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CHAPTER VII
THE GREAT ESCAPE:
MISCONCEPTIONS CONCERNING
THE RAPTURE

PART 1: A DAMAGING CONCEPT

INTRODUCTION

Now that we have made the distinction between Israel and the church, the second thing we must do is answer the question, will Christians go through the Tribulation? - after all, why prepare for something which, in the end, we think we're going to escape. We need to be clear with regard to this matter because - although we don't like to admit it - nothing so focuses the mind as preparing for something we know is going to affect the future course of our lives. The fact is, if we don't think something we are studying is really going to affect us one way or another, we probably will acquire a rather cavalier attitude towards it: it's like taking a course of instruction on some particular subject without at the end having to face an examination.

Of course, we would like to think that as "mature" Christians, we're above trivializing the search for truth in such a way - and, no doubt, some are. But most of us aren't. Tell us, however, that there is a final examination, and that if we don't pass the examination, we will fail the course - that will get our attention. Add to that the fact that if we fail the course, we will be dropped from school, then our minds really get focused. That's what makes the rapture question so important - the question of the rapture's timing is as essential to arriving at a meaningful understanding of the prophetic Scriptures as is differentiating between Israel and the church. To a large extent, it determines how important we take the question of the "End of Days."

A DAMAGING CONCEPT

That's why one of the most damaging deceptions to which Christians have fallen prey in recent years is the thought that they will escape the Tribulation by means of a Secret Rapture. To those who have "bought into" such thinking, the study of the prophetic Scriptures is, at best, academic - nice to know information if there is time for it, but relatively useless in any practical way since they will be gone because of the Rapture. While Christians who hold such views would never admit it, what they have done is to effectively consign as useless a great portion of the Word of God - at least as it pertains to them personally.

Consider for a moment the following facts. The Bible, taken as a whole, is a relatively small book in the sum total of things - a book which could be lost in any public library. Think of all the things that God could have written about - medicine, science, history, ethics, etc. All the libraries of the world could not even begin to contain the smallest fraction of the knowledge and wisdom of God. Yet God reduced the essence of all His wisdom and knowledge to one small book; that portion which He considered indispensable to our salvation and spirituality. That means that every word in the Bible must be of inestimable value. Yet we must throw out as unimportant to us a great portion of this book; that portion which deals with the Last Days [more than one-half of the prophetic Scriptures - almost one-fourth of the entire Bible] if we accept the argument of those who say we will not go through the Tribulation. Such thinking is absurd - even on the face of it.

A NAÏVE ACCEPTANCE

Many fine Christians have accepted the teaching of the Secret Rapture theory with little or no investigation and with little realization of its ultimate consequences. But this teaching was not taught by the early church - indeed, it was not taught by anyone until around the year 1830. Every church Father expected the church to suffer at the hands of the Antichrist and they fully expected to suffer material privation and tribulation in their daily lives as a NORMAL CONSEQUENCE of their choice to follow Jesus. There is no trace of the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory in the early church, and no adherent of the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory has ever successfully proven that this particular doctrine was ever held by any of the church Fathers or by any student of the Word before the last century. Indeed, John Walvoord, in his book, The Rapture Question, has admitted as much. He writes:

"... it may be conceded that ... [the] pre-tribulationalism [i.e. the Secret Rapture theory] of today is not found in the early church Fathers ..."

The Didache and the Letters of Barnabas [both written in the First Century] attest to the fact that the early Christian church fully expected the church to go through the Tribulation and to suffer at the hands of the Antichrist. Justin Martyr (100-165), Irenaeus (130-202), Tertullian (160-240), Hippalytus (170-236), Cyprian (200-258), Lactantius (260-330), and Cyril (315-286) all expected the same. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin believed the church would go through the Tribulation. More recently, such Christians as Charles Finney, George Whitefield, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, B.B. Warfield, Robert Gundry, Carl Henry, and Walter Martin [to name but a few] could not bring themselves to believe that the church would escape the Tribulation.

