John R. Ecob DD
To rightly divide the Word of Truth one must recognize the dispensations of Law and Grace. The Age of Law finished in Acts chapter 1 and the Age of the Church began in Acts chapter 2. The Church age will finish when the Church is Raptured and the 70th week of Israel’s history begins. When we fail to recognize this we end up in confusion.
The Gospel of the Kingdom announced the kingdom of God on earth and was directed to Israel. It was preached by the Lord and will be preached by the 144,000 Jews in the Tribulation to call Israel and the world to repentance (Matthew 24:14) and thus be prepared for Christ’s return.
The Gospel of the Grace of God was given to the Church to bring Jews and Gentiles into the Body of Christ. It is the grace of God to us Gentiles who were
without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13).
The Gospel of the Kingdom
John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus said:
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it (Luke 16:16).
John the Baptist came preaching,
Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (near). (Matthew 3:2).
Jesus came preaching
Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (near) (Matthew 4:17).
The Jewish disciples were commanded:
Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand (near) (Matthew 10:5-7).
When a woman of Canaan wanted the Lord to cast out a devil from her daughter Jesus said,
I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
When she cried, “Lord, help me!” Jesus replied,
It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs (Gentiles). And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table (Matthew 15:26-28).
She was a Gentile dog and came to God via Israel to partake of the children of Israel’s food and when He saw her faith He said, “be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
Under the Law Gentiles came to God through Israel. They became strangers in Israel but were blessed and taken care of by God’s law.
The Kingdom of Heaven and of God
The “kingdom of God” is mentioned 69 times in the New Testament and 55 times before the day of Pentecost.
The expression “kingdom of heaven” is mentioned 32 times and every instance is before the day of Pentecost.
What is patently clear is that the Church is not the subject of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). John’s Gospel however was written about AD90 which was 20 years after Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish nation had been scattered in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-12).
John’s Gospel uses the expression “kingdom of God” only twice and that was when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. But John speaks of the “world” 80 times! Jesus is the “light of the world” and “God so loved the world” etc, etc. By AD90 the Church was predominently Gentile and Israel was blinded.
Christ Came as the King of the Jews
Gabriel told Mary she would bring forth a Son and he said Jesus would
be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:32-33).
The whole emphasis was on a kingdom in which the throne of David would rule.
On Palm Sunday Jesus fulfilled the promise in Zechariah 9:9 that He would present Himself to the nation of Israel as her King and Jesus accepted the acclamation of the multitude when they cried,
Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord (Luke 19:38).
At Christ’s birth the wise men came seeking the “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2) and the chief priests and scribes told Herod that Christ would be a
Governor that shall rule My people Israel (Matthew 2:6).
At the trial of Jesus the accusation was made that He claimed to be a King and Jesus agreed. He said,
To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world (John 18:37).
Even the Pharisees were aware that the Kingdom was near and they asked Jesus
when the kingdom of God should come (Luke 17:20).
Jesus told them the kingdom had been deferred; it “cometh not with observation” literally it will not be “seen near” because He knew they had rejected him as their King. Of the 70 “weeks” 69 had run their course and the 70th was about to be fulfilled but because the Jews rejected their King Jesus knew that the Church Age must fit between the 69th and 70th “week” and the Phatisees therefore would not see it. However He told the disciples that He would come again and He gave signs that would indicate the time of His coming. Three signs were given in Luke 17:26-37:
i) Those days would be like the “days of Noah”.
ii) Those days would be like the “days of Lot”.
iii) A great sign would Globally people would suddenly disappear from the earth: “one shall be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:34-36). When the disciples asked “Where” those “taken” would be taken to, Jesus indicated they would ascend like eagles to where the “living body” was located.
No doubt Jesus was speaking of the Rapture of the Church but at this stage the disciples knew nothing about the Church which was still a mystery hidden in God! The sign to Israel would simply be that multitudes would disappear.
It wasn’t until after the nation had rejected her King and Jesus had risen from the dead that He told them to
Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
To apply the message of the synoptic Gospels therefore to the Church is a violation of the basic principles of Biblical interpretation and can only lead to confusion and gross error. All that is written in the Gospels is a record of Christ’s ministry to Israel. It is pre-Church age for He exclusively ministered to Israel.
