When Is Too Late Too Late?
Vol: 166 Issue: 23 Thursday, July 23, 2015
For my birthday, one of my kids gave me a placard that says, ”If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your wife tells you.”
Two recent OL columns, “The Times of the Gentiles” and “Perspective is Everything” appear to have generated more confusion than they have shed light on the issue, if I am to judge from my emails and from the forums.
So I asked my wife what she thought I should do. She said to try, try again, but this time, keep it simple.
So here goes.
The general confusion revolves around the idea that Gentiles cannot be saved during the Tribulation or that no Gentiles will be saved during the Tribulation.
I didn’t say that and don’t believe that, but rather than repeating what I already wrote; (you can read them here and here,) I thought it more constructive to step back and look at the issue again, and in the context of the Big Picture.
The “Gentiles” means every person from Adam that isn’t either of the tribe of Israel or a Christian.
I don’t believe that every Gentile who lived before the time of Christ was condemned, but neither do I expect to see any huge number of Gentiles from the pre-Christian era when I get to heaven.
There is no Biblical record of a huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles during the Old Testament period. The Holy Spirit did not indwell the Old Testament saints in the sense that He indwells believers during the Church Age.
There will be some Gentile Old Testament saints in heaven, of course. Cyrus, maybe, or Nebuchadnezzar, maybe. Enoch. Noah. Lot. Melchizedek. Job. A few more, maybe.
But in the main, God’s attention was focused on the spiritual condition of His Chosen People, the Jews.
The entire future history of God’s plan for His Chosen People is laid out in detail to the Prophet Daniel by the revealing angel:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
Daniel’s people were Jews. Daniel’s holy city is Jerusalem. This is a prophecy concerning them. Both the Church and the Gentiles are excluded.
The “Seventy weeks” are weeks of years, or periods of 7 years each. The full length of the prophecy thus runs 490 years in total.
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”
This period of time, from the order to rebuild to the coming of the Messiah 7+62 adds up to 69 weeks or 483 years.
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary . . .” (Daniel 9:26-27)
Josh McDowell did the calculations in his “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” showing that the commandment was issued on March 5, 444 BC. Jesus rode into Jerusalem where He was received as King 173,880 days later, exactly 483 years.
It is at the point where the Messiah is “cut off, but not for Himself,” that the focus shifts to the salvation of the Gentiles.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)
The “fulness of the Gentiles” means what it sounds like it means.
“Fulness” (pleroma) means, “completion, what fills (with contents) what is filled (as in container, performance period) which is put in to fill up, full.”
When the full complement of Gentiles who will be saved are saved, Paul writes, then God’s attention turns back to Israel.
The born-again, Blood-bought Church, formerly Jews and Gentiles (but primarily Gentiles) and now, new creatures, are the individuals that corporately constitute the Body of Christ.
The “fulness of the Gentiles” is followed by the Rapture of the Church, because the Body of Christ is complete. Now, God’s attention returns to the national redemption of Israel.
Follow along in chronological order.
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (Romans 11:26)
At some point after the Rapture of the Church, a ruler from the same people that destroyed the Temple in AD 70 will confirm a seven year covenant between Israel and ‘many’ restarting the timeclock that stopped, according to McDowell’s calculations, on March 30, AD 33 on a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
Note that there was an interval of time between the Resurrection and Pentecost of forty days. Note also that there was an interval of time between Pentecost and the destruction of the Temple of about forty years.
That clearly establishes precedent for the view that there will be an interval of time between the Rapture and the onset of the Tribulation.
The Rapture is NOT the first day of the Tribulation. But the Rapture is certainly the last day of the Age of Grace.
The period from the time of Moses to the time of Christ is the period of the Dispensation of the Law. During this Dispensation, the children of Israel were obligated to keep the Law of Moses as a condition of their covenant relationship with God.
The Dispensation of the Law concluded at Calvary when sin and death were nailed to the Cross.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: ” (Romans 8:2-3)
The Dispensation of Grace is the period of time from Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended and indwelt the twelve Apostles and all that believed thereafter, until the day that the fulness (pleroma) of (primarily) Gentiles that complete the Body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul says that the antichrist, “that Wicked” cannot be revealed until AFTER the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) has been taken out of the way.
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-8)
So the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) and the vessels He indwells (the Church) is taken out of the way and then that “Wicked” is revealed. At this point, by definition, the only people remaining upon the earth are Jews and Gentiles.
Not every Jew or every Gentile has heard the Gospel. But of those that have, Paul writes that they “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” So these are they that rejected the Gospel. And for THAT reason, Paul writes,
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 10-12)
This is clearly not every Jew or Gentile on earth – just those that heard and rejected the Gospel of salvation.
