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.

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 better 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 (Isaiah 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!

The Prophecy Program “he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began” (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; see Matt. 25:34). It features Israel the unfaithful wife of Jehovah (Jer. 3:20; Hosea) who is currently blind and set aside (Rom. 9-11). Her apostasy notwithstanding, Israel remains God’s elect NATION on earth (Deut. 7:6; [1] 14:2; Isa. 45:4; Psa. 135:4) awaiting an earthly kingdom given through Covenant, with David’s Son – Jesus Christ – as Messiah King (2 Sam. 7:8-16; Zech. 14:9). All prophetic messages given in “time past” (Eph. 2:11-12) enhance or explain the people and particulars associated with Israel’s Kingdom destiny in the “ages to come” (Eph. 2:7). It is Israel to whom God’s prophets presented five covenants guiding and guaranteeing her future on earth including a lineage, land, laws, and a Lord – King – that began with Abraham (Gen. 12; 17; etc) and will continue through the Millennium (Rev. 20). It is for Israel that the earthly kingdom was “prepared from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34) and through whom the Messiah was born and to whom He presented himself and His kingdom (Matt. 4:17) under the Old Covenant for three and one half years only to be rejected and crucified (Matt. 21-27). However, one day His prayer “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth…” (Matt. 6:10) will be fulfilled. This He explained after questions surfaced from Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3) four ministers of the “gospel of the circumcision” (Gal. 2:7-9) regarding the installation of the Davidic Kingdom. After outlining in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21) Tribulation signs coinciding with Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9:24-27; Matt. 24:15) – the Lord promised He would return in the Revelation “immediately after (Israel’s) Tribulation” (Matt. 24:21, 29; see Zech. 14; 2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 1:7; 19:11-21) to set up the Kingdom (Matt. 24-25). 

The Mystery Program was “kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25), yet given to Paul by our heavenly risen Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:20) in a personal post ascension revelation (Rom. 16:25; Gal. 1:12; Eph. 3:1-9). It features the church as the Lord’s BODY (Eph. 1:3; 2:6) and the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 21:9) in a “but now” time-period (Eph. 2:13). The prophets didn’t know about us and never mentioned us, so we aren’t included in the promises and prophecies concerning earth and the future of the NATION Israel. Our inheritance exists “in heavenly places” where we are spiritually sealed (Eph. 1:13-14) and seated in Christ (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; Col. 3:1-2; Phil. 3:20). We are simply occupying a provisional position during Israel’s hiatus between Daniel’s 69th and 70th week (Dan. 9:24-27) to provoke her to jealousy (Rom. 11:11) until “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25). At that precise point, the church which appeared as a mystery (Rom. 16:25) will suddenly disappear in a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51) wherein Israel’s prophecy program will commence again.

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 Land aka 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. Bear in mind, NONE of these covenants were directly made with the church. They’re Jewish! 

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 Daniel’s 70th week, the day of the Lord and the tribulation. The church lives spiritually in the heavenlies (2 Cor. 5:1-2; Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1) and looks for her Redeemer (1 Thess. 1:10) who could come in the air at any moment to deliver her from the wrath to come prior to the time of Jacob’s trouble (Rev. 3:10; 1 Th 1:10). 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 originated with nine of the Jewish OT prophets as part of the prophecy program in the “ages to come” for Israel: 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). Many prophecies and passages warn about this time using prophesies that occurred in the past to describe God’s wrath in the future. Zephaniah is one with foreboding words: “The great day of the LORD [is] near, [it is] near, and hasteth greatly, [even] the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day [is] a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, … And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” (Zephaniah 1:14-15, 17-18). Other prophets add this will be a time of trembling (Joel 2:1), and destruction (Isa. 13:6; Joel 1:15), featuring God’s fierce anger (Isa. 13:9;  Zeph. 2:2) against his anti-Semitic and atheistic mocking enemies (Isa. 34:8; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 30:3; Obad. 1:15). Scholars viewing earth’s catastrophes and the cosmic disturbances (sun, moon, and stars) in the day of the Lord have connected it to tribulation passages in the Olivet Discourse, and Revelation [4]  which Moses, the Lord Jesus, and John (Deut. 4:30; Matt. 24:21, 29; Rev. 7:14) referred to as Tribulation. In that day God will punish Israel (Jer. 30-31; Ezek. 20:37; 22:18-22) and the world for sin (Rev. 6-19) including the rejection and crucifixion of Christ while purifying and preparing Israel and the world for the coming Davidic Covenant Millennial Kingdom (2 Sam. 7:16; Isa. 14; 66:16; Jer 30-31etc) where Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah, will reign from Jerusalem for one-thousand years. The fact is, when all passages describing the day of the Lord – are considered with those describing Israel’s Tribulation aka “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) occurring during Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9:24-27), the similarities are undeniable; Israel’s Tribulation is in the day of the Lord.

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 [the church body- Dr. Mike] 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. [5]

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 (Isaiah 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-Semitism 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] For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6)

[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] We have a book available entitled: Israel’s Tribulation in its Jewish Setting. Write for details.

[5] 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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