The End of the Church Age...and After
Why Obedience is Important
It is a very serious matter to leave an apparently faithful congregation. So, in spite of all that we have learned thus far 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 16 through 19 we read:
This passage plainly declares that God's judgment was 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 to 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.
Significantly, God declares in Luke 21:20-22:
Please notice that God is not saying when we experience Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, but rather, when we see Jerusalem surrounded by armies. Jerusalem and Judea represent all 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, and 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 has ended the era when He used the churches and congregations 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, effectively, 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 very clear. We
must remove ourselves from the church.
The "housetop" is identified with bringing the Gospel. In Luke 12, verse 3, we read:
The "house" identifies with the church. But as judgment comes on the local churches, the true believers are to stay outside the church and bring the Gospel to the world.
God speaks of this sad situation in the language of Isaiah 3, verses 6-8, where we read:
Because the church era has come to an end, the churches have become dead, just 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 a divine institution or organism, and it is no longer used by God 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.
In Luke 21, verses 5 and 6, the Bible says:
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 but 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 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 still a tiny part of the temple that they believe still exists.
But Christ said that "there shall not be left one stone upon another." Therefore, that congregation is saying, effectively, that they are more holy than God. That congregation should realize that today, no church can be a part of the temple.
We Must Be Obedient to God's Rules
One might 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 that 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 works to save.
Remember we read in Amos Chapter 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 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. No child or adult who is not saved can be saved if God will not open their spiritual ears. In that church there is a famine of hearing the Word of God. Likewise, the missionary who is sent out by that church will see no true fruit of his labors. No matter how faithful his preaching may be, there is 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 Chapter 28. In this chapter, Paul is a picture of all those who have been cast out of the churches and congregations. In Chapter 28, 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 have full knowledge of Paul. Yet in Acts Chapter 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. No preacher had better knowledge of the whole counsel of God than Paul, the scribe God used to give us many of the New Testaments books. Yet with all of this 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 heard as the Word of God that should be implicitly obeyed. Rather, they tested what they heard by their own human reasoning. They made their own minds the final authority. In other words, God had not opened their spiritual ears.
That this is so is indicated by Acts 28, verses 25-27, which declare:
This principle, that during the Great Tribulation God gives 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:
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 them that this would happen if they did not go into Babylon as captives. Then those who were still living there came to Jeremiah and asked him to find out from God what they should do. The context shows that 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). Their answer 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. So, they accused Jeremiah of lying (Jeremiah 43:2-3), and they 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.
Let us consider Acts 28 again in more detail. Acts 28 has a lot to teach us in connection with the problem of a famine of 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. God is still saving, but He is 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 number of 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, verse 22:
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." And Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared in verses 25 and 26:
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:
In order 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 to be faithful to the Word of God? Doesn't a command to leave the church place us in a position where no one has the 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 so that we can know 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?
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. If we make them subject to our minds, God will shut our minds from truth. We can have the reputation of being a fine 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 entered 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 try to understand, but we must never 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 to the 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 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 found in several New Testament verses, proves that the corporate external church must continue to the end of the world. For example, concerning the Lord's Supper we read, "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 end of time. However, we must examine this issue more carefully.
To understand this concept, we must look at the Old Testament where God records parallel situations. For example, in Leviticus 6, verses 12 and 13, God commanded:
This is similar to many other commands of the Old Testament wherein God had expected that the daily sacrifices and daily lamp stands were never to cease. That is, they were to continue until Christ would come as the fulfillment of all those ceremonial laws.
However, there was a time when Israel was not able to obey those commands. There came a time when they ceased to observe every one of them. But the violation did not occur because they wanted to stop obeying them. They ceased obeying those commands because God Himself interrupted the temple service by totally destroying Jerusalem and the temple in 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.
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.
When 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 a fellowship of 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 Abednego 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 were 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 was a ceremonial law pointing to our need to have our sins washed away. The Passover, the burnt offerings, and the blood sacrifices were all Old
Testament ceremonial commands pointing to Jesus, 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." This word "sacrament" implies that some spiritual work was performed in the life of the one participating in the physical act. Thus, it actually makes their gospel a works-grace gospel, and that is altogether contrary to the true Gospel. The word "sacrament" is not 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 that 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.
Likewise, when Israel became a nation, God promised them 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 the promise to give the land of Canaan to Israel by bringing the Babylonian armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. In this situation, again, it was a result of Judah's refusal to remove the high places.
