Even unsaved religious sinners and carnal Christians are joining with the spiritual children of God in this time of wars, and rumors of wars, in asking or wondering if the end is at hand. The end of what? Well, that is what we want to consider. A friend said to me this week, “I overheard a group of Catholic girls talking about the latest developments of the European war and one said to the other. “I believe the end of the world is near at hand.” My friend said, “that is rather unusual for Catholics, isn’t it ?”
The Bible has much to say about the last days, the end time, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign as a King on this earth. The Bible tells of the beast and the antichrist, who shall rule over men and nations with the power and cunning of Satan. The Bible informs us that the Jews are to be saved, by the coming of their Messiah, out of a time called “the great tribulation.”
All of these events are clearly set forth in the Bible and now even skeptics admit that there seems to be evidences on earth that we are hastening to the realization of all that is predicted in the Bible. The spiritual Christians know that II Peter 1:19 to 21 is true: “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 Spirit.”
But all spiritual Christians do not know how to interpret and apply prophecy in this particular Divine economy. “Economy” is in the Greek “oikonomia” and is translated “dispensation” in I Corinthians 9:17—Colossians 1:25—and Ephesians 3:2. It is translated “fellowship” in Ephesians 3:9. In the interpretation and application of all Scripture the students must always recognize that there are different economies, or dispensations. We know that for about 1500 years, from Moses to the Apostle Paul, there was an economy of law, and that the end of that economy came with the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we should all know that another end is coming with the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. But again we ask, “the end of what?” Will it be the end of this present dispensation, or the end of the time of Israel’s tribulation? If the present dispensation and the time of Israel’s trouble are to end at the same time, then, of course, that means that the living members of the Body of Christ are going through, or into, the great tribulation.
Some of our leading spiritual Premillenarians are trying to comfort and calm Christians by saying that there are two aspects of the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ: that He is first coming for His Church and subsequently coming with His Church, and that the great tribulation will fall in between the “coming for” and the “coming with.” Most of these men not only offer no Scriptural proof of their comforting doctrine, but in their very next message they repudiate and contradict it by teaching that the doings of the blood-thirsty tyrants in Europe, in fulfillment of the predictions of Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and other of Israel’s prophets, are signs that the Lord’s coming for His Church is at hand, that is, the rapture of the Church.
Now a few questions, for which all should demand, or at least desire, a true Scriptural answer. Are we living in the end time described by Christ in answer to the question of Matthew 24:3: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Will the Church be saved from the great tribulation? Will the Lord Jesus rapture His Church before the great tribulation? Are the beast and the antichrist now alive? Are the activities of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin Divine signs to teach members of the Body of Christ that Christ will come at any moment FOR His Church?
We might offer as Scriptural proof that the Church will be saved from the great tribulation, Luke 18:8 and II Thessalonians 1:7 to 10. In Luke 18:8 we learn that the Son of man is coming to earth, and when He does, He will not find faith on the earth; therefore He will not find His Church. Inasmuch as they shall have been taken to glory, He will not expect to find them here.
In II Thessalonians 1:10 the words “when He shall come,” should be translated “when He shall have come.” The Greek word is “elthe.”
But many other Scriptures which are being quoted by Christian preachers to prove that the coming of Christ is at hand prove that the Church will be in the great tribulation when He comes. One chapter frequently used is Luke 21:24 to 31. And another chapter that is being overworked is Ezekiel 38, concerning “Gog,” “Magog,” “Meshech,” “Tubal” and “Gomer.”
And, of course, now that Mussolini has joined with Hitler, great emphasis is given to the image of Daniel Two and the animals of Daniel Seven. “Rome” and “Gomer” in an alliance must surely mean the end time. Again, the end time of what?
Ezekiel and Daniel did not know one thing about the “beginning time” or the “end time” of this present Divine economy. They did prophesy concerning the end time and their prophecies will be fulfilled. But not during this present dispensation. The end of this present dispensation will come, not because of the doings of Hitler and Mussolini, and when they fail or succeed, but when God completes His present building. God is a great Builder. He is building a great House. That House is called in Ephesians 3:6, the “Joint-Body” (in the Greek). In Ephesians 1:20 to 23 it is called the Body of Christ, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. In Ephesians 2:21 and 22, it is thus described: “In Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord In Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” As members of that Body we are given important instructions in I Corinthians 3:10: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. “
It is important, yea, imperative, that we recognize this masterbuilder (Paul) if we are to build together acceptable to God. If we obey I Corinthians 3:10 and Ephesians 3:1 to 11 we will know how to answer questions concerning the end time.
