Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. The topic for this first segment of our program is Dave Hunt’s book, When Will Jesus Come? Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ, and the source for that compelling evidence is the Bible, which claims to be God’s specific revelation to mankind.
Tom: And if that’s the case, which we believe it is, then, if indeed God has spoken, that would mean that what He had to say must be held to a standard of perfection, right, Dave?
Tom: Which is only fair, because God can do no less than be perfect in all He does.
Dave: You said, “God can do no less,” only He doesn’t have any choice, does He? He cannot make a mistake, He cannot be wrong, so His Word must be 100 percent perfect.
Tom: Right. So, Dave, that would rule out inconsistencies, contradictions in God’s Word. Yet chapters 7 and 8 of your book deal with what seems to be an inconsistency at best, and a contradiction at worst, and it had to do with Jesus telling His disciples that He’s going to prepare a place for them, and He’ll return to take them to that place.
Dave: Somewhere off of this earth.
Tom: Right, this is John 14.
Dave: Right, His Father’s house.
Tom: Right, but that didn’t exactly square with Him returning to Jerusalem to set up His millennial kingdom, which the angels, when He ascended to heaven, implied this is what He would do. He would return to the Mount of Olives.
Dave: And the angel Gabriel told Mary when he said, “You’re going to give birth to the Messiah. He is going to rule on the throne of His father David.” Well, David’s throne is not in heaven, it’s in Jerusalem.
Tom: Right, so apparent inconsistencies, and perhaps even a contradiction. How do we reconcile them?
Dave: You know, Tom, I love it, because there are many apparent contradictions in the Bible—we don’t have time. Some day we could do some programs about that, how the critics have thought, Ah, we’ve got you this time! This is a mistake! But it’s only there so that we will dig deeper and find out, well, you know, the Bible is right after all!
Tom: Well, Dave, for some of our listeners—maybe some remember because we’ve actually done 350 programs—and during one of those stretches, we went through your book In Defense of the Faith in which we dealt with a lot of these apparent contradictions.
But what about the blessed hope? I think we have to start with that. Can you just give us a view from the Scriptures, what the “blessed hope” is, and what happened to it?
Dave: Well, Jesus said to His disciples—you refer to John 14—this was at the Last Supper, and He said, “I am going away to prepare a place for you.” He said, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you. I’m going away to prepare a place for you, and if I go away I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
So, as you point out, it sounds like a contradiction. But what do you mean, “away”? He’s in Jerusalem right then. His Father’s house seems like it must be up in heaven, and yet how is He going to rule on the throne of His father David?
Furthermore, they would really be disillusioned when He was crucified, because how are you going to rule on the throne of David when they kill You? So the disciples were shaken, I would say; troubled and puzzled, not understanding this. But He has told them many times that He’s going to Jerusalem, He will be crucified. He said, “If you are really going to be my followers, pick up your cross right now, because that’s where we are going.” And they still didn’t get it.
So, there are those today, Christians today—I believe some of them are real Christians—who still don’t quite get it. We call them, “Kingdom Now,” “Kingdom Dominion.” They think that the purpose of the church is to take over this world, and then when we have taken it over, then Christ will come and rule the kingdom we’ve established for Him. That obviously doesn’t square with Paul saying, “Those of us who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, the dead will rise first, and we will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. So shall we ever be with the Lord.”
That kind of sounds like what Jesus said: “I’m going away. I’m going to come again and take you there.” And yet people, when you talk about the Rapture, they say, “Oh, well, where does the Bible ever say that?” There are people who say—as we’ve discussed it recently—they think we are in the Millennium now, and we’re in the process of taking over this world. So it was a puzzle to the disciples.
Actually, it brings great joy to us, because we know from the Bible that something really bad is going to happen on this earth, and Antichrist, in fact, is going to set up his kingdom first. He is going to rule and reign, and God is going to pour out His wrath upon this earth.
Tom: Now, Dave, you said, “first.” Something is going to happen first. You don’t mean prior to the Rapture?
Dave: No. Thank you. Prior to Christ setting up His kingdom, another kingdom will be established, and the Second Coming of Christ is distinct from the Rapture. The Second Coming is, specifically, to destroy Antichrist. At the Rapture, He takes His own out of here.
Tom, it really has caused a lot of controversy in the church. “What do you mean? Is this a pre-tribulation Rapture? What is it, some kind of an escape? You guys want to get out of here. You’re not willing to face your responsibility to try to deal with the social, political, moral, economic problems of this world; you just want to escape!”
Well, we don’t want to escape, but while we’re here we want to tell the gospel to people so that they will leave this earth also. Christ never told his disciples, “Go into all the world and try to straighten it out. See if you can’t get some good social programs going, and solve crime and disease and poverty, and so forth, and make this a better place for your grandchildren to live in.” He said, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel.”
