The End of the Church Age...and After





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    It is a very serious matter to leave an apparently faithful congregation. In spite of all that we have thus far learned concerning the command to leave the church, are we absolutely sure we are to leave the church? Let us face this question once more as we continue our study.

    If we can still find or still are a part of a church that is reasonably true to the Bible, should we remain there? What are we to do if we could find a church where it appears that each and every doctrine they hold and teach is faithful to the Word of God?

    As we consider these questions, let us re-examine God’s commands to ancient Israel when Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 29, God gave express commands that no one was to remain in Jerusalem. In verses l6-19 we read:

Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwellers in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.

    This passage plainly declares that God’s judgment is upon all those who refused to go as captives into Babylon.

    In fact, some did remain and their leaders were murdered. Following this, the remnant went into Egypt where they were under the judgment of God.

    In other words, it was God’s plan that no one was to remain in Jerusalem. The only way they could come under the blessing of God was to be captives under the care of Babylon, which represents the whole kingdom of Satan. But God would watch over them utilizing Babylon to give them protection. They could receive no help or guidance from Jerusalem.

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Significantly, God declares in Luke 21:20-22:

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

    Please notice that God isn’t saying that when we experience Jerusalem is surrounded by armies, but rather it is when we see Jerusalem surrounded by armies. Jerusalem or Judea represent all of the New Testament churches and denominations. When we see, as we do see, Satan’s massive attack on churches all over the world we are to depart out.

    This language identifies with the Great Tribulation. In this language God is commanding the same thing He commanded Jerusalem in Jeremiah 29. Get out of Jerusalem (the church).

    No longer are we to be under the spiritual rulership of the church.

    This command is given because God is finished with the era when the churches were used of God to evangelize the world.

    We are to flee to the mountains even as Lot was told to flee to the mountain when God was ready to bring judgment on Sodom (Genesis 19:17). The mountain or mountains are a reference to God being our help (Psalm 121:1, Psalm 125:1).

    Significantly, in Revelation 11, where God speaks of the work of the church being finished, He speaks of Jerusalem (the churches) as Sodom and Egypt (Revelation 11:8).

    Significantly, too, as He addresses the subject of the great tribulation, He says in Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife.” She refused to flee and ended up under judgment. Those who attempted to remain in Jerusalem in 587 B.C. came under the judgment of God. Remember we saw this warning in Jeremiah 29:16-19.

    The message should be clear. We must remove ourselves from the church.

    In the context of “Remember Lot’s wife,” God declares in Luke 17:31:

In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

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    The housetop is identified with bringing the Gospel. In Luke 12:3 we read:

Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

    The house identifies with the church. But as judgment comes on the church, the true believer is to stay outside the church and bring the Gospel to the world.

    God speaks of this sad situation in the language of Isaiah 3:6-8:

When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand: In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people. For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

The local church has ceased to be an institution or divine organism that God used to serve as His appointed representative on earth.

    Because the church era has come to an end the churches have become dead as the church of Sardis long ago became dead (Revelation 3:1). The churches of today have had/their candlestick removed even as the church of Ephesus of Revelation 2 was warned that God would remove their candlestick if they did not return to their first love. The local church has ceased to be an institution or divine organism that God used to serve as His appointed representative on earth.

    It is no wonder that it is almost impossible to find a church today that will modify its Confessions to make them more faithful to the Bible. Remember the Bible says that it is God who works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Therefore, if a church no longer has a candlestick it means God is not working in that church. The elders and deacons are being guided by their own minds rather than by the Holy Spirit.

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    In Luke 21:5, 6 the Bible says:

And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

    As we learned earlier in our study, these temple buildings represent the churches and congregations that God would build throughout the New Testament time. Those who come into this spiritual temple are gold, silver, and precious stones, and wood, hay, and stubble (I Corinthians 3:12). That is, there are true believers and those who appear to be true believers and actually are not. Thus, each congregation is an integral part of that great temple.

    But Jesus declares that there will be a time when there will not be left one stone upon another. That is, the temple will be totally destroyed. It will no longer exist.

    But suppose a congregation believes that it can remove all of the high places. It will endeavor to be as faithful to the Bible as possible.

    It then is insisting that it is a tiny part of the temple that still exists.

    But Christ said “there shall not be left one stone upon another.” Thus, this congregation is effectively saying they are more holy than God. That congregation should realize that no church can still be a part of the temple.

We Must Be Obedient to God’s Rules

    One can argue, but God will save them if they are elect. True, but God’s elective plan is God’s business. We are to be obedient to God’s commandments. We never want to set up our own rules. We are to be obedient to God’s commands. He tells us the Holy Spirit has been taken from the temple and we are to come out of it. Therefore, if we have a concern for the salvation of our children, we should want to obey God’s command to flee from the temple. Wonderfully, it is still the day of salvation, but it is God who sets up the plan through which He work to save.

If we have a concern for the salvation of our children, we should want to obey God’s command to flee from the temple.

    Remember we read in Amos 8 that there would come a time of a famine of hearing the Word of God. Thus, even though the Word of God is faithfully

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preached, if God does not give spiritual ears to the hearers of that Word, they cannot be saved.

    If true believers are hearing faithful sermons in their church can we truly believe they are being blessed? Isn’t that pastor in rebellion against God because he refuses to instruct his people that they should depart from the church? How can his preaching still have God’s blessing?

    This solemn truth bears repeating. Any children or adults who are not saved cannot be saved if God will not open their spiritual ears. In that church there will be a famine of hearing the Word of God. Likewise, the missionary that is sent out by that church will see no true fruit of his labors. No matter how faithful his preaching may be, there will be a famine of hearing the Word of God.

    Now we can understand why God commands us to depart out of Jerusalem. It is for our own spiritual safety and the spiritual welfare of our children that we are to depart out.

    Significantly, we learn the same lesson from Acts 28. In this chapter, Paul is a picture of all who have been cast out of the churches and congregations. In this chapter, as in Chapters 22-27 of the Book of Acts, the churches and congregations are typified by the Jews who do not want to hear the whole counsel of God. There was a New Testament church in Rome at the time Paul was there and its members had full knowledge of Paul.

    Yet in Acts 28 the church is not mentioned at all. This is so because spiritually, God is using that occasion as a portrait of the time of the Great Tribulation when the church era has ended.

    In Acts 28 we read that Paul preached from morning till evening the Word of God. And no preacher had better knowledge of the whole counsel of God than Paul, the scribe God used to give us so many of the New Testaments books.

That is, they were making their own minds the final authority.