Interpreting Scriptures in Isolation
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Examining prophetic verses in isolation is not the way to understand prophecy. Every prophetic passage must be compatible and in complete accord with every other prophetic passage of scripture. Failure to do this results in confusion.
The prophecies of the Rapture of the Church cannot negate the prophecies of Israel’s conversion in the Tribulation and must be compatible with all the other prophecies. For example:
To place the Rapture of the Church at the end of the Tribulation would deny the truth of the millennial kingdom of God on earth for there would be no living nations left on earth to appear before the Lord on the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31-45) or to inherit the kingdom. Resurrected souls do not sin but there is sin in the millennial kingdom. Also, the marriage of Christ and His Church must occur before He returns to reign over the world for He “returns FROM the wedding” (Luke 12:36). The marriage supper of the Lamb must occur AFTER the wedding and AFTER the Lord returns with His bride (Revelation 19:7-9) and Tribulation saints must be the guests.
No prophetic scripture should be taken in isolation but must harmonize with other scriptures.
The True Character of the Church
In Old Testament times the truth of the Church was a hidden mystery. It was revealed to Paul. Paul wrote:
How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery…Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel (Ephesians 3:3-6).
To the Romans Paul declared that the truth of the Church had been
kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest…made known to all nations for the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).
The truth of the Church therefore is not in the Gospel records! It is in the epistles.
Interpreting the Olivet Discourse
The Olivet Discourse is a major statement of the Lord about His second advent. In it Jesus describes the events occurring at the end of the age. It was spoken at the end of the Lord’s ministry when the nation had rejected her Messiah. Jesus was only days away from the cross and was still in the dispensation of the Law before the Church was formed. It is entirely about Israel.
Earlier, Jesus had told the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to comfort them after His departure but at that time they were still Jewish disciples under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood was still future. The Church has received the salvation of God under the New Covenant based, not on Jewish sacrifices, but on the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. When Israel repents during the Great Tribulation they too will enjoy salvation under the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.
God promised He would make a new covenant with Israel in the last days but first the nation must be put aside while God takes out from the Gentiles “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). That “people” is the Church and is “neither Jew nor Greek…but all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). When the Church is complete she, as the Bride of Christ, will be raptured into heaven for the marriage of the Lamb. Paul wrote:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Romans 11:25-26).
God turned to the Gentiles and the apostles preached in Gentile languages when the Church was formed. Israel was put aside (Acts 28:28). In the Tribulation God will again turn to Israel:
Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language (Hebrew), that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent. (Zephaniah 3:8-9).
The nation of Israel will not be converted in this church age. Individual Jews can be saved but nationally the nation is blinded. The Church must therefore be removed before the Tribulation; then Israel nationally comes to repentance.
When the number that makes up the Bride of Christ is saved the Father will send His beloved Son to call His Bride to heaven for the marriage of the Lamb. Only the Father knows that number and not even the Son knows when the Rapture will occur according to Mark 13:31.
But once the Rapture of the Church occurs the world will know that there are only 7 years before Christ returns and the Kingdom of God will be established with Christ reigning from Jerusalem with His redeemed people Israel.
The future day when Israel will seek the Lord and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is “the Day of the Lord” otherwise called “great tribulation” and will last for 7 years; it is the 70th “week” or “seven” of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy described in Daniel 9:24-27.
It will be during that 70th “week” of Daniel’s prophecy that Israel will suffer an awful invasion from Russia and Islamic armies named in Ezekiel 38:1-6 and on one day, probably a Day of Atonement, the whole remnant of Israel will seek the Lord (Ezekiel 39:22-29).
This day of Israel’s conversion is described by Zechariah:
I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree (Zechariah 3:9-10).
What is patently clear is that the 7 years of great tribulation is the “time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble” (Jeremiah 30:6) and that it will be used of God to bring that nation to repentance through the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom by 144,000 Jewish men from the 12 tribes of Israel.
Those who hold to a post-Tribulation Rapture of the Church violate every principle of sound Biblical exegesis and create enormous eschatalogical problems that are not only confusing but also constitute a denial of the promises of God both to Israel and to the Church.
To place Israel and the Church in the 7-year Tribulation is folly and can only be described as devilish. The Gospel of the Kingdom is for Israel and the Gospel of the Grace of God is for the Church! Israel is looking for the kingdom and the Church is looking for the Bridegroom.