So, Tom, if we got a blessed hope coming up, what could that be? That we’re going to take over this world?
Tom: Dave, I want to just back you up just a little bit, because you say something stunning that I guess I’ve never thought about, and maybe many of our listeners haven’t. You say Jesus said He was going to return, and they expected Him to return right away. You know, when He ascended into heaven they figured, “Well, okay, there’s a few things to do here, and we’ll get that taken care of, and we’re going to preach the gospel,” and so on and so forth. But then you write, “As the weary weeks became years, however, and the years multiplied into decades and finally centuries passed, the vast majority of those who claimed to be Christ’s followers gave less and less thought to that blessed hope. Finally, it was lost in the maze of new interpretations and heresies that began to multiply.”
So I’d like you to address that. I never thought about that, but it’s true. It’s the basis of history.
Dave: It does seem like a long time. You know that the Catholic Church, the popes…. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Very clear. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight.” We don’t fight, but the Catholic Church fought, as you know, Tom. The popes have armies and navies, and there were centuries where they controlled all of Europe. They set up emperors, they set up kings, and they abandoned Christ’s hope that He had given them (“My kingdom is not of this world”), and they began to build a world kingdom.
Tom: Well, it started with Constantine. That’s the thing that you point out here, which is really amazing, because the church was persecuted. The church was—I mean, they were having to deal with issues, and this man comes along, and you figure this is going to be a good thing because there will be peace, and so on and so forth. Isn’t this where Christ’s imminent return for His church started to go south, as it were?
Dave: I think it was Tertullian, wasn’t it, who said, “The blood of the martyrs are the seed of the church”?
Dave: And Satan was trying to destroy the church, I’m sure. It didn’t work, because the more martyrs, you know, the more he killed, there were even more in their place.
Tom: And people who convert to something that they know they are going to be persecuted for, that’s real faith; that’s a true believer.
Dave: Absolutely! Tom, you make a very good point.
So Satan decided, “Well, this is a losing battle. Why don’t I just create a false church? I’ll make the church popular.” And so that’s what Constantine did.
Now, Constantine—I don’t think we go into it in this book…
Tom: Yeah, you do.
Dave: Do we? He had what I would call an “occult conversion.” He saw a cross in the sky; it turned out to be the Mithraic Cross. Most of his soldiers were worshippers of -Mithras, and he heard a voice saying, “In this sign thou shalt conquer.” So he put this cross on the shields of his soldiers, and they conquered. And now, he was still a pagan. His coins continued to honor the sun god, not the Son of God. He continued to preside over the pagan priesthood, the pontifical college, which it was called that in those days; it still is today in Rome. He continued to have the pagan priests bless the crops, and so forth. He was not baptized until just before he died.
Tom: Under the erroneous belief that baptism saves.
Dave: Right, right, he wanted to be sure he was saved. Up until then he didn’t want to be that sure about this. Whatever reasons there were, it’s a fact he did not have his baptism. That was just a wet hand on the forehead, a little sprinkling, until he died. “But these Christians, they are very industrious. They don’t start revolutions, they don’t get drunk; they are a wonderful influence in society. Why don’t we, instead of persecuting them, let’s give them freedom?”
So, this was really the beginning of the state church, and if you read Will Durant, or other historians, they say, “This is where the church married the world.” Do I have a quotation?
Tom: Yeah, you have a quote. Let me read this. This is from, as you said, The Story of Civilization: The Paganism of Rome: “…passed like maternal blood into the new religion, and captive Rome captured her conqueror. While Christianity converted the world, the world converted Christianity.”
Dave: That’s Will Durant. Very well said. So the pagan festival Saturnalia that they had on the 25th of December, he simply renamed it—he called it “Christmas.” He changed the names of Isis and Horace to Mary and Jesus (these were the old gods), and instead of Remus and Romulus guarding Rome, it was Peter and Paul. And he just turned things around and the church fit right in with it.
And, as you know, today the Catholic Church…I’ve seen it in Mexico, for example, in the cathedral, Indians have their leaves on the floor, you know. They are doing all their fortune telling, etc. The Catholic Church embraced whatever religion it was, and they just kind of Christianized it, which you can’t do.
So it was Constantine—he was the first one who took the title “Vicar of Christ,” and in Latin that’s Vicarius Christi, and Vicarius is the Latin equivalent of the Greek prefix anti. So he was the first Antichrist, and now, of course, all the popes have the title Vicarius Christi.
Tom: But not to mean against Christ—in place of. He was a substitute.
