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 222 – Israel and the Church Relative to the Pre-Trib View
17 Apr 2003
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ll do a little review on pre-tribulationalism. Remember that the big picture is to go back to the fact that we have an inherent view of the end times out of the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells us about Israel, it tells us about the nations, it speaks in terms of tribes, cultures, nations. When you come to the New Testament you have the nation Israel as a nation not accepting the Messiah. Therefore what you have is a subset of Jews who do accept the Messiah versus the majority who do not accept the Messiah. This creates a dilemma because whereas in the Old Testament you had a remnant, the remnant was always part of the nation Israel. Whereas in the New Testament the remnant breaks away from the nation, becomes disassociated from the nation; not only disassociated from the nation but begins to mix with Gentiles, on a common basis.
This is new; this is not true of the Old Testament. So the New Testament introduces to something called the church. Lest we become confused, remember that believers in the Old Testament are saved the same way they’re saved in the New Testament. We’re not talking about two different ways of salvation here. What we are talking about is God has different programs for different time periods in history. That’s dispensationalism. It simply recognizes that if you interpret the Scriptures literally you see that before the call of Abraham, back in the Old Testament, were there any Jews? Was there any Israel? The answer is no there wasn’t. What was there? There were nations and how did God look at those nations? They were all the sons of Noah; they were all part and parcel of the Noahic Covenant. There wasn’t any Jew/Gentile difference then, there were just the nations. You had people like Melchizedek who were king-priests, who inherited the theology from the Noahic Bible. They carried over stories of Adam and Eve, Enoch, the flood; they carried through the gospel, the promise of the Deliverer that was to come from the seed of the woman. This was all the religion at the beginning of what we call our civilization.
Then we found that rapidly, although as brilliant as that group of people were that colonized the planet very rapidly with architectural wonders, pyramids, the navigational skills that they had, boat-building skills that they had, just amazing when you think about it that they colonized the entire planet earth carrying with them the surviving animals out of the ark of Noah and scattering that livestock around in different continents in different ways. Then we have the geniuses in the last 200 years in the theory of evolution that think the marsupials in Australia represent a completely different evolutionary line when in fact what they probably represent is a unique colonization by the early survivors of the flood.
In any case, we have this difference in the Old Testament. Then you come down to Abraham and his family becoming a nation and now we have something new, Israel. And God changes His way, He doesn’t deal with Israel like He does with the nations; something’s changed, there’s a different administration of God’s will. So the life for believers who were Gentiles, they had one way of life, for believers who are in the nation Israel they had another way of life. That’s the difference; that’s a dispensational difference. Similarly when we come to the New Testament we have this thing called the church and the church is not Israel, the church is not Gentiles, the church is not a nation, the church doesn’t have a land, the church doesn’t have political offices.
So what is the church? The church is this strange new thing made up of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The dilemma that we have in prophecy is that since most prophecy was given to Israel and given in terms of Israel, we have Israel coming into the last days with the Millennial Kingdom promised. That’s the Kingdom of world peace, dominion of the Messiah of Israel becoming the Son of Man, the One who reigns over all the nations. And all these nations are related by way of their allegiance to the God of Israel. That’s the language of Old Testament prophecy. There is no church in there; there’s nothing like that. There is no story about Jews and Gentiles being equal - they are distinguished in all these prophecies.
That being the case, the next problem that comes is what about the church, where does the church go. Clearly Israel exists in history and will go into this Messianic Kingdom, i.e., part of the nation, the nation that believes and isn’t judged, that isn’t purged, that isn’t removed, they survive on earth and go into this Kingdom. That’s the future of Israel. However, when you come to New Testament passages there’s no such kingdom mentioned about the church moving into it in natural bodies. The destiny given to the church is that there’s a Rapture coming, there’s a resurrection coming and we’ll be face to face with the Lord. He makes us kings and priests to rule on earth, but in resurrection bodies.
So the question then becomes, how do you relate Israel and the church? We look back in the Old Testament and we see there’s a time of tribulation prior to this Messianic Kingdom. And the different views that we have studied have the church either going into the Tribulation or not going into the Tribulation. Some views, the post-trib view says that Israel goes through this state and the church also goes through this state, all the way up almost to the end when there’s just a little bit of time in there and that’s the post-trib position. Some people believe the Three-quarter trib, the church goes in there and stays up until the three-quarter trib. Then there’s the wrath of God and the church has to escape that so it gets out at the three-quarter point. Then there’s the mid-tribulation people, people say that the church goes up to the mid part of the Tribulation. We’ve been studying the pre-tribulational position which doesn’t have the church in the Tribulation at all; the church is raptured somewhere ahead of that Tribulational period, so that in the Tribulation you revert to the global sociological structure prior to Pentecost. It’s a reversion back to that and that’s why from Revelation 4 forward, all the way to Revelation 18 or so the book is written not in terms of the church, the word church isn’t even mentioned, it’s written in terms of Jew and Gentile.
So the pre-tribulational position, page 137, Figure 10 shows that the church is raptured prior to the Tribulation and there may be a gap in there. I mention that gap because there is no hard and fast Scripture that links the Rapture to the beginning of the Tribulation because the beginning of the Tribulation, by definition, is when the antichrist makes his treaty with Israel. That sets it off, that starts the clock, but there’s nothing in Scripture that says that that has to happen 1.3 minutes after the Rapture. So we don’t know; that’s the unknown. There has been gaps in God’s prophetic program, we’re going to see one tonight, there’s been gaps in God’s prophetic programs before where, with Daniel for example, Daniel thought in 516 BC that the 70 weeks are finished and we should be going back to the land, let’s go. And he prayed and Gabriel came and said well Daniel, I’m sorry to tell you this but there’s going to be seven times seven, you’re going to go back on schedule but it’s not the regathering, the great final regathering, that’s being postponed. And all of a sudden Gabriel opens up history that there’s a big, long four or five century intercalation going on here. God has done that numerous times, He was doing it in the Garden. Eve, some people believe, when she named her son she thought that her first son would be the Messiah, and then she found out no, he’s not the Messiah, Messiah is going to come, but he’s not coming this soon.
