"THE RAPTURE" is the popular name of a doctrine concerning The 2nd Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in which The First Resurrection (Rev. 20:5-6) occurs BEFORE He actually arrives personally and physically on the earth. Among those who believe in The Rapture there is NO AGREEMENT about how much time will elapse between The First Resurrection and The 2nd Coming. The most popular estimates for the elapsed time between The First Resurrection and The 2nd Coming are 7 years, 3 1/2 years, and 45 days: but these figures do not represent any kind of universal consensus; as if everyone subscribed to one of these. Another popular theory suggests that the Bible provides no information whatsoever about how much time elapses between The First Resurrection and The 2nd Coming, because such information would allow men to predict the very day when Jesus actually stands upon the earth again.
|Mark.13:32||But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but only the Father.|
|33||Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.|
A strict interpretation of this language prohibits us from claiming to know that day and hour; but it does not prohibit us from looking for and noticing the PROPHETIC SIGNS that the Lord and His Apostles said would attend and distinguish The Last Days. Some men will say that Jesus' command to "watch and pray", suggests that all men in every generation had equal reasons to expect the immediate return of Jesus Christ: I doubt their sincerity. If you REALLY SUSPECTED that The 2nd Coming might be tomorrow: IF YOU REALLY SUSPECTED IT, the way you conduct your affairs and your daily conversation would be utterly characterized by that anticipation. Anyone who thinks that The 2nd Coming is going to happen in the near and foreseeable future would have no trouble with obeying Christ's commands to Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, and, Take therefore NO THOUGHT for the morrow (Matt. 6:19-34). The expectation that Christ may return 'ANY DAY NOW' so mollifies the cares of this life (Luke 21:34), that all long range planning and all saving up of money for future needs becomes pointless. And besides; YOUR OWN DEATH, THE END OF THE WORLD, and THE RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST, all amount to The End of This World as you have known it. If The World ends, your place here is GONE. If Jesus returns, nothing in This World can ever be the same. When you die, THIS WORLD ENDS FOR YOU, and whatever happens to you next amounts to the judgement (Heb. 9:27), and, the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son (John 5:22). So it is true that you ought to live as if you're going to have YOUR MEETING with Jesus Christ ANY DAY NOW, for it may very well happen, even before you finish reading this. Whether Christ comes to the earth where you are, or whether you go to meet Christ where He is, is NOT the significant thing; for eventually, every knee will bow. . .and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).
THE REAL QUESTION: the question that motivates EVERY opinion about the return of Jesus Christ is: DO YOU WANT JESUS TO COME TODAY? Do you really? While I must freely acknowledge that many erroneous predictions have been made about BOTH The Rapture and The 2nd Coming: there is error on both sides of the argument. If I am forced to choose between "erroneous parties"; I will choose to be identified with the "date setters" rather than with those who ENJOY saying, "I told you so", after the fact. The "date setters" WANT Jesus to return, AND, it takes a lot more courage to commit yourself publicly to a "VERY SOON" return of Jesus Christ than it does to just 'yawn' and say, All things continue as they were from the beginning of creation (2 Peter 3:4). It is COMPLETELY DISHONEST to suggest that your opinion about the WHEN and HOW of the return of Jesus Christ is not the product of how you "feel" about that event. If you are eager to see the Lord, then you will tend to LOOK FOR SIGNS of His Coming; and some get so carried away in their enthusiasm that they make "signs" out of normal and insignificant events. THIS IS TRULY ERROR, and has been costly error for some; but THAT cost is usually only temporal: having to do with money and public reputation. The man whose "error" is DOUBT that Christ will ever actually return, and the man whose "error" is THE HOPE THAT CHRIST WON'T COME JUST NOW, well. . . .he is NOT waiting for God's Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which will deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10); and unto them THAT LOOK FOR HIM shall He appear the second time, without reference to sin, unto salvation (Heb. 9:28).
THE FACT IS, my Friend, that MOST people DON'T want Jesus to come back 'just now'. Any "Christian" who finds sound reasons to deny that we are NOW in The Last Days should be in sorrow for having such knowledge: NOT RELIEVED! Even though I have suffered under many of the common miseries of mankind, I have also been, so far, kept safe from the worst of them: in this very moment I have many more blessings than curses in my life. According to God's mercy, I have health and strength for what is needful, and I am surrounded by True Christians that REALLY LOVE ME. I have a wonderful, Godly, and affectionate wife, and adorable children. I live in a beautiful home in the mountains that I could never afford on my own. I have the use of new cars that I have not paid for. I have leisure and freedom that most men never know until they are too old to enjoy it: I lack NOTHING that is necessary for ordinary human happiness. . . . .YET. . . . .I still wish that Jesus would COME BACK TODAY and take me and all the other Christians OUT OF HERE! All around me, and you, there is death, sickness, pain, decay, heartbreak, disappointment, tragedy, cruelty, perversion, corruption, hatred, treachery, lying, cheating, stealing, and MALICIOUS COMPETITION FOR EVERYTHING THIS WORLD HAS TO OFFER.