    Yet with all of his faithful preaching what was the result? While some believed (literally were being convinced, verse 24), the Jews who heard him agreed not amongst themselves (verse 25), and had great reasoning amongst themselves (verse 29). That is, they did not accept the teachings they were hearing as the Word of God that should be implicitly obeyed. Rather, they were testing what they heard by their own human reasoning. That is, they were making their own minds the final authority. In other words, God had not opened their spiritual ears.

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    That this is so is indicated by Acts 28, verses 25-27, which declare:

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

The Remnant Left in Jerusalem Were Not Given Spiritual Ears

    This principle, which applies during the Great Tribulation, God can give commands that are plainly declared but will not be heard because God does not give spiritual ears, is illustrated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. At that time, God had commanded all those left alive in Jerusalem to go as captives into Babylon. Jeremiah 38:2 records:

Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city squall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live.

    However. Babylon allowed some of the poor of the land to remain in the land of Judah (Jeremiah 39:10). But then a number of them were killed, and God had warned that this would happen if they did not go into Babylon as captives. Then those who were still living came to Jeremiah and asked him to find out from God what they should do. The context shows they did not want to go to Babylon as captives. They wanted to either remain in Judah or go to Egypt for safety.

    God answered Jeremiah by declaring that they could remain in Judah but they were not to go to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:9-22). The answer of these Jews to this command of God shows that God’s command made no impact whatsoever on them. God had not given them spiritual ears to hear and obey this latest command from God. Instead, they accused Jeremiah of lying (Jeremiah 43:2, 3) and deliberately disobeyed God by going into Egypt (Jeremiah 43:5-7). This is plain evidence that God can speak clearly but that does not mean that He will give ears to hear what He says.

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    The problem is that of a famine of the hearing of the Word of God.

The Warning of Acts 28

    Let us consider Acts 28 again in more detail. Acts 28 has a lot to teach us in connection with this problem of a famine of the hearing of the Word of God. We have learned that the Jews who represented the churches and congregations did not have spiritual ears to hear.

    On the other hand, we read in Acts 28 of Paul freely preaching to the Gentiles. That must be understood to indicate that even though Christ is no longer using the churches to bring in the elect, He is still saving all over the world. But it is done so with God no longer using the corporate external church to bring the Word. He is still using believers, but these believers are no longer a part of the corporate external church.

    We must remember that while the corporate, visible, external church is under the judgment of God, the invisible, eternal church of which every true believer is a part cannot be harmed in any way. It continues until the end of the world and goes on into eternity. The true believer can never lose his salvation. The gates of hell can never prevail against the invisible, eternal church.

    As we look more closely at Acts 28, we can see the risk of arguing with God. In this passage, God gives us a vivid illustration of the risk of arguing with God when His command does not appear to be reasonable or logical. This is so serious it bears special attention. In Acts 28, God records a meeting between Paul and a numbered Jews who wanted to know about the theology that Paul was preaching. But those who listened had a bias against his teaching. We read in Acts 28:22:

But we desire to hear of thee what thou thickest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

    This verse appears to indicate that they were prejudiced against this new teaching.

    However, Paul, the finest theologian available in that day, taught them from morning to evening. At the end of the day, some were beginning to believe (Greek “were being persuaded”), but the rest were reasoning amongst themselves whether this was true. Verse 25 records:

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after

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that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,

    Then Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared in verses 25 and 26:

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:

The problems was they were applying their minds to the commands of God to determine if His commands were reasonable and logical.

    God is saying through Paul that God was not going to give these men any spiritual understanding. What was the problem. The problem was they were applying their minds to the commands of God to determine if His commands were reasonable and logical. Verse 29 emphasizes this:

And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.

    To determine if these things are so, it is one thing to search the Scriptures as the Bereans did. That is what should be done. But it is altogether another thing to search our minds and intellects to discover if this command of God is rational. Is it reasonable? Does it make sense? How can God tell believers to leave a church that still appears faithful to the Word of God? Doesn’t a command to leave the church place us in a position where no one has spiritual oversight of me and my family? You mean that I can’t partake of the Lord’s Supper any more? Are you saying that my children cannot be baptized? This command to abandon the congregation is not reasonable or logical. Can we be certain that the time to leave our congregation has now come? Has God really given us enough evidence that we are now in a time of great tribulation while at the same time the evangelization of the world is going on outside of the church?

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    These are the kinds of questions we have if we find in our minds that it is distasteful to contemplate leaving the corporate external church. We are repulsed by this idea and desperately want to find evidence in the Bible that we need not leave our church.

Beware! God’s commands are not subject in any way to the rationality of our minds.

    Beware! God’s commands are not subject inane way to the rationality of our minds. lf we do make them subject to our minds, God will shut our minds from truth. We can have the reputation of being the finest theologian, but if God does not give us spiritual ears to hear, we will never come to truth.

    We are reminded of Satan when he came into the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve. Remember his method? First, the question, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 ). Then the lie. The serpent said to the woman, "Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). We are to search the Bible to understand, but we are never to attempt to disprove the bible.

None of the Bible is Subject to Our Rational Thinking

    The fact is, none of the Bible is subject to mankind’s rational thinking. It is not reasonable that God spoke and brought this beautiful universe into existence. It is not reasonable that God would take on a human nature so that He could save a number of rebellious humans, and so on. We are never to make any teachings of the Bible subject tithe rational, reasonable thinking of our minds. We are simply to obey. If we do not obey, we can be sure that we have failed this final test that God has given to mankind.

God Interrupts the Observance of Ceremonial Laws

    There are those who wish to maintain that the phrase “till he come,” as we find it in a number of New Testament verses, proves that the corporate external church must continue to the end of the world. For example, we read concerning the Lord’s Supper, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (I Corinthians 11:26). When God uses the phrase “till he come,” at first it appears that it was God’s intention that this ordinance was to be observed until the return of Christ at the

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end of time. However, we must examine this question more carefully.

    To understand this concept, we must look at the O1d Testament where God records parallel situations. For example, in Leviticus 6:12-13. God commands:

And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wooden it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.

    This is similar to many other commands of the Old Testament wherein God expected that the daily sacrifices and daily lamp stands were never to cease. That is, they were to continue until Christ came as the fulfillment of all of those ceremonial laws.

    However, there was a time when Israel was not able to obey any of these commands. There came a time when they ceased to observe every one of them. But their violation did not occur because they wanted to stop obeying these commands. They ceased obeying these commands because God Himself interrupted the temple service by totally destroying Jerusalem and the temple in the year 587 B.C. God destroyed Jerusalem and the temple as a judgment on Judah. This judgment occurred because they had not removed the high places.

They ceased obeying these commands because God Himself interrupted the temple service.