So there’s always this kind of postponement. That’s a process that we just observe as we look down through the corridors of time and see how God works. That’s pre-tribulationalism.
We mentioned, bottom of page 137 we said that, “Advocates of this position believe that is best solves several challenges … It clearly solves the problem of keeping the church from the wrath of God in a way that is compatible with Revelation 3:10.” That’s one of the strongest points of pre-tribulationism because Revelation 3:10 says the church will be kept not from Tribulation, it says the church will be kept from the hour of Tribulation. So the question then is, how do you exclude the church from that period of time of the Great Tribulation? The answer pre-tribulationalism gives is the church doesn’t go through the Tribulation, that’s how it’s excluded from that period.
Second, “it maintains the entire 70th week as a time of judgment focused upon Israel and the nations as this judgmental period is presented in the Old Testament.” So pre-tribulationalism persists in the Old Testament view of the Tribulation; it doesn’t try to change it, it doesn’t try to alter it in the sense of bringing the church into it. The church wasn’t in it in the Old Testament; the church isn’t in it now.
Third, “It allows enough time for the Bema Seat Judgment and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb to occur prior to the church returning with Christ at the end of the 70th week,” so you have all this period of time in here between the Rapture and the return of Christ to accomplish the Bema Seat Judgment and the Marriage Supper, preparing for the Marriage Supper. So those events, however they unfold, which the Scripture doesn’t tell us all the details but however those events unfold there is adequate time in there.
Then finally, the fourth thing is it “permits a literal interpretation of the Millennial Kingdom starting with people in natural bodies.” The reason for that is because the Rapture has occurred you have believers, people becoming believers prior to the return of Christ and so there are people who are believers in natural bodies ready to go into the Kingdom. If you have the Rapture like the post-tribulationalist say, you have that Rapture right before the Kingdom, then by definition you don’t have any believers in natural bodies. Why? Because all the believers have been resurrected. If all believers are resurrected there aren’t any believers left in natural bodies. Therefore then how do you explain the Kingdom? The Kingdom isn’t going to start with unbelievers; it’s going to start with believers. That’s the whole point of the Kingdom, that’s why it’s the Kingdom.
These are the reasons why pre-tribulationalism believes it is the best solution. Now there are objections to pre-tribulationism that have been raised and on page 138 we’ve been going through some of those objections, four in particular. “This is not to say that pre-tribulationism is without its difficulties. Critics have pointed to historical circumstances that occurred at the time its modern ‘father’ John Nelson Darby worked out its first systematic statement. Critics have argued that it misinterprets Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonians 2. And critics have accused it of fostering an ‘escapist’ attitude toward suffering.”
The first paragraph, on page 138, deals with a historical issue. The historical issue is… and people from a Reformed background tend to get very uppity about this. I have never really understood why they do that because Roman Catholics do it to them and they don’t like it. In other Roman Catholics can say to a Reformed person look, you people are Johnny-come-latelys, you didn’t show up until the 16th century; the church had been around for 16 centuries and we Roman Catholics represent that stream so you guys are the ones that come late. Well now, obviously Reformed people don’t buy into that, how do they defend against it. They simply say that the Holy Spirit is illuminating gradually the Scriptures and in the 16th century was the time the issues of soteriology were illuminated. If that’s the case then what’s the objection to saying that in the 19th century was the time when the Holy Spirit illuminated eschatology? So they’re inconsistent in their objection at this point. I’ll have more to say on that later.
But the point is that as you go down through church history what did we say? We said from the time of the Lord Jesus Christ to 2000 so far, the church has been growing; it has been growing in its sense or organizing the doctrinal truths of Scripture. We said in the first three or four centuries the emphasis was on the Lord Jesus Christ. There were a lot of knock down drag out arguments that went on, and cults today like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses always want to try out these arguments. The poor people don’t realize that all those arguments that the modern cults bring up were answered in the first 300–400 years; they’re just historically ignorant people who don’t go back and see that these arguments … Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, are nothing more than modern versions of ancient heresy called Arianism. And Arianism was answered emphatically and clearly. It’s not new; the cults are not bringing something new.
After that in the Middle Ages the emphasis was on clarifying what the cross was about. First, it was the person of Christ; then it was the work of Christ. There were two views, there was one view that said Christ dying on the Cross was an example of a martyrdom, it was an example of this, it was an example of that and it should stimulate us subjectively as we look at this wonderful example. That is the subjectivist view of the Cross, versus the Anselmic view which was an objective view, i.e., that Christ actually did something on the Cross, it’s not just us looking and saying ooh, gee, that’s inspiring. The Anselmic view is that Jesus did something on the Cross whether it inspires you or not, He completed a work there.
So you can see the church grows. The first 300–400 years the church wasn’t clear on what Christ did on the Cross. After the Middle Ages the church became clear as to what Jesus did on the Cross. And in the 16th century this is when the issue was what about faith, how is a person saved? The church had always said people are saved by faith, what was new in the Reformation was people are saved by faith alone… faith alone. Any Roman Catholic will agree with you that you were saved by faith; they believe that too but when you ask them what about faith then things get a little gooey and mixed up with works and merits.
