THE CHURCH IN THE END TIMES
I believe that the church began after the end of the Acts period when Israel was set aside as God’s chosen people. (For the Scriptural evidence of that belief please see the paper When Did The Church Begin?.) It is clear that the church did indeed have a beginning. Whether one believes it began at Acts 2 or Acts 13 or Acts 28, the church did have a beginning proving that there was a time when it did not exist. That is to say, if the church began, it did not exist before it began. I believe that there will come a time once again that the church will not exist. I will give the reasons for that statement as we continue in this paper.
We will examine the following topics in this paper:
Why the church must end
When the church will end
Appendix: A Consideration of the Term “Last Days”
WHY THE CHURCH MUST END
The church will end when the dispensation of the mystery ends. In order to understand why the dispensation of the mystery will end we must understand what is the mystery that had been hid in God. That mystery is revealed, in part, in Eph. 3:6. “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel”. A better understanding of some of the Greek words used in this verse will help a great deal.
The Greek word translated “Gentiles” in the KJV of Eph. 3:6 is “ethnos”. “Ethnos” is the noun of this sentence and, as is true of many other languages, the adjectives (in this case “sunkleronoma”, “sussoma” and “sunmetocha”) must agree in number with the noun it modifies. Because “ethnos” is obviously a plural noun, the adjectives must also be plural. As the reader will see in the paragraphs below, “sussoma” (the Greek word translated “same body” in the KJV) means literally “together bodies”. It certainly makes no sense to say that Gentiles are together bodies. I suggest therefore, that “ethnos” in Eph. 3:6 should be translated “nations” (nations are together bodies) as it is in approximately one third of the times “ethnos” is used. (Please see the paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God? for the complete Scriptural evidence that this is the correct translation.)
The three Greek words translated “fellow-heirs”, “same body” and “partakers” are, “sunkleronoma”, “sussomos” and “sunmetocha” respectively. Note that each begins with the preposition “sun” (The prefix in the word “sussoma” is spelled differently, but is the same prefix as is used in the other two words under consideration.) As always, we must understand the meaning of the Greek word by how it is used by the Holy Spirit. But “sussoma” is used only one time and would not give a clear picture of what it means, so I will give just a few examples of how the prefix and root are used.
The prefix of “sussoma” (“sun”) is translated “with” 15 times, as in Mark 14:54, “And Peter followed Him from afar…….and he sat with the servants….”. It is translated “together”13 times, as in “….and were set down together.…”. It is translated “fellow” and “joint” one time each. I believe it is clear that the prefix “sun” means “with” or “together”.
The root of “sussoma” is “soma” and is used of the body. I believe that just two occurrences of “soma” should suffice to determine what “soma” means. Matt. 5:29, “….for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that the whole body should be cast into hell”. And Matt. 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye….”.
We know by its usage that “soma” means “body”. And we have learned by its usage that “sun” means “together” or “with”. That tells us that the literal translation of “sussoma” is “together bodies“. Having determined that “sussoma means “together bodies” we must ask; what does that mean? I believe we will understand it best if we consider two Old Testament passages that tell us that Israel had been separated unto God as a nation apart from all other nations.
I King 8:53, “For Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be Thine inheritance….”. Lev. 20:24, “……I am the Lord your God Which hath separated you from the people”. In other words, part of the mystery hid in God was that Israel was no longer a separated nation, all nations were “together bodies”.
How then did the situation change from Israel being separated unto God, to all nations being “together- bodies? The answer to that question is that Israel was set aside, i.e. became, once again lo-ammi, “not My people”. Just as in the Old Testament, when Israel’s sins became so unbearable to God, He put them aside as His chosen naiton, so too, after their continuing rejection of Him during the Acts period, He put them side again.
The point of all that has been written above is that it is clear that what characterizes the present dispensation is that no nation is separated unto God, i.e., all nations are “together bodies“. That being the case, the dispensation of the mystery could not exist while Israel is God’s separated nation. If the dispensation of the mystery could not exist while Israel was a separated nation, then obviously the church which is being built in that dispensation could not exist while Israel is God’s separated nation.
We know that there could be no dispensation of the mystery and therefore no church, while Israel is God’s separated nation, Now the question is: what will happen once Israel is taken back as His separated nation? Once that happens the nations will no longer be “together bodies” because Israel will have been once again, separated unto God. Because the major characteristic of the dispensation of the mystery is no longer true, the dispensation of the mystery must come to an end and therefore, the church will come to an end. Let me put that in another way for clarity.
What characterizes the dispensation of the mystery is, in part, that nations are “together nations”. When Israel is taken back as God’s nation, Israel will be separated unto God as She was in the Old Testament and Gospel period and the Acts period. Because Israel will be separated unto God, the nations will no longer be together bodies. What characterizes the dispensation of the mystery will no longer be true. Since what characterizes the dispensation of the mystery will no longer be true, that dispensation must end. With the end of that dispensation comes the end of the church which is being built during it.
