A Workman is Only As Good As His Tools
Vol: 21 Issue: 26 Tuesday, April 26, 2016
According to the Book of the Revelation the antichrist will declare war on the followers of Jesus and will also have the power to “overcome” them. That seems a glaring contradiction with other Scriptures that promise that the Enemy cannot “overcome” them under any circumstances.
The Apostle John is called in Scripture “the disciple that Jesus loved” and the Gospel that bears his name is not included among the Synoptic Gospels. The Synoptics are eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ humanity.
The Apostle John was uniquely gifted with special insights. John’s Gospel is an eyewitness account of His Divinity. John is also the author of four other New Testament works, the three Epistles that bear his name and the Book of the Revelation.
In the Apostle’s First Letter, written as a general sermon to be circulated through the churches of Asia Minor, John takes pains to explain the believer’s position as a vessel of the Holy Spirit specifically as it relates to the spirit of antichrist.
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
The Apostle John was writing to the Church at the beginning of the Dispensation of Grace. Later, the Apostle John is given a revelation from Jesus Christ with more specifics about the antichrist during the Tribulation Period.
“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Revelation 13:7)
The word translated as “overcome” in both these texts is the Greek word, nikao which means, ‘to conquer, prevail, get the victory over”.
Same prophet, same word, same meaning. Except in one case, the saints have overcome the spirits of antichrist (past tense) and in the next, the antichrist overcomes (prevails, gets the victory over,) the saints!
Which is it? Both cannot be simultaneously true – indeed, the two verses directly contradict each other.
Time for a pop quiz. The saints of God cannot be overcome because. . . ?
Do you see it? The saints to whom John is writing at the beginning of the Church Age are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and greater is He that is indwelling you than the spirit of antichrist in the world. Does the Holy Spirit indwell the Tribulation Saints?
“Study to show thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
What does that mean, “rightly dividing the Word?” Clearly it must mean that there are multiple ways to divide the word, but not all of them are right. Does it not?
The Word divides itself if one will simply allow it to — without going all symbolic and metaphorical on it. By following a simple rule, “when the literal sense makes literal sense, take it literally” the Word divides itself according to Dispensation of Divine Revelation.
“have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye weresealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13)
Note the italicized points. Trusted in Christ, heard the Word of Truth, after that you believed, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise.
Trusted, believed, sealed. And what is that Promise, again?
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever . . . I will not leave you Comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:16,18)
But if the Church is subjected to the Tribulation, that promise must be amended to read; “Except at that singularly horrific moment in mankind’s history when the saints will need the Comforter the most.”
Then, it seems, the indwelling Comforter is gone and the saints are overcome, conquered, defeated, by the antichrist — who is given power to gain the victory over them.
How does this all work together to make sense? Can you work it out and have it make sense?
Not if the saints that John witnessed being overcome by antichrist in Revelation 13:7 are the same saints to whom John was writing his first Epistle.
Remember – same Apostle, same word, same meaning.
What is different is the Dispensation. There remains an unfulfilled seven year period of Old Testament history – the time of Jacob’s Trouble, the 70th Week of Daniel, or the Tribulation Period.
Here is the chronology. The Holy Spirit indwelt the Church at Pentecost – He is withdrawn, together with the vessels He indwells, at the Rapture. Thus ends the Dispensation of Grace.
At some point after that, the first judgment of the Tribulation is imposed by God. That judgment is symbolized by a rider on a white horse carrying a bow but no arrows, with which ‘he goes forth conquering and to conquer.’ (Revelation 6:1-2)
The antichrist is the first of the twenty-one judgments to be imposed against they “that dwell upon the earth” during this time. Judgment, in order to be judgment, can only be imposed upon those who have been condemned.
Were the judgment of the Tribulation imposed upon the Church, that would seem a contradiction. . .
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”(Romans 8:1)
So if the Church is in the Tribulation, it also means that it is under judgment, a believer can be overcome by the antichrist and believers will face the choice of a horrible death for refusing to mark or eternal damnation for accepting it.
And the fact that they were already saved and covered by the Blood of Christ before the Tribulation began is somehow, for the first time in the history of the Church, irrelevant.
It is a fact that the Promise that held true for all the Christians that came before doesn’t apply to the Tribulation saints. They are indeed overcome by the antichrist.
Are they the saints of the Promise?
In Revelation 7 the “Seal of the Living God” is sealed in the foreheads of the “servants of God” who are then identified specifically as twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
John goes into detail, naming each patriarch by name and the number of his descendents to be sealed.
They are the Tribulation saints. They are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Not by grace through faith, but by number, according to DNA. They are given the power to spread the Gospel until being overcome by the antichrist and either submitting to the Mark or being beheaded.
In either case, there are no more Tribulation saints by Revelation 14, where they are all depicted in heaven, and recipients of a new song that only the 144,000 could learn.
None of the Church Age Saints could learn it. And they aren’t down there spreading the Gospel, either. That job has since been passed on to an angel:
“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.” (Revelation 14:6)
To summarize (again -this is a lot to take in) there is but one way for the narrative to flow without interruption. The Church Age concludes with the Rapture.
The Church Age cannot include any part of the Tribulation Period without putting the Church under the judgment of the antichrist, which would negate the victory won for it at the Cross.
The Tribulation saints are the 144,000 Jews sealed by the Holy Spirit — and the converts they win before being overcome by antichrist.
Bible prophecy, systematic theology and Dispensationalism are mutually dependent disciplines in that one cannot fully understand any one of them without a grasp of all three.
You needn’t adhere to those disciplines to be saved. But you do if you want to understand Bible prophecy.
You can try to invent your own system — lots of folks do. Look at all the failed efforts to pinpoint the date of the Rapture or to identify the antichrist.
Even if we can see him coming, the Church won’t know who he is. The only reason for this generation to be looking for signs of the antichrist is because there are no signs of the Rapture.
NOBODY is saved according to what they believe about the Rapture or the Tribulation. We are saved by grace through faith in the finished Work of the Cross, not by our understanding of Bible prophecy.
But Paul called Timothy “a workman” – a laborer of Christ. As such, his toolbox is the Word of Truth. Not all Christians are called to be workmen. And not all Christians heed the call they are given.
But if one is to be a workman for Christ, he will only be as good as his tools.
Featured Commentary: What’s in a Name? ~ Wendy Wippel