Why Must the Church Be Removed?
By Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon
Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We’re going through Dave Hunt’s book When Will Jesus Come? Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ, and chapter 12 is titled, “The Church Must Be Removed.”
Now, Dave, why must the church be removed? And of course, this is in the context of the 70th week of years prophesied by Daniel—that is, the final seven years prior to the return of Jesus Christ.
But before you answer that question, I want you to elaborate on another item in chapter 12 in which you say, “Just before His death, Jesus Christ told His disciples that He was forming a new entity that had never existed before. He called it His church. In response to Peter’s confession that He (that is, Jesus) was the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus declared, ‘On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’”
So first of all, what is this new entity called the church? And secondly, growing up Roman Catholic, I was taught that the church was built upon the person of Peter, who we refer to as the first pope.
Dave: Well, Tom, if the church is built upon the person of Peter, it has a very unstable foundation. In that very passage in Matthew 16, just after Christ says, “On this rock I will build my church,” Peter denies the very basics of the gospel! He tells Jesus, “No, you’re not going to get crucified. Don’t think that, Lord!” You know, “Don’t be so negative. Be a positive thinker!” That’s the very foundation of the gospel and of the church: the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And so Jesus has to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan! You don’t even understand the things of God. You’re talking like a man!” Pretty poor start for the first pope!
In the next chapter, they go up—Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on the Mount of Transfiguration. He’s transformed before them, Moses and Elijah come and are talking with Him, and Peter puts his foot in his mouth again! He says, “Oh, Lord, we’ll build three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, one for Elijah.”
Well, he’s putting Jesus on the level of Moses and Elijah, and God himself intervenes from heaven and says, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” So I would say it’s a poor start for the first pope.
Then he denies Jesus! The only—I mean, they all forsook Him and fled. But Peter is the only one who denies Him three times with oaths, cursing! “I don’t know this Man!” I’d say it’s a very poor start for the first pope. He can hardly be infallible.
Tom: Well, but, Dave, we were taught that Peter certainly was infallible as a pope with regard to doctrine and so on, but there’s the dogma or the teaching of impeccability—in other words, he could make mistakes. He could be just as fallen, and he was, as you or me!
Dave: What you’re saying is what they teach is that infallible is not impeccable. So infallible in doctrine doesn’t mean he’s impeccable in character. But, Tom, the things that I have cited have nothing to do—well, the last one has something to do with his character, but the first one: “Lord, you’re not going to get crucified!” Well, that’s doctrine. That’s denying the very foundation.
And the next one: “We’ll make three tabernacles,” you know. That has nothing to do with his moral character. It shows a lack of understanding of doctrine, of the truth of the Word of God.
Now, the final one, he denies the Lord with oaths and cursing. Well, I guess you could cover that with, “Well, he’s not impeccable.” But nevertheless, to deny the Lord, that’s a doctrinal issue also.
Anyway, Tom, as a matter of fact, as you know (I’m not telling you anything you don’t know; we’re trying to inform our listeners), the Catholic Church—it was many centuries, I don’t remember the exact date—before they even began to claim…the popes, so-called, even began to claim that they had their authority from Peter, that they were descended from Peter, the first pope.
There was the document The Donation of Constantine. It was a fraudulent document, which Catholics admit today, but the pope circulated it in the Middle Ages, claiming that they have gotten their authority, the right to rule in Rome, and the Lateran Palace, and all their regalia and so forth, that they had inherited that from Constantine. They never said they got it from Peter. Of course, Peter was not involved in any of that sort of thing. So there are a lot of problems.
And just to finish this just a little bit more, to elaborate—we don’t want to go into details on this—but how were the popes picked for succession? Some of them fought one another. At one time there were three infallible popes, each claiming the throne. They were set up by emperors, taken out by emperors. They were voted in by mobs. They bought their way in, and the popes are some of the most corrupt human beings the world has ever seen, and we document that in A Woman Rides the Beast. We just give you the documentation for this. I mean, they had so many concubines and lovers and some popes presided over the marriage of their children, supposed celibate popes. You remember Pope Pious II, I think it was, who said, “Rome has more prostitutes than any other city because it has the most celibates.” So the corruption was almost beyond comprehension, not just the Borgia pope, you know, Alexander the VI, but a whole string of them.
And, Tom, I was just in Rome, and I just, for my edification, I took another look there in St. Peters at that long list of the popes. They never laid their hands on the successor and passed this down; it was done in various devious ways. And as you know, the figure there, the bronze statue of Peter—they call it Peter now—that was Neptune in the Roman Empire! And they put it in there and called it Peter now, and so many Catholics have gone by just to touch Peter’s foot, as you’ve been there and seen it…
Tom: It’s worn away!
