Return of Christ
Will the return of Christ be in two stages?: We hear a lot today from the false Judeo-Christian teacher about the “rapture.” It is preached and taught in positive terms on Christian Radio and Television (Talmudvision) programs. “The ultimate trip,” as some call it, has been the theme of sensational movies. Bumper stickers carry slogans like: “In case of the Rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned,” or “The Rapture: The only way to fly!”
Dramatic sermons by the Judeo-Christian clergy with shouting, and jumping up and down, especially the niggers and the wannabeniggers, tell how thousands of people will suddenly disappear into thin air. Cars will wreck, veer off the road, or plummet over cliffs, as drivers are raptured away. Planes will crash as Christian pilots go up in the rapture. Television programs will be interrupted as frantic voices give reports; a horrified husband says he and his wife were eating, when suddenly she disappeared right before his eyes. A mother reports seeing her baby instantly vanish from its crib. A Christian doctor who had just made an incision for major surgery, suddenly disappeared through the ceiling of the operating room. While newspaper boys holler out headlines about “Millions Missing,” church members (those who missed the rapture) will meet in emergency sessions, choosing new leadership, as they face the years ahead. THE RAPTURE HAS TAKEN PLACE. The trumpet of the Lord has sounded. And time continues on. IS THIS THE BIBLICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE RAPTURE?
One can search all the way through the Bible and he will never find the word “rapture.” The word itself is from the Latin “rapere,” the same word from which “rape” comes; meaning to seize, to take away. It seems to us that a more appropriate expression would be to simply say what the Bible says: that believers will be “caught up” to meet Yahshua in the air. Nevertheless, the word rapture is now in common use, it is applied to the catching up of believers to meet Yahshua, and so we will not refrain from using it here.
The issue before us is not the word “rapture.” The doctrine of the second coming of Yahshua, which has been the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) of the church over the centuries, is not the issue. That believers will actually be caught up to meet Yahshua in the air is not the issue. The issue before us is whether this catching up (or rapture) s A SEPARATE AND EARLIER EVEN FROM THE COMING OF THE LORD.
Christians who hold what is called the “dispensational” interpretation of prophecy, teach that the second coming of Christ will be in two stages; first, the RAPTURE (His coming for the saint), and then later the REVELATION (his coming “with” the saints). The interval between these two events, the great tribulation period, is commonly regarded as seven years. Verses like Revelation 1:7, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him,” are applied to the REVELATION; His coming in power and glory. The RAPTURE, on the other hand, is presented as a quiet, invisible, and secret coming. The following quotations are representative of this view:
His appearance in the clouds will be veiled to the human eye and NO ONE WILL SEE HIM. He will slip in, slip out; move in to get his jewels and slip out as under the cover of night. (Oral Roberts, “How to be Personally Prepared for the Second Coming of Christ,” (Tulsa: Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, 1967, p. 34)
Quickly and INVISIBLY unperceived by the world, the Lord will come as a thief in the night and catch away His waiting saints. (Jesse F. Silver, “The Lord’s Return” (New York: Revell, 1914, p. 260)
We know this is false because to come as a thief in the time of Yahshua was to come with loud shouting, banging of swords and shields, a great noise, not like today, as a thief in the night sulks quietly into a building or home and steals and then leaves very quietly.
[The rapture] will be a SECRET appearing, and only the believers will know about it. (Herschel W. For, “Seven Simple Sermons on the Second Coming” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1946, p. 51)
In the Rapture, only the Christians see Him; it’s a mystery, a SECRET. (Hal Lindsey, “The Late Great Planet Earth” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970, p. 143)
It will be a SECRET rapture; QUIET, NOISELESS, sudden as the step of the thief in the night. All that the world will know will be that multitudes at once have gone. (G.S. Bishop, “The Doctrine of Grace, p. 341)
In all respect to fine Christian people who believe this way, to us this is a strange doctrine. The very text on which the catching up (or rapture) is based implies just the opposite.
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
To us, THIS TEXT INDICATES ANYTHING BUT A QUIET, SECRET RAPTURE. Amid the sound of the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God, there will be the sounds of praise and rejoicing from vast multitudes of saints as they are caught up to meet the Lord.
Suppose the Bible said: “The Lord ‘invisibly’ shall descend from heaven, ‘quietly.’” What would we say to someone who told us this means he will come visibly and loudly? Would we not brand this twisting of the words as unsound doctrine? Well, then, turn it around. The Bible actually does say, “The Lord ‘himself’ shall descend from heaven with a ‘shout.’” To read “invisible” or “quiet” into this description is just as unsound. If Paul was trying to describe a secret event, he chose the wrong words.
Yahshua actually warned against the idea of secrecy in connection with His second coming;
“If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not ... If they shall say unto you ... behold, he is in the ‘secret’ chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:23-27)
There is no indication anywhere in scripture that the second coming of Yahshua will be secret event; only the “time” of the even is secret. Yahshua stressed that men do not know the day or the hour of the second coming. It will be “as it was in the days of Noah” when people were eating, drinking, and getting married, not expecting destruction to fall. They
“knew not UNTIL the flood came, and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:36-39)
The wicked knew not until the flood came; but, obviously, when it came they knew it. It was no secret event. It was observed by believers and unbelievers.
As A Thief in The Night
“But know this,” Yahshua said, “If the good man of the house had known in what watch the ‘thief’ would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready; in such an hour as you think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:43-44)
Yahshua’s return will be like the coming of a thief in the sense that we know not WHEN it will occur. There is nothing here to indicate a secret coming of Yahshua in which He will mysteriously take believers out of this world so that no one will know what happened to them or who took them.
“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15)
We should not think Yahshua will prowl around like a thief, working in the dark, afraid of being discovered. The meaning is He will come “as a thief,” not that He will “act” like a thief.
Scoffers will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” But Peter assures us that the day of Yahshua “will” come. We do not know “when,” however, for “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” (2 Peter 3:10) But, again, the event itself will not be a quiet event, for Peter links it with a great noise.
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a GREAT NOISE!” (2 Peter 3:10)
In the noted rapture passage, after speaking of Yahshua’s coming with a shout, etc., Paul goes on to explain that we do not know “when” this will be, for that day will come as a thief in the night.
“But of the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh ‘as a thief in the night.’” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)
What is unknown and hidden? It cannot be that the coming of Yahshua, the event itself, will be secret. The context speaks of this as being glorious, open, noisy. It is the “time” that is unrevealed.
Triumph in Tribulation
Shortly before His death, Yahshua spoke these words to His disciples:
“In the world you shall have ‘tribulation...” (John 16:33)
The verses that follow record the prayer in which Yahshua prayed for His disciples:
“I pray not that thou shouldest ‘take them out of the world,’ but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15)
Though it would be no easy task to take a stand for Yahshua; though they would be persecuted: though in the world they would have tribulation; yet, Yahshua did not pray that the church would be taken out of the world. The church was to remain “in” the world, but it would not be “of” the world.
Some might object, however, that Yahshua was praying only for His immediate disciples of that time. But not so. “Neither pray I for these alone,” He said, “but for them ‘also’ which shall believe on me through their word.” (Verse 20) Does this not include us today? Have not we believed on Yahshua as a result of the message handed down to us from those original disciples? Indeed we have. So Yahshua was praying for us too. He said so. He prayed we would be kept from the end of the world, but he did not pray that we would be taken out of the world; even though in the world we would have tribulation.
Let us suppose Yahshua had told believers: “In the world there shall be tribulation ... but I pray that you will be taken out of the world.” If Yahshua said this, those who teach a pre-tribulation rapture would have a basis for their position; and this statement would no doubt be quoted “often” as proof text. But since this is “not” what the verse says; but just the “opposite,” surely this should be regarded as evidence against the idea of a special, “secret” coming of Yahshua to take the church out of this world.
Instead of the church being taken out of the world, Yahshua taught that it would remain in the world to accomplish a definite purpose: to preach the gospel. Yahshua commissioned His disciples to “go ... and teach all nations” and promised:
“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [aion; age].” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Until The End
How long would the church be in the world fulfilling this divine commission? The implication is that this mission would continue until the end of the age. Surely this promise would be strange if Yahweh’s plan was to remove the church seven years “before” that time. If, when the end of the age comes, the church would no longer be on earth, a promise such as this would be meaningless.
Earlier in the book of Matthew, Yahshua made the same point. He gave a parable about a man who sowed good seed in his field, but an enemy sowed tares among the wheat. When the crop had grown, and the servants discovered what had happened, they asked if they should pull up the tares. To this the owner replied:
“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers. Gather together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)
We are not left to speculate as to the correct meaning of the parable, for Yahshua explained. The good seed, the wheat, is sown by “the Son of man;” Yahshua. The tares, the children of the wicked one, are sown by the enemy; “the devil.” they are sown in the same field, “the world,” where both grow together until the harvest. “The harvest is the end of the world.” (Verses 37-39)
“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in “the end of this world.” The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire ... Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Verses 40-43) Plainly, the time of separation between those which do iniquity and the righteous is at the “end.”
