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Things that are Different

Prophecy for Israel and the Mystery of the Church

Dr. Mike Johnston

Someone wisely noted: “things that are different are not the same.” In Scripture this is revealed to us in several areas, most pronounced of course is God’s distinct dealings with Israel and the church. Anti-PreTrib rapturists I believe are involved in a collusion of confusion by refusing to see these Biblical differences as intrinsic pieces to the hermeneutic puzzle. For instance, Peter preached the gospel of circumcision to Israel, while Paul preached the gospel of uncircumcision to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7). Peter’s Pentecost message  to the Israelites included prophecies of the return of Christ and the restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began (see Acts 3:17-21). Paul however wrote to the Gentiles about the revelation of the Mystery, which was kept secret since the world began (Romans 16:25). This tract discusses four very important topics which individually and collectively prove things that are different are not the same.

First, Prophecy (earthly) and Mystery (heavenly) are not the Same

It is widely accepted that the Bible can be divided into Old Testament and New Testament. However, the Bible is basically divided into two more well defined, descriptive terms, and these are prophecy and mystery. Prophecy is basically the purpose God has for the earth and Christ’s reign upon it, which includes the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem (Isa. 24:23; Mic. 4:7). This is the Kingdom of heaven that will in the future be set up on the earth, literally. The Mystery is that body of truth proclaimed by the Apostle Paul, concerning heaven and the exaltation of the Body of Christ in heaven, together there with Christ (Eph. 2:4-10, 3: 1-4).

The very first words in the Bible state: “In the beginning God created the HEAVEN and the EARTH” (Gen. 1:1). It does not say God created the UNIVERSE; it does not say God created the heavens and the earth as many people- and most all erroneous modern translations- make the mistake of saying. It says God created the HEAVEN and the EARTH. This is because He has a special purpose concerning the earth which is completely different from His purpose concerning heaven. His purpose that concerns the earth has to do with Christ’s future reign upon it, and this is the subject of “prophecy” (2 Peter 1:16-19). His purpose for heaven and the exaltation of the Body of Christ there with the Lord Jesus Christ is the subject of the “mystery” (Ephesians 2:4-10, 3:1-4). This is why the Bible is really divided into two great subjects: Prophecy and Mystery!

Prophecy: What is at the heart of Prophecy? The Messianic Kingdom; that is, the “kingdom of heaven” which was spoken of by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ and the twelve disciples, which will be set up on the EARTH; (Matt. 3:1-2, 4:17, 10:5-7). Since the “kingdom of heaven” is not yet established on the earth, it will be set up in the near future when the Lord Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, returns to the earth on the Mount of Olives, then on to Jerusalem at the Second Advent and sets up His kingdom and reign upon THE EARTH for one thousand years. This is also called the Millennium. The main purpose or the main goal of prophecy is the establishment of the “kingdom of heaven” upon THE EARTH (Rom. 11:25-29). The Messianic Kingdom will be set up on THE EARTH: (Psalms 2:8) “I shall give Thee . . . the uttermost parts of THE EARTH for Thy possession”. (Jeremiah. 23:5) “A King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in THE EARTH”. The Lord Jesus Christ who is the second member of the Godhead- who is also God- will rule as God, from Jerusalem over the entire world. It will be a theocracy. “They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Isaiah 7:14) (Matt. 1:23). “And His name shall be called . . . The mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). “The Lord shall be King over all THE EARTH” (Zech. 14:9).

Mystery: God’s purpose concerning HEAVEN and the exaltation of the Body of Christ there with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Body, is the subject of “The Mystery”. What is the Mystery? There are many mysteries in the Bible, but this refers to “THE MYSTERY” which is that great body of truth given to the Apostle Paul by direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, from heaven. The “kingdom of heaven” one day being set up on the earth and the coming Messiah was well known and prophesied by the holy prophets (for Israel). But, the Body of Christ with its heavenly calling and position was not prophesied. Nothing- not even one mention- can be found in the pages of prophecy about the Body of Christ. God kept this a complete secret until the proper time when He brought the Body of Christ into existence, revealing THE MYSTERY only to the Apostle Paul. (Rom. 16:25) “kept secret since the world began”. Then also in (Ephesians 3:9) “from the beginning of the world . . . hid in God”. “hid from ages and from generations” (Col.1:26).