FLIPPANT AND OFFHAND ATTITUDES

As a result of the controversy which now surrounds the question of the Secret Pre-tribulation Rapture Theory, many Christians have begun to take a very flippant and offhand attitude towards the matter. Again and again one hears the rather mocking and acerbic remark, "I'm a pan-rapturist - I believe it will all 'pan out' in the end." Such statements expose a very nonchalant and indifferent attitude towards a question that the Bible considers very important. People who adopt such an attitude may someday live to regret it.

For those, however, who are serious about these matters, they need to make their minds up one way or the other (i.e., whether or not the church will go through the Tribulation), because if the church is not destined to go through the Tribulation, why should Christians take the Prophetic Scriptures seriously? - again, why prepare for something that's not going to affect us personally?

THE RAPTURE: A PLAY IN TWO ACTS?

Those who hold what is called the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" interpretation of prophecy [or for that matter, the "Mid-Tribulation Rapture," the "Partial Rapture" and the "Split Rapture" Theories] teach the incredibly convoluted, complex and perplexing notion that the Second Coming of Christ will be in two stages: first, the RAPTURE (His coming FOR the saints), and then later the REVELATION (His coming WITH the saints). The interval between these two events is the seven-year period of Daniel's Seventieth Week - i.e., the Tribulation. [We will concentrate initially only on the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" Theory; but it should be noted that almost everything we have to say below applies with equal logic to the so-called Mid-Tribulational Rapture Theory, the Split Rapture Theory, and the Partial Rapture Theory; placing the time of the rapture at any other time than on "the last day" does not remove the problem that one is forced to deal with "two second comings" rather than one.]

Those who assume that the Second Coming of Christ will be really two events rather than one (which is something that all adherents of the Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, Partial Rapture and Split Rapture theories suppose), believe that verses such as Revelation 1:7. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him," refer to the REVELATION - His coming in open power and glory.

The RAPTURE, on the other hand, is presented as a quiet, invisible and secret coming of Christ for His Church. The following quotations from Pre-Tribulation writers are representative of this interpretation:

"Quickly and INVISIBLY, unperceived by the world, the Lord will come as a thief in the night and catch away His waiting saints." (Silver, The Lord's Return, pg. 260.)

"His appearance in the clouds will be veiled to the human eye and NO ONE WILL SEE HIM. He will slip in, and slip out, move in to get His jewels and slip out as under the cover of night." (Roberts, How to be Personally Prepared for the Second Coming of Christ, pg. 341.)

"(The Rapture) will be a SECRET rapture - QUIET, NOISELESS, sudden as the steps of a thief in the night. All that the world will know will be that multitudes at once have gone." (Bishop, The Doctrine of Grace, pg. 341.)

THE RAPTURE IS TO BE A LOUD AND NOISY
EVENT; NOT A SECRET AND HIDDEN AFFAIR

But do the Scriptures really teach that the Rapture will be a secret, invisible, and quiet event? Let's look at the main verse on the Rapture and see:

"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a SHOUT, with the VOICE of the archangel, and with the TRUMP of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first (i.e., the resurrection): then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds (i.e., the rapture), to meet the Lord in the air." (I Thess. 4:16-17)

To us, these verses indicate anything but a quiet, secret rapture. Whether we take the "shout," the "voice," and the "trump" in a literal sense or as having a figurative meaning, either way, this passage does not convey the idea of a secret and quiet event. If anything, it would indicate that the coming of the Lord will be a loud, noisy, open and wondrous happening. Amid the sound of the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God, there will be the sounds of praise and rejoicing from the vast multitudes of saints caught up to meet the Lord, Where is any secrecy here? This is not the description of a hidden and quiet event. Nevertheless, in spite of every indication to the contrary, this verse is constantly used as a text for sermons which describe the Rapture as a secret, hidden, and quiet coming of Christ.

The Scriptures do teach, of course, that Christ will return "as a thief in the night." This means that the time of His coming is unknown. It will come as a complete surprise to those that are not watching for His return. But the use of this term never indicates in any way that the event itself will be a secret and quiet occurrence. The "thief" passages are found in the words of Jesus, Peter and Paul, which we will now consider.

