Tom: In this first segment of our program, we’re discussing Dave Hunt’s book Countdown to the Second Coming. If you have a copy of the book and want to follow along with us, we’re about halfway through chapter 3.
Now, Dave, we’ve been saying that in order to understand what God has revealed in the Bible to mankind concerning where history is heading, there are some critical distinctions to be made. The first one is between Jews and Gentiles—or, Gentiles meaning non-Jews. The second one is between Jews, Gentiles, and the church. What’s the significance of these distinctions?
Dave: Well, if you don’t recognize that there is a difference between Israel and the church, you will be very confused both as to salvation and the Rapture, the Second Coming. God has a plan for Israel. He has laid it out; He has prophesied; He has promised full restoration of Israel to her land. There’s no restoration to a land for the church. There’s no way that you can make the prophecies to Israel fit the church, but people try to do that. For example, you have 2 Chronicles:7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways and confess their sin, and pray, and so forth, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.”
Now, there are people who try to apply that to the church. And they say, “Now, look, if the church in America would just confess her sins, and get right with God, and really—let’s have a campaign of prayer and prayer and prayer for our country—God would turn America into a Christian nation.” But of course, that’s not what it’s talking about.
“If my people…” God is speaking of His people Israel. And “their land” is the land God gave them, the land of Israel. He never gave the Americans America, and he certainly didn’t give the Christian Americans America. So they are badly mistaken when they try to apply that.
Now, we can learn things from the Old Testament: “These things were written for our admonition.” They’re examples, and we can learn about prayer. We can learn about humility…
Tom: We can see how God acts among His people…
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: And we as believers are in the family of God.
Dave: But we cannot turn Israel into the church or the church into Israel. But this is what people are trying to do. And when you don’t make that distinction—well, the distinction of course is made in 1 Corinthians:10:32. Before the Cross, you had Jew and Gentile. And God had—well, Gentiles were perfectly welcome to become Jews and to come into the blessings that God had planned for Israel. Very few did. But that was not eternal salvation. That had to do with the land, and those promises have never been abrogated.
But after the Cross, a new entity came into existence—Christ, in fact, said, Matthew 16: “I will build my church.” So the church did not exist. So if you try to find the church in the Old Testament, it isn’t there. It may be there in type; there may be some shadows and some examples, but the church is not there. Christ said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
So Paul says in 1 Corinthians:10:32: “Giving none offense, neither to the Jew nor to the Gentile, nor to the church of God.” And in Ephesians 2, Paul reminds us—he says, “You Gentiles were aliens to the covenants of promise. You were strangers. You had no claim upon God as Gentiles. Those promises in the covenants were given to Israel. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were sometime afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace. He broke down this wall of partition that was between Jew and Gentile. And he made of two, Jew and Gentile, one new man.” And then it goes on and it talks about the church at the end of that chapter: “The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.”
So a Jew who becomes a believer in Jesus—and in fact, in Matthew 16, He says, “It’s on this rock…” “this rock” not being Peter, of course, a very unstable person. In fact, right there he is denying the very basics of the gospel. Christ says, “I’m going to have to go to the Cross and I’m going to have to be crucified. They’re going to reject me and crucify me.”
And Peter says, “Oh be that far from you, Lord!” Well, so Peter is denying the necessity of the Cross. He’s denying the very heart of Christianity. And if He had just been made the first pope, he got off to a very bad start.
Dave: His first pronouncement ex cathedra—to the whole church—was false, false doctrine. But anyway, it was Peter’s confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God….” And Jesus said, “On this I will build my church.” So all those who believe in Christ as their Savior, the Son of God, who died for their sins, they’re in the church.
So Gentiles believe—they are in the church. Jews who believe—they are in the church. So the church today is made up of both Jew and Gentile. In fact, the first church, the early church, was all Jews! It began there in Jerusalem, and we need to keep these distinctions clear.
Tom: Dave, if we don’t, as you say in your book, confusion’s going to come about. Matthew:24:29-30—I’m going to read that, and if you don’t know…if you can’t make the distinction here, then you’ve got some confusion afoot. It says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall the sun be darkened, and the moon 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, here we have—the Tribulation has already taken place. So is this referring to the church?
Dave: The Tribulation has just ended…
Dave: It says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.”
Tom: Right. So you have to understand what He’s talking about here, or, again, as I said, confusion is going to be a problem.
Dave: Now, you know, we’ve talked about it in the past, I presume, although we haven’t spent much time, but there are people called “preterists” who believe that everything that Christ talked about in Matthew 24 took place in AD 70. Nero was the Antichrist. And we are futurists. They believe it all took place in the past.
