MYSTERY OF INIQUITY Chapter Five Dispensationalism and the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture
Would you care to consider the logic that Jesus was only talking to Israel in general, and that nothing in this section of Matthew 24 concerns the “church”? His is the most common device that is used to assign anything that Jesus said to another group – usually to Jews. Many consider this concept a criminal devise that has been used to disregard everything that Jesus taught the apostles, who he chose and trained to lead the first century Jewish and Gentile believers. One can literally scrap everything that Jesus said by using that same logic. It provides the perfect excuse to license everything from Adultery to the Zecret Rapture.
Let’s consider for a moment that Jesus is not really answering his disciples, who would be recording this for dissemination to the believers that they would be responsible to shepherd in just a few weeks. Jesus would then be telling “Israel” not to listen to the false prophets who teach that Jesus is coming back in secret, after he would have already come back in secret for his church! That is nonsense. No one is supposed to listen to the prophets that teach this fable.
Some find it difficult to believe that Jesus’ disciples would have asked him about the signs of his promised return for them, and that Jesus would have told them all these things, but “forgot” to tell them that none of this pertains to them. As strained as this dispensational explanation is, in an attempt to disregard Jesus’ clear teaching on his return after the tribulation, pre-tribulation rapturists have abandoned the rules of context and common sense, in favor of isolating a few numbered sentences and over extrapolating parables for the sake of personal mental comfort. These dispensational inventions have been used for over 150 years, and have become the accepted methodology of a number of theological institutions. It is primarily used to support the teaching of what Jesus condemned. Without this dispensational invention, there is no way to contrive a pre or mid-tribulation rapture. This is the best “peace and safety” device that can be manufactured. New age dispensationalists have succeeded in convincing most churches that Jesus did not know to whom he was speaking on the Mount of Olives, and that he will in fact go against everything he said and take us out of here before the tribulation of those days. Some may think that I am beating a dead horse, but few realize that the entire pre and mid-tribulation rapture is built on the rotting carcass of this dead horse!
What began as an honest attempt to explain certain uncomfortable scriptures in the early 1800s, dispensationalism has become a most clever instrument in the arsenal of the mystery of iniquity. A very flexible use of dispensationalism has been applied by mid-tribulation rapturists to pick and choose what does apply to Jews and does not apply to Christians in the 24th chapter of Matthew. This flexibility allows any number of interpretational schemes, and rules out none. It leaves us without any concrete guide as to whom Jesus is speaking at any particular moment. It can get real crazy. Either Jesus is speaking to his disciples or he is not. No selective applications or secret raptures between verses allowed. We cannot make up the story as we go to fit our lifestyle or theology. We cannot extrapolate meanings out of the associated parables that deny the clear events indicated in the context. Parables must be interpreted tightly and conservatively in regards to the context. It is better to under interpret than to over apply. Isolating parables from their context to formulate doctrinal conclusions leads to extensive error.
Dispensationalism assumes a pre-tribulation rapture and therefore isolates numbered sentences, individual words, or parables, in an attempt to prove the preconceived assumption. Many reasonable theological arguments can be marshaled to prove such a theory. If one disregards the absolute legal prerequisites that exist in the plain text of scripture, one can argue against the words of Jesus and the prophets from now until the gathering together after the tribulation, but no one is getting out of here before the last trumpet. You must not put down this book until you have read through chapter eight which introduces the Prophetic fulfillments of the Feasts of the Lord in which the Feast of Trumpets is considered – and no skipping ahead is allowed.
Another covert and dangerous side effect of dispensationalism that has misled many Christians, is the instruction that portions of the Bible were not “addressed to them” and have no relevance to their lives. This danger is especially acute in the Gospels, where the standard of our obedience to the Lord Jesus is established. The Gospels show us the context from which all of the Apostles lived and moved in their ministry through the remainder of the first century. The parables that were spoken to the masses without explanation were addressed to the masses. They did not understand them, nor were they supposed to understand them. The explanations of these parables were addressed to the followers of the Messiah. We are supposed to sit at his feet until we understand them, and then we are to live them.
Jesus’ life was our example, not our substitute. His death was our substitute. It is true that Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and only, very reluctantly, ministered to anyone outside that fold. However, he was on a specific mission from God. That mission, for the sins of the world. Jesus also had to establish a corps of disciples who would eventually follow him to a martyr’s death.
