “Indeed, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Now is the Lord promising them that they will escape death? Evidently not. So here’s a situation where the Lord is focused, however He doesn’t go into an elaborate discourse on the revived temple, He doesn’t talk about antichrists, He talks about being faithful to Him even if it means dying for Him, because “I will give you a crown of life.” There’s a reward in immortality for this behavior. So where’s the focus? The focus is how do you get the immortality? By the Rapture, by resurrection. The reward, in other words, that the Lord Jesus Christ is talking about here is a post-resurrection reward. It’s not a reward of surviving in history so you can see an earthly kingdom develop. That would be the hope of an Old Testament saint, the idea that God is going to set up the Kingdom right here in Israel, in the land, the Temple, etc. I want to see that. Of course they will in their resurrection bodies buy the last generation just prior to that Kingdom is not going to have resurrection bodies, they’re going to go in in their natural bodies.
Jesus makes no bones about it, the church will through death; it could be raptured but it’s always on the post-resurrection blessings. The church’s blessings are always seen in a resurrection light, they are not seen in natural body light. The blessings occur after the resurrection, not prior to the resurrection, so the focus is not on this life. It is on the life to come.
Then we have the various things, the judgment seat, etc. In the notes, on page 138 I referenced four arguments. There are more but for discussion for this class there are four objections to pre-tribulationism. “This is not to say that pre-tribulationism is without its difficulties. Critics have pointed to historical circumstances that occurred at the time” of John Nelson Darby.” The number one argument is that pre-tribulationalism is an invention of John Nelson Darby. Not only is it an invention of Darby but the innuendo is that he borrowed it from a group of what we would call Pentecostals that were rolling in the aisles and seeing visions. I want to address that issue, that’s the first one, historically false and I’ll show you why. Follow the paragraph on the bottom of page 138.
“First, regarding the historical circumstances, church historians have shown that Darby began to arrive at the idea of a pre-tribulational Rapture” notice the dates; we have these documented, “by 1827 while recovering from an injury.” By the way, the background for Darby, he wasn’t some idiot. Darby was an Episcopalian, he was a priest in the Anglican Church and in particular he was on a mission, of all places for an Englishman, to Ireland. So here Darby is trying to win Irishmen to the faith, and then all of a sudden the Anglican Church in all of its Anglo-arrogance says that in order to be a Christian you’ve got to join the Anglican Church and if you join the Anglican Church it’s a state church and who is the head of the Anglican Church but the King of England. So this really helped the evangelism in Dublin … here this guy is trying to win souls to Christ in Ireland and he has to say well gee guys, after you become a Christian you’ve got to join the Anglican Church and swear allegiance to the English king. That really sells in Ireland, that’s like selling ham at a Jewish picnic.
The problem here is when Darby got to that point he said wait a minute, something’s wrong here, something stinks about ecclesiology, so it caused him to think about something his professors had taught him, because in the air, he had gone to a place, I believe it was called Trinity College, and at that place we now know from historical research, they were circulating in the classroom the idea of a literal hermeneutic. There had been a professor or two on the faculty of this place where Darby learned his theology who argued the prevailing amillennialism of the Reformation and said there is something wrong here, the Reformers haven’t done enough properly. So Darby had been triggered as a young boy, a student, to think wait a minute, let’s interpret the Scripture literally here. Israel is Israel. This must have been bouncing around in the back of his head until he got this crisis with the Anglican Church telling him he had to get Irishmen to swear allegiance to an English king. Needless to say he ruptured, that was it and that’s the start of Plymouth Brethren. Plymouth Brethren come from Plymouth England and they were a group that split out of the Anglican Church and it’s historically the Plymouth Brethren who were the ones who amplified and promulgated the first pre-tribulationalism.
