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Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries


The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 08/24/08
The Church.
The Rapture.
The Tribulation.
We are noting the sixth, and final, principle that the Lord uses which guarantees the continuance of the human race until the end of human history: divine division and provision of the different dispensations. Throughout human history there are different dispensations given for the continuance of human history. Dispensations are periods of time in human history expressed in terms of divine revelation for that period. Dispensations are the means that God uses by which believers, living at a specific time in history, can adjust to God's will; God's plan and God's purpose for their lives. God's plan is not the same for every dispensation.
There are six dispensations in history and they fall into three categories:
The first is the Theocentric dispensations which refer to the Old Testament periods of time emphasizing and glorifying God the Father's purpose in the divine provision relating to the angelic conflict. There are two of these: The age of the Gentiles in the Old Testament, from Adam to the Exodus generation, 1441 B.C.
The age of the Jew or Israel, from 1441 B.C. to the first Advent of Christ, 4-5 B.C.
Secondly, there are two Christocentric dispensations where the Lord Jesus Christ is the center of the dispensation: The Hypostatic Union, 4-5 B.C. to His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, 30 A.D.
The Church-age, 30 A.D. to the Rapture, which has not yet occurred.
Finally we have two Eschatological dispensations: The Tribulation, from the rapture to the Second Advent of Christ. The Millennium, from the Second Advent, to the last Judgment.
Those six dispensations are divided into three categories. In each dispensation, there is one member of the Godhead or the Trinity exalted.
We have completed our look at the third dispensation, the Hypostatic-union, which is also the first of the two Christocentric dispensations. Next we take a look at the fourth dispensation, the dispensation of the mystery, the Church-age. In the Church-age, the dispensation of the mystery, our role and our goal is to become invisible heroes glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord accomplished the strategic victory of the angelic conflict through His salvation ministry on the Cross, plus his physical death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The believer accomplishes the tactical victory of the angelic conflict through his advance to spiritual maturity.
The Church had its beginning on the day of Pentecost, 30 A.D. - 33 A.D.. The Church-age began with the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which the royal family of God is formed. The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over {a period of} forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which, {He said,} you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (ACT 1:1-5). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience; it is God the Holy Spirit entering each Church-age believer into royalty. Things cannot be the same in this age as they were in the past age, after the death of Christ has taken place, His resurrection, His ascension and the advent of the Holy Spirit. Just like things cannot be the same in the coming age as they are in this age, after the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes to reign on earth. Then Satan will be bound, demons will be imprisoned, Israel will be restored and Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled.
There are four reasons why the Church began at Pentecost: First, there could be no Church in the world until Christ's death. The Church's relationship to that death is not a mere anticipation, but is based wholly upon His finished work and His precious blood. Secondly, there could be no Church until Christ arose from the dead to provide her with resurrection life (ROM 4:25). Thirdly, there could be no Church until He had ascended upon on high to become the Head. The Church is a new creation with a new federal headship in the resurrected Christ. The Church could not survive a moment without His intercession in heaven (2CO 13:8). That's why you don't touch the Church, she belongs to the Lord. Fourth, there could be no Church on earth until the advent of the Holy Spirit. The Church is a temple for the habitation of God, it is regenerated, baptized and sealed by the Spirit. We have entire movements today who have turned the baptism of the Spirit into an experience. They are all ignorant of the formation of the royal family of God, and resultant positional truth and union with Christ. The day of Pentecost was a celebration of a brand new dispensation, the Church. It was a day when the gift of apostleship was manifested by Peter and the gift of evangelism, miracles, tongues, and interpretations.
The Dispensational Orientation or the Church as the Mystery. The Church was a mystery from the Old Testament (ROM 16:25-26; EPH 3:1-9). Under the concept of the doctrine of the mystery, the Church was never known before this dispensation. It's doctrines were never proclaimed by Old Testament writers. The Church-age began in Acts chapter 2, and will continue until the royal family of God is completed. Then you have the rapture of the Church (1TH 4:16-17). This is when all members of the Church receive their resurrected bodies. This falls under the concept of royalty has its privileges. Our privilege is to have a resurrected body before any person who is born again in the Old Testament. After the Lord Jesus Christ, the firstfruits, we will be the first to have a resurrected body. When all the royalty is in a resurrection body, God does a great thing. He let's the Jewish age run out, the last seven years called the Tribulation. Then the Bride of Christ, the royal family of God, comes back with Him, and He becomes the ruler of the world. It is then that the Lord Jesus Christ presents the royal family of God to the world as His bride (REV 19:5-16). This is when the winners of the morning star are presented (REV 2:26-28). So the royal family of God, the Church is presented first. So much privilege has been given to us because we are a part of the Church-age and are under mystery doctrine. Mystery doctrine is Church-age doctrine which was unknown to those in the Old Testament. Most of the mystery doctrines of the Church-age are found in the Epistles. This is why we have a New Testament. The epistles clarify and keep us out of the Jewish age. God says in effect, stay out of the dispensation of Israel! Do not try to be a new Israel. Do not try to live by the Mosaic Law. Do not try to live by the Levitical sacrifices or the Levitical priesthood. This is why Paul teaches that if you are minus mystery doctrine you are minus the means and the ability to glorify God (1CO 2:1-8; EPH 1:6-9).