    Likewise, the New Testament commands concerned with the ceremonial laws of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper which should be obeyed within the churches and congregations until He comes can no longer be obeyed because God has brought judgment upon the institution of the church. Thus, God has effectively ended the possibility of the observance of the New Testament ceremonial laws of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

    As the believers assemble themselves together as a fellowship, the ceremonial laws of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper cannot be observed because there is no one in the fellowship who has been given the spiritual oversight of those gathered together. During the church age, the elders and deacons had this spiritual oversight. But in the fellowship of

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believers, no one is designated by the Bible to have spiritual oversight. Therefore, the ceremonial laws cannot be observed any longer. This is no different from the situation of Shadrach. Meshach, and Abendego who had gone into captivity in Babylon. They were unable to observe any of the ceremonial laws that had been under the spiritual supervision of the priests in the temple.

Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are Ceremonial Laws

    Incidentally, please note that circumcision in the Old Testament was a ceremonial law pointing to our need to have our sins cut away. So, too, water baptism is a ceremonial law pointing to the need to have our sins washed away. Likewise, the Passover, the burnt offerings, and the blood sacrifices were all Old Testament ceremonial commands pointing to Jesus who was the Lamb of God who was sacrificed. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper was a ceremonial law pointing to the death of Christ, by which we receive eternal life, and pointing to the marriage feast of the bride and the Lamb which signifies the completion of our salvation. The church made a high place of these observances by calling them “sacraments.” The word “sacrament” implies that some spiritual work is being performed in the life of the one observing the physical act. Thus, it actually makes the Gospel a works-grace gospel. This is altogether contrary to the true Gospel. The word “sacrament” is not even found in the Bible.

    Isn’t it wonderful how harmonious the Bible is. When the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to truth, we are greatly encouraged as we discover the harmony that exists all through the Scriptures concerning that truth.

God Interrupts His Divine Plan in Order to Bring Judgment

    We must learn the lesson that God has every right to interrupt a divine plan He has put into action. God’s plan for Abraham and his seed was that they were to inherit the promised land, the land of Canaan, forever. That is, the land of Canaan was the representation of the everlasting kingdom of God until Christ would come to establish that kingdom. But in the year 1879 B.C., God brought an enormous famine in the land that could destroy all of Abraham’s descendants who lived in the land of Canaan. However, God made provision for the safekeeping of His people. Two years later, in the year 1877 B.C., He caused them to enter into Egypt, a land that typified the world of that day. Thus, God interrupted His plan for Israel to occupy the land of Canaan which was a representation of the kingdom of God.

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    Likewise, when Israel became a nation, God promised to give the nation of Israel the land of Canaan as a possession until Christ would come to be the spiritual fulfillment of that promise.

    But in 587 B.C., God again interrupted that promise of the land of Canaan to Israel by bringing the Babylonian armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. In this situation it was a result of Judah’s refusal to remove the high places.

    Likewise, in the New Testament era, God gave instruction to the corporate external churches and congregations to evangelize the world until Christ would come again. There are many references in the New Testament that the churches and congregation were to exist and be used of Christ until He comes on the last day. However, in the era of this New Testament Israel, the churches have been interrupted by God. He has loosed Satan and sent him to destroy the churches because they have not removed the high places. That is, they have not corrected their doctrines that do not agree with the Bible. Thus, the situation today is precisely parallel to that of 587 B.C. when God interrupted the temple worship because Judah had not removed the high places.

    This principle of God interrupting His promises is clearly set forth in the language of Jeremiah 18:6-10:

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand. O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

Everyone - No Exceptions - Is to Leave Jerusalem

    A second principle we learn by examining all three great tribulation periods is that when God commanded Israel or the believers to leave Jerusalem, He means that everyone is to leave. None are to remain behind.

    When Jacob went into Egypt, no Israelites remained in the land of Canaan. When Judah went into Babylon as captives, it was God’s plan that none should remain in Judea. We learned earlier that there were some who

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wanted to remain but either they were killed there or in rebellion they decided to go into Egypt where they were killed.

It is God’s plan that all the true believers are to leave the churches and congregations.

    Likewise, in the present Great Tribulation, it is God’s plan that all the true believers are to leave the churches and congregations. God emphasizes this by indicating that the Holy Spirit is taken out of the midst of the churches so that there is no longer any possibility of anyone becoming saved within the churches. He emphasized this truth by declaring there would not be left one stone upon another in the temple, the temple being a representation of the corporate external body of believers.

Everyone is to Leave Because God Commands Them to Leave

    A third principle we can better understand as we view the historical examples of the present Great Tribulation is that God commanded to the believers to leave their land.

    Joseph, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told his father Jacob in Genesis 45:9:

Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not:

    God Himself encouraged Jacob by telling him in Genesis 46:3:

And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:

    Likewise, the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem were commanded to go into Babylon. In Jeremiah 21:9 we read:

He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

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    This is reiterated in Jeremiah 24:5:

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.

    Furthermore, God declared in Jeremiah 29: 16-18:

Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them.

    Again in Jeremiah 38:2 we read:

Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live.

    In similar fashion, God has given commandment to those who are in the churches and congregations of our day. Matthew 24: 15, 16 declares:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolations, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

    Luke 21:20,21 gives the same warning:

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in tile midst of

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it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.

    In Revelation 17 and 18 the Bible speaks of the harlot, Babylon the Great, indicating that she has fallen. Later in our study we will learn that this harlot is none other than the corporate external church which is under the judgment of God during the Great Tribulation period. In this context God warns in Revelation 18:4:

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

    Understanding what happened to those who did not heed and obey this warning when Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C. should cause every believer to tremble.

There is Not to be Debate Concerning God’s Command

    A fourth principle we can learn from these Old Testament great tribulation examples is that there is not to be debate concerning the command of God to leave the security of the situation that appears to identify with God’s promises.

    When Jacob was commanded to leave the promised land Canaan and go to the world of Egypt, we do not read that he argued with the command. Just think, for 215 years, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had lived in the land of Canaan which was given to them as their possession.

    To leave the land to go to Egypt would mean they were abandoning their God-given possession, allowing the wicked of the world to possess it. Moreover, at an earlier time when there was famine, Isaac had been expressly forbidden by God to go into the land of Egypt (Genesis 26:2).

    Therefore, it would have been completely reasonable for Jacob to argue with his son, “Joseph, do you realize what the land of Canaan represents? How can I leave this promised land. Remember father Isaac had been commanded by God not to go to Egypt to escape a famine (Genesis 26:2). Surely, Joseph, my son, since you are in such a high authority in Egypt you certainly could send a few wagon loads of grain to our family. You sent grain to us for the first two years of the famine and we survived. Joseph, my sons that is a reasonable and logical solution that will allow us to remain in this blessed land the Lord has given us.”

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    But what do we read in the Bible. No arguments. No debating the command. Just obedience.