Jesus

First, let's look at the words of Jesus Himself: "But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the THIEF would come, he would have watched and would not have suffered his house to be broken into. Therefore, be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matt. 24:43, 44; also Lk. 12:39, 40) The return of Christ will be like the coming of a thief in the sense that we know not WHEN it will be. We must watch at all times. But there is nothing here to indicate the EVENT ITSELF will be secret. (Remember here, Silver, Roberts, Bishop et. al. insist that both the time and the event will be secret; but obviously, according to this passage, once the thief arrives and begins "breaking up the house," the secrecy will end and the event will be known by all.)

Instead of teaching that His coming would be shrouded in secrecy, Jesus actually warned against this concept: "If any man say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not ... If they shall say ... behold, it is in the SECRET chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matt 24:23, 26, 27) Whatever else may be included in these statements, one thing is certain; such wording is surely contrary to the idea of secrecy and quietness in connection with the coming of Christ.

Also in the context of Matthew 24, Jesus stressed that men do not know the day nor the hour of the Second Coming. (Matt. 24:36) It will be "as in the days of Noah" when people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage - not expecting the destruction to fall. They "knew not UNTIL the flood came, and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." (verses 38, 39) The wicked knew not until the flood came - but obviously when it came they knew it. It was no secret, quiet event. [And again, it must be stressed that pre-tribulationalists like Silver, Roberts and Bishop insist that both the timing and the event will be secret] It was observed by believers and unbelievers alike.

"If therefore thou shalt not watch," Jesus said, "I will come on thee as a THIEF, and thou shall not know what hour I shall come upon thee." (Rev. 3:3) "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth." (Rev. 16:15) Here again is the warning to "watch," for we know not the time of His coming. He will come as a thief. But there is nothing here to indicate a secret and quiet coming of Christ in which He will mysteriously take believers out of this world so that no one will know what happened to them or who took them. The meaning is that He will COME "as a thief," not that He will ACT AS A THIEF.

Peter

Next, we look at the words of Peter. Though scoffers will say: "Where is the promise of His coming?" Peter assures us that the day of the Lord will come. We do not know when, however, for "the day of the Lord will come AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT." (II Peter 3:10)

But it is evident that Peter did not mean that the event itself will be quiet, for he goes on to say that it will be accompanied with a great NOISE - "in which the heavens shall pass away with a GREAT NOISE." Where is there any secrecy here? - and it should be emphasized that Peter is specifically talking about both the timing and the event as a loud and noisy affair. This is just the opposite of what Silver, Roberts and Bishop teach.

Paul

The final New Testament "thief" passage is found in the words of Paul. Turning again to the noted rapture passage (I Thess. 4), we find that speaking of the Lord's coming with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, Paul goes on to explain that we do not know WHEN this will be, for that day will come as a thief in the night: "But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT" (I Thess. 5:1-2). What is unknown and hidden? It cannot be that the coming of Christ will be a secret event, for the context speaks of this as being glorious, open and noisy. Again, we see that it is the TIME that is hidden. We know not the day nor the hour.

Paul continues with these words: "For when they shall say peace and safety; then SUDDEN DESTRUCTION cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape ... But ye, brethren, are NOT IN DARKNESS, that that day should overtake you as a thief;" (verses 3 and 4) for those that truly follow Christ will "watch at all times and seasons."

PART 2: WHEN WILL THE RAPTURE BE?
BEFORE OR AFTER THE TRIBULATION?

Having now examined the rapture passage (I Thess. 4) and all of the "thief" passages, we fail to find any scriptural basis for the teaching that the Rapture will be a secret, invisible, quiet event. If anything, the evidence is to the contrary.

Where, then, do the Scriptures place the Rapture? - will it be before the Tribulation (Daniel's Seventieth Week - a period of seven years) or will it be at the end of this period?

TRIBULATION - GOD'S WAY OF DELIVERANCE

Shortly before His death, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples: "In the world ye shall have tribulation ..." (John 16:33) The verses that follow the prayer in which Jesus prayed for His disciples record what He prayed to the Heavenly Father. He said, "I pray NOT that thou TAKE THEM OUT OF THE WORLD, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." (John 17:15)

Though it would be no easy task to take a stand for Jesus Christ, though they would be persecuted, though in the world they would have tribulation, yet Jesus did not pray that the Church would be taken out of the world. The Church was to remain in the world, but it would not be of the world.