Yahshua said that “BOTH” would grow “TOGETHER” until the “END OF THE WORLD;” and “then” would be the harvest, producing the great separation. This is the Bible teaching. But the pre-tribulation rapture position, to be consistent, would have to say that BOTH will NOT grow together in the field (the world) until the end of the world, for they teach the wheat will be harvested sooner, being separated form the tares seven years BEFORE the end.
According to a footnote in the Scofield Reference Bible, “At the end of this age (verse 40) the tares are set apart for burning, but ‘first’ the wheat is gathered into the barn.” (C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible New York: Oxford University Press, 1917, p. 1016) But if anything might be implied as coming “first,” it would be the judgment upon the wicked, for in the parable portion it said: “Gather together FIRST the tares” for destruction, “but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30) What? The Scripture says: “First the tares.” The note in the Scofield Bible says just the opposite. Such twisting of terms does not speak well for the pre-tribulation view.
Looking further in Matthew 13, Yahshua likened the kingdom to a net which was cast into the sea. It gathered fish of every kind; some good, and some bad. Finally, the good were placed into vessels and the bad were cast away. When would this great separation occur?
“So shall it be at the END of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire.” (Matthew 13:47-50)
Yahshua further likened the time of His return to the days of Lot.
“As it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;” those common, routine things that people have been doing all along, not expecting any catastrophe, “but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30)
Lot the believer, was spared. The unbelievers were destroyed. So when Yahshua returns, believers will be spared (caught up to meet Yahshua in the air) while that “same day” fiery destruction shall fall upon the world. There is nothing in this passage to suggest Lot went out of Sodom and then seven years later the fiery destruction fell. These things happened the “same day.”
Yahshua likened His second coming to the destruction of the flood in the days of Noah.
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage ... and knew not until the flood fame, and took them all away [“destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27)]. 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.” (Matthew 24:37-42)
One Taken and The Other Left
Sermons have sometimes been preached by the Judeo-Christian clergy about “one shall be TAKEN, and the other LEFT,” as though this meant believers would be “taken” up in the rapture and the unbelievers would be “left” to go through the tribulation period. But this can hardly be correct, for in the context IT WAS THE UNBELIEVERS WHO WERE TAKEN AWAY; by the destruction of the flood. In the days of Noah, the unbelievers
“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.” (Matthew 24:39-42)
If we understand this in the light of the context, it will be “unbelievers” who will be “taken;” in death, by the “sudden destruction” that will accompany Yahshua when He comes (1 Thessalonians 5:3) those who believe in Him will be “left;” their lives spared. True, they will be spared by being caught up, up above the sudden destruction, but this does not seem to be the primary point here.
Though a portion of the world was formerly destroyed by water, it was pointed out by Peter that the destruction the world faces will be by “fire.”
“The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished; but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire.” (2 Peter 3:6-7)
Peter had personally heard Yahshua give the promise:
“I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” (John 14:3)
Years passed and some began to scoff at this promise, saying:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise ... the day of the Lord ‘will’ come ... IN THE WHICH the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall burned up ... all these things shall be dissolved.” (2 Peter 3:10-11)
Thus did he describe what Yahshua had called “the end of the world.”
Some believe such statements refer to a literal end of this planet. Others believe that the end of the age, but not necessarily the end of the planet, is the correct meaning. In Noah’s day, it is pointed out, “the world that then was ... perished,” but the planet remained; so likewise, “the heavens and the earth which are not,” this age, could end and the planet remain. But, either way, “the end of the world” is the “end,” there is a distinct finality here. There is no indication or room for the idea that time will continue on for another seven years after this. We do not believe it was a bad choice of words when the hymn writer said: “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and ‘time shall be no more...’”
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of person ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness. ‘Looking for’ and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
Obviously Peter did not believe Christians would be taken out of the world seven years before the end. Why would he exhort them to be “looking for” the coming of the day of God when the heavens shall pass away? Why talk of the ‘end,’ if their real hope was an event seven years earlier?
According to Peter, “the coming of the Lord,” “the day of the Lord” which will come “as a thief in the night,” is the time when the heavens shall pass away and the earth shall melt with fervent heat. And according to Paul, “the day of the Lord” which will come “as a thief in the night” (the same expression) is the time of the rapture:
“The Lord himself shall descend from heaven ... we which are alive and remain shall be caught up ... in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air ... But of the times and seasons (when this shall happen), brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 5:3)
This passage, even though it spans two chapters, is all connected together. There is not the slightest hint that the rapture is a separate even from the destruction that will befall the world at the end.
“Heaven and Earth Shall Pass Away”
Yahshua expressed the finality of that day in these words:
“Heaven and earth shall pass away ... But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only ... Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:36-42)\\ If believers are to “watch” for that day; when heaven and earth shall pass away, it is evident they were not to be taken away seven years before.
Even the ancient Job implied the resurrection would not take place until the heavens shall pass away.
“Man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? ... Man lieth down, and riseth not: ‘till the heavens be no more,’ they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” (Job 14:10-12; 19:26-27)
Expressions such as “till the heavens be no more,” “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise,” “heaven and earth shall pass away,” all seem to indicate the very end of things as we know them. Until that time, the dead shall not be resurrected.
Thus Martha believed Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection AT THE LAST DAY.” (John 11:24) this was not mere speculation on her part, for Yahshua Himself repeatedly spoke of the resurrection as being “AT THE LAST DAY.” (John 6:39-40, 44, 54)
Since the caching up or rapture occurs at the same time as the resurrection of the dead in Christ, (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), it is plain to see the rapture takes place at the last day, not seven years before the last day.
In the resurrection chapter (1 Corinthians 15), we are told that these things will occur “at the ‘last’ trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) We know also, that on this “last day” at the “last trump,” the “last enemy” shall be destroyed. Paul says “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)
It will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: fro the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised ... then,” at the resurrection and catching up, “‘then’ shall be brought to pass the saying that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54) According to dispensationalism, this happens before the tribulation; with seven years yet to go. But, then, what about people who will be killed after that, some of them being martyrs for Christ? The dispensational interpretation requires another resurrection at the end of the tribulation for them. Thus, if the last enemy is destroyed before the tribulation, it will have to be destroyed ‘again’ after the tribulation. But put the destruction of the last enemy at the “last day,” as the Bible does, and the last enemy is the ‘last’ enemy.
What about tribulation martyrs? John saw people who refused to worship the beast and were beheaded. But “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years ... ‘This is the first resurrection.’ Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:4-6) Dispensationalism claims that these are people, martyred “after” the rapture of the church, who will be resurrected at the end of the tribulation period. But since the resurrection takes place at the rapture; as both sides agree, if the rapture takes place “before” the tribulation, how could a resurrection of tribulation martyrs be “the ‘first’ resurrection?” On the other hand, if the “first resurrection” is a bodily resurrection before the tribulation, these tribulation martyrs would be raised from the dead “before they were martyred.” But place the resurrection at the END, as the Bible does, and a scriptural harmony is obtained. Regardless of how we interpret Revelation 20:4-6, or whether the martyrs lived in the beginning centuries, during the Dark Ages, or the final years of this age, with the resurrection at the end, all are included without artificial additions to the Word.
Until the rise of the secret rapture teaching (which is of comparatively recent origin), the idea of anyone being saved AFTER the coming of Yahshua would have been considered strange indeed. Did the church “ever” in the first eighteen centuries of its history teach such a thing? Faithful preachers over the centuries voiced what Yahshua and the apostles taught; about being sober, ready, watching, waiting for Yahshua’s return. Peter regarded the seeming delay in Yahshua’s coming as God’s “longsuffer9ing,” allowing men additional time to repent (2 Peter 3:9) Obviously he did not believe people would be saved “after” the coming of the Lord.
But with the escape rapture teaching, there is not that urgency. After all, if one misses the rapture, as it is now taught, he can still get saved. According to “The Late Great Planet Earth,” not only will people be saved after the rapture, but this will be “the greatest time of evangelism the earth has ever known.”
“After the Christians are gone God is going to reveal Himself in a special way to 144,000 physical, literal Jews who are going to believe with a vengeance that Yahshua is the Messiah. They are going to be 144,000 Jewish Billy Grahams turned lose on this earth; the earth will never know a period of evangelism like this period ... They are going to have the greatest number of converts in all history.” (The Late Great Planet Earth, Hal Lindsey, p. 111)
Imagine that; multitudes of people getting saved “after” the coming of Yahshua. We can only say, this has never been the biblical or historical position of the church. But now, some Judeo-Christian have announced an addition to their bylaws: a legal notice passing on the leadership of the Judeo-Christian church to backsliders and sinners. These, it is believed, will repent and be saved “after” Yahshua come in the rapture. If any had doubts before about Christianity, with millions “missing,” they will now know for sure. They are to gather for an emergency board meeting; these people who “missed” the rapture; to elect new leaders of the Judeo-Christian church can continue.
A Different Plan of Salvation?