Now, you just read, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon won’t give its light, the stars—the powers of the heavens will be shaken. They will see the Son of Man—the sign of the Son of Man coming in power and great glory, with his angels,” and so forth. That did not happen in AD 70, of course. And many other things Jesus talks about that did not happen in AD 70. So what is He talking about? Obviously, it’s future. The Tribulation spoken of is yet future. It says that it would be worse than anything that ever was or ever would be. Well, Hitler’s tribulation of the Jews was far worse than they suffered in AD 70, so AD 70 couldn’t have been it either.
So of whom is He speaking when He says, “He will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds”? Well, in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul tells us that at the Rapture, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God,” and so forth, and we will be caught up—the dead will be raised, the living will be transformed—caught up to meet Him in the air, but it’s the Lord himself. Nothing about sending His angels to gather His elect.
Now the Old Testament speaks of “Israel, mine elect.” These are Jews. These are believing Jews, the Jews who have believed in Christ and will be brought back to that land, and there won’t be one Jew left anywhere on this earth.
You see, the Rapture talks about “caught up to meet him in the air, and we will forever be with the Lord.” Well, where is the Lord? He’s in His Father’s house of many mansions. John 14, He said, “I’m going to go away, and I’ll come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.”
Paul says, “So shall we ever be with the Lord,” okay?
If you turn to Ezekiel:39:28: “Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen, but I have gathered them unto their own land and have left none of them any more there.”
Now this has not happened, right? Not happened yet. There are many Jews—there are more Jews outside of Israel than there are inside of Israel. When is this going to occur? Well, Ezekiel 38 and 39 are talking about Armageddon. And Ezekiel:39:29: “Neither will I hide my face any more from them, for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.”
Well, that’s Zechariah 12—He says, “I’m going to pour upon the children of Israel the spirit of supplication and they will look on me whom they have pierced,” okay? And in fact, “They will mourn….” And there’s a great mourning here. There’s no mourning at the Rapture. This is talking about Revelation:1:7: “Every eye shall see him….” What you read in Matthew 24, all the kindreds of the earth will wail because of Him. Every eye is going to see Him at that time, okay?
So He sends His angels, and they gather from the four corners of the earth back to a central place on earth—that is, Israel. He will leave no Jew anywhere. Now, this isn’t Jews kind of trickling in and they all decide, “Well, we’d like to go back to Israel,” and one by one over a period of many years…. This is a sudden, miraculous intervention by God, and He has His angels gather every Jew. Two-thirds of the Jews will be killed. Zechariah 13 says that. Two-thirds will be killed. It will be the worst Holocaust…. This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, “Nothing like this has happened, and nothing like it will ever happen thereafter.”
And it’s quite clear what will take place. This is a gathering of the Jews who have come to faith in Christ. They are the only survivors among the Jewish people of the Great Tribulation, and they will all be gathered back to Israel. Why? Because there the Messiah will reign over them on the throne of His father David.
So, Matthew:24:29 and so forth, the verses you read: This is not the Rapture. It doesn’t fit the Rapture. But it is the Second Coming, and it is the regathering of every Jew still alive at that time on the face of this earth back to Israel, where they will inherit this kingdom, the entire land that God promised them. And Jesus will reign on the throne of His father David over them and over the world.
Tom: Dave, I think about some listeners out there that maybe they had the same background that I had, growing up in Roman Catholicism. And we, you know, we had no sense of what you’re talking about. We had no idea of the prophetic historical things that—not of prophecies that were fulfilled, and yet those that are to be fulfilled. And I know that after becoming a Christian, this was all really new to me. It was exciting, but I couldn’t get a handle on it. I didn’t have an overview of God’s plan—His historic plan from the beginning, from Genesis to—we could go to Revelation, but those things that are going to happen in the last days, the Millennial reign of Christ, and so on.
Could you…would you—I’m asking here—could you kind of lay out an outline of the events in chronological order? That might be helpful to some of our listeners.
Dave: Well, Tom, of course as a Catholic, you were a follower of the pope. And this is the largest church in the world, the oldest one.
Tom: Right. One billion plus.
Dave: Right. Jesus, of course, said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight.” And the Catholic popes had armies and navies. At one time they controlled the entire world. They fought emperors. They fought emperors—they conquered emperors. And they controlled the world. As you know, Pope Alexander VI drew a line from north to south down the world, and he gave the west to Isabelle and Ferdinand of Spain. That’s why they speak Spanish over there. And he gave the eastern part of the world to Portugal, and that’s why—look on a map, Brazil sticks out. And that’s why they speak Portuguese in Brazil to this day, okay?
So the Catholic Church has no comprehension of Israel returning to its land. They teach that they are Israel—the new people of God. And you get that in many Catholic documents. The church…
Tom: Right. Many of the names of Jerusalem that are applied to that, the church has taken to its own breast. They’ve…
Dave: They’ve put it to Rome. Now Rome is called the Holy City, and the City of God, and the Eternal City, and so forth.