Some might object, however, that Jesus was praying only for His immediate disciples of that time. But not so. "Neither pray I for these alone," He said, "but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" (verse 20). Does this not include us today? - have not we believed on Christ as a result of the message that was handed down to us from those original disciples of Christ? Indeed, we have. So Jesus was praying for us too. He said so. He prayed that we would be kept from the evil of the world, but He did not pray that we would be taken out of the world - even though in the world we would have tribulation.

Let us suppose for a moment that Jesus had told believers, "In the world there shall be tribulation, but I will pray that you will be taken out of the world." If Jesus said this, those who teach the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory would have a basis for their position - and this statement would no doubt be quoted often as a proof text. But since this is NOT what the verse says - but just the OPPOSITE - surely this should be regarded as evidence against the idea of the special " Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture" designed to take the Church out of this world so that it would escape the suffering and tribulation of the Antichrist.

THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO REMAIN
UNTIL THE "END OF THE WORLD"

Instead of the Church being taken out of the world, Jesus taught that it would remain in the world to accomplish a definite purpose: to preach the Gospel. Jesus commissioned His disciples to "go ... and teach all nations" and in connection with this commission He promised, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the END of the world (Aion - age)." (Matt. 28:19-20)

According to this, how long will the Church be in the world fulfilling this divine commission? The answer is that the Church will remain in the world until the END of the age. Surely His promise to be with the Church until the END of the age would be strange if it is His plan to remove the Church seven years before that time (or even three and a half years before, as those who subscribe to the Mid-Tribulation Rapture Theory suggest). If, when the end of the age comes, the Church would no longer be on the earth, a promise such as this would be meaningless.

Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

Earlier, in the Book of Matthew, Jesus made it very clear that the righteous would not be separated from the wicked until the end of the age. Jesus spoke a parable about "a man which sowed good seed in his field" and while men slept, "his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat." When the crop had grown a little, the servants discovered what had happened. So the servants of the householder came and said, "Wilt thou then that we go and gather them (i.e., the tares) up?" But He said, "Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into the barn." (Matt. 13:24-30)

We are not left to speculate as to the proper meaning of this parable, for Jesus Himself gave the interpretation. The "good seed" (the wheat) is sown by "the Son of Man" - Jesus Christ. The tares, "the children of the wicked one," are sown by the enemy - the devil." They are sown in the same field - "the world," where both grow together until the harvest. And when will this be? - "the harvest is the END OF THE AGE" (verses 37-39).

"As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in THE END OF THE WORLD. The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire ... THEN (after the tares are gathered out) shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father" (verses 40-43). Plainly, the time of separation between those which do iniquity and the righteous is at the END of this age.

Jesus said that "BOTH" would grow "TOGETHER" until the "END OF THE WORLD" - and THEN the harvest would occur, producing the great separation. The harvest occurs at the end of the age, and it is at the time of the harvest that the rapture will occur - right after the tares have been gathered up and burned (Matthew 13:24-30). This is the Biblical teaching. But the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position says that BOTH will NOT grow together in the field until the end of the age, for they teach that the wheat portion will be harvested sooner, being separated from the wicked seven years BEFORE the end of the world (or three and a half years before as the Mid-Tribulation Rapture Theory so ridiculously postulates).

In other words, instead of teaching that the separation of the wheat and the tares will be at "the end of the world," those that hold the Secret Rapture position say that the wheat will be gathered FIRST, and then, seven years later, the tares will be gathered out. This is the point that C.I. Scofield attempts to make in his Reference Bible: "At the end of this age (v. 40), the tares are set apart for burning, but FIRST the wheat is gathered into the barn." But if anything might be implied as coming first, it would be that the wicked would be separated out first. For in the parable portion it said, "Gather ye together FIRST the TARES (for destruction), but gather the wheat into the barn" (Matthew 13:30).