    When we look at the account of the tribulation of 587 B.C., we see that there were those who argued with God. They had been given permission by the Babylonian commander to remain. There were vineyards and fields that required cultivation. Why wasn’t it altogether reasonable to remain in Jerusalem.

    The Bible records the sad outcome of their response to the command that they were to go as captives into the land of Babylon. Many were killed. The rest had hearts of rebellion against God so that they finally went to Egypt where they were destroyed.

    Thus, we learn that the command to leave Jerusalem (the corporate external church), is not to be debated. It is to be obeyed. This command is not subject to analysis by the brilliant intellectual minds of theologians or anyone else. It is to be obeyed.

Can Anyone Remain in Jerusalem

    One passage that is sometimes used as Biblical evidence that when Christ returns, true believers will still be found in the churches is Jeremiah 39:10:

But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

    To be sure that we do not miss this truth, it is essentially repeated in II Kings 25:12 and in Jeremiah 52:16. Don’t the poor of these verses identify with true believers? And are they not given authority to remain in Jerusalem? Doesn’t this indicate that in spite of God’s repeated command to flee from Jerusalem, it is possible that some true believers will remain in the local churches and still be under the blessing of God?

    To answer these questions, let us see what happened to these poor individuals who remained in Jerusalem even though God had repeatedly told them they must not remain.

    In Jeremiah 40:7, we read that the king of Babylon made Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, governor to rule over those who remained in Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 40:11-13, we read:

Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the

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Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan; Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much. Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah,

    In Jeremiah 41: 2,3, we read:

Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land. Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.

    Already God’s warning to the Jews that they were to depart out of Jerusalem lest they be destroyed had become a reality. But there still remained in Jerusalem some of these poor who were now under the leadership of a man named Johanan the son of Kareah.

    Those who remained now came to Jeremiah with a very serious question. (Incidentally, God had left Jeremiah with them as a representative of the Word of God even as the churches of our day are being warned by the Word of God.) We read in Jeremiah 42: 1-3:

Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.

    In accordance with their request, Jeremiah agreed to once more ask God concerning His command that all the Jews were to leave Jerusalem. Verse 4 of Jeremiah 42 records:

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Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, twill declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.

    After ten days, Jeremiah brought God’s answer to their request. We read in Jeremiah 42:10-12:

If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.

It appears that God is giving them permission to remain in Jerusalem.

    As we casually read those verses, it appears that God is giving them permission to remain in Jerusalem. If this is a true understanding of these verses, why is it that as we follow the experience of these remaining poor who had not been murdered by Ishmael the son of Nethaniah (Jeremiah 41:2-10), we find that they all came to disaster. After Jeremiah’s reports they answered him in Jeremiah 43:1, 2:

And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, even all these words, Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:

    Following this, they took action. God had expressly commanded them not to go into Egypt. But we read in Jeremiah 43:5-7:

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But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah; Even men, and women, and children, and the king’s daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah. So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: thus came they even to Tahpanhes.

    Throughout the remainder of Jeremiah 43 and Jeremiah 44, God warns that they will be utterly destroyed in Egypt. We read in Jeremiah 44:12:

And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.

    Thus, the consequence of disobeying God by remaining in Judea because they had permission from the king of Babylon was precisely as God had warned them. God had repeatedly warned them that if they remained in Jerusalem they would be destroyed. And even though Jeremiah 42:10-12 might be understood to mean that God had changed His mind and allowed them to remain in Jerusalem, it is obvious that they were still under the wrath of God.

    We are reminded of the experiencing Balaam who was employed by the king of Moab to curse Israel. God told him in Numbers 22:12:

And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.

    But Balak the king of Moab insisted that Balaam again ask God whether he could go with Balak to curse Israel. Therefore, we read in Numbers 22:19, 20:

Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise

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up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.

    Surely God has now given Balaam the green light to go with Balak. But then we read in Numbers 22:21, 22:

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass and his two servants were with him.

God is disclosing to us that if we persist in wanting our will to be done, God may give us our way.

    God is disclosing to us that if we persist in wanting our will to be done, God may give us our way. If our way is contrary to God’s clear command, it may look like God has changed His command so that He is agreeing with our desires. However, the fact is, we are still under the fierce anger of God because we are arguing with God so that somehow we can have our own way.

    Returning to Jeremiah, we know that God repeatedly told Israel to leave Jerusalem and Judah. However, the poor who were left by the Babylonians to care for the vineyards are effectively asking for God’s approval to allow them to stay. Even as God gave Balaam his wish, so, too, God apparently gave the poor Jews permission to remain in Jerusalem. But it is obvious that His anger waxed hot against them. If God loved them, He would have worked in them to will and to do of God’s good pleasure. What we see, however, is complete rebellion against God. It was a rebellion that ended in total disaster for all who dared to remain in Judah.

Actually No Permission was Given to Remain

    In actuality, if we read Jeremiah 42: 10-12 more carefully, we learn that God is not giving these poor Jews permission to remain in Jerusalem. Let us look at these verses once again. We will discover that God is answering them that God will repent of His wrath on them after they return to Judah. That is, after they have obeyed God’s command to leave Judah, the time would come when they could return to the land of Judah and then be

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altogether under the blessing of God. Please take note of the opening statement of verse 10, “If ye will still abide in this land,….” The word “abide” in the original Hebrew is the word shuv that is found hundreds of times in the Bible and is normally translated “return.” Therefore, the opening phrase of verse 10 should read, “in turning back” or “in returning” you will dwell or “abide in this land.” But to return means they must first go away, and God had repeatedly commanded them to go away as captives of Babylon. God had also promised that at a future time, they would return to the land of Judah to be under the loving care of God.

    This statement of returning is also emphasized by the language of Jeremiah 42:12, which declares:

And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.

No one can find any kind of excuse to remain in the local congregation.

    Thus, we learn that no one is to remain in Jerusalem or Judea when Babylon rules over this land. That is, no one can find any kind of excuse to remain in the local congregation. No wonder god tells us to come out of Babylon lest we receive God’s plagues. These historical truths reported in Jeremiah should be listened to exceedingly carefully. It is pure folly to insist to God that we have a better plan than God’s plan.

Those Days Will Be Shortened

    In Mathew 24:21 God speaks very succinctly about this time of Great Tribulation:

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

    We have understood this quite well. However, in the next verse the Bible adds words that are not immediately easy to understand. There we read:

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

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    What can this mean? To understand this verse, we must first summarize who experiences the Great Tribulation spoken of in verse 21. There are actually three entities that are shocked by the Great Tribulation. These are:

1. The true believers in the church.
2. The members of the church who are not saved.
3. The world outside of the church.

    The true believers are the Jerusalem above as spoken of in Galatians 4:26. They are the gold, silver, and precious stones of I Corinthians 3:12. They are the two witnesses of Revelation 11 who are killed. They are in great tribulation because they’re driven out and/or are commanded to come out of the local church where they had faithfully served the Lord. They fully recognize the fact that their salvation is secure in Christ and not in anything the church can offer.