Note that Paul says that GOD sends them “strong delusion.” I am not going to debate why God would do that – I am not God.
But I can’t pretend that part is irrelevant to the overall unfolding of Bible prophecy — or take the risk that the Bible doesn’t mean what it clearly says.
Which is that God’s plan for the salvation of the Gentiles comes to an end and is replaced with God’s judgment upon a Christ-rejecting world. It doesn’t mean no more Gentiles CAN be saved — it simply means that Gentiles are no longer the central focus of God’s plan.
The Tribulation begins with the antichrist, the rider on the white horse of Revelation 6:2. Revelation Chapter six concludes with breaking of the Sixth Seal, and the onset of the last half, or the Great Tribulation.
It is at this point that the antichrist seats himself in the Temple, committing the abomination of desolation that Jesus warned of.
The antichrist unleashes a wave of persecution against the Jews so severe that Jesus warns them that are in Judea to flee to the mountains. He also imposes his mark as a form of worship and ordering the execution of anyone that refuses to accept it.
Those that refuse to accept the Mark of the Beast are the Tribulation Saints. Where do they come from? Let’s step back a bit, and again, follow along in chronological order.
There is something else that takes place at just about that time that is often overlooked. What happens immediately after the breaking of the sixth seal but before anything else?
“Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” (Revelation 7:1)
In Israel, just as the Great Tribulation begins, 144,000 Jews are sealed with the Holy Spirit. In the same breath, and as they are being sealed, Scripture speaks of;
“a great multitude (who are already in heaven) which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands . . (Revelation 7:9)
Who are they? Again, the chronology is helpful, here.
This multitude is identified in Revelation 7:14 as having come out of ‘great tribulation’ — but not THE Great Tribulation.
(Note the chronology: First, seal the 144,000 — THEN the judgments are resumed. This great multitude is already in heaven as the Great Tribulation begins with the sealing of the 144,000.)
In Revelation 13 the perspective shifts from heaven back to the earth. We are given a brief history of his rise to power, the rise of the false prophet, the persecution of the Tribulation saints and their ultimate martyrdom (Revelation 13:15) rather than submitting to the Mark of the Beast.
So who are the tribulation saints of Revelation 13:15-18 that refuse to accept the Mark? The next verse is Revelation 14:1 – chronologically, the MOST obvious place to look for them, since the last few verses were about their martyrdom.
“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads. . . . And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:1,3)
What are the odds that these are a DIFFERENT 144,000 than the 144,000 sealed in Revelation Seven, just before the Great Tribulation began?
Follow along with me. To this point in the Tribulation, the only thing God has visited upon the Gentiles is strong delusion and judgment for sin.
And the only thing that God has visited upon the Jews so far in the Tribulation is His Holy Spirit. Sounds kinda backwards from the usual order of things, doesn’t it?
“. . .blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)
This seems fairly well in keeping with the observation that the Tribulation Period is set aside for the judgment of a Christ-rejecting world and for the national redemption of Israel.
But that accuracy of that observation would largely depend on what happens next:
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
An angel is sharing the Gospel. But there is no outpouring of the Spirit. No massive revival of souls.
The 144,000 that were sealed (indwelt) by the Holy Spirit had the power to lead others to Christ. The Scriptures say that nobody can be saved apart from the Holy Spirit.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
But that doesn’t mean that they are saved the way that we are in the Church Age. The Tribulation saints are not in the Age of Grace. They are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
This is the Seventieth Week of Daniel – the final Week of the Dispensation of the Law. The rules are different for the Tribulation saints than for the saints of the Church Age.
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:12-13)
The Tribulation saints, like the Old Testament Jews, evidently must keep the Commandments AND faith in Jesus. And for those “which die in the Lord from henceforth” their works, (unlike ours), DO follow them.
The Old Testament saints (primarily Jews) had to keep the commandments of God, look forward to the promise of a Messiah, and expected to be judged according to their works.
How can this be? The Time of Jacob’s Trouble is the seventieth week of Daniel — the final week of the Age of the Law. It is a different Dispensation than the Age of Grace.
There will be Gentiles saved during the Tribulation, just as there are Jews saved during the Church Age, but God’s focus during the Church Age is on evangelizing the Gentiles, not the Jews.
His focus during Daniel’s seventieth week is on Daniel’s people, his holy city, and finishing the transgression, making an end of sins, making reconciliation for iniquity, bringing everlasting righteousness, sealing up the vision and prophecy, and anointing the most Holy.
“Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved.”
It is no heresy to say that the only sure way for a Gentile to get to heaven is not to wait until after it is too late to apply. How late is too late?
What do you think?
Originally Published: August 26, 2013
Featured Commentary: The First Murder ~ J.L. Robb