The course and culmination of this dispensation is set forth in Ephesians 4:12 and 13:
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And don’t fail to read verse Ephesians 4:14: “That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”
Unless we know Pauline Ephesian Truth we will be numbered with those who are tossed to and fro by the undispensational prophets of the hour. We too shall be “gone with the wind”
During this present dispensation God is engaged in completing the one Body of Ephesians 4:4 and 12. This Body is “the Church of the Mystery,” “the Church of the Secret.” Members of this one Body are to obey Ephesians 3:9 and 4:3:
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
What does it mean to see “the dispensation of the Secret”? Whatever it means, all Christians should see it. All Christians should diligently and prayerfully and spiritually learn from Paul’s Prison Epistles what the dispensation of the Secret is. They should also diligently, prayerfully and spiritually read the prophecy of Daniel and understand the secret which the Lord of heaven revealed to Daniel concerning political rulers and empires, kings and nations, “the times of the Gentiles,” which will be suddenly brought to an end by the coming of the King from heaven.
Paul knew Daniel’s secret. But Daniel did not know Paul’s Secret. David died before Daniel was born and therefore he did not know either one of them. Neither did Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, John the Baptist, and other prophets, who died before the “dispensation of the mystery” was revealed to Paul, know Paul’s Secret.
Note Paul’s testimony in Ephesians 3:1 to 6.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 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.”
And 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, and now is made manifest to His saints.”
How interesting! If the Holy Spirit, in Romans 11:25, would not have Christians ignorant as to the why and when of Israel’s blindness and temporary Divine disfavor, most assuredly the Holy Spirit wants no member of the Body of Christ ignorant of the “Secret” of Ephesians 3 and Colossians 1. Certainly where there is such ignorance the Body members cannot say, “where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise.” The bliss of ignorance in this case cannot be compared with the bliss of knowing what is meant by Ephesians 1:9 and 11:
“Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” “In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” And Ephesians 3:11: “According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s Secret was revealed to Paul by Christ. It is also called “the Secret of Christ,” “the Secret which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” “The Mystery of God’s will” has been told. This was God’s “predestinated” will, His eternal purpose. It was purposed in Christ for members of Christ’s Body before the world began. II ‘Timothy 1:9. Note what Paul adds in verse 11: “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.”
This Divine Secret is the capstone of Divine Truth. It was given to Paul to complete the Word of God. Paul was the prisoner of Jesus Christ, in jail for making known this Secret. Ephesians 6:19 and 20. Colossians 4:3 and 4. II Timothy 2:8 and 9.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth He announced “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” in fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He was a minister of the circumcision, confirming prophecies and promises. Romans 15:8. He did not reveal to any of His twelve apostles the Secret to complete the Word of God while He was on earth. He did not reveal this until after Saul’s name was changed to Paul, until after Israel had been set aside. Certainly Acts 5:29 to 31 proves that Israel had not been set aside when Peter preached that message to them. Israel had not been set aside when Paul preached Acts 13:40 and 41 to them. Note Paul’s words in Acts 13:46. Jesus Christ in the flesh came to fulfill the law and the prophets. Matthew 5:17. He did not come to fulfill the Word of God with the Mystery. That was Paul’s Christ given ministry.
The prophesied kingdom of heaven and the unprophesied Church of the Mystery are different. Unless we recognize this difference and interpret, appropriate and apply the Scriptures accordingly, we shall be workmen who need to be ashamed. By diligently searching the Scriptures we shall learn that the kingdom of heaven yet to be established on earth was prophesied by all of God’s holy prophets since the world began but not predestinated before the foundation of the world. The Body of Christ was predestinated but not prophesied.
The end of the times of the Gentiles will be when the Son of man comes in the time of Jacob’s trouble. The Son of man will destroy the antichrist with the brightness of His coming. The beast and the antichrist will be cast into the lake of fire. For Israel, the kingdom of God will be at hand. Israel will be restored to Divine favor to enjoy the kingdom blessings on earth promised Israel by Israel’s prophets. The prophesied kingdom will be established on earth.
This end time will not come during this present reign of grace Prophecy concerning the end time is in connection with Israel’s tribulation period, and the kingdom age will come after. the Body of Christ has been completed and taken from the earth to appear with Christ in glory.
The end of this present dispensation of grace is the end of an unprophesied parenthetical period. The prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel, concerning Gentile kings and Gentile nations, do not fit into this unprophesied, parenthetical period. Our duty, as Christians, is to tell other Christians this Truth, in obeying Ephesians 3:9: “And to make all men see what is the dispensation of the Secret, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ,” so they will no longer by children tossed to and fro.
This is to continue to be God’s program until the Body of Christ is full: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13.
Members of Christ’s Body walk by faith and not by sight. The dispensation of the grace of God is not the sign age.
Let us be careful to clarify our question dispensationally, when we ask, “is this the end time?”
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.