Mystery doctrine is pre-designed around the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or being in union with Christ. Let's notice some principles concerning some of the mystery doctrines of the Church:
1. Certain people would become royalty at the moment of salvation which was a mystery to the Old Testament (EPH 3:6; EPH 5:32). There is no family of God information in the Old Testament.
2. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and positional sanctification (1CO 1:2; 1CO 1:30; 1CO 12:13). Every believer lives in the holy of holies in this dispensation.
3. Every believer would actually be indwelt by God the Holy Spirit (1CO 3:16; 1CO 3:19; 1CO 6:19-20). On the day of Pentecost every believer was indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.
4. The indwelling of the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously this did not happen in the Old Testament (GAL 2:20; JOH 14:20).
5. A new contract, the old covenant or contract was done away with  (HEB 12:24).
6. The new priesthood. The fact that every believer is a priest is a dramatic change from the Old Testament. The universal priesthood of the Church-age believer was never revealed before (REV 1:6; REV 20:6; 1PE 2:5; 1PE 2:29).
7. The new ministry of God the Holy Spirit. For the first time in all of history every believer is commanded to be filled with the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, grieve not the Holy Spirit.
8. The completed canon of Scripture. Until the canon of Scripture was completed there were certain systems of revelation which were common in the Old Testament  such as voices, angels, dreams, visions, trances, all of which were used by God to communicate doctrinal principles. However under the doctrine of the mystery the Scripture is closed and completed.
9. A new type of service. For the first time in history every believer is called to full time Christian service as an ambassador for Christ (2CO 5:20; EPH 6:20).
10. The mystery of the Bride of Christ which is His body, the Church (EPH 5:32). We are said to be "in God" (1TH 1:1). God is "in us" (EPH 4:6). We are "in Christ" (JOH 14:20). Christ is "in us" (COL 1:27).
The uniqueness of the church age is absolutely different from any other dispensation. We have a new classroom, a new means of spiritual growth, a new means of communication (EPH 3:18; HEB 10:25).
The Church-age is the greatest opportunity afforded to individual believers in Christ in all of human history. We now have the privilege of becoming a person with a purpose under the greatest plan from God. Our impact is not only extensive and invisible in human history, but it also extends into the angelic conflict with the elect and fallen angels. As a new spiritual species, you have a greater spiritual impact than Israel had in the Old Testament. You must regard yourself as a member of the royal family of God, with your very own invisible assets plus an absolutely perfect and wonderful plan guaranteed to keep you on top of life as long as you live. You live in the age of the greatest potential dynamics to ever exist in human history.
So, there are two Christocentric dispensations: The first Christocentric dispensation, the Hypostatic Union, terminated with a Resurrection - that of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second Christocentric dispensation will also terminate with a resurrection - that of the Church - and that resurrection is referred to as the Rapture. The Rapture of the Church is when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back in the clouds of the air to take His church or His bride out of the world to forever be with Him. A key point to remember is the doctrine of imminence. Many signs are given to the nation Israel which would precede the Second Coming which is a totally different event than the Rapture. This is so the nation would be living in expectancy when the time of His coming should draw near! Although Israel could not know the day nor the hour, they could know, through these signs, that their redemption is drawing near! To the Church however, no such signs were given. The Church is told to live in the light of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ (PHI 3:20; 1TH 1:10; 1TI 6:14; JAM 5:8).
Immanency means impending, or threatening to occur immediately. Immanency is used technically for the fact that no prophecy has to be fulfilled before the Rapture occurs. The Rapture will occur when the last member of the body of Christ is saved. This is why the Church-age is the only dispensation in which there are historical trends, and no prophecy. The Church-age began with an event prophesied, the baptism of the Spirit. Our lord prophesied this in the upper room discourse and just before He ascended. The Church-age ends with the Rapture, which was also prophesied. There is no prophecy between these two events. This means that the Rapture is imminent. It could occur at any time. No one knows the day or the hour. The resurrection of the Church, like our dying, is completely out of our control. Just as we have no control over the time and manner of our death, we have no control over the time and manner of the Rapture.
