On the above-mentioned subject I received a question from the Men’s Society of Oak Lawn as follows:
“Dear Rev. Hoeksema:
“For the past two years our Men’s Society has been discussing the Book of Revelation. In discussing chapter 16 we were confronted with a question which we decided to submit to you. Our problem has to do with understanding your writing in the October II 1960 issue of the Standard Bearer. On page six you wrote as follows:
“‘Thus shall the evil intentions of the nations and of the beast and of the dragon be turned against themselves. In that last battle the people of God shall have no part. They shall be taken away . . . . The Lord will come as a thief, unexpectedly, unawares, with His judgments, but also to take His people away from the earth. He shall come and go, and no one shall have noticed that He shall have been. The nations shall continue to rage and blaspheme the God of heaven; but the church of God shall be upon earth no more.
“Will you kindly clarify this for us? Do you not teach here two future comings of the Lord? Is it your position that there will be no saints upon the earth at the final coming of Christ? Do not certain dispensationalists teach something similar to this in the ‘rapture’ theory?
“We would appreciate it-if you would elucidate upon this in a future issue of our Standard Bearer.
“w.s. M. DeVries, Secretary”
1. First of all, I wish to thank brother DeVries and the Oak Lawn Men’s Society for their manifest, interest in my articles on the Book of Revelation. It is always encouraging for any writer to discover that what he writes is read. This is especially true of articles on the Book of Revelation which is not easy to interpret.
2. It is also Interesting tar me to notice that the Lawn Men’s Society do not merely take for granted that what I write is true. It is evident from their question that they study the matter and there is even a note of disagreement with what I wrote, in the above quoted paragraph. I wish to assure the brethren that I can and do commend them for this also. We are all prophets and as such are able to interpret the Scriptures. Besides, I have been asked about the very same paragraph by more than one before, although they did not intend their questions for publication.
3. Now, as to the question proper, I wish to say that what I wrote has absolutely nothing to do with the so-called “rapture” of premillennialism or dispensationalism. The Pre’s believe as follows:
a. The Church and the Kingdom of God are not identical as to the members or citizens of each: the Kingdom is for the Jews only, the Church is gathered from the Gentiles.
b. The Jews reject Christ as their King and the cross is the result. God now, while the Jews are in the dispersion and in captivity, gathers His Church from the Gentiles.
c. Toward the close of this dispensation He gathers those believers that look for His coming as well as those who are raised from the dead and takes them, not into heaven, but with Him into the air. This is the “rapture.” And mark you well, this “rapture” is for the very purpose that the saints do not come in the great tribulation. You understand that I, in my series on the Book of Revelation, teach nothing of the kind.
d. At the end of the “rapture” Christ returns to this earth to usher in the Millennium. He destroys the antichrist, establishes the throne of David and reigns with the saints over the Jews in the promised land. During the period of a thousand years the devil is bound.
e. Toward the close of the thousand years, Gog and Magog will rise up and come up against the Holy City which it is, literally, Jerusalem. Christ will destroy the hordes of Cog and Magog; will raise the rest of the dead, will judge the world and take the Church into heaven while the Jews will forever live”on the new earth. Thus the Church and the Kingdom of God will forever be separate.
4. This, in general, is the millennial view even though the Pre’s do not agree with one another in every detail. But note now the difference between this view and ours:
a. According to the millennialists the “rapture” is before the great tribulation, is for the very purpose that believers that look for the coming of the Lord may escape the great tribulation, and they shall not be in heaven but with the Lord in the air. According to our view, there will be no such, rapture but the resurrection of the dead and the change of the living will take place in two stages with the destruction of Gog and Magog in between
b. According to the millennialists’ view, the destruction of Gog and Magog will not come till after the millennium; according to our view, there will be no reign of Christ on the earth for a special thousand years, but “the nations that live on the four corners of the earth,” and that will encompass the “camp of the saints” (as they imagine), will be destroyed immediately before the end of this present time. Besides, we receive the impression from Rev. 20:9 that there will be no real battle between the antichristian nations and Gag and Magog for there we read “and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”
I realize that it is very difficult to conceive of the time order with regard to the last things. One thing is sure, and that is that, at the coming of the Lord, every eye shall see Him and this cannot be in our present bodies but must be in the bodies of the resurrection, both of the wicked and of the righteous. I realize, too, that you can ask many questions which I or anyone else cannot answer just because they, partly, belong to the end or beyond the end of time. Nevertheless, on the basis of Scripture, we may visualize some kind of order in the doctrine of the last things. And this is what I have been attempting to do.