|1John.5:19||And we know that we are of God, and THE WHOLE WORLD lieth in WICKEDNESS.|
|James.4:4||Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, IS THE ENEMY OF GOD.|
|John.12:25||He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life IN THIS WORLD, shall keep it unto life eternal.|
It is hard to imagine how anyone that loves His appearing would be disturbed or annoyed by the suggestion that there are GOOD REASONS to believe that Jesus Christ is REALLY coming VERY soon.
HOWEVER, not everyone who is frightened by the prospect of the 2nd Coming is trying to avoid Jesus Christ: they just don't want to have to live through The Great Tribulation. The popular "doctrines" which place The Rapture in the middle or near the end of The Tribulation, make people NOT WANT to see any "signs" of The Last Days; and I don't blame them! How can anyone joyfully look forward to The Coming of Jesus Christ, if they FIRST have to live through the most TERRIFYING events the world has ever known? THERE YOU ARE: living in the middle of your middle class neighborhood; you can't buy any food for your children unless you take the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16-17). Wave after wave of BAD NEWS is being announced on the radio and television: there are bloody wars, plagues, famines, disasters, inquisitions, persecutions, EXECUTIONS: the laws of nature all seem to have gone awry, and the men of this world are going mad and becoming daily more desperate: AND WHAT'ER YOU GONNA DO? LOCK YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY IN THE BASEMENT WITH A SHOTGUN AND 20 CANS OF PEACHES???? Some like to boast of how bravely they will endure all this: HEY, TOUGH GUY! HAVE AT IT! I'm leaving on the FIRST BUS!
|Luke.21:36||Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be ACCOUNTED WORTHY to ESCAPE ALL these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.|
Not only is there no public consensus among professing Christians about WHEN The Rapture happens; but more than 1/2 of Christendom does not believe in The Rapture at all. The concern about WHEN The Rapture happens is always connected to how much, if any, of The Great Tribulation that we will have to endure. Usually, those who do not believe in The Rapture also do not believe that the Great Tribulation will be so great. Many don't believe there shall be a Great Tribulation at all. They adjudge our "arguments" about when The Rapture happens as needless wranglings among people who are trying to solve a problem that they have created for themselves. In fact, most professing Christians have little or no intimate knowledge of End Times Prophecy, and what they SAY they know usually amounts to a glib and thoughtless repetition of what they thought they heard said in their own church once upon a time.
All arguments about WHEN The Rapture happens are concerned with how much, if any, of The Great Tribulation that faithful Christians shall have to endure. If there will be no Great Tribulation, then there is no reason to worry about WHEN The Rapture happens, right?
Now remember: the doctrine of The Rapture places the 1st Resurrection at some point several days, months, or years BEFORE The 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ. The immediate result of The Rapture would be the miraculous disappearance of certain people from the earth.
|1Thess.4:16||For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trumpet blast of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:|
|17||Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.|
The fundamental premise of The Rapture Doctrine is that some of US are accounted worthy to escape 'some of' or all of The Great Tribulation, and that AFTER The Rapture, The Great Tribulation either begins, or gets much worse.
There are five historic objections to The Rapture Doctrine; and those who DENY that there is a "Rapture" BEFORE Jesus Christ returns personally and physically to stand again upon the Earth base all of their arguments on these five objections.
1. The 1st Resurrection and The 2nd Coming are NOT explicitly distinguished from each other in the Bible. This is fact. There is NOT EVEN ONE "proof text" that plainly and unambiguously declares that The 1st Resurrection happens BEFORE The 2nd Coming. If The Bible teaches a PRE-2nd Coming Resurrection, it is a doctrine that is found "between the lines": it is a conclusion that is necessitated by the aggregate of the evidence. Let us have it now understood that I do not deny this; but rather, I assert that it was the plan and purpose of God to make The Rapture somewhat less than conspicuous.
|1Cor.15:51||Behold, I shew you a mystery: We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed.|
|52||In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet blast: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.|
The doctrine of a Final Resurrection and Judgement was well known among the Jews, and Jesus refers to 'Resurrection' as a fact to be taken for granted on several occasions, so WHY would the Apostle Paul refer to 'a resurrection' as a mystery? The Greek word for mystery means "a secret, known only by a select group". But how can something that has been 'on record' in the New Testament for almost 20 centuries be called a mystery?
|Matt.13:10||And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?|
|11||He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.|
|12||For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even that he hath.|
|13||Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not; neither do they understand.|
|14||And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive.|
|15||For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.|
Here is a plain declaration by The Lord Jesus Christ that certain Truths that ARE seen and understood by those who are willing to receive them, will be incomprehensible and practically invisible to those who WOULD and WILL reject them. These "Truths" are called the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They are, as it were, "Hid in plain sight". The Doctrine of The Rapture is still a "mystery", because it is still "a secret, known only by a select group". AND, just because someone SAYS they believe in The Rapture does NOT mean that they have SEEN THE EVIDENCE and been convinced by it: they just happen to be associated with other people who SAY they believe in The Rapture, and they are quite content with whatever "interpretation" is popular in their own social and family circle. To those who DON'T REALLY BELIEVE, but, SAY THEY DO, Jesus has addressed this warning: Take heed therefore HOW ye hear: for whosoever hath (a sure and personal knowledge of the Truth), to him shall be given (more and more Truth); and whosoever hath not (a sure and personal knowledge of the Truth), from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have (Luke 8:18).
Those who SAY THEY BELIEVE what they are NOT REALLY convinced of are those who seemeth to have: Yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth BECAUSE OF THE WORD, by and by, he is offended, and he alters his confession according to the expedients of social or economic survival (Matt. 13:21).
The fact that The Rapture is not plainly and unambiguously asserted in the Bible does not mean that the God of the Bible does not intend for His own faithful children to find it: it means that God doesn't want the insincere to find it, and they won't.
2. The Doctrine of The Rapture is almost universally considered to be a recent innovation in the history of prophetic interpretation. There is no well known record of any theological writer who saw a 'time space' between the 1st Resurrection and The 2nd Coming before 1797. This particular objection presumes that 1700 years of scholarship did not find a Rapture in The Bible, so we have no right to find a Rapture now. But we don't KNOW that no one ever saw a Rapture: we only know that if they did find and describe a Rapture, that their works have not gained sufficient attention to become part of the public record (as of 1991).
And then, we must decide whether or not we are going to consider "traditional interpretations" as equal to the Bible itself. Does every man who reads the Bible have the right and privilege from God to come to his own conclusion? Furthermore, are we not actually OBLIGED to come to some definite conclusions about "What is Truth"? When Martin Luther took exception to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, he refused to be bound by the "official interpretations and conclusions" of a thousand years of ecclesiastical scholarship: yet today, Luther's writings have themselves become the "traditional interpretations and conclusions" of many of the Protestant Churches. Have we not the same right and privilege that we allow to Martin Luther? The same argument that denies The Doctrine of The Rapture because it is a relatively "recent innovation" was used to denounce the main doctrines of the Reformation.
And then, we have a plain declaration in the Bible that many of it's prophecies would not be rightly understood until the time of the end.
|Daniel.12:4||But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.|
Much of the Book of Daniel addresses the same prophetic events that are described in The Book of Revelation, and it has always been received as prophecy that reaches all the way from Daniel's own day to The End of This Age. Daniel says that the words are shut up: they will not be rightly understood until the time of the end, and this is not the only place in the Bible where such an assertion is made (Jer. 23:20).
That The Rapture Doctrine has only been well known since the 1800's does not make it a false doctrine. God did not deem it necessary for anyone to correctly grasp the final significance of End Times Prophecies until the time of their fulfillment was at hand.
Even the prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel as a nation were misinterpreted for the first 18 centuries of Christianity, because no one could see any possibility that the Jewish Nation would ever rise again. At the same time that The Rapture Doctrine made it's public appearance, many commentators began to insist that Israel would re-emerge as a nation among the nations: they were scoffed at and ridiculed by the "traditional scholars" of their day: but those "traditional scholars" were ALL WRONG, and now we can see how Jeremiah's prophecy about Jews returning from the north country was fulfilled (Jer. 23:7-8). When the Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian and Persian exiles, they came from the EAST, not the north. Germany, Eastern Europe, and Russia are all north of Israel, and THAT'S WHERE the majority of the Jews in modern Israel emigrated from. A relatively recent date for the appearance of The Rapture Doctrine does not preclude it from being the Truth, and actually, The Doctrine of The Rapture has become the "traditional interpretation" in many denominations. Most people who SAY they believe in The Rapture do not know that there was NO SUCH THING as an "official" Doctrine of The Rapture in Christendom until about 1812.
3. The FORMAL ORIGINS of The Rapture Doctrine are attributed to persons who have been repudiated and discredited by most of Christendom. This also is true.
The oldest well known and generally acknowledged record of a Rapture Doctrine, in which it is proposed that The 1st Resurrection and The 2nd Coming do NOT happen at the same moment, was written by a Spanish Jesuit Roman Catholic Priest, named Emmanuel Lacunza. Lacunza has The Rapture happening 45 days before The 2nd Coming. The opponents of The Rapture Doctrine say, "A Catholic said it first, therefore it cannot be right". They fail to mention that Lacunza was denounced by the Pope because he also said that the Catholic Church would eventually become the Mystery Babylon of prophecy, and that the Roman Catholic Priesthood would become the many antichrists of prophecy (1 John 2:18). We have no reason to believe that Lacunza was a "good Catholic" and therefore a "bad Christian": and besides, the Doctrine of The Rapture stands or falls with how it squares up with the Bible NOW, DOES IT NOT?
In 1827, an Englishman named William Irving had Lacunza's book translated into English, and there arose a few small but very vocal parties that taught 'some kind' of a Rapture Doctrine. The current public record on Irving has it that his motives were questionable, and that he was simply trying to gain his own following by introducing a novelty. It is also evident that he associated with others whose motives or sanity was questionable: not the least significant of which was Margaret MacDonald; a young girl who claimed to have a vision of the Rapture. The opponents of the Rapture Doctrine want you to believe that Margaret MacDonald and her "vision" are the real and only foundations of the Pre- Tribulation Rapture as it is represented today in the Scofield Reference Bible. They have told you a lie by not telling you the whole story.
The true 'formal author' of The Rapture Doctrine as it is best known today was John Nelson Darby, born in 1801, in Britain. Darby expressedly denied that Ms. MacDonald's vision had any authority, and in a letter written in 1845, he condemns "Irvingism" as a "fatal error". Neither have I discovered, after reading 1500 pages of Darby's personal correspondence, any reference to Lacunza or his book. It may well be that he heard of 'a Rapture' before he began to teach it, but I have not been able to find a formal treatise on The Rapture written by Darby: and "Rapture Doctrines" were NOT his main interest anyway! The earliest formal presentation of what may be called "the Scofield scenario" of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture I have found was written by a William Kelly, a friend and associate of Darby's. But Scofield got his Rapture Doctrine from Darby, as Scofield himself and others have testified. Darby, who eventually resigned from the Anglican Clergy; from then on refused to confirm any denominational creed or to apply for or accept any kind of preacher's "license". He also denounced all religious bureaucracies as contrary to the scripture and the rule of the Holy Spirit; sarcastically labeling them as "The Establishment". Thus, he was eventually branded as a proponent of ANARCHY. Even his enemies can find little to say against him, since his morals, his public conduct, his financial affairs, and his intellectual genius were above reproach. Some of Darby's contemporaries testified that he gave away 90% of his income, mostly to poor people. He translated the Bible into French, German, and English, and his French version is still the most respected translation in France to this day. His English version was so accurate, that the corrected renderings of the Revised Version of 1881 and the American Standard Version of 1901 are virtually reproductions of Darby's work. Darby is a paradoxical character like none other in the 19th century; for while he is arguably the most influential theologian since Martin Luther, almost no one even knows he ever existed, and almost no one knows that Scofield learned The Rapture Doctrine from John Nelson Darby.
So. . . .those who deny a Pre-Tribulation Rapture have done their best to discredit this doctrine by finding fault with those who presented and defended it when it first became a public dogma. I believe that they have misrepresented the "story" by leaving out some things and over emphasizing other things. No matter: the Truth or falsehood of The Rapture Doctrine still depends on whether or not The Bible confirms it NOW. If the Bible of Our God confirms The Rapture, then the God of The Bible will be sure to bring it to pass, JUST AS HE HAS SAID.
4. The only truly technical objection to The Rapture is, that The Rapture would be such a stupendous miracle, that all the world would know about it, and then the actual return of Jesus Christ could not take anyone by surprise. But this objection presumes that we KNOW how much time elapses between The First Resurrection and The Second Coming; and, as I have already affirmed, the Bible makes no plain and clear declaration on this point. And then, I also propose to you that the number of people who are alive and remain (1 Thess.4:15,17) that will actually go in The Rapture is quite small: I mean VERY SMALL; like only a few thousand from the whole earth. Jesus compared the time of His coming to the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17:26-30) in which only a very tiny minority of people escaped before disaster came and destroyed them all. Jesus said you must be found WORTHY to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and that this WORTHINESS is EARNED by your willingness to watch and pray always. These words of the Lord presume that some will not be found worthy, and therefore they will not escape. Participation in The Rapture is NOT guaranteed to everyone who manages to avoid hell in the end; but only to those who are accounted worthy TO ESCAPE The Great Tribulation. Unto them that LOOK FOR HIM shall He appear the second time, without coming to bring judgement against their sin: but rather, unto their salvation from the scenes of a world gone completely mad; and, not many people are actually looking anymore (Hebrews 9:28).
And so, if The Rapture only takes few from here, and a few from there; and if it happens during any kind of major social upheaval or natural disaster, it may go more or less unnoticed. Those who suddenly disappeared would be "explainable"; and then, those who are LEFT BEHIND will be eager to prove that, "If there was a Rapture, God wouldn't take the likes of them and LEAVE ME!"
5. The most formidable objection that can be advanced against a Pre-Tribulation Rapture is derived from an interpretation of the phrase, LAST TRUMPET; for it is when this trumpet shall sound that the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed (1 Cor.15:52). Immediately then, we go looking for the last mention of any trumpet being blown in the Bible, and we land on Rev.11:15, where the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever. This, being the last mention of any trumpet in the Bible, is then tied to the resurrection of the two witnesses which are mentioned in the same chapter, (Rev.11:3,11-12); and thus, the case is supposedly closed. BUT, this view takes NO ACCOUNT of the fact that the two witnesses are resurrected BEFORE the seventh angel sounds his trumpet. They are NOT resurrected while or after this trumpet is sounded. By overlooking AND ignoring this MONUMENTAL "little detail", those who assert a Mid-Tribulation Rapture smugly presume to have had the last word on this matter, because chapter 11 is approximately the middle of the Book of Revelation. How much easier things would have been for them, had the Holy Ghost decided to inspire the words, "When The Last Trumpet sounded" instead of, "the seventh angel sounded". But even if this had been so, it still would not have accounted for the resurrection of the two witnesses, which takes place BEFORE the seventh angel sounded. I make no claim to understand exactly what is finally signified in these verses; but I can and will assert that NO RESURRECTIONS are mentioned as occurring during, or after the sounding of the seventh angel until The End of The World (Rev.20:11-13); that there are NO RESURRECTIONS other than that of the two witnesses mentioned in this chapter; and that they are consistently referred to as individuals, NOT as corporate entities (Zechariah 4:3,14).
Those who wish to convince us that the First (or only) Resurrection takes place near, or at the end of The Tribulation, find their last trumpet in Matthew 24:29-31.
|Matt.24:29||Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.|
|30||And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.|
|31||And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.|
First of all, please notice, again, that the words LAST TRUMPET do not occur here. Please notice, also, that there is absolutely NO MENTION of ANY RESURRECTIONS in these verses; but only of gathering together His elect. There is absolutely no reason why this gathering cannot be taking place AFTER The Great Tribulation is completely ended, When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, to sit upon the throne of His glory. And before Him SHALL BE GATHERED ALL NATIONS; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats (Matt.25:31-32). Neither 1 Corinthians chapter 15, nor 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, make any reference to angels traveling from one end of heaven to the other and gathering up ANYBODY.
|1Thess.4:16||For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with (using the) voice of the archangel, and the trumpet blast of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.|
Even here, it is NOT the archangel who actually summons the dead in Christ; but the Lord Himself; as He also says elsewhere:
|John.5:28||Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice,|
|29||And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.|
There are many, who in their need to disagree, will assert that the distinctions and differences between these Bible passages that I have brought to your attention are mere "quibbles": but in doing so, they also suggest that "inspiration" was not PRECISE, but rather vague and approximate. Since the Apostle Paul thought it justified to support his analysis of a major prophecy on a "quibble" over whether or not ONE WORD of a text that was written almost 1500 years before his time was plural or singular (Gal.3:16), I am not taking unjustified license to make much ado about the many and distinct differences that I have brought to your attention.
Since the phrase, "last trumpet", does NOT occur anywhere in the Bible except in 1 Cor.15:52; and since none of the other mentions of trumpets except 1 Thess.4:16 describe or refer to any resurrections; I am not violating any of the rules of context, type, or definition when I assert that NONE OF THESE other mentions of trumpets have to be the last trumpet of 1 Cor.15:52. Whatever and whenever the last trumpet is going to be, it will announce the Lord Himself descending from heaven.....when we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up.....in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. It does NOT announce the dispatch of angels to gather together His elect.
Now I know, and I admit, that I have not been able to prove to you beyond every faint shadow of doubt that the last trumpet is not sounding in either Revelation 11:15 or Matthew 24:31. But I can, with confidence, assert this: the totality of the evidence requires and supports a Pre-Tribulation Rapture; and you will have reviewed much of this evidence by the time you finish reading THE LAST TRUMPET. I have read many arguments in defense of the opposing views, and I admit that their arguments, when presented in isolation from the rest of the evidence, seem to be conclusive. BUT, I have yet to hear or read any honest and scholarly attempt at presenting a Mid or Post Tribulation Rapture that does not simply IGNORE or DISTORT the plain language that can be offered in support of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. I find it to be most curious and noteworthy, that even though a mountain of scholarly evidence can and has been supplied to support a Pre-Tribulation Rapture: those who are disposed to reject this doctrine will account the faintest hint of weakness in the evidence I have presented you with as the sure proof that they are right: even though, their "faint hint" does not answer to the rest of the evidence, which they then discount as simply inscrutable.
The Doctrine of The Rapture has The 1st Resurrection taking place some days, months, or years BEFORE Jesus returns personally and physically to the earth. All arguments about WHEN The Rapture happens are really about how much, if any, of The Great Tribulation that faithful Christians must endure. There is nothing in the way of any universal agreement about when The Rapture happens, or even if there is a Rapture, among the plus-one billion professing Christians in the world. The Bible does not contain even one PLAIN, CLEAR, and UNAMBIGUOUS declaration that The 1st Resurrection happens BEFORE The 2nd Coming. The Rapture, as an official doctrine being presented and defended publicly, does not appear historically before the 1800's. The Biblical evidence for The Rapture is all "between the lines"; it is implied, or necessitated by the aggregate of the evidence.
For example, when the Holy Ghost says through Paul that Hymenaeus and Philetus have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already (2 Tim.2:17-18), you may then ask yourself just "what resurrection" they are referring to? The fact that Christ has not yet come is NOT offered as a proof that the resurrection could not have happened yet. THIS SUGGESTS A PRE-SECOND COMING RESURRECTION.
Hymenaeus and Philetus could not possibly be referring to The End of The World and The Last Judgement, for that only happens after the earth and the heaven have fled away; and there is found no place for them (Rev. 20:11). Any attempt to explain HOW the earth and the heaven have ALREADY fled away, in order to assert that the resurrection is past already, is so patently ridiculous that it could never overthrow the faith of ANYBODY.
Neither is it said here that the resurrection could not have taken place YET because The Great Tribulation has not begun. If we have to endure ANY of The Great Tribulation, why didn't Paul introduce this as evidence that the resurrection COULD NOT be past already?
And then there are some who say that the first resurrection is a symbolic reference to being born again (John 3:16): but nothing could be more ridiculous than to suggest that telling someone that they are born again ALREADY would overthrow their faith.
It is simply said that they overthrow the faith of some. So let me ask you: Wouldn't you feel like your faith was overthrown if someone convinced you that The Rapture had already happened and you were left behind? If Hymenaeus and Philetus are NOT talking about a PRE-Tribulation Rapture, what in the world WERE they talking about?
If The 1st Resurrection does not happen BEFORE Christ actually sets His feet upon the earth again (Acts 1:9-12, Zech.14:4), why is it said that we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR (1 Thess. 4:17)? It doesn't say that we will meet the Lord on the earth, but in the air. What could be the reason for our meeting the Lord in the air, except to escape (Luke 21:36) The Great Tribulation?
Now I know that I have not dealt with every quibble that anyone can raise, nor have I attempted to explain every single mention of either The 1st Resurrection or The 2nd Coming, and neither have I rehearsed before you all the classic arguments that can be brought to prove that there is a Rapture, and that it happens BEFORE The Great Tribulation. There is no point in my repeating all the same arguments that have been so well presented by so many before me; if they couldn't convince you, I won't be able to either, for I really do not have anything to add to their evidence. I just wanted to make sure you understood what the issues and consequences are.