Whereas the Reformation holds that we are saved by faith alone, that the authority of the church is the Scripture alone. We believe in Jesus Christ alone, we don’t believe in Christ and the church, we don’t believe in Scripture and tradition, we don’t believe in faith and works. We believe in the Scripture alone, we believe in Christ alone, we believe by faith alone. The little word, a-l-o-n-e, alone, that’s the Protestant Reformation and that is what is so objectionable even among so-called Protestants today. It’s amazing that people even within some Reformed circles forget their own Reformation Theology. But that is the period of time in the 16th and 17th century.
Now what we’re talking about is what about the future, and that was begun to be clarified, really in the 19th and 20th centuries. So there’s a sequence here, so it’s not peculiar, there’s nothing freaky about the fact that eschatology hasn’t been clarified in the last 200 years. Do you see the point? All the doctrines took time and they have been pedagogically revealed by the Holy Spirit as He’s placed the church in the milieu of a certain kind of history. The Holy Spirit has taught the church by almost beating the church into submission. It started in the book of Acts. The only what that church ever got outside of the city of Jerusalem was because it was persecuted. And because it was persecuted it responded to that by dispersing. And it’s the same thing. The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ would never have been clarified had God not allowed heretics and heresies to come into the church. And finally believers began to say no, this is not right, and they went back to the Scripture, always going back to the Scripture, the Bereans going back to the Scripture, back to the Scripture, back to the Scripture. That’s the story of this, they went back to the Scriptures to find out about the Person of Christ. They were driven back to the Scriptures to find out what did Christ do on the Cross. They were driven back to the Scriptures to find out, how is a person saved? And finally in eschatology they are driven back to the Scripture to what is the destiny of the church and what is the destiny of Israel?
In the paragraph on page 139 I point out that yes, John Nelson Darby did a great amount of work but he wasn’t the only guy. You can say that argument is the same with the Reformation, that it was Martin Luther. Well, it wasn’t just Martin Luther; it was a bunch of other people around Martin Luther that lived in the same time period. One of the slanders against dispensationalism that you will read in books you get at Christian Book Distributors or somewhere … a guy by the name of MacPherson published a book in which he argued that dispensationalism was actually the result of some freak teenage girl who saw visions, this was 1830 and Darby somehow got hold of what this teenage girl was doing and that’s how he invented dispensationalism. The fly in that particular ointment is that we have biographical evidence that it was in 1827 when Darby came to his conclusion about Israel being different from the church. Furthermore, examination of Margaret MacDonald, this is the girl that was freaking out, an examination of her so-called prophecies, they’re not pre-tribulational. So people who say that either don’t know what they’re talking about or frankly they’re just deceptive people.
Also you can see, I list Morgan Edwards, look at the dates on Morgan Edwards, he had already outlined a dispensational scheme as early as that (1722–1795). Jonathan Edwards had outlined a dispensational scheme. Men were trying to deal with history then, here are the new colonies of America, the western hemisphere has been explored, there are new peoples and people want to know where is history going. They had broken out of just Euro-centric thinking; they became globalists in that sense, they were globally aware, they wanted to know where is history going so they started going back to the Bible, where is history going?
But the thing is in the last few years, you’ll note the date at the bottom, the footnote, 1995, it was in 1993 or 1994 that this manuscript was discovered dating from the fourth century. And in that manuscript he’s talking about a seven-year tribulation and a pre-trib Rapture. Look at that one, and this is 4th century. So that argues against the idea that nobody ever thought of pre-tribulationalism until Darby’s day. Nonsense, here’s Pseudo-Ephraem talking about it in the 400s.
Tonight we’re going to spend some time on the second objection because this is very weighty and this is a thing that a lot of people find difficult and that is the issue of Matthew 24. So let’s turn to Matthew 24 and while you’re in Matthew 24 also look at Zechariah 14 so you can flip between those two passages, that’s where we’ll be working for the rest of the evening. Matthew 24 is a crux in eschatology, obviously because it is the Lord Jesus Christ’s sermon. And inevitably apart from the pre-tribulational position most people who are not pretribulationalist mix the church into Matthew 24. If you skim down Matthew 24 and you look for example, at verse 31, if the church is in Matthew 24 then verse 31 becomes a reference to the Rapture. People always want to put the Rapture into verse 31, it’s very common and that’s the post-tribulational position. If you’re not a post-tribulationalist and don’t have the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation and you’re not a pre-tribulationalist so you don’t have the Rapture at the beginning of the Tribulation, you’ve got to really mess around with verse 31. You’ve got to figure out how can that be the Rapture and yet the church not be exposed to the wrath of God that precedes verse 31. And there are various schemas that are done to do that, and that’s the mid-trib and the Three-quarter trib.
But for my opinion, I’ll just tell you this, that there are only two stable positions out of the four that we’ve studied, pre, mid, three-quarter and post. The only two stable positions are post-tribulationalism and pre-tribulationalism. The other guys are halfway houses trying to mix the two positions and they get in trouble.
