The Rapture and the Revelation: Dividing Prophecy from Mystery

DIVIDING
PROPHECY from MYSTERY

But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them (Matthew 13:16-17)

Scripture is viewed in the manner it’s divided which ultimately forms a cover to cover interpretation of it. Since many evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11) see and teach the Bible strictly from an overly simplistic hermeneutic- Jewish (Old Testament) and Christian (New Testament)- they fail to see- much less articulate- the distinction between Israel’s gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23)- prophecy, and the church’s gospel of grace (Acts 20:24)- mystery. Cornelius Stam once again helps clear up the confusion:

“The supposition that the most important division of the Bible is that between the Old and New Testaments has often been expressed in the statement: “The Old Testament is for the Jews; the New Testament is for us.” This is quite incorrect, however. First of all, the titles Old Testament and New Testament are not accurate designations of the two sections of the Bible which they are supposed to represent. The covenant of the law (later called the old covenant, or testament) was not made until 2500 years of human history had elapsed. “The law was given by Moses” (John 1:17), about 1500 B.C., as recorded in Exodus 19 and 20. We are told concerning this period of time “from Adam to Moses” that “there [was] no law” (Rom. 5:13,14), i.e., the law had not yet been given. This means that there is actually not one word of the old testament in Genesis. Indeed, Israel did not even emerge as a nation until her deliverance from Egypt described in Exodus. If, therefore, the Old Testament is for the Jews and the New Testament for us, for whom is the book of Genesis? As to the new covenant; this was not made until the death of Christ. “… He is the Mediator of the new testament [covenant] that by means of death … they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15).”

Stam continues: “It was in the shadow of the cross, as our Lord communed with His disciples, that He said: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). This means that the greater part of the four gospel records actually covers old testament rather than new testament history and that our Lord and His disciples all lived under the old covenant at that time. Hereinafter we nevertheless use the terms Old Testament and New Testament in the  by way of accommodation. It should be noted too that both the actual old and new testaments, though they affect us, were made with the nation Israel, and that the new covenant simply promises that Israel will one day render spontaneously the obedience required of her under the old covenant (Deut. 5:1-3, Jer. 31:31). The most important division in the Bible, then, is not that between the so called Old and New Testaments. The most important division in the Bible is that between prophecy and the great mystery proclaimed by the Apostle Paul.”

Prophecy for Israel

About the time I enrolled in Bible college, I had already purchased my first Scofield Study Bible. [1] The Scofield is- without rival- the best investment decision I’ve ever made. The notes are like a seminary education, [i] that reinforced and taught me Bible doctrine, Bible history, and about the seven dispensations which marked a clear distinction between Israel and the church. As you may already know, understanding and applying dispensationalism[ii]  is the key to rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) and thereby ending the confusion surrounding the rapture-revelation, church-Israel debate.

      Israel is the chosen nation and the subject of more prophecy than any other nation in the world. She emerged- and exists- from prophecy centering around the coming of an eternal King to set up an earthly Kingdom. While Christians see this as the Second Coming, the Jews look for a first.

By and large, dispensationalists agree with CI Scofield’s observation that “whoever reads the Bible with any attention cannot fail to perceive that more than half of its contents relate to one nation-the Israelites . . . their history alone is told in Old Testament narrative and prophecy-other nations being mentioned only as they touch the Jew.” [iii]

As a side note, be sure to keep your eye on Israel at all times. In these last days it is encouraging to watch God assist the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8) become far more prominent on the world stage. This, of course, is necessary in order to fulfill His purposes contained in His promises- called covenants– that He confirmed with Israel as found in Scripture.

Israel’s Covenants Prophesied

                   Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). If you remember nothing else from this booklet, remember this: The importance of Israel’s prophets mustn’t be forgotten, understated or overlooked! God chose, founded, spoke to, and led His nation through the prophetic Word: Thus saith the Lord . . .  (Ex. 4:22; Josh. 7:13; Jud. 6:8; 1 Sam. 2:27, etc). In accordance with the epoch purposes of God, He- through the prophets- established eight conditional and unconditional covenants [2] (promises) with Israel- not the church: in conditional covenants, God says “if you do this, then I will do that” and unconditional covenants, where God says, “I will do this regardless!” The Scofield notes reveal the three unconditional Jewish covenants that we need to mention here: First, the Abrahamic covenant promised Israel a national identity with blessing, redemption, and perpetuity (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:18); second the Palestinian covenant guaranteed Israel a 30,000 [iv] square mile national homeland that Muslims are trying to steal (Deuteronomy 30:1-10); and third, the Davidic covenant promised Israel a perpetual kingdom in her homeland where the seed of David would be king (2 Samuel 7:10-13 see the Old Scofield Study Bible for details). It will be at this time that the New covenant- (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:8) whereby God writes His laws upon the heart of the Jew will finally become a reality. While none of these have fully come to fruition for Israel, we are sure since Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), they soon will be as foretold by the prophets.

Israel’s Kingdom Prophesied to David

We pause here to discuss Davidic Kingdom and Covenant. Beginning in Genesis as Stam pointed out- and continuing through the first half of Acts- a prophetic pattern is progressively dispensed regarding the Jewish kingdom on earth and its Messiah King. When the Word is rightly divided, we find that it is Israel, not the church, that was promised a coming kingdom of heaven which occupied much of the preaching of John the Baptist, Christ and the disciples (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7).) It will one day emerge in fulfillment of the unconditional Davidic Covenant. Prophecy tells us this kingdom will usher in 1000 years (revealed in Rev. 20:2-7) of unprecedented peace (Micah 4:2-4; Isaiah 32:17-18), joy (Isaiah 61:7, 10), comfort (Isaiah 40:1-2), prosperity, and health (Amos 9:13-15; Joel 2:28-29).

Israel’s Seventy Weeks Prophesied to Daniel

The angel Gabriel [3] revealed to Daniel the prophet God’s plan for the inauguration of Israel’s earthly kingdom in the 6th century BC. The prophecy consisted of seventy weeks of seven 360-day years, to commence with the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem which was given by Cyrus March 14, 445 BC. Since this event occurred with perfect precision liberals – in typical godless fashion- have consistently fudged the date for Daniel’s writings to sometime after the fact. The 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proved Daniel was written centuries earlier.

Daniel writes [emphases mine]:

                   Seventy weeks (according to Strong’s original Hebrew this amounts to 70 weeks of 7 years) are determined upon thy people (the Jews) and upon thy holy city (Jerusalem), to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, (the promised kingdom) and to seal up the vision and prophecy, (God moves from prophecy to mystery) and to anoint the most Holy (Jesus Christ). Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem (Neh. 2:1-8) unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: (sixty nine weeks of years) the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks (this would include the seven weeks already mentioned to total again sixty nine weeks of years) shall Messiah be cut off . . . (Daniel 9:24-26). On April 6, 32 AD- which is exactly 173,880 days after Cyrus’ decree, Messiah presented Himself as the messiah in Jerusalem just as foretold.

Israel’s Messiah King Presented at 70th Week

When interpreted in their proper context, the Gospels through Acts 8 are actually a continuation of the OT narrative. Matthew’s Gospel was written to convince Jews that Christ was the long awaited Messiah who had come to set up His kingdom of heaven [4] on earth. Luke further documents that Christ was heir to the Davidic throne in Jerusalem (Luke 1:32-33) and as such would convene the covenant. Therefore, Jesus and John the Baptist both heralded His arrival with a crystal clear invitation to Israel: Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). The King, of course validated His presence with many miraculous signs. However, after 40 months of confirming His ministry to the Jews, when He entered Jerusalem to present Himself as their long awaited Messiah, He was cut off and crucified at the beginning of the 70th week just as Daniel predicted. [v]        Please keep in mind, this one final week Daniel prophesied for Israel- is still out there, unfulfilled. Dispensational Bible scholars believe the rapture will trigger God moving from mystery back to prophecy with the Day of the Lord [5]tribulation soon to follow. Messiah, according to the prophet Isaiah, will return after Israel and the Gentile nations are dealt with in this frightening future hour (Isa. 26:16-21).

Israel’s Blindness Leads to Mystery

While Christ’s offer had been rejected and Himself crucified, the glorious resurrection offered new hope to His followers who were still committed to establishing the Kingdom. At the end of His earthly pilgrimage- just prior to the ascension- they asked: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6). He told them to wait for the enabling power from on high (Acts 1:8) to carry the kingdom message to the world (Matt. 28:19-20).

Ten days later on Pentecost, Joel’s prophecy to Israel [6] was fulfilled in Jerusalem (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21) signaling the last days had begun. With the kingdom message fresh on his heart, and overflowing with the fire of the Holy Spirit, Peter preached a soul-stirring message to the Jews: Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem (Acts 2:14) highlighting prophecies regarding the Messiah King Christ in OT history. While some repented, the leaders did not and hope for ratifying the covenant of the Davidic Kingdom was once again set aside. God later sent Paul to try again to convert the Jews and usher in the kingdom, but that effort also proved fruitless (Acts 20:25-26; 28:23-24). This final act of corporate rejection by Israel produced spiritual blindness (Acts 28:26-28; Rom. 9-11; 2 Tim. 1:11) while halting the 70 week prophetic calendar abruptly after the 69th week [with one week left to be fulfilled]. In this, God temporarily turned from the Jews and Peter’s gospel of circumcision to the Gentiles and Paul’s gospel of the uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7), not by means of prophecy, but totally from the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25).

Mystery of the Church

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory  (Colossians 1:26-27)

While Israel exists from prophecy, focused on the earthly kingdom, the church was manifest through a means far different, a mystery, which focuses on the heavenly kingdom; it is a mystery within a dispensation shrouded in mysteries, revealed to the church in the Pauline epistles and nowhere else (Rom. 16:25; Gal. 1:12; Eph. 3:2-9). In a treatise entitled Paul’s Gospel, long time Moody Bible Institute associate William R. Newell elaborates: “Unto none of (the) twelve Apostles did God reveal the great body of doctrine for this Age. Just as God chose Moses to be the revelator to Israel for the Ten Commandments and all connected with the Law dispensation, so God chose Saul of Tarsus to be the revelator and unfolder of those mighty truths connected with our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection and His ascended Person. And all the “mysteries” or “secrets” revealed to God’s people in this Dispensation by the Holy Spirit are revealed by Paul . . . Paul is the unfolder of the great company of God’s elect, called the Church, the Body of Christ, the individuals of which Body are called members of the Body of Christ—members of Christ Himself . . . It pleased (God) to choose Paul to be the great proclaimer and revealer of just what the Gospel is for this dispensation. You can judge any man’s preaching or teaching by this rule—Is he Pauline?”

Cornelius Stam further expounds on this Pauline mystery truth: “Many “mysteries” are to be found in the Scriptures, but one stands out preeminently as “The Mystery:” the great body of truth committed by revelation to the Apostle Paul. The great mystery revealed through Paul is spoken of in both ways – sometimes both together: The mystery is a truth which was intentionally kept hidden until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul: He says it was “kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25), “in other ages … not made known,” “from the beginning of the world . . . hid in God” (Eph. 3:5,9), “hid from ages and from generations” (Col. 1:26). Now that it has been revealed it is still comprehended only by the initiated: Hence the apostle prays: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17 and cf. Ver. 9), “that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, The mystery . . . now. . . made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, the full assurance of understanding. . . the acknowledgment [Gr. epignosis, full knowledge] of the mystery” (Col. 1:9, 26, 27, 2:2).

It is therefore of the utmost importance that we seek light and understanding from the Holy Spirit in the study of this great subject. We believe that (the) apostles of the circumcision were inspired to write particularly for a future day. When the body of Christ has been caught up and the time of tribulation begins, Israel will be “scattered” (I Pet. 1:1, James 1:1) and “the end of all things” will again be “at hand” (I Pet. 4:7), (I John 2:18).                   When Messiah first appeared on earth, God did not immediately establish His kingdom by force. The kingdom was first proclaimed “at hand” and offered for acceptance. This proclamation and offer was, of course, made to Israel, for the Gentiles had long been given up, “even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28). But Israel proved herself no better than the Gentiles as she took the heaven-sent King, nailed Him to a tree and then, when God raised Him from the dead, still stood by her awful deed, defying the resurrected and glorified Christ and waging relentless war against those who dared to acknowledge Him as Messiah.

“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:10,11).

“And so, before the actual bringing in of the glorious reign of Christ, man was allowed to demonstrate his own moral failure and see for himself that the establishment of the long-promised kingdom would not be the result of his own efforts or character but of the grace and power of God, for man had done everything in his power to hinder the bringing in of the kingdom. But “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). When Israel rejected her Messiah, God cast her aside (temporarily) along with the other nations, that He might offer to all His enemies everywhere reconciliation by grace alone, through faith in the rejected Christ. Thus “the dispensation of the grace of God” was ushered in (Eph. 3:2) so that those willing to accept God’s grace might be reconciled to Him in one body by the cross: “for God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32). “and that he might reconcile both [Jews and Gentiles] unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; And came and preached peace to you [Gentiles] which were afar off, and to them [Israelites] that were nigh” (Eph. 2:16,17). Nothing of this is to be found anywhere in prophecy. It was a surprise of grace, so to speak, “hid from ages and from generations”; “kept secret since the world began.”

Chart 2: Prophecy Mystery Compared

EARTH

HEAVEN

Prophecy

Mystery

Gospel of the Kingdom

Gospel of Grace

Prophets of Israel

Apostle to the Gentiles (Paul)

Focus on Israel

Focus on the Church

Concerns a kingdom; a political organization (Dan.2:44, Matt. 6:10).

Concerns a body; a living

organism
(I Cor. 12:12,27, Eph. 4:12-16).

The kingdom to be established on earth
(Jer. 23:5, Matt. 6:10).

The body given a position in heaven
(Eph. 1:3, 2:5-6, Col. 3:1-3).

Christ to be its King 
(Jer.23:5, Isa. 9:6,7).

Christ its living Head
(Eph. 1:19-23, Col. 1:18).

The kingdom prophesied “since the world began”
(Luke 1:68-70, Acts 3:21).

The body chosen in Christ before the world began, but “kept secret since the world began”
(Rom. 16:25, Eph. 1:4-11, 3:5-9).

Israel to be given supremacy over the nations
(Isa. 60:10-12, 61:6).

Jew and Gentile placed on the same level before God (Rom. 10:12, 11:32, Eph. 2: 16,17).

The Gentiles to be blessed through Israel’s instrumentality
(Gen. 22:17,18, Zech. 8:13).

The Gentiles blessed through
Israel’s obstinacy
(Acts 13:44-46, Rom. 11:28-32).

The Gentiles to be blessed through Israel’s rise 
(Isa. 60:1-3, Zech. 8:22,23).

The Gentiles blessed through Israel’s fall 
(Acts 28:27,28, Rom. 11:11,12,15).

Prophecy mainly concerns nations as such
(Isa. 2:4, Ezek. 37:21,22).

The mystery concerns individuals (Rom. 10:12,13,

 II Cor. 5:14-17).

Prophecy concerns blessings,
both material and spiritual, on earth (Isa. 2:3,4, 11:1-9, etc.).

The mystery concerns
“all spiritual blessings in the

heavenlies”  (Eph. 1:3,

Col. 3:1-3).

Prophecy concerns Christ’s
coming to the earth
(Isa. 59:20, Zech. 14:4).

The mystery explains
Christ’s present absence from the earth
(Eph. 1:20-23, Col. 3:1-3).

In prophecy salvation by grace through faith alone is not contemplated.

Salvation by grace through faith alone lies at the very heart of the mystery
(Rom. 3:21-26, 4:5, Eph. 2:8,9).

The proclamation of the prophetic program committed particularly to the twelve
(Matt. 10:5-7, Acts 1:6-8,

3:19-26).

The proclamation of the mystery
committed particularly to Paul
(Eph. 3:1-3,8,9, Col. 1:24-27).

The prophetic program revealed through many of God’s servants
(Luke 1:70, II Pet. 1:21).

The mystery revealed through one man: Paul
(Gal. 1:1,11,12, 2:2,7,9,

Eph. 3:2,3).

Old testament writers frequently
did not understand the prophecies made known through them
(Dan. 12:8-10, I Pet. 1:10-12).

Paul both understood and longed
that others might understand the mystery revealed through him.
(Eph. 1:15-23, 3:14-21,

Col 1:9-10, 2:1-3).

Israel and the Church: Prophecy and Mystery

While Israel, the Gentiles, and the church all appear subjectively in Scripture, they are not the same, and those who fail to see the difference have literally heaped garbage dumps of heresy on ignorant brethren who often can’t see it or smell it. This need not be!

When you discern the divine distinctions between Israel (prominent), Gentiles, Church (subordinate), you possess one of the keys for rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). These riches include the seven dispensations which show us the means and the methods God used in his dealings throughout Biblical history including prophecy for Israel (earthly) and mystery for the church (heavenly). Let us compare them again:

Prophecy: The church was not in view when God sent prophets to tell Israel He had chosen her for blessing through an earthly Kingdom and an eternal King. When she rebelled and rejected the King, He turned from Israel to the church (Matt. 21:43) by revealing a mystery, thereby postponing the kingdom of heaven for an indefinite time. [7] This left one week of 7 years yet to be fulfilled on the Jewish prophetic calendar as foretold in Daniel. Scholars believe this seven year period is part of the tribulation- Day of the Lord- used 24 times by ten OT prophets- that Jeremiah called the time of Jacob’s (Jacob is Israel) trouble (Jer. 30:7). Perceptive Bible men also understand dispensational teaching that the coming Day of the Lordtribulation is a judgment followed by a resurrection prescribed for Israel (Isa. 26:16-21; Dan. 12:1-2) through prophecy and- as such- is not part of the mystery and therefore does not concern, affect, or implicate the church in any manner whatsoever! Those who place the church in any part of the tribulation, in my opinion, obfuscate an issue made clear within the context of prophecy and mystery thereby showcasing their woeful inability- or worse, unwillingness- to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

Mystery: The dispensation of the mystery of the church isn’t Jewish and it wasn’t known by any of the prophets or the twelve apostles (2 Pet. 3:15-16; see also 1 Thess. 2:13). It was secretly revealed by the Holy Spirit to Paul- the Apostle to the church- literally as a mystery (Eph. 3)- after the Lord temporarily set aside the prophecy of Daniel’s 70th week.

The prophets pronounced the upcoming Day of the Lordtribulation for Israel not the church. God must then ultimately reinstate her to prophetic significance at the seventieth week: Prophecy (Israel, earthly) gave way to mystery (the church, heavenly) at Daniel’s 70th week; now mystery must give way to prophecy which will resume for the one week still future. Dispensationalists believe that since the church is not Israel, is not the subject of prophecy, is not implicated in the Day of the Lordtribulation (time of Jacob’s trouble), is not mentioned from Revelation 4-21, and is not the beneficiary of the Millennial Kingdom of heaven on earth- she must be taken out of the way (2 Thess. 2:7) so that Israel becomes prominent in God’s prophetic plan once again. This, we believe, will happen after the church, which appeared through a mystery revealed to Paul, likewise disappears through another mystery revealed to Paul: the mystery of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).


[1] We have these in bonded leather KJV with the 1917 notes available through PMI for a gift of $30. Get it from PMI and you help our ministry.

[2] ADAMIC – (Gen. 3:14); EDENIC- (Gen. 1:26); NOAHIC – (Gen. 9:1); ABRAHAMIC – (Gen. 15:18); MOSAIC – (Ex. 19:25); PALESTINIAN- (Deu. 30:3); DAVIDIC – (2 Sam. 7:16); NEW – (Heb. 8:8; see Jer. 31:31-34).

[3] It was also Gabriel who 540 years later told the virgin Mary she would bear the promised Son Immanuel as heir to the throne of Israel (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33).

[4] Mentioned 32 times- only in Matthew: 3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 7:21; 8:11; 10:7; 11:11, 12; 3:11, 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; 16:19; 18:1,3, 4, 23; 19:12, 14, 23; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13; 25:1, 14.

[5] Isaiah 2:12; 13:6,9; 34:8; Jeremiah 46:10; Lamentations 2:22; 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

[6] Pentecostal Charismatics wrongly assign this to the church under our new dispensation which has resulted in many heresies, including the Latter Rain Manifest Sons of God blasphemies. Request Latter Rain booklet explaining this.

[7] This term is used 13 times only in Matthew’s Gospel: the gospel of the King, written for and appeals to the Jews.


[i] I know this to be true as I have earned a Bachelor’s, two Master’s, and a Doctor’s degree.

[ii] Did you take a lamb to church last week? If not, you are a dispensationalist.

[iii] C.I. Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, p.1

[iv] J. Vernon McGee’s estimate. Some claim it to be as high as 45k sq. miles.

[v] Calculated by Sir Robert Anderson, former director of the Scotland Yard.

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