Welcome to The Berean Call podcast. I’m T. A. McMahon, TBC’s Executive Director. We’re currently re-airing a discussion I had with Dave Hunt in 2003 featuring his book Countdown to the Second Coming.
In this episode, Dave and I discuss why speculations about the Bible, prophecy, the church, and Israel can be foolish as well as perilous.
First of all, what’s the value of speculation, when God has clearly revealed what will take place in the future?
Inevitably, speculation leads to men imposing their own ideas and beliefs upon what God himself has spoken. In fact, an endeavor such as adding to or subtracting from God’s Word is condemned in the Scriptures themselves (Proverbs:30:5-6; Revelation:22:18-19).
We will be discussing some of the serious consequences caused by such speculations, one being that they critically undermine biblical discernment.
Through hundreds of verses, the Bible makes clear the distinctions between the church and Israel. Not recognizing that difference has led to replacement theology and even antisemitism throughout church history.
A lack of discernment regarding the fact that there are more than two comings of Jesus Christ also creates confusion for Christians.
Most people are aware of His first coming at His birth (and the fact that He rose from the grave). Many also understand that He will return to judge the world during the Great Tribulation in an event referred to as the Second Coming.
What then of the Rapture, when Jesus comes for His church prior to the Great Tribulation?
These and many other issues of doctrinal importance are just ahead as we revisit Dave Hunt’s book Countdown to the Second Coming.
Much has changed from the time that Dave and I first discussed this book, but our emphasis has always been on what God’s Word has declared, which does not change.
Hopefully, the following will edify all those who join us in listening to this series. That was and is our prayer.
Dave, here you raise a question in Chapter 3: What could be the value of speculating about future events? What’s going to happen will happen, so why worry about it prematurely?
Now, you mentioned—I think you may have had that attitude at one point. I don’t know, but many people do.
Dave: No, Tom, as near as I can remember, I’ve never had that attitude. Furthermore, we are not speculating about future events, we go to the Word of God. And there are prophecies that lay out the future—have laid out the future for thousands of years. We have the history of the track record—these prophecies have all come true. And we are now seeing visibly, literally, the fulfilment of some of these in the world around us.
Now, there are people who speculate “who is the Antichrist?” and so forth. But if you go by Scripture, you will not be led into speculation.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And the Bible lays out—I think 25 percent or more of the Bible has to do with prophecy.
Tom: So if you’re not interested in that, you’re not interested in a quarter of the Bible, which is a problem!
Dave: This is really—prophecy is really the foundation of Scripture. Most prophecies, as we often say, have already been fulfilled. Their fulfilment is proof, gives us confidence, that those that are yet to be fulfilled will indeed be fulfilled.
Now, they don’t all pertain to the Second Coming or the Rapture. They pertain to Israel. There are many topics—the crucifixion of Christ, the coming of Christ, how you would identify Him, how you would know who the Messiah was when He came. And these have been fulfilled in the past, many are being fulfilled today.
So we don’t speculate, Tom, although there is some room for, “Well, what does this mean today in today’s world?” These are the signs…the apostles asked, “What will be the sign of your coming, of these things—the destruction of the temple and of the end of the world?” and so forth. And it’s not always that clear, but we certainly try not to speculate.
Tom: Right. Dave, you make a really important point here, and it has to do with the proper interpretation of last day’s prophecies. You have to make a distinction, and the distinctions—you have to be able to differentiate between the church and Israel if you’re going to understand the prophecy…actually, if you’re going to understand the Bible!
Now, there are hundreds of promises that God promised Israel. For example, some of them are…these promises involve judgment. He said, “If you disobey me, I will cast you out of the land.” And land was never given to the church. The church was never cast out of that land, but there is a people who were recipients of that promised land who were cast out of that land. God said they would be hated, persecuted like no other people, but that He would preserve them as an identifiable ethnic group and in the last days bring them back into their land. The church has never been brought back into a land, because the church does not have a land. It’s that simple! So you can’t possibly substitute the church for Israel.
Furthermore, there are promises (Ezekiel 35, 36, 37) that Israel would be finally restored, a full restoration, and that the Messiah will return and rule on the throne of His father David over Israel, and rule over the world during a thousand-year millennium. Now, that is no promise to the church, and you cannot do away with these.
