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National Prayer Network

JESUS CHRIST: ETA (ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL), PT. 2

By Rev. Ted Pike
16 Sept 13

Editor's Note: In part 2 I reveal how crucial mistranslations, wishful thinking, and reasoning by analogy have led modern pre-tribulationist evangelicals into believing that Christ could return at any moment. This conflicts with prerequisites for His coming which our Lord strictly laid down. This 2-part article is recorded as our recent Bible study at Truthtellers.org.

 

There is no more oft-quoted text to uphold the doctrine of two second comings than II Thessalonians 2:7, 8.  Pre-tribulationist theory teeters on this crucial passage. 

For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming.

It is generally believed the phrase “mystery of lawlessness” alludes to Satan’s efforts to control the world.  The one who now "restrains” means the Holy Spirit, holding back Satan. I am in complete agreement with this view.

The crux of the problem comes in the crucial phrase “until he is taken out of the way,” which is a mistranslation of the original Greek text.  The common translation gives the impression that the Holy Spirit is lifted in a passive sense “out of the way.” The original Greek will not allow such distortion.  The phrase “ek meseu genetai” is not in the passive mood and should be translated, as do some modern translations, “gets out of the way.”  The Revised Standard Version translates it “is out of the way.”  The New English Bible says “steps aside” or “disappears from the scene.”

The Holy Spirit is Not Removed

Correct translation reveals that the Holy Spirit is not passively removed but at last “comes to be to be out of the way” and lets the intruder in. The church, or what is left of it, remains in the world.  The false impression the common translation gives has misguided generations of Christians into the belief that the Holy Spirit would at one time be “taken out of the way” by a higher power.  Then, by inference, when the Holy Spirit is taken out of the world, all saints will also be taken out.  Most evangelicals believe this is simultaneous with the “first” second coming and that the “rapture” signals the appearance of Antichrist.

While II Thessalonians 2:8 clearly indicates that Christ comes only once and after “that Wicked” shall be revealed and destroys him at His coming, for most evangelicals that fact pales beneath the enormous hope of deliverance from Antichrist that this mistranslation of Scripture seems to portend.  Yet this verse, correct or not in its translation, will, I fear, be defended and declaimed until only cruel events disprove it.  The church will see Antichrist and be persecuted by him, required to receive his mark on pain of death.

The Dubious Fig Tree

Another much abused passage is Christ’s fig tree analogy in Luke 21:29:

Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Many believe the greening of the fig tree signifies national restoration of Israel in 1948 and “this generation” refers to the generation of persons living after that event.  These verses are commonly regarded as proof that “summer” is at hand for those born after 1948 and that all things prophesied by Christ in the passage preceding this parable will be fulfilled within their lifetime.

This is an instance where Christians are so intent on the veiled implications of a Scripture that they miss the obvious meaning.

Does the fig tree in this passage really signify Israel?  It is true there are references in Scripture which liken Israel to a fig tree; however, the use of a fig tree in this parable does not automatically equate it with Israel, especially when Christ describes coming events as similar to the burgeoning of both “the fig tree and all the trees.”  If we read these verses carefully, we discover that Christ is not making a veiled analogy between the appearance of buds on a fig tree and the emergence of Israel into statehood in the last days.  Rather, He is making a straightforward comparison between leafing branches and the coming events of predicted history.  As buds from fig trees and all other trees shoot forth in the spring and give prophecy of the coming summer, so the occurrence of events which Christ predicted indicate that the end is near.

Can it be said, either, that the events of 1948 and thereafter may be symbolized by the growth and greening of a fig tree?  Holy Writ never equates the fleshly accumulation of land, winning of wars, and gaining of national autonomy as spiritual “greenness” in any sense. Only spiritual values – the revival or apostasy of a nation – can bloom or wither the spiritual vine.  Certainly Israel did not return in repentance in 1948.  Nor is she repentant today.  Israel is in a withered condition (Romans 11) and will remain so until Christ her Redeemer restores her to life.

Are We the “Last Generation?”

Unless we accept mystic divination of Scriptures, there also seems no logical or grammatical reason for the common belief that the statement “this generation shall not pass away” was ever meant to refer to those of us born after 1948.  In the first place, the Greek noun translated “generation” (genea) can as easily be translated “race,” “family,” or “multitude.”