Some believe that after the pre-tribulation rapture, Yahweh will have a different plan of salvation. As one writer says, “Now we can be saved by the blood of Christ; but after the rapture, people will have to ‘give their own blood’ to be saved; it will be a martyrs’ route to heaven.” Another suggest that then people will be saved or lost on the basis of “how they treat the Jews.” A tract says:
“If you should be left behind when Jesus comes ... do not persecute the Jews ... assist them in their distresses. For it may burn to be your salvation ... those who have protected and cared for the Jews ... who have hidden them, also fed and clothed them, will be found worthy of entrance into the kingdom age.”
This concept is based, supposedly, on the words of Yahshua in the parable of the sheep and the goats. To the righteous; the sheep, Yahshua will state they fed Him, gave Him drink, took Him in as a stranger, and visited Him in prison. And they will ask when they saw Him in these circumstances. His reply:
“Insomuch as you have done it unto one of the least of thee MY BRETHREN (so you can see this does not include the Jews), you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)
The dispensational belief, that “my brethren” means Jews during the tribulation period, introduces a third class of people into the parable, in addition to the sheep and goats. This is not justified, for Yahshua was not speaking of a separate class of people, but simply spoke to the sheep, the righteous, as “my brethren (Israelites).” It is no different than if He had said: “My brethren, because you did it unto the least of these; the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the oppressed,” et. The proof for this is evident, for the word “brethren” ONLY appears when Yahshua was speaking to the sheep. When he spoke to the goats, the word “brethren” is absent, as the following parallel shows:
To The Sheep To The Goats
“Inasmuch as you have done “Inasmuch as you did it
it unto one of the least of Not to one of the least
these MY BRETHREN, Of these, you
you have done it unto me.” Did it not to me.”
(Matthew 25:40) (Matthew 25:45)
Once the entire passage is read, the point will become obvious. If “my brethren” meant a separate class of people; rather than a simple form of address to those termed “sheep;” it should have appeared in the second portion also. Besides, Yahshua’s “brethren” could hardly mean a group of Jews; in a “fleshly” sense, for Yahshua Himself said (as also recorded in Matthew) that “all” who do the will of the Father are His brethren. (Matthew 12:48-50) It is a relationship based on GRACE, and RACE.
No One Knows The Day or Hour
Over and over the Bible has stressed that the coming of Yahshua will suddenly occur, that the time is unknown, that no man knows the day or hour of the end of the age. But if the rapture is an event to take place seven years “before” the end, “thousands” of people will be able to determine the “exact” date. All they would have to do is count seven years from the time all babies and Christians suddenly come up “missing.”
If any questions remained, a trip to the cemetery would provide absolute proof that the rapture had occurred. By digging down into the graves of known Christians; a godly grandmother, a dedicated pastor, or a baby that had recently died, and find their caskets empty, it would be evident the resurrection had taken place. It would not take long for thousands to know what had happened; and to figure the exact date for the end of the age. But since the scriptures teach that no man knows the day or hour when the end will come, it is evident that the rapture is not a separate event seven years before the end.
The description Yahshua gave of His return rules out the idea of two separate events.
“The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and ‘then’ he shall reward ‘every man’ according to his works.” (Matthew 16:27)
This can not be a secret coming of Yahshua “alone,” for He comes in glory with the angels. It is at this time every man is rewarded. This can hardly fit the idea of the rapture being an earlier event, for in that case many would have already been caught up and rewarded.
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
If there had been an earlier coming of Yahshua, alone, in a secret rapture, whether He would be ashamed of people or not would have already taken place. Why, then, would He speak of these things in connection with His coming in glory with the angels?
The Christians at Thessalonica were enduring “persecutions and tribulations” and were being “troubled” by unbelievers. (2 Thessalonians 1:4, 7)
But Paul encouraged them with the truth that they would be given “rest” from their troubles “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven ‘with his mighty angels,’ in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God.” for “he shall come to be glorified in his saints.” (See 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)
In this passage; as in the others, the reward of the righteous and the destruction that shall befall the wicked are interwoven with each other as to time, ‘both’ occurring at the coming of Yahshua. We notice also that when Yahshua comes for the deliverance of His troubled saints, He comes in “flaming fire.” NO SECRET RAPTURE HERE!
When will Yahshua render vengeance to the wicked on one hand, and comfort to the saints on the other? The answer is clear: “WHEN the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them which know not God.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8) The time of His being glorified in His saints is also the time when destruction will fall on the wicked. THERE IS NO INTERVAL OF SEVEN YEARS BETWEEN THE TWO.
Two Stages of One Second Coming?
Most Christians have been influenced by the “dispensational” interpretation of prophecy; that Yahshua was coming back two more times: first in a secret rapture, then seven years later in glory and power at the end of the age. We knew Yahshua had come the first time, and that “unto them that look for him shall he appear at the ‘second’ time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:18), but where did the scriptures teach a “third” coming of Yahshua? Most, of course, did not use the term third coming; it fit better to say there were “two stages” of the one second coming.
We know that when Yahweh told Moses to strike the rock, but he struck it twice that it angered Him and He told Moses because he (Moses) had not believed Him (Yahweh) that he (Moses) would not enter into the promised land:
“Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And MOSES LIFTED UP HIS HAND, AND WITH HIS ROD HE SMOTE THE ROCK TWICE: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And THE LORD SPAKE UNTO MOSES AND AARON, BECAUSE YE BELIEVED ME NOT, TO SANCTIFY ME IN THE EYES OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, THEREFORE YE SHALL NOT BRING THIS CONGREGATION INTO THE LAND WHICH I HAVE GIVEN THEM.” (Numbers 20:8-12)
This wording seemed awkward to many; like something added to make a theory fit. If the rapture is a separate “stage” from the coming of Yahshua in power and glory, one wonders how each “stage” could be the “second” coming? If they are separate and distinct events; separated by several years, a coming that follows the second coming would be a third. But the scriptures never speak of a third coming, or of “comings” (plural), and the term “two second comings” is self-contradictory.
In an attempt to explain this difficulty, some dispensational writers go so far as to argue that the “rapture” is not the COMING of Yahshua. One puts it this way:
“Strictly speaking the rapture is NOT THE SECOND COMING AT ALL. The second coming is the visible, local, bodily appearance of Christ in the clouds of heaven as he returns to this earth ... in power and great glory.”
“The thrilling event which will both mark the end of the day of grace and open the door for the Great Tribulation is the rapture ... Specifically speaking. THIS IS NOT THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST. Rather this is the rapture, or the catching up, of the true church.” (William W. Orr, Antichrist, Armageddon, and the End of the World, (Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing Company, 1996, p. 9)
But attempting to make the catching up a “separate” and “earlier” event from the coming of Yahshua, is glaringly inconsistent with the wording of scripture. Yahshua said,
“Be ye therefore also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man COMETH.” (Matthew 24:44)
Why would Yahshua warn about being ready for the COMING of the Son of man, if the rapture takes place “before” His coming?
“Occupy till I COME.” (Luke 19:13)
How could the church occupy until He comes, if the church will be raptured away seven years before his coming? Yahshua said:
“I will COME again, and receive you to unto myself.” (John 14:3)
Clearly it is when Yahshua comes that He receives His people (Israel) unto Himself. The receiving is not seven years before His coming.
In perfect harmony with these teachings of Yahshua, the apostles admonished:
“Be patient then, brethren, unto the COMING of the Lord ... for yet a little while, and he that shall COME will COME, and will not tarry.” (James 5:7; Hebrews 10:36-37)
Again, why extort the brethren to be patient unto the COMING of Yahshua, if their real hope was a rapture “before” His coming?
Paul speaks of Christians as “waiting for the COMING of Yahshua” (1 Corinthians 1:7) If he believed Christians would be caught up to heaven in a secret rapture seven years before Yahshua’s coming, why didn’t he speak of Christians as waiting for that? Paul certainly did not consider the rapture a separate event. Even in the “rapture” passage, he comes right out and calls the catching up of believers “the COMING of the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15) In view of these things, we find it very strained for writers to make statements that the rapture is not the coming of the Lord.
Therefore, with what we have already seen, one can clearly see that the rapture theory is a false doctrine implanted into Christianity by the Antichrist to keep Christians from being active in various pursuits to hinder them from their goals. And such inaction has resulted in the death of millions of Christians because they were stupid enough to believe it; and allowed the Antichrist murder million of Christians without being restrained.
Do Greek Words Distinguish Two Events?
But what about the meaning of the Greek words that are used to describe the second coming? One writer says: “The TWO phases of Christ’s second coming are ‘clearly’ distinguished in the Greek. The ‘parousia’ ... is His coming for his saints ... The ‘apokalupsis’ (the revealing, unveiling, making manifest) is his coming with his saints.” (Carl Sabiers, Where Are The Dead?, pp. 123-124) But, as we shall see, instead of the Greek words indicating two separate events, the various words are actually used “interchangeably!”