And, Tom, we’ve mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again: I just find it staggering that there are so many evangelicals, good Christians, who really believe the gospel—they’re straight on that. And yet when it comes to the hundreds and hundreds (literally hundreds!) of promises in the Old Testament concerning Israel, they refuse to acknowledge them, and they try to turn it into promises for the church.
For example, Jeremiah 31, God says, “I’m going to bring them from the north. I’m going to bring them in, bring them back to their land, and they’re going to come with weeping and rejoicing.” Never happened to the church.
Beginning at verse 35, God says, “If Israel ceases to be a nation, there’s no sun in the sky, there’s no stars up there. Jerusalem will be rebuilt,” and so forth. “My people will be regathered, and they will be converted.”
Now, when you come to Romans 9, for example, Paul talks about “my brethren according to the flesh.” Well, the church, we come from many nations. We are certainly not his “brethren according to the flesh.” That’s the Jews who are related, who are by the flesh descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
And then if you went to [Romans] 10:1, it starts out like this: Paul says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved, and I bear them record they have a zeal after God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s promises, of God’s righteousness, have gone about to establish their own righteousness.”
Now, if the church is Israel, let’s go back and substitute “church” for Israel. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the church is that they might get saved, for they have a zeal after righteousness, but not according to knowledge. They’re ignorant of God’s righteousness, and they’re going about to establish their own righteousness.” Come on. It doesn’t fit. Israel is a distinct group. They are the earthly people.
Now, Jews who come to Christ before His Second Coming, when He appears physically—rescues them in the midst of Armageddon—those who come to Christ before that time, they’re in the church: “Jew and Gentile, he has made of twain one new man” (Ephesians 2). But Jews and Gentiles who do not come to Christ until the Second Coming or thereafter, they are in the earthly people, and they will continue as part of this earthly kingdom.
So, Tom, you’re right, that’s the first thing we have to do is distinguish between Israel and the church.
Tom: And as I said, Dave, it’s so critical. You talk about those who just have it right on the gospel—they understand the gospel. But there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of verses that the only way that they can come to any reasonable understanding (and I don’t think it’s reasonable or rational), but they have to allegorize or spiritualize these verses to have them make some kind of sense. Whereas anybody coming to these verses, just trying to be reasonable, would take the literal interpretation. But they can’t, because it undermines what we’ve been saying here, that Israel is a separate entity from the church. Promises are made to Israel, and there it is!
Dave: Yeah. Tom, this book is called Countdown to the Second Coming. However, the Second Coming is when Christ returns visibly to this earth in the midst of Armageddon.
Tom: His feet touch down on the Mount of Olives.
Dave: Exactly. But there is an event before then called the Rapture.
Tom: Dave, another distinction here: this is what you’re making—this is where…you better get this straight if you’re going to understand many, many verses in the New Testament as well!
Dave: Israel is not promised a Rapture. They are not going to be taken out of this world to heaven. They are promised an earthly kingdom. The Rapture is strictly for Christians, for the bride, for the church. Whether they are Jew or Gentile, if they have come to faith in Christ as their personal Savior—the Lord Jesus died for them—then they are in the church, okay? And those believers will be raptured to heaven at the beginning of the Great Tribulation before it starts, before Antichrist is revealed.
So there again, if you don’t distinguish between the church and Israel, what do you do with the Rapture? It doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work.
Tom: And they have to write it off, where…
Dave: Well, in fact, they do. That’s the tragedy.
So, Tom, that brings us to the point that you mentioned: we have to then distinguish between the Rapture and the Second Coming. And there are so many distinctions, and we’ve talked about them in the past—we can’t go into them in detail again—but at the Rapture, for example, He comes for the church. At the Second Coming, He comes with the church. He has taken the church to heaven. It says in Zechariah 14 that when His feet—you mentioned His feet touch the Mount of Olives—when His feet touch the Mount of Olives, He brings all the saints from heaven with Him. Well, if He brings all the saints from heaven with Him, He must have taken them up there.
Now, you mentioned His feet touch the Mount of Olives—that’s the Second Coming. At the Rapture, He does not touch this earth. We are caught up: “The dead in Christ will rise first, then the living who have faith in Christ will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.”