Of his disciples, he chose twelve Apostles to lead the new believers after his ascension. Those twelve, and perhaps several more disciples, had just heard Jesus foretell the destruction of their civilization – (Matthew 24:2). Their hearts were very heavy and they were looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. They asked Jesus when he was going to return to get them and what it will look like. Jesus then takes the leaders of the first century church, and subsequent generations of followers, down a very dark tunnel. Not to scare the, but to let them know that this long war against God was going to get mighty nasty. Jesus encourages us to hang tough and do what he called us to do, no matter how desperate things get. He is patient to wait for the latter rain (James 5:7), but there will come a time that he says, “Enough is enough”. He will then rescue his elect (II Thessalonians 1:6,7). That day will end the age of God’s longsuffering (Romans 2:3-11). That day of the Lord will begin the day of vengeance of our God (II Thessalonians 1:7,8; Isaiah 61:2).
Plan “A” and Plan “B”
There are those who teach that Jesus came to Israel with plan A, and plan B. The theological term for this concept is dispensationalism. In a nutshell, dispensationalism has been explained in a plan A, plan B scenario, and can be understood very well as such.
Plan A: Jesus was to come to Israel, have Israel accept him as Messiah, and live happily every after.
Plan B: If they denied him as King, the Gentiles would beat and torture him to death; thereby paying for the sins of the whole world, so that whosoever believeth on him, could have everlasting life.
Let’s look at plan A for a moment.
Matthew 15:24, Jesus said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
That is true. But how did he relate to the house of Israel?
Matthew 13:34, All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and he did not speak to them unless he spoke in parables.
Matthew 13:10-13, And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why do you speak to them in parables? He answered, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because seeing, they see not; and hearing, hear not, neither do they understand the things I say unto them.
Jesus deliberately hid his identity from the multitudes, while at the same time fulfilling the prophecies concerning the Messiah’s coming. Yet when some would make him known, he rebuked them and told them to keep quiet concerning his identity.
Luke 4:34-35, The man with a devil spirit cried out saying, Leave us alone; I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. Jesus rebuked him, saying, Shut up, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him down, he came out of him, and no longer hurt him..And devils came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Messiah the Son of God. And he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak: for they knew that he was Messiah.
Jesus fulfilled the prophecies that would prove his being the Messiah, yet he spoke very cryptically about his mission. He did not come to be anointed as King. Not yet.
Matthew 11:2, Now when John (in prison) had heard of the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another. Jesus answered, Go and shew John those things which you hear and see. The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Did Jesus answer their question? Yes and no. John had to put 2 and 2 together to get an answer. Jesus did not openly disclose his identity, but he made the equation simple enough. John was apparently offended that he was not being miraculously sprung from jail – in fact his cousin Jesus was the Messiah. Three days before his crucifixion, Jesus asked his disciples:
Matthew 16:13, Whom do men say that I am? And they said Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. The he said, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answered, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him, Blessed art thou Peter, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, which is in heaven. Then he charged his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time forth Jesus began to show unto his disciples, how he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Right to the end, he kept his true identity and mission covert. If Satan had comprehended what Jesus’ death would accomplish, he would never have crucified him (I Corinthians 2:7,8). That is the reason the prophets, and often the words of Jesus himself, were so “cryptic”. Satan is well read. Some things needed to be hidden from him. But God can still open the windows of spiritual understanding to his people, just as he did for Peter. After the resurrection, Jesus met two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, and engaged them in conversation.
Luke 24:19-21, And they said, Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; But the chief priests and our Gentile rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that he should have been the one to redeem Israel. Then Jesus said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Messiah to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets be expounded unto them all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
He did redeem Israel, not by “plan A” as they expected, but by “plan B”, which was God’s only plan. Jesus knew it. Moses and all of the prophets knew it and testified concerning his suffering.
Jesus died fulfilling Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” Abraham’s prophecy, “God shall provide himself a lamb!”, and John the Baptist’s proclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world!” (Genesis 22:7,8 and John 1:29,36). Long before his crucifixion, Jesus confided in Nicodemus:
John 3:14-16, As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus’ death paid the price for man’s redemption in full, and opened the door to all nations immediately; that whosoever will, may come.
Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. (Amen).