Dave: Yeah! Incredible!
Anyway, Tom, the church… In the Old Testament, God chose a man named Abraham, and then Isaac and Jacob. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He’s called “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” twelve times, and He’s called “the God of Israel” 203 times. And if you went to, I think, Psalm 95—Tom, don’t hold me to every scripture, because I never remember the reference—but thereabouts, it says…God tells Israel, “You worship the true God. The gods of the nations are idols. They don’t know God.”
But if you went to Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, Malachi 1:11, there God is saying to His people Israel, “I don’t want any more of your sacrifices. Your offerings are an abomination to me. I’m telling you this: my name is going to be great among the Gentiles. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name will be great among the Gentiles,” God says.
Now, when you come to Ephesians 2, for example, Paul is talking about the church, and he’s writing to Gentiles, and he says, “You Gentiles were without hope. You were aliens from the covenant of Israel, from the promises God gave to the fathers, but in Christ Jesus you have been made nigh, and Jew and Gentile have been made one new man in Christ.”
So, in contrast to Israel, which was comprised only of Jewish descendants from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the church, this new entity Christ said that He would build, is comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. And you don’t get into it by paternal qualifications, you know, your parents, but you come into it by being born again through faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior who died for our sins, paid the full penalty, was buried and rose again the third day.
Dave: So that’s the church that exists today. It didn’t exist before. Jesus said, “On this rock (that is, the confession of faith in Me) I will build my church.”
Tom: Yeah, but, Dave, the objection that some would have, whether they be Catholics or not, Matthew 16:18—I’m quoting: “And I say also unto thee,” Jesus speaking to Peter, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” which we quoted earlier. So Peter—doesn’t that in the Greek mean petra? Doesn’t that mean “a stone, a rock?”
Dave: There are two Greek words that are used: petros, for Peter; that’s a name. And petra, for this rock upon which Christ will build His church. So you see, Peter is actually—instead of being pointed out as the foundation on which the church would be built, there’s a play on words. Peter couldn’t be, because he is contrasted with the rock upon which the church will be built. Now, you can say…
Tom: Right, so Peter is actually a part of a rock. I mean, it’s a stone, or a part of a rock. But petra, which is the term, the Greek feminine, it certainly can’t refer back to Peter, all right? It’s the large—it’s the massive rock, and that’s what Jesus was referring to.
Dave: Exactly. So instead of making this the foundation or making Peter the foundation, it actually is saying, “Peter, you couldn’t be the foundation, because you’re too small a stone for this.”
Tom: Well, the other thing, Dave, that I find really fascinating: throughout the Old Testament God is referred to as “the Rock,” and He says, “I alone am the Rock.” So we can’t have another obviously!
Dave: “Is there a Rock besides Me? There is no other,” God says. And yet Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10, “They had water out of a rock, and that rock was Christ.” And apparently, and I don’t understand this, apparently it followed them. It wasn’t just stuck in one place. Well, Paul says, “The rock that followed them was Christ.” And Christ is called the Rock, so He must be God. And He is also called the foundation, the chief cornerstone. Peter himself in 1 Peter 2 says that Christ is the foundation of the church. Not only is what the Catholic Church teaches unbiblical, but it’s irrational that these wicked men and unstable Peter, who denied his Lord, that he could possibly be the foundation of the church. Pretty poor foundation.
Tom: Dave, before we get to “The Church Must Be Removed,” could you just go over once again the church? What is it?
Dave: Well, the church is not a building, although colloquially we refer to the church on the corner, or the church where people meet. I don’t like to do that, but I don’t criticize people for that. The church is the bride of Christ, the Scripture tells us. It’s composed of human beings. Every true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ who has believed John 3:16, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but would have everlasting life.” He’s been born again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, born again by the spirit of God, placed into the family of God. And all true believers (Paul treats them as such) are in this body. It’s not an organization, it’s an organism, this body. Peter says in 1 Peter 2, it’s “being built up a habitation of God. It is made of living stones.” So that analogy is used.
And it’s not the Baptists or the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Catholics, that’s not what Christ is talking about, although people want to say, “Well, this is the church of Christ. This is the one Christ founded.” No, no, you’ve got an organization! Or the Catholic Church: “No, no, this is the one.” No, that’s an organization, but it excludes many other people! There may be some real Christians in there, but this is not the church that Christ said, “On this rock I will build my church.” So the church is comprised of human beings who could be in many denominations. They never all get together in one place, but they will in heaven. And they enter the church the moment that they are born again through faith in Christ, and will never leave, can never be taken out.
Tom: So, Dave, in the context…for the last two-three weeks we’ve been talking about Daniel, Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks of years, and we’ve said that 69 weeks have taken place, and then there was a gap. We are still in that gap.
Dave: Mm-hmm. At the end of the 69th week, Jesus Christ was crucified, rejected by His people, and…
Tom: According to the Scriptures, according to the prophets: “The Prince will be cut off,” according to Daniel.
Dave: Exactly, exactly. And He has ascended to heaven! Now, while He’s in heaven, we’ve got a cessation of this timetable, and we’re waiting for the 70th week to begin, which actually will start while He is still in heaven, and will be ended when He returns at His Second Coming.
Tom: So during this gap, this time gap, the church, as you’ve described it, is formed. But now you say it’s got to be removed! Why is that?
Dave: Well, Tom, the Bible says so, I believe. Now, there are many people who reject this, but there are so many scriptures. I would turn to 2 Thessalonians 2, I think it’s vs. 6 and 7—well, v. 4 says, speaking of the Antichrist…in fact, v. 3 says that, “That day, the Day of the Lord, will not come except there comes an apostasy first, and the man of sin will be revealed.” Not before, but in that day, okay? And it goes on and talks about him: He sits in the temple of God, declaring that he is God. He exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped. And it speaks of him as a wicked…“that wicked one whom the Lord will destroy with the brightness of His coming,” and so forth.
So then I think it begins at v. 6: “You know what withholdeth [or what prevents] him from being revealed in his time. He who now…” Well, the Old English of the King James says, “He who now letteth.” I think the New King James says, “He who now restrains,” which is really the meaning. If you look that word up in the Greek, it really means, like, to hold down, to prevent. It’s not a wrong translation in the King James, it’s just Old English! And sometimes the Old English has been changed and it doesn’t say the same thing today.
But anyway, “You know what prevents him from being revealed in his time: he who now hinders or restrains will restrain until he’s removed.” All right? Now, who could that be?
Tom: Till He’s taken out of the way in the King James.
Dave: Who could that be? Someone who—this is someone now; it says “he”—someone who was alive in Paul’s day would continue to be alive until whatever the hindrance was that was preventing the Antichrist from being revealed would be removed. So this could only be God.
Furthermore, only God could prevent Satan from putting his man Antichrist in control of this world. But you can’t remove God. He’s omnipresent. Then how can we understand this? It can’t be any human being, of course. So it could only be God. Well, in John 7:37, I think it is, it says, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink, and out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”
And then John comments (the Holy Spirit comments), “This spake he of the Holy Spirit which they that believed on him should receive. For the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Okay, so what happened on the Day of Pentecost was something unprecedented on this earth. What do you mean the Holy Spirit was not yet given? Why, He came upon the Old Testament prophets. They spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but He did not permanently indwell them. Even David in Psalm 51 says, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” Now, Tom, you know some churches sing that…
Tom: I know!
Dave: That’s not a biblical song. Please…
Tom: It’s not a New Testament song, without a doubt.
Dave: No, no! So yes, the Spirit of God came upon the Old Testament prophets, spoke through them, inspired them, guided and led, but did not permanently indwell them. The first time in the history of this world, Jesus said, “If I don’t go away, the Comforter will not come! When I go away, I will send the Holy Ghost…” Well, He called Him the “Spirit that the world cannot receive, the Comforter.” And then in John 16:13 he says, “He is the spirit of truth. He will lead you into all truth.”
Okay, so on the Day of Pentecost—well, Jesus said to His disciples in Acts 1, “Tarry at Jerusalem until you are endued with power. You’re going to be baptized with the Holy Ghost just like John the Baptist baptized in water, you’ll be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” And on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended and Peter says, “We’ve received this from the Father, Christ having received this from the Father has given it to us.” So the Holy Spirit came to permanently indwell the believers, and Paul in Ephesians 1 says, “We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise unto the day of redemption, that is, of our bodies.”
So, now, how can God be removed? You can’t remove God, but the new presence of God in the church indwelling—permanently indwelling in the believers will be removed at the Rapture, and I don’t think there’s any other explanation you can come to.
Furthermore, if the church remained, it says in Revelation 13, “He’s given power over the saints to destroy them.” So Christ is not going to leave His church here. She must be removed for the Antichrist to be revealed.
Program Number: 1950