The following is a list of six Greek words that describe the second coming of Yahshua, the specific meaning of each, and a representative verse in which each word is used:
1). Parousia (the personal presence of one who comes and arrives): “Be patient ... unto the ‘coming’ of the Lord.” (James 5:7)
2). Apokalupsis (appearing, revelation): “The Lord shall be ‘revealed’ from heaven with his mighty angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7)
3). Epiphaneia (manifestation, glory): “The ‘appearing’ of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:14)
4). Phaneroo (to render apparent): “When he shall ‘appear,’ we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:2)
5). Erchomia (the act of coming, to come from one place to another): “Occupy till I come.” (Luke 19:13)
6). Heko (the point of arrival): “Hold fast till I come.” (Revelation 2:25)
The first word on our list, parousia, stresses the actual personal presence of one that has come and arrived. Nothing in this word conveys the idea of “secrecy.” it was in common use, as when Paul spoke of the “coming [parousia] of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:6), the “coming [parousia] of Stephanas” (1 Corinthians 16:17), and of his own “coming [parousia]” to Philippi. (Philippians 1:26)
Paul used this word in the noted rapture passage which speaks of “the coming [parousia] of the Lord” when believers will be caught up to meet Yahshua in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) But Paul’s use of this word here can hardly mean a separate event form Yahshua’s coming at the end of the age, for in his second letter to the Thessalonians, he places the “parousia” AFTER the reign of the man of sin; not before. Speaking of “the coming [parousia] of our Lord” and “our gathering together unto him,” Paul says “the Lord shall destroy [the man of sin] with the brightness of his coming [parousia].” (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
Peter, like Paul, spoke of Yahshua’s “coming [parousia]” at the end of the age, when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the element shall melt with fervent heat.” He exhorted Christians to be
“...looking for ... the coming [parousia] of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” (2 Peter 3:4-122)
In none of these instances could “parousia” mean a pre-tribulation rapture. It, also, should be noted here, the plural form of the word “parousia” is not used in connection with Yahshua’s coming. The definite article is consistently used. It is not a coming of Yahshua, but “the” coming of Yahshua.
Peter told Christians to “hope to the ‘end’ for the grace that is to brought unto you at the REVELATION [apokalupsis] of Yahshua.” (1 Peter 1:13) Those who teach that Yahshua come first in the RAPTURE, then seven years later in the REVELATION, face serious difficulties here. It would not be necessary for Christians to hope to the end of the grace to be brought to them at the REVELATION of Yahshua, if, in reality, this grace was to be given at a separate rapture seven years before. In the immediate context, Peter spoke of Christians being “found unto praise and honor and glory at the APPEARING [apokalupsis, revelation] of Yahshua.” (1 Peter 1:7) Christians are “waiting for the coming [apokalupsis, revelation] of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:7) but, again, why would Christian be waiting for the “revelation” if the “rapture” comes seven years sooner?
According to the Bible, the “apokalupsis, the revelation of Yahshua, is when Christians will be gathered; this is when they meet Him; this is the day for which they are waiting. The rapture, then, cannot be one event and the revelation a later event. Instead of two phases being “clearly distinguished in the Greek” by the terms “parousia” and “apokalupsis,” both are used in a way that points to one event, the second coming of Yahshua at the end of the age.
Another word used to describe the return of Christ, “epiphaneia,” speaks of manifestation and glory that will accompany our Lord when He comes. None applies this to a secret, pre-tribulation coming, for Yahshua will slay the man of sin “with the brightness [epiphaneia] of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall show ... the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:14-15) Why would Christians be exhorted to keep the commandment until the “epiphaneia;” the glorious appearing, if the rapture was seven years before this?
The fourth word on our list, “phaneroo,” means to render apparent, referring to the open power and glory of Christ’s coming. “When the chief Shepherd shall appear [phaneroo], you shall receive a crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) If Christians had been raptured and crowned at an earlier coming of Christ, what sense would these words make? As John said: “We know that, when he shall appear [phaneroo], we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) As Christians it is when Christ shall come and appear; be rendered apparent, we shall be like Him. Nothing here about an invisible coming.
Instead of Greek terms indicating two separate events, just the opposite is the case. They are used interchangeably. Jesus said:
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the COMING [parousia] of the son of man be.” (Matthew 24:37)
Luke’s account of the same passage says:
“As it was in the days of Noah ... even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is REVEALED [apokalupsis]” (Luke 17:26, 30)
“Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as you think not the son of man COMETH [erhomai].” (Matthew 24:44)
Here, then, “parousia,” “apokalupsis,” and “erchomai” are all used of the same event.
“Erchomai,” in turn, is used to describe the same event as “herko:”
“For yet a little while, and he that shall COME [erchomai] will COME [hekol], and will not tarry.” (Hebrews 10:37)
“Hekro” and “parousia” are used together:
“Where is the promise of his COMING [parousia]? ... The day of the lord will COME [heko] as a thief in the night.? (2 Peter 3:10
“Parousia” and “epiphaneia” are linked together: the man of sin will be destroyed by the “BRIGHTNESS [epiphaneia]” of Christ’s “COMING [parousia].” (2 Thessalonians 2:8) And, we know that the “parousia” is the “phaneroo,” for both expressions are used together:
“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall APPEAR [phaneroo], we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his COMING [parousia].” (1 John 2:28)
Thus we see that “all” of these Greek words are used “interchangeably.” As in English, the different words present varied shade of meaning. But trying to split the second coming of Christ into two “stages” or “comings” on a supposed distinction in Greek terms is completely artificial and misleading.
When Yahshua ascended into heaven and His disciples stood watching, two angels said:
“You men of Galilee, why stand 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 1:11)
The fact that they did not “see” him go into heaven in two ascensions, certainly argues against his second coming being in two stages.
Coming “For” and “Coming” With The Saints
What about the argument commonly given; that sine the Lord will come “with” his saints, (Jude 4) there must be an earlier coming of the Lord “for” the saints to take them into heaven? Actually, the Bible never uses the expression “coming FOR the saints.” And the rapture text, instead of saying believers will be raptured up to heaven, actually says they will be “caught up ... in the ‘clouds,’ to meet the Lord in the ‘air.’” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Where they go, after meeting the Lord in the clouds, is not explained in this text.
When we are told that believers will rise to “MEET” the Lord in the air, the word is “apantesis.” It was used to describe the coming of a king or governor to visit a city, who, as he approached would be met by citizens who would then escort him on the last part of his journey into the city. If it has that same meaning here, as the Lord descends from heaven, believers will rise “to meet the Lord in the air,” in order to “come” with Him. This would not require a separate coming. “apantesis” appears again in the parable of the ten virgins who “took their lamps, and went forth to MEET the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1, 6) After they went out to “meet” Him, they returned “with him.”
One final use of the word “apantesis” appears in connection with Paul’s journey to Rome.
“When the brethren heard of us, they came to MEET us as far as Appii forum ... and when we came to Rome ...” (Acts 28:14-16)
Suppose the men who went to meet Paul told of their plans; that they heard Paul was coming to Rome and they were going to meet him. Whether they explained it or not, their going to met him would imply they were coming back with him. None would understand this to mean they would “meet” Paul, go back to where he had been, spend some time there, in order to finally come “with” him to Rome.
The late Oswald J. Smith, noted missionary statesman, pastor, and song writer, sums it up in these words:
“ learned, too, that the word for ‘meet’ in 1 Thessalonians 4 ... meant ‘returning with’ and not ‘remaining at’ the place of meeting. When the brethren from Rome met Paul, they immediately returned to the city with him. When the virgins met the bridegroom they accompanied him back to the wedding. When the saints meet Christ in the air ... they will return ‘with’ him ... There is no secret rapture. That theory must be deliberately read into the passage (by deceivers).” (Oswald Smith, Tribulation or Rapture; Which? (London: The Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony, p. 9)
But regardless of how we take the word “meet” or the expression “coming with,” Jude 14 can add no weight to the two-stage position. There are good reasons to believe the “saints” mentioned in this verse are the ANGELS who come with the Lord.
“Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.” (Jude 14)
The word translated “saints” is “hagios,” meaning simply “holy,” or in this case, “holy [ones].” The word usage itself could indicate angels or men, but in this context we believe angels are meant, because the human saints would be many more than ten thousand.
The “Pulpit Commentary,” says:
“The ‘ten thousands of his saints’ is better rendered ‘ten thousands of his holy ones’ ... For the ‘holy ones’ here intended are the angels.” (The Pulpit Commentary, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint 1950, Vol. 22, p. 12)
This fits perfectly with the words of Yahshua who spoke of coming with the holy angels; holy being the same word, “hagios,” used in Jude 14.
“The Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy [hagios] angels with him ...” (Matthew 25:31)
“Whosoever shall be ashamed of me ... of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh ... with the holy [hagios] angels.” (Mark 8:38)
The expression “ten thousands of saints” (used in Jude 14) also appears in Deuteronomy 33:2, a passage generally regarded as referring to angels:
“The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints.”
Again, the “Pulpit Commentary” points out that a better translation would be “ten thousands of holy ones,” the reference being to angels. (The Pulpit Commentary, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint 1950, Vol. 3, p. 534)
The Matthew Henry Commentary, makes the same point:
“His appearance was glorious: he shone forth like the sun when he goes forth in his strength. Even Seir and Paran, two mountains at some distance, were illuminated by the divine glory which appeared on Mount Sinai ... He came with his holy angels ... Hence the law is said to be given by the disposition of angels, (Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2.” (Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, reprint of 1721 edition, p. 874. Cf. Job 15:15; Psalms 89:5, 7; Daniel 8:13; 4:13)
If the expression “ten thousands of saints” referred to angelic beings in Deuteronomy, it is not inconsistent to believe the “same” expression can mean angelic beings in Jude 14. This position finds further support in the context, for these holy ones are associated with Christ in executing judgment upon the ungodly.
“Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his ‘hagios’ [holy ones], to execute judgment upon ... all that are ungodly.” (Jude 14, 15)
We believe this will be the job of angelic beings, not that of Christians. As the scriptures say:
“At the end of the world ... the ‘angels’ shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire.” (Matthew 13:49-50)
“The Lord Jesus shall be revealed form heaven with his mighty ‘angels,’ in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7)
“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)
Is It Scriptural?
Some have read the entire New Testament through for the express purpose of listing all the scriptures that teach the return of Yahshua will be in two stages. Their conclusions was the same as Oswald J. Smith:
“We might go through all the writers of the New Testament, and we would fail to discover any indication of the so-called ‘two-stages’ of our Lord’s coming ... There is no verse in the Bible that even mentions it.” (Tribulation or Rapture; Which?, Oswald Smith, London: The Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony, p. 9)
This point is known and admitted by men of varied denominational backgrounds. Renowned Biblical expositor, G. Campbell Morgan, said:
“The idea of a separate and secret coming of Christ is ... without any Biblical basis whatsoever.” (William R. Kimball, The Rapture, A Question of Timing, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985, p. 179; quoted from Christianity Today, August 1959)
Or consider the following statement by Pat Robertson:
“If we assume that the tribulation will be a future worldwide time of persecution, then I must say that Christians will indeed go through it. I do not find in the Bible the teaching that Christians will be ‘raptured’ prior to the tribulation ... The Bible teaches two comings of Jesus; one his birth; the second, his coming again in triumph. There is no third coming for a secret rapture.” (Pat Robertson, Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984, pp. 155-156)
Even men who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture have sometimes admitted there is no scripture for it. Wilfrid Meloon mentions how he once heard Charles Fuller say on his radio program,
There is not one verse in the entire New Testament which teaches a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, but, I still believe it.” (Wilfrid C. “Will” Meloon, Eschaton, issue XVI, Orange City, FL., 1979)
He loved Charles Fuller, but was puzzled by this statement. How important, how major, can a doctrine be; whatever it is, if “not one verse” in the Bible teaches it?
Though the two-stage teaching is not actually mentioned in the Bible, Christians who believe this way feel it is justified by indirect evidence from certain “proof texts” we will now consider. First, Revelation 4:1:
“After this I [John] looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.”
A Clear Picture of The Rapture?
“This call seems ‘clearly’ to indicate the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 [the rapture]. The word ‘church’ does not again occur in the Revelation till all is fulfilled.” (C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1917, p. 1334)
De Haan, echoing this view, says:
“This brief passage from Revelation is one of the shortest yet one of the ‘clearest’ pictures in scripture of the rapture of the church.” (M.R. De Haan, thirty-five Simple Studies on the Major Themes in Revelation, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1946, p. 61)
Since the word “church” does not appear in Revelation, chapters 4-18, the dispensational claim is that the church is absent from the earth during this time, and does not come into the picture again until chapter 9, which tells of the marriage supper and the coming of Christ as King of kings. But if the absence of the word “church” can prove the church is absent in chapters 4-18, we would have to conclude the church is also absent in chapter 19, for the word does not appear in that chapter either. Nor does it appear in chapter 20, or chapter 21. Only in a closing remark in the final chapter do we find these words:
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the ‘churches’” not the universal church as a whole, but the seven churches of Asia. (Revelation 22:16)
While the word “church” does not appear after chapter three until the last part of Revelation, the church is ‘not’ absent in those chapters. In Revelation 13:7, we read that the beast would “make war with the saints.” Verse 10 mentions the “patience and faith of the saints,” patience and faith in the midst of persecution. The “saints” are again mentioned in chapter 16, verse 6. In chapter 17 we rad about the Babylonian woman “drunken with the blood of the saints’ (verse 6) and that “in her was found the blood of the saints.” (Revelation 18:24)
The dispensational position is that the saints mentioned in these chapters are not church saints, but tribulation saints. Yet when we find the word “saints” in chapter 19, we are told this refers to the church!
“The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8)
The Scofield footnote says: “The ‘Lamb’s wife’ here is the ‘bride,’ the ‘Church.’” (C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1917, p. 1348)
But to be consistent, if the saints in Revelation 19 are church saints, how can some rightly argue that the saints mentioned in the chapter before (chapter 18), the chapter before that (chapter 17), the chapter before that (chapter 16), the chapter before that (chapter 16), and chapter 13 are some different kind of saints? This is arbitrary.
The rapture is not the subject of Revelation 4:1, it simply records the experience of John; in spirit, being taken into the heavenly realm. This does not prove we should look for the church in heaven any more than his being taken into the wilderness, to Babylon, would prove the church was there. (Revelation 17:3-5) As the various scenes of Revelation unfold, John is represented as being different places; on the earth (he sees an angel “come down [not go down] from heaven,” (Revelation 10:1, 18:1), he measures what is, apparently, and earthly temple, for its courts are trodden down by Gentiles, (Revelation 11:1) he stands upon the sane of the sea and watches a beast rise from its waters. (Revelation 13:1) Clearly, John cannot be a ‘consistent’ type of the church in heaven during this chapters.
Kept From The “Hour of Temptation”
Another dispensational “proof text,” also from the book of Revelation, contains the words Jesus to the church at Philadelphia:
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
Those who use this verse in defense of the secret rapture position must assume the “hour of temptation” is the same as what they call “The Great Tribulation Period” at the end of this age. They must then assume that being kept from this temptation requires being raptured out of this world.
In its primary application, this promise would have pertained to the church of Philadelphia, located in Asia Minor, in the first century. Were the people of this church kept from a world-wide time of temptation? As sure as the promise is true, they were. But this did not require a rapture. We believe they were kept by the power and grace of Yahweh. If Yahweh fulfilled His promise to them, the “hour of temptation,” whatever might be the precise meaning of this expression, would have occurred in their day. This could hardly offer proof for a secret rapture to escape a great tribulation period 2,000 years later.
Some believe the seven churches of Asia represent seven successive ages of the church, extending from the first century to the rapture. If so, then the message to the church at Philadelphia could not refer to the rapture, for Philadelphia would be the sixth church in the succession, not the last (the seventh). If the message to the Philadelphia church proves an escape rapture, the church ages would have to be 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7.
We believe Christians can be kept from an hour of temptation; in any age, without being raptured out of the world. This principle can be established by comparing the following scriptures:
“Because thou hast ‘kept’ the ‘word’ of my patience, I also will ‘keep’ thee from the hour of ‘temptation,’ which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
“They have ‘kept’ thy word ... I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest ‘keep’ them from the ‘evil.’” (John 17:6, 15)
Both of these passages are the words of Yahshua. Both were recorded by John. The people in both passages have kept the word. Because they have kept the word, God will “keep them.” In one passage they are kept from the hour of ‘temptation;’ in the other, they are kept from ‘evil.’ These are closely related terms, as in the Lord’s prayer:
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)
If believers can be kept from the evil of the world without being taken out of the world; as in the one passage, it is certain they don’t have to be raptured away from temptation in the other.
Though Revelation 3:10 probably had a specific meaning and fulfillment to the Philadelphia church of the first century, here also is a promise of God’s keeping power in any hour of temptation, in any century, any year, any day; not just the last seven years of this age.
Many watchmen have had encounters with these powers and they have personal knowledge of the nature of the opposition to be faced as they stand guard in the night:
“If he finds himself in keen suffering and anguish, he knows that it is ‘the hour and power of darkness;’ and learns by the suffering they cause that they are unmerciful, as well as evil; intensely evil; nothing cause that they are unmerciful, as well as evil; intensely evil; nothing but evil; aiming at nothing but evil, and with all the power they are able to wield, endeavoring to draw him into evil, doggedly, silently, persistently, wickedly, always at work; actuated by undying hatred and malice against the human race. Enemies they are, and will be. What they are they were, and what they were, they are still, evil, and evil only.” (War On the Saints, p. 256)
The secular, the Judeo-Christian clergy’s opposition in the past to the activities of the hunters is increased a thousandfold against those whom God has today constituted watchmen to the House of Israel. To this secular opposition is now added that of the antagonism of our national leaders, who are refusing to heed the warning against our national leaders, who are refusing to heed the warning against the enemy within and without our borders, to whom they are giving aid and comfort.
Let the watchman take courage, for his turn of duty is soon to end. With the coming of the events of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, his work will be done.
To all those who are inclined to become discouraged because they find themselves alone, under attack on all sides, or the doors of the churches and their brothers and sisters closing to them, the situation confronting Jeremiah under similar circumstances should give courage to continue their efforts. Even though the watchman will be treated very badly by his own:
“Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man (Jeremiah the watchman) be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt (here they start lying about the watchman, seeking his destruction, not by the enemy but by his own people, because they don’t like what he is saying). Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you. Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.” (Jeremiah 38:4-6) (KJV)
This watchman the Lord was called upon to proclaim a message of doom to his generation and to warn them of the enemy and where he came from, as a result, he faced extremely trying times. He was concerned about conditions prevailing then and he prayed:
“O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors.” (Jeremiah 15:15)
The following shows a discouraged prophet and watchman because of persecution and opposition to the message God had commissioned him to give:
“The prophet (watchman, Jeremiah) reminded the Lord that he suffered rebuke for His sake. He had found and embraced God’s words which were sweet and pleasant to him, but because of the stand he had taken, he was derisively labeled a prophet and subject to continued persecutions. Jeremiah referred to the fact that he had never joined the assembly of the revelers or merry-makes, but instead he sat alone because of the task God had assigned him. It was his lot to endure all kinds of indignities from those whom he had been commissioned to warn, and because this was so, the watchman said his torment was like the perpetual pain of an incurable wound. His despair led him to question the Lord: ‘Wilt thou really disappoint me, like a stream that runs dry?’” (Jeremiah 15:18, Moffett Translation)
“Under the pressure of loneliness the watchman, in a moment of complete discouragement, questioned the fulfillment of the messages God had directed him to declare to Judah (today all of Israel). For years he had been speaking of disaster to come, but the delay in fulfillment had made him an object of mockery. As a result he had reached the limit of his endurance and murmured against the Lord to the extent that he stood in danger of being dismissed from service as a watchman.
But now, even now, the Watchman’s warnings are coming to pass before the people’s eyes. They can see it coming and know that the Watchman has told them the truth, but they refuse to acknowledge it because they would rather sleep than to take up arms to destroy those that would destroy them.
Since this is the Watchman Period in Christian witnessing following the centuries of fishing and the years of hunting the “meat in due season” is the specific warning message the watchman are giving today. The light of liberty and justice has grown dim as strife and tyranny cast a shadow over the earth. The watchmen have taken up their positions and they are standing guard in the night. It was Isaiah (Isaiah 21:11-12) who praised the question,
“Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, enquire ye: return, come!”
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God ... will not suffer you to be ‘tempted’ above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of ‘escape that you may be able to bear it.” ( 1 Corinthians 10:12-13)
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” (2 Peter 2:9)
“‘Keep’ me from evil ... and God granted him that which he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:10)
And we, today, can also be “‘kept’ by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (1 Peter 1:5), for God “is able to ‘keep’ you from falling.” (Jude 24) God’s keeping power and escape from temptation can be provided without a secret rapture.
“Escape” — From What?
One more text should be noticed here:
“Watch therefore and ‘pray’ always, that you may be accounted worthy to ESCAPE all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:36)
Here is a verse about praying for “escape,” but again, nothing about the church being raptured out of this world in order for this to be accomplished. In the prayer of Yahshua, He said:
“I pray NOT that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15)
Would Yahshua pray one way and tell the disciples to pray another way?
With what is this word “escape” connected? Is it escape from a “period of time,” a dispensational great tribulation during the last seven years of this age? It does not say so. A look at the context shows the reference is to “THAT DAY,” the time believers will be gathered to meet the Lord in the air and destruction shall fall upon the world.
“Heaven and earth shall pass away [the end of the age] ... take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so THAT DAY come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these tings that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:33-36)
If believers were to no longer be on the earth; if they were to be raptured away seven years before the end, how could “that day” possibly come upon them unawares?
Yahshua promised that those who are prayerfully watching and not overcharged with eating and drinking will escape the destruction of THAT DAY. The same basic message was presented by Paul:
“THE DAY of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then ‘sudden destruction’ cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall ‘not escape.’ But you, brethren, are not in darkness THAT DAY should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of the light ... we are not of the night ... Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us ‘watch’ ... for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9)
Notice how this passage also mentions THAT DAY. It will bring “sudden destruction” upon unbelievers “and they shall ‘not’ escape.” Christians, however, will escape. They are not appointed to wrath. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds while destruction falls on the earth below.
Will Christ Return “At Any Moment?”
Did the early Christians believe the rapture could occur at “any” moment? Or did they believe there were certain things that would be fulfilled “first?”
We believe there is conclusive proof in the New Testament that the early church did “not” hold the any moment teaching. Yahshua pointed out that no man knows the time of His return and that we should live a life of watchfulness and obedience at all times. However, Yahshua Himself taught certain things would happen first.
When Yahshua told His disciples of the second coming, He was still with them “in person.” Obviously the ascension had to precede the return. And before His ascension, of course, was to be Calvary:
“First must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.” (Luke 17:25)
Yahshua told His disciples that after His ascension, He would send the Holy Spirit upon them. This would take place, obviously, “before” Christ would come again. Thus, prior to Pentecost, we see the disciples waiting; not for the second coming of Christ, but the coming of the Holy Spirit to endue them with power. Being filled with the Holy Spirit they were to go into all the world and teach all nations. (Acts 1:8) Time had to be allowed for travel, preaching, baptizing, instructing converts, etc. Surely Yahshua would not return before they had time to do what He had commissioned them to do.
Yahshua predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and told His disciples:
“When you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Luke 21:21)
At the second coming of Christ, there will be no need for Christians to flee into the mountains, for they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The destruction of Jerusalem, then, was to be an event “before” the second coming of Christ. Living on this side of the fulfillment, we know Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Yahshua also explained that Peter would grow old and die; BEFORE the second coming. When thou shalt be old, Yahshua said to Peter,
“thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou would not. This spake he, signifying by what death he would glorify God.” (John 21:18-19; cf. 2 Peter 1:14)
Then Peter asked if John would live to see the coming of the Lord. Jesus replied: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” On the basis of this statement, a saying spread “among the brethren, that that disciple [John] should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, he shall not die; but, if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:20-23) Whether John would live to see the second coming was not answered, but in the case of Peter, it was definitely stated he would grow old and die before the Lord’s return.
We believe the early Christians lived in an expectation and hope of the second coming; for, whether alive at that time, or because of the resurrection, they would all ultimately share in the glory of that day. But they did not believe His coming would be at any moment; they knew certain things would happen first.
Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul spoke of the resurrection and catching up of believers to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Later, some confusion developed in their minds about this glorious event, and in his second epistle, Paul clarified the matter. His remarks show he did not hold the any-moment position:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)
Here, then, two things are mentioned that Christians would witness “before” the day of Christ’s coming to gather believers unto Himself. There would be a falling away and the man of sin would be revealed. Concerning these very things, the inspired apostle said: “let no man deceive you.” Let us beware, then, of a teaching which says the church will be raptured to heaven BEFORE the man of sin is revealed. According to Paul, the order of events would be: (1) A falling away; (2) The man of sin would be revealed; and (3) The coming of Christ and our gathering together unto Him. It is clear. But according to the any moment view, instead of these events being in this order, they would have be: 3, then 1, and then 2. That is: (3) The coming of Christ and our gathering together unto Him; (1) A falling away, and (2) The man of sin reveled: 3,1,2, or perhaps 3,2,1 instead of 1,2,3.
In an attempt to justify this reversal some teach that the falling away is a departure; the departure of the church in the rapture. But the word translated “falling away” is “apostasia,” meaning apostasy, a departure from the truth, a well established meaning. To attempt to make “falling away” mean “catching up” shows how hard pressed the dispensational arrangement is.
Paul said believers would witness certain events first; the falling away, the man of sin would be revealed, and then the gathering together to meet the Lord at His coming. But if the falling away meant the rapture; an exodus of believers from the world, they would not witness the events that followed, for they would not be here. Paul’s words would have no bearing on the point he was making.
Being “troubled” with “persecutions and tribulations,” the believers at Thessalonica wondered if the day of Christ was not right “at hand.” (2 Thessalonians 1:2) If Paul had believed in the any moment position, here was his perfect opportunity to encourage them with the teaching that Yahshua was coming soon; at any moment. He might have written something like this: “Now we beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, that you be not soon shaken in mind, for ‘nothing needs to happen first.’ That day shall come ‘before’ the falling away and ‘before’ the man of sin is revealed. Yes, our gathering together unto him could happen ‘at any moment.’”
But to the contrary, this was “not” his answer. Instead, he explained there would be a falling away, and the man of sin would be revealed, before the day of Christ. There can be no mistake about “the day of Christ” refers to the rapture, for it is used in reference to “our gathering together unto him.” (2 Thessalonians 2) Christians are “waiting” for the “day of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:7-9) It is “in the day of the Lord Jesus” that they will be gathered and “rejoice” at seeing each other. (2 Corinthians 1:14) The “good work” begun in Christians must continue “until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Paul admonished the Philippian believers to be “sincere and without offense” until “the day of Christ.” (Verse 10), when he would see them and rejoice that his labor had not been in vain. (Philippians 2:16) All of these verses clearly show that the “day of Christ” is the time when believers are gathered to meet Yahshua.
Scofield, attempting to deal with the glaring problem dispensationalism faces here, says that the King James Version “has ‘day of Christ,’ 2 Thessalonians 2:2, incorrectly, for ‘day of the Lord.’
(C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1917, p. 1212)
Apparently some ancient manuscripts have it one way and some another. But what difference does this make? We use the expression “the coming of the Lord” when referring to “the coming of Christ.” Why try to make the New Testament expression “the day of the Lord” mean something different than “the day of Christ?” Only to defend a hard pressed theory would any make this distinction. The following terms are all used “interchangeably” in reference to the Lord’s coming to gather believers:
“The day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:10)
“The day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
“The day of our Lord Jesus Crist.” (1 Corinthians 1:8)
“The day of the Lord Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 1:14)
“The day of the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
We think it is inconsistent to try to make the last expression mean a different “Lord” or a different time than the other terms describe. The day of the Lord “is” the day of Christ in New Testament usage. And according to Paul, that day; when believers will be gathered unto him, will not come until AFTER the man of sin has been revealed.
When Did It Began?
The teaching that there will be a secret coming of Christ “before” the appearance of the man of sin has been widely taught; and believed, in this century. Many fine Christians have accepted it with little or no investigation. But, as shocking as it may sound, this teaching was not the position of the early church, was not taught by the reformers, WAS NOT TAUGHT BY ANYONE UNTIL AROUND THE YEAR 1830 (It was taught centuries ago, by a Jewish Catholic Priest by the name of Manuel de Lacunza, The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty; London: translated by Irving, 1827), but it never caught on until the following story). If this is true, then the secret, pre-tribulation rapture teaching is not a part of the true original faith that was once delivered unto to saints. It is not the old time gospel.
George Ladd, seminary professor, after making a survey of church history says:
“Every church father who deals with this subject expects the church to suffer at the hands of Antichrist ... we can find no trace of pretribulationism in the early church: and no modern pretribulationist has successfully proved that this particular doctrine was held by any of the church fathers or students of the word before the nineteenth century.” (George E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956, p. 31)
This is quite a sweeping statement, but on which we believe will stand up under investigation. The Didache, one of the earliest pieces of Christian literature written after the New Testament, stated that the Antichrist would come, that many would be offended and lost, and the resurrection of the just would follow this time of woe. (George E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956, p. 31)
The Epistle of Barnabas, written about the time of the same time says:
“When the Son comes, he will destroy the time of the Wicked one and will judge the godless,” thus placing the coming of Christ after the reign of the Wicked one, not before. He did not hold to an any moment return of Christ, for he expected the Roman empire to fall first. (Barnabas, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 146, 138)
Justin Martyr (100-165) spoke of the coming of the Lord in these words:
“He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on earth ‘against us Christians,’ who, have learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus.”
“Shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by his angelic hosts, when also he shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality.” (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 52)
Irenaeus (130-202) spoke of
“Of the resurrection of the just, which takes place ‘after’ the coming of Antichrist ... But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world ... ‘then’ the Lord shall come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom.”
He spoke of kings who
“shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the ‘church’ to flight. After that they shall be destroyed by the coming of our Lord ... In the ‘end’ the church shall be suddenly caught up” and, having overcome, will be “crowned with incorruption.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 35:1, 30:4, 26:1, 29:1)
Tertullian (160-240) believed that Antichrist would rise to power and persecute the “church.” He affirmed it was customary for Christians to pray for a part in the resurrection to meet Christ at the “end” of the world. (Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, chapter Twenty-two)
Hippolytus (170-236) spoke of the four empires of Daniel and that the breaking up of the fourth empire (which was then in power) would bring on the dreaded Antichrist who would persecute the “church.” He believed the second advent would be the time that the dead would be raised, Antichrist destroyed, and the saints glorified. (Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, chapters 66, 67)
Cyprian (200-258), a Christian bishop and martyr, believed Antichrist would reign, “after” which Christ would come at the “end” of the world. (Cyprian, Epistle 55)
Lactantius (260-330) believed the Antichrist would reign over the world and afflict the “righteous,” but that God would send a Great King to rescue them, to destroy the wicked with fire and sword, to raise the dead and renew the world. (Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Vol. 7)
Cyrl (315-386), bishop of Jerusalem, wrote:
“We believe in Him, who also ascended into the heavens, and sat down on the right hand of the Father, and shall come in glory to judge the quick and dead ... at the ‘end’ of this world, in ‘the last day.’ For of this world there is to be an end, and this created world is to be re-made anew.”
It is evident, from various statements, that he believed Antichrist would come to power and persecute the church before the second coming of Christ. (The Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyrl, Lecture 15)
The essence of the teaching of these early writers is that Antichrist would persecute the church, that the coming of Christ would follow and bring an end to the reign of Antichrist, that the end of the world would be the time of resurrection when believers will be gathered to meet the Lord.
Those who old the pre-tribulation position have sometimes quoted Irenaeus:
“And therefore, when in the end the church shall be suddenly caught up it is said, ‘There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning neither shall be.’ For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome, they are crowned with incorruption.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:29)
While it is true a part of this passage might seem to teach a pre-tribulation rapture, reading the whole passage shows this was not the intended meaning.
He spoke of tribulation as the “last” contest of the righteous and in overcoming they would be crowned. He spoke of the “end” as the time when the church will be suddenly caught up. We saw earlier that Irenaeus believed Antichrist would persecute the church and that after this Christ would come to reward the righteous and destroy the wicked. Certainly this was not the pre-tribulation position of dispensationalism.
A collection of visions, exhortations, and parables circulated around 150 A.D., known as the Shepherd of Hermas, has been cited. In one place the writer tells of meeting, and escaping from, what happened to be a huge beast. A short distance on down the road, a virgin dressed in white told him that even as he escaped from the beast, those who truly repent would escape the great tribulation:
“If then you prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless.” (Hermas, Vision 4, chapter 2)
Though this passage speaks about escape from the great tribulation, we should not read into it things that are not there. Nothing is said about a secret rapture to take the church out of this world, nothing about two second comings of Christ or the accompanying dispensational teachings. Other passages of the Shepherd of Hermas present the view [commonly held by the early Christians] that tribulations and persecutions have a purifying effect on the church. Vision Two, for example, says:
“Happy are ye who ‘endure’ the great tribulation that is coming on, and happy are they who shall not deny their own life.” (Hermas, Vision 2, chapter 2)
It would be quite difficult to build a pre-tribulation doctrine on this somewhat obscure book.
Looking on down through the centuries, there are certain names that stand out in Christian history: John Wyclif, John Huss, Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Huldreich Zwingli, William Tyndale, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, John Foxe, Edwin Sandys, John Calvin, John Knox, King James, Isaac Newton, Thomas Newton, John Wesley. NONE of these men believed the church would be taken out before the appearance of Antichrist. They believed the church would suffer at the hands of Antichrist whose career would be ended by the return of Christ.
But today, many Christians have been taught the rapture will take them to heaven, before the Antichrist, and before Christ comes in power and glory. This teaching is of comparatively modern origin, dating from around 1830, and developing in the years that followed. Names associated with what was then a new teaching include Irving, McDonald, and Darby. First, we will notice the name of Edward Irving.
Born in Scotland in 1792, Irving was one of the most eloquent preachers of his time. In 1828 his open air meetings in Scotland drew crowds of 10,000 people. His church in London seated one thousand people and was paced week after week. When he wrote a tract inferring Jesus possessed a fallen human nature, however, a controversy arose among his people and he was removed from his pulpit in 1832, though the larger part of his congregation stood by him and sought for a new meeting place. An ecclesiastical trial in 1833 deprived him of his status as a clergyman in the Church of Scotland. His death the following year, 1834, at Glasgow, was attributed to tuberculosis and a broken heart. (LeRoy E. Froom, The prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Washington: Review and Herald, 1945, Vol. 3, p. 516)
In September, 1830, Irving’s journal, “The Morning Watch,” carried an article which featured a two stage idea concerning the return of Christ. Some feel the seeds of this doctrine may have been a Spanish book, The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty, written by Manuel Lacunza, which Irving translated into English in 1827. (John L. Bray, The Origin of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching, Lakeland FL: John L. Bray Ministry, inc., 1982)
This book, originally published in 1812, said 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 commandment ... with a shout ... with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. At this voice of the Son of God, those who hear it, shall forthwith arise.” (Manuel de Lacunza, The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, London: translated by Irving, 1827, Vol. 1, p. 99)
It is not clear just what he meant by “much before.” Some believe he may have meant a few hours, which would be “much before” compared to the five of six minutes some were teaching. In any even, Lacunza linked the catching up of believers to passages such as Revelation 19, Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7. This was still a long way from the now-popular dispensational teaching.
Though Lacunza was a Roman Catholic, Pope Leo XII placed his book on the list of prohibited books (which assured that it would become noticed and this false doctrine spread by false teachers), and no wonder: Lacunza taught that the Roman Catholic priesthood would eventually become the two-horned beast of Revelation 13.
An acquaintance of Irving, Miss Margaret McDonald, is another name commonly associated with the early beginnings of the two stage idea. In (what was believed) a prophetic utterance given in the spring of 1830, she spoke of a coming of Christ that would be seen only by those whose eyes were spiritually open. She wrote an account of this and sent handwritten copies to various Christian leaders of the time. A book published by Robert Norton in 1840, The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets In the Catholic Apostolic Church, now very rare, gave a printed account of her revelation. (Quoted by Dave MacPherson, The Great Rapture Hoax, Fletcher, NC: New Puritan Library, 1983, pp. 125)
From this account, we will not quote the pertinent portions of this utterance:
“Now there is distress of nations, with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring, men’s hearts failing them for fear; now look out for the sign of the Son of man. Here I was made to stop and cry out. O it is not known what the sign of the Son of man is ... I felt this needed to be revealed, and that there was great darkness and error about it; but suddenly what it was burst upon me with a glorious light. I saw it was just the Lord himself descending from Heaven with a shout, just the glorified man, even Jesus ... I saw the error to be, that men think that it will be something seen by the natural eye; but ‘tis spiritual discernment that is needed ... Only those who have the light of God within them will see the sign of his appearance ... ‘tis only those that are alive in him that will be caught up to meet him in the air ... I repeated frequently, but the spiritual temple must and shall be reared, and the fullness of Christ be poured into his body, and then shall we be caught up to meet him.”
The church over the centuries had believed in the open, visible, glorious coming of the Lord. But in the McDonald utterance, something ‘not know’ before was presented; a coming of the Lord ‘alone,’ a coming ‘not seen’ by the natural eye, a coming to catch up those who would be spiritually alive. Here then are hints of an earlier coming; before the open and visible coming of the Lord, but her exact position is not always clearly defined. Unlike the escape rapture theory in its present form, Miss McDonald went on to speak of great testing to befall the church:
“The wicked will be revealed, with all power and signs and lying wonders, so that if it were possible the very elect will be deceived This is the fiery trial which is to try us. It will be for the purging and purifying of the real members of the body of Jesus; but Oh it will be a fiery trial ... I frequently said that night, and often since, now shall the awful sight of a false Christ e seen on this earth, and nothing but the living Christ in us can detect this awful attempt of the enemy to deceive ... This is particularly the nature of the trial, though which those are to pass who will be counted worthy to stand before the Son of man ... The trial of the ‘Church’ is from Antichrist ... Oh be filled with the Spirit ... This is what we are at present made to pray much for, that speedily we may all e made ready to meet our Lord in the air, and it will be.”
The Protestant churches at the time, and for centuries, held to historicism: that the Papacy was the man of sin or Antichrist who was making war against the saints, that trials were the lot the church. They believed the book of Revelation described events that spanned the centuries until the return of Christ. The famous Albury conferences taught that the church had not lived through the events of Revelation as far as chapter 16. (The idea that they were nearing a rapture at Revelation 4:1 was unknown) Reading the entire wording of Margaret McDonald’s utterance indicates her thinking was till that of the old historicist school of prophetic thought; but with a unique addition the idea of a secret coming.
Soon the secret coming teaching was being taught among the group known as the Plymouth Brethren; to be accepted by some and rejected by others. In 1864, S.P. Tregelles, one of the Brethren that rejected this “new” teaching wrote:
“I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there would be a secret rapture of the church at a secret coming until this was given forth as an ‘utterance’ in Mr. Irving’s church from what was then received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether any one ever asserted such a thing or not it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came, not from the Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God.” (S.P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, London: Samuel Bagster and sons, 1864, pp. 125-128)
Strangely enough, what at first was understood to be a new and special revelation; the teaching there would be a separate coming to rapture those that were ready, was soon to be dogmatically promoted “As though it had always been the Eternal Truth of the Scriptures.” (What is not usually reported, is that the Jews spent untold billions of dollars to promote this false teaching because it would render those Christians who believe this false doctrine; in effective, in fighting their plans for eventual domination of mankind)
In the years that followed, the two stage teaching was developed further by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). Irving apparently taught some kind of secret rapture, and there was the utterance of Margaret McDonald that made the rounds, but it was Darby who introduced it into the main current of prophetic interpretation.
Darby was a well educated man whose writings on Biblical subjects number over 30 volumes of 600 pages each. He produced a translation of the Bible with notes, also wrote poems and hymns. In 1825, he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England. He later became a leader among the Plymouth Brethren, a movement which was composed largely of people who had become dissatisfied wit the lethargic condition that prevailed in many of the church (just as it does today). Though the movement had its beginning Dublin, it was Plymouth, England, that became the center of their literature outreach, thus the name Plymouth Brethren.
Darby’s biographers refer to him as “the father of modern dispensationalism.” Many of the Plymouth brethren accepted his dispensational teachings and were sometimes called Darbyites. But not all of the Plymouth Brethren accepted his position. B.W. Newton rejected the two-stage view as “nonsense.” Other noted ministers of the time; among them George Muller, William Booth, and Charles Spurgeon, also opposed this theory as being unscriptural.
The secret rapture was introduced into the United States and Canada in the 1860s and 1870s, though there is some indication it may have been taught as early as the 1840s. Darby himself visited the United States six times. The “new’ teaching was spreading.
Following the lead of Darby, the writings of Charles Henry Mackintosh (1820-1896), commonly known as C.H.M., helped spread the dispensational theory. William Blackstone wrote a book. Jesus is Coming, which taught the secret rapture position. It was distributed to ministers and people of various denominations throughout the country. But probably the biggest single factor that contributed to the spread of the pre-tribulation teaching was the printing of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909.
Scofield and Dispensationalism
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921) was a fake, everything that he claimed to be was bought with Jewish money; they promoted him; they made him famous; and they had ghost writers write the [I]nfamous Scofield Reference Bible.
Through the Jewish influence he was appointed U.S. Attorney to Kansas (even though he never obtained a law degree). In 1879, at St. Louis, he announced to the world that he had become a Christian but the life he lived proved that to be a lie. (The Life of Scofield) Three years later he became a Congregational minister.
His first pastorate was at Dallas, Texas, where Dallas Theological seminary still promotes the Dispensational views he made popular through the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible. Whether he first heard about dispensationalism from Malachi Taylor, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, or J.H. Brooks, is not certain. He was definitely influenced by Darby, whom he considered “the most profound Bible student of modern times.” (Dr. C.I. Scofield’s Question Box, Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, compiled by Ella E. Pohle, p. 93)
Some have written about Scofield’s divorce (from a Roman Catholic woman) and remarriage. Some believe the “Dr.” in front of his name was self-given. Others have questioned some of his financial dealings and membership in a prestigious club. We will leave a discussion of those things to others.
Because of the Scofield Bible, many were led to believe in a secret rapture. Oswald J. Smith was one of them. But later he would write:
“Now, after years of study and prayer, I am absolutely convinced that there will be no rapture ‘before’ the tribulation ... I believe the other theory simply because I was taught it by W.E. Blackstone in his book Jesus is Coming, the Scofield Reference Bible and prophetic conferences and Bible schools; but when I began to search the scriptures for myself I discovered that there is not a single verse in the bible that upholds the pretribulation theory.” (Oswald Smith, Tribulation or Rapture; Which? London The Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony, pp. 2-3)
Philip Mauro (1895-1952), had a similar experience.
“It is mortifying to remember,” he wrote, “that I not only held and taught these novelettes myself, but that I even held a complacent sense of superiority because thereof, and regarded with feelings of pit and contempt those who had not received the ‘new light’ and were unacquainted with this up-to-date method of ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ ... The time came ... when the inconsistencies, and self-contradictions of the system itself, and above all, the impossibility of reconciling its main positions with the plan statement of the Word of God, became so glaringly evident that I could not do otherwise then to renounce it.” (William R. Kimball, The Rapture, A Question of Timing, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985, pp. 177-178)
G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945), when asked if he believed the two-stage view, said this about his experience:
“Emphatically not! I know this view very well. In the earlier years of my ministry I taught it and incorporated it in one of my books (God’s Method With Man). But further study so convinced me of the error of this teaching that I actually went to the expense of buying the plates from the publishers and destroying them. The idea of a separate and secret coming of Christ is a vagary of prophetic interpretation without any Biblical basis whatsoever.” (William R. Kimball, The Rapture, A Question of Timing, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985, pp. 177-178)
(Taken, in part, from “Great Prophecies of the Bible, by Ralph Woodrow, pp. 1-42)