O God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs…
a sober and humble perspective on eschatology
September 30, 2009Posted by on
When I hear such passages as Lk 21:34; 1Thes 5:3; and Mk 13:36, that compare
Christ’s return to a thief that comes “suddenly” or “unexpectedly” upon
sleepers, I always think of the parable of the ten virgins. “While the
bridegroom tarried, they ALL slumbered and slept.” That word, “all,” is
especially interesting. When the announcement came that the bridegroom’s
arrival was immediately imminent, five were ready and five were not.
Apparently the time between the announcement and the bridegroom’s arrival was
insufficient, not only to prepare, but to repent, which brings the question:
“Is there a point before the Lord’s return when it will be too late? And for
whom will it be too late? It will not be too late for Israel who do not
repent until “the Deliverer comes out of Zion” (Ro 11:26, when “they shall
look upon Him whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Rev 1:7). It
will not be too late for some Gentiles who remain and cleave to the Jewish
survivors that have come to the knowledge of Christ (Zech 8:23; Isa 49:22;
60:9; 66:20), as the word of the Lord goes out of Zion to all nations (Isa
2:3; 66:19). For whom, then, will it be too late?
I believe that the issue of readiness for the Lord’s return is the issue of
vital regeneration. Mt 25:12 is decisive for this view, because it is quite
inconceivable that the Lord should say “I do not know you” to one of His true
born children. Therefore, I take it that the five foolish virgins represent
the professing church in its mixture with the true body of Christ (‘wheat and
tares’). In 1Thes 5:3, Paul is making the same distinction, and on the same
If the language of Lk 21:34 is compared with Rev 3:10, the parallel is clear.
A great and sudden “trial” (“snare”) is coming on the world that will bring
judgment on all who are not especially “kept from the hour”. If we compare
the larger context of Luke’s account (Lk 21:20-36), it is plain that the time
in view is the last crisis over Jerusalem that ends in the Lord’s return. In
my view, it is exegetically impossible to dissociate Luke’s account of the
Olivet prophecy from Matthew’s. Plainly, the events following the surrounding
of Jerusalem by Gentile armies are the same events that follow the
abomination of desolation in Matthew’s account (Mt 24:15-36).
Now observe: Luke speaks of a “snare” that comes upon the unwary (Lk
21:34-35), while Matthew, in keeping with Paul, compares the Lord’s return to
a thief (Mt 25:43). Clearly, these are the events of the last 3 ½ years
(compare Lk 21:24 w/ Rev 11:2). Note too that in Lk 21:35, the ‘snare’ comes
on “all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” The same language
appears in Rev 3:10. The parallel is unmistakable. It is important to note
that in every instance in Revelation where the term, “those who dwell on the
earth,” is used, it is a reference to the unregenerate, sometimes translated;
“earth dwellers” (compare Rev 3:10; 6:10; 11:10; 13:8, 14; 17:8).
In view of its obvious parallel to Christ’s warning in Luke, the “hour of
trial” in Rev 3:10 cannot be applied to a pre-tribulation rapture, which is
supposed to occur seven years before Christ’s return. “Kept from the hour,”
therefore, does not mean physical removal from the presence of the test, but
protection from its deceitful power. If we take Christ’s warning concerning
the unequaled deception that will sweep away all except the very elect (Mt
24:24), and the severity of the last persecution, the question is not who
shall be physically exempt from the hour of testing, but who shall be
accounted worthy to stand? In this sense, to be “kept from the hour” is to be
kept from falling at a time when all who’s names are not written in the book
of life will be falling away (2Thes 2:3; Rev 13:8; 17:8).
There is a remarkable parallel between Lk 21:34-36 and Rev 3:10. (In both
places it is Jesus who is speaking, but in Revelation, it is the glorified
Jesus. This makes the similarity of language all the more significant,
particularly since the Lord’s words are being recorded by different writers).
The manifest parallel is decisive for the interpretation of Rev 3:10. The
“hour of trial” in Rev 3:10 is the “snare” that overtakes the ‘earth
dwellers’ (i.e., the unregenerate) in Lk 21:35. In Luke’s account, the
context makes clear that deliverance is not by physical exemption, but by
being “accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come pass, and
to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk 21:36).
