THE GREAT ESCAPE:
PART 1: A DAMAGING CONCEPT
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
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
"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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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 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
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;
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
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"
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?
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 -
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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