Proof that Jesus was in fact referring to the Jewish race is given by His use of the demonstrative pronoun “houtos,” which means “this,” and refers only to that which is visibly apparent and in close proximity.

If Jesus had actually been referring to a generation born after the statehood of Israel, He would have certainly used the pronoun “ekeinos” – meaning “that” – which points out entities remote from the speaker in space or time.  What Christ probably meant was that the Jewish “race” or “family” would be preserved until all things were fulfilled. This is a prophecy which, despite the Khazar infusion (see The Khazars: Do They Destroy God’s Plan for the Jews?), is vindicated by the fact that roughly three million relatively authentic Sephardic/Oriental Jews still exist.

With these facts in mind, we may summarize the events leading up to Christ’s coming.  Although there are many indications that we are approaching the end of the age (the most significant in my opinion is the dramatic rise of Israel in the Middle East, setting the stage for a period of world dominion as described in Ezekiel 38:39), no one will be able to forecast the appearance of Israel’s Messiah until the Abomination of Desolation.  When that occurs, Israel will be due for three and one-half years of unprecedented persecution and anguish.

Unexpected. . .Yet Predictable

Although the length of the Tribulation has been decreed by Heaven as three and one-half years, God retains the right to “shorten” that period out of mercy. Speaking of Israel’s great tribulation, Christ says: “And except the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened those days.” (Mark 13:20) 

Thus, even if one knew the precise moment of the Abomination of Desolation, you could not know Christ’s actual coming.  Because of God’s right to shorten the period of Jewish suffering, a factor of unpredictability is introduced to His coming which will always confound attempts at date-setting by everyone except the Father Himself.  “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)  This is God’s way of making the time of the Second Coming both predictable and yet unknown to any but Himself.

Speaking of the church, there is the strongest indication throughout both Daniel and Revelation that the Church will not only endure the Tribulation, but actually be brought to near extinction.

Most American Christians believe Christ would never subject His bride to such withering persecution and anguish.  To reinforce this belief, Christ is cited as admonishing us to “Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)  The common translation, like II Thessalonians 2:7, has greatly misled the Church regarding the promise of the rapture.  The phrase “that you may be counted worthy” has no resemblance to the verb “katiskuo,” which it attempts to translate.  Katiskuo means “to be strong,” especially in regard to achieving victory over something else.  The word “escape” (ekpheugo) is accurately translated, but according to Thayer’s Lexicon may also be translated “to flee out of, flee away,” “to seek safety in flight.”

“Escape” Doesn’t Mean “Rapture”

A good translation of this verse could be “Pray that you may have strength to seek safety in flight from all these things. . .”  Correct translation thus reveals that this verse is not a promise to bodily extract the “worthy” out of the world but merely echoes Christ’s previous admonition to flee Jerusalem when we see her “compassed with armies.”

Christ makes it clear that Jerusalem is the epicenter of the Tribulation and that “wrath on this people” (the Jews) is a fundamental reason. (Luke 21:20-24) While the Tribulation will be a global phenomenon, it will be its most intense in that “great city Sodom and Egypt” where “our Lord was crucified.”

Anyone who has the physical strength to flee Jerusalem while Israel is being rejected and persecuted by Antichrist would undoubtedly be grateful he did.

Our senses shudder at the thought of enduring the Tribulation, yet we must ask: Is there a clear statement anywhere in Scripture that says the Church will not have to endure Tribulation?  To the contrary, Christ’s warning was: “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33)  His prayer to the Father was that He should not “take them out of the world but…keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15) Christ’s conception of “escape” from evil is not as roseate as ours.

An example we would do well to consider is that of the church in pre-Communist China.  The enormous church of mainland China was imbued with hope of deliverance through rapture which consoles evangelicals today.  They believed that before things really got unbearable Christ must return and rescue them. Yet their own unthinkable tribulation overtook them.  China ran red with the blood of an estimated 30 to 70 million Chinese who died after the Communist takeover.  This included the majority of the Chinese church.  Their escape did not come through rapture.  It came through death.