“It wasn’t until 1830 that charismatic and unorthodox ‘prophets and prophetesses’ supposedly had visions which critics claim were the real source of pre-tribulationism. Serious examination of the 1830 utterances of the prophetess Margaret Macdonald” she was the gal who foamed at the mouth and went through different things and claimed that she had visions of Christ coming back but now after scholars look at her visions, they were written down, it turns out they were not pre-trib visions, so that’s interesting how a non-pre-trib charismatic utterance in 1830 was given to Darby in a pre-tribulation version in 1827. It’s a little difficult to get that together. “Moreover, in recent years scholars have discovered an essay” and this is an interesting one, “by the founder of Brown University in Rhode Island, Rev. Morgan Edwards (1722–1795),” now do your math, look at the dates, “that describes a position close to pre-tribulationism that involves the Rapture of the church and subsequent return with the Lord when He descends to the Mt. of Olives.” So now all of a sudden we have an earlier than Darby reference to men in the church thinking this issue through, beginning to separate the Rapture and the return and beginning to play with this idea that gee, you know, the church is separate, the Rapture is going to have to precede things here. It was in the air for over a century.
Now even a more stunning [can’t understand word] because some of the post-tribs used to go around evangelical Christianity saying ho-ho, I’ll give $500 to anybody that can show that there’s evidence of pre-tribulationism in the church before 1830. Okay, the guy that discovered this, a friend of a friend of mine, published the paper in a peer review journal and said okay, pay up. He hasn’t gotten paid yet. “Scholars have also discovered a very ancient manuscript ascribed to a Syrian theologian in the Eastern Church, Ephrem (AD 306–373).” This document is called Pseudo-Ephraem because they think it was a sermon that was preached in the eastern part of the Mediterranean in the name of Ephrem, but they’re not sure it was Ephrem so scholars call this Pseudo-Ephraem, nobody knows. Anyway, this guy lived in 306-373 so I submit to you that does go back a little bit in church history prior to the Reformation. “He wrote about a tribulation period prior to the Lord’s return of “one week”, look at the language this guy is using, this is 306 and he’s already talking about the week “of seven years and about an imminent Rapture of Christians prior to the tribulation.”
What do you make of this? It’s not like somebody had this idea in 1830 and ooh, that’s where pre-tribulationism came from. It’s rather that men who have thought seriously and literally about the prophetic portions of the Old Testament were kind of playing with this idea for centuries. It’s not something new. It’s just that it was never developed, it was just kind of tossed out there and most people didn’t pay any attention to it because what was going on in the first four centuries of the church? What was their concern? Trying to define who Jesus was, let’s get that straight first, and then in the Middle Ages what was the issue? What did Jesus do on the Cross, was it a ransom to Satan or was it a propitiation of the Father’s wrath? Or was the cross just a nice sweet littler martyr’s death that we’re all supposed to have heart-throbs over?
But the point I’m making is the reason these issues, even if the guy did it in 306 it wasn’t developed because that wasn’t where the Holy Spirit was leading the church at the time. All I’m pointing to in these references is that it is not a new idea. “He wrote about a tribulation prior to the Lord’s return,” notice the sequence, the Lord’s return, prior to that a tribulation, and prior to that an imminent Rapture of Christians. “Clearly, then, the idea of a pre-tribulational Rapture has a long history, even though it was not systematically developed until the 19th century ‘back to the Bible’ movement.”
And it wasn’t really Darby, later on it was the prophetic movement in eastern Massachusetts, they had Bible conferences, the Niagara Bible Conference where in 1868, 1870, after the Civil War and all the turmoil of the country; the Civil War triggered a lot of people to think through their eschatology, as you can well imagine. It was a horrifying period of American history and people, what do they do? In times of trauma where do they go? They seek to know the big picture of where history is going, and of course you never get this in high school history courses because the people that write the curriculum are afraid they might offend somebody by telling the truth. What happened here in the whole 1870 period is you had people going out for conferences all over New York and New England, summer Bible conferences, weeks long. And they would have speakers and they weren’t all pre-trib people. They were all, however, people who were premillennial. And they were even people who spoke in 1870 and 1880 about the fact that Israel would become a nation someday, and everybody said ha-ha, it’ll never happen. Well, it did happen.
So 70 years prior to 1948 these people in New England were talking about that Israel would have to come back. Why did they make that deduction? Think about it. Why do you suppose in 1878 in Niagara and Northfield, Massachusetts, why do you suppose that they then were thinking in terms of revived Israel if they were premillennialists? What did they know that led them to the conclusion that Israel would have to come back? Because when the Lord comes back He comes back to what? A Temple and a nation. So if they’re at all literal they’ve got to have a nation that’s literal and a literal land of Palestine around the literal hills of Jerusalem.