Furthermore, at the Rapture, there’s a resurrection! All the dead in Christ, those who died with faith in Christ, they will be raised from their graves. The living will be transformed, new bodies, and so forth. You don’t find new bodies at the Second Coming. You don’t find a resurrection at the Second Coming.
So there are many, many distinctions that we don’t have time to go into. But you cannot read the Bible and deny these distinctions.
And you see, because some people stumble over the fact that the New Testament never says, “Well, there are two events, the Rapture and the Second Coming.” But the same thing you could say about the Old Testament: how would you know, how would a Jew know, that there were two comings of the Messiah? It never says that in the Old Testament. But there had to be, because you couldn’t put in one event in one time frame what the Old Testament said about the coming of Christ! “Oh, He’s going to establish a kingdom, an eternal kingdom without end!” No, it says He’s going to be killed! He’ll be rejected and killed. You couldn’t put those two together in one event. How can you establish an eternal kingdom and get yourself killed at the same time? So they knew He had to come as the Lamb first, to die for our sins, and then He comes as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
So we have to make that distinction, or we are very, very confused.
Tom: Dave, there’s another distinction here—again, this has to do with understanding the Scriptures.
Tom: Again, in most cases, we take things literally because that’s the context, and we don’t want to change it from that or we’re going to lose the conclusions that we need to have based on what we’re reading.
So the post-Trib Rapture, you give that as an example—Matthew:24:29-30, it says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Now, if I believe that this has to do with the church, then it must be a post-Trib Rapture.
Dave: Except it’s not a Rapture, Tom, because it says, “He will gather His elect from the four winds.” Now, that’s an earthly symbolism. So people from all parts of the earth are going to be gathered together into one place.
Who are these people? Well, we read that in Ezekiel:39:28—well, let’s read from verse 27: “When I have brought them [that is, the Jews] again from the people, gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations….”
So the nations have seen a people who have been scattered, they have been scattered to every nation on the face of the earth. That’s not the church. The church hasn’t been scattered, the church has been called out of the nations. People of every tribe and tongue and nation are called to Christ by faith to become believers in Him. They’re not scattered from some land out into the nations, okay?
But then verse 28: “Then shall they [that is, these who have been scattered everywhere, who have been brought back] know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen….” When was the church caused to be led into captivity among the heathen? Never!
“But I have gathered them unto their own land….” Gathered them unto their own land? The church has a land? Where is that land? Is that New York? Certainly isn’t Israel. You couldn’t fit the whole church into Israel. In fact, these people deny that Israel even belongs over there anymore. They say it has no significance.
But notice what it says: “I have gathered them unto their own land and have left none of them any more there.”
So the day is coming, it says, when God will miraculously, supernaturally, gather all Jews from the four winds back to their land. No Jew will be left anywhere on this earth. What is that going to be, some giant airlift? No, it’s going to happen instantly, miraculously. He’s going to send His angels, and they will gather His elect from the four winds back to Israel. Now, that doesn’t pertain to the church. The church is going to be caught up to be with Christ in heaven.
In John 14, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I’m going to go away to prepare a place for you, and if I go away to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself….” Well, where is “unto myself”? We’ve been studying it in another segment of this program, Tom: “I came from the Father,” Jesus said, “and I am returning to the Father.”
So when He gathers us to Himself, He’s gathering us to His Father’s house of many mansions, that’s quite clear. Never is that promised to Israel. They have a land on this earth. They will be gathered back to that land.
So, Matthew:24:29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon won’t give its light,” and so forth. Then He’ll send his angels, with the sound of a great trumpet they’ll gather His elect from the four winds. That has nothing to do with the Rapture, that’s a subsequent event, and that involves the Jews who have been scattered everywhere.
And at the Second Coming, Revelation:1:7, “Every eye will see him.” Now, some people try to say, “Well, that’s going to be on TBN. That’s going to be on television.” I don’t think so. This is an event miraculously…I mean, such power and such glory, everyone on the face of this earth will simultaneously see Jesus in the air with His angels, coming in judgment to destroy the Antichrist. Every eye will see Him, and they also which pierced Him, especially the Jews, who said, “Away with this man! Crucify Him!”
Zechariah:12:10: “They will look on me….” This is Yahweh! This is Jehovah! This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It says, “They will look on me whom they have pierced.” When was God pierced? Well, again, the Bible is so amazing, it’s so thoroughly integrated. You couldn’t have written it, and you certainly couldn’t have revised it.