    The second group is the unsaved who are members of the local church. They are the Jerusalem which is now as spoken of in Galatians 4:25. They are the wood, hay and stubble of I Corinthians 3:12. Their trust and spiritual security is in the local church. They believe the local congregations will continue as bodies of true believers all the way to Christ’s return. They do not at all recognize that the church they continue to trust has been abandoned by God so that the Holy Spirit is no longer saving people within it, and in fact, Satan is now ruling in their local church.

    The third group is the peoples of the world. Amongst them are many who are God’s elect but who have not yet become saved. Throughout the more than 1950 years of the church age, during which God used the churches to evangelize the world the possibility of salvation existed in the churches. It existed because each local church was effectively commanded to be a witness to the world. But when the spiritual famine of the first part of the Great Tribulation began, there was no possibility for their salvation by means of the churches sending the Gospel into the world. This was so because the churches and congregations no longer had a commission to bring the Gospel. Not only were the churches in great tribulation but so was the world. How awful.

    When Satan was loosed at the beginning of the Great Tribulation virtually no one could become saved within the local church or anywhere out in the world. It was the time spoken of in Revelation 8:1 where God speaks of a half hour of silence from heaven. This half hour must be understood to be the first part of the Great Tribulation during which God is not saving people by means of the Gospel going forth from the churches. It was the time that identifies with the 2300 evening mornings of Daniel 8. It is the three and a half days

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spoken of in Revelation 11 when the two witnesses lie dead in the streets.

    But there is hope. That hope is not for the second group, the unsaved members of churches who insist on remaining in their local church. They insist on remaining in the local church, unwilling to recognize that Satan is ruling in their church. Their local church will continue in Great Tribulation all the way to Christ’s return. The longer they insist on remaining in their church the more blinded they will become. Remember God warns in II Thessalonians 2 of a strong delusion God will place on them.

    On the other hand, for group number 1, the true believers, the initial horror of being driven out and/or commanded to leave the local congregation will be tempered by the knowledge that during the last part of the Great Tribulation, a great multitude which no man can number is being saved. This will occur at the end of the 2300 evening mornings of Daniel 8 when the sanctuary (holy place) is cleansed (is made righteous). The holy place is where God the Holy Spirit is saving. During the last part of the tribulation, when the two witnesses have stood on their feet and the latter rain has begun, the Holy Spirit will be active all over the world saving people in the environment outside of the churches.

    Therefore, the horror that descended upon the whole world during the first part of the Great Tribulation will come to an end. It will be replaced by the wonderful fact of the latter rain. Thus, we can understand why Matthew 24:22 declares that for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. The time of the Great Tribulation is not shortened insofar as the local congregations and the unsaved members within them are concerned. But, they are shortened insofar as the true believers who have come out of the churches are concerned.

    Also, they are especially shortened insofar as the world outside of the church is concerned. For the sake of the elect who still must be saved, there is no hindrance to the true Gospel outside of the local church, the true Gospel is being sent forth and blessed with the salvation of all the elect who must be saved before the end of the world. Matthew 24:22, therefore in a real sense introduces us to the third season, the latter rain.

God’s Timetable for the Great Tribulation

    Another principle that we learn from reviewing these tribulation periods of the Old Testament is that, even as we learned earlier, the tribulation comes to a climax at a definite year in history.

    The famine in Jacob’s time began two years before he was actually commanded to go to Egypt (Genesis 45:6). The beginning of the famine was

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in the year 1879 B.C. Thus, the year 1879 marked the beginning of this great tribulation. However, it was in the year 1877 that the tribulation reached a climax when Jacob was commanded to leave the promised land, Canaan, and to go Egypt.

    The tribulation that climaxed in 587 B.C. with the total destruction of Jerusalem actually began 22 years earlier (23 years inclusive) in 609 B.C. It was in 609 B.C. that the last good king who ruled over Judah was unexpectedly killed in battle. From that time on, God’s judgment began to fall on Judah until finally, in 587 B.C., Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. This year became the official year ending Israel’s occupation of the land of Canaan.

    Likewise, the Great Tribulation of our day had a beginning some years earlier. But as we have learned, the year 1994 marks the official year in which the church age ended and the season of the latter rain began. It coincides with the end of the 2300 evening mornings of Daniel 9. It also coincides with the end of the forty two months of Revelation 11 and the end of the three and a half days of Revelation 11. It also coincides with the beginning of the latter rain. That is, it coincides with the beginning of the season of the latter rain that brings in the end-of-the-year harvest. Later, we shall learn that this final season is occurring at the same time the Great Tribulation continues insofar as the churches and congregations are concerned.

    The Great Tribulation period is divided into two parts just as the seventy year tribulation of Jeremiah was divided into two parts. As we have seen, the first part of the seventy years was from the death of King Josiah in 609 B.C. and ended in 587 B.C. when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. The second part was the forty eight years from 587 B.C. until 539 B.C. when Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. It canoe shown that the conquering of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians is a picture of Judgment Day at the end of the world.

    As we have also seen, the great tribulation of Jacob’s day was divided into two parts, The first was two years in duration and the second was five years in duration. In another sense, the second part was 430 years in that Israel remained in Egypt until 1447 B.C.

    How long then is the second part of the present tribulation that will end with the return of Christ? That is a question we will not attempt to answer in this study.

    While we are examining the tribulation periods of history it is important to note that the 70 year tribulation period which occurred when Judah was under judgment is so closely identified with the Great Tribulation of today that

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God actually uses it as a representation of the tribulation period that is taking place in our day.

The Time Is Now

    We should briefly review the evidence that clearly shows that this is the time that God’s judgment has begun at the house of God.

    Remember we learned that the Bible teaches that there was to come a time of Great Tribulation during which the abomination of desolation would be in the holy place. The evidence of that event would be the fact that false prophets would arise with signs and wonders to lead astray if possible even the elect.

    The present evidence of the intense interest in signs and wonders all over the world makes it clear that the time is now. Never before has it been like it is today. This in itself should be conclusive evidence that the time has arrived and the churches are under the judgment of God. Therefore, all who are ready to obey God’s commands can know it is time to flee from the churches and congregations.

    However, God in His mercy gives a second dramatic sign that the time of God’s judgment on the churches has arrived. Remember we learned earlier that when Satan rules in the temple, he would call down fire from heaven. Remember we also learned that Satan cannot literally call down fire from heaven, bathe can perform the supernatural “sign” of calling down fire from heaven and that sign is causing people to fall backward to the ground.