If you follow on page 139 let me introduce the issue here. “How does pre-tribulationism respond to the accusation that it misinterprets Matthew 24? Every futurist position discussed so far except pre-tribulationism insists that the church and Israel are somehow both involved in Matthew 24.” I might add, there have been historically some pre-tribulationalists who have argued that the church is in Matthew 24. That is not a majority position because again it sets up a problem that you wind up ooching your way over to becoming a post-trib if you do that. “Most insist that 24:31 parallels Rapture passages in the epistles because of certain similarities.” Everybody acknowledges the similarities. Pre-tribulationalists do not deny there are similarities between the Rapture and verse 31. So everybody agrees to that. “Their argument from similarities undercuts the distinction made previously between Israel and the church and between the return and the Rapture. If both the church and Israel are spoken of in Matthew 24 and these distinctions are weakened,” notice, “then post-tribulationism is the logical result.” That’s what I mean by its stable; the halfway positions slide one way or the other way, you either slide toward pre-tribulationalism or you slide toward post-tribulationalism. “Mid-tribulationism and Three-Quarter tribulationism in holding this mixture view are thus unstable.”
“In contrast to these views pre-tribulationism maintains the distinctions between Israel and the church and the return and the Rapture.” This is something we’ve noticed as we’ve studied, that distinction between the church and Israel, between the Rapture and the return. Pre-tribulationalism is known for that, it makes these distinctions. “Matthew 24 is viewed as Jesus addressing his Jewish disciples as representing Israel here, not the church (which wasn’t formed until weeks after these Mt. Olivet Discourse).” So, right away the question is in Matthew 24, whom do the disciples represent? You say well gee, they’re disciples, in a few weeks they’re going to be Christians, they’re going to be the founders of the church, I mean, isn’t Jesus talking to them, the fathers of the church, so doesn’t this passage apply to the church. If you think about how carefully I went through the book of Acts you should think of a time line. Let’s put this together and think.
What did we say happened during the career of the Lord Jesus Christ before He was crucified? What was Jesus message? His message was that the Kingdom is imminent, was it not? The Kingdom of God is here. Accept Me as your Messiah and you’ll have your Kingdom. We studied the Matthew 25 parable where the invitation was given, the invitation to what? The invitation to the Kingdom and to whom was that invitation given? It was given to Israel. So prior to the death of the Lord Jesus Christ we had invitation number one. That invitation was rejected. Jesus was crucified, He rose again from the dead, and what did Peter do in Acts 2 and Acts 4. He turned around and he talked to whom? Where was he talking? What city? Jerusalem! And to whom was Peter talking in Acts 2 and Acts 4? The leaders of the nation who had rejected Jesus. What was Peter’s addressed to those people, that leadership of Israel in the city of Jerusalem? It was if you repent and be baptized the times of refreshing will come. That’s an Old Testament code word for the Kingdom; the long-awaited Kingdom would come. You people have invitation number two. But Jesus had indicated prior to this in Matthew 25 that the invitation would go out but this time not only would the invitation be rejected but what else would begin to happen. The King’s representatives would be killed. And what happens immediately in the book of Acts? The King’s representatives are killed.
So far we haven’t got the gospel of the church here; we have an invitation going out to Israel. It doesn’t become clear that the church has even formed back here at Pentecost until way down here in the book of Acts. In Acts 15, they’re still struggling with is this a church, what’s going on here? So it’s years and years later that this uncovers. That’s not an argument that Jesus can’t address the church in the Gospels in the sense of preparing prophetically for the church, like in John 14, etc. All that to say that when you read the passages like Matthew 24 and the disciples are sitting there you can’t just naïvely jump to the conclusion that they’re representing the church when they’re sitting there. How do you know they’re not representing the nation Israel that hasn’t yet received its second invitation?
Let me show you why that’s a problem. Go over to Matthew 10, the same disciples now; now the question is, all right, if Matthew 24 is addressed to the disciples as representatives of the church, what do you do with Matthew 10? In Matthew 10:1, He “summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” He lists them, and in verse 6 where does He tell them to go? Does He tell them to go out into the world and preach the gospel? No, He says “but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [7, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”] Who are they representing? They are sent on a mission t the nation Israel. They’re not representing the church here; look at the context of the passage. They are representing Israel; they are the remnant of Israel addressing the nation of Israel with a very Jewish message.
So in Matthew 10, summary of this point, in Matthew 10 the disciples are clearly not representing the church, they are representing Israel. Therefore it is not true that you have to have them representing the church in Matthew 24, particularly since the church hadn’t even formed yet. And not only has it not formed, Israel hasn’t even totally rejected the Messiah yet. There’s a contingency in history. Now you have to be careful, I believe in the sovereignty of God and I’m not undermining the sovereignty of God in any way, but let’s face it; God has contingencies in history that are very real. Now how He has contingencies and yet is totally sovereign is a mystery, we don’t know how He does that. But think of the fact, what did the Lord Jesus Christ say when confronted with the horror of the Cross? He said I could pray to My Father and he would send legions of angels to defend Me. Now let’s just suppose Jesus had prayed that, then where would the atonement be? The Cross wouldn’t have happened. But clearly that was a contingency because Jesus spoke about it. He said I could pray now and I could be rescued from any power right now, I could have hundreds and hundreds of angels come to protect Me, I could call in the body guards and then where would be. The Lord Jesus Christ could have done that. He’s not faking it, He’s not saying, “Oh, gee, guys, this is a cute thought.” That was a real option, a real contingency for the Lord Jesus Christ.
So also when we come down here and Peter in Acts 2 and Acts 4, that’s not a phony invitation. Israel could have repented at that point and the Kingdom would have come, the times of refreshing would have come. But they didn’t and God knew they wouldn’t, but God gave the invitation any way. In fact He gave a parable that said He knows there would be two invitations and they both would be rejected. But they were genuine invitations nonetheless.