Okay, so what does the Bible teach? Well, the Bible teaches that there are three groups of people: Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God, as we’ve been saying. The church is established on the gospel. And we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And Paul says, “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”
The church has no earthly heritage. We’re not cast out of a land that we were given, and we’re not brought back into a land. We are a “heavenly people.” Our citizenship, Paul says in Philippians:3:20, is in heaven. And we’re waiting for our Savior. And He’s going to come back and change our vile bodies to be like His. We’re looking forward to the resurrection, or…some of us will not die. I hope that I would be among them, but I may not be. And those who are living will be transformed into new bodies—heavenly bodies—taken to heaven to be with Christ, okay?
But Israel was promised a land. God’s integrity is tied to Israel. Two hundred and three times in the Bible He calls Himself “the God of Israel,” twelve times “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Never does He call Himself the God of the Arabs; never does He call Himself the God of the Americans. Only Israel was given the land, okay, and we’ve mentioned that. And we have to have that distinction in mind.
Now, Israel was warned that because of her sin, rejecting God, she would be scattered and hated and persecuted and killed like no other people. And that happened! This is history. But God said He would not let them be destroyed. He would preserve them an identifiable ethnic group of people, and in the last days, He would bring them back into their land.
Well, this has happened! People say, “Yeah, but those unbelieving Jews—they crucified Christ, and they don’t believe the gospel. They don’t deserve to be back there. Most of them don’t even—well, 30 or 40 percent claim to be atheists. What are they doing back there?”
Well, it’s a simple fact that if they are to believe in Christ, they become believers in their land, Zechariah 12. This is where He returns to reveal Himself to them and to rule over them in the midst of Armageddon and to rescue to them. Then they must come back into that land as unbelievers. If Armageddon is all about the armies of the world attacking Israel, then Israel must be back in its land in unbelief, because that is when they will believe—when Christ intervenes to rescue them.
So the Bible foretold that Israel would go back to her land in unbelief. Now there are many Jews who believe. Probably a lot of secret believers—more than we know—in Israel. But nevertheless, as a whole, Israel is in unbelief.
That He would make Jerusalem—well, we’ve been talking about the book by this title, “a cup of trembling, a burdensome stone around the necks of all the nations of this world.” That has happened. That is true today. And that one day, there would be a false peace. The Antichrist, Daniel:8:25—and we know it’s the Antichrist because it says he will stand up against the Prince of princes. That’s the Messiah. But he will be cut off without hand. So, he will destroy many through peace. And we are in the process of forming a false peace in the Middle East, and Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians:5:3: “When they [that is the world] say peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes.”
So we have to have a time of a false peace. Israel will even believe—and I happen to have my Bible open here to Ezekiel:38:11: “And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages.” Right now, Israel is building a wall—for good reason! To keep the terrorists out, the suicide bombers, and so forth. That wall will come down. The Bible says so: “I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, having neither bars nor gates to take a spoil, to take a prey, to turn thine hand upon the desolate places [that are now inhabited] and upon the people that are gathered out of the nation, and are prospering.”
So here we have the picture of a people who have been scattered around this world. God has brought them back, Jeremiah:31:10: “Nations, listen to this: I scattered Israel, and I will regather her, and you’d better watch what you try to do to her,” okay?
So this is where we are. We’re leading up to this point now. And Israel will believe the Antichrist. They will think they’re safe. The wall will come down. The world will say “peace and safety.” The Antichrist will allow the Temple—in fact, he will enforce it, he will make the Temple be rebuilt. Israel thinks he’s their friend. No, he really intends to double-cross them, and he is going to put his own image in there and demand to be worshiped as God.
I think we’re getting very close to this. The church is going to be taken out of this world before this horrible Tribulation. This is the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” not the time of the church’s trouble.
Dave: So, we are very close to this, Tom, and I don’t think anyone can deny that these prophecies have been fulfilled, and just as they have been fulfilled, that gives us confidence—I mean, we know for certain that the ones that yet lie in the future will be fulfilled as well.
Tom: Right. And of course, we look forward to the Millennial reign of Christ that’s going to happen right here on this earth. And, Dave, my point here is that if people—if they don’t have a sense of not just history and prophecy fulfilled, a sense of eschatology, the things that are going to happen in the last days—if they don’t understand who the players are, in effect, they’re not going to understand it.
I have some Catholic friends who try to read the Bible, and when they get into the Old Testament, they get lost because they have no basis for understanding that these things are to be taken literally. There will be a thousand-year reign of Christ. There are these entities that need to be identified, and that’s how you—you need to come to the Lord for deeper understanding. But basically, you can’t make sense of it if you don’t understand the chronology, the history, the people that the Lord is referring to.