Dave: Right. So they are Christ on this earth. So that was where it began, and it was a very clever ploy for Satan, and it still works today. So he’s doing it again and again, Tom, even with evangelicals, who, supposedly, are not… I think of Protestants who have a heritage of having protested against the Catholic Church—at least their ancestors did—and now they are embracing Catholicism. You could address that, the emerging church…
Tom: It’s unbelievable.
Dave: You’ve got icons and all of these things, and they are even taking on Mary, and signing documents. The Lutheran signed a document, Joint Declaration on Justification of Faith with the Catholic Church, saying, “Oh, it was all a semantic misunderstanding.”
Tom: Dave, it’s really easy to see how this would replace the Rapture, certainly of the blessed hope, because, “Wow, if Christians are no longer being persecuted, and it looks like…wow! Maybe we’ll be in charge!” Certainly this was the religion of the realm, although paganism, you know, fit in, in many cases. But with these kinds of things going on, why should I get excited about the Lord’s return? Because we’re doing it right now.
Dave: Right. And, Tom, I would not accuse every pastor who’s involved in church growth, even seeker-friendly ones who are—wow—they are being so successful. Joel Osteen, for example, he has—what—30,000? I’m not saying that he doesn’t believe in the Rapture; I’m not saying that Rick Warren, or Bill Hybels, or these people don’t believe in the Rapture. What I’m saying is I don’t think you’re going to hear it very often, because they are so involved, and their people are so involved, and they have their people involved, and that’s good! They’ve got them out doing all kinds of good things. But it pretty much has to do with this world, whereas Paul…
And, Tom, when we get to that part, and I don’t have the book in front of me, and so I don’t know—maybe I’m running ahead of you—but one of the contradictions that we find is that the church was taught to expect Christ at any moment, and yet He hasn’t come for 2,000 years. How can that be? Well, what does that mean, that I am to expect Him at any moment? Let me give you some scriptures. You mentioned Titus:2:13—it says, “Looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” Well, if I’m supposed to be looking for it, that must mean it could happen at any moment.
For example, Philippians:3:20, Paul says, “Our conversation, our manner of life, our expectation, our hope, is in heaven from whence also we look for our Savior the Lord Jesus, who will change our vile bodies…be fashioned like unto His body.”
Or if you went to 1 Thessalonians:1:9-10, Paul says, “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and the true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.”
If you went to Hebrews:9:27-28, it says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
So there are other scriptures. It seems like the early church was taught to watch, wait, look, expect. Now, that would only mean, Tom—there’s no way to get around it—that Christ could have come at any point in history. Now there are signs. The disciples asked Jesus in Matthew 24, “What will be the sign of your coming?” The end of the age, and so forth. He gave them lots of signs; wars, rumor of wars, earthquakes, pestilence, famine, and so forth, weapons…they could wipe out all flesh on planet earth. That’s an amazing prophecy, Matthew:24:22-23. But if those things had to happen before the Rapture, then we couldn’t be waiting, watching, and expecting.
If you went to Matthew 24, Christ says, “When you see all of these signs come to pass, then you know I am right at the door.”
But then if you went to verse 44, He says, “At such an hour as you think not, the Son of man cometh.” Now we have a real contradiction, Tom. How can He come when any idiot would know He was coming because all the signs have been fulfilled? And in Revelation 20, even Antichrist goes out to meet Him, to do battle with Him. And yet come at a time when you wouldn’t really think He was coming—at such an hour as you think not.
So that drives us to the conclusion that there must be two comings, two aspects. One: A time of peace as it was in the days of Noah, and so forth. They are buying and selling. No, it’s a time of war. In the midst of Armageddon, He comes to rescue Israel. Yes, because at the Rapture He comes to take the saints, the church, His people, out. At the Second Coming He comes with them. Zechariah 14, Verse 6, 7, around there it says: When His feet touch the Mount of Olives (you referred to that earlier), the angel said, “He’s going to come in like manner as you see Him go.” When His feet touch the Mount of Olives, He brings all the saints from heaven with Him. Now, if He brings all the saints from heaven with Him, He must have taken them up there. They didn’t climb up there on their own.
So, there must be a Rapture. As Jesus said, “I’m going to come again and take you to my Father’s house.” That’s not the whole world. But also He is coming in judgment, as Paul said, “He will destroy the Antichrist with the brightness of His coming.” Now,Tom, we’re going to have to come back and talk about this because this is a big controversy in the Church.
Tom: Well, Dave, you know it is important, and again it deals with, is there a contradiction here, is there inconsistency? Well no, not if you understand the scriptures, and that’s really what we are trying to do, is lay out the scriptures, Dave, because you know people have said: “Well, this is something people made up, you can’t find this in the Word of God,” but we’re going through the scriptures.
Dave: Or they say the early church didn’t believe it. Yes, indeed, they did, but it’s in the Bible so they must have heard it.