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1CO 15:51-58)
While there are many things happening today that tell us the Lord's return may very well be imminent, we know that it did not happen for all those generations of Christians who came before us. However, if the only value of living in "expectancy of the Lord" rested in being satisfied by the Lord's actual return during their lifetime, then the fact that Christ has not yet returned would mean that they waited and watched in vain. However, the Lord commanded us to have this "expectant" attitude knowing full well that millions of Christians would be taken to heaven through death before He returned. Therefore, there must be something important about living as though we expect our Lord to return at any moment. One of the reasons that we are to think like this is because a conviction that we could be caught up into heaven at any moment would impart an added seriousness to our lives. When we stop and think about the fleeting nature of our earthly life that should cause us to make every moment count for eternity. It should also remind us of our true citizen­ship in a world to come which is based upon eternal rather than earthly values. This is the attitude that should certainly characterize our Christian life. Recognizing that at any moment we could be taken to heaven in the Rapture presents a challenge to examine the reality of our faith.
The last two dispensations are called the Eschatological Dispensations. Eschatology is the theological category of last things or future things. We have Two Eschatological dispensations: First the Tribulation, from the Rapture to the Second Advent of Christ. Secondly, the Millennium, from the Second Advent, to the last Judgment. The Tribulation is found in prophecy concerning the course of events in the final seven years of the Jewish dispensation. We must begin this subject with some prophecy concerning the future of planet earth! There is a time coming on this earth which the Bible talks about more than any other period of time in all of human history, including the time that the Lord Jesus Christ walked the shores of Galilee. The removal of all believers from the earth at the Rapture of the Church (1TH 4:13-18), announces the beginning of the Tribulation. Because the Church and Israel are two distinct groups with whom God has a divine plan, one has to be taken away while the other is dealt with.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1TH 4:13-18)
The Tribulation period starts with the rapture of the Church. It terminates with the Second Advent, or the Second coming of Christ. So, we have the Rapture and the Second Advent and in between we have a short seven year span called the Tribulation. The Tribulation is the Doomsday Dispensation. This period goes from the Rapture of the Church to the Second Advent of Christ, approximately seven years. Rev 6-19 gives the trends of history during this period. This dispensation can also be called: Daniel's 70th Week, the Time of Satan's Desperation. It is Satan's last attempt to try to continue to rule the world. The Tribulation period is prophesied in many passages in the Old Testament: JER 30:4-8; ZEC 14:1-9; DAN 9:26-27; ISA 34:1-6; ISA 63:1-6; DAN 11:40-46; Eze 38-39; ZEC 12:1-3.  It is prophesied by our Lord in Mat 24-25. The Tribulation gathers up into seven short years all of man's failures and intensifies them, so that a great portion of the earth's population is destroyed by self-determination from bad decisions. So, there is a time coming on this earth which is called "Satan's Time Of Desperation" "The Day Of Wrath" "The Hour Of trial." It is a period of the greatest power struggle in all of human history. It involves not only people but angelic creatures as well. It is not a time that you would want any of your family members, friends, neighbors, and if you truly understood it, even your enemies to have to go through. It is a great period of wrath on this earth from God and from Satan (ZEP 1:14-18). It is a time of great judgment on the earth like never before (REV 6:12-17). It is said to be a great time of indignation (ISA 26:20-21). A time of trial (REV 3:10). Destruction (JOE 1:15). Darkness (JOE 2:2). Desolation (DAN 9:27). Punishment (ISA 24:20-21). According to the Word of God, this is a time that could take place on this earth tomorrow, because of the immanency of the Rapture.
The Tribulation is the time when Satan seeks to destroy the Jewish population of the earth. That is why anti-Semitism is evil. Anti-Semitism is a person, a group, an organization, or a nation who is hostile to the Jews. This persecution and hostility to the Jews will reach its peak in the Tribulation period. The Church, the body of Christ will not go through this period. This is because the Rapture is used in a technical theological sense for the resurrection of the royal family of God. Since the Church or royal family of God is the first spiritual building to be completed, it is resurrected after our Lord. The Church is the second phase of the first resurrection following the resurrection of Christ. The next phase will be the Old Testament saints at the Second Coming, seven years later. The final phase will be after the 1,000 year Millennial reign of Christ. The Rapture of the Church is God's means of terminating the Church-age and delivering us from the wrath to come (1TH 1:10). This is why TIT 2:13 calls the Rapture or the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Our blessed hope or happy guarantee", even the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."
The Church-age terminates with the transferring of the Church into the Lord's presence. The Lord Jesus Christ will remove the Church from this world when that terrible Tribulational period comes. Such verses as EPH 3:1-6; COL 1:25-27; ROM 16:25-26, all make it crystal clear that the Church was a mystery and was not known in the Old Testament. The Church, therefore, could not have been in view in the Old Testament prophecy concerning the Tribulational period. There can be no question that this period will see the wrath of God poured out upon the whole earth. REV 3:10 calls it "that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth." The Church does not go through any part of the Tribulation. God never mixes Israel and the Church. When one is operative, the other is not. Each dispensation has a separate plan and purpose. God's plan for Israel was a ritual plan; God's plan for the Church is the PPOG.
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