So Matthew 24 first of all does not have to have the church in it, and the reason for saying that by way of interpretation is that Matt. 10 doesn’t have the church in it. Let’s go further. The disciples in Matthew 24 are seated where? They are seated in a place where they can see the Temple, and we know that they are actually on the Mount of Olives, verse 3. They are sitting on the Mount of Olives as Jewish men who have studied the Old Testament and they were asking about the Temple. It has been suggested and I believe this is a true suggestion—a very good suggestion—that the disciples at this point are thinking of a particular Old Testament passage. Hold the place in Matthew 24 and turn to Zechariah 14.
Remember when Zechariah was written? Zechariah was one of the last books in the Old Testament, closest in time to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It gives at the end of the Old Testament era Zechariah gives the last few Old Testament passages about the future of the nation Israel. So to a Jew in Jesus day the most recent prophecies that he would have had are prophecies like these in the book of Zechariah. Do the disciples have the New Testament? No, they didn’t have the New Testament; their Bible ended a few books after Zechariah, not in that order because there’s a different Jewish order, but chronologically.
Look at Zechariah 14:1, here’s the prophecy of the coming day of the Lord. “Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you.” It’s talking to Jews that are being persecuted, been defeated nationally and it’s a day when Israel will be delivered. Keep this in mind, look carefully at verse 1 and re-read verse 1, “a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you.” You’ll be the beneficiaries, positive point, okay; the Day of the Lord. Zechariah 14:2, “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.  Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.  And in that day His feet will stand” where “will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.”
Verse 5, “And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah King of Judah. Then the LORD, O my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!  And it will come about in that day that there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle.  For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night; but it will come about that at evening time there will be light.  And it will come about in that day that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.  And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.  All the land will be changed ….” So forth and so on. Verse 11, “And people will live in it, and there will be no more curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security.”
That’s a view meshing together both the Millennial Kingdom and, by the last verse, the eternal state. This is a view of the future that Zechariah has. Put yourselves in the disciple’s position. They look at that Temple and what does Jesus say? Go to Matthew 24:2, “And He answered and said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” The disciples are shocked; the Temple is going to be torn down!!! Of course in the context here, what would that mean? That would mean that Israel is being defeated. If Israel is being defeated and the Temple is going to be destroyed, and you’re thinking in terms of Zechariah, what did Zechariah promise? That in the day when the nations come to destroy, who is going to come back? The Lord Jesus is going to come back.
So there’s a chronological sequence of thought here; in the day when Jerusalem is going to be ravished, in a day when the city is going to be destroyed, the Messiah is going to come back. Well, they’re all excited, so in verse 3 they ask Him, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” They’re talking about Your coming, we know that they’ve identified the Lord Jesus Christ with Yahweh already here, “the sign of Your coming,” and they’re thinking in terms of Zechariah. Who’s coming in Zechariah? Yahweh, the Lord is coming, so they’ve already got it together that this Jesus, this carpenter is more than a carpenter, He’s the God-man, He’s the Lord of the nation Israel. What’s “the sign of Your coming” and now the Lord begins to expand it. He says  “See to it that no one misleads you,”  “you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place but that is not yet the end.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.”  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation….”  “And at that time many will fall away….”  “And many false prophets will arise…”  “But the one who endures to the end” will be saved.”
Now verse 15, “Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Now what Jesus is doing is He’s suddenly referencing Daniel and together with Zechariah one sees that in verse 15 you can’t have an abomination without the Jewish cultists, i.e. the Temple, built.
Now we’ve got a little problem here. Jesus began the chapter by saying what was going to be destroyed? The Temple. Yet in verse 15 there’s abomination of desolation that’s going to be in the Temple that exists. So when is the destruction of the Temple? Somehow there’s a destruction of the Temple and there must be a rebuilding of the Temple so the abomination of desolation can occur in the Temple. What is Jesus doing? I picture what Jesus is doing on the bottom of page 139 and top of page 140, that He is doing to Zechariah’s prophecy what Gabriel the angel did to Jeremiah’s prophecy, in that the top view that I’ve labeled Zechariah’s View and Jesus’ view.
Figure 11. In the Mount Olivet Discourse Jesus builds upon Old Testament prophecy and fills in more details for the disciples’ concern about Israel and the Temple.
On the top sequence of boxes is the Zechariah passage. Look at the sequence: first the Gentiles destroy Jerusalem; second the Messiah comes to the Mount of Olives to rescue the city; third, astronomical & geophysical catastrophes, verses 4–8; and fourth, Messianic Kingdom and world peace. That’s just a straightforward sequence of the Zechariah14 passage. Verses 1–2, Gentiles destroy Jerusalem. Messiah comes to Mount of Olives to rescue; then there are astronomical and geophysical catastrophes. Then there is the Messianic Kingdom and we saw that from Zechariah 14.
Now Jesus’ view, watch what He does, [blank spot]. Gentiles destroy Jerusalem, so what is Jesus doing when He talks about the Temple being destroyed? He’s talking about Gentiles destroying Jerusalem, is He not? Is He not taking that block? But what Jesus does with it is interesting, because He then goes to talk about a rebuilt Temple where the abomination is going to happen. So here we have the classic thing and how many times have we seen this in prophecy. Jesus talks about the destruction of the Temple; then He talks about, by implication, the rebuilding of the Temple. And then He talks about the catastrophes that will occur. Yet He also talks about this catastrophe. What has He done to the first block of Zechariah? He has taken Zechariah 14:12- and He has split them and put into that prophecy a bunch of time, which He then will call the Times of the Gentiles.