WHEN THE CHURCH WILL END
May I say once again that Israel must have been put aside in order for the dispensation in which all nations are together could exist. If we take this to the next obvious step, we must see that once Israel is taken back, all nations will no longer be together bodies. In other words, the dispensation of the mystery will have come to an end and there will no longer be a church, which is His body once Israel is taken back.
The church must end when the dispensation in which the church is being built will end. I believe that the sign of the end of the present dispensation will be the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. In Exodus 25:21-22 we read, “Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony which I will give you. There above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all My commands for the Israelites”. And in Deut. 12:11 we read, “Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for His Name …there you are to bring everything I command you”. It is clear that God told Israel that He would dwell and meet with them from wherever the ark of the Testimony was.
God promised in II Chron. 7:14-16 “….if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place, My eyes and My heart will always be there“.
To answer the question posed in this section directly, I believe that as the building of the temple in Jerusalem is completed, God will take Israel back His chosen people. And it will be at that time that the present dispensation will end and the church will no longer exist.
Let us go on with another indication that the church has no place in the end times, because it will no longer exist in the end times. Let us consider the place of the church in connection with the tribulation. The tribulation is described in Jer. 30:7 as “Jacob’s trouble”, the church has absolutely nothing to do with “Jacob’s trouble”. The church has no place in the testing of Israel.
Now we need to ask ourselves if we have the Scriptural proof for when the temple will be rebuilt. The answer is, yes, we do. The KJV of Dan. 9:27 reads, “….and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate….”. The note in the Companion Bible on the phrase, “for the overspreading of” reads, “on the wing or battlement of”. The NIV translates 9:27, “And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple until the end that is decreed is poured out on him”. The fact that the temple will have been rebuilt by the time of the tribulation is further proven in II Thess. 2:4, “Who (the antichrist -see verse 3) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”. We know from this that the temple will have been rebuilt by, at least, the time of the tribulation.
Consider also that the rapture as described by Paul in I Thess. 4:16-17 includes two of the symbols associated with Israel (i.e. the archangel and the trumpet call of verse 16). This is to be expected because Israel was still God’s chosen nation when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. If we do not include the church, which is His body in that Israel-centered rapture, which I don’t believe we should, then there is no mention of the rapture of the church. That would mean that the believers of Israel would escape the horrors of the day of the Lord, by virtue of the rapture, but the church would be left. I hope the reader agrees that that makes no sense. That problem is solved, when we accept the fact that the church will not exist past the time that Israel is taken back by God. (Please see the paper on this web-site The Rapture Of The Church? for a more complete study of the Church in relation to the rapture.)
Also, as we understand Rev. 3:10 correctly we will see that the purpose of the tribulation is to test Israel. But first we must understand the four Greek words translated “earth in Revelation. The four Greek words translated “earth” of “world” are “aion”, “kosmos”, “oikoumenee” and “ge”.
E. W. Bullinger defines “aion” as “an age or age time.” Because this particular word does not impact on the question at hand we will not do anything more than define it.
Dr. Bullinger defines “kosmos” as “the world created, ordered and arranged”. The Hebrew equivalent is rendered “ornament”. “Kosmos” is best understood by looking at a few definitive verses. For example consider these verses in the gospel of John: “He was in the world and though the world was made by Him, the world did not recognize Him” (Jn. 1:10). John 1:29 reads, “….Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
Dr. Bullinger defines “oikoumenee as “The world as inhabited. It is from the verb “oikeo:= to dwell. It is used of the habitable world as distinct from “kosmos“. Hence it is used in a more limited sense of the Roman Empire which was then predominant”. As in every language, a word is defined by its usage. I suggest therefore, that we look at how the Holy Spirit used this word.
“Oikoumenee” is used in Luke 2:1, “….all the world should be taxed”. It is also used in Acts 11:28, “…..through the Holy Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire world“. (The NIV has “Roman World”). It is also used in Acts 24:5, “stirring up trouble among the Jews over the world“. It is clear from these verses that what is intended for the reader to understand is a limited part of the world.
We will now begin our study of the Greek word “ge”. “Ge” is the most complex word that is translated “earth” or “world” because it could mean one of three things. It can refer to the ground, it can refer to earth as opposed to heaven or it could refer to a region or nation as opposed to the whole earth. Fortunately, in every case the meaning is made quite clear by the context and/or a parallel passage.
The first occurrence of “ge” is in Matt. 2:6 and obviously refers to a particular nation, ”But you Bethlehem in the land of Judah…”. Matthew 2:20 clearly has the same meaning, “…take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel”.