Who, then, is ‘NOT’ taken unaware? Upon whom does the day of the Lord ‘NOT”
come as a thief? Who will be “counted worthy to escape ‘all these things’
that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man?” In every
instance, the answer is the same. It is the one who is really born again. A
truly regenerate son or daughter of God is by definition an “over-comer”.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world” (1Jn 5:4). It is an
inviolable principle. Those who do not “keep the word of my patience” (Rev
3:10) are not counted among the regenerate, as defined by scripture.
If context is diligently observed, the question of who is the “overcomer”in
the book of Revelation is the question of who will refuse the mark of the
Beast in the ultimate hour of testing? The argument in the church right now
concerning over-comers versus under-comers is a non argument. The question of
who overcomes in the book of Revelation is the same as John’s epistle; it is
the one who is born of God. The confusion comes when the church
underestimates the nature of true regeneration. Indeed, the ‘straight gate’
(Mt 7:13) of true regeneration doesn’t come as cheaply as many imagine.
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and
election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2Pet 1:10).
Lk 21:20-36 leaves no question that the believers that are “accounted worthy
to ‘escape’ all these things,” are the same believers that are suffering
persecution, and that “to stand before the Son of Man” is reference to His
coming after the tribulation. This shows the error of applying the passages
that warn of unpreparedness to a rapture that has supposedly happened 3 ½
years earlier. (Incidentally, there is a debate among pre-tribulationists as
to whether such references to Christ’s coming with suddenness and surprise
upon the unwary should ever be used in support of the pre trib rapture. Hal
Lindsey is an exception, but most pre-trib scholars say no. They have
abandoned, and advise others to abandon, the use of such texts as Lk 21:34-35
and Mt 25:37-44 to teach the any moment return of Christ. The reason is
The point is this: It appears that it is NOT only the Lord’s return after the
tribulation that comes unexpectedly on the wicked, it is ALSO the sudden rush
of the events of the last 3 ½ years. You will notice that in some texts, the
tribulation and the Lord’s return are depicted in such close association as
to be almost indistinguishable in the passages that warn of being overtaken
by surprise. This raises an interesting and sobering implication that has
been too little considered.
The case builds this way: Although the tribulation and the day of the Lord
are often described in close association, there are some scriptures that show
that the two are not the same. The day of the Lord is NOT the tribulation,
but comes at the end of the tribulation (compare Mt 24:29 w/ Acts 2:20). This
is significant when we note that it is particularly the day of the Lord that
is everywhere shown to come upon the world (not the true church) ‘unawares’,
or ‘as a thief’. This suggests that among the so-called ‘earth dwellers’,
there is a number of professing Christians (foolish virgins) that persist in
unbelief throughout the entire tribulation, to be finally denounced by Christ
at His coming after the tribulation (Mt 25:12).
This is very sobering. Whether this is a loss of faith or a manifestation of
tares among the wheat is another question. The point that I want to
underscore is the sobering observation of how much prophetic fulfillment has
already taken place before the five virgins ever hear the fateful words, “I
know you not!” I have always found it astonishing that in the face of the
most prolific fulfillment of prophecy in all of history (so highly descript
and detailed), still the heavenly mediator tells Daniel, “the wicked shall do
wickedly, and none of the wicked shall UNDERSTAND; but the wise shall
understand” (Dn 12:10).
This certainly raises the bar on what is implied by the word, “understand,” a
term which appears frequently throughout Daniel and also referenced by Jesus
(“let the reader understand”). The “wise” (Heb. ‘Maskilim’) who “understand
among the people” are the saints. Therefore, to “understand” is much more
than merely recognizing the end time scenario of events; it is to be in union
with God (“the people that do KNOW their God shall be strong and do
exploits”). It is regeneration! “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that
that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light,
and the children of the day. We are not of the night, nor of the darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1Th
I believe all this points to the sobering conclusion that at a time that
others are still receiving repentance, the professing church that has
persisted so far in resistance of the true gospel, (as set forth in the
prophetic testimony of the last days; Mt 24:14), has put itself beyond
repentance. I only propose this as a possible, albeit fearful, explanation
for how it is that by the time that the five foolish virgins awaken to the
imminence of Christ’s return, it is too late to repent.