10-05-20 FIRST COVID19,
THEN THE GLORY?
By John Aldworth
Amos 9:11: In that day I will raise up the Tabernacle of David that is fallen and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.
Acts 15:13:18: And after they had held their peace James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.
And to this agree the words of the prophets: As it is written, After this, I will return and will build again the Tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
That the residue of men might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
Is COVID19 but the prelude to a series of disasters set to strike the world? Strong evidence suggests it may be so. For example, Australia is having to import wheat for the first time in 12 years as a result of drought-ruined harvests and, according to the New Scientist, Africa Swine Disease (AFD) has destroyed half of China’s pigs and killed a quarter of pigs worldwide. Meanwhile, billions of tonnes of needed crops have been plowed under unbought for lack of means to transport them,
So, already hunger is stalking the earth. UN World Food Programme head David Beasley recently warned that starvation is rapidly rising heading the world into the ‘worst humanitarian crisis since World War II’. Short of dramatic intervention, 300,000 people a day will starve to death, he predicts. And if you think we in the West won’t be affected, then know that already Wendy’s, fearing a meat shortage, has taken burgers off-menu in a fifth of its restaurants. Indeed, food supplies are shrinking worldwide in the face of a ‘perfect storm’ that combines awful droughts in Africa with swarms of locusts the size of cities eating everything in their path.
Economically, the world is facing a massive downturn that could last for decades. Already airlines, tourism, and a host of other industries worldwide are in jeopardy; their revenues slashed, their pricing now prohibitive and their recovery highly doubtful. Experts say that already COVID19 has produced the worst economic slump in Britain since the days of King Charles I, if not that of 1207 AD. Not only are these damaging effects unprecedented. They are coming one on top of another in an accelerating chain of events that begets disaster.
However, while many are now asserting that through this God is judging the world, giving mankind a sharp wake-up call ahead of the rapture and his return, this writer takes a different view. He believes man himself is to blame for these successive calamities, not God; thus we are reaping what we have sown. Thus COVID19 and its consequences are not a punishment from God but add urgency to his call for all men to be reconciled unto Him and receive the free forgiveness made available by Christ’s death for our sin. Right now then God is still acting as the ‘God of all grace’ in this, the ‘dispensation of the grace of God’ (Ephesians 3:1-4).
Nevertheless, the dark trouble now stalking the earth may well be setting the stage for the next great move of God – his appearing and the bringing in of the kingdom of heaven on earth that Jesus promised would occur and told us to pray for. This, of course, is the ‘Day of Christ’ Paul wrote of seven times in his epistles and that many Old Testament prophetic scriptures hailed as the great day of God’s blessing for all mankind.
And one key to grasping this wonderful prospect is a dispensational understanding of the prophecies about the Tabernacle of David. Sadly, to date most dispensationalists have taken a too narrow approach to understanding God’s Plan of the Ages from scripture. In largely setting Israel aside they have concentrated on the dispensational truths of the Pauline revelation for Gentiles at the expense of the Hebrew prophetic promises that are also needed to complete the picture.
In doing so, for example, they have ignored the sequence of events outlined in James’ Acts 15:16 prophecy about the Tabernacle of David. But they are not alone. Christendom at large has also ignored this important teaching just as they have the important truth of Acts 3:21, which declares Jesus must remain in heaven until the ‘times of the restitution of all things’ are completed. This crucial announcement by the Apostle Peter means that neither the rapture nor his return to earth can occur until the wonderful era of God restoring the earth to its pre-Flood beauty and bringing mankind back to Himself is completed first. And it is the Tabernacle of David that provides the timeline for when this glorious day of recreation will be brought in. However, before going further allow me to ask a few questions about the present situation and what it means.
Has the Lord returned yet? No. Has He already rebuilt the Tabernacle of David? No. Is it significant that the current COVID19 pandemic has shut church doors and stopped services around the globe? Yes. Could the resultant economic downturn be the prelude to the Lord revealing Himself in glory? My hope is that it will be.
As promised, this second study in this series looks at the prophetic (and dispensational) meaning of the Tabernacle of David. It also poses the question: Is the widespread banning of church services under COVID19, a shutdown that could remain for months if not years, a sign God is setting organised church aside? In the previous study, it was noted that, at least in New Zealand, all Christian meetings, have been banned – a lockdown not seen even in the Black Plague of London centuries ago.