The nation Israel was temporarily set aside along with the unbelieving Gentiles. “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for” (Rom. 11:7). “Because of unbelief they were broken off” (Rom. 11:12). A new dispensation was slowly being brought in and mercy was shown to all. “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all (Rom. 11:32). “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek (Gentile)” (Rom. 10:12-13). No longer is the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed, but the gospel of the Grace of God, which is Christ’s finished work on the cross. The Apostle Paul declared “the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD” and “THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD which is given me to you-ward” (Acts 20:24) (Ephesians 3:2). [1] Prophecy and mystery are different; therefore they are not the same!

Second, Israel (prophecy) and the Church (mystery) are Not the Same

Israel is an elect nation of YHWH (Psalm 147:20) that exists from prophecy and is concerned with an earthly kingdom. Membership in the Jewish community is granted by physical birthright. The fact that four-fifths of the Bible pertains to Israel, while only one-fifth of it deals with the church [2] underscores without question that Israel is the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8). In his treatise Israel and the Church, Arnold Fruchtenbaum observes:

“The term Israel is viewed theologically as referring to all descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, also known as Jews, the Jewish people, Israelites, Hebrews, etc.” (113). He notes that national election distinguishes Israel from those peoples who were not chosen that we know as Gentiles (113-14). Fruchtenbaum then offers four reasons for Israel’s election: 1) they were “chosen on the basis of God’s love to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Ex. 19:6); to represent the Gentile nations before God;” 2) ” to be the recipient of His revelation and to record it (Deut. 4:5-8; 6:6-9; Rom. 3:1-2).” 3) to propagate the doctrine of the One God (Deut. 6:4);” and finally, 4) “to produce the Messiah (Rom. 9:5; Heb. 2:16-17; 7:13-14) (115).”

Through the prophets, Israel (not the church) was given special commissioning and at least five covenants outlining and guaranteeing her future: First, the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15:18) whereby God promised to make Israel a great nation in a glorious land that she would possess forever. (Since Israel’s blessings are connected to her land, is it any wonder Satan is using the invented “Palestinians” to steal it from her?). Second, the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19:25) containing 613 commandments, judgments, and ordinances expressing the righteous will of God in regulating her religious, political, and social affairs (Ex. 19:25). Third, the Palestinian Covenant (Deut. 30:3) which provided the conditions under which Israel entered and maintained control of the promised land in seven parts. (1) Dispersion for disobedience, Deu_30:1; Deu_28:63-68 (See Scofield “Gen_15:18”); (2) The future repentance of Israel while in the dispersion, Deu_30:2; (3) The return of the Lord, Deu_30:3; Amo_9:9-14; Act_15:14-17; (4) Restoration to the land, Deu_30:5; Isa_11:11; Isa_11:12; Jer_23:3-8; Eze_37:21-25; (5) National conversion, Deu_30:6; Rom_11:26; Rom_11:27; Hos_2:14-16; (6) The judgment of Israel’s oppressors, Deu_30:7; Isa_14:1; Isa_14:2; Joe_3:1-8; Mat_25:31-46; (7) National prosperity, Deu_30:9; Amo_9:11-14. Fourth, the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:16) promised the glorious earthly kingdom of Christ “of the seed of David according to the flesh” which secures: (1) A Davidic “house”; i.e. posterity, family; (2) A “throne”; i.e. royal authority; (3) A kingdom; i.e. sphere of rule; (4) In perpetuity; “for ever”; And this fourfold covenant has but one condition: disobedience in the Davidic family is to be visited with chastisement; but not to the abrogation of the covenant 2Sa_7:15; Psa_89:20-37; Isa_24:5; Isa_54:3.[3] Fifth, the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:8) which is established on the blood of Christ and better promises, including grace not law, and where Christ- not man- will rule and reign as King of kings forever.

The church- on the other hand- is an elect body in Christ (Rom. 12:5) as well as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). It was not revealed in prophecy and it exists solely from the revelation of mystery the Lord Jesus revealed to Paul alone (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3). Membership in the church is given by spiritual birth rather than physical birth. Her focus is not an earthly, but a heavenly kingdom. In lieu of that, the church has not been consigned anywhere in Scripture to be on earth during the time of Jacob’s (Israel) trouble- aka the day of the Lord or tribulation. The church lives spiritually in the heavenlies (2 Cor. 5:1-2; Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1) from whence she  looks for her Redeemer (1 Thess. 1:10) who could come in the air at the any moment to take her home prior to the time of Jacob’s trouble (Rev. 3:10). Having begun in a mystery, the church will vanish in a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51) thus restarting Israel’s prophetic calendar with the final week of seven years. Israel and the church are different; therefore they are not the same!