That’s why prior to Zionism … there was a famous trial in France and the guy that was sitting in the back room in the trial was a Jew. Dreyfus was a French army officer and he was being persecuted because he was a Jew … the famous Dreyfus trial. Dreyfus was a French Army captain and the Jews in Europe at that time thought they could be safe if they could hide their Jewishness, so they slouched around, and Dreyfus was one of those Jews who thought he could be a good officer in the French army, here we go with France again, he thought he could be a good army officer and people would leave him alone and wouldn’t go after him because he was Jewish. And here he is; now he’s on trial, a court-martial trial. Sitting in the back room is a guy named Theodor Herzl, he’s a young Jewish journalist and he’s sitting there taking notes, taking notes, taking notes, day after day the kid takes notes. And he walks home and says to himself, you know what, we Jews are wrong, we are never going to be accepted in European culture. This civilization will never allow us Jews to assimilate. So he began the modern movement of Zionism. And it was a search for a homeland for Jews. Herzl believed that the Dreyfus trial showed assimilation failed in European culture. And it has, it always has, and it’s failed for a reason, because God is going to keep the Jew separate, whether even the Jews like it or not, the Jews will be kept separate for a purpose yet to come. Three things for Israel, remember; they gave us the Bible, they gave us the Messiah and what else are they going to give us yet to come? The Kingdom on earth, of the Messiah.
So pre-tribulationism is an idea that has been kicked around and emerges, not because of some person; it emerges just once you start in with a literal hermeneutic, you wind up moving in that direction. This is where you move. When we meet again we’ll get into the Matthew 24 issue.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a good point; Israel has backed over with this ridiculous position, this moral equation between Israel going after terrorists in the so-called “occupied territories,” that that somehow is the moral equivalent of terrorism. It just blows me away and it shows you the inability of these people to argue in a rational way. In the first place if you know your history the only reason why those lands are occupied is because they wouldn’t behave themselves in the first place. Who was it that was supposed to invade Israel in 1967 when that happened, who started that war? It was Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, and they lost it, so stop fussing about the occupied lands, you guys started the war and you lost. It’s a mess; it’s too bad we even have to get involved with it.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question of the Palestinians is prior to Arafat returning to the land in 1973 the word Palestinian meant Jew. There was no such thing as Palestinians, the Palestinians when the Jewish regiments fought for the British in World War II they were called the Palestinian Regiment, it was a Jewish regiment, it wasn’t an Arab regiment. It was Arafat that hijacked the term, and now he has all these Palestinians. Well, first of all, Pales comes from the word Philistine, that’s the root where the word comes from. And the people who are called Palestinians today, they might have genes from Moab or something like that in them, but it’s so mixed up you can’t tell very well. [same person says something] Well, the land was given to Israel and Israel was booted out of the land, lost control of the land and she still will not have control of the land until the Lord comes back and He, without consulting the United Nations, will reformulate the boundaries of Israel.
Question asked: Clough replies: I don’t believe so. The area over there has been known as Palestine for centuries, but the British kind of screwed things up too in that in World War I they had Lawrence of Arabia going around making all these promises to the Arabs, if the Arabs would help the British fight the Turks. Well, part of the problem was Jews had already moved into the land and Lawrence of Arabia sort of, I guess there’s a debate about it, but he sort of left the impression that after World War I if the Arabs really helped the British fight off the Turks then as a result and their reward they could have total dominion over Palestine. When that was being debated there was a guy by the name of Balfour and Balfour was the guy that made the Balfour Declaration that granted Jews certain rights in the land. So you had set up right from the start two groups of people promised two different things by the same group of people, the English. Some times when the English get a little snitty about American statesmanship they’d better think about their own history a little bit.
Question asked: Clough replies: They’ve kept the Negev; the Negev has never fallen out of Jewish hands. The Jews in 1967 conquered the Sinai all the way over to the Nile River and again, because of peace the Jews backed up, they gave it back to Egypt, and pulled all the way back to the edge of the Negev.