So what is God teaching us through this? Is He removing the organised church’s ‘candlestick’ (Rev. 2:5) ‘out of his place’ for our failure to hold on to our ‘first love’ for Him and to understand God’s present purpose in his ‘plan for the ages’? Certainly, He is not happy with the church's widespread nosedive into apostasy, its departure from the plain commandments of the Bible. And, if He is setting the outward professing church aside, could that be the prelude to the Lord’s own appearing in glory with his saints to the world (Colossians 3:1-4)? I would like to suggest that this may well be the case and that the key to understanding the timing of this lies in the prophetic and dispensational fulfillment of the Tabernacle of David. For, in our journey of understanding the plan and purposes of God we must come to the place where both prophecy and the mystery revelation given to the Apostle Paul coincide; the point at which all the Bible says about our time now and what will happen in future can be grasped. And, again, I would suggest that what God reveals about the importance of the Tabernacle of David provides the matrix for this understanding.
Now, it has been rightly said by another that the inspired words of James about David’s Tabernacle in Acts 15:13-18 set out with ‘clearness, brevity and eloquence’ the plan of God for this age in which we live. Trouble is that few, if any of us, have seen this as the key to understanding what God has already done, is doing now, and will shortly do in our time.
Actually there are three steps to this great plan and purpose as set out by James in Acts 15. They are:
FIRST: Visiting the Gentiles ‘to take out of them a people for his name’ (vs 14). I.e. the ‘few that be saved’ (Luke 13:23ff.) in the present dispensation.
SECOND: ‘After this’, ‘I will return and build again ‘the Tabernacle of David which is fallen down‘ (vs. 16). This so that:
THIRD: ‘… the residue of men’ (i.e. all the unsaved and all the Gentiles (actually the word is ethnos meaning ‘nations’) not yet saved might ‘seek after the Lord’ and thus also be saved.
So, the key phrases that spell out God’s timetable for saving us and then the world are:
- Visiting the Gentiles
- To take out a people for his name
- After this
- I will return
- And build again the Tabernacle of David
- Which is fallen down
- That the residue of men might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord:
We now look at these stages in more detail.
1) Visiting the Gentiles: We see that the Lord speaking through James says that ‘after this, I will return’ (Acts 15:16). After what one might ask? The answer is after ‘God did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name’ (Acts 15:14). This visitation began with Simon Peter’s preaching the gospel to the Gentile house of Cornelius the Roman centurion in Acts 10, was then continued by Paul and is still taking place today. Thus, it is seen that it is not until the end of this preaching of salvation to the Gentiles, indeed to the whole world, is completed that God takes the next step of rebuilding the Tabernacle of David. Elsewhere in scripture, this dispensation of God is called ‘the times of the Gentiles’. Jesus said Jerusalem would be ‘trodden down of the Gentiles’ until these times were fulfilled (Luke 21:24). Importantly, salvation under this, the still current stage of salvation, is for individuals. God is not now saving nations as such, still less the world as a whole. Romans 10:13 ‘Whomsever shall call, upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. God is now saving people one by one.
2) To take out a people for his name: How wrong many of us have been, believing that it is God’s present purpose to save the whole world. For 2,000 years colossal efforts have been poured into missions at home and abroad and, huge amounts of money have been spent to achieve, at best, only a few truly saved here or there. For sure, it is God’s purpose ultimately to save all people, but not now, only later. Before the Lord brings about global salvation for all people He must first call, save and select a company of dedicated individual disciples willing to suffer in this life in order to ‘rule and reign’ with Him in the next. The challenge now to every Christian is to be found worthy to bear his name. As the Apostle Paul said: ‘… if we be dead with Him we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him’ (2 Timothy 2:11-12). God’s present purpose then is to save and select ‘a little flock’ of the Gentiles, taken out of all ‘nations’, including some Jewish people, who will be, and are being, ‘made conformable unto his death’ (Philippians 3:10). In the Tabernacle of David these proven disciples will join the called out ‘remnant’ from Israel to shine with the Lord in glory when He makes his appearing (Colossians 3:1-4).