Likewise, in the New Testament era, God instructed the corporate external churches and congregations to evangelize the world until Christ would come again. There are many references in the New Testament that indicate that the churches and congregations were to exist and be used of Christ until He returns on the last day. However, in the era of this New Testament Israel, the churches and congregations have been interrupted by God Himself. He has loosed Satan and sent him to destroy the churches because they have not removed their high places, that is, they have not corrected their doctrines that
do not agree with the Bible. Thus, the situation in the churches today is precisely parallel to that of 587 B.C. when God interrupted the temple worship because Judah had not removed the high places.
The principle that God interrupts His promises is clearly set forth in the language of Jeremiah 18:6-10, where He says:
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 everyone is to leave. No one is 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 wanted to remain, but they were either killed there, or in rebellion, they decided to go into Egypt where they were killed.
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 has been taken out of the midst of the churches so that there is no longer any possibility of anyone becoming saved within the churches. He emphasizes 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
God Himself encouraged Jacob by
telling him in Genesis 46:3:
Likewise, the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem were commanded to go into Babylon. In Jeremiah 21:9 we read:
This is reiterated in Jeremiah 24:5:
Furthermore, God declared in Jeremiah 29:16-18:
Again in Jeremiah 38:2 we read:
In similar fashion, God has given this commandment to those who are in the churches and congregations of our day, as He declares in Matthew Chapter 24, verses 15 and 16:
Luke 21, verses 20 and 21, give the same warning:
In Revelation Chapters 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:
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 that we can learn from these Old Testament examples of great tribulation 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 about the command. Just think, for 215 years, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had lived in the land of Canaan, which was given to them to be 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 very 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. Surely, Joseph, my son, since you are in such high authority in Egypt, you could send a few wagon loads of grain to our family. You sent food to us for the first two years of the famine and we survived. Joseph, my son, this is a reasonable and logical solution that will allow us to remain in this blessed land that the Lord has given us."
But what do we read in the Bible. No arguments. No debating the command. Just obedience.
We know that in the tribulation of 587 B.C., there were those who argued with God. They had been given permission by the Babylonian commander to stay there. There were vineyards and trees 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, where we read:
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 those poor individuals who remained in Jerusalem even though God had repeatedly told them they must not remain there.
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:
In Jeremiah 41, verses 2 and 3, we read:
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 remained in Jerusalem some of the poor who were now under the leadership of a man named Johanan the son of Kareah.
Those who remained went 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:
In accordance with their request, Jeremiah agreed to once more ask God about His command that all the Jews were to leave Jerusalem. Verse 4 of Jeremiah 42 records:
After ten days, Jeremiah brought God's answer. Jeremiah 42:10-12:
As we casually read these verses, it appears that God is giving them permission to remain in Jerusalem. If this were a true understanding of these verses, why is it that the experience of the poor who remained there, who had not been murdered by Ishmael the son of Nethaniah (Jeremiah 41:2-10), all came to disaster. After Jeremiah's report, they answered him in Jeremiah 43, verses 1 and 2:
Following this, they took action. God had expressly commanded them not to go into Egypt. But we read in Jeremiah 43:5-7:
Throughout the remainder of Jeremiah 43 and Jeremiah 44, God warns them that they will be utterly destroyed in Egypt. Jeremiah 44:12:
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. 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 experience of Balaam who was employed by the king of Moab to curse Israel. God told him in Numbers 22:12:
But Balak the king of Moab insisted that Balaam again ask God whether he could go with Balak to curse Israel. We read in Numbers 22:19-20:
Surely God had now given Balaam the green light to go with Balak. But then we read in Numbers 22:21-22:
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, and that now, He is agreeing with us and will grant us our desires. However, the fact is that we are still under the fierce anger of God, and we are just arguing with God to try to somehow 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 and to allow them to stay. Even as God gave Balaam his wish, so, too, apparently, God 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 There
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 by saying 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 altogether under the blessing of God.
Please note 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:
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 her plagues. We should listen to these historical truths reported in Jeremiah 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
God speaks very succinctly about this time of Great Tribulation in Matthew 24:21, where we read:
We have understood this quite well. However, in the next verse the Bible adds words that are not immediately easy to understand. Verse 22:
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 or groups that are shocked by the Great Tribulation. They are as follows.