Is it possible that I want my will to be done rather than God’s will?

    Because the phenomenon of people falling backward is now seen all over the world, we have tremendous added proof that the time of God’s judgment on the churches is right now. The time is here. Anyone who hesitates to flee from his church should ask himself, “Why do I hesitate to obey God? Is it possible that I want my will to be done rather than God’s will? If this is so, I wonder what my relationship to God truly is. Is this the way a true believer should act?”

    So that we might know super conclusively that the time of the judgment of God upon the churches has arrived, God gives us additional evidence. While we see the church world falling into decay all over the world, at the

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same time, we see ministries like Family Radio flourishing as they send the true Gospel all over the world. This activity by ministries such as Family Radio cannot be explained in any other way but that it is the evidence of the latter rain. Certainly, it fits perfectly the language of Revelation 7:9 that a great multitude which no man can number is being saved.

    Indeed, the evidence of these three signs is overwhelming proof that the time is now. Anyone who hesitates to leave his church must ask himself, “After all, who am I worshiping? Is it really God or could it be someone else?”

    We have learned that the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 587 B.C. was a picture or representation of the end of the church age in A.D. 1994. In fact, by looking carefully at the Great Tribulation that occurred when Jacob and his family left the land of Canaan to escape the famine, and also by carefully examining the terrible destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., behave learned many valuable lessons concerning the character of the present end- time Great Tribulation, and its impact upon our lives we are now experiencing.

    The Book of Jeremiah has been particularly helpful in teaching us many things about the Great Tribulation of our day. There the Bible discloses to us that there are two parts to the Great Tribulation period. In the instance of the destruction of Jerusalem, the judgment of God on Jerusalem began in the year 609 B.C., when the last God-fearing king, Josiah, was killed in battle with Egypt, This occurred in the year 609 B.C. God’s judgment came on Judah because they persisted in worshiping false gods at the high places. For the next twenty three years inclusive, they were in subjugation, first to Egypt and then to Babylon. Finally, in 587 B.C., Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and most of the people were killed. The remnant was commanded to go as captives to Babylon.

    Those who went to Babylon were commanded to live fruitful lives, seeking the welfare of Babylon. Jeremiah 29:4-7 records:

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands. that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the

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peace thereof shall ye have peace.

    This captivity came to an end in 539 B.C., seventy years after 609 B.C., when the horror story began. In the year 539 B.C., Babylon was destroyed by the Medes and Persians. This seventy-year period is a picture or representation of the Great Tribulation of our day. The forty eight years (587 B.C. to 539 B.C.), that Judah was in captivity, during which time they were to pray for Babylon and seek God’s peace for Babylon, typifies the period of the latter rain. We have learned that the latter rain period is the time during which there will be a great multitude which no man can number becoming saved as the Gospel goes into all the world after the church age has ended.

Is the Corporate External Church the Judah or Jerusalem of Bible Prophecy?

    Earlier in this study, we learned that Jerusalem and Judea refer to the churches throughout the church age. Because of the importance of this question, let us look at it once more.

    Who or what does Jerusalem and Judah refer to as people are told to flee from them in Matthew, Mark, and Luke? In Luke 21:20, 21 God declares:

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.

    Who does God have in mind as He sets forth this command to flee to the mountains and to depart out and to not enter in.

    When we carefully examine the Biblical language, we will discover that the Jerusalem or Judea God has in view can be none other than the corporate external church.

    The churches and congregations are made up of true believers, who are eternally secure in Christ, together with many who are not saved. These latter individuals believe they are saved but they are like the wood, hay, and stubble who have a place in the temple of God, but Judgment Day will reveal they were never saved.

    Thus, the corporate church, made up of local congregations all over the world, is parallel to ancient Judah and ancient Israel which had both saved and unsaved people within it. For this reason God speaks of those who are saved as being Jews. In Romans 2:28 and 29, we read:

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For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

    This is further declared in Galatians 3:29:

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    The physical nation of Israel is physically the seed of Abraham. Spiritually, however, it is the true believers in Christ who are the seed of Abraham. They are the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

    In Galatians 4 God further directs our thinking on this matter by speaking of the believers as belonging to one of two Jerusalems. We read in Galatians 4:26:

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

    This Jerusalem is above. That is, it consists of those who spiritually are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). These are the true believers. From the moment of salvation, we eternally belong to the Jerusalem above. This is the Jerusalem from which the saved person can never be separated. It will finally come as the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, to occupy the new heavens and new earth which God will create.

    Throughout the church age. they were the gold, silver, and precious stones in the temple which is the corporate external church.

    But Galatians 4 also speaks of another Jerusalem. It represents those who have not become saved. They are the Jerusalem that now is (Galatians 4:25). They have not experienced the grace of God Their chief problem is the same as that which existed in Old Testament Israel, they are trusting in some of their own efforts to assist in their salvation. They are also called Jerusalem even as the unbelievers in physical Israel were called Israelites. They are the wood, hay, and stubble in the temple which during the church age was the corporate external church.

    Thus, we must understand that the corporate external church was made up of those who are part of the Jerusalem which is above and those who are part of the Jerusalem which now is. Therefore, the Jerusalem God speaks about in passages such as Luke 21 must be understood to be the corporate external church in which both of the Jerusalems exist here on this earth.

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    What is the context in which the Bible warns that those in Jerusalem and Judea are to flee and depart out? (Luke 21:20, 21). The setting is a time very near the end of the world. Luke 21:24 indicates that Jerusalem will be trodden down until the times of the Gentiles (nations) are fulfilled. Verse 27 says that it is just before they see the Son of man (Christ) coming in a cloud.

    It is obviously speaking of events very near the end of time.

    At this time in history, we are near the end of time. We have learned that there is ample evidence that we are already in that period of time that is called Great Tribulation. It is true that at this time in history there does exist a literal, physical Jerusalem. It is in serious political tension with the Palestinians. Is this the city from which the believers are to flee? Is this a city that is trodden down of the nations?

    There is no Biblical evidence that this literal Jerusalem is in view. The literal city of Jerusalem that exists today is occupied by very few believers in Christ. As a physical city it could never relate to the worldwide events related to the Great Tribulation.

    The only other Jerusalem that could possibly be in view is the spiritual Jerusalem. And the spiritual is divided into the Jerusalem above and the Jerusalem which now is. The Jerusalem above consists of only true believers and is eternal in character. If we are a citizen of the Jerusalem above we cannot flee from it even if we tried. This is so because it is an eternal city made up of all the elect.