Third: the Day of the Lord (prophecy) and the Day of Christ (mystery) are Not the Same

The Day of the Lord is a Jewish phrase that originated in prophecy. In fact, it is referred to specifically by nine OT prophets: Isaiah 2:12; 13:6,9; 34:8; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7,8,14,18; 2:2,3; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5). It is also called the time of Jacob’s trouble by Jeremiah (30:7); and as a time of trouble by Daniel (12:1). Moses, the Lord Jesus, and John labeled this period the (great) tribulation (Deut. 4:30; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14). When studied in context one finds the entire purpose of the time of Jacob’s (Israel) trouble is a time when God will punish Israel and the world for sin and rejecting Christ while preparing Israel for the coming Davidic Covenant Millennial Kingdom (2 Sam. 7:16; Isa. 14; etc). The day of the Lord is judgment against the proud (Isa. 2:12); destruction (Isa. 13:6; Joel 1:15); God’s fierce anger (Isa. 13:9; Zeph. 2:2); God’s vengeance for Zion (Isa. 34:8); God’s vengeance against His adversaries (Jer. 46:10; Obad. 1:15); terror (Lam. 2:22); Israel’s battle (Ezek. 13:5); the time of the heathen (Ezek. 30:3); a time of trembling (Joel 2:1); great and very terrible (Joel 2:11); dark and bloody moon (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20); multitudes in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14); woe (Amos 5:18); darkness (Amos 5:20); bitter crying (Zeph. 1:14); and wrath (Zeph. 1:18). The day of the Lord is an extended period dispensationalists teach will commence with the signing of the seven year covenant (Dan. 9:27) and culminate with a great noise where the elements shall melt, and the earth and it’s works shall be burned up (2 Pet. 3:10).

The Day of Christ is a Christian phrase Paul was given in the revelation of the mystery for the church. As a Hebrew scholar, Paul was well aware of the prophetic phrase the day of the Lord and knew it described the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble. The fact that he opted to use the day of Christ, day of our Lord Jesus Christ, day of the Lord Jesus, and day of Jesus Christ rather than the day of the Lord signifies their distinctions. Arno Gaebelein explains:

“There is an important difference between the day of Christ and the day of the Lord. The day of Christ concerns the Church, the saints of God. The day of the Lord concerns the earth– Israel and the nations. The day of Christ begins when He takes His saints in glory and they are with Him. The day of the Lord will bring . . . the visible manifestation of the Lord from heaven. The day of Christ comes first and the day of the Lord follows [and continues] at least seven years later. The day of the Lord does not concern the saints at all; it falls on the world. Before the day of the Lord can come, His saints have to be gathered together unto Him. The promise of 1Th_4:16-18 needs first to be fulfilled. (Paul)  uses this hope of being gathered to Christ, when He comes for His saints, as a motive why they should not listen to those who said the day of [Christ] is present. He reminds them of the fact that their gathering unto Him had not yet taken place. How, then, could the day of the Lord be present?” (The Annotated Bible- Arno Gaebelein)

Here are the 7 passages in the chronological order Paul wrote them. Please notice if you will that this is a definite terminal period that includes rewards and rejoicing and affects Christians only.

·         2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (54 AD): Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,  (2)  That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.[Anti-PreTrib writers argue against imminency by claiming Paul taught the antichrist had to appear prior to the Rapture. This, of course, would place Christians in the time of Jacob’s trouble causing them to look for antichrist rather than Jesus Christ. The context of Paul’s words disproves this notion. A forged letter from Paul arrived in Thessalonica claiming the day of Christ (which includes the Rapture and the day of the Lord-or tribulation)  was at hand or had begun. If Paul had taught them they were going through the time of Jacob’s trouble, why were they scared since Jesus would after all be returning within seven years? Moreover, why didn’t Paul encourage them to stock pile food, weapons, and other necessities since this would have been the perfect opportunity? The fact is, Paul clearly taught them two comings of Christ: the Rapture where the Lord comes for His church to deliver them from the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble aka day of the Lord which is to come (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:9, 23) and the Revelation where Christ returns with His church after the tribulation: 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; see Matt. 24:29; Rev. 19:11-21].

Here are the remaining verses describing this event. No mention of judgment or any of the woes described by the nine prophets that warned Israel about the day of the Lord:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:8 (59 AD): Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:5 (59 AD): To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:14 (60 AD): As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.
  • Philippians 1:6 (64 AD): Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 1:10 (64 AD): That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
  • Philippians 2:16 (64 AD): Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

The day of the Lord and the day of Christ are different; therefore they are not the same!

Fourth: the Revelation (prophecy) and the Rapture (mystery) are Not the Same

The Revelation- also called the Second Coming- is for Israel. Keep this in mind and prophecy becomes clearer. It originated through the prophets, centers around earth, concerns the establishment of the Davidic Covenant Kingdom in Jerusalem, and occurs at the completion of the great tribulation (Matt. 24:29) also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7), and the day of the Lord (Isaiah 2:12; 13:6,9; 34:8; Jeremiah 46:10, etc).

The Rapture is for the church. It originated with Paul, centers around heaven, and is a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51) that removes the church (also a mystery) prior to the day of the Lord, at the day of Christ. Once the church is removed, the prophecy clock and final preparations for the Kingdom can once again get underway. [4]

In order to fit the pieces together leading to the Kingdom, we need to understand Daniel’s seventy weeks. The Jewish prophet Daniel saw the Lord’s first presentation of the Kingdom in a prophecy he foretold of seventy weeks of seven years (for Israel) leading to the cutting off of the Messiah (Dan. 9:24-26). With the Davidic Covenant in mind, John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ began preaching Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). This of course was God’s offer to inaugurate the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:16) and fulfill Daniel’s prophecy. When Jesus was officially rejected on the exact day Daniel’s seventieth week was to begin, the prophetic calendar for Israel stopped making way for a parenthetic body to be inserted into the fabric of God’s providence- a mystery that was unknown by the prophets- called the church. However, this left unfulfilled one seven year period the prophets and dispensational scholars refer to as the time of Jacob’s (Israel) trouble (Jer. 30:7); the day of the Lord (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; 34:8; Joel 1:15, 2:1; etc); a time of trouble (Dan. 12:1); and the tribulation (Deut. 4:30; Matt. 24:21-29). Bear in mind, the day of the Lord is a Jewish phrase used by at least nine Jewish prophets that centers on earth and concerns Israel not the church (see Zech 12-14; Matthew 24; Rev. 12: the focus is Jerusalem and the abomination of desolation in the Temple Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4).

Much of the last days timeframe info comes to us from Daniel’s seventieth week which the Book of Revelation reveals as the worst period of devastation and anti-Semiticism in world history; the Beast attacks the saints of God (Jews: Dan. 7:18, 21-22, 25,27; Rev. 11:18; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:16; 17:6; 18:24, etc). In the end, Israel- at the point of utter annihilation at Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21)- will look up in time to see the nail scarred Messiah Jesus (Zech. 12:10) returning in glory to rescue them from total destruction. His feet will split open the Mount of Olives and He will gather earth’s survivors, separating the sheep from the goats in judgment (Matt. 25:31-33), therein establishing the Covenanted Kingdom of David (2 Sam. 7:16) in Jerusalem. This visible, triumphant return to Israel- called the Revelation is an event the prophets of Israel saw (Dan. 7:13-14). What they didn’t see was the mystery; the church playing a parenthetic role during Israel’s blindness (Rom. 11:25). It was Paul- the converted Jewish scholar- that taught two separate comings of the Lord; one for Israel on earth which he’d learned in his Jewish studies (Dan. 7:13-14) at the feet of the brilliant Gamaliel (Acts 22:3); and one in the heavens for the church he learned from Jesus in the revelation of the mystery (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3) separated by at least seven years that could begin shortly. The former called the Revelation (aka Second Coming) happens on earth and is for Israel; it will be seen by everyone in the world (Rev. 1:7). The latter called the Rapture happens in the heavens and will be seen only by those who look for Him (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13-18; Heb. 9:28). In divine irony, the church- which began in a mystery- will likewise disappear in a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51).  The Revelation and the Rapture are different; therefore they are not the same!


[1] Adapted from Things that Differ- Cornelius Stam

[2] Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology

[3] Some of this article gleaned from the Old Scofield Reference Bible. We have these Old Scofield Study Bibles in bonded leather, KJV, available for a gift to PMI of $30 to help us minister to you and others. Please remember, when you order from us, you help support us. Stamps are welcome.

[4] At some point in the future, God’s program will once again feature Israel. Anti-PreTrib rapturists have identified no starting point for this.

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