Galatians 4:26 speaks of the true believers as the Jerusalem above. 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 are driven out and/or are commanded to come out of the local
church where they had faithfully served the Lord. They know 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 churches. They are the Jerusalem which now is, as we read 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 recognize the fact 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 that 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 time God had used the churches to evangelize the world, the possibility of salvation existed in the churches. It existed because effectively, each local church was 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 of their salvation by means of the churches sending the Gospel into the world. This is 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. In Revelation 8:1, God speaks of this time as about a half hour of silence from heaven. This half hour must be understood to be the first part of the Great Tribulation during which time God was 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 was the three and a half days of 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. The local churches 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 that God will send them.
On the other hand, for group number one, 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 people. During the last part of the Great 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 an environment that is 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 elect's sake those days shall be shortened." The time of the Great Tribulation is not shortened insofar as the local churches and congregations and the unsaved members within them are concerned, but those days are shortened insofar as the true believers who have come out of the churches are concerned.
Also, those days are shortened especially 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 of the true Gospel outside of the local churches. 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 Great Tribulation
Another principle that we have learned from reviewing these tribulation periods of the Old Testament is that 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 the year 1879 B.C. Thus, the year 1879 B.C. marked the beginning of that great tribulation. However, it was in the year 1877 B.C. that the tribulation reached a climax, that is, when Jacob was commanded to leave the promised land, Canaan, and to go to 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 the year 609 B.C. that Josiah, 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. That year became the official year of the end of Israel's occupation of the land of Canaan.
Likewise, the Great Tribulation of our day began some years earlier. As we have learned, the year 1988 marks the official year in which the church
age ended and the Great Tribulation began. It coincides with the beginning of the 2300 evening mornings of Daniel 8
The Great Tribulation period is divided into two parts just as the 70-year tribulation of Jeremiah was divided into two parts. As we have seen, the first part of the 70 years was from the death of King Josiah, in 609 B.C., to 587 B.C., when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. The second part was the 48 years from 587 B.C. to 539 B.C., when Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. It can be shown that the conquer of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians is a picture of Judgment Day at the end of the world.
We have also seen that the great tribulation of Jacob's day was divided into two parts. The first part was two years in duration and the second part 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 Day of Judgment and the end of time? 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 that occurred when Judah was under judgment is so closely identified with the Great Tribulation of today that God uses it as a representation of the tribulation period of 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 when the abomination of desolation would be in the holy place. The evidence of that event is the fact that false prophets 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 that the local 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. We also learned that Satan cannot literally call down fire from heaven, but he can perform the supernatural "sign" of calling down fire from heaven, and that sign is to cause people to fall backward to the ground.
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 churches falling into spiritual decay all over the world, at the 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 with 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, "Whom do I worship? 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 by carefully examining the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., we have learned many valuable lessons concerning the character of the end-time Great Tribulation, which we are presently experiencing, and its impact upon our lives.
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, King Josiah, was killed in a battle with Egypt. That occurred in the year 609 B.C. God's judgment came on Judah because they persisted in worshipping false gods at their high places. For the next 23 years, inclusive, they were in subjugation, first to Egypt and then to Babylon. Finally, in the year 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:
This captivity came to an end in 539 B.C., 70 years after 609 B.C., when the horror story began. In the year 539 B.C., Babylon was destroyed by the Medes and the Persians. This 70-year period is a picture or representation of the Great Tribulation of our day. The 48 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 a great multitude that no man can number will be saved as the Gospel goes into all the world after the church age has ended.
Is the External Church the Judah or Jerusalem of Bible Prophecy?
Earlier in this study, we learned that Jerusalem and Judah refer to the churches throughout the church age. Because of the importance of this question, let us look at it once more.
To whom or what do Jerusalem and Judah refer as people are told to flee from them in Matthew, Mark, and Luke? We read in Luke 21, verses 20 and 21, that God declares:
Who is in view as God 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 Judah that 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 that 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, both of which had saved people and unsaved people within them. For this reason God speaks of those who are saved as being Jews. In Romans 2:28-29, we read:
This is further declared in Galatians 3:29:
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 Jerusalem. Galatians 4:26:
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 finally will come as the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, to occupy the new heavens and the 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 that 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 existed here on this earth.
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 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 is a literal, physical Jerusalem. There is serious political tension between the residents of this Jerusalem and the Palestinians. Is this the city from which the believers are to flee? Is this the city that is trodden down of the nations?
There is no Biblical evidence that this literal, physical 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 that are associated with the Great Tribulation.
The only Jerusalem that could possibly be in view is the spiritual Jerusalem that 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 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 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 learned 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 be saved within the churches, regardless of how faithful a congregation may try to be to the Bible.
