We read in the Bible of “the end of the age”, “the last days”, “then cometh the end”, and “the last time.”
We quote I John 2:18 and 19.
“LITTLE CHILDREN, IT IS THE LAST TIME; AND AS YE HAVE HEARD THAT ANTICHRIST SHALL COME, EVEN NOW ARE THERE MANY ANTICHRISTS; WHEREBY WE KNOW THAT IT IS THE LAST TIME. THEY WENT OUT FROM US, BUT THEY WERE NOT OF US; FOR IF THEY HAD BEEN OF US, THEY WOULD NO DOUBT HAVE CONTINUED WITH US; BUT THEY WENT OUT, THAT THEY MIGHT BE MADE MANIFEST THAT THEY WERE NOT ALL OF US.”
There were many antichrists in John’s day. There was a falling away. From the time of John, down through the centuries, the Church passed through some perilous times. There were many heretics, false-prophets and corrupt religious leaders in the Church. Even the fundamental doctrine of Christianity was lost to most professing Christians for centuries. But it was recovered when Martin Luther and others proclaimed “justification by faith.” All during that dark period of the history of the Christian Church there was a remnant of spiritual faithful saints who knew that their hope was the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ to take the members of His Body to heaven.
“For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.” Philippians 3:20 and 21.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13.
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ Who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:3 and 4.
Note what Paul wrote to the saints at Corinth. “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I Corinthians 1:7 and I Corinthians 15:51 and 52.
Note what was written to the Hebrews “For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Hebrews 10:37.
“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:28.
The Christians of the first century were instructed to wait for, to look for, to confidently expect the Lord Jesus Christ to appear. They believed in the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church.
It is interesting to note the Greek word translated “shall come” in II Thessalonians 1:10. This word is “elthe”and should be translated “shall have come.” Note in II Thessalonians 1:7 to 9, that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ was expected in the first century. He would come in wrath and destruction upon the disobedient sinners. “When He shall have come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” II Thessalonians 1:10.
Now remember John’s statement, “it is the last time.” Note what John wrote in connection with this—“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” I John 3:2 and 3.
“And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” I John 2:28.
This hope of the coming of Christ was a vital, blessed, purifying hope. And we remember the words of the Lord Jesus, in Luke 14:14—“And thou shalt be blessed for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
At the time the Lord Jesus spoke these words none of His disciples knew any thing of the mystery of I Corinthians 15:51 and 52, or the blessed hope of Titus 2:13.
But all of the saints of the Lord were instructed by the Lord’s apostles to wait every day, and to look every moment for the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus for His Church. They believed in the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church. This is called by some Christians “the any-moment theory”. With those Christians it was no theory, but the blessed hope that caused them to be practical Christians., They were not told to wait until Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and the Emperor of Japan entered into a pact and conspiracy against the rest of the world, in 1940 A.D., before they could expect Christ to redeem their bodies. They were waiting for God’s Son from heaven in John’s day.
They knew the difference between the blessed hope of Titus 2:13, that Christ would appear for His Body, and the second coming of the Son of man for Israel’s redemption, and to judge the world, as recorded in Luke 21:27 to 32, and Matthew 25:31.
“AND THEN SHALL THEY SEE THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD WITH POWER AND GREAT GLORY. AND WHEN THESE THINGS BEGIN TO COME TO PASS, THEN LOOK UP, AND LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, FOR YOUR REDEMPTION DRAWETH NIGH. AND HE SPAKE TO THEM A PARABLE; BEHOLD THE FIG TREE, AND ALL THE TREES; WHEN THEY NOW SHOOT FORTH, YE SEE AND KNOW OF YOUR OWN SELVES THAT SUMMER IS NOW NIGH AT HAND SO LIKEWISE YE, WHEN YE SEE THESE THINGS COME TO PASS, KNOW YE THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NIGH AT HAND. VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS AWAY, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED.” Luke 21:27 to 32.
“ When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.” Matthew 25:31.
This has nothing to do with the redemption of the Church. Members of the Body of Christ are already redeemed.
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:5 to 7.
“Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:14.
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30.
The bodies of the members of the Body of Christ will be redeemed by the appearing of Christ for His Church. Christ is not “the Son of man” to His Church.
When Christ comes for His Church He will find more Christians on this earth, and more faith on this earth, than ever before. There are more genuine Christians in Chicago today than ever lived at any one time in Jerusalem, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, or in any other city. When the Lord Jesus comes for His Church there will be many faithful saints here. But when He comes as the Son of man to the earth, He will not find faith on the earth. Luke 18:8. Christ is not coming to the earth for the Church which is His Body. He is not coming to the earth for His Church. His Church is going to rise to meet Him. Christ is not coming for His Church as “the Son of man.” That is His title to Israel. Note again, Matthew 25:31—“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.”
Now let us consider the last days of Acts 2:16 and 17 and Acts 15:16.