    Therefore, there is only one Jerusalem that can be in view when the Bible speaks of Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. It is the Jerusalem that consists of all the congregations and churches located throughout the world. This is the corporate external body from which we are to depart. This is the Jerusalem we are not to enter into. This is the holy place that Matthew 24:15 speaks of and God commands us to flee from it. It is called the holy place because throughout the church age, this is the place where the true believers were ordinarily found. It is the place where throughout the church age, the Holy Spirit was present within it to apply the Word of God to the hearts of those God was saving. It is the holy place because Christ was reigning there.

    We have leaned that we are to depart from it because its candlestick has been removed. That is, the Holy Spirit has been taken out of its midst. Therefore, it is no longer possible for people to become saved within those churches, regardless of how faithfully a congregation may try to remain true to the Bible.

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The Two Jerusalems of Zechariah 14

    Once we understand this, we can begin to understand the perplexing language of Zechariah 14:2, which declares:

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

    How can the city be taken (that is. destroyed), and yet half the city goes forth into captivity while the residue is not cut off from the city?

    This can be understood if we remember that those who go into captivity are like those who went into Babylon when Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C. They represent the true believers who are saved from the judgment of God as He brings judgment upon the churches and denominations during the time of the Great Tribulation.

    But these same believers cannot be cut off from Jerusalem. The Jerusalem from which they cannot be cut off is the Jerusalem that is above. Remember that Jerusalem that is above is the eternal Jerusalem whose citizens are the true believers.

    Thus, in these verses we must understand that those who go into captivity are the same individuals as those who are not cut off from the city.

Isaiah Presents the Same Truth

    There is a significant passage in Isaiah that emphasizes this same truth. In Isaiah 4:1-3. we read:

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem.

    The seven women mentioned in verse 1 identify with the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. These seven churches represent all of the churches and

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congregations that have come into existence throughout the New Testament era. The churches are called women because within them are the true believers who are the bride of Christ.

    In Isaiah 4:1, they are presented as those who take hold of one man. That is, they want the Son of man, Christ, to be their Savior and King. But they don’t want Him to be their spiritual bread. and they don’t want to be clothed with His robe of righteousness. They want their own bread and their own clothing. That is, they want the name of Christ, they want to identify with Christ, but they want their own salvation program. In other words, they want to be the final authority as to truth. They are not concerned about the truth of the Bible.

    This, therefore, is an indictment against the churches of our day. They are not about to give up the doctrines of their church or denomination even though careful study reveals that many of their teachings are contrary to the Bible.

    However, verse 2 of Isaiah 4 reveals that in that day, the day when this sorrowful condition exists in the churches, the branch of the Lord (Christ) shall be beautiful and the fruit of the earth (those who are becoming saved) will be excellent. They are being saved because the believers who have escaped from the church or congregation continue to bring the true Gospel outside of the church.

    But verse 3 says those who remain in Jerusalem are to be called holy. Those who have escaped and are bringing the Gospel outside of the church are still an integral part of the eternal invisible Jerusalem that identifies with the church that is above. They, therefore, are holy. This Israel from which they have escaped can only be the corporate external Israel, which identifies with the churches and congregations during the time of Great Tribulation. But those who have escaped remain in the eternal Jerusalem.

    These who have escaped, that is, have gone out of the churches and congregations have not left Zion, have not left the eternal spiritual Jerusalem. They are eternally secure in the Jerusalem that is above. Their names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life.

We Still Assemble Together

    What does one do if there are no others with whom to assemble. For example, some individuals in China or India hear the true Gospel and God saves them. They know nothing about a local church and if they did, God now commands they are not to be a part of a local congregation. How can they obey the command of Hebrews 10:25, which states:

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Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

    The phrase “as ye see the day approaching” clearly shows that this command has to do with believers all the way to the end of times all the way to the Judgment Day at the end of the world. But how are they to obey this command if they are not to assemble with the congregation of the local church?

    First of all, the Greek word translated “assembling” in this verse is found in only one other place, and that is II Thessalonians 2:1, where it is “gathering together.” But this gathering together consists only of true believers because it is a “gathering together unto him,” as Christ comes on the last day. Thus, it is a word that identifies only with true believers. As the end of the world approaches, few true believers are found inside the churches because the era of the church as an institution used of God has come to an end. Even these few believers are commanded to leave their church and because they’re true believers, they have a great desire to obey all of God’s commandments. Therefore, very quickly, they, too, will leave their local church.

    Significantly, God has given us the day of the week when this command is particularly to be obeyed. That day is Sunday. It is the Lord’s Day on which we are not to do our own pleasure. Rather we are to “call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shall honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, not speaking thine own words” (Isaiah 58:13). This day is given to us each Sunday as a day in which we can forget the cares of this world and concentrate on our relationship with our Savior. God has given us this whole day during which we are free to serve Him.

    Even though we may not know others of like mind with whom we can fellowship, we can begin by spending much time reading the Bible. Immediately then we are fellowshipping with God. Moreover we are fellowshipping with all of those we read about in the Bible. They are the great cloud of witnesses we read about in Hebrews 12:1, which says:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

    In a real sense, a single individuality fellowship with God Himself well as with any and all of the cloud of witnesses the Bible brings to our attention.

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Of course, it and when he finds others of like faith, the assembling together can expand with fellow believers.

    The glad and wonderful news is that in this time, when the Great Tribulation is being experienced in the churches, a great and wonderful thing is happening outsiders the churches.

    We have ample time to pray to our Lord. As I read the Bible, God is speaking to me. As I pray, I am talking to God. Thus, in this manner we can have intense fellowship with God.

    Our fellowship can be expanded by using this day to share the Gospel with others. In most countries of the world, a believer can pass out tracts at the local market or other places where many people are present. Family Radio can supply those tracts free of charge. They are available in many languages.

    Then, too, Sunday is a day when the aged, the feeble, the sick can be visited and encouraged. If a jail is nearby it may be possible to visit there. It is a day to write to friends to encourage them. In other words, Sunday is a beautiful day God has given us during which we can focuser our relationship with our Lord, we can commune with our Lord, and we can share the Gospel with others.

    If a person has a family, these things can be done with his children. Later, perhaps we might meet another person of like spiritual mind. Then the fellowship would be a little larger. The important truth is that no one is in a situation where he cannot obey the command to not neglect the assembling of ourselves as we see the day approaching.

Obedience to the Command to Depart

    Now the big question. What are we to do now that we have this information concerning the church?

    If the church age has come to an end, what are the believers to do who are members of churches?

    Obedience to the command of Luke 21:20-24 can be accomplished in various ways.

    If a person or family is a member of a church, they can withdraw their membership and fellowship on Sundays with whomever there may be who are of like mind. Such withdrawal may initiate a move by the church to excommunicate. For that individual, this is not a trauma because he has become convinced that the church era has come to an end and the church no longer has any divine authority.