Some verses that refer to earth as opposed to heaven include, Matt. 5:18, “…until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter…will by any means disappear from the Law”. And Matt. 5:35, “Do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne or by the earth, for it is His footstool”. Matt. 6:10 reads, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. I believe that is clear that one understands the meaning of “ge” by it context.
Matt. 10:29 is a good example of when “ge” means the ground. Yet not one of them (sparrows) will fall to the ground apart from the will of the Father”. Note also Matt. 13:5, “Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil“. And Matt. 15:35, “He told the crowd to sit down on the ground“.
Now that we have considered the Greek words translated “earth” or “world” we are prepared to study a verse that will tell us exactly the purpose of the tribulation. That verse is Rev. 3:10 which reads, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (the Companion Bible suggests “trial“), which shall come upon all the oikoumenee to try (the Companion Bible suggests “test“) them that dwell upon the ge”.
The “trial” is, of course, the tribulation. We learn from this verse that the tribulation will come upon the oikoumenee, i.e. a limited portion of the earth. Because the tribulation will come upon a limited portion of the earth, it makes no sense to say that it will test the entire earth. We must conclude therefore, that it will test Israel.
In short, Rev. 3:10 tells us that the tribulation will come upon a limited portion of the earth to test Israel. Because the purpose of the end times tribulation is to test Israel, this suggests that the church has no place in the tribulation and no place in the end times, which are, of course, Israel- centered. Let me try to pull all this together by enumerating the points discussed above.
1) Once Israel is taken back as God’s nation separated unto Him, the nations will no longer be together bodies. Because nations as together bodies is the very essence of the dispensation of the mystery in which the church is being called, obviously, the dispensation of the mystery must end and therefore, the church can no longer exist when Israel is taken back by God as His chosen nation.
2) The church has nothing to do with the tribulation referred to by Jeremiah the prophet as “Jacob’s trouble”. Also, the tribulation is allowed by God to test Israel, not the church.
3) There is no mention of a rapture of the church, which leaves the church on earth for the day of the Lord; a scenario which makes no sense at all.
All these facts lead, in my opinion, to the inescapable conclusion that the dispensation of the mystery will end and the church will not exist once Israel becomes God’s chosen nation again. When that happens believers will be, as they were in the Acts period, become Israelites.
In the Appendix of this paper is a study of the difference between the end of the dispensation of the mystery and the end times that center around Israel. The point of this Appendix is that the end of the dispensation of the mystery must precede the end times that are Israel-centered.
Appendix:A Consideration of the Term “Last Days”
Let us compare the phrase “last days” in the Gospels and in the writings of the Acts period with the writings of Paul after the Acts period, i.e. those written to the church of the dispensation of the mystery. We will discover that the dispensation of the mystery, and therefore the church of this dispensation, will end before the last days, or end times of the Gospels and Acts periods.
The Greek word translated “last” in the phrase “last day(s)” is “eskatos”. The first occurrence is found in Matt. 5:26, “til thou hast paid the uttermost farthing”. It is also used in Matt. 19:30, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”. Now that we have some sense of the meaning of the Greek word translated “last” we may look at each occurrence of the phrase “last day(s)”.
John 11:24 reads, “Martha answered, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day“. Consider also John 6:39-40, “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day“. John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day“. And John 6:54, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day“.
As we shall see however, the phrase “last day” does not always refer to the day of resurrection. The day referred to must be determined from the context in which it is found. For example, John 7:37 has nothing to do with resurrection or any day in the future. “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in loud voice….”. The feast is, of course, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the last day spoken of in this verse is literally the last day of that feast.
We find another reference to the last day in Acts 2:17, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people”. As we continue in this passage we see that the day being spoken of is the day of the Lord. Verse 20 reads, “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord“. In this passage we learn that the last days include, not only the day of resurrection, but it also includes the day of the Lord
The phrase “last days” as used in the epistles written during the Acts period also includes the time of our Lord’s ministry on earth and the time of the re-offering of the kingdom to Israel. Note for example Hebrews 1:2, “but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son”. In this verse the “last days” are the days of the Actsl period. See also I Peter 1:20. “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” See also James 5:3, “…….You have hoarded wealth in the last days“. (The KJV has “You have hoarded wealth for the last days”. The Greek preposition translated “for” is “en” and “in” is a better translation.)
II Peter 3:3-10 “…in the last days scoffers will come….. They will say, ‘where is this coming He promised?” Verse 9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise..”. Verse 10, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief”.
By comparing Jude 18 with II Peter 3:3 we can see that the phrase “last time” refers to the same time as does “last days”, as both passages speak of scoffers in the last days/time.
Thus far, we have learned that the phrase “last days” refers sometimes to the day of resurrection, i.e. the very day of the Lord’s appearing in the clouds, and sometimes the phrase includes the day of the Lord. And sometimes it means the time of the Acts period, such as in Heb. 1:2 and I Peter 1:20, quoted above. In other words, the phrase does not always refer to exactly the same day/time. The time referred to by the phrase “last days” can be learned only by the context.
Let us now compare the character of the last days of the Gospels and Acts period with the character of the last days of the post-Acts period, i.e. the dispensation of the mystery. Thus far we have not learned much about the character of the Gospels and Acts period “last days”, but if we go to another Greek word, “sunteleia”, which speaks of “end times”, we will learn a great deal.
“Sunteleia” is used of the end times. The Companion Bible defines it as, “Meeting together of all that marks the consummation of the age”. In Matt. 24:3, we read of the disciples asking the Lord “when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end (sunteleia) of the aion?” (“Aion” is translated “world” in the KJV, but it should read, “age”). Our Lord answered their questions by explaining the character of the times before and during the tribulation, and also the day of His return, i.e. the day of resurrection and the day of the Lord. That is to say, the end times (“sunteleia) include the same events as the last days as that phrase is sometimes used. It is clear therefore, that “end times” is a different expression for the same events that are referred to as the “last days” in the Gospel period.
We are now ready to compare the characteristics of the “end times” or “last days” as spoken of in the period before Acts 28 with those of the period of the dispensation of the mystery.
Matthew 24:5-12 describes the 3 and one half; years before the tribulation.
Verse 5, antichrists will deceive many.
Verse 6, Wars and rumors of wars”.
Verse 7, nations against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms. Famines, pestilence and earthquakes.
Verse 9, “they will deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations”
Verse 10, many shall be betrayed and many shall hate one another.
Verse 11, false prophets shall deceive many.
Verse 12, “the love of many shall wax cold”.
Please note that with the exception of verse 12 where we are told that the “love of many shall wax cold”, all of the signs mentioned in this passage are things that take place in the world. They do not describe what the moral character of the individual will be, but what the world will be.
Let us now consider the signs of the last days in II Timothy 3:2-7.
Verse 2, “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy”.
verse 3, “Without natural affection, truce breakers, despisers of those that are good”.
Verse 4, “Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”.
Verse 5, “Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”.
Verse 7, “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”.
Please note that, unlike the end times as described in Matthew 24, not one of these signs are things that happen in the world. They are all things that will be true within man and the society of Man, which describes his moral degeneration. Note also that there is absolutely no warning of antichrists, afflictions, hatred by the nations etc.
The last days, or end times, as described in the Gospels and Acts, and most especially in Matthew 24, present a time consistent with the time of the tribulation. The Lord’s disciples will be persecuted by the nations and they will be in great physical danger from the world around them. The character of the last days of the dispensation of the mystery, on the other hand, is one of moral degeneration, not physical danger.
Let us go now to I Tim. 4:1-3 where we read of the “latter times”.
Verse 1, some shall be deceived by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.
Verse 2, “Speaking lies in hypocrisy”.
Verse 3, “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving”.
Verse 3 is particularly helpful in our study. Note that some will forbid marriage. Compare that with I Tim. 5:14 where Paul wrote, “I will therefore that the younger women marry”. But Paul did not always “will” that the younger women marry. Consider I Cor. 7:8, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I”, i.e. unmarried. Again in verse 38 of chapter 7 we read, “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well: but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better”.
How do we account for this apparent contradiction? I Cor. 7:26 where Paul writes of the “present distress” will help us answer that question. We find the same Greek word translated “distress” in Luke 21:23. What is this distress of which Paul and Luke wrote? In Luke 21:7 we find the same questions being asked of the Lord as we saw in Matthew 24, the questions having to do with the end times. In this discourse we read in verse 23, “But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days, for there shall be great distress in the land…”. A comparison of Matthew 24 and the context of Luke 21 will show that the “great distress” is obviously the great tribulation. Paul wrote I Corinthians during the Acts period. During the Acts period he was still looking for the return of Christ in his lifetime, which meant that he was still expecting to see the tribulation.
By the time of the writing of I Timothy, Paul had already received the revelation of the mystery, and he knew that he would not live to see the return of Christ and therefore would not be alive for the tribulation period. So in I Timothy Paul writes that he wills younger women to marry because the tribulation and the return of Christ were not imminent.
Let us now consider what the question of marriage has to do with the latter days. As we read in I Tim. 4:3, forbidding to marry was one of the things that was being preached by those who were “speaking lies in hypocrisy”. We have learned that it would be better not to be married in the end times as spoken of in the Gospels and Acts period but that it is better to be married in the dispensation of the mystery. That fact alone points to the fact that the end times of the Gospels and Acts period is at a different time than the end of the dispensation of the mystery. If that were not the case we would have a contradiction in God’s perfect Word.
This paper has been written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: email@example.com