3) After this I will return: Note that it is only after this calling out of a company of people from the Gentiles (i.e. the nations) that the Lord Almighty says ‘I will return’. The Lord will not return, will not appear, still less come again, until this present purpose of his is accomplished. And this purpose of His will not be completed ‘…until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in’ (Romans 11:25). As already stated, many of us have mistakenly thought it is God’s purpose to save the whole world now, in our time. Indeed, vast efforts have been made by churches, organisations and individuals to ‘win the world for Christ’. After all, didn’t Christ say that ‘I, if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me’? Wasn’t He sent to be the ‘Saviour of the world’? (John 4:42 and 1 John 4:14)? Yes, He was, and He will be, but later, not now.
4) And build again the Tabernacle of David: Please note it is the Lord Himself who will rebuild this fallen down tabernacle. He says: ‘I will build again the ruins thereof and I will set it up’. Its re-establishment will be accomplished only by the ‘the Lord who doeth all these things’. I say that because for more than 60 years well-meaning Pentecostals and Charismatics have held that their music, singing, and worship is actually rebuilding David’s Tabernacle. It is not. Now granted, it is wonderful and right to enter God’s courts with praise and sense his presence through thankfulness and worship. For, the Father seeks those who will ‘’worship Him in spirit and in truth’. However, it must be re-iterated that since God is not now restoring the Tabernacle of David, such commendable worship is not rebuilding the Tabernacle of David. Only God can do that and He will do so only in time to come. That ‘time’ is denoted by James’ inspired statement, ‘After this…’ It is also important to realise there was much more to David’s Tabernacle than extravagant worship, beautiful though that was and is. More on its greater meaning later.
5) Which is fallen down: Note carefully the tense employed here. James did not say the tabernacle had fallen down. He said it ‘is fallen down’. In other words, the Tabernacle of David was something of God that, spiritually speaking, should have continued with Israel from the time of its erection and certainly should have been operating in the Book of Acts period when James uttered these words. That it did not is evidenced by the fact Israelites had so ceased meaningful outreach to Gentiles, not only in Old Testament times but also in the Acts period, that God set them aside as a nation and ‘sent salvation to the Gentiles’ in Acts 28:28. Thus ended Israel’s days as the sole means and ‘bringer of salvation’. Her essential purpose in God had been to ‘bless all nations’ and to be ‘a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth’ (Acts 13:47). But this the chosen nation refused to do and thus the Tabernacle of David became ‘fallen down’.
However, God is going to raise it up again. But not just yet. First He has purposed to take out of all nations a people for his name and that is what He has been doing for the last 2,000 years and is still doing to this day. It is, however, a selective salvation. Though all are called, not all are saved. And not all ‘press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14). But just as Jesus chose 12 disciples as apostles to minister with and for Him (Luke 6:13), so God is now taking out a special people so that He can rebuild the Tabernacle of David with them as his servants. This specially chosen tried and tested company will appear with Him at his appearing (Colossians 3:1-4) which is the blazing forth of his glory (Titus 2:13).
Thus Christ appears in his fullness as the resurrected man now fully glorified as God but also glorified in that the glorified saints appear with Him as his ‘body’. This so that together all the world may be saved through his and their witness. J. Preston Eby sheds light on this, asserting that far from being a physical tent the Tabernacle of David will be the company of saved, sanctified, and manifested sons of God that Romans 8:18-24 says will deliver all creation into the ‘glorious liberty of the Son of God’. This is the great and glorious event all creation longs for. It is the time when Adam’s curse of sin and death will be lifted when the glory of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea when the Lord will bring in the kingdom of heaven to rule over the earth, when man will be set free from sickness and sin and when the Lord Jesus Christ will appear in his full glory as the Man who is God (Titus 2:13, 1 Tim. 6: 14-16).
It is the time the Apostle Paul called ‘the Day of Christ’ seven times in his epistles to believers of this age. It is the ‘appearing’ (epiphanea) both he and the Apostle Peter spoke of as ‘the appearing of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:7 and 2 Timothy 4:8). It is the wonderful day in which the Lord will ‘judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom’ (2 Timothy 4:1).
6) That the residue of men might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles (nations), upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord: Note the contrast here. Hitherto God has been taking out a selected company of Gentiles individual by individual. No nations have been saved as such. But in the Day of Christ when the Tabernacle of David is restored and is revealed replete with a chosen company of people ‘all the nations’ will be saved, not one by one but collectively en masse as nations. As the Psalmist wrote:
Psalm 72: 8 and 11: He (the glorified, revealed Christ shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him’.
Psalm 66:4: All the earth shall worship Thee, and shall sing unto Thee, they shall sing unto thy Name’.
Psalm 22:27: All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee.