It is an unsettling fact, that many Christian teachings evident today, were unknown to the early believers. Much of the current dogma taught in Christian churches was formulated hundreds of years after Christ’s death and resurrection and long after the rise and fall of the early apostolic church. In fact a great deal of orthodox Christian dogma comes to us via various ecumenical councils and often under considerable political pressure. Any serious study of the Christian annals of history would unearth the innumerable factions, schisms, fluctuations and never ending debates that has lead us to our modern day theological beliefs. Like all religions, Christianity is as eclectic as the cultures that have embraced it, an ongoing osmosis of philosophical, social and often political ideas shaping and moulding it from one generation to the next.
It should be no surprise to learn then, that the issue of Christ’s return has undergone the same evolution as most of the major Christian doctrines. It must be said, that the return of our Creator, Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to this Earth in supernal power, glory, and majesty, to vivify and transform mere mortals into the very sons of God, has got to be among the greatest events in the history of the universe! Yet how much of its inspiration and splendour is today sacrificed to theories far removed from scriptural truth?
Indeed no subject in the entire Bible has gendered more interest, study, speculation, and theological debate than the return of Christ. It has been interwoven into practically every theory, creed, or doctrine expounded by man. Through the ages it has been the object of scorn and mockery by enemies of truth, and not a few times has it, through ignorance and carnal reasoning, suffered abuse and distortion by well meaning teachers. No subject has been more misunderstood or misconstrued than this great truth; and yet it is the hope of the ages. The focus of the entire scriptures is upon this great event. Certainly the scriptures have much to say about it but only the Spirit of Truth can make it substance in our lives.
Today, this great event has been watered down to a teaching known loosely as “rapture theory.” Though there are disagreements about the exact nature of end time events, the general doctrine is one of a “futurist” (prophecy being fulfilled in the future end times) interpretation of scriptures. But what exactly does it teach?
Most non church goers have never have heard of “the secret rapture” until watching religious programs on television or listening to conversations by “born-again” Christians. “The Rapture?” What's that? Most Church goers across the denominations have at least some idea about it – in fact most live in constant expectation of it.
“Christ may come tonight and snatch the Church away to heaven,” the preacher assures in revival meetings, in Sunday Church services and on television. “The trumpet may sound before this meeting is over, or before you wake up in the morning,” the evangelist warns. When that happens the cemeteries burst open and the dead saints arise, and those still living go zooming off into the sky to meet the Lord. Such a snatching away or “rapture” of the Church, it is claimed, will be the next great prophetic event. And it may take place at any moment. Millions of believers wonder with great concern, “When will it happen? Will it be in my lifetime? Will I be ready? Who of my loved ones will miss it and have to go through the Great Tribulation?”
It is generally supposed to happen this way: Strife, crime, violence and evil doing in the world will become increasingly worse. Civilization will plunge headlong toward a time of intense trouble. Suddenly, just before the world arrives at a period of calamity called “the tribulation,” we are told, Jesus will return invisibly and snatch away – “rapture” - all born-again Christians and take them to heaven, or away up in the clouds somewhere, away from the world turmoil, for seven years. It will be a sudden, yet secret event. No one will see it happen. Only the effects - empty cars, empty houses, empty beds, workers missing from their jobs - will be apparent. Some suggest what the newspaper headlines will be like the day after: “Millions Mysteriously Vanish!” “Graves Found Open and Empty!” “Massive Traffic Snarles Due to Missing Drivers!” “Planes Crash, Trains Wreck As Pilots and Engineers Disappear!” “All Children Have Disappeared!”
Pictures have been drawn by artists, and distributed by the multiplied thousands, of Jesus standing on a stratocumulus cloud a few thousand feet in the air, while Christians are being lifted out of a city below. Business of all kinds will be disrupted, while tumult, confusion, misery and terror will reign. The airports, trains, bus lines, and the great industrial plants over the world will be hushed, as so many of the head men, the pilots, engineers, managers, foremen, workers and others will be missing. Families will be separated, one taken and the other left; wives will bewail the sudden disappearance of their husbands, husbands will bemoan the loss of their wives. Parents will search in vain with terror-stricken faces for their children.
They go on to describe how all the people who are left on earth will have to go through seven years of terrible trouble and punishment. During this time the great Antichrist will make his appearance and display his power, the apocalyptic judgments, the unmeasured wrath of God - foretold in the book of Revelation will be unleashed in dreadful fury upon the inhabitants of the world, and there will be a time of unequalled tribulation. Then, at the end of this period, according to the teaching, Christ will return from heaven once again in a great universal public display, bringing all His saints with Him. The reason for this is, they say, because God is far too good to allow His people to go through such tribulation. The implication is that they are far too weak to survive in the face of such demonic power. So they will be called away to attend the “Marriage Supper in the Sky,” receive their “rewards” for their labours here, and have a glorious seven years of feasting, singing and celebration - while their unsaved loved ones, their dear friends and neighbours who had not been born again, and the untaught millions of heathen are suffering indescribable agonies on earth. “Good enough for them!” seems to be the general attitude, “they should have listened and gotten prepared, like me.”
Jesus IS RETURNING - After all, Jesus did promise to return.
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go ... I WILL COME AGAIN, and receive you unto myself” (Jn. 14:2-3).
“For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Mat. 24:27).
He, as the glorified Christ, repeated these words to the apostle John on the lonely island of Patmos, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me” (Rev. 22:12).
Twenty-one times, at least, Jesus speaks of His coming again, and most of these references are made on the eve of His departure. It was in the shadow of the cross that He foretold His advent in glory. He declared, “The Son of man shall come.” “They shall see the Son of man coming.” “Your Lord does come.” “When the Son of man shall come.” “When He comes in the glory of His Father.” “You shall say, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,” etc., etc.
Our Lord did clearly not once or twice, but repeatedly, and at definitely marked crises in His ministry - declare that He would come again.
Yet, plain as Jesus had made the promise of His coming again to His disciples, at the time of His ascension, they still did not seem to grasp its significance. A faithful group of His followers stood looking upward on that historic occasion. As the Lord ascended, He perceived their consternation and sent messengers of assurance:
“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).
Yet what will this great event look like and what is the manner of Christ’s glorious return? Teachers of the Word have meditated, speculated and wondered about this very subject throughout the centuries, hoping they might be the chosen generation to see it – alas the world still turns, travails and groans for such a wondrous manifestation! Most Christians still look upward in anticipation for Christ’s return – not believing the promises of the scriptures have robbed them of knowing the fullness of life in the ascended heavens NOW – TODAY! What a shame. But it is not just a case of interpreting the scriptures correctly that might bring us into alignment with the truth regarding this subject. No, theology aside, a brief look at church history should alone convince us of the error of “futurist theology” and the “left behind” delusion deceiving millions today.
The prophetic schools
Today, mainstream Christianity is obsessed with predicting the future – with divining and reading the social and political climates. Bible Prophecy has become little more than a licence to interpret the signs and read the times for the purposes of self preservation...and dare we say it, lucrative book deals! The book of Revelation has become the sole focus of much of the dispensationalist fervour, echoing imagery from many of the Old Testament books, yet few pay attention to one of the most glaringly obvious key to its spiritual interpretation. Remember, if we want to decipher the real and lasting meaning of Revelation, it is paramount the words are understood as the scriptures state right at the beginning of the book - that it is a “Revelation of Jesus Christ” and that it is a book of symbols.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.”(Rev 1:1-2)
Yes, that’s right – the purpose of the book of Revelation is not about the rise and fall of the Devil and an end time antichrist, and the number of the beast and the end of the world. It is in fact, THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. It reveals Him in all of His glory, unveils Him in all of His fullness. As we have previously stated, the book of Revelation is another gospel of Jesus Christ! John, in the book of Revelation, wrote what he witnessed of the full and complete revelation of Jesus Christ that comes to and through “him that overcometh.”This unpopular view of the scriptures is nowadays categorized in eschatological terms as IDEALISM (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the non-literal approach, and many other names) yet there is much more truth to this method than most Christians will ever know or come to realize. Few indeed have been given the “eyes to see.”
Yet, all this aside, It IS possible to know, one way or the other, what the scriptures teach about the coming of Christ. This is not a hazy topic in the Scriptures. It is amazing how easy it is to understand God’s Word regarding Christ’s return to His saints – (ALL OF HIS SAINTS) when we pay attention to the scriptures. Like many of Christendom’s more troublesome teachings, there are various versions and several prominent “theories” one can subscribe to regarding the dispensationalist end time scenario. But before we do that, we must briefly consider the main viewpoints of Bible prophecy – and remember, within each of these methods, there are further interpretations to consider! Note that for time’s sake, these are general observations.
Historicism teaches that Jesus Christ's unveiling to the Apostle John, that comprises the Book of Revelation, renders an on-going history of the church, or “called-out-ones,” from the time of John until the Second Advent. When the Bible (after being almost unknown for centuries) was suddenly made accessible (thanks to the invention of the printing press) to all during the Reformation, the Reformers saw in it a full-length portrait of the great anti- Christian system known as the “Church” of Rome - with the Pope at its head. They found in the Book of Revelation, a prophetic account of the fiery trials through which God’s true church was to pass, and also of God’s judgments on His enemies. They recognized the Catholic Church as the spiritual “Babylon” denounced in that prophecy - and the lineage of popes as the “Antichrist,” “the Man of Sin” and “Son of Perdition.” They used the prophecy as a “sharp two-edged sword” with which to smite the great religious impostor which had usurped the place of the true Church of Jesus Christ.
It is not surprising that the Catholic Church was so violently opposed to the Bible being available for everyone to read for themselves. To control what they considered a heretical doctrine, the Catholic Church called for a special meeting, known as the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517), which FORBADE anyone to publish a book without prior censorship. It also prohibited anyone from preaching on the subject of antichrist! The leaders of the Council and their governing body, the Catholic Church, also attempted to ban or burn all the Bibles, heretical books, and the heretics that owned or preached from them.
Crucial to Historicist interpretation was the day/year principle of prophesy (1 day in prophecy = 1 year: Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6) One major characteristic identifying the antichrist power was this 1260 days prophecy (interpreted as 1260 prophetic years) of persecution of the “saints,” which appeared to be fulfilled in the Catholic Church's persecution of Christians throughout the dark ages, beginning in 538 A.D., after the fall of the pagan Roman empire, and extending to 1798, when the Pope was taken prisoner by Napoleon (considered by some to be the "deadly wound").
The “Historicist” view of the reformers was a damning indictment of the Papal system. In order to divert attention AWAY from the Catholic Church as the antichrist power, a new interpretation would have to be found for this twelve century papal rule of the middle ages (we shall look at this shortly in more detail). Thus was born; “Futurism”
Futurism places events prophesied in Chapters 4 through 19 of the Book of Revelation into the future at the end of the Christian era. In other words, the tribulation and rise of the antichrist, the persecution of the faithful and the rapture would all be END TIME events. The term “Futurism” is often found as a part of the longer title “Dispensational, Pre-Trib Rapture, Futurist.” One may use any of the individual designations to refer to the whole, which is often done. By their own words, it is evident that most Futurists are Pre-Trib Rapturists, and most Rapturists are Futurists. Both share their belief in Dispensationalism.
Preterism generally attempts to place the fulfilment of all prophecy at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, yet some Preterists look at fulfilment when Pagan Rome fell in 410 AD. Many Preterists’ are of the Post-Millennial school and believe the “called-out-ones” will eventually, through preaching of the Gospel and power of the Holy Spirit, convert the whole world to Christianity.
Defining the RAPTURE
Needless to say, these prophetic schools heavily influence the interpretation of the exact nature of Christ’s return to Earth. You would think that defining the rapture would be an easy task. Most Christians believe in it right? We just have to read the scriptures right? O.k. So where in the scriptures do we actually find evidence for this future “rapture?”
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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 (Gk:139 harpazo) catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force) together with them 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.” (1 Thes 4:13-18)
Although you will not find the term “the rapture” itself anywhere in the Bible, it derives its terminology from the above passage of scripture. In fact “Rapture” is derived from Middle French rapture, via the Medieval Latin raptura (“seizure, rape, kidnapping”), which derives from the Latin “raptus” (a carrying off).
The Koine Greek (common Greek) of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 uses the verb form ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha), which means “we shall be caught up” or “taken away”, with the connotation that this is a sudden event. This use is also seen in such texts as Acts 8:39, 2Corinthians 12:2-4 and Revelation 12:5. The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα as “rapiemur” from the verb “rapio” meaning “to catch up” or “take away.”
English versions of the Bible have translated “rapiemur” in various ways: The Wycliffe Bible (1395), translated from the Latin Vulgate, uses “rushed.”The Tyndale New Testament (1525), the Bishop's Bible (1568), the Geneva Bible (1587) and the King James Version (1611) use “caught up.” The New English Bible, translated from the Greek, uses “suddenly caught up” with this footnote: Or “snatched up.” The Greek verb ἁρπάζω implies that the action is quick or forceful, so the translation supplied the adverb “suddenly” to make this implicit notion clear."
So, despite an ongoing evolution of the meaning of the phrase, “rapture” has become a term in Christian eschatology which refers generally to the “being caught up” discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, when the “dead in Christ” and “we who are alive and remain” will be “caught up in the clouds” to meet “the Lord in the air.”
Of course it wouldn’t be a sound Christian doctrine without the development of the usual schisms, fractions, rivalries and alternatives! And so it is with rapture theology, that several schools of thought exist to explain the “end time” scenario.
“Rapture” is used in at least two senses. In the pre-tribulation view, a group of people will be left behind on earth after another group literally leaves “to meet the Lord in the air.” This is now the most common use of the term, especially among fundamentalist Christians. The other, older use of the term “Rapture” is simply as a synonym for the final resurrection generally, without a belief that a group of people is left behind on earth for an extended Tribulation period after the events of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This distinction is important as some types of Christianity never refer to “the Rapture” in religious education, but might use the older and more general sense of the word in referring to what happens during the final resurrection. Ask any group of Christians about the “end of days” scenario and you would surely get several different answers according to which evangelist they subscribe to or which prophetic ministry the tune in to. But the most divisive component of the rapture doctrine is the subject of whether it will occur in one event or two. This could get boring!
One of the theories (Premillenialist view) holds that the return of Christ is to be two distinct events, or one second coming in two stages. 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 is seen to be a description of a preliminary event to the return described in Matthew 24:29–31. Although both describe a return of Jesus, these are seen to be separated in time by more than a brief period. The first event may or may not be seen (which is not a primary issue), and is called the rapture, when the saved are to be “caught up,” The “second coming” is a public event, wherein Christ's presence is prophesied to be clearly seen by all, as he returns to end a battle staged at Armageddon, though possibly fought at the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The majority of dispensationalists hold that the first event precedes the period of tribulation, even if not immediately.
Amillennialists generally deny the interpretation of a literal 1,000-year rule of Christ, and as such amillennialism does not necessarily imply much difference between itself and other forms of millennialism besides that denial. Those who identify the rapture with the second coming are likely to emphasize mutual similarities between passages of scripture where clouds, trumpets, angels or the archangel, resurrection, and gathering are mentioned. Although some (particularly some amillennialists) may take the rapture to be figurative, rather than literal, most are likely to maintain that the passages regarding the return of Christ describe a single event.
Dispensationalists generally see the immediate destination of the raptured Christians as being Heaven, with an eventual return to Earth. Some commentators, identify the destination of the 1 Thessalonians 4:17 gathering as Heaven. Others identify the destination as a specific place on Earth. Often the destination identified is Jerusalem.
Within premillennialism, the pre-tribulation position is the predominant view that distinguishes between the rapture and second coming as two events. There are also two minor positions within premillennialism that differ with regard to the timing of the rapture, the mid-tribulation view and the partial-rapture view. Say, this isn’t complicated at all!
Now, the pre-tribulation position advocates that the rapture will occur before the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period, while the second coming will occur at the end of the seven-year tribulation period. Pre-tribulationists often describe the rapture as Jesus coming for the church and the second coming as Jesus coming with the church. And while many pre-tribulationists are also dispensationalists, not all pre-tribulationists are dispensationalists. Get your head around that.
But wait, there’s more! The mid-tribulation position espouses that the rapture will occur at some point in the middle of what is popularly called the “tribulation period,” or during Daniel's “70th Week.” However, since the Bible only uses “tribulation” to refer to the second half of Daniel's 70th week, from a mid-tribulationist's point of view he is a pre-tribulationist. The “tribulation” is typically divided into two periods of 3.5 years each.
Mid-tribulationists hold that the saints will go through the first period (Beginning of Travail, which is not “the tribulation”), but will be raptured into Heaven before the severe outpouring of God's wrath in the second half of what is popularly called the “tribulation.” Mid-tribulationists appeal to Daniel 7:25 which says the saints will be given over to tribulation for “time, times, and half a time,” - interpreted to mean 3.5 years. At the halfway point of the tribulation, the Antichrist will commit the “abomination of desolation” by desecrating the Jerusalem temple (to be built on what is now called the Temple Mount. This position is a minority view among premillennialists.
Stop scratching your head, this is easy! Now, the “prewrath rapture” view also places the rapture at some point during the tribulation period before the second coming. This view holds that the tribulation of the church begins toward the latter part of the seven-year period, being Daniel's 70th week, when the Antichrist is revealed in the temple. This latter half of the seven-year period [i.e. 3 1/2 years] is defined as the great tribulation, although the exact duration is not known.
References from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are used as evidence that this tribulation will be cut short by the coming of Christ to deliver the righteous by means of the rapture, which will occur after specific events in Revelation, in particular after the sixth seal is opened and the sun is darkened and the moon is turned to blood. However, by this point many Christians will have been slaughtered as martyrs by the Antichrist. After the rapture will come God's seventh-seal wrath of trumpets and bowls (a.k.a. “the Day of the Lord”). The Day of the Lord's wrath against the ungodly will follow for the remainder of the seven years.
No, it hasn’t ended yet! The “partial” or “selective rapture” theory holds that true Christians will be raptured before, in the midst of, or after the tribulation depending on one's genuine conversion to God and the faith. Therefore, the rapture of a believer is determined by the timing of his conversion during the tribulation. Other proponents of this theory hold that only those who are faithful in their relationship with God (having true fellowship with Him) will be raptured, and the rest resurrected during the tribulation, between the 5th and 6th seals of Revelation, having lost their lives during. Still others hold the rest will either be raptured during the tribulation or at its end.
One more? Alright then! The “post-tribulation” position places the rapture at the end of the tribulation period. Post-tribulation writers define the tribulation period in a generic sense as the entire present age, or in a specific sense of a period of time preceding the second coming of Christ. The emphasis in this view is that the church will undergo the tribulation - even though the church will be spared the wrath of God. Matthew 24:29–31 – “Immediately after the Tribulation of those days...they shall gather together his elect...” - is cited as a foundational scripture for this view. Post-tribulationists perceive the rapture as occurring simultaneously with the second coming of Christ. Upon Jesus' return, believers will meet him in the air and will then accompany him in his return to the Earth. In the Epistles of Paul, most notably in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, a trumpet is described as blowing at the end of the tribulation to herald the return of Christ; Revelation 11:15 further supports this view.
The Post-Tribulation view is essentially the position held as well by amillennialists, who view the millennial rule of Christ as allegorical to Christ's rule in the believer through sanctification (II Pet. 3:8) thus precluding literal interpretation of a thousand year period. Amillennialists commonly view the rapture of the Church as one and the same event with the second coming of Christ. Now, take a deep breath....RELAX...
Origins of the RAPTURE
Simple huh! This is supposed to be Bible Prophecy 101 for Christians! Theories aside, what’s most significant about the development of “futurist” theology as believed by most mainstream Christians today, is the shocking fact that It wasn't until the early 1800's that there was ANY significant group of believers that even looked for a “rapture” of the Church prior to a seven-year tribulation period! Yes, the doctrine of the “secret rapture” (in its modern form) is less 200 years old!!! Furthermore, the “rapture” teaching was NOT taught by the early Church! How many end-time T.V. evangelists and Pastors are even aware of the fact they are teaching doctrine unheard of by millions of believers and by most notable scholars throughout Christian history! Not many.
So how did this doctrine gain such prominence over the last two centuries and indeed what was taught before it? In order to explain the development of this teaching, we need to look back to the great historical upheavals and schisms of the Christian faith. Although the conception of the Protestant Reformation is often attributed to Luther’s Ninety-Five thesis in 1517, the protest against the Roman Catholic Church had begun much earlier. The period of unrest in the late 14th – early 15th centuries had already excited wars between princes, uprisings among the peasants, and widespread concern over corruption in the church. New perspectives came from the likes of Wycliffe, Hus and many others, some of whom paid for it with their very lives.
Issues such as purgatory, the selling of indulgences especially Sixtus IV (1471–1484) who established the practice of selling indulgences to be applied to the dead, thereby establishing a new stream of revenue with agents across Europe was an easy target. Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, fathered seven children, including Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia, by at least two mistresses. Fourteen years after his death, the corruption of the papacy that Pope Alexander VI exemplified - particularly the sale of indulgences – was what prompted Luther to write The Ninety-Five Theses, which he nailed to the door of a church at Wittenberg in Saxony.
As the reformation gained momentum, it eventually led to major political divisions (often being adopted for political expediency) including the creation of new national Protestant churches all across Europe. Although the core motivation behind these changes was theological, many other factors played a part, including the rise of nationalism, the Western Schism which eroded people's faith in the Papacy, the corruption of the Curia (the central governing body of Papal authority), and the new learning of the Renaissance which questioned much traditional thought. On a technological level the invention of the printing press proved extremely significant in that it provided the means for the rapid dissemination of new ideas.
And so it was that the Catholic Church began to lose significant political influence (not to mention revenue) haemorrhaging members and support by the hundreds of thousands! It is at this crucial time in Christian history that “the rapture” would be birthed into existence. In general, Northern Europe, with the exception of most of Ireland, turned Protestant. Southern Europe remained Roman Catholic, while Central Europe was a site of fierce conflict, escalating to full-scale war – along with it the infamous trials and tortures of the inquisitions.
Due to the tumultuous religious climate of the times in which the Roman Catholic Church was most dominant in Europe, many Bible students of the 13th and 14th centuries had already accepted the “Historicist” interpretation of Bible prophecy – (that being an incremental unfolding of events focussed on the apostate church system). This actually included many teachers who were loyal to the Church of Rome! And here is the clincher. You see, the theological concept of being “justified by faith alone” was just one of the basic tenets proclaimed by reformist leaders. Few realize today that such teachings went hand in hand with the profound belief (one that was preached with much fervour and tenacity) that the Roman Papacy embodied ALL the attributes of the BEAST SYSTEM OF REVELATION! “Babylon” was THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH! It was this “Historicist” interpretation that was adopted by the Reformation fathers (including Wycliff, Knox, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Huss, Fox, Wesley and Newton) of the 14th to 16th centuries.
"'There are two great truths that stand out in the preaching that brought about the Protestant Reformation,' American Bible Commentator, Ralph Woodrow, reminds us, 'The just shall live by faith, not by the works of Romanism and the Papacy is the Antichrist of Scripture.' It was a message for Christ and against Antichrist. The entire Reformation rests upon this twofold testimony'"
It has been said that the Reformation first discovered Jesus Christ, and then, in the blazing light of Christ, it discovered the Antichrist. This mighty, Spirit-filled movement, for Christ and against the Antichrist, shook the world. (Michael de Semlyen, All Roads Lead to Rome, Dorchester House Publications, Dorchester House, England, 1991, pp. 202, 203).
The advocates of Historicism viewed the seventy weeks of Daniel as being completely fulfilled in the old Judah nation and ending in A.D. 34. It also views the Book of Revelation as portraying a survey of the overall history of the Christian Church. It would include the major events of European history including the Roman Empire, Papal Rome, the rise of Mohammedanism, the Protestant Reformation, the development of Christian Western Civilization and the future consummation of God's plan of the ages in the city of New Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22.
It is easy to see why Historicism became a driving force in Bible eschatology and why the symbolism of Daniel and Revelation was so pertinent to Reformation ideals. After all, if one was to list and develop the characteristics of “antichrist,” in relation to the corrupt Roman Catholic Church, the following become readily apparent:
1. It will rise to be a great power after the fall of the pagan Roman empire (after 476 A.D.).
2. It will be a geographically small nation (a little horn).
3. It will rule over many people, nations, and tongues (it will be universal).
4. It will be headquartered in the city of seven hills (Rome)
5. It will be a religio-political entity - (a political city-state ruled by a priest-king.)
6. Its priest-king will make great and blasphemous claims.
7. It will claim authority over all kings.
8. It will claim its power to change the holy times and laws of God as its mark of authority.
9. It will be an apostate church, that makes the nations drink her cup of apostate doctrine.
10. It will be a “mother” church, with apostate daughters coming from her.
11. It will be a persecuting power, killing the faithful saints of Jesus Christ as heretics.
12. It will hold power and authority for 1260 years following the fall of pagan Rome.
13. It will suffer a deadly wound that will end 1260 years of dominance and persecution.
14. It will be revived after the deadly wound, and all the world will wonder at its revival.
In this the “Historical” interpretation, the antichrist was clearly not seen merely as a “single individual,” it was a system of apostasy and persecution that would hold sway for over many centuries!
The Counter Reformation
It is in this crucial period of Christianity that the development of dispensational futurism took form. With the brutality and iniquity of the Papacy being exposed for so long through the powerful influence of the Reformers, Rome was forced to do something to counter-act this campaign in order to maintain its strangle-hold on the common people and monarchs of Europe.
The Roman Catholic Church responded to this deadly wound with subterfuge and cunning. A Counter-Reformation initiated by the Council of Trent (1545) and spearheaded by the new order of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) specifically organized to counter the Protestant movement! The Council of Trent actually continued for three sessions, ending in 1563. One of the main purposes of this Council was for Catholics to plan a counterattack against Martin Luther and the Protestants. Thus the Council of Trent became a centre for Rome's Counter-Reformation. Up to this point, Rome's main method of attack had been largely frontal - the open burning of Bibles and of heretics. Yet this warfare only confirmed in the minds of Protestants the conviction that Papal Rome was indeed the Beast which would “make war with the saints” (Revelation 13:7). Therefore a new tactic was needed, something less obvious. This is where the Jesuits come in.
It was Ignatius Loyola (a Spanish Knight and Priest) who in 1534 had already founded the secret Catholic order called the Society of Jesus, (known today as the Jesuits) - came into prominence. Historically, we might compare this order to Darth Vader's Evil Empire in the classic Star Wars films.....yes its all very Dan Brown huh! Nevertheless, the Jesuits have a dark history of intrigue and sedition, that's why they were expelled from Portugal (1759), France (1764), Spain (1767), Naples (1767), and Russia (1820).
“Jesuit priests have been known throughout history as the most wicked political arm of the Roman Catholic Church. Edmond Paris, in his scholarly work, The Secret History of the Jesuits, reveals and documents much of this information” (Seventy Weeks: The Historical Alternative, by Robert Caringola. Abundant Life Ministries Reformed Press, 1991, p. 31).
At the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church gave the Jesuits the specific assignment of destroying Protestantism and bringing people back to the Mother Church. This was to be done not only through the Inquisition and through torture, but also through NEW theology!
And herein lays one of the most profound revelations of the development of modern eschatological theology! This is a part of history that EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT!!!
It was at the Council of Trent, that the Jesuits were commissioned to develop a NEW interpretation of Scripture that would counteract the Protestant application of the Bible's antichrist prophecies to the Roman Catholic Church! Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), a brilliant Jesuit priest and doctor of theology from Spain, basically said, “Here am I, send me.” Like Martin Luther, Francisco Ribera also read by candlelight the prophecies about the Antichrist, the little horn, that man of sin, and the Beast. He of course came to conclusions vastly different from that of the Protestants!
He outright rejected the “Historical” interpretation, for a “Futurist” one proposing in his book, entitled In “Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij” that the 1260 day prophecy (Rev 12:6) (42 months (Rev 11:2, 13:5), or time, times and half a time (Rev 12:14) - 3 1/2 times) were not 1260 years, but a literal 3 1/2 years, or 1260 actual days, and therefore NONE of the book of Revelation had any application to the middle ages or the papacy. It applied to a future period just prior to the Second Coming of Christ, hence it was called “Futurism” or the “Futurist” interpretation.
To make the prophecy fit its new interpretation, the 70 Weeks prophecy of Dan 9:24-27, beginning in 457 B.C. with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 7:1-27) had to develop a “gap.” Arbitrarily, the 70th week (7 days = 7 years) of Daniel's prophecy is detached from its context and placed at the end of the age, 2000 years later. This “week” will, according to its proponents, constitute the “seven year tribulation period,” prior to which the Secret Rapture will occur. This “gap” theory states that all fulfilment of this prophecy is suspended until the Christian era is over. Then the last week of the 70 weeks prophecy becomes operative again, constituting the 7 year (a day is a year in prophecy) period of tribulation.
So what did this new interpretation seek to accomplish? “Why, these prophecies don't apply to the Catholic Church at all!” Ribera said. Then to whom do they apply? Ribera proclaimed, “To only one sinister man who will rise up at the end of time!” “Fantastic!” was the reply from Rome, and this viewpoint was quickly adopted as the official Roman Catholic position on the Antichrist. Yes you read right. Where did the “doctrine” of ENDTIME PROPHECY (that almost all mainstream Christian denominations prescribe to today) emanate from? FROM A MAN MADE TEACHING used to get back at the PROTESTANTS! Unbelievable!
“In 1590, Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation as a counter-interpretation to the prevailing view among Protestants which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist. Ribera applied all of Revelation but the earliest chapters to the end time rather than to the history of the Church. Antichrist would be a single evil person who would be received by the Jews and would rebuild Jerusalem” (George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956, pp. 37-38).
“Ribera denied the Protestant Scriptural Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2) as seated in the church of God - asserted by Augustine, Jerome, Luther and many reformers. He set on an infidel Antichrist, outside the church of God.” (Ralph Thompson, Champions of Christianity in Search of Truth, p. 89).
"The result of his work [Ribera's] was a twisting and maligning of prophetic truth" (Robert Caringola, Seventy Weeks: The Historical Alternative, p. 32).
Yes, it was Ribera who proposed the theory that the whole Book of Revelation related to events that were to take place JUST at the time of Jesus’ return to this earth and was, therefore, still in the future. The ANTICHRIST was to be a World-Dictator who would appear at the end of this dispensation.
In order to remove the Catholic Church from consideration as the Antichrist power, and with the sole design of SHIFTING THE ODIUM away from the Pope, Ribera proposed that the first few chapters of the Book of Revelation applied to ancient pagan Rome, and the rest he limited to a yet future period of 3 1/2 literal years -- immediately prior to the second coming. During that time, the Roman Catholic Church would have fallen away from the Pope into apostasy. Then, he proposed, the Antichrist, a single individual, would:
1) Persecute and blaspheme the saints of YEHOVAH.
2) Rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
3) Abolish the Christian religion.
4) Deny Jesus as the Messiah.
5) Be received by the Jews.
6) Pretend to be YEHOVAH.
7) Kill the two witnesses of YEHOVAH.
8) Conquer the world.
Following close behind Francisco Ribera was another brilliant Jesuit scholar, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) of Rome. Between 1581 and 1593, Cardinal Bellarmine published his "Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed Points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of this Time." In these lectures, he agreed with Ribera.
“The futurist teachings of Ribera were further popularized by an Italian cardinal and the most renowned of all Jesuit controversialists. His writings claimed that Paul, Daniel, and John had nothing whatsoever to say about the Papal power. The futurists' school won general acceptance among Catholics. They were taught that antichrist was a single individual who would not rule until the very end of time” (Great Prophecies of the Bible, by Ralph Woodrow, p. 198).
Through the work of these two tricky Jesuit scholars, we might say that a brand new baby was born into the world. Protestant historians have given this baby a name - Jesuit Futurism. In fact, Francisco Ribera has been called the Father of Futurism. This Jesuit teaching worked its way into thought and mind for the next 250 years.
PRETERISM - ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE
But just in case “futurism” wasn’t watertight enough to throw would be truth seekers off the scent. Another alternative to the “historicist” view was presented by...you guessed it, another Jesuit scholar. Luis del Alcázar (Ludovicus ab Alcasar, Louis of Alcazar) (1554–1613) was a Spanish Jesuit theologian. He is known for his “Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi” (1614) published after his death, putting forward what would later be called a “preterist” view of Biblical prophecy. In commentary on the Book of Revelation; his view was that everything in the Apocalypse, apart from the three final chapters, refers to events that already have come to pass. He essentially suggested that the apostle John could not possibly foretell events which were to happen hundreds of years after his own time; that he was merely writing about events that were happening in his own day - and that his Antichrist was probably the Emperor Nero or some other persecutor.
In this view, prophecies in Revelation are regarded as largely fulfilled in the events of 70 A.D. when the Roman armies of Vespasian and Titus destroyed the nation of Israel. The Roman Catholic Apostasy is not the subject of prophecy in this interpretation - since it did not exist in 70 A.D. Rather, a Jewish application is often given to these passages. In Alcazar's commentary called “Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse,” which ran to some 900 pages, the following points are highlighted:
1) Revelation chapters 1-11 describe the rejection of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
2) Revelation chapters 12-19 were the overthrow of Roman paganism (the great harlot) and the conversion of the empire to the church.
3) Revelation 20 describes the final persecutions by the Antichrist, who is identified as Caesar Nero (54-68 A.D.), and judgment.
4) Revelation 21-22 describe the triumph of the New Jerusalem, the Roman Catholic Church.
Natuarally, Alcazar found NO application of prophecy to the Middle Ages or to the papacy!
The intent of both Futurism and Preterism was to be diversionary, to counter or offset the Protestant Historical interpretation, and present alternatives - no matter how implausible they might be. That this interpretation differed so greatly from that put forth by Alcazar and other Jesuits mattered little. Catholicism, the supposedly divine and infallible interpreter of scripture, was presenting two vastly different and quite incompatible interpretations of prophecy in a desperate effort to counter the claims of the Reformers.
To add fuel to the fire of Futurism, another Jesuit named Emanuel Lacunza built on Ribera's teachings, and spent much of his life writing a book titled “The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty” which was published in1812. Lacunza, along with other fellow Jesuits, had been expelled from Chile for their encouragement of treachery and violence. He wrote his book under the name of “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” (because nothing lends credence to something biblical like a Jewish covert!) He added a prayer asking the Almighty to use his book for the enlightenment of the Jewish people. Lacunza set forth the theory that Jesus was to have a future two stage coming; once for His saints and then with His saints at a later date.
He thus conspired to get his book a hearing in the Protestant world - they would not even permit it in their homes coming from a Jesuit pen - but as the earnest work of a “converted Jew” they would consume it with avid interest! Within the pages of this elaborate forgery Lacunza taught the novel notion that Jesus returns not once, but twice, and at the “first stage” of His return He “raptures” His Church so they can escape the reign of the “future Antichrist.” His book was first published in Spanish but soon found its way onto the shelves of the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London, England. However Lacunza’s ideas would (unknowingly) add sweetness to the poison brew of futurist theology, one which made it all too easy to swallow. Lucunza came close to becoming somewhat of a reformist himself.
Lacunza was, of course, steeped in the then current Jesuit teaching that the appearance and reign of the Antichrist was still in the future. But to this theory he added his own touch that in order to make room for all the events which were claimed to happen in the future, there would have to be a period of time between the rapture of the saints and the actual appearance of the Messiah in his glory. He conceived the idea that when the Lord returns from heaven to earth upon His coming forth from heaven, and much before His arrival at the earth, He will give His orders, and send forth His command as King and God omnipotent: “with a shout (in the Vulgate jussu, i.e. 'by the order') with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” At this voice of the Son of God, those who shall hear it, shall forthwith arise, as saith the evangelist St. John (chapter 5:25) “those who hear shall live” (The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, by Juan Josafat Ben Ezra. Dublin: 1833. pps. 10-11).
This is the germ out of which sprang the entire theory that Jesus was to come TWICE - once for his saints, and again sometime later with his saints. Lacunza, largely in bondage to Catholic teaching, vigorously asserted that the Book of Revelation “is wholly directed to the coming of the Lord,” and claimed that it DID NOT find any fulfilment in the facts of history during the Christian dispensation. This, of course, is a contention in which ALL futurists and Roman Catholics are in agreement. However, Lacunza was to some extent an independent thinker. He took Futurism to a whole new level.
Seeing that the Catholic Church was the “true church,” he expresses the idea that apostasy would enter Catholicism – an idea that would be an ANATHEMA to Rome! He at least hinted strongly that the Antichrist would appear IN ROME - and that he would usurp the place of the Head of the Catholic Church. He also clearly stated that the second beast of the thirteenth chapter of Revelation signified the priesthood, not of some false religion, but of the Church of Rome, which he regarded as the true Church. This priesthood, he claimed, was to apostatize on the appearance of the Antichrist - just as the Jewish priesthood apostatized when they crucified Jesus Thus, according to Lacunza's view, owing to the supposed sanctity of their office, they would be able to seduce the vast majority of the Christian world, and would persecute the true saints of Jesus.
But, most damaging of all from the Pope's point of view, was the fact that Lacunza ventured to call into question the teaching of his own church as to the individual personal Antichrist, with all the supernatural powers for evil which he was to exercise within his few years' reign. He actually BACKED UP the main contention of the Protestants that the Antichrist of the Bible was not one man, but a mighty system or body of men animated by one spirit. Speaking of the teachings of the Catholic doctors regarding the person of the Antichrist, Lacunza refers to their ideas as “so various, so obscure, and so ill-founded.”
The fatuous notion that a secular leader like Hitler, Stalin, Prince Charles, or the U.S. President can fulfil the Divine predictions concerning the Antichrist, would be roundly condemned by Lacunza’s thinking - in words which modern “prophets of God” and so-called ministers might well heed:
“If we expect to see accomplished in one man all that is said of the beast, with all that is announced to us in so many parts of Scripture; it is much to be feared, that, all which is written will take place, and such an Antichrist not appearing, we shall be looking for him when he is already in the house. Likewise it is to be feared, that this idea which we have formed of Antichrist may prove the chief cause of the very great carelessness in which men shall be found, when the day of the Lord arrives” (ibid., pps. 113-114).
Lacunza’s schizophrenic theological tendencies were untenable to say the least. It clearly stood to reason that Lacunza's book would not affect the beliefs of his own church. It would not - it could not - be read by faithful Catholics! It differed enough from the accepted teachings of the Vatican, that it was certain to be placed on the “Index” of prohibited books - and none knew this better than the author. Was this part of his plan? If the book was not to be read by his own church, for WHOM was it written? Perhaps the pen name of a “Jewish Rabbi/Christian” convert would be read and accepted by Protestants - with the commendation of having been condemned by the Pope!
One might suppose that, fearing the displeasure of his own Church for his “errors,” he merely wished to hide his identity under a “nom de plume.” But we only have to glance at any account of the fierce persecution of the Jews by the Catholic Church in Spain to realize that a bitter hatred existed between the Jews and the Roman Catholics. Lacunza's guise of a Jewish Rabbi was, therefore, the one best suited to secure the absolute exclusion of his book from the Catholic Church.
If he could have influenced the Catholic Church to accept the view that the Antichrist was a world-power empowered by one spirit, the inexorable force of logic would compel Roman Catholics to acknowledge that history had ALREADY produced one world-power - and only one - to answer the description. In other words, the Vatican would be driven to accept the Protestant viewpoint. But if Lacunza could induce the Protestant world to accept the idea that the Antichrist was to appear only for a few short years at the end of the age, logic would equally force Protestants to picture the Antichrist as an individual person. In other words, the Protestant world would be compelled to accept the Vatican's alibi. WHICH OF THE TWO, THEN, WAS LACUNZA'S OBJECTIVE?
So, finally, there remains only the Protestants - and there can be little doubt that this elaborate work was perpetrated for their consumption alone. To lay the groundwork and to get the Protestants dabbling in the theory of a future Antichrist was worth, to the Vatican, the vast amount of time and effort it required. Yet if there was any wisdom to be learned from Lacunza’s teaching, it would all be lost in the “hotch-potch” of the generalized futurist theological soup. The warning would largely fall on deaf ears. By the time these teachings were swallowed whole by Protestant frontrunners, “Futurism” would become a marginalized and polished pill, easily swallowed by the hungry Protestant masses.
In 1816 a complete edition of Lacunza's work (in four volumes) was published in London by the Diplomatic Agent of the Republic of Buenos Aires. Lacunza's identity, though still hidden from the world under the nom de plume of “Ben Ezra,” must have been known to those involved in its publication. Otherwise, WHY would the Diplomatic Agent of a South American Republic be interested in the work of “Rabbi Ben Ezra” - a converted Jew? But, at a time when 95 percent of the entire population of South America was still illiterate and its infant republics were struggling to lift their heads out of the cesspool of Catholic depravity, an important theological work by a native son was something for all of South America to be proud of. Protestant England certainly could not be trusted to give an unbiased opinion of a book known to be written by a Jesuit. The author must, therefore, go before the British public in the disguise of the “converted Jewish Rabbi.” Yet, to the detriment of Anglo/American Christendom - it was finally received!
The British connection
“The Futurism of Ribera never posed a positive threat to the Protestants for three centuries. It was virtually confined to the Roman Church. But early in the nineteenth century it sprang forth with vehemence and latched on to Protestants of the Established Church of England” (Ralph Thompson, Champions of Christianity in Search of Truth, p. 91).
And so it was, the poison pill (the work of Ribera and Lacunza) would find its way into the theological circles of Great Britain. Bible prophecy would never be the same again! Dr. Samuel Roffey Maitland (1792-1866), a lawyer and Bible scholar who became the librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, would fan the flame of futurism and send it headlong towards its target audience. At a time when printing was still in its infancy, the production of a theological work in Spanish (in four volumes) was an important undertaking guaranteed to generate a lot of attention. The number of people in England at the time who could read Lacunza’s work in Spanish was fairly small; so the number of copies required would be small, and the cost per set correspondingly high.
When the four volumes were published, to possess and be able to read the work of this wondrous “Jewish Rabbi” would be quite a mark of distinction and scholarly snobbery among the learned in London. Yes, there was one library in London that could not afford to be without a copy of this “new” publication - a theological library that was - and still is - probably second to none in England - The library of the Archbishop of Canterbury! This Library was not only maintained for his own use but for the whole Anglican Church and the people of England. Here, then, on the library shelves of the official head of the Anglican Church - at the very CORE of British Protestantism, sat the Jesuit masterpiece.
It took ten years - a long time, some might think. But what are ten years in the life of the Catholic Church? Ten years is not really a very long time to produce a radical change in the thinking of a seasoned scholar and theologian - to get the man who was in charge of these volumes so saturated with their teachings that he was himself propelled into authorship! In 1826, ten years after Lacunza's work was published, Dr. Maitland landed a bombshell in the Protestant world by publishing a series of pamphlets on prophecy. These pamphlets propounded the theory (already taught for 240 years by the Jesuits) that the whole book of Revelation refers ONLY to the future, and is to be fulfilled in a short period of time at the return of Jesus. In tract after tract, he continued his anti-Reformation rhetoric. As a result of his zeal and strong attacks against the Reformation in England, the Protestantism of that very nation which produced the King James Bible (1611) received a crushing blow.
Almost immediately after the appearance of the first of Dr. Maitland's pamphlets, a Mr. Burgh in Ireland published a book on the Futurist Antichrist. This was along the same lines as Maitland's pamphlets, and evidently was drawn from the same source. But another seven years were to pass by before the disintegration of Protestant Christianity would begin in earnest. These seven years were needed - both in England and in Ireland - for the idea to take root that the Reformers had done the papacy an injustice in regarding it as the Antichrist of the Bible - and that Catholicism was really a “sister church” and should be so regarded by the Protestants of Britain. To add to the growing trend, James H. Todd, a professor of Hebrew at the University of Dublin also had accepted the futuristic ideas of Maitland, publishing his own supportive pamphlets and books.
Then came John Henry Newman (1801-1890), a member of the Church of England and a leader of the famous Oxford Movement (1833-1845). In 1850, Newman wrote his “Letter on Anglican Difficulties” revealing that one of the goals in the Oxford Movement was to finally absorb “the various English denominations and parties” back into the Church of Rome. After publishing a pamphlet endorsing Todd's futurism about a one-man Antichrist, Newman soon became a full Roman Catholic, and later even a highly honoured Cardinal. Through the influence of Maitland, Todd, Newman, and others, a definite “Romeward movement was already arising, destined to sweep away the old Protestant landmarks, as with a flood” (H. Grattan Guinness, History Unveiling Prophecy or Time as an Interpreter, New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1905, p. 289).
In fact Cardinal Newman's book on the Arians of the Fourth Century, published early in October of 1833, appears to have been the first publication of the new movement for Reunion with Rome, the forerunner of the Tracts from which the Tractarian Movement received its name. The only publications preparing the minds of the English for a return to Rome that were written prior to Newman's book, and which might be said to belong to the Tractarian Movement, were Maitland's and Burgh's pamphlets on the Future Antichrist. Dr. Maitland's theory of a future Antichrist was one of the main weapons used in the Tractarian defence of the Vatican from the charges levelled against it by the Reformers; and it was this influence that led Newman into the arms of the Pope.
Then Lacunza's book came into the hands of Edward Irving, a young and brilliant Scottish Presbyterian minister (the acknowledged forerunner of both the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements) during the 1820's. He was such a powerful and stimulating speaker (attracted great crowds) that in 1827 the large Regent Square church was erected for him. This was the first to adopt modern charismatic practices (including tongues) following Irving’s belief that the gifts of the Spirit were about to be given again. Tongues first appeared in the west of Scotland in Spring 1830 but were soon present in Irving’s church. Irving seemed a troubled soul however. Being expelled by the Church of Scotland in 1833 he helped establish the “Catholic Apostolic Church” which was fully charismatic, including a belief in the vital role of prophets and apostles. Events soon took a turn for the worse with the gifts being abused and overruling common sense. Irving himself was ousted by men with gifts of supposed greater (apostolic) authority, and many serious doctrinal and ethical aberrations resulted. Irving himself taught a false Christology. As a result, Irving died a demoralised man and the whole movement was vilified.
When Irving turned to the prophecies, he eventually accepted the one-man Antichrist idea of Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera, yet he went a step further. Somewhere around 1830, Edward Irving began to teach the unique idea (Lacunza’s) of a two-phase return of Christ, the first phase being a secret rapture prior to the rise of the Antichrist. According to Irving; “There are three gatherings: – First, of the first-fruits of the harvest, the wise virgins who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth; next, the abundant harvest gathered afterwards by God; and lastly, the assembling of the wicked for punishment.”
Irving accepted the task of translation of this devious theory from Spanish into English. He was aware of the true identity of Lacunza as being a Spanish Jesuit and not a converted Jewish Rabbi however - Still, he continued to translate and publish a theory that would turn out to be one of the most detrimental misconceptions of Scripture in the 2,000 year history of the Christian Church. When he published his English version in London in 1827, he claimed he heard a voice telling him to preach a secret rapture of the church with the two-stage theory of Christ's future comings.
In 1830, at the height of his fame, Irving spoke at the Albury conferences, his journal The Morning Watch, which had a high eschatological content, was widely distributed. His writings became increasingly strange, including a plethora of non-biblical concepts. Not only that, but his ministry became more and more exclusive requiring “initiation” in order to escape imminent tribulation! It was actually in “the morning watch” that Irvine introduced the “two phased” coming of Christ.
In the electric climate of charismania, not only were the concepts of a futurist view of Revelation and the Jesuit view of two second comings of Christ popularised, ideas about the separation of the church and Israel; a parenthesis of the Jewish kingdom and the expected rise of antichrist and the Great tribulation were also taught with a growing conviction. Though these ideas rapidly developed, the idea of a “secret rapture” was still somewhat of a missing ingredient. It wouldn’t take long to solidify itself into futurist theology however - and in sensationalist fashion!
Lending credence to the idea of a “pre-tribulation rapture” was the appearance and influence of a young poorly educated girl named Margaret Macdonald from Port Glasgow (15 miles from Glasgow) who was familiar with “The Morning Watch” and Edward Irving. The vehicle of this idea was a “vision” she had, which was written down and read by Irving. “The Morning Watch” already represented the most advanced prophetic ideas, including: A future tribulation and Antichrist, a literal rapture, a partial rapture (only those filled with the Spirit) etc, but it was the content of her vision that would eventually lead to the formulation of a “secret rapture” teaching.
Young Margaret Macdonald, who had such a critical influence in the formation of pre-tribulation, was unfortunately a poor foundation on which to rest. Her insight came in a lengthy vision after prolonged sickness which required bed-rest for 18 months. This was written down and passed to ministers, including Irving at a time when he was very susceptible to such charismatic revelation. Margaret had also only been a Christian for a year. It was probably these facts which led to the origin being obscured and publicised by more educated men.
Much has been written about Macdonald’s place in relation to the popularization of dispensationalist doctrine including the accusation that she was a simpleton (mentally unstable) and that she was particularly open to the occult. Robert Norton wrote of her and a friend, “I have seen both her and Miss Margaret Macdonald stand like statues scarcely touching the ground,” evidently supernaturally. Andrew Drummond tells us that Margaret’s close friend Mary Campbell practised automatic writing and had intense psychical power and was a medium. Margaret also predicted that socialist Robert Owen was the Antichrist at the time she had her pre-tribulation vision. Margaret herself began to speak in tongues about four months after her vision in August 1830.
Whatever the truth of these claims, it is obvious that Irving took advantage of the situation to bolster his position. “The Morning Watch” did not credit Margaret Macdonald as its inspiration, although it does mention several young women having given deep revelation in a few broken sentences. Robert Baxter, a lawyer who became disillusioned with the Irvingites and left them, wrote about Margaret in his Narrative of Facts. He states that: the delusion first appeared in Scotland but it was not until adopted and upheld by Mr Irving, that it began to challenge much attention.
Margaret’s uncredited vision appeared in 1840 in the Memoirs of James and George Macdonald of Port Glasgow written by Robert Norton. In 1861 he published her vision and named her specifically, identifying her as the source of the new doctrine. The fact that the Irvingites initiated the teaching of pre-tribulation is also asserted by several contemporaries, including eminent Brethren writers, such as: S. P. Tregelles, J. P. Lange, Thomas Croskery, Edward Miller (Irvingite historian), William Reid,
George Stokes and J. S. Teulon.
THE DOCTRINE EVOLVES
“The Morning Watch” went into overdrive in explaining their modification of eschatology. The “caught up” of 1Thess 4 became separated from the “gather” of Matt 24. One article in June 1830 clearly states that “Philadelphia” (spiritual believers) would be raptured and “Laodicea” (non-spiritual Christians, and Jews who follow Antichrist) would be left on earth to endure the Great tribulation. The pre-tribulation rapture became known as “the secret rapture” and with it the development of an elitist, arcane society of adherents, those who were privileged to know about the secret or were especially spiritual in order to take part in it! In June 1832, it was stated that the Lord’s coming was only a joy for those prepared and looking for it. Only they would see the Lord, the rest of the church would only see this first appearance as a meteor or cloud.
Other ideas began to emerge too. In June 1832 an article on “the feast of Tabernacles” saw the seven days of the feast as seven years, the thirteen bullocks slain indicated a confederacy of thirteen hostile powers, during the rise of Antichrist, Gog and Magog etc. This appears to be the first mention of a seven-year tribulation period. Out of interest, Darby (who we shall discuss next) was teaching a tribulation of three and a half years as late as 1868.
Because the symbolism of types can be interpreted according to other influences, once sound Biblical hermeneutics are ignored, the interpretation of the feasts varied significantly from year to year. Irvingites shifted the rapture from feast 6 (of Lev 23’s 7 feasts) to feast 5, then feast 4 and even feast 3 within the first few years. Modern Dispensationalists have the same problems. Scofield based his pretribulation rapture on feast 3 (firstfruits). Hal Lindsey has a rapture somewhere between feast 3 and 7. Edgar Whisenant based it upon feast 5, stating that it would occur in 1988. Another recent author stated that it would occur in May 1997 - all crazy speculative stuff.
Buzzwords that still exist (out of context) in mainstream teaching today also took form. Irving’s “man-child” ideas began to emerge in June 1831; repeated by Darby in 1839. He took Paul’s teaching on the union of believers with Christ and transferred it to the interpretation of Old Testament prophecy and Revelation symbolism. References to ‘Christ’ became corporate, especially the veiled reference of the man-child in Rev 12. With appalling exegesis it was taught that a first company was gathered (rapture of the singular child) before the others of the church who would suffer in the Great Tribulation (a remnant of the woman’s seed).
Needless to say, the spread of these reformed Jesuit ideas was infectious as it was sensationalist! The ultimate result of the acceptance of the writings of Ribera and Lacunza were that all these prophetic events are scheduled to transpire in a very short space of seven years between the first and second comings of Jesus; the rapture of the church is to take place as a future event which will be the starting point for all the other events to follow. My, my, how the historicist Fathers of the Reformation (many of whom endured exile, torture and death) would be rolling in their graves at the thought of their liberating ideals and revelation being so quickly
cast aside for the apostate venom of the Jesuits!
The doctrine spreads to America
And so in the midst of this growing anti-Protestant climate in England, there arose another man by the name of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). A brilliant lawyer, pastor, and theologian, he wrote more than 53 books on Bible subjects. A much-respected Christian and a man of deep piety, Darby took a strong stand in favour of the infallibility of the Bible in contrast with the liberalism of his day. He became one of the leaders of a group in Plymouth, England, which became known as the Plymouth Brethren. Darby's contribution to the development of evangelical theology has been so great that he has been called The Father of Modern Dispensationalism. Yet John Nelson Darby, like Edward Irving, also became a strong promoter of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture followed by a one-man Antichrist. In fact, this teaching has become a hallmark of Dispensationalism.
John Nelson Darby laid much of the foundation for the present popular removal of Daniel's 70th week away from history and from Jesus Christ in favour of applying it to a future tribulation after the Rapture. Thus, in spite of all the positives of his ministry, Darby followed Maitland, Todd, Bellarmine, and Ribera by incorporating the teachings of Futurism into his theology. Darby visited America six times between 1859-1874, preaching in all of its major cities, during which time he planted the seeds of Futurism in American soil. The child of the Jesuits was growing up.
Darby’s main eschatological beliefs echoed Edward Irving’s preliminary discourse to Lacunza’s work published in 1827. Ministers were often seen plagiarising each other’s works as new revelation came to light. Darby’s idea of the “parenthesis” (where the Jewish kingdom is put on hold while the Gentile church is developed) appeared in 1830; but the same thought in very similar wording appeared in The Millennium by W C Davis of South Carolina in 1811.7 Lacunza also frequently mentioned this word in explaining prophetic scripture. Darby can be claimed as a populariser of other’s thoughts on pre-tribulation Dispensationalism, but not the originator. These ideas were exported by several visits of Darby to the USA (between 1859–74) and a series of prophetic conferences (1878–1901) presenting Dispensationalism to Americans. Delegates included Hudson Taylor, A.T. Pierson. A.J. Gordon, S.H. Kellog and W.J. Erdman.
Such a rapid popularisation of dispensationalist ideas in America, quickly sealed the fate of “Historicist” eschatology - those Biblical prophecies about the little horn, the man of sin, the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Babylonian Harlot of Revelation 17, all apply to the developing history of Christianity culminating at the end of time - would be lost forever!
With the Reformation seemingly such a “European” affair, it is astounding how the rapidly advancing colonies so readily embraced ideas from the “old world.” America was a colony forever simmering in revolutionary ideals - it is no wonder that these “futurist” doctrines developed rapidly into popular thought.
Interestingly, the concept of “the rapture,” (especially in connection with premillennialism) was prior to Darby’s influence already known and expressed by the 17th-century American Puritans - father and son Increase and Cotton Mather. Increase Mather (1639 O.S. - 1723 O.S.) was a major figure in the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay. He was an extremely influential Puritan minister (as was his son) who was involved with the government of the colony, the administration of Harvard College, and most notoriously, the Salem witch trials. They held to the idea that believers would be “caught up in the air,” followed by judgments on the Earth, and then the millennium. The term “rapture” was used by Philip Doddridge and John Gill in their New Testament commentaries, with the idea that believers would be caught up prior to judgment on the Earth and Jesus' second coming.
Cotton Mather was not only a socially and politically influential New England minister, but a prolific author and pamphleteer. He wrote more than 450 books and pamphlets, and his ubiquitous literary works made him one of the most influential religious leaders in America. Mather set the moral tone in the colonies, and sounded the call for second- and third-generation Puritans, whose parents had left England for the New England colonies of North America, to return to the theological roots of Puritanism.
Credited with bold endorsements from such influential American ministers, Jesuit Futurism had quietly swept 1,500 years of prophetic history under the proverbial rug by inserting its infamous GAP into the western theological psyche. The GAP theory taught that when Rome fell, prophecy stopped, only to continue again right around the time of the Rapture. Thus the ten horns, the little horn, the Beast, and the Antichrist had nothing to do with the Catholic Church. According to this viewpoint, how many prophecies were being fulfilled during the Dark Ages? None. Zero. It is ironic then that Dispensationalism is a theory that claims to promote the idea that God deals with mankind in major “dispensations” or periods. According to Darby, we are now in the “Church Age,” that is, until the Rapture. After the Rapture, then the seven-year period of Daniel 9:27 will supposedly kick in - and this is when the Antichrist will rise up against the Jews.
“It is the prophetic teaching that makes the Scofield Bible significant. Its influence cannot be overestimated.” (Joseph Canfield author of The Incredible Scofield.)
But if there was anyone MORE responsible for the promotion of dispensationalist futurism in its modern form, it would be Cyrus Ingerson Scofield – or so it would seem. One of the most important figures in this whole drama, Cyris Scofield (1843-1921) - a Kansas lawyer, was greatly influenced by the writings of Darby.
Scofield apprenticed in the law in the St. Louis assessor's office before moving to Atchison, Kansas in late 1869. In 1871, Scofield was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, first from Atchison for one year and then from Nemaha County for a second. In 1873 he worked for the election of John J. Ingalls as senator from Kansas, and when Ingalls won, the new senator had Scofield appointed U. S. District Attorney for Kansas at 29, the youngest in the country. Nevertheless, that same year Scofield was forced to resign “under a cloud of scandal” because of questionable financial transactions, that may have included accepting bribes from railroads, stealing political contributions intended for Ingalls, and securing bank promissory notes by forging signatures. It is very likely that Scofield was jailed on forgery charges, although there is no extant evidence in the public records. Perhaps in part because of his self-confessed heavy drinking, Scofield abandoned his wife and two daughters during this period. According to Scofield, he was converted to evangelical Christianity through the testimony of a lawyer acquaintance. His political past would be a crucial conduit for which his theological ideas would be supported and spread throughout the Christian world.
In 1909, Scofield published the first edition of his famous “Scofield Reference Bible.” Thus “dispensationalism” was internationally popularised (arising out of Bible conferences) selling several million copies by 1960. Dispensational literature was steadily pushed into the mainstream - Darby’s writings, William Kelly’s books, E.W. Bullinger’s The Companion Bible, W.E. Blackstone’s Jesus is Coming (hundreds of thousands sent free to Christian workers in USA) and many other Brethren writings were readily consumed . Many of these works denigrated existing commentaries, and even the church Fathers and the Reformers, and boasted a “special revelation,” - only their works truly understood God’s mysteries!
In the much-respected footnotes of this very Bible, Scofield injected large doses of the fluid of Futurism also found in the writings of Darby, Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera. Through the Scofield Bible, the Jesuit brainchild reached young adulthood. The doctrine of an Antichrist still to come - would become firmly established inside 20th-century American Protestantism!
Yet there is more to the popularity of the Scofield Bible than meets the eye. It could well be argued that the supporters of dispensationalism were just as guilty as their Jesuit counterparts when it came to the skulduggery and subtleties of promoting their propaganda.
Joseph Canfield in “The Incredible Scofield” provides a clue that helps unravel the mystery which surrounds the rise of the Scofield Bible. He states that on the second page of the introduction to the first edition published in 1909, Scofield acknowledged that he had been influenced by two Oxford Bible scholars, B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort. Scofield travelled to Oxford University just prior to the publication of his Bible. At the time, these two men were highly regarded authorities on the Greek New Testament. However, the recent controversy over the King James Bible has thrown a flood of light into the dark corners of their lives.
Westcott (a bishop in the Anglican Church) and Hort (Professor of divinity) both had abandoned their Christian faith! Westcott (who had previously formed a secret club while an undergraduate at Cambridge called “Hermes”) teamed up with Westcott in 1851 helping found “the Ghost Society,” which over the years included some of the most noted intellectuals in England including future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour. Balfour was at the centre of an elite group which had inherited great political power, wealth and social position (reminiscent of Yales’ “skull and Bones” secret fraternity.) Disturbingly, they were leaders in the occult revival of the 19th century and founders of the New Age Movement with the noted Luciferian Helen Blatavsky.
Despite this, Hort and Westcott's “The New Testament in the Original Greek” was a bold attempt to produce a work as close to the original text as possible (unpopular with staunch King James Bible advocates of course) using the Vitacanus and Sinaiticus and a combination of Codex Bezae with the Old Latin and the Old Syriac. It is a shame that 28 years of profound work should be overshadowed by inane “Bible bias” and their less than savoury “extracurricular” activities and obsession with spiritism. Hort and Westcott’s accreditation by Scofield lent credence to the validity of the “true prophetic interpretation” of dispensationalism as well as providing an extremely influential literary platform in which launch this new twist on Bible prophecy!
THE ZIONIST CONNECTION
In the world of Christian academia, Scofield became (with the help of friends in high places) an imposing literary figure in the early 20th century - revered for the genius of his novel dispensationalist footnotes. Today (especially in America) modern “futurism” is largely promoted with an increasing obsession with all things “Israel.” The political climate of the last 70+ years has seen a prolific rise in interest towards the Middle East in regards to Bible prophecy. Books, websites and Christian T.V. networks are tirelessly obsessed with the “Jewish Homeland” and its place in “end time” eschatology. The rise of this phenomenon is largely politically motivated – giving rise to the immergence of a somewhat tenuous Christian/Jewish “pseudo theology” within mainstream Christendom.
But how did this idea unfold so quickly – this obsession with Israel? You will find no clear answers in the Christian history books, that’s for sure. It is safe to say, that most Pastors and teachers are completely ignorant to the development of this patriotic, nationalistic form of modern futurism that so pulls the heart strings of the American Bible Belt every election year. The pseudo political/theological fervour that drives America’s foreign policy in the Middle East is dictated largely by its extreme investment towards the State of Israel. The insidious development of extreme Zionism in the 20th century relied heavily on its ability to hijack and play up to the religious sensitivities of this great “Christian” superpower. Today, this religious obsession acts as a moral conduit for which the emerging Globalist juggernaut continues to dictate foreign policy largely without accountability and without consent.
So what part does the development of “futuristic dispensationalism” play in the chessboard of global politics? Well, Scofield’s story is one example of many that helped forge the version of Bible prophecy that is readily consumed by Christian believers throughout the world today. A little digging goes a long way to shedding light on this modern development - one it must be said is scarce in resources and shrouded in legend and hearsay. Yet herein lays one of the most closely guarded secrets in modern Christendom. You see, Scofield was a well funded front man for a hidden agenda. The truth of the matter is that there was a hidden genius at work behind the “scofield” Bible and that genius was Arno Gaebelein – the man who really wrote the notes and created the illusion of the patriarch of the dispensationalist movement!
In 1896 Arno Gaebelein was the editor of the Zionist publication “Our Hope.” He worked from his office on the lower east side of New York. For a moment in time, this was the capital of world Jewry. The streets were teeming with immigrants from Eastern Europe. Many had arrived penniless on America's shore fleeing persecution in Russia. Amid the squalor, noise and press of humanity there was excitement and hope. This was the crucial time in history that Herzl and Rothschild were campaigning to restore the Jews to their homeland! Arno read many Jewish periodicals and kept close contact with members of the Jewish colonization societies. His magazine argued that the only solution to the Jewish problem was a Jewish State.
Back after visiting synagogues in Russia and Eastern Europe, Gaebelein spoke to Jews and representatives of the Jewish press. He was soon engulfed with speaking engagements across America as interest in Zionism grew. His Bible study magazine just so happened to have a section on Bible prophecy. All the while, he was dogmatic about the necessity of the Jewish state - After all he argued, this “end-time” phenomenon was the inevitable fulfilment of bible prophecy, surely they were witnessing an exciting sign of the end times!
By 1901, “Our Hope” had reached a circulation of 15,000 copies a month and it was at this time that he met Scofield at the Sea Cliffs Bible Conference! From this point on, careful research suggests that they began to lay the plan for what was to become the most widely used reference Bible in the English speaking world! Arno Gaebelein would be proved to be the man behind the curtain, creating the illusion of the incredible Scofield. In reality he was the real wizard of dispensationalism.
At home Arno Gaebelein spent most of his time on the typewriter in his study. It just so happened, that Scofield was a frequent visitor! After all, the author of the Scofield Bible was listed as Dr C.I. Scofield, D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) but Scofield never attended a university or a seminary. In 1979 Gaebelein’s son Frank (in an interview with Rausch) stated that his Father had “definitely” been responsible for the prophetic portion of the Reference Bible. Franks confession came shortly before he died – obviously proud of what his Father had accomplished. Researchers have since confirmed his story! This is a fact almost universally unknown in the Christian world! Amazing! But this revelation opens a Pandora's Box of new mysteries. Why did two of the most prominent Christians of the 20th century create the illusion that a man of dubious character, and spurious credentials wrote their profoundly influential reference bible? Well, perhaps Gaebelein was a little too “Jewish” for the liking of most Christians?
After all “Our Hope” carried the subtitle; “We preach to the Gentile church on behalf of the Jew.” So his ministry was supported by Zionists who paid for his expensive tour to Europe. One would assume that some of these Zionist supporters were Jews. All agree that he was an expert on Bible prophecy. His unique viewpoint was shaped at first by the Plymouth Brethren and then by the Orthodox rabbis with whom he worked in New York. His reference Bible would embed this novel prophetic viewpoint into the hearts and minds of millions!
So we have a man who looked like a Jew, spoke like a Jew, worked for highly influential Jews, was supported by Jews and lived in the centre of world Jewry who wrote a Christian Reference Bible with a Jewish interpretive point of view. He was also very knowledgeable about the Hebrew and Semitic languages. And yet strangely, earlier in his career, Gaebelein had been a Methodist missionary working to reach Jews on the lower East Side! He and his family were supported by the church. He was actually accused of Judiazing (living by Jewish customs) and when the Zionist movement began he severed his relationship with the Methodist church.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
It is incredible that Scofield’s ambitions were “managed” to provide a “Christian front” for a Zionist agenda. It was Gaebelein that arranged the financing for Scofield’s proposed Reference Bible and yet research uncovers that Scofield himself was managed by another man - named Samuel Untermeyer. Samuel Untermeyer was a wealthy American lawyer and civic leader who had gained fame as a lawyer, focusing on corporate law. It just so happens he was an active Zionist who advocated for the Zionist liberation movement and was President of the Keren Hayesod, the agency through which the movement was conducted in America.
Not only that, but the book itself was owned by the Fabian socialist Oxford University Press. Oxford University Press had opened its New York office in 1896.The “Fabian Society” was a British socialist organisation whose purpose was to advance the principles of socialism via gradualist and reformist means. Yes another notoriously “elitist” society trying to shape the world! And so it is highly probable that Untermeyer was working with contacts at Oxford in England who in turn hired Arno Gaebelein to do the book while Untermeyer controlled the front man! Strangely, Gaebelein when crediting the financial backers of the book, forgot to mention his Jewish backers!
It is interesting that on page 2 of the original Scofield Bible, Scofield acknowledged the influence of Oxford scholar B. F. Westcott whom he had met - It has always been a question who financed that expensive trip to England – we can but guess! Westcott had died in 1903 while the book was being written, but his ties to James Balfour were extremely significant - Balfour being one of the most powerful men in England and an ardent Zionist. He and his close friend Edmond Rothschild were the signatories to the infamous Balfour Agreement which deeded Palestine to the Jews in 1917. Rothschild controlled Jacob Schiff (an influential Jewish banker) in New York who in turn controlled Samuel Untermeyer! So the bottom line is, that Gaebelein and Scofield were intimately connected with Edmond Rothschild. The Rothschilds (one of the most wealthy and powerful family dynasties in modern history) it was said, “owned” Zionism! And anyway, if Edmond Rothschild was involved in the Scofield Bible project he would see to it that no one ever knew it. He ALWAYS operated through agents, many of whom were “filtering” money to Gaebelein. Rothschild began pouring a fortune into Zionism at about the time Arno started his Zionist magazine in1894 and Arno, like Balaam, was a prophet for hire!
INTELLECTUAL AND ELITE BACKING
And so this is how a lowly Gaebelein (who caught the attention of the brilliant Frank Untermeyer) was introduced to the sophisticated Lotos Club literary elite! Through these contacts he came under the influence of Westcott and his elite friends at Oxford. The Oxford University Press (run by Fabian socialists) Westcott, Balfour and the Rothschilds, operated a number of elite secret societies and were likely involved in overseeing the Scofield Bible production – at least from a distance. As powerful elite socialists, they were class conscious and of course fully aware of the Scofield Bible’s power to manipulate the lower classes as well as help mould society on a political level. After all, Rothschild owned the press in Europe and America – they could get away with anything. Believe it or not, information on this sordid tale of intrigue has only come to light in modern times, thanks in part to the internet. These men were at the pinnacle of world power. Untermeyer at his office on Broadway is said to have controlled the President, Rothschild controlling Prime Minister Balfour!
This is more than just “conspiracy theory” however. Political history reveals that the ruling elite were concerned with the two major problems of their day. First, the collapse of the Roman Catholic Church in1870 had created a power vacuum in the West. Second, the Ottoman Empire was collapsing in the East. In short, Zionism was part of the solution to the “Eastern Question.” A new view of Christian religion was their solution in the West. The Scofield Bible was certainly part of an early attempt to address both problems. The Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909. At that time, Oxford University Press invited Arno Gaebelein to participate in another project. He mentions this in his auto-biography:
“The Oxford University Press sent me on November 6, 1909, an invitation to serve on a committee of scholars to go over the King James version to change obsolete phrases and make other changes which were absolutely necessary, disturbing as little as possible the authorized text. (He lists the others on the committee) The 1911 commemorative edition was published by the Oxford University Press, but for some reason it never became popular.”
This is proof that Gaebelein was in a direct working relationship with Oxford University Press. Blocked in this early attempt to rewrite the Bible, Oxford Press apparently invited Arno to devote the next decade of his life to writing a new set of commentaries on the Bible.
NEW VERSION FOR A NEW AGE
In 1959, on the 50th anniversary of the Scofield Bible Oxford University Press asked Gaebelein’s son Frank to write a history of the Scofield Bible - which appeared in a small booklet. At about this time Frank joined eight committee members to write the New Scofield Reference Bible (1967). The style committe took the original Scofield Bible written in KJV and replaced it with the New International Version (full Bible released in 1978) which was a drastic change to the Authorized Version. When it was complete, Oxford Press asked him to write a brochure that advertised it.
Thus Frank finished what his father had begun. And father and son had for 80 years worked under the direction of a hidden hand in England! The Fabians believed in slow and steady change. From the time of Westcott until the publication of the New Scofield Bible there was a continuity of purpose that spanned three generations The Fabians patiently created a new interpretation of Bible prophecy, a new bible and a new set of commentaries. These replaced the Victorian standards of historicism, the KJV and Matthew Henry's commentary. Judge the tree by its fruits. But new bibles, new commentaries and a new interpretation of bible prophecy were nothing without believers. Ministers were needed to teach the new religion to the target audience.
DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND BEYOND
By the time Scofield died in 1921, the reference bible was selling briskly. At this point Gaebelein and his backers decided to open a seminary on the buckle of the Bible belt. But in 1921, a Yiddish speaking orthodox Jewish rabbi from New York couldn't just ride his horse into Dallas and open a seminary! Again, Gaebelein needed a front through whom he could operate. In place of Scofield, he chose close friend Lewis Sperry Chafer to be the first President of Dallas Theological Seminary. Unlike Scofield, Chafer had legitimate academic credentials and no criminal record. Frank remembers Chafer visited their home as did the other founders of DTS. Once again, Arno Gaebelein's home in Harlem was where it was happening. Just as soon as Chafer had founded the new school, Gaebelein took an active role. He became one of Dallas’s first extramural lecturers. He would come down one month of the year. DTS became a bastion of dispensational premillenialism throughout the world.
Prestigious Christian centres of academia such as The Dallas Theological Seminary, The Moody Bible Institute and many others have to this day strongly supported and continued to fuel Futurism's growth. In the 1970s, Pastor Hal Lindsey, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, released his blockbuster book “The Late Great Planet Earth.” This 177-page, easy-to-read volume brought Futurism to the masses of American Christianity, and beyond. The New York Times labeled it “The number one best- seller of the decade.” Over 30 million copies have been sold, and it has been translated into over 30 languages. Through “The Late Great Planet Earth,” the child of Jesuit Futurism became a man!
Arno Gaebelein died in 1945. But just who was this man that spent a lifetime hiding in the shadows of an illusion he created? He wasn’t a Baptist, a Methodist or even a bonafide Jew. He worked with Bolsheviks, Jesuits, Spiritualists as well as Christians. He was a national leader of the Zionist movement when most Zionists were atheists. All men seemed to speak well of him but it is Scofield that is known by many as one of the greatest prophets of the 20th century! The man who created him is known by few and remains an enigma!
Today, futurist teachings have grown exponentially due to the popularity of television and the especially the spread of ideas via the internet. A classic example of this is “Left Behind.” In the 1990s, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins took the future one-man antichrist idea of Hal Lindsey, Scofield, Darby, Irving, Newman, Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera, and turned it into “The most successful Christian-fiction series ever” (Publishers Weekly). Fiction of course being the optimum word!
Hal Lindsey's book, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” was largely theological, which limited its appeal, while Left Behind is a sequence of highly imaginative novels, “overflowing with suspense, action, and adventure,” a “Christian thriller,” with a “label its creators could never have predicted: blockbuster success” (Entertainment Weekly). The much-respected television ministries of Jack Van Impe, Peter and Paul Lalonde, and Pastor John Hagee, have all worked together to produce LEFT BEHIND: THE MOVIE! The entire project even caught the attention of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, resulting in an interview of LaHaye and Jenkins on Larry King Live. “Left Behind” has promulgated the very same Jesuit Futurism of Francisco Ribera. The theological foundation for the entire “Left Behind” series is the application of the “seven years” of Daniel 9:27 to a future period of Tribulation. Ribera was responsible for slicing Daniel's 70th week away from the first 69 weeks, sliding it down to the end of time.
“Ribera's primary apparatus was the seventy weeks. He taught that Daniel's 70th week was still in the future.…It was as though God put a giant rubber band on this Messianic time measure. Does this supposition sound familiar? This is exactly the scenario used by Hal Lindsey and a multitude of other current prophecy teachers"” (Robert Caringola, Seventy Weeks: The Historical Alternative, p. 35).
Through the popularity of “the left behind series,” the floodgates of Futurism have been opened, unleashing a massive tidal wave of false prophecy (which is now “mainstream” doctrine) upon the world. Of course, throughout the last century, the most popular systematic defenders of dispensationalism have been Americans (alive and dead) like: Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Arno Gaebelein, J. Dwight Pentecost and Ernest Pickering right up to your modern day John Hagees and Benny Hinns. Of course, there are no set rules in this doctrinal hotchpotch! Clearly, futurism continues to beg, borrow and bend the rules to suit its ever evolving audience. We can but try to identify the following varieties within its modern form, from the following schools of thought:
Classical Dispensationalism - (Scofield, Chafer), Israel is on the earth, the church is in heaven and the two never meet in the new world. There are two ways of salvation: works in the OT and faith in the NT. Chafer holds to two covenants. This view dominated 1900–1950’s.
Hyper Dispensationalism - Instead of finding the usual Dispensationalist origin of the church in Acts 2, these see it in Acts 13 (as Charles Baker, author of A Dispensational Theology and associated with Grand Rapids Grace Bible College!).
Ultra Dispensationalism - The church begins in Acts 28 (as E.W. Bullinger, hence sometimes called Bullingerism). Therefore, only a few of Paul’s letters apply to the church, the rest of the NT is Jewish.
Neo Dispensationalism - (Ryrie, Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost). Israel and the church will be together after the millennium; there is only one way to salvation in both testaments (faith); there is only one new covenant. Dallas seminary promotes this view.
Progressive Dispensationalism - In recent years some have realised that even some of the Neo Dispensational views are untenable and have sought to further ameliorate its teaching (e.g: Robert Saucy, Craig Blaising, Darrell Bock). They state that: The church is not a parenthesis but the first step towards establishing the kingdom of God. God does not have two purposes (i.e. Israel and the church), there is only one purpose, but both of them share in it. There is no distinction between Israel and the church in the future state. The church will reign (with Jews) in glorified bodies on earth during the millennium. But - they still insist that Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel will be fulfilled in the millennium by ethnic Jews. They do not see the church as the new Israel or believe that Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the church.
THE HOUR NO-ONE KNOWS
Of course, since the origin of the concept, many believers in “the rapture” have made embarrassing predictions regarding the date of the event. The primary scriptural reference cited against this position is Matthew 24:36, where Jesus is quoted as saying; “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (RSV). In a world of already insurmountable contradictions, another potential problem for those (who have not the “eyes to see”) attempting to set a date for the rapture arises from Matthew 24:34, where Jesus is quoted as saying “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (KJV). We shall answer these questions in due course.
History proves that any individual or religious group that has dogmatically predicted the day of the rapture, a practise referred to as “date setting,” has been thoroughly embarrassed and discredited, as the predicted date of fulfilment has invariably come and gone without event. Some of these individuals and groups have offered “correct” target dates, while others have offered excuses and have tried to “correct” their target dates, while simply releasing a reinterpretation of the meaning of the scripture to fit their current predicament, and then explain that although the prediction appeared to have not come true, in reality it had been completely accurate and fulfilled, albeit in a different way than many had expected – ummm...o.k!
Conversely, many of those who believe that the precise date of the rapture cannot be known do affirm that the “specific time frame” that immediately precedes the rapture event CAN be known. This time frame is often referred to as “the season.” The primary section of scripture cited for this position is Matthew 24:32-35; where Jesus is quoted teaching the parable of the fig tree, which is proposed as the key that unlocks the understanding of the general timing of the rapture, as well as the surrounding prophecies listed in the sections of scripture that precede and follow this parable.
One can begin to see how complex and varied this scheme is. There is, also, hopeless disagreement among its teachers. Is it really conceivable that the greatest saints in the history of the church could have not known of these “vital” truths for 1900 years? Consider that the foundation of futurism in all its forms was laid by; Roman Catholic Jesuits, discredited, charismatic heretics and a young girl influenced by hallucinations and connected with occult practices. Perhaps we are being a little harsh? The truth is, that too few honest Theologians and exegetes (Bible interpreters) have challenged its main tenets. As we have discovered, the origins of the viewpoint cast great light on the doctrine itself. It is now clear that these doctrines gained prominence in sensationalist circles, fanned into a flame by charismatic fervour and the roots of a movement or teaching are as important as the fruits of it.
So what can we conclude then from these teachings of some of Christendom’s most learned men? There is an imposing array of names of Bible teachers who believed in the “secret rapture” and the future, personal Antichrist. How can all these men be wrong? It is simple. NONE of them have found a “secret rapture” or a “future Antichrist” in the Bible by his OWN independent study of the Bible itself. These “teachers” all came to the Bible with cut-and-dried theories which they learnt elsewhere
If the spiritual pedigree of these futurist Bible teachers could be traced back, they would all be found to spring from THE JESUITS! In what could only be described as one history’s most stunning reversals, Protestants have over time actually become the Vatican's greatest ally by spreading its Jesuit spawned propaganda. What irony that Protestants, who originally broke away from what they clearly recognized to be the harlot Antichrist led church of prophecy, now champion the Futurist interpretation from high profile global ministries. The Catholic hoax of Futurism has, without a doubt, been successful beyond the wildest dreams of its Jesuit authors!
Defining the problem
So there we have it - the great doctrine of “futuristic dispensationalism” exposed for the Trojan horse that it is. And what a scandalous affair it was too – full of the Masonic skulduggery of evil men with equally insidious intentions. It is simply incredible that Christian teachers are not shaken into sobriety by the questionable character of these “great men” and the ubiquitous contradictions and inconsistencies of such a modern heresy. Oh well, monkey see, monkey do. Yet there is more at stake with regards to the teaching of the rapture than a mere difference of opinion on a theological doctrine. Even among those who accept and believe in the reconciliation, justification, glorification, and salvation of all, it is a divisive doctrine. If “futurism” is wrong, what of “historicism” and any other “ism” for that matter that should darken our door? Can we really be certain of what the scriptures teach on Jesus’ return to Earth? They must have understood in the beginning right? The Apostle Paul was adamant that ALL manner of doctrine should be brought forth and taught in collective unity! Paul instructs us:
“Now I am entreating you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (sounds to me like he is about to say something rather important), that all may be saying the same thing, and there may be no schisms among you, but you may be attuned to the same mind and to the same opinion” (I Cor. 1:10).
And again: “ that there may be no schism in the body” (I Cor. 12:25).
This also includes, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit with the tie of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
The truth is that “the secret rapture” theory is in direct conflict with the Scriptures. Not only is there a line drawn between the Jewish (circumcision) saints and the Gentile (uncircumcision) saints, but now it has even caused a division between individual members of the uncircumcision saints. Do the Scriptures actually teach two separate second comings of our Lord to vivify His saints, or is the rapture an unwarranted deduction based on human reasoning?
It must be stressed, that if something is false (actually, factually, and literally false), then all honest scholarship and study done on that particular subject will only further verify its falsehood. If, however, something really is true (actually, factually, and literally true), then all honest scholarship and study done on that particular subject will, likewise, only further verify its truthfulness. As we have discovered, the varying theories on this subject prove outright that it is an untenable construct at best – we shall endeavour (for the sake of time) to treat the subject at its most generic form.
Remember. One camp teaches that the rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation and; therefore, are known as pre-tribulationists. A second camp teaches that the rapture occurs in the middle of the seven-year week of Daniel are known as mid-tribulationists. And a third camp teaches that the rapture occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation. They are known as post-tribulationists. Sometimes we hear just the term “rapture,” and other times we hear of the “secret rapture.” We shall endeavour to look at the key verses used in the “rapture” premise to shed light on the subject. Before we go on to explain the spiritual symbolism of these key verses however, we must look objectively at the actual phrasing of the texts.
THE RAPTURE PREMISE
The main premise of the rapture theory has to do with whether I Thes. 4:13-18 is an earlier and separate resurrection (rapture or snatching away) than the resurrection mentioned in Matt. 24 and also the book of Revelation. But know this - The Scriptures do not contradict. One account might leave out a piece of information, while another account might add a piece of information, yet they do not contradict. We all remember the story of the three blind men from India who were allowed to touch three different parts of an elephant. All three blind men gave totally different reports on what they felt and what they thought this animal was like. Now, did the differences that all three men reported, really prove that they were touching three entirely different animals and not just one single ELEPHANT? This is not difficult to understand.
Surely we can see and understand this from the four gospels. Many events are presented “differently,” from Matthew to Mark to Luke to John, but if they don't contradict, they can still be the same event. If we adopt the same logic used by rapturists, that things that differ in details must be different events, then regard the following example. At Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate placed a sign over the head of Jesus which read:
A. “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:36).
B. “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).
C. “The King of the Jews is this” (Luke 23:38).
D. “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).
From the reasoning point of view of rapturist doctrine; here are presented four different events. All signs are “different.” Were there two or more different crucifixions? Were their two or more different Saviours? There are many more differences in the accounts of our Lord’s crucifixion than there are differences in the accounts of His second coming. Why then does no one believe or teach that there were two or more crucifixions of our Lord, yet millions believe He will return a second time, TWICE? See the logic?
Interestingly, the Scripture that tells us that Christ was offered up (crucified) only once, also tells us how many times our Lord will return for those awaiting Him for salvation:
“And, in as much as it is reserved to the men to be dying once, yet after this a judging, thus Christ also, being offered ONCE for the bearing of the sins of many, will be seen a second time, by those awaiting Him, apart from sin, for salvation, through faith” (Heb. 9:27-28).
A second time eh? The Scriptures do not contradict – if interpreted correctly. On the contrary, the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead would have been staple teachings within the Early Christian congregations. Paul himself was not out to confuse his listeners either, with contradictory claims or playing favourites by sharing information with some and withholding it from others.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” (1 Cor 15:51)
Considering that Paul speaks of a secret (or “mystery”) in relation to these revelations (I Cor. 15:51) and introduces this matter to the Thessalonians who knew all about the day of the Lord (I Thess. 5:2) with the words, “I would not have you to be ignorant ...” should lead us to weigh his words very carefully. Is Paul, indeed, presenting a new revelation? Let’s be sure we are clear on our phrases. “New revelation” can easily be understood to mean new information, or more information. It does not denote a new event. There is absolutely nothing in the meaning of the word “secret” that denotes a new and different event. Note very carefully what the Apostle Paul did not say in I Cor. 15. Paul did not say: “Lo! A secret to you am I telling! There is coming a resurrection of the dead.” The fact of the resurrection was no secret! (Jn 11:24, Acts 23:8). The primary topic of I Cor. 15 is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it portends for believers.
RESURRECTION WAS NEVER A SECRET
Dispensationalist teachings that promote the rapture of the “Jewish saints” and two separate, distinct comings - along with a whole lot of other speculative ideas sure makes hard work of the simplicity of the scriptures. Do the Scriptures really teach a “second” rapture based on whether one is Gentile or Jew or even a “Jewish nation?” And what was the “secret” that Paul wants us to now know? The secret was simply new information regarding the resurrection that was not taught before. I Cor. 15:51-53 lists the following new information with reference to an old subject:
A. Not all shall be put to repose [death]
B. We all shall be changed
C. In an instant, in the twinkle of an eye
D. At the last trump
E. The dead will be roused incorruptible, and we shall be changed
F. For this corruptible must put on incorruption
G. This mortal put on immortality
The resurrection of Christ that Paul spoke of was the same resurrection of Christ of which Peter spoke (Acts 2:31). Here are two major proofs to the Corinthians that Christ was raised from the dead:
“... He was seen by Cephas [Peter], thereupon by the twelve. Thereupon he was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the majority are remaining hitherto ...” (Vers. 5-6)
“Yet, last of all, even as if a premature birth, He was seen by me [Paul] also” (I Cor. 15:8)
Importantly, Peter and Paul - circumcision and uncircumcision - were witnesses to the same Christ and the same resurrection. Paul further states,
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (Ver. 14)
Who is the “our” he is speaking of? The other eye witnesses - Peter and the Twelve (Ver.5). As they were both heralding the same resurrected Christ, they were also heralding the same hope in the same resurrection that will save us all.
Verse 18, “Then they also which are fallen asleep(dead) in Christ are perished.”
Now the clincher. Who were these “asleep” people? Were they only those of Paul’s ministry? Those of the uncircumcision? Gentile believers only? Friends and relatives of these Corinthians only? Or do they also include members of the Jewish saints in Jerusalem under Peter and the twelve? Some of those who Paul says were put to death were Jewish saints from Jerusalem under Peter and the Twelve. Notice:
“And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:5-6)
There is no question that those also, who are “asleep” in Christ in verse 18 includes “fallen asleep” of the “five hundred brethren” in verse 6 of this same chapter. It is the ONE resurrection of Christ that is their hope and it is the ONE resurrection of all the Saints, of which Paul teaches, that will be their realization of that hope.
The very first aspect of this secret is the fact that “We all, indeed, shall not be put to repose [death]” (I Cor. 15;51). That was never taught before. But what of those who were DEAD? “For He will be trumpeting, and the dead [repose] will be roused incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (ver. 51-52)
This also is part of the secret Paul is revealing. Some of those who were dead in verse 6 (Jewish Saints in Jerusalem), will be in this resurrection with Paul! If some of those dead (of the 500 witnesses) will be resurrected with Paul, then of necessity, all of the Jewish saints will be resurrected with Paul and ALLTHE SAINTS (I Thes. 3:13). Hence, they are roused in ONE resurrection, all at the same time - at the last trump! Two comings? Let’s explore this.
The “day(s)” of the LORD
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Th 4:13-18)
It is of course Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians in 1Thes 4:13-18 that is the cause of such speculation regarding Christ’s return. The fact that the Lord would return as a “thief in the night” (1 Thes 5:2) is all that is written concerning the Thessalonian congregation’s knowledge of the events of this day.
“... for you yourselves are accurately aware that the day of the Lord is as a thief in the night - thus is it coming!” (1 Thes 5:2)
And well they should have known that much, seeing that it was taught many years earlier by Christ Himself (Matt. 24:43, Luke 12:39, John 10:3). Evidence shows that the four gospel accounts were circulated before Thessalonians was written.
“Now we are asking you, brethren, for the sake of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to Him, that you be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be alarmed, either through spirit, or through word, or through an epistle as through us, as that the day of the Lord is present. No one should be deluding you by any method, for, should not the apostasy be coming first and the man of lawlessness be unveiled, the son of destruction” (II Thes. 2:1-4).
However, it seems that the Thessalonians didn’t fully comprehend at all the events leading up to the “day of the Lord” - they may have thought that they were already in the day of the Lord. So Paul informs them of the necessary prophetic events yet to be fulfilled before that day can arrive - making it clear that the man of sin must first come and Christ will then be conquering him at His presence. He also informed the Thessalonians that their long ordeal with afflictions and persecution would come to an end when they would receive “rest” from these things “AT the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ.” and comforts them with: “Yet faithful is the Lord, Who will be establishing you and guarding you from the wicked one” (Ch. 3:3).
So let’s look at the “day of the Lord” context – indeed this “day” is repeated several times throughout scripture.
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” (1Th 5:2)
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1Th 5:4)
Confusion today - regarding the Rapture premise, leads teachers to speculate outright on key verses in Thessalonians. Is there really two separate, distinct “returns” of Christ? Rapturists teach that the events of I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Thessalonians 5:1-11, are distinct different days - the first being the day of the Lord which comes as a thief in the night (v. 2) and the second being “that day” which does not overtake believers as a thief (v. 4).
But a careful study of these verses will show that Paul has only one day in mind, the “day of the Lord” (which comes as a thief)! In fact, the undeniable and irrefutable proof that the mention of “the day” in verse 2 and 4 is the ONE and ONLY “day of the Lord,”- and which does comes as a thief - is contained in the two verses themselves!
If indeed, Paul wanted us to understand these as two different days, then the phrase “that the day” [a different day?--the secret rapture?] may be “overtaking you as a thief” is absolutely meaningless! How on earth does using “day” twice in so many sentences, make them two different days? If these sentences were found in any literature other than the Bible, there would be no mistaking them to mean two different days! Amazing. It is stated that the differences in the use of the word “day” twice, is easy to see: One comes as a “thief in the night,” and the other does not “overtake as a thief.”
Apples and oranges anyone? It could be coherently argued (though not Scripturally) that “the day” twice in these two verses were presented as being two different days, for the following reasons:
(1) One day comes as a thief in the night, and the other day does not come as a thief. (apples, apples)
(2) One day overtakes the saints, and the other day does not overtake the saints. (oranges, oranges)
But they cannot use those two statements, which would prove them to be different days, because the Scriptures do not make any such comparison as the above two statements. So they are forced to concoct the following incoherent contrast:
“One day comes as a thief in the night, and the other day does not overtake as a thief.” (apples, oranges!)
We must not try to compare apples with oranges - not on the farm, and certainly not in the Scriptures.
The phrase “comes as a thief” but “does not overtake as a thief” must of NECESSITY refer to the same day! It is silly to try and use these two phrases as proof of two different days. The two phrases prove just the opposite - they prove absolutely that they are the SAME day!
Can anyone believe that what Paul really meant to say, was something like this:
“... the day of the Lord is as a thief in the night - thus is it coming ... Now you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day (that is, a different day, the day on which Christ comes to resurrect you, which does not come as a thief in the night, but is a different day from the ‘day of the Lord,’ which as you know, does come as a thief in the night, however, even if the rapture were to come as a thief in the night) may be overtaking you as a thief in the night” Such a statement would be ridiculous!
The sentence structure and grammar of Paul’s statements are clear to understand. The phrase “of the Lord” is understood in the second mention of “the day.”
Just as millions of times in literature, the second mention of something is shortened (or many times even abbreviated for brevity’s sake) from all the adjectives and embellishments that the first mention of a particular thing may have. Surely this is easy to understand? Well, not when you’re a Christian theologian perhaps!
Look at the description of the very day we are discussing - the day that Christ returns in anger and vengeance - the “day of the Lord”
2 Th 1:7 “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
v8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
v9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
v10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
Now when Paul wants to refer back to this day, (seeing that our testimony to you was believed), verse 10, he does not again go through several lines of material describing the day he wants to make reference to, he merely states, “in THAT DAY” (Verse 10). “In that day” is not referring to a different day than the day of Christ’s unveiling mentioned above.
And so, likewise, we have an example of that very thing in these verses:
“... the day of the Lord is as a thief in the night ... you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day [of the Lord] may be overtaking you as a thief”
Why oh WHY complicate something so SIMPLE? This is ridiculous! Here then is absolute Scriptural proof that the mention of “the day” in verse 2 and “the day” in verse 4, both come as a thief, and hence are the same day - the day of the Lord:
Whether the Thessalonians are in darkness or not in darkness is not the determining factor as to whether or not the second mention of the day in verse 4, comes as a thief or does not come as a thief. The element of “a thief” is already clearly stated in both verses. Let’s read them:
“... the day of the Lord is as a thief ...” (I Thes. 5:2).
“... that the day may be overtaking you as a thief ...” (I Thes. 5:4).
We can’t remove “the thief” from verse 4 just because its removal would help support a secret rapture theory. Why does this day not overtake the Thessalonians as a thief? Does this Scripture tell us that the reason it doesn’t overtake them is because it doesn’t even come as a thief in the first place? Where do these Scriptures say or even suggest such a thing? This Scripture plainly tells us why this day doesn’t overtaken the Thessalonians as a thief. The reason this day (which does come as a thief--verse 4), but does not overtake them as a thief, is because, “... you brethren are not in DARKNESS ...”
This is how whacked out Christian theology can get sometimes! It’s embarrassing to even have to spell out such obvious flaws in “the secret rapture” premise
Even if the Thessalonians were in darkness, then the day of verse 4 would overtake them as a thief! It could not overtake them or anyone else if it didn’t come as a thief in the first place! There it is. It is not whether or not the Thessalonians are in darkness or not that determines whether the day comes as a thief or not. No, it does come as a thief. The point Paul is making is that it does not overtake them as a thief, and the reason it doesn’t is plainly given: “.. you brethren, are NOT in darkness”
So therefore, this day (the day of verse 4, the so called “rapture day” of the gentile saints), WILL overtake anyone who IS in darkness, and the reason given is that it too, like the day in verse 2, DOES COME AS A THIEF! There is absolutely no way around the simple truth of this Scripture.Now how many different prophetic days are mentioned a dozen times in the Scriptures, and are said to come “as a thief in the night?” Only one – “the day of the Lord!”
Thus a Scripture misused to try and support a secret rapture theory, in reality, proves just the opposite. Of course, the futurist rapture day premise would not be the sensational end-time Hollywood scenario depicted today, without the TRIBULATION. There is one more thing we can learn from 1 Thessalonians which should NOT go unnoticed! Although the day of the Lord does not “overtake” them as (a thief as it would if they were “in darkness”), they are, nonetheless, still present at the time of the day of the Lord and have NOT been raptured away! Did you get that? Whoever the saints are at the time of the “day of the Lord,” THEY ARE STILL PRESENT ON THE EARTH and have NOT as yet been raptured OR resurrected! Although the day of the Lord does not “overtake the saints as a thief,” it nonetheless DOES COME AS A THIEF, and NO-ONE is resurrected before it comes! This is devastating to the PRE-TRIBULATION rapture teaching so popularly espoused today!
Contrary to the common belief that “the day of the Lord” and the “Tribulation” are one in the same, careful examination of the Scriptures show that they are separate. They are not overlapping events as we shall clearly see.
Here then, is proof that the “day of the Lord” does not include the “great tribulation” (as translated in the Authorized Version), or the “great affliction” (as translated in the Concordant Version). This time of “great tribulation” or “great affliction” (Jacob’s trouble - Jer. 30:7), is so great, that we are told that such an event will occur only once in the history of the world.
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Mat 24:21).
It is impossible that there can be two such events - only one can be of the greatest magnitude ever. Is it therefore possible that this event is a part of the “great day of the Lord” as suggested by many rapture defenders? No, it is not. Here’s the proof:
Let us be clear, that the “day of the Lord” is the time period of Christ’s return to this earth to punish Babylon the Great and to pour out His righteous indignation on her (and on those nations who follow and worship her) for her evil crimes of inhumanity and blasphemy. The tribulation comes BEFORE this! Here is the order of events (Mat. 24:29-30). It’s as simple as one, two, three:
Immediately AFTER the affliction [great affliction, or great tribulation--ver. 29], of those days ...
“the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not be giving her beams, and the stars shall be falling from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”
“And THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of Mankind in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land shall grieve, and they shall see the Son of Mankind coming on the clouds of heaven with power and much glory.”
The “day of the Lord,” the day that the Lord comes - clearly is “after” the great affliction, and “after” the heavenly signs. The book of Joel gives us a second confirmation:
“Alas! Alas! Alas for the day! For near is the DAY OF THE LORD. And as devastation from Him Who-Suffices is it coming” (Joel 1:15).
“For coming is the DAY OF THE LORD! A day of darkness and gloominess. A day of clouds and murkiness” (Joel 2:2).
“The heavens quake, The sun and the moon are somber, and the stars gather in their brightness ... before His army” [Rev. 19:11] (Joel 2:10)
“And He will spare His people” (2:18).
“And I will give MIRACLES IN THE HEAVENS above, And signs on the earth, Blood and fire and pillars of smoke, The sun shall be turned to darkness, And the moon to blood, BEFORE the coming of the DAY OF THE LORD, the great and fearful day” (2:30-31).
Clearly we have this event neatly book-ended with references to the “great affliction” and the “heavenly signs.” Matt. 24:29 clearly tells us that “immediately AFTER” the great affliction or tribulation of those days, the signs in the sun, moon and stars occur, followed by the return of Christ – “the day of the Lord.” And Joel 2:31 clearly tells us that the signs in the heavens occur “BEFORE” the coming of the day of the Lord. As to the chronology of these grand events, there can be no honest dispute - the day of the Lord does not include the great tribulation, but comes after the great tribulation, and after the heavenly signs.
A THIEF IN THE NIGHT
It is this very “tribulation” period that is so misused in the “left behind” scenarios of modern futuristic dispensationalism. While the saints are raptured away for a vacation in cloud city – the backsliders and sinners get to live out life on earth while God hurls his wrath and indignation around – like it’s a practice for hell. Yet we have already shown in Scripture that the great tribulation ends at our Lord’s ONE AND ONLY advent, it does not begin! Nor is the tribulation ushered in, as a thief, three and one half years earlier or seven years earlier. Again, it is our Lord’s “coming” that is as a thief, not “tribulation!” This image of a “thief” is even mistaken as to relate to “the secret rapture of the saints.” It is beyond comprehension to think that after a rapture of millions of Christians from the face of the earth, that those “left behind” would be so dumb as to shake it off and (in some versions) go on to unwittingly worship or serve some end-time “beast/antichrist” reigning from a rebuilt Jewish temple calling himself God, while listening intently to the warblings of a “false prophet.” Yet this kind of nonsense is often deemed theology 101 for many of the false teachers of prophecy.
Herein lays another one of Christendom’s illogical contradictions. It is often argued that if a thief represents the unexpectedness of Christ's coming, then those watching would not be surprised when He came. But if that is so, then we must conclude that those who are watching will not be surprised by His arrival, yet Matt. 24:43-44 suggests that even if they are ready, such an hour as you think not the Son of Man comes. Wow, what a fix...another weird oxymoron from the prophetic ether. Can we agree on the fact that Jesus did not lie when He said: “Now, concerning that day and hour no one is aware, neither the messengers of the heavens, nor the Son; except the Father only” (Matt. 24:36)? Okay then, no one knows when Christ will return. So, even if one is watching, he still will not know when He will return! The very fact that someone would be “watching” is proof positive that he DOESN’T known when the return occurs. Can we see this!
Why oh why does Christian theology have to make hard the simplest of concepts? We must understand that the figure of the thief represents the unexpectedness of His coming - nothing else. Logic dictates that if one knows the exact hour that a guest is to arrive at his home, he doesn't need to sit by the window watching for days or weeks! If he knows the exact hour, he could, in fact, set his alarm clock and go to sleep. It is abundantly clear that the coming as a thief is nothing other than the timing of his appearance – the MANNER of his appearance is anything but secret! Consider the fact that “The Day of the Lord” represents: Vengeance, Wrath, Indignation, Fire, Gloominess, Darkness, Clouds and Murkiness, Mourning, Devastation, War, Pain, Suffering, and Death - wholesale DEATH.
INDIGNATION & TRIBULATION
So it is often through the misunderstanding of certain terminology, words or phrases seemingly lend credence to the idea of a two phase coming of Christ. The ubiquitous use of words such as “suffering,” “tribulation,” “affliction,” and many others are often used out of their context - not to mention out of character – God’s character that it! It is important that we understand the meanings of important words that are wrongly applied by those who teach the rapture. Consider the following words;
1. Affliction: Keyword Concordance; anguish, persecution, tribulation, trouble, ill treatment, suffering. Webster’s: affliction, any cause of pain or suffering.
2.Tribulation: Keyword Concordance; affliction Webster’s: tribulation, great misery or distress.
3.Wrath: Keyword Concordance; fury, indignation, vexation Webster’s: wrath, intense anger, rage, fury, vengeance.
4.Indignation: Keyword Concordance; anger, vengeance, wrath Webster’s: Adj.-- indignation, expressing anger especially unjust or mean actions. Noun-- righteous anger.
And why are these definitions important? Well, because there is a huge difference in their usage, and especially when used in a prophetic setting! It is when we fail to keep these prophetic events where they belong, that we end up with ideas such that Christ is coming back a second time twice. Although there is somewhat of an overlap in defining these words, we can still get a clear picture as to how these words are used in the Scriptures. Notice that “affliction” and “tribulation” are nearly synonymous. Notice also, that “wrath” and “indignation” are nearly synonymous. “Affliction” can be defined as “tribulation,” and “tribulation” can be defined as “affliction.” Likewise, “wrath” can be defined as “indignation,” and “indignation” can be defined as “wrath.” But, the first two words, “affliction and tribulation” are not synonymous with the second two words, “wrath and indignation.”
The Scripture says, “For God did not appoint us to INDIGNATION ...” (I Thes. 5:9).
It nowhere says that God has not appointed us to trials, troubles, pain, suffering, heartache, disappointment, disease, death, or hurricanes! In fact, Paul himself, tells us that we enter the Kingdom of God by going through a whole lot of these things (Acts 14:22). Believers are chastised by a wise Father out of LOVE. The nations will be punished by an angry God out of VENGEANCE. Can we not see the difference? (Actually God’s “anger and vengeance” is also out of love, but the nations will certainly not initially perceive it as such).
When we look at all the ways that “indignation” is used in the Greek Scriptures, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that “indignation” is used of God to punish the wicked and stubborn. Indignation is not a direct form of chastisement. No matter how many, how much, how often, how severe your sufferings and tribulations may be, if you love God you can be absolutely guaranteed that not one iota of it is coming upon you in the form of God’s indignation.
“Progeny of vipers! Who intimates to you to be fleeing from the impending indignation?” (Matt. 3:7).
“For God’s indignation is being revealed from heaven on all the irreverence and injustice of men ...” (Rom. 1:18).
“And Babylon the great is brought to remembrance in the sight of God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fury of His indignation” (Rev. 16:19).
There are many other verses showing the usage of indignation in the Greek scriptures. Notice that it always comes from God. It is poured out in vengeance upon the unrepentant, the stubborn, the unjust and irreverent, those who worship the beast, etc.
Teachers of the “RAPTURE” – state that those “left behind” will be subjected to all the outpourings of God’s wrath. But guess what? God’s indignation is NEVER poured out on His SAINTS! Not the Gentile saints and not the Jewish saints. The saints of Israel have not “been appointed to indignation,” they are not “of the night,” they will not “be overtaken as a thief,” they are a part of “all the saints,” I Thes. 2:14 and 3:13. Oh dear! Can anyone say “unscriptural?” It is stated that those called in Paul’s message of grace will not go through the Great Tribulation period, because: “Jesus, our Rescuer out of the coming indignation” (I Thes. 1:10),
“God did not appoint us to indignation ...” (I Thes. 5:9).
God is promising to rescue us out of coming “indignation,” NOT “tribulation.” God did not appoint us to “indignation,” but He did appoint us to “tribulation.” These terms are NOT synonymous.
Straightening out the understanding of the Thessalonians (who decidedly did not know all about the day of the Lord) was the main purpose for Paul writing these two letters in the first place! Paul does not chastise the Thessalonians for believing wrong doctrine, or committing terrible sins, or lacking in faith. Not at all. But rather,
“... seeing that your faith is flourishing and the love of each one of you all for one another is increasing, so that we ourselves glory in you in the ecclesias of God” (II Thes. 1:3-4).
It is obvious that the Thessalonians were facing a period of severe persecution.
“your work of faith, and toil of love and endurance of expectation” (1 Thes 1:3)
Vs 6, “... receiving the word in much affliction ...”
Chapter two, verse 2, Paul also suffered with them, “... though suffering before and being outraged ... we are bold in our God to speak the evangel of God to you with a vast struggle.”
Vs 3, “No one is to be swayed by these afflictions ...” Etc, etc
The words “afflicted” or “affliction,” “suffering,” “persecutions,” are all attributed to the Thessalonian community yet were they rescued out of these things? No. No they weren’t. Now, is there one word in either I or II Thessalonians that states or indicates that anyone suffered or will suffer from “The wrath or indignation of Almighty God?” NO, there isn’t! But they (the Thessalonians) thought maybe they were suffering the wrath or indignation of God, because they were suffering, and as they did not know all about the day of the Lord, they were fearful that they were already living through the prophesied “Day of the Lord.”
Paul had already told them in his first letter, that, “No one is to be swayed by these AFFLICTIONS, for you yourselves are aware that we are located [appointed] for this” (I Thes. 3:4).
Just as many today who teach the rapture, these Thessalonians had failed to discriminate between the “wrath or indignation of God” and the “trials, suffering, and afflictions” that they were going through. The “wrath and indignation” of God, we are “not appointed to,” and, therefore, will be “rescued out of it.” However, “tribulation, suffering, and afflictions” we ARE appointed to (I Thes. 3:4, “Through many afflictions [much tribulation] must we be entering into the kingdom of God”(Acts 14:22) and from most of which we will NOT be rescued.
It was, in fact, (in a relative sense only), these very afflictions and tribulations that made the Thessalonians worthy to enter the Kingdom of God. Notice it:
“... for your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and afflictions with which you are bearing ... to deem you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering also ...” (II Thes. 1:5-6).
For anyone who has suffered very little from, disease, heartbreak, financial distress, persecution, pain and suffering, and the like, it is difficult for such a one to put himself in the shoes of the Thessalonians. Their affliction and suffering was great. Although they were very faithful to God, there was much they did not know. They didn’t have the advantage of the New Testament Greek Scriptures as we do today, with the exception of the four gospel accounts which were already in circulation according to some experts. So Paul filled them with assurance of Christ’s return to this Earth, the resurrection of the dead, and their entry into God’s Kingdom.
So, tribulation and suffering are prerequisites for entering the kingdom. This is a deadly truth for those Christians seeking to be raptured out of trouble! Now, the following scriptures ALL deal with the second coming, the Day of the Lord, the Unveiling of Jesus Christ.
“... how you turn back to God from idols, to be slaving for the living and true God, and to be waiting for His Son out of the heavens ...” (I Thes. 1:9-10).
“For who is our expectation, or joy, or wreath of glorying? Or is it not even you, in front of our Lord Jesus, in His PRESENCE?” (I Thes. 2:19).
“.. we, the living, who are surviving to the PRESENCE of the Lord ... meet the Lord in the air” (I Thes. 4:15-17).
“... may your unimpaired spirit and soul and body be kept blameless in the PRESENCE of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Thes. 5:23).
Paul assuredly comforts and consoles the Thessalonians by letting them know that they will receive ease (rest) from these sufferings and afflictions. But when? If ever there was to be such a thing as a “rapture,” look when it would have to take place!
Next verse: “... with US [Paul and ALL the saints, I Thes. 3:13], at the UNVEILING [the ‘unveiling’ is ‘the day of the Lord’, I Cor. 1:7-8], of the Lord Jesus from heaven [Mat. 24:30, Rev. 19:11, I Thes. 4:16] with His powerful messengers [Matt. 24:31, I Thes. 4:16, Rev. 11:15, Rev. 19:14] in flaming fire [Rev. 19:12], dealing out vengeance to those who are not acquainted with God and those who are not obeying the evangel of our Lord Jesus Christ - who shall incur the justice of eonian extermination from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His strength [Rev. 11:18, 19:15] whenever He may be coming to be glorified in His saints [including the saints in the ecclesias of Judea whom the Thessalonians imitated, I Thes. 2:14, also, I Thes. 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, Mat. 24:31, I Cor. 15:22,51-53, Rev. 11:18, I Pet. 1:4-7, 13, 2:1, 5:4, II Pet. 3: 9-13] and to be marveled at in all who believe [that’s All saints everywhere] (seeing that our testimony to you was believed) in that DAY” (II Thes. 1:7-10).
This is absolute proof that Paul and the Thessalonians are to receive their ease and rest from persecution and affliction “at” the unveiling of Jesus Christ. So it can’t be a “secret rapture” because ALL the saints will be in it.
The second witness as to when the uncircumcision gentile saints (specifically, the Corinthians in Greece) were expecting Christ to return for them:
“I am thanking my God always concerning you over the grace of God which is being given you in Christ Jesus, for in everything are you enriched in Him, in all expression and all knowledge, according as the testimony of Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not deficient in any grace, awaiting the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will be confirming you also until the consummation, unimpeachable in the DAY OF OUR LORD Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 1:4-8).
Notice that all this takes place "at the UNVEILING," "in the DAY OF THE LORD."
The very fact that Paul says the Corinthians will be “AWAITING” the unveiling of our Lord and the day of the Lord for these things to happen is proof positive, that these things had not already occurred three and one-half or seven years earlier. Likewise, Paul would not have told them that they would be confirmed “unimpeachable” (blameless) in the day of our Lord” if they were already confirmed unimpeachable seven years earlier. These Scriptures are very clear as to when these things happen - at the unveiling and in the day of the Lord!
Remember that Paul told the Thessalonians that they would
“.. rest, with us, AT the unveiling of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven ...” (II Thes. 1:7).
Paul told Timothy the same thing. Paul told Timothy to pursue, endure, and contend, as the Thessalonians also did,
“... unto THE ADVENT of our Lord Christ Jesus, which ... will be showing; He is King of kings and Lord of lords ...”
And guess what? The only advent in which Jesus is called “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:15) is when He returns to earth to do battle in the “Day of the Lord!”
And when did Peter teach that we would receive rest and glory for enduring our testing?
“... that the testing of your faith, much more precious than gold which is perishing, yet, being tested by fire, may be found for applause and glory and honor AT THE UNVEILING OF JESUS CHRIST” (I Pet. 1:7).
So here are numerous witnesses as to the time of the delivery from this world’s ills for both the Jews and the Gentiles. And none of them occurs at any so called “secret rapture.” In all honesty, let’s ask ourselves a question:
If the two Scriptural references in II Thes. 1 and I Cor. 1 had used the word “rapture” or “snatched away” instead of the word “unveiling,” would not rapturists use these Scriptures as proof for their secret rapture? Well then, we have absolute Scriptural proof that these things do not take place at any “secret rapture,” seeing as God’s Word plainly states, “AT the UNVEILING” and “in the DAY OF THE LORD!” These things happen “at” the unveiling of Jesus Christ in the day of the Lord, not years “before.”
Our Lord does not come a second time TWICE to gather “ALL His saints” (I Thes. 3:13). Rapturists can “reduce” from the Scriptures, they can “deduce” from the Scriptures, but they can’t “produce” from the Scriptures a single statement that says there are two resurrection, at two different times, for two different sets of saints, and that our Lord is going to accomplish this feat by returning a second time, TWICE!
Meeting the Lord
But there is much more to learn from the scriptures regarding the nature of Christ’s return to Earth than meets the eye. One of the most profound truths to be learnt from the scriptures (and one of the most confusing/paradoxical end-time teachings) is just how and where Christ’s kingdom will be manifested. Is “heaven” a far away cloud city somewhere in space where Christians will frolic upon the cotton candy clouds and endless fields of flowers forever? Know this. Any Kingdom requires subjects. Subjects need to be RULED over by a King. A King rules over the many with his chosen and appointed aids. When the King returns to his people – his people welcome Him BACK! If Christians are to “rule and reign” with Christ in his kingdom, who are they to “rule and reign” over? Themselves? Seriously – if the sinning masses (the subjects of God’s wrath and indignation) are cast into hell and/or a lake of fire of eternal torture – who is left to “rule” over? These are tricky questions for those who do not comprehend the truths of God’s Word. We shall examine these concepts and symbols in detail in our second instalment of this study – but for now, let’s understand what the scriptures actually teach regarding Christ’s coming.
“And He shall be dispatching His messengers with a loud sounding trumpet, and they shall be assembling His chosen from the four WINDS ...” (Mat. 24:31).
"... and they shall see the Son of Mankind coming on the clouds of heaven with Power and much glory” (Mat. 24:30).
Television fiction has a lot to answer for. Although it doesn’t actually say that Christ came from outer space to then be located on the clouds of heaven, many, nonetheless, assume such a thing! Regardless, wind is in heaven, clouds are in heaven, and air is in heaven. To come from any of them requires being “in the air.” These are symbols of “the heavens,” that’s for sure.
But here is a rare truth. There is no Scripture that states that Christ will set up His Kingdom and rule it from heaven (a physical location out in space) We know from other Scriptures and prophesies that Christ does indeed return and rule on this Earth. However, for the sake of the rapturists, can we know from the scriptures whether Christ immediately returns with His saints to Earth or does He return to heaven first for a number of years?
We can learn something remarkable from the way that God uses the word “meet” in this Scripture.
“Thereupon we, the living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thes. 4:17).
In this verse as in three others, God uses the Greek word apatesis which is translated “to meet.” It is distinguished from a half dozen other Greek words which are variously translated, “meet,” “meet with,” “meeting,” “meeting with,” etc. The Greek word “apatesis”, is, however, used only three other times.
One authority tells us that this word “apatesis” was used in ancient times to describe the actions of an official welcoming delegation that had been sent “to meet” a visiting dignitary. It is said that the word literally meant, “meeting and returning with.” We can use a concordance read the Scriptures. Let’s look at these occasions and see if, indeed, this word carries the connotation of “meeting and returning with.”
“Now in the middle of the night a clamor occurs: Lo! The bridegroom! Come out to meet [apatesis] Him!” (Matt. 25:6).
If we look at this portion of scriptures (which most would be familiar with) - after they went out to meet the bridegroom, they didn’t stay outside, but rather they came back inside with the Bridegroom. Remember, it is “midnight” and it is dark - that’s why they took oil for their torches. They went out to meet the Bridegroom, then returned with Him to the house, and locked the door.
When Christ began His entrance into Jerusalem (which was itself a type of His triumphant return to Jerusalem), many people went out with palm fronds to meet Him.
“On the morrow the vast throng, who are coming for the festival, hearing that Jesus is coming into Jerusalem, got fronds of palms and came out to meet [apatesis] Him” (John 12:13).
Needless to say, they did not return with Christ back to Bethany, but returned back into Jerusalem with Christ.
When the saints in Rome heard of Paul’s soon arrival, they went out to meet him.
“And thence the brethren, hearing about us, come to meet [apatesis] us as far as Appii Forum and Three Taverrns, perceiving whom, Paul, thanking God, took courage. Now when we entered Rome” (Acts 28:15-16).
And again, it is seen that they returned back to Rome with Paul, they did not return with Paul back to Puteoli.
Now, the fourth time this Greek word “apatesis” is translated “to meet” is in I Thes. 4:17: “we, the living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in the clouds, to meet [apatesis] the Lord in the air.”
Based on all the usage of this word “apatesis,” when someone went out to meet someone else, where did they always go next? That’s right, back where they came from! So if God is consistent with the use of this word, then when the saints of I Thes. 4 meet the Lord in the air, they what? Yes, they RETURN with Christ back to the EARTH! And just wait till we discuss the symbolism of the “heavens” in the next instalment of this study!
The Rapture of the wicked?
Contrary to all the false teachings of modern Christendom on this subject – the OPPOSITE is most certainly true! The truth to understanding the very nature and purpose of Christ’s RETURN to Earth, is in plain view – for all to see, if we are given the spiritual eyes to see it of course. It is so easy to misunderstand sometimes, what is really being taught in the Scriptures. Rapturist’s are so caught up in the concept of being whisked away from danger toward their mansions in heaven, they completely miss the point and purpose of the saints inheriting the world. Like many Christians today, they assume that the saints are the ones “taken” and the ones to be judged are “left” behind. The truth will shock you!
“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, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”(Mat 24:37-41)
Indeed, how was it in the days of Noah? Who was “left” and who was “taken away?” from the Earth? Has the penny dropped? This is astounding! Who were those who were eating, drinking, and marrying - that were suddenly “TAKEN AWAY?” Not Noah and his family that’s for sure! And so here we have a principle that is used throughout the entire Bible - the good are left and the....yes the WICKED are taken away!
Immediately after verse 39 where the wicked are “taken,” we have verse 40 which says, “Then two shall be in the field; one [wicked] is taken along and one left: two grinding at the millstone; one [wicked] is taken along and one left.”
Just look at the parable of the wheat and the tares for example. Notice that the tares
“are gathered and burned in the fire” (Mat. 13:40).
“they will gather OUT of His Kingdom all things that offend ...’ (Ver 41).
So the tares are gathered out and burned and the wheat is left behind.
Notice Romans 8:33, “... God’s elect,” Col. 3:12, “... the elect of God ...” Titus 1:1, “... God;s elect ...” Now look at Mat. 24:22, “Yet because of the elect [chosen], those days shall be shortened.” Therefore, the “elect” or chosen ones have not been raptured away, but rather left, or God wouldn’t have to shorten the days of tribulation for the sake of the “elect.”
One of the most profound scriptures that flies defiantly in the face the rapture premise has to be Christ’s own thoughts on His elect... “I am not asking that Thou shouldst be taking them AWAY OUT OF THE WORLD, but that Thou shouldst be keeping them from the wicked one” (John 17:15)
“Again the Kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea (multitudes of people, Rev. 17:15) and gathered of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad AWAY. So shall it be at the end of the age: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire ...” (Mat. 13:47-50).
Are we seeing this? Clearly the good are retained and kept, but the bad are severed and taken away! If ever there is to be a rapture, it will be A RAPTURE OF THE WICKED, not of the saints! This is an incredible truth! It was ALWAYS God’s intention that the righteous remain on this Earth! The scriptures do not lie!
“The righteous shall never be REMOVED [or raptured]; and the wicked shall not inherit the earth” (Prove. 10:30)
“The righteous shall be recompensed in the EARTH (not raptured to heaven)” (Prov. 11:31).
“Take AWAY the dross from the silver ... Take AWAY the wicked from the King” (Prov. 25:4-5).
“They [the wicked] are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth AWAY” (Job 21:18).
“... take hold of the ends of the earth that the wicked might be shaken OUT of it” (John 38:13).
And finally, “REMOVING those things that are shaken [the wicked] ... that those things that cannot be shaken [the righteous] may REMAIN ... accepting an unshakable kingdom” (Heb. 12:27-28).
Assuredly Jesus said He was going to His Father IN HEAVEN to prepare a place for His apostles. Peter said that Christ, “... regenerates us into a living expectation, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, for the enjoyment of an allotment incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, KEPT IN THE HEAVENS FOR YOU ...” (I Pet. 1:4-5).
And yet we know that Christ brings these treasures BACK TO EARTH.
“.. we have a building of God, a house not made by hands, eonian, IN THE HEAVENS.” (II Cor. 5:1).
“For in this also we are groaning, longing to be dressed in our habitation which is OUT of heaven ...”
“The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the EARTH hath He given to the children of men” (Psalm 115:6).
Judging the World
How’s that for some shocking revelation? Next time you sing “fly away oh glory” keep these truths in mind! Seriously. We have to realize that “heaven” is not actually a specific geographical location so many light years from the earth on some galactic rock in outer space. “Heaven” is a condition. It is a “realm” of the Spirit. It is not a place “upward” in the clouds. God is in us, while He is in Heaven, while He is also simultaneously, EVERYWHERE! And for good reason – The heavens is not a place of laziness, apathy and self indulgence! On the contrary – there is work to be done!
“Or are you not aware that the saints shall judge THE WORLD? And if the world is being judged by you, are you unworthy of the least tribunals? Are you not aware that we shall be judging MESSENGERS, not to mention life’s affairs?”
Notice that the same “you” and “we” are to judge the “world” AND “messengers.” And the judging of messengers is linked with judging “life’s affairs.” “Life’s affairs” is not something going on in OUTER SPACE! Life’s affairs are things on the earth, which is the same location at which we will be “judging messengers!” And these two judgments are not separated by thousands of years.
Ask any Christian what these scriptures are actually referring to Seriously. What on earth do they mean – and in what context? These are completely incongruous with the common concepts of Christendom’s streets of gold and heavenly mansions. Most of us will never go into outer space, but we do wrestle creatures among the celestials! “... for it is not ours to wrestle with blood and flesh, but with the sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world mights of this darkness, with spiritual forces of wickedness AMONG THE CELESTIALS” (Eph. 6:12)! Now think for a moment, if we can right here and now, from the Earth, wrestle with creatures among the celestials, why can’t we also judge and instruct them as well, FROM THE EARTH? The heavens are assuredly not “up there” somewhere.
Know this. When Christ returns to set up His kingdom on Earth, He brings the place of authority or rulership that He has prepared for the apostles with Him so that “... where I am, YOU ALSO MAY BE” (John 14:3). During Christ’s reign on Earth His apostles will be WITH THE LORD. Now notice I Thes. 4:17 where it is stated that when Christ returns to the Gentile saints “..thus shall we always be together WITH THE LORD ...” We also will be with the Lord on the Earth, not in outer space. Let us remind ourselves of the most important event ever to take place on this planet.
“For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waits for THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SONS OF GOD. For the creature [creation] was MADE subject to VANITY [‘…surely, EVERY MAN IS VANITY’-- Psalm 39:11], NOT WILLINGLY, but by reason of Him [GOD] Who has subjected the same in HOPE. Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be DELIVERED from the bondage of corruption [corruption includes DEATH] into THE GLORIOUS LIBERTY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. For we know that THE WHOLE CREATION GROANS AND TRAVAILS IN PAIN together until now” (Rom. 8:19-22).
Notice the chronological order of things in this Scripture and see how it contradicts the terrible teaching of orthodox doctrine:
First the Sons of God are manifested or shown to be what they really are - SPIRITUAL SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD - No longer flesh and blood. No longer subject to the pulls of a carnal mind, but True Sons in the very IMAGE OF GOD and His Son, Jesus Christ.
But what happens next? What happens to all the rest of humanity who are not sons and daughters and are not saved? Just why, pray tell, are they eagerly awaiting the manifestation of these Sons and Daughters? Of what value is the salvation and manifestation of the few chosen saints to those who are not saved? How do the saints rule and reign with their King if there are no subjects? Aren’t all the subjects cast into the dungeons of an eternal hell of fire and wrath?
Yes, ignoring these troublesome questions, the Church teaches the world that the rest of humanity will be tortured for all eternity in the lake of fire. Is that true? Is that the purpose of the lake of fire and the judgements passed by the chosen and elect of God upon the Earth? That there will be severe judgement upon the world of sinners there is no doubt – God’s wrath will be poured out upon all flesh and all that defiles – what a fearful day for those resurrected before the great white throne! But this is just one part of the “day” of judgement. And what is the solution to the problem?
“For the creature [creation] was made subject to VANITY, not willingly, but by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope” (Rom. 8:20).
We must ALWAYS remember that God MADE man subject to vanity for His own wise purpose. But God is not a fiend that takes pleasure in the failures of weak humanity. God did not make man in a condition of vanity so that most of humanity would fail the ideal, as to then torture most of his creation eternally - when it was He Who created them weak and subjected them to every form of vanity in the first place. God created the whole creation subject to vanity and as we know God’s responsibility is to get man out of this mess.
Few Preachers really understand the profound truth that God supernaturally made a way for the “manifested Sons of God” to conquer the flesh and the carnal mind to be formed into the very image of God - with the very mind of Christ! Those that are no longer subject to “the BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION.” They will be FREE! And it is they who will then FREE the rest of humanity from their bondage! What was the purpose for this subjection to vanity? So that they will eternally fail and God would eternally torture them for their failure? No! Let’s read it:
God has, “subjected the same IN HOPE” (Verse 20). Wait a minute - all of humanity, who fail to be in the first resurrection and become the manifest Sons and Daughters of God, will nonetheless still have “hope?” How can this be? Aren’t they going to be subjected to the “lake of fire?” Yes, there is “hope” in the lake of fire. In fact, the lake of fire is their ONLY HOPE! They will not be eternally tortured just because they did not attain to the first resurrection, but will rather be “DELIVERED!”
“Because He [God] has appointed A DAY, in which He will judge the world [how?] IN RIGHTEOUSNESS [eternal torture is NOT righteousness] by THAT MAN Whom He has ordained [‘For the Father judges no man, but has committed ALL judgment unto the Son,’ John 5:22]; whereof He has given ASSURANCE unto ALL MEN [Gee, could this ‘assurance to ALL men … in the WORLD" be the same as the ‘hope for all creatures in ALL CREATION’ that we just read about in Rom. 8:20? And just how can there be hope and assurance for all these lost, unrepentant, unbelievers of the world? Read on…], in that He has raised Him [Jesus] from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
And so it is because of Christ’s resurrection that we have HOPE and ASSURANCE for a future life with GOD! We have Scriptural proof that the ENTIRE CREATION which was SUBJECTED TO VANITY and CORRUPTION, NOT WILLINGLY, has “HOPE” in the same risen Christ. And the whole inhabited Earth, in that day of judgment, ALSO has full ASSURANCE because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead! God’s day of judgment, is a time of “hope” and “assurance.”
JUDGES, LORDS, PRIESTS AND KINGS
And of course there is a profound destiny awaiting the glorified resurrected saints of God. We read that all judgment has been given unto the Son, Jesus Christ. But Jesus is not the only Judge in “that day.” Here is where the manifested Sons and Daughters of God come into their most important role in the salvation of all mankind, all creation, and the entirety of the creation in both the heavens and the earth: Yes, the called and chosen were born to be Judges!
“Or are you not aware that the saints [the manifested Sons and Daughters of God] shall JUDGE THE WORLD? And if the world shall be judged by YOU, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (I Cor. 6:2).
“And I saw thrones and they sat upon them, and JUDGMENT was given unto them [the saints, the manifested Sons of God]…” (Rev. 20:4).
Every man will be judged and the Saints will do the judging:
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it: and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were JUDGED EVERY MAN according to their worksz’ (Rev. 20:13).
The called and chosen saints were born to be Judges, Lords, Priests and Kings. Our trials of suffering and tribulation surely prepare us for our place at Jesus’ side.
“If we suffer, we shall also REIGN with Him…” (II Tim. 2:12).
“And has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall REIGN on the earth” (Rev. 5:10).
We are the church of the Living God, and what is the church in relation to Christ?
“And has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, Which IS HIS BODY, the fullness of Him that fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).
“For we are members of HIS BODY, OF his flesh, AND OF his bones… This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and THE CHURCH [the heavenly, not the carnal church]” (Eph. 5:30 & 32).
Whatever Christ does, WE DO ALSO, because we ARE HIS BODY! Yes, WE, the manifest Sons and Daughters of God, will JUDGE THE WORLD! How about that!
All too many Christians accept Jesus as their Priest, Lord, King, and Judge in ceremony only. Many accept Jesus as their “JUDGE” only in a ceremonial way, NOT the actual experience OF that judgment in their daily lives. Yet it is crucial for our election! We must first be judged ourselves if we are to became the judges of the great sea of humanity. There are in fact several verses that point to the destiny of God’s chosen and elect judging the sinning masses as a part of the “body” of Christ. Christianities obsession with damnation and eternal torment completely disregards the scriptures that prove that there is actually a PURPOSE to judgement other than physical eternal torture in a “lake of fire!” And what is this “lake” of fire? Who can deny the following scriptures?
Like Christ, we too will be raised with a “SPIRITUAL body” (I Cor. 15:44).
We are in fact called, “the BODY of Christ” (Eph. 1:23).
We will literally “be LIKE Him [Christ]” (I John 3:2).
God will make us into “ministers [of] FLAMING FIRE” (Psalm 104:4).
We too then will be like our God, “a CONSUMING FIRE” (Heb. 12:29).
God promises us that, “…the saints shall JUDGE THE WORLD…” and “we shall JUDGE ANGELS” (I Cor. 6:2-3)!
God tells us WHERE this judgment will take place:
“…they were judged every man according to their works,” and “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into THE LAKE OF FIRE” (Rev. 20:13 & 15).
What have we learnt in our previous studies? Let us remind ourselves of the following truths. THERE IS NO LITERAL LAKE, AND THERE IS NO LITERAL FIRE. Jesus Christ and His Body of Saints ARE THE LAKE OF JUDGING, PURIFYING, CONSUMING SPIRITUAL FIRE!!! The lake of fire is composed of Jesus Christ the Judge of the world, Christ’s divine spiritual fire and brimstone, and the Sons of God who are the body of Christ who are also FLAMES OF FIRE (Heb. 1:7). And the whole world will be judged BY US! After death, all the dead will be resurrected, they will all be judged, they will have to pass through the purifying lake of fire, they will have to PASS THROUGH US! WE will be their judge along with our Lord. Are the scriptures making sense? No-one is raptured off ANYWHERE! There is work to be done! “Know ye not that the SAINTS SHALL JUDGE THE WORLD?” – indeed! And so, the GREAT SEA OF HUMANITY will be judged in the safety and security of the LAKE OF SAINTS!
Yes, the unsaved masses shall also be raised (resurrected) yet for judgement - but not for the purposes that Christendom proposes – a spectacle of sadistic torture. Like the dead chosen and elect saints of God, they shall also “once” have a physical death but then “judgment” to give an accounting of all they have done in life.
“And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27)
Assuredly, the first resurrection saints are those whose lives - perfected through tribulation - have already died to self through self judgment.
“For if we would judge ourselves [now, in this life], we should not be judged [with the world later]. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned [judged] with the world [at the resurrection to Judgment]” (I Cor. 11:31-32).
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And ifthe righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Pet. 4:17-18).
Where shall the ungodly appear? Well we see where they appear in Paul's statement that they will be “...condemned [judged] with the world.” And this is at the Great White Throne Judgment - in the resurrection to Judgment, in the lake of fire/second death!
As we have discussed previously, there is Judgment for both the chosen Elect now and the unbelieving wicked in the resurrection to Judgment: The world of sinning masses shall also undergo the torment of God’s fiery judgement- “the second death,” which will indeed be a fearfully traumatic “spiritual” death - a death to self!
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Rev. 20:13-14).
Hints of the afterlife
It is simply amazing how so much of the teaching regarding the coming kingdom age, is purely speculative in nature. There is a mountain of literature, a tidal wave of DVD’s and countless testimonies available to any Christian consumer enquiring about the Christian afterlife. Some preachers claim to have walked and talked with Jesus in heaven, some testify to having conversed with dearly departed loved ones, others claim to have visited the wastelands of some subterranean Hell – even though no-one has been resurrected to judgement yet! Incredible – the level of delusion, self deception, the vain imaginations of supposedly Godly men! Such believes go hand in hand with the end-time rapture delusion proliferating the mainstream church. Truth be known, the scriptures give away very little regarding the details of how the kingdom age and the following eons shall play out. Unlike the wild imaginings of Christian ministers and writers today, such things are actually only hinted at in scripture.
What can we at least glean from the scriptures then? What for example, shall people look like in the kingdom age, those - reigning with Christ? Paul reveals that our bodies will be changed to celestial bodies (I Cor. 15:42:53), for our citizenship is in the heavens (Phil. 3:20) Paul teaches us in I Cor. 15:38-49 also that; the first man [Adam], was out of the earth, “soilish.” Verse 47. Now notice what changes take place in verses 42-44 when we are roused and vivified:
It is sown in corruption [soilish]; it is roused in incorruption.
It is sown in dishonor [soilish]; it is roused in glory.
It is sown in infirmity [soilish]; it is roused in power.
It is sown a soulish body [soilish]; it is roused a SPIRITUAL body.
“It is roused a SPIRITUAL [of the spirit or consisting of spirit] body.”
Paul flatly states in verse 50, that
“... flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
Notice also that Paul says,
“Thus ALSO is the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15:42).
How then Pastors or preachers (or any Christian for that matter) could even conceive of visiting Heaven in their current “earthy” state is any ones guess. Oh it was a “vision” of Heaven was it? We can’t have the scriptures contradicting our testimonies can we?
There are other scriptural insights that confirm Paul’s teachings. What kind of a body did God tell John he could have an expectation of at Christ’s manifested presence?
“Perceive what manner of love the Father has given us, that we maybe called children of God! And we are! Therefore the world does not know us, for it did not know Him. Beloved, now are we children of God, and it was not as yet manifested what we shall be. We are aware that, if He should be manifested, we shall be LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him according as He IS” (I John 3:1-3)!
Paul also reveals to us in I Cor. 15:53-54 that
“... this mortal should be putting on immortality.”
This is the only scripture in the whole Bible that mentions “immortality.” We can but only imagine what these passages are describing, yet lengthy and elaborate sermons are preached every Sunday, the world over - embellished no doubt by the “faithful” testimonies of heavenly visions and lucid dreams from within the congregation! Likewise the Old Testament reveals little. There are few places where a resurrection of dead people are mentioned or even alluded to. Jesus stated that the declaration;
“Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, did you not read that which is declared to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt. 22:31).
This statement proves that if God is the “God of the living,” but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dead when Jesus mentions them. They are assuredly not already in heaven! There has got to be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob then!
The major prophecy concerning the resurrection is of course found in Ezek. 37. Here we are shown a valley of “dry bones” which God says represents “the WHOLE House of Israel” - “And He said unto me, `Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; lo, they are saying: Dried up have our bones, And perished has our hope, We have been cut off by ourselves” (Ezek. 37:11).
So the whole House of Israel dies in a condition of being “perished” with no “hope,” and are “cut off.” But what does God tell Ezekiel He will do for them?
“I am prophesying, and lo, a rushing, and draw near do the bones, bone unto its bone."
“And I beheld, and lo, on them [are] sinews [tendons, strength, muscular power], and flesh [muscles, fat, etc.] has come up, and cover them does skin [the outer covering of a physical body] over above - and spirit there is none in them." (Eze 37:8)
There is no way “spiritual” tendons, muscles, fat or skin, can be put on “physical bones” to remake a “spiritual” man. This is assuredly a PHYSICAL resurrection of the dead, “And I have prophesied as He commanded me, and the Spirit comes into them, and they live, and stand on their feet - a very very great force” (Ezek. 37:10).
Notice that it takes the spirit from God (the breath of life) to give these dried bones life once more. They then “stand on their feet.” In fact, this is the exact and precise definition of the word “resurrection/anastasis” It means to “stand up” upon one’s feet, but the word itself has nothing to do with being “spiritual” or “immortal” whatsoever. Jesus raised a little girl and Lazarus from the dead, and they stood up on their feet and lived - they were not made spiritual bodies or given immortality. Likewise those saints resurrected at Christ’s resurrection, were not given spiritual bodies or immortality either. In fact nowhere are the wicked promised immortality or incorruption.
The most thorough study on the resurrection of the saints however is found in I Corinthians. The subject of I Corinthians 15 refers to God’s chosen and elect.
“Moreover, brethren I declare unto YOU the gospel…” (I Cor. 15:1).
“…by which also YOU are saved…” (Verse 2).
“For I delivered unto YOU….” (Verse 3). Etc.
And just what is the “order” of the resurrection of which Paul speaks? “But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward THEY THAT ARE CHRIST’S at His coming” (Verse 23). Yes. the resurrection taught in this chapter is that of “they that are CHRIST’S,” not the resurrection of the wicked to Judgment.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor 15:50)
Chapter 15 is speaking of the true Elect Saints of God inheriting the Kingdom of God. Is the act of raising the wicked from the dead and act of their “inheriting the Kingdom of God?” No. Will the wicked then “inherit incorruption” at their resurrection? NO, no they WON’T!
THE DAY OF HARVEST
We are told that a seed must die to give life to a new seed, or grain, or body (Verse 36). And what KIND of new seed comes about from planting a seed that first must die?
“And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain” (1Co 15:37)
Are we told what the “other” grain might be that sprouts like “wheat?” Yes, as a matter of fact, we are:
“But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” (Mat 13:25)
And are these “tares” also gathered into the barns (brought into the Kingdom of God)? NO;
“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest [resurrection] I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them [in the Lake of Fire]: but gather the wheat into my barn [My KINGDOM].” (Mat 13:30)
Again, in the day of harvest, not all will come up “immortal and incorruptible.”
What else do we learn about the resurrection of God’s Elect? What are some of the features of their newly resurrected bodies?
“…but the glory of the celestial [high, above, heavenly] is one, and the glory of the terrestrial [worldly, EARTHLY] is another” (Verse 40).
Which category do the Elect come in? Now pay attention:
“As is the earthy, such ARE they also that ARE earthy: and as is the heavenly, such ARE they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, WE SHALL also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Cor 15:48-49)
Notice that ONLY “we” [God’s Elect], not “they,” “…shall bear the image of the heavenly.” Paul is speaking of “THEY, the earthy,” and “WE, the heavenly,” and only the “we” will “bear the image of the heavenly,” not “they,” the wicked who will be raised as tares to be burned in the Lake of Fire.
Now we can understand verse 50 in proper context:
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption [corrupt men] inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor 15:50)
The ONLY ones who inherit incorruption are those “WE [who] have borne the image of the earthly [and] shall bear the image of the heavenly.” And this happens at a specific time:
“Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor 15:51-54)
It is the “we” and the “us” that will be changed at the last trump, not the “they” and the “them.”
After all, is there anywhere a Scripture that presents the resurrection of the wicked in such a glorious, and holy, divine light? No. Rather we are presented with this as the characterization of the resurrected wicked to (eonian) judgment:
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting [eonian] life, and some to shame [rebuke, reproach, disgrace] and everlasting [eonian] contempt [repulsion, aversion, abhorrence].” (Dan 12:2)
THE SAINTS COME MARCHING
Yes, the earthly shall only be raised “physically” in their state of shame – the spiritual saints shall be raised “spiritually” in glory to rule and reign! The rule of the saints is surely mentioned throughout Revelation. Here we read of Christ coming to judge and make war, but also look who’s coming with him.
“And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” (Rev 19:14)
Who is this army? It says they are “clothed in fine linen.”
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev 7:9)
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” (Rev 7:13)
v. 14 “And I said to him, Sir, you know. So he said to me,These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Rev 19:7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
v. 8 “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
The Scriptures makes it clear that the elect (symbolised by their wearing of fine white robes) are the army coming with Christ to rule the nations on Earth.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:4)
There is much fuss made over the “millennial reign” yet this purely symbolic number is simply just that. A quick look to see how this word “thousand” is used elsewhere in the scriptures should clear this up.
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” (Psa 50:10)
Is David saying that God owns all the beasts of all of the forest, but He only owns the cattle “upon a thousand hills?” How about the cattle on hill number 1001? Are they not God’s cattle also? Of course they are! That is what is being said. God owns everything! And that is all that is being said in the book of Revelation too. As long as there is rulership needed on earth – make no doubt about it - it will be Christ’s! You could also say that this symbolic time refers to the fact that the saints reign as long as they have to reign, in order to fulfil their purpose.
Yet possibly the most confusion caused by this passage of scripture, lies in the fact that there is a serious textual error to contend with. Most teachers ignore it to their peril! The Codex Sinaiticus (one of the earliest Bible texts found to date) came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at the Saint Catherine's Monastery, with further material discovered in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although parts of the Codex are scattered across four libraries around the world, most of the manuscript today resides within the British Library. Since its discovery, study of the Codex Sinaiticus has proven to be extremely useful to scholars for critical studies of biblical text.
Tischendorf’s discovery and analysis of the Sinaiticus text (written in the 4th Century) led to him to compile a list of words and phrases that he felt were spurious and should have not been included in the Bible cannon. These words or phrases materially change the meaning of the texts in which they appear. Though many of the spurious passages have already been corrected in modern versions of the Bible, there are some which left uncorrected, continue to confound those seeking accurate scriptural truths. One of these spurious verses is found in a crucial portion of the book of Revelation: Revelation Chapter 20 verse 5 (in italics and underlined)
Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Rev 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Now when you put verses 4 and 5 together without the spurious part it clears of the confusion.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection.”
Suddenly this starts to make sense. The elect are raised up in the first resurrection, as they are gathered, united with Christ “in the air” (1 Thess 4:16-17). Now the elect descend with Christ - and thus begins their rule over the nations for the thousand years. Remember Ezekiel 37 is speaking in symbolic language of the resurrection of ALL the dead, of the 12 tribes of Israel (symbolic of all people) they being before the sacrifice of Christ – being raised in the second resurrection. This includes “anyone (which would be every human being not already raised up in the first resurrection...) not found written in the Book of Life.” Surely they are judged in the second resurrection by Christ and His chosen saints (the collective lake of fire.)
MATURING INTO HIS LIKENESS
This is foreign stuff to most Christians. The thought of judgement and the eons to come concerning those raised in judgement – simply doesn’t compute. This isn’t helped of course by the addition of spurious portions of scripture. Yet there are many reputable enigmatic scriptures that sound very simple, but are in fact difficult to harmonize with other scriptures unless they are spiritually discerned.
“And as it is appointed unto men [Gk: 'anthropose'--human, mankind] once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27)
Know this. This Scripture is all-encompassing, universal, and applies to every human who has ever lived! All humanity must die once, and after that judgement - they must be judged. There are no exceptions, not even for mentally challenged, teens, youngsters and even infants. (Do sound-minded Christians really believe that when babies die they go to heaven or Hell and therefore, there will be millions of eternal babies in diapers living in heaven for all eternity of suffering Hell fire AS BABIES?) Ask a number of Christians the answer to this conundrum and you would receive a number of different answers. Yet is there anything in the scriptures that might help us understand God’s purposes in the Kingdom age to come?
God has a way to deal with babies and infants in the Day of Judgment that will be quite equitable - they will grow up to be adults! The Chosen Elect are judged now in this Church age (I Cor. 11:31), while the unrepentant, unbelieving, mentally challenged, infants, and all other such categories, are judged in the resurrection to Judgment (I Cor. 11:32) -“in that day.”There are few places that even mention babies in a Judgment setting, but there are some. They are not judged as are the wicked. They will be judged for their carnality when it shows itself, as they mature. Remember – God’s judgements are RIGHTEOUS judgements!
“Because he hath appointed a day [called “that day” and “the Day of the Lord” in many prophesies], in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
Look at Isa 65:20
“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. “
Yes this is speaking of the next age. Here it is in another translation.
“Babies will no longer die in infancy, and all people will live out their life span. Those who live to be a hundred will be considered young. To die before that would be a sign that I had punished them” (GNB)
We don’t know all the details, but the promises are there. God will make mature ALL who go through “the lake of fire.” The elect shall be take part in training them (infants and the like) up and maturing ALL (who did not JUDGE THEMSELVES in this age) into the likeness of Christ. So the babies and the mentally ill in this age will eventually experience God's purifying and cleansing Word and be matured! They shall be raised from their carnality and eonian shame – (through the fire of chastisement) toward maturity in Christ.
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:27-28)
You see,this leaves NO ONE out. Every man (and child and baby and mentally ill person) who has ever lived and even every spirit! Can we be sure?
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;” (Php 2:10)
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col 1:20)
Everyone will train, learn and be purged. We are all saved by fire! It is an event that is common to everyone... at their appointed time, even babies who died in the womb. No, not one shall be lost! Hebrews11:35 speaks of obtaining a “better resurrection.” This would be one of the grossest understatements in history if we were to believe the “eternal damnation of all mankind” doctrine of Christendom! No – the scriptures do not contradict. Remember that in judgment some will be given few stripes (luke 12:26-48) (probably the patriarchs of old), and others MANY stripes, which perhaps indicates that those with many stripes will come in at a later time. Hebrews 11 speaks of “God having provided some better thing for US [for 'us' not 'them'] that THEY without US should NOT be made perfect.”It is only through US, that “THEY” will thereafter [after the first resurrection] be perfected (make complete). Amazing!
Where do we see these scriptures taught in Christian churches – and in their correct context? Well. You DONT! They simply cannot be reconciled with the ubiquitous heretical doctrines such as “the secret rapture” and “eternal punishment!” There is no room for the role of the saints in the coming kingdom according to their doctrines. Now, there is a great deal to take in here in this study – we know. If anything it has probably answered some questions but generated a whole lot more! Yet hopefully in the little that we have uncovered, it proves outright that those who are hanging their hopes on a future secret rapture are clinging to an unscriptural sham. The sheer number of Scriptures and the depth to which they are perverted in an effort to force the teaching of a secret rapture into them is overwhelming. The chosen saints of God MUST endure tribulation! It is the way to the Kingdom!
There is more that could be said regarding how Christ actually comes to Earth and what He will do after He arrives – yet it requires vigilant study of the scriptures. Will He literally ride out of Heaven on a flying white horse with fire shooting out of His eyes and a long sword coming out of His mouth followed by literal armies ready to do battle against the few remaining and helpless humans on earth, and all this happening while the lightning is flashing and silver trumpets are blasting? Well no. But, just like the rest of Revelation, the things that these symbols, metaphors, and figurative language represent will certainly be GLORIOUS. Remember that we have God’s promise that the wise shall understand. We all need to pray for wisdom, that’s for sure.
The fact that we have never seen Christ in the flesh will be no more of a hindrance in keeping those (alive at His return) from recognizing Him, than the fact that Peter, James and John had never before seen Moses or Elijah in the vision upon mount of transfiguration, yet they recognized two men that they had never seen in their lives. Surely it will be the same with the return of Christ!
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Mat 24:27)
“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.” (Mat 24:3)
In Part 2 of this study, we shall delve deeper into some of the most profound symbolism found in the scriptures regarding Christ’s transformation of the world as we know it and indeed the kingdom within us now.
“And they [All the tribes of the earth] shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
What do the symbols of the “clouds” and “air” have to do with Jesus returning to earth for example? Well – it’s not referring to the “physical” heavens, that’s for sure. There are dozens of similar scriptures regarding Christ’s return and yet few truly understand and comprehend their “spiritual” meaning. How like most of the doctrines of Christendom today! Each one seeing only part of the picture; having little or no understanding of the overall plan and purpose of God. Just seeing a fraction and not the total picture. As we come up through the various stages of spiritual growth, from time to time we get hold of a truth. When we do – it is VITAL that we never let go of it! All other scriptures must align to it, they MUST bear witness to it! The truth regarding the RAPTURE and the purposes of Christ’s return for his creation is VITAL to understanding the Gospel of the Kingdom – the kingdom within us!
So very few Christians today have any actual “scriptural” thoughts, regarding the coming of the Lord. They mix up the coming of Christ “IN His saints,” and His coming “WITH the saints” - they have not the faintest idea what is the difference in time or manifestation between His coming as Rain or His coming as Fire; His coming as Christ and His coming as Lord; His coming as Lightning or His coming with Clouds; His coming as Bridegroom or His coming as King. Not very many know when or how the Lord comes in any of His manifestations, therefore, they cannot know how to MEET HIM!
Almost all of Christendom teaches that the return of the Lord is a future event. How much more reasonable and understandable is the glorious truth however! As we shall discover; Christ came, He comes, He continues to come. Nothing - absolutely nothing in the scriptures limits Christ's coming to one future event – let alone a “secret rapture.” He is God, he is everywhere! We shall look at this in Part .2 of this study next!