Israel has bent over backwards and the interesting thing, I’ve been in communication with an Israeli meteorologist and he was telling me how the day that the Oslo Accords were signed it stopped raining in Israel, and basically they’ve been in a ten year drought. And the day, the week, the very week that Ariel Sharon said Oslo is dead, it began to rain again. So again, you can get spooky thinking about it but it is interesting that Israel had a ten-year drought and it broke this fall; that’s why these dust storms that are bothering our troops, that’s a storm track that’s dumping rain on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee was down something like 14 feet or something, and they’ve had 8 feet … it’s the national reservoir of Israel, and it’s up 8 feet, I guess there’s only 3 or 4 feet to go so it’s like God’s blessed their sox off all winter.
Question asked: Clough replies: I don’t know what the depth is, it’s just that whatever the norm is it’s still subnormal and it’s coming up to that normal line, sort of like our reservoirs here. But they’ve had a very severe drought. And the interesting thing meteorologically about the last few storm systems is it’s kind of a rare event in that the storm that caused our snow here, that energy, spinning energy went across the Atlantic, I’m told by these guys, I didn’t follow it myself, went across the Atlantic, went into the Mediterranean area and was the same piece of energy that caused the piece of rain in Israel. What’s interesting is that’s not how it usually happens. The storm systems that give rain to Israel normally come out of Europe, not from across the ocean so this guy was just saying, gee, you see that and you wonder whether some angel just triggered those two storms almost to show the unity between America and Israel.
And the other thing that’s kind of interesting, and what’s happening, it’s sort of encouraging to us, and this is kind of a neat story about how the Lord works, the bus explosion, we worry about 16 or 17 soldiers have been killed, Israel loses that in one bus and they’re a smaller country than we are. In that last bus explosion the 17-year-old girl that was killed was the daughter of the leader of Campus Crusade in Israel. Because she was an Israeli, or considered Jewish because the guy lives in Israel, the Israeli government had to send a representative to this funeral. Where the breakthrough happened, this exciting breakthrough for the Jewish community who are believers, is it was Messianic Jewish funeral, and Ariel Sharon’s representative came and listened to this whole Hebrew funeral that was Messianic Jews explaining the gospel. Of course he had to make the proper clucking noises because he was there as a dignitary of the Israeli government, and he said something they say at that funeral that was a long antagonism between the Messianic Jewish community and the rest of Israel. They’re considered sort of semi-loyal, and he said because of your dedication, your obvious dedication to the land of Israel, it behooves, I believe, the present government to reconsider its relationship to the Messianic Jews of Israel. So this girl dying in that bus set up a funeral situation where the leadership of Israel came, its representative heard the gospel and are interested in Messianic Jews now. This has never before happened, apparently, in Israel’s recent history. So that was kind of neat, just a little passing thing how the Lord’s hand is still working, He hasn’t taken His hand off the steering wheel, everything is under control.
Question asked, something about the judgment of the sheep and the goats and the number of nations going into the millennium, it’s going to be a pretty short list. Clough says: Yeah, you’d think so. That’s an interesting question and I’ve heard that battered around by some Bible prophecy people, that the Millennial Kingdom will have nations in it. If you think about how the nations are established, they’re established with this judgment of the sheep and the goats, and it’s their relationship to Israel during the Tribulation, the survivors of different countries. So what countries will be represented in the Millennial Kingdom? You’d think, based on anti-Semitism that there’s a pretty short list. We don’t know, but it’s kind of interesting, there are nations that have historically have always been anti-Semitic, Assyria is one of them, the Arimeans of Damascus have always been a nuisance to Israel. Egypt, strangely, the home of the tyrant Pharaoh is considered to have a prophetic portion in the Kingdom. It’s not disciplined out, so that’s kind of a funny one.
Question asked, something about the United States and Britain: Clough replies: We can’t, I don’t think we can because for one reason the United States is a very unusual kind of country. It’s not like Japan that’s racially homogeneous. The United States is really a strange thing because we’re a mixing pot, and the Bible chases people through history by their genealogy. So you’d almost have to say where the people groups are and work backwards from that. It’s hard. We do know that there are nations that are said to be in the coasts, and people like Walvoord and others say that if we’re mentioned as part of those nations of the coastlines because to the ancient person, there would be these coasts, these remote coasts where they would do business, so that’s how the Hebrew would refer to a distant land. But that’s the only reference I know of.
Okay, next time we may finish up pre-tribulationism and then we’ll go on and conclude the applications of eschatology, sort of like Psalm 94.