Thus, when Jesus spoke to his disciples in the gospels generally, and in answering their questions concerning his return for them specifically, he was not speaking in vague uninterpreted parables, as he did to the multitude. It was not given to everyone to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but it was given to his disciples to know. He did not reveal the plan of redemption to all Israel, but he did, in part, to his Jewish disciples. He will also fulfill his promises to his disciples concerning his coming again to gather them together and reward their faithful service.
The Mystery of the Church
The church is one body throughout all time. When the Saints are raised at the last trump, the entire church, First Covenant Saints and Renewed Covenant Saints, will be raised to enjoy the reward of their faithfulness. Together they will partake in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven, and the Millenial Kingdom of the Messiah, according as their reward provides. Before Jesus made both Israel and Gentile one, Gentiles were never heirs of that promise.
Some dispensationalists, in their attempt to justify a pre-tribulation tameion rapture, teach that the Gospels are addressed to Israel, the Bride of Christ, and that the church Epistles are addressed and applicable to a distinctly separate group, the Body of Christ. Beside the point that these “bride and body” references are both figures of speech, how many times do you think Israel is referred to as the bride, or wife of Christ in the Gospels? ZERO. How many times is the church in the Epistles referred to as the bride or wife of Christ? Twice. Clearly and specifically in Romans 7:4 and in Ephesians 5:25, which finds its fulfillment in Revelation 19:7.
In the Epistles, the church is referred to figuratively as the bride, body, soldiers, farmers, wrestlers, fist fighters, and runners. Dividing the Church by using the figures of the bride and body, negates the work of the Messiah in establishing the New Covenant. The great mystery revealed to the Apostle Paul was that the Gentiles, who were outside of the promises to Israel would be brought together with Israel through the blood of Messiah, and that the two unrelated parties would become one singular body. The promises that were made to Israel became available for all to acquire in Messiah.
Ephesians 2:12-20, You (Gentiles) were without Christ, being alien to the wealth that was common to all of Israel. You were strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off, are made near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made the two (both Israel and the Gentiles) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between the two; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, to make in himself one new man, out of two, so making peace; And reconciling both unto God in one body by the cross. For through Christ we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints (of Israel), and of the household of God; And you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.
Ephesians 3:3, By revelation (God) made known unto me the good news of 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 fellow heirs, and of the same body and partakers of God’s promise in Christ.
Rather than recognizing the one body of Israel and the Gentiles that Jesus brought together in his blood and accepting our responsibility to him as our Lord, we have these dispensational devices that were introduced into the church, and have put many to sleep. Now when I chide dispensationalism, I am not attempting to put everyone in the same box and burn it. I realize that there are no two people considering themselves dispensationalists, taking the same path of interpretation. If some of the dispensational views I present appear extreme, I agree. But if dispensationalism is the truth, it will be truth when followed to the extreme. Extreme dispensationalists are at least honest with their concept. I am not painting everyone with the same brush, nor do I desire to pigeonhole anyone. Likewise, do not pigeonhole and attach a label to yourself that you would be better off without. As with any “truth” it can be slightly twisted, extrapolated upon, and end as a lie. That is what Satan did with Eve in Eden; that is what Satan has done with the rapture in churches. In both cases, man was warned of the deception well in advance.
Many extreme dispensationalists have instructed that Jesus was never speaking to us when he made his demands for commitment and obedience. Some consider Jesus unenlightened, compared to us, because “he did not know the mystery.” Nor did he really understand what he was talking about when he spoke of “the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit”. They tell us that he never addressed any of his teachings to the twelve apostles, as the soon to be leaders of the church. We are told that he only addressed them as “Israel, the bride”, and that all of his teachings are being held in abeyance because Israel did not accept him as their Messiah. Therefore, everything that Jesus said concerning this coming to gather the saints as meticulously detailed in Matthew chapter 24, is for someone else. Even though it matches every detail of his coming, as indicated throughout the Epistles and the book of Revelation. Jesus words must be discounted, because they put several critical stakes through the heart of the pre and mid-tribulation rapture. In fact, he flatly told us that these teachings will come from the mouth of false prophets.