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
“After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.”
These verses should have very serious, diligent, prayerful consideration.
Here we have prophecies of Israel’s Old Testament prophets concerning Israel’s last days. The two prophets are Joel and Amos, Read carefully the second chapter of Joel and the last part of Amos, chapter nine, and you will learn that both of these Israelitish prophets wrote concerning the coming kingdom age of Israel. This present age of grace, during which the Body of Christ is being completed, is not Israel’s kingdom age; and therefore, neither Joel nor Amos was referring to this dispensation. Neither Joel nor Amos said one word about the beginning of this age, or about the course of this age, or about the culmination of this age. They were the sons of men in other ages to whom the Holy Spirit revealed nothing concerning “the Church of the Mystery.”
Note Colossians 1:24 to 26.
“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.”
This agrees with Ephesians 3:5 to 8.
“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 joint-heirs, and of the same (Joint) Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel; Whereunto I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto Me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Truth concerning the Joint-Body, the Church of the Mystery, is called “the unsearchable (unprophesied) riches of Christ.” This truth was God’s mystery, God’s secret at the time Joel and Amos wrote concerning Israel’s “last days”. They knew nothing and therefore they wrote nothing concerning the Joint-Body of Ephesians 3:6, the Church of the Mystery.
Then surely we know that no member of the Body of Christ is receiving the Holy Spirit or any other spiritual blessing in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. If members of Christ’s Body are being blessed with all spiritual blessings, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, or are becoming members of the Church of the Mystery, in fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy, then Paul was deluded when he wrote Colossians and Ephesians.
No! Paul did not err. He wrote to save us from the faulty dispensationalism of the present day Fundamentalists who teach that “the Church of the Mystery”, “the dispensation of the mystery” (Ephesians 3:9), “the dispensation of the grace of God for Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1 to 3), “the unsearchable riches of Christ”, began on a Jewish holy day, Pentecost, when Peter used the keys of the kingdom of heaven to devout Jews from every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:5.
Note the clear language of Peter in Acts 2:16—Acts 3:24—Acts 15:15.
“BUT THIS IS THAT WHICH WAS SPOKEN BY THE PROPHET JOEL.” “YEA, AND ALL THE PROPHETS FROM SAMUEL AND THOSE THAT FOLLOW AFTER, AS MANY AS HAVE SPOKEN, HAVE LIKEWISE FORETOLD OF THESE DAYS.”
“AND TO THIS AGREE THE WORDS OF THE PROPHETS; AS IT IS WRITTEN.”
All that Peter preached to Israel and concerning the salvation of the household of Cornelius was in fulfillment of, in agreement with, Joel, Amos, Moses, Samuel, David, and all of the other prophets who wrote. They foretold the program of Acts 15:14—“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.” “To this agree the words of the prophets (Amos).”
Therefore this prophecy has no reference to the Church of the Mystery, concerning which Amos knew nothing.
The doctrine of “the any-moment coming of Christ for His Church” is wholly irreconcilable with the teaching that His coming is imminent because of what the Gentile rulers of Europe and Asia are doing at present.
It is a mistake, yea, a serious dispensational blunder to call “the last days” concerning Israel’s kingdom, the first days of the Church, or Body, of the mystery.
“The dispensation of the mystery” did not begin with Peter, Israel and Pentecost, but with Paul when and because Israel was set aside after the death of one of the twelve apostles. (Acts 12:1 and 2)
As long as the number of apostles remained twelve, (Peter and the eleven), God had a kingdom program for the twelve tribes of Israel. But note Acts 13:2—Acts 13:46 and Acts 14:27. “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”
“And when they were come, and had gathered the Church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”
A new movement began with Acts 13:46. God has not abandoned His program prophesied by Joel and Amos, concerning Israel’s last days. The kingdom is in abeyance. Israel’s kingdom covenants have been interrupted for a parenthetical “grace” period.
God will fulfill Acts 15:16—“After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.” Yes, He will pour out His Spirit, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, after the Church of the Mystery has been completed, “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1:23.
Note again Acts 3:24:
“Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.”
“These days”. What days? Not the days of the dispensation of the grace of God. Israel’s kingdom days.
In the light of the foregoing we should be very careful to qualify the question, “Are we living in the end time?” What end time? The members of the Body of Christ will not be here during the “time of the end”, mentioned in Daniel. This present period is a parenthesis. Daniel received revelations and answers from the God of heaven, but nothing concerning the revelation of this age which Christ gave to Paul.
Every member of the Body of Christ should know the difference between “the signs of the times” and “the times of the signs,”. This is not the “sign” age. We are looking for the Son and not for signs. Let’s keep busy with God’s program as set forth in II Timothy 1:7 to 10 and Titus 2:11 to 14.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God: Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
We are not told to look to Europe for the coming of Christ. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” Philippians 3:20 and 21.