    If the individual or family are simply attending a church and are not members, they can stop attending that church but continue to fellowship outside of the church with individuals of like mind.

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    If a congregation decides to be obedient to this command, they can reorganize their congregation aroma church congregation to a fellowship of believers. The elders will no longer be elders. The deacons will no longer be deacons. The pastor will no longer be pastor. In other words, no individuals will have spiritual rule over the congregation. Those members of the congregation who disagree with this decision to disband would have to find membership in another congregation.

Reflecting on the Conditions in Our Day

    Certainly, something strange is happening. On the one hand, we see churches everywhere becoming more and more apostate. Yet on the other hand, we see a ministry like Family Radio becoming more and more useful to the Lord in sending the true Gospel into the world.

    Virtually every one of us, as we look at the church we attend and as we look at the other churches in our day. deplore what we are seeing. The worship service has become increasingly a time of entertainment. The preaching seldom, if ever, warns of the imminence of judgment day. Church after church features signs and wonders. Little or no money is available for mission work because of increasing obligations to pay for newer and finer buildings and greater and greater pastors’ salaries.

    Perhaps one of the most shocking experiences of the true believer within these churches is the rejection he will experience if he contends too strongly for greater purity in doctrine. Indeed, any spiritually-minded believer must admit something drastic has happened and is happening in even the most conservative of the churches.

    How can it be then that a ministry like Family Radio appears to be increasingly blessed as it is able to share the true Gospel with an increasingly large percentage of the world’s population. We do know that there are many prophecies in the Bible that indicate that as the history of the world draws to a close, the congregations and denominations will be increasingly apostate. For example, we have learned in this study that Revelation 13 speaks of a time when Satan, called the beast that comes out of the sea, will rule in the churches through false gospels. In this chapter these churches are called a false prophet that comes out of the earth. These churches have become altogether apostate. Fact is, verse 7 ominously warns:

And it was given unto him [the beast] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: . . . .

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    Likewise, we have learned that in II Thessalonians 2:1-10 God speaks of the man of sin who can be only Satan, taking his seat in the temple, that is, he will rule in the churches that have become apostate.

    In Daniel 8:10-14, God speaks of a time when the sanctuary and the host will be trodden underfoot for a period of 2300 days, and the saints of the most high shall be given into his hand. We are all familiar with the prophecy of Matthew 24:24 which teaches that false christs and false prophets coming with signs and wonders will arise to deceive the very elect, if possible.

    Indeed, these are a sampling of many such prophecies in the Bible that we have been examining in this study. We who love our church because it has been such a comfort to us in the past and even to some degree in the present are not a bit happy to contemplate these dire predictions. They shock us to the core of our being. As we look at the congregation we presently attend, we would like to believe that these prophecies must be for another time. Surely the present situation cannot be as bad as these prophecies intimate.

    However, if we are truly honest with ourselves, and with the Word of God, we know that something dreadful is happening in the churches and congregations of our day. No one can honestly say that all is well in today’s congregations.

    However, there appears to be a major contradiction between the Biblical prediction of the expectation of an increasingly dead church and the actuality of a robust healthy presentation of the Gospel by means of an organization like Family Radio.

    How can we explain this anomaly that plainly is in evidence?

    To make the question even more complicated, we are aware that in these days, the population of the world is mushrooming. The population statistics indicate that about 375,000 babies are born each day.

    Even though approximately 145,000 people die each day, the world’s population is still growing at the rate of about 230,000 individuals each and every twenty four hour period.

    This tremendous increase in population has resulted in a world today of more than seven billion in population. Must these seven billion hear the Gospel call? Did not Jesus declare in Matthew 24:14:

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

    True, for more than 1950 years, God has used the churches and congregations as His means to accomplish this goal. In spite of the spiritual weaknesses and shortcomings of the church it has breathe divine organism

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employed by God to represent and extend the kingdom of God on this earth. Indeed, there are many glorious chapters in the history of the churches as they were more or less faithful to the great commission, go ye into all the world with the Gospel.

    But what of today. How can the churches in their spiritual decline minister the true Gospel. And even if all of the churches were vibrant with the true Gospel, how can they physically minister to a world that each hour is 10,000 souls greater in population?

    Indeed, we must realistically admit that the churches of today cannot by any means fulfill Christ’s command to go into all the world with the Gospel. Fact is, when we honestly evaluate the totality of the mission effort that is based on a true representation of the whole counsel of God we must admit the situation is hopeless.

    But it is not hopeless. About 200 years ago, anticipating the present situation, God began to make some drastic changes in the world.

    After almost 13,000 years of history, mankind has discovered and begun to use radio waves and other electronics. Are people more intelligent today than they were a thousand or ten thousand years ago? We know that cannot be. Rather, it is obvious that God prevented these discoveries from being made until it was God’s good pleasure to make them available to accomplish His purposes. And once He allowed mankind to discover electromagnetic waves, etc., it seems that God is allowing mankind to understand and use more and more of these wonderful ingredients that He has built into the creation of the world.

    Thus, we wonder: Does a correlation exist between all of these major subjects we have been discussing? Let us review.

1. Tremendous apostasy in the congregations and denominations.
2. Exploding population.
3. Exploding electronic knowledge, resulting in enormous advances in mass communication.
4. Increasing blessing, coming to a ministry such as Family Radio as it ministers globally with the true Gospel.

    The fact is, the Bible does provide a marvelous synthesis of these things. Once we understand the Bible’s teaching on these subjects, we should understand how harmonious all of these phenomena are.

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Go to the Ant

    One could ask the question: How will that work if during the latter rain there is no spiritual oversight over those who claim to have become saved? Is this truly a workable plan?

    God gives us a very interesting and significant answer to this question in Proverbs 6. In verses 6-8, God commands:

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gatherers her food in the harvest.

    Since God can rule over the lowly ant which has neither guide, overseer, or ruler, surely He can rule over His children who at the moment of salvation had been given a new resurrected soul in which they never want to sin again and who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

    Just because God utilized fellow humans (pastors, elders, deacons), to have spiritual oversight during the church age, that does not mean that God cannot rule directly without such spiritual oversight.

    Moreover, we must remember that throughout history, most of the peoples of the world were illiterate, and Bibles were relatively scarce. Therefore, a very practical purpose was served by the spiritual rulers in the congregation who should have been literate and should have had access to a Bible.

    Today, the Bible is increasingly available in printed form. Additionally, its message can be heard worldwide by radio, the Internet, satellite, etc.

    In any case, we are to remember the principle set forth in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you [the true believers] both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”


CHAPTER 14