I further assert that this extreme dispensational fabrication is even more dangerous, considering that one cannot make Jesus Lord if they are able to disregard everything or anything that he says, at their discretion. Our salvation is established on our confessing Jesus as Lord, not by accepting Jesus as Savior. That puts many people on very shaky ground. Being savior is what Jesus is, and does. He needs no acceptance. Making Jesus Lord is what we must do, so he can save us! I consider dispensationalism very dangerous on this ground alone.
Romans 10:9, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hat raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
The four words: “Thou shalt be saved” are the future tense of the one word: sodzothen, which translates: Thou shalt, in the future, be saved. It is a future occurrence that we anticipate, when the captain of our salvation saves us. Many scriptures point to this future time when we will obtain the hope of our salvation. Once we are saved (at the coming of our Lord Jesus), we will be forever saved. On the day that we are raised from the grave, we will be “born again” with an incorruptible new body, and the living mortal will put on a new immortal body. At the execution of this mystery of the new birth, we are biblically “saved” and “born again”, in the Bible. Christians have used these words very loosely. The most important thing for us to recognize here, is that we must make Jesus Lord in our lives. “Accepting Jesus as Savior” while maintaining the lordship over your own life will not get you anywhere. If you are happy being your own lord, perhaps you can save yourself while you are at it. That way you can be your own lord and savior.
To Whom Addressed
Why do dispensationalists go through such contortions to get Matthew chapter 24 and 25 addressed to Jews at the time of the end? Because it clearly shows that the Saints will not be gathered until after the time of great tribulation, that is instigated at the abomination of desolation, when the unspoken terror of Satan’s fury brings mankind to the eve of destruction. Dispensationalists attempt to sell the idea that these scriptures are the pictures of Jesus returning to the earth at the Battle of Armageddon. This is a rather bizarre idea, but the only fabrication that allows them to dismiss the entire section and continue to teach the tameion pre-tribulation rapture. When Jesus condemns the tameion rapture, dispensationalists either completely avoid his warning, or relegate this warning to insignificant prattling with no relevance to anyone. We may not entirely like the picture painted here, but I doubt that the disciples like the picture Jesus painted of the temple being destroyed and the nation of Israel ravaged.
Matthew 24:1, Jesus went out, and departed from the temple; and his disciples came to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.
There was silence from the disciples for about a Sabbath’s day journey, until they were up on the Mount of Olives. Jesus had just told them that their entire lifestyle was to be violently interrupted. The temple was central to the Jewish culture. Jesus told them that their world was about to be reduced to a pile of smoking rubble and the fabric of their society torn to shreds. Do you think that may have had an impact on those disciples with families? Israel clung to their nation, lifestyle, and traditions more than to keeping the heart of the Torah. Jesus said that it’s over, your nation is finished. This was a very heavy revelation. It sobered them. When it happened, a million people were slaughtered in the streets under the sword of the Roman legions.
Accepting the truth of the future desolation of their nation, they then asked him about his promised return for them. Jesus answered his disciples’ questions concerning the when and what of his return for the, in fulfillment of his earlier promises to do so. To whom is he addressing his answer? To the nation of Israel, who he had just left in the temple, having cursed their leaders, temple buildings and nation? No! He is addressing his disciplined followers, who will lead the Jewish believers in a few short weeks and the Gentile believers as they were added to the congregation 15 years later. He is addressing those who he had chosen and trained to leave behind. He is addressing those who will be required to give their life’s blood as a witness to the world. He is addressing those who will pen these words of truth for future generations of followers, who will believe through their testimony. If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, this is addressed to you!
Dispensationalism has been very flimsily supported by a redefinition of the Greek word oikonomia, which was translated dispensation four times, and stewardship thrice, in the King James Version. The following was adapted from Strong’s Concordance:
Oikonomia is translated as dispensation 4 times and stewardship 3 times, totaling 7 usages in the KJV. Usages depict: The management of a household or of household affairs. Specifically, (a) the management, oversight, and administration of other’s property; (b) denoting a steward’s responsibility and accountability to his master for the wise use of his goods; (c) the office of a manager or overseer, stewardship; and (d) dispensation.
The foundation of the word oikonomia is stewardship, a bond slave’s responsibility and accountability to his master. The redefinition has portrayed little “oikonomias” or “houses in time” into which one can divide the commandments of God. While some of these considerations are legitimate, they cannot be blanketed by oikonomias. Consider these “dispensation” verses, with “stewardship responsibility” properly supplied.