The Two Jerusalems of Zechariah 14
Once we understand the principle of the two Jerusalems, we can begin to understand the perplexing language of Zechariah 14:2:
How can the city be taken (that is, destroyed), 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, the Jerusalem that is above is the eternal Jerusalem whose citizens are all 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:
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 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, verse 1, the seven women 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 do not want Him to be their spiritual bread, and they do not want to be clothed with His robe of righteousness. Then 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 and teachings of their confessions or their denomination even though careful study reveals that many of their teachings are contrary to the Bible.
However, verse 2 of Isaiah Chapter 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 churches and congregations continue to bring the true Gospel outside of the churches.
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. The Israel from which they have escaped is 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.
Those who have escaped, that is, have come out of the churches and congregations, have not left Zion; they 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 that they are not to be a part of a local congregation. How can they obey the command of Hebrews 10:25, which states:
The phrase "as ye see the day approaching" clearly shows that this command is for believers all the way to Judgment Day. 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," until the day of the Rapture.. Thus, it is a word that identifies with only true believers. As the end of the world approaches, few true believers are found in 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 are 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 when we are not to seek 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). Each Sunday is given to us 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 when 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 those we read about in the Bible. They are the great cloud of witnesses we read about in Hebrews 12:1, which says:
In a real sense, a single individual can fellowship with God Himself as well as with any and all of the cloud of witnesses the Bible brings to our attention. Of course, if 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 outside of the churches.
We also have ample time to pray to our Lord on Sunday. 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 some time on Sunday to share the Gospel with others. In most countries of the world, a believer can pass out Gospel tracts at the local market or at other places where many people are present. Family Radio can supply these tracts free of charge. They are available in many languages.
Then, too, Sunday is a day when the aged, the feeble, and 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 that God has given us during which we can focus altogether on 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 he will 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 a family) is a member of a church, he can withdraw
his membership, and on Sundays, he can fellowship with whomever there may be who are of like mind. The withdrawal of membership may initiate a move by the church to excommunicate him. 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 members 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.
If a congregation decides to be obedient to this command, they can reorganize their congregation, that is, they change from being a 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. The members of this congregation who disagree with the 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, or attended, and as we look at other churches in our day, we 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 face if he contends too strongly for greater Biblical purity in doctrine. Indeed, any spiritually-minded true believer must admit that something drastic has happened and is happening in even the most conservative 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 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. Also in Revelation Chapter 13, these churches are called a false prophet that comes out of the earth. These churches have become altogether apostate. In fact, verse 7 ominously warns:
Likewise, we have learned that in II Thessalonians 2:1-10, where God speaks of the man of sin, who is Satan, taking his seat in the temple, it means that Satan rules in the churches, which have become apostate.
In Daniel 8:10-14, God speaks of a time when the sanctuary and the host will be trodden under foot 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 will arise with signs and wonders 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 loved our church because it was such a comfort to us in the past, and to some degree, even in the present, are not a bit happy to contemplate these dire predictions. They may 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 churches and 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 currently, 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 24-hour period. This tremendous increase in population has resulted in a world today of about seven billion people. Must these seven billion hear the Gospel call? Did not Jesus declare in Matthew 24:14:
True, for more than 1950 years, God used the churches and congregations as a means to accomplish this goal. In spite of the spiritual weaknesses and shortcomings of the church, it was the divine organism employed by God to represent and extend the kingdom of God on this earth. Indeed, there are many glorious chapters in the history of 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 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. The fact is, if 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 that the situation seems 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 1,000 or 10,000 years ago? We know that cannot be. Rather, it is obvious that God prevented these discoveries from being made until it was His 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 built into the creation of the world.
Thus, we wonder, does a correlation exist between all of these major subjects that we have been discussing? Let us review.
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.
Go to the Ant
One could ask the question: How will that work if during the latter rain there is no spiritual oversight of those who claim to be saved?
God gives us a very interesting and significant answer to this question in Proverbs 6, verses 6-8, where God commands:
Since God rules over the lowly ant, which has neither guide, overseer, nor ruler, surely He can rule over His children, who at the moment of salvation were given a new resurrected soul, in which they never want to sin again, and who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
During the church age, God utilized fellow humans (pastors, elders, and deacons), to have the spiritual oversight, but 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, the spiritual rulers in the congregation, who should have been literate and should have had access to a Bible, served a very practical purpose.
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 Chapter 2, verse 13: