Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 3 – The Restoration of Israel
by Gerald R. Thompson
Ministry of the Holy Spirit
One of the marvelous wonders of paperback prophetic interpretation is the contrivance often forced upon 2Th. 2:6-7: “And you know what is restraining [the Antichrist] now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.” According to this common theory, the “he” in the last sentence, the one who now restrains lawlessness and who will be taken out of the way when the Antichrist comes is the Holy Spirit. That’s right – the third person of the Trinity.
This plays right into the dominant view of dispensationalists that when the secret Rapture comes and the (Great) Tribulation begins, the Church age will end. Thus, according to the theory, the Holy Spirit either won’t be around or will have a severely curtailed ministry during the Tribulation, which is OK since the Church won’t be on earth at the time anyway. As if there is something theologically incompatible with having the Antichrist and the Holy Spirit both fully functioning on earth at the same time.
Which helps explain why, according to many dispensationalists, the Tribulation saints aren’t really part of the Church and will be handled differently, or at least separately, from other Christians in the end times. It also explains why people believe the Church isn’t mentioned in chapters 6-18 of Revelation, even though the Tribulation saints figure prominently in those chapters. (Because those saints can’t really be part of the Church if the Holy Spirit isn’t there.)
I have already shown that: 1) there won’t be a secret Rapture event – ever; 2) the Church age won’t end when the Tribulation begins or the Antichrist appears; and 3) the Tribulation saints are the Church because the Bible only says when these people will die – not when they became Christians. I suppose I might as well finish the job and show why the Holy Spirit won’t leave when the going gets tough.
But first, let me point out the tremendous irony that the people who believe the ministry of Jesus is so finished, complete and perfect there won’t be anything left for Him to do when He returns, are the very same ones who argue that the ministry of the Holy Spirit (which I always took to be part of the package deal of Jesus’ First Advent) is going to be set aside and nullified for a time because it is an obstacle to the plan of God for mankind. So, I guess what Jesus did was complete and perfect, but when the Holy Spirit came it wasn’t so perfect because He has to be taken out of the way?
Did Jesus, in his First Advent, send the Holy Spirit, or did He not? “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” Jn. 15:26. Was that part and parcel of the ministry of Jesus’ First Advent or not? “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Jn. 16:13-14.
I thought the whole purpose of sending the Holy Spirit was so that God would be with us on the earth while Jesus was away. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment … because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” Jn. 16:7-10. So, knowing that Jesus will not be on earth during the Tribulation, why would the Holy Spirit leave before Jesus returns?
Remembering that the Holy Spirit is not a thing, but a person of the Godhead, why would God need to take Himself out of the way in order to accomplish His own will? Is the Holy Spirit an obstacle to what God wants to accomplish in the Tribulation? Is the Holy Spirit, just like Jesus, going to have His own second coming? Or will He be absent during the Millennium, too?
Are we really supposed to believe that the Tribulation saints will not be indwelt by the Holy Spirit? That God is going back to the Old Testament status of the Holy Spirit as a way of moving forward? Does that mean we’re also going back to a reliance on the Mosaic law when the Holy Spirit leaves? Should I start building a stone altar in my back yard now, while I still can? (Better stock up on knives, too.)
Again, permit me to note the irony that the people who believe the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way are very often the same people who think Christians (non-Raptured Christians, in their mortal bodies) are going to enter the Millennial kingdom and these will form the foundation of the Church going forward. What kind of true Church is going to carry out the future plans of God without the Holy Spirit? Wait! Aren’t the Christians who survive the Tribulation just the Tribulation saints? I thought they weren’t even part of the “real” Church? How can they be its foundation going forward?
I have already said that God is going to judge the Church in the Tribulation, and between the persecution of the Antichrist and the great earthquake that will re-level the earth, everything built by the present day Church (physical buildings and organizations of people) will be swept away. Plus, all the Christians alive when Jesus returns will be translated into immortal bodies.
But I never said, and I never meant to imply, that the very nature of the Church would be redefined at that time. God is going to rebuild His Church from scratch, based mainly on the conversion of the Jews, but it will be the same type and composition of the body of Christ that we have now. Salvation and the comfort of the Holy Spirit will come to believers the same way they do now. The nature of the Church is not going to change in either the Tribulation or the Millennium. Even notwithstanding the re-introduction of sacrifices in the Millennial temple.
And that includes the nature and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
It is a fair question to ask, “Then what does 2Th. 2:6-7 mean?” The only thing we know about the “he” in the text is that he restrains lawlessness. However, scripture nowhere declares, to my knowledge, that this is the job of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the job of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of evil, not restrain it. Jn. 16:8. Civil rulers are given the job of punishing evil (Rom. 13:1-4), which is a form of restraint, but I doubt civil rulers are in view in 2Th. 2:6-7 because no civil ruler will be able to restrain the Antichrist.
Most likely the text refers to an angel, or possibly the Godhead, but when it says he will be out of the way it most likely means that God will simply allow what He has up to that point not allowed. In other words, even if the “he” in the text refers to God, it does not mean any aspect of the ministries of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit will change. It means nothing more or less than God will not allow the Antichrist to be revealed until it is time to do so on God’s calendar.
And this, I think, is the real key to understanding the text. We shouldn’t be focusing on the method or manner of restraint, or what it means to be out of the way. The focus of the text is the revelation of the Antichrist, and that the timing of this revelation is under God’s control, even though lawlessness is already at work in the world.
Honestly, people – to manufacture a “God’s going to take the Holy Spirit off the earth after the Rapture” teaching from this text does the text a great disservice. If God actually intended to convey that meaning in the scripture, don’t you think He would have said so a lot more plainly, and probably confirmed the matter elsewhere in the Bible? To take something which is a mere inference, and a remote possibility at that, then to blow it up into a major change in the ministry of the Godhead – this is eisegesis, not exegesis. It’s reading something into the text that isn’t there.
Rev. 21:1-27 (summary) –
vv. 1-5: The present heaven and earth pass away, and a new heaven and earth replace them. There are no more seas. The new Jerusalem comes from heaven to earth as the place where God will dwell with man: He will be their God, and they will be His people. Death, pain and crying are no more; the former things have passed away.
vv. 6-8: All things are made new. God on the throne declares He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The spring of the water of life will be given as a heritage to the thirsty, those who conquer, the sons of God. But the lake of fire and sulphur, the second death, is reserved for “the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars.”
vv. 9-21: The New Jerusalem is described as the Bride of the Lamb. It is a city, clear as crystal, with a high wall, and a square base. Its length, width and height are equal: 12,000 stadia. It has 12 gates, each made of a single pearl, three gates facing each direction (N, S, E, W). An angel is stationed at each gate, and the gates are named after the tribes of Israel. The city has twelve foundations, each named after one of the apostles of the Lamb, and each made of a precious stone (which are specified). The city and its street are pure gold, clear as glass.
vv. 22-27: There is no temple in the city, for its temple is God the Almighty and the Lamb. There is no sun or moon to give light, for God and the Lamb are its light, and there will be no night. The gates will never be shut, and the kings and nations will enter the city. But nothing unclean or false can enter in – only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Rev. 22:1-5 (summary) – The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side is the tree of life, with twelve kinds of fruit, yielding fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. The servants of God will worship Him, and see His face. His name will be on their foreheads, and they will reign forever.
All Things New
After the battle between good and evil has been fought and permanently won, after God has accomplished everything He has wanted to do on the earth and with humanity, and after history has run its full course, all that exists now or will ever exist in the present universe will come to an end. Time will be no more, and eternity will start. How will this take place?
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Pet. 3:10-13.
Thus, the present universe will go out of existence with a big bang after coming into existence by the word of God. It’s just the opposite of current “scientific” thought (that’s a laugh), that the universe was started with a big bang and will go out with a whimper (i.e., loss of all energy). Somebody’s got it backwards, as usual.
Commentators often surmise the universe will be destroyed either by a large explosion, or by fire coming from the mouth of God (as it does when God destroys His enemies). But the word dissolved suggests something else to me – namely, that God will simply stop sustaining the present creation by the word of His power. See, Heb. 1:3. By withdrawing His power, which keeps all things together (Col. 1:17), everything we know as matter will simply dissolve. But of course, as we know in the atomic age, when matter is destroyed it releases great energy. Huge energy. E = mc2. But the exact mechanism of destruction is not for us to know. In any event, all things physical will pass away.
Which is not to say that everything in the new creation will be metaphysical (or spiritual only), but rather it will be incorruptible. In scientific terms, the law of entropy will no longer apply (energy will not always tend towards a less ordered state). Tangible things will exist, but they will not decay, fall apart or wear out. As Paul stated, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality,” in other words, an immortal body. 1Co. 15:53-54.
Since we will have new immortal bodies and not merely have our spirits float about the universe incorporeal (without a body), there must of necessity be things of substance – for lack of a better term, made of matter – and the new earth and the new Jerusalem (like our bodies) will be tangible things. But the curse of the ground will be gone – there will be no death, no pain or suffering, and no diseases or defects. Men will no longer toil, and women will no longer give birth. No one in heaven will be separated from God or have a sin nature. In fact, sin itself will be gone forever.
As to why God will create a new earth, it is because that’s where His people will live. We are not going to live either in outer space (second heaven) or the third heaven (a purely spiritual realm). The eternal “heaven” for which God’s people are destined is none of these. No, the people of God will be firmly tethered to a new earth, undoubtedly a planet like the present earth, but without any oceans, which I take to mean it will be 100% habitable (unlike the present earth). In fact, what people commonly refer to as heaven is really the New Jerusalem, because that’s where the pearly gates will be.
The scripture indicates that Christians are in a sense strangers and aliens (or exiles) on the earth (Heb. 11:13), but I confess I have a pet peeve when this is commonly characterized as “the earth is not our home,” or “our home is not this world.” The reality is that man was created to live on the earth, and only the earth.
And when I say we will be tethered to the new earth, I mean that we will never leave it. In a spiritual sense, we are not of the current world spiritual system, but in a physical sense, we always have been, and always will be forever the people of the earth. The earth is the only home we will ever have and we’d better get used to it.
It is possible the new earth will not have a solar system. We know that the New Jerusalem will have no need of the sun or the moon, which may mean they won’t exist, because there will be no night. However, the scripture never plainly says the new earth will have no need for the sun or moon – only that the holy city will have no need of them.
And then there is the curious reference to the tree of life in Rev. 22:2 to the effect that it will yield its fruit each month. Most commentators focus on why, if at all, anyone will need to eat such fruit, but my concern is the fact that it will yield fruit each month. You can’t have a month without a moon. A month is a lunar cycle – at least, for now. But for reasons described next, that analysis may not apply in eternity.
Though it is hard for us to conceive of it, time will cease. People will still move about and do things – there will be motion in eternity – but time will not be relevant. Since in our physical world time equals change (motion), I take this to mean two things: 1) nothing in the new creation will age; and 2) all of the things by which we measure time will likely be gone – the day, the week, the month, and the year.
All of these time measurements depend on the movement of astronomical bodies (sun, moon and earth), and it is likely that even though the new earth will still be a planet, all of the references by which days, months and years are observed will be gone. Thus, on balance, I conclude there will be no sun or moon, and possibly no rotation of the new earth.
If you ask me whether people will make appointments in heaven and be able to keep meetings, I suspect the answer is yes, but perhaps people will intuitively know when to coordinate with each other. Or maybe they won’t care when anyone arrives, because it’s not like there will be any emergencies or time pressures in eternity. Obviously, I don’t know the answer to the question and God isn’t going to tell us before we get there, most likely. But time, as we now know it, will no longer apply.
Further, I doubt anyone in the new creation will remember anything of our lives on earth, nor ask about it. We will not be sitting around watching reruns of history for our amusement or edification. All those things would do is remind us of sin and sorrow. Isa. 65:17 suggests we will have no memory of what came before. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
In keeping with that, Jesus indicated there will be no marriage or family relationships in heaven, because those only applied to carrying out the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:28, which I assume will no longer apply. See Mat. 22:30. There will certainly be no need for procreation – once eternity sets in, whoever has been born up to that point is all the people there will ever be, forever.
The number of heavenly occupants will remain constant. Which means no one will leave, either. No one will be traveling to other stars or planets. If you’re waiting for space aliens to show everyone that we are not alone in the universe, you wait in vain, even for an eternity.
Rev. 2:17; 3:12; and 22:4 all indicate that in heaven everyone will be given a new and unique name from God that no one else has. This tells me that God is going so far in making a new creation that we will all have completely new self-identities – another confirmation that all past memories will be wiped away. We might – no one can say for sure – retain our memories (even as translated saints) up until the Great White Throne. But after that, memories of our first creation would be totally inconsistent with being a new creation. I suspect God will give everyone in heaven a mind wipe.
The fact that the New Jerusalem will have twelve gates named after the tribes of Israel and twelve foundations named after the apostles is interesting, but I wonder if we will know the significance of it then. If everyone in eternity gets a new and unique name from God (as well as a mind wipe), how would we associate anyone in heaven with the names on its gates or foundations?
It is therefore no mere coincidence that Revelation 21-22 tells us the New Jerusalem will have twelve gates named after the tribes of Israel, but nowhere mentions the names of the tribes themselves. This in sharp contrast to Rev. 7, in discussing the 144,000 of Israel during the Tribulation, which names each of the tribes.
Similarly Ezek. 48, in describing the apportionment of the land of Israel and the gates of Jerusalem during the Millennium, names each of the tribes. Yet, when we are told the gates of New Jerusalem will be named after the tribes of Israel in eternity, the names of the tribes are not given. I suggest the reason for this is simple: when eternity arrives, those names will no longer mean anything to us.
If they were to mean anything to us, that is, if we were to remember who the tribes of Israel were and what they did or why they were important, we would necessarily remember their trials, sins, failures, and times of judgment. But we will not remember those things. “The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” Thus, it should be no surprise that when we are told the foundation layers of the New Jerusalem will be named after the apostles, they are not named either. We will not remember who they were. Nor will we care.
As to what people will do in heaven once they get there, the Bible doesn’t say. Other than worshiping God and going in and out of the city, we will just have to wait and find out. Sadly, there is no reasonable expectation that anyone will be able to have sex with 70 virgins in heaven. And I was so looking forward to that. (What do the virgins have to look forward to, I wonder?) But on a planet as large as the new earth without any seas, I’m betting we’ll have plenty of things to do, places to go, and people to see.