I Corinthians 9:17-19, If I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but I have no reward if I preach the Gospel against my will. A stewardship responsibility of the gospel is entrusted to me. What is my reward then? When I preach the gospel, I make the gospel of Christ available without charging money, so that I do not abuse that which has been entrusted to me. For though I myself am free, I have made myself a servant unto all, that I might gain my reward.
This is not referring to a dispensation of time or an administration of time, such as the “age of grace” being committed entirely to Paul. It was his individual responsibility as a steward (a bond slave to his master), to carry out what his Lord had committed to him. We each have our own stewardship responsibility. No one can do the job you were called to do, and you cannot do what Paul was called to do. There are two other important points to consider here: (1) Making Jesus your Lord and making yourself his doulos, or bondslave, is a free will choice, and (2) the gospel is taught without charge. It is up to the hearers to support the ministry by their free will sacrifice so that others can hear, or the minister needs to keep making tents (talits).
Ephesians 3:2, You have heard of my responsibility as steward of the grace of God, which was give to me for you…
Paul’s responsibility included getting the word out to others. His individual calling was to communicate the grace of God extended to the Gentiles through the Lord Jesus. Others have been called to communicate other parts of the gospel, to other lands and people. Even today, not everyone has the same gift or calling. It is healthy to eat off the plat of many ministers, spit out the bones, and chew the meat well before swallowing.
Return to Sender:
Both of those scriptures denote Paul’s responsibility to God concerning the Gospel that was committed to him, not a dispensation of time. Further complicating our stewardship responsibilities, some dispensationalists have renamed dispensations as: Administrations. They like to picture these administrations as individual houses positioned in time, each with its own particular administrative directives. Each house has a different address, and its own place in time. Hence, when you find uncomfortable requirements from God the Father or the Lord Jesus, you can simply address it to someone else. You just stamp on the envelope of the gospels: “Please forward to the nearest Jew”. That way we have to live with the responsibility and accountability to the Lord, not you! It is ingenious, but disingenuous.
Obviously there are things that are spoken to individuals or groups that cannot be construed to relate directly to us. In that light, dispensation makes sense, but it is never a mindless blanket that covers the whole bed. There are many things that are spoken to one group that cannot be universally applied to another group. That fact is true in the letters of Paul, as well as in the book of Genesis. The called out, are eklesia, has taken on a new dimension since Pentecost. Those who looked forward to the coming Messiah, and those who look back at the messiah who came, are both “in Christ”. He will raise them together at the first resurrection, on the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. The faithful in Israel anticipated the resurrection. Moses and David will share in the honor of reigning with Jesus in his millennial kingdom. By grace, Gentiles will share in the same victory. God’s “called out” spans time, nations, and “dispensations”. He will gather his elect from all ages, at the last trump resurrection of the just.
There is now no difference between Jew and Gentile if we are in the Messiah. The words of Jesus are as pertinent to Gentile if we are in the Messiah. The words of Jesus are as pertinent to Gentile followers as they were to his twelve apostles. To propound that the words of the Lord to his disciples can be dismissed under the guise of dispensationalism, or “convenient avoidance”, is not only dishonest, but will indefensible before the throne of God on judgment day.
Jesus knew why he was here the first time, and he knows that he is coming again to receive his followers unto himself that where he is, they may be also. In Matthew 24, Jesus is answering the specific question of when he is going to return to gather his disciples together and reward them, and what it will look like. Anyone attempting to mislead you by saying that Jesus does not know to whom or what he is talking about, has succumbed to a doctrine of false prophets. I too had not only believed this heresy, I taught it. I was a paid professional false prophet. I have repented because the Lord has given me the space to turn to him, and away from my sin of mishandling the scriptures. Parroting the teachings of childhood is not the way a minister is to conduct himself. A minister of the Lord must first look to his Master and then teach the truth, even if it means being ostracized by his particular denomination. Unless we repent now, we will stand in judgment before the throne. Ministers of the Lord Jesus will answer to him, for being part of the strong deception of the mystery of iniquity that will rip the heart of the believers in the months ahead. Bear in mind that these scriptures were addressed primarily to those who would live at the end of the age and see the deception as part of their own “Christian heritage”. It is past the time for this last generation to wake up and smell the fire.