The Church Must Endure Tribulation

With such realities in mind, let us note the tremendous vision of Revelation chapter 7.  John sees 144,000 out of all the tribes of Israel sealed with the mark of God on their foreheads – the Jewish remnant.  Then he sees a “great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. . .standing before the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9)  He is told that these who stand before the throne of God in white robes are those who came out of “great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14)  They are an innumerable throng who have overcome the Beast and his mark and now enjoy a position of special honor before the Lamb.

The popular view is that these are “tribulation saints” who because of unbelief or backsliding did not make the rapture and are “left behind” to be purified by the fires of tribulation and death. But the apostle John did not see a few laggards who had struggled in after dying in the Tribulation.  Rather, it is an innumerable company, serving God “day and night in His temple.” (Rev. 7:15)  "Their king dwells among them, feeds them, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Rev. 7:15-17)

The prophet Daniel knew Antichrist would have power to “destroy the mighty and the holy people” (Daniel 8:24) and to “wear out the saints of the most high” (Daniel 7:25), and that he “made war with the saints and prevailed against them.” (Daniel 7:21)  In fact, Daniel is informed that not until the Antichrist has been able to “scatter the power of the holy people” will “all these things be finished.” (Daniel 12:7)  Similarly, the Beast which John sees rising out of the sea in Revelation 13 is given power to “make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” (Rev. 13:7)

The sixth chapter of Revelation contains a vision of the martyrs of Christ who cry to Him saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10) The reply is “..not until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were should be fulfilled.” (Rev. 6:11)

Death and Resurrection for the Church

These and the previous Scriptures strongly indicate that, as our Savior finished His earthly ministry through death on the cross, so His disciples “must be killed” before the present age can be concluded and resurrection occur.

The vast multitude who stands before the throne of God in chapter 7 of Revelation can be none other than the church, slaughtered in a Great Tribulation of general persecution.  They, like Christ, died in agony but rose in victory.  This destruction or “wearing out” of the efficacy of the Church in the world may not mean that every Christian on planet earth will be destroyed.  Paul refers to “we who are alive and return” at the coming of Christ.  It does mean, however, that the power of the Church as a major force in the world affairs will be so broken as to justify Christ’s query, “. . .when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

The near extinction of both Jews and Christians is a prerequisite for Christ’s return.  Evidently our Lord has determined that the brightness of His coming, like lightning from one end of heaven to the other, must be set against Israel and the church’s darkest hour – a time when every circumstance will be shouting with one voice that Christianity is finished and hope in Christ no longer exists.  In the context of such withering temptation, there will doubtless be very few to count the minutes from the Abomination of Desolation.  Those few exhausted Christians who are left will be too preoccupied with survival itself.  Daniel’s promise of Christ’s coming three and one-half years after the Abomination of Desolation is thus the barest assurance to a brutalized church that their suffering will not be interminable.  It is not an excuse for an indolent Church to take it easy until the three and one-half years are about to be fulfilled, whereupon, like the foolish virgins, they may hastily put their spiritual house in order.

Deliverance

At the end of the shortened three-and-one-half-year period, suddenly, with the voice of a trumpet, the dead and living in Christ are lifted off the earth to meet Christ in the air.  First, all righteous people from the beginning of the world are physically reconstituted.  Then those Christians who remain are lifted bodily into the skies.  Two laborers in one part of the world will be toiling the fields.  One will suddenly catapult into the heavens.  On the opposite side of the world a Christian woman will be asleep with her non-believing husband.  He will hear the great blast of a trumpet and wake to find her gone. All of Christ’s elect join Him in the clouds and prepare to return with Him. (1 Thess. 3:13)

The remnant Jews at that instant “look on Me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10) and in a wave of national conviction repent and proclaim Christ as their Messiah.  In great mourning that dawns into joy, the entire remainder of the Jewish people (one third) fall before the Lamb and beg His acceptance and preservation.

The rest of mankind react differently.  The consensus of their best minds, headed by the Antichrist and the Beast, is that this thing may be fought.  Yet this is their final and greatest mistake.  Christ destroys them in the Battle of Armageddon and an outpouring of plagues and vials of wrath upon the entire earth.  This brings to an end the Jewish and human world rebellion of this age, ushering in rulership of Jesus and His saints for a thousand years.




Rev. Ted Pike is director of the National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog organization. 

To contact Rev. Ted Pike call (503) 631-3808.

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