What? The Scripture says, "First the tares," Scofield says just the opposite. He says, "First the wheat is gathered." Such direct contradiction to what the Bible itself says ought to be enough to make any Christian suspicious. And such a twisting of terms to uphold a theory ought to immediately make us see how weak the teaching of a rapture seven years before the end of the age really is.

We repeat: according to Jesus, the righteous and the wicked will both be in the world until the harvest - "the end of the world." And if the great separation is not until the end of the world, the idea of the Church being removed from the earth seven (or even three and a half years) before that time is an impossibility.

The Parable of the Good Fish & the Bad Fish

Looking further in Matthew 13, we find another parable and its interpretation which stresses the end of the world as the time of the great separation. Jesus likened the kingdom to a net which was cast into the sea. It gathered fish of every kind - some good and some bad. Finally, the good were placed into vessels (pots or containers) and the bad were cast away. And WHEN, according to the interpretation that Jesus gave, will this great separation occur? "So shall it be at the END of the world, the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matt. 13:47-50) - and once again, the implication here is that the bad fish are separated out first, leaving the good fish which are then placed in separate vessels (pots or containers). How then can it possibly be maintained that Christians (the good fish) are separated out seven years (or 3 1/2 years) before the bad fish (the unbelievers)? Such thinking is absurd, even on the face of it!

We see, then, that the parable of the wheat and the tares, as well as the parable of the good fish and the bad fish, clearly pinpoint the time of separation as the end of the world. It should also be noted that the time of this event is based on the words that Jesus gave in explaining these parables. This is important, for doctrine must always be based upon clear statements, not upon symbolic or parabolic expressions which might be capable of several meanings. According to Jesus, at the end of the world (not seven years before the end of the world), those that belong to Him will be spared, while destruction shall fall upon the wicked.

The Days of Lot

Jesus further likened this time to the days of Lot. "As it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built" - those common routine things that people have been doing all along, not expecting any catastrophe. "But the same DAY that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the DAY when the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:28-30)

Even as Lot, the believer, was spared and all the unbelievers of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, so when Christ returns, believers will be spared (caught up to meet the Lord in the air) while THAT "SAME DAY" fiery destruction shall fall upon the unbelievers. Needless to say, this passage does NOT say that Lot went out of Sodom and then, seven years later, fiery destruction fell upon them. No, it says that all these things happened the SAME DAY.

The Days of Noah

Jesus also likened His Second Coming to the destruction of the flood in the days of Noah. "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage ... and knew not until the flood came and took them all away (or, as Luke's account says, "destroyed them all," (Luke 17:27) ... So shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt. 24:37-40). When the flood came, Noah was spared and the unbelievers were destroyed. That destruction produced a great separation. So shall it be at the Second Coming of Christ. Christians will be caught up to meet Christ; unbelievers will be destroyed. Though the "world" was formerly destroyed by water, Peter now points out that the destruction that the world now faces will be by FIRE. (II Peter 3:6-7)

The Church Is Called to Remain until the
Day of the Lord" or "The Day of God"

Peter had personally heard Jesus give the promise: "I will come again, and receive you unto myself." (John 14:3) Years had passed and apparently some began to scoff at this promise, saying: "Where is the PROMISE of His coming?" To this, Peter replied: "THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME ..." (II Pet. 3:4-10) Let us notice the way in which Peter said this promise would be fulfilled: "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: IN THE WHICH the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up ... all these things shall be dissolved ..." (II Peter 3:10-11) Peter believed the coming of the Lord (i.e., the rapture) would be at the very end, when the present "heavens and earth shall pass away," at the end of the age.

"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved," Peter continues, "what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, LOOKING FOR and hastening unto the coming of the day of God wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" (verses 11 and 12) This day shall bring destruction upon unbelievers and deliverance for those who believe. But if believers were to be taken out of the world seven years BEFORE the end, why would Peter exhort them to be "looking for" the coming of the day of God in which the heavens shall pass away? Surely he would not attempt to encourage them by something that will happen at the END of the age, if their real hope was an event to take place seven years earlier.