So Jesus is announcing in His discussion, He’s injecting a whole new age called “Times of the Gentiles.” Whereas Zechariah in is day saw just these sequence of events; he saw Gentiles destroying the city, then immediately He saw the Messiah rescuing the city. But Jesus takes these two events and He pulls them apart and He begins to fill in details. Yes, the Gentiles will come to destroy the city; not only will they destroy the city, they will destroy absolutely the Temple, but before I come there will be other things that happen, He says, including the desecration of the Temple, and when you see the desecration of the Temple, then flee. Then if you compare this with Luke he talks about these times of the Gentiles.
So the idea here is that Jesus is adding details. Notice that He parallels the rest of Matthew 24, Zechariah spoke of astronomical and geophysical catastrophes; what does Jesus speak of? Astronomical and geophysical catastrophes. And then the Messianic Kingdom, and here it’s the gathering of the Diaspora and the Kingdom, and that’s where verse 31 fits which we’ll see in just a moment. The thing I want you to notice is there is a form to this. Don’t read the church into Matthew 24, read Zechariah in to Matthew 24; you can’t Monday morning quarterback this thing. They don’t have what we have of the church at this point; they had what Zechariah had and Jesus is expanding their understanding of Old Testament Israel.
There’s another thing to notice here. In the Zechariah passage do you get any hint…any hint that God forsakes Israel? On the contrary, what is the whole point of Zechariah 14? That God comes to redeem Israel. Now just think of what the preterist is doing here with his replacement theology. He’s arguing that Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation is the judgment on Israel because God is through with it. How perverse that is, when the whole point in the Old Testament is the reason for the judgments is to clarify the air so God can redeem Israel. That’s the whole point of Zechariah. No Jew would have read Zechariah and you couldn’t reach Zechariah any different than that. But no, the preterist argues that oh, this is all … and then to add salt to the wound not only does he argue completely backwards and argue that God’s through Israel, that all the judgments mean that that’s the signal, God’s through with Israel, throw it in way, when in fact the Old Testament puts those prophecies to finish Israel’s destiny.
Then the preterist goes on and argues, because he’s got to make all of Revelation fit before AD 70, to make that happen what does he have to do with the astronomical and geophysical catastrophes that are prophesied? How is he going to interpret those? He allegorizes them, the stars mean national leaders. Do you get that out of Zechariah when he’s talking about the Mount of Olives being split, half of it moving north, half of it moving south. Come on, what’s going on here, what’s happened to the hermeneutics involved in this interpretation. That’s where preterism goes.
We’ve got another little twist. God doesn’t abandon Israel and replace it with the church. The church has a role to play in history and Israel has a role to play in history and Israel’s role isn’t finished yet. Yet just this week we have an announcement, a formal announcement by Knox Seminary, where D. James Kennedy is President, to the political leaders of this country, saying that they object to Tim LaHaye and the dispensationalists who are misreading Scripture and getting all this pro-Israel stuff going. I said this is going to happen, you are going to watch as the weeks and months go by there’s going to be a split in evangelicalism between the dispensationalists and replacement theologians and it’s going to happen over the political issue of the United States relationship to Israel because D. James Kennedy’s boys are arguing that Israel has no claim to the land. Oh really! Where is Jesus coming back to? New York City?
So watch it, this is where all this theory that we talked about, hermeneutics and all the rest of it, you might have thought that was all academic; you’ll find out how academic it is when you start seeing this thing unfold. And we are the ones, supposedly, that are misreading the Scripture, we are the ones who never speak out on social issues. Well if we never speak out on social issues why are you concerned about what we’re saying then? Obviously dispensationalists are speaking out on social issues and it’s precisely because they are speaking out on social issues that it’s engendered this reaction by the part of the so-called Reformed camp. But it’s going to happen, it’s got to happen, these are too logical trains moving in two different directions and there’s going to be a collision, and you have to decide which train you’re going to be on.
Matthew 24, continuing on page 140, look at these prophecies, I’ve given all the verses, we won’t have time to look up the verses, but they’re there if you’re curious and want to look them up.
Follow this: “The Old Testament prophesied that God would scatter Israel to the four winds (Deuteronomy 28:64-68; Ezekiel 5:12; 17:21).” Remember that, we covered that way back when we started this, Israel looked forward in time back in Moses day they knew about this, that the nation was going to go down the tubes, that it wasn’t going to be replaced, it was going to go into exile and then restored and inherit the Kingdom from the Messiah that was to come. God would scatter Israel to the four winds. Now watch the next prophecy: “It also prophesied, however, that God would regather His elect nation from the four winds one-by-one accompanied by the sound” of what in Deuteronomy 30 and Isaiah 27 and Isaiah 43? “…the sound of a great trumpet (Deuteronomy 30:3–4; Isaiah 27:12–13; 43:5–7, 10, 20).” And what’s in Matthew 24:31? The sound of a trumpet, that’s not new, it’s not adding something, it’s all there from the Old Testament, and in the Old Testament context the trumpet has to do with Jews coming back to the land of Israel. It’s not talking about Christians; it’s talking about Jews there.
“This scenario is Israel’s, not the church’s. Matthew 24:31 doesn’t speak of the Rapture; it speaks of the Old Testament regathering.” And by the way, there is no resurrection in Matthew 24:31, where’s the resurrection there; there’s no resurrection in that verse, there’s a regathering but there’s no sign of resurrection. “It speaks of Old Testament regathering. Neither do the later verses in Matthew 24:40-41 speak of any Rapture; they speak in terms of Old Testament prophecy,” they speak of the Noahic flood and in the Noahic flood who was taken away and who was saved? The believers were saved; who was taken away and removed? The unbelievers. Oh, well if Jesus is using the Noahic illustration He simply confirms the Old Testament once again.
Who has to be removed from the earth in order to get the Kingdom started? Unbelievers. Ah, but who’s removed at the Rapture? Believers. They can’t be the same event; they are two distinct events. They’re exactly opposite each other and that’s why you can’t mix them and you can’t squash them all into verse 31, it won’t work because if you put the Rapture in verse 31 you’ve got the unbelievers staying and the believer leaving when the Old Testament calls for exactly the opposite, for believers to stay and the unbelievers to leave. How do we know that? It was confirmed because remember what John the Baptist said? He said the Messiah is coming and His shovel is in His hand, and the picture was how they used to shovel grain. They used to fling it up in the air when the wind was blowing, and what’s going off the grain? The chaff. And what falls back down off the edge of the shovel? The grain. That’s how they separated the grain. By eating the chaff, do they care about making bread out of chaff or do they care about making bread out of the grain? Out of the grain. What’s left? The grain. What leaves? The chaff.
So all this imagery is totally logically consistent; the unbelievers have to leave in order to make room for the Kingdom on earth, but at the Rapture it is the believers who leave to go to be with the Lord. That is why pre-tribulationalists keep insisting you can’t mix these two events; they are distinct, different. Any more than in the Old Testament you could have mixed the First and Second Advent of Christ you can’t mix these details about the Second Advent either.
Continuing this paragraph: “Pre-tribulationism, therefore, maintains a consist distinction between Israel and the church, leaving Matthew 24 addressed to Israel.”
“The profound difference in perspective between the future of Israel and the future of the church can be observed by comparing the Matthew 24 Old Testament view of the future of Israel with the view that Jesus shares with the church in Revelation 2–3. In the letters to the seven churches Jesus focuses believers’ attention on eternal rewards for life after resurrection. No mention is made of any special prior events except when in Revelation 3:10 He excludes the church from the tribulation to come.”
In the letters of the seven churches which are specifically addressed to Christians find me one verse in any of the letters to the seven churches that tells Christians to look about the destruction of the Temple and the abomination in the Temple, conditions in the city of Jerusalem or any other such topic. They are not in the letters to the seven churches because that is not part of the church’s destiny—two distinct areas.
That’s all we have time for, next time we’re going to go into 2 Thessalonians 2 because that’s the other passage that supposedly pre-tribulationalism distorts.
Question asked: Clough replies: Tim LaHaye is one of the outstanding pre-trib people today. Statement made: I haven’t read it, do you have idea how much fiction he throws in there: Clough replies: Oh, it’s embellished, he’s deliberately embellishing because you have to to write a story, he doesn’t write them, whatever his name is writes them, but LaHaye I’m sure exercises plot control over the stories. I haven’t read them either so I can’t speak to the details. [same person says something about LaHaye’s books] An interesting thing happened from what I have learned from LaHaye, he came out with a Prophecy Study Bible about two years ago and the story behind that Prophecy Study Bible is that he did not anticipate unbelievers reading those books. What they anticipated was the books were just to strengthen the Christians. After the second or third book he was inundated by mail from unbelievers who had read the things and had become Christians, and all of a sudden by the third or fourth book they realized gee, these are evangelistic tools.
But then he discovered the problem is there’s so few churches teach prophecy that when these people were new Christians they’d go to church for years and never a prophecy. And then they’d wonder, there’s a disconnect going on here. So that’s how that prophecy study Bible got started, it was just a desperate attempt to create something that would in an elementary provide something like the Scofield Bible did 50 years ago to the church. The sad thing is that people read these things and then they hear some theology guy say oh well, that’s just Tim LaHaye fiction and some kind of thing like that, and they hate it because it’s raising questions in their own congregations, how come we never hear about this. How come we never hear about this kind of questions? So it’s putting pressure on the non-dispensational folks. But the book series has had a very interesting spiritual impact and it’s probably due, I guess to the uncertainty thing. It was what, 30 years ago when Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth and that was the backbone of a lot of people becoming Christians back in the days of the hippies.
People want to know where history is going. They may not think it through, they may not even ask themselves these questions, but the problem is intuitively I think we all understand that if history is going nowhere, we’re going nowhere. So if our lives are to have meaning and purpose, parts can’t have meaning if the whole doesn’t have meaning and that’s a simple way of putting it. But if history is not going anywhere, there is no goal in history, evil isn’t going to be dealt with in history, well, then, come on, we’ll just revert to all the existentialists and live for the moment because there is no hope for the future. So that’s the choice. Eschatology, like we said when we started this eschatology section, everybody, you and your neighbor, and your children and your parents, every one has an eschatology. The question is whether that eschatology that they have is Scriptural or not, but we all have one.
Question asked: Clough replies: They wouldn’t be Jewish believers there. That’s the holy ones and it’s usually used of angels I believe. [something else said] Because it’s the same thing in Daniel 7, the same kind of imagery, surrounded with the holy ones. The church doesn’t appear to be in that either, it’s just a generic reference to holy ones. It means He comes back with an army.
Question asked: Clough replies: I don’t believe so, I haven’t studied it in detail but I think it’s just a generic “the holy ones.”
Question asked: Clough replies: Existentialism is a very greasy term. It’s a word that’s applied to a strain of thinking that developed, some believer Kierkegaard developed it years ago, who was a Danish Lutheran. And here’s Kierkegaard’s issue that he raised. He looked at passage like Abraham in Genesis 22 and he looked at that passage where God told Abraham to kill his son. Kierkegaard’s point because he had inherited a frame of reference of unbelief, yet he came to the Scriptures and he said you know, Abraham at that existential moment could have jumped either way; he could have killed his son or disobeyed God. And the existentialists tend to look at that as it’s a completely amoral decision, it doesn’t matter whether he killed his son or disobeyed God because there was moral ambiguity. Kierkegaard would argue that if God had said “thou shalt not murder” and God was saying “thou shalt murder” that there’s such in inherent contradiction ethically and morally that conscience no longer can operate, and if conscience can’t operate in the moment, there is no basis for moral judgments, you just choose to do this or that.
And it developed, as you come into Sartre in the 20th century I think he said some place where he says if you see a woman walking on the side of the road, an old lady walking on the side of the road you could run her over with a car or not, it doesn’t really matter morally. What it represents is the vanity of Ecclesiastes taken to its logical conclusion. Some of the existentialists are very fascinating people to read because unlike silly American students and certain people on the faculty that always claim to be advanced intellectuals and then they turn around and make moral judgments, like for example the war in Iraq is wrong, the first time I ever heard them say something is wrong … excuse me, I thought we threw out moral rules and now all of a sudden we’ve resurrected moral rules to say the Iraqi was is wrong, where do we get that from? So because man made in God’s image can’t throw out the moral rules, somewhere sometime in the next 48 hours that person is going to make a moral judgment and they can’t help it.
Francis Schaeffer once said the prostitute says something is wrong when her check bounces. The point is that no matter who you are you always have an inescapable moral judgment. The existentialist is struggling with that. And they’re trying to deal with the fact that an evolved ape, with God not there, does not have moral judgments. So it’s whatever you choose. There are all kinds of schema; there are Christian existentialists and atheist existentialists. I’m drawing a very, very simple picture here. What I’m trying to say is that existentialists devote a lot of attention to choice of the moment. And they have done a lot of interesting thinking about choices. If you want to see existentialism handled in a layman’s way that is pretty good, read Francis Schaeffer because he deals with that. Remember, where did Schaeffer minister? He ministered in Europe. What was the dominant philosophy in his mission field? It was existentialism. So Schaeffer got it again and again and he had some great illustrations. His favorite one, I think, is John-Paul Sartre who was an existentialist, who said there’s no such thing as morals and this and that, and then he was a Frenchman, when France was putting down the Algerian revolt, he argued against the French army going to Algeria because it was wrong. Even Sartre, finally he had to say something was wrong.
That’s why I’m just waiting for one of these antiwar people to come into my presence, because the first thing I’m going to ask them is who cares whether it’s right or wrong; maybe we enjoy squashing Iraqi’s like I step on mosquitoes, what are you going to do about it? Why is it wrong? Why should I listen to you? I like to push them back to the wall and say where are you getting your morals from? How do we go from being a pothead and a fornicator and all of a sudden we get moral about the war?
Question asked: Clough replies: Yeah but they don’t have any sovereignty of God in the background, so there’s no determinism there.
Question asked: Clough replies: I just know that this is an old argument. The argument is that if someone has rejected the gospel of Christ prior to the Rapture, the Rapture occurs, all the believers go; that person is now left in the Tribulation. Can that person then have the second chance in the sense of believing while he is in the Tribulation? The passage that people bring into this is either 1 Thessalonians 1 or 2 Thessalonians 1 where it says the Tribulation has come upon them to delude them, etc. It’s like it’s a damning process, a hardening process. The problem I see with that is that God is so gracious that … how do you predict when somebody is going to believe or not believe. I’ve just never been impressed with the argument. I don’t see why people can’t believe in the Tribulation like they can believe any other time.
Same person makes a comment: Clough says: Well it is, 1 or 2 Thessalonians is the passage, that’s the one that they pick that I’ve heard of.
Question asked: Clough replies: Yeah, that’s another strange thing that happens in the Tribulation, you can’t even get sense out of it by allegorizing it, but yet it’s there in the text and we have to respect the text. It’s said that angels are going to evangelize, well I don’t say evangelize, evangelize means good message, what the angels announce is the gospel of the Kingdom, and how do the angels announce it. You wonder, do they intercept sitcom and all of a sudden everybody is on their cell radios or something, and bing bong, all of a sudden this voice comes in from outer space and says “I’ve got news for you.” Whatever happens it’s there that the angels are involved in that evangelistic effort, or the announcing of the Kingdom. It’s just all kinds of supernatural events and catastrophes take place. Look at that Zechariah 14 passage, look how many supernatural things are happening there, and it’s just that people are blown away who live in the Tribulation. There’s no excuse for anyone living in that Tribulation not to believe. In fact, in Revelation 6, remember the passage we talked about when we were dealing with preterism, this is the awful day of the Lord God Almighty, He that sits on the throne and the Lamb or something is mentioned, and they not only know that God is there, they can distinguish two of the three persons of the Trinity. These are unbelievers. So that shows you how informed they are during the Tribulation, this awful thing where you think for crying out loud, people, what does it take. That’s part of the demonstration of the Tribulation, that every age of history demonstrates God’s glory and man’s fallenness, and the Tribulation is going to say no matter how much hurt, no matter how much fright, no matter how much adversity, no matter how many catastrophes people still will not turn to the Lord. What is that? It’s an indictment of depravity. That’s what always amuses me why Reformed people who are so into depravity have a problem with this when this is exactly a demonstration of depravity here.
Next time we’ll revisit the Thessalonians passages and try to finish the pre-trib view.