|Luke.21:28||And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.|
After describing a world descending into pandemonium, Our Lord Jesus Christ made this statement to provide hope and encouragement for those of us who would find ourselves living at The End Of This Age. Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13, contain different accounts of the same address, in which Our Lord answers this question: What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age? (Matt. 24:3)
Among the many signs we are told to look for, are descriptions of the general moral and social conditions of mankind. The picture Our Lord paints of these Last Days (2 Tim.3:1) is a strange mixture of POLITICAL TURMOIL (Mark 13:7-8), NATURAL DISASTERS (Matt.24:7), PRIVATE FEARS (Luke 21:26), and.....APATHY (Matt.24:37-39). While all these world shaking events are taking place, the people will be pretending that they are NOT WORRIED and attempting to go about the business of their lives as if there really was a future for them. Almost 2000 years have passed since Our Lord ascended into heaven. Life, and the continuing story of the human race, have not been interrupted. The RAT RACE for privilege, comfort, and power goes on as it always has, even though there have been a few moments in which everyone held their breath, and waited to see if the world was going to end. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was one of those moments: that NUCLEAR WAR that has hung over humanity like a GREAT FIERY GUILLOTINE for the last 50 years seemed imminent. This too, passed. In this last century, there have been so many SOBER PRONOUNCEMENTS that "the end is near", that we are no longer able to take any of these WARNINGS seriously. The cry of, "Peace and safety" (1 Thess.5:3), that attended the recent collapse of the Soviet Union, has now been replaced by the foreboding potential for a European Civil War. Who can ignore the FACT that World War 1 started in Sarajevo, the capital of modern Bosnia; and that the ancient conflict between the Bosnians, the Serbs, and the Croats, is undiminished. Everyone WANTS to IGNORE the fact that the "Bosnian problem" is really a religious war between the Catholics, and the Orthodox, and the Mohammedans. Meanwhile, the struggling nations of the old Soviet Empire STILL have 30,000 nuclear bombs, and the "gang of thugs" that made up the Old Soviet Bureaucracy are not likely to allow themselves to be dragged into the street and lynched by an angry mob of citizens. Some of the States that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Empire are populated and controlled by Mohammedans, who now have under their control all the nuclear missiles that were formerly under Russian control. Just a few hundred miles away from these newly emerged Mohammedan Nuclear States, are Iran, Syria, and Iraq: all Mohammedan States, that have openly declared their utter hostility to the Jews and the Christian West. And now, we hear that North Korea and Iran may have some atomic bombs, too: and once again, we are forced to consider the prospect of a nuclear war. Jesus spoke of wars, and rumours of wars (Matt.24:6), and we certainly have both: for while we were wondering about what might happen in Eastern Europe, half a million people were recently slaughtered in Africa, in less than a month. There are millions of people on the verge of dying from famine, disease, and the instruments of war even now, while you are reading this. All these WORLD SHAKING EVENTS are taking place right in front of us, as we sit in our living rooms watching television and munching on snacks. The confusion of entertainment and news on television has made them both into entertainment. After the evening news, we have pleasant conversations about the fates of empires and the powers of kings while we eat our dinner, and later we may be planning our vacations or examining our coin collection. We do not deny that the worst COULD actually happen; we know, that IF it doesn't happen, we still have to mow the lawn and pay the bills. So, we say: "If it comes, it comes".
We have become emotionally immune to world events.
At the same time, Modern Science is daily telling us that NEARLY EVERYTHING we eat, drink, breathe, or stand on, IS POISONING US. We are "privileged" to have the facts about disease; that 1 in 5 of us is going to get cancer, and 1 in 4 of us is going to have heart trouble; and then, there is this AIDS thing, the Black Death of the 20th century. We are also told that 1 in 6 of us is going to be the victim of a violent crime. We know all this, but because these things might not happen to us immediately, we go about our lives AS IF none of them will happen at all. We all know that "someday" we will die, but have lost all interest in WHY we will die, and what happens WHEN and AFTER we die. Neither is there ANY recognition that THE END OF THE WORLD and DEATH are for all practical purposes, the SAME THING for every individual. This World ends for you when you die. The human race has FALLEN ASLEEP, and only that person who is rudely interrupted by personal tragedy ever wakes up from the DREAM WORLD long enough to wonder about WHY things are the way they are. SCIENCE is the treacherous, merciless, lifeless, idol-god of the DREAM WORLD; whose only laws are the impersonal, mechanical, and immutable laws of matter. The "religion" of modern man has become the study of SCIENCE, by which we hope to scramble out from beneath the trampling feet of this blind and impartial god. No appeal can be made to SCIENCE for "a little mercy", and so prayer is a vanity; or at best; an exercise in self hypnosis. Only when we are squarely faced with our own destruction, and all further attempts to obey the laws of "our god SCIENCE" seem to be fruitless, do we begin to hope for intervention by that other "God", the God of our Sunday morning fantasies: the God of the Bible, Who CAN ignore and overrule the laws of SCIENCE. But usually, we only know the God of miracles as a legend; and we don't really believe in Him; and so we are left to the mercies of "our god SCIENCE", in whom we have trusted all of our lives, and whom we are likely to credit with our deliverance anyway. The only other idea that has ever interrupted our methodical plodding through life has been the possibility of a coming PARADISE on earth. There have been a couple of moments in history when men thought that some new idea about the principles of social and political organization would usher in a "Golden Age" of peace and progress. Thus was the "Communist Dream" of 1917, and we all know how that ended up. A lot of history has gone by: the world hasn't ended, and paradise has not come. Neither the END OF THE WORLD, nor the POSSIBILITY OF PARADISE, have any real influence on how most of us plan, and conduct, our lives in this world. We are tired of hearing both WARNINGS and PROMISES; we are bored with the former, and we disbelieve the latter. The graveyard and the television daily testify to our mortality, so we do not arrogantly presume about tomorrow; BUT, tomorrow may very well get here, so we plod on, driven by necessity and the fear of premature loss. Thus is LIFE. . . .in the 1990s.
|Luke.21:8||And Jesus said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.|
Religious belief has been the source of many of our expectations for both DOOM and PARADISE. The ancient Jews looked for the establishment of a KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH, in which they would be the "chief of the nations". When Our Lord reached the height of His popularity during His earthly sojourn, most of the people who proclaimed Him as Messiah expected Him to establish that KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH they were waiting for. The execution of their "Messiah" and the soon destruction of the city of Jerusalem; with the consequent dispersion of the Jews throughout the world, put an end to this expectation. Hope for a KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH was then taken up by the early Christians, who expected it to be established at the RETURN of Jesus Christ. Among Christians, this KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH came to be called The Millennium, in which they expected a thousand years of earthly paradise under the gracious reign of Jesus Christ. The evidence for this Millennium can be found in the Bible (Rev. 20:3), and in other Christian writings of the 1st century (Epistle of Barnabus 13:3-6).
However, since Our Lord warned us that many would come in His name, and saying, THE TIME DRAWETH NEAR, we are well advised to be careful lest we be deceived. Jesus says, Go ye not therefore after them. But this is not me. If I could have my way, you would never know the name of the author of this book; and if I cannot avoid that, than I REFUSE to play the leader for any sympathetic schism that arises for my defense. God can, and will, find someone else to do that. It will never be said (truthfully) that I was trying to draw men after me, so as to become "The Pope" of some new denomination. Jesus also said, When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, for your redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:28). By such words, Our Lord presumes that someone will know that the time draweth near.
|Ezekiel.13:6||They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith: and the Lord hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.|
Belief that the RETURN of Jesus Christ would begin a Millennial Paradise on Earth to last a thousand years was forgotten by the year 1000 A.D. During this 1000 years, that little flock (Luke 12:32) of believers that followed Jesus had metamorphosed into a giant, rich, and sophisticated kingdom called The Holy Roman Empire; in which the Church, the State, and all the Citizens were regarded as The Kingdom of God on Earth. About 950 A.D., someone decided that the thousand years of Rev.20:3 described the growth and dominion of the Holy Roman Empire, and the hope of a Millennium of Paradise under Jesus Christ was completely replaced with the expectation of the END OF THE WORLD. Theological focus was now on the destruction of the physical universe as described in 2 Peter 3:10-13, and everyone got ready for THE END OF THE WORLD and JUDGEMENT DAY. MULTITUDES of people gave away everything they owned; they entered convents and monasteries; they waited on hill tops. NOTHING HAPPENED. January 1st, in the year 1001, the sun rose again; and when it rose, it rose on a Catholic Church that now owned the properties and fortunes of all those that had given up their possessions. You see, they thought they were buying a little time off of PURGATORY by giving everything to the Church. This event may have been the cleverest financial ruse in all of history, for if the people of the Holy Roman Empire had thought of a continuing earth, they may have KEPT THEIR STUFF.
Since THE GREAT HOAX of the year 1000, there have been many predictions made by so called prophets about the end of the world. Even in the 1970s, one such "prophet" (a man that I personally met), managed to get several hundred people to "sell all" and spend a very long night standing on top of a hill in North Carolina. We have all heard so many stories like this, that we hold those who believe in such things in derision. As I said, we are BORED with all the warnings, and we DON'T BELIEVE the promises any more. What we do expect, is for things to just drag along like they always have until we die, unless, "our god SCIENCE" decides to destroy the earth with a comet or some other natural disaster, and we still hope that we can avoid The Nuclear Nightmare. NEVERTHELESS, if the Bible be TRUE; Jesus Christ will RETURN to the earth someday, and, THERE WILL BE A MILLENNIAL KINGDOM OF GOD UPON THE EARTH, or, Our Lord would never have said: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). And while many of the "signs of the times" may escape the notice of the "average, moderately religious citizen", SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED just recently, that almost every active professing Christian in the world knew about. This event, I hold to be the most significant thing to happen in the history of Christianity since the Reformation. That EVENT, was. . . . . . .
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See part 3 of Chapter 4: THE LAST TRUMPET
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