Mrs. D. Jonker of Grand Rapids, Michigan, sent to me the following missive and question:
“You will undoubtedly remember that some time ago in catechism we had a discussion on whether the unregenerate knows that he is not a converted man and knows that he is not going to heaven when he dies. You emphasized then that no one ever dies imagining he is going to heaven and awakes in hell (met een ingebeelde hemel naar de hel).
“I was just about converted to the idea, domine. Now I read your article on Revelation in Oct. 15 Standard Bearer.. On page 31, next to the last column, about 15 lines from bottom of page, you write: ‘nevertheless, it is possible to go through that experience, to imagine without any basis in Scripture that one shall have part with the tree of life,’ etc.
“Am I getting this right that one may imagine that he has part with the tree of life, while he does not have?” The close of her letter shows that Mrs. Jonker did not intend to have her question with my answer published in The Standard Bearer. Yet, seeing that the question concerns both what I said in my catechism class and what I wrote in The Standard Bearer, I asked Mrs. Jonker whether I might answer it in our publication, and she gave her consent.
What shall I say and how shall I answer the sister’s question?
First of all, I would emphasize once more that what some time ago I said in my Wednesday evening catechism class, namely, that he that is not regenerated and, therefore, walks in unbelief, cannot fail to know that he is not converted and that he is not going to heaven. I do not remember just what I said at the particular occasion, but if that question would arise now, I would have many reasons on the basis of which I would maintain my position. The unregenerate does not love God, but bates Him. How, then, could he long to go to heaven where he shall see God in Christ face to face. The Holy Spirit does not testify in his heart that he is a child of God, but witnesses, through the Word, that he is a child of the devil. He has no faith and, therefore, no hope, that is, he has no expectation, no assurance and no longing for eternal glory. This is evident from the text I was discussing in the context from which Mrs. Jonker quoted the above lines. For he to whom the threat applies that God shall take his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city, is the one that deliberately changes the words of the prophecy of the book of Revelation and also of the whole of Scripture to suit his own fancy. Now why should he do this? I answer: because he knows very well that, on the basis of Scripture, he cannot have any hope and cannot even live in the hope of his own imagination. And, therefore, I still maintain that the unregenerate very well knows that he is not converted and that he will not go to heaven (the Scriptural heaven) when he dies.
Secondly, let us not forget that I was trying to explainRev. 22:18, 19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” It was my main purpose to explain and to emphasize that this cannot mean that there is falling away from grace. Hence, I wrote: “They are addressed to him that heareth the words of this prophecy, who therefore becomes acquainted with its contents. He can change the book so as to suit his own fancy and his own purpose, so that after all the kingdom of the world is confused with the kingdom of God in Christ. He can do that by adding unto the book or by detracting from the book. The book can indeed be so augmented and can be so abridged that the light of the truth of this prophecy is bedimmed, particularly the truth that Jesus is coming. And the punishment that is threatened is, negatively, that he shall be deprived of his part with the book of life and of his part in the holy city. Of course, this must not be interpreted as if there is a falling away from grace. All Scripture emphasizes that such a falling away is impossible. God preserves His people. And through the power of God’s preservation they certainly will persevere.” This I emphasized in connection with the text in Rev. 22:18, 19.
Nevertheless, in the third place, I must confess that, in the portion to which Mrs. Jonker refers, I did not express myself very clearly, and I left the impression that the unbeliever and ungodly may imagine to the very end that they will go to heaven. And this is not true. I should have emphasized that they never had a part with the tree of life and, not only this, but I also should have written that God, through His Spirit, impresses upon their mind that, seeing that they willfully distort Scripture, they must know, and be conscious of the fact that they have no part with the real tree of life and with the real holy city, but with a tree of life and with a holy city of their own creation and of their own willful imagination.
This, therefore, is my answer, with thanks to Mrs. Jonker for her correct remark.