According to Peter, "the day of the Lord" which will come "as a thief in the night" is the time when the heavens shall pass away and the earth shall melt with fervent heat. And according to Paul, "the day of the Lord" which "cometh as a thief in the night" (the SAME expression) is the time of the Rapture: "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout ... then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up ... in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and seasons (when this shall happen), brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (I Thess. 4:16-17; 5:3) This passage is all connected together.

A study of II peter 3 and I Thessalonians 4-5 plainly reveals that the "day of the Lord that cometh as a thief in the night" is the time when Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, destruction will fall upon the unbelievers and the present heavens and earth shall pass away with a great noise.

The Church Is Called to Remain until the "Last Day"

Jesus also linked His Second Coming with the time when heaven and earth shall pass away. "Heaven and earth shall pass away ... But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only ... Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." (Matt. 24:35-36, 42) This passage clearly refers to the time when Christ will return and gather believers - the time of which NO MAN KNOWETH, and for which we must "watch." Did Jesus say that this would happen before the seven-year tribulation period? No. Instead, this passage points to the END of the age - when heaven and earth shall pass away - as the time when Christ will return.

Even the ancient Job implied that the Resurrection would not take place until the heavens shall pass away - the end of the age. "Man dieth, Man lieth down, and riseth not: TILL THE HEAVENS BE NO MORE, they shall not awake, nor be raised from their sleep." (Job 14:10-12; 19:26-27)

Expressions such as "till the heavens be no more," "heaven and earth shall pass away," and similar expressions all seem to indicate the very end of things as we know them now - the end of the age. Until that time, the dead shall not be resurrected. This conclusion is also seen in the Scriptures which say the Resurrection will occur on the "LAST DAY."

Martha, for example, believed her brother, Lazarus, would "rise again in the resurrection AT THE LAST DAY." (John 6:39)

"And this is the will of Him that sent me," Jesus said, "that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up "AT THE LAST DAY." (John 6:40, 44) And again, He repeated the words in verse 54: "I will raise him up AT THE LAST DAY."

With this evidence in mind, certain conclusions are apparent. Since the "catching up" or Rapture occurs at the same time as the Resurrection of the dead in Christ (I Thess. 4:16, 17), it is plain to see that the Rapture will take place AT THE LAST DAY and not seven years (or 3 1/2 years) BEFORE the last day.

The Church is Called to Remain until the "Last Trump"

Turning again to I Thessalonians 4:16-17, we read, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the TRUMP of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." Now turn to 1 Corinthians 15:52, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMP: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

Notice three things that are mentioned here: (1) the TRUMPET sounds; (2) the RESURRECTION of the dead in Christ; (3) the living saints are CHANGED (which all agree, is when this mortal puts on immortality and believers rise to meet the Lord in the air). Both of these passages mention the sounding of the trumpet, but the latter passage specifies that this trumpet is the LAST TRUMPET. Bearing this in mind, we turn to Revelation 8:2 in which we read, "And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets - so the LAST trumpet (in linking this passage with the others) would be the seventh.

Let us now notice what events are connected with the sound of the LAST trumpet: "The seventh angel sounded and there were great voices in heaven, saying the Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever ... And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and THE TIME OF THE DEAD, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give REWARD unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." (Rev. 11:15-18) Again, we notice the same three things that were included in the other three passages: (1) the TRUMPET sounds (the seventh - the LAST TRUMPET); (2) the time of the dead to be raised - the RESURRECTION); and (3) the saints REWARDED, which would include their having changed from mortality to immortality; caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

These things indicate that the Rapture will be at the END of the age; at the LAST DAY, at the LAST TRUMP. But according to the Pre-Tribulationalists, the Rapture would have to take place at the time of the FIRST trumpet or EVEN BEFORE, since - according to this interpretation - the Church will be gone when the trumpets of Revelation sound. Revelation 11:18 says that the sounding of the seventh trumpet - the LAST trumpet - will be the time of the dead to be resurrected. God will then "give reward unto ... the saints." Where, then, is there any room for the idea that before any of these trumpets sound the saints will have already been raptured to heaven to be rewarded?

Jesus made it clear that there will be no "secret" coming before His coming in glory with the holy angels. "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation," He said, "of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38) In that day, Christ shall be ashamed of some, of others He will not be ashamed. Some will be accepted and some will be rejected. WHEN? "When He cometh in the glory of His Father." It is agreed that the coming of Christ in glory with the holy angels is at the END of the age, and this verse actually shows that there will be no secret coming prior to this. Why? Because if there had been a secret coming of Christ seven years before His coming in glory with the angels, whether Christ would be ashamed of people or not would have ALREADY taken place.

The Church is Called to Remain until Christ Is Revealed

Finally, the Christians at Thessalonica were enduring "persecutions and tribulations" and were being troubled by unbelievers. But Paul encouraged them with the truth that they would be given rest from their troubles "... when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taken vengeance on them that know not God," for "He shall come to be glorified in His saints." (see II Thess. I:7-10)

In this passage, we notice - as in the others - that the reward of the righteous and the destruction that shall befall the wicked are interwoven with each other as to time. BOTH occurring at the deliverance of His troubled saints when He comes in FLAMING FIRE. No "secret" rapture here.

When will the Lord render vengeance to the wicked on one hand and comfort to the saints on the other? The answer is clear. "WHEN the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them which know not God." The time of His being glorified in His saints is also the time when destruction will befall the wicked. There is no interval of seven years (or even 3 1/2 years) between the two. It does not say that Christ will come to be glorified in His saints and them come again seven (or 3 1/2) years later to bring destruction upon the oppressors.

PART 3: WILL THE RETURN OF CHRIST
BE IN TWO STAGES

When Jesus ascended into heaven and His disciples stood watching, two angels said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven. This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in LIKE MANNER as ye have SEEN Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) According to this verse, the same Jesus that those disciples knew and loved will return "in like manner" as they saw Him go into heaven. They did not see Him go into heaven in two separate ascensions, and so it is clearly implied that His return will not be in two separate comings. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many - at His FIRST coming - "and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the SECOND time without sin unto salvation." (Heb. 9:28) Here we read of the SECOND coming of Christ. Those who hold that Christ will return for His Church, and return AGAIN seven years later, are actually teaching a doctrine not only of the SECOND coming of Christ, but a THIRD coming as well. However, the idea of a THIRD coming of Christ is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Such terminology is completely foreign to the Scriptures.

Some explain that they believe in ONE Second Coming, but that it will be in "two stages." However, this does not really solve the problem. If the Rapture is a separate "stage" from the coming of Christ in power and glory, how could each stage be the SECOND COMING? If they are separate and distinct events, each could not be the Second Coming, for the coming that would follow the second would still be the third.

But some teach that there will be TWO second comings. Surely this is a contradiction in terms. The Scriptures speak of the Lord's Second Coming (singular), never of the second comings (plural). We repeat, the term "two second comings" is in itself contradictory.

FALSE ARGUMENT #1:THE RAPTURE IS
NOT THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD

In attempting to explain this difficulty which the Pre-Tribulationalists must face, we have actually heard it argued that the Rapture is not the COMING of the Lord. One writer puts it this way: "Strictly speaking, the Rapture is NOT THE SECOND COMING AT ALL. The Second Coming is the visible, local, bodily appearing of Christ in the clouds of heaven as He returns to this earth ... in power and glory." (Boyd, Ages and Dispensations, pg. 60)

Another says, "The thrilling event which will both mark the end of the day of Grace and open the door of the Great Tribulation is the Rapture ... Specifically speaking, THIS IS NOT THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST. Rather, this is the Rapture, or the catching up of the true church." (Orr, Antichrist, Armageddon, and the End of the World, pg. 9)

Another emphatically states that the Rapture is NOT the Second Coming and that "the Scriptures referring to the Rapture could NOT refer to the second coming." (Hall, Prophecy Marches On, Vol. 2, pgs. 36, 39)

According to these Pre-Tribulational writers, the Rapture will take place first, and the COMING of Christ will take place seven years later. But attempting to make the Rapture a SEPARATE and earlier event from the coming of Christ is a teaching that is totally contrary to the united testimony of the Bible.

For example, Jesus said, "Be ye therefore also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man COMETH." (Matt. 24:44) Why should Jesus warn about being ready for the COMING of the Son of Man, if really what we are to be ready for is a Secret Rapture that is to take place seven years (or even 3 1/2 years, as the Mid-Tribulation Rapture people so senselessly contend) BEFORE His coming?

This same point can be seen in Revelation 16:15: "Behold, I COME as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth." Why would such a warning be given about his COMING if seven years BEFORE his COMING believers would have already been taken to heaven?

Or notice Hebrews 10:36-37: "For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall COME will COME, and will not tarry." Believers are thus exhorted to be patient until the COMING of Christ. But why point them to the COMING of the Lord if their real hope was something that was to occur seven years earlier? "Be patient then, brethren, unto the COMING of the Lord. (James 5:7) Again, why exhort the brethren to be patient unto the COMING of the Lord, if a Secret Rapture BEFORE His coming was when they would be gathered unto Him?

Jesus said, "Occupy till I COME." (Luke 19:13) But how could the CHURCH occupy until he COMES if the Church will be taken away seven years BEFORE His coming? [and remember here, according to Pre-Tribulationalists, the "Coming" of the Lord is the event which is supposed to happen at the "end of the Tribulation, while the Rapture occurs seven years earlier at the beginning of the Tribulation - see Ord, Boyd, Hall, etc.]

Paul speaks of Christians as "waiting for the COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 1:7) If Paul believed Christians would be caught up to heaven in a Secret Rapture seven years before the Lord's COMING, why did he not speak of Christians as waiting for that? Why would he tell them to wait for something that would take place seven years after they had already been raptured? Obviously, to Paul, the coming of the Lord and the Rapture were considered as one and the same event.

Paul prayed the Christians at Thessalonica would be "preserved blameless unto the COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Thess. 5:23) Again, the event for which they were watching was the "COMING" of Christ. Why pray for them to be preserved blameless unto the coming of Christ if the Rapture is an event that will take place seven years before the Lord's coming?

Such expressions as these we have given - "be ready for the coming of the Lord," "watch for the coming of the Lord," "be patient for His coming," "waiting for His coming," "preserved unto His coming," "occupy until His coming," etc. - all show that it is when Christ COMES that believers are gathered to meet the Lord. In view of this, the concept that the RAPTURE is a SEPARATE event from the COMING of the Lord is simply not true. The Rapture of believers to meet the Lord in the air and the coming of the Lord are one and the same event.

FALSE ARGUMENT #2: THE
MISUSE OF THE GREEK

But what about the MEANING of the Greek words that are used to describe the Second Coming? Those who believe that Christ will return in two separate stages, commonly teach that a study of the original Greek makes this distinction clear. One writer, for example, says, "The TWO PHASES of Christ's Second Coming are CLEARLY distinguished in the Greek. The PAROUSIA... is His coming for His saints. The APOKALUPSIS (the revealing, unveiling, making manifest) is His coming with the saints." (Sabiers, Where are the Dead? pgs. 123-124)

But instead of the Greek terms used in describing the Second Coming indicating two separate events, we find that these terms are used INTERCHANGEABLY in such a way that they show there is but ONE Second Coming - NOT TWO!

The following is a list of the six words that are used to describe the Second Coming of Christ and the shades of meaning they present.

  • PAROUSIA - This word stresses the actual personal presence of one who comes and arrives. It is used in James 5:7 "Be patient ... unto the COMING of the Lord ..."

  • APOKALUPSIS - This word stresses appearing, revelation. It is used in II Thess. 1:7 - "The Lord shall be REVEALED from heaven with His mighty angels ..."

  • EPIPHANEIA - This word means manifestation and speaks of the glory that will attend Christ when He comes. It is used in I Timothy 6:14 - "The APPEARING of our Lord Jesus Christ ..."

  • PHANEROO - This word means to render apparent. It is used in I John 3:2 - "When He shall APPEAR we shall be like Him."

  • ERCHOMAI - This word indicates the act of coming, to come from one place to another. It is used in Luke 19:13 - "Occupy till I COME."

  • HEKO - This word stresses the point of arrival, as "I am come and I am now here." It is used in Revelation 2:25 - "Hold fast till I COME."

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