Isaiah:9:6: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. The government will be upon his shoulders, and his name [this is the Babe born in Bethlehem] shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.”
So when Yahweh in Zechariah:12:10 says, “They will look on me whom they have pierced,” oh yes, the Father was born in Bethlehem as a Babe! Yes, Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” It’s a little bit confusing. You have to understand it through the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So back to Zechariah:12:10, Yahweh says, “They will look on me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn because of him.” “He and I” are one. “Him and me.” “We” are one. It’s the great mystery, but it is beyond our comprehension. But this is the God that we worship.
Tom: And, Dave, what you’ve been saying brings it out all the more, that if I have a premise, and the premise is that there’s no longer an Israel…
Tom: …that there’s only the church, I’m left trying to understand the Bible, this Bible, based on that premise. Talk about futility! I mean, it’s worse than that. It’s just going to lead you down a path of not just confusion, but wrong teaching.
Tom: And that’s a concern that we have. “Search the scriptures daily.” We’re finding more and more that people who pick up views like this, it’s not based on their reading of the Scripture, it’s based on somebody else who’s got a point and promotes this idea and that idea, and they just climb aboard.
Tom: Well, somebody could say the same thing about us, Dave. But we keep encouraging people not to follow what we say just because we’re saying it! If it’s not in the Scriptures, you know, bag it, get rid of it!
Dave: Exactly. That is not only logical, that is biblical. And we take that from Acts:17:11, and that’s where we get the name of our ministry, The Berean Call. But you came up with that, Tom—when was it, in 1990? No, 1992…
Dave: And we get that from Acts:17:11: “The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonicans in that they received the Word of God with all readiness of mind, and they searched the scriptures daily to see whether these things [that is, what Paul was teaching them] were true.”
Tom: Dave, these were Jews in a synagogue. This wasn’t Paul coming to the church and just trying to encourage them.
Dave: They were not even Christians.
Dave: And yet they had the Old Testament Scriptures. They searched the Scriptures, and they are commended for not just taking what Paul the great apostle said: “Okay, that must be true.” But for checking him out from the Bible. And Paul himself referred repeatedly to the Scriptures. He said, in fact, “The gospel [what is the gospel?], how that Christ died for our sins,” Paul says, “according to the scriptures, that he was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” These are the Old Testament Scriptures.
And Peter, in his sermon to Cornelius and his household, Acts 10, I think it’s…I don’t remember, verse 45 or 48, I don’t remember. Somewhere around there, he says, referring to Jesus, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through this Man they will receive forgiveness of sins through faith in his blood.”
So the apostles backed up what they taught from the Scriptures, and those who listened to them were thereby encouraged! “Well, you guys say this is in the prophets. You say the prophets gave testimony to this. Well, we’re going to check the prophets. We’re going to check you out against the prophets.”
Tom, we want to know what God has said, not what some theological scholar, some Doctor of Divinity has said. What does God himself say? What does His Word say? And if you don’t go to the source from God himself, you will be led astray. Furthermore, why should you believe it? Let’s see what God has said.
So that’s why we encourage people: get back to the Word of God.
Tom: And what an incredible encouragement! When we look back…earlier I mentioned 25 percent of the Bible is prophecy. When we see prophecy already fulfilled in great detail, as you said earlier, Dave, in the beginning of the program, that encourages us to look to other prophecies to see where history is heading, you know what God is doing. And we’re greatly encouraged by that!
Dave: And one of those major fulfilments is the rebirth of Israel! This nation will be reborn. These people scattered all over the world will be brought back into their land. They will become a nation once again. Never happened to the church, but it happened to the Jews. Israel was reborn, and you have millions of Jews now at this point, about six million who have been gathered from the four corners of this earth exactly as God said they would. This is a tremendous encouragement, as you say, to us to believe the Bible! This proves the Bible is true, this is God’s Word, but it also proves the Jews are his special people, and they are not—this is not the church, this is something else.
And, Tom, we don’t have any axes to grind, we just get back to “what does God say?”
Tom: We’re just trying to be encouraged by Jesus. He said, “When you see these signs coming